Tag: tv/film/book rev

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 …


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…

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.


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

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).


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 !.


Jonathan Creek, Easter Special.

I watched the Easter special of Jonathan Creeke (a crime drama I’ve followed for several years). Story is, that because money was tight, Alan Davies (who has played Creeke superbly for more than a decade) had to take a pay cut, and a scene at the end was filmed at night, as there wasn’t enough money to pay for the set to be done properly.

Whatever, but I pay my TV License, the same as everyone. Why is money saved on good programs like this, and wasted on Strictly/Next big theatre star, whatever.

Anyway, on a positive note, terrestrial TV seems to be making a comeback. Dr Who and Ashes to Ashes are easily the 2 best programs on TV at the moment.

On the American TV front:

Fringe. Previously excellent, recent episode Peter, was probably the best one they’ve made, the episode after that, fairly mediocre. Its a great series, somebody needs to pay attention.

Stargate Universe. Came back on TV after several months away, with a bang. Its superb, I hope they keep this up.

House. Okay its good, but it seems to do the same things its done for 6 years, and the mind-games stuff, is now just tedious. I far prefer the patient of the week, and an amazing solution, but that hardly ever seems to happen any more.

Flash Forward. I watched Jonathan Ross on film 2000. He said that there were 3 things that were essential to a film/drama. I forget the other 2, but he said its important that the characters are in some way believable, and that we care about and empathise with them.

Otherwise, when the plot, puts them into danger, we just don’t care (and in fact sometimes we want them to get shot/blown up etc). His criticism at the time, was levelled at a film called Mission to Mars, but exactly the same could be said about Flash Forward. I’ve just stopped watching it, I’d rather watch Coronation street (and that’s saying something).