Thursday, March 25, 2010


So how has little ol’ Murphyfish managed to pass the time whilst awaiting the outcome of Old String Vest’s operation, has he hidden away in a darkened room in a dark silence casting his thoughts to the outmost reaches of the cosmos trying to fathom out the whys and ifs of life and it’s sometimes incredible feelings of unjustness and unfairness? Well not exactly, after all not matter how I view the ups and downs of this roller coaster called life there’s not a lot I can do to change the broad picture of it all, yes I do my damndest to protect and care for all that are close to me, I work hard to provide everything that I can, and I always try to stand up for what I believe is right come hell or high water. But other than this life will be what it’ll be, long after my bones are ashes on the ocean. So yes I did try to get on with it, though my father’s plight was never than a heart beat from my thoughts.

So the first part of getting on with it, after the four shifts at the hell hole, consisting of planning ahead with… potatoes. Now I do believe that in previous postings that I’ve mention the vastness of available garden space that I have, with not enough room to swing a cat (a Manx cat at that) being the term used. But I’m determined to at least get some produce this year from the backyard besides the little (well not so little) presents that the bog monster leaves for me to clear up. So after a little head scratching and some expenditure (don’t faint) I’ve purchased and started off some potato bins, two now and two more to be planted in three weeks time. Along with these I’m preparing to convert two builders’ rubble buckets for the purpose of growing runner beans on canes forming a tee pee, laced with sweet peas to bring in more pollinating bees. I’m also hoping to plant up some collapsible planters with a small variety of onions, cabbage and such. I’m also still trying me damndest to convince Clare the merciful to allow me to convert the dog run (which Lucy’s used er oh yes she hasn’t) for the introduction of two or three bantam hens. So from small acorns hopefully…..

On the day of Pop’s operation my head really wasn’t on this planet, so I invoked that great cure all and went sea fishing. I had to steal the bottom end rigs and new reel line from my every forgiving friend Rob, buy some mackerel for bait on the way and headed off into the blue yonder extremely under prepared and not really caring where I went. I ended up at Traeth Bychan on Ynys Môn, the scene of happy childhood memories, perhaps that’s why I was drawn there but to be honest I don’t remember the journey. I set up on the flat rocks, on the northern side of the bay fishing from these directly onto sand. By some curious fate I’d arrived perfectly an hour and a half before full tide, perfect for the predators and scavengers to follow in to the rocks, the wind was fresh, the sky overcast to match my thoughts and there was moisture in the air but without it actually turning to rain. The hours passed in a slight haze, thoughts of happy times spent on these very rocks balancing out the longing to hear news of my father. In all the time that I was there, routinely changing bait, watching the rhyme of the rod bending to the wind and the waves, staring after the oystercatchers skimming the surface and letting the call of the gulls high above sooth me I did feel at peace, in a fashion. And what did the great fisherman wrestle from the ocean’s depths, well to be honest absolutely nothing, although I did have one incredible take which for a few seconds set my pulse a racing as I felt the full contact of something large under the glistening water’s surface, stripping yards of line off my reel. But then it was gone, no line snap, bait more or less intact when finally retrieved so I guess the hook couldn’t have set and the critter had just mouthed the bait ball. Some may say that I should perhaps have been there awaiting the call but we all handle life differently, perhaps I should, but I went fishing and this is how I coped that day. So then it was off home to face the news, fortunately the news was good.

And the days after? Well in-between sorting stuff out, making sure mother was fine and visiting, spending time on the boat project, I walked, and then I walked some more. As I’ve said before the outdoors sooths me, pushes the clouds far enough away to make life bearable, it’s where I truly belong. I won’t say too much about the walks, you all know by now who was at my side (well when she wasn’t in the ditch) so I’ll leave you with some pictures taken from the trig mentioned last week, oh alright then one of Lucy, just one mind……

Your friend,


Old String Vest

Well after putting all the family thru the mill with worry, concern and a sense of dread over the last week Old String Vest has been turfed out of the hospital. One minute there I am showering and changing after a few hours boat mending in readiness for the human stampede that is visiting hour when the phone goes just as I’m exiting the front door and you’ve guessed it, Pops is ready to be discharged! Apparently his powers of recovery are such that there is little else to be done but R&R, not bad after having the contents of your lower chest cavity hauled out, your main blood providing pipe clamped, cut open and replaced with a 8 inch piece of flexible pipe (garden hose I think!), under the surgen's cosh for four and a half hours, and all this at the tender age of 78 – not bad at all. Now don’t get me wrong here, I fully realise that the operation is only the first step and it’s going to take time and care for him to recover, but by god he’s a tough old coot that one. So if it’s with a somewhat sense of relief that I’m writing this post, well you can’t blame me. Thinking about it’s either his amazing powers of recovery or the fact that he’s probably mithered the living daylights out of the nursing staff.

Oh and why ‘Old String Vest’? well many, many years ago when my brother and I were reckless youths we used to cycle to the pub and wobble home most evenings (on every day that had the letter y ending it) due to the fact that the local constabulary had conspired to suspend both our driving licences for some minor, paltry, misdemeanours. Ok when I say minor the accident involving the cyclist, the oncoming wagon and my resulting fractured skull was perhaps slightly more than minor, perhaps, or when I demolished a dry stone wall trying to clip a pheasant scurrying across the road one particular Christmas morning (damn that ice) could be classed as paltry nearing ‘oh shit’, or when Peter left his Viva estate, wheels up, in the middle of a country lane before legging it. And then there was the time when….. Anyway back to the tale, upon these frozen Winter's nights cycling home from the place of alcoholic refreshment (medicinal reasons only) became a nightly chore, as was trying to approach the house in the early hours of the morning in stealth mode hoping to avoid the lecture from high up above, no not god but Pops, who every bleedin night seemed to know the exact moment when we were approaching the house (couldn’t have been the singing or more usual the arguments that always happened when we drank together, could it?) and as we disembarked from our cycles (fell off) the upstairs bedroom window would be flung open with unnerving regularity and there was Pops hurling his wisdom at us (in a very Anglo Saxon sort of way) resplendent in a gleaming white string vest, hence the loving , term of endearment we use for him…..

One thing I did notice about hospitals, isn’t there an awful lot of ill people there?

Your friend,


Thursday, March 18, 2010


Just a quick note to thank you all for your kind words and support over my father’s operation. We’ve just been informed that the operation was successful and we are now awaiting to see how he recovers. I doubt that I’ll have much time in the near future to be ‘out there’ or air my musings. Hopefully I’ll keep track of all of your blogs but please excuse me if there are not too many comments forthcoming.

Your friend,


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Clouds in my head

Sometimes life just seems to come up and bite you on the arse doesn’t it? Just as this year seemed to be settling into an easy rhythm with only the usual day to day worries of work, money, what’s for supper and where did I leave me boots this time to trouble me, something’s happened that just filled my head with dark clouds and sombre thoughts. I’ll not burden you with detail, it’s enough just to say that my father is going into hospital this Thursday to have what basically amounts to a live or die operation. Now I consider myself a fortunate person who’s life has not experienced to much tragedy, but the thought of my father perhaps being taken away really has had a profound affect upon me and coping so far has not been easy, and this is before the operation!

Waking up this morning the clouds were there cramming my mind with all sorts of thoughts, questions and what ifs? I really didn’t what to do anything, just lie there in bed, ponder and wait. But I’m also I lucky man who has been fortunate enough to have married the one person who knows me inside out and is the true connotation of the words ‘soul mate’, my Clare. She’s was working so she was up early, knowing that I’m not sleeping that well and talking even less well she skipped around any reference to Thursday, placed a steaming mug of tea by the bed, gently kissed me and left for work, leaving the bedroom door ajar (bungalow so all rooms on the ground), as well as leaving the back door wide open. As I lay there thinking morose thoughts and letting the clouds darken in my head, the smell of hot tea tickled my nostrils, wafted by the draft from the back door and mixing with the outdoor smells of a clear morning. Outdoors I thought, maybe, just maybe I’ll get up and go for a sornter. You know what?, that bloody dog, I swear, is telepathic! No sooner had the idea of outdoors squeezed its way past those clouds then the bog monster snuffled her way past the bedroom door (no longer ajar now!) and hurled herself upon the bed attacking me with that damn tongue until I had no choice but to throw myself out of the pit. Yep, I’ve got to admit Clare really does know how to make me shake a leg without any harsh words, just subtle deeds.

So an hour or so later one happy hound and her dishevelled companion are ‘out there’ upon the trails once more. The weather was absolutely stunning and nature was screaming at full volume welcoming spring. But for the first part of the trail this went by totally unnoticed, even if one of the ‘wild big cats’, that have been recently reported to have been sighted once more, had crossed my path I don’t think that I’d have battered an eyelid, for the clouds still filled my head and I was just basically walking on automatic.
But my feet led me upon a path unfamiliar and new, a recent trail reopened by the forestry commission and leading via a short, sharp, climb to a forgotten trig point. As I gained the top the views that greeted me were, well, just spellbinding, a 360 degree vista of unparalleled beauty. As I came to rest on the trig point something happened that I can safely say will never happen again, a buzzard (a raptor that always fills my soul with joy and yearning) alighted on the ground not 5 yards from my feet, we held each others gaze for eternity and then it was gone sliding down the slope of the hill until gaining an updraft and circling away to Moel Famau in the distance.

You think this exaggerated?, in the mood that I’m in presently, exaggerating tales to gain peoples favour is one of the furthest thoughts from my mind. It happened and it probably will never happen to me again, ever. Photographs, I’ll just say one thing Doh! Never the less the moment filled me with wonder and for the first time in sometime true joy. So the ramble continued with a certain individual enjoying her now famous (infamous?) pastime of bog wallowing. (Oh yes, plenty of pictures of that), and with me at last opening my eyes to the world around me.

Along a narrow trial, just on a crest a grey squirrel squatted in full view preening his ears, Lucy was some distance into the trees heading totally the other way. Ah thought I, a decent photograph for my friends in Blogsville beckons, forest, wildlife and sunny weather at last they will pour high praise upon my prowess of photographic and stalking skills, I mean to say hero worship and all that beckoned. Steady now compose yourself John, centre the subject, zoom in a tad more, just wait for that head to turn ever so slightly and wait, wait, wait and click. And below is the fine result of seconds of patient crouching:-

Yep she’d done it again, somehow gaining the trail well ahead of me and then hurtling along it back towards me at break neck speed the swine of a dog came flying over the brow and the pesky little vermin exited stage right, sometimes….. so if you want stunning wildlife photography just e-mail me and I’ll give you list of fellow bloggers including such as Wandering Owl, Butch and many others, just not me! But to be honest if anything the worst that Lucy had done was to lift my spirits, I found myself laughing out loud and my steps back to the fun cruiser were all the lighter for her.

Yes the clouds are still there, though not as dark – after all I’m only human. But there’s something, well, something wholesome about nature and about being part of her and her cycles. She heals and sooths like nothing else that I know. I still have to face Thursday and the aftermath, whatever it may be, but I’ll face it straight on and no matter what the outcome you’ll find me out there, eventually. Tomorrow I’m going fishing, first time in a long time, perhaps I’ll tell you about it…………….

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hum Drum

 I shouldn’t really be writing a post as Wolfy over at ‘Flowing Waters’ has really put the cat amongst the pigeons, so to speak. With his glowing references to my humble blog if I attempt to write or comment on the mundane I now feel that I’m short changing him, curse his praise. But unfortunately it has just been one of those spells off work when nothing exiting happened, I racked my small brain for any vestige of interesting happenings but nope nothing, not a sausage. But here’s my dilemma, apparently, according to some bleedin’ expert upon writing blogs that I read whilst trying to start up this bloggy thingy ma jiggy way back last year, you must keep regular postings to keep people interested. Well that’s all well and good if you lead an exciting life, fraught with many a danger, with one eye on the sky looking for the eagles and the other casting around your desert wellies scouring for scorpions, but I live in Buckley, North Wales and believe it or not sometimes life can be er, mmm, I, that’s it 'run of the mill'. So my fine adventurers prepare you and steal yer imagination for a tale filled with hum drum and bursting with tedium.

After the other weeks’ wanderings it has been time to spend a little time at home with Clare. I’ve painted the kitchen (just love earning those brownie points), tidied the tools up in the garage and even did some gardening in preparation for spring planting of some container based crops. Well I did warn you; tedium, but these things sometimes do have to take precedence to getting ‘out there’. Then my feet started to itch for just a small wander, “fancy checking mum and dad’s caravan out, after this harsh winter?” I ventured, “We could take your new metal detector” (this year’s birthday present for my beloved wife). Two hours later and the fun cruiser is making all haste to the caravan situated at Llyn Brenig loaded up with me, Clare and you know who. Within the hour we’re pulling up to the gates of the site to be welcomed by Mr. Williams, site owner, hill farmer, sometimes fly fisherman and all times good guy whose was busy repairing a collapsed gate post. We stopped and exchanged a warm welcome with Will (Mr. Williams that is) then going on to explain his future plans for the site. As he’s talking I remembered that last year him mentioning that the flow that runs through the site from Llyn Brenig to the river Alwyn contain fish including small wild trout, perch and snigs (eels to you southern types) so I chanced my arm and asked the question, and now, after being a tad cheeky, I have the right to fish this short stretch of flowing water, but being as I’m yet to learn fly fishing the only baits that Will’s allowing me are natural such as earth worm, slug etc. it’ll take me back to my younger years when these were the only baits, alongside bread, that I used when freshwater fishing (see. I’ve always been ‘careful’ with me money), so hopefully there will some fine tales to tell from this area over the coming months.

We checked that the caravan was a ok, and then took a walk down my new piece of fishing turf, Clare with her metal detector and me with my bog monster (me thinks that I’ve been short changed again). The piece of water looks very inviting with several loops in its path and a few good holding areas; unfortunately the only aquatic beastie that they held this time was black, slobbering and considerably smelly. Temperature around here proved to be a good 4 degrees C cooler than back home and there was still some ice in the margins of the river so I’m thinking that, using the baits stipulated, it’ll be a good month before natural fodder will encourage a take.

After the walk along the river we headed upwards through the fairy tale like woods of the Clocaenog Forest, fairy tale in that Were wolf and blooded fangs behind you in the dark type of woods that is. We were skirting the edge of the forest last year under a nearly full moon and breathless night, scared noooo, just those slightly terrified feelings harking back to my primitive ancestors kept nagging at me to don’t look behind, keep to path and head for the fire. Even Lucy was more than glad to curl up in the van that night. Mind you, the sound of owls that night was awe inspiring. But under the warming Spring sun, yep that’s right- Spring, the forest was benevolent and very relaxing for all three of us (plenty of ooze for Lucy).

We headed home via Conwy to pick up fish n chips (again), along the back roads we saw cock pheasants displaying and a pair of buzzards circling in their courtship swirls. With my good self feeling somewhat smug with the prospect of fishing this stretch and also very content having had a grand day with Clare, since being on this new (now newish) shift rota time with her is becoming rarer and so more precious.

And the last day before the dreaded return to work?, well just spent in my holy workshop, the garage. I’ve taken delivery of a Seagull 1.5hp short shaft outboard for my now renowned favorite fee, dug out a couple of sea reels to be stripped, lubed and relined ready for a trip next week (hopefully), and spent several hours gently stripping varnish off the little lady as at the end of the month (pay day) I’ll be going against the core of my very nature and spending some money on the necessary bits n bobs required to commence the repair work. So yes a week of hum drum indeed, but isn’t life truly grand when hum drum can be as fulfilling as this?
Till next time, take good care my friends.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Sea shells and pine cones

Well after yesterdays solitary walk without the bog monster I was really looking forward to the days adventure, but before I speak of this days deeds a few words upon the events (or lack of them) of the day before. If you read my ramblings at fairly frequent intervals you’ll be aware that Lucy is never far from my side on my excursions ‘out there’. Her unceasing antics a constant source of pleasure to me. But with old smelly not quite in the first flush of youth anymore, Lucy that is, not me, well ok so I’m aging slightly and yes sometimes the air around me may not be as sweet as it could be at times! But anyway the point was to give the old gal a rest before the planned run up the coast, and also give me a chance to get a little closer to the fauna and bring back some spectacular photographs. Mmm yes the weather was excellent; barely a cloud in the sky and the first hints of smells and sights of spring assaulted my senses. Wildlife? as I left the fun cruiser behind I hear call the mewing of buzzards in the distance and the scolding of more than two dozen blue tit marshes’ as I disturb their spring courting rituals. Spectacular pictures? Bah the buzzards kept to limits of my field of vision for the whole walk, just skimming the far flung tree lines ahead (what few tree lines that are left that is!).

The newly opened expanses of er nothingness after the recent tree felling have already stared to encourage other creatures to venture onto the hillsides including a couple of kestrels hovering over the scared earth, probably looking for the now exposed shrews which I know are abundant up here. But these pesky critters too are camera shy, although to be honest I think that after the constant walking with Lucy I may well have lost any vestige of stealth in stalking and this I hope will improve with more lone trips in the future. One last word on this lone walking is the attitude of folk towards me on the lower trails where city types come to conquer the great, ahem, untamed wilderness. When accompanied by my unhinged companion, people acknowledge me with a smile, a nod, a quick hello or even a brief chat but hells bells and call me Mr.’ Hyde, take away old stinky and I suddenly become a leper whom most people shun, could it be that a man and his dog are perfectly acceptable upon the trails but a lone man is someone to be avoided by most? Or maybe they realise that the smell isn’t the dog anymore? I dunno but it’s true what they say; there’s nowt stranger than folk.

Enough of yesterday’s photographic non-entity, onward with today’s rather splendid seaside adventure. With the fun cruiser loaded up with sufficient supplies consisting of all my usual, ready for anything, paraphernalia with the addition of Lucy’s collapsible drinking bowl, 2 litres of water for her highness, two rather large scotch eggs for moi, and the Foo Fighters “skin and bones” acoustic album making the car speakers hum we set forth in cold but really bright and sunny conditions. Ninety minutes later, £3 pounds lighter for the car park (bloody rip off merchants) and with the last dull aches caused by a tad much cider (again) a distant memory the dynamic duo had arrived. Two minutes later due to Lucy’s over enthusiastic behaviour it was very nearly time to set off home, minus one dog!

We threaded our way through the steep sided sand dunes that shelter the forest from all but the worst of the sea’s winter waves, the vista that opened up before me was absolutely breath taking and spellbinding and I knew straight away that this is where I’m meant to be, a tall, dark, forest behind me, the sea gleaming in all its majestic strength before me, and on the horizon the snow capped welsh mountains beckoned, their feet bathed in the morning haze, yes I was truly home. I lack the words to truly described the emotions that surged through me and to be honest if anyone had been close enough to see they may well have seen the odd salty trickle of a tear or two escape from my eyes (damn it, so much for the rugged adventurer).

But there’s something missing here, mmm lets see now, sea? check, forest? check, dream like mountains floating in the distance? check, Lucy? Bloody hell fire like a bat out of hell the Muppet is tear arsing towards the, not inconsiderable, breakers at a fair old rate of knots, ears pinned back with the vision of the biggest stretch of bog water her bug eyes have ever clapped sight on. Oblivious to my panicked yelling she plunges in at full pelt, only to have the first wave bowl her over and the second commence to drag the floundering, spluttering and shocked fool under and outwards to the deepening water. With my heart pumping I raced into the breakers, yes I know all the arguments about putting yourself in danger for the sake of just a dog, but Lucy, for all my complaining is not a dog, she’s family, companion, confidant and down right nuisance and I’d be buggered if I was leaving her without doing my all for her. When I say raced into the breakers actually I only got as far as the first layers of spume on the water’s edge when a rather sheepish and bedraggled hound emerged from the swell and started swimming strongly back to shore, I’d forgotten how strong a swimmer she is, after all she’s usually only in slime up to her belly where swimming is not an option. With a wary eye I watch her gain the beach and then took her back to the fun cruiser for fresh water and a check over. All being well we set forth once more, this time with a little more care in Lucy’s approach to the sea.

The walk along the beach was invigorating to say the least, with sand dunes several meters high on one side and the sea just beginning to retreat leaving only a meter to walk between water and sand cliff, there was no lea from the fresh onshore breeze that swept across our path. We must have travelled for about four miles along this narrow, exposed course the sun and wind combining to make the flesh of my face tingle in a most satisfactory way. We rounded the headland and I was stopped dead in my tracks by snow capped mountains ahead now in clear view over the Menai straights, the earlier haze now burnt away by the strengthening sun high in the sky. As always they call to me and this year I’ll not disappoint them, with no excuse about fitness or time to hinder me I’m already planning my first tentative routes for early May, but that’s the future, no need to look too far ahead, I’ve plenty to occupy myself with for the time being. We retraced our footprints in the sand and paused at the fun cruiser for a bite and a drink (water not cider – honest).

Then it was time for a turn in the forest, though not as invigorating as the beach the tall pine trees whispering to each other in the breeze held us in their own type of magic and awe. Lucy, more at home now, stretched her legs fully and put up a pair of red squirrels, a pleasant change from the grey vermin that I usually encounter in the woods on the mainland. With an angry chattering they paused out of her range and continued to scold us both until we’d passed. And this is how the remainder of the afternoon was spent just wandering aimlessly through this magical forest catching glimpses of the Nutkin family members, being followed for some way by a brace of over curious rooks and listening the calming sound of the breakers which were never too far away. With both of us starting to feel our muscles tighten up we found our bearings and bee lined back to the fun cruiser.

I unloaded my pockets of the assortment of shells, cones and drift wood collected on a whim, finished off the scotch eggs, helped by you know who, and headed eastwards back home with just a tinge of regret that I didn’t actually live here, one day perhaps in my dotage maybe…. but lets not linger to long on regret for already the imagined smell of fish n chips is filling my senses, I’ve had the foresight to put some cider in the fridge, Clare will be home tomorrow and all is well. A simple, but happy life that’s all I can ask for and on days like today I’m answered back threefold.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Home alone

Must say that I’m feeling slightly melancholy this morning, my beloved Clare has left me. Oh fear not tis only till Friday as she’s gone to the Lake District for a few days with friends leaving poor old helpless me to fend for myself.  Already I’m having to cope with a major health worry;- my head feels as though somebody has kindly left their machete buried deep within my forehead, I have uncontrollable shivers and an unquenchable thirst, yep first night left to my own devices and I have the hangover from hell – Doh! So plans for the remainder of my isolation? Well firstly drink more coffee, lots more coffee, then we is off up the hills to hopefully bring me back to the land of the living (yes the bog monster’s here to keep an eye on things), more work upon the little lady, and then tomorrow something that I’ve been toying with for some time, a walk without the bog monster.

Now just hold on a minute, stop waving your arms about and cease that gnashing of teeth (didn’t I just say that my head really hurts?). Lucy's not the pup that she once was and I have to be more thoughtful as too how far and how often that we go out on the trails, as the detritus lover is beginning to take a little longer to recover these days, so the odd break should do her good (try telling her that!). also I’m hoping to get a little closer to the fauna that surrounds me when ‘out there’ but am usually prevented from getting close enough to photograph by 70lb’s of noisy, slobbering jugger-naught hurtling ahead of me down the trails (when she’s not playing ‘the spook game’ that is). So it should be an interesting, but perhaps lonely walk tomorrow. Oh and don’t you dare feel sorry for her, the little madam is now in primadonna mode thanks to having her picture printed on page 24 of Aprils Country walking magazine, I ask you where will her self indulgence end?

To make up for tomorrows cruelty I’m taking to the coast on Thursday, the isle of Ynys Mon to be correct, where there’s a great trail for this time of year through established forest, sand dunes and a huge (hopefully stormy and deserted) stretch of beach, so I’m sure that come Thursday night as we stop off for fish n chips in Conwy on the way home that I’ll be forgiven.

Oh yes, just going off on a tangent I’ve also started to add to a bit of a story that I’m trying to put together. The first snippet can be found on Tales from the fish, so let me know how you think it’s coming along and whether I should continue with this attempt at scribing something different or just give up the ghost and stick to the style that I indulge myself here on Musings. Your comments, as always, will be appreciated (I think). So hopefully I’ll have enough to keep myself occupied whilst Clare is away and also I should have enough sustenance to see me through (several bottles of cider still left). Now where the hell are the bad head tablets……