Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Saturday, 4 June 2022

31 May to 4 June 2022 - A Postcard



I've already posted a picture of Great Grandma Dot on 31 May, but after we got back home the evening light on the canal near our house was lovely, and the Canada Geese didn't seem to object too much to me handling their fluffy chicks!


Friday was a holiday, so Isabella's mum and dad looked after her. We joined them for a while at the Jubilee Celebrations in Parsonage Gardens in Didsbury. Izzy went for a well controlled romp on the recycling bins, and seemed sad when we left.
 

Jacob stayed with us last night and enjoyed the parkrun at Wythenshawe with us today. He even joined Sue in doing some warming up exercises before the run. Then he embarked upon a 'Pokemon Day' in Manchester.


249 runners were set off by Jenn in exemplary fashion.


As part of 'Team Owen', I accompanied the lad, pictured below with another supporter, around the course at an easy pace (39 minutes), whilst Jacob got a PB and Sue ran her fastest time this year.


It was good to catch up with numerous folk afterwards, despite the cafe management being as miserable as ever, refusing to carry out simple requests like the provision of a cup of tap water for a thirsty youth. Full results are here.

Friday, 3 June 2022

Wednesday 1 June 2022 - An Evening Walk from Rose Hill with SWOG



A good turnout of 25 walkers followed Jack down the Middlewood Way before turning off through fields to Windlehurst. Click on an image to access a slideshow.



The meadow by Moult Wood was full of buttercups. and we had plenty of time to chat as it takes a while for 25 (mostly) old crocks to climb each stile.




Common Comfrey

Red Clover

We crossed and re-crossed the Macclesfield Canal.


From Marpleridge, good views across Mellor Moor and into the Peak District.


As the sun dipped, we descended to the Peak Forest Canal, then returned to the towpath of the Macclesfield Canal for a while.



Then we watched the sunset as we sauntered across a golf course, back to the Middlewood Way and thence to Rose Hill.




Here's the route, one of many in this area - about 8 km with 150 metres ascent.


Thanks to Jack for leading this pleasant evening stroll with SWOG.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

November 2004 - The Annapurna Circuit - Day 2

Tuesday 2nd of November
A day in and around Kathmandu

[Diarist: Sue]
The 7am alarm failed to wake either of us and at 7:40 we had to jump out of bed for breakfast at 7:45! It felt rather like the middle of the night that it was in England. Buffet breakfast at the Radisson, then Sanjeev introduced us to Shiva, our guide for the morning. 

Leaving at 8:30, in the morning sun, the minibus fought its way through rush hour traffic to travel the 10 miles east to Bhaktapur. The road climbed slightly to provide views of snow covered Himalayan peaks. The town is medieval and is known for ornately carved buildings, as well as for its temples. 

Strolling slowly through the bricked streets, we observed women drying rice in the sun by spreading it on tarpaulins, then raking a thin layer off the top to allow rice beneath to dry.


Drying rice - Bhaktapur

There were potters, making jars, and tiny dishes for butter lamps, and drying them in the sun. 

A lovely open square (Taumadhi Square) has a 5 tier, pagoda style temple with steps leading up, lined with stone figures of animals. The priest house had been converted into Nyatapola Café, and opposite was another temple, the Bhairab Nath, with its gold roof. Bhaktapur's Durbar Square (meaning 'King's Palaces') was wide and uncrowded.



Nyatapola priest house - converted to a cafe

Nyatapola temple, Bhaktapur

The few hawkers around were left behind as we entered the peace of the 55 windowed Palace, where a view of the sacred interior was obtained from an ornately carved doorway. Nearby was a pool, sunken and green, with a couple of bronze snake statues and surrounded by stone snakes. A statue of King Malla, whose 15th century fortifications dominate Bhaktapur, towered in the square. All around Bhaktapur were the petals of Hindu offerings, and the smell of incense. 



During the drive back, shopping was available, but none of us wanted to buy. It was a short stop. 

After returning to the hotel at around noon, I braved the cold outdoor pool on the 5th floor, the attraction being a swim above Kathmandu and beneath the blue sky. The Jacuzzi warmed me up. 

Had lunch in the hotel - buffet style, with some excellent puddings. 

At 2pm, Sanjeev started his briefing on our trek. This was done in the outdoor bar on the 5th floor, with a wide panorama of the hills around the city, over which flew the occasional bird of prey. He informed us about money, tents, a typical day etc, and gave us maps of the Annapurna area. All of us were pretty excited by the end.

A walk to the Thamel district next, with Sanjeev to show the way to Shona's, supplier of outdoor gear. Here, Mary had ordered a down jacket and paid around £30 for a garment similar to ones that had cost the rest of us around £150 at home. [Martin and Sue still have these wonderful jackets that were purchased for this trip - ed.] I bought a fleece for my nephew, Jacob, and the others made various purchases. 

The Thamel district is the shopping centre and was a hub for tourists. Good natured encouragement to buy goods came from the shopkeepers. Large signs hang from the shops, making the area colourful. Becaks are pedalled along the narrow streets, so you had to watch your back. 

Our route there and back involved risking limbs to cross the roads, busy with buses, motorcycles and vans, as well as cars and the odd cow. 

There were also fruit bats hanging high in the trees at the road edge - they were very large. 

In the hour back at the hotel between 5:30 and 6:30pm, our new black and red kit bags [still in use - ed] were packed. These will be carried by porters, with us carrying day sacks. 

After dark, with slightly quieter roads, we returned to the Thamel district and had a meal at the Third Eye. Our table in the back was in a dimly lit room and we sat on cushions - easier for some than others. Nice meals of currys and naan breads, and Everest beer. Afterwards the streets were still busy and the neon lights were quite a sight. 

An early night was called for as we must wake up at 6am from tomorrow onwards. Our TV brings the latest about the US election between Bush and Kerry - long queues at polling booths.

Next Day
Previous Day

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

13 September 1960 - Dear Mum


I'm pictured above, aged 11, at a similar stage in my education and running 'career' as my grandson Jacob, to whom this blog posting is dedicated. The picture of me in my boarding school uniform may have been taken outside Granny Banfield's bungalow in Albrighton. Competitive? Me? Really?

Aston Hall
Newport
Shropshire
13/9/60 

Dear Mum

                 My legs are still aching after a cross country run after school tonight. Six of us set off on the 1½ mile run (it was not a race). After a quarter of a mile Nicky and another boy started to walk. Then four of us kept in a tight bunch - they were a little boy called Shakeshaft, Jones, Shaw and myself. We kept together for most of the way, then with about a quarter of a mile to go Shaw started walking then Jones did the same and Shakeshaft and I just went side by side into the drive. My legs were nearly giving way but I managed to get round the back first, nearly half a minute before Shakeshaft. I completed the course in fourteen minutes dead. 

14/9/60

I have just come back from another cross country. Tonight five people started, three second form and two first form. A second form came first and I came third in 14½ minutes, beating two second formers. 

15/9/60

I have just come back from a cross country with my legs aching at the start. I started on my own and caught up with a second former who started three minutes ahead of me. Everyone was most surprised because I did it in 13 minutes - the best junior time this season. I still have to gain another minute to get into the junior cross country team.
I have heard at school that I need a bible for Religious Instruction and I also need a twelve inch ruler for geography. I like these cross country runs very much.
 

Here is my timetable:

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

1

Woodwork

Science

History

Art

Geography

2

"

PT

Maths

"

"

3

French

Latin

Latin

Maths

Maths

4

History

Maths

Science

PT

English

5

Maths

RI

"

Geography

French

6

"

History

French

English

Science

7

Games

French

Music

French

English

8

"

English

English

Latin

Music

 

Preparation

1

Maths

English

Maths

English

Maths

2

History

French

Science

French

Geography

3

 

Latin

 

 

Latin

Each day is divided into eight forty minute lessons. Assembly starts the day at ten to nine and we start lessons at nine-o-clock. After three lessons we have a break until a quarter past eleven, then we have two more lessons until dinner time at twenty five to one. The dinners are especially nice on Fridays when we have fish fingers, chips and peas for dinner. After dinner we have three more lessons until a quarter to four. To get to school you can go across the fields or along the road. 

16/9/60

Tonight I have just come back from yet another cross country and my legs are not even aching. I went off with Jones and kept slowly gaining on him all the time. I did not go as fast as I could but I did another time of thirteen minutes. Actually you only have to go on a cross country twice a week. 

17/9/60

Today I will finish the letter and post it this afternoon. First form have just finished a rugger practice, we practiced passing and tackling. Someone at school has pinched my ink so I will have to buy some more with my pocket money. Now to answer your question. We can go to the pictures every Saturday night but I have joined the film society at school. We see a film every fortnight. Tonight the film is the 'Dam Busters'. I will probably go to the pictures every other week.

Thank you very much for sending my garters, purse and watch. I have found that the geometry things are better than most people's. We are not allowed to ride our bikes yet but there will be a proviecencey (wrong) test for us to take.

Give my love to the boys. 

Love

Martin 

PS I need a belt for my jeans please.
PPS I have found that I do not need my cake. I hope that it will keep.

Notes:
1. This was perhaps my first letter home after starting secondary school at Adams Grammar School, Newport. I went as a boarder as no day school was easily accessible from where we lived in Ryton, near Albrighton. First and second years were accommodated in Aston Hall, a short walk from the school in Newport town centre. I think there's a housing estate there now.
2. 1½ miles is 2.4km - across muddy fields with stiles if my memory serves me.
3. I remember Shakeshaft, but not the others.
4. PT = gymnastics etc.
5. The reference to cake reminds me of the tuck box that is in our loft - every half term it was filled with goodies to supplement the boarding school meals. The contents soon ran out, my appetite must have become greater - I recall being hungry at times.
6. I've found another letter, extracts from which are included below:

Roddam House
High Street
Newport
Shropshire
(September 1962?) 

Dear Mum and Dad

(Extracts from a letter)
                              I think that the CC I did last Saturday was the best I have ever done because 16 min 40 secs is a very good time. I hope I do as well in the Inter House CC at the end of term. At the beginning the back of my pump was trodden (at the first stile) so I had to take my pump off and tie it on again so that put me in last place and lost me 15-20 secs. The person in the lead went at a rare pace and going past Aston Hall he was 100 yds in the lead from Shakeshaft whom I was about 5 yds behind, but I decided to go as fast as I could up the remaining ¼ mile of the hill and managed to shoot past Shakeshaft and gain about 10 yds on him. But when I had turned off onto a very steep cart track at the top of the hill and was at the top of it, Shakeshaft had got to 5 yds behind me. We went on at a good pace for the next mile, but still making no impression on the leader, and although I went as fast as I could across a ploughed field I could still not shake Shakeshaft off. But this must have been too much for him because at the next stile he stopped and had a rest. Because he did this I decided to try to catch up the leader who was now about 70 yds ahead and if I did get stitch or something badly I could probably beat Shakeshaft anyway, so it wouldn't make much difference.

However I really made the most successful burst I have ever made on a CC and caught up with the leader who was amazed and stopped for a few seconds. With 1/3 of a mile to go we were together but I just managed to shake him off and win by 20 secs. 

Notes:
1. This must have been a longer cross country course.
2. We ran in the 'pumps' that we used in the gym - not new ones because of the mud, so we had two pairs of pumps, one for the gym and one for cross country running.
3. This was my last term at Newport, before moving to Eston (Middlesbrough).
4. Around this time I hurt my wrist and had blisters, and was being picked up by my dad at the time of the Inter House CC, so didn't take part.
5. There are many more stories from this phase of my life. I wonder, for example, how many readers were taught by cane wielding men suffering from shell shock?

Tuesday 31 May 2022 - Heading for Lunch in Eccleshall

Dodging the 'April showers'!

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

November 2004 - The Annapurna Circuit - Introduction and Day 1

The Annapurna Circuit
November 2004

The Annapurna Circuit is one of the world's classic walks. It offers stunning views of some of the highest mountains in the world, and insights into the lives of the Nepali people. Our thanks go to Sanjeev Chhetri (Awesome Travel - no longer trading as such as the domain is up for sale) who made our experience unforgettable.

The 125-mile route passes through a variety of Himalayan environments, beginning in the lush Marsyangdi Valley, home of Hindu farming families, then entering the dry, arid region of Manang inhabited by Buddhist Manangis with their Tibetan origins. Higher, there are spectacular views of mountains such as Annapurna II (7937m), Gangapurna (7485m) and Tilicho Peak (7134m). The crux of the trek is crossing the Thorong La at 5414m where you enter a barren snowy world. There is a long descent to the world's deepest gorge, the 'Kali Gandaki', which splits the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna massifs towering 6000m above. 

Here's the route: 

It is possible to do the trek self-supported, staying in the numerous tea-houses along the route, but we chose to do a 'full service' trek. Our guide, sherpas, kitchen staff and porters looked after all our needs, even down to supplying hot water bottles for the cold nights under canvas at higher altitudes!

I'll report on this trip, some 17 years later, by way of daily entries from the diary we kept at the time. Since then there have been significant changes in the area, and I suspect the current version of the circuit is rather different to ours. I hope these postings provide good memories for those on the trip, and maybe some amusement to casual readers. 

I'm looking forward to transcribing the diary entries. Here goes:

First view of the Himalayas

[Diarist: Martin] The trip started on Sunday 31st October 2004 on an autumny claggy day in Manchester. My daughter Kate accepted lunch in return for a ride to the airport. 

The journey to Kathmandu was as uneventful as they get: 16:50 from T3 Manchester to T1 Heathrow on BMI - bags checked through to Kathmandu (KTM). Three hour wait at Heathrow, passed quickly. 

Andrew had joined Sue and me in Manchester. Mark, Lindy and Mary joined at Heathrow. 9:15pm to Doha - 7am, after pushing clocks forward 3 hours. Benign weather. Sue went to sleep. I watched 'Terminal' with Tom Hanks, about a man who lives at Gate 67 at a New York airport (bizarre plot), then 'Around the World in Eighty Days', with Steve Coogan as Phileus Fogg - Bizarre. 

Andrew is in Business Class. Then, after jealously watching him lazing in luxury from our sitting positions on a hard airport floor, we embarked on the 4 ½ hour flight from Doha to KTM. Sue sleeps again, I try to. 

Fantastic mountain views as we pass the main Himalayan peaks. 9am to 4:10pm, after clocks push on a further 2 ¾ hours. Andrew has his business class, the other three stretch out on empty seats, and Sue and I soldier on in our cramped (but window) seats. 

Visa documents are approved and we enter Nepal at Kathmandu. Bags all arrive and out we go to be greeted by the Awesome Travel sign. It's a lovely day, with views towards high peaks. We are thrown by the porters' desire to help and their subsequent need for a tip. Between us we throw £25 at them for a 2 minute job we could have done ourselves. Inexperience! Having wasted a fiver, I find some dollar bills to cope with further similar incidents. (There were none.) 

The Awesome Travel bus takes us to Hotel Radisson where Sanjeev meets us. After more form filling he goes off with our return air tickets and passports, to copy them. We return to our ubiquitously styled hotel rooms and ready ourselves for an evening out by 7pm. Plenty of space in the rooms. Huge bed. Lindy visits the gym. Sue and I pass the pool on the way to reception. We mustn't drink the water. Bottled water is provided. 

Then off in the bus to Sanjeev's house.

At Sanjeev's house, with Sanjeev and Sherishe

Sanjeev is our Sirdar - Andrew knows him well, and it is great that he is leading our trek. He tells us that three out of four Awesome Travel treks this year have been cancelled due to Maoist concerns. (Unfounded.) Ours is the only one running! He has given us some huge 'duffle' bags - much bigger than our pink Himalayan Kingdom bags. The meal is excellent, cooked by our trek chef, and not excessive. 

The evening passes quickly, with Andrew, Mary and me chatting with Sanjeev, the others with his wife Sherishe. His son, Sidart (3) has gone to bed at 8pm. Gin, beer, wine, port - and it's a good job we brought lots of wine - Sanjeev has a bit to learn regarding drinks, eg gin and tonic is an aperitif, not a drink to be topped up like wine, and port is for after the meal, not a wine substitute. Or do they really do it differently here? 

Anyway, by 10:30pm we are all tired, though it's only 5:30pm in England, so we adjourn to the Radisson in the bus allocated to us, enabling everyone to get to bed and recover from their tiring day.

Next Day