Rest and Poetry

Strange week.

My new mission to get out of the armchair more and live a little, is still on track, but this week has been more of a mush-mash than an adventure.

I’ve kept up with my goals of continuing with writing group on Mondays, swimming on Tuesdays, pub with friends Wednesdays, climbing Fridays and try to have a little adventure at the weekend – though I skipped the adventure this weekend.  Don’t worry fellow adventurers, I’m not slipping off the bandwagon.  My excuse is that I’ve got a stinking cold and the weather’s awful.

That being said, I’ve used the time to get back into playing the guitar (which I used to do, but haven’t for years) and catch-up with my writing.

One unusual event this week was that I was asked to do a poetry video on Thursday.

Does this count as an adventure? 

Well how often do you get the chance to film a poet reading his own work for Virgin? (the company, not the er…  you get what I mean?)

The backstory is; my wife Clare works for Virgin Rail and she has a colleague, Patrick (picture above), who writes poetry.  He has written some announcements for the trains as poems and has been invited to submit them by his managers.  They wanted an audio recording but Clare suggested a video to capture the performance better.  That’s where I come in.

Funnily enough they recently had Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy doing announcements, such as “wash your hands, you filthy animal” in the gents, but there were complaints.

So, on Thursday evening we set up the lights and backdrop and turned our conservatory into a little studio, ready for his recital.

Normally I’d include the video itself, but Patrick is unsure about copyright so we’ve agreed to hold on releasing it on the blog until he gets the okay from Richard Branson.  All I can show you is a still from the finished video (above).

So, if you find yourself on a Virgin train in the near future and the announcements strike you as strangely poetic and beautiful, please smile and realise that I had some small part in that production.  You heard it here first folks!

Fame at last!

So, the plan now is to get over this cold and have a proper little adventure ready for next post- stay tuned.



Mam Tor and the Great Ridge

First real hike of the year so we (the current Mrs Hughes and myself) decided to pick an easy one to start with. Mam Tor in the Peak District and then along the ridge to Lose Hill before turning back. Not an epic, by any stretch of the imagination, but still a beautiful walk with some dramatic views of the high peak.

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I always find it interesting how the further you get from the car park, the more the clothing of the people around you changes. The denim and trainers start to disappear and are replaced by Gore-tex, boots and map cases. Just as sailors always knew they were close to land by the appearance of certain birds, I know I’m getting close to a car park by the appearance of more jeans and football shirts. Clare and I have started to fondly call these people the ‘100 yards from the car park brigade‘.

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There was some debate whether to wear gaiters but I confidently stated that it was a good path and we wouldn’t need them. This was to prove a mistake as the paved section of the path ran out about half-way and then the mud started.

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Now I don’t know about you, but I like mud. I think it’s a badge of honour. Which is, of course, why I chose to wear cream trousers to really showcase all the crap that splattered my legs for over three hours. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it (much like the swamp that stuck to me).

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Anyway, the weather improved through the day and my fitness seemed to be fine, though my right knee did start to play up a bit on the last descent, but, hopefully this is just a teething pain as I start to get my hill fitness back.

I’d much rather get fit doing things like hiking than going to a gym.

I used to be a member of a gym until it suddenly dawned on me that I was driving to a place, where I paid money, to go on machines, that simulated everyday activities like running and walking up stairs. I did this for hours whilst staring at a television like a laboratory rat. It was after I’d been to Africa, where I’d seen how the people in Tanzania lived, that I started to feel very uneasy about my gym membership.

Looking down a 100 yards of treadmills with all these people walking and running but getting nowhere It all looked very wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I still occasionally consider joining a gym, but very soon that uneasy feeling returns and I think again.

Whenever I feel like exercising. I lie down until the feeling goes away.

Not early, but my advice is start with a walk.  If you can walk somewhere beautiful then all the better, but if you can’t just get outside and go for a stroll, then work up from there.

Unless of course, you currently live in an active war zone.  In which case you may need to go somewhere else – like a gym!

Here’s a few more pictures taken on the way – let me know what you think?

Until next time,


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Photography around Manchester (Angel Meadow and Beyond)

Okay, so first to say that this little adventure was not the one I had planned.  I had planned to go hiking, but I twisted my ankle at the climbing centre yesterday so I switched to a slightly less arduous photography expedition around Manchester.  More specifically a bit of Manchester I’m not too familiar with – the north of the city centre around Rochdale Road, Cheetham Hill, etc. (for those fellow adventurers with a knowledge of this part of the world).

I like photography.  I like looking at something and trying to see the beautiful or dramatic in it.  Looking at something from a fresh perspective.  

I also like Manchester.  I grew up here and I like many of the things that put other people off.  I like the people, the industrial heritage, the history, I even like the weather – rain’s good for you, it opens the pores and washes the soul everyone knows that!

Manchester is in the south of the north of England.

Its spirit has a contrariness in it – a south and north bound up together – at once untamed and unmetropolitan; at the same time, connected and wordily.

Jeanette Winterson

We started (My wife Clare and myself) at Angel Meadows, where we met a Catholic Priest in robes walking his dog (as you do).  

He told us a little of the history and suggested a route across the River Irk, through the new apartment blocks, around the arena and back through the Printworks, which sounded good so we followed his advice.  He also suggested a few local pubs for afterwards and we felt it would be disrespectful, and potentially blasphemous, not to try one at least.

This part of Manchester was famous during the heyday of the industrial revolution for it’s squalor and deprivation.  So bad that it moved one man, Frederich Engels, to record it and discuss it at length over coffee at Chethams with his friend Karl Marx.  Together they came up with a possible solution called communism – what ever happened to that?

Now, the slums have been cleared to make way for apartments and offices but there are still a few remnants from that time such as the Marble Arch pub where we finished our trip with a pint and some bread and cheese.

Anyway, here’s a few pictures from the trip.  Look out for the Strangeways Prison tower poking out above the houses and the glazed tiled interior of the pub – glazed tiles were used to stop the factory smoke permeating the brickwork.  I hope you like them?

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All the pictures were taken on my Canon DSLR 650D, except for the ones inside the pub which were taken on my phone.




Inspired by BBC’s Stargazing Live, and the possibility of seeing the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) for the first time, Clare and I went out to do a bit of stargazing.  Armed with a pair of binoculars and some astronomy apps loaded onto my phone and our tablets we set off into night.

It may be a bit nerdy but we actually had a good time.  The trick was finding somewhere away from the streetlights and other light pollution and not picking a spot where we might look in any way suspicious wandering around in the dark.  It’s a sad fact where we live that if you spot someone wandering around in the dark trying to avoid lit areas, they’re probably looking to explore something other than the universe. The joys of urban living eh?

Well, we didn’t see the Aurora Borealis but we did get clear skies and managed to identify a few constellations such as Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major and Minor, and Gemini.  We also found the Orion Nebula, Polaris, oh and the Moon (that was relatively easy to find to be honest).

Would I do it again?

Yes, I wouldn’t say it’s a passion but next time we’re camping and sat round the fire looking up, beer on hand, I’d love to be able to know my way around – rather than just making it all up like I usually do!


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Indoor Climbing

First adventure of the year, indoor climbing at Awesome Walls, in Stockport, with my wife Clare.

I used to climb regularly, but as with many things I’ve let it slide for a while now as I’ve become more sedentary and succumbed to the seductive lure of the sofa.

I was never a brilliant climber but I enjoyed it, which I think is important when you’re looking for a fitness pursuit, as you’re (hopefully) more likely to stick with it.

So how did we get on?

Well, though I was creaking a bit and obviously not up to the standard I used to be at, I did better than I expected.  Real climbers please close your ears for the following bit – we started with a grade 2 climb, with small children sneering at us as they raced past, but we worked our way up to grade  4+ for Clare and grade 6+ for me. Which is pretty good for day one I think – that’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

More importantly, we had a good time and a good workout, so we’ve agreed to set a regular appointment each week. Though I’m expecting to improve, I don’t think we’ll be climbing El Capitan this year – maybe next year if I have the time.

So, that’s week one and our first little adventure, hopefully just a warm up for better things to come.  Have you started anything new for 2014?  I’d love to hear if you have.




2014: A Fresh Start

So it’s the first day of a new year and a time to look ahead and make some plans.

If you want make God laugh, tell him your plans

I’ve become rather sedentary of late and I’m very conscious of the need to stay fit and active now that I’m into my 40’s – how depressingly sensible and boring is that?

So the plan is to try and get out a bit more in 2014 and make the most of life, not just for my physical health but for my mental health as well.

This blog is where I’ll record how I get on.  So, hopefully, this time next year I’ll be able to look back on this and feel I didn’t waste too much of my time and did manage to actually live a little.

Wish me luck!