Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Best wishes from Smokey

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Well it has been some time has it not? Two and a half years almost. Despite rumours I have not passed away nor just got bored with blogging. However, there have been some dramatic changes in my life. The first, being a very long run in with a pack of black dogs. The second was my prolonged attempt to escape from a job that I grew to hate; in fact hate is not a strong enough word to describe how I felt. The third was the sale of Chateau Gastonbury which took over a year and finally moving in with the Beancounter at Kastle Kastanbury which is where I now live.

The Black dog which was joined by some of his friends and became what seemed like a pack. Each problem I encountered only increased the size of the pack and I ended off work and under medication. Work was the biggest problem, I liked the place, I liked most of the people, I even liked some of the bosses and the work in itself was not really of huge concern although it did contribute to the overall problem. The main cause of my intense dislike was the system I had to work under. Government changes and a succession of bosses who had either never worked on the shop floor or it been so long since they had that they had forgotten what it was like in the “field” were my biggest problem. Salvation came in the form of early retirement and the day after I retired half of the pack of black dogs faded into the distance.

Between my home going up for sale and retirement being offered Beancounters house was burgled with devastating mental effects. It took some time to come to terms not only with the loss of possessions but the realisation that the home had been violated and despite our best efforts we had not made it in the safe and fortress like haven we believed it to be. Although the insurance covered all the material goods the sentimental value of some of the items were beyond price and can never be replaced. As I tried to figure out the best forms of security by way of locks and doors another couple of dogs joined the ever growing pack that was snapping at my heels.

Chateau Gastonbury went up for sale a few weeks before my retirement. As a general election was looming and people were concerned over what might or might not happen to the financial markets and interest rates, interest was flat for six months but after the election and the subsequent return to overall power of the Tories, viewings picked up and 12months after going on the market I finally left what had been the family home for well over 60 years. Feelings were mixed as I left behind a host of memories both good and bad as I shut the front door for the final time but I had wanted to go for many years and as I moved into Kastle Kastanbury the last black dog disappeared from view.

The past two and a half years have not entirely been gloom and doom and thanks to the many friends, most of whom have been mentioned in this blog at some point, I have managed to come through the entire episode with no permanent scars. Special mention must go to Ted Magnum, Commander Riker, The Driver, a new group the Merseyriders and of course Beancounter. All of these people have put up with my rants, mood swings irrational and sometimes completely unpredictable behaviour and rarely complained.

The Merseyriders are a group of motorcyclists of mixed ages, riding abilities and riding styles ranging from boy racer and throttle fiend to the tootle along and view the scenery to hardcore all weather all conditions rider that go beyond just riding, it is a social group as well. I have been camping with these people, ridden to Belgium to commemorate the centenary of WW1, ridden to Normandy to see the beaches of the allied landings and the liberation of Europe and spent a few days out (nowhere as near as many as I would have liked) on my bike in their company. I have also spent many an enjoyable evening at events parties and social gatherings with these people. I am proud of the fact they count me among their membership and one of them. During some of the darkest moments, thinking about what we were going to get up to and planning trips away took my mind of some of the more troubling aspects of my life. It would be fair to say some of my most enjoyable periods of the last few years have been spent revving the bollox off my steed either trying to catch up with or leading this diverse bunch.

Ted Magnum has been another rock upon which I have leant rather heavily, our trips to often cold damp and miserable campsites coupled with his insufferable moaning and pessimistic outlook has often meant at least someone was unhappier than me!

Commander Riker and his other half (they got married the weekend just gone) Rock chick, have perhaps understood more than most the problems I had with work as they both worked with me for several years. The three of us all had some issues with work and at least for a period of time we had each other to lean on. Commander Riker was the first to go and then Rock chick which left me feeling isolated at times. We have now all left the “firm” and it is fair to say none of us have looked back since.

As I mentioned earlier Beancounter has borne the brunt of all my misfortunes, trials and tribulations either real or imagined and seen me at my worst. She is still here and I am as surprised as many of my friends that she stuck it out and did not boot me into the long grass a long time ago but we are now living together under the same roof. I had sworn many years ago that I would never live with another woman so this is a learning curve for the pair of us. I am sure there will be mistakes along the way but it is fair to say I am not the same man I was a few years ago. Mature, mellow, wiser and more understanding are some of the words that I am sure she would like to say in any description of me, sadly that is not the case. If anything more cynical, more pessimistic certainly more immature and a lot less tolerant would certainly be closer to the reality, however I am back maybe not with a bang but I am back.

It has not been possible to describe all of the developments and events of the last few years in a single post so I will be trying to fill in the gaps over the next few entries along with what is left of my aspirations and dreams. Till then take care with best wishes from Smokey…..

no one does austerity like we Brits.

Monday, August 20th, 2012

It’s now five years since the start of the current recession and it is truly the longest lasting in my lifetime. Sadly it shows no sign of recovery and by all accounts it looks set to become worse. Companies are still laying people off and unemployment queues around the globe are increasing in size. I count myself as lucky, I still have a job and unless there is something I do not know it remains fairly secure.  Of course the recession has not left me completely unscathed, any plans I had for leaving the UK have been well and truly scuppered and it looks as though I will have to admit defeat and accept the fact I am going to have to remain here for the foreseeable future and probably forever. It is something I have felt for sometime and had hoped it would go away.

I wrote in my last post that BC and me had been to Memphis, well after  stopping in a bar called Slinky O’Sullivans in Beale street and listening to two guys entertaining the audience I became inspired enough to take up music once more. I stopped playing over 25 years ago mainly because I was not very good.  I have however wanted a Gibson SG ever since I first heard Angus Young in my teens so I decided I should strike another item off my bucket list and use up some of the money I had put away. Thanks to the recession it was not gaining any interest and no matter how hard I saved I would never have enough to leave.  So, not long after arriving home I ordered a brand new natural red wood finish SG and several days later it arrived. It is gorgeous. Not content with this purchase and chasing the same thoughts that led me to buy the SG I bought a Telecaster and was instantly amazed that it is more enjoyable to play and sounds better than the SG.

These two additions join the other guitars I have which were gathering dust under the stairs. They have all been cleaned and restrung and I now have in total 6 guitars consisting of a Gretsch Committee, A Fender acoustic, and two Bass guitars. The Bass guitars are a Fender Jazz and a Tanglewood EB, both impressive instruments. It is not my intention to play in public or even in front of company although I may play along with friends. Instead I am playing purely for my own enjoyment and amusement and my fingertips have got over the painfull stage even if they have not reached the dexterity and speed I want them to. I no longer care if I am not very proficient or good as long as I enjoy strumming away and it should give me something to keep the Black Dog at bay during the long winter nights.

It was the Drivers 50th birthday a few short days ago and BC and I went along to join him in his celebrations which had been set up with some degree of secrecy by his other half, the Drivers Mate! The Driver had an inkling that something was going on even if he did not know exactly what and it was with some difficulty that I got him to the pub to get him out of the house. During the time we were out, BC and the Drivers Mate sprang into life and transformed the house and garden into party central. It was with even more difficulty that I managed to get him back from the pub within an hour of the time I was supposed to and we half staggered back to the welcoming committee awaiting him. It was truly memorable weekend although I suspect a few of us don’t remember everything that went on.

There is a rumour and whisper it in hushed tones, but summer may have at long last arrived in the UK. It has not rained for several days and the sun has been out. I have actually managed to cut the grass and trim hedges. I have even seen Roger Moor out in the garden and his patch of land has been transformed from Wildlife Park to something you would be proud to sit in. There are even pretty young things parading in short summery skirts and skimpy tops!  Whilst my friends in OZ are complaining that it is bitterly cold and it is only 25C we are baking in temperatures of 20+C. We need to make the most of it.

The London Olympics is almost finished and while I am not a fan of them I have felt proud whenever the national anthem has been played. The opening ceremony which was created on a fraction of the budget that Beijing had four years ago has been held to critical acclaim worldwide and I actually felt proud to be British for once. It seems our quirky sense of humour and history may not have been understood by all across the globe but it was admired. They may have been dubbed the austerity Olympics but no one does austerity like we Brits.

The Fourth Reich may be a joke but…..

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

What a month! I returned from a two week holiday in Memphis at the end of May and life has been non stop since then. My brother and his wife arrived and stayed for a week and while I love my brother and it was great to see him it was almost seven days of non stop lung and liver abuse. My internal organs must have breathed a collective sigh of relief when he drove off. As Usual the British summer has been a washout, in fact since I started this blog five years ago each summer has been successively worse than the last one. Indeed it does make one wonder whether or not I have jinxed our weather by continuing with this on line collection of thoughts and events.

 The garden is looking so forlorn as the weeds take hold and the grass shoots up accompanied by the hedges that now require a petrol trimmer to keep them in shape. As for crops forget it, I have decided to leave the garden fallow for this year. I have not even been able to take Rhonda out as the conditions are so miserable and she does require some TLC. A service is due soon and again that will be weather pending.

 Regular followers of this blog will remember the entry about Shell Island last year and the disaster with the tent. You may also remember I bought another large tent and enough gear to live in one permanently. What I did not have was a vehicle large enough to carry all this gear around in. My faithful old Ford Focus had 130,000 miles on the clock and it was time to replace the old girl. I swapped the focus for a Citroen Berlingo plus cash from my mate Ted Magnum and now I have the means to transport tents, beds, field kitchens, wardrobes and furniture around but not the weather to go any where. Bean Counter is not exactly pleased with my choice of vehicle and has likened it to an orange on wheels due to its gold colouring. I have discovered it is easy to find in a car park.

 Enough of the weather, it is depressing writing about it, it must be equally depressing reading about it. Between BC and myself we took over four hundred photographs from our trip to the States which will feature in a series of entries in the travel section. As users of digital cameras will know a number is assigned to each photo which does not give any one any idea of what the photo was about. So I have spent what ever time I can renaming over four hundred photographs and when that is complete I will then upload a selection of them into the gallery with appropriate captions. I can say the trip was life changing and changed some of my thoughts and preconceptions about music, barbecue, civil rights and the American dream, mainly for the good but a small percentage for the worse. It was interesting to hear the views on Europe as whole and particularly Britain from several people we met. In general it was not flattering.

 I can understand and relate to how things must seem to the outside world especially as Spain has just received a large bail out for its banks, the fourth country to ask for financial aid from the European central bank and European monetary fund. Cyprus although a very small country is also asking for aid because its economy is tied into the Greek economy which is so bad it is almost terminal. No one is talking any bets on whether Greece will leave the Euro it is a case of when. This leaves Italy which it has been rumoured will also require a bail out. Should this happen the Euro will be truly dead and buried and the biggest social experiment in History will be declared to have been an abject failure. In spite of this many Europhiles have demanded that the cure is not less government interference and fewer rules and regulations but more and there should be just one government for the continent and one set of rules and financial policy which would apply to all members of the European Union.

When our American cousins watch this drama unfold it is easy to see why they think we are in the grips of radical socialism and their closest ally is in danger of being swamped by Germany which is the largest and currently healthiest economy in Europe. UK news commentators are openly jesting about the Fourth Reich. While this may be politically incorrect they are commenting that Germany has swapped tanks and battle ships for a calculator and a balance sheet and are in danger of achieving the same result for far less outlay. President Obama may be the most powerful man in the world but the most powerful woman is Angela Merkel. The Fourth Reich may be a joke but…..

Pinstripe terrorists

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Yes yes I know it has been some time but there are mitigating circumstances. Firstly things happen so fast that by the time I get chance to write them down they are already old news. Secondly my ISP YAK YAK has gone on the blink again. Honestly they should be called MUTE MUTE. They are indeed the worst ISP I have ever had. Ok I can hear you saying why does he not change provider then? Well, the location of Chateau Gastanbury means that the nearest exchange is miles away and the copper cables will not get me any better speed regardless of what ever ISP I choose to go with. Secondly each one wants a contract of a minimum of 12 months and in the case of BT it is 18 months. This means if I move I will be paying for a contract I cannot use and cannot get out of. So I am stuck with the worst service provider in the UK. Don’t even get me started on ringing up their helpdesk. The screen apes read from a script and then after an hour or so proudly tell you they cannot fix the problem but they are moving you up to a level two service engineer who will call me back but they can’t say when. I hope YAK YAK go into liquidation and each screen ape ends up signing on they are as useless as the company they work for.

At long last the short cold winter months have finally gone to be replaced by the cold damp if slightly longer spring months. To be fair there have been one or two good days since the solstice but the thermostat on the heating system tells the real story and the gas is burning constantly to keep the house to a reasonable temperature. Yet more work has taken place at Chateau Ghastanbury and the bay window over the living room has been re-felted and sealed. There really is not much more to do, it is a case of finding the inspiration and that has been sadly lacking during the current financial climate which shows no sign of abating despite what the financial commentators of the day say.

Just to prove spring has arrived my old friends the collared doves are back and they are battling it out with a squadron of Magpies for the right to live in the silver birch tree at the bottom of the Tilers garden. Currently the Magpies are winning on sheer numbers alone however Genghis and the local cats seemed to have ganged up on the Magpies as well. When I was little I used to think that Magpies were lovely creatures but now I have come to hate them. They are loud, brash, bullying and cruel showing no mercy to anything that stands in their way. The only thing I can credit them with is the fact they will take on creatures much bigger than themselves, indeed they are no cowards.

In the “could not make it up” stakes, the financial affairs of Europe are in such a state they hardly cause concern any more. Yes the Greeks have had two bail outs so far and we know there will be more, the betting is on when Spain and Italy will present the begging bowl. The great experiment called the Euro zone single currency looks doomed to failure. This in itself seems to be a generational problem as the youngest in our society do not seem to understand what the fuss is about and the older ones cannot understand why anyone even tried to create a single currency across so many foreign and diverse cultures and financial systems. It probably sounded great when someone thought we could all have North European wages, Southern European hours, Irish taxes and East European prices.

Should any of my friends who left these shores for sunnier climes and fame and fortune doubt the decision they made, let me remind them of the price of Petrol in the UK. It is £6.31 a gallon. That is the cheapest I can find it in any of the areas around here. When the Tiler left here it was under £4 a gallon. In some places it is considerably more and a threatened tanker drivers strike induced panic buying and over three days most garages ran out of fuel. On more than one occasion I could not take Rhonda out for a spin because I could not obtain any fuel. If the price of petrol is causing palpitations wait till you hear about gas and electricity. Four years ago my combined gas and electricity bill were around 450-500 pounds a year. Today they are over a £1000 in spite of insulation and the sparing use of each commodity. It is hard to understand why prices have risen so much. I think everyone understands about inflation and we all expect a small increase in prices year on however commodities have rocketed beyond inflation leading to a belief that prices are increasing due to speculators whims.

This would put commodity brokers and speculators on a par with bankers in the popularity stakes but the reality is that they are lining their own pockets at the expense of those who can least afford it. Tales of tankers anchored off shore waiting for petrol prices to rise before they land and discharge their cargo are not uncommon around oil terminals and ports. Wheat and flour is being stored until prices rise to maximize profits for the lucky few. Freedom fighters and martyrs may be causing mayhem but in the background is a bunch of commodity brokers slowly starving the West into submission, indeed they may as well be classed as a pinstripe terrorists.

Busy Busy

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

January has finally gone. As far as I am concerned it is without equal, the worst month in the northern hemisphere. I can’t think of a single redeeming feature this month has. It is long, dark, cold, damp, miserable and it brings in all the bills from the excesses of the festivities. Would it not be a good idea if they chopped 3 days off the month and added them onto other months in the summer? It is not as if this has not been done before. Julius Caesar and Augustas had months named after them and added days onto them to make them longer.

So here we are in February and the temperatures have dropped. There is talk of snow although it has not happened in this neck of the woods yet. So what has been happening? Well personally not a lot although I am still not smoking and I have still not touched an alcoholic drink since New Year’s Day. I think a lot of people were expecting me to have fallen off the wagon by now but I am happy to report that I have not wavered although my mood swings mean some people are staying out of my way. I can live with that!
One of the side effects of not smoking is that the weight has already started to pile on and so I am starting a keep fit campaign in a week or so. The NHS has given me a 3 month free pass to any of the council run gymnasiums in the borough. I hope to go swimming at least a couple of times a week for the 3 months duration. Who knows I may even start pumping iron and pressing weights in the gym. I really can’t see it myself but stranger things have happened.

The economy of Europe looks shakier by the day with Investors in Greece accepting losses of up to 75% on loans they made to the Greek government in the form of bonds they bought. Normally a situation in which a few “rich” people lost a few bob would not be a cause for concern but in this case the “rich” people are the ones entrusted to look after our pension pots. Savings, pensions and investments of ordinary folk will all suffer because the Greeks will not pay their debts. The old saying of “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” might as well now read “never trust any Greek ever at all under any circumstance”. The least the Greek government could do is flog a couple of their islands and pay off the debts with the funds received; it is not as if they don’t have a few spare. Rant over!

To cheer myself up I blitzed my credit card and bought another barbeque. It is a small sunncamp portable and I bought it to take camping on the bike with me I also bought a few bits for Rhonda. I always said I would never go down the Touratwat sorry Touratech route of buying overpriced non essential bits for my bike. However I wanted some folding mirrors and although a few sites out there sell them none of them had a decent review. The ones at Touratwat not only had a review but photographs and fitting instructions so in the end I was left with no other option. Lo and behold they arrived within 48 hours of ordering. I guess you get what you pay for and Touratwat are expensive but their service is rather good, I expect the mirrors to be as good. I also bought tickets to go and see the Answer in April. They were the support band to ACDC in Paris in 2009 and I was well impressed with them, impressed enough to buy a couple of CD’s. I am also going to see a Led Zeppelin tribute band called Mothership in a few days. Reports from both gigs will appear in the new section of this blog along with reviews from other concerts, festivals and gigs I have been to. Expect to see a report about Peter Frampton shortly.

Unlike January February is going to be busy busy

Lets hope the Mayans are wrong

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

 

Well we have all done it. One moment it is half past September and you think I should sort out my international Christmas cards and the next it is 10 to February and thoughts turn to what f**k happened there?

 Seriously though time just disappears into a black hole with so much happening that by the time you manage to sit yourself down and start writing something else has happened. The proposed blog make over and update did not quite happen but the idea is not exactly dead in the water, it is merely dormant until commander Riker has a moment or two spare. For now a couple of tweaks and a new category will have to suffice. Christmas came and went with Chateau Gastanbury packed to the rafters for the best part of it. New Years Eve was much the same with old friends the driver and his squeeze staying and collectively we saw in 2012.

 Well then what did happen in 2011? Basically the whole world went down the financial shitter with Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain right there at the head of the proverbial queue. The financial meltdown that started in 2007 shows no sign of receding and all but a few economists forecast things will not get any better over the next few years. Quite a few have forecast things to get much worse and a mere handful are optimistic. Basically this is the longest recession I have ever experienced. In short 2011 ended pretty much as it started.

 I never make New Year’s resolutions but some time on New Year’s Day I decided I was going to abstain from alcohol until my birthday. I am now 3 weeks in and I can honestly say I do not miss it although I thought I would. After the first week of the New Year I made the decision I was going to have at least 4 meat free days a week. My stomach had been giving me a lot of problems for some time and I figured that my over rich diet just might be the cause. I am only just getting used to that and my stomach and digestive system is actually better than it has been in years although it has taken me well over a week to come up with a recipe that makes stir fry actually taste nice.

 Due to a chest infection picked up last September I had a chest X-ray where a shadow was found on my left lower lung. A course of antibiotics and the chest infection was gone but a spirometry test and further X-ray showed I had the lungs of an 85 year old. Something had to be done and so this morning I had what was hopefully my last cigarette. I have started on a course of nicotine patches and I have an electronic cigarette which I can say is absolutely disgusting but it gives me something to do with my hands. For some one who does not make resolutions I have made three. For the sake of my health and longevity I hope to keep all three of them although I may just have bitten off more than I can chew.

 Plans for long term travel are almost in a state of perpetual suspension although day trips and weekends away have already started to fill in my calendar. A two week trip to Memphis US is in the pipeline and while Bean counter gets to re-visit Graceland I finally get to visit Rosedale at the very heart of the Robert Johnson legend.

 As most of you know this blog started off February 2007 as a barbecue blog but has expanded somewhat. Indeed the barbecue section has been somewhat lacking due to the weather but plans are afoot for this year to be the best since I started the blog. Unless the weather makes it impossible a series of veritable feasts incorporating menus as far removed from the burnt sausages and the odd burger that are regular staples of the average English will take pride of place this coming summer.

 Until the next post happy 2012 and let’s hope the Mayans are wrong. 

 

Cheers Elsie

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Hard to believe but it is now four years to the day since Elsie the Marchioness of Ghastanbury passed away. In the words of Sandy Denny “who knows where the time goes”? It is also hard to believe I am still here as in the same place. I was convinced three years ago that I would be well away from here and living in sunnier and warmer climes. Oh well, Cheers Elsie you are sorely missed by so many people. I hope where ever you have ended up you are enjoying yourself.

 

all will be revealed.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

It has been some time has it not? I am sure I have written those words on more than one occasion. No matter I digress. Some time ago Bean counter and I decided that it was unlikely in the extreme that we would be going away on holiday this year due to the current financial climate. But, it would be a good idea if we had a series of long weekends away. One long weekend rolled onto a weekend at work and then another weekend away. It has meant I have spent more time recovering than actually getting down and writing. The last couple of months have seen us go away to Shell Island, take a trip to Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park, go and stay at the Drivers place and have my brother visit for a week. Current plans are to go and see Joe Bonamassa and then go and see Pete Frampton. Oh and I have a couple of bike rallies planned in the meantime and the Driver is coming to stay at mine next weekend. This has been on top of friends stopping by and me sparking up the barbie at every available opportunity. I have more photographs than I know what to do with to post in the gallery and the time is going by so fast I can hardly catch my breath.

To my friends in foreign parts, the European economy is going down the pan fast with Greece having received yet another bail out of billions of Euros and the news today that Cyprus, Spain and Italy are all likely to be downgraded by the agencies that decide how much interest that country will pay on the bonds it sells to raise income. The more likely it is that a country will default or become unable to meet its commitments to pay back the bonds the higher the interest it has to pay. This is a bit like going to the bank to borrow money and because you are broke, why would you need a loan if you already had the money, and the bank tells it will not lend you any. However if you are rich enough to not need a loan then the banks will throw the stuff at you. In other words if a country is rolling in cash then the interest it pays to borrow money is almost zero.

What has this to do with any of us? Well if a country defaults on its debts then the next time you go to your own bank it may just say, sorry we have not got your cash we lent it to someone and they can’t pay us back so you can’t have what we owe you. The experts are divided as to whether or not this is the death knell of the Euro as a currency.  The one thing that even the most hard bitten Europhiles are reluctantly accepting is that is a good job we as a nation did not join the Euro. But even so petrol is now over £6.40 a gallon (we thought it was scandal when it reached £5), gas and electricity prices have risen extortionately with the price of each commodity going up by over 30% collectively in the last few months and food prices have risen so much they are changing the way we are shopping. It has meant fewer people being able to obtain mortgages, people not being able to sell houses because no one can buy and fewer people going abroad for a holiday, hence the long weekends.

However it has not all been doom and gloom at Château Gastanbury and I have made the most out whatever time I have had with a few funny stories to tell along the way including the saga of the tents, the pink gin palace, the ongoing war on trees and of course the barbies. Til next time when hopefully all will be revealed.

 

How the hell do I top that?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Its damn late, well nearly 5 months late but finally here are the photos  from Halloween 2010. As a surprise and to top the action from last year I managed to hire a fire eater that I bumped into one day last summer. He was giving an impromptu performance outside one of the pubs not too far from my house and I asked him if he did private parties. Thankfully he said yes and I booked him there and then.  I had only told a small select group of people what I was planning and so when my my friends came along with the kids no one really knew what was happening apart from the almost obligatory barbecue and bowls of stew along with sweets for the trick or treaters. Mercifully it all went well no mishaps, the house did not catch fire, no kids were rushed to A+E  and a Jolly time was had by all. The photos I took really do not do the event any justice but hopefully they will give anyone who was not there a flavor of what the night was like. Those who were there need no reminding. The problem now is how the hell do I top that?

 

One should see stars as lent ends?

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Well the clocks went forward and the mercury started to rise, pancake day and lent came and went and so did Easter. So why the absence of posts, another sabbatical perhaps? The answer is no! After Pancake Tuesday, which in true fashion was different at Chateau Ghastanbury, it was held on a Wednesday instead and I decided to give up alcohol, my blog and shaving. Why so many items? Well I knew I would fail in at least one and after a visit to see my brother a mere 10 days after abstinence, the drink was the first item to fall at the wayside. I now sport a beard and as many people have said it suits me and to keep it as there have been who said it does not and to start shaving again.

The house has had yet another item crossed off the task list and the porch is now spotless and gleaming with only the utility room left before downstairs is completely finished. This leaves three rooms upstairs to be refurbished as and when the time, inclination and money are all collectively available. It is starting to feel as though I have completely rebuilt this house over the past few years, certainly enough time and money has gone into it.

My Barbie’s, smokers and grills were cleaned and refurbished over the Easter period. The smoker was recoated with heat proof paint and the legs and wheels have been coated in Hamerite in vibrant and funky black, gold and red. I also attended the first Barbie of the season at Ted Magnums. I have to say it felt strange being sober but I was doing my best to keep what was left of my abstinence. The host and his guests made up for my lack of alcoholic intake and a good time was had by all, hopefully it will be the first of many this year.

I also bought two new tents, one for the bike to replace the kite I lost inDevonand another to go in the back of the car. The large one was tested in the garden and all went well until my cat, Genghis, decided to use it as a scratching post. It now sports several swathes of McNet magic repair tape. Hopefully that will be enough to keep the worst of the weather out in what is still a brand new and unused tent.

Rhonda is now sporting new tyres and what a difference it makes. It is like riding a completely different bike. I went on the egg run and because Beancounter was unwell and not up for the ride I took Roger Moor along with me as a pillion. It was the first time he had even been on a motorcycle before and in spite of a nervous first few minutes he loved it. http://www.wirraleggrun.co.uk
Hopefully when BC is well and fit once more I have plans to ride Rhonda into the Dark forest at Galloway and take BC camping.

For those who have never heard of a dark sky park or dark forest, there are only four currently in the Northern hemisphere. One is in the UK at Galloway near Stanraer in Scotland. http://www.forestry.gov.uk/gallowayforestpark
The light pollution in these parks is so low that you can see the night sky and the stars as nature intended. Perhaps it is fitting that one should see stars as lent ends?