Month: April 2013


Steve and Markus

Things at work continue to go well (the walls in the new building are up already). The design phase of our technology coming to conclusion, the building and testing phases are about to begin.

Not much I can say about this (quite literally, I work for the global market leader in our field, and the solutions we’ve chosen would be of great interest to our competitors). What I can say is how excited I am, and how much were looking forward to it (your looking forward to 19hr days you ask ?).

Well, yes we are. I’ve worked in IT for 20 years, but never on anything as exciting as this. When I finally stand in our computer ops room, with the move complete, and drink champagne with my team, it will be the greatest technical achievement of my career (of course then comes the challenge of finding something even more ambitious. Ill cross that bridge when I come to it).

Of special note, was a recent visit by Markus (on the right of the picture above), our worldwide head of infrastructure. I speak to Markus most days on the phone or by email, and I’ve met him at our head office. We recently had the honour of him visiting our site to advise and help for 3 days on our infrastructure.

As is is often the case with experts and consummate professionals, he’s actually a really nice modest sort of bloke (it was once said that you could sit on the bus next to a genius like Tim Berners Lee, and never know it). As our guest in the UK, we took him out to the pub to try some real ale, to a curry house for the evening and for lunch to eat fish and chips (on top of working 12 hours a day !).

A really productive couple of days and lots of fun. On behalf of myself and all my team, we’d like to thank Markus for his help and welcoming him back to the UK during the next phase of the project.

Passing through Wolverhampton station

Very occasionally, I’m asked to send someone out to visit a client site. As mentioned above, I can’t go into details, but its really interesting to get out and see how are products are used “on the ground”, and the positive impact they they make on peoples lives.

I was out this week, visiting a site in Birmingham. As usual, it involved a long train journey. I was delighted when the train passed through Wolverhampton. I had many happy memories there in my youth, with my friend Lee Sawbridge. I remember walking back from the pub 1 sunny Sunday evening. We wandered through a cornfield, and whenever I’ve heard the song Fields of Gold, its always brought that evening back to me.

Sadly, there wasn’t time to seek out the said cornfield, there was work to be done.

It ended up taking 6 hours to finally get everything going (I had conference calls with my team back in Warrington and support staff all over Europe). In the end, all system were working, they thanked me kindly, and I had a can of beer on the train to congratulate myself on a job well done.

Original goal of youth hostels

As a previous “I’ll never stay in a youth hostel” sort of guy, you may have noticed I did a dozen trips and at the YHA last year, so I’m a convert.

As a member of the Chester and district walking group, I’ve joined the committee as weekend trips co-ordinator (or something like that, I don’t really go for titles).

I was recently invited to their annual affiliate meeting (I went with Brian a keen hosteller and there were representatives there from over 40 groups across the UK).


It was held at their Castleton hostel (obviously one of their flagship facilities) so before the event started, Brian and I were given a tour by one of their receptionists. Amazing décor to equal any lake district hotel. I loved the way the decor and styling was a match for any hotel but they had kept the adventure ambience.

The meeting started slightly late, as it was a beautiful day and a Harris hawk had been spotted outside ! (the hostel lies in 27 acres of woodland, owned by the hostel).

A talk by the finance and IT director, and then some stuff about benefits of affiliation and clarification on booking hostels. Its a lot more complicated than you think, as there are different ways to book a hostel, depending on how many of you there are.

Lunch was provided and the food was excellent (soup, stuff for sandwiches, plenty of salad, and refreshingly some nice cake). We found out they actually have a micro brewery, so we had a pint with our meal (named Beyond hope, its a reference to the village or hope nearby).

It was interesting chatting to other people involved in the running of walking groups, and the similar problems faced by all (an entire conversation about getting every to a walk on time and making sure everyone set off together).

End of the day, and off home. Absolutely superb and I was really impressed with the professionalism of the staff and employees, and the vision of their management team (especially William Howarth who explained the YHA’s policy on selling properties, its motives and goals with a clarity that even I could understand).

People say they’re not as cheap as they used to be, and stuff like that, but the main thing I like about Youth Hostels is they are like an adventure hub. Evenings and mornings in a hostel are totally different to a hotel, its all about the outdoors and activities which is why I’m now so keen.

My birthday on the 4th of May

My birthday is still in the offing for the 4th of May in Chester.

Unfortunately, the piece of paper I was using to keep track of who I’ve invited/who I need to invite has been lost (I should have used Dropbox !).

If you haven’t had an invite, get in touch, otherwise I’ll see you at 12:30 (or later) in Chester on the 4th (I hope you can all make it. Your my friends, I’d be nothing without you).

Igloo outside someone house

During the snow that descended recently, friends who live walking distance from Wrexham town centre was snowed in their own drive for several days.

Disadvantage for them, turned into a window of opportunity for some local adventure types, who were able to construct this Igloo.

Now ok, its not perfect and not the sort of thing You’d see on Ray Mears, but overall I think its a brilliant effort. I only wish I could have been there to help build it !.

Dan in assasin's creed pose

Out with the lads for a pint the other Saturday (the one before “United were taken apart by City” apparently !).

We headed to one of our usual haunts, the Temple Bar. I like the place because of its simple customers and their flexible attitude to offensive jokes and swearing.

They have some church fixtures in there, and Dan sat in the confessional box for this photo.

Perhaps the next outing of Assassins creed, could feature modern day digitised versions of Dan !.

Jonathan Creek back in his duffle coat

Is it just me, or has Dr Who gone really daft recently.

Anyway, as consolation, there was an Easter special of Jonathan Creek.

Times have changed and Jonathan has left the windmill, got married and is a director of his own company (when first seen in the show, he is even wearing braces).

But there’s one of those nobody else can do it but you moments, and Jonathan is back in action. Ok, this one isn’t as good as the Grinning Man, but the scene where he decides to get involved, goes through his “Sex and the City” wardrobe and fishes out his old duffel coat, sets the scene completely.  A new series planned for 2014, can’t wait.

Elementary goes from strength to strength. People asked me on a walk the other weekend, why would you watch that version of contemporary Sherlock Holmes when you could watch BBC’s Sherlock.

Initially, the answer was simple. The BBC make 3 episodes every 2 years if your lucky. Elementary has loads of episodes to watch right now. Since then, I’ve moved on. I actually think its far better than Sherlock. Its 20 episodes in, but Sherlock is still a mystery. Other characters like Dr Watson (who’s now a woman) and Mr’s Hudson (who’s a “tran”) embellish this even more. Watch it if you get the chance, I like crime drama, but even if you don’t, TV doesn’t get much better than this.

On other media news, I’ve finally completed Call of Duty, Black Ops 2 !.

I also went to see Simple Minds (OK, its not media, I was actually there) anyway, I can now see what all the fuss was about with live music. They were amazing.

Lighter from the X Files

On the negative side, I’ve been working a lot of weekends lately.

On the plus side, its left me with a small amount of surplus cash.

I decided to treat myself to some “trivial” things that I couldn’t normally afford.

Firstly, a zippo lighter with “Trust No One” engraved on it. OK, OK, I don’t actually smoke, yet I own 6 lighters, so why buy a 7th (if you’re asking that question, you’ve never made fire from friction 🙂 )

Thing is, the X Files may be gone, but we can still celebrate them. I bought a lighter on ebay for a tenner and had it engraved for 3 quid.

Next up, a Raspberry Pi. My old mate from IBM, Dave Littlewood came down a couple of weeks ago, and he was showing one off.

A fag packet sized computer… I was intrigued. I bought one of those, and I’ve been submerged in the world of Debian Linux and Python programming ever since.

When I was working at our office in Cambridge, I wandered around the market and saw a T shirt. It had the usual – Keep calm and… but this time it said: call the Dr, with a Dr Who logo. I couldn’t afford one at the time, but I’ve bought one at Amazon.

I’ve treated myself to some new clothes for my birthday (mentioned above), but otherwise, its the usual me.

all systems go for version 3.0 of

Met up with Henrik the other weekend (the guy who helps me out, and write with the design and coding of this website).

I’m an IT professional, but I have no webdev (or otherwise) skills. Time was, that the amateurish look of this website seemed quirky to a lot of people and they like it.

But times changed, and 4 years ago, we introduced the “normal” website, with an embedded word-press solution, and attached widgets, including twitter, which made for real time, in situ blogging.

That’s worked OK for us since then, but we’ve now decided to move things to the next level. I don’t want spoil the surprise by saying what were upto, but version 3.0 of the google highest ranking is about to be launched.

Stay tuned.

Back country dialect

Saw this on facebook.

Instantly reminded me of my old friend JK (Jon Kelly), who I’ve been to Borneo and Morocco with.

Watching the funeral of Margaret Thatcher on my laptop

It was Margaret Thatchers funeral the other day.

Its quite normal at work to have the radio on, so I asked if it would be OK to turn it off, and watch the highlights on BBC news.

There’s been all sorts of comments about her death. Some people think she was the devil incarnate, others that she rebuilt the country.

As a youngster, growing up in a house filled with venom from my step father, I held the first, in later life I read the downing street years, and became more sympathetic to the 2nd.

Whichever your view, the idea of grown men and woman having parties to celebrate her passing, is abhorrent to me.

Equally, one quote of hers stays with me, and I think we  can all agree its wisdom, whoever said it.

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.

It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s a day you’ve had everything to do.

And you’ve done it !.”


Asia Fusion closes down

Last year, I made a list of every curry house in the city centre of Chester and I made a point of eating in every one of them (I’m a Manchester lad at heart, and being so far from Rusholme, was difficult for me when I first moved here).

My 2 favourite curry houses arent on any famous lists. They are India Flava on Brook street and Asia Fusion next to the 15 pub in town. I was saddened to see the other day that Asia Fusion had closed down.

I’ve had dozens of great evenings in there. I especially liked he way they used to show Bollywood films on the tv and the food was outstanding.

Shame its gone, I only wish I could find out where the Chef is working now.

Dark day.

My beloved ksb 300 walking boots

Talking of bad news.

My old friends, my Karrimor KSB 300 boots, finally gave up the ghost. Walking boots should normally be replaced every 8 years and these old boys lasted 12.

Obviously, my first thought was to replace them with a modern version of the same brand. Turns out Karrimor now make the KSB 350 boot, which are £35 (my KSB 300 boots cost £150 3 years ago !. Had a good look at them anyway. A joke.

My old boots have been to the Andes, the Himalayas, the Alps and the Pyrenees. They have covered thousands of miles across the the UK, sometimes in weather where most sensible people wouldn’t nip out for a paper !.

Sadly, its time to move on and there off to the bin.

My new Salomon Quest boots. The best walking boots I've ever owned

Visiting Cotswolds (Field and Trek are now part of sports direct, and although I’ve loved shopping there for years, theyr not what they used to be).

After trying on several pairs, I settle on Salomon Quest boots. They fit my feet perfectly and weigh a 3rd of the weight of my previous boots.

I’ve worn them 4 times and there incredibly comfortable, whatever the terrain. Farewell old friend, but welcome new friend.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Lllangollen 2013

My returun to Llangollen.

Last year an amazing weekend camping in Llangollen kicked of an entire year of weekend’s away, Sunday walks and overseas trips.

It’s an annual event and it was so good that I emailed Sue, the organiser to tell her how much I enjoyed it.

Just to prove that no good deed goes unpunished, I ended up being roped in to organising this year’s event with her (I’m only joking it was great fun).

Llangollen in the Snow.

The format of the weekend, is we normally spend Friday afternoon around Llangollen, then do day walks on Saturday and Sunday and go back home in time for Monday.

It had been a week since snow had fallen in Chester, and it had largely disappeared. As we drove over on Friday morning the hills were covered in Snow, which made for this superb view.

Hotel Room at Gails winebar and hotel.

Although bright, the weather wasn’t kind, and the temperature was around -4 during the night.

We decided that those staying over, would use hotels. I stayed at Gales wine bar hotel. It was very comfortable, and quirky at the same time with walls made of wattle and dorb.

A few of the group were from Wrexham, so they got buses or taxi’s to/from home.

LLangollen high street with the famous chippy.

In Llangollen high street.

The main area’s of interest here are pro-adventure (an absolutely brilliant outdoor shop) and the Seajays chippy.

We had a bit of a wander around, then had a few drinks and went back to our hotel to get ready.

That evening, we had a meal in the Cornmill, which overlooks the river Dee. Same as last year, the food was superb.

Llangollen Trainstation

In the morning, I’m organising the first walk (I say organising, as it was actually Brian who was leading it).

It involved a train journey to Glyndyfrdwy and then a walk back.

I was really excited. I’ve been in a helicopter, in a submarine, the list is endless, but I’d never travelled on a steam train.

Glenn wasn’t joining us on the walk due to work commitments, but came to see us all off from the railway platform. He bought me some commemorative Steam train themed socks to mark the occasion.

On a steam train for the first  time.

Once on-board, it was euphoria. Its an adult group (but were not swingers or anything like that) but it felt like being on the coach during a school trip, it was that exciting.

View from the steam train

The view out of the window, didn’t fill everyone with confidence for the walk.

We arrive at Glyndyfrdwy station

The train journey was superb. I know some of you reading this will yawn, and wonder how a steam train can be exciting. Sat with all my friends, travelling through the snow filled countryside was an incredible experience, that’s hard to describe.

The only disappointment was it was over in just 22 minutes and we arrive in Glyndyfrdwy.

Walking trought the trees

After disembarking, we hit the trail.

There had been talk of wandering home along the paths, but Brian decided to take us off road, and we were trekking through forests with deep snow.

The walk continue uphill through deep snow

Weather was beautiful.

A walking pole completely imersed in snow illustrates the depth

The snow in the hills was much deeper than at home in Chester.

As long as we walked carefully, our boots would provide even support across the snow and we wouldn’t sink.

Just to show the depth, in the bottom middle of this picture is a fully extended walking pole (around 3 feet long) pushed into the snow with just the handle showing.

We stop for a drink in the Sun Inn at Rhewl

We stop off at a pub called the Sun in in Rhewl (or literally, in the middle of nowhere).

It had been taken over by a couple who were having problems with electricity and stuff like that.

Most people had coffee, but a few of us had pints (obviously, I had a pint).

Brian jumps into a snowhole built by some children and almost breaks a leg.

After leaving the pub, disaster struck.

Walking along some raised ground, Brian saw a big mound of snow. Jumping hard in it, he believed that the snow would compact and break his fall.

Turned out some of the farmers children had constructed a snow-hole up against the raised earth.

As Brian jumped, his boots passed through about 2 inches of compacted snow which formed the roof, then he “sailed” 4 feet down to land hard on the ground.

I think he was lucky he didn’t break his leg. The “manufacturers” of the snow-hole were unavailable for comment.

We finish our journey back to Llangollen passing through deep snow in Inmans wood

We finish off the walk by bagging a hill overlooking the town.

Inman’s wood (named after Jon Inman from are you being served) was very steep and had really deep snow. Some of the foot holes involved immersing a boot 2 feet into the snow.

Luckily, I’d relieved some new walking boots as an early birthday present so everything was fine (Salomon Quest, are the best boots I’ve ever owned).

Evening Dinner.

Back in town, I wanted to relax, but for various reasons was unable to.

We tried to get a cheap room for Brian (the guy in the photo with the pretend frown). I was delighted when we managed to get an on suit room at Bensons (with breakfast) for just £32 a night.

I desperately wanted to watch Dr Who, but I had to organise a 2nd evening meal (I’m still unsure why we needed a 2nd organised meal after the previous evening. I thought the chippy would suffice).

Annoyingly Galess (like quite a few other eateries in Llangollen) don’t accept bookings for tables so you have to find a table and “camp” at it until your friends arrive.

I liked Gales, but the food took 2 hours to arrive. The food was nice, but at that point, I was so hungry I would have eaten newspaper.

Haven’t done much hill walking since New Year. I was so tired, I went to bed straight after dinner (a shame, my friends had a really good time around the local bars).

Road accross the Llangollen hills

The next morning and were off to the next walk.

This time its being led by Trigger (who’s real name is Paul). The walk had been moved to the Clwydian ranges, so we had to drive over the mountains (we stopped the car to take some photos).

Moel Famau country park

Well be walking around some hills near Moel Famau.

Emma poses next to the sign, and we set off.

The Jubilee tower in the background

We walk up through the snow.

You can see the Jubilee tower in the background, which we reached a few minutes after this photo was taken.

Walking along the tops of the Clwydian ranges

We continue along the tops in a skirmish line.

The Cairn where we stop for lunch

We reach this Cairn where we had lunch (we had to get on the leeward side, the wind was howling).

A snowdrift viewed from the side.

Wandered along a snow covered hill which looked fine.

As we moved to the side, we could see things differently.

The snowdrift viewed from the bottom of the hill

From the bottom of the gulley it was clear if we’d kept walking in a straight line, we’d have been in peril.

This scene reminded me of a miniature version of the Khumbu Ice-fall in the Himalayas.

A "snow wall" as we walk back to the Golden Lion at Llangynhafal

The walk and the adventure weekend is coming to an end. We wander along this sort of “snow wall” and have a quick drink back at the Golden Lion at Llangynhafal.

Thanks to everyone that came along, and most of all to me, for all the hard work in organising it 🙂