We spent Friday in Blanchland, just relaxing with family. First time I've been on swings in years (I gave the slide a miss though, as it was definitely for smaller people!):
On Saturday we went to my first football match - Newcastle vs Ipswich, at St. James' Park:
And Newcastle were presented with the Championship trophy after the game:
Sunday was scamp's birthday (with some joint celebration as mine's soon too):
We've not managed to take any good photos of it all this weekend (it's grown quite a lot in two weeks!), but scamp asked for peeectures, so here's a few to give you an idea:
The last of those is a picture of how we've cunningly concealed the stump of the horrible spiky tree that used to be there :)
(And probably post more often, too.)
Still, it's not as bad as all that, as I've had a few nice days off from work recently.
Two weeks ago I took Thursday and Friday off, partly just to have a break, and partly to get the place ready for a parental visit (they inspire all our best tidying up!). Thursday was fun stuff - lunch in town, going to see Prince Caspian (which I really enjoyed, though it maybe helped that it's been a long time since I read the book), and a visit to The Dove. Friday was a mix of lazing about and sorting stuff out - a trip to Tesco, picking up some DIY supplies, and finally getting around to the tidying up.
My parents came down to visit that weekend to sort out our garden. As soon as Dad heard that we were planning to replace the fence and rip out all the leylandii etc., he'd started growing lots of plants to put in. So they arrived with an estate car full of trays of plants, and we spent the day widening and digging out the borders, and then he planted everything in it. I'm in awe of how good he is at all this stuff, and touched at the thought of how much care and effort he's put into all this over the last couple of months. He says it's all gone in too late to do much this year, but I think it looks great already! I just hope we can take care of it all well enough.
On Sunday we filled their car back up again with all the stuff we'd taken out of the garden (we had several sacks just of stones, let alone all the plant stuff we ripped out) and took it to the tip, then made a second trip out to pick up a few bits and pieces to finish it off - like a nice plant in a pot to go on top of the tree stump. We barely had time for a quick lunch after that before it was time for them to go - it's a long drive home. I was at a bit of a loss for the rest of the day ... I hate it when people have to leave.
My other day off was last Friday, when I just had to be at home as our shiny new telly was being delivered! After waiting patiently for AGES AND AGES (damnit), we bought a 40" Sony LCD TV that does full HD, and it's really very shiny indeed. We basically spent the rest of the weekend looking at all sorts of things on it and saying "cor!". PS3 games (our main use for it), Blu-Ray ("Planet Earth" is stunning!), DVDs and photos all look great - and even Freeview doesn't look too bad ;)
The only low point of the weekend was on Sunday morning. I went to my usual higher-grades karate class, but struggled right from the start, and when I pushed myself to keep going it just made me feel nauseous. I sat out a few times hoping it would pass, but after twenty minutes I ended up giving up and coming home :/ Very unusual for me, and I really didn't like doing it, but I just felt like I was wasting my instructor's time and holding the others up.
The highlight of the past few weeks was my sister (scamp) and her husband coming down to visit us for a weekend. On the Friday night we went out to a new night of Ed's called Supersonic - all 90's indie stuff, and although I have slightly mixed feeling about nostalgia nights, it really was a lot of fun and packed with great music. The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxed (deliberately, as we'd overdone it last time they visited!), but included lots of PS3 gaming and a trip to The Dove St. Inn.
I was having a frustrating time at work for a while. I was trying to get started on a new project, creating a prototype of a new network test tool, but stuff just keep getting in the way - about a week's worth of mandatory corporate training got dumped on me with no warning, then a series of full- or half-day meetings to do with re-organisation, and then a support for a project I thought I was done with some time ago. Anyway, I did eventually manage to get to work on it, and a sudden burst of activity got it done just in time for my deadline. Phew!
There's been lots of karate, as ever.
The Sunday (higher-grades) classes have got longer, as we've added a sparring session afterwards, which my instructor joins in with. Left to my own devices, I tend to pick other options rather than sparring in our normal classes, so I'm finding this tough but I think it'll do me a lot of good.
Our club had its most recent grading last weekend, so over the past month there was lots of teaching and helping people to get ready for that, and then I was part of the panel for the grading too. I'm glad to say everyone passed!
And then today I went to the Academy for a technical course - the first I've been to since getting my black belt. The class was taken by our most senior instructors (Mick Blackwell 8th Dan and Billy Brennan 7th Dan), and was all about kata - we went in detail through sa jang and pal jang, including what the moves are actually for, and then went through two katas from other (Japanese) styles, jion and seienchin. It was good, and I learned a lot, but it was hard to take it all in.
Several months after stormy weather finally truly knackered our garden fence, we've had it replaced! Between people not returning our calls, declining the job, etc. we'd almost given up hope of it ever getting done - but three months of persistence by M finally paid off, and last week we got someone to come round, rip out the old fence and all the leilandii trees, and build a new solid fence for us. On a whim, we also got them to cut down the previous owners' spiky tree that was quickly growing out of control (it was nearly as tall as the house, and the guy told us those trees can grow to two hundred feet! What were they thinking!?). It's made a huge difference, and the garden feels like a much bigger space now ... albeit a slightly unfinished-feeling one. Hopefully, we'll sort that out next weekend!