Month: March 2012

Early summer barbecue.

 Whenever I write down things to do in my house (from mopping the kitchen floor, to re-decorating 3 rooms) I always find that an event where guests will arrive forms a catalyst, and forces action that might otherwise have been put off.

I’ve actually learned to put the cart before the horse now. I make a list of things that need doing, calculate how much of my free time it will take, subtract 25% from the future date for efficiency, and then invite people round for the relevant date.

My birthday is nearly a month away and I’m expecting loads of people to stay over or visit my house for the first time. I decide to split the project in 2, and have a barbecue a month early, and have half the work done in time for it.

Well, that’s all really nice, but the reality was a hectic week at work, being in work the Saturday morning of the Barbecue and various other things. It was mad chaos, up until 5pm when the Barbecue started.

That said, once everyone arrived, everything went to plan. The Barbecue was lit on cue, the kebabs and burgers prepared, buns buttered etc. Kitchen, bathroom etc. were all fully stocked and spotless. I’d even put up some Phonak Soundfield speakers up to add some music to proceedings.

I’d put a note through both my neighbours doors, inviting them, and advising them to call me if there were any problems. As I worked through the to do list on my clip board, everything was coming together (I even made notes about who the guests were, and possible points of conversation I could use to engage them. When some of the guests found it later, they thought it was hilarious).

I decide to go for a mixed bag approach. Two old friends (Dan & Glenn), Three people from the walking group (Brian, Sue and Jo) and Tony, Lorraine and baby Daisy.

I even bought a special Peppa Pig cup and bowl for Daisy, so she could feel like part of action (I didn’t realise the cup and bowl set came with an Easter Egg, that she seemed to enjoy).

An old trick I’ve learned from Gareth at work, is to use youtube to entertain small Children. Daisy was well behaved anyway, but seemed to enjoy it even more, when CBBees or some such was put on the computer.

I put out the potato wedges, Salad, potato salad and rice (everyone commented how well prepared things were, but in honesty, it was all taken from Ainsley Heriots Barbecue book I bought from the Charity shop).

The food and drink seemed to go down nicely, everyone got into small groups and got to know each other and some people went through my book case and ridiculed my reading preferences 🙂

I gave occasional tours of the house to people who hadn’t visited before.

The one thing you cant plan for in the UK is the weather. Sadly, it was an appalling day, and once the “outdoor” food had been cooked, the door was closed and it turned into a house party (just as well, during prep, I realised my garden Bench had broken, and had to be thrown away. There wouldn’t have been anything to sit on.

Later in the evening, I lit the simulated real fire, everyone sat around, and we had a really good time. Party went on until the last guest left at 1:30am.

Overall, a superb evening, well worth all the work. Thanks to everyone who texted to congratulate me on it.

Oh, and loads of important things have been done in the house as well !.

Knight in shining Rohan & a day in Bristol.

One of our customers was in distress, and needed some help with PC’s (our products were fine, but without usable PC’s, couldn’t be configured. We don’t usually do external computer support, but these were special circumstances).

Thing is, were based in Warrington and the customer is in Bristol. 3-4 hrs on the train is a long way. A friend in need is a friend-indeed and I also had some idea’s about finding adventure, if the work went to plan.

On the train at 5:40am. Not the first class stuff I’m used to when I travel to London, but the train was pretty empty so quite comfortable.

First problem encountered. I have my laptop with loads of interesting stuff to watch, and I realise I’ve left my headphones at home. I’m not one of those people who just play stuff out loud, so I’m stuck. I haven’t brought a book either, so the next 4 hours are looking like hard work.

But wait, its a beautiful day, and I’m travelling through Welsh valleys, with a fantastic view outside. This is the kind of thing I do in my own time and pay good money for. Here, I’m actually getting paid to do it.

I relax and the pleasant journey passes relatively quickly.

I arrive in Bristol on time. I’ve been told to take a cab to the customer site. According to my IPhone, its 2 miles away, so I decide its a nice day and I’ll walk. As I arrive gasping outside the customers building, I decide that Google maps really should feature contour lines as I’ve walked up and down several large hills to get here.

The buildings are very picturesque, and I’m starting to like Bristol.

With my most profesional manner, I walk into the customer site. I’m briefed by the head of department and get to work. I need some hearing aid specific technical advise, so speak to Yatesh & Rick back at the office. From there, there’s no stopping me. I fix all 9 computers (lots of different problems, but all fairly routine) in about 2 and a half hours.

The customer is delighted and thanks me for my help. I’ve done this job for 22 years at various company’s, but there simply isn’t anything to compare with the satisfaction of hearing genuine praise for a job well done.

I call back to the office, and speak to the client manager. I’m congratulated again, and “told” to have a pint by the river. Well, it was a beautiful day, and an order’s an order 🙂

My train home isn’t for a couple of hours. I’ve heard great things about Bristol, and have drawn up a bit of a plan. I speak to the barman who served me, get some local “intel” and off I go.

First up is Nelson street, which has been painted up in the See No Evil project. OK, some people will call this ugly graffiti, but I have to ask, if there wasn’t any paint on those walls and buildings, would they actually look pleasing to the eye. Or (as I suspect) people just don’t like them painted, because there different and none conformist ?

Other big thing I wanted to see, was some of the famous “Banksy” artwork.

I’d read on the internet, that one of his best works – Grim Reaper was painted onto the social boat Thekla. I had no idea what a social boat was, but I found out, its used as a music venue and a sort of floating social/youth club.

I asked the guy on board, but he said he’d never heard of it, and I walked all the way around, but still couldn’t find it.

Ive since researched it on the internet, the picture above, is what it originally looked like. I want to go off in search of more Banksy, but time is against me, and although adventure is calling, I don’t want to end up lost in an unknown city and miss my train.

Coward that I am, I pursue my next project.

I continue along the harbour-side. I’d heard people talk about a certain kind of buzz around Bristol. I thought it was nonsense originally, but there’s certainly a vibe to the City, and definitely next to the water.

A former transport shed has been converted into a museum of Bristols history. As its original designation was Shed M, so the museum is called M-Shed. Its located to the left of these amazing cranes.

I had read some amazing reviews of the museum, but to my annoyance, I found out it is open every day but Monday (and it was Monday).

Final adventure project of the day, I decide to do an improvised tour of various Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s buildings.

Unfortunately, its a downloadable mp3 from Bristol tourist website, and as I’ve left my IPod at home, I cant listen to it.

I just wander around the old buildings, and try to soak up the atmosphere. Technically, the day has been a professional success, and an adventure failure. No matter though, I realised how much I like Bristol, and know I’ll be going back there soon.

Curled up on the train home, I drop off to sleep within minutes and wake 3 hours later in Chester.

BMX trip down memory lane.

Weekend technically began on Thursday evening with a meal at Cafe Rouge with the walking group. Annoyingly, it was on the 24th of the month, so I hadn’t been paid. I had to raid the chocolate tin at work (we have an honesty box at work, for chocolate) to finance the evening, and then pay it back the following day.

A superb meal all the same. I don’t eat out as often as I used to, but its nice to be back doing it again.

On Saturday, I was going to do various things in the house, but I got a call from Amelia, who I haven’t seen in ages.

Her baby is 6 months old now, and she has moved house. We met in the park (it was a beautiful day) and then had a walk around and finished off with a few well deserved pints in the Smokehouse, the Lock keeper and the Mill.

While we were at the Lock Keeper dozens of people arrived riding BMX Bikes. I was surprised, as they were all my age. I read later there had been a rally in Wrexham where a famous bike frame designer had worked, and it was the 30th anniversary, and they had met up in Chester afterwards.

It was amazing, these were bikes from my teens, thirty years on, in pristine condition.

I was inspired, so on Sunday, I finally took my mountain bike out for a ride. Its one of those things that I always say ill do, but always seems to get pushed to the back of the list. I decided to pedal over to Glenn’s warehouse in Mickel Trafford. I had 2 cups of tea and a chat. Glenn was busy with admin, so I got from under his feet and pedalled home.

Afterwards, I went for a curry in the Gate of India. I’ve made a list of every curry house in the city, and I’m determined to try every one. Most places now, do either a curry buffet, or a curry banquet on Sunday afternoon/early evening. The buffet is better as you get to try loads of different things on the same plate.

The banquet is a set meal, but 3 courses for £7 is still an amazing bargain. As I sat down, someone came into the restaurant drunk. Abused the staff, and then stormed out. Twenty minutes later he returned, demanding his bag (which he had left by mistake) back.

I really felt sorry for the poor staff. They were only trying to make him welcome (lets be practical, in this economy only a happy customer comes back, and a quick buck, just doesn’t work any-more). I wasn’t sad to see him leave the restaurant. I couldn’t help thinking, whatever was on his mind, calming down, drinking a nice glass of wine and eating a delicious meal might have helped.

Back home, relax and prepare for Monday at work. Then it occurs to me. Something I’d read i a brilliant book called the pocket life coach.

It talks about making a list of minor niggles and things that get on your nerves. It reasons that the big problems or annoyances in your life will usually get sorted out, but the minor ones, you just put up with. These things steal your energy and you must list them, and work through the list.

As I sat in the house reflecting, I realised that I hate the ornamental lights in my living room. My house is lit by spot lights, mounted into the ceiling, but these annoying sort of mock caravan lights, grow out of the wall to compliment them. They provide no needed light, and are an eye sore.

Without another word, I reached for my toolbox and took them all down and covered them over (took about 2 hours) and then went back to watching tv. I swear I can feel increased energy in that room now, every time I walk into it.

Snowdonia & Wainwright.

Went out walking again on Sunday. A last minute idea on Saturday evening. I was run off my feet with things to do at home, but I can always make time to get outside (and I’m, not talking about standing in the garden).

We normally stay close to home, but decided to head out to the Snowdonia national park. After parking the car we followed a path and then a mountain bike track up the hill.

After this, we found ourselves at the foot of a very steep hill. First problem, there wasn’t actually a path, and it was dense heathland. Brian reckons we just march across, so off we go.

It was completely exhausting, but I realised I found the perfect way to get fit !

As we reach the top of the hill, there’s a road. I look back down the hill and take a picture.

With the wind howling, we follow the road, and then head across the tops. Taking a circular rout back down, it becomes very boggy, and my feet are quickly soaking.

Shattered and exhausted, I’m reminded of the Woodsmoke Abo course (here and here) where the joy of something comes after the event, and the actual activity itself is largely insufferable :).

Off the hill, we return to the village of Penmachno and have a drink in the Eagle pub.

A lovely little pub, it is soured by the staggering £3.30 per pint. No matter, the company of walking friends and warmth of the fire make up for it (and a big pile of trail magazine’s to read).

The mantle piece has an interesting statement carved into it: “Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. There was no-one there.”

Above the mantle, were the original crampons worn in Touching the void by Joe Simpson.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I’m planning 2 trips to the lakes this year. 1 a sort of holiday, and the other an alpine style trek across the Cumbria way. The inspiration for these trips came from watching a documentary about Wainwright and watching the BBC Tv series, The Wainwrights, where Julia Bradbury does selected excursions from the 7 Wainwright volumes (which took him 13 years of his life to complete).

I’m trying to recruit for the Cumbria way, but I think I’ll probably end up doing it on my own, as a sort of pilgrimage (thanks to Brian and Sue the other evening for their suggestions on accommodation for the trip).

Thinking about solitary adventures, made me think of Wainwrights thoughts. In his 7th volume, he said when he died, he would like his ashes scattered over Inominate Tarn.

In Memoirs of a Fellwalker in 1990 he wrote “All I ask for, at the end is a last long resting place by the side of Inominate Tarn, on Haystacks, where the water gently laps the gravelly shore and the heather blooms and Pillar and Gable keep unfailing watch.

A quiet place, a lonely place. I shall go to it, for the last time, and be carried. Someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me out of a little box and leave me there alone.

And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit on your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me.