Sunday, December 27, 2015


Judging by this year's presents haul I have successfully transitioned from a couch potatoe to a runner. I got a run light from Kath to shine a light in dark places, a useful pouch and drinking bottle from Paul and Saskia. It s all useful as I train for my first marathon in April. Yep you read that correctly, I have signed up to run 26.2 miles. So far my longest distance is 15 miles but I have a couple of months to train so hopefully I will make it.

Bruce must think I am destined for a life of crime, he gave me an amazing see through padlock and a set of lock picks.

Regardless of the presents it was a special Christmas  for me as Kath and I spend our first ever Christmas day together. Previously she had always been working. Its been a year of changes for us, Kath moved over to the UK for good in March. Then just this month she started her first job in the UK at the Countess of Chester hospital. I could not be more proud of her.

We went to see my parents on Christmas day they made the traditional meal, whether it was because Kath was joining us for the first time the meal was spectacular. The turkey cooked to perfection and even though he nearly forgot to give us the potatoes they were done to perfection.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Two pieces of transport related news today, I contacted TfGM to enquire whether there were any plans to port the excellent journey planner to mobile devices.

Great news;
I am pleased to advise you that TfGM are currently building and testing new travel planning tools. At the end of this year we will have scheduled travel information on the TfGM website.
We will then build on this in early 2016 by including real-time information for bus, train and tram. At this time, we will also enable customers to register for updates on services they are interested in; notifications and information on updates will come to you via email, text alerts and push alerts to mobile apps. This service will enable customers to receive information regarding cancellations or delays for services they have registered for.
This information will be available on the TfGM website and will be mobile friendly. Along with this, TfGM will also be delivering dedicated mobile apps on iOS Apple devices, Android and Windows Phone.
Additionally, real-time data will be integrated into information displays at the more recent TfGM interchanges; however, real-time data will not be available at bus stops. Updates on this will be found on the TfGM website in the near future:
In addition to this, Manchesters' smart card for transport 'getmethere card' is too be made available for bus travel. You can load getmethere with the SystemOne travel cards. You can order a getmethere card for free (for a limited time). It seems to be accepted by most bus companies operating in Manchester.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The bay

One of the things which differentiate humans from animals is our ability to learn not just from our own experiences but to be able to learn from others.

Kath is proving her abilities this morning doing her specialisation exam in Warsaw. I am here too sat in the hotel bar waiting for her to return. I have very faith in her abilities but exams are fickle, all questions are easy when we know the answers. I have my fingers crossed for her.

We arrived on Tuesday night, taking an Uber from the airport to the hotel. It was the first time I used uber and I was very impress with the service. Not only do you know where and when you driver will arrive but you also follow a real time map to your destination which stops the driver taking the scenic route. You get a free credit if you follow my link to sign up.

After arriving in the middle of the night we decided to have a long lie in and take a lazy day to relax before the stress of the exam. We wondered around the largest mall in Warsaw, then in the evening went for a burger at Cwiercfuciak. Its an excellent burger joint, and very friendly too.

Afterwards we retired to the bar for a relaxing drink. I don't know how Kath slept but I tossed and turned, I think I am more stressed for her then she is for herself. I had lots of dreams about the past, things that were, and things that could have been. I guess we are all products of what we have done and what we learn from.

I am currently reading Five Star Billionaire, its about the lives of several different characters diverging set in the backdrop of a thriving but dangerous Shanghai. It took em back to travelling there, the combination of extremes the modern colliding with the past, the throngs of people everywhere all striving.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

I think I might have overdone it a little

In the last few weeks we have been very busy. It started with a trip to Snowdon to celebrate our second wedding anniversary.

We have become parkrun junkies since we started running together a few months ago. With the drive to Wales on Saturday we didn't want to miss out on our weekly fix of free 5KM run. I planned ahead and on our journey to Wales we stopped off to take park in the Conwy parkrun. Conwy was excellent, the run started at the lovely bird sanctuary then out along the river up to the castle before continuing along the river before looping back. It is a flat and fast track which I managed to get within two seconds of my personal best and so did Kath. After the run we enjoyed a coffee while admiring the view of the Wildlife park. It was very picturesque. So as not to be sweat we went for a shower at the nearby Conwy leisure centre before continuing on to Bangor for lunch.

Kath and I lunched at bar called The Feral Cat, I had a huge Feral Cat burger and it was fantastic and well deserved after all the excercise we have done. As the check in at the hotel was in the late afternoon we decided not to waste the day and go to visit Penryhn castle. It is an incredible place, a huge castle to wonder around complete with a small railway museum on to the side. It was like something out of Downton Abbey and to be honest impressed Kath and I more than our recent visit to Holyrood Palace. It was certainly a lot quieter and easy to enjoy looking around, but its so well kept and full of interesting bits to see. Also (as it really paid off) we became members of National Trust, looking forward to local Cheshire (and not only) adventures, especially Lyme Hall for free!
Cookies on top of Snowdon

After wandering round the castle and gardens we set off to Llanberis. We checked into the Y Gwennedd Inn. It is a small independent inn right in the centre of the village. The staff were really friendly but there were a few niggles with dodgy repair work, our shower head was held up with gaffer tape!

On Sunday Kath and I enjoyed the generous full English breakfast before heading out to make the long walk up Snowdon's Llanberis path. The path is 8 km from the Inn to the summit. At the top of Snowdon we reached 1044 meters above sea level. Unfortunately the weather wasn't the best. The visibility at the top was less than 100 meters. On the way down the rain hit us hard lashing down and turning the pathway into a river! What was really incredible was the number of people walking up a mountain completely unprepared for the moody forecast. The weather report was warning of high chance of rain and wind, yet they chose to walk in trainers and not bring waterproofs but umbrellas instead, incredibly stupid!

The day after we both felt pretty exhausted, but it was our anniversary! Two years and we are as happy as ever. We headed off home, stopping once more at Conwy for a walk around the walls and the town. It has been years since I spent any time in the town. We had a great time wandering around. We made one more stop on the way home at Cheshire Oaks. I treated Kath to a new pair of running trainers for our cotton anniversary, as she really wore off the old pair.
Panoramic of Conwy Harbour

To finish our anniversary we headed out to the Odeon Screen Unseen in Trafford Centre. The film they played was Me Earl and the dying girl. Screen Unseen is a cheap ticket price but you have no idea what the film will be. We were lucky as it was an excellent film we both enjoyed and a great way to round off our day.

Today was Cycle to Work Day 2015 so I cycled into the office, it is about 9 miles each way. After getting home to stay on track with my training plan I went out for a run, it was only 8.5KM but I really struggled and had to stop and buy a Lucozade to get the energy to finish. Fortunately apart from a drop on the 5KM I managed to make it at a reasonable pace.

Sunday, August 09, 2015


Just wanted to write a post about how good fitbit customer support are. After buying my surge I absolutely loved it. Not only does it track steps, stairs climbs, and calories burned but it also has GPS to accurately track runs. I sync it with strava to get distance speed, terrain and maps, along with time.

Anyway I have been super happy with my surge, right upto unto Friday morning when after cycling the 10 miles to work I found that my surge had condensation behind the screen.  Given Surge is supposed to be waterproof up to 5 atmospheres I was more than a little surprised.

I contacted fitbit via there web support, and after a short conversation the agent arranged for a new unit to be sent out to me in 10-14 days. It was so simple, I cannot recommend fitbit enough right now.

In contrast, I ordered a TrackR from expansys. A trackR is a GPS locator which is suppose to let you tag something and track it so stop it getting lost. It arrived and basically is useless. It wont sync with either my One Plus One android phone nor with Kaths Iphone 6. I tried to contact expansys for an RMA, no response as yet other than a stock your message will be answered email. Very disappointing.

Woodbank running

Yesterday Kath and I met up with Helen for a parkrun in Woodley. It was a lovely sunny morning, though a little on the warm side for putting in a personal best so I settled for 25:59 64th place. Its quite a good parkrun, starting off from the athletics track going round Woodbank park then into Vernon Park, then looping round once more before finishing back at the track. The drop then climb in Vernon Park is very challenging.

My car was in for some work at Nissan nearby so it was a convenient parkrun, but also a good one with nice views of Stockport on the run downhill in Vernon Park.

I had the rear brakes and bushes changes along with a new Xenon bulb, all told an expensive morning, made better thanks to the running.

Kath and I spent the evening playing some games, I tried to teach her how to play Mario Kart.

Play it: Manchester

On Friday evening Kath and I headed into Manchester to visit Play it. An exhibition of computer gaming over the last 30 years. With everything from Classic systems, like the BBC micro including Atari, Commodore and Spectrum, Megadrive, SNES and Nintendo 64 through to PC, PlayStation and Xbox. To the ultra modern demos using Oculus rift.

I got to relive my childhood playing Mario Kart, PacMan, and Goldeneye amongst others.

Kath had never seen some of the computers and games before, a legacy of growing up behind the iron curtain. It was great watching her playing Sonic the hedgehog, collecting rings and blazing round at hyperspeed.

Kath also enjoyed the classic BBC Micro, as shown in the picture.

After the exhibition we went for a Byron burger in Piccadilly Gardens. Before running to catch the train home, an exciting evening!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

A run in the park

This morning I did my twelve parkrun, at Woodbank in Stockport. parkrun is a great concept, every week at 9am on a Saturday there are free timed 5KM runs in parks all over England. Everything is done by volunteers using free public spaces. Since I started I have visited several in the local area including Bramhall, Wilmslow, and Wythenshaw. We even managed a leisurely jog in Edinburgh. Any ability level can take part in a parkrun even, from a super fast 16 minutes to simply walking the course in 50 minutes.

My first parkrun was Cheadle Hulme back in September 2014. I managed 5km in just under 30 minutes, 29:43. Todays effort my second best parkrun to date was 25:37. I suppose 4 minutes isn't a bad improvement in just under a year.

I got Kath into it too she has run 11, catching me up by one when I volunteered as a Marshal at Wilmslow.

Since starting parkrun I have done several other runs including the excellent Great Manchester Run. With an excellent atmosphere I and 39,999 other runners took to the streets of Manchester for  a 10km race. My time was 54.58 which for a 35 year old who spends most of his life sat behind a screen isn't too bad at all. Hopefully with a bit a of practise I can improve next year. I certainly find that I run faster in a group of people than when I am on my own. I guess I just havent learned to pace myself nor push myself hard enough.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Distant Past

After enjoying watching the Vulcan last week we fancied some more. Fortunately for us Sunday was Manchester Airshow 2015. Kath and I headed to Manchester City airport at Barton for the show.

There was a park and ride scheme so we parked at the Trafford Centre and took the bus to the airport. We arrived just in time to catch the BAC Strikemaster.  The show was split into two parts, with 5 displays in each.

The Strikemaster couldn't use the grass airfield at Barton. It jetted around the sky.  Next up was the Pitts S1S Special flown by Lauren Richardson, she put on a fantastic display of acrobatics. Lauren was followed by Steve Caver in the Special 260.

Changing tack then the Huey helicopter made us feel like we were extras on M.A.S.H.  then the air total Gyrocopter proved that I still don't really understand how gyro copter fly. They do fly exceptionally well, putting on a great display.

Finally to end the first part of the show the Battle of Britain display of a spitfire and a hurricane. They were incredible still looking great and they put on a good show flying together in formation then breaking to put on individual displays.

In between the displays we decided to grab a bite to eat as it was 13:00. Unfortunately they facilities provided were somewhat in inadequate. It took us over 1 hour in the queue during which the weather changed from blazing sunshine to overcast. The queue were worse for the ladies toilets stretching back as far the eye could see. Overall the display was great but they really need some more people organising on the ground and more toilets and food stands otherwise people wont come back.

We watched the start of the second act while in the queue, the chinook was particularly impressive. A colleague informed me that unless its regularly tuned two rotors produce so much torque it rips them in two!

We had planned on staying until the death but after eating the heavens opened and the rain came down. We made our way to the bus back getting soaked. Good old Britain, sunburn and a soaking all in one day.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Vulcan to the Sky

Yesterday Kath and I went to a very crowded Woodford to watch possibly the final flyover of a Vulcan bomber XH558.

The Vulcan was built at Woodford factory by AV Roe and had service in the RAF from 1956 until 1984.

Designed as a strategic strike bomber it relied on speed and high altitudes rather than onboard weaponry to avoid detection.

Its primary use was as a nuclear deterrent, and was therefore made more or less redundant with the introduction of the Trident nuclear submarines.

The Vulcans were used in operations in during the Falklands conflict.

It was a day tinged with sadness that the aircraft factory is now mostly demolished and nothing like this will be build again at the site.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


Kath and I travelled to Edinburgh on Thursday morning after the Foo Fighters concert. It is a long drive, having enjoyed the gig a lot the night before, we listened to most of the Foo Fighters albums en route and then moved onto the the Manic Street Preachers Holy Bible.

It was the first time Kath had listened to whole album and I made her read the lyrics. It is a dark album full, but cleverly written so I hoped she would like it.

We arrived and checked into the hotel. Then, curious of what was out there, took the 15 minute walk to the town centre, we strolled through some of the Royal Mile before finding somewhere to eat. Fancying something spicy we tried out the Gurkha cafe and restaurant. It was excellent Nepalese food, even better than the Ayo Gurkhali back home in Wilmslow. Feeling full but not ready for bed we decided to go and watch a film. There was a small Odeon cinema hiding underneath a restaurant on the way back to our hotel. We watched the modern remake of Poltergeist, it passed the time for our tired brains. Then went back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.

Our first full day in Edinburgh we headed to the Castle, starting with the excellent free walking tour then exploring the many buildings there, including the Scottish Crown Jewels.

After the Castle we decided to grab a bite to eat at the Albanach. A charming pub restaurant on the Royal Mile. While eating our fish and chips Kath got her IELTS results, which she passed brilliantly! With an extra spring in our step, food and a few drinks in our belly we walked along the Royal Mile to Holyrood. There we had a wonder the very modern Scottish Parliament building on our way to the Palace.

The Palace was impressive however its mostly faded glamour, the grandeur was put in a long time ago and is simply maintained. It was interesting to see the place where Mary Queen of Scots lived and her confidante David Rizzio was killed.

In spite of all the walking we decided to go on an evening ghost tour. There are many walking tours which tell about the dark heart of Edinburgh, stories about the body snatchers Burke and Hare, the disputed final resting place of David Rizzo and infamous villains of the Cowgate were all brought to life by our guide. It is clear there is a lot of grizzly history to draw on.

Saturday we planned to see the Manics in the evening, but we started the day by going on the Edinburgh parkrun. It was the best parkrun we had done so far, taking place outside the city on the Cramond/Silverknowes Promenade. We took it easy and enjoyed jogging in such nice surroundings and glorious weather.

After a shower and a change, we spend the day taking in the Scottish National Gallery. There are some amazing works in there including those by Rembrandt, Turner, and Degas. It is large and took us quite some time to walk around.

In the evening we went out for some sushi before heading to Usher Hall. Usher Hall is quite an impressive building, we had seating on the top but the view was good. Unfortunately the seats were pretty uncomfortable, I was actually glad that there was an interlude so I could stretch my legs.

The Manics did a full rendition of the Holy Bible complete with 90's era costumes. Then a set of their greatest hits. I really enjoyed the venom of the Holy Bible you can see how much they have changed especially songs like Your Love Is Not Enough.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


Wednesday Night Kath and I started our mini break to Edinburgh in Manchester as went to see the Foo Fighters at Old Trafford Cricket club.

I had a bit of back ache thanks to an over enthusiastic training session at the gym. The painkillers meant that I couldn't drink so we opted to drive to Didsbury and catch the metro to Trafford park from there.

Kath has never been to a stadium gig before, so I was excited taking her. I little dismayed that the weather was true to Manchester form, rain! Fortunately just before the start of the gig the rain lightened then petered out.

We arrived early at 7 but weren't in time to catch the support acts. The Foos started early with a promise they wold play as long as possible with no encore. The set list was amazing starting off with Everlong, and covering all there hits. They also did a set of covers including an amazing version of Queens under pressure with Taylor Hawkins doing a perfect Freddy Mercury.

Filing out of the concert with 40,000 people our ears were ringing but we had smiles on our faces. Joe B posted on Facebook he could hear the concert 5 miles away in Levenshulme.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tears in the rain

Kath and I have been having a few days of cinema. On Sunday after a lovely BBQ at Bruce's house we headed to Odeon to watch Avengers Age of Ultron.

Bruce and Nina had put on a great spread, smoked beef, chilli and other tex mex style dishes. It was great to see them and Connie, even is she did cry after Nina made me hold her. Ian and Helen turned up which was a nice surprise, Helen put Kath and I to shame by doing parkrun while we sat in bed. Joe and Holly look like they might be moving home soon which is exciting, and of course Nick and Charlotte, who didn't attend the BBQ are getting married next Saturday.

We watched Avengers on IMAX at the printworks. It was well worth spending the money on such a visual feast. I really enjoyed the film in spite of a few hammy moments, and odd pacing it was an entertaining watch.

Last night was a different sort of film altogether, one I am not sure would be made today. We went to see the Final Cut of Blade Runner. In spite of it being one of the seminal films defining the way futuristic films looked for over two decades Kath had never seen it. Its starting to get a bit dated now, the dire predictions of a future 2019 when Los Angeles is under a constant cloud and humans are colonising space using replicant slaves.

Replicants are banned on Earth and Deckard the main character played by Harrison Ford is a replicant assassin or Blade Runner. Deckard is tasked with hunting down several replicants including a Nexus 6 the newest and most powerful form played by Rutger Hauer. Along the way we meet Raphael, a Nexus 6 who doesn't realise she is not human thanks to implanted memories.

Panned in its initial release in 1982, the film has become a cult classic. While some directors cough George Lucas have steadily diluted their original vision the re-cutting of Blade runner has made it an even more enjoyable film, increasing the tension and immersion of the futuristic world.

The replicants force us to ask existential questions about ourselves, they are more real, more physical with an artificially short lifespan. what makes them less human, is it because humans designed them even though they are superior to humans in physically and in some cases mentally. Towards the end of the film Rutger Hauers' character tells Deckard he has seen things that he can only dream of, in some way the replicant being more than human.

One question I have wondered is whether Deckard is a replicant? At one point Racheal asks him if he has ever taken the test used to differentiate replicants from Humans. The police chief also refers to him as a killing machine after retiring one of the replicants.

Even if in the 1980's predicted the city of the future 2019 would have flying cars but still use payphones and photographs, it is an incredible vision which still looks unique and is one of my favourite films.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Two weeks ago saw the end of our five years of wait. Kasia said goodbye to Poland and moved to the UK. I went over to Poland, helped her pack up the last of her clothes into suitcases, and we had meet ups with her friends there to say goodbye. Kath was pretty emotional on Saturday night as we said by bye to her close friends, I hope some of them will visit us in the UK before too long.

Back in the UK it has been quite an adventure so far. Trying to reorganise the house a bit and fit everything in has led to no less than four trips to Ikea. Initially the idea was to use a company to make a custom wardrobe, we contacted Sliderobes whom have a local office in Stanley Green. However the prices we were quoted were pretty steep to start with and rose quickly as we configured the interior. In the end we worked out that we could have a very similar Ikea wardrobe with all the extras and have enough money left over to buy a new desk, chair for Kath and to pimp up my old wardrobe putting in a light divider and trouser rack. Our fantastic new PAX wardrobe was complete with mirrored sliding doors, lights, and draws including a special cufflink jewellery drawer. It is a little smaller than the alternative but at 1/4 of the cost we lose only a few square feet.

Kath helped me to clear out my office, tons of old books and wires finally going away. The spare room is now set up for Kath, with her text books, desk and chair.

Apart from furniture building we have been enjoying ourselves catching up with people, we took my mum and dad out for mothers day for a great meal at the Bull Head.  Kath has been studying for the IELTs exam she must take before she is able to get a licence to practice as a doctor in the UK.

Monday, February 02, 2015


I bought my dad a new laptop for Christmas, a little HP it was really cheap but surprisingly capable of running all the sorts of application he needs.

The only disappointing thing about it was the amount of junk software installed. Not just lots of useless apps put actually dodgy apps ready to hurt the unwary. For the first time I saw an uninstalled which on one of the steps actually installed more software! Basically relying on the social engineering that most people just keep hitting next then end up with yet more crap ware to remove. If I was head of HP I would not want this junk of my hardware, it just makes it look crumby, certainly the repetitional damage is not worth the few quid they advertisers are paying.

It not just hardware manufactures getting caught out though. I recently fixed my barbers laptop and like a lot of computers I see it had all sort of dodgy browser extensions installed. It displayed fake adverts for Adobe flash which installed yes you've guessed it more junk software. The laptop was so full of this junk as to be unusable. These programs are for some reason not recognised as viruses, in spite of their virus like behaviour, changing settings ruining the user experience and driving the user to specific pages for finance gain. I am unsure why this junk is allowed to exist.

Overall I have to hand it to Apple, every Mac which I have used comes with software that enhances the computer not just to sell advertising space. There is a hell of a lot less of this junk which affects Apple.

Road to Sata

I just got a message from fitbit to tell me that I have now recorded enough steps to walk the length of Japan 3,007. It reminded me of a book I read some years ago, when I was trying to learn Japanese.
The books were The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan by Alan Booth. His first book written while he was living as a writer living in Japan. He basically set off on a strange journey across Japan on foot. Charting his experiences, anecdotes of the people and places he met on the road intermingled with historic information. It is a very good book, full of fantastic characters and a real product of its age the 1980's when Japan was conquering the world before the crash and the stagnation which followed.

I never did get very far with my Japanese course, after the first two enjoyable semesters the third went down hill after the college amalgamated two classes. Strangely later to just like my Polish course also hit the buffers after three semesters thanks to a lack of students.

I am really looking forward to the release of the Fitbit Surge which should mean I can wear that instead of the two devices I use now when running; my current Fitbit flex and Alpha Mio heart rate monitor. The flex has been a great device and having a fitness tracker really does help to motivate me to get out more often, however its not got a watch and its annoying to wear two devices.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Is it 2015 already?

I had my car serviced today, in an odd experience they emailed me a video of my car being inspected including a breakdown of the many expensive fixes it needs. Sign new Brakes, callipers and disk sigh just what I need after Christmas.

Kath was here for nearly two weeks over Christmas. She arrived on Boxing day at Liverpool. On the 27th we had redux of the Christmas meal with my parents. They made the full works again, from turkey to cranberry sauce to sausage meat and sprouts.

We had an awesome time together. Kath got me a new camera lens for Christmas, 70-300mm. We took some really nice photos whilst on walks to Poynton Canal, Lyme Park and Macclesfield forest. It was a great present, took great photos and memories.

Apart from walking we managed to catch up with as many people as possible. Including a lovely meal out at Sam's Chop house with Andy, Tilly, Ian, Helen, Dave, Claire, Will, Tracey and Macca. We also had a couple of Japanese style meals thanks to the sushi set Bruce and Nina got us. We made a meal for Jo and Holly one evening and had enough to make another for Phil and Caroline the next day.

Making the Japanese food was both fun and stressful, somehow we managed to have an argument about measures of water for the sushi rice. On a positive note I don't think I will forget how to season the rice. After the hiccups we managed to make up and in the end prepare some great food which I think Jo and Holly enjoyed very much.

On New Years eve we were invited to Matt and Christelle. She made a lovely meal and we all had a great evening chatting drinking and eating large amounts of food.