Monday, 31 August 2009

New arrivals

We have visitors! Ian, Ellen, and Megan have flown all the way from sunny Woking to see us for a few weeks. They're taking in Yosemite and Big Sur while they're here, but today we kicked things off with a trip into San Francisco.

Doing Godparently duty.

Meg in the village playground.

In SF. It got warmer later...

Sunday, 30 August 2009


Not my best side...

Saturday, 29 August 2009


This weekend it's San Francisco's Outside Lands festival, a smorgasbord of music and culture (but mostly music) in Golden Gate Park. Dan and Fiona had a spare ticket and very kindly passed it on to me.

For some reason most people thought that the Pearl Jam show was the main event of Friday. They were badly mistaken. For a start, the legend that is Tom Jones was playing (on a smaller stage! What?!), and also there was an entire tent dedicated to The Beatles: Rock Band. I found myself arriving, with my usual British punctuality, about two hours before any friends. What else was I going to do with my time?

There is one tragic note. I had taken along my old, long-forgotten, super-cheap Rock Band rip-off guitar that I had purchased from a charity shop in the distant past. My aim was to recreate a live Rock Band session while Pearl Jam was on. Actually writing that down makes it sound a lot more stupid than it did in my head...

At the gate the security lady looked at the fake instrument in my bag, called over her supervisor, who called his supervisor over the radio...and I was told that as I could swing it and hit someone I wasn't allowed to take it in! "But it's a plastic guitar!" I protested, a devastatingly argument if ever there was one! And unsuccessful. I nestled it between two recycling bins, wiped a tear from my eye, and decided there were few better places to inter it than a rock festival.

Everything present and correct in the festival bag.

The party bus! Actually it was hot, smelly, and I had to stand for an hour...

Goodbye, thou good and faithful friend :(

Heading into the outlands.

When at a festival you have to get your free (Toyota branded) tattoo.

The crowd gathers.

Now this is more like it.

Me and Dan rock out.

So impressed (I'm sure!) was a photographer from the San Francisco Chronicle that she took lots of pictures of me. It was like being a real Beatle! (Fiona directs).

A friendly helper in the Intel tent. Dana used to work for them, I wonder if she had to dress like this...

Oh, and apparently there was some music playing somewhere.

But there were plenty of other distractions.

Fiona and me (trying to look the part with my free bandanna).

With Dan, and much more sensible head wear.

It's not every day that you find yourself in the presence of divinity.

Here he is! And yes, there are the knickers that were thrown at him.

Tom, Amanda, David.

Pearl Jam. It's tough when you have to follow Tom Jones.

Pretty lights.

And that was it! You find me in the post-festival comedown, filthy, tired out, dehydrated...and with an unquenchable craving to sing in close harmony with a Liverpudlian accent. Not long now.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Bang on

Free food. Two little words that say so much. The marketing geniuses at Target realised this when they advertised their exclusive after-hours Berkeley-students-only event last night.

At 10.45pm Hannah and I strode from uni village, over the bridge and across the store car park towards the buses that had been laid on for students coming from campus. After having complimentary Cokes handed to us we walked through the door and into wonderland. Hip-hop music blared (it's what the kids are listening to these days), we were showered with vouchers from every side, and goody-bags were thrust upon us with abandon.

I wandered about this strange twilight scene, listening to the chatter of excited undergrads, checking my coupons against regular product prices, absently munching on a packet of free Parmesan and garlic crisps (no surprise that they were being given away). Then it was back home, pausing only to pick up a couple more free Cokes on the way out.

This looks like the place.

Bussing them in.

Supermarket sweep.

The bag of swag!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Second first day

Older, wiser...

Did you remember to pack your PE kit?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

As flat as an iron

Flatirons - the clue should be in the name. Unfortunately it isn't. These deceptively titled craggy peaks are the closest hills to Boulder and so rise quickly from the Colorado plain. We were looking for a short walk between checking out of the hotel and catching the airport bus and we found it! The only trouble being that it was sharp as well.

But it was worth it. There was none of the up-down-up-again nonsense of our first walk. Here it was your straight ascent/descent, with nice switchbacks, scree slopes, and stunning views. Even the top was pleasant, with no flies and plenty of rocks for the obligatory heroic poses. A cheese sandwich picnic later and we started down, which was surprisingly a lot quicker than going up.

Now I'm sitting in lovely Denver airport with its free wi-fi and full range of amenities, awaiting our flight. Big thunderstorms are predicted for this evening so we'll see if we get out of here, but the usual extreme weather that accompanies us on trips has stayed away so far...

On the third day our resolve gave out.

Pretty flowers.

Yet another day, yet another trail.

The not-even-slightly-Flatirons.

Sloping upwards.

David at the cliff face.

High-fliers (one, anyway...)

The view from the top.

Mountain woman.

And I didn't even have to fake it this time!

Monday, 24 August 2009

When in Colorado...

Getting a little more adventurous than last time.

Extreme (Photoshop) skills.


The great outdoors is all very well, but in the wilderness there are plenty of things ready to bite, scratch, and sting you, and a distinct lack of free wi-fi and good cappuccino.

This being the case, today Hannah and I decided to keep our hiking activities urban. Replacing a backpack full of waterproofs and extra socks for one filled with laptops and reading matter, we strode from out hotel and up to the University of Colorado campus (via Safeway to pick up some sensitive toothpaste).

The Uni here is really nice, a large campus with plenty of trees and green space. Unlike Berkeley's eclectic mix of architecture, everything pleasingly matches in local red stone. It was the students' first day back. We crossed from one end to the other, ignoring the Christian Union that was handing out free water and marvelling at the skin tone of people old enough to attend university these days. Were we ever that young?

We made it into town and found a nice coffee shop (good cappuccino, free wi-fi) where we caught up on a few e-mails and read more about England's stunning cricket victory before a picnic lunch in the park. It was here that the thunder started, and as the huge, heavy drops began to fall we got on a bus and sped back to the hotel.

But the quiet life isn't for us! A cup of tea later (imaginatively made in the coffee machine) and we were out again. The rain had let up, but the humidity was stifling. Undeterred we made our way back into town along the Boulder Creek Trail.

After two hours of walking, Hannah commented that perhaps we should have checked the distance before setting off. Another half-hour and Boulder's downtown came relievingly into sight. Legs that have had far too much asked of them finally gave way and we stumbled into a conveniently placed Asian bistro where, as if by magic, they served kiwi fruit margaritas...

Wildlife of the urban landscape.

At Cal we have bears, here they have a buffalo (what's the difference between a buffalo and a bison...?)

You should have come to Haas! Maybe you weren't admitted.

Mmm. Something you don't see on a mountain.

Lunch in the park before the deluge.

Another day, another trail.

Don't go into the light Hannah!

Just like a walk in the English countryside...but with added mountains.

A friendly local.

Rest stop. By now we needed it.

Some people have even more time on their hands than me!

Isn't it easier just to spray your name on the wall?

Thai dumplings and a kiwi margarita - the best things about urban living.