I don’t normally post anything political here.  No, I don’t have sinister extremist views. I’m just not sure anyone’d be particularly interested in what I thought.   However, I am making an exception here for a political campaign that is party neutral: Mysociety.org’s Free Our Bills campaign.  For those of you who’ve not come across Mysociety.org before, they’re the main project of UK Citizens Online Democracy, a charity which exists to promote online democracy (surprisingly enough!).  They are behind some very well known projects including: the Number 10 petitions website, TheyWorkForYou.com which helps you find out who your local elected representatives are, what they’ve said in Parliament, and WriteToThem.com which lets you communicate electronically with your MPs, councillors and others.

Their latest campaign is Free Our Bills which is asking Parliament to make draft legislation available in an open way, which will enable their site (and anyone else who wants to offer anything similar) a chance to e-mail interested people when a draft bill comes up that they have previously expressed an interest in (for example, you could ask to be informed of any law that mentions “inheritance tax” or “abortion”), show which MPs were involved in which bits of law and generally open up the law-making process for the 21st century.

If this sounds like something you’d support, please click on the link or picture above and mail your MP, asking them to support the campaign and Early Day Motion 2141.  I have, and received a letter today from her confirming she’ll sign up.  Please do support this – it’s only a few clicks and costs you nothing!

Sunday was our first wedding anniversary.   As we’re off to Bruges with Sarah’s brother and father in a fortnight’s time, have only recently returned from Italy and this weekend was the big St Albans fireworks display, we weren’t going away.   So, we had friends round for drinks, chilli jacket potatoes and a trip to the fireworks (though some of the wimped out, wisely, given how wet we got).

And then on Sunday, we went for lunch at Darcy’s restaurant here in St Albans.  Sarah had a delicious looking chicken and chorizo starter, followed by pumpkin and goats cheese salad, with me choosing the Italian three bean soup followed by pork with sage-roasted apple.  And then we both decided that as it was our anniversary I might be allowed to fall off the diet wagon for just one day and splurge on desert.  And what a desert – chocolate, caramel and peanut spring roll with chocolate ice cream.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Very good value too at £19.90/head!

Earlier in the day we exchanged gifts.   I have a wonderful new book about St Albans Abbey (paper is the first anniversary) together with his’n’hers sponsored donkeys at the wonderful Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth.  And Sarah has a picture of the Lady Chapel in the Abbey, which was where we were married, taken by me, printed professionally onto paper (of course), then given a canvas effect and wrapped onto a wooden frame.  I can heartily recommend One Vision Imaging!

Anniversary gift

I promised you I’d start getting through the backlog of pictures.   So here’s the set from our outing to Portsmouth when we were last down in Chichester.

We started by buying an ‘all in’ dockyard ticket which included a boat tour of the dockyard.  This was something I’d never done, despite having been to Portsmouth countless times in my youth.  And in our honour, HMS St Albans was in port.  We also did the Mary Rose, HMS Warrior and the dockyard museum, leaving HMS Victory for another trip down (the tickets are good value as you can go back and do the bits you missed out at any point in the next year).

After that, we made a quick trip to Gunwharf Quays to pick up a canteen, then up the Spinnaker Tower for a look at the view.  Finished somewhat late (it opened in 2005 – not bad for a millennium project, eh?) and the subject of a massive overspend (the District Auditor no less got involved), the view is impressive.  It was a little misty to see the far side of the Isle of Wight, but you get the idea.  And you can also see my attempt to cure my fear of heights by taking the ‘walk of faith’ – a glass floor 100m above the ground.

Click on the pictures to see more.

Hello, (another) sailor Engineering in motion
HMS St Albans
Trying to cure my fear of heights

Sarah with Mum and Dad's cat visitor


We don’t know his name, nor where he comes from.   All we know is that he seems fit and well cared for, very friendly and likes to spend a lot of time in Mum and Dad’s garden!  Click on the picture above or here to see more.

Back from two weeks ‘off work’ (you wouldn’t know by the two days spent in the office during the first week, and the amount of e-mails on my ‘mobility device’ (it’s not a Blackberry but not sure what else to call it) during the second.  And this week itself has been manic due to various crises, a book publication deadline and three external presentations which need slides done. So little time to reflect and update on what’s been going on whilst I was away!

To start with, a long weekend down in Chichester.  We went down to see my folks and also to see ‘Calendar Girls’ at the Festival Theatre.  Similar but not identical to the film, it was a very funny play – and very carefully acted by the cast who all managed to be photographed in the buff without any of us in the audience seeing anything naughty as they undressed/dressed.   I’m not quite sure about the people sat at the side of the stage though!  Anyway, well done to Linda Bellingham, Patricia Hodge, Gaynor Faye et al.   It’s going to the West End soon and if you get a chance to catch it, you should.

I did manage to snag a few photos whilst in Chichester – click on the picture below for the set.  Pictures from our trip to Portsmouth to follow!

Window, Chichester Cathedral

Innocent Village Fete I seem to have been short-listed again for the Innocent Village Fete photography competition.

If you feel that way inclined, clicking here and voting would be very nice – mine is entry four in the second set of boxes.  But of course, I do want you to vote for the one you judge to be the best, not just mine out of some misguided sense of loyalty!

Anybody else see this over on the BBC website about how at least one independent cinema chain is banning popcorn?

Personally I don’t object to it – generally far less anti-social than nachos which can stink the place out.   I can see the argument about the mess (though the cinema I was in at the weekend for Wall-E didn’t have bins on the way out – we had to bring our ice cream tubs home to recycle*).  And perhaps the noise (I still remember one of my friends on a university outing to Shadowlands managing to make his last all the way to the end of the film – everyone else sniffing whilst trying to hold back tears at the end, and him sat crunching away).   But I really can’t see that providing popcorn makes for bad movies** – I don’t find the choice of film I’m seeing affects my desire to eat trashy food!***

So, guys:

– it’s not that unhealthy – unlike some other cinema food (those hotdogs and the aforementioned nachos);

– smaller portions would be good though – I don’t like asking for a child’s portion, even though that is too big for your average child and perfectly ample for a fully-grown adult.   This would be a lot more environmentally friendly in terms of the energy to cook the stuff and the cardboard used in the tubs; and

– please do put in some sort of recycling facility – no wonder people leave the empties behind when there’s not even a normal bin!

* If you really want an example of anti-social, the security guard on the way in was having words with one lady who argued “but I always bring this and nobody ever stops me” holding up her tub of curry and rice.

** I suspect there’d still be a lot of bad movies even without popcorn.  But far less of the movies shown in the independent cinemas in the article would get any kind of look-in at the multiplexes.  Which would mean a lot less of them got made.  Which would be a shame…

*** A wider selection of healthy but quiet snacks would be good.  Not sure the wasabi nuts mentioned in the article would be any quieter than pop-corn though!