That time I went to Islay

Ardbeg for work, Port Ellen for digs.

Actual travel to an actual place for actual work: back to the future.

And oh my, what a place to travel to. Go look at a map, Islay is physically near Glasgow and near Northern Ireland. Ferries/flights are your options, so it took (pretty much) a day to get there and a bare-bones airfare to NYC was about the same cost.

In days of yore I’d be on to the next before you knew it. But this trip offered the opportunity to pause and take it all in, so I factored in a day off and rented a bicycle from the super helpful Islay e Wheels.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, let it be known that they distil a wee dram or three on the island. They’re rather well known for it. This then forms a kind of pilgrimage of liver punishment for fire water fans from far and wide: you’ll hear many an accent on the Island.

Unwisely, I had decided to thread together a chain of dram-stops by bicycle. You’ll be slightly ahead of me here in thinking “booze and pedals don’t mix”, but giddy as a schoolboy this had not occurred to yours truly. Luckily, fate intervened before I headlong found a ditch… Entirely by good fortune the last day of work misfired deliciously – another story – and by 15.30 I was sat comfortably, faced with a flight of (extremely generously poured) whisky:

A wee flight o’drams

Memories of the rest of that Wednesday are fuzzy. Can’t imagine why…

Thursday dawned with rocks in my head. Thus my distillery odyssey became a search for a hangover cure. More about coffee and hydration than single malts (to begin with) on a 100km Tour d’Islay:

60+ miles a glorious day in the saddle

That’s 100km in the saddle on a beautiful sunny, peaceful, quiet day on Islay. Pinch me.

Words are unlikely to properly show what a jewel the island is, so looky here… a slideshow:

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Talking of strange questions

Getting to the airport in good time? A stressful thing IMHO. Especially when you are forced to leave behind a glorious Edinburgh basking in perfect and entirely unexpected late spring sunshine. People lingering on terraces with coffees/beers, sunglasses on and generally feeling the polar opposite of dreich. (If only there was a Scottish meteorological word for this.)

Being a grownup jaunt for work, the attire is a little more formal than normal: a shirt and trooser if you will. A polished shoe. A wheel-along case plus laptop bag. (You see, I can “do” businessman, really I can.) From the heart of the new town – sun kissed Harvey Nicks on St Andrew Square – it’s about 30 minutes glide – a slightly optimistic PR spin I fancy – by tram to the airport terminal.

All in good time.

Security was not the bun fight one had be led to expect, but it was a fraught-if-entirely-uneventful 15 minutes I’ll never get back. (Why can’t folk submit to the process? Why be cantankerous about shoe removal and/or get all noisily bent out’o’shape when the scanner reveals contraband? Sir/Madam, it matters not-a-jot that the security panto’ is senseless. Just go with it and try not to clench: it only makes it hurt more.) After this, of course, one is forced to run the gamut that is the brightly lined meandering retail path of “duty-free”: booze, smellies, sunglasses and regulation airport Toblerone.

Only on this occasion I am flagged down as I pass the checkouts.

Oh.

It’s just that I am not carrying any shopping. I am towing a wheelie case, but so is almost everyone. I am – for want of a better word – inconspicuous.

Odd.

The apparently exasperated retail operative (RO) at the till is serving a somewhat careworn senior (Eastern European?) lady (CSL) who, in turn, is visibly agitated. Why I have been “pulled over” – from a cast of thousands – is entirely unclear. A duty-free stop-and-search? Drug testing? Mistaken identity? Have I accidentally dragged with me 200 Benson & Hedges?

In the following seconds the exchange between the three of us is bewildering.

Read the following four lines of dialogue almost simultaneously if you can:

RO: “She wants tay bye a bottle”

CSL: “Igeevyou caaaash”

RO: “She-has-nay uh credut cart”

CSL: “Yooooopaaaay I geev”

[We all look down where we find a boxed, weapons grade bottle’o. CSL has a chaotic clear wallet of documents including a clutch of Euros.]

IB: “________?”

[A brief hiatus while I process the moment. Blank looks are exchanged. Nothing moves. Then in an explanatory-playback tone…]

IB: “You want me to pay for your purchases with my credit card and then you are going to give me the cash?”


Let’s press pause on the playback here and ask: What on earth is it about yours truly that attracts this kind of thing? When travelling I seem to have a kind of magnetism for odd occurrences – as previous blogs attest – and on this occasion I am left wondering… what was it about my striding through the airport terminal persona that warranted being selected? The flow of people was a nadge short of a flood, so why me?


[IB looks deep into the pleading eyes of CSL and RO. The most sympathetic of smiles he can muster* finds it’s way to his face.]

IB: “Oh, I’m sorry**, I don’t deal in cash any more.”

[Annnnd scene. IB walks off purposefully to catch a plane.]

As we finish here, I am bemused.

1) What would you have done?

2) And – although it took me some time to ask myself this crashingly obvious question of questions – why don’t the DUTY FREE SHOP TAKE CASH???

*after a lifetime of practice, I can – on command – muster a fairly convincing “international raising the customer experience standard” smile.

**Clearly, I am not actually “sorry” as such. But I am polite and try to be empathetic in letting people down gently. It is also a white lie. But, I am seriously not going to accept cash in this scenario. (Again, would you?)

EPILOGUE: My flight is – inevitably – delayed. Now, right now, I am being asked by a random Finnish lady how to connect to the airport wifi. Also, I have been asked by an English student to mind her phone while it charges. As she leaves, a youthful Scot – with a barnet that looks like a fire-bell went off mid-barber-buzzcut – asks permission to use the plug socket near me.

I am sat in Caffe Nero. I am not wearing high-vis. I am not accidentally sat under a giant arrow pointing in neon to a “helpdesk” sign.

Please send help.

Help for me in being less “present”. Less Circle 2.

(If you have no idea what Circle 2 is… call me.)

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What a strange question.

It was always going to happen. We knew this. Time waits for no-one. The gradual creeping nature of a date approaching and then – in heartbeat – it’s happened. (Not the same thing, yet I am minded of Douglas Adams’ take on deadlines and the splendid “whooshing sound” they make as they fly by.)

The “it” in this case is that Mrs B & I are now empty nesters.

Eldest in university – and living her best life – and himself is exploring the amazing province of British Columbia, Canada. BC to it’s friends.

He left on Monday – it’s Friday at the time of writing – and sparse reports from waaaay out west indicate a thoroughly good time being had. (Follow him over on Insta’ – where the kidz hang bro.**) Whale watching, platters of comfort food, absence of nagging (about personal hygiene/laundry) and no getting up for work in the morning. I’d say he’s having a right old time of it.

Fabulous.

But this brings me to the strange question of the title. Jungle drums/grapevine/social media et al result in people knowing that the younger Beers “have passport will – finally, thanks a bunch pandemic – travel”. (Their dreams/plans temporarily, frustratingly, maddeningly halted; even though we all know it could’ve been much, much worse…)

The question in, er, question?

“I hear he is traveling?”

[Wait, that’s not it. That’s fine. A normal conversation starter, yeah? It’s this next one coming up below.]

“You must be sooo jealous?”

Wait, wha… No.

No on various levels.

Pretty much all of the no.

What I am is thrilled for him. At 18 I could hardly tie my own laces. Him? He gets the 05.40 train to an airport to fly intercontinentally to travel solo for three weeks.

What I am is proud.

The subtly, yet fundamentally different question of “do you wish you were there?” would receive a hell-of-the-yes-now energy response. Not to keep-an-eye, rather that he is genuinely good company and a splendid, easy, traveling companion. In fact, I wish we were all there as a family*.

When it comes to offspring/partner traveling independently I am at once thrilled, proud, happy, curious, worried, anxious and I miss them terribly. A strange emotion, then, jealousy in this scenario. IE: being jealous of your own kids having fun. I don’t have to think about that idea for long before my – admittedly judge-y – brain tells me it’s almost completely weird as a line of thought. (But then my more reasonable pondering self suggests that maybe the question was innocuous. Hmmm. Any ‘analysts reading this feel free to comment in the chat.)

By the way, I won’t be documenting the offspring travels because… well, because the travels are theirs, not mine. I will – of course – be following with deep interest and cannot wait to be regaled with stories of serendipity, foolishness, huge wins, near misses, chances taken and moments lost forever.

But jealous of the blossoming young Beers and their adventures?

A diamond-hard no.


*Maybe that’s because we might all accidentally on purpose meet up on another continent later this year if the planets align. I going to try hard to make this wish come true…

**Typing the word Insta’ mead me realise how bleedin’ old I am and have no idea what passes for common parlance for the young.

[Turns away from keyboard.]

“Nurse! Nurse! Time for my meds and an afternoon nap!”

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2021 travel in review.

Hardly did any.

Oh, one trip to BC, that’s ’bout it.

Roll on ’22

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Slow motion train wreck

Nineteen-Fifty-Six

Wikipedia records some of the key world events and then you can zoom in to scan the notable Canadian events.

(To save you the bother, let’s note that Kenny G was born, Finland joined UNESCO and – crucially – the Edmonton Eskimos win their third (consecutive) Grey Cup by defeating the Montreal Alouettes by the score of 50 to 27 in the 44th Grey Cup played at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. What a time to be alive.)

Like most years, 1956 had lots of “oh dear” moments. I guess back then there were also some “hurrahs!”, a smattering of “ooohs”, a few “I say’s” and – who knows – a “bother” or three. I am channelling Canadian politeness as I write, so perhaps the vernacular was “aw, snap” and what-have-you, but you catch my drift.

Whilst all of the above is fine and dandy, there was one “oh dear” that might have stretched out to an echoing “oooooooooOOooooh dear”** followed by lots of metallic crunching noises and – at length – an eerie silence. In the forested mountains of British Columbia, near the Cheakamus River just south of Whistler on 11th August 1956 a freight train had crashed. Now, it may not get a mention in the (big picture) history books, but I expect it spoiled the whole day of those involved.

The following (unfiltered, unedited) images are what is left of the trainset that was barrelling down the line from Lillooet with a little too much chutzpah that fateful day…

2016 suspension bridge trail access

You can read all about it here: https://www.vancouvertrails.com/trails/whistler-train-wreck/

You can read a much better blog with better photos here.

Google search: Whistler Train Wreck. Some cray-cray mountain bike action can be found online to boot.

The lesson for us all? Twofold, maybe three.

  1. Train drivers: don’t break the speed limit on those curves
  2. Off the beaten track disaster sites can be fun and…
  3. If people are trespassing (yet doing no harm), don’t make it a crime, rethink the venue and make it work as an attraction.*

*Miserable landowners of Britain take note.

**The author accepts that “oh dear” might not have been verbatim what was exclaimed that day.

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Park & Ride Vancouver

Stanley Park is a jewel of a park by any measure. The fact that you can bike it on the seawall in around a leisurely hour makes it all the more accessible. A break in the Vancouver weather sees us seize the opportunity to mosey around the 10km or so sea wall with lashings of salt air.

Stanley Park Labeled Aerial Map.png
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Park#/media/File:Stanley_Park_Labeled_Aerial_Map.png

I may have imagined this, but that sweet sweet freewheeling feeling was somehow enhanced by it being a Monday morning. Salt air with a whiff of schadenfreude for those who are at work. A further character flaw then that I found myself being ever-so-slightly perturbed that we didn’t have the place entirely to ourselves. Haven’t these people miserable office jobs they ought to be slaving away at whilst their life force ebbs away? The radiant joggers and the effortlessly serious runners were enthusiastic to the point of off-putting. Forgive me: I am a churlish soul.

Anyhoo, the park is vast and home to coyotes, racoon, old growth forest, an aquarium, totem poles, black squirrels, grey squirrels. Although apart from squirrels I am taking several items on that list on trust. A main highway passes right through the centre too: not that you’d know it. The neighboring sea awash with forests of kelp, at least one harbour seal (cos we saw it), any number of cormorants and majestic – not sure what they are known as locally – herons. A serious fisherman the heron, no time for casual frivolity. Overhead the Harbour Air floatplanes come and go, the HeliJet ‘copters beat at the sky while on the water tugs ply back and forth. At Prospect Point we watched with quiet awe as two massive high-riding bulk carriers pass under the Lions Gate bridge in search of their next cargo. How vast ships are at close quarters, how remote they are from our everyday lives. Further offshore out west massive container ships are at anchor: one wonders are they moored unable to disgorge their boxes ashore? (As I write global supply chains are faltering post pandemic. It’s a wonder there’s any bog roll at all in British Columbia.)

In praise of the park fathers am I. Genius is the word I would offer to the team who decided that the seawall should be a one-way path (anticlockwise). We flowed seemingly without effort from metre one pausing at Third Beach to dip our toes in the Pacificand at the Lost Lagoon to take mirror images of the foliage on the calm waters. Our Coal Harbour Rental bikes were rudimentary yet of ample saddle making for a comfortable, reasonably priced ride. As any cyclist will tell you, breeze is brutal because you almost never notice it’s assistance but by jiminy you notice – and curse – when you are pedalling against it. On our tour, we were becalmed. (G commented about a panckae-flat promenade ride from Lake Michigan, Chicago – I forget the year, but pre-offspring so 20+ years ago – where the northbound leg was apparently “ba$tard uphill” all the way. Southbound? Effortless! (Remind me: why is it known as the windy city? Actually, that’ll be the canyon-like streets, not the wind in itself as I recall.)

Vancouver is not short of tress – vibrant as they are in “fall” hues across the city – but the old growth of Stanely Park… We flew over the ‘Park the very next day as Harbour Air passengers for an altogether different view and marveled at it’s splendour all over again.

Pix & a fun wee video:

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Beavers & Otters in Ganges Harbour

WARNING: This post might go on a bit, but for good reason.

For this author Tuesday was an extraordinary day. Late October, British Columbia with the trees are a riot of autumnal colour. Taking advantage of a break in the weather we noted that the mountains of North Van’ actually had tops rather than disappearing into cloud. Waters were calm, the air still, sun shining… perfect weather to fly.

Harbour Air are a remarkable airline for several reasons. Scheduled flights that take you right from downtown Vancouver to communities that would take hours to reach by road and/or boat. Wheels? Where we’re going we won’t need wheels. Floatplanes are the perfect workhorses for this territory taking off and landing in the bays/inlets/harbours/coves of the Gulf Islands. And what planes! The term “vintage” gets bandied about these days but the airframes that ply the routes around these parts… just wow.

To give some context, the (UK) De Havilland aircraft company lost it’s separate identity in 1963. So I think we can agree that the fleet that Harbour Air operate definitely qualify as vintage. (Although De Havilland Canada existed until the 1980s as a separate entity before Boeing gobbled them up and global corporations changed flying forever.) Remember this is a bona fide scheduled airline – as well as running scenic tours and charters – which I reckon gives even more credence to a company that runs classic aircraft, wins awards for its management operations and is even carbon neutral.

The planes themselves? To a planespotter [raises hand] it’s hog heaven and for the rest of you, pay close attention as there may be a test. Our unique Tuesday jaunt is an everyday “mail run” to Harbour’ with the first flight from Vancouver Seaplane Terminal (Downtown) lasting 22minutes before sliding into Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island: a tariff of 5 passengers and a bag or two. It’s then a 5 minute hop to Maple Bay. With classic Canadian laid-back timing the skipper suggests we take a ten minute stroll up the jetty before reprising our route back: 4 passengers. We deplaned at Ganges’ for lunch and an afternoon wander before joining the return to the city. Everyday for the crew, a lifetime ambition and one-off event for yours truly.

The sentence that follows is entirely correct and not one that I’d ever planned on writing, but here goes…

We flew an Otter out and rode a Beaver back.

The specific Otter in question is C-GLCP which was manufactured in… anyone? Nineteen Sixty One. Let me spell that out: we flew a scheduled flight on an aircraft that is celebrated it’s 60th birthday this year. I have to say the sea air must be good for tin birds because she – to use the traditional vernacular – doesn’t look a day over 30. The airline are at pains to point out how lovingly and scrupulously maintained/updated their fleet are. Indeed: they look and feel amazing – fresh, clean and fit with a smooth turbine powerplant. Sat up front with skipper Ty’ was a treat. These days you rarely see a pilot in his office.let alone sit alongside. Between bouts of air-traffic-control-techno-speak-procedurals we chatted – through the full-on commercial aviation noise cancelling headset intercom – about how his Grandfather flew these aircraft. (Ty’ was professional, competent, empathetic, sensitive, irritatingly young, handsome and gets paid to fly vintage float planes around some of the most beautiful islands on earth. Words cannot express the feelings I have for him.)

The Beaver on the other hand… C-GTBQ hailed from Nineteen Fifty Nine. 1959! A smaller animal that had pilot – Grant – plus the Beers and 4 X “Golden Girls” crammed aboard. (If you want more of the latter: ask in the comments.) The single thumping great radial motor making for a visceral experience as we blared across the Strait of Georgia at a whisker under 1,000′. Our approach into Van’ Harbour involved an epic banked 180 and steep approach before a silky smooth slide onto the glassy waters.

IE: it was magic.

FAQ:

Q: Taking off from water? Landing on water? Propellers? Ancient aircraft? Are you insane?!

A: Gilly is not a fully confident flier and found the whole experience seamless. Taking off is a short affair with a dramatic, spine tingling ramp-up in engine noise as the defining feature. Landing? The approach angles and descent are waaaay more dramatic than any passenger jet – in a swooping, satisfying way (as opposed to feeling out of control). The landing? Well, put it this way, the radio description was “sliding into” rather than landing, splashing, plopping. Slide we did with the most graceful of kisses when the floats eased us into the glassy calm seas. More “give” than a paved runway you see.

Q: Bbbut, old planes? Aren’t they creaky and awful?

A: Old? Yep. Experienced, seasoned and truly magnificent. Updated, modified, fettled and perfect for their environment. Whereas the thin upper atmosphere requires a 21st century carbon fibre bodied airliner for 300, the thick atmosphere at sea level demands a stout, rugged pick-up-truck of a plane. One that can land on water.

Less FAQs:

Q: Aren’t all aircraft all high tech these days?

A: Skipper Ty’ used paper calculators to trim the settings of his bird. Throttles, rudder, yoke? All cable operated and fully manual. Sure, the nav’ tools and radios are digital, but the aircraft itself is deliciously analogue and all the better for it. (Amusingly the safety video was – I $hit you not – an iPad placed tenderly onto a wee bracket followed by pilot asking “any questions?” over his shoulder. Note the pre-flight card in the photos below.) Across the Strait’ skip’ trimmed the aircraft using a manual hand-wheel under his seat. He hardly touched the yoke in level flight. I was reminded of the way an engine driver might fettle the living beast that is a steam engine.

Q: Customer experience?

A: Attainment level – Canadian. Honestly, the niceness, attentiveness and general laid-back-friendliness of the Harbour Air team is peerless. They were chatty, empathetic, easy, interested and we felt like old friends. Think of your average international airport. Now forget it and consider your favourite cafe/bolt-hole-bar instead. Whilst it was clear that safety and professionalism came first it was gently yet thoroughly overlaid with warmth. EG: Climbing aboard these aircraft is not easy with ample opportunity to tumble into the drink. The trick that they beautifully pull off is letting you get on with it whilst simultaneously having your back.

At Maple Bay the ground crew – for ’tis one guy on a bobbing marina pier – chatted with us about the defecation habits of the local sea otters. At Ganges’ we had a chinwag about the best Jewish Deli run by a TV comedian* on Salt Spring Island. There were home baked cookies on offer with the coffee obvs.

Q: Parachutes? Lifejackets?

A: Flotation devices that are worn like “fanny packs” and inflate like swimming pool rubber rings. Best not think about it too much.

Q: Scary?

A: Pi$$ off. Safe as’ and just a proper analogue experience that the rest of the modern world lacks. These aircraft ply their trade at sub 1,000′ and float. Now reconsider your seat in row 40 of your plastic bodied anonymous, appliance-like jetliner at 500+mph, circa 10KM above the planet. Then, lastly, consider that your journey to the airport is way, way riskier than air travel and apologise immediately for your stupidity. They – Harbour Air – fly in the region of 500,000 passenger journeys p/a around British Columbia and the reason you’ve never heard of them is that they do it safely.


Anyhoo, way too much chat. Thanks for reading. Now it’s time for some pictures: we shot these on the day and they are unfiltered, uncropped: the scenery is really that good. NB: I have skipped videos because they are simply not as impressive as the stills.

* an “in joke” – there really aren’t that many and the sandwiches were uhh-maze-ing.

Final approach to Vancouver Harbour
No filter – on approach to Vancouver Harbour
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The bestest American diner is in Canada

The title is a bit of a spoiler no? Well, there it is folks: case closed. We can all go back to our lives, nothing to see here.

Clearly, we can’t leave it there? So here’s a little more…

The Templeton at 1087 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1L4 – in case you need the address for satnav – is, it says on Google Maps “a retro diner with an organic twist.” Is it now? Certainly the patina is diner, all careworn chequered flooring, faux leather scarlet low counter stools, stainless steel and a gen-you-ine jukebox with selectors at every booth. Scruffy in a deservedly appreciated way.

The pleasingly retro menu – it’s not “a scan this QR code to order” joint – is laminated with the reassuringly familiar. Until you read further and note the non-(US)American accoutriments. Draught craft lager and pale ale eh? Boozy milkshakes? Wine? Cocktails? Yes indeedy, now we’re talking. Wait, wha… Deep Fried Mars Bar? (Maybe “organic twist” means something different here in British Columbia?)

It’s early evening and there are a few people in, yet at midday – when I walked past – the queue on a dank Sunday was halfway down the block. We had already been turned away from a white-tablecloth-fancypants-high-concept place because – get this – we couldn’t present our (physical, actual UK) passports to back up our vaccinated credentials. (A driving licence not being sufficient photo ID apparently.) So The Templeton was plan B/second fiddle, for which I can (in hindsight) only apologise.

The food items of course contain the “classic” diner fayre but with intriguing extras. I say that, whereas I in point of fact mean that the legend “Pulled Pork Poutine” was on there bold as brass. You had me at “Pulled.” Having been in Cananda less than 24hrs, I am already a leading expert on this culinary triumph. For the uninitiated British reader? Well, it’s cheesy chips with gravy. Only better at The Templeton. How much? Pulled Pork better, that’s the measure; where the gravy is a pulled pork deliciousness. Washed down with beer. We are living every kind of dream.

The clientele? Eclectic, from geek-chic student, to us, to energetic senior citizen all being kept in check by the lone front of house server/milkshake guru and an industrious single handed chef. Server turns out to be a movie make-up undergraduate hoping to study in London (in that there England, not Ontario) and get a job on the new Lord of the Rings TV show being filmed – apparently – in the UK. The soundtrack? Big band sounds: Sinatra arranged by Nelson Riddle and close harmony ‘Miller standards.

But my sweet lord, the poutine. [Cut to exaggerated chef’s kiss followed by slow nod to camera. Perhaps coupled with a Homer Simpson drool meme?] This was then followed by an entirely uneccesary Cherry Pie with – for an extra dollar – ice cream. (A generous portion with two spoons.) Cherries neither tarte nor sickly: just juicy and pastry perfect.

Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Before food coma ensued, we lolled out onto Granville’ and the dreich Vancouver night cooled us for the slightly-too-short-to-help stroll back to the hotel and a moment of reflection. Having diligently sampled “diners” from Miami to SanFransisco to NYC to Austin over several decades, a more “Americana” experience I cannot recall. It seems one of the peculiarities of the modern world is that the period-correct is often found outside of the geography, era and context of the original, no?

I am happy to bow to the spectre of confirmation bias with “diners” – Vancouver delivers.

Pictures? Why of course…

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My lovely horse

Between Swindon and Marlborough is a rather lovely stretch of cyclepath that takes the route of a disused railway line. Avoiding the snarling A346 this affords the two wheeled an opportunity to flow up and down the Og valley without coming into contact with the motorist. At various points along the path are wee benches and – more recently – some really funky wheelchair friendly picnic tables.

Bravo sustrans.

As a lifelong pedallist I have tootled along many a byway and hold this one in great affection. Dog walkers, runners, ramblers do too it seems. As do horsey folk.

The latter group include something of a curio that I – over the last 18 months or so – have noted on several occasions. Specifically that a certain regular pedestrian on the path rather fancies one of the picnic benches as a pony simulator. I know this because the path affords the keen cranker to build up a good pace and – unintentionally – one can rather surprise people who are quietly going about their business. (Clearly, this precludes stadard good behaviour such as slowing for gee-gees, loudly saying “good day!” to joggers/walkers with headphones and so forth so that you don’t cause fright.)

Whizzing past the foliage which envelops the track is joyous precisely because vistas flash in and out of view where the greenery is absent for one reason or another. Amongst the fields of crops and views across the downs you might glimpse livestock, geese, hares, deer, birds of prey. Equally, you might expect to see someone tying a shoelace, a roadside puncture repair, a light al fresco luncheon. However, it’s quite the double-take to catch an individual cantering vigorously on a solid, entirely stationary stout wooden bench. Yet on several occasions this is precisely what I have encountered.

Said person in question is oft seen walking along the track with a pack on their back and – bearing in mind I am a 90kilo bloke traveling at some speed – is apparently not one for conversation. My working assumption being they are a local, keen on the equestrian side of life only – for reasons unexplained – sans filly. Indeed, the only time I have seen them converse with a human is with somone in the saddle of an actual horse (as I oh-so-gently slip by).

Today then I saw not a hammer-and-tongs static gallop enactment, but what would appear to be a customised-hobby-horse-picnic-bench mashup. The hasty conclusion reached? Some kindly soul has seen the above enthusiasm for riding and respondded by providing a sort of static-steed ornament. To my eyes, this acknowledment – albeit entirely impractical – is genuinely touching.

The following are some photos thereof: what do you think? Or perhaps there is a different explanation?

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Travelling without moving

Occasionally there’s that parent who is living – or at least experiencing – their frustrations, ambitions, dreams, goals and what-have-you through their kids lives. The more train-wreck end of the documentary market feasts upon these instances where these families are famously dysfunctional. Let’s be honest, it makes good (if not wholesome) telly. Indeed, there are some mighty famous names from the UK and to an oft more dramatic degree – where else? – the USA.

How I scoff, tut and shake my head. Who would do such a thing?

Me.

Turns out COVID19 has changed the world to such an extent that my travel plans/ambitions have been put on ice. My eco warrior halo shines brightly with a tally of zero flights since March ‘twenty. Google Maps monthly summary shows travel limited to local villages, often by bicycle. (Although I have been from Mumbai to Dubai to Durban to Dubrovnik via the ol’ haunted fishtank. Aka Zoom/Teams/BlueJeans/GoogleMeet. I have traveled the many corridors of corporate video software that’s for sure.)

From my desk I am so a globetrotter dahling.


Firstborn, however, is doing it for real.

She can tell her own story in her own way and I look forward to it immensely in due course! In fact, some time in mid June my role as airport chauffeur will afford the earliest first-person opportunity since April. Hmmm. That’s ages. While we wait for her tales of derring do, what’s to be done?

Fret, apparently.

What I didn’t expect to be so anxiety inducing? A new sensation: powerless parent. Silly really, because she is thousands of miles away, across a vast ocean, seven time zones distant: what on earth did I expect?

(To releive any potential stress for you dear reader, she's better-than-fine: thriving and having the proverbial good time. She is starting her voluntary work this week... super cool.) 

Expected or not – thoroughly planned as we were – a couple of minor hiccups set my blood pressure soaring. When she struggled to get cash and a SIM card? I simply couldn’t sleep. And here I was thinking when the bambinos grow up I can stop worrying…

While I have acted as travel agent, destination consultant and administrative assistant I neglected to manage my own neuroses. Full marks for being a fool! Thankfully, she’s got a solid head on her shoulders so her Dad’s worrying will have approximately zero affect upon her.

The challenge now is not to over-react to the next, inevitable, travel hiccup. [Sigh.] I dearly wish I had my own travels to worry about…

Bon voyage!

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