Archive for the ‘rambling on’ Category


Foot Drawn Map

In rambling on on May 10, 2014

Here’s a map of Holmfirth. I’ve taken the roads off and added in everywhere I have walked and cycled [1] in the last couple of years instead.

Walking is green, cycling is blue. I tend to get bored with cycling round here as I’m not strong enough to get up the hills and we only have (relatively) flat roads along the valleys.

I try and seek out all the different paths to walk though, I don’t like to go exactly the same route again if I can think of another. I made the map in order to figure out where I haven’t walked yet. I still have a few paths to find.

Making the map made me think of Matt at I’m Just Walkin’ who is currently 5176 miles into a walk of every street in New York City. I’m not quite in that league! Most of this is just walking the long way back from dropping Miranda at school, or getting some fresh air in at the weekend.

[1] I deleted a handful of gps tracks because of clunky mapping that made in look like I’d wandered in straight lines everywhere. I’m not a crow. (And I believe they don’t fly in straight lines either.)


Bench View

In rambling on on May 9, 2014

I walked up the hill in the fog one day and took a picture of a bench looking out across a cloud bank. It just amused me.

Nice View II

Then I thought I ought to take a picture where you could see the view. And then I ended up taking a picture every time I walked past. You can see them all in a set on Flickr. This one proves we do occasionally get out of the clouds and into the sunshine:


And this is a recent one, with me in it, when my mum was with me to take the photo:

Bench with Me

And this is what goes through my head when I’m sitting up there:

It’s the view from Google Earth of all the walks I’ve taken around here in the last couple of years with my phone tracking them. About as close as I can get to the view inside my head really.


Holiday in France

In rambling on on May 8, 2014

Another map created from data captured by Moves on my iPhone. This tracks our entire holiday in France last summer. I’m sure I made a map of our cycle rides on Île de Ré too but I can’t find it now.


Walking in Prague

In rambling on on May 8, 2014

I love maps, and tracking; and ambient tracking where you forget about the fact that you are being tracked until later is great. This is the map of everywhere we walked in Prague on a break last October. Data tracked with Moves, I can’t remember the service I used to draw the map and it seems to have vanished since.

We stayed in a hotel at the southern tip of all those red lines which show where we walked. The grey lines heading off from there to the west are the taxis to and from the airport. There’s also a grey line going up northwards where we caught a tram one morning.

No doubt we missed lots of things! But we enjoyed what we saw.


“1 hour skirt *”

In rambling on on June 30, 2013

I find I’m pulled in two different directions when it comes to dressmaking. Part of me wants to have a fabulous high quality wardrobe full of items with linings, pockets and fancy finishes that you just don’t find in ready made clothes – even the expensive ones. Another part of me wants to be the sort of person who can look at a bolt of cotton and be wearing a thrown together outfit the next day. At the moment I seem to have lots of “nearly finished” knitting and sewing projects so if I was going to start something new I thought it had better be something quick and easy, something from the second category.

I picked up a length of cheap cotton to go with a copy of McCalls 5430 that I already had. The pattern claims to be a “1 hour skirt *”. Nowhere on the pattern envelope did it explain the asterisk. (It does say on the website that it is “sewing machine time only” which is what I would have guessed.)

I started cutting out the pattern, view C with pockets, at 9:50am. Half an hour later I had my paper pattern pieces. Then I attacked the fabric and it took another hour just to get the fabric pieces cut out. I stopped for a coffee before spending another 15 minutes or so cutting out and attaching the iron on interfacing. So far this feels like much the same time I would have spent on a normal non-1 hour pattern.

Finally I get to the sewing machine, just before midday. I made one small mistake that required a bit of seam ripping. I stopped for a lunch break but only for twenty minutes or so. I finally had the skirt ready to wear at about quarter past three. So a total of three hours sewing time, not one. That’s before you count the hour and a half of cutting to begin with.

Apart from not having a zip to insert I can’t really see why this is supposed to be a super simple pattern, I’m not really sure where I could have gone faster. I could certainly make another skirt from the same pattern a little more speedily now I’ve understood all the instructions but not that much faster. Being a wrap skirt there are long ties and acres of waistband to contend with as well as buttonholes to make and buttons to sew on.

I do like the finished item, it doesn’t feel especially cheap & quick. (Darren did comment maybe they meant the skirt would only last an hour…) I’d make it again in a slightly heavier fabric such as a quilting cotton to be less flyaway. I’ll have to time myself making a ‘normal’ skirt to figure out whether that is indeed much slower or whether I’m just a super slow seamstress!

New Skirt


I Promise

In rambling on on June 26, 2013

When I made my Brownie promise as a 7 year old in 1979 I didn’t think twice about promising to “do my duty to God”, I remember being a bit concerned about the “serve the Queen” bit though. The Brownie handbook did a decent job of explaining that “serve the Queen” was shorthand for looking after the country around you and the people in it which seemed reasonable enough so I got over that. As the years went by and I made the same promise as I stayed in the Guide movement as a Guide, Ranger and Young Leader I got a bit more dubious about the “duty to God” part and by the time I left, a decade after I joined the Brownies, I would have described myself as agnostic. The process of changing from a child who accepted whatever religion she was given to a questioning adolescent was ironically accelerated by helping out as a Young Leader at a Brownie pack attached to a Roman Catholic church where the nonsense of different varieties of religion thing became increasingly clear to me.

Fast forward another twenty-something years and I find myself back looking at the Guide and Scout movements from a different perspective. As the atheist mother of a child being raised as a atheist who would like that child to have the benefits of those organisations but who knows the child would baulk at promising anything to do with God even if it were explained to not necessarily mean a religious Churchy version of God (neither Guides nor Scouts have ever been Christian organisations as far as I am aware, I knew that Guides encompassed all sorts of religions when I had my “Brownies around the world” posters as a child). Making promises you need to weasel your way round to fit yourself helps no one. So when the Guides openly asked for opinions on changing their promise earlier this year I was pleased to tell them what I thought, from both child and parent points of view (along with 44 000 others).

So I am really pleased to see the announcement of the latest revision of the Guide promise which includes the wording “To be true to myself and develop my beliefs”. It’s great to see that they have picked one promise for all that can be discussed and interpreted how you choose and ‘develop’ allows girls to change as they grow older; I certainly didn’t have the same beliefs at 7 and 17.

I entirely agree with Gail Edmans writing in The Independent that Guides have never been about religion. For me they were all about being outside with friends, camping, lighting fires, toasting marshmallows, tying knots, learning new stuff about the world, other people and myself. The Promise was one of the things that made the Guides special, it wasn’t just any old youth club, there was commitment involved, there was opportunity to think about things as well as do stuff. I’m pleased that the Guides are still thinking and still changing and still helping girls make the most of themselves.

I should probably add that my eight year old daughter is more interested in joining the Scouts at the moment… come on “boys”, catch up.


Amsterdam Day Trip to Molen Van Sloten

In rambling on on June 2, 2013

We had a family break in Amsterdam, it was the second time we’d visited, and I wanted to take a trip out of the centre of Amsterdam to get a bit more milage out of our hire bikes. In the UK we try to research carefully before taking our eight year old out on the roads and trails, too much traffic or too many hills make for a miserable time for all rather than an enjoyable ride. In the Netherlands you know there won’t be the hills, and that the bike infrastructure will be good, but I was still a bit uncertain about taking a longer bike ride.

We’ve had a couple of hair raising incidents on bikes in the centre of Amsterdam – mostly down to the adults not being entirely familiar with the way of bikey things in another country: we didn’t realise the tram lights would only give a ten second window for bikes to cross (we stuck to waiting for the green man and walking over tram lines after that) and we got a bit confused over the presence of speeding mopeds on bike paths too (apparently they are supposed to be there, but I’m guessing they aren’t supposed to act as if they are there to run everyone else off the road either). I know we’re the annoying tourists on hire bikes to the locals, but we’re not the only ones and we have a really good time riding around.

Looking around the tourist attractions we spotted Molen van Sloten, a working windmill open to visitors on the edge of Amsterdam. It got good reviews and we decided to spend a sunny day going out to visit it. I’ve plotted the route we took on a map as it turned out to be a glorious ride.

I’ve started the map from by the Rijksmuseum on the edge of Amsterdam city centre as anyone who visits Amsterdam will find this area. We were actually staying in the Plantage area in SE Amsterdam over to the east of the map which added a couple of miles on to each leg of the journey.

The route took us through Vondelpark, a marvellous city park with lakes, playgrounds and cafes and we stopped off at the paddling pool so Miranda could play for a while.


The bit of the route after the park is the bit I would change if we went again as it took us through a busy junction (Hoofddorpplein) that was a bit tricky to navigate with an eight year old. I think I would go straight on after leaving the park and crossing the canal and follow the road round. In fact I think this is actually the way I meant us to go but I find looking after Miranda cycling, not losing Darren, and navigating a bit challenging at times! It did however take us past a bridge that was lifting to let a big boat past which is always a bonus.

Bridge II

Once we got onto the main road out to Sloten, it goes by various names but seems to be the S107, the road was fabulous. We were cycling along an almost deserted bike path in the dappled shade of the trees with the canal on one side totally oblivious to the wide road passing by on the other side of us. What had worried me were the number of roundabouts that we needed to negotiate. I won’t worry again – when a Dutch cyclist approaches a roundabout they zoom straight across the bike path and the cars stop for them. It’s marvellous.

Cycle Path

And when we got the windmill it was worth the trip. It’s not a highly polished tourist attraction and it has one of those mish-mash museums full of model ships, barrel making and other almost random exhibits attached. But the tour, in English, from a highly knowledgable guide was fascinating. The mill is still working, though the miller was on holiday on the day we went (which meant we could get up close to the sails), and is used to pump water out from one set of canals to the next in order to keep Holland dry below sea level. It had never really occurred to me that windmills did more than grind flour but now we know all about NAP water levels and how to signal messages from town to town with windmill sails.

Windmill III

All in all it was a lovely day out, we stopped in Vondelpark again on the way home for coffee, chocolate milk and bouncy castles. The ~14 mile bike ride was well within Miranda’s capabilities and it was nice to get out of the middle of Amsterdam (much as I like it!) and see a bit more of the area.


Map Overlay

In rambling on on May 23, 2013

The map above shows a bike ride I took last weekend, from home to a local coffee shop. Except the ride was at home in West Yorkshire and the map shows the route taking me through London from Wandsworth, up through Kensington and Holland Park to West Hampstead. I suspect there are significantly more coffee shops on that route. I always want to do this kind of thing when walking and cycling: “If I was in [X place] how far would I have been?”. Your sense of scale changes in different surroundings, it is interesting to be able to compare them directly and easily. Created with a new tool for “cartographic mixtures” called MapFrappe; I look forward to seeing more. (The ability to rotate your outline would be my first request.)

[via As Above]


Time Waster of the Day

In rambling on on May 15, 2013

Can you beat me at geoguessr?

I expect you can, I hadn’t realised you could move around a bit – looking for road signs is helpful. Though actually I’ve only done worse since I discovered that you could move so maybe there is some truth in the idea that you are better going with your first impression. I was quite pleased to have guessed most of them to the right continent.

[found via kottke]


Legoland Discovery Centre Revisited

In rambling on on April 16, 2013

I wrote up our visit to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester after we visited when it first opened in 2010. We recently revisited and I thought it was worth making an updated post.

We visited with our now 8-year old daughter and took a friend along with her this time.

Lego Ninjago

Not that much has changed since the first visit really, but enough that I’m feeling better able to recommend it as a good day out.

Two new rides have been built since we first visited:

Merlin’s Apprentice – Seemed to be a long queue for a short ride. A carousel where you pedal to get your car to go up in the air. It’s set up for two children or an adult and a child to ride in each car. From memory the children had to be over 1.2m to ride by themselves. In case you don’t have enough adults to go with smaller children the Lego staff were around to act as chaperones. Which I’m sure is a lovely job to have but it’s a bit annoying when only 12 people can ride at once and a couple of them are staff each time. And there is no way for adults to ride without children. Since the two children with us wanted to ride together, the adults couldn’t ride, which isn’t really a problem – it’s a kids day out after all – but when you are being charged the same entry fee for adults as children it would be nice to have a bit more fun!

Forest Pursuit I

Forest Pursuit – Drive a pedal car and get a driving licence is pretty much a Lego standard ride and it is the latest to come to Manchester. The kids enjoyed it but had to buy their photo licences at the end (at Windsor they got a card licence free) and the £8 fee seemed a bit steep although having two children for the day meant they could take advantage of a 2 for £10 deal. I got very annoyed having to wait around to buy the licences though as the desk was unstaffed and the ride staff didn’t want to help. Our 8 year olds were under the 1.5m height limit but this was being strictly enforced and some older children were being turned away disappointed.

The third ride is the Kingdom Quest ride – exactly as it was before except this time the staff did explain the guns to us. (And I won :) )

Most other things were as they were before. We noticed improvements at the Fire Academy playgym which was staffed and being queued for – though the queue was being jumped so it could have been better organised still. We got a table in the cafe without a problem, though it was busy. Miniland seemed better maintained than before and the new Star Wars displays were nice. The “girls” Lego area (I will restrain myself from giving my full not very complimentary opinion on “girls” Lego here!) has changed to the new “Friends” brand and seemed to have some kind of not-working very well karaoke going on, we didn’t investigate. Oh, and the 4D cinema had a new film about Lego’s new Legends of Chima range which the kids enjoyed – I was pleased they weren’t playing the same films as three years ago although I didn’t think this was as good as the ones we had seen before.

Last time we were out within a couple of hours so this time with the extra rides I had allowed for about three hours before they were bored. We spent most of our time queuing and riding and we left after about four hours having not really got onto building any Lego yet! Don’t worry, they went home with plenty from the shop!

All in all it was a better experience than the first time, although it was busier and we spent more time queuing. We could have spent longer there. It still seems quite expensive, even at online pre-booked ticket prices. Do pre-book still, we had to queue for 10 minutes or so with pre-booked tickets, it was an hour or more without.

Legoland claim the centre is suitable for 3-10 year olds and I think that’s about right – if I get round to it I’ll probably take Miranda, aged 8, back for a last visit in the next 18 months or so, much beyond that and it would only be worth visiting with younger visitors in tow as she’d be too tall to do everything. I fancy another dive into the big Lego car making box….

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