Month: July 2009

Chester Cathedral

Chester Cathedral.

I always say, that I don’t have any regrets.

That’s not strictly true.  If I’m honest, there are 2 things which have always hung around in the back of my mind.

One of them, is about joining the Navy. I’ve always wondered how my life might have been different if I had joined the Navy at 17. I would have seen the world, worn my countries uniform and become part of a team.

On a more down to earth note, I wold have known how to Iron a pair of trousers, drive a car, look after myself in a fight, and stuff like that. But I didn’t do any of those things.

The 2nd one, is more interesting. After watching Raiders of the Lost Ark aged 13, I really wanted to be an Archaeologist. I reasoned that I would travel around the world, looking for adventure, going to mysterious places, flirting with danger and seeking out sacred treasures.

I never went to University to study it, but I’ve often wondered what would have happened ?. Well, the other evening, I was speaking to a chap called Tim (a friend of Sean and Mandy’s, who I’ve become friends with).

He studied Archaeology at University, and I was asking him about all the things he had done. The things he said didn’t add up to me, so I explained my thoughts on what archaeology was and what life as an archaeologist would entail.

At this, he laughed and said what your describing is treasure hunting. If you’d gone to University to study archaeology, you would have been bitterly disappointed.

So, after 20 years, one of those doubts has been removed. Thanks Tim.

While we were talking though, Tim asked if I had ever seen Chester Cathedral. When I told him I hadnt he suggested I go and see it.

One of the stunning wall paintings.

Chester Cathedral dates back nearly a thousand years, but from the 1500’s was the central place of worship around Chester.

I didn’t realise at the time, but if you can prove that you live in Chester, then its free to enter. I paid £5 (I didn’t mind realy). Its a spectacular building, and it costs a million pounds a year to keep it running, with no grants from the Council or the Government.

Not many people know this, but 2000 people are employed by the Cathedral.

One of the walkways inside the Cathedral.

The whole place had amazing atmosphere. When I said I hadn’t been here before, that wasn’t strictly true. I came here with school when I was 8.

I was delighted to find that everything was just as I had remembered it. But then it occurred to me. It probably looks the same today as it did 500 years ago !.

The Garden inside the Cathedral.

The Garden inside the Cathedral was about as authentic as you could get. I sat there for about 10 minutes, and you could imagine Henry the 8th walking up to you.

A Stain Glassed Window.

I dont normaly get excited about stained glass windows, but this was far and away the pretiest one I had ever seen.

Elsewhere, there was an art exhibition, where you could buy paintings. I was a bit confused, as I remember from Sunday School, something about a church being used as a market, and Jesus up-ending all the tables.

Still, what do I know.

A seeting are with TV's on the Wall.

I was surprised to see these TVs. At first I thought that they took something away from the majesty of the building, but then I realised. Its so big, that without them, you couldn’t actually see anything.

I decided to sit down, relax and take in the moment (I’m not religious, and I don’t pray, but it seemed like a fitting moment for reflection). Within about 3 minutes, they started to do a sound test on the organ. That was the end of that.

The meeting room, where monks used to recieve their lessons.

My favourite place in the whole Cathedral. This meeting room, was originally where the Benedictine monks received there lessons.

Its one of the most atmospheric places Ive been on earth. It was cordoned off, so I didn’t get to go inside. I almost wish I had a meeting to organise, so that I could have it there.

Well, 5 quid to see something as old as the Angkor Watt (although that doesn’t really work here in Chester, you can walk along a wall twice as old as the Angkor Watt, for free !).

Is it a bit cheeky to charge people to enter the house of God ?.  Possibly, but this trip wasn’t about that, it was about seeing one of the oldest buildings in Britain.

Seeking out adventure

The 60's themed Bluemoon Cafe next to the River Dee.

I wake up, the sun is shining, and its time to go out, in search of adventure (oh, and I’ve only got a fiver).

Whats this ?. That Laura Croft of the English upper classes, Amelia Webb, is already up and about, and touring the Grosvenor Park.

We arrange to meet by the River, at the Blue Moon cafe, to plan our adventures.

It should be mentioned at this point, that Amelia is an old friend, who has recently arrived in town. For those of you who are thinking there’s someone new on the scene, its worth mentioning, that we really are JUST friends.

Anyway, back to the adventures. Ive never been in the Blue Moon cafe. Whenever I pass it, I always think of my friend Frank, and my Brother David, who are both keen Manchester City fans.

Inside its 60’s themed and really rather quaint. No need to worry about that, I’m meeting a woman for coffee, which therefore means Ill be forced to sit outside, with none of the ambiance, the smell of diesel, and assorted malcontents walking past.

From this point on, the word adventure, should be substituted with the word misadventure, as we are hit with a number of setbacks.

We decide we will both return home, sort out some chores, do some admin and then meet up at 2pm, to do the Chester Rows tour . We arrive 3 minutes too late, and the tour has gone without us. Bugger !.

No matter, we decide to wander over and see the famous Castle.

The famous Chester Castle.

Despite living in Chester for 8 years, Chester Castle, is something Ive never gotten around to visiting. Its a lovely day, so we walk over to see it.

Those heroic commando's at H&S. Britain sleep safe tonight !.

But whats this, the Castle is closed due to Elf N Safety regulations. I cant help thinking, that its a good job H&S weren’t around when the Castle was in use. Otherwise, the City would have been plundered !.

With nothing much else to do, we end up visiting the Little Roodee car park cafe. Although the coffee was nice (and cheap) sitting and looking at cars and coaches, isn’t exactly marching across the Great Wall of China, if you know what I mean.

Well, there’s a nice park nearby, so we decide to head for there and explore. It starts to rain !. Is anything going to go right today ?

Finally we head for the ruin at St John’s church.

The ruins at St John's Church

If you’ve read this website before, you know I love exploring lost cities and stuff like that. In its own way, this Church, is much the same as the City of Petra, Machu Picchu or the Angkor Watt (although its a lot smaller).

Wandering around inside the Ruin.

It had some gardens around it, which were fenced off separately from the nearby Park. Because of this, there was no “through” traffic, and the park was very quiet and relaxing. Sun shining, birds singing and exploring an ancient ruin. Bliss.

To summarise, what near-to-home budget adventure travel lessons can we learn.

1. If you really want to do a tour, buy the tickets in advance, and be at the tourist information 15 minutes before the tour begins.

2. Before heading of to see something, ask at or telephone the tourist information and confirm its actually open, times/days its open, and how much if anything it costs.

3. Never forget, the rule of  Sunter – always wear old trainers and have waterproof/warm clothing to hand (we could have gone to the park, if we’d had these).

4. Take a flask and save a sodding fortune on coffee !. Take some sweets, for when things get dull.

5. If your taking a companion, take someone like Amelia, who doesn’t blame you and give you loads of sh*t when things don’t go to plan 🙂

Happy adventuring.


The Forest.

Well, the main news at the moment, is that I’ve got a new job. Its probably the best job I have ever had, working for an international software house.

Most people I’ve spoken too agree, that the first month being unemployed, isn’t so bad. You get to tidy the loft, read all the books you promised you would and stuff like that.

After that, life gets pretty dull, and with time a bit depressing. Thats why Im so happy. Put simply by one of my friends, getting back to work means that life can return to normal.

Above is the picture of the forest in Westminster park which I sometimes visit. Its been a great place for me to just wander around, when things have been difficult. I went there the day after I got the job, and I really felt like life had begun again.

In the week since, I’ve tried to do as many low budget adventures as possible, I will be posting them up soon.

A load of people have helped me out recently, when life has been difficult. I wont embarrass you by naming you here, but you know who you are, and that you have my sincere thanks.

Izabel returns to Chester.

In other “news”, my friend Dan has been on holiday for a week. He comes home tomorow, so ill find out if he had a good time.

Izabel has returned to the Frog and nightingale (she lives in Poland with her boyfriend, and they come over for a few months each year).

Also, the Chef from the Frog and Nightingale, Keith celebrated his silver wedding anniversary on Sunday. I was invited, and it was really nice (and there was loads of really good food, and it was free).

Apologies for the low quality of the photos, but I lent my camera to a friend, and still haven’t got it back. I am presently using my IPhone, but I think its just one more example of how versatile these things are.

Ive been meeting up with 2 old friends from Corning, Matt & Glen (along with my usual friends). They went on holiday with Social Circle (the Manchester based “get out and do it” outfit). Now that things have improved, Im hoping to get a bit more involved in stuff like that.

Nominated numptee’s of the month:

Gary Mckinnon

Just a few points, from someone who knows a bit about technology.

1. forget the romanticized view of hackers, they generally fall into 1 of 3 categories.

a, they work for organised crime

b, they are “white” hat which means they “ethically” cause mayhem to “help” people by exposing problems with other peoples networks

c, nerdy mischievous people who mess about with other peoples stuff for fun.

2. The very people going on about his rights and all the rest are, from my experience exactly the kind of people who go berserk when someone’s children kick a ball through their window.

For me the similarity is a good one. I don’t care if Gary Mckinnon was looking for aliens (and wasn’t as I suspect, just trying to cause mayhem to increase his own kudos within the nerd community). He caused damage to someone else’s network and there should be consequences just like if he kicked the ball.

3. I’m not even going to comment on his “addiction to hacking” nor the repeated appearance of him on TV with his mother.

4. Still not convinced ?. Think about this then. The hospital near here, has a secure firewall which cost more than £100,000. They have it because of people like Mckinnon. How many people will be denied £6000 operations because of this ?.

Hackers are a menace.

Jamie Neale

I don’t want to rain on the parade of all this self indulgent nonsense, but common sense surely has to prevail.

Ive been to the Blue Mountains. Why didn’t he take warm clothes, a survival bag, some emergency food, some sort of map etc (you know, like every 7 year old cub scout knows to do !).

People who have been following the story, have talked about survival training. I’ve done quite a lot of these courses,  but in every case, the emphasis is on not putting yourself in that position in the first place through planning.

In adventure terms, aside from breaking the law or insulting someone’s culture or religion, wandering around ANYWHERE  without knowing where your going is about the surest way to get into trouble I can think off.

An armoured personal carrier near Chester Townhall.

I’ve been doing various adventure stuff around Chester, and on Saturday, I was pleased to see the army doing a recruitment event.

They even had a tank.

On the adventure front:

Id really like to get to Capetown and complete the bluelist this year.

Frank is busy organising a really cool train journey through the Jungle from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok (with loads to do in between) for next year.

India crew (who as Ive mentioned before, aren’t actually from India, that’s just where I met them) are organising a weekend in Berlin, which should be pretty smart.

Two places Id really like to see, are Lisbon and Budapest (a weekend in both places with travel included would be cheaper than a weekend in London). If your interesting in going to either of those, give me a shout.

On the subject of London, I want to go down there for a day, and just look around the museum. Im also told that there is a “beach” in Birmingham at the moment (artificially created in the middle of the town). Its open until September, if anyone Fancies an hours drive.

The Dee coastal path

A horse grazing on the Dee coastal path.

I’d mucked about around the Dee Estuary a few times on my bike, but I never realised, it was an official path (and now featured as an extension onto Chester’s promenade walk).

I head for a place called the Cop (nothing to do with Liverpool football club) where the walk begins.

The football ground of Chester City.

The path runs very close to Chester football ground, which despite living here for 8 years, I have never seen.

Since its nearby, I decide to pop over and have a look. Well, its a football ground, and I enjoy football as much as watching Goldfish swim around  a bowl.

I continue along. The route, runs along the coast of the river Dee, for 7 miles (or 8 miles depending on which signs you believe).

Its a pretty quiet walk, you meet a lot of cyclists in training, but very few walkers. Its very open to the elements, so the usual rules apply, of wearing an old pair of trainers, and if its warm, take a daysack containing water,  a warm jumper and a waterproof coat with you (this is Britain after all, and it could well start raining half way around).

One thing that always surprises me, is the number of people who walk along a “road” walk, like the Wirral way, but wear walking boots. The thing is, “propper” walking boots, have a gripping sole, that’s designed to “bite” into something (preferably the ground) if it can’t do that (ie you are walking on a tarmac’ed road, rather than a muddy field) then they will bite into your feet.

I can’t realy talk, as I fell for that one while doing Hadrians wall . The first 12 miles are tarmac (and lead through, effectively a housing estate) and I sustained the worst blisters Ive ever had there.

Map of the number 5 cycle route, that lead back into Chester.

The Coastal path, effectively ends at the Connors key bridge.

From here, its possible to walk back into Chester along the number 5 route of the cycle path (again, 7 or 8 miles, depending on which sign you believe).

The long, straight, flat cycle route.

The cycle path (as you would imagine) is very flat, and mostly straight. Its a lot more sheltered than the coastal section, and makes the 2nd half of the journey, a lot more relaxing.

About a mile from town, the path joins the Canal towpath and its possible to wander into Chester admiring the barges (and then find a pub next to the Canal and have a pint, this being after all).

Whilst researching this trip, I learned of a new and exciting walking technique, which is fashionable at the moment. Many people, will be familiar with Climbing (and even Canoeing) in the Alpine style.  Siege technique is also well know in the Himalayas.

Well, not to be outdone here in Chester, walking in the Amelia style is gaining popularity. Named after the recently returned Chester socialite Amelia Webb, it involves setting out on a fairly long walk, with minimal equipment. Getting tired or bored after about 20 minutes, and then taking a taxi (YES, A F*CKING TAXI !) to the pub to relax and discuss the walk !.

Continuing on my budget adventure theme, Ill be visiting Southport and going on the Chester secret history tour in the next few days, so stay tuned (well you dont have to actually, it’s not like I have a radio station or anything).


The characters from Dollhouse (for some reason the Dr is missing).

Well, money has been tight, so I haven’t been to the Cinema, and I have had to cancel my subscription to love film. Never mind, there have been loads of cool things on the TV lately.

Along with Fringe, Dollhouse is one of the two best new TV series, that I have seen this year. They both have a science fiction theme, but Dollhouse (made by the same guy who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has a less science orientated theme and has a bit more “glam”.

Each of the characters are human, and in their own way flawed. It makes for great TV interaction.  Also, for people like me who enjoy action, the fight scenes are superbly choreographed.

The first couple of episodes are a bit tame, but don’t be put off, they are there to set the scene. The last 5 episodes, have plot twists flying at you left right and centre.

Ive also been catching up on some comedy series.

Family Guy, recommended by my old friend Amanda, and more recently by Jude, is hilarious adult entertainment. I would say that its near the bone, but its not that subtle. I’m amazed they get away with putting half of the stuff into every episode, as its so controversial.

But lets be honest, in private, chatting with friends, aren’t some of our funniest conversations very controversial, things we wouldn’t want the rest of the world to know, but secretly we find hilarious.

One scene the other evening featured God (and I mean literally a cartoon character of the Christian God) dressed in robes drinking in a bar, and chatting up girls by lighting their cigarettes at will. In the next scene he accidentally sets fire to one of the girls and shouts “Jesus Christ” in alarm.

At that moment, a cartoon character of Jesus Christ (with thorns and everything) steps into view to help. I don’t know how they get away with putting that on the TV, they must get death threats every week !.

I’ve also been watching both series of Flight of the Concords, as recommended by Matt Bridges, and his lovely daughter Eve. There are no glossy sets, flash props, or anything like that, its just pure inventive situation humour.

A show I’ve never really followed (as it pokes fun at IT) is the IT Crowd. The scene in the 2nd series where faced by a visit from the serious fraud office, over pension discrepancies, the boss calmly walks to the window, opens it, and steps out into oblivion, moments after congratulating himself on his business prowess is a landmark in TV comedy.

On a far more serious note, I was watching Leaving Las Vegas. This isn’t a film to watch if you want cheering up, but its gritty and real. I think school children should perhaps be encouraged to watch this film, for some of the scenes that show the harsh reality of alcoholism.

Otherwise, they will probably just see Fosters adverts, with witty guys, attractive women and sunny days, that gives a one sided view of drinking. It also shows (what I believe to be) the reality of prostitution. I think rubbish TV programs like The Secret diary of a call girl (based on a blog, which I honestly think was written by a man) are dangerous.

I’ve waited 9 years to watch that film, and it was just as good as Id been told.

I’ve been recording all 5 episodes of the new Torchwood series. I wanted to watch them all together. The previous series have been pretty good, so ill have to see what happens.

Mriska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni from the superb Law & Order - Special Victims Unit.

I found out a really interesting fact the other day.  Mariska Hargitay who plays Olivia Benson, in the superb Law & Order – Special Victims Unit (and interestingly has a small part in Leaving Las Vegas) is the daughter of Jayne Mansfield.

She was actually in the car on the night of the accident, which decapitated her mother.


The Statue of Alan Turing in Manchester Gay Village.

Firstly, profound apologies for not updating the website for a while, I have just had loads of things going on. I’m still seeking employment, and I have a 3rd interview on Tuesday for a fantastic job. It isn’t exaggerating to say, that if I get that job, it will quite literally change my life (so no pressure!).

Ive been switching on my old mobile (the one I use for travelling) and Ive noticed that a few of you, have been sending texts to my old number. As most of you know, I know use an IPhone, and my number has changed.

If the number you are using does not end 320, drop me a line, and Ill give you the new one.

In terms of the website, I know that some of the sections under About, need completing and I haven’t setup old johnsunter with the original site yet. Myself, and that son of toil Henrik, are working desperately to fix this as you read.

Congratulations to Mark. Wasn’t able to join him on his stag do, due to a minor venue conflict, but everyone here at wish to congratulate him on his impending/already completed wedding. Life as a married man, will require a level of financial stability, so may we provide a shameless piece of biased advertising.

If you need the services of a photographer, have a look here I can highly recommend him.

Sometimes its the simple things in life that bring you pleasure. In Tesco, I used to shop for my packed lunches, and noticed some Tesco own brand chocolate wafers (a sort of rip off Kitkat). The thing that was interesting, is that they were available in a mint chocolate flavour, which the “real” Kitkats arent.

They were dirt cheap, tasted delicious, and you can imagine my disappointment, when they stopped selling them several months ago.

“Insiders” at Tesco (my friends who work there, and cant be named due to draconian hr rules and blogging) tipped me the nod the other day, that they are back on the shelves. Although Im trying to lose weight, I ate an entire packet, in one sitting.

The Dell PC I use at home, the same model, featured in Dollhouse.

On the technology front, Ive been keeping myself busy at home.

Finaly built my VM Ware server. Some of the stuff you can do on it is amazing, and its all the more spectacular for the fact that it runs on my home computer.

Learning a product called Appsense. Its amazing, it enables virtual desktop and hybrid networks to run worldwide roving profiles, in near realtime.

Finaly, a hilarious story about my Auntie Marjorie.

Most people know of the tragic events of Manchester United and the Munich air disaster. There are streets named after the fallen players all over the city.

On the approach to the City of Manchester stadium (the stadium built to house the commonwealth games, which later became the home of Manchester City) there is a road called Alan Turing way (the road was there, 6 years before the stadium was built).

My Auntie believed that it was named after one of the United players (a strange choice at any rate, United players, on the approach to City’s ground !).

In reality, Alan Turing had nothing to do with football, he was the famous wartime code breaker, and  is dedicated to his memory.

Well, I’ll get going now, but near and far have fun and never stop searching for adventure…

Two IPhone Apps, influenced by books.

Apple Iphone, one of the most usefull pieces of technology ever created.

This week, I thought I would mention 2 apps, which I use every day.

The link, is that they are both inspired/influenced in some way by books.

In the case of Appigo Todo, it was actually designed around the principles from David Allens book Get Things done.

With Ixpenseit (featured in the apple advertisements) the link is more tenuous.  I have long been a fan of Alvin Halls books. In various ways, they talk about recording expenditure. To my knowledge, Alvin had no part in the design of this program, but if you’ve ever used it, it feels like he did !.

Appigo Software Todo

Appigo – Todo.

Todo, was specifically designed around the principles of GTD. If you really want to know how it works, you should go out and buy the book, but a rough idea is that you capture things in a dependable place, and then organise them in a way so that they can be applied and carried out appropriately.

For example, if your in your house and realise the battery’s in a torch have run down, life has the weird irony, that results in:

A, the torch battery’s will be on your mind on the way to work, while your eating your dinner, while your talking on the phone, therefor partially distracting you, and adding in its own small way to your stress factor.

B, when you are in the supermarket, passing the battery’s, it will never occur to you to purchase replacements, and the cycle will continue.

Personally, Ive always subscribed to the big list/small list idea. I have a mind map for the year, with major concepts and projects on it, and I have a small to do list, with next actions for each of this. If you don’t do it that way, you end up with a massive to do list, which has visit and Cayman Islands, next to buy some milk !.

Whatever system you choose (and you should give significant thought to which one) its still brilliant to be able to jot down an idea, just as it occurs to you. At the very least, it relieves stress, and it always amazes me, after a night out, or a long train/plane journey, just how many good ideas I’ve had.

It also synchs with a website called Toodlodo , so not only is it backed up in realtime, but you can work on your list/lists in full screen, when your at home.

How can you put a price on a good Idea.

FYI software's Ixpenseit

FYI Mobileware – IXpensit.

In his books, Alvin talks at length about high level financial strategy, but also practical points about day to day expenditure. One example, is cashpoints and magazines.

Imagine you see a magazine you like. You don’t have any cash, so you nip to the cashpoint, withdraw a tenner and buy the magazine. The 2 key points here are A, you just paid the maximum possible amount for that magazine and B, the change from the transaction is unlikely to go back into the bank, and will probably be fettered away on something.

A better strategy would be too get a subscription for the magazine, knocking at least 40% off its cost, and “saving” the £6.50 that would have bought cream cakes etc.

The best way to do this off course, is to record all of your petty cash transactions (this isn’t half as tedious as it sounds) and then look for patterns and places where money can be saved with minimal “damage” to your personal life.

This program is brilliant, as it allows you to do that, but can also plot graphs of where your money is going, what you spent the money on (its only when you evaluate it, you find out just how much you spend on say bottled water). The daily budget feature is especially useful.

It is also able to email a spreadsheet, of all the transactions which makes detailed analysis really easy.

If you’ve got an IPhone, get the apps, and record all your petty cash transactions for 3 weeks. I promise, the results will be startling (and even if they aren’t, you will know who owes you money 🙂