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The Photography Blog from Beastmaster.co.uk

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Blog A Pic – Balloon Ride Over Worcester and Droitwich Aug 2014

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Balloon Ride. Monday 4th August 2014

It has long been a wish of Mrs P to go for a balloon ride and it had been put off for far too long. Well we don’t put things off any more so it was booked and paid for when we came back from holiday. The first attempt was cancelled due to bad weather, which is not an unusual occurrence for these things. What was unusual was that our second attempt was successful, as some of our fellow travellers in the balloon had waited two years and 12 attempts to get lucky!

So 6.30 saw us at Pitchcroft Racecourse in Worcester where the balloon was laid out ready. Although the evening had been glorious, when we arrived there were some dark clouds hovering around and our pilot wanted to wait for them to clear if possible. So we had a natter to a chap with a helicopter drone with a GoPro attached, who was playing with his toy and hoping to get some good footage of the balloon taking off. It was absolutely fascinating and the gimbal attaching the camera to the helicopter gave perfect control and stability for the camera. A very tempting new hobby but then I began to think about how much I would actually fly it and decided that another Fuji camera might be a better way to spend money I haven’t got!

Eventually we had to set off or it would  have been too dark to fly, so we were told what would happen and instructed on how and when to get in the basket, which is not as easy as you might think. Then the balloon was inflated with cold air to fill it up and once it was fairly full the burner was turned on. The balloon then filled more and rose whilst the basket stood up, we all had to clamber in our places in the basket and  then we were off!

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It was not a bit scary and for Mrs P the basket was nearly up to her chin, so we felt very safe in its confines. We slowly rose off the racecourse and drifted across the houses and streets, it was not windy or cold, just gentle and magical and as we flew over the rooftops we waved to people below as the dogs barked madly along our route, spooked by the noise of the burner. We took some pre-packed glasses of wine that we had bought in France to toast our voyage, as you can see above.  We flew over fields of sheep and on towards  Droitwich where we dropped very low over the houses and could talk to the folk below. One thing I was not expecting was the excitement and joy that the low flying balloon caused. It was a very special feeling to be the cause of so much excitement and joy. Children chased us, waving and cheering, people in their cars stopped and took pictures through their sunroofs, we even shouted down to a couple in their hot tub, telling them to get ready as I threatened to dive in! In fact everyone seemed very pleased to see us and it made us feel like Mary Poppins.

We flew on and our pilot soon began to plan his descent. They try not to land in a field of crops as it tends to annoy the farmer, as does landing amongst animals. In our case he managed to find a hay field newly cut which was perfect and to seal the deal they carry a bottle of whisky for the farmer. The Landrovers followed our journey and caught up with us once we had landed. Then the balloon had to be packed up and loaded onto the trailer, which was a job that involved everyone as by now it was getting dark. Once done we all piled into the Landrovers and were taken back to the Racecourse.

It was a truly magical evening, every bit as perfect as Mrs P had imagined it would be and for me something that I might never have done without her wish to do so. It was a wonderful evening and as I watched Mrs P bound over the rows of hay in the field where we landed I felt immensely happy that we had made this dream of hers come true. Anyway click on the photo below to see more pictures from the adventure.

Click on The Image Below to see a Slideshow of all the photos from the day.


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Holiday Diary Port Cogolin July 2014 Day Seven

Friday 1st August 2014 and Saturday 2nd August 2014

Another lazy start with no real plan in place, and that was fine, but it makes you realize the value of plans. Without one you drift and achieve very little. You have no direction or purpose and the same is true of all of life. We have a focus in our lives which is to enjoy every moment and that involves planning so the end result is fun filled days. It is very easy to drift through life with no fixed goal and find that you have lost so much time, time that will be gone forever.

Anyway over breakfast we made a plan to go to our favourite beach along from L’Escalet which involves a bit of walking. As it is quite hot at this time of year we thought we would go in the afternoon when it was cooling down for the day. So we treated ourselves to lunch at the restaurant downstairs, and we do enjoy a nice lunch in France.

At L’Escalet we managed to park up near the start of the footpath and saved ourselves quite a lot of walking. You approach our little beach from the rocks above and make your way down some steps to the sand. So we stopped at the top and sought out our spot. It was not too crowded but there were a number of nudists around, as there often are on that beach.

We had a great time,  with a bit of swimming, a snooze in the sun and then just when we had started to get restless, Joy of Joys the ice cream  boat appeared. Needless to say we had very little cash on us but for once, enough for a kiddies ice cream each! Result!  Now the appearance of the ice cream boat creates what to me is a quite surreal image, as you can see from the photograph below. A St Tropez tanned topless lady motors in on a boat selling ice cream, doughnuts and champagne and the normal business of ice cream selling and exchanging pleasantries gets underway. It all quickly seems to be the norm, though in my case PeeWee says No!

It was lovely going to the beach a bit later, I wish we had done that more often. It is not quite so hot when you are carrying your bags back to the car and these little things all make it more fun. On the way home Mrs P suddenly decided that she fancied steak and chips for dinner. So that’s what she had in Baou Baou’s and I had one too though with a delicious pepper sauce. It was nice not cooking, especially coming home that bit later than we often do.

That in a sense was the end of the holiday for us. On Saturday we got up and basically gave the apartment a good clean from top to bottom. We had no cash left by now, so we opted to go to McDonald’s for a burger before heading off for home at 7pm. We had a superb drive home through the night and were able to catch a very early train across the Tunnel and got back to Beastie Folly in the Malverns just after 11 on Sunday morning. Plenty of time then to unpack, unwind and say hello to Alfie and Ola who had been in cat prison for a week. The cries in the car from those two as we brought them home was heartbreaking but as soon as they were home they were happy!

A lovely, lovely, restful holiday. Thanks for dropping by. Beastie and Peanut x.


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Holiday Diary Port Cogolin July 2014 Day Six

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Wednesday 30th July 2014

I’m living with the Big C, I’m dying with the Big C. There is a whole psychological and philosophical side to this which frankly, I should explore more on my Life Blog. This is a more frivolous place – PhotoBeast, our Photo Blog – where we like to share our photographs and sometimes (as now) diarise our holiday adventures. Today though I got up and the dark demons had descended a bit making me irritable and moody. It is important to look in the mirror every day, to really look deep and to like who you are. If you don’t like who you are, you need to change things. Simples. My Dad is an inspiration to me, a gentleman in the true sense of the word. A fine benchmark to measure myself against and generally I feel proud if I am so much as half the man he was. Today though being petty, unkind and patronising to Lady P was not me at my finest hour. In any case, only a fool would try to patronise a lady as intelligent as P.

Anyway, we talked it through and got back quickly to our Eden, but I wanted to just mention it because for all the fun we have and we find fun and joy everywhere, nonetheless the Big C is never far away. Peanut and me have both lived lives, happy times, sad times, births, marriages, death and divorce. Living with the Big C we have found the worst of the worst but in truth and doubtless polarised by the Big C, also the best of the best.

Enough. On with the best.

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So we went for a lazy day today and headed for Gigaro beach which lies on the other side of La Croix Valmer. There are always fun waves there and we enjoy jumping the waves.

We took cheese with us but grabbed a baguette and some ham from the local Spar shop there and had a picnic on the beach. And yes it is all as idyllic as it sounds.

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From Gigaro we popped into St Tropez. There was an exhibition of Brigitte Bardot photographs at the Gallery on Place des Lices, which we wanted to see. It was good and I appreciated the extra light given to the photographs by printing them on to acryllic. However the photos were all from a seven year period later in her life and we were hoping for a fuller story in pictures. For me Bardot put St Tropez on the map, though a number of painters and artists might feel differently about that. They are wrong. It was Bardot and it was topless sunbathing which began in St Tropez.

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We mooched about St Tropez and P bought a pretty skirt in Naf Naf. I did my watch tour and as a consequence, just about ensured I will never by another watch again! The reason? Well I haven’t bought a watch now for about two years. But recently I saw the Rolex Milgauss on the net. Blue faced with a green tinted sapphire glass. I have seen them with a black face for real and was not totally smitten.  Today though I saw it with the blue face and it was everything I hoped it would be from seeing the photos on the net. And mine for just 6550 Euros! And that is why I can’t by a watch. Anything else is second best and that is just too much! Still I can dream and I did enjoy seeing it for real.

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We had some strawberries and pineapple in the fridge at home and Peanut wanted to serve them with a meringue and finally she tracked one down in St Tropez.

We then dropped in at Geant on the way back from St Tropez and grabbed some lemon chicken kebabs and some Ice Tropez cocktails for dinner along with the meringue dessert.

It was all delicious and we washed it down with a Kir each at the bar below us. For a day that had begun with tears it ended with smiles and love.

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Holiday Diary Port Cogolin July 2014 Day Five

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Tuesday 29th July 2014

I have a small pile of money in my French bank account. However, the date on my debit card has recently expired and I can’t get my hands on this pile. Like a drug craving junkie desperately seeking a fix (yes I’m still reading Harry Hole) I had to get my hands on my pile. In France you collect your card from your branch so a trip to Cannes was required. I know, I know blooming nuisance or what?

The morning began with croissants – 4 for 3 at the nearby Total garage – paid for in 10 and 20 centimes pieces that were amassing rapidly. I felt chuffed getting them spent. The 4 euros in 1 and 2 centimes pieces I am though finding harder to shift.

Fuelled by Croissants we headed for Cannes and encountered a bit of slow moving traffic on the coast road up to Ste Maxime but nothing too awful. Traffic seems to be flowing better than we have known it do in the past in high season. In Cannes though we realised that the country is not yet a post public transport society and the local council has rammed a two lane bus route through the middle of the main road into Cannes. This was not good and held us up good style.

Parked we entered the bank and received our card in about 30 seconds! Now that is not the efficiency I’m used to with French banks. Heck I was so impressed I nearly asked about Internet banking!

Ah. Card in hand the craving was appeased but it was Peanut who had her fix first, hitting on a very pretty dress in a rather nice shop called Le Phare de la Baleine. Seeing my bestie have her craving massaged mine was reaching fever pitch. In desperation I threw two huge bath towels and a flannel into the mix and somewhat ameliorated my craving.  Calmed by that wonderful solid push you give your card as you ram it into the handheld card reader, I set off to browse Cannes in a more leisurely manner.  We stepped out of the shop and saw a superb carbon fibre customised Mercedes Gullwing.

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We want a new rug to finish off our living room which we had decorated at Christmas. Chinese perhaps? Budget about £600. Four shops along from Le Phare de la Belaine was a rug shop. In the window was the most gorgeous rug in the whole world ever darling. No price. We should have known. But we had a card, so shiny and new you could read the security number! We stepped in.

“3700 euros Sir.”I muttered my apologies, it was way out of my league. He smiled. His boss was hovering. Shit he’s clocked my watch – the numpyy thinks I can afford it.

“We can do a 30 percent discount 2500 euros.” Bartering.

“Fif…” And I felt a sharp dig in the ribs as P had already calculated that fifty per cent was still way out of our league! We shuffled out knowing we had just looked at the Rolex of rugs!

There used to be a groovy house shop full of cool gadgets such as trendy chairs or sexy weather stations and we thought we might find a clock in there for our living room but unfortunately the shop was no more and Cannes failed to yield up any other clocks to tempt us with.

We shared a burger and a dessert at a restaurant on the harbour front. It was delicious but honestly we could never have eaten one each. For good measure we also shared the dessert which was filled with hot runny Carambar. Delicious! It’s a sad day though, when even the French are seeing such a huge thing as food for one. Carry on like that and you will be chasing on the heels of the UK which is now officially Europe’s most obese nation.

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After lunch we explored the harbour, spotted some ferries to some nearby islands and decided we would pop back on Friday to explore one of the islands, which has a monastery and a great beach. I can’t wait to see what I make of that combination as my mind pictures monks sunbathing naked on the beach then rushing indoors for a quick spot of self flagellation on their already burned bodies! I returned to reality and grabbed a pretty picture of P by the harbour.

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By now our feet were done for so we headed back to PaceBeast and home. No traffic on the way back but too lazy to cook we grabbed a hot chicken and some potatoes from a takeaway kiosk opposite the entrance to Port Grimaud. Bizarrely they also sold very expensive champagne some bottles at well over a hundred pounds each. Now as you all know, I am of course a retired international playboy but when I think back to my heyday (obviously so vivid in my mind) did I ever pull over in my Aston to grab a hot chicken and an expensive champagne as an overture to lovemaking? Yep makes sense in my virtual mind! Indeed P said this approach would work with her too. So now you know why the hot chicken kiosk on the road into St Tropez also sells expensive champagne!

Thank you and goodnight!

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Holiday Diary Port Cogolin July 2014 Day Four

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Monday 28th August 2014

This was another of our go with the flow days. We set off trying to locate what is regarded as the prettiest beach in the Le Lavandou area, Elephant Beach.

We headed to Le Lavandou to get directions from the tourist office and we arrived there at 11.30 after a lazy morning. Le Lavandou is only about half an hour away. The tourist office was in a small chateau right where we parked but had no signs on it, so we missed it completely. We trawled through the town finally asked directions and got to the tourist office at 1 minute past twelve thirty. It was closed for lunch from twelve thirty until three. On our initial trawl I had spotted a polo shirt that I wanted so we decided to head back for that, then have a leisurely lunch. Guess what the shop was closed for lunch!

Lunch then accompanied with a carafe of rosé wine and we soon found an appealing restaurant on the front. I had a Norwegian salad which largely was smoked salmon and very nice indeed, while P had good old steak and chips in a pleasant but unknown to us sauce!

It was destined to be a day of almosts. After lunch we ambled about the shops and P stumbled upon some lovely yellow sandals and in the same shop I found some gorgeous grey suede moccasins. Alas they only had my size in cream and Peanut’s size in brown. Maybe the net will track them down when we are home. At five to three we waited outside my polo shirt shop only to find it opened at four. Too long so that went the way of the shoes too.

We meandered back to the tourist office  asked about the beach, were given a map and headed off for the beach. Well yes we missed it by one beach landing on a nice but very crowded beach. We now knew roughly where to head so on another day we will find our elephant. We headed home and our sat nav took us off the coast road to La Mole  and then past Cogolin to home. The drive to La Mole is a very challenging mountain road single track in places but suffice to say oncoming traffic always passed at 2 mph often with one wheel hanging over the edge! We have done this road a few times but one drive I remember fondly was back in 2008 in the Opel GT with RVW and Storm following in their Dubman. We did that run with gusto and it kept us all very alert I can tell you!

Back at the apartment we felt lazy so ordered a take away pizza from Baou Baou’s below us. It was very good,if very cheesy. We ended the day with a Kir each in another small bar below us, staring over the port as the sun slowly disappeared.

A nothing kind of a day, a day full of almosts, yet we had great fun. Le Lavandou is lovely to spend an afternoon in and P certainly rose to the challenge of taking Pacey over the mountains to La Mole.

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Holiday Diary Port Cogolin July 2014 Day Three

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Sunday 27th July 2014

The day began for me with a quick dip in the pool while Peanut caught up on her zzzzzzds. This time of the year the sea and the pool are gloriously warm so it was a pleasure to swim in the pool on my own. I was really puffed out though after doing ten lengths which started the demons off in the back of my mind.

Still looking around and enjoying having the pool to myself, I quickly threw them off and went back to our apartment to make P a cup of tea. She fell asleep again after enjoying her cuppa and didn’t rise till 10.30 so I used the time to start our holiday diary.

Now no one can ever say I don’t know how to give my bird a good time, so I had promised her burger and chips in a baguette for lunch from the food kiosk at our favourite beach L’Escalet.

We know all the back roads and shortcuts to avoid the holiday traffic so we went over the hills through Gassin and Ramatuelle. We stopped just after Gassin to take in the stunning views and grab some photos of Pacey. Typical we hadn’t got out of the car before another 4 wheel drive liked where we parked and stopped next to us potentially ruining our shots. As he had driven through a no entry sign I told him it was private land and moved him on! Then I took my photos of PaceBeast!

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From there we dropped into Ramatuelle to pick some money up from the cash machine to pay for lunch. A Sunday market was on so we had a wander around that. I spotted some fantastic tinted reading glasses for P for 5 euros. They were superb and made her look like someone out of a Hercule Poirot movie set in Egypt. However, when we came to pay they were 16 euros. If I knew they were 16 euros when we first looked at them we would have got them. But we felt kind of duped or misled so we walked. Yep I can be tight like that.

France is often a series of meanderings for us, as we bumble from place to place but finally we hit the beach. We checked that there were no bat and ball players or other irritants close by that I might start a fight with and then we decamped.

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Straight into the sea which was lovely. There is a small cave at the very right end of the beach where we decamp. It is reached only from the sea. It is our magic cave so we swam there for a snog. The snog made my happy mood complete, so much so that later when I was woken from my beach snooze by the repetitive bam bam bam of a pair of bat and ball players I stayed serene and smiled the smile that only the truly valiant can do.

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Peanut kindly did the honours and fetched lunch from the kiosk. Burgers, chips, salad and mayo in a baguette ripped in half by Peanut pretending to rip the arms of the bat and ball player! It was delicious.

A few more swims and reads on the beach and we headed back. We stopped briefly in Gassin to book dinner for Wednesday night then headed to the pool at the apartment for a last swim of the day.

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For dinner we had salmon steaks cooked on our new electric BBQ with rice and ratatouille, followed by a goats cheese cake coated in dried cranberries. All good.

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Before bed we took a stroll around Marines des Cogolin and took some lovely night shots with our Fuji X-E1.

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Bed and more Harry Hole at the end of Another Day in Paradise. Night Phil.


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Holiday Diary Port Cogolin July 2014

Friday and Saturday 25th and 26th July

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As with all of our adventures it all begins as soon as I finish work. Work though does not give me a second to get excited about my holidays it is just a relentless queue of orders and queries from the minute I start to 4.30 when I finished on Friday. Finally, I stepped out of work and into another world.

Mrs P was held up in traffic so I walked to meet her jumped into Pacey said hello and admired the stylish u-turn Peanut performed to save us 10 minutes of traffic jams. The drive to the tunnel is always the worst bit of the whole 1000 mile drive to our apartment in the south of France. The UK motorways and especially the M25 are just so congested. Anyway as it happens this leg of the trip went fine. The tunnel though was busy so no chance of hoping on an earlier train. I have written previously about the “charms” of the terminal building or rather lack of so I won’t go on except… Well except for Mr Dyson. Your carpet cleaners may be good (though in truth I’m more of a GTech man myself) but your hand dryers are an affront to my ears. Very effective but put 10 together in a busy terminal and they make a stress making constant roar. Ok so they lack the terror of the noise of a Stukka dive bomber but they make up for it with the relentlessness of their noise. As soon as one person finishes another jumps on one. Multiply by 10 and a jumbo jet cannot make as much noise!

So to recap. A brilliant start to my holiday. Picked up from work by a fit bird who drives like Bond. A great run to the Tunnel and a Dyson dryer to rant about. I’m in Heaven already.

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We crossed and got off to a great start all the way to Beaune. Here we had a sleep which was longer than we would have liked but we must have needed it. This meant we hit Lyon at a busy time. Oh and the whole of France was heading south to the French Riviera or Spain. Our automatic toll clicker got us through the dreaded Lyon toll in minutes but it could not help with the high volumes of traffic which resulted in two accidents and a slow journey. Often we are at the apartment for ten but this time it was two when we got there. PaceBeast fitted in the garage a treat and by three we were unpacked and all set up on the patio.

We got out our very British checked shopping trolley and walked to Geant for a big shop. This trolley is one of the best bits of kit we have here. Ok so it lacks ceramic brakes, it only has one gear and the engine is looking a bit tired now (well it is 54 years old) but it gets the job done. This time packing in an electric BBQ as gas ones have been banned in Port Cogolin for safety reasons. While at the shops we had a lovely apricot pastry each to keep us going to dinner.

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Dinner. Too lazy to cook – though we did build the new BBQ (that could be a blog all of its own) – we went to Baou Baou’s for dinner. A little treat and I had paella while P had tagliatelle with rouget and prawns. Both dishes were delicious. Bedtime next and a date with Harry Hole back in Oslo.

If you enjoy reading a blog where two people drive to the South of France, go to a supermarket and have dinner out then keep popping in for more of our exciting adventures!

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