An Edinburgh Adventure

7 Aug

It’s been a long time since I went to Edinburgh to see Davey. So I was very excited to get on a train this week to head over there. Fought to get my bike in the bike racks – this is not one of the best parts of the Azuma train design: we need more space for cycles that’s easy to use. And heaven help you if you have a mountain bike.. It was hard enough getting my 34c tyres through the loops, so completely impossible if you’re running fatties.

Photo 2021-08-04 13.31.46Caught up with Davey for lunch, with coffee overlooking Arthur’s Seat and the Crags. Holyrood Park is practically Davey and Hannah’s front garden., and it’s a fabulous sight. I did a bike ride round the city in the afternoon, through the Innocent Railway tunnel, down Burnside and even got to the seaside! One thing that Davey and I share is a love for cycling. You can get Photo 2021-08-04 15.07.48out of the city really quickly, so in the evening we headed off down by the canal, carefully avoiding everyone out walking their pupper, and over to Balermo, which apparently isn’t in Italy. Then we cycled back down the Water of Leith for one hell of an evening trip. I was very ready for my Hawai’ian poké bowl for supper though! Fantastic food.Photo 2021-08-04 18.58.24

The following day disaster struck. Fortunately, I didn’t strike anything. Suffered a totally calamitous brake failure, which, at the high road round Arthur’s Seat, is not a good thing, since the only way is down. Skidded and scooted my way back to more level ground and went in search of brake pads. ‘Sintered, unsintered, organic, resin: what sort of braking experience would sir like?’ Finally managed to find somewhere that had the right ones, a quick roadside repair and I am back on the road and able to stop again. There were some interestingly scary moments there…..

Evening ride out this time was up to Blackford Hill and the Hermitage… another lovely burn side trip without too many hills, but enough exercise to work up an appetite for a vegan haggis burrito! (Vegan haggis in a burrito is one of the most wonderful Scots/world cuisine mashups ever – and it really does work!)

Photo 2021-08-04 18.28.34Photo 2021-08-04 18.05.38

A quick pootle around town the next day (with time to get a cinnamon bun from 101 Bakery which was almost ridiculously excellent), a wander round bits of the Fringe festival, and back on the train. It’s been so good to be back in a city I love with a son that I just don’t see often enough.

Find out more at

Escape to Oakham!

7 Aug

Rutland WaterLockdown has eased a little, and it’s time for an adventure! A chance to escape and see some countryside. A brief escape on the bike and a stop overnight near Rutland Water. My favourite campsite hasn’t opened for campers yet though (Covid precautions), so it’s a hotel today. The hills haven’t changed since I was here last time.. it’s still like a folded bedsheet on the way over.

Checked the weather. There might be gentle showers in the afternoon. Didn’t mention the fact that the heavens were going to completely open. Wasn’t 100% certain I wasn’t going to actually drown.

At least I could get a shower, warm up, get dry again. That wouldn’t have been so much fun in a tent. Of course, I hadn’t packed spare shoes to save weight, so I had to squelch out to the restaurant. Which was some of the best Nepali/Indian food I have had in a while.

Given the cloud cover, there was no chance of me seeing meteors tonight.. I will have to reserve that for another day!

Photo 2021-07-31 19.35.02And then back home in the morning. I had a pupper to look after while her Mummy was playing American Football and her Daddy was coaching the team! Thankfully, no rain. A ride along the side of Rutland Water and then back home with a brief stop for breakfast at a roadside café. Nice.

A chance to think, to solve some of the things puzzling me at the moment, to wonder, ponder, dream. Happy days.

(If you’re wondering why Ripley is wearing a T-shirt, she got attacked by a German Shepherd recently, and the shirt stops her worrying at the stitches)


Find out more at

Father’s Day and a bit 2021

8 Jul

Photo 2021-06-28 17.55.57Photo 2021-06-28 17.56.56

What a simply brilliant Father’s Day I had this year! OK, so it was a bit spread out over the course of a week and a bit, but I had some very thoughtful presents. ‘What on earth are they?’ I hear you ask. Well, one is a complete s’mores* production kit (Jonny), and the other is a carbon seat tube for my bike (Davey). (It was going to be the start of my new bike build, but I plan on installing it into my existing bike first cos, why miss out on a more comfortable ride? )

Photo 2021-06-28 21.05.33Photo 2021-06-28 21.05.05

AND I got to see my eldest son, who I haven’t seen since September, AND I had an excuse to have my favourite people round for pizza and s’mores* round the firepit. That’d be Davey and Jonny and Leanne, and Ripley of course, although unfortunately Hannah had to stay in Edinburgh to run her tours. But we missed her loads.

Photo 2021-06-28 21.03.58Photo 2021-06-28 20.43.03
Ripley stole my pizza and then ate the box. Then went missing upstairs doing we don’t know what. Then demanded the chance to investigate the interesting sniffs out the back. But mostly she sat on the rug and ate sausages. We sat out under my new parasol to keep the rain off. I burnt the marshmallows every time. We finally got rid of the Christmas tree. We threw multicolour salts on the fire to turn it green and purple and blue. And we talked and laughed and poked the fire a lot. And it was definitely one of my happiest days ever.

Find out more at

* ‘s’mores. Short for Some Mores (natch) a strange American invention of melted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers. Odd, but strangely satisfying.

In a Broken Dream

13 Mar night I fell out of bed. Well, perhaps the word ‘fell’ is misleading.

This was not the gentle tumbling to the ground of someone who has turned over one too many times and finds themselves rolling onto the bedroom carpet wrapped in a duvet and desperately clinging to a pillow in the hope it will prevent their fall. Nor was it the awkward crash of someone trying to avoid disturbing a sleeping partner/child/pet and managing only to overbalance to avoid waking the one who is hogging 90% of the bed. Nor was it the controlled landing of someone who, having been pursued across the surface of the mattress by a renegade dreamer, has surrendered to the inevitable and decided to sneak round to the other side of the bed to try again.

Top 10 Common Dreams Explained | LifeCrustThere was, I confess, something of the drama of the sleeper who has forgotten that they have taken up temporary residence on the top bunk and shifted their position only to remember, too late, that the lenient safety of the king-size divan has been replaced by the harsh reality of a narrow mattress and a six foot drop to the floor. And also I found shades of the drama of the night when I reached out of the aforementioned top bunk and stuck my fingers in the shaver socket, somersaulting me out of bed and yet again to the cold, hard floor, somewhat cushioned by my sleeping bag.

So..last night I rolled sleepily yet contentedly over to recapture the duvet which I had tossed away in the earlier part of my slumber. Realising with sudden alarm in my befuddled state that this manoeuvre would place me perilously close to the edge of the bed, and seeking to avoid that inevitable dreamlike descent to the bedroom rug, I hurled myself back in the opposite direction. Only then did I realise that I had seriously miscalculated my position on the mattress, and that I had in fact launched myself dramatically off the other side of the bed, bouncing me off the bedroom wall and into thin air.

Since the laws of physics are harsh and unyielding, gravity took over the rest of the operation and dropped me unceremoniously – yet firmly – to the floor, pausing only to bang my head on the bedside cabinet as it passed by.
Sleeping can be a dangerous pastime.

Find out more at

Ripley says… Happy New Year!

1 Jan

34415288_10160429581515147_7707758441229451264_nHello. My name is Ripley an’ I am a broken haired lurcher. I live in England with my Mummy an’ Daddy. I’m only three an’ a bit but I have learned one or two things about life an’ I wanted to share them with you. My friend Timmy runs this blog an’ he let me borrow it for a bit.

Have a great year! heart-paw

Ripley’s life lessons . . .

Live your own style


Take time to enjoy the scenery.

Life will sometimes bring you strange bedfellows.
Embrace them.


Enjoy seeing new places.
Photo 2019-08-04 15.24.32_thumb

Ignore your critics


Always check your friends want to play before bouncin’ all over them.

Follow your own path. It confuses people.


Always live hopeful.

Make sure you get enough chill time.


Be ready to drop everything to go on a ‘venture with a friend.

Be polite


Explore everything.

Share a laugh with people you love.


Have fun.

Maintain your boundaries.


Get plenty of exercise . . .

…but know when to stop.

Always have that one special friend you can be yourself with.


Talk to animals. ‘specially dogs.


Did I mention getting’ enough chill time?

It’s OK to get a little muddy sometimes. It’ll wash off and you may end up smellin’ of raspberries.


Don’t worry what others think about you.


Make sure you have somewhere you can feel safe, secure an’ comf’table.


Learn to listen to good advice

If you’re not sure what to do next, have a sit down and listen to what your heart is tellin’ you.


Sometimes, you just need coffee.


If it makes you feel good, do it. Even if other folks don’t understand.


Always be ready to go for a walk in the countryside.

Make lots of time for relaxin’ with a friend.


Eat good food.

Devour good books.


Take an active int’rest in other people’s work.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is to just tune out and let the world go by.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is to just tune out and let the world go by.

Remember . . .You be you.

And remember to enjoy the journey . . .


Back in white pyjamas

19 Nov

IMG_2414So there I was, nervous and uncomfortable, barefoot in a Peterborough gymnasium, clad only in a pair of white pyjamas. The floor cold and hard, adrenaline spiking in my veins. The only source of comfort and security was the belt wrapped round my waist – my name and my old club embroidered on it – that and the months of extra training I’d put in during lockdown, pacing up and down my living room as I practiced. Somewhere in that practice I had tapped into muscle memory, and what I knew slowly started to flow back. They say that what you learn never truly leaves you. They say that any art practiced for ten thousand hours makes you a master. I’m no master – maybe I’d not spent ten thousand hours in practice, but four or five hours a week in class (at least) plus everyday practice for over ten years had made me solidly proficient.

Flashback: When my eldest son was younger, we rocked up to a traditional Shotokan karate class at a nearby school having seen an advert in the local paper. Some very tough years of training followed, with one or two injuries, and struggles with co-ordination, flexibility, speed and my innate lack of timing.. but eventually both he and I made it to our coveted black belt. And a couple of years later, I graduated again as a second dan black belt. But when I set up my own business, something had to give and, sadly, at that time karate was the thing I ended up giving up. But it felt as if a part of me had gone missing.

They say that black belts are masters. They say black belts are the ultimate fighting machines. Black belts know they are not. They know they are just at the beginning of the journey – that the only thing they had achieved after years of training was simply the right to be on that journey – and I had taken time out from that path to focus on other things.. important things, for sure, but now it was time to get back into the dojo, to put the gi back on and to train hard again. This was a new club, new instructor, new syllabus, and a new beginning.

IMG_2403And in the end, I was better than I feared, and probably even better than I had hoped. I could hold my own – not particularly because I had the skills, but because I had the determination to make it happen, and because that which you’ve learned never does really leave you. I had done my preparation work – reviewing what I had learned before, practicing over and over again in my cramped training space. I’d re-read my old books, watched the videos and went through my old applications and bunkai. But in the end it came down to turning up one day, leaving my pride, my ego and my fears outside the dojo doors, and starting again.

I’m nowhere near as good as I used to be – but it’s coming back, piece by piece, as I install new memories of old favourite katas and of fearsome sparring drills. My flexibility and speed need some attention, and there are katas to refamiliarise myself with, but there is progress, simply because I had chosen to turn up and try.

And suddenly, in that moment in the dojo, there was a deep knowing, and a deep sense of calm settled on me – something felt fundamentally right – as if I was putting a shard of who I am back in its right place. S it is that every time I pull the heavyweight white cotton fast around my shoulders, every time I tie the simple ties securely at my side, and especially when I knot that precious black belt firmly round my waist, I know I have come home, and that a piece of my life – a piece of who I am – is back where it belongs.

A long way from home . . or, Plan B!

21 Oct

Around Hartington (5)Time for a bike ride – but somehow my heart and my legs just aren’t in it. What’s more news from home suggests I might be of more value back there – Ripley is missing me and needs to go for walks. A quick 10 kilometres this morning will do it, then I pack my kit up and leave early. There’s still plenty of loveliness in the Peaks, and I route myself down to the south. Around Hartington (2)Reality starts to kick in – a half hour delay on the M1, stuck behind a tanker for five miles.. although I do manage to remember to pick up some oatcakes in Ashbourne.

A brief stop to lay some flowers on my mother’s grave…

Photo 2020-10-20 17.08.51And home to a pupper who’s very glad to see me.

It’s been a great adventure. Strange, because of the COVID-19 crisis, but sometimes that’s been an advantage. There are more adventures to be had on this beautiful island, more wonders and marvels to see. I need to travel in Wales a little more, and there’s still a big tour of Scotland to be done, but I feel as if I can at least tick one of my dream goals for 2020 off the list.


Hartington – Ashbourne – Crick – Home

On the road again.. or, Northumberland to Derbyshire in one not so easy lesson

21 Oct

Back in the car again, and time to head back south. As you might expect, I don’t go the easy way..

Cross the Pennines (19)First off I drop down back to Alston, following a similar route to yesterday’s bike ride. It’s funny seeing where the cycle path crosses the road and dodges back into fields and woods on the old train track. The South Tyne disappears, and I find myself alongside the Tees in Teesdale, a wide glacial valley that takes me all the way down to infamous Barnard Castle. I’d wanted to stop at High Force waterfall, but there seems to be a film crew in attendance, so it’s onwards again. Now it’s time to zig again, and I cross right back over for a brief flirtation with Cumbria and dropping into County Durham before zooming back across the North Pennines for a while.

There’s something tremendously peaceful about travelling alone – there’s no need for words, no need to remark on what I’m seeing. Our words can limit our experience, and sometimes, it’s not necessary to use them – beauty just coalesces in a thumping torrent just above my heart, threatening to overwhelm it with majesty and gorgeousness.

Cross the Pennines (5)Butter Tubs pass is almost overwhelming – up until this point the roads have been beautiful, tranquil, lovely – but Butter Tubs cannot fail to impress with twists and turns to map onto to sheer drops and high cliffs.

Hawes (2)A stop for coffee in Hawes – the town comes to a standstill when hundreds of sheep are driven through the main street, herded by four collies and one little collie pup in training. This is quite clearly a regular town occurrence.

Ribblehead Viaduct (2)Another quick stop to photograph the Ribblehead viaduct snaking across the valley, and then time to drop down to the Peaks. We’re out of the parks, but my old friends Skipton and Keighley are still lovely, and there’s even a pretty bypass route round Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield, although I’m continually fighting Batman the satnav: once we’ve agreed a route he then decides he knows better and reroutes us without telling me he’s changed his mind.  We are going to have words at some point. “Turn around when possible.. let’s keep the Joker guessing”.

To The Peaks (13)Finally we edge into the Peak district, rising to cross Holme Moss. It’s windy here, and I’m not hanging around. Now it’s reservoir country. half a dozen reservoirs mark my path on the way down to Glossop. Batman routes me away from the route I wanted to take – on retracing my steps I find that Snake Pass is actually shut, and so as evening gathers I drop down into Chapel-en-le-Frith and then into my home for the night at Hartington Hall. It’s been a long, beautiful and awe inspiring day.


Once Brewed – Alston – Middleton in Teesdale – Barnard’s Castle – Reeth – Hawes – Ingleton – Keighley – Holmfirth – Glossop – Hartington

Down to the river we’d ride . . Trails and tracks

18 Oct

Bike Ride to Alston (23)Sunday, and it’s a great day to be alive. I skip breakfast and drive a few miles to Haltwhistle. Disappointingly, the name has nothing to do with railways and everything to being a hill at the conflux of two rivers. Equally, Fourstones has nothing to do with Jagger and crew, although I guess originally there were five of them…

Anyway, the plan for the day is to cycle down to Alston for late breakfast on the Pennine Trail and then cycle back on the South Tyneside Trail by the river.

Bike Ride to Alston (5)And it’s spectacular. Most of the route is on converted railway tracks – little tree lined avenues of trees transformed into their Autumn colours. I pass the occasional hiker and dog walker, but the trail is pretty much deserted.

The outbound trail rises and falls – there are steep climbs to tax my muscles while the morning cold continues to gnaw at my fingertips. One moment I am looking down at the Tyne below me – the next I am riding alongside it.

Bike Ride to Alston (7)The trail becomes less direct as I near my destination though – weaving around the hillside as if hesitating to make a final commitment to the descent into Alston. Eventually I drop into the village and climb the steep high street.

Late breakfast is not going to happen in Alston though –  despite being a popular spot for bikers, there is little open to feed them – most of them end up outside the Spar.

But a little shop furnishes me with coffee and a scone, and I am content. And I’ve made it – just – into Cumbria.  I briefly flirt with following the river to its source, about ten miles further upstream, but decide against it.

Lambey Viaduct (2)The way back starts out easier – gravel track runs alongside the South Tyneside Railway line, a 2’ gauge recreational line. It’s popular with local walkers, but they seem surprised when a cyclist waits for them to pass. There are a few kinks in the route, most notably at Slaggyford where it diverts briefly from the line, but eventually the gravel stops and the steps begin, as I drop down to the river itself. I cross on a little footbridge and watch children and dogs playing in the puddles around the main viaduct over the river. It does not occur to me until much later that I need to be on top of that viaduct. Eventually I find a route back up to the top – slipping and sliding over mud banks, smooth pebbles and broken tree trunks, I pray that one particular tree, the ground eroded around its roots, stays in place long enough for me to pass.

Back on the path, it’s a straight shot back to Halfwhistle, and back to the car. Another brilliant day, another 50 km or so cycled, and a lot of beautiful scenery seen.

Sycamore Gap (3)I have a couple of hours of daylight left, which I put to good use zipping up the B6318, a beautifully straight road that leads me through more beautiful hills, and past the iconic Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall, a valley formed by glacial action and now occupied by a single, rather spectacular sycamore. I didn’t expect to get this shot, so, although better photographers than I have got better images with better light, I am content with this snap from the road, the tree branches silhouetted proudly against the evening sky..

Steel Rigg (2)And I divert off to another view of the Wall, at Steel Rigg, Here the cliffs become themselves part of the defences against the Scots.

So back to the hostel. In celebration I will drink a couple of pints of Sycamore Gap IPA at the local brewery tonight. Tomorrow I start to make my way home. It’s been a fabulous few days here in Northumberland, and I am already planning how to return. No dark skies tonight though – the rain has returned, and I suspect it will accompany me south tomorrow…


Starlight, Starbright.. or, it isn’t over ‘til it’s over.

17 Oct

Robson Green's Tales from Northumberland TV show set to ...One of the reasons for coming out to Northumberland is that I love the night sky. It fills me with possibility, with wonder, with awe just to gaze up into the sky and imagine what it’s like. Those stars captured as they were years ago: we see Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to Earth (apart from our own sun) as it was four years ago. For some of the stars visible to the naked eye, that light has been travelling for decades. Polaris, the North Star, is 400 years ago – while Hubble has seen into the Eagle Nebula, which we see as it was 7000 years ago. These incredible distances fill my being with a sense of wonder and awe – I can’t even begin to imagine what that is in real terms, only to gasp at the mindboggling enormity of it all. And as Douglas Adams put it:

Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.

So Northumberland is one of the UK’s dark skies locations – away from big towns and light sources, the sky is really dark. And of course, when I visit, it’s full of cloud.

As I wander back from the pub, I look up, and while clouds do lazily trace their way across the sky, it’s reasonably clear, and I am just filled with gratitude as to how beautiful it is. I lean back and just drink in the wonder and beauty of it all, the scale, the vastness, the utter gorgeousness of the stars set twinkling against the blackness of infinite space. Unbelievably beautiful. And then, just when my heart is breaking from the sheer beauty of it all, a meteor lazily traces its way across the sky, bigger, brighter, slower and more beautiful than any I have ever seen in my life. Today has been a good day, a day of deepening understanding and increasing wisdom.. and this is just what I need to drop me into glorious Wordlessness.

And I am happy. I will have to come back for clear skies and wonder, but for today, this will do.


(Pictures definitely not mine – chosen to illustrate the post)

%d bloggers like this: