Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Friday 4 January 2008

Tuesday 1 January 2008 - Welcome to 2008 - Y Garn and the Glyders

Happy New Year, Everyone
A bright start to the New Year saw us on very quiet roads leading to Llyn Ogwen in Snowdonia, reached easily in two hours.
The forecast, once again, was for the weather to clear from the south by early afternoon. So despite the cloud hanging low and grey over the mountains, we were encouraged by this forecast, and the lack of precipitation or significant wind. It was a warm 9°C. So our planned walk was on, despite our inability to find the Ogwen Weather Forecasting Stone. We lingered at the drinks kiosk with tea for a while. It was eerily quiet, with no sign of ‘The Blogfather’, who we thought we might encounter here.
Setting off up the gully towards Y Garn, we were soon on the green hillside with views back to Llyn Ogwen. Llyn Idwal appeared on our left below slabs above which grey clouds hung ominously. We warmed up nicely as the ridge became steeper. My fleece was soon discarded. Reaching the summit in the mist after an hour and ten minutes, we saw three people ahead disappearing into the mist.
It was cloudy, but fairly calm. We descended to Llyn y Cwr, where, still in cloud, we enjoyed elevenses with some delicious pecan and hazelnut fudge, and our last two home-made chocolate biscuits.
Another climb followed, to the summit of Glyder Fawr. Steep initially, it soon eased off, but the cloud thickened and visibility dropped. Cairns guided us onwards from that summit, but they stopped (ie we lost them) after a while and we started to descend. So we climbed back to the ridge over large, wet, slippery boulders, eventually pawing our way to the awkwardly slithery summit of Glyder Fach. This was very slow going, the DP being fearful of the inconvenience of a broken leg or ankle.
Back on easy ground we passed the Cantilever Stone and dropped to the end of the ridge beyond the Bristly Ridge junction. As we stumbled down, slightly off the ‘path’, a bouncy black Labrador tried to round us up. He soon shot off, followed by his master who appeared out of the mist.
On dropping north off the ridge, a view appeared below us. The cloud was finally rising, if later than forecast. The hills were clear once we reached the col below Tryfan, and we strolled back down to Ogwen on good paths with expansive views.
Having seen only about a dozen people up to this point, the path below Llyn Bochlwyd was well populated by families out for afternoon strolls and various folk converging on their return from various mountain routes.
By the time we got back to the car around 4pm, the light was fading. It had been an excellent start to the year, despite a bit of mist, with easier conditions than our previous two outings during this holiday period.
Here is a map and some stats. This is a highly recommended winter (or summer) walk, for those with suitable gear and navigation skills.
Llyn Ogwen - 314 metres – 10.20 (P&D Parking £3, free in lay-by 5 minutes up the main road to Capel, and elsewhere)
Y Garn – 947 metres – 11.30
Llyn y Cwr – 716 metres – 11.55 to 12.05
Glyder Fawr – 999 metres – 12.40
Lunch in a nice spot – 1.05 to 1.20
Glyder Fach – 994 metres – 1.50 (slow and slithery)
Path junction leaving the ridge – 763 metres – 2.15
Tryfan col – 720 metres – 2.40 to 2.45
Llyn Ogwen – 3.50
Totals: 11 km, 1041 metres ascent, 5½ hours

Monday 31 December 2007 - My Life of Riley – The End

Today is the Dishy Pharmacist’s last day at work, so until she can find a self employed source of income, my Life of Riley is at an end.
It’s just as well I sold the bus. I’ll need the proceeds.
Anyway, today I received a call to collect a few personal items from her place of work. She appeared in the distance with a trolley and a porter. I wondered whether some of the trolley load might actually belong to her employer. “Hello” said the ‘porter’, the Director of Pharmacy. The files were loaded into the boot of the car with a clear conscience.
Now she doesn’t have to go to work, the DP will be able to spend more time doing exciting things like crouching beside cars to shelter from the weather, as above (last Saturday). And one day soon she may discover that I have set her up as ‘Nallo Lady’, a blogger with access to this Postcard…
…exciting times ahead!?...
Note that (if anyone is interested) I have now caught up with the incomplete entries from earlier in December (22 December onwards).

Sunday 30 December 2007 - Trek Mates Paclite Mitts

I bought these rather expensive Gore-tex mitts from Bob and Rose some time ago. They have been lurking in my day sack, and yesterday’s hail was the first weather to trigger their retrieval from the depths of that bag.
Putting them on, one of the elastic wrist straps (bottom right in the picture) immediately came adrift. That was slightly annoying, but I was pleased to find that on my return home, with the aid of a pair of pliers, the tag could be re-fixed. The wrist straps are to be treated more gently in future, though.
That aside, these gloves were excellent. They tucked easily under the cuffs of my Paclite smock and my gloves underneath these mitts remained perfectly dry. It was the sort of weather when wet gloves mean cold hands, and I had to restrain my smugness when looking at the soggy gloves worn by the others.
I’ve had trouble over the years finding gloves that don’t leak. Unfortunately these mitts, despite being the large size (of which I see Bob and Rose have now sold out), won’t fit over my winter gloves and mitts, but they were fine over the medium weight gloves I wear in normal conditions. Based on this first brief test these gloves are a worthwhile acquisition. I would have reservations about using them without another pair of gloves underneath, unless the conditions are warm.
I tried to get more of these mitts in April 2008, but Bob and Rose at have been unable to re-stock them.

Saturday 29 December 2007 - Shrapnel on Arenig Fawr

Today Alastair joined us for a rare day out, for him that is. One of the features of bringing up children is the paucity of opportunities to escape to a good walk. For a few years, anyway, and Alastair is in that time zone. So the choice of venue was his. Was it to be his highest unclimbed hill in England (Cross Fell), or its counterpart in Wales (Arenig Fawr)? I think the weather forecast was the deciding factor. It was to be a clear dry day in Snowdonia, whereas rain would sweep over England’s northern fells. The forecast proved to be wrong (again), and it’s not the regular BBC forecasts we are going by, it’s the Mountain Weather Information Service website that is struggling to provide accurate information.
The drive down to Wales was fine, and our hills were clear. We planned to climb Arenig Fawr and Moel Llyfnant in a 16 km circuit from the north. After the 2 hour drive we parked up by a disused quarry at SH 830 392. My driver’s door wouldn’t open. A bit more effort and I managed to escape from the car. The door slammed behind me and I cowered on the other side of the vehicle with Alastair and The Dishy Pharmacist.
After kitting up and starting at 10.30, the first part of this walk, an easterly trot down a quiet lane, was all too easy. We had difficulty restraining ourselves from running. Once we had started up the good path towards Llyn Arenig Fawr the wind eased in the lee of the hill, and we ascended easily, just about able to chat above the roar of the breeze. Crossing the narrow dam where the stream exits the lake was a little nervy, as it would have been a painful drop onto spiky rocks had we been blown off, but we managed this without having to resort to crawling.
Then we had to cross the little stream that was in spate today. A helpful ladder facilitated that, aided by walking poles, always useful in such situations. I hadn’t brought mine today, so was stranded until Alastair generously tossed his across.
Climbing the east ridge of Arenig Fawr we were quite sheltered, so elevenses were taken in a fine location with wide views to Welsh hills enveloped by smouldering clouds.
We soon realised these dark monstrosities were moving our way when, contouring southwest below the ridge, we caught a taste of what was to come. My Paclites went straight on, and after a few minutes I was glad of that, as the big black cloud was actually a swarm of ice pellets that stung sharply even through several layers of fabric. The DP made some pained expressions then put on her own extra layers, but Alastair, a hardy soul, remained faithful to his Max Wall / Alan Sloman caricature in his decomposing tights. For the final slog to the summit in the face of the hail I was glad not to have brought poles as my hands were free to shield my face. I was also pleased to have the secure snug hoods of the Vapour Rise and Paclite smocks – so much better than the awful ill-fitting hood on my leaky old Craghoppers Aqua Dry jacket.
We met three backpackers stumbling around in the wind, which was too noisy on the ridge to enable us to chat to them.
After sheltering on the summit behind a windbreak, and consuming our first lunch, we headed off again into the wind, slithering along beside a fence. It was hard going, and not particularly pleasant. A conflab at a sheltered spot at the next col resulted in a decision to leave Moel Llyfnant to another day. We could see the hill, but it was exposed to the strong wind, and the ‘up and down’ route we had planned now seemed pointless to all of us.
It was a steep and slithery descent over rock and grass to the security of a track in the valley, at the end of which bright white sheep were happily munching on recent provisions and the wind was much less hostile. As we strolled down the track towards Amnodd-wen, the tops of the hills disappeared and steady rain engulfed us. Beyond here our path degenerated into a boggy furrow, and my Asolo Fugitive boots confirmed that they have now lost their waterproof qualities. Sealskinz socks kept my feet dry and warm however, and we were soon back on the lane which led to the car. The early finish – 2 pm – enabled a second lunch to be taken before setting off back to enjoy some time with Andrew (5) and Kate (3) and some of their Christmas games. Alastair’s puddle on the car seat dried out within a day or two.

Today’s walk, shorter than planned, was about 13 km with 650 metres of ascent, and took us 3½ hours.

Thursday 3 January 2008

Friday 28 December 2007 - The History Boys - Alan Bennett

I’m not a film buff. I can’t remember our last visit to the cinema. I don’t watch many films on TV. They generally send me to sleep.
But this was a day of rest after a number of hectic days over Christmas, and ‘The History Boys’ came up on TV. I like Alan Bennett’s work though sadly I don’t seek it out.
I found the film spellbinding, absolutely brilliant, occasionally reminiscent of some of the best days of my education, and for once I concur with the critical acclaim for this film:

"According to Time, the film is better than the original play, as the transformation to film improved the 'flow and intimacy' of the production, while preserving the messages it seeks to convey. Rolling Stone notes that some sense of familiarity with the subject of the film is lost in the cutting of nearly an hour from the original play, but the dialogue remains witty and pointed as is the customary style of the author. New York describes the film as 'brilliant and infectious', and filled with Alan Bennett's customary dead-pan humour. The author writes as though he simultaneously envies the extrovert characters he has created, yet is happy to stand apart from them. Hector's classes ramble, but manage to inspire the boys to the extent that they are pleased to adopt his approach to learning, and contentedly go along with his eccentric behaviour. The film is peppered with literary references and carries an encouragement to engage with life."

Here’s more on the film, and on the play on which the film was based. If you haven’t seen it you have a treat in store.

Thursday 27 December 2007 - A Walk in the Rain around Derwent Water

After yesterday’s excesses, we struggled out of bed and into the car to find the M6 devoid of traffic as we sped up to Keswick to meet David and Sue, Dave and Betty, Gaynor, and various members of David’s family at their rented cottage in Acorn Street. It was a good spot – spacious accommodation for 8 at a very reasonable price.
We had set off buoyed by the forecast of ‘weather’ clearing from the west during the morning. But as we passed Kendal it started to rain, and by the time we were ready to start walking – at 10.30 after a leisurely coffee and a discussion as to where to go, there was no sign of the forecast clearance.
So waterproofs were donned for a relatively low level circuit around Derwent Water. Six off us set off, fumbling our way past a cemetery and eventually locating the quiet lane to Spring’s Farm, where Gaynor announced that she was going shopping as she had been on most of today’s paths earlier in the week. It was some time before Sue and The Dishy Pharmacist noticed her absence. The two Davids and I tried to match their pace as we ascended Walla Crag. Beyond the summit - good views over Derwent Water to cloud laden Skiddaw - we paused for brown nectar from insulated silver tubes, and the obligatory caramel shortbread, before continuing in the steady rain that showed no sign of easing.
Ashness Bridge was reached via a most scenic contouring path. Photography skills were tested in the rain. Judge for yourself, but I don’t think I passed…
From there we shuffled up the lane and joined a pleasant path that led to the valley beyond Lodore, from where we squished over to a posh bridge and a newly renovated boardwalk around the southern end of the lake. These boards are made from recycled plastic bottles. They are black and surprisingly grippy in the wet, resembling creosoted wooden boards in appearance but presumably much more sturdy in the long run.
Whilst conditions high up would have been most unpleasant, the steady rain and strong breeze down here must have been relatively benign. We enjoyed lunch by the lake, entertaining ourselves by flinging soggy crisps (the packet was emptied by the wind just after being opened) at hungry Black-headed Gulls to test their skills – they weren’t on form in that respect but would probably ‘hoover up’ later.
Returning along the lovely woodland paths by the west bank of the lake was a delight shared with several other parties who clearly had similar (sensible) itineraries for the day.

Afternoon tea was enjoyed beside (or inside) the National Trust’s centenary
‘Entrust’ sculpture in Brandelhow Park, after which we passed a lady conducting a survey in the pouring rain, on our way back through Portinscale to Keswick, where the shops were thronged with people who had decided on retail therapy to get through this dull, wet, mid-winter’s day.
Our little team however had enjoyed a thoroughly satisfying walk, and we shrugged off the stabbing umbrellas without complaint as we ambled back to the cottage.

The 17 km walk, with 560 metres of ascent, had been about a 5 hour stroll.

Wednesday 26 December 2007 - Whisky Cake (aka Chocolate Mousse)

Boxing Day brings its usual Family Gathering.
This is perhaps the only time in a normal year (ie one without weddings or funerals) that we get to meet up in this way. Aside from the usual controversies – weighty matters such as disputes over the rules of Uno – there is no doubt about the quality of the food. Main dishes provided in situ by my brother David, and desserts transported to the venue by yours truly. This year those desserts comprised the Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding described on 30 November, and the ‘Whisky Cake’ described below. Needless to say, only the empty containers returned to Phreerunner Towers. The whisky cake was especially enjoyed by my niece, Ellie Banfield, an eminent scientist who sadly doesn’t currently ‘Google’. So this is an experiment at Ellie’s request, to see how fast Google picks up her name from this blog. She is pictured at the foot of this entry, with fiancé Jason, enjoying the party.

Whisky Cake

One box of sponge fingers
4 large eggs
150 gm caster sugar
150 gm plain chocolate – 70% plus cocoa solids
150 gm butter
3-4 tbsp whisky
Double cream to decorate

6 inch round tin with removable base

Cut about 1½ cm off enough sponge fingers to go round the inside of the tin, then rub their edges in butter and also lightly butter the inside of the tin.
Place the sponge fingers upright around the inside of the tin.
Cream the butter and sugar.
Separate the eggs.
Beat the yolks and fold into the butter and sugar mixture.
Chop up chocolate and melt it in a bowl (microwave with great care, or simply place over a pan of hot water), then add to the mixture.
Gradually add the whisky to the mixture, stirring to avoid curdling.
Beat the egg whites and fold in to the mixture.
Add the mixture to the tin after removing any excess butter from the inside of the fingers.
Refrigerate until set.

To Serve
Remove from the tin to a serving plate and scrape off any butter stuck to the outside of the fingers.
Whip the double cream and use as decoration and / or accompaniment.

This pudding can be made with or without whisky or other flavouring. It is best made at least 24 hours in advance to enable the flavour to permeate the sponge fingers. You can adjust the size of the cake tin, or the trimming of the fingers, or the quantity of filling, to suit requirements.

Try it. Time and again.