Joe’s Yarns: an evening of stories

When I was little I loved stories. All kinds of stories. I loved reading them, writing them and listening to them. Hours and hours spent with my head in a book or on the early-80’s apple computer at school writing pages and pages and pages (and pages) of stories.

I remember both my Nans would tell us stories at night time if we were staying over. They’d either read from a book or make them up. The made up ones were the best. The Big Tractor and the Little Tractor was a particular favourite of mine, I loved the picture that was painted in my head of two little cartoon like pieces of farm machinery zooming around the countryside exploring and having adventures.

I still love stories. It *may* have been known for me to ask people I don’t know that well to “tell me a story”. It’s a great way to get to know people (and sometimes it’s because I’m tired and can’t be arsed to talk myself and love listening). It’s all about the chat.

And that’s how I ended up dragging BMF Nige to a storytelling night in Cheltenham last night. We’d not had a proper catch up since I got back and I’d spotted this thing on Facebook that looked interesting so we headed on down to a cafe called Smokey Joes just off the High Street in Cheltenham to see what the craic was.

Walking in I immediately wanted a milkshake (it’s a retro diner) but stuck to Wednesday Club tradition with red wine (I have totally forgotten my hangovers of the last 3 weekends of course) and walked through the back where we were greeted by Charlie, a giant white-bearded man with a hat and a booming voice who told us he was the compere for the eve.

Nige got seduced by the retro games machines and went off to play pac-man or something. I sat down and tried to figure out how to stop my phone from making a noise when I got a message, even though it was on silent. [Spoiler: it didn’t work]

The stories started. A storytelling evening is basically just someone sat on a stool with a microphone and telling a story. Funny, sad, wacky, odd, normal, your own, or someone else’s, it doesn’t matter. Tonight there was a theme “things aren’t always as they seem” but also a bit of a free for all. Kind of like an open mic night but without any singing or joke telling, the usual awkward silence followed Charlie’s opening gambit where, with the mic offered up to the room, no one dare go next. Until one person did. And then another, and another. I got up and spoke twice; a couple of stories about things from my bike trip in Chile. I think my favourite bit is when I was trying to tell my little story and my phone kept shouting out because I’d set up voice commands to unlock my phone. Yep, my phone thought I was talking to it through a microphone and despite the silent do not disturb mode, it joined in my talk with “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch what you said” in that OK Google voice. Honestly, we couldn’t get the bloody thing to shut up. Nige had to hide it on the floor under the table like a naughty dog in the end.

There were some great stories. All quite different, all told in a unique way and all engaging. Really nice to spend a couple of hours doing something pretty different. You don’t have to speak, but you can if you want.

Joe’s Yarns is held on the last Wednesday of each month at Smokey Joes. Next month is their year anniversary; I’ll definitely be going again. Give it a try if you’re Cheltenham way.

img_20170222_225245_068

 

 

Advertisements

Adventure withdrawal.

It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind since I got back from Chile. I got straight stuck into celebrating my return by promptly getting pissed for most of the weekends since I’ve been back. Whilst fun, it’s not sustainable and I knew the post-adventure blues would hit a little bit once the initial excitement/hangovers had worn off. They always do, I know exactly how it works for me:

  • Stage 1: Excitement at getting home and catching up with people
  • Stage 2: Over stimulation being around people after spending weeks in limited company
  • Stage 3: Become a hermit for a while and enjoy pottering around in my own company
  • Stage 4: Run lots
  • Stage 5: Rejoin civilisation and start socialising again
  • Stage 6: Plan next adventure

I’ve now made it through all the stages! Earlier today I booked flights to New Zealand to go over Easter. This wasn’t part of a plan and was a bit of a spontaneous decision and is mainly so I can go buy my friend Mike the beer I’ve owed him for about 3 years now. I met him in Hong Kong briefly and he lent me – a complete stranger – his truck when I was in New Zealand so I could do a road trip. He was in Oz so I never got to see him again to thank him properly. So when he moved back to NZ and the option of being able to have just over two weeks off work when only taking a few days holiday (thank you Easter bank holidays!) came up, it was a no brainer.

OK, so I’m pretty skint after Chile but this is what that savings pot that I shouldn’t touch is for. Sometimes you have to grab an opportunity when it comes up.

And so that, dear readers, is how I am flying off to New Zealand in just over a month for some (in Mike’s words) “insane hiking”. And a visit to Queenstown, NZ’s alcohol/party capital to celebrate my birthday. Expect lots of pictures of mountains, adventure stories and possibly drunken photos. But hopefully this time, wearing my own pants and no bar stool incidents.

10156104_10152371902841341_1879059286440370108_n

Day #164 12.06.16

Day 2 and we did a lot more advanced navigation, this time using compasses, bearings, dog legs and all sorts. Handily, the fog came down when were at the top of one mountain so we actually had to navigate using compass bearings and pacing because we couldn’t see a thing. Luckily it also skipped off shortly after so pretty much all weekend we had glorious views and not much rain, a total bonus.

I really did have a great weekend, learnt loads and can’t wait to go and try and get lost in the wilderness somewhere now 😉

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0121.

Day #163 11.06.16

Day 1 of my mountain navigation skills course at Plas Y Brenin, the National Mountain Sports Centre. Map reading and stuff. Today we did lots of map reading, distance measuring, pacing etc. And walking up mountains. Falling in love with Snowdonia <3.

Also drank beer and met new people. Always a nice by-product of these kinds of things.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0081.

Surf’s Up.

It started like any good weekend away; with a ROAD TRIP! I get ridiculously excited about road trips for some reason. To me, it’s not just a pain in the arse to get out the way before something exciting, it’s the start of the excitement. All you need is other people in the car (solo road trips are fun, just not as fun), some tunes (taste optional) and snacks (mandatory, always mandatory). Good weather and shades also help make a road trip go from great to awesome, but, given that we live in England, we are realistic that this will not happen in the majority of UK road trips, so we can live without. In order for a road trip to go smoothly, some kind of navigation aid is crucial. In this day and age, normally a postcode is punched into an electronic device and tech does the rest. NOT THIS TIME PEOPLE! We had the old fashioned sat nav; a.k.a an actual map. After confirming that yes, Nigel actually didn’t have google maps (I didn’t realise that could happen) I had to read a road atlas. In a trip down memory lane, I soon realised why google maps are SO AWESOME (please don’t ever take them away from me) and was reminded of learning to drive and not realising how maps and road signs actually worked together.

Surprisingly, after no wrong turns at all, some questionable music, cucumber and carrot stick snacks (it’s what Sian does you know) we arrived in glorious technicolor sunshine at Surf Snowdonia, our home for the next couple of days. While we laid out in the sun, basking in this Welsh phenonemon, the others arrived. We decided to visit the pub go for a walk while we waiting for the rest. Soon, we were introduced to Rich’s incredible short-cutting skills, “a must for any trip away”, Bev explained, fond memories being recounted of ‘those times when…’. Losing track of time due to an extremely intellectual debate on the EU referendum, we realised that although Adam had decided to try out the new ‘congested route’ option on google maps (and had great success), they had actually arrived. Bev and I decided to start our activity weekend with a gentle jog to go meet them, which, after quite a few beers and no sporting wear (i.e. sports bra), went better than expected.

Giddy with excitement (or it could have been the fair few drinks and no food) we all skipped off to the restaurant, only to be met with panic and confusion from the restaurant who thought we had booked/hadn’t booked/should have booked/had 15 vegans. A few conversations with Stewart later, all was smoothed out when it seemed the main issue was just that they had to sit us in a slightly different area of the bar/restaurant. Which actually was completely irrelevant as it all had a hotel-lobby feel anyway and all we wanted to do was eat and drink, not admire the table dressings.

A good nights sleep later (actually it was, those pods had pretty comfy mattresses – OK they were plastic pee-proof, but still, they were thick enough that you didn’t feel your spine digging into a bit of wood, plus the snoring-stick did not have to be used), it was time to prep up for our Snowdon HIKE. Hike is in capitals here to make the point it is NOT A STROLL. Poor Emma had been told by Adam that we were just off on a little walk, so they win the Most Unprepared award for not realising this was proper walking boots-water-snacks & lunch walking territory. I later asked Adam if he had not read all the details on the Facebook page but apparently he only reads “the first bit then I don’t bother”. Luckily for him Emma takes it all in good spirits, Elena brought enough food to feed 3 (Lucian’s share) and we revel in the fact we have more piss-taking material on Adam to add to the pot.

Talking of food and awards, Maya wins the Most Food Ever award. I have never seen so much food brought (and made/sliced/diced/prepared) for a couple of nights. And I swear the box was still full when we took it back out the other end. But not shit food though, good, proper food, green stuff and all sorts, it was like having our own healthy chef with us!    

And talking of awards, Elena wins the Most Style award. From her silk kimono for camping to her colour co-ordinated mountain wear fashion range and perfectly big-curl hair, big sunglasses and even bigger smile, this is one stylish laydee.

In typical group-organisation style, we all jump into separate cars with only a vague idea of where we’re going. Nigel, confident even without google maps, decides to follow Elena (who does have tech) ‘just in case’. We head off in Ben’s car, stopping by the shop for essential supplies, adding a time delay dimension into the race-to-Pen-Y-Pass Car Park. Sat nav (not google maps, I hasten to add) takes us a beautiful (but bouncy) scenic way and we rock up at the car park, only to be met by a ‘Car Park FULL’ sign. Logical thing to do was for me to hang out the window and ask where we can park. Cue the cones being moved and blokey pointing to a space in the upper level. WIN. As it happened, there were actually 3 spaces up there, so we raced back down to the entrance to see if we could see the others (because of course, this being in the mountains there was no phone signal – this is important). After what felt like a statistically significant time period, we soon realised they must have passed by and headed to the park and ride car park a few miles down the road. As we were at the start point for the track we wanted to do, we decided to stay put. What we didn’t realise is that the others were doing pretty much the same thing, only they had some phone signal so had sent text messages and voicemails saying where we were and for us to meet them there. Of course, we never got these, and it also didn’t occur to us that they would think we hadn’t got into the main car park. Still, we had a lovely hour or so in the sun chatting to the wardens and watching the 24hr 3 peak challengers arrive. Only when Elena drove up did we all realise what had happened. Ha-ha-ha.

Bev wins the award for Most Alcohol Drunk But Least Effects Seen, based on previous events but also having been asked if she was running up the mountain by a young chap, clearly impressed by her form.

So reunited, but feeling like we were a lot later starting that we had hoped (we weren’t really), we all started marching up the Pyg Track at some pace and soon realised it was pretty steep and pretty muggy to be doing too much of that. Claire was having some trouble with her ankle and unfortunately (but sensibly) decided to drop out fairly early on. I personally think it was a possible ploy to go and flirt chat with first aiders all day.

Injury count = 1

13343068_10154140043216341_2019368198453102090_n

We trekked on, up and down with some cracking views. Last time I did this track it was gale force winds and driving rain, and I never saw a thing. This time was much more pleasant (and sweaty). Unbeknown to us, while we were walking along Linda was devising a cunning plan to make Adam carry some weight, given his unprepared-no-backpack status, and threw herself onto some rocks, bashing her shin pretty bad and requiring the freeze gel. Don’t forget a first aid kit when hiking folks!

Injury count = 2

There’s a few things you should always carry when hiking, especially up mountains. Weather can be changeable, so always carry layers and things like hats, gloves etc. Water and food for energy. Maps, camera. And maybe a carabiner and rope? Yes, according to Ben. What he thinks he can do with this bit of string rope I don’t know, but Inga explained ropes and carabiner are to Ben what a blanket is to a child and it keeps him happy.

13394181_10154140042326341_190922686741692314_n

A scenic lunch later (with Sian nearly taking out walkers with apple cores and Linda delighting everyone with proper nice cookies), more going uphill and a stretch of walking with Sherbert, the miniature Schnauzer we made it to [nearly] the top. We decided to have a group photo just below the summit because there were still [some] views and the top was covered in cloud. Good job we did, the summit was like Picadilly circus and there was an actual queue to get to the top trig point (needless to say, we didn’t bother and just had fights with midges instead).

13321948_10154140044541341_4868563258337382480_n

Toilet done, midges fought, selfies taken, we headed back down. Bev’s dodgy ankle was playing up and the cars were in different locations so we split into two groups for the descent. Alex, Ben, Inga and myself went back down the Pyg Track to join the Miners Track with the rest doing the Llanberis Path. Rich regained the Most Likely To Get Lost award for suggesting another short cut which, I heard, wasn’t actually that short.

Injury count = 2 1/2 (technically not a new injury)

Our fantastic four group had a lovely stroll down. No short cuts here but a quick paddle in the lake for Ben, and Alex got to gossip to her hearts content. You can’t quiet that one up at all when she gets going 😉

Back at the ranch the mood was jovial as we’d got the hard bit out the way, it didn’t rain and of course we’d all earned that beer/prosecco/cider/any alcohol. Nigel was impressing everyone with his Big Job before we’d had enough of that and headed back over to the restaurant, with Stewart and the team slightly calmer this time as 1) we’d booked in and 2) we’d become friends and he loved us. Food eaten, back to pod life for a bit of a guitar sing song around the [metaphorical] campfire while we waited for Lucian who was on an epic late night drive. He was in for a treat when Elena headed to the gate in just her dry robe and not a lot else, but suspect that it wasn’t quite the treat he was hoping for when he ended up being in a sauna with 5 of us at 2am. Or maybe it was (although it wasn’t that kind of sauna action). When we finally figured out how to make the bubbles bubble in the hot tub, we enjoyed some relaxation until a ghostly apparition appeared at the fence, scaring us all. The Welsh ghost of Father Christmas, we were a bit worried he was going to tell us off for being in the hot tub but no, he just fancied a bit of a chat as I’d guess he was a bit bored and lonely wandering around at 3am by himself.

Sunday blasted into life with a massive blue sky and a huge hot yellow thing in the middle of it. This pleased everyone. Today was surfing and water activity day! So better to be hot while plunging into cold water,yes?

Some of the guys went surfing. Yes, surfing in the middle of Snowdonia, no where near the coast. A mechanical wave runs up and down this lagoon. The surfers tell me it’s nothing like being on the sea but fun nonetheless. Alex enjoyed it as she got chatted up by an attractive man in a wetsuit (although got spectacularly cock blocked by Ben. Fail). Ben mangled his already-mangled toes on the seam of the bottom of the lagoon. The rest just appeared to be having a massive laugh with some up time on the boards. To be honest, I was too busy talking perfect portfolio careers with Inga and sunbathing with Bev to watch properly.

13391485_10154140026611341_8099654676901051636_o

Injury count = 3 1/2

Surfing over, next up was Crash and Splash. Like a wipeout water obstacle course and <dramatic pause> The Blob (an inflatable thing where one person sits at the end and others jump off a platform onto the other end making them rocket into the air). This is one of those things that looks less scary/more fun than it actually is. Not only do you have to jump off a platform and land a certain way (this is HARD, well it was for me) you then sit at the end and wait with baited breath until you’re flung for [what seems like] miles in the air and have no control on how you land. Although it is much fun watching everyone’s less-than-graceful (except Emma, she was uber-graceful) landing. Inga must have had significantly more weight ‘blobbing’ her as she went pretty damn high, and managed to land in a way that winded her. However, this has earned her the Most Impressive Blob award. She also totally rocked at the monkey bars (while taking most of the skin off her hand pad bits near the bottom of your fingers – no idea what that bit of your hand is called).

Injury count = 5 1/2

The final activity of ‘get out of your wetsuit’ was slightly less energetic and once completed, a weary set of BMFers headed back out into the sunshine, ready to eat/drink/drive home/sleep/collapse*. Lots of hugs later, the group dispersed, all to go our separate ways. Some straight home, some stayed and had lunch, some of us stayed and had a nap in the sun before heading home. *delete as appropriate

And heading home now means another ROAD TRIP! Only when heading home, it’s just a plain old road trip. No capitals. Everyone’s weary, everyone’s tired, sad it’s over. There’s probably no snacks, no singing, no chatting. Definitely sleeping. This had not gone unnoticed by Nigel. Nigel decided to go to extreme efforts to get out of driving once he realised all his passengers were asleep by having a twisted ankle, not mentioned previously but clearly causing pain now. This did mean though that a shop stop was called for, and snacks were purchased. This perked everyone up, and after a while at the side of the road with Nigel getting his leg up in full view of the queue of traffic, we swapped drivers, made sure Nigel’s ankle was the comfiest in the car with a little pillow to rest on and the road trip turned into a Road Trip! Not quite full capitals, but enough to lift the car energy to at least – BOOM – keep us all awake.

13403319_10154140054101341_1379390951856736830_o
Final injury count = 6 1/2

That’s not too bad – less than half of us. There might have been some that I have forgotten. Because, it wouldn’t be a BMF weekend without any injuries and both identified and unidentified bruising. Lesson: always pack the freeze and ibuprofen gel. ALWAYS HANDY.

All in all, a top weekend, made top predominately by the people who were there. Often it’s not what you do but who you do it with. And this crew are the best. You all rock, THANK YOU ALL for a brilliant weekend.

13321740_10154140042941341_3881618999304446350_n

What’s next?

Day #71 11.03.16

Another Friday, another walk up Cleeve Hill. Although this one was definitely slower as Sian and I dragged our weary, Hell Week-broken carcasses up the not-so-steep way to the top. Still good to get outside though (and the tea and cake afterwards makes it pretty worthwhile).

photo

Day #68 08.03.16

It’s my brother’s birthday today so I’ve decided today will be an old photo too, this one from when we were kids (and then one from 3 years ago when we were in Lapland for his wedding). Back then life was simple, we’d just head outside to ride our bikes or climb trees. I’d want to be one of the boys and anything he could do, I could do too. Not a lot has changed.

Happy Birthday Matt.

IMG_0021

486046_10151553624091341_1285351813_n

Day #46 15.02.16

Monday again, how do you come around so quick?

How do you make Mondays awesome? Start as you mean to go on. And today was awesome, and actually has 3 photos, although it’s the one at the end of the day which I’m claiming as my official photo a day today. Although I was working, I was working from home so I was able to make Monday a day full of Exercise and the Outdoors; two of my favourite things. Huzzah! What a way to start the week. First, a wake up session of BMF at the new Cheltenham venue of Hester Way Park.  Watching the sun rise while planking on the frosty grass is pretty special (although I appreciate this isn’t some people’s idea of a perfect Monday morning).

IMG-20160215-WA0000

Lunchtime was spent walking up Leckhampton Hill in the blindingly lush sunshine (more of that please weather gods) and enjoying the view and giggles.

943935_913442505448227_8252360524683742104_n

Back to work until the evening then saw me break free from the laptop and go for a jog around Cheltenham. Starting slowly as I wanted to do at least 10K, I just kept running. And running. I figured I’d just keep going until the legs said no. And that happened at around 18km but of course I had to round that up. So I actually ended up doing 20.5km. What a run. Last time I ran that distance I was being chased. Well, not really but it’s been so long since I’ve ran that distance it sure seems like the most logical reason why I’d run that far. My running mojo has been up and down over the last year but tonight I felt like that lost mojo had well and truly been found.

What an end to the day. Well, actually that’s not quite how I ended it. That amount of exercise in one day makes Paps have stiff legs. So the day ended up with a roll around on the foam roller. This evil monster had me in its clutches, yes.  Those things can be pretty damn painful (but help A LOT. And it’s kind of a good pain. Kind of.).

received_913642052094939

Day #43 12.02.16

Friday’s are my non-working day. Hurrah for part time working, especially when the sun is shining and I can get outside. YES. Spent the afternoon wandering around Cleeve Hill with the fab little pocket rocket Sian getting told off by golfers and putting the world to rights. And taking time out to just be. Enjoying the moment, without thinking about what was going on anywhere else. It’s easy to do that on top of a hill. Beaut.

<Squinty eyes because of sun>

IMG_20160212_145107

Day #38 07.02.16

Back home in Cheltenham today and this afternoon I got myself up to Leckhampton Hill for a run around. It was a beaut of a day (SUNSHINE!) and after spending most of this week cooped up inside feeling like shit I needed to get outside.

It’s amazing what a run around with a view and green stuff does for the soul. This picture shows a happy face to be up there and outside. I’d spend the majority of my time outside up a hill if I could. One day.

IMG_20160207_130433