Dont buy the Sun.

Dont buy the Sun.
Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Hadrian's Wall

As with the last few weeks, time remains of the essence - a rare, exotic essence, hard to find and very precious. Tonight's missive will therefore be as short as the last few, but there are a few topics to address.

Hadrian's Wall cycle ride;

First item is that tomorrow morning, myself and Mosside Paul - ie ace guitarist and keyboard wizard comprising the other half of Cheek to Cheek, Paul Skarrat - are off on a journey who's outcome, presently is unknown. Months ago, feeling the need to experience the wind in our hair, the freedom of the road and miles of tramacadam crumbling beneath our wheels, we committed to ride Hadian's Wall cycleway. 174 miles of bridle paths, small roads, cycleways and ramblings meander across the hills of Norhtumbria in Northern England, roughly following the path of the wall constructed by the great Roman. The route, designed to avoid four wheeled vehicular traffic, is unbelievably convoluted. When we discussed the ride, and then booked the hostels and inns whence we would be staying, training rides were planned, a strict diet was to be observed and stamina was to be built. With about twenty four hours till we start riding, a sad tale of a summer bereft of training for the ride has unfolded. I have made furniture, done some work in Leeds,bone hiking in Scotland, gone to a wedding, visited a lighthouse, planted a few bushes, got drunk a few times and spent a total of about four hours a week on the bike. I suspect pain, particularly in the bum region, is on the horizon.

Into the hills with Brad and Amelia.

HAvent yet had time to organise these shots into an album, but we did a bit round Lochnagar a few weeks back. Brad and Amelia were scoping out a new climb here. For those interested this is Creag an Dubh Loch. I took some shots of the scenery on the way in :


AT the last moment, after a very quiet summer, my friends Luke and Tom called me in for some work in Leeds. As usual it was long days and the project is one of the more challenging ones I have been involved in. That occured last week, and so further delayed preparations for the ride. Still the physical nature of the work, and the the three hour per day commute was good stamina training.


After two years of negotiations with the UK National Health Service, I recieved a phone call from my doctor's surgery that a letter awaited at his surgery in respect of an appointment to fix my knees. I hot footed it down to the surgery, picked up the letter, raced home and opened it. To my dismay, contained within was not an appointment date, but a direction along with a password and user name to a website where, it promised, I could choose a date for my appointment. I logged on and flew through the onscreen instructions, anxious to get these knee problems finally resolved. On entering my password and user name, however, the website opened a new window, proudly displaying the name, address and phone number of HUll's muscularskeleto clinic. The onscreen directions told me to call the number. So I telephoned the number and a human voice answered. I explained my quest. The , listener, after checking my details politely congratulated me that I had successfully registered with the clinic and said a letter would be sent to me with the appointment date. Hesitantly I enquired why I could not arrange a date there and then, over the phone. The answerer confirmed that this was possible but not allowed:

"Its the rules, I'm afraid..." she explained. A letter was promised within a few weeks.

It has been three weeks since this conversation. Mentally I am prepared to return to my own doctor when I return from the wall to repeat the whole operation.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Dilithium Crystals

I walk into the small store, just past the railway arches. The store's walls abound with the sharp glittering tools necessary for the trade. The owner, a smallish, tidy gentleman nods in my direction:

"Morning, Alf " I chirrup "How's tricks?"

"Not so bad" says Alf "Bit busy, but that's Friday's for you in this game. What can I do for you? The usual?"

I affirm Alf's suggestion - not that I have a great variety of choice - and sit on one of the stools. Alf's rapidly to work, a true craftsman, and shortly he's done. I examine the results carefully - not that given the limited scope for invention I would seriously contemplate alternatives - and issue thanks to Alf for his services.

"No problem, Martin. See you next week."

Arriving back at the house, I insert one of the new keys Alf has just cut, making sure it works properly. Naturally it does, after all, Alf has had so much practice cutting my lost keys that he could probably do it by hand without using the one remaining original (actually a third or fourth generation model from the key supplied with our fornt door lock).

Next , I start work on another key, this time the computer variety. Recent troubles with the very instrument this note is being scrawled upon have meant that the computer has had to go away to computer hospital. It has been recieved back, but the problems remain so next week it is back into the University to be repaired again. 'What, I wonder' you may muse ' Might be this technical glitch?' And if computer literate you might, for want of something better to do, consider the options - hard drive, drivers, sound card, applications, operating systems. And if you were to communicate these concerns to yours truly you would be repeating the actions of one Red Haired Boffin. Quite how fruitless such ponderings are, at least when expressed to yours truly, can be illustrated by this reconstructed conversation.

"Nel. Its brokened."

"What is, my cherub?"

"The 'puter thing. It broked and now it wont work"

"What happened, my dove?"

"Last week it worked. THis week it dont work. I hate it?"

"Let me see if I can help you darling. What happens when you boot up?"


"What happens when you start it up?


"Have you loaded any software recently? ANy new applications?"


"Did you touch anything other than the "ON" switch I labelled for you?"

"'ourse not. 'Ust typed summat.Now it broke. That 'puter - it dont like me"

"Oh, you silly sausage. Computers are just a series of on/off switches. They dont have any personal should'nt get frustrated like you did last time. You did'nt ....well... hit it again did you?"

AT this point in the conversation, I jump up dramatically, point to the skyline above the houses opposite and shout "Look !!! Aliens are landing! "

RHB is un-decived and laughs indulgently. "Dont worry my little freckleless one. I'll sort it out. You go and play your guitar."

Two hours later, a Tasmanian Devil stalks into the room where am diligently practising my scales, and between hyperventilations, screeches "WHERE IS YOUR BIGGEST HAMMER??? THE ONE YOU USED ON CONCRETIA??"

SOmewhat alarmed, I dive into my tool kit and provide the required instrument which is then snatched out of my hand. The hammer leads the way back down stairs as a furious psychologist practises, assessing how much swing she can achieve. In a flash I realise what she is intending, so I pass her on the stairs, grab the nearest available cat and place it on my computer. Rapidly returning to sanity (on sight of a small furry creature), and with bulging eyes gradually returning to normal, RHB lowers the hammer. "THis computer really hates you doesnt it? WHich" she continues " I dont mind, except that it seems to think I have something to do with you and now it hates me as well."

In other news, there are two agenda items of note. THe first is that Cheek to Cheek have been commisioned to record a movie soundtrack. I am of course, perfectly serious about this. Whether our soundtrack gets accepted or not is another matter, but the local charity I work for is making a film and we are doing the soundtrack, so that has kept us busy.

The second agenda item is that the best health service in the world has finally accepted that having torn ligaments/tendons/cartilage is a problem for a not-quite-fifty year old. After second, third and even fourth opinions, and two years of wrangling, I have been able to persuade the local hospital to take the first steps to repairing the damage which lurks around my knees. Previously, under the best health service in the world, the fact that walking was, occasionally, so painful as to make the act not worthwhile, has been deemed "not a serious enough problem", "not treatable", "tolerable and not urgent" and "an attempt to claim disability benefit". Now however, I have been able to persuade a consultant that it is at least worth the while of the best health service in the world to conduct a minor surgical procedure to rectify the problem. [Note: a friend from a different country had a similair problem and was fixed within six months].

Finally, the table pictured at he top of this, by now totally random post, is one we made entirley form recycled materials. The local university was throwing out its old lab benches, so I spent two days skip=diving and pulling out large chunks of usuable 100 year old mahogany and oak. What the picture shows is a former physics lab bench, which is now our dining room table. We are very proud of it and look forward to scratching it up with friends in the near future and for some time to come.