rashbre central: 2006

Sunday 31 December 2006

Last evening of 2006

Not a bad view from the room, for the last evening of 2006? The canals of Brugges and a sky later to be lit by the fireworks of Silvestre, which is a co-ordination in much of mainland Europe which ich is still fairly uncommon to we British. So in Brussels, I suppose chocolate and champagne will be on the agenda at some point.

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Saturday 30 December 2006


No prizes for guessing I'm in Bruges, Belgium.

Well, put it another way, I wouldn't have been able to guess this, even when I was being bundled onto the Eurostar from London. This is a great surprise for New Year! So it is a time for meandering around the picturesque lanes of an ancient town, once the largest trading centre in North Western Europe.

Nowadays, its an endearingly pretty location where every corner creates another scenic view, of old buildings, canals, churches, statues and cobbled pathways.

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Friday 29 December 2006

Thursday 28 December 2006

crank it

A certain amount of black smoke today as I restarted the blog after several days of offline festivities.

Its been a great break, with people, parties and presents and, in my case, a certain amount of driving as well. In fact, at certain points it was challening to figure out how to get people, presents and general luggage into the car together.

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Wednesday 27 December 2006

Saturday 23 December 2006


Enjoy the festive season and be filled with the wonder of new possibilities. There is fun going forward.

Friday 22 December 2006

Friday Firteen (V36)

A Thursday Thirteen on a Friday? It must be Christmas.
1) I've go the Christmas lights working, although one of the transformers has died. This year's lights have a different style of connector, too, so I've just had to buy a new complete set.
2) This year's bulbs are a different colour also from last year. More white than yellow. Planned obsolescence?
3) Someone gave me a box of chocs at work. They were Green and Black's and we put them in an open area so that everyone could try them. An hour later they had all gone except the cherry ones.
4) I had to (ahem) borrow some selotape (3M, Scotch) from work, because I don't have any. I will replace it, of course.
5) I could not park in Sainsbury's. This is a first. It was full.
6) Fog has disrupted a lot of UK travel today. roads are bad and the airport was struggling.
7) I was working until 02:00 in the morning yesterday and then started again at 07:30. At least I have finished most of the pre-Christmas tasks.
8) I shall try to find some time to play guitar during the break.
9) My work inbox has started to slow down and I've received a few more amusing end of year pictures and thoughts.
10) Its quieter this evening, like a silent night, oops I feel a carol coming on.
11) I have seen four sets of carollers today.
12) Seasonal Greetings
13) Time for a mince pie and a tipple.

Here's a few version of Silent Night to entertain.
Sinead O'Conner
German choir
Christina Aguilera
Trans Siberian Orchestra
Bad Beatles remix with fake vox ouch

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Wednesday 20 December 2006

OTA Wordless Wednesday

saddest street corner in New York celebrates Christmas
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Tuesday 19 December 2006

replacement bulbs

lights.jpgMore from Santa tonight.

He seems to be having the same problems as me about getting the Christmas lights working again. I need some B12 bulbs, but they don't seem to make them this year. The set of lights with the computer controlled chaser won't light up at all, let alone chase and I suspect that it is suffereing from a programming error.

Never mind. Here's something festive.

run santa

Monday 18 December 2006

santa vision

My first woodland Santa sighting has occured in the last day or so. I was driving along the M3 motorway, when I saw an MGB car parked on the hard shoulder, and in the nearby wood were two Santa Claus.

Regular readers know I usually publish completely factual accounts with proper photographs, but on this occasion I must declare that I am using a Santavision recreation of the event, complete with virtual reindeer.

Sunday 17 December 2006


Shopping today for a Christmas tree, it turned out that the shop had run out of the netting to make the tree compact for travelling. Apparently this weekend was peak for buying trees in the UK so the shop had to send out for netting from another garden centre.

I've also heard my first proper Christmas carols this weekend..."We Three Kings", sung by some carollers and then "Oh, come all ye faithful." on the television tonight.

The Dorchester

Arriving back at Heathrow in the early hours of Saturday, I then had a fast turnaround before travelling to Central London, to the Dorchester, for lunch. We met there at just after one o'clock and managed to make lunch last until five, before heading from Park Lane across to Chelsea.

The always friendly Dorchester was brightly decked out for Christmas, and the bright sunshine of day when we arrived gave way to the darkness and cold of early eveing by the time we left.

Saturday 16 December 2006


A view from my lounger in JFK Airport, just before the flight back to the UK. After the bustle of checking in without wearing shoes and going through metal detectors and all manner of scanner, its eventually pleasant to land softly in the tranquility of the Terraces lounge. Gentle fountains, chirping birds and mood lighting convey a sense of ease. To relax with a cocktail makes a pleasant way to ease into the overnight flight back to London.

no copy whatsoever

I see that the New York Times has evaluated the differences between Microsoft Vista and Apple OS X and made a helpful video.

They report that some are saying that Microsoft's new Aero interface in Vista is a copy of the Apple's Aqua.

Maybe Microsoft did rename "My Documents" and "My Computer" to "Computer" and "Documents," as they are in Mac OS X. Maybe the search icon in Vista is almost identical to Tiger's Spotlight icon, but the magnifying glass icon does turns the other way. If the new Vista buttons and other interface details have a shiny bulbous look similar to those in Mac OS X, perhaps its just coincidence.

And the new 3D chess game in Vista doesn't have the same options for the board as the many year old version in Mac. No there's no Grass in the Microsoft version, but Porcelain instead.

Of course "search as you type" has been in the Mac since 2002, and now its also in Vista, but I suppose this is justa logical extension.

And those smart folders in Mac, which allow (e.g.) everything with the word 'song' in it are now called virtual folders in Vista.

But the video mentioned above explains this very clearly. I expect Microsoft will add it to their web site, just like Apple have done already.

Friday 15 December 2006

W aiting

At some hotels, waiting for taxis or baggage reclaim can be a somewhat boring experience. The place I stayed in Manhattan seemed to have this problem solved, however. There was a bustling lobby area filled with moving lights and general pyrotechnics. The people moving in and out seemed to be somewhat unique too, so it was a great opportunity for a small amount of people watching.
And over in the corner, a Christmas tree acted as a reminder of the season, even if the world outside looked bright and sunny and somehow more like October than a few days before Christmas.

winter wonderland

winter_wonderland[1]Tonight's theme for the party was 'Winter Wonderland', with ice sculptures, icicles and other generally wintery decoration.

It was something of a co-incidence that I was around for this rather large event, and luckily Jennifer had realised I would be in town and invited me.

By the time we arrived, everything was in full swing, with a DJ playing, and plenty of dancing, drinking and chatter from the extensive array of guests.

As the evening progressed, the group I'd arrived with seemed to be about three times as many and very animated. But, as I've got an early start again tomorrow, I was good and left fairly early.

Thursday 14 December 2006

international moments

This continues to be an erratic week for blogging posts because of the way that I am on the road. I've been doing some things that have pretty much used all available hours and I'm still Mac free so my pictorial content will continue to be low.

Yet this evening was one of those sets of mad co-incidences. I finished my day job and was drinking a celebratory coffee in my hotel room when I was called by a New Yorker friend who I haven't seen for the best part of a year. He was in the area and we arranged to meet in a nearby bar in the next town. I grabbed a cab and when I arrived, he was with two other folk I knew from Australia. So a drink and a ceasar salad later we'd all caught up on what each other had been doing.

Then we piled into my friend's Mercedes to head back to my hotel, passing a somewhat dubious bar on the way. Lets say it was called Beamers.

Back at the hotel, I run into another friend from Germany, who was returning from a shopping expedition to 5th Avenue, so we all sit together in the bar. Half an hour later I spot an Irish friend who normally lives in Paris, sitting chatting to someone I don't know. So I say Hi. Then a Belgian and Italian friend arrive, rather sheepishly from the dubious bar I'd passed earlier. They'd been brought back in a rusty car driven by someone they had met outside the bar and we formed an ever increasing circle of conversations. And I'd planned an early night. But its almost one in the morning now and I'm surrendering.

Wednesday 13 December 2006

nights on broadway

I may be a tourist in this city, but I do love New York. Just step out of the door and into the white light of the center of the city (see I even used American spelling). I've uploaded a selection of snaps now.

Click the picture above to go for a wander around my flickr stream.

New York New York, its a helluva' town, the Bronx is up and the Battery's down.

Sunday 10 December 2006

Lennon tribute

Checking into the W on Time Square is a fun experience; you enter a lobby at street level on Broadway and 47th where there is a kind of water projection making the whole area seem in permanent movement. Then you take an elevator to the seventh floor where there's a checkin, and in my case then another elevator to my room, which was on the 42nd floor.

As I was going to see Michelle Shocked at the 26th Lennon Tribute on 55th, it was a superbly convenient location, with a short stroll to the venue.

And the people in the Alvin Ailey Theatre were most friendly as it filled for an evening of dance, theatre and music, from various artists. Michelle Shocked and her small troupe played "all you need is love" as well as Michelle's "5am in Amsterdam" (a favourite of mine) complete with an edited version of the backstory about being poor in New York, picked up by police, spending time in an asylum and meeting Isobel the psychiatrist. "Isobel ringing in my ears" as the lyrics go.

No concert pictures, but many from Manhattan, but as I'm operating with a Thinkpad at the moment, I will wait until I have some Mac power to upload and edit the snaps.


The taxi driver had to drop us 'a hundred yards' from the Jazz Cafe because of a police roadblock. There had been a gas leak in an old house and the road was cordoned off. We started to find another route that was not along the blocked off road, but it was a looong way around and also quite chilly for the first time this year.

So Julie hailed another cab and we all piled in. The ride was a good ten minutes and we were finally dropped outside the bustling Jazz Cafe, where the man on the door was keeping everyone in order. "Strictly no Photography - hand in Cameras and recording devices" said the sign. Oh well.

The venue was already pretty full and we made our way to a table to enjoy both supper and the set from Nitin, which was to start at nine o'clock. Sure enough at nine fifteen, Nitin and his collection of very talented musicians came out and started to play a spellbinding acoustic set which then ran continuously through until eleven o'clock.

The entire venue was captivated by the music and Nitin's troupe received rapturous applause. At the end of the set, it changed a gear as the club shifted into its full night-time mood, for a packed and bangin' club scene.

Great night out.

Saturday 9 December 2006

all you need is love

Love is the Beatles soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name. There's some clever but generally fairly subtle re-mixes of well-known songs, with some interesting a capella pieces and some overdubs from mixed tracks. The remastering is generally strong with a crisp feel to the vocals, a pumped version of the McCartney bass and only the Starr drums a little 'rolled off' presumably becasue of the tape recording quality.

I enjoyed the re-ochestration of some with dashes of other tunes dropped in without really losing the feel of the original, and the sheen of the original Abbey Road record washes in for the tracks from that era. I didn't find it gimmicky and some casual listeners may think its a simple mapping of the original tunes into a blended mix. What is also striking is the simplicity of some of the tracks, with harmonies of voice and very gentle instrumentation.

But there are some classy reconstructions here. "Mr Kite" with "I want you" driving away in the background. "Strawberry Fields" morphing from a demo tape at the beginning into the full production by the end and then adding some extra pieces from "Piggies" and elsewhere on top. "Julia" and "I am the Walrus" juxtaposed and "Within You, Without You" with "Tomorrow Never Knows." Clever, not gimmicky.

Its made me want to listen to some of the originals again and its good enough to make me (a Beatles, not an Elvis person), nearly miss my road turning today whilst I was listening to it in the car. Thats what others say too.

Yup and semolina pilchards, climbing up the Eiffel tower is in there along with the weeping guitars and hand holding. And tomorrow I will be in Strawberry Fields.

eleanor rigby
strawberry fields

no cover up

Well the Diana verdict is finally completed just nine years after the event. It was, allegedly, simply that Henri Paul was drunk and drove the car into a pillar and the new blood samples prove it. It was on the BBC last night.

Everything else must be pure consipracy speculation...

So after they returned from Sardinia, Diana and Dodi were being pursued by paparazzi in Paris, right from their arrival and earlier the same evening when they'd visited Sephora, the perfume shop. So they'd abandoned a plan to go to the Benoit bistro and returned to the Ritz.

Henri Paul - the Ritz security officer - had been to Harry's Bar (which is nearby) and then to pick up his black Mini Cooper from nearby another bar called Champmesle and drove to the Ritz. There are varied reports of him drinking pineapple juice or Pastis - which do look similar.

Diana and Dodi had dinner in the Ritz and during it decide to go to his apartment in Rue Arsene-Houssaye in Dodi's armoured Mercedes 600. Instead they use Ritz security offier Henri Paul as the driver in a different non-armoured Mercedes 280.

Henri Paul was an advanced driver and had special training from Mercedes in Germany. As the map shows, he didn't take the most direct route to Dodi's place. It is speculated that the normal route was blocked by a mystery car (perhaps broken down?) so he had to take the tunnel, which is a most inconvenient route.

Just before the Mercedes entered the tunnel, every police radio in Paris mysteriously died, preventing a quick emergency response in the event of any road accident.

Also the 17 traffic cameras located inside the Point d’Alma tunnel ALL suddenly stopped recording images because the electricity supply in the tunnel mysteriously failed. And never before or since.

Apparently, as the car approached the tunnel, Diana's bodyguard buckled his seatbelt. Unusual for a bodyguard, who normally wants to be free.

Apparently, the paparazzi motorcycles following the car were erratic. Some witnesses say there was a helicopter by the tunnel.

There are reports of a bright light in the tunnel, as well as the confusing story of the white Fiat Uno and a damaged motorcycle seen by some of the witnesses. After the accident, there are varied reports of two cars (including a White Mercedes) and a powerful motorcycle making a fast getaway.

There are also reports of people adjusting things in the crashed car.

Diana's condition is reported to have been 'non catastophic' by the Dr Mailliez, although she allegedly told the doctor she was six weeks pregnant, although this was later denied.

Diana's move to the waiting ambulance was slow, and instead of going to the nearby military hospital used by politicos and with a 24 hour trauma team, they drove slowly to another hospital - the Pitie Salpetriere. The seven minute 'blue light' ambulance journey took over an hour and the ambulance parked for ten minutes before completing the journey. This was so slowly that the hospital wondered if they had got lost.

After arrival at the hospital, the next stages are well documented leading to Diana's death.

The paparazzi had 20 rolls of film confiscated related to the evening which don't seem to be visible. The tunnel was cleaned with disinfectant and put back into service within 2 and a half hours. The Daimler-Mercedes accident investigators were not used. There was an unusual call from the Royal Household to enquire about Diana's jewellery.

And then a former MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson's affidavit said amongst other things that there was a French MI6 undercover operative permanently in the Ritz Hotel, probably a security officer (Henri Paul?) and that there was a standing document produced by MI6 in an un-used plot to assasinate Serbian leader President Slobodan Milosevic. It described cars, a tunnel and high intensity strobe lighting.

Now all of this is irrelevant, because the tragic accident was simply the result of a driver over ther legal limit...

Friday 8 December 2006


26th Lennon TributeA somewhat musical weekend ahead of me.

Its Friday evening and I'm at home watching the Guillemots playing on Jonathan Ross on television.

Tomorrow evening I'll be at the Jazz Cafe in Camden, London listening to Nitin Sawhney.

And then on Sunday evening I'm in 55th Street, New York for the 26th Lennon Tribute.

Thursday 7 December 2006

Thursday Thirteen (V35)

Hot news in this week's Thursday Thirteen! At least enough to ensure that any extracts published in the search engines don't tell the story without a click-through.

Friend Terry found this blog (not knowing I even published it) whilst he was looking for Christmas light bulb replacements, so I thought I would dedicate this week's Thursday Thirteen to the search engines.

1) So I suppose should feature somewhere and maybe
2) And probably something related to in and knowing how to always at
3) And anything about the new car that has been with the and the
4) I hear that especially and attracts
5) And anything to do with the new and the and the and the new
6) Its hard to believe that and wouldn't feature high on searches
7) I'm told that is a good search term as well as and
8) And for our German readers erscheint oft gesucht
9) At this time of year, would also seem to be important, particulaltly for , , and s
10 s, s, and are presumably frequently sought
11) I suppose plain old , , , and probably get some hits too
12) And inevitably , and from probably make it.
13) Not to mention replacement
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Wednesday 6 December 2006


iFake, but would you buy one?

oh, here's the Apple patent. So a rashbre lab reconstruction would look more like this...
iphone 4
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OTA: Wordless Wednesday

my floridian neighbours

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Tuesday 5 December 2006

party in space

JLP's party is an event like no other. I had to borrow a friend's Stratus 400 to attend. Luckily it was an automatic, because I hate those manual shift re-entry space moments and I find reverse parking in a geo-stationary orbit so much easier with homing locks.

It was worth it though, the party rocked, I made plenty of new friends and I had a chance to try out a few new cocktails, some of which were out of this world. I decided to stay over to let the effects wear off, and I expect by tomorrow I will be down to earth again.
not bad for borrowed transport!

more polonium

Continuing the spy news story from a few days ago, I heard today that I'd been on one of the three planes that had been discovered to be involved in the recent Polonium-210 investigation.

And sure enough, I later received an email listing me as a passenger.

As it happens, my trip to Dusseldorf on the date specified had been cancelled, so fortunately there was no need for me to be concerned. And indeed, all three planes have now been given a clean bill of health, so hopefully that particular aspect of the recent alert is now over.
vanguard3 trident2
But Tony Blair is keeping nuclear weaponry in the public eye, planning to spend between £15bn and £20bn on new submarines to carry Trident missiles. These submarines are reported to take 17 years to develop and build, and would last until about 2050. Now I checked on the current Trident programme and guess what? its lifespan is 30-years due to end in 2024.

So, wait...if the programme started today, the new submarines will be ready one year before the end of the lifespan of the things they are supposed to carry. A great dyslexic move would be to keep the missiles until 2042 instead and maybe give them a makeover.
As a small illustration, here's a 30 year old British car; if one could still be found, maybe it could be made into a fully 21st Century compliant vehicle.

Monday 4 December 2006


There is suddenly a lot of interest in the iPhone, which has been rumoured for many, many months. Here's my old post from June 2005.

Maybe its almost ready?

The rumour is that it is (a) Zoolander small but (b) has two batteries, one for music, another for the phone. Intriguing.

Apple won't be iLeaking though...

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Sunday 3 December 2006

ex libris

The library at rashbre central is somewhat disorganised, with way too many books spread around in unintelligible patterns.

I'm hoping that LibraryThing will help bring some order to this. A reassuring number of book covers can still persist in virtual space but the individual titles can be safely hidden away.

Want to have a peek at my bookshelves? The first few are now open for general perusal and disapproval via my profile here.

Drop me a comment if you also use this and we can compare shelves!

steep gradient

mgrade.jpgThere's an old tradition in the UK Press known as juxtaposition, where a couple of apparently unrelated stories are co-located on purpose. Sometimes this when it is not possible to draw a direct link between them for various sometimes legal reasons.

So today's Sunday Times article about Michael Grade with what appears to be cloven feet seems particularly intriguing. Doesn't it seem strange that News Corporation (who own the Sunday Times, Sky television and have just taken a 17.9% shareholding in ITV) now print the page as my photo illustrates.

Grade was chairman of BBC until a few days ago and has now jumped to a great rewards package to a great challenge to re-invigorate the ITV.

In the ancient television days of a few years ago, when there were really still four receivable terrestrial channels and less than 200 satellite, there was still a reasonable, (some would say world leading) selection of television programes from the UK and it was moderately evenly balanced between the old ITV and BBC.

Then after reality and cheap television like Love Island, Viewer of the Year, I'm a celebrity (D-lister), get me out of here, Soapstar Superstar and so forth, it may take some effort to de-mush the ITV schedules. The new (still secret?) ITV show "Fortune" with ex convict Jeffrey Archer alongside sex-shop Ann Summer's founder Jacqueline Gold handing out money to make peoples' wishes come true seems to be from the same genre. ("Jim'll fix it" with a convict and a sex shop owner?)

In fairness, Corrie (not on my personal viewing list) does seem to have a sense of humour and a heart and there have been some strong dramas although a fair few are about flawed detectives. Of course, Grade knows the entire BBC plans for 2007 and beyond anyway, so this should help his turnaround of ITV's programming.

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Saturday 2 December 2006


santa's ghetto
A couple of weeks ago I was in a well known retailer trying to buy something moderately expensive; lets just say it was somewhat more than fifty quid.

I could see the item behind a glass case but there were no shop assistants to be found. I walked around the largish store and the two or three visible assistants were busy.

I returned to the area and another woman had found the remaining assistant and was asking questions about a purchase and getting unknowledgeable and insouciant replies.

I waited patiently for about another five minutes and then politely asked if the assistant could pass me the boxed item, which I would then carry to the checkout. "Can't do that", he replied, "You have to have someone take the item to the checkout". I protested there was no one etc, then left the area, couldn't see anyone else free and so I left the shop. I later found the item on the internet, ordered it and it arrived a couple of days later.
Today, I see that UK High Street giants are slashing prices as they try to tempt shoppers to part with their cash amid fears that shops may suffer their worst Christmas for 25 years. Most of the big names are doing this, but I fear they may have missed the plot. Where we find uninformed, offhand assistants they are more akin to sales prevention officers.

Retailers need to find improved ways to inspire enthusiasm from the people running their counters or we will all find other channels.

Retail analyst Footfall is saying that next four weeks of shopping could be nervous for retailers and that thre is a 15% reduction in shoppers over last year. If the only response is price cutting then I suppose we all get what we deserve.

Well as diamond geezer reports, they closed Oxford Street to traffic today to make more space for shoppers. Adjacent was an art installation called Santa's Ghetto.

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gambling the night away

casino rouletteThe party last night was themed around Monte Carlo and so we had a kind of jet-set James Bond Casino Royale vibe for the evening.

casino tablesEveryone sparkled with a high tux and gown count and chattered at the Champagne Bar, before we moved into the dining area.

casgirls.jpgThe girl dancers showed great flexibility during the early evening and then later as the bass kicked in and the dance floor opened there was a surge to be part of the action.

casino dodgemsThere were other activities reminiscent of Monte Carlo, such as the Monaco Grand Prix, although the highly manourvrable cars were somewhat smaller than the originals.

casino diceSuffice to say my gambling was ineffective and the house won.

Friday 1 December 2006


...was the last time we had such a warm November in England. Its strange to see pavement cafes in operation at a time when we would usually have frost. In Northumberland they are picking raspberries instead of clearing snowdrifts. Now is the time to read the Sir Nicholas Stern. Or here for a guide to climate change.

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Thursday 30 November 2006

Thursday Thirteen (V34)

The secular Christmas season is really approaching now:
1) The blue lights are up in Sloane Square
2) Woolworth's have television advertisements featuring snow
3) The Star Wars LP containing "Christmas in The Stars" and "R2D2 we wish you a merry Christmas" is getting blogged.
4) The car park at Marks and Spencer was completely full on Wednesday, mid afternoon.
5) I attend my first Christmas Party tomorrow.
6) Sky was showing Santa Claus films on four channels yesterday
7) I've eaten my first mince pie of the season
8) There were hot cross buns in Sainsbury's last weekend
9) There's a robin in the garden
11) Some blogs have already had a Christmas makeover
12) I should make a list for the chimney
13) I saw a car with a Christmas Tree in it tonight
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Wednesday 29 November 2006


nano_2006_winner_small.gifI just updated my wordcount on NaNoWriMo and discovered I'd gone over the 50,000 mark, which was the objective within November. The last two or three times I've run the updater, the little counter didn't go up, so I was surprised this time when it jumped several thousand words.

Last year, when I did this, I'd also pretty much finished the story as well, so I'd sort of guessed how to land at the desired point. This time, I'm still in mid plot, so I really have quite a lot more writing to just get to a finished rough draft. I shall continue for another few days, to try to get the ending resolved. I know what I want to happen but need several more stages before I can get there.

And this time, I've left some areas where I intended to go back and add further characterisations and contextualisations to the storyline. Hmm. Maybe I've been a little too ambitious. My best wishes and encouragement to anyone else battling to break through the 50,000 word mark before midnight on Thursday.

Check out my opening chapter here

OTA Wordless Wednesday

milan, too much time on the runway

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Tuesday 28 November 2006

word flood

Landing this evening at Heathrow, I noticed the news about new flood warnings around London.

We've moved from a drought alert to flood warnings in a matter of days, yet there's still a hosepipe ban in quite a few areas. I suppose, in typical British tradition it will be 'the wrong type of rain'.

On the way back from Italy, we flew round in circles a few times before landing, which did give me some extended typing time so I've managed to catch up somewhat on my Nano musings, although it will still be rather squeaky about whether I managed to hit the full 50,000 by the end of Thursday. Compared with the last time, I seem to have developed a more divergent plot which I don't think really fits the 50,000 word format, so I suspect I will need to keep going for another couple of weeks if I expect to round it off.