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Boing's trip to CERN

Back in October, I was a guest speaker at a workshop in CERN. Boing the bunny came along too.

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She helped me at the check-in touchscreen.

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And got her picture taken with a Beefeater (thankfully not a bunny-eater!)

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She was very disappointed that the soft play area was closed for the day.

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But liked looking out the window of the airplane.

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All buckled in and ready to fly!

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In front of a pipe with the CERN logo on.

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The CERN visitors centre and main meeting room from the outside. All made from wood.

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Our meeting was up at the top of the building, and had a lovely skylight.

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But there was also a long ramp to climb to get there. Boing thought it'd be really cool as a giant slide!

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Downstairs was the visitor centre, with a cool audio-visual show with lots of atmospheric music and coloured lights.

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And a projected map that showed you the path of the LHC.

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There were other bits and pieces of accelerator equipment.
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Boing says she knows what these are for!

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The meeting went well, but Boing was a bit bored until the huge trays of macaroons came out.

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I don't know how she ate so many, but she did!

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After the workshop, we got a tour. Here's Boing looking at a radiofrequency quadrupole.
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And here's the poster that explains what it is.

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Genuine physics on a blackboard!

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On top of a proton source.

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Apparently they got a job lot of these stickers in the 1970s and have never replaced them.

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If I remember right (and I'm not sure I do!) this is one of the linear accelerators.

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And here's how the many accelerators feed into each other, and what they accelerate.

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Poster with pictures of the different accelerator tunnels. Unfortunately we couldn't go down into the LHC tunnel this time.

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This is LEIR, an ion accelerator.

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We got to see some of the back corridors and offices at the end of the tour (some of the other participants had to pick up coats and bags). This warning sign amused me!

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CERN has a hostel on site, where I stayed. I felt like I was back in university halls of residence again.

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As well as a gift shop, CERN also has a sculpture garden, where the sculptures are old bits of experimental machinery.

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This is a cloud chamber for detecting cosmic rays.

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CERN also has more traditional sculptures, like this statue of Shiva, presented by the Indian government.

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The view from the front of the hostel (roughly). Lovely blue sky!

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CERN's so big, they have special bicycles for researchers to use to get around the site more quickly.

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In the airport on the way home, I had real trouble trying to persuade Boing that no, she didn't really want a 5kg jar of Nutella!

And that was our trip to CERN!

Scruffy Duck goes to Malta

I get home from the USA trip on the Saturday morning. On the Wednesday I'm off again to Malta for a workshop, this time in the company of Scruffy Duck.

Even though we flew out from Heathrow, Scruffy didn't want her photo taken with the giant Harrods bear.

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She was happy to meet all the UK themed ducks in the Glorious Britain gift shop.

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There's our airplane!

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Looking out the window before taking off. We were right at the very back of the plane.

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The conference hotel was very nice indeed - this was the view from my hotel room balcony.

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And this was the room itself - very posh!

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Scruffy did help me look over my slides for my presentation the night before the workshop.

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I tell you, it was a very civilised affair. During the workshop lunch break, we had a lovely sit out next to the open air swimming pool, enjoying the lovely warm weather.

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Scruffy enjoyed sitting on the (many) stone lions around the place.

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After the workshop, I even had a swim outdoors, while Scruffy relaxed by the pool.

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She preferred to rest on the sun loungers to the palm trees.

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She wanted a close up of what the horse in this statue was eating, just in case it looked tasty.

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The evening of the workshop a group of us went out for dinner. On our way back to the hotel, we came across a dance performance in the main square of Valetta. It was really impressive!

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This fountain is just outside the main gate of Valetta, and serves as the centre of the bus park.

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On the Friday, we had a morning to relax before catching our flight home. So Scruffy read the paper, being very interested in the story about the sheep.

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And we had a very tasty, freshly cooked waffle for breakfast. (As well as lots of other yummy food.)

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Then we went sightseeing. This is the hotel from the land side. (The other side looks straight out onto the sea, and the hotel even has its own private yacht club and beach, as well as indoor and outdoor pools.)

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Another lion!

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The walls of Valetta.

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It was very hot and sunny (I had to buy myself a hat). There was a military band performing and guards on maneuvers in front of the parliament building.

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Malta feels very Mediterranean, but then you get flashes of British-ness. Like the red phone booth and pillar box, and Marks and Spencers and Peacocks.

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Valetta's streets are lovely though.

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We had a great time just wandering around and looking at stuff.

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Another red telephone box!

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Walking the outskirts of the city, along the sea wall.

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At the Siege Bell memorial

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Looking out over the ocean.

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The Siege Bell Memorial. There were signs warning people to be careful at certain times, when the bell would ring.

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Right next to the memorial was a playground. Scruffy wasn't too keen on the Bell, but really wanted a go on the rocking horse!

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She also wanted to know what sort of bird laid those eggs. I had to explain they were made of glass, but we both agreed they were very pretty.

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There was a train driving around the streets, giving tours.

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And a strange purple bug sculpture thing.

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After all that walking, we needed a sit down and some ice cream.

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Scruffy thought this sign was funny - on street parking reserved for members of parliament only during certain hours.

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We saw the official changing of the guards at the parliament building.

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And this was the entrance to a large open air theatre.

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Valetta was just starting to host a big science communication event thingy. Scruffy has decided that she'd like to be a scientist when she grows up.

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A common way of sightseeing was by horse and carraige. Unfortunately we didn't have the time to go for a ride.

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Back at the hotel, we had lunch down by the sea.

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The restaurant was Tiki themed, and Scruffy wanted her photo taken with one of the tiki statues. She's gotten a lot braver after all those lions!

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One final photo at the hotel, right by the fountain.

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And finally, in Malta airport, Scruffy hung out with a few other ducks in Duty Free.

So, that was Malta - a very nice place! I don't think I'd want to go back in the summer though - too hot. The weather towards the end of September was just lovely.
Now banquet is over and the goblins have all escaped/gone off to their new homes, I can finally show off the photos of them all.

But first - Hobbes! Made for a very good friend of mine from this excellent pattern.

Hobbes front
Front view

Hobbes back
Back view

The cuddle test
Miss B administered the essential cuddle test to make sure he was up to standards.

And then I started making goblins. (This year's banquet theme was fairies, so we needed to have a few goblins around to cause chaos...)

WARNING! If you spot any of these goblins in the wild, please be very careful! They may bite, or play tricks on you. Approach at your own risk!

Goblin 1
This one looks all sweet and cute...

Goblin 2 (punk rocker)
Punk goblin (who can stick his hand up his nose)

Cat goblin
Whiskers the cat goblin

Bug goblin...
Bug goblin...

...with wings
with wings.

Smiley stripey goblin
Smiley stripey goblin

The first 5 goblins
The first five

Surprised dog goblin
Dog goblin...

with a waggy tail
...with a waggy tail.

Cthulu goblin?

Little wings
Showing off little wings.

Fish goblin front
Glum looking fish goblin.

Fish goblin side
Who are you looking at?

Purple goblin
They started getting a bit strange - not sure if this one is a goblin or an alien.

This goblin is very proud of his moustache.

Three-eyed cleavage bug
Another bug - last spotted infesting a lady's cleavage...

Teethy grin!
Tootly grin!

Borderline mascot
A Borderline Morris mascot.

Line up!
The first eight goblins, all in a row.

Chess board
I think this goblin likes playing games.

Big ears
This guy has big ears and looks a bit bewildered.

This one is just unbelievably pink!
A catopus (we think)
This one's got helicopter rotors, or three very floppy ears...
Penguin in a party hat
Miss B described this one as a penguin in a party hat.

Another line up
Line up 2 (ran out of space on the shelf at this point)

Little spider goblin.


They were all very popular at the banquet - I've got some more to make for those people who I wanted to give goblins to but missed out in the rush.

Sub visits Washington

(Things have finally calmed down enough now for me to be able to post the remainder of Sub's trip to the USA, and a few more animal adventures!)

Lots of dinner
Dinner in the airport before flying out to Washington DC. I was hungry and ordered a starter as well, then couldn't finish it because the portions were so big!

Night night!
Sub testing out the hotel bed.

View from the Washington hotel
Looking out the window - not as nice a view as NY!

Model of the meeting venue (the National Academy of Sciences)
An architectural model of the building (the National Academy of Science) where all my meetings were that week.

Einstein's head
Meeting Albert Einstein, or his head anyway.

Lecture theatre
Big lecture theatre!

Sub playing the piano
Sub found a piano in the hotel. It's a bit hard to play keys when you're sitting on them.

Pipecleaner flower
The meeting was well supplied with pipecleaners for the delegates to twiddle with. I made a flower.

SUb shopping
Sub liked the hotel bed so much, he was thrilled to see that you could buy one for your own home. I was not thrilled at the price mind!

Conference reception boat
Our reception was held on a riverboat, sailing along the Potomac river.

Sub and statue
Right by the docks where we got on the boat was this statute of a fisherman.

Beer menu
Perusing the menu for post reception drinkies.

Slurp!! (Don't worry - it was non alcoholic blueberry beer)

Outside the Lincoln memorial
Our brief bit of sightseeing was out on the Mall (in gloriously hot and sunny weather) one lunchtime in between my meetings.

Lincoln memorial
The Lincoln memorial.

Looking down the Mall
Looking down the Mall.

Visiting Mr Lincoln
Visiting Mr Lincoln.

WW2 memorial
The World War 2 memorial at the opposite end of the reflecting pool from the Lincoln memorial.

Washington memorial
The Washinton memorial was covered in scaffolding for repairs.

At the White House
Outside the White House

Visiting the Obamas
Photo with the Obamas!

Random hippo statue
A hippo statue.

With Mr Lincoln again
Hobnobbing with more famous Americans.

Einstein (all of him this time)
And with Einstein again (this time all of him).

Science art!
The NAS has a lovely collection of scientific art.

More science art
This was Sub's favourite.

Irish pub in Chinatown
An Irish theme bar - in Chinatown. (At least they spelled the Irish right!)

Heading home
On the way home, with his new American pal, Zoom the turtle!

We didn't get to see all that much of Washington, because my meetings really were wall to wall, with receptions in the evenings. But I think he had a good time!

Next up is Scruffy Duck's trip to Malta (which all started a mere few days after getting home from the USA trip...)

Sub's weekend in NYC

It's reached the stage now that I know I'm going to have a stowaway, so I just accept it.

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This trip's travelling companion is Sub, the Fimble. Here he is in the hall, ready to go.

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At Heathrow, he had to have his photo taken with the Harrod's teddy, like the other small cuddlies on previous trips.

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Lunchtime before the flight.

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At the gate, waiting to board our flight.

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He was very excited to see the tv on the back of the seat in front.

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The headphones were a bit big for him.

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Dinner on the flight.

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Unfortunately, due to bad weather in New York, we wound up sitting on the tarmac in Boston for an hour before flying on to Newark. On the plus side, we did get to go up to the cockpit (very very cool!) Mind the throttle, Sub!

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Look at us, being the captain! Sub wanted to wear the hat, but it was way too big for him. He did get given a set of pilot's wings though, which he's very proud of.

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After a long delayed flight, and a shuttle driver who took me to the wrong place and added a long time to my trip, we finally made it to F and C's, where Min and Ion were waiting to welcome us.

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On Friday we went and did tourist stuff. The market above is in Grand Central Station.

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Here's Grand Central Station.

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We went for a walk on the Highline, an old elevated railway line turned into a park. It was very nice, and had random sculptures like this one of a nose in a wheelbarrow.

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Looking out over the NY streets.

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And looking back at the Highline.

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Parking in New York is, um, interesting.

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We had a very nice lunch in a very nice pizza place.

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The pizza ovens were named Vesuvio and Etna.

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Pizza! Yum yum yum!

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Saturday morning, admiring the view.

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On Saturday we went to a very nice spa, but Sub wasn't allowed as he was too little (and would have got soggy). He did like looking at the brochure, and planning what treatments he'd have. I told him that bathing in red wine would be a bad idea, but he liked the sound of it.

We did take him out to lunch though,

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Our lunch venue, near the Empire State building (I've forgotten what it was called)

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Southern fried chicken - very nice!

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It's good that we planned on sharing this dessert! It was huge!

Sunday morning (to make up for the huge dessert) we hit the gym.

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Sub tried on my new trainers.

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Me in my new workout kit (courtesy of shopping on Saturday). I almost look like I know what I'm doing.

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Sub was too small for the gym, so when we got back we found him running races around the living room with the minions.

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As a post gym treat we had tea and macaroons. So many colours!

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The macaroon cafe had a painted cow in the window. Sub made friends with her.

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Raspberry and chocolate, and a pistachio macaroon. They were lovely!

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At the airport, heading out to Washington, my flight got cancelled, so I got put on another, later one. By the time it was all sorted I was starving, but having got my food, I realised how much noodles there were!

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It was a pretty smooth trip after the flight change, and a quick trip to the hotel. We were both really tired by the time we got in though.

And that was our weekend in New York. Thanks to F and C for a fabulous weekend!

I'm in Washington for work, with wall-to-wall meetings, so Sub might not get to do as much sightseeing as he'd like. 

Minions - lots of them!

When I saw the free pattern at Just crafty enough for knitting my own minion, well, I had to have a go!

Minion 1
Here's my first minion. I've kept him, and named him Brian.
Minion 2
Minion number two promptly got stolen by Miss B for herself. I think she called him Kevin.
Minions 1 and 2
Brian and Kevin posing together.
I decided they needed a missile, so I knitted one of them too.
Minions 1 and 2 with missile
It's just about small enough for them to carry.
Minions 1, 2 and 3!
Increasing numbers of minions!
Evil minion!
Evil minion number 1 (modified from the Just Crafty Enough pattern - I'll put my pattern mods up here soon!)
The minions aren't sure of the purple guy...
Run away!
Run away!!
Evil minions 1 and 2
Evil minions 1 and 2 with their new owners.
Minion 4
And then we went to Ireland and I made a minion for my brother's other half.
Minions 4 and 5
And for my Mum. It's amazing to see the differences in the minions, even when they're all knit using the same yarn, needles and pattern.
Evil minion 3
And one final evil minion, for my brother.

Eight minions is enough, surely?

Sandy's flying trip to Chicago

Because I am insane (and because someone else was paying) I took a trip to Chicago for a meeting this week. I flew out on Sunday and flew home again on Tuesday night. It wasn't a very interesting trip, because I didn't have the time to go sightseeing, and most of the time there was spent in the hotel meeting room (in the basement with no natural light - ugh).

But of course I did have a little friend who came with me: Sandy the lion.

Helping me check in

Here he is, helping me check in at Heathrow.

Meeting the 6ft tall Harrods bear

Once through security we had some time to spare, so we had a look around. Sandy was very impressed by the 6ft tall Harrods teddy  (a different one from the one Puppy was photographed with).


And he was determined to catch the toy fish swimming in a tank. But the prospect of getting wet put him off from diving in. Lions don't like water.

Nom nom nom

Surprisingly enough, Sandy does like popcorn!

In case of emergency

Here he is, sitting on my lap on the airplane, ready for takeoff.

Icecream - a sure cure for jetlag

He carefully listened to the safety announcement and read the card too. It was a long and not-very-interesting flight. Sandy mainly snoozed all the way. We got a shuttle bus to the hotel.

Watching the Big Bang Theory

Icecream is really good for helping convince your body that it's not really silly o'clock in the morning, honest!

A sign next to the elevators on my hotel floor

Sandy made himself at home in the hotel room. We even found some "Big Bang Theory" to watch.

The view out the hotel room window

He had to behave himself though, otherwise he'd get in trouble. There was a sign next to the lifts saying no circus animals were assigned to the floor. He says it wass ok because he's a wild animal, not a circus one. I told him to behave regardless!

Another part of the hotel room view

Looking out the hotel room window. We were on the 10th floor, but it wasn't much of a view.


It was nice and sunny though - shame the meeting room was in the basement with no natural light.

Meeting lunch buffet

To try to hold off the jetlag, I snuck out to the nearest Michael's craft shop and bought beads. I got my shopping back to the hotel and discovered this little lady!

Her name's Bayou, and she claims she's a dragon, which is why she was hiding in my beads. I'm not sure I believe her, but I let her stay with us.

Sightseeing 1

Monday was meeting day. We had our meeting and we talked lots. And we got fed lots too - there was eight of us (not including Sandy and Bayou) - the hotel provided food for twenty! The picture up there was just lunch, all for us. You can just see Sandy going for the sliced roast beef!

Sightseeing 2

After the meeting finished on Monday, and before the meeting dinner, I made a break for the nearest Joann's fabrics and bought more shiny things. This picture and the one after it are all the sightseeing I got to do this trip. Nevermind!

How do you work this thing?

I've decided Chicago is really flat.


Tuesday morning, and I got woken up by Sandy and Bayou trying to figure out how to work the coffee machine. They stopped when I told them I didn't like coffee, and it's bad for lions and alli-er-dragons.

Trying to make shadow puppets

So Bayou decided to go for a swim in the sink instead.

Where's the computer games on this thing?

I rounded them up and brought them down to the meeting room, because I had to check out that morning. They wanted to get the projector working so they could make shadow puppets.

Did you know alligators like french toast?

Then they wanted to play games on my laptop!

A large lemonade

Thankfully breakfast arrived and distracted them. Yummy French toast!

After the meeting finished, we got the shuttle bus back to the airport, and I got out at terminal 5 (where I'd landed). I then discovered that I really needed to be leaving from terminal 1 instead, so had to take the airport train to terminal 1. Silly me! Still, it only was a few minutes delay and I had plenty of time.

Looking at the plane

On the other side of security in terminal 1, there's a dinosaur skeleton. Bayou was very excited to see it, but was a bit scared of it being so big, which is why she's not in the picture.

Welcome to London

Everyone was thirsty, so I got a large lemonade to drink. Look, teamwork!

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The two animals were very excited to see their plane so close. And they were very good on the trip home - I even managed to get some sleep.

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And here they both are, back in Heathrow airport.

That's it from me now for a while, I'm grounded from work travel for the summer, with the possibility of a few trips in September. To be honest, I'll be glad of the chance to stay home!

Stripey's adventures in Belgium

I was very careful, checking my suitcase for stowaways before going away to my meeting in Gent.

Hiding in my handbag

Unfortunately I forgot to check my handbag until I got to Didcot station. Look who was there - Stripey the zebra!

At Didcot Parkway station

Of course I couldn't send her home, or leave her at Didcot station, so she had to come with me.

Being safety conscious

She was very safety conscious and read the emergency information

Watching the world go by

And really enjoyed watching the world go by out the train window.

At Paddington

At Paddington station.


Looking at the queue for boarding the Eurostar. Yay for reserved seats!


Outside the Eurostar carriage.

Horse in a zebra outfit at Brussels Midi

At Brussels Midi, there's a stature of a horse in a zebra outfit outside a cafe.

Looking at the map of Gent

When we got to Gent, Stripey wanted to look at the map to make sure we didn't get lost.


Thanks to her directions we got to the city centre no problems, She was a bit puzzled, because there were shoes hanging from the line. I asked someone I know who lives there, but she didn't know why they were there either.

Looking out the restaurant window

We had a lovely dinner at a restaurant "The White Lion", with a nice view of the river and the old buildings.

Pasta - yum!

Stripey really likes pasta and pesto (just like her owner!)

Night night!

All tucked up in bed and fast asleep, ready for a busy day the next day.

The view from the hotel window

The next morning was lovely and sunny. Stripey liked looking out the window.

Breakfast time!

Breakfast time! Stripey loved the buffet.


But I still caught her raiding the minibar snacks - naughty Stripey!

The meeting venue's street sign

She was very impressed that the meeting venue was being held at a place called Zebrastraat. It used to be a zoo many years ago.

Stripey meets another zebra

There was even a statue of a zebra under the stairs. Stripey made friends with her.

Paying close attention

Stripey thought the meeting was a bit boring, but she behaved very well.

A giant nail

There was a giant nail in the square next to the meeting room building. I don't know why, but Stripey thought it belonged to a giant.


There were lots of arty things in the meeting venue, like these gnomes...

Man in a flying machine

...and a man with a flying machine.

Gent train station murals

On our way back I stopped to get some pictures of the paintings at Gent Sint Pieters train station, which were very impressive.

Gent Sint Pieters

So was the architecture.

Waiting for the Eurostar (again)

It wasn't nearly as crowded on the way home. Here's Stripey in the Eurostar waiting room at Brussels Midi.

On the Eurostar

And on the Eurostar, with plenty of room to spread out!

So, no flying for Stripey, but lots of trains. I think she's happy to be home again!

Puppy's adventures in conferencing

Outside the conference centre
Here's Puppy posing outside the conference centre. It's a big place - well, it has to be to fit over 11,000 people in.

Looking at the photos in the photo competition
Looking at the photos in the photo competition. (Puppy liked this one best)

Puppy insisted on looking for bones in the fossils on display. He was very disappointed when I told him that they were rock, so he wouldn't be able to eat them.

He made up for it by diving into the bowl of sweeties instead.

Where next?
Looking at the maps in the conference booklet. That's only 2 floors there, there's another 2 more.

In the park, looking at the Donau tower
The conference venue is in the middle of lots of concrete. Thankfully it's only a short walk away from a very nice park. The tower has a restaurant at the top which rotates around so you can see the countryside go by while you eat. (I've been there once before, but not this trip.)

It was a lovely sunny day, so we had a picnic lunch. Puppy nearly got stuck in the crisps tube.

The park also had a little train that drove around - very colourful!

Two little doggies
Puppy wanted to have his picture taken with this sign. (I didn't tell him that it was a place to pick up a doggie poop bag...)

On the metro
On the metro he spotted this sign. Then he had to hide, because I didn't have a leash or a muzzle for him, and dogs are only allowed on the metro if they have these!

Dinner time!
We went out for dinner and Puppy was very impressed with the mixed grill (especially the sausage).

Beer (not good for puppies!)
I told him that beer isn't good for puppies, but he wanted to try anyway. (I don't think he liked it very much though.)

The next day was really busy for me, so we didn't get many photos.

Helping me prepare my presentation
Puppy did help me prepare my slides for my oral presentation. He said that I should have used pictures of dogs in it, instead of cats.

After a long day we were very happy to be invited into the airport lounge to relax before our flight. Puppy was very pleased with the quality of nibbles available (he really does like crisps!)

Puppy's perambulations (part one)

Wannabe stowaways
The cuddly toys have definitely been talking about going on adventures. I get my bag out to pack it, turn my back for one minute, and it's full of animals wanting to go travelling with me!

The poor things were a bit sad when I told them that no, they couldn't come with me.

No sooner had I got through security at the airport, however, than up popped Puppy!

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He was very impressed by the six foot tall teddy in the duty free shops (a bargain at a mere £1,667!)

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At the departure gate, he was very excited to see the airplanes.He didn't like the flight that much, especially the landing. I don't blame him - the plane landed with a scarily big bump!

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He was very impressed by the train from the airport though - especially because it's a double decker train.

Wannabe stowaways
At the hotel, worn out after all the excitement.

Not a particularly exciting day, but Puppy seemed to like it. There should be more interesting things for him to see and do tomorrow.