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Finally an update, and my holiday in Derbyshire

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July 15th, 2013 Posted 11:21 pm

Gosh, I can’t believe it’s been over 2 months since I last updated this blog! I don’t think I’ve ever abandoned it for that long.

On Saturday 18th of May, I went to Blickling Gardens with my Mum and stepdad Terry.  We saw the last of the bluebells and there was a new seating area in the garden.  I took several photos and we also had a drink and piece of cake in the tearoom.

At the end of May I attended a quiz night at The King’s Arms pub with the IVC social club.  I really enjoyed it and our team came second! :) Before the quiz began, I had a Chinese takeaway.

On Tuesday 4th June, I went with my friend Kay to see the Rocky Horror Show at the Theatre Royal.  It was the first time I’d been to the theatre ever since my grandmother used to take my cousin and I to see the pantomime each Christmas! We dressed up for the evening and it was good fun.  We also danced the the Time Warp a couple of times!  There was plenty of audience interaction during the show too.

In July I went on holiday to the Peak District for 2 weeks.  We stayed in a holiday cottage in Crowdecote near Buxton, Derbyshire.  I went with Mum and Terry although my sister Sarah came to stay one weekend.  I’ll talk more about the holiday in a separate post as there’s a lot to get through.  I really enjoyed the holiday, and I think it’s a much nicer part of Derbyshire compared to where we stayed in 2006 (Matlock area).

A couple of Fridays ago I went out for a meal with my work team, as one of our colleagues was leaving the company. He was on a 1-year work placement as part of his university course. We went to a French-Caribbean/Creole restaurant called Chez Denis – I’d never been there before but it was really nice.

Last Saturday I took part in the Lord Mayor’s Procession with my social club! I was on the carnival float with about 5 other people from my club, and we were passing though the city centre in front of thousands of people! The journey was about a mile and it took a couple of hours in total (with about 70 floats). Years ago I think I would’ve been too shy to do anything like that. Afterwards, we had a meal in a nearby pub, and later in the night we watched the fireworks.

On Thursday evening I went to an Indian restaurant (Passage to India) with my social club, which was nice. I always have chicken korma as that’s my favourite Indian curry. It was a banquet with 4 courses for £11, although the funny thing was they count the curry and the rice as 2 separate courses, even though they’re served together!

The weather has been very hot and sunny over the last week or so, and I’ve spent some time out in the garden.

A fun filled Spring


April 21st, 2013 Posted 9:42 pm

As promised in my last blog entry – here is the link to the photos I took whilst on the snowdrop walk at Walsingham Abbey.

March was a fun month for me – in spite of the cold weather (winter seemed to drag on until early April this year!) I did lots of exciting things.  On the 1st of March, which was a Friday, I went 10 pin bowling with the IVC social club for the evening.  I don’t tend to do well at bowling, but I find it fun nevertheless.  The following Friday, I went to Middleton’s Steakhouse Grill with the club. It’s a brand new restaurant, located in the same building where Malaysian Delights used to be based.  It’s been redecorated, and the food was very nice.  I ate all of my steak and chips because it was so good.  I would like to go back there one day.

The day after my meal at Middleton’s Steakhouse, I went to Cinema City with my Mum to see the film Silver Lining’s Playbook.  I enjoyed the film, and the cinema had been completely refurbished since I last went there on a college trip about 12 years ago! (We don’t usually go to Cinema City, it’s one of the art-house cinemas which tends to show older or more obscure films.  We had missed Silver Lining’s Playbook when it was on at the main multiplex cinemas earlier this year, so that’s why we saw it at Cinema City instead).  After the film, we went to the Riverbank Chinese buffet restaurant for lunch.  Sunday 10th March was Mother’s Day, and my grandmother came round ours for tea.

On Tuesday 19th March, I went out with several people from the IT department at work to celebrate the launch of our new magazine websites.  The entire web team, members of the QA team as well as the project manager were all invited.  We started off with drinks at The Glasshouse straight after work, then we had a curry at the Spice Lounge.  I had my usual chicken korma with egg fried rice for my main course, and pistachio kulfi ice cream for dessert.  I didn’t bother with naan bread this time as I don’t usually manage to eat it all.  After the meal we went for drinks at the Tap House Brewery pub, but it wasn’t really my kind of place, so I only stayed for one drink.

For the Easter weekend (end of March), I held my belated birthday party with my friends on the evening of Good Friday.  We had a meal at Frankie & Benny’s and then went bowling at Hollywood Bowl.  This time we booked the bowling lane a bit later than normal, because in previous years we’ve sometimes found that the meal overruns.  However, this time round the service at Frankie & Benny’s was faster, so we arrived at Hollywood Bowl in good time.  We had garlic bread for our starter, and then I had New York Chicken and fries for my main course.  For my dessert I had a sherbert dip sundae, which was very nice.  The bowling was good too.  Unfortunately Kay didn’t come this year as her mother had recently passed away, so we thought we would take her out for a meal on a separate date, probably in a couple of weeks’ time.  Kay’s mum was in her early 70s, but her death came as a big shock to everyone.  I felt sad as she had always been nice to me, especially back in the days when Kay and I were still at high school and I’d go round hers for tea and sleepovers.

On Saturday 6th April, I organised a meal to the Merge buffet restaurant with the IVC social club.  There were 5 of us, but I don’t think the food was as good as it was when I went there in November last year.  Some of the food looked like it had been left out for hours as it had a skin forming on it.  So I just stuck to the more popular dishes (which are replenished more frequently) such as chicken curry, sweet and sour chicken etc.  I had ice cream for dessert, which was nice.  However, one woman texted me the next day to say that she had been sick and she thought it might have been something she’d eaten.  This has put me off going there for a while.  I think I’ll stick to the Riverbank buffet restaurant in future.

The following Wednesday, I went round Naomi’s house for tea.  Gemma, Kay and Naomi’s sister Sarah were also there.  This was the first time I’d seen Kay since her mother had died, so I felt sad at times.  We had roast chicken for tea, and then we decorated some cupcakes and watched the film Mall Cop.

Last weekend I went to Cardiff with the IVC social club.  It took us about 6 hours to get there although we did stop at a restaurant near Birmingham on the way there for a meal.  It was the national conference weekend and I went along to discuss creating a mobile phone app.  We also learnt about setting up Meetup groups to attract new members to our clubs.  It was very interesting, and apart from the meetings there were several social events such as a quiz night on Friday evening, a boat trip on Saturday afternoon, a 70s disco on Saturday night and a carvery for Sunday lunch.  It was all good fun.  It was raining quite heavily on Saturday afternoon so when we went on the boat trip, we couldn’t go out to sea as planned, so we just stayed in the bay area.  I still enjoyed it though.  We all wore waterproof jackets and trousers to stop us from getting too wet.  The Saturday night party was good, although 70s music isn’t really my sort of thing (it’s before my time) and I felt rather tired from all the travelling and excitement, so I didn’t stay until the end.  The hotel room was very nice, and the food in the hotel was good, especially the breakfasts and the carvery.

I’ve had a fairly quiet weekend, catching up on a backlog of emails as I’ve been so busy for the last few days.  This afternoon we went for a walk at Burlingham Woods to see the daffodils and I took some photos.  I did want to go back to Blickling Gardens, but Mum and my stepdad Terry said they wanted to go somewhere different as we’d been there so many times in the past.  As it turned out, Mum was called into work this morning so by the time she came home in the afternoon, there probably wouldn’t have been enough time to go much further than Burlingham Woods.  The variety of daffodils wasn’t as wide as I expected, but it was still nice to get out for a hour or so, and it was a sunny day.

My birthday celebrations

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February 27th, 2013 Posted 8:56 pm

The first 2 months of 2013 have been a busy time for me. On Friday 15th February I celebrated my 29th birthday. I had booked the day off work so I decided to bring some cakes into work on the Thursday. It was the first time I’d taken cakes into work since I’d began working for my current company, so everyone was pleasantly surprised.

On my birthday itself, I went to Burlingham Woods to see the snowdrops in the afternoon. I took lots of pictures using the new camera I’d got for Christmas. In the evening I went to Mambo Jambos for a meal with Mum and my step dad Terry, as I usually do on my birthday.  At Mambo Jambos I had my usual favourite – Memphis chicken with fries, and a mint sundae for dessert.  When we came out of the restaurant I was so full up! It was really funny because once I’d finished my first drink I decided to order a vanilla milkshake and it arrived at the same time as my dessert (a mint ice cream sundae). The milkshake came in a huge glass, exactly the same as the sundae glass and I must have looked so funny with 2 big sundae glasses in front of me! :-) I really enjoyed the day. My main present this year was a Toshiba tablet computer. It has Android Jelly Bean and I’m really enjoying using it. In January, we had WiFi installed in our house in readiness, since the tablet is WiFi only.

In early January, I attended a meal at Zizzis with the IVC social club.  This was a nice start to the new year.  Towards the end of the month, I organised a meal at the Riverbank Chinese buffet restaurant with the club.  There were only 3 of us, but I think that was probably due to the snowy weather we had at the time.  There was supposed to be a 4th person, but for some reason they didn’t turn up on the night.  It’s not unusual for people in our club to say they’re coming to an event and then not turn up, so I’m not taking it personally.  It was still a very enjoyable night and I got on well with the other 2 people who had come along.  On the 17th February I had a meal at The Rushcutters.  I hadn’t been there for many years, and I tried one of their roast chicken dinners.  The food was OK, but nothing extra special, and the service was a bit iffy (we had to keep prompting the waitress to serve our table!).  They also didn’t have the dessert I ordered, but the one I did end up having was nice.

Last month I had my annual appraisal at work.  My manager is pleased at how I’m doing in my Java Developer job, although there are still some things that I need to learn, that will come with time.  Also at the end of January, I did some overtime one Saturday afternoon in order to get a new website launched.  It’s the biggest project in which I’ve been involved since I began my Java Developer job, so I was really pleased that everything went smoothly.

I have been on several walks recently – in early January, we went on a woodland walk at Cringleford.  Then a couple of weeks ago Mum, Terry and I went on a snowdrop walk at Spixworth Church, but unfortunately we didn’t see very many snowdrops.  It was still quite early in the snowdrop season and a lot of them hadn’t flowered yet.  In addition, the walk was spread out across several different woods.  We couldn’t find anywhere to park in order to visit the other woods, so in the end Terry got fed up and we ended up driving home!  Then on my birthday we did the snowdrop walk at Burlingham Woods (as mentioned above), which was better.  This Sunday just passed, we visited Walsingham Abbey for the first time.  It is the most famous snowdrop walk in Norfolk and now I can see why.  The woods were carpeted in snowdrops – I’d never seen so many snowdrops in one place before! :)  Later I will be uploading the photos I took during the walk.

Happy new year!

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January 1st, 2013 Posted 5:37 pm

I can’t believe 2012 is over!  I’ve had a really good Christmas holiday.  :)

I have been to several Christmas parties and meals over the last couple of weeks or so.  The first party was the IVC social club’s Christmas party at the Mercure Hotel, which took place on Saturday 8th December.  This was the same venue as last year, and I really enjoyed it.  We had a 3 course meal followed by a disco.  There was a mixup with the desserts on our table which was a bit disappointing (so we ended up with lemon tart instead of cheesecake), but overall I enjoyed it more than last year’s Mercure party. :)

On Wednesday 12th December I had a Christmas meal in the staff canteen with my colleagues from the IT department.  The canteen organises these Christmas meals at lunchtime and at teatime, but this year we decided to go to the teatime session.  It was OK, although the food isn’t as good as what you’d get in a proper restaurant.  The only annoying thing was that I didn’t like either of the starters on the menu, so I had to sit there doing nothing while everyone else on the table ate their starters, which made me feel a bit awkward (and bored!).  The main course and the dessert were nice though.

The following Tuesday I met my friend Kay for lunch at McDonald’s and we exchanged Christmas cards and presents.  On the same evening, there was the IT department’s Christmas buffet at The Lamb Inn (formerly Henry’s).  I felt like I had a cold coming on, so I only stayed for an hour and a half, but the food was much better than I expected.  I also enjoyed speaking to my colleagues.

Thursday 20th December was my last day of work before the Christmas holidays.  In the evening I met my friends Gemma and Naomi for a meal at Bella Italia on Riverside.  Unfortunately Naomi’s sister Sarah was ill with a heavy cold, so she couldn’t make it.  I hadn’t been to this restaurant before but it was good.  I had a beefburger and chips for my main course, and for dessert I had a cookie dough lava cake, which was nice but rather sickly!  I also exchanged Christmas cards and presents with my friends, and it was also Gemma’s birthday so I gave her a birthday present.

The following day (the Friday) I went to a Christmas curry organised by a colleague from the IT department.  There were only a few of us, but it was good fun.  It was an Indian meal at Ali Tandoori, and I had my usual chicken korma with egg fried rice.  The quality of the food was very good, and there wasn’t too much either (at some restaurants I find the servings are too large for me and I have to leave some!)

I watched several films over the Christmas period – Elf, Nativity, The Snowman, the sequel The Snowman & The Snowdog, Ice Age 4, Ice Age Mammoth Christmas, Mercury Rising and Minority Report.

On Christmas Day I woke up at about 8.30am to open my presents.  My main present this year was a new camera – 14 megapixels and 30 times zoom.  I’m looking forward to using it when I go on my walks in the Spring.  I also received several CDs and DVDs, a onesie, a new nightdress, some chocolate selection boxes and a couple of books.  Mum and I went round my sister Suzanne’s in the morning, while my stepdad Terry cooked the Christmas lunch.  We spent the rest of the day at home – just the 3 of us – as usual.  I really enjoyed my Christmas meal, although it feet like my stomach was going to explode afterwards! Then I sat down to watch Top of the Pops.  The large lunch made me feel really sleepy and I had to take a nap in the late afternoon/early evening! Mum and Terry both fell asleep on their armchairs in the lounge.  When I woke up in the evening I listened to some of my new CDs. We spent most of Boxing Day round my aunt and uncle’s house, where we had a buffet.

Last night I went to a New Year’s Eve party with my friend Kay.  It was held at the Norwich City football ground, like last year.  It was a fancy dress party and I dressed up as a 70s hippy.  I bought the costume especially for this party.   It was a fun night – there was lots of dancing but not much food, but I had a takeaway before the party started, so I wasn’t hungry.

I go back to work tomorrow, after nearly 2 weeks off.  It will soon be time for me to write my review of 2012 – I will probably do that at the weekend as it always seems to take me several hours!

Happy new year to all my readers! :D

Good times

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October 28th, 2012 Posted 8:20 pm

I’ve done a lot of exciting things over the last 6 weeks.  At the end of September, I did a week-long Java refresher course at work.  I found this really helpful, and I feel a lot more confident doing my Java programming now.  I’ve already completed a few projects, and now I’m waiting for them to be fully tested and deployed to the live webserver.  Last month I also won the runner-up prize in a staff photography competition at work.  I submitted several photos to the competition that I’d taken over recent months.  I wasn’t expecting to win anything though, as a lot of the other entries looked so good I didn’t know if I could compete with them.  So imagine my surprise when I arrived at work one Monday morning to see an email in my inbox saying that I’d won a prize and that they’d like me to take part in a presentation with the chief executive to be handed my prize!  My winning photo was of a bee in a daffodil, that I took in Spring 2011 at a garden in Aylsham.  :) My prize was an eco-friendly wind-up lantern/torch.

On the 13th of September I went out for a meal at The Dove in Poringland with Mum, my stepdad Terry, my grandmother and some relatives who were visiting us.  I had never been there before, but it was very nice with a varied menu.  I had Thai green chicken curry for my main course.  I enjoyed it and I’d definitely go back there again.

On the Friday evening of the same week, I went out with my friend Kay.   We had a meal at The Glasshouse then we went to the cinema to see the film Ted.  I enjoyed the film as it was really funny.  In fact it was one of the funniest films I’d seen in ages.

Towards the end of September, I went to London with my friend Naomi to the Cake & Bake Show at Earl’s Court.  There were hundreds of stalls to look round, and thousands of visitors. It was a long day and quite tiring, but I really enjoyed it and I’m glad I went.  Many of the stalls gave away goodie bags and free samples of cakes and cake-making equipment, icing, cooking chocolate etc. So I think the entry price was definitely worth it.  The show was on a Sunday, but we travelled to London by coach on the Saturday and stayed in a hotel overnight.  When we arrived, we checked into the hotel, then we went for a walk around the local area and bought some salad for lunch. Later we visited Harrods (I’d never actually been inside there before) and it was nice, but very expensive so we didn’t buy anything. Amazingly, it was £5.50 for a muffin and £7 for a milkshake! Afterwards we went to Chinatown. I’d been there once before about 10 years ago. I really enjoyed it.  We visited a Chinese food shop and I bought some noodles and sweets to take back with me. I like trying sweets from different cultures. The sweets are very different to what we would normally have in England. In the evening we had a Chinese takeaway which we ate back at the hotel.  I had lemon chicken with egg fried rice.  Since coming back, I’ve baked some cupcakes and some chocolate orange cookies, using some of the freebies I collected at the show.

I’ve been out for several meals lately.  In early October, I went out for a meal at Zaks with my friend Kay.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to the local Thai restaurant.  Even though it’s only just around the corner from where I live, it’s a very expensive, award-winning restaurant, so we only ever go there on special occasions once every few years. Some relatives were visiting, so that’s why we decided to go there. I really enjoyed it. :) On Wednesday we went for a carvery at The Oaklands, which was good as I hadn’t been there for about 3 months.  Then last night I went to the Sakura Japanese restaurant with the IVC social club.  Some people in our group chose from the barbecue menu, which meant that they cooked their own meat and vegetables at the table.  I did consider that, but I would’ve been a bit worried about making sure my meat was cooked properly, so I decided to order something from the standard menu instead.  I had peri peri chicken with rice, which was really nice, followed by vanilla ice cream for dessert.  I enjoyed it although I think I still prefer the Shiki Japanese restaurant I visited with work last year.  Unfortunately I haven’t been back there since.

Enjoying my new job

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September 9th, 2012 Posted 4:30 pm

I’ve been in my new Java Developer job since late July (ie since when I came back from holiday) and I’m enjoying it now.  At first I was nervous about whether I’d be good enough at the new job and whether I’d enjoy it as much as my old one, but my manager has said he’s pleased with my progress so far and I’m feeling a lot more settled now.  In the next week or 2, I’ll be doing a Java refresher course.  At first they said I’d need to travel to London to do a week-long course, but now they’re saying I can do a distance-learning course based in my office.  The course will be on a CD-ROM and I’ll be able to study at my own pace, and if I get stuck I’ll be able to ask my manager for help.  There will be a test at the end of the week to check what I’ve learnt.

4 weeks ago we had a heatwave and we went to Sea Palling beach for the afternoon.  3 weeks ago we went to Somerleyton Gardens, and we also took my step-dad Terry’s grandchildren with us.  We had a nice walk around the gardens, the maze and the house.  We also had lunch in the cafeteria – I had egg and cress sandwiches.  A couple of weeks ago I went to Sandringham Gardens with Mum and Terry, which was good as I’d never been there before.

A couple of Tuesdays ago, I met my friend Kay during my lunch-hour and we went to McDonald’s.  I hadn’t seen her for a long time, so I gave her a belated birthday card and present.  The following day, I went to a quiz night with the IVC social club which was held at The King’s Arms pub.  They actually let you order food from outside and they provide the cutlery, so I had an Indian takeaway (chicken korma and egg fried rice).  The quiz itself was good although it went on for a long time – it started at 8.15pm and went on until almost 11pm! Last Monday evening I went out with my friends Naomi, Sarah and Gemma for a meal at Frankie & Benny’s.  I had my usual Cajun chicken burger and fries.  I tried a different ice cream sundae for dessert this time – Cookies & Cream Collision – but it wasn’t quite as good as I expected it to be.  There are several other new sundaes I can try next time I go.

Yesterday was an exciting day as we booked a holiday in Ibiza for July 2013.  I’ll be going with my sister Suzanne, her husband Paul, my other sister Sarah and my nieces Anya and Emily.  Suzanne first went to Ibiza with one of her friends when she was 16, and we’ll be staying in the same hotel that she stayed in back then.  This is the hotel where we will be staying. :D  It’s 11 months away as yet, but I’m already getting excited!

I’ve also booked a weekend break in Bruges and Lille with my friend Naomi, which will take place in December.  We will be going to see the Christmas markets.  So I’ve got plenty of things to look forward to. :D



My holiday review

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July 29th, 2012 Posted 7:03 pm

For the middle 2 weeks of July, we were on holiday in Brampton, northern Cumbria.  We stayed in a holiday cottage (it was actually more like a bungalow) just outside Brampton.  This holiday was a bit different to previous years, as we were further north compared to when we used to go to the Lake District, and we went in July instead of August.  It was just me, Mum and my stepdad Terry this year, whereas for the last few years my sister Suzanne, her husband Paul and my nieces have come with us.  We were not far from Hadrian’s Wall and the city of Carlisle.  I kept a paper diary during the holiday, but it would take too long to type it all out, so I’ll write a summary of what we did each day.

Saturday 7th July: We left the house at about 7.45am to begin our journey.  We stopped at a Little Chef in Lincolnshire at about 10am for a snack.  In the mid morning we were held up by some roadworks, but we arrived in Brampton at about 2pm and we did some food shopping before arriving at the cottage just after 2.30pm.  We spent the rest of the day unpacking and settling in. (We never feel like doing too much on the first day of a holiday after the long journey!) The cottage had 3 bedrooms, and I was in one of the twin bedrooms which had a vanity basin. The scenery around the cottage was nice – there was a stream and some woods just behind the back garden, but unfortunately these were fenced off (we weren’t sure if this was because it was a very steep hill or because it was owned by someone else).

Sunday 8th July: The first full day of the holiday.  We walked around Brampton town centre and I took several photos.  As it was Sunday, most of the shops were closed, but we went to a pub (The Howard Arms) for a drink.  We were going to have lunch there but they said they don’t start serving food until 12.30pm, so we moved on to the White Lion and had a roast dinner there instead.  We spent the rest of the afternoon back at the cottage where Mum watched the Wimbledon tennis final.

Monday 9th July:  In the morning we went for another walk round Brampton town centre now that the shops were open.  We visited the tourist information centre and picked up some leaflets about the local area and maps of local walks.  We bought some chocolate truffles from a confectionery shop and then we visited Talkin Tarn (a lake) just outside Brampton.  We went to the on-site tearoom for lunch – I had Cumberland sausage with potato wedges and beans.  I had a mango milkshake which was very nice – I’d never tried one of those before.  For dessert I had a “thunder and lightening” English Lakes ice cream which had a mixture of vanilla, cinder toffee and chocolate.  After lunch we walked around the edge of the tarn – it was mostly flat land with some woodland.

Tuesday 10th July: It rained very heavily so we had to find somewhere to go that was under cover.  In the morning we went to the town of Haltwhistle and then we had lunch in a cafe.  Afterwards we visited the Vindolanda Roman fort and museum.  (There are several Roman forts along Hadrian’s Wall  – I’ll explain more about this later)  The museum was very interesting and I learnt a lot. We also walked around the excavation areas but it was very cold and rainy.  In the evening we went back to the cottage to get changed and then we had a meal at the Howard Arms pub in Brampton, where I had a chicken korma with poppadoms, and ice cream for dessert.

Wednesday 11th July:  It was another wet day so we didn’t go out until mid-day.  We went to the Roman Army Museum (run by the Vindolanda Trust like the fort we visited yesterday).  It was all indoors and there were several interesting videos to watch, including a 3D film.  After walking around the museum, we had a snack in the tearoom.  In the evening when we were back at the cottage, we watched one of the DVDs that I’d brought with me – The Hangover.  It was quite funny and I enjoyed it.

Thursday 12th July: We had a very busy day today as the weather was mostly nice and sunny.  We set off from the cottage at 9.30am.  Our first destination was Walltown Craggs near Greenhead village to see the highest part of Hadrian’s Wall.  The wall was built by the Romans in AD122 and it marked the northern frontier of the Roman empire.  It is a common misconception that Hadrian’s wall marks the boundary between England and Scotland. This is not the case; the wall lies entirely within England, and south of the border with Scotland by less than one kilometre in the west at Bowness-on-Solway, and 110 kilometres (68 miles) in the east. The wall was originally 3 metres wide and 6 metres high when it was built, but in medieval times many of the stones were robbed to build castles, churches and houses etc.

Later we visited the ruin of Thirlwall Castle.  From there we came back to the cottage for lunch, and then we drove to Lanercost church and priory.  Then we walked along the River Irthing.  Afterwards we drove to Naworth Castle, but it wasn’t open to the public so we just took some photos of the exterior.  It was very impressive.  Finally we went to Brampton and walked to part of Brampton Ridge which is at the foot of a former motte and bailey castle.

Friday 13th July: We woke up early and we drove to Scotland, which was about 20 miles from Brampton.  I took a couple of photos of the “Welcome to Scotland” sign, we drove through the border town of Langholm and then we visited Castle O’er Forest.  It was very quiet in the forest and we didn’t see anyone for miles. We walked up to an iron roundhouse fort and took some photos and a video. It was peaceful but it was also a bit eerie as we were the only people there.   There was a river called the White Esk but unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any access to it, so we couldn’t walk by the river.  In the afternoon we drove back to Langholm and walked around the town.  We saw a point where 3 different rivers meet.  We went to a cafe where I had a white hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows on top, and a slice of Victoria sponge cake.  Later we walked through a war memorial garden which had lots of pretty flowers.  We walked through the woods by the river for a few minutes.  On the way back to the holiday cottage, we stopped at Hollous by the river where I took some photos from the bridge. It was a very pretty river with mini waterfalls.

Saturday 14th July: We spent the day in Alston, which is the highest altitude market town in England.  It had cobbled streets and a market cross.  Many of the buildings were built in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Mum and I bought some jewellery in a local shop.  We went to a pub called The Angel for lunch – I had half a roast chicken, chips and vegetables, with pancakes and ice cream for dessert.  The service in the pub was very slow so we were in there for an hour and three quarters.  After lunch we went for a walk by the River Tyne.  It was very pretty and there were a couple of waterfalls.  Afterwards we drove to the other side of the town and visited the narrow guage railway where we picked up a steam train timetable.  We then visited a small museum called The Hub, which had old cars, bikes, motorbikes and other forms of transport.  It also had old machinery and old photos of the local area.

Sunday 15th July: We drove to Brampton for Sunday lunch at The White Lion.  I had roast beef like last week, but this time I had blueberry cheescake for dessert.  After lunch we went for a drive around the local countryside.  We stopped for a few minutes at Banks Turret, then we visited Birdoswald Roman Fort.  There was a small museum and visitor centre to look round and then went outside to see the fort and sections of Hadrian’s Wall.  We also walked onto a bridge to see a nearby stream.  Later on we tried to look for the Crammel Linn waterfall but unfortunately we couldn’t find it (the signage in this area isn’t too good).

Monday 16th July: We spent the day in Carlisle.  We caught a bus to Carlisle in the morning and we arrived in the city centre just after 11am.  We visited the cathedral and the castle.  I enjoyed it but there wasn’t as much to see compared with Norwich Castle (many of the rooms were empty and there weren’t many exhibits).  Afterwards we went back to the cathedral grounds where I had egg and cress sandwiches, Victorian lemonade and a piece of caramel shortbread for dessert.  Then we wandered around the Carlisle streets and some of the shops for a while before catching the bus back to Brampton.

Tuesday 17th July: Today we went back to Alston for a trip on the steam train.  When we first arrived we bought some cakes from the award-winning bakery in the town.  We then headed to the South Tynedale Railway and caught the steam train from Alston through Gilderdale, Kirkhaugh to Lintley Halt.  We saw some pretty scenery on the train journey.  We got off the train at Lintley Halt and went on a scenic 4 mile walk back to Alston.  At Kirkhaugh we diverted from the footpath and followed a field down to the riverbank where we had a picnic.   When we returned to Alston town centre we bought some locally-made biscuits and jam.

Later in the afternoon we drove to County Durham to see High Force waterfall. It was very spectacular and I took a video and several photos.  In the evening we got a Chinese takeaway in Brampton, which we ate back at the cottage (I had my usual chicken curry and egg fried rice).

Wednesday 18th July: We went to Gilsland Spa Hotel for lunch.  I had fish and chips and raspberry roulade for dessert.  I also had a raspberry milkshake.  I think this was the nicest meal I had on this holiday.  While we were in the restaurant, some ladies told us about the gorge at the back of the car park.  So after lunch we followed the pathway to the River Irthing amongst the trees.  Eventually we came to a bridge walkway, where the river was flowing really fast like a raging torrent.

Thursday 19th July: We spent most of today on the Hadrian’s Wall trail.  We started off at Walltown Craggs like the first Thursday, but this time we walked much further. We had brought a picnic with us which we ate part-way through the walk.  We also walked around Steel Rigg where there was a pretty lake and woodland.  The wall wasn’t quite as high here as it was at Walltown, but we saw a milecastle along the way.  By the time we finished this walk it was early evening.  By the time we got back to Brampton all the local cafes were closed, but it was too early for a meal at a pub so we bought some sausage rolls from the butchers.

Friday 20th July: This was our last day, so I felt a bit sad.  We spent the afternoon in the area around Gilsland Spa.  On the way there, we stopped at the Lanercost gift shop to get some gifts and goodies. I got a Hadrian’s Wall mug and book (yes I like the wall!), plus some Kendal mint cake. When we arrived at Gilsland Spa we took the Irthing Gorge path behind the hotel, but we still didn’t manage to find the elusive Crammel Linn waterfall.  Even one of the locals we spoke to didn’t know where it was! It was still a good walk anyway, which took us though some pretty woodland and we saw the River Irthing.  We tried several different pathways to find the waterfall, but all we ended up with was muddy jeans so we had to go back to the cottage and get changed before we returned to the Gilsland Spa Hotel for our final meal of the holiday.  As it was the evening, they put us in the bar area instead of the bright and airy coffee shop that they put us in for lunch 2 days earlier. This time I had a chicken korma for my main course and chocolate sponge cake for dessert.

Most of the Saturday was spent travelling back home. I went back to work on Monday and I had a one-to-one meeting with my new manager.  I told him about the work I was doing before my holiday, and he told me what progress had been made on this while I was away.  We then discussed my new Junior Java Developer job – I explained that before my holiday, I had been told that the IT director was trying to arrange a Java refresher course for me.  Unfortunately no further progress had been made with regards to arranging this course, but I emphasised that I was still keen to start the new role.  My manager then said that once I’d finished my other work he would get me started on some of the Java work.  I managed to finish my work on the corporate website bugfixes by Wednesday afternoon, so then my manager gave me the task of installing a copy of the content management system on my local machine.  I then read through the documentation and my manager gave me some Java/Velocity/XML code files to analyse, so I could see how they fit together.  Once I’d done this I asked a few questions to help me understand more about how the program works.  My manager then set me the task of building my own Polopoly element using a combination of Velocity templating code and XML.  I completed this on Friday morning and I was then shown how to deploy my work to the local webserver.  Overall I think it’s gone quite well so far, so I don’t think I’ll find it too difficult to pick up this new job.  A lot of the programs can be based on existing code, so you don’t always have to write things from scratch, which makes it a lot easier.

For the last few days I’ve had this weird sense of not being able to relax fully – I’m not sure if it’s because I’m subconsciously nervous about my new job, or whether I’m feeling a bit edgy about all the changes that have taken place at work recently (see my previous post for details of all the changes).  I hope I’ll feel more settled once I’m back into my usual routine.

I’ve had a hectic week since coming back from holiday – due to the heatwave I needed to buy some new dresses to wear at work.  On Tuesday evening I managed to buy one new dress.  On Wednesday evening I went to the coast with my sister Suzanne, her husband Paul, my niece Emily and their dog Lily.  Firstly we went to Winterton to walk the dog along the beach.  It was still quite warm and sunny.  Later we moved on to Hemsby where we visited the amusement arcades and bought some donuts.  We were hoping to see the sunset but unfortunately the sun set over the land and not the sea, so I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping to take photos of the sun setting over the beach.  It was a good evening though – I hadn’t been to the beach in the evening for several years.  Then on Thursday evening it was late-night shopping so I bought some more new dresses.  So it turned out that Monday and Friday were the only evenings I had free.  This coming week should be more quiet, although I do plan to go to a music quiz night on Tuesday with the IVC social club.  It will be the first time I’ve been to a club event for about a month.




June: Party month

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June 23rd, 2012 Posted 2:14 pm

I’m still excited about my new job, although I haven’t actually started it yet.  I can’t start until I’ve been on a Java training course and the IT department hasn’t arranged this yet.   Several new people are going to be starting in our department over the next few days as we’re taking on 3 extra web developers and 4 contractors.  Last week my team manager left the company (he has found a new job elsewhere) so we all went out for a meal at Figaro’s Italian restaurant.  So we will soon have a new team manager.  On top of that, one of the project managers has gone on maternity leave, so we will have a new temporary project manager starting next week.  So it’s all change at work at the moment!  At least the department is growing, whereas at my previous company the workforce was constantly shrinking which made me feel nervous all the time.

A couple of days after I was told the news about my new job, I went out for a meal at Zaks with Mum and my stepdad Terry.  I had the usual half a fried chicken and fries for my main course, but this time I tried the cookie dough cheesecake for dessert which was really nice.

3 weeks ago it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend (celebrating 60 years on the throne).  We had a long 4-day weekend as the Monday and Tuesday were declared national holidays.  I watched the Jubilee pageant (with all the boats on the River Thames) on TV which was good although the weather wasn’t very nice. On Sunday morning I went to my friend Naomi’s church service, where they had a special tea party theme.  On Monday evening there was a concert at Buckingham Palace and we watched this on TV.  Also on Monday evening, there were celebrations at our local recreation ground – we went along just before 10pm and there was a live band, beacon-lighting ceremony and a fireworks display.  Overall I really enjoyed the long weekend as there was plenty of things going on.

There are 3 big parties this month which I’ve attended/will be attending.  The first one was about 3 weeks ago – it was a joint birthday party organised by 2 members of the IVC social club and it was held at Thorpe End village hall.  Then last weekend it was the annual IVC summer party, which this year was held on the Horning paddle steamer.  I really enjoyed it as we got to see some nice scenery, the buffet was very good (especially the chocolate strawberries!) and there was a good disco.  This was the first time I’d ever been on a paddle steamer, and also the first time I’d ever been to a disco on a boat!  So it was a completely new experience for me and I think it’s one of the best parties I’ve ever attended!   The 3rd big party is taking place tonight – it’s my friend Kay’s friend Rachel’s hen night as she is getting married next week.  We’ll be having a meal at Yellows (part of Norwich City Football ground) and then we’ll go nightclubbing.

A couple of weeks ago I organised a cinema night with the IVC social club.  Five of us went and we saw Men In Black 3.  We had to see it in 2D as the 3D version was held at an awkward time and it would’ve been too difficult for people to get there in time after leaving work.  It was a good film and I was glad everyone enjoyed it.  At first I was worried that no-one was going to attend, as it wasn’t until the day before that people started confirming that they would attend.

Last week I had my eyebrows waxed straight after work so I thought I may as well meet up with Mum and go for a meal at Malaysian Delights afterwards.  Last week I had my hair cut (in the same style as a couple of months ago) and this week I had a dental check-up.  So that’s the chores completed for a few weeks (I don’t like having my eyebrows waxed, having my hair cut or having a dental checkup – I find them all a bit of a chore!)

That’s it for now.  I’m looking forward to my night out this evening, and I’ve also got a long weekend as I booked Monday off work.  :)

Marvellous May!

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May 29th, 2012 Posted 11:15 pm

May has been such an exciting month for me! I’ve got a new job, and also my Dad came home from Thailand for 10 days to see me and we visited several local places.

I’ve been working as a front-end web developer for the last couple of years, and it was at the end of April that I saw the advert for a new Java Web Developer where I currently work.  As I’d like an opportunity to make more use of the programming skills I learnt in my computing science degree course, I decided that I would apply for the job as an internal candidate. I started updating my CV and filling in the application form.  Then a couple of days later I decided to take some online Java quizzes.  On one of the quizzes, I didn’t do as well as I expected.  I started to worry that as it’s been 7 years since I graduated and I hadn’t really used my Java skills since then that they had gone a bit stale.  It was then that I began to have second thoughts about applying for the job – I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the role and that I would make a fool of myself in the interview.  I discussed my concerns with my family and even some online friends, and they gave me the confidence to go ahead with my application.  My manager also suggested that I arrange a meeting with the existing Java Developer so that I could see the sort of work he does.  So I sat with the current Java Developer and he showed me some of the programs that he was working on, and talked me through them.  I then realised that the work wouldn’t be as difficult as I thought it would be, so I submitted my application.

I carried on watching Java video tutorials on YouTube, in preparation for a potential interview.  I then waited and waited to hear of the next steps – I actually wasn’t told that I’d been selected for interview until 2 and a half weeks after the closing date for applications.  I began thinking of answers to potential interview questions – I always like to be well-prepared so I don’t get tongue-tied in an interview.  At the same time as being invited to interview, I was also asked to take 7 web development and Java programming tests at the SHL Previsor website (a lot of employers use those tests for candidate screening). Before I took the tests, I looked through my various programming books to refresh my memory of the core concepts.  I decided to do the tests in the evenings and at the weekend so that I wouldn’t be distracted by anything else.

When I got to the interview, which was held last Wednesday, my manager said he was very pleased with my test results.  The 7 tests I took (with my grades in brackets) were: HTML 4.0 (Advanced), JavaScript 1.5 (Proficient), AJAX (Advanced), XML (Advanced), Java XML Technologies (Advanced), Java Platform Enterprise Edition 6 (Proficient), Java 6 (Proficient).   So I got Advanced (the highest grade) on 4 out of 7 of the tests.  On a couple of the others (where I got Proficient), I missed out on the Advanced level by just one or two questions.   This made me feel very confident for the interview.  I had brought some notes/prompts in the interview, but once my initial nerves had worn off following the first question, I didn’t need to refer to them any more.

Overall I felt the interview had gone well.  My manager was asking the general HR-type questions, whilst the existing Java Developer was asking the technical/programming questions.  I answered all the general questions fine with no problems, and I felt confident about the vast majority of the technical questions too.  In fact, I only struggled with a couple of the technical questions, but I made sure I gave an answer to every question, even if I wasn’t sure it was correct.  The interviews seemed happy with most of my answers, so I left the interview room feeling fairly confident.   I didn’t want to get too excited though – I’ve been to other interviews in the past which had gone really well, only to be turned down later.  Even if you do well in an interview, you never know how well the other candidates may have performed, so you can never be sure you’ve got the job.

On Wednesday evening, we went for a carvery at The Oaklands, as a way to help me relax after the interview.  It also served as a reward for keeping up with my studies and interview preparation, which had taken up a lot of my free time over the preceding days.  I tried to keep myself busy with other things in the evening and at the weekend to keep my mind off the interview process. Inevitably though, I still thought about it quite often, wondering whether my dream of a new job would come true or whether I would be staying in my current job.

It wasn’t until this morning that I was told the outcome of the interview, so I’d been anxiously waiting for nearly a week.  I was due to have my fortnightly 1:1 meeting with my manager today anyway, so I suspected that I would be told the outcome then.  As soon as I walked into the room, the interview was the first subject that the manager opened the conversation with, and he had a big smile on his face, so I then knew that I’d succeeded.    He asked me how I thought the interview had gone, and I replied that I felt it had gone well.  He said he thought it had gone well too, and that he was impressed with me.  He then handed me a letter offering me the job. :)

As I don’t have any commercial experience of Java programming, I have been offered the job at junior level for the time being, so my job title will be Junior Java Developer.  In a few weeks’ time I’ll be sent on a Java training course to fill in any gaps in my knowledge, and then I’ll be able to officially start my new role.  I’ll be able to gradually work my way towards the full Java Developer role, so in a few months when I’m fully up to speed they will drop the Junior prefix from the job title and I’ll be paid the full rate. The reassuring thing is that if I don’t like the new job, I’ll be allowed to go back to my current one.  Hopefully that won’t happen though – I think I’ll find the new job more interesting than my current one.

In my spare time I study video training courses at and I also do a few other web development courses online.  I talked about this and my other personal development work in my interview.  My manager did say today that my keenness to learn was one of the factors which persuaded him to offer me the new job, so I’m really pleased about that.  It has been worth it after all, and I’m so glad that I had the courage to follow through with my application even though I was fearful to begin with.  If I hadn’t applied for the job, I’d spend the coming months and years wondering “what if?”  But I don’t want to live with any regrets, so I decided that I would go through with it. If you are given an opportunity, I think it is best to go with it even if you are nervous -  a phrase I have often heard is “feel the fear and do it anyway!” I’m so relieved that I heeded the advice on this occasion.

On Thursday evening Mum, Terry and I will go to Zaks restaurant in Poringland for a celebration meal.  We have already booked the table so I’m looking forward to that.

Onto another subject – my Dad and step-family have been living in Thailand for the past 6 years (as you may already know if you read this blog regularly).  3 weeks ago my Dad came home for a 10 day holiday and I met up with him several times.  We went to some of our favourite restaurants and we also went to Sheringham by train one Sunday.  This was the first time I’d seen my Dad in about 2 and a half years – the last time he came back to Norwich was October 2009.  On the first day, we met up at the Spice Lounge Indian restaurant which was nice.  Then a couple of days later we met up in the evening for a drink and a buffet meal at Malaysian Delights.  My Dad had never been there before but he enjoyed it.  On the following Sunday we caught a train to Sheringham and spent the day at the coast.  It was a nice warm day and we stayed for several hours.  We walked near the sea and the tide was high so we couldn’t actually go on the beach – but we were standing on some steps and all of a sudden a huge wave came and splashed us!  Most of the other waves were much smaller, so we weren’t expecting that. It was a shock but thankfully it didn’t take too long for me to dry off.  At lunchtime we had a meal in the Robin Hood pub – we both had roast chicken and it was very nice.  I took several photos while we were walking around the town – see here.  On the final day of my Dad’s holiday we met up in The Bell Hotel for a drink, and we also ended up having a meal.  In previous years, I got really upset when my Dad left at the end of a holiday to go back to Thailand, but this time I didn’t feel so bad.  I think that’s because I am more used to it now I’m older, and also we had a really good time together on this holiday so I’ll have plenty of happy memories.

That’s it for now.  I’m sure the next few days and weeks will be very exciting as I find out more about my new job and there’ll be plenty of new things to learn. :D

An exciting April

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April 9th, 2012 Posted 9:43 pm

April is going to be an exciting month!  I’m going on 2 cake-making courses with my friend Naomi in the next couple of weeks.  The first one is being held this coming Saturday at Poringland village hall, and involves learning how to cover and decorate your very own chocolate cake,  how to make chocolate fans and chocolate roses.  Then a week later, we will be going to London to do a course about making a double-height stacked cake.  We’ll be staying in the same bed and breakfast that we stayed in when we did the cupcake course in December 2010.  I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ve had a 4-day weekend for the Easter holidays.  On Saturday I went out with my friends Naomi, Sarah, Gemma and Kay for a meal at Frankie & Benny’s restaurant, and then we had a couple of games of 10-pin bowling at Hollywood Bowl.  This was my belated birthday party and Easter party! My actual birthday is in February but as not all my friends are around then, I usually have my party at Easter.  The food at Frankie & Benny’s was good, although the service was very slow this time.  We ordered our meals at 7pm but we didn’t get them until 50 minutes later!  It’s not usually that slow, although my friend said the manager (who is one of her neighbours) was on holiday, and it was also rather busy.  This made us a bit late for the 10 pin bowling, which was booked for 8.30pm, but we asked them to hold the lane for us.  I had a cajun chicken burger with fries for my main course, with a sorbet for dessert (I was too full up to manage a sundae!)  I came 2nd in the first game of bowling, which Gemma won, but I didn’t do so well in the 2nd game.  Overall it was a really good night.

I’ve been extra busy at work recently – I’ve got several projects on the go, and I’ve been asked to do overtime in the evenings, creating mobile-enabled websites.  It all seems to be going well though.

A couple of weeks ago we went on a daffodil walk at Blickling Gardens, which was nice.