Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Summer of Sport

Spring has finally sprung – both ’officially’ and in reality, and now is a time to look forward to the warmer months ahead. And for a sports nut like me, that means a host of great events to anticipate.

This coming summer will see the biggest event of them all – The FIFA World Cup, which is being hosted by South Africa. This will be by far the largest sports event ever to take place on the African continent, and promises to be a spectacular tournament. The opening game will take place in Johannesburg on June 11th and will feature the hosts taking on Mexico. Some 32 nations will compete over the following month through the group stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final itself to be crowned World Champions on July 11th. Spain and Brazil are the current favourites, but there are plenty of other genuine contenders to claim the trophy.

The first major tournament of this sporting season will be the US Masters, which as always takes place in Augusta, Georgia. This year the big focus will obviously be on Tiger Woods’ return to golfing action after his personal troubles that came to light very publicly on Thanksgiving last year. What price a Tiger win in his first event back? The Masters is my favourite golf tournament of the year and Augusta is a beautiful course. Getting to go there in person one year is definitely on my To Do list.

And then there is what is often referred to as the Great British Summer of Sport, featuring such events as The Boat Race, The Grand National, the London Marathon, the FA Cup Final, the Derby, Wimbledon, the British Open and the British Grand Prix.

Here are some of the important dates to note:

The Boat Race The Thames, London April 3
US Masters Augusta National, Augusta, Georgia April 8 - 11
Grand National Aintree, Liverpool April 10
London Marathon London April 25
FA Cup Final Wembley Stadium, London May 15
Football League Play-Off Finals Wembley Stadium, London May 22, 29, 30
The Derby Epsom Downs, Surrey June 5
FIFA World Cup South Africa June 11 - July 11
Royal Ascot Ascot, Berkshire June 15 – 19
Wimbledon Wimbledon, London June 21 - July 4
British Grand Prix Silverstone, Northamptonshire July 11
British Open St Andrews, Scotland July 15 - 18
England Test Cricket Series England July 29 - August 30

And then finally, and I accept this is way after the summer will have ended, there will be the Ryder Cup. This year it will be played at Celtic Manor in South Wales from October 1st to 3rd, and the Europeans will be out to avenge the heavy defeat that they suffered at Valhalla back in 2008. The captains this year will be Corey Pavin and Colin Montgomerie and I am sure the competition will be as white-hot as usual.

I just can’t wait

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Sunday Snaps 10 - Beautiful Bath

Welcome to the latest of my occasional series of Sunday Snaps. Today I have three photos of my favourite city - Bath, England.

Bath was where I attended university sometime way back when, and I fell in love with this most beautiful of cities. It is named after, and centred around, the Baths formed by Britain's only natural hot springs. It is said that the city reminded the occupying Romans of Rome itself as both cities are built upon 7 hills. The Roman Baths remain to this day and are one of the countries most visited tourist attractions.

The first photo is of Pulteney Bridge and Weir, one of the most distinctive vistas of the city.  The bridge is one of only four in the world which has shops running the full length of both sides.

My next picture is of the bandstand that lies within Parade Gardens. I took this picture when we visited the city a couple of summers back, and somehow we managed to visit on a gloriously warm and sunny day - it must have been the only one that year! The bandstand always reminds me of the end of the BBC children's series Trumpton, which was one of my favourites when I was growing up. Every episode would end with the firemen playing a concert on the bandstand in the park - don't ask! :-)

The last snap for today is of the glorious Bath Abbey. This photo is of the South side of the Abbey, which shows some of the wonderful gothic architecture.

There is much, much more to the City of Bath, and I will no doubt share some more pictures with you sometime in the future. I am now itching to visit again after looking through all my photos. I can see a road trip coming up for us!

Enjoy what remains of your weekend!

Monday, 15 March 2010

New Boxes and Old Heroes

It was a good weekend here in the Yellow House. Sunday was Mother’s Day in the UK and we took some flowers and a small gift round to my Mum’s house to celebrate the fact. She was most pleased with the gift and we spent a couple of hours over there just hanging out.

We also had a visit from the satellite engineer on Saturday. The analogue TV signal will be switched off over the next two weeks in our region, as part of a programme to convert the whole nation to digital television. We already have satellite TV on our main set, but the switchover would mean that we would be unable to watch different shows on the main TV and our bedroom TV, or to record something other than the channel we are already watching. So, we decided to upgrade our satellite box, and move the old box upstairs for use on our bedroom TV.

The engineer was here for about an hour replacing our old satellite dish, installing the new box and moving the old one. The new receiver we have for our main TV is a Sky+HD box. Our TV isn’t an HD (High Definition) ready one yet, but it was more the Sky+ features that we were interested in getting. Sky+ is the UK equivalent of TiVo, as well as being a satellite receiver. So, we can now record over 200 hours of programming without the need for loads of video tapes or DVDs, record 2 channels at the same time, pause live TV and record a whole series automatically. The Yellow House has now truly joined the digital age! :) As a bonus, we now have access to all the satellite channels on our upstairs set. We feel like we are in a 5 star hotel! LOL

This is our new Sky+HD receiver.

In other news, today marks the 41st anniversary of Swindon Town’s momentous League Cup victory at Wembley. They defeated the mighty Arsenal 3-1 with the legendary Don Rogers scoring twice. This is still arguably the club’s finest hour – although I would suggest that their promotion to the Premiership in 1993 was a greater achievement. Anyway, today is a day to remember the boys of '69.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Yep, It Is Spring - Sort of.

My last post was entitled “Is It Spring Yet?” as winter seems to have lasted for about the last 5 years here! Anyway, imagine my surprise when watching the news today to find out that, apparently, yes it is spring already!

Now I know what you are thinking – “spring doesn’t start until March 20th” (if you are in the Northern hemisphere at least). I agree. The vernal equinox is the start of spring, or at least it has been for as long as I can remember. But now, The Meteorological Office here in the UK have declared that spring now starts on March 1st, and similarly summer starts on June 1st, autumn on September 1st and winter on December 1st. Oh, and because they have decided on this timetable, those are now the Official Dates for the various seasons. Not for me they ain’t! My diary still tells me that spring starts on the vernal equinox, and that’s still the day that I will be observing.

Anyhoo, in other weather news, the same Met Office say that this winter – that’s the one that ended on the last day of February obviously – has been the coldest in England for over 30 years, and for nearly 50 years in Scotland. I can well believe it, the cold weather seems to have gone on forever, and the snow has been a much more regular occurrence than usual. This was illustrated by this NASA satellite photo released in January of a snow and ice-covered Great Britain.

The Met Office have yet to release a seasonal forecast for this spring, even though it is already here! But then, given their track record for last summer – “a barbecue summer” it rained and rained – and this winter – “milder than average” coldest for 30+ years – it is maybe not so surprising.

I am just glad to see the sun come out for the last couple of days, even if it is going to go back in hiding again tomorrow!
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