All posts by tonyives

About tonyives

A Yorkshireman of a certain age who likes most genres of music and most makes of old car. Travel is a joy, not least to escape the British winter. Travel by bicycle is bliss and if I’m not lost in music then I’m lost in a daydream about a hot day, tens of miles to cover and the promise of a great campsite and a beer. I like to think I’m always learning and becoming wiser. On the latter point then evidence is in short supply.

Portugal Holiday – November 2021 – Part 1

You could tell everyone had been up early judging by the grumpiness of the passenger behind me as we taxied for seemingly miles along the runway before we took off – “What’s he doing? Warming the tyres up?” Otherwise our Jet2holidays flight to Faro, Portugal was thankfully uneventful. However less happily the car rental centre at Faro Airport was some way from the terminal and whilst there were trolleys, for a reason I can’t remember, we dropped ours at the terminal building and I lugged my heavy bike case over my shoulder several hundred yards.

Despite a prior internet booking I spent about 15 minutes in the rental cabin poking buttons on a screen to enable me to wrestle the car off them. As I’m providing lots of meaningless information such as ‘What’s you favourite food?’ ‘What colour underpants are you wearing?’ and ‘Who will win next year’s Eurovision Song Contest?’ a bloke from the rental company ambled across to ask how I was getting on? Error.

Continue reading Portugal Holiday – November 2021 – Part 1

A Glimpse Of The Past – Week 43 : 2021

Languishing in the loft of several houses for over 70 years were a selection of cine films my grandfather and father shot. The films’ survival was probably down to being allowed to grow dusty in the recesses of these dark spaces rather than being repeatedly moved and their worth of retention debated. In fact I probably have the projector that can show these films but the wiring is also at least 70 years old and may make it a safety hazard.

Of the 52 cine films we found then 36 date back to the late 1940s and early 1950s. I was amazed by the quality and the fact my grandfather was an early adopter of technology. Some of the quality as well as composition are better than my father’s Super 8 cine films and I cringe to think of the several days of camcorder footage I took mainly of the daughters in the late 1990s and early Naughties. (Never let a man get on a steam train with a camcorder and an hour to kill is sound advice.)

My grandfather shot 16mm wide cine film and to get this converted to a digital format meant some hunting around to find a company to convert it. I found a one man band (plus part time assistant) operation in a three story one room per floor building in the market town of Otley. I never met the owner but rumour has it that he now frequently jets to Hawaii on what he charged for the work.

The whole exercise was in someways a leap into the dark as to what we’d find or if the films were even intact. What I got was moving footage of my parents as millennials, a lot of relatives I never knew or could recognise, wonderful old pre and post war cars all painted black, street scenes of places that seemed so empty and sedate by today’s standards and a level of dress that was so formal and smart (!) compared to how we all slob about today.

Ann Marie, my sister, by the company van

However, more illuminating and emotional was an insight into the lives lived. The looks people gave each other, the fun shared, the mutual affection or hierarchy. Who always took the lead when walking or came across as bossy, even without audio? The way they handled a toddler with affection and delight, the deference to the old and the emergence of the best china even for a cup of tea. I learned of my grand parents surprising devotion to Catholicism with the local priest going from Leeds to Bournemouth on holiday with them (and countless other photos). Any fervour for religion was never passed down the family and we have no connection today. The Christmas lunch setting that now seemed so sparing compared to how our tables groan with food and decorations nowadays. The number of folk who smoked: a classic way to relax and often a shared pleasure between members of the family. Lastly my thoughts migrating from how they all appeared here to how they eventually became when I knew them and, in the case of my grandparents, I only knew them as old people with much of that mobility and energy gone.

Two sets of paternal great grand parents with my mother on the top step and my paternal grandmother sat down

One of the major projects now is to identify all the people in the cine films. There’s no audio and neither is there a lot of identification of people and places on the boxes or tins. Some, I or my sister Ann Marie, know. Some seem obvious when say, you have a mother with a child ie. the child belongs to her and it’s male etc. A lot has been found by Anna, the Queen of ancestry.com, who has followed lineages to build a magnificent ‘tree’ of both sides of my family. In the cines you can eliminate people by the date of the cine film and what age people were or, sadly dead, by then. 

In addition to the cine footage was the small matter of 1,500 still photographs. All black and white and many featuring the people in the cine films. These are the images in this blog. Most are family scenes but there are many holiday snaps including the beach hut on the front at Bournemouth. I actually cycled within feet of this on my saunter along the front with Martin and Tony in early September on our bicycles. How lovely it would have been to stop at the hut and talk with the current occupants about it’s history of 70 years ago.

Grandmother with her watchful grand daughter at Hut 729.

Some of the shots are of dramatic ships and aeroplanes.

The Queen Mary (and a seaplane, note the one circling above)

We have an ambition is to try and contact some of the relatives of these people to share these films. I expect many are scattered across the globe and have tenuous connections to my family. However, this is a history that is unrepeatable and a wonderful insight.

Record Of The Week # 122

Emily Scott Robinson – American Siren

Robinson’s back story is one of a talented multi instrumentalist and singer who’s moved from North Carolina to Colorado. Here she was employed in social services whilst playing and further studying song writing. Eventually her breaks came and this is her second album, and her first, on a major label, it’s a joy. It’d be enough to talk about her voice: pure, crystal clear and mellifluous. However there’s considerable craft in her song writing and lyrics. She writes stories about classic country music themes such as cheating, missteps, unfilled ambitions and the military and it’s saddest days. She’s sympathetic and never judging but profound and engaging.

Jason Richmond produces (The Avett Brothers and The Steep Canyon Rangers), he ensures the mainly stripped back country arrangements are empathetic throughout. The backing to this divine voice varies between acoustic, electric and atmospheric. Richmond complements the songs with percussion, organ, bass lines, dabbles of electric guitar or sweeping runs of fiddle. “Let ‘Em Burn” is just Robinson on piano singing a delicate ballad. She says it’s “for anyone who thinks they’ve built a cage  they’ve learned to hate and wondering if they have the courage to ask for what they really want.” A sad but captivating listen.

“Every Day In Faith” is haunting and heartfelt, a hymn to seeing it through. Writing “Things You Learn The Hard Way” was novel. Robinson says she found the song title and chorus and then had to find the verses. In this case it was a list of things you learn the hard way (obvs). A bit stumped she asked her followers on Facebook and the illustrations tumbled in. From this assortment she selected the ones she liked most along with her own mistakes such as not avoiding talking politics with her grandfather! 

Continue reading Record Of The Week # 122

Record Of The Week # 121

Brandi Carlile – In These Silent Days

This may be the most productive and commercially successful period in Brandi Carlile’s career. Her ascension to be the ‘Queen of Americana’ has not been an easy or quick climb, this is her seventh album. If pulling together the songs, the band and the producers isn’t a considerable task, in the meantime she’s been collaborating or producing other, much commended, country music masterworks with the Highwomen and Tania Tucker. Much of what she touches turns to gold and her 2019 By The Way, I Forgive You was worth all the Grammys and still remains one of my personal favourites.

Her voice is an incredible instrument with its range. She’s comfortable fronting an Elton John pastiche rock anthem (Sinners Saints And Fools) or cooing the whimsical lullaby of Stay Gentle. She’s expressive with exceptional poise, phrasing and occasional volume while admitting to relationship failures or continually self appraising her life and behaviour. Lyrically much of it is confessional and intimate and this is where comparisons to her idol and friend, Joni Mitchell, are worth dwelling on. The opener and album highlight, Right This Time, speaks of a contretemps with someone close and the song builds slowly to a dramatic finale. Mama Werewolf again dismantles her own, on occasion, bad tempered behaviour with her young children. She’d have you believe she’s not easy to live with but her insecurities and frankness are disarming along with her passion and selfless sharing. The boldness and directness of Mitchell’s lyrics are a brave template to follow. However, there’s little here that replicates Mitchell’s sound apart from the acoustic guitar and rhythm from Big Yellow Taxi on You And Me On The Rock. It’s an attractive appropriation or tribute. 

Carlile has worked with the Hanseroth brothers, who are part of her band and understand her well, not least by being very close neighbours in Seattle; this is an exceptional partnership. They collaborate on song composition and provide accompaniment on guitars, bass and harmonies. Like her previous album Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings produce and play. This results in sympathetic arrangements that give her space and ensure each track has a different sound depending on the needs of the song. I’d have liked more strings (only two tracks), I thought this added to the drama and emotion of the last album. They created an epic sweep to songs such as The Joke elevating them from good to instant classics.

Continue reading Record Of The Week # 121

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – Week 40 2021

I’m a couple of weeks past Covid-19 and pleased to have emerged feeling fine albeit with a bit of a cough. With the double vaccination I never felt that I wouldn’t be well afterwards. If I learned anything then this virus is very easy to catch and quite indiscriminate. I was amongst family who had the same exposure to the infected strangers I was with yet they were unaffected. No one knows why this is the case. I assume I’ll get called for the third jab soon along with the flu jab. I’ll happily be in the queue.

At long last Anna and I attended our first concert since the pandemic started. It was in Salford at The Lowry where we saw The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (check out this clip, beyond epic). Seven very talented ukulele players played a selection of modern covers by AC/DC, ZZ Top, Wheatus, The Cranberries, Willie Nelson, Pharrell Williams, Lady GaGa, Kraftwerk, Jackie Wilson, George Formby, Ian Dury & The Blockheads and, my favourite, Hawkwind. The renditions are brilliantly played but there’s lots of humour interspersed.  For example  the Blockheads lyric migrated from ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll’ to ‘Cakes and buns and sausage rolls’.

We stayed over near the venue and the next morning went to put some luggage in the car before going into Manchester for the day. At the car park pay machine we identified two members of the band who I gushed over. One of the chaps was inserting his parking ticket into the machine followed by his debit card. I always find this needs the closest attention and concentration so I can well imagine, in retrospect, what he thought about some garrulous bloke gibbering on about the set they played and where were they playing next etc. Rock stars eh? It’s a hard life.

As we were in the locality where the eldest daughter and husband live I continued a job that reminds me of painting the Forth Road Bridge. The property is surrounded by a very high brick wall and as it was first built in the 19th Century the mortar between the bricks is of variable condition, but mainly bad, around the house and yard. Applying replacement mortar to a vertical surface is not easy but it kept me out of harm’s way for a few hours and will for many more to come.

So I was barrelling into Barwick-in-Elmet on my bike when I saw a phone fall from a passing car. I was on a 40 mile circuit from home and had found a delicious tailwind. I reckon the driver had set off from home with the phone on the roof and when traversing a speed bump it fell to the ground. With the car long gone I stopped and picked it up hoping to stop a car driving over it and to find details about the owner. I found his name as well as his Driving Licence, credit and debit cards, Leeds United season ticket and other membership cards. I was surprised that someone carries so many important items in one wallet.

Anyway I found someone with the man’s surname in his phone directory and rang them. It was his brother. I obtained his home address, which was about half a mile from where the phone was found. When I got there I checked again with his brother that this was his house. He wanted my personal details to allow his brother to thank me but whilst not being evasive I gave him only my name and the fact I lived in York. I was happy just to complete the task without any thanks. I posted the phone through his letter box and got on with the remaining 25 miles to home. 

I bring you news about Christmas. The last 20 years have seen the festivities at our house. This year it has been out sourced and the Favourite Eldest Daughter and Matt are hosting the feast and present swapping in North West England. (Note, she would give me a reprimand over a GDPR compliance breach if the disclosure identified the town she lives in.) To take over this responsibility brings several critical considerations that mustn’t be overlooked. This includes the starter (The Favourite Youngest is insisting on Yorkshire puddings with cauliflower cheese: I like the way she’s thinking), what type of Christmas crackers? (Oh no not the usual detritus of key fobs, miniature packs of cards and bottle openers?), the appropriate vegetables (carrots, sprouts, parsnips and maybe peas…obvs) and lastly the ‘lubrication’ for the Christmas Pudding (call me revolutionary but I’m a thick double cream type of boy.) This serious project has merited a PowerPoint and (without fouling GDPR) here are a few slides…

Lastly on ‘Morrisons Watch” apart from their disposal for £6.3 billion I note the students are back in earnest. As I was cruising the aisles in central York a badly dressed oik approached a member of staff and enquired as to where the hot dogs were? After grabbing a large glass full of them he headed for the checkout. I used to eat this stuff when I was 19, maybe some things don’t change?

Record Of The Week # 120

Jeremy Pinnell – Goodbye L.A.

Pinnell’s a care worn tattooed troubadour from just south of the Ohio River near Cincinnati. He’s accumulated a loyal following in the USA and UK by constant touring. The sound is electric with a groove and includes excursions into honky tonk, various styles of rock and the Country sound also inhabited by artists like Reckless Kelly (Cody Braun contributes fiddle here) and Boo Ray.

The songs, he says, in an interview with Country Music People’s Chris Smith last month, are about relationships and travelling, which inevitably impacts on everyone’s life. From his lyrics you’ll have no doubt he’s lived every moment. With a tight band he delivers ten songs of personal observations with an insouciance that suggests he’s learned to live with the scars he’s collected along the way. 

Pinnell’s musical charms fall into a number of areas; a lilt and groove that grabs you from the get go, the varied propulsions of Chris Alley on drums, the beautiful electric guitar leads of Junior Tutwiler and Jonathan Tyler that light up the songs between choruses, a fine ear for a hook and, lastly, his off the cuff words. Doing My Best  tackles the problem of a musician trying to make a living and ploughing on regardless of the realities “I ain’t doing no good, I’m just doing my best.” Amen to that.

Continue reading Record Of The Week # 120

Health Care Special – Covid in Acaster! – Week 38 : 2021

So there was I looking for something to write about in a blog when I struck unlucky: I got Coronavirus. 

As a man who spends a lot of time avoiding people by riding a bike or hiding in a back bedroom writing about Country music I can count myself unlucky to cop for this. On Friday after about three hours outside power washing the drive (living the dream) I was knackered. I felt truly zonked and I wondered why but put it down to the tasks I’d be doing. Later I slumped to bed with a few snuffles. I’d be all right in the morning I thought.

A restless night saw me wake up to a full blown heavy cold. ‘Quelle surprise’ I thought, who did I know had a cold that I could have caught it off? No one. A bike ride was out of the question (highlighting the severity of my lethargy) and eventually the household sleuth, the present Mrs Ives, suspected foul play and that I should take a lateral flow test. It was positive. Oh no. Next I made an appointment at a York Testing Centre for a PCR test. So what does PCR stand for? Polymerase Chain Reaction (obvs stupid.) It also stands for a git, dressed as if he’s about to walk into the ruptured Chernobyl reactor building, sticking a swab stick into the back of my throat in three places; stopping when I’m convulsing and about to gag on each occasion. Warming to the abuse at hand he then, with undisguised delight, asks which nostril I wanted him to stick the swab up  for 10 seconds? Still gasping for air I had thoughts of telling him to stick it up his fundament but then volunteered the nearest nostril to the car window, By way of small consolation I had the car door handle to hold onto as I endured this attack. If there’s an incentive not to get Covid then this regime should be implemented at every nightclub and football ground.

Which brings me to where I thought I got it. The Favourite Youngest Daughter had arranged a brilliant day out with epic hospitality and a top class football match at Leeds United. I was sat next to a stranger at the lunch table and the staff fussed closely over us with food and drinks. I think this was my downfall and don’t mention the football, we were annihilated 0-3. Needless to say companions, Anna, Sophie and Harry have not caught the virus as I write. My father-in-law volunteered my frailty lay in have having depleted reserves due to the cycling. This appeals to my ego that as a finely tuned athlete, in peak condition, I have fallen prey to this misfortune as opposed to being a vulnerable and decrepit old sod. Whichever way then the Delta variant is a highly contagious phenomena and not to be treated with anything other than the utmost respect.

Given my lack of a social whirl meant that I inflicted myself on few people between the date of catching it and having it confirmed. However Steve (he of Vixen 101) and Sharon laid on a marvellous afternoon involving a grand stroll, a visit to the pub and then an early evening tea with lots of care and thought in splendid weather. My unhappy task was to text Steve on the Saturday advising I may be the carrier of the plague. I hope they continue to  avoid my gift.

As I write then I am still drained and heady. My sense of taste dropped off this morning. Quite strange to all of a sudden find a cup of tea tastes like someone’s using old cardboard as flavouring. The family has rallied: Mrs Ives brought breakfast in bed, something she’s scheduled to repeat, if it follows a pattern, after Prince William accedes to the throne. The Favourite Eldest Daughter made herself available to facilitate her aunt mastering her iMac to load the Zoom meeting software. Not a task I was up to, Covid or no Covid. After showing such patience and skill I think Katrina could now be hired by Chester Zoo to teach primates to save the nation by obtaining HGV licences.

So I’ve only 6 days to go. I’ve had a couple of official calls, one to check I’m staying put and the other to ask if we need any shopping. I did establish that I will still be positive after 10 days but not infectious. A troubling question is how long do you remain infectious? I think it could be over a month which means our pre-holiday PCR Test for Portugal in October would show me up as being positive and initiate another lock down period as well as excluding me from travelling. Clearly another PCR Test is something to therefore avoid. Anna, as I write, is on hold with Jet2 trying to reschedule the holiday.

Stay safe.

Record Of The Week # 119

Ashland Craft – Travelin’ Kind

I must have a word with myself. When I read that an artist has released an album after coming 9th on the US edition of The Voice I worry about their credentials and authenticity. Where are the lonely nights playing to 14 people in bars between Nashville and Chattanooga or the endless poring through their father’s Randy Travis LPs? However, for Ashland Craft it doesn’t matter: she is the real thing.

Snapped up by a major independent label, they’ve pulled together eleven songs of which she’s co-written nine and put her with producer Jonathan Singleton, maybe better known for his song compositions rather than twiddling the knobs. The project has worked fabulously and this is a terrific album. The success is mainly attributable to her complete command of the songs with a confident, ballsy and effortless delivery. It’s a voice that could deliver rock, soul or blues: it’s a force of nature.

The title track kicks off the album with a southern rock vibe. Guitar solos are way behind the beat whilst a harmonica wails throughout. Her slightly rasping voice extracts all you could hope for out of the tune: a paean to movin’ on and no backward glances. Maybe one downside of making your career out of covers is shown on Make It Past Georgia where the vocalisation is pure Billy Currington on People Are Crazy. Pedal steel and a fiddle take it down with Highway Like Me: a beautiful ballad and tune where young bluesman, Marcus King, plays some delicious and very fluid licks in the background. Mimosas In The Morning has a chorus for the radio where she belts out the observation that ‘this ain’t no whiskey conversation.’ Letcha Fly sails along over a fiddle foundation and a snappy snare rhythm before exiting with a picked banjo. Her vocal is pure Jack Daniels and cream in its taste and texture.

Continue reading Record Of The Week # 119

Pilgrims Progress – A Bike Ride in Devon, Dorset & Hampshire

What the hell was I thinking? The first two days of the LEJOG in July, over a similar brutal terrain, in the West Country were memorably difficult by any measure I can think of. So would you schedule a bike ride on similar roads and climbs? It should have been the last thing on my mind, surely? It seems that when the legs recover and the excitement of an adventure lies ahead intelligence takes a back seat. I had put together a ride for two friends who despite advance warning of the severity both still turned up.

Martin Appleyard was certainly my peer on two wheels but set off with a ticking bomb of a problem that eventually came to be a considerable handicap and burden. He needs considerable praise for coping with this problem, albeit he’ll not receive it in this blog as I have a reputation to maintain!

Tony Franco or ‘Franco/Frankie’ as he eventually got called throughout (even by Martin!) had passed his ‘physical’ up in Yorkshire in July when he was assessed for this ride by a saunter around the North Yorks hills. We’d toured in England and France before and knew the routine of my planning, grumpiness and desire to move along. However, whilst surviving this ride up until Bournemouth he had an overall experience that seems about as draining and pleasurable as chemotherapy. It’s only his grit and indomitable personality that overcame the challenges of hills and a bike that weighed about the same as an Aga range cooker. His bike is a top of the range US touring bike by Surly but something lighter was compelling for this jaunt. Given he was the youngest member of the expedition I think it safe to say that on his end of trip feedback form he’ll report that his tender years were noted ie. the elders provided all navigation of the route, food stop decisions, accommodation choices, most cultural exchanges and provision of nutrition. Granted, not all of this came with an equitable and friendly delivery…

Continue reading Pilgrims Progress – A Bike Ride in Devon, Dorset & Hampshire

Pak Choi, Cricket Balls & Where to pitch your tent – Week 35 : 2021

I used to joke that my father spent his retirement days, on the Algarve, worrying about where he could get the cheapest tomatoes. This was after a comment he made about a local greengrocer. Clearly the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree as we must discuss Morrisons. The present Mrs Ives and myself procure preferred items from either Sainsbury (decaffeinated coffee beans, energy bars and yoghurt), Tesco (fishcakes, salads and vegetarian sausages), Waitrose (any chicken product, wine and bread), Marks & Spencer (hummus and treats) and then Morrisons (meat pies, potato salad and pittas). We don’t visit each emporium weekly but we’re now programmed to seek out these items on entering the premises. However Morrisons is epic for people watching and crime. Located in the centre of York it attracts the less wealthy and upstanding amongst us all.

You have to laugh…

I do like the large number of students. Usually it’s a diligent young female attended by a gormless male who’s turn it is to pay for it all. (Obviously the rota on the shared house kitchen wall had detailed them to do the weekly shop.) The Chinese students have baskets groaning with pak choi, cabbage, avocados and anything green and healthy. I’d happily to be invited to dinner at their Hall of Residence. The, presumably British students, prefer sliced white loaves, anything that constitutes a meal if you add water to it and absolutely everything that’s processed.

A hot air ballon directly over the house!

The other clientele can be random. I well remember a punter putting down a basket full of spirits on the ground near the children’s clothes before loading them into his rucksack and sprinting out of the store, he was a millennial lad. Security is slack or non existent at the store and shrinkage must be terrible. Next was an elderly lady who surreptitiously, she thought, ran her hand over some packaged cherries in the fresh fruit department, she ripped back the packaging and was loitering feeding her face with the fruit. I was surprised at the audacity of it all. Lastly only in Morrisons would the tannoy ask whoever left a tied up dog in the foyer return to it. It was going ballistic barking at anyone who entered or left the foyer. Why would you do this to the animal and the store? Expect more reports from Morrisons…

Bus Pass! Not sure when I’ll use it but it’s a very big concession to have throughout England

As a fan of Test match cricket the commentary follows me around during the year. I can be around the house, in the garden, on my bike or in the car. I prefer the focus to being on what’s happening on the pitch but it seems banal banter about what the commentators ate last night, fancy dress and any topic that sets in train all sorts of surreal conversations populate the hours the match is on. Elevated to celebrity status is the scorer. At his finger tips (on his laptop) he can access complete trivia, often requested by the commentators. However, a laugh was emitted by yours truly when a question came up of “what’s the longest shot in cricket’s history? Without missing a beat he said “72 miles!” This happened in Settle, North Yorkshire. Apparently a batsman launched the ball onto a passing train which eventually came to rest in Carlisle, 72 miles away!

I’m thinking of buying a car. Not an easy pursuit those who follow my blog will note. I’ve decided to buy a Mercedes C Class. The new release was meant to appear sometime in the middle of the year but as we speak the dealership seem clueless as to when they’ll have a demonstrator or delivery. Another dispiriting discovery was that my ‘old’ car was not worth what I’d hoped when I checked last year. However, idly, I visited our friend webuyanycar.com  to find that it had increased in value by over a grand in the year, not the usual trajectory for second hand cars. On top of this I have had six communication from the website exhorting me to follow through with a sale and they even increased their offer! The general shortage and delays of new cars have boosted all markets. If you were thinking of unloading that motor then now might be the time price wise.

Coming out of the lockdown we‘ve booked our first concert for many months. Blessed, by our visitation, will be The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at The Lowry in Salford. That’s not until October. Growing in importance, and certainly news coverage, is Leeds Festival. This takes place on the east side of Leeds in the grounds of a grand house. The line up is mainly stuff I wouldn’t walk to the end of the street to hear! More significantly the festival is a rite of passage for older teenagers. We know a few parents waving off their offspring worrying that several nights under canvas, probably approaching a unhygeinic comatose state through alcohol, no sleep and possibly illegal substances will not be a good thing. Our nephews used to attend and my lasting memory was the advice to pitch your tent toward the outer limits. Occupants toward the front or centre of the site were prone to be caught short in the night and directed their unwanted fluids liberally around their accommodation and onto the nearest tent. No wonder these tents are all abandoned as they depart.

During the week I make my way south to Plymouth to cycle along the coast to Southampton. Coming along for the brutal climbing on the Devon and Dorset coast are Martin and Tony. Expect a full report, and lots of bacon sandwiches, on my return.

Dumfries & Galloway – Week 33 : 2021

Anna is booking a number of staycations and the latest adventure took me back to Scotland and to Dumfries & Galloway. I say ‘back to’ as it isn’t more than a few weeks ago that I was trundling a few miles to the east of here wending my way from Gretna to John O’Groats on my LEJOG trip.

She booked a house for four nights just outside Kirkcudbright, or as the natives pronounce it ‘Kirkcoobry’! The house’s location was fabulous on the banks of the River Dee estuary and could sleep six. It was therefore very spacious!

This was one of a few homes in the area not covered in the ubiquitous grey Scottish pebble dash wall covering (why do they do it?)
Continue reading Dumfries & Galloway – Week 33 : 2021

Wedding Anniversary – Week 31 : 2021

It’s a year since our Favourite Eldest Daughter got married to Matt in Manchester. The reception was lovely in bright sunshine at the top of a swanky city hotel but the numbers attending were limited due to Government Covid-19 restrictions. We wanted to correct this and say thank you to the wider family and friends who, not least, had been enormously generous with gifts and well wishes at the time.

So a date was put in the diary for 2021 and folk were invited to the House of Ives in Acaster Malbis. We were expecting rain and overcast conditions but the sun often appeared and it was warm despite the odd shower. Shelter could be found in a borrowed marquee but lunch was inside.

Guests came from Wales (Ann Marie & Pat), London (Helen, Laura & (Young) Dave, Georgia & Edward and James), North Yorkshire (Ellie & Chris and Ted), Manchester (Sophie & Harry and Cath & Jeff) and Gloucestershire (Tracey). A couple of speeches were made, with the best by far coming from young Matthew Gray, and after toasts luncheon was taken.

The food came from many places including a special patisserie in Garforth on the outskirts of Leeds called Dumouchel. How this authentic French run bakery ended up in the middle of a housing estate in suburban Leeds is a mystery. Scrumptious pork pies were brought over the Pennines by Cath and Jeff along with home made piccallilli; with this the father of the bride was enormously happy. Anna, Katrina and Sophie pulled it all together.

Family and friends
After having been in lockdown, at his care home, since early 2020 it was wonderful to ‘spring’ the bride’s grandfather, Eric, to join us. Here he’s with his three daughters

Some entertainment was devised and Screwfix provided the paint!

The start of the egg & spoon race

The egg and spoon race was a terrific success with 16 ‘runners’ with ages ranging from 75 to 8 years old. The final between Chris Reed (bride’s cousin) and Harry Fuoco (Favourite Youngest Daughter’s partner) ended up in a hilarious wrestling match. After VAR (as it was caught on video) Reed was disqualified!

Another party game was ‘pass the parcel’ with an epic prize that Cath will treasure for ever (we suspect).

A lovely day and thanks to all the helpers who tidied up! And Look who got the bride’s posie!

LEJOG – Epilogue

I know how iconic the bike ride between Cornwall and the Highlands is and wanted to record a few final thoughts:

The Challenge

The climbing is considerable throughout the 1,000 miles. The difficulty doesn’t arise in the ‘hard’ north but rather the ‘soft’ south. The first three days are often busy with traffic, much of it intolerant, and the climbing is, frankly, severe, with lots of over 15%, gradients. Despite my rides to different continents or through the many countries of Europe this ride was tough, day after day. I’m genuinely in awe of inexperienced cyclists who have completed the ride and said they enjoyed it!.

I must add as an important condition of this ‘awe’ then Peter and myself carried our luggage and rode everyday for two weeks. One lithe millennial who I saw arriving on a lightweight carbon road bike at John O’Groats with no luggage missed the point for me.

Continue reading LEJOG – Epilogue

Record Of The Week # 118

Jim Lauderdale – Hope

Lauderdale’s beyond prolific. This clocks in as his 34th album containing 13 tracks. As one of americana’s big names he inhabits the country/rock/pop end of the spectrum but has a number of roots albums in his recent collection. Last year’s When Carolina Comes Home Again was a country release and a homily to the State and it’s music. This album has more mainstream commercial sensibilities but you’ll find some folk, country and even jazz inflections. Lyrically he’s focussed on being positive during the pandemic and mitigating the effect it’s had on peoples’ lives. I think we can all agree that’s a good idea.

With this modus operandii “The Opportunity To Help Somebody Through It” is the first track: it’s a light rock track underpinned by electric guitars whilst Lauderdale exhorts the upside of helping those struggling. It’s an upbeat opening with a memorable chorus and some deft picking. “Sister Horizon” is another easy pop sound with a delightful chorus and an acoustic guitar picking the melody. 

“The Brighter Side Of Lonely “ just emphasises what a nice guy he really must be. He seeks to lift a friend out of a slough of despair. Their “making friends with being sad today” and they should “meet on the brighter side of lonely.” The tune matches the optimism and such a clever lyric is a highlight of the album. Pedal steel introduces “Breathe Real Slow” and it sounds like the Rick Rubin era of Johnny Cash. He adopts a gravelly voice and with a profound delivery advises some retrospection in the face of adversity. The chorus is a another great melody on this pure rock track.

Continue reading Record Of The Week # 118

Kicking People in the Head, Medals & Farming – Week 20 : 2021

I imagine everyone is taking an interest in the Olympics. You’ve got to feel for the Japanese: they’ve spent all this money and even attendance at the events is prohibited or limited yet they’ll be paying for it all for decades. It seems the IOC and global television companies get the benefits. A mystery is the pleasure we all get from simply accumulating medals irrespective of what the sport is (and being ahead of the French and Germans in the league table.) It’s simply a competitive scrabble irrespective of what they’re competing for.

Many of the events are truly mystery: take taekwondo. As I write we have a chance of another medal. Our athlete who I’ve never heard of despite a lifetime of devotion (by her and her parents) to raising her feet above her head violently whilst standing. The sport is nearly unwatchable as clad in a helmet and wearing a padded mat around your middle you try and kick the opponent in the head or thump them in the stomach. The event also ‘enjoys’ several minute time outs whilst the competitor’s coach seeks to have points deducted off the opponent via a type of VAR scrutiny. The last bout I watched saw the British girl (sorry Katrina, woman) lose in the last second. How the hell do you cope with the disappointment?

Last time Beach Volleyball got ridiculed (apart from the kit!) I think Street Skateboarding is running it close. The sport involves jumping on your skate board and then propelling it whilst spinning so you can slide down a staircase handrail in outside spaces. We used to caution youngsters for doing this in town centres?

I have enjoyed all the cycling whether Tour de France or Olympic. The Olympic schedule has coincided with the mornings and I did sit riveted to the road races and the Otley lad, Tom Pidcock, who won the Mountain Bike Cross Country race. At Le Tour I was so delighted for Mark Cavendish, a real fairy tale slightly tarnished by not getting the 35th Tour stage victory. However, knowing what Eddie Merckx achieved, and how he did it, then maybe a tie is apposite.

The God that is Mark Cavendish

Cavendish may have got the green jersey but an unexpected delightful prize dropped through the letterbox from Jude and Peter up in Edinburgh. A fitting medal for the Lands End to John O’Groats bike ride. Thank you.

Ann-Marie, my sister, has been reinforcing the bottom of her garden. It backs onto a stream that sadly becomes a brutal rushing river when there is heavy rain on the local Welsh hills. The result is the washing away of about five feet of an already small garden. I helped with the contractor selection and costings. I rushed down on Tuesday to be on site early for discussions.

In my haste I left without money. Not ideal if you need to fill up your car with diesel when nearly at her home near Conwy for the return trip. I have a payment solution on my Apple Watch and so no problem, that is, if I had chosen to wear it on the trip! So I then recollected I could install it on my iPhone and this I did. This isn’t an ideal emergency solution in case there is a problem.

The problem might be that if I filled up the car with £50 worth of fuel to find the App didn’t work? I had hoped to find a sympathetic cashier I could do a trial run with by buying something cheap that they could refund if the phone didn’t work. I entered the busty petrol station hoping for a young person who would understand the technology and help me establish if it worked. Brilliantly I found a teenager who calmly ran through the trial purchase: it worked! (I felt that I had also won a Gold Medal with this small technological triumph.)

If you haven’t watched Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime then you’re missing a treat. Clarkson’s not everyone’s cup of tea but he nicely gets out of his comfort zone as a farmer. We spend a season with the man, and his workers, managing the arable lands and livestock (sheep). It’s quite instructive about the rudimentary nature of farming and predictably there is considerable slapstick and hilarity. Check it out . Below are the local crops I see on my constitutional.