Year: 2011

Christmas Day.

As you read this, I’m sat at my house, waiting to be picked up and spend Christmas with my brother. I spent last night just relaxing in my house (a house 18 months ago, I thought I was going to lose). I’ve got the whole of Christmas off, until the 3rd of Jan (something I’ve only done twice in the last decade).

In traditional Christmas spirit, I’ve spent time this week with my friends from work (Nick Barker, Tracie and the Warehouse crew), Sue and Brian from the CDWG and  Steve, Glenn and Dan.

Just like my mum used to, I prepared a sort of open buffet, which between them, they have completely eaten.

I put it out on my pine table, with the superb chairs, which were a gift from Glenn. I’ve also setup my train set on the table, so I can race it around.

Although half the train set was broken when it arrived from ebay, Id like to thank Jim from Model World, for assisting me in getting it ready for Christmas eve.

I spent last night relaxing, catching up on various TV (Dexter, Chuck and Fallen Skies) and had another go at Halo 3 (I’ve bought modern warefare 3, and it is a spectacular game, but to be honest, Halo will always be the only game for me (even though in fact, there are 3 “episodes” of it.

I got loads of presents this year, and pictured above, are some of the many cards I received. Spectacularly good news, is that Frank is home from Thailand, and we are meeting up in the English lounge at some point over Christmas.

In 2008 and 2009, Christmas was a very dark time for me. Christmas last year, was great, but I didn’t so much enjoy it, as have an overwhelming feeling that I could relax and things would ultimately return to normal. This year I feel like they finally have.

Id like to thank all of my friends for their support and kindness and making this an amazing year.

Next year is going to be even better, with loads of exciting things happening at work. I’m also returning fully (well as fully as I can) to the adventure fold, so if you know me through shared adventures, and haven’t heard from me in a while, your phone may be ringing in January.

Ill get going now, but Happy Christmas to everyone reading this.

The search for adventure continues… (I haven’t said that for a while 🙂


Feel the fear and do it anyway.

A couple of days ago, I was invited to attend a Sharepoint seminar in London by the excellent Core.

The first I noticed something out of the ordinary, was when I entered the carriage in first class (I’m the UK head of IT now, there are some privileges to rank :). As I took my seat, I felt a little nervous, which isn’t like me at all.

The journey passed without event, I read a book, browsed my IPad and ate my ashtray sized breakfast.

The train arrived at London Euston. As I got off the train, the first thing I saw was the scene above. Suddenly I felt nervous and slightly afraid. I was in London, “far” from home. I remember thinking, what would happen if I got mugged, or lost my ticket ?, how would I get home ?. Whats going on I thought. I’ve landed in China with just my rucksack and didn’t feel this way, whats going on ?.

That’s when it hit me. Like physical fitness, your “adventure muscles” need to be exercised regularly. I’ve spent the last 18 months, doing things like hill walking. Although I’ve visited Bucharest and Lisbon in that time I’ve realized that although I’m experiencing adventure, I’m not leaving my comfort zone often enough and when I’m forced too by external forces I’m experiencing discomfort.

Everything turned out to be fine. On the train on the way back, I used the time to think about things. I’ve spent the last 18 months concentrating on my career, improving my home and spending time with friends. Things have been great, but I was reminded of a quote by Kahlil Gibran.

“Comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and becomes a host, then a master. And then it becomes a tamer, and with a hook and whip it makes puppets of your larger desires”.

I also remembered watching an episode of the TV series the Office. One scene features the receptionist (who is played by Jasper Carrots real life daughter Lucy Davies). She is being interviewed and says that originally, she worked as a children’s illustrator. She took a job as a receptionist to pay the bills. When questioned, she originally described herself as a children’s illustrator who worked as a receptionist, but over time just refereed to herself as a receptionist. A simple and comfortable solution, but at that point, she’s given up her dream.

Has that been happening to me ?. People I work with used to ask me about travel and adventure destinations. Now they just seem to identify me as John, the man who runs IT.

My bluelist (now completed) was all about leading a normal life, buying a house, building a career and spending time with friends but also pursuing adventure, without compromise.

I need to get back to that. I need to redefine myself.

Adventures with the CDWG.

Two recent outings with the Chester and district walking group.

A wander around Llangollen, starting and ending at the Ponderosa cafe. The really cool part was wandering around in the hills, with mist in the valley bellow.

More recently, we had a weekend away at Hathersage.

I took all my usual stuff, including torch, Swiss Army Knife and Glenn. I even won some fair trade chocolate in the Secret Santa.

The facilities at Hathersage YHA were superb. Costing only £63, we had 2 superb evening meals, 2 breakfasts (as good as any £150 + per night hotel) and packed lunch for the hill, were all included. Here Glenn makes some tea, in the new fleece he purchased just for the trip (this picture doesn’t do it justice, its a fantastic piece of kit).

Unfortunately, the weather on Saturday wasn’t very kind (although it was good to get out in the open countryside).

In the evening, we drank, played cards and took the occasional trip to the pub (or the grave of Little Jon, who famously fought Robbin Hood).

One superb thing, was spending time with a chap called Alex. As some of you knew, I spent time in the Countess of Chester hospital earlier this year. I wanted to make a contribution at Christmas. Turns out, there is a sponsored 5k Santa run this coming Sunday, and they need marshals for the event. Alex put me in contact with the relevant people, so I can once again turn an idea into action.

If you haven’t done it already, join the Chester and District Walking Group.




Christmas arrives at the Sunter house.


Well this year, I’ve decided to give the house more of a Christmas feel.

I got this rather fetching tree, for only £2.85 at Wilkinson’s. The associated tinsel and baubles were a pound each to match it.

I found by positioning it in front of my X-Files “I want to believe” poster that I was able to use the saucer as a replacement for the traditional star on top of the tree.

I’m spending Christmas with my brother this year, it will be there first time I’ve been out of Chester on Christmas day, in about 9 years. If you’re free over New Year, I’ve invited a few mates over (sleeping facilities will be the floor). If any of you fancy it, your very welcome.

JM’s adventures.


I’ve been following the adventures of Jon Mallet, and a crew of his friends, as they travel from Toddington to Timbuktu by off road motorbike.

He got in touch yesterday, and told me that Timbuktu is closed for business, due to fear of kidnapping and suchlike. Worse still, he was waiting for a part to be sent from the UK to repair his bike. Kev was out riding, and has broken his leg.  Bike and rider are 600 km apart, so Jon is busy collecting his bike, while Kev recovers.

I’ll keep you updated on what happens, a group of resourceful guys like that will work something out, but this is real world adventure, so won’t be easy.

Best wishes to all of you.



John Hegarty on Advertising.

I got passed a leaflet a couple of weeks ago. It was about Chester’s Literary festival. One talk that interested me, was by Sir John Hegarty. He’s internationally renowned, for his work in advertising and I was really keen to hear what he had to say.

What surprised me, was how understated he was (apart from his suit, which was quit “loud”). He talked about his work on the Levi 501 Jeans advert, and the tag-line “Vorsprung durch Technik” he is credited with inventing (I never realised, but it actually means Advancement through technology).

A key point he made was about honesty and that he didn’t consider “proper” advertising to be dishonest.

If you missed the talk, you can buy his book here.

Superb evening, when it finished, Glenn and I popped around to the Lock Keeper (newly opened, previously, the Frog & Nightingale, photographed above, in the middle of renovations) wearing trainers, but otherwise well dressed. They wouldn’t let me in.

Wonder if they’ll still feel that way in late January.

On the pub front, went out last Tuesday to celebrate Mandy’s birthday (a long time regular of the Frog). Many happy returns.

Tim’s Honeymoon.

My Boss Tim approached me recently. He is getting married, and asked my advise regarding the honeymoon. He was already going to Koh Samui, so I recommended Bo Phut, and advised on a few places to see there. He said he wanted to use the trip as a hub, and try and seen some other countries while there.

I recommended Siem Reap in Cambodia (the site of the Angkor Watt) and Saigon in Vietnam (2 of the places I visited on my own honeymoon, when I was previously married). I didn’t recommend Phnom Penh (site of the Killing field and the Tuol Sleng Museum) or Hannoi, as there was limited time, and I believed the 2 destinations to be the best that each country has to offer.

Finally, I made a list of must see sights for both destinations. I was delighted when he sent me this photo, taken from the rooftop bar of the Rex Hotel. Its here, that American officers were billeted during the war. When I visited it in 2005, it was the one and only time I’ve drunk Johnny Walker Blue whiskey.

Also at work, I have been helping Joe, with some development on a facebook presence. I wasn’t able to provide as much assistance as I would have liked, but you can have a look at:

New Table.

I never stop being amazed by what you can achieve when you substitute money for a bit of initiative.

Someone I work with is emigrating to Australia. She decided to sell this superb table for only £30. Nick from work helped me collect it from Birmingham. After realising it wouldn’t fit through the door, and the legs wouldn’t come off, we got it through the front window “horse-jumping-a-fence” style.

I’ve always wanted a table like that, but could never afford it, even when I could afford it, if you know what I mean. My house has the original pine timber from when originally built, so the table compliments it perfectly. Glenn (who runs a pine import business ) has got hold of some authentic chairs, to complete the look and told me its worth about £500.

Its not for sale.

Julie out of Hospital.

My friend Julie is out of hospital and recovering well. I went to visit her, it was the first time I’ve ever been to a private hospital. Apart from a private room, it didn’t seem much different from the hospital I stayed in in June (although the meals looked like they had been cooked by a celebrity Chef).

Take care Julie and best wishes from everyone at

More cooking.

I’ve almost finished my list of recipes (I have 3 more to do, then the laminated list on my cupboard doors will be complete)

I was going to buy Jamie Oliver book for Christmas, but I’ve bought his Christmas offering the previous 2 years, and I’ve found it disappointing (30 minute meals – I had to actually buy a food processor to cook anything, and most of them take a lot more than 30 minutes).

I’ve realised that when I cook Jamie Oliver recipes, there almost always from his first 3 books. There’s loads of other recipes in my other books (Ainsley Herriot, Ken Hom, Gordon Ramsay) but I’ve decided to get some fresh meat (pardon the pun). I’ve been watching Lorrain Pascals TV program, and I really like her work. I’ve just bought her book and should be cooking something from it this week.

Ill tell you how it works out.

Steve Jobs.

I was saddened to hear of the death of Steve Jobs. One of the original innovators of technology. He was known for being uncompromising, but the facts speak for themselves.

For 20 years Sony dominated the personal stereo market, today ipod has a 75% market share, which it turned around in just 18 months.

Various companies worked on PDA’s and smart-phones for more than a decide, Apples IPhone and IPod touch, came from nowhere, re-wrote the book, and have shipped 100,000,000 units at least !.

My assistant Dan, constantly criticises Apple (that’s one of the reasons I enjoy working with him, he has a passion for challenging convention and the norm).

On this occasion, I have to say, when people talk about Android and how good it is, would it have reached that level if Apple hadn’t  raised the bar with the IPhone.

And after all, its a lot easier to manufacture a shovel, when someone else has already designed it.

I’ve been using a Touchpad recently.

The idiot in charge of HP, said they were thinking of ditching the hardware side of the company (they have the dominant 17% share of the market, compared to Dell, who have %12).

I use HP a lot at work, and have to say that its excellent. I thought it ridiculous, that the customer (me) knows the value of a companies product, more than the CEO !.

I was delighted to read that he’d been fired, but before he went, he decided to discontinue the HP Touchpad. It would be easy to call it an IPad clone, but in reality, its very much its “own man” with an amazingly simple operating system and loads of apps. If you overclock it (as I’ve done) it absolutely flies.

As a result of the discontinuation, they were, at one point being sold for $99 in the US, and obviously £99 in the UK. You can get them now, brand new for £200, which for a quality product is superb value.

Interesting Stuff at work.

Loads of cool stuff going on at work. Were re-building our entire infrastructure based on VM Ware, and doing loads of cool stuff with Sharepoint.

A lot of the time, IT can be dull, when your just fixing things that break, but were pretty lucky, as not many companies are building new infrastructures at the moment.

Walking group

Each week the Chester Chronicle lands on my doormat. Its really useful. Sometimes when I come back from a walk with Tony, my walking boots are muddy, and there really isn’t anything that protects the carpet better than the “Chron”.

Christmas last year, I decided to actually read it. In amongst the plumbers and transvestite prostitutes, was a section on clubs and societies. From here, I found out about the excellent Chester Globetrotters and I’ve been to every meeting since.

About halfway through the year, they organised a pint after the meetings, and I got talking to a girl called Sarah. She tald me about a really cool walking group, of committed people, who were friendly and unpretentious.

I normally I go walking 3 weekends out of 4 with Tony, around the Chester – Warrington train-line area, but I wanted to do more.

I initially attended an evening walk, and found everyone to be just as described. After an interesting walk/tour around Tarporley, we had a pint in the local pub.

A few evenings later I attended a pub crawl around Chester which I really enjoyed (Glenn even came along, and he’s more mountain biker than walker).

I decided to join, and attended my first day walk as a full member, around Liverpool. We passed through Sefton park and visited the Palm house, a sort of Victorian style botanical garden.

The walk had been superbly planned by Brian, and as we continued on, we stopped at Liverpools Anglican Cathedral for lunch. I’ve never been there before, it was quite spectacular inside.

After this, we headed into Liverpool, to join the Mathews street festival. Not my sort of thing, so headed home. Varied and interesting, what a fantastic trip.

Since then, Glenn has joined (even though he doesn’t like walking that much, he’s more of a mountain biker). I’ve arranged to go on a weekend away over Christmas, which only cost £65. I’m delighted to be a member, and it only costs £10 for the year.

So whats the moral of the story.

1. Never overlook any opportunity for adventure, even if its a boring local newspaper.

2. If you read about an organized group, don’t go into it with any preconceptions. It may be that they are weirdo’s, but the highest likelihood is, they are a group of ordinary people like you, who just want to get together and share a hobby.

The Chester and District Walking Group website can be found here.

Ahhip event

As I’ve said many times, I love working in technology, and wouldn’t do anything else. On the downside though, its a life outside the limelight, unless you happen to be Steve Jobs.

Unitron, who need no introduction, invited me to join them at a client event (I would be supporting a practice management system called Blueprint, along with the president of Blueprint, Henrik Nielson).

It was a 2 day event, so I was planning a trip to Oxford at some point, to visit all the pubs featured in Inspector Morse. First reality check, Gareth (previously “mithering” Gareth) point out that there wouldn’t be any free time. “Were up really early, go to bed really late, and don’t have a minute free in between”

No matter, I’ve never been frightened of hard work, so we jump in the van and head south. Once we arrive, I’m delighted to find how nice the hotel is.

First job is to put up the stand. Believe it or not, everything that you can see behind me, fitted into the 2 plinths on either side. I was so proud of the construction, that I asked to be photographed in front of it.

Shortly afterwards, we all headed into town to a steak house for dinner. I got to meet Henrik from Blueprint software and Gary a marketing expert. Late to bed, I really liked my room (and did the typically British thing of raiding the shampoo, tea and tea/coffee).

Up early the following day, the event started in earnest. There were a number of keynote session, we had staff to man the stand and I worked in a room with Henrik, where he gave several sessions on the software’s functionality.

After a stressful day, we had a debrief from Chris. Since it was Chris’s birthday, there was a special Unitron cake .

Later in the evening there was an official dinner. I mingled around the bar, and met some of the customers.

At dinner I get to wear my dinner jacket and enjoy the awards. To be honest, the meal wasn’t as good as the previous evenings, but I enjoyed the formality off it.

I spent the evening with Gemma, Chris and Gareth from Unitron. The surprise of the night, when David Thornton won an award for best Regional Sales Manager.

The party carried on into the early hours, and a good time was had by all.

So, am I quitting IT, to move into sales and marketing for a life of hotels, buffets and dinner jackets.

No way. I had a brilliant time, really enjoyed it and want to do it again, but its no way as interesting as pure technology, and its exhausting. Thanks to Chris & Mel from Unitron, for inviting me.

You can follow Unitron on facebook:

Gareth & Katie’s Wedding

My excellent friend Gareth got married a few months ago to his childhood sweetheart Katie, in Cuba.

Obviously, not everyone could make it there, so they arranged a small celebration at the Paddington Hotel in Warrington.

I couldn’t really afford to go, but they are such good friends, that saved a bit of money here and there, and went along. The hotel was simple and unassuming, but the bed was really comfortable, shower was piping hot, and they served me 3 times at the catered buffet 🙂

They had excellent broadband. Early evening, when I was in the bar, Gareth’s son was in some distress. I was told that Peppa Pig would resolve the problem. I watched 4 episodes of this rubbish. Time taken out of my life, I can never get back, but at Freddie was euphoric !

In the evening, there were loads of family members, including Gareths Dad and Brother (both electricians) who I’ve worked with previously. Once the Unitron crew arrived, I made sure everyone had a drink, and sorted out the chairs so they could all sit together.

I had been at work during the day, so headed to bed a bit sooner than I would have liked. A fantastic evening all the same. I’d like to thank Gareth and Katie for inviting me to their event and Lyndsay for giving me a lift home the next morning after breakfast (I didn’t know Chester had a Hocky club, apparently its got 2 !).


I saw this sign, and couldn’t resist putting it up ! (for the record, I do use twitter for real-time blogging, on my website, but I don’t do the whole followers thing.

Something else I’ve been looking at recently, is a thing called way back machine. It shows snap shots of websites over time. I’ve been looking at from 2004 onwards and it was pretty nostalgic.

A cool app for IPhone called runpee actually tells you when the boring parts of films will happen, and when its safe to go to the toilet and not miss anything important in the film.

I’m busy drawing up a 2nd Bluelist, if anyone has any suggestions, give me a shout.

I’ve recently been video conferencing with Frank. Its amazing to be able to “sit-across-the-table” from someone who is on the other side of the world.

Passed by Lush the other day, and they were giving away old tables. I got smart one for the kitchen, I’m really impressed.

TV wise, boardwalk empire is back along with Fringe, and a new series I’ve started watching called Revenge. Dr Who finished the Saturday just gone. It could have been better, but finished off a story ark going back 3 years.

I watched a film called Debt. An old school thriller, I really enjoyed it.

Well, that’s all for now, but near and far, the search for adventure continues…