Well, Friday was the annual beer festival at the Arc. Always a fantastic day out, missed it last year due to a year of abstinence, but rejoined this year and there was a gang of us. As per usual it was like Russian Roulette with the drinks - some you win, some you lose. I managed to get off relatively lightly with only one duffer during the day, that being the Stockton Blond funny enough.
We headed off later to the local Wetherspoons where, by an untypically heroic Stockton gesture, we were tipped off as to a phone theft, it was swiftly dealt with and justice was restored. Thanks to those involved, it made me smile and think not all of Stockton is lost.
We ended up back at the Arc, where the beer fesitval had begun. It was only for a late night pint but managed to talk to Andrew Ryan, MC for the Charity Chuckle, who was opening act for the Arc's comedy night. He was looking forward to the night, as am I, very much!
Saturday was always going to be a lazy day for me. I spent all of the day in the house having put my bets on before the beer festival, leaving me free to do a bit of housework, and more importantly, watch Soccer Saturday! It was a mixture of pottering around the house and watching the scores trickle in. I thought I was still under the influence of the 'Stockton Blond' but it turned out Hartlepool really did win 2-1 away from home. That makes it 6 games unbeaten and a real chance of escaping the relegation zone. Tuesday night we play Crewe in a match which will hopefully decide the manager of the month in Yogi's favour.
Thanks to the Diocese of Middlesbrough for publishing an article about my Coast to Coast this week, there will be a link available shortly to the media section where you can read it.
In the meantime, I have enjoyed my weekend off (from pretty much everything!) but will look forward to getting back on it next week.
So Saturday was to be one of them long walk days - a 10+ mile walk to the Hartlepool match. Alas, it wasn't to be. It was me and Dad today, and we had planned to walk to Middlesbrough, then over the transporter bridge and on into Hartlepool. The transporter opened at 9:30am and I rang to check if it was operational, which it was, so we were almost set. I checked the route and it turned out it was a longer route than my previous Hartlepool walk (13.3miles), this was nearer 14 miles! By the time we were all ready it was 10am, and by my reckoning, 14 miles would take about 5 hours, that meant we would arrive at about 3pm - kick off time. Not wanting to take this risk we decided to get the train to Seaton Carew and walk from there. It turned out to be a lovely day weather wise. The sun was shining, the beach was nice, we even seen the Seaton Carew palm trees! It could almost have been romantic, only I was with Dad and not Nat, and yes, we fought off the urge to skip hand in hand along the front.
It was only about 3 or 4 miles to walk, then after mooching around town, and watching the early kick off, we headed to the ground. Buoyed by our 4 match unbeaten run, the bubble was soon popped as a sixth minute penalty was converted for them. It was, amazingly, the tenth home penalty conceded. It looked inevitable that we would be beaten until we broke through on the 88th minute to equalise. More excitement was to come as Luke James hit a 95th minute winner to send The Vic crazy. It took us off the foot of the table for the first time since October! Who knows, we may even stay up at this rate, hence the great escape.
Sunday was a day of relative rest. Chris had come back home, and must have been feeling flush with Angolan Kwanza's - he even got the teas in at the parish hall after church! Seriously though, we did have a run out to (possibly) the greatest shop ever, Go Outdoors, and Chris further helped me in the walk with a good kitting out, thanks very much! I spent the rest of the evening trying to fix up a bookcase from Argos - it took slightly longer than I had estimated. In the words of the legendary Brain Anderson "When will they ever learn?"
It has been a good week walk wise, I have had my first real run through of one the days and realised it is going to be tough, and that was one of the 'relaxing' days of the walk. I also had an article printed by North Tees Hospital after going for an interview there. Thanks to both Mark for arranging and Claire at North Tees. The article can be read by clicking here. Hopefully there will be a bit more good news later in the week too.
The weekend started early for me - I finished work on Friday at 2 o'clock and headed off to North Tees Hospital with Mark for an interview (of sorts) to get an item about the Coast to Coast published in their magazine. It went very well, so that will hopefully garnish a bit more interest.
I was intending to do 2 legs of the walk at the weekend to give me a feel of getting up on day 2 and doing the same again, or as some would say, a glutton for punishment! As it was, this never transpired but I went out on Saturday with Dad and did a trusted route - over to Stockton, then on to Portrack, nip into Go Outdoors, over the Newport Bridge and on into Middlesbrough. We called into Walkabout for a bit of the Spurs v Newcastle match, and Nat was on her way home and the offer of a lift home was there so we took it. In all though, we had clocked up 6 miles, not bad.
Saturday night was poker night, it was on tour this time though and round at Amy & Pip's house. I was glad to be going, as Nat was cooking for 9 of the girls. The night itself was a good one, though oddly I didn't win a single game, very untypical! Congratulations to Sharpey on winning 4, but more importantly to Pip for the spread, with Amy shirking her duties.
The morning after the night before. I had arranged for cover to play the organ at church so it meant I could be up and about early on Sunday. Although I was planning one of the latter stage walks of 17 miles, it was a late switch and we opted for the Reeth to Richmond leg, which was about 11 miles
3 of us were walking today, me, Dad and Les, so we had two cars - Les parked at Richmond and Dad drove us on to Reeth. We were talking about Back to the Future, and I think we had actually found it at Reeth, a nice little villagey type place with the pub sign upside down (see top photo), and a Willy Wonka-esque character running the local newsagents. Very nice! We set off on the walk armed with my trusty Coast to Coast guide, and it was invaluable en route. We had only walked about 50 metres when Dad was nearly wiped out by a cyclist, "watch where you're going" shouted the disgruntled cyclist as he sped into the distance. To be fair, we were walking in the middle of the road, bloody walkers! This was followed by disrupting a jogger to ask directions (come one, we were just getting started - everywhere else I have walked I have knew where to go!), he didn't mind though he was very pleasant. So we were off, heading to Grinton, and we encountered our first wicket gate of the day. It was snug getting through and I ended up falling onto a pole. Within 5 minutes of the walk, Dad had nearly been mown down by a cyclist and I had bruised buttocks, surely things could only get better.
Don't worry, they did. We meandered along following the River Swale to Marrick Priory, an old ruin, and despite missing a turning, we made it up to Ellers Cottage. The weather was lousy, we encountered rain, snow, sleet and a whole lot of mist. We seemed to walk through endless fields, and at times felt like quicksand, thank God for my boots, had they been anything less they would still be stuck in a field now! We strode onto Marske, and this is where we made our second mistake - taking a right instead of a left. We should have known really instead of presuming the book was wrong.... We did, however, pick up on the road again and followed the road into Richmond, all 5 miles of it (felt like 10 though). It was a slog and we clocked in a total of 13 miles (2 miles more than we should have), but I'm so glad we walked it, at least we can iron out mistakes before the day. I hope to have more of these dry runs before May 21st so if anyone fancies it, you're more than welcome! Thanks to Dad and Les, it always helps to have banter on the way.
OK so it's nearly two weeks since I blogged. I have been kept busy with a particularly long poetry speech for a bride's wedding. Aside from that though I had a holiday! I know, unbelievable! It was a very last minute decision and 3 days before the trip we booked a 5 day break in the Cotswolds.
It was a National Holiday coach trip from Stockton on the Monday morning, so we geared ourselves up for it and set off. It must have been the coldest wind ever that morning and to compound our misery, the coach was 20 minutes late. Still, it was our holiday - we can't be put off that easily!
The coach wasn't fully booked but we had picked the back seats (the romantic in me of course) and there was nobody around us, apart from Mad Brian, but he was ok really. It meant we could have a window seat each and dump our coats/bags etc on the surrounding chairs. As you would expect, the coach was full of characters and could easily have been created by the writers of Little Britain. After a few hours and a couple of stops (Wetherby & Warwick), we ended up at our hotel. It was set in its own grounds in a place called Keresley, about 4 miles from Coventry. We were introduced to Terry our coach driver, he promptly told us, no less than 20 times, that Thursday was to be his day off (ok Terry - we hear you!). We had a bit of time to chill out and unpack before venturing into the restaurant for the first time. There was nothing I liked on the menu, so I settled for a bar meal next door, but after hearing all of the complaints about the food served in the restaurant, it made me quite glad of my choice. Sat on a table of six, we did meet our first 'coach companions' - Catfish was a woman in her 40s who was travelling alone and seemed to be in the perfect seat to whisper into the drivers ear, she had arranged to meet somebody in Wolverhampton on Wednesday night, oo-er. Also on our table were 'Daisy & Onslow', and anybody who used to watch Keeping Up Appearances will know exactly how we felt. It was only a matter of minutes before we discovered all about their relationship, ex relationships and every other detail of their history. They were spoiling my holiday already. It was then that Onslow piled his plate high with meatballs while declaring, in a Frank's Factory Flooring style, "I love meatballs me".
Things went from bad to worse as we were herded into the '99p bar' and we heard a voice - "there's seats here", to which we looked up, and it was them....AGAIN! I couldn't sit with them, and decided to go back 'for a walk'. We ended up back in the bar later, but at this point them free seats were taken (unfortunately), and we ended up sitting with Jim and Carol for the night, and a good night was had.
Tuesday took us to Moreton in Marsh (a true Cotswold village), and market day, and as Terry pointed out - the biggest market, erm, in the area! What a load of bloody rubbish - the highlight of the journey being a call into Spar for some drinks for the hotel room. This was followed by a trip to Broadway, again, it wasn't quite as exciting as it sounded. The final stop was in Coventry. In the short time we had there (2 hours) we managed to whizz right round the city, visit the bombed Cathedral and see the new one, and have time for a great Wetherspoon's meal, despite the barmaid laughing at my accent, well I could understand what I was saying!
Tuesday night was tribute act night - we sat with Rachael and her mam Barbara (Nat had got talking to them in the pool earlier - Rachael being the only other person on the coach under 50), and also Ethel & Fred (think Mrs Brown's Boys). All four were lovely people and we were to sit with them for the rest of the week. As we entered the bar the 'artist' is setting up his gear. Standing at 6'3"ish with a shiny bald head, he put me in mind of Richard O'Brien from the Crystal Maze, but tonight Matthew, he was going to be......NEIL DIAMOND! Oh Sweet Caroline! He must have had healing abilities as only yesterday people were struggling to actually get on the bus but they were now shaking their ass to Cracklin' Rosie, no doubt fuelled by the 99p wine. We also won the quiz - a box of fudge and bottle of wine, between 6 of us....
We were looking forward to the Wednesday, it was a visit to Stratford. OK, William Shakespeare was a big wheel here, but he was literally everywhere! Shakespeare's Solicitors, Shakespeare's Newsagents, Shakespeare's Estate Agents - you name it he was involved somehow. Still, I suppose it's like Middlesbrough and Paul Daniels....or not.
We dashed around the city trying to get everything in, a highlight being a visit to the church where old Billy S was buried. There he was on the altar with another 4 or 5 of his family. There was also a bust of him which had been given to the church by his wife, Anne Hathaway, shortly after his death, and the original font he was baptised in.
We were to stumble upon a bizarre shop/attraction in the form of the Creepy Cauldron at Magic Alley. It was a shop selling Harry Potter's potions and magic wands, and other magical items. Nat loved it! As we were leaving, the owner asked if we wanted to visit the exhibition upstairs, and after deliberation we decided to. It was clearly a little hobby of the owners, but they had done it very well, about 5 rooms made into various scenes, from the forbidden items room to the room where nightmares were created. Very good lads.
That night we were 'entertained' by a boy/girl duo, though it was more like a has been rocker living off his former glories and his Thai bride. After about 15 minutes we decided it wasn't for us and had an early night.
Thursday took us to more Cotswold villages, and unfortunately, bored us again, maybe it didn't help that several shops were still shut for the winter. We first visited Bourton, and got to write and send our postcards out, then visited Stow where, despite being rushed, we managed to get something to eat in a swanky hotel. We were pretty much an inconvenience to the coach driver today (replacement for Terry, remember, he was off today) and were dumped back at the hotel at 3pm - great, evening meal not until 6:30. As it was, Nat had booked into the spa for some treatments (manicures and the like), so I had a venture out into the wild to find a nearby pub. I wish I had never bothered, after a few miles I found one, but when I went in there was an old couple playing dominoes in the corner, and that was it. I drunk up and returned to the hotel. I sat around and found more 'friends' I didn't know I had.
Thursday night and there was the threat of a karaoke in the hotel bar, as it was it never materialised so we only had the quiz and bingo, of which we won neither. For the first time all week the drinks from the 99p bar tasted nice, probably something to do with the big wedding they were hosting on Friday.
Friday came, and so did the hangover. Oh well, at least I can sleep on the bus on the way home, or so I thought. Mad Brian had other plans. He had ignored me pretty much all of the holiday, and now, on the way home, while I was ropey as hell, he decided to talk to me. Not only did he talk to me, he talked and talked and talked and talked to me. I was glad when we stopped at Liechfield!
There was enough time for us to have a walk around Liechfield and visit the Cathedral with three spires. It was a nice enough place, with friendly folk aplenty, especially the mad woman selling wool in the market, we thought she was gonna come home with us! It was at this point we had found out that Onslow had stocked up on sausages at the breakfast buffet and slipped 5 into his pocket 'for the bus journey home'. Fantastic. No sooner had we returned to the coach than Mad Brain started again, telling me all about his military history and going into particular detail of how he was three seats away from being killed. I wished he was three seats away from me. The final stop was at the services at Wetherby. I couldn't believe my eyes - I ordered a plate of chips and they came in the smallest bowl in the world, but that wasn't the amazing thing, no, the girl behind the counter actually weighed the chips as she poured them into the bowl, making sure that nobody would get more than they paid for.
And that was it. It was the first time we had spent 5 days away since our honeymoon in 2008 and we had a great time. We would go on a National Holidays jolly again, it worked out cheaper than actually trying to arrange something ourselves. It has took some doing getting this blog on, but now all the excitement is over, I should be able to get things back up on a regular basis. Apologies to all of my Angolan visitors (well, Chris) who haven't had their regular blog! Normal business will be resumed.