Sunday, 2 September 2018

Bake Off Returns

Bake Off is back.

The Great British Bake Off is an institution, must-watch television. It's the most bizarre thing, in a way - get a group of generally middle-class, affable individuals in a big tent, make them bake difficult things, and then let two judges, one an evil monster who could capture your soul with a thought, the other effectively being your grandmother, complete with unending friendliness but the ability to express infinite disappointment should you not live up to expectations.

Add to this a weekly elimination and it's completely and utterly addictive. Especially when accompanied by several cans of John Smith's laced with Jagermeister.

It's maybe because we all think we could do that. Regardless of whether you're skilled in the kitchen or not, you think that with the right recipe and ingredients you could make a reasonable fist of at least a Victoria sponge or some sausage rolls (man, I'd love a flaky sausage roll right now...).  When you're watching X Factor, or Britain's Got Talent, unless you are one of that those minority who actually have talent, or one of the slighter larger proportion of the population that thinks they do, you can't connect to it because you couldn't actually be up there singing/dancing/eating an elephant blindfolded.

The crisis caused by the move from BBC to Channel 4 seems to have settled down now. As much as I like Mel and Sue, and I've always liked them, for me Noel Fielding has been a pleasant surprise. When I first saw some of his work he was a bit too random and surreal for me, but in Bake Off he's odd yet friendly, a real delight.

So, here's to a couple of months that will be improved by Bake Off :)

Sunday, 29 July 2018

A Day Out

Something of a belated blog post this one, but it's time I talked about going for a walk.

So earlier this month, a group of us went to tackle the Yorkshire 3 peaks, these are 3 mountains in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Now, it should be noted that in the UK we've been experiencing particularly hot weather this last month, and the challenge is to tackle all 3 peaks, taking in 24 miles of walking, in 12 hours.

My intention was to take about 3 and a half litres of water with me, which should have been enough for the full trek. Fortunately, however, we had a relief van that met us after each peak, because even after completing just one peak I was down to my last litre of water due to the heat.

So in summary - I didn't manage all three.

I did do the first 2 peaks - Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside - but coming down Whernside was so tough, with a steep path covered in effectively slippery dust, that by the bottom I couldn't face taking on the third. Of the 20 or so of us that did it, there was 4 of us that didn't do the third, so at least I wasn't on my own.  Nevertheless, I'm happy that I managed the first two, and will go back to do the third sometime perhaps later this year.

Bags packed
Setting off at 4am to avoid the sun
Up a hill somewhere

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Practice Walk

Next week a group of us are tackling the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.  This challenge involves about 24 miles of walking - and three mountains.  Where I live we have next to nothing in the way of mountains, but I wanted to least have a go at the distance to see if it was achievable, so ahead of then I took Friday off to have a practice walk.

All prepared with genuine sunglasses and some kind of sports top, I think it possibly has isotonic qualities.  Most sporty things are advertised as having ISO something or other.

I started off around 6.30am in Beverley, with the intention of making it to Driffield for around lunch, and then depending on how I got on hopefully walking back in the afternoon.

Accompanying for the walk was a backpack filled with water, power bank for my phone, snacks, sun cream, blister plasters and other ephemera.  I always struggle when packing a bag, I have to try to not spend too much time on it because the longer I have to pack the bag the more things I'll take "just in case".

In preparation for the day I loaded up my phone with podcasts, mostly episodes of the hilarious "My Dad Wrote A Porno" which if you haven't heard is an absolute must.

About 2 seconds after I took this photo I held my hand out towards the cows and they collectively lost their minds.

The morning walk went very well, with only a few aches from my feet the last mile or so into Driffield.  After getting a bite to eat I was contemplating getting the train back to Beverley, and decided that I would check the train station on the way back.

First, though, I got a hat.

Not a stylish one

Hats don't suit me, I would love to be the sort of man who looks good wearing a hat, but inevitably they end up lop-sided, too big, the wrong colour, or just weird. But with the day being clear and sunny, and high temperatures expected in the afternoon, I got one anyway.

As a result, I missed the train back to Beverley by about 30 seconds, and wasn't going to be seeing another one for an hour. So, I decided to head back on foot, with the possible option of getting a train part of the way back from the village of Hutton Cranswick.

While most of the walk was along the main road, between Hutton Cranswick and Driffield I was taking a diversion down country lanes and through the picturesque hamlet of Skerne, and typically it was around Skerne that I started having some foot trouble.  I took a couple of breaks, changing my socks, but they still didn't feel right.

Now, at this point (or ideally back in Driffield) if I had put blister plasters on, all would probably have been well.

I didn't.

So it was when I was a couple of miles away from Hutton Cranswick, and its train station, that my foot exploded.

Of course it didn't explode, it was merely a blister popping, but that's what I convinced myself it felt like.  I began toying with the idea of ordering a taxi, but getting a taxi for the remainder of the walk seemed excessive.  I continued to hobble on towards the train station (not at any point stopping to put blister plasters on, somehow in my mind I was of the thought that it would be worse to get my feet out of my boots, remove socks, install the plasters, and then dress again, as opposed to pushing on for the rest of the walk).

Part of the way along, and making slow progress, I checked the train times and found, about a mile and a half out, that there was a train in half an hour, and another in an hour, and then no more trains for at least another hour after that. There was no way I could make the first one, and I would have to speed up to make the second.

In short - I did make the second by with 4 minutes to spare.

Once back to Beverley I got to my car and drove home.  My son decided to take on the role of doctor and assess my feet.

Here they are being x-rayed, with the aid of an iPad with no x-ray capability.

It's now 2 days after the walk, and although I'm still limping a little, I'm walking a lot better than I have been since Friday.  Fingers crossed my blisters should all be healed by next Saturday and adding all of the walking up I did on the Friday it was comparable to the distance I'll be tackling next week (just without the ascents and descents!) so I'm hoping that I'll be able to get on reasonably well. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Love Island

So, I was challenged to watch an episode of "Love Island", a show on itv2, and blog about it, and never one to turn down a challenge (not quite true, I turn down stuff all that time), I went for it. Now, I know virtually nothing about Love Island, except that it involves a group of males and females who are presumably on an island, and looking for love. I have to say right now that I apologise intensely to anyone reading this that is a fan of Love Island for anything derogatory in the post.

Here we go.

So, apparently there's a villa? And a bunch of boys and girls, referred to as "the islanders".  From the single episode I saw I have limited information on what goes on, but I'm led to believe that they get to go on dates, couple up, and share beds.

The show reminds me a bit of Big Brother, although I've not watched that for years either, but the secluded location with limited people, dormitories, interview room, brings back the memories of Big Brother.

Anyway, on with a summary of the events from tonights show.

The show started by telling us that these two had a lot of fun last night.

That fun was discussed in great detail by the girls, who talked about the bed and the furnishings, and what exactly the pair got up to in the bed, whilst the boys had a slightly briefer conversation which consisted of:

"No shag."

And with the question answered, they went about their day.

Anyway, a lot of this post is about Adam. Adam is the alpha male of the group, and he's been spending time with a girl called Rosie, who is very nice but according to Adam likes shoes and bags instead of holidays. This rang alarm bells with Adam.

Adam the alpha male. You can tell, he's pointing.

Most of this post is about Adam, but just to give a flavour of the other stuff talked about, this is Charlie. 
Charlie and unknown girl had a conversation which including the following snippet:
"Do you tint your eyebrows?" the girl asked.
"No they're just blonde."
"Just tint them" she urged. This confused Charlie.
"What does that mean?"
"Just tint them" she clarified in a non-clarifying way.

Afterwards the girl commented to another girl that "I really like Charlie but he should really tint his eyebrows."

Anyway, back to Adam.  Apparently Adam was on the lookout for getting to know other people beyond Rosie, who seemed to be more into him than he was into her.

Enter straight brows.

Straight brows and Adam had a very nice chat where he talked about how Rosie was materialistic and went on to ask straight brows why they hadn't been on a date.

After the chat straight brows (aka Megan) told Rosie that Adam had been complaining about her. For a 'player', as Adam seems to be, he seems to be blissfully unaware that sometimes girls talk to each other.
"He's got some big balls going on" commented one of the girls on hearing the news. No idea if that's an expression or an observation. Another girl reassured Rosie by saying "It's ok babe, it's made his cake ain't he, he ain't eating it." which I assume is some sort of reference to the Great British Bake Off, because otherwise, unless you're a professional baker who sells cakes, that's exactly what you do with cake.

Rosie tells another girl about Adam

Fuelled by drink, Rosie went to confront Adam, telling the girls "I'm doing this for not me, but for every girl that's been played by a play boy"

Rosie confronts the alpha male.

To be honest I can't really remember much about the confrontation, but it went much as you'd expect - Rosie told Adam off, and then Rosie and the girls went off in victory while Adam, confused that his secretive talk about straight brows had somehow gotten out, had a drink with the other boys.

"I don't even know how I got myself in this situation" says Adam, after slagging off Rosie to various people

But, I should note, this wasn't enough to stop Adam and Rosie sleeping in the same bed that evening.

For the next evening, however, a re-coupling was announced - which sounds like something you'd do to your car, but is where the couples change - and the girls would get to choose who they would couple up with. This was an excellent to see as it made all of the guys extremely nervous and awkward.

Despite the events of the night before, Rosie was still wondering if she should give Adam a second chance. Her girlfriends reassured her "he mugged you off, but you mugged him off harder" - not sure if 'mugged off' is a euphemism for something, I'm not familiar with it if it is.
Rosie decided to wind up Adam by chatting to Charlie, who commented that he liked the bit of theatre the night before, he was going to get the popcorn out. Not sure what theatre you get popcorn at, but it sounds like a good one.

Rosie and Charlie talking popcorn
Meanwhile, Megan the brows was trying to decide who to re-couple with, either Alex the doctor - who no one fancies - or "Eyal", a curly haired rapscallion that everyone is convinced will certainly aim to get with Megan but isn't expected to be a good long-term choice. I didn't immediately imagine that people would go onto Love Island looking for a marriage-partner but perhaps I'm wrong.

No idea why none of the girls like Dr Alex and his amazing shirt.

On the evening of the grand re-coupling, Adam got nervous about Rosie talking to Charlie, going as far as to wear a bandana.

There ain't no alpha male like an alpha male with a bandana.

Meanwhile, after Dr Alex had spent 2 days trailing after Megan the eyebrow girl, generally being really nice, attentive, thoughtful, AND HE'S A DOCTOR, Eyal the curly sat down next to her for 2 minutes, and kissed her in front of Dr Alex.

"This villa can throw anything at you" says Eyal. Like watching your crush be kissed by a curly haired man, I guess.

Dr Alex wasn't best pleased about this.

Sadly, the show ended at this point so I have no idea which of the boys the girls choose, but I'm sure all will be revealed in tomorrow's show.

I have to say, it's certainly not something that I would normally choose to watch, but it was reasonably enjoyable (certainly compared to Made in Chelsea, which is possibly the most bizarrely addictive bad TV I've ever seen), and at least now I've got a vague idea of the people that keep trending on Twitter around 9pm-10pm in the UK.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Earthquake

Last night the local area suffered an earthquake registering a worryingly high 3.9 on the Richter scale.

This morning I walked the local area to survey the devastation.

An example of the effects of the 2018 quake. We will rebuild.

Highways infrastructure damaged.

A resident of Hull post-quake foraging for supplies.

The public services have seen fit to close off this part of the city.

Stay safe everyone.


Saturday, 9 June 2018

More Walking

So, I'm continuing to take regular walks, aiming to do every day, but am averaging out at roughly one every other day as excuses reasons crop up why I can't manage certain days. I'm trying to vary my routes to bring some variety into it.

I've been very pleased to find the Adam Buxton Podcast - Adam Buxton is an English comedian, writer, and actor, and his podcast involves him having chats with various guests.  So far I've listened to his interviews with Romesh Ranganathan and Bob Mortimer, both comedians that I'm a fan of. Next one up is Charlie Brooker, I've just started it but was nearly at the end of my last walk when it started so not really got into it yet, apparently he has a MAME set up in his house (big arcade machine that emulates tons of different games) which sounds awesome so I'm looking forward to it.

I've been using the Huawei Health app to track my walks, which is a very good app, but I discovered yesterday in the settings that you need to set the height and weight for yourself so that the app correctly tracks calorie usage and the like. Apparently the default height is 1.7m (which isn't too far from me at about 1.8m) but the weight was set at 60kg (whilst I'm somewhere near double that!) so suddenly my calorie burn figure has increased massively as the app has recalculated based on just how much weight I'm lugging around.

As before, I'd love to hear from you about any podcasts you listen to and enjoy!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Roseberry Topping

It doesn't feel it was so recent, yet this time just a week ago I was just packing a backpack ready to go up a hill.

Roseberry Topping, a hill in the Tees Valley, formed by a combination of geological fault and a mining collapse in 1912, is locally popular with walkers as well as climbers, and had been chosen as a practice ahead of a bunch of us tackling the Yorkshire 3 peaks in July (I state now for the record that I only plan to take on one of the peaks!)

Roseberry Topping. Doesn't look that tough...

Something that's quite good about Roseberry Topping is that it's actually very quick to get to the top of it, half an hour and you're at the summit feeling as though you've accomplished something.

Obligatory summit photo

The walk we went on took in a good mixture of flats and slopes, with some bits that I was starting to struggle a little to climb, but with every top of a slope came a fantastic view which seemed totally different to other views already seen despite obviously being in the same area.

Taking a break from walking to do some push ups

As opposed to the entirely sensible clothing worn by everyone else, I had a challenge in that I needed something soft that covered my left arm, having had a tattoo the day before. So a pyjama top (complete with large chocolate stain) came into use for the day.

There was a photo frame, so we stood in it.

Taking a little breather.

Captain Cook's monument.

What is that white speck....

Of course, it's a nest for the lesser spotted Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The KFC box we found (picture above) was particularly confusing. We found it a good mile or two away from the nearest road, and we puzzled over who it was that wanted both to go for at least a small hike, and to eat a box of fast food after a reasonable distance.

Ice cream van that also replaces windscreens, an impressive multi-tasking ability
A well-deserved pint of cider!

The downside I discovered of a pyjama top is that it doesn't give the same protection to the neck as a collared shirt, and as I didn't put sun cream on... I suffered.

The day after - should have used sun cream, kids!

Anyway - I'm now looking forward to taking on 1 of the Yorkshire 3 peaks next month :)

Monday, 28 May 2018


Very happy to be writing this post on a bank holiday, as it means that I'm not at work, and as much as I enjoy work I'm really not up to it today - over the past 3 days I've been up and down a hill (a relatively big one), burning myself because I didn't put sun cream on so that I don't dare move my neck in case it rubs against my clothes, been to A&E (not for myself and everyone is fine), lifted heavy things, and been to a tattoo studio.

I'll come to some of the other stuff in future posts because it's probably too much to cover in a single one, but lets talk tattoos.

I've always quite liked the idea of a tattoo but I've not really seen any that I would want to have on my body, and naturally with it being permanent I wanted to wait until I could find (or design) something that I really wanted.

That was until I saw one on this page (third picture, not sure if I can share the image so doing this link) which I did really like, of an arm with hexagons down it.  I think it's the geometric shape, the uniformity of the tattoo, that I like.

I then developed the tattoo with the idea that it'd be cool to put inside the hexagons symbols denoting things that I like or are important to me - one way of thinking of them is that it's a bit like game achievements?  I've basically gamified my arm. Anyway, it means that in the future I can get more of the hexagons filled with other symbols.

So, I went to Namaste Tattoo in Hull a few weeks ago, armed with sketches and images, to talk through what I wanted, and with their advice I altered some of the designs to make them black and to simplify some of them as originally some were really detailed and the risk is that over time the designs wouldn't look as good.

Waiting to be tattooed #SlightlyNervous

Getting tattooed is a really interesting process, if you've never had it done. One thing I had in the back of my head was a question as to how they would manage to get the tattoo even doing it by hand. It turns out that what they do (or at least what my tattoo artist did) is they print out an ink template which is then applied to the skin, so that they have a template to tattoo on.

Ink template applied

Once the ink template was dry it was time to begin the tattoo, and as I sat in my chair, arm resting on a little table adjacent positioned for Holly, the tattoo artist and owner of Namaste, to start, I did wonder at that point how much it was going to hurt.

Well, it's not painless, but it's not bad, it is bit like having repeated pin pricks in short order.  I think that I had maybe picked a good pattern in that it was lots of short bursts to do all of the lines of the hexagons so there was lots of little breaks in between as Holly repositioned herself, and when she was working on the inside of the arm that was certainly more sensitive, but it was alright.  It's surprising how relatively quickly into the tattoo you find yourself playing on my phone with your free hand while your other arm is being impregnated with tattoo pigment inserted directly into the dermis.

Holly in action

And I have to say, it was a fun day.  Holly and the other tattoo artists at Namaste are all really nice and friendly, and I had a great time the 6 or so hours I was there, it was just a really nice chilled day. I did wonder how much of the tattoo would get done on the day, in the end Holly got absolutely loads done which I'm over the moon with.

I'm now in the aftercare phase, which means keeping my tattoo covered up away from the sun and making sure that it's well moisturised, and 2 days on I'm barely getting any pain from the tattoo, just the odd twinge or two in a couple of spots. I'm using antiseptic tea tree cream on it several times a day to moisturise and to make sure that it doesn't get infected.

Plastic wrapped once finished

So in summary I'm really pleased with it and I'm certainly planning to return to get more of the hexagons filled in over time.  I'd love to hear from you in the comments if you've got a tattoo or if you're thinking of getting one, and feel free to ask any questions!

Sunday, 20 May 2018


News - I've been exercising.

I've noted a slow but undeniable increase in my waist size, particularly over the past few months, which I've been thinking about tackling for some time.  My argument to myself for not doing so is that I'm really at my best in a morning for exercising, and I don't have time in a morning. However, it's got to a point where I need to do something - one, because I really don't want to go up yet another clothing size, and two, I'm supposed to be taking part in some walking challenges this summer and I'm concerned that I won't manage it.

I've been discussing with my wife going back to the gym a couple of times a week on an evening, but I'm reluctant to because my past experience of taking out a gym membership consist of signing up, going three or four times, and then paying the membership for a year for no benefit whatsoever.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps the best training for walking would be to... go for a walk.

My trusty hiking boots, that cost all of £15. So far they've worked.

So my plan is, after my son goes to bed, to go for a walk for an hour or so round the streets near me. The trick is making sure that I ensure to do this repeatedly for enough weeks into it becomes a habit and it feels weird not to go for an evening stroll.

Starting off I seem to be able to do about 5 kilometres (a smidge over 3 miles in real money) in an hour, which seems a reasonable starting benchmark.  I've been pleased to discover that my phone (a Huawei P10 Lite) has a Huawei Health app which is actually pretty good at tracking your exercise.

Typical evening view on the mean streets near my house.

It's also giving me a chance to fire up the podcast app on my phone - podcasts are really something that I've not experienced sufficiently in the past, and I'm at a bit unsure what podcasts to try. So far I've sampled Adam Ruins Everything with Adam Conover.  I first saw Adam on the College Humor YouTube channel and really enjoyed his stuff, and I'm pleased to say that his podcast is well worth a listen. The other one I've tried is ID10T with Chris Hardwick and again I've really enjoyed it, although it's very different to the other podcast. If you've got any suggestions for podcasts let me know in the comments.
TOTS 100 - UK Parent Blogs
Paperblog BlogCatalog