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!