Thursday, 29 November 2007

Tactics and cat tricks....

Each morning I raise the blinds in the kitchen, to find this cheeky crew waiting.... expecting to be entertained. "We want to play". They're not even my cats. They turn up from around the neighbourhood, apparently this is the place to be.
If the window is even the slightest bit ajar, there will be mischievous paws wheedling their way in trying to hook up anything within reach. I worry about them sometimes, because if the window is open far enough they'll turn their head sideways and push it through the gap. Finding themselves stuck, they panic and start scrabbling about, ultimately falling off the windowsill. I have to make sure the window is free to allow them not to strangle themselves but then with a combined effort they can break in!...They know what they're doing!

Should you have the audacity to be in a rush and not have time to play, then you get these sort of delay tactics. While you're moving this one away from certain death, another one has slunk into the car and lodged itself under the seat.

It's no use, I'm going to have to go and play, at least for a while....

When Barkfoots away... the cats will play! Just make sure you don't leave anything delicate or valuable around, or it will be mauled to death. Especially don't leave anything small enough to be carried because they go off with them. Their owners must be very confused with some of the stuff they come home with!
Of course sometimes boredom sets in and tempers fray....but next morning they're back on the windowsill all friends once more, waiting to see if Barkfoot can come out to play....

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Every Thorpe Cloud has a silver moon lighting....

Determined not to let the short winter days get to me, I'm turning increasingly nocturnal. There was a beautiful almost full moon. What was left of the wisps of cloud were beginning to clear....
....until all that remained was a crystal clear sky. The moonlight illuminated the ground in that eerie way, and lunar madness gripped me. Packing all the necessaries, I headed off in the car northwards. After about an hours drive, some 40 miles and numerous sightings of barn owls hunting by the roadside, I arrived. The craggy tops of the Peak District silhouetted the velvet star spangled sky.

From the warmth of the car the thermometer readout of -6' seemed a little unwelcoming.

Dressed up warm and resembling 'Tony Hancock' on a bad day I stepped out into the cold.
It was now midnight as I stared up with trepidation at the towering hill awaiting my challenge. Thorpe Cloud, an easy climb on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but it was dark except the moonlight, the rivulets were frozen and a slippery haw frost coated the ground.

If it hadn't been for the reflective piping on her jacket, 'Ninja Jenny' would have disappeared altogether.
As we walked on the icy ground alongside the River Dove our eyes slowly became accustomed to the silvery light. My camera however, did not, hence the sparseness of pictures. We quickly realised that the steep but direct route to the summit was covered in ice. Much as I like adventure, the easy route seemed the best option. A glance at my phone informed me that there was no network coverage here and no one knew where we were, there seemed little point in taking any unnecessary risks.

Once out of the frost hollow of the valley it didn't feel so cold. The hill sheep were surprised to see walkers out so late and looked rather spooky with their eyes reflecting red in the light of our headtorches. There have been sightings of big cats out on the hills, but we reckoned they'd be more interested in a nice yummy sheep, I tried my best to appear 'unappetising'.
Eventually we reached the top and I took this great photo of the view....yes, I know all you can see is a rock, I could have taken that at the bottom!

This is what it looks like in the daylight. No, I'm not wearing a skirt, I'm in a bivi bag!

A quick blurry shot of the moon ( couldn't keep my hands still, it was soooo cold), and it was time to head down.

Back at the car a nice warming flask of coffee awaited. Unfortunately the lovely soft moist cookie I was looking forward to had frozen solid as a ships biscuit!
By 4 am I was back in my bed, warm and toasty. A goods night sleep and I'll be ready for some more perambulations.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Transforming cars and left foot braking....

With the days so short and the winters blues taking their toll, it's nice to spend some time with your friends. Sunday evenings we often meet up at Russells house. In summer it's a BBQ, in winter we just hang out, have a beer, and stuff ourselves with snacks. It's amazing at how much fun we have joking around and poking fun at the world. The twins ( were in bed so there was no competition while playing with their toys and once worn out we settled down to watch 'Transformers on DVD on Russells 'home cinema'.
"Down in front!"
On leaving we discovered.....SNOW! I love snow, there wasn't much, but there was some. Did I mention?...I love snow.

We don't get snow very often anymore, but as soon as we get some you can't stop me. I'm off in the car practising my handbrake turns, left foot braking into corners and J-turns.

By the time I'd got to the church at the end of my road it had already begun to melt, and that nasty man with his gritting lorry had ruined it!
I'll never understand it, if the roads are so bad we need to cover them with salt, then how come the gritting lorries never get stuck?!

When I eventually arrived home, (I had to go the long way, I was having too much fun) the road was almost clear. The steep driveway to my house however was not. It took me three attempts and in the end I had to reverse across the road and take an almighty run up at it. I arrived at the top of the drive going a little too fast...a quick tug of the handbrake and I made it around the corner and into the yard. I missed next doors car, Jennys bike but the bucket and the tomato plant really shouldn't have been there and I can't be held responsible for them failing to get out of the way in time!

Doesn't look like we're going to get snowed in anytime soon.....just enough left to build a quick snowman before bed...

Monday, 12 November 2007

Born free, taxed to death.....

Just a quick post to vent my anger.... I've just been charged £1.10 a litre for petrol! Not in an expensive motorway fuel station, or out in the sticks, but a local ordinary station. That's £5.01 a gallon! ($10.33 usa, $9.96 can)

This is the cheapest I could find it anywhere, and they'd run out, as had two other stations I visited. Even this 'cheap' petrol works out at £4.55 a gallon! ($9.38 usa, $9.05 can)

I should point out, this is the budget petrol, if you want premium add another 12p a litre.

We pay 52.35p in tax on a litre of fuel. Then, on top of that they have the cheek to charge another 17.5% 'value added tax' (VAT) on the combined price of the fuel and the tax. That's a tax on the tax! So in all 69.85% of what you pay at the pump is tax...WHAT THE F&*£K!!!!

I've heard rumblings of another fuel protest, so I'm stocking up on fuel. I may as well because in April the duty on fuel is going up again, and this will bring the percentage you pay in tax to 73.55%!!!!!!!!!! "Stop the world, I want to get off!"

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


I've been tagged by Jlee

There's a lot of questions in this one!

1.) Name one person that made you laugh last night?
Paul Merton.

2.) What were you doing at 0800?
That's 8am! Sleeping. Early morning is an awful time of day. It's cold, everyone's grumpy and the roads are busy. I will not be attending any appointments until after 10am.....OK?

3.) What happened to you in 2006?
No idea! I've a memory like a sieve. I was definitely there....

4.) How many beverages did you have today?
5 teas, 1 coffee and a hot chocolate.

5.) What colour is your hairbrush?
Hairbrush?! I put my head under the tap and stick it out of the car window on the way to work.

6.) Where were you last night?
Bikers night at the Bassetts Pole meet.

7.) What colour is your front door?

8.) Where do you keep your change?
Not telling.

9.)What's the weather like today?
Rainy. No wait, sunny! No, it's raining again....

10.) What's the best ice cream flavour?
Raspberry Ripple. Although there's never enough ripple.....

11.) What excites you?
Driving fast. Seeing a wild animal. Kayaking in the surf. Setting fire to things. Cute women. Falling off, over or out of things.

12.) Do you want to cut your hair?
I hate having to cut my hair but I'm glad it's still there.

13.) Are you over the age of 25?
Only on the outside.

14.) Do you talk a lot?
No, I'm quiet. Except when I'm with my friends, then I yabber on incessantly.

15.) Do you watch the OC?
I'd rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon.

16.) Do you make up your own words?

17.) Are you a jealous person?
Used to be, but I've mellowed in my old age.

18.) Name a friend that starts with an 'A'.

19.) Name a friend that starts with a 'K'.
'K'? I haven't got a friend with a 'k' I feel all lonely.

20.) Who's the first person on your received call list?
West Midlands Police.

21.) What does the last text message received say?
"Hi, I'm Melanie. From: Manchester. Best feature: My face and eyes. Likes: Staying out all night partying and, threesomes.... Who the h*$l is Melanie? Why is she sending me this rather nice picture? How much!!!?? Sorry Melanie whoever you are...DELETE.

22.) Do you chew on a straw?
Yes. I like to bend them in half, put it in my mouth with the ends sticking out and use them like tweezers.

23.) Where's the next place you are going?
Crows castle (a hill) to film Buzzards.

24.) Who's the rudest person in your life?
That farmer down Shirral lane, by the vineyards. Day after day I gave him a smile and a cheery wave every time I passed and never once got a response. How was I supposed to know it was a scarecrow?......It looked real enough.

25.) What was the last thing you ate?
Stilton and broccoli soup and a salad.

26.) Will you get married in the future?
No idea.

27.) What's the best film you've seen in the last two weeks?
'The Italian Job'. The original one with proper Austin Minis.

28.) When was the last time you did the dishes?
The butlers day off is a Wednesday.

29.) Are you currently depressed?
Yes. I always am in the winter, it gets more and more difficult each year, but I'm alright once the days start getting longer. Driving or getting out into the wilds are the only things that snap me out of it.

30.) Did you cry today?
No, I've got something in my eye.

31.) What was the last thing you said aloud?
"No! Off the keyboarddddddd.....Now look what you've done. Don't lick my face when you've been licking your bum. Well yes, I know you're cute. Come on then, lets see if we can find anything in the fridge for you".....Max the cat.

32.) What car do you drive and what bumper stickers do you have on it?
Luckily I get to borrow/drive lots of fantastic cars. In contrast my own car is an old Nissan Micra with a rack for carrying kayaks. No stickers, I have to keep a low profile.

33.) Why did you answer this and post it?
This cute lady asked and who was I to disappoint?

So now I have to tag some victims and, tell you why.


Secret Agent

Somewhere Joe



Now you know all about me I want to know about you.....Don't ever feel obliged, it's purely optional.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Far from the madding crowd....

They say in Britain "If you don't like the weather, then wait 5 minutes!" Today there was glorious sunshine. I rushed work in order to escape to the water before the weather reverted to its usual English autumn gloom.

I love my kayak, it's my way of keeping sane. A little bit of exercise far from the madding crowd.

The days are getting so short now, you feel the need to cram everything in before nightfall.

Weekdays out on the canals are gloriously quiet. This time of year most of the recreational longboats are moored up until warmer days and the residential barges are huddled together for company, so I have long stretches of waterway to myself.

It's been a good year for rose hips and I collected loads ready to made into rose hip syrup later on.

After three or more miles of paddling it was time for a break. I can't get over how good this tiny titanium meths stove is. It packs away inside my mug and on a still day like today will bring water to boil in no time at all. A nice warming hot chocolate.

Refreshed, I was on my way. The water was like glass, the only ripples extended from the bow of the boat. It was lovely to be able to paddle looking downwards watching the reflection of the clouds and the illuminated traces of overhead jets.

Soon the light began to yellow. The sun sank low, silhouetting the trees. I turned for home. The curious horses in the canal side fields paced me to the extent of their enclosures offering pleasant companionship.

It was such a peaceful day, I didn't want to leave as I paddled through my own personal oil painting....

Sunday, 4 November 2007

A beacon light, and fireworks bright....

It's not actually Bonfire night yet, not until the 5th, but as it was the weekend Pype Hayes Park had their fire and fireworks early. The queues and the traffic chaos is tiresome, so I park some distance away and walk up along a small stream. You can't actually get in this way, the huge fire looks small on the horizon, but you are really, really close to the firework launching area....perhaps too close.

Trying to get a good photo offered a dilemma, a long exposure and get streaks of colour, or a fast shutter speed and capture the action.

I locked the focus, compromised on the shutter and set up the white balance as best I could. In the end I was happy to get anything, (quite fast things fireworks!)

This years display concentrated on variety and shape rather than the usual shock and awe.

Pretty, but where's the big bangs?!

There were some really unusual ones...

These reminded me of palm trees.

The display got more raucous. They had just been building up to the bigger stuff.

I wasn't where I should have been, and as the sparks showered ever closer this became more apparent. I made a mental note of the direction to take towards the stream should it be needed.

Some of the bangs shook your innards. One particularly big explosion sent a visible shock wave out across the grass towards me and my camera shut itself down. The 'shock protection' on the hard drive had decided enough was enough and had saved itself by switching itself off. It came back on with little fuss but I had missed the opportunity of photographing the best of the display.

In a flurry of sparks and bangs it was over. I switched the camera off and prepared for home. It was then that, through the gloom of firework smoke a low flying passenger jet banked sharply, its underbelly illuminated golden in the glow of the fire. Why is it the best shots turn up after you switch the camera off?!.....

Saturday, 3 November 2007

What the papers say....

The papers picked up on my story and published a couple of my photos along with a quote from my blog. Pity they didn't mention the blog name, that would have generated a few more hits. You'll have to click on the picture to enlarge it if you want to read the text....