Tuesday, 26 January 2016


Last week the mercury dipped below zero and we had our first covering of snow in a couple of years. Nothing on the scale of the ‘Snowzilla’ storm that hit the US this week, but enough for the local kids to at least make a snowman or two.

So what better time to decide on an overnight adventure camping out?

Without a tent?

To begin at the genesis of this particular harebrained plan; a few weeks ago in my rooting about for info on potential hikes for TBW and I in the spring I happened across a short video by guy called Alastair Humphreys. It was just about doing something interesting, something you enjoy, without it having to be a huge undertaking. I was enjoying the film all quite nicely, thank you very much, sitting on my sofa with my arse and cup of coffee and a biscuit. And then he uttered this line:

“This is it, now, this is your life. Tick tock, tick tock”.

Well that struck a chord with the hippy me.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to last tuesday. With clear skies and the temperature at freezing point I found myself locking my front door behind me at 10pm, shouldering my pack and heading out of town.

I wandered through the sleepy housing estates, windows warmly lit as people watched the 10 o’clock news, my breath forming long vapour plumes behind me in the orange sodium street lights as I walked. Houses, dogwalkers and street lamps gradually dwindling to be replaced by farm buildings, unidentified rustling in fields and the cold clear glow of moonlight. Up a couple of country lanes devoid of traffic and through a last tiny village. Almost there.

I had a place in mind for my overnighter, I’d spotted it a couple of weeks before on a walk around the local paths (that time, more sensibly, in the daylight). It was at the top of a small hill (where I live is, at best, gently rolling countryside) overlooking the town. I’d hoped that in darkness the view would be good – I mean, who doesn’t like an elevated view of a town at night, right?

So I left the thin strip of tarmac behind and headed off along the footpath, grass and remnants of snow crunching under my boots. And then I was there, in my room for the night. Moonlit, cold, beautiful. The hill dropping down into a small wooded valley before rising to another smaller hill beyond. The warmth of the orange glow from the town in the distance. I thought about the people watching TV as I rolled out my bag and mat on a relatively flat piece of ground.


I crawled into my bag and lay cocooned in warmth, watching the stars until I fell asleep.

I woke just before dawn. It had clouded over a little through the night but I was quite cheerful to be waking up outside. I packed my gear, wandered a little further down towards the valley and found a spot to have a coffee and porridge whilst watching the sun come up.


I have a plan to find a stove top coffee pot for next time. Life is too short for sachets of nescafe.

And then it was time to head back home. With the benefit of daylight I was able to walk back via footpaths almost to my front door, nowhere near as cold as I’d expected to be and very happy with my lot. The miles passed in what felt like seconds.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

December 2015 Part 2

So, London.
Mrs A was attending a course for work so I was lucky enough to get free lodgings for a couple of nights in a Premier Inn just by the side of King’s Cross for a bit of a pre Christmas jolly around London.
After catching the train down to St Pancras we wandered over the road and through King’s Cross, past the Platform 9 3/4 sign complete with a queue of Potter fans waiting to get their photo taken by some enterprising (if grumpy looking) blokes with various house scarves and a camera.  We arrived and were greeted by the most cheerful manager I have met in a hotel for a long old time, he was clearly not aware of the idea that anyone in London should be surly and unapproachable, just a really nice bloke doing a great job. We dumped our stuff in the room and then headed out into the evening to find something to eat and a little culture.
I’d booked us in to see The Mousetrap as we both thought it looked like fun. It turned out we were in the vertigo-inducing cheap seats (even more headspinning after a few wines and a stiff G&T). Although we both kind of enjoyed for the experience its definitely a thing of its time and wasn’t really my cup of tea. Anyone who wasn’t riveted to the performance may have noticed me sleeping.
The next few days were a blur of tube stations (and the frankly unexpected number of stairs at Covent Garden, if you eschew the escalators), landmarks, museums and galleries. We even managed to get in to see Star Wars.
And then it was time to go home again, to get everything ready for the whole tribe coming back for Christmas. We had 8 in all on Christmas day and ace fun it was too. Presents and good company and general messing about made the day brilliant. Mrs A worked her magic and made the place look beautiful, I cooked some dinner and we all ate, drank and made merry.
And then, a few days after Christmas we headed north to Glasgow again, to see the parents and celebrate our anniversary in the very place where we got married. We’d been trying to get back for our anniversary every year, and ever circumstances had conspired against us.
This time however the planets aligned and we found ourselves walking back into the lobby at One Devonshire Gardens, three years on. As we arrived there was a couple getting married in the very spot that we’d stood. I hope their lives together turn out to be as charmed as ours.
So after dropping our stuff off in the room we headed out again for food on Byres Road. Mrs A got chatting to a lady in a nice-lady-things-waste-your-money shop who recommended a tapas restaurant (it was tucked away in a backstreet that we wouldn’t have otherwise found). It was ace. We had tapas and fizz in fashionable glasses and I spent the evening thanking my lucky stars for my wife.

We wandered back to our hotel happy that we’d made it back.
The following morning we headed for our final destination of 2015 – Edinburgh.
We stayed with friends and spent New Years Eve chatting and laughing and sharing more than a few drinks before heading off to bed in the wee small hours. Not a single bar of Auld Lang Syne was sung (as far as I remember).
The next day we took a walk over the Forth  Bridge to clear the cobwebs before heading south and home
2015 was a helluva year.

December 2015 Part 1

The last of my retrospective posts for 2015…..and what an end to the year.
It started off as November had finished – house viewings and auctions. I found the next project and after a bit of brinkmanship we cut a deal. I was quite surprised (and a little nervous that I’ve missed something) but quite happy to be back in the harness soon. It even has a roof garden (see pic):
Clearly one of my first priorities will be to turn the roof garden into a roof. Hopefully before the roof collapses.
The gearup to Christmas began in earnest. This year (for the first time in many years) we had a real tree and new decorations. It was ace. I went and bought the tree without adult supervision and found out when it was home that the thing had a volume very close to that of our lounge. Clearly, we wanted to be able to sit in the room whilst the tree was up so some judicious pruning* was done and we just about had room to still use the lounge. Here it is in all its glory
The memory of sitting in front of the TV after finishing decorating it and watching, from the corner of my eye, as a small list slowly became a significant lean and then quickly progressed to an alarming tilt before being caught just before disaster still makes me smile.
No sooner had we got our Trafalgar-square-scale Christmas tree under control than we were off again. This time to Krakow for 3 days.
It was a beautiful place to visit, the architecture and friendliness of the people and history were all great. The overwhelming sadness of what happened to so many people there during the second world war isn’t glossed over at all, but somehow doesn’t hang too heavy. It’s all dealt with by anyone that we spoke to in a very matter of fact way. Very open an honest, but without either anger or sentimentality. I guess the passage of time means that most who now talk about it will have studied it or have heard stories rather than direct experience, but they all did a good job of walking that fine line between underplaying the terrible events and mawkishness.
We went over to see Auschwitz and Birkinau. It was mind blowing just what an industrial scale operation had been set up to exterminates race. Again, the whole subject was dealt with in a very matter of fact way. Our tour guide was exceptional and managed to convey the facts without sensationalism or sentimentality. It was a very bleak place and quite a sobering day.
Mrs A and I love a good old walk around a city and we walked for miles (Mrs A’s account can be found here – it’s really rather good), for my part I loved the architecture and the street food and the bison grass vodka. We had plenty of all 3 for next to no money at all. We got some great tips on where the locals head for the best food and bars and headed there. I got to eat Zapiekanka with bacon and plums on it, followed by vodka in a bar that was far too young for us. I cared not one jot and accidentally had drinks with the barman and some random others at the bar. Lovely.
We arrived home late and tired on a sunday night, with a couple of days at home before heading to That There London, which is next up, in December part 2.
* – hacking approximately half the tree off

Thursday, 21 January 2016

November 2015

November was a surprising month for our neighbours. We were actually at home for the whole month. My photostream for the month contains a grand total of just 5 pictures. 4 of them are of small boys desperately trying (and often failing) to be on best behaviour at the remembrance day parade. TBW got picked to carry the standard for his pack, mainly by dint of not paying attention and failing to be elsewhere at the appropriate moment. I told him it was a big honour and he just gave me the look of a boy that’s been told to carry something big, heavy and unwieldy. Later I stifled giggles as one his mates got told off by Akela for pretending his memorial cross was a sword as the vicar delivered his sermon on the folly of war.

And so the month passed in a blur of house viewings and auctions year end paperwork. The real world can be very dull, can’t it?

A bit of a short post bust next up is December (as is the way of calendars). We were busy in December.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

October 2015

October had a grand plan.

The plan was simple: head to the villa for two weeks. One week to celebrate a couple of significant dates for one of Mrs A’ s oldest friends and one week on our own to chill out after a crazy few months at work for Mrs A.

So off we went. We spent the fisrt week doing all the things that we usually pretty well ignore in favour of sparking out in the sun/by the pool/on the beach with a good book and or a podcast or two. In short, being lazy buggers.

So we went to historic ruined villages and went out on the town and went on a sailing cruise around the islands and enjoyed it all very much. The weather was even better than expected…




Then week two we reverted to our usual modus operandi and did next to nowt. Although I did see a jazzy tractor, some parked goats and the world’s most expensive and largest private yacht moored just off the beach that we go to. My favourite was the tractor.




Arriving home there was a letter on the mat from the solicitors informing me that there were a couple of forms that needed signing to sell the flat. We signed and returned them. I even called on the Wednesday to check all was OK to be told that completion date was scheduled for the Friday and there were a couple of signatures missing. A small but salient point that might have been better being shared I thought. Cue lots of running around and stress before the deal was done.

To round off the month we had a trip up to see Mrs A’s parents. October was a blur.

September 2015 Part 2

After the various hikes of the summer the last jaunt of September was to go and see Eldest Daughter near Düsseldorf, where she nowlives and works. Mrs A had already been over to visit earlier in the year on the plane so we thought that this time we’d drive over.

ED was thrilled about this as it meant she could send a shopping request for stuff she can’t get over there. Mrs A was cheerful as it meant she could load up on French wine and cosmetics. I was jolly as it meant I could load up with French wine, stinky French cheese and German beer. We were all winners.

During the drive down to the south coast to start the SW Coastal Path (post here) I spotted an advert on a lorry in a field by the motorway for a company called aferry.com – we looked them up and got an absolute bargain crossing to Dunkirk with DFDS. We even got a free dinner thrown in (this amounts to two of my favourite words in one sentence). If you’re planning a driving trip in mainland Europe they’re definitely worth a shot.


So, after drive down through England and a millpond-like channel crossing, we rolled off the ferry onto French soil for the second time this year. I absolutely love driving in Europe for many reasons so the steady old trundle through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany was a joy.

We arrived late on Thursday night and it was great to see Eldest again. We went over to the pizza joint over the road and bought pizzas and beers and caught up.

The visit passed by in a blur of laughing and walking and eating and drinking, highlights included:

– Heading off in the wrong direction on the tram, despite very clear instructions from Eldest and Mrs A having made the journey before, because I couldn’t distinguish between Düsseldorf and Duisburg on a map.

– An evening out in Düsseldorf drinking Altbier in various microbreweries and bars on the edge of the Rhine that ended up with us drinking what I can only remember as local hooch (it was sold by a lady passing it out of a window – literally – and tasted like rocket fuel). Mrs A managed to set fire to a marshmallow in a Mexican restaurant, there is photographic evidence but unfortunately I do not have copies.

– Dipping out of a shopping trip with Mrs A and Eldest to go to the local automotive museum and then accidentally spending the entire afternoon in another pub watching the rugby world cup with Eldest’s mate. By the time then girls found us I’d had several weissbiers so we stopped to have a few more and watch the Japan v South Africa match. It was the best match I have ever seen and I was quite well oiled so very enthusiastic in my support for the underdogs. Unfortunately the place was full of Springboks and I ended up getting told off by a middle aged SA lady.

– wandering around Duisburg on Sunday when, as dictated by German legislation,only bars restaurants and ice cream parlours can open to encourage family time. It worked.

Too soon it was time to drive home and after a stop off for wine, cosmetics and stinky cheese we hit blighty again. I’ve always loved Germany and every time I visit I love it a little more.






Sunday, 17 January 2016

September 2015 part 1

And so we arrive at September….

It was a busy old month. The early part of it was lined up for a couple of day’s hike and wild camp along the Southwest Coastal Path (this was the hike with HBX that got postponed from August).

We planned to drive down to Swanage, park the car and then get the bus back up to Poole harbour to pick up the start of the path. We reckoned that over the space of a couple of days we could make it down to Lulworth Cove before getting the coastal bus back to Swanage.


After executing the first part of the plan flawlessly (driving to Swanage, via the glass & chrome monument to money that is Sandbanks, and parking the car) we hit our first stumbling block. Delivered in charming fashion by a cheerful pensioner at the bus stop in Swanage, she told us of 2 issues with our plan:

A) The MoD firing ranges at Lulworth would be closed to the public for live firing exercises. We needed to cross them towards theend of our route, so this translating to a circa 8 mile detour before hitting the Cove.

B) The coastal bus wasn’t running.

Bugger. She smiled the smile of an old lady who still knows a thing or two, we thanked her, got on the bus and rejigged plans. New plan: Walk as far as the ranges, turn round, walk back. Not ideal, but when your coastal path is a coastal path you’re pretty well directionally limited to ‘forwards’ or ‘back’.

The bus ride back up to Poole trundled along without incident and we ambled down to the start point near the chain ferry. The first part of the route runs along the beach so I spent the first few miles hiking barefoot through the ebb and flow of the sea, boots dangling from my pack. The sun shone and it was glorious.


After a pretty short walk we had to stop and wait whilst an air ambulance landed on the beach to pick up some unfortunate soul. As we waited the realisation dawned that we were midway across a nudist beach. The commotion from the helicopter piqued the interest of our fellow beach dwellers and they started appearing in the dunes like naked wrinkly meerkats. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly scientific study, but based on that day’s observations I would put the average age of a south coast naturist at about 60.

If you look closely you can just see the chopper (fnarr).


We walked on. Eventually the beach ran out and we climbed to the top of the cliffs. At Old Harry’s Rocks we sat for a while and watched dogs and schoolchildren get alarmingly close to cliff edges, before setting off towards Swanage (again). More cliffs and prickly bushes came and went before we descended down to another beach and a short walk into the town to find fish and chips and water.

After eating we pressed on again, past lighthouses and climbed through woods (the woods eliciting such a moan-fest from HBX that I briefly considered pushing him into the sea at the next opportunity). Eventually we cleared the woods and emerged into the last of the day’s sunshine. It was low on the horizon, making the sea glitter hypnotically and generally making everything right with the world.


As the light started to fade we started looking for a good spot to camp. After a short clamber down a bit of a ridge to a small plateau in the cliff we found our room for the night.That’s HBX rifling through my tent for food.



We sat on a big rock with whisky & hot chocolate and watched the lights on the shipping moving across the horizon before calling it a day.

After a night punctuated by owls, rabbits and snoring the sun rose to this



That’s our ship-spotting-whisky-and-hot-chocolate-drinking rock.

We carried on for a few more miles stopping off several miles short of our intended destination at a ruined military emplacement to eat lunch before heading back the way we came.

So, coastal paths. The views are amazing but I love the mountains more. For a start there’s more than oneroute to most destinations. There’s less nudists too.