30 December 2007

Christmas re-cap...

Okay, so maybe Christmas is just a little predictable in our house but that’s just the way we like it. I’ve just had a look back at my Blog entries for Christmas 2005 and 2006... they could both have been referring to this year.

Christmas day started with the usual hot bread rolls for breakfast, washed down with Buck’s Fizz - a great way to start Christmas morning! In the background we had the Jive Bunny Christmas CD playing - yes, we DO own that CD and yes we DO play it! After breakfast, we sat around the Christmas tree and opened our presents.

Our Christmas tree... after Santa had been!

Lunch was the traditional Turkey with all the trimmings, but without the festive Brussels sprouts. Quite why anyone would want to risk spoiling a perfectly good meal with those I do not know! In keeping with tradition, whilst lunch was prepared, I had a whisky (or two) and Lynda opened the Sherry. A rather nice bottle of wine helped the Turkey dinner go down a short while later. Not bad going for one morning… Buck’s Fizz, whisky, Sherry and then wine.

Now, after the Turkey we hit a little problem. We still had Christmas pudding to face! I’m sorry to say that we didn’t get to eat it until the following day, as we were both too full of Turkey! It’s the first time ever that I’ve not been able to eat my Christmas pudding after my lunch - guess I must be starting to show my age! The afternoon was then spent in front of the TV trying not to fall asleep.

Boxing Day was a similar day to the day before. We had an extra hour or two in bed, got up and had breakfast, I went for a short walk to fetch the papers and then we sat in front of the TV and did nothing but eat and drink. Yep, we sure are predictable at Christmas.

This year's Christmas cake - made by Lynda using enough Brandy to put you over the drink/drive limit!

Thursday came around just a little too quickly for my liking and it was back to work. I spent most of the time carrying out an end of year stock take, eating chocolates that had been given to us by a supplier and wishing I was at home. I wouldn’t say we were quiet at work, more like dead!

This morning Lynda and I took a trip into Derby for a look around the sales. I’ve still not quite worked out where my sudden liking for shopping has come from but once again, I rather enjoyed it. I came back with a shirt, a scarf and a new leather jacket. Next weekend I may well go in search of cheap CD’s. If the right deal comes along then I’m also on the lookout for a laptop computer to use on a wi-fi connection around the house. That will have to be the right deal on the right laptop though!

So, that’s it for another year. All that is left now is New Year's Eve and all the food and drink that goes with it. We’ll be staying at home as usual and will no doubt be treated to a free fireworks display as the rest of the world goes firework mad at mid-night.

24 December 2007


That’s it, if I’ve forgotten something or someone it’s too late now! The car is locked away, the doors are bolted and the curtains drawn. If it isn’t done now then it isn’t going to happen! From here on in all the stress of Christmas is forgotten and I now start to enjoy it.


23 December 2007

I think I'm just about ready...

Right, there’s little more than a 24hrs until “the big day” and I’m just about ready! A little earlier, I won the battle of the wrapping - it was a close call but I eventually got the better of the paper and sellotape. One or two of the scars I’m left with may be with me for some time though! Leaving me in charge of scissors, sticky tape and paper is never a good idea.

I had planned on going out birding this morning but it never happened. For one, the weather has turned somewhat yucky - we’ve had rain, mist and fog for the past day or two - and on top of that I couldn’t be bothered to drag myself out of bed in time this morning. The thought of walking around some disused gravel pit in the fog just didn’t appeal somehow.

In the end, staying at home proved to be not so bad. A single Greenfinch visited the bird feeders in the garden this morning - the first one for many months - the Coal Tit that has been coming for food occasionally over the past few weeks put in an appearance again and then a pair of Blue Tits covered just about every inch of the garden in search of spiders and insects.

Okay, so these aren’t the sort of birds that would normally get much more than a second glance when out birding but today they were garden highlights. For me even the most common of birds can be special, given the right circumstances.

It also looks like we may get to have a "Christmas" Robin in the garden for the first time in a number of years too. Although common enough in the area the Robin is a bird that has never really taken to our little urban garden for some reason but, for the past six months or so, we have had one or two coming to the feeders. Hopefully, come Christmas day we will have a visit from the one bird associated with Christmas almost as much as the Turkey is!

17 December 2007

Don’t worry, I didn’t slit my wrists during last Monday's shopping trip into Derby! In fact, the whole experience was rather enjoyable. No, you didn’t read that wrong, I did enjoy the Westfield Centre in the run up to Christmas! I was in Derby for just before 9:00AM, the shops were more or less deserted and there were no queues worth mentioning. Only problem is I didn’t take full advantage of the situation… I need to go back and face the hoards once more before the big day!

So, onto the rest of the week. Every day was very cold, but dry, with temperatures below freezing each night. This enabled me to use the mountain bike to get into work again and, more importantly, to get back at night without having to be stuck in traffic jams - the traffic in an evening was horrendous as people battled to get into town for the late-night shopping. The cold front looks to be here for the rest of the week at least, so I will be using the bike up until Christmas I think.

Last Friday saw the long awaited release of the new Bluehorses album, Thirteen Fires; it has been almost three years in the making! *(Check out the comments, at the end of the end of this post, for the official word on the release of Thirteen Fires!) Friday was also the first gig on a three day Christmas mini-tour for the band. The Flowerpot in Derby was the venue and as usual, it was a great night.

Liz - getting ready to try and kick my head in!

The set list was made up of 17 tracks, seven from the new album and the rest old favourites from the past few years. Highlights for me included Witch In Wedlock, Dance With Me, Ray Of Light, Calling My Loves and the mighty Skyclad. The biggest hit of the night almost came during Waes Hael, a new track from the new album. Liz kicked out in time to the music and her New Rock boot missed my face by a matter of inches! Being so close to the stage at The Flowerpot does, at times, have its disadvantages!

Lyndon Price.

Due to the recent departure of the bass player the band had a bit of a change around for these gigs - Jay, the lead guitarist, changed to bass player whilst Lyndon Price from Redrock Studios (birthplace of the new CD) stepped into Jay's boots and picked up the lead guitar role. The result being a four-piece band that totally gelled with each other. Lyndon had just two weeks to learn the set but you’d have thought he’d been with Bluehorses for years!

Lyndon, Nic and Jay.

On Saturday evening, Lynda and I were at Pride Park Stadium, home to Derby County Football Club. Luckily, with the results that Derby have had so far this season, we were not there for a game but for Lynda’s work Christmas party. The plan had been for me to be driving us there and back so that Lynda could enjoy a drink or two, in the end I finished up drinking and Lynda took the driving role. This was nothing to do with me… Lynda hadn’t been feeling too well during the day so alcohol was the last thing she could face!

The food was great, for such a big party night, and the service was okay too. Maybe if one or two of the staff were transferred from waiting on tables to playing on the pitch then The Rams may start and get one or two wins under their belts! Then again…

Liz, at The Robin.

During the week, I had been alternately talking myself into, and then out of, going to the Bluehorses gig at The Robin, Bilston, last night. In the end it was the band themselves that convinced me that I should indeed be there. As Jay said after Friday's gig… “It would be rude not to”! So, off I set last night at 6:30PM on the hour-long drive to The Robin. It was already -2° c when I set off from Derby and felt much colder as I arrived at the gig. A large tray of chips and mushy peas, from the chippie just across the road from the venue, warmed me up a little but not half as much as the heating in The Robin, the place was like an oven! No need for coats in there last night!

Liz, Nic and Lyndon.

The set list was the same as Friday night, and it was well received by the crowd once again. There was no close shave for me from Liz and her boots this time - the stage is higher at The Robin and the sound monitors add extra “crowd protection” here!

One little extra bonus for me at this gig was the attendance of Matt and Rachel from The Reasoning, another band I love to listen to. I was fortunate enough to get to spend a good while chatting with them before Bluehorses came on stage and to receive a “live” CD of an earlier Bluehorses gig that Matt had for me. It’s evenings like last night that make the music scene so enjoyable. Come January, it will be The Reasoning that I will be off to see play live - and I can’t wait!



09 December 2007

Just a bit of an update on what’s been going on…

Work has gone crazy over the past couple of weeks - people seem to have taken a liking to crashing cars so I’ve been ordering accident repair parts like they are going out of fashion! All good for business but not so good for the stress levels, especially when part of my order finishes up at the opposite end of the country to me! Quite how two bumpers and two backing beams can just disappear I do not know - it’s not as if they are small items like, say, computer discs carrying thousands of names and addresses! ;-)

Last Saturday was the presentation night for Melton and Leicester autograss club. Lynda and I went along with Gary and Suzanne. Gary picked up the trophy for winning the season-long Class 6 Championship, we all had a few drinks and generally had a good time. Sunday morning saw one or two slightly sore heads but overall we escaped without too much pain! The cooked breakfast that Gary did for us all certainly helped get me up and running again!

Another week has gone by without me stepping foot inside the gym, mainly due to my feet still not being up to it. The blisters I got on the BHF walk have taken a lot longer to heal than I expected and the thought of the gym just hasn’t been too appealing so far. Last night, much to Lynda’s disgust, I lost one of my little toe nails - another victim of the walk! I found it quite funny; Lynda found it turned her stomach!

As a result of not going to the gym, and also some pretty careless eating on my behalf, I’ve seen my weight creep up by almost half a stone. As of tomorrow, I am back to watching what I eat. By the time Christmas arrives, I will be back in shape again - just in time to put all the weight back on!

Yesterday was the last Derby RSPB coach trip of the year. I had been in two minds about going all week but Lynda talked me into it. By the time we had been at Titchwell for a couple of hours I think she may have wished we had stayed at home. The rain poured down for most of the day, the wind was blowing at what felt like gale force and there was very little in the way of bird life to be seen.

The view from a rain lashed bird hide!

And if you opened the window... there was very little to see!

The highlights of the day (apart from getting home) included a single Red-breasted Merganser and two Eider duck on the very rough sea, three Little Egret, six Avocet, a handful of Turnstone, a large flock of Golden Plover and a couple of Marsh Harrier. The bird of the day for me was a Merlin that flew over the salt marsh during a brief lull in the rain.

Tomorrow I’ll be starting my Christmas shopping. I hate shopping at the very best of times but Christmas shopping is just plain terrifying. I am expecting this year to be even worse now that the new Westfield shopping centre is open and attracting yet more people into Derby. Your prayers for my swift and safe return would be much appreciated.

27 November 2007

Straight after work last Wednesday, Lynda and I headed off to Hampshire for a long weekend break. We were staying with Lynda’s aunt and uncle and the plan had been to join them on a walk on Thursday morning. As it was, my feet were not up to walking more than a mile or so at the very most (still recovering from my BHF walk!) so Lynda went on the walk whilst I had a look around the village of Hurstbourne Priors, where the walk started and finished.

Although very nice, the village turned out to be also rather small. Walking at a very slow pace, I managed to walk from one end of the village to the other, and back, in little over an hour, that included photo stops and time stood just watching the river flow by.

The River Test - Hurstbourne Priors.

Mistletoe growing in the village.

St. Andrew's Church - Hurstbourne Priors.

Cross in the grounds of St. Andrew's Church.

Carving on the stone cross.

By 11:45AM, I was sat in The Hurstbourne Inn enjoying a pint of Strongbow. By the time the walkers arrived back for lunch, I had enjoyed a second pint. Having badly blistered feet can have its good points! Lunch was rather good too… sausage with mashed potato and onion gravy.

The bar at The Hurstbourne Inn.

On Friday, I sat and read for much of the day while everyone else visited the National Trust’s new Head Office in Swindon. I’m still not sure whether the reason for the trip really was the NT building or the designer outlet shopping centre next door!

Saturday and Sunday were both relaxing family days - much of the time being spent catching up on news and also eating and drinking! Having a Chinese take-away just up the road is always very handy.

18 November 2007


Another year, another British Heart Foundation High Peak Trail Winter Challenge Walk completed! The only difference this year was the weather - horrible just about covers it!

The weather forecast had changed so much over the past few days that I’d given up worrying about it, I was doing the walk regardless of the conditions so why dwell on it. When the rain started to beat against the bedroom window so hard that it woke me up at 3:00AM this morning I did wonder at my sanity though.

By the time I was ready to leave the house, at 7:15AM, the rain had eased to a steady downpour. Once all my waterproof clothing, boots and food were loaded into the car I set off for Cromford, the start of the walk. By 8:15AM I had met up with Paul, who was doing the walk with me, I was dressed up like I was going on a walk to the North Pole, I had signed in with the BHF organises and was I ready for the off.

For the past two years Paul and I have posed for photos at the start line, this year the rain was coming down too heavily for me to risk getting the camera out so off we set. The first two check points were reached in exactly the same times as last year - Black Rocks in 45mins; Middleton Top in 1hr 5mins - so the constant rain wasn’t having too much of an effect on us. Middleton Top also gave us the chance to grab a quick drink from the BHF staff without having to delve into our rucksacks for our own supplies.

On the lower ground we ONLY had to worry about flood water on the trail!

The next time check on my list was Minninglow, 6½ miles on from Middleton. We covered this section in 1hr 47mins, enough to put us 8mins ahead of last year. It was on this section that the rain finally stopped; problem was it turned to sleet and then a short while later snow! The weather was turning into a bit of an issue now. Paul and I weren’t too bothered by it - we both had full waterproofs, good boots and the benefit of doing this walk before - the “baggy jeans and trainers brigade” (inexperienced walkers in totally the wrong clothing for the conditions) were having a rough time of it. The trail was now a cross between a mud bath, a melting glacier and a shallow stream!

At Minninglow, we took a 10min break. Paul took advantage of the free soup on offer; I started on a cereal bar and an energy drink. Life was good! We had food, we had drink and we had sunshine. Well, okay I made the last bit up, it was actually snowing harder now.

The longer we walked, the more it snowed!

After our little rest break it was a 2½ mile section to Friden. For the past two years this picnic area has been our lunch stop, a time to sit down, eat and have a drink. Today, we both tried our best to unpack what food we could eat on the go whilst trying our best not to get too much sleet and snow inside our bags. Just 5mins later, we were on the go again. I learnt something at this point… unwrapping and then eating a meat pie with waterlogged gloves on is NOT an easy thing to do! Another walker’s dog even tried to pinch my pie at this point!

Stage 5 was another 2½ mile section, this time we were aiming for the cycle hire centre, and café, at Parsley Hay. We arrived here at 12:50PM, which meant that we were now 10mins ahead of last year’s time. I wasn’t really aiming to finish the walk in any set time but it was nice to know that even though the weather had been against us from the start we were on target for setting a new best time, for me at least.

The view at Parsley Hay.

Two ice cream signs at Parsley Hay caught my eye. The red and white “heart” logo fitted in well with the BHF sponsorship and the “summer inside” sign, covered in snow, was somewhat ironic I thought! After a short break of 5mins it was onto the final leg of the journey, a 2 mile sprint to the finish.

I don't think I'll bother with an ice cream, thank you!

This final part of the walk was covered in 30mins, the same as last year, but it was the hardest part for me. With just under ¾ of a mile to go I suddenly felt a sharp stabbing pain in my left heal. The next step was even worse - straight away I knew what I’d done, I’d blistered the back of my heal and it had burst. With under a mile to go there was no way I was going to stop and try and do anything with it - not that I had any plasters or anything with me - so it was grin and bear it for just a short while longer.

With just a hundred yards or so to go to the finish, I issued a challenge to Paul, “Let’s run and cross the finish line!”. Whether he will thank me for it or not I don’t know, but we did it! We may not have been running at much of a pace but we did pass about four or five people on our charge to the line, much to the amusement of the BHF official who was welcoming people home! A quick check of my watched showed we finished at 1:25PM, a full 10mins quicker than last year. The total walk time being 5hrs 10mins.

A VERY welcome sight!

So, the walk is over and my own personal damage count is two big blisters, two rather tired legs and a little toenail that has gone black. No doubt the nail will be falling off at some point in the next few weeks, just like it did two years ago!

That just leaves the important bit - the sponsorship! As of this moment, I have raised a total of £302.08 when the gift aid is added to the money I have in sponsorship. As there are still one or two more sponsors to be added to this figure I’m more or less certain that I will beat my target of £350.

All that remains for me to do is to say a HUGE thank you to everyone that has been generous enough to help me raise the money.


17 November 2007


I’ve now broken the £300 barrier!

A couple more sponsors this evening has seen me move a little closer to reaching my £350 target.

There's still time to add a donation!


Well, it’s almost time to pull on my walking boots again. At around 8:00AM tomorrow I will be starting the British Heart Foundation High Peak Trail Winter Challenge Walk. If the weather forecast is correct, it will be 17.5 miles of wind, rain and mud - an ideal way to spend a Sunday morning I reckon!

The weather forecast has changed, slightly for the better, over the past 36 hours so maybe the rain won’t be too bad. I have just been out and purchased a new pair of waterproof walking trousers though, just in case!

As of this moment (4:00PM) I have raised just over £290 in sponsorship when the gift aid is included, so I’m not too far short of the £350 target I set myself. I hope that by the end of the walk I will have taken that total past my target.

So, all I need to do now is get to the start line, do a bit of walking, come home and then send off the money! Oh, if only it was that easy - just the thought of it is making my knees hurt!

Paul, if you read this before the morning… “I’ll see you at the start line, mate!”

11 November 2007

Center Parcs

Is it really a week since I last posted here? Holidays always go so much quicker than a normal working week!

Monday: The drive down to Suffolk was much easier than I had feared it would be - the fog had all cleared by the time the sun came up and the traffic, although very heavy at times, was a lot kinder to us that I had expected. The journey took us just over 3 hours but that was mainly due to a traffic jam on the last couple of miles of the trip. As luck would have it the traffic hold up was a blessing in disguise as we ended up following Neil, Susan and Chloe into the car park.

Once we had parked the cars, we all set off to explore the village and to find our home for the week. That’s when we hit the first minor problem - the villa we had been allocated was still in use! Back to the reception desk to find out what was going on. After a short delay we were informed there had been a mix up with the bookings and that we were now in a different villa - the new one turned out to be in a much nicer location too.

Our home for the week.

As we couldn’t get into the villa until 3:00PM, we had plenty of time to look around the village square, fit in a second breakfast and try to get a feel for the layout of the forest trails and walkways. By the time darkness fell, I just about had the place worked out.

In the evening, Lynda and I ate in the covered courtyard outside the Italian restaurant - a pasta buffet consisting of four different pasta courses and a whole load of salad. I skipped the seafood dish! (Fish needs to be wrapped in batter, have a heap of chips next to it and some mushy peas for me to be interested!) To finish off a rather nice meal we forced ourselves to have a huge slice of Coffee and Walnut cake each! Once back at the villa it was time for another couple of beers before heading off to bed.

Tuesday: Started the day with breakfast on the go - a gorgeous sausage cob for me and a bacon and cheese wrap for Lynda, both from the supermarket in the village square. By the time we had polished off breakfast it was straight into the swimming dome! When we had first arrived we didn’t think that the pool area looked too big compared to the Sherwood Forest village, thankfully we were wrong. The main pool was a good size and there were also two outdoor pools, two waterslides, the outdoor rapids and a single short, but very fast, straight slide. With all that lot to go at we spent most of the day in the swimming dome!

Inside the swimming dome.

We did manage to drag ourselves out of the water by late afternoon and then, after a quick shower and change of clothes, we headed back to the “beach” by the main lake for the evening's firework display. The whole village square was in party mode for the evening - there were stilt walkers, a Samba band and dancers, stalls selling glow-sticks, soup, a hog roast, an outdoor bar (I didn’t need that - I took a few cans of beer with me!) and a noodle bar. I can’t comment on the quality of the pork cobs as we didn't try them but the chicken noodles were great! Oh, and the fireworks were pretty good too!

Fireworks by the lake.

As Neil, Susan and Chloe hadn’t eaten at the beach we all headed off to Huck’s, the American diner, after the fireworks had finished. They all had a full meal whilst Lynda just had a pudding! I somehow managed to fit in a huge plate full of potato skins and chilli, and a few more beers! Lynda took the opportunity to have a cocktail, something she always does at least once at Center Parcs.

Wednesday: A slow and relaxing day. Lynda had a “Frangipani Body Nourish Wrap” at the spa! It sounded like something you’d eat to me but I’m told it was a beauty treatment that involved Lynda being coated in scented oils and then wrapped in tin foil! A bit like a Christmas turkey but without the oven I guess! Whilst Lynda was marinating in oils, I watched Chloe on the indoor climbing wall.

I met Lynda in the Country Club after her treatment where we had coffee and cakes, or in my case two cakes. Most of the afternoon was then spent chilling out in front of the TV. Neil, Susan, Chloe and I had an hour or so in the pool area in the early evening before we all went to Hugo’s restaurant at night. I think this was the best meal of the week - excellent food, pleasant relaxing atmosphere and a very nice bottle of wine.

Thursday: I was out of bed long before everyone else so I took myself off for a full-cooked breakfast in the Sports Café. I chose the café as it was by far the nearest place that was doing breakfast - big mistake! In the time it took to have my order taken and the food brought out to me, I could have walked all the way to the Country Club, eaten breakfast and walked back again! To me, an hour to get a cooked breakfast is pushing it just a little too far - and it’s not as if they were busy as there were only four tables seated including myself! Lynda and I then spent the whole day in the swimming dome.

Me, being a big kid!

Another little tradition that we have picked up over the years of going to Center Parcs is the pick and mix sweets - we always bring a big bag home each. This year was no exception and we somehow managed to both finish up with £4.37 worth of different sweets - I still have plenty left, Lynda has eaten all of hers!

Now, Thursday evening’s meal. We had planned to eat in Bella Italia but after waiting for almost an hour and still not being seated, and also seeing just how slow the table service was, we decided to go to Huck’s Diner again instead. We started with a plate full of potato skins to share and then it was a case of burgers all round and boy, were the burgers round! Once we had finished them we were all close to bursting! By the time we got back to the villa it was getting quite late so it was a case of a quick beer and then off to bed.

Friday: As this was our last day the first thing to do was get the cars packed and then go in search of breakfast. No mistakes today, it was straight to the Country Club! The service was very fast, the food great, so no problems there. Next stop was the swimming dome and we all spent the morning on the water slides, rapids and just messing around in the main pool.

In the afternoon Lynda and I had to say goodbye to everyone else as we had a three hour spa session booked - the perfect way to end the week! The favourite rooms for me had to be the Turkish Hammam and the Balinese Multi Steam Bath. The rest of the spa was great but those two just had the edge. Lynda found the water bed very much to her liking and I think she would be there still, if I hadn’t fetched her off it!

That left us with just one last thing to do before we set off for home - The Pancake House! By now, it was almost 5:30PM and we were getting hungry. There was no way we would be home much before 9:00PM so a meal before we left was a priority. One large size savoury pancake each, followed by one slightly smaller sweet pancake each and we were ready to hit the road!

So, we’ve now visited all four of the Center Parcs villages in the UK. Would I make the long journey to Suffolk again? Maybe, but not for a few years. As Sherwood Forest is less than an hour away I can’t see the point in spending all the extra time driving, and the extra fuel money, on going anywhere else but Nottingham for a while. It was a great week though!

More photos from the week HERE!

04 November 2007

Holiday time...

Well, it’s very nearly holiday time! In a little over eight hours we should be on the road to Center Parcs. This time we are off to Elveden Forest in Suffolk, a village that we have not been to before, and I can’t wait!

The only thing that I’m not looking forward to too much is the drive there. We always try to get to Center Parcs for around 10:00AM, so that we can make the most of our time there, even though we cannot get into the accommodation until 3:00PM. This will mean leaving home at about 7:00AM tomorrow. The time isn’t a real problem but the traffic on the M1 and A14 could well be a BIG problem! Monday morning rush hour is crazy enough at the best of times but it looks like we’ll be doing a good part of the 130 miles or so in thick fog. The fog is already quite thick outside tonight and all the smoke from people having bonfires and fireworks is only making things worse.

Still, the forecast is for a reasonably dry week so once the car is parked up the fun can start. The beer is all ready to be packed in the car, I’ve a new bottle of whisky to go with it, my MP3 player is loaded with a fresh batch of music and I even have all my clothes packed! Okay, so Lynda has packed for me, with a little guidance from myself!

As usual the swimming pool, water rapids and slides will be our main focus but Lynda and I do have a spa session booked and it looks like I’ll be being dragged into roller-skating with Chloe! So far, I have avoided having to join her on the indoor climbing wall, the outdoor high ropes and also the 13-meter abseiling tower, but that may well change once we get there!

See you next weekend!

31 October 2007

Evening! Still nothing much to report but I’ve a bit of time to spare so I thought I do a little update.

I chickened out of the gym last night, not a good move after all the food I’d eaten during the day, but I did do half an hour with my weights at home so that kind of made up for it I guess!

I took the long route into work on my bike this morning - a gorgeous start to the day, clear blue sky, no wind and plenty of autumn colour on the tress. It was one of those mornings when I could have just kept on riding.

Work was very quiet for most of the day and that just made me wish that I could have been outside even more. By early afternoon it felt more like spring out in the sun than late autumn - I just hope this weather continues right through next week whilst we are at Center Parcs.

The only notable part of the day at work was the arrival of a rather tasty looking Ferrari that we are selling for a customer. It’s a little above my price range but it would look quite nice parked in the garage at home, alongside my bike!

The Ferrari will take its place in the showroom alongside a Bentley, one or two Porsches, the usual mix of Merc’s and BMW’s and a Lotus Elise. Quite a nice little selection at the moment, if you have the money! Anyone have the winning numbers for next Saturday’s Lottery?

29 October 2007


Being as things are a little quiet around here at the moment I thought I would have a look around for one or two items of “real news” that are making the headlines today.

The big news story has to be the total crash of the internet. See below for the latest news report!

In sport, top NASCAR coach Dan Amon has revealed one or two tips for drivers hoping to make it big in the world of motor sport!

More news as it happens!

28 October 2007

You’re having a laugh…

Nothing much been going on this past week so nothing much to say!

Biggest laugh of the week had to be being stopped and questioned by the Police whilst on my way to work last Monday! They thought I may have been an anti-nuclear protestor! I guess it must have been because I ride a mountain bike, wear a bright blue cycling jacket AND have a rucksack!

Long story cut short… a group of protestors (all 12 of them!) had gathered outside the Rolls Royce plant on Raynesway, the Police turned out in force (reported to be around 40 of them!), two Police officers saw me and stopped me for questioning! They wanted to see I.D. - I don’t carry any. They wanted proof of where I was going - I suggested they follow me! Looking back on it, that may not have been the best thing to say but I just thought the whole thing was one big joke - they did not!

On Wednesday, Lynda and I went over to see Neil, Susan and Chloe to sort out plans for our trip to Center Parcs in just over a week’s time. In the end, very little was sorted but Lynda and Neil did do a fair job on a couple of bottles of wine! Lynda drunk is so funny! Not that I’m laughing of course - if I do it will only come back to haunt me whilst on holiday! I get the horrible feeling that “Uncle Richard” may well be getting roped into one or two things that he would not normally do. And of course, I'll also be having the odd drink or two!

Yesterday I had my first trip to the new Westfield shopping centre in Derby. Now, shopping is one of my pet hates - Lynda’s pet hate is taking me shopping! - but I have to admit that as far as shopping goes Westfield isn’t all that bad! Not sure I could cope with going there too often (it is a shopping centre after all) but when needs must, it’s as good as anywhere.

21 October 2007

One or two surprises…

Today, I’m having a lazy Sunday - it’s not what I planned on doing, it’s just the way things have worked out. I had one or two things in mind for today but when I looked out of the window at around 7:30AM and saw a rather gloomy, misty morning I decided to stay in bed - my walk or bike ride will have to keep for another day! Now, the weather outside is gorgeous, so I could have gone out after all.

So, what’s been going on? Well, not a huge amount really. I’ve been making the most of the dry weather and have biked to work three times, I went swimming on Tuesday after work and then did a full workout at the gym followed by a swim on Thursday.

Work has been quiet, very quiet in fact. They did manage to throw in a little surprise on Thursday though. I left my desk for just long enough to eat a rather tasty bowl of chicken salad, that Lynda delivered to work for me, and came back to find that the General Manager had called a staff meeting to announce that a new Service Manager was to start this coming Monday! I didn’t see that one coming! It would have been nice to have been in the meeting, but I’ve seen too many of these changes over the years to worry. They come… they go.

Work threw in another little surprise yesterday but this time a rather nice one. I say nice, it was for me but not so for the poor Woodcock that flew into the showroom window. The poor thing was not happy. One of the salesmen came to me just after 9:00AM to say that “a big bird with a long bill just hit the window!” When I asked what it was, he had no idea but said that it was still lying on the floor outside.

I was off over the top of the reception desk like a shot! Sure enough, there lay the rather sorry looking bird, a Woodcock. Quite what it was doing in such a built up area in broad daylight I don’t know but I bet it wished that it had stayed well clear of our window. When I first picked the bird up, I was sure that it was dead - there was no life in it at all and its eyes were glazed over - but after a short while, it started to come around.

The rather dazed Woodcock.

I moved the bird to a quiet, sunny part of the car park, well away from any traffic or people and after around half an hour the Woodcock was able to stand on its own again and was starting to look a lot healthier. By mid-morning it had moved into cover under a large bush and by the time I left work at lunchtime it had gone on its way again.

The Woocock finds cover.

Yesterday afternoon I went out for a few hours birding at Willington Gravel Pits. I wasn’t expecting to see too much but the weather was just too good to sit at home in front of the TV. During almost 5 hours there I saw a total of 48 species. Highlights were 2 Whooper Swan, 8 Wigeon, 10 Gadwall, 2 Water Rail, 4 Common Snipe, around 550 Black-head Gull, 110 Lesser Black-backed Gull, a single Grey Wagtail, a female Stonechat, around 30 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing and 2 Goldcrest. The 160 or so Canada Geese that flew in at dusk made for a rather nice sight too.

Part of the mid-afternoon gull roost.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls and the much smaller Black-headed Gulls.

One of the two Whooper Swans.

The sunset was also worth waiting for, even if the temperature had dropped to around 5°c by then! The sun goes down behind one of the main areas of water and it gave me a chance to play around with the camera at the end of a very enjoyable afternoon’s birding.

Sunset over Willington Gravel Pits.

Now, I’m going to go and have a large mug of coffee, watch the TV and read the Sunday papers - a lazy day!

14 October 2007

I've been racing!

What a contrast today has been when compared to last night. I've been autograss racing and I haven’t stopped smiling all afternoon!

I arrived at the track this morning to find Gary had the car all ready to race and that I didn’t even need to fuel it up or start changing tyres before the first race. After having a laugh and a joke about my fun getting back from Norfolk he started to show a slightly worrying interest in my health. He quizzed me on how the muscle damage to my ribs and side was feeling; he asked how my "poor old back" was. This was not the sort of conversation we would normally have! We are much more likely to be winding each other up about such things and making fun of each other - sympathy does not happen!

Sure enough, Gary had an ulterior motive; he wanted me to race his car at least once during the afternoon as a bit of a thank you for helping out over the past few years. My first reaction was "no way - you need a big haul of points from this meeting to clinch the season's Class 6 Championship!" Gary had that all worked out… if he could win the first two heats, he would have the championship in the bag.

With my first excuse shot down in flames, I tried the "It’s been over 20 years since I last raced, and I’ve never raced a front wheel drive car before." routine. Gary was having none of it. He just said, "Take it steady, have a bit of fun and enjoy yourself". So, I was signed in at race control as a day-licence driver and there was no going back.

Once the racing got underway, I think that Gary went out to prove a bit of a point to me. The speed that he found from the MG this afternoon was unbelievable; he was flying and won his first two heats quite comfortably. With the Class 6 Championship now decided my excuse for not racing went right out the window. To be honest, I was really looking forward to pulling a helmet on again and getting back out on track. If only Gary hadn’t shown just how quick the car was I might not have looked quite so slow myself!

Just what have I let myself in for?

This harness will never fit me!

Once in the car the first thing we needed to do was get the six-point race harness to fit me. I may be watching what I eat but we needed to let those belts out a good couple of inches to fit me! Note to self…get back in the gym again next week! After sorting the harness it was on with the helmet, neck brace and gloves, a couple of extra pulls to tighten the shoulder harnesses and I was well and truly in for the ride.

I've always wanted a Simpson helmet!

Stop looking so worried Gary! That's my job!

I lined up about a car's length behind the other drivers and let the start marshall know that I would be letting them off the line ahead of me before I set off. The revs started to rise, the all clear was given from around the track and we were off. It may be 20 odd years since I last raced but one thing hasn’t changed - mud and stones still fly everywhere when those cars launch out of the start gate! Keep your head down and your visor closed!

The rest of the pack get a bigger head start than I planned!

There’s not that much I can remember about my first race, other than I made a total hash of getting away from the grid! Once I decided to set off after the other cars I made a complete mess of changing into second gear. Gary had told me before hand that I would need to take the gear selection nice and easy, I forgot and gave the other cars the best part of a straight's lead. By the end of the race I did manage to pull back a lot of lost ground on a couple of cars but, much more importantly to me, I had had a great time and also got the car back in the pits with no damage. I was more than happy!

I'm in there - somewhere!

Back in pit lane - complete with all four wheels!

With my little "jolly" out of the way, it was time to focus on the rest of the meeting and getting the car ready for the class finals. After having had a nice easy time in my race the MG must have wondered what was going on in its next outing. Gary drove the thing like a man possessed - which is possibly close to the truth. Why on earth would he trust me with his car if he were of sound mind? Once a little bit of first bend pushing and shoving was out of the way, Gary opened up a lead of almost half a lap in the final and came home the clear winner once again.

Normally we would have loaded the car up after the finals, as the only races left are fun races open to anyone that wants to have an extra race or two. Gary doesn’t usually take part in these as they can result in unnecessary damage due to the handicap start system and the mix of different class cars involved. Today, Gary decided that these races were in fact okay to race in - just so long as it was me in the car!

My second race saw me start almost a full lap behind the lead car due to the power of the class 6 MG - they obviously weren’t going to take into account who was driving the car for this race. Having learnt the hard way about the gear change on the car I decided to take no risks the second time around and chose to start in second gear. By picking a section of the track with lots of loose dirt on it I was able to make a much better start by using the dirt to get the wheels spinning as I dropped the clutch. This race went on for longer due to the mix of cars in it and it gave me a little more time to get to grips with how the MG handled.

By the time the chequered flag dropped I hadn’t made up any places but did feel as though I was starting to gain some confidence in my driving again. If it hadn’t have been for me wanting to avoid damaging Gary’s car at all costs I may well have been able to pick up a couple of places on the last lap. In the end, instead of risking a move that may or may not have come off, I hit the brakes hard and gave the cars in front of me the racing line into the corner. As we crossed the finish line I was almost pushing them both, we were that close.

I'll take this off - if my hands will just stop shaking!

All in all today has been just about perfect - Gary has the Class 6 club championship again, the car goes into the winter with no damage and I got to have two outings in the M219 MG ZR! Sundays don’t come much better for me!