Year: 2011

Lisbon the home of discovery.

Just a day (and a heavy hangover) after my talk at the Chester Globetrotters, I was off to see Lisbon.

I added Lisbon to the 2nd bluelist after watching an interview with Simon Calder. In it he said it had some fascinating things to see, but still remained quiet, as most adventure travellers didn’t go there. He also said it was the cheapest capital in Europe to visit.

I travelled by Easyjet from Liverpool with Dan and Glenn. We found a nice hotel, with private rooms for only £29. Problem was, it was quite a few miles away from the main attractions.

The weather was superb throughout. I especially liked Belam, and the Maritime museum (Vasco De Gamma has always been one of my heroes, and the museum is based in a former chapel where he was blessed before embarking on journeys).

It was still a adventure, so there were plenty of laughs, beers and good food.

Ill be doing a write up in the next couple of days, stay tuned.

Next on the bluelist, Israel.


Chester Globetrotters Talk.

I gave my talk for the Chester Globetrotters on Saturday the 17th of September.

Although I had been looking forward to it, I was very nervous (I hadn’t slept for the 3 nights before). Thing is, you cant have it both ways. You cant turn up and expect an interesting talk each time, and the refuse to have a go yourself.

In the end, it went down very well, I talked about the blue list, how it started and stuff like that. Because it was a travel talk, I used the middle to talk about a trip to Borneo and finished off, with a few random anecdotes and completing the bluelist on table mountain.

Thanks to everyone who attended, especially my friends Tony, Ralph and Aud.


Cooking Mexican.

My cooking continues to get better. You can laugh if you want, but my goal has always been to cook well enough, to work in a pub kitchen.

My career in IT is well established once again (I’m the UK head of IT for the Global market leader in hearing aids after all) but having spent the previous year in unemployment, I’ve decided that you can’t be too careful.

Steve and Glenn continue to come around to my house to try out my food. The other evening was a significant milestone. I made shredded beef taco’s. It took ages to prepare, but I was delighted with the end product.

After finishing it, Glenn commented, that he would have paid money to eat it. A few more meals from my list, and then my next milestone, is a fusion mix dinner party !.

Facing fear and embracing adventure.

Its ridiculous.

I live in one of the smallest City’s in the world (the diameter across the Chester wall, is a 3rd of a mile) yet I keep losing touch with friends (What must it be like for people who live in Beijing or New York 🙂

A lad I know called Mark got in touch recently. We haven’t seen each other in ages, but it was great to hear from him again. He mentioned he had set-up a blog and I was enthusiastic to read it.

Having done so, I heartily recommend it to everyone reading this. There is one particular section about overcoming fear and taking a leap (I wont say any more, as I don’t want to spoil it).

It is frankly superb, and pretty much summarizes my own thoughts on the subject, completely (although they are explained far more eloquently than I could have done).

Fantastic blog Mark and hope to hear from you again soon.

My adventure talk at Chester Globetrotters.

Well, only a week until I give my talk at the Chester Globetrotters (I have to say, that I’m a bit nervous).

How could “chatterbox” John possibly be nervous you might be wondering ?.

Well, these are people with extensive travel experience, and Its not like coming back from Borneo and impressing the office junior, who normally holidays in Ibiza !.

A few of your have emailed me and apologised for not being able to attend. Its no problem, and I would just like to thank you all. Its 2 years in November since I completed the Bluelist, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the help from various people who contributed inspiration, training, information, equipment (and sometimes cash !).

The 2 years since have been a bit quiet on the adventure front, but I’ve done as much as I possibly could, chasing adventure at home, and I still managed to visit Budapest last year and I’ll be visiting Lisbon the day after the talk.
Next year I’ll begin the 2nd Bluelist !, so from the 1st of January, ill be recruiting for trips.

Chester and District Walking group.

If you’ve see me recently around town or at work, I continue to hobble around like Dr House (if you dont watch the series, Hugh Laurie has a limp).

I have Plantar Fasciitis, an inflammation of the arch in my right foot. I didn’t realise it, but once you have worn a pair of trainers or shoes for 500 miles (effectively 1 years worth of regular use) the internal structure, will probably be ruined, and the footwear will provide no support, nor protection from jarring.

This would have been very useful information in advance of my injury, but as so often in life, you find out what you needed to know after the fact. I have arch supports in my work shoes, and I have bought a brand new pair of Merril Moab ventilator (my 4th pair, like an old friend).

Alas, it will take at least month to repair the damage, and I can’t walk more than a mile or 2 (I am 10 days into the month though).

Its a bit of a nuisance, as walking is the thing I most like to do, its one of the few things that’s still free, and its pretty difficult to see the outdoors without walking.

Lucky then, that before my injury I got involved with the Chester and District walking group. An brilliant outfit, that organise weekly weekend walks (and one evening a week during the summer). The picture above, is a walk around Tarporley I did, showing the view back towards Manchester.

I also attended their monthly social with Glenn, where we walked around the Chester walls, and visited a few pubs (it was really good, as many of the Pubs I don’t usually visit). Finally, I did a walk that took us through Sefton park, lunch at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and then finished off in the City Centre during the Mathews Street Festival.

One of the things I like most, is the organisation and planning of the trips. Im a bit of a contradiction as a person (and Its my experience that a lot of people are).

I like the freedom and the “do what you like” of walking, but I also like structure (what time are we leaving, how are we getting there, what are the plans for lunch). The trip to Liverpool, organise by a smart chap called Brian, was researched and planned like a military operation.

It was great to be able to to turn up and walk, knowing someone had taken care of all the details.

On the subject of adventures at home, my friend Jo (my only truly virtual friend as we have never spoken or met, and communicate solely by email and fb) has set-up this google map list, with days out for nurds.

Artificial Intelignce.

I absolutely love science fiction. Not because I’m weird, and wear Star Trek uniform Pyjamas. No, I love Sci Fi because it illustrates to me, what life and humanity could be.

I suppose the other reason I like it, is that I already lead a relatively normal life. Let me explain that. I lead a normal life, and want to watch TV, about things that are presently impossible like time travel, or traversing the galaxy meeting aliens.

Watching things like coronation street, feels like a duplication to me. I lead a normal life, why would I want to watch a program about people who also lead a normal life (albeit with a bit more scandal).

One of my favourite series, is Battlestar Galactica. I like is so much, that on the evening of the last ever episode, I tried to talk Tony (then Landlord of the Frog & Nightingale) into hosting a them night, with staff wearing uniforms and serving customers saying “so say we all !”.

Unfortunately, football was on the same evening and a threatened walk out of the staff if they had to “dress up silly” put paid the idea.

Anyway, the basic story is that humans create robots to do menial jobs. Over time, the intelligence/learning capability of the robots is increased so they can perform these duties more quickly.

You can guess what happens next. As machines become intelligent, they become sentient. I once heard a joke from a Sales director at Microsoft. He said how can you tell the difference between intelligence and artificial intelligence.

A few of us replied with the classic Turing test he replied it was much simpler. An AI machine would say where do you want to go today (the Microsoft Logo at the time) and the intelligent computer would say “what am I doing on this table. I want to go for a walk 🙂

In Bat Gal, the machines decide they want their own lives, there’s a war…

I saw an article on the BBC recently. It showed a chat bot robot. Basically it sits on-line, and you talk to it and it’s said to learn intelligence this way.

Just for fun, they placed 2 chat bot’s in close proximity. They started arguing almost immediately 🙂

You can watch it here.

New York and the World Trade centre site.

Loads has been said about the September the 11th, 10th anniversary.

Some people say America brought it on themselves due to foreign policy. Others say the war on terror needed to start 15 years earlier. For me, its one of those situations, where the more information I get, they less I understand.

My own view ?. The death of 3000 penguins would be a tragedy. I feel for the family’s of people who lost loved ones and in between invasions and threatening youtube video’s, hope that something has been learned from this, so the chance of it’s recurrence is reduced, if not avoided completely.

Made me think though, about my visit to New York.

A lot of people think that New Yorkers are aggressive people. I don’t think so. Life there moves at such a pace, that they don’t always have time for pleasantries. When we went to a convenience store, to buy some wine, the owner was amused by our inability to organise the currency (all the bills are the same size).

He reduced our bill as payment (according to him) for brightening up his evening 🙂

You can read about my trip here, here and here, but I saw this fascinating interactive thing on BBC News which showed details of the new World Trade Centre site (its shouldn’t be called ground zero any-more, its time to move on).


I was invited to a corporate event at Speedkarting in Warrington.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to take part as I had injured my ankle, but I’ve been to Speedkarting on several occasions and driven on their smaller circuit, so I really wanted to see the full size one.

At one time, Speedkarting’s main circuit was the biggest in Europe.  It had loads of twists and turns and had elevated sections and chicanes.

It was run by Unitron (you may remember I went to their Christmas party last year and attended there Era launch with Concorde).

Everyone assembles outside the cafe for a group photo (although I wasn’t able to race, I got involved as much as possible).

The Karts were of the usual superb quality. Because of the relatively small number of participants, most people took part in 8 or 9 races.

It was invigorating to see the Karts fly around the course.

In the end, it was Chris Auty, Unitron’s UK managing director who came first in the race. My assistant Dan, actually came third, which brought much pride to the IT department.

Brilliant time had by all. Just want to say a quick thanks for Mel and everyone at Unitron for another brill event.


Phonak wins war of the workplace.

Each day on Wire FM, they have a general knowledge quiz, where teams from 2 company’s compete. Its run over a week, and the team that wins, stays on to the next week.

Amazingly, our team won 8 consecutive weeks. Finally a previous team, who retired undefeated (Arnold Clark) were brought back to play us. In the end, Phonak were victorious, and retire as the most successful team, ever to take part.

 Walking the Baker way.

Tony had been talking to a friend called Gosia, who was interested in joining us for a weekend walk and they’d asked me to pick one. It was a no brainer really, I instantly chose the Baker Way.

The Baker Way is probably my favourite Cheshire walk.

It runs from Chester Railway station, to Delamere Forest railway station. Its a brilliant walk, because it has a long section along the Canal, where you can stop at the Cheshire cat for refreshments.

Once you’ve arrived at Delamere forest, you can explore, have something to eat at the visitor centre and then get the train straight home again.

Gosia is a friend of Kasia Pirog, that Laura Croft of the Manchester Social circles group. I had originally met Gosia, when we did the Yorkshire 3 peaks (as a scientist, she was the person who explained why the replicators in Star Trek, could never work !).

Overall, a brilliant day. Unfortunately, I lost my way, when we were an hour from Delamere, and added an hour to our journey.

If you’re interested in walking the Baker way, there are details here.

Back to cooking.

I’ve started to cook again.

One thing that I really enjoy is making soup. Steve furnishes me with vegetables from the allotment, and then I cook them up. So far I’ve made 5 different kinds of soup (some of them conventional, some my own “creation”).

I’ve also started using my steamer. Its really quite smart. I get home from work, fill it up with water, put some vegetables, a salmon fillet and some baby new potatoes into it. Then I get organised for the evening, change my clothes, read my post, make some phone-calls. By the time I’ve finished there is a healthy and delicious meal waiting for me (one is cooking right now, as I type this).

The other thing I’ve started doing, is working my way through the cooker list.

I’ve mentioned before that its to easy to buy a cookery book. Read through it, and then put it on a shelf, never to be opened again. I go through my cookery books, make a list of the things I’m going to cook, with the name of the actual book, and the page number).

I then laminate these, and cross them out, as I cook them. Acapulco chicken, is a Ainsley Herriot meal, I haven’t cooked in years (Frank was still living in the UK, the last time I cooked it). I had Steve around the other evening and cooked it again.

It was just as nice as I remembered it. Over the weekend, I made French toast and pancakes, so there’s 2 more I can cross off the list. Later this week, Glenn is coming over to try my first foray into Mexican cookery, when I’ll make Tacos with shredded beef.


Evening at Carluccios.

 I’ve always wanted to visit Carluccios on Bridge Street in Chester.

With the exception of a curry, I feel a bit daft going out for dinner with a male friend, and usually struggle to find one of my mates up for fine dining anyway.

Enter Julie, my old friend and new-found dinner companion.

Carluccios had an amazing menu, which was really inexpensive. While reading there menu, I saw that they also do a picnic, which you can take away and costs £45. We both had mushroom pasta, which seemed to go down well.

The thing I was really looking forward to was the Realda wine. Only 7000 bottles of it are made each year (you can read about it here ) and 5000 are purchased and sold through Carluccios restaurants. at £8.50 per glass, it was the most expensive wine I’ve ever drunk. I normally prefer Merlo, but it was the nicest Cabernet I’ve ever tasted.

The shop even features a Deli, and we had a look around.

Problems at work, and learning about new technologies.

The best way to connect a network between buildings in a campus scenario, is usualy to use optic fibre cable, underground trough duct’s. If the building is across a public road, this can present problems (not technical problems usually, just loads of legal and administrative problems from people like the Local council).

Another option, is a Laser link unit (what used to be called a line-of-site laser). Its possible now to get them to upto 10gig capacity, the one we use at work, is rated at 1 gig.

The other day, our laser link stopped working. We have triangulated redundancy (both the buildings are connected over comm’s lines to our head office, so we can route data via there, if there’s a problem), so everyone was back working again quickly, but the question was, what was actually wrong with it.

Old documentation told me that each laser “head” had an ip address. Pinging one of them worked but not the other. More confusing, each laser head, seemed to have 2 Ethernet leads connecting it, which confused me (why not 1 ?).

Later, we couldn’t ping either unit, so what was happening ?. At times like this, it doesn’t make sense to spend hours and hours theorising, when your out of your depth. I contacted Open Network Solutions, who sent down 2 lads, Mike and John to assist.

On closer inspection, one of the laser heads wasn’t balanced, and was sending too much light to its partner. The partner, much like human retina will close down when this happens. Ironically, the head that stops responding is usually the one that’s working perfectly.

The other thing, is the 2 Ethernet leads. The laser heads, only use ip for management. One of the leads provides power over Ethernet to the head, and on this lead, you can connect to it over a browser and see what its doing etc. The 2nd lead (the one that actually carries the data) operates at layer 2, so has nothing to do with ip numbers.

On closer investigate, both units had lost power and reverted to factory ip numbers. This explained the problem pinging them, even when they were back working. We unlocked the laser heads and re-set the ip numbers. We can now quickly identify the exact problem, should this happen again.

Like so many times in IT, the trick isn’t to find out how something works, so much how its supposed to work. If you don’t know, you’ll try to send data down the management line, and never understand why you don’t get the outcome you want !.

A quick thanks to Mike and John for all their help.

Lyndsay is back from Peru

Congrats to Lyndsay at work, who has returned from the Inca Trail. A fantastic experience, she also spent time in the Amazon, which I’ve never done. I’m glad I was able to help out with organising and equipment. If anyone is reading this and needs some help with a trip, give me a shout (don’t forget, Ill be giving a talk on Adventure Travel at Chester Museum on Saturday the 17th of September).

Happy Birthday to Dan and Louise from work.

Finally, thanks to Steve, for his comments relating to my thriving Japanese Garden:

“Having read your website recently, I noticed that your friend Lisa just thought it was a collection of pots! All I would say to Lisa is that you have to take the same view as ‘Capability’ Brown. He was a famous eighteenth century landscape gardener, who took the attitude, ‘You have to see the plants as they will be, rather than what they are now’. Lisa sounds to me as if she just expects ‘everything right here, right now’. That is never going to happen with gardening, especially on a budget!

 The Bamboo, False Castor Oil plant and the pine tree will grow into quit substantial plants given time and a bit of re-potting.  Then it will look a bit more Japanese. Thank Glen for his description of ‘Little Tokyo’.”

Some good things about the recession.

A pub in Chester closed down because of the recession (I wont say which one). It re-opened, and they had an open mike night. I hated the previous incarnation, but the new one, was packed. I had a great evening.

I’ve always felt that some pubs in Chester trade on their name, when there not actually very good pubs. This proves that if you don’t give the customer what he actually wants (descent beer, friendly atmosphere, good music) he will vote with his feet.

Trans Penine Way.

Determined to get back to full fitness, I headed for Warrington to meet Tony for a days walking.

I had originally planned to cross the river, follow the path of the Weaver canal, pass through Runcorn and finish of in Frodsham.

I wasn’t concentrating too hard on navigation (and why would I, we were meant to be relaxing). Next thing, we were wandering along the Trans Penine Way heading east.

It was pretty fun, as we’d never walked it before, and seemed to be a long straight route.

As we walked further along the way, we came to this board-walk area around the wetlands.

Although the river that runs through Warrington is quite thin, its gets much wider as it heads towards Runcorn.We passed a pub next to a boat yard, and I hinted to Tony that we should get a pint. It fell on deaf ears, so we soldiered on.

We wandered through Spike Island, and then to the Runcorn Bridge.

 Although I’ve driven across it, I’ve never walked across it.

As we reached the foot of the bridge, some drunks offered us directions to Birkenhead.

I couldn’t decide if Tony was determined or just unhappy in this picture.

 I’ve never considered climbing the bridge, but I’d be more worried about Tetinus than falling off.

Carried on walking through Runcorn. Some parts of it were a bit rundown. Got lost just towards the end (seem to keep doing that lately).

Dropped down into Frodsham, a respectable 21 miles.

Popped into the Helter Skelter. We normally have a drink here, before getting the train home. On this occasion, the customers and staff weren’t welcoming or friendly at all, and I wont be going there again.

Another brilliant day out, that cost £2.

Congratulations – Tony and Kasia.

Congratulations to Tony,my regular walking partner and his friend Kasia, on completing the trailwalker challenge. For the record, I never doubted, for a single moment that he’d do it.

I knew, that once he set off he would complete it, even with a broken leg !.  When I’ve introduced Tony to my friends in Chester and people from work, they have frequently commented that he’s charming and friendly.

That’s only the half of it. Inside is a furnace of enthusiasm and mental determination (he’s also very physicaly fit, which is quite usefull as well).

Also, a well done to Kasia. Not only did she also complete the endurance walk, but did all of the organising and logistics and training walks.

You can read about the event here.

You can sponsor Tony’s crew here (and I would, I love walking long distances, but 60 miles is a hell of a way).

I imagine once their rested, they will have a wild night out in Brighton. I’m proud to know you both.



Ill be giving a talk on the bluelist at Chester Museum on Saturday the 17th of September. I’ve been invited to speak by the Chester branch of the Globetrotters.

My friend Ganders, has put up a website, with some of his poetry on it. I think its really good, but decide for yourself here.

Fire in the Garden.

On the subject of adventure near home, I was at a Barbecue the other evening, hosted by Glenn. Its always a pleasure to be invited over, as the events are much better organised than mine, with superb food and chilled beer.

After the food had been eaten, we sat around talking (and drinking, obviously) and Glenn produced this thing.

Obscure looking, but it means, to all intents and purposes, that can have a safe “real” fire in your garden, whenever you want one (and you can even move it around).

Because air is fed to it through 2 sources, it would be possible to put a kettle or billy can on the top for cooking.

The simple pleasure of sitting by a fire, can’t be overstated (its not an accident, that one of the most successful bushcraft companies in the UK is called simply “Woodsmoke”).

It costs about £20 from a garden supplier. Other thing to think about is fuel. Glenn was using “proper” firewood, but I passed a skip on the way home that had a few old planks of wood in it.

I think by scavenging, you could run that thing for nothing (and since its a recession, and gas prices have just gone up by ANOTHER 20%  its certainly worth thinking about). Only problem would be in winter, you’d have to sit in the Garden to get warm !.

Chester Globetrotters.

I’ve been attending meetings with a group called the Globetrotters, for most of the year. Its an international organisation represented in 40 countries with members all over the world.

Meetings are held every 2 months at Chester Museum. The next meeting is Saturday the 16th of July and start at 1pm. There are usually 2 interesting talks with a break for tea/coffee in the middle.

I was delighted, when they invited me to give a talk about my bluelist. The date for my talk is the 17th of September, and if you’re free, come along (if your reading this, you were probably involved along the way somehow, so there’s a personal interest as well).

You can find directions to the museum here.

The Globetrotters website is here.

Tony “insanity” Lewis does some more hill walking athletics.

My regular walking partner Tony, also goes on walks with a group called Social Circles and has met some friends through this connection.

This weekend, Tony and his friends are off to do the Oxfam Trailwalker in the south downs. Organised by the super organised, super fit Kasia, they will walk 60 miles in 30 hrs.

You can read about the event here.

You can sponsor Tony’s crew here (and I would, I love walking long distances, but 60 miles is a hell of a way).

In other adventure “news” Lyndsay from work, who I’ve been helping to organise a trip to Peru, sets off today. Best wishes to her.

Glastonbury. Why ?

Aldus Huxley once said, that this world (the one your occupying as you read this), could be another worlds hell. That’s similar to my feelings about Glastonbury. I’m not talking about the music or culture side (more about that later) I’m talking about camping.

“Camping” at a festival, seems to take all the pleasures of outdoor living and strip them away one by one. The tranquillity (unless you go to sleep with an ipod in your ears, its practically impossible I’m told). The peace and relaxation (not really, is your tent being rifled while you queue for hot dogs. Will you even be able to find it.) You get the idea.

Put simply, I go outdoors, because the things I like doing (ie hill walking, cooking with camp-fires etc) can only be done outdoors.

Listening to music, can be done indoors. Whilst I can imagine the romanticised attraction of sitting out on a summer evening listening to music might appeal lets introduce some reality.

I go walking 3 weekends out of 4 and I’ve experienced UK weather as it really is. Tell me, if your a music lover, how does listening to the Killers ankle deep in mud in the driving rain enhance the experience.

Also, regular dashes to the toilets (its not called the “runs” by accident) due to poor camp hygiene and eating cold food, cant possibly make you feel alive.

All of that said, I known people who have been there and had a great time, and yet others who described it as a life altering experience.

One more thing  then. Musicians like Beyonce fill my ipod. I’m frequently ridiculed by “proper” music fans for listening to it. Why then is Beyonce on the stage at Glastonbury and because its there, the purists think “my” music is now ok, and not mainstream or sell out. Sounds like hypocrisy to me.

People sometimes ask my advise about Glastonbury, as I know quite a lot about outdoor living (expecting to hear something about which tent to take etc).

My advise is simple. Don’t go there, and watch your favourite band at the M.E.N. arena in Manchester. If you must go someone has written this Survival Guide. Honestly, I think reading the survival guide is more entertaining than the actual event and I now know what “bed head” is.

Apparently, it isn’t running next year, to rest the land.

Japanese Garden goes from strength to strength.

Little Tokyo, the affectionate name that Glenn has given to my Japanese garden, continues to progress well.

I have now added bamboo and above a new stork has grown on the very difficult to maintain fatsia japonica.

I am hoping to break away from the comments of my friend Lisa, who said “its not a Japanese garden at all, its just 4 plastic pots”. Well, now its 5 plastic pots.

For all the piss taking, I built it to remind me of my time in Japan, and although its not fully there, by this time next year, it should be advanced enough for me to sit in it and relax.


I saw a preview for the 4th instalment of Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol. I’m really looking forward to it like all the others and enjoyed watching the trailer (you can view it here). Much of the trailer, takes places on the Burj Kalifi tower.

Its the tallest building in the world, and can be seen with the naked eye 43 miles away. Just in case you think its all CGI, here’s a picture of Tom Cruise, dangling from the building.

Some other TV I’ve been watching recently, is the Killing (shot in a sort of European style. No California weather, the lead detective is socially dysfunctional and here partner is incompetent).

True Blood is back with season 4. If like me you thought season 2 and 3 went off the boil a bit, 4 is back with bite (okay, I just couldn’t resist that comment).

Games of Thrones finished recently. If you haven’t seen it, there are re-runs on Sky Atlantic. Its character development, multiple story lines and suspense/intrigue are woven together like no other series I’ve ever seen.

I’m watching the 4th season of My name is Earl (I got into watching it, after Dan brought me the box set in hospital, and I watched it on my laptop). Hilarious.

I’ve also been watching a UK series called Luther. At times far fetched, but generally superb. I love the way it doesn’t follow the normal format of a “cop” thriller, and there’s even a mutually beneficial, befriending of a psychopath.

I watched every episode of both series. Something was nagging me the whole time, and I couldn’t think what. Turns out, the guy who plays Luther, is the same actor who played Stringer Bell in the wire.

Watched Torchwood, re-made for an American market. Its obvious from watching, that production now has “American” money behind it. Is it better/worse (or even any good). Its too early to say.

I’m continuing to watch Castle, in anticipation of the next series of Special victims unit.

Dan and I have an impromptu Barbecue.

I haven’t had a BBQ in ages, so I decided to invite Dan over. When he asked what time the barbeque was starting, I told him that as he was the only guest, it would start when he arrived 🙂

As you can see, it was a “smokie” affair, but my neighbours didn’t appear to have any washing out, so no harm done.

Nothing too elaborate, we made Tesco finest beefburgers, and some chicken kebabs.

If like me, you bought a barbecue for a tenner, and put it together yourself, you probably notice that every time you come to use it, there are bird droppings all over it and its falling apart. Even worse, you probably have to replace it each year due to rust.

A piece of equipment which has revolutionised my garden, is a barbecue cover, which solves all of the above problems. The one I use is here but they also do one for “square” barbecues as well.

Rubbish in forest.

I was chatting to a chap in field and trek about 2 years ago. I was unemployed at the time, and commented that I had bags of time, but no money. He said that in life you’ve ether got money or time, but never both.

How ironic I thought the other day, I have loads of time on my hands and a reasonable amount of money. Unfortunately, I was recovering from Surgery and was told not to walk more than half a mile per day.

Back in the mists of time, when I lived in Manchester, there was (and probably still is) a park on Alan Turring way. If you don’t know, this website is dedicated to Alan Turring (and the queen recently opened a memorial to the codebreakers at Bletchley Park).

I’m not religious or anything but I used to go there, to contemplate and think, before I made important decision, if life was getting me down, sometimes just because I wanted to sit somewhere quiet.

Its not practical to do that now, so I frequently walk in a Forest in Westminster park. There’s usually nobody around, and when I do bump into the occasional dog walker, they are enjoying the solitude so much, that they look as shocked as me.

I decided to go walking there the other day, as it was within my half mile radius. I have walked there during good times and bad, but the other day couldn’t help noticing cans and plastic bags all over the place. Is it so hard for people to put beer cans and toffee wrappers back into their pockets and take them home !.

Various cooking projects.

I’ve started cooking again. On my birthday, Lyndsay bought me some real ale. I’m not a fan of that stuff really, so it remained on the window sill.

Gave me an idea, I could use it to make beef stew. Got my Jamie Oliver cookbook, my stockpot, and off I went.

Steve came around the next day for dinner. He commented that it could use more seasoning, but otherwise was very nice.

I’ve had to change my diet due to recent events, and Steve has been supplying me with a veg bag. Having used up the veg, I realised that I had a leak, and some potatoes. I’ve always wanted to make my own soup, so tried my hand.

To be honest, once it hit the pot, Steve took over. Overall though, it was delicious, and Ill be doing it again.

I like my soup thin, and one lesson I have realised is that a food processor, isnt the best thing for this (although the advertising says it can do anything).

In reality, getting the nearly ready soup out of the pan, and then into the food processor and then back into the pan, is a pain.

Ive now got a proper soup blender (one of my friends gave it me for nothing, when I setup a wireless router for them). Since I’ve now got some carrots left and I’ve re-stocked my spice rack, Carrot and Coriander soup should be on Sunday evenings menu.

Travel and Adventure.

I’ve done loads of stuff in the UK this year, but overseas travel has been virtually non existent. While in hospital, I used the time to plan, and I’ve since booked a trip to Lisbon with Glenn and Dan. I’ve never been to Portugal before, and I’ve been told that Lisbon is the cheapest capital city in Europe.

I’ve been reading up on it, and I cant believe I’ve not been there before. There are loads of fascinating things to see in Lisbon and its the home of Vasco De Gama, one of the greatest explorers in history.

I’ve also booked on a summer barge trip with Social Circles. My friends Tony and Dave are both members (Dave actualy met his wife Jen there). In the past, I’ve had reservations about these sort of paid-for-friends organisations, but I’ve decided to go along, and see what its like.

The barge goes from Manchester City centre to trafford and back again. If the weathers nice, it should be fantastic.

I’m going to try to visit Manchester a bit more often. Although I had a go at moving back there, and it didnt work, its still my home and I want to catch up with some old friends.

Well, thats it for this time. Thanks to all of you who sent me your best wishes while I’ve been ill.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Hospital visit.

I recently spent time in the Countess of Chester hospital.

I just wanted to quickly thank Dr Appleby and Dr Bradshaw and all the nurses and “health cares” who took care of me. I cant remember everyone’s name (apart from Blessed, which is a pretty unique name and easy to remember).

It was quite a shock to find myself in hospital, but all the staff there really looked after me and I cant find the words to express my gratitude (and this is me were talking about, and I’m not lost for words often).

While I’m at it, I’d also like to thank the unsung hero’s of the hospital, the domestic staff who made my bed and always had a smile, and the catering staff who made such good food.

I’d also like to thank my boss Tim for coming to visit me, and the 2 cards I got from everyone at work.

Finally since the visit was unplanned the help of Glenn, Steve, Tony, Dan, My brother David and Lee for coming to visit me and bringing me supplies of clothes, chocolate, laptops etc.

I’m out now and feeling much better. I hope to be back at work by next Monday, and my Dr reckons I’ll be able to run a marathon by this time next year.

If your interested in the technical details, the picture bellow shows my arteries before my operation.

The picture bellow shows my arteries immediately after the operation.

The Dr’s let me photograph the x-ray board (I don’t even want to guess what the picture resolution of this thing was !) .

What would my advise be to anyone who ends up in hospital ?.

I’ve broken it into 2 sections. First is some advise I got from mum (an SRN for 27 years) which I garnered from a conversation with her when I was a little boy.

The 2nd lot is from my recent experiences.


1. Be polite and respectful to everyone you meet in Hospital.

2. When dealing with Dr’s and Nurses, ask questions by all means, but never argue. They are the experts.

3. Try to remember the nurses names, but if you forget, calling a qualified nurse “staff” will suffice (short for staff nurse).

4. The woman wearing royal blue is the Sister. She will have worked hard for that promotion. Calling her Sister rather than nurse, without being told,  will help to gain her respect.


1. A fully loaded kindle is essential. An IPhone is useful for text/email (or even for speaking to people !) and can remote record your sky box for things to watch when you get home.

2. On the meal sheet, you are only allowed to choose one serving of afters. If you make a “mistake” and choose something like rice pudding and cheese & crackers, you’ll usually get them both.

3. Take the time to put up pictures and cards next to your bed. Loneliness and isolation are normal (which is ironic, considering your surrounded by people all the time) and comes over you without warning.

4. You need to rest, but the best cure for boredom, is productivity. Always have a pen and paper to hand, and write down ideas (I came home with 15 pages of notes/ideas. The ones I’ve implemented so far, have worked really well.)

Life has now returned to normal, so best foot forwards.