Month: February 2012

Munich mouthing.

Just got back from a superb weekend visit to Munich.

Obviously, a good time was had by all, but drinking a 1 litre Stein glass lead to an unexpected outcome.

My friend Dan, is a regular visitor to this website, and has serialized the events for your viewing pleasure.



Before I write about whats been happening lately, take a look at the picture above.

As you can see, the sign says that the 17.26 train the Llandudno is on time.

Yet I’m waiting for the 16:26 train, its 4 minutes late, and there’s no mention of it. So basically, they just list the train after it as being on time. Whats that about ?

Loads interesting adventures coming up.

Obviously, I’m off to Munich at the end of this week, with Dan and Glenn.

At Easter, Im going camping to Llangollen. Ive also been thinking some more about my trip to the lakes.

One one hand, I want to do a kind of dice man, where I arrive there, maybe rent a car, maybe sleep in a tent, maybe stay in a hotel, whatever I like, a week of pure spontaneity, with some “touristy” peaks in the daytime.

On the other hand, I want to do a “proper” walk. I’ve decided that the Cumbria way looks pretty smart, and by sleeping in Hostels along the way, I can travel light.

On reflection, I cant do all of this in 1 trip, so I’m going to do them as 2 separate trips. If any of this sounds interesting and you want to come along, give me a shout.

I went to a leaving do for Chris and Mel from Unitron the other day. It was the first time I’ve been to the London Bridge in Stockton Heath, and it was a superb pub.

Tmro, my assistant Dan, is attending an Anti Virus seminar. Not just that, but its at Old Trafford, with a tour of the ground included !.

 No much else to tell. On the work front, all of our technical infrastructure stuff is ordered, Its just a matter of waiting for it to arrive.

TV wise, Hustle finished the other evening. Ill miss that show. Ive also started watching something called the Finder. I cant decide if its quirky or cliched, only time will tell.

For the rest of the year, I’m intending to visit Sofia, Tallin and Israel. If your reading this and your interested give me a shout (Ill be giving a talk about my adventures in Lisbon and planning a weekend city visit, at the Chester Globetrotters meeting at Chester museum on the 17th of March).

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…


Snow in the Clywydian mountains.

Out at the weekend with the Chester and District Walking Group. A couple of my friends have joined and the newest recruit is Tony G.

Tony doesnt have a lot of outdoor gear, so I lent him some of mine.

As you can see from this picture, there was snow on the ground, which made the adventure all the more photogenic.

Thawing from hillsides like this one very muddy, and I began to regret wearing cross trainers rather than my Karrimore walking boots. I suppose its down to personality’s. I tend to big things up and exagerate. The walk leader Christine, is charming and very level headed.

When she said it was very muddy, my mind converted that into “a bit muddy”. When in reality, she was quite correct, and in places it was horrendous (my poor Merril Moab trainers are ready for the bin).

Additionally, poor Tony sustained a foot injury. It was obvious he couldn’t complete the walk (although he’d done half of it). I saw a loose rock on a nearby drystone wall, and thought of putting him out of his misery so that I could continue the walk with the rest of the group.

I decided that were better than animals, and instead walked back to the car park with him. We weren’t able to join everyone for a drink in the pub, but we had an enthusiastic talk about walking, in the car on the way home.

Finally, a shot of me in my new Rohan walking jacket. I always prefer lightweight thigh length waterproofs in sensible colours, as they can be worn anywhere from an alpine walking holiday, to a day tour of Hong Kong.

My previous jacket (a Haglof) was tragically stolen, but every time I put this one on I like it more and more. You can buy one like it at Rohan.

Delicious Liverpudlian food.

A lot of people think that people who work in IT departments are nurds and watch Battlestar Galactica all the time (well, its 50% true in my department 🙂 ).

Another common cliche, is that HR people are all touchy/feely, but the boss is always a real bastard.

Well, just to show that isn’t the case, read on.

My company is laid back, but nobody said anything about relaxed. We utterly dominate the markets that we work in. Its supposed to be because of innovation, but I recon its because we try harder than any of our competitors !. Today, we were all busy working on something important, so most of us, didn’t get any time to eat our lunch.

As I came to leave, Pam, our HR Manager (who had been especially stressed), kindly gave me some “Scouse” that her mum had made for her lunch, which she hadnt had chance to eat (for those that don’t know, Scouse is a sort of Liverpudlian Corned beef hash).

I thought this was really kind of her, and thought so all the more, when I got it home (as you can see, I was working at home, and eating my evening meal (normally called T, where I grew up) at my computer).

It really was one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten, and I’d like to thank Pam (and her mum) for this very kind gesture.

Next time I make Ginger Chicken, I’ll bring some into work for you all.


Furniture Philosophy 2.

In the pub the other day and Dan was taking the piss (much like every other day, in that respect).

I was lamenting, in an off moment, how once life had been really good, how I’d suffered the dark times. That although life was still very hard and I thought I was doing ok, things could have been easier.

He commented that for someone who proclaimed to be poor, I seemed to have some pretty cool possessions.

It struck me for a moment.  I now posses 2 items of furniture, Ive wanted for more than a decade. When I was very well paid and life was easy, I couldn’t afford them, yet today, having previously seen my salary halved, I own them, both. How did this happen ?.

Necessity is the mother of invention ?. Well fine, but how specifically ?

1. I have always wanted to have a glass topped desk.

This one, wasn’t hard at all. Put simply, I went on an event with work. In the truly beautiful hotel we stayed in, I had a glass topped desk which I worked on with my laptop. I often say, I have stood on table mountain (an event which completed my bluelist ) 500 times. Once in body, and 499 times in my head.

Sitting at that desk, made it real in my mind. After experiencing this, I had focus.

A couple of hours of research (Google) found that the desk could be purchased with artist style supports, for £60, or spectacular ebony supports with in built shelves, for only £104.

£104 !. That’s what it has always cost, but I was so convinced that it was a specialist item,that I convinced myself I could never afford it (and this is me, who lectures other people on limiting beliefs).

As Scully said in the first episode of the X-Files, the answers are there (Moulder), you just need to know where to look.

2. I have always wanted a “proper” wood dining table and chairs.

A friend from work was leaving the UK for a secondment to Australia. I overheard her saying she was “getting rid” of a table. I know what sort of person she is, as I have frequently fixed her computer.

Described as “shabby chic”, I knew that when she said it was “OK” that meant to most ordinary poeple (including me) it would be spectacular.

She needed to sell in a hurry. I couldn’t believe that she would part with it for £30, provided I could pick it up in 48hrs.

Ok, so it could be argued, that this is co-incidence. I don’t agree. It has a more poncy name (which I cant be bothered to look up) but I believe its the Green Renault Megan principle.

So here’s the story. One of the partners at my old firm, attends a breakfast lunch. A motivational speaker, gives his talk, and asks the people present close their eyes, and focus on a Green Renault Megan.

The following week, they come back, and he asks them how the week went (Some of the people present have been in business for more than 40 years). They laugh, and say OK, nice setup. To their mind, there was clearly a special promotion in car showrooms, as there were Green cars of this type on just about every road.

Except that’s not the case. As the speaker says, there are no more Green Megan’s on the read this week, than there have ever been. Its just that now your looking for them.

Never ceases to amaze me that people who set a personal goal are surprised when “co-incidences” occur and opportunities appear. Youve decided to do the Inca Trail, but funds are scarce. “amazingly” your next door neighbor has a suitable rucksack in the loft from his inter-ailing days.

Co-incidence ? Really ?

Once home, I position the table flush to a wall in my house. This means it can only have 3 chairs around it. Another “co-incidence”. My friend Glenn (the largest supplier of antique pine furniture in the country), has 3 really superb chairs of the type I really like. Unfortunately he cant source a 4th chair.

He’s sorry to disappoint me, but because of this, he can reduce the price :).

Furniture Philosophy 1.

I was out with the walking group the other Sunday.  A chap I’ve not met before engaged me in conversation. It was clear that he was passionate about gardening. I wanted to engage with him in conversation, but I was in a bit of an odd position.

I love my home, and do everything I can to make it comfortable, but Im a practical sort of guy, and its purely functional.

My friend Tony quite literally built his house. My brother David has an amazing home, that wouldn’t be out of place in the ownership of a millionaire (he and his wife Leigh, take care over every detail, and it shows).

Me, I bought cheap paint from Wilkinson’s to brighten up the place, and paid an unemployed mate to paint it, as I thought I’d get it on the carpet !.

What to say ?.

I had an idea.  My house is 100 years old, it has an original pine staircase and doors and I’ve got 2 or 3 pieces of antique furniture to compliment it. I said that I loved old wooden furniture, and had a few really special pieces I was proud off, then switched the conversation back to gardening.

Later as I was walking on my own (walking groups join and separate like this throughout the day) I started to think more about my Pine Furniture. The Pine mirror above my mantlepiece, was a gift from Glenn for my birthday. Its 150 years old, and I look at at 4 or 5 times each day (I cant help it, I like looking at my own face 🙂

I was reminded of something which happened a few years ago, which made me smile.

My brother and I were in an outdoor shop, and my brother was looking to buy a multi tool, and I a penknife (which I later gave to the excellent Henrik, responsible for setting up this site).

The guy in the shop, was making a pigs ear of the sale, so just for fun, I asked if I could take over, and “sell” the item to my brother.

It was a pretty mellow sort of day, so he agreed. I said simply to my brother. What can you buy out of a months wages and give to someone, which their grandchildren will be able to use practically every day (that’s why, if you’ve received a gift from me, it may well be a Zippo lighter or penknife.

That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t just being pretend empathetic with my walking colleague. I really enjoy being in the room with my pine furniture. It isn’t the prestige that appeals to me (although its clearly there) but genuinely brings me pleasure to be around.

At some point, my collection of pine really has become special to me. For the investment, it will last the rest of my life, and I’ll feel like I’m sat in a room with friends (and for several other people’s, lifetimes after that)

If your interested have a look at Glenn’s website.

Sewells NY Booster course

 Just before Christmas, I heard about a 1 day New Year Booster course run by Sewells. How could I resist.

So there I was, walking along the Canal towards Christleton, where the event was held.

I had previously attended there Working Miracles course in 2004. How ironic it was, that I should be walking from a house whose purchase and ownership, took form on a goal setting session at this very place.

Took me back. Wandering along, I thought of the original course. Too many amazing things to list, but I left the venue years before with a plan:

What would really make me happy £1,000,000, a Porche ?

Not for me, I decided I would get a job as a travel writer, buy a house in Chester and use my new job to complete a list of places Ive always wanted to see and things I’ve always wanted to do (later to be named a bluelist).

But that didn’t work out, and this is where being flexible and comfortable changing plans comes in.

There are were 5 full time travel writers in the world, with an expense account and enough money to purchase property in Chester city centre

What about, I stick to something I love doing, like fixing computers *1 and building networks. It will challenge me and finance both the house and traveling ?.  As far as becoming a travel journalist, I could make better use of my website and write my own articles (lets face e it, as editor, everything I write will be published. To market it, I would have travel cards printed and give them to interested people I met while adventuring (presently 300 hits per week, from all over the world).

Back to present day.

These guys dont miss a trick. The event kicks of at 9 on the dot, but Bacon Butty’s are available from 8:30 and your are encouraged to get their early so they haven’t all gone.

The demographic of the course had changed since I last did it. Previously there had been web developers, secretaries and the like. This time, there were sales directors, company owners, heads of marketing etc (Director of purchasing at Pilkingtons and the MD and Marketing Director of Slimming world, were 2 that stuck in my mind)

An intensive day, that left me exhausted. We had a superb lunch and I bought a copy of Wills excelent book The Guide.

Obviously, Sewells make a living by selling a unique product, so I wont go into detail about anything that I learned, you’ll have to book on it to find out.

Suffice to say its invigorating to have a sense of purpose and change your perception of yourself.


*1 note:

I love fixing things. While in hospital, I bought things from the Sunday morning car boot sale in the hospital car park.

I fixed several items including a wireless keyboard and a web cam (my boss wouldn’t let me have my laptop, as I was supposed to be relaxing, but I had my work bag with all of my tools in it ( it was once joked, that if a flying saucer crashed in Chester, there would be enough kit in my bag, to repair it !)).

I repaired items away to relatives of my fellow patients.


 Well, loads happening at the moment.

Last year was a superb year for our department. I normally take my team out each year, but Ive been conscious lately, that as it happens each year, perhaps those concerned, may think its a matter of routine, rather than a celebration of genuine achievement.

That wasnt the case at all. We had a 2 course lunch, and at Dan’s request, we even invited Joe from Unitron marketing.

I know that a lot of company’s social budgets have been cut lately, but I’d point out, that I paid for everything with my own money. If you have a position of rank in your company, your achievements are directly linked to the energy and focus of your team. Isn’t it worth putting away a couple of quid each month to celebrate !.

Ive been out walking again with the Chester and District walking group. By absolute co-incidence, we ended up in Llangollen 2 Sundays running. I’d decided to go camping this coming Easter, but had debated the venue. It definitely Llangollen, with some amazing hills, comfortable campsites, everything from Curry houses to Chippy’s and a couple of really good pubs. If you end up going there, I’m sure Ill run into you.

I was supposed to be walking the Weaver Way this weekend (with stop offs in Nantwich and Northwich). I decided that I’ve taken on too much lately, so decided I’d have an entire weekend doing nothing. The plan is still in place, and The Weaver way, along with the Gritstone trail will be completed before my birthday in may.

Talking of my birthday, I was seriously considering not having my usual birthday celebration in Chester, and instead going off on my own, camping or suchlike.

Some of my friends said they were really looking forward to it, so its back on, put the 5th of May in your diary, would be great to see you.

In the last 10 days, I spent some time, catching up with old friends. The first was Julie Coffee (previously Julie Dermody). Its great to meet with friends like this. As the saying goes, times change but people dont. Over a delicious meal at Cafe Rouge, I get to re-align my compass. Despite all the experiences Ive had, and the skills I’ve gained, I’m still the same person, and its great to reflect on my earlier self, with someone who was actualy there (it wasnt all about me though, Julie is doing incredibly well at work).

I’m busy organising Munich at the moment for the end of the month. I don’t normally return to places ive been before, but it was 20 years ago that I was last there, for 5 hours and I promised myself I’d go back.

I’m determined to visit the Black forest and Bavarian mountains while there (not in too much detail, I’m using it as a recce for a future budge airline/rented car combination. Annoyingly, day trips to the Eagles Nest, featured in Band of Brothers isnt run in Winter. Instead, there are trips to  Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the Disney logo, built by Ludwig the 2nd. Theres obviously loads to see in the city itself, including a pub built in 1328, the BMW museum and the Olympic park.

Mad busy at work, but this is the time of real opportunity. As Mark Twain said, a calm sea never made a strong sailor.

Ive been for a couple of beers in the Lock Keeper (the newly re-opened pub, formerly the Frog and Nightingale, formerly the Fortress and Firkin, formerly Greens (before my time).

It has that amazing pub paradox, which I haven’t experienced since the early days of the Northgate Arms.

A good pub for relaxing, reflecting, light reading etc, is normally pretty empty.

A good pub from the point of view of the owner, is full.

Obviously, one contradicts the other. Whilst I wish them well, I have to say (in the nicest way) that I hope it doesn’t do well, as it will continue to be quite and Ill continue to enjoy it !.

In other “news”.

I watched haywire recently. Some years ago, I used to see a girl from work. I remember she commented once “if your going to kiss me John, do it like you mean it !”. That was years ago, but to film makers. If your going to make one, why don’t you do that like you mean it ?.

Put simply, this film was terrible. But how could it be anything else ?  Acting, direction, cinematography and script were all done with a have a go attitude.

Good news is work have now moved to Orange, so I will get the 2 for 1 deal on Cinema and Pizza’s.

Mell, Chris and Jean’s leaving do is schedule for the 18th of Feb. If you don’t have the details, give me a shout.

While I was back home, I took a moment to visit the tourist shop, and pick up this mug.

Its inspired by a quote from 24 hour party people, a film a still enjoy watching about the Manchester music scene.

In the film, Wilson reaches a dark point, where his wife leaves him, and he drops her off at the train station. He quotes F Scott Fitzgerald who said “American lives don’t have 2nd acts”. Wilson comments “This is Manchester and we don things differently here !.

Ive also been putting some new stuff on my kindle, for the 23 min train journey from home to work. Cicero and the Fear Index, both by Robert Harris.

All I can say, is what the hell happened to this guy. This is someone who wrote Fatherland and a host of other books afterwards, such as Enigma and Archangel, which I couldn’t put down (nearly 20 years ago, I phoned in sick, to finish reading Enigma !).

Im giving another talk in March at the Globetrotters. Its Lisbon this time. Lisbon, according to Simon Calder is the cheapest capital in Europe, and Ill be talking about my experiences there, and the place itself, as a budget travel destination.

One final thing I must how you, are these folding loafers. When I come into money, their going to permanently join my travel gear.