Home Sick

Well my dream of staying is slowly fading and in a surprising way I’m kind of glad. It was after all a dream to stay and work but now if I’m honest I’m a little homesick. Sure I miss my family and my best mate and there are a few others who I wouldn’t mind having a pint with not that we’ve really kept in touch.

But the true home sickness and this will be a surprise to many and a few may gasp and exclaim and argue that I’m daft especially with the landscape and scenery but my heart belongs in the hills and mountains of Britain.

Yes I’m homesick for walking Snowdon and Tryfan or taking a cold winter hike across the moors or a drive to a remote part of the peak district and rambling down country lanes and through English woods. Off course the views and landscape in the land of the hobbits is amazing and I know as I look down from Snowdon or view the Cheshire plain from Kinder Scout my brain will flash back to those pictures and images of the southern alps and the quite one horse towns and question which one is better. People said NZ is Wales on a larger scale and they weren’t wrong.

I still have some months left and with my time I’m going to see this country again to make sure I have a full memory of sights, sounds and stories stored in the old memory bank. Sometimes you have to be without something to realise how much it actually means and while I could happily make the move I need to go back to see if my true loves once more and put the world to rights with a good old fashioned drinking session with my bestie.

A friend once posted a song to my wall which I think I have shared with you all before called ‘The Manchester Rambler’ which sums up my affair and passion for the outdoors. While I have now found a way to come back and work over here in the future  I find myself missing the peaks and Snowdonia ever more.

I’ve made some good friends and have had partook in many an adventure and while there have been high and lows how will always treasure my time in NZ and hold it close but the time has come to return to the UK and who knows I may realise that NZ was for me after all. But at the moment Im longing to walk down Market Street and go into Greg’s for a steak bake or chin wag and complain over a warm flat beer with Matt, or redeem my nector points and watch the BBC and take a walk in the British rain and wrap up warm not put on sun screen in Janaury. But at the same time I’m loving my time away and the experiences I’m living.

See you soon UK.

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Two More

Well it has been a big countdown and now it is just the final three days or two more sleeps. Three years ago, I decided that I will jack in my life in theatre and do something different, one of them was go off to New Zealand. For some reason I kept chickening out and putting it off until a friend instructed me to ‘Just buy the plane tickets as then you will have to go, but even if you don’t do the travelling you could just go for the holiday’ However it is going to be more than just a holiday.

The past 100 days has seen me try to fit in a lot of stuff, climbing the Welsh 3000’s and completing them (except I haven’t) walking Striding Edge and climbing Jacks Rake in the Lakes, camping with my best buddy. Getting my Marathon time down to a sub 4 and my 10K time to a sub 40 which I failed, but did mange to get a new PB in my home city and the race that started my obsession.

So now comes the real countdown. Now that I have packed up and sold out, squeezed the next 12 months into a backpack, printed the plane tickets, checked my Visa, transferred money into New Zealand dollars, said the final goodbyes to those you want them, the wait is finally over. Come Tuesday at 9pm I will be on a Boeing 777 waiting to take off from Ringway  where my adventure will begin.

Sure I’m going to miss my family, and my best mate. I will be miss the city of Manchester, the T.V shows and Radio comedies I have grown to love. I’ll miss my comforts and my flat. Driving around in my car, walking in Snowdonia and the South Lakes, running in Wales and around Manchester, working with mates and on some fantastic projects. But for all those things I will be missing, just think of what I will be replacing them with. Stunning jaw dropping views, a slower pace of life, an experience that will be locked in the memory for a lifetime, new friends, new loves, new walks, an education in a different way of living and time to stop and reflect and take a look at my life and where I want it to go. After all this has always been the premise of the trip. A way to explore how and where I want to live my life and what I want to do.

So with just two more sleeps… and a somewhat positive relaxed outlook as I don’t think the prospect of what I’m doing has actually settled in… I know that time will come as I board the plane and start to panic over what I am doing. But deep down I know its right.

So three days, 2 more sleeps, until I say goodbye to the UK and hello New Zealand.

Before I Go!

There are a lot of things. A long list if you will. I have compiled this list to help me get my affairs in order before I arrive at terminal one and board my plane. There are the simple things like selling DVD’s and CD’s, which now has a big tick by it. Move stuff back to my parents, sell some clothes, pack, transfer money, pay tax bill, cancel phone, cancel internet and so the list goes on.

However the one item on the list that I really want to see ticked off, is the Welsh 3000. For those not in the know, and even some avid walkers don’t know then the 3000’s are 14 or 15 (if you count the extra one) peaks in Snowdonia that are over 3000 feet hence the name.

Now I have done the Snowdon Massif, and only have two more to bag for the Glyders, which I am hoping to do this week and then I just have the Carnedadu to complete. Forget bagging Wainwrights and completing the Southern West Fells, my dream and ambition before I depart the UK is to complete the 3000 mainly due to that fact that it gives me an excuse to go to Snowdonia.

So hopefully as my time draws ever closer to 25th June, I will be able to give a tick to finishing the Welsh 3000.

Saying Hello to an Old Friend

I have cheated on her all to often in the past year and the last time I went to say hello she was so happy to see me and me her that we fell in love all over again. I hugged her at every step and just like the first time she took my breath away. I don’t know how she does it.

This was a camping trip with a friend… who’s original thought was a multi day walk in the peaks. Boring I know but he does seem to like the Peaks and to be fair there are a lot of nice walks and I enjoy that area of the UK as well, but I can go there on a day visit. He then raised the idea of the Lakes. Well we could do I said, but where? I’ve done most of the south-west fells. I haven’t but the places we were looking at I had done. I was off course slowly driving him to the decision of Snowdonia.

Like many people, my friend thinks he ‘prefers’ The Lakes, and feels they have better scenery and mountains and in some cases that can be true. I was never a fan until I walked the Pikes and climbed The Old Man and just as I was falling in love with this area of Britain I went and visited the girl I had been cheating on and before I had laced up my boots I knew that the Lakes had nothing on her.

So with a modest agreement from myself we had planned to go to Snowdonia. He had wanted to walk Tryfan, and I wanted to bag some of the Welsh 3000. I really want to bag them all before I go and this walk promised getting a good 6 of them in.

As we arrived at the foot of Tryfan, my friends jaw dropped with excitement, and we speedily placed our rucksacks on ready for the hike. We were going to conquer Tryfan from the North and the last time I had climbed her was from the south which I thought was a bit of a scramble. That scramble I remember was about to turn into a walk in the park.

What faced us was only made more difficult by carrying our packs on our backs. We both had light loads, but lets face it, you can have the lightest tent, sleeping bag, coat etc, but once they are all packed together you are talking about an extra 4-6kg on your back.

My mate was loving it, the walk was a mix of scree, climbing, walking, jumping (but not falling) although there were some hairy moments. Every turn and twist, every step of height came with a new challenge and a new view. This was why I loved Wales. A 2 mile accent was turning into a 3 hour climb, as we stood at the base of each new challenging assessing the best way to conquer it.

We reached the top, and were not alone as we saw some one jump Adam and Eve… something I have longed to do but once again chickened out despite the best efforts from another group using what I would call bullying tactics to make me try it. It might have worked on their friends but the fear of tripping, or falling and smashing my legs already played deep in my mind.

From Tryfan we stormed ahead towards the Glyders, and what a sight. This had been the first time I had conquered these and why I have waited this long was beyond me. the landscape was vast, and ever-changing. Were in another planet, or the moon. Maybe we were in a quarry, or some strange Sci-fi world. Next we would be talking to Captain Kirk and Spock the landscape was for ever-changing but the one image I have locked in my head is that of the Horseshoe of Snowdon.

In the distance, sat looking like she always does was the magnificent Snowdon in all her glory, in the way I had never seen her before. That was to be tomorrows treat.

After a long and very steep decent to the Nant Peris with several reminders to my mate that I had run on this road and up towards the Pen-y-Pass when I took on one of my favourite races we finally reached camp, only to divert into the local house for a well deserved pint.

Shortly after pitching we were back in and sampling the fine ales on tap and talking about what we always discuss when I meet this friend. A long discussion about trains. We got the distinct impression that our neighbours were listening in every so often and so they should have been as it was a enthralling energetic topic of discourse.

With the last of the 6 or maybe 7 glasses finished we trotted off to the campsite only to be jaw struck by the sky littered in the most number of stars I have ever seen, all shining as bright as the next, and in front of this backdrop lay Crib Goch and her impressive knife ridge. Being a city dweller I see stars, but never have I seen the sky mapped out like this it was like being in a planetarium.

Morning rose and my friends cold had fully taken hold. As the walk was cut early from the previous day due to time and the knowledge we would never walk Y Garn and get to the reservoir  used for Electric Mountain we had decided that this would be battled today as we could always come back and do the horseshoe on another day.

To cut a long walk short, my mate could not go on, and so we changed tact and headed for the car with the promise that we would return to finish the walk at a later date.

Even with this short spell in her magnificent gaze, the love I have for the area is even stronger and the thought of not being able to see or walk in Snowdonia for a year scares me.

This is one truly wonderful place and will remain my special happy place for years to come. North Wales and especially Snowdon always has a place in my heart.

Leaving Party

I have already touched on this briefly, but as I look at pictures on Pinterest I find myself thinking that I need to go to Wales again.

We all know I love the place. But how cool would a weekend away in a cottage with just the couple of best mates that I have. Drinking, walking and talking. Exploring all the North West Castles for one last time.

At the moment it is a dream and will stay as such as they will all have excuses as to why they couldn’t possibly attend. Some with good reason others because they can’t take time out.

While I’m missing people now (not seen some for months)… I think it is good practice for when I do leave. After all I won’t be seeing these people for a year and who knows I might not even chat or talk to them again. For me this trip is a big deal… bigger than getting married, having a child. I want my friends to be there for me. This is only going to happen the once and while I am doing this for myself, I still need the comfort of my mates.

But it would be nice to have one last good bye…just in case I didn’t see them again. But maybe that’s just me… Maybe I know I won’t be seeing these people again. They may well be under the impression that in a years time we will be drinking again in the local (not that we have local). However anything can happen in a year.

It would be good to do a proper leaving party… and maybe my friends have it under control but I do fear that I may end up exiting quietly only to log on to Facebook in NZ to find messages of ‘Have you gone? We didn’t get to say goodbye’

The real question is should I bother to organise my own party. I suggested this to a friend, who said ‘You can’t do that!’ a couple of weeks later he sent a text asking what I wanted to do? To me that was as good as organising it…

If I am honest, then I don’t want a fuss. I want those who are close to me, and spend as much time as possible with them… Doing the things we have done together like drinking, walking, camping, cycling all just for one last time. If we really get to it, then there is only a handful of people I would like to attend, and I can count them off on one hand.

Off course I wouldn’t object to a big piss up as well, in a bar with everyone who I know.

My special place.

Really short one.

But for some reason and I am not sure why, I dreamt about death last night and what I would do if I died.

While the jury is still out on burial I know that I would like a bench to be placed on top of Snowdon. A nice circular one with a tree planted in the middle and if I did go down the route of cremation than I would have my ashes scattered over Snowdon and Cadir Idris.

I think this also cam about as a friend sent me a link on twitter ‘a song for @lddex’ The song was “Rambler” by The Houghton Weavers.

I like it, as the song is me…. and the line ‘But sooner than part from the mountains, I think I would rather be dead’ is true.

So let’s make this a legal document. When i do pass, I would like some sort of bench or tree to be planted on my favourite mountain looking over the place where i feel happiest.

the Song, Sung by a different group.

The Island Race Review

‘ogee ogee ogee’ The race announcer shouted down the mic. The day had already turned out to be positive as I stood limbering up basking in the spring sun. The day was turning out to be nice. The right temperature and just the right amount of breeze. I knew this race was going to be good as I was in Wales standing on the other side of the Menai Bridge which I would soon be running over and shortly after will be taking in the views of the Victorian pier of Bangor, the impressive Norman Castle built by Edward and the stunning mountains of Snowdonia. Every run in Wales is always good. Some thing to tell the grandkids about. The weather also does not disappoint.

“Ogee Ogee Ogee” the announcer repeated after the crowd of 800 chanted back “Oi, Oi, Oi” and soon the countdown began. ‘Fifty seconds, forty Nine, forty eight’ As he counted he interspersed with messages of good luck, and look out for one another. I knew from that moment that this will be a good race and then the gun went and we all clapped before realising that this was a race and we darted across to cross the line.

The race had begun. Forget Marathon pace I was on one and as I looked down to see me moving a slow pace as the bottle neck plodded over the iconic road bridge I un-clipped my headphones and politely asked the more pedestrian runners to ‘Move’. Now I should have taken this as a sign. Last year on my Half marathon before the full 26.2 mile event I made the same mistake and shot out from the start line like a bullet and this year I promised myself i would do marathon pace, test when I needed to pop a gel and all that stuff the mags tell you but then the little devil woke and whispered ‘You could do this in a sub 1:35’ That was all it took.

The minute I had left the bridge I was running like never before. The tunes pumping which I was glad off as crowd support was thin on the ground. But who needed the people cheering you on when you had views of Bangor across the water, a 800 year old castle, a course which was car free and while not flat was not excessively hilly for Wales but still gave your lungs and heart a good work out on the uphill sections without really loosing that much pace.

The course was an out and back with the added bonus that while you ran away from the mountains of Snowdonia, the return trip would have them in full panoramic Technicolor laid in front of you. This was a race for seasonal runners as the amount of people I passed on the return loop still plodding to the half way point were few and far the majority crossed the line before the 2 hour mark. Off course not that it is not a beginner friendly course. The start and the end had a very warm ‘were doing this together’ mentally.

I loved this race. At the end there was your slate engraved medal, cups of water, fruit, chocolate, biscuits and then outside the finishers enclosure an array of burger fans and ice cream sellers along with activities for the family and friends who cam to support. The Marshals were friendly and efficient, the course information and pre race details spot on. A map of the area for those who were not familiar with Anglesey would have been a bonus. Car parking was free and there was plenty off it if you got there in time. The only down side was the goody bag that contained a poncho and leaflets from the Welsh Tourist board and some energy/protein powder thing.

All in all, this was a good race. It’s in its second year and I can see it growing bigger and while the course could handle it, the start line may have to be moved away from the iconic bridge but it has plenty more gems to make up for that loss. the other flaw is like all races on this scale is you can’t control who goes to the front and those who have a slow pace or can’t keep the fast pace up seem to be at the start causing a lot of pushing and shoving from the faster more competitive runners behind them. The course for the first mile is also on narrow streets which also adds to this very small issue that did not spoil the event.

Oh and I got my new PB. A sub 1:35 by 8 seconds.