DofE 23: Solihull Bronze Practice.

14°C, little sun, grey later but the rain held off.

Walk 6 Y10 girls across Warwickshire to a scout camp. We walked for 7 1/2 hours under grey sky and slightly muddy ground. I’m feeling the effects of a few late nights. Last night was only 5 hours sleep. Those days accumulate and my head felt like a dull lump inside.

A landmark electricity substation on the route.

Day 2: checkpointing a circular route. I worked with Paul sharing 3 groups. One was the same group as yesterday plus a group of boys and another of girls.

The gaps between groups opened quite quickly as my group went wrong early on. They took a spagetti route and couldn’t tell where they’d been. Later their journeying got better and quicker despite being overloaded with uncomfortable packs. Other things went wrong for them too. The finish was changed while they were near the camp. An error had occured in comunicating with their parents who were to pick them up. All in all, that.l meant we didn’t finish until 17.30.

DofE 3: Bristol.

12°C, not a cloud all day, nor wind.

Gloucester Services: the only one worth 5 star rating. Teybay comes a close second but none is good enough to come third.

3.1; the camp was a chilly start in its wooded NW facing slope. Instructors met up at 8.30 and we headed over to the start in Nailsea where the kids arrived in cars. I chose groups 3 & 4 at random. The choice set the tone for the rest of the day.

Both were lively groups fortunately free from difficulty. In fact, they were really good fun. One was teaching me french which I will need for my summer expedition. The girls group made a big effort to get me to learn their names. All have been charming all day, even after I told them off for some unnecessary navigation errors. They had a tendency to natter and not to notice navigation clues. Like a scratched record, I emphasised the need for 2 or more clues for each decision. They still made some glaring errors.

It’s funny to think that I cycled down these valleys in the 90s hundreds of times, training and racing. Funny because of the places here I knew nothing about. The medieval hill fort was the best bit with its view out to sea.

3.2: remote supervision. We set checkpoints and the group’s plotted their routes after breakfast. The only real problem was early morning fog that was very dense. One of my groups soon made an error and headed north instead of East. They fixed it without intervention though. Both groups did well and finished on-time. There was a necessary discussion about splitting a group which probably happened in the confusion of many teams arriving at bottleneck checkpoints.

Finally, both groups were delightful, they were bright, optimistic and tremendous fun to spend time with. I felt priveliged to have their company for a couple of days.

I’m in.

6°C, after a snowy start, the next was vigorous.

A chance to try something seen at my old house, an igloo. The snow wasn’t really suitable, it refused to compact densely. The roof fell in before this photo.

Anyway, the real house: I have the keys, the place is all mine.


4°C dry and sunny.

Drive south to collect stuff for my new house. The wait should be over early next month.

Music has meaning again. During the ugliest most stressful stage in my last job, I would listen to music. But it had lost something. I no longer got the shivers. My senses were dulled so much by the accumulated tiredness.

Anyway, I drove home with the iPod set on shuffle. It seemed to be in a good mood. It played interesting tracks with hardly any need to skip any. Even the difficult types of music showed its magic. Fred Frith came up a good few times as well as Zena Parkins.

I have only bought a few discs in the last 12 months but the desire is coming back. Hurry along the time I can set up my stereo.

Diamond abseil.

20°C, bright sun and little wind.


Matthew Bolton College.

Four staff, and five kids from our school went to Matthew Bolton College for a Diamond anniversary of the DofE publicity stunt. Royalty arrived about 11am and we were prepped on what to say. The publicity guy said something about how to answer. ‘Don’t just nod when asked something, you will want to tell your relatives when you get older’. I’m not star struck, I hate all that swooning adoration that the royal family attract. We didn’t vote for them, why should I care about them. They live the life of luxury and privilege at our expense. Don’t ask me to swoon.

Anyway, the abseil was fine, no hesitation because of height. I felt no fear and I don’t mind looking down. The only awkward moment was climbing over the edge. It’s easier when the rope is fixed higher because you can get your feet up easily. I was able to spring outward to get over the windows. Inside, there are windows sills. Students sat there to spectate so I pulled silly faces as I passed downwards.
A great day out.

Brown-field site.

12°C, dry with white cloud and weak easterly.
I love this time of year. My fascination for the inner city wasteland is greatest now until June.


Here is the first shoots of artimesia absinthium, (or is it vulgaris). This plant still holds its spell, not just because Chernobyl day is soon. The photo was taken in Walsall on the site of a demolished factory near work. They like sandy, slightly acidic soil and are most easily found on brown-field sites.
If only they would grow in my garden. The soil is too rich after all my efforts to feed it with compost.
The continuing recession should give these plants a chance to flower and set seed. That patch of land is for sale but there are no indications of a buyer yet. I expect it will be bought by a developer who builds tiny flats as “affordable homes”.
For me, there is always a little disappointment when these plots are dug up.


2°C, rain then dry.
Talking to a class of 11 year olds today in a lesson on sensors. I asked them what devices they have at home with a sensor. The usual burglar alarms and security lights. Then one told us about her kitchen bin. It opens when you wave your hand over the top. Presumably so you don’t have to touch the lid.
Taking this further, another has a toilet that lifts its seat if you approach. Impressed, I asked how does it know whether you want the seat up or is it just the lid. The subtlety was lost on this group. So I said “perhaps it’s just a bloke thing”.
By now, my imagination was running with this. What happens when you go to the bathroom for a tissue to blow your nose? Like the hand-driers at work, it presumably is activated. Does the toilet lid lower itself in a disappointed way afterwards?
This would make a fun subject for animation. It’s all in the timing, the disappointment bit I mean.
This instrument is near work, on the side of a busy road. For years, I have wondered what it is. Probably a smog detector. Looking back, I couldn’t see what that light is aimed at. Is there a reflector in the distance somewhere?

Back to work.

5°C, light SW, grey.
New term. Straight into the darkest mornings of the year. Sunrise has only improved by 2 minutes since mid-winter. Whereas street has improved by 16 minutes. Rapid change is coming though. It only takes two weeks for the light at the end of the tunnel to get switched back on.


Half an hour before sunrise, this view was worth pulling over in the car. This is a narrow sunken lane with muddy passing spaces. I got out and took the picture and slowly slid sideways in the mud.

Is there a word for this?

10°C, light wind and some rain.
What is the word for the times when you clean out some empty bags from your locker and you find a pack of gorgeous chocolate?

This bar is a little known gem. Far better taste than equivalent bar from up-market shops. Here is one little pleasure that punctuates my day.