Author: John Sunter

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.

bar

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.

kb

My goals have been a bit more modest.

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

cupboard

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.

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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.

wb1

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.

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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.

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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).

skit

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.

parang

“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.

dmorgan_truck

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.

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

bmaddof

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 johnsunter.com.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

 

Getting organised.

snowhole2_final

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.

applecross

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.

dident

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.

docs

Documents

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.

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Photos

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.

music

Music/podcasts

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.

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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.

books

Books

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.

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Gaming

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 it.se my home etc, I’ve got copies off them off site (pretty much what I’ve been doing at work for decades

Conclusion

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

snow

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.

Alexa

But…

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

Gnome

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.

mmap

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.

nutra

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.

metrics

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.

xmas_train

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.

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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).

125_box

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.

fw

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.

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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.

bocw

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 !.

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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…

500th post – overcoming problems with notes & lists.

ewky

Well, I’m writing this on “holiday” at home (the picture above, is a poster I’ve recently bought and put up in my living room).

Who, would have thought that I’d be writing this, my 500th blog entry in the middle of lockdown.

It’s actually 500 since I moved to the wordpress platform. Before that they were simple html pages, overwritten every 2 weeks so I’m pretty sure it’s is over 1000 since I was given the domain name as a gift in 2001.

Well, the main disappointments this year, have been:

  • Travel – booked trips to Riga, Bratislava, Tunisia, Majorca, Greece cancelled. I’ve also had 4 UK trips cancelled, and that doesn’t include the ill fated 36hr trip to Sri Lanka.
  • Interaction – not being able to go to the pub whenever I want, unable to spend time with my friends and I miss simple things like walking around an outdoor shop for an hour.

But on the positive side:

  • I’m in a fab relationship with someone I really love and we’ve grown closer over the lockdown.
  • I’ve got a secure job and regular income for the forceable future (well, as secure as any job can be in a climate like this).
  • My home is secure, warm and comfortable and my cupboards and freezer are filled with nice food and wine.
  • With access to all kinds of entertainment like an xbox, the internet, loads of my favourite books, lots of fun tv and films to watch I’m unlikely to be bored.

I’ve also been thinking, what positive things have happened this year because of Covid 19 ?

  • Completely updated all my trips on johnsunter.com that took over 200 hours of work (but I had lots of free evening).
  • Explored various places on foot and by bicycle and seen just how much beautiful countryside is half a mile from my front door.
  • bought a new tent and experimented with cycle camping (the next big thing for me, it allows me to cover a lot more ground a see a lot more on a trip)
  • Completely updated both of my bathrooms (why not, I had plenty of money, the pubs were closed for 101 days 🙂
  • I’ve read more books in the last 6 months than in the previous 5 year.
  • On Wednesday evening, we’d have a pizza delivered and open a bottle of wine. The simple pleasure of making time to spend together.

rohan

But sometimes it’s even more important to have perspective.

I’ve always loved shopping at Rohan, they make the best travel/outdoor gear available (in my opinion obviously).

But the best isn’t always cheap. There was a time for a few years when I just couldn’t afford to shop there.

So the other day, when I popped in treat myself (Mistral Jacket if you’re interested) I was talking to the staff there (who I’ve come to know quite well over the years and appreciate they’re honest opinions).

I commented that I’d had several trips cancelled and I was feeling a bit down.

They mentioned that someone who normally serves me who’s originaly from Poland, had received word the night before, that her father had died.

Lockdown in the UK was about to start, so if she went home to her fathers funeral she’d be stuck there for a month and wouldn’t be able to come home.

Obviously her employer were prepared to be flexible, but she had 2 children as well to make it even more complicated.

It’s story’s like that which make you you grateful for what you have. In comparison, my temporary lack of adventure holidays didn’t seem so bad.

fin

A friend of mine approached me recently and asked for my help. Her boyfriend had turned 40 and was feeling quite melancholy.

My suggestion was simple. Get him to write down 5 things he really wants to do (that are practical and achievable, but for some reason he hasn’t got around to doing). When he feels miserably or misdirected, look at the list, go through it and work out what 1 thing he can do right now to further each of those 5 goals.

My friend was very grateful…

She shouldn’t have been !. I’m a shameless thief when it comes to using other peoples good ideas (ideas I’ve collected over the years). My suggestion was based on 2 ideas I’d got from other people.

So just for fun, I thought I’d catalogue where the idea’s came from.

Yvonne

Yvonne Brock.

Over 30 years ago, I was talking to my friend Yvonne while sat in her bedroom (we all seemed to socialise in our bedrooms back then, we didn’t own houses 🙂

I saw a hand written list of activities fastened to the back of her bedroom door. I remember her distinctly saying that’s a list of things I’m going to do this year.

I commented that there were quite a few things I wanted to do that year. She said simply, they’re a lot more likely to happen if you write them down.

Hardly worth mentioning that a week later, after I returned home, my mum asked why there was a list of activities fastened to the back of my bedroom door…

IBM

Paul Henderson – IBM.

25 years ago, one of the proudest  moments of my career, was to work for IBM (partly, because my mum and all her friends had heard of it, and they were really impressed).

I learned loads of technical things while working there, but one very important thing was documentation. Everything was articulated and written down in a log, so if you cleverly fixed something for a customer and got hit by a bus on the way home, one of your colleagues would be 99% percent towards fixing it and wouldn’t have to “re-learn” all over again.

One of the most important things I learned though, was the bottom of the log always had a next action. It was drilled in to me, that if I didn’t have a next action, I wasn’t actually in control.

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Another really useful trick I learned from a book called the Pocket Life Coach.

It suggests writing a PUW or Putting Up With list.

The idea goes basically like this. If I need car insurance I buy it. If My waterproof jacket gets a hole in it, it’s replaced or repaired.

But, what if there’s a dripping tap, what if the brakes on my bike work, but squeak a bit, what if there’s a pile of books I know I should read, but just haven’t started yet.

Thing is, it’s these small things that ebb away at your happiness. So, draw up a PUW list and get to work on it now. Others will appear to replace the most important 5 right now, but I’ve found I sleep better and feel a lot more content, when I know these small things are in play and there’s a plan to fix them.

I’ve included the picture above, as it symbolises something I’m putting up with at the moment.

When I first moved to Chester, I lived in a place called Saltney.

It was right next to the border between England and Wales, and I was fascinated by a road called Boundary Lane.

The only suburban road of it’s kind in the UK, the houses on 1 side are in Wales and the Houses on the other are in England.

There’s a nice pub there, called the Anchor (It’s on the Welsh side).

I read in the press, that the Landlord was concerned he was losing customers to “England” as his pub had been forced to close as part of a Welsh “firebreak” lockdown, at a time when English pub’s were open for business.

The Welsh lockdown finished on the 9th of November, however the English lockdown began on the 2nd. So I imagine the residents from both sides of the street are now off for a pint in the Anchor.

All’s well that ends well, but if there’s a better illustration of how badly Covid is being handled in the UK, I’d love to hear it

lic

Two years ago, I cancelled my TV license. You can do this, if you:

a, Don’t watch any TV programs in real time, who ever makes them

b, Don’t watch programs made by the BBC.

Seemed daft to spend money I didn’t need to. I watch mostly Netflix and Amazon and the odd thing I watched on BBC, I watched at Nikki’s house, which is completely legal.

I’ve changed my mind, and now pay tv license like everyone else. BBC news is respected around the world and some of the thrillers and crime drama’s are amazing.

Just looking at IPlayer, you can watch every episode of Luther, Life on Mars, Battlestar Galactica, Dr Who, Strike, Bodyguard, The Capture and a raft of other amazing tv for just 40p a day.

Other stuff I’m watching at the moment, is adventures with Levison Wood, Star Trek Discovery and the Mandalorian.

bread

One trick I used to use to motivate myself to do “from scratch” cooking, was to make a list of cooking projects, laminate it and then fasten it to the cupboard doors in my kitchen.

I’d then use a highlighter pen and cross out the one’s I’d done.

I’ve been doing a lot of stuff from Ray Mears Wilderness Chef book (although admittedly, I’ve been cooking in the kitchen, not on a camping stove in the garden).

Something I’ve learned to do several times on bushcraft courses but never gotten around to doing at home, is making bread.

So that’s now added to several others on the new laminate in my kitchen. when I’ve made the bread, whatever the outcome, I’ll post pictures of the result.

I normally use Onenote and the GTD method to organise most things, but I also use Microsoft Todo on my phone if I need to grab a quick idea I might have on the go (and how much is an idea worth ?)

dday

But I also like to record idea’s and plan’s sometimes on paper.

Above is General Montgomery’s plan for D Day, written on 1 piece of A4 paper.

I’ve used lots of pens over the years and the one I love the most is the Fisher Space Pen (although quite expensive, I prefer the model in Titanium)

The reason I enjoy writting down plans and list’s is best explained by a quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower “In war I’ve found that plans are useless but planning is essential”.

The simple act of sitting down with pen and paper, focuses the mind and allows creativity to flow, in a way typing into an Ipad never will.

ritrfol

I usually have a notebook of some kind with me at all times (I also have notebooks and pens in all of my bags, next to my bed, on my desk and in my kitchen) just in case inspiration strikes.

One I especially like is the Rite in the rain 7 inch ring bound notebook.

I don’t usually need my scribblings to be waterproof, but you never know.

It’s complimented by the Rite in the rain C980 writing case you can see above.

It can hold upto 4 pens, but I have a penlight torch, a multi screwdriver and 2 space pens in mine.

I also include a plastic form for navigating on OS maps, and I always carry a pack of post it notes in case I want to mark an article in a book or magazine (I’d never write directly onto either).

Rite in the rain wallet notebook

As the saying goes about Camera’s, “The best camera is the one you’ve got with you when you need it”.

I’ve always got a telescopic pen with me on my keys, but what about other times ?. Sometimes I take a trip to the pub with only my “basic man” outfit. A wallet, keys and a phone.

I was delighted to see Rite in the rain have brought out these amazing mini notebooks you can fit in your wallet.

They’re the same size as a few business cards – the one in my Rohan RFID wallet above is in red next to the Santander card with a yellow one for illustration to the left (they come in packs of 6).

To the left of the yellow notepad is a Bellroy Micropen. A technical marvel, that can fit unobtrusively in a wallet, to complete the ensemble.

ronj

Finally, just for fun, I saw this almost 40 year old advert for the Commodore 64. My brother and I had one, we paid for it ourselves but convinced mum it was a sound investment as we’d both learn about computers and how to type. I think 99 out of every 100 hours it was used was to play games.

Someone’s altered this advert. If you know who Ron Jeremy is, you’ll understand why it’s so mischievously funny 🙂

Once again thanks for reading from everyone here at johnsunter.com I’ll do another post, before Christmas, but near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Dark nights but upbeat about the future.

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Well, despite the picture above, I haven’t been doing much lately, so no update to johnsunter.com

To be honest I’ve been feeling a bit down. I’ve always suffered with seasonal effectiveness disorder and now a 2nd Covid lockdown has just made me even more miserable.

No adventure on the horizon (well none that definitely won’t be cancelled) and I’m drinking a bit too much.

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My meet up with Nick yesterday ended up being cancelled (a bit disappointing really and since Manchester is going to be imminently, fully locked down, I don’t know the next chance we’ll get to do it).

On the plus side, I’ve started watching loads of new TV stuff – Wynonna Earp, The Umbrella academy and Star Trek Discovery

If you have young children, I highly recommend the Disney live action drama Mulan. I watched it with our freinds daughter Amy and she really enjoyed it.

I went to see True Romance and have dinner at Chez Jules (for several years we didn’t have a cinema in Chester, so a local restaurant stepped up and started showing films).

Have seen a few things at Storyhouse cinema, including Capital, Ford v Ferrari and A life on our planet with Sir David Attenborough.

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Things at work are going well (I haven’t missed a days pay throughout this nightmare, and were busier than ever) I suppose I’m due some good luck after the events of 2009.

I even have my own modest office now (it’s early days, but I have great plans for this place 🙂

Really struggled to get back into a routine when I returned to work (3 days a week, Wed & Fri at home).

I started using a daily checklist, inspired by the book checklist manifesto which I highly recommend.

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A couple of things have worked out this year.

We went camping to Beddgelert. A very “keystone cops” affair, as we arrived at the campsite on Friday evening, and it had closed down.

After about an hour, I realised that we were booked into another campsite, 2 miles away (the one we’ve visited before and really like had closed down. I couldn’t remember it’s name so just googled Beddgelert campsite, it pointed me at the other one and I’d booked it).

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Anyway, we ended up having a really good time and among several day walks, completed Moel Hebog up the hard route.

tent

Speaking of camping, my old friend Caz showed me this rig he’d set up (and which I’ve now bought myself).

Basically, 2 telescopic poles, a 3 meter by 3 meter waterproof sheet (in the army, referred too as a basha) and plenty of para-cord.

A simple concept, but it revolutionises minimal camping. In younger days, while camping, you would sit out in the evening, but if it started raining you’d retire 2 to a tent and the social aspect of the evening would sort of end.

If we’d had one of these, we could have stayed up all night 🙂

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On another weekend away (all together, I was away from home for 6 consecutive weekends) we visited Iron-Bridge Gorge.

It was organised by the excellent Brian from the Walking Group (the walking group isn’t operating officially at the moment). We ran an off book trip to Iron-bridge Youth Hostel and booked the whole thing (we had a room each :).

Lots of fun walking days. I think next time I’ll also rent one of the Canadian canoes they have under the bridge.

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In the evening, we enjoyed some nice food and good company.

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I also got to spend a day at Blists Hill Victorian town.

It was a literal recreation of a Victorian town. It was enormous and had loads of costumed actors and people demonstrating steam engine’s and stuff like that.

The search for adventure continues… although it feels a bit more difficult than usual at the moment.

New adventures and new books.

Canal Bridge

Well, I’ve been getting out adventuring almost every weekend.

I usually cycle around Cheshire somewhere (this shot was taken on the canal).

Walking around Cheshire

I also try to get out walking and I’ve discovered loads of interesting places off the beaten track in Chester.

Garden Barbecue

Barbecue’s are a regular weekend occurrence now.

We also got hold of Madhur Jaffreys Ultimate Curry Bible, as recommended by Mike Delafield, and we try making a different curry every Friday.

Beer Fridge

The beer fridge I’d wanted for years and finally got as a Christmas bonus from SGS has been a godsend for weekends and summer evenings.

Ray Mears new Book - Wilderness Chef

I bought Ray Mears new book.

I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a chef, but I can knock together a decent meal on a camping stove.

The book itself is really interesting and has loads of useful stuff, so if you’re about to go on a long train journey, go out and buy it.

My Wild Country Zephros 2 compact tent

I’ve replaced my tent, The Wild Country – Zephros 2 with, The Wild Country – Zephros 2, compact.

I loved my old tent, but there were one or two niggling problems like cheap zips, bendable tent-pegs, fiddly to put up.  All have been fixed.

My trusty Trek 7 series bike

A project I did recently was an overnight camp to Chester lakes campsite.

As it’s only 5 miles from my house, it enabled me to load up my bike, pedal over and test the balance of my bike and various new camping things I’ve recently bought.

Camping stove and other cooking equipment

I’d spent the days before, rationalising and testing my cooking rig (inspired by stuff in Ray Mears Book).

All my equipment laid out on my dining table

I prepared all the gear I thought I’d need for a week’s camping in the lakes (although I was only camping for 1 night, it seemed a good test). Would my bike be overloaded ?. The whole point was to make the freedom of cycling a pleasant experience).

pan

Next came loading up the panniers.

That was a real challenge as you had to fill them out evenly, by leaning the bike against a wall or something like that.

So, I found my £3.99 B&Q stool, and “mounted” the panniers on that.

It worked out really well and I definitely recommend that as  a “best practice” way to load panniers.

My small camp setup

So, with the afternoon booked off work, I set off pedalling to the Lakes Campsite and setup my little camp.

I managed to find a small secluded forest that seemed quiet. I made a brew on my stove, tested my new mini wash kit, and got changed from my cycling gear into my trekking clothes.

Everything was going to plan.

My lunch of crackers and spread cheese

Inspired by stuff I’d read in Ray Mears book.

Don’t take something simple to fill you up. Think about what you’d really like to eat.

In my case, crackers and cheese spread. The panniers were so carefully loaded that the crackers didn’t even break.

I wandered around the campsite exploring. They had a nice place called the Wild Goose, so I had a few beers in the sunshine. Then I wandered over to the Red Lion in Dodleston and had dinner with Nikki.

After the meal I said goodbye to Nikki, wished her a safe journey home, then headed back to my camp for the night.

Antisocial campers

Eight cars and multiple tents had setup their rig right near mine (the picture above isn’t they’re actual camp, which was much worse, this is something I found on the internet to capture the scene).

The quiet of the evening was broken, when I realised the loud music was due to an amplifier they’d brought, powered by a generator !

A strobe light and the smell of weed finished me off, I loaded up my bike and pedalled home (I was drinking hot chocolate in my house by 10:30 pm).

No matter, it was a test/proof of concept and it worked.

Laundry dryer in Nikki's garden

Saturday was spent catching up on jobs, including fixing Nikki’s dryer which required some creative use of concrete.

I also started watching a series called Gangs of London, which I’d really recommend.

Some people Kayaking

On Sunday, we went walking again. We passed through a new place called Park in the Past.

I was delighted to see that you could rent Kayaks. I’ve made a note of that and I’ll be back there soon.

Me standing on Hope mountain in Wales

We even wandered across Hope Mountain.

Overall, a pretty fab day out and a nice end to the weekend.

The Northumberland coast

I’m back in work until Thursday, then off to Northumberland for 9 days which I’m really looking forward too.

LIst of bookings in Northumberland

Were moving around, so I’ve booked accommodation in 3 different locations and booked dinner in different places for each evening.

Well, only 2 more posts and I’ll have completed 500 posts on johnsunter.com

Once again, thanks for reading, near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Keys – not exciting but incredibly convenient and useful.

My full key set

Although house keys aren’t a subject that jumps out at you, it’s obvious that Ranulph Fiennes, Ray Mears and Chris Bonington are probably all carrying them right now. Since you’ll always have your keys with you, you can put additional equipment with them, which can save hours of your time.

The right balance is important though, too much stuff on there, and they become cumbersome and untidy. Over time, I’ve found what I think is the right balance (for me at least), so this week’s short post is about the contents of my key fob.

Front door and bike lock keys

First decision, which actual keys to put on there ?. The keys to the garden shed can be stored in the house and don’t need to be with you every minute of every day.

Minimalist is best. I have a polymer Rockdoor at home, so the key on the left locks the door in 12 places and can withstand a police door jam for upto an hour.

The only other key I carry, is a spare for my bikelock.

A nightmare scenario for me would be out on a ride, stopping for a pint and realising I’ve locked my bike and the key has dropped in a stream or something.

pen1

I can nearly always locate something to write on, but something to write with, not so often.

Obviously, I have a notebook and pen with me wherever I go, but if their out of reach and I need to fill in a form… write down a phone number…

pen2

The Trueutility telescopic pen is superb for this.

The ink cartridges aren’t very big but I’m not writing an epic. It also features a sort of stylus for writing on tablets, but I found it to be too big and largely useless.

You can get the newer version here.

fob

So for the actual key fob. I can’t take the credit for this.

Years ago, Sue Llewelyn from Fairbridge Drake (an outdoor charity where I used to volunteer) used a small climbing sling a key fob.

It was a perfect fit, as it was light, hard wearing yet weighed practically nothing. It’s only the 2nd one I’ve needed in 30 years it’s that hard-wearing.

Rock Empire don’t seem to make them any more, but you can get one like this from DMM.

usb

A USB key, just a few observations about the one I have, and how I use it.

A few DONT’S

1. Put a plastic one on your keys, the other items on there will destroy it (this one is mostly stainless steel).

2. Get one with moving parts, sliders, or any faf like that.

3. Buy one with any complex encryption. Keep it simple, you can zip/password pictures of your passport, driving licence etc.

A few DO’S

1. Get at least USB 3.1 (the blue one). you’ll only be using this as a last resort, so you don’t have hours to wait while it copies the data.

2. Create a simple text file named NOK with next of kin details and contacts, and medication you’re taking,  any medical conditions you have.

3. Get something at least 128 gig (that’s 128 billion characters) if not, at least 64 gig.

On my USB key I have:

A couple of films I haven’t seen and some software I use like Greenshot, VLC media Player, 7 zip, just in case I don’t have access to the internet.

A zipped version of the documents mentioned above and a folder called \Pictures to develop. I put things in there, so when I pass Max Speilman, I can just pop in and develop the pictures I want without incident.

mtool1

 Like the pen example above, I normally have a Swiss army knife or Leatherman with me at all times, but for the occasions that I don’t, this thing comes to the fore.

In terms of a keyring tool, I’m looking for something sharp to open parcels, something that can open a bottle…

mtool2

They don’t seem to make these any more, but there must be some knocking about on eBay.

It has a blade, a nail file (rarely used), a small screwdriver (used for opening things) a bottle opener and can opener.

The scissors are useful for cutting cardboard, which can be quite hard with the main blade. Obviously keep it oiled and sharp.

The sort of cover flap on the left, doesn’t seem to offer any useful function and adds weight, so I’m considering removing it.

flat

So the whole thing fits quite flat, weighs practically nothing and sits in my pocked unobtrusively.

Some things I considered and decided not to add, but you might consider adding to your key set.

1. A small torch

2. Some sort of lighter/firesteel

3.  A whistle.

4. Cash stash with £20 in it.

5. Something engraved with NOK details.

6. Mobile phone charger.

I hope this week’s blog entry has been interested. I’m now 3 entries away from 500 on johnsunter.com so stay tuned.

See you next week, the search for adventure continues…

Adventure, laughter, plants & trains.

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Most of the trips I had planned for this year have been cancelled due to Covid 19.

The simplest thing, seemed to reschedule them all for the same time next year, so effectively, I’ve pressed the pause button on those adventures until next year.

Sri Lanka -> rebooked for same time next year.

Cheddar Gorge -> rebooked for same time next year.

Bratislava -> all hotel money back, voucher from Ryanair.

Riga -> all hotel money back, voucher for Ryanair.

Tunisia -> cancelled by OnTheBeach, so I’ve booked a trip to Alcudia instead.

When I was negotiating the moves and refunds, I found two useful techniques that have worked for me before, when dealing with customer service reps.

1. Always be polite, concede when it’s your fault and say simply “is there anything you can do to help me” most people will do the right thing, if they’re give the option.

2. Not to state the obvious, but stay on the phone. With Hoseasons/Cheddar Gorge, I sat on hold for an hour and 10 minutes before I got through. I when I did, they were really helpful.

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Having taken stock of the world as it is, I’ve organised/got involved with a series of things, so I haven’t waisted the whole year.

Beddgelert – campsites are struggling at the moment, so Nikki and I have arranged to have a bank holiday weekend in Beddgelert. Just some walking, nice wine and a few pints in the local pub.

Llangollen – cycling/pod camping. I think it will be fun to finish on a summer Friday after work, pedal over with a few basic items and have a nice weekend staying in a pod.

Northumberland – this is Nikki’s idea, as it’s somewhere she’s always wanted to visit. We are staying in 3 destinations over 9 days. It’s our alternative “big” holiday.

Alcudia – a few beers, some nice beaches and a chance to do some walking in the winter sun.

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Bishops Castle – walking group Christmas weekend. Always great to do 2 days of walking and evening catch up with friends from the walking group. I missed last years, the first time in 10 years.

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Some trips I’d like to do but haven’t organised yet.

Madeira – the week before Christmas, some walking and a bit of sunshine in the middle of winter.

Ambleside – 4 days over New Year. Lake district is being booked up like mad at the moment, so may be expensive.

cb1

I remember buying this book some years ago. When I saw an old copy on Ebay, I couldn’t resist buying it again.

Back then, I tried to get out of trouble by telling my then girlfriend (Adela) it was a gift for her.

It was filled with the most base toilet humour, she didn’t see the funny side.

cb2

The book is made up of a series of “bastard” headings.

Here, a section on Bastard Advertising. Hard to imagine anyone getting away with writing a book like this now.

plants

Since my garden plants are doing so well, I’ve expanded my operation to a series of herbs, I’m growing on my window sill.

Poeple wearing facemasks on public transport in the UK

Travelling into the office the other day, I put my mask on, as I entered the train carriage.

I believed, it was illegal to travel in the UK on public transport without wearing one.

How fullish was I. On the way there, half the people didn’t wear one, and on the way back, 3 out of 4 people couldn’t’ be bothered either.

Why did I bother ?

New Merseyrail trains

Another disappointment of my journey, was the new trains have not been rolled out yet.

The trains presently in use are around 40 yeas old and it’s a miracle they still work at all.

The new trains made by Stadler in Switzerland are designated 777. Although they travel at the same speed, they will be much more comfortable and quieter.

Picture, Marvel - Agents of Sheild

What have I been binge watching ?. I’m glad you asked.

I’ve been catching up on Marvel – Agents of Shield. Joss Wheedon in the producer, I’ve loved his work on Buffy and Mission Impossible.

The plot and character development are 2nd to none.

Speaking of characters, Agent Coulson reminds me of my old boss Chris, from SportPesa.

To finish this weeks blog, I’ve put this video by Emeli Sande. Themes of bullying, a mundane life going nowhere and escaping to adventure are all things that resonate with me.

The search for adventure continues…

That was the week that was.

My desk at home.

This week, I was just going to write about a few things that have happened, piqued my interest or stuff I just generally thought worth mentioning.

The picture above has been my place of work for the last 3 months. I have to say that it’s very comfortable working here, and since I have a USB C dock, each evening, I can disconnect my work laptop and then the whole thing runs on my own personal laptop without incident.

I also have the desk light linked to Alexa so I can turn it on at will with the command “Alexa Desk On”. I have a soft phone and an incredible plantronics headset, so I can answer any calls in 3 rings. I even have a high definition camera for meetings.

I have 2 clocks on my desk, UK time and Mumbai time so I don’t disturb our supplier’s when they’re having their “Tea” (Tea is northern slang for dinner, if you don’t understand, ask someone from the North of England what “Egg and Chips” are).

Model MI 24 Helicopter - Former Soviet Union.

During the week, I’ve tried to keep my lunch hours as dynamic as possible (on the days when I don’t simply go out to buy milk).

In the example above, I put together this model Mi 24 helicopter. Used during the days of the Soviet Union, reminded me of when my brother and I used to play Gunship on the Commodore 64.

My old bathroom setup.

At primary school there was a teacher who was an absolute monster. I was sat in my chair aged 6 and needed to go to the toilet. I knew if I asked I would be shouted at and made to cry so I just sat there… and poo’d myself.

The children sat near me must have realised, but were so terrified, they said nothing. So, after about 20 minutes, I just got used to it.

That’s a bit like my bathroom.  I never really liked it, but just got used to it.

new_br

One advantage of lock down (if you can call it an advantage) is that it’s given me time to undertake things like routine house maintenance (which would normally be lower down the list than organising a trip to somewhere exciting or reviewing/preparing  outdoor gear ready for a trip).

I decided to completely re-do my bathroom. Paul the Plumber was recommended in a local utilities handbook that was put through my door.

The price was higher than I’d expected, but I looked at some of his work online and realised it was perfection (I won’t use poncy word’s like “artist”, but this guy knew what he was doing).

So, after setting up a tray in the kitchen with chocolate biscuits and a brew kit, I left him to it.

The tilling, plumbing, installation and other work are perfect (there are other simple jobs that still need doing, but that’s down to me). In every way I’m delighted.

When I wake each morning (thanks to Alexa), the first thing’s I see are my pictures of Nikki and a large photo of the world from space. But, the first room I walk into each day is my bathroom. Now a vibrant environment and a superb start to the day.

Paul the Plumber can be contacted if you live in the Cheshire area and need similar work doing. I couldn’t recommend him more highly.

Me out riding my bike.

Speaking of maintenance, upkeep and repair, I’ve had problems with my bike.

Which surprised me, considering I’ve spent a lot of money on a full service and had several parts replaced.

I’ve been riding along, and the bike changes gear on its own. So I’ve basically had 2 gears, the lowest one and the highest one (which has done wonders for my fitness).

Turns out, after a gear “installation”, the the cable can stretch and this is what’s happening. So I’ve got my bike booked in for Sunday with Bike Factory and it should be good as new after that.

Artichoke, one of the best Gastro pubs in Chester.

Saturday 4th of July – English pubs can legally open after 101 days and the world restarts (and probably stops and restarts again, in about 6 weeks, but for the time being…)

I’ve booked a couple of my favourite Gastro pubs for meals, but I’m still unsure how booking works, if you want a pint.

I mean I can book a table for 6pm next Thursday to go for a pint. But I don’t know if I’ll feel like going for a pint then – it’s largely a spontaneous activity, that’s why it’s fun.

See what happens. Artichoke (pictured above) are open from the 9th of July and can be booked at: Artichoke bookings.

barbers

Also on Saturday, if I possibly can, I’ll try and get my haircut, although I think it will be reminiscent of the scenes when the Taliban leave a town and the local men falling over themselves to get their haircut.

James Bond - No Time to Die.

The new James Bond film, No Time to Die looks fantastic.

I had a seat booked for the first showing in Cheshire at 10am several months ago. I’d booked the day off work and the seat had cost the best part of £30.

It was cancelled and put back to November 12.

In younger times, my brother and I would go to the cinema every Saturday in Manchester. Sometimes (well, more than sometimes) I’d be skint and David would pay.

I’ve told my brother that we’ll watch it together in Bury (where he Live’s) in the best seats in the house… and I’ll pay.

In the meantime, I found this article that shows all the shooting locations from the film.

Walking around Cheshire during Lockdown.

Normally, I’d do an average of 3 hill walks a month and it would be around the Clwydian’s or Snowdonia in North Wales or the Peak District in England (basically  places you can get to in an 1 – 2 hours).

That hasn’t been possible so Like a lot of people, I’ve been exploring walks and cycle rides, close to home.

OK, this is johnsunter.com and we say it like is. The Cheshire Planes, are as flat as a snooker table, so trail walking is a better description.

That being said, I’ve found some amazing routes and places.

On one occasion, we went for a bike ride and stopped for lunch at a car park in Delamere forest. I’d not been there before, but wandering around, I realised there were several trails. When we got home, we consulted our maps and worked out a 10 mile route from there, which we did the next week.

There are nooks and crannies of fantastic walking all over Cheshire I’ve found, so I have to conclude that there must be similar in most of the UK, if we just go looking.

A fantastic sign in a York park, condemning litter.

But, one thing that made me fume, was the amount of litter and rubbish I found in some otherwise beautiful spots.

The old adage, if you can carry it there, you can carry it back, doesn’t seem to fit with some people.

Scorched earth is a phrase we use in IT, when we wipe an environment clean and start again. What do some people think happens when you you light a throwaway barbecue on grass ?

Even “Doggers” who, having watched someone perform a sexual act on their wife in a car park, are decent enough to take their empty cans of Stella home !.

I’ve been cycling and seen Sofa’s dumped at the side of the road on country paths. The only funny thing, is the sign above, which is posted in parks in York and I wish I could meet whoever designed it.

TV series Naked and Afraid.

My sister was telling me, that my niece Poppy, has become addicted to a tv series called Naked and Afraid.

Not my sort of bushcraft, basically, 2 strangers are literally naked (with improvised clothes from leaves) and have to survive for 3 weeks in some far flung place.

They can tap out at any time and go home and I was surprised to see that it’s run for 11 seasons !.

ak

I was delighted to find, that poppy is interested in Bushcraft now.

Since they have some woods nearby, they go out for walks, look for tracks and build lean-to shelters.

I sent over some Bushcraft tools like a flint and steel,  a mess tin, some army rations (a so sort of modern Adventure Kit of the kind I got as a Christmas gift).

A lit camping stove, that burns sticks.

Another thing I sent over (which is one of the best bushcraft bargains out there) is this  Outad Stove.

This is one I lit in my garden. It burns dry twigs, so its running costs are basically nothing, there is no gas canister to get rid of and no fuel needs to be carried.

"dad" in a Yellow Tiger Moth.

Nikki’s father died in January. He wasn’t my father, but I called him dad, and nobody seemed to mind.

A charming little old man who always stood up to greet me and shake my hand, despite being around 90 years old.

But intellectually he was a giant. Engaging in conversation, his knowledge, memory of facts and figures and ability to process information was mesmerising to watch.

He had worked as an aeronautical engineer. 997mm wasn’t the same as as a meter and if you made that mistake in front of him, you wouldn’t make it twice.

Charming and lovely, but at heart, things were either right or they weren’t and there was no middle ground (as someone who’s struggles a bit with flying, I’m delighted that it’s people like that who build aeroplanes).

When we had dinner with John and Sheila, if a waiter made a mistake and apologised, that was fine, but if they tried to pull the wool over his eyes, they were put in their place immediately (and he wasn’t sexist, both Men and Women were treated equally).

In short, he lived life on his terms. When we scattered his ashes at a park he used to enjoy visiting I decided to buy a plant (not what I normally do, but I was in a reflective mood on that day and open to new ideas).

The "dad" Rose in my garden.

I’ve watered that plant, tended to it, moved it around so it was in the sun, and replotted it (Nikki has helped, she knows about plants). But nothing.

Now, after several months (on the top left of the picture) it’s starting to flower. The Rose has decided to flower on its own terms when things are just right, and won’t be rushed or badgered.

Exactly like Nikki’s dad 🙂

Once again thanks for visiting johnsunter.com. Near and far, the search for adventure continues.