2014-08-23 16.36.44

So little time, so many cardboard boxes

It’s been a good few days since I updated the blog, mostly due to things being very hectic. When I’ve not been in work (very little time) I’ve been dividing my time between travelling to Cambridge, going to yoga classes and trying to get myself back up to date with things.

Today has been the first day in over a fortnight when I’ve not had to be up at 6am for one reason or another, and even though I was still up shortly after 8am, it still felt like a luxury.

Today was always going to be about chores, and having demolished breakfast (I’m sure I’m eating for more than one at the moment – or maybe that’s why I’m putting on weight) I managed to get various week’s of washing items back away, various items from the collection back into the collection rather than strewn around the place and got the washer on for the next load. Then there was the cardboard box mountain range which seemed to have developed between the kitchen and the front bedroom, as if some weird cardboard tectonic shift had occurred – many of which are now pride of place in the recycling bin.

So that was the physical sorting out.

Next was a bit of digital jiggery pokery to tidy up email accounts, Flickr accounts and to answer a few messages which I’d put off doing whilst I was doing other things.

So the Flickr account is looking much better now, with sections for the weddings from the last two weeks as well as my trips around the UK so far this year. You can find all of this on the link on the side of the blog, or by clicking here.

Whilst getting the details for this, I found a brilliant bit of footage from the Etape Eryri Sportive I took part in during the BBW in June. It’s as I remember it although he hurtled through the timed mile a lot more competently than I did! View it here. It’s made me think about getting a headcam. What a great way of capturing the experience :-) And expert ammunition for when the holiday photographs are threatened on me, I could dig out a 3 hour disc of a bike ride……!

My running has been pretty limited recently, with a plethora of excuses involving being too busy, too hot, too wet, too tired etc. Anyway, having tidied up all but my office (which will take a lot more effort to do) I dug out the HRM strap, GPS watch and my trainers and went out for a 16 mile run, with no particular direction in mind. I created a new route in the process although 16 miles from nothing was probably a bit ambitious. I’ll see if I can walk tomorrow!


Weddings and absent friends

A family weekend. The first of the August weddings, this time my niece Jodie and her new husband Pete.

I must add this is a wedding from the Cambridge side of the family. I’ve not been down that way since last November, for Mark’s birthday (he would have been 53) and I completely bottled out of the anniversary visit in June, just a couple of months ago.

Still, this was an opportunity to see all the family and in much happier circumstances too. At least there was a happy focus of the wedding as well as a chance to catch up with the family and to see how much the little ‘uns had grown. Turns out, quite a lot!

The two youngest girls (one a niece, the other a great-niece) seem to have shed their shyness completely, with my niece being a flower-girl to Jodie, something she clearly seemed to enjoy.

With the exception of the organist who got the time wrong and was late, and a shortage of burgers for the last table to be fed, everything seemed to go very well. And the band who played for the evening do were superb too. I thought it slightly mad that they were playing 1970s material which predated the bride by a decade or so, but it seems everyone knew the words to the songs!

Even the weather behaved itself, not bad given the tail-end of a US storm Bertha was coming through overnight!

It was a nice opportunity to catch up with Mark’s sister who was over from the US, as we don’t get to see her that often due to the cost and distance to make the journey. In fact last time I saw her was at the funeral. So again, lovely to spend some happier moments with her and her daughters who came over too.

The visit was a positive one, but not without its difficulties. Driving past the turning which I would have taken to go to Mark’s bungalow was a challenge for the emotions and the many references which cropped up over the weekend were never easy, although they weren’t too sharp in pain. The siblings are all recognisably  so, and it’s difficult not to see Mark in them.

The father of the bride’s speech ended with a toast to both Mark and to the bride’s grandfather, two people we all would have liked to have been present.

Getting home was a slog as Bertha was dropping her contents on the Midlands as I drove through them. I’d like to hope that counts as a washing of the car though. Saves me going to the garage to do it :-)

This evening I happened upon this track on BBC Radio 2. With all the memories still resonating from the weekend, it was another poignant reminder of absent friends.



Return of the roller

July was a very atypical month for me. Not only did I go camping for a week, and did another long bike ride (2 months in a row!) but I also bought a house.

Now I actually already have a house, and whilst I have a lot of junk this is not attempt to  take on more space to house the collection, even though the people I work with have suggested this as an option (if only they knew the extent of the existing storage system in place!)

Instead this has come about due to a lot of messing around with spreadsheets and my former life in the murky world of pensions. Basically if I want to retire at some point in the future, I’m going to need an income. Now that will partly come from my contributions over the 480+ or so years I’ll be expected to work before I can draw a pension but actually that won’t amount to very much. Not if the cat wants to continue to live the life it’s become accustomed to anyway.

I’d thought about having a rental property in the past but  everything has finally come together in the last month and I now have the property.

So I returned from War & Peace and a couple of days later visited my purchase, on the day it all completed. It felt very much of a ‘WTF have I just done’ moment as I wandered around this new space which I was now financially responsible to. Thankfully very much as I had remembered it from visiting a couple of months previous when I decided ‘that’s the one for me’.

It’s taken a bit of work, but knowing my limitations I’ve kept things sane. I say sane, this is me-sane, which might not coincide with other people’s view of a gentle and relaxing approach.

Last time I decorated was in 2012 when I managed 6 rooms in a fortnight, whilst working and came away with tennis elbow in the process. (Perhaps I should have tried playing tennis for 2 weeks instead, and I might have become better at it, and still come out with the injury but at least the name would be justified.)

I hate decorating, although it does have a positive in that one can see the positive results at the end of the process.

Much to the letting agent’s delight, I happen to be a fan of magnolia. So choosing the  colour scheme didn’t give me any issues at all.

So now that part of the work is done. There are a couple of bits of carpentry to be done, namely to give the boiler and it’s piping a nice private home. But I’m letting someone who knows what they’re doing with a bladed object (hell, I managed to get the flooring sorted without losing any digits but I’m not going to push my luck!) and some knowledge of how to assemble a cupboard.

In the meantime the letting agent has been let loose (although will my photos be better……?) and I await news of someone wanting to make this house into their home.


W&P part 4: A Glasto Epitaph

Despite the carnage from the night before, the festival was well attended by the public coming to get their fix of armoured vehicles, uniformed personnel and a bit of tank-on-car action which is always good fun, unless you’re in the car in question.

More Tanks!
More Tanks!

A variety of friends descended on us as we cleared up the remnants of breakfast for the masses and we headed back to the main stadium area. The main road into Kitchener’s now resembled a field at Glastonbury and those trying to get around in sandals were one step away from a comedic face plant into the mud.

We caught up with the battles on the arena and trailed up and down the stalls for a variety of bits and pieces. The weather started off cooler and cloudier, but once I was more than a quick dash to the  tent the sun found it’s way through and we were being roasted again. Thankfully there was more than one place to purchase a spare hat!

Chris had to return home and Paul and I stayed around in the main stadium for some proper food in the grandstand carvery before heading out to the evening entertainment, which as for the previous evenings came courtesy of an excellent covers band. As we sat out to cool down we ended up chatting to a serving soldier who, by his own admission, couldn’t grasp the attraction that brought people in to dress up, buy and fettle decommissioned military vehicles and engage in the festival. Nor could he understand why anyone would want to restore a Snatch, a vehicle he had served in, had lost colleagues in and was basically in his opinion a very poor vehicle that needed to be consigned to history and forgotten about. It was a good discussion only hampered by the amount of beer he’d consumed prior to the conversation, but it was very interesting all the same.

Kevin along with his lovingly restored NI landrover
Kevin along with his lovingly restored NI landrover

Paul and I tidied the tent on the Sunday morning for the last time, and packed up most of the big stuff into the Snatch ready for home. There had been more rain overnight making the site a mudbath, not that this deterred everyone and we met a few people visiting who were totally blown away by the event. Even though a sizable number of exhibitors had bailed out of the site early, there was still more than enough to  see and certainly more than you could get around in a day.

Having been unable to find it until the night before, I followed the path through a set-up of WW1 trenches into the Centenary Exhibition. With period artifacts along with a timeline and photographs of the 14-18 War the whole experience was extremely emotive and I found myself welling up inside, which surprised me. But then having been so absorbed in all things military for the past week, perhaps this was a contributory factor.

Bertie - the bronze statue marking the centenary
Bertie – the bronze statue marking the centenary

Certainly getting back out into the sunshine and seeing the Royal Marines Marching Band parade past helped to lift the spirit again. They had, moments earlier, been posing with the cast members of the BBC programme ‘Allo ‘Allo. Some things are just plain odd however you look at them!

Royal Marines drummers
Royal Marines drummers

So that was that. I boarded my train just a few minutes after 3pm and left the site for another year. A brilliant festival was had by the group of us. We made some new friends in the process and got even more fired up to do it all again in 2015. And it will be bigger and better than 2014. And Masterchef WILL be tracking us down for the next series :-)


W&P part 3: the storm, a helping hand and some action romance

Many parts of the south east were struck by storms on the Thursday night, but we weren’t one of them. We actually stayed up far too late chatting to the other snatch owners and all stumbled to bed as the day was beginning to break desks the promise of an early night following tales of shows, amusement from the YouTube world of ‘Rainbow does Top Gear’ and a subtle rebrand of a genre of adult film-making as ‘Action Romance’, a term that will probably stick around for years to come.

1940s village pub. Am I the only person to have clocked the invasion?
1940s village pub. Am I the only person to have clocked the invasion?
1940s police station, constable and a soldier randomly handing out strawberries
1940s police station, constable and a soldier randomly handing out strawberries
A 1940s front living room
A 1940s front living room

Our attempts at food cooking had only got as far as pasta with a stir on sauce which, on a single hob that ran out of gas midway through took the best part of 90 minutes! The result being that we went to the many excellent food stalls in the show for the rest of our evening meals instead with a view to come back as camping masterchef finalists in 2015.

Friday was stupidly hot. The forecast has suggested 30 degrees and I think that was a fair assessment. Getting around the festival was a covered-up affair with liberal amounts of sun lotion plastered over anything remotely pink. Being so close to the weekend the number of exhibitors increased significantly and the visitors to the site did likewise.

We had planned to visit a friend in Canterbury that evening amongst rumours that a big storm was coming in. Canterbury is a pleasant town with interesting buildings and picturesque streets. It reminded me a bit of Nantwich where I grew up and I took a few photographs whilst I was there too.

In fact the storm reached us as we were leaving Canterbury to return to Hythe and we were wondering what the state of the racecourse was going to be given the amount of heavy vehicles running around on soft grassy areas. By the time we got there the rain had almost stopped but the soft ground was now somewhat waterlogged. The tent had survived and we got to bed.

Now I’m a light sleeper and tend to use earplugs when I’m away as the new sounds from a different area can easily keep me awake. It would appear they did a sterling job as it was only when the torchlight of my friends returning to the tent woke me I discovered that our neighbours camp had been flattened with an overnight storm and our awning which was directly next to my bed area had to be rescued too. I slept through the lot! Ooops!

So the morning was a bit like some form of refuge centre. Our basic setup for breakfast and brews was entirely unaffected by the overnight carnage and we were feeding and watering our neighbours as well as ourselves due to their facilities being strewn across several fields overnight. At least nobody got hurt although there were a few mangled remains of gazebos and tents left near the bins, and a few exhibitors packed up and drove off.

German winter scene.
German winter scene.
Watching the midday battle
Watching the midday battle
Line Dancing - 1940s style
Line Dancing – 1940s style

W&P part 2: Latvia? You drink beer? Have a Latvian beer!

Having collapsed in a heap on the Tuesday night we arose in the morning to survey our home and environment for the next five days.

The War and Peace show is spread across the whole of the old Folkstone Racecourse site which is a large area of land. Directly in front of the grandstand is the battle arena among with food stands exhibition areas and the entertainment marquees, the the rear is the 1940s village, to the left is the stalls of shops. Further away in front of the grandstand is the living history section where many of the larger groups had created their own encampments and way over to the right is Kitchener’s field where the vehicle exhibitors were based. We were almost a mile away from the grandstand at the furthest extreme of Kitchener’s which gives a feel for the scale of the site.

American base with a distant view of some of the living history exhibition.
American base with a distant view of some of the living history exhibition.
Russian tank and crew
Russian tank and crew
Kirsty in the midst of 'A' Company
Kirsty in the midst of ‘A’ Company

Having consumed a large bowl of shredded wheat and agreed for the duration of our stay that civilian clothing was to remain in the suitcases we set out to explore. We began to get to know the other snatch owners who were far more advanced with their own renovation projects which meant there was ample discussion about what we needed to be doing to get our one kitted out correctly. It seems that every one of the 218 vehicles were customised by their crews with a result that they were all unique. Some were green, those that sent to Iraq were sand coloured and we discovered that our vehicle was one of twelve to go to Kosovo as a peacekeeper and painted luminous orange! It is however now, desert-coloured!

Another friend, John, who again takes his uniform collecting very seriously joined us. In full Latvian digital combat uniform, with a pattern which looked like he’d escaped from a game of Tetris. Whilst walking past a stall run by Finnish nationals an excited stallholder who accosted John and having noted he was in Latvian uniform asked him if he drank beer. The Finn then ran to another stall and presented him with a can of Latvian beer. All a tad bizarre but which added to the sense of enjoyment and international community spirit at the event!!

We had taken the snatch out on its first arena outing of the show and paraded it around along with a large number of other armed vehicles which was all very hot until the differential in the gearbox through a wobbler and we needed to be towed back on to terra firma afterwards.

Perhaps the most fun part though was that evening when we took part in the Post War Vehicles Parade through the local town of Hythe. There were some 200+ vehicles in the convoy including four of the snatches. The weather was very warm and the town of Hythe came out to see us. Much waving ensued and almost everyone seemed to have got into the spirit with only one van driver giving the convoy a rude hand gesture as he drove in the opposite direction.


War and peace – part 1

Having just about recovered from the Manchester to Blackpool bike ride the day earlier it was a relaxing rail journey south beyond London to meet up with my friends Paul and Chris who were traveling with me to the War and Peace Revival Festival 2014 at Folkstone Racecourse.

War & Peace Exhibitors band
War & Peace Exhibitors band

The plan was to get to their house, stop overnight and then travel to the show on the Tuesday afternoon. I did something similar last  year but rather than doing a weekend visit as a punter, this year we were part of the show.

In January 2013 Chris purchased a land rover ‘Snatch’ vehicle which dates back to the later years when the British Army were permanently deployed in Northern Ireland. There were apparently only 218 of these vehicles and like many of the decommissioned military vehicles which were still serviceable, it has been taken on as a project by enthusiasts.

Our tent with the Snatch in the foreground
Our tent with the Snatch in the foreground

So we were booked in as exhibitors and would be part of the site for the full five days.

War and Peace is the largest festival of collections of military vehicles in the world and as such attracts people from all over the globe with over 3000 vehicles being exhibited.

Oh yes, and we were camping. A tent had been purchased, but owing to it being bigger than my friends back garden, it was entirely untested. None of us had ever camped before either. So what could possibly go wrong…. :-S

I arrived in good time and we ate splendidly along with friends who were visiting the show later in the week. It was all very civilised! The Tuesday morning was spent packing. And packing. And packing. The snatch was full to the brim with everything we thought we’d need, including vast amounts of food we planned on cooking whilst away.

Due to work commitments we were late away by about six hours and finally arrived at the show where we were pitched up next to another group of land rover snatch vehicles. We then spent a comedy two hours erecting the tent for the first time relying on a YouTube video we had viewed before setting out showing how it was done.

They didn’t finish the construction in the dark. We did.

Gourmet evening meal was a bag of crisps and a fizzy drink but we didn’t care. We were at the show and we were on holiday!

Spitfires and pilots
Spitfires and pilots
American base with a distant view of some of the living history exhibition.
American base with a distant view of some of the living history exhibition.

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers