Month: June 2012

Weekend in Corris.

Well my 3rd consecutive weekend away. This time I was visiting a place called the Corris Hostel.

Picked up by Brian, we stop off to pick up Sue, and popped in for a cup of tea (its one of the cleanest houses I’ve ever visited, and smelled like a hotel).

Anyway, as we were leaving, we met a neighbours dog, who Sue sometimes takes for a walk (Sue lives in one of those nice areas, where people don’t steal each others washing from the line). I was entranced by a small lively dog called Maggie.

Firstly, Maggie, is a woman’s name. Its like calling a cat Alison, or an Afghan hound Graham. Anyway, this little dog had sadly suffered cancer as a pup, and only had 3 legs. The thing that struck me was her sheer vitality and energy. For a tiny dog, she bounded with more exuberance, than a dog 5 times her size.

I thought that was a good metaphor for adventure generally. OK, the 3 of use weren’t walking naked into the Borneo Jungle with just a copy of the daily telegraph and a knitting needle, but we were out in search of adventure all the same.

Made me think, whatever your disadvantages, however modest your project, just like Maggie (it still feels strange calling a dog Maggie, by the way) put 150% of yourself into it.

Previously, my preferred type of accommodation was en-suit rooms in pubs like the Keswick Lodge (which has now been renamed the Inn at Keswick).

Because of the recession less people are going abroad, and lots of the pubs I would have previously stayed at, are now charging £90 plus for a room for one night (and in some cases up-to £120, and charging extra for breakfast !).

As a result, I turned my hand to hostelling. It has all the freedom and comfort of a pub b&b, but at a cost of around £14 per night.

We were staying in the hamlet of Corris, where the hostel there has a Nirvana reputation.

Above you can see they have a fireplace, comfy armchairs, tables for for communal eating and stuff like that, and a superb collection of interesting books.

They have a couple of private rooms, with en-suit sinks. I decided to sleep in one of the dorms, where they were cleverly compartmentalised to keep noise to a minimum.

I was shown to my bunk. It had the kind of décor that my bedroom had when I was 6, but it was also spotlessly clean and the quilt was warm.

They also had electricity, so unlike Skiddaw House I was able to charge my phone.

We got speaking to the hostel keeper. We were asking if business was doing well. Its then that it occurred to me. In this corner of life, there are 2 types of business.

1. If I have an idea, like importing bathroom tiles or something like that, I leave my job, and run the business to make the best possible profit for myself.

2. If I’m an accountant and I want to leave and setup a business leading mountain bike tours, then the job is the reward itself and all I need is a break even situation.

So, when asking someone like this, how business is going and he replies were surviving, that mean (in relative terms) that business is going very well.

I wander into the hamlet to explore.

They have a Steam train from there, which is running the following day (Fathers day), but we’ll be walking, so there isn’t any time to do it (as I’ve said before, I’ve been in a helicopter, a hovercraft, a submarine and a dozen other things but I’ve never actually been on a steam train.

I also found this waterfall.

In the evening we wandered down to the Slaters arms.

I imagine its normally a quiet place, but a group of lads were there to celebrate a stag do.

We had some dinner and a couple of pints. The service was excellent and the pub was really friendly.

We were introduced to the groom. It was pretty obvious really, he had a pint pot duck taped to his hand, and was wearing a dress.

Turned out he was a pagan, and the service was going to involve rocks at North, South, East and West. Didn’t really understand it to be honest, but meant a lot to him all the same.

Darts has become a must do activity amongst our group. We challenged the Stag participants to play. At one point, I actually hit a bull. Here Drew, indicates its location (which was amazing considering how much he’d had to drink).

Off to bed. Brian, the dark horse of our trio, was out until 2:30, long after everyone else had retired to bed.

I told the stag people about this website. If your reading this, I hope your wedding goes well, and you have a happy life together.

A lazy start to the day. I get up and read several of the excellent books  (and I didn’t even steal them to read at home either).

A more modest walk than usual, we stop on the hillside for brunch.

On the way home, we stop at Balla. Everyone enjoys scrambled eggs on toast.

Back home, and our adventure is over.

Really enjoyed the hostel, Ill be going there again.

Lakes & life changing events.

People always say that opposites attract. Sometimes similarities attract.

Out for a drink one evening with Sue and Brian.

Brian mentions a place he likes called Skiddaw house. Its the highest hostel in the UK, at around 1500 feet.

That’s how adventure seeds are planted.

In other pub groups of friends, it would be agreed that “one day” we would go there. Except the people who I’m proud to call my friends, are like me, and six weeks later, were on our way there to visit !.

The hut has no electricity and can (realistically) only be reached on foot after a 2 hour walk.

I was unsure what the situation was with catering, so I took all the food I would need for 2 and a half days (ready made sandwiches for lunch, pasta for evening meals, breakfast bars, well, for breakfast). Tea and coffee are provided at the hostel.

I included my usual treats of chocolate limes, aero and hot chocolate sachets (Cheryl asked me to point out that they were fair trade). I also took a “Gerry Cochrane” inspired Sig bottle filled with whisky and 2 cans of coke for evening “entertainment”.

For clothing I just took a change of underwear and socks, a spare jumper for the evenings and a pair of trainers for trotting around the hostel.

Minimal wash kit, no first aid kit, penknife, torch, notebook and pen, sets everything up.

I’m picked up by Pete, and along with Cheryl and Dave, we hit the motorway.

We pass Keswick and arrive at Threlkeld. Brian had spent the day or two previous with some friends visiting from France.

He had caught the bus from Penrith, and through careful planning (and quite a lot of luck) we all arrived at the Horse and Farrier at about the same time.

We had a couple of pints, and got to know our French friends.

By about 2pm, we decided to head off. There was a discussion about doing a peak on the way. It was the usual story for me, in order to have Friday off, I’d had a hectic busy week so I was quite tired.

I decided to go straight to the Hostel with a mixed bag of French and English companions.

The weather turned rough about half way, but overall things were fine.

The path wound along, and we were presented with this sight.

At first look, Skiddaw house, doesn’t look like a cottage or anything, and someone compared it to a row of council houses.

The key thing about the place for me, is its altitude and isolation. As estate agents always say, the 3 most important things about property, are location, location, location.

This has all the remoteness and simplicity (and can I say spirituality without sounding like a pretentious bastard ?) of a bothy, but a few home comforts, like environmentally friendly heating, running water and showers.

Its also halfway up loads of amazing hills and mountains. I’ve been around the world 3 times, but put simply, there isn’t anywhere quite like here.

We are welcomed in by Martin (middle left) and Marie-Pierre (right). The kettle is put on, and we are shown around. It really is an oasis and to my delight, there isn’t even a phone signal (although obviously the hostel has a working phone for emergency’s).

I put all my stuff (what little there is) under my bunk. I’m a bit annoyed, as years ago I bought a silk sleeping bag liner, this is one of the few occasions that I’d get to use it, and I’ve left it at home. I change into my trainers and evening clothes and head downstairs.

Marie-Pierre briefs us on the history of the hostel, kitchen/bathroom protocol and the safety brief re fire escapes and and stuff like that (and since she’s French herself, is able to brief the French girls in their native language).

I’m delighted to find that there’s even a games room, with an extensive collection of interesting books, back issues of Trail magazine and a dartboard.

Both rooms are heated by an aga so its toasty warm (and even able to dry out boots in just an evening).

Dave cooks something, and we tuck into our evening meal. Later, I offer the Whisky around, everyone settles down to relax and interesting conversations are heard throughout the building (in both English and French).

Finally awake, and see this view out of the window. The beds are normal bunks. A bit small for my size, but I sleep soundly all the same.

Head downstairs to the wash-room. I wasn’t expecting too much from the shower, but it was as warm, and the jets as powerful, as any I’ve used in a hotel.

I find cooking in hostels is normally a lot of messing about and I was expecting organised chaos in the kitchen (for this reason I’d brought breakfast bars). As it was, everything seemed to go fine. The hostel provides the option of packed lunches and a breakfast tray (not very expensive) for people who prefer not to carry their own food.

In the scullery, recycling is quite rightly taken very seriously at Skiddaw house, and there are bins for every sort of wast.

Washed down with a cup of tea (my friends had found a mug in the hostel with John on it) I’m setup for the day.

And the day beings. Brian briefs everyone on various options for the days walk. He knows what he’s doing, and I’m enjoying myself, so just leave him to it and follow the pack.

Boots, waterproof jacket and new walking trousers (controversially not Rohan this time), and we head out.

The hills and deep valleys of the lakes are recognisable all over the world and the views and scenery doesn’t disappoint.

We wander around the side, and then up onto Skiddaw (3054 feet high, the 4th highest in the Lake district). I spend some time getting to know the French crew.

Their really fun interesting people, but I have to talk slowly as the language I speak when I’m excited is far from English.

Cloud cover is really low. Although Skiddaw has some of the best views in the “district” these aren’t visible from the peak.

Still, we get to the top (and once again, I forget to tuck in my t-shirt before being photographed).

There is a sort of stone wall just nearby, and a number of people are eating lunch using it as a windbreak. I’m convinced I recognised one of them. I ask some of the lads to go over and confirm his identity. Nobody wants to.

I’m realistic and honest about the situation. If I walk over and its not him, I’m going to look stupid (but only to some strangers, who I’ll never see again). If I don’t walk over, ill go through the rest of my life, wondering if I nearly met one of my heroes.

A person who has faced death 100 times and one of the greatest Britons who’s ever lived. The first person to climb the Ogre and who’s photographs hang in every room in my house.

The bluelist, 3 trips around the world, the bushcraft, the deserts, the jungle and quite literally the mountain I’m now standing on all happened because of a passion and love for adventure inspired in me from my early teens from his exploits.

So with all the courage I can muster, I walk over, introduce myself, apologise for interrupting their lunch and ask “Are you Sir Chris Bonington ?”.

To my delight, its actually him. A living legend right in front of me.

I decide not to say anything too grandiose (although what I’m experiencing is one of the five most important moments of my life). I say simply your an inspiration and its a pleasure to meet you.

He replies simply thank you (that’s the other thing about truly great people. They are usually modest and unassuming, and if you didn’t know, you could sit next to one of them on the bus and not know it).

I ask if it would be OK to take a photograph of him, to remember the moment. He replies I should sit on the rock next to him, and Poppy will take a picture of us. The photograph takes a few seconds then I thanked him, shook hands and went on my way.

Back with my walking friends, they start to teas me about it. I’m speechless, this had been a great day up-to that point, and now its amazing, and one Ill remember for the rest of my life.

Still, a man cant live on inspiration alone, I sit down and eat my sandwiches, in quiet contemplation.

We continue walking, and I’ve got a spring in my step. It would have been amazing to attend one of his lectures, but to meet him in person, by accident on top of a mountain is something I could only have imagined.

We walk a few more miles then come to a cliff. Well it would have been a cliff with spectacular views, but the fog has put paid to that. I’m feeling pretty mellow at this point.

Back at the hostel, I tell Martin and Marie-Pierre about meeting Chris Bonington. Turns out they have met him too, at the official opening of the hostel (they have a book with photo’s showing the renovation of the hostel, and on the final page is Sir Chris).

Our French cousins maintain their international reputation for Cuisine, as they cook their evening meal. A very elaborate process, involving various preparation techniques, herbs and spices and even vegetables they’d foraged during the day.

I’m offered a tasting bowl. Its quite delicious and as good as anything I’ve eaten in the Grosvenor Arkle.

I’m expecting a helicopter to arrive with the re-formed Smiths providing an impromptu concert, and another carrying Halle Berry, who wants to have sex with me (its about the only way I think this day can get any better 🙂

Some singing takes place in the games room. I hang out in the common room, read Trail magazine, write down ideas for adventures and learn more about environmental stuff from Cheryl and Pete.

I, like a lot of people, tend to think of environmentalism as a bit OTT. The truth is, shouldn’t water be clean, without any kind of metal in it.  I think everyone, no matter what their politics, must agree with this.

Still filled with excitement, I’m up until after midnight. A drink of hot chocolate, then bed.

I have a lie in bed (8.30am). Eat my breakfast bars, drink my tea and than pack (sadly) for the journey home.

Outside I run into Sophie who is preparing for a days walking (Brian and the French contingent are staying on for a few days).

We say our goodbyes to Martin and Marian. I kiss the French girls goodbye, but decide just to shake hands with the men.

I’ve grown to really like Sophie, so we exchange email addresses and agree to send each other our photo’s.

Walking back down the path, the weather is much better. We chat about various stuff. The weekend is almost over, and I’m enjoying the kind of contentedness I can only really feel in the outdoors.

Back to the pub for a pint and bite to eat, then we set off home.

I’ve got a picture of me and Chris Bonington on my desk now, but it doesn’t end there.

I used to love a restaurant in Chester, called the Brasserie 10/16. I loved the food there so much, that I didn’t want to spoil myself with regular visits and wanted to keep it special.

By only visiting on valentines day, and on my birthday I was able to maintain this.

The head chef was a good friend who drank in the Frog & Nightingale.

He came into the pub one evening looking a bit down. I asked him what was wrong, and he said that the restaurant had closed.

In a friendly and polite way, he said he had been flattered that I loved the place so much that I didn’t over indulge, but lots of other people felt the same, and despite good intentions, this had cost them their restaurant.

Thing is, I had an amazing time at Skiddaw house, but cosy warm feelings and visits every 5 years wont keep this unique opportunity available forever.

To do that, you can either visit it (which I’d definitely recommend) or become a friend/conserver/patron of Skiddaw house.


Llangollen adventure.

Apologies if this post isn’t as balanced as usual. Dan was here on Friday, and adjusted my chair, without asking.

In fact, while your reading this, go on youtube and listen to the wild beasts (they are pretentious musicians).

They have a song called lions share. Listen to it, I’m convinced that the chorus says “lying shit” rather than lions share, but I’d appreciate other views.

Well, Glenn completed the triathlon which is an amazing achievement, and got me thinking.

The Queens Diamond Jubilee weekend was coming up (lots of people have views on this). Personally, I don’t and won’t ever buy into the idea of high birth, but I am proud of Britain’s heritage. Instead of having a party and making a hat out of a handkerchief with knots in it, I decide on something else.

Part of the British tradition is adventure (it was Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay who stood on top of Everest on the day of the Queens actual coronation). Although I can only stand in the shadow of those 2 great men, adventure is a relative concept.

I decide that I’ll ride to Llangollen (a place I love more each time I visit it) camp overnight, and then ride back the next day.

The weekend began with Friday. Absolutely insane, with loads to do at work, and private clients to help in the afternoon. Shattered, I head back to Chester and relax by the Canal with a couple of pints (the Lock Keeper has re-opened, but they let anyone in now, and its a bit rubbish).

Saturday morning, I rise early and check my equipment. I’m taking a tent, sleeping bag and kip mat all inside a 25 litre rucksack (for comparison, its smaller than the one I normally take to work).

I take a few essentials like money, a penknife and a head torch as well.

As I look out of the window, there’s no sunshine and light drizzle. Not optimistic, but this is the adventure line. This is the thing I’ve written about before, the moment where you think is it really worth it. In reality, the cycling will be easy, the real challenge is ignoring the weather and the urge to relax in a warm house, and getting on the bike and getting out there.

I decided to take the route I normally ride to the Golden Groves. Pedalled a bit further and met Sue at the Plough.

From here we pedalled to the Pant-yr-ocian. Christine Kennedy had told me about this place, nearly 10 years ago, and what a pub !. Service was superb, décor excellent, they had an extensive menu and most important off all, it felt friendly.

We had a pint, and then set off (although we did stay for 90 minutes, as I was really enjoying myself. We had to pass through Wrexham, and Sue lead the way, so I have no idea where we went.

I realise now how lucky Wrexham people are. They have the mountains and countryside, literally on their doorstep, Sue knows the area inside out as she walks and cycles around here all the time.

We encountered a street, with Tesco, a bakery, a chippy and a kebab shop. Sue bought a sensible sandwich, and I had a chip butty, just for the hell of it. Apparently, this is the village where Sue was born, and her parents still live here.

Another couple of miles, and we reach a pub. The last one before Llangollen I’m told. We debate locking up the bikes and going inside.

I’m a bit concerned at this point. Thing is, a modern bike, is a collection of components. If you fasten the frame of your bike to a fence, then technically “the bike” can’t be stolen. The gears on the bike, are probably worth £100 and they can be removed with a par of pliers, as can the brakes, the saddle, handlebars and wheels, and stuff like lights and bike pumps.

We decide to stand outside with our bikes. I felt a bit daft to be honest. A couple of local lads having a smoke outside, spoke to the barman, and he said we were welcome to bring out bikes in the pub and sit down (where there was a nice fire !).

We declined, as we were only staying for 1 drink, and it would have involved a bit of messing about. I was taken aback by the willingness to help of the locals who after all, stand to benefit nothing by helping us, and were helping simply because they were good people.

After this, there are more hills and the rain gets a little worse. At this point, it starts to become obvious, that Sue is an experienced cyclist and very fit, and that I (on my third outing) just aren’t up to a 20 od mile ride, with equipment. I put my bike in a very low gear (to people that don’t know, this means I have to peddle about 5 times, to get the wheel to turn once)

This works as I have limited strength in my legs, but loads of stamina. Over time, I expect this to change, and I also think my bike may need
some adjustment, as I was pedalling my from knees, rather than my thighs. I also got off, and pushed, every time we came to a hill !.

Still, the goal was to get to Llangollen, under my own steam, and self contained with all the gear I would need on my back and this was going to plan.

I never once thought of giving up, but as the afternoon progressed I became a bit demoralised. At that point, I realised we’ve arrived at a tea
house just near Llangollen, so I know we didn’t haven’t too far to go.

Hot chocolate and cake (there are Union Jacks in the Tea house, which we’ve seen, most of the day.

They bring us tea by mistake and Sue asks to change them in an assertive yet charming way. I would have just drunk the tea. Made me think,
have I become so obsessed with avoiding fuss, that I’ve now become a push over !.

No time for that, were on the last leg (and in my case on my last legs !). Peddle a bit further along the flat, with fog blocking what would  normally be a spectacular view over Llangollen. From here we cruise (and that’s the first time all day that I could use that phrase) downhill to the camp-site.

Then it hits me, what if they haven’t got enough room. I mention this to Sue, and her face drops. I realise that although she’s got me this far, the thought of pedalling home with me at 1 mile an hour, tests her normal enthusiasm.

No problem, 7 quid and I’ve got my pitch. The camp-site is mad busy despite the rain, but my new tent is only 6 foot by 2 and a half
(someone called it a canvas coffin, but it isn’t that big !)

Sue leaves me and heads back for Wrexham, I put up my tent. Its brand new, I’m really pleased with it, but looking back, Im convinced that I didn’t actually put it up properly !.

I get a couple of hours of badly needed sleep, then Sue drives back into Llangollen and we visit a couple of pubs in the town. I really appreciate her company. I can manage fine on my own, but spending time in the company of friends is always much better, than just sitting in the corner of a pub on your own.

Regretfully, the chippy is shut as I had back to the camp-site, so I go to the kebab shop. Sue drives me back to the camp-site, which is up a massive hill, then I put my head down and drift off to sleep.

I slept soundly, but all night I could hear the rain (which was now quite ferocious) battering the tent. The good news, you get what you pay for in with outdoor gear. The tent’s expensive, but keeps me dry, all night. I wake at 5:07am. Its daylight, but the weather is appalling. I quickly pack up my stuff, put it into my bag, and head for home.

First problem. My legs are so stiff, and I’m so fatigued from the previous day, that I cant ride the bike, and Im only able to push it along slowly. From time to time, I come to a hill, so just sit on the bike, and point it down hill.

I don’t know the exact route home, but decide to walk along the Canal to the Ruabon railway station. I don’t remember it being too far, but in driving rain, it seems to take hours to get there.

From here, things start to unravel. I’m now relying on the GPS in my phone, to get me home. I send a quick text to Glenn and Sue, and then right before my eyes, the phone says shutting down. I’m unable to re-boot it after several attempts.

The only thing I know for certain, is that the A483, runs to Wrexham, which is in the direction of home. I while the bike along the edge of the road, in some of the foulest weather I’ve ever been out in.

I’m now soaked to the skin, as the rain has got through the neck opening of my waterproof jacket, and soaked my t-shirt, jumper and trousers. A trench along the edge of the motorway is 4 inches deep in water, which I walk through for several miles.

I cant call and ask anyone to pick me up, as the phone is out. I realise I should have listened to Ben Mcnutt’s advise. Technology is great, but never come to depend on it completely, if it lets you down, you really will be stuck. And I am.

My energy is running down. I’m getting tired, dehydrated and hungry.

First piece of good news.

I only ate half my kebab the previous evening. For no reason I can think, I put the remaining half in my bag that morning. Starving hungry, I tuck into this unlikely meal.

After a couple more hours, I arrive in Wrexham. Sue lives in Wrexham, but I cant remember where, and I cant call her. Its 11 miles to Chester, and I consider walking the “Golden Groves” route. I think better of it, I’m hagard. I head for Wrexham railway station, and Ill get the train home.

For the 2nd time that day, to quote the Black Adder, fortune vomits on my eiderdown. I thought I had £35, which was plenty enough, but I realise I’d only bought £25. The train doesn’t arrive for an hour. I’m freezing, and I’ve only got £3.90, so I probably don’t have enough for the train, and I haven’t got enough for a warm drink at the cafe on the platform.

I shiver on the platform for another hour, mentally recalling the capital city of every country in the world, and various other “keep you mind busy” tricks.

Train arrives. Ticket collector see’s the state I’m in, and says how much have you got. I put it in his hand, and he gives me a ticket.

The warmth of the train, is the first I’ve known since last night in the pub, and I start to feel sleepy. I wake to find myself in Chester, and push the bike to my house.

Bath, bed for a couple of hours, and life returns to normal.

I relax later with some hot chocolate, and reflect on my experience. Lessons learned:

1. Most people are basically descent.

2. Reliable (and knowledgeable) friends like are worth their weight in Gold.

3. My new tent is smart.

4. I can fit all my stuff in a 25 litre bag.

5. Always have a copy of phone numbers written on paper, as a backup

6. Don’t be bloody stupid and over do it. Enthusiasm and determination are 1 thing, but transforming your physical fitness in 24hrs through mental focus is biologically impossible.

All the photos I took were on the phone, so sorry that there’s only 1 picture.

Finally, great-full and sincere thanks to Sue. None of it would have been possible without her kind and enthusiastic help.

The search for adventure continues…


An absolutely amazing weekend, started with a pub crawl I organised for the walking group.

A couple of months ago, Brian, Sue and I had an impromptu trip into Chester. We went in various pubs at random, most of which you’d normally just walk past, but with 1 notable exception, they were all really good. One pub in particular (the Cottage on Brook street) made us really welcome, tried to teach us darts, and overall were superb.

The idea of the pub crawl, was to take the group to some pub like this one. As often happens, things didn’t go to plan. Id intended to start the crawl at the Lock-keeper on Canal-side (a favourite haunt of mine, from my earliest days in Chester). The email had gone out to everyone in plenty of time, but with just a day or 2 to go, the Lock-keeper closed down. I had to text everyone and re-schedule for the Marlborough arms. After all that, as I set out on Friday night, I found that the “Lock” had actually re-opened after all, and I needn’t have bothered.

On Saturday, I got up early and went for a walk around the Meadows and Dukes drive. In the afternoon, I met up with Dan and a couple of friends, and we had a few drinks around town. At the end of the evening, we had a couple of Curry’s at Asia fusion.

On Sunday, I spent the morning catching up on my reading (see bellow) and then went out on my bike again, to the Golden Groves. Im really getting into cycling now, and its great to have a sort of “target” to head for. If I just “go out” on my bike, I usually find myself back in the house 45 minutes later.

After I got back, I had a visit from Tony, and it turned out there was a music festival going on at Brook Street, just a hundred yards from my house. We went over, and I wasn’t enthusiastic. Turns out, it was really good, I ended up staying for several hours. I even texted Glenn, who despite taking part in a Triathlon earlier in the day, came along. We also ran into Pete and Cath from the walking group. Loads of great music and friendly people, but the highlight for me had to be an old man who shamelessly stripped to his underwear and starting dancing around !.

We actualy finished that night with a Curry as well, this time at the Spice Balti.

Its said that the BBC news service is probably the most respected around the world. Certainly, their website comes in consistently in the top 10 most visited websites each year.

I trust their news reporting, but I couldn’t help laughing the other day, when I found out about the logo mix-up.

What the report was meant to say, was that Amnesty International (who’s logo is a candle with barbed wire around it) were critical of the United Nations Security Council.

Thing is, the UN security council, doesn’t have a logo of its own, and normally uses the standard UN logo. The logo they ended up with instead, was the logo of UNSC forces. If you’ve ever played Halo as I have, you know that their a fictional group of space marines 🙂

How proud I was to see “my regiment” featured on BBC !.

Other stuff on TV hasn’t been so good. Loads of really good American shows have been cancelled. I could name dozens, but 2 specifically that jump into my head are Alcatraz and the Finder. Still, on the positive front, we’ve got Mad Men, Svu, The Borgias, Family Guy and Game of Thrones, showing at the moment.

Games wise, I’m working my way through modern warfare, with only call of duty 4 and the world at war left to complete.

Years ago, I was into the Smiths (as I still am now). I always envied friends who had all of their albums on cassette. I could never afford that, and ended up using copies, which were never as good. Well, although my music collection is digital, I’ve recently purchased all 5 of the Smiths albums, which I’m happily playing each evening now (if my neighbours are reading this, I apologise).

Out with the walking group the other evening, we were discussing the annoyance of lending books, and not getting them back. One of my favourite books of all time, is Bushcraft, by Ray Mears (not to be confused with Bushcraft Survival, which is more of a spiritual journey kind of book). Anyway, I finally got around the replacing it, and I’ve just started carving a new spoon.

Another book that appealed to me, was the Hobo handbook. Incredibly frank, it talks about living by your own rules, travelling around on trains, eating out of bins, yet has contemporary sections on how to use your laptop at the library to make money. I haven’t read it yet, but for 8 quid, you’ll be lucky to find a more interesting book for your holiday flight.


After Curry on both Saturday and Sunday night, I got a call from Debora on Monday, and along with Raymond, we all decided to go out.

Debora has sadly decided to leave Chester, to work in Burton on Trent. Its a shame, she’s a totally cool girl, and I wish she was staying. In explanation, she summarised the problem (in her beautiful Italian accent) as their being too many Bastards. On close investigation, it turns out that she is referring to Landlords and Letting agencies.

Its a while since I used a letting agency, but from previous experience, I couldn’t think of much to challenge her summary. Only thing I did say, was that there were loads of nice people in Chester, who don’t work in that profession.

We started off, with a drink in the awful Harkers Arms (If it were located in any other country, it would be full of English ex-pats. Since its actually in the UK, I’ve never seen the attraction).

As a goodbye, to thank Raymond and I for being such good friends, Debora took us for a curry. Dave and Amanda from the walking group had recommended the Coconut Grove (silly name, but a superb Southern Indian restaurant, and one of the nicest curry’s, I’ve ever eaten in the city).

Its only the 2nd time I’d eaten Southern Indian. There are several differences, but one of the main ones, is they use rice pounded down to make a sort of crust, which they serve with the food. Above you can see a sort of cone crust they had made.

I especially like the way the Nan bread was cooked fresh, that they played 80’s music, and obviously the interesting conversation of my companions.

As we walked back and said our Good Bye’s, we came upon this Swan, which Debora found fascinating.

I was explaining, that wherever they are born, Swans automatically belong to the ruling Monarch (at this moment, Queen Elisabeth II).

I also suggested she might want to keep her distance. Elegant as they are, a peck from a Swan can be particularly vicious.

Well doubtless meet up in Burton on Trent, I’m sure well have more adventures to talk about then.

Times are hard at the moment, and sound financial budgeting is required. Well, that’s all very nice, but after 2 years of watching every penny, I decided to treat myself to a couple of things (no sports cars, just some new walking trousers, some smiths CD’s (mentioned above) and the super light Zephyros 2 tent I’ve always wanted).

Im doing a couple of adventures this month (in fact I’m away every weekend for the next 4 weeks. Over the bank holiday weekend, I’m intending to ride to Llangollen, with just a 25 litre rucksack, to see if I can carry a sleeping bag, kip mat and tent all in such a small and light container. Ill then be staying over, and riding back the next day. Ill tell you what happens.

Out with the walking group the other evening. We did a section of the Sandstone trail. On summer evenings, there isn’t anything nicer than than a walk through the woods, and I pint with a few friends afterwards in some country pub.