Monthly Archives: August 2011

Feeling evangelumpy.. or relucgelical.. or something..

Next week we’re off to take part in our company’s annual charity-partner event.  This year we undertake (as an organisation – not individually) a walk from Castle Cary, which festival aficionados will know as the nearest train station to the Glastonbury festival, to Nottingham.  Our team are part of the ‘first leg’ – so will be taking on the first 18 miles of the journey.

Well, some of us will – there’s a shorter canal-side walk for folks two whom 18 miles of very rural walking has proven a barrier, and there’s a contingent cycling a really long distance (then back again – to get to their minibus!).

It’s not a random selection of places either – the starting point is where Douglas Macmillan comes from.  Douglas Macmillan of course is the founder of the charity Macmillan Cancer Support – our charity partner of choice.  I spent quite some time mixing him up with Duncan Macmillan, the name used to rebrand Mapperley Hospital whilst I was doing some summer work there one year!  Nottingham is where Jesse Boot hails from – so we are literally linking our two organisations.

A nice idea – an overt altruist connected with a businessman who certainly participated in more than his fair share of philanthropy!  I’m a big fan of charity activities, as I’m sure anyone who knows me will know, but this one feels a bit corporate which is part of the reason – as well as the fact that I already bombard my friends and colleagues with charity requests – that I’ve not hammered the donation page at all.  It’s all a bit enforced participation.

Having said all that,  I do like the opportunity to get out in the countryside and take in some exercise – but I’m not looking forward to leaving Nottingham at 6am and getting home probably gone 10pm.  If it weren’t for the fact that the timing means I miss a game of football and the chance to see an Evening with Mark Crossley at The Approach it might just have paid off.

Regardless, Macmillan Cancer Care is a fantastic charity – it really is – and not giving people an opportunity to make a donation because I’m a bit grumpy about logistics would be cold-hearted of me.  So should you wish to support us in our trekking quest then you can do so by clicking here.  I work in the Insights part of the labyrinthine description on that site.

So whilst I’m not sure that a bunch of office-softened numpties such as myself participating in a glorified ramble is particularly worthy of merit – if it gives people the impetus to back what is a tremendous cause that lends so much support to so many people who really need it, then really, that’s all that counts isn’t it?

I’m trying to think of a suitable portmanteau word for ‘grumpy’ or ‘reluctant’ and ‘evangelist’… evangelumpy?  evanluctant?   Whatever it is, that’s how I feel about the whole situation – I passionately support the cause, but have reservations about the means.  I’ll also be taking the reins of the corporate Twitter account for the day (I can’t remember the ID of it at present), so I need to get my corporate head on I guess…

Ho hum!

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The words that you heard when you were young will always stay..

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I finally got around to sorting old pictures out so that I could sync them with my iPad. This one was part of a selection of daftness Dan and I used to work on with our fledgling Photoshop skills. It evokes memories of times when life seemed less complicated and I had time to arse about with images in Photoshop!

Ah, fun. I bet back then I used to hark back to the past with false memories too. Cool picture though, I remember Dan being chuffed with his efforts. Indeed, he might even have used Paintshop Pro.

This is what happens when I nod off for an hour or two in front of the telly and can’t sleep as a result!

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It’s easy… as falling off a log…

So back in June I mentioned some obscure song that pops into my head occasionally out of context, and Amanda was kind enough to leave a comment identifying it.  It was part of a small songbook called ‘Piper’s Mountain’ – a Music Workshop for Primary Schools issued by BBC Radio for Schools in 1986.

Thanks to the wonders of Amazon Marketplace I found a copy for the princely sum of £3, and couldn’t resist getting it to jog my memory.  As well as music it contains a comic-strip based story about a trio of adventurers visiting the moutain where the Pied Pier of Hamelin led a bunch of children.  Now there was an odd mixture of royalty and a witch living there – all of whom enjoy youth beyond their years.

The secret to this is their lack of greed and coveting of things.  A couple of the adventurers though attempt to throw a spanner in those particular works – because they have decided to try to sell stuff to them… which is where the Giant Ginormous Cataloge comes into being… which is one of the numerous songs in the book…

… the only other one I remembered was one entitled “You Can’t Have Everything”, a song based on the premise that you couldn’t have everything because you wouldn’t have anywhere to keep it.  I do recall this leading to some quite heated debate on the playground – because if everything automatically included the concept of everywhere as well (which I seem to remember thinking it did), then it was perfectly feasible to have everything, as you would have everywhere in which to keep it!

So, for the sake of posterity, here are the words to the song I remembered at least… I bring you, The Giant Ginormous Catalogue…

The Huge Ginormous Catalogue has everything for your home
From a range of bedroom carpets to a plastic garden gnome
If you want a conversation piece to knock the neighbours dead
How about our grand piano that converts into a bed?

Chorus:
It’s easy as falling off a log
When you order from the Giant Ginormous Catalogue
The order from the Giant, the Huge Ginormous Giant,
You order from the Giant, Ginormous Catalogue. Hi!

The Huge Ginormous Catalogue has everything for your pet
You can get a special discount if you order through your vet
We’ve got paddling pools for polar bears and tea for chimpanzees
And we do a special circus kit for pet performing fleas

Chorus

The Huge Ginormous Catalogue has everything made for sport
We will even paint the markings on your garden tennis court
And if coming last on sports day is the most you’ve ever done
We do silver-plated trophies to pretend that you have won!

Chorus

The Huge Ginormous Catalogue has everything for your life
Simply call up our computer for a husband or a wife
We could sell you Tower Bridge, ‘cos we’ve got everything in store
We’ll make any crazy promise just to keep you buying more!

Chorus

So there you have it.  For those of you of a certain disposition the sheet music can be provided!!  Now I just need to track down the random thing we did about a music competition along a similar lines and my underwhelming rediscovery of what passed as musical teachings at Primary School will be nearing completion.. all together everyone.. “The Black-bird sings… A tune-ful song.. with turns and trills so fine..”

In other news I took delivery of a DVD and CD recording of the Levellers performing on their Levelling the Land tour back in March, which has my name printed in it.  I’m quite happy about this and am in the midst of ripping it to pop on the iPad!

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Well the year is twenty one and one..

England has gone mad.  What started ostensibly as a protest against a police shooting in a specific locale has spiraled into a nationwide spate of unrest, rioting and looting.  What is more worrying though are the vultures circling to attach their own agendas to events, and of course the dithering idiots in government who procrastinate and leave the police to deal with events as they can.

The prevalence of lazy racial slurs is predictable from more right-leaners, but from the numerous ‘shop a looter’ photos doing the rounds my impression is of a much more multi-cultural brand of yob at large across the UK, I don’t suppose that will detract from racist organisations like the BNP or the EDL trying to rally support from people who struggle to think for themselves on the back of these events.

This wave of behaviour from youngsters bereft of any notion of consequences for their actions has not just glossed over, it’s completely drowned whatever root there might be to these alarming events.  Firstly, rioting even as part of a protest that may have credibility (I’m not judging that) is unjustifiable – but could well be the act of a section of society so marginalised, so detached from the rest – that they feel they literally have nothing to lose.

Of course, this has been diluted to nothing thanks to hordes of opportunists seeing it as an opportunity to rob some new trainers or just generally misbehave.  In Nottingham, oddly, there seems to have been – after an initial foray to break into the Victoria Centre – a forgoing of the chance to go looting, and instead local hoodlums instead opted to (a) dance about on the roof of the Nottingham High School and (b) firebomb five local police stations (and I’m sure many other things).

It’s perplexing, and worrying – and whilst I admittedly had little faith in Cameron and Co. anyway, they’ve not done much to try to win any further credibility – and of course, because of the mass dilution thanks to an idiot minority taking cues from the catalyst to this, they probably won’t be held to account for their policy decisions that will undoubtedly have contributed to society literally falling apart in some areas.

On the policing I can only comment locally – but Nottinghamshire Police have really shone in their communications and handling of events locally.  Whilst over 1,000 calls were made to them – on an evening where a game between Forest and County went ahead (without incident, I might add), they’ve done a good job in a really difficult circumstance.  Any Nottinghamians I’d recommend following @nottspolice on Twitter to keep up to date with any potential ongoing problems.

Whilst Blackberry Messenger and Twitter had the accusatory finger pointed towards them, it’s brilliant to see the same mechanisms are being used for good by decent society-minded people (who, much like the rioters – are also multi-cultural!) to spark clean-up operations and support for individuals and businesses impacted by this loutish behaviour – which, at its’ worse, has cost three people their lives in Birmingham.

There needs to be decisive direction from on high to tackle this – because whilst the police are doing an admirable job, it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to imagine a spate of vigilante action which – whilst might seem justifiable in some instances – isn’t really a good idea.  Mob rule doesn’t result in justice, and there is always likely to be innocents caught in the crossfire.

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One and a third peak challenge..

On the way down from Snowdon, before it all went wrong to me..

There was an Englishman, an Irishman, a Welshman and a Scotsman… it sounds like the start to a tedious joke, doesn’t it? But it’s actually a description of our team who guided us on our Three Peaks Challenge.  Danny, Brian, Garath and Ian were awesome in their roles as guides, entertainment and chauffeurs in what has been a rather gruelling weekend for all concerned!  If you fancy a top challenge, check out what More Adventure offer, I can thoroughly recommend them.

It started for us in a carpark in Wales, meeting up with the crew.  Our group was myself, Rich, Em, Chris, Ade, Pete and Rog – and we were joined by what proved to be the super-human Nicky.  We met Brian and Danny, picked up Garath en route and got in a minibus to head to the start of the Snowdon trail.

Having got ourselves and our kit sorted out we duly set off – now none of the three peaks are the preserve of the fittest people in the world – however, to have achieved the challenge you have to ascend and descend all three in thirteen hours (allowing eleven for transport).  That’s four hours up and down Snowdon, the same for Scafell Pike and then five hours to get up and down Ben Nevis at the end.  Of course, sometimes people do them in reverse order to that.

That means basically you need to get up at not far off your normal walking pace – which, on an incline and on uneven ground, is fecking hard work!  It is a really hard trog for someone like me who is in reasonable shape but hardly a fine example of the human form.  Indeed, it was relatively early that Pete was struggling to keep up – the guides have mental waypoints which they time us to reach – and Pete dropped out, the pace a bit too much.

A considerable portion of my psyche envied him immensely, I had a few ‘moments’ on the way up – although each time I hit ‘the wall’ my recovery time was diminished – and once we reached the peak it was a real sense of achievement.  Photos taken, packs off for a few moments, a snack and a drink and we were on the way down.  And with gravity assistance it’s so much easier – and you notice the beautiful views you are afforded that you hadn’t noticed on the way up.

There was a chance to wish farewell to Pete who – with car in locale – headed on homeward.  Disappointing for him – although I can say from personal experience that it was probably for the best for something to go wrong on peak number one, Scafell Pike was up next for us.  “This is the toughest psychologically, because nobody really thinks about it” said Ian.

He’s kinda right – it’s the smallest peak, and it doesn’t enjoy the psychological boost of being the first or the last – stuck in the middle.  That said, it started well for us, it’s a much much constant uphill trek early doors, we reached a river crossing in 20 minutes – the guides’ “cut off point” was 30 minutes for this stage, so we were doing really good time.  As before, ‘the burn’ was hard, but recovery time was pretty good – I was finding it tough but also feeling reasonably confident.

Over-confidence can be risky though, and taking a foothold on what I thought was a sturdy rock saw it drop beneath me, turning my ankle and jarring my knee.  I hobbled on a while, paused and let the others pass, I tried Ian’s walking poles to take the pressure off, but – whilst it wasn’t a serious strain or twist – it was bad enough to not want to risk on the increasingly uneven ground to come.  Nobody wants to have to end up with a mountain rescue situation.

Brian led me back down the ‘hill’ as he kept soul-destroyingly calling it and back to the minibus, I was gutted.  It was fascinating listening to the guides though – Garath had decided to utilise his time off from guiding to climb another nearby mountain whilst Danny was on standby with the bus.  Brian was ready to catch up with the rest of the group (he could probably have made it up and down any of the mountains in half the time we could!), but in the end opted to stay.

Eventually the rest of the posse signalled via radio they’d made it to the peak – and once we’d clocked them completing the descent they had probably bought themselves a good half hour in time savings to transfer to the Ben Nevis balance.  On to the minibus and a whopping six hour journey to Scotland saw us sleep as best we could – but it certainly wasn’t comfortable!

Not so bad for me, it had been decided for me that I wasn’t to risk Ben Nevis, so I would have a good five hours of catching-up-on-sleep-time whilst the others went with Danny and Brian to tackle the biggest of the three peaks – setting off at around 3:30am.  Ian and Garath had arranged beds in the nearby youth hostel leaving me with custody of the minibus – I duly found a comfy position and slept.

Until about 5:30am that was (I think), when a knock on the window scared the shit out of me initially – it was Brian who, bless him, wasn’t to get to the top of any peak this weekend – he’d chaperoned Rich and Emma back down the mountain.  Through either a bug, food poisoning or simply over-exertion Rich wasn’t able to stop vomiting, which brought out a similar reaction in Em.  Brian was all set to play catch-up but Danny told him no on the radio, so he was stuck in the minibus with us.

Thankfully the remaining four made it to the top of Ben Nevis amidst some horrible weather (the hot weather we endured for Snowdon and Scafell didn’t help with our endurance efforts it has to be said!), and descended inside the overall thirteen hour time to see them deservedly awarded with certificates to confirm their status as three-peakers!

It was then a marathon drive back home from Ian ’til his drop off point in the north of England, before Garath took over and got us back to Wales.  A really slick operation from the organisers, it has to be said.  We were back in Wales for about 6:30 and thankfully we’d booked a night in a nearby hotel (where Edmund Hillary had stayed during his Everest training in the 50’s), and managed to get ourselves a booking for dinner too.

There was just time for a bath (possibly old enough to have been used by Edmund himself) before a rather splendid three course meal in what was a spectacularly old skool style of hotel – with dinner being a fixed time and announced by a gong (as was breakfast!).  In the meantime, a lot of sleeping and enforced foot elevation to try to fit my legs in a minibus has had a positive effect on my ankle, so I’ll be testing it out at football tomorrow.

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