Apr 03 2011

Zooming about …

Category: homeash @ 6:41 pm

Busy weekend. Friday was a flexi, supposed to be climbing with Tom but after finding a damp patch on the wall whilst cleaning, had to resort to a house day of ripping bathroom to bits & re-sealing. We ended up on a dash to Southport to watch the Eagle – good moovie.
Saturday was a 30th doo down at Alton Towers. Charly’s joined the land of the aged, and we celebrated this by trying to to throw up. Did very well, and no tears from any of us (though some whimpering was occasionally heard). Some of them rides are a bit quick (0-100kph in 2 secs????). Back to Charly & Phlegms for a world of curry, then back home to get kip before heading down to the relatives nr Stourbridge today. Good run down and back, failed to get a usb broadband dongle working on a pc after several hours of working on it – resigned to the fact that it ain’t gonna work. Damn wierd DNS voodooness.

Off to the pub tonight, Gally’s back & are due a catchup. And Nige allegedly has bottles of stuff to sample on the cheap. Here’s hoping it’s quiet on the phones tomorrer.

Mar 27 2011

DESC IX, and an historic day for West Lancs

Category: Scoutingash @ 7:51 pm

Ok,its been a while since I’ve blogged. Things have been manic at work, everyones really feeling the fact that after letting people go to balance the books we’re now understaffed & the pressure is on. However, that’s not why I’m writing.

This weekend was our District Explorer Scout Camp, and was the 9th DESC that I’ve run. We had a group of 40 Explorers, about 7 leaders (give or take – quite a few bobbed up for the saturday), and an excellent event.

Saturday was spent out doing activities – a bus went to Ingleton and did a caving/geocaching day (not entirely sure how a GPS works underground though), Phillips had a stack over in the Langdales cragging, Pierre took 3 explorers on an epic bike ride which almost broke them (and him!), and Hugh & I took parties walking. I got in Crinkle Crags & Bow Fell with 2 self-led groups and me supervising. A great day, lots of chance for playing with maps etc & quite a mid of self-leadership for the Explorers. A decent day out, shame about the slightly hazy conditions – couldn’t see too far which was a shame. Kids seemed to buzz off it through.

Sat night we ran through up and coming events & had a impromptu Kareoke-off, which worked quite well – with the Ormskirk Nomads winning. Even though they came last, the Equinox (featuring Harry’s impressive dancing) will stick in my mind for a long time! We finished off with a campfire & some singing, and songs being led by many people. I also bobbed into Bills leaving doo.

Sunday we reset the clocks, ate and then did Flag break (I’ll cover this later). A quick visit to the Chapel to remember the Scouters throughout the world who lost their lives in the Earthquakes and Tsunamis of the past few months, then over to camp centre for some base rotation of assault course, crate stack, boot the ball & jenga. Tents dropped, then we closed our camp.

Some of us stayed back for an extra special closing ceremony though. West Lancs has looked after the Great Tower campsite in the Lakes for a great many years, and innumerable people have poured their souls into looking after and developing the site. Well, we are nearly at the end of an era as on the 1st April West Lancs hand over custody of the site back to Scouting HQ (we’ve leased the site from HQ for many years). This is the start of a new era, but also the end of a great one. In the morning, Joe Hargreaves raised the flag on behalf of West Lancashire for the first time, but at 2.30 we had the last flag down ceremony of the campsite under West Lancs control.

Bill the current warden (who as a result of the handover has had to find employment elsewhere) had a ‘farewell drinks’ doo on the Saturday night that I bobbed over to at about 1.30 am (after the Explorers had headed to bed), and nursing sore heads, he and the Blackpool service team did the county credit at the closing ceremony. After a short, yet powerful & emotional introduction he invited Joe to drop the flag. As he did, two of the Service Team escorted him to the flagpole, and as the Union flag was lowered it was detatched from the flagpole, folded correctly & as they departed the flagpole area, formally presented back to Bill before returning to their places. A simple act, but very significant.
I’m trying not to say anything that isn’t impartial about the handover, but I really do hope (as I think do a great many of the Scouters within West Lancs), that the new Activity Centre management not only do their job to the best of their ability, but that they also do justice to the many years of blood, sweat and tears shed on this most stunning of all campsites. The loss of Bill is significant to many, although as he’s got a job in Lancaster & is looking forward to starting there, it looks as though we’re winning him as a leader into West Lancs (fingers crossed). Here’s hoping that the changes which come enable people to do more act the site, rather than prevent (or make more protracted) people trying do provide these activities to young people.

Fingers crossed.

Jan 29 2011

Today was not a good day.

Category: homeash @ 1:56 am

When I was growing up, we moved from the Midlands to the North West. Right next to the house was a factory – something pretty alien to me as I’d lived in a small village with a few small estates and a quarry, and little else apart from farmland. Lorries came and went from this Factory, and you could time your watch by the times that the workers left for their butties at lunch. Many people worked there, and it was part of life on Orrell Lane, as my bedroom overlooked the car park & occasionally I could see on to the factory floor when up in my bedroom, playing the guitar.
Then one day someone from the factory did a runner with the takings. Pretty much overnight the whole factory folded, and it collapsed under a stream of media accusations, backstabbings and embezzlement. All of a sudden, several hundred people were out of a job – bearing in mind this was a profitable company which had simply been poorly managed.
I remember feeling gutted for them at the time – things really weren’t going to be the same any more, and it was going to knock the village sideways.

Little did I realise that I was going to be in the middle of something very similar, several years later.

Today we found out the results of our restructure at work. When the Con-Dem coalition came into force, they immediatly stopped several education related projects, including the Building Schools for the Future scheme. Many grants to LEA’s and schools also stopped. The effects of these, plus the knockons from other related items which no had no funding, meant that our management of the centre where I work had to look hard at the projected incomings for the next year. It wasn’t hard to see that things were going to be tight. After a few months of working through different potential solutions, a restructure was decided on which would make the books balance. (Evan though I’m a council worker, our centre is a self-funding “Traded Service”, so we need to make the books balance) Around 25% of staff would be cut, with the majority coming from the job title that I have.
The past few weeks have been tricky. A couple of months ago we put in application forms for our own jobs, and interviews were this week. I was lucky enough to have good friends to bounce ideas off & threw some sample interview questions at me – and with a few nights planning I headed in armed with pages of notes, application forms, person critera and so on, determined to sell myself as best I could. The 20 min interview stretched for 50 mins, unknown to me til I staggered out at the end.
The interviews carried on with the other 17 of us the next day, and we spent the rest of the week wondering when we’d find out – there was a good chance this wasn’t going to be until early Feb. However, our management made their decision in time to get to the county Redeployment panel yesterday, and we got notification of our feeback times yesterday afternoon. Being our Unison rep, I was to be first in at 9am, with the main bulk of the rest of the people starting at 12 am.

I didn’t really sleep much on Wednesday night, and Thursday I hit the gym late, then found half a bottle of wine which helped, but I was still awake for a while with butterflies gnawing at me. Was I in at 9 so I then had 3 hours to find our I had no job & then compose myself before “Supporting” our Union members? The thought had me in a right mess for a good while. I knew I’d missed some key parts and considered myself pretty borderline.
When I was told that I had a position, I was obviously relieved, and my inner terror ebbed away pretty quickly. I couldn’t feel happy though – I knew that many of my friends were going to find out that they no longer had a job. This day was going to be tricky.
I mailed everyone to let them know that I was there to help out – doing what I thought really should be done. I bought a stack of sugary things at lunch to help break the ice a bit & provide, well, I dunno what, but something for everyone.
This afternoon was terrible. Person after person came from the room, either grabbing their coat and walking out, or breaking down. We had tears, we had people at a total loss for words, and I think we had people expecting it. We evan had people who had still got a place struggling to keep it together as they had become aware that their mates had just lost their job.
Several people who went were suprises to everyone, for a variety of reasons. Few people came to me for help, but when they did I tried to help as best I could – but everyone was in such a state that they really couldn’t take in the advice I had to pass on. I guess with such a mindf*ck, people need some time to get their heads back to one piece.
After everyone had been in & we knew where everyone was, I went and spoke with the Management team, and pushed for the “next” set of interviews due to start on Monday (that some of these people were to be interviewed at) to be pushed back to Friday, giving people more chance to ‘Do themselves justice’. I’m really worried that that wouldn’t happen otherwise if it was kept on Monday, and am not sure how many people we’ll see back in the office.
Those without a job were obviously utterly gutted. Those with a job weren’t exactly happy, but were relieved. However, we were all knocked when one of our collegues popped in on an offchance to see if we were going to the pub. He’s been off sick for a while with a cancer that he’s been taking treatment for. We found out today that although it’s not a done deal, things are not looking too good for him. All of a sudden, people started looking at their own position, realising just how lucky they were. Having a job is one thing, having your health is something very differnet indeed.

It all reminds me of a song that I amended the lyrics for a bit, back in the early 90’s when the factory next door closed down. It’s not quite as specific to that time, but the sentiment is definately there.

So, here’s the song “Courage” by New Model Army.

We walk every morning in silence
Past the school on Redwood Lane
Where the lights went out for the very last time
And they never came on again
The spokesman all shred crocodiles tears
In the glory of the News at Ten
But the proudest eyes are long since dry
And they’re never going to cry again

Ch: Dear Friend, I salute your courage and I toast to your health
And I wish you all the luck in the whole wide world
May you never be broken like they say you will

Waking up sudden from a nightmare – you were walking the line in pain
With a shaven head to the slaughterhouse and you never came back again
But she took me in her arms and she held me
Close tight for a minute or two
And we laughed and smiled and closed our eyes
Slept again thinking of you
And the way that it is, the way that it really is
With the money talking and a scapegoat lover
With the painted face of a scolding mother
And I salute your courage and I toast to your health
And I wish you all the luck in the whole wide world
May you never be broken like they say you will be

Dec 11 2010

Wintery Stuff

Category: Mountaineeringash @ 6:18 pm

It really does seem to have been snowing a bit out there. Not much made it to Lancs, although the rest of the country seemed to be broken. However, it does mean that some Winter climbing has been happening.
Last weekend Tom and I headed up to Ambleside. Was tricky getting there, with the crashes, abandoned car, heavy snow and lack of ploughs … without Toms snow tyres we’d have been stuffed trying to get there! After a night on the beers with Si, Terminator and Si’s lass, headed up to Dollywagon Gully at some stupid time in the morning, a la snow chains on the car. Masses and masses of unconsolidated powder in the gully made it an absolute sod trying to move, but there was quite a bit of good nick ice up there. Great fun, but bloody hard work!3649
Yesterday was another visit to the Lakes. There’d been a bit of a melt going on though – air temp jumped by about 10 degrees, so although we carried everything up there, it was more of a practice in dragging winter sacks around. Headed up to Pinnacle ridge instead, as Mark G hadn’t done it before. The wind was up, and the clag down, so it ended up being a good choice of route.
Ended up back in Ambleside to catch up with Malcom and Si. Bobbed to see Malc but he was deep in conversation with Dave Birkett (legendary climber) about the finer properties of different types of wire in particular placements. Sloped off down to see Simon & ended up buying a Paramo top … been after a replacement for my Montane smock for a couple of years – hopefully Paramo can do it for me!
Back home, then out for beers with Ali and Mark, to be joined by Nige, PamLa, Steph and others later on. Today ended up a day of sobering up whilst fixing plumbing.

Nov 11 2010

Divine Comedy, Madchester and Gorillaz

Category: Musicash @ 5:41 pm

On Tuesday went into town to catch up with Caroline & do gigs.  Grabbed a beer in the Sand Bar, a cracking little venue just off Oxford Road, will be going there again!

Ace to catch up with herself as she couldn’t make the birthday do, but she’s having a time of it with her outdoor instructor job being pulled as the company went under last week.  Not only that but there doesn’t seem to be much design work, and she’s obviously a bit down about this all.  Hoperfully something good will happen soon.

the gig itself rocked massively.  I’ve been into the Divine Comedy for years now, only saw them once supporting, well, dual headlining with Ben Folds on his first solo tour.  This was Neil on his own, and he was stunning.  A lot more powerful on his own I think than rather with the full band.

Played all the classics including some new material, and “Tonight we Fly”, a tune that I rather morbidly want played at my funeral.  One bloke and a grand piano can’t half make a lot of noise.  I’d forgotten j st how bloody talented he is!

Tomorrow is Gorillaz at the MEN.  Just going on my tod to that one, but looking forward to an ‘experience’!

Oct 24 2010

New Model Army – 30th Birthday Gigs

Category: home,Musicash @ 1:07 am

Just back from 2 nights of gigs at Nottingham Rock City.  Did both with Creed, drove down after work yesterday, gigged then back to Cov, then a day wandering round DoveDale in the Peak District before drifting back over to Nottingham for the second of the gigs, then back home afterwards.36313638

These were a set of gigs of their 30th anniversary tour.  It’s slightly worrying that after I’d done most of my ‘following’ of the band, I went to the 20th anniversary tour.  Ah, so many gigs.  No idea how many NMA gigs I’ve done over the years, but it’s a lot, I know that much.  And, thankfully, they don’t deteriorate with age!  The latest album’s a bit different, and the lack of Dave on the lead is also different, but they still play damn well.3641

The gigs were similar to the 20th gigs.  2 sets by the band, 1hr of acoustic tunes, then 2 hours of electric.  Best thing was that it was a guaranteed different set each night – awesome.  Rock City’s a bloody great venue – as Justin said “These gigs should have been in Bradford but there’s nowhere to play”.  Great sound, really did justice to the band.

The audience was on form both nights.  Pretty intense the second night – Creed lasted 1 song at teh front before the second elbow in the face sent her to the back, and I found Stu and Neil hiding by the Bar on the 2nd night after s0me hectic times in the crush.3644

The set list was awesome.  Can’t remember half of the tunes, but here’s some memorable bits:

  • Vagabonds, with Ed on fiddle.
  • Space, with Joolz on monalogue.
  • Marrakesh
  • Christian Militia
  • Brave New World 2
  • Courage
  • Brother
  • Bad Old World
  • The Attack
  • Drag it Down
  • Betcha

Plus, all of the standard tunes that we’d expect from an NMA gig.  About half a dozen of the tracks from the new album, but stuff from every other album too.

Bloody awesome.

Oct 19 2010


Category: Uncategorizedash @ 12:14 pm

Oct 19 2010

Pulled from the ashes …

Category: home,Mountaineeringash @ 12:14 pm

After a reasonably well planned weekend went to the wall after everyone I was out with fell ill, I decided to go solo for the weekend.  A night plotting on Friday led me to head for Patterdale on Saturday morning.

Did a solo stomp round the Grizedale valley.  Up the valley then up the zig-zags to contour round to Pinnacle Ridge on St Sunday Crag (after picking up the wrong path and wandering round for a bit trying to find the buttress).  Polished off Pinnacle Ridge in about 15-20 mins, then over St Sunday Crag and on to Fairfield.  Down to Grizedale Tarn, then back up over Dollywaggon and over to Helvellyn, then down Striding Edge and back to the car.  A great route, cracking views all the way round.

Saturday night wasover to Poulton in Blackpool for Mac/Gibby/Pierre’s 30th birthday doo.  A great chance to catch up with loads of people – the Sandays, Gassy, the birthday boys, Julie, and many more besides.  An excellent evening, drove over and back, then made the mistake of cracking a beer open when I got back and so staggered to bed at about half 3!

Sunday, quiet morning.  Did some Scouting paperwork/tasks, then off for a run and then over to Rivington with Fitz as she’d not been over there before and was going a bit stir crazy with her latest MS  flare-up.  Went for a bimble (not that long, honest!), then ate fudge, and cake, and drank brews.

Sunday night, off to the Hop Vine for a few beers with Nige, Pam La and Ali D, catching up and talking random crap. 

All in all, a most excellent weekend!

Oct 06 2010

A bit manic

Category: homeash @ 11:03 am

There’s been loads going on.  2 weeks in Chamonix at Chez Pope, a weekend in the lakes on Dow and Fairfield, Dave Ridouts final mission to Pillar Rock and Splash and Dash.

It’s all been great fun, but there’s been so much fun going on I’ve failed to blog enough.  Work on the pretense that all is going rather well at the moment.  Apart from the fact that Pillar (or the Rock), is now the proud owner of one soggy phone.  No idea where that went, but I’m still waiting on a replacement SIM at the moment, so don’t try to ring me for a bit!

Aug 31 2010

Solfest 2010

Category: Musicash @ 9:06 pm

A bloody excellent time this last weekend.  Faffed all week about what to do, as was unsure whether I’d be needed for the DoE Gold trip, but as my paperwork hadn’t arrived by midweek I reasoned I’d not be able to do it.  Trouble was, go do Solfest, or the more expensive Shrewsbury festival – though the AfroCelts were playing there – a band I’ve wanted to see for many years.  As the title suggests, I plumped for Solfest, though at the last minute really (Sam getting me a ticket on the door).

A swift drive up there, then off to watch the Alabama 3 on Friday night.  There was a rather bizzare band on before, playing Russian Ska.  Very good to dance to, especially their classic track “Psycho Tractor”.  Mentalists to a man.  After them were the Alabama 3, who played an excellent set.  Played most of their bestest songs – was holding out for ‘Strange’ but was denied.  Not to worry though, the crowd was electric – really good.3612

Saturday led to a gradually building session throughout the day, watching Noah go nuts in the kids festy and re-doing the hat mission with Sam.  Can’t remember a massive amount, though by the end of the afternoon we were turning to the programme to see what was on later.  I was holding out for Peatbog Faeries – my bestest band to see live.  Scottish folk with a hell of a beat – they were on at midnight.  Someone mentioned that James were playing, and I thought that’d be interesting to bob along to.  Started though with Eat Static, on a 9pm set. 

Went over to the Dance Tent and did some bopping to them – not full on tuneage, but ok.  Think I was in there for a calm bit.  Wandered over to the Drystone stage, to see a band called Pikey Beatz … a bunch of college/uni kids from Allerdale with some attitude and musical talent combined.  Check them on myspace – worth it.  Though young, they’re great at working a crowd!

After this, I wandered over to the main stage to see James.  Somehow met Sam and Simon, though not entirely sure how.  Utterly blown away by the gig.  Must have known 3/4 of the tunes, though I don’t own any James clobber.  They’ve still got it – massively so, and played an absolute blinder.  Great to dance to, the crowd were electric, and Tim Booth was wearing a glitter suit, stood on top of a 6′ high glitterball for a chunk of the gig.  Stunning.3615

After this, went over to the Drystone stage to muscle our way into the pit just before Peatbogs came on.  Good to form, the boys played a superb set, all the tunes I wanted came out, and evan better both Si and Sam had an awesome time (glad as I’d been bigging them up all weekend!).  Everything was very, very wet with sweat at the end of this!  As ever, they finished with an excellent version of Folk Police – we staggered off for some food, more beer, then to collapse in tent.

Sunday led to a walk over to the coast for Si and I – took a couple of hours but good to stretch out.  Watched a variety of people in the day, some music, quite a few comedy & street acts, and got a caraciture done by Paul from Preston (hoping to get him for some Scouting gigs, as he’s bloody impressive).  The combined effects of much beer and little sleep started to catch up with me, and by around 11pm I’d crashed out, leaving Si and Sam to go catch some other bands and party the night away.3627

Drove back Monday to relax for a bit & start unpacking and generally be tired everywhere.  A fantastic trip – Solfest was a good call.

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