Wednesday, 28 March 2012

String Surfer - Salt Surfer

Just a little thing.

I fashioned a piece of wire into a vaguely human-like shape and wrapped it in string. I got a jar and filled it with boiling water, then added salt until it became a saturated solution. I had to tie the string man to a nail because he floated, then I put him in the jar.

Over the next few weeks, the water in the jar will evaporate and the salt, having nowhere else to go, should crystallise around the string figure. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Welcome to my blogroll, The Archdruid Report.

Intelligent political comment, giving historical context to modern issues.

I've been reading this at every opportunity over the last couple of days. It's an awesome piece of work.

The Archdruid behind this endeavour is a guy called John Michael Greer. He's a big wheel in the Peak Oil movement and a bloody clever bloke to boot. The blog draws many disparate strands together into a coherent and beautifully reasoned series of articles.

Being a linear thing, the posts, when read from latest to earlier, regularly refer to stuff I haven't read yet, or promise to go into more detail in a future post that I've already seen. So I'fe now started at the beginning, and I am working my way slowly forwards.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

...and on

Another run out today, in a big loop.

10.6 miles apparently. The first 10 yards were the worst. My poor sore bottom complained, but the soreness faded after a bit.

Again, I was mainly on well laid traffic free paths, although I did have to travel on some busy roads around the dock areas. I hope they join things up at some point.

Follow the green line...

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The road goes ever on and on...

Well, I did it, eventually.

A late night last night meant I didn't get up until late morning. I had to get some work done on the car and it took a while for this work to be authorised so by the time I was ready to go it was about 1.30 in the afternoon.

I got a few bits and bobs, and made sure the bike was roadworthy, and off I went to Bidston Station. I missed the half past 2 train by about 3 minutes, which meant I had to wait 57 minutes for the next one.

And so it was around 4pm when I got to Shotton Station and the beginning of the ride.

The route itself was fantastic. Mile after mile of smooth surfaced pavement, well away from any traffic. Outwards, it followed the banks of the river Dee from Shotton to Chester, then I had to ride a few hundred yards on busy city centre streets before joining the canal towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal, and from there to a former railway line that led directly back to my start point.

What really struck me was just how many people were using these cycle lanes. On the former railway line in particular I was encountering other cyclists several times a minute. Deeside Industrial Estate is a major source of employment, and Chester is a major source of employees, so I suppose it should come as no surprise that a wide straight quiet path directly between the two should be well used.

The route is also used by walkers, and there was a well established etiquette in place. Walkers would control their dogs if they had any, and move over to the side of the path. Cyclists would slow down and pass with care.

All quite remarkably good. I enjoyed it, despite becoming increasingly saddlesore.

This is Bidston station. It's a bleak old place, stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I have some bad memories of Bidston station.

A train. Clean, spacious, can carry bicycles. This one has green paint on the handrails and matching headrests. The train I came back on had pink I saw some interesting things out of the window. You get a different perspective to what you get in the car. You see the back sides of everything.

Off the train and away I go.

Over the same rail bridge I just crossed on the train.

And this is the view southwards. The blue cantilever bridge used to carry a huge volume of traffic until it was superceded by another road bridge just a bit further upstream. Legend has it that it was supposed to be opened by The Queen, or some other bigwig, but some local steelworker got fed up of waiting, and pushed under the ribbon and crossed the bridge on his pushbike. I hope this is true.

7 miles. Mostly like this...

I'd promised myself that I'd go through the secret tunnel. It's not really a secret at all. It's just an underpass for the A494 (the big dual carriageway that may have been officially opened by a bloke on a bike) but sometimes, when we were little, my Dad would take us home that way. Though the tunnel and then over the blue bridge. As small children, we thought this was a fine thing, and we would clamour for him to take us that way every time, but fortunately, he seldom did.

Here it is. Woohoo! The Secret Tunnel!!!!

And from there, just a long straight smooth path, all the way to Chester...

as the shadows lengthened... the late afternoon sunshine.

This building is where they make the wings for Airbus A380 superjumbos. The wings, once constructed, are put on barges and floated down the Dee. I was hoping to see one, or possibly one of the strange dolphin like aeroplanes that carry the raw materials to the plant. I saw neither, but I forgive them.

I once was given a guided tour around that factory by the personnel manager (a Mr Dunn if I recall correctly)

As a 12 year old, I was totally and utterly into aeroplanes, and I designed one and sent it off to Brisish Aerospace as it was then. They saw potential and gave me a tour of the factory and a bag full of aviation related goodies. How cool was that???? My school found out about it, and I was hauled out in front of everyone as a shining example of initiative and enterprise. I think I may have been beaten up as a result. Some of the other children sent off their own designs, but none of them got a guided tour.

Intermittent sunshine...

Poppy wreathes on a twig. I don't know if this is anything to do with it's proximity to RAF Sealand. The Dee was seen as having some tactical importance. The floodplains on either side of the river are dotted with pillboxes.

While Chester City Centre is quite posh, some of the outskirts are anything but.

A couple of horses had been tethered by the river bank. They ignored me as I passed. They must see a lot of cyclists.

Finally heading into the city centre. I had one busy road to cross, and a hill to climb before leaving the highway once more...

For the banks of the Shropshire Union Canal.

Looking back towards Telford's Warehouse.

And forward, northbound. As I cycled past the man on the back of the barge on the right, I nodded to him courteously, as if to say "hail, and well met, fellow user of unconventional, non car transport."

He ignored me.

The canal went over a bridge, and I backtracked and went down to the main road, because I needed to be on the other bridge. Down I went, and up the other side. After passing over the bridge, I found that I could have just joined the cycleway further along without any backtracking or upping and downing. Still, it did mean I got to see this...

Now, write it out a hundred times. If it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off.

 The return journey. 7 more miles of straight smooth traffic free cycle path.

I went to 6th form college in Blacon. Studied Art A level.  Had a 2 hour wait for the bus or a 12 mile bikeride home. I grew to hate the cafeteria of Chester FE college's arts centre.

This part of the trail contained several sculptures. The trio above was probably the best of them.

Onwards...  There were many cyclists on this stretch. By now it was about 5pm so people would have been heading home from work. Possibly from RAF Sealand.

RAF Sealand used to have an aeroplane on a pole outside it. A Hawker Hunter if I remember rightly. We went to an airshow there once. Again, the autistic, obsessive fascination with aeroplanes. All I remember of it is that we were standing on some grass, when suddenly, a Vulcan jet bomber did a low pass with it's afterburners shattering the air. There was no warning. Just a sudden shocking slam of sound and fury, which tapered gradually out, leaving just the howling of scores of bewildered and terrified children.

When we used to live in North Wales, and regularly made the trip along the main road, this bridge wasn't there. Trains don't like gradients, so the track was flat, and the road went over it. If you went fast enough over the bridge, your stomach would feel like it was coming out of your mouth. It's all changed radically over the last 30  years. Not just the infrastructure. The main employer here until the early 80's was heavy industry, particularly the steel works. Then that all went and was replaced mainly by light industry and warehousing. I worked around here for a while, doing agency work. My Grandad worked at the steel works for 30 years or more. Few people stay in a job that long here now.

I take my pupils along this road sometimes. It's a 70mph limit, has a hard shoulder, and has access via free-flowing sliproads. Pretty much as close as I can get them to motorway driving.

Croeso Y Cymru.

A pylon I passed.

The bridge I crossed at the start of the journey. The picture was taken from Harwarden bridge station. I'd missed the train by about half an hour, and the next one wasn't due to stop there, so I went back over the bridge to Shotton.

A tsunami cloud. They're actually formed in a similar way to the waves you see at the seaside, or so I've heard.

Shotton Station. I thought this was my train but it wasn't. It was some freight train passing through. What should have been a half hour wait turned into a 45 minute wait because the train wasn't on time.

Here it comes. The electronic signage is clear and consise. Unfortunately, they plonked a big "Way Out" sign right in front of it so it can't actually be read unless you're leaving.

By now, I was cold, saddlesore, and wanting to be at home. I got off the train in the dark at Bidston, and rode the 5 miles home.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


No work tomorrow. Bren is busy visiting a recycling centre and I plan to go on a nice bike ride.

Cycle to Bidston. Get a train to Harwarden Bridge, then cycle along the Dee to Chester before cutting across the city to the banks of the Shropshire Union canal, and returning to the station via the old Sealand railway line (now a linear park/cycle path/bridleway)

Weather forecast fair. Should be a blast. It's been a few months since I got on the bike.

Google Earth reckons my planned route is 13 miles long. Add another 5 on getting to the station and back and that's a 20 mile ride.

Nice gentle reintroduction. I might even take a detour to the secret tunnel!

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 18 March 2012


About a year or so ago, someone turned a bubblegum pop song into an ambient anthem. It was a sensation for 10 minutes, which is as long as anything is a sensation for these days.

Then someone posted a link to a stretched version of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights. As well as timestretching the audio, whoever did this also managed to slow down the video. Kate's theatrical stage persona looked downright absurd at times.

So I thought I'd have ago myself. I downloaded the required software, and tried stretching some stuff. Motorhead's Ace of Spades was the first to recieve the treatment. Then I thought I'd go for a really short song. Half Man Half Biscuit's "Vatican Broadside" got stretched out to four and a half whole minutes. Finally, I did the theme music to Camberwick Green. The motorhead one was epic! The HMHB one was meh. The Camberwick Green one was whimsical but unexceptional.

Lastly, I stretched a couple of my old  tunes. And here they are. Press play then go and put the kettle on.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Friday, 9 March 2012

How the Mitty have fallen

Fun and games on a discussion board.

On a site I frequent, there is a person who claims to be a bigshot. Or at least a former bigshot. He uses a pseudonym, and regales the discussion boards of this particular site with tales of his rock and roll lifestyle.

Many people have tried to guess his real identity. Some people think he's Ted Nugent. Others think he may be David Cassidy. Perhaps he really is an ageing right wing former rock star who now spends his time living in the desert, shooting his guns, riding his motorbike and reliving past glories, like a sort of Republican Hunter S Thompson.Or maybe it's all a load of bollocks, and he lives in a trailer with two cats and a budgerigar. Who knows?

Whatever he is, he feels the need to go post endlessly about Bikes, Wild Parties, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. He used to rub me up the wrong way, until I realised that far from being a braggart, he's probably deeply insecure, and finding that his star has faded difficult to deal with. But it can get a bit wearing.

Then today, someone posted about a Covers band selling out, and he went in all guns blazing. Just becasue they were a covers band didn't mean they were sell-outs! The musicians work damn hard. Why, when he was in a band, they'd do the occasional cover too! He went on to attempt to assassinate the character of the poster. The poster's well known religious beliefs had addles his brain The poster was forever making snide attacks. And to cap it all, the poster had almost certainly never been in a band.

Then he recollected himself, and told the poster that he was cool about it really. The poster was still loved.

As well as being insecure, add passive-aggressive, and sometimes downright obnoxious and bullying.

Later the guy that made the initial post about the covers band selling out responded by pointing out that all the tickets to the covers band's gig had gone, and tickets for other venues were also going fast. Pretty soon they'd be sold out. He finished by saying that yes he was in a band. Came from a musical family, but just didn't feel the need to boast about it endlessly.


I wonder if Mr Bigshot will be big enough to apologise?


He was! He apologised...

For misinterpreting the phrase, "sell out"

I must admit,  I'm finding it hilarious. I suppose it's a bit tasteless to take pleasure in the misfortune of others, but I think it's entirely natural too, like the current glee over the self inflicted plight of Rush Limbaugh, or the bit in Pan's Labyrinth where the resistance woman manages to stab the sadistic fascist commandant.

There has been no raconteuring since.For two whole days.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

How best to get people to plant bombs

Well I'd suggest giving them a grievence. A sense of gross injustice.

Something like removing benefits for disabled people while giving tax breaks to the richest.

I mean, that's pretty damn brazen, don't you think? It sure annoys the hell out of me.

And at some point, isn't someone with the means going to think, "Well OK. These bastards are fair game"?

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 5 March 2012

Family Allowance.

Currently, Family allowance is not a means tested benefit. If you have children under a certain age, you get the benefit. So I'd imagine that it costs less to adminiter than those benefits where more complicated criteria are involved. And presumably, if you're on £100k a year, you're not going to bother queueing down at the post office  for the relatively small proportion of additional income child benefit would represent.

So it would cost more to administer, and wouldn't actually save much.

Could it possibly be that Nick Clegg's latest proposal is more about establishing a precedent for slashing benefits than any real attempt to save money?

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Off down the rat and parrot.

Not really. I'm not a social drinker. But tonight is my monthly get drunk night. I've been sort of looking forward to it.

I have purchased some quality real ales from my local supermarket. When you're not doing it that often, you can justify buying dearer stuff. So I have purchased:
  1. 500ml of  Jennings (The brewery that makes SneckLifter) Cocker Hoop (4.2% abv, 2.1 units), 
  2. 500ml of Marston's OysterStout (4.5% abv, 2.3 units) I don't think it contains oysters.
  3. 500ml of Shepherd Neame Late Red (4.5% abv, 2.2 units)
  4. 500ml of Greene King Suffolk Springer (6%abv, 3 units)
  5. 500ml of Wychwood King Goblin (6.6% abv. 3.3 units)
It ramps up. From the weakest to the strongest. The last, strongest half litre has traditionally been an insurance, to make sure I passed out, either in my computer chair or in bed.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

And here I am now. All 15 units supped. I don't feel anything really. Electroencephalography.  supercalafrajelisticexpialodocious. Antidisestablishmentarianism.

And then it was 7 in the morning. I was waking up in bed. And my mouth was like the bottom of a budgie cage...