Month: June 2009

Fathers Day.


Fathers day, has always been a bit of a non event for me. I don’t have any children, and my father died when I was 13.  It was typified by this window scene at the Rohan shop, showing some sort of “Dad” opening his presents.

The worrying thing was, I own all the clothes that the dummy is wearing, and it took me one step closer to the belief that I am becoming my own father (the first clue, was the size of my sideburns).

Well, this year was different. An old friend from From years ago (Mathew Bridges, we worked together at Corning) invited me over for Sunday dinner, with his 2 lovely daughters.

Food was excellent, company interesting and informative (even his 5 year old daughter had something to bring to the conversation).

His older daughter was charming, and once again severely threatened my long held belief that “young person” is another way of saying “idiot”.  She definitely wasn’t.

Its been just about the best Fathers day, that I can remember, and I would like to say thanks to Matt and his family, for inviting me.

Norfolk Broads at 21

Its been a while since I updated

Ive been catching up on a series called Jericho. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after season 2, but its pretty ace, so if you get a chance, have a look.

Well, an old friend from years ago, got back in touch recently, and sent me scans of these photos from a barge trip many year ago.

We went on a few other adventures, including a camping trip to Llanberis and a rented cottage in Llanwrust. Still, our most ambitious adventure, was the barge trip,  you can see some pictures bellow.

Its a while ago now, and I cant remember that much about it, so the naration may be limited.

Norfolk Broads 1

One of the great things about my youth, was that cider was less than a pound a pint. Another great thing about travelling on a barge, is that each evening you stay over in a different destination, so its like several holidays in one.

On the left, is my brother David, next to him is the illustrious “Mac” in the center of the picture, is Frank (more about him later) next a girl called Janeen, who Caz picked up from somewhere (Caz is taking this picture) then Me, then Lee.

Norfolk Broads 2

The barge actually had a maximum number of occupants, but we were young then, so we just chose to ignore it.

We  had friends sleeping in the kitchen, on the sofa in the main cabin, and just about everywhere else.

Norfolk Broads 3

The actual boat from the trip. Traditional longboats might look more romantic, but they are more expensive, slower and an absolute bugger to turn around !.

Norfolk Broads 4

As we travel across Bradon water, you can see that it was a very choppy section of open water.

At one point, smoke billowed from the engine and it appeared that we might be in distress. As it was, we were okay, we simply poured a can of coke over the engine, and everything seemed to be alright

The engine was probably scrapped later, but we weren’t around for that.

Norfolk Broads 5

Showing just how small and pokie the rooms were. The jumper I was wearing was a Jo Brown sweatshirt.

Lee had seen me admire it in Wales, and bought one by post for my birthday. Even when we were young and skint, we were always kind.

Norfolk Broads 6

This is a one off picture of the cottage we stayed in at Llanwrust. I only stayed for the weekend, as it was New Year, and I was starting a new job.

I remember around the town square, we got a bit drunk, and actualy offered some Police Officers a fiver to take us back to our cottage (it was about 2 miles out of town) they said that ordinarily, they would, there were just too many people about.

I believe later in the week, Caz got drunk, fell down the stairs and ended up coughing blood, but he was okay in the end.

Norfolk Broads 7

Back to the barge trip, we had moored up for a pub lunch, and since we were only just finding out feet with the controls, ended up driving away and Lee had to run and catch us up, after unhooking the boat.

The first of the main adventures on the trip, when Frank drove the boat away, without uncoupling, and damaged the boat (a piece was ripped off, I was sat in the barge at the time, and I felt the boat “stretch” 3 feet).

Later,  the excellent Janeen, dropped a kitchen knife in the water (never to be seen again) while trying to “disgorge” the landing rope from the Jetty.

Norfolk Broads 8

The 2nd adventure, involved being stopped for speeding. Apparently 7mph is the fastest a boat may go on the Norfolk Broads, as the wash from the boat damages the broads.

But we didn’t know that, so after a brief warning, we were stopped and fined more than £100 (at the time, a kings ransom).

I also remember Frank going to negotiate with the River Policeman, wearing Union Jack boxer shorts. Not surprisingly, his plea for clemency fell on deaf ears !.

A brilliant trip, and a defining moment in my life. Thanks to all of you that came.

I have some of my own pictures from the original barge trip here.

Tesco Cycling, and the collapse of British Humor.


I write the article below, a couple of weeks ago. Since then, Ive seen this article on BBC News. Some people really have no  sense of humour at all !.

Over the last few weeks, we have seen corruption, deceit and abuse of privilege. People getting away with things, for which the man in the street, would probably be arrested.

To quote Blackadder:  “Disease and deprivation stalk our land like two giant stalking things”.

Action needs to be taken now !

1. Call as many friends as you know, get some bicycles and get over to Tesco.

2. Enjoy your right to cycle around at dangerous speeds, while giving scant regard to safety or the control of your bicycle around young children.

If someone like Duffy (the new female Tom Jones)  can do it in a Coca Cola promotion, everyone should be allowed too (even if they aren’t making a “tick all the demographic boxes”  advert).

When I tried, they wouldn’t let me, there is nothing personal in this whatsoever.

Oh, sorry, did you think I was talking about the MP’s expenses scandal ?. That’s a bit outside of my scope.

Credit Crunch Lunch – updated.

Me eating Sunday lunch at the Frog and Nightingale

I’ve had quite a bit of free time lately. Loads of places in Chester are offering exceptionally good deals on pub lunches. I’ve tried a few of them, and decided to do a bit of a review. Have a look bellow and tell me what you think.

Since a originally wrote this “article”, a couple of things have changed, so I have revised it.

The Temple bar on Frodsham Street The Temple Bar
About the pub:Temple has really picked up lately, after being a bit of a dive, a few years ago. I go in there regularly, they sell the excellent Amstel lager that I like for £2 a pint.

I had: Fish, Chips and Mushy Pea’s

It was:Mushy pease, were very runny. Fish was nice, but a bit soggy, I normally prefer it a bit crisper. Plenty of chips.

It Cost: £8 (You actually get 2 meals for £8)

Conclusion:Food was okay, but not particularly outstanding. Was pretty upset that they didn’t mention I could have an extra meal included in the price. Will probably just stick to the cheap Amstel.

Food Quality: ** Value for money: *
The Frog and Nightingale on Canalside The Frog and Nightingale
About the pub: Okay, so its my local and I’m slightly biased, but that said, it has 2 excellent chefs and all the food is purchased locally and fresh. It now only has 1 chef, as Jo has left. The ace Nathan is standing in though !.
I had: 2 course lunch. I had pate to start, and Chile as a main.

It was: The pate was excellent, and as good as the stuff I’ve eaten at the Grosvenor hotel. Chile was delicious with nacho’s and rice, although I would have liked a little more.It Cost: £5

Conclusion: This is isn’t so much a pub, as a restaurant that has a bar. What I ate was some of the best food in Chester, for £5.

Food Quality: ***** Value for money: ***
The Custom House on Watergate Street. The Custom House
About the pub: One of my favourite drinking haunts, down towards the racecourse. They employ a lot of students, which can sometimes mean waiting a while to get served. In every other way its an amazing pub.

I had: Fish, Chips and Mushy peas.

It was: The best fish and chips I think I’ve eaten in some years.

It Cost: £4.75

Conclusion: Food was fantastic, but its still a single course meal and a pint north of £7.50, and were attempting to find good food for pocket money, which this isn’t.

Food Quality: **** Value for money: **
The Boat House next to the river Dee. The Boat House
About the pub: Lovely pub, down by the river. On a sunny day, it looks like the Mongol hoards have descended on it. They’ve obviously had a re-organisation, as the landlord appears to run a tight ship now.

I had: Steak Pie with Gravy and Chips. Comes with an inclusive drink, I chose Fosters.

It was: A delicious full sized pie (not like one from the chippy, which I was expecting) plenty of thick gravy and loads of chips. Fosters was sharp crisp and clear.

It Cost: £5

Conclusion: I thought for a moment, they would do the old trick, of serving me the drink, then hanging around with the food and only putting it out, when I ordered a 2nd drink. They did nothing of the kind, the food was on the table in 20 minutes and I was asked on 2 occasions if the food was okay etc.

It just doesn’t get any better than this !.

Since then, the pub has been taken over. You can still get a nice pie and chips (although you now have to suffer a pint of Carlsberg, which I find “Gassy”) the problem is, it costs £10.70 !!!.

Food Quality: **** Value for money: **
The Red Lion The Red Lion
About the pub: One of the busiest and most popular pubs in Chester. Not one I go in often, but a friendly pub, with a good mix of regulars and not so regulars. They do pints of Fosters for £1.79 a pint and various spectacularly cheap food deals.

I had: The Thursday curry and a pint for £5 (they do 5 different sorts of curry.

It was: A clear fresh pint, and the curry was tasty, if a little small.

It Cost: £5.

Conclusion:The Shere Khan, aren’t going to put their restaurant up for sale just yet, but the Red Lion Curry was quite nice.

Food Quality: *** Value for money: *****
Burger King - there everywhere !. Burger King (obviously)
About the pub: Its not a pub, but it was spotlessly clean and the staff were friendly and helpful. They advertise a £2 deal, and in the advert they say “you’ll feel like you robbed us !”.

I had: burger, medium fries and a coke.

It was: Very tasty, but not really wholesome, if you know what I mean.

It Cost: £2.

Conclusion: Okay, not particularly healthy, but as an occasional treat, what can you say, it was 2 quid !.

Food Quality: *** Value for money: ****

And the winner is ?: Nobody is going to go in a pub and order lunch, without having a drink as well. Considering this, it would be the boat house, as its a delicious meal without compromise and a drink included for a fiver.

Well, as we’ve seen above, the Boathouse no longer do the £5 deal. The principle of a not buying a meal, without a drink still stands, and on that basis it would have to be the Red Lion (they do food and a drink all week, for £5, I just wanted to try the Thursday Curry, and it didn’t disappoint).

In other categories, I would say:

The best value lunchtime snack: Burger King

The best quality pub food at a fair price: The Frog and Nightingale

The best “pub” fish and chips in Chester: The Custom House

On the subject of food. If you have a moment, visit hungersite. All you have to do, is visit the site and click on some links, and you will feed someone in the developing world for nothing.

Update – what have I been doing with myself lately.

Kro Piccadily. Absolutely fantastic bar, that my mate Al runs.

Well, just a few words to say thanks to all of you, who keep coming back to visit this website.

The weather has been fantastic this week. On Monday, I went up to Manchester, and spent the day with my old friend Lee Sawbridge. It was really cool, just hanging out in Manchester (although I did intend to move back to Manchester and start a new life there, I changed my mind. Its still a fantastic place to visit though).

A guy I met in Morocco last year, kept chatting about Manchester (that’s one of the things that persuaded me to try a move “home”). As it was, I realised that my home’s in Chester now, and life’s moved on, but I couldn’t resist popping over to his bar just to see what it was like and it really was fantastic.

The India crew (they arent actualy from India, but I met them there) are organizing a trip to Berlin in October.  Ive been there before (Berlin 1, Berlin 2) but they are such good company, Ive decided to go back (and at least it means I will be going somewhere overseas this year, I dont think I could stand a whole year stuck at home).

I’m still looking for work, so if anyone is looking for a spectacularly gifted engineer, with stunning communication skills (and modesty) give me a shout. In the meantime, I continue to “work” on finding a job, each morning and write 3 page letters to the benefit office, explaining why they should give me a little of my own money back, now that I’m not working.

On a more humorous note, I have registered with the NHS job website. I set it to send me details of every job, that contains the word “IT”. What I didn’t realise, was that every job contains the phrase “Must have a comprehensive knowledge of IT”. So far, Ive been offered jobs as a midwife, an accountant and even a diversity trainer.

Things at home are okay, Jude and Nathan went away for the weekend camping, and asked me to look after the cats. Amazingly, I didn’t starve or over feed them, and they were both fine, when their owners returned home.

A friend I haven’t seen for ages, and used to be a regular in the Northgate Arms, along with the rest of us, has recently appeared on the social scene. Amelia, went back to Spain for 2 years, and has just returned to the UK.

We went out for a couple of drinks last night, along with another old friend from Corning, Matt Bridges.

My mate Dan, just got a new job, so I haven’t seen much of him lately. Its said that in life, as one door closes, another one opens. Seems like my doors keep closing and his keep opening 🙂

Im in the process of re-writting my credit crunch lunch article, as I couple of things have changed since I originaly did it.



The most useful features of the Iphone, are its productivity and personal information management tools. Some of the ones that come with the phone, are fine (in fact there all fine really) but some of them have been superseded with more advanced and modern tools written by 3rd party developers.

I have been working with the Iphone now for 6 months, and thought I would write down my own recommendations.

1. Contact Manager. The one that comes with the phone, is fine. There are a lot more powerful ones out there, but I just dont need their elaborate features. I did try a clone of the iphone contact manager, that showed pictures in the list (forget the name) but it didn’t have texting direct from the the contact list, so I dropped it.

2. Calendar. Ive replaced the standard one, with SaiSuke it has much more advanced scheduling, and synchronizes seamlessly with Google Calendar. This is pretty important, as when I’m planning at home, it can be useful to use a full sized screen. You can also use different colour for different appointments, and whole host of other things.

3. To do list/Notebook. The Iphone is supplied with a simple notebook, designed for note taking and writing down to do lists. I use these features very heavily, so have actually replaced this with 2 independent apps.

Todo by appigo. Syncs with Toodledo (for full screen work) has a wealth of prioritisation, scheduling and categorization features. In the end, how much is recording a good idea worth to you. To me, they are priceless.

Notebooks by Alfons Schmid. Its easy to create new documents and open previously created ones. It supports landscape typing and is invaluable on long train journeys (most of this blog, was typed out in it, before being transferred to the Internet). It doesnt really “sync” as such, I just email the documents to myself when there finished.

4. Email. The standard mail client would be fine, but I’m a keen hotmail user, and I found that mBox Mail offers full synchronization of contacts and folders. It also allows me to type emails (some of which are quite long) in landscape format. It has multiple mail signatures for business and personal and allows photos to be taken and emailed from within the app.

5.SMS/Texting tool. If its after 6pm, and and work related, don’t bother with email, the person your contacting, will be in their car, on a train, in the pub etc. Send a text. The one that comes shipped with the Iphone, shows the history of the SMS “conversation”. Its the best on the market.

Its been (embarrassingly) pointed out to me, that back when I was a keen windows mobile user, I was critical of the Iphone. Thats not my memory of it at all. I still believe that certain smart phones are far more powerful (in terms of technology) than the IPhone.

The point I made (and still believe) is that that IPhone, does much more, with much less, thanks to the practical and commonsense design of its user interface.

In interesting article I was reading about the Oldest journalism school in America makes Iphone a requirement. I also saw this fantastic article about the 10 best and worst Iphone apps. The good apps are fantastic, and the bad ones are hilarious (especially the one that you can use to practice kissing !).

thestiff We are privileged here at to have contributions from “The Stiff”. He knows practically everything there is to know about Iphone’s, and was heard complaining the other evening, that the phone only supports 9 pages of applications !.Modest to the last, he sites his main qualification for writing this column, as having a boring job and that his expertise has been acquired through a need for something interesting to do.Since there is a distinct lack of sense of humour amongst hr departments, regarding employees posting information on the web, his identify must remain shrouded in mystery (and as you can see from this obscured picture, he doesn’t particularly like to be photographed anyway).

A program I absolutely swear by, is simply called remote. The basic idea, is that you launch I tunes on your PC and the Iphone will show you all your play lists and songs on the the handset, when you select them, the songs play on the computer, through speakers. Doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but I like to lie on my bed and play loads of different music, and it just saves me from having to keep walking back to the computer. And its free.

A few people (including my friend Makala) are keen on using near to me. The basic idea, is that you launch the program and it gives you lists of things like taxis, restaurants, bars and police stations, which are near to where you are. I think the program is pretty good, but it has 1 small problem, that isn’t mentioned in its advertising.

It basically looks at where you are, finds the center of that town and then provides directions from there (rather than where you are actually sitting). In one example here in Chester, it listed the Frog and Nightingale, as a nice bar near the Canal, approxomately 580 metres away.

Problem is, we were actually sat in the Frog and Nightingale at the time. The Chester Cross is considered to be in the exact center of Chester, and its from here, that the program was doing its calculations.

Off the wall money saving tips

The pub beer garden. Save a fortune on your own garden.

Ive had a few ideas to save money and bring in a bit of extra cash.

1. Fill up a plastic water bottle, at a public lavatory (saving of £1.20 every time you do it).

2. Drink at a nearby pub, which has a really nice patio and decking (one off saving of £1500, as I don’t actually need to get my own patio).

3. Since I live next to the Mill hotel, I can just sleep in my own bed, and not get a room there (saving of £92 per night, and several thousand pounds, throughout the year).

4. Collecting milk from other peoples doorsteps (saving, a couple of pounds per week, until someone catches you, and you get a black eye !).

5. Lifting candles from the pub, and using them to light the house at night (saving, a couple of quid a week, until you get caught and barred).

6. Urinating in the swimming baths (doesn’t save that much on its own, as you have to pay to use the swimming pool, however having the bathroom ripped out of your house, and converting it into a poodle parlor, could create revenue of several hundred pounds per month).

Okay, now that Ive done all of that, I am awash with money, and I just can’t decide what to do with it  🙂

But seriously, there is a superb budgeting section on the money saving expert website. You can view it here.

Media Review

Terminator - Salvation

Just came back from watching Terminator – Salvation. It has been absolutely slated by critics, but I really enjoyed it.

Its got loads of action, explosions and big machines and stuff like that (if you normally read Bridget Jones, this is perhaps, not the film for you). Go out and see it, it really is smart.

A cameo of a CGI Arnie, made to look as he did 25 years ago, was rather smart.

I found out that the series, the 4400 has been cancelled. I was disappointed about that, as I really enjoyed it. I’ve also been watching Ashes to Ashes on BBC. Okay, its not as good as Life on Mars, and its never going to be, but to its credit, its prety inventive with the storyline, and Im quite looking forward to the final instalment next Tuesday evening.

Endgame – Kasparov and the machine.  A ludicrously 1 sided documentary about Gary Kasaparovs famous Chess match agains the IBM Deep Blue computer (before you ask, yes I have worked previously for IBM, and ill always be proud of that).

Kasparov comes over as an arrogant pushy man, who is used to getting his own way, and didn’t like it, when he didn’t. There is constant reference to a “machine” called the Turk, which could play Chess, and actually beat Napolian. It turned out, it had a person inside, and is used frequently in the film, as a metaphor to imply that IBM cheated.

We actualy get to see the Deep blue featured in the film (1 of 2, I hope to see the other one, when I visit the Smithsonian museum in Washington).

Do I believe that Kasparov was beaten squarely. Yes I do, I think that the IBM’rs knew the kinds of play he would make, and built subroutines into it, to fox him out. I don’t believe they intervened to direct the play of the DB, as I don’t believe they would have had to.

The implication, that they were upto no good, as they kept the DB in a locked room with guards seemed perfectly obvious to me. It was one of the most advanced pieces of technology ever created, and worth a fortune.

A shame really, as I had been waiting for some years to watch it (got it on love film it wasn’t on any of the cinemas here in Chester at the time).

The ridiculous scenes at the end, where they imply a good and descent man was destroyed and morally bankrupted by simply losing the match were just too much for me. I don’t play badminton. I used to get frustrated when I lost and it put me in a bad mood. If  you cant stand to lose, you shouldn’t play.

Bob Pearsons (the founder of the web hosting company Godaddy) does a really good video blog, which is worth a look. Its a bit of an exercise in sexism. More interesting I find, are his 16 rules of life, he has “acquired” on his life’s journey.

I also saw this hilarious post in another blog. I do enjoy reading the Daily Mail, as I like the writing style, but they have become a bit of a parody of themselves – daily mail dating article.

A new game, based around the Halo universe, has just launched. Wont be buying it im afraid, as I don’t have an Xbox 360.