Category Archives: Personal Stuff

Cancer Research UK Hallowe’en Party

I was at the most amazing Hallowe’en party last night. It was in aid of Cancer Research UK and the hosts had gone to extraordinary lengths to make it as authentic as possible. Their front garden had spooky music playing with skeletons and barbed wire. The back garden had been converted into a totally covered room with a coffin, headstones, grizzly murder scenes, animatronics and even an electric chair where guests could be “electrocuted” !

Here are some photos I took.

 

Haworth to Top Withens and a nice chat with a wheel clamper !

It was a pleasant September day as we headed for Haworth and Bronte country for a 11km Saturday walk.

I parked the car in the first car park I found in Haworth and walked over to the pay and display machine. It suddenly occurred to me that this might be the car park that has been in the news for wheel clamping. As I approached the ticket machine an elderly man approached and asked if I wanted to buy his book.He said he was also the car park owner. I asked if he was the Haworth car clamper who has been in the news, and he said he was, but that it was all blown out of proportion and he hadn’t clamped anyone for years!

Anyway, my wife, who is an avid reader, bought his book for £10 because he said all the money went to charity and if we displayed the book in the car windscreen we could park for free. I read the sign next to the ticket machine and noticed that the sign said cars must be parked in the bays or they would be clamped. I checked and sure enough I had parked correctly.

Anyway. with boots on, we set off with map in hand past the Bronte Parsonage nearby and followed the path towards cemetery Road which lead eventually from the road to a walkers path towards Bronte Waterfalls. A lady dog walker we chatted to said that we should cover up as there were a lot of midges – we have the bites to prove she was correct !

 

The path to Bronte Waterfalls is a little rough in parts but the waterfalls themselves are not the most spectacular I have seen but its a pretty spot. On the way there you can see Lower Laithe reservoir on your right. At Bronte Waterfalls we then crossed a small bridge and there is a short steep climb to the top where you can look back on Bronte Waterfalls and fabulous views beyond. It’s probably a good 30 minute walk from here to Top Withens, which you can see in the distance on a hill.

The views from Top Withens are great and we sat on a bench next to the ruins of the old house that was once someones house and are said to have been the inspiration of the novel Wuthering Heights.

Heading back down the hill we joined the Pennine Way and it was a pleasant walk down to the village of Stanbury. After the village turn right and cross the dam of Lower Laithe Resevoir and then left near the water treatment works and back to Cemetery Road and then it’s just a short walk back to the Parsonage in Haworth.

Overall, the walk is about 11km and it took us 3.5 hours.

After a well-earned coffee and cakes at The Stirrup in Haworth village we walked back to the car park. It was when we entered the car park that I noticed there were several annoyed car owners. At least 3 cars had been clamped for parking outside the bays and their owners were remonstrating with the clamper. Our car was not clamped. I went over to talk to the clamper and he said our car was fine. The car owners had to find £90 to have the clamp released and they were not at all happy !

As we headed back to Leeds feeling good about our walk we couldn’t help feeling sorry for the clamped car owners who had by a matter of inches fallen foul of the infamous car clamping rules at Changegate car park.

Cat Bells walk from Littletown

Last weekend I spent two nights in The Lake District. There were four of us and we stayed at Little Town Farm near Keswick, a Bed & Breakfast guest house with amazing views of the Newlands Valley.

We headed off from Leeds on the A65 towards Kendall and Windermere and then north towards Keswick. It’s a few years since I have been to Keswick and it’s now pedestrianised which is great. We checked in at Littletown Farm with a welcome from the owners Rob and Sarah and fresh coffee and homemade cake. The rooms are small, but with comfortable beds and amazing views to the fells from the bedroom windows.

 

On the Friday night we caught a taxi into Keswick costing £10 and went for a drink at Bar26, a trendy cafe-bar on Lake Road, before heading off to Morrels. Morrels is a restaurant I can highly recommend. For £19.95 we had a superb 3 course meal. Maybe it was the fresh air but the food at Morrels together with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and  nice bottle of Rioja went down very well.My Braised Daube of Beef on Mash with Red Wine & Root Vegetable Gravy was excellent.

Top of Cat Bells in The Lake DistrictThe next morning after a very good Cumbrian breakfast at our Bed & Breakfast we put on our walking boots and set off from Little Town to Cat Bells. It’s a fairly steep climb from Little Town but when you reach the top at Hause Gate you get brilliant views of Derwent Water and beyond. At Hause Gate we turned left and headed towards the summit of Cat Bells which is only another 20 minutes walk. As we reached the summit of Cat Bells we were asked if we wanted a cup of tea ! On Cat Bells there was a tent and a group of men were raising money for a trip to Pakistan to climb K7. That tea went down really well and we then headed off down the other side of Cat Bells. During the walk down there are a couple of tricky rocky sections that you have to negotiate. If it’s wet you have to be careful but otherwise you will encounter a steady stream of people including families. It’s no surprise because Cat Bells is one of the most popular walks in Lakeland.

We soon reached the road and we then walked to Hawse End where you can catch the ferry-boat that runs around the lake at regular intervals. Two stops later we arrived in Keswick. It was a Saturday and a busy market day.One of our party had to find a pharmacy as he had been stung. I had an ice cream !

 Later, we headed back to the ferry as we were catching the ferry to Brandelhow Bay landing point which is at the south end of Derwent Water. We were heading back to Hawse Gate which involved a steep climb. This is where I discovered that I was not as fit as I should be !

From Hawse Gate we descended down the other side to Little town Farm and I slipped on a loose rock and ended up going down heavily on my knee. There was no lasting damage though and we reached our B&B where we sat outside drinking tea and eating cake in the glorious sunshine.

The next morning after yet another fantastic cooked Cumbrian breakfast we paid our bill and headed off towards Buttermere. It’s a 20 minute drive over a high pass called Newlands Hause and you also see Moss Force waterfall which is a spectacular sight. There is a small parking area where you can stop at this point to take photos and walk over to the falls.

We parked behind the Fish Hotel in Buttermere and our plan was to walk around Buttermere. Buttermere is a beautiful stretch of water surrounded by high fells, one of which is Hay Stacks. It’s about 5 miles around the lake. Our intention was to climb Hay Stacks but the exertions of the previous day had taken its toll on unfit walkers so we decided to leave that for another time. The walk around Buttermere is easy and it’s a popular walk.

Arriving back in Buttermere an hour and a half later we found a nice coffee shop before heading back to the car park to set off on our journey back to Leeds.

I would highly recommend Littletown Farm guest house. The owners are very friendly and they also do evening meals from time to time. We ate there on the Saturday night and we were impressed with the food.

Overall we had a great weekend in The Lake District.

 

 

 

 

Cow and Calf to Dick Hudsons Walk

Finally, summer 2012 started this weekend !

Yesterday I went on a 5 mile bike ride and today I walked for four hours on Ilkley Moor. I have got the sun and ache a bit but I feel good !

Ten or more years ago the walk between the Cow and Calf rocks and Dick Hudsons pub was a popular walk. The prospect of a pint of real ale at Dick Hudsons before walking back to Ilkley attracted many walkers. However, times seem to have changed, Dick Hudsons seems to attract the Sunday lunchtime daytrippers who travel by car. I watched the car park filling up from the beer garden having walked for 2 hours whilst I drank my pint of orange and lemonade.I needed refreshment before setting off back to Ilkley in 24C and a blue sky !

We parked our car in the Cow and Calf rocks car park and headed upwards. The views from the Cow and Calf are fantastic but the views from the ridge way up from the actual rocks is amazing. We could see Menwith Hill in the distance as well as Ferrybridge Power Station and beyond, as well of course some of the most beautiful Yorkshire Dales scenery you will find.

On the way we walked past The Twelve Apostles which are Bronze Age standing stones estimated to have been there for over 7,000 years.

Parts of the walk were quite boggy after all the rain we have had and we found that the start of the walk from the Cow and Calf car park to be quite difficult to follow as there are many paths heading off in different directions but we soon found the right track.

I can highly recommend this walk. Take a look at the video I took of the walk and if you do the walk and decide to have lunch at Dick Hudsons before you turn around and walk back make sure you take off your muddy boots!

Oops! Sorry about the video. Some of the captions don’t match the images.

Kindney Stones & 3 Hospitals In 4 Days !

What a few days I have had ! I have visited 3 different hospitals in 4 days because I was struck down with kidney stones. I have to say, however, that I have nothing but admiration for the NHS staff I encountered and whilst sometimes I had to wait several hours without anything happening the overall service I had I can’t fault.

It all started on a Thursday morning and I was driving down the M1 motorway. I had stopped at Wooley Edge Services near Wakefield when suddenly I was hit with really bad pains around my kidneys and stomach. After 10 minutes the pain had got even worse so after taking advice from my wife, who is is in the medical profession, I agreed that she would call an ambulance. I did attempt to put on the brave manly face but deep down I knew that I couldn’t drive and I needed help. If you ever have the misfortune to have kidney stones then you will probably need medical attention quickly and you will need pain relief urgently.

Anyway, the first response paramedic arrived and hooked me up to lots of equipment and carried out some basic tests. At this point the pain was so bad that I was throwing up in the car park but I was oblivious to anything going on around me !

Five minutes later an ambulance arrived and I didn’t take much persuasion to get into the ambulance. On the way to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield I was given gas and air as pain relief but it barely took the edge off the pain. I arrived in the A & E department and there was no hanging around I was given some pain relief and after about 30 minutes I was pain free and felt ok. The doctor said I needed an x-ray so off I went for that. Later on I was told I needed an IVU (Intravenus Urogram). This I was told is where  a dye is injected into you and then x-rays are taken at various times throughout the process and it is possible to see any blockages with might be caused by a stone. This took about an hour but when the results were checked there was no sign of any problems.

Later that day I was discharged but after two more bouts of pain I admitted myself to the A & E department of Leeds General Infirmary and again I was given pain relief. LGI is a teaching hospital and I can tell you that it pays to live near to a good hospital because LGI has a CT Scanner and I was put on the list for a CT Scan. This is a futuristic looking machine that only takes about 2 minutes to scan the affected area. The results of the CT Scan showed that I had a 3mm kidney stone, so I can say that the CT Scan is far more powerful and accurate than an IVU x-ray !

I was then taken to the specialist urology department of St Jame’s Hospital in Leeds and stayed there overnight. After more pain and pain relief I managed to get rid of the stone naturally which is great because I did not fancy any surgery !

All in all it was a painful experience but I have to say that all the staff I encountered from paramedics, A & E staff, doctors, nurses and even the tea ladies were great. I can’t fault them at all. They were thoughtful, caring and they made me feel special. So, well done and thanks to the NHS.

In the UK we do have an excellent health service …. I can vouch for that as I saw 3 different hospitals in 4 days !

A Sunday Afternoon Walk Along the Canal At Horsforth, Leeds

Spring is in the air and it’s a bright cool day so I decided I needed a walk. Horsforth is a nice suburb of Leeds but it’s not all houses. You can, as any Horsforth resident will tell you, find some nice rural views and at the same time take in a bit of local history. For those that know the area here is the route I took.

I headed down Newlay Lane and towards the River Aire.  When you reach the river there is a footbridge called Pollard Bridge. I took this photograph and you will see it’s very old. The plaque says it was built in 1819 by John Pollard. I can remember driving across this bridge which was a short cut between Horsforth and Bramley, but it was closed to traffic many years ago.

Pollard Bridge Horsforth

After you cross the river you head up the hill towards the Leeds/Liverpool canal and then I walked along the canal towpath towards Calverley. There are plenty of interesting sights. I took a photograph of some canal boats moored up. The route along this part of the Leeds/Liverpool canal is quite rural and you are actually walking between the canal and the River Aire. The canal towpath winds past old industrial buildings and several canal side houses. You also walk past a nature reserve.

Canal boats at Horsforth, March 2009.

As the crow flies Liverpool is about 60 miles from Leeds, however, if you were to go by canal boat, cycle it or even walk it using the canal or the towpath you would end up travelling 122 miles ! I haven’t personally measured it but to prove it I took a photograph of the mile marker which is on this part of the Leeds/Liverpool canal.

Horsforth walk March 2009 003

Eventually the canal towpath reaches the Leeds outer ring road. Steps lead up to the road and then the traffic noise hits you and it’s a constant stream of cars. You go from relative calm to one of the busiest roads in Leeds. When you walk up the Leeds ring road towards the roundabout at the A65 you realise how fast cars are travelling, especially going up the hill.

This is a photo I took of the River Aire from the bridge on the Leeds outer ring. It is one of the busiest roads in Leeds but this picture makes it look quite rural.

River Aire at Horsforth Ring Road

You also cross the Leeds to Ilkley railway line at this point. It’s good to get out and walk around your local urban area. You notice things that you don’t see whilst driving. One of the things that struck me was the amount of litter. Plastic bags, cans, plastic bottles and even carrier bags full of rubbish that lazy people have just dumped. It’s appalling. All this rubbish looks like it has been there years which begs the question as to who is responsible for cleaning it up.

This is the Leeds outer ring road. It is one of the busiest roads in Leeds with a constant stream of traffic, although this photograph that I took doesn’t really show the amount of traffic that this road has.

Horsforth Ring Road, March 2009.

I took  photos of some of the litter and rubbish that I saw, but they don’t show the full extent of the problem.

Horsforth, near Leeds litter problem

Working From Home Is Great When It Snows

I started working from home over three years ago. I have a little office with two phones and a desktop PC. My office is a bit smaller than I would like but it’s good enough. I can remember when I had to do the daily commute into Leeds city centre. It is only about 5 miles from my house. Outside the rush hour period it takes about 12 to 15 minutes to drive to the centre of Leeds. Driving that same distance in the rush hour  takes at least 30 minutes. All it takes is a minor accident or an obstruction and the whole area can grind to a halt. The problem is that there is too much traffic and the roads are not good enough to cope with the amount of traffic, so it does not take much to reach crisis point.

When you add snow to the equation it makes matters even worse. I can remember driving home from work about 15 years ago and it took me about 3 hours to go 5 miles ! Luckily we have not had much snow over the last few years, but this Monday especially was fairly bad, but I have seen much worse. There seems to be this mentality as well that when it snows more people use their cars rather than use public transport. I can see their logic to an extent. It is better to be sitting in your own warm car listening to the radio rather than sitting on a smelly bus with nothing to do. This, of course, adds to the problem as there are then more cars on the road.

Snow in Horsforth, near Leeds 2009.

So, it is times like this that I feel smug sitting in my little office at home. I look out of the window and I can see drivers struggling to get grip in the icy conditions. They rev their cars up thinking that the faster their wheels go the more chance they will have of keeping going. I don’t have any worries about getting to work, so I actually have started to like snow now. Yesterday, I even walked out to the shops. I put on my thick socks and walking boots, scarf, hat and gloves and off I went. I didn’t have to worry about not making it to my destination. The shops are only about 400 yards away. I didn’t slip in the snow and I had no trouble getting out of my driveway !

So I say bring on more snow. We don’t see it very often. I think it is great. I do feel sorry for you Londoners who yesterday couldn’t get to work because the bus drivers decided they didn’t like snow, but when you look back on it you will be able to laugh about it and that is just what we all need at the moment !

Ice Skating – It Can Hurt!

It’s at least 15 years since I last went ice skating but when I was asked if I wanted to support the Woodhouse Grove Ice Skating event I said “Yes”! The nearest ice skating rink to me is in Bradford. It’s a throwback to the 60′s and hasn’t changed at all since the day it was built. I have only been ice skating about six times in my life so I am not an expert but I can get round!

So, I managed to get my boots on and stumbled onto the ice and was nearly bowled over by a 10 year old wiz kid going at 30MPH. Hanging onto the side I plucked up the courage to push myself off and glided a few yards, arms flailing everywhere as I tried to keep my balance. I thought to myself Yea, this is good, I’m a natural, so I set off again in a straight line. It was soon time to turn a corner and this is where it started to get a bit trickier as I don’t know how to turn but somehow I managed it and I was off. After a couple of laps I was getting more confident and would have been ready for the TV show Dancing On Ice if I had been asked.

But the inevitable soon happened. I had only been thinking to myself that I had never fallen whilst ice skating and before I knew it I had lost my balance and had landed heavily on my right arm. The most difficult thing though is getting back up. I must have looked as though I was struggling because another 10 year old wiz kid skated up to me to ask if I was ok. I said I was ok but in actual fact my arm was throbbing but the worst thing was that my confidence was shattered. I knew that if I fell on that same arm again I would not be happy, so I decided that I would call it a day. My time on the ice was done and if I did get asked to do the Dancing On Ice show I would be saying NO!

Here I am on the ice. It’s a bit blurry..sorry

Ice skating at Bradford

Redundancy – Maybe not the end of life as you know it!

With news everyday of shops and businesses closing and a prediction that unemployment may rise to 3 million I thought that I would share my experience of redundancy with you.

For many, redundancy can be unexpected but I suppose that I was lucky in that I knew several months before that my office was going to close. I worked for a large insurance company and as often happens someone decided to amalgamate two offices into one. I had the choice of moving to Birmingham or London or taking redundancy. After 23 years working for the same company since leaving school I took the brave decision to take redundancy and take a chance working for myself. I’m not quite sure why but I decided that I would do something completly different so I started a travel agency. I knew a bit about travel (I had been to Spain a few times !) and before long I found myself sitting in front of a computer taking phone calls from people wanting cheap holidays and flights. It was a very fast learning curve, but the one thing I knew was that I needed to give the very best customer service. That’s what I had learnt in my previous job and I figured that if my travel knowledge was lacking I could make it up with excellent customer service.

In most jobs you pick up skills that can be used in other businesses so you don’t have to stay in the same line of business as you were in before. Although it is difficult, you have to stay positive and regard the situation as an opportunity to do something different. For most people the loss of income is the main problem when losing their job. The mortgage has to be paid, so the first priority is to get some income coming in. My advice would be to take whatever comes your way as you can always leave, but during that time start to think about what it is that you really want to do.

It’s amazing what can be done just working from home with a computer. I was only reading today that a woman started writing horoscopes for magazines after her husband lost his job. She had always been interested in horoscopes so she started writing and also she knocked on some magazine doors and to her suprise several magazines were interested. She now earns a living writing horoscopes. There is an endless number of opportunities for home workers and if you have an interest in computers and the internet it is relatively easy to set yourself up with a small online business.

It’s always a good idea to think ahead. If you think that there may be a chance of redundancy why not put your toe in the water and start that online business that you always wanted to do and run it in your spare time. If you do that you can guage what the chances of success are and also it gives you a head start in the game.

I didn’t know what to expect running a business, but I was confident that it would work. I booked family and friends and did some advertising and the phone started ringing. After 9 months of working from home, we opened a high street travel agency and then we moved into large spacious offices and employed at its peak about 12 people. Our business grew without really trying but then we hit a brick wall in that the market changed and sales started reducing. Like everything, travel is a very competitive industry and the market has been swamped with start up’s. The big players also sell sometimes below our net price.

Despite the problems I regard it as all part of learning about business and life and I am glad I did it.  There are ups and downs and as the saying goes – Crises happen to everyone, but it’s how you handle them that counts!

Running a business is certainly not boring. You have to live and breath the business and the first few years can mean long hours and family sacrifices. There is no guarantee of success but you won’t know unless you try.

For me redundancy worked out ok, although, of course, that can all change, but it can in any job. Sometimes I wish I had a ‘proper job’ where I didn’t have to worry about doing VAT returns and so on and I sometimes wish I was part of a bigger team, but I am glad I set up on my own and I would do the same if I had to relive that part of my life again.

David Cameron Just Emailed Me!

Did I tell you that I know David Cameron? Ah, well I do, but so do about 50 million other people in the UK! He has just emailed me to wish me a happy christmas and to tell me how he will get the UK economy moving again. He doesn’t want to “save the world” like Gordon Brown but one of the things he wants to do is to get money to small businesses so that they can start investing in this country’s future. In the UK there is a huge number of small businesses and I agree that they should be supported. Anyway, I thought that you would like to see David Cameron’s email to me, so I have copied it word for word below.

“Dear David,

When the financial crisis happened, I made it clear that the Conservative Party was ready to put aside party differences to help bring stability. That’s why we supported the recapitalisation of our banks.

I also said that we would not suspend our critical faculties over this Government’s calamitous economic policy decisions – decisions that helped not only cause this crisis by encouraging government and personal debt to spiral out of control, but could also make the recession deeper and last longer.

That’s why we have set out a positive alternative, starting with immediate action to tackle the credit problems at the heart of the issue.

It’s clear the recapitalisation is failing to restart lending to the real economy, so we’ve proposed a National Loan Guarantee Scheme to underwrite loans to businesses.

It is vital that this £50bn proposal – which has been welcomed by the business community – is taken forward by the Government right now.

I can’t promise it will save the world, but the sooner the Government swallows its pride the sooner we can get credit flowing again, and help Britain’s struggling businesses.

Conservatives have always understood and supported businesses, we know what they need to prosper.

We also recognise that they make a difference not just by creating wealth, offering employment, and paying taxes to fund public services, but by making their money in a moral way, treating their employees right, strengthening communities, and playing a positive part in society.

So we don’t see the financial crisis as an excuse to bash capitalism, we see it as a challenge to make it work better in the future.

As well as better regulation we need to reinforce the values of trust, integrity and responsibility – with strong institutions, and incentives to do the right thing.

And just as importantly the Government should lead by being as prudent with the public finances as we expect banks to be with private finances, and by being as moral and responsible with the public purse as we expect business to be with consumers’ cash.

That’s what a Conservative Government would do. Let’s hope we get a chance to have one in the coming year.

Thank you for all your support, and have a very Merry Christmas”

David Cameron