Tag: int. travel

Pursuit of Fitness.

Getting fit.

Trip down memory lane, me running the Cheshire Corporate Challenge.

People always say that you shouldn’t try to make too many significant changes in your life,  at the same time.

My experiences, have consistently been the opposite. When I started a new Job, 5 months ago, I committed to losing some weight. I comfortably lost a stone in the first 8 weeks (all of this going on, while adjusting to a new company, new working hours, new systems etc).

I’ve managed to maintain my weight at this level, through sensible balance, and lifestyle choices. The next step now, is to get physically fit. I’m not convinced, £40 per month in gym membership would give me value for money. That cash (if I had it) would be better spent saving for a holiday.

Instead, I have worked out a route around town, that’s about 4 miles, and I run it 3 to 4 times per week. Will I be able to keep it up through the cold winter nights ?. Well, I’ll let you know what happens.

Steak Night.

Steak Preperation.

I set myself 2 cookery goals per month. This month, it’s Steak, and Beef and Guinness Pie.

The idea is that I buy the ingredients, invite a friend around, and then cook the meal and get them to tell me what they think. Just like my work in technology, the emphasis is on certainty. Too many people in my opinion, use the word “know” when they actually mean “reckon”.

When I say that I can cook a vegetarian curry, that doesn’t mean I’ve seen it in a book and can probably do it, that means I’ve prepared it, cooked it and eaten it, alongside one of my friends. That way, if I need to cook that dish again, I have the confidence of knowing, I’ve tried it and succeeded.

I decided to cook Steak first (The pies are being cooked on the 26th, if anyone is nearby) and invite my old mate Glenn, who I know, likes Steak.

I took my experimentation further, by purchasing different steaks, to see if there really is a difference (I normally eat my steak well done, and people have said there’s no point in buying expensive stuff for that. I wanted to test it).

I bought a Tesco finest organic steak for Glenn. Nearly half a pound, Sirloin. I bought myself 4 pieces of Rump Steak, from Iceland. Roughly the same weight, both steak “items” cost about the same.

I’m ambitious in the kitchen, but the key here, is to be realistic. I decided not to try and make my own peppercorn sauce, so I bought that in.

The other novel thing, was I decide to cook the steaks on a grill pan, to make the cookery sort of “interactive”, so Glenn could get involved, and get his steak cooked the way he wanted it, rather than me bringing it in, the way I thought he wanted it.

The finished Steak.

I learned a really cool way, to steam vegetables in a microwave oven. Served with the Steak, and off we go.

Like any good guest, Glenn, bought a bottle of Red (I don’t believe in God, but if he is real, I believe that he made Red wine, to be drunk while eating steak).

So, was it a success. Glenn told me he enjoyed, it, and since he’s the guest, that’s good enough for me. What do I think ? I enjoyed my steak, but 2 crows don’t make an eagle, and loads of cheap steak, is no match for 1 big piece of quality meat. Lesson learned, and thanks to Glenn, for coming over.

Tables, Internet and the Cold war.

The picture above, shows the original table cloth, that I bought in Thailand, a couple of years ago. I do quite a lot of work on the dining table (not when people are actually eating on it) and I decided that a blue cotton one, would be better for day to day use, so I bought one on Saturday. .

I wasn’t sure whether/how to, iron the table cloth, so I google’d “iron a table cloth”. A host of websites appeared (I love the way Google lists as you type now, its awesome). I picked one called how to, and it gave loads of useful advice, and cloth and table, were as one, on not time.

I also washed some curtains. I wasn’t sure how to Iron them, so tried a similar google. Completely different this time, I get extensive listings on the Cold war, Churchills speach, Gobachev, etc. Made me smile. I suppose that’s what you get when you google “iron curtain”.

I’ve been using freegle for a couple of weeks (Its the new name for free-cycle) I was trying to get a 3 seater sofa, to replace the 2 seater one I have (in truth, I really miss lying down and watching TV).

You post, either with things you want to give away, or things you are offering.  The basic idea is that you help the environment and improve the local community, by offering things you don’t need to people. That way contents of landfills are reduced and things like prams, which only have certain life span in a home, are passed around for the better good of all.

I havent seen any sofa’s, but some people have actually posted, asking for play stations 3’s and cars, which I think is a bit deluded.

One thing did inspire me. There’s a guy on there, who gets collects computer parts. He then builds them into fully working computers, which he gives away for nothing. He has just built his 264th !.

I read recently about Rebecca Javeleau, the 14 year old girl, who invited 15 people to her birthday party, but made the group public and ended up getting 21,000 invites.

The police said, they would station officers outside the house, for increased security. Okay she should have been more careful with her details, but will some psycho really turn up at the house.

From the books I’ve read on sociopathy its more likely, someone will just pick a house at random, or visit somewhere because he thinks god is speaking to him through the radio !.


Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo.

White Collar, True Blood and Eureka have all just finished in the US. This week, House, Special Victims Unit (final series), Fringe, Stargate Universe and Dexter all start new series.

Spooks season 9 opened on BBC 1 the other evening, and it was pretty good. I have previously wondered how long they can drag out the same stuff, but this series seems quite good.

After recommendations from a friend, I watched the girl with the dragon tattoo. If you haven’t seen it, it really is excelent. Its tense and gritty with a very clever story. I couldn’t even guess who the killer was until the very end, which is quite unusual for me. Overall, brilliant.

On Saturday, I went to the cinema to see the sequel, the girl who played  with fire. What happened ?.Same characters, same actors, but this film had lost everything from the original.

Characters, you previously struggled to fathom, become transparent. A series of co-incidences, that challenged even my imagination, and a villain, who was right out of James Bond. No tension throughout the whole film and a “hero gets the girl ending” finished me off.

I hope the 3rd part is better.  Apparently, the first film is being re-made in Hollywood, so that will be even worse.

Walking the Edisbury Way.


Winter is coming, and Sundays walk was cold and embittered with rain. But no problem, we perused the map and off we went.  Amelia came along this weekend, and we met up with Tone at Helsby.

A quick walk up Helsby hill and a pause to enjoy the view. Back down the other side, we had through a series of paths, then wander up the hill.

Futuristic house Steppingstones.

Near the top of the hill, this futuristic house, called Stepping stones. Half of the house is underground. I wasn’t sure about photographing it, as it’s someone’s home, but its an amazing building as well, so I thought a photograph from this angle was a reasonable compromise.

Walking through corn fields.

Further along we head out into the hills, then follow the 5 miles back into Frodsham, along the Edisbury way. The path hadn’t been walked in a while, and you can see from this cornfield, we had to “Borneo” our way through sections of it.

Back at Frodsham, a pint in the Helter Skelter, and then train home.


Go Karting

I heard from an old friend, Kath Ladensowski recently. Turns out, like many of my other friends, she has set up her own business Aster Accountants.

Kath and I worked at Morris & Co some years ago, and I dug out this picture of a team event, Go Karting (just to show that its a small world, this picture was actually taken about 300 metres from where I now work).



Tone and I are off back to Horton on Ribblesdale on the 1st of October. We’ve rented a car (only £42 for 3 days !), and I’ve taken the friday off work. I’m quite looking forward to it, as I’ll get to see my uncle John, who I dont see very often (he lives there).

We are also meeting up with some of Tony’s friends from Social circles. Aside from money and time, one of the key challenges of organising trips and adventures, is find a ready supply of adventure ready people. I’m quite looking forward to meeting them.

I’m pretty fit, but I haven’t done the 3 peaks in 5 years and I’m now in my 40’s. I’m sure I’ll be able to do it, as I’ve said before to climb mountains, you need fitness and an unwillingness to quit. If I could only have one, it would be the 2nd.

I’ve done some overtime this month, so I’ll also be booking flights to Budapest in October. Okay, its not massive international travel on the scale I’ve done in recent years, but I didn’t want to go a whole year without getting on a plane.

I’m researching the trip at the moment, so I should have a full list of things to do and see. If you’ve been there, and have a recommendation for the city, post bellow.

Feeling like a teenager.

Never put your trust in an E111 form.

I had planned this weeks johnsunter.com out in advance, but an article I read this morning on BBC News, must take priority.

The Dudriges from London, went on Honeymoon to Corfu. They had decided not to have a Honeymoon after their wedding, as they couldn’t afford it, but family and friends chipped in to pay for it.

After a Romantic meal, Carrie went onto a balcony for some fresh air and ended up falling 30 feet and damaging here spine in 3 places.

It was at this point, they fell back on the reciprocal E111 card, which provides medical assistance in other European countries.

Once his wife was stabilised, Michael had to try and raise £16,000 to transport his wife home. Luckily,  local residents, credit cards, loans from family have raised the money and they are flying home today.

The sad fact, is that insurance that would have solved the problem, would have cost less than £10 (and probably £5 each) on something like moneysupermarket.com

You’ve probably read stories like this one before. If you do nothing else today, commit to buying insurance for every trip that you take.

The Expendables.

The Expendables - utter rubbish, but made me feel like a teenager.

On Friday evening, I went to see the Expendables. It contains all the 80’s action hero’s in a kind of re-visitation of the genre. Well that’s what film critics have been saying, what do I think ?

In a story, that would have better fitted the A Team, I have tried to break it down.

The action:
Ultra violent, without a care. Explosions everywhere, knife fighting (with knives, that although moving slowly, make the kind of wisping sound that electrical cable makes, when it cuts the air !). Scenes of 30+ people meet ng their maker in one “sitting” and moments later, nothing is said of it. Rapid fire, explosive shell firing shotguns. The laissez-faire removal of body parts and infeasible knife throwing.

The plot (!):
Helpless women (who are tough, but helpless all the same), Buddy relationships, Sad moments of reflection, some awful attempt at explaining the meaning of life. Simple peasants who never do anything wrong of any kind. Despot dictators. The whole soldier of fortune with a conscience cobblers. Good people, trying to find their own way in the world, but “The Man” is keeping them down. The drinking of bottles of strong spirits, and minutes later, demonstrations of hand/eye co-ordination that would make an eye surgeon envious.

References to other films:
They are everywhere, in this film. The name Expendables, harks back to a conversation in Rambo First blood part II. People being thrown into burning rivers, is right out of Beast-master. The plain is a tip of the hat to Commando.

Other notable things:
Mickey Rourke plays a character called Tool. A hilarious Cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis (Arnie even seemed to be wearing 80’s clothing).

Overall, what did I think. Utter rubbish from beginning to end. But for 90 minutes, I felt like a teenager again. They just don’t make films like this any more and I hope they make a sequel.

On the subject of film/video, my old mate Jason, who runs Woodland Ways, bushcraft and survival school, has started a video diary, so you can remove the glamour and see what its like to run a bushcraft school.

The Chester film society re-opens its doors for the 40’th year. I went to see a film with them last year, and I’m intending to watch a few more this time.

A new African restaurant – The Coconut Hut.

The Coconut Hut, a new Restaraunt in Chester.

I’ve been trying out some budget places to eat again recently. A really nice (and rather unique) African restaurant has now opened on Brook street. Wasn’t keen on the name Coconut Hut, but the food was really good (I had Gemsbok stew, which was really nice). They also do a really good platter, with prawns and beef and stuff like that for a tenner a plate.

If makes a change from the standard fare you get in other restaurants. One word of caution, most people don’t associate African food with being hot. The stuff in here really is, I haven’t eaten anything hotter since I was in Thailand.

A simplified life with technology.

Tesco Automated check-out.

I’m always looking for ways to simplify my life (I have several books on this subject). I recently started using the Tesco automated Check-Out. It’s easily 3 times faster than conventional “tilling”.

The trick I have found, is to make sure you have all your cards/money etc to hand before you start. Its an amazing piece of technology and I’ve become addicted.

The Italian Job.

Picture from the Italian Job.

Sorry for no update last week, mad busy again, but I’ve put twice as much in this week, to make up for it.

First of all, I had hoped to “interview” Matt and Glenn about their trip to Italy and put up some pictures.

As most of you know, its been a pretty quiet year for me personally, so I was delighted when 2 of my friends, told me of their plan. The idea, was to buy a knackered car, drive it to Rome, sell it and then fly home (obviously doing loads of other things in between).

I followed the planning and prep of this trip. Hilarious moments like deciding which CD player to have fitted in the car (which may or may not have cost more than the actual car itself !).

Unfortunately, Matt and Glenn both run businesses, and for the moment they are catching up with work/family etc..I should have more info in the next update.

Sean’s birthday.

Seans birthday.

Last year, I missed Sean’s birthday, as I put it in my diary, under the wrong day. This year, I got organised, and we all had a get together at the Frog.

Tony was there, as Sean and Mandy are 2 of his best customers. Also, Nathan who left the Frog last November came out as well. Mandy doesn’t like to be photographed.

On the subject of friends, Steve came around the other evening, and showed me a really cool trick (which most of you probably already know, but I think is pretty good). I was making a curry, and couldn’t get the remainder of the sauce, out of the jar.

You half fill the jar with water, and then tip it into the wok. Not only does it empty the jar without any effort, but you end up with some extra water, that helps the curry soak into the chicken.

Sunday afternoon walking.

An old bus.

On the way to Chester Railway station, I saw this old bus. They really go for that old crap here in Chester.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to start exploring some of the countryside around Runcorn, but for the time being most Sunday afternoons are spent walking around Frodsham and Helsby.

Last Sunday, I put on my old trainers, grabbed my packed lunch and headed for the station. At Helsby, I met up with Amelia and Tony Lewis.

Instead of the standard walk between Helsby hill and Frodsham Monument hill, I decide to use my map to work out an alternative route, which would be less busy and have some more unusual things to see.

The Weather was pretty fab, and most of the walk was through Forests, so perfection for me (I often say to people, If you gave me ten million tomorrow, I’d still go out walking, the day after !).

Loads of interesting conversation, and planning talk about Tony’s trip to Africa.

Frodsham Monument.

We reach the end of our walk at Frodsham Monument.

A view of Frodsham from monument hill.

And this view of Frodsham Town.

The Helter Skelter pub in Frodsham.

We arrived an hour before the train home was due, so decided to have a pint.

I had heard good things about a pub called the Helter Skelter. It was rather smart, and even featured a traditional real ale, made in Newton Heath.

Back home, and another ace Sunday completed.

Next weekend, I’m going to finally visit the Eden project and Stone Henge, with new found adventure friend, the excellent Lyndsay from work.

I’m also planning a really good walk from Frodsham to Delamere on the coming bank holiday Monday if anyone is interested ?.

Tech stuff.

The underwhelming Riverbed Screwdriver.

One of the cool things about working for a global company like mine, is that you get to work with the latest cutting edge stuff. One type of technology I’ve been interested in for a while, but never exposed to, is Riverbed.

It uses state of the art patented technology, to create enhanced application services over the internet.

Having spent a morning working with it, the tech is cool and fascinating. One disappointment, was that it came with a free screwdriver. Actually, its pretty crap.

Speaking of technology, for the first time in nearly a decade, I am studying for exams again. Before the 1st of January, I want to get a CCNA, a VCP and the  SQL 2008 one (who’s name I cant be bothered to look up)

My CCNA is booked for 3 weeks, so I am mad busy revising. Honestly, the stuff I am mostly re-learning on the Cisco course, really is fascinating. I am also spending lots of time practising my binary maths.

In other training “news”  I was sent on a manual handling course (it was about how to safely lift heavy things, not how to pick up computer books).

I wasn’t looking forward to it particularly, but it was only half an hour. When I got there, it turned out to be 2 hours, and I deeply regretted not bringing a some sort of health and safety book, big enough to hide my CCNA notes inside.

Anyway, it turned out to be really interesting. One thing was that the number of accidents is going down. When the instructor actually explained why, I was fascinated. He pointed out, that we have no real industry any-more, and fund managers accidents are a lot less serious than ones which would have previously occurred in shipyards !.

He also pointed out, that nobody actually “fixes” things any more. When was the last time, you saw a TV with the back off it, being worked on. Probably, it just broke, was thrown away, and another one purchased and brought home the following Saturday afternoon.

Another thing I’ve been learning a lot about lately, is backup exec (for those that dont know, its software normaly used for backing up file servers). Its in version 12 now, so you can imagine is has an elaborate feature set.

For the 1st time, I am learning to use the Robotic Caddy and a whole host of other features.

Its only when you use something a lot that you learn tricks and quicker ways to do things, and thats the point i’m at with BE. I guess the point is that a technology that wouldn’t normally describe as exciting (its backup for heavens sake) can be really interesting, if you spend enough time using it.


The superb series Sherlock, on BBC.

Well, the 3 part series Sherlock is over. its one of the best things that’s been on the TV in ages, and no suprise that it was written by many of the same people who make Dr Who.

I’m up to season 6 of the Sopranos. The 5th series was one of the better ones, so lets see what happens now.

Bought the latest Dan Brown book the other day. One of the problems being careful with money is that its really difficult to walk into book shops, see so many interesting books, and not be able to buy them (well I can buy them, but within a structured plan over time).

Saving power (and money).

My reduced Gas consumption.

A friend gave me a really cool gift.

You connect it to your pc at home, and then plug all your peripherals like printers, speakers and monitors into the other side.

Whenever the computer is switched of, all the other devices are switched off as well, automatically. Smart.

Got me thinking. Now I have isolated loads of things within the house, grouped them together and connected them onto 4 way connectors. Mon – Fri, I am only actually around my house for about 3-4 hours.

When I’m not there, the fridge and sky + are the only things which are plugged in. It annoys me that I didn’t think of it before.

Is this Becka ?.

Is this really Ali Bastion formerly of Hollyoaks ?

I’ve never been much into the soaps, but for a while, I quite liked Hollyoaks.

The main reason, was a smart character called Becka. She was a school teacher, really nice, and obviously very pretty (played by Ali Bastion).

The other evening I was on Warrington railway station, platform 1, and a woman in dark glasses who looked just like her, was standing next to me.

I didn’t take a picture while I was there, but took one on the train (you can see that some scruffy bugger has left a bag on the window shelf.  Scum.)

I have emailed her “agency”, but they haven’t gotten back to me about whether it was really her. I like to believe it is, but have a close look at the picture, and tell me what you think.

Near and far, best wishes. The search for adventure continues …

Ranulph Fiennes – in search of adventure.

Interailing around Europe. The first adventure I organised myself (well, Lee helped as well).

The first adventure that I organised myself (well, actually, with my friend Lee, who you can see in this picture studying the European train timetable) was an interailing trip around Europ.

I knew that we would be spending a lot of time sat on a train, so choice of “anti-boredom” equipment was essential. I decided on a cassette walkman and 5 tapes, and a good book (I reasoned, that no matter what happens, a book can’t break, it’s battery’s can’t run out etc).

The question of course, was which book to take. I had seen an interview with Ranulph Fiennes. It made some kind of sense to me, that while going on an adventure, you could read about one of lifes great adventurers and his adventures.

So I bought, living dangerously, the autobiography of Ranulph Feinnes, listed in the Guinness book of records as the worlds greatest living adventurer.

My book, living dangerously, which I read as we travelled hundreds of miles across europe.

It was a fascinating book, he talked about his life, the love of his then wife Ginny, time in the Army, exploring, facing danger and most of all, the inner ability to push yourself and not quit when things get tough.

Basically, loads of useful things, that would help me in later life, in all kinds of ways (some of them, years later, I didn’t actually realise I got from the book, which I’ll explain later).

Ran arrives on stage, and is fitted with a microphone. The woman in front of me, had a very large head.

Twenty years later, Sir Ranulph Fiennes comes to Chester, to give a talk. How could I miss it. A few days in advance, I spoke of my excitement, to colleagues at work. “What do you think is his best film” was a frequent comment.

For clarity, Ranulp Fiennes is the 3rd cousin of Ralph Fiennes, the actor from English patient and others.

I had expected a pretty informal quiet affair. Most people these days want to hear over-the-hill London gangsters or x big brother house mates speak, surely only a handful of people would turn up to listen to a real legend.

Wrong about that. 2000 people, fully booked, and more than 100 outside, hoping for a seat in the event of no shows (of which there were very few).

As he walked onto the stage, I was struck by how fit and healthy he looked, for a man of nearly 70. He spoke with charm and confidence, but at all times modest.

For the first hour, he spoke about his expeditions and adventures, and then for about half an hour about his family history. I wasn’t really interested in the family part, and I don’t believe in high birth anyway, but here, in no particular order, are the things that were said/happened in the first hour.

He was stationed with the Sultans army in Oman. The army had 1 boat and 2 aeroplanes, to fight against the Russian trained and equipped Marxist insurgents. They used 6 land rovers, to patrol a 2000 mile border. He explained that if the land rover drove over an anti tank mine, it would be blown more than 100 metres.

While stationed there he went looking for the lost city of Ubar. He made several trips out to find it, but didn’t succeed. At some point, a NASA satellite, scanned  the area, and found a spot that formed a perfect right angle. Since they dont occur normally in nature, it was presumed that this was the lost city.

Ran managed to get hold of the grid reference and lead an expedition there. It wasn’t the city, and just to show how strange real life, is, was a naturally occurring right angle in nature !.

His wife Ginny died a few years ago. He spoke often about here in his book, and her contribution to his expeditions. Ginny’s father was critical of Ran. When the proposition of marriage was put to him, he cautioned her: this fellow is Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know. A phrase that Ran would later use to name one of his books.

During questions at the end, he was asked what his greatest achievement had been. He said simply it was being married to someone so special for 36 years.

Even though he has climbed Everest (the oldest UK person to do it) and the Eiger, he has vertigo and literally can’t look down at any point while mountaineering.

During an early trip across the Arctic, we saw pictures of some sort of cardboard potting shed that his wife had designed. They could be dropped by plane, and would provide shelter in the evening’s. He said that the snow would collect outside, which would strengthen them, but you would be trapped inside, until morning, when you dug yourself out.

Why would you want to go outside he asked rhetorical ?. Well, your cooking on pressurised petrol in a paper house !.

He spoke honestly about expeditions, and explained that it was all about sponsorship, and you had to pick something that would inspire company’s enough to pay for them. He said that the Arctic had inspired a lot of people in America and that’s why he had moved a lot of of his expeds from Africa.

One thing that surprised me about the Arctic and Antarctic adventures, was how long they took. On one occasion, he was dropped off by boat and set off on foot. The boat would sail around the other side and pick them up 18 months later.

Some interesting stuff about navigation. You basically, look at the time, and as you walk, measure the angle of your shadow. At the time of Scott, that was the best way to navigate in the polar regions, as it still today. He spoke very favourably of Scott and said many of his critics, had never ventured  outside of their study.

While traversing Antarctica, they had a solar powered radio, that would run for 2 minutes each day. At one point, the radio said Britain has declared war with … (the battery’s ran out). Several days later, they established it was Argentina, but until that point, there had been constant debates about who it could be.

At other points, he mentioned leaving school with no A levels and growing up without a father (his father died before he was born in the 2nd world war).

I established throughout the talk, that he had little time for BBC film crews or Eaton, the school he criticised heavily in his book.

After a talk about his ancestors, he accepted questions from the audience. An annoying woman from the MOD language school, started to try and harras him, but he had no truck with her.

He was asked how he selected people for expeditions. I couldn’t believe it when he said something about how you can teach skills, but can’t teach personality traits.

Ive said that every time I’ve been recruiting someone. I forgot that the idea wasn’t my invention, it was something I had read in that book, on the train, all those years before.

He was asked, if he believed in a higher being. He replied that he had a heart attack on an Easyjet plane. For 3 days, he didn’t respond to resuscitation, and came around on the 13th attempt.

Commented that if he hadn’t been resuscitated, he would have been like that forever (after all, he was, to all intents and purposes dead). While in that state, for 3 days, he didn’t see god or angels or anything like that, and concluded that death, must be like having a really good sleep.

People say you should never meet you hero’s. Well I did and it was amazing.


Sorry there hasn’t been an update of johnsunter.com in a while. I’ve been run off my feet at work.

Mickel Trafford Village Club (this picture does'nt do it credit).

An unusual evening on Saturday. I have started to try and broaden my horizons, hence visiting Chester cinema club, and stuff like that.

The other evening, Glenn invited me for an evening out, at the village hall in Michel Trafford. Amazingly, its run by the Parish Council, and the bar staff, are actually volunteers.

I was wondering whether it would be like the vicar of Dibley, but in reality, it was quite smart. A a practical point, the bar star were very polite and the service very personal (but it would be, its a village hall). I was also impressed with the price, at £1.80 for a pint of Carlsberg (took me back to 2003 !)

One downside, was that the website advertises free wireless broadband. Glenn, had brought one of his 2 (2 !) IPads to try out (I wanted to try them out and write a review, I cant help feeling that Glenn wanted to show off to the locals). Unfortunately, the service doesn’t seem to be popular there, and had been disconnected for non payment.

Overall, a pretty interesting evening. I hope to go again in a couple of weeks, and try out the free pool table.

Sex and the City 2

I know some people reading this, will be surprised that I’m a fan of sex and the city.

I remember hearing a story about a prisoner of war, who was beaten every day at 10am. When he was released, it was found that his body had compensated for the ordeal, by pumping adrenaline into his system at 10am each day. The irony was, that he was actually uncomfortable not being beaten.

I can’t claim the exact same thing, but in a relationship some years ago, I was “made” to watch Sex and the City, and a similar effect took place (and to be honest, I think my love of travel destinations, and the scenes of New York helped to numb the pain).

Anyway, Sex and the City 2 came out, and I went to see it on Saturday afternoon (to avoid loads of couples and people on first dates, and other rubbish like that).

Enough intro, so what did I think:

The film opens with a brief history of New York, and a few visuals of Carrie and her friends, when they arrived in NY, around 1986.

It then moves on to a garish gay wedding. Its hard to describe exactly, but it was an affront to the ears and eyes.

We are given an update, on what’s happened since the first film (I mean that, from the point of the characters. From the point of the producers and actresses, its obvious that they needed some more money).

I do like Big as a character. It would be easy to fall into the perfect guy, who just isn’t in touch with his feelings cliché, but it never happens.

On the subject of cliché, they are many, including watching black and white “classics” together. Vom.

The plot then moves to Abu Dhabi (except that I immediately recognised Marrakesh airport in Morocco, so knew that’s where it had been filmed). At this point it got a bit out of hand, with the kind of clash of cultures between the girls and Abu Dhabi society, ending in a free for all in the market.

I know the film is exaggerated, but from experience, New Yorkers are probably the most street wise westerners in existence. Brash surely, but they know every inside track, every trick, the lot, wherever they go. Unwittingly getting arrested in the way implied in the film, would just never happen.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but like the 1st, it was 2 and a half hours, which felt a bit long.

I did love the music, Empire state of mind, by Jay Z, featuring Alicia Keys. Since watching the film I cant stop singing it.

One line from the film “eventually the baby will get tired” took me back to the original series, and all the things I liked about it.

I was sorry to hear about the death of Gary Coleman from the series different strokes. It reminded me of this hilarious sketch of Tony Bobbins (a spoof on the real life peak performance specialist, Tony Robbins) which he appeared in.

Other things happening on the TV front. Well, loads of series have finished this week. Before anyone asks, I went off lost after 4 episodes, so I didn’t watch the final episode, and don’t really care what happened.

Ashes to Ashes finished after 3 series, and ended a 5 series arc, incorporating Life on Mars, one of the best TV programs of the decade.

People have been critical, but I thought it wrapped things up pretty well, and I enjoyed it immensely, just like the rest of the series.

I caught up on about 8 episodes of 24. I only started watching them again, after season 2, last year at season 7. This season really is dazing, and I cant wait to see what happens in the season finale.

Two series I am getting into are Human Target and White Collar. Human Target is based on a comic book, and basically action from beginning to end, with enough plot to tie it together, and nothing else.

Blue Collar is interesting. It about an FBI agent, and a former Con man/Forger who he enlists from prison. I was  talking to Glenn the other evening and he mentioned it.

I commented that when I saw the program, the first person, Neal Caffrey reminded me off, was him.

The Final episode, series 2 of Fringe. A recommendation from my brother last year, its excellent.

I’ve also been watching a series called Broken Bad. It was recommended by an old friend Jason MacDonald. He wasn’t wrong, its simply made, but quite dazzling.

Peter Kay. The Immersions On !.

Things have turned around, and the mortgage is getting paid, so the house is safe, but money is very tight.

It will take a while to turn things around, but in the meantime, I am trying to live as I did when I was unemployed, an dleverage every money saving and/or value enhancing tool available.

For example, earlier in the blog, I mentioned going to see Sex and the City 2. I get my gas and electric from Powergen. They give me Tesco points for paying my bill, by direct debit. I convert the points into cinema tickets, and get to see 2 films a month or “free” (the reasoning is that I would have bought food etc. from tTsco and electric/gas from Powergen anyway).

One thing I’ve just tried, is putting a 2 litre bottle of water in the lavatory systern. The idea, is that less water will be used when the systern fills up. Its a project I’m keen to see the results of (modern myth, or money saver).

One final inspiration, was actually from Peter Kay.

I used to always have the hot water come on with a timer, twice a day. Obviously, If I didn’t have a bath or anything, that hot water was wasted.

Shows how times have changed. The Peter Kay joke, where he is invited out for a drink or something at the Phoenix club, and explains that he cant, saying “the immersion is on”, took me back 30 years.

In my youth, the immersion heater would be put on, to heat hot water. It would take an hour to heat 2 baths full of water. Using the water was sacrosanct. If I was going out or to the shops, I would be strictly ordered home, so the water wouldn’t be wasted.

Made me wonder. Wasn’t Gas and Electric, relatively cheaper then, than it his now, but many homes today have heating/water switching on for several hours, when they aren’t even there.

I’ve learned my lesson. I put the water on, when I need a bath or a shower, and turn it off again, 20 minutes or an hour later. The savings have been significant.

Near and far, best wishes, the search for adventure continues…


Well, all systems go for my birthday next Saturday the 8th. Full details here.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, listed in the Guiness book of records as the worlds greatest living adventurer.

On my first Inter-railing trip, I took a book called Living Dangerously, it was the autobiography of Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Ran is one of my life hero’s, and I was delighted to read recently, that he will be visiting Chester on the 24th of June. Full details here.

I’ve added 2 things to 17 things I like, so its now called 19 things I like.

Hanging Tents.

Speaking of Mountaineering, a chap I did my mountaineering training with is on expedition for 21 days on Baffin Island.  Mike “Twid” Turner and 2 of his fellow climbers will be mountaineering in the daytime, and sleeping in hanging tents at night (oh, and in between, they will have to avoid wild bears).

The cool thing is, they they have a sat phone with them, and will be answering questions each evening. You can find out about it and possibly ask them a question (I will be) here.

I only have about 25% of my hearing (In my youth, I went on lots of longs walks, with a cassette walkman screaming in my ears. It provided me with all kinds of inspiration and ideas, but at a price.) if you want to get an idea of what the world sounds like to me, click on this.

You may remember, that I did some work with Antique Pine Imports, with the intention of learning about joinery. Whilst working with Matty, we listened (in my case under duress) to Radio 1. The outcome, is that I can’t stop humming “she said” by Plan B. Torture !.

People voting.

I said recently, there wasn’t much that was funny about British politics. I’ve change my mind, after watching this and this , done with state of the art animation for foreign audiences.

Seriously, its important to vote. I’ve stood in Nelson Mandela’s cell where he worked for 27 years to restore democracy to his country. I’ve stood in Wenceslas Square in Prague, where  Jan Palach set himself on fire  as there was simply no other way to protest for democracy and be heard.

Warren Buffet once said “If you’ve been at a card game for 30 minutes, and you cant work out who the patsy is, you are the patsy !”. British Politics is a bit like that. The parties all seem the same, the expenses row has shown many politicians to be corrupt and the economic problem looms so large, that you wonder if anyone can fix it. But if you don’t vote, then you literally are the problem, not a symptom, whatever you tell yourself.

I remember being on a train once, and it was very late. I was annoyed, and talking to a passenger next to me. I explained that the ticket had cost £90 and the train still didn’t run on time. The passenger replied that he hadn’t bought a ticket, he had sneaked onto the train without paying, but he was still annoyed. The passenger sat across from me, turned to him, and said if you don’t pay, you don’t get complain !.

If you don’t vote, you cant really complain afterwards.

The "I want to believe poster" from the X Files.

I’ve been watching a series by another of my life heroes, Stephen Hawking. Into the Universe, explores all sorts of things that you normally see in science fiction, in a grown up but interesting way. I’ve said many times that we cant possibly be alone in the Universe, and that I hope we make contact with Aliens in my lifetime.

I’ve always believed that once Aliens are discovered, the fundamental reality that we aren’t alone will bind the human race, more closely together. Startlingly (but subtly put) Hawking reckons that we should be cautious of meeting up with Aliens of superior technology and almost avoid letting them know of our existence.

He points to the example of the native North Americans as an example of what could happen to us !. I certainly hope not.

I went to see Iron Man 2 the other evening. Money is tight, but I use my Tesco vouchers to buy Cinema tickets, which works out quite well.

One thing that really annoyed me, was how they now have a sign saying you cant take your own food and drink into the Cinema. I can get 2 bottles of Coke from Wilkinsons, for 99p. They charge £2.40 for one. Things bought from the Cinema shops, have a special sticker on them. Everything else isn’t allowed !.  I think that its a liberty, and I’ll be surprised if its legal.

Anyway, on to the film. Firstly, the scene in the trailer, with Pepper Pots (which interestingly, is my mum’s name (I mean the surname, is her family name. Her first name, is Vera, and she is really nice. I’d be embarrassed if she was called Pepper !)) throwing the helmet out of the plane, never actually happens in the film.

The action and effects were everything I expected. They had opted for a few big action scenes, which left a lot of the film free for character development and plot twists (its just a shame, that they didn’t actually use it for this purpose, as far as I could see 🙂

My main disappointment, was with the continuity. In the first film, as he escapes from the cave, he turns to his dying friend, and says come on, well get out of here, and you can be with your family. He replies, my family are dead. Ill be with them soon, and you realise that he had never intended to leave the cave. With his dying words, you hear him say, don’t wast your life Stark. A billionaire arms dealer, he returns home and vows to change.

He does change for the duration of that film, but in the 2nd one, he’s back to his old ways.

Other silliness is the love interest with PP, the fallout with his best friend, and dealing with his illness. All handled with enough Ham and Cheese to provide Britain’s workforce with lunchtime nutrition for a year.

The ending is pretty cool and the audacious scene, where he builds a particle accelerator from heating pipes and creates a new element, almost makes up for the pointless congressional hearing scene at the beginning.

I’ve always been a real fan of the Iron Man franchise. Its not like a normal superhero series. He hasn’t been bitten by a spider, or escaped from a doomed planet, he’s just an engineer, however gifted, who builds a machine that can protect the innocent and fight tyranny (or that’s what the original comic book was about).

One scene in the first film, really connects with me. A fictional group of villagers are being held at gunpoint in Afghanistan. How many times in real life, have you switched on the tv, and seen something terrible happening on the other side of the world. If your like me, you felt stricken, hoped that things turned out okay, but inside you knew that you were powerless and that probably things would end badly.

What if you could get into your suit, fly there and make things right. There wasn’t a single scene in the second film like that.

Chester Film Society

It was my 2nd trip to the Cinema that week. On Tuesday, I finally got around to watching Be Kind Rewind at the Little Theatre, with the Chester Film Society. I have been on their mailing list or nearly 4 years, but finally got around to going.

I was really impressed. Like everything that the traditionalist’s do here in Chester (including the sponsored walk), it was done properly, and organised with military precision. They even had a small bar, so Glenn and I had a drink, then went upstairs to watch the film.

They had a really smart setup, with a large screen, good audio and the film on DVD. One thing I did like, was a short film, shown before the main film. It used to always be this way when I was growing up, and encouraged many young directors. We realised at this point, that it was the last film of the season, and they actually conducted an AGM before the main film.

Glenn and I (who aren’t members, it must be said) had a quick look at the budget, and listened intently to the plan for next year, the fact that the Olympics has wreaked havoc on grants from the arts council, and other important matters. The main point I wanted to raise, was that Carling, in their bar, was only £1.40 a pint, and that I would like the price to be held into next season. I couldn’t find the confidence to actually say that, so I’ll just have to hope.

It wasn’t the best film, I have ever seen, but it was enjoyable. The main thing I remember of the experience , was how enlightening it was to sit and watch a film, with about 80 other people who had all come out that evening just to watch the film. There was no talking, mobiles popcorn or any of that rubbish.

I’ll be going back, I really enjoyed it.

Happy Birthday Frank.

Frank and I in Italy, doing the Tour De Mont Blanc

As some of you know, my oldest friend Frank (we have known each other for 35 years) moved to Thailand a couple of years ago (you can read a bit more about it here.)

Well, its Franks birthday. Although I can’t be there, I just wanted to take a moment to wish him a sincere Happy Birthday.

Pearl & Dean Cinema Advertising. Sold today, for £1.

On a similar note, I read today that the Cinema advertising group Pearl & Dean has been sold for £1.

If I had to pick the exact moment, when I chose a life of adventure, it would probably be many years ago, when Frank and I were both 13. It was the summer holidays, we had just left Hague Street Primary School, and we would be going to different Secondary Schools, at the end of the holidays.

We had a great summer, camping, going walking, building dens, and all the stuff that teenagers used to do, before Play-stations were invented. It was back in the day, when a schoolboy could carry a Swiss Army Knife, and not get into any trouble (although if he was ingenious enough, he could build/make or improvise practically anything with this simple tool).

I also remember it being a time when Frank’s Dad, let us borrow tools out of his toolbox, to build our Den. I remember specifically, that he didn’t supervise us or anything, he knew that we would be careful and his only concern was that we put them back in the box, in the same condition they were in when we borrowed them (which we obviously did).

Well, one afternoon, we decided to go and watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was Frank’s idea, I hadn’t heard much about the film. I had just been paid from my paper round, so I paid for us both (Frank frequently did the same, we never worried about who’s money was who’s).

The 3 things I remember about that day are:

A, It was the first time, I had ever eaten a cheese burger.

B, While watching ROTLA, I knew I wanted to travel and see amazing things.

C, That just before the film, on that special day, the appalling Baba-Baba-Ba-Ba-Baba-Bap-Bap-Bar was played with the P&D advert !.

Birthday Plan/Friends

Pictures from my 40th Birthday.

Before I talk about my Birthday and friends, I want to express my sadness at the passing of the Polish President. When I visited Poland, the people I met there were charming and helpful (as are my Polish friends here in the UK), and I just want to say how sorry I am for their loss.

On a more positive note, plans are well underway for my birthday bash here in Chester. It’s on Saturday the 8th of May, and a full Itinerary is available here.

Jon Ski-ing with his children during the Easter Break.

One of the people I am most looking forward to seeing on my birthday is Jon Mallett. Lucky Jon, managed to get a away Ski-ing during the Easter Break. Above is a picture of him and his children.

Well done Jon. Planning is ever important in the pursuit of adventure, but the single most important thing, is to get out there and do it.

Frank and Na getting married.

Civil (well, it looked a bit un-civil to me) violence in Bangkok, is in the News once again. As many of you know, one of my oldest friends Frank, and his lovely wife Na live in Bangkok. Frank got in touch yesterday, to tell me that they are both okay and everything is fine.

Dan in Chester.

A walking civil war, all on his own, Danny Quinn, popped back to Chester over the weekend (some of you will remember that Dan left Chester to move to Nantwich (and having visited Nantwich, and seen just how dull and pretentious it is, I can imagine how easy it must be to become a celebrity around there :))

Dan asked me to point out his sunglasses in this Shot. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you think there worth 160 quid !.

One other thing Dan mentioned was an explanation of the phrase the whole 9 yards. It actually comes from American Bombers in the 2nd world war. A full belt of ammunition for an anti aircraft gun, would be 27 feet. If a Luftwaffe plane aggressively attacked the Bomber (how else would it attack, with whit and humour ?) , they would fire the whole belt at it, hence to give something the whole 9 yards.

Don’t forget my birthday. Most of you have been invited already by Call, Text or Email, but just in case, the full itinerary is here.

We’re all Ambassadors…

Me standing in front of the Petronus Towers

A couple of random events happened to create this picture.

My friend Dan was criticising a TV program, and commented that he would rather watch mega-structures.

I had the house to myself, I was channel surfing, I saw mega-structures on the listing and started watching it.  This week it was about the Petronus Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

I became fascinated with the Towers and Kuala Lumpur, and added them to my bluelist.

A year later I was standing in Kuala Lumpur. I wandered around for ages to find the right spot to take the picture.

I needed someone to take it for me. I waited for 30 minutes, until some young girls came by. They didn’t speak a word of English, and it took 7 goes (even with a simple digital camera) to setup the shot.

Me in Tiananman Square.

This is a photo taken in Tiananmen Square.

The chap in this picture, had travelled by bus for 4 days, to visit the final resting place of Mao Zedong, or Chairman Mao as he is known better, in the west.

He asked to be photographed with me, because quite simply, he had never met anyone, before that moment, who wasn’t Chinese !.

As I joked at the time, if I’d known the picture would have such significance to him, I would have lost some weight in advance of it 🙂

He and his wife had an old style film Camera, which his wife used to take their picture. The photo above, is actually her 2nd attempt with my camera. This is the first. She mistook the lens as a viewfinder, and photographed her own face !.

A chinese woman, using my camera, who managed to photograph her own face !

In the 8 things I hate section of this website, I am critical of Liam Gallagher. As I put it, we are all ambassador’s for something, and as a fellow and proud Mancunian, he offends me. Whenever I travel, I try to remember this, (I mean, that Im an ambassador for my country.  I don’t go around apologizing to strangers for Liam Gallagher’s existence!).

It goes the other way too. If someone if visiting YOUR country, then they are a guest, and you should act as an Ambassador for your country, at home as well.

What has this got to do with anything. Well the pictures above, would have been impossible to take, without the friendly assistance of passers by.

In the last couple of days, here in Chester, on several occasions, I have seen a wife or husband posing for a photo while the other takes it.

I pause to watch what happens, and see dozens of local people just walk past them. I walk over, and ask they if they would like a picture together. I have done this all over the world, they never decline. Its what they wanted all along, they just didn’t like to ask.

The next time you see a group of tourists/foreigners, whatever you want to call them, capitulating around something with a camera, why not offer to take the picture. Even if they don’t need your help, they will be delighted that you offered your time to help them.

Happy Birthday to an old friend.

On the bottom left of the picture, Jon Mallet in Morocco

Hi everyone.

I completely re-wrote the site, about a year ago, with the help of  Henrik, and its much easier to update now. It still takes quite a lot of work, to sit down, prepare articles, format pictures and stuff like that (obviously I am able to save the time that other people would use checking spelling etc 🙂

A couple of people , make it a genuine pleasure to write this site. You know who you are, but one in particular, is Jon Mallet, who I met on a desert survival course a couple of years ago (he’s pictured above, on the lower left of the picture. You can read about the trip, here and here.)

We have been friends ever since, and he has twice driven all the way from London, to attend my birthday.

Anyway, its his birthday on the 9th of March, and I just wanted to say happy birthday, and thanks for being a mate.