Year: 2014

Year’s achievements

me_candle-241x300

OK, so I can’t really light candles with my fingers.

I can however achieve pretty amazing things, by simply planning and writing down what I want to happen.

It’s Christmas eve and I’m reviewing my mindmap (I do one each year, with various goals and projects for the year and once its complete, I’ll finalise the new one for 2015).

I’m struck by what a superb year its been. Hard to choose, but I think the years 5 most significant achievements were…

nikki Nikki – I celebrated my 2nd year together with Nikki. I’m as happy today as the first evening we went out as a couple.
races_house House – Has new doors, windows & a new boiler. It’s also had loads of decorating and laminate flooring. More work to do, but it looks the way it always should have.
moneypenny_glenn Moneypenny – Changed job. Happy at Phonak, but learned in 2008 what happens when you don’t continually adapt and change (think surfboard and big wave 🙂
cuba Cuba – Only 1 overseas trip this year, but what a trip. A return to long haul touring with 2 weeks in Cuba where I saw the whole country.
xray_me Medical – I’ve sorted out my knee and polycythaema.

I also realised that there were loads of things on a “should have done by now” or “I really should do that/go there again” list:

Wepre Woods

Wepre Woods

Background: It was a Monday morning in 2006 and I was at my desk in Morris & Co, when a girl I worked with called Angie came in.

I asked her if she’d had a nice weekend, and she told me she’d spent the afternoon with her boyfriend walking around Wepre Woods and that it was a great place to go walking and explore.

A seed was planted and I decided I wanted to go.

Goal: To visit Wepre woods and go exploring.

Outcome: Success. I lead a walk there with the Chester and District Walking group.

It was quite a challenge, as the walk was expected to be 8 miles long, and Wepre Woods is only a mile according to Ordnance Survey !.

I completed it by doing a wide circle and zig zagging. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day, and it was as lovely as Angie had said all those years ago.

The Monsal Trail

One of the Monsal trail tunnels

Background: Before Frank settled in Thailand in 2005 we used to go walking regularly, and he loved Derbyshire.

The Monsal Trail and the Limestone Way were his favourites. The Monsal trail followed the path of a disused railway line from Buxton to Bakewell. All the tunnels were closed in 1967 so the path snaked over hills and under viaducts.

May 2011 – the tunnels are re-opened  and for the first time in almost 50 years you could walk the original route.

Goal: To walk the full length of the Monsal trail, recapturing old times and exploring a route relatively few people have experienced.

Outcome: Success. With a possy of women and Nikki at the wheel we head for Buxton, complete the walk and get the bus back to the car.

Sadly, I have to say I enjoyed the “mountain” version of the walk more, but I only know that now that I’ve done the “rail” route.

Solo hostelling and walking around Castleton.

Two days hostel/walking around Castleton

Background:  Brian and I attended the YHA AGM at Castleton, their flagship Youth hostel.

Got me thinking how fun it would be to just jump on a train, travel to the peak district, do some walking and try out the youth hostel.

I’ve stayed in youth hostels before, but usually with friends in our own dorm, not really as a solo traveler. I wanted to try it, as I was struck most by how much freedom, travelling like this would provide.

Goal: Do 2 days walking around Castleton and stay over in the youth hostel with pie and chips in a local pub for dinner.

Outcome: Success. Train to Bamford, 21 miles walking (including standadge edge) in appalling weather but fantastic scenery.

Youth hostel was lovely. Got showered and changed, and then pint and Steak and Ale pie in a pub in the town centre.

Retired to bed, annoying Chinese tourist’s kept me awake most of the night talking and turning lights on. More walking next day, then train home.

Complete all 9 of the hills from Julie Bredbury’s Wainwright walks series.

Julia Bradbury 16 peaks

Background: In the basement of Cotswalds Chester, I was looking for outdoor things for a trip I was doing.

A dvd was on at the time, Julia Bredbury talking about a hill called Catbells in the lake district.

When I got home I googled it, and realised it formed part of a series of programes she’d made about Alfred Wainwright and his quest to map and walk the lakeland fells.

Over 2 series, she visited 9 fells and mountains, and I put them in a list to complete. I did 2 last year, and this year I was going to complete them all. Instead of the Wainwrights, I called them the Julia’s.

Goal: To climb all 7 of the remaining peaks.

Outcome: Fail. After visiting the lakes 4 times this year, I’ve done them all except Castle Crag. Top of the list for 2015.

Climb Haystacks and visit Inominate tarn, the final resting place of Alfred Wainwright.

Haystacks - the final resting place of Wainwright

Background: While watching Julia Bredbury’s Wainwright Walks, it mentioned Wainwright’s last wishes.

In his book he’d described how someone who knew him in life, should scatter his ashes over inominate tarn near a fell called Haystacks.

I was going on a hostelling weekend to Derwent water so decided I’d go walking on my own, and go there on my way to Pillar.

Goal: Pay my respects at Inominate tarn, and stand on the top of Haystacks.

Outcome: Success. Visited the tarn and stood on both peaks of Haystacks.

A visit to the Eden project and fish & chips from Rich Steine’s famous chippy.

The eden project

Rick Stein's chippy

Background: After seeing it featured in the James Bond film Die another day, I was determined to go and see the Eden project…

… and 10 years later I still hadn’t been. I’d heard that Rick Stein had a chippy in the area so while there, I wanted to try his fish and chips.

We’d received a wine tasting event at a vinyard in Cornwall as a Christmas gift, so it made sense spend a few days camping in the area and put it all together.

Goal: Spend the day at the Eden project and eat fish & chips from Rick Stein’s chippy.

Outcome: Success – Eden project was quite simply amazing and I would recommend it to everyone. Fish & chips were a little expensive, but divine.

Were going back to Cornwall camping next year, it was that good.

Have a pint at Pen Y Gwryd.

Pen-Y-Gwryd - hotel where Everest was planned

Background: A magazine I receive from Rohan told the story of Pen Y Gwryd hotel in Snowdonia and its place in history.

The first ascent of Everest had been planned here.

The mountaineers spent long evenings organising their trip and in the daytime did lots of fitness/training walks around the area.

Still open to this day, its a living museum of the golden age of mountaineering.

I’d unwittingly driven past it dozens of times and never realised.

Nikki and I were off to climb Tryfan, and I was determined to pay a visit whilst there.

Goal: Have a pint and soak up the atmosphere of Pen Y Gwryd.

Outcome: Success. I sat in the famous boot room. The pint wasn’t bad either.

 Complete all 6 routes up Snowdon.

Ryd Du path in heavy fog

Background: I’ve climbed/walked Snowdon (highest mountain in Wales) on numerous occasions.

I decided this year, I would make a point of walking up all 6 recognised routes.

Goal: To stand on the top of Snowdon, having ascended it by all 6 routes.

Outcome: Fail. I did 5, but failed to complete the Watkin path.

Stand on Kinder Scout – highest mountain in the peak district.

Kinder Scout - highest mountain in the Peak District

Background: After being a keen hill walker for over 30 years, how can it be that I’ve never been to Kinder Scout.

Kinder Scout is the highest peak in the peak district and the location of the famous mass trespass which led to the foundation of the National Trust.

Goal: To stand on top of Kinder Scout.

Outcome: Success. With a few friends from the walking group, we spend a day out walking and reach the summit.

Climb Tryfan.

Tryfan

Background: In 2004 I did a mountaineering course at Plas Y Brenin. Whilst there we did some outdoor work near a place called Tryfan.

It seemed such a perfect spot, I decided I’d go back there at some point and climb to the top of it.

Couple of years later, Nikki ends up leading a walk there. Challenge accepted.

Goal: To stand on top of Tryfan.

Outcome: Success. Its quite a hard slog, but we all get to the top.

We even made the most of the weekend, by having a camping trip to Beddgelert.

Visit Greenfield, my childhood adventure playground.

My boyhood adventure home, Greenfield

Background: As a lad, I spent frequent day trips and weekends camping to a place near Oldham, called Greenfields.

It’s full of childhood memories and I’d always been determined to back there.

New Years eve 2012 visit to Patterdale Youth Hostel and a chance copy of a walking magazine with an article about it spurs me on.

Goal: To visit Greenfield and have some lunch in the forest.

Outcome: Success. I spend the day there, with spectacular weather.

Get my own dinner jacket.

My dinner jacket

Background: I’ve been to several black tie dinners over the years.

I’ve usually rented the clothes and everything, and after a time, I thought I really should buy my own stuff.

Not just that, but once purchased, I wanted to take it for a test drive.

Goal: Buy a dinner jacket and wear it to an event.

Outcome: I get a cracking suit by M&S on ebay for £10. I get the other bits and pieces and attend a charity dinner organised by Rowson Digital.

Go to Frodsham for a curry and a few pints.

Afternoon curry in Frodsham

Background: Frodsham is a place about 10 minutes from Chester on the train.

Its a place I visit frequently, as its hills, fields and forests make for great walking walking.

Additionally, Frodsham has some great pubs, and some great places to eat.

I’ve always felt it would make a brilliant venue for a sort of Saturday afternoon “few pints and a curry” of the kind we used to do back home in Manchester.

What do you know, those adventure hounds at IVC organise one in complete isolation, and I’m invited.

Goal: I spend a Saturday around the pubs in Frodsham and then have a nice curry to finish off.

Outcome: Success. Its that good that I decide I’m going to do it every summer from now on.

Scramble Crib Goch.

Crib Goch

Background: I’d always wanted to walk/scramble Crib Goch.

All of my friends have done it (although I’d later find out, it was more than 20 years ago for most of them !) and its a piece of real mountaineering, relatively on the doorstep.

Goal: To complete the Crib Goch walk from the Youth Hostel to the Summit of Snowdon.

Outcome: Fail. The intel I used wasn’t very accurate. Although the weather was superb, due to poor logistics (buses) we didn’t start the walk until 1 in the afternoon).

Its on next years list, and I’m going to do it this time.

Climb Helvelyn.

Helvelyn - a mountain I've dreamed of climbing for 2 decades

Background: A classic lake district walk, which for 15 years had evaded me. This year I was determined to crack it.

Goal: To stand on the top of Helvelyn.

Outcome: Success. A bit easier than I thought, just got in front of a single group of 40 people, otherwise would have taken 3 hours longer.

 

Looking forward to joining some of you in 2015’s adventures.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

CDWG Xmas do

me_pendlehill

After much procrastination, 3 and a half years ago, I finally attended a walk organised by the Chester and District Walking group.

Not long after I became a full member, and since then I’ve joined the committee as weekend events co-ordinator. It also enabled me to meet/make some great friends and meet the love of my life Nikki.

As well as a varied list of activities throughout the year, there are 3 annual events which the group organise.

The walk the walls summer pub crawl, the Christmas curry and the Christmas weekend away.

This year it was my 4th Christmas weekend away, and I was really looking forward to it.

Nikki and I took Friday off, and decided to head out early and do a walk on our own on the Friday, before meeting up with everyone in the evening to start the event “proper”.

ph_compass

After studying walking world  we decided to do a varied route up Pendle Hill.

As we drove up, we stopped at the motorway services for coffee and to buy a map. Annoyingly, the only OS maps that they had were for the lake district.

No put off, we continued on. When it came to doing the walk, we had a description of the walk with colour photographs (far from ideal) and as the route constantly referred to compass points.

We didn’t have my Suunto compass, so we ended up using this small thing from my first aid kit (connected to a torch and whistle for emergency’s).

We experienced all 4 seasons in the 4 hours we were on the hill and had to keep our wits about us, so as not to get lost.

In the end, we completed the walk and I was quite proud of our improvised navigation technique stalwart composure.

The picture above is our “equipment” and the one above, is me at the top of Pendle Hill (exhausted after being pelted with hale).

malham_yh

We arrived at the hostel and got organised.

We had 2 nights there, the first night we would be dining in the local pub, the following night having Christmas dinner together in the hostel.

Malham is quite a small village, so we headed for the Lister arms. Food and drink were superb, if the £4.70 per pint was a little expensive.

We had dinner with Dave and Amanda and an unfortunate incident where I fell over a cushion, before we had back to the hostel and off to bed.

Although I’m 6 foot 1, and theyre completely impractical, there’s something rather exciting and romantic about bunk beds 🙂

fos

The following morning, after a cooked breakfast, we head off.

I spent the morning catching up with old friends, and before you know it, were at a waterfall known as Janet’s Foss.

In this picture, the excellent Amanda (of Dave and Amanda fame) and “none-weedy” Ray are present. NWR was discussing doing an organised walking trip to Morocco, and having been there twice I was able to assist.

cav

A while later, we arrive at Gordale scar.

It was one of those Eureka moments for me.

Realising the only way to get through it, is to climb up or around a waterfall, I realise I’ve been here more than 20 years ago with with Fairbridge Drake.

I’d actually climbed up the waterfall in the pouring rain then. I had no interest today, as I posses a brain now, unlike 20 years ago, and a simple fall onto rocks could easily break bones.

In those days, I just got in the van, and they drove us to the countryside so I would have had no idea where I was.

A few people attempt it. In the end, my mate “Alpha male” Dave succeeds (and in doing so, strands himself from the rest of the group for the next 2 hours 🙂

We follow a different route, around over a hill and have some coffee.

concert

On the final leg of our walk, heading for Malham Cove, we find the National Trust have setup tents to have a Carol service.

A few pork pies and mulled wine are purchased by the group (we’re nice people and we like to help charity’s and the local economy).

mal

Finaly a view of Malham cove from the bottom (we’d had a break for lunch at the top).

Bad weather had been predicted for the day, so Graham (the outgoing Chair who organised the weekend and lead the walk) had arranged for a fairly short walk of just a couple of hours.

pub

Which meant that we got back for about 2pm.

I thought it was nice to sit by an open fire and relax with friends for the afternoon.

This picture was taken by accident, but as the pints filled me up and the afternoon wore on, it reflects pretty much what I could actually see 🙂

In the evening, we had our Christmas meal, Secret Santa and I laughed and chatted with my friends into the night.

sun

The following day, full English again. After some initial messing about, we got out.

An initial conversation about Peny Ghent didn’t stick, as people wanted to walk straight from the hostel.

Everyone expected the weather to be foul, but despite mud underfoot, the sun came out.

At one point, we walked through a field which was awful. Thinking aloud, I commented “what a bedraggled piece of sh1t field this is”. As I looked around, all my friends were laughing.

We stopped at a little cafe in the village which “encouraged” muddy boots (which is different, as most places only “allow” muddy boots).

We had cake and some nice coffee, before heading home about 2. Bath and drinks, then dinner in Artichoke to wrap up a brilliant weekend.

Thanks for Graham and Jo for organising. Another fab year, and I can’t wait for Christmas 2015.

Christmas, adventure and bad fancy dress.

Walking in the Lake district

 Had a fab weekend away recently to celebrate Nikki’s birthday.

We stayed in Ambleside and although the weather could have been better, we got out on the hill, each day (including Friday, when we walked to Lords Seat).

I’ve been to the lakes about 4 times so far this year, and I’m really looking forward to New Year when were back there again.

Me dressed as Indiana Jones.

It was Children in Need last Friday.

A worthy cause, and loads of staff turned up in fancy dress. I decided to join them.

Can you guess who I am ?

When I asked one of the teams I was assisting at work, the consensus was a Fisherman !.

I really thought I looked like Indiana Jones. I was so disappointed at this setback, that my hat and bag spent the rest of the day in my draw.

The Moneypenny Playroom

Other developments at work. The canteen sell really nice salad (its not called a Canteen, its called a play room. Its an ideal place to relax, and my friend Sam who visited recently commented that it was amazing).

I was delighted to find I’ve lost 3 quarters of a stone in weight (and still going).

I’ve also found some of my Mancunian phrases can confuse people from Wales.

The other day, Debbie was working on a Saturday, and I asked if she wanted ” a lift”. Ollie, asked how this would be possible, since I dont have a car and catch the train to work.

I explained that a lift, is an offer of assistance. But for simplicity, I now just offer “help” to save any confusion.

Made me think of this list of things that British people say, and what they actually mean.

Safari pub crawl with IVC

Out on Friday evening to see the Imitation Game (I found out why its called that. It alludes to the Turing test).

Turing theorised that a machine would be intelligent, when it could convince a human that they were talking to another human. Each year, the Turing test is conducted, and people have typed conversations with a “Black box” and have to work out if its a human or a machine. Effectively, if its a machine it’s imitating a human, so that’s where the films name comes from.

Some of the technical stuff was simplified, but in every way it was a fantastic film, and I’d urge people to go out and watch it.

In a sentence. Its okay to be arrogant, so long as in the end you deliver.

Saturday morning, I got loads more stuff done in the house. The 21st is looming, and I’m working flat out, to get everything ready for the “relaunch of my house” and the TLC its badly needed since I bought it 9 years ago.

In the afternoon, I did some Christmas shopping and then met up with some friends from IVC.

Rhian (at the front on the left) had organised a Safari themed pub crawl. We visited all the pubs in the city, with any sort of Animal or Bird name.

One surprise, was when we went to Kookoo. Its a cocktail bar and the kind of place I think should be petrol bombed for its pretentiousness. However, having gone inside, it was really nice and relaxing, and I may go back again.

A nice waterfall

Bad news on Sunday morning.

I’d arranged to go out with the walking group, who were doing a trip to Rainow no less.

You may remember Rainow from when I walked the Gritstone trail with Tony a few years ago. My friend Lyndsay lived/lives there, so I’ve always had a fondness for it.

Unfortunately, so good a time was had the previous day that I was the worse for wear and had to cancel. And I’m the person who lectures others on never missing out on an opportunity.

Never mind, I got some stuff done in the house, and even made time to watch the finale of Dr Who, which I thought was the best one they’ve done in ages.

Idyllic Christmas
Idyllic Christmas

Well not long now until Christmas, and New Year along with it. I’m mad busy rushing to complete all the things on my mindmap (its honestly been an amazing year, but there’s still stuff to  do).

I’ve taken a few days off over Christmas, and I’m really looking forward to it. Christmas has a special significance for me now, after the one in 2009 when I thought I’d lose everything.

So I make the most of them from now on. I’ve taken off  Christmas eve, for some important “me time”.

The day will probably consist of Christmas buffet, Jack Daniels, my favourite DVD’s, and Call of Duty future warfare.

I’ll have my train set and raspberry pi setup, as well as my £3 tree from Wilkinsons, with lights and everything.

Obviously first thing in the morning, I’ll be playing Christmas songs. My mum used to always do this, and there’s nothing that gets you in the festive mood like Christmas music.

In the evening, 1 or 2 pints in my favourite pub to celebrate old times/absent friends, and probably finish off with a curry then back to my cosy warm house, with its new windows and condensing boiler :).

* The picture above, isn’t actually my house, nor is that my dog, I just thought it was a nice picture and captured the essence of Christmas.

People celebrating Christmas

On the party/social front, I feel quite privileged this year.

I’ve been invited to Nikiki’s parents for Christmas day (obviously Nikki’s coming as well).

There are official and unofficial Christmas party’s at work.

I’m off to Manchester to celebrate with my brother and a few friends and Lyndsay is home from Switzerland, so I may visit Macclesfield for a catch up.

The walking group are having a weekend away, and a Christmas curry as well (and just before I’ll be hosting a reception at my house).

I’m attending a black tie dinner with IVC

I may see Glenn (well I hope so, I’ve bought him a present).

* This is another phoney one, I dont know any of these people, but its a nice photo.

 

All sorts 2

Jon Lydon at Chester town hall

Haven’t updated johnsunter.com for about 3 weeks.

Hopefully in the next few sections I’ll explain why, and encourage your forgiveness.

When I was 19, I met Lee Sawbridge through Fairbridge Drake.

We hit it off almost straight away, became firm friends and have been so ever since.

For a while, Lee lived at my house in Manchester. Then as now, we had many similar interests, and I remember reading a book by John Lydon (more commonly known as Jonny Rotten, of Sex Pistols fame). Lee and I discussed the stuff in the book many times.

Years later, just the other week, I recieved an email about Chester’s literary festival, and was startled to realise that John Lydon has a new book out, and that he would be coming to Chester to discuss it in person.

Jon Lydon on stage

I got in touch with Lee, who was equally keen and we went to see the great man speak in person.

It was also quite good for me, as I got to see the inside of Chester town hall for the first time.

He talked about his early growing up years, his family and obviously his time with the Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited.

He briefly touched on philosophy, ideas about freedom and stuff like that (I thought he was pretty open minded about this, considering he’d been arrested under terrorist legislation on a boat on the thames, while singing God Save the Queen).

A few questions from the audience, and then it was over, after only 45 minutes (I thought this was a bit short).

While there, I ran into Stuart and Andy, 2 friends from IVC and we had a cracking night visiting a few pubs around the town.

A brilliant experience overall, and a chance to get in touch with my youth (which I dont think I do enough).

One thing while JL was talking. He mentioned procrastination. The next day I saw this article on BBC news. Procrastination , what Tony Robbins calls the silent killer.

Microsoft Azure data centre

Mad busy at work at the moment (more about that bellow).

I’ve been learning loads of cools stuff about a new technology called Azure, Microsoft’s implementation of 3rd gen virtualisation

The put it into context, 1st gen was things like VMwmware. 2nd gen was stuff like putting your hypervisor enabled server off prem in a rack in a Manchester or London data centre.

This is different.

With infrastructure as a service (IAAS) you connect to the internet, say I want an exchange box and a SQL server (specifying how many processors, memory etc)  get out my credit card and its up.

As long as you have internet access and a secure connection you can use it and scale it up or down at will.

To show how serious this stuff is, take a look at the picture above. That’s 1 Azure facility. They have others in California, Hong Kong and Singapore (you can probably tell from the weather that this is the one in Dublin :).

Thing is, with IAAS, your connecting to pure cloud so you dont entirely know where your data is located.

And even if you do, if there’s an outage, it will be transferred (in the blink of an eye) to one of the others, based on an algorithm, so even Microsoft can’t tell you where it will end up (only that it will be available).

Its not perfect, Paul who I work with, made an observation. If we don’t know where it is and it hangs, how can we send someone to turn it off and back on again. I’m sure someone has thought of that, but its a point worth making.

Walking in Anglesey

As well as being amazingly fun, interesting to hang around with and hot, Nikki is also incredibly clever.

I can think of 10 anecdotes she’s said to me, that were really sound advice, and once applied delivered real rewards.

On a weekend away in Anglesey (which my friend Dave described as very Marjorie) we did a day walk.

Everyone else took cars to the start of the walk, we didn’t, so the 2 of us wandered back together (It was that moment that I realised how much I liked her, but I digress).

I mentioned that times were quite hard (as they are for practically everyone) and that I’d really like a pay rise. She offered to help.

Nikki asked me if Phonak did a pension scheme (they did, and it was a very generous one). She pointed out, that if I put say £1000 into that each year, that Phonak would put £1000 in too, and the whole thing would be complimented with some money from the government, as it was tax free.

I sighed as I realised it would cost me £1000, but she observed, that “the other £1000 per year is sat there waiting for you to take it or leave it” (I took it).

So what made me think of this story. Well, I saw this really good pension calculator the other day. Take a moment and try it out.

Galaxy s4 mini next to the Iphone 5s

For the past 3  years, I’ve thought Samsung Galaxy were the best smart-phones on the market .

But practical realities had to be dealt with. IPhone was provided by work, and didn’t cost anything (apart from out of hours cover, which came with the job).

When I started my new job recently, I realised I dont have to provide out of hours cover, they dont provide a phone, so I’d have to pay for it myself (but in conciliation, I’d never ever be disturbed while at home).

There was no question, if I was paying for it myself, it would be a Samsung Galaxy.

Except… I’d grown used to the size of an IPhone 5. Most of the time when I go out in the evening, I have a phone, some keys, some cash and a card and that’s about it.

The IPhone (although not the one I’d have preferred) fit perfectly in this way. So, problem is, Samsung Galaxy s4 & s5 are much bigger. Instead, I chose the s4 mini. Same size as the IPhone 5, but Android.

I’ve taken a few weeks to get organised, put my contacts, calendar and todo into the cloud and synch them with the phone, and its loaded with my favourite books, music and tv/film.

So, you can understand my surprise, when, after they’d led the way with smaller powerful phones, and despite myself, I’d bitten, that apple are now going with big or massive phones.

My conclusion. Apple haven’t brought out a genuinely new product in ages. Their phone is now the same size as the full size galaxy s5 (although not waterproof) and another one bigger than that.

In a sentence, Apple are now followers not leaders, whatever their share-price may say.

My new phone… I absolutely love it, and only my friends have the number…

Missing boiler

Christmas is coming, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Every winter, since I bought this house 9 years ago, its been cold.

Its quite common in winter, for me to get home, and if I’m not doing anything, get in bed, with my books, laptop, and dvd player, and spend the evening there where I do all the things I like, and I dont have to spend masses of money on heating.

Thing is, a 100 + year old house looks really romantic at first, but its really cold and if it has a 30 year old boiler things get pretty drastic.

Time for change. I got an amazing guy to fit a new boiler, with a wireless remote control that works anywhere in the house.

Best of all, the Sunday ritual of putting the heating on, going for 2 pints in the Mill, then coming home an hour later for a bath, is no more.

A combi condensing boiler heats the water in real-time. A bath in 5 minutes.

 

But it doesn’t end there.

I’ve also arranged to have all my windows and doors replaced with the later state of the art stuff (so the supper efficient boiler, doesn’t heat stuff that floats out of the gap between the door and the frame !).

The works been completed now. Nikki and I are mad busy painting and doing various DIY to get the house into the 21st century.

I’ve included pictures of the job in progress.

If you want to see what it looks like, I’m hosting a small reception in December (complete with Train set, Rasperry Pi and finger buffet) so you can see what the finished item look like.

Moneypenny's managing director Glenn

Mad busy at work, as Moneypenny recently opened their first office in the US (our UK staff have been setting up the office, and set up a blog you can read here).

Loads going on at work, I’m enjoying it immensely and the staff (including me) are treated exceptionally well.

As Glenn (pictured above) our managing director said to BBC News:

If you look outside, you won’t see private car parking space for the directors, you’ll say named car parking spaces for staff of every level who’ve been here more than 10 years !.

This news article shows when we moved to our 2nd building (we now have 4).

The big building is next in the pipeline. At 100,000 + square feet, new build, its 3 times the size of the building move I previously worked on.

Rachel and her daughter with some cakes she'd made

Speaking of Moneypenny, I was invited to a special get together recently.

Everyone in the support services was invited to a night out at Rachel’s house.

Rachel and her brother Ed threw their savings into a Wazniak & Jobs type dream of Moneypenny, 14 years ago.

Its not talked about, as they are quite modest people, but its logical that they are self made millionaires (yet charming with it, you could pass them in the street, and you’d never know).

We all went to Rachel’s house, and had food and some drinks. I’ve been to work “social” events before, where it’s meant to be friendly, but underneath the veneer, its quite formal.

For the first time I can remember, it wasn’t like that. I joked with the excellent staff from the canteen, about what they’d cooked for dinner.

They explained they’d had the afternoon off, and Rachel had cooked the food herself.

I had a smart time. I didn’t want to leave without capturing the moment, so above is a photo of the super photogenic John P, ace trouble shooter for client services, and on the right, Sally, one of the hot babes from marketing.

In the centre are Rachel, and her daughter, who were distributing cakes.

I’ve always worked hard, and contributed to many companies where I’ve been proud to be part of something. But, I cant remember one where the owner invited me into their home (well not unless I was there to fix a computer 🙂

Wepre woods

I’ve been out and about walking, every weekend I could.

We did a pretty cool 7 mile walk around Wepre woods. All the more impressive, when you look on an ordnance survey map and see that Wepre woods, is only a mile across (we did a stretch through the park, and then a perimeter walk outside, to make up the distance).

Once again, the excellent navigation training course I did with JK stood me in good stead. Several “paths” on the map simply didn’t exist any-more, and hadn’t done so for some years. I was able to spot this quickly, and re-route us around somewhere else. The newly built Palomino bar (a hilarious Western themed pub with pictures of cowboys on the walls, and a really nice restaurant) was right near a housing estate, so we popped in there.

We also did a pretty good walk last Sunday around worlds end, lead by Trigger (not his real name, he’s called something ordinary like Paul) anyway, walk across the moors was fantastic, and if you get a day off, and can’t decide what to do, head there.

Nikki and I are off to the lakes this weekend. Its her birthday, and well be on the hill, all 3 days, weather permitting.

Glenn around the arctic tundra of Warrington

 

So what’s been happening on the social scene recently.

Some nice meals at Harkers, the Architect, Pizza express and La Taska.

Pub crawl I organised in Wrexham with 3 people (I was 1 of the 3) and Christine’s Halloween party (I was forced to go in fancy dress, which I hated).

I was sent a link to this website, where you can buy all sorts of James Bond lifestyle things.

I dont know why, I but I decided it would be best themed, with a picture of Glenn.

Soldiers coming home

I can’t comment on the wisdom of the Afghan conflict. In 13 years, I’ve been through the revolving door of every kind of opinion about it.

I’m personally grateful for the sacrifice of the people on the ground, and think Afghanistan is safer today then when they went in.

If you doubt that, just think about this. They have democracy, people have been taught to read who couldn’t, girls are being educated, Their healthcare system is much more advanced and they now have ready access to internet and library’s.

On a practical level, I’m glad the soldiers are coming home. I hope they get chance to spend time with loved ones and relax (they’ll certainly get a pint of me, if I run into any of them in the pub).

Cumberbatch as Turing

We’re all really excited here at johnsunter.com about the new film, The Imitation Game, which tells the story of Alan Matheson Turing and his attempts to crack the German Enigma code.

This webite was first put up in 2001 and has been dedicated to Turing ever since.

Finally, a story that tells the whole truth.

He wasn’t a particularly nice man, but the surgeon who put the stent in my chest and extended my life by 50 years wasn’t either (and it didn’t matter  🙂

If you go to Bletchley park, you’ll find out, that history is indeed written by the victors. The Nazis were sinking 60,000 tons of Naval shipping each month and we were on the verge of surrendering.

His work saved between 1 and 3 million lives and ended the war 3 years early. The main things I’m looking forward to about the film are:

1. He wasn’t popular, but won the respect of the people helping him (and too many stories focus on the individual, not the whole team).

2. The quote by the commander, apparently really happened. He said to Turing, the Germans are using a code that NO ONE can crack. To which Turing replied, well let me try, and then we’ll know for sure 🙂

More adventure stuff next time, for now, thanks for reading.

John

All sorts.

Me exhausted on a mountain top

Well, a bit of a hotch potch of things this time.

Update aren’t as regular as I’d have liked, but that’s mainly due to starting a new job and literally loads of weekends away and mountain adventures.

I’m not going to write about the mountain stuff, that’s the subject of another post, but suffice to say, I’m well ahead of schedule for this year’s mind map.

Which reminds me.

If like me, you regularly set goals, September is an interesting month. September is the month where the 2nd 3rd of the year, becomes the 3rd quarter of the year, quite a psychological leap.

So, if you haven’t reviewed your goals for the year recently, its time to get cracking. There’s still 3 months to go, but dont wast them.

I’m having some building work done later in the week (I’m told my house will be taken over for more than a week). I’m going to try and get next weeks post out on time, but it will probably be published from the Mill Hotel bar.

My full suspension bike

Its Christmas eve 1999.

I’m getting married a few months later and I know that once married, we’ll have a shared bank account, and my reckless spending will come with accountability.

So, I open my payslip and realise that those slave-drivers at Andersen, have made me do so much overtime, that my take home pay for the month has doubled !.

Wandering around on Saturday morning, I notice a new bike shop has opened on Oldham Road. I pop in, and instinctively buy a bike within 6 minutes of entering the shop.

£800. At the time, a fortune, but I thought I’d treat myself one last time.

I’d later realise the bike was full suspension. The back suspension uses up 30% of the effort of riding the bike, so unless your going downhill over uneven terrain, it rides like a lame donkey.

For that reason, I very rarely rode it (probably 10 times in 14 years).

I have another bike now, and since I’m trying to clear clutter out of my house, I decided to get rid of it. I mentioned it to Debbie at work.

To my shock and surprise, she said it was probably worth £50 (which in reality it was).

That evening Tony came around. I told him about it, he gave me the cash, and the bike and I have parted company.

Against some pretty stiff competition, it remains the worst financial investment I’ve ever made 🙂

Out with friends from Moneypenny

Chester pride last Saturday.

I scoffed when I first heard about it. Some of my friends took minor offence and thought I was being uncharacteristically homophobic.

Nothing of the kind. Its just that I’m from Manchester. At the Mardi Gras, I stood by the canal and watched 40,000 people dancing in the street. I hardly thought that was going to happen in Chester.

I’m proud of Chester, but lets get realistic. Their curry festival, was a well intentioned joke, compared to some I’ve attended in Rusholme’s curry mile.

Still, it was a nice day, and went along anyway.

I met up with some friends from work (I dont know quite why the backdrop of this picture is a van, there must have been better things to be photographed next too, but the smiling faces capture the festive mood).

Chester Pride

But there’s a serious side to this as well.

As a youth, I loved listening to the song Smalltown boy by Bronski beat. A line from the song goes: “alone on a platform, a sad and lonely place”.

Years later I’d see the video of that song for the first time. It told the true story of Jimmy Sommerville.

He was outed as gay and victimised by a local gang. The bullying led to intimidation of his family. In the end the police told his family they couldn’t protect either him or them.

He was told he had to go away so that his family would be safe. As he leaves his home for the final time, his mum hugs him, his father refuses to shake his hand, and hands him some money.

And there he is, standing on the platform all alone, waiting to go to London to start a new life.

It picks up later when you see him chatting to some other young men on the train, and you feel like the story will have a happy ending (which it did), but it makes my blood boil to think of that kind of prejudice and too see someone deserted and let down like that.

So, was Chester pride a bit of a white elephant. Probably, but what’s wrong with being proud ?.

My £100 charity contribution

I said this was a mixed bag, so here’s something that happened recently, and is either hilarious or spiritually balanced, depending on your perspective.

We have a chat forum at work, and the PA’s and other staff post things. One of the PA’s posted that her boyfriend was going to India to do some charity work in a hostel, and was trying to raise badly needed funds for the hostel.

It seemed like a good cause, and I always think, if I can’t find a fiver for charity on payday, then I’ll just get my coat, go home and join the benefit queue.

So, I went on the website, and decided to contribute.

At that moment, the phone on my desk rang. As I’m handling the call, I fail to realise the the webite advises a default amount of £100. Without thinking, I put in my card details and select agree.

And with that, I’ve just parted with £100. I realise that its passed to a charity in San Francisco, and there’s nothing I can do to get it back (things have improved a lot for me lately, but £100 is seriously useful money, and I’m in mental disarray).

I decide that I liked the people I met in India, and I will write it off as a good cause (and hope the people who see the contribution, just think I’m generous, rather than a dozy mare).

Cheque for PPI

A day later a get my usual email (along with 8 million other people) from the money saving expert. I was quite busy, and considered deleting it without reading. For reasons I dont fully know, I didn’t.

I notice it says you have 1 week to apply, if you think you’ve been wrongly sold insurance under the PPI scheme.

Vaguely remembering something like that, I pick up the phone. They have me down on their list and send the forms over right way.

I fill them in, explaining that they refused to activate my card, unless I took out card protection (which I later found out was completely unneeded).

And 10 days later I have a cheque for £118.

Makes you think doesn’t it (but for gods sake, dont give all your money to charity and say John told me to do it 🙂

The dray delivery every Friday at 7:30am

Things are going quite well at work, I’ve been working on some really clever technology like Exchange 2010 and an exchange hybrid cloud (half the mailboxes on prem, other half in a data centre in California, managed as 1).

Stuff I’m learning about phones is interesting, and its certainly tested under fire (we received 6 million calls last year, and that’s growing all the time).

I don’t work the early shift anymore, and as I get an hour for lunch, I normally go for a walk each day. Along with the Salad I eat in the canteen, I’ve lost 3 quarters of a stone.

So I dont have to get up really early now either.

Every Friday morning, the pub near my house, takes deliveries from the brewery (called the Dray).

Years ago, I used to wake on Friday morning, with the weekend just a few hours away, and hear the sound of barrels being rolled up the street.

The 2 became linked in my mind. Last Friday, I woke up smiling, as I heard the Dray for almost the first time in 4 years (I even took a photo of the wagon).

A funny picture I was sent on facebook

You may know that recently, I cancelled my account with Linked In. I also considered cancelling my account with facebook.

I’ve always felt that it just encouraged soundbite posts. Carrol is: Just got back from the gym now getting in the shower.

So what, I always think. Wouldn’t Carrol be better carrying around a notebook and pen all week, and making notes and observations, then spending an hour or two writing something that actually has some meaning.

But I’ve noticed recently, that most of my friends do post interesting and meaningful things.

A few notably mentions are Frank’s day to day life in Thailand, Lee Sawbridge who posts current affairs stuff I love contributing to, and Steve Price who’s daily blog (mainly about him, crap drivers and the sh!ting machine dog he owns) is hilarious.

It also gives me a connection to some of my mum’s old friends, who I’d otherwise have lost touch with (it was 4 years last Sunday that mum passed. I still mis her, and it was nice to read touching things from Auntie Margaret, one of mums oldest friends).

So, I’ve decided to keep my facebook account open. One other thing are the hilarious comedy pictures I sometimes see.

I’ve put this one up to show the kind of thing I’m talking about.

A 2nd funny picture I was sent on facebook

And here’s another one.

Nikki's new car

Its said that god grew angry with the Israelites and they wandered the wilderness for 40 years.

Well, that must have felt like nipping out for an ice cream, compared to the time it took Nikki to choose her new car.

I spent 3 Sundays drinking car showroom coffee as a contribution to this motoring pilgrimage.

In the end Nikki chose this GTC.

I can’t believe the value for money you now get on modern cars.

At one point we test drove a 2nd hand car that could park itself and cost £8000 !. Interesting that as a young lad I watched Tomorrows world and saw a car that could park itself and cost of £80,000,000 !.

Nikki saved hard to buy this car and is very happy with it. I absolutely love it.

As usual, although I’m happy to put my entire life all over the internet, Nikki is a bit more private and discerning.

She agreed I could put a picture of the car up, but only if I blocked out the number plate, which I have.

A real chocolate tea pot

One final thing.

Among some phrases I use, like:

all the success of the bay of pigs

or

go for the throat, never show any sign of weakness and fear, that’s the other guys problem

There’s one I picked up in Newton Heath from my old friend Nick Barker. He used to describe useless things as “As much use as a chocolate teapot !“.

I couldn’t believe it the other day, when BBC News had some people who’d actually made a teapot from chocolate, that you could make tea in.

You can read more about it here.

Summer has just finished (its been the most active one I can remember in about 7 years).

The temptation now will be to stay in doors and not go adventuring until next year when its “nice” again.

In the words of Billy Connolly, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. Like Nike say. Just do it.

Near and far, thanks for reading and the search for adventure continues…

 

Cornwall caper.

My trip to Cornwall

I’ve travelled to most parts of the UK (some more frequently than others).

One place that I’ve hardly ever visited was Cornwall. Nikki and I packed her “super tent” in the car, and off we went.

First thing to say about Cornwall, is how far it is, from the North of England. For a 5 days trip, its fair to say that 2 days were spent driving there and driving back.

le_beach

There are loads of photos of us camping, so I haven’t bothered putting new ones up. You get the idea.

I took Thursday, Friday and Monday off. We arrived early evening on Thursday.

Campsite was lovely and quiet, but the toilets and showers had obviously been outgrown (sometimes I went into the bathroom and found a family in there for their evening ablutions. I felt like I was an intruder in their family bathroom at home. Luckily, I found some bushes and washed in my own urine.

First night, we wandered over to the local pub. The campsite owner had suggested walking to the next village, but we didn’t think much about it.

First village, mediocre food, flat ale, dull pub, treated the locals like royalty and us like vagrants.

Communist era cabbage soup would have been tastier than my pie and chips, but I’ve managed to mentally erase it from my memory.

Next village along, has a lovely wine list, superb food, a genuinely friendly landlord and an extensive food menu with a properly trained chef.

Alas, one of life’s cruel lessons. We stay for 2 drinks then take our life in our hands and walk back along a road, with no street lights !.

In the morning, the adventure begins. With Nikki and I, there’s always going to be walking involved, and the coastal walks in the area are some of the best in the world.

We arrive at Sennen cove beach, have a bit of breakfast (superb scrambled eggs on toast) and set off.

le_coastwalk

We wandered along the coast, past the famous lands end (in the top right of this picture).

You can see the spectacular scenery we enjoyed throughout the whole walk.

We followed  a route about 8 miles from walking world, back to Sennen cove beach, which was now packed (people had used windbreaks to personaly “cordon off” sections of the beach, in some cases 20 feet by 20 feet “outdoor living rooms”.

After many family holidays in North Wales and time spent on the beach, this felt wrong to me.

aftwalk1

We rest a while (in mayhem). I contemplate a drink, then realise the Sea front bar, doesn’t open until 3pm (really ?). Were on our way.

We drive towards Cape Cornwall and have a drink and relax at the town of St Just.

But the walking’s not over. We had towards the headlands for another 6 mile walk (during which Nikki, rather idiotically, gets lost. I was able to find her).

 

aftwalk2

I’m constantly concerned as I wander around the cliff tops, as I keep seeing these signs.

Luckily neither of us disappears into the ground, and we head home for our barbecue evening meal.

pasty_cider

A quick photo of me enjoying the local famed produce.

A drink of cider and a Cornish Pastie.

lizard

The following day, its another coastal walk, this time were starting off in a place called Lizard.

Off all the places I saw in Cornwall, this was my favourite. Coffee and scrambled eggs once again for breakfast and off we go.

lp_coastalwalk

The cliff’s around Lizard point were even more breathtaking than the ones from the previous day.

9 miles this time, and surprisingly, most of the people we met out walking, weren’t from the UK, mostly Germans and Italians.

lp_lbstation

We had coffee overlooking this famous lifeboat station at Polpeor cove (now disused).

Apparently, it featured in a rescue, over over 100 people. Numerous acts of heroism (my thoughts on lifeboat crew are well document throughout this site) but not a single loss of life, which makes it feature in the Guinness book of records.

seagull

We drive to a small village near our campsite called Porthleven.

It isnt time for dinner yet, so we go for a wander around on the sea front and cliff’s and have a quick drink.

As were wandering to the cliff’s, I saw this Seagull fly off the Landrover, land on the Jag and then relieve itself.

If I’d been the owner I’d have been furious.

pl_rest

We’ve had pub and barbecue on this trip, now its time for fine dining.

An amazing restaurant called Blue Haze in the centre of Porthleven.

3 courses and nice wine. Perfect end to a perfect day.

ep_wall

Another night under the stars, and the following morning its time for exploration rather than trekking. Were off to visit a place I’ve wanted to see for 10 years.

The Eden project.

Absolutely superb. Not done on the cheap, but done properly with no waste. What I liked most, was the culture. Emphasis was on working together to find practicaly solutions to make the world better.

It wasn’t poncy right on, and there were genuinely clever and fascinating things to see.

Here, a wall made from compressed soil, which has all sorts of advantages over a conventional wall.

ep_biomes

My first site of the outdoor area (which is the size of 20 football pitches) and the unique biomes.

Breathtaking.

ep_refuse

I wander around and especially liked this sculpture.

It was made from all the things you’ll own and throw away in your life.

It has 5 phones, 2 washing machines 4 computers and all sorts of stuff like that.

ep_med

The whole place was amazing but most people come to see the biomes.

The one above was the Mediterranean biome.

It had a fascinating thing they’d created. It allowed water to be distributed evenly across something like gravel, coconut shells and stuff like that.

They had successfully grown tomatoes using small amounts of water and brick rubble.

That’s what I meant earlier about it not being “right on”. That experiment could feed people after a natural disaster, and make a real difference, not like the chattering classes buying rugs that are only made from hemp to “help the environment”.

ep_rf

The rainforest biome was truly amazing. I took 50 photos like this one, and didn’t really capture it.

Wandering around a jungle in Cornwall. The stuff of real adventure.

Have to say, of all the stuff I’ve ever put up on the web, this is one of the hardest to control the content. I try to limit the number of photo’s to keep things snappy and interesting.

I’ve visited (and lived in) jungles on many occasions across 3 continents, but this stands out in my mind.

Its really hard not to put up 30 pictures of this Biome.

Instead this 1 snapshot is meant as an inspiration to take a weekend out and go see and experience it with your own eyes.

ep_coolroom

It was so authentic, that they had this room for people to go in and cool down (it felt like an afternoon in Borneo !).

ep_globalvillageWe have coffee before we leave, and there’s this really good sign.

It says if we shrunk the worlds population into a village made up of 100 people, how would the statistics add up.

Loads of interesting stuff on there, but more than half would work for 1 dollar a day !.

padstow

After a brilliant day there, we jump in the car and head for Padstow.

It was a Sunday afternoon and there was a brass band playing, so quite crowded.

rschippy1

But that’s not the reason we’d come.

I’ve always been a fan of Rick Stein. I was told he owned a chippy in Padstow, and I wanted to see the chippy belonging to the quiet and modest man with a love of seafood.

Is the picture above what you’d expect to see. Perhaps I’m nieve, but I did.

rschippy2

The reality is this massive building.

It has a shop selling Rick Stien food, one selling cooking equipment, one selling Rick Stien clothing, the chippy obviously, a cafe and the entire upstairs of the building is used for running cookery courses.

He also owned half a dozen places in the town, including a cake shop and a Thai restaurant.

jam_inn1

Off home, and a few glasses of wine in our tent (complete with new awning) and off to sleep.

In the morning, we pack up and head for home.

On the way, we visit this nice pub, which I’d read about.

jam_inn2

Its actually the Jamaica Inn, where Daphne du Maurier’s book is based.

Overall, a lovely pub, nice pie and chips and a pint to wash it down,before continuing home.

Did I enjoy my trip to Cornwall despite the distance ?

I’m going back there next year.

Return to Greenfield.

Trail magazine article

New Year 2012.

Were in Patterdale and among the many things that happened, they had loads of old copies of Trail magazine, which I was able to read.

In one article, it mentioned Saddleworth, and a walk around Greenfields.

I instantly remembered the place from my childhood/adolescence. All magazines have to be returned, but lets just say that his one, was light by a page.

Old Manchester Bus

The article mentioned how in the old days, they got the bus from Manchester to Greenfield, which set off from Piccadilly Gardens.

I instantly new what they meant. It was the 180 bus, which travelled up through Newton Heath.

In those days, if you were an East Mancunian and wanted to visit “the countryside” you jumped on the  bus, and an hour later you were there.

I couldn’t find a photo of the actual 180. The bus above has a different number, but trust me, its exactly the same and almost in the same place.

Glenn and I in the new Tesco

I had a week in between leaving my old job and starting my new one. Whilst having dinner (curry obviously) with Glenn, we discussed my plans for the following day.

I was intending to get 2 trains, but Glenn was delivering furniture, was intrigued by the plan, so offered me a lift.

When we arrived, I was suprised to find loads of building work had taken place, and a brand new Tesco had been built, where I popped in, to buy a packed lunch and a drink for the days adventures.

Sadly, although trained to a high standard, photography remains outside the curriculum for Tesco staff, hence this appallingly bad photo they took of us.

Main road

My very first camping trip, I was 13 and it involved me leaving the soaking wet tent with Jon and Chris booth, and wandering back into town (I was picked up on the way by the police who believed I was a runaway, contacted my mother and put my on a bus back home).

On a later trip, I was out with my old mate Nick, a chap called Peter Barrand and another mate called Wayne.

Weather wasn’t good, and we had limited resources. We decided to light a fire, but with what.

Before the Lib Dems, there was a pact between the SDP and the Liberals. As I walked down the high street towards the lake, I passed the spot where Nick snook into someone garden and stole the Alliance sign, so we could use it as fuel.

In the end, it was so wet, we couldn’t do anything with it, and it went in the bin. Another of life’s experiences.

Warning

The road I normally took up to the reservoir was actually closed, which surprised me.

I took the path up through the Mill. Times have changed, and its an enterprise park, with web developers and all sorts of stuff going on.

In a local village like this, Football and Rugby are important matters and the  local football team take the security of their pitch seriously.

From looking at this sign, perhaps too seriously.

The Reservoir

After a long walk up the hill, I arrive at the main area, with the lake and mountains in the background.

My younger years come flooding back at this moment with 1000 memories (I remember standing on this very spot, asking a friend if I should ask a girl out (she’d later be my first girlfriend Mandy and we’d camp out here together).

The Hills and Indians head

Further along, the hills, and the famous Indians Head mountain (it was my friend Frank when I was 12 who explained that it looked like an Indian with his headdress, lying on his back).

I’ve climbed that hill more times than I’ve drunk pints in the Firkin.

Walk around the reservoir

There’s a relaxing circular walk around the reservoir. What a beautiful day.

All the more surprise, that instead of the usual boaters and yachters, the only people on the res were 2 windsurfers.

Reservoir tower I visited with my dad.

As I continue walking around, I remember this spot.

When I was 5, my dad took me out on the bus (he couldn’t drive) and we wandered around a reservoir to this point.

I was 30 when I drove up here to do a walk one time, and it came back to me. I didn’t know where it was at the time, but this is the spot, where I stood in the cold with my dad and had sausage rolls.

My beloved forest.

The final part of my circuit, and the most important.

I’ve built shelters in here with Caz, had crossbow practice with my brother and his school friends, constructed a tent shelter with Andy Mullen which we ended up abandoning, and constructed a log shelter with Darrlye here to name a small fraction of the adventures in this truly amazing forest.

It was lovely to see it in the sunshine, but trust me, I’ve been here in snow and driving rain, and its still amazing.

Fireplace.

Something that made me really happy, was this spot.

Someone has set up a sensible fireplace and a sort of dual bench thing for people to sit around.

I’ve had camp-fires here in double digits. I cant help feeling that camp-fires (pardon the pun) are a pariah here in the UK.

But if your sensible, what’s the problem. There’s no more relaxing, engaging and team forming (hate the word team building) practice I can think off.

Frank & Na

Head back, and to complete the day, at the Clarence, is Frank and Na. Frank and I have been coming here for nearly 40 years, so since he was only in the UK for 3 weeks, it was all the more special to meet him here.

We moved on to a pub near the Canal that’s been built recently called the Kingfisher.

The path to Uppermill along the Canal

After a few drinks, we wander up to Uppermill. A few more pints in country pubs, and I’m in a fine mood.

Nothing lasts forever, so after a nostalgic and revelatory day, I head for home.

Greenfield railway station

To the train station, where the train is on time, and clean.

Why the hell did I get the bus so often ?.

No update – No free time.

wm

Hi Everyone.

I just wanted to take a moment, and apologise for not updating the website recently.

I’m in the middle of the 5th week in my new job which is going really well.

In the last month, I’ve been away camping for a weekend in Snowdonia, 3 days in the Lake district and 5 days in Cornwall.

With everything that’s going on, I just haven’t had a moment, but I promise I’ll put up 3 new updates by Monday morning.

What’s the photo of the washing machine for I hear you asking ?. Well, its the real price of adventure.

Everyone envy’s you on Friday when you say your going away for the weekend, and they’re hanging around the house not doing much.

Jump to Sunday night, when you arrive home at 8:30pm, and you have about 2 hours to do everything you would have done between Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday.

Quote a challenge, but a price worth paying I think.

The search for adventure continues…

Week at home and sunshine.

Leaving Phonak for the last time pictured with Tracey

Friday the 18th of July, my final day at Phonak.

I was supposed to leave the following Wednesday, but they had very kindly agreed I could leave on Friday, which would allow me to have a week off before starting my new job on the 28th.

In the afternoon, we had some cakes and a bit of a celebration. I gave a short (very short for me) speech and shook everyone’s hand, kissed a few people (but nothing serious).

I got 5 cards, and some really nice presents, including a space pen with my name and “Coolest man in Phonak” engraved on it (from Louise and Lisa), and a really smart caricature picture which I’ve put up in my living room (from Jean and Tracey) and a cracking bottle of wine from my mate Nick.

An envelope was passed to me, which I thought mistakenly, was some sort of “keep your mouth shut money”. Leaping back to reality, I realised it was a collection.

I was shocked when I found out how much. It was far more money than I expected (and honestly more than I thought I was worth 🙂

Sad to leave, but lots of fun memories.

I used the money from the collection to buy some new Rohan trousers the following day.

Buying trousers in the Rohan shop

Back to Friday evening. I’d arranged to meet up with Dan Q, my old friend from Chester, who works on the business park.

Once I stop working in Warrington, I reasoned, we wouldn’t see much of each other and I wanted to say good bye.

I’d forgotten a key detail. Dan is an arse, supposedly turned up for 10 minutes, then went home to enjoy the nice weather.

So, to plan B. I’d promised to catch up with Tracey, a long-time friend and confident from work, who was meeting up with her son and some of the younger crew, from the lab.

I had a nice time with them all, but the lesson learned was don’t try and drink with the kids, as though your 20, when your clearly not.

I went home in a bit of a state, and missed attending the globetrotters talk on Easter Island (I’m going there next year) due to a hangover.

Speaking of work. if your connected to me in Linked In, and can’t find me, its because I’ve cancelled my account.

8 years membership hasn’t delivered anything I can think of. I only had an account on there because I felt like I should. I’ve realised I’m not a “feel like I should” kind of guy.

Fords of Winsford

On Sunday, Nikki had decided to replace her car and asked for my help (I know more about delivering baby’s than I do cars, but I wanted to get involved)

For 3 years, while working at Phonak, we used to listen to the radio when I sat with accounts.

An advert, which got as close to mind control as is scientifically possible, was for Fords of Winsford (I can hear the infuriating jingle in my head as I type this now).

I actually got to visit it while car shopping and it was pretty interesting (they had a nice canteen, and I had a pasty and some coffee).

I loved the Ford Focus power shift and the Vauxhall Astra GTC. They were really smart. Visited a few more dealerships (and sampled more coffee) then went home.

Its the DIY guy again, but this time he's sawing

Weather was fantastic, but that’s no reason to sit on my behind.

Loads to do in house, and I was delighted to chop through the list of 80 DIY things that needed doing.

I also had visits from a plumber and glazier, as I’d been advised to find out who upgrading the house would cost. Turned out, it was much less than I thought.

Dropped off some unneeded stuff at the charity shop.

* Once again, the guy in the picture above isn’t me, he’s some sort of model, but this time he’s sawing.

Batman

Tuesday, and more work to do in the house.

My spirits are picked up by this hilarious picture that Glenn sent me.

I’ve owned 400 plus self help books, and career wise, I’ve frequently read, “dress for the job you want”. When I saw this I collapsed laughing.

Once jobs were done, I caught up with a series called the 100, as recommended by Alan at Phonak Credit Control.

House MD

In the afternoon, I went to the local hospital to have my knee x-rayed.

I read a book some years ago, called the pocket life coach.

It mentioned each week, creating a “putting up with list”. The idea, is that real problems in your life get sorted out.

Annoying problems, on the fringes, like dripping taps don’t, but sap your energy and take days off your life.

My knee, aches and irritates me sometimes, yet I’ve put up with it, and walked 25 miles across rough terrain on it, without major problems.

Thinking of the putting up with list, I’ve decided to sort it out.

* to those that dont know, the picture above is Hugh Laurie, who played Greg House, a genius/eccentric Dr, with a limp.

 Glenn and I having Curry

In the evening, I have a couple of drinks with Glenn, then we go for a curry.

Pretty fun night (I didn’t take any pictures unfortunately, so this is an old photo, and I’ve lost a lot of weight since).

Over the conversation, Glenn offers to give me a lift to Greenfield the following morning, so I dont have to take the train.

 

Greenfield

On Wednesday I arrive in Greenfields, which I first visited aged 13 and haven’t been back to in at least 10 years (I’ll be putting up a whole page about it soon).

Drinks with Frank and Na at Greenfields

My oldest friend Frank Walmsley was always fond of Greenfield as well.

Since he was back from Thailand where he now lives and we only see each other about once every 3 years, it seemed an ideal place to meet up.

It was fab to see his lovely wife Na as well and hear about goings on back in Thailand where I’ve had so many good times.

Japanese Garden

Thursday, and more routine stuff.

Off to the tailors, to have my walking trousers repaired and stock up on supplies (including cans of lager).

After loads of work in the loft, I got cracking in the garden.

Its hard to imagine a tiny garden like this needing loads of work, but after months of neglect, the Japanese garden that Lisa & Glenn ridicule was back to full strength.

Setting up camp

Bit of a lazy day on Friday, organised my outdoor gear and watched Defiance.

In the afternoon, I met up with Nikki and we headed off to Betsy Coed camping

By “mistake” ended up in the wrong camp site, which turned out to be better than the one I’d originally planned to stay at.

Dinner and pints on Friday night in the town. Saturday walking didn’t go entirely to plan, but had great fun and fab weather with Dave E despite buses right out of Charley Chaplain.

Sat evening, a brill barbecue on the camp site cooked by Nikki’s sister Lyn.

Sunday and breakfast by the railway. Had a look in the shop there, as I’ve decided to build a train set “thing” with ticket offices and trees.

Back home on Sunday, pints in the Mill, bath and ready to start new job the following day.

Overall, a fantastic 9 days, to catch up with friends, get out walking, get things done and recharge my batteries.

The search for adventure continues…

Farewell to Phonak

 

Typical day at Phonak

Well, today is my last day at Phonak.

Although I’m optimistic for the future and looking forward to my new job, I’m a bit sad. I’ve had some fab times here and made some great friends.

Above is a picture of me and my previous assistant Dan when we upgraded more than 200 pc’s in just a few weeks.

My door entry badge

The story’s become a bit of a cliché now, but its deserving of a re-telling for those that haven’t heard.

After 10 months of unemployment, I was contacted by the Halifax Building Society.

They politely told me, that I had 2 months to start paying the mortgage or the legal department would begin proceedings to take my house.

In essence I had 1 month to find a job, so I could pay it a month later. I’d been looking desperately for work for nearly a year and nothing, so what was I going to do.

With 4 days to go, I was offered the job at Phonak. My luck changed, and its continued to do so for the past 4 years.

Steve and Lee cabling the warehouse

Initially, there were loads of technical challenges and I was ably assisted by Lee Capie (left) and Steve the excellent caretaker.

Although not technicaly within his remit, whenever we’ve had a project to work on Steve has been there to help.

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I’ve worked closely with finance and Unitron, and on my first Christmas party (you take those things for granted until you’ve been unemployed) Glenn came along.

We play at a high level here at Sonova, so I’ve had joys and heartbreaks along the way. My “outside” friends like Glenn, Dan and later Nikki have always supported me.

On this occasion, the weather “went south” and myself and Glenn, who had a hotel room, catered for refugees who couldn’t get taxi’s home with blankets and hot chocolate.

Lisa in the middle and Tracey on the right. I’ve met more good people here than I can thank on this page, but just picking 2 examples.

Lisa and I famously debated whether a lion could kill an elephant in a fight. We later discussed who owned the better outdoor coat, as hers was north face and mine a Rohan waterproof (this would be settled for good later, when I purchased a mountain equipment down jacket).

Tracey. I once brought in a leather jacket I’d owned for ages. I was intending to wear it on a night out. Tracey honestly asked if I’d brought it in, so a friend could wear it to a fancy dress !. It went in the bin the next day.

rbscrewdriver

You might notice that most of the photo’s here are of socialising and stuff like that.

Please dont be deceived, its not been all champagne and wine. We’ve worked on a lot of highly technical and stressful projects. Thing is, our competitors would love to know more about how we work, and even though I’m leaving, I’m not allowed to discuss it verbally or in media, and I definitely cant put pictures up.

One thing in the public domain, which I can talk about is that we installed 2 Riverbed Steelhead appliances for application compression.

What I found hilarious, was you get a “free” screwdriver (pictured above) for your £5000 investment !.

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Having a bit of a celebration in our old building.

From l to r, Joe from Unitron marketing, Louise, who gave invaluable insight into Rebecca Brooks hair and helped me buy presents for Secret Santa.

The excellent Laura who I sat near for a while and shared lots of fun times.

My good friend Lyndsay, who was promoted to a job in our head office in Steafa, where we continue to stay in touch. At the back, the excellent Jean a mogul of customer service best practice.

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It was always the plan to move everything into the new building once it was built, but for a number of years, we were working out of 3 buildings on a campus network.

Linking 2 of the buildings was a laser link. Balancing one is a very specialist job, and these 2 guys become well known when they turned up for 2 hours and charged us £400 !.

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I sometimes I got to attend client events, to help out with local IT.

On this occasion, Unitron were doing a launch at Manchester Airport and we got to have dinner in a hanger underneath Concord.

Later I’d achieve a lifelong ambition by actually sitting in the cockpit. In front of me is the famous (mithering) Gareth and at the front Kate, who travels around like a sort of marketing Timelord.

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One other benefit of working for a hearing aid company, is you get hearing aids (if you need them) as part of the deal.

Above are my Ambra Nano’s. Made specifically for my ears, they’re 2 years  old now, but are quite simply the best hearing aids in the world

They fit completely inside my ear canal and you can’t see when I’m wearing them. I put them next to a 5p to show how small they are.

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Sonova are the main holding company. They own Phonak and Unitron, 2 companies that make hearing aids.

They also own Advanced Bionics, who make cochlear implants. CI’s are like the stuff in the bible. They allow people completely deaf from birth, to hear, like the lame walk and the blind see.

Their based in Cambridge, and the crew down there have become good friends. On one occasion, a customer in London was having some pc problems and we were asked to help.

I can’t say who, but its one of the best hospitals in the world, and we were honoured to be asked for our assistance (and we fixed it !).

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The main event was obviously the office move which 1 way or another occupied 2.5 years of my life.

Working with my team, our suppliers and Jo the project manager it remains the greatest technical achievement of my 25 year career.

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And after its completed, out for pints and a curry, with Dan & Adam, and that infrastructure genius, Markus.

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If I’ve got so many nice things to say about phonak, you might wonder why I’m leaving.

Its true. I’ve always been proud to work here and I sit on the train each morning proudly in my Sonova polo shirt.

I’ve frequently said, we don’t make cigarette’s or landmine’s, we make hearing instruments that genuinely make life better.

I’m leaving, because I want to do something different and try something new.

To everyone at Sonova, I want to say thank you for 4 amazing years.