Month: October 2009

Bluelist party on the 23rd of November.

My friends visiting me, on my 40th birthday.

A few of my friends, are organising an early evening party for me, on Monday the 23rd of November to celebrate the completion of my bluelist (completing literally thousands of must do before you die activities, and visiting dozens of countries along the way).

When I set off for a trip, I put on the paracord with a whistle and torch around my neck, adorn myself with my Rohan trousers and floppy hat, pick up my rucksack, and off I go. It sort of gets me in the adventure mood.

When I come back, I have a similar ritual. I have a bath, and then go to a nice pub and put my mind back into domestic thinking and the like.

Ill be doing the 2nd one, on the 23rd and your all invited (apart from the section involving the bath !), from about 4pm.

If your one of my friends,  you’ll probably hear from me soon, with an invite, but if you fancy coming anyway, send me an email/call etc, would be great to see a few of you there (its an early evening drink, wont go on all night, but it will be the end of a 6 year project for me, and would be great to polish it off, with a few laughs and drinks).

A venue hasnt been selected yet, but it will be in the center of Chester. Hope to see you there.



The amazing IPhone

International Travel with an IPhone.

In preparation for my trip to Capetown, I visited the O2 shop, as this time, Ive decided to take my IPhone.  I asked if they had  any recommendations (which they did) and advised me of the following:

1. Turn off data roaming. The cost of using the Internet, inter-country over the cellular network , would mean most people selling an organ, when they got home to pay the bill. Best to use the phone’s wi-fi facilities in Hotels etc, where  available to read email and check the news.

2. Only make voice calls if there’s an emergency (and in an emergency, you A: probably aren’t bothered by the immediate cost and B: they are likely to be covered by your insurance).

3. For keeping in touch with home, switch on the phone for 30 minutes each evening to send/receive texts. Texts to the phone, cost me nothing, but texts from my phone, are 4 times my normal allowance (which is 500 free texts). Since picture texts are twice that, Im not likely to be sending many picture texts.

4. Turn off voicemail before leaving the UK. Voicemail sounds like a good idea, but the moment you turn on the phone overseas, it will attempt to retrieve the messages, and this could get expensive.

5. Most important piece of advise (and it surprised me a little, to hear them say it). Keep the phone switched off, most of the time. Nobody wants to visit a famous museum, or listen to a historical talk while on holiday and have it interrupted by a ringing phone. Their emphasis was on this being a holiday, and the “business” rules of mobile phones arent as applicablele.

On any adventure trip, preparation and planning are key. Here, 5 minutes in the shop, with their very helpful staff, could easily have saved me £150 !.

Some new apps I’ve been looking at:

National Rail Enquiries in your pocket. A lot better than calling India for train times.

National Rail Enquiries.

When I first got my IPhone, I had a fairly cheap application for checking train times. After that I, moved to a more elaborate tool called iRail europe. It could manage local train times, but also do cool stuff like find trains/connections  right across Europe (it would literally find a train from Chapel-on-le-frith to Berlin HauptBahnhof).

I’ve now started using a program called National Rail. It was a bit controversial at first, as they removed permission from an independent developer, to use there timetable, and wrote their own app in direct competition. They also charged nearly a fiver for it, which I lot of people thought was expensive (to say nothing of the fact, that this kind of thing,  should really be free.)

Things have sort of calmed down now (the protest centred around everyone that bought it giving it only 1 star in the online review). £5 is the price of a burger, and this app, has far more, than just a simple online timetable viewer.

It can actually track trains in real-time, using the virtual arrivals board, and even better, you can program in your home station. Then, wherever you are, you just press a button that says “next train home” and it will use GPS to track where you are, find the nearest station, and work out the best combination of trains to get you to your home station, in the shortest possiblele time.

I really innovative solution, to the ordinary “train timetable” application.

Classics 2 Go, an entire library of the Classics in your pocket (until the battery's run out !)

Clasics 2 Go

Ive downloaded this cool app, that for a couple of pence, offers a library of the classics. At the moment, I have Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, Alice in Wonderland and Romeo and Juliet.

Comming back to my comments above, about trains, and you just not knowing when they might breakdown, its cool to have a virtual library of “I really should read that” books in my pocket, where-ever I go.



This is presently number 1, in the list of Apple paid apps. Its designers, recon it will revolutionise the way we shop.

The basic idea, is that using the phones camera, it can read bar-codes. It then goes online, and sees how cheap it can get that item for elsewhere.

I was a bit sceptical at first. I mean, if Ive gone into town to buy a pair of Jeans, and I’m actually standing in the shop, knowing that I can buy them online, or a mile away,  for £4 less  isnt a great deal of help.

The reality though, is a trick I learned from Alvin Halls excellent book, money for life. He recommends that you go “high street” shopping, to see the goods you want to buy first hand, but take no money (to avoid mistaken spontaneous purchases) and instead take a notebook and pen, and write it down.

He reasons that if you wait 24 hours, a great many pointless purchases can be avoided. He also argues, that say you saw some jewelry or a laptop, you could schedule it in i.e. when I pay the £500 of my credit card, Ill treat myself to that.

For the kind of shopping he recommends, RedLaser is awesome.

Im presently review Jamie Olivers 20 minute meals and doing a 2nd review of Skype on the Iphone (although technically identical to Skype on the PC, in use (ie you can hold it next to your ear !) it transforms the program).

Im using a new system to prioritise my apps. First 4, 2nd 4 etc. Ill explain when its completed.

BNP on question time.

Nick Griffin of the British National Party, is appearing on question time this evening.

Ive been very ill in bed now, for 4 days, so I’m sorry that there haven’t been any updates to the site.

However, something significant is happening today, in the UK, and I cant lie down (literally) without saying something.

This isn’t, never has been, and never will be, a political website, but as the cliche now goes, all it takes for tyranny to prevail…

It will shock some people, but a few months ago, I considered voting for the BNP, in the European elections. Let me explain my reasons.

For several months I felt disenfranchised from the Government (both the ones in power, and the 2, technically in opposition).

There seems to be endless moves to help the needy, Wars started without a clear mandate. Seemingly endless support for women, people with children, people with disabilities, people working in the public sector, and just about everything else.

I don’t resent any of the  people above, but what about me I thought.

I’m single working class, I sometimes like a trip to the pub, and after Ive paid a fortune in tax, with the bit of money that’s left, I like to travel, where I get taxed even more (I still don’t believe for a moment, that the £100 extra, I pay on average for long hall flights, helps the environment. To my mind, it pays for the Olympics and the war in Iraq).

Nobody seemed to be fighting my corner. I remember a brief conversation with my former Father in Law. Speaking about being an expat, he commented that you don’t pay as much tax, but if things go wrong, you really are on your own.

Seemed to me, like I pay a fortune in tax, and I’m on my own anyway. I didn’t have a voice, nobody was listening to me, they just wanted to penalize me for my success, and use my hard work, to help everyone else.

I remember one particular week, when I was unemployed.  A girl in the job centre, who was 18 and had 4 children, was shouting that her new (free !) washing machine had not yet arrived. In the same week, my (old) washing machine broke down, and my friends lent me the money to have it repaired. Nobody else wanted to know !.

A friend saved hard, bought a nice house with his wife and 2 young children. Sometimes gangs of up to 20 people would arrive in the avenue and just “hang out” (I grew up in Newton Heath, so nobody tell me, that this kind of thing is harmless). They would drink, wake up sleeping children, lean on cars, break the fence, and do whatever they felt like.

The police would say they couldn’t do anything as no crime had been committed. So much for everyone else’s rights, what about my friend, and his right to peace and quiet in the evening, after they have both worked all day, to pay for the very people who were disrupting their lives.

But what was the way forward. It seemed like all the political parties had the same ideas, and didn’t really want change. It  didn’t seem to matter who you voted for, you got the same thing.

I grew up in a one parent family. My mum was a nurse for 26 years. I remember as a little boy, she always talked about people being treated fairly and equally.

She used to say that everyone that came to hospital had a right to be helped, if they were sick or ill, no matter what there religion, race, financial status …

I remember once as a little boy, I mischievously argued with her about whether a criminal, injured while committing a crime, should be treated  (in the hospital) the same as everyone . She bit my head off, and said that once recovered, paying for your crime was a matter for the courts. We cant give people rights, we can only take them away.

Growing up in a home like that, you might be surprised that I was considering voting BNP.

Well, that’s the point. If you vote Conservative as a protest vote against Labour, will it be taken as that, or will it be seen as a vote of confidence in the Conservatives, and vice versa.

If you want to send a message, I reasoned (in advance of the general election)  to the people that run these parties that its time for change, why not vote for the BNP ?. If you choose to vote for a party who’s values stand in the face of everything that you believe, how could it be anything but a protest vote ?.

The BNP, a group, who if no civil or legal framework existed to control, you would willingly take up arms to fight. If you voted for them, then how could that be seen as anything but a protest vote, and perhaps the best way to use the 1 vote that you have.

But then another thought hit me. Its meant to be a protest vote. What if too many people do it (and lets be clear, 1,000,000 people didn’t vote for the BNP, they voted against mainstream politics as it exists now).

I didn’t vote for them, but Nick Griffin (and somebody else I cant be bothered to look up) were elected to European office (A union they stand firmly against, by democracy, a system they don’t believe in).

Ive still got concerns about the future of Britain, but I don’t believe the BNP have the answers.

If you get the chance tonight, watch the Nick Griffin on question time. Now that they have a platform, you can hear what they actually have to say. If YOU believe in the things they STAND FOR then vote for them. In any other circumstances, for Gods sake, don’t !.

On a lighter note, I might watch some recordings of Family Guy, before question time. They both say extreme things, but Peter Griffin doesn’t believe the things he says, and Nick Griffin does !.


A bed, is an invaluable tool, when packing for an adventure.

Ive had a bit of free time lately, so to keep myself busy, Ive been researching my trip to Capetown in a month, and doing some packing prep.

A lot of people Ive met while traveling, have asked me about what gear I take and how I pack it, so I’ve decided to write about it.

Firstly, a bed, is an invaluable packing tool. Visibility is essential (I like to have everything laid out in front of me, so I know what I’m doing). After this, a notebook and pen, near to hand.

I normally prepare, in 3 sections. Amongst the many usefull things I’ve learned on various training courses, was some stuff by an ex-soldier. He spoke about working withing 3 levels, whilst in the field. The idea is that he lives on the contents of his rucksack, fights on the contents of his belt/webbing order, and survives on the contents of his pockets.

I’ve roughly applied that to: Stuff on my person, stuff in my daysack, and stuff that’s actually packed into my main rucksack.

The stuff on my person is pictured towards the top left of the picture. Most of my travel money is worn in my money belt and I have a money clip in my pocket, with about £40 in mixed currency.  In my pocket, I have a waterproof bag, with my passport, tickets, a laminated card with emergency details, a credit card and 1 Imodium instant tablet.

On my belt, I carry my camera. The pictures I take are my lasting memories of a trip, so I like my camera close to hand at all times. A space pen in case I have to fill in a last minute form etc. Around my neck, I wear a length of para-cord, with a whistle and small torch on it.  A personal stereo, with music, relevant pod-casts and audio-books to break up waiting around time.

A cheap mobile phone completes things. A mobile has 3 key uses. 1, as an alarm clock, 2, to send/receive texts for half an hour each evening, 3, most important, is pre-programmed with emergency and in country numbers  fi things go wrong.

I was debating this time, to take my IPhone, instead of a cheap mobile and my ipod. Its usually best to follow the rough guides advise. Never take something into a country you can’t leave without, and never carry unnecessary valuables.  Ive thought it over, and decided to take it anyway.

The “survival” aspect of the things above, is that if my rucksack goes missing, my coat gets stolen etc, I have enough on me, to continue with the trip and improvise. I have lost things on trips and at airports, but Ive never lost the trousers I was actually wearing !.

The 2nd group, the stuff I have in my daysack (I dont fight, this is the stuff mainly for days out exploring, and useful things to do, when on planes, buses, trains etc).

Contains copies of travel documentation, a notebook and pen, guidebook. I usually have a bag for lose change, as I dont like British currency rattling around in my pockets, once Ive left.

It also has an inflatable travel pillow, and some eye covers. Used with the blanket on a plane, and the relaxation stuff on my ipod, it alows me to be in my own place.

I usually have a book, and a to read file, with quick snippets and articles ive printed off the internet, or taken from the Newspaper (A chap I met in Peru, cut out several weeks supply of the Telegraph crossword, which for its size and weight, can alleviate hours of waiting time).

I also have a laminated photo of my main rucsack, in case its lost, and they want to know what it looks like (I also have a T shirt, and some underwear and socks, for the 24hrs after I arrive, if they have lost my bag (its happened 4 times so far, Im quite used to it now)).

The newest addition to this, is my Acer aspire laptop, which can obviously be used to read email, browse the web, listen to music, watch films etc.

Finally, the main rucsack contents (the top right of the picture).

I normally carry a 45 litre sack. It amazes me when I see people with massive rucsacks (above 80 litres) and I ask them if their going to high altitude, or spending extended periods in the jungle, and they reply that they are doing an ATW, with city visits !.

Are you actually going to watch your portable DVD, while your away ?. On the other hand, having a pair of scissors in
your first aid kit, and a reliable torch, means you wont have to ask other people (travel and adventure are, among other things a test of your independence).

I took extensive stuff on my first trip around the world, including a host of “emergency items ” as recommended in the rough guide first trip around the world .

When I got to my hotel in Hong Kong and was checking in, they noticed a rip in my fleece, and sent someone up to my room to collect it, repair it, wash it and return it to me. 5 years later, I still cant spot where the original rip actually was.

The rough guide, had been written for rough backpackers on a budget, and on this trip, I wasn’t one of them, so be clear about the kind of trip your going on.

In the rucksack, I normally put about 100 things. Obviously this gets time consuming and tedious, so instead, I decant the contents into smaller bags and stuff sacs. In this way, I can pack and unpack the entire sack in under a minute.

The plastic boxes along the top, are mirrored with some of the other bags. I use individual boxes, and pack from them, into the individual bags (things like the contents of my washbag.  If I’m camping, Ill need a trek towel and insect repellent. If Im going to Paris for a weekend, I wont need either of these, but aftershave and an electric razor, will have distinct advantages).

If Im going somewhere warm, then a big coat is superflous for most of the trip. I find a bigish jumper, and a lightweight waterproof provide the same functionality, pack much smaller, and are far more flexible. The Hagloff waterproof jacket I wear is also suitably sensible, so that it can be worn on evening’s  out. Its in a green stuff sack, so when I put it away after use, it doesnt get other things wet.

First aid equipment. If your going walking with friends, you want to take some stuff like bandages and things like that, but if your on an organised tour to say Machu Pichu, your guide will have the means to get you of the mountain quickly and to emergency healthcare, so there isnt much point in you taking your own bandages and stuff like that (for the record, Plasters, Anadin and Imodium, are the most frequently used contents of my fa kit).

A full size and 3 quarter pack-it bags for clothes. I normaly choose Rohan stuff for traveling. The choice of clothing, is too detailed to go into here, but I normaly take some additional footwear, so I have something different to wear in the evening.

The black “tech”  bag, has stuff like socket converters, mini tripod for camera, usb stick spare batteries, and stuff like that.

Misc items are kept in  my utility bag. Most rucsacks, have a zip compartment at the top (the bit of the rucsack thats near the back of your neck, when your wearing it).  Its much easier to put the misc stuff into a separate bag which you can remove from the sack, and saves messing about. It contains things like a penknife, a torch, lighter, some sort of high energy bar, 3 sachets of hot chocolate, some paracord, some gafa tape, etc.

Ive written this, as a pretty general article on adventure travel packing. If any of you are interested, give me a shout, and I can write in far more detail, if you tell me what you want me to talk about.

In a nutshell, the most important thing about packing, is to be realist about what you need to take, and realy do cut it to a minimum (but do this in balance).

Other stuff going on:

Best wishes to the India Crew on their trip to Berlin, Im sorry I cant come with you guys, but I hope you have an ace time.

That brilliant series North Square, is now availble free to watch, on the Love Film website.

Goldie Plays at my local

The legendary Goldie, playing at my local pub, the Frog and Nightingale.

Ive often mentioned to friends, how surreal it is to have famous musicians and DJ’s playing at my local pub (The Frog and Nightingale in Chester).

As Ive often commented, its a bit like Bono, playing at the Lion and Lamb in Widness, or some such !.

In recent times, the Frog has established itself as a significant music venue, and has had several household name acts playing there (well, they are household names if you 19 or under !) so the novelty is starting to wear of, and Im not usualy suprised when a new headliner is announced.

I couldn’t believe it the other week, when the internationally famous Goldie was announced (Ive got to admit, that Im not that into music, I found out about Goldie, after he betrayed his boss In James Bond !).

Well there he was, what an evening.

My mate Dave, being photographed with Goldie

Not just that, but he was a really nice guy as well.

My friend Dave asked to have a photo taken with him, and he was really helpful and polite (n0t at all what you’d expect while reading about him in the media).

Now, if we can just get the Smiths to re-form and play their opening night at the Frog, the future should be pretty fantastic.


Forget Jenny from the Block, this is Billy from the Frog.

By popular demand (mostly from herself !) we have decided to host a sort of virtual “debutantes ball”, here at and present our friend Billy.

Billy, is originally from Istanbul in Turkey, and her actual name is Bilge (pronounced Bilgay, not Bilge, like in the pump).

Her excellent husband Phil, is the head Chef at one of Chester’s famous Italian restaurants.

Generous and charming most of the time, she occasionally uses expletives to get her point across (something she does very well, she could arguably teach my stepfather to swear !).

Like many people who learned English outside of this country, she speaks it superbly, and was heard recently to use the frase “out of sorts”  (for readers of, not originally from the UK, it should be pointed out, that only people wearing bowler hats, talk in this way).


Night Vision scope. Used by Special Forces all over the world, and sold at Aldi.

The good news, is that both phones are working fine now, number ending 320 is the one I normally use.

Ive changed my mind. The blog isn’t being discontinued after Capetown (thanks to all of you, who emailed in, and said I should keep it going.)

Old is actually working. Its a snapshot of how the original website looked. I know that some people like to look at the pictures of my wedding and stuff like that. By splitting the website, it solves the dilemma. You can look at it, by visiting

finally, in terms of posting comments to blog entries, I have modified the criterion.

If you want to post a reply, you will need to type some characters (so that automated programs, called “bots” can’t post all sorts of rubbish onto the site).

The good news, is that its no longer moderated. I don’t have to authorize your posts, whatever you say, goes straight up there, for other people to read.

Will probably be selling some of my un-needed stuff soon (bushcraft axe, compass, things like that, that I dont use that much).

Ill post a full list later, but if any of you, have a liking to a bit of kit, that Ive got, and want to make me an offer, ill be happy to hear it (Capetown is around the corner, and cash it tight).

Two website Ive been visiting recently (both completely different, but interesting an usefull).

Daily Mash a satirical look at the news (recommended to me by a lad a used to work with called Jason). I cant look at that site, without laughing.

say no to 0870. Recommended by Amelia mum. The basic idea, is that if you need to call say British Gas, they will give you a premium rate number. By looking it up on this site, you can find out the local number, get through to exactly the same people, but save a bit of money as well.

Both of them can be reached by googling.

Two random thoughts occurred to me recently:

1. Why would most ordinary people need a night vision scope ?.

2. If they did, why the hell would they go to Aldi to buy it, and what the hell are Aldi doing selling them anyway !.

Finaly, ever wondered what that sort of Stick and Handerkerchief Rucsack is called, that Dick Whitington used ?. Its actualy called a Bindle (thanks Sean, the local Crossword genuis for that.


The Queens Park bridge in Chester, that everyone now calls the "Hollyoaks" bridge !.

Don’t you just hate it when something traditional, starts being referred to with a daft modern name.

Here in Chester, a century old bridge, was featured in a storyline of the daft teen soap opera Hollyoaks.

A dozen times, in the last couple of weeks, I have heard people referring to the Hollyoaks Bridge.  Infuriating.

Just as annoying, is beautiful piece of music called Adajio for strings. It featured in a famous Vietnam war film.

I have heard the music, on many occasions, both before the film, and after it, and it always annoys me to hear it refereed to as the “Platoon Song”. ridiculous.


The brilliant Don Cheadle film, Traitor.

Watched 2 Films recently at the cinema.  Gamer and Soriety, are the  kind of films you can take a chance with, when you have an unlimited cinema card.

To give an example. Bruce Willis film I would pay money to watch, Final destination is a gamble  I can take.

Using Love Film, I was able to re-watch (and this time see the ending) of a brilliant BBC Drama, from about 15 years ago called Gallowglass. There just doesnt seem to be quiality drama like that around anymore.

I also watched a film called Whitechappel, with Rupert Penry Jones, who you might remember from Spooks. It really was a superb thriller, if you get the chance, watch it.

I continue to watch season 1 of The Unit, as recommended by Kingsley, who I met in India (and also a mate from Corning, called Glenn).  The simplest way to describe this program (which goes on for 4 series) is like Ultimate Force, but done properly !.

An absolutely fantastic film I saw recently (presently showing on sky box office) is Traitor. Don Cheadle made a name for himself in Hotel Rwanda, and this film is just as interesting, exciting and informative.

US TV wise, new series of Fringe and Dollhouse have just started, and are even better than last season (much like season 2 of True Blood, which has only just finished).

Law and Order – Special Victims Unit (normally shortened to just SVU) is back for its 11th season, if you can believe that. First episode of the season was on the other evening, and its one of the best Ive ever seen (and there are hundreds of episodes to compare it too !).

Finally, house is back, in season 6. I wont go into any details, as some people wont have seen the final part of season 5. Suffice to say, its the best episode of house, that I have personaly ever seen.

Moon Landing

Moon Landing. Did it really happen ?.

I was on a train the other day, and I overheard some students (obviously experts in everything 🙂 ) discussing the moon landing, and if it was real.

What do i know, there’s supposed to be a load of evidence in both directions (none of which I understand).

To me it comes down to 2 simple things:

1. Do you believe the hybrid nation (America) had the resolve and drive to put a man on the moon.

2. Isn’t faith supposed to be belief in the face of unproven evidence ?.

For what its worth, I think they did it.