Thursday, December 17, 2009

Knackered n happy

Ah the moment I’ve been waiting for, my first excursion into the outdoors since the operation. A gentle mile and a half around Nercwys woods this morning and I’m now absolutely knackered. Temperature read 3 degrees centigrade on the tops, the wind was biting enough to get through my totally inadequate gloves and Lucy (swamp thing) had the devil in her finding every, yes every, source of stinking, slimy ditch filled abyss of  rotting vegetation that was up there, was it worth it? Oh boy it certainly was!

Just being in the woods feeling the cold air reaching the very bottom of my lungs with every breath taken (and there were quite a lot of them), seeing Lucy’s sheer exuberance pounding up and down the trails ahead, stretching my neglected legs and feeling my systems kick in again, yep it was worth even those last few faltering steps and the ten minutes sitting in the fun cruiser before I dared to head home.

And the wildlife did not disappoint either, the buzzards were up, their mewing calls welcoming me back, there seemed to be a surplus of jays heading through the branches, always in front of me (maybe they thought this one looks fit to drop, mmm supper) and bonus time was one of our smaller raptors, a kestrel, who was gracious enough to allow this clumsy photographer take a couple of snaps.

Back home it was great to feel my face have that gentle burning sensation after being in the cold, it may take me a while to reach full fitness levels but I’m back ‘out there’ and I’ll be damned if I’ll waste any opportunities to stay there!

Oh, before I forget, a thousand thanks for all your kind comments and support over the last few weeks of my self pity, as always I’m humbled by your kindness. Oh and just in case I forget, seasons greetings and blessings upon you all and your families, keep well and may the New Year be bountiful for you all.

Now where’s that dog towel, LUCY…….

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cabin Fever?

Ah the wide expanses of the great indoors, mmm I do believe that I am actually getting cabin fever. Just last night Lucy was warming herself by the fire and as I glanced at her from my incumbent position on the sofa and for just a few seconds she looked like a wild boar roasting away on a spit! It was all I could do not fetch my carving knife and steel!

Seriously though I am becoming restless, I seem to healing slowly (to bloody slowly) but, as Clare keeps reminding me, I can’t afford to take on to much or else I could find myself taking more time to recover and that’s one thing I don’t want. After having probably one of the most active outdoor years for a long time (kept my hand firmly down when the overtime sheets came around!) it’s really bugging me for it to finish off in this lackluster manner. I’ve got a few small projects lined up for the garage to ease my way back into it, so hopefully it won’t be too long before I can get started on them (as long as Clare’s in work that is), but for the moment everything is on hold. I may possible offer up some kit reviews on a couple of pieces that I wouldn’t be without whilst ‘out there’. It’s something that I haven’t tried yet but it might work or then again it might fall flat on its face.

Something for me to look forward to is that I’ve volunteered to be a contributor on the NWWT’s website, adding my thoughts on, and highlighting the virtues of, their many wildlife reserves around North Wales. For me the pleasure will be two fold, firstly it will take me to areas around North Wales that I may not have considered in the past to visit to observe wildlife and secondly I’ll be able to combine this with blogging, which I have found to be a great way of communicating with like minded folk from across the globe.

Other plans for next year include climbing Ben Nevis, Snowdonia and several other peaks using the gaps in my new shift rota to full advantage. My friend Jim has suggested going halves on a Canadian canoe and using it to explore some of the Scottish lochs combined with perhaps some wild camping, he’s also suggested ‘kite buggying’ (something Jim already participates in), and I quote “just for a laugh”. Mmmm don’t know about this one but hey ho in for a penny…. Along with my ever increasing garage project list, my outdoor adventures, the occasional tale on Tails from the fish, and a reconstituted rear end it should be a full and active new year to look forward to. Now if I could stop climbing the walls…..

Friday, December 4, 2009

A thank you

Just a quick posting as I’m unable to ‘sit down’ (or stay still in any position) at the moment for more than 10 minutes, let alone get ‘out there’. So you can safely assume that ‘D’ day has well and truly occurred so please excuse my ramblings today for not being in the usual vein.

I’ve always been of the opinion that there should always be a balance within life, for every birth there will be a death, for every smile a tear, for every morning of a glorious sunrise the dark shroud of an approaching thunder storm. It’s not that I’m religious in any shape or form (heaven forbid!), and I don’t pray to any deities, I just believe in balance, without sadness how would I measure joy, without pain how could pleasure exist? Don’t get me wrong I’m not some nutter who’ll stick a pin in my tongue just so I can then savor a brew, no I just like balance, yin and yang, black n white, circle of life (I can feel a song coming on!) call it what you will but balance suits me just dandy
Maybe this is why I feel drawn to the outdoors and all of its cycles, where you just observe from a distance or become embroiled in the hunt within Mother Nature’s game of life and of death. There is something basic deep inside of me that lets me savor the hunt and sometimes the kill but then there’s the feeling of being so connected inside, perhaps by simply just sitting alone (or with Clare, my one true love) welcoming the day’s new sun, rise over misty distant hills, or me grinning like an idiot watching a vole sitting on my boot toe, cleaning his whiskers, after taking his fill from my bait box when I have sat statuesque still for eons, not having a bite, nibble or take by the river. I won’t take anything from nature unless I use it, food for the pot, dead wood for the fire, rain for my face, and sunshine for my heart. For me being outdoors brings my life back on an even keel after I find my ship listing heavily to port with the weight of work, making ends meet, suburbia and the doom and gloom of the world that’s thrust in our faces by the press and what seems to be most peoples’ fascination with the anguish of others (why can’t stories of redemption, joy and wonder or even of fluffy puppies sell newspapers?).

So I came upon the ‘outdoors ‘blogosphere’ community’, and here I find a whole host of like minded people, whose depth of knowledge sometimes astounds me, whose ability to express themselves with the written word humbles me, and whose generosity warms my soul. I’m honored to be part of this ‘blogosphere’, I don’t always agree or even like all of what is shared here but then I find myself lost in awe and smiling inanely at other written pieces, like I say, balance. The range of topics is discussed is vast, and peoples opinions on said topics, whether agreed with or not are respected and accepted. To be accepted by like minded spirits such as your selves, whose knowledge, foresight, wonder and sometimes sadness which you all gladly share is a privilege for this grease monkey. I feel that I’m just about finding my feet and place within the outdoors ‘blogosphere’ community even though I’m one of the more recent arrivals, so I guess in a around about way I’m just trying to say thank you for accepting me and proving to me that there’s still balance to be found out there. Now maybe I’m rambling on or musing for no apparent reason (can’t do bugger all else in my present state so the only ‘rambling’ I can do is in me head!). But hey, what the hell, it’s passing some time for yours truly and would you rather I discuss the benefits of inflatable furniture for my tender derriere?

I hope that this dirge has not bored too many of you good people and that you will return for more of my usual, less heavy, musings in the future (when said derriere allows that is).

Friday, November 27, 2009

.... one for all

I'm not sure what’s happening at the moment but every time that I’m out and about lately I seem to be clapping my eyes upon a glut of predators, and rather like Mike’s last post at ‘Hodgeman’s thoughts on the great outdoors’ I’ve failed to get a picture of one of the little tinkers!. (Oh by the way Mike’s blog is, I think, one that is really worth reading and catching up on.)

The first predator of note was the large fox mentioned in my earlier posting, frustrations, which was spotted on one of the back trails on Moel Famau during a right stormy day, new camera in pocket, fox chased off by Lucy before any chance of retrieving the image taker – hoe hum. Then on Tuesday, following what is now becoming my usually routine of clearing my head on the change over from day shift to night shift, I took Lucy along for an excursion (well short trek then) amongst the trails in Nercwys forest. Again it was another wind swept and wet morning but with the temperature still remaining high for this time of year (and a more suitable choice of gear this time!) the walking was good and with Lucy providing the entertainment with her inevitable impressions of a bog monster the lack of visible wildlife for the camera was not a problem. It was as we returned to the car park that I spotted over the access gate a yearling rabbit sitting bolt upright just under the tow bar of the fun cruiser. The furry little mite appeared oblivious of our presence (as did Lucy of Bug’s), not wishing to let a potential free meal (yes I’m tight, I know this already) I slowly stooped and picked up a throwing rock and eased myself through the gate whilst Lucy was heading back the way we had came intent on submerging herself once more in the nearest ooze filled ditch.. With Lucy forgotten I was nearly close enough to be within certain striking distance when from the edge of my vision I caught the slightest of movement and it became clear to why the rabbit was immobile. There, weaving his memorizing spell on the rabbit was a beautiful stoat. Now here was something that I’d never witnessed before, a rabbit being taken by a stoat in broad daylight. I caught my breath, all thoughts of rabbit stew forgotten, and slowly began to reach for the camera. It was at this very moment in time, camera being withdrawn from pocket, stoat now within a couple of yards from dinner, thoughts of award winning photography coursing through my pea brain when I had my legs taken from behind as Lucy burst back into my conscious thought, argghhhh! I just had time to raise my head from the gravel and glimpse the stoat disappearing into a log pile and Lucy crashing through the far hedge, presumably in hot pursuit of the mobile food source (well not mine or stoaties’). The little blighter had clocked onto the fact that I’d gone into stealth mode and had decided that something far more interesting than stagnant water was afoot, she’d obviously spied the rabbit from behind me and, taking the most direct route through yours truly, had decided that the meal was hers for the taking, sometimes…… With nothing harmed besides my ego, we headed home, one muddy but happy mutt, and one rueful mutt owner.

Yesterday I headed out after the last night shift of the block hoping that some buzzards would be riding the thermals after being kept down by the last week’s storms. There is nothing that pulls at my soul more so than the haunting call of buzzards as they welcome me back to the hills, I cannot explain with mere words the affect inside of me the call of this bird has just to say that it feels so right when I’m lucky enough to be in their company. As usual the first part of this walk consisted of me awaiting the caffeine to kick in and for my senses to at show at least some small sign of coming online (Clare refers to me as that grumpy get after nights). I was surprised and disappointed that I saw or heard no sign of the buzzards during the duration of the walk, perhaps they had moved to lower ground seeking refuge from the earlier storms. I had only the raucous and harsh calls of Odin’s eyes to listen too and with little else to catch our attention even Lucy seemed more subdued that usual. I did come across a discarded or maybe lost knife on the west side of the hills, am Opinel number 8, a fine folding knife and once I’ve given the blade some much needed attention and treated the wooden handle it’ll make me a useful companion. But I’m going off on a tangent here, why I mention this walk is that as we came around the west side of Moel Famau the now exposed trail skirting the top of the hill with the ground falling steeply away to the valley below I spotted a raptor coursing down the slope. Immediately I was sure to what it was, a peregrine falcon, the speed as it hurtled downwards was incredible. Then, with an explosion of feathers, it caught its target, a ringed dove, with no visible change to its rhythm the falcon swept upwards and over the hill to our right with its supper in its firm grasp. That’s twice this year I’ve witnessed a peregrine take pigeons and I’m honored to have done so. The movement was to fast for my camera skills but on the up side at least I remained on my feet!

Three predators in the space of a few days and all in broad daylight, makes me smile. Thought about leaving Lucy behind on the next long treks, just to get a bit closer to the fauna that she disturbs before I have chance to view it closely or photograph it, but then we’re a team and I’m not complete out there with out her, so all for one….

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Something different

Hi all, in the short time that I have been writing this blog I have come to realise that, well that I really enjoy the writing part. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not claiming to be the new bard or a writing genius, just that I’m really starting to enjoy the writing part. So I’ve written a little account of a childhood memory but to keep it separate from the spirit of this blog I’ve opened another blog called ‘Tails from the fish’, I hope that some of you may find time to cast your eyes over the occasional story that I’m hoping to post here and if so, I truly hope that you enjoy them. I don’t think I’ll stick to any particular theme, just see how it goes. So if you like the 'tails' let me know and if you don’t like them let me know as well, all comments (except the really harsh ones!) welcome.

In trepidation,


Thursday, November 19, 2009


Talk about having the stuffing knocked out of you! You may (or may not for that matter) noticed buried deeply within the depths of my previous couple of posts the looming cloud of despair and the slightly morbid tenor of my writings as the day of my operation drew closer. But, I’d bit the bullet and braced myself for the inevitable events of tomorrow, stiff upper lip and all that rhetoric. So, as promised, I spent the day outside wandering in and around the trails upon the Clwydian range, being battered by howling winds, soaked thoroughly to the skin by the endless horizontal deluge of rain (I did say hell or high water didn’t I?) and to add insult to injury sweating like the preverbal pig due to the very unseasonable temperature of fifteen degrees whilst covered in my “all weather, breathable” gear (all weather except British weather that is, I’m assuming!). But I survived the tempest and made my way home aching, soaked, decidedly windswept but strangely content and feeling pretty good within myself, after all there is nothing like the feeling of coming home after being outside in some of roughest weather the year has yet to throw at the hills. Storms, whether they’re in the hills or on the coast with sea spray lashing at my face, I just love them.

So there I am whistling to myself around the kitchen, rubbing Lucy clear of the usual detritus that she collects on a walk, kettle on and bacon in the pan (the fasting due to start 6pm tonight) when the blink of the answer phone catches my eye. One final rub at the elusive Lucy to remove the remaining flotsam and jetsam from her eyes and then press play with my elbow whilst juggling hot coffee and a bacon sarnie, cue removal of stuffing. One message only; tomorrows appointment cancelled, new date being the 3rd of December, have a nice day! Stuffing well and truly extracted leaving me with a certain sense of anticlimax to say the least. Just over 3 months of waiting, prodding and a little foreboding, not to mention arranging cover at work, getting extra provisions in as I wasn’t expecting to be going anywhere fast and then at the eleventh hour the rug is pulled, bloody marvelous. So I’ll just have to go through the build up again and hope that it won’t be another dry run, but I do promise you that I’ll not mention it again as I think I’ve said all I can in previous posts so when the postings become few and far between you’ll know why.

But going back to the storm I was really fortunate to get more than a glimpse of the largest fox that I have ever seen. I was not expected to see any wild life about in the ferocious conditions that I and Lucy were pushing through, well Lucy had the good sense to let me do the pushing whilst she stayed firmly behind me gaining as much shelter as she could when we were marching into the teeth of the gales (and we’re the smarter species?). Anyway, the noise my elephantine self was making as well as any scent was being firmly displaced be the storm when as we crested one of the last few hills before reaching the sanctuary of my little fun cruiser there, bold as brass, loping towards us was the biggest dog fox that I’ve ever clapped eyes on. We both stopped at the same time, and I don’t know who was more shocked me or the fox, whilst we stood, suspended in the moment, I noticed that he did not carry the normal reddish hue of our only native wild dog along his flanks but was a dark, bluish grey, something the I’ve not seen before although I have heard some shooting friends who travel the remoter areas talk about seeing welsh grey foxes, almost as if they are a separate breed. This is something that I’m going to have to research because this boy was big. As in all things the spell was swiftly lifted, Lucy upon peering around to examine the cause of the hold burst past and headed straight for him, she’s getting on but she’s still game. As they hurdled down the slope I thought she’s gaining, this should be interesting and I was not disappointed. Just as she was closing in on his brush the canny feller just seemed to leap in mid flight from all fours and changed direction by ninety degrees and disappeared into the bracken. Unfortunately for Lucy, downhill at that speed she has the turning circle of a fully laden oil tanker, game over. So after a bit of sheepish shuffling in the undergrowth we called it a day and headed home to that message. All in all a great day for both of us but with both of us being a little deflated at the end, but at least I’ve got the consolation of a couple of ciders to be getting on with, so until the next time, cheers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Interlude

Ok so it’s 36 hours until I am placed at the mercy of a man with a sharp knife, wearing a mask and a head torch with whom I have never met or held a conversation with, ever! Not that I’m either counting or worried, honest, well maybe just a tad worried. To be honest though I cannot wait for Friday to come and go so that I can turn the page on the last few months, putting all the discomfort behind me (no pun intended). Hopefully I’ll soon start picking up on my fitness levels and be able ‘get out there’ as much as possible. It’s only when you are unable to have or do something do you realise how much you love, need or depend upon whatever is missing. I need the outdoors to keep me sane in this world where doom and gloom seem to be the order of the day.

Therefore this will my last musing until maybe after the weekend and my inflatable computer chair is installed, and tomorrow I thoroughly intend to be outside dawn to dusk, come hell or high water. So until further notice all projects are on hold and I guess that I’ll have little few tales to chronicle in the forth coming week or so. Although , perhaps buoyed by Owl’s comments and a couple of work colleagues remarks on my writings I may try my hand at a few short stories from my youth or maybe I’ll just sulk and feel sorry for myself , who knows time will tell. I hope that all of you that I’m following will fill your blogs with your usual wealth of rich and enjoyable stories to help me pass the time and give me inspiration for my journey back to the outdoors. Well enough of this feeling sorry for myself its back to the cider and a takeaway before I’m banned from tickling my taste buds tomorrow. Enjoy life and live it to the full, it’s not a rehearsal!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Double edged sword...

A double edged sword, catchy title eh, thought that would get your attention, but this week’s posting is not about sharp items intent on harm, but more of that later. I’ve just got a brief window (whilst my rice is cooking) to fill you in on the week’s events. Managed to get down to the sailing club at Gresford the other day with Jim, with the intention of removing some boat trailers, which were basically rusting away making the place a bit of an eyesore, and hopefully picking up the second hull. But as you have guessed by now nothing runs smoothly for yours truly and once more I was thwarted by the complete absence of said hull. So I spent the morning dragging the prehistoric, rusting frames of about 8 trailers and launch trolleys without much hope of reward (except of course the satisfaction of a job well done). But fortune favors the brave, as they say, and when we’d finally lashed the lot together and dragged it to the local scrap merchants we came back with 26 pounds for our labors, I didn’t realise scrap metal was worth so much at the moment so the local church roofs had better be well protected from now on, and I don’t just mean a small amount of lead for fishing weights! (Only joking – honest). But the best upshot of the morning’s activities’ is that now a salvageable trailer frame and launching trolley frame now sit on my drive taking their place in the projects queue (yes I know, nothing has to be said about time money etc…).

Ok back to the multiple precipice weaponry statement. Regular readers of my musings (and I sincerely thank you all) may well recall my posting; ‘to a mouse’ in which I was lamenting about a certain medical condition which is afflicting my good self. Well the time of reckoning has arrived and I’ve received my operation time which is a week today. So here’s the double edged sword point:- for the last few months I’ve been as about as much use as a one legged man in a backside kicking competition, to say that I was mis-firing on all four cylinders is a rather large understatement so to have confirmation of the date of redemption from this affliction is mighty relieving. But here’s the rub, I’ve an inherent fear of hospitals and the thought of full anesthetic is slightly worrying (bloody terrifying actually), but it’s going to happen whether I like it or not so hey hum here we go…

Oh and finally to end this particular muse I’ve reopened my ‘pay for all projects’ account at the dreaded E-bay, starting with a small steam engine commencing this coming Sunday, well needs must when the devil drives (where do people keep coming up with these sayings?) but as I’m sure I’ve said before if I wish to enjoy my outdoor orientated life style, and keep on taking on projects then it all has to be paid for, by hook or by crook (there’s another one!). That’s about it for now, off to the goggle box the curl up with my beloved Clare and scream my head off at the Welsh hopefully taming the Samoans, fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

On the water at last

Well we’ve lost this evening’s light so I thought that I’d just fill you in upon this weekend’s rather limited adventuring. Saturday started off with what appeared to be a day of little opportunity with myself feeling more that slightly lethargic, probably due to the shift pattern change undertaken in work and absolutely nothing to do with the copious amounts of cider, southern comfort and excellent food consumed on Friday night at a friend’s wedding reception! So a quiet morning’s stroll around Wrecsam’s limited shopping centre seemed about as much as I could handle in my rather delicate state. But the day was brightened considerably with a visit to Jessop’s camera shop. To be honest I’ve been contemplating purchasing a decent general purpose camera for a while, especially after seeing the recent photography by Owl on his blog Wandering Owl Outside. The photographs that have appeared on my blog up until now have been taken on my mobile phone. There are three downsides to this, firstly my mobile has a limited picture capability, secondly I detest having my mobile turned on when I’m out and about (one of my loves of the outdoors is the chance to have some solitude when needed) and thirdly I’m really bad, unlike Clare who has a great eye, at taking pictures so I need all the help that can be mustered. So after a little negotiation and the handing over of a rather large chunk of my frugal wages I’m now the proud owner of a Fujifilm F75 EXR (details on the link), so hopefully after some tuition from Clare there will be a marked improvement in my pictures on this blog, time will tell! Now all I have to do is improve my writing to the levels found on many of the blogs that I'm following.

The first racing in the frostbite series finally took place this morning and to be honest Jim and his handicap crew (that’ll be me then) didn’t do to badly at all with two second places out of the two races. Although the weather was a bit of a let down with low to non existent winds, temperatures about 8 degrees and enough drizzle to wet just about everything I thoroughly enjoyed myself and also surprised myself (and perhaps Jim) with the way I got around the boat. But then again I think that it may well be a different kettle of fish with a half decent breeze to test my new found confidence. Oh and just in case you were wondering today’s pictures were taken by Clare hence the improvement in photography. Another upshot of the sailing today was that I managed to speak to one of the club’s members, Nick, who is supplying the second Mirror hull that I keep going on about. He assures me that it is better overall condition than my little lady so I’m hoping to organize delivery towards the latter end of this week, we’ll see. One thing of note about the sailing club at Gresford is the abundance of wildlife in residence with large numbers of water fowl and some rather rotund carp lurking in the depths, now if only I could get er, yes that's it, wildlife management control rights there my freezer would be well stocked for the coming winter.

So all in all another reasonably productive weekend, unfortunately with the new shift rota that has been adopted regular weekends will now be consigned to a dim and distant memory as we’re now on a four on four off shift pattern. Basically this means that I’ll have less time to spend with my beloved Clare and I’ll be completely knackered (excuse the Anglo Saxon) for five out of the eight days in which the rota operates. On the plus side it does give me longer stretches of time to work around the house, complete projects (god knows that I’ve got enough on the go!) and much more importantly just get out there. So like everything in this world there are going to be highs and lows, I’m just grateful that I can support us and put food on the table. So that’s about it for now, hope that you all get out there and enjoy yourselves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Seasonal change at last

Well at long last it appears that we have an end to the Indian summer of October with November being heralded in with a distinct change in the season. True, the daylight hours have been drawing in with their usually inevitability but up until last weekend the temperatures reflected a more summery feel. Don’t get me wrong I don’t overly enjoy the wet, windy and cold weather that has drifted in over the Atlantic but without the seasons being clearly defined I feel some how slightly out of kilter.

Walking some of the back trails up Moel Famau this morning truly blew away the cob webs of last nights 12 hour shift, and with the larch trees now nearly bare of their needles the paths underfoot had a cushioned, carpeted (for wont of a better word) feel to them. Lucy had her usual ‘let’s find every boggy, mud filled ditch’ head on and the stiff breeze on the tops seemed to galvanize her into the maddest ‘running around an idiot’ spell that she’s had for years. I guess she’s also enjoying the change autumn has finally brought about.

One down side this change of weather did cause was the cancelation of last Sunday’s first race of the frostbite series at Gresford Sailing Club, to say that I was disappointed would be this week’s biggest understatement. Not only did I not get to sail but there was no chance to appraise the Mirror dinghy hull that I hoping to purloin! Still, on the bright side I didn’t get wet, cold or an ear bashing from Jim, ah well there’s always this Sundays lambasting to look forward to! On the up side (I think) our resident wood mouse house now taken up squatting rights in our tit marsh box and is providing us with some entertainment during first light with his? acrobatics getting to the bird feeders and back to the ‘mouse box’.

So with a full weekend to look forward too I hope that I’ll have some tales to tell thee next week, but for now I hear the call of good food and fine ale so with no other choice I shall be away…..

Saturday, October 31, 2009

In for a penny...

Well a richly deserved week off work is just coming to an end (richly deserved by my account at least!) and what, besides a bag full of refuge from Moel Famau, do I have to show for it? Well lean closer dear reader and I’ll recount to you the whisper of some possibly good tidings for myself.

You may well recount an earlier posting this week, “ A slight dilemma”, I was bemoaning the fact that I may have the opportunity to obtain a second mirror dinghy hull but would then be left choosing between the little lady and the usurper (if its condition was far better). Well once again the gods of good fortune seem have warmed to my plight. Whilst dropping off my friend Rob’s lame excuse for an air gun (Hungarian pea shooter more like) he brought up the subject of said hulls within my beloved Clare’s hearing. After the smallest moments of silence, about ten years by my reckoning, Clare failed in any shape or form of the spoken word to say no to the idea of having both hulls being lovingly restored by yours truly this coming winter, as long as I found room for my skip run trailer elsewhere for the duration! Yes I know that the pay back is going to be an absolute nightmare, I’ve already started planning the new corner shelving units in the study, but hey in for a penny in for a pound. I haven’t been able to inspect the new hull as of yet because it has not yet been dropped off at the sailing club. So I have to wait until at least this coming Sunday to see how this will develop.

Speaking of sailing, I managed to come away unscathed, physically and verbally, from Thursdays practice for the frostbite series and I’m really looking forward to Sundays first race. Before Thursday it’s been three years since I last crewed in a boat and I’d forgotten just how much pleasure and reward it can give.

Also another project was completed yesterday with the arrival and fitting of the spares for my MK5 BSA meteor air rifle. To be honest I’m more than a little surprised at how well the gun is performing considering its age and lack of prior care. At this point I’d like to give T.W. Chambers & Co ( a mention for brilliant service at an honest cost for providing spares for a thirty something old air rifle. Just goes to show how a little patience and care can return something, that others may think of as past repair, back to its former glory, now where are them rabbits…..

P.S. if somebody out there would as kind as to explain to me how to put links in my postings I’d be most grateful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A little rant..

Just a little rant for this afternoon’ posting, not my usual style put needs must when the devil drives as they say (yet to find out whom ‘they’ are!). Ok to the point, I’d arranged this morning to pick up a new buoyancy aid for the forthcoming winter series that I’m crewing in over November this year from the near by town of Yr Wyddgrug. I had a couple of hours to kill so I decided to get my body systems ticking over a bit faster than usual by covering a few miles around Moel Famau taking advantage of yet another beautiful autumnal morning. I have not been on the trials up there for the last few months so I thought that it would make a pleasant change whilst also stretching my muscles more than usual on the steeper gradients.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the hike which affected my heart rate but more the amount of discarded litter on the early stages of the trial, the majority of which was less than a quarter of a mile from the car park. This area is very popular with many people who never really get to taste the outdoors, as well as the usual mountain bikers, horse riders and generally outdoors type, with out having to go far from the beaten track. What I find difficult to understand is that the people who discard this litter are going there to experience the outdoors in some form or another with out any thought or apparent care for the people who follow or the wildlife it affects. And the real laughable point is that all the litter was empty packaging of some sort or other meaning that it was heavier to cart up there for these wonderful folks than what it would be to bring back! I mean for heavens sake, a few hundred yards of carrying your empty soft drinks bottle is not really going to kill you, is it? But what it could kill is a whole host of smaller vertebrates and invertebrates perhaps affecting the food chain within the area as well as making it look like the local refuse tip. The struggle for wildlife survival is hard enough in this country with ever diminishing areas of ‘wild’ country side succumbing to the increasing over population without the selfishness of these uncaring people putting even more pressure upon it. I don’t claim to know the answers to this problem (well I know one answer involving an upgraded cattle prod and a bucket of water!), but surely some of the problem is down to people being uneducated over this issue and its affects upon nature?

Funny thing is if these people spoke to me most of them would probably be appalled that I’ll shoot a couple of fluffy bunny rabbits for the pot or take great pleasure in applying the priest to a fresh river trout to go straight onto the grill! But I stand by my belief that I care for nature far more than any idiot who carelessly throws away a wrapper or used drinks container just because they cannot be arsed to carry it a few yards back too their urban runaround. Maybe I’m generalizing a bit about these Muppets, but I think that the majority of people who seem to enjoy this blog would share my sentiments, in that something should be done to persuade people to appreciate and care for what they’ve got before it’s ruined for us all. Oh god I’m starting to sound like a home made hat wearing activist…..time to stop ranting and chill with some cider me thinks.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A slight dilemma..

Well a reasonably interesting week for me, problem is that I’ve been left in a bit of a dilemma by my mate Jim. We’ve arranged to go sailing this Thursday in preparation for the winter series at Gresford Flash sailing club. Well, when I say sailing what I really mean is that I’m crewing for Jim in his 14’ enterprise whilst he basically gets to shout obscenities at me for pulling all the wrong bits or not moving my butt fast enough (Jim only races to win). Whilst we organized Thursday’s berating, Jim mentioned that there might be another mirror dingy hull arriving at the club looking for a good home. He thinks that this hull may well be better condition than the one taking up residence within the hallowed walls of my garage and could possible be close to my favorite fee (yep free that is). Now here is my dilemma, this hull may well be in better condition than the little lady sitting in the garage, meaning an easier restoration job for yours truly. Also it could be purchased at a very reasonable price (yes I know, I’m cheap). But, having spent some time already rubbing down and getting to know the little ladies curves I am feeling a strange bond with her and a small measure of guilt for already thinking of replacing her if the usurper is in better condition. So I think that you may well understand my problem, because I don’t think that Clare would for one minute entertain two restoration projects in the garage! I think I’ll just see what happens on Thursday when I’m hoping to inspect the new hull.

On the up side however, the little lady is now sitting the right way up after I’ve finally completed the stand. This means that I’ll be able to start stripping her top decks and carefully removing the less than solid sides to provide templates for the replacements. For now I’m a little hesitant continuing any further until I decide which hull is going to receive my affections! Any words of wisdom would be gratefully appreciated, But until then I’ll keep you all posted as soon as a decision has been made. Ah well I guess I’ll butterfly over to the fridge and help myself to some cider, now then was that going to be apple or pear …….

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Twisting the sloe

Just a quick note whilst Clare is watching the glowing goggle box downstairs. On Monday I was discussing the merits of sloe gin with a couple of like minded work mates when the point was raised why sloe gin? Young Mr. Walker stated that last year not only had he produced copious amounts of the traditional winter warmer but had also tried a twist by using vodka instead of gin. He was adamant that this was a fine beverage on a par with the sloe gin! Well this started our somewhat slow and dull areas of thinking tissue mulling over possible contenders to try. I then raised the point that if I happen to have “any more vessels of alcohol and berries cluttering up our kitchen then my hemorrhoids' may well be the least of me problems” gulp! Well why don’t you use something Clare likes? came back the retort. Mmm good point but then I produced another feeble excuse that all the best sloes have gone now haven’t they? The conversation then petered out due to the fact that the bearing casing on one of the lines I was attending started smoking and a screeching.

Then yesterday Mr. Walker calmly accosts me with a fair portion of the wonderful sloes berries with the words, “get pricking and stop whining”. So yesterday evening Clare arrives home to find my good self (with a slightly sheepish look it must be said) putting the final touches to a liter of ‘sloe white rum’. Not really a happy bunny it must be said (rum bought for her weekend use) but like I say it’s the thought that counts and I did do it for her eh hem. I’ll let you all know how this turns out and whether or not that it’s worth a shot (certainly not worth the hard stares that I received all evening).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The butterfly effect and other things,

Mmmmm well its ten days since my last post so firstly please accept my humblest apologies for my neglect in this matter. Secondly if you were expecting an update upon the progress of Carpe Diem then I must confess that this too has been the subject of some neglect these past few days with other items taking priority. Although some progress has been made with the supports now nearly completed (yes I know that they should have already been done!) but unfortunately there is little else to report on.

Basically the undoing of my good intentions has been a combination of the mild and dry weather we’ve been experiencing in recent days (or weeks for that matter), and what my neighbour, Irish Pete, has come to term “the butterfly effect”. This infliction happens when you start one job and then before any reasonable progress is made another job catches your eye so you flit to this job and so on. Before you know where you are you have ‘started’ several tasks without actually making progress upon any which in turn leads to an amazing sense of frustration and confusion, especially when Clare, upon coming home from a bugger of a day in work, asks me what have I done today and my reply can only be: - “er, well, mmm, er nothing actually, er cup of tea dear?”.

But why also blame the clement weather? Fair point, but this window of mild weather has enabled me to enjoy several walks on the Clwydian range and the fact that its allowed us to undertake the autumnal clear up of the garden, well I say garden but it’s more of a back yard about 25 yards square.

Nonetheless even a small suburban area such as this can attract a host of wildlife if you are willing to plant and feed sympathetically. For instance we’ve been feeding the local bird population with a combination of peanuts, sunflower seed hearts, niger seed (also known as thistle), fat balls and mixed finch seed throughout the year. This has lead to some spectacular displays and also quite rare sightings for a built up area. Visitors within this small area this year have included nuthatch, blackcap, and gold crest amongst the usually finches, tit mouse, wren, starling and black birds. At the moment we’re playing host to up to 40 gold finches in the early hours and a rather cheeky wood mouse through the day! We are also getting the occasional visit from sparrow hawks and earlier in the year I was fortunate enough to witness a peregrine falcon take a wood pigeon from the top of the boundary fencing, a sight that many outdoors men will probably never see even in the most isolated areas of Britain. As well as the feeding there is water in the form of a 6’ by 7’ pond which provides bathing and drinking water via its waterfall. This weeks tidy up also involved the cutting of a small leafed privet hedge to a height of a couple of inches over a distance of about 12’. Although the privet provided some cover I felt that it could be improved to attract more insect life to the garden. With this in mind the hedge has now been supplemented with hawthorn, broom, holly, cotoneaster and hardy fuchsia amongst others. So hopefully with some careful management over the next few years this length of hedge will be attracting a whole host of new insects to the garden which in turn will attract further wildlife. It is surprising what can be achieved in a small area with some effort and a little knowledge.

Also this week I picked up my old BSA meteor MK V air rifle from my parents attic (and yes I mean old – over 30 years old!), which I’ve started to strip down with the intention of returning it to a passable rabbiting tool once more. Ah you can see how the butterfly effect starts to take shape? The only concern that I have at this moment in time is a lack of finance that’s going to be needed for me to keep these mounting projects on the go. With this in mind it looks like that I shall have to resurrect my dreaded E bay account and start fleecing Joe public, I mean providing quality merchandise at a reasonable cost, to make ends meet!

Well that’s about it for now I’ll try to concentrate on one task at a time and keep you all updated a little more frequently, now that looks interesting, I’ll just start by taking the……

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A sloe week….

Well progress on Carpe Diem has been a little limited this week, ok to be honest nothing at all has been achieved apart from the fact that all the timber has now dried thoroughly and there is no sign of warping. This lapse in effort is through no lack of enthusiasm on my part, but the scoring of brownie points has to take precedence if I’m to become a garage hermit over the forthcoming winter months. I’m hoping to remedy the situation shortly and finish the supports next week enabling the little lady to sit upright and have her top layers removed (Oh er missus), that is to have the decking carefully removed enabling access to remove the rotten top panels. To be honest the lack of action on this front has probably been a good thing allowing time for me to ponder the next steps thoroughly and not make hasty mistakes!

But please don’t think that John the human sloth has been totally inactive over the past few days. On the last Sunday of September, whilst staying for a few days at the caravan at Llyn Brenig, we visited the Hiraethog country fair at the Brenig visitor centre. A small but excellent event for lovers of the country providing a variety of displays from chain saw carving (carving with chain saws that is!) and Celtic and Viking reenactments too birds of prey and the Barrow boys (it’s a British thing). Sorry for sounding like an advert pamphlet but it’s a cracking day out if you like the out doors, providing a chance to meet old friends and make new ones. Whist here we met Carol on the North Wales Wildlife Trust stand who’s enthusiasm for nature was a real heart warmer. As we enrolled with the NWWT Carol managed to sell us a raffle ticket without pausing for breath. I guess my luck must be running well though for once as when we arrived back home later that week Carol’s happy voice could be heard on the answer machine announcing that a chain saw carved barn owl was now in our possession. A quick trip to Tremeirchion last Sunday and ‘Barny’ was ours. I’d just like to say thanks at this point for the warm and friendly welcome given to us by Carol, her husband John and ‘Fly’, to be made to feel right at home on your first visit is a gift.

Also the foraging front has been fairly bountiful. Whilst up at Llyn Brenig we had a chance to scour areas usually several feet under water as the reservoirs’ level had been dropped considerably. This resulted in a priest and a Shakespeare folding landing net which some poor trout fishermen must have lost over board (bless, well another’s loss….). Both items in excellent condition, just required a little cleaning and TLC. Oh yes also resulted in a scary instant when yours truly miss read the silt and had a nervous few moments extracting himself from thigh deep mud, not big and certainly not clever! Managed also to get my quota of sloe berries yesterday from up on the Clwydian range, fortunately these little beauties are higher up in the hills and have had the first frost kiss them into condition, I can taste the sloes gin already.

So that’s about it for now, a sloe week (pardon the pun) but in-between work, earning brownie points, treating Barny the owl to several coats of Danish oil and recovering from the effects of cider induced hangover last weekend, a rather productive few days. Hopefully progress will soon resume upon the little lady as the brownie point bank is reaching bursting point and at the moment I’m Clare’s flavor of the month, you just know that’s not going to last don’t you…………

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Carpe Diem

On a more serious note than my usual postings, the little lady known as Project X has been named. Just over 12 months ago a good friend of Clare’s lost her battle with cancer. Lisa fought her battle with courage, dignity and with a spirit rarely seen in today’s world. Lisa’s motto was “Carpe Diem”, and she was and still is to all who knew her an example of how to face this life and all that it throws at us, good and bad. So for all of you, who read this, raise a glass, think long and hard about your life and what is truly important, and when you see my little lady, Carpe Diem, spread her wings over mill pond calm waters, smile and seize the day.

To Lisa, may we all learn from you and your courage.

Every silver lining....

Well here I am again, but at least this week’s debriefing is not a tale of woe and despair. The formica kick boards for the kitchen have been replaced, using planed, kiln dried, soft wood and Colron “Jacobean dark oak” beeswax. Which, despite some earlier reservations, did produce a suitable (albeit light oak) finish. But as usual every silver lining has a cloud and the downside here being that now the remaining skirting boards look some what, how you say – ah yes that’s it, crap. So now said skirting boards are to be replaced this week to match the kick boards before I can say that the job is finished and collect my much needed brownie points.

Speaking of brownie points I’ve also fallen into negative equity with these little ‘time in the garage’ vouchers. My friend, Chunky Monkey, has come up with the rather good idea of going halves on the purchase of an apple press and associated equipment with the view of producing our own cloudy cider elixir instead of paying through the nose for it. Too which Clare has sort of agreed to (well the word no was not heard to pass her lips upon this occasion!), which means that more brownie points are required to make up for this unexpected turn of good fortune. It also means that this autumn’s foraging will now include apples and pears as well as the usual chestnuts, sloe berries and wild mushrooms. Oh yes that also means that I’ll be scouring the car boots sales for that elusive fruit, the demijohn. Ah home brewing, you know it makes sense.

So it appears at first glance that little, if anything, has been achieved upon project X this week. But fear not my friends all is not as it seems. For a start, earlier this week I’ve managed to ‘acquire’ all the necessary materials to produced the supporting yolks at a very reasonable price (free again – you’ll notice these two words a lot in future postings!) which means that I’ll hopefully have the little lady the right way up at some point in the very near future. Also I’m not being frowned upon quite as much by Pops (he needed some stainless plate that I happened to be able to acquire), which means that I’ll be picking up that small Seagull outboard motor some time this week, well at least before I but my black wool coat on and start bleating again. And to cap off what has been a reasonable week without actual touching project X, me mate, Jim Lad, seems to think that he can lay his hands upon a set of sails in better condition than the ones that he’s already provided, plus some rigging that I appear to be missing. So even though the only progress that I seemed to have made this week were a few longing glances at the little lady from the workshop side of the garage, the truth is that project X is flying along, well in an upside down, still on the axle stands sort of way.....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

To a Mouse......

Do you ever remember that saying “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley?” taken from a Scottish poem, ‘To a mouse’ by a certain Mr. R. Burns. Well I bloody well do! Project X started off so well, a wooden dinghy, with sails and at a great price (free that was), Clare happy with my excursions to the garage, (lots of brownie points scored including, dare I say, housework and ironing), finding myself in rude health, the sun shone brilliantly from above, the fact that everybody in the whole wide world seemed to love me, and God seemed to pat me on the head saying ‘good boy John’. Oh yes life was good.

Did you happen notice the word ‘was’ carefully hidden within the previous terminal line of the above paragraph? You did? Well I guess you have some foreboding of what’s coming next then. A cautionary word at this point for the next paragraph is not for the squeamish nor those faint of heart.

As I was saying it all started off so well until firstly, about 3 weeks ago, I was struck down with one of those embarrassing conditions which are quite humorous until your good self becomes the victim. Yes I’m talking hemorrhoids' here. Oh you may mock, you may well even titter a wee bit, but I’m here to bear witness that I’d rather suffer from severe toothache or even have a couple of digits removed via a rusty hack saw, than go through the personal hell that hemorrhoids' bless a person with. So began 2 weeks off work sitting on inflatable furniture, unable to do bugger all on Project X, in fact unable to do bugger all point blank that is apart from applying medication and potions to the unmentionable area of my body! Did I also mention that everybody in the world loved me? Ah silly me, just so over confident again, I’m now officially the black sheep of the entire Wooldridge clan due to some issues of not being a best man at my brothers wedding (best man? I didn’t even go) and enlightening my aged parents with some hard, truthful facts about said brother (the golden child that is). Ah well I could go on about this for some considerable time but me mate Rob would just shout at me, call me Mr. Angry and tell me to let it go – cheers Rob, you’re a star.

Anyway on to more pressing and important concerns, Project X. From what seemed a promising beginning project X has taken a slight turn for the worst. After closer inspection I’ve decided to replace both fore and aft topside pieces on both port and starboard sides (tis becoming quite nautical this is...). This being down to the fact that the little lady was stored belly up outside for the previous couple of years. The upshot of this is that water has seeped up the edges of the ply between the gunwhales’ causing to much rot to repair and leave a sturdy support for the rigging and rollocks etc. unfortunately this will mean removing all the horizontal deck pieces to affect a decent repair. Secondly I’ve stripped the multiply layers of paint from the lower using Nitro Morse craftsman gunk (lovely stuff just avoiding splashing it on anything you value!). This has revealed 4 previous repair patches none of which were too healthy, so these are to be redone. At the present time the plan is to construct a couple of supporting frames to support the hull right side up to allow the decking strip down to commence. So that’s where I’m at, work’s going to be delayed for a tad whilst I notch up some more brownie points, cause according to Clare I’ve reached my limit. So it looks like kick boards for the kitchen then……

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Early Days

Early days

01- 09-2009. Project X has safely been installed upside down upon 4 axle stands, (cheers Rob), within my garage. The majority of loose and peeling paint has been scrapped off to accelerate the drying process. The plan is to allow the hull time to dry, without heat, for several weeks to avoid warping. Oh and allow me time to complete point scoring household jobs so that I may become a hermit later in the year. Some areas of rot and damage can now be seen to be more severe than originally thought whilst other areas are in better shape than was first thought. At this point in time there is nothing apparently so severe that cannot be overcome, happy days.

Project X

Mirror Dinghy Project Log

After some time searching for a project to while away the dark cold evenings of winter, project X has arrived. Initial projects included a Mirror dinghy hull (complete with large hole) which was, after 18 months being home to several spiders, cruelly sawn in two and removed to the local tip, also arrived was a metro which firstly was to become a trike and then become the donor car for a Freestyle off road buggy and then became 20 pounds worth of scrap, ho hum. Several more hair brained ideas raised their heads (hair brained according to Clare) over the last few years only to be cast aside because of frustration, lethargy or for just been simply downright stupid (again according to Clare).

So I found myself without a project which didn’t making the house smarter, warmer, and tidier or more environmentally friendly! What kind of shed head could I aspire to be without a project that would be testing but fun to complete and then even more fun to use? But then it happened, the world indeed did tip upon its axis and fortune began to slide my way. It began in a small, inconspicuous way as these things tend to do, Clare and I began to get fit, dieting and exercise began to dominate our lives this summer. We started walking, swimming and badminton amongst other things. Up to this point Clare has shed nearly 4 stone and me nearly 3. But then autumn has started to loom in the very near future which will soon be followed by the shroud of winter. The project twitch started to show along with that feral gleam in my eyes and the garage sirens’ were calling me once more.

Clare made an announcement, “Oh yes John, you may have a project”, wait for it, “as long as it adds to our new, outdoor and active lifestyle”. Mmmmm a toughie that, until my mate Jim Lad announced that there was a second Mirror hull at his sailing club within my budget (free that is) Yes I know I’ve already trashed one but it was truly knackered. So the idea was put to Clare of how about a small fishing boat that could be rowed and or motored or even sailed on lake or inshore sea? Success! Hook, line, sinker and a copy of the Angling times! The idea was stamped, er without actually mentioning that it was another Mirror dinghy.

So after several attempts to organize delivery the little boat arrived in the last week of August. Clare shot me a slightly sideways look when it turned out to be a Mirror and worse that it was the exact same color as the previous rotting hulk with graced the garage with out actually doing anything except take up space. Other negatives include a damaged front end (stem), several holes and areas of rot, no trailer and yes it is the same color as the previous dinghy. On the other hand there are some positives too, the rot and holes are confined to the top of the boat where it has drawn water up from been upturned on the ground for a couple of years, the mast along with the centre board and rudder were discovered under the boat, Jim Lad has come up with a set of sails, a seagull 1.5hp outboard has been donated by my father and Clare likes the damn thing, result. The little beauty is of yet unnamed but arrived without a name so bad luck can be avoided by renaming her.