Wedding anniversary

You know when you first start going out with someone (well, when you were a kid anyway) you’d mark various anniversaries: first week/month etc. Then maybe you’d progress to first year, first year of living together and the like. There was always a little voice in the back of your head saying “yeah, it’s lovely, but it isn’t really a real anniversary is it?”

Well this is the real deal, first wedding anniversary. First anniversary of being married to the best girl in the world in fact.

In fact, seen as we are in Boston and five hours behind at the moment it has almost been and gone, but nevertheless we are just about to head out to celebrate with dinner at L’Espalier, a swanky restaurant that, notwithstanding the fact that The Michelin Guide don’t cover Boston yet, seems to have won a good deal of plaudits and is the #1 Boston restaurant on Yelp.com (including a glowing review from my work colleague Suzanne!)

The Dark Knight

So often, something you’ve been anticipating for so long leaves you a little flat when it arrives. Expectation isn’t fulfilled, hype not lived up to.

I’ve been looking forward to The Dark Knight ever since the final scene of Batman Begins when Lt. Gordon tantalised us with the description of this new criminal with a taste for the theatrical. I’m not a comic book fan, I’m not that knowledgeable about the Batman universe even, but the 1989 TIm Burton Batman was one of my favourite ever films. Returns was good, but let’s not talk about the Schumacher efforts. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins blew me away and I literally couldn’t wait for The Dark Knight to arrive. Lana has put up with me repeating lines from the trailers to her for months. “Why so serious?” “Evening Commmmmisioner.” “You’re just a freak, like me!” She must have thought I was insane.

But with Nolan’s incarnation of The Joker, immensely played by Heath Ledger, I think insanity has been redefined. This Joker must be one of cinema’s most purely psychopathic evil geniuses. The pure opposite of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal. Whilst the trailers and various interviews whetted the appetite, nothing prepared me for how intense the character was, and that speaks volumes for the skill of the sadly departed Ledger, but also to the Nolans’ screenplay. There’s no origin story for The Joker here, bar some hints at paternal issues, there’s no reason for his actions – he just is. From the first meeting with the mob and a game of hide the pencil (not really a spoiler) you know that this is no joke(er)

It also sets the tone for the rest of the movie. This is no sugar coated violence flick. Whilst the camera might cut away at the crucial moment you are left in no doubt as to how brutally some characters are dispatched. Whilst previous Batman films were basically family friendly, and even Begins was fairly tame, The Dark Knight contains more than “fantasy violence” and is all the better for it. How it got a 12A certificate I do not know.

This is no more true than in the eventual reveal of Two Face. One of the film’s most closely guarded secrets, the build up to the first view of Harvey Two Face is full of expectation as to what he will look like. It’s fair to say that (without spoiling anything) they went far further than I ever expected. This is no Tommy Lee Jones that’s for sure.

This film also goes further than any other comic book film in plot terms, giving viewers a complex, question laden 2 hours and 32 minutes. There’s no lazy reliance on action sequences to carry the third act, it doesn’t resort to a duel to the end between the two main adversaries. In fact one thing that I noticed was that Batman and indeed Wayne himself received relatively little focus despite being the main protagonist. The film allowed it’s incredible array of strong characters to be developed to the full, none more so than Dent. It also poses difficult moral questions that tax more than just the hero, but when it does, it does it in a deep way that makes Peter Parker’s troubles in Spiderman 2 look, well, comedic.

Criticisms? Well right now, I don’t really have any. Yes, Bale’s Batman voice is a bit overdone, but quite honestly there aren’t that many lines to get too bothered about it, after all Batman has always been measured by actions, not words. Length? It seemed fine to me and I didn’t notice it dragging out.

Does it deserve the huge acclaim it is getting? Right at the moment, yes. Time will tell whether it becomes a true great, as opposed to just the best comic book film of all time but I reckon the odds are short. I’d say Nolan is a cert for a Best Director Oscar, and it has to be in the running for Best Film I’d imagine. If Ledger was still alive then Best Supporting gongs would be in the bag for sure, but we will have to wait and see how various awarding bodies handle that one.

It’s jumped straight to the top of the IMDB top 250 with a score of 9.3, pushing down opposition such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather (and Part 2) Again time will tell, but what I can say personally is that it exceeded my expectations and hopes, and for that I stick it right up there.

Wedding payback

After getting a humbling number of people over to Ireland for our wedding last year, 2008 is proving to be the payback year for us. So far we’ve notched up three weddings in three countries.

The first was the evening do for the brother of Lana’s bridesmaid Rachel. This one was fairly local, being just up the road in Trim, County Meath.

May saw two weddings, the first of which was of our friends Dan and Alison, held in Salisbury. It proved to be a great day and it was lovely to catch up with a number of old friends, and their respective babies!

Then just a week after we were off to Switzerland for the wedding of Lana’s cousin Jeremy to Maria. We flew direct from Dublin to Zurich and then hired a car to take us to the village of Weggis on the shores of Lake Luzerne. Weggis is a hugely picturesque place with typical mountain scenery and Swiss architecture. The wedding itself was relaxed and perfectly formed, with the service conducted in both English and German. After that we were taken on a two hour boat trip along the lake to view even more of the scenery, as well as drink and chat of course.

Unfortunately we had to head back to Zurich and back home on the Sunday and missed out on a trip up the mountain by cable car and train.

The weekend just gone has actually been my first in Dublin for over a month. I have one more weekend off next week, then back to the UK for the wedding of our friends Mark and Becky in Southampton. Then one in Northern Ireland in July, possibly one in Estonia in August, currently taking bookings for September, one in Reading in October, November is free, then we wrap up the year with the wedding of Lana’s brother Graham to the lovely Tiffany in Washington DC in December.

The 2009 count is already at one. Hopefully there won’t be many more, we can’t afford to have a holiday with all this wedding related travel! Not that we’d ever complain though, it’s great to see friends and family get hitched, and always a good excuse for a party!

tap, tap, is this thing on?

Long time no speak.

Two months in fact.

What have I been up to? Well mainly work to be honest. Nothing much more exciting than that. We have been pretty much entirely heads down getting Lotus Connections 2.0 polished. Here’s a video about it:

There have been a couple of work-related highlights. A trip to Porto, Portugal to speak at an internal conference came up in April. Porto is a gorgeous place and I think Lana and I will definitely try to head over there (Ryanair fly direct from Dublin of course!) for a few days at some point. The second highlight is the fact that my work laptop is now a Macbook Pro! I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to use OS X on a daily basis for work…

Outside of work, the last few weeks have seen a lot of my focus being put on my mum and dad back in the UK. Mum had a fall a few weeks ago and broke her shoulder. She has subsequently had a successful operation, though caused some concern when her blood saturation dropped during surgery and subsequently spent a little time on the High Dependency Unit. However, she is now home and well on the way to recovery. I’ve made a couple of trips back to the UK over the past few weeks, and the current one has seen me here for over a week now. As well as my mum having her op last week, my dad had also been ill, and after a visit from the doctor, ended up going into hospital himself on the same day as the operation. Hence I ended up having both parents at different ends of the same hospital, and having to keep the truth from my mum in order to keep her as calm as possible before she went under. All in all it was a pretty stressful time for all concerned. Thankfully however both are on the mend, although my dad is still in waiting for his inflammatory markers to return to normal after being diagnosed with Barret’s Esophagus and a hiatal hernia.

During the earlier visit to see them I also popped up to Sheffield for my friend Dan’s stag do. I’ll most likely be in the UK for the coming weekend, then the weekend after sees us fly to Southampton for Dan and Alison’s wedding in Salisbury. The weekend after that we have another wedding in Weggis, Switzerland as well. All in all I’ll have spent precisely zero weekends in Dublin in May!

Living it up

Ritz Carlton Powerscourt 1

Given that both Lana and I were effectively working over the Christmas and New Year period, we had always planned to treat ourselves to a mini-break in the early part of 2008. After ages debating if we should push the boat out and go on an exotic holiday or maybe have a European city break we came to a rather strange decision. We’ve been in Ireland for over six months now and have hardly had any chance to explore. Therefore we decided to have a weekend break somewhere local. The beauty of this idea was that it meant we had no wasted time on planes bookending our break.

The really bizarre part is that we chose a venue only about half an hour’s drive from our front door. Powerscourt is a country estate in the Wicklow mountains, just South of Dublin. Last October a new Ritz-Carlton hotel was opened on the site and that’s where we booked ourselves into for an overnight spa package. I’d been fortunate enough to stay in a Ritz-Carlton once before for work, so knew we would be in for a treat.

On arrival at Saturday lunchtime we were informed that we’d been upgraded to the club floor and a larger suite, which was a nice surprise. After arranging our spa treatments for the following morning we went to check out our room. Lana was in heaven with the New England style decor (I’m going to be in trouble when we get our own place…) whilst I marvelled at the various technology including LCD touch sensitive control panels for everything from room temperature to the curtains and three LCD TVs including one in the bathroom mirror! Then we checked out the breakfast options:

€350 breakfast!

Needless to say we wouldn’t be ordering that 😉

Included as part of our upgrade was access to the club lounge with free food and drinks provided throughout the day. Think of an airport lounge within the hotel and you are about there, except with much nicer furniture. The rest of the hotel is simply sumptuous from the lobby area with solo harpist down to the spa and pool and the pub down in the basement. As you would expect there is an overall air of opulence and money which probably doesn’t go down to well with Irish values, but there was enough evidence of people taking lunch and coffee in the lobby to suggest that you don’t have to be staying there to soak a bit of it up. The helipad being built out at the back is probably taking things a bit far though.

One of the main attractions is the restuarant: Gordan Ramsay’s first foray into Ireland. Unfortunately we booked our stay rather late and had no chance of getting into dinner on a Saturday night. Reading Traveladvisor reviews about the hotel this seems to be a bone of contention that the hotel does not have a restaurant that guests can be guaranteed to eat at. However there is a portion of the expansive lobby that turns into a bistro at night, and then there’s always the pub. We chose to supplement our free food and drink with some room service whilst chilling out and relaxing in our room after returning from browsing the Avoca shops within Powerscourt.

On Sunday we rose early to get breakfast in the restaurant (no caviar choice there!) and then headed down to relax by the pool before our spa treatments. I went for a “deep cleansing back treatment” whilst Lana had an advanced facial. Needless to say we both came out feeling thoroughly refreshed and relaxed.

On leaving on Sunday afternoon we were home within 30 minutes. No airports, taxis or baggage to lug around and no delays! Whilst it is great to travel, sometimes taking advantage of the delights on your doorstep is just as much fun and much more relaxing.

Calling Wyoming, anybody there??

Looking my visitor data collected by Google Analytics I notice that the only US state I’ve not been visited from is Wyoming:

Map of US

Looking at a 2003 survey it doesn’t appear that Wyoming is particularly behind in computer/internet usage compared to other states, however, Wikipedia tells me it is the least populated state.

I want to fill in the almost square space in my map, so if you know anybody in Wyoming, point them this way!

2007: a good year – part 2

June was a pretty big month. Friday 1st marked my final day working for IBM UK in Hursley after just over 8 1/2 years. Of course, lunchtime was spent down at The Dolphin saying farewell to some colleagues:

Hursley colleagues

Before a final wander around the site:

Hursley house

The very next day saw us pack up the final bits into the car and head off to Holyhead to get the ferry over to Dublin! Wednesday 6th was my first day in the new job, whilst Lana took a little longer to get hers sorted.

On the 16th I met up with the meetDublin flickr group to shoot the Street Performers World Championship:

Popeyed 5

The rest of the month was spent looking for a flat to rent and generally settling in.

The beginning of July saw us move into our new place:

The flat

It also saw me back in Southampton for my stag do which we spend waterskiing, wakeboarding, drinking, eating and gambling:

Adrian on stag do
(Picture courtesy of best man Pete Fincham)

There was only one event dominating August… our wedding:

Adrian and Lana
(Wedding photography by AAA Photos)

Lana made me the happiest man alive on the 28th August!

The beginning of September saw us in America for our honeymoon as we took a road trip through New England, covering 1200 miles and six states and visiting loads of lovely places including Rockport, MA:

Rockport, MA

September also saw the second gadget purchase of the year in the form of my Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS USM lens:

EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM with EW-83J hood

October saw me put the new lens to good use. First with an early evening walk around Dublin:

Liffey Sunset

and then with a visit over to the UK for the wedding of our friends Steve and Louise:

Steve and Louise

November saw my birthday, and I treated myself with an iPod Touch:

iPod Touch 2

and later in the month took another wander around Dublin with the camera, this time at night:

Four Courts

December? well it’s been a busy work month, but we fitted in a trip over to Southampton to catch up with friends before Christmas. The holiday itself saw my parents come over to Dublin for a week. It was lovely to have them here as it meant that everybody was in one place, allowing Lana and I to have our first Christmas day together!

So, all that’s left is to wish you all a very happy new year, and keep reading the blog in 2008!

2007: a good year – part 1

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to anybody out there still reading this blog.

As years go, 2007 has been a pretty big one for me. It was always destined to be more special than usual as Lana and I were planning to make a move on from Southampton, the only question was where. The best way to tell the story of the year is through some of the photos I’ve taken along the way:

January saw me head out with the Hursley photo club on a photo trip to Winchester:

Winchester Cathedral 5

And heralded the arrival of the first gadget of 2007:

24" iMac

In February I joined Andy for the opening of the Southampton Apple Store:

Psyched staff 2

It also saw my first paid for photo in print when a yacht caught fire outside our flat:

Southern Daily Echo boat fire photo

But the biggest event of the month was our visit to Rome for Lana’s birthday:

Colosseum 2

Where I proposed marriage and got accepted 😉

March saw me spend a week in Rochester, Minnesota:

Don't Walk

Whilst this was a pre-arranged trip for work it also presented me with an opportunity to meet with somebody looking to get a foreign assignee in. The prospect of us moving out to the USA for a couple of years had been raised when my management mentioned the possibility of an assignment. They knew we were looking to move on and it was great of them to explore this avenue for me. The idea was appealing to us, but would have been a huge move especially with a wedding to plan. We decided that if the opportunity was there then we would go for it. As it turned out things didn’t transpire and in any case I doubt that it would have gone ahead anyway, at best case it wouldn’t have happened until much later in the year than we were planning.

April saw us making a trip over to Dublin for Easter:

Grafton Street, Dublin

As you may know, this is Lana’s home town and our most likely destination. This trip was purely for pleasure though, and to give Lana a chance to show off her engagement ring!

April also saw our friends Simon and Julia tie the knot:

Simon and Julia

It also saw me busily arranging a new job in IBM’s Dublin Software Lab where I’d be working on the next release of Lotus Connections.

May turned out to be an incredibly busy month. Whilst continuing my work on WebSphere ESB 6.1 in Hursley I was also sorting out all sorts of arrangement for the move over to Dublin, including what we would and wouldn’t be taking with us. One thing that would be staying in the UK was my entire CD collection which I’d been painstakingly ripping to digital versions for months:

CDs

The rest of the month was spent manically getting things ready, including a trip over to Dublin to sort out various bits of paperwork. It ended with a final Southampton visit from my Mum & Dad who we took along to Beaulieu Motor Museum:

Ferrari F40

Coming in part 2: the move over, the marriage and more!