Birthday & other adventures

Me out walking on the hottest day of the year

Ok, this blog entry is pretty big, and there’s a lot to take in, in 1 hit.

Main reason for this, is I’m about to leave on a week long trip to Macedonia (taking in Kosovo and Albania) I get back for 1 day, then its off to Cyprus with Dan & Glenn.

With commitments at work, cataloguing my Rohan clothes and providing for the fish, there’s not much time, but I’m determined to update before I go.

Firstly, I saw this article on bbc about the coffee preferences of younger/older people.

Personally, I think people who claim to now only settle for fresh coffee (and all that rubbish) are talking out of their backsides.

Truth is, there’s not much wrong with a cup of Nescafe. Except where exactly can you go to get a cup of “normal” coffee now.

Seems to me that coffee used to cost 50p, now it costs about £2.50 and its “better” (according to somebody !).

Finaly, Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring this year. The internet is alive with people saying he’s the best manager in the world and we’ll never see his like again. To add balance, I just thought I’d say that I hate football and just don’t care.

Walking near the coast

Other Sunday I went on a mystery train journey.

No, I dont mean I got on the wrong train by accident and ended up in the middle of nowhere. No, this was a planned event.

A group I joined called Chester IVC organised it. They organise all sorts of activities, but the adventure ones like caving, weekend walking and mystery trains are the ones I’m most interested in.

They also organise nights out and meals and stuff like that. I don’t attend many of these. Thing is, I can usually get some friends to go to the pub, go for a curry and visit Cyprus, but my main need, is a group of people prepared to organise and fill a caving trip, or a weekend in a rural building. I’ve even signed up for a reading group, so I’m busy reading Mr Pip.

As it was, the mystery train took us to the Red Squirrel sanctuary in Formby.

At the beach

The area was a mix of forest and coastline environments.

Its always great to be next to the ocean, but this wasn’t California.

The weather throughout the day was pretty bad, but the group seemed oblivious (and I’m from Manchester, so rain to me is like snow to an Eskimo).

Forest walk

I’m always happiest when I’m in the woods and wandering around exploring was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Our main task was to seek out the mysterious Red Squirrel, which proved a real challenge, despite many bush-craft courses and tracking skills.

A Squirrel we discover

Success, we find one !.

The red squirrel is becoming increasingly rare in the UK.

Instantly recognised by its bushy tail and red colouring. Its increasingly under threat from the introduced American grey squirrel.

It was quite far away and I had to use my camera on maximum zoom. Behind the Squirrel are some roots, which because of the angle make the squirrel look like it has some kind of “scorpion back”.

Another Squirrel we discover

Another rare creature (and honestly, its a blessing) is the British costumed man.

Instantly recognised by its nylon fir and an utter lack of embarrassment or shame. Its increasingly under threat from youths with water pistols.

I gave him £2 towards the National Trust.

Another Place. An art installation in formby

After a couple of hours, its back to the train (we got a really good day saver ticket thing, so we got to travel all day for around a fiver).

We find shelter at the train station and eat our packed lunches and were off to another place says Aidan. And that’s its actual name.

An art installation of 100 cast iron “men” looking out to see. Its called another place and runs for a mile along Formby beach.

We walk along the beach, but the tide is in, so it was hard to see and we were battered by the weather from the coast.

The adventure continues with a bus ride to the Wirral

Our adventure complete (so we think) and we head back to Liverpool to get the train home.

Ends up that the trains are cancelled. We are shepherded from one train station to another. Eventually, its clear that well have to get to the other side of the water.

A free trip on the world famous Mersey Ferry looks cool, but there isn’t one for another 45 mins.

Instead, we get the bus through the tunnel and once there, got the train back to Chester.

I found it all really exciting, but a friend who works in Liverpool tells me that this kind of thing is a weekly occurrence so if you HAVE to make that journey, its not much fun at all.

Half the world would have been sat in a dull pub or watching EastEnders on the Sunday afternoon. I’m that glad I’m not one of them.

Alison on the left and Sue on the right

After a day of adventure, it was a trip into town (and since I live in town, wasn’t much of a trip at all) to celebrate my friend Alison’s birthday (on the left).

A brilliant evening, Alison is a friendly, straight talking organised sort of person, of the kind I love spending time with.

I don’t normally go to Telford’s warehouse, but on this occasion it was really good and Alison had a smart time with all her other friends.

After I’d finished dinner, I wandered downstairs to listen to the music.

Someone in a very questionable hat, was banging out some truly awful music. Not uncommon on open mike nights, its usually a mixed bag of enthusiasm, rare bits of talent and people who don’t have a recording contract, for a very good reason.

In this case, technology had provided a problem of its own making. Silly-hat announced from the stage that he would be coming around the audience to sell his CD’s (which he’d “home produced” on a laptop).

I don’t know about £5 each, but 30 mins earlier I’d have happily paid him £100 to get of the stage and stop ruining Coldplay !.

My memories box, which I open each year on my birthday

On the subject of birthdays, it was only a week later and it was my birthday.

I did my usual ritual of looking through my memories box.

It was the usual flood of memories and emotions going back across my life. The 2nd thing I normally do is look at my mind map, and review my goals for the year. Opening the box, sets the scene for the planning and illustrates to me, all the great things that I’ve been lucky enough to do in my life.

This year though, one other thing occurred to me, and its for this reason that I’m writing about it.

I found a ticket to the National Mountain Exhibition at The Regged Center in Keswick and a program from the James Bond museum.

They both opened for a relatively short time, and neither of these things exist any-more.

The mountain exhibition was meant to run indefinitely, featured priceless exhibits like the tent used by Mallery and Irving and even Bronco Lanes toe’s, lost due to frostbite. Sponsored by Helly Hansen, it ran out of money due to the recession.

The Bond museum had the original Aston Martin, the Q Jetboat and both Lotus Esprit cars. It was owned by a private collector (a dentist interestingly enough). As I understand it, the collection had to be broken up for financial reasons and the museum closed.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is move fast and do it now. The thing you keep saying you’ll do might disappear from the world without a lot of notice and in the case of these things, you’ll never get to see them again.

Dan at the bar we've drunk at for more than 10 years.

Well, before I know it, its Saturday the 4th of May.

My actually birthday is the 7th of May, but I always organise a day out in Chester for me and my friends on the closest Saturday.

One of the first pubs I frequented in Chester was the Fortress and Firkin, later renamed the Frog and Nightingale (and taken over by the famous Tony) its transition completed about 2 years ago, when it was completely re-fitted and re-named the lock keeper.

We had a few pints in the Mill Hotel next to my house, but since I’ve drunk there for over 10 years, the Lock Keeper seemed like the place to celebrate my birthday.

Here, my old friend Dan gets the pints in. You can see from his attire, that the weather was pretty smart.

Friends from the walking group

I’ve got quite a lot of friends that attend now. Some are from different groups I’m involved in.

Dave and Yuk were some of the people who visited from the Chester and District Walking Group (Yuk actually bought me 12 bottles of beer as a birthday gift).

Andy from IVC

I also invited a couple of people from Chester IVC.

My mate Andy is a cracking guy, but blotted his copybook, when he later suggested a visit to a bar called Kash. I cant describe how awful it is in there, but since all my friends were around it was at least tolerable.

Mike and Kris Bourne (aka Bone), with Jon M and Lee & Susan

In the centre of this picture is Mike Delafield and Kris Bourne. Mike lives in Liverpool, so I catch up with him when I can, but Kris (who we all used to call bone) lives in Nottingham, and it must be 8 years since I’d seen him.

When we met he was 19 and helped us out with office moves. Now he’s got 2 children and expecting a 3rd. The world moves on I guess.

On the lelft of the photo is Jon Mallet, who travelled up all the way from London. A great mate, we last met on a trip to the lakes last year.

On the right of the picture, Lee Sawbridge, a guy I met at Fairbridge Drake 25 years ago, and a companion on my first ever adventure interailing. Across from him, his wife Susan (I introduced them) as they chat to Nikki from the walking group.

A fantastic day, with friends from work and every area of my life. Ended up being out from 12 lunchtime until 12 midnight. I dont do that kind of thing often now. Thanks to everyone who came, it really was a fantastic day and I’m greatfull to every 1 of you.

The Sontaran buttler

The day after, and its a relax at home day (or a recovery from alcohol poisoning day, whichever works for you.

Setup my Raspberry Pi computer and my train set. Caught up with a lot of tv and reading, and just basically relaxed.

Dr Who has been a bit off this series, but returned to form. A farce, chase around adventure, with the people from the Christmas special, and the superb Sontaran buttler, Strax (and even a tongue-in-cheek Sat Nav reference with a lad called Thomas Thomas).

I also watched Person of Interest, Game of Thrones and a new series called Banshee which is growing on me.

Only thing I cant understand, is how amazing series like Chicago Code get cancelled, but utter rubbish like Warehouse 13 gets renewed and renewed.

Out walking near Bala lake

I often say, if I won £50,000,000 I don’t know what I’d be doing tomorrow. But the day after I know I’d be out walking !.

Bank holiday on the 6th, gave me sort of 2 personal days to enjoy my birthday. With the weather looking exceptional, I decided to head out walking.

After I’d walked for 3 hours, I was really enjoying myself. At his point, there was some dangerous talk about going up mountains and stuff like that.

I would have been happy walking back, and as look would have it, one of our group was feeling really ill. I volunteered to take her back, thereby dodging the mountain nonsense.

Six hours walking. A good number.

We leave the path and head for the hills

Once the injured party had been loaded into the “Huey” (in this case, a  Ford Fiesta, owned by Mandy) back to Chester, I had a couple of hours to kill.

I wandered around the village of Llanuwchllyn. I realised its a place I’d been before with Brian and Sue on my first hostelling trip (feel like a long time ago now, but I realise it was only about a year ago).

The village has a steam railway, so I went there for some coffee, then wandered around some more. It really was amazing weather as the picture above shows.

Had a pint and some food in the Eagles pub, then off home, another amazing day over.

The Red House gastro pub next to the river

After everything I’d done, my actual birthday came around.

What could possibly follow the previous few days.

In the end, I decided not to even try. I would just relax.

I had a lie in bed, then wandered to a really nice pub called the Red House. It’s by the river and does excellent food. Couple of drinks and a steak sandwich, watching people in boats sail and row past.

I walk back home in a contemplative mood. A lot of people seem to worry on birthdays, concious that their getting older. Just reminds me, of the great life I’ve already had and that it can only get better.

Dinner at the Hoole curry house

Its been a baking hot day, so I get back and jump in the bath.

I’ve treated myself to some special birthday clothes (not to be confused with a birthday suit !), so I put on my Rohan fusion trousers and my new desert boots (I absolutely love desert boots) and head out.

Last year I made a list of every curry house in the centre of Chester. I visited all 18 of them by September that year.

One place not on the list, but everyone kept mentioning was the Hoole Curry house. I decided I’d go there for dinner.

Hoole is a small area just outside Chester and isn’t a place I visit often. Dan and I used to go up there, but it was full of people who claimed to be in “music” or in the “media”.

Would later turn out I was talking to a hospital porter who owned a guitar.

Let me say straight away, I’ve no problems with people doing ordinary jobs to make ends meet while having bold aspirations for other area’s of their life (how could I criticise them, its exactly what I do !).

Anyway, enough moaning and back to the curry event. Who else could I take but the excellent Glenn. We had a couple of drinks in the Stuteley bar in the Devonia lodge hotel on Hoole road, then headed for the curry house.

Quite small, but well run, I ordered various stuff and my usual Korai chicken. Food was very nice, but I still prefer India Flava on Brook Street. Still, a brill evening and lively conversation (mostly mine, with poor Glenn having to sit through it 🙂  )

With the curry eaten, we stop for a quick drink on the way back (Kash again, but once again, good company rescues me from this appalling establishments tedium). We run into Alex and he recommends a hostel he thinks I’d like (Grinton Lodge YHA).

I finish my drink and head home. Another birthday over, its a walk back to my house and prepare for work.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to an amazing couple of days, your input and friendship are appreciated.

Well, that wraps things up, I better go and finish packing for Macedonia. The search for adventure continues…

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