Friday, 29 June 2012

Big changes for Daughter - a giant step

So Daughter has resigned from her job after just over 18 months and is preparing to book her 3-month trip to India in September and then another 3-month trip to the far east in January.  She is not clear yet what she will do for the six months after this before she returns to college to do her planned MSc.

This is a hugely brave decision at this time, what with the general job situation.  But she has thought it through long and hard (indeed to extreme levels of longness and hardness) and is very up for it.

The initial response from her boss was quite supportive, as it has been from her closest friends.  She will finish on August 31st and leave for India two weeks later.  I am generally very favourably disposed to these plans, while Wife finds it all very stressful. 

But there is also the slightly sad feeling in the back of my mind, that this was what I had planned to do when I was Daughter's age, but which were put on hold by the arrival of Daughter.   I can't help feeling that I am now too old to go on such trips, though they have formed a significant part of my planning over the years.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Preparation for the first French Project meeting

This Sunday we hold the first meeting of the "French Project team".  This project is a collaboration between ourselves and "Team Jerome" (Jerome and his girlfriend).  In the past, we have looked in detail at the question of buying a property in France but have been scared off by the French bureaucracy / admin and the problems of organising property rentals.  It is these two points that Team Jerome are able to take care of - as Jerome is French (or at least half-French)

So the rough plan is this.  Wife and I will purchase a French property.  Team Jerome will than live there much of the time as caretakers.  They will handle all the local admin and will be in charge of all property rental arrangements.  They will also run painting courses during the summer.  By a mix of these various income sources, Wife and I will cover our annual costs and will own a French property.  Team Jerome will hopefully earn a reasonable income and will be able to live rent-free in France.

At the moment we have been sketching out various purchase scenarios.  I have been selecting various properties in the price ranges "low", "medium" and "high" and have been setting up possible business models for each.  The conclusion is that the Low properties offer the best return relative to risk.  We have a shortlist of 6 to 10 such properties.  In August, Wife and I will have our two week holiday in the area of France where we are looking to buy.  Hopefully we will see half a dozen candidate properties at the time.  Then we will fine tune our wish list and go back in October to select one on which to make an offer, with a view of completing by January or so next year and having a few months to get ready for whatever we are able to offer for next year.

Coincidentally, Daughter has just been to the area we are interested in on a work trip and has come back raving about how beautiful it is and how she'd like to live in a farmhouse there one day. 

Such a project is very ambitious and there are a huge number of possible problems - nonetheless, this weekend marks our first detailed meeting to discuss the project and our first chance to meet the other member of Team Jerome.

A typical possible property

Friday, 22 June 2012

A bad hayfever reaction and work on trading

As my fishing blog relates, I have had a really bad hayfever reaction in the last couple of days and my left eye has swollen up a huge amount.  For the past two mornings, I have woken up to find my eye fused closed by the thick tears that are constantly being secreted.  A bit of time spent bathing the eye and then it seems to improve.  I am currently using vast quantities of Optrex Multi-action Eye Wash on it every hour or so and there is a definite improvement.  It is less swollen but still very bloodshot.  So fishing is currently out and I have been doing other things.

But that said, my computer screen is a little bright for my sore eyes and so I have been wearing sunglasses to work.  Also, the thick goo my eye produces all the time make seeing small text and numbers on the screen quite hard.  So work is also limited.

In a week or so's time, we have a visit from our friend Jerome and his girl friend to discuss our current French proposal in more detail.  So I am trying to prepare some material for that. 

And on my main work, I have been trying to simplify the option hedging programme so that we are not as busy as we were a few weeks back, with constant trades all day for very little net effect. 

In the main though, I spend as much time as possible in a dark room, with a cotton wool pad soaked in eye wash over my eye, and a book to read through the other, still-good eye!

Friday, 15 June 2012

What I did on my 49th Birthday

4:30 - Woke up.  My current natural waking up time.  The overnight rain has blown over and the sun is out. 

5:00 - Drove to the river Windrush.  Baited four swims with 2 pints of hemp and a couple of dozen boilies each.  River is down another inch or so.  But, are the barbel in residence?

5:45 - Drove to the river Thames.  Walked 3 miles, baiting 8 swims with hemp and either sweetcorn or boilies.  Saw two kingfishers.

7:00 - Called in at the papershop on the way home. Bought The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, 2 small bottles of Coke and a Kitkat

7:30 - set a gallon of hemp seed cooking.  Reviewed overnight financial markets and ran trading risk management protocols.

8:00 - started detailed review of French Cookery School website

8:15 - 90 minute call to Jerome re changes to current option risk management protocols

9:45 - re-started review of Cookery school website

9:50 - call from Daughter wishing me "happy birthday" and suggesting we might be able to meet in Oxford earlier than planned as she doesn't have much work today

10:10 - re-start review of Cookery school website. Keep water topped off for bait making

11:30 - take over trading.  Re-calculate hedging model using draft protocols.  Lunch

13:45 - Off to Oxford to meet Daughter

14:20 - Sat in Blackwells discussing Daughter's current travel and study plans and some of the insights she thinks she has gained by reading certain blogs.  Daughter creates her own blog

16:15 - Drive home

17:00 - Prep for evening out

18:45 - Go to Village pub for meal out. 

21:00 - return home

22:30 - Bed

Happy Birthday to me!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Travelling home from Italy

A grumpy Daughter at 6:30 this morning as we have to leave by just after 7:00, so Wife and Daughter can get their plane.  Wife is anxious that they might not make it, but seasoned traveller Daughter is totally relaxed and is proved right.

I drove on northwards from Pisa for another 30 minutes then stopped for supplies and some last wine buying and a detailed think about possible routes home.  I decided on the route via the Mont Blanc tunnel, with a stop over in Chamonix.  Music for this morning's drive is provided by Zoe Keating (a live CD I got from, John Renbourne (The Maid of Bedlam album) and an edition of Stuart Maconie's Freak Show featuring many fine tracks.

The car park at Chamonix

After a brief walk round the centre of town, I was tempted by one of the cafes where I could have had pancakes or various other treats.  A beer and a banana split were very good.

I gradually felt more and more tired as I spent the afternoon in Chamonix and was tempted to ask in a couple of hotels if they had a room for the night.  The second one did and I was very pleased to spend the night there.  Dinner was a pizza in town and then a chance to watch a foorball match on tv and have a nice bath - luxury

My hotel in Chamonix


An early start from Chamonix and rapid progress on my drive to Calais.  I stopped off at a service station around lunchtime and dscovered there was a sort of park attached which I rather liked. 

Somewhere in northern France, I was able to pick up radio 5 from the UK and could listen to more football matches.  I had planned to stop at one of the Aires but just kept pushing on.  I got to Calais around midnight and was allowed on the next ferry.  A long drive in the pouring rain back in England and I arrived home around 4:00am, just as it was getting light.

Italian Holiday - days four to seven


More sun and so more time by the pool reading.  I have been writing notes for a possible fishing video I will make called "How to make a fishing video".  I figure this could be a two part video, featuring pre- to post-production.  I have been reading more about documentary filmmaking and this is a form of a proposal as it were. 

For dinner we decide to return to Perugia where some sort of mini music festival is taking place with a band walking up and down the street and mini DJ set ups at many of the cafes and restaurants.  All very odd.

Daughter looking very brown - the effect of her South America trip followed by sun here.

Daughter and Wife - Wife never goes as brown as Daughter

A Perugian boy-band

My kind of starter - antipasto misto

My king of main course

Slightly cloudy first thing and we decide to go into Perugia again for a walk round.  The purchase of ice cream occurs.

By the afternoon it is sunny again and we are by the pool.  I finally do a bit of swimming and am now regretting having not done some earlier in the week.

A modern sculpture on a church at Perugia

The entrance to the Perugia art museum

Perugia main street

Looking out towards Assisi


Our last day is also nice and sunny.  I have finished five or six pages of notes about how to shoot fishing videos.  Now I will test these notes with the films I am planning to make as I go fishing in a week or so's time.

Dinner tonight is at Il Molo, our favourite Passignano restaurant.  More ice cream is consumed afterwards.  Indeed we have main an extensive study of the various ice cream vendors in this town, but feel that perhaps more research is need in the future to ensure that our conclusions are valid.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Italy - days one to four


After the long drives of the last two days, I have some time in hand so 6:00 finds me reading Kelly's Two Steps Backwards.  This is actually quite funny, but though it is set in the area of France we want to look at buying in, her actually circumstances are totally different from ours in that she has bought a ruin. 

Down the autostrada to Pisa and meet Wife and Daughter whose journey has been uneventful.  It is two more hours drive to Trasimeno.  By the time we get there, the hazy cloud has lifted and it is sunny enough to spend a couple of hours by the pool. 

One of our favourite activities of the past couple of years has been pre-meal drinks by the lake.  Usually Wife and I would read, but tonight Daughter wants to tell us her latest thinking about work and her plans for India.

Our dinner is at Il Molo, our favourite Passignano restaurant.  The menu has changed a little from last year and we are not able to identify Wife's favourite starter.  Regradless, the meal is excellent and we are all feeling very relaxed as we ended the day eating ice cream from one of the bars by the lake.


I had to work for an hour or so this morning sorting out the option spreadsheet that Jerome had sent me.  He has had a few very busy days and there have been a few errors in trade recording.  Nothing too serious but an unrelaxed start to the day.

It is blindingly hot today and we settle for a day by the pool.  Daughter is still very brown from her trip to South America.  For once, I have decided to take a more sensible approach to sunbathing and so have started with factor 30 cream. 

I mainly spend the day reading Safranski's biography of Heidegger.  I am particularly interested in the way that he deals with setting the scene as it is as Heidegger approaches adulthood, and in his method of treating the very complex ideas associated with early phenomonology.  Both of these sorts of issues are ones that I would face in my planned biography writing.

Several breaks during the day for ice cold drinks or ice cream.  Otherwise, we are out most of the day.  Wife and I discussed more details of the French project and a possible timetable related to our summer holiday and half term in October.  We might be ready to look and buy somewhere by then.  However, there is loads of detail outstanding about this project.  Our next task might be to meet Jerome and his girl friend to get an outline of their plans.

More drinks by the lake, where it is very windy, then a meal at what we call "the red restaurant".  The first two courses were superb here, but I was rather disappointed with my main.  We do have many memories of great meals here though.  So maybe we'll have another one later in the week.


Somewhat overcast first thing (as promised by the weather forecast) so we decide to have a morning out in Cortona.  At the very least, this has plenty of leather goods shops and sure enough, Wife and Daughter spend 45 mins choosing handbags.  There is a photographic exhibition further up the main street with some superb landscapes - just the sort of picture I should be taking.

Widely considered to be the best bag shop

Daughter post-bag-buying

This is actually a modern painting that I really liked - but painted in egg-tempera.  The books are mostly volumes of Cicero

More ice cream and a slow drive back to Passignano for siestas and more reading.  Wife and I had a quick trip to the supermarket and have bought our first wine of the holiday. 

Late afternoon there is a major thunderstorm.  For dinner tonight we go to a rustic pizzeria at the end of town which is surprisingly good.  Then Wife and Daughter want to watch the final of The Apprentice.

Watching The Apprentice


Its sunny again and another day vanishes in sunbathing by the pool.  Daghter has been reading Banerjee and Duflo's Poor Economics, very much her current theme given her India plans.  I am currently reading Documentaries - A Very Short Inroduction on Wife's Kindle.

I am also thinking about making a short film called "How to make a fishing video".  When I get back to the UK, one of my first projects is to sort out my last fishing video and get ready for the new season's fishing and video taking.  Once I am up to about video 15, I thought I could make my "How to" film then.  Thinking about how I would do this has already given me a number of good ideas for improving my own films.

I have also remembered that I have some old film that my dad shot when I was very young and I am thinking about getting that transferred to dvd.

We went into Perugia for dinner tonight, eating at one of the places on the main street - very nice indeed.  More ice cream (we are now of two a day)

Travelling to Italy


Very hurried as it approaches 10:00, my planned departure time.  For the past two days I have been trying to sort out the mystery of why black borders appear around videos uploaded onto Youtube.  The issue related to the various size formats at which the camera shoots, the way the software edits and how the actual Youtube site runs.  It is an intensely annoying problem as it can take several hours to upload a video and then find out that it is black bordered on Youtube.  And then there is all the editing time wasted if you find it is the wrong format.  But just before I leave for Italy, I may have fixed the problem - i.e. found one setting in which the software edits and it uploads onto youtube without the border.

A surprisingly quick drive to Dover and I am offered the 13:55 ferry rather than the 15:40 I was booked on.  The ferry is really quiet, maybe only 25 vehicles!  I can have my pick of the lounge, where I have started reading Safranski's biography of Heidegger - I have read this before, but want to analyses the book's structure in more detail as part of my ongoing biography project.

The sun came out about 100km south of Calais and was all surprisingly nice as I passed the Aire at Champagne Sud, one of our stopping points last year.  Music is provided by a couple of Stuart Maconie's Freakshow episodes, one focused on the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  Other highlights included Zoe Keating's 16 Cellos and John Renborn's The Maid in Bedlam.  I managed 5 hours of driving after coming off the ferry, mainly thinking about our tentative France project, and near-term fishing plans.

I slept in an Aire not far from Lyon.  Surprisingly comfortable across the back seat under my "cat's meow" sleeping bag.


Six or seven hours sleep and the phone is finally working, so I can call home.  Some worrying text messages referring to me now being "roaming" and my apps (do I have such things?) might be clocking up huge bills.  It says I have to push "connect" for this to happen, but I haven't so presumably it hasn't.

A couple of calls from Jerome to discuss some aspects of the option trading and the jump in Vol that has occured in the past couple of days as the markets are in free fall.

At Chambery, I have a break, mostly spent reading Susie Kelly's Two Steps Backwards, with some snow covered foothills of the alps in the background.  More Maconie Freakshow tapes to listen to.

One of my better photos I think

Today's route takes me through the Frejus tunnel and I am soon passed Turin and on the way to Genoa.  While on my afternoon break, a long call from Daughter who is deep in thought about her immediate future and her wish to travel and do an MSc. 

Traffic is heavy at 6:00 in Genoa but at least I didn't make the same mistake here that I have made twice before and ended up in the centre of the city at the waterfront.

Turned off the motorway at La Spezia to find somewhere to sleep the night.  A brief stop in the centre to admire the vintage yachts on display along with some sports cars, including a rather garish yellow Ferrari Dino. 

I eventually settle in the small town of Lerici for the night.  This is actually rather nice.  I have pasta with clams for dinner but am crashed out in the car by 10:00, despite the town still being in full swing.  I was so tired and had little trouble sleeping threw the noise.

Where I spent the night - about to depart, Saturday morning