Sunday, August 30, 2009


Know the lingo

I was showing Kianna, my two-and-a-half-year-old niece, a video of Joe's theatrical performance in Coventry Precinct from last week; a garish and obscure affair which ended with the dad and I baffled as to its true meaning and exchanging words to such effect.

Hearing the voices on the video recording, Kianna's curiosity was piqued.

"Oo's talkin'?" she demanded.

"Me and Grandad," I said, conscious of how weird it feels to call my own dad Grandad.

"Uncle Dan an' Grandad," repeated Kianna solemnly. "An'... me tun-tun." I burst into laughter.

For those not in the know, tun-tun is a West Indies term for vagina. Why Kianna felt the need to bring it up at this moment is anyone's guess.

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Friday, August 21, 2009


Pedantic antics

Tetrodotoxin is potentially lethal to humans; ingesting only a small amount can cause paralysis and death within an hour. The substance has killed many a would-be Japanese gourmet who has eaten under-cooked fugu pufferfish, a delicacy in Japan.
NZ beaches empty as dogs poisoned by killer seaslugs
The Times Online

My inner pedant couldn't let this pass: I went through all the rigmarole of setting up an account on the Times website, purely for the sake of the following snotty comment:

Um, the Japanese aren't all that big on cooking their fish ~ the ones who've been killed by Fugu died as a result of the chef neglecting to remove the fish's ovaries / other poisonous bits, rather than how well done or otherwise said Fugu was.



Snowdonia 2009: the Welsh 3000s

Big Dave mentioned that Bailey was coming back from Japan for a visit and would I be interested in going on a walking trip in Snowdonia?

For sure, I said, thinking of my 15th and 16th birthdays spent on school camping trips with cold tinned curry and warm tinned beer.

It then came out that what Dave had in mind was The Welsh 3000s:

In order to complete the Welsh 3000s Challenge you are required to have been at the top of all 15 of the mountains over 3000 ft in Wales within the space of 24 hours, without using any form of transport.

The length is about 24 miles, but the walks to the start point and down from the finish point can take it to over 30 miles in total.

The walk is also known as "The 14 Peaks" (although there are officially 15, or possibly 16).


Sod, I said, and tapped up the dad for a new set of walking boots.


We arrived at Gwern Gof Uchaf Camp Site on the Friday evening, then Other Dave and I drove to drop his car at where we projected our walk would end. Our plan of action for the Saturday was:It was a pretty serious schedule, so we got to bed early with the prospect of a 3:30 am start looming and the weather beginning to look ugly.

Team Snowdonia
Team Snowdonia 2009: (L to R) Other Dave, Big Dave, Bailey, Dan



Discretion being the better part of valour and none of us eager to take on the treacherous Crib Goch ridge in 50 mph sideways rain, we went for a revised schedule:This would naturally mean waving cheerio to the 24-hour target but seemed a less daunting prospect than presenting Bailey's mum with his remains in a sponge.


The Saturday walk was beset with bad weather and navigational difficulties, perhaps the worst of which was the bit when a mischievous gust of wind deprived us of the protective sheet for our map. The map ended up the consistency of damp tissue and proved a right bugger to read.

Our one break in the weather came when we made it back to the camp site and broke out the barbecue:

Snowdonia sunset
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight;
mince and potato, shepherd's pie.

With the evening drawing in and the weather turning nasty again, we hit the hay, ready for another tough day's walking.


Sunday, to my frank horror, dawned very clear and bright. I say "horror" because I was more than ready for grey skies, rain and a valid excuse to get back into my sleeping bag and lay down some Zs. No such luck.

We drove to the foot of Snowdon and began our ascent up the Pyg Track. We then had the question of whether or not we'd bother with Crib Goch. Other Dave wanted to, Bailey and Big Dave voiced doubts about the wind, which was picking up quite nicely. Suffering from a surplus of testosterone, I volunteered to accompany Other Dave, while our comrades would go directly to the summit of Snowdon and meet us there.

I had ample cause to question the wisdom of my decision as we ascended: cloud closed in around us, the wind picked up and walking became scrambling. At first, scrambling up facing nothing but rock and exercising a rigid policy of not looking down, it wasn't too bad. Eventually, though, we reached a point where we were scrambling up the intersection of two rock faces with the blank void of infinity dropping away on either side.

It fairly did my head in, I can tell you. My world suddenly seemed to have a great deal more "down" than "up."

Then there was the ridge itself: the wrong step on the left-hand side and there'd be a trail of Dan to the bottom of the mountain; the right-hand side had the debatable attraction that at least I wouldn't bounce so many times before reaching the bottom. The most disheartening bit was when we had to shimmy along a ledge where the rock face went in underneath, adding that extra little frisson of standing above empty air, a couple of thousand feet above sea level.

Not unnaturally, we took all this at a fairly conservative pace, no doubt giving our comrades some worry when we didn't reach the top of Snowdon within our projected time frame.

"Thank fook for that!" exclaimed Big Dave when we finally showed up; "I thought you were dead!"

Happily, we weren't. Here's a video of Other Dave conquering the summit of Snowdon, while Big Dave and Bailey had already made tracks for the Halfway House cafe, halfway down the mountain:


Descending Snowdon a couple of hours behind schedule, we decided to take a shortcut off the beaten track and shave a couple of mountains (Elidir Fawr and Y Garn) off our route:

Running a bit behind schedule on our Snowdonia walking challenge, we hop over a hedge and Hobbit our way to safety. THRILL as we hide from Nazgul! SQUEAL as we evade voracious Velociraptors! CHEER when this pointless shambles of a video draws to a close!(Youtube blurb)

The masterplan was to go over the Glyders (Fach and Fawr) and bag Tryfan before heading back down to camp. Unfortunately, the weather did us wrong once again with dense cloud making a mockery of our attempts to find our way around at altitude. We made it to the summit of Glyder Fach, but then spent about an hour looking for Glyder Fawr, which would have been a cinch if we'd been able to see more than about thirty yards.

Wearying of this (to say nothing of the walking group who were shadowing us, hoping thereby to overcome their own navigational woes), we sacked the whole business off and began our descent towards the camp site.


Although we were unable to reach our goal of all 15 peaks in 24 hours, we walked ten hours on both days and I'm pretty confident that, had we been more fortunate with conditions / less inept with our navigation, we would have been able to make it round within the time limit.

I was pleased to have lasted the distance on the walking (and more pleased still not to have plunged to my death from Suicide Pass) but it was a shame not to have been able to finish our walk at the two iconic standing stones at the summit of Tryfan.

The other downside of not finishing the job is that Big Dave is pretty eager to have another go at it next year.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The weekend starts here

Skimming along at 80mph, the sun shining through the windshield, I almost miss the sign.

At the last minute I spot it: Welcome to Wales. I whoop and punch the air. I'm on my way.

Ten minutes later, it's raining and I'm stuck behind a tractor.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Lane discipline

163.4. (a) If an athlete is pushed or forced by another person to run
outside his lane or on or inside the kerb or line marking the
applicable border, and if no material advantage is gained, the
athlete shall not be disqualified.
(b) Likewise, an athlete shall not be disqualified if he
(i) runs outside his lane in the straight, and no material
advantage is gained
(ii) runs outside the outer line of his lane on the bend, with no
material advantage thereby being gained,
and no other athlete is obstructed.

IAAF competition rules 2009


(I had to check this for my own peace of mind~ the race in question is last night's Women's 100m final.)

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Thursday, August 13, 2009


Drinky speechy

Tim explains "Drinky speechy."

Other highlights of Russ and El's wedding included me telling the Danish guests to behave themselves in Church ("If you could refrain from breaking the windows, stealing the valuables and raping, killing and setting fire to everyone, that'd be great.") and Pete's lucky shirt:

"Whenever I've worn this to a wedding, the couple have stayed together. Edwin and Karen tested it, but the shirt pulled through in the end."

Ed's face was an absolute picture.

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Friday, August 07, 2009


13 steps to heaven on the Mega Bus

A week or two back, we had Worldnet, the annual supporters' football tournament in Leeds. Tim and I, neither of us particularly in love with the idea of being "Des don't drink" on the Sunday, hit upon the idea of travelling up on the coach. Tim, upon whom I delegated bus monitor duties, booked us on to the Mega Bus.

Here's how we fared:
  1. We arrive at the bus stop at 13:30, ready for a 13:50 bus.
  2. At around 14:15, with ne'er a bus in sight, we start boozing, having a fairly good stock of pop / spirit mixes. Joe takes one sip out of the cola / disaronno mixture and declares that he is not touching another drop.
  3. A lady at the bus stop phones the Mega Bus company to ask where the bus is. They profess ignorance.
  4. We finish our two-litre bottle of cola / disaronno. Joe has drunk about half of it.
  5. I ask Tim if, in fact, he has booked us onto a Meta Bus: a bus which does not exist on our plane of reality, but instead occupies a realm of potential and Platonism.
  6. At around 16:00, the bus shows up. We toss our bags in the hold, keep hold of our beers and hop on.
  7. After we make a stop in Birmingham, I crack open a beer. At this point, the driver announces that boozing on buses is against the law, and anyone caught boozing will be put off the bus. Sitting at the back, boozing furtively, we can imagine no greater felicity.
  8. It then transpires that we are on our way to Leeds via Manchester, which, as I say at the time, is pretty much like doing two sides of a triangle, including the hypotenuse.
  9. At around 17:30, we find ourselves stationary on the M6, a state of affairs in which, I believe, I have spent about three months of my life in total to date.
  10. We eventually arrive in Manchester and the driver disappears. I hypothesise that he has popped off to the toilet to shoot himself. Joe expresses relief that at least he hasn't opted for the hosepipe-through-the-window option. The lad in front, overhearing this, dissolves into giggles.
  11. The sun is low in the sky as we trundle along the M62, next stop Leeds! We crack open the last few of our beers which, being a bit warm and gassy, make a fair old hiss. As I crack the last one open rather too audibly, with Leeds not 13 miles distant, the driver pulls smartly over into a service station.
  12. The driver stands up at the front and announces that he has been driving for four-and-a-half hours straight so, in accordance with the law, and flagrantly contrary to any kind of sense or justice, he has to take a 45-minute break. I hobble off the bus with an open almost-full beer in my pocket. We go to KFC to stock up on calories ahead of the weekend's sporting exertion.
  13. At 22:00 we arrive at Bodington hall in Leeds. Total journey time: nine hours door to door. We steal a fridge from a kitchen, stick it in our bedroom with some beers inside to cool, and head off down to the bar.
We gratefully accepted offers of a lift home on the Sunday, deeming further Mega Bus travel to be hazardous to our emotional well-being.

I had visions of the harassed driver waiting for us at the bus stop, with a load of increasingly irate passengers.

"Settle down, everybody: I'm sure they won't be much longer..."

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