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Sunday, 29 August 2010

Have bed, will travel.

We all have trouble deciding on what to pack and knowing what to take on holiday with us, don't we?
There just never seems to be enough room in your case does there? And, in these days of increased airline restrictions on what you have to pack, the reducing of the maximum weight allowed for your case and the hefty penalties if you do manage to squeeze too much in. This has all become even more of a problem and, if i'm honest, more stressful than many other parts of the modern travelling experience.

I'm not even going to mention the problems we also now have with all the extra leads and adapters, for all those new fangled gadgets we all seem to have to carry around with us nowadays. That's a topic for another day maybe?

But, there is one item that i'm sure we'd all love to be able to pack. But, for obvious reasons, we can't.
Our bed (and maybe a sneaky pillow too?)

There is something about your own bed, that just doesn't ever seem to be replicated by any other bed you sleep in. No matter where that might be.
You may be in the swishest hotel in the world. But, there's a good chance that the bed will not be to your liking. Either that, or the bed is acceptable, but the pillows just don't fit your head properly. No matter how much thumping and plumping you do.
So, you wake up with a stiff neck, a stiff back. Or, you end up sleeping on the floor.

So many of us now seem to take more care with our backs and consequently, have invested in often quite expensive mattresses, fluffy pillows, or sturdy bedframes. The mattress that we have at home, uses technology and materials developed for space craft. So, at least i know that i ever get to spend some time on the International Space Station, i should be sure of a good nights sleep.

Unfortunately, this type of technology doesn't usually extend to the beds in hotels, guest houses and holiday properties. I have slept in beds on several different continents and the problem appears to be the same everywhere.

So, what do we do?
Well, i suppose the obvious solution is to stay at home and sleep easy in your own bed, with your own pillows. With that option you can at least also cuddle your own teddy bear as well, if you are so inclined. Although, i can think of better options!

But, personally i enjoy my travelling too much. So, i guess i'll just have to put up with having the odd back and neck ache?
Maybe next time, i should just make a Doctors appointment, ready for when i come home?
Now, where did i put his number?....

Friday, 27 August 2010

A Spanish Holiday - Many happy returns.

One of the things that i like most about the town of Origiva, is that it still manages to retain an authentic Spanish feel. Even though there are plenty of tourists around, you don't feel overwhelmed by them. As you do in some other areas. In fact, they tend to go un-noticed in many instances.

Maybe being inland and not on the coast has a bearing on this?
I do feel that the area around Orgiva attracts a slightly different type of tourist, to that which might visit a seaside resort.
That may sound a little snobbish. But, i do think that many people come here for different reasons. It's not all about the sun, although there is still plenty of that around. It is also about the surroundings and that sense of authenticity that i mentioned earlier.

It is possible that i may view this all slightly differently to some, because i happen to live by the coast? The seaside has become such a traditional holiday destination, whether that be at home, or abroad, that many feel that that is the only place to go. I can understand that. But, i still feel that people visit this area for different reasons.

I mentioned in a previous post that the Alpujarras attract many walkers throughout the year and there are many recognised walking trails and footpaths around. There may not be so many walkers at this time of year though, for obvious heat related reasons?

The Orgiva area is also well known for it's arty and "alternative" way of life. Especially amongst the pretty large ex-pat population. That side attracts many visitors as well and i do often wonder what the locals must make of some of them. Visitors come, for example, to paint or maybe for a yoga retreat. The Orgiva area certainly accomodates those kinds of activities and many others besides.
So, as you can see, this would hardly appeal to the usual "bucket and spade brigade".

Orgiva town centre.
Yesterday, a few things happened that brought home to me that "authentic" feel that i've mentioned.

The first was as i walked back from the town, along the dusty path towards our holiday cottage. Just as i got to the house, two men approached on, what looked to me at least, huge working horses. Both of the guys had a real cowboy look to them and were obviously just going about their everyday business. We've heard horses pass the cottage before. But, i'd not seen them until now.

Later, as i was standing in the garden of the property, i heard the sound of many cowbells. Now, this in itself, is not unusual as we tend to hear them all the time. There are sheep and goats all around. We just don't often see them. But, we do hear them and i actually find it quite a nice sound, relaxing even.
This time though, the sound was a lot louder and was coming from outside the property. As i checked, i saw that a whole herd of goats was being sheperded down the road.

These are just two examples. But, today i experienced some more and in the centre of town too.
Whilst sitting outside our usual town centre cafe, having our usual mid morning coffee and just watching the world go by. A local man brought three of his horses down the main street. He was riding one of them and said a cordial "Hola" to friends of his as he rode by. This all seemed like a very normal occurence.
And to cap it all, this evening, whilst sitting in the same cafe, this time having a nice cold beer, another cowboy styled man rode his horse down main street, saying "Hola" to me as he went by.

Whilst i expect these kind of events are by no means unique to Orgiva. It does tend to show the sort of town that it is and that it does still retain an authentic feel to it. It is, after all, a working town, surrounded by working farms.

As i think i mentioned in an earlier post. When you are in the town centre cafe, you are just as likely to sit next to a local, as you are a tourist. And, as we've discovered, it's not always that easy to tell the two apart.
For me, that really sets this place apart from many others that i have visited in the past.

Maybe, i've just been going to the wrong places?
I do know though, that it is precisely that, that keeps bringing me back time, after time.

A cup with a view.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

A Spanish Holiday - Walking and vlogging.

Yesterday morning, before the exertions of the day, i decided to do something i've been meaning to do for a few days now. But, just hadn't got around to!
I went for a walk.

Leaving our cottage and instead of turning left and heading towards Orgiva itself. I decided to turn right and head towards the hills and the unknown.

(Our cottage and the view towards Orgiva)

I had been told that the path led towards the village of Bayacas. So, i just started walking.

The whole area around Orgiva and indeed the Alpujarras thenselves, are well known for walking. Although, i doubt that this would be encouraged during the heat of an August day. Hence the reason that i headed out around 9am.
At some time, i'd love to come back at a more sensible time of the year and explore more fully. I'm sure that would be a very valuable experience.

After only a few minutes on my path, i came across the dried up river bed of the Rio Chico. Another, lower, part of the river can be seen going through  the outskirts of Orgiva itself and i had noticed it a couple of days ago.
But, this time i was up close and actually walked into the dried up riverbed to take some photos.

(The Rio Chico - looking back towards Orgiva)

As you can see from the photo above, there are all manner of rocks and general debris scattered along the river bed. I should imagine that when the Rio Chico is in full flow, it must be one hell of a sight.
I don't know if the amount of rocks and the sheer size of some of them, is normal. Or, whether it is partly the result of the very bad, rainy, weather that the Alpujarras region experienced during last Winter?
(I've just had this confirmed by Clare, the owner of our property. Apparently, there was a period of unusual, prolonged and heavy rain in the area. This resulted in snowfalls on the Sierra Nevada mountains. The wet weather was followed by warmer temperatures, which then caused a rapid melt of much of the new snowfall. This in turn led to the Rio Chico becoming very swollen. Hence the huge rocks and boulders, which were swept downstream by the raging torrent. Several bridges were washed away and people on the other side of the river were left cut off. And all of this happened on Christmas Eve)

It seems hard to believe that this "river", when seen like this, could ever be capable of disturbing and carrying rocks downstream. It really was quite odd to be able to clamber amongst the rocks and boulders, with not even a trickle of water flowing.

At around this point, the landscape changed into what i later described to my wife, as a kind of lunar landscape. This was partly due to the eerie river bed. But, also because of the rock formations that surrounded me at this point. I had turned a corner and the rocky hillside had become a lot closer and steeper.

A little further on and the valley opened up once again, to show the village of Bayacas in the foreground and the rising hills. The start of the Sierra Nevada mountains, in the near distance. A very picturesque sight.

(Bayacas and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains)

Towards the left of the photo above, you just see the start of a gorge. Through there i could glimpse some of the higher peaks of the mountain range and i had this whole amazing sight to myself. As, although i had seen a few locals walking their dogs, further down the valley. I was alone at this point.

Although, i was very tempted to see what was around the next corner, something i can't usually stop myself from doing. I decided that now was the time to head back, as i was by now getting rather hot.
I think i may well try and take another walk up into this valley, before i go home.

Another aspect of this walk that made it slightly different, for this holiday at least. Is that, after over a week here, i finally took my video camera out of it's case and recorded two vlogs.
As i said in one of the videos that i recorded at the time. I have just not had the inclination to record any video footage, yet alone a vlog. For some reason, the situation has just not been quite right and maybe, that's no bad thing?
And yet, as soon as i started walking, i felt like vlogging again. The video camera came out and off i went.

There is something about walking that seems to start me thinking and wanting to talk into a camera. I find this happens in many different situations. Whether that be on the beach, in the woods, or anywhere where my mind has time to wander and think.
Maybe that's one the reasons that i enjoy walking so much in the first place?

Long may that continue.

Monday, 23 August 2010

A Spanish Holiday - Part 5.

Our own personal chef.

One of the best aspects of staying in this particular rental property, is that the English owners live right next door. This can be very helpful if there are any questions you need to ask and also very useful if you want any advice about the best places to eat etc etc.

Another great aspect is the fact that one of the owners is a qualified chef and will cook a meal for you. He also does a mean carrot cake by the way.
Obviously, this service has to be paid for and it's not the sort of thing that you'd want to do every evening. But, for a day when you either don't want to cook yourself, or can't be bothered to walk into town to a restuarant, it's very handy indeed.

Being a qualified chef means that Ainsley doesn't just cook anything.He has his favourite things to cook. But, there is a nice selction of Thai, Indian, Japanese, Italian and even English cuisine.
All the meals are freshly prepared, with organic ingredients, if possible and they are served, by Ainsley, at your holiday cottage.

Well, last night my wife and i decided to treat ourselves to one of the Thai options and what a meal it turned out to be. In case you're wondering, we cooked the girls something seperately, as the Thai option wasn't really to their taste. They were quite happy with this by the way.

The meal consisted of:
5 mushroom soup,.
Cucumber salad,
Carrot and green bean salad,
Thai chicken curry with rice,
Home made lime ice cream.

This was all washed down with a nice, cold bottle of white wine. This was hastily supplied from Ainsley's fridge, as we'd forgotten to  put our bottle in ours!
He even gave us each a glass of a special dessert wine, made by local friends of his, to finish the meal off. Which it did very nicely indeed.

Before the meal was served, Ainsley came and set the table. Which you may be able to see in the photo above? He was even wearing his cooking apron and regulation harlequin checked chefs trousers. Very colourful.
Everything was presented very nicely and it was obvious that Ainsley takes a lot of pride in both the cooking and the presentation.

The meal itself was wonderful in every aspect and is easily the best meal we've ever had in Spain. It is a little ironic that the best meal we've ever eaten in Spain happens to be a Thai meal. But, it must be said that Spain is not a nation really known for it's cuisine. This is something that Ainsley agrees with.

All in all, it was a lovely evening. Made even better by the surroundings. It's not every day that you get to eat a meal like that, specially prepared and served to you, sitting by a pool, with a great view of the evening sun on the Alpujarran hills in the distance.
And to cap it all off and something that the girls really enjoyed. A nearby Spanish family were having some kind of family celebration and their music started to kick in, just as we finished our meal. That certainly got the girls dancing by the pool.
This made it all a very nice, idyllic and authentic Spanish evening, albeit with Thai food. But, somehow it all seemed to go together well.

Strangely enough, we're thinking of having another of Aisnleys menu options, later in the holiday.
We just can't decide what it might be....yet.

                                    (A meal with a view)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A Spanish Holiday - Part 4.

I've just answered a comment, on my last holiday blog post, by Ken. He noticed that i wasn't sure what day it was when i wrote that post & he's right. I did have to think about it. As i've replied to him. That is what this type of holiday is all about really and exactly what we were looking for.
Especially, after the year that we've had so far.

Although, there is no regime to the holiday and that is one of the best things about being somewhere familiar and having no real plans for your time. It is amazing how quickly you start to slip into a kind of pattern and one that is so different to what you are used to.

For me, the day usually starts around 8am, when i get up and go and have a nice swim in the pool. I do this for a couple of reasons. One, because i think that's the best time of the day for a swim. Mainly because, as the sun is not yet made much of an impression, the water feels at it's warmest. The is not so much of a difference between the outside temperature and the temperature of the water.
I also swim, very badly as it happens, for the exercise aspect of it. It's a great way to wake you up in the morning and really gets you going.

But, even this, is a change to home life. Obviously, we don't have a nice handy pool at home. If only we did. But, when at home, my wife is always the first person to get up in the mornings. Whatever day of the week. And yet, when we're on holiday, it's always me that's up first.
So, why is this?

Well, after writing that last paragraph, i had a discussion about just that point, with my wife.
She agreed with what i'd written and said that, when on holiday, she has nothing to think about and therefore, nothing to really get up for. She feels more relaxed on holiday, because of this and consequently, she sleeps longer.
I do understand exactly what she's saying there. When you're at home, there is usually something that needs to be done. Whether that be work, or family related. That tends to keep your mind more acrtive and because of this, you don't tend to fully relax. And, subsequently, you don't sleep as well. Your mind is always, subconsciously, telling you that you should be awake and dealing with "stuff".

I can relate to this in a work context as well. Ok, so i'm not in work at the moment. But, when i was, i never felt particularly stressed and never felt that my work affected me at all. But, when i look back, i realise that it did. I've certainly felt better and more relaxed since i've stopped working and i know that i'm not alone in noticing that effect.
So, even if we don't realise it, our "real" life does have an effect on us and, as i said before, coming on a holiday like this is the perfect remedy for it.

The only trouble is, reality is only a short airplane ride away and it's only a matter of time before we board that flight.
Having said that. For me at least and for the first time ever, that is not the case.
And that will be the topic for a future blog post.

Friday, 20 August 2010

A Spanish Holiday - Part 3.

Normal service has been resumed.

August in Andalucia means clear blue skies and very hot weather doesn't it?
Well, most of the time it does. But, sometimes, and the past few days are a case in point, things do go awry.

We arrived in Southern Spain on Tuesday of this week. It is now, i believe, Friday.
On our approach to Malaga airport we encountered what can only be described as "interesting air turbulence", caused by some rather large thundery clouds in the area.

Now, i'm not a great lover of rollercoasters. So, this was all rather disconcerting. As it happens, our "ride" wasn't too bad. Maybe that was because we had no idea what was coming next? For me, seeing what's up ahead, on a rollercoaster, gives your mind time to make you as scared as hell and your stomach to start turning somersaults. Before you even reach the next big drop, or jerky movement. My experience on the Simpsons ride at the Universal Theme Park in Hollywood, earlier this year, comes quickly to mind. Although, rather perversely, i actually ended up enjoying that. I'm still trying to figure out why though.

Thankfully, we landed safely, if a little bumpily.
It turned out that this part of Spain had recently been suffering with some rather unseasonal wet weather. The previous period had been extra hot and humid and this had lead to the heavy cloud and, in places, some very heavy rain.

Having been to Andalucia, in August, three times before, we realised how unsual this weather was and our hosts just reiterated that. We have seen clouds before and some heavy looking ones at times too. I guess this often happens in a fairly mountainous area? But, these have always burned off and never amounted to any actual rain.
So, we were expected pretty much the same, this time around.

As we got towards Orgiva, the clouds seemed to be hanging above the hills and mountains that surround the village. Now, this is not quite as bad as it might seem. Because, clouds here seem to come and go pretty quickly. So, all was not lost. Although, it was all a little bit worrying.

The rest of Tuesday was a mixture of clouds and sun. Although, we could tell that the sun just didn't feel quite as warm as usual.
During the evening, we were sitting quite contentedly outside, when we felt raindrops. A quick look at the surface of the pool confirmed that it was raining, in Spain, in august! It didn't last for long. But, it was an indication of things to come.

Wednesday was a mixture of clouds and sun, which i felt was not a bad thing, as it helped to protect us all from getting too much sun, too quickly. Almost a blessing in disguise really.
The cloud bubbled up again during the afternoon and we all managed to get caught in a sudden shower, whilst walking home from the town. As the rain was warm, this was quite refreshing and also, if the truth be told, a bit of fun too.

As we went to bed that night, the heavens opened and it started to pour down and from what we could tell, it rained pretty hard throughout the night. It was certainly very wet underfoot when we woke the next morning.
According to Ainsley, one of the owners, there had been very heavy rains in other parts of Andalucia overnight and landslides that been reported and a car washed away near Cordoba. All very worrying.

I quickly consulted the Internet, which suggested that the weather would clear that day, Thursday and that from then on, the weather would be "normal". Sun, sun, sun.
Sure enough, at around 2pm, all the remaining clouds disappeared, the sun appeared and the temperature shot up. It was almost as if a switch had been thrown.

Thankfully, since then. Normal weather service has been resumed and the sky has been it's usual cloudless self.
So, hopefully, our holiday weather adventure has reached it's end.
Let the fun begin.

A Spanish Holiday - Part 2

Blogging by the pool.

So, here we are in Orgiva for the third time. All three times have been in different rental properties and in slightly different areas of the town. Which does give a bit of variety and also ensures that, although you are staying in the same town, you do see things differently every visit and notice something new every time.

This does bring up that question of whether it is better, or more preferable, to holiday in the same place every year. Or, whether you should try somewhere new?
I'll admit, that if you'd asked me this question a few years ago, i would probably have said that it would be better to go somewhere new. After all, the familiar is all very good. But, where's the variety and excitement in that?
Now though and as much as i'd love to visit new places. There us something good and maybe even reassuring, about going on holiday to somewhere that you know and are comfortable in. Especially if you are travelling with your family. That family element makes a big difference. You have to have found the right place of course. But, i believe that we have.

This also raises that old question about the difference between a holiday and travelling.
Personally, i would consider this to be a holiday. Travelling, for me, means going somewhere different and exploring the area a bit more. This holiday is really all about relaxing and there's nothing wrong with that. But, i certainly wouldn't call it travelling.

For the first time in Spain, we don't even have a car. That shows how much "travelling" we intend to do this time around!
This decision was made for a few reasons. One was the sudden rise in the price of car rentals in Spain. The cost was getting ridiculous, especially if all you are using the car for is basically to get to and from the airport. Plus a bit of driving around town.
Another reason was that, for the first time, we are actually within walking distance of the town centre. That makes a great difference and is really very useful. I'm not a big fan of driving at the best of times. So, to have the centre of Orgiva on your doorstop was a big consideration and a big bonus, when renting this property.
Another aspect, was that the owners of the property, who live next door, were prepared to come and pick us up from Malaga airport. That's a 90 minute car journey, each way. Ok, they charge us for that service. But, it sure works oiut a lot cheaper than renting a car for essentially the same thing.

So, we are now happliy settled into our holiday home and we're all getting into our own routines.

As i mentioned before. This year we have brought my daughter and her friend along with us, as our son has basically flown the family holiday nest and is too busy with his girlfriend. The experience of holidaying with three women, two of whom are 16 years old, is an interesting one, to say the least! But, to be fair to them, it's all working out. So far at least. And having my daughters friend along is great company for her and didn't cost us any extra money. So, it's all good.

It is amazing how you can slip into a completely different way of life, a brand new routine and in a foreign country too. The fact that you are not tied by time in any way obviously helps.
Mornings are spent lazing around, or blogging by the pool. The afternoons are spent sunning ourselves and lying by the pool.

The sun is shining and life is good.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Spanish Holiday - Part 1

As i mentioned yesterday, i have decided to try and write a few blogs whilst on holiday.
As it happens, yesterdays post started off being about the holiday. But, it somehow morphed into something completely different. This often happens and my blogs rarely turn exactly as expected. But, i think that's a topic for another day?

For those who aren't already aware, i am currently on holiday with my wife, daughter and her friend in Spain. I think the title of this blog may well have been a bit of a giveaway?
This is our fourth trip to Spain and our third to this particular area. It is an area that we have grown to really like. Hence the return visits.
We are staying in the town of Orgiva, which is nestled in the Alpujarras hills, in the province of Andalucia. The Alpujarras are essentially the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which can be seen rising above the town. Orgiva itself has been called the capitol of the Alpujarras as, although a fairly small town, it is still the largest in the local area.
As a location it is perfect, being a similar distance from both the Mediterranean coast and the city of Granada.

As i mentioned, this is our fourth visit to Spain and to Andalucia itself. Spain was one of those places and Andalucia especially, that i had always wanted to visit and a place that i, somehow, knew i would instantly like. I was not wrong. Hence the return visits.

There have been a number of places that have fallen into this category for me and none of them have disappointed me so far, when i have been lucky enough to eventually visit them. I'll name three: India, Egypt and California.
I don't think i could put my finger on exactly why i knew i'd instantly like these particular places. Intuition perhaps? Or maybe it's because they are all places that i had an interest in, for whatever reason and therefore, i knew quite a lot about them before i visited. That way, i had some idea of what to expect and that may well have been what drew me there in the first place?

Our first visit to Andalucia was to the classic white hill village of Frigiliana, which is in a slightly different area to Orgiva, although not that many miles away along the coast.
We straight away loved the local scenery, the people, the lifestyle and most certainly the weather and knew that we would have to return to the area at sometime in the future.
Frigiliana itself is a stunning village and is well worth a visit, if you ever get the chance. As i said, it is one of the classic white hill villages that you see in all of the tourist literature. It gets a little busy with all of the tourist traffic, especially the coach parties. But, is still pretty much unspoilt.

Our next visit was partly determined by a book.
Whilst doing a bit of research for our next potential Spanish holiday. A task that i love doing by the way. I came across a book called "Driving Over Lemons" by an English author, Chris Stewart. Chris Stewart had settled in the Alpujarras hills, very close to the town of Orgiva, some years ago and this was the first part of his story. I was instantly hooked, as was my wife.
I narrowed down my search for our next family holiday down to the Orgiva area and found a suitable property, just outside the town.
Although it sounds a little extravagant, we decided that this time we would need to have a private pool, wherever we stayed. What surprised me and has surprised others when i have told them. Is that it is no more expensive to stay in a property, with a private pool, in this area, than it is to stay in a run of the mill holiday home in Britain. In fact it is probably cheaper, especially when you take the cost of living into the equation and also when you take the time and trouble to book it all yourself. Isn't the Internet wonderful?

                                (A pool with a view)

We first stayed in Orgiva in 2003 and this is our third visit to the town. We love it here and can see why it has inspired the likes of Chris Stewart and many other Europeans, especially Brits, to settle here.
"Driving Over Lemons" and its two sequels have become best sellers in the UK and have really opened up this area to tourism. This has not always been to the liking of some, as Orgivas success has inflated property prices in the area. In fact the British owner of the property we are staying in this time around, mentioned this very fact to us the other day.

But, this is one of those double edged swords. Yes, property prices may have been inflated. Well, some of them anyway. But, there is no doubting that the success and interest in Chris Stewarts books has brought a lot of new and much needed money to the town. Thankfully, on the surface at least, this doesn't appear to have had a detrimental effect.
Orgiva still retains it's "real " Spanish feel and although there are many tourists around, they are still well outnumbered by the locals. You will see and sit with as many locals, in the town centre bars, as you will tourists.
And that is one of the things that has made us return to Orgiva and the Alpujarras several times now and is what already has us talking about "next time".

(Well, this blog post is a case in point. It has, once again, morphed into something that it was never intended to be. Oh well, there's always next time!)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Vlogging - For personal use.

(This is the first in what will, hopefully, be a series of blog posts written whilst on holiday in Spain)

When i was last in Spain, two years ago, i recorded a series of video diaries and posted them onto YouTube. Mainly, it must be said, for myself and as a way of reminding myself about the holiday. I have been thinking about doing the same thing this time around. We'll see.
I suspect that, due to limited Internet speed, i'll be doing more blogs than vlogs this time though.

I have looked back on those Spanish videos many times over the past two years and have been very pleased that i bothered to record them. However good your memory, you will always forget some aspect, or detail of a holiday, no matter how good that holiday was. Or, even maybe because of that! So, it is great to be able to remind yourself whenever you want to. I have also been pleased that people have bothered to watch and comment on those videos. I have even had people say to me personally, how much they enjoyed them. That is always very nice to hear and is very encouraging.

Years ago, i used to write and keep a travel diary, whenever i went to somewhere a little out of the ordinary. As did many other people.
How times change!

Over the past few years i have recorded many videos which were originally only meant for purely personal use. Videos that were never really intended to be uploaded to YouTube, or elsewhere. This has been a way for me to record an event, or happening in my life. Such as that Spanish holiday. These videos are often very spontaneous and recorded quickly. But, then some of the best vlogs are recorded that way. Well, in my opinion anyway.

I think that because i've become so used to recording vlogs, during my four years on YouTube, these videos have always come out exactly the same as an "ordinary" "andymooseman" vlog would do. I always record and introduce them in the same way, just in case they do eventually see the public light of day. Apart from that, it just becomes a habit to start a video that way, wherever it is going to end up.

Possibly, because of this, there are very few videos of this type that have not been uploaded to YouTube. That must mean something, although i'm not quite sure what.

For example. I recorded a series of videos about my fathers ill health and subsequent death, earlier this year. These are a perfect example of the type of video i am talking about here, as i never intended them to be seen. Especially, the first couple that i made. They were just a way for me to record something very personal and historical. Albeit the type of history we don't wish to think about.
But, after uploading that first video, i was very pleased and actually uplifted by the comments and general feedback that it got by the viewers. Several people thanked me for posting those videos and said that it reminded them of similar situations that they had faced in the past. Situations in which they had often felt unable to communicate what they themsleves were feeling at the time
This encouraged me to keep recording that series of videos and to continue uploading them.

One reason that i had been, initially, a little hesitant about uploading that first video, was that i didn't want people to think that i was somehow fishing for sympathy. I suspect that this has been a motive for some in the past. But, i'm sure that my viewers and subscribers are smart enough to see right through somebody doing that.

I can honestly say that i am very pleased that i decided to, firstly record those videos and secondly, to actually feel brave enough to upload them to YouTube.
It was a way for me to put my thoughts and feelings of the time onto video. Not everybody would feel comfortable with recording their most stressful and emotional moments and then uploading them for all the world to see. That is not always an easy choice to make and, obviously, has to be a very personal decision.
But, maybe, this goes right to the heart of what vlogging is all about in the first place? Having said that, i would respect anyones decision not to do what i did.

I have often said that i regard vlogging to be a very cathartic experience at times and i've even called YouTube, the psychiatrists couch of the Internet, for that very reason. It gives you a place to say what you want and often something that needs to be said. But, something that you don't always feel able to say to those around you. But, it gets it off of your chest and out into the open.
Vlogging really is a great way of expressing your thoughts, especially at a time of emotional stress and, of course, you are still under no obligation to actually upload, or share those thoughts

But, the reaction you do get, if you do post those videos, might just be more beneficial than recording them in the first place. And greater than you could have imagined.
A problem shared, is a problem halved.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

4 Years And Counting.

Today is the 4th anniversary of opening my YouTube account.

I actually posted my first video on 25th August 2006:

Is it time for a re-boot?

A woodland vlog.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Living On An Island - Part 2.

In the first part of this blog, i talked about the Pirate Day event that had recently taken place in Hastings.
The day was a huge success and those who dressed up actually broke the Guinness World Record for the number of pirates in one place at any one time. A wonderful achievement.

When talking about why the record was broken and so easily too, i said "Hastings has a unique character and punches well above it's weight, when it comes to arranging and publicly celebrating events of this kind"

So, why is this?
Well, i think the answer to this question is tied up with something that i overheard somebody saying during the Pirate Day event.

This person had, i believe, moved to Hastings, from the London area, fairly recently and was saying that he didn't think that the type of events that took place in Hastings would ever happen in London. For example, he said that he had never seen Morris Dancing until he came here.
Now, i realise that things like Morris Dancing, Carnivals and some of the other events that happen in Hastings are not unique to the town, of course they're not. Although, some most certainly are.
But, i do believe that the sheer number of these events and the way in which they are embraced by the local community,  in many ways is unique. And this, once again, is tied to what this person said.

He went on to say that he felt that Hastings was in some ways an island and with this comment i would have to agree.
Hastings is notorious for having pretty bad transport links with the rest of the country and especially London, which is only 60+ miles away. Both the rail and road links to the town are considered antiquated and slow. This has led to the town becoming and feeling somewhat isolated.

Another aspect to all of this is that Hastings, for some unknown reason, always seems to get a rather bad press and any news coverage generally concentrates on bad news, rather than anything good. Hastings, like any other similar sized town, has it's fair share of problems. But, no worse than anywhere else, as far as i can see.

So, apart from sometimes feeling that you are living on an island. There is almost a kind of seige mentality amongst the local population. This reminds me of a chant used by supporters of Millwall football club, "No one likes us, we don't care".
Maybe, this tends to generate a special kind of community spirit and possibly even attract a certain type of person to come and live here? And maybe this is the reason that pirates feel so at home here?

I am, of course, biased about Hastings, having lived here for 22 years now. But, i do truly feel that there is something a little special about the town and i know that i am not alone in feeling this way.
Maybe, it's about time that others started to recognise that as well?

I, for one, certainly like living on this particular island and in a weird way i'd quite like it to remain cut off from "civilisation".

I'll leave you with a list of links to just some of the events and festivals that happen in Hastings every year. Some are, i believe, unique to Hastings. And some of them i am very happy to be associated with myself.
There are several more that happen in the local and surrounding area too.
I'm sure you'll agree, that for a town of approx 80,000 people, it sure has a lot of things going on and certainly punches above it's weight:

Pirate Day
Old Town Carnival Week
Hastings Half Marathon
Hastings Music Festival
Beatles Day
Hastings Rock radio
Jack in the Green
Hastings Beer and Music Festival
St Leonards Festival
Beach Concert
Hastings Seafood and Wine Festival
Hastings Week
Hastings Bonfire Night

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Reading, Writing & Blogging.

A follow up video to "A tipping point for eReaders":

Thanks for all your comments & response to that video & for inspiring this one.

Your thoughts are welcome, as always.

A woodland vlog.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Modern Art Is Rubbish?.

I'll admit straight off, that i've never really been much of a fan of what is called "modern art".
I see the candidates for each years UK Turner Prize and often think to myself, "What the hell?". And i know that i am not alone in feeling this way.
I also know that i am in no way an expert on this type of art and fully accept that. Therefore, i tend not to "get" a lot of it.
But, there is some modern art that i do like and appreciate and i am quite happy to have a look and give it a go.

Well, today i went to see some modern art, at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. A few miles along the seafront from my home.

The building itself could be considered a piece of art and is a famous example of 1930's "Modernist" architecture. In fact, it was the first British building built in this style and 2010 is actually it's 75th anniversary. It even has a slight Indian/Moghul look to it. A throwback to the days of Empire perhaps?

I love the building and the architecture and was very pleased when it was recently renovated, after many years of relative neglect. Having said that, i had only ever gone inside the actual building on a couple of occasions before today. I have walked and run past it, on the seafront promenade, hundreds of times. But, i just didn't get around to taking those few steps to the side.

It must be said that since the renovation, the De La Warr Pavilion has taken on a new lease of life and is a completely different prospect to what it once was and probably far more popular too. It has become a place that now focuses on art, in it's many forms. This has not always pleased everybody, especially some of the locals. But, i do believe that the De La Warr Pavilion is now gaining a lot of respect, both locally and nationally. Hence the fact that they are now in a position to house the exhibitions that i went to see today. Both of which were free by the way.

                    (Anthony Gormley - Critical Mass installation)

The first was a rooftop installation by Anthony Gormley, called Critical Mass.
This exhibit consists of a series of 60 life size cast iron statues. All made from 5 different casts of the artists body and they are laid out across the roof of the building.
Although i have never actually seen any of Anthony Gormley's work before. I have seen many images and films of his various exhibits. The famous of which are probably, the Angel of the North and Another Place.
I have always liked the idea of his work and have wanted to see some of it for a while now. Partly to see if it lived up to expectations. I'm pleased to say that it did. At least on this occasion.
Although, i can't pretend to have understood all of what was going on. I just loved the actual statues themselves. The fact that they are life size and so realistic, probably helps with the overall effect. And seeing them in that location must make a difference. The building itself and the backdrop of the English Channel makes it a great place to view any work of art.
Critical Mass runs until the end of August 2010.

The second exhibition was an installation, on two floors, by the Japanese artist Tomoko Takahashi, entitled, Introspective Retrospective.
Now, this one i had a little more difficulty with. The artist "has established her reputation through the playful recycling of the detritus of everyday life into illuminating works of art" and a lot of her raw materials are scavenged from skips. You could, rather unkindly, say that her work is quite literally, a load of old rubbish (I'm sorry, but i couldn't resist that)

The exhibits downstairs i found quite interesting. Especially a brand new installation called "Paper Work @ the Seaside". This consisted of a huge walk in box. This box was filled with, what at first appeared to be scrap paper. It was in fact thousands of black & white photocopies, mostly stapled to the walls, from Japanese Manga comics. These were grouped into various categories and was very effective.
As before, i can't pretend to have understood all that was happening here. But, it was an interesting spectacle nonetheless.

              (Tomoko Takahashi - Paper Work @ the Seaside)

The exhibits upstairs though, i found to be completely beyond me.
This, to me at least, really did seem to consist of rubbish and discarded items randomly strewn across the floor. Some of it did seem to be connected. There were many clocks amongst the "rubbish" for example. One of the people with me did think that it might all repesent work in some way. But, i'm afraid to say that i couldn't see that.
Still, at least i can't complain that it wasn't interesting.
Introspective Retrospective runs until 12th September 2010.

So, what did i make of my first proper taste of modern art?
Well, firstly, i must say that i'm very glad that i went. Although i didn't enjoy everything that i saw, it was well worth the effort of going and i would happily do so again.
The fact that works of this kind are available to see locally and freely too, can only be a good thing. It gives the "ordinary" person the chance to see and experience new forms of art. Art that they might otherwise make no effort to go and see.
Just because i didn't enjoy it all, doesn't mean that others won't. In fact, my wife and i have just been trying to persuade my son to go to the exhibitions and have a look for himself. He might not "get it" either. But, at least he'll have the opportunity to make up his own mind.

I think the one thing that will stick in my mind about today though, is something my wife said and something that i fully understand. It was about the minds of the artists who create these works of art.
Somebody like myself, just cannot get into the head and the imagination of the person who produced these art works in the first place. I'll admit that sometimes i'm not sure that i would want to be inside that mind.
But, it does go to show that we are all different and that we are all individuals.
The world would be a far less interesting place if we were all the same.

Vive la difference!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

What's In A Word? - Redundant

Some thoughts on the word "Redundant" and what means to different people.
Also, thoughts on the words implications & the future.

A woodland vlog.

Monday, 9 August 2010

A Walk In The Woods.

I have mentioned in previous blog posts about how much i enjoy living and walking by the sea.

Walking along the beach is something i especially enjoy and something that i've been doing quite a lot of recently. There is something irresistible about walking along a sandy beach, when both the tide and the sun are out.

I enjoy walking in many different surroundings. Most of the time i seem to find myself walking in wide open spaces. The beach, the South Downs etc. So, it is nice to go somewhere a little more enclosed for a change and today was one of those occasions.

Brede High Woods are only a few miles from my house. But, a million miles away in terms of surroundings. The woods, which are partly ancient woodland, cover an area of 647 acres. So, there is plenty of room to be alone.

They are owned and looked after by The Woodland Trust, an organisation that i am very happy to be a member of. The Woodland Trust only acquired Brede High Woods, a few years ago, after an appeal. The fact that these wonderful woods were saved from being broken up into smaller parts, or worse, shows how valuable a charity like The Woodland Trust is in protecting and conserving our natural heritage.

I have walked in many woods before. But, i must admit that these are probably my favourite. Partly because of the sheer diversity of the woods themselves. The huge size obvioulsy helps with this. As does the fact that there is also a reservoir amongst the woods. This helps add a little something extra.

I  actually only discovered Brede High Woods a year, or so ago. Although i knew of them, i had never got around to visiting them. A big mistake and how often do we do that? We have a place close to home and we just don't seem to find the time, or the inclination to go there. And yet, when we do, we suddenly realise what we've been missing and we can't wait to go back again.

I have now walked there during all four seasons and, just like walking on the beach, there is always something new to see every time you go there.
I certainly noticed the difference between todays visit and my previous one. Paths that i had taken a few months back were pretty much impassable. The abundance of butterflies, dragonflies and many species of birds was noticable and also very good to see. They are sorely missed during the winter months.

Walking in the woods is, for me at least, a completely different experience to walking in the more open spaces that i mentioned earlier. There can be an almost claustrophobic feeling at times. The trees seem to close in on you, the sunlight disappears and the darkness descends the deeper you venture into the canopy of trees. If you dare!

Of course, you could keep to the beaten path. But, if you're anything like me, you like to explore and just can't resist trying to find out what lies beyond the tree line. There is also something special about that feeling of walking through years worth of the fallen leaves and twigs, which litter the ground. You just don't get that on the pathways.

One other aspect of walking in the woods, is that you are never quite sure what you might come across, or disturb. Apart from the many birds and insects that i have already mentioned. I have also disturbed deer.
I vividly remember one occasion, when i suddenly came across a deer. Which i only noticed when i was quite close to it. Luckily, i saw the deer before it saw me. When it finally spotted me, we both stood there looking at each other for a while, before it finally decided to run away.
And i haven't even mentioned the wide variety of plant life that you are likely to stumble upon.

But, with both the flora and fauna, you do, of course, need to keep your eyes and ears open. This is one of the main reasons why i tend to walk on my own. You can miss so much by not paying attenttion to your surroundings. And, of course, you can miss even more by scaring away anything that might hear you coming. Especially, if you are talking loudly!
It never ceases to amaze me how many walkers, whether in the woods, or more open spaces, pay little attention to what is often happening right under their noses.
What is the point of going to these wonderful places, if you then don't fully take in what is all around you?
Each to their own, i guess?

I like to think that i fully appreciate the sights and sounds that are around me and i certainly intend to experience more of them in the future.
I am very thankful that i live in an area where i can do that and very easily too :)

Friday, 6 August 2010

Living On An Island - Part 1.

Today i attended Pirate Day in Hastings, my home town. This is a part of the week long Old Town Carnival Week celebrations.

The main part of this years Pirate Day, which only started in 2009, was an attempt on the official world record for the amount of pirates ever to be gathered in one place. The record had recently been broken by the good people of a town in South Carolina. Although not verified, it was thought that the new record stood at approx 2.300 pirates.

Now, that's a lot of pirates and i'll admit i wasn't sure that the record would be broken and i know that i was not alone in feeling that.
But, as i walked into town, i could see more and more people, both adults and children, dressed as pirates. By the way, there are strict criteria as to how you should be dressed to qualify as a bona fide pirate.

By the time i got into the main part of the old town of Hastings, it was apparent that pirates were descending on the town in great numbers. And some in pretty elaborate costumes too, as you can see.

Well, the people of Hastings did not disappoint and the final total, which is adjudicated by Guinness World Records, was an amazing 6,166 pirates! Beating the old world record by nearly 4,000.
Shiver me timbers and Yo Ho Ho, what a wonderful achievement.

As the lady from Guinness World Records said. Mass participation events, like this one, are notoriously hard to arrange. She also pointed out that Hastings is not that big a town for this kind of record attempt. So, to break the record in such a fashion, is a tribute to both the organisers and the people of Hastings.
I'd like to congratulate them both as well.

But, this record breaking achievement doesn't really come as a surprise to those who live here, despite what i may have said earlier.
Hastings has a unique character and punches well above it's weight, when it comes to arranging and publicly celebrating events of this kind.

And that is what i will talk about in Part 2 of this blog post.

(As you can see, even the fishing boats get into the Pirate Day spirit)

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Putting The "Social" Back Into Social Media.

My personal history with Social Media is a fairly short one. By some peoples standards anyway.

My first experiences probably started off on MySpace and maybe the odd message board. All that was around the 2005/2006 period. It wasn't until the summer of 2006, when i discovered YouTube and started making videos, that i really started to get involved with other people online.

As i said in a recent blog post. I realise that not many people actually regard YouTube as a Social network at all. But, for me, it most certainly is and it is the site that i have used more than any other over the past four years. I have also made more friends there than on any other Internet site.
Please see that previous blog post for more information about my experiences on YouTube.

But, i don't expect i am alone in saying, that i didn't consider what i was doing ,back in those early days, to be Social Networking.
I can't honestly remember when i first heard that term. But, i suspect it was sometime after my first hesitant steps into that world.
For me back then, it was all about having fun and it still is. It was only after a while (early 2007?) that i realised that i was meeting like minded people and was enjoying their company online. That was when the more social side of my online life started to take off. But, i still didn't really think of it as networking.

I think it was around that time, although i could well be wrong, that i first started to hear about Social Networking and Social Media. But, without many exceptions, those terms were always used in a busniess context and that is where i have a problem with all of this.
Yes, we hear on the tv news. or read in our newspapers about "The Social Networking site Facebook", or similar. But, just about anything else you read about Social Media and Social Networking is all about the business aspect of it, or the money making opportunities that can be had.

I follow several Social Media blogs and websites. Mashable and TechCrunch being two of the most well known and i do find them very interesting. But, i can also find them very frustrating. Because the vast majority of their posts are all about the business and money making angle and not the social side.

As you might have guessed, this is a topic that i am very interested in and i have read several books about the whole world of Social Media.
I fully realise that there is money to be made out there and that Social Media is the new kid on the block. Therefore, many people are looking for that gap in the market to make their own dotcom fortune.
But, for me at least. The use of the word "Social" is there for a reason. This isn't just all about business and money making. It is also all about people and i do believe that that is often forgotten.

Maybe, i am being unrealistic, expecting things to be any other way?
Maybe, the vast majority of Internet and Social Media users don't care about this in the same way that i do?
Maybe, i am actually being a little hypocritical? After all, i am a YouTube partner and do allow advertising on my videos and blog posts.
Maybe, i'm just plain wrong?

Maybe, that's for somebody else to say?
I just can't help feeling though, that the "Social" side of all of this has been hijacked a little.

Whatever the truth is, i do know know that during my time using Social Networking sites and using Social Media generally, i have met, whether online, or even in real life, some of the best people i have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Now that's the sort of Social aspect we should be concentrating on.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Andy & Steve Go To Bath.

I travelled down to Bath to spend the day with Steve:

This is a record of that day. The sights, the lions & the pubs.

Thanks to Steve for being an interesting tour guide.
Thanks also to Keiran, the barman in The Salamander pub, for his camera work at the end of the video.

For more info on the lions we mentioned & saw in the video, go to:

The Salamander pub:

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Hidden Meanings?

Warning: Political blog post!!

In a recent blog post i  bemoaned the fact that the British Prime Minister,  David Cameron, had falied to say something to the face of the person that his words were directed to.
As it happens, DavidCameron did do just that and very recently too. But  i feel he also had an ulterior motive on that occasion too.

It happened, as so many things do, in the USA.
David Cameron visited there recentlly and in the course of his visit mentioned the fact that he considered in UK to be "the junior partner" in the, often quoted, "special relationship" between the UK and the USA.

Now, anyone with a sense of realism, has known that this has been the case for many years, probably even decades now. And, on this occasion anyway, i fully agree with David Camerons comments. It is something that has needed to have been said for many of those years, or decades that i mentioned.

I fully accept that nobody wants to admit that their influence in the world is not quite what it was. But, us Brits do need to realise that we don't have an Empire these days and that most of the world is not painted red on maps anymore. For better, or worse, those days are long gone.

Yes, the UK is a nuclear power and that does make us a member of a pretty exclusive club. But, even our nuclear status is really a throwback to an earlier age.
I believe that the UK's status in the world is really an historical one. If it were not for the UK's past influence and vast history, would we still be sitting at the worlds top table? I'd like to think so, as i am a patriot (honest). But, i'm not sure we would be. Especially, if table places were based on face value.

And, this brings me to pondering on what, i think, David Camerons comments might really mean.
I may well be wrong and probably am. But i think they are a signal to the world and especially the USA, that things might be about to change, as far as the UK is concerned.

If we are no longer an equal partner in that "special relationship", we will no longer feel the need to fully support anything that the USA says and does. The UK will also not have to try and effectively punch above our weight in other ways either.

I can see two military aspects to this and without really giving it much thought either.
It was announced this week that funding for the updating of part of the UK's nuclear deterrant, was to be changed. Any funding would have to come from existing budgets and not as extra funding from the Government.
In my opinion, this paves the way for the Ministry Of Defence to say that they cannot afford this money and therefore, we will not be updating this nuclear option. Especially, as we are not now the world force that we once were.
If this admission had been made, when it could have been. many years ago. Would the UK now be involved in conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan?

Just think how many hundreds of lives and how many billions of pounds could have been saved?
And all for a little bit of humility and realism.

Say It To My Face.

I'm afraid that i'm going to have to get a little political with you all. Well, partially anyway.

This week, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been in the news because of comments he has made about certain countries & their policies.
Firstly, whilst in Turkey, he compared Gaza to a "prison camp".
Then, whilst in India, he said "We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country (Pakistan) is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world."

Now, what David Cameron said may well be correct, i'm not going to dispute that. My point is about where he actually made the comments in the first place and why he made them where he did.

Why did he talk about Israel/Gaza whilst in Turkey & about Pakistan whilst in India?
It seems obvious to me & many others, that it was done purely to please the people he was talking to at the time.
I wonder whether David Cameron would have made those same remarks if he had been in Israel, or Pakistan respectively? I doubt it somehow.
And that is the main point of this post and it applies in both diplomacy and in personal life too.

If you have something important to say about somebody, whether that be a country, or an individual. At least have the decency and the courage, to say it to that persons face. Don't just say something to please the person that you are talking to. Say it to the people that it concerns & to the people who you are actually talking about.
If you do, i will have far greater respect for you.
Say it to my face, or don't say it at all.