Month: May 2012

Tallinn. The boys are back in town.

Well, we arrived in Tallinn yesterday from Liverpool.

We spent the afternoon familiarising ourselves with the town, and had an inaugural meeting of the Sunter foundation for pub tolerance.

Despite suffering from ill health, and repeated ridicule from Dan and Glenn, I am back in the saddle, in pursuit of adventure.

In fact, this page, is being updated direct from the Super-star ship (I didn’t pick the name) heading for Finland.

The search for adventure continues…

Lost weekend.

I’ve said many times lately, that the weekend barely seems to last 5 minutes.

But then I had another thought. If time really does fly, when your having fun, perhaps there’s an obvious reason my weekends pass so quickly. Could it be, because I’m getting the most out of the weekend and enjoying it, that that’s the reason it goes so quick.

If that’s correct, then a short weekend is something to be celebrated not complained about.

Take last weekend for example.

Friday night. I finish work, head home, have my Spicy pizza and a glass of Chilean Merlot. Once I’m relaxed, I jump in the bath, then get ready to go out for the evening.

I head out to meet some friends, we have a couple of drinks, then my friend Amanda has arranged an evening at the Laugh Inn in Chester, next to the railway station. Booked in advance, the tickets are supposed to be a tenner, but with my Chester residents card, we are all able to get in for £7.50.

We watch 3 superb comedians (obviously some of my friends like certain comedians more than others, but overall, the spread was pretty good). During the breaks in between, we refresh our drinks, chat and have a fun start to the weekend.

After the show, we head to a pub called Kash. Have a brilliant conversation, hear some funny stories, then its almost midnight.

I head for home, and drift off to sleep, reading the book I received as a birthday gift, from my mate Glenn.

In the morning, I get up early (I normally get up for work at 5:40, so at weekend, 7:30 is a lie in).

I go downstairs and cook a cheese and ham omelette, which I’ve not made before. The results aren’t exactly as I would have liked, but the end result is at least edible.

I fill up my cafetiere, and drink Italian coffee, as I go through my to-read file (throughout the week, if I’ve seen anything interesting in a magazine or on the internet and haven’t had the time to properly read it, I cut it out/photocopy/print it and keep it on one side).

No need to do anything in the house, as everything has already been done on Thursday evening, so as not to contaminate the weekend.

I email some friends, plan/research some trips and then watch a recorded episode of Game of Thrones.

Its 12 lunchtime. I grab a quick sandwich and head out. I’ve arranged to meet my friends Sue and Brian at a pub called the Golden Groves in Rossett.

I’m going to be cycling there, and haven’t been before. A mistake in navigation has me crossing the roundabout near Wrexham road. No matter, I get there on time and my exhaustive cycling is rewarded with a pint. The pub is superb and the service excellent. I’ll be coming here again.

After a couple of hours of chat and discussing weekends away, I head home (Sue recommends a more sensible route, which I take). Brian decides to come with me, and get the train back from Chester to his home on the Wirral.

When we get back, I ask Brian if he would like something to eat. I consider curry/chilli/something creative, but in the end, pie and chips are chosen. While they cook in the oven, we nip next door for a pint in the pub.

While eating, I decide since its a “lad” event that we should watch James Bond (you may have seen it, its the scene with the Korean guy and the punch bag, with another bloke unconscious inside it !).

Brian heads of home and I split my time between my Kindle, and completing Call of Duty – Black Ops.

Sunday, I rise early, make a packed lunch, a flask of tea, and a filling breakfast.

My boots, waterproofs and daysack are all ready, as I head out to meet my lift.

Were doing a circular walk around a place call Llangynog. We arrive, I put my boots on and we set off. A very steep hill climb to start with, and my coat and jumper are removed in the first few minutes.

We plod on, I’m exhausted. We are passed by some people in a landrover. Mountain bikers, they are being driven to the top of the hill, with their bikes on the trailer, so they can enjoy the downhill without any of the effort (if its your sort of thing, you can find out more here ).

Unfazed I carry on. Thing is, in no time at all, were at the top of the hill and the view is spectacular. Its also amazing considering how big the hill looked from the bottom, how little energy it took to get to the top.

The walk, is part of a route devoted to St Melangell.

I thought people were teasing me, when they said it was dedicated to St Melengell, the patron Saint of Hares.

Turn out she actually was. A prince was chasing a hare, and Melangell hid the hare under her skirt, so the prince couldn’t catch it. When he found out, he made her a saint, and gave her some land to setup a church.

I thought that in reality, he probably had her thrown in Irons, but I was delighted to see the actual church is still there (with a female vicar, who reminded me of the vicar of Dibley).

After a brilliant walk, we have a couple of well earned drinks, and then head home.

Back home, its a double bill of House and Special Victims Unit while I cook a curry and prepare for work the following day.

The weekends over, where has it gone ?. Doesn’t feel like 4 hours since I was sat on the train at 4pm on Friday evening.

Next weekend shall I try an experiment and just sit at home and do nothing, to see if it lasts longer. I don’t think so, time is relative to what your doing.

As Albert Einstein said “Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it feels like a  minute, put your hand in an oven for a minute and its longer than any hour. That’s relativity !”.

Birthday Celebrations.

Well, the closest Saturday to my birthday came around again.

Friends from work, Chester, back home in Newton Heath, travelling and the walking group, all turned out to wish me well.

Bellow is the superb Star Trek picture I received as a gift from Gaz, one of my old friends from Newton Heath who attended with Nick (who also bought me a superb present, a lighter).

I’d spent the previous 10 days, prepping the house completely, stocking the cupboards and wine rack, and installing a laminated floor, in anticipation of my guests.

Well, sort off. The event was a pub crawl, but I reasoned that at some point, loads of people would end up in my house.

As it was, there were 4 people for 10 minutes (but the house is sorted, so it was worth the effort).

The Friday evening before, I’m relaxing at home, watching old episodes of Battlestar Galactic (the modern opera type one, not the earlier camp one, with the robot dog called Moffet !). I receive a visit from my friend Tony Griffin (who was involved in the laminate floor).

Turns out, that his Daughter’s birthday party is on the same day as mine, so he wont be able to attend. He’s comes over and asks me if I want to go out for the evening. What can I say, its been a long week, and its time to start having fun.

We end up at the Forest house, 15 and finally the Marlborough arms, where this band entertain us late into the night.

In the morning, I start my birthday year,  as I usually do, with scrambled eggs.

Its a long story, but my mum was never very good at cooking (my Grandma had offered to show her many times, but mum was committed to a career and life as a nurse, and had no time for distractions).

Hard to believe now, but in times gone by, if you were in hospital, and didn’t eat your meal, you could ask the nurses to cook you scrambled eggs or cheese on toast. Ironically, mum became expert at cooking these things, as they fitted within the remit of her work as a nurse.

Every year on my birthday, mum would cook scrambled eggs on toast just for me. In the years when I moved away and after she passed away, I’ve continued the tradition.

I head out for the day. I’ve decided to wear cords, a Rohan jumper and just for a change, carry a courier bag, rather than a daysack.

Within minutes I realise the scrambled eggs have left their mark on my jumper. After a few minutes of deliberation, I decide to go out as I am.

Its me after all, if I start turning up immaculate and letting other people speak, they will think my body has been taken over by aliens.

First stop, Chester train station, where I collect the Newton Heath and Phonak contingents, who I take to the Mill hotel. The pub quickly fills with friends, and then its off to the first venue of the day, the Lock Keeper.

Once there, I’m delighted to find an old friend Jon Knight, who I haven’t seen in ages. His wife Emma recently had a baby, and he’s made a special effort to come out, which I really appreciate.

Next up, Lee & Susan, my boss Tim and his lovely wife Lindsay (and she is lovely, I’m not just saying that because he’s the boss). Dan, Ralph & Aud and a few people from the walking group complete the scene.

A few young people (who despite my request, the landlord refuses to ask to leave, “I cant throw people out of the pub, just because their younger than you John. Are you 44 or 4 ?” comes his reply) are dressed in some kind of golfing clothing.

Lyndsay and Sean (both former “uni” people) explain that they are playing some sort of Pub golf, where the holes are pubs, and there are things like water traps, where you can’t go to the toilet.

As the ale starts to flow, the conversation gets going. The sad thing about this sort of thing is no matter how I try, I never get enough time to spend with everyone. I made a point of chatting to Dave and Jennifer, who I havent seen since my last birthday.

I pop over and find my boss (who can make friends with anyone), is engrossed in conversation with the Newton Heath crew. For reasons I cant remember, I was explaining about the time I had a graphite pool queue. I was trying to learn to play the game, so thought I would give myself the best possible chance of success, by buying (at no small expense) the best queue I could get.

The joke of course, was as soon as you were playing a stranger, and you produced this queue, all at the table went silent, waiting to see some feat of billiards, with the awe of a religious experience.

When this didn’t happen, and the balls bounced around like a pinball game, they usually erupted into laughter (no surprise that I gave the queue away and gave up pool).

We leave the Lock Keeper, and make for the Malborourough arms. Its literally spelt that way, as the result of a sign painting mistake some years ago.

Liverpool were playing, so the japery came to a halt for 90 minutes, as everyone watched the match.

Sadly Liverpool didn’t win. It was a tragedy for me, not because I support them, but because most of the people in the pub seemed to, and it brought the mood down a bit.

We got back to the task of having a good time, with 2 of my female friends from the walking group, encountering these 2 folicaly challenged hangers on (not to be confused with Brian at the back, a stalwart of the group).

At this point, some of my guests who’d travelled a distance, made for home. The rest of us went to the Bear and Billet, after a regrettable trip to Hickory’s (food will be a 2 hr wait !. As Tony would say, your having a Turkish aren’t you ?).

Heading back to the Mill, for a last drink, I get the guests who are sleeping over at my house, setup for the night then head out for a curry, which the lovely Brenda buys me as a Birthday present.

The day complete, I head home, relax and drift off to sleep. Another year older, and another fantastic birthday.

Thanks to everyone who came and made it even more special than usual. John

Amazing things at Sonova.

Although I don’t have a hearing problem specifically there are areas of my hearing that can be improved by correctly configured technology.

I know all of this, as I work for Phonak, part of the Sonova group, the Global market leader in hearing technology. One of the many benefits of working for Sonova, is that I get a preferential rate on hearing aids for myself and my family, should they be needed.

I was recently measured up, and I’m now the proud owner of 2 Ambra Nano hearing aids, on the Spice + platform. I don’t understand all the technology, but put simply, they are the most advanced hearing aids in the world (and capable of 200 million calculations per second).

You might wonder, why they need to do calculations ?.  Modern hearing aids are different than the ones from my grand parents generation. Firstly, the old hearing aids, just amplified everything.

The problem with that, is that if you have problems hearing sounds in a certain range, you need something that will sense and block-out the sound of clinking glasses in the pub, as well as emphasising the sound your having problems perceiving.

To do this, you need software that has been pre programmed with all sorts of data, so that it “knows” what to enhance, and what to block out (it can of course block sounds out, as its resident in your ear. The only things you’ll hear are the things that the technology allows through).

The other problem, is to do with direction. Hearing a noise like a door slamming, without some indication where its coming from is a nuisance and in some circumstances can be quite dangerous. Modern hearing aids have directional speakers, to give an indication of the direction of the sound.

The ones I have, fit completely inside my ear canal (I’ve photographed them next to a 5p, to give some idea of the size). In case you don’t know (and there’s no reason why you should) the red hearing aid, is always worn in the right ear.

My comments above, are my own personal opinions, and dont represent the views or opinions of Phonak or Sonova’s management or board of directors.

That said, I travel to work on the train each day, wearing my Phonak T Shirt, which I’m proud to wear (we don’t make land-mines, or cigarettes we make hearing aids, that make peoples lives better through technology. I also wear the hearing aids every day, and though I’m not a scientist or audiologist, they are amazing and have revolutionised my life.

That’s not the only astounding thing going on at work at the moment.

Here, my assistant Dan puts some rubbish in the skip, without being asked, or leaving it for me to do :).

I’m only joking, Dan is an asset to our department, in every way (and lends me money for lunch at Subway).