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

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

One and a Quarter Pounds…

Well the medicine seems to be working!  I got bored of calorie counting but I’ve increased the frequency of swimming with Emma to maybe three times a week.

Given that the swimming is free the last two times I’ve paid £2.65 for a sauna wristband as Emma £20 a month covers her for both.

How refreshing and I’m building up my lengths (14 today) and the duration in the sauna (2 goes today to break up the lengths) and I’m feeling pretty good to be honest.

Weighing myself today I’ve lost 1.25 pounds which takes me under the 14 stone mark for the first time in years!

All I have to do today is take the dogs for a walk hopefully with Debbie!  😀

One and a Quarter Pounds…

There be Pirates at Blue Cross!

Yar!

It’s been an interesting day here in Llanfoist with us just getting back from Brynmawr Asda to pick up some vegetarian stuff for Emma who has just gone back to not eating meat on ethical grounds.  Also emergency supplies of breadsticks, rice cakes and melba toast for Debs who can’t find them in Aldi.

This necessitated a drive up the roadworks on the A465 and what a lot of progress they’ve made in the last month or so.  It really will be quite spectacular when they complete it.

Earlier I’d taken Emma swimming where we both completed ten lengths of the Abergavenny leisure centre pool.  Even a few weeks ago that would have been nigh on impossible for me and totally impossible for Emma as she couldn’t swim!

Before these aquatic adventures though Debbie and I had driven into town to support James at the Blue Cross charity event (10,000 steps for pets) and this was the sight that greeted us as we approached the High Street…

Country music accompanying James & Phil
James dressed as a pirate and a singer dressed as a cowboy
Mam supporting James with a big smile
Mam supporting James with Dad’s crisp fiver!
A svelte looking Phil with a touch of the Freddie Mercury?

The event was well supported and the singing duo very good too, I believe the main chap was called Jeremy and the other chap stood in when the former’s wife hurt her foot!

There be Pirates at Blue Cross!

Dangerous Work

Observant readers of this blog will realise that Mr. Shores has had numerous brushes with danger throughout his illustrious career.  For example there was the altercation with the Metropolitan Police where a blow from truncheon was just avoided when driving back from a client dinner.  Another time I nearly got disembowelled going through the security gates of the Office of Government Commerce when they closed on me prematurely.

I also have periodic nightmares of a high wire assault course in Belgium, as part of a European reserve forces competition, when for some reason at 30 feet up I decided to turnaround in mid air grasping a wire in my two hands while balancing on the lower with my army issue boots.  Perhaps to get a better view of the assault course, alas the rationale still defeats me, but it gave the safety staff below some anxious moments…

But all those experiences have been trumped today by the visit to the  “Big Pit” National Coal Museum in Blaenavon I shared with Debbie, Emma and her boyfriend Josh.  A truly humbling experience that was at the same time exciting and great fun that I’d recommend to all.

We’d gone to the newly managed Bridge Inn the night before to whet our appetite when we bumped into neighbours Helen and Andy who moved from Blaenavon who introduced us to the landlady’s mother Sylvia from South Yorkshire who regaled us with many tales such as her daughter meeting Terry Wogan and Raymond Blanc while working previously at the Angel Hotel.  We also wanted to celebrate James getting a new car (well an 08 Ford Fiesta) as it was quite some years since he’d previously been mobile on 4 wheels.

Sadly James was was working today (Good Friday) so after dropping him off I took Molly for a quick swim in the Usk as Hamish is still under vet’s orders to take it easy after his big sister jumped on him spraining his rear left paw quite badly.  On my return though the four of us headed to the Big Pit up and over the Blorenge.

A rather inauspicious welcome arose when we saw plumes of smoke billowing in the air as we approached only to see a grass fire in flames in two areas just before the turnoff for the colliery car parks.  Parking safely we asked for tickets to the (free) tour and queued patiently for about half and hour with loads of other families many with young kids.

One family in particular was from Kent and as we gradually moved towards the Pithead we suddenly say lots of activity with helmets, head torches and belt with attached battery and “self rescuer” handed out and all watches, phones and keys taken off us for safety.  All of a sudden we were facing the prospect of being winched down 300 feet!  Sadly this meant that no photography was possible underground but on reflection I think that was a good thing, allowing us to concentrate on the ex-miner tour guide Bill who was very knowledgeable and also trying to avoid being hit on the head (or helmet) as we made our way around the low passageways.

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For some reason strange “men” seem to want to have their photo taken with Debbie!
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My Dalek impression went down well, “exterminate, exterminate”

It’s really quite cold and wet underground as it’s not a particularly deep mineshaft here, but it is large, capable of handling two 1 tonne coal trucks (dram) into the cage side-by-side while most mines could only manage one.

The bending down as we walked through passages caused quite a few knocks to the helmets, at one stage we all turned out lamps off and the absolutely blackness was eerie to say the least.

At one point in the tour you visit the stables for the pit ponies which is really a misnomer as the vast majority were full sized horses that needed to be strong enough to pull the fully loaded dram.  Sadly they lived 50 weeks a year underground and were almost blind initially when they came up for the miner’s annual fortnights holiday.

We got to see the narrow coalface where miners would rotate on shift from cutting coal at night, followed by those taking it away and then those collapsing the roof by removing the props and then the process starting all over again.  Young lads were employed to open and close wooden doors to stop the ventilation building up dangerous gases.

Debbie asked Bill a couple of questions about Merthyr Vale colliery and her grandfather Thomas known as Tom Price sharper due to his surface job there where he resharped the mandrills which is Welsh for the pickaxes they cut the coal with.  The hooter at the end of each shift caused a lot of reminiscing between the two of them, especially at midnight on New Years Eve when it sounded out three times.

Quite an unbelievable experience and a relatively recent way of life too.

Eventually we were led back to the winding cage and the ascent to the surface where we handed back our kit and headed off to the cafeteria stopping off briefly to examine the carbon monoxide safety cages.

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One of the last snippets of info Bill had told us about was the maturing of some local cheese underground, so on the way out I bought some, along with the guide to the wider museum which I’ve now read and is very interesting.

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Like the Terminator, “we’ll be back!”

Dangerous Work

A Welsh Christmas 2016

I can hardly believe a year has gone by in what was, in many ways, a tough Christmas 2015.

All I can say is that this year it seems to have gone really well, last night we did our traditional family “Night Before Christmas” aided by FaceTime for Alex and Emily to join in.  Today we’ve had an invasion of elves as can be seen from the following pictures!

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Andy and Helen dressed for lunch….
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The Llanfoist Four…
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Don’t drop the turkey mum, but of you do, two little Santa’s helpers…
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Emma & Josh at the piano singing carols…
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Pre-serving Christmas table
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James asking Molly if he can have some of her food…

For everyone out there reading this blog I hope you have a merry Christmas 2016 and a very happy New Year in 2017!

Walter Mitty 25.12.16

A Welsh Christmas 2016

The Curse of (Fu) Man Flu

I can’t believe my luck!  After Debbie finally managed to shake off her cold I then immediately started my own, but of course dear readers many, many times worse…

I should have known this would happen now, just as James was departing on a Flybe flight last Thursday evening to go and stay with his sister Emma in Glasgow where she’s researching her Masters in Victorian Literature.

This meant that Debbie and I would have ourselves together “home alone” (excluding 2 dogs, 1 hamster, 1 snake & 2 tarantulas) for almost 3 whole days!  I was so ill driving to Cardiff airport, near Barry Island for the second day running, I almost turned back I was finding it so hard to breathe.  In fact I had a shivering fit after parking the Galaxy up in the short term car park & walking James to the terminal.

Somehow we made it back home safely but I’ve pretty much been in and out of bed coughing, spluttering with a sore throat ever since.  Feeling better only really today which, you’ve guessed it, is time to pick James up from Cardiff airport at 10.15pm tonight…

Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse Hamish has been to the vet twice over the period having eaten something that didn’t agree with him (I won’t go into too much detail but he did eat sheep’s poo on the way to the summit of the Deri recently) and  needless to say he was prescribed antibiotics to fight the infection and Zantac to settle his stomach.

Now for my part I didn’t go to the GP knowing that I wouldn’t get any sympathy nor prescriptions which happen to be free on the NHS here in Wales, unlike Hamish who cost me about £80 in consultation fees and drugs!  Braving myself towards self medication I opted for a mixture of Halls cherry smoothers, ibuprofen, Lemsip and a number of other over the counter cold remedies.

Alas the canine cost equation didn’t stop with the vet as Hamish’s last “accident” in James’ bedroom the day of his departure to Glasgow didn’t respond too well to the 4 spray canisters of Bissell Oxy Pro Pet Spot and Stain Remover (£10 each) used to try and mask the evidence.  No, we needed something stronger, namely a full fledged carpet cleaner called a Vax V124A Dual V Upright Carpet and Upholstery Washer – Grey/Red – a snip at £150!

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Now to be fair with Amazon Prime delivering this morning, despite it being a Sunday, our carpets throughout the house where “accidents” have occurred now look & smell like new.  So maybe something good has come out of all this illness after all!

🙂

The Curse of (Fu) Man Flu