Thursday, May 28, 2009

CS Lewis - A Grief Observed

I didn't expect to like this week's Book Group selection, but I'm won over.

The relative honesty and the analysis of his grief is deeply moving. His questioning of God and faith more nuanced than I had expected.

I may need to reasses my thoughts on the man a little.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I'm starting to think I really like G's lifestyle.

Captain Pugwash is into yachts. He has his own racing yacht and has taken full advantage of the Cardiff Bay Barrage's maritime revolution.

When the barrage was being constructed, my then employers (who shall not be named, because it's entirely possible that if you say their name 3 times they come back and take over your company again...) were involved in the construction management and I did a site visit of the part constructed earthworks.

It being another fabulously sunny day, Captain P and Aunty G suggest we head up to the barrage and take a walk. A chance for me to see the finished article close to .

No sooner have we parked and walked up to the locks to see the yachts coming in, then the Cap'n spots his friends bringing in their yacht after a night over in Bristol.

They call up that they're going for a drink on the other side of the bay and would we like to join them. Dismissing our plans to drive round they direct us to a hidden pontoon and the next thing I know we're sailing across the bay.

A couple of drinks on the balcony of a cafe bar and they taxi us back.

Now that's what I call a Sunday morning.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Saturday, G treats me to a day out at Barry Island (and buys me a Gavin and Stacey inspired fridge magnet to remember it by). Barry is...well...Barry. Often with seaside towns, phrasing like "faded former glory" spring to mind, but that doesn't quite work here..."faded former tackiness" is perhaps a little unkind but closer to the truth.

What remains of the pleasure park is possibly in want of condemnation by the relevant authorities. It feels like everyone has just given up. Rides stand abandoned, those still open are run down and tatty, with rubbish and mess characterising the spaces inbetween. It's like it woke up one morning, looked in the mirror and just decided to give up making any effort and has ever since kicked around the house, unwashed, in a dated, dirty velour leisure suit, eating left over food from discarded take-away containers.

Of course none of this prevents G and I from acting like teenagers and going on the log-flume and the dodgems.

The beach itself is actually rather fine and if (inlike the masses) you can be bothered to walk even a couple of minutes along it, you can enjoy plenty of space even on this a Bank Holiday weekend. Getting into the spirit we do of course go for a paddle. It's the law you know.

Back in Penarth we decide to take advantage of the continuing fine weather and have a BBQ. G's new man Captain Pugwash joins us and very lovely he is too.

One of those days that make you just smile at the memory.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cardiff Weekend

After a last minute cancellation of plans, I find myself with a free weekend.

Originally my plans for the weekend involved an Ops Social (in Alsager - don't ask!) organised by myself S and N. It was very eleventh hour, but we hadn't really expected that none of the 13 "yes we'll probably come" respondees would actually follow through.

The instruction to those wanting to come was to make their booking and let us know. In the week leading up to the weekend we hadn't heard from anyone, so we cut our losses and cancelled our own bookings. Maybe next year.

So, with a last minute cancellation of weekend plans and a training course that found me in Cardiff on a Friday afternoon it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss and I phoned the lovely G in Penarth.


We kick things off in fine style with a night out at Cardiff Bay with the lovely S (who G and I continue to try and tempt to the dark side). Chinese banquet, drinks in an old port building bar and exploring around the Welsh Assembly Building and the Millenium Centre (no sign of the Torchwood crowd though). S's husband M even comes and picks us up at the end of the night, rescuing us from the very amusing rantings of a drunken Kiwi lass...let's just say that the phrase going at it like Billy-O took on a whole new dimension...

A text did land early in the evening from wonderful R.

"We're in the bar".

Hmmmm, now why would R be sending me such a text? Oh bugger...

I respond "Please tell me you're not in Alsager?"

The rest of the tail can be found here. Whoops!

Cardiff Training

I've been delaying posting blogs because of being behind with downloading photos from my camera. Given I'm clearly not finding time to get that sorted, I figure I'll just go ahead and post the drafted entries regardless. Sorry.

So, Cardiff:

Things you don't want to hear from your training department regading training courses they want you to run:

a) the trainers and half the delegates are having to travel some considerable distance and they've schedules the course for Thursday and Friday; and
b) last minute confirmation that several of the original delegates won't now be attending as they have just been made redundant.

I mention my concerns re the latter to my co-trainer. The remaining delegates worked in the same offices as those made redundant - it could make for some fairly low morale.

His view is somewhat contrary - perhaps the recent events will focus those remaining on training and development. Hmmm and I thought I was cynical.

As it turns out they are a fantastic bunch and I think we ran one of our best ever courses. It felt really positive and productive and the feedback sheets bear this out - we rocked ;-)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eurovision 2009

Annual Eurovision party time. I think it went better than last year...well being in the correct country was a good start (always helps when throwing a party at your house).

Little bit of a blip when the impressive efforts of a friend to get the BBQ really blasting courtesy of a hairdryer, proved to be a bit more than the extension lead with all the outside lights on,had left to give. Still we managed to restore power just as Mr Norton kicked off proceedings, so all was well.

Food was consumed, cocktails were downed, flags were waved, bonkers entries were enjoyed and sweepstakes were won.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Manchester Man

This week for Book Group we read The Manchester Man by Mrs G Linnaeus Banks.

Is it wrong that the main reason for accepting the suggestion was that it promised to provide the answers regarding the source of the name of two well-known Manchester pubs: Jabez Clegg and Joshua Brookes?

It's not the best written novel of its time, but it's not bad. Its at times preachy, morallistic tone can be forgiven for the absolute gold-mine of social history contained between its covers. I found myself constantly referring to the maps and navigating around the Manchester of the time (just pre-industrial revolution) and comparing to the modern day metropolis I know and love.

This is what's best about a Book Group - I'd never have come across this book on my own.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Leek - Biddulph

Call me a food snob, but generally I find pub attempts at Asian cuisine to be generally disappointing and a particularly sort of bland westernised beige approximation of the real deal.

Accordingly my expectations last night were rather low, as S and I condescend to partake in the bargain ‘wok’ menu deal at the Three Horseshoes.

I have to say I was pleasantly impressed; not entirely convinced of the sight of a chef wokifying in a staged glass ‘fish-tank’ style view into the kitchen, but the results were pretty darn good.

By the time P arrives to meet us, S and I were well sated.

Today we explored the area and found a walk around the Roaches and Hen Cloud.

Again the weather starts to change and we decide to drive to Biddulph Grange Gardens (National Trust) to explore the gardens and get a bite to eat - I've been promised something called a Staffordshire oatcake.

The gardens are full of hidden nooks and surprise areas, each one tucked out of view of the other. Eccentric English garden design at its extravagent moneyed best.

As for the Staffordshire Oatcake...well imagine a sort of oatmeal and flour cross between a French galette and a scotch pancake. Then smother in melted cheese.

So, so wrong and yet so right.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Strid Wood-Chatsworth-Leek

All around Burnsall lies the Duke of Devonshire’s territory. Place after place displays the tell-tale colour code and crest of the Cavendish clan, a family well adept at charming the money from your pocket.

To be fair (if one really must given it's such aristocratic nonsense), when it comes to dealing with the public, they do it well and have been ahead of the curve in areas like disabled access which wins many a brownie point with daughters of MS sufferers like S and myself.

That said we weren’t too impressed on our last visit at the amount of entry fee we were charged to enter the Strid Wood near Bolton Abbey, particularly given half the exhibits in the advertised sculpture trail had been temporarily removed due to vandalism and other reasons (we did debate trying to ask for a pro-rataed rebate, but...).

Accordingly with only a few hours to spare we try a different approach and find a small free car parking area upstream of the Strid. From here you can follow the Dales Way and lo and behold we find ourselves pecuniarily unencumbered in Strid Wood.

The walk along the river is fantastic and as we depart we are rather satisfied to have evened out the financial equation from our last visit.

As we head south (en route to Leek to meet P) however, the weather starts to deteriorate and the long and the short of it is we find ourselves exploring the grounds (and tea shops) at Chatsworth.

They got us after all.

All roads eventually lead to your pockets being emptied.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


With no firm plans in mind, armed with S's trusty OS map we walk along the river from Burnsall to Grassington where we weigh up weather forecasts, potential walks and bus timetables and decide to get the bus to Kettlewell and then walk back along the Dales Way.

Arriving in Kettlewell we consider the various options for an early lunch. We should have listened to our gut instincts rgarding the Cottage Tearooms. Or at least having failed to do so, we should have been less British and been prepared to leave, despite being the only customers in.

Dirty tables are fairly unforgiveable at the best of times, but when the cafe is empty of customers and three staff are milling around?

Having to ask to have a table cleaned is not good and when the party concerned jokes about how everything is stuck to the tablecloth, you have to wonder when it was last cleaned. Last season perhaps?

The food is at least in keeping with the menu and distinctly underwhelming, ok but very basic which is not reflected in the prices.

I think the realisation that we were being too polite was when S suggests we use the public toilets in preference to those in the cafe, because "I know they're clean". I do point out the irony of having been prepared to eat in a place where we don't trust the toilets...

With lunch and sticky plastic table cloths happily fading into memory, we join the Dales Way and enjoy a fabulous walk above the valley, back to Grassington. The sunshine and wind are the perfect antidote to urban living.

Life is good.

Tired and happy we enjoy a well earned drink before heading home to Burnsall.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


My Christmas present from P&S was a night away at a 'lovely place' and so with P at work conference, S and I take the chance for one of our traditional few days away, meeting up with P for the weekend.

Whilst often it's nice to explore new destinations, cometimes it's nice to go with what you know to be good, so we head back to the Red Lion at Burnsall.

Excellent location - check.

Lovely character-filled accomodation - check.

Superb food and drink - check.

Mind you, some of the finishing touches seem to be slipping on the service front, but as S observes that's the trouble when you set a high bench-mark.