Sunday, 16 March 2008

King Arthur's Seat gets wet

Whichever way you look at it, this weekend was going to be tiring and it was also going to involve a bit of exercise and a bunch of alcohol. We actually had a plan:

Climb King Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh

Go to the rugby in Edinburgh

See a band anywhere

Edinburgh isn’t that far so should be perfect for a weekend trip except when the Scotland England game is on. It’s a minimum of £300 for a decent hotel room, so plan b stay as close as possible? ….nope - stay in Newcastle and catch the train.

Craig has joined the SRU specifically so he can get tickets to the Calcutta Cup games in Edinburgh. Previous experience suggests that the weather will be cold and wet and England will get stuffed by Scotland....its one of the indefutable laws of the universe. I'm pretty sure that gravity, the speed of light and Planck's are 3 others but this is too geeky so moving on.

I checked into the hotel late on Friday and decided to have a relaxing pint before going to bed, I opted for the Kronenburg 'white' lager. Its a peronal opinion but this is the beer equivalent of a sherbet fountain, beer and liquorice do not mix, I was like Tom Hanks in the movie Big with the caviar. Suffice to say I don't often leave a pint. 0/10
Craig managed to check into the hotel in Newcastle at 7.30am on Saturday morning, I’d paid good money for a room the night before and only had the room for about 8 hours more than Craig. How early can you check in?Does after midnight count as the next day? Perhaps you have to go clubbing first. Being on the Quayside the views across the river are great, ok maybe not great, as it is Gateshead, but better than they used to be when we did a school trip down the same then smelly dirty river which was full of condoms. To be fair it was a day out from the ICI filled air of Stockton.
The modified plan this time (and it was aways optimistic) was to be up early, catch the train to Edinburgh, and then weather permitting (and it was going to be tight according to Metcheck) we would climb Arthur’s Seat. Then a few beers and off to the rugby. Once this had finished a bit of a dash back to the station, and into Newcastle for 7.30pm, just in time to see The Specials (well a bit of them) and The Beat.
What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

Out of the hotel and as the crow flies (although we doubted the ability if crows to fly straight without being distracted) its about ¼ mile to the station. And perfectly for us mountain climbing types its almost vertical…that’s one way to wake up. And yet another really daft signpost 'anti climbing paint'.

Armed with this months walking for numpties magazine we board the train to Edinburgh. Now I don’t have myself down as particularly stupid but you really should try reading this 'walking monthly' and I quote ‘to help with not getting lost, look at the map before you leave, now trace your route with your finger and say out loud ‘ I am passing a church on my left now and I can see a big hill on the right'. They even had a panel of experts scoring low fat energy bars!, although brilliantly they all chose the high fat one that tasted great. I suspect they were very fit people.

Out of the train at Edinburgh and into a taxi IN THE SUNSHINE and off to Arthurs Seat.

As previously explained I’m not that keen on sightseeing but if you haven’t seen it the Scottish Parliament building really does get a wow WTF is THAT? How did they get away with it so close to Holyrood Castle?

Out of the taxi (it did take us halfway up the hill - thankfully) all ok and walk up the first bit of hill, its very very steep. And now there is a bloody crow hopping up the hill faster than we are, I think I’m changing my mind on crows this one was a harbinger of doom. As we approached the top the crow had buggered off for dry land and it started to rain. Then it got bad and then it got worse. It may not have been a typhoon but it really was a bit rubbish, really big wind, hailstones and the temperature must have dropped about 4 degrees in minutes….just as we got to the top.

I loved Craig’s well spotted comment ‘it’s a bit dangerous up here’. I think the pictures tell the story. At one point I just knew we were going to be in the local paper under ‘ill prepared day trippers end up in hospital’. It would have been unfair too as I had walking boots and a very sensible coat on. Unfortunately the boots only lasted 30 minutes before succumbing to the tidal wave. My trousers were worse than useless and I was wet through. The only saving grace was my coat, which was doing a great job at keeping my top half reasonably dry. Craig’s wasn’t.

Despite Craig’s idea of lets stay here and wait for it to blow over, (I think this is what happened to Captain Oates) we headed down sharpish with no sort of real plan. It had to be 3 miles back to town and quite a bit of this was walking around the hill, but at least it wasn’t as windy on this side of the hill. We trudged and to be fair laughed at our predicament. No hotel, tickets for the rugby and looking like we have swam a river and no change of clothes. would have been really useful at this point.

On the basis that no cabs were going to stop for dripping wet tramps we trudged towards town. We had a plan…walk until we miraculously come across a camping/outdoor shop and get a full set of sensible gear. Generally we are both pretty lucky…..but not that lucky.

The first shop we came across was a fancy dress shop, now there was a touch of Mr Benn about the whole situation Mountain Climber/Rugby Player/Popstar but the chances of both of us finding suitable gear was a bit slim ‘have you got two Oliver Hardy suits please’?, we then walked (cold and wet remember) passed a lot of charity shops all of which had cloths in. Then we walked passed a few Chav shops which was probably a bad thing. Then we walked passed the trendy shops on the basis they stop at 34in waist.

Eventually we are back to the station where we started 2 hours ago in the sunshine and dry.

Princes Street is a great place and Jenners is a good shop, it has everything and all pretty close to the door. I suspect the staff here are told just to look after people no matter how bedraggled they look. 30 minutes later £200 lighter we emerged fully reclothed and yes into bright sunshine!!. We dropped the big bags of wet clothes at the left luggage at the station and then off for the first beer of the day. Its now 1pm which is a new record.

Three beers a tuna sandwich (3/10) and a bit of footy on the tv later we’ll hop in a taxi and get to the game in loads of time, except there is no taxi. Approx 50 minutes later, we end up in a cab and arrive at the game just as they are finishing the anthems. Splendid! Perfect seats in the middle, but at the front (row 2) of the main stand and but for the driving wind we would have been sat in the pouring rain.

In truth rugby is a bit rubbish to watch from pitch side. You can’t see the runs, the mobile cameramen get in the way and then what happens is the wind/rain changes direction.

Only one option for level headed northern lads, head to the bar,which turns out to be outside in more wind and rain. Less enthusiastic about the whole sports thing we decide to give the second half a miss and make sure we can catch our train.

A couple of beers in the pub beforehand, a bottle of Cava (which isn’t quite champagne) for the train and some sandwiches and its seats in first class (which we hadn’t booked) back to Newcastle. Life is looking up, back on plan.

The Specials and the Beat

I’ve always loved two tone music so much better than Americana! I even had two harrington jackets when I was a kid, with at least 20 badges on each. I’ve also seen this tour before about a year ago in the same building. Well almost, it was upstairs in a smaller room this time and it was much better for it. The room was full of smiley people all up for a party. Maybe it was the near death experience on the mountain or maybe the drinks on the train had kicked in but we were both in party mode too.
The Specials did a cracking version of Pressure Drop and Doesn’t make it alright, along with most of the other hits (no Too Much Too Young though). My party partner lasted till half time before heading off for a kip. I wasn’t ready to give up that early.

I've got a top Billy Bragg cover of this which I'll try and post later, but you should really listen to Toots and the Maytels play it.

DMIA You Tube

The Beat are spectacularly tight now, with ‘Rogers’ son getting better each time I see them. Another top set with a couple of really good new songs. Lots of dancing old bloke style and then a quiet beer before heading back.

Collect big wet bag full of kit and trudge back through the streets of Newcastle at 10.15pm back to the hotel for a quiet early night of MOTD. Newcastle get thumped 3 nil again. And I opt for one last beer at the bar.

My original plan was to meet a couple of other people in the morning and walk Pendle Hill, however having emptied the big black bag, everything was just too wet to put back on, Much too Wet.

Always best to save a good one for later

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Hanoi Rocks meets Lewis Carroll

I bet that combination of words hasn't been used as a section title very many times. The plan this weekend is to see Hanoi Rocks, get a decent sleep and then go for an early morning stroll before Craig heads back up north for the footy.

Talking of dodgy bands - see Andy's list.

I really would struggle to put an argument together to defend Hanoi Rocks as a serious band that have added anything to the musical universe outside of Finland. And I really liked Hanoi Rocks when I was younger.
How can it possibly be right having a 45 year old madeup to the eyeballs bloke singing Creedance Covers and a few 80’s tunes. I've seen a few gigs and I had predicted a train crash of a gig, they were playing the Academy 1 in Manchester which used to be known as the Hop and Grape bar. Either way it’s a fairly small place where sniggering may well get noticed and result with a swift high kick to the chops.

SOLD OUT— it said and everyone walked in shaking their heads not quite believing it. Maybe the Soho Dolls supporting helped the cause, two decent songs in Prince Harry and Stripped but I can’t see them being bigger than The Beatles. Although ...nice pic

Mike* and the band played a top set whilst we got slowly drunk at the back, very slowly thanks to a member of the bar staff, who really would be better employed as either a speed cleaner for huge houses or she should run courses on how never to catch anyones eye in any situation ever. ‘ oi are you looking at me?’ definitely not would be the answer.

With a final couple of sing a longs ‘Don’t you ever leave me baby’ and 'Tragedy' are the only songs I actually remember, it was out into the street and early finish.Well it should have been...but one last beer syndrome cut in. It saved running back for the train.
not for the faint hearted

*(I have this habit of calling popstars by their first was pointed out to me one night that I really wasnt on first name terms with any of them and it sounded a bit pretentious. What he actually said was stop being a tosser or words to that effect)

Home and bed…..well it should have been. Home worked, then Pam joined us for one last drink and suddenly it was 4.30 am. I'm never sure how timeslips happen but they do happen especially in our house which is obviously built on some sort of fault in the void.

Pams Curry— 7/10 I think..

Woke up at 11am to see Craig leaving, Lewis Carroll may have to wait.

Rescheduled for tomorrow Sunday morning 2nd March.

So a nice little wander up to Daresbury on a crisp sunny Sunday morning to see white rabbits and Alices church. Lewis Carroll all round good storywriter turns out to live local. Or rather did in the old days, as the vicar of the local church. Or not so local as it turns out. An hour and a half later via wonky cows, more lost clothes a mothers day oddity and a bunch of rooks, it really is a very pretty church.

In the old days black crow like birds were good things I think. Well Ravens guarded The Tower of London, quite how effective they would have been against the whole Spanish Armada pulling up outside I have my doubts. Cawed them to death? And that’s also a weird thing Cawing is it only rooks that caw or crows or ravens or all of them? Anyway I got a really nice picture of a bunch of none scary rooks.

Yes back to the church. My only problem with site seeing is that I really don’t like it very much, I suspect that like everyone else I like the wow that’s good / big / pretty /old etc. But really I’m more easily distracted by, people, animals, birds, pubs ,food, even trees and views.

Still its one of those things that you think you should do, I remember being in Cornwall as a child, all I wanted to do was surf or be on the beach, all my dad really wanted to do was put a bet on and go to the pub. But no thanks to my mum I have photos at model villages, St Michaels Mount (that got a wow) Lands End, long way for a few more cliffs and many other little coves all looking the same. Still her heart was in the right place, we know because it ticks.

Slight aside but when just going out with Pam, my mum and dad decided to take me to a posh restaurant in Darlington. (ok I know that’s wrong on every angle but it really was). So in this posh French and very quiet restaurant my mum ticked (she has a heart valve) it was hysterical to watch the seriously serious french waiter cock his ear and look for the ticking sound. He even shushed the restaurant all 8 tables of it to listen closely to the radiator. He really was embarassed as my mum offered to let him listen to her chest.

It was a very pretty church, not enough Jabberwoki’s or Alice stuff and a lot of God stuff but very pretty.

On leaving the church I followed the circular route recommended, despite the circle going further away from home. They have a fir tree farm next to the M56 which turns out to be lots of other types of tree but not fir. It started in the early 1990’s and failed by the mid 1990’s. It a really good place to walk though. We also have secret labs and partical accelerators here, the bridgewater canal, a reservoir and another bloody great hill to get up with a few very odd signposts. I was pretty tired by then and things started to get silly - see the signpost pictures

As a rough calculation I’d say 10 miles, maybe a couple of miles less but for the first time it really felt like exercise.

I’m never walking again…..oh until tomorrow

Hold Steady we may have a problem

On further reflection it may not have been the best idea in the world ever to punctuate various walking up hills with other activities; as most other activities I do will involve alcohol at some point.

As this blog is going to be a summary of the exercise, fitness programme and hill walking undertaken, I figure it would also be a good plan to record the Yang as well as the Yin. I've always wondered why Yin wasn't Ying - its a better balance.

If Yang happened to be in Manchester on Tuesday he would have noted a great band played and a bunch of chaps were mixing drinks and getting quite merry.

People with me

David E— 9/10 drinking
Chris B 2 drinks and driving
Hamer the bank— 2 drinks driving

I will try and post pics of all of these people at some point when they are being dragged up a mountain.

Drinks -and I'm not proud of this

White wine home 6/10
Red Wine Davids 8/10
Cider Jabez Clegg 8/10
TVR’s x2 University 8/10
Lager University post gig 8/10
Beer at home 10/10

The Hold Steady - Manchester University Academy 2

Needless to say despite a fair amount of cajoling we were late for the gig. We were actually in the venue a good hour before the gig to see the support bands, which we didn’t ..again… bet at this early stage is that a theme is being established.
I’m not normally into stories and ranting however a bit of Hold Steady background will probably help here

Everyone says Wikepedia is a good thing, I’m not so sure, it just seems like a lazy blokes way of finding out whats going on. There is a huge dull entry on The Hold Steady which I'll spare you. What you really should know is they come from New York (area),have a good album (the first one), a dodgy album (the second one) and a top album. 'Boys and Girls in America'. But more importantly they do great live gigs.

Back to the story, Andy who’s bound to appear later, likes Americana, sometimes known as soft rock and to be frank he has blown most of his credibility in this area over the years*. It’s a bit like your mum liking Smokie you shouldn’t inflict that sort of thing on the grandkids. She did once, and one of my children said 'Nana doesnt like music dad'

Having brilliantly avoided THS at Glastonbury by watching Widget Smith and the Ant farmers I was lulled into watching them at Leeds Festival 2007. Andy had no mates, nevertheless we could easily leave him and go and watch The Klaxons ripping up the land, but no I’m persuaded to stay for 3 songs.

I was wrong I stayed for the whole gig they were great, ...unfortunately we had the opportunity to tell them this when we accidentally bumped into them in the hotel lift.

Even my daughter who can talk ‘like’ really quickly 'like' 154 words per minute most of the time 'like' couldn’t have said ‘you guys were great’ more times than we managed to on a two floor lift journey. We were was their fault and we got to apologise in the morning.

Back to Manchester
They played the tunes, we drank we danced,We sang along to Killer Parties,we got a lift home and they were great.
Overheard at the bar ….'so why do there have to be other bands?’
It was a midweek gig so walking will need to wait till the weekend, straight after another gig which has the potential to be a total train crash.

And a free mp3, its ok as its FOC on the bands website

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Three in One

At least we have a plan now. Pick a hill to walk up for excercise and then find other good stuff to do around it. genius. Alternatively book loads of other stuff and then find a hill,it works both ways.

Lets start with a football match, followed by a concert,followed the next morning by a real hill.
Liverpool vs Boro

Off at midday to the Liverpool vs Boro match at Anfield. It was always going to involve some drinking.

Train to Liverpool, three beers before kick off and a taxi to the ground, pie and a coffee, excellent start to a fit and healthy weekend.

MATCH REPORT …...Boro outplayed Liverpool for much of the first half went in 2—1 down due to Torres being brilliant and Boro defending being really rubbish. Ended 3-2, Torres again brilliant and helped by more rubbish defending and Downing scoring a top goal at the end. Alialiadere (whatever) gets sent off for a girly slap.
Pie 3 out of 10.

Time for some walking, Anfield to Liverpool station with no map. Strange things are happening in Liverpool, lots of perfectly reasonable houses are now boarded up with no one living in them, in fact lots have No Gas and No Elec written on the doors too. All the pubs boarded up and possibly so weird that all the scallies have moved out too. Walked back to town in time for the 18.22 train direct to Manchester (having managed a swift pint and a pastie) Craigs idea of food is actually worse than mine. I suspect he has a pie mountain somewhere.

Ian Hunter –At the Lowrie Theatre Salford Quays

Truthfully, it’s a bit posh and out of the way really, so more beers, more taxis and a really good gig. I’ve seen Mr Hunter 3 times now and know quite a few of his more recent tunes. Great sound, and a very chilled out set finishing with an excellent version of ‘all the young dudes’. David an additional pal we met up with fell asleep during the gig and then declared it to have been a bit boring! Should have better dreams mate.

So after a few extra time beers in the Lime Bar and a taxi home, followed by more wine and ‘The Young Republic’. Its off to bed for a refreshing sleep before the big first day tomorrow. 1.30am GREAT!!!

Rivington Pike - Its in Lancashire near Bolton

Rivington Pike stands on Rivington Moor, near to Winter Hill, 363 m (1,191 ft) above sea level. That sounds quite high.

I’m already almost certain that we are going to spend much of the next 2 years lost in one way or another. I managed to take the wrong road and miss the bloody motorway...not an easy thing to do. Then Craig decided to head out of a no entry sign and eventually we pulled up in the wrong car park. Now the great thing about this hill is that there is a beacon on the top which you can see from just about anywhere in the Northwest of Endland so even for the numpty brigade getting to the top wasn’t going to be too tricky.

The bottom part of the hill has been left with debris of Lord Leverhulme's follies and such like which at least makes it an interesting hill to walk up...I suspect there won’t be many other hills where ‘oh look a Japanese garden’ will be said. (Except maybe in Japan).

With the various distractions the walk up the hill , wasn’t that strenuous and in less than an hour we arrived at the top, with groups of old ladies, joggers and children. Still a hills a hill.

Feeling pretty good and having spotted the Dr Who landscape to the left, we decided to continue upwards for another 45 minutes. This felt better, real moorland, bogs and streams and ravines and a biting wind at our backs. We made it across the marshland traps to the big arial thing. No further details were available and we were put off by the likehood of falling debris and a small blue rope.

So with wet feet, not me I wore good boots, and the promise of a café at the bottom of the hill we headed back down. Except the first bit was up and straight into the wind. I’m sure my granded would have described this as bracing and good for me. It felt cold and wet. Good news though I found the glove of child. This is the second item of clothing in as many weeks

Back in the wooded area the wind dropped and we picked our way carefully back down the steeper hillside. Except for the falling over. There was some bizarre conversation with a bloke in the cafe who purported to be rugby league man of steel or something, still we gave him the slip and went into training for more severe mountains - bought Kendal mint cake
Veg Soup at the café 5 out of ten.

And a few more pics

Should Know Better

Frankie Boyle is a comedian (and a good one even if he is a bit harsh) and its always good to have a couple of beers before a comedy show, so I head off to the pub in Warrington with a very old pal Craig, not realising that this pint might just change a few things......and I promise this was an early doors sober idea and.....

It seemed like a good idea. Craig is claiming 17 st and an inability to motivate himself to get fit, I’m claiming 16st and a bit worried about the weight effects of not smoking. Only one thing to do then...climb Kilimanjaro. What we actually know about KJ is its in Africa, is bloody high and some girl who used to stalk Marc almond once climbed it. Still you shouldnt get into too much detail.

So with a smile on our faces , (well mine as it turns out, Craig sat crossed armed and fell asleep four times through the show) we set out on our grand plan…..with a slight detour for 3 extra beers and a kebab on the way home...its early days yet.

Inspired by the grand plan. Sunday pm and hangover receding, a walk down the Dingle (it’s a real place! Not a TV creation) with my good lady Pam, seems like a good plan. Only, one wrong turn results in a perfect landing at the pub for another three pints. The fitness thing may have fallen into the old trap of 2 steps forwards three steps backwards.

So all planned and sorted ...bring on June 2010, or NOT.

The most useful plan of the week was ‘to plan walks up mountains around other events just in case they become a bit dull.’ Oh the level of thought that goes into pre KJ (its now official shorthand) training is that we should start walking up some mountains and lose weight,

So armed with this I decided to plan a walk. And then asked Craig how he was fixed……
SEE BELOW –total commitment to the cause.

The hills is a bit more difficult short term.

The weekend after Hanoi Rocks is FA Cup 6th round weekend and it looks like I have 2 good tickets for the England Rugby at Murrayfield coming for the saturday as well. (You can have the second ticket if you fancy it.) Ideal solution sees the Boro playing on the sunday which allows attendance at both.

If the Boro are playing saturday I'll probably go to that and skip the rugby. Roseberry topping could be done on sunday, although I've got 2 games of 7 a side lined up at the moment.

If the Boro get knocked out or are playiing Sunday I'll go to the rugby at Edinburgh, but we could go up Arthurs Seat, that big rock in edinburgh .Its not that big, but its a start. We'd have to get there early though if we want to do it pre-match on the saturday.

Sat 15th March - I'm in London overnight for the Arsenal game. Come down if you fancy it.
Sat 22nd March - I'm in Bulgaria
Sat 29th March - Free this weekend, but I think you are in America.

Sat 5th April - Possible, but unlikely. Its either Man Utd at home, the Grand National or the FA Cup Semi final. If we get knocked out and Man Utd are still in, I think I'd rather go to the National, but the Sunday would be a possibility for somewhere over your way.

Sat 12th April - I'm off to Spain. Incidently the Spanish Cup Final has been confirmed for Madrid on Wed 16th April. I'm planning to fly form Barca to Madrid on the morning of the game, returning to Barca on the thursday morning. So if you fancy it we can meet you in Madrid or you can stay with us near Girona from as early to as late in the week as you like. Its only about 50 miles from the French border so the Pyrannees must be somewhere close.

Sat 19th April - Fly back from Spain, just in time for Bolton at home, but the Sunday is a possibility for hills.

Sat 26th April - Sunderland at home. I dont think the Sky fixture changes have been announced yet for this weekend, but this must be a possibility for a sunday/monday kick -off, leaving saturday free.

Sat 3rd May - Portsmouth at home. We could do Roseberry Topping pre-match with an early start, it would be light then. Or even somewhere with a late post match start. I could be in the lakes for 7pm, we could meet up, walk for 2 hrs, camp out and get eaten by werewolves or bogeymen.

Sat 10th May. This could be the one. We play Portsmouth at home on the sunday in the final game of the season, so what we should do is meet at Wasdale Head camp site in the lakes on the friday evening. Go to the pub.

Saturday, go up Great Gable then go to the pub. Sunday drive home in time for the match.

Sat 17th May - Nothing planned yet, so we could climb another mountain.

Sat 24th May. - I'm in Cardiff for the Heinekin cup final. Could possibly do Snowdon on the sunday, but I'll have a hangover and Tom with me, so it might not be the best of ideas.
Thats about it apart from the Euro championship games, although I've heard that they have some quite decent hills over there. Anyway, see what matches up with when you are free. I'm beginning to understand why climbing Everest is such an achievement now. If Christchurch had been involved in a cup run, Edmund Hillary would still be at base camp now.

Brilliant planning, but not much in the right direction.
Anyway I'm not that easily dissuaded

So with an Ian Hunter gig already planned in Manchester immediately after a tough away game at Liverpool. (Tough in the must drink more beers sort of a way), we are now planning an assault on Rivington Pike near Bolton the following morning. I was very pleased to note that on one website this is considered a ‘moderate walk’ so that’s got to be healthy.

Having now committed to a real hill, I thought I’d best make a small effort, so having set out from home on Sunday 17th I managed an hour which included a walk through Hillcliffe, admittedly downhill but no-one owns up to putting their feet down when they manage to scramble the first 10 metres or yards in old swimming pools. When did they change the width of swimming pools and was this costed in to the whole decimalisation process? Anyway I managed to walk up Red Lane on the way back and nearly overtake the old bloke with the limping dog. I suspect he was a Sherpa.