Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

He who would be a Leader, let him be a Bridge

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Brighton Wedding

The weekend 24-27 March was the occasion of the wedding of my elder niece Jenny to Mark in Brighton. I arrived at Brighton Station on a blustery Friday afternoon and made my way to Penny Lanes guest house to the east of the pier. Noticing that the Rambert Dance Company were performing in the Theatre Royal, I snapped up a ticket for the evening.

Saturday morning started bright and deserved a stroll and a birdwatch down to the marina (Fulmar, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe). As the day rolled on it was time to link up with family members as they arrived from all corners of the world (literally). Sister Jill with husband Peter; niece Jemima; nephew Joe with girlfriend Kerry and as the skies opened towards the evening younger son Carwyn with wife Kathryn arrived from Wales, whilst elder nephew Jack, with wife Miki ended their across-the-world journey from Tokyo, all in time to set of for the synagogue where the marriage blessing was to take place.

Carwyn and Kathryn in a seaside café

Sunday morning gave an opportunity for a seaside stroll with Carwyn and Kathryn before the marriage ceremony in the Royal Pavilion, followed by a sumptuous afternoon tea.

The festivities concluded with a band and disco on Brighton pier where traditional seaside fare (fish and chips) and a good time were had by all until midnight.

Bride Jenny with Jack, Miki, Ben, Jill and Jemima

Friday, March 17, 2006


This weekend I was joined in Askam by old school friend Jeff Andrews. We were in the same class in Colchester Royal Grammar School 1955 - 1962 where we were also members of the school's First XV Rugby team.

Friday 17 March broke with low cloud, so thoughts of an assault on one of Cumbria's mountains were abandoned, and a coastal walk south from Bootle embarked upon. Several waterfowl species were identified, and we were fortified by Mabel's meat and potato pies (still warm) and fresh tea brewed in the Kelly Kettle.

After lunch the skies cleared and the sun revealed itself and so we drove to Wasdale Head and commenced the route up to to Great Gable. We reached the "snow line" where common sense dictated that we were ill-equipped to continue and so, invoking my ancient family motto Discretion is the better part of Fowler we retreated and returned to Maalie Court for beer, wine and home-made lasagne.

Jeff and Jim make an assault on Great Gable
Saturday Morning dawned bright and sunny and the objecive was to introduce Jeff to the art and science of catching birds for ringing. At Roudsea Wood by 8.00am with plenty of snow still remaining we captured several tits species, including Marsh Tit, the subject if my research study.

Jeff holds a tit in each hand

(Long-tailed left, Great Tit right)

Then it was back home for a greasy fry-up for lunch and then settled down to watch the rugby all afternoon on TV with a few beers .

Sunday started bright and sunny and Jeff's command was "lakes and mountains" so a leisurely drive up the east side of Coniston Water was undertaken, stopping at some of the picturesque viewpoints. Arriving at Coniston we parked and decided to take a look at the lower slopes of the Old Man of Coniston. Following the previous loosening-up on Great Gable, we made surprising progress through the snow (quite deep in some places) and arrived above the tarn of Levers Water in time for lunch. The walk down to Coniston villiage was comparatively leisurely and the day ended with a pint of Coniston Bluebird real ale in the Black Bull where we studied details of the impressive art-work on the pub sign.

Jeff battles through the snow drifts on the Old Man of Coniston

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Road Trials

On Sunday I was joined in Askam by my Norwegian dancer friend Helén Rønning and her dad Halvard. The weather was cold and icy, but brilliant clear sunshine. We decided to put my new X-Trail through its paces on Monday. First a trip up to Coniston to look at the boats, and then through Langdale where a stop for a good English cup of tea at Boot was the order of the day. Thus refreshed, it was time to consider whether or not to undertake the next phase of the road trials. Ahead of us lay the dreaded Wrynose and Hardnott Passes with their treacherous 1 in 3 (30%) hairpin bends, single track road with few passing places and in many places the edge of road falls away perilously vertically to the side. One misjudgement at this time of year and you're a gonner.

We decided to proceed and after tightening seat belts we commenced the ascent to the Wrynose Pass. Soon we were above the snow line but, locked into 4-wheel drive, the vehicle seemed secure, even negotiating the treacherous hairpins in first gear. Approaching the summit, a less fortunate vehicle had evidently lost control on the ice and had slid over the edge and was hanging vertically nose down. There didn't seem to be casualties, so we stopped to admire the view, from the Isle of Man in the west to Lancaster in the south.

Helén and Halvard at the summit of the Wrynose Pass

The next trial was the equally fearsome Hardnott Pass, but thoughts of complacency were discarded and this too was carefully negotiated as we descended into Eskdale. There was time and good sunlight to visit Wasdale and Wast Water (the deepest lake in England with the steepest scree slopes) where a pub with more welcome tea was waiting at Wasdale Head.

Wast Water

All in all, a very successful trial, and I'm extremely pleased with the vehicle.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My Nissan X-Trail

Passing the forecourt of one of Barrow’s most reputable dealers, Furness Park Motors, last Sunday I glanced across and spotted what looked like a Nissan X-trail. Hmmm, Sunday, I thought, the place will be closed and I can have a wander round and take a peep without harassment. Well, I could see it had 28,000 miles on the clock and the price was within my bracket. I’d sleep on it for a week. But what if I decided to want it and it had gone by then….. another person might have snapped it up scooped a bargain of a lifetime….

A man came out of an office.

“Can I help you Sir?” (He was being polite, I was dressed in very rough clothes, having just got back from fieldwork).

“I’m just having a look round, I didn’t think you would be open on a Sunday”.

“Always willing to help Sir, any time. Something taken your fancy?”

“Just looking at the X-trail. Have you got the key?”

“Won’t be minute Sir” (Dealer returns with key).

“Could you put the back seats down?”

“Certainly Sir”.

I get in and lie flat out and my head just touches the back of the front passenger seat and my toes just touch the tailgate. “Hmmm. Pity. I was hoping there would be enough space to lie full out. In my Polo Estate I can only stretch out on the diagonal and that doesn’t leave much room for gear”.

“Let me slide the front seat forward a bit” (he does so).

“Ah, that’s better. You see, I was hoping to use it as a fieldwork vehicle come camper”.

“Can’t think of anything more suitable Sir. Would you like to take it for a drive?”

Half an hour later, a spin to Askam and back, and I was hooked. For once, I did believe a second-hand car salesman: It would indeed fit the bill for a semi-camper, off-road vehicle.

“Also it has electric sunroof…….”

“Oh, never mind all that, so long as I can sleep in it… What will you give me for my Polo?”

“Let’s go inside and discuss that, I’m sure we can work something out”.

Then my hand was skilfully and subtly guided to places where signatures were needed on bits of paper, and Ooops, it was mine!

My X-Trail with Coniston mountains in the background

Here are some reviews of road trials:

Honest John

Channel Four

Key comments:

The X-Trail is one of those vehicles that impresses with its basic honesty and grows on you.

It’s a solid, sensible, practical vehicle, not an in-your-face status symbol.

Is as good off-road as it is on-road. Spent three hours splodging along forest tracks, up and down steep inclines, through black two-foot-deep gloop and hustling it on dry loose surfaces at up to 65mph.

A serious threat to Freelander's market domination.

The only adverse comment I have found is: Freelander has better image.

Well, I’m not the slightest bit concerned about image. Not at my age.