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A Busy Christmas

Story location: Home / Blog /
27/Dec/2007

It's been a busy Christmas - the first one we've spent in Coventry, previous years we've driven up north to visit our parents.

My parents and my brother came down on Christmas Eve and stayed for 2 nights. We probably cooked too much food for Christmas dinner because there was plenty of turkey, veg and stuffing left over.

Emma's mum and her husband joined us on boxing day, so the house was a bit crowded for lunchtime, but my family went home after lunch.

We've got the house to ourselves now, so we can start finding homes for all the Christmas presents we've received - mostly chocolates and biscuits, so we don't need to buy any of those for a few months. Emma's Dad and his wife are stopping for lunch tomorrow but we'll be serving salad and sandwiches, so that will be a bit easier for us.

We went to take our recycling to the tip this morning but the traffic was queueing all the way to the main road. We took the glass and cardboard to the recycling point at the nearby Asda but that was getting full too. At least it showed that people were willing to recycle over Christmas rather than just throw things away.



Hatching Quail

Story location: Home / Blog / quail /
24/Dec/2007

Emma recently bought an incubator so we could try to hatch some quail. They were expected to hatch on Christmas Day but last night we could see a beak starting to peck its way out of one of the eggs.

Sadly this morning there was no movement from the egg - it looks like that quail was too premature and too weak to hatch. There was another egg which looked like it was starting to hatch though.

When we came downstairs about an hour later, there were two chicks wandering around the bottom of the incubator.

Newly hatched quail

Around lunchtime, a 3rd chick hatched. It looks like our first attempt at hatching quail has been reasonably successful so far.



Top Gear

Story location: Home / Blog / tv /
19/Dec/2007

Thanks to the BBC iPlayer, I finally managed to watch the episode of Top Gear where they 'celebrate' 40 years of British Leyland cars. Unfortunately the episode I originally downloaded failed to work - the licence had 'expired' despite having 5 days left - so I had to watch the version with the sign language person 'flapping' in the corner of the screen.

In the episode, the presenters had to go out and buy an old BL car each, and then perform various tasks. They drove to the sites of some of the old factories, but most of them had since been demolished. The only one still in use is now owned by BMW. Others had been demolished and (like Longbridge) were derelict land or had been turned into hotels or offices.

At the site of the old factory in Coventry they commented on how it had turned into a hotel. They complained that there was nothing to commemorate the site of the factory, apart from a few road names (Herald Avenue, Dolomite Avenue). They must have missed the metal plinth which gave some of the history of the site.

Plinth at site of old car factory in Canley
Plinth at site of old car factory in Canley
The Canley factory has gone the same way as most of the motor manufacturing in Coventry. A lot of the sites have been converted into flats, offices or shops. The Canley site has an industrial estate, a hotel and a Sainsburys. The Peugeot site at Stoke is now flats and offices. The only cars made within Coventry are the Black Cabs, made by London Taxi International, at the factory on Holyhead Road. This factory (tucked behind the BMW/Mini dealership) is opposite yet another shopping centre built on the site of an old car factory - the Alvis Retail Park.

Anyway, back to Top Gear. They took their old cars to a test track and had to drive along a bumpy cobbled road, with a colander of eggs taped over their heads. They scored depending on how how much egg was still in the colander, and lost 'points' for any trim which fell off. The biggest bit of 'trim' lost was the back door from Clarkson's Rover SD1.

Another of the tests was to drive up a 1 in 3 stretch of road, apply the handbrake, and see if the car would stay there. Now 1 in 3 is very steep - lesser gradients make it feel like the car is tipping over backwards. The Rover had great difficulty even getting up the slope. The wheels lost traction and the wheelspin hid the car in huge clouds of smoke.

Back when I lived in Aberystwyth, there was a 1 in 4 road between Waen Fawr and Llanbadarn. At the bottom of the hill there was a T junction and I had to approach it very slowly because it always felt like the car wasn't going to stop. Heading the other way, up the hill, unless I managed to get a good run up I had to take the hill in 1st gear. At the time I only had a Rover Metro with a 1.1 litre engine so it struggled when presented with challenges like that.

We got rid of the Metro a few years ago, but we noticed the address in the back of the handbook was given as 'Canley Road' - the site now occupied by the hotel/industrial estate/Sainsburys. I did a search for the postcode on Google maps but it doesn't exist any more.

Getting back to Top Gear, the tests became more surreal. They filled the cars with water and drove around the track to see which would go the furthest. The surprising winner was an Austin Princess driven by Captain Slow.

Top Gear is at its best when they have the silly games and challenges. Most of the car reviews get very tedious. They tend to be either overexpensive cars being driven fast around the track while being compared with other overexpensive cars, or small/affordable/economical cars being accused of being dull and boring. I can't be the only viewer who gets tired of hearing about the latest supercar with zero relevance to everyday life. It's like a car version of the pathetic Celebrity type of magazine.

Despite these problems, the banter between the presenters is good. The 3-way reviews, where they all go out with similar cars and compare them, tend to be more interesting than the one-off reviews with individual cars. Hopefully they'll continue to do more of the motoring challenges - the one where they had to drive old cars across Africa was one of the better episodes of the series.



Coventry welcomes its new Swedish Overlords

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
15/Dec/2007

Coventry's new Ikea store opens tomorrow. The local news has been full of scare stories about how the traffic to the store will throttle the ring road and bring the city to a standstill. As a countermeasure, the council has set up signed diversions especially for Ikea traffic.

The shop was actually open this morning, although only to 'Ikea Family Card' holders. We had received a letter telling us about this sneak preview and a voucher for free delivery if we spent over £150, so we went along to see what the shop was like and to pick up some furniture for the front room (which we are in the middle of decorating).

There were a lot of security guards and crowd control barriers outside the shop, but a surprising lack of people. The shop was fairly quiet inside too. Apparently it's the tallest Ikea in europe, according to the announcement we heard on the instore 'radio' while we were in the restaurant. One advantage of this height is the view - you can see a lot of Coventry from there.

We managed to buy enough furniture to qualify for the free delivery. Everything arrived this afternoon, just as we were about to resume stripping the wallpaper in the front room. Our hallway is now full of rolls of carpet and flat-packs of furniture.

There were predictions of around 15,000 visitors to the store today, but I don't think they will have had anything like that many. They are expecting 20,000 tomorrow for the Grand Opening. There are 'Gift Cards' for the first 500 in the queue, and plenty of special offers and price reductions, so I expect there will be quite a few people lining up outside when the shop opens.



The Red Light Zone

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
10/Dec/2007

I don't know whether the population of Coventry doubled over the weekend but the traffic was much busier than usual on the way home tonight.

Near one one the many roundabouts on the way home, there is a bus lane. It is separated from the main carriageways by a traffic island. There are traffic lights here, the ones for the bus lane are always red unless there is a bus approaching.
Tonight, a lot of cars seemed to want to use the bus lane. They didn't seem to realise that the light was never going to turn green for them. The traffic in our lane was moving so slowly, we got a good look at the long queue of cars stuck in the bus lane, waiting in vain for the lights to change.



31 Days Has November

Story location: Home / Blog /
03/Dec/2007

On Saturday 1st December, while we were out, we had a card pushed through the door telling us that the Royal Mail tried to deliver a package. We went to collect it this morning. It took them quite a long time to find the package because the card was dated 31st November. The shelves in the depot are apparently arranged by date and it was tricky to find something which was allegedly delivered on a non-existent date.



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Christmas Hamster Show

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /
01/Dec/2007

Just a quick note about the show. I've been quite busy recently which explains the lack of posts this week.

This years Christmas show was quite well attended, and there wasn't much left over buffet food at the end. The only unclaimed item was a plate of salad.

During the show, we went out to a nearby aviary and bought another quail hen. She should improve the male:female ratio, so our current hens don't get too much 'attention' from Dan and Waylon.