Monday, 9 December 2013

End of Year Video Bonanza!

What a year 2013 has been. We've been up north, we've been down south, we've traipsed across the middle bit and we've done it all over again.

We've seen funny things, we've seen sad things and we've seen things that have made us scream and run away.

We've been in castles, we've been in quarries, we've been in studios and we've been in sheds.

We've seen and done so much! And as the year is drawing to a close, we thought we'd share with you an epic video bonanza. Yep; it's an absolute cracker! It's got it all - drama, pathos, comedy, slapstick...

...no. It hasn't really. It's just the bits of video that we didn't have anywhere else to put; so we picked them up from the cutting room floor at C&R HQ and stuck them together with Pritt Stick for your enjoyment.

NOTE - It's much better played in 480p. Just press play, hover your mouse over the video and clickify the li'l cog - bottom right - to tweak the settings :)





*Meep Meep!*

Monday, 2 December 2013

Jerry and Petula at the Drive-Thru

At the weekend, Jerry and Petula went shopping for chandeliers. They scoured Aberystwyth...but drew a complete blank. In the end, they settled for a standard lamp from Argos. It's got a natty little shade in blue and green which matches the floor-to-ceiling drapes in the east wing third floor guest lavatory though, so they're not too upset.

After their hunt, they started to get a bit peckish. The trouble was that their butler, Jamie, was having a well-earned day off - riding his favourite horse (called Richard Clayderman) in Cnwch-Coch. What would they do? Neither of them can cook (Petula can burn water and Jerry set fire to the kitchen last year whilst trying to microwave a pheasant) and Aberystwyth is severely lacking in lobster restaurants.  Not only that, but they were far too well-dressed to go and get ready meals from Morrisons.

There was only one option available... 


 

*Meep Meep!*

Monday, 18 November 2013

Publishing Pitfalls


On the 2nd November, a storm battered Aberystwyth's promenade.  Waves crashed over parked cars, stones and debris rained down on the road and it was spectacular.  Naturally, Coyote and I were there with my trusty Pentax, snapping away and even taking a short video.

Always happy to help, on the following Monday I offered images from my Flickr page to a local newspaper for free; asking only that I received a credit in print.  The reporter I approached seemed over the moon, calling me a 'star' and stating that they had plenty of 'after' photographs but no 'during' images, so I was chuffed that I could be of assistance!

So when the new edition of the newspaper hit the shelves on the Thursday, I went to buy a copy in the hope of seeing one or two of my photographs in print.  Imagine my shock when I saw a photograph that Coyote had shared on Twitter on the front page of the Aberystwyth edition...


I took that photograph as we sat in Minty, enjoying the thrill of the storm.  Coyote uploaded it immediately, wanting to share our experience with our friends.  Within minutes, his phone was on overdrive with retweets, comments and favourites.  We'd obviously hit on a winner!  But little did we know at the time that this image would appear in at least 2 editions of The Cambrian News without permission or credit.

Disappointment soon gave way to a bitter curiosity.  Could newspapers actually lift images from social media and publish them without so much as a 'please'?  I immediately posed this question online, and all responses agreed that it shouldn't have happened.  Some likened it to an act of piracy while others pointed out that if the tables were turned and I published something of theirs without permission, they'd come down on me like the proverbial tonne of bricks.  All lights were green to let rip and unleash merry hell.

But this Roadrunner is, for her sins, a wary pessimist.  There was bound to be some red tape; some loophole...some niggling legality somewhere that meant they were perfectly innocent in publishing my photograph without permission...wasn't there?

I chose to start at the beginning.  That's usually a good place.  I emailed The Cambrian News with my concerns:

Dear Ms Thomas;

I'm emailing you regarding a photograph that appeared on the front page and inside the 7th November Aberystwyth edition of your newspaper and, I'm told, inside another edition (please see attached).

I'm a photographer.  On the night of the storm, my fiancĂ© and I drove down to Aberystwyth with a view to taking professional photographs for publication and broadcast.  In a break from capturing images with my own camera, I took the attached photograph for my fiancĂ© on his phone, and he uploaded it to Twitter to share with our friends.

The following Monday, I offered one of your reporters high quality images for free - asking only that I was given a credit.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I went to buy a copy of The Cambrian News as I do every week...and saw this photograph on the front.

At no point was permission sought to publish this photograph.

This has led me to wonder what your protocols are regarding using images found on social media.  I've spoken to several journalists and newspaper reporters who stated that every effort should be made to find the original source of an image; seeking permission for publication when the source has been found.

Please clarify your procedure for publishing images found on social media.  If there's a directive somewhere that means I could be surprised again by one of my snapshots appearing on a front page, I'd very much like to be aware of it.

Yours sincerely;

***

I received a response today:

Hi;

As you say, we do try to find out the source, but if we are unable to we have on occasion taken pictures from public pages when they are good images - which yours was.


I am sorry we didn't credit you on this occasion.

If you are keen to get some pictures published, I will be happy to consider images from you in the future, and to give you a credit in print.

Just out of interest, do you know which reporter you spoke to on the Monday - as I cannot find anyone who seems to remember the conversation.

Yours sincerely


***

Ignoring the backhanded compliments and condescending offer of future publication, it seemed that they were unable to find the original source of the photograph. Is it really that difficult to do? There was only one way to find out.

16 days have passed since that photograph was uploaded.  If it was going to be difficult to find it, I'd have my work cut out for me.  Ensuring I was logged out of Twitter to avoid any easy links to shared followers, I started the search...


Hmm.  How would I go about finding photographs tagged with Aberystwyth?  Oh, I know - I'll click the 'Photos' tab...


A tiny bit of scrolling to get past over 2 weeks' worth of images and, lo and behold, there's the photograph.  Now then - I wonder who posted it?  Let's click on the photo...


Hmm.  That doesn't seem to be the original poster.  The 'RT' at the start of the tweet gives that away.  The first person mentioned doesn't seem to be the original poster either...the 'RT' after their name gives that away.  But hang on a minute...who is this 'MarkTheTravel'?  Better click on his profile and have a look through his timeline...


Ah, look!  There's the photograph!  But how do I know it's the original?  Well - the amount of retweets and favourites certainly suggest it is...but let's be on the safe side and ask the poster, shall we?

Oh wait - I don't need to.  Because I took it and was sat next to him when he uploaded it.

Unable to find the source?  How?  Not quite up to speed on how to use a computer to do a quick bit of research?  They didn't even try.

Copyright legalities aside (I'm not in the mood for wading through treacle today), I'm shocked by the ease with which a photograph was lifted from social media and published in a newspaper without permission.  The managing editor of the newspaper stated herself that they 'do try to find the source' when clearly, on this occasion at least, they didn't.  If I could find the source of the image with a few clicks 16 days after it was uploaded, then it's glaringly obvious that no effort was made on their part.

Why didn't they try?  Perhaps a photo credit is a rare, mystical thing that should be closely guarded.  Perhaps their computers all broke in some mass hard drive suicide.  Or perhaps they're just lazy.   

This blog post isn't about rights and laws.  After all; I probably haven't got a leg to stand on legally...but I can share what's happened to me.  I just want this to serve as a warning to you all; photographers or not.  Next time you're about to share an image on social media, be aware that it could be staring out at you from the front page of a newspaper the next time you pop out for a pint of milk.


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

BOFtulism - Be Aware


Our 100th blog post was supposed to be an interview with some bloke off the radio, but we've recently discovered a terrible infection that could threaten mankind and, you know, we thought we should tell you about it and stuff.  We're nice like that.

BOFtulism (medical term: B0R1NG) is a particularly virulent virus that doesn't discriminate.  You, your partner, your children...you're all at risk.  It would appear that it began in the depths of Pembrokeshire, but for some reason it is now starting to spread across mainland Great Britain.  Scientists are currently testing the contents of a Mansel Davies tanker that may have transported contaminated produce across the county border, thus putting the rest of the United Kingdom at risk.

The virus - while not fatal - can be permanently debilitating.  It strips the sufferer of all higher-functioning cognitive processes; effectively leaving them void of humour and empathy.  In severe cases, the sufferer may pursue a career in politics or journalism.

We've spent weeks researching this virus with our Fisher Price chemistry lab (it's missing a conical flask and a dropper, but that's ok; we used a vodka bottle and a turkey baster instead) so we can hopefully help you and those you care about avoid contracting it and, should the worst happen, treat it quickly.  Below you'll find lists of virus hotspots that you must avoid, along with symptoms and treatment.  Please read this information carefully and print it out for future reference.

BOFtulism: Where to Avoid

The B0R1NG virus thrives in particular environments.  Through exhaustive scientific fiddling about, we've compiled this list of the areas you should avoid in order to considerably lower your chance of infection:

  • Range Rover salerooms
  • Opera houses
  • Waitrose
  • Sainsbury's
  • Harrods
  • John Lewis
  • Boardrooms
  • Golf clubhouses
  • Yacht clubs
  • Squash courts
  • Estate agencies
  • Political assemblies
  • Media buildings
  • Local business award ceremonies
  • Anywhere that sells Chelsea boots
  • Any restaurant where a steak costs more than £10
  • Pembrokeshire

BOFtulism: Symptoms

There are several obvious symptoms that you should be aware of.  B0R1NG manifests itself in exclusive symptoms currently linked to this virus alone. 

  • Slight drooping of the right side of the mouth; resulting in a left-biased smile
  • Minimal loss of hearing; causing the sufferer to raise their voice
  • Muscle spasms in the dominant hand. The sufferer will seem to be pointing in an obnoxious manner
  • Cravings for salt and fat.  Bacon is usually feverishly sought
  • Repetitive references to their home county
  • Reluctance to be impulsive
  • Uncontrollable dribbling when sighting a Porsche
  • Sudden, deep interest in politics
  • Territorial tendencies; the sufferer will not let you into their house
  • Irrational fear of sprouts
In males
  • A desire to wear horrendous ties
  • Flirting with considerably younger women
  • Hoarding of linen shirts
In females:
  • A desire to bleach hair blonde
  • Development of a non-existent food allergy
  • Repeated use of the superlative 'amazing'

If you spot one or more of these symptoms in yourself or someone else, you must act quickly.  BOFtulism progresses at an alarming rate.  Quicker, in fact, than a greased-up pig being thrown down a park slide.  A park slide that's got Vaseline all over it.  The following treatment techniques are in order of level of infection - the first being for mild symptoms and the last for rampant infection.

PLEASE NOTE: The final treatment is extreme and should only be carried out in a controlled environment.

  1. Play a Roger Whittaker album continuously for 3 hours
  2. Avoid reading The Financial Times for 2 days
  3. Withdraw bacon from the diet for 4 days
  4. Remove all mirrors from the house for 4 days
  5. Only shop at Asda or Tesco for 4 days
  6. Avoid operas for 7 days
  7. Place an embargo on news programmes for 7 days
  8. Only use public transport for 7 days
  9. Avoid exclusive restaurants for 10 days
  10. Avoid golf, squash or sailing for 10 days
  11. Prohibit visits to the home county for 10 days
  12. Administer a sprout sandwich once every 4 hours for 14 days
If all of these treatments are tried and the B0R1NG virus is still present, consult your nearest exorcist.  We haven't tried this method of eradication yet, but it's next on the list.  If you get there before us (which is highly likely as we'll be getting drunk this weekend), please drop us a line and let us know how it went*.  

Stay healthy.

*Exorcisms are carried out at your own risk. We hold no responsibility for broken beds, ruined crucifixes or stains to upholstery caused by demon vomit.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Any Questions?


This is the 99th post on our blog.  We toyed with the idea of writing something about red balloons or ice creams with Flakes in them...but we figured that would be far too cheesy and probably wouldn't make for a particularly interesting post.  Unless you're heavily into those things.  In which case, we're sure there are dedicated websites out there for your specialist interests - and probably some very good psychiatrists. 

So having had a bit of a think, we decided that we'd use this post to promote - and get your involvement in - our 100th.  And what are we doing for our 100th post?  An interview!  Yes; an actual interview with questions and answers and everything that's normally associated with interviews and this sentence has gone on far too long without punctuation!  Phew.

And who, pray tell, has stupidly kindly agreed to attend this exclusive interview?  *Drum roll...* The one...the only...the sprout-scoffing, kitsch music-loving, pasta-dropping, Mick Jagger-imitating Man of the Roads himself: MR MARK BUCKLEY!  You thought it was going to be Huw Edwards, didn't you?  Sorry.  Can't do that.  I'm still scared of him.

Now - dear reader - this is where you come in.  We need your questions.  You can ask him anything.  Yes - ANYTHING.  For instance; you could ask him about the intricacies of juggling travel broadcasts for BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Oxford, BBC Radio Leicester, The Wave, Swansea Sound and Real Radio Wales.  You could ask him what it's like to step into Chris Needs' shoes and present a show to thousands of listeners (yes - he's done that several times and survived!).  You could ask him what size shoes he takes.  You could ask him what his favourite type of underwear is.  You could even ask him for advice...but I wouldn't recommend it. Yes - you really can ask him ANYTHING!

If you have any burning questions you'd like to put to Mark, send them via the usual channels.  I'll be taking questions for up to a week - so get in touch!

This could prove to be a highly insightful, entertaining and embarrassing enjoyable interview.  It'll be what you make it...

SO GET ASKING!
x

Monday, 13 May 2013

On the Road Again!

Hello, folks!

It's been a while since we last posted a video, hasn't it?  See, my DSLR is in dire need of a good clean.  Poor Auntie Pentax has some nasty dust spots on her sensor.  While this is fine for photos (it's pretty easy to press a magic button or three and edit them out), it makes for very annoying video footage...so she's been having a well-earned rest from being stuck to Minty's dash.

That, however, left us in a bit of a quandary.  We had no means by which to bring you with us on our trips around Wales.  After quite a bit of deliberation, we decided to get our mitts on a Sony Bloggie Sport:


We gave Bloggie his first proper run on Sunday.  It was impromptu, unscripted and very, very wet...

...and we suggest that you don't watch it if you're sensitive to rather naughty words!  Samuel was there.  What more can we say.


Monday, 8 April 2013

Proper Road Names - The List!


Roads.  We've seen a lot of roads.  Some straight, some not so straight; some smooth and some so bumpy that we've lost fillings.  Lots and lots of roads.  Roads can get boring.

Which is why we started giving them proper names.  A letter and a few numbers don't give you any idea of the road's character - it doesn't tell you if the road is a nice drive, if it's busy, if it's full of roadworks...and neither do the names we've given them.  Sorry about that.

But still; it's fun!  When we're out and about, we like to bestow a little bit of personality on the roads we frequent...and even those we don't.  We even take great care when we name them.  It's not just a random name that we unceremoniously pluck out of the air - oh no - it's a name based on the attributes of that very road.  It could be based on its start and end points.  It could be a name generated from the places it passes through or it could be a landmark along the way.  For instance - the A477 is called Jeremy.  Why?  Because it passes through Sageston.  What's the connection?  Jeremy - Jeremy Paxman - Paxo - Stuffing - SAGEston and onion!  See?  Simple.  Kind of.

We've even been known to name roads directly after individuals.  The A4050 in Barry is called Derek in homage to Derek Brockway - famous son of Barry.  At least that one was pretty straight-forward.  Have you had a named road after you?  Peruse our list and find out...!

A55 - Dominic
A487 - Simpson
A470 - Pablo
A548 - Boat
A477 - Jeremy
A478 - Roy
A547 - Alfie
A4087 - Abraham
A4139 - Chopper
A493 - Nigel
A4076 - Hitler
A4120 - Helga
A4159 - Sue
A44 - John
A481 - Brian
A485 - Owen
A482 - Simon
A40 - Jeff
A48 - Lido
A484 - Brandy
A483 - Otto
A496 - Samuel
A494 - Julie
A476 - Hanky
A458 - Krakatoa
A489 - Donna
A4221 - Wendy
A4242 - Geraint
A4118 - Sim
A499 - Declan
A4119 - Peggy
A4050 - Derek
A4232 - Mohammad
A4054 - Martina
A465 - Andy
B4518 - Elliott
B4332 - Rose
B4333 - Perry
B4567 - Mainwaring
B4337 - George
B4338 - Mac
B4569 - Chris
B4404 - Elton
B4405 - Obama
B4329 - Muffin
B4520 - Judas
B4353 - Ceri
B4413 - Tom
B4568 - Egbert
B4265 - Tim
M4 - Agnes

Now you've had a look - can you explain any of the road names?  There's a reason behind most of them - and if you know where the road goes, you stand a chance of figuring it out!  Plus...do you have any suggestions of roads we should visit and name?  All we need is a start point and an end point, and we might just take a trip along your road of choice to ceremoniously anthropomorphise it in our own, inimitably sectionable way.

If you fancy taking a punt at explaining any of the above, and if you're right, you could win a poo bag!  Seriously...we give poo bags out as prizes.  We send them 1st class with a personalised card.  Just ask @AnnParkes2

Get in touch via the usual channels if you want to have a go.  Use those methods to share your suggestions, too!  In fact, we're not fussy.  You can get in touch with us about anything - we like to chat about stuff.  Especially pineapples.  And buckets.

*Meep Meep!*

Monday, 18 March 2013

Oil Be Damned


With well over 100,000 miles on the clock and every country of the United Kingdom under his drive belt, Monty is proving himself to be a fabulous car.

However, he's recently been a bit poorly.

On Friday morning, Coyote noticed a touch of oil on the tarmac of Traffic Towers.  He didn't think too much of it; after all, Monty had enjoyed a full service the day before.  It was probably just something settling in - or maybe they'd overfilled him a bit.

So he drove up to HQ as usual on Friday with nothing untoward happening.  No smoke, no clunking, no engine falling out onto the M4 spraying bits of gnarled metal across the carriageway...it looked like all was going to be just fine.  But no.

After being parked outside the cottage for a while, it was evident that there was a substantial oil leak.  Monty was bleeding!  While Coyote slept after a grinding early shift, I wriggled underneath to have a better look.  There wasn't anything obviously wrong with the underside; so I slipped a couple of trays underneath to see just how much oil he was losing.

It rained that night and we woke the following morning to see a beautiful rainbow.  Normally we would've been quite pleased to see such vibrant colours...but it's not quite the same when the rainbow is trickling out from under your car.

We decided to play it safe and stay local - so we drove to Machynlleth to pick up some bits and pieces.  Cheese Strings, mainly.  When we walked back to the car after exiting the supermarket, it was evident that Monty was in a bad way.  The oil was dripping out of him like snot drips out of a primary school kid's nose in a winter playground.  We needed to get some oil.

Off to Tuffin's we trundled - where we bought 2 litres of juice to try and top Monty up.  We were only in the shop a matter of minutes, but came out to see oily footprints all over the car park.  Uh oh.



There was only one thing for it.  We didn't know what was wrong...but we knew a man who would.  A very nice man.  Yes, a Very Nice Man. It was time to call the men in yellow.


While our knight in fluorescent jacket made his way from Shrewsbury (about 60 miles away) to rescue us, Coyote went and bought him a coffee and a Mars Bar - he's thoughtful like that - and I entertained myself by making oily flower pictures in the car park.  It was 4 degrees and chucking it down; but we didn't care.  We just wanted Monty to live!

Eventually, the Very Nice Man - thank you, Andrew! - arrived and shoved his head under the bonnet:


After a lot of tweaking, tinkering, glaring, revving and dabbing, it was concluded that the oil filter - which, remember, had only been fitted the previous day - was leaking profusely.  Apparently that's what can happen when a spurious part is fitted in place of the genuine, made-for-the-purpose part that you expect and pay for.

Thankfully, the Very Nice Man managed to twist the oil filter on much tighter than it should've needed and the leak appeared to stop.  

Coyote drove back to Cardiff this morning without incident, but he'll be calling the garage that 'serviced' Monty to have a select few words in their shell-likes.

Hopefully, they'll admit the error of their ways and put things right.  If not, I dread to think what's going to happen.  I'm not saying that he or I will do anything rash...but Limmy might.  Yes - our mascot Limmy the SheepHog.  You should've seen him when a Freeloader took Monty's wing mirror off.  He was chuntering in Gaelic, foaming at the mouth and everything!  I've advised Coyote to keep an eye on him if he has to return to the garage any time soon.  

SheepHog bites can be nasty.



With much gratitude to @AA_Members


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Goleudy's Lighthouses

If you know me on Twitter, you'll know my name's 'Goleudy'.  I often wonder how many people mispronounce it in their minds; completely unaware that it's the Welsh word for 'lighthouse'!  Yep - I love lighthouses.  I can even remember the very moment I fell in love with them.

It was a stormy night in 1999 and I was tucked up at home, full of flu and feeling generally miserable.  Flicking through the TV channels, I came across a film called 'Losing Chase'.  There was a woman in a blue dress going loopy atop a red brick lighthouse in the middle of a storm similar to the one that was raging outside my living room window.  I even remember the lines spoken:

"A slow, steady decline and then BAM! One triumphant stand at Gayhead Lighthouse in the middle of a spectacular nor'easter.  I sure picked one hell of a storm."

To be honest, the rest of the film was pretty crap and not worth recalling...but I remembered the lighthouse.

Ever since then, I've been fascinated by those tall buildings that warn ships of danger and guide them to safety.  There's just something beautifully enduring about them; something that endears me to them and makes my heart smile every time I see one.

With Coyote, I've been lucky enough to see and photograph lighthouses in Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland - and no matter how many I see, I never get bored with them.  Hell - I'm even a member of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers!  Yes, I'm a nerd...and I wear my enamel pin-badge with pride ;)

Being a lighthouse geek, I'm bound to have a few favourites.  Like petrolheads and their cars, some lighthouses hold special places in my heart and shine brighter than the rest.  All lighthouses are wonderful (apart from the Whiteford Point Lighthouse on Gower. That one scares me.) but there are six in particular that mean a lot to me.

So, without further twaddle, I'd like to introduce you to my top six!  Flashy flashy...

TRWYN DU LIGHTHOUSE, ANGLESEY

Built in 1838 at a cost of £11,589, Trwyn Du is a beautiful old lady who stands proudly between Dinmor Point and Puffin Island, Anglesey.  On a quiet day, you can hear the fog bell that hangs from the railing sounding every thirty seconds. 

LOOP HEAD LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY CLARE

The current tower was built in 1854 on the site of previous structures dating back to 1670. Loop Head Lighthouse stands at the tip of the Loop Head Peninsula where the Shannon River meets the Atlantic Ocean - and Coyote took me to see it on my 31st birthday.  I have very happy memories of standing on top of the cliffs on a stunningly gorgeous day, looking out to the horizon.  'Next stop, America!' he smiled. (We actually went back to Galway and got a McDonald's, but I'm not fussy ;)

STRUMBLE HEAD LIGHTHOUSE, PEMBROKESHIRE

Standing alone on Ynys Meicel (St. Michael's Island), Strumble Head Lighthouse is separated from the mainland by a very narrow gap through which the sea boils and froths in stormy weather.  Built in 1908, this lighthouse is the youngest of the six - but isn't lacking in charm.  She packs a punch, too:  Her 1,000,000 candela light can be seen 26 nautical miles away.

POINT OF AYR LIGHTHOUSE, FLINTSHIRE

Built in 1776 but inactive since 1883 when a lightship took over her duties, Point of Ayr lighthouse stands forlornly on Talacre Beach.  The lighthouse once displayed two lights: The main beam shone seaward to Llandudno and a secondary beam shone up the River Dee, towards the hamlet of Dawpool in Cheshire.  The lighthouse was put up for sale in November 2011 - and bought in April last year for the fair sum of £90,000. I hope the new owners can restore this sad-looking lighthouse to her original glory!

SOUTH STACK LIGHTHOUSE, ANGLESEY

Separated from Holyhead Island by 30 metres of swirling sea, South Stack Lighthouse was built in 1809 at a cost of £12,000.  She's a very elegant tower; but her beauty belies her dark story. On Tuesday the 25th October 1859, the most severe storm of the century occurred.  Assistant Keeper Jack Jones had been making his way across the iron footbridge to join Principal Keeper, Henry Bowen, who was already on duty.  A rock was swept from the cliffs by the strong wind, fell and struck Jones on the head.  Covered in blood and senseless with concussion, he dragged himself up the gale-lashed path and feebly cried out for help.  He lay, head in hands, unable to move any further.  Bowen found him the next morning, groaning; his hair matted with blood.  Jack Jones died three weeks later of a compound fracture of the skull.  

ARDNAMURCHAN LIGHTHOUSE, WEST HIGHLANDS

Situated on the most westerly point of the British mainland, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse was built in 1849 using granite from the Isle of Mull.  It was designed by Alan Stevenson - uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson - whose family designed most of Scotland's lighthouses over a period of 150 years.  On the morning of 22nd January 1852, there was severe storm and lightning struck the tower causing broken panes and plaster to come off the walls. Fifty feet of boundary wall was knocked down and 40 feet of road was washed away by the heavy seas. The keepers boat was broken up although they had secured it 15 feet above the last known high water mark.  It's rough out there!  Almost as rough as the seemingly never-ending road we had to travel to reach it.  And I won't even tell you what happened on the way back.  Just think full bladders + pot holes - public toilets and you'll get the general idea.  Worth it, though!  As every single one of them is.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Below Her Free Sky


Soundlessly, the red kite swoops on the wind.  Feathers sleek and wings steady, she hovers for a moment - her burning yellow eyes following something scuttling through the long grass below her.  She brings her tail in and instantly veers off towards the hills, soaring high before dipping and spiralling elegantly; seeming to gambol on the breeze.  She doesn't want to feed just yet.

The gentle afternoon sunlight bounces off her back; a myriad of shimmering reds and browns as she lifts her head and catches a thermal - flying ever higher into the vast blueness until her shadowless body disappears into the clouds.

Far below her free sky, we sit and watch enviously.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

100,000 and Counting!


He did it!  Our beloved Monty has reached the hallowed 100,000 miles!

The first time I met Coyote, I thought Monty was black.  Not only that, but I wasn't all that impressed if I'm going to be honest.  I'm a country girl, you see...I like things with diff locks that are covered in mud.  'This is a town car,' I thought.  'Something that's probably economical on fuel and easy to park...but will more than likely fall apart within a year.'

How wrong could I have been?


Monty's an absolute gem.  We named him when we were in Montgomeryshire (originality fail!) and we've explored thousands of miles with him and his guardian - Limmy the Sheephog - who sits on his dash, watching out for BOFmobiles and barking at Mansel Davies lorries. (Yes, he barks.  Clever for a sheep/hedgehog cross but then this is the sheephog that chased Terry Wogan out of Limerick.  We never doubt him.)

Wales, England, Eire, Northern Ireland and Scotland - we've seen them all thanks to Monty.  Who, incidentally  is also called Minty.  Because he's blue and always has a packet of Smints or three in a door pocket.

We may drool over shiny Land Rover Defenders.  We may swoon when we see a brand new County...but we're not parting with Monty just yet.  He's a member of the team and we love him to bits!

*Meep Meep!*  

Monday, 21 January 2013

On Thin Ice


Picture the scene:  It's been snowing for two days.  Some of the snow has now melted, leaving a layer of treacherous ice on the steps that lead up to your front door.  Sensibly, you break open a bag of rock salt and do away with the nasty stuff before it leads to a broken bone or three.  You find you've got some left over...so, in the bitter cold of a winter's night, you spread it over your neighbour's path.  You watch it dissolve and enjoy the warm knowledge that they won't slip as they walk to their car in the morning.

Now picture this:  The following morning, having walked down their perfectly clear path, your neighbour doesn't thank you...but tells you that you shouldn't grit other people's paths because you could get sued.

How would you feel?  We felt sad.

These days, the fear of litigation takes precedence over altruism.  If someone gritted your path thoroughly and you still slipped, would you blame them?  We certainly wouldn't.  Let's face it - at least they tried to help you.  

Can it be true that the chance of getting money can make people blind to the helpfulness of others?  It certainly looks that way.  

It seems that if you sit back and do nothing, watch your neighbour fall and break their arm, you're safe.  However, if you attempt to clear a neighbour's path and they still slip and injure themselves, you could face a hefty court case.  In short, you could be sued for being helpful.

Surely spreading grit on ice is only going to make the situation better?  Even if it doesn't dissolve the ice completely, it will stop it from re-freezing and the grit will add traction underfoot.  

While the Met Office Website states, 'Don't be put off clearing paths because you're afraid someone will get injured. Remember, people walking on snow and ice have a responsibility to be careful themselves.' I for one am now very wary of trying to help out.  I'll do it for my family - but no longer for anyone else without asking.  If they give me their full consent, then I'll help...but I won't be doing it out of the impromptu kindness of my own heart any more.

'Compensation Culture' has reached new levels of ridiculousness.  People need a bit of grit - in both senses.


**UPDATE**

Huge thanks to Rachel Jones of A470 Training for retweeting the link to this blog and for enlightening me on the birth of 'Gritgate'.

This debate reached boiling point in 2010 and it all stemmed from misinformation published in The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Mail.  The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has never stated that gritting public pathways could lead to legal action if somebody is injured. 

So, really, it's an urban myth that was created by shoddy journalism.  The question is - has the damage already been done?  I'm not sure I want to face castigation every time I try to help someone who still believes that I shouldn't be gritting my neighbours' paths. 

But then...if everyone thought like that, nobody would help anyone any more...

Hmm.  Think I'll be buying a few more bags tomorrow. Ninja Gritters unite! 

Grit and Determination


As you may have noticed, it's been a bit chilly lately.  There's snow, there's ice...and there's the usual sense of panic that results in empty shelves at the supermarket and a marked increase in the sales of thermal knickers.

Naturally, that hasn't put Coyote and I off toddling around the country in search of fun and photos.  Only yesterday we headed north and found ourselves on a rather bleak Crimea Pass:


It really is beautiful up there.  If you don't see another car, it's easy to imagine that you're the only people left alive after some catastrophic event involving zombies.  It's like a post-apocalyptic movie set.  Like Anglesey, really...but pretty.  We noticed the snow starting to stick to the road, so when we passed the sign for Conwy County, we spun around and headed back through Blaenau Ffestiniog.  That was strange, actually...because it seems that they've changed the town a bit since we were last there.  Now, the train station boasts a slate monolith that wouldn't look out of place in a stage production of '2001: A Space Odyssey'; and there are some strange sculptures there that, apparently, are called the 'Fat Ladies'.  I'm saying nothing.

On our way back to HQ we got stuck behind a gritter (top photo).  Of course, it can be bloody frustrating crawling along behind one of those as it chucks salt in your face...but it's also very reassuring.  You would think, then, that anyone travelling behind one on potentially icy bends would be happy to wait a little while to pass.  It would seem not...


"Oh no!  I mustn't get salt on my chrome grille...!"


"I must pass this horrid thing before my BOFmobile gets tainted."


"Yes...a nice wide berth I think.  Splendid."


**Turns Rachmaninov CD up to 6...**


"Marvellous! Now home for a bacon sandwich."

It just had to be a BOFmobile, didn't it?  And, for the record, his registration was '58 KEN'.  No further words are required really, are they?

Thursday, 10 January 2013

THE PRIZE BOF QUIZ!


Over the course of the last year, we've been trying to educate you in The Ways of the BOF.  We've recently been wondering if any of you have paid any attention at all...

...and have decided that the best way to find out is to roll out a pop quiz - or a 'BOF Quiz', if you will!  

This will both help us determine if our tutoring techniques are any good and, we hope, make you smile a bit.  But don't think this is a test without rewards...oh no!  You could WIN A PRIZE!  Yes!  A PRIZE! (Don't worry; it's not a sprout.  That picture was the only thing I could come up with at short notice.)

We can't possibly divulge what the prize is, but if you submit one of the first 5 correct sets of answers, we'll send you something excitingly exclusive*.  We only have limited supplies of this item, but you're more than worth it if you prove you've got what it takes to be a BOF Warrior.

So, without further Apu from The Simpsons...eyes down, look in!  (And no cheating at the back.  We can see you.)

THE PRIZE BOF QUIZ!

Q1 - Which of the following is a BOF's glove compartment most likely to contain?
A) Travel sweets
B) Discarded receipts
C) £500 cash for on-the-spot fines
D) Vehicle log book

Q2 - What is a BOF's favourite colour?

A) Purple
B) British Racing Green
C) Navy Blue
D) Neon Yellow

Q3 - Which of these musicians does a BOF prefer?
A) David Bowie
B) Leonard Cohen
C) Rachmaninov
D) Roger Whittaker

Q4 - Which of the following is a BOF's favourite type of footwear?
A) Flip Flops
B) Crocs
C) Loafers
D) Chelsea Boots

Q5 - What musical instrument is a BOF most likely to play?
A) Bass Guitar
B) Trombone
C) Piano
D) Bagpipes

Q6 - A BOF's favourite food is...?
A) Cabbage
B) Bacon
C) Caviar
D) Fillet steak


Q7 - Which of these counties is favoured a BOF?
A) Shropshire
B) Pembrokeshire
C) Worcestershire
D) Staffordshire

Q8 - A BOF drives a...?
A) Reliant Robin
B) Nissan Qashqai
C) Mazda MX5
D) Range Rover

Q9 - What does 'BOF' stand for?
A) Blindingly Old Fellow
B) Big Old Flump
C) Bloody Ouchy Finger
D) Ssh...it's a secret


Q10 - Which letter of the alphabet does a BOF's name commonly start with?
A) X
B) Q
C) J
D) Z

***END OF TEST***

So - how did you do?!

Send your answers to us via Twitter (@Goleudy or @MarkTheTravel) and if you're one of the first 5 correct submissions, we'll send your hard-earned prize to you in the post.  First class, of course.

Good luck! x

DISCLAIMER: We hold no responsibility for any confusion, bafflement, disappointment or complete disgruntlement caused by the prize item.  Please keep prize item away from children and gerbils.  Prize item is not suitable for dishwashers, microwaves or shredded as a salad garnish. *Prize item is only 'excitingly exclusive' if you don't live in Pembrokeshire.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Shame of Streetshirts


"Same Day T-shirt Printing".  "Same Working Day Dispatch".  "No Minimium (sic) Order."  I should've been suspicious when I saw that they can't spell 'minimum' correctly...

But I still thought that Streetshirts would be a great company to provide me with a one-off hoodie of my own design, so I spent a while creating exactly what I wanted with their online software.  When I was happy with the design, I submitted it, paid for it and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

In fact, I'm still waiting.

I placed my order on the 3rd of December.  Plenty of time, I thought, to get the item before Christmas.  When I logged in to my account on their website, there was a dispatch estimate of the 4th of December.  When it hadn't arrived two days later, I sent a friendly email asking if there was a problem.

TEN DAYS after I sent the email, I received this reply:


I couldn't really say much to that, so the waiting resumed.

In the meantime, I checked my account and was greeted with an order history that hadn't been there before:


12 days from payment to production, and a further 4 days to complete the item?  You fail, Streetshirts.

But, ever the pacifist and a typical Brit, I still waited.

SEVENTEEN DAYS later and the item still hadn't arrived...so I emailed them again:

As you can see, I was far from brutal in my plea for help.  I wasn't rude, I wasn't pushy...and yet they  still completely ignored me.  To date I've received no reply to this email at all.  I have, however, received an email from them.  A promotional email offering me a free t-shirt with my next order.  Laugh?  I nearly broke a rib.

Naturally, I started to wonder if I was the only one who was having problems with this company - so I took a look at the Twitter masses to see if anyone else was tweeting their annoyance.  I was stunned...


It seems there are many people who are struggling to 1) Receive their orders, 2) Get replies and/or 3) Get their money back.  This is just appalling. 

With the knowledge that Streetshirts have failed their customers spectacularly, and with encouragement from the great and wise Skip Ad Ninja, I gathered some of the angry tweets and compiled them in the image you see above.  I then posted it to Flickr and added it to a tweet along with a heads-up to BBC consumer programme, X-Ray.  Much to my delight, X-Ray responded:


Today, I replied to X-Ray saying that there appear to me more and more disgruntled customers tweeting their annoyance every day.

I'm giving Streetshirts one week in which to deliver my order or give me my money back.  If by then nothing has happened, I'll be stepping up my campaign and will start by emailing X-Ray with all the details they need.  Of course, they might not be able to do anything about this shockingly bad customer service - but at least I will have spoken up.

Streetshirts - you're dreadful.  You're taking money and screwing up orders, leaving a trail of very unhappy customers who are trying time and time again to reach you - and yet you're ignoring us.  Get your act together before everyone turns their backs on you.

Oh, and for the record...those backs will probably be wearing Spreadshirts designs.  That company actually works.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Meet Bingo!


The other night, Coyote and I were standing outside HQ, taking a break from sticking gold stars on a map of Wales (we'll tell you all about that later!) when a little furball scampered around the corner, straight up our steps and in through the door.  We looked at it, looked at each other...looked at it again...and, as the more wordy half of the duo, I took it upon myself to eloquently sum up the situation.  
'Cat.' I said.

Having ascertained that it was indeed a cat (it was the cat-ness that gave it away) and a girl (it was the way she applied mascara that gave it away), we cautiously approached her and made friends.  I say 'cautiously' because we're not cat people.  We like our pets to be more...well...canine.  We still want a Husky called Bob.  And besides; we've been at HQ for several months now, and many times I've commented on how unfriendly the cats of the village are.  If you're (un)lucky enough to get within stroking distance of one, you'll probably have your hand ripped to shreds within a matter of seconds.  Vicious little feckers, they are.  Like the seagulls in Tywyn...only with even less mercy.  And that's saying something.

Of course, the trouble with befriending a random cat that gatecrashes your house is that it'll probably stay  for much longer than you want it to.  Don't get us wrong; we'd happily adopt her if it wasn't for two things:

1)  We're not at HQ all the time.  Coyote has radio responsibilities and I have togging ties, so we're frequently away from the house.

2)  She's perfectly groomed, is well-fed and reeks of perfume - so she's clearly a downright hussy.

So - as she seems happy in our company and she obviously has a loving owner that she's playing - we're happy to let her in of an evening and perhaps give her something to eat.  We'll try her with sprouts at the weekend.

Plus...she shows the required level of disdain where BOFmobiles are concerned:


Good kitty.
*Miow!*