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Friday, 15 December 2006

Christmas Is Coming At An Alarming Rate.

I’ve been really busy over the last week or so. Here’s a quick rundown of events.

  • Two Christmas dinners attended.
  • One session of weekend cancelled
  • One car almost bought
  • One down stairs toilet still not completed
  • 95% of my Christmas shopping completed
  • One broken down motorcycle
  • One mobile phone upgraded

It can’t have escaped your notice that it is Christmas party season. For the last two Fridays I have been out for company meals. Last Friday it was my current employers do and last night I attended my previous employer Christmas meal.

Friday 8th

It was the office Christmas party at Tiger-Tiger in Croydon. It consisted of 80 people being crammed onto a series of long tables designed for about 50. There were elbows all over the place and 4 of our number fell off the end. They ended up sitting else where in the end. As is traditional at these events, copious amounts of alcohol were consumed by all those present, including myself. Despite my alcoholic stupor, on the way home I managed to take some quite good photographs, which I posted on my Flickr account.

Monday 11th

I took my Wife to the dentist and ended up signing myself up for some similar financial torture next Monday. I don’t have a fear of the dentists work, but what really terrifes me is the bills at the end of the pain. However, I badly smashed a tooth a year ago and I all honesty I really need to have it dealt with.

Despite me agreeing that we should change our car, but not until sometime in the New Year, my wife keeps buying copies of car sale magazines. She will search for suitable vehicles and then go on about them. Well she found one such car in last week’s copy of the AutoTrader. It was such a bargain that I had to phone up to see if it was still available. It was, but someone was going to view it that afternoon. They promised to phone back. They didn’t, so I phone them. The viewing had now moved to the evening, but they would phone me on Tuesday.

Tuesday 12th

By 10am the garage still hadn’t phoned about the car, so I phoned them again. Apparently they were waiting for a decision from the viewer as to whether they wanted to car or not. You’ve guessed it, they would phone us back within half an hour. An hour later they had failed to phone, so I rang them. “Come and have a look at it” they said. Half an hour later I was driving it around the back roads of a posh part of Surrey. It had a slight misfire, but I was impressed with it’s overall condition and agreed to buy it once it had been fixed. They would service it, clean it and arrange the tax so we could pick it up next Saturday (today).

Arriving home I organised the car insurance to be changed over at the appropriate point, happy in the knowledge to we had got ourselves a real bargain. The only down side is that it’s completely the wrong time of year to sell our Peugeot 306 Boat, but I have a cunning plan.

Wednesday 13th

I was back at work again for the usual everyday excitement. To be honest I’ve been quite busy lately and this week has been particularly tiring. I’m not complaining as I love the job and the team of people I work with.

I received a letter explaining that I’m doing well and am now a permanent member of staff. I was surprised as my six months isn’t quite up yet. It has given me a sense of security that I’ve been craving for a long time and for me marks the end of a very stressful two year period. In my previous job I had very little work and the constant feared being made redundant too its toll. All the stress made me quite ill and I have since realised how close I came to having a nervous breakdown. 2007 is looking as if it will be very good. Time will tell of course.

Friday 15th

The day started well. Bright, sunny(ish) and quite fresh out. The journey to work was quite easy and un-eventful and I arrived raring to go.

At about 10:30am I decided to phone the garage to confirm the car would be fixed and ready for collection the following day. I was informed that they were currently servicing the car, but there was a problem with the registration document. They told me that the previous owner hadn’t given them the log book and have requested a new one, but it hadn’t yet arrived. This surprised me as I’m almost positive that I saw the log book with the previous owners detail on it on Monday. My brother-in-laws girlfriend also recalls seeing it. Why would I consider buying a car without confirming the log book was correct? I can only assume they’ve misplaced it at the garage. They were hoping to find a way round the road tax and would get back to me asap.

They actually phoned me back this time, but the news wasn’t good. They’d found a major ignition system problem and the parts wouldn’t be fitted until next Tuesday. To be honest I’m very glad they found it and not me in two months time. It almost certain that a repair wouldn’t be covered by the warrantee. Lunch time saw my Christmas shopping all but completed.

And that brings me right up to date, for now at least.


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Sunday, 3 December 2006

Wonderful Customer Service … NOT!

All this talk of my various visits to Curry’s (see previous article) has remained me of an experience of stunning customer service I received last weekend from another store within the Dixon’s Group of companies.

Last Saturday I went to PC World to buy a PC joystick for my Sons Flight Simulator. I found a stack of suitable joysticks at the end of an isle. None of them were priced up and the neither was the racking. I hunted round to see if there were more on another rack, but could only find different models. In my quest for fiscal enlightenment I collared a passing spotty ‘yoof’ dressed in company uniform and asked,

“Could you tell me how much these are please?”.

After a few seconds of doing an impression of a rabbit caught in a cars headlight beam, he was rescued by another passing colleague. I heard him whisper “£20 or £30” to our captive ‘yoof’, and he continued on with his journey.

“£20 or £30” replied the ‘yoof’ happily.

I continued “So which is it to be, £20 or £30 ?”.

“Don’t know” said the ‘yoof’ “You’ll have to go to the till”, and promptly disappeared like a flash of lightning, before I could clip him round the ear.

I was extremely unimpressed with this stunning bit of customer service.

Unfortunately, the Dixon’s group have us by the ‘short & curlys’ as they have seen off most of the competition and now dominate the whole of the electrical appliance market here in the UK. The only alternative is Comet, but their prices are exactly the same as Dixon’s.

If you don’t know which retailers the Dixon’s Group owns, here is a handy list.

  • PC World

  • Currys

  • Dixons (now Currys Digital)

  • The Link

If you know of any I’ve missed, please let me know and I’ll add them on.


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Our House Guests Are Vandals

Two days after our visitors arrived I discovered that our outside drain was blocked with a oily substance with grit in it. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that someone has been pouring cooking oil down the kitchen sink. This mixed with the sand and cement washed off my Brother-in-Law (or Chunky as I call him) work clothes has caused the blockage. His girlfriends’ hair has blocked the bath on two occasions as well.

Last week Chunky managed to break the gas lighter we use to start our cooker. Why do we use a gas lighter you ask? The simple answer is that the electronic ignition system on the cooker failed within 30 seconds of the warranty expiring. That was 12 years ago and I’ve long since given up trying to diagnose the fault. Thus the need for a gas lighter. We’ve had to resort to matches for the last few days, which has caused much entertainment all round. Don’t you hate the smell of singed hairs?

Sometime on Thursday evening his girlfriend broke the microwave oven. We discovered this on Friday evening when it failed to spring into life when switched on at the wall. After ascertaining that the fuse was OK and that power was getting to the microwave we decided that it probably failed due to old age. After all it was over 15 years old. I’m thinking of banning them from the kitchen in case they wreck all our other appliances.

Saturday’s task was to replace said broken items. We had to go to a neighbouring town for my Sons Saturday club. Killing two birds with one stone, we popped into Curry’s between dropping him off and to picking him up. They had a vast array of microwave ovens, ranging from basic models at about £30 right up to an “all-singing-all-dancing” model at £299. Who in their right mind would pay that much for a microwave oven? That’s enough to buy a good quality lens for my new camera, which you must agree would be a far better use of the money (hint, hint). In the end we selected an 800W model with built in 1KW grill at £80. A bit steep, but at least we both managed to agree for once.

After struggling back to the car with it, we continued shopping for a replacement gas lighter, which we eventually found in Robert Dyers.

Back at home while unpacking our new toy, I was dismayed to discover that the grilling rack was broken before I’d even got it out of the box. I decided that I wasn’t repacking the whole unit to return it. I’d go to our local branch of Curry’s and get them to exchange the rack from a display model.

To save any messing about I thought I’d ring to make sure they had them on stock. This was a lot harder than I expected. “Press 1 for TVs, Press 2 for fridges and freezers, Press 3 if you've lost the will to live, etc”. After a few button presses I was told to that if my TV screen was less than 23 inches I should return it to my local branch. I have no idea how I got there and hang-up so I could try again. This also failed to get me where I wanted to be and at no time was I given the option to talk to a real Human Being!

This morning, armed with the broken rack and receipt I went to my local branch of Curry’s to get it replaced. Unfortunately that branch doesn’t stock the model and my only choice is to make the 20 miles round trip back to where we bought it in the first place. If I can be bothered I’ll do it next weekend.

At present the rent we are charging them is not covering the breakages. Perhaps an increase is in order.

I wonder which appliance they are planning to break next.


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Saturday, 2 December 2006

The Boat Has Broken Down…AGAIN!

Our Peugeot 306 (or “The Boat” as we call it) has thrown a wobbly tonight. It’s not all the Boats fault, my wife conspired against it too.

My Wife (Mrs.P.) took her Brother-in-Law home this evening and they sat chatting in the boat outside his house. Because it was dark, she decided to keep the lights on and the fan running to clear the windscreen. When it was time to leave the battery didn’t have enough life left in it to start the engine. I was aware that the battery could do with being replaced, but it wasn’t bad enough to warrant immediate attention.

After unsuccessfully trying to jump-start it, the Cavalry was called and arrived about an hour later. We now have it from an official source. Mrs.P. killed the battery.

They managed to get it going so she could return home and today I’ve fitted a shiny new one.

We have made the decision to replace the boat in the spring as we can no long stand the hassle of bailing her out everytime anyone wishes to sit in the front passenger seat. All that remains is to decide which car to replace her with. That’s a debate that will take months to resolve.


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Thursday, 30 November 2006

Catching Up With Our Lodgers

Previous Entry - Visitors From A Parallel Reality

The Aliens from a parallel reality have finally arrived. They eventually turned up at 8:30pm on Friday 10th of November, armed with several bin bags of clothing and surprisingly little else. Having deposited their few possessions they left in order to shop for food. They returned later with one box of 6 Mince Pies and a take-away each. All very nutritious you understand.

On Saturday it was time for the furniture to arrive, by the car load. Three car loads in fact. I was most surprised when they actually managed to fit it all into our box room and still managed to get in the door.

One of the items they bought with them was a wireless broadband router. I was tasked with installing this to allow our guests to connect their laptop PC and Xbox360 to my broadband connection. It was surprisingly easy to install and setup. Oddly it seems to have improved my PC’s internet access speed and this with 2 extra devices connected.

We are now 3 weeks into this arrangement and I’m surprised how it has work thus far. I completely expected to be sick of the sight of them within a week. This has not happened and most of the time I hardly notice their presence. In fact there have been a number of benefits. These include,

  • Conveniently located Baby Sitters.

  • Someone to talk to when my Wife is at work.

  • Emergency transportation when a crisis arises, which is common with my Wife’s family.

  • Occasionally I haven’t needed to cook for myself.

  • We’ve used the rent money to buy ourselves a much needed new bed.

There are also a few downsides,

  • My Brother-in-Laws work clothes get so dirty that when washed the drain blocks up.

  • His Girlfriends’ long hair blocks the bath trap.

  • There’s no room in the fridge for my sandwiches.

  • Our hallway looks like a shoe shop.

  • I keep finding unwashed baking trays in the oven.

Overall though, it’s working out quite well and they are not getting in the way anywhere near as much as I’d expected.


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    Thursday, 23 November 2006

    Works Phone Update

    Previous Entry - I Have The Ability To Destruction Test Anything!

    I have today finally had my broken work mobile phone replaced and so far I haven’t managed to break this one. Hopefully it will stay that way.

    The Nokia 6233 isn’t a bad phone, but the voice recognition circuit is far less reliable than that fitted to my Nokia N70. Instead of calling the expected number, I often end up recording a voice memo. The other problem I’ve noticed is that I have been unable to get it to see my Bluetooth headset.

    It’s not all bad though, as it has quite a good camera and the speakers are very good considering their size.


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    Saturday, 18 November 2006

    The Zero Emission Car Has Arrived, But….

    BMW have just built a hydrogen powered concept car. It uses a 6 ltr 300bhp internal combustion engine and it's only emission is steam. Sounds good until you realise there are some serious problems with it.

    1, It only has a range of 200km between fill ups.
    2, There are only 5 fuelling stations in the whole world.
    3, The production of the hydrogen uses considerably more fossil fuel than just sticking petrol in it.

    But at least they are making an effort. How many other major car manufacturer have got this far?

    Almost there, but no cigar.

    Read full story - BMW's hydrogen car: Beauty or beast?


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    Wednesday, 15 November 2006

    I Have The Ability To Destruction Test Anything!

    At work last week we all had shiny new mobile phones delivered and they were due for changeover to the new service last Thursday. On Wednesday evening I spent many hours transferring phone numbers, assigning ring tones and generally fiddling to find out how everything works in readiness for the big day. Towards the end of the evening I found there was a Rally game on it, so it had to be exercised in the name of research. I pressed the go button and received a warning that the phone was low on memory, which was closely followed by a blank white screen. I turned off the phone and that was the last time it worked. I’m now the proud owner of a very smart looking inanimate object.

    I reported the fault the following day, but they were far too busy with the changeover to deal with my problem. “Could you call back tomorrow?”. Which I duly did.

    On Monday a replacement arrived, which turned out to be the wrong model and must be returned due to ‘Company Policy’. Therefore I must continue to wait for my new toy. On the up side, I’ve had a lovely quiet week as no one can contact me 8-)


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    Wednesday, 8 November 2006

    Visitors From A Parallel Reality

    My wifes younger brother and his girlfriend are in the process of buying their first home. However, they have a gap between the lease on there current house ending and being able to move into their own home. Last Thursday he rang my wife to say that they would be coming to stay with us. This wasn’t a request, but a statement of fact.

    My wife has spent the week running around like a navy bottomed winged insect trying to find places to put the contents of our spare bedroom. The materials for the extension are now hidden under the bath, my synthesizers are wedged behind my Sons wardrobe, our golf clubs are in the loft and the bed is in a storage unit.

    They are under the impression that their mortgage will be sorted and they will move into their house in a couple of weeks. I suspect they will still be here for Christmas. My question is, what happens if something goes wrong with their purchase? Will we be stuck with them for ever? AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!

    I can’t wait for Friday night to arrive 8-(


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    Tuesday, 7 November 2006

    Danger of letting one rip...

    ....when chopping of feet by dropping something of 18kg or heavier

    I found this on Flickr.com today. It's sound advice, don't you think?

    Saturday, 4 November 2006

    Never Agree To Anything When You're Drunk!

    Boxing Day last year we had what remains of both of our families round for dinner. This consisted of tinned stewing steak and chips. Not very festive, but it was once an annual event that took place at my Uncle house. I thought it would be fun to resurrect this old tradition once more. My Mum found it very amusing, but my wife’s family didn’t really get the joke.

    After dinner I was lurking in the kitchen, in a rather happy & mellow state. This was due to the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed. We got talking about my Dad, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and the problems he now has getting about. Mum mentioned that he doesn’t like visiting us because we only have an up stairs loo and he struggles with our stairs. This is where it all goes a bit blurry as I can’t remember whose idea it was, but by the end of the conversation I seemed to have agreed to have a down stairs loo built onto the back of our house.

    Within about two weeks we were knee deep in bricks, sand, ballast, cement and mud. Both my back and front gardens closely resembled a very muddy builder’s yard. It did stop there as the house also became full of mud.

    My next mistake was believing that I could hide all the soil and clay that was dug out for the footings. My plan was to hide it behind my shed, which seemed a good idea at the time. There seemed to be never ending wheel barrow loads of the stuff to dispense with. If you look at a 2007 copy of the Sussex Ordinance Survey map you will notice a new hill in the Crawley area. Yes that’s right, it’s my excess soil.

    The main structure was complete by mid February and my back lawn still had over a ton of sand on it. I say lawn, but by then it was just a gooey mud bath where once I had lush green grass. What about the sand? I hid that next to the shed as well, but I had no idea what I’ll use it for.

    After the roof went on and the floor was laid in mid March I made mistake number three. To save money I decided that I would finish off all the inside work my self. I must have been mad.

    That was seven months ago and the toilet suite is still in our back bedroom. I should have learnt my lesson with the bathroom refurbishment, which is now in it’s eighth year! Due to unforeseen circumstances, which I will not go into here, the progress has been painfully slow.

    However, there is a glimmer of light at the end of what has become a very long tunnel. Over the last few weekends we have finished insulating the walls, put up the plaster board and today I finished plastering most of the walls. Fingers crossed and God willing, it might be finished by Christmas. Which year? I’m not prepared to divulge that information at this time.


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    Digital Photography School

    I've just stumbled across an excellent photographic blog and website. They have lots of useful tip & tricks to share with the world at large.

    Digital Photography School

    If you are into digital photography, it's well worth a visit.


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    Wednesday, 25 October 2006

    Level 42 - Retroglide Tour - Brighton Centre

    Tonight we saw the 1980's group Level 42 at the Brighton Centre. It was part of their Retroglide tour to promote their new studio album, un-surprisingly called Retroglide. I’ve been quite a fan of the groups’ music since the release of their 1985 album World Machine. As a composer and keyboard player myself, I have closely followed the career of Mike Lindup since those days of my youth. His 1990 album ‘Changes’ is absolutely superb. It’s definitely high in my top 10 favourites of the last 20 years. However, being an independent release it’s quite difficult to get hold of a copy. I got mine on eBay.

    This new album, ‘Retroglide’ is the first time in 12 years that Mark King and Mike Lindup have played together and, in my opinion, their collaboration works extremely well. When I heard they would be performing together on stage, I just had to be there.

    When we arrived at the Brighton Centre I was surprised how sedate and calm the whole atmosphere was. I suppose this was due to the age of their fans. My guess was that the average age of the audience was somewhere between 35 and 40. Which when you think that Level 42 was formed in the early 1980’s, shouldn’t have been a surprise. I only spotted 3 people under the age of 30 there. They were children who had probably been bought along by their parents.

    I hadn’t realised at the time our tickets arrived that we had seats in row FF numbered 42 & 43. Of course I insisted on sitting in seat 42. I even took a picture to prove it (see below). How sad am I?

    The support art was a singer by the name of Kenny Thomas. My wife tells me he was also big in the 90’s, but quite frankly I don’t remember him at all. It must be my age as I seem to be forgetting things a lot lately. He sang from 8pm to about 8:45pm.

    During the break I was dispatched to the bar to procure a bottle of water. Not very Rock & Roll, but at my age I find beer makes me fall over all too easily. Just call me ‘Mr Sad’. At the bar while I was picking myself up off the carpet after being told that a 500ml bottle was £1-40, the women at the till insisted that I leave the lid behind! Perhaps they were worried that I would throw the full bottle at someone in all the excitement of the music. Not likely having paid so much for it in the first place. Is this the ‘Nanny State’ in action again?

    The main event started just after 9pm and was a mixture on tracks from the new album and many of their old hits. It took me back to the simpler times of adolescence. During ‘Leaving Me Now’ I remember an ex-girl friend of mine who killed herself in very unfortunate circumstances about 10 years ago. I wasn’t expecting to feel that way while having so much fun.

    Overall I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

    P.S. - You may have noticed that the pictures are not up to my usual high standard. This is because they were taken using my Nokia N70 mobile phone. My Canon 400D was having a night off.


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    Wednesday, 18 October 2006

    Died Man Found in Hospital

    Nothing unusual you might think. People die in hospitals everyday. However, it is estimated that this man died at St Bart’s (London) 40 years ago.

    His remains are to be examined to discover what happened. I would suggest that he was probably on a trolley in a corridor and got forgotten about.

    Don’t you love the NHS?

    Full Story - Skeleton found on building site


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    Ode to Chocolate

    Yummy yummy in my tummy,
    I used to buy it with my
    But now I'm older and by myself,
    I use a wheel barrow to clear the

    Sent in by my good friend Paul. Says it all really.


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    Thursday, 12 October 2006

    How to Spot Phish Swimming in Your In-Box

    As I have mentioned here before, there are many dangerous Spammers trying to fool you into giving them your bank details. They send out fake E-mails that pretend to be from your bank, asking you to visit a false website and confirm your details. This is known as 'Phishing' and the E-mails, or 'Phish', are very convincing.

    The BBC have compiled a useful guide to help you sort the wheat from the chaff. Armed with this info, you will be less likely to fall victim to these con artists. You could say that it's like shooting Phish in a barrel 8-)

    How to spot a phish


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    Tuesday, 10 October 2006

    Chris & Pablos Tour The World

    Nearly a month ago my good friend Paul and I embarked on, what was for us, an epic journey of adventure & discovery. It sounds quite grand when put like that, but what we really did was tour the Lake District on our bikes.

    On our return we collated our experiences and photographs into a travel-blog and ‘Chris & Pablos Tour The World’ was born.

    Find out all about our trip here - Chris & Pablos Tour The World


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    Tuesday, 3 October 2006

    Missing in Action

    This blog has not seen an update for over a week and even then it was quite light weight in nature. I have been very busy doing 'Other Things' instead. My apology’s for the apparent absence.

    What Have I Been Doing?

    Between September 9th and 16th I and a good friend of mine embarked on a motorbike tour of the Lake District. During that week we covered over 900 miles, consumed far too many sausages and took about 600 photographs between us.

    On our return we wrote a travel blog all about it.

    Link - Chris & Pablos Tour the World.
    Last weekend (2nd & 3rd October) I finally took the plunge and bought myself a proper Digital SLR camera. I’m currently getting to grips with all its settings and controls. When I’ve got it under my control I’ll give you all a review of my thoughts and some stunning (I hope) photographs.


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    Monday, 25 September 2006

    What Have The Romans Done For Us?

    Today seems to be my worst Monday for a long time. Not only do I have to deal with the shock of the weekend being over, but the weather is grotty too. This got me thinking about Mondays and their origins. This is what I discovered.

    The Calendar that we use today is based on the Julian Calendar devised by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, which was later refined by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 and as a consequence became know as the Gregorian calendar.

    Days of the week came much earlier than either of these calendars. Monday got its English name from the Norse Moon God Mani, which in Old English became Mona. Therefore it is in fact Moon-day.

    So who do we have to thank for Mondays? I think I’ll stick the blame firmly at the Romans door. After all, they did spend nearly 1000 years here and do I love an excuse to use a Monty Python reference.


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    Friday, 22 September 2006

    19th September 2006 - Coup in Thailand

    I stumbled across this blog today.


    It's a locals inside view of this weeks Coup in Thailand. The blogs profile state the following.

    This blog is intended to provide local news, media and perspective of
    Thailand Coup Event on 19th September 2006 to the world.The band of authors let
    all content to be licensed under Public Domain.

    It's a very interesting read and, in my opinion, is a very good use of blogging.

    Good luck guys. I hope it all works out well for you all in Thailand.


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    Sunday, 17 September 2006

    Battle of Britian Airshow - Shoreham Airport

    On Sunday we all trooped down to Shoreham Airport, Sussex for the Battle of Britain Airshow. I was a new experience for all of us. I'm not a huge aeroplane fan, but it was another good opportunity to improve my photographic skills.

    I discovered quite quickly that aircraft are a pain to capture accurately, made even worse by my slow digital camera. I got around the speed problem by using the multiple image capture setting. This meant that I could pan the camera with the plane and take five shots in a row and hopefully get some of them in the frame & in focus. It seemed to do the trick, but I did end up taking 273 photos as a consequence. This is my highest daily record so far.

    The highlight for me was getting to see and hear Spitfires in flight. Quite an emotional experience.

    Other aircraft of interest were a Lancaster Bomber.

    A Chinook helicopter doing some very un-characteristic stunts.

    The Red Devils Parachute team dropped in on us.

    There were also lots of daft aerobatic displays.


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    Battle of Britian Airshow - Shoreham Airport Part 2

    Also at the airshow there were many classic cars on display.

    A Ford Capri Mk1 3000GT.

    AC Cobras


    The white 'E' type (above) was for sale, but at £30,000 was a little out of my price range.

    And a Daimler Dart, once owed by the Metropolitan Police.

    On our way back to the free bus, which we had to wait 30 minutes to arrive, we crossed a bridge over the river Adur. Yet another photo opportunity.


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