The extra bits...(Under construction).

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How to make cider...

    In another life, before the downfall of the being known as Wooldridge, I used to write a blog under the name 'Musings of Murphyfish' (don't ask). I've been looking over the posts that I blurted out on there and have come to the conclusion that I was always conveying to the readers a false perception of who or what I am. Having said that, there were a couple of good posts which may be of interest, especially the short series on cider making, or at least my take upon it. So for your consumption I'm happy to re-publish the articles here on this blog as there was nothing false about them, enjoy......

How to make Cider - Part 1

                After a couple of requests from some of my readers from across the pond I feel compelled to give my take upon the ancient and dark art of cider making. Now regular readers will know that I'm as about as expert on this subject as I am on say; lobotomy operations, the art of chess or even writing for that matter! So for me to try and produce a readable, practical guide to making cider using ‘The Murphyfish method’ should be interesting to say the least! I’ll endeavour to make this as plain and as simple as possible, although from me you would expect nothing else! Having said this though, the very beauty of the method that I’ve put together from various sources and other peoples accounts is in its simplicity.
A lot of the recipes and methods that I came across talk in much more detail, using chemicals and some more natural bits n bobs to produce cider comparable to shop bought. But I’m a simple man and when myself and my friend Chunky Monkey set about making cider last year we decided to forgo a lot of the science and plumb for the simplest method that would result in a drinkable and alcoholic brew. The results were firstly a great deal of fun and laughter in the making of it, a lot of expectation and of staring at bubbling glass jars and finally a brew that proved to be far more enjoyable than we could have ever hoped! Every person that sampled the stuff finished their glass and held it up for more. This, more than anything, says that the method that we cobbled together between us worked fine enough for these two bumpkins!
The Ingredients;

                Apples;-  Yes apples, now I know some you might well be thinking ‘well that’s bloody obvious’ but before you start smirking and wallowing within your smugness, a word. Several cider recipes that I perused last year in an effort to gain an insight into this dark art named specific types of apples that were “absolutely essential” in the production of drinkable cider – hogwash. There may well be truth in that certain apples encourage certain qualities within the finish product but if, like me, you do not have access to such fruit and like me, which is more than likely the case, your apple identification runs to Crab apples, Cooking apples and then other apples well then worrying about specific types of what apples to use is pointless.
One thing that I gleaned from the abundance of material out there on the subject is that the more diverse a mixture of apples you use, of whatever types you can lay your clammy hands upon, the better. But words of warning, try a least to make some sort of record from whence you obtained your different apples and in what quantities they were roughly mixed. The reasoning behind this is if, like me, you manage to produce an acceptable and palatable cider then it’s wise to have a record or recipe if you like, of what made it successful.
Apples should be picked when ripe or as near as damn it with any bruised of rotten ones discarded. After picking I tend to store my apples for a week or so in cardboard boxes again discarding ones that appear to be rotting. It’s at this point that the inner sanctum known as the garage begins to smell like an orchard.
One final word (for now) is that you’ll require around about 20lb’s of apple to produce 1 gallon of cider. This is because there is no water used in my method so all the liquid comes from the fruit. So be aware that if you decide to produce more than just a couple of bottles then a large quantity of apples will be required.

Yeast; - But more specifically cider yeast. Now do not expect this befuddled hobbit to know the ins and outs of yeasts but apparently different types will give different results in the fermentation process, hence cider yeast is the one for me. From the little that I’ve learned so far, yeast is a fungus (I think) with several different species/varieties that consume the apples’ sugar at different rates so giving different quantities of waste off in the forms of carbon dioxide and alcohol, hence the different effects upon the end product.
It is possible so ferment cider using only the natural yeast that is found on the apples but I felt that was a little bit of ‘leaving it to chance’, hence the addition of the ‘produced’ yeast. After all it’s a lot of apples and effort to waste if it all goes tits up!

Lemons; - I add about 1 full lemon to each one of my production sessions which is about 3 gallons at the moment. This is added to introduce some acidity and seems to help the process along. Like I said I’m no expert and I do not know exactly why this works, but it does.

Strong cold tea; - This helps provide or increase ‘tannin’ in the cider. The best way that I can explain tannin and it’s need in cider production is by being lazy and giving you this link to follow; Yes I know it’s a small cop out but I didn’t want to cheat and pretend that I know all the ins and outs of this part of the process.

And that’s it, just four ingredients! Well that's part one done and dusted, part two will give a run down on the equipment used and the method of turning apples into something a little bit special. I hope that this is making sense so far.

How to make Cider - Part 2

The Equipment required;
      Just as the ingredients mentioned in part one are straight forward and simple enough, it just so happens that so is the equipment required, well at least the equipment that I use is!

      A selection of containers will be required for tasks such as washing the apples, a place to keep sliced apples, to hold the pressed juice etc. For all containers I strongly urge the use of stainless steel or food safe plastic to avoid issues such as contamination, affecting the taste via leaching amongst others. All containers must be clean, and I do mean clean! The biggest lesson that I learnt from least year’s cider making was that it is a lot of wasted effort if you loose a couple of gallons of cider by not ensuring that everything is clean.
Masher or pulper; 

     Last year saw Chunky Monkey and me laboring with a piece of 3x2 wood, pulverizing the apples in a plastic container. 

      Although effective the process soon had us both knackered and several ‘recuperation’ breaks were required by both. So for this year’s production I was looking for an easier way to reduce the apples into a state into which they could be pressed, especially as I had been abandoned by the Chunkster due to work commitments with his fledgling company. For a brief trail last year I sneaked a food blender into that hallowed space known as the garage and very effective it proved in reducing the apples into the right consistency for pressing. Unfortunately my experiment was cut short when my plan was uncovered (luckily for me it was the only thing cut short!). This year though I have obtained a second, all singing and dancing blender from a recent car boot sale for the princely sum of £2.00. So for this year a blender was the weapon of choice for mashing the apples. Again you must insure that the item is clean before use, and I do not mean a quick rinse under the tap.
The press; 
        The press above was obtained last year by the Chunkster and myself for around £50.00 each. This was by far the greatest expense of the operation but once obtained a well made press should last for years if properly maintained. The idea of the press is relatively simple; apple mulch is loaded into the top and is pressed down using the wooden plates via the threaded bar and capstan piece. As the wood is forced onto the mulch the resulting pressure forces the juice through the vertical slates to be collected in the drip tray and then into a suitable container.
Storage bottles; 

       For the initial fermentation stage I use traditional demy johns fitted with pressure releasing air locks. For the bottling stage I prefer the ceramic topped bottles where the top is held in place by a strong ‘spring’ and the seal between glass and ceramic is obtained via a rubber seal.


       As well as the above there are a few items which make life that little bit easier; a couple of sharp knives, food safe chopping board, flexible spatula, food safe lubricant, anti bacterial cleaning spray, a transfer jug, lint free clothes, mesh bag, stirring spoon (a big un)and finally a CD player with a varied selection of your favorite music as the process can be quite time consuming. I would venture that early ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, Rye Cooder, Steve Earl and perhaps a little of the Wurzels are suitable accompaniment whilst laboring over your apples.
Cleaning solutions; 

          At the risk of repeating myself I cannot stress strongly enough how important I feel that keeping everything, even your hands, as clean as possible is. 
       Before use I wash or soak every piece of equipment mentioned in the above paragraphs in a solution more commonly used for the cleaning of baby drinking/feeding containers before allowing it to air dry. There are of course recognized brands available but I stick with the cheaper supermarket own brands to save a few pennies and they do the job just as well. As well as this I invest in a decent anti bacterial cleaning spray which I constantly use to wipe down various items and surfaces throughout the process. Perhaps you may think that this is a little over the top but believe me when I say that the dejection felt after all the work required to produce a couple of gallons of apple juice is all for naught just because of not paying a little time and attention to cleanliness is not a good feeling at all – the term ‘well pissed off’ certainly comes to mind!
Well I think that covers the equipment required and so ends part two of this here Hobbit’s feeble attempt to explain how I make cider. If you’ve got this far then I haven’t done a bad job so far. The third and final installment will follow soon and is the best bit, being the actual cider making process.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How to make Cider - Part 3

                Ah, before I leap into describing my rough and ready method of producing nectar from apples I must first add a couple of items that I had over looked when listing the sundry items required in part 2. The first of these is a funnel and the second is a small diameter length of tubing being of about 4mm in diameter. Again please remember to ensure that you have cleaned all items thoroughly, I do not use preservatives in this method so to avoid disappointment please clean and clean again.

Stage 1, Mulching.

                After cleaning your equipment, oooohh matron, the first stage is to prepare your hard won apples for pressing. I call this mulching, I know that it’s not the correct terminology but this is my write up and I happen to like the word mulch! Basically what we are aiming here for is to reduce the apples into mulch that can be pressed easily so releasing the apples’ juice.
                I prefer to wash the apples simply in cold water before use; this is to remove any detritus and chemicals that may be on the outer skin of the apple. As I mentioned in part 2 this is traditionally done by first roughly segmenting the apples and then pounding them to a thick pulp with a piece of suitable timber. This works fine, but for an out of condition and rather rotund Hobbit like myself it is rather knackering. The method that I employ at the moment is to quarter the apples (6ths if large apples) and then used a food blender to reduce the apples to the desired consistency. The reason for segmenting the apples in this case is to simply allow them to be fed easily into the blender. The consistency should resemble small chucks of apples and you should not process them too much so that it resembles a paste!

Stage 2, Pressing.

                The press itself is simplicity itself consisting of few parts, which briefly are the ‘pan’ complete with threaded shaft;

                The ‘basket’, vertically slatted hardwood strips held together with metal bands (open top and bottom);

                And finally the hardwood pieces and ‘capstan’ for the applying of pressure to the mulch;

                The ‘basket’ sits on top of the ‘pan’ which in turn I position so that the lip of the ‘pan’ overhangs above a suitable container for the collection of what will hopefully be a torrent of apple juice.

                Over the collection container I stretch a course net to catch any bits of apple that escape the press. This is in turn held in place by some ancient table cloth weights.
                Once set up it is now just a simple case of loading the ‘basket’ to the top with the apple mulch. Place the two semi circular press pieces on top followed by the spacing pieces at 90 degrees. The pressure pad comes next (metal plate up) and then all that is left is to screw the ‘capstan’ down applying pressure, as the plates are forced downwards more pressure is applied by the use of a bar to turn the ‘capstan’.

                The feeling of achievement that I get when the first drops of juice make their way into the pan and then start dripping like a cold nose on a winters morning is something else (sad I know). As more pressure is applied the drip soon becomes a steady flow and my smile does tend to get a little bigger.

                Once the ‘capstan’ reaches its lowest point allow the juice to run until it basically stops. Unscrew the ‘capstan’ and remove the pressing plates, add more mulch to the top of the pressed mulch and repeat the pressing. I tend to repeat this one more time, ant more than this I find that the pressed mulch is difficult to remove from the basket. So after three pressings lift the basket and empty the ‘cake’ (the pressed mulch) into a clean container. Do not discard it just yet for if you find yourself short of a little juice some more can be obtained from repressing the ‘cake’. Repeat this ‘pressing’ process until all your apples are used or until you have obtained sufficient juice. As a rule of thumb it takes about 16 to 20lb of apples to make a gallon of juice.

Stage 3, Additives;

                As earlier mentioned in part 1 the ingredients used here are simple with no chemicals and the like. Once you've obtained your juice add the juice of 1 lemon to about every 3 gallons of apple juice. I must admit to a slight cheat at this point as I do not squeeze my lemons for their juice (oh err missus), but I slice sufficient lemons and add them to the blender as I’m processing the apples.
                Also to be added is a mug of cold, black tea for every couple of gallons of apple juice (about a 6th of a gallon) for tannin. Stir this in well and then add the yeast, the packet of yeast should come with manufacturers instruction upon the quantity of yeast required per gallon of juice. Allow the yeast to float on the top of the juice for about 10 minutes and then stir in.

Stage 4, Fermentation;

                You can now transfer the juice to your demy johns. What I tend to do is line the demy johns up and fill them at the same time.

                What I mean to say is that I’ll pour one jug of juice into the first demy john then move to the next and pour a jug of juice into this one. Moving along the demy johns this way means I get an even ‘mixture’ of the juice into each one as I find that the yeast does have a tendency to drop to the bottom of the juice even with stirring. I stir the juice after each round of jug pouring and repeat this until the demy johns are filled to just above their shoulder. It’s at this point if you find that you have miscalculated your quantity of juice and are a little short that the ‘cake’ can be repressed to obtain more juice. It does take more effort the second time of pressing but it is better than being short of juice.
                The demy johns can now be closed off using a rubber bung with a hole through it and air lock assembly. At this point it may be worth noting that I do not just put water into the airlock but water that has been boiled and allowed to cool. Another point is that I cover the open top of the airlock with lint free cloth, held by cotton or an elastic band to prevent detritus or insects entering the airlock. All being well by the next morning you should have the satisfaction of seeing your airlock releasing bubbles of gas from the demy john. During the natural process of the yeast consuming the sugar within the apple juice it produces two waste products; alcohol and carbon dioxide, this is the gas you see bubbling through the air lock.
                The time for which the juice continues to ferment can depend upon a few factors; amount of natural sugar in the juice, temperature, amount and strain of yeast etc. This may take from two to several weeks. As the juice ferments the appearance will change from that of something that may have been expelled from an effluent plant to a clearing and pleasing golden colour.
                As this happens keep an eye on the fluid in the air lock and the rate of bubbles passing through it. As the rate slows to a hardly discernable flow or stops completely it is now the time that I bottle the juice.

Stage 5, Bottling;

                Bottling is straight forward enough and I just siphon off from the demy john to the bottles. I personally do not rack demy johns off from one to another to help clear the sediment formed during the fermentation process. It’s not because I’m lazy, well not just because, but I prefer to leave the juice well alone and reduce the risk of contaminating it by say dirt off my hand. This does leave sediment at the base of the vessel so care has to be taken not to use a tube of too great of a diameter, hence keeping the flow rate slow and also keep the tube a little above the sediment.

 At this point there is a choice to be made about your end product in that you can have flat cider, preferred by some or, like myself, carbonated cider (cider with fizz n bubbles). This again is simple enough as if flat cider is required then the juice can be siphoned directly into your bottles. If carbonated is required then add a level tea spoon of sugar (caster sugar dissolves faster) into each litre bottle before filling. For this I use a dry funnel so as to avoid getting sugar around the bottle’s top or neck. The adding of this sugar achieves carbonation simple by giving the remaining yeast a small amount of sugar to feast upon producing some more alcohol but more importantly now some more carbon dioxide. Because the bottle is now sealed the gas produced cannot escape and the pressure increase forces the gas to be absorbed into the liquid to be released once you open your bottle of cider with a satisfying ‘pop’.
                If all goes well your cider will be drinkable in 6 months (a tad earlier if you really cannot wait) but I left mine for 10 months after bottling. A word of caution though, because of the lack of any preservatives in this method it is not wise to leave it anymore than about 12 months after bottling with it then being at risk of ‘going off’. This method, for me, produced an extremely drinkable, dry, cider which without being biased I preferred to many of the shop bought labels. I like it chilled from the fridge and it did have quite a kick, enough to redden my face a tad after a glass or two. Any who sampled it drained their glass holding it up for more and I simply could not ask for a better endorsement than that.
                So there we have it, cider the Murphyfish way. If you have any questions or points of improvement to put across please feel free to comment. I know that to some of you this seems a rough and ready way to produce cider and the purest may well be now a wailing and gnashing their teeth, but it is, like me, rugged, simple and honest.
As tradition dictated my last bottle from last year was drank as I crushed the first of this year’s apples, simple but strangely rewarding for me. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this straying from my usual meanderings, and ‘till the next time take good care of you and yours my friends.

Tea break...

    Once again sleep eludes me as my life is bitten by the 'Dog' so I find myself taking a tea break from my pit of self wallowing and reading about others lives, hoping to find a clue to a way back from the fog's tendrils that draw me to the abyss once more. As usual Rachel always manages to prise a wry and rare these days smile here at 'Eternally 28' with her brilliant outlook on life and then Tracy, here at 'my beautiful life' has posted something that hit a deep chord and those of you thinking they are helping someone with depression should perhaps take note.
Water Spaniel?

As for Moi well I did manage yesterday to walk with the Bear in wind swept and wet woods, and yes bears are stronger than Black Dogs. 
Or just mad?
But always there for me...

After the walk a visit (well turned out to be two visits) to the doctors helped somewhat and I'm back onto weekly assesments. But at least that gives me something, knowing that I have something to focus on and try to make it through to then.

I wish I could be more positive in my musings at the moment as all seems doom and gloom, not very interesting for the few decerning readers of my blog, but I did say in an earlier post that it'll be warts n all. Well back to my blanket and perhaps another walk later, after another brew that is....


Friday, 25 October 2013

Time or the lack of...

Well bugger me, as if there isn't enough turmoil battering in what passes as an excuse for a brain in my head it has suddenly dawned on me that I have less than a month to vacate my present abode and get my house in order, so to speak. As I looked around me this morning the thought hit me that I'd arrived here with very little except the companionship of Bramble and a sense of loss and despair. But now I have all the trappings, albeit basic trappings, of a furnished home and all the bloody paperwork to sort out with very little time in which to do it. So I've err borrowed some boxes from my place of employment (saying place of work might be stretching it a tad), made a list of all the things that need cancelling and address changes (if I had a certain new address, that would indeed be useful!) and I'm now endeavouring to sort of my filing system which at the moment consists of random piles of letters, bills, receipts and such scattered items stuffed in a plethora different places! So immediately after completed this blog break I'm heading off to a well known supplier of every conceivable piece of household tat where I have just reserved a filing cabinet, well perhaps after another custard cream and delicious brew.

Time seems to last for, well, no time at all at the moment. Perhaps it's an age thing but the days are passing me by at super sonic speed and I really am struggling to get organised and be pro active towards this move. Adding to my timeless lifestyle I've put my name down for not one, but two voluntary services.....duh. So early November I have an induction day at Erddig country house and grounds and also I've put my name forward to help out at some allotments to allow some old buggers to keep them longer by doing the heavy graft for them, at least I'll hopefully pick up some much needing advice for when, if ever, I get my own garden. Fortunately the man fancier George, who hence forth shall now be referred to as Big G in my musings, has offered to help with packing, humping (perhaps an unfortunate choice of word there Wooldridge) and secretarial duties to assist me in this period of transition.

Well that's all for now, time to pick up my uber modern filing system.....oooh I could right a review comparing old system and new.


Monday, 21 October 2013


It's difficult to look forward to a future when you're always awaiting the next time the 'Black dog' bites you on the arse causing another desent back into the fog. It's the place I fear the most, it's where I hurt the one I love, the place that I cannot see the harm I am doing to myself and to others and when I finally manage to find my way out of the fog, that's when awareness and guilt hit me. It's then that I hate myself as the realisation dawns on me that I've allowed it to happen again, that I've failed myself and let all who care about me down once more. I would do anything to be able to leave the Black dog behind once and for all time but I'm no fool and I realise that it will probably take a very long time and more than likely it'll always be lurking in the shadows of my mind. But there are moments of relief and still a few friends who have not completely given up on me as a lost cause and total waste of oxygen just yet. I do wish that I'd listen more to them and start living for the future instead of still allowing the past and its guilt taint my thoughts. But it seems that a forced change has finally made me get my rather large arse into gear and start being a tad more pro active, well just a tad. The change is that come the end of November I will have to vacate my present abode as the land lady wishes to move back into her home, wish she'd told me of her intentions before I settled down and began to feel grounded for the first time in ages, ah well. So the decision is now whether or not to find another rental (too close to crimbo I thinks), buy a house (Bleedin tree house is all I can afford at the moment) or, wait for it..... move in with my aged parents till the New year and see which way the wind blows then. Ah I hear you say what a good idea option 3 seems, home cooking, log burner, clothes ironed beautifully for once, no rent and ready made sitters for the Bear. Idyllic no? no its bloody not, let me enlighten you, sparse readers of my roughly hewn words. My father is a throw back to a bygone age and is the most political incorrect person I have known. His views on nearly every subject would make you cringe with embarrassment at the very least. He opens his mouth with absolutely no thought of those around him and will utter the most bigoted nonsensical speal to all who would listen, and those who do not. I have never, ever, had a conversation with him where I have had the last word, he always manages to add that little something that just makes me burst with exasperation. I was once graciously given some chickens a few years ago by a lovely man whom some of you are acquainted with via his blog. Now this gentle soul is perhaps the most easily to get on with man I have had the pleasure to meet. Thing is with this gentleman is that his partner is also a gentleman which makes no iota of difference to how I perceive him at all. I mentioned the chickens to father to which he replied " bloody hell, you can't beat eggs from your own chickens, I'll be trying them". All well and good so far until that was I let slip the manner of chicken man's relationship. Dads reaction was Er....well astounding with him uttering the words " I don't want eggs from them chickens". I reassured him that such things were not contagious, especially through the eggs of fowl and anyway he would be too old now to worry about that sort of thing affecting him, after all, I said, I bet his John Thomas had long forgotten what all the fuss was about, indeed I even suggested to him that he should take half a viagra to stop himself piddling upon his slippers ( that didn't go down well I can tell you). All to no avail though, through some process far beyond understanding the eggs would be tainted. Frustrated I used my parting shot and called him a homophobic old git, to which he replied "no I'm not, I just don't bloody well like em" for gods sake how do you answer that? Another thing about my dad is that he's a hyper-condriac, if there is an illness around he's got it or by Christ he's going to get it. Now I know he's elderly and has some serious health issues but he doesn't help himself. I mean to say, he has this huge hard back tomb from must be from the time when anesthetic was a bottle of rum, for the surgeon that is, called the family doctor. I'm bloody sure chapter three is on the use of leachs in the treatment of piles, though it could be syphilis. But he swears by this book (so do I ), and diagnoses the most harmless of symptoms into the harbingers of the onset of the most putrifying diseases you can imagine. I tell you he's never so happy as when he's dying of something or other. I'm bloody sure that he was most upset that I'd upstaged him by having severe depression, I know for a fact that he asked his long suffering doctor (quack to father) as to whether or not she thought that a recent bout of unfathomable tiredness could be the onset of depression...... Arghhhhh. Unfathomable tiredness my arse, its called not getting his lazy arse of the sofa cause the football is on the goggle box followed by darts. Oh that brings me to another thing, the television. Father is the total dictator of what to watch or more like what not to watch. I came in once to him shouting from his cushioned throne " Marg, they've scored again" to which my long suffering mother just rolled her eyes at me. Thinking there was a match on I strolls into the front room to find dad engrossed watching the football scores coming in on tele-text. I asked him what he was doing to which he said " watching the footie" Arghhhhh. Then again the old buggers can make me smile. Like the other day I called around with my friend George in tow to pick up some tools which George has graciously agreed to store for me until I find somewhere with a little more permanence about it. Mum does her usual and invites us in for a brew, some cake and a natter. So the four of us are sitting around the table when George pipes up saying " thank-you for the lovely cake" but then seemed a little unsure but finally ventured "what should I call you Mrs Wooldridge?", now mums name is Margaret Ellen and she turned around and said quite pan faced that George can call her whatsoever was comfortable as long as its not Marg because she really hates that. Well me dads face just dropped as he nearly choked on his cake, " bloody hell Marg, I've been calling that for over sixty years", I had to leave the table with tears streaming down my face. George has been with me a few times since calling mum Margaret and old string vest Geoffrey. I think my dad has taken quite the shine to George's polite manners, I just can't bring myself to tell him that George fancies gentlemen! I know my mum and dad mean well and I love them to bits but moving back in with them, albeit a short time, would be hard work. I'd have my old room, meal times are on time, forty questions if I go out, another forty when I get back in, and yes string vest will be awake no matter how unearthly the hour I stumble through the door was, and god forbid if I ever brought a lady friend back for an evening of Er...gymnastics (then again, could be George the way things are going for me in that department, oh that would light the fuse....). So there you have it, the choices of John, should be eventful if nothing else. Tara for now, hope I haven't bored you too much. John

Thursday, 10 October 2013


Just thought I'd share some pictures from a walk in the Lake District the other month.......


Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Yes I've harked on about the pain, self pity, guilt, blindness and desolation that has been part and parcel of the black fog called depression that has wrapped its tentacles around and wormed their way into my mind but what of the 'after'? indeed what is to happen next if the fog is to fought and kept at bay? Well it's true that I'm under medical advice now and that I'm on medication, which I call the happy pills, but at the moment a true and deep happiness at times seems such a distant dream and I need the take the days to come one at a time, small steps if you will.

In the days PrF (pre fog) one of my escapes from everyday pressures was to walk. Now I don't mean a quick five minute stroll along bland streets just to pass the time whilst the monotony of the evening soap operas was on, oh no, I mean proper walking on the Clwydian range. I'd be gone for hours on end treading mile after mile with my faithful canine companion Lucy. No matter what the weather we'd be out there basking in all that mother nature had to offer. But things changed, Lucy passed away all too early, the hills lost there lustre, and for reasons beyond my ken I lost my marbles so to speak. So it's here and now, the past is done and I find myself trying to come to terms with the life I have left to live. The fog is still there I know this for sure and it'll be a long time in coming, if ever, when the day comes that it'll stop clouding my mind ready to drag me down when I'm least expecting it. 

But like I've said "I've harked on about the pain, self pity, guilt, blindness and desolation that has been part and parcel of the black fog called depression" and when all is said and done there is one person who can keep the fog at bay Of course I can't do this completely alone, there's one special person who has been there for me even though I've withdrawn into myself and ignored the proffered hand this person stays there for me even though she finds it so hard. Then there's my family who still find hard to come to terms with something that they cannot possibly understand but they try their best even though they see the world so black and white, and of course there's the happy pills.

So what to do? well I now have another faithful hound by my side and I still have a stout pair of legs and the hills are still there. So hauling my over sized arse off the sofa myself and a rather surprised bear find ourselves heading for yonder hills. Unfortunately there is a tiny snag to this plan, the small fact that I'm now 2 stone heavier than the last time I tread the trails and I find myself walking in the most inappropriate clothes being as none of my collection of suitable outdoor threads come bleedin close to fitting. So in a shirt that should only be seen in night clubs of the shadiest nature, white plimsolls and jeans than were more than a tad close fitting around the nether regions I find myself a sweating, shaking very dehydrated jelly like blob of meat ponderously stumbling around paths that I used to consider a warm up stretch before the main event, bugger. Both myself and bear crashed back through the front door of 186 sounding like 2 knackered steam engines, my scrotum red raw from the serious chafing of over tight jeans, my knees feeling as if they were made from rubber and a serious need for a brew of the strongest kind. So did I feel any better, lifted a tad maybe?...........

......well hell yes.