Archive for January, 2024

T0 and no longer counting down

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

African Adventure

In January 1832 the Reverend William Davies with his wife Sarah and young two year old son set off from Deptford on the Barque Eclipse, destination Cape Town. William was a self funded Baptist missionary, responding to a plea from the first wave of settlers for ministers of religion.

The Eclipse foundered in a storm in the Cap Verde Islands.  The child drowned and Sarah gave birth to twins on the beach, one of which died. I have an eyewitness account of the shipwreck!!  It took two months for the Davieses to be rescued and they returned to London whereupon they set out again reaching Cape Town in December that year.

William was my cousin, nephew of my 4G grandfather Daniel Davies and was one of the first Baptist missionaries to venture forth in Africa. Lurgi abounded and he only lived a few years after he got there but I have extracts of his letters home to the Baptist Magazine describing their lot. His wife predeceased him but they had a number of children who survived, one of whom married a famous South African pioneer whose name escapes me but who became the subject of a play in the modern era.

Things are very different in 2024. Hannah and I have a very comfortable overnight flight from London landing in Cape Town just under twelve hours later. There is only a two hour time zone difference so we anticipate being able to hit the ground running. A driver is meeting us off the plane and we plan to spend our first day exploring the Waterfront around the hotel.

What a difference. Twelve hours drinking champagne and sleeping in a comfortable ish bed (well at least it will be horizontal) versus twelve months of seasickness, shipwreck, peril and poor food. At least with a journey time of twelve months they would definitely not have noticed the time zone change 🙂

This is the last in the cycle of dad and lad trips in which I take one offspring on a journey of exploration and discovery. Just me and them. On this occasion it isn’t a dad and lad trip but dad and daughter. 

William Davies settled in Grahamstown but unfortunately we won’t have time to visit there as it is too far to the east. We plan to spend most of our time in Cape Town, the wineries and part of the Garden Route before heading north to the bush and adventure. I bring with me anti-malaria tablets and three different kinds of insect repellent including the trusty Avon Skin So Soft.

I expect to bring home lots of photos and videos. I have approx 160GB of SD card capacity for the camera and a long zoom lens. Also binocs.

A car is picking us up from the Park Lane Hilton at 3pm to take us to the airport. In the meantime I am sat in my suite on the 24th floor looking out over Hyde Park. Joggers and cyclists abound as do the long queues of traffic on Park Lane. Who’d want to be a commuter driving into London?! Our Tom is meeting me for brekkie at oh eight thirty.

My plan at some point today was to spend some time in the Tate Modern but I may well just chill in the hotel. The suite is great as is the exec lounge.

Spent some time sat in reception after arranging a 3pm checkout. It’s quite nice watching the world go by. Lots of accents to be heard around me. Many Americuns as you might imagine. 

Then on my way down to the lounge from my room there was an old couple in the lift. He had thinning hair and reached into his back pocket for a comb to tidy up the front a bit. I didn’t notice any difference 🙂

Another, younger guy was smartly suited and smelled of aftershave. I am wearing my safari jacket which I noted was clocked by the besuited younger guy. Unlikely he thought I looked particularly cool. That will lose me sleep!  Mind you the jacket is not something I normally wear other than when on safari. In fact I’ve only just bought it. It is fleece lined and is serving as a jumper when in the UK. Versatility is its middle name. Safari Versatility Jacket.

My lift companions were all resident on the 24th floor – expensivo . Now I’m sat in the window of the lounge looking out at Park Lane. There is coffee, there are croissants and the world continues to go by. I note that there is a huge pile of rubbish bags in the central reservation of Park Lane. V unsightly. It is a v dull day in London Town.

A member of staff is making her way around the lounge with a cordless vacuum cleaner strapped to her back. Very compact and tidy. The lounge has gradually emptied.

Behind me there is a meeting going on with someone from Hilton and a marketing agency. The Hilton guy has chosen them to do some work and is talking non stop. On the other side of the lounge a woman has been sat quietly on her own. She has a book on the table in front of her and is doing something with her phone. She has been smiling.

All the things you see when you have time on your hands. Can’t be bothered to do any work. The Hilton marketing guy is getting a bit boring. It’s been quite a one way conversation. Lots of corporate speak. I’m sorry I’ve sat where I’m sat but it does give me a good perspective on Park Lane.

Just realised the pile of rubbish is actually a bunch of tents crowded together. No sign of any movement. Life is not very equal is it? The most expensive property on the Monopoly board occupied by the poorest people. Makes you pause to think.

A few years ago THG and I were en route to the Intercontinental on Hyde Park for a weekend jaunt. Our journey down coincided with the migration of one million members of various unions to a rally in Hyde Park to protest about some government policy or other. Pay freezes I suspect.

A couple of observations sprang to mind. Firstly quite a few of the protesters against pay freezes had first class tickets. Don’t blame em. Secondly we thought it was v surreal that the room in our five star luxury hotel looked out over the park where the protesters were congregating. Let them eat cake.

It was quite similar when we went down for the protest against Brexshit. We were staying in the Trafalgar Hotel. It took us hours to walk the mile or two from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square at which point we decided it made more sense to retreat to the hotel’s rooftop bar and drink cold beer and cocktails. There was no way we could get anywhere near where the speeches were in Westminster anyway.

This trip has been a year in the planning. Somewhat surreal (I find myself using this word more and more) that the day of departure is finally here. T0 and no longer counting. Just waiting. Two and a half hours until Han arrives and we head to LGW. 

Trying to imagine what William and Sarah Davies went through in their planning and preparations for their trip. A massive upheaval for them but supported by a high degree of religious commitment. A knowledge that they were doing the right thing.

I have the Last Will and Testament of William’s dad David Davies. He was the Rector (or curate – this is not clear as yet) of the established Church in Llandysul. His eldest son, John Phillip had effectively been written out of the will and most of the dosh left to William. At the time of the writing of the will JP had become a Baptist and established himself as a renowned speaker on the circuit in Wales. The father was not to know that William would follow in JP’s dissenting footsteps. David’s two brothers would also leave the church, one (my 4G Grandfather Daniel) as a Baptist and the other a Unitarian.

I haven’t got any further back in my family tree research than Daniel but I sense that the fact that David was an Anglican minister must mean there is more info in an archive somewhere. All three brothers must have had some sort of education. Their area in West Wales was the centre of the religious revival of the time. Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire.

There were lots of variations on Christianity, or at least the interpretation of the whole subject. Did Jesus die just to save those who believed in him or the whole of mankind. As a non believer I’d go for the latter but my vote probs doesn’t count. It seems daft that these differences were enough to divide people. Suspect they didn’t go as far as a punchup 🙂

The marketing meeting has broken up. They all have calls to make 🙂Unfortunately the Hilton guy looks as if he is going to make the call from where he is sat in the lounge. Another one way conversation. At least his voice is not too loud or irritating. Talking about the Conrad in Cairo and then the one in Istanbul, as you do.

I’ve moved back to my room which is a calm haven looking out onto the park. Banging out a bit of ABBA. Reasonably good speakers on the macbook pro fair play. Han is about to arrive, an hour earlier than plan. I think this’ll do for the day. I’m now moving into adventure mode.

Ngibambe kamuva.

Park Lane

Monday, January 29th, 2024

The milkman came at four twenty two, rhymes with Bristol Zoo. That’s how I memorised the time. I was lying awake and as he opened the porch door the clock ticked over from twenty one to twenty two. Pretty sure it was a different bloke from last week – checked the camera.

We have milk delivered three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We think it is important to support such enterprises. Use it or lose it. Having the milk delivered feels as if we are maintaining links with a bygone, more civilised age. It might not have been as civilised as our minds like to think but it is what it is.

Keeping the milk delivery is a bit like making sure the ravens never leave the Tower of London. If the milk stops something bad will have happened.

Today is T-1 and operations are moved to London to prepare for tomorrow’s flight. We are not flying out until eight thirty pee em but it’s a four hour trip to the airport from Lincoln and I don’t like to leave it to chance. It would only take an accident on the motorway or a train breakdown (or strike) to mess things up completely.

All I really have to do is chuck everything (tidily obvs) into my big yellow duffel bag and THG is going to drop me off at the stayshun at five to one. Before then I have a dental checkup, booked one year in advance, and a long conference call but the packing won’t take me long.

I see the Chiefs won.

THG dropped me off at the stayshun and as I approached the barriers the train pulled in. Result. I am the only person in Coach E. The back of my seat won’t recline properly so I am considering moving. Bit of a faff mind you. These Azuma trains aren’t that old but already starting to show wear.

Oo someone just coughed. So there is someone else in the carriage 🙂woteva. I’ve moved to the window seat. I don’t really like window seats as I want unrestricted aisle access. However on the basis that there are only the two of us in the carriage it matters not. Would have been somewhat annoying had he reserved the seat next to mine but I am the only one with a seat reservation according to the little status lights above your head.

Lincoln and I have said our goodbyes, for the moment, I have wiped the tears from my eyes and am heading South. First stop is the Park Lane Hilton for one night only. It is supposed to have been fully refurbished. In the past its offering has been mostly based on location as the rooms were getting a bit threadbare, certainly for a five star hotel. 

On this occasion they must be desperate as the room rate I have is much lower than usual. January I guess. I normally just book the cheapest room but on this occasion have been able to up the quality level. As a Hilton Diamond Member I should get a further upgrade so I am expecting good things.

The train is now hurtling, I repeat hurtling in a southerly direction. To hurtle. A good verb. Newark came and Newark went. Best thing for it really 🙂The day remains grey but over the horizon the sky is cloudless. Aaarghhh the heat, I can’t stand it. Open the fridge door and let me in, Boris. Open the door and let me in.

Featured image is the view from my hotel room at the Hilton Park Lane.

Cricket lovely cricket

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

The bug house is being installed today. The one Joe gave THG for Christmas. When I say installed we are going to find a suitable place for it in the garden and I will screw it to the fence or simlar. Never let it be said we are not hospitable to insects. In fact I have 100 sqm of wildflower mix ready to plant/scatter in front of the shed in the spring which will obviously attract more insects. They can gorge on the pollen and retire to the bug house to sleep it off. What’s not to like?

Today I will be very focussed on packing my big yellow duffel bag and my Stubble & Co Adventure Bag. Everything is pretty much ready to go in, mostly in packing cubes but some loose stuff. It is v exciting but tempered by the fact that I will be leaving THG behind for sixteen days. Likely to be the last time I do this.

The low winter sun is quite dazzling in the kitchen. We do have blinds but I can easily just shift position on the pew. We have a church pew along one side of the kitchen table, up against the wall. You actually need a decent sized kitchen to accommodate a pew as they are quite long. Ours is anyway. It is the most popular place to sit. Very solid and comfortable on the backside. That’s the result of a couple of hundred years of faithful devotion.

As I write the cricket in India is getting v exciting. I’ve not been watching it as we weren’t looking like doing very well (yes, fairweather fan) but the last innings has changed things completely. India are one hundred and twenty for seven with one hundred and eleven required. It’s on TNT Sports channel which took me a moment or two to find. These days you need multiple channel subscriptions to watch sport.

Plenty of seats free in the ground if you are in the Hyderabad area and want to drop in. Better get a wiggle on though. Brilliant leg spin from Hartley. Leg spinners are a rare breed. Got a couple of days at the Windies Test Match in Trent bridge this summer. I’m a member. Let me know if you would be interested in coming on the Saturday. 

The Windies have just beaten the Ozzies so could be an exciting game. Had lunch with Sir Viv Richards quite a few years ago. Remember that @Umar? Bought two tickets in a charity auction at a sportsman’s dinner for two hundred and fifty quid. A steal I thought. Couldn’t understand why nobody wanted them. He is one of the all time greats. We were sat on his table. A privilege and a memorable day out.

Gotta go. Ciao amigos.


T minus four

Friday, January 26th, 2024

Five ten. That is a time, of day. That is the time right now. Ey em. Was awake so got up. Heard the wind and presumably rain bashing the house. Figured we had definitely moved on from the freezing cold, for the moment at least. 

I like both the rain and the freezing cold and, indeed, the combination of the two which is snow obvs. Unless it is hailstones which are nowhere near as nice as snow although they are interesting. I think on the very rare occasion we get hailstones I always exclaim, ‘hey it’s hailing’. It’s an automatic reaction. I must do the same thing when it snows. It’s a fairly rare occurrence hereabouts. In these parts. Lincoln.

Don’t know about you but I definitely talk to the sat nav. When she tells me to turn left I say ‘thank you’. If she repeats herself too often I say ‘okay, okay I got you the first time’. When my car was at the menders THG and I were off on a trip somewhere in her car and using Waze on her phone. Boy did the woman have an irritating voice. I had to give her the boot and hire someone else. Would have driven me crazy to have had to listen to her the whole way.

Five ten is quite early for me to get up and go downstairs. I typically wait until half past, if I am awake, but I’ve taken to turning the face of the clock radio away from me as I read something about light disturbing your sleep patterns. The downside of this is that I can’t easily see the time but we shouldn’t always live our lives by the clock. Let nature take over.

I’m not always awake that early. Sometimes I look at the clock and say ‘gosh it’s a quarter to seven’ or similar. Then whoever is on tea duty will jump out of bed and rush downstairs to get it done. Ish.

The milkman came, fag in hand, at three twelve ey em today. Brought a couple of pints. I thought we had cancelled this delivery but clearly I know noothing. I was immediately able to pinpoint the exact time of delivery as last night I very sensibly cleared the cobwebs from around the camera out front. No false positives due to moving cobwebs. They were getting to be v noisy. It’s ok, it’s sorted.

Today I have a clear diary. Just a bit of banking to do. Invoices to pay. That kind of thing. Doesn’t mean I won’t be doing anything nosiree Bob. Means I can get on with things. Might also squeeze in a swim but meeting @Guy in the Star at four ish so see how that goes.

It’s a bit of a treat going to the pub, albeit for just an hour or two. It’s not a frequent occasion nowadays believe it or not. This is largely because I’m trying to stick to a keto diet which means no beer and the whole point of going to a pub is to drink beer. Gin is ok but they only dish it out by the thimbleful in pubs so not really worth the effort.

THG is off out to see a pal tonight so when I get home I have a Charlie Bigham’s CTM for my tea. Got it reduced in Waitrose on Wednesday. I had planned on getting a Madras using the money off voucher that was on my Waitrose App but they didn’t have any in stock. The CTM is nice anyway. Got some onion bhajis to go with it, yum.

One of the things I always look forward to after a trip overseas is a proper British curry. They just don’t do them properly anywhere else. You have to be careful with your choice of curry house, even in the UK. Some are much better than others. I’m sure we all have a favourite. The problem in Lincoln is that my fave, the Castle View, doesn’t deliver and after a few Guinnesses in the Star I won’t be able to go and collect, hence the Charlie Bigham.

Note the use of TLAs here. I wonder if CTM will still be a thing five hundred years hence. Will someone reading my stuff at that time know what on earth I am on about. Probs not. You could probably say the same thing today 🙂

A road cleaner noisily  makes its way down the road outside our house. I guess it is a good time of day to clean the roads. I’ll inspect the work later. See if I can tell the difference.

T-4 and time to make the tea.

T minus five

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

I hitchhiked to Paris a couple of times when I were a lad. Nowadays I go there using slightly faster and more luxurious means. I like Paris. I like the pavement cafe culture. I remember Paris in forty nine, the Champs Elysees and old St Michel Beaujolais wine. 

THG and I had a great weekend there in the early days of our relationship. Stayed in Hotel Avenir, a small two star dive near Montmartre, down the hill. We took with us fifty quid’s worth of spending money, twenty of which was spent in the first bar we went to! We was poor in them days. Perhaps lacking in worldly wisdom. We got by.

Been to Paris quite a lot over the years. Fifteen of us went there for the rugby world cup, last time it was in France, before 2023 that is. We camped in the Bois De Boulogne. Probably the best rugby tour I’ve been on. Tom, at fifteen, came along with three other lads the same age. A great baptism into touring culture.

Then we went there to watch my siblings, Ann and Sue, finish the London to Paris bike ride. Rather them than me. I couldn’t see myself sitting on the saddle of a bike for four days let alone doing all that pedalling. On one day they cycled one hundred kilometres into a 30 kmh headwind. Brutal. 

We took dad with us on the trip and it was the time we discovered he really was not that mobile anymore. Dad and I spent a wonderful afternoon sat at a table outside a cafe in Montmartre having lunch and working our way through a couple of bottles of vin blanc. It’s what dads and sons do. It was easier for us to just sit there than to walk around seeing the sights.

After that dad and I did a dad and lad trip around Wales in my Jag. Visited all his old haunts. Great week if v tiring as by then his lack of mobility was a known issue. Met my uni pal Dave the Rave for a few sherberts in The Ship in Dolgellau, I recall. Anne joined us at the end of the trip in the Black Boy in Caernarfon. Dre. Dad used to work in Caernarfon.  Going back a bit now.

The moral of this tale is that dads are important. Spend as much time as you can with them. Mums too obvs.

Dunno what made me think about Paris. We are off there for the Olympics this year. Figured we might as well. Do stuff. That bus is a’coming.

It has been my custom and practice to spend time with individual offspring. Just me and he or she. The last of the cycle is coming up next week. When there are just the two of you you can do things that don’t make sense when the whole family (of six) is there. 

I recall Hannah and I going to the opera in Barcelona to hear a world famous tenor. Rolando Villazon though I might be wrong. Time plays tricks on the memory. Gran Teatre del Liceu. The tickets were around £250 each. This wouldn’t have happened if there were six of us.

It was a very hot evening and an old lady kept fluttering her fan to cool off. Unfortunately  this caused a repetitive clicking sound which was really distracting and detracted from the music. It took a lot of diplomatic persuasion by a number of us at the interval to get her to stop. It was still one of those world class nights. 

I have some fave restaurants in Barcelona. Los Caracoles, Xalet de Montjuc and the really cool Betty Ford bar. If you go to Los Caracoles ask for a table next to the kitchen. It’s a great atmosphere. Must take THG there someday. To Barcelona that is. She hasn’t been.

Did you know Suzie? Helluvagal. Dim llaeth heddiw os gwelwch yn dda.

T-5. Everything under control. 

Just cleaned the cobwebs from around the cctv camera in the front. Was annoying the hell out of me with false positive movement detections when it was just a bit of spider web swaying in the wind. Made finding out what time the milkman came a lot harder as I had to trawl through the whole night’s footage. Will be a lot easier now 🙂

I have downed tools for the evening. Been quite a busy day yanow. My new book arrived and I’ve already read half of it: “Christmas Evans – no ordinary preacher”. Had forgotten I’d ordered it so it was a nice surprise when it came. 

I am very interested in the history of religious dissent in West Wales so this was a bit more background reading and especially relevant as old CE used to preach at the Baptist chapel founded by my 4xG grandfather. They would have known each other. JP Davies, another relative of mine, was also quite famous on the circuit a generation after CE. JP’s dad was the rector of Llandysul or similar and wrote him out his will when he realised he had left the established church.

So tonight neither THG nor I have anything lined up. She will undoubtedly spend the evening creating things. She is a very talented craftswoman, if such a thing is a term. I plan on listening to music and writing. Some of this afternoon was spent packing my big yellow duffel bag. It is mostly done. Eighty percent perhaps. 

This needs doing well in advance as I will be away for sixteen days. That means sixteen sets of underwear plus spares, shirts etc. We won’t have much of an opportunity to do laundry and I’m blowed if I’m going to give it to a hotel to do. Reality is we won’t be stopping anywhere long enough to do that anyway. It’s mostly shorts and t shirts anyway with a token nod for the British weather en route to the airport.

This trip is going to have periods of downtime and thus opportunities to record my thoughts. And experiences, which I am expecting to be spectacular. Not quite like being a Victorian traveller who might stay in one place for weeks just to take in the view as it took so long to get there.

I like the idea of owning a big yellow duffel bag. It doesn’t have wheels which is a bit of a disadvantage but I’ll just have to use airport carts. Big yellow duffel bags are cool. I bought it because I’ve lost my big black North Face duffel bag. Now I have no idea how anyone goes about losing a duffel bag. I can only think I must have left it somewhere but it would have to have been empty otherwise I’d have noticed that some clothes had gone missing. I dunno.

Anyway I am very happy with my big yellow duffel bag. Reminds me of Joni Mitchell. Big Yellow Taxi. Not because it has anything to do with either, it’s just cool. Not black or blue or grey. It’s yellow and it’s cool. 

It will stand out on the airport luggage carousel. Would be quite annoying if everyone else realised how cool it is to have a big yellow duffel bag and went and bought one. It’s not gonna happen obvs but it would be annoying if they did. I’d need to rethink my luggage strategy.

Actually I didn’t buy the big yellow duffel bag to stand out. I just liked it. These days I just do things I like doing. Life is too short to fill it with badness, tedium, greyness. Don’t be grey.

In some respects I wish I’d adopted that stance decades ago. From the get go really. Sometimes these things just reveal themselves over time, with experience. Don’t fly coach fly first class. Life is too short to fly at the back of the plane and doing so undoubtedly shortens it further.

Another thing I learnt some time ago is to trust your gut feel, your instinct. That’s what I instil in my kids. Bet on yourself. I have always written poetry from time to time. I used to keep quiet about it and then decided sod it, I don’t care what people think. So I entered a competition at the Poetry Society only to find that there were seventy thousand entries. I didn’t win. I read the winning poem and realised that it was an establishment pick.

That was the moment I decided that the only way to do it was to publish it yourself which is where philosopherontap came in. It didn’t matter to me what people thought about my poetry. I did it for myself. Ok actually it is nice of people say they like your stuff but ultimately it doesn’t matter. From time to time I buy someone else’s poetry book to support them but really I don’t read the poetry. It is a very personal thing that people do for themselves.

One thing that amazed me when I started to talk about my poetry was how many people wrote poetry themselves but kept quiet about it. People from all walks of life. I once invited a lot of folks to our house for a poetry evening.There was no shortage of takers. Some just brought their fave poems along but we had a great evening reading and listening to poetry. I must do it again.

Red dawn

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024

Apparently the sky beyond the shed was red this morning but I missed it. Because it is no longer red I don’t suppose that means it is going to be nice weather. Haven’t checked and don’t plan on doing so. Let’s live life on the edge. Twould be funny if, when walking back from the shed, I was swept into the air unexpectedly by the hurricane that the sky was trying to warn me about earlier. Shoulda looked on the app 🙂

I digress. From what, I know not. It’s not as if I sit down and write this stuff with any purpose other than the fact that I like doing it. 

Our house seems to be full or relaxing sounds this morning. Actually I’m not sure that “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4 is relaxing. Dull, more like and it is the prompt for me to get up. The dishwasher in the kitchen is very much relaxing. Soft background whooshes. Almost like being stood at the photocopier in the “old days”. Does anyone still do that?

The upshot is I am sat in the kitchen swigging, nay sipping a cup of tea after which I shall risk walking to the shed.

54 68 65 20 6D 69 6C 6B 6D 61 6E 20 64 6F 65 73 6E 27 74 20 63 6F 6D 65 20 6F 6E 20 54 75 65 73 64 61 79 73


Storm Isha did its stuff

Monday, January 22nd, 2024

Storm Isha did its stuff but the kids got away without too much disruption. Tom will have benefitted from some delay repay by LNER, fair play. Sometimes I’m ok with delay repay as, if the delay is over an hour, you get your money back completely. If all you are doing is sitting on the train listening to music and drinking gin or doing some werk then it’s norraproblem really. I guess if you have a connection to make or a meeting to go to it can be a nuisance.

There was one occasion where I was on my way home on the nineteen oh six, the last direct train, and we stopped outside Collingham for an hour for some reason or other. There were only two or three of us in the first class coach and the attendants had nothing to do so we (I) were plied with drink and informed that if I didn’t finish off the bottle of wine it would only get thrown away. The wine is pretty pants on LNER but it was a gift horse. Party time.

Fortunately I don’t have to drive after the train gets into Lincoln. Delay repay might not have the same allure if I did.

It is still v windy out. Nice and sunny though. A good drying day as THG would put it. In fact she did. Interesting that some people never dry their clothes on the line. Perhaps they don’t have an outdoor space. They always smell a lot nicer than if dried in a tumble drier and it is certainly a lot cheaper.

The milkman came at an early three sixteen ey em. Clearly wanting to get his week off to a good start.  I guess Mondays are a days to be rolling your sleeves up and getting on with the week. I suppose. This is my last week at home for a while so have quite a bit to do meself.


Great day out in Leicester

Sunday, January 21st, 2024

Great day out in Leicester. Tbh Leicester the place was windswept and freezing cold. It isn’t in my top list of destinations even in the summer. Leicester is an historic place though and we did spot one mediaeval looking gaff in town. Then around the corner loomed a castle-like structure that turned out to be a prison. We moved on.

At the ground it took us a couple of laps around the block before we identified our car park. Had to stop and ask a bloke in a high viz jacket in the end. We had a spot in Leicester College car park right next to the Welford Road stadium, fair play. Except it isn’t called that any more. It is Mattioli Woods stadium. Wealth management company apaz. Woteva.

So the only real reason for anyone to want to go to Leicester is to watch sport. Rugby, cricket or football, when Liverpool are visiting otherwise I’d not bother. In fact I’ve never been to either the football or cricket ground there.

Leicester were up against Leinster in the European Cup. Tbh the odds were stacked against them as the visitors are mostly Irish rugby internationals and Leicester were walloped despite putting up a good resistance and scoring the first try. 

For Tom and I it was just a nice day out. We are both Irish passport holders and were ok with Leinster winning. Our seats were top dollar jobs near the half way line and directly  accessible by an internal corridor from the Chairman’s Lounge where we partook of excellent hospitality. Good nosh and plenty of staff at hand to bring beer to the table. Even had a nice couple called Fiona and Mark sat next to us.

We were treated to a bit of a talk by Chris Ashton,  Anthony Watson and Nick Dolly before the game. Not heard of Nick Dolly but that’s probs just my ignorance. Both Nick and Tony were injured hence their availability to chat.

The one non positive observation on the day was the presence of four guys on a corporate jolly sat directly behind us in the row above. They couldn’t stop talking about business. “We have a 51% success rate with pitches”. Very good mate. He also told the stand that his school was a rugby playing school but he never got picked for the team. Blamed it on his asthma. Get well soon I say. Didn’t stop him rabbiting on non stop for almost the whole game and when he got tired or ran out of things to say someone else kicked in. Always catches the 06.57 for his daily commute into London apaz. Loser. It didn’t spoil our day 🙂

Tom drove back and I managed to stay awake for the whole journey. 

T-9 – now into single figures.

Leicester Tigers v Leinster Lions

Saturday, January 20th, 2024

Exciting day ahead. Leicester Tigers v Leinster Lions with our Tom. Gonna get there early to make the most of the experience. No doubt I’ll stick a pic or two up. Might even buy Tom a scarf. It’s his birthday present. I’m that kind of dad 🙂

Fortunately the temperature is nudging up. I read somewhere that Lincoln City were still defrosting part of their pitch in advance of today’s game against Derby City. Should be ok.

In other news I see that Doja Cat is to headline Coachella. What a great name. In 2024 we are truly in the realm of science fiction. The world is growing ever more surreal. Doja Cat. Had to say it again. The inaugural Coachella in 1999 had Beck, Rage Against the Machine and Tool as headliners. Almost boring by comparison.

Let’s face it. If a musician has become famous in the past thirty years there is a fair chance I won’t have heard of them. One of our kids works for Live Nation as a project manager. I have very rarely heard of any of the bands he works with. The development of my music tastes dramatically slowed when four kids arrived on the scene. Unless you consider Wheels on the Bus to be where it’s at. Willoughby wallaby wustin, an elephant sat on Justin.

Having four kids did allow me to read some classy books that I had not touched since my own childhood. Just William specifically springs to mind. Also a few new books became classics. Ivor The Engine. Swallows and Amazons. All time greats really. I did reread the Famous Five but tbh they were too corny. I used to devour them when I was a kid. Times change. None of my kids took to them.

In the meantime time to get cracking on breakfast. Need a hot meal in us before hitting the road for the icy wastes of Welford Road.

It is a Saturday. THG bought some milk yesterday to last the weekend. T-10


Friday, January 19th, 2024

Good session in the shed last night. Had some neighbours around. One of them is about to become a grandad. THG asked me how the pregnancy is coming along. Erm. Tbh I have no idea what we talked about. Not babies. Definitely wood as I was showing off my new wood recognition book. @rob thought he already had a copy of it somewhere. Birds of a feather… 

Bit of clearing up required this morning before doing anything. The shed always seems to need a tidy. Non stop innit. It’s like the Forth Bridge always needs painting.

A nice frosty start to the day. Cars will need scraping before they can go anywhere. It’s the kind of frost you imagine Thomas Hardy would write about as his main character walks down the country lane bound for Mr Threshborough’s cottage. Or similar. Mr T needs dropping in on occasionally just to check up on him, yanow.

If I can get showered and dressed before the frost starts to fade I’ll take some pics. Add them to the tens of thousands of other photos on my drive that rarely get seen. The temperature is set to climb to a heady three or four degrees today. Almost shorts weather.

The Red Arrows are out practising. I hear them but rarely see them. Given up running out to take a look as they are invariably just dots in the distance by the time I get out there.

We cancelled today’s milk delivery. T-11

Du lait, doolay. Just sayin. Ditez moi pourquoi pas?

Storm Isha is on it’s way apaz. I say ‘it’ because I’m not sure whether Isha is a him or a her although my gut feel says her. Regardless of sex Isha is a comin and those in its path should batten down their hatches.

The funny thing is I doubt anyone reading this actually has a hatch to batten down. Unless you are of a particularly nautical persuasion in which case hello sailor 🙂Actually I know @Adam, @Graham, @Tim and @Nina have boats but Nina doesn’t live in the UK and Isha may be of no concern to her. Adam, Graham and Tim make sure your hatches are battened down. Sorry if I missed someone out. Get battening.

I quite like going for a sail but boat owning is not for me. Unless it is a little day boat for pootling around the Isle of Man but even then we don’t go there often enough to merit having one. We live too far from any decent port. Better to just hire a boat with a crew and spend your time lolling about at the stern taking photographs of the wildlife and looking for basking sharks, dolphins and killer whales. Careful what you wish for. 

Facebook ads

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

Dear Facebook

I have enough warm socks, sweaters and coats and don’t need any more. Certainly not this season. I also have around five or six woolly hats so definitely don’t need any more of them. I realise you haven’t been pushing me ads for hats/beanies and now will but it is a risk I’ll take and doesn’t really matter in the great scheme of things.

My Wales rugby jersey style Fatface sweatshirt is on its way. It’s been ordered anyway. In a sale. I saw it in Abergavenny but they had limited size options in the store so ordered it online after seeing an ad on Facebook. So some of the ads are relevant!

I’ll be away for the first two weekends of the 6 nations but will be watching the first game at least in a bar. There is unlikely to be a tv at our location for the second game and I doubt I’ll need anything as warm as a sweatshirt. Maybe for the journey.

Temperature is still sub zero outside. Over breakfast THG and I observed that we were fine in our centrally heated double glazed house but our parents’ generation started off in different circumstances. Dad was born in Maesdulais, just outside a mining community in West Wales in 1934. In the family woollen mill to be precise but his father was a miner. The wool industry went into decline after the first world war so the next generation had to find employment elsewhere and locally, coal mining was the main alternative.

On a morning such as this my grandmother would have got up early to light the range and cook breakfast for my grandfather before he left for the pit in darkness. They moved to a small cottage built by her father opposite the pit in Blaenhirwaun so he didn’t have to walk far.

I remember staying in the cottage in winter as a kid. You really had to psych yourself up to get out from underneath the blankets in the morning. Breath would freeze. Don’t really have the problem nowadays although we all like to stay cosy under the duvet innit.

In our kitchen a pan of THG’s finest homemade soup sits on the stovetop ready to be warmed up for lunch. Perfect for this weather.

No milk was spilt in the production of this post.


PS the pic is of a painting of the Maesdulais woollen mill, known as “y ffatri” picked up by dad somewhere along the way. The artist has applied some license as I’m told the wheel was not originally in that position.

PPS my grandmother survived her husband by perhaps forty years. After his death she got free coal delivered for the rest of her life. Would have made a big difference.

wireless set

Wednesday, January 17th, 2024

Awake from around five thirty ish, I think, and switched on the wireless. Dozed a bit. Listened to the news. It’s quite refreshing to hear of problems with flooding otherwise it’s all war and politics stuff. Why are there so many knobheads in the world? I realise those affected by flooding won’t be looking at it with the same perspective. 

I think I only have the news on as a soporific background noise. THG will normally make a comment about a news item and I have to ask for clarification as I won’t have been listening even though the set is only eighteen inches away. Forty five centimetres.

Quite like the idea of the wireless set. I only use that term here. When using the spoken word I call it a radio. I’m probably being nostalgic. Dunno when it changed from being a wireless set to a radio. It is never a radio set. 

We held the regular scout group committee meeting last night. Much of the conversation was around the shortfall in fundraising since the cancellation of the Lincoln Christmas Market. A few activities in the pipeline to try and replace the revenues. I daresay many local organisations and businesses will have been affected. Westgate School used to make something like ten grand renting out the hall to stallholders and didn’t need to do any fundraising during the rest of the year.

On Friday we have the annual scout leaders Christmas party, held every year in January. Something we always look forward to. I’ve ordered prawn cocktail starter, bangers and mash main and apple crumble pud. What’s not to like? Simple fare. It isn’t always about foie gras, beef wellington and sherry trifle yanow. Hopefully there will be cheese and biscuits 🙂.

Outside it is freezing again, as it should be. Thankfully by Saturday the temperature is set to rise to a heady six degrees by mid afternoon. This is good as Tom and I are off to watch Leicester Tigers in a European cup game against Leinster. Last thing we want is for the match to be abandoned because of a frozen pitch. 

It will still be cold. I remember many years ago rocking up at Lincoln Rugby Club on the off chance of getting a game. Ended up playing on the wing somewhere up north. It was so cold I had to wear a jumper underneath my rugby jersey and being on the wing I hardly saw the ball. Bloody forwards! I forgot to take a towel so had to use the same jumper to dry myself off after the shower. Happy days.

We cancelled today’s milk delivery as there is plenty in the fridge.


spill no milk

Tuesday, January 16th, 2024

I’m told there is a forty percent chance of snow at seven ey em. It is early yet but right now my spies tell me precipitation has not yet started. It is typical, if we do get snow, that my car, which would be very well suited to cope with such weather, is still at the menders awaiting a part. I don’t think it will snow. Most of the ‘weather’ is north of us.

THG is off on a train to meet some old uni pals this morning. Looks like the trains are running OK.

Today I have swimming booked for three pee em. Went on Sunday and the pool was rammed but it isn’t the same demographic mid afternoon during  the week. You can tell that Sunday afternoon swimmers are not regulars as some of them lack understanding of pool etiquette. Moreover there was only one lane swimming slot available at the weekend so every man and his doggy paddle will have been there. Fortunately I can be more flexible. The temperature outside is sub zero. The pool is heated so should be OK 😀. 

The heating is on and we are tucked up cosily under the duvet. Stay warm everyone and spill no milk.

I’d like everyone to close your eyes, turn your face to the sun and soak in the warmth. The decision of the day is which tee shirt to wear. Breakfast on the terrace or by the pool?

There is no rush to decide. The weather dictates a relaxed approach to the day. Maybe open the garden gate to the beach and take a plunge first. The sea is just the right temperature. If you stand still in the water little fish swim around your legs.

That is all.

The sky over the allotments is mildly pink. I am hoping this is no warning of stormy weather approaching across the Atlantic, hearing the news from the US Presidential Elections this morning. I’ve said this before but I wish there was a way to screen out certain subjects from your media listening. It isn’t practicable to just not hear any news.

A few small snowflakes have slowly danced their way into the back garden. Presumably the front too. I couldn’t hand on heart call it a flurry. If the temperatures were a little higher it would be a fine drizzle, mist almost.

Still it makes me feel good, snug as I am, in the comfort of the shed. I donned my Himalayan gear to cross the lawn but now discarded. Will need to retog when I need a tea refill.

The deck is gradually whitening. This must be an optical illusion as the Met Office is saying no snow in Lincoln. 10% chance. It is quite melancholy really, knowing that this is not going to last. 

There is a scenario where the snow fell so quickly that it was impossible to make it back from the shed to the house. I have supplies: gin, brandy and whisky, heat, a nice thick blanket and connectivity. However there is no food. Don’t think deliveroo would be able to make it.

I’d have to make a judgement call before the snow became impenetrable and plough my way back to the house. There is an 18th Bailgate Scout Group committee meeting tonight. They will expect me to be able to make it, being Chairman an all. They being scouts an all.


a very low sun

Monday, January 15th, 2024

A very low sun barely made it above the back fence as I walked to work after breakfast. Left the heating on in the shed last night knowing that the overnight temperatures would fall below zero. As a result the interior of the shed is very comfortable from the get go. Fortunately it is dry so no ice. Yet.

Took a load of logs and kindling into the house last week but ended up not lighting the fire so that is what I will do this afternoon. It only needs to last until eight thirty pee em which is when THG and I watch University Challenge, in another room.

It is actually a lovely winter’s day outside. The kind of day where you would take the kids for a walk in Chambers Farm Woods or Whisby Nature Reserve. Frost on your breath. Glowing cheeks. Wrapped up warm. Always assuming it wasn’t a school day which it is today.

Long shadows cast by the trees above the shed. On a day like this it feels totally right that I managed to stack the logs into sensible piles. They aren’t piles per se. They are tidy row upon tidy row.

Sat in on the Monday morning meeting. Again. It’s just that I feel like rolling my sleeves up today. In fact as I write I’ve just left the meeting. Dull. I do have quite a bit of stuff to be getting on with so that’s what I plan on doing. Even had a shave wtf! Ready for action.

Had to make a second pot of tea for the shed. The milk I put in the mug was off so started again. Just a small pot. The milkman came at four fifty nine ey em this morning. There are currently five pints in the fridge including the two he dropped off this morning.

The thermometer is set to plummet

Sunday, January 14th, 2024

The thermometer is set to plummet. Real winter arriving at last. An icy northwesterly blasting across the frozen steppes of Lincolnshire bringing Greenland temperatures to unprepared yellowbellies. Make sure you have a good supply of fuel next to the hearth and plenty of food in the larder. You will not want to roam far.

I wonder if there is a temperature at which Deliveroo ceases to function. Where bicycle chains seize and insulated food bags are inadequate for keeping your chinese warm. Riders freeze. The only option is to bunker down, pile on the duvets and enter hibernation. 

The shed could continue to function as the operational nerve centre of all things Tref. It has all the basic necessities: very good insulation, great connectivity, a Stella Artois branded refrigerator, bags of computer power, screen acreage and a leather sofa with very cosy blankets. 

The preferred option may be laptop in front of the fire in the front room. This will need careful consideration due to the reduced screen availability. It comes to something when decisions are influenced by pixel count.

But first the journey home cross country needs to be undertaken. Two hundred miles of extremely boring motorway 🛣 driving. We complain but in the days of coach and horses this would have been a dangerous and uncomfortable ten day marathon that would not have been considered lightly. Probably would not have made the trip, especially as our stay in Cymru has only been for three nights. Whistlestop. Pheeeeeeeep.

In Caerdydd we are listening to the wireless. It brings news from foreign parts. Calais, Tel Aviv and Westminster. I turned the set on five minutes before the start of the bulletin to give the valves time to warm up. A few crackles and a voice came through loud and clear although we do have to huddle close to hear it properly. We sit in quiet concentration, digesting the information presented and thanking our lucky stars that we are ourselves safe with a roof over our heads. And bacon rolls to be consumed. With another cup of tea.

The Sunday service from York has kicked in. Doesn’t quite do it for me so I’m going to stick the bacon on. Bought some rolls yesterday on the way back from the Bannau Brycheiniog. I will not go hungry on this cold winter’s morn, in January, in Caerdydd. Blessed are those who keep warm when all around is frozen.

Paham mae dicter, O Myfanwy,
Yn llenwi’th lygaid duon di?
A’th ruddiau tirion, O Myfanwy,
Heb wrido wrth fy ngweled i?
Pa le mae’r wên oedd ar dy wefus
Fu’n cynnau ‘nghariad ffyddlon ffôl?
Pa le mae sain dy eiriau melys,
Fu’n denu’n nghalon ar dy ôl?

Pa beth a wneuthum, O Myfanwy
I haeddu gwg dy ddwyrudd hardd?
Ai chwarae oeddit, O Myfanwy
 thanau euraidd serch dy fardd?
Wyt eiddo im drwy gywir amod
Ai gormod cadw’th air i mi?
Ni cheisiaf fyth mo’th law, Myfanwy,
Heb gael dy galon gyda hi.

Myfanwy boed yr holl o’th fywyd
Dan heulwen ddisglair canol dydd.
A boed i rosyn gwridog iechyd
I ddawnsio ganmlwydd ar dy rudd.
Anghofia’r oll o’th addewidion
A wneist i rywun, ‘ngeneth ddel,
A dyro’th law, Myfanwy dirion
I ddim ond dweud y gair “Ffarwél”.

Cast off thy shackles

Whilst I was at the bar last night a fairy hairy bloke came and sat at our table. He had spotted my jacked, draped over the back of the chair, and came over to express his admiration. I’m always happy to engage with aficionados of jackets such as mine. Life is short. Talk to people. I wear it often.

Yesterday at St Mary’s Priory Church in Abergavenny the lady volunteer guide spotted the Route 66 sign and asked me if I had been there. That was a reasonable question. She was a good guide and was able to point out many interesting features inside the church. After our conversation she asked me if I would sign the visitors book and I was happy to oblige.

Made it home at a quarter to two. House is freezing so until it warms up I’m sat here with a tshirt, lumberjack shirt, extremely warm himalayan wool jumper and a thick woollen beanie with a v comfortable quilt over my knees.