Year: 2021

Return to Manchester (for a weekend)

I’ve lived in Chester for over 20 years. Moving there was one of the best desisions I’ve ever made. But…

I’m not from Chester, I’m from Manchester and that will always be my home.

Nikki decided she’d like to visit Manchester for a long weekend.

I couldn’t wait !.

We’d be staying at the Midland hotel. It really is nice in there, and since I booked with Travelzoo over a year ago, we got a fantastic deal.

Nikki had meetings all day, but I’d booked the afternoon off. Getting off the train, I had a walk around and then went to meet my old friend Nick in the Bank (a pub, we weren’t paying in cheques or anything !).

On the way, I was disapointed to see Debenhams closed down. I bought my first video recorder and various other thing here (my brother and I would meet each weekend and go to the cinema. Afterwards it would be Macdonalds or Pizza hut, then we’d go and treat ourselves to something nice.

Another thing I was suprised to see, was Manchester Town Hall. It’s featured in loads of tv programs like Ripper Street, and Foyles war. It’s got a bit rundown, so theyre doing it up.

I hadn’t realised just how much work is involved. It won’t re-open until 2024 and portakabins stacked 4 high, tells you how many people are involved.

in the evening, drinks at the Midland and dinner at the black cat.

In the morning, breakfast at the hotel (someone we met in the lift, couldn’t run to the cost of breakfast, so he’d been sent out to buy Macdonalds.

We’d decided to visit Media City.

When I was last there 15 years ago, it had the Imperial war museum of the North and the Lowry centre. I was disapointed to find that water taxi’s no longer run, so I took the same route my friend Frank led on my original trip.

Media city is on the Manchester Ship Canal. But the much smaller Rochdale Canal runs a similar route, so wandered along that for 3 miles.

A strange sort of telephone box entrance and were inside the IWM.

They had most of the original artifacts including this amazing Harrier Jump Jet (which are much smaller than you’d expect them to be with only a 25 foot wingspan).

The museum is specificaly about War, and the impact it has on people. They are very specific that it isn’t a military museum.

But there are loads of interesting things in there. There’s a section on medical advances due to war. Superglue didn’t exist before the Vietnam war !.

A temporary exibition about Aid Workers.

In this picture, an original Karimore Jaguar S75 rucsack.

From here, you cross a bridge to Media City, which is like an Island.

There were various things going on, but there was one specific thing I’d come here to see. The Blue Peter Italian Sunken Garden.

I’d seen it constructed as a child week by week and I was really upset when it was vandalised. When Blue Peter moved North, I heard that the Garden had moved with it.

I asked a few people working at a bar, but they’d never heard of it. Then I realised they were about 20 and wouldn’t have been born when it was constructed. The told me about a place called the Blue Peter garden, and this was it.

After all those years, I finaly got to sit in the sunken garden. It even has the original statue of Petra in the corner.

A visit to the Lowry art gallery, in the Lowry centre.

It has the largest collection of Lowry painting in the world.

Interestingly, my favourite picture by him is one of Piccadily Gardens. That was commisioned and hangs in the Manchester Art Gallery (which I’d be visiting the next day).

Having spent the whole day exploring, we had some dinner, 2 bottles of wine and then decided to head back to “town”.

Looking down the ship canal at this amazing view. But I was shocked to see, some people had climbed onto the bridge.

I can only guess at what these idiots were doing, but one of them was clearly photographing the other.

If he’d tripped I wonder if the camera would have captured the last moments of his life. Some people are too stupid to be allowed out of the house.

Our final day in Manchester. We visit the Manchester Art Gallery. It’s a lot bigger than I remember it.

There were loads of cool pictures and installations. My favourite was this picture showing Napoleonn’s retreat from Moscow. I’d read about it and it sounded harrowing. This picture captured it perfectly.

Manchesters “new” law courts. I remember when they opened, they caused controversy as the archutect had modeled the buildings on filling cabinets. Not particularly inspiring.

The area of Spinningfields didn’t even exist when I left Manchester. As we wandered around, we were struck by the amazing buildings. You can see why Manchester is now considered Britains 2nd city.

We were heading for the People’s museum, but I stopped on the way to take this picture. A canal-side bar called the Mark Addy was a place we frequented in my youth (Mark Addy was a character from the book, The Manchester man).

It was tragicaly run down and abandoned. Quite sad really. I’ve heard since that it flooded several times (one one occasion, completely submerged), and 10 years ago finaly closed.

Inside the peoples museum, theres was loads of stuff about the history of politics in the UK, the Trade Union movement, Sufragets and the Miners Strike.

Lots of interesting visuals like this one with Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher.

They also had the one used by Nigel Farage (the phony one that’s meant to look like imigrants coming into Britain, but was actualy taken during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia).

But by far, my favourite thing was this. The famous “Donkey Jacket” worn by Michael Foot at the Cenitaph on Rememberence Sunday. He as pilloried wearing it at the time, but in reality, the coat was purchased from Harrods.

Sunday lunch and then train home.

There’s loads of other stuff I could have written about, but I’ve tried to pick the unusual stuff.

Looks like the Covid expirience may be coming to and end.

The search for adventure continues…

Update: Final Covid projects and 100 day plan.


ok, so this blog hasn’t been updated in absolutely ages. Why you might ask?

Well, like many other people, with the possible end of Covid in sight, I set myself a series of projects and goals (with a 100-day countdown).

Just to show what is possible, above.

Built by my old friend Andy Ogden and his family, a superb garden beach bar, made from pallets and the like during the first lockdown.

I don’t pretend to understand joinery, but even I can see how impressive it is.

So, the theme of this month’s blog is what projects/jobs I’ve been doing. Some of them are useful and some a bit wacky, I’ll leave you guys to decide.


My goals have been a bit more modest.

This one for example involves me learning to tie 3 new knot’s every day.


January and February is usually the time I go through my outdoor gear and prepare for the adventure season.

I decide to replace/upgrade a few things and also treat myself.


I’ve had various lighters over the years (I’ve never been a smoker, but if you’ve ever made fire from friction, you know why).

This is an authentic Zippo. It’s engraved with Trust No One, just like the one used by the Cigarette Smoking Man from the X Files.

It’s also modified with a USB chargeable plasma igniter, rather than the normal petrol one which makes it a lot cleaner and a lot more reliable.


I’ve treated myself to several new things from the Rohan shop, including their Flex Jeans, which they say are the most comfortable Jeans you’ll ever wear (and I agree).

Additionally, I’ve upgraded my travel washbag. I take a bigger wash bag on longer trips with stuff like insect repellent, but for shorter trips I just take the basics.


This is the one I now use for short trips – it’s is the same size as my old one but opens out like a tray, rather than the traditional “hang up” ones.


When I was 17 there wasn’t much going on in my life, but I got hold of a book called The SAS Survival Handbook – by John “Lofty” Wiseman.

It had loads of stuff about Deserts and Jungles (places that were impossible for me to visit at the time, but I had my dreams and my enthusiasm).


It inspired me to make a tobacco tin “survival kit”.

I got hold of a tobacco tin and with help from my Grandma I was able to get needles and thing for the sewing kit.

The local fishing shop helped me with the fishing equipment and my mum advised me on painkillers and imodium.

I spent ages getting it perfect and even lit candles of different diameters to see which would light for the longest.

During the lockdown I’ve completely re-created it. I don’t know if I’ll ever need it (I’ve done so many Bushcraft courses I can improvise most of the thing in there from the forest) but if I do need it, it’s there in my pocket.


“Lofty” also talked about knives and cutting tools and went into great details about something called a “Parang” (pictured above).

I learned it was basically a native machete used in the Borneo Jungle.

I’ve been in Jungles in 4 continents and used various practical cutting tools like this.

During the lockdown, I’ve setup a high shelf in my kitchen with all 4 of them on display.


One thing I’ve been pleased about, is my work.

Although I work in IT, I’m classified as a Construction Industry key worker. This has meant I haven’t missed a single day’s work throughout the whole of the lockdown.

After my experiences in 2009 I can’t describe how much of a relief that’s been.


Speaking of work, some of my friends and colleagues noticed a delivery of tennis balls was left on my desk (I’ve never expressed an interested in sport, so they were a bit surprised).


They were even more surprised when, during lunchtime I proceeded to cut them all in half!.


They needn’t have worried.

Nikki and I are going camping soon and I’ve upgraded us to some camp beds.

In order to protect the tent floor, the “half” tennis balls go underneath the legs of the bed.


Since I’ve spent a lot more time at home, I’ve been upgrading my wall “real estate”.

I’ve got a new X Files – I Want to Believe Poster, bought a new picture of the Fighting Temeraire and an amazing poster of Escape from New York.

My Alan Turing news article from the MEN in 1997 has been reframed along with my “Jane Smith” picture of Crib Goch.


I went over to Liverpool for an evening at my old haunt the Town House, where I had a few drinks (and some chips, which I bought) with Matt and Mike.

Also met up with my old mate Nick from Newton Heath. Out of everything I think the thing I missed most was going to the pub with friends.

Can’t wait to stand up and walk about in the Lock Keeper after the 19th of July.


A regular fixture during lockdown was a streamed comedy event, we watched most Saturday evenings at 9pm.

Just the Tonic productions – Working from Home, had some brilliant comedians and lots of short sets so constantly switching tone.

One particular comedian I really enjoyed was Marcel Lucont. Playing a witty, aloof Frenchman, I howled with laughter.

Best thing, he’s actually appearing at Theatr Clwyd in a few weeks and we’ve booked to go and see him.


I’ve caught up on a lot of reading.

I was fascinated by the story of Bernie Madoff who recently died in Prison.

One minute he was the go to guy who everyone wanted to work with, the next he appeared in court in a bullet proof vest.

People lost billions of pounds due to his Ponzi scheme over several decades.

Interestingly, after appearing in court for the first time, he was allowed bail and returned to his Penthouse.

One of the people on the ground bellow, held up this sign !.

Well, thanks once again for “tuning in” to

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…


Getting organised.


Some years ago, I was at Fairbridge Drake’s Applecross centre in the Scottish highlands.

One evening there was a slide show about the activities of the centre and I was delighted to see a picture of  me in a Snow Hole from a previous trip.

At the end of the talk, I was given the slide to keep. Problem is I didn’t have a slide projector, what could I do ?.

So it stayed in my memories box for 30 years.


As some of you know, Nikki’s father tragicaly passed away last year.

He left hundred of slides, mostly of Aeroplanes. We bought a slide scanner and converted them all to .jpg (the intention is to put some of them up on the internet for any interested party to look at).

It gave me the opportunity to finaly scan my picture from the Snowhole.


But with all the scanning, it got me to thinking about my own digital posessions. They’ve drifted into my universe (god, am I really writing this crap, I’ve been stuck at home too long 🙂 and like the long neglected contents of a garage, badly needed organising.

So I went through everything and broke them down into the following areas and bellow I’ve written the strattegy I used in each case.



I’ve got letters applying for my first ever job, complaints to the Gasboard, you get the idea.

It took several hours to sort them into catagories, then I put them into dropbox. I always know where they are, they’re backed up and I can access them securely from my phone or any internet enabled device.

Any paper documents I had, where the original wasn’t needed (like a Will), were scanned and put into the relevant folders.

I also have a shared dropbox with Nikki, with secure copy of things like passport/driving license etc. If I’m away travelling (if that ever happens again:) and something happens to me, Nikki can easily get access to these from a phone, tablet, computer in the lobby of a hotel etc.



I scanned all my photo there weren’t digital.

Then I went through every picture and catagorised them. Where there were duplicates, I ordered them by year (so Lake District 2014, Laked District 2015).

Where I had random pictures (I have a picture of some loon walking across the Shropshire Union Canal when it was frozen over) I put them in a catagory called Misc

This job took 2 whole weekends to complete. Once done, I put them up on Dropbox.



I had a lot of Tony Robbins motivational stuff that I’d converted from cd. I also had quite a few podcasts that I’d downloaded (BBC’s 50 things that changed the modern economy is superb). I organised these into a podcast section and put it up on dropbox. I put any downloaded music into a similar folder.

I decided going forward, I would simply use Amazon Music. Anything I wanto listen to now, is on a playlist on my phone, Alexa or my pc with it’s Harmon Kardon speakers.


TV and Film

I rationalised my DVD collection and just kept a few special ones. Everything else was digitised.

With quite a lot of tv series and films, this took quite a while to organise. The the main thing here, was to make it easily available (otherwise, it simply wouldn’t get used, which was the whole point of this entire project).

With the help of my friend Matt, I setup a Plex server. It enables me to stream tv content to any tv or tablet in my house. So when I’m in bed if I feel like watching a random episode of Spooks or the New Statesman, there it is.

For newer content, Netflix and BBC I Player are all that I need. If there’s something I want to watch and simply can’t get anywhere else, I can buy the dvd on Amazon and play it on my Xbox.



I always like to have interesting books around me on my book case. I went through and any I didn’t read or out of date travel guides were deposited at the charity shop.

For fiction stuff, I relly totaly on my kindle.



I’m not a massive gamer, but I’ve played all the Halo and Call of Duty games.
In the past I’ve always bought the box set from Tesco or wherever, but now I just download my home etc, I’ve got copies off them off site (pretty much what I’ve been doing at work for decades


It was 20 years ago in a very volatile personal situation that I had to re-organise my life. I remember reading Alvin Hall’s book Your money or your life.

One key thing I got from the book, was about having simple file box and having every important document (birth certificate, insurance document) in a place where you can put your hands on it in 10 minutes.

Once I’d done that I felt a lot more relaxed about things, knowing that everything was where it belongs. Times have moved on, but the principle is still the same, once you’ve organised everything you feel much more relaxed.

Happy times in a world with no adventure


Hard to write an adventure blog when they’re isn’t much adventure about.

But outside it’s snowing at the moment, which offers garden based adventures.

Walking group, Globetrotters and Chester cinema club closed (to say nothing of every pub and restaurant in the land).

Not much chance of any overseas exploring on the horizon and even James Bond has been put back to November.



Every day, the days get longer and the end of COVID-19 and a return to normal life gets closer.


Speaking of Friends (ok, I know Alexa isn’t a proper friend) my neighbour recently moved out.

I’ve always maintained if you want good neighbours, start by being one yourself. In the 3 years that he lived next door they have been charming and helpful but always respected my privacy.

With 1 exception. I was woken at 3am in the Morning to shouting. I got up, walked down to my living room and turned on the lights. And there was my neighbour.

While talking excitedly to a friend on the phone I’d gone to bed and left my front door open. My neighbour had come home from work seen the door alerted me to it. I can only imagine what would have happened without his assistance.

Why was he coming home at 3am ?. Well, he was a Merseyside Police officer. He was proud of what he did, but he appreciated discretion and didn’t want too many local people knowing. So I told no-one.

They moved out just before Christmas. I was sad to see him leave, but he left me this Gnome. I always admired it (he said he hated it).

To Kieran, Marcella & Arthur, the best of luck in your new home.


I start each year with a Mindmap of goals for the year.

This year, I’ve kicked everything off with a 100 day plan, starting on the 4th of January and ending on the 14th of April.

It’s an attempt to kick-start things off this year as between SAD & COVID-19 lockdown it can be hard for anyone to get motivated.

But in life, you get what you focus on, and I’m focusing on various career, financial, domestic and adventure goals and the 100 day finish line.


A very important tool in this, is monitoring.

One problem I’ve occasionally found, is you seet a goal and a deadline, and you only start to worry when the deadline is looming.  With monitoring, it’s done every day and every week and makes you “stick to things” if you know what I mean.

For my weight and fitness, I use a mixture of Nutracheck & my Garmin watch. One monitors what I eat and drink, the other one monitors my activity. If I stick to the plan I’ve worked out I should be significantly healthier (and lighter) at the end of the 100 days.


Another thing I’ve setup is a routine habit monitor in 1 note.

It has things in it like make bed every morning and drink 2 litres of water. Just simple things, but as theyre done every they form into solid habits, so you don’t even know your doing them. Pick 10 yourself now, and track them every day for 100 days.

You’ll be amazed by the results.


It’s become an annual ritual at Christmas that my dining table is taken over by my train setup. I like to add something new each year.


In times gone buy that might be something simple like a bridge but this year I treated myself to a Mallard.

In its iconic blue, the steam train was the fastest train in the world at 126 mph in 1938 (I’ve seen the real one at the train Museum in York).


Of all my trains, my favourite is the 125.
I was originally given one as a gift by my father. I was too young (I would probably have tried to eat it) so my mum put it away. When we got it out a decade later, it didn’t work, so we gave it to the school jumble sale.

30 years later, the only way to get that train, was to buy a broken one, buy a working one of similar design and have the frame transplanted onto the chassis (by the experts at Chester Model shop).

Problem is, it still doesn’t run very well due to its age. So I was delighted to see that Hornby have re-launched the 125. A brand-new train that will run like a dream.

I think you can guess what will be racing around the dining table next Christmas.


Like a lot of people, with little else to do, I’ve been catching up on “box sets”.

At Christmas, Nikki’s mum was talking about Foyles War, so I looked it up.

22 film length episodes. 8 series over 15 years. Originally set in Hastings on the coast, it tells the story of an “ordinary” detective solving crimes in wartime with all the problems and dilemmas that presents.

The last 2 series are set in London, Foyle leaves the police and works for MI5 in the early days of the Cold War.

The first 7 series were actually filmed in Ireland, but the last was filmed almost exclusively in Liverpool (although Chester is used for a street Market, and Manchester Central Library briefly becomes the court at Nuremberg).

I watched the final episode yesterday. I remember Nikki telling me a while ago, that work at her office had been disrupted due to filming.


And the picture above is it !.

A key character is shot on the steps of the Port of Liverpool Building on Man Island, which passes nicely for the MI5 building in London.

The series is a genuinely intriguing drama/whodunnit with realistic interesting characters. If you’re bored, watch it, it should kill quite a few long dark evenings.


Speaking of intrigue, I had a Call of Duty fest over Christmas.

I finished COD – Modern Warfare, I started and completed COD – WW II, and I’ve almost finished my favourite COD – Black Ops, Cold War.

I remember playing the first Black Ops game some years ago. In one level I was “dropped” into Vietnam and everything seemed familiar for some reason.

I was quite well-read on military history at one time, and I realised, having read many first-hand accounts, that I was in the middle of the Tet offensive.

In another level of the game, after shooting down several Soviet helicopters, I receive grateful thanks from Jonas Savimbi of UNITA, during the Angola independence conflict !.

I won’t spoil the new Black Op’s game, but it has some amazing action taking place in the Lubianka building (the KGB headquarters where you get to wander around) and a personal meeting with Ronald Reagan !.


I just wanted to finish with something novel.

Stupidly, I had to dash out of the house and get something. I was gone for 2 hours and while walking home, realised I’d left the oven on.

Fish fingers and chips don’t need 2 hours at 200 centigrade, so I expected chaos when I got back.

But no. I discovered the oven has a special feature where it can recognize it was meant to be turned off (I have no idea how) and shut itself down.

The food was slightly burned, but otherwise, everything was OK.

I love technology 🙂

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…