Month: May 2009

Congratulations to Henrik.


Well done, to the excellent Henrik, who has become a father for the 2nd time (I would offer congratulations, from everyone here at, but since Henrik’s part of that team, it seems a bit silly).

Don’t ask me when, where or what he is shooting in this picture ? (I robbed it from his Facebook profile !).

Once again, well done Henrik (and special congratulations to his partner Claire, who had some involvment with the new baby as well 🙂

Around the campfire and stepping into the rope.

Native Americans around a campfire.

Bret and Jeff went camping. Sounds like they had a really good time, but they said when they were preparing for the trip, there was a nagging doubt that they had forgotten something.

To invite me.

Well, hopefully, they’ll remember next time, and I can get out and about in Wales once again (there has been a bit of an adventure lull since the fairly successful BT Adventures).

While I was talking to Bret, it reminded me of something I heard a couple of years ago.

I make no claims that this is factually accurate, it could be a modern myth I have no idea (I was flying to Thailand several years ago, and a female backpacker I was sat next to, told me about it).

The way its explained, is how conflicts and disputes are resolved in the Navajo, native American culture. Basically, if 2 braves have a dispute, the Chief will call the whole village together and arrange for a length of rope, to be tied together, to form a ring.

The 2 braves, each stand outside the ring, and then take it in turns to make a statement, and then step into the ring. If the other person agrees with the statement then he also steps into the ring (referred to as stepping into the rope).

The idea here, is if say the 2 men are both in love with the same woman, one of them for example would say “she loves me and not you” he will then step into the rope. The other person will disagree, and not stop into the rope, so the first person, must step out again.

On the other hand, if one of them says ” to be happy and in love with someone, is one of the finest things that can happen to a person” and steps in, the other will probably follow suit.

In principle, no discussion, can ever start until both people are inside the rope. Since this can only happen, if they agree (at list in principle) on one fundamental thing.

I’m not advocating that offices around the land should have ropes on the floor, but whenever I try to resolve an argument, or something like that, I always try to agree some common ground first. It saves so much time.

The begining of the end of budget airlines.


Ive never been a great fan of budget airlines. My main criticism, is that you should be able to reduce your costs, without lowering your standards, and I simply don’t believe that most of the budget airlines do that.

I personally experienced this on the way back from Krakow 3 years ago, and since then, have only flown “sleezyjet” and the like, when there was simply no other way, to get where I was going.

But enough about me and my opinions, what about reality. Well, you tell me ?, if you could get a “proper” flight with a major airline, and the return cost was only £20 more than the budget option, which would you pick (just to name one advantage,  on a BA flight, every member of the cabin crew will have been trained to a high standard in first aid and be able to re-start your heart should it be necessary).

A friend of mine is flying to Amsterdam in a couple of weeks. KLM are actually £25 cheaper than the equivalent from Easyjet. Its the beginning of the end.

Do you agree/disagree ?. Why not post something.

Eyes of a child.

Many of you know, that my friend Frank lives in Thailand now, where he teaches English and Science to young Children.

The other day, they had a comprehension test, where he would speak to them in English. He described a person that he knew. Remember, that learning English for a Thai person, isn’t like someone from Manchester learning French, and the children concerned were quite young.

The person he ended up describing, was me. He emailed me some of the pictures that the children drew.

Picture of Me, walking the Limestone way, one of many walks, Frank and I did together.

Above is a picture of me on the limestone way. I normally have my Ipod earphones in, when I’m around town, and one the hill, a carry normally carry my Indi bag (sort of over the shoulder bag of the gas mask bag type, worn by Indiana Jones.

Amazingly, one of the Thai children, listening to a description in Colloquial English, and having never met me, drew the picture bellow.

Picture of me, drawn by a Thai schoolboy who has never met or seen a picture of me, from a rough description by Frank in English.

I think its a pretty good likeness and truly inspirational.


Taken from the film Defiance.

Not much happening this week on the media front. The next film I want to watch on the cinema, is Terminator 4 (whatever the hell its called). I don’t expect a great deal, but I’ve seen the other 3,  might as well see the 4th.

The only thing I am worried about, is seeing Christian Bale in the film, and keeping a straight face. Its hard to forget, that he was caught on video lambasting and f’ing and blinding at the Director of photography (he later threatened to walk out of the film, unless the man was fired).

Footage of this spread virally across the Internet. His response to this: It wasn’t actually him doing the shouting. He was in character, and it was actually John Connor who was screaming. I wonder if the real Christian Bale was able to get the man his job back, once he had taken control of his own persona.

He’s been in some great films, but I struggle to take him seriously after this.

Far better, are 2 brilliant releases on DVD. Taken, with Liam Neeson (and it has nothing to do with Aliens, or anything like that) and Defiance (a story I originaly heard about on a Ray Mears documentary some years ago).  A pizza, a bottle of wine and one of these films, is a brilliant Friday evening antidote to the credit crunch !.

I also saw the final part of 24. Its the first one that Ive actually watched to the end, and I really enjoyed it. There wasn’t as much action in the finale as I had expected, but it was very thought provoking.

Williamson Tunnels

Me standing in the Williamson Tunnels.

With the last couple of quid, from our BT “windfall”, I head to Liverpool for the day, to see the famous Williamson Tunnels.

The Liverpool “loop” train wasn’t running, so it was a half hour walk across town. The thing that amazed me, was that as the train came to a stop at James Street station, loads of people were complaining about having to walk. I wondered how many of those people pay £45 per month in Gym membership !.

Considering my skint status, I consider it safe to wander into Cotswalds outdoor shop. Right in the middle of the high street, its one of the biggest outdoor shops I’ve ever been in, and contains some pretty cool stuff (luckily I had no spare cash, so didn’t blow £50 on something I probably wont use, but which looks nice.

As I wander further, I see some break-dancers performing. They have a 6 foot x 6 foot piece of lino taped to the floor and are performing all sorts of acrobatic things, as they used too in Manchester when I was a teenager.

One thing which has changed, is the contribution. In my day, a small plastic cereal bowl was placed out for people to put coins into, if they were suitably entertained. These guys had a washing up bowl. Inflation must have hit hard :).

Our tour guide shows us a map of the tunnels, reconed to be 1.6 miles long.

I arrive at the Williamson tunnels and pay my entrance fee (about £4, but it promises to be pretty interesting). A tour has just started, and instead of making me wait for an hour, they put me on the one that is already running. There are a man an woman on the tour with me, and our guide (pictured above). We all have to wear hard hats.

First off, our guide tells us something about the history of the tunnels. He was obviously fascinated by the tunnels and spoke with a great deal of empathy for their creator.

Its mentioned that at one point, James Stevenson (digging the railway line tunnel that would link Liverpool and Manchester and create the first industrialised Railway) dug a hole in his tunnel, that “punctured” into the Williamson tunnel bellow.

Some of the bottles and artifacts found while clearing rubbish from the tunnels.

There was an explanation about why the tunnels were created. Its pretty well accepted that they were designed as a job creation scheme, after the Napoleonic war. Although the people that worked on them, started out as Nave’s they soon acquired skills, which would benefit Liverpool massively, once development of the City began (at the time, Liverpool was a City of 8,000 people (today it has 800, 000) of which 350 worked on the tunnels.

After Williamson died, people made money by collecting rubbish (people paid to have Rubbish taken away at the time, there was no local council as there is now) and throwing it into the tunnels. Work still continues to clear them out, but as you can see from the picture above, a lot of the “rubbish” tells a fascinating historical story.

I did enjoy seeing the tunnels, but to be honest, I thought they would be a lot bigger and deeper. Still, I only know that, because I’ve actually been.

The outside of the Victoria gallery and Museum.

I wander back towards town. I pass the Victoria gallery and Museum. It was opened to the general public in 2008, but before this, it was the first building to coin the phrase Red Brick University. Its free to visit, so I decide to pop in.

They have a cafe, that serves fresh soup and fare trade coffee. I decide to eat my sandwiches on the walk back to the station. There is a really interesting Museum on the 3rd floor. It has Egyptian artifacts, animal skeletons (did you know, that a rattle snake actually has bones !) and a 3 foot wide dinosaur footprint.

My favourite artifact was reconstructed dental operating theatre, complete with foot powered drill and reclining dentist chair (you could see the “wear” marks on the chair, from people who had gripped it under duress.

The building has an interesting Museum and Art Gallery, but I loved this ornate coridore.

On the 2nd floor, was a small art gallery. The pictures and sculptures in the different rooms, were nice, but if you know me, you know that art isn’t really my thing, and I’m unlikely to use phrases like “I love the drama and aggression in this painting” or any sort of rubbish like that. They were just nice pictures.

I loved this corridor in the building. It just captured the whole Victorian thing for me.

As I wander back to the station, I contemplate the BT project. Ive managed to “do” 7 different half day adventures, for £36. Im going to carry on budget adventuring whenever I can, and continue to blog it. For now, I think Ive achieved my goal.

Have you got any thoughts or comments on the BT Adventures. Why not post them bellow.


Old days at the Firkin, with Craig on the left and Paul Nightingale on the right.

Just a quick update with a few bits and pieces that are going on at the moment (the sort of thing I can do really quick, now that I’m using embedded WordPress).

Pictured above is an old friend,  who moved to Brussels with work a few years ago (he was one of my first friends, here in Chester).

What most people don’t know, is that for at least 5 years, he has been hosting (and paying for) In that time, he has never asked for any money, asked for adverts to be added or anything like that.

Earlier today, I took over hosting of the domain name.  We had both agreed that I would do this, sooner or later, but the upgrade to ver 2.0, put this on the immediate Radar.

An unsung hero of this website, who has frequently offered positive feed back and support, I just wanted to say a quick thanks for all his help. As I’ve found over the last 15 difficult months, doom merchants are  outspoken and everywhere, but real supporters and friends are hiding in the woodwork silently, just waiting for the moment you need them.

While the thanks are going around, thought I would say a quick well done to the excellent Henrik, who has helped out with with all kinds of technical things and got the embedded WordPress to work (still a lot to do, but I’ve been talking about upgrading for 3 years and its finally happening).

Also, thanks to everyone who sent me cards for my birthday. I have put them up in my room, and special thanks to my Auntie Marjorie, who sent me an illuminous one, it has kept me a awake for hours :).


Angels and Demons. What an awfull film.

update:  Saw the last episode of Fringe yesterday. That series started well, and just got better with every episode. A lot of series like that (Lost, the X files towards the end etc) some times feel like there making up the long story as they go along. This definitely didn’t happen with Fringe, and the only last-episode-of-the-series that was better than S01E20 of fringe, would be final episode, series 2 of Battlestar Galactica.

Its on TV right now, make a point of watching it, its superb.

The Dan Brown book Angels and Demons inspired me to visit Rome (and I found that a lot of the stuff in the book was rubbish). You can read about it at Rome 1 and Rome 2.

Earlier this evening, I went to see the film of the same name. It might seem obvious, but if you haven’t read the book, and think you might in the future, don’t go and watch the film until then.

I found the film inevitably rushed, and never seemed to dwell on any point or character long enough to give it either significance or depth.

Dan Brown isn’t exactly an amazing writer, but at least in his books, the main characters are 2 dimensional. In this film, most of them are reduced to 1 dimension and more “wheel them out”,  prop like, than 80’s Arnie.

Enumerate liberty’s have been taken with the plot, to the point that it bares little similarity to the original story. The one thing I really missed, were the technical and historical anecdotes, featured throughout the book, which are few and far between in the film.

The really good thing about the film !. Well, in the book, its implied that a secret passage exists between 2 buildings (wont say which, as don’t want to spoil the film any more than the director already has). In the book, its an underground tunnel. At the start of the book, Brown states that everything in the book is accurate.

Well, there is a passageway, that much is true, but it isn’t underground. Its along the top of a wall. In the film, they actualy walk along the wall, so at least that’s accurate.

Final episode of house. Wont say what happened, but I was shocked and didn’t see that coming.

Also, wedding of Cameron and Chase. In real life they were engaged, but broke it off, about 2 years ago. Must have been really hard to get married on camera after that.

Its the credit crunch, and a lot of people are a bit miserable. One thing I can recommend is the wired podcast. Its hilarious, I used to listen to it on the train when I was traveling to Manchester.

My “Official” birthday in Liverpool.

The Liverbuilding, an international symbol of Liverpool.

Most people who live in Chester, have been to Liverpool dozens and dozens of times. I think the reason for this, is that Chester is a relatively small City (in reality, its more of a town, but whats in a name) and when people need to go shopping for elaborate things, they head for the nearest big city.

I grew up in Manchester (I lived 4 miles out of town). There was never any need to visit Liverpool, as everything that we needed was in Manchester city center. To date, I have only made 2 Major trips  Liverpool.

1. To get a passport more than 10 years ago (needed it at short notice, had to go down in person).

2. Spent the day exploring,  seeing the cavern, traveling in an amphibious vehicle etc (read about Liverpool 1 and Liverpool 2).

In addition to this, I have been on a couple of nights out there, and I spent a Sunday afternoon, having a few drinks with my old friend Mike Delafield, who now lives there.

It was the latter trips that inspired me to celebrate my birthday there.

Queen Victoria's statue in Liverpool.

In times gone by, we used to all go out for drinks around Chester “exploring” different pubs, that I’d never been in. Problem is, Ive lived in Chester for 8 years now, Ive been in every pub, and although a trip to the pub on a Sunny day is always fun, there is no really mystery or adventure to it.

I decided that I would go to Liverpool.  I don’t know hardly any of the pubs there, but I had Sean, Mike, Ralph and Aud, to act as guides. I also had some cultural assistance, from my old friend Matt Bridges (a scouser himself) who he advised me on the best way to interact with the indigenous population of Merseyside.

A scouting party of Dan, Sean and I head into Liverpool on the 11:45 train. A mixture of tiredness, recovery from Alcohol and hunger, made for an unlikely group of pub-crawlers.

As we get off the train, Sean shows us this statue of Queen Victoria on the corner of Lord and Castle street. Apparently, its well known by the locals, that when viewed from a certain angle, the sceptre that the queen is holding, appears to give her an appendage, which wouldn’t occur naturally on the female body :).

Luckily, Victoria isn’t around anymore, so nobody got beheaded or anything. As we wandered through the City, a guy was talking on a mobile. Nothing unusual in that, but he was talking so loud, that he could be heard clearly 150 metres away, and one wondered, if he actually needed a phone at all.

The Adelphi hotel. Regal entrance, and earthy bar downstairs.

Sean promised us an experience of cultural contradiction.

As we arrived at the Adelphi hotel, we walked through the main doors. Rooms in the Hotel, can cost up to £400 a night, and its very elegant inside.

I wondered which one of my organs I would need to sell, in order to buy a round of drinks there. I needn’t have worried, as we turned to the left and walked down some stairs, we found ourselves in a bar called Fridays. It has the feel of the working men’s club in Get Carter and pints of lager are only £1.50.

It looked a bit rough, but bellow the surface, people were just relaxing, and considering where I grew up, I always have time for that sort of earthiness. The toilet (the first of 2 interesting one’s that day) was like something you’d expect to find in a prison.

The Philharmonic, one of the most famous pubs in the country.

After leaving here, Sean, full of apologies (completely un-needed) wishes to redeem himself by taking us somewhere up market. We head up the hill, towards a pub called the Philharmonic, which had been recommended by several people. It used to be a Gentleman’s club and is a grade 1 listed building. The Gents toilets are also listed, said to be the only graded listed toilets in the country, due to their grandiose styling.

We sat towards the back of the building, in one of the themed music rooms. Mike appeared a few minutes later, followed by Bret (who to his credit, had worked the previous night, and still made it out) then Ralph and Aud.

One annoying thing, ill remember for next time, is to check all relevant mobile numbers are up to date. Jon  (who I first met on a survival course. desert survival 1 , desert survival 2)  had travelled all the way from London by motorbike, he had my old number, I had his, and he had turned up at the original pub, after we had left. Luckily, an email from his Blackberry to my IPhone and we were back in action.

Couple of hours catching up, the time flew by. We had arranged to leave at 5pm, but were having such a good time, decided to stay (Dan and Sean had to leave, as they had prior engagements).

I hadnt eaten all day. We headed around the corner and found a cafe serving folded Pizza’s for £3 (you just dont get value like that in Chester).

Down the hill back towards town, we pop into a pub called (puzzlingly !) the fly in the loaf.

Ralph does an impromptu impersonation of me, using my coat and phone.

Everyone is pretty drunk now, and the evening descends into mayhem. I demonstrate how my Rohan jacket can pack down small into a pillow and various silliness.

There were too many funny and interesting things to go into here, but suffice to say, old days at Corning, fellow travellers on our trip to Jordan and conversations about the desert survival course in 2005 were mentioned.

One person that seemed to really enjoy it was Brett. I always feel lucky and proud, when my friends meet each other. Its great to see a room full of really kind, interesting and fun people, all hitting it off.

My lasting memory of the “do” will be Ralph, who donned my coat and phone, and did a non flattering impersonation of me.

Id like to thank everyone that came, it was a fantastic day. Like I’ve said before, when times get hard, you realise that its the simple things in life that bring you pleasure. In this case, the company of some amazing people who I’m proud to call my friends.

Walking the Chester “sponsored walk” route.

The forest in Westminster Park, Chester.
The forest in Westminster Park, Chester.

Its a beautiful day and I decide to go on a really long walk (by that I mean a long local walk, which, in relative terms is pretty short compared to say a hill walk).

Each year in Chester, there is a sponsored walk (I have taken part 3 times). Being here in Chester, where everything is done with a bit of style, participants are greeted on the route with Bacon Butty’s and Gyn and tonic throughout the walk.

Its a great trail, that leads through 2 of my favourite places here in Chester, The earls eye in the meadows, and the Westminster park.  It can be done both ways around, but I decide to walk to Westminster park first. I don’t walk up the main drive, but instead, take a trail off to the left and wander through the Forrest for nearly an hour.

While there, I see some young lads with Shovels. They have already constructed a mountain bike track, further up the trail, but now they are building an even more ambitious one. Its nice to see young people doing something practical and instead of complaining, actually solving a problem themselves.

The road back into Chester
The road back into Chester

I normally like to be on my own in the woods, but stop to chat to them for a moment. I continue to the top of the park, walk down an A road, and then pick up the riverside walk, back towards the Meadows.

All sorts of things have been implemented to stop it flooding, but its still frequently submerged. Since the water there is pure and uncontaminated, there is loads of animal and plant life  (some of it unique in the country).

Cows grazing in the Meadows.
Cows grazing in the Meadows.

I see a couple of people eating picnics along the bank of the river and some cows grazing as they have done for centuries before (not these particular cows though, they would be dead of old age !).

Wander back, all the way along to the hand bridge. Cross over, and walk down the waterfront toward the band stand. Ive been walking now for 3 and a half hours (Ive been taking it easy). Technically, the rout hasn’t cost any money, but its a fantastic day and I treat myself to an ice lolly, courtesy of BT.