Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Christmas Cracker

What do you call a bear with no hair? Fred bear.

That little gem tumbled out of the Christmas cracker today. It gave a chortle to the Wonersh Duffs when YC relayed it by phone later on.

Lunch at YC's today was enjoyable (though he says so himself). By 12 30 pm Rev T had most definitely had his tea. So a glass (or two) of champagne got proceedings off to a fine start. Meanwhile Emma was masterminding proceedings in the kitchen. Everything went swimmingly until she turned the wrong oven off by mistake. This meant the roast potatoes took a tad longer than expected to cook. Fortunately there were ample supplies on hand to while away the slight delay, after which turkey and all the trimmings was "superb".

YC is now off to the Tynemouth Lodge to slake the raging Christmas lunch thirst with a pint or two of Deuchars. It's a tough life.

Left - Rev T: where's my hat? Mrs Rev T - on your head.
Right - the chef at work.

There was, of course, time to watch The Queen's speech at 3 pm today. No-one could accuse YC of being an ardent royalist, but he thought HMQ hit the spot today. She concluded by quoting this well known carol as a prayer:
"O Holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today."

You can listen to the broadcast in full on the BBC i-player.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Happy Christmas

The fourth Sunday of Advent has been and gone, as has the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at Holy Saviour's Church. So YC thinks it is now appropriate to wish all his readers Happy Christmas.

This card was designed by YC's nephew Matthew Duff. As the young chap just loves YC's jokes (he does - really), here is another one to keep readers chortling until Christmas Day.

What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Advent and Santa's Gardens

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame.
"All hail" said he "thou lowly maiden Mary
Most highly favoured lady." Gloria!

Christmas seems to be approaching with a rush. YC sang his first carols of the year at North Tyneside Hospital when he and his sister Emma played some tunes in the Ash Court ward. One patient was reduced to tears by Away in a Manger (though YC is assured these were tears of joy). Tonight YC sang The Wexford Carol and Silent Night on the concourse of The Sage Music Centre, Gateshead with his folk singing class.

But before readers get too carried away, YC would like to remind them that it's only Advent - the season when we get ready both for Christmas and the second coming of Jesus (to get very theological).

YC is embracing the age of austerity by refraining from any Christmas decorations. Those visiting Millfield Gardens will have to make do with the neighbours' doorside singing snowmen (You better watch out, you better not cry - Santa Claus is coming to town!) which are very entertaining.

In BC1, Caesar Augustus decreed that everyone was to go to his own city to be taxed. In AD2011, Emma has decreed that the Duff family is coming to YC's house for Christmas lunch. This caused some anxiety at No 10 until YC realised that Emma was offering to cook. Furthermore Rev T is in charge of ambience - ie I've had my about this champagne? So it promises to be a good do.

As it's only Advent, YC would like to wish readers all the compliments of the Advent Season, and prepare them for Christmas by asking:

Why does Santa have 3 gardens? So he can ho ho ho!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Simonside Cairns Fell Race

After last week's snowy run, YC was fellrunning today in more clement weather. The route of the Simonside Cairns race had to be altered due to ice on the top of Simonside. So instead the race followed a clockwise loop around Simonside without actually going to the top. Last week there was snow and a freezing wind; today there was a hint of sunshine and a gentle westerly. Even better, Mark Brooker was back for another fellrace and kindly drove YC to the race. This meant that YC could slake the raging fellrunner's thirst afterwards in the Newcastle Hotel.

YC finished circa 14th out of 90 in about 1 hour 30 mins. His shock at finishing so high up was only surpassed at seeing John Telfer sipping a glass of coke in the pub afterwards. Presumably now that JT has had his coke and tea, there might just be the chance for something a little stronger.

More details will soon be appearing on the NFR website for those keen to peruse the results - no doubt readers can't wait for that.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

winter's here

Winter has arrived in the north-east. On Wednesday YC ran up Hedgehope and there was a dusting of snow on the top. Today at the Hexhamshire Hobble there was more than a dusting of snow. 2-3 inches had fallen on the moors above Allendale. The run back into the biting wind and snow was particularly grim/testing/enjoyable in retrospect. YC got round the 10.5 mile course in 1 hour 26 mins. There were numerous folk from NFR there including Mark Brooker (from SSP) - YC had persuaded him that fellrunning was good training for the Kielder Marathon.

photo courtesy of Allen Valley Striders

And now, in time honoured fashion, readers (Rev T, John T, et al) might care to note that YC has had his tea...

PS It's also been snowy in the north-west. Here's Gill Walker putting on a brave face while climbing Wansfell in the Lake District. Apparently Tim told her there was a cafe on the top.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

caption competition

"World's strongest man spotted in Teddington"
or perhaps
"Methodists demonstrate new version of muscular Christianity".

The reality is more prosaic. Ruth Walker wanted help demolishing the shed in her allotment. So she turned to Brian Jackson who was more than happy to lend a hand. Here he is getting rid of the shed.

When Ruth isn't tending to her allotment, she is volunteering as a tour guide at Twickenham. Reports that she is about to set Brian loose on the England rugby team in an effort to get their shed/house in order are probably not true.

PS John Telfer e-mails this caption: "John Telfer's walking by - NOW!"

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Tour of Pendle

YC ran the Tour of Pendle on Saturday. This is a 17 mile fell race that climbs Pendle Hill in Lancashire several times. The sun was shining, the wind light, and the weather generally glorious. The only downside was the horrifically steep climb at the end which reduced YC to scrambling up on all-fours. The race was in the NFR club championship. Afterwards, YC overheard the following conversation:

John Telfer (left) - blimey, that last climb was steep
Paul Appleby (right) - it certainly was; luckily I had a couple of pints last night that helped to see me through
John Telfer - only two beers? You wimp!

struggling up the last climb
photo from jellybabyfairy

Monday, 7 November 2011

a trip to London

Saturday saw a gathering of the Green Wyvern [YC's sailing friends]. It started off in very civilised style with brunch at Balans of Soho. But after that reverted to more familiar ground - a tour of some public houses with a boat trip and riverside walk at Rotherhithe thrown in for good measure. For those readers who are keen devotees of the quality of the ale on offer (and you know who you are), the Sambrook's Wandle Ale (3.8% ABV) in The Harp, Charing Cross was the best; with the Hooky Bitter (3.4% ABV) in The Mayflower, Rotherhithe a close second.

The occasion was enlivened by Rev T's hat. The owner of the hat wasn't present, but he had kindly given it to YC who had brought it along to the amusement of all concerned. Flat caps are unlikely to be the next big thing on the London fashion scene, but you never know...

left - walking beside the Thames at Rotherhithe
right - in the Old Salt Quay at Rotherhithe (note Rev T's hat jauntily worn by Lois)

Checking out the old docks at Rotherhithe. Photo courtesy of Graham Ashton.

Sunday saw YC back by the river for lunch with James & family. The occasion was Phoebe's birthday. After lunch in Wagamama (a Japanese restaurant for those like YC who are gloriously not up to date and have never heard of it), the troops repaired to the London Aquarium where the penguins were top of the billing and Phoebe's favourite.

in Wagamama

a few more photos

Monday, 31 October 2011

OMM 2011

"Dreich" is probably the best description for the weather at The OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) at the weekend. The event was held in Scotland near Loch Tay (Perthshire). YC completed the medium score event with Paul Hainsworth. The score event is akin to an orienteering event with competitors visiting as many checkpoints as possible in an alloted time. The weather did fair up a bit on Sunday, though the tops were still in the cloud. Despite a couple of navigational wobbles, we made our way round OK and finished 19th out of circa 200 - not bad for a couple of non-orienteerers.

left - Paul at the start
right - at the finish with Francis Shillitoe and Paul Gaines

"what the well-dressed man wears at The OMM (possibly)"
Who needs hi-tech clothing when you can just roll up your ronhills?

After 2 days running, YC deemed it prudent for some rest and rehydration. Readers can probably guess what form that took. In case they are struggling, here is another keen Birtley News reader also rehydrating in The White Swan, Ampleforth. He claims his daughter Miss Telfer (pictured left) dragged him there against his will. A likely tale...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

planes and ties

Matthew has been practising knotting his tie and constructing this plane model. Over dinner tonight at Il Forno's, the conversation turned to how many second world war planes we could name (naturally). So far we have for the Allies - Spitfires, Hurricanes, Flying Fortresses, Lancasters and Wellingtons. And for the Germans - Messchersmitts, Fokkers, and Heinkels. All other contributions, gratefully received...

Meanwhile, Rev T was enjoying the peroni, the valpolicella, the atmosphere, and generally getting guessed it...eulogise mode.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Matthew's back

Here we are in The Grand Hotel after a bar meal (photo courtesy of Russ). Matthew had enjoyed the scampi, Emma had polished off the fish cakes, and Grandpa had had his tea...

Afterwards in Percy Gardens, the card game of choice was "Presidents and Losers". Readers can probably guess who was the president (hint - he is 8 years old) and who was the loser (hint - he is 71 years old).

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

what you might have missed

Birtley News gets updated on a regular basis. But for those who are infrequent visitors, here's a selection of news items that the national media for some inexplicable reason failed to cover.

YC is still fellrunning. Whether it's the Ian Hodgson Relay, LAMM, or an irreverent view at work, there's usually some fellrunning news.

The fine craft Stella Genesta is going strong on the Norfolk Broads. In July she ventured on to the northern waters for her annual cruise. Earlier in the year she sailed in company with Mimosa for a few days.

There's always a smattering of family news. Whether it's the Walkers in town, the Millers in South Africa, or monopoly and model railways with Matthew, you will be up to date with family goings-on.

Earlier in the year, YC was in New Zealand for some tramping and running.

And when all else fails, there's training on beer.

on the buses

Despite evidence to the contrary, local fellrunner denies catching bus to finish race...

YC came into work today to find that this caption and cartoon had been circulated on the staff bulletin. He is deeply grateful to his friend Paul Nelson for preparing it.

For those not in on the joke, the Kielder Marathon recently hit the headlines when a runner caught the bus to the finish.

For those keen to read about some genuine fellrunning, visit the NFR website for YC's report about the national fellrunning relays on Saturday.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Walkers in town

left - Margaret, Diane, Pat, Timothy, Brian
right - Andrew, Frances, Gill, Alistair

The Walker relatives have been in Tynemouth over the weekend. Alistair & Margaret are over from Canada, and Gill & Brian were visiting from Teddington. There was a gathering for a splendid lunch at Andrew & Diane's on Sunday. Diane is a fine cook, whilst Andrew is equally adept at opening a bottle of beer. So naturally YC enjoyed the lunch immensely. YC's cousin Frances Walker was also there. Frances is putting YC to shame on the fellrunning front, having completed numerous races this year including the 14 mile Langdale Horseshoe the day before.

The only Walker sibling not present was Tim. He was travelling back to the UK from New Zealand where he had been following the rugby world cup. He wisely restricted himself to the England pool games, so missed seeing the loss to France in Auckland. Here are Tim & Gill (second and third from the right) at a game - astute readers might be able to guess which team they were supporting.

Now that Wales are the only home nation left in the World Cup, YC encourages readers to learn the Welsh National Anthem. He has been teaching it to colleagues at work (much to their delight). For those who have not had the pleasure, here are the words for the phonetic version. Readers can sing along to it by clicking here.

My hain gwlad vern hadai
un an-oil ee me,

Gwlad baerth a chantorion en wog-yon or vrie,

Eye gurol ruv-el-wir gwlad garwyr trah mard,

Dross ru-thid coch rasant aye gwide.


Gwlad gwlad,

Plie [2 notes] de-ol oiv [2 notes] eem gwlad

Trah more un veer eer beer hore-ff vie,

Oh buthed eer hen-yithe barr-high.

water water everywhere

left - Paul and YC; right - John & Paul

It was a tad on the damp side at the Manor Water Hill Race. This 10 miler is near Peebles in the Scottish Borders. On a good day you can see for miles (possibly even Blackpool Tower) but on a misty day you can barely see the runner in front. It was most definitely the latter option on Saturday. Still the tea tent was welcoming after the race (see above). And as John Telfer is fond of saying, when I've had my tea...there might be the possibility of something stronger afterwards.

YC managed this race in just under 90 mins. Paul Hainsworth was not far behind. John T came in next - no doubt saving himself for the 16 miler Pentland Skyline which he ran on Sunday. After which he had most definitely had his tea.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Ian Hodgson Relay 2011

left - Dave and YC
right - George and Andrew finish leg 1 at Hartsop for NFR

The Ian Hodgson Relay is a 4 stage mountain marathon in the Lake District. Each leg is run in pairs. YC ran leg 3 for NFR with Dave Johnson. This leg starts at the Kirkstone Pass with a near vertical ascent of Red Screes. We took a direct line up which involved some interesting gully scrambling. The weather was dreich, with low cloud and rain. So with navigation at a premium, we settled on a steady run following the fence most of the way to Dove Crag. From there a steep grassy descent took us to the leg 3 finish in Dovedale.

Although there were 68 teams, we ran most of the way in splendid isolation. The best part was running off Red Screes and popping out of the clouds to feel we had the Lakes to ourselves. The worst part was the final slog up Dove Crag in zero visibility, during which Dave debated giving his race number to a sheep which he reckoned was running faster than him (readers will be relieved to hear it wasn't, and he didn't).

NFR finished 31st out 68 starters. We were helped by a storming last leg from Will & Tom who made up 12 places, and brought us home ahead of local rivals Tynedale to great delight all round (at least in the NFR camp).

more photos

further report on the NFR website

Friday, 30 September 2011

Millers in South Africa

back row from the left - Peter, Ian, Dan
middle - Alistair, Margaret, Susan, Monica, Alison (Rasmusen nee Miller), Alison (Miller nee Inglis)
front - Mitchell, Tristan, Logan, Sarah, Patrick, Kristin, Natalie

It's been a while - 10 years in fact - but The Miller family finally all rendezvoused in the same place. The venue was South Africa where Susan Miller is doing animal conservation research. For those struggling with the family connection - Margaret Miller is Pat Duff's twin sister (and hence YC's aunt) and her children and their families live in Canada (Ian, Alison), Australia (Peter), and South Africa (Susan). Susan Miller reports that it was an amazing holiday, and that her family made their mark "by being the only people mad enough to go swimming in the unheated, outdoor pool".

Madness clearly runs in the family - Mr & Mrs Rev T have been swimming today in the North Sea - bracing!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Yare Navigation Race 2011

YC has just returned from sailing on The Broads. The week culminated with the Yare Navigation Race on Mimosa (skipper Andy, Lois, Emma & YC). This race starts at Coldham Hall (near Brundall) and heads 15 miles down the Yare to Breydon Water, before returning to Coldham. The trick is to take the ebb down the river, timing your arrival on Breydon close to slack water, before returning on the flood tide. This year the tide was late and the wind forecast to fall out. So when to arrive on Breydon?

We aimed for a 3 30 pm arrival and by luck/judgement got there at that time. We had to punch the last of the ebb on the return leg, but did get the benefit of the best of the afternoon wind before it fell out.

We finished 6th overall on adjusted time (by handicap) out of 50 boats - a result which Lois declared was "dead exciting!". The 5 boats ahead of us were all "big boats" ie serious racing machines in a different league - so we were the first "slow" boat home.

Before the race, YC had spent a few days cruising with Mr & Mrs Rev T on the fine craft Stella Genesta. By now YC is sure readers know the script - leisurely sailing, crossword solving, training on beer etc etc. All very enjoyable.

left - Stella & Mimosa's crews in Burgh St Peter churchyard
right - racing on Mimosa by Langley Woods

left - boats waiting for the bridge to open in Reedham Street
right - race winner Moonshadow

photos of pre race cruise

photos of Yare Navigation Race

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Out in The Cheviots

YC took a jaunt around the route of the Yetholm hill race yesterday. It's one of his favourite training runs. It's all off-road and packs 2,500 ft of climbing into 8 miles. He added a bit extra on, with a side trip up The Schill - a hill he hadn't been up for several years. There was hardly a soul about and the running was glorious.

YC's running was truncated by injury in August. It's only when you can't get out in the hills that you realise how much you miss them. Readers will be relieved to know that this doesn't apply to beer - as YC never misses a chance to sample a pint of the finest. On that note, the Jarrow Bitter in the Oddfellows Arms (North Shields) was VG last night. As the weather was inclement, YC caught the 306 bus which dropped him outside the pub. It's even better when you are Rev T - a bus pass got him there for nothing.

left - the outward route viewed from Staerough Hill (James Duff's least favourite hill)
right - The Schill from the Pennine Way

the return route along Steer Rigg, viewed from White Law

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Hedgehope running

YC went for a run up Hedgehope today. The forecast rain had not arrived and clouds were at 2,000 ft. It was perfect running weather. There was hardly a soul about and YC had the hills to himself. There was some interesting wildlife about (no quips about a thin runner in shorts please readers): a mole, a stoat, and a peregrine falcon. After all that exercise, YC has now had his tea...

For any readers wondering how YC knew it was a stoat and not a weasel, the answer is simple. A weasel is weasily wecognised whereas a stoat is stoatally different.

left - purple and green heather makes the NFR runner feel at home
right - Great Standrop, James Duff's favourite hill

Sunday, 28 August 2011

back on the fells

Dedicated readers have noticed an absence of fellrunning from Birtley News of late. YC has been struggling with an injury (no comments about old age/infirmity please), but managed to get his fellrunning back on track yesterday at the Dufton Show race. This 5 miler heads up Dufton Pike (a foothill of Cross Fell) in the Eden Valley. The day was cool, the clouds were high, and the grassy running good. It took YC about 40 minutes to scamper round the route. Here are 3 folks from NFR (Richard, Paul & Steph). Dufton Pike is in the background.

more on NFR website

Sunday, 21 August 2011

steam engines and swimming

Matthew's week has continued to be action packed as he:
  • learns how a steam engine works - ably demonstrated by Andrew Walker (see above)
  • follows the fortunes of Harry Potter who has just seen off the troll (as read by YC above)
  • swims in the North Sea at Kings Edward Bay (brace yourselves readers!)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

monopoly & model railways with Matthew

Matthew is back in Tynemouth staying with Grandpa and Granny (more commonly known to readers as Rev & Mrs T). He has brought with him a travelling set of Monopoly with which he is rapidly licking YC into shape. Hands up which readers can remember how many houses make a hotel - YC certainly couldn't recall.

Today Matthew has been to Chris Campbell's house to play on the model railway. The railway is in Chris's attic and provides lot of scope for a "young controller" to keep the trains running on time. When he is not driving the trains, Matthew is reading "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone". Harry has just got to Diagon Alley and is about to buy his wand. After that Harry will be able to perform all sorts of magic. As well as freeing snakes in the zoo, Grandpa is hoping that Harry's magic will extend to refilling the wine bottles at Percy Gardens. You never know...

left - a young controller at work on the model railway
right - Chris points out the finer detail to Matthew

Sunday, 7 August 2011

the lion darter

So what's going on here? Why is this lion sporting a natty pink accoutrement? Will it one day be strolling down the catwalk (ho ho) in South Africa showing off this latest must-have fashion item? The truth is more prosaic. The dart soon falls out and takes a biopsy (tiny portion of the lion's flesh) with it. The biopsy is then analysed by the researchers who are keeping tabs on the South African lions' health.

Here is a picture of the chief darter at work. Regular readers will recognise her as YC's cousin Susan Miller. She is about to be joined in SA by all of the Miller clan - Alistair & Margaret, Ian, Alison, and Peter plus their families. It should be quite a gathering. Reports that the price of rhubarb crumble has doubled overnight in anticipation of the Miller arrival are probably not true.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Kelly Reunion

Emma Duff has met with cousins Ana-Elena & Clare Kelly. Ana-Elena is Phil & Ruth Kelly's daughter and was visiting Europe from Mexico. She stayed with Emma for a few days and they had a meal with Clare (see pictures below).

Long-time readers of BN might remember that Emma stayed with the Kellys in Mexico a number of years ago on her round the world travels. Emma attended a Spanish language school and brushed up her skills by reading Harry Potter to Ana-Elena in Spanish.

On that note, YC feels obliged to offer readers his Spanish joke:
Qu: What do you call a Spanish fire-crew?
Ans: Jose, and Hose B.

left - Emma, Ana-Elena and Clare

Sunday, 31 July 2011

welcome the child

Oliver Smith was baptised at Holy Saviour's Church today. The baptism took place during the family service at which the music group were making their monthly appearance. Holiday commitments had reduced the music group in number to Chris (Oliver's father) on the flute, Julian on the guitar, and YC on the piano. But the music group still knocked out the numbers with aplomb, including "Welcome the child that comes to be blessed" to the tune of Rock-a-bye baby. YC was honoured to be Oliver's godfather. Reports that YC has already signed up Oliver for life membership of Northumberland Fell Runners and CAMRA are thought to be untrue - but you never know...

left - YC, Oliver, Gillian, Chris
right - sartorial style with college ties to the fore: Rev T (Caius), Chris (Selwyn), and YC (St Peter's)

Monday, 25 July 2011

Holy Island Hobbling

left - Castlehead Rocks
right - beach by Emmanuel Head

Old Cheviot's aged limbs are feeling the strain at the moment. So today he went for a wander around Holy Island. He rose early and was on the island by 8 30, just before the causeway shut. This proved to be a good move - as the island was quiet until the hordes arrived when it re-opened. After a quick visit to the church, he strolled up to Emmanuel Head and on to Snipe Point. Wildlife spotted included goosanders in The Harbour, seals surfacing off the east shore, and numerous gannets off Castlehead Rocks.

Afterwards he discovered a birdwatching hide overlooking Holy Island Sands (accessed from the mainland). If any readers are wondering where all the curlews have gone - OC can reveal that they are resident on HI Sands. The curlews were only outnumbered by the seals which bask on a low-tide sandbank - there were hundreds of them.