Thursday, 30 December 2021

Going back 40 plus years and then some

I have always been a person who can find hobbies and interests. Back when I was in my late teens it was photography with a Practika camera set in a metal case with a MTL3 camera, telephoto lens and wide angle lens. If I recall correctly it came from Littlewoods catalogue and I paid over 20 weeks for it  ! 

I used colour film that was developed by BonusPrint and after sending it off in the post I had to wait for it to plop back into the letterbox to see the results of my photography. I actually won a RB Macmillan (where I did my print apprenticeship) photo competion - sport photo I think for a person Kyaking on the river Derwent at Darley Abbey mills. I can even remember getting drunk with my colleague and snooker (another hobby) mate Eddie Russell at the presenting ceremony. 

So forty years later my youngest son is very much into film photography and he passed an eBay buy Practika MTL3 to me with a roll of film….. black and white to see what I could do with it.

About 12 months after giving it to me we were at his new flat in Buxton and developed the film in a ‘bag’ - all very clever simple stuff that I enjoyed. Once the film was dry he scanned it in and sent the pictures to me. The best bit was remembering walks we’d been on over the last 12 months that I’d forgotten and seeing how good or bad the pictures were. 

I enjoyed it and have another roll to play with but I also like my super zoom digital ! 

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Confidence - where does it go when you get older

Reasons to be cheerful  - It occurred to me the other night while making food (unrelated) what the essence of mindfulness is. We hear a lot about it - defined as living in the moment I understand. 

So what happens if we do not ‘live in the moment’  - well I concluded we cheat our destiny by trying to predict it or influence it. In fact it goes deeper in that by preoccupying ourselves with in the main things we cannot change we are also cheating those around us  - especially those who may have less time than us. 

It's almost ironic that by not trying to change the future we can actually embellish it by being focussed on things we love the most and focus our time and energy towards them… focussed mindfulness if there is such a thing. 

Anyhow it's how I cope in these darker months whenever my mind decides to try and go a wandering I send it a reminder that unless it's good wandering it needs to be back in the moment as if I can’t change or significantly influence its focus of direction its wasting those cells that will get lost in the thought processes…. 

All of the above underpins my thinking that trying to control everything ultimatly influences confidence in as much as when things cant be controlled our planning confidence takes a hit... a beating then we feel less confident. And here is the rub that lack of confidence from not being able to control the future rolls into all things that need confidence... it's almost a spiraling circle of confidence sapping. 

So as I get older I try to live in the moment, understanding there are lots of things in my future I cannot change, some I can influence which I do ( mainly health and fitness ) but those other things slip in and get ejected as quickly. I use a mental mind map with my thoughts as the central bubble and those thoughts about things I cannot change I see forming then popping like the bubbles from a child's bubble wand.... 

So don't beat yourself up if you reflect negatively on your ability to do things.... move on, chuck it over your shoulder, park it  - life is really far too short and don't get tricked into waiting on things you can't change.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Good enough for the boat so why not the house - please read me

... editing as I'm typing this watching a BBC program on Iplayer called  "The Trick"

I lived abroad Percy at Fradley Junction  for a couple of years /winters in 2015 and 2016. It was a great experience and an ambition realised. It was simple living, I burned a bit of coal, gathered some rays of the sun and used some gas. The power at that time ( I had not reconfigured the electrics to allow me to run off a genny) was batteries and they supplied power for lights pumps and tv etc - simple storage and it worked. I would have liked to have had more solar but at the time solar was expensive and I had limited roof real estate to locate it on.

So why not add such storage and solar  to our moorlands cottage - well we have had two solar quotes the latter actually had a battery as well  - a house battery as opposed to boat batteries. Same problem with solar panel, locations limited real estate on out little cottage roof, and less than ideal roof orientation to the sun. I asked on the first quote about house batteries and they said they did not do them.... second quote I asked for a price for just house batteries and it was not supplied. 

On the 26th November tomorrow as I type this I am hoping to get a check quote for just house batteries as we now are on a Octopus go tariff that will allow us to draw up to 12KW if power overnight at 5p a KW ( the charger on Go Energy battery system  can only draw a maximum of 3kw/h) and use it during the day. Our yearly average daily use is 19.1KW/h. Obviously more in winter less in summer. In opting for a bank I need to consider the return on investment as well and the environmental advantages*

We have tried to focus our actions on improvements to the cottage to be intelligent to get best bang for our environmental buck. It scares the shit out of me how indifferent the world is to the reality of climate change. I am conflicted on how much I can do that allows me to have a 'happy' life while reducing my impact on the world's climate. I burn hydrocarbons at home and in travel, not good but I/we try to minimise this as well as look for alternatives that are sensible - hence the delay in replacing our cars with one electric car; that's based on not wanting to waste the resource used in making our existing car while it's still useable. I did scrap my old diesel burner and brought a petrol car off a chap who was buying an electric car..... that I like.

So hopefully the house batteries will arrive and help again....subject to some financial modelling. Maybe we should spend more time on Percy and get some bigger solar panels  - might not look right but would mean less impactful living for the time we are aboard.... 

What are you doing or going to do or have done ? 

* You should try and watch 'The Trick' - it's on Iplayer and an insight into how big players are/were/still are aiming to slow down the climate change lobby. 

Monday, 29 November 2021

Storm Arwen tests us

A bit in the past now but Friday night the 26th November the first named storm of the 'season' arrived and it seems the Staffordshire moorlands in England  ( Scotland's East coast took the full brunt) took a big hit. 

We woke on Saturday morning to a good five inches of snow and more where it has drifted. Then the power went off about 9.30 am. Rachel was singing in a snowless Derby just 25 miles away so she left and stayed over as the weather stayed windy and very cold -6c according to our neighbour Meriel.

So it was Genny out which ran 10 hours straight keeping the Rayburn on so food and drinks were not an issue. With some extensions I was also able to have the internet on as well as a solitary lamp. The Aga stove in the lounge had been in 36 hours as  type this keeping the house warmish. Candles when it got dark along with two storm lamps kept the place lit. Bed at 11 with two hot water bottles. Ipad and Iphone kept charged with two power batteries.... I'm pleased the 'redundancy' systems worked well so I was warm, fed and entertained. I did also offer support.... in case you were thinking smug git ! 

Think I'll explore is a way of powering the central heating from the genny as well so we can have full house heat and more importantly hot water. I think I can do it without too much 'risk'.

The birds have gone through two full servings of wire worms, suet pellets, peanuts Fatballs and lots of loose seeds... they need it for sure. The ice was and inch thick on the pond so that was broken and removed.

We took a walk this evening into the twilight down the our lane that's closed due to overhead powerline work.... ended up spending half an hour helping someone in the local village get her van free in the snow and ice.... 

The most snow we've had since being here 

Power off so emergency planning mode  ( the old job taught me well!)

.... The next day and after sorting out the boiler that had locked out and clearing up Leia's 'accident' my day started at 6am .... and ended with a nice walk into the darkness 

Now let's hope it rains to wash it and the salt away ! 

Thursday, 25 November 2021


Well  that's how the locals pronounce it. Written as Slaithwaite it's a village that has a grove in its centre  -literally. The grove is actually the Huddlesfield narrow canal and boy is it narrow as it rips its way through the village

I was there to look at a house Callum my youngest was interested in. Not right for him but a interesting view of a canal I may or may not ever travers on Percy.... 

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

About time...

I've been biking for over 43 years now.... and never not had a taxed and insured bike, sometimes as many as three.  As I've ranged out due to having more time in later years and made more friends from the internet my flavour of bikes has changed to touring bikes and my mileage and distances have increased. With extra miles comes extra risk. At the same time my biker friends group has included blood bikers and after losing a good friend to a condition where blood bikes would have been used to bring in help I resolved to become a blood biker which at the saem time would mean I'd need a 'qualification'

To be a blood biker I needed to have completed and Institute of Advanced Motorcyclist course and passed  a road assessment by a national observer. I set to this in late 2019 by applying to the IAM for a course... we all know what happened in early 2020....

In my log book I only had 9 sessions where I went out with an observer following for anything from an hour to nearly three ( including tea ) The ninth session a couple of weeks ago was an assessment of my fitness to take the actual test or assessment which I took today. 

I met up with a national ROSPA IAM observer who also happened to have a police car and biking CV second to none. He was so many things in his introduction I can't remember them all. After a quick vision check we were off for and hour and a bit of him following me on a route across most road types  - resulting in a pass. 

So now I am IAM qualified to progress to my final ( biking) ambition of being a blood biker  - subject to another induction meeting another assessment ride and hopefully some buddy shifts .... watch this space. 

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Biking into November

Ok, so less of being a tree and more of being a rufty tufty biker. My two good friends Steve and Bob and I met up earlier this month to make sure we were all ok  - important and also plan some rides into 2022. I have a seperate post on 2022 plans coming up that will have a bit of an update on Percy's engine. 

We agreed to meet at the boat house pub/restaurant somewhere up North  - Between Doncaster and Rotherham. It's actually on the River Don which flooded the pub a little while back so it had been refitted out - but no doubt prone to flooding again sadly.

The location was chosen as Bob comes from Middlesbrough and Steve from Sleaford. I think I get the best ride through the Peak District. Both out and back it seemed Bakewell was the hidden door of good weather in the east to drizzle and cloud in the west. The RT was suitably crapped up after my return via Chesterfield  - I went out via Sheffield - routes on the map below.

As always it was good to meet up and we planned at least two trips  - one to Colditz and into Czechoslovakia !! Last time I went there it was to a Stag weekend in Prague and what went on there stays locked in my mind for an eternity ! 

Anyway bikes.....

Nice and clean and it even got a blow dry 

Covered up as the Himalayan gets the dirty stuff from now on 

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Maybe I should be a tree?

Ok, going back to my November ramblings  - written and physical.... On one of my walks I got to thinking about 'us'  - people and how we have pretty much buggered up the world by our incessant drive towards commercialism and consumerism.  

I have been part of that and as others should do I am trying to reign in my impact on the planet. It has to be proportionate and owned by the individual. What I do is not the same as what you may do but we have to do something and all small things add up to a bigger whole approach. 

So when I was out walking I got to be staring at a large tree that sits overlooking the valley. In my estimation the tree was older than me and I also expect the tree to be standing and doing tree stuff when I am worm and tree food myself.  I also pondered the serenity and majesty of the tree. Its impact on this earth is fully positive, it harms no one, it gives pleasure to those who look upon it. It provides homes for birds and insects and it recycles itself annually. 

It takes poison out of the air and converts it to growth for itself but also provides support by the generation of oxygen for others to use and support life. 

Even in its eventual death  - if left alone it provides shelter for others and slowly and quietly puts itself back into the earth while feeding many other creatures as part of its eventual decay

It does not seek much to survive and thrive gives shelter and pleasure and gives so much back in death.

It enjoys simple pleasures such as water and sunlight, it enjoys the darker winter months as it knows it needs to rest and allow the winter storms to select the weaker of its fellows to remove or trim back. It signal the start of regeneration in the spring and gives much needed shade to all who shelter under in in high sun of summer. 

It does not need to consume as it knows its purpose in nature and fits into its role with majesty and humbleness. Not wishing to outshine or conqueror or devour or excel or fight, it exists to be beautiful and useful. 

It's not lost on me that trees like my tree friend in the valley have been doing this for billions of year and their ancestors were slowly lost underground to be mined and dug up and burned in about a three hundred year period. Billions of years to be made 300 years to be used.... that is what we are about.

A good friend engaged me in written communication over my Faith post.... there was some reference to reincarnation. I don't believe fully in that but it's as close to a belief I have in that if my body when empty of life can be planted in the ground to rot and provide the nutrients for a tree ( ideally) or other vegetation then I am indeed reincarnated to that plant or animal which I find appealing. 

Here endeth my sermon on trees.... I realy, must put some time into that living  ( and dying) will so I can be a tree, or daffodil or worm or ............


Monday, 15 November 2021

Keeping in touch

Last weekend we took a visit back south to catch up with friends colleagues and ex neighbours. Every autumn we have helped our ex nextdoor neighbour pick her apples from her lovely orchard. It was something we did when we lived next door and we go back two or three times a year for red wine and olives as well as the odd bike ride and for Rachel colleague catch up.

Our cottage is on the right overlooking the mill pond - beautiful 

We stay at Hollybank house a beautiful B&B in stunning grounds 

If we'd stayed south I'm sure Percy would have been traded for one of these....

One area special tous is Bosham... we walked cycles and motorcycles all over this area. on a few occasions I walked from the cottage in West Ashling to Bosham where Rachel would pick me up on her way home from work 

The custodians of Hollybank house are keen sailors and told us of a very high tide brought in by an on shore wind and high pressure ... when we entered the cafe there was no water .... note the lady pushing the wheelchair.... it catches lots out including the odd motorist. 

There are some very exclusive properties in the area.

.... and wildlife to watch 

As an aside there is a house being developed overlooking this that is featured on Grand designs ....

It was a lovely weekend catching up and we will be back again and again as it's a lovely part of the world with some special memories 

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Faith - the atheists disadvantage

Sorry if these posts are a bit deep... but they are what's in my head. 

The above statement is inpart owned by Stephen Fry who said ( it may have been on desert island disks  - my go to driving and cleaning podcast favourite) as an atheist he had to live his best and fullest life while alive as he like me believes there is no afterlife and when you are dead - end of... nothing, like those times you go to sleep and do not dream, you are not aware or conscious at all - thats how I see death, a very final act. 

So I was walking the other day thinking things as you do and I reflected on how lucky you are if you have a faith. I always said I'd revert back to the church when I got older as I may well need comfort that the afterlife may bring but is removed from me being an atheist. Now that's like backing the best team in the league because they always win despite living in a football town of losers... not really on and not something I can convince myself about - even now. 

I am 'Church of England' and if I'm honest did like to hear the bible stories when we went to chapel every Wednesday at College Primary School, Great Northern Road in Derby ( sadly now a housing estate). I also liked the hymns and the sermons. But try as I might Jesus, buda Allah is absent from my life. I do have a bible which I intend to start reading as one thing I do 'think' is that the bible is a book written to help steer people to being good, sometime by positive role models and sometime out of fear !!

So when I reflect on a few peoples comments "You are always out and about" "Always doing something" "You have so many holidays" etc etc.... that's because I have to, I can't cheat the privilege I've been given/earnt.

So until I get faith if ever.... I like Mr Fry will have to live life to the full.... which to be honest isn't all bad.

Right  - got to plan those 2022 trips and yes I'll update soon on Percy's Donk, which in the spirit of the positive, at least I have a good idea what the problem is .... but as to how many motorbike tokens  (££££) it'll take to fix it... to be decided  !

Friday, 12 November 2021

Depressed in November

Take your pick for other words to use to describe  November - the clocks going back, crap weather etc etc etc they add up to making me  how I feel about this time of year.

It used to get me every year - low mood I think the doctors called it - otherwise known as depression. In the past I've taken St. John's Wort tablets - basically a herbal antidepressant but they are bloody addictive and a bugger to come off in spring.  I used  St Johns wort tea bags when I was living on the boat as a half way house  - Since retiring I've been clear of it but this year for reasons I can't nail down its got into my head and won't leave. 

I will evict 'it' and I won't be at the doctors or health shop taking pills (might go for tea bags) for it either. I've prescribed a high dose of daylight and aching muscles that will be the outcome of increased fitness I'll pursue.  I'm also off alcohol in the main. Just not fancying it at the moment. I still have a glass of red wine occasionally but not as much as I used to drink. 

I'm posting this because I need to look back on it and prove it was a 'thing' not something that owned me for any degree of time. I am also posting it as I know others suffer and sharing is good. 

So looking forward to bogging November off but at the same time I'm in no hurry to wish my life away ...Keep smiling and I hope this reflection has not brought you down in any way.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

More water to walk next to

My focus for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022 while boating is limited due to engine checks etc is my fitness. I know you are not going to believe this but I'm 60 FFS next year. I won't do 60 very well so be warned family and friends.

My good friend Graham who does not do social media  - we were apprentices together in the Print industry in the 70's. As an aside  - Yes I am a time served ( 4 years) journeyman printer. A craft/skill that is less in need now due to those pesky computers. but in the day it took 4 years to hone the crafts to be a lithographic/letterpress/ gravure printer. 

Anyhow we fish together and walk together and seem to be able to talk about stuff most of the time without repeating ourselves - or if we do we politely not remind each other we've heard the stories before! 

So the other week we set the world to right and tried to reset my pending November SAD with a refreshing eight and a half mile walk around Carsington reservoir.

For the record really as in another post pending I'll update on Percy and plans for 2022 and a raft of other observations and markers to what I've been doing for my dotage reflections  !!

On returning home and having food I then got my ( electric) bike out and did a Morrisons shop in Cheadle - a 10 mile round trip as I choose different ways to go out and back.