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, 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.


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


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.)


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)'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


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 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.