Four wheels bad, erm, six wheels good?

The year before last, in the early spring, the two of us went to Vietnam.

And later that year, for our summer family holiday, we (two adults, those two girls), went to a resort a little way outside Marrakesh and had, frankly, a terrific bloody time.

That was the year before last.

Last year was different because and then there were five, when we two adults, those two girls, were joined by that there girl sprocker.

We discussed the options, but it was a unanimous decision to keep the family of five together for our family holiday.

So we all, yes, all five of us, went camping in Cornwall.

We crammed ourselves in to an eight-man tent and, being entirely truthful with you, we had a great time (despite the hyper-energetic sprocker putting a claw-hole in the adults airbed on the penultimate night).

But this year our family has expanded again, and the annual holiday has to accommodate two adults, those two girls and not one, but two hyper-energetic sprockers.


So throughout the winter there has been much thinking and saving: thinking about ‘how the heck are we going to do this?’, and saving for ‘whatever the heck it is we decide to do what will enable us to do this’.

Well, on Saturday it all happened.

We drove up to Swinderby (RAF Swinderby was my first ever posting) and picked up the means by which we are going to do this.

Yes, middle age has hit hard, but unexpectedly it is combined with a smug feeling of practicality.

Cornwall will be seeing all six of us this year.

Next year, maybe France.

If the EU will have us.

Where there’s a Will

I’ve made a Will.

I know!

This is possibly the most adult thing I’ve done, and therefore is it even me?

But the one lesson that making a Will has taught me is that I have a lot of strands that need to be knitted together, and bringing all of those strands into one document is a lot harder than I had thought.

I’m not even sure how I’m going to keep my Will updated, because C21st life is fast-moving, and keeping my Will current seems like a monthly task.

I need to think about how I do that – all advice gratefully received.

Away from Will-making…

I may have mentioned that in the last few years I have been to two funerals of motorbiking friends?

The first had me in stitches and later in tears of laughter – and then just tears of sadness.

The most recent was a most tearful celebration of the life and times of a high-energy character; full of life and love and humour, and one of the biggest fun individuals that I’ve ever met.

Young Masher recently blogged about how he’s managing his demise in a more immediate/short-term kind of way.

I think there’s some logic to this.

I like having a list of people (and organisations) to tell; there are some folk in ex-service groups on FB who might like to know (for various reasons) when I eventually check out.

And I have some thoughts on the intimate gathering at the crem.

Though I wouldn’t have Test Match Special as the walk-in music, which Grant did.

The unexpected (but instantly recognisable) TMS theme filled everyone in with mirth, which was a typical Grant kind of thing to do.

So maybe I should compile a list of my send-off music? And blog it? Or would that be too ghoulish to make it so public?


It’s only money, honey

It’s been an expensive year so far, and we’re only just three months in.

The emergency replacement of the new boiler was a bit of a shock; that’s a couple of thousand I had other plans for.

Robyn’s little operation cost £380.

I’ve just had £600 of special work done on the car.

£200 for insurance on the Ninja.

And we’re spending several thousands of £s on something, this weekend.

Still, you have to look on the bright side:

  • We’ve got a new boiler
  • Robyn won’t have to go through another painful ‘season’
  • The car and this weekend’s thing will benefit us all (and that includes the two doggy types), and
  • The Ninja and I will continue to harass and scare other road users for the next 12 months

There’s a lot to like there.

Howling mad?

Yesterday Sam did her second Wolf Run of the year.

A Wolf Run is a 10k cross-country obstacle course.

To be clear, it’s not a race (there are no ‘places’), and it’s not really a competition (there are no timed sections, and nothing is against the clock).

The entrants are just competing against the course.

Which, to be fair, is no mean feat.

There are four Wolf Runs a year (one for each season), and entrants who complete all four in a year are entitled to call themselves ‘Alpha Wolfrunners’.

Wolfrunning is a popular pursuit.

In this weekend’s run there were >8,000 entrants (the run was spread over both days).

It’s a big weekend and, by and large, well organised.

There are food stalls, entertainments, amusements for non-entrant members of the family, evening activities and camping available.

There is a doctor and first-aid/medics on site, there are ambulances on the course, and there are swim-qualified helpers in the various water hazards.

I am immensely proud that Sam has completed two Wolf Runs this year.

I’m also very proud that Sam did a mini-Wolf Run today, one day after she did a full run, as she accompanied her daughters on their first 3k Junior Wolf Run.

These are stunning achievements.

But because I’ve got an enquiring mind, I thought I’d run some numbers (and some of these numbers are best/worst-guess) on this weekend’s Wolf Run event.

There are some estimates in here, and I’ve also left some number out (most noticeably Merch, which is probably hugely profitable), but there are also some hard numbers which would stand up to scrutiny.

Marquee x3£5,000Parking£25,000
Course design/build£14,400
Course breakdown£14,400
Staff/event crew£16,000
Tool/machine hire£800
Competitor goodies£80,000
Set up time8d
Break down time8d

Multiply these number by four and you get an approximate average annual income from the four Wolf Runs.

Blogathon 28/17: Candles

I’m going to a gig tomorrow night.

Actually, that’s not correct.

We are going to a gig tomorrow night.

We are going all the way down south to that Birmingham.

To see Elbow.

How are you going all the way down south to that Birmingham to see Elbow (I hear you cry)?

Well, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car, one day in November, when the driver took a hand off the wheel and thrust a numbered envelope at me.

I opened it (as I had opened at least half a dozen numbered envelopes over the last 90 minutes).

And inside were two tickets to see Elbow.

What was in the other numbered envelopes (I hear you ask)?

So very many things.

The first envelope contained a different sort of ticket.

A ticket to ride.

As we pulled in through some anonymous-looking gates in the middle of the Leicestershire countryside, I clutched my ticket for a half-hour private ride around the sky with East Midlands Helicopters.

East Midlands Helicopters

East Midlands Helicopters

Forty minutes later, and less than an hour after I’d been given the first envelope, I was airborne.

1,000 feet above the Nottinghamshire countryside.

We crossed over the village where we live, banked to starboard over the house, then straightened up before turning to port and heading across the countryside before reaching the centre of Nottingham.

We had a good look at Nottingham Castle, Trent Bridge cricket ground, and the two Nottingham football venues.

Despite being early November, the sunny, spring-like, cloud-free day gave us a fantastic view of the countryside for miles around.

It was a stunning birthday gift.

But it didn’t end there.

Back on terra firma other envelopes were thrust at me.

There was the lottery scratchcard (which bore me a fiver).

There were other lottery scratchcards (that steadfastly refused to bear anything).

There was an invitation to lunch at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.

Lunch at Jamie Oliver's

Lunch at Jamie Oliver’s

And the tickets to see the Iron Maidens (later this year).

There were the tickets to see It’s A Wonderful Life in full Cinemascope on the very big screen.

I could go on with the list.

And on and on, with the list.

I felt very proud, honoured, and a little embarrassed, at the end of that early November day.

I still do.

Last year was an emotional time.

And I had the best (and most emotional) birthday, to cap a heck of an emotional year.

Thank you, Sam.


My dog’s got no nose.
How does he smell?
Bloody awful!

The family has grown.

I’m still a little bemused at the speed, and at the method.

But one minute we were happy with two small humans, two large humans, and two girl cats.

And then, the next minute, there were two small humans, two large humans, two girl cats, and two boy kittens.

Beano and Dandy, two 14-week old kittens were seen at the RSPCA Rescue Centre.

The next day they had moved in with us.

Since then they have turned the house, and our lives, upside down.

The level of toilet training they have is probably best categorised as ‘regrettable’.

Their behaviour: ‘delinquent’.

And their teeth and claws: ‘lethal’.

Many wees and poos have been found, hither and yon.

But usually hither.

And when I say ‘hither’ I mean usually underneath one of the beds.

But finding these little ‘accidents’ (though, between me and you, I think there’s an air of calculated, malicious deliberatism in the production line) has been made very difficult because of the cold.


Because the two adults in the house are now sharing ‘the cold’.

We’ve sniffed our way around the house every time we come in.

Sometimes the sniffing has been successful.

Sometimes the blocked-up noses have let us down.

The two one-year old #RescueKitties (now pending being relabelled as #RescueKatz) have not taken well to the interlopers.

And we grown-up humans have tried to walk the thin and wiggly line that separates showing too much preference to either the #RescueKatz or the #RescueKittens.

So there are behaviours to account for.

And ownerships.

And wee.

And, inevitably, poo.

Welcome to our world.

(sorry about the smell)

Blogathon 9/13 Morbid?

I’m going to update the list, below, as time progresses, and some items will get struck off, but remain as a matter of record, as I try to bring the list down to a manageable number of tracks…

In August 2011 I went to the funeral/cremation of a member of my team.

Grant Burke was a keen motorcyclist, a mad cricketer (in both senses of the phrase), and an online gaming weirdo.

He was also wonderfully sarcastic, bitingly scathing of our politicians, and he would support the underdog until he had no breath left.

Grant had the weirdest taste in music, coupled with an awesome sense of humour and, if you haven’t guessed yet, it was Grant who, over the course of a year of working together, encouraged me back in to motorcycling.

His funeral music included ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by 10cc for his ‘intro’.

At the conclusion of the service we filed out to the distinctly (but pleasantly) jarring (given the circumstances) instrumental strain of the BBCs Test Match Special.

In between these two pieces, there were other – equally oddball – choices.

And there was dancing. And there was much laughter.

And there were tears.

My point is that Grant’s musical choices for his own funeral/cremation served to underline his larger-than-life (in a John Goodman kind of way) personality.

I hadn’t given the subject of funeral musical any further thought, until recently.

I was having ‘one of those’ deeply intense conversations with someone, recently, when she raised the subject of musical choices, for her funeral.

My first thought was ‘she’s clearly mental!’ (true), but then I remembered Grant, and recalled his musical choices, and what he had done for his friends, his family and his colleagues.

The smiles. The tears. The dancing.

She had a point, my friend, a similar point to the one that Grant had so eloquently made.

I made an effort to listen to her choices; there was much of her character in them.

And as I listened I started to wonder what my music might be.

Inevitably, I began a list.

It quickly grew in to a long list. I’m talking about a very long list indeed!

The first draft was:

  • Ennio Morricone, Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu (for the walk-in)
  • Aimee Mann, Deathly
  • The Winchell Riots, Kandahar Road
  • Missy Higgins, The Special Two
  • Muse, Hysteria
  • Norwegian Recycling, The Pachelbel Mashup
  • The Smiths, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
  • Anemo, Heaven is Waiting?
  • Arcade Fire, Keep The Car Running
  • The Birdinumnums, Little Libertine
  • Buddy Guy, Feels Like Rain
  • The Candle Thieves, We’re All Gonna Die (Have Fun)
  • Dan Black, Hypntz
  • DJ Shadow, Organ Donor
  • Deer Chicago, Frozen Globe, Freezing Teeth
  • Deer Chicago, Quite Like A Tide
  • Elvis Costello, I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea
  • The Epstein, Dance The Night Away
  • The Calling, Wherever You Will Go

To this list got added Phil McMinn’s awesomely beautiful ‘The House You Built From The Wreckage’.

And that, logically, led me to check that ‘Kandahar Road’ by The Winchell Riots had been included (it had, obv), which, in turn, led me straight back to the eye-wateringly, delicate and wonderfully fragile ‘Lavender Hill’ by (once again) Phil McMinn.

Now some of you might think that 21 tracks for a funeral might be slightly excessive, but from the first notes of the walk-in piece of Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu, I dare you not to raise a smile.

Particularly when you see the congregation dressed as American Indians.

(well, maybe not, but they are in my head)

And I haven’t even got any Pink in there yet.

Or Paramore!

The file-out piece, though, is likely to be ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd.

Because that would be apt.

Two brilliant guitar solos in one song.

It would be impossible not to wear a smile after that.

But tell me, despite my list being (currently) infeasibly long, if you were to choose the soundtrack to your own farewell…

what would you include?






So, the (almost) final list:

  • Ennio Morricone, Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu (for the walk-in)
  • The Winchell Riots, Kandahar Road
  • The Smiths, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
  • Anemo, Heaven is Waiting?
  • The Birdinumnums, Little Libertine
  • The Candle Thieves, We’re All Gonna Die (Have Fun)
  • Deer Chicago, Frozen Globe, Freezing Teeth
  • The Calling, Wherever You Will Go
  • Lavender Hill, Phil McMinn
  • Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb (walk out)

In the words of others

1. Dreams can come true
I’m awake. Woken 20 minutes before my alarm by the aftershocks of a full-colour, action-packed, most vivid dream. I was startled awake by the images that my subconscious served up. Sexual. Explicit. Erotic. And so fucking real. Yet there was no soundtrack – the audio accompaniment was muted. But it was my field of vision. My point of view, that my ‘eyes’ (hindbrain) served up the images through. As a person who never (should read seldom) remembers their dreams, being able to recall this one is weird enough. Recalling the granular detail is disturbing. My heart is racing. I am excited. By the dream.

2. ¿Buscando Quien Eres?
Trying to capture, to articulate who I am/what I am looking for is easy. Trying to get it is much more difficult. I shouldn’t review these things in this post-dream now, but there is a gap in my life and I am keen to fill it. My head, still in a turmoil from such wonderful images, urges me in one direction. The post-dream shreds of common sense tell me to chill out. Relax. Don’t be such a teenager. But it’s not easy, at almost 5am, hands shaking with excitement. I shouldn’t lie here trying to figure out how to get what I feel I want. Not after ‘experiencing’ such real/not real images. It’s like walking out of the best feature film you’ve ever seen and trying to reorganise your life.

3. Comfortably Numb
There was guitar lesson last night. I was less good than normal. My sight-reading failed me and the pentatonic scales couldn’t engage. My head was elsewhere. But we duetted, Trev and I, on some Pink Floyd. Comfortably Numb and then some Wish You Were Here. They both sounded good. Better than good. They both sounded better than they should have. I have only practised three times since last week’s lesson. That’s what being mentally busy gets you. I need to make sure I don’t let guitar practice slip.

4. Splendid Isolation
Daughter is busy. I’m not sure how she has a hectic social calendar, given where she lives, but she is busier than I. Last night’s phone call was brief. I was tired, she had things to do. I miss her. But her next few weekends are fully booked. No time for me.

5. Run To The Hills
Work is entering a less-busy phase. I’m thinking of taking some quality downtime. A long weekend – three or maybe four days. Rome, maybe? Or somewhere in north Africa? Or somewhere else – but somewhere warm. It has been too long since I felt the sun on my skin. Somewhere quiet. Good food. Good wine. Good relaxing. Good company? Want to come with me?

Weekend jolly

I’m trying to put together a little trip to Granada, for this weekend.

The problem is that I am very restricted in how much time I can take off from work on Friday (none) and Monday/Tuesday (none at all).

So I’m looking at flights out on Saturday, and return flights on Sunday.

Here are my destination airport options:

This airport does not have direct flights to/from the UK.

If I caught a flight from LHR at 11am Saturday, I could get in to Granada at 5.30pm after one stop – and a total elapsed travel time of five hours. I would have to pick up a hire car and drive to my destination – a cool 1h 45m away.

The return journey would put me on a flight out of Granada at 1.45pm the next day, and would get me back to LHR – after one stop – at 5.20pm.

That’s not much time on the ground – especially when you factor in the hire car to/fro journeys and making it to departures in the advanced time that the airline demands.

At least this airport has direct flights to/from the UK – even though they’re EasyJet.

If I catch a flight from LGW at 6.20am I would get to Almeria at 10.10am. I’d have to pick up a hire car and drive to the village, which, from Almeria, would get me to my destination around noon.

But I would have to leave the village around 9pm, to drive back down to Almeria (two hours), to a hotel to spend the night, to ensure I returned my car and made it to departures in time to catch my return flight at 10.40am.

But this option would get me about 9 hours on the ground.

I’m not even going to look at using Malaga. I dislike that airport. And it is three hours’ drive away from my destination.


This is all a bit mentile, isn’t it?

Well maybe it is.

But it’s my daughter’s birthday.