Month: July 2020

Keys – not exciting but incredibly convenient and useful.

My full key set

Although house keys aren’t a subject that jumps out at you, it’s obvious that Ranulph Fiennes, Ray Mears and Chris Bonington are probably all carrying them right now. Since you’ll always have your keys with you, you can put additional equipment with them, which can save hours of your time.

The right balance is important though, too much stuff on there, and they become cumbersome and untidy. Over time, I’ve found what I think is the right balance (for me at least), so this week’s short post is about the contents of my key fob.

Front door and bike lock keys

First decision, which actual keys to put on there ?. The keys to the garden shed can be stored in the house and don’t need to be with you every minute of every day.

Minimalist is best. I have a polymer Rockdoor at home, so the key on the left locks the door in 12 places and can withstand a police door jam for upto an hour.

The only other key I carry, is a spare for my bikelock.

A nightmare scenario for me would be out on a ride, stopping for a pint and realising I’ve locked my bike and the key has dropped in a stream or something.

pen1

I can nearly always locate something to write on, but something to write with, not so often.

Obviously, I have a notebook and pen with me wherever I go, but if their out of reach and I need to fill in a form… write down a phone number…

pen2

The Trueutility telescopic pen is superb for this.

The ink cartridges aren’t very big but I’m not writing an epic. It also features a sort of stylus for writing on tablets, but I found it to be too big and largely useless.

You can get the newer version here.

fob

So for the actual key fob. I can’t take the credit for this.

Years ago, Sue Llewelyn from Fairbridge Drake (an outdoor charity where I used to volunteer) used a small climbing sling a key fob.

It was a perfect fit, as it was light, hard wearing yet weighed practically nothing. It’s only the 2nd one I’ve needed in 30 years it’s that hard-wearing.

Rock Empire don’t seem to make them any more, but you can get one like this from DMM.

usb

A USB key, just a few observations about the one I have, and how I use it.

A few DONT’S

1. Put a plastic one on your keys, the other items on there will destroy it (this one is mostly stainless steel).

2. Get one with moving parts, sliders, or any faf like that.

3. Buy one with any complex encryption. Keep it simple, you can zip/password pictures of your passport, driving licence etc.

A few DO’S

1. Get at least USB 3.1 (the blue one). you’ll only be using this as a last resort, so you don’t have hours to wait while it copies the data.

2. Create a simple text file named NOK with next of kin details and contacts, and medication you’re taking,  any medical conditions you have.

3. Get something at least 128 gig (that’s 128 billion characters) if not, at least 64 gig.

On my USB key I have:

A couple of films I haven’t seen and some software I use like Greenshot, VLC media Player, 7 zip, just in case I don’t have access to the internet.

A zipped version of the documents mentioned above and a folder called \Pictures to develop. I put things in there, so when I pass Max Speilman, I can just pop in and develop the pictures I want without faf.

mtool1

 Like the pen example above, I normally have a Swiss army knife of Leatherman with me at all times, but for the occasions that I don’t, this thing comes to the for.

In terms of a keyring tool, I’m looking for stuff like something sharp to open parcels, something that can open a bottle.

mtool2

They don’t seem to make these any more, but there must be some knocking about on eBay.

It has a blade, a nail file (rarely used), a small screwdriver (used for opening things) a bottle opener and can opener.

The scissors are useful for cutting cardboard, which can be quite hard with the main blade. Obviously keep it oiled and sharp.

The sort of cover flap on the left, doesn’t seem to offer any useful function and adds weight, so I’m considering removing it.

flat

So the whole thing fits quite flat, weighs practically nothing and sits in my pocked unobtrusively.

Some things I considered and decided not to add, but you might consider adding to your key set.

1. A small torch

2. Some sort of lighter/firesteel

3.  A whistle.

4. Cash stash with £20 in it.

5. Something engraved with NOK details.

6. Mobile phone charger.

I hope this week’s blog entry has been interested. I’m now 3 entries away from 500 on johnsunter.com so stay tuned.

See you next week, the search for adventure continues…

Adventure, laughter, plants & trains.

hol_canc

Most of the trips I had planned for this year have been cancelled due to Covid 19.

The simplest thing, seemed to reschedule them all for the same time next year, so effectively, I’ve pressed the pause button on those adventures until next year.

Sri Lanka -> rebooked for same time next year.

Cheddar Gorge -> rebooked for same time next year.

Bratislava -> all hotel money back, voucher from Ryanair.

Riga -> all hotel money back, voucher for Ryanair.

Tunisia -> cancelled by OnTheBeach, so I’ve booked a trip to Alcudia instead.

When I was negotiating the moves and refunds, I found two useful techniques that have worked for me before, when dealing with customer service reps.

1. Always be polite, concede when it’s your fault and say simply “is there anything you can do to help me” most people will do the right thing, if they’re give the option.

2. Not to state the obvious, but stay on the phone. With Hoseasons/Cheddar Gorge, I sat on hold for an hour and 10 minutes before I got through. I when I did, they were really helpful.

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Having taken stock of the world as it is, I’ve organised/got involved with a series of things, so I haven’t waisted the whole year.

Beddgelert – campsites are struggling at the moment, so Nikki and I have arranged to have a bank holiday weekend in Beddgelert. Just some walking, nice wine and a few pints in the local pub.

Llangollen – cycling/pod camping. I think it will be fun to finish on a summer Friday after work, pedal over with a few basic items and have a nice weekend staying in a pod <link>

Northumberland – this is Nikki’s idea, as it’s somewhere she’s always wanted to visit. We are staying in 3 destinations over 9 days. It’s our alternative “big” holiday.

Alcudia – a few beers, some nice beaches and a chance to do some walking in the winter sun.

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Bishops Castle – walking group Christmas weekend. Always great to do 2 days of walking and evening catch up with friends from the walking group. I missed last years, the first time in 10 years.

mad

Some trips I’d like to do but haven’t organised yet.

Madeira – the week before Christmas, some walking and a bit of sunshine in the middle of winter.

Ambleside – 4 days over New Year. Lake district is being booked up like mad at the moment, so may be expensive.

cb1

I remember buying this book some years ago. When I saw an old copy on Ebay, I couldn’t resist buying it.

Back then, I tried to get out of trouble by telling my then girlfriend (Adela) it was a gift for her.

It was filled with the most base toilet humour, she didn’t see the funny side.

cb2

The book is made up of a series of “bastard” headings.

Here, a section on Bastard Advertising. Hard to imagine anyone getting away with writing a book like this now.

plants

Since my garden plants are doing so well, I’ve expanded my operation to a series of herbs, I’m growing on my window sill.

Poeple wearing facemasks on public transport in the UK

Travelling into the office the other day, I put my mask on, as I entered the train carriage.

I believed, it was illegal to travel in the UK on public transport without wearing one.

How fullish was I. On the way there, half the people didn’t wear one, and on the way back, 3 out of 4 people couldn’t’ be bothered either.

Why did I bother ?

New Merseyrail trains

Another disappointment of my journey, was the new trains have not been rolled out yet.

The trains presently in use are around 40 yeas old and it’s a miracle they still work at all.

The new trains made by Stadler in Switzerland are designated 777. Although they travel at the same speed, they will be much more comfortable and quieter.

Picture, Marvel - Agents of Sheild

What have I been binged watching ?. I’m glad you asked.

I’ve been catching up on Marvel – Agents of Shield. Joss Wheedon in the producer, I’ve loved his work on Buffy and Mission Impossible.

The plot and character development are 2nd to none.

Speaking of characters, Agent Coulson reminds me of my old boss Chris, from SportPesa.

To finish this weeks blog, I’ve put this video by Emeli Sande. Themes of bullying, a mundane life going nowhere and escaping to adventure are all things that resonate with me.

The search for adventure continues…

That was the week that was.

My desk at home.

This week, I was just going to write about a few things that have happened, piqued my interest or stuff I just generally thought worth mentioning.

The picture above has been my place of work for the last 3 months. I have to say that it’s very comfortable working here, and since I have a USB C dock, each evening, I can disconnect my work laptop and then the whole thing runs on my own personal laptop without incident.

I also have the desk light linked to Alexa so I can turn it on at will with the command “Alexa Desk On”. I have a soft phone and an incredible plantronics headset, so I can answer any calls in 3 rings. I even have a high definition camera for meetings.

I have 2 clocks on my desk, UK time and Mumbai time so I don’t disturb our supplier’s when they’re having their “Tea” (Tea is northern slang for dinner, if you don’t understand, ask someone from the North of England what “Egg and Chips” is).

Model MI 24 Helicopter - Former Soviet Union.

During the week, I’ve tried to keep my lunch hours as dynamic as possible (on the days when I don’t simply go out to buy Milk).

In the example above, I put together this model Mi 24 helicopter. Used during the days of the Soviet Union, reminded me of when my brother and I used to play Gunship on the Commodore 64.

My old bathroom setup.

At primary school there was a teacher who was an absolute monster. I was sat in my chair aged 6 and needed to go to the toilet. I knew if I asked I would be shouted at and made to cry so I just sat there… and poo’d myself.

The children sat near me must have realised, but were so terrified, they said nothing. So, after about 20 minutes, I just got used to it.

That’s a bit like my bathroom.  I never really liked it, but just got used to it.

new_br

One advantage of lock down (if you can call it an advantage) is that it’s given me time to undertake things like routine house maintenance (which would normally be lower down the list than organising a trip to somewhere exciting or reviewing/preparing  outdoor gear ready for trip).

I decided to completely re-do my bathroom. Paul the Plumber was recommended in a local utilities handbook that was put through my door.

The price was higher than I’d expected, but I looked at some of his work online and realised it was perfection (I won’t use poncy word’s like “artist”, but this guy knew what he was doing).

So, after setting up a tray in the kitchen with chocolate biscuits and a brew kit, I left him to it.

The tilling, plumbing, installation and other work are perfect (there are other simple jobs that still need doing, but that’s down to me). In every way I’m delighted.

When I wake each morning (thanks to Alexa), the first thing’s I see are my pictures of Nikki and a large photo of the world from space. But, the first room I walk into each day is my bathroom. Now a vibrant environment and a superb start to the day.

Paul the Plumber can be contacted if you live in the Cheshire area and need similar work doing. I couldn’t recommend him more highly.

Me out riding my bike.

Speaking of maintenance, upkeep and repair, I’ve had problems with my bike.

Which surprised me, considering I’ve spent a lot of money on a full service and had several of parts replaced.

I’ve been riding along, and the bike changes gear on its own. So I’ve basically had 2 gears, the lowest one and the highest one (which has done wonders for my fitness).

Turns out, after a gear “installation”, the the cable can stretch and this is what’s happening. So I’ve got my bike booked in for Sunday with Bike Factory and it should be good as new after that.

Artichoke, one of the best Gastro pubs in Chester.

Saturday 4th of July – English pubs can legally open after 101 days and the world restarts (and probably stops and restarts again, in about 6 weeks, but for the time being…)

I’ve booked a couple of my favourite Gastro pubs for meals, but I’m still unsure how booking works, if you want a pint.

I mean I can book a table for 6pm next Thursday to go for a pint. But I don’t know if I’ll feel like going for a pint then – it’s largely a spontaneous activity, that’s why it’s fun.

See what happens. Artichoke (pictured above) are open from the 9th of July and can be booked at: Artichoke bookings.

barbers

Also on Saturday, if I possibly can, I’ll try and get my haircut, although I think it will be reminiscent of the scenes when the Taliban leave a town and the local men fall over themselves to get their haircut.

James Bond - No Time to Die.

The new James Bond film, No Time to Die looks fantastic.

I had a seat booked for the first showing in Cheshire at 10am several months ago. I’d booked the day off work and the seat had cost the best part of £30.

It was cancelled and put back to November 12.

In younger times, my brother and I would go to the cinema every Saturday in Manchester. Sometimes (well, more than sometimes) I’d be skint and David would pay.

I’ve told my brother that we’ll watch it together in Bury (where he Live’s) in the best seats in the house… and I’ll pay.

In the meantime, I found this article that shows all the shooting locations from the film.

Walking around Cheshire during Lockdown.

Normally, I’d do an average of 3 hill walks a month and it would be around the Clwyedian’s or Snowdonia in North Wales or the Peak District in England (basically  places you can get to in an 1 – 2 hours).

That hasn’t been possible so Like a lot of people, I’ve been exploring walks and cycle rides, close to home.

OK, this is johnsunter.com and we say it like is. The Cheshire Planes, are as flat as a snooker table, so trail walking is a better description.

That being said, I’ve found some amazing routes and places.

On one occasion, we went for a bike ride and stopped for lunch at a car park in Delamere forest. I’d not been there before, but wandering around, I realised there were several trails. When we got home, we consulted our maps and worked out a 10 mile route from there, which we did the next week.

There are nooks and crannies of fantastic walking all over Cheshire I’ve found, so I have to conclude that there must be similar in most of the UK, if we just go looking.

A fantastic sign in a York park, condemning litter.

But, one thing that made me fume, was the amount of litter and rubbish I found in some otherwise beautiful spots.

The old adage, if you can carry it there, you can carry it back, doesn’t seem to fit with some people.

Scorched earth is a phrase we use in IT, when we wipe an environment clean and start again. What do some people think happens when you you light a throwaway barbecue on grass ?

Even “Doggers” who, having watched someone perform a sexual act on their wife in a car park, are decent enough to take their cans of Stella home !.

I’ve been cycling and seen Sofa’s dumped at the side of the road on country paths. The only funny thing, is the sign above, which is posted in parks in York and I wish I could meet whoever designed it.

TV series Naked and Afraid.

My sister was telling me, that my niece Poppy, has become addicted to a tv series called Naked and Afraid.

Not my sort of bushcraft, basically, 2 strangers are literally naked (with improvised clothes from leaves) and have to survive for 3 weeks in some far flung place.

They can tap out at any time and go home and I was surprised to see that it’s run for 11 seasons !.

ak

I was delighted to find, that poppy is interested in Bushcraft now.

Since they have some woods nearby, they go out for walks, look for tracks and build lean-to shelters.

I sent over some Bushcraft tools like a flint and steel,  a mess tin, some army rations (a so sort of modern Adventure Kit of the kind I got as a Christmas gift).

A lit camping stove, that burns sticks.

Another thing I sent over (which is one of the best bushcraft bargains out there) is this  Outad Stove.

This is one I lit in my garden. It burns dry twigs, so its running costs are basically nothing, there is no gas canister to get rid of and no fuel needs to be carried.

"dad" in a Yellow Tiger Moth.

Nikki’s father died in January. He wasn’t my father, but I called him dad, and nobody seemed to mind.

A charming little old man who always stood up to greet me and shake my hand, despite being around 90 years old.

But intellectually he was a giant. Engaging in conversation, his knowledge, memory of facts and figures and ability to process information was mesmerising to watch.

He had worked as an aeronautical engineer. 997mm wasn’t the same as as a meter and if you made that mistake in front of him, you wouldn’t make it twice.

Charming and lovely, but at heart, things were either right or they weren’t and there was no middle ground (as someone who’s struggles a bit with flying, I’m delighted that it’s people like that who build aeroplanes).

When we had dinner with John and Sheila, if a waiter made a mistake and apologised, that was fine, but if they tried to pull the wool over his eyes, they were put in their place immediately (and he wasn’t sexist, both Men and Women were treated equally).

In short, he lived life on his terms. When we scattered his ashes at a park he used to enjoy visiting I decided to buy a plant (not what I normally do, but I was in a reflective mood on that day and open to new ideas).

The "dad" Rose in my garden.

I’ve watered that plant, tended to it, moved it around so it was in the sun, and replotted it (Nikki has helped, she knows about plants). But nothing.

Now, after several months (on the top left of the picture) it’s starting to flower. The Rose has decided to flower on its own terms when things are just right, and won’t be rushed or badgered.

Exactly like Nikki’s dad 🙂

Once again thanks for visiting johnsunter.com. Near and far, the search for adventure continues.