31 December 2006

Okay, who stole Christmas? I cannot believe it is already New Year’s Eve; it only feels like yesterday that it was Christmas Eve!

So, Christmas Day. It started and finished pretty much like any Christmas Day does here, with the usual food fest stuck in the middle! We got up around 9:30AM, had breakfast and then opened our presents whilst drinking Bucks Fizz! As I said, pretty much like any other Christmas - 10:00AM and the alcohol had started!

Later in the morning, Lynda started to prepare Christmas dinner, with me as the fetch and carry assistant! I had choices to make by this point - open one of the new bottles of Whisky that Santa had brought me or stick with an already open bottle? I chose an open bottle of Glenmorangie. A very short while later Lynda joined in with a Sherry. The cooking was now under way! After a superb meal of Turkey and all the “extras”, plus a bottle of wine of course, it was time to get settled down in front of the TV - Christmas afternoon has to be spent trying (unsuccessfully) not to fall asleep doesn’t it?

Boxing Day was another quiet day spent at home. We ate, we drank a little, and we watched TV a lot. We certainly did not join in with the craziness that is the Boxing Day sales! Why anyone would face that madness when they could be at home eating and drinking is beyond me! Then again, it could have something to do with my total dislike of shopping!

All too soon it was back to work and the prospect of three days of total boredom. That is just how it turned out - no customers = no cars in the workshop = me having nothing to do! It was so bad that I actually CHOSE to do a full stock take! I’ve spent the past 25 years trying to avoid doing stock takes and this year I do one just to avoid being bored!

With just under nine hours of 2006 left it’s time to look forward to the New Year. If the weather picks up (it’s windy and raining now) then tomorrow the plan is for Lynda and I to do a repeat of the walk we did last New Years Day. If the weather is still bad… food and drink! That’s as far as I want, and need, to look ahead!


22 December 2006

The past few days have seen the weather turn decidedly horrible! Derbyshire, along with most of the country, has been covered with thick fog accompanied by freezing temperatures.

The ride into work on Wednesday wasn’t too bad, the fog was pretty thick but at least it was daylight. Coming home in the evening, well, that was a little trickier. The fog came down even more, it was dark and on top of all that, my glasses kept misting over! I was like riding with my eyes closed! By the time I reached home water was literally dripping off the end of my chin and from my glasses! All good fun!

Yesterday, I went into town and I finished my Christmas shopping. Having all my shopping done this early is something of a result for me - I can often be rushing around at the last moment! Not this year! Having saved a couple of days holiday for just before Christmas was worked out rather well; all the shopping is done, I don’t have to face the gridlocked roads as everyone tries to get into town and I get more time to sit around in front of the TV and eat!

Being at home during the day has given us a chance to see just what is eating all the bird food that we put out in the garden each day. So far this morning we’ve been visited by up to a dozen House Sparrow, two Blackbirds, three Dunnock, three Collared Dove and two Wood Pigeon. I’ve heard, but not seen, a Robin and a single Wren has been moving around in the garden next door. A very small mouse has been fetching seed from one of the bird tables and a squirrel put in a brief appearance on the garage roof.

In a short while, Lynda and I are going out for lunch. We are off to The Bulls Head at Breaston. It’s not a place I’ve been to before but Lynda often goes with some old work mates and says how good the food is! I’ll let you know what I think!

Three photos from out in the garden this morning.

20 December 2006

Facts and figures!

If you like facts and figures that, well, tell you all the facts and figures then here are a few I’ve found relating to the new indoor speed world record that was set back on the 12 December!

Cars totalling £750,000 were put through their paces, each car having 3 timed runs over the 230 metre straight in the NEC, Birmingham.

The results will be submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for approval and certification. The times were recorded using a Vericom VC3000PC Performance Tester and were overseen by independent data company Datron Technology who are recognised by the Guinness Book of Records.

Some of the vehicles taking part included…

Ariel Atom Supercharged 300HP Costing £35,000
Top speed - 76.80mph

Aston Martin V8 Vantage 380HP Costing £82,800
Top speed - 64.80mph

Audi RS4 (LT) 414HP Costing £51,825
Top speed - 72.14mph

BMW Z4M 338HP Costing £42,795
Top speed - 64.87mph

Ford GT 500HP Costing £120,900
Top speed - 71.53mph

Jaguar XKR (LT) 420HP Costing £67,495
Top speed - 59.78mph

Mitsubishi EVO FQ360 366HP Costing £35,504
Top speed - 75.61mph

Shelby Daytona Cobra 530HP Costing £91,650
Top speed - 68.65mph

Westfield Sport 2000 192HP Costing £19,950
Top speed - 68.49mph

And the winner…

Autograss Special - Toyota engine - 280HP Costing £20,000

Top speed 82.05mph!!!

Oh, and the old record? That was 81mph, set by “The Stig” from Top Gear driving a Toyota F1 Grand Prix car.

18 December 2006

So much for looking forward to seeing Bluehorses at The Flowerpot! I didn’t make it! And, I’m NOT happy about it! After a couple of days of small warning twinges my bad back kicked in again on Friday afternoon, and for the first time in around 8 years I missed a Bluehorses gig at The Flowerpot!

All thoughts of returning to the gym with a vengeance have obviously gone out the window again, that will now have to wait either until later this week or even after Christmas! I will get back into the routine of doing a workout 3 or 4 times a week though.

I forgot a little snippet of “news” last week… I’m a winner! Albannach, one of the bands we follow, had a competition on their web site to win a silver pendant of the band's logo and I won! Even though the band are based in Scotland the pendant will be coming over from America, where it is being “made to order”, so when it arrives I’ll post a picture or two on here.

On Sunday, I started my Christmas shopping. I don’t like to start too early but then again, I don’t like leaving things until the last minute! Sunday seemed like a good compromise to me! Well, it was still a whole week before Christmas Eve! I’m nowhere near finished though so there is still plenty of time for a last minute panic!

One last little bit… A “grasser”, sorry , an Autograss racer, has set a new speed record! 82 mph, INDOORS!!! Phil Cooper, ARC5, set the record at the NEC, Birmingham! There is a video of it below, just click on the arrow in the centre of the screen to play - you may have to click twice!

11 December 2006

Just a flying visit to bring the past week or so up to date!

After almost cancelling the gym membership a couple of weeks ago, I have now found the enthusiasm to get myself back there and start my workouts again! Note, I said "I" have now found the enthusiasm! Lynda is still not so keen!

A week ago today our cable TV stopped working and, to cut a very long story short, it was only fixed this afternoon. It has taken more than three hours of phone calls, two separate visits from two different engineers and four set-top boxes to finally resolve the problem! Talk about a company with No Technical Liaison, No Team Leader to take complaints over the phone and a Near Total Loss of our custom! Still, it’s sorted now so we’re back to having dozens of channels of nothing to watch! Well, apart from this years New Zealand Stock Car Championships which have been great so far!

The weather has put paid to my cycling somewhat this past week. Strong winds and heavy rain have been the norm most days so it’s been back to using the car. The rest of this week looks like being much the same.

On Saturday, Lynda and I went on the Derby RSPB Group coach trip to Far Ings Nature Reserve. This trip was also the group's Christmas dinner outing so, for me at least, the birding wasn’t such a priority! I was more interested in getting back to the hotel for the Christmas dinner! We did see one or two good birds during the morning - Dunlin, Shelduck, Redshank, Sparrowhawk, Curlew and Yellowhammer being amongst them - but the hotel bar and the food was always going to be the highlight for me.


Last night, I drove down to Bilston to see Bluehorses play. The Robin is now one of my favourite venues, since its refit a year or two back, and last night's gig was another good one. The band played a great set to a reasonable sized crowd but I think that a Friday or Saturday night would see a lot more people turn out. The weather probably didn’t help either - strong winds and heavy rain made for a tricky journey. This coming Friday sees Bluehorses playing at The Flowerpot in Derby, now that WILL be a good gig!


03 December 2006



Last night was the launch of the new NEVERLAND CD at The Flowerpot, in Derby, and what a launch it was! It was one of the best gigs I’ve seen at the ‘Pot, if not the best!

NEVERLAND took to the stage at just after 9:30PM and played a non-stop set right through until around 11:30PM. In total, they played over 20 tracks, some old favourites, some from the new CD that will soon become favourites!

I’ll not go into a full track list but Talking Tree started the night off, then we were treated to Doom Garden Jelly Fish Blues, Fire Cradle, Never Learned to Speak, Kebab No More and Think I’m Gonna Buy a Car, amongst others. The final encore was the classic Stars and the Blues, the perfect end to a perfect gig!


The new CD, well I’ve only had chance to play it through once so far but on first hearing it’s great! After another play or two, to get used to the new tracks, I reckon it’s going to become one of my regularly played CD’s.

More NEVERLAND photos!

So, what else has been going on - not a whole lot!

After a week or so of thinking about it, Lynda and I have decided to carry on with our gym membership. Since the summer, we’ve not been making the most of the place and came close to stopping altogether. The next week or two will prove to be make or break I think. I’m off work for a couple of days this week so will go to the gym during the day as well as after work later in the week. I’m off work again next Monday so the plan is another daytime workout then. With luck, this will prove the kick-start that I need!

Derby County… well, the unbeaten run from November came to a halt with the first game of December! A 1-0 defeat away to West Brom on Saturday saw The Rams stay in fourth place in the table, 3 points off the top spot.

29 November 2006

It's not very often that we have a lot to shout about here in Derby when it comes to football, but tonight Derby won again!

Six wins out of six in November - 18 points in the bag! Let's just hope they can keep it going!

At least we will not be reading the same old story in the papers... "If only we had done better before Christmas!"

After tonight’s win Derby are now just one point away from the top of the table. Fingers crossed for the rest of the season!

28 November 2006

Not much going on but here’s a quick catch-up!

Saturday was a day off work so Lynda and I took a quick trip into Derby - haircut for me, moved some money around different bank accounts so I can pay for the PC I had back in January (I love interest free credit!) and also purchased some new insoles for my walking boots. With a bit of luck the insoles may help with the damn blisters I get on long walks! I’m not holding my breath on that one though!

By Sunday morning, the heavy rain and strong winds of Friday and Saturday had passed so it was all go for a walk around Carsington Water. The plan was to meet Mel at 9:30AM - I arrived at just after 9:15AM and expected a long wait - time keeping IS NOT something Mel does! Much to my amazement by 9:35AM, we had started walking! Guess there’s a first time for everything.

Even after all the rain we’d had the paths around the reservoir weren’t too muddy with only the odd place or two that had us picking our way around areas of deep mud. For the first hour or so, the weather was a little dull and overcast but by around 10:45AM the sun was starting to break through. The rest of the morning was bright, and at times, even a little warm.

The new insoles in my boots seemed to work OK - a longer walk when my feet have fully recovered from the BHF walk will be the real test though, - but just under a mile from the end of the walk we did have to take a little rest, at the Miners Arms in Carsington village! A swift pint of bitter shandy and I was ready to face the last little bit of the walk!

The sailing club - before the sun or the boats came out!

Looking back towards the dam wall.

The sun starts to appear and so do the boats!

Turning into a nice day now.

An old dovecote in Carsington village.

Stone mile post in Carsington village.

22 November 2006

Fully fit

It is just over three days since I completed the BHF walk and I am now “fully fit” again! The blisters have gone, my legs feel fine and still no trouble with my knees.

On Monday, I took the easy option and went to work in the car - thought it best not to push my luck and I left the bike at home!

Yesterday I felt happy enough with both my fitness and the weather report and it was pedal power again, it actually felt good to be back on the bike.

Today, I chickened out and used the car again as the weather forecast was not good! As it turned out, I could have gotten away with cycling as the rain had eased by the time I finished work.

Tomorrow, it all depends on what greets me as I open the curtains! The forecast is for heavy rain and very strong winds tonight plus, Lynda is off work until Monday and needs the car! Guess I’ll be on my bike then!

If this stormy weather has blown itself out by Sunday, I will be out walking again. The plan is to do a lap of Carsington Water with Mel, a walk of around seven or eight miles depending on what route we take. More on that after the weekend, if we do the walk that is!

19 November 2006

Damage assessment!

The final damage check is…

One very sore little toe nail - last year it was two! (and I lost both of them in the end!)
Three blisters - last year it was two!
Two aching legs - same as last year
And, so far, very little trouble with my knees - last year they both crippled me for at least two days!

So, some pains added, some taken away - all in all a very good day's walking!

The day started for me at 5:45AM when the alarm went off, and then it was a breakfast of sausage, scrambled egg and spaghetti on toast. By 7:15AM, I was on my way out of the house and heading to Cromford for the start of the British Heart Foundation High Peak Trail Walk.

Once at Cromford I met up with my friend Paul who was to take part in the walk with me. Now, at this point I need to explain very briefly about why it was just the two of us! At 7:00AM, I received a text message from Mel, who should have been with us, to say that her friend had had a fall whilst sorting out her things for the walk! The end result was Mel taking her to hospital for what turned out to be torn ligaments in her shoulder! Get well soon!

The start point.

Following a quick photo shoot at the start line, we set off to cover the 17.5 mile walk at 8:05AM. Forty-five minuets later, we were passing our first time check at Black Rocks. This first, very steep, section of the walk had taken exactly the same time as last year. From Black Rocks it was uphill again for another mile and a half until we reached Middleton Top. By this time we had made up 10 minutes on last year! So far so good, even the weather was dry, bright and sunny.

After the drinks station at Middleton came the longest section of the walk, 6.5 miles to Minninglow where the “soup kitchen” would await us! It was along this part of the trail that the weather took a slight turn for the worse. A hill fog came down for around 45 minutes. It wasn’t too thick but was just enough to reduce our visibility and also cover our clothing with a film of water. By 10:15AM, the sun was out again.

A quick time check on arrival at Minninglow showed that we were now just over half an hour up on last year's time and, more importantly to me, I was having no knee trouble! Minninglow also gave us a chance to sample the free soup and bread rolls that were on offer here - very nice they were too!

Time for lunch.

On the way again and a short 2.5 mile walk to Friden, our lunch stop. By now the sun was getting quite warm and, in the more sheltered sections of the trail, the temperature felt more like mid September than mid November. I even took my treasured scarf off! Our lunch break at Friden took just under 20 minutes, another time gain on last year. Setting off again reminded me that stopping isn’t always a good idea as my legs took a few steps to get going again! Still, at least my knees were working fine which is more than they were at this point last year!

Parsley Hay was now our target a further 2.5 miles down the trail. This was the section that really started to tell on me 12 months ago and, to be honest, I was just a little worried how I would get on this year. In the end I didn’t suffer too much at all, my knees still felt OK, the blisters that I had felt starting on the balls of my feet were no worse than they had been for a mile or two and we were still overtaking one or two of the early starters. That said, we didn’t stop at Parsley Hay and chose to carry straight on for the last two miles of the walk. It was at Parsley Hay last year than I wondered if my knees would hold out until the end and the pain almost became too much.

Right now, a beer would be good!

We covered the final 2 miles or so in half an hour, finishing at 1:25PM, a total time of 5hrs 20 minutes - 50 minutes quicker than last year. So, will I go through it all again next year? The next day or two will decide that, right now I’m too busy looking at mountain bike rides that the British Heart Foundation organise!

The rest of the walk photos are HERE!

18 November 2006

Looking forward to tomorrow...

By this time tomorrow, I will have completed my British Heart Foundation sponsored walk. Well, I HOPE I will have! As I write I have sponsorship of almost £400, not quite the £500 that I would have liked to raise but still a fair amount I think.

I’ll be joined on the walk by my good friends Paul and Mel, that I walked with last year, and also a friend of Mel’s that has decided to join her on the walk too. We have arranged to meet at 8:00AM, half an hour before our official start time. With a bit of luck we will be able to get away a little early and avoid being part of a large starting group for the narrow first mile or so of the walk that follows the Cromford canal.

The weather forecast for Sunday has been getting better each day this week. On Wednesday, the outlook was for heavy rain and very strong winds. On Thursday, the forecast was for heavy rain clearing during the morning and still very strong winds. Last night the TV weather presenter admitted they had the forecast wrong! It now looks like it may be dry for most of the walk, depending on which internet site you look on and whether you choose Derby or Buxton as the search area!

Mostly sunny.

Wind from the South/Southwest at 13MPH.

Temp. high 8°C / 46°F

Rain/Snow showers. Possible sunny spells later.

Wind from the South/Southwest at 13MPH.

Temp. high 4°C / 39°F

I think I like the Derby option myself and will be walking in those conditions! Please!

There is still time to sponsor me if you haven’t already. Either by adding your name to my sponsorship form or by going to - www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/richardcrooks/

With luck, I will have some photos from the walk uploaded here tomorrow night.

15 November 2006

Just a quick rundown of what has been going on these past few days…

Last Wednesday Lynda & I finished work early, rushed home, packed the car and headed off to Andover for a long weekend. We were visiting Lynda’s aunt and uncle.

On Thursday, we joined the Andover U3A Group for a walk around Upper Chute in Wiltshire. The walk took us just over 2 hours and covered a mix of open countryside, hedgerows and mixed woodland. The walk was very nice with plenty of things to look at along the way, especially the various fungi that we found! The end of the walk was even better - we had a rather nice lunch (with a pint and a whisky!) in The Cross Keys Inn, the starting point of the walk!

The Cross Keys Inn

More walk photos here!

On the Friday, we spent the morning bird watching at Langford Lakes nature reserve, again in Wiltshire. This was the first time I had visited this reserve and I was quite impressed. It’s not a huge place but, if it was local to home, would make a very good “local patch” site. In two hours, we saw 36 species including Kingfisher, Little Egret, Buzzard, Ruddy Duck and a single female Wigeon. A visit in spring could easily see the number of species doubled I would imagine.

Langford Lakes

After the morning's birding it was off to another pub for lunch again! This time is was The Rainbow on the Lake at nearby Steeple Langford. This was one of those pubs that I could have stayed in for the rest of the day! Plenty of original features mixed with a very pleasant restaurant area that overlooked the River Wylye and the surrounding countryside. The food was very good too!

Saturday and Sunday were “chill out” days before we had to, sadly, head back home on Sunday afternoon.

This week has been the usual so far… work, work and work! The weather kept me from using the bike to get to work on Monday, yesterday we FINALLY visited the gym again (must start and get back into the habit of going now!) and today I used the mountain bike for the work trip. I just about managed to get home before the rain started again!

So, that’s the past week or so! Next big thing is the British Heart Foundation walk on Sunday!

05 November 2006

Another bike ride!

As the weather is still so good at the moment, I took the opportunity to put in a few more miles on the old mountain bike this morning. THIRTY more miles to be exact!

I was out of bed by just after 8:00am, had a light breakfast, checked the bike over and then set off. The route I had planned in my head was very similar to last weeks but with one or two extra bits added in to take the mileage up a little.

I joined the National Cycle Network Route 6 just around the corner from home and headed off towards Melbourne. At Kings Newton, I left the trail and headed into Melbourne via the road, from there I carried on to Staunton Harold Reservoir and another traffic free ride to Ticknall. There, it was another short road section until I reached the entrance to Calke Park. The ride through the park was one of the nicest sections of the ride… the sun was out, the trees full of colour as the leaves start to change and a herd of Longhorn cattle were grazing by the driveway.

Longhorn cattle in Calke Park.

From Calke Abbey I rejoined the road again and continued on to Breedon on the Hill. The church at Breedon is a place I had never been so, as I was close by, I took the opportunity to go and have a quick look. Now that I’ve been up there, I don’t have to do the climb again on my bike! There are some great views from the top but next time I think I’ll go up in the car!

Priory Church, Breedon on the Hill.

After coasting back down into Breedon, I carried on along the roads and headed for the start of the Cloud Trail, at Worthington. This marked the start of the return leg, about another 13 miles to reach Derby. As the trail follows a disused railway line, it is easy going with a firm surface all the way. Time to pick up a bit of speed and push the legs a little! My plan had been to follow the trail all the way back to home - that changed about half way back!

When I reached the canal path, near Weston on Trent, I left the National Cycle Network route and instead carried on towards Weston itself. This was a little trickier than the Route 6 section, with a narrow, single track, path that meant a bit more concentration was needed. One mistake could have meant a trip into the canal! Still, it all added to the fun! At Weston Lock, I left the canal and took to the country lanes again, first going through Weston and then Aston on Trent.

The canal near Weston on Trent.

All that was left then was one final, small, climb out of Aston as I headed for the outskirts of Chellaston and then the boring bit of riding back through the houses to home.

All in all another very good ride out. Having plotted my route on Google Earth when I returned home I found that I’d covered almost exactly 30 miles (Google reckons 30.08 miles!) in 2hrs 45, including stops to take photos, have a drink and eat a snack bar!

The rest of the photos are HERE!!!!!

31 October 2006

A bit of an update!

Okay, so I’ve let this get a little bit out of date - SORRY! So, here is a quick (well, sort of quick!) run down of what’s been going on over the past three weeks or so…

Saturday October 7 - We spent the day at Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest, with our friends Mark and Sheila and their three boys Adam, Charlie and Ben. It pretty well goes without saying that we had another great time! We started the day with breakfast in Chez Pierre before heading off into the swimming dome. The rest of the day was spent swimming, playing around on the water slides, being attacked by Adam, Charlie and Ben in the pool or just sat around watching the world go by, that and eating of course! In the evening we ate in Huckleberry’s the American themed restaurant.

Friday October 13 - Lynda and I went to The Flowerpot, in Derby, to see The Rattlers a local Derby based folk rock band. This was a typical Flowerpot gig! The place was just about packed out, the crowd were dancing around and cheering the band on from the very start and the place was rocking! I’ve been going to concerts/festivals of various sizes now for over 25 years and I still think that the smaller venues like this are so much better! The band is right in front of you, not little dots in the distance, the atmosphere is so much better and more often than not, there are NO chairs in the way! This is how music should be - LIVE AND PLAYED TO A CROWD! Sorry, got a little off topic there… the gig was great! Alan Woolley and the rest of the band played a cracking set that rocked from start to finish. I’m looking forward to the next Rattlers gig already.

Saturday October 14 - A change of pace after the previous night - Lynda and I went to the Derby Dance Centre to see Mark Gwynne Jones and the Psychicbread. A strange name but another great evening’s entertainment. A mix of poetry, comedy, songs, world music and, at times, a mix of everything at once! After I saw this act at the Off The Tracks Festival in September I said that I would go and see them again as soon as I could - second time around they were equally as good if not better than at Off The Tracks!

Friday October 20 - This was the start of a long weekend off work for us. After a rather later than normal start to the day Lynda and I headed off to Worcester for a couple of days. We spent the afternoon looking around the city centre and the shops before moving on to our hotel on the outskirts of the city. The early part of the evening was then spent in the Beefeater restaurant next door! An excellent meal with an equally good bottle of wine finished off the day for us.

The following morning was a very early start, as we had to be at Worcester railway station to catch a train at 6:00am! The early start was more than worth it though! We were to travel on The Cumbrian Mountain Express, a full day trip that would take us up to Preston where we would then be met by the steam loco 71000 Duke of Gloucester. This loco then hauled our train up over Shap Summit, through to Penrith and then Carlisle before travelling along the beautiful Settle to Carlisle line - in reverse of course!

71000 Duke of Gloucester

This trip was a birthday present to me from Lynda and it was the best day I could have asked for. We were served Bucks Fizz soon after the journey started, a full English breakfast, tea or coffee whenever we wanted, lunch, afternoon tea and a four course silver service dinner in the evening! This was rail travel as it should be!

It’s hard to pick out “highlights” of the day as everything was so good, but I will never forget the sight of the steam loco as it came into view at Preston. The speed at which we passed through Lancaster station - I’d guess we were travelling at around 100mph or more - with the whistle blasting from before the station came into view until we had passed out the other side was just amazing. The views from our carriage as we travelled along the Settle to Carlisle line were breathtaking and more than matched the stories I had heard about this legendary line.

One of the many great views!

Although we had been on the train for over 16 hours by the time we returned to Worcester it didn’t feel like a long day at all. The service provided by all the staff was first class, the food was excellent, the sight and sound of a steam hauled train was every big kids dream! This is most definitely something we will be doing again - maybe a different trip, maybe for more than one day!


Thursday October 26 - Started the day off with a bang! Rode to work on the mountain bike (it’s my preferred choice of transport for getting to work now) without any problems. As usual I rode straight into the workshop and headed for the door at the rear that leads into the parts dept. BIG MISTAKE! Wet mountain bike tyres + tiled floor + a corner = me and the bike in a big heap on the floor! I slid the best part of six feet whilst still attached to the bike pedals! Was a laugh though, and I didn’t even mark my new cycling jacket - I still know the best way to fall from a bike even after all these years!

Friday October 27 - Another live show, another change of style. This time we went to Derby Assembly Rooms to see Spirit of the Dance, the Irish dance show. This was another great evening’s entertainment - traditional Irish dance, Salsa, Flamenco, Scottish Highland Fling, Urban Street dance and even a little ballet - this show has something for everyone. We may try and get tickets for Riverdance next!

So, that just about brings things up to date I think, apart from Sunday just gone. The changing of the clocks meant I got an extra hour in bed but it was such a gorgeous day I decided to make the most of it and go for a quick ride out on the bike. A little over two hours, and thirty miles later, I returned home!

I had found a cycle route called the Cloud Trail on the internet and decided to give it a try. It runs from just around the corner from us and heads down to Worthington just to the south of Breedon On The Hill. On the way to Worthington I left the cycle trail and passed through the villages of Melbourne, Wilson, Breedon On The Hill and finally Worthington itself before rejoining the Cloud Trail and returning home. All I need to do now is find a way of adding some extra miles onto the bottom end of the trail that are on either a cycle route or away from major traffic.

The Worthington end of the trail.

One of the many old railway bridges on the trail.

Speeding towards home!

06 October 2006



I now have my on-line sponsorship page up and running for the 17 mile, BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION, sponsored walk that I will be doing in November. SPONSOR ME HERE!

This will be the second time that I have taken part in this event and I have set myself the target of raising £500 this year!

On top of the money that I manage to raise, there is the opportunity for an extra 28% to be claimed back from Mr Tax Man if you are a UK taxpayer and “Gift Aid” your donation. If I hit my £500 target that could mean up to an extra £140 goes to the BHF! And it doesn’t cost you a penny extra!

The on-line page is linked directly to the BHF and the money will transfer directly to them. I will also be taking sponsors on the more traditional “sponsorship form”!

If you would like any information on this walk, or would like to join in, then either e-mail me or leave a message in the comments section at the end of this post!

Please, if at all possible, add to my sponsors. Every little helps!

Near the end of the 2005 walk.


24 September 2006


For once, I have very little to say!

However, what I do have to say is very important and I will be repeating it quite a lot over the next couple of months!

I am taking part in the British Heart Foundation, High Peak Trail, Winter Challenge Walk again this year, and, once all the paperwork is sorted out, I will be after sponsors again!

I will be creating an on-line sponsorship page again, just like last year, and once it is up and running I will post the link on here.

So, that’s my news - apart from telling you that all I’ve done for the past two days is sit in front of the TV watching the Ryder Cup Golf! What an amazing two days of play!

Oh, and we now have two cordless phones - one upstairs, one downstairs! Saves me running for the phone only to have it ring off just as I get there!

That’s me done!

Just remember to keep checking back for information on the walk! Anyone care to join in?

18 September 2006

Two day recap

Well, the weather was much better than we expected yesterday - no rain, no tornado, even a little bit of sunshine!

The trip out on the Boston Belle was great. Lynda and I managed to see a total of 52 bird species, all from the comfort of the on-board bar! This was birding as it should be! Comfortable seats, under cover, out of the sea breeze, and with a bar that was open for the whole 4½hour trip.

We set off from Boston at 12:15pm and headed down river towards The Wash. Some of the more interesting birds on this first part of the journey included Curlew Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Little Egret and the sheer number of gulls, especially Great Black-backed Gull.

After a little over an hour, we reached The Wash and headed out in search of sea birds. As it was, the lack of even a moderate breeze meant that there was very little in the way of bird movement out on the sea. We did manage to spot a couple of Arctic Skua that were chasing a tern in an effort to rob it of the fish it was carrying! Four young Gannets were also seen some distance away from the boat, as was a single Common Scoter.

As the sea watching was so quiet the boat headed up the River Welland for a while in search of waders and harriers over the salt marsh. Along here we found Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Knot and Whimbrel to add to the wader list along with numerous Marsh Harriers, two or three Little Tern and a group of eight or nine seals that were out on one of the sandbanks.

The journey back up The Haven, into Boston, was a little quiet compared with our outward journey but we did still manage to add Goldfinch, Rook and Meadow Pipit to our list. All in all, a great way to spend an afternoon - very relaxing, some good birding and even a pint of beer with my lunch!

So, onto today. After a rather late start to the day, by my standards, I set off for the short drive down the M1 to the Melton Grass Track Club, arriving just after 11:15am. By the time I arrived Gary had the car unloaded and had been through scrutineering. All I needed to do was check the car for fuel, make sure that all the wheel nuts were torqued up correctly and refit the front spoiler to the front bumper! It looked as though Gary had been a little too close to the track markers last time out!

The first race for Gary was a straightforward affair; he drew an outside line grid position and, after a flying start, was never headed on the way to his first win of the day. The second heat went pretty much the same way - a mid track start this time, another good run to the first corner and from then on the rest of the field only saw his dust!

Just one more heat before the final and a little more competition made it on track. A V6, 2.8 litre, Vauxhall that, due to a cooling problem, hadn’t made it on track in the first two races. We knew that the final heat might not now be so easy! Sure enough, when the race started the extra power of the Vauxhall - Gary only races a 4cyl, 1800 engine! - rocketed it into an early lead. By the end of the second lap, the M219 MG was back out in front! Three races, three wins!

The final was almost a re-run of the third heat - Gary was beaten off the line by the V6 power, spent a couple of laps climbing all over the back bumper of the Vauxhall before charging down the inside line and grabbing the lead with a little over a lap and a half to go. Four out of four!

The final race of the day was the East Midlands Open - a handicapped start race, open to the final winner of each class. This was always going to be a hard race but Gary made it a whole lot harder by totally missing the start! As the flag dropped, and the other cars set off, Gary was caught napping! Everyone else had made four or five car lengths on him before he even turned a wheel!

For around two or three laps he drove like a man on a mission, holding off the quickest car of the day, a twin motorbike engined class 7, before making a slight mistake coming onto the start straight. In the bat of an eye, it was all over. A half spin, a couple of seconds on the brakes and there was no chance of making up lost ground. All that was left was a few laps to go and play. That little MG sure can make the tyres smoke when Gary decides to have fun! He burnt more rubber in the last two laps than many cars do in a season! Once back in the pits his smile said it all - we lost, but that was FUN!

15 September 2006

And I thought last week was a “strange old week”, this one has been more so!

Work has been the opposite of last week - we’ve been quiet for the most part, but have been back to causing our own problems again! My views on this have been expressed in true Richard style! I got my point across, things WILL be reviewed!

Last night I finally went back to the gym, something I’ve been promising to do for far too long. It didn’t hurt quiet as much as I’d feared but I was more than pleased to get into the outdoor pool for a swim afterwards. My main workouts this week have been my mountain bike rides to and from work. I’ve used the bike on four out of five days this week and taken increasingly longer routes each day. Wednesday’s route actually took me about a mile and a half in the opposite direction to work before I rejoined one of my more regular tracks back into town.

The weather was the big talking point yesterday - Derby was hit by a tornado! Wind speeds are said to have reached 100mph at times and the rain was so heavy for a while that we couldn’t see across the road outside work. Numerous buildings were damaged, trees were felled and cars damaged. The storm hit other parts of the Midlands and North with tornados also reported in Leeds and Harrogate. All exciting stuff - for Derby!

Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow because we are on a boat trip with the Derby RSPB Group. We will be taking a trip out into the Wash aboard the Boston Belle. I’m not sure just what we will see bird wise, but I’m still looking forward to the trip, as it will be something different to the usual land based outings. If nothing else, it may prove fun to see some of the faces onboard if the sea gets a little choppy!

On Sunday, all being well, I will be helping my mate Gary with his race car again. This will be only my third meeting of the year as Gary has taken a more relaxed approach to racing this year and only raced when he wanted to, rather than racing just because there was a meeting on. It makes the meetings we do attend a lot more fun but it doesn’t get the results we had last year! I just hope the wind, and rain, we had on Thursday doesn’t return!

11 September 2006

This, I promise will be a short update! Well, shorter than my last post! What was I drinking that night?

It’s been a strange old week, work has been very busy but everything has run smoothly - that is a first! - so no real hardship there. Once again, we didn’t make it too the gym, it’s over a month since we were there now I think, but that WILL be put right tomorrow. I’m still enjoying using my mountain bike to get to work and back on and, in fact, am starting to take longer routes to work now, so that I can be on the bike for longer.

The past weekend was a mixture of feelings, some good, some, that I’m not going into here, not so good. Overall, it wasn’t too bad in the end; we went into Derby on Saturday, I had my haircut then we did a bit of shopping - bought some mudguards for the bike, so I can ride it through the winter - and also purchased tickets for Spirit Of The Dance, at the Assembly Rooms.

We also dropped in to The Flowerpot so that I could get our tickets to see Neverland in December. I would have sorted tickets for other gigs too, only they don’t take “plastic money” there! Cash is a little lacking this month so I had to settle for just the Neverland gig. Now though, I can get the tickets I wanted because on Saturday evening I won £50 on the Irish Lottery!

04 September 2006

Off The Tracks!

Welcome to Off The Tracks! As an integral part of the 18th Off The Tracks festival, we are proud to present… the 21st Century Silk Road!

That was the greeting on the programme sheet being handed out at the entrance to the festival this weekend! Many of the artists had been chosen because their ancestral roots could be linked back to the ancient "Silk Road", which meant a wider range of musical styles than in some previous years.

Most of my weekend centred on the main stage placed, luckily, in a huge marquee adjoining the real ale bar and open courtyard. I say luckily because the weather was not the kindest I have seen at Off The Tracks! Over Friday, Saturday and Sunday we saw rain, strong winds, rain with strong winds and finally, on Sunday afternoon, bright sunshine, with strong winds!

So, who did I see, what music did I hear…

Friday evening started with The James Warner Prophecies, a five piece rock/acoustic band from here in Derbyshire. This was the first time I’d seen this band play but I’ll be keeping an eye on their gig lists from now on! They played a good mix of tracks from gentle acoustic songs to full-blown rock numbers! A band I’d definitely like to see again.

Next up was LaXuLa (a.m.a). Not a clue where they came from! Somewhere in the UK! This was the first of the “21st Century Silk Road” bands. They played a mix of music with strong Flamenco, Moorish and Latin influences. Throw in a selection of Arabic and rock and you just about have LaXuLa (a.m.a). Not sure I’d travel to see them - only because they aren’t really my sort of music - but, if they turn up on the bill of another festival, I’d watch ’em!

Final band on Friday was Transglobal Underground. This lot kicked up a stir! Transglobal just about covers their music style! A mix of just about every sort of music you could think of, all with Dance as their main aim. The crowd were packed in solid for this band - the marquee was, quite literally, heaving at the seams! The highlight for me was the appearance of a Dhol Drum during a number of the tracks played. This is one of my favourite instruments and, coupled with a Sitar, gave this band a real Indian feel. Great band, great music, the crowd loved them, and so did I!

Saturday at OTT started, for me, at around 1:30PM, after I’d been into work in the morning. The rain had been non stop until around midday but by the time I arrived at OTT it had stopped and things were starting to dry up in the strong wind. The only downside to the wind was that it was so strong that some of the stallholders had to pack up early because their tents were being pulled from the ground!

The first act I saw on Saturday was Mark Gwyn-Jones & Psychicbread. Another local act new to me, and this time the main part of the performance was poetry, and I sat and watched, enthralled! Not exactly what I had in mind for OTT but I’ll be at the next local performance they do! Top entertainment!

Next up came Cassava, another of the “21st Century Silk Road” bands. This was the first band that I have to say I didn’t really take to. Very good at what they did - it just wasn’t for me. They played a mix of Drum & Bass, Hip Hop, Dance style music that was never going to win me over. I watched around half of their set before going in search of food and a beer! A good bunch of musicians from Guyana, Jordan, India, Jamaica and even the UK, but not my scene.

Wholesome Fish, not what I found to eat but the next band on the main stage. A Nottingham based band that played, well, their own style of music. If you have to put each and every band into a style bracket then I guess Cajun would be OK here. Very upbeat at times, very in your face at others, sometimes just gentle harmonies. A very good festival band that got the crowd on their side and may well have gone down even better if they had been given a later time slot. Seven people having a great time on stage and passing on that good vibe to the crowd.

After a break of around an hour to reset the stage, check the sound system over and generally get the whole place ready for the evening session, it was time for Neverland. If this band hadn’t been on the programme at this autumn's Off The Tracks I’m not sure that I would have been there! They were the band that made up my mind to buy a ticket. Neverland are another Derby based band, that have only been back together for around two years after taking a break in the mid/late ’90s.

Just a couple of tracks into the set and the crowd were getting into their stride - the dancing, if you can call it dancing when I start bouncing around, was starting to take over at the front of the stage! This was going to be a great hour or so, and that’s just how it turned out. Some of my favourite tracks, by any band, were played: FIRECRADLE, NEVER LEARNED TO SPEAK, KEBAB NO MORE, DOOM GARDEN JELLY FISH BLUES and THINK I’M GONNA BUY A CAR! In total, we were treated to 17 tracks in a set that was non-stop energy.

As the band left the stage at the end of their set it was clear that the crowd wanted more. A brief appearance by the MC, to stir up the crowd even more, and back came Neverland for one more track. Then came a bit of a surprise for me - Mick Doyle, Mandolin player with the band, pointed down at me and shouted into his mic "Rich! I got a message from America today! Nolika* says "Hello and that we’ve got to play Stars And The Blues for you!"" What a finish to what, I think, was the best band, and set of tracks, all weekend!

*Nolika is a friend, in the USA, that I have converted to Neverland, via the Albannach web site!

After all the bouncing around and excitement of Neverland I was in need of a break so, beer in hand, I watched some of the next band, Jah Wobble & The English Roots Band, from the edge of the marquee where the cool breeze and clear night sky bought me back down to earth. There’s not much I can tell you about this band because after only two or three tracks I gave up on them and went for a walk around the rest of the site. Too much in the way of bass, too little in the way of anything else for me!

The rest of the evening I spent either in one of the small bar areas watching groups of musicians sat chilling out and jamming together, listening to a small drum circle that got together on the edge of the campsite or at the Chill Out Stage were some of the smaller groups and acoustic sets were played.

So, onto Sunday and what is always a relaxing afternoon of more gentle entertainment. First up came Sumaya, a London based Flamenco group and one of the “21st Century Silk Road” bands. After some of the bands that had played over the past couple of days these were very different. Sumaya were three dancers, one guitar player and two percussionists. Not what I would go and see if they played on their own but they fitted into the rest of the festival OK.

The second band on Sunday afternoon was The Matzos, a five piece from Brighton and the final “21st Century Silk Road” band, playing a mix of Eastern European, Latin, Arabic and Celtic music. Their energetic style of playing soon had some of the crowd up on their feet and dancing, with many more standing clapping along with the music. Me, I just enjoyed sitting back in my chair with a bottle of Newcastle Brown and watching the day roll by!

All too soon, it was time for the final act of the weekend, Rory McLeod. I’d never seen Rory before but had heard of him and was looking forward to his show. He didn’t disappoint. He is quite simply a one-man band, playing guitar, harmonica, the spoons and also providing a drum beat via tap shoes! On top of the music, he also had some great jokes to tell, stories from his past and also one or two, welcomed, political opinions to share. A great entertainer and a great way to end the weekend.

Off The Tracks 2007 - I think I’ll be there!

31 August 2006

Another week passes by with very little to report. Well, not too much anyway!

Last weekend was, of course, the last Bank Holiday weekend before Christmas and, as I was off work on the Saturday, Lynda and I took the opportunity to visit her Aunt and Uncle in Hampshire. We travelled down straight after work on the Thursday evening and stayed until early afternoon on Monday.

On the Friday we all took a trip into London - quite an outing for a 40 year old “country boy” I can tell you! This was only the second time I’d ever stepped foot in the capital, the first being a good few years ago when Lynda and I had to catch a coach from London to take us to the Le Mans 24hr race in France! On that occasion, I saw little or nothing of the sights.

After Friday's trip… I want to go back! The main part of the day was a look behind the scenes at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. I thought this would be just a guided tour of the theatre that explained some of its history and how the place ran. It turned out to be a mini play in itself with our guides being some of the old characters from the theatres past.

The whole day was one new treat after another for me but other highlights included a trip on the London Eye, which I would recommend, seeing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament for the first time, St. Paul’s cathedral, the fountains at Somerset House, walking over the Millennium Bridge, Covent Garden and the walk along the Embankment with all of its street entertainers.

The London Eye.

After such a busy day on Friday the rest of the weekend was spent relaxing with family. Luckily, the weather was most unlike a Bank Holiday and was actually sunny and rather hot for most of the time! This meant that we could sit out in the garden either reading, catching up on news or just generally chatting.

The only problem with a great weekend away like that is that all too soon it was time to face the holiday traffic and head for home. Apart from the usual heavy traffic on the A34 we made good time on the way back with the 150 mile trip taking just under 2½ hours - I think the weather must have made people delay their journeys until later in the day.

So, this week. Nothing to report at all! Work has been, well, work. I’ve managed to use the mountain bike twice to get there this week, the bad weather stopped me today and tomorrow I’ll need to be back home as soon as possible so it will be the car again!

The reason for the rush tomorrow evening? It’s the start of the Off The Tracks music festival near Castle Donington! I’ve been looking forward to this for some while now and the forecast of rain on and off for the weekend certainly isn’t going to dampen my enthusiasm for it!

Click for London photos!

20 August 2006

Still very little going on here - apart from it being my birthday earlier in the week. The big 40! Must say though that it doesn’t feel any different to any other birthday, which must mean that either I’ve felt like a 40 year old for sometime now or, that I’m still not acting my age! I will leave that for you to work out!

Although I was at work for my birthday, it was a relatively easy day; work was very quiet, possibly the quietest day this year, with no problems at all. The only thing that I did have to deal with was the constant joking from work mates about my age and also the A4 posters that had been placed all around the building telling me, and everyone else, that I was in fact 50! I still bought everyone Muffins and Danish Pastries though!

The best bit of getting old is that I will be able to take a train ride I’ve wanted to do for years, the Settle and Carlisle railway, one of Europe’s greatest railway journeys. Lynda has treated me, and herself, to tickets on The Cumbrian Mountain Express on 21 October.

We will leave Worcester early on the Saturday morning for a diesel hauled journey up the West Coast main line to Hellifield. There, the diesel will be replaced by 71000 The Duke of Gloucester, the last steam express passenger loco built for British Railways. From there we will continue on through Settle, over the Ribblehead Viaduct, Kirkby Stephen and Appleby to the city of Carlisle.

After a break in Carlisle, our steam hauled journey will continue onto the famous Shap Summit before heading to Preston via the Lune Valley, Oxenholme and Lancaster. The return from Preston will again be diesel hauled, behind a Class 47, Brush Sulzer Type 4 locomotive. The whole day will be in the comfort of “Premier Dining” class - a table for two with window seats, full English breakfast, lunch and then a four course, silver service, dinner!

A couple of photos of 71000 - taken from 71000 Trust web site.

08 August 2006

Time to catch up...

First of all, where is the summer going? I can't believe its August already! I had so much planned for this year but so much has already been missed!

So far, I've only been to two Autograss meetings, at one we didn't get the car to run and at the other, we managed OK results but nothing stunning. The gigs have been few and far between so far, something that I will be looking at putting right over the next week or so, and my bird watching has ground to a halt again. It always becomes "too much trouble" once the hot weather arrives but this year has been worse than most!

So, what have we been up to? Well, we went up to Scotland for the Callander Highland Games just over a week ago and had a great time. The only let down was that in the end we didn't get to see either of the two bands we went to see. Due to a rather large mess up on the organiser's behalf Clann an Drumma and Albannach did not play.

Apart from the lack of music, the games were very good - we'll be going to more that is for sure! Best event in our opinion has to be the "56lb for Height" throw. Quite how they manage to throw that thing so high is beyond me! The best throw, on both days, was 17 and a half feet.

Tossing the Caber was good to see live, there is a lot more skill involved with this than I had thought. Whenever I've seen this on TV, it looked like a case of pure strength and a bit of luck, that is far from it! To get a perfect, 12 o'clock, throw is very hard indeed and wasn't managed too often over the weekend. When it did happen, the crowd certainly got behind the competitor throwing at the time.

The town of Callander was very nice; it is a place that I will certainly be visiting again soon. The Bridgend House Hotel, where we stayed, is also to be recommended - just be aware that they have live music at the weekends and it can go on until late! The Scottish breakfast MUST be tried! I did, every morning! The whisky is pretty good too - each night!

There's not much other news really. I'm still using the mountain bike to get to work, and still enjoying it. I did have a slight problem last week when one of my tyres decided to "blow out" whilst the bike was parked up at work. I think that there must have been a flaw in the inner tube. The problem was soon solved - a quick stop off at a cycle shop on the way home, in the car, to pick up two new inner tubes and all was as good as new. Hopefully I'll not be caught out again as the new tubes are filled with a self-sealing fluid that will take care of any small punctures, we will see!

OK, just found an extra bit of news... even after deleting a load of old photos from here, I still can't post any new pics into the blog! So, some pictures from the Scotland trip are on Shutterfly!

Click here for Scotland photos!

24 July 2006

Yes, I know, I've not been posting anything here! The simple fact is that I've had nothing worth writing about! Apart from work, the gym, working in the garden and sitting around soaking up some sun there has been nothing going on!

If you think that by posting this that I suddenly have lots of news then I'm afraid you are wrong! Well, okay, I do have a little bit of stuff to say.

I finally got around to getting onto broadband over the weekend, and what a difference that has made to my web surfing! No more waiting for pages to open, files to down load and music that keeps stopping whilst the next section is buffered!

On Saturday I got my mountain bike into action and used it to go to work on, something I've been threatening to do all year. By using the back roads and cycle tracks, I was there in only 10 minuets - though I did hammer myself all the way! Today, I again gave up the ease of the car and again took the bike - nine minuets this time!

Not sure how long this will last or how many times a week I'll use the bike but right now, it's feeling good. As the journey is so quick, I may even start and check out one or two longer routes. Apart from the hassle of carting my work cloths around it is actually quicker and easier using the bike. This evening Lynda passed me in Pride Park as she left work in the car - I was still home first due to the shorter route of the cycle paths!

So, that's my news. Nothing going on you see! That is apart from next weekend! We're off to Scotland for four days!

We're going to the Callander Highland Games to see Albannach and Clann An Drumma play, and of course the Highland Games themselves! It's been over six months now since we last saw Albannach play and I am really looking forward to this trip! You can be sure that by the time we get back I'll have plenty to post and plenty of photos to load onto Shutterfly!

03 July 2006

The balloon flight!

Motorbikes? Fast cars? Racing? Forget that lot! I want a hot air balloon! Saturday night’s balloon ride was amazing!

Lynda phoned Dave Ling at Balloon Adventure Flights at just before 5:00PM and was told the weather was fine and that the flight was on - great news! We then sat down to watch the second half of the England football game but, to be honest, I don’t think either of us was too bothered who won, we had just been told we were going flying!

We arrived at our take off point, The Hurt Arms public house at Ambergate, at around 7:00PM and were met with the sight of another balloon being readied for flying, great we would have another balloon to watch on our flight! Our Ladybird balloon arrived shortly afterwards and once we’d been checked in by one of the balloon staff we started to help unpack the equipment. Whilst we helped with the balloon that we would fly in a further two more arrived on site. We’d not be short of something to look at that was for sure!

The setting up of the basket, balloon and burners was a lot quicker than I had expected and within about 20 minuets, the Ladybird was almost ready for take off. The basket looked quite big at first glance but by the time everyone was inside, 12 plus the pilot, it wasn’t exactly spacious. Everyone climbed into the basket whilst it still lay on its side and waited for the balloon to pull us upright as the hot air finished inflating it. As soon as this happened, it was just another couple of blasts from the burners and we were off!

The first thing that struck me as we became airborne was the speed that the balloon moved at, not upwards but sideways! We did manage to clear the trees at the side of the field though, just! From then on it was just the most gentle and smooth form of transport that I think I have ever been on. The only thing that broke the peace and tranquillity was the occasional roar from the gas burners.

For me, the wind could not have taken us in a much better direction. At first we followed the River Derwent towards Cromford before gaining height and a slight change in wind direction. This change was enough to take us away from the river valley and over towards Wirksworth, Middleton Top and Longcliffe. This route was almost retracing the walk I did at the end of last year for The British Heart Foundation!

We were also able to pick out many other places that we knew, some quite a long way off in the distance, others almost directly below us. Lynda spotted a pair of Buzzard way way below us at one point; a Swift flying around level with the balloon whilst we were at around 2000ft and we also spotted the power stations at Ratcliffe and Willington. Dave, the pilot, showed us Crich Stand just off to the right of the balloon at one point and also the city of Nottingham way off in the distance behind us.

Carsington Water was visible for much of the flight and, from our position high above the Derbyshire countryside, we could see some of the many stone quarries that are usually hidden from view when at ground level.

Our flight lasted for around 55 minutes, covered something like 11 miles and reached a height of 3000ft. That just left the landing! As we approached the small village of Pikehall, Dave the pilot told us that he was starting to look for somewhere to put down. Now, to me this wasn’t the sort of area that I would choose - small fields, lots of stone walls, some rather hilly ground and the odd small group of trees thrown in!

A little over half a mile later we were on the ground! Our pilot had spotted a field close to a farm, right next to the farm drive and, to my way of thinking, performed an almost perfect landing! Okay, we did finish up with the basket on its side but I’m told that around 80% of balloon flights end that way. Even the falling over of the basket was fun - we were dragged along for a short distance once we touched the ground and then, when we stopped, the basket steadied itself at an angle of about 45° for a second or two before gently tipping over. All that remained then was to help get all the equipment packed away again, and loaded onto the trailer, before celebrating with a glass of Champagne!

Click here for balloon flight photos!

01 July 2006

Balloon Day!

So far, so good! It’s Saturday morning and the weather is great - nice and sunny, not too hot (yet!) and little or no wind - so, fingers crossed WE’RE HAVING A HOT AIR BALLOON FLIGHT THIS EVENING!!!

Lynda has to phone the people that fly the balloon late this afternoon for a final OK as regards the weather, so all we can do now is hope the wind doesn’t increase too much or that the heat doesn’t trigger any thunder storms.

Tomorrow I’m off racing again - I say again because we did actually get the car to a meeting last Sunday, but never raced! Long story cut short…. Gary drove the car around at home on Saturday with no problems. On Sunday, the car again ran without fault whilst being loaded onto the transporter, and also ran fine whilst being unloaded at the track and being moved into the pit area. When we tried to go through scrutineering, the car ran for about 200yrds and cut out!

Try as we might, the damn thing would not fire up again! So, after around and hour of changing things, altering others, messing with the electronic control systems and even trying to bump start the motor, by towing the car behind a Land Rover, we gave up! The car was winched onto the transporter again and we came home to watch the football.

Apart from taking the cylinder head off the motor, to check that a valve hadn’t been bent or something, Gary has done very little during the week to the car, but when he rebuilt it and tried starting the engine… it fired up and ran OK! We still don’t really have a clue what was wrong last week. All we can do now is hope the “problem” doesn’t reappear.

26 June 2006

Holiday update...

Well, it has taken me almost a week to get around to it but here is an update on our holiday! Don't worry you'll not get a day-by-day run down, just the basics - I haven't the time for anything other than that right now!

The drive up to the Lake District was remarkably easy on the Monday morning with no hold ups at all, not even on the M6, which is a miracle in itself and we arrived in Ulpha at around 1:00PM. As we could not get into the cottage until 3:00PM, we carried on to Seathwaite and the Newfield Inn for lunch. This turned out to be a great choice of stop off - the food was excellent, the drinks more than refreshing after the long drive and the pub itself a real gem. The Inn dates back to the 17th century and even has its original slate floor in the bar!

When we booked the holiday the only thing I really wanted was somewhere that was out of the way and with some sort of view - we certainly got both! The cottage was well away from any sort of built up area and looked straight out onto the fells! The only interruptions we had to put up with at the cottage were the odd visit from one of the cats or dogs from the farm that the cottage was a part of and even they got bored of us after the first day or so!

The rest of the week, until Friday morning, was spent either walking in the local area, along the cliff tops to St Bees Head RSPB Reserve or visiting some of the towns and villages. The weather was hot for the most part without being so hot that it stopped us getting out and about. The only day that I would say that it came close to being unbearable was on the Wednesday when we visited St Bees Head. By the time we arrived back at the car after a walk of about seven miles we were just about beat! Having said that, it was good to see all the sea birds that were nesting along the cliffs.

A trip to Bowness-on-Windermere was about as close to being "tourists" as we got during the week. Even though this is one of the hot-spots for people visiting the Lakes, it didn't feel too commercialised and the "real ice-cream" was excellent!

As the cottage was so well placed we didn't even bother with the car on the final day, instead we chose to walk down the valley from the farm and then along the side of the River Duddon. This took us down into the village of Ulpha itself which we reckon must be made up of about a dozen houses at most! As I say, this is a very out of the way place!

So, after a very relaxing week in the peace and quiet of the Lakes, it was time to move on to Center Parcs. The drive over to the Center Parcs village took us around an hour and a quarter, having got stuck behind a rather slow tour bus coming over the mountains near Ullswater, and as we pulled onto the road leading to the car park so did Lynda's brother! He had set off from Nottingham around four hours earlier and arrived just as we did! Perfect timing! We were then joined by John and Sue an hour or so later. Time to start part two of our holiday!

Center Parcs, for us, is always a mix of eating, drinking, chill out time and playing around in the swimming pools and water slides - this weekend was no different! We had some great food, the Italian and Chinese restaurants were very good, plenty to drink - Saturday night became the early hours of Sunday far too quickly thanks to the alcohol - and also plenty of time to just relax either in the pool area or back at our "villa".

One of the bonuses of having our little niece, Chloe, with us was that it gave us an excuse to act like kids even more than we would normally! So, water fights became the norm when in the pool, extra goes down the water slides were a must and I even got talked into doing some colouring by Chloe, who was more than happy to share her pens with me!

Monday was the last day of our holiday, we spent the morning in the pool area again before Lynda and I said goodbye to the rest of the family and headed off to the spa. After all the fun and chaos of the weekend this final three hours was total relaxation! There were very few people in the spa during the afternoon and we came away equally as chilled out as we had been after our time in the cottage in the hills.

Now, after a week back home and back at work I'm ready for our next break!

Try as I might I cannot get any photos to load onto this Blog tonight, so I have put a few on a separate link! If you open the thumbnails, I have put some titles on each photo so that they make a little more sense!

Click here for holiday photos!

12 June 2006

Well, the good news is that tomorrow we are off on holiday! More good news, last nights Bluehorses gig was another great night, with an added bonus… Rob Khoo made a “guest appearance” as bass player for the night! Rob used to play bass with the band for many years until standing down around four years ago. This was only the second time that we had managed to catch up with him since and it was great to do so.

The Flowerpot (pub venue last night) was even hotter than usual, due to the very hot weather we have been having of late, and by the time the band came on stage and all the spotlights came into play it must have been approaching 100°. Not the best of nights for bouncing around at the front of the stage but I still did! By the end of the night you could have just about wrung my T-shirt out, it was that wet! Still, it will have burnt of an extra few pounds that I can now put back on by eating and drinking too much on holiday!

Now, I started by saying, “the good news is…” which must mean there is bad news. Sure enough… the bad news is that on Friday lunch time one of our favourite pub/restaurants suffered a huge fire. The Bulls Head at Denby was very badly damaged when a fire in an outbuilding spread to the back of the main pub and then into the roof. The galleried restaurant was very badly hit and, from the photos we saw in the local paper, it looks like the whole of the restaurant roof was also more or less destroyed.

So, on to next week. We set off for the Lake District just as soon as we can get everything packed into the car tomorrow morning. I’ve not bothered to run the trip through a route planner but I’d guess that it will take us around 3½ hours to get there if the M6 is clear, well, as clear as it can be on a Monday morning! Once up there our base for the week will put us right in the heart of the fells with Eskdale and the Hardknott Pass close by. Coniston Water and Windermere will be within easy driving distance as will the northwest coastline. No doubt the camera will be getting a fair amount of use, so I’ll post pictures here at some time!

At the end of the week, we will be moving out of the Cumbrian Mountains to just the other side of the M6 and spending a long weekend at the Whinfell Forest Center Parcs. Lynda and I have visited the Center Parcs at Sherwood Forest many times over the years but this will be our first visit to Whinfell. Once there Lynda’s brother Neil, his wife Susan, their little girl Chloe and Lynda’s dad John and step mum Sue, will join us. The second part of our holiday is most definitely going to be a lot livelier than the first, especially with Chloe around! I think Aunty Lynda and Uncle Richard are going to be kept very busy!


10 June 2006

Okay, it’s late and I should be in bed but….

Ran my usual 5k at the gym tonight - 24:18min! A new best time for me and it didn’t hurt quite so much this week - well, not after a couple of hours recovery!

Work has been work, but with a twist this week - I’ve been training a new member of staff all week. Me, training again! I even kept my cool for the whole week! Guess I must be getting old!

Tomorrow night we are at The Flowerpot, in Derby, for the Bluehorses gig. It’s been a while since we last saw the band, and everyone that follows them around, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Then, next week we are off to the Lake District for a week! Holidays again!

04 June 2006

Well, we found out what the fire was… it was the Sir Henry Royce Centre, at Rolls Royce! It isn't anymore! Early reports are that arsonists set fire to the £1million building that housed the company’s conference rooms and canteen. Around 40 fire fighters were called in to tackle the blaze, which has apparently destroyed the building!

On a brighter note, I went up to the Goyt Valley today for a birding walk with the Derby RSPB Group. The Goyt is one of my favourite places for walking, especially on a day like today, it was nice and bright, not too hot and with just a very light breeze. The RSPB walk didn’t start until 8:30AM but I arrived there at just before 5:30AM! This gave me plenty of time to explore some of the areas that we would not cover on the “official” walk later in the morning.

Now, this isn’t a place to go if you want to build a big list of birds in one day! In the seven hours or so that I was there today I managed to see 33 species - not a lot but the list did include a few speciality birds such as Wood Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Stonechat and Red Grouse. We also came across good numbers of Curlew including a pair with a young chick. Two birds that I failed to find were Pied Flycatcher and Redstart.

The Goyt may not be as rich in bird life as the Trent Valley area of Derbyshire, where I do a lot of my birding, but it's a stunning place for walking…

Errwood reservoir - at 5:25AM!

Looking up towards Berry Clough.

The ferns find any shelter they can!

Looking from the top of Berry Clough.

03 June 2006

A 30-second update!

Did the gym again tonight - 5k run in 26:06min. Quite happy with that as I wasn’t pushing for a quick (by my standards) time.

Had a bite to eat at the Old Plough, Weston on Trent, tonight. Food was good and the place now feels like a proper village pub again!

Off work for the next two days - may do some more local bird watching if the weather stays fine. The past couple of days have been almost like summer!

When we arrived home from the pub this evening we could see huge amounts of smoke rising up into the sky a short distance from home. Within half an hour, I had to close all the windows because of the smoke and fumes. Tomorrow, we may find out what “went up”!

31 May 2006

Runnin' around.....

Very little to say, but….

Was at the gym tonight - did a 5k run in my best time so far. 24:32min, which knocks 1:01min off my previous best time! The only problem is… I now feel as though I’ve run 50k not 5!!!

Oh, and the two fox cubs are running around outside right now. I’ve not seen them, just heard them and they are setting security lights off in all the gardens close by! Typical kids! :-))

29 May 2006

More of the same...

Another week with yet more rain and very little else. Lynda and I managed two visits to the gym last week; it should have been three but we kind of talked each other out of Friday’s trip! Due to the weather, and the gym, I didn’t do any birding last week but I doubt that I missed much as there hasn’t been anything of any real note reported in Derbyshire for a while now.

For two days last week I was training someone at work on how to use all the Kia After Sales Systems, this wasn’t a member of our own staff but someone from another dealership! Kia had recommended that they came to us rather than go on a Kia course, as they would learn more that way! It’s nice to know that they appreciate the work I do - wonder how they will feel if the “trainee” finishes up working for us!!!

Over the past few days, we have pretty well finished off everything we have planned, for now, in the garden. All but one of the shrubs we want to remove have now gone and the new plants are in place. The summer bedding plants are in the borders and pots so all we need now is for the rain to stop and the temperature to rise a little and everything can start to fill out.





For over a week now, we have been seeing two young fox cubs around the garden, at times out with one of the adults, at other times they have been running around on their own. This past couple of days they have been rather more elusive, either the rain is keeping them under cover or, I suspect, the vixen has moved them to a new home. The weather forecast for the coming week is looking a lot drier so it may be that we get to see them out playing again.

Last night, I decided that I could wait no longer for the warm summer evenings to arrive and I sat out in the garden until almost 10:30PM. This is something that I do quite often during the summer but last night proved that it is still, after all, a little early for evenings outside! The temperature was around 10°c and there was rather a strong breeze blowing. Still, I stuck it out with a can of beer, a tube of Pringles and my MP3 player in just one ear! I needed the other ear free to listen for the fox cubs! Me? Crazy? Quite possibly!