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A Weekend In Versailles


Friday 3rd October to Sunday 5th October

A little trip to France
We decided at quite short notice that we would like to visit the Paris Motor Show, a trip we have done before, so the plan was pretty well sorted. But as we were late to the party there were no cabins on the overnight ferry so we went to stay with Peanut’s Mum in Ashford on Friday night and got up at some very silly hour to catch an early tunnel crossing.

So we had an early start straight after work on Friday night and suffered the ghastliness of a trip along the M5 and M25, which once again took longer than it should before we were finally in Ashford at about 8pm and had a late meal before an early night. We were up and off early in the morning and in France by 8 o’clock. We then had a completely trouble free journey to a car park we have used before, near the Paris Expo and a 20 minute walk to the Motor Show

And there we were straight in the door and face to face with the Mini stand. It was a very warm day and even Peanut wished she could take off her jumper. You can read a more thorough review of our day at the Motorshow on our sister site AutoBeast. Here though are a few snaps from the show.


As the day wore on my feet started to feel the pinch by about 3.30 we had seen about as much as we wanted to see, so we made our way back to the car park stopping off at a café for a drink on the way. That however,wasn’t such a good idea as I thought because after the rest my feet were very painful and it was still a  fair way to the car park and Pea wasn’t going to carry me, so off we went. We had a smooth exit from the car park and soon found ourselves in Versailles at the Cheval Rouge Hotel which again we have visited before several times. As it was such a lovely evening, we strolled around the market in front of the hotel and then looked in some shops before  returning to our hotel to get showered and fresh for our meal.  We came across a few antique shops  on our stroll and for some reason I particularly liked the antique mirror below!


Earlier Peanut had spotted a small restaurant she quite liked the look of so we headed there first in the evening, but after a short while a large family group arrived and sat next to us. We realised this would spoil our evening as they were very noisy before they started and we just could not hear each other talk, so we decided to leave, which is very unusual for us as we would normally put up with it and have a lousy time! But every moment is precious these days and much to the waitress’s dismay we left and found somewhere more peaceful further along the street. It was still busy but we could at least hear and talk to each other and the staks we ordered were delicious. For dessert I had what they described as a fine apple tart with vanilla ice cream. The slices of apple were indeed cut very fine and layered on a very thin pastry. It worked beautifully and was delicious. I flattened the cold ice cream and spread it over the top of the warm apple tart, Mmmm, have I said it was delicious?

We were not destined for a late night out on the town as we were both tired from being awake so early, so after our meal we trotted back to our hotel for a good sleep waking at the late hour of 9 o’clock the next morning which is unheard of for me.

Our plan was to explore the gardens at Versailles on Sunday morning as long as it wasn’t raining, so we packed up checked out and made our way to the Palace. We were both quite shocked at how much cooler it was after  the sunshine the day before. Rain was threatening but it stayed away and at least we had coats for all weathers. We were lucky enough to catch the morning fountain display with musical accompaniment which is only on for one hour in the mornings and again in the afternoon, although it took us a while to realise that there are many fountains in the gardens, all hidden away in little arbours and crannies. Whilst we might not have seen them all, we saw enough to get the idea. It is a vary magnificent garden but to us not exactly beautiful, as like the Palace itself it is actually too big, too imposing and too daunting. We have been to Fontainbleu in the past and that has a much more beautiful quality about it, although even that is not a small place. Similarly, for us the likes of Chambord, Villandry, and Chenonceau in the Loire valley all have gardens more to our taste. However, here are a few shots of the fountains and the gardens.


We stopped for a quick drInk before setting off for the tunnel and home. We had another very uneventful journey as you so often do on French motorways and arrived in perfect time for our crossing. On the train we got chatting to a Mini Classic owner who was coming back from a trip to Monte Carlo organised by the Mini Cooper Register – Minis to Monte – which made the journey pass quickly and he tried to get us to think about coming on their trip next year to Ireland. He was not a new MINI hater as he had once had a GP himself and wished he had never sold it, but next September for us is a long way off.


Why Do I Take Photographs And What Is My Style?

On A Gondola

I have always enjoyed taking photographs but over the last ten years or so I have got a bit more serious, probably from when I bought my first DSLR a Canon 400D. Over the last 2 years I have moved away from the DSLR to Fuji’s mirrorless camp with a Fuji X-E1 and  a Fuji X-M1. Shortly after this we joined our local camera club, the Beacon Camera Club. Moving to a more portable, lightweight system in the Fuji, married to the retro rangefinder like styling and I found my enthusiasm for photography massively reinvigorated. With this renewed enthusiasm, coupled with our joining of the local camera club, we (my wife and I) began to question why exactly we take photographs and do we have a particular style? A chance conversation at work and I was asked to bring in some old photos from when I was younger and duly went through the old box to find photos of me from various stages of my younger life and I enjoyed looking at the old photographs from my past. The topic  of why we take photographs was touched upon at the camera club and the overall conclusion seems to be, take photographs for your own pleasure. I accept this, but I have felt compelled to explore this to perhaps “find my own style” or my special niche if you like, so I would like to explore this a little in the following paragraphs, as my photographic journey from complete novice to the lofty heights of “keen amateur” (my current self appointed ranking) has seen a lot of changes that have impacted on the photographs that myself and Peanut take.

Along the journey from novice to keen amateur a fundamental change has occurred in our photographs. Initially our photos were snaps, often of each other or sometimes us together, but as we became serious about photography we began to remove ourselves from the photos and a proliferation of epic landscapes, macro photos of flowers, street scenes from holiday destinations began to appear in their place. Photos of cars and watches appeared to complement features we might blog on those subjects. Without doubt the photographs had improved immeasurably from the novice days and yet they had also lost something, they were impersonal – we were not in the photos and yet these were supposedly our memories?

Somewhere along our photographic journey we had answered the very fundamental question of why do we take photographs? For us it was to diarise our lives and adventures, recording all the places we visit for holidays, or days out or with car clubs. It was to use the photographs to enhance short blogs or diary entries if you prefer, describing our holidays or days out and so on. A nice set of photos would accompany the writings and for us they have been great to look back on. And yet they lack something. What they lack is the personal. Four days in Venice will produce lots of views of Venice but only two or three shots of us in Venice, and you know what? When I look back at our Venice pictures my favourite is The snap above taken on my camera by a bloke I passed the camera to, so that he could photograph us! When a friend in work asked me to bring old pictures in, she wanted to see me as a young man, not a photograph of the Everglades that I had taken in 1980! And when I look back at my photographs, I want to see us back in ’93, or ’97 or 2005, not the car we were driving then, but us. How thin we were, how fat we were, how happy we were. Whatever, but we wanted to see us. Our journey then to the lofty heights of “keen amateur” has then resulted in some great but impersonal photographs.

Without meaning to sound cynical, it seems to me that almost everyone with a DSLR these days sees themselves as a great photographer, on the verge of becoming professional. But look on Flickr or 500PX and see how many brilliant photographers there are, it is very hard these days to make a living from photography and most of us will just be keen amateurs or gifted amateurs. Nothing wrong in that by the way, but that is why the best reason is “for your own pleasure”! In my case, my reason for taking photos is compatible with this but I now realise that my execution of this goal has been compromised by my efforts to be a better photographer, as so many of my photographs now lack the personal.

As a photographer I don’t specialise in any one field, such as landscape or wild life or portrait and I have never really found my own style either, I like black and white, I like colour, I like photos with a film like quality, so I guess I imitate the best in these genres. A recent speaker at the camera club coined a wonderful phrase for this – Karaoke Photography. It was meant dismissively but it really stuck in my mind and I have adopted it to describe my photography. The other phrase I have come up with is “Posh Snaps” because really it is the snap shots, the selfies that have longevity and the wider appeal. If you don’t believe me try a social media experiment; put your best landscape up on Facebook then put up a selfie or you and your friends and see which gets the most likes and comments.

To conclude then in our case we photograph primarily to diarise  but sometimes to improve our abilities, and our style is best described as Karaoke Photography / Posh Snaps. Have fun asking yourself these questions.

Car Events 2104 – Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb 20th September

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Originally posted on AutoBeast:


Shelsley Walsh – Autumn Speed Finale

Even though the season is drawing to a close, there has been a capacity entry received for the final two meetings of the year at  Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb this weekend. (20/21st SEPT)

Entitled ‘Autumn Speed Finale’ the two separate one-day events saw the usual mix of sports, classic, saloons and racing cars taking part, as well as nearly 30 motorcycles, with several championships reaching their final crucial stages.

Saturday hosted the BARC SBD Speed Championship, The HSA Speed Championship, the SSCC Championship, the Revington TVR Championship, the Service Hydraulics Speed Championship and the Classic Marques Handicap Challenge, while Sunday saw extra classes for an entry of 11 Morgans, 13 Austin Healeys and a dozen Ferraris.

We had the opportunity to go as press photographers courtesy of our local camera club Beacon Camera Club in Great Malvern. This gave us free entry to the…

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This gallery contains 40 photos



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


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!



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


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.


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.


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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