On way back from Cyprus (been here for 10 days over Christmas touring the whole country, which is fantastic).
On my way home now, Happy New Year and see you all when I get back.
The search for adventure will continue throughout 2014…
Hi everyone, I hope this post finds you full of festive cheer.
This will be the last post before Christmas, as I’ll be away for most of Christmas visiting Cyprus (more about that later, but some Newton Heath friends are staying at my house while I’m away, so anyone thinking of robbing me will be in for a surprise 🙂
My fascination with the first ascent of the Ogre in Pakistan, is quite well known and running into Chris Bonington on Skidaw was one of the proudest moments of my life.
The Rohan magazine landed on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago, and it mentioned that Doug Scott was giving a talk in Wrexham.
I’ve seen Doug before, but it was a massive event and you couldn’t really ask questions or anything. This was a lot less formal event run by the North East Wales mountaineering club at the University campus.
The first part, was a fascinating walk through of all his major climbing projects. This guy has done practically everything. I’ve read about the Ogre extensively, but hearing it described by 1 of the 2 men who was there was something quite different.
He even had photos of the first rock he’d climbed near school and an x-ray of his broken leg (he sustained 2 during the descent).
Literally made of iron, his British eccentricity was proven when his IPhone rang in the middle of the talk (he doesn’t get phone protocol at events 🙂
During the break, we had some drinks and N bought me a copy of Himalayan Mountaineer (along with “I chose to climb”, the 2 mountaineering books I’ve always wanted to own).
Doug’s work with Comunity action Nepal, and setting up schools and medical centres in the high mountains is well known.
He said that he would be auctioning framed photo’s and made no apology, as for £15,000 he could build a medical centre in a village.
When I saw the photo of the tent in Hispar pass, signed by Scott and Bonington, there really wasn’t any question what was going to happen next.
The talk continued, and Doug talked about what motivated people to climb saying while Mallory’s well known quote (because its there) is true, its the tip of the iceberg in terms of wider motivations.
It was quite sad when he went through a list of his mountaineering friends, and how they’d died in the mountains search of adventure.
Collecting my framed photo, I asked if it would be cheesy and sycophantic to be photographed with him. He replied simply “yes it would, but I don’t mind”.
I don’t know if he was joking or not, and I don’t care. It was an honour and a privilege to have met him.
Thanks to N (who everybody now knows is Nikki) for organising it.
Been hearing a lot lately about the economy turning around, house prices going up etc.
I saw this video recently, and it reminded me that we mustn’t fall into the trap of making the mistakes that got us into the recession in the first place.
Its a really good video, very honest, but shot in the classic financial product/my life is perfect model. Only lasts a few seconds, well worth watching.
A few people know this, but my favourite Sci Fi character is Elim Garak from Deep space 9.
A simple tailor who’s also an expert in computing, espionage and military strategy !.
Anyway, he was doing a book signing at an event in Manchester some years ago, and I bought a ticket.
And at the last minute decided not to go. Why ?. Well, in my mind Elim Garak lives on Deep space 9 and goes to Quarks bar each evening.
If I see him out of character and I meet Andrew Robinson, will he ever be real to me again ?. I didn’t think so, so I went to the White Lion for a pint instead.
So, it was with great trepidation, that I went to see Alan Davies doing his stand up set.
Alan Davies has always been Jonathan Creek to me (one of my favourite shows of all time).
What happened ?. He was absolutely hilarious. For 2 hours, I laughed until my stomach ached.
When I went home, I put on a dvd of JC just to test a theory. Amazingly, I still see him as Jonathan Creek as well, so a double result.
Another evening out, this time to see Fascinating Aida.
There a sort of cabaret act, described as somewhere between Noel Coward and Ab Fab.
Wouldn’t normally be my first choice of entertainment, but it was funny and very topical (although I disagree with their views on Ofsted).
They sung a few “serious” songs which I enjoyed the most and really connected with.
One surprise was a song one of them sang about growing up. Then I realised. She was a post op transsexual, and had been born a man. A really moving story.
Especially nice, was to visit the Liverpool Philharmonic venue, which I’ve never been too before.
I’ve been sorting through the house recently, tidying up (months spent on the office move, then weeks spent catching up with friend and adventure, have left my house, the poor relative).
I’ve found a couple of things I no longer need.
As its Christmas, I’ve decided that I’m going to give them away to friends. If you see anything you like, just drop me a line.
From left to right:
20 litre daysack, os map of Snowdon with a map case, 8 old episodes of Viz, North Face tent Mules (around size 12), Kenwood food processor, 4 gig usb key, pc headphones and mic for skype and an old (but just about working) sat nav.
On the media front, I’m presently reading the new Wilbur Smith novel Vicious circle.
Considering he’s my favourite author, its absolutely awful. You can find out why here.
My favourite characters in Boardwalk empire and Family guy have both been killed off !.
Blacklist (originally recommender by Glenn) gets better and better.
On the gaming front, Call of duty Ghosts is now in my possession. Nikki isn’t really into that stuff, but me and the fish are really looking forward to it.
I’m especially looking forward to the Christmas edition of Dr Who and Sherlock.
On the subject of Christmas, I’ve had such a great year, that I’ve decided to put up a tree.
I’ll be away most of Christmas, so I’ve sort of brought Christmas forward in my house, and will be celebrating Christmas eve on the 15th.
As you can see, the tree is set up with baubles and lights. The white thing its on, is supposed to be simulated bed of snow.
I got some boxes from work, and packaged them up so they look like presents.
As usual for Christmas, I’ve got my train set out. Different this year, is I’ve now got the Hornby 125 Intercity trains. Nearly 40 years old, its the train set my Dad always wanted me to have.
Some sausage rolls and bottle of Jack Daniels should complete the look.
Well, this weekend I’m off to the lakes for the CDWG Christmas walking weekend.
Most of my friends, know that I use mind maps and spreadsheets to organise my life and adventures, but unless you’ve been to my house, you won’t know about the Whiteboard.
The whiteboard is mounted on the wall, outside my bathroom. I normally jot down ideas, but I also list the trips I’m going on. Its a handy tool, as I will pass by here at least 3 times a day.
There are about 20 trips on the list for this year, with the walking group weekend and Cyprus being the only 2 remaining.
Considering the number of weekends this year I’ve spent at work (at least 20) I’m quite pleased with my efforts.
Featured friend of the week: Monika
I know Monika through the walking group and the Chester Globetrotters.
I’d heard stories of someone who went walking until 3am, then slept for 3 hours leaning on a tree, then continued walking.
Suffice to say, on our first meeting, I gave her an orange bivvi bag as a gift.
Originally from the Czech Republic, Monika works long hours here in the UK as an Au pair.
When she isn’t working, she never rests and is constantly out adventuring.
I help where I can lending her equipment and on occasion my mountain bike.
Other famous thing about Monika. She likes to take photographs, and her “selfie” shots, like the one above are legendary.
Well, for the first time in my life, I’m going to be away from the UK during Christmas.
I fly out to Cyprus on the 21st and don’t return until the 31st.
Were touring the island this time and doing 2 and 3 night stop overs throughout.
I really wanted to get a Landrover, but instead were getting a Micra, or something like that.
Ether way, it will be superb to wandering around the countryside in sunshine in late December.
Near and far, have a great Christmas, and amazing New Year and never stop searching for adventure…
Well, just some random things before get into the blog post
I’ve been enjoying catching up on TV recently. One show I really like, is Sleepy Hollow (set in the present day, it features a tough female police officer and a latter day English gentleman, Ichabod Crain.
I wonder sometimes, if there’s a balance, in the universe. Is there a correlation of how an excellent series like Black List improves, and the otherwise classic series homeland is deteriorating ?.
Walking group weekend away in 10 days. Really looking forward to it. Full breakfasts in the morning, hillsides in the daytime, bath then dinner and pints with friends in the evening.
As I’ve always said. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I really cant tell you what I’d do, but I know that the day afterwards, whatever the circumstances, I’d be out hill walking 🙂
A return to former glory.
In 2009, 20010 and 2011 I only did 1 overseas trip a year, and they were both 3 day European city visits.
In 2012 I visited 4 countries and up to this point, I have visited 7 countries in 2013.
Next year, I’m booked on a 15 day trip to Cuba. Its a return to the big trip, other-side of the world type adventuring that I used to do frequently.
I’m also off to Cyprus for 10 days on the 21st of December. We’ve rented a car and are staying at various places on the Island for 2 and 3 night stays. I really wanted to rent a Landrover, but I’ve been outvoted, and I believe were now getting a Micra. No matter, whatever gets us around.
Had a meeting with Henry (the amazing guy who’s responsible for all the tech stuff on this website). We’ve finally got a blueprint for johnsunter.com ver 3.0. The main goals of the new site are:
Might not sound like much, but there’s a massive amount work involved and were both working frantically to get it ready.
Oh, for those that have noticed, sorry there’s been no update about Dubrovnik yet. I just haven’t had a minute lately, but it will be complete in the next 10 days.
Well, loads of things have happened/are happening, that convince me life is returning to normal.
Last Saturday, I attended a meeting of the Chester Globetrotters.
2 superb talks, one about an overland trip across Mongolia, and another about budget travel in Tokyo.
Both fascinating talks. The 2nd one was interesting to me, as having visited Tokyo, I was convinced budget travel there was practically impossible.
Yet no. Hotel accommodation for 2 people at £34 per night was common and using a 7 day bullet train ticket, travel across the whole country could be achieved (in significant comfort) for a reasonable amount.
It was also nice to catch up with Hanna and Kevin and all the other organisers of the group, who I haven’t seen for months due to work commitments.
Later in the pub chatting about travel, it was enlightening to talk to Kevin, as I had just recently completed reading his book Inshalla, Odssey to the middle east.
The CDWG (which I heard about through the Globetrotters) are also having an AGM on the 21st, so should be a chance to catch up with old friends there as well.
Last Wednesday, I went out to an IVC club night (haven’t seen as much of Glenn as I’d have liked recently, so it was a double celebration).
We had a couple of drinks in a pub called Artichoke.
A few friends (Alex, Giles and Andy) are all growing moustaches for Movember.
I don’t like moustaches, so I’m not taking part myself, but I’m contributing to the charity.
Next Tuesday, I’m going to see Alan Davies at the William Aston Hall in Wrexham.
He’ll be doing stand up comedy, which I’ve not seen before.
It will be interesting, as to me, he’s always been Jonathan Creek, a series I think is absolutely fantastic.
Following Monday, I’m going to a talk by Doug Scott at the Catrin Finch Centre.
Scott and Bonnington’s mountaineering feats are legend, but I’ve always been fascinated by their first ascent of the Ogre (a fascination that’s spanned 25 years).
I’ve met Chris Bonnington on Skiddaw.
He’ll be talking about his life in mountaineering. I’ll write more about once I’ve been.
I’ve always been lucky with my suppliers (that’s if you completely remove BT from this conversation 🙂
The other evening Vaughn, an ace provider of printers and MFD’s invited us out on a social event.
Vaughn, has never let us down, supplies top notch equipment, keeps it working, keeps a constant source of consumables and is very flexible in the delivery of the printing service.
N and I went along to the wine tasting at the Ramada in Wrexham, where we met some of his other customers and his lovely wife.
Afterwards, we jumped in a minibus and headed to Barton Rouge in Chester. One of the city’s best Indian restaurants.
We finished of with a few pints in Harkers arms next door.
We had a lovely evening, so a quick thanks to Vaughn and everyone else who attended.
I’ve lately been accused of prevarication (PREVARICATION !. me ???).
As Picard once said. Belief systems are based on experiences. A disciplined mind is never afraid to re-examine and re-evaluate the conclusion’s reached.
What that’s got to do with the price of fish, is it was N’s birthday and it was time to get back out adventuring.
A weekend in Keswick in the lake district beckoned.
We arrive at our B&B in Keswick.
Very comfortable, spotlessly clean place that will be our home for the next 2 nights.
We headed out for the evening, and had a couple of drinks in town (also visiting the Inn at Keswick, previously the Keswick lodge. A shadow of its former self now, but a place I’ve had many good times).
In the morning, we have very civilised breakfast, organised with a questionnaire from the night before (fab idea in my opinion. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been served breakfast, knowing that fried eggs and tomatoes are just not going to be touched).
Our host offers advise on the days walking (that’s the reason were here).
Were both keen to do Helvellyn and Haystacks. Its pointed out, that frost is at 700m and Helvellyn is well above that. Also, the weather that day isn’t good, but on Sunday it will improve.
He recommends a walk, which is a circuit of Derwent water lake, but takes in Walla Crags.
Reminded me of Rick Waller.
We set off.
It was raining as we left, but just as our B&b householder had said, the walk began literally outside the front door.
We followed the path up to the crags. From the top, there were spectacular views (despite the weather) of Derwent water.
As we look across, we could see the mountains with snow on them. It re-affirms the decision, not to do Helvellyn that day.
We drop down to the path around the like.
Its easy, but one of my favourite walks of all time.
Although I’ve done the walk dozens of times and have even stayed at the Lodor falls hotel, for the first time, I actually visit the Lodor waterfall, photographed above.
Nearby, we stopped for lunch at the Mary Mount. They did really nice sandwiches there, and the extra chips we ordered weren’t even necessary.
One surprise we got when we arrived was what to do about our walking boots. They had really nice carpet inside. Seemed only natural, to take off our boots at the door and wander around in our socks. But what would the staff think ?
As it was, they seemed fine. Loads of other walkers appeared, and as we left, dozens of pairs of boots were laid next to ours at the door.
On our 2nd evening, we had dinner in town. It was a sort of fusion restaurant, so I had Broccoli and Stilton soup to start, and Madras curry and naan bread as a main. Not every restaurant is so flexible.
Above, I’ve included a photo of the famous “Gigantic pie” which they server in the George hotel. Really popular, it was standing room only at the bar, and the restaurant were taking bookings, several days in advance !.
Tragically, the famous curry house in Keswick has now closed down and is looking for a new owner. I real shame I thought.
Next morning, up bright and early, eat breakfast and pack up the car.
This time we’ve decided to do Haystacks. It has significance to anyone who’s a fan of Alfred Wainwright, as his ashes are scattered over Innominate tarn there.
Its in a place called Buttermere, and initially, we had problems with the Sat nav. In the end it took us there the shortest way, missing out the best of the views. That’s technology for you.
Buttermere really is a beautiful spot. I’m going to come here again (Black Sail youth hostel is near here, similar to Skiddaw house where I’ve stayed previously.
We decide to make the trip a bit more exciting, and wander up Red Pike, rather than taking the easier route (which later, would have consequences).
Exhausting work, but the view back to Buttermere was the best one of the weekend.
We continued along the tops towards Haystacks, bagging 3 fells along the way.
As we reach the foot of Haystacks, its pointed out to me that we’ve spent so much time on the tops that its now 3:25pm. It will be dark in less than an hour.
Unfortunately, well have to had home.
No matter, Buttermere is a truly beautiful place, and I’ve just been handed an excuse to come back here !.
Sunday dinner on the way home, and another weekend over.
Near and far, the search for adventure continues…
Well, a sad day today.
Jo Howard, the ace project manager on our new building celebrated her last day (its been complete now for 8 weeks and her work here is complete).
Its a bitter sweet moment for me. I’ve learned loads of useful things from Jo, and I love working with her (along with Dan, Adam, Steve and toilet Jim).
But people like that, don’t stand still for long, and Jo is off for the next challenge.
Whilst we could have gone somewhere more elaborate for a goodbye lunch, it seemed more fitting to relax in the superb staff canteen (one of Jo’s many success story’s).
We reminisced about various fun (and sometimes alarming) experiences over the past year of the move.
I can honestly say, in employment terms, I’ve gained more skills and experienced more things in the last 12 months than I have in the previous 10 years.
I’m reminded of a quote by William Blake: Look around. Almost everything you can see physically around you existed in someone’s imagination before it become real.
When I walk through the new building each day doing my work. I realise the bridge between that imagination and the tangible building as it exists now was almost solely down to Jo’s organisation and hard work.
Okay, she didn’t actually put up any walls, and in my case, I built the network and the phones and stuff like that. But without a flag for us all to to march behind, none of it would have happened on time if indeed at all.
Its been an honour and pleasure to work with you Jo and I hope you’ll keep in touch with us back here in Warrington.
Well, last couple of days have been quite hard.
With the onset of dark days and evenings, I’ve been feeling a bit down, due to SAD and its really affected my creativity, hence delay in this and other updates to the website.
On a more positive note, one advantage of our new building, is an excellent canteen run by Dine with good food each day and a relaxing place to have lunch and breaks.
In the middle of the photo, is Emily. As well as being the head chef, she drives the entire kitchen with her energy and enthusiasm.
An absolutely amazing weekend, began early evening in Corks Out wine shop in Chester.
For a while now, I’ve been seeing someone I really like. Not everyone is like me, and wants their whole life up on the internet, so I’ve not mentioned her specifically in the blog, until now.
N (that’s what I’ll call her) really enjoys drinking wine (not the way I enjoy drinking Carling, it’s more about the appreciation and the experience).
It’s nice when you meet someone with similar hobbies to yourself (like hill walking) but it’s also great to try out new things with someone nice.
Every couple of weeks, they do a wine tasting at Corks Out. We normally pay a couple of quid and then get to try 6 wines, representative of a particular region or supplier.
The evenings are normally lead by the shop manager Tom (an extremely talented and charismatic chap, who can engage all levels of wine expertise).
Okay, so I’m not a wine expert, and some of the specialist stuff is a bit lost on me. Thing is, I love trying new things.
For example, did you know, if you ordered a glass of White Zinfandel, it would arrive and you would probably send it back thinking it was Rose. In reality, Zinfandel normally creates a deep red wine, so even when processed into white, it keeps some of its colour.
After this, we head to a restaurant I’ve always wanted to visit.
It’s been open a couple of years, and I’ve heard amazing things about Upstairs at the Grill, but never managed to eat there.
Originally a fan of Jamie Oliver, I remember he once said the key to running a restaurant was simple food, cooked to perfection with amazing ingredients.
That’s exactly what they offered, along with superb service 🙂
We head home, and get some rest. There’s a lot happening the next day.
I love being outdoors, but honestly being wet and cold is one thing I simply cant stand, and as long as I can remember, I’ve always hated it.
N couldn’t decide what to buy me for Christmas last year. She knew I’d been in a helicopter, submarine and stuff like that, but I’d never mentioned White water rafting.
The main reason I’d never done white water rafting, is that the very idea horrified me. I’d had the chance 3 times before, in Borneo, Peru and Andorra. On 2 occasions, I actually paid for it, but couldn’t bring myself to go.
As I opened my card I found 2 places booked on a white water rafting adventure at the National White Water Rafting centre.
On the day of the event, this wasn’t something I was looking forward too at all. As we left the car to go to reception, I felt like a man walking to the gallows !.
Things were OK, until I tried to put on the wetsuit, and realised how ridiculous I looked in it.
We headed up the hill, put the boat into the water and off we went.
A dress rehearsal for hell !. Cold water splashing into the boat and soaking me. Awful.
After the first 2 goes, it got better, and the 3 after that were quite fun (I think the excitement had warmed me up).
So, will I ever do it again. Unlikely, but it wasn’t anything like as bad as I expected. Another lesson, to not be frightened to try something new.
We’ve decided to make a weekend of it, so we head to the White Lion Royal Hotel (I really liked the hotel but couldn’t help thinking the words were in the wrong order).
Bath and a couple of beers. Dinner in Plas-Yn-Dre.
Up the next morning for a cracking full Welsh breakfast.
We had intended to do the 2 lakes walk in Bala (and after buying the wrong map, I bought the correct 1 with the 2nd purchase).
Unfortunately, we were “enjoying” some of the worst weather that the country had seen for an entire year.
A rethink was needed, so we instead decided to visit Portmeirion.
The rain stayed away, and we wandered for hours, around the forest and next to the ocean.
I even found a viewing point high above the village, where I could take this shot.
Wandered by number 6’s house from the Prisoner.
As you’ll know if you’ve been there, its now a souvenir shop. I had a look inside, but I already have a mouse mat and mug, so didn’t buy anything.
We had dinner at an Italian restaurant in the village, then set off home.
What an absolutely fab weekend.
But life isn’t all smiles.
I’ve been a regular visitor at the Countess of Chester hospital recently (nothing serious, I have Polycythaemia, which means my blood is very thick. The “cure” is simple, they just take a few pints out, to thin it out again.
As I was walking to my appointment recently, it was raining, and I saw a young woman sitting out on the grass, in just a jumper, in the pouring rain.
I wondered what on earth she was doing. As I drew nearer, I could see that she was beside herself with grief.
I gestured if she was ok, and she gestured me away, she wanted to be on her own.
Can only guess, that she lost someone close to her in the hospital.
The message, to me though, is simple. Life doesn’t go on forever.
Make the most of every moment, and dont put off your adventures. One day, there wont be a tomorrow, and the chance will be gone.
Near and far, the search for adventure continues…
Well, its 10 days since the completion of the office move (but no time for reflection, loads of day to day stuff to do).
In the bible, it says that on the 7th day, god rested from his work.
The day ratio is a bit out, but otherwise, it sounds like a good idea to me.
Off to Manchester airport in an hour, to fly of to Dubrovnik.
Its a place I’ve always wanted to visit, but slightly on the expensive side. That’s why I thought it would make an excellent destination after the move.
I’m going for a total of 5 days (I normally just go for 2 or 3 on an adventure trip) as I want this to be a “proper” relaxing holiday, as well as fast track exploration.
Well, I’ll get going now, will post photos when I get back and near or far, The search for adventure continues…
I just found out, that Chesters last remaining cinema closes on the 10th of October. I’m going to make a point of going as a final farewell.
At 4pm on Sunday, I called Jo (the amazing project manager) to give her that days update on IT progress.
She advised me that the project phase was now complete, and that we had moved to BAU (business as usual, technical support etc).
And that was it. After 3 and a half years of planning and hard work, the project is complete.
The new network, servers, phone system, wireless infrastructure and hundreds of other things are all complete.
Probably the greatest technical achievement of my career, and its now complete.
A strange feeling really, much like completing the blue list on Table mountain.
I’m elated, but at the same time disappointed.
The project has been a significant part of my life for 3 and a half years (and completely taken my life over for the last 7 weeks).
Now its finished, and life will return to normal.
I had a few drinks and dinner. I decided not to fully celebrate then.
If we could get through the first day of BAU, without significant event, then my work would have been a success.
Monday was hectic, but we got through it, and everything was fine.
Markus was visiting from Steafa to help with the move, so together with Adam and Dan, we went out for a few pints and a curry.
A brilliant night out.
What am I feeling right now ?
Gratitude. I’d like to thank the following people:
Dan & Adam, my team in the UK
Markus, Gerry, Ed and Sven from our head office in Steafa
Steve the facilities manager
Andy and Craig from WTL
Rick and the crew from CE services
Sion, Graham, Mike from Damovo
Vaughn from Rawson Digital
Gary from Insight
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you reading this.
I haven’t updated this site, nor been in touch with many of my friends for the past 7 weeks.
Life gets back to normal now and I’ll be in touch with everyone soon.
I try to visit London whenever I can. A friend from the walking group was heading down there for the weekend, so I tagged along.
As I’ve said before, its like visiting another country, and its only 2 hours on the train.
The photo above is taken at the Shard viewing platform, but more about that, later in the post.
Just out of interest, the jumper I’m wearing in this photo is from Rohan. I bought it, because I didn’t think it looked like the kind of jumper I usually wear, and I was experimenting with changing my image.
I’ve been told since, that it looks exactly like all the other jumpers I own. Feel free to post if you agree/disagree.
We got the train down to London around lunchtime on Friday (to make the most of the weekend).
I always like Friday afternoons away from work. Its the feeling that the weekend has begun early (I still had 3 calls from my team, but nothing urgent).
Glass of wine on the train, entertaining conversation, and we’re there before you know it.
We’re visiting Mayfair (but not trying to strangle any celebrity chefs, this is strictly an exploration/sightseeing tour).
The wine I’ve drunk on the train is getting lonely, so on the way to our weekends accommodation, we stop at a really nice bar/restaurant called Browns.
We spend the next 2 hours relaxing and chatting. I don’t normally go for the London social scene (I’m more of a see the worlds most famous sights kind of guy). On this occasion its genuinely fab relaxing there.
In the end I have to be practically dragged out (not unusual for me in a drinking establishment, but on this occasion, it isn’t by the doormen 🙂 and were on our way.
We end up staying at an apartment owned by my friends company. As we arrive at the entrance, its pretty impressive.
We open up, start to unpack our bags and have a look around the place.
It has wi fi, tv and a really nice relaxing lounge.
Even better, it has 3 double bedrooms (2 are en-suit). I love this place.
We head back to Browns for dinner, then get some rest (its a feature packed trip, there’s loads to do and we’ll need all our energy to get the most out of each day).
The next day, we head out to a traditional pub (the Kings Head) where I practice my Cockney.
The pub is quite nice, and on about 3 levels (I mean with stairs, not any intellectual nonsense).
We head around the corner, to visit our first sight of the day, the Shard. Its the largest occupied building in Europe, and one of London’s newest.
The view from down the street was impressive, but I found the view from the foot of the building, to be even more so.
We only have to queue for a few minutes, then were in the lift (which goes at a hell of a speed). There is a picture inside, that shows the different levels within the building.
I thought the viewing platform might be inside, but its very “open air”.
The view outside was amazing. You can see for miles in every direction, and computer terminals help you to identify different buildings.
We head back to our hotel, get changed and have dinner at a Moroccan restaurant called Tagine in Sheep market (a brilliant place, but sadly I cant find website for it anywhere).
We head for the West End. It was really busy and there were crowds everywhere. That said, there was a real buzz in the air and a great vibe.
The main purpose of the trip, is to take in the theatre.
I’ve never been to a West End show, and I was really looking forward to it.
To be honest, I always get embarrassed at musicals and I was a bit nervous.
I’m not frightened of stepping out of my comfort zone though.
This play is a sell out every where in the world that its been shown so I’m prepared to take a leap of faith (pardon the pun).
The book of Mormon satirises religion generally, but focuses on the church of the latter day saints (who most of us know as Mormons).
Won’t spoil the plot, but some idealogical elder Mormons travel to Nigeria, where their faith is tested.
The play was written by the people who make South park, so it was far from conventional. In honesty, watching it for 2 hours was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
One superb song stayed in my mind. I believe.
Do I believe that God is real ?. I’d only answer a question like that in person.
Do I believe in Karma ?. Well, when I arrived, I was told I couldn’t take any pictures inside the theatre.
I lined up a nice shot, which I took in secret.
I ended up with this bald head in the middle.
I’ll answer yes to that one.
A couple of drinks in the City (with some of the most polite doormen I’ve ever met) and then off to bed.
In the morning, we decide to go exploring and set of wandering.
Although the Olympics are a year ago, there are still lots of signs of it, and as we walk under an underpass, there are famous quotes by English poets and philosophers.
We pass by Green park and see the 9 foot high memorial to bomber command pilots in WW2.
It also contains an inscription remembering the Germans killed by the bombs (although the 55,000 airmen who died are hero’s here in the UK, they killed half a million Germans, and the bombing raids are considered by some in that country to be war crimes).
A sobering experience for a Sunday morning.
It reminds me that my freedom to visit another city, wander around it and write pretty much whatever I want on my blog isn’t free. As someone once said, everything in life has its price, but sometimes someone else has to pay for it.
We find a very nice cafe nearby and have breakfast.
My breakfast arrives with chips (they have some odd habits in London) and its £9.50. Its also delicious, so I just get on with eating it and drink the delicious coffee.
Visiting London and not visiting the world renowned (and free) museums, is a bit daft in my opinion.
I wanted to visit the science museum anyway, but in addition they had an exhibit dedicated to Alan Turing (I have many heroes, but he’s probably my greatest, and johnsunter.com is dedicated to him).
The exhibit was due to run for a year, and excitingly, would finish only 8 days after we left London. Coolest of all, we would be visiting it in Turing’s Birthday.
As I wandered around the museum, I was surrounded by children. I dont really like children, but in a museum, I can forgive them their loud boisterous behaviour, as I know their excited about science and learning something useful.
They had loads of interesting exhibits, including a couple of Enigma machines, loads of stuff about mathematics, some video’s about stopping the German U boats and other stuff about the Turing test.
The other stuff was good, but I’ve seen and read most of it before.
Most fascinating to me, were the collection of letters written by Turing personally.
The letters to friends and the mother of his growing up friend Christopher Morcom after his death, gave an insight to the man himself.
In the case of Christopher, he was heartbroken, and as a result became an atheist.
Favourite of all, was one exhibit about his first day at an independent school in Sherborne. I’d heard this story many times, but it always warms me to read it again.
It fell during the general strike of 1926. In order to arrive at school on time, Turin rode 60 miles by bicycle (not like the ones we have today) stopping over at an Inn on the way.
In my mind, fate/nature/god may have made him a genius, but the determination was entirely down to him as a person.
Reflective after the Turing exhibition, we popped to get some coffee.
I wasn’t going to miss out on the other cool stuff in the museum, so headed straight back out to do some exploring. First stop the computing section.
The Babbage computational engine number 2. Never built in his lifetime, it was built from his original drawings by this museum more than 150 years later.
Its reckoned that had it been working during the 1st and 2nd world wars, it would have enabled artillery to fire with accuracy an order of magnitude greater which would have changed the balance of both wars.
Not to over-dramatise, but its the 2nd time I’ve visited this section and it was an honour to stand in front of this machine.
Low tech by today’s standards, was this speaking clock.
It uses very simple vinyl record type technology, but for most of my growing up years, a nuclear clock was “off the table” and if you wanted really accurate time, you dialed 123 on any phone. What I didn’t know back then, is that 1 of 8 machines like this one was what the nation was listening to.
I didn’t get a photo of it, but the MONIAC computer was off particular interest.
Described as a hydraulic computer it used red fluid to simulate money in an economic environment. ie, you increase taxes, there is less disposable income and investment goes down.
Not sure of the economics exactly, as I dont completely understand them, but made for a fascinating demo. The one we looked at, had the fluid removed to stop degradation, but there was a video showing it in operation (link above) which is really useful and interesting.
Our adventure almost over, we head back into the city.
We find this area, where there are deck chairs and a full orchestra are playing all sorts of traditional tunes.
Am I being soft, or does the sound of a brass band make me feel distinctly British 🙂
Our final stop before the train home is the national portrait gallery.
I’m instantly reminded of the scene in Skyfall with Bond and Q meeting for the first time.
I wander around and see that a talk is taking place in one of the rooms. Its amazing, but obviously goes on for 3 hours, led by someone who’s passionate about the subject.
I’m instantly saddened. I would probably need 6 months off work and to live around the corner to attend each lecture and know all of the treasures in this building, and that’s just one museum.
I begin to get overwhelmed.
What about all the other fascinating museums and historical place in London ?
What about all the other fascinating museums and historical places in the UK ?
What about all the other fascinating museums and historical place in Europe and the rest of the world ?
That’s when I start to smile, my frustration gone. That’s the whole reason I’m here.
The search for adventure. I’ll never see everything. Its not a problem to be solved, its a journey to be enjoyed.
If you haven’t been to London recently, go there soon. Its brilliant.
Pressure is on at work, but instead of vegging out at the weekend, I’m determined to make the most of them and get out and about.
On Friday evening, I had a barbecue at my house.
A slightly unusual affair as I couldn’t get the Barbecue to light, and ended up cooking the food under the Grill. Thanks though to Glenn and Dave E for bringing burgers and Tandoori Chicken.
It was an exciting evening, what with old men falling of bicycles, and demonstrations of nunchaku sticks and everything.
Overall, a brill evening, thanks to everyone who came.
On a day walk a couple of months ago, a mate called Dave, recommended a weekend away at a place called Bishops castle.
It’s a beautiful spot in the middle of some great walking country, has a fab camp-site and 10 mins from a town with some good pubs and cafe’s.
Just like I always do, I added it to my mind-map, and decided I go.
A Saturday/Sunday project was opted for and we arrived there about 12 lunchtime.
We went on a walk. Unfortunately, a lot of the gates were locked. While traversing some barbed wire, I ripped my Rohan trousers. My friends instantly offered support, realising how upset I’d be.
I remained upbeat, and pointed out that it would be far worse if I’d ripped my scrotum or something serious like that.
Although the camp-site is lovely, the weather forecast wasn’t looking good.
We opted for the bunk house (at £10 per person per night, offered superb value).
Having finished the walk (and had 2 pints along the way) we returned to our temporary home for a sit down.
Inside there were 2 rooms, each with a single bed and bunks so it could hold 6.
This camp picture of Alex, shows how roomy it was, and it had a laminated floor and kettle.
But walking weekends aren’t just about boots on the ground.
In the evening we head into town. I always take a personal pride in the way that we help struggling businesses to get through the recession (and at the same time get completely tater’d, spend time with friends, and have a great laugh).
A pub Dave had recommended (which wasn’t cursed with “real ale” exclusivity) was The 3 Tons. I absolutely loved that pub.
I’m known locally in Chester as a man of arts, and a high brow foodie.
I decided to try the local culinary offering.
The fish and chips were delicious. Only thing was, the price was based on the size and amount of fish, which seemed a fairly hit and miss affair. Prices ranged from £4 to £6, with seemingly no clue as to the difference.
A visit to 2 more pubs. One in the middle of the high street, catering for a younger audience (but with superb music).
Further down the street, our last pub of the night featured woman doing the monkey dance from Jungle book and the same song being played on a jukebox 5 times.
And so to bed.
It was a comfortable night all told.
I awoke in a bit of a grumpy mood (for which I’d like to apologise) but quickly pulled around.
We decide to head into town for some breakfast, and settled on a superb place called The Poppy house.
Before anyone asks, there was no “Amsterdam” type products on sale, just wholesome food and tea & coffee.
Finished breakfast, and then back to the camp-site. Sadly, Glenn had to leave us, and head back to work, so we bid him farewell (I was going to say something sarcastic about him ripping off old ladies, but the truth is, Glenn is one of the most genuine business men I know).
Worse was to come. When we actually arrived at the walk, I felt a little “out of sorts” and so had to lie down. My friends did the walk, and I found this spot next to Offa’s dyke to lie down.
Three hours later, I meet up with my friends and we all head home. Overall, a brilliant weekend, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone considering a weekend away.
Well, its been all go with the Sunter foundation.
As you may know, the Sunter foundation’s main goal is the promotion of pub tolerance.
When I was in Morocco a few years ago, I could hardly find a bar anywhere. In the whole of Marrakech, I only found 1 bar which sold 3rd of a pint cans for £2.50 each !.
In anticipation of the days when when things change to the way they are in the UK (warm beer in a cracked pot, with a wasp in it !) Glenn has been boots on the ground in that country, spreading the word.
I haven’t had a progress report yet, but I’m sure Glenn has made small work of crossing the cultural divide, and along the way, may even have had time for an adventure or 2.
Years ago, I always wanted a Berghaus waterproof jacket.
It was ages before I could eventually afford one, as even in those days, they came in at around £280 !.
In the end I got one, but what do you know. Almost overnight, city centre scally’s got an attraction for them too, and wherever I went there were gangs of hooligans dressed just like me.
Reason I mention this, is at Christmas, Glenn left a catalogue at my house. It was called Ice and Snow (or something like that).
They had some really good outdoor/casual trousers. Had a bit of a daft name, as they were called Kuhl revolver, but I liked them and bought a pair.
I didn’t buy them from the catalogue, as they were almost £100. Instead I found them on the internet at Taunton Leisure. I’ve since bought a 2nd pair, and it takes a lot to say this, but they are more comfortable than any of my Rohan trousers !.
Anyway, problem is I’ve started to see loads of people wearing them now.
So, before the world steals my dream, I want to stake my claim, that I was wearing them first.
My friend Nick Barker came down to visit a fortnight ago.
He’s been down to Chester a couple of times, and its always a pleasure to see him.
This time, to my delight, 2 things went to plan.
Firstly, when I took him to see the Albion (for those that dont know, its a pub with a “war years” interior. It literally looks like a pub would have looked during the blitz ) it was open. The few times we’ve been before, it hasn’t and he’s just had to take my word for it. I was starting to think that he thought it was just in my imagination, but finally it was open on a Friday afternoon and we had a couple of pints in there.
Secondly, the Remembrance Garden. I go there quite often on a Sunday morning, to read and reflect. The garden itself, has a flower bed laid out in the form of the Cheshire regimental medal. Whenever I pass with friends, it always seems to be winter, and all you can see is soil. This time it was in flower and we were able to see it in all its glory.
Office move continue”s on a pace.
Main network is setup and working, and we are presently setting up the new phone system. We’re installing new printers later this week as well.
Still loads to do, and exhausting work, but some of the most rewarding I’ve ever done.
But its not all work work work.
I actually have the coming weekend off. I’m having a Barbecue at my house on Friday evening and I’m spending Saturday and Sunday at Bishops Castle campsite with a few friends from the walking group.
I finaly got the new panniers to go wiht the excelent pannier rack that Glenn got me for my birthday.
The panniers are custom made to fit the rack, and clip on. *
But the fun doesn’t end there.
The panniers are the ideal size for knocking about town, but if your on a longer trip (like the one I do to Llangollen each year) they are expandable.
Brilliant bit of kit, I cant wait to start using it. *
* Couple of years ago, I felt like my kitchen needed brightening up, and I didn’t have much money. I ended up with this awful yellow. I’d like to apologise for the garish colour you can see in the background.
The last couple of months have been difficult with my fish.
I came home one evening and found that 1 of my fish had died.
I felt really bad about it. Was it something I had done ? Was there anything I could have done to prevent it ?.
I didn’t know, so I put down the fish and chips I was eating, to give him a decent Christian burial in my Japanese Garden.
Another died a few weeks after that, which left me with just 1, who looked really lonely (he shouldn’t have been, he still had me).
Since then I’ve got 4 new ones and the 5 of them seem to be getting on fine.
Finally, I’ve been updating some older parts of the website. If you have a moment, take a look at Frequently asked questions and 10 things I hate.
The search for adventure continues…