Tag: walking


If you live in the centre of Chester and scanned a wireless network with the same name as this website, welcome to johnsunter.com – the adventures of an ordinary person.

Some of our regular visitors may have noticed some changes recently. The banner above has been changed from the Ganges at sunset to Uluru at sunrise, to symbolise a new beginning. Technical changes include  a tag cloud on the right and I have finally fixed the scrolling quotes.

It was my intention to re-launch the website yesterday, but various things caught up with me. We will now be re-launching on Friday the 5th of November. The tag cloud on the right will be fixed on all versions of explorer. Most importantly, the pages about Capetown, which complete my bluelist (and have taken nearly a year to update !) will be up on the website.

I’ll also be writing to catch up with some of you, who I’ve lost touch with.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Meet up with an old friend.

Nick joining us for a drink at my brothers house.

There aren’t many positive things about attending a funeral, but it was made a little better by the appearance of my old friend Nick Barker.

Afterwards, he came back to me brothers house and the 3 of us were reminiscing for several hours about old times.

I took nick up on his invite and had a night out in Newton Heath. It was just the way I remember it (although Jon Leech now has the pub, and there was no Lionel there to call me joystick john (alluding to my work in computers). We had some good humored laughs at the bar of the White Lion, and another old friend, Gary Hilton popped in.

A rather annoying drunken woman kept wanting to interrupt our conversation. But of course, this is Newton Heath, and there is no poncing about, re etiquette. Some words were exchanged and she was encouraged go away.

Went to the Church street Chippy on the way home, that was a trip down memory lane. I spent the rest of the evening chatting to Nick’s wife Maggie and got to meet their son Sam ( he was 3 when I moved to Chester and 13 now, he really is an amazing lad).

Ill go back as soon as I get the chance, thanks to everyone for making me so welcome.

On the subject of old friends, Julie Coffee (previously Julie Dermody) got in touch with me through me website, so I’ll be meeting her for lunch, next time I’m in Manchester.

A quick thanks for the kind words from a bloke called Phil, who I worked with at (the awful) Corning.

Finally, completely out of the blue, after rumors of him disappearing and re-emerging all over Europe and the UK (which is contained inside Europe, I got an email from Craig Sutton, an old friend from my early days in Chester.

To all of you, thanks for getting in touch.


Halloween at the Griffin house.

Around at Tony and Lorraine’s house the other evening for Halloween. Well, actually, I don’t normally go for all that crap, and I went around for Sunday roast, nice wine and good company.

However, forces were at work to get me on board with the whole trick or treat thing.

Back in my younger days, when trick or treat first contaminated the UK from America, children used to knock on your door and ask for money. If they didn’t get it, you would have dog excrement put through your letterbox !.

Things have moved on, and Lorraine (who spent a number of years in Canada, and something of an enthusiast of this stuff), had a chocolate box for “the kids” and even had a sculpted pumpkin, in the window, which you can see above.

In Fairness, many of the child visitors had made a real effort, and one particular child was dressed as a mummy, with bandages and everything.

Anyway, as I grow a little older, and become more miserable and cantankerous, its nice to know that I can still enjoy pointless indulgences like this, once in a while.


Retro 30 year old gaming with Atari.

One of my colleagues at work was asking me about the lyrics from a song, presently annoying people listening to the radio on their way to work. “Maybe he’s an XBox and I’m more an Atari” go the lyrics. Whats an Atari asks Gareth ?

After my mum passed, some of my old possession have come back into the fold. What do you know, the 1980’s Atari that David and I saved so hard to buy was setup in my house the other evening.

Atari revolutionized home gaming. Before that, was Binatone with dozens of different games, all based on a kind of ping-pong theme. The Atari allowed you to play as many games of Space Invaders as you liked without having to part with 10p, for every 3 lives !.

In perfect working order, it even had the Kempston pro joystick, which we bought, when the bobbins one sourced with the Atari fell apart. My living room was alight with Pacman and Defender, but I simply couldn’t find space invaders anywhere (I found a copy on ebay for 99p, so that should be pretty good).


The Sandstone Trail Sign.

I’ll  be re-walking the Sandstone trail this weekend with Tony. We have found a camping barn to sleep over in mid trail and a pub nearby for our evening meal.

Next week I’ll be in Budapest from Tuesday until Friday. Its my first and only overseas trip of the year, I’ve just about been able to scrape the money together, so I’m going to make the very most of the trip, and get everything I possibly can from it.

I was reading about the UK Government putting up the Tax on long haul flights.  The thinking by our betters, is that International travel, is obviously a luxury and should therefore be taxed even more.

My thoughts on this are clear. I’m not going to go with the “other people choose to have children as their hobby, so leave mine alone” nonsense. However by the time I’ve paid taxes for everything and everybody else, there’s usually a bit of money left just for me. Why cant they just leave that alone.

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.

Pursuit of Fitness.

Getting fit.

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

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

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

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

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

Steak Night.

Steak Preperation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The finished Steak.

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

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

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

Tables, Internet and the Cold war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking the Edisbury Way.


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

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

Futuristic house Steppingstones.

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

Walking through corn fields.

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

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


Go Karting

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


First of all, apologies for the delay putting up this weeks pages. I have worked the past 2 weekends (but I have this Friday off, so it should all balance out).

Lyndsay’s birthday.

Lyndsay with the cake that she made.

Congratulations to a close colleague and friend, Lyndsay, who celebrated her birthday last week.

Not only did Lyndsay go to Oxford, maintain a significant role in the accounts department, is captain of a sports team and  qualifying as an accountant, but she can also bake (as you can see from the delicious cake, featured in this picture).

From everyone here at johnsunter.com (which these days, is basically, me) happy birthday.

Final episode of Last of the summer wine (whine ???).


On the subject of time passing, the final episode of Last of the summer wine aired recently.

My stepfather used to make me watch this tired rubbish when I was a teenager (and that ship sailed long ago !)

I just wish I could find the people who made this rubbish, and find out what was going through their minds ?.

No actually, I wouldn’t like to speak to them. In silence, I would like to load them all onto a bus and then drive it of a cliff. The loss of my own life, would be a small price to pay, to rid the world of these media criminals.

In a perverse way, I actually prefer the hated Big Brother. At least they are trying to do something modern and different (though failing miserably).

Simplified life. The joy of a small garden.

Garden before.

A lot of people are critical of my garden. They say unkind things, like “it isn’t really a garden at all” or “why don’t you cover over the windows on your back door, so you can’t see that thing”.

Well, I’m quite fond of my garden (despite the fact that its a bit noisy, because of the generators used by the Mill Hotel).

I have spent many years, trying to simplify my life in as many ways as possible. My garden has one additional advantage. Take a look, at the picture above.

Now look at the picture bellow.

The Garden after.

I think you’ll agree, that in this picture, the garden is a lot tidier.

It took me 25 minutes to maintain my garden, after 4 months of neglect. Can you sort out your garden more quickly ?.

The cost of good outdoor gear, is never wasted.


I recently had to work the bank holiday. It involved coming into work early on a Sunday morning (6am). Although the Government, constantly bang on about the environment and public transport, sometimes, they just don’t provide an alternative.

In this instance, the first train to Warrington from Chester, would have got me there at 9:30am !. No good at all.

I decided to sleep over the night before. I set up my bed rig as you can see above. I also got some microwave pizza’s for supper, and relaxed watching the Sopranos on my laptop, before retiring to “bed”.

I was up bright and early, and everything went to plan. Unfortunately, it has been pointed out, that the building isn’t insured for tenancy, and it wasn’t the cleverest thing I’ve ever done. Obviously I’ve promised not to do it again.

Talking of trains. I got up last Saturday, to get the 6:13am train (yes, 6:13am). I was standing on the platform, and it was cancelled. Can you imagine how annoying that was ?.

More walking and adventure.

The Sandstone Trail.

Well, we’ve been out and about walking again. The weekend before last, we did a circular walk around Frodsham, to find the source of the Manchester Ship Canal.

Last weekend, we walked from Frodsham to Delamere forest, along the Sandstone Trail route, I walked some years ago, with Frank.

We usually wrap up a walk, with a couple of pints in the Helter Skelter pub in Frodsham (that’s if the walk actually ends in Frodsham 🙂 A lot of the other walkers and cyclists there, sport beards, and for a brief time (about 3/8ths of a second to be exact) I considered growing one myself.

I occasionally wander around Warrington at lunch-time. Some people are a bit snobby when it comes to visiting places like Pound World. I popped in the other day, and got a superb luggage scales, which I’ve wanted for ages.

I nearly paid £15 for some in Capetown airport, so you can imagine my delight at getting exactly what I wanted, for a £.

If you get a minute, read Simon Calder’s website. It really is excellent.

Unusual surprise about Newton Heath.

The old Co-op on the corner of Church Street and Oldham Road.

While growing up, I lived in a place called Newton Heath, in East Manchester. I don’t like to do the place down, but lets just say, with the exception of a few close friends (who have mostly moved out themselves) I’m not sad that I don’t live there anymore.

Everyone knows, that Man United’s original name was Newton Heath football club, and played at the Loco (pretty much 100 metres behind where this photo was taken).

What I didn’t realise, was the number of interesting and famous people (in addition to myself) that came from there.

Mike Atherton – Famous cricketer and OBE, actually went to Briscoe lane school.

Alfred Morris – Barron of Manchester. I didn’t even know that Manchester had a Barron !

Sir Harold Matthew Evans – Former editor of the Times.

Judy Finnigan – born and brought up on Amos avenue, where I delivered papers.

Mather and Platt the international engineering company (now owned by Germans) was founded here.

Okay, its not exactly Who’s Who, but its a lot more inspiring than I had expected.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Walking in Runcorn.

A Heron in the Water.

Couple of months ago, I did some work at a company called AppSense. While travelling there, I realised there was a sort of pony track between Runcorn east Railway station and Daresbury park.

I’ve been working out routes around Helsby/Frodsham/Runcorn East for my regular Sunday walk, and since the path crosses a canal, I thought that would make a good start.

The idea was pretty simple. Head out from Runcorn, about 4 miles along the Canal, then leave the Canal, and follow the river weaver, a couple of miles back into Frodsham.

I met Tony at Runcorn Railway station (he was an hour and a half late, but I had the new Dan Brown, so I made good use of the time).

A bridge on the Canal.

Weather was fab all day. The views along the bank of the canal were remarkable.

After walking through forests, walks next to water are my favourite. There is something very relaxing about Canals, and you constantly meet people coming the other way walking dogs or the occasional barge.

An abandoned boat.

Everything was going fine and Tony and I were discussing our first trip around the world in 2004.

Time seemed to fly and I had a thought. Shouldn’t we have reached the river weaver by now ?.

When we saw someone friendly, I whipped out the map, and asked where we were. We had gone 5 miles too far !. We started heading back along the river Weaver.

We had miles to go, and instead of walking along the left bank (which would have allowed us to “cut the corner into Frodsham”), we ended up walking along the right (which according to the map, doesn’t actually have a path !).

The banks of the river weaver are probably the nicest scenery I have seen while I’ve been walking in the area (and I go walking around there every Sunday now). Problem is, we couldn’t enjoy it, as we had limited time.

There was overgrown long grass, sunken boats, biting insects and mounds of horse sh1t. It was like something from Indiana Jones.

After hours and hours, we finally got back to Frodsham after 9pm at night (4 hours later than expected).

The Tunnel pub in <name>.

After hours and hours, we finally got back to Frodsham after 9pm at night (4hrs later than expected).

Unlike Indiana Jones, there was no beautiful girl and treasure, only Tony and a pint of Fosters, but what an adventure all the same.

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 …


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).

Wirral Coastal Path.

The international docks near Hamilton Square.

I try to go walking every weekend now (mostly on a Sunday if I can). Although I’m working again now, I learned how to organise an adventure for £5 while I was unemployed, and I continue to “invent” new ones.

The Wirral Coastal path, runs from Hamilton Square to West Kirby and is about 12 miles. It ends where the Wirral Way begins, so the 2 can be combined to make a smart 25 mile walk.

A return ticket from Chester to West Kirby, costs £4.40. You get off the train at Hamilton Square, do the walk, and get back on the train at one of several stations, upto and including West Kirby. Bottle of water, flask of coffee, home made packed lunch, all in for less than a fiver.

I met up with my companions, Amelia and Tony. We arrived (well some of us did !) at the last possible minute before the train left. A misunderstanding about who was bringing what, made a re-distribution of gear a necessity (subsequently, on a windy day, I was cold for most of the route, as I had to lend out my Hagloff jacket).

Setting of from Hamilton Square, we walk along the water front, with spectacular views of Liverpool. After about a mile, you have to head inland, as one of the docks, is an international port (or as international as Ireland gets) and as such, is a secure facility. Its just a shame that you cant walk the whole way along the waterfront.

A section of the Wirral coastal path.

Once we leave Seacombe ferry port, the route changes, and landscapes like the one above form much of the rest of the route, with Sand-dunes to the left, a path down the middle, and a beach to the right.

It being a coastal path, it’s pretty flat. Unlike the Wirral Way though, there was virtually no cover, so although it was dry all day, when the wind came howling, you had to take it on the chin.

As you can see from this picture, we could either walk along the concrete path, or along the sandy beach. Luckily, I had my old trainers on (walking boots on concrete is about the best way to get impossibly blistered feet I know off).

Fort Perch Rock.

As we get close to New Brighton, we see Fort Perch Rock (a Naval fort, built during the Napolionic wars). I wanted to go inside, but it was about £4, which I thought was just too expensive.

We tried to find somewhere to sit and eat our sandwiches, but it was really windy.

We reached New Brighton, which to say the least, was a surprise. There must be about 20 chippy’s in close proximity. Some sort of “poncy” theatre, which looks completely out of place. A strip club, which didn’t look out of place at all, and a fairground (which reminded me of all the reasons I don’t go to fairgrounds).

Moving on, we left New Brighton behind, and the beaches opened up before us (there were loads of people wind surfing and stuff like that).

The Beach.

We decided not to walk all the way to West Kirby, and instead, catch the train back from Moreton.

For eight years, I worked at a company,  with one of its offices in Moreton. I frequently got the train back, which was a ten minute walk along a straight road. Just near the the station, the road climbed to a steep hill, and I always wondered for all of those year’s what was on the other side.

As a walked along a familiar looking road, inland (the opposite direction) and climbed to the top of the hill. I realised that the road to the Train Station, continues on to the beach.

The logo of this website, is someone (me actually) sat on a sofa, with a mountain behind him. The idea is that someone is relaxing, and adventures becons close buy, but he doesn’t see it and doesnt realise just how close it is.

I must have had several hundred lunch hours when I worked in Moreton, and never realised an interesting beach walk was 10 minutes away.

Well, anther cracking day out, and it was great to see that Travel “War Dog” again, Tony.

The return of Mac and Caz.

The return of Mac and Caz.

Two old friends came down to Chester last weekend. I last saw Caz, a couple of years ago, at my brothers wedding, but I hadn’t seen Mac, in nearly 20 years.

I put on a bit of a Barbecue in my garden, then we popped out for a couple of pints.

Unfortunately, it was Race day, so we stayed local at the Frog and Nightingale, and saw of a few there.

It was great staying up late, catching up and talking about old times.

The next day, I cooked breakfast for everyone, and then we had a tour of the town (I have been on all 4 of the official Chester tours, so I’m pretty good at it now).

Back home for Coffee, then Mac had to get off home (he has 2 daughters now).

Caz and I went on a walk around the Meadows (its about 9 or 10 miles, and one of my favourite walks in Chester). I was delighted, when he took me out for a Curry (I’m working again now, but I’ve only just started, and a year of unemployment, has taken its financial toll).

What really suprised me (and probably shouldn’t) was they both call themselves Jason and Paul, and I’m probably the only person that still call them Mac and Caz.

The 2 other members of our “Gang” David and Lee, weren’t able to make it, but we are planning another meet, and hopefully everyone can attend this time.