Tag: tech

4th dcd and the 3 peaks.

The 3 peaks in Yorkshire is one of the hardest “pleasure” walks in the UK.

Unlike the UK 3 peaks, there are no stops in between to drink tea in cars. Its one long run, with 3 progressively higher mountains, a long walk between the 1st and 2nd mountains and a backbreaking slog to the village, once the final peak has been bagged.

I walked it in my 30’s with Frank and Dave Mandy and it half killed me. Tony was really keen to do it, so off we went.

Tone standing outside Horton on Ribblesdale.

We rented a car from Avis for 3 days, at a cost of only £42 (but beware, when you bring the car back, unless its completely full, you’ll be charged for a full tank). Tony came down on Thursday night, to sample the social scene in Chester, and so that we could set of early on Friday.

I haven’t been camping in a while, and I was surprised how quickly you lose the packing skill. It took me ages to decide what things to take, when previously, it would have taken only a few minutes. More proof, were it needed that I need to get back to previous adventure habits.

For various reasons, lots of messing about in the morning, meant we didn’t set off, until after lunch. This was for the best really, as the weather was utterly atrocious.

We got up to Horton, put up our tent and had a walk around. It was at this point, I realised they had a bunk house, which we should have used rather than the tent, but what the hey.

The farmer kindly gave us Sausages and burgers (I didn’t eat them on the trip, but they fed me for 3 days when  I got back !).

We had a couple of coffee’s in the Crown in (Horton is served by 2 pubs, the other is the Golden Lion). Tony had invited some friends from Social Circles (an outfit based in Manchester that organize regular social events, walking trips and holidays etc) who were going to join us.

They arrived a little late, as they had experienced problems getting a spare tent, car breaking down and having to rent another one etc. All in all, I was impressed with their tenacity.

As I’ve written before, the real challenge for me is not getting out of the tent and walking the mountain, but the night before. You finish work, are presented with the options of leaving your comfort zone, getting on buses, carrying bags about etc,  versus going home and relaxing in your house, meeting up with your friends.

Its all too easy to choose the 2nd one, but despite the prospect of driving rain and the night in a tent, they had got there all the same.

After getting something to eat in the pub, we wander back to the tents and bed down for the night. It was quite late, and a male group, who had been drinking heavily in the bar, decided to extend the party until 2.30am, which wasn’t appreciated.

The joy of camping !.

Up in the morning, we use our stoves to make coffee and then fill up the flasks. Some people opted for porridge I had a continental breakfast as I was keen to get on the hill.

I was under no illusion about the walk. You need 2 things to get up a hill. Fitness and determinations. If I could only choose 1, it would be the 2nd. As Twid told me on my mountaineering course at PYB, sometimes you just put up with the pain and keep walking.

I’ve lost a lot of weight lately, but Tony and everyone else on the trip, were much fitter than me.

We set off, and you can see from the picture, the weather was fantastic.

Tony with some friends from Social Circles.

I had brought my map, compass and gps, but Kosia who leads a lot of the Social circles trips, was all over it, and I was very impressed with her leadership and navigation.

After Penny-Ghent, its a very long walk to the next mountain, which was really boggy from the previous days rain.

The rugged and misty trail.

I took the picture above, to try and capture the feeling on the trail. We had a couple of stops for drinks and lunch. It was really nice meeting new people. Kosia it turned out, was from Krakow, one of my favourite places in Poland. An Italian friend of her’s was from the Italian alps near Lake Garda and Cortina.

A couple that joined is in the morning were scientists, and we had a long talk about whether discovering aliens (or them discovering us) would bind humanity together or finish it.

She also explained why the replicators in Star Trek couldn’t really work (Old newspapers are carbon based. Loaves of bread are protein based. With what we presently know, one can’t turn into the other !)

Whernside is different than the other 2 mountains, as it has a sort of elephant back, that stretches for miles. It was a real slog getting up there.

Once down the other side, we made our final march to Inglebourough. We stopped off in a pub to get a drink and use the toilet. They told us we weren’t appropriately dressed. I pride myself on the versatility of my Rohan clothes, but how many walkers wear a shirt and tie !.

The final mountain Ingleborough is really steep, and has steps cut into the mountain, to avoid accidents. The top of the mountain is a large flat area, I saw the group, and realising success was in sight, took off, with renewed vigour. I get a picture of me and Tone, at the the trig point.

Standing on the 3rd peak.

Its now time to head home. Its a really long walk, not well sign posted, and darkness was closing in.

I set of as fast as I could,  I was conscious I had arranged to meet my Aunt and Uncle that evening for dinner at their house.

As I headed down the hill, my Uncle asked how long I would be, and gave directions on the quickest way back.

Navigating back is pretty easy at first, as you can see lights from the village. The path descends into a sort of basin and once your lower then the village, you cant see anything (there is also a sign that says 1.5 miles to Horton, which must have been put up as a joke).

We get back to the village, and too my suprise, my Uncle is waiting for me at the Railway station. We say goodbye to the Social  Circles crew and drive back to Uncle John’s house (he owns a cottage in Horton). Take of our boots in the garage, and within minutes, I’m sat on a comfortable arm chair, in a warm living room, with a glass of cold beer. Heaven.

More is to come, when we sit down to a warm filling meal, that they’ve cooked for us.

I only see my Uncle John every few years, so we sit up until after midnight talking. A warm shower and then a well needed nights sleep in a comfortable bed.

In the morning, a full English breakfast, then say goodbye, and head to the campsite to take down our tent, and drive home.

I drop Tone off at his house, and then drive back to Chester.

That’s when it hits me. Before Frank moved to Thailand, I could think of any kind of adventure, and know I would have someone to come with me, with all sorts of organisational skills, a sense of humour and a general love of getting out there.

I have been looking for someone like that since then, but it isn’t Tony.

No, in reality its the other way around. Tony had a dream, and the drive and determination to  do the 3 peaks and I helped to make it happen. I haven’t found a replacement Frank, I have become Frank and Tony is the old me !.

Thanks to everyone who came, especially Kasia who was an inspiration. Also my Aunt Vernica and Uncle John for their much appreciated hospitality.

Oh, nearly forgot Tony, sorry.

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 …

Farewell old friend.

My IPhone, being prepared for shipping.

Well, I’ve decided to part with my Iphone.

I still think their smart, but I’ve been issued with a phone for work, and I don’t want to be messing about with 2 phones all the time.

I’ve had my Iphone for 18 months, which is longer than any previous phone. Its a shame, I’ve had it with me through good times and bad, but things are moving forward for me now, and its no time for sentimentality.

Obviously, my number has changed. My new phone number ends 617, if you don’t have it, drop me a line (at my hotmail address, obviously, you wont be able to call or text me).


One of the replacement Rhino's near the Salmon Leap in Chester.

Rhino’s, why ?

In Chester we have some sort of themed Rhino thing going on. Personally, I think that the Rhino idea is tedious and un-original. I’ve seen something similar done in Singapore and Manchester.

One shop in 3 is closing on the Chester Rows, if this is the best thing the council can think of, to promote visitors to the city, they would do better, to get on with repairing the walls. A farce that they have been closed for a year, considering it was originally constructed 2000 years ago, from sandstone, mud and sawdust, built (like Offa’s dyke) by people using wooden shovels.

That said, why do people insist on vandalising them (like the one above). As stated earlier, I saw a similar project in Singapore, and none of their painted “things” got vandalised (but then you would get 5 strokes with a Rattan cane, shame we don’t do that here).

Radio 6.

BBC Radio 6

I was pleased to hear the other day, that Radio 6 is going to stay on the air. The BBC had previously argued that most of their listeners, like the content of Radio 1. But that’s the point. Any local radio station can stay in business, playing that kind of content.

The original idea of the BBC charter, was that they would be directly funded. If they wanted to make a documentary, about a story that really needed to be told, the wouldn’t have to worry who would pay for advertising in the breaks when it was eventually shown.

Radio 6 plays all sorts of really good music, and I believe its exactly the kind of thing the BBC is there to create. Frankly, having listened to Radio 1 for 2 days when helping Glenn at Antique Pine Imports, I think they should take Radio 1 down and put Radio 6 in its place.

On the subject of BBC, their news website, is consistently one of the 10 most popular sites on the internet (that’s no mean feat). They recently re-modelled it into a sort of magazine format. Reading it the other day, I read this disturbing story about a bloke in Dubai, who was broke, but had his passport confiscated, so couldn’t leave so was living on the street. Dubai. All that glitters isn’t gold.

Friends, TV and Films.


Well, the last couple of weeks have been pretty busy, recovering from sickness,travelling to visit friends etc.

Met up with Caz and Yvonne the other Friday, and Lee and Susan came as well. Every time I visit Manchester now, its changed a bit more. I cant believe what they’ve done with the Brunswick.

Talking of meeting up with friends, I finally finished migrating the interailing pictures over. They don’t really have a narrative (it was years ago now) but I think some of the pictures have a charm that tells a story all of its own. You can see them here and here.

This weekend, I took Friday as holiday and decided to just relax. I watched a total of 8 films over the weekend.

I took Friday off, and had a long weekend. I watched, Splice, Wolfman, Solomon Kane and the A Team. I also watched 8 episodes of the Sopranos (season 4 is really good).

In other TV Stuff, White Collar season 2 got of to an unconvincing start. Eureka blew me away, what I fantastic plot twist, right at the beginning. True Blood season 3 continues to be mediocre.

Recorded the new series of Sherlock Holmes. Its supposed to be set in the present day (they tried that with Jeckyle, and look what a mess they made of it) worst, after all the fuss, it turns out there are only 3 episodes to watch.

The changing role of Superhero’s.

Bitten by an Atomic Spider.

I tidied my house completely on Thursday evening. As many of you know, I hate chores to migrate into the weekend, I’ve never felt that was what weekends are for. I saw a dead spider while cleaning the house. I carried it to the bin, for a descent Christian burial, but on the way, I wondered for a moment, what would happen if the spider was just sleeping, and woke up and bit me.

Would I have a fever all night, and weird dreams. Would I wake in the morning able to climb walls, and and fire webs of goo, that nobody would ever clean up, yet the next day, when I was swinging through the city, would all seem to have gone.

Anyway, made me wonder. Does the superhero premise still work, in these modern times.

I mean, you always have images of a team of bank robbers being thwarted by Spiderman. Wouldn’t Spiderman himself, be breaking into the vault, stealing the bonuses of high flyers, and giving the money to low ranking bank staff who had been laid off.

Equally, instead of the Fantastic 4, stopping criminals from stealing priceless art collections from museums, be more likely to use the GPS system in their Fantasticar to find out where Fred the Shred lives, steal his paintings, then sell them and use the money to buy Christmas gifts for the children of his recently-made-redundant workforce ?

Hell’s creation.Pull-allong luggage. The devils creation.

After much thought, I’ve reached a decision. Pull-along luggage is  the worst invention ever created. Forget nuclear bombs, the gun or man made viruses, this device has created far more misery than all of the above put together.

Pull it along through the station fine, but then listen to sighs and gasps of annoyance, as we all stand behind you in the rain, while you can’t lift the thing (that you’ve over-packed) onto the train.

Alternatively, try pulling 2 at the same time across an airport waiting lounge, tripping people up, knocking over tables as you go.

Far simpler, why don’t you just take a bag. If its too heavy to put on your shoulder, then you’ve packed stuff “just in case” that you don’t need.


This week I hate: All my recycling facilities are less than 100m from my house. Why have they moved the can collector nearly a mile away !.

This week I like:  A program/internet app, called you send it. Recommended by the excellent Mell from work, it allows you to send massive files to people, they receive an email with a link that they can easily download. Brilliant invention.

Another brilliant thing I read was in The money diet, the book by the Money Saving Expert. While growing up, mum used to always say to re-fill the kettle, for the next person that wants a drink. Now, I completely empty my kettle, and fill it up, by filling the correct number of cups required with water.

One cup of tea, takes less than 30 seconds to boil. Efficiency, in both cost and time.

Congratulations to Matt Bridges, who has moved out of Chester, and now lives on the Wirral.

One final thing, I’ve had it with Facebook. I’m removing my friends and decommissioning my account (so please dont be offended, if you’ve been dropped as a friend, I’ll still email you. I’m just going to use Facebook, as I used to use Friends Reunited (remember that) to find people I’ve lost touch with.

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


North Cheshire Trail.

Well, I’ve always loved Chester, but I have to say, that living here has made me lazy. When I lived in Manchester, my house was 4 miles from the city centre (which was itself 1 and a half miles across).

In Chester, a pub called the Fat Cat, is considered to be out of town, as it is on the other side of a main road, off the main run of town ?. The whole of Chester city centre (in which I live) is a third of a mile across !.

Delightful then to be out walking again today, as I do most Sunday’s. There are some great trails, walk-able from Chester city centre, but as I now work in Warrington, I have a train pass, which allows me to travel to Helsby and Frodsham for “free”.

I’ve done sections of the Sandstone trail, but today, I decided to walk a part of the North Cheshire way. Most walkers that I meet around the area, just follow the signposts, which is fine. I find, that by using my map, and hard earned navigation skills, I can find alternative sections of the route, which are much quieter.

If you look at the picture above, you can see the grass has grown 2-3 inches, and that this section, has hardly been walked by anyone, in the last couple of days. Places like this are obviously very quiet, and with the undisturbed undergrowth, its possible to “track” which kind of animals have passed this way recently. In this case, its some birds, a fox and a man walking his dog.

I couldn’t work out what kind of dog, but it was a large one. I also deduced from the length of stride, that he is around 5 feet 8, and walks with a stick (although the impressions from the stick are light, and the foot pads are even, which shows that he has no walking problems, and simply carries the stick for pleasure).

As I wandered around the hills, I was reminded of a few years ago, in the Alps. I was doing a mountaineering course with Plas Y Brenin. In the evening, we went for a pint, and met up with the mountaineering club of Ireland. A great bunch of lads, they insisted on a sing song.

Thankfully, Sunday Bloody Sunday, wasn’t one of the tunes, but there, so many miles from home, we started singing The Manchester Rambler. I quite like my job. I know that a lot of people don’t, but I think we all get a slight apprehension on Sunday, knowing that we have to go to work the next day.

The thing for  me, is the fact that we HAVE to go to work. Many of us, would probably still want to anyway, but I think its the lack of freedom that leads to apprehension.

Going back 70 years, to when work for many people, wasn’t the creative challenge, it is today (the time, around the Kinder Scout mass tresspass, when the song was written) one line from the song, really hit me. “I may be a workslave on Monday, but I am a free man on Sunday”.

That’s the thing about walking. You can choose whichever route your fitness will allow. Walk, stop, drink, sit down, change your route, and do just about anything else whenever you like while walking. It is an illustration of one of our most fundamental rights, the freedom to roam.

Enough Philosophy. I am working hard to get fit, but after 4 and a half hours of walking up hill and down dale, I am quite exhausted. I finish of my water, and treat myself to a Mars bar.

Helsby's award winning station, with one of the vollunteers painting a bench.

I wander back to Helsby, to get the train. I pass the station every morning and evening, it has won many awards, for being one of the best kept stations in the country. That kind of award doesn’t come easily, and as I sat relaxing, waiting for the train, one of the volunteers arrived and started to paint a bench.

Two Monitors. I've waited a long time for those, and I'm delighted.

Things continue to go well at work.  There is a leaving do on Friday, and a few of us, are going for a pint. A year of unemployment, has changed me, so there will be none of my infamous hell-raising, just 2 pints, and then the train home.

One of the other cool things about my job, is that my employer has loads of really cool life balance schemes. One of them, enabled me to finally get 2 monitors for my computer. Its taken me a few years to catch on to the multi monitor idea, but it makes the kind of work I do at home, much faster.

I was talking to Lee the other day (Lee has a teenager at home, as many of my colleagues do). I was explaining a dilemma I had recently. Two friends I have know for years, introduced me to their Children. Matt introduced me to Eve and Dave Littlewood introduced me to his son Dan.

In both cases, it made me think. We were friends when those children were born. For a brief moment, it made me wonder how my life would have been different, if I had chosen/been blessed with children. Would the immense pride of having a healthy and intelligent teenage child, really of-set the hard work and frankly the inconvenience of bringing them up. I have to say simply, that I don’t know. I have to say, that some people are just too selfish to have children, and that basically, I am one them.

Still, made me think of a mate called Jo, when we were in Morocco. We were heading home, and I asked everyone how they were getting back from the airport. Jo said that his daughter was going to pick him up, and he beamed with pride. I was explaining this to Lee, who said simply, considering the mayhem that teenagers cause at home, its probably simpler to live your life as you do, and get a taxi !.

My first attempt at Pasta and Meatballs.

I’ve been trying all sorts of recipes lately. Pasta and Meatballs, was one that I had never cooked for some reason.

I used the Jamie Oliver Botham Burgers recipe, to make the meatballs. Overall impartial opinion (by me) is that I need to work on the Pasta, as its still soggy, and some grated cheese would have finished off the ensemble more fully.

More news next week, when I cook chips and gravy 🙂

Gordon Gekko, in the iconic original Wall Street.

On the media front, there hasn’t been anything I’ve wanted to see on the cinema recently, so my 2 cinema vouchers from Powergen are sat on the shelf.

One film I really do want to see, when it comes out, is Wall Street 2. Do I think it will be as good as the original ? I don’t know. Do I buy the idea of GG becoming a hero and saving corporate America from itself ? Get real.

The main 2 reasons I want to watch it are. 1, how things have change in 30 years since the original (I mean that, as much in terms of sets and clothing, as I do in acting and film making) and 2, how are they going to transition this guy, who is on the outside of a game he dominated and effectively built in the first place (I’ve been listening to Once I was the king by Hard Fi, and it made me thing of it).

On the TV front, the 2nd half of the DR Who finale, is on next week. It looks really good this time, as they seem to have an original plot, rather than just rolling out the Dalek’s peace meal (although there are Dalek’s in it).

I’m still watching Breaking Bad, as recommended by Jason MacDonald, a couple of weeks ago, when he came down for the evening with Caz.

To finish off, I just thought I’d put up this video of a printer, made entirely from Lego.

The IPhone 4 is out on Thursday. I’ll probably get one for personal use, but I’m going to wait a while and see if I can get a better deal. In the meantime I’m trying to get a phone for work, can anyone recommend a good Windows Mobile/Windows phone, its a while since I had one.

Near and Far, best wishes. John

3 days with an Ipad.

The Apple Ipad. Breakthrough in handheld technology or a sollution looking for a problem ?

Okay, the IPad arrived a couple of weeks ago.

New releases from Apple, are normally delivered like some kind of technological Nuremberg Rally.

As much as I am no fan of some of Apples “lock in” business practices, or the nauseating attitude of some of their fans (who treat Apple, and Steve Jobs, like some kind of religion) their record speaks for itself.

For 20 years, personal stereo’s in whatever form, were dominated by Sony. In just a few short years, Apple got involved, and now have 75% of the worldwide market.

Similar can be said of the IPhone. Extremely late to the smart-phone market, and with no “local” experience to draw on, they have effectively created the “app” market and by the end of summer, will have sold 100,000,000 Iphone/Ipod touches, from a virtual standing start over 3 years.

What’s the secret. Well, a couple of years ago, I had a HTC, At the time, it was the most advanced smart-phone in the world. Why then, did I always find myself using my IPhone in preference. The truth, I believe, is that Apple products, were designed for PEOPLE to use.

That might seem nieve and simplified, but the best features in the world are useless, unless they are easy to access, and make simple sense, to ordinary people (that goes for every kind of technology, from toasters that can defrost, to 11th generation Dell Poweredge servers).

I wanted to try one out, so asked that Richard Branson of Gadgets, Glenn,  if I could borrow one (and since he had 2, he agreed ).

Using the Ipad on the train to work.

The first things that struck me, was its size. I had expected it to be the size of an A4 clipboard (which for me, would have been too big). I was delighted to find it was just the right compromise, between ease of handling, and screen real-estate.

The most important thing for me, is how long it takes to start up. If it takes about 30 – 40 seconds like a laptop, than its not much use at all. The reality, is it boots almost instantaneously, and once working, the apps run at startling speeds (well they do compared to the IPhone).

After using it at home for a day or 2, I decided that proper “Sea trials” were needed. I took it with me to work, and got started on the train.

I get the early train, so it was pretty quiet. It occurred to me, that if the train had been busy, and you were standing up, you could still have used the IPad. Its just about the only technology apart from IPods and Phones, that can do this.

I tried out the word-processor – pages. Apart from the silly name, it was pretty good. Locking the IPad into landscape, I typed a couple of pages, with minimal mistakes. I was impressed.

The only problem I found, was 95% of the time being used, I was browsing the internet. Since this wasn’t available, I was quite at a loss (I kept referring back to my IPhone, to check the news, emails etc).

I had a go of a few features like the Todo list, and Calendar, and couldn’t see much advantage over their smaller brothers and sisters on the IPhone.

A sort of blog magazine called Frypaper and a virtual version of the Marvel Comic Iron Man, finished off the journey. When used as interactive media, the IPad is at least as good as FHM or the Telegraph (or some other more appropriate magazine/paper).

Ideal for "Sofa Surfing" the Ipad, was well recieved by everyone at work.

I arrived at work. We have a secure wireless network, and the IPad really came into its own.

The reality, is that its a computer, that can be handled like a magazine this allows it to be interacted with like no other computer.

Lee from work certainly enjoyed using it, its the ultimate “Sofa Surfer”.

It was so solidly built, that I took it around the office with me while working. It went down a treat, and everyone  loved it (but I couldn’t help thinking, did they love it enough to part with £500).

And thats the thing…

In the end, the IPad is basically a tablet browser. Something similar running Google Android and selling for £200, wouldn’t be the coolest thing around, but would probably be just as useful, if your goal was research/information gathering.

The other irony, was that while using it to find information, I always had a pen and paper to hand, to write things down.

If you just couldn’t decide where to go on holiday, and you were travelling on a 2 hour train journey with internet, I can’t think of anything presently on the market that would allow you to do that better than an IPad.

This review has been entirely typed and published to the web, using the IPad. Its the  first time the website has been updated without using a pc,  since the websites inception. Thanks to Glenn for lending me the IPad.

Weekends, Socks and Adventure.

Pairing up my sockes on Saturday Morning.

As I’ve mentioned before, I always try to plan each weekend in advance, so that I get everything possible out of it.

Friday night, the weather was fab. I don’t go out much now, and tend to stop in with a bottle of wine, but ventured out all the same.

The commercial (recently opened) is excellent as I’ve said before. Thing that’s good, is it backs onto a forecourt, which it shares with the Victoria and the Amber Lounge. Away from the main runs of session drinkers, its an oasis.

Saturday mornings are the time when I write emails, do web research (see bellow) and catch up on the TV that I’ve recorded.

Lets just say that some of the TV programs I watch  are action orientated and don’t really require the use of your brain. I therefore schedule some mundane tasks for this time. Above are the socks I was pairing up while watching 2 episodes of Human Target.

Got me thinking. I moved to Chester in September 2001, so in a couple of months, I’ll have lived here 10 years. As I was reviewing my emails, I got an update from the excellent Woodsmoke (they run Adventure Bushcraft courses, you can see some of the stuff I’ve done with them here.)

In the update, Ben Mcnutt (who runs Woodsmoke, along with Lisa Fenton) wrote about various stuff, and that they had written-up their ethos on the revised website (you can read it here.). Its pretty moving stuff and definitely worth a read.

That’s when it hit me. When I came here (worked in Helsby for about 18 months before I actually lived here) I decided to climb Helsby Hill. All these years later, I still hadn’t done it (although I’ve visited 56 countries !).

With that, I grabbed my trusty “old trainers”, jumped on the train, and made it happen.

Me standing on Helsby Hill, after nearly 10 years.

Well here I am, standing on the top.

I have an OS map of the area (It was invaluable, when I was unemployed, to organise walks on the cheap), and using skills I learned on the NNAS Bronze and Silver course, I was able to back track along the Sandstone Trail, and meet the train home, at Frodsham 2 hours later.

Job well done.

Web Res:

On my IPhone, I have a really cool to do list. One thing I frequently do, is put information into it, prefixed with wr. This stands for Web Res or Web Research.

The basic idea, is that I make time, to go and look at things on the web, rather then when they are thrown at me by email or such. I set time aside, to carefully read about things that I’ve decided are important, at a time when my brain can take them in.

For example. If your firm allows it, there is nothing wrong in booking an easyjet flight over lunchtime. If I was selecting an adventure holiday and there were 8 to choose from, you might try something similar over a couple of lunch hours. DON’T.

Sunday morning with a cup of coffee, Tuesday evening after jogging. Only you know, when your imagination and creativity are at their most heightened, and that’s the time to do your wr (it also works for paper catalogues, and tv programmes about interesting places and subjects, but one thing at a time).

Glenn gets an Ipad.

Glenn browsing johnsunter.com on his new Ipad.

That technology and gadget “whore” Glenn, has done it again, and somehow managed to get hold of an Apple Ipad, even though they aren’t officially on sale in this country yet.

He previously ordered one, through a mail forwarding company. I was enlightened to hear, that there are addresses in America, where you can order things, and then the owner of the “house” simply charges you a small fee, and forwards it onto you.

Glenn had tried this before, but those marketing Nazi’s at Apple, emailed him shortly after to cancel the order, as they recognised the forwarding address.

I have been asked what I think of the Ipad. Put simply, I think it’s a superb tool for researching things on the web, but beyond that, I cant see what it would be used for. I do agree with Steve Jobs, that it sits more comfortably, between a laptop and a smartphone, than a netbook (but then a Netbook costs about £200, which from a travel perspective, along with its size, is its main advantage).

Well, I’ll be seeing Glenn, in a couple of days, I look forward to seeing what its like.

New Job and Affirmations.

An affirmation card I found on the internet. Mine aren't as poncy as this.

I have a list of affirmations, which I read every morning and evening, for 10 minutes (I found the picture above, on the internet, mine aren’t as spiritual as that, if you know what I mean).

There are 10 statements, and they say things like when I’m focussed, I can solve almost any problem and I never waste time or money.

Some people don’t believe this kind of personal programming works, but something interesting, has happened to me lately, that really shows the power of conditioning.

I’m using a program on my IPhone called Sleep Cycle (my new job is great, and I’m home each day before 5, but I have to manage my sleep, energy and hydration levels carefully, to perform at my best). The basic idea of Sleep Cycle, is it monitors your movements while sleeping, and works out if your dreaming, in deep sleep etc.

In the morning, it plots a graph of your sleep pattern throughout the night. One things that surprised me, is for the last 2 weeks during workdays, I have inexplicably woken each night, between 1am and 2am.

I couldn’t work out why, until yesterday. When I was unemployed, I had a job alert from CW Jobs, that delivered an email with new vacancy’s each day. As you can imagine, at that time, it was one of the most important events in my existence.

In the months that I wasn’t working, I have physiologically conditioned myself to wake at that time, and even though, there is now now email, no noise to wake me and actually no reason at all to wake then, it still happens.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes to stop !.

My welcome lunch from work (the flash on my camera didnt seem to  be working).

Well, its the end of my 2nd week at work, and along with my 2 close colleagues (and friends) Robert and Lee, I was taken for my welcome lunch. I would have gone last Friday, but as some of you know, I stupidly cut my finger, with my leatherman pliers, and spent Friday lunchtime, in Warrington hospital casualty department.

You might think, since our company operates in more than 100 countries, we would look a bit more “corporate”.

The truth is, it’s a very focussed, but laid back environment, and there isn’t any need for the ostentatious ball breaking that I witnessed at places like Arthur Andersen.