St Ninian

On the coast, a couple of miles south of the village of Whithorn there lies St Ninian’s cave. The cave was used in the film The Wicker Man, the original one, I don’t know if the remake used the same cave.

Driving through Whithorn we spotted an old church which had been converted into a petrol station. It looked bizarre to say the least.

We parked up and enjoyed a one mile walk through a Glen and onto the beach. St Ninian’s cave is a lot smaller than it used to be due to a number of rock falls. There was a barrier warning of danger. Nelly ignored it.

My lovely wife picked up a few pebbles from the beach as inspiration for her pottery.

Back at the car we drove to the Isle of Whithorn to visit St Ninian’s Chapel, which was also cordoned off being unsafe. Pleasant little village.

Another good day travelling around the Machars.


A much needed holiday. My lovely wife, Helen, and our silly pooch, Nelly, are staying in a lovely little cottage in Wigtown. Scotland’s book Town.

Less than three hours from Lancaster, we passed the Devil’s Poridge Exhibition on the way. The aforementioned exhibition is all about the largest munitions factory in the world, which made cordite during World War I. Huge vats of lumpy grey cordite were mixed by thousands of women, and was given the name, the Devil’s Poridge by Arthur Conan Doyle.

When we arrived in Wigtown we realised that the spring festival was on. We booked tickets for a talk about the Scottish persecution of witches, and the ongoing battle to have them pardoned. Really interesting.

We went for a walk with Nelly and the stone where a “witch” was tied to and allowed to drown as the tide came in.

We walked through the graveyard and the ruins of an 8th century church. It felt like the start of a horror film, grey skies, ruined church in an old churchyard with crows squawking noisily.

There was a tent in the main square for a charity blind date with a difference. Books wrapped in paper with a cryptic description. Make a donation and take home a random book. I unwrapped my “date” to find The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Jean Pendziwol.

We perused The Bookshop, Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop, owned and run by Shaun Bythell, who has written a number of humorous books about his life running a second hand bookshop.

This morning it is raining heavily. A short walk with Nelly, bookshops, cake and coffee sounds like a good relaxing day to me.

London Town

As I mentioned in my parkrun post yesterday, me and my lovely wife went to London for a weekend to celebrate her birthday. Getting there wasn’t as easy as it could have been as Preston train station was closed for the whole weekend. Alternative plan involved driving to Warrington and leaving the car there, which was preferable to catching a train to Manchester with a bus back to Lancaster.

Car, train and tube all successfully negotiated we arrived at our boutique hotel opposite the Science Museum in the early afternoon. With the museum so close, we immediately went there for a look around.

Absolutely amazing to think that this huge museum is completely free to the public, and even though it was a Friday afternoon, the place was very busy. We had a quick look around and a longer look at the volcano and earthquake exhibition, complete with Japanese shop during an earthquake. The only drawback of the museum is because it is so large, you really need a few days to see everything.

We found a very good and reasonably priced Italian restaurant for an early evening meal before walking to The Royal Albert Hall. I had bought tickets to see the Cirque Du Soleil. We were so excited I didn’t even grumble about paying £20 for a pint and a half of beer and some snacks.

The show was absolutely stunning, with too many different acts to go through them all. If you ever get the chance to see Cirque Du Soleil, you should. It was so good, made even better by being held inside the Albert Hall.

The next morning I went for a run to Fulham to complete the Fulham Palace Parkrun, which you can read about here. Probably not the best idea to do a ten mile run before spending the rest of the day on your feet.

We foraged for breakfast and then walked past the museums to have a mooch in Harrods. It was mostly very disappointing, apart from the food hall, where we bought some lunch to take away with us.

Next stop was the V & A Museum.

Helen is an incredibly talented potter, and almost the whole of the top floor of the museum is filled with ceramics, going back over 2,000 years. It was slightly too much for me, but Helen took hundreds of photos and filled her brain with pottery ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing the end results.

One drawback of the V & A is that once you’re inside, it can be very difficult to find your way back out again, although we did spend half an hour looking at the Raphael Cartoons. One of them depicts the torture and death of St George.

Another drawback was how busy the ground floor was. We really wanted a sit down with a coffee and cake, but the café was ridiculous, with a queue out of the door. We found a touristy place which wasn’t too bad.

It was a fantastic weekend and I would definitely want to return and spend more time on a quiet day in the two museums we went into.

Dry January

Me and my lovely wife, Helen, had a very good Christmas and New Year, so much so that it seemed a very good idea to try out Dry January. To help us with this Helen found an App, simply called Try Dry.

Each day you enter if you were dry or not, and if you drank you added the type of drink, the alcoholic strength and the quantity. The App will then work out how many units you consumed. You can also add in a weekly units target, which we have both now set to 14.

How did January go? Did we manage it? I’m happy to say that we both successfully managed to avoid drinking over the course of the whole month. It wasn’t always easy. Some nights after a long tiring week at work I would want nothing more than to crash onto the sofa with a film and a beer. Helen would often crave a glass of wine on a Friday or Saturday night.

Fortunately, Brew Dog have an excellent range of alcohol free beers, and Helen bought a bottle of Tanqueray alcohol free gin, which when mixed with a good quality tonic is incredibly close to a real gin and tonic.

We also purchased a smart spirit measure. I like a rum every now and again, but when you pour a measure yourself, it is very easy to go a bit over the top.

The smaller end is 25ml and the larger end is 50ml, but there are also lines inside the measure for 15ml and 35ml. It is quite scary to see just how small a 25ml measure is. This size equates to 1 unit with a 40% spirit. Last Saturday we shared a bottle of wine, which gave us 6 units each.

The app isn’t perfect as the total number of units displayed on the main screen are rounded up. On Friday I had a 330ml can of beer which was 6.5%. This would be 2.145 units of alcohol, but the app rounded this up to 3 units, which is quite a jump. However, if you delve into the app there is a chart with an accurate unit count. Last week I drank 11.8 units of alcohol.

Overall, I like the app as it is an easy to use way of calculating how much we are drinking, and an aid to stop us from slipping back into our habit of having a beer most nights.

Finally, I used to run a pub, and one of the things you had to know, was how to calculate units of alcohol. It’s quiet easy. Take the quantity of the drink in litres and multiply it by the strength. For example, a 500ml bottle of beer (0.5 litres) at a strength of 5% would be 2.5 units. (0.5 x 5 = 2.5). A large glass of wine (175ml) which has a strength of 13.5% would be 2.36 units. (0.175 x 13.5 = 2.3625). A pub double measure of whisky (50ml) would be 2 units. (0.05 x 40).

Did you try dry January?

10,000 Steps and Covid

A few months ago I wrote about walking 10,000 steps a day, and how I had never managed it for a full month. Generally this is because at least one or two days a month I might go for a swim or a long bike ride and don’t feel like a long walk as well. However, over a full month I have never managed less than 10,000 steps on average per day (read my post here).

At the moment, I still haven’t managed a full calendar month with 10,000 steps every day. However, I have managed a streak of 46 days from early December up to a few days ago. Thursday morning I went for a gentle five-mile run feeling really good. Thursday night I had the worst nights sleep ever as I succumbed to the dreaded Covid. According to my Garmin, I managed 90 minutes sleep with a sleep score of zero.

I don’t suppose I should have been surprised as my lovely wife had spent the previous four days either in bed or on the sofa. I was hoping that I would be immune. I’m not. I should have had a booster jab at some point, although it didn’t help Helen. Three years, that’s how long we both managed to avoid it. We have no idea where we caught it, but I was in the office on the Monday, mingling with plenty of people and traveling on a packed train.

I’m starting to feel a little more like myself, although I still have absolutely no energy. My total number of steps for each of the last four days has barely been above 1,000.

Covid also ended a streak of over 1,000 days where I had uploaded an activity to Strava. The activity might have only been a two mile walk with Nelly, or it might have been a 35 mile run, either way my Ron Hill type streak has come to an end.

Iron Maiden

The mighty Iron Maiden were the very first band that I saw live, way back in 1983. They had only just released their Piece of Mind album, and the very first date on the Piece of Mind tour was at Hull City Hall, with me in attendance. It was their second album with the vocalist Bruce Dickinson and the first album with their new drummer Nicko Mcbain. It was a fantastic concert and over the course of the next few months I also saw Saxon and then Motorhead.

Fast forward 40 years, and I have bought tickets to go and see Iron Maiden again, this time in Manchester. The band have all of the same members from when I saw then the first time, with the addition of a third guitarist, Janick Gers. The ticket prices have changed.

Iron Maiden have also been immortalized on a series of stamps, so naturally I bought a first day cover edition, stamped in the area of London where they performed their very first gig.

The two sets of stamps consist of eight of the band spanning most of their career, and four featuring Eddie, their long standing mascot. Iron Maiden are only the fifth band to feature on a set of stamps behind The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Queen and the Rolling Stones.

One Year of Wordle

Amazingly, this morning was my Wordle anniversary. I’ve played 365 days in a row. I’m still enjoying it and I’m still using the previous days answer as my starting word. Quite often it isn’t a very good starting word, but that’s just how I like to play.

My stats for the year are 97% win with a current streak of 16 and a maximum streak of 56. I still rush each game, mashing the buttons without thinking hard enough. My wife has started to play again, and has 100% win. We also have a Wordle WhatsApp group which includes her eldest son. They are also playing Contexto, which is way too hard for me.

I was worried that when the New York Times took over the game that it might end up behind a pay wall. This hasn’t happened, which is good, although I will stop playing if I have to pay, along with millions of other people.

Do you play Wordle?

Donut Dust

I’ve had a busy little morning today. I took our dog for a two mile walk and I then went for a short swim. On the way back from the pool I went food shopping, and as a treat bought a packet of five custard donuts.

Once the shopping was put away my lovely wife and I sat down for a brew and a donut. My wife has a brilliant way with words, and when our dog tried to lick some of the excess sugar off her plate, my wife phrased it as Donut Dust, which is one of those phrases which I will now always use whenever I’m eating a donut or other sugary based treats.

Lost Finances

With the cost-of-living crisis hitting almost everyone, like many people I’ve had a close look at my finances. With that in mind I’ve had a look for lost finances.

Premium Bonds

I was given three premium bonds as a very young child. I have the certificates, but I have no idea if they have won anything in the last 25 years as NS&I has no record of me owning them. I went online and filled out a simply form, although finding the simple form wasn’t easy, with the numbers of my premium bonds. I should hear back in 23 days. I might have won something, and even if I haven’t, they will now have my contact details in case I win in the future.


Twenty years ago, I had a couple of friends who worked at a company called British Biotech. Apparently, it was doing really well. In haste I bought some shares. However, when I moved, I failed to update my details and when the company tanked and was bought by another firm, my shares were not transferred. I have tracked down the company that bought out British Biotech and emailed their support team with my details. I’m not holding out too much hope, as it appears that the share offer was 6p. My 25 shares might buy me a pint of milk.


I spent many years working in a large busy city centre pub in Oxford. As a barman and then assistant manager I wasn’t eligible for the company’s pension scheme. However, I was when I became the manager. I wasn’t earning a huge amount, and I have no idea of how much was paid into my pension. I was also only eligible for 18 months. The brewery I worked for has also changed hands a couple of times since I left. However, there is a government website which lists which pension firm every company uses. On the website for Scottish Widows, I could download a form and send it back. They will then have a look to see how much my pension is currently worth.

While the total money in lost finances for me might at best be a couple of pounds for the premium bonds and the shares, the pension could be worth a couple of thousand, which I can then transfer to my main pension. As an aside, I’ve had my own pension for nearly 30 years, and because of the ups and down in the economy it is worth far less than expected. My parents had very good end of salary pension schemes, and a pension I had with Barclays Bank when I was 18-21 has performed incredibly well, although it lost 20% of its value due to Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s complete failure.

I will let you know how much my lost finances are worth, and I would recommend everyone else have a look behind the virtual financial sofa.

The Royal Lancashire Show

I have fond memories of going to the Surrey Show when I was very young. There was always a marble stall, which for six year old me was the most exciting thing in the world. More recently my parents used to attend the New Forest Show. My mum loved watching the dray horses from various breweries, and my dad enjoyed watching the New Forest Plonkers, who are a similar musical group to the Lancashire Hotpots, but from the south. He also drew a brilliant watercolour of The Plonkers, which is safe with my nephew.

Anyway, the Royal Lancashire Show is similar, in that there were a number of displays, lots of farm animals, plenty of stalls, food and drink, and hundreds of dogs.

First stop was to watch the shirehorses from Thwaites brewery. Magnificent beasts. Huge but incredibly kind and gentle.

We had a good wander around the ground, watched a bicycle display, looked at some pigs, which were very interesting to Nelly. Watched a falconry display, who was having trouble with his birds. One of them tried to attack a Tern, and then the wind was too strong for the owl. We then watched a Shetland Pony grand prix, which was also great fun.

There was a dog agility course which you could pay to have a go with your dog. Nelly declined the opportunity, so instead we entered her into the fun dog show, in the Golden Oldie category.

Nelly wasn’t in the top three, even though she was brilliant. No complaints with the winner. The woman with the green top next to Helen and Nelly won, with her 16 year old dog. She immediately burst into tears, that is how strong the bond is with dogs.

We then had a bit more of a wander and bought some spiced rum from Two Lasses Spirits. The two women had set up their own distillery during lockdown, and their spiced Yorkshire rum was too good not to purchase a bottle.

All in all a great day out, and we even managed to time our escape a few minutes before it started to rain. We’ll definitely be back next year.