June 2011 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

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Holiday in Wales with Fiona (26th June 2011)

Wow, that was a week to remember! So many experiences, detailed below to jog my memory after it gets clogged up by work, hobbies and chores. Fiona’s photos are on Flickr so I’ve just put words and thumbnails in this entry.

Friday 24th June 2011

  1. Met up with Fiona outside where I work.
  2. Went to Gig’s for the first time. Simple but nice fish with side salad.
  3. Commuted to Fleet.
  4. Mum and Dad showed the fishes in the big plastic pond.
  5. Guinea Pigs were also doing fine.

Saturday 25th June 2011

  1. Rode to Tundry Pond with the mountain bikes.
  2. Fiona was using Mum’s bike as it is lighter with a low frame and very comfortable saddle.
  3. I loaded everything into Car-Car and made lots of preparations.
  4. Checked tyre pressures near 10:30pm. One was only at 20psi when they’re supposed to be 31psi!

Sunday 26th June 2011

  1. Woke up at 6am.
  2. Departed near 7:30am.
  3. ½-hour rest and refuelled on the way.
  4. Had driven a bit too far North so took the Expressway across North Wales coast.
  5. It was very open and scenic with the occassional tunnel.
  6. Slight sense of The Alps to it, in a humble British way!
  7. Arrived near 12:30pm as the traffic wasn’t jammed anywhere.
  8. Got shown around the spacious studio cottage by our host, Les.
  9. Headed over the Anglesey and found a very steep set of roads down to an enormous beach on the East of the island. Seriously, it was mega!
  10. Sun was shining brightly and after a while, we found the water was about warm enough for paddling. Even wading, after a while!
  11. Playing football on the beach.
  12. Explored some grassy dunes on the far South West of the island.
  13. Drove back up some even steeper single-lane tracks. Nearly spooked a horse but we were going slow.

Monday 27th June 2011

  1. Morning birthday presents from Fiona!
    1. New sports T-shirt.
    2. Raincoat because it’s Wales.
    3. Miniature Power Kite which is like the big ones kite-surfers use. But miniature.
  2. Went to the main house and sorted WiFi access.
  3. Did some shopping at the local Tesco as we’re self-catering.
  4. Bumped into Les and her husband while we were there.
  5. Played some frisbee in the field behind the cottage.
  6. Sat on one of benches for a while but it started to drizzle. Lucky I had a waterproof, now.
  7. Spent the afternoon planning other things to do; Fiona drew up an itinerary.
  8. Got a CD playing in the DVD.
  9. Host gave us a huge bottle of Rosé as it was my birthday!
  10. Watched the Monkey Dust DVD Fiona brought along. It’s so clever and dark and true!

Tuesday 28th June 2011

  1. Bright morning.
  2. Fiona made breakfast and sandwiches.
  3. Saw on the map where my family used to go on holiday when I was little, near Pontyllfni.
  4. Drove past the track to the caravan park on our way to Pwhelli.
  5. Continued to Abersoch and sunbathed on the sandy beach. It was hot!
  6. Fiona saw a long bay called Hell’s Mouth and we drove over to it.
  7. Wind was constant and quite strong. After a few goes, we managed to fly the kite really well!
  8. Beach was a mix of sand and stones with us pretty much the only people within 2 miles.
  9. Wrote our names in the sand and took photos.
  10. Decided to try out the water because in a weeks’ time we’d be sat in an office wondering thinking we should have at least tried.
  11. Changed into swimming stuff and very gradually started wading in the water.
  12. Some time later, we were into the breakers and swell. Was very cold but equally exhilarating.
  13. Shivered back to the beach and dried off.
  14. Fiona used her iPhone to search places to eat while I drove us back towards Caernarfon.
  15. Maybe I should get a smartphone? Have been resisting the expense for years…
  16. Many places were closed but we noticed an Indian restaurant by chance, which was still open.
  17. I officially like Balti Chicken! It arrived in a silver bucket, a bit like champagne on ice. Except this was on a hot plate. With a side of rice.
  18. Got back to the cottage and watched Top Gear on TV.

Wednesday 29th June 2011

  1. Slow morning.
  2. Drove down to Porthmadog.
  3. Had a sausage roll with salad for lunch in a small caf´ which was popular with elderly people.
  4. Took our bicycles on the Ffestiniog Railway up into the mountains.
  5. Spectular and rather precarious.
  6. Started to drizzle over the slate town at the top.
  7. Greyest. Scene. Ever.
  8. We cycled to what the map (from 1986) said was a Mountain Restoration Centre, or words to that effect.
  9. It was now a slate processing plant. I guess they restored what was there some time before!
  10. Fiona has a new respect for cyclist who ride up hills. It’s seriously tough.
  11. We freewheeled back down to the town and found a quaint café up some steps.
  12. A sign in the door said “Cyclists Welcome” which sealed the deal.
  13. The woman owner served strawberry tea, which meant fragile home-made scones with strawberry jam and Welsh tea.
  14. It was totally delicious!
  15. Took the last train back down to Porthmadog.
  16. Fiona got some pictures of the waterfall and much scenery, as it brightened up the whole way down.
  17. We rode back to the car but decided to mess around in the large, empty carpark.
  18. It had become a lovely evening by this point.
  19. Fiona recorded a top speed of 18mph on the cycle computer.
  20. We also practiced riding the smallest circles possible and slamoming between the road markings.
  21. Packed up the bicycles and drove back to the cottage.
  22. Had fish for dinner.
  23. Watched 1:20:00 of Black Swan, which Fiona and brought on DVD.
  24. Turned in for the night near 11pm.

Thursday 30th June 2011

  1. Spectacular sunshine all day!
  2. Prompt breakfast at 9:30am.
  3. Drove to horse riding centre, which Fiona had booked on a previous day.
  4. Took a wrong turn and ended up in a farm. Correct turn was a couple of hundred metres further on.
  5. Arrived at the Snowdonia Riding Centre near 11am.
  6. Had a peaceful ride out along the lanes.
  7. Bit of trotting in places.
  8. I was riding Kazak while Fiona had Jacob.
  9. We saw a pair of peacocks roaming feral!
  10. We did the 1½ hour ride so we stayed in the valley, on easy lanes.
  11. Kazak took a lot of prompting to keep up with the others but was better behaved.
  12. Drove onwards and found a large pub, largely empty, at Whenfawr station.
  13. Had the Full Welsh Breakfast which I must say, is the best breakfast I can remember!
  14. Fiona got some pictures of the train.
  15. Drove to Portmerion.
  16. Took a nap in the car while we waited for the half-price entry time.
  17. Drove down to the carpark and found some pleasant shade for Car-Car.
  18. Walked all around the town.
  19. Had some tea and a delicious slice of cake.
  20. Found our way down to the beach, which was like baked quicksand.
  21. Covered an enormous area, with a couple of rivulets running through it.
  22. Considered paddling through to the central sandbank but the depth and speed were too worrying.
  23. Found some rock pools which led up to the long coastal path.
  24. Stopped at some funky trees and again at a miniature lighthouse, which overlooked another humungous beach!
  25. Strolled through woods, which are dotted with arbitrary tropical plants.
  26. Arrived at a pair of ponds and walked round them.
  27. Stood on a red footbridge over the Japanese water garden.
  28. Explored a folly and Fiona got a great photo from a nearby viewing point, high above the main buildings.
  29. Fiona drove us back to the cottage.
  30. There were lots of roadworks but now I got to enjoy the great views between them!
  31. Explored some footpaths around the cottage.
  32. First one led to nowhere.
  33. We walked down the lane, which turned out to be quite far, but led to the Menai Bridge.
  34. Continued right down to a quay by the water, which was really flowing fast.
  35. Saw a pair of speedboats hurtling around the piers at about 8pm, full of tourists.
  36. Walked back to the cottage, still with abundant sunlight.
  37. Finished watching Black Swan.
  38. Watched the 3rd episode from Monkey Dust and loved it!

Friday 1st July 2011

  1. Late morning breakfast.
  2. Planning more events.
  3. Drove out over the Menai Bridge.
  4. Parked in a very coastal carpark, overlooking the River Menai.
  5. Rode our bicycles to a little castle.
  6. It had been turned into a folly and was now ruins.
  7. Rode down the road for a bit.
  8. Lots of sunshine and very hot!
  9. Looked at the map for a while and decided to go back.
  10. Took a route with unexpectedly steep hills to the ruins of an old priory.
  11. Very quiet church was next door so we went in a hushedly looked around.
  12. Remembrance candles were lit.
  13. Surprisingly ornate stained-glass windows.
  14. Rode on to North-East corner of Anglesy.
  15. Sign said: “Danger: No passage to lighthouse from land.”
  16. After careful footing and a couple of minor slips, I reached it!
  17. Fiona took photos to prove my bravery.
  18. Thought I’d be leaping boulders but it was actually quite easy, at low tide.
  19. Rode back to Car-Car.
  20. Drove to Benlech to find some civilisation.
  21. Had dinner overlooking the huge beach.
  22. I discovered that I like king prawns.
  23. Amazing cakes for dessert!
  24. We had seen this beach on our first day but an even bigger one is just round the headland!
  25. After eating we strolled down to it and watched the Sun sink behind the ridge.
  26. Returned to Car-Car and chased the sunset across the landscape.

Saturday 2nd July 2011

  1. Woke at 7:45am, snoozed through to 8:15pm.
  2. Packed stuff and realised I’d lost my black shirt!
  3. Had breakfast.
  4. Long departure with host.
  5. Suggested calling the café, which we did and they had kept it.
  6. Drove to Anglesey to get it and it was there. Phew!
  7. Decided to stop by Dyffry Ardudwy for a 10km beach.
  8. It was an amazing beach and brilliant sunshine.
  9. We paddled in the water, slowly acclimatised.
  10. Gradually, very gradually, got braver. (With much shrieking from us both!)
  11. Eventually I started swimming!
  12. Felt a bit like having hypothermia, like only my lungs were still alive.
  13. Was doing breast stroke naturally, first unassisted swimming in the sea ever…and by far the most exhilarating!
  14. Walked back to the beach and found the little pools and rivulets, which had seemed freezing before we swam, now felt like cosy bath water due to our circulation changing so much.
  15. Sunbathed for a while, after putting on lots of suntan lotion.
  16. Played a bit of frisbee and walked in the dunes.
  17. Eventually went back to the carpark as the time was heading towards 6pm.
  18. Found a place to eat in Dolgellau.
  19. It was posh grub but with slightly standoffish waitresses.
  20. Lamb rump with potato, some kind of sauce and a side which had little currants and pineapple. It was all delicious!
  21. Tried to find a petrol station but all were closed!
  22. We must have driven to about 5 different ones before giving up.
  23. Started driving back to Fleet and ended up in a convoy of boy racers.
  24. They were really pushing their cars to the limit.
  25. Probably spend their Saturday nights driving up and down this road as fast as they could.
  26. Simply a question of ‘when’ they have a major crash, rather than ‘if’, I fear.
  27. Stopped at a motorway services for 40 winks around midnight because I was so tired!
  28. Got home for about 1am.
  29. Slept deeply!

Sunday 3rd July 2011

  1. Woke at 11am.
  2. Had breakfast and did some packing.
  3. Watched the MotoGP from Assen.
  4. Chatted with Mum and Dad.
  5. Checked the Guinea Pigs.
  6. Fish were rather shy as a Heron had caught one the other day.
  7. We were driven to the station and got 3:32pm train back to London.
  8. Looked back over the photos and there are lots of good ones!
  9. We’ve picked some to go with this blog. Will take some time to size, crop and add them.
  10. Still haven’t done the ones for Ski Trip in Morzine, France from earlier this year!

26th Birthday! (12th June 2011)

Today I turned 27 and was in Wales with Fiona. We’d done a combined birthday and Fathers’ Day with my family in Fleet on Saturday 25th.


Naturally, the best gift was the company of my dear family and the setting of my beloved hometown. Some more material offerings were also given, though:

Enable mod_gip in Apache 1.3 (12th June 2011)

After much fruitless searching I eventually found this copy-and-paste mod_gzip example. Phew! Now I can verify that my stylesheet is Gzip compressed. Older but wiser…I just took a few lines from it:

# Try getting mod_gzip to compress stylesheets:
# http://www.techiepark.com/tutorials/how-to-enable-gzip-compression-in-apache-server-to-speed-up-website/
<IfModule mod_gzip.c>
 mod_gzip_on Yes
 mod_gzip_dechunk Yes
 mod_gzip_item_include file \.(x?html?|txt|css|js|php)$
 mod_gzip_item_include mime ^text/.*

It is enabled for .htm and .html static files by using a question mark in the Regular Expression. I also added .xhtml support the same way. (Yes, I did need to search. But that’s the site I always use for newbie RegEx questions.)

London Zoo in Regent’s Park (10th June 2011)

Fiona was working, so we met at my place near 6pm. Arrived a the zoo near 7pm and saw lots of exotic creatures! Started raining, thundering even. Had some fish and chips with a plastic glass of red wine. Shared Fiona’s umbrella as we walked back after 9pm.

Midweek Family Reunion (10th June 2011)

Went to dentist on Wednesday. Got collected from there by mum who took me for a haircut. Went home for a roast pork that was just sublime! Spent some time in the garden, sated my hankering for Gran Turismo 4 (and 2!) and watched some TV. Did a bit of cycling on Thursday.

Planning a Holiday in Wales (10th June 2011)

My birthday is on 27th of this month and I have the whole week off work. Fiona and I shall be returning to my regular childhood holiday location of North West Wales. We started planning this evening…exciting times!