Category: Uncategorised

500th post – overcoming problems with notes & lists.

ewky

Well, I’m writing this on “holiday” at home (the picture above, is a poster I’ve recently bought and put up in my living room).

Who, would have thought that I’d be writing this, my 500th blog entry in the middle of lockdown.

It’s actually 500 since I moved to the wordpress platform. Before that they were simple html pages, overwritten every 2 weeks so I’m pretty sure it’s is over 1000 since I was given the domain name as a gift in 2001.

Well, the main disappointments this year, have been:

  • Travel – booked trips to Riga, Bratislava, Tunisia, Majorca, Greece cancelled. I’ve also had 4 UK trips cancelled, and that doesn’t include the ill fated 36hr trip to Sri Lanka.
  • Interaction – not being able to go to the pub whenever I want, unable to spend time with my friends and I miss simple things like walking around an outdoor shop for an hour.

But on the positive side:

  • I’m in a fab relationship with someone I really love and we’ve grown closer over the lockdown.
  • I’ve got a secure job and regular income for the forceable future (well, as secure as any job can be in a climate like this).
  • My home is secure, warm and comfortable and my cupboards and freezer are filled with nice food and wine.
  • With access to all kinds of entertainment like an xbox, the internet, loads of my favourite books, lots of fun tv and films to watch I’m unlikely to be bored.

I’ve also been thinking, what positive things have happened this year because of Covid 19 ?

  • Completely updated all my trips on johnsunter.com that took over 200 hours of work (but I had lots of free evening).
  • Explored various places on foot and by bicycle and seen just how much beautiful countryside is half a mile from my front door.
  • bought a new tent and experimented with cycle camping (the next big thing for me, it allows me to cover a lot more ground a see a lot more on a trip)
  • Completely updated both of my bathrooms (why not, I had plenty of money, the pubs were closed for 101 days 🙂
  • I’ve read more books in the last 6 months than in the previous 5 year.
  • On Wednesday evening, we’d have a pizza delivered and open a bottle of wine. The simple pleasure of making time to spend together.

rohan

But sometimes it’s even more important to have perspective.

I’ve always loved shopping at Rohan, they make the best travel/outdoor gear available (in my opinion obviously).

But the best isn’t always cheap. There was a time for a few years when I just couldn’t afford to shop there.

So the other day, when I popped in treat myself (Mistral Jacket if you’re interested) I was talking to the staff there (who I’ve come to know quite well over the years and appreciate they’re honest opinions).

I commented that I’d had several trips cancelled and I was feeling a bit down.

They mentioned that someone who normally serves me who’s originaly from Poland, had received word the night before, that her father had died.

Lockdown in the UK was about to start, so if she went home to her fathers funeral she’d be stuck there for a month and wouldn’t be able to come home.

Obviously her employer were prepared to be flexible, but she had 2 children as well to make it even more complicated.

It’s story’s like that which make you you grateful for what you have. In comparison, my temporary lack of adventure holidays didn’t seem so bad.

fin

A friend of mine approached me recently and asked for my help. Her boyfriend had turned 40 and was feeling quite melancholy.

My suggestion was simple. Get him to write down 5 things he really wants to do (that are practical and achievable, but for some reason he hasn’t got around to doing). When he feels miserably or misdirected, look at the list, go through it and work out what 1 thing he can do right now to further each of those 5 goals.

My friend was very grateful…

She shouldn’t have been !. I’m a shameless thief when it comes to using other peoples good ideas (ideas I’ve collected over the years). My suggestion was based on 2 ideas I’d got from other people.

So just for fun, I thought I’d catalogue where the idea’s came from.

Yvonne

Yvonne Brock.

Over 30 years ago, I was talking to my friend Yvonne while sat in her bedroom (we all seemed to socialise in our bedrooms back then, we didn’t own houses 🙂

I saw a hand written list of activities fastened to the back of her bedroom door. I remember her distinctly saying that’s a list of things I’m going to do this year.

I commented that there were quite a few things I wanted to do that year. She said simply, they’re a lot more likely to happen if you write them down.

Hardly worth mentioning that a week later, after I returned home, my mum asked why there was a list of activities fastened to the back of my bedroom door…

IBM

Paul Henderson – IBM.

25 years ago, one of the proudest  moments of my career, was to work for IBM (partly, because my mum and all her friends had heard of it, and they were really impressed).

I learned loads of technical things while working there, but one very important thing was documentation. Everything was articulated and written down in a log, so if you cleverly fixed something for a customer and got hit by a bus on the way home, one of your colleagues would be 99% percent towards fixing it and wouldn’t have to “re-learn” all over again.

One of the most important things I learned though, was the bottom of the log always had a next action. It was drilled in to me, that if I didn’t have a next action, I wasn’t actually in control.

just_do_it

Another really useful trick I learned from a book called the Pocket Life Coach.

It suggests writing a PUW or Putting Up With list.

The idea goes basically like this. If I need car insurance I buy it. If My waterproof jacket gets a hole in it, it’s replaced or repaired.

But, what if there’s a dripping tap, what if the brakes on my bike work, but squeak a bit, what if there’s a pile of books I know I should read, but just haven’t started yet.

Thing is, it’s these small things that ebb away at your happiness. So, draw up a PUW list and get to work on it now. Others will appear to replace the most important 5 right now, but I’ve found I sleep better and feel a lot more content, when I know these small things are in play and there’s a plan to fix them.

I’ve included the picture above, as it symbolises something I’m putting up with at the moment.

When I first moved to Chester, I lived in a place called Saltney.

It was right next to the border between England and Wales, and I was fascinated by a road called Boundary Lane.

The only suburban road of it’s kind in the UK, the houses on 1 side are in Wales and the Houses on the other are in England.

There’s a nice pub there, called the Anchor (It’s on the Welsh side).

I read in the press, that the Landlord was concerned he was losing customers to “England” as his pub had been forced to close as part of a Welsh “firebreak” lockdown, at a time when English pub’s were open for business.

The Welsh lockdown finished on the 9th of November, however the English lockdown began on the 2nd. So I imagine the residents from both sides of the street are now off for a pint in the Anchor.

All’s well that ends well, but if there’s a better illustration of how badly Covid is being handled in the UK, I’d love to hear it

lic

Two years ago, I cancelled my TV license. You can do this, if you:

a, Don’t watch any TV programs in real time, who ever makes them

b, Don’t watch programs made by the BBC.

Seemed daft to spend money I didn’t need to. I watch mostly Netflix and Amazon and the odd thing I watched on BBC, I watched at Nikki’s house, which is completely legal.

I’ve changed my mind, and now pay tv license like everyone else. BBC news is respected around the world and some of the thrillers and crime drama’s are amazing.

Just looking at IPlayer, you can watch every episode of Luther, Life on Mars, Battlestar Galactica, Dr Who, Strike, Bodyguard, The Capture and a raft of other amazing tv for just 40p a day.

Other stuff I’m watching at the moment, is adventures with Levison Wood, Star Trek Discovery and the Mandalorian.

bread

One trick I used to use to motivate myself to do “from scratch” cooking, was to make a list of cooking projects, laminate it and then fasten it to the cupboard doors in my kitchen.

I’d then use a highlighter pen and cross out the one’s I’d done.

I’ve been doing a lot of stuff from Ray Mears Wilderness Chef book (although admittedly, I’ve been cooking in the kitchen, not on a camping stove in the garden).

Something I’ve learned to do several times on bushcraft courses but never gotten around to doing at home, is making bread.

So that’s now added to several others on the new laminate in my kitchen. when I’ve made the bread, whatever the outcome, I’ll post pictures of the result.

I normally use Onenote and the GTD method to organise most things, but I also use Microsoft Todo on my phone if I need to grab a quick idea I might have on the go (and how much is an idea worth ?)

dday

But I also like to record idea’s and plan’s sometimes on paper.

Above is General Montgomery’s plan for D Day, written on 1 piece of A4 paper.

I’ve used lots of pens over the years and the one I love the most is the Fisher Space Pen (although quite expensive, I prefer the model in Titanium)

The reason I enjoy writting down plans and list’s is best explained by a quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower “In war I’ve found that plans are useless but planning is essential”.

The simple act of sitting down with pen and paper, focuses the mind and allows creativity to flow, in a way typing into an Ipad never will.

ritrfol

I usually have a notebook of some kind with me at all times (I also have notebooks and pens in all of my bags, next to my bed, on my desk and in my kitchen) just in case inspiration strikes.

One I especially like is the Rite in the rain 7 inch ring bound notebook. I don’t usually need my scribblings to be waterproof, but you never know.

It’s complimented by the Rite in the rain C980 writing case you can see above.

It can hold upto 4 pens, but I have a penlight torch, a multi screwdriver and 2 space pens in mine.

I also include a plastic form for navigating on OS maps, and I always carry a pack of post it notes in case I want to mark an article in a book or magazine (I’d never write directly onto either).

Rite in the rain wallet notebook

As the saying goes about Camera’s, “The best camera is the one you’ve got with you when you need it”.

I’ve always got a telescopic pen with me on my keys, but what about other times ?. Sometimes I take a trip to the pub with only my “basic man” outfit. A wallet, keys and a phone.

I was delighted to see Rite in the rain have brought out these amazing mini notebooks you can fit in your wallet.

They’re the same size as a few business cards – the one in my Rohan RFID wallet above is in red next to the Santander card with a yellow one for illustration to the left (they come in packs of 6).

To the left of the yellow notepad is a Bellroy Micropen. A technical marvel, that can fit unobtrusively in a wallet, to complete the ensemble.

ronj

Finally, just for fun, I saw this almost 40 year old advert for the Commodore 64. My brother and I had one, we paid for it ourselves but convinced mum it was a sound investment as we’d both learn about computers and how to type. I think 99 out of every 100 hours it was used was to play games.

Someone’s altered this advert. If you know who Ron Jeremy is, you’ll understand why it’s so mischievously funny 🙂

Once again thanks for reading from everyone here at johnsunter.com I’ll do another post, before Christmas, but near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Dark nights but upbeat about the future.

20200822_161606

Well, despite the picture above, I haven’t been doing much lately, so no update to johnsunter.com

To be honest I’ve been feeling a bit down. I’ve always suffered with seasonal effectiveness disorder and now a 2nd Covid lockdown has just made me even more miserable.

No adventure on the horizon (well none that definitely won’t be cancelled) and I’m drinking a bit too much.

earp1

My meet up with Nick yesterday ended up being cancelled (a bit disappointing really and since Manchester is going to be imminently, fully locked down, I don’t know the next chance we’ll get to do it).

On the plus side, I’ve started watching loads of new TV stuff – Wynonna Earp, The Umbrella academy and Star Trek Discovery

If you have young children, I highly recommend the Disney live action drama Mulan. I watched it with our freinds daughter Amy and she really enjoyed it.

I went to see True Romance and have dinner at Chez Jules (for several years we didn’t have a cinema in Chester, so a local restaurant stepped up and started showing films).

Have seen a few things at Storyhouse cinema, including Capital, Ford v Ferrari and A life on our planet with Sir David Attenborough.

20201018_104836

Things at work are going well (I haven’t missed a days pay throughout this nightmare, and were busier than ever) I suppose I’m due some good luck after the events of 2009.

I even have my own modest office now (it’s early days, but I have great plans for this place 🙂

Really struggled to get back into a routine when I returned to work (3 days a week, Wed & Fri at home).

I started using a daily checklist, inspired by the book checklist manifesto which I highly recommend.

20200829_075809

A couple of things have worked out this year.

We went camping to Beddgelert. A very “keystone cops” affair, as we arrived at the campsite on Friday evening, and it had closed down.

After about an hour, I realised that we were booked into another campsite, 2 miles away (the one we’ve visited before and really like had closed down. I couldn’t remember it’s name so just googled Beddgelert campsite, it pointed me at the other one and I’d booked it).

mh

Anyway, we ended up having a really good time and among several day walks, completed Moel Hebog up the hard route.

tent

Speaking of camping, my old friend Caz showed me this rig he’d set up (and which I’ve now bought myself).

Basically, 2 telescopic poles, a 3 meter by 3 meter waterproof sheet (in the army, referred too as a basha) and plenty of para-cord.

A simple concept, but it revolutionises minimal camping. In younger days, while camping, you would sit out in the evening, but if it started raining you’d retire 2 to a tent and the social aspect of the evening would sort of end.

If we’d had one of these, we could have stayed up all night 🙂

20200913_103302

On another weekend away (all together, I was away from home for 6 consecutive weekends) we visited Iron-Bridge Gorge.

It was organised by the excellent Brian from the Walking Group (the walking group isn’t operating officially at the moment). We ran an off book trip to Iron-bridge Youth Hostel and booked the whole thing (we had a room each :).

Lots of fun walking days. I think next time I’ll also rent one of the Canadian canoes they have under the bridge.

20200912_231609

In the evening, we enjoyed some nice food and good company.

ot

I also got to spend a day at Blists Hill Victorian town.

It was a literal recreation of a Victorian town. It was enormous and had loads of costumed actors and people demonstrating steam engine’s and stuff like that.

The search for adventure continues… although it feels a bit more difficult than usual at the moment.

New adventures and new books.

Canal Bridge

Well, I’ve been getting out adventuring almost every weekend.

I usually cycle around Cheshire somewhere (this shot was taken on the canal).

Walking around Cheshire

I also try to get out walking and I’ve discovered loads of interesting places off the beaten track in Chester.

Garden Barbecue

Barbecue’s are a regular weekend occurrence now.

We also got hold of Madhur Jaffreys Ultimate Curry Bible, as recommended by Mike Delafield, and we try making a different curry every Friday.

Beer Fridge

The beer fridge I’d wanted for years and finally got as a Christmas bonus from SGS has been a godsend for weekends and summer evenings.

Ray Mears new Book - Wilderness Chef

I bought Ray Mears new book.

I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a chef, but I can knock together a decent meal on a camping stove.

The book itself is really interesting and has loads of useful stuff, so if you’re about to go on a long train journey, go out and buy it.

My Wild Country Zephros 2 compact tent

I’ve replaced my tent, The Wild Country – Zephros 2 with, The Wild Country – Zephros 2, compact.

I loved my old tent, but there were one or two niggling problems like cheap zips, bendable tent-pegs, fiddly to put up.  All have been fixed.

My trusty Trek 7 series bike

A project I did recently was an overnight camp to Chester lakes campsite.

As it’s only 5 miles from my house, it enabled me to load up my bike, pedal over and test the balance of my bike and various new camping things I’ve recently bought.

Camping stove and other cooking equipment

I’d spent the days before, rationalising and testing my cooking rig (inspired by stuff in Ray Mears Book).

All my equipment laid out on my dining table

I prepared all the gear I thought I’d need for a week’s camping in the lakes (although I was only camping for 1 night, it seemed a good test). Would my bike be overloaded ?. The whole point was to make the freedom of cycling a pleasant experience).

pan

Next came loading up the panniers.

That was a real challenge as you had to fill them out evenly, by leaning the bike against a wall or something like that.

So, I found my £3.99 B&Q stool, and “mounted” the panniers on that.

It worked out really well and I definitely recommend that as  a “best practice” way to load panniers.

My small camp setup

So, with the afternoon booked off work, I set off pedalling to the Lakes Campsite and setup my little camp.

I managed to find a small secluded forest that seemed quiet. I made a brew on my stove, tested my new mini wash kit, and got changed from my cycling gear into my trekking clothes.

Everything was going to plan.

My lunch of crackers and spread cheese

Inspired by stuff I’d read in Ray Mears book.

Don’t take something simple to fill you up. Think about what you’d really like to eat.

In my case, crackers and cheese spread. The panniers were so carefully loaded that the crackers didn’t even break.

I wandered around the campsite exploring. They had a nice place called the Wild Goose, so I had a few beers in the sunshine. Then I wandered over to the Red Lion in Dodleston and had dinner with Nikki.

After the meal I said goodbye to Nikki, wished her a safe journey home, then headed back to my camp for the night.

Antisocial campers

Eight cars and multiple tents had setup their rig right near mine (the picture above isn’t they’re actual camp, which was much worse, this is something I found on the internet to capture the scene).

The quiet of the evening was broken, when I realised the loud music was due to an amplifier they’d brought, powered by a generator !

A strobe light and the smell of weed finished me off, I loaded up my bike and pedalled home (I was drinking hot chocolate in my house by 10:30 pm).

No matter, it was a test/proof of concept and it worked.

Laundry dryer in Nikki's garden

Saturday was spent catching up on jobs, including fixing Nikki’s dryer which required some creative use of concrete.

I also started watching a series called Gangs of London, which I’d really recommend.

Some people Kayaking

On Sunday, we went walking again. We passed through a new place called Park in the Past.

I was delighted to see that you could rent Kayaks. I’ve made a note of that and I’ll be back there soon.

Me standing on Hope mountain in Wales

We even wandered across Hope Mountain.

Overall, a pretty fab day out and a nice end to the weekend.

The Northumberland coast

I’m back in work until Thursday, then off to Northumberland for 9 days which I’m really looking forward too.

LIst of bookings in Northumberland

Were moving around, so I’ve booked accommodation in 3 different locations and booked dinner in different places for each evening.

Well, only 2 more posts and I’ll have completed 500 posts on johnsunter.com

Once again, thanks for reading, near and far, the search for adventure continues…

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 incident.

mtool1

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

In terms of a keyring tool, I’m looking for 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.

20170606_205427

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.

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.

20171217_144217

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 again.

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 binge 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” are).

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 a 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 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 falling 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 Clwydian’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 empty 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.

Why it’s called adventures of an ordinary person.

A selfie I took, walking in the Dolomites

Welcome to the first Friday morning blog post.

I thought this week, I’d start at the beginning by talking about the website’s origins and why it’s tag-lined: the adventures of an ordinary person…

I guess it’s pretty obvious why the web address is johnsunter.com 🙂

chester_waterfront

Originally from Manchester, I’ve lived in Chester for 20 years (choosing to move here is one of the best decisions I ever made).

When I first arrived in Chester, Facebook didn’t exist. I wanted my mum (who sadly has now passed) to be able to see pictures and read about my exploration of my new home town.

A chap I worked with called John Lyons gave me the domain name johnsunter.com as gift and I learned html so I could do my own pages (which more often than not, featured the inside of a new pub 🙂

I put up random stuff like pictures of the lawn I’d mowed, my office at work and stuff like that.

About 18 months later, my life fell apart and I lost almost everything (no sob story, this is the good part).

Sleeping bag on the floor, my life in tatters, 2002.

With my life in tatters, I was sleeping on the floor in a practically empty flat. I decided I’d dedicate myself to the pursuit of adventure and I drew up a list of activities to complete which I called my blue list (I dislike bucket list).

Around  3000 activities, 1000 of these, we’re place specific (if you want to read the New York Times in Central Park, or Drink Chinese beer on the Great Wall of China, you need to be there, whereas learning 6 ways to tie  a tie can be done anywhere 🙂

I’d write about my experiences good and bad and explain how I organised and executed those adventures.

fn

Later, I joined a community of miscreants that drank in the Fortress and Firkin (which then became the famous Frog & Nightingale). It became the focal point of my evenings and weekends while at home. As a sideline I posted stuff about this on johnsunter.com in between adventures with things like scores from a pool match and this week’s featured drinker !.

My first Bluelist was completed in 2009.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, one of my heroes.

As my travel adventures continued, it struck me, that as an ordinary person, I was doing the kind of things that “experts” normally did.

My reasoning was that off course, Ray Mears can trek through a jungle, and Chris Bonington can cross a glacier. They are my heroes.

However, I’ve done both those things and lots more.  I thought others, frightened off or nervous of some trips and activities might gain inspiration from my adventures. After all, I’m an ordinary person, if I can do it, and explain how, then anyone can do it can’t they ?

That’s where the tag-line originally came from, but there’s more.

my_house

We all know someone who inherited money or sold a house or whatever and travelled around the world.

What about living a life of adventure while maintaining a relatively normal life as well. Thing’s like buying and maintaining a house, spending time with friends and family, meeting someone special and finding a job you enjoy doing. Plus still having time for hobby’s, going to the pub, cinema etc.

new_bathroom

Friend’s might consider it disrespectful if you missed their birthday in Liverpool so you could live in the woods for a week with just a knife and a fire-steel.

How would a partner feel that you couldn’t’ see her that weekend because you were watching Swan Lake in Moscow ?

Would your boss be happy that you were taking your 4th short holiday of the year to stand on the Great Wall of China ?

Financially, could you do all those things and still pay for upgrades/repairs to your house.

It is possible and this whole website is proof of it !.

photo3

Don’t forget, you can’t see the world and be in the countryside all the time, so I usually have a picture of somewhere exciting on my desk at work. I also fill my house with nice pictures like these.

Two organisations that have helped immensely on my journey are The Chester and District Walking Group and the Chester Globetrotters.

In terms of goals, I’m 15 countries away from 100 and membership of The Travellers Century Club.

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

Re-launch of johnsunter.com

z7

Today, I’m re-launching johnsunter.com

Lots of out of date and incomplete pages going back almost 3 years have been fix during the lockdown (a marathon project that’s taken over 150 hours) – details of these pages can be found here.

From now on, I’ll be updating the blog every 7 days, with a new blog entry to read every Friday morning.

I know a lot of people have told me they get a lot out of my blog. I’d like to thank you for coming back again and again, and hope that you’ll continue to do so.

Near and far, the search for adventure continues…

Summary of new/updated pages.

ind_page

This is a list of the pages that have been updated during lockdown. The website has needed a major update for the past two and a half years and it’s finally complete (to illustrate, it takes 4 – 8 hours to do a page correctly).

I’ve been to other places as well, Athens, Meteora, the Dolomites and loads of places in the UK., but these are the significant trips that fell by the wayside due to work commitments, and busy evenings and weekends.

Sri Lanka – Feb 2020

 Sri Lanka Sri Lanka – Long weekend.

Ukraine – Kiev and Chernobyl – Aug 2019

 Kiev on Indepdendence day.  Kiev – On Independence Day.
 Chernobyl 1 Chernobyl 1 & the ghost city of Pripyat (1/2).
 Chernobyl 2. Chernobyl 2 & the ghost city of Pripyat (2/2).

Northern Ireland by overnight ferry – May 2019

 Northern Ireland 1 – Troubles, Game of Thrones & Ulster Fry (1/2).
Northern Ireland 2 – Troubles, Game of Thrones & Ulster Fry (2/2).

South America Tour – Feb 2019

 Santiago Santiago – First trip to Chile and the Andes.
 Easter Island 1 Easter Island 1 – Somewhere I really thought I’d never see (1/2).
 ea2_sml Easter Island 2 – Somewhere I really thought I’d never see (2/2).
 Life on a cruise ship. Life on a cruise ship – Backpacker in the lap of luxury.
 Patagonia 1. Patagonia 1 – Adventure wilderness (1/2).
 Patagonia 2. Patagonia 2 – Adventure wilderness (2/2).
 Falkland Islands 1. Falkland Islands 1 – Small Island in the middle of nowhere (1/2).
 Falkland Islands 2. Falkland Islands 2 – Small Island in the middle of nowhere (2/2).
 Montevideo. Montevideo – The birthplace of corned beef.
 Buenos Aires 1. Buenos Aires 1 – First trip to Argentina (1/2).
 Buenos Aires 2. Buenos Aires 2 – First trip to Argentina (2/2).

Indonesia – Sept 2018

 Indonesia by train 1. Indonesia by train 1 – Jakarta & Pangadaran (1/3).
 Indonesia by train 2. Indonesia by train 2 – Yogyakarta & Seloliman nature reserve (2/3).
 Indonesia by train 3. Indonesia by train 3 – Mnt Bromo, Permuteran & Ubud (3/3).

India – Dec 2017

 Delhi & Agra 2017 Delhi & Agra 2017.
 kr_sml Karauli & Ranthambore.
 Jaipur. Jaipur – Pink city and Sharpe’s Fort.
 Udaipur. Udaipur – The home of Octopussy.
 Mumbai. Mumbai – New Years Eve.

Namibia – Nov 2017

 Namibia 1. Namibia 1 – Windhoek, rain, into the Sand Dunes and old cars (1/3).
 Namibia 2. Namibia 2 – Tropic of Capricorn, the living desert, the Skeleton coast & wild elephants (2/3).
 Namibia 3. Namibia 3  – Lion, Cheetah & small animal spotting. Incredible day trips to Europe (3/3).

Myanmar & SEA – Nov 2016

 Bangkok catch up with Frank. Bangkok 2017 – Start SEA trip and catch up with Frank.
 Luang Prabang 1. Luan Prabang 1 – Adventure playground (1/2).
 Luang Prabang 2. Luan Prabang 2 – Adventure playground (2/2).
 Yangon. Yangon – Myanmar.
 Bagan. Bagan – Myanmar.
 Mandalay. Mandalay – Myanmar.
 Inle Lake. Inle Lake – Myanmar.

Buenos Aires – First trip to Argentina (1/2)

intro_ba

Our cruise comes to an end in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

When I was 13, the UK was at war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

In the community I grew up in, “Argentina” was mostly footballers with std’s and everyone else was looked a villain from a cowboy film.

30 years later, my common sense told me this couldn’t all be true, so I was quite excited to arrive to see what the place was really like.

clock

After a well organised disembarkation from our boat at 7am and were wheeling our bags from the port towards our hotel.

On the way we see the Torre Monumental clock. Originally named the Tower of the English, it was a gift from the British Government using imported British “Red” brick.

After the 1982 war, the name Tower of the English was changed and everyone refers to it as the Torre.

pdowntown

Arriving at our hotel, our hosts are friendly and helpful and we’re shown to our room.

We’d left the boat quite early, so decided to dump our bags and head out for some breakfast.

hrs_tv

We find somewhere for breakfast and tuck in.

But what’s this on the tv ? There seemed to be some sort of March with horses going on somewhere.

hrs1

We realised to our surprise that at that moment, the horses, security and all the regalia were passing the cafe outside where we were sitting !

security

We carried on exploring and could see a number of protests taking place. Something was happening and this part of the city was being locked down.

Various road and streets were closed by the police and security services with barriers being erected. People with riot shields started appearing!.

I won’t lie I was a bit nervous, and we briefly considered going back to our hotel.

But if we headed in the other direction, I reasoned we could carry on exploring and keep out of trouble.

hrs_pal1

We had planned to join a free walking tour that started at The National Congress Building.

We worked our way around various closed road and eventually to our destination.

hrs_pal2

Only to realise, that the horses etc, were all converging on the Congress Building (it was the final destination of their Parade, we found later that the President was addressing the occupants of the building in some sort of capacity).

With our tour cancelled, time for plan B. My guidebook to Buenos Aires listed 10 must see sights. Theatre Colon was one of them so off we went.

col_outside

Constructed 1908 it symbolises the Golden era or Buenos Aires.

A time when “wealthy as an Argentine” was a phrase often used in Paris and New York.

be_intro2

Tours have to be booked well in advance normally, but we were lucky and booked onto one starting an hour later.

It was quite expensive, but they had a nice wine bar in the waiting area, so we tried some Argentine Merlot.

col_stairs

The tour begins, and we head upstairs for our 90-minute tour.

Nothing short of Palatial (as you’d expect, it ranks among the worlds top 10 opera houses).

Italian marble, French stained glass, Venetian mosaics.

col_stage

Inside the main auditorium.

Performances are pre-booked months into the future. It fills up every night, as it has done for over 100 years.

col_seats1

The view with the stage behind me.

I was struck by the lighting and how atmospheric it was.

col_speaker

In the ceiling, what looks like a light actually contains a powerful speaker.

This contributes to its world renowned,  near perfect acoustics.

col_seats2

I got to hear them first hand, as some joiners were preparing the stage and the sound of hammering and sawing reverberated throughout the arena.

pm

We wander towards Plaza de Mayo, the Political, spiritual and cultural centre of Buenos Aires.

It’s here that the people danced after World Cup victory in 1986.

cas_ros

Casa Rosada – The Pink house, the President’s official offices (unlike the White House, the President doesn’t actually live here.

Eva Peron addressed the people from its Balcony’s.

cabilda

The Cabilda, in its classic colonial style.

Once used as a local town hall, but today used as a museum of the May revolution.

cat2

La Catedral Metropolitana, the main Catholic church in Buenos Aires.

cath1

There were queues for everything, but we were able to get inside the Cathedral and that choice was rewarded.

cath3

Further inside, the Mausoleum of General San Martin.

Guarded by statues representing Argentina, Peru and Chile.

banco

Banco. Well, it’s a big bank.

More seriously, its associated with the economic riots in 2001 which were part of the “Argentine great depression from 1998 – 2002.

Corral policies were instituted which stopped people withdrawing cash from banks and pensions were not paid.

Rioting and protests started almost immediately, President Fernando de la Rua resigned, replaced by President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa who resigned less than 12 days later.

In total it cost 39 civilian lives, 9 of which were minors.

gen_bel

Monument to General Belgrano.

It’s a name that’s well known in the UK as the Argentine flagship, sunk in the Falklands War (controversially at the time, but Prime Minister Thatcher has since been vindicated by a book written by it’s Captain Hector Bonzo).

But actually was General Belgrano. Described as an economist, politician and military leader, he was involved in the independence of Argentina.

lm

Les Madres – The mothers. I borrowed this image from a Guardian article.

Between 1976 and 1982 many people were “disappeared” by the Military Junta.

Their mothers and other relatives protest peacefully in the square, seeking information about their loved ones.

pira

Piramide de Mayo – constructed in 1811, it’s the oldest monument in Buenos Aires.

We leave Plaza de Mayo and head for another of the top 10 tights.

rec

Cementerio de la recoleta.

Nicknamed city of the dead, it houses mausoleums and graves of generals, presidents, celebrity and Eva Peron.

gy_map

It’s so large and elaborate that there’s even a map to find your way around.

gy_scn2

You can see why it’s called the city of the dead. Everything is in rows side by side in streets and avenues.

gy_elab2

One of the more elaborate mausoleums, but it has to be said, there are hundreds just like it.

gy_ev1

The thing that most people come to see – the family mausoleum of Eva Duarte de Peron.

She died of Cervical cancer in 1952. Even in death she was a threat to some people. Her body disappeared for 3 years, afterwards she spent time buried under a false name in Milan.

She was finally returned to Argentina and interned in her family mausoleum in 1976 , but not with her believed husband Juan Peron.

gy_ev2

She was (and still is) revered by the working class people of Argentina, who she called the Descamisados – The Shirtless ones.

I remember some of the people visiting were playing Evita on their phones. Up to the individual how they deal with grief, but I found it intrusive.

The inscription translates to: Eternal in the soul of your fire.

gy_angel

A sobering morning.
Many of the mausoleums date back to the 1800’s but this one is dated 1970 and it caught my eye.
Iliana Crociati de Szaszak was only 26 when she died in an avalanche in Innsbruck, while on her honeymoon. Shown with her beloved dog, Sabu.