Thursday, February 25, 2010

Older than I thought

Well I suppose that it’s high time that I posted a wee update upon the progress of the little lady. To be honest (quite a new concept here!) with the average temperatures in that sanctuary of independence and escapisium known to you all as ‘the garage’ barely reaching above the ‘warmth’ required to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, I have not perhaps been as enthusiastic as I damn well should have been. But, having said that, progress has indeed been forthcoming and with one very surprising fact about my rival to being outdoors coming to light.

Firstly, what work has been done? I here you ask (well one of you kind readers might be slightly interested) in earnest. Well visually not a lot is my reply, but do not be deceived into thinking that all has ground too a shuddering halt whilst awaiting a degree or two rise in ambient temperature. Oh no me hearty’s all is indeed not lost or in a state of motionless inactivity, indeed the sounds of beaver like activity have been heard echoing forth from that solemn place of manly refuge. The first plan of action was to make the working conditions a tad more tolerable without breaking my first rule which is (as you all probably have guessed via previous postings) :- do not under any circumstance expend any cash unless absolutely, life threatening, necessary, EVER. With this in mind I managed to purchase a boiler suit of unequaled thickness for the princely sum of 100 pennies from the local car boot sale down at Mold the other weekend (yes I know I’m just flitting my hard earned cash away). Clare says that it look like I’m wearing a bright blue romper suit but, coupled with a ridiculously large woolen hat, I think that I cut quite a dash! and damn it all it keeps me bloody well warm to boot. Anyway, enough of this fashion led tangent, back to the matter in hand.

Leading from the last posting about project dinghy the remnants of the paint on the hull are now but a distant memory, she once again sits the right way up and is all the more comfortable for it and I’ve now decided upon the course of action that I’ll embark upon regarding the necessary repairs needed. The main areas of damage are to the bottom pieces of the hull where it is now apparent that only a small percentage of the damage can be attributed to rot, the majority being down to carelessness and mis-handling in the little lady’s recent past. There are two minor holes to the hull one through the way water has being allowed to settle and turn the wood soft, the other where it is obvious that the poor girl has been dropped upon her trailer and then sealed with what amounts to a gallon of silicon sealer (now removed). The other damage which will require repairs are several long splits which unfortunately go right through the ply. These splits are, I believe, the result of some clumsy oaf stepping into the boat without the support of water underneath. There is also a split situated under the port side floatation tank, to gain adequate access to repair this I’ve had drill a hole large enough for my hand to pass through in the inner side wall. This will later become a ‘second’ inspection hatch for the tank, with a matching one installed on the starboard tank. After much head scratching I’ve decided that the best way to repair the remaining damage is to sheet the floor with 3mm marine ply, bonding it with epoxy and screwing it from beneath, the holes and splits can then be sorted via piecing or filling from the outside of the hull. There are plus’s and cons to this, the downside will be the increase of weight and perhaps a stiffening of the hull section. How this will affect the sailing of the boat only time will tell. The advantages will be that I’ll be able to produce a smooth, seamless finish to the outer hull and the inner cockpit will show no signs of piecing and will also retain a wood, not painted, finish. So while I’m awaiting the accumulation of enough shiny pennies to afford a brand new piece of marine ply I’m now getting on with the laborious job of removing the varnish.

Oh and the surprising fact? well you might ask. All Mirror dinghies that have been registered have a number somewhere upon their body. The number, once allocated, means that the boat has been measured and weighed by the proper authorities and that said boat conforms to the Mirror dingy class standard. But also from this number year that the dingy was made (or at least registered) can be deduced. For weeks now I’ve failed to find any trace of a number and had convinced myself that the little lady had been built in somebody’s back yard and never been registered. But when working on her I couldn’t shake the feeling that the build quality was exceptional and who ever had built her had been a true craftsman. Then just the other day whilst bent over the bow, stripping varnish, I glanced back at the transom and could have sworn that I spotted a digit in the deep varnish. I ambled to the rear and there, after a bit of squinting, low and behold the registration number leapt out at me 17469. later that evening I trawled the net and from here the age of the little lady was deduced, she was registered in 1969! Bloody hell, there is no way that I thought that she was this old. My earlier feelings about her being an exceptional build appear to be well founded for to have lasted this long speaks to me of quality, also the finish of the little things reinforces this notion. This has made me more determined than ever to make a decent job of bringing the wee lass back to her former glory.

So, armed with tea and biscuits, I shall attack this venture with new found fervor, well as soon as me romper suit warms up on the radiator that is…..

Monday, February 22, 2010

Desolation and idiots...

Firstly let me offer you my humblest apologies for my complete lack of input into my blog over the past few days and my excuse is, well I don’t really have a viable excuse apart from the fact that I’ve being doing the same old same old and I would like to have at least a little something of interest to write about for you all (hopefully more than one fellow blogger that is). So here goes another walking ramble (excuse the pun) for your (hopefully) enjoyment.

This morning was my first real opportunity on my in-between shift days to hit the trails with venom. Mine and the bog monsters previous walking this year has consisted of short circular walks over varying terrain building up both our fitness levels after last years disappointing last few months of inactivity. But this morning I’d decided to push the boundaries a little further and chose a route which would take us out a fair few miles further with more demanding slopes to contend with, this coupled with the recent fall of snow should push me too, and a little beyond the levels that I’d worked up. Mmm how profound that statement was to prove to be!

Firstly, knowing that I’d be pushing my present fitness level was to ensure that I was clothed and equipped competently enough to cope with what were probably going to be snow covered and devoid of human (hopefully) trails. With this in mind my full range of winter clothing was on display, consisting of several breathable layers, sun glasses, me best grippy three season boots, water, oat bars, collapsible dog bowl, camera, whistle, torch, knife (don’t tell the rozzers!), hat, gloves (inner and outer) and my new Jack Pyke jacket (yes I know maybe not a good time to try out new gear). Lucy? She brought herself and plenty of slobber! Loaded up and ready to go, messages of where and expected time back left, we piled into the fun cruiser and headed of to the familiar trails of Moel Famau.

The early part of the trail was hard packed ice and to say treacherous underfoot would have been the years thus far under statement. The weekends herd of would be winter Olympians looking for sledge runs had turned the lower trails into make shift cresta runs! The only way to negotiate these early sections was to walk in the shin deep snow to the side of the paths. Further up the trials they became more manageable with only a couple of tracks visible to tell of human activity. As I broke the tree line from the lower slopes my jaw really did drop at the vista which confronted me. I’d been aware from my earlier, short walks, that logging had been going on in the area from last November, after all the forest here is a managed pine forest, but the amount of felling that had taken place left me truly gob smacked with vast swaths of woodland cleared leaving a view which could only be described as baron. When I walked the same eight mile route last summer over 6/8 of the trail would have been through forest but now I would say that only 1/8 of the trail wound through tree lined paths. One thing that I did noticed as I picked my way through this now unfamiliar landscape was that the loggers had left any deciduous trees standing. This must have been on purpose as to drag some of the felled timber out would have been far easier with this few stands of trees removed, perhaps this is a move to allow more native species to gain a foothold in the area, and if so this would in the future allow wildlife a stronger foothold, time will tell. Speaking of wild life the only animals that made an appearance were the ever present Odin’s eyes, their raucous calls drifting on the bitingly cold easterly wind (wish some of them trees were still standing to shelter me red nose, looked like bleedin’ Rudolf!)

Onwards and upwards we pushed with Lucy continually baffled as to why every stretch of bog water had her sliding around like a mad curling stone, oh how I smirked inwardly knowing that the bog monster had been so simply thwarted, smirked that was until Lucy, frustrated by the lack of mud and slime to be had, turned from bog monster to abominable hell hound taking my already none to steady footing away from behind with a well time collision to the point just where my legs have them bendy bits called knees, curse that beast, when will the humiliations end? Oh and to add insult to my battered ego the only life form for miles chose to appear at this precise moment, consisting of a very bouncy lab and his ruddy faced (laughing ruddy faced) companion. Raising myself off my arse with as much dignity as the situation allowed I proceeded to thank Trevor and his own version of the hound from hell, Jake, for not pointing whilst he laughed.

Enquiring upon the condition of the trails ahead Trevor responded by telling me that they were just as treacherous ahead and that he’d passed some idiot in a shell suit, trainers and an incredible self belief in his own ability to tame the wilds of North Wales. Wishing each other a safe journey we parted and continued on our separate ways. The walk through this new found desolate landscape continued uneventfully for a few miles more until I felt that we were on the back stretch and heading more or less in the direction of the fun cruiser and a warm drive home.

And then it happened, my second, but slightly more annoying, encounter of the morning. We’d just about entered the now scarce tree line when, rounding a tight bend in the trail, we came across Mr. Shell suit. Trevor had not been mistaken, this fellow was totally out of place in this environment, but knowing that the car park was no more than a mile away and that the fellow, although pale, looked as if he’d make it, I decided to keep my own council and just let the situation go, before now I’ve tried to offer advice to such people only to be confronted with blank faces or sneering “what do you know?” remarks. As I drew up along side (see boots are better) the idiot turned to me and snapped “you should have that bloody dog on a lead”. Now then I’m not an aggressive person (Clare’s told me not to be) but the exasperation felt at this idiot’s first words really bit deep. “Been far?” I asked jovially, hoping to forestall the anger that I felt swelling inside. “Would have gone a lot further if it wasn’t for your dog’s crap all over the foot paths”. It’s at this section of this particular posting that I’ll refrain from using the good old Anglo Saxon words that gushed forth from my mouth at this point in our delightful conversation, enough to say that I advised him upon the need for adequate clothing for such conditions so as not to trouble our voluntary (“it’s what they get paid for isn’t it? Came forth from the idiot) mountain rescue heroes, the ability to realise when your out of your depth, the advantages of when your alone in the woods of not annoying the few people that you may come across (especially ones accompanied with bog monsters) and the fact that my dog’s crap happened to be in this lightly scented bag that I was carrying but that your now wearing. Yes I know, I’ve been reading that well known book of ‘how to make friends and influence folk’ and once again it held me in good stead when dealing with such a nice (if now slightly smelly) chap. Fortunately my friendly idiot seemed to grasp the points that I was making and allowed me to continue in peace back to the fun cruiser.

A short, warm, journey home, a cup of coffee (laced with just a tad of brandy), Lucy fed and watered and then into the garage to play with me little boat, that nice warm but knackered feeling sweeping over me so once again all is well in my world. Well it would be if I’d organized a heater for the garage, 2 degrees C, you’re having a laugh….

Oh and the new jacket? – Bloody wonderful I must say...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A calming little walk...

I promised myself that this year that I wouldn’t do it, no I most certainly would avoid it. Definitely this year it was not going to happen, absolutely not. Damn n blast it, I relax my well rehearsed guard for a fraction and it has happen all over again. It’s the first match, this weekend, of the six nations rugby tournament and once again my nerves are totally shot at and my expectations for by beloved Welsh team air higher than ever, when will I ever learn to have the slightest self control at this time of year and do my shredded nerves a favor? So this morning I decided to stretch my legs, leave the world and rugby behind me, and hit the trails so soothing my nerves. A simple plan, what on earth could be more relaxing than trails so familiar that my feet can read them for me if I were to wish to close my eyes as I strolled along, where there would be nothing more threatening than the gentle hum of the shy fauna as it shakes itself free from the grip of the last few cold weeks. With the winter sun on my upturned face and the bog monster gently loping at my side, what could be more soothing? Ah bliss. Funny how sometimes the mind can lull you with its picture of how the trail will be when in reality…..

It started innocently enough, ok the winter sun had failed to make an appearance but, although overcast, it was dry and chilly, not cold, as I loaded Lucy into the back of the fun cruiser. As we climbed into the hills there was a slight nagging feeling at the pit of my stomach that all was not going to be as planned. We neared our destination and I then knew for sure that all was not as planned. Mist! It’s not that the mist stops me on these particular trails, I know them well and as I said I could walk them with my eyes closed and let my feet read the way for me. No, here it’s not the fear of losing my way or walking blindly into danger there is another, far more sinister, reason why the mist gives me such foreboding and that reason is;- Lucy.

I should have turned back; after all I knew what was coming. I should have turned back and hit a meandering river walk well below the level of the mist. But oh no not me, she’ll be fine I thought, she’s older, a plodder, she’ll just lope along the trail splashing her way around from start to finish, will I never learn? I acted normal, made her wait with the tailgate open whilst I checked everything was in order and nothing forgotten, called her down with a quick word and then we were away through the kissing gate and onto the trail. The mist was not that thick, visibility was really quite good up to about twenty yards and Lucy hurtled off ahead in her usual lung bursting sprints just to warm her up. All was well with no sign that the devil dog was going to unhinge my mind this time. Foolish mortal that I am, how could I have been so blind, it’s the mist that does it to her you know, just low lying water particles, not even a full moon or rabies, no just the mist. I should have known that she was biding her time, just waiting until we were a couple of miles from the isolated safety cell of the fun cruiser. Just waiting for the mist to close in so that the trees became menacing shadows creeping ever closer to the edge of the trail, for the dampness to quell all noise and cover us with a blanket of silence and for trail to lose its straightness and to start twisting through the thicker, more over grown, woodland.

Still nothing I thought, it’s just not going to happen, for the first time she’s going to ignore the mist and let me enjoy the eerie, calm forest around us. Pah! stupid, stupid boy when will I ever learn. Just as all thoughts were leading away from my impending doom she bloody well goes and does it! It’s only a little thing but it tears at my deepest and most primitive fears. And the damn thing is that I’m positive that she does it just for the devilment. I suppose you’re all on the edge of your seats know, tense with expectation, just waiting for untold horrors to unfurl before your very eyes? Well here it is, Lucy, my faithful companion for years, stops on the trail, turning she walks slowly towards me, tail firmly betwixt her legs and then sits not five yards in front of me, leans to one side to look down the trail past and behind me sniffing the air and with a stare so intense that I have to spin around to catch the demon that must be stalking us from behind – nothing, not a sausage! I look back to Lucy and she starts and hurtles forward along the trail for twenty yards as if there’s a stampede coming from behind. Then not five minutes later she repeats the whole performance again and then again and again.

Now I consider myself a pretty unimaginative sort of guy, I know that the chance of coming across some wild animal with fangs and claws big enough to do me harm here in North Wales is about, oh lets see, ah yes nil. I’m not the sort of guy that people tend to want to do violence too, I’m big enough and ugly enough to look after myself and also give a fair account against all but the most determined would be highway men. Certainly I’m a little skeptical about things that go bump in the night. But every time we go out in the mist, or it catches us out on the trails Lucy does this with out fail and for some reason it scares the proverbial seven colors out of me. I can’t give you a logical reason, in all other matters I trust Lucy emphatically and maybe this is why it affects me so. For her to act as if something is stalking us in any other situation would mean that I’d turn a head back down the trail to glimpse or confront whatever it may be. But I know that there is nothing behind us here, but she makes the primitive in me scream out for flight or fight. And do you want to know something else? As soon as we leave the tree line or the mist lifts she’ll run past me and I swear to God that the glance she gives me as she hurtles by is one of laughter, of knowing that she’s bloody well done it again.

We got back safely to fun cruiser, me with a stiff neck from forever turning to glance behind me and Lucy?, that’s right covered in all the slime and detritus that she could muster. She’ll do it to me again, I know this for a fact but I tell you next time I’m not going to glance back – honest. Call me stupid, gullible even, but I tell ye now the mist brings out the devil in my little bog monster. Oh and my nerves? Absolutely shot……

Nerves on edge

Ah the weekend fast approaches with what can only be termed as the most important sporting occasion in the world, nah not the world for that matter, the whole bleedin’ universe; oh for indeed it is that time of year alright. The time for nerves to jangle, ale to be quaffed and ‘Hymns and Arias’ to be belted out at the top of every red blooded welsh man’s voice. The time when the gods cease their petty meddling, when for eighty whole minutes the world stops its revolutions (why else do we have a leap year? That’s right, to make up for injury time), when the wolf lies down with the lamb mesmerized by the drama unfolding before them. When for eighty whole minutes the whole world can go to hell because for those precious eighty minutes there is absolutely, unequivocally nothing more important, not even cider!

Dare we ask? I hear you murmur under your hushed and baited breath. Dare you indeed for on this Saturday on the 17th hour of the 6th day of the month of February in the year of our lord 2010 there will be an unearthly silence and then a roar, louder then that of any of the ancient armies of old, shall shatter the still air as Wales take on England  in their opening game of the most prestigious sporting tournament to ever take place, anywhere, yes my friends it is the time of the six nations rugby union competition, where grown men, myself included, shall be openly weeping with either tears of unbridled joy or tears of unbearable dismay. And this match, our first of the campaign, is by far the most important. Nay, not because it is the first match, nor that it may decide the whole tenor of the competition for us, no and thrice no, it is simply because it is against England. Be stout my gallant friends, hold fast and give no quarter for none shall be received, onwards to glory……

“And we were singing hymns and arias 'Land of my Fathers', 'Ar hyd y nos'”……

Monday, February 1, 2010

A kick up the arse....

Well here I am just killing a little time catching up on me fellow bloggers, whilst deciding upon what to do with last nights left over’s from a great piece of lamb before tonight’s dreaded twelve hour shift, when it dawned on me “bloody hell it’s February already”. Now I realise that this is not a great shock to you out there as most of you upon reading this will think ‘idiot, course its February’, but the point is its February ALREADY! I mean to say, hells teeth that’s a twelfth of the year gone already! And what on earth happened to January?

Now I’m not having one of my many (ask Clare) mid-life traumas but I really feel that time is passing me by at a phenomenal rate of knots and that so far this year I’ve not really made a 100% use of the time available, yes I’ve got excuses, work, weather, not yet up to full fitness blah, blah, blah, but that is exactly what they are, excuses. So from this day forth I’m determined not to let another minute go by with out it being used for something productive towards enriching mine and Clare’s outdoornessey (yes I know it’s not a proper word but it should be!). After all you just don’t know when your short, flash in the pan, life will end it’s merry journey do you? When Mr. Death and his rather useful scythe (reaping souls, hay and a host of other uses) comes a calling one day I want to be able to look back along the trial that I’ve followed and think to myself – well, that was a adventure, now on to the next one.

So if any of you out there get the feeling that I’m slacking please feel free to give me a timely reminder too get ‘out there! Oh and I think that’ll be lamb rissoles for supper….

Best regards,