Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Get Big Picture

It was a busy bank holiday weekend all round and the last thing you need is for the chap you are walking with to say two things that get you thinking about all sorts of stuff. I was very happy with the external entertainment I certainly didn't need an internal running commentary as well.

Just to save any suspense that wasn't building

'this is just about , offset pints'

and then the killer

'na it really only works when you do the bigger picture stuff'

I promise I'll get to this later but this weekend had all sorts of options, I turned down an invite to the Monaco GP fully paid as I thought an afternoon in Litchfield watching Melanie at The Folk Festival of Britain would be better.

Melanie Song

I didn't go for the Ricky Hatton fight despite it being round the corner, in truth I'm not overly impressed with the whole live boxing malarky. I went to see pie boy fight at the MEN Arena against Costa Tzu maybe. Anyway I have never ever been in a more unsavoury looking (thats really clever after the pie line) bunch of people in my life. If the Manchester Police had locked the doors and interviewed everyone on the way out, I bet 80% of all wanted people in Greater Manchester would have been caught.

So all three of the above never happened, nor did the rugby final in Cardiff - well not for me anyway

I did however manage a quick stroll through the Cheshire Countryside. Beeston Castle is excellent value, the only really defensible spot in the whole of Cheshire as described in the old days. Except its in the middle of bloomin nowhere with nothing to defend except a hill. Even the Victorians who have a reputation of being a bit EMO (penny blacks fgs) had a bit off a laugh at their forefathers by building the mock Peckforton Castle on the hill next to it.

So armed with the walking world guide to the Cheshire Countryside I headed off, first instruction was park outside Beeston Castle - easy . Then walk away from it without so much as even having a look, next walk all the way round Peckforton Castle without even having a look and then walk up Bulkeley Hill which even the locals havent heard of. Oh well at least there was lots of wildlife to view on the way.

Rabbits are making a major comeback 'Bigwig for PM'. There must have been 300 rabbits on the hillside next to me at one point, I've heard that the Miximitoasties thing has stopped killing them, but I also think we should be a bit wary as they must have teamed up with the foxes to be this abundant - or maybe kung fu school for bunnies. Then there was the monster size Green Woodpecker that scared the life out of me, having read about Mad Allen the hermit who lives in the caves round here I guess I was a bit jumpy. Actually he sounded like a bit of a boy

Mad Allens Story

There was also some sort of railway line which went up to the top of Bulkeley Hill but my 4 minutes of research haven't enlightened me to its purpose. Yeah I know trains run on them!

The walk back was pleasant enough across farmers fields, even though the directions were again vague 'the path goes cross away the fields' and the brilliant 'follow the obvious path' or the 'you can see the next stile from here'....you couldnt. It must have rained here during the day as my legs were bloomin soaking by the time I got back to the Castle....which was now shut. If life really is just doh! and woohoo moments then this was the former.

The plan for Saturday was, easy day then see The Charlatans in Manchester

8.30am woken by a screaming family who had caught a rabbit in our garden.....oh good. Sorry that wasn't clear it was actually my family as opposed to randoms.

We've always had an understanding that the most adventurous pet we should be allowed to keep are fish. On the basis that all animals poo and we all hate any inside to outside stuff, cute as they may be they are not for us...or so I thought. Within an hour of capturing this rabbit we had it well an truely incarcerated, ok so we didnt give an orange suit or use dubious interview techniques, (Steve Gribbons 'sittin on Guantanamo Bay watching our rights fade away' hum along) but a few phone calls later and we had cages, and food and water. Please God let there be a picture in the local paper next week of a child crying and asking if anyone has found fluffy.

The Charlatans - Academy 1 Manchester

I've seen The Charlatans a few times over the years and I've a pretty good memory for gigs (Yes I sadly have most of the tickets since 1978). The first time I saw them was at The Riverside in Newcastle in about March 1990. One of my pals was having a stag do, well more of a can't be arsed to do it properly do. We ended up on The Quayside fairly early doors and to slow things down a bit we went to watch a band. Thankfully being aficionados we all thought they were really good even at that stage.

As a slight aside we accidentally broke into The Natwest Bank on the same night. (I'll save that for later in case my mate Dave reads this)

I also saw them in Middlesbrough a year or so ago when I witnessed the most flagrant ignorance of non smoking signs and a smoking ban ever. I like a bit of insignificant rebellion ( ok Roy Castle excepted) and smoking in The Town Hall is excellent.

Anyway back to the gig, it was off to Manchester tonight with Pam,The Bank Manager Dave and a Random (Turned out Dave had met him at a cricket match and then shared a room with him - I didnt listen to any further details). First stop 'The Lasso Gowrie' its legendary, lookit up next time you are in town its just as good as it was 15 years ago.

Now anyone really sad or paying way too much attention may have noticed that this gig is at the same venue as last weeks excellent Pendulum gig - but on arrival the crowd could not have been any more different. The average age must have been about 40 , but all with the haggered look of a 1000 Johnny Marrs - as for the blokes. Last week - no problem to get to the bar at any time (the kids live on water and pills), this week 6 deep at all times as the alcoholic generation (Generation XXXX) made their way through so much beer the bar was down to cans of Redstripe as the only lager left and the is before the band came on.

Blackened Blue Eyes

It could easily have been a drunken dirge of a singalong with your long lost mates, but fortunately the band and the sound were much better than that. We had the singalong songs, they played all six songs that Pam knew. They played the best 2 or 3 trackes of each album which is what all bands should do .....even if they only have one album.

Whatever the architect types did to the venue with the protracted redesign last year it really has worked a treat. The sound quality was top notch , the bass reverb was excellent and The Charlatans played a blinder. Even the normally quiet Tim was heard to say ' this ones kicking off'. So 9/10 for the gig tonight.

Off to Edinburgh

It may seem a bit daft to go to Edinburgh to watch a virtually unknown pop combo from The USA, but as my pal says 'you have to be somewhere'.

Bleary eyed and slightly sore {WARNING Red Stripe is proper evil -tastes great, easy to drink - makes you giddy and Nightmare Hangovers even with only 4 cans}. I set off for The Pen Something Hills and a 2pm meet up with Colin the IT man from before. The whole gig walk gig walk thing going really rather well now. Well for one of us.

The Pentland Hills are ace; only 6 miles outside Edinburgh; I have to drive passed them anyway; and BIG. Even for a first trip I think Scotland is First Division Hills.

England >3000 ft about 5 hills
Scotland >3000ft about 280 hills

These are made up numbers but fairly close

Colin 'Mr Unprepared' breezed up 15 minutes late (he lives 4 miles away, I'm 200 miles) in a pair of running shoes and a T-Shirt, anyone unclear on just how mad this is should read The King Arthurs Seat blog. This walk was billed as 'a lovely stroll round a couple of reservoirs and back over the hills'. Right!

The other brilliant thing about Colin is that he's very Scottish, he just couldnt get the hang of saying hi to other walkers. Just in case they came back with 'who you saying hi to?' or 'what's your problem pal?' 7 trys 7 failures. The best he did was grunt and even then after they had passed.

The first test was to get passed the fly fishermen, its ok to fish 6 side by side, but not backing onto the road please. For the older game addicts if you can remember 'Frogger' it was exactly like this but with hooks rather than crocodiles. We passed this test and then dodged passed the obligatory pensioners (one in a wheelchair this time) and so to the bottom of the hill. I've got a bit of experience at these hills now and this one even looked steep from a distance - it was very very very steep. I'm ok at climbing, I'd even go as far to say I really quite like it now and I wish we had a few more hills where I lived, however I wouldnt mind an incy warm up slope. What made it worse was Colin's lateness and the fact that he had booked a 6pm tea with the inlaws. So a stroll became a pressurised uphill yomp! Walking World (WW) said 210 minutes which meant back to the car for 6pm.

No way 6pm - we were on a mission from God - or Colins wife as she became known during our jog! I was knackered after 100yards but made it up in stages and I got my second wind after about 30 minutes and then we were off, not one person overtook us all the way not even one of the compulsary marathon running pensioners.

I now realise that this happens all the time at the tops of big hills but 'the views were awesome'. When you can see all of Edinburgh, the famous bridges and the seaside on one side and most of Southern Scotland on the other it is going to look pretty special. There are two peaks on this walk and bizarrely the weather on both was great until the last 10 meters where suddenly huge winds blew us all over the place. The treck down was pretty easy an uneventful except for the dwarf man laying under a very low hanging tree. He was basically laying on his back reading a piece of paper 2 inches from his eyes, just calling out numbers. Very odd- perhaps this is where old bingo callers get put out to pasture.

Brilliant timing and had knocked about 40 minutes off the estimate so everything back on plan

And so off to Edinburgh for me to meet Craig and go to see what he has perhaps over enthusiatically billed as 'the best band in the world'. Colin drove like the wind to enjoy tea with the outlaws.

The Young Republic

Halfway into town I got a text from a pal to say she had just completed the Edinburgh marathon, excellent news both in achievement and the fact we could catch up for a beer. I walk up mountains so I can't really hold a negative opinion on someone who wants to run over 20 miles, it just seems like a lot of effort. So WDY Sue and then this brings me back to the big picture stuff.
Get Big Picture - almost a rant stuff

The whole offset beers vs exercise is a great concept, infact this should be brought into to all government health warnings, maybe even food labelling. 10 Bensons = 15 mile run, sausage roll = walk down for the paper etc. 6 pints of lager = walk up a mountain. Its brilliant in its simplicity and WDColin...if only he had stopped at this point.

The second part came about as Colin pointed out that last time he had been really fit he had run a half marathon but that he couldn't get fit just by doing the training....WHAT!. This was about to scupper the whole plan of getting fit to walk up big mountains just by walking up small mountains first. I should have stopped him at this point but I didnt...

Colin went on to explain 'The Big Picture' concept. And yes its pretty obvious and yes people like my Americana loving pal Andy has been doing this since Bon Jovi were still in spandex, but doing the whole - fun exercise food - balance thing always leads to denial....and I'm not great at that.

I've spent a bit of time thinking about this in the last week or so and its actually much worse than that.... you have to do more of the excercise and the healthy eating thing than you do of the fun thing to make any improvement. I've always been pretty good at doing anything really; once I put my mind to it,

I generally don't put my mind to it at all if I'm going to be rubbish or don't fancy the effort.

One or two pals may have noticed a lack of blog activity for which I apologise however I've been spending the last 10 days (now a bit longer) getting myself psyched to do this big picture stuff, as with stopping smoking the theory is easy 'don't light a cigarette and put it in your mouth = live longer'

Eat healthy take exercise = be fitter

With stopping smoking howver I did make the discovery that you can control the running commentary to life that you have going on in your head. Well I did, once I also discovered that I had music running in my head at all times in parallel to the conversation. I know this sounds a bit bonkers but we all do it, you think 'I'll drive past the Pizza shop and make a salad sandwich when I get home' to then find yourself in the pizza shop 30 seconds later because your running commentary as told you that it'll be quicker , taste nicer and well there is always later for salads.

If it needs to be Big Picture Stuff to get up a real mountain then thats the plan. Updates to follow no doubt.

So meeting Sue for a beer with her tired out friends and then meet Colin again and off to see 'the best band in the world' erm in a tiny pub in Edinburgh. Our local tour guide Colin got us completely lost and in the wrong bar in the wrong street, so we turned up 'just as the band went on stage' the lovely lady on the door informed us. Oh well at least we'll still hear them from the back I thought.

ahh on the basis that the back and the front of the audience were 3 yards apart I needn't have worried. I can't wait to tell the grandkids that I saw the best band in the world on their first gig in Scotland in a tiny pub with 25 other people. It just has to be a 'Free Trade Hall' moment. My ticket number which I had just collected at the door was No1 (this is true and its the only time its ever happened).

Craigs track record on music is pretty good.....he's only ever liked about 6 bands

The Beatles
Billy Bragg - first Album
The Jam
The Stone Roses - First Album
British Sea Power

and now

The Young Republic.

Once they recovered from two broken strings in the first couple of songs they were really good, especially as only the band and Craig had heard any of the songs before. Two violins a couple of guitars, a basist and a drummer and taking turns on keyboard. I had this down as a pretty large band (ok not compared to UB40 but thats exceptional) until Craig pointed out that the flautist had been fired and the other keyboard player had buggered off in the last couple of weeks too. I was enjoying the whole jangly guitar and violin indie thing when they suddenly headed left into a couple of fantastic cover versions, Bob Dylans - Isis

Some Young Republic Stuff

and a Tom Waits song - Which neither of us know the name of. This was then followed up by a comment of 'we're going to play a few new and louder songs now', I'm a big fan of jangly music the C86 tape is still a prize possesion, however this new stuff was even better. At the end of the night we said a slightly drunken hello to the band- I'm sure they were thrilled

Craig ' oi mate why did you sack the flute player' - both diplomatic and classy!

I bought the album and its a belter.....with talk of two new albums in the near future I think they may just end up in a few big venues soon.....world domination round the corner mate.

Lots of Pics

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Shining Tor and the Fiddle

Even though no-one else was sober or awake enough to join me, the fact that it was sunny on a weekend near Manchester was just too good an opportunity to miss. Also the fact that I could be the highest person in Cheshire for a few minutes and see for miles was also a good excuse.

At 559m Shining Tor is the highest hill (no hands required this week) in Cheshire and gets an A* for views on a clear day. As a double bonus its only about 10 minutes walk from The Cat and Fiddle pub and only 33minutes from my house --or so the AA website informed me. Other than in London my reading of maps is infallible even if I say so myself. I even bought a hard copy roadmap for the first time last week as i thought things might get a bit tricky with some of the roads we were now venturing on.

Oh yes they got tricky!

I always use http://www.walkingworld.com/ to get routes for the walk, well I do ever since I hit the 'yes' charge my credit card forever button. But they are due an email off me soon, the walking routes with the pics are generally pretty good with only the odd bit missed off to keep your interest. Even then you get a pic of an OS map to help. Without fail the direction to the meeting / start points are bloody hopeless, honestly Rosie is more communicative when she grunts over the requests for the TV zoomy.

Anyway there is a completely unsignposted maze in the middle of The High Peak with lots of roads that just don't exist on the map. Its a bit like in the old days where people flew about in cars on treasure hunts (the treasure was always in the pub) passing eachother 10 times in different directions. I swear I passed a blue mondeo 5 times. The only clues were the reservoirs and there are 5 of those, the good news is that after a while some sort of magic takes over the space time continuum moves and hey presto the start point exactly 45 minutes since you were 2 minutes away.

I did manage to see one of the very rare mountain hares, they were nearly one hare rarer too as it skipped ahead of my car.

From the carpark the directions were follow the route uphill to Errwood Hall (yes I tried putting this in AA routefinder) it turns out to be off the main path and also less than half a hall. Only the first 10 layers of bricks now exist which by any site-seeing standards is a bit rubbish. I was out with my dad in Rome to watch Middlesbrough a few years back and talk about rubbish sites, The Spanish Steps were so rubbish that my dad was still having a go at me for getting us lost whilst he was stood on the very items we were looking for.

It was all uphill from the reservoir but compared to last week I could admire the views as I walked and the closer I got to the summit the better they became. In an effort to prevent errosion, the forest rangers ( I do hope they have badges) had laid rubber matting and covered it with grit / stones. I bounced moonwalk style all the way to the top...this could be the answer to the bigger mountains. Just in case anyone else fancies being the highest person in Cheshire (legally) you can easily walk up here from the pub...hence the fiddle. There is also a huge style next to the trig point which guarantees highest status as it's defo only one person at a time on top. Just as I got to the top a helicopter flew over me grrrrrr. I later discovered that this was a 'bear in the air' as Kris Kristofferson (daft name) would have it, that chased speeding bikers over the moors. Great X-box game in the making here.

'Higher than Bez'

From Shining Tor I took the path along the ridge to Cats Tor, or rather I walked along the mile or so of patio that had been laid. I understand the errosion issue, but just how popular does it get up here? Do they have the UK Patio Festival up here? Maybe its why B&Q ran out of BBQ's in the North West last weekend, maybe they were all up here. (3 sunny days in a row and stock control can't cope....talk about leaves on the track).

The views from here really are incredible, I felt like I could see half the UK and having checked this when I got home I found that I really could.

So thats Pen-Y-ghent, Wolverhampton, The Wrekin, Barnsley, Snowdon and even more, excellent.

The route down was pretty simple 'follow the path downhill' I did and I came to Windgather Rocks which is described as 'popular with climbers'. Honestly I've seen shorter queues at Alton Towers on a bank holiday or at the local hairdressers on a Saturday. 17 hairdressers in Stockton Heath, I was going to be surprised for a moment and then remembered that woman get charge £50 for a haircut and blokes get charge £12....what is going on here?

The only other weird thing that I came across were the broken treesand the way that they had all been crushed.

It was either;

The Kettleshume Giant marching across the hills to beat up the Buxton Posse

An extremely localised tornado

The domino effect

I happily concluded point C was to blame and that dominos must have nicked this effect off trees many years ago, before record breakers became famous.

The last point of interest were the dead mans seats, at least 6 benches by the reservoirs dedicated to various dead people who liked to sit around here a lot. I was about to do the over 40 maudlin thing where you think 'oh bugger not long left'. Then I started reading them, 'Bob was a countryman who loved walking in this valley 1916 - 2004' and so it went on. All of them were well into there 80's. Maybe there is something in this walking lark, mind you they were probably all 3ft 4" when they died from wearing their legs out.

So 10 miles in 3 hours and 520 metres climbed ,that must make up for 2 days smoking in 1998.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Great Gable - One Step Beyond

Windscale, Sellafield, Seascale, it’s all the same place, but for anyone who remembers TCR this was the place where fishes had three heads and frogs could jump over mini clubmans. Everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before it blew up….lets just hope it’s a long way away and those mountains are BIG.

This may be 25 years too late, but for anyone who is still worrying, its bloomin miles away and the mountains are massiver than Man City. (Although maybe not that blokes ego who is in charge, even Man City fans must realise its going to go badly wrong off the deep end). Its definitely quicker to get to London from Warrington than it is to get to The West Lakes. The directions are easy, up the M6,hang a left at Kendal and follow the road….round and round and round and round.

As you approach Windscale and The West Lakes, EVERYTHING gets bigger, bushes, flowers, trees, palm trees, frogs and mountains. Ok I made up frogs and I probably can’t blame nuclear activity on the size of the mountains. Virtually the whole of the top ten size English mountains are here and its spectacular.

Skip this bit if you wish to avoid a rant

The only thing that spoiled the journey was the one road sign that reminded me of the latest batch of Cheshire roadsigns. Its not just the utter waste of money or even the absolute ugliness that annoys me, but the meaningless of the words.

2450 casualties in 5years! ( add a couple of councillors in please)

What is a casualty? tripped off the kerb maybe! and where does the road being measured stop and start. All the roads join up so why not just have running totals for the whole county like cricket scoreboards at every junction? oh and while I’m on one, what are the start and end date of the 5 years.

Its worse in Cheshire, we have 8 of these signs on a 1 mile stretch of the A49 near my house (I bet they count great crested newts as casualties in Cheshire). Anyway we have one that reads ‘Police Enforcement Area’ – like anywhere else isn't, and it goes on to say ‘drink drivers will be severely punished’. I’ve never noticed the Warrington Vigilante police, but I’ll be much more careful walking home from the pub tipsy in future. They may move on to pavements.

I met up with Craig at Gosforth or ‘the real Gosforth’ as he calls it, anything to annoy the Geordies eh! We then headed off to the National Trust Campsite which we hadn’t booked another ‘it’ll be fine moment’. As it turned out it was. We passed Wastwater on the way and it is ominously beautiful, the steep skree sides and the dark water of England's deepest lake give it an evil feel. That was before the dead body stories.

Great campsite, a spot by the river (cool beer and snoring cover) and 5 minutes later my only child 2 man tent is sorted. True to form Craig has another new tent and an hour later after a not insignificant amount of hurumphing we are all sorted. Its about 5pm and time for a BBQ snacket and some beers. After last weeks hello there woops I’ve brought nothing from Craig, it was my turn to return the favour. Nice lamb chops though, the ideal BBQ meal cooked in 5 minutes and a nice bone/handle to hold whilst eating.

Buying blokes over 30 yr old presents must be a nightmare, and Craig had brought the proof with him. Ten years worth of ‘interesting’ alcohol from around the world. Banana beer Sir? no thanks. Cactus Cider? erm go on then. A couple of hours later we headed off to the Wasdale Head pub for some tea and to plan our attack on Great Gable. At this stage we still didn’t have a clue which of the 8 mountains around us it was.

Top picture by me

Great Gable is the 10th highest peak in England and at 899m it’s a long way up. We had originally ‘planned’ to start at Honiston Pass 1000ft up the mountain – unfortunately there is no through route to Honiston Pass from Wasdale (at least an hour in the car). Our new plan was to follow the crowds in the morning, this may have been the banana beer talking. So the pub was good, more top cider, top lamb and very odd staff who I originally thought came from the four corners of the earth but on reflection may have just been closely related folk of Cumbria. It was dark as we left, time to test our navigation skills……..we chickened out and went the long way round via the road. The river worked, no audible snoring and a great night sleep ready for the mountain.

We decided to call in at the local shop on the way to pick up a map, but a combination of poor choice and going for the cheap guide book option £1.99, left us with a map Rosie could have drawn. Follow the big dots up the picture of the hill and if you didn’t like that, follow the dashy lines down. At least there was a picture of a church and we could only see one so that had to be the way……it was also a bad way. The wall of the church around the small graveyard was low enough to read the tombstones most of which had the words ‘died on the mountain’ in a prominent position. oh good!

After a steady incline of about a mile we reached the foot of Great Gable and overtook the old age pensioners who were going to be our pacesetters for the day. The terrain immediately turned loose and rocky which meant lots of concentration and looking at my boots for most of the walk. The good news was that Craig is a very keen on views and insisted on stopping every couple of hundred yards just so we didn’t miss one. After an hour of fairly steep climbing the local pensioner quietly asked if my friend was going to be ok and did he know he was only one third of the way up? More climbing, more panting for breath and sometime later we arrived at Sty Head Tarn. It was absolutely gorgeous, in fact the weather was a bit too gorgeous as the temperature had been climbing faster than we were.

The OAP lady that raced us
Whilst laying recovering a few things occurred to me. 1) Pen-Y–Ghent had been a doddle, 2) We may not make it to the top, 3) it may not have been the greatest plan ever to tackle a top ten hill at this stage. Great Gable gets really steep here and here is the Wikipedia description of this part of the walk

'Wasdale can also make use of Sty Head pass, before slogging up the south east ridge, or the scree filled Aaron Slack'

So slog up we did, there wasn’t much idle chat as conserving energy and full concentration were needed. We climbed fairly quickly and just as I got my second wind, Craig needed a break. In good old only child fashion I left him to it and headed off for the summit an estimated half hour away. You really don’t want to be climbing up here in the wet, sections were hand and feet climbing on pretty unsure ground. I had a real bambi leg moment as I went over yet another false peak. Having had yet another rest I looked about to see I was higher than virtually every other hill and I could see below that Craig hadn’t died and was moving up again – phew. The final clamber over the rocks only took another 10 minutes and suddenly I was at the top. I don’t know whether it was the relief or the fantastic views but I did suddenly feel fantastic. Almost a Primal Scream moment, which lasted a good while.

Then as the old lady with the walking sticks came into view my thoughts turned to my struggling pal. Well actually to the sausage sandwich he was carrying for me, but it’s the thought that counts. I wandered over to the Northern edge just as Craig crested the final ridge. I’m guessing but I think that the huge grin was the knowledge that there was no more UP today.


The dash dash dash route down just had to be shorter than the dotty route up. It was, but as a consequence it was a heck of a lot steeper and blinking dangerous. If we had tried to climb up this way we would have been skewered on some jutty out rock by now. It took just as much effort as uphill with the bonus of hurting your knees more. The only redeeming feature was that we followed the waterfall down and could refill our water bottles. OK so Sellafield Heads and filtered sheep's piss was a bit of a risk but it tasted fantastic. It took a good two hours to scramble back down and all my joints were struggling by the time we hit firm ground at the bottom.

The truth is that this walk hurt a lot and wasn’t enjoyable in the classical sense, but the adrenalin rushes made up for the short comings as did the views. We even skipped a last pint so I could get home for a rest and avoid the vigilante police.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Tick Tock The Delays and Pendulum

I've been having a run of midweek gigs where we get tickets and it all goes badly wrong; last weeks was the worst ever. Bloomin Ladytron (scousers), thought it would be a great idea to come on after the European cup semi final. As Livepool normally fluke the games without really scoring this would have been ok, if a tadge late at 9.40pm. But NO, extra time etc etc. I was so pleased they got beat. We couldnt wait around for the band as we had parental responsibilities. I hope the latest album bombs.

Anyway back a week later to see The Delays and as last weeks episode has put Pam off, I'm here with Colin, he's an IT man. He's Scottish and likes a pint or two so it was going to be an interesting evening. First port of call, a swift pint in Warrington and who can argue at under £2 a pint. Perfect timing for the train and on to Manchester a couple of beers and tea....Colin ordered the Vodka Burger followed by Porridge Vodka and finishing with After Eight mint Vodka. That definitely qualifies as setting the pace.

This gig was back at The Hop and Grape Bar (now the academy 3), its small, you can wander to the front and they sell more alcohol. The big burley Scots fellow on the alcopops was excellent behavior, he claims it was his first time.

The Delays are a band who really need to decide what they are up to, half the songs are pop tunes which have more than a nod to 'The Feeling' and the other half just rock out. I'm no A&R man, to be fair who is these days! (Industry joke), but I suspect The Delays really do write some very good tunes, its just that the whole image thing seems to have been forgotten. If this is deliberate then fair play to them, carry on sticking out tunes, making just enough cash and have a good time. If they want to sell loads of stuff then; go pop, cut your hair and have a shave like the keyboard player. (Colin had him down as a Howard Jones lookilikey to**er). Thats the keyboard player not Colin.

I saw the Delays play at V Festival a couple of years ago, well I watched from a distance as I sheltered from the rain under a beer tent. Pam, braved the elements stood at the front and came back to declare 'its a bloke not a girl'. Well he does have a fairly high pitched voice and he does make the most of it on the more poppy tunes, maybe Pam's take on this is right and they should just concentrate on writing great tunes.

One of the new tunes

The set they played was heavy on new songs but thats actually a good thing as the new album is pretty cool. There was a weird sound problem for 10 minutes where the stage right speaker kept glitching in and out. It was a strange experience which felt almost like ears popping on an aeroplane. Odd but good I think.

I think we both really enjoyed the hour and a bit they were on stage, perhaps the drinks helped, perhaps they have enough songs and I'll definately watch them at a festival...I just can't help feeling they are going the same way as JJ72.


Then we got to see Pendulum at the Academy 1. This turned out to be one of the oddest gigs I've been to for a while. Jess my elder child introduced them to me about 6 months ago and as recent dance bands go they are one of the best. Saying they are Drum and Bass makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about, but really its just good dance music - or so I thought.

Jess, Pam, Friend of Jess and me off to the gig and into the super secret carpark at the back of the Academy 1 and then into the queue with kids.......average age about 17. After a bit of discussion its decided the average age was 18. Jess' quote

'Then again we were right down the front and no-one else would have let their kids do that'

woops, top parenting again.

Whichever way you look at it the crowd was very young compared to me and Pam. On top of that we werent wearing luminous socks, pink tights or homemade T Shirts. We didnt have facepaint on and Pam didnt turn up in a bikini like some of the punters. Considering all of this I now understand why the guy handing out the 'get into the nightclub free tickets' actually said 'are you sure you like Pendulum', bloody cheek of it.

So in we went and off the kids immediately went, armed with a bottle of water each, I saw at least 4 people eating pills just to warm up. I won't rant at this point but honestly what is with the whole DJ thing? I agree with Craig ' just bunch of chancers who didnt learn to play an instrument'. Anyway this one had a very poppy crowd of kids to warm up for the main act ...it would have been cheaper to hand out more pills.

So on came the lightshow, which in itself was pretty spectacular then on came the dance band and get this

2 lead guitarists

A bass guitarist

A drummer

and a keyboard player

Then on came a lead singer... whatever drum and base was I didn't imagine it was going to involve quite so many traditional instruments. There were rock guitar licks over heavy synth that Depeche Mode at the darkest would have been proud of, there was heavy drum beats that would impress The Prodigy and even a heavy beat ska moment ( this must have been for the dads - me). It was one of the most impressive live bands I've seen for ages. A bit like primal Scream doing Swastica Eyes with Kevin Shields on guitar and the whole thing actually working rather than the band breaking into a fight.

An hour later Jess turned up and declared they didnt need to stay for the encore as they had heard all the good songs now. sheesh the mp3 generation. I think there was only me gutted to be leaving, but not wishing to make a scene in front of a friend I kept my own council. Then the usual T Shirt gauntlet to be run outside. I was stitched for £10 not a bad result as it could have been far worse (Fall Out Boy - 3 kids £30) at least these were only £5 each here.

Another top tune by them

I suppose the mp3 generation wear them till they get dirty and then throw them away as all the good dye will have been used up.

In summary really ace band but go and see them at a festival in the dark so you don't feel like the local CID.

All the gear no idea

Last weekends planned trip up Pendle Hill was a miserable failure, mainly due to the after effects of alcohol and a few more spurious excuses ...however

This weekend was planned as a definite change in gear, no planned entertainment, camping overnight and two walks. The second of these walks up a well known hill/mountain. There is bound to be some obscure EU legislation about the qualification to be a mountain but my newly declared mountain qualification is....if it takes more than an hour to walk up and you need to use your hands as well as your feet then its a mountain. I suspect I didnt have enough meetings or produce enough paperwork to get that into future legislation.

The weather forecast for the weekend was at best horrid and at worst biblical. I'm a survivor of Glastonbury 98 so I had this down as not really an issue although there was a spot of flapping going on as Shad turned into a baby starling.

7 Day Weather Forecast for Skipton by three hour period

0.6 mmV Light
1.069 mmLight
1.1 mmLight
5.75 mmHeavy
8 mmHeavy
4.4 mmModerate
11.4 mmTorrential
1.12 mmLight

Sunday lunchtime arrives, as does Shad and almost early. I've even prepared the music for the journey to take into account Shads taste in music. As far as I can tell it goes like this

Puppini Sisters
Beautiful South

There are loads of really good new songs out at the moment (see list) but I just knew that non would work...so Billy Joel and Crowded House to the rescue........worked a treat.

The only other thing of note during the whole journey are my rapidly changing views of GPS/Tom Tom systems. I've never actually bothered to carry maps in the car on the basis that all the roads join up and as long as you can see the sun you can figure out which direction you are travelling...oh and roadsigns are also quite handy. One point of caution to anyone about to adopt this revolutionary method of direction finding....its really rubbish in London. You can't see the sun because of the buildings, none of the signposts say town centre (always a give away elsewhere) and sometimes the roads just stop. Shad's Tom Tom was great though, firstly the woman on it gets really stroppy if you go in any direction other than the one she suggests, (I did and saved 8 miles and 10 minutes journey time), secondly Tom Tom pings if you go more than 10% over the speed limit...a bit like having your mam sat next to you, and thirdly this version makes animal noises....well it makes a bull mooing noise as you approach a speed camera.

I was going to suggest this sort of approach be adopted in other areas of life but realized that teenage boys already had a monopoly on various grunts.

You can easily spot the amateurs at this camping lark, they turn up at random farmhouses that have a run down caravan out the back and demand to know where to pitch their tent. Woops

Anyway the real campsite was thankfully fairly close and very well organized. Everything went to plan and we constructed a reasonable representation of a three man tent within the hour. Nevetheless as team leader of my only child society, I was now faced with a dilemma. True to form I had also packed my own tent in the car knowing that this perfect 2 man tent would meet all my camping needs but erecting it may well P off my pal. It wasn’t that there were that many problems with the bigger tent….ok Shad put the groundsheet down before putting the main tent up. It got wet and muddy but hey the Centrefeed could solve this. There was the small issue of the sleeping pods not quite being long enough or as it turned out later wide enough for the airbeds. But other than that I didn’t have a real argument.

Deep breath and I was sharing!!

Craig arrived bang on time, one and half hours later just as we had finished everything, and true to form had another brand new tent. This time it was a double pop up tent and to be fair it was brilliant, 1 minute later Craig was ready. I think its important to point out that Craig brought bugger all else, no food no beer, not cooking kit tea coffee or infact anything useful or even useless. You think guilt would have played a part in mushroom choice. (see later)

The good news is; after 10 minutes of Ultra light drizzle it was warm and bright.

We’d planned a short stroll around Malham only about 6 miles away and I was quite keen too, having broken my camera previously it was an ideal opportunity to capture the rest of the area. Arriving at Malham at this time of the day was genius, as the holiday crowds were all going the other direction and the whole trip proceeded like clockwork. Ok there was Shad being scared of heights and cowering inside the rocks and there was the odd dead animal * oh and the butty van leaving with Craigs tea just as we turned up. But other than that; lovely stroll, weather held up and all sights well and truly seen.

Then we decided to eat….none of us are known as fussy eaters, so how tricky can it be to find a pub selling food….Very bloody tricky indeed is the simple answer. If its not reserved your not coming in!!! I was humming Klaxons tunes as we approached places. But this is a better one.

The Klaxons -Golden Skans

We even resorted to a trip back to the campsite bar to see if they did food - they didnt, four stops later and we are back in Settle with the chip shop as a definite option, at least we’d be eating them in a Merc. The first pub we went into had stopped serving…and that was a relief, it was like walking into a Scooby Doo castle, they even had the spooky caretaker by the bar. I’ve since had this verified by one of my pals who’s very first comment about Settle was ‘did you go into the scary pub?’

Saved by The Crown Hotel, traditional Steak and Chips and roaring fire…result. 9/10

Quick drive back to the campsite passed Russel Harty’s school, its already our fourth time passed the Giggleswick school and its apparent that we are all short on Giggleswick facts to impress eachother with. A couple of pints of cider and then off to bed for a sound sleep. Except that the ‘not in my tent’ issue was about to raise its head. Because my airbed didn’t quite fit the unfeasibly small manpod I couldn’t zip up the side door…..this left me open to the rats and scarab beetles and hence not a great sleep. It was also proven in the morning as a huge beetle jumped off me. Lesson learned.

‘All the gear no idea’ cooked a great breakfast except that there were 3 large mushrooms and one got burned, was there any lets share the good ones? Was there heck…first come first served and you can have the solid cement mushroom mate..cheers.

The big tent packed away in no time, then we had the tiny fold away / popup tent to pack. Well Craig and Shad did, a 10 minute wrestling match ensued which entertained our side of the campsite no end. Every fold inwards resulted in a pop out pop up and pop anywhere. Katie Price would have been proud. I suspect another new tent for the next trip.

Dead animals – sorry mate but its time to break ranks on this one, Craig has a theory for a new website and although the title isn’t particularly unique the concept is…..’Dead Pets Reunited’. The simple plan is to photograph dead animals and then to post them on a website I presume with date, time, description (lots of ways of saying flat?) and place attached. Owners of missing pets can then trawl through the blood and gore in the hope of getting closure on Tiddywinks. There are some obvious flaws with this plan which I’m happy to ignore, but the whole, lets approach a dead thing which is probably smelly and take a photo is just sick. Macabre sounds like it would be a good word to use here.

(If, my disclosure of the greatest idea ever means someone else makes a fortune doing this now, then I’ll buy you a couple of pints compensation.)

So off to find a mountain, - the point where both our chins hit the floor as we saw the mountain loom over the treetops should have been a warning. Even amongst the Northern Pennines Pen-Y-Ghent stands out. The side we were due to climb looked like a cliff face even at this distance. The good news is the weather was great and the local café sold sandwiches so we had some dinner. Dinner at dinner time, tea at teatime and lunch is for Americans.

Within about 500 yards we had overtaken the older couple (there always is one) and we were off uphill. And then more uphill and then it got really steep. There was a cake stall on the way up, which was homemade cakes, help yourself and leave some money…..it made you feel good to know that there are some places where you can still do that. So we stole the cakes.

We didn’t and we didn’t even eat any, that’s how serious we are taking the walking. At the start of the real climb to the top we had exchanged places with the old couple at least twice but in good old schoolboy talk we decided to ‘burn them off’. Setting off at pace we clambered up the last part of the mountain, (hands required) and made it to the false top, then walked steadily uphill to the real top.
Getting to the top of a mountain is weird thing, firstly you feel relieved that there is no more up to walk , then you feel really good about it. Then you take pics and look around and maybe have dinner as a reward or just cos you’re hungry. The proper walking fraternity has this weird thing going on where they want to be the only person wherever they are, ie if you are the only person at the top of a mountain then that’s really good. This sort of comment appears in magazines and websites regularly, one guy I was chatting to last week as he was coming down said the same thing ‘oh its good there is hardly anyone there’. ‘I was in a nightclub there was hardly anyone there its great’ We went to the match hardly anyone turned up? I think I quite like people to be about.

Anyway it was good, you could see for miles, they had a trig point…essential for photos and they had people, loads of them all sitting on the other side of the wall having diner and all looking pleased with themselves. Just for the record we did beat the old people to the top.

There was a shortcut option at this point which headed back to Horton, but as we had positively run up the hill in 1.5hours we went on for hill 2. Plover Hill. This part of the moors is well known for having a few bogs on it and we were about to find them. After about 10 minutes of jumping bogs, walking through puddles and generally picking our way through, Shad suddenly morphed. He was like one of the characters from Heroes revealing his superpower, which was ‘turning into a bog leaping hobbit’. It was awesome to watch as he ran and leapt and somehow got through the whole lot leaving us miles behind. (I did try shoving him later just so one went wrong.) and I bet he's got pigs feet.

World Famous Grouse is the only thing I really knew about grouse until we suddenly saw one, then two, then three then loads, we were surrounded by these gurgling creatures…maybe they were dangerous. As animals go 7/10. We also saw a very large fox stalking one, but I think the wind changed direction and the fox got one whiff of eau de hill climb and was off toutes vitesse. (apologies to my French teacher). Then we came across one of those vandalized signposts, both directional signs had been broken off so we had to resort to map reading…we were in trouble now. Well hobbitman would have been as he set off down the hill towards the cliff edge, fortunately we won the vote 2-0 (hobbits don’t vote), climbed the style and set off downhill. Just as we reached the edge the whole valley opened up below us, it was like one of those scenes from Jurassic park …ok without the dinosaurs but it was a very very empty valley just full of grassland and huge trees.

The cliff edge here (escarpment probably) was pretty steep and we clambered down to the bottom. Heading back to Horton now, we got to see Hull Pot, which is basically a huge hole in the ground with a bit of a waterfall going on. What I really liked about it was that there was absolutely no warning signs and no fencing. In fact I think this is the part I’m really liking about walking, the complete lack of rules, cameras, safety devices etc and no bloody signposts (even the good ones –directional). If you had come across Hull Pot at night there is definitely a 50:50 chance you would just walk over the edge and meet with cheerio time as it really is a vertical drop with no warning.

I had a bizarre conversation his week about inviting the four horsemen of the apocalypse to a dinner party 'so what do you do?' 'death' oh. I hate this sort of small talk so perhaps I would enjoy the party. I'm going to explore this party option a bit further.

There is a bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal on the A49 near my house which has the daftest safety feature ever. Halfway across the bridge at pavement level there is chickenwire or something like it, nailed on, to stop you jumping in. Mind you if your determination to die was strong enough to carry you the extra 2 yards you could be happily plummeting to your death on the Cheshire half of the bridge. I’m not sure whether it’s the poncy Cheshire folk who run the council and reckon the working class can’t be trusted on their half of the bridge or whether the working class are hoping that drug snorting Cheshire-ites (good word) accidently tumble in whilst off their heads. Wire on the right.

So back to Horton, or rather back to the pub and another one of those splendid ciders they do in this area. There was one other almost Python moment in the pub, where a chap of about 46 yrs old popped his head round the other bar and said to the barman ' eye lad I aven't travelled far, just from Sheffield, why would you want to go abroad when you can get everything you need in Yorkshire'. At least he looked embarassed as he caught my eye. I'm pretty sure Manchester would count as foreign. Anyway all counted out and all counted back in and a successful reasonably healthy trip.