The extra bits...(Under construction).

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Tis a strange thing.....

.....that after over thirty years of factory work, the majority of which were mostly enjoyable (well if you consider enjoyable as using the most choice of Anglo Saxon language whilst lying in a stinking pool of only Thor knows what, whilst trying to lift a bloody heavy motor back into place at three 'o' clock in the morning with a smug tw*t of a foreman asking 'how long do you think it'll be John' that is), to be already settling into the routine of working for myself. I would have thought that it would have taken far longer to adjust to certain aspects and yet I seem to be coping reasonable well with some of these aspects that concerned me whilst wrestling  with the decision to abandon what has been the familiar for over three decades.

      Certainly I am surprised with how I am interacting with clients. I find myself able to communicate with people far more easily than expected. Ask anyone who has worked with me long enough in the factory environment and they will probably tell you that verbal communication without many and various expletives was an alien language to myself. There is certainly a difference when you are, and I won't say 'just' here, an employee than when you are actually providing a service for people. It is almost as if my attitude has gone from a proud man who would not bend his knee just because he was told to by 'his betters' in the factory to someone who, although still has pride within himself, will doff his cap or tug a forelock to prospective clients and the people who hire my services. Perhaps this is one reason I am happier now, previously I would not suffer fools and would express my opinion when angered by perceived laziness, incompetence, stupidity and quite frankly the bullshit of others that I worked with. This would of course lead to myself becoming angry, frustrated and demotivated which of course does not help with my personal battle with depression over the years. But now I have to have a different mindset, I can offer advice but not to the extent where if unheeded I become frustrated, I listen far more as I have to understand individual clients needs, my words have to be far more measured, be clearly understood without being condescending nor boastful. It is not that I have suddenly become a simpering 'yes man' overnight, it is that perhaps as I am trying to earn respect amongst a prospective client base I realise that a sulking, frustrated Neanderthal is not what people want tending their beloved gardens but rather someone whom listens to their ideas, gently suggests some others and shows as much care and attention to their garden as I do my own. Oh and just in case you may foolishly think that this old pirate has lost his bite you may want to talk to the remarkably stupid young gentleman who cut me up on the Wrexham by-pass t'other day whilst presumably  trying to impress his young female companion, it is suffice to say that he may well be reluctant to show such bravado for quite some time, well at least until he changes his underwear But yes, the metaphorically doffing of the cap is quite a revelation to me and to be honest it is far easier on the mind than the million and one frustrations I encountered within the factory environment. 

     Obviously another aspect that concerned myself greatly was how would I find work? After all in the factory it was pretty much cut n dried in that you clocked in, worked to the best of your ability, became frustrated and clocked off. If the company closed down or reduced its staff you move on to the next and the hamster wheel keeps on revolving. I have been fortunate that I have not had this happen to many times and that I have had less than two weeks of unemployment in my working life. But this working for one's self is a whole new ball game for I am now solely responsible for sourcing work, negotiating a cost, completing said work and then hopefully finding more work whilst all the time trying to build a good reputation and also ensuring people enjoy their gardens. Without being boastful I have had only positive feedback so far and finding work is not the nightmare, especially considering the season, that I had envisaged. Yes it is and will continue to be a source of worry but as long as I can earn enough to feed and keep a roof over our heads then this will suffice. Ultimately I am a simple soul with simple tastes and I am fortunate to have in George a soulmate who supports me through these changes.

    As for other worries over this change they are many and varied but when weighed against the negative effect that my employment, especially over the previous two years, has had on my state of mind they are worth the risk of facing the unknown rather than continue upon the mind crippling hamster wheel of the 'fun factory'. 

    And one last thing before I wind up another rambling post, some may think that having to ply my trade in all seasons through all weather would be exhausting and hard to continue with. But I love it, whether I be soaked by driving rain, buffeted by gale force winds or baked by the Summer's sun. I have never felt as close to who I should be nor so much connection with Mother earth than what I do now....this is what I was born to do. I am a simple soul and even the building of a simple log and leaf pile fills me with a sense of achievement, connection and belonging that I think few today feel. 

Til the next time, take care,

John


Saturday, 19 November 2016

Well bugger me.....

     not literally of course but yesterday was indeed a watershed in the up n down life of this 'becoming a bit less of a' rotund Welshman. For sometime now I have been off work with what my G.P. describes as 'reactive depression', which I think means that certain situations in my life are more likely to bring about the return of the paralysing effects of the Black dog and that it does not take much for myself to react and return to the depths of despair and stifling self doubt, or something like that I think. In fact I think that I am well into my third month of absence from work, in which time little was resolved and to be honest I felt that the company had either little compassion for nor any true understanding of the situation of the work related causes that help initiate this latest period of my struggle with the dog. 

      Within this latest period I have tried to explain some of the work related events and situations that have, I feel, brought these circumstances about, but I realise now that the company is as far removed from the 'people company' that it claims to be since Vlad the Impaler discovered how to fire harden wooden stakes. So yesterday I was called in to report to H.R. who required to 'talk to me urgently' (yep that's the way to encourage a nutter like me to react in a favorable manner....not). I thought about not attending but then something inside my troubled mind just gave a little, you know that little moment when something falls into place and life becomes just a little more clear, for a time at least.

       So I attended the meeting yesterday, in fact I was early, to be talked to 'urgently'. There was even a senior management figure there to talk to me urgently as well as H.R.! By eck thinks I, I am indeed going to be urgently talked to. So we had a discussion in which I held back a tad, I asked if certain issues I had previously raised would be addressed in any small manner? to be told that the best way forward would be to consign the past to the dust of history and to start again with a clean sheet. Oh, thought I, trouble is in regards to the company I'm fresh out of clean sheets. So things would trundle on much in the same manner? I timidly inquired. Some waffle came back across the table which when translated meant yes they would. So how would my return be handled? Well John you would start Monday in your role and that would be that, after all the past is the past. Mmmmm coupled with the fact that said senior management figure did not know what my role, or job title was, and that whether I was paid monthly or weekly was not clear to said attendees (it's weekly by the way) I had a feeling that not enough attention or notice had been taken of myself, my situation and certainly not some of the work related causes of it.

     At this point I laid my own card upon the table, I only had the one, and it was simply...'well I cannot see myself being able to return to work under my present condition and with nothing truthfully going to change within the company, so what's the best way for me to go?'. And there it was, that little moment of clarity I had experienced whilst debating with myself whether or not to attend the meeting, laid bare on the table for all to see and digest. So agreement has been made, there are a couple of eyes to dot and tees to cross but the upshot is that I am officially, after over thirty years,  an ex-shift engineer and I am now free to pursue the dream of working for myself as a gardener. 

     Financially will be hell of a struggle, I cannot to be ill in any shape or form (black dog or not), it brings with it so many different pressures and it is bloody scary at my age to even consider such a path when I could pick up another engineering role with relative ease. But do you know what? for the first time in a bloody long time I feel focused and happy with my lot, I have a beautiful loving partner whom I love dearly, I have my health (well apart from been a head case that be), a roof over our heads and a wonderful simple life shared by my George and I. Oh not forgetting there's always Bear n Nelly to cause madness and mishap around the place.

     I have mentioned it recent posts that changes is coming and indeed it is. The next one on the horizon is a move away from the village and the wildlife garden I have created....by the Northern Gods life is getting interesting...


til the next time, take care...

John

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Changes....

     Well, as promised, I am indeed writing here again. True it's a longer pause since the last post that I would have liked, but some of the changes that were hinted at there are now beginning to gain momentum. 

     Firstly our house in the village is on the market for several reasons that at the present time I shall not be going into. Secondly a decision has been taken by us about the work that I do to earn a crust, and after much soul searching a change is being undertaken here and finally my mode of transport has been changed from the luxury of the Mercedes to the roughness of a Nissan X trail. These changes are all interlinked with each other with the aim of changing our lives for something a little more simpler and a tad more satisfying.

      Oh and one other thing, I now have a website which may give you a clue to how my path is changing from the trudge it has been, it may be found here... http://www.suburbiawildlifegarden.co.uk/

         So indeed exciting and, if I am to be honest, scary times ahead for us. One change I am also considering.....


     
     .....Yep chickens, well maybe one day if I can sweet talk my George around to the idea.

Til next time take care,

John

Thursday, 27 October 2016

From the depths of hibernation.....

     Like a sleepy Hedgehog blinking at the thin Spring sunlight as he clears his den of rotten leaf litter my mind has begun to clear and for the first time in perhaps decades I finally see what is in front of me and the path I am to follow. I do not intend being cryptic with my words nor do I quest for attention, far from it. I am at last beginning to understand the route that lead me into the lair of the Black Dog and although I must always now watch my step I truly believe that I at least can now hold my own against her.

     I have not written here for some time and I wondered as to whether or not I should for reading my previous posts I can clearly see a person reaching out for something that they could never truly grasp and hold on to. But I enjoy the act of writing  and so shall continue to do so, but without the dreams of becoming a best selling author, a healer of those affected by the 'Dog' or any other images of myself I may have had m'thinks! At the end of the day I am what I am, nothing more and nothing less.

     So you may well see a change in the feel of this blog as I ask questions of, and tell the tales of my life, past and present. So be warned, the 'Hog' has awoken, and not before time....





Friday, 19 August 2016

The perils of buying cheap......

     Well I must confess that the germ of an idea (or should that be the 'seed' of an idea?) of attempting to start my own gardening business that will finally allow me to put the dark days of factory work behind me is actually, albeit slowly, taking off. To say that I am surprised at the way in which it is developing would be the biggest understatement since General George Armstrong Custer said "that is a lot of Indians"! The learning curve that I am undergoing at the moment is steep indeed and my head is in a constant spin trying to keep on top of things and remembering to walk before I run, even with these knackered knees of mine!

     But learning I am and mostly I am enjoying the lessons, though some are hard learnt and not very enjoyable to say the least. One of the lessons that hurt was the perils of buying cheaply, I have always gone by the adage "buy cheap, buy twice"  but it has been difficult to adhere to this as decent machinery costs an arm and a leg and I have little in the way of financial back up at the moment. I have scoured the classified ads, Facebook buy and sell pages, and various auction sites to accumulate the basic machinery I require to allow myself to provide a service beyond reproach but this route has led to much oath usage and no small amount of frustration, for no matter how carefully I purchase a used piece of machinery there is always the risk of it failing on me whilst in use. When such things happen not only is it frustrating but I feel that it tarnishes my reputation that I am trying my utmost to build and protect, a decent reputation takes eons to build and only seconds to lose m'thinks.

     A couple of examples of failing machinery are my two heavy duty mowers bought recently with a combined purchase price of over £200.00. Now to some this may seem a small cost but to myself it is a large outlay at the moment. 

     The first mower is a 'rough cut' mower, a basic and ugly little beast that is designed for initial cutting on rough and overgrown grass areas. When picked up it started fine but once I got home would it fire up? would it hell as like. Investigation revealed that whilst awaiting me to arrive the mower had been left outside in some inclement weather for an hour or so. Armed with this information the air filter was removed revealing a damp sponge element so the carburetor was removed to dry thoroughly and also the combustion chamber was checked and dried. One thing noted was that the gasket between the carb and the housing was knackered so gasket paper was promptly ordered with gasket sealant being used in the mean time. The ugly brute started first time but let me down on a large area of rough cutting when the carb gasket seal failed, gasket to be made and fitted and hopefully it should run for some time then.

     The second, and the most disappointing mower is an Australian beast that again when picked up started and ran, albeit a tad lumpy. A quick check before payment was made revealed a spark plug with damaged ceramic that allowed it to arc to the casing. A reduced price was agreed and said mower was in action the very next day complete with new spark plug fitted. It performed admirably until that it is when stopped whilst emptying the grass box it refused to start and then the starter recoil bloody mechanism failed, the word "bollocks" sprung to mind. So I now have too butt ugly and non-working mowers awaiting my attention before I can take them grass cutting. 

The two frustrating mowers

     Unfortunately I am unable to attend to them due to being a tad under the weather at the moment and as weak as a kitten that is having a particularly off day (you just would not believe how long it has taken to write this drivel thus far). A second affect of being ill is that I am absent from the 'not so fun factory' which is also frustrating because, even though I seek to be rid of factory work, I do not like letting work and work colleagues down and always try to do my job to the utmost of my abilities. It's an old fashioned side of me that is rooted deep in my psyche that, although unappreciated where I am employed, refuses to allow me not to try my best. Anyway I'm off on a tangent again so back to the plot, thin as it is.

     These are just two examples of buying cheaply and being bitten in the arse because of it, believe there are several more that I could relate but I think that you have the general idea. Although one more example is worth a mention and that be even when purchasing the mundane buying cheap is not always the best idea. I buy, or should say used to buy my fuel from the the local 'not so super market' as it's cost effective....errr nope it is not! On my last visit to my best client and largest grass cutting area I refueled three machines with this fuel and all three played up and then gave up the cost. When the first failed I put it down to being bit by the buying used purchase rat, when the second failed the cogs began to slowly turn but not enough to stop me from starting the third mower up and it failing too. Frustrated once more, I took a stroll to a near-by petrol station and purchased fuel for four pence a litre more than what I had used in the mowers. Draining then filling one machine it started with some objection but once the fresh fuel flushed through the carb it ran like a dream (nearly finishing the job until that bloody gasket failed). It goes to show that perhaps things are cheap for a reason and that reason being that they are not fit for purpose.

    The upshot of these failures is that I bit the bullet and purchased this little beauty which turned up on me doorstep yesterday.....


     ....the damn thing is that I am too weak to even open the box just yet. Hopefully this latest addition to my machinery will give me chance to build up the reliable side of my reputation, also hopefully that my outgoings will now reduce somewhat and I can start moving forward with other areas of my business. 

Til the next time take good care of yourselves,

John 
     

Monday, 15 August 2016

Time to draw breath.....

     Talking about running around like a headless chicken, oh you weren't? ah well talking about running around like a headless chicken I've had little time to fart let alone attend to my blogging duties of late, so please accept my humblest and most groveling of apologies. But to say that I've been a tad busy of late is the biggest understatement since the extremely brave Captain Laurence Oates calmly informed the four remaining members of Scott's ill-fated polar expedition that "I am going outside, I may be sometime"! 

     What with the usually bollocks madness at the 'not so fun factory', domestic duties and trying to pursue my dream of being self employed my head is in a perpetual spin. Tis strange though, far from putting pressure upon my addled mind I'm finding that, although knackered, I feel more alive than I have for some time. Yes work in the factory is still a pile of tosh with the usual male bovine excrement being spewed out by a management team that really does not know its arse from its elbow, yes I still have dips and doubt myself and my mind's ability to keep the Black dog at bay and yes all I seem to be experiencing financially is a continuous leaking of finances with little to show in return. But by heck these are exciting times for moi, what with a job turning a client's overgrown lawns and paddock into areas where grandchildren can play and their garden becomes an extension of their home's living space, another client has commissioned me to turn their neglected garden into a wildlife biased but usable space plus other inquiries coming in for potential work ranging from strimming, fencing, clearance and other gardening jobs I'm getting a good feeling about my prospects of being able to politely tell my present employers to kindly "sod off" in the coming year. 

     But I won't be jumping the gun just yet as tis clearly early days and my fledgling business has a long way to go before any decision upon whether or not to leave the world of factories far behind me can be made, but fingers crossed that it will be the case that my fingers will one day be uncrossed and raised in that very Anglo Saxon two fingered salute to the grind so beloved of Saxon archers of yore. Indeed there are so many angles to consider when starting up a business, from insurance to accounts, from advertising to designing a website, buying machinery to assessing different jobs and a million and one other things that make a business tick over it's no wonder that many find the very idea to daunting to consider. But with patience, time and the support of my George I am sure that I'll get there and I know that I'll be all the better for it. For the now it is a hard slog but perhaps in the future the rewards will make it all worthwhile.

     Now I must really get myself off to the land of nod that lies atop of those wooden hills, I am well and truly bushed after a pleasant weekend spent with friends from down south and then a few hours doing jobs on mowers, strimmers and chainsaw in the hope that they won't let me down on the next two days of hard graft that I have lined up before returning to the gloom of working in the factory. That's the problem with starting up, can't afford new machinery until the work comes in and can't take on the work without the machinery, catch bloody 22 m'thinks. But that whinge will have to wait til another post as my eye lids are now closing up as I type these words.

Til the next time take care,

John

Sunday, 10 July 2016

From small acorns...

     Well I am sitting on a break in the not so fun factory contemplating the future. My last post hinted at something that may lead to a chance to leave factory work for good. Instead of me explaining what I intend trying my hand at after over thirty years of factory work here be a link to my new website..... 

www.suburbiawildlifegarden.co.uk

     Tis far from the finished article but hey, one has to start somewhere. 

Til the next time take care, 

John 


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Allotment update, not before time......

      Well I am betting that folk here thought that I had given up on my cider orchard and surrounding allotment. If truth be told I damn well nearly did as my life is forever complicated and my troubled mind does struggle to keep up sometimes. But as mentioned in previous posts I am trying to simplify things and working the allotment does help my thought patterns calm down and I can look at my life more objectively when on the plot, although I did become a tad disheartened with it of late, the allotment, not life that is.

     You may recall from last year I was just going to grow cider trees with a wildflower meadow beneath them and bugger all else. But through trail and error I have learned that growing a wildflower meadow is not as simple as letting grass just grow, bugger! It actually takes more planning and effort than growing those perfect wildlife deserts folk call lawns. Basically I had been given a small rectangular plot with two mature and running riot apple cider trees. Unfortunately the soil, having been a working plot for years, is to rich for the type of plants that colonise a meadow. So during my first season the 'meadow' grew at a rate of knots equivalent to a rocket ship on after burners where totally unsuitable plants such as skutch grass and dock leaves held sway over it and in which little else in terms of the diversity that a wildflower meadow should have grew. This led to some rather unfortunate communications from the snotty members of the 'my runner bean poles were set using a lazar' allotment committee (arses), which in turn led to some head scratching for moi on whether or not to continue with this venture. But eventually the thought of my home brewed cider won the day and I decided to give it another go.

      Firstly I had to think about the meadow and how to produce a wild meadow diverse in both flora and fauna. Unfortunately, other than removing the top foot or so of soil from the plot and replacing it with totally poor soil, there is no quick solution other than patience. So the meadow is now a slow and long process but progress is being made. I now have a petrol mower and cut the meadow at least weekly. Hang on a minute, am I not the one who discourages others from manicured lawns? Well yes I am but there is method in my madness, by cutting the meadow thus over the next few years the soil will gradually lose its fertility and become more suitable for the type of plants I require to take root here. The reason I mow and not strim the meadow is so that the cuttings are picked up and do not add to the fertility of the soil, and also the cut height is set at max which is about 5 inches higher than a lawn would be cut. A spin off from this is that the cuttings are added to my beautifully built compost heap which is now working properly as can felt by the heat it now generates. So at this stage mowing the meadow is about preventing the unwanted plants from multiplying and also weakening them, reducing the soil's fertility, helping my compost and keeping the gestapo allotment committee of my case, tis a win win situation m'thinks.

     Having said that I am in effect reducing the diversity of the meadow but I have countered this slightly by beginning to add native plants that can stand both the high fertility level and the mowing. I had already introduced Cowslips which are doing nicely and to these I am slowly adding others such as Daises and, rather aptly for moi, Self-Heal which is a gorgeous little plant that spreads readily and puts up beautiful purple flower spires that the bees seem to adore...

Self-Heal

Daisy

 ....ooohhh if the committee only knew what I was cultivating on me allotment.

     As for the rest of the plot well I now have five small raised beds in which I planted raspberry, runner bean, broad bean, courgette, potatoes and radish as well as some nasturtium to add colour and it's a great addition to a salad. Well out of these only the nasturtium, potato and raspberry have done any good as due to the past couple of weeks of wet weather the slug population has exploded. Now this setback also got me thinking as I refuse to use chemicals n the like on my plot but if I am to reap some reward from it besides cider then a solution was needed. So today I have sown some late dwarf beans and introduced Nematodes into the soil. These are a naturally occurring parasite that limit slug population. By raising the nematode numbers it should have a detrimental effect upon the slugs, fingers crossed. I have also made a small start to what I hope will be a mixed fruit boundary hedge and planted three purple gooseberry bushes. Oh and almost forgot I have planted up an old knackered wheelbarrow with foxgloves, hopefully they will set seed around the edges of the plot and under the mature cider trees where I leave the grass and nettles to grow unmolested by the mower.

     So all in all the allotment is still ongoing and slow progress for my vision of attracting wildlife to it is being made, I shall leave you with a few more pictures to be getting on with....

Barrow load of Foxgloves

View from the bottom

View from the top

My most successful crop to date

Such a beauty

the bees are loving em too


So til next time take care,

John

Saturday, 2 July 2016

The winds of change.....

     .....And no I am not talking about the affects of sprouts upon my delicate constitution! No, for some time now you may have picked up from posts past that I am not entirely happy with my working life. I have been a factory worker for far to many years that I care, or can for that matter, remember and there is always one constant that pisses me off about this. I enjoy my work and if I am honest I am an intelligent lad and I could indeed excel at what I do but.....

      Always there be a fly in the ointment don't there? My particular fly in my work ointment is the politics and quite honestly the bullshit that abounds in the factory environment. There are 'clicks' of people that progress up the ladder not because of their work capabilities but rather their capabilities to 'brown nose' and keep in the 'face fits' crowd. Being an engineer is truly a place that sits between a rock and a very hard place, we do not produce anything that is measured in productivity terms and we are seen as the main cause of down time in the factory. We are seen as a necessary evil for without us the wheels will eventually stop rotating. As a rule we are of above average intelligence and raise our voices more often to management with objections to plans, changes or development that to them seem wonderful but are actually ill thought out and sometimes border upon being bloody stupid and I, for one am bloody tired of it all.

      You know that I have been an unsettled little bunny for a long time now and that does not bode well with the black dog always stalking moi. I have polished my CV and considered moving elsewhere to other factories but the grass is not usually greener upon the other side and each factory pretty much has the same clicks, bullshit and arseholes in charge whether at junior or senior management. I have considered writing but that is something that blows hot and cold, not good with bills to pay. So what to do? stay put and let my spirit die a slow death by drowning in bullshit? write and be damned? ....I think not, neither option seems appealing to myself but there is another and this I have decided to pursue with every part of my being, I have the support of my George, I have the nounce to make a go of it, I have the desire to make it work and for once I can see ahead away from factory life once and for all. 

     What be this wonderful new path? well it will not be wonderful no, it will be hard graft, a worry and slow to start to be a success if at all. I can only hint at this new path for the time being as I still need to sort plenty out before I commit myself to it and hoist two fingers at factory work for good. As for what the path is about....well all I can say it's going to be wild.

Till next time take care,

John



Saturday, 25 June 2016

Sitting in my chair once more...

     Just taking in the garden from my chair once more before tonight's stint at the 'not so fun factory', I could sit here for ever and a day....

A new 'old' addition, hopefully bringing the feathered critters closer..



Ahhh the new old bird table appears to be doing the trick..

    Tis the simple things that give the greatest of pleasures m'thinks. Till the next time tara and take care,

John

Thursday, 23 June 2016

My favorite chair...

     I guess all of us need that 'escape' from the world at some point during our lives. Sometimes it happens rarely other times almost daily. At the moment for me it is required far to often as I continue to learn to manage living a life with the 'bitch noir'. There is one spot in particular where I spend my time letting my thoughts become becalmed from the madness that is modern life....


     ....this be my favorite chair and it sits under the shade of a beautiful Japanese Acer tree in my little garden. From here, as I sup yet another cup of tea, I get to see and hear all sorts of flora and fauna as my attempt of encouraging wildlife in a suburban setting that is 'Compromise Garden' matures.....


     Perhaps this 'mess' is not for the 'perfect lawn brigade' or connoisseurs of 'proper gardens' but from just one vantage point, my favorite chair, the tiny vistas are stunning as the eye discovers something different and special at every turn of the head....


Bees are more than abundant in Compromise garden

Preening after a bathing in the pond's waterfall

Sometimes mithering Spaniels are left t'other side of the garden gate



The hint of a Goldfish underneath t' pond lily

The gentle sound of the waterfall allows the mind to drift
      These are just a few glimpses of what may be seen or heard from my favorite seat, Damselflies are visiting, frogs are now establishing themselves and the smells that waft around from the multitude of insect attracting plants is intoxicating. Even if you do not understand that as a species we will die out if we keep destroying the natural world surely you can see see the benefits of having your own 'Compromise garden'? And if you are unsure of how to go about it drop me a line because if I can help you make suburbia become more encouraging to nature then I'll be more than glad to help.

Til the next time take care,

John

Monday, 20 June 2016

Shout out time...

      Yes I know that I have been less than regular with my posts upon the blogosphere but never thee mind as that is slowly being rectified (second post this month). 

     Tis just a short shout out for a dear friend of mine who has not blogged for some considerable for reasons that I fully understand but tis a joy that she is posting again on her blog 'My Beautiful Life' and if you pop over there for awhile I am sure that her words will make you return again and again.

     I have known Tracy for some time now and had the pleasure of meeting her and 'man wonderful' last year on a trip to the deepest south. She is a bubbly, full of life character with an absolutely wicked sense of humour which is totally contagious. I hope she does not mind me saying that, like me, she has her demons but is truly an inspiration to all us 'nutters'. We, that be me and my George, are looking forward to their company once more and hopefully it will be in October when I am attempting another bloody charity walk in Devon this time.

     So do yourself a favour and get yourself over to  'My Beautiful Life' and let her blog slowly grow upon you. Tis early days for her writing but once she gets into her stride once more you will find yourself enchanted, smiling and crying. Oh and tell the bugger I sent ya.

John

Monday, 13 June 2016

Knackered knees can't stop me....

      Helloooo there, sorry about the severe lack of posting here or indeed the reading of your own wonderful blogs but I have been a tad busy of late what with work, household chores, the allotment (yes the allotment) and getting in some sort of shape for my charity trek up Mt. Snowdon.

     Bit with reference to the last bit, yep this rotund Welshman managed to summit the highest point in Wales yesterday raising a grand total of £300.00, result!! One thing though my knees are absolutely ka-nackered today and I an not looking forward to the 'not so fun factory' tomorrow I can tell ya.




Wet, knackered and happy

     Stupid thing is as I sit here typing away lamenting my very sore knees I have just signed up for another trek on the tors n moors of Devon...bugger! Ah well off to watch GoTs afor me bed, till the next time take care,

John

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Feedback request....

     I am writing a book hence paying little attention to the blogosphere sorry, hang about what I mean is that I am trying to write a book. The first page has been roughly written, or should that be written roughly? Anyways, I thought that I would put this extremely rough first page rough draft on here in the hope of a little feedback if you may be so inclined. Oh now for the unscrupulous amongst you please remember that if this is indeed any good, which I doubt, the words, story etc are copy-write to yours truly so be warned if you don't want my anger knocking at your door and play nice. 

So here goes nothing, be gentle with me...

Chapter 1
               The stunted fauna that edged the limit of the highest tide gave nothing away to suggest that the rocks and their small pools of life filled salt water were being observed from within the sparse cover they provided. The freshening offshore breeze seemed to signal the turning of the tide and soon the rocks would once again be inaccessible to the lone observer within the wind shaped Gorse bushes that manage to stand all but the harshest of the western coast’s storms. Though the chance for gathering food from the pools below would disappear in the next few hours, Watcher made no move to leave his carefully scrapped hollow that enabled him to watch without being observed himself. Watcher knew that the tide would recede again exposing the then refreshed pools just before dusk settled and covered the land with its dark mantle. Only then, as the light began to fail would he leave his hiding place and venture onto the exposed rocks below to harvest whatever bounty the sea had left behind. But for now he was quite content just to watch the sea and the other scavengers out on the rocks whom hunger drove to risk the open landscape whilst the day was at its lightest. But the risks to the gulls, terns, crows and the vixen that scoured the rocks below did not worry Watcher, instead it was something else that kept him out of sight until the light began to fail, something that he had come across seven turns of the sun ago that brought back memories of a threat thought left far behind many turns of the seasons since. The watcher chewed upon some dried meat not tasting the smokiness of it as his thoughts drifted to a time when he was young and lacked the wisdom the passing seasons had imparted upon him, to a time when his world was crushed and he knew the true meaning of terror...

               The sharp lash of Teacher’s thin willow rod left an angry red welt cross Sutherland’s exposed neck. Being awoken with such a sharp sting brought an oath from Sutherland’s lips as he snarled turning to face his attacker. Another sharp sting opened up the skin on the bridge of his nose stopped him mid launch from his stool and he fell back dazed and bloodied. The laughter from his classmates stabbed at him through his momentary confusion, hurting far more than the bite of the rod, and the realisation that he was in Teacher’s class, not fishing the sea for serpents as his dream had bade him believe brought a further oath from his lips. “Perhaps another stroke of the stick will silence your foul mouth and also remind you to pay attention in the class South boy?” Teacher’s question was spoken quietly but Sutherland knew better than to think that they did not carry the threat intended. “If you think so my teacher then it should be so” answered the boy, doing well to keep both hatred and fear from his words. Smiling to himself Teacher moved away from the boy he’d so rudely awoken and proceeded with the day’s lesson.

               Later that evening as Teacher stretched his legs in front of the dying fire his mind drifted to the ‘days before’ and tears came unbidden to his grey eyes. “Why are you so hard on the boy?” the gently whispered words brought him from his grief stricken thoughts and looking up he could not help but smile as she looked down at him, the question still her eyes. “well?” she asked, trying remain stern whilst inside she just wanted to settle beside him and wipe the tears from his cheek. She knew from whence the memories came that brought those tears yet they had not spoken of that time for many years. “Because the southern boy must become a man far sooner than he should, they are returning and perhaps he may be the only one to save us”, his smile took the edge off his words yet in her heart she knew them to be true and fear gripped her soul as the memories of when the world fell flooded back. She settled by his side and gently wiped the tears away and in silence they watched the fire slowly burn to ash and thought of those days when the southerly winds brought nothing but death and despair.

               The darkness brought a different feel to the forest where before squirrels scampered through the highest branches scouring for the few remaining acorns to store before the cold mantle of winter covered the land, where the call of songbirds drifted lightly through the gently swaying trees that seemed to be dancing in their autumnal coloured gowns of leaves and where if you had been quiet enough you may have glimpsed a small deer as it cautiously crossed a clearing dappled in the still warm sunlight. Indeed, the forest seemed at peace in the day and walking through it brought no thought of danger but just of wonder as the woodland seemed to embrace and welcome a traveller following the winding trail through.  But the forest changed in the darkness, a traveller would find himself glancing far too often over his shoulder at noises that seemed eerie and full of dread, the once gently dancing trees now wore gowns of satin black and seemed to loom over as if trying to reach out and grasp a passing soul and where the noise of passing beasts hinted at lurking monsters with only murder upon their minds. But there was one in the forest who knew that the trees bore no malice, that the eerie sounds were not of harpies or imps but of the White Owls as they hunted for their prey and that there were no monsters lurking with fangs dripping blood made black in the moonlight, only badgers and wild boar going about their business and steering clear of tracks of men. Of course there were at times killers in the woods, but the few great bears that survived in these parts had headed back to mountain caves in the far north to prepare for their long sleep, the wolves had headed west following the herds of forest cattle that sought easier grazing on the flood plains that stayed free of all but the heaviest of snow being kept warmed by the air driven off the sea and the of great cats? None had been seen for over fifty turns of the seasons. But the one soul that stood in the dark forest did not feel the usual peace that the forest brought and in its heart knew that the southerly winds were coming once more and with them the promise of death for the land. It stood deep in thought and knowing what was needed brought something that it had not felt for many turns of the sun in its heart, fear.

                The old king lent upon the cold stone wall that loomed above the valley floor. The thin clouds moved slowly over the nearly full moon casting distorted shadows across the ramparts of the crumbling castle. His mood was melancholy this evening brought on firstly be the report of the ranger from the laden isle and then from too much wine drank to keep the encroaching fear at bay. Eric always knew this time would come again, a time when the land may die for good. After the last invasion there had barely been enough defenders to finally push back what the southern winds had brought and now there were far less. The land had not been kind to those who had saved it last time and its peoples had dwindled in number with each turn of the seasons. It was only when King Eric had travelled, unaccompanied, deep into the eastern woodland on an impulse he failed to understand and then returned two seasons later with a knowledge that was to change the people’s relationship with the land for good did they begin to hold their numbers and live in a totally different way. Where the knowledge had come from King Eric had never said, and the task of convincing his peoples of the necessary changes had been long and at times bloody. Many had left instead of bending to the new ways and many would not draw breath again to challenge them. Bad times thought the King to himself, but without the changes the land would have taken them all eventually even before the southern winds would return. Ha, 'king' thought Eric, a title taken from the old world and bestowed upon him so that he could guide the people unchallenged. A title from antiquity that if the truth about it was known that it meant nothing more than tyrant in the days long before the world rose and fell in its quest to rid itself of the parasitical species that had nearly killed her. A wry smile crossed his lips ‘if the people thought the terror of the southern winds passing those many turns of the seasons ago was dire then they would have pissed themselves if they had of witnessed the ferocity of the world as she wrung the life of all but a few that once numbered billions’ thought Eric. ‘How many turns of the seasons had that been? Three, maybe four hundred?’ Eric sighed, these few that lived here in the north new only of the lands no further than ten day’s journey, what would they feel if they realised that their world was only a tiny fraction of the world that surrounded the land?  He had seen sights that would make them call him insane if he spoke of them, sights that the people would call dark magic; street lights with no flame, ships that travelled above the clouds, ships as big as cities that roamed on or under the oceans and weapons that would wipe whole cities away as if they had never been. Again Eric smiled to himself ‘ships as big as cities?, the people don’t even have the word city in their language’. A cough from the archway brought the old King back to the present, “he is here my King” spoke the gate-man as he bowed. With a slight nod of acceptance, the old King dismissed him “and so it begins” he spoke with a sigh to the empty battlement.


               Watcher awoke to the cries of seabirds as they harried a shoal of Greenfish that had come too close to shore and were now exposed at the surface of the turquoise sea.  Dawn's first light was creeping over the land and he knew he should move from his scrapped hollow before his silhouette could be seen from the sea against the lightening sky. He looked down at his oilsac that held the late evening bounty and smiled, we will eat well today. But his smile turned to a frown as his gaze fell upon the small parcel wrapped in cloth, ‘yes they are coming’ he thought. He would travel east, taking the others with him and seek out the old King’s castle. There they may be safe, at least that is until all else is lost to the southern winds. 

     Like I said, very rough but feedback is appreciated. Til the next time take care all,

John  

Monday, 25 April 2016

Making the first moves....

     Oh hello my friend, you must excuse my recent absence for I have been preoccupied with a couple of changes hereabouts which are perhaps related to some recent posts found herehere, call it a lifestyle change if you would. Again it boils down to the fact that I am trying to simplify my life, in part to decrease life's pressures on my oft stretched mind but also just to get back to being less material and to be more in contact with the important things in my life such as the love of my woman, simple food, fishing, walking and immersing my self in nature. Of course sometimes the move to leading a simpler life can initially involve some financial outlay to achieve one's goals. For instance I have recently part exchanged my faithful Audi, Bertha, for a proper estate car which will allow my to carry the dogs, walking gear and fishing tackle far more easily. But this came at a cost as the value of the new car was deemed more than the Audi even though it is older and has far more mileage upon the clock.... 


Yet to be named

       .....but she is a beauty and a joy to drive.

      Talking of finances this is another thing I am changing by stopping my impulsive spending that happens when the Black dog threatens to bring me down and being far more disciplined with money management. With this in mind I am once more selling upon 'Flea-bay', at the moment tis stuff that I have either bought impulsively (the Morris being one of these 'impulsive buys' and which is due to be picked up tomorrow) or items that I no longer use. I have been quite ruthless in this and it is just turning the corner and making me a small profit.

       I have also started another blog that I hope has a different 'feel' to this one, something a tad more primitive is what I am aiming for. Please do not look so concerned my friend this blog will still ramble on in its usual disjointed fashion. Speaking of writing I have started something that I have dabbled with and thought about for some years now and that is actually write a book which I intend to self publish upon Kindle, who knows maybe I will become famous? But seriously the writing of this book, or maybe books? is just to explore other avenues of expression and hopefully will prove to be as relaxing as I hope it may be. Although I did have an impulsive moment the other day when offered a small sailing dinghy for the princely sum of £0.00, yep free. Fortunately there is little work required to have her upon the water this year so I gratefully accepted the offer and now I am able to dream of sailing still waters, cruising along flowing rivers and perchance trying my hand at some inshore fishing once more.

Not much to see but adventure lie beneath that cover I tell ye....

     As for the other stuff that has kept me away from taking a seat with you, well mainly it has been work and after careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that working for my present employers is not in the best interest for me and it is time to scour the region for a more suitable employer. Besides work, walking has been the order of the day and my fitness levels are now showing a marked increase. So much so in fact that I am considering training for some long distance walks in the future, walks that take days not hours through the best that the British countryside has to offer. The garden has also taken some of my time, but only to sit and ponder on the plans to bring in more change and simplify my life even more.

      Ah how fleetingly time passes, please feel free to sit and ponder but I must away and prepare tonight's simple fare of baked potatoes covered in tuna. Until we have the time to let pass by together once more take care my friend.

John the Cook

      

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Upping the walking game...

     So, you just could not help yourself and keep away from my rambling words then, well pull up a pew and we'll chew the cud some more.....

      A much lighter post today methinks, more in tune with getting back on track with the simple things and not smothering myself with trying to delve too deeply into life's woes and misfortune. I do believe that I mentioned in the the previous post that walking was coming to the fore in my life once more and over the last couple of weeks or so my feet have been pounding the trails once more. It's quite funny that living here in North Wales a person tends to forget how blessed one is with the wonderful countryside right on the doorstep. In fact several walks have indeed been right on my doorstep, literally I am able to walk out of our back door and in less than a mile I am out of the village and walking in the countryside. It is so easy to ignore what is in your local area and instead head out for perceived better walking further afield. But the truth is the trails in and around the village offer such diverse terrain that they are always of interest although perhaps the views are not as majestic as those further afield on the nearby mountain ranges. Having said that they offer immediate walking and the sense of well being that walking provides myself with....














     I have also been trudging along the river Dee and the canal at Llangollen. Here the walking is far easier but walking along side water is always special....







     ....and a walk in the countryside around Llangollen would not be complete with lunch or tea at the Dee side bistro and a sample of their sumptuous and very reasonably priced fare (the steak pie is particularly nice)


      On the other side of the hills from Llangollen I have returned to wander the once familiar trails in Nercwys forest and the steeper gradients of Moel Fammau....











     My wandering feet have also taken me into the Welsh hills upon a couple of occasions recently to walk in and around the jewels that are Bethgelert and  Llyn Vyrnwy, and it is places such as these that the full joy of walking can be felt...







Finches at the RSPB's hide at Vyrnwy








George taking a breather


Myself (handsome devil I know) guarding Thor's shield...

My favorite sculpture at Vyrnwy, lord knows why....


Nature taking back her own..



  
     So there you have it, over the last few weeks walking has become one of my, if not the main focus and I am reaping the rewards with a clearer mind and now weighing 14lbs lighter. The walking bug has finally bit me after many false starts and it is good to feel my body repairing itself and the dull ache of once forgotten muscles being pushed again. The only thing now is remembering to hold back a tad and, pardon the pun, not run before I can walk. I've reached the level where I now need to start thinking about which kit I need to take and find new routes to push me even further. I tell you something, this is a bloody good feeling my friend.

Til the next time take care,

John