31 August 2007

I’m a little late with this update but there hasn’t been much going on and I’m also having technical issues with my modem. At least it has kept my ramblings on here to a minimum!

The week leading up to the Bank Holiday weekend was very quiet both here at home and at work. I used the mountain bike to get to work on the Monday and from then on things went down hill! No more biking, no trips to the gym. I’m still not quite sure what I’ve done but it stopped all exercise dead in its tracks. The pain I’ve been getting in my side may be down to a pulled or torn muscle or it may be a damaged rib. Whatever it is, it hurt! This past couple of days has seen a big improvement but I’m still not quite right. No doubt a trip to the doctor would have answered all questions about the injury, but I don’t do doctors!

The Bank Holiday weekend itself was great. The weather was surprisingly good - even hot at times - and because of the pain in my side I did little or nothing all weekend apart from sit out in the garden reading and drinking cider. On the Saturday evening, Lynda and I sat out in the garden until well after dark with nothing more tiring to do than sit and read and watch the stars come out.

With the aid of her stargazing guidebook, Lynda was able to point out many new constellations to me including the Summer Triangle, Cygnus, the Square of Pegasus, Cassiopeia, The Plough, Delphinus and Ursa Minor including Polaris. Two shooting stars also showed themselves to Lynda, but I missed them both!

Sunday was more or less a repeat of the day before… more time sat out in the garden, more of Harry Potter read by me. The weather wasn’t quite so warm on the Sunday but at least it was dry and bright which is always a bonus for a Bank Holiday.

Most of Monday morning was taken up with washing and polishing the car. The time has come to start looking for a newer model again so I thought that I should try to get the car looking at its best before we go looking for a replacement. The end result was one rather smart looking motor and me feeling very sore due to the pain from my ribs. Just to finish me off completely, I then mowed the lawns. That was me done for the rest of the day!

One rather clean car!

A tidy garden again.

Late on Monday evening I tried to get onto the internet to post a Blog update and found that my modem wouldn’t connect. A quick phone call to the helpdesk soon confirmed that the modem was in fact dead and that an engineer would be needed. Tomorrow morning I should have everything sorted out again - not sure what the engineer will do though as the modem has been fine again for the past 24 hours or so!

The past week has been just work and evenings in front of the TV. The gym has been forgotten until Sunday evening at the earliest and even then I can’t see me doing too much of a workout. If I feel up to it, I may just go and do some light cardio work and then have a swim or I may just stop home and have a beer!

I have one or two other little snippets from this week but they will have to wait until Sunday evening, as it’s now time for the final of Big Brother on TV! Yeah, I know… I’m a sad person!

19 August 2007

Another festival and another great day out!

Cambridge Rock Festival yesterday was excellent and, as the event was indoors, even the great British weather couldn’t spoil it this time!

Lynda and I set out at 8:15AM and arrived at the festival site at 9:45AM - a nice steady drive along the M1 and A14 saw us cover the 90 miles in plenty of time to have a look around the Wood Green Animal Shelter (home to the festival) before the music kicked off at 11:00AM.

Taking the time to look around the animal shelter could quite easily have turned out to be the biggest mistake of the day; luckily, I managed to leave all the homeless pets behind! Walking around the small animal housing wasn’t a problem; seeing rats, guinea pigs, rabbits etc in their pens was kind of cute - just like seeing them in a pet shop I suppose. Seeing the dogs and even the cats (I’m not a cat person) was totally different! They were just crying out for someone that would re-home them and show them the love and care they deserved.

I had to go back and see one little Terrier a second time just to let it know that it WOULD be going to a new home soon and even went to talk to a very nice young cat a second time - not like me at all! The cat was rather fun though. It did everything that it should do… came for a fuss, showed us how it could jump up onto things for a closer look at us, rolled around on the floor to play and even demonstrated that it could wash its paws. It’s a good job we had to get back to the main arena for the first band!

So, the music. I’ll try to keep it as short as possible, but that never happens here does it?

The first band on the main stage was Kyrb Grinder, a London based Heavy Rock/Metal band. Very good at what they did but maybe just a little too heavy for me, especially at 11:00AM. The drummer was very good - voted "Best Drummer of The Year" for the past two years by Classic Rock Magazine - and fronted the band very well. There are not many bands that place the drum stand at the front of the stage and also have the drummer as main vocalist.

Kyrb Grinder.

Next up came The Reasoning, one of two bands that I’d came to see. There was only one real problem with their set, at just under an hour long it was never going to be enough! They played a superb gig, the tracks chosen were great, the crowd loved them, the stage show was first class and Rachel Jones was as expressive as ever. The Reasoning should have been given a slot much later in the day and of greater length, but at least by playing an early slot they did get a chance to have a beer afterwards! Cheers for the pint, Matt!

Rachel Jones - The Reasoning.

The Reasoning.

Big 10 came next, a Ska cover band. Quite where a band playing cover tracks from the likes of Bad Manners, Madness and The Specials fit in to a rock festival I do not know, but at least it gave us a chance to head off in search of food. From outside the arena Big 10 did sound quite good but not good enough to drag me away from my Green Chicken Curry and rice! Having said that, I did find myself moving around a little to tracks such as Too Much Too Young, Poison Ivy, One Step Beyond and Lip up Fatty! The classic Guns of Navarone brought the set to a close.

Juicy Lucy, a band that goes back to the mid '60s, was the fourth act on the main stage. Some great classic rock, played by a band that quite clearly had been there and done it all before. Nothing too showy about them, they just got on and played. Juicy Lucy are a band that I’d like to see again and I’ll be looking into their music some more. Hey, it’s only taken me forty-one years to discover them.

Following along the same time line as Juicy Lucy came Stray, another band that have been around for as long as I have. Stray have, in the past, toured with such greats as Kiss, Rush and the Pink Fairies so they know all about playing to a big crowd. At Cambridge, everyone loved them. This was a rock festival and that is just what we got from Stray. Another band that I’d like to see again.

After working my way through a rather nice bacon cob (to soak up some of the beer) it was time for Bluehorses, the second of the bands I had been waiting to see. As usual, the Bluehorses were quite simply brilliant - not that I’m in any way biased. The set of tracks they chose was pretty heavy, compared to some 'horses gigs, and it fitted right in with the crowd. As usual, the band gave it their all and rocked the place in the way only they can - even the lighting engineers upped the pace and gave a light show to match the quality of the music.


Now, at Bluehorses gigs you can almost always find me right at the front of the stage and Cambridge was no exception. Yesterday, I may have been better off hidden right at the back of the crowd! Unknown to me, I had been set up a little by a few friends in America (thanks, Sarah!), and the band. Lizzy announced to the crowd, and the world via the live Radio Caroline broadcast, that it had been my birthday! At first I was shocked, then I hid, then I laughed my head off about it! Liz and the rest of the band all stood smiling and waving at me in front of I don’t know how many cheering rock fans, and Jay played me Happy Birthday on the guitar. I just love this band, they are a great bunch of musicians and good friends too - not that I’m in any way biased!

Jay MacDonald - Bluehorses.

Liz Prendergast - Bluehorses.

Next up came Man, yet another band that can trace their history back to the '60s. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really take too much notice of this band as I was too busy chatting with the Bluehorses crew! The bits I did hear sounded very good but I can’t say much more than that.

By the time Mindflow took to the stage, at just before 6:30PM, Lynda and I had found seats up in the "grandstand" to one side of the arena - it was starting to feel like a long day. I only remember two things about Mindflow - they were Brazilian and they were not all that good! Quite how they landed a slot so late in the day I’m not sure, but they didn’t impress me or too many others in the crowd. The programme billed them as "powerful progressive rock". I feel there may be a case for a court action under the trades description act! This was the only band that finished up playing to a much smaller crowd than they started out with. At least Lynda and I got the chance to eat our hot dogs and chips without missing anything good!

The final band we saw were Nine Below Zero, a very welcome relief after Mindflow I can tell you. We were treated to some great rock and blues classics. Their version of On The Road Again, by Canned Heat, was almost worth the admission price alone - well okay, not quite, but you know what I mean. The harmonica playing of Mark Feltham was quite simply brilliant and he was one of the outstanding musicians of the day. The band enjoyed playing so much that the organisers literally had to pull them off stage at the end of their set! Nine Below Zero will be playing The Flowerpot in Derby on 21 December, I may well be there!

At around 9:15PM Lynda and I decided to hit the road and head for home. There was still one more band to play but the rain outside was now coming down very hard, it was almost 100 miles back home and it had been a long, but enjoyable, day. The journey back wasn’t too bad, the roads were very wet and there was a lot of spray from the other traffic but at least we didn’t hit any hold ups.

So, all in all a very good day out. The festival is one that, given the right line up of bands, I’d go to again. It was easy to get to and well organised, with a very relaxed atmosphere - reminded me a bit of Off The Tracks.

16 August 2007

41 and counting...

Well, I’m now another year older and another year wiser! Okay, so maybe not wiser but I’m certainly another year older! Forty-one doesn’t feel any different to forty - which didn’t feel any different to thirty. Just another day really.

Just like last year, I was working on my birthday and, again like last year, it was a nice easy day. Having no internet connection for most of the day helped keep things quiet, as I was unable to carryout most of my day-to-day tasks. Not that I’m complaining!

Looking back, I think the hardest task all day was actually getting to my desk first thing in the morning - it had been sabotaged overnight! Everything had been wrapped in silver foil, my chair, my PC, all my files, even the phone and my calendar! Once I’d cleared all the obvious clutter away, I then tried to start work, only to find that all the network cables had been removed from my PC. They’d stitched me up good and proper.

My "gift wrapped" desk!

Having re-wired the PC I then found that they had given everything inside my desk the same treatment - all pens, pencils and rulers were wrapped, as was the stapler and just about anything else they could find!

Inside my desk!

By lunchtime, most of the jokes about me getting old had dried up and the day started to return to normal, then we lost the internet connection and everything ground to a halt. It did make for a nice easy afternoon but it started to drag a little by the end of the day.

After work, four of us went to the pub next door for a drink and a bite to eat, partly for my birthday, partly because one of my colleges is leaving on Friday. The food was great - liver and bacon in onion gravy - and it was nice to have a bit of time to just sit around and have a laugh without worrying about work. It was also worth it just to see everyone else’s face as I sat and ate an extremely large bowl of ice cream and profiteroles that should have been for two or more to share! Share? On my birthday? That wasn’t going to happen!

It's mine! All mine!

12 August 2007

Well, it’s only just over a week since we returned from Scotland - and it already feels like years! The past week has been rather boring, and very long, compared to the previous week’s fun and excitement.

I returned to work on Monday expecting to find the usual "problems" and things that no one else could (be bothered to?) sort out - I wasn’t to be disappointed! It wasn’t until late on Tuesday afternoon that I had everything back on track and all the issues resolved, including one that had the potential to bite our butts to the tune of over £1000. Still, they do try bless ‘em!

I’ve been a bit of a slacker this week in terms of using the mountain bike… I haven’t used it once! I had planned to ride to work on Friday, and had even got as far as starting to pack my work stuff into my rucksack, only to find that the night before I had come home from work in my normal shoes, which left the biking shoes still at work. Bang went that plan!

Mr David Lloyd (the gym I go to) and I are still close friends. I had a very good workout on Thursday, another hour and a half there yesterday before the Derby County game and was back in the gym again this morning.

After a rather disappointing body fat result the last time I checked it (25.2% on 22 July) I was more than happy to see today’s figure of 21.0%! I have been trying to watch what I eat a little more but wasn’t quite expecting such a drop. This now puts me right back in the "good to excellent" range. Maybe Scotland, and it’s battered Haggis, whisky, cider, Italian food, red wine, Chinese take-away, McDonalds and large portions of fish & chips, did me more good that I first realised!

Derby County kicked off their Premiership season yesterday and I was lucky enough to be there. My good friend Mark is away on holiday at the moment and was kind enough to let me use his season ticket. THANKS, MARK! The game itself was pretty good, even though Derby only managed a draw - they could easily have won it by two or three goals if things had gone their way just a little more.

Camera phone picture of some of the 32,176 fans inside Pride Park.

The Rams fans just before kick-off. Camera phone again!

In the end 2 - 2 wasn’t a bad result for the first day of the season and it was good to see The Rams more than hold their own against Portsmouth and the likes of David James (England’s No;1 keeper!?), Sol Campbell (England international) and David Nugent (England international). Nugent, I have to say, didn’t impress me or the rest of the Derby crowd. When he was substituted, the chants from the Derby crowd of "What a waste of money!" weren’t, in my opinion, too wide of the mark.

Next Saturday we’ll be off down to Cambridgeshire, for the Cambridge Rock Festival. This is a gig I’ve been looking forward to for many months. Bluehorses and The Reasoning are playing on the same day - a damn fine bit of planning by someone I reckon! Not only will we get to hear some cracking music but also meet up with a bunch of very good friends. I can’t wait!

07 August 2007


I guess it’s time I posted a bit of an update from our trip to Scotland, and posted a few photos - before my reader shouts at me!

Friday 27 July
As all the bags were packed and ready to go by Thursday night - all down to Lynda’s planning! - we were able to have a bit of a lay in on Friday before setting off on the long trip north. We left home at just after 9:00AM and had a reasonably easy run up the M6, crossing the Scottish border exactly 200 miles later at 12:25PM. The next few days will see if we made the first part of the journey a little too quickly… mobile speed cameras covering all three lanes of the motorway may just have caught me!

After another 2½ hours, and 120 miles, we arrived in Balloch on the edge of Loch Lomond. At some point between crossing the Scottish border and arriving in Balloch, we passed through Glasgow on the M8, but I’m trying to put that little adventure to the back of my mind! That’s two years running we’ve run the gauntlet on that stretch of road; next time we go around it!

First job, after checking in at the Tullie Inn (our B&B for the night), was to head to Palombos, the local chip shop! This place does a great battered Haggis and chips! One complaint though… it’s 2007 and you STILL can’t get mushy peas with your chips in that part of Scotland! Still, things did pick up somewhat after the mushy pea saga. A quick look in the programme for the Lomond Folk Festival revealed a bit of a bonus for us. Not only were Albannach playing at the festival but also Clanadonia, another tribal pipe and drum band, fronted by Tu-Bardh Wilson!

The Tullie Inn - our Friday night B&B

By 6:30PM, we were outside the Lomond Park Hotel, drinks in hand, watching Clanadonia kick off the weekend’s entertainment. The weather was fine, the music great and the cider nice and cold. A great start to the holiday! After the band finished playing, we spent a short time chatting with Tu-Bardh (thanks again for the CD!) before heading back to the Tullie Inn for supper and another drink or two.

Clanadonia, outside the Lomond Park Hotel.


Saturday 28 July
After a very nice full cooked breakfast, we packed our overnight bags and headed off to the Lomond Shores shopping area. As we had a few hours to kill before we could get into our caravan (holiday accommodation, as the reception desk kept telling us!), we had a steady walk around the shops and also the visiting French market before returning to the caravan park at 12:30PM.

Our "caravan" for the week.

Orchid growing next to the caravan.

The accommodation proved to be very good, plenty of space, nice and bright, really comfortable and, although the park was very quiet, it was only a few minutes walk from the centre of Balloch, just about perfect. The only thing missing was a supermarket on the doorstep. Lynda went off in search of the local Morrisons (just down the road according to the map) only to return about an hour later having failed to find it! The Co-Op in Balloch proved easier to find and so got her business instead.

Soon it was time to head back to Lomond Shores and the first of the Albannach gigs. We found Jamesie and the band in the car park, had a bit of a catch up on what had been going on and then noticed a minor problem - no Jacquie! Turns out she had forgotten about this gig and was still on her way to Balloch for the second gig later in the afternoon! Still, the show goes on and the rest of the band played a storming set. The Albannach drums always sound loud but they simply roared at Lomond Shores - helped no doubt by the sound bouncing back off the huge stone wall they played close to!


Jamesie - Albannach.

With one show down it was time to move on to the Lomond Park Hotel for the second Albannach set. The pub had been busy the day before, when Clanadonia played, but word was obviously out that Albannach had now arrived, the place was packed! All seats and tables were taken, there were people standing on the car park wall, the pavement outside the pub was blocked, cars were pulling up in the middle of the road and bringing traffic to a standstill and through it all came the sound of drums and pipes. Yes, Albannach, complete with Jacquie now, were certainly in town.

The Lomond Park Hotel crowd.

Jacquie - Albannach.

Of the three Albannach sets we saw, I think this was the best. There was just about enough room for Jamesie to bounce around in the way only he can whilst playing the drum, the crowd loved every second of it and everyone could see what was going on. I’ll remember this one show for a long while.

After the Lomond Park Hotel, Lynda and I took a bit of a breather and headed back to the caravan for a bite to eat, a bit of a rest and to get ready for the last Albannach gig of the day. By just after 8:00PM we were back in the Tullie Inn. It was still at least an hour before the band would be playing but even so, we had problems just getting in the door, the place was packed out! After a while, we did manage to get to the bar and get some drinks but any thoughts of getting near the stage were quickly abandoned. If we could at least see the band then that would have to do.

We did manage to work our way a little closer to the stage by the time the gig started but we were still around 20 rows back, up on a small balcony to one side of the stage. As for the show itself, the crowd was the best of the three venues we attended and they really did get behind the band. The sound on the vocals wasn’t the best, the PA couldn’t cope with the size of the venue or the large amount of people packing into it, and it was certainly hot! Very hot! Quite how the band managed to play in such heat I’ll never know. Jamesie summed the evening up in just one word after the gig… MENTAL!


Sunday 29 July
Time for a change of pace. We left Balloch, and the music, for the day and headed up to Callander for the World Highland Games. As the games didn’t start until just after lunch we spent a while looking around the town, in some of the shops and getting a bite of lunch. It’s a small world, as the saying goes - one of the shops we went into was run by a man that used to live in Tibshelf, just a half hour drive from Derby!

River view in Callander.

Once at the games we positioned ourselves in front of the 56lb for height bar and watched most of the events from there. One or two of the big names from last year were missing this time but athletes we did recognise included Scott Rider (England), Gregor Edmunds (Scotland), Wout Zylstra (Holland), Sebastian Wenta (Poland), Larry Brock, Ryan Vierra and Harrison Bailey III (USA) and Mark Felix (Grenada).

A new field record was set in the Putting The Stone - 58.6 feet - by Scott Rider. The 56lb for height was won at 16.5 feet by Wout Zylstra. The hammer was won by Larry Brock. I’m not sure who won the Caber but I do know that no one managed to "turn it" fully during the afternoon.

Larry Brock throws the 56lb for height.

Tossing the Caber.

After a very pleasant day at the games, it was time to head back to Balloch and the music again. The evening’s entertainment in the marquee was Clanadonia and then The Raggle Taggle Gypsies. Tu-Bardh and clan kicked off the show in fine style, the drums and pipes sounding great in the large marquee. The evening was also helped along by the free whisky and ginger beer being handed out as people entered the gig! A little fancy footwork saw Lynda back in the queue for a second helping of this, her new favourite alcoholic drink!

The Raggle Taggle Gypsies closed the festival with 3 hours of upbeat, party atmosphere music that soon had the crowd dancing the night away - the whisky may have helped too! Me being me, I couldn’t stay sat down for too long and soon found myself bouncing around like a mad thing. The sight of my crazy dancing, accompanied by a slightly drunken Scotsman in a kilt, must have had some in the crowd wondering just what was going on! At least I didn’t end up dancing on the tables!

That blur on the left is me!

This guy was GREAT fun!


Monday 30 July
After the noise, chaos, drinking and rushing around of the previous three days, Monday was a very welcome chill-out day. We didn’t wake up until 9:45AM, and then spent the morning in the caravan watching TV and reading. In the afternoon, we took a two-hour boat trip out onto Loch Lomond, aboard the Silver Marlin. The weather was just about perfect for the trip, not too hot, only a small amount of high cloud, a gentle breeze and more importantly, no rain.

Looking up Loch Lomond from the boat.

Lynda out on the front of the boat.

By the time we returned to land, Lynda was starting to feel a little hungry - must have been all the fresh air, or the whisky the night before - so we decided to try an Italian restaurant we had walked past on numerous occasions over the past three days. Pizza for Lynda, Bolognese on Penne Pasta for me and a large glass of Merlot each soon had us feeling much better. The walk back to the caravan didn’t do too much to detract from a rather nice meal and we were both soon sleeping soundly!


Tuesday 31 July
We left the caravan at 9:30AM, drove for almost 200 miles and returned to base at 7:15PM! In that time we had seen The Falls of Falloch, were I received my first mosquito bites, Beinn Oaher, Loch Tulla, Glencoe, Loch Linnie, Castle Stalker, Oban, where it rained, Glen Douglas and a beautiful cottage garden at Aldochlay! We also came across the first Highland Cattle of our visit, a young calf with its mother and another group of cattle in Glen Douglas.

The Falls of Falloch.


How cute?

The scenery on this little road trip was, at times, some of the best I’ve ever come across. Glencoe was every bit as impressive as I’d imagined. The Falls of Falloch were so peaceful and yet so powerful. Castle Stalker was your typical Scottish castle, remote, set in beautiful surroundings and gave a sense of real history. Oban, that was just how I thought a small town on the west coast of Scotland would be. It was shrouded in a sea mist, it was raining, the fishing boats were in and you could buy all sorts of locally caught seafood. The thing is, why would you want to? Sorry, but I’m NOT a seafood fan! On a nice sunny day Oban would, I imagine, be a very picturesque town, on our visit it wasn’t.

Once back in Balloch, we finished the day off with an excellent Chinese take-away, and a rather welcome drink.


Wednesday 1August
Another lazy start to the day and another day spent at a slow pace. After a late breakfast, we went to the Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre. The highlight for me here was most definitely the Seahorses, they were just amazing. To see such beautiful and delicate things so close up was a real treat. We were also very lucky to visit just after a brood of baby Seahorses had been born. The day old babies were no larger than a big speck of dust and yet they looked so graceful swimming around in their own little tank!


The Seahorses could have been given a run for their money as highlight of the day but the otters were fast asleep in their bed, having not long been fed, so all we saw of them was a rather cute nose and a pair of sleepy eyes!

In the afternoon we visited the conservation village of Luss, on the banks of Loch Lomond. This village has been lucky enough to have had a bypass built around it and is now spared the heavy traffic of the A82. Although only very small, this was one of the prettiest villages I can ever remember visiting. Luss was also the place were I was bitten by a mosquito, again!

Cottages in Luss village.

As the weather was once again rather nice, we spent a good part of the evening back at the caravan sat outside reading and just watching the world go by.


Thursday 2 August
Shopping day! Lynda decided that she would like to visit a couple of shopping centres in nearby Alexandria, so that is what we did! I cannot complain, I was treated to a bottle of Loch Lomond Single Malt Whisky - an early birthday present! This is a new whisky to me and, having sampled a wee dram in the shop, I’m rather looking forward to being allowed to open it. The packaging says "The taste on the palette is sweet, smokey, with hints of finest Madeira wine and has a long, mellow finish, with echoes of a raisiny Xmas pudding." The small taste I had certainly had the first three elements, maybe the Xmas pudding will reveal itself after a slightly larger measure!

In true Lynda style, we drove between the two shopping centres, only to return to the first one so that she could buy herself a shawl that she had taken a liking to! Why do women do that? There was no real sign of her buying one when we first saw them; an hour later… she HAS to have one!

We finished the day with a rather unhealthy supper at McDonald’s, followed by a gentle stroll along one of the country lanes that ran alongside Loch Lomond. I took extra chicken nuggets with me, just in case of emergency.

Friday 3 August
Our last full day in Scotland dawned dull and overcast, not that we saw dawn. We rolled out of bed at around 9:30AM, had breakfast and then watched TV all morning. At lunchtime, we took a walk down into Balloch and visited Palombos chip shop again. Here’s a small tip for you… if you order fish & chips here make sure you’re hungry! You get two large pieces of battered fish and a mountain of chips - the sort of portion that would be served to two people here in England. Of course, I ate the lot and enjoyed every last bit of it.

To work off a few of the calories we took a final walk along the side of Loch Lomond in the afternoon and saw a totally different view of the loch than we had seen all week. Light rain started too fall and the cloud cover became very heavy and low. Benn Lomond disappeared from view and the grey of the sky joined the darkness of the water completely obscuring much of the scenery. In a way, it was good to have this weather as it gave us an insight into how the place could look in other seasons, and also how quickly the weather could close in and put you in some real danger up in the mountains.

Loch Lomond, in the rain.

Saturday 4 August
Time to return home. We hit the road at 9:00AM and took the long route back to the M6 motorway, there was no way I was facing the M8 through Glasgow again! In the end, this more scenic route turned out to be only 6 miles further that the Glasgow death run. We arrived back home at just after 2:30PM, tired but full of memories of a great week - we will be back!