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This past week, the humans and I took a trip to the Scottish Highlands, starting out in Inverness:

1 Inverness Bridge

The town hall was very grand:

2 Inverness Town Hall

And the castle had an excellent multi-floor exhibition about various different local tales. There was also an unexpected Raven:

3 Raven

Outside was a statue of Flora Macdonald:

4 Flora Macdonald

From Inverness, we headed north to Dunrobin Castle, which was very pretty:

5 Dunrobin Castle

It also housed a large bed of very large rhubarb plants:

6 Giant Rhubarb

We were very lucky in that the rain stopped long enough for us to enjoy the impressive gardens:

7 Castle Gardens

The inside was just as impressive, though I did get told off by the guide for sitting on the wrong piece of furniture in the dining room:

8 Dining Room

Our hotel that evening had a lovely view out over Loch Ness:

9 View of Loch Ness

The following morning, it stayed dry long enough for us to climb up to Foyers Falls, and enjoy a long walk back through the woods:

10 Foyers Falls

In fact, the weather was quite miraculous, as it was generally very wet and we often drove through quite heavy rain. But, every time we wanted to get out of the car or visit somewhere outside, the rain stopped and the sun came out, so we saw some quite spectacular rainbows:

11 Rainbow

All the scenery was gorgeous, and there will be more stunning shots in the next post, when we travel to Urquhart Castle and Attadale.

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On the recent bank holiday Monday, the humans and I took a trip to the Uffington White Horse:

Uffington 1

The area has a wonderful view and some interesting markers:

Uffington 2

We were early for our appointments, so we took some time to wander about and enjoy being outside:

Uffington 3

But we were there for a very specific purpose, which ran contrary to this sign:

Uffington 4

Ignoring this directive, we collected our supplies and made our way onto the horse itself to aid with its preservation:

Uffington 5

Volunteers help to re-chalk the horse twice a year, and we did our bit. It was lots of fun, but also quite hard work.

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Last weekend, the humans and I went to a board games convention in Maidenhead, called Handy Con:

HandyCon 1

I made friends with some other game-playing folks:

HandyCon 2

My humans had brought some cupcake cases to hold the game components but I discovered they also worked as a hat:

HandyCon 3

My fashion statement even attracted more friends:

HandyCon 4

Of course, we were really there to play games, and we did manage quite a bit of that, from old favourites:

HandyCon 5

To complex new endeavours:

HandyCon 6

To ridiculous games involving throwing a rainbow over another player's extended finger:

HandyCon 7

There were people there who had made their own games and were demonstrating them:

HandyCon 8

It was lots of fun - probably the best games convention we've been to. This fellow (whose name is Andy Connor - see what they did there?) tells me it runs twice a year:

HandyCon 9

So we've bought our tickets for January already!

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This past week, my primary human and I took a trip down to Sheepwash in Devon for a writing retreat. We stayed in a sprawling, 17th century house, with a view looking out over the village square:

Sheepwash 5

Our room was very nicely appointed, with an extremely comfy bed:

Sheepwash 1

This rather wonderful fellow kept us company during the week:

Sheepwash 2

And there were dragons to guard our sleep during the night:

Sheepwash 3

Of course, my human was there to get some writing done, and she achieved a lot over the course of three and a half days, ably supported by many pots of tea:

Sheepwash 4

We did get out and about on occasion as well, and enjoyed a long ramble through some nearby woods:

Sheepwash 6

It was lovely to be away from London, somewhere we could relax and focus. And Sheepwash was certainly a great environment for that. I did most of the relaxing, while my human was focusing:

Sheepwash 7

It was a wonderful few days away, and I hope we shall go back there again before too long.

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Today, the humans and I joined many other people in central London on a march protesting Donald Trump's presence in our fine city.

I started off by helping the humans complete their placard:

1 March

I worked on my own while we were waiting for the train:

2 March

So we were all ready to go when people started gathering on Regent Street:

3 March

There were a lot of people there, with many large placards, so I felt rather small:

4 March

But my primary human was kind enough to give me a prime vantage point:

5 March

A fair few people stopped us to ask for photos, which was nice, and it felt good to be part of something we believe in.

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Last weekend, my primary human and I travelled to the Doddington Hall estate in Lincolnshire for a reading retreat (www.readingretreat.co.uk). We were welcomed with open arms (and a goody bag) by our hosts, Cressi and Sara, and enjoyed a wonderful couple of days, reading and relaxing:

Doddington 1

I met Mr Ted (Teddy to his friends), who was accompanying his human on the retreat. We bonded over cake and a book by the visiting author, George Mann:

Doddington 2

The retreat took place at Holly Farm cottage, which is part of the Doddington Hall estate, so we took the opportunity to visit the hall itself:

Doddington 3

There was an interesting stone pyramid in the grounds, which proved a bit tricky to find, but was worth it:

Doddington 4

Inside the hall, this friendly chap showed me round the library:

Doddington 5

There was a very grand reception room, where they hold weddings:

Doddington 6

There was also a rather fun, and beautifully decorate tent room:

Doddington 7

We saw some lovely gardens from the upper windows:

Doddington 8

So we went to explore and found lots of flowers:

Doddington 9

There were unicorns everywhere - from topiary:

Doddington 10

To carved art on sale at the shop:

Doddington 11

There was also an extensively stocked farm shop, where we gained quite a haul of excellent goodies:

Doddington 12

It was a glorious weekend, and we can't wait until our next reading retreat, which will be in November.

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Last week saw the humans embarking on their annual group gaming holiday, this time at a lovely house in the village of Great Hockham, near Thetford:

1 The House

There was an accompanying pool house, which offered additional bedrooms right next door:

2 Pool House

Inside the main house, there was a very nicely appointed drawing room, where my secondary human practised the guitar, and late night roleplaying sessions caused much hilarity:

3 Drawing Room

The pool house had a large games room with a table tennis table, a games console, and lots of seating, but we didn't actually spend much time in there as it wasn't heated and the weather for most of the week was pretty chilly:

4 Games Room

I particularly liked the decorations in the dining room of the main house, where the patterns on the wallpaper extended down and across the radiators:

5 Painted Walls

The house combined grandeur and comfort, so we enjoyed our surroundings but felt quite at home:

6 Hanging Out

The tennis court saw use on the first sunny day, but resulted in a couple of minor injuries, so wasn't used again after that:

7 Anyone for Tennis

And some in the group managed to have some fun in the pool on the last day, which was the only other day when the weather was good:

8 The Pool

The pool looked out onto a rather lovely walled garden, where those not swimming enjoyed a picnic lunch:

9 Walled Garden

Most of the time, though, was spent in gaming, as usual. And there were plenty of games to choose from:

10 All the Games

We also had access to a beer cooler, which was well stocked throughout the week and very popular:

11 Finding Beer

The village was advertising its 746th annual horn festival, but unfortunately it was taking place a couple of days after we left:

12 Ancient Festival

It was a very welcoming village for bears, though:

13 Bears Retreat

And it even had its own Aloysius house, the owner of which was delighted to discover my interest:

14 Aloysius House

Overall, it was a marvellous week, and everyone agreed it was one of the best venues we'd used for our holiday. So, we may well be going back there again!

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Last weekend, my primary human and I travelled down to Devon for a writing retreat at Stickwick Manor:

Stickwick 1

There was no hint of snow the day we arrived. By Sunday, however, it was deep enough for a bear den:

Stickwick 2

My human was happily writing away, looked up after a few hours and the whole world was white:

Stickwick 3

One of the other writers there asked me to pose with her book, and I was very happy to oblige. We all needed some strength to keep focus with such distracting weather!

Stickwick 4

The manor's playground wasn't really accessible for entertainment:

Stickwick 5

So we had to find other outlets for our creative energy when taking a break from writing:

Stickwick 6

Needless to say, it was rather chilly, so I attempted to warm up on the aga when we came back in:

Stickwick 7

When that didn't work, I tried snuggling up in the window seat:

Stickwick 8

Eventually, there was nothing for it but to retire to our lovely bed, up in the attic:

Stickwick 9

We had a wonderful, and very productive week. We met lots of lovely people, and enjoyed Charlie's wonderful hospitality. The snow disappeared just in time for us to have an easy journey home, but we're missing Stickwick already. We will definitely be going back later in the year, if we can.

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Midway through February, my humans and I joined 1700 other Sea Monkeys upon JoCo Cruise 2018, on the Ms Oosterdam, out of San Diego. None of us had been on a cruise before, so we weren't sure what to expect. The ship was luxurious:

1 Ship 1

And various changes had been made to make the geeky gamer passengers feel more at home:

2 Ship 2

There was a casino on board, but it was mostly deserted throughout the week...

3 Ship 3

...because most of the Sea Monkeys were in the gaming room instead! I liked the fact that signs were available for people to invite others to join their games.

4 Ship 4

We spent quite a bit of time on the Lido deck, as it was very pleasant to watch the ocean roll by, while enjoying a tipple and a snack from the 24hr taco bar.

5 Ship 5

Ten Forward, or The Crow's Nest, was also a nice place to linger, with comfy chairs and an awesome view:

6 Ship 6

If we ever lost track of what day it was, all we needed to do was step inside a lift, where the rugs would help us orient ourselves:

7 Ship 7

On the Wednesday, we ventured off the ship for a boat ride, which took in the local haunt of some seals:

8 Loreto 1

The island we were deposited on was beautiful, though my secondary human reported that snorkelling was quite chilly.

9 Loreto 2

That afternoon, we ventured into the town of Loreto, for a delicious food festival, and an awesome concert by Jonathan Coulton and several of the other performers from the cruise.

10 Loreto 3

Most of the time, though, we stayed on the ship, where there were lots of activities to enjoy. There were shows, panels, q&a sessions, meet ups, workshops, and a crafting session where we made a very fetching fascinator:

11 Crafts

Friday was Formal Night, so the humans put on their glad rags and went for an extended promenade around the whole ship:

Formal Night-JoCo Cruise 2018

There were many interesting creatures to meet on the ship, including this rather unexpected elephant, who lurked under the stairs on Deck 1. Nobody else we asked about it had come across him...

12 Elephant

But most friendly were the towel animals who came to visit us in our cabin every evening. This fine fellow stayed all week, making sure we had everything we needed:

13 Animal 1

Every subsequent day saw a different visitor:

14 Animal 2

Day three:

15 Animal 3

My friend, Mikei, also accompanied us, as part of my primary human's pirate costume, and he was very popular amongst the other Sea Monkeys, as he fit the theme so well:

16 Animal 4

Day five:

17 Animal 5

Day six:

18 Animal 6

On our last day at sea, the main bar on Deck 2 sprouted many, many monkeys:

20 Animal 8

And this fine fellow was waiting in our room in the evening to check we got our suitcases packed and ready to go by midnight:

19 Animal 7

Overall, we had a great time, and would definitely consider going again. We made a few friends, some of whom we hope to see at our gaming event later in the year.

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For the first weekend of February, my primary human and I travelled to Thorpeness for another glorious reading retreat:

Thorpeness 1

We received another lovely goody bag, this time with socks and tea - and had our pile of books all ready:

Thorpeness 2

The cottage had a spacious living room, where most of the reading was done:

Thorpeness 3

The Reading Retreat Totoros were on hand to provide quality control on all the amazing food we ate over the weekend:

Thorpeness 4

We also got out and about on a walk down the beach to a giant metal clam shell:

Thorpeness 5

It was an impressive structure close up:

Thorpeness 6

On the second day, we walked inland round the village and took a look at the House in the Clouds:

Thorpeness 7

Opposite was a rather strange windmill:

Thorpeness 8

Mostly, though, the focus was on reading, and here is a rare picture of my human in her preferred habitat - note the tea and snacks within easy reach, and the fluffly slippers for maximum comfort:

Thorpeness 9

The whole weekend was marvellous, and we're very much looking forward to the next one in June!

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