Meeting the Mrs 1998

Meeting the Mrs 1998

Skiing

I had two skiing holidays at the start of the year. The first was early on in the season at Courchevel 1850. It was on this holiday that I first really met Kas.  The second holiday was five weeks later over the hill in Meribel. This was my “regular” outing with my old work mates. I remember I was already missing being with Kas, so there must have been something in it even though there was technically nothing going on at that time.

A Wedding

By the time we got around to the Kippers’ wedding in spring I had a definite sense of a relationship forming with Kas. In fact, I think it was around this weekend when we became more official about it. Anyway, it was a fine spring day for a wedding, with a reception at the Swan in Milton Keynes Village. And if memory serves me correctly, Arsenal beat Manchester United, not that I cared much about that.

Devon

By the end of May the relationship was strong enough for us to travel as a couple sort of officially for a weekend away down in Devon, invited by Jimmy’s parents. I think we all stayed in a rented holiday bungalow nearby, and it was a bit snug, but I remember it being an enjoyable trip.

Beer & Bikes

In the summer there was another alcocycling trip.

Silverstone

And another visit to the British GP (which caused me to miss the 1998 World Cup Final).

And that was apparently all the photos I took in 1998.


Very Few Photos 1997

Very Few Photos 1997

Too Busy for Photos

I was still working with KBC in 1997 and spent much of my year travelling to Germany on Monday to Thursday every week. Time was therefore a bit limited, with weekends being spent mainly getting ready for the next week away. It seems to be the year in which I took the fewest photos.

Early in the year I went skiing in Wengen with most of my usual crowd.

Beer and Bicycles

Some time in the summer there was an alcocycling trip. For the uninitiated, it involves cycling between pubs and getting very drunk. At some point it usually involves surfing on Concrete Cows too.

Silverstone

In July I went to the British GP at Silverstone.

Up the Lakes

And finally in August I went up to the Lake District for a week with a bunch of mates.


Skiing and Boating 1996

Skiing and Boating 1996

On the Piste

The year began in March with a skiing trip to Sestriere with a group of random friends and acquaintances I’d met at home. I think there was an earlier trip to Les Deux Alpes with the gym I was a member of at the time, but I didn’t seem to photograph that one.

And here come the Belgians

In the middle of the summer there was an “It’s a Knockout” day at my old work location.

Back to Singapore

I also spent two weeks with my new company doing some software installation in Singapore for my old company, which was a bit weird. I worked in an office with people I already knew.

Canals and Rivers

Later in the summer I went on a canal barge holiday starting at Evesham, and continuing up the River Avon through Stratford and deep into Warwickshire before turning around and chugging back again.


Asian Adventures 1995

Asian Adventures 1995

New Year at Loch Ness, and some other Snowy Scenes

The year began for me with a dash up to Scotland for the New Year weekend, so technically this is probably a 1994 activity as well as 1995.

What I remember of the trip is that it took a long time to drive there on my own, it was snowy when I arrived and we nearly got snowed in, and we were staying in a log cabin on the west side of Loch Ness. The rest is a blur.

I also remember on the way back I was due to go pick up a friend from Perth and it proved to be a bit dangerous because the weather was still cold and the washer fluid in the car had totally frozen up, so I basically couldn’t see diddly out of the front window.

Continuing the wintery theme I went out one cold clear afternoon early in the year to take these photos around Willen Lake.

During the spring I went skiing at Serre Chevalier. This trip was notable for the fact that there wasn’t a lot of snow when we arrived. Also, my skis set off home on a different bus from myself. There was a mix-up in the hotel lobby during the loading process.

Multiple Visits to Melaka and Singapore

So why did I call this post “Asian Adventures”? Mainly because my job role at the time involved some work with a well known Malaysian oil company, and I made three visits over to their new refinery at Melaka to meet up with some of my old friends from way back when and to do some work on refinery planning and scheduling.

I’m not sure why I ended up going. Quite frankly, the way that piece of work was designed was nothing to do with me. Maybe it’s just that I was the one most willing to say yes. On reflection, I wasn’t the only one from the team, but I seemed to go for longer. Three trips for a total of 8 weeks, if I remember correctly. I still possess a load of the tough plastic coat hangers that the hotel used for returning ironed laundry.

Anyway, back at the plot, Melaka is a small town halfway up the west coast of mainland Malaysia, and it was at one point in its past a Dutch colony. A number of the key public buildings and streets still have their Dutch names. However, the overall aura of the place was very much Asian-tiger. New growth and modern, even if the back streets were taking a little while to catch up.

Singapore

During at least one of those trips I took time off to visit old friends in Singapore – a shortish 3 hour drive down the motorway. It was a great place to spend the weekend. I remember on one of those I was very much flavour of the month with one of my work colleagues who rented a flat in central Singapore city. Why? Because I’m not Malaysian and not Singaporean and was therefore allowed to take my Malaysian registered car into Singapore.

Singaporeans aren’t allowed to because, essentially, the Singapore government likes to put fairly punitive taxes on locally bought cars (it’s not a big place). This caused the richer locals to simply pop over the causeway and get themselves a cheap Malaysian purchase to bring back. A legal ban was set up rather than an import tax. So I was able to give said colleague a ride all the way home just because I wasn’t entitled to live in either country. In return I got to stay in his spare room for the weekend.

I remember I was going there often enough that I booked a holiday with workmates to go and visit Flores but ultimately I didn’t go because my employer cancelled the trip that was paying for me to get to Malaysia.

I spent much of the summer also studying an Open University foundation course in computer architecture.

An autumnal week in Devon

And after all those adventures I finished off the year with a very autumnal trip down to Devon. I think it may have been just a few days before Christmas when we went. Anyway, it was wet and windy most of the time.


Desert Adventures 1994

Desert Adventures 1994

Putting Down Some Roots

I seem to remember 1994 was a year at work that passed pretty much without incident. On the domestic front, I apparently didn’t do much other than a couple of days out. I did take a long holiday in the summer, though. Apologies for this post having a lot of photos of America. The alternative was to create 15 separate posts. Nah ! One will do, it’ll just have to go on for a bit.

So in approximately chronological order, these are the things I did in 1994 which seemed worthy of remembering with photographs.

A Wedding

In the spring, my old school friend Doctor Sime got married at Clumber Park.

Houston, We Need a Demo

And then in the late spring I was invited to make a business trip to Houston to do some presentations on the work I was doing at the time. It gave me a chance to meet up with a few old workmates from the Grangemouth days who had since migrated to a new project in Houston. I visited an oil refinery in Sweeny (which I didn’t photograph) and the Houston Space Center (which I did). I had an unplanned weekend to kill after being invited to meet with a second set of clients. Ultimately they never turned up, so I could have gone home. Over the weekend, one of the guys managed to get some tickets to see the Houston Rockets. He kindly included me in the invite list, which was good.

I’m Ennery the Eighth I am, I am

Around the August Bank Holiday I drove down to London for a house party organised by another old workmate, and in the process we went over to Hampton Court. How the other half lived, huh ! Although this may have been in May rather than August. My memory is somewhat fuzzy, to say the least. In fact, judging by the daffodils on one of the pictures, I would say that May is a better bet than August. But I can’t remember whether it was before or after Houston.

Denver

So I guess the highlight of the year was a long holiday in the great American Southwest. The official excuse for going was the old workmate “Big Phil” was getting married to a local in Denver – going native, as it were. There was no particular need for that trip to take the 17 or so days it did, other than that it’s a long way to go for a short stop. So Brewster and me made our way over to Denver from London, and picked up our rental car looking forward to a good old drive around the place.

We had no particular plans – one doesn’t do that kind of thing on a road trip – one just goes where one feels like, don’tcha know! Aside from booking a hotel for your first few nights, that is.  We met up with a whole host of old workmates in Denver. Kipper and Muscat arrived from Singapore via Los Angeles, I think, and I remember Mark, Stevie and Andy popping up from wherever they were at the time.

So we started with 3 days in Denver, including a bit of a walk round the downtown area, a drive up to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre (where U2 recorded their concert film Live at Red Rocks. Technically I suppose U2 played it and someone else recorded it. I doubt Bono was walking backwards and forwards changing tapes in a cassette player throughout).

And after all that “city break” shenanigans it was time to get on the road and see ourselves a bit of geography, and quite a lot of geology. It’s a good area for that kind of thing, by virtue of there being not many trees to hide it.

Colorado Springs

First day out of Denver we drove down to Colorado Springs and went for a walk around the Garden of the Gods. And then we drove up and down Pikes Peak. Then to finish our day we drove over to Cripple Creek and finished our day by staying over in Pueblo  – I remember the lady at the check-in of the motel thought it strange we were on holiday in Pueblo. Don’t worry, we’re not stopping long!

Cañon City

On the next morning we drove over to the Royal Gorge near Cañon City, which apparently has the highest suspension bridge in the world (i.e. the biggest drop underneath). The bridge itself is narrow, not fit for vehicles, and could best be described as “rickety”, but it’s quite impressive to walk across.

The guide books also say that Cañon City in the 19th century had a choice between hosting the State Prison and State University of Colorado and plumped for the former, obviously believing there was no money in education. This might be an urban myth, but whatever, the two big universities in the state ended up in Fort Collins and Boulder whilst Cañon City is home to the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility (which is a big name for a prison).

After this we went to the Great Sand Dunes National Park a little further west. At the time it was only a National Monument, having been upgraded to a National Park in 2004. The dunes weren’t upgraded though – they were big and sandy enough already. From here we picked our way quite a long distance across country and spent a night in Taos.

Santa Fe

The next day we travelled over to Santa Fe to marvel at the adobe everythings and wondering at the huge mouthful of its full name ( La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís ). I also bought an Australian style slouch hat, which won me an accusation of being Australian on more than one occasion. We spent that night in Santa Fe. Apparently neither here nor Taos were worthy of any photos though apart from one of Santa Fe’s cathedral, which is below.

So the next morning we headed of west towards Arizona, driving around Albuquerque and joining I-40 heading west. We parked up in Holbrook after doing about 300 miles in the car.

Northern Arizona Highlihts

The next day promised to be more interesting. Starting from Holbrook our first port of call was the Petrified Forest NP just out of town. Fantastic stuff – this is what a drive in the desert should be about. Hot, dusty, not many people around, Park Rangers from Yorkshire (not sure how that one got in there), that kind of thing.

And from here we decided to head over towards Flagstaff, making a stop at Meteor Crater on the way. Home for the night was a random non-descript motel on “the strip” just east of downtown Flagstaff. It had been a long day and we were glad of it.

I think we must have stayed 2 nights in Flagstaff, or moved up to Tusayan, because we did far too many things to have stayed there just one night. There was definitely a late afternoon stop-off at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

And a considerable amount of Grand Canyon.

Utah – Big Skies, Big Scenery, and Whacky Beer

And on departing there we drove up through Northern Arizona and through the Navajo Nation up to Monument Valley, one of the highlights of the trip. More “proper” desert up here. We continued on and spent the night in Blanding, which we thought lived up to its name. Something about ending up in a town with no beer.

Next day we were heading north towards Moab, but first up we “popped” round to the Natural Bridges NM.

Whilst in Moab, two things came as nice surprises. Firstly, it’s not a dry town. In fact, it has a couple of nice breweries making a selection of fine ales, most of which were given a good testing. I remember a chilli flavoured one.

Secondly, both national parks there are spectacular, albeit in different ways. On our first morning there we went over to Canyonlands NP. To say we “went” there would be a little unfair. We touched the surface. It is a proper wilderness and is quite large in size, so we went to an area of the park on its east side (the Needles District), and did a bit of a walk, took a few photos, saw a jeep struggling to get down the “road” and decided it wouldn’t be a bright idea to try to get our rented Chevy Blazer up the same road, and generally backed off and went home for some more of that beer.

The next day we went to Arches NP for a bit of weird geology (again).

Back to Colorado

And then we headed south again. We stopped off in Cortez for a quick visit to Mesa Verde NP and carried on for another night in, I think, Montrose and venturing over the mountains back to Denver for our flight home.

Montrose is home to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. As with Great Sand Dunes, this has been upgraded from National Monument to National Park since we were there.

On the way over the mountains we made a lunch stop in Breckenridge before joining I-70 for the drive back down off the Rockies.

And then we flew home. After which, I was rather seriously ill for a while. I developed shingles, and it flippin’ hurt. I was not on my best form for a couple of months. Maybe the holiday helped trigger it, I don’t know. I was very tired after all that travelling, but I’m not sure that would trigger it.

Anaheim, but with no Photos

In the autumn I was well enough to travel to the NPRA Conference, which was held in a hotel a couple of blocks along from Disneyland in Anaheim. That was a weird week. We were obliged to attend presentations during the day, and then to be on our vendor stand for the evening schmoozing sessions. At least my employer had decided the way to generate footfall at an evening session was to pay for a room with a bar. So when it got quiet, we could have a beer.

Anyway, I was in Anaheim from Sunday evening until Friday afternoon. During that whole time, I left the hotel complex twice. Once was Monday night, to get dinner with work colleagues once we’d finished building our stand. The second was on Thursday lunchtime, when I walked a couple of blocks down the road to a sports shop, where I bought myself a softball bat, some “cleats”, and a fielding glove. The hotel receptionist though I was taking a massive risk by walking. It was midday, bright sunshine, and the walk took less than 5 minutes each way. Plus, of course, on the way back I was carrying an aluminium bat.


A New Home 1993

A New Home 1993

Last Stop for the Gravy Train

I had a fairly quiet year in 1993 in photographic terms. It was my first year of living in Milton Keynes and as a result also the first time I ever owned my own car, the first time I bought a house, and the first time in four years I had to live off the money I earned. That last one was a shock to the system, I can tell you.

At the end of 1992 the project in Edinburgh had been winding down rather quickly, and in the last few months of the year it was distinctly lonely. I’d had to move house because they wanted to consolidate the amount of real estate that the project was paying for, and most of the people I’d enjoyed spending time with for two years had left. So when I finally finished there at the end of the year I wasn’t exactly upset.

I drove down from Edinburgh to my folks home in Newark just before Christmas in a rented car, carrying all my worldly possessions in the back of a rented estate car. It was so foggy on the day it took me all day, and I could barely see where I was going.

Moving to Milton Keynes

The new year saw me move down to Milton Keynes, which promised to be a bit of an adventure, and I wasn’t really that sure about the whole thing at the start. I began by crashing in a friend’s house for a couple of months, but then rented a house elsewhere in town for a few months while I searched for a house to buy. During this period I continued my new found obsession with skiing by visiting Chamonix in February.

Settling In

By the summer I’d found and bought a house that was to be my home for six years. When I say it like that, six years doesn’t seem very long. I bought that house in the early part of the summer. It was a completely new house on an estate. It had 3 bedrooms, a garden and a garage. I paid a deposit on the house before it was finished.

The Emerald Isle

Later in the summer I made a trip over to Ireland with Brewster and the Swannies, including some time in Dublin, Limerick, Killarney and Cork. The weather was nice all week, which is not normal for Ireland. When I say I “made the trip over” with the others, that’s a big of a porkie pie. Brewster was living in Scotland, so he took his car (and the Swannies) by ferry from there over to Belfast and drove down to meet me in Dublin. I flew into Dublin. But the rest of the time the four of us were together.