Year: 2023

Until 2024

My old boss at IBM used to tell an awful joke:

A horse walks into a bar…

The Bartender says hey pal, why the long face ?

At this moment I’m living my best life.

I’m doing something interesting like a trip to London or a bushcraft course almost every weekend. I’ve visited 5 new countries this year including Costa Rica and in 6 weeks I’ll be visiting Mexico, Belize and Guatemala (In Mexico I’ll even get to see day of the dead).

In weekdayend evenings I go to the cinema (foreign language and mission impossible type films) and I visit the theatre twice a month.

I eat out at nice places, regularly go to wine tasting and I volunteer for 3 organisations.

I get out regularly on my bike and do 40 miles or more. I’m on track to lose my 2nd stone in weight and I’m sleeping really well.

So, “Why the long face” ?.

Well, with all this going on, I have very little free time. I had a day in my house on Sunday to do jobs, I won’t have another for 3 weeks.

So I’ve had to let something go. This blog, which I’ve enjoyed updating since 2001.

I’ve decided I’m going to leave the blog as it is, until 2024 and pick it up then.

And I will… In 2024 I’ll complete my goal of visiting 100 countries and I’ll have a replacement knee so I can get back into the hills and onto the trail.

(and hopefully I’ll have fixed the twitter/x feed by then aswell).

Until then, near and far, thanks for reading and the search for adventure continues…

Bushcraft, Cable cars and Caverns. An amazing weekend in the Peak District.

I’ve visited the Peak District a lot. On previous trips, I’d spotted a few things I wanted to do so. Once I had enough to fill a weekend off I went.

Me standing in front of the roundhouse at Woodland Ways training forest.

I use Youth Hostels less and less now. Truth is, I prefer a nice pub with on-suit rooms (and I can usually afford it).

Also, the YHA have some nonsense about not drinking your own alcohol and are now charging £9.95 for breakfast !.

That being said, I’ve always had a fondness for Hartington Hall YHA In Derbyshire. When we arrived I could see they had put out some massive Bell tents and a group of young family’s were enjoying themselves out in the sunshine.

The main building of the Hostel is 17th century Manor House.

We checked in, unpacked our gear and made up our bunks. We decided to eat out in the Town. There are 2 main places to eat in Hartington, so the first night we had dinner in the Charles Cotton hotel (beef and ale pie 🙂

Up early the next morning (thanks to no sound insulation in the hostel and screaming children running around :). I always find it useful to take my own kettle and 2-in-1 coffee so I was ready to go.

Today I’d be spending the day with Woodland Ways. A bushcraft school in the Peak District, run by a chap called Jason, who I’ve met many times and spent time with on Kinabalu mountain in Borneo.

They didn’t waste any time, and straight away, we were shown safe and practical ways to use knives and saws (more about saws later).

The Bushcraft Fundamentals course runs for 1 day and was broken up into 4 sessions. They would cover shelter, food preparation, fire lighting and water collection and purification.

We began with shelter construction.

I’ve made lots of shelters, but the ones we were shown how to make here were a lot more sturdy than my previous attempts. The main frame of this kennel shelter can easily hold a grown man’s weights.

Halfway through construction. It was explained that this shelter was designed to be used where a fire wasn’t an option. Not just to keep you out of the wind and rain, the emphasis was the thickness of the walls keeping you warm.

After the main stick structure, the whole thing would be covered over with forest floor material for warmth, and then ferns for waterproofing.

We also built a lean-to shelter, designed to be used with a long fire.

We now moved to food prep (food is always best prepared out of camp).

We had lots of wood-pigeon to prepare. It’s an essential skill, but my least favourite.

Once we’d removed the meat, it had to be cut into slices.

We were issued with a knife and folding saw for the day. Nikki didn’t want one, so for this job, she borrowed my Ben Orford Bushcraft knife (one of my proudest possessions).

Dutch ovens and fire are ready, so the cooking begins in the round house.

And the finished product…

Pigeon Fajitas, quite delicious.

I finished my lunch early, while everyone else was finishing there’s, I got to try out a project of my own.

During lockdown I purchased this bucksaw. Made of wooden components, you put it together, fasten the saw blade and then tension it with the toggle on the top.

But finally, an actual forest to try it out in 🙂

Next up, fire lighting. Nicola showed us how to prepare and site the fire. I also learned 2 really useful things.

Typically, when I’m fire lighting I use the classic Tinder -> Kindling -> Fuel.

Nicola explained, if you only need enough fire to heat some water for a hot drink, just get to kindling. It’s also easier to clear away and won’t leave untidy half burned logs.

The second thing was using “2 stage” tinder. So, normally would get something like reed mace and hit it with a spark which will create flame (but only for about 10 seconds) so sometimes I’ve struggled to light the kindling.

Instead, once the flame is lit, use Silver birch bark to take hold of the flame and that will stay lit for a lot longer so the kindling can ignite.

Simple things, but incredible useful.

A demonstration of the fire drill, then we all got to have a go.

I wasn’t optimistic, but Nikki picked one up and said we should have a go. I’ve made fire from friction previously and it was very tiring and stressful, but times have moved on and working together, we got an ember in about 20 minutes (with help from our instructor Nicola).

We were so involved making fire, that we never got to take a picture. So instead, this picture of the fire we eventually made.

I also took along my fire lighting kit, which has many different ways to light fires and I got to do some experiments.

Fire plugs are fantastic, light from a spark and burn for 10 minutes at immense heat (so I’ve got 8 of them in my survival kit)

Exotac NanoSpark – able to operate 1 handed and it even has a fire plug contained in its waterproof container.

Exotac firesleave – I take a basic lighter with me wherever I go. This is a sort of waterproof case to keep it in (and it floats).

ReadyMan Tinder Scraper – so if you don’t have any tinder, you can use this sort of kitchen grater to make some using a dry stick.

The final activity of the day. We wandered back through the forest being shown plants that you could eat and others you could use as a toothbrush, pain management etc.

Jason found a spot in the forest and gave a talk about collecting water, the best ways to filter it and the best ways to purify it.

And with that, the day is over and were off home. What an amazing day and even with my years of bushcraft and adventure experience, I still learned loads of new stuff.

Thanks to Jason and everyone at Woodland Ways.

Back home, showered and changed, and were out for the evening at the Devonshire Arms.

A few celebratory pints and a nice piece of steak.

The Hights of Abraham takes it’s name from a famous hill side where the American war of independence was fought.

It’s a hilltop park with loads of interesting things to see.

We arrived a bit early, so headed into Matlock Bath for some coffee.

Matlock Bath is a lovely town, and seems to have more chip shops than Blackpool.

We’d bought advance tickets so we were up in the air straight away.

The views across the hills and Matlock Bath bellow were spectacular.

Once at the top, we get to look back down towards the cable cars.

We’d decided to have breakfast at the Vista restaurant there.

Advised to book in advance as it would fill up, when we arrived, we were the only people there.

But the service and food were superb so it was worth it.

We wander around the hillside on this beautiful day, before a tour of the lead mine.

Inside the main cavern.

There’s something quite exciting about being underground.

And when we come out the other side, were at the top of the hill, rewarded with this amazing view.

Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring and relaxing in the sunshine.

We’ve got a return ticket for the cable car, but instead walk back.

The path through the forest was especially relaxing.

And just like that our weekend is over.

From everyone at, thanks for taking the time to read this.

The search for adventure continues…

A long time coming.

Well, this year started at 100 miles an hour.

I’ve been so busy, I just haven’t had time to update this blog. Sorry about that.

First thing to talk about, was my amazing trip to Costa Rica. Our first long haul “proper” trip since Covid (you might remember at the beginning of Covid, Nikki and I were in Sri Lanka for exactly a day, before our trip was cancelled and we had to come home !.

So the title of this blog, is meant to reflect the 3 years I’ve waited to go on a far away adventure trip.

Shortly after we arrived, we visited a rescue centre. There were loads of injured and maltreated creatures. It was sad to hear some of the stories, but great to see that the animals and birds were now being treated so well.

One thing that surprised me, was the number of animals that had been “handed in” after they’ve been raised domestically as pets, and it hadn’t worked out. Above, this beautiful Ocelot, had been living in someone’s home as a domestic cat.

Except it isn’t, is it !. It’s a wild animal. Although well fed, other pets had attempted to attack and intimidate it. Neighbours of the owner had complained that their dogs had gone missing…

We spent a lot of time travelling around in our air-conditioned minibus.

On one occasion we were passing a checkpoint, and something amazing happened.

The police had pulled over a woman in a Range Rover. The sniffer dog was called over and in a few seconds, the dog sat up straight. We were shocked (just shows how many people on our trip watched Breaking Bad).

The police searched the car and found this lot in the boot.

One must-do activity of the trip, was the search for a Quetzal (which involved getting up at 4am, when you were already jet-lagged).

It’s perfectly possible to stand around for 3 hours and see nothing, but we were lucky enough, to see 2.

A few people on our trip had “big” cameras (think lenses the size of a small fire extinguisher) and were able to take the picture above.

We spent 3 days at the Tortuguero National Park which can only be reached by boat.

In the mornings, we went out looking for wildlife (which must have seen us from a long way away, considering our brightly coloured life jackets.

In Savagre, we explored the Jungle around San Gerardo de Dota by Jeep.

But my favourite, was our numerous trips and walks around the Jungle.

I’ll remember them as some of the happiest times of my life.

But it wasn’t just countryside and animals.

We got to learn about the country (did you know that Costa Rica disbanded it’s army in 1948 and put all the money into education. It now has a 97% literacy rate).

Although not religious myself, I enjoyed wandering around the Basilica Virgen de los Angeles.

There are luxurious beaches for holiday makers (and we did give it a try on our last day, swimming in the sea and stuff like that)

This beach near Tortuguero national park.

It was like something from Robinson Crusoe, completely untouched and they even have volunteers to clear the beach each day of plastic bottles and things that are washed up.

We spent an evening being shown local cookery at a traditional Finca (Farm). We got to take part and make our own Empanada.

But we didn’t just have to survive on that, after we finished our cookery course, the family laid on a 3 course evening meal, which we really enjoyed.

I think the thing most people come to see in Costa Rica are the animals and birds and we weren’t disappointed.

Another of the “big” camera photos, this <name> snake.

Our guide explained that sometimes he can lead 3 groups over 6 weeks and not see single snake, but we managed to see 3.

We parked on Puente de cocodrilo (crocodile bridge) overlooking the Tarcoles river and saw these amazing Crocodiles.

At one point, there were 5 or 6 of them, but it was hard to photograph them all, and keep the detail in the picture.

The wild animals weren’t the only things with interesting habits.

At La Baula Lodge hotel, one of the cleaners had left a box out.

It started to rain and the hotel cat (who’s name I don’t know) thought on his feet and sheltered in the box.

One of the nicest things that happened on our trip.

As we drove along, our guide Izi asked if it would be OK to stop for a minute. Obviously, we didn’t’ mind.

Turns out, his father was working on the road and we were all introduced.

The people, the countryside and the animals. Go on the internet and book a trip there now!.

My old mate Kev (who I met through Bushcraft and organised a Survival Course in the Desert) was organising an Outdoor cookery course.

Quite a long drive to Bedford, but it was worth it.

The first day was about cooking on Dutch ovens and the 2nd on campfires.

Fantastic to spend time outdoors learning stuff like that and making some new friends.

You can see a really good video of it here.

I was inspired, although it will take a while for many of the skills and techniques to sink in.

So when I got home, I thought I’d start small.

I’ve made Beef and Guinness pies from a Jamie Oliver recipe before. It was some time ago, but I thought it would be a good first step.

The finished Pies…

And they taste delicious.

So now something more adventurous, to make my own bread.

I’d seen this done at the Dutch oven course by Turan and I can only say he made it look a lot easier than it is.

At one point, the kitchen was awash with dough and I had more of it on my clothes, hands and face than on the work surface.

But I don’t give up easily, so I persevered.

An out they come, the 2 rustic looking large bread rolls.

I sliced them up and I’ve had them for lunch 3 days this week with some soup (I’m no baker, but they taste fine to me)

Nikki and I have been together for over 10 years.

One interesting hobby she introduced me to was wine, and wine tasting.

I’ve often sat in Vin Santo or Paysan drinking wine and being told about different regions of the world where it’s made.

Bordeaux is the world capital of wine so inspired, we decided to get out on the ground and see what it was like.

On the first morning, we did a “free” walking tour.

Bordeaux really is an amazing place, everywhere was clean, the people were friendly and the weather was superb.

We spent quite a lot of time, wandering around the old town.

Above is the Grosse Clocke (interesting, as it’s name sounds German to me !)

As it’s the world capital of wine, it has an amazing museum with the history of wine, how it’s made and stuff like that.

Unfortunately, their website is appalling, so we ended up on a sort of pretentious wine tasting encounter with music and poetry reading !, and never got to see the actual museum.

No matter, the next day we’d booked a trip to visit one of the appellations.

Saint Emilion. There are very strict rules about wine having Bordeaux on it’s label.

We were going to visit 2 Chateaux, see the vineyards and get to taste some wine.

Our first stop was Chateaux Rol Valentin. As we stood outside looking at the vineyards I commented to our host how lucky they were with the local weather.

I said we’d be looking to get 15 days like that in a year in the UK 🙂

We got to visit the actual town of Saint Emilion and the church built to honour him.

Chateaux D’Aiguilhe. Part of the Chateaux dates back to the 12th century and the 100 years war.

And here we are. After hearing so much about it, were sitting at a table in a Saint Emilion Chateaux drinking wine.

I’ve amassed quite a few new books and I need to catch up.

I’ve always enjoyed interesting books, and I got the inspiration from my mum. We didn’t have lots of luxury in our house, but there was a book case of interesting books and mum would buy additional books whenever she could.

I didn’t have a great time at school. A lot of the time, I educated myself and learned things from books in the house.

One one occasion mum bought the readers digest encyclopaedia of modern knowledge. It had everything in it in short order (think book version of Wikipedia) I read it every evening and learned about science, politics, geography. I was engrossed.

Those books are long gone, but just for nostalgia, I recently bought a set to keep in my house.

I know lots more things now and I’m a lot better informed. But I was reading them the other evening and it’s every bit as interesting as it was all those years ago.

I never give money to beggars. If you just give money to people, what message does that send.

I remember travelling when I was in Cambodia and a man with serious facioul burns was begging us to give him some money. It was heartbreaking, the cost of a UK Newspaper would have fed him for 2 days.

The solution. I asked our guide and driver to translate and ask him where the nearest cashpoint was. They explained that they both already knew where the cashpoint was. I told them to ask him anyway. He looked puzzled, then replied with directions. So I gave him some money.

In Chester, in the weeks around and before the races, we have a deluge of beggars, literally in every doorway.

I was passing one on Frodsham street, a few weeks ago. She had some paper and felt pens and was selling her “art”.

I really liked this one, so I bought it. She wanted a fiver, so I gave her a tenner. It’s a really nice picture and I look forward to putting it up at home.

My love of OO gauge trains is well known, and my collection continues to increase.

When I say OO gauge, most people say “oh, you mean Hornby”. Well, many of my trains have been made by Hornby, but another company called Bachman, in my opinion make more detailed trains and offer superior value for money.

A good case in point, the train above, my newest addition. A Class 150/2 Arriva train by Bachman.

Interesting thing about it, a few years ago, when I worked at Moneypenny, this was the train I got to work ! (the full size one, not this little thing).

The “tree” in the background isn’t part of a model railway installation, it’s one of the plants our receptionist has put into the lunch room.

In an attempt to add a bit of badly needed culture into my life, I arranged to see the Northern Jazz orchestra. They were performing at Alexander’s in Chester.

Tony came with me, so I wasn’t standing around on my own. Honestly, I had a fantastic time, and It’s definitely something I’d do again.

Well, plans in place for my Birthday.

This year, I’m having a long weekend in Jersey (and hoping to hop across to Guernsey while there).

I’ve booked a nice hotel with a pool (which I’ve no intention of using) and dinner for Saturday night.

I’ve found a website with a list of beautiful locations in Jersey to have a picnic, so that’s my plan for my actual birthday on Sunday.

Lots of trips planned for this year. The post Covid bounce-back is happening in earnest.

I’m presently planning a trip to Florida for Christmas (there are dozens of interesting things to do there, and at a time when it’s cold and wet in the UK, the weather will be superb).

On thing I am please about, is there’s an option of a day trip to the Bahamas. If that comes off, I’ll have completed 99 countries by the 1st of January 2024.

I’m fully intending to join the travellers century club in 2024 (group for people who’ve been to 100 countries) The question will be, where shall I pick for my 100th country !.

I’m in a walking club called the Chester and District Walking Group.

I first joined 12 years ago, and the activities of the group and the companionship of it’s members helped get me out of the darkness of a year of unemployment and low income.

I’ve always loved walking. In fact I used to joke, if a won a million quid, I don’t know what I’d be doing, but the day after, I know I’d go out walking.

Unfortunately, my arthritis has got progressively worse. I can’t walk much more than about 3 miles, so I’m unable to join the group on it’s weekly walks. A fact I find deeply disappointing.

But life is about opportunity and re-inventing yourself when you need to. So I’m now on the committee of the group as social events/activities co-ordinator.

One event we did recently, was a trip to Shrewsbury (about an hour by train from Chester). We had a really good time, looking around the town and a fascinating tour of Shrewsbury prison (now closed down, but frequently used as a tv/film location). A retired Prison officer showed is around and told us all about it’s history.

I’ve always loved going to the cinema. There was a time in my life when my brother and I went every Saturday for several years. Sadly, we live a fair distance apart, The Manchester Odeon has been knocked down and the ABC Deansgate has been converted to a Witherspoon.

Also, a lot of films I watch now, are not very good. I asked my brother what he thought. Have I just got older, and have I lost the ability to suspend belief. David thinks not. He said there are a lot more films made now, Netflix and stuff like that, and like cakes, the more you make the lower the general quality.

Two films I really enjoyed last year were No time to die and Top Gun Maverick. In both cases, they’d spent years getting the film right and it showed.

A few years ago, there was a 4th Indian Jones. It wasn’t very good, because it had been rushed and “appealing to fans” without an interesting story or believable characters (apart from Indie) just didn’t work.

Now, I’m enthusiastically looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (5th instalment of the “trilogy”). I feel like they’ve taken time to make this film properly and settled for nothing less than excellence.

See what happens, but it’s out on the 30th of June, if your interested.

You can see a preview here and here.

Speaking of things I’m looking forward to watching.

Star Trek – The Next Generation finished in 1994. It was one of the best and most popular science fiction tv series off all time (and I loved it).

In the 3rd series of Picard (named after the captain from the Next Generation) the original crew get back together on a brand new adventure. There are 2 episodes left and I can’t wait to watch them (along with the season finale of the Mandalorian).

Well, in 8 days, I’m off for a long weekend in Porto, Portugal.

No specific plans, just relaxing, possibly a boat trip, and a day tour of the valley and wine regions.

I’m especially looking forward to getting a picture from the multi-level bridge.

This blog entry started with a picture of a beautiful animal – The Ocelot (well actually it didn’t it started with a picture of me on a rope bridge, but, the one bellow it is the Ocelot).

I’ve never been very interested in any kind of gambling. Although going back to my youth and the excuse for a human being, my stepfather I’ve always put a bet or joined a sweep for the Grand National, as I did last week.

The horse I picked out was Hill 16, which tragically died falling at the first fence. I’m not an activist and I’m not going to cause trouble, but quite simply, I can’t justify doing this anymore. So from now on, I simply won’t be taking part in the Grand National.

Well, that’s all for this time, thanks for taking the time to read this. The search for adventure continues…

Festive Season in Sicily and first post of 2023

Well, It’s 2023 and a New Year is upon us.

This is my first blog entry of 2023, so I thought I’d start with some stuff about Sicily, where I spent Christmas and New Year.

First thing to say, is that I think this time I bit off more than I could chew. Sicily is a massive island and we frequently only stayed one night in accommodation before travelling off the next day. As such, we were always rushing around.

It was a fantastic trip, but if I were to make a recommendation, it would be do it in 2 separate trips.

Navigating around busy city centres was also quite stressful and it was annoying sometimes when we’d booked accommodation that “had parking” only to arrive and be told by the owner that he knew somewhere you could park. Not the same thing at all!

The Island is scattered with more ancient treasures than an Indiana Jones Film.

Just one of them above, the Temple of Concordia.

The weather throughout the trip, was fantastic (but isn’t that what you go away at Christmas for?).

A day trip to Mount Etna and we found this 2 story house, that had been overrun by Lava from the Volcano.

Taormina was one of the highlights.

An incredible town in the mountains, it has spectacual views and amazing places to eat and drink.

On New Year’s Eve, they had a street party with Fireworks.

I’ve always enjoyed the film, The Godfather. The American Film institute, names it as the 2nd best film ever made (after Citizen Kane).

Several scenes in the film are set in Sicily, and I was determined to find them. Although it was 50 years ago, you can see above, the Cathedral Santissima Annunziata in Forza d’Agro where Michael Corleone and his 2 bodyguards pass as theyre wandering around “Corleone”.

Actually, Corleon was considered too well developed by Francis Ford Coppola so the scenes were filmed in Forza d’Agro.

And in the lower shot, me sat outside the Church (where they seem to have some new doors 🙂

While in Catania, we did an organised trip to Mount Etna.

Afterwards our guide recommended a place for lunch – Trattoria di De Fiore.

The place was simple, friendly and the food was excellent. I had Pasta alla Norma.

What we didn’t realise was the owner Rosanna has been cooking for over 50 years using her Great Grandmothers recipe’s. her Pasta ala Norma is considered the best in the whole of Sicily.

So much so, that she featured in Jamie Oliver’s TV series in Italy (you can see video of it here.)

I was inspired, so when I got home, I purchased Jamie’s book and I’ve had a go at trying a few recipe’s (but I’m not match for Rosanna 🙂

The kind of people I can’t stand are people who aren’t realists.

I mean, to me, there are 2 worlds. The one as it should be, and the second one as it is. I live in the second one.

However, in recent months, I’ve been partially living in the first. I have Arthritis in my right knee. It’s slightly painful so I walk with a limp. It’s not too much of a nuisance, but if it’s cold or I have to walk a reasonable distance, I’ve been told to use a stick (which I’ve avoided. I often joke to Nikki, that denial is one of my hobby’s 🙂

Well, I’ve decided to start using a stick. But if I’m going to do it, I’m going to own this stuff, so I’ve gotten hold of a stick like the one from the TV series House MD (with flames painted on the bottom).

The other good news about my change of heart is the advantage at airports.

I now accept offers of assistance from the airport staff. On one previous occasion, someone approached me and offered to put me and my “carer” (Nikki) to the front of the queue. I declined explaining I was completely fine.

After the staff member had moved away, Nikki said “you idiot, there are 300 people in front of us !”.

Speaking of Nikki, her family had decided to have a get together and visit other relatives in Tunbridge Wells.

I’ve always wanted to go to Tunbridge Wells, so I could write something that ended “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells!”.

With Nikki and her mum in the car we set off.

Nikki’s family don’t like to “waste” a journey, so it was decided we would stop off on the way to do some exploring (I honestly didn’t see the point, and when our destination was highlighted as the Shoe Museum in Northampton I groaned.)

I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge. Once there, I instantly recognised these ludicrous sized Dr Martin boots.

They were the exact one’s worn by Elton John in the Pinball Wizard scene from the Rock Opera Tommy.

Like so many times in my life. Something amazing that I never thought I’d see. You can see the scene here.

While flying to Sicily, I was catching up on a tv series I really enjoyed called The English.

When I travel, I always try to go as light and as versatile as possible. I borrow heavily from the lightweight alpine style of mountaineering and the everything should be able to do 5 jobs world of bushcraft/survival.

In amongst this, most of my travel clothes are from Rohan, I usualy have a Swiss Army Knife, a headtorch, notebook and pen (and a spare pen). On my way home I always make a list of things I should have taken and what I could have left at home.

This came into my mind, at the end of the first episode of The English.

With the 2 key characters about to ride off in search of adventure, the female participant says “I don’t know what I want to take ?”.

The native American character says “The difference between what you want and what you need, is what you can carry on a horse”.

I don’t have a horse, but this simple statement summarised everything I think about travelling light.

I treated my niece Poppy to a head torch for Christmas (she is going away on a school outdoor trip, and I thought it would be useful).

We also got her a whistle, so between the torch and whistle, she has 2 ways to signal for help. I don’t think for a minute she will need too, but it’s important to me that the people I care about know how to call for help if they ever need it.

But it got me to thinking. I’d always been taught, if your in trouble, 6 short bursts on the whistle, or flashes with the torch, then a minute delay, then the same again until rescued. The reply (so you know someone is coming, is 3 long bursts).

So I was surprised when I went to see Ray Mears, that he recommended 3 blows of a whistle to request assistance. Surely there’s a conflict there. So, I emailed UK mountain rescue and a really helpful chap called Al Read – National Training Officer, got back to me.

Hi John The international distress signal in the mountains is 6 blasts of a whistle in a minute and then wait a minute, repeating it for as long as possible.

The reply for people coming to help is 3 blasts in the minute when the person who needs help is not blowing their whistle. That should allow rescuers to work out where the person is and let them know help is trying to get to them.

In water rescue, paddling and kayak the emergency whistle signal is 3 blasts quickly a short pause repeatedly.

There is no minute of silence as it is really important to try and get help there as quickly as possible.
Carrying a good loud whistle does make a help if people need help.

Best regards  Al

So that answers the question, is well worth remembering and could save your life !.

While I was in the mood for sending emails, I sent one to Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth.

Dr Jane used to write a column on travel health in Wanderlust magazine. I enjoyed her column so much, that I bought her book.

There was one article by Dr Jane that was particularly interesting. In it, she said something like (and this is my interpretation, so any Dr’s reading this will be aghast!). It you have a real/serious infection, then your temperature will be above (I couldn’t remember the number).

Ok, so here was my idea. Sometimes (quite frequently) when I travel I feel unwell. But how do I know if I’m just rundown/jetlag/dehydrated, or it’s something more serious. If I buy a travel thermometer, I can take my temperature. If my temperature is below the one in in Dr Jane’s article, I know not to worry, as I’m just rundown or whatever and it will pass.

If it’s higher than that, I can seek medical attention, job done.

So I wrote to Dr Jane, told her how much I enjoyed her articles and book and that I couldn’t remember the temperature she’d mentioned (and no longer had the article). Below is her typical stylish reply (I must go and see her the next time she gives a talk somewhere 🙂

Dear John, if medicine was that simple there wouldn’t be much need for doctors!

That said bacterial infections and nasty things like malaria tend to cause fevers of 38.5 or more. Temperature under 38 suggest no infection. Viral infections can be less reliably diagnosed in this way. And people on steroids or with long-term medical conditions can also react in different ways so if you feel unwell or are worried and symptoms go on, you do need to consult a doctor or call the 111 service.

I hope you stay healthy. Best Jane

Slightly less exotic on the travel front, but every bit as important, I organised a party for the walking group (I only remembered at the end to take a picture. At one point, there were 3 times as many people at my house, enjoying the vegetarian Chilli that I’d made).

The idea of the party was a cheep event in the middle of January when a lot off people were skint or feeling a bit down.

Although they don’t do a lot of jungle walks, the CDWG (Chester and District Walking Group) was a lifeline for me in 2010 when after a year of unemployment and being completely broke, I needed to get back onto the “adventure horse”.

I decided having guests was a good time to do some essential January jobs in my house.

One of them was to update my adventure board with some photos from Januarys adventures.

Some people who were first time visitors to my house, incorrectly (but politely) asked if the board was there for some sort of bragging/boasting purpose.

I explained:

a, I love looking at the board. It reminds me of how lucky I am and all the amazing things I’ve been able to do, despite coming from humble roots.

b, Like everyone else, I have moments when I feel a bit down. Sometimes, I get up in the morning about to head to work in the rain and wonder why I bother. I look at the board and suddenly, I know why I’m doing it 🙂

Bratislava, Riga, Majorca, Barbados, Naxos, Sicily

Well, 2022 was an amazing adventure year. I got to visit 6 new countries (according to the directory of the travelers century club).

So, at this moment, I’ve visited 90 countries. Once I’ve been to 100, I can join the travellers century club as an associate).

This year, I’ve got 7 new countries in my sight’s.

Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Jersey, Guernsey & Tunisia.

I’ll also be visiting Bordeaux but as I’ve been to France before, it doesn’t count as a new country.

My friend Nadiah bought me his book for Christmas last year (I read it, and I’ve since read his other book).

“Foxy” is one of the guys on the TV program SAS – Who dares wins (which I’ve never seen). He wasn’t actually in the SAS, he was a Marine and later a member of the Special Boat Squadron. I find his writing fascinating, so I was delighted when I found out he was giving a talk at the Liverpool Philharmonic.

A genuinely amazing guy, Tony and I are going next week, it should be really smart and full of interesting stories and insights (it’s Foxy who’s the amazing guy, not my mate Tony, but Tony is ok as well).

At Christmas, travelling to Sicily, it wasn’t possible to fly from Manchester, so we had to drive down to Luton airport and stay over in a hotel (flight was at 6am, so we needed to be inside the airport by 3am).

Since I was down that way, I met up with Jon Mallet and Kev, 2 friends from a Desert Survival course I did some years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch.

They picked me up and we went for a few drinks around the town (they took me to this really smart music venue).

While chatting, Kev explained that he is running some Wild Cookery courses. I really enjoyed Ray Mears Wilderness chef, and I’ve done stuff like this before with an outfit called Woodsmoke in the Lake District. So, I’ve signed up.

It’s in some Woodland in Bedford, the Saturday is cooking on a campfire and Sunday is cooking on a Dutch Oven (I’ve even bought Petromax’s book to get a head start).

In time’s gone by, I’d have camped out, but as it’s such a long drive (and February) I’m, staying in a hotel.

If you’r interested, there are details here.

On the subject of Bushcraft and Survival from a purely theatrical perspective, I treated myself to this authentic Rambo Knife while in Sicily.

I enjoyed watching First Blood (the first Rambo film) when I was 13, but there was no way I could ever have afforded a real one.

The actual knife used in First Blood was designed by Jimmy Lile, the legendary Arkansas knifesmith. He’s passed away now, but his original knives sell for 10’s of thousands of dollars.

Thing is, I’ve learned a lot about Bushcraft and Survival since I was 13 and I now know, the knife as it is, is completely impractical for the following reasons:

  • Hollow handle knives are never as strong as a full tang (blade extends straight through the handle).
  • Big knives in the woods are simply no match for an axe. In the jungle, no match for a Parang or Golok machete.
  • Compasses in knife handles won’t generally work after the knife has hammered against hardwood for half an hour.
  • Trying to fillet a fish you’ve caught with a 9 inch blade will not be easy.
  • Saw’s on the back edge of knife blades (and wire saws for that matter) never work. The one on a Swiss Army Knife is much better
  • 50lb fishing line is only useful for catching small sharks.

So you might wonder, what have I bought it for?

It looks fantastic, and I see it as film memorabilia, rather than a functioning cutting tool.

And… It makes me feel 13 again.

Some people are really lucky.

My brother lives walking distance from one of the largest Steam Railway installations in Europe (which is annoying, as I love Steam Trains, and he isn’t that bothered)

I’m not so lucky. Incredibly, the Flying Scotsman is coming to Heywood near Bury. By annoying co-incidence, the days when you can travel on it, or dine on it, all co-inside with my trip to Costa Rica, the only time I’ll get to see it will be a private viewing standing on the tracks. I suppose the good news is I’ll get to meet up with my brother afterwards 🙂

Later in the year though, same venue I’m meeting up with my brother and my old friend Lee and we’ll get to enjoy Silver Service dinner, while travelling on a Steam Train.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to eat and drink in style on a Steam Train. I love trains anyway, but it’s a hark back to the golden age of rail travel.

I’m really looking forward to it.

The Chester Film Society is somewhere I go frequently. They have lots of “none blockbuster” films, foreign, independent, all sorts really. This year I’ve actually joined as a member, rather than just paying as I go.

The other evening, I went to see a film called Nae Pasaran (it looked so interesting, that Nikki came as well).

During a military coup in Chile, General Pinochet used Hawker Hunter jets to bomb the presidential palace (historically unheard off, to worldwide condemnation).

The planes used Rolls Royce Avon engines. Like all aircraft, parts have to be serviced regularly and the only place in the world where these engines could be repaired was in a factory just outside Glasgow.

When they realised what was going on, the engineer’s down tools and “blacked” the engines (a simple label meaning nobody would touch them). The film is a documentary about what happened and interviews the men on the ground at the time.

My favourite part was chilean government documents from the time, suggesting sending people to rough them up. Glaswegian factory workers !. I’d like to have seen that 🙂

An amazing film, if you get the chance to see it, do. It’s right there with the story of Rosa Parks and other examples of ordinary people just standing up for what’s right and to hell with the personal consequences.

But… this is so after I left the screening, I was determined to find “Bob’s Engine” (you’ll know what it is when you watch the film).

I’ve found it, it’s in the grounds of South Lanarkshire College, and on Sunday I’ll be driving up there to see it 🙂

While I’m there, I’m going to visit my friends Caz & Yvonne (I haven’t been to Glasgow in a number of years).

Another adventure I’m hoping to pursue while I’m up that way, is to have dinner at Shish Mahal. It’s famous as the place where Chicken Tikka Masala was invented !.