Archive for September, 2014

Norman’s 30th birthday

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 | Friends

For Norman’s 30th, we decorated the house, made him a cake (and by made I mean his mum made it but Cara carried it from the kitchen to the dining room) and even sang happy birthday with a guitar accompaniment.

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Star gazing

Monday, September 29th, 2014 | Photos

I decided there was no point taking my 50mm prime lens to Scotland. Then I got there and realised that that was exactly what I needed for photographing the night sky! As it happens, Ullapool puts out a lot of light anyway, so the photos were not amazing. I have seen far better skies in the middle of nowhere. However, it was certainly better than Leeds.




Summer Queen Cruises

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Photos, Travel

While in Ullapool, we took a Summer Queen Cruise to the Summer Isles. I totally recommend it. We saw loads of dolphins. Loads!

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Some awesome scenery too.


And we got some beautiful sunshine in the Summer Isles. We hiked up to the top of the hill and then I ran up to the very top of the island. This is us at the top of the first hill:


Then this is everyone from the very top of the island:


And their view looking up at me:


Scottish independence

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 | Religion & Politics

We were in Scotland for the independence vote. I am not going to claim that we were entirely responsible for the swing back to “no”. But as we all know, correlation does imply causation…

To do this any kind of justice I would have to spend a lot of time planning my thoughts and writing them out. However, having just got back from a week’s holiday and straight into conference season, I don’t have time for that. So here are some briefer thoughts.

On the whole, I was behind the no vote. From a rational perspective, I am not sure that was the right path. Scotland enjoys a large amount of public spending, free prescriptions, free university, etc. If the no campaign is to be believed, it is £1,200 per person. That is a huge subsidy from the English tax payer. Though how reliable those figures are will no doubt be much disputed.

However, from an emotional point of view, it was a shock to see that almost half the people in Scotland dislike me so much, just for being English. It felt like a divorce. I didn’t want our family to be torn apart. Of course the yes campaign would say it is not like that. But it felt like that.

I am also not sure there is much of a difference between the results. We are devolving further powers anyway, so the countries will go their separate ways somewhat, despite being the same country on paper. Of course, there are benefits to this. But also disadvantages. It makes law and business far more complex for example. To give an example that has actually touched my life, charity laws different between England and Scotland for example (and it’s annoying).

There is the possibility that politicians will just go back on the word though. It does not look like they will from the posturing that has happened since the vote. However, it wouldn’t be altogether surprisingly – every politician campaign is full of promises the elected party does not deliver on.

It was interesting that Royal Bank of Scotland said they would move their headquarters to London. However, it probably wouldn’t be that embarrassing for Scotland – Westminster already owns most of it anyway.

One of the biggest advantages of having Scotland remain part of the union is that we have also escaped a decade for Tory governments that would have probably resulted from losing the Scottish labour vote.

Anyway, ramble over.

Ullapool 2014

Friday, September 26th, 2014 | Friends, Life, Photos, Travel

A couple of years ago, Norman charged George and I with planning a suitable celebration of his 30th birthday. So, in February this year, we began planning a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Seven months and a thousand miles of driving later, and our mission was accomplished.

It is a mission to get to. It took 11 hours to get up there and 10 hours to get back. It was worth the drive though (I say now the back pain has faded). We got incredibly lucky in that we had no rain all week and enjoyed sunshine for most of it. The cruise staff were very keen for me to stress to everyone that I had to use sun cream in the Highlands!

Amazing weather, amazing company and an amazing setting – what more could you possibly want from a holiday?

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The view across the loch. The town on the right is Ullapool.


Norman swimming in the loch. I only made it to the river that ran down beside our house into the loch and that was absolutely freezing.

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Corrieshalloch Gorge. The photos do not do it justice. It is 200 feet deep.


Our beach-side home for the week.

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Best of all, spending a week with seven amazing friends.


Thursday, September 25th, 2014 | News


I’m pleased to announce that Elina and I are now engaged. We have not made any plans yet. I am very pleased obviously, but to be honest, I don’t really see it as a big deal. I already knew I loved Elina, and I knew that she loved me. The engagement is really just a way to lock that in in case I get some kind of horrible disease or something.

I proposed after a moonlit serenade of The Church’s “Under The Milky Way Tonight”. I have a video of it, though I am not planning to put it online.

As you probably know, it’s tradition that when a Finnish woman gets married, her friends shower her with thousands of euros of gifts per person. I know that none of you will want to be culturally insensitive…

Area 15 Autumn 2014 contest

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Public Speaking

Last Sunday I chaired the Area 15 Autumn 2014 contest. It was a tough one. I was in the Scottish Highlands the week before so I was trying to organise it from an area of the country almost devoid of phone signal.

There were only twelve people there on the day. However, thanks to the professionalism and enthusiasm of the members we were able to cover everything and run the contest. Even Elina was drafted in to count the ballots!

The Regent Hotel in Doncaster were an excellent host as always. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who attended the contest and helped out, and well done to everyone who competed! Good luck to Andrew and Anthony who will be representing us at Division level.

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Has anyone else noticed medicine doesn’t really do anything

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 | Thoughts

I am sure this is mostly unjustified and when I am not in a lot of pain I will change my mind. However, I have been feeling this way a lot over the past year or two. That isn’t because the entirely field of medicine is useless. It would be stupid to say that. But it can feel that way.

I am sat here with a mouth ulcer. It really hurts. I have put the gel on it, and I am on ibuprofen, and it still hurts. They come every six months, sometimes more regularly, and there doesn’t seem to be anything that can be done about them.

Or how about my anxiety. Years and years working on that and it still rules my life.

Or how about my rhinitis? Making it so hard to breath that my 57 year old dad is significantly faster than me at Parkrun (that is my excuse anyway). Embarrassing nasal rinses, steroid sprays and even surgical intervention has not fixed it.

Or there was that time I got a sore on my leg. I got some cream and some steroids to apply to that one and still it didn’t go away. It was only months later after I had given up that it eventually disappeared.

Elina has issues two. Like many people, she suffers from migraines. It destroys many a weekend. Yet every time we got to the GP they give her the same medication and tell her to come back if anything changes. If something does change, she goes back and gets told the same thing.

If I was to come up with a list of problems that I had gone to my GP about and they had managed to fix, I am sure there would be some items. But not many. I can only think of one or two off the top of my head. Most of them, they haven’t.

Luckily, there are two people who have developed a somewhat-effective treatment that gets me through. Their names are Ben, and Jerry.

Flamingo Land

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 | Photos

Earlier this month myself and Elina went to Flamingo Land. I was quite impressed. We did not go on any of the rides; we just did the zoo. Even with that, it was still a full day of stuff to do, indeed we probably could have spent more time there if we wanted to see all the shows.

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Friday, September 12th, 2014 | Life

A few weeks ago I went to a friend’s christening. Well, a friend’s son’s christening.

That was all fine though it did get a bit weird as in the middle of the service the vicar went into a massive rant about how he hates atheists because we insist that he isn’t allowed to teach his kids about religion (as we do). I seemed to get quite a lot of eye contact during that section…