I've just spent a pleasant long weekend in Vienna, Austria. A scenic detour through Belgium was required, to get us back to Blighty, EasyJet having forsaken us, but we did manage to get back whilst there's still some snow on the ground. I'm still going through the photographs (which are generally disappointing frankly) but I thought I'd stick this one up as a comedy teaser.

This shop's much bigger than it looks you know…

Tardi's

Look at this little fella – isn't he cute! Taken this morning amid preparations for wassailing in the orchard.

I tried my luck standing in plain sight only 3 metres from the feeder, with honking great 400mm lens, and after about ten minutes stood motionless, the braver birds starter coming back. It's particularly nice to see long-tailed tits because they're so small and neat.

LongTailedTit

I also saw this less welcome visitor, on the ground underneath:

Rat

Nearly there, and dare I say I've been quite organised about it this year. Let's hope I haven't forgotten anybody.

Walked on the beach at Sandyland near Skegness today. Apart from the wind it was really quiet mild, especially for Xmas Eve Eve.

Here's a quick example of our home baking (a bit rough and ready to look at but the best mince pies I've had this year) and the tree (artificial because it fits our small space much better – real ones tend to be very broad at the base), to make you feel Xmassy.

MincePiesJamTarts
Bauble

Last Tuesday I went to The White Lion pub (a preferred local of mine, but blimey that's a low-fi website if ever I saw one) to see the Dead Victorians. These fine chaps are quite magnificent – music hall entertainment from a bygone era crammed with interesting instruments and innuendo.

This is the second time I've seen them, in the same venue as it happens, but both times they have been a threesome, without the elusive Pedro. I don't know why, but the good Dr. Blake doesn't seem to be in any of the publicity photos and gets nary a mention on the CD (on sale that evening for the first time) whilst appearing to be a thoroughly integral part of the band on drums, many vocals, spoons, washboard etc.

I'll quite happily admit that it was seeing the Dead Victorians for the first time that tipped me over the edge and caused me to buy an accordion. It was a pleasure to see them again, though the photos I took are shamefully poor, taken as they were from the back of a crowded but dark pub with a small compact camera. The blur sitting in front of Maestro Paul on the accordion is the good doctor playing the typewriter to accompany a vigourous trombone rendition of the William Tell Overture.

DeadVictorians

I'm a big fan of Tim Moore's books, and the "do some wacky stuff then write about it in an amusing way" genre as a whole. That said, his previous effort Nul Points, about the history and characters of the Eurovision Song Contest left me cold – in fact I never even finished it. So I was a little nervous about this very latest tome, which has a similar historical bent, rather than a completely asinine caper at its core  (like pilgramiging through Spain with a donkey – quite an ass-inine caper). I needn't have worried.

The world of living history (historical re-enactment is perhaps a more meaningful term to most) turns out to be a rich seam ripe for comedy mining. Certainly more so than going to visit a Norwegian who once sang on tele. Fighting as part of a Roman garrison against the Gauls, living the life of a Tudor chamberlain and a succession of other historical roles present a cavalcade of hilarity, mostly sourced from the usually very committed people involved and his own struggles to fit in and be authentic. There are some truly laugh out loud moments and the book is fairly un-put-downable.

Will you learn a great deal about history by reading this book? Probably not, but you'll learn a lot about historical re-enactment. I was really surprised by some of it, especially the authenticity of the violence! Tim was too, clearly.

Final verdict: A cracking example of the genre and highly recommended. I hope the next one is as good.

Here are my favourite other books of his:


      
     

Another quick photo from my trip to Waddesdon Manor. This is the Rubber Tree, constructed entirely from old rubber tyres. Nice concept!

RubberTree

This unassuming museum has been nearby all my life, but I’ve only just visited for the first time on the most recent bank holiday Monday. It’s hidden away off a lane near the M25 just South of London Colney, but the brown signage should you get you there as long as you realise the final turn really is into a single track lane seemingly heading off to nowhere. In fact it takes you pretty much through the front gardens of a set of delightful country houses complete with a huge mill pond and then into the small car park for the museum around a tight corner.

Dehavmosquito

It’s rather hidden away and it doesn’t look like there’s much at first, beyond a few small and slightly dilapidated buildings. However we were there much longer than we expected – a couple of hours in fact – and were really impressed. The whole museum has an old world charm, partly because of the subject matter and partly because it’s clearly the pride and joy of a lot of volunteers who keep it running. There’s no slick commercialism here, but there’s something much better: a couple of old guys restoring 60 year old wooden warplanes amid thousands of artefacts in various states of disrepair, with some pretty decent labelling and narrative to explain it to you. The old guys will happily explain it to you directly if you engage them.

Dehavcockpit

I’ve flown as a passenger in plenty of planes, but only very modern ones. It was particularly interesting to climb into the various old passenger planes to see what a flying traveller used to experience. Answer: great big comfy seats, crystal decanters, but not enough room to stand up and a toilet behind a curtain. The cockpits are quite fascinating too – all wires and pipes and switches.

Overall – a great museum that really impressed. Watch out for opening times though, and figure out where you’re going before hand! Check out the De Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre website.

I loved this book. It’s a perfectly balanced mix of life story, comedy, irony and occasional sadness all held together with Simmo’s long love of cricket. You don’t need to be a cricket fanatic to enjoy the book, as that’s not what it’s really about – it’s just the unifying theme. That said it would be the perfect gift for the amateur cricketer in particular!

There are some truly laugh out loud moments and a couple of genuinely touching parts too. Overall the book is a warm and witty autobiography of a slightly awkward everyman that simply focuses on the diverse parts of his life that were cricket related, from infancy up to present day. His other book “What’s My Motivation” looks like it promises to do the same but from the point of view of his acting career. If it’s as delightful as this one then it should be a real treat, and I intend to pick it up soon!