Monthly Archives: August 2022

cooking in the woods

With no plans and the start of a week long heat wave cranking up I was at a bit of a loose end on Sunday. Keen to get out and moving I decided to go for a long walk to the woods and cook my lunch.

To make things a little more interesting I decided to take my little twig stove, to light a real fire and cook over the flames.

The walk was along local country roads with hedgerows still in good colour but a real sense that autumn was coming with flowers past their best and berries starting to show.

The walk over was a very pleasant and warm 3k. Mostly downhill which obviously meant an uphill return! The woods were green and full of life but again some early adopters were starting to show signs of leaves turning.

I soon headed off track and into a heavily wooded area where I would have space to setup and be undisturbed. A lunch menu of smoked sausage, peppers, red onion and baked beans flavoured with a dash of sweet chilli sauce went down a treat with myself and Rosie also. A cup of tea to use the last of the coals before relaxing to enjoy the woods and let the fire burn out and cool down.

I went home a slightly different route which took me up the steep hill past Gleneely school before gradually descending and arriving home with 11k done and in a sweaty, sticky mess in the humid afternoon heat.

Having not done much walking since our holiday in June I definitely felt the hill in my glute muscles the following morning!

Video of my afternoon mini adventure at the YouTube link below

shadow’s edge

Shadow’s Edge (Night Angel #2) by Brent Weeks

This post may contain spoilers.

Kylar and Elene have escaped with Uly and are trying to set up a new life in a nearby country. Elene is trying to break Kylar away from his old murderous life as a “wetboy” assassin. Kylar is desperately trying to become a new person while dealing with the guilt of having killed his master, Durzo, and abandoned his best friend Logan. His inate skills are augmented by the magical ka’kari and he struggles to abandon his former ways for good.

The residents of the Warrens are struggling under the oppression of the conquering armies of Khalidor and revolution is brewing. Led by Kylar’s friends Jarl and Momma K they manage to consolidate their forces and raise an army to oppose the God King. However, they still need a champion and a leader to rally around.

Logan didn’t die in the first book but escaped into the dreaded prison known as the Maw and the Hole. He’s desperately clinging on to life among the dregs of society that have been reduced to worse than animals in a constant battle to survive.

Jarl comes to Kylar with the news that Logan still lives and now he must choose between his love for Elene and his debt to Logan.

Throw in the beautiful and ruthless assassin Vi, who has been offered freedom if she delivers Jarl and Kylar into the hands of the God King, and you have a complicated but gripping story of magic, evil, betrayal and love.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

shadows of sounds

Shadows of Sounds (DCI Lorimer #3) by Alex Gray

This post may contain spoilers.

Definitely the best of the series so far. I really struggled with the first and although the second was better it still didn’t really grip me. This time the story focuses mostly on the detective side of the story and while Lorimer’s bizarre marriage situation is still in play, it complemented rather than detracted from the investigation.

The setting is an unusual one with a murder of the lead violin of Glasgow Royal Concert Orchestra just as a big performance is about to start. The victim has a complicated personal life and it eventually turns out that he’s also been involved in a criminal scheme involving expensive musical instruments. A second murder complicates things and it suddenly appears that the motives for both go way back and are much more personal than anyone could have guessed.

I enjoyed the novelty of the investigation focusing on the stories behind the murder instead of the processes and science of modern investigation. It seemed simpler somehow and reminded me of the one hour type of detective shows I grew up watching on TV – Columbo, Touch of Frost, etc.

I also enjoyed the introduction of Flynn. There was something very endearing about the hardened street boy and the cynical detective connecting and becoming friends. It’s probably totally unrealistic and did very little to move the plot along but it brought a very comforting tone to what otherwise could have been a very grim story.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

song of the week 30: welcome home (sanitarium)

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” by Metallica

  • Genre: Thrash Metal
  • Single Release Date: March 1986 (album only)
  • Album: “Master of Puppets

The song lyrics depict a man trapped in a mental asylum railing against the treatments being used to control his mental instabilities. It’s obviously not working as he is preparing to kill as part of an escape attempt.

Inspiration for the song came from the book “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

For some reason these two lines have always stood out for me:

They keep me locked up in this cage
Can’t they see it’s why my brain says rage?

Lyrics

Welcome to where time stands still

No one leaves and no one will
Moon is full, never seems to change
Just labelled mentally deranged

Dream the same thing every night
I see our freedom in my sight
No locked doors, no windows barred
No things to make my brain seem scarred

Sleep my friend, and you will see
The dream is my reality
They keep me locked up in this cage
Can’t they see it’s why my brain says rage?

Sanitarium
Leave me be
Sanitarium
Just leave me alone

Build my fear of what’s out there
Cannot breathe the open air
Whisper things into my brain
Assuring me that I’m insane

They think our heads are in their hands
But violent use brings violent plans
Keep him tied, it makes him well
He’s getting better, can’t you tell?

No more can they keep us in
Listen, damn it, we will win
They see it right, they see it well
But they think this saves us from our hell

Sanitarium
Leave me be
Sanitarium
Just leave me alone
Sanitarium
(Just leave me alone)

Fear of living on
Natives getting restless now
Mutiny in the air
Got some death to do

Mirror stares back hard
Kill, it’s such a friendly word
Seems the only way
For reaching out again

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com

mud, rock, blazes

“Mud, Rock, Blazes” written by Heather Anderson and read by Chelsea Stephens

This post may contain spoilers.

This was a fascinating insight into the mental challenges faced by an endurance athlete. Unlike all the other books I’ve listened to and read on the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails this walker was trying to set a record. Heather Anderson (Anish) already held the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for self-supported completion of the PCT in 2013 but riddled with self-doubt and insecurity she had herself convinced it was a fluke. With incredibly low self esteem and a failure to set an FKT on the John Muir Trail she decided to give herself one last chance and aim for an FKT on the AT in 2015. Not content with the female record she set herself a huge challenge of the overall FKT requiring an average of 50 miles per day to complete in just over 50 days. An average of 3-4 miles per hour meant sleep deprivation, no rest days and a constant battle to keep fuelled and hydrated while fighting exhaustion as well as the mental torment of having set a daily target that simply wasn’t achievable.

Unlike all the other AT and PCT stories this is all a personal journey and a story about her personal battles. Don’t read this if you want to know about the trail itself or about the characters that you might encounter. However, if you want an insight into the mind of an endurance athlete and what it takes to keep going day in, day out this is the book for you. In today’s world of airbrushed and sanitised perfect lives depicted on social media this was incredibly frank and honest and dealt with her negative self image as much as the achievement of battling through conditions that most people can’t even contemplate.

The difference here between 4 and 5 stars was the narrator. She reads at the start in a kind of breathless and over dramatic way that kind of trivialised the author’s achievements and feelings. I don’t know if she moderated this as the story progressed or if I stopped noticing it but it definitely became less of an issue later in the book.

This is the second audiobook I’ve listened to that came from recommendations on Splodz Blogz weekly blog Episode 110. There’s a third one in there that is next on my list.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Audible.

Header image source: fossbytes.com

hike: lough belshade (bluestacks)

On Sunday last week I went for my second guest walk with the Bluestack Ramblers Walking Club. My first was out to Inishbofin Island a few weeks ago. Before joining the Club I wanted to try a mountain walk to see if the group dynamic would be any different.

Turning up at the meeting point it was nice to see some familiar faces from the first day, to be recognised by some and to see some new faces also. The group demographic was quite similar but tilted more towards the older 60+ range. This surprised me as I expected a younger group on the tougher walk. There was also a good few more men this time and the mix worked well for socialising.

from bluestack ramblers facebook page

The walk started high above Lough Eske just outside Donegal Town. It followed part of the Bluestack Way before heading off into the lower slopes of the Bluestack Mountains. The initial terrain was gravel track before changing to a grassland and bog mix. Ground underfoot was damp and boggy at times but easily manageable. I was surprised how much easier going it was in comparison to the terrain on Barnes Gap. I think this area has been used much more for sheep grazing which has kept the heather at bay and kept the grass at a shorter length.

On the way up we were following a faint track that was either a reasonably well established hiker track or a sheep highway. Either way it was a convenient guide to a small river crossing with a waterfall, that must be impressive in Winter, and a climb up a small gully that brought us to the first of many small lakes.

lough nacollum

Retaining the height we had gained we continued along the lower slopes of the main Bluestack ridge and were soon at a great viewpoint high above Lough Belshade. We had a great view of the basin the lough sits in and a great feeling of the surrounding higher hills.

wide angle view

With a slight breeze and a great view this was to be our halfway point for lunch. However, the breeze quickly dropped away allowing the dreaded midge to rise, resulting in a very hurried lunch break and putting us quickly back on the track.

The way back was slightly different. We dropped down to a slightly lower level to wind our way among a few of the other small lakes and streams. This was a really nice walk back and I was surprised at the number and variety of little loughs as well as the small waterfalls and streams wending between each of them.

lough fad

loughinisland

lough anabosin

We soon arrived back at the gravel track and dropped down to the parking area where we started and I took the opportunity to enjoy the great views of Lough Eske that I missed getting ready to hike earlier in the day.

This hike was a very different experience for me. With it being a guided walk all the concerns about route and navigation were removed. While I was equipped and aware of my location, in case I got separated from the group, I didn’t have to worry at all about where we were going and I was able to relax, enjoy the scenery and chat to other members of the group.

While I won’t give up solo walking I’ve decided that I’m going to enjoy being a member of this club and have already signed up. There’s a hike every Sunday and I’m planning to go on a more challenging walk next week up Dooish in Glenveagh.

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels

forty words for sorrow

Forty Words for Sorrow (John Cardinal and Lise Delorme Mystery #1) by Giles Blunt

This post may contain spoilers.

This was brilliant! I have recently finished the TV series and was a little apprehensive about reading the books so soon but if anything it enhanced the books. The story was virtually unchanged for the TV production and going by the books was excellently cast. The only real change I noticed was that the senior officer was male in the book and female in the TV show as well as the reason Cardinal was under suspicion by senior officers.

The basis of the story is that John Cardinal has been demoted within the department for irrational focus on the case of a missing child, claiming that it was related to another written off as a runaway and that they were both the work of a serial killer. A body is discovered which appears to be the missing girl and Cardinal is brought back into the fold.

In the background Delorme is brought into the homicide department and partnered with Cardinal with an additional task of investigating him for supplying information to the head of a serious crime organisation. The two of them work together to identify and apprehend the psycho couple kidnapping and torturing victims.

This is one of the best detective stories I’ve read for a long time. The quality of the writing is superb and the characters are hugely interesting. I’m sure it was enhanced by the TV show but I could feel myself immersed completely in the situations being described and able to picture them clearly. The descriptions of the landscape and weather of a Canadian winter were so detailed. It was fab.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

first wild camp: lough altan

After a successful backyard test of my new Helm Compact 1 tent a couple of weeks ago the plan was to get out on an actual wild camp pretty quickly too. I’d decided Sunday 24th would be a good bet as I was able to book the Monday off work and it fitted in around some of the other stuff I wanted to do on other weekends.

The plan was to travel over late afternoon and take my time getting to the camping location. I would have loads of time to enjoy the location and cook dinner and also have plenty of time in the morning to cook breakfast before packing up and heading home.

Unfortunately the weather turned out terrible that weekend with heavy rain, thunderstorms and flooding in some areas including our main shop in Derry. I’d been keeping an eye on the forecast for a while and luckily it suited my boss for me to revert back to my usual Wednesday off and I decided to postpone until the Tuesday evening.

This meant a dash after work and less time to enjoy the evening. To make things easier I decided to stop in Letterkenny and grab a burger and chips so that I wouldn’t be under time pressure when setting up camp. That turned out to be a very smart move as I was invaded by midges and cooking would have been out of the question.

The spot I’d chosen was on the shores of Lough Altan, below Mount Errigal and on the edge of Glenveagh National Park. I parked at the Errigal car park before heading back along the road and taking the signed track for Altan Farm. I hadn’t been in this area for a very long time and the track turned out much wetter and harder walking than I expected and also longer. The bag that felt lighter than expected the night before somehow became 10 times heavier after crossing this boggy track.

Despite these slight difficulties the walk in was amazing. The impressive views of Errigal and Mackoght were soon replaced by those across to the Aghlas and Muckish in the distance. The setting sun was putting on an impressive show and the colours of the mountains were just stunning.

Treated to a stunning sunset I was soon down on the shores of the lough enjoying the waterfalls and being eyeballed by the suspicious sheep.

The sheep had the grass well grazed and I soon had a suitable camp site identified and my tent erected. During this time though the breeze dropped away and I was invaded by hordes of midges! I was forced to retreat to my tent and enjoy the views from behind the relative safety of my internal mesh fly. It wasn’t until almost 11pm when the temperature dropped with darkness and I was able to open up again to make a hot chocolate before bed and take the crucially important night photo of my tent.

Overnight I had a decent sleep. I was quite unsettled until 3.30am when I had to get up for a pee. At that stage I was convinced I would get no more sleep that night but next thing I knew it was 6.30am! I’d gone for a slightly thicker foil mat and that combined with my inflatable sleeping mat and summer sleeping bag kept me warm and comfortable all night. I was very pleased with the tent too. The fly worked great at keeping the midges out once I was zipped up and although it wasn’t easy I was able to get my gear sorted and change for bed without having to get out at all. The two porches were very handy for storing my gear and giving me a sheltered spot to use my cooker. A+ for the Helm Compact 1 ✅

When planning this camp I had a tentative plan at the back of my head that I’d be able to get a dip in the waterfall and maybe even a dip in the lake to get a really refreshing start to the morning before cooking a bacon bap for breakfast. However, the morning dawned grey and humid with barely a breath of wind, the midges were celebrating and I was the banquet! They were even worse than the night before and I was forced to pack up camp from inside the tent before dismantling the tent wearing a hat and buff over my face. Even at that they destroyed my eyes.

at home I was able to assess the battle scars

Breakfast was skipped as well as any romantic notions of wild swimming or exploring the waterfalls. Instead it was a quick inspection of the old house and off up the hill to try and find a breeze and some relief.

I was relatively untouched all the way back to the van but if I stopped for anything more than a few seconds I could feel the bites starting again so I kept plugging on all the way back. A quick change and into the van and on my way home again. I stopped on the way and treated myself to a lovely breakfast roll and all was right with the world again.

closing the barn door but now i’m prepared

Despite the midges I had a great time. I loved the post-work mini adventure type escape, the walk in was amazing and waking up with that view was just unreal. I’m pleased how my kit worked out and I’m looking forward to seeing where my next adventure will take me.

The YouTube link below will take you to the video I made of the experience.

the heretics of de’ath

The Heretics of De’Ath (The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage #1) by Howard of Warwick.

This post may contain spoilers.

This was recommended to me by my best friend who has read of number of the series and really enjoyed them. I really wanted to enjoy it too and tried really hard, especially as he recommended it, but I just couldn’t get it. If it hadn’t been for him I think I would have given up part way through and not have pushed through to the end.

The author has a very good style, reminiscent of Terry Pratchett and his humour. In fact I’ve seen this author compared to TP but there’s absolutely no comparison. TP created a rich world full of diverse characters and detailed storylines. This, unfortunately, was incredibly dull!

Hermitage is a monk in a very weird monastery in medieval England. During a long and pointlessly obscure theological debate another monk apparently drops dead. Suspected of murder, tasked to report to the Bishop and eventually marked for execution Hermitage finds himself embroiled in a bizarre plot of political corruption to swindle money from a building project. Befriended by Wat, a weaver and dealer of pornographic tapestries, they attempt to find the truth.

It sounds interesting but that’s about as deep as the story gets. The writing was humorous at times but infantile on many occasions. The lack of a story created a need for bizarre and incomprehensible situations to move the book along but it was ponderous with. When the cause of death is finally established and the political plot finally exposed it was simply ridiculous and I’ve actually forgotten what it was already.

A book with the potential to be very good and one I tried hard to enjoy but couldn’t. I will try the next one to see if this was just a poor start but I won’t be in any great hurry. There are 23 books in the series and the author has a loyal following so maybe I’m just missing something?

My Rating: ⭐⭐

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

song of the week 29: chelsea dagger

Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis

  • Genre: Rock
  • Single Release Date: August 2006
  • Album: “Costello Music

The song is named after Jon Fratelli’s wife Heather, a burlesque dancer whose stage name – a play on Britney Spears – he borrowed for the song. Fratelli described the tune as “a rock ‘n’ roll gig in an old speakeasy or something like that.”

To me this song is just a whole lot of fun!

Lyrics

Well, you must be a girl with shoes like that


She said, you know me well
I seen you and little Steven and Joanna
Round the back of my hotel
Oh yeah

Someone said you was asking after me
But I know you best as a blagger
I said, tell me your name is it sweet?
She said, my boy it’s dagger, oh yeah

I was good she was hot
Stealin’ everything she got
I was bold she was over the worst of it
Gave me gear, thank you dear, bring yer sister over here
Let her dance with me just for the hell of it

Well you must be a boy with bones like that
She said you got me wrong
I would’ve sold them to you
If I could’ve just have kept the last of my clothes on
Oh yeah

Call me up take me down with you when you go
I could be your regular belle
And I’ll dance for little Steven and Joanna
‘Round the back of my hotel, oh yeah

I was good, she was hot
Stealin’ everything she got
I was bold she was over the worst of it
Gave me gear thank you dear bring yer sister over here
Let her dance with me just for the hell of it

Chelsea Chelsea I believe that when you’re dancing
Slowly sucking your sleeve
The boys get lonely after you leave
It’s one for the Dagger and another for the one you believe

Chelsea I believe that when you’re dancing
Slowly sucking your sleeve
The boys get lonely after you leave
It’s one for the Dagger, another for the one you believe

Click here for a playlist of all the songs in this series on Spotify

Header image from 8Tracks.com