Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sing choirs of angels

YC isn't sure if he sang like an angel. But what he lacked in quality he made up for in quantity. He accompanied on his guitar some carol singers around the wards at North Tyneside hospital tonight. In an age where knowledge of hymns tends to be restricted to "All things bright and beautiful", it's refreshing to learn that people still know their carols. Good King Wenceslas was a popular request as was Silent Night. YC was also armed with a fab Cajun version of Angels from the Realms of Glory (courtesy of John Pearce/Maddy Prior) which went down well. If you want to hear the Cajun version in all its glory, come along to Holy Saviours Church on Christmas morning and sing along.

And finally, how does Good King Wenceslas like his pizza? Deep pan crisp and even.

Ho ho ho (as Santa would say when he's gardening).

Friday, 18 December 2009

Birtley News Christmas 2009

For those who haven't been following the blog on a regular basis (surely not?), here is a taster of what you've missed. Click on "full screen" in the preview to see the Christmas edition.

Birtley News Christmas 2009 -

Monday, 14 December 2009

Simonside Cairns Race

YC ran the Simonside Cairns Race on Sunday. This 11 miler starts in Rothbury and climbs up to Lordenshaws car park before heading around the back of Simonside by Spylaw. The return leg is along the top of Simonside and back to Rothbury. There were clarts galore and good views towards The Cheviots. YC was second V40 (yes, he knows he doesn't look it - readers are too kind) but hastens to add that he wasn't up with the leaders - several V45s and V 50s finished in front of him. Here he is running along the Simonside Ridge. Both photos are courtesy of Pat Dunn. There's more on the NFR website where Old Cheviot (a close relative of YC) has given a more detailed account.

the fir tree on Simonside gets into the festive spirit

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Turkey Race success

The fine craft Stella Genesta enjoyed success at The Turkey Race on Saturday, taking line honours and winning the race. The slower boats started before the fast boats. This helped Stella who was first over the start-line and benefited from clear water to lead the race from start to finish. The race was a quick blast from Reedham Ferry up to the windmill before Cantley and back again. 11 yachts took part with Rebecca finishing second. The weather was amazingly mild for December with blue skies and a decent breeze. Afterwards Rev T was observed to be in eulogise overload mode, with comments such as "we left them for dead", "next stop Cowes Week" etc flowing as freely as the celebratory pints of Adnams.

with the trophy in The Reedham Ferry pub

Stella moored before the race


more photos here

and some more on the Yare Sailing Club website

Monday, 23 November 2009

running and beer - it doesn't get any better

Congratulations to YC's cousin Michael Walker who followed up running the Great North Run by completing the Lancaster Half Marathon in a new PB of 1 hr 48 mins. As part of his university course, Michael had to complete 20 hours of volunteering. He managed to find the perfect event - The University Beer Festival. There were over 70 ales from large and small breweries, of which Michael's favourite was 'Trashy Blond' from BrewDog. Michael reports that 'it was the best volunteering I have ever done'.

Sunday Mass at St James'

On Sunday YC & Lois joined Emma Duff for Mass at St James' Church, West Hampstead where Emma is pastoral assistant for the year. One of her duties is to be thurifer at the service - this means leading the processions during the service dispensing liberal quantities of incense. Emma has started a singing group to encourage the parishioners to sing out, and YC and Lois were volunteered to join the group for the day, belting out numbers such as 'All hail the power of Jesu's name' and 'To God be the glory'. The congregation were all very friendly, and the vicar Father Andrew made Emma's day when he commented that she sounded 'more northern' than YC: the cheek of it.

Emma & Lois

Lois, Emma & Father Andrew Cain

Green Wyverns in London

The Green Wyverns met in London on Saturday for their annual autumnal gathering. The day began with a swift half (or two) in the Red Lion pub in St James. Discussions on sailing were washed down with some excellent Seafarer's Ale - at 3.6% an eminently quaffable ale which YC felt obliged to sample (greater love hath no man....) The afternoon continued with a visit to The Theatre Royal to see Breakfast at Tiffany's - an excellent adaptation of Truman Capote's classic novel (rather than the film) which, btw, YC commends to readers when they can tear themselves away from Birtley News. Afterwards, there was more nice beer and a pleasant Italian meal in Mayfair (YC must be moving up in the world). There was even the chance to watch the dramatic denouement to the Scotland game - they won by a single point when Australia missed the last kick of the game. Hurrah!

sampling the Seafarer's Ale in The Red Lion
from the left - Alex, James, Emma, Andy, YC, Graham, Tom
photo by Lois
not pictured - Eifion & Julian

YC arrives in the style to which he is accustomed - by Rolls Royce at The Ritz (check out the registration plate by clicking on the photo)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

catching up with long lost relatives

YC and Rev T met Moira Sawyer and Elaine Kirk (pictured above) in The Grand Hotel tonight. Moira and Elaine are distant relatives on the Duff side. For those keen on their family history, YC's great-grandparents were John George Duff & Mary Ann Elizabeth Pye (who used to live in Newby House). Moira and Elaine are MAE Pye's great nieces.

Another member of the Pye family was Ben Pye. He was a sailor and is reputed to have missed his boat in Blackpool. Rather than waiting for the next one, he simply walked all the way home to North Shields. Perhaps that's where YC gets his walking-yearn from.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Boston Globe and other tales

Rev & Mrs T have been globe-trotting last month. First port of call was Colin Kendall's 70th birthday down south. Colin is Cyril Kendall's son; Cyril was Granny Walker's brother who died in Burma during the second world war. By all accounts it was a very jolly affair with plenty of chances to catch up with far-flung family.

Colin & Mary Kendall

Dulcie (Colin's mother) - do you think I could have a glass of wine?
Tim Walker - certainly, I'm just holding on to this bottle in case Rev T pulls rank and claims it for communion wine (a likely tale).

After Colin's party, Rev & Mrs T headed for America where they visited Washington, New York and Boston. There they caught up with Ross & Elizabeth Pope and Margaret Robinson. Here they are in a restaurant at Marblehead.

Rev T read with interest the local papers and spotted this obituary in The Boston Globe. G R Poor - "he always insisted on sailing a boat to its maximum efficiency, and demanded precision from his crew." Substitute "minimum" for maximum and "going on the mud" for precision, and readers will have Rev T's sailing philosophy in a nutshell.

Mr Poor also played the trumpet at night when in harbour and yachtsman recounted "the beauty of George's music as it spoke to us". People in Norfolk say much the same about YC's penny whistle playing (possibly).

Sunday, 1 November 2009

When the saints go marching in

As readers are fending off the trick and treaters, they might care to think what "halloween" actually means. The answer is simple - halloween means "the eve of all hallows". So the next day (Sunday 1 November) is All Hallows Day, otherwise known as All Saints Day.

YC was playing the piano this morning at Christ Church where the All Saints theme was firmly at the top of the agenda with belting numbers such as "For all the saints" and "Walk in the light". And how do you qualify to be a saint? The good news is that you don't have to be dead. Sainthood is open to all, and any acts of kindness and generosity qualify.

So on that note, if readers should happen to spot YC in a licensed premise and feel moved to buy him a drink, beatification will be no doubt just around the corner.

All together now...

Monday, 26 October 2009


what the well-dressed runners wear at The OMM

Paul heading for "Drygarn Fawr" to bag our Welsh 2,000 footer for the weekend

YC ran "The OMM" at the weekend. The Original Mountain Marathon is a 2 day event run in teams of 2. Competitors have to carry all their gear for an overnight camp. This year it was held in The Elan Valley, mid-Wales. YC ran with Paul Hainsworth, his partner from The LAMM (The Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon in June - keep up). The initial rain and mist gradually cleared out to give good visibility and a little bit of sun at times.

Paul had elected that we enter the medium score event. This is akin to orienteering, with competitors navigating to checkpoints which each had a different score - 10, 20 points etc. On Day 1, we were too ambitious and mis-judged the run-in to the finish down a long and very winding lakeside road. At times, YC even said "oh dear me" as he slogged along the road, trying in vain to avoid a points penalty for finishing over-time.

We learned our lesson for Day 2, running a more tactically astute course and finishing with the second highest points score of the day. There was a fantastic run-in from the last hill - much better than the previous day's road bash.

There will be lots of mountain marathons for readers to enter next year, so don't all rush at once.

more photos

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Dolphin Quiz Success

James Wilson is moving to the north-west. He signed off with team "James" entering The Dolphin pub quiz. YC was part of the team and brought along his two specialist subjects: fellrunning and Lonnie Donegan. So whilst the regular pub quizzers were experts on questions about The X Factor (YC is proud to say he has never watched it), YC excelled with answers to vital questions such as:

1 Who was the last British runner to hold the world record for the mile? (clue - Geordie lad, won The Golden Mile at The Bislett Games)

2 Who accompanied the narrator on the Sloop John B in The Beach Boys' song? (Clue - Lonnie Donegan sang about 'my grandpappy and me')

Armed with this specialist knowledge, team James finished in bronze medal position and won £4. Hurrah.

Monday, 19 October 2009

British Relays

photo - Marcus Byron

The British fellrunning relays were held near Ennerdale Bridge in West Cumberland yesterday. The visibility soon went downhill as mist and drizzle moved in, making it a bit of a navigational challenge. YC was running for NFR's veterans team (no age related comments please readers) on leg 2 with Bernard Kivlehan. At this stage the field was still quite bunched up and there were other runners to follow. YC did take the precaution of checking his map on the way round. This proved to be a wise move as there were plenty of tales of folk going astray following others who appeared to know where they were going - but didn't.

The Vets team finished 58th out of circa 150 teams. The seniors team had an excellent run, finishing 10th overall with the last runner - Nick Swinburn - running the fastest leg 4 of the day. Nick was relieved that YC was running leg 2 as otherwise his fastest leg status might have been under threat (joke).

Bernard climbing Blake Fell.

before the mist came down - the start of leg 1

more photos

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Dolphin Pumpkin Show

It was the annual pumpkin show at The Dolphin pub last night. YC hadn't grown a pumpkin this year, but he did go along to inspect the entries and sample the odd half of beer (naturally). Dolphin stalwart Duggie Dunn didn't win the show this year, though he did provide 3 entries (2 were displayed by his son and daughter) from his Mariners Lane allotment. Here's Duggie with one of the pumpkins.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Bad Shepherds

"The Bad Shepherds" are a folk group who sing punk songs and are led by Adrian Edmondson. Emma Duff saw them at Dent Folk Festival and recommended them to YC. He duly saw them at The Sage last week. They played in Hall Two are were superb with excellent renditions of Teenage Kicks and I Fought The Law. Here is a clip of them on you tube taken at Dent Festival playing London Calling by The Clash.


They also did a splendid send-up of Steeleye Span's All Around My Hat which brought the house down. You can watch it below. For those who are easily offended, under 18, or (like Rev T) regularly wonder who Gazza is, it's probably best not to watch this one.


Addendum. John Telfer (NFR) writes:
I went to school with Adrian Edmondson when he was, for some unknown reason, known as Ted. I even acted on the same stage as him when he carried me onto the stage in a very large suitcase (I was only 14 at the time). I, of course, went on to become a fell runner of worldwide repute whilst he tried his hand at acting!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

music group on tour

Holy Saviour's church music group was on tour last night. They took their ceilidh repertoire to North Shields Methodist Church. There were 8 folk in the group and YC was the caller. The good folk of North Shields were soon rocking to numbers such as the Gay Gordons and Strip the Willow. The Dashing White Sergeant also went down well as the church youth club had been practising it in preparation for the ceilidh. Here's a photo of the group fetchingly attired in a selection of hats kindly provided by Rev T.

And here are the dancers in action for Strip the Willow.

more photos here

Friday, 2 October 2009

back to work

YC returned to work on Thursday. After 14 months off, it was a bit of a shock to the system. YC is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the joys of surveying and is pictured here with The Rent Review Handbook (positively his favourite read). His work colleagues have missed his jokes and pleaded for some merry japes on his return. Not wishing to disappoint them, YC duly obliged.
Qu: What kind of cheese would you use to coax a bear from its den?
Ans: Camembert

Sunday, 27 September 2009

elephant outstared in African bush

Could you stare out an elephant? Susan Miller was keeping tabs on Migalics the elephant in the African bush when Miglaics decided to approach the vehicle. Not to be outdone, Susan stared back and muttered "One step closer and I'll withdraw your maple syrup ration." Before you could say "Cool hat, Madam", the elephant had scarpered with its tail between its legs.

Two Breweries Race

YC ran the Two Breweries Race in the Scottish Borders yesterday. As its name suggests, the race starts at one brewery (Traquair) and finishes 18 miles at another - Broughton Ales. The countryside was similar to The Cheviots with rolling hills topped by grass and heather. Despite the race including 5,000 feet of climbing and several pathless sections, it was very "runnable". YC started at a steady pace before picking up a few places on the final killer ascent of Trahenna Hill. After 3 hours and 38 mins of running, the soup and tea in the village hall went down very well. There was even free beer (blimey) - Broughton Ale's The Reiver. YC was driving, so he had to limit himself to the merest sensation. However concerned readers will be relieved to hear that YC isn't driving tonight...

Trahenna Hill - exeunt runners stage right, pursued by dog
photo courtesy of Steven Fallon

Friday, 25 September 2009

a night at the theatre

There was a good turnout at The People's Theatre for the latest production "Cleo, Camping" writes your arts correspondent. The anticipation of lots of "ooh matron!" jokes proved to be too much for one young theatre-goer. After a pre-theatre meal at The Corner House interspersed with watching the buses go by, Matthew Ansell (aged 2) was taken home by mother Helen for an early night. As YAC settled into his seat, he overheard a lad in the row behind reading from the programme notes: "Infamy, infamy, everyone's got it infamy!" YAC has a very mature sense of humour and naturally didn't think this was funny at all.

The play was set in Sid James' caravan during the filming of various "Carry On" films. There was an amusing performance by the actor playing Kenneth Williams. Despite expectations, the carry-on jokes were rather thin on the ground, and the play focused on the sometimes tortuous relationship between Sid James and Barbara Windsor.

However lest readers are disappointed by the lack of gags, YAC is delighted to report that fellow theatre-goer Katrina Pescott has a stack of them at her disposal. Here's one to keep you chortling through the long winter nights:
"Doctor, doctor, I'm frightened of lapels."
"Hm, this sounds like cholera."

Sunday, 20 September 2009

keep on running

After the fun and frivolity at Matfen Hall, YC blew away some of the cobwebs on Saturday at The Simonside Fell Race from Thropton Show. He ran the 6.75 miles and 1,200 feet of climbing in about 55 mins. For some strange reason, he didn't feel at his devastating best on the initial climb (probably a dodgy tonic from the night before). However he did stage a recovery to make up a few places on the descent. Here is he just below the crags on Simonside, photo courtesy of Pat Dunn.

Also running this weekend where Tim & Michael Walker. They both completed the Great North Run for the second year. Tim finished in 2 hrs 15 mins and Michael in 1 hr 55 mins. Afterwards they enjoyed some post-race refreshments in The Tynemouth Lodge courtesy of Mr Deuchars. Here they are with Pat, Gill, and YC. Nicki Walker also completed the run.

The following post-race conversation was overheard:
YC - so are you going to do a fell race next?
Michael (politely) - I would have to train really hard first, and I've got a very busy university term coming up.
Tim (realistically) - no.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Reader, she married him

Congratulations to Fiona Duff and Richard Layfield who were married at Holy Saviour's Church, Tynemouth today. The service went with a swing with stirring renditions of 'Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer' and 'Jerusalem'. There was even time for 'The Fields of Athenry' played by Emma on the flute during the signing of the registers. Afterwards the assembled company adjourned to Matfen Hall for a splendid reception followed by a ceilidh. There was some fine dancing to the strains of the Pentland Ceilidh Band including an epic final performance of the Orcadian Strip The Willow.

Fiona & Richard with the ushers and bridesmaids

Pat, Rory, Timothy, George, James, Matthew, Phoebe, Katie

Joe - "is there champagne?"
Grace - "I believe so."
Emma - "excellent, all that playing gives you a thirst."
Anna - "Did I tell you I'm the expert at the Dashing White Sergeant?"

more photos here

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Pennine Way - 21 years on

Your Correspondent walked the whole of the Pennine Way in 1988. He returned for 5 days walking the southern section to see what it was like now. The short answer is: quite different. YC recalls the first few days as being an epic battle against the peat bogs with always an eye on the map to prevent one wandering astray. Now the walk is signposted at every path junction and much of the route is paved. YC appreciates that this stops folk getting lost and prevents erosion. But it rather takes the fun out of the walk, and the flagstones are murder on your feet.

It's also not possible to youth hostel the PW in its entirety anymore. The YHA suffered its own version of Beechings when numerous hostels closed 5 years ago. Furthermore many of those hostels which are open tend to be booked solid by school parties. Thus PW walkers either have to choose the expensive option of B&Bs or carry tents (which adds appreciably to the backpack weight). Perhaps not surprisingly, few people walk the PW in its entirety now. YC met just one person doing the whole lot.

On the plus side, YC chose to backpack with a tent. He wild-camped for 2 nights and stayed on basic campsites for another 2 nights. Total cost - £5. Bargain! Pick of the campsites was May's Aladdin's Cave near Hebden Bridge. It offered free camping to PW walkers. There was a view to Stoodley Pike, a farm shop selling pies, beautiful spring water to drink, and The New Delight pub 10 minutes walk away selling its own locally produced Bridestones ale: fantastic.

wild-camping on Pinhaw Beacon

Kinder Scout summit - the mother of all peat hags

The White House - a welcome lunchtime stop with Theakstons Bitter at £2.40/pint.

those dreaded flagstones

do you recognise this bridge?

hint - here's the motorway that it spans

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

a swimmingly good tale

The schools have just gone back, so right on cue the weather has perked up. Tynemouth beach was sunny (and reasonably warm) today. YC had a couple of dips on The Long Sands, swimming from the Bear's Head to the old swimming pool on each occasion. Bracing!

When swimming in the sea, it is important to keep your calorific content up to scratch. So YC has been training on his favoured diet of beer and pies, as recommended by Alf Tupper (Tough of the Track).

Qu: where would you weigh a pie?
Ans: somewhere over the rainbow.

[sing the song to work out why]

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Grisedale Horseshoe

The Grisedale Horseshoe fell race - a mere 10 miles and 5,000 ft of climbing up Catstye Cam, Helvellyn, and St Sunday Crag. Throw is some mist and cloud for good measure, and add a final killer climb over Grisedale Brow to top it all off. YC managed it all in just under 2.5 hours yesterday. He navigated his way through the mist with nae probs, only to take a wrong turning within a mile of the finish. Luckily he didn't go too far wrong and after some bracken-bashing was soon back on course. Here's Team NFR at the finish at Glenridding village hall.

Old Cheviot's report on the NFR website

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Round The Island and New Mills

YC has just returned from 12 enjoyable days sailing on The Norfolk Broads. First off was the Round The Island Race on Mimosa with Andy & Lois. Last year's winning feat was not repeated, but we did manage to slake the raging racing thirst with the odd half of Adnams as the weather was particularly hot. An added bonus was sailing the newly restored Sparklet to her mooring at Reedham with Trevor Potter.

After that, there were 8 days sailing with Mr & Mrs Rev T on the fine craft Stella Genesta. Highlights of the trip were a voyage to the head of navigation in Norwich - New Mills - and a tack on Breydon in a stiff 2 reefer.

returning Sparklet to her mooring

Stella Genesta in Train Reach pursued by Henrietta (no bear in sight)

at New Mills

what the well-dressed man wears on Breydon Water. Trinny & Susannah not required (yet).
more photos here:

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Matthew in Tynemouth

Matthew has been staying chez Percy Gardens with Grandpa & Granny Pat this week. When he is not playing in the sea, he has been checking out the crazy golf and inspecting Chris Campbell's model railway. "Brilliant - I got to control the trains!" said Grandpa. He also came along to YC's birthday celebrations (21 again) at Il Forno's restaurant in Tynemouth and proceeded to demolish a bowl of olives, a garlic bread, and a pizza. He is clearly his father's son.

playing Tumbledown. YC needs some practice - he kept losing.

Matthew - that's a smart hat, Grandpa. Do you always wear one?
Grandpa - does the Pope have a balcony?

looking for shrimps and crabs with Granny Pat

Monday, 17 August 2009

Lomonds of Fife Hill Race

YC ventured north to the Duff's (allegedly) old ancestral home of the Kingdom of Fife for this hill race. It took him just under 2 hours to run the 11 miles and 3,100 feet of climbing which included ascents of West Lomond (twice) and East Lomond. It also included a frighteningly steep descent from West Lomond. Some runners went down this on their posteriors. Being a man of refinement (naturally), YC eschewed this method, prefering to stay upright. It didn't seem to make much difference how you came down.

YC is delighted to report that his dodgy hamstring held up well to the strain; but not so delighted to report that his ankle is giving him gyp today. Perhaps he is getting old (readers don't have to comment on that one). Fortunately he can still hobble to the pub in order to slake the raging hillrunner's thirst.

at the start with Dave Johnson and John Telfer

heading for East Lomond. Photo courtesy of Steven Fallon.

Fish n Chips and Horrid Henry jokes

YC visited Richard, Charlotte and Walter Cox who are back in the UK on holiday. They had brought with them a new board game - "What a performance" - in which you have to guess what someone else is pretending to be (how good are readers' telephone and fish impressions?) They also had their Horrid Henry joke book which contained delights such as:
Qu: Why did the toilet roll go down the hill?
Ans: It wanted to get to the bottom.
Ho ho.

Here are Charlotte, Richard, and Walter with grandpa John enjoying fish and chips.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

off to London

Emma Duff has moved to London where she is pastoral assistant to a church in West Hampstead for a year. Her church duties include attending morning prayer at 8 am. Being a habitual early riser, she is especially looking forward to this. She signed off from the north east with a quiet evening of prayer and reflection at the Tynemouth Lodge Hotel. Here are a few photos taken by Euan Duff.

Emma - as church warden, I think you should attend morning prayer at Holy Saviours every day at 8 am.
Steve - really, when do you go to London?

Emma - I got a free pint from Hugh tonight. [she did - really]
Liz - I'm relying on Julian for mine.

YC - I don't usually drink beer, so I'm making up for lost time with 2 glasses.