Month: January 2014

Friends and alternative art

Ok, first of all, apologies. As many people have pointed out, hasn’t been updated in 20 days.

I’ve been really busy helping to organise Davos in my role as director of the Sunter foundation for pub tolerance.

But seriously, year started at breakneck speed when I got back from Cyprus.

Challenges at work, combined with S.A.D., which I’ve always suffered have occupied me.

I just haven’t been able to get moving and do the things that need doing (I haven’t even mopped my bathroom !).

Well, back on the horse now, with the help of my S.A.D. light.

Back home in the US, Jess reading a book to the school children

One theme I decided on this year, was to catch up with friends.

Its easy to lose touch, but once done, its almost impossible to pick things up.

Just like frozen pipes, prevention is better than a cure.

New Year was barely behind me, when I got to meet up with my old friend Oliver who I worked with at IBM.

They live in Chicago now. My first trip beyond Europe was to Las Vegas to celebrate Oliver’s marriage to his then fiancé Jessica.

Meeting up with them in the UK was ace, but I had such a good time, that I never had a moment to take any photos. The photo above, is Jessica with their son Hugo at School.

They seem to be quite a forward thinking school from what Oliver was telling me. Each week, the children stand up in front of the whole class and announce any news that they have.

During family week (pictured above) parents are invited into school, to read stories to the other children, assisted by their own offspring.

Me, Olivers Dad and Hugo at the Rememberence Garden in Chester

Back to their UK visit (in the picture above, there’s a shrub growing in the garden beyond the fence. I’m not actually holding a bunch of flowers !).

I was delighted to find that Oliver, Jess and Hugo would be joined by Olivers mum, dad and brother Dale.

The latter 3 became firm friends during the Las Vegas trip, and it was a genuine pleasure to catch up with them again.

It had been decide that we would all spend the afternoon in Chester. Sadly, the British weather wasn’t as I would have liked, considering I only see them about once every 2 years.

As it was, we had a good time and even had dinner at Duttons, and a few drinks later at the Brewery tap.

The picture above, is me, Hugo and Olivers’s Dad, next to the Garden of remembrance, one of my favourite places in Chester.

By the time they went home, I’d had a brill time (and 6 pints). I hope they come back 🙂

From an adventure point of view, some people say they don’t get enough holidays from work. I maintain its what you do with them that counts (its part of my 141 philosophy).

In this case, I get 24 days holiday a year. I was able to enjoy this immensely fun afternoon, for an investment of 1 Friday afternoon. So that’s 1/48th of my years entitlement.

Lyndsay Lomax in Macclesfield

If you look back ao the blog a few years ago, you’ll see a girl who I worked with called Lyndsay, who I later met  up with walking the Gritstone trail (Tony and I are planning the Pendle way this year in a similar fashion, so if you fancy joining us, stay tuned).

Great news for her (and sad for me) when Lyndsay got a promotion to our head office in Steafa Switzerland. Like Oliver, she decided to come home for Chistmas and New Year, so I headed for Macclesfield to meet her.

Macclesfield is a funny sort of place. Although its only 40 miles from Chester, it involved 3 trains to get there. But which trains ?

Gemma at work (blond, owns a blue car, NHS trained audiologist) taught me a pretty cool trick a year or 2 ago. I’ve always considered Virgin trains superb, but used them mainly for longer distance like London.

As Gemma demonstrated, you can use Virgin trains for local journeys, and for this purpose, they’re the rolling stock equivalent of faster than light travel !.

I arrive in Macclesfield.

I’m sat behind 2 young lads who are talking about how its going to “go off” (slang for a fight going to start).

Why do I not even need to ask them which sport their talking about. They aren’t wearing any scarves or t shirts, but I instinctively know they aren’t rugby/darts/<insert any other sport than football> – fans.

Anyway, back to the story and I meet up with Lyndsay.

Its fab to see her, a person so full of life and someone who’s company I’ve always been comfortable in.

treacle tap

With no further ceremony, we head into the town. We find a pub called The treacle tap and have a couple of drinks.

Lynday has cherry beer (quite expensive she explains, but worth every penny). I do my usual trick of asking the real ale expert, what’s the closest thing they have to lager.

Instead of the usual shock and ridicule, they are actually quite nice.

So much to talk about. You can email someone every week for ages, but when you meet face to face the conversation flows organically and is much more rewarding.

I get all the details on Bern, Switzerland, a place I’m really keen to visit. She’s flying back to Switzerland the next day, and before I know it, 5 hours have passed, and its time to head for home.

She walks me back to the station (she is being picked up by generic mum),  gives me a hug, and I’m off home.

Well actually I’m not.

The train has been cancelled and I stand on a freezing platform for an hour (I stand smugly next to shivering people with skin the colour of porridge in my mountain equipment down jacket).

Mike Delafield and I at Bar & Grill in Liverpool

On Sunday.

It’s year end (which will mean something to you, if you understand the nether world of accountancy) and Nikki is working multiple weekends.

I decide that I’ll travel to Liverpool to meet her after work to make the most of the weekend.

I have loads of friends who live in Liverpool. I keep promising to nip over and see them, but never seem to get around to it. I arrange to meet up with Mike Delafield at 2pm for a catch up.

Arrive at the station and wander into a pub called the Liverpool.

I’m instantly at home. The barmaid is polite but distant. I recognise this as the armadillo stance.

She’s used to nuisances and trouble. No problem, its just like the pubs back home in Newton Heath.

I order my pint politely and say thank you without fuss. I retire to a table in the corner, check my phone for messages and then start reading my book.

A weirdo on the table next to me, is singing along to the jukebox. I ignore him.

Someone comes into the bar and I look up. The weirdo tries to make eye contact. I hold his gaze and frown at him. He gets the message, stops singing and that’s the end of it.

It may seem unkind and harsh, but it’s the right thing to do for both of us.

I’m not a care worker and I’m trying to recharge my batteries before another stressful week at work.

If I do the altruistic thing, engage him in conversation and indulge his nonsense, I’ll be stuck listening to rubbish for several hours.

Worse, the event will come to a head, when I go to leave, and the weirdo wants to come with me.

At that point, I’d be forced to tell him to f**k off.

I know all of this from prior experience. Its kinder this way.

I get a text from Mike. He’ll meet me, but wont be be drinking in the Liverpool, as he doesn’t like it.

I explain I’ve neutralised the immediate problem. To no avail. We leave, and head for the slaughterhouse.

I really like this pub and just like the afternoon with Oliver and Lyndsay, hours feel like minutes, as we talk about old times and catch up on what’s been happening.

Nikki has finished work, and she joins us. Nikki and Mike seem to get on quite well, and the pleasant flow of the afternoon continues into the evening.

Only problem, is its quite draughty and cold, when people come in the bar, and leave without shutting the door properly.

Basic pub etiquette. I wonder sometimes if pubs should have a hand book, like the “manual” you find in your hotel room, with the time of breakfast, room service menu and the phone number of a local Dr.

I explain to Mike that Nikki has recommended eating at a converted Halifax bank called “Food & Drink”. He asks if I actually mean “Bar & Grill”. I got the word association, even if I couldn’t remember the name of the place 🙂

Fantastic food and wine round off the evening and we get the train back to Chester.

A funny football photo I saw on facebook

Someone sent me this picture on Facebook.

I find closely examining the pattern on carpets more interesting than football, but I was impressed at the creativity of this insult.

The Railway pub, now converted to a funeral home

A modern day tragedy.

A pub near my house called the Railway (which, it has to be said, was a bit crap at times) has closed down.

It has now re-opened as a funeral parlour. If I pass away, I’d like my body to be “sorted out” here, as its quite fitting.

Some shoe art I saw on the beach in Cyprus

I’m writing up my Christmas trip to Cyprus imminently, but in the meantime, thought I’d put up some fun stuff.

While there, I was so relaxed, that I was in tune, with the world of art.

On Aphrodite’s rock I saw these flip flops that had washed up on the shore. Someone had laid them out like some sort of modern art.

I was inspired and took a photo.

Some of my own "hand painted" art in the snow on Christmas day

It didn’t end there. A few days later, while walking in the Troodos mountain’s, snow covered forest on Christmas day, I was overtaken by the moment.

Answering a call of nature, I decided to do some improvised artwork, which I later titled “The Goose”.

I was so pleased with myself that I ran over to Nikki so we might share the special moment together.

I told her I’d seen something interesting in the forest and she walked over with me.

Proudly displaying my masterpiece, I receive a mixed response, containing phrase’s like “that’s disgusting” and “your such a child at times”.

Disappointed by this setback, I realised the world isn’t yet ready for a visionary like myself and I decide to  retire from the art-world permanently.

My friend Monika, recently escaped from a challenging domestic situation.

Can’t go into details, but I’ve been in similar circumstances myself and it was awful. Domesticity, is a bit like camping. You go out walking all day in the rain, and afterwards you have somewhere dry to sleep and somewhere to dry your clothes. The next day you go out walking in the rain, re-energised and refreshed.

I can put up with life’s problems like bins not being taken away/an unreasonable customer at work/the price of my train fair going up, as long as when I go home I have privacy and my own space.  Without this, it would be like extending the camping metaphor, to walking in the rain, 24hrs a day (and you wouldn’t be able to do that for long !).

Good news, is that she’s now settled.

As I’ve so often found in my life, its in times of trouble you know who you can depend on.

Glenn was visiting the Czech republic (where Monika’s originally from) looking for furniture. Whilst there, he kindly bought her some cakes.

Cakes, when she’s just had to leave her home you might say !.

Well, that’s the essence of Glenn. He knows Monika is settled and OK and she doesn’t need any drama.

So, just like he’s done so many times before (in my case when my mum died, when I was unemployed, to name just 2) he see’s where he can help, and with minimum of fuss, does something really nice without taking any credit.

The ultimate irony. A guy who loves attention, but when he genuinely deserves it, shy’s away from the limelight.

In salutation of Monika’s inner strength, I’ve linked to a song from my youth on youtube, entitled “runaway”.

Most of this post has been about my friends (plus a funeral home, and some piss art). Thanks for reading and as I’ve said many times, I’d be nothing without my friends.

For anyone interested in internet dating, saw this brilliant article on bbc news:

More articles to follow, sorry for keeping you all waiting, near and far, and search for adventure continues…