Sunday, September 30, 2007

When Horses Attack!

Various kind souls have enquired as to why I'm quite so behind on my blogging. Well, the answer in part is that on the third day of our trip there was a nasty horse related incident, in which I sustained some damage to my lower back. That in turn has made life a little difficult since, but hey, I'm getting ahead of myself, I should explain the full sorry tale, but be warned dear reader that the details are fairly gruesome and not for the faint of heart.

So early on the Sunday, we drove the short distance to Becky Falls, parked up and put on our walking boots. As we crossed the car park to head out for our walk, a woman crossed our path leading two horses.

Well ok, they were Shetland Ponies, but as you'll see as this tale unfurls, their comparative lack of stature makes them all the more dangerous.

We stopped to chat and it seemed only polite to bend over to stroke their noses (the ponies, not the woman...we didn't need to bend to pat her nose obviously...).

Anyway, that's when it happened.

The net result, intense agony of a kind that I've never before experienced.

No really, there's no need to reread, you didn't miss anything, that really was all there was to it. Lean forward. Back clicks out. Intense agony.

Tricksy things those ponies. You've been warned.

I suppose I could call for the offending beast to be put down under the equine equivalent of the Dangerous Dogs Act, but that seems a little excessive and well frankly maybe a touch churlish.

Anyway, after the first ten minutes or so, the pain dropped off a little and not wishing to let Dad down, I soldiered on with the morning's planned walking, every single step was intense pain, but some of the views of the waterfalls almost made it worthwhile.

In the afternoon we drove on to Bel Rocks and relaxed for a while in the shelter of the tor (sitting proving too painful for me, so I lay out as best I could) and then walked around various tors in the area before heading back to the hotel, where after a good swim a spell in the jacuzzi helped ease my pain a little.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Burrator Reservoir

Ilsington Hotel is as welcoming as ever and after a wonderful meal and a fine night's sleep we drive across the moors beyond Princetown and park up at Burrator Reservoir.

If you stick to the roads that encircle the reservoir it's an easy walk of about 4 or 5 miles, but it's all on tarmac and you won't see too much of the resrvoir. If you divert off into the wooded areas where major footpaths allow, it's a bit rougher going, but you're off the roads and you'll see a bit more of the reservoir.

But, why would you want to do that, when you can follow tiny paths that weave in and out and where possible get right on to the shores of the reservoir?

Sure the paths can be a bit treacherous, but it's more of an adventure and it's the best way to see the reservoir and enjoy views over the surrounding tors.

Of course there was that point when I ended up to my knees in sandy mud, oh and that bit where we ended up scrambling around rocks only to then re-join a proper path which led to a dead end cut-off by an 8ft granite block wall.

I mean I suppose we could have turned back, but obviously the better choice was to scale the wall. Even if at the top all you find is a short stretch of earth bounded on the other side by a stone wall, with a wire fence on top, all topped with some lovely barbed wire.

I somehow managed to crawl through a small gap between one bit of the wall and fence and Dad managed to climb up onto the stone wall, traverse it as I pulled the barbed wire away from him and then make it to a point where he could straddle the wire fence. At 69 years of age I reckon he's doing quite well...

Then of course there was the bit when we followed a fairly hairy path only to emerge at a gate onto the roadway to come up behind a sign post, displaying this useful message:

Of course a sign at each end of the path might be a better idea, but hey...

Still who wants a boring easy walk? This was much more fun.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Jurassic Coast

Sharing the driving, we set off for the south-west and decide that given the weather is good, we'll break the journey and rediscover some holiday haunts of year's past.

First off is Chagford, which I vaguely recall from the self-catering holidays of my junior years. Driving through the village we head up to Stonebarrow Hill and enjoy a fine walk round the cliffs towards Golden Cap.

I should warn you, this was my first real chance to try out my new compact digital camera, so there way be the odd photo or two in the coming posts - strictly point and press, but I'm liking it.

Anyway...then we headed to Lyme Regis, which was the location of my father's first ever holiday as Britain started to recover post-war. Mackerel fishing was apparently a very popular way of supplementing rations.

Fortunately times have changed and we enjoy a rather lovely ice-cream as we walk along the beach.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dartmoor Redux

Following the premature end to their holiday to Dartmoor, Mum is thankfully doing better, though her standing is still not great, which makes transfers (eg from a chair to wheelchair etc) tricky as the equipment of choice, a rota-stand, requires Mum to pull herself up and holding on for a few seconds.

The dip in her health has also left Dad even more tired than usual and so a spot of respite care is in order.

The usual and understandable drawback is that it's not much fun for Mum. Her care needs are such that she ends up in places with very elderly and poorly folk, which hardly gives her the most riveting of times. However, this time there is a second issue, Dad is 'bored' of going away on his own and furthermore his activity of choice, long-walks in the country, is becoming increasingly something that as a 69 year-old diabetic, he shouldn't undertake alone.

Somehow this develops into a solution whereby he and I are returning to Dartmoor for a walking holiday.

Those of you aware of our somewhat tempestuous history will no doubt be wondering, like myself, whether this is an entirely wise move.

Ah well we'll see.

Still we get on so much better these days and after getting to their house in London later than anticipated tonight, we just got through our first potential point of conflict, what time to set-off for Devon in the morning, without falling out, so the omens are favourable.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Run Fat Boy Run

Completing our film weekend, IMc and I return to Showcase for Simon Pegg's latest offering, Run Fat Boy Run.

It's not going to set the world alight and it certainly lacks the wit and innovation of Spaced or Shaun of the Dead, but Pegg is as likeable as ever and for a light bit of escapism we could have done a lot worse.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


After a decidedly average curry at the buffet style restaurant that has opened next to Showcase we make an unsuccessful trip to Blockbuster (either it's been a very poor summer for movies, or I'm woefully out of touch, either way few titles on the new-release shelves ring any bells let alone make me want to reach for my rental card).

Returning to my place, we riffle through the various stacks of DVDs that I've liberated from bargain bins over the years and eventually agree on Capote.

Wow! What a performance. Easy to see why Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Academy Award.


Back from the garage, ImC comes across for a visit and we head to the cinema (or Precinct 12 as he’s dubbed my local embattled multiplex) to see Atonement.

The Ian McEwan novel on which it’s based, is one of my favourite books and the positive reviews I’ve seen suggest that it’s been successfully adaptated to film media.

I’m not disappointed, it’s a beautiful film that captures the power and the passions of the original novel. Even with its need to shorten and edit the full story to a watchable length, it still manages to capture the complexity of the nature of relationships that leads to the fateful decision made by the young Briony and the outworking of the onward consequences.

Pretty good acting all round (yes even from Keira), if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you rectify that.


First thing Saturday I take the car in to be MOTed. It failed on one thing. Which was a surprise. Not because I was surprised by the fault, in fact quite the opposite, I was well aware of the problem; no the surprise came from the fact that like myself the garage were also well aware of the fault given at the last service we'd discussed it and they'd assured me it wasn't a problem re the MOT...

The problem is quite simple, the sensor that checks whether my ABS is working, well isn't (sadly there isn't a sensor that checks if the sensor that checks the ABS is working).

The ABS is fine and can be checked every service, so the problem comes down to this: a yellow warning light marked ABS stays on all the time and if the ABS did develop between services then I wouldn't know, but my ordinary brakes would still be fine.

Therefore, given it's tricky and expensive (£250+) to rectify, given the car has 120k on the clock, given I get it serviced regularly so any ABS fault wouldn't stay undiagnosed for long, given any ABS fault would still leave me with standard brakes, given they told me it was perfectly safe to drive and would pass its MOT...given all this, I decided to save my pennies.

So bit of a surprise to get the phone call saying it had failed on this count.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

That Cafe

The previous post in-part explains my hiatus from laptop attentions and hence the paucity of blog post completion of late.

Fortunately, unlike the witty Pab over at Angel Lane, I've never even pretended to make this sort of resolution, so retro posting shall again be my friend.

To complete their integration into this area of Manchester, it seems only fitting that I treat them to a trip to the neighbourhood's best kept gourmet secret, That Cafe.

With some places you'd worry about them delivering, but not with That Cafe, I've never had a bad meal there. Heck they even make fillet steak in chocolate gravy work.


Others have commented that Greenbelt defines their calendar year, I'm not sure that I'd quite go that far, but there are certain rituals that take place at the end of the festival season that mark a new year of sorts I guess.

Not least amongst these is the setting up of new festival email folders.

Having completed this ritual and with emails already starting to populate the various spaces, perhaps now is a good time to review the email stats. So here we have the number of Greenbelt emails in the archived folders, totalled by year:

2007 = 2557
2006 = 2716
2005 = 2067
2004 = 2399
2003 = 2127
2002 = 809

Ok so I had hoped to reduce workload a little more significantly than that, but I guess it's a step in the right direction.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jesus Loves You

Hat tip to the Sanctus 1 blog for finding this rather wonderful You Tube offering.

Those of a God-bothering disposition who fancy a challenge, may chose to pick up the gauntlet, provide a solid response in 20 words or less. My comment facility awaits your wisdom...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

York Part 2

After a simple breakfast in the railway cafe (charmingly located in a sort of floating pavilion behind the station clock), we walk up the river, spotting houses we'd like to own in our dreams and enjoying the September sunshine.

Whether walking, mooching, lying on the grass or watching the world go by, I'm just so intensely comfortable with these best of friends.

S manages to deliver a couple of killer lines in the course of the day: "who'd have thought that out of those four parents, the one who owns the machine gun is only the third maddest?" and "Oh what's his name? You know, the guy who founded Stringfellow's nightclub?".

Sadly Cafe Concerto is suffering from its usual queues, so instead we find a National Trust coffee shop for a soup and sandwich lunch.

I'm a little sceptical about the proposed visit to the Railway Museum in the afternoon, but it's free and if you ignore the geeks found round every corner, there is a powerful beauty about the old steam engines on display. However, the winning attraction has to be the Poetry Karaoke.

Listening to the Auden poem with its beautifully evocative rhythms and watching the excerpt from the old GPO film is a treat in itself, but you can also play karaoke and record your own version. The words can be found here - go on have a little play at home, you know you want to ;-)

Late afternoon, we say our goodbyes and catch our trains back to our relevant home towns. Maybe the Transpennine Express that carries me back to Manchester lacks some of the romance of the age of steam, but you still can't deny that crossing the Pennines by rail and sitting back and letting the glorious scenery pass by, is still a fine, fine way to spend a sunny September afternoon.

Friday, September 14, 2007

York part 1

I was just about to ring S to see if she and P were about this weekend and would welcome a visit (P is in need of distraction right now), when she texts suggesting a night away. So having tracked down a couple of last minute hotel rooms, we each catch trains from our various points and head to York for the night.

Having dropped off our bags, we walk across town to one of very favourite eateries Cafe Concerto.

The decor is truly charming, with the 'music for your mouth' motif followed throughout. The walls of the cafe (and even the loos) are papered in sheet music, finished with colour washes.

I imagine someone like Kathryn would be in seventh heaven here, with trips to the loo forming an excuse to break in to a little bit of Mozart.

The food is excellent, though I have to say my fears about their attempts to harmonise duck in blackcurrant jus with potatoes dressed with goat's cheese, were well founded (one shouldn't always 'trust the chef', even when they're usually spot on, it seems). However, taking the approach of informally separating it into two sequential dishes resolved the problem in to two rather lovely courses.

P and I share a generous slice of Banana and Honey cheesecake and it's simply heaven.

After such a feast we decide a good walk around bits of the city and along the river is more than demanded to aid digestion.

Back at the hotel (last minute nature of trip had meant limited choices, but we'd decided to spoil ourselves and plump for the rather nice looking Royal York Hotel), P&S head off to their room in the garden wing (having now found an external route, that avoiding walking right through the middle of a wedding reception which was the unavoidable element of the directed route from reception) and I head to my first floor room in the main old part fo the hotel.

Now we knew the location of this old station hotel when we booked, and hey I live in a city and I'm hardly unused to a certain amount of night time noise, but I was unprepared for the level of lairiness that would keep me awake through most of the night.

Even taking extra 'migraine preventing meds' that normally knock me straight out failed to compete with the drunken shouting that broke any few minutes of drifting off I achieved.

I did consider calling down to see if another room was available, but the thought of trying to pack and move in my now drugged and over-tired state was more than I could contemplate. Besides surely it would cease soon, no?

Apparently not. It seems good old genteel York has become a destination of choice for stag and hen dos, helped it seems by trains that run through the night. As I tried yet again to find a way of getting my seemingly single glazed sash window to provide a better acoustic seal, I couldn't help but notice the police van and car that appeared to have permanent parking spaces in front of the station (below my window), which I guess should have been a sign.

Sometime after 5am I eventually managed to get some sleep.

Until about 7am, when deliveries started to arrive beneath my window.

I fear I did complain in the morning. I appreciate that there's not a whole lot the hotel can do about the noise outside, but I'm pretty sure there was more that could be done to soundproof the window (as it stood it made little difference whether I had it opened or closed). And if there isn't then frankly they need to stop charging an am and a leg for a room that isn't fit for sleep.

A 30% discount is offered by the deputy manager and frankly whilst it doesn't really compensate for how crap I feel after less than 2 hours kip, I'm too tired to argue.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Shocking news from Gloucestershire today, of Samson like importance.

Obviously a part of me is sad to see the passing of such a work, but I have to say the new Giles is looking good.

Given we have established that the hair was not saved for future wig action, I think we should speculate as to what has happened to it.

I'm personally torn between:

a) it has provided nest material for an entire murmation of starlings
b) it was donated to medical science
c) it was placed on ebay, where the winning bid was made by the company that manufactures trolls

Saturday, September 08, 2007


It's quite a journey that has brought the Dog Collar and Rabbit Corpses household to this day and it's the start of a new chapter; another journey starts here.

Making it to the church just in time, I'm very grateful for the seat Stuart had reserved for me. After catching my breath, I scan the congregation and familiar faces are all around; friends, family and half of the Greenbelt Ops team (that will be the bunch waving at me like maniacs then).

I think most of us well up at some point in the service. For me it was the bit in the order of service, where suddenly Stuart's name has changed to the Rev Stuart.

So proud.

The church he is about to start serving, present him with a present of a bible.

I lean to T and wryly comment "you'd think they'd know he already has one of those". To which T rather wonderfully replies "Yes, but this is a signed copy".


Sadly Mum hasn't been at all well this week. Maybe she's overtired, maybe it's the heat, maybe it's the course of anti-biotics she's had to take reacting with her other meds, but whatever the cause, the MS is bad.

The last few days have been difficult and this morning it took me, Dad and M the carer to get Mum up.

Mum and Dad are intending to stay on for a few days, but I'm worried and I can tell Dad is to.

I talk to the hotel, my room is available if I need to stay on, but that's not enough it seems and they've decided that they need to head home. I hang on long enough to help get Mum into the car and then head off myself, to make it back to Manchester for a certain little event.

Driving north, I try to push the worries from my head and it's good to get the call to say they're home safe and sound.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dartmoor 3

I do love our annual trips to Dartmoor, it’s a chance to spend time with the folks and each year that mum is still able to make the journey feels like a bonus.

It certainly wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the loveliness of certain parties, who more than deserve the following hat tips.

Firstly, all the staff at Ilsington Country House Hotel, who just make us so welcome and do so much to make it all possible. They are true marvels.

The hotel is wonderfully comfy, in a gorgeous location and has the friendly, intimate air that only a family run set-up ever manages.

As for the food, well the AA rosettes are certainly highly deserved; the flavours are carefully thought out and the menu varied daily and always put together with wonderful creativity.

The thing that really sets the hotel apart however, is the amazing friendliness and accommodation of T and his team.

It’s the little things that make the difference, like us mentioning on day one that mum finds it easier if her main meal is served in a flat plate rather than one of the large plate/bowls used for some dishes. For the rest of our stay, they quietly confirm which order is hers and ensure a flat plate is used without us ever having to say another word; or the fact that whichever table is allocated for us in the restaurant, it is always left with a clear route and one chair short to accommodate the wheelchair, so no need for the embarrassing faff as a chair is removed.

Small things they may seem, but it makes such a difference.

Honestly, it’s one of my very favourite hotels and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Even if they do inadvertently tell your Dad you blog ;-)

A hat-tip is also due to the wonderful M from the care agency in Newton Abbott, who for the last few years has been the extra piece of the puzzle each morning that has made the holiday possible. She’s amazing and so, so lovely to my folks – to the degree that you kind of want to kidnap her and take her back to London to replace some of their less than great carers there…

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dartmoor 2

The annual pilgrimage to Cornwall is undertaken today and thanks to a slightly widened path and a two person effort with the wheelchair, we manage to get Mum up to the top of Kit Hill.

The view is stunning as ever, but visibility isn’t fantastic and the naked eye can’t make out Brunel’s iconic Tamar Bridge from this distance.

Undaunted, we drive down to Saltash and find the terraced cottage nestling against the piers of that magnificent bridge in which Dad’s mother was born.

Ancestral tributes duly paid we return back up the Tamar valley, stopping for a (shared) cream tea at Cotehele, before crossing back into Devon and journeying back over the moors to Ilsington.

It’s a long day and Mum is clearly tired and it takes both dad and myself to transfer her into bed at the end of the night.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dartmoor 1

My departure from Bristol is slightly delayed, due to the need to revisit John Lewis at Cribbs, to collect the various items from customer collection.

Happily everything is there ready and the lovely gentleman behind the desk apologises profusely for the erroneous information we were given re their closing time and insists I take a voucher for a free cuppa and pastry. Suddenly, I’m feeling positive about the store again, and all it took was a polite apology and a voucher that I will most likely forget to use.

That’s what I like about JL, they do Customer Service so well. In fact the dodgy info and disaster yesterday were perhaps all the more irritating for the fact they came from a usual bastion of reliability.

Anyway, consumer confidence restored, I head on to the roads and make it to Dartmoor to meet my parents in time for lunch (which is just as well given I have the sandwiches).

As we sit in the sun looking out over Hay Tor, enjoying our sarnies, my father rather puts me on the backfoot with the following comment “so what’s this Blog that you write then?”.

It transpires, that when he mentioned to T, the excellent proprietor of the hotel we stay in each year, that I was stopping in Bristol with a friend on the way down, T apparently replied “oh is that Caroline?”.

It seems that the web team behind the hotel’s website had picked up on the links from these pages over the years.

Now whilst I don’t think I write anything here that it would be a disaster for my parents to read, it’s still, well, it’s just that you don’t necessarily want your parents reading your blog now do you?

Crisis diverted however, as Dad promises not to search for my blog (and frankly given the questions he asked re how one might do that, I’m not too sure he’d succeed even if he wanted to!). Now he’s a man of his word so I think I’m ok; or at the very least a clear breach of his word will no doubt be a suitable repost to anything he might have to say about the contents of these pages.

Monday, September 03, 2007


After just two days back at work and one day in my own house to try and catch up, I'm back on the road, this time heading to Dartmoor via a stop off to see the wonderful Caroline in Bristol.

It's just so wonderful to have the time to catch up properly.

Last night we ate at a lovely fusion eatery and caught up on gossip. Today we hit the C put's it...hard; very hard.

Now best I can make out (and you know I'd blog it, so...) I've only bought one pair of shoes since April (a lovely pair of dark brown Converse in the Schuh sale); so it's clearly my duty to do some catching up. I mean we wouldn't want the UK shoe retail industry to slide into recession now would we? Well, not unless, that would mean slashed prices and huge there's a thought...

Anyway, this, together with a wardrobe that has no clothes more than a few months old due to 'down-sizing' of figure, is my way of saying that the retail excess that I'm about to admit to is really justified.

Also did I mention I got an out of the blue pay rise on Saturday?

Oh and Cribbs is a lovely place to part with your cash (yes, yes, I know I should hate it, but it's a good size and has some lovely shops like Kurt Geiger...).

Oh and Caroline is a very bad influence.

No really, it's all her fault. She made me buy it all.

Anyway, after many, many hours, we come away with a pretty good trawl. Well OK, if I'm honest, Caroline came away with one very loevly dark green blouse from Fat Face and a gorgeous pair of shoes, whereas I may have come away with two tops from Monsoon (despite trying on about 30,000 outfits, well they had a sale on, Caroline has the patience of a saint); two hats (one of which was a £4 response to realising I'd not got a hat with me to protect my head from sun in Dartmoor, so really this was a medicinal anti-migraine purchase and the other definitely was Caroline's fault, when I tried a deep purple fedora on for a laugh and C made me buy it!); two table lamps and a little black knit top from Whistles.

Oh Ok...and five pairs of shoes.

A couple of which were nice and cheap from Next (£15) and a couple were not quite so cheap from Kurt Geiger. In fact one pair was far and away the most expensive pair of shoes I've ever bought. Still let's concentrate on the average eh...err oops that's still about £45...

Anyway, look at them, are they not lovely?

In fact, maybe we need a close up of some of them:

Oh and man, the leather, so, so soft.

Anyway, as we head back to John Lewis to pick up the lamps from Customer Collection, we discover that contrary to what the assistant told us, they close an hour before the rest of the mall. Oops.

Well I guess there's not much I can do, other than be on the door tomorrow morning at 10am when they open and then leg it down to Dartmoor.

Still, it's not like we go away with empty arms and we head off to a new Chinese restaurant Caroline has seen reviewed in a local paper.

It's a fine decision and the opulent surroundings are matched by pretty decent grub. Above all though it's just such a pleasure to chat with C and catch up with each other.