Friday, August 31, 2007

Mum and Dad's Wedding Day

Mum and Dad's Wedding Day
Originally uploaded by markhsal.
Sixty years ago, today! Still full of love and happiness.

Have a great day, see you both tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Llyn Bochlwyd
Originally uploaded by markhsal.
This lake, Llyn Bochlwyd, is three-quarters up a mountain in Snowdonia, and to reach it requires a reasonable amount of stamina and resolve. The path is steep, and at times, can become a bit of a scramble.

Generally, the only people who would see this lake, I assumed, were people who enjoy being out and about in the countryside, and would respect it. After a pretty strenuous climb, the chance to sit and rest awhile in such a peaceful and lonely spot was very welcome, before continuing onwards and upwards.

Sitting by the side of the lake, and soaking up the atmosphere was a truly wonderful experience, but all that was shattered when I looked down into the water and saw a beer can lying at the bottom.


It is the sort of thing I would expect to see in the more accessible areas of Snowdonia, but not here! I was so saddened by this, that even (almost) pristine wilderness can be polluted by such thoughtless action.

If you've carried it up a mountain, then bring it back down - don't drop litter!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I've Passed

I've Passed
Originally uploaded by markhsal.
Today, I took the third and final part - the practical test, - to become a fully licensed motorcycle rider, and I passed!

I am now able to ride any size of motorcycle and on any road, and I can remove the 'L' plates of my bike and carry passengers.

I still can't quite believe it. Last Saturday was my worst ever lesson when I just couldn't do anything right. I felt I was facing failure in the face. This morning, I was very nervous and tense, and did an hour's practice with my instructor, Kevin, before getting to the test centre and meeting my examiner, Peter.

Peter was just great! A perfect gentleman who, I felt, would be firm but fair. Once on the road, with him following behind, it became a lot more straight forward, and I was able to relax and I completed the test committing only 4 minor faults (you are allowed up to 14 before they fail you).

After the test, I returned to the riding school with Kevin to have a cuppa and a chance to calm my nerves. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Safety Last

I don't know whether I've become more observant as a consequence of riding a bike, or there has been a sudden upsurge of the problem, but I've recently noticed a lot of cars with defective brake or tail lights.

The other night, on my way home, I counted 7 (seven!) cars in front of me with at least 1 tail light out. I only started counting after seeing another two or three. And that was on a journey of less than 15 miles!

When I think of the stats on this one, the maths become mind-blowing. The vehicles I counted were those immediately in front of me; there were probably lots more going in the opposite direction and elsewhere on the road. I believe that there must be many cars on the road with a tail light out - with all the inherent danger that brings.

Doesn't anyone do their weekly vehicle checks anymore. Once a week, we are supposed to check our vehicle is in a road worthy condition. That all lights are working and properly adjusted, tyres are at the correct pressures, oil and water are topped up and windscreen wash is not empty. My understanding is that these features are there to protect the driver of the vehicle and other road users. At night, I want to know whether the vehicle in front is a car or a motorcycle, and a major clue to that is the number of tail lights. One tail light generally means bike rather than car.

If the owner is so casual about something so obvious, what else is wrong with the car?

If people are going out on the highway, then please, do so in a car that is fully road worthy. They may not value their life too highly, but I do value mine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Die Is Cast

Four years ago, the England rugby team - known affectionately as "Dad's Army" due to the relatively old average age of the squad, packed their bags and left this fair isle to ply their trade in the Rugby World Cup in Australia. With almost the final kick of the game, in the final against Australia, Johnny Wilkinson broke the deadlock and gave England victory.

That moment is still crystal clear to me today - England had won the World Cup.

The final squad for next month's World Cup in France has now been named and it contains 13 of that victorious squad (highlighted below) - including the 35 year-old Lawrence Dallaglio at No. 8.

Backs (14):
M Cueto (Sale - Age 27, 19 caps); J Lewsey (Wasps - 30, 48 caps), J Robinson (unattached - 33, 45 caps), P Sackey (Wasps - 27, 3 caps); D Hipkiss (Leicester - 25, 1 cap), J Noon (Newcastle - 28, 25 caps), M Tait (Newcastle - 21, 12 caps); M Catt (London Irish - 35, 70 caps), A Farrell (Saracens - 32, 4 caps ); O Barkley (Bath - 26, 17 caps), J Wilkinson (Newcastle - 28, 59 caps); A Gomarsall (Harlequins - 33, 26 caps ), S Perry (Bristol - 29, 11 caps), P Richards (London Irish - 29, 6 caps).

Forwards (16):
G Chuter (Leicester - 31, 12 caps), L Mears (Bath - 28, 16 caps), M Regan (Bristol - 35, 37 caps); P Freshwater (Perpignan - 34, 7 caps), A Sheridan (Sale Sharks - 28, 13 caps), M Stevens (Bath - 24, 13 caps), P Vickery (Wasps - 31, 54 caps); S Borthwick (Bath - 27, 28 caps), M Corry (Leicester - 33, 56 caps), B Kay (Leicester - 31, 46 caps), S Shaw (Wasps - 33, 36 caps); L Dallaglio (Wasps - 35, 79 caps), N Easter (Harlequins - 28, 5 caps), L Moody (Leicester - 29, 45 caps), T Rees (Wasps - 22, 5 caps), J Worsley (Wasps - 30, 59 caps).
Since that famous win back in 2003, England have not suffered the best of fortunes on the international front, and my confidence in an England win is based more on hope than conviction. However, when one takes a cool look at the squad, there is quality and experience everywhere. The forwards are really impressive, big, beefy men who give no quarter when the chips are down, and on their day, there is no pack in the world that could live with them. And if the pack is on song, then they will give time and space for the talented backs to conjure up their magic.

I suppose, my one concern is that the reactions from some of the older players may not be as sharp as they should be, and on the counter attack or in defence, may leave a few holes to be exploited by the opposition.

Ah well! This is the team that is going to cause me such joy and grief (probably at the same time!) and I wish them all the best. Whatever the result, I know they will have given their all, and if England pull this off, then I'll probably stay drunk for a month!

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Lesson In World Economics

As the World's financial markets start to recover from the 'jitter's' over the weekend, it is interesting to see just how entwined we, in the free world, have become, economically with the fortunes or otherwise of the US.

Some financial institutions in America offering 'sub-prime' mortgages, - those are loans and mortgages to high-risk lenders, were facing severe problems, which in turn, led to cobby-wobbles in the larger institutions which, if the crisis continued, would have led to the interest on my mortgage in the UK going up to pay for it.

Thanks America.

What, I think, was interesting, was that it was the non-US financial institutions, and in particular, the European Bank, that led the support and rescue operation, releasing funds to ensure the whole tottering edifice remains. Perhaps we are starting to see the end of the mighty dollar dominating my world - at least I truly hope so.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

We Were So Young

I recently received an email from my mate Dave who had unearthed a few shots of a holiday we had shared many years ago. This particular picture was taken in a folk club in Douglas on the Isle of Man back in 1970.

We had decided to take a week away, so with a loaned tent, we grabbed the next ferry out to Mona's Isle for a week of R & R. A couple of our friends were already over there working the summer and we had a great time. The club was an opportunity to earn our beer, so I made a real good effort on the guitar while Dave (clearly suffering from earache - but then we all did when he sang!) provided the vocals. We did seem to go down pretty well, and the beer flowed freely that night if I remember correctly!

The other picture was taken after we had walked up Snaefell - Isle of Man's tallest "mountain", - from Laxey on the coast. Fortunately, there is a cafe at the top which sold beer - so we felt pretty chuffed at the top.