You’ll Never Walk Alone

Not the inspirational song title by Gerry and the Pacemakers but a phrase unlikely to spring from my daughter’s mouth in future after today’s escapade!

Many months ago now I managed to persuade Emma to accompany me in a “short” walk down from the Storey Arms along the footpath back down to Brecon.

“Downhill all the way, relatively straight, easy terrain impossible to get lost and will take an hour and a half max” translated into a near four hour up and down hike, crisscrossing the Brecon Beacons, exhausting and taking more like four hours.  I got a huge blister too and Emma got wise to my map reading skills or rather lack of them…

Roll forward several months and I can only think she’d forgotten the past when I innocently asked her to join me on a walk while Debbie was attacking a rather impenetrable backlog of ironing.

Molly was joining us on this walk to lull her into a false sense of security and I’d hidden Chris Barber’s book “40 Walks In The Brecon Beacons National Park” in a Tesco carrier bag.  The page was open for a 3.5 mile circular walk starting from Crickhowell fire engine car park up to Table Mountain and back.

What could go wrong I thought as we arrived and I shovelled £1.30 into the pay and display machine, as despite it being a Sunday Crickhowell is richer than Abergavenny, so still charges on a Sunday.  “Ninety minutes should be enough” I though as we departed with innocent enthusiasm together into town, past the Bear Hotel.

Then a turn right at a primary school and we followed a path threading its way up through a housing estate until a stile came into view.  The two humans climbed over with no problem however our canine companion had to walk under the adjoining iron gate, through a muddy farm track populated by two young and inquisitive donkeys.

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A Victor Meldrew moment was had later as the donkeys started to follow me!

Fortunately the donkeys either decided I wasn’t Victor or abandoned their chase after realised we had no food, nor water in our possession.  More on that later.  Shortly we came across a second stile where I realised that there was a vertical post to the left for dogs that you could lift up to allow Molly to pass.  Great idea, sadly not replicated as nearly all the future stiles required Molly to be coaxed to slide through gaps on all fours…

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“Don’t drop it on me Emma!”

As we got higher in the path there was a wooded valley containing Cwmbeth Brook to our left with a footbridge to cross and many fallen trees but we kept to the path across two small streams up to a stone walled sheep pen.

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The pen morphed into a dry stone walled enclosed path on both sides and I remember telling Emma that we’d be turning right avoiding the steep slopes ahead to contour to the top of Table Mountain.  This helpful information duly (of course) proved false!

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About this time Emma’s confidence in my time management and location skills had taken a bit of a knock (again) and so we asked some passing hikers if we were on the right track.  They looked well kitted out and even better had the following map which made Chris Barber’s route ten in the book look rather inadequate.

To be fair to Chris he does have a section at the beginning of the book that lists the following mountain safety advice which I have to say I’d largely skipped over…

  • Check local weather forecasts
  • Plan walks with a generous time allowance including refreshment and rest stops
  • Always carry a map, reserve food, torch, spare bulb, batteries whistle and first aid kit, emergency rations

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With their help and encouragement we carried on and eventually reached a place where we could contour across to the summit and we both began to feel quite cheerful and excited.  Molly just loved the outdoors and in fact quite a few dogs appeared to be accompanying their owners and looked similarly entertained!

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I asked the couple at the top when we reached them to take the following photo of Emma and I and as I received the iPhone back I couldn’t help but notice them tucking into lovely sandwiches and a hot thermos of tea.  I think they saw my look of admiration and kindly offered me a dog chew for Molly…  Feeling tired and ravenous we decided to cut short the sight seeing and march off back to the car with the promise of a visit to McDonalds for some vegetarian fast food back in Llanfoist!

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With this vision to spur us on we headed South along the slope of the summit rather than backtrack down the ascent path to the main footpath back to Crickhowell.  Mistake number two it transpired as the three of us had to scramble down a rather steep, rock stream scree slope on all fours.

Still with the hunger incentive paramount in our minds we successfully navigated this impediment without complaint only to find that the route down to the village wasn’t all that clear and we probably would have got lost again if Emma hadn’t spotted the same couple who had overtaken us again turn down a path at an isolated farm that led to a road I recognised driving up on a previous visit.

Eventually we got back to the Galaxy and I noticed that the 30 minute safety net I’d added to what i thought would be a 90 minute walk had been exceeded by a further 44 minutes – whoops!

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Still with us both euphoric having survived this latest expedition and with Molly asleep in the rear we headed back home tired but happy with our adventure.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Gerry Anderson-itus

Oh dear, my collecting bug since retiring seems to be getting worse…

Let me explain, as a child aged about 5 or so at Christmas 1964/65 (I can’t remember exactly) I received huge plastic models Thunderbird 1 and Thunderbird 5 from my favourite children’s TV show made famous by Gerry Anderson.

In 1993 the BBC bought the rights to this puppet show (Supermarionation Gerry called it) and my own kids were hooked on it so much too that we managed to get a Thunderbirds Tracy Island made by Matchbox, or more accurately Debbie did, which of course was “the” sought after Christmas present that year.

Well in the intervening years all those toys have since departed to the great landfill in the sky (I promise to do a lot better going forward with plastic honest) and so now a retired gentleman about town flush with various pensions and no mortgage I have been assiduously recovering lost treasures from the past.

The first to get reacquired a few years ago now was Tracy Island still mint in it’s original box.  Then came along Stingray‘s Marineville, Captain Scarlet’s Cloudbase, UFO’s Interceptor & Shado Mobile and finally various models of Space 1999’s Eagle from Dinky!

So my life turns full circle, now I’m older and wiser of course the models are largely intact and indeed displayed on the top floor landing of Chez Shores.  Every so often I’ll pick one up and even play with it!  To be honest they give a lot of satisfaction although unfortunately I’m still rather obsessive about completing the collection and buying the DVD’s of the original shows.

I’ll have to sign off now as Debbie is shouting from downstairs.

“Yes m’lady?” I reply…

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Thunderbirds Tracy island and various figures my favourite of course being Parker…
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Stingray’s Marineville with of course Commander Shore(s) in charge!
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Captain Scarlet’s Cloudbase with my wife’s favourite Angel Interceptors
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UFO’s moon based Intercepter and earth based Shado Mobile
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Various Space 1999 Eagle transporters and freighters
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If you only get one DVD set I’d recommend 1970’s live action (not puppet) UFO

Possibly my favourite GA show is in fact UFO filmed in 1970 and showing life on earth supposedly in 1980 when humanity is being invaded by aliens.  It was his first live action show and sadly cancelled after one series and trans-morphed into Space 1999.

Debbie’s favourite character Col. Paul Foster was played by Michael Billington and my own Lt. Gay Ellis for some reason was played Gabrielle Drake, but neither of us can remember why for some reason…

 

 

Gerry Anderson-itus

Long John Peter

What I can hear you exclaim, is the author now writing about pirates?  Sadly for those fans of that particular genre I have to disappoint you, no Long John Silver or Treasure Island here I’m afraid.

No what I’m talking about is my latest purchase from Mountain Warehouse a shop that I seem to be frequenting increasingly during winter.  Now I have to say when it comes to outside clothing historically I’ve been a bit of a brand snob and stuck to makes like Berghaus for jackets or Merrel for walking boots.

However retired beggars can’t be choosers, so when the snow hit us over Christmas I took advantage of my Defence Discount Service membership to get 10% extra off the (never ending it seems) sale at Mountain Warehouse for three own brand very warm fleece lined water and wind proof jackets for Debs’, Emma and I.

Sadly James refuses to buy into my old army motto of “any fool can be uncomfortable” and refuses to join in preferring his T-shirts and unlined anorak which could explain his recent bout of man flu…

Anyway back to the point and even though the snow is a distant memory, when walking the dogs Debbie and I have noticed that the top halves of the body are as warm as toast in the aforementioned jackets but excruciatingly the lower half by comparison can only be described as “freezingly” uncomfortable.

So clutching my 15% January sale discount card obtained with the jackets (sadly not combinable with the veteran 10% discount) I decided to source a pair of long johns from Mountain Warehouse and see if they would cure the potential frost bite of the nether regions.

Now the shop doesn’t call them long johns but “base layer pant” and they come in two flavours very expensive and even more expensive (before discounts) the latter being made of thin but very warm Merino wool designed for the Arctic – as opposed to Abergavenny!  Trying to avoid the fate of Captain Oates – Corporal Shores (retired) also plumped for the matching long sleeve round neck top as well.

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The pricing of these garments needs some explanation as on each box it’s printed as being £49.99 which seemed a trifle steep to put it mildly.  Fortunately, stuck under this was a red pricing label with £29.99 showing, with a second immediately under at £24.99. Shades of Del Boy Trotter methinks, but with the additional 15% discount they came to a far more reasonable £21.24 hence me lashing out on both.

Now I’ve read online probably of the BBC business section that Mountain Warehouse had an amazing lead up to Christmas as a result of all this cold weather and dare I postulate it a rather grand pricing discount strategy that I don’t think my old Gartner CEO would agree with however…

Well, after we got back home and I changed into these little wonders before taking Molly and Hamish out for their walk and all I can say is that I was as warm as toast throughout.

Sadly I shared my experience too loudly & I now must part as a result with more of the family “silver” (pun intended) and buy some female variants for Debbie tomorrow!

On the way back we stopped at Llanfoist village hall to see the proposed design and layout of the new Llanfoist foot bridge that will mean that we no longer have to navigate the very narrow and dangerous to be honest footpath running alongside the very busy road bridge across the Usk when walking into town.  When I heard that the cost was a mere £2m of other people’s money I had no hesitation on asking them to get on with it’s construction ready hopefully for next Christmas!

Onwards and upwards…

Long John Peter

Reducing Food Waste

food waste

As the Christmas return to work (for some) is in full swing I’m just looking back on the festive season with a rather smug feeling.  What about I can imagine you (dear reader) wondering?

Well for the first time in many years the amount of wasted food scraped into the bin or worse just thrown away without even being nibbled has been negligible.  I put this success down to a few factors which I’ll list below.

We got a right-sized 9lb organic turkey sourced from a local Raglan based farm which was well big enough for the five of us on Christmas dinner and allowed for considerable top ups in the evening when our Alex and Emily arrived.  With two dogs liking a fresh bit of meat to go with their kibbles and me stripping the carcass for a Boxing Day curry there was nothing thrown away and I even kept to the family tradition of eating the giblets on Christmas Eve all on my lonesome.

“What about your avowed vegetarianism Mr Shores?” – I can hear your accusing voices ringing in my ears!  Well my original post was all about “eating fewer animals” and largely I’ve stuck to that but the Christmas turkey was always going to be an exception and so it proved.

Now there were a couple of additional aberrations during this period like the smoked bacon on the bird, the baked ham that Debbie bought that I admit to having a couple of slices of, plus the Caesar salad dressing which contains anchovies I believe, but on the whole I was pretty good!

Anyway relaxing my diet a little helped avoid waste on animal products that otherwise would have been wasted so that’s my thinking on that score.  However, on it’s own that doesn’t translate to the outcome we achieved as a family so there are other factors in play here.

Firstly, Josh is a human equivalent of an industrial incinerator which helped offset James reduced appetite due to his recent man flu.

Second, I have really restricted the amount of supermarket shops by car before Christmas (1 trip to Aldi, 1 to Asda and a final top up in Waitrose) and those after up to New Year by foot across the road to Waitrose.  By restricting purchases to what I can carry back in two arms that helped enormously on impulse buys that would have festered in the fridge before being chucked!

By reducing the amount of spend this way it encouraged us to eat what was already there rather than start afresh and as a result our freezer has been somewhat depleted with nearly all the chocolates, sweets and biscuits purchased actually eaten!

Now there have been some casualties on the way, sadly a stalk of sprouts and an additional bag of that fantastic vegetable languish in the garage never having made it into the pot, similarly a bag of carrots, but that ain’t bad at all when I look back on previous years food waste.

Yes, all in all a pretty successful outcome methinks and yes before you ask, I’m back to eating no more animal flesh!

Reducing Food Waste

Sharing New Year’s Resolutions

Last night in-between listening to Amazon playlists of New Year party music, being taught to dance the “Twist” by Debs and watching Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, the four humans still up in 2018 (James had been ill unfortunately with flu most of the previous day) decided to write down and share our New Year’s resolutions.

So in order of increasing numbers of resolutions here I share them for the whole world to see (and monitor progress)…  There’s nothing like a bit of peer pressure to keep you on you toes nor a blog post to jog your memory!

Josh

Become pescatarian
No potatoes (eat healthily)
Workout three times a week
Go abroad with Emma
Go see John & Thomas
Work five hours overtime each week

Comment:  knowing Josh as I do regarding meat I shall attempt to hide the bacon in the fridge this morning…

Mam 

My family come first
Taking care of myself
Never be selfish
Always remember loved ones
Do things I want to do
Never feel guilty
(This should be first sic) I have the most loving, selfless, wonderful husband anyone could wish for and neither of us are perfect but the love we have for one another will be endless

Comment: I think Deb missed out “practically perfect in every way” as pertains to my good self, but due to a total absence of conceit I will forgive her and of course reciprocate the sentiments!

Dad 

Get down to twelve stone weight and stay there
Put Deb first always
Keep walking the dogs with Debs but get James to drop us off in Brynmawr and walk back to Llanfoist along the old railway track
Stay the night in a local Youth Hostel with Debs and Emma
Write a blog about Deb’s helicopter ride Xmas present from me
Write a blog about Emma’s glider experience Xmas present over the Brecon Beacons from Debs and I
Make sure Deb’s is proud of her sixtieth birthday party
Help James & Emma to realise their dreams
Play AD&D as Dungeon Master
Watch live test match cricket with Debs and my brother

Comment: Looking forward to crossing them off one by one, key to the first is sticking with being a veggie after my Xmas “break”!

Emma

Remain a vegetarian
Climb Pen Y Fan
Go abroad with Josh
Learn to make vegetable gyoza dumplings
Play all the Final Fantasy games
Read 100 books
Keep swimming
Go gliding
Go horse riding again
Play more guitar
Book fairy drops
Give to charity

Comment:  I wonder if I can register as a charity?

So there we have it, 365 days to go to achieve them, wish us all luck!

Signing off as Evenstar level 15 elven thief…

Photo on 01-01-2018 at 10.28

 

Sharing New Year’s Resolutions

As 2017 Draws To A Close…

…”Team Elf” looks back on yet another year gone by!

team elf

January

The “curse” came back to haunt me in the form of a Donny Osmond concert in Cardiff.  Debbie and I often complain that some bands seem to miss Wales off when announcing their UK tours, no such problems with Donny though…  Still we have a nice night in the Hilton although Manuel serves us breakfast!

February

The top floor guest bedroom’s dormer window springs a leak necessitating yet another visit by our favourite David Wilson customer teams with roofers and “Storming Norman”!

March

My fave band from the late seventies tours Cardiff (The Stranglers) although this being my treat we stay at the Travelodge.  Still breakfast was good…

Now there was something else that happened even more important than seeing an old punk band, now what was it?  Ah yes I remember now an unforgettable wedding of Alex and Emily in London, it was a wonderful day and they did all of us proud!

April

We visit the “Big Pit” and take the underground tour of the mine, great fun and highly recommended to any visitor to this neck of the woods.

May

Debbie and I become students again and undertake a pub crawl of hostelries in Abergavenny – to be honest I don’t remember much else of what happened but it felt good at the time in the sunshine!

June

Talking of sunshine Debbie and I took a week off via Thomas Cook staying “all inclusive” in Menorca.  If I’m brutally honest this did our waistlines no good at all but it was great fun especially when we explored a bit on our penultimate day.

July

I got to see real soldiers parade as the Royal Welsh took advantage of their Freedom of Monmouthshire in Abergavenny.  Debbie thought the goat looked very smart too.

August

Jonathan and Angela come to visit for a week with grandson Luis and we pay a visit to the Goose and Cuckoo country pub.

September

After one last blitz at the Abergavenny Food Festival I go vegetarian, cut down on drinking and start to lose weight!

October

Debbie and I have a near brush with death as the Land Rover gets written off.  Still we’re both OK and the shock wears down after a week or so.  The good news is that the Galaxy came out of storage and actually is a lot more practical and the radio works too…

November

We see Joanna Lumley turn on the Christmas lights in Brecon and our Town Mayor do the same in Abergavenny.  My vote goes to Joanna!  I celebrate my 58th birthday

December

We have our first snowfall on the estate since moving here just over two years ago.  Apparently it’s pretty rare for it to settle except at the top of the surrounding mountains so our guttering was a trifle unlucky.

Thank goodness we still have two and a half years to go on our David Wilson guarantee and that I can finally control the central heating via our new Hive thermostats!

So finally in advance of tonight’s celebrations, the Shores’ family wishes you all a Happy New Year, here’s to 2018!

 

 

 

As 2017 Draws To A Close…

A Time For Reflection

I’m writing this blog in the den while Debbie is wrapping the last of her presents in the landing cum toy store behind me while listening to Christmas carols on the adjacent Echo Dot!

Yesterday CPS Plumbing came to repair the snow damaged guttering on our house, which thanks to the David Wilson new home guarantee of five years when we bought it was free of charge.  That could explain why shortly after we completed in August 2015 they reduced it to two years…

On a more serious note I logged onto Facebook last week, which is something I don’t do as frequently as I used to, not because I’m not interested in what old friends are doing but if you’re not careful it can dominate your life and so I try and restrict my social networking accordingly.

That said, it is a brilliant way of keeping in touch, a good example being my Squad 29 30 year reunion which would have been impossible without Facebook, however one post by my old Howmedica finance colleague Tom Dennington caught my eye when he shared the news that Ian Ogden had passed away on the 29th December 2016 aged 83.

Ian and I shared an office in Staines when I first started working for Howmedica Europe which formed part of Pfizer Hospital Products (later Medical Technology Group) way back in 1984.  I joined as European Financial Analyst working directly for the Assistant Controller Alan Hughes alongside Ed Brooks who Ian reported to from memory.

Alan worked for David Eynon the European Finance Director but eventually moved to another group company called Shiley Europe as Finance Director when the post became vacant and I moved into Pfizer IT become the very first Analyst PC Technical Support around about the same time.

Ed and his family were brilliant looking after me especially in winter when the temperature on my boat “Jaslee” dropped to freezing and they allowed me to evacuate to their house to recuperate in the warm with a hearty meal.

I visited Ian and his wife Judith in their house in Henley in the “Jaslee” mooring alongside the weir next to the lock there temporarily probably in 1987 when he was 54 years old…

My lasting memories of Ian was of this bearded giant (at least 6 foot tall) being a bit of a corporate maverick but managing to qualify (eventually) as a certified accountant and securing a company car, which I’m sure was a relief to Judith as his strategy previously had been to buy old bangers and run them into the ground.

Despite being twice my age when we started work together he was obsessed with keeping fit and every morning after the drive from Henley to Staines he’d lie down on the office floor and perform Canadian airforce exercises to keep fit.

He’d also regale me with stories from his youth about smuggling Mercedes cars across Middle eastern borders and importing Afghan coats into London during the swinging sixties.

He was very much an intellectual, well read, but not snobbish at all and had earned a living as a taxi driver from memory prior to his more respectable sojourn into the world of accountancy.

He knew quite a few celebrities too, including Rosie Swale who in her book “Rosie Darling” described Ian as the most intelligent man she knew in England!

Ian loved his food and drink which Howmedica finance in those days was happy to fund and I have many recollections of rather liquid lunches being consumed in the Staines “Rat” tandoori restaurant next to the office which almost became a staff canteen.

How quickly time passes Ian my old friend, I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to pay my respects at your funeral with your family on your passing.  I do remember hearing from Judith that he’d had a stroke quite a few years ago, but such is the pace of life and the inevitable changes that occur that we didn’t manage to reconnect.

Sadly, that also happened recently with (Trevor) Gordon Rees who passed away earlier this year and many years ago Frank Tullo so famous for his “Music Man” singing at the Howmedica office Christmas parties.

RIP all.

 

 

 

A Time For Reflection