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!

A LONG day!

Yesterday, what a day! We set off from Derby at 7:30AM with things not looking too good - the weather was warm but it was very overcast and there was the odd spot of rain in the air, the coach we were on was also making a rather strange noise from the transmission at times but my MP3 player soon took care of that. It’s surprising what noises you can mask with The Reasoning playing!

The journey to Norfolk was the usual boring trip, slow traffic on narrow winding roads, tractors, lorries and even the odd car and caravan throw in for good measure. Just to make us feel better it even rained a little harder at times, and it was misty. It was really starting to look like a good day for birding - and the coach still did not sound too happy either!

Once we arrived at Holkam things started to look a little promising, the cloud was lifting, the rain had long since stopped and it was still feeling a lot warmer than it should for mid-October. Spirits were raised further by the sight of 100’s of Pink-footed Geese flying in onto the salt marsh to join the 1000’s that were already there. Whilst scanning through the geese I came across a Sacred Ibis - quite what it was doing there I do not know, but I can be pretty certain that it has escaped from somewhere! (Having checked on Birdguides the ibis has been in the area since at least early September.)

One of the pools at Holkham.

Just some of the 1000's of Pink-footed Geese.

Other birds of note around Holkam marsh included Short-eared Owl, Little Egret, Stonechat, a single Fieldfare, around half a dozen Redwing, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Curlew, Goldcrest and just to keep Lynda happy there were quite a few Wigeon!

The un-seasonally warm weather also saw numerous dragonflies on the wing and five species of butterfly - Large White, Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood.

Comma butterfly.

After spending 2½ hours in the Holkham area, we returned to the coach for a short transfer to Wells. Here the birds were rather harder to come by. The tide was at its lowest which meant that the sea was a long way out and that many of the waders were just too far away to go in search of. The mud in the harbour entrance did still hold some birds though and we managed to add Redshank, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Brent Goose to the day list before deciding to take a walk through the woods in search of smaller birds.

Wells estuary at low tide.

A fallen tree in Wells wood.

In a little under two hours we managed to add just three more species to our list - Wren, Coal Tit and Long -tailed Tit - not the most productive birding but the walk was nice and the coastal views were pleasant enough. Once back at the estuary the birding was a little better and we picked up Knot, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Peregrine before having to board the coach for the journey home. With hindsight, it may have been better to not even bother getting on board!

Pink-footed geese don't need a coach to move around!

With only around an hour of the 3½ hour journey home completed the familiar noise from the transmission on the coach suddenly got a lot worse - I could even hear it over my MP3! Another 100 yards or so down the road and the driver pulled the coach into a farm drive; things did not look or sound too good. Now, I could go on here for almost as long as the rest of last night, but I won’t!

During the final 5 hours of our day, we had to wait an hour and a half for a replacement coach, change to a third coach that had been dispatched to meet the local Norfolk one that rescued us and then came across a road closure in Grantham that saw us diverted north up the A1 to Newark.

Once around Newark we hit another road closure - on the diversion route - that meant we couldn’t get from Newark towards Nottingham! This meant we then had to go back around Newark and head even further north to Mansfield, before finally reaching the A38 and heading back SOUTH to Derby!

We should have been back in Derby by around 8:00PM, in time to watch the England v France rugby match on TV. We finally arrived home at just before 11:00PM!

Today, I feel much better… a good night’s sleep and a bucket full of whisky has put the final part of yesterday to the back of my mind.

Now, I am off racing with Gary and I really would not want to be in his shoes if he messes up today! I will kill him!

13 October 2007

Just pass me a whisky!

Well, I had planned to update this with a round up of the days birding trip to Norfolk but after the journey from hell to get home, I’m not going to bother!

Right now, I have just about lost the will to live and it is only a very large measure of whisky that is keeping me going!

I will return sometime tomorrow - hopefully after a rather more successful days racing!

Thank you, and good night!

07 October 2007

Eat, drink and get fat...

Nothing much to report this week. I’ve been at the gym a couple of times, used the bike to get to and from work on four occasions and then spent the past two days undoing all the good work I’d put in!

Last night, I went out for a couple of drinks with a friend of mine and that turned into five rather nice pints of cider, which washed down an extremely nice bacon, lettuce and tomato baguette! Rather more calories than I needed. Still, it was a good night out even though we did finish up staying in the same pub all evening. We had talked about visiting three or four different places but in the end we decided that the drinks in the first pub were going to be just as good as anywhere else, so why move?

Then today, Lynda and I have been to a Game and Country Show at Belvoir Castle. Once we arrived there, my second breakfast (I had a bowl of cereal before we left home) was a rather tasty bacon cob and a cup of coffee - more calories, but it was quite a good way of soaking up the cider from last night! I didn’t feel too bad this morning, but I have felt better!

Looking across the show ring, towards Belvoir Castle.

The show itself was rather good… lots of trade stands to look around, plenty going on in the two show rings, a demonstration in the art of glassblowing which was just superb and then there were the free food samples! Everything was going fine until I tried one of the curries - hot does not even start to cover it! I only had the smallest of tastes but my mouth was burning for ages! The bag of cookies we bought home with us was much better - while they lasted. Yet more calories!

Birds of prey had a much larger part in this event than they did at Elvaston Castle, with flying displays taking part in one of the main show rings and also a separate falconry area. As well as the usual Harris Hawks, Saker Falcons and Gyr Falcons there was also a Martial Eagle, a Golden Eagle and a very noisy Pale Chanting Goshawk amongst others.

The Martial Eagle.

The Golden Eagle.

As we left the show, at around 5:00PM, one of the birds that had been used in the final flying display showed that you can never quite rely on nature. The bird was being flown for the first time in public and, after giving a great display over the show ring for a short while, it decided that it would much rather go off on its own and have a look around the surrounding countryside!

After watching the bird slowly disappear into the distance and then giving it more than enough time to return, Chris and Helen from the falconry display set off in a Land Rover to try and retrieve the young escapee. Luckily, the bird was radio tagged and they found it a few fields away sat in a tree watching a load of horses!

03 October 2007


Well, it has taken me almost two months but I think I am over the muscle problem in my side. I’ve been able to do my full workout at the gym for over a week now and have not had any pain from my chest or side. I have got just over six weeks in which to get fit for the British Heart Foundation sponsored walk on November 18.

This year I have set myself the target of raising £350 in sponsorship. If I can reach that amount, or more, then I will have raised over £1000 in the past three years. Now, on to the part where I get on my knees and beg….


Without sponsors, this just becomes another walk in the Derbyshire Peak District. Okay, it’s a 17½ mile walk in the middle of November, there could be thick fog (like there was for part of last years walk), it could well be pouring with rain or even snowing so please, if you can, consider sponsoring me or anyone else that you may know who is taking part.

Once again, I have set up an on-line sponsorship page, via the BHF website, so that donations can be made directly to the British Heart Foundation without the need to track me down and hand over hard cash. Of course, if you would rather sponsor me in the old tried and tested way (pen on paper) then just get in touch and that can be sorted too!

The link to the sponsorship page is…


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