Wednesday, 8 July 2009

BlackLOG on the rocks with a dash of Welsh mountain water

I discovered a number of things this weekend :-

- Not all Tomtom car navigation systems are the same.

- The hare and the tortoise - we discover the truth behind the story, not once but twice (yes Teach I came close to writing hair, I was almost tempted to put it in anyway).

- Tennis players are selfish uncaring bastards.

It was off to North Wales at the weekend for White-water rafting and cycling down mountains (also up, which I was not so keen on). As there were six of us we needed to take two cars - Craig drove his huge, tank-like Mercedes estate - which could have taken all six of us but there would have been no room for my luggage, yet alone anyone else's. The Black household continues with its "pack everything but the kitchen sink" policy. Even my new camera travels with more accessories than your average shoplifter in Accessorize. In fact, the only person with more luggage was Vinnie who was in possession of a Chav style jumbo suitcase on wheels(although since Vinnie is Italian I’m pretty sure he can't technically be described as a Chav….. It's all that natural born style developed from years of running away to live to run away another day). I think he might have had more hair stuff than Mrs B, Mala & Shilpa combined, which probably explains why he normally looks so good in photos.

Our 2 car convoy managed to separate itself less than 20 metres into our trip - Craig opting to take the main route out of Bishops Stortford while I took the back roads. (I'm not mentioning any road names in case IMO is hovering, waiting to pounce and tell me there is a much quicker route than the one I took). We hit the M11 a good 10 minutes before the tank and headed north. A little while later Craig shot by like a bat out of hell. We decided not to keep pace. While ElleGee (our BMW) has no problems speeding - anything much over 80mph gets uncomfortable with the roof down and he eats fuel at high speed. It would be nice to make it out of Cambridgeshire before having to refill.

We somehow managed to meet up at a welcome break just the other side of Birmingham. After that they shot off again so we estimated we would probably end up arriving about half an hour later than team tank. Poor Vinnie had made the mistake of swapping cars at the stop and had forgotten my "If it's dry and above freezing, the roof's down" policy. He looked a sight wrapped in a pink tartan blanket trying to protect his hair (Did I mention he is Italian?) He was so relieved when it started to rain and the roof had to go back up.

About 5 mins from Bala, our destination for the weekend, we got a phone call. The passengers in the tank were getting hungry and so were going to stop at the next town for a sandwich. Did we want to meet up again? I told them it was hardly worth it as we were only 5 mins from the hotel. There was silence at the other end of the line..... " How did you get there? We are still over half an hour away!". While our good old Tom Tom had taken us directly across the Welsh moors - even sticking to proper roads and no farm tracks this time - Mala's Satnav (incidentally also a Tom Tom - how does that work? They were both set for shortest journey time) had taken them on an impromptu tour of North Wales. Not that I’m being competitive or that it was a race or anything but........... One Nil to Team Black (Hare and Tortoise). We are the champions, Losers Losers etc etc.
Is that the legendary hairy tortoise -
No it's Vinnie after a trip in
the back of ElleGee

Our first booked event for the weekend was White-water rafting. Great fun but extremely tiring. After 4 runs most of us were done in while Mala was asking for a fifth run. Now, let's work this one through. How did Mala stay so fresh? Was it perhaps because for the first run she jettisoned her paddle within about 10 metres of the start? "Hay-ulp! Haayy-ulp! I seemed to have dropped my paddle! I'll just have to be a passenger for the first run" Said in a Penelope Pitstop type voice . I think for the second run Mala was so used to not having to do any work that the effort was about 50%. So with Mala only participating in 2.5 of the 4 runs it was no wonder she was fresh and ready for more. Looking at the photos I’m just surprised that Shilpa was not fresher. Hardly a shot appears showing Shilpa using her paddle……
More proof that not everyone on
our boat was pulling their weight.
Mala, Shilpa the paddles are meant
to go into the water

Craig looks like he is about
to suffer a fatal blowout. Yes we
can see you Shilpa, an interesting
paddle grip

They call this Fun!!!!!

For the Sunday we had booked mountain biking. Talk about easing us in, it was straight onto the red course which involved going down slippery stones and rocky jumps. Mrs B was the first to fall vanishing into some bushes before we had even made the first bend. Shilpa soon followed but while Mrs B recovered her composure Shilpa adopted a "three metres distance before sliding off her bike" approach to riding. I think she managed, under instruction from our guide, to extend this to around 10 metres. For the second time in just over a week I found myself being overtaken by Mrs B on a bike. Last time it was due to a bent gear derailer. Thankfully, to spare my blushes, it turned out that I had a rear tyre puncture this time. How could I not tell? I hear you ask. (Don’t worry I’ve got good hearing and may have accidentally bugged your PC) Well it was on a hire bike that I was not used to and the slope was somewhat extreme. I think it was as big a shock to Mrs B as she went past (Hare and Tortoise No.2). Quite frankly I’m running out of reasonable excuses.

The course was challenging and I was struggling due to a tendency to slow down too much for the tricky bits. The slower you go on a bike the more unstable you become and although I managed to avoid any actual falling off I had a number of "moments" through over-zealous braking. This turned out to be the seeds of my destruction. I then decided that braking was for wimps as all that slowing down was making me unstable (on the bike!). The slope that I chose for my non-braking experiment seemed to go on for ever, and what started out as a few stones and bushes scattered liberally about soon turned into huge rocks and large trees flashing past. Everything was going well and as long as I didn't think about what I was doing and left it all to instinct I was fine. Then a little voice started in my head:

Inner voice - Wow this is fun....

Me - Yes it is

Inner voice - Do you think you can really do this?

Me - Yes!

Inner voice - What happens if you crash?....

So not exactly Jedi use the force young BlackLOG but more supportive like my English teacher -"I'll eat my hat if you pass your O'level" I just hope he choked on it.....

Me - Shut up , Aaaarrrggghhhh...........!!!

At that point it all went into slow motion as I found myself flying through the air.

I think I made it about 5 metres before gravity and a local rock decided I was not playing by the rules. The bike made it a further 5 metres, bloody show off....

Welsh Mountain - Thud!

Inner voice - That's gonna hurt - I'm out of here

Fortunately my left thigh, both forearms and head took most of the impact. As I lay there hugging the rock I was thinking "I'm glad it's not my bike and helmet....and thank god I went to the toilet just before I crashed. Saved me from writing off my cycling shorts from the inside."

It took them a while to peel me off the rock and considering how bad the crash was, I got away fairly lightly. A couple of bumps and cuts on my head, a dead leg in my left thigh and lots of bruises all over my body, including a rather large one to my now shattered Ego, but no breakages or lasting damage. I limped for a bit but decided that if I didn't get on the bike it would be much harder next time. Oh yes, there will be a next time but I will be wearing full body armour and evicting my inner voice before I set off.....
Yes that's my bike in the centre with the
front wheel at an odd angle

I checked my bike GPS gadget afterwards and decided it must be suffering from concussion. It claimed that I had been doing over 60mph at one point on the course. I don't think so, because that would have been just before my unscheduled flying lesson and I doubt that I would be around to type this if I had been going at that speed.....
Satmap - I can't believe I was doing
67 MPH when I crashed, so suspect it
is suffering from severe concussion

On the way home we had been told to stop off at a rather picturesque spot. It was at this point we discovered that we had lost our compact camera. The last time we had seen it was at the mountain bike Centre. As it was only half an hour away Mrs B and I decided that we might as well go back. The Tank decided to plough on.

Mrs B went into the Centre to see if it had been handed in, while I limped around the car park, just in case. Glad I did, as there was the camera nestled into the bushes, close to where we had been parked. As we were now at least an hour behind the tank we decided we had no chance of catching them so we decided to stop off for a pub meal. We were listening to the Roddick - Federer fifth set on the radio - I think it was about 4 games all - and were a bit loathed to miss the end but hunger was getting the better of us. The pub we stopped at was not serving food till 6pm and as that was only 20 mins away we told the barmaid that we would go back and listen to the tennis for 20 minutes. OK she said. At six we piled back into the pub (One question can two people pile into anything?) and were shown to the table which was in a room with a huge great big Plasma screen showing the tennis. Thanks. Did the barmaid really think we wanted to sit in the car listening to a crackling reception (we were still in Wales) rather than sitting watching it on a huge TV with drinks in hand? Oh well, at least we weren't going to miss the end of the match.

The food arrived, it was cleared away and time marched on. The complete Bastards. It's all very well showing off your supreme tennis prowess game after game, but we still had over a three hour drive home. To quote the great John McEnroe "You cannot be serious!" What sort of a tennis score is 16-14, didn't they have anything better to do?......Since the tank had pushed on and they had decided to listen to the tennis on the radio, we figured they would be practically home by the time we set off once more. Not a bit of it, I think they got home only about an hour before us, after a rather interesting tour of the lesser known parts of the Midlands. Damn Tennis players we would have probably beaten them home if they hadn't have been so selfish... Mala, I think you might need to get a better satellite navigation system.

Quotes of the weekend

Shilpa - "I can't get on with the Welsh language it's like they are trying to spit at me all the time."

Just to prove the service industry is alive and kicking in Wales:

Shilpa -"Can I have a glass of Water?"

Useless Welsh waitress - "Tap?"

Shilpa -"OK, can I have ice and lemon with it?"

Useless Welsh waitress - "No, you should have ordered the bottled water if you wanted ice & lemon" as she stormed off to get the rest of our order wrong.

So Welsh dragons do exist......

This was the same waitress who had hit me with her order pad a few minutes earlier, almost completely unprovoked..............

I had been having difficulty taking the food order over the phone for the tank party (they were still 15 minutes away and we needed to eat and get going for our White-water rafting time slot) while Vinnie and Mrs B were sorting out what they wanted. I was trying to make my order as well as the Tank crews. Whenever I asked the waitress for something, Mrs B would pipe up "No I don't want that!" and I would explain it was for the Tank party. It got even more complicated as Craig ordered two rounds of sandwiches for himself.

Mrs B - "You've ordered too much!"

Me - "No, Craig wants two rounds."

Me - raising my eyes to the sky "Bloody Women."

Useless Welsh waitress - "Have you ever been thrown out of a cafe before, boyo?"

Me - "It's OK, I don't count you as a woman."

Useless Welsh waitress - Thwack

I forget sometimes that not everyone has a sense of humour - especially the Welsh......

It's been a few days since we got back and I can report everyone is either sporting huge bruises or in the case of one particular Italian, badly messed up hair. Despite the pain it was a great weekend and thanks to Craig and Mala for putting it together. Let' s do it again soon, only without the free flight next time.

Not sure what craig and I are doing
but I think that Vinnie might be
doing his Popeye impression!!!

As this weeks BlackLOG is already over long I've held back the continuing story of our 2006 London to Brighton preparation.

The interactive bit - The answers to Mondays film and TV programs quiz

No.1 - Mrs B, Mala and Shilpa doing their impression of - Charlies Angels

No.2 - Craig acting out the opening of The fall and rise
of Reginald Perrin
- as I said before I'm just grateful
that he did it clothed

No.3 - Vinnie doing an impression of Jaws

No.4 - Shilpa is doing Scream

No.5 - Me looking hotter than usual in the Invisible man


  1. what a marvellous weekend! Now you have a real satnav isn't life easy? Your friend's is obviously faulty....Not much longer being 43 - counting days until you are all the fours old git!!!!!

  2. This is great ....This blog made me chuckle at colleages thought I was crazy!

    Pity about the AWFUL photo of me!!!heheheh!

    Why does Vince manage to look so great in all his it an Italian thing????...

  3. Anonymous or is that RW? the tom-tom is good but not nearly as much fun as the Nafman - the sense of never knowing where you would end up.....

  4. Shilpa Glad you liked the Blog -

    "Why does Vince manage to look so great in all his it an Italian thing????..."

    I believe the 23 hours Vinnie spends in front of a mirror has something to do with it…..

  5. Lovely photos. Nice to see some of Mrs. B, not from behind on her bike whilst she speeds off into the sunset.

  6. Nikki Mrs B and speed are not words often used in the same sentence. So she is sure to become a big fan of yours. I guess it's nice to know that she actually exists and is not a figment of my imagination.

  7. Thanks Niel. V :-)

  8. Very good. Even when I was your age (back around the time the built that stuff at Stonehenge), I didn't have that kind of energy. Except that one weekend in Richmond (Virginia)where I was trying to impress a couple of single females (in vain, mostly). But I was much younger then, about 25 years younger. I still ache.

    GPS thingies... I prefer to get lost on my own, thanks.

  9. I'm not mentioning any road names in case IMO is hovering, waiting to pounce and tell me there is a much quicker route than the one I took).

    Well now you'll never know! pfffffffffffft.

    I only hope you were backing Roddick to win, or I will be sending more pffffffft's your way.

    Photo caption competition: That is never Jaws, it's Voldermort. *sticks head in sand*.

  10. Douglas I fear the aches I have accumulated over the last couple of weeks may be here to stay...

  11. IMO Two pfffffffffffft in one reply. I must be doing something wright.

    Yes I was backing Roddick but not enough to get pfffffffffffft about it.

    No way is that Tom Riddle....

  12. Anonymous is me, Teach, but sometimes I can't bang the keys on my laptop properly with my stone age axe, which means I can't identify myself...a bonus perhaps? The Italian one, incidentally, qualifies as 'arm candy' brushed up or in the rough, as far as I can see. Strangely Mr Teach, who has now met him in the flesh so to speak, reticent on this topic!

  13. Skipper perhaps Mrs Teach has a little crush on the 'Arm Candy' - if he is holding his hands together with head down slightly to one side and, legs crossed one behind the other and swaying ever so slightly at the mention of his name, then skip you may have lost him to the dark side.....

    It was great seeing Hugh and Alex - sorry that you and John were not available.


Your Social Comment

This is just your opinion so feel free to say what you like...