Nov 12

A History: Jack Harrison

Time to explore the known history of another of my ancestors, this time great-grandfather Jack (christened John) Harrison. A fitting choice for a Remembrance Sunday weekend, being the only one of my direct ancestors that I know served in a World War.

Jack Harrison in his Navy Uniform

Jack Harrison in his Navy Uniform

Jack was born 29 April 1899, at 33 Crosby Street. His father was John Harrison, a Journeyman Hatter at the time; his mother was Hannah Harwood. I’ve previously explored the life of his father John, in another post.

John, known for most of his life as Jack, was the 3rd surviving child out of 9; he was also the 3rd son. At the time of his birth, the family were living at 33 Crosby St, Stockport, a typical 2 up 2 down of the time.

33 Crosby St, Stockport (from Google streetview)

They were still there for the 1901 census but 10 years later, they’d moved to 97 London Rd, which looks to be very similar. There were 8 children living with the family at that point, which must have been cramped. The 2 oldest sons were out earning; Leonard, at 17, was a hairdresser and Sydney, 14, was a Grocer’s Errand Boy. Jack and 2 sisters, (Lizzie and Lily) were at school and 3 children were at home – Fred (4), William (3) and Norah (1). This house was to remain the family home for years – it was the recorded death place of John’s parents 40 years later. Today, it’s a bridal shop.

97 London Rd, the family home for decades, now  bridal shop.

97 London Rd, the family home for decades, now bridal shop.

Three years after this census, World War one broke out. Jack was 14. The school leaving age was 12, so we can assume he’d been working for a few years. But if he was eager to follow the patriotic call, he was too young to sign up for the Army, with the official age set at 18 and soldiers not supposed to serve abroad until they were 19. But many underage boys did manage to serve; analysis of records show that nearly a third of the Navy recruits were underage. In 1916, the UK government started subscription – but he would have still been too young for this. But the Navy were slightly different; you could join them young as a ‘Boy‘, with parents’ permission. Many of those boys, nominally at ‘school’ were sent to sea.

If we look at his older brothers, both did sign up, with the Army, but potentially Jack was the first to join.

  • Leonard Harrison. Enlisting in Dec 1915, aged 22, he served in France. On 26 April 1919, there’s a record of his transfer to the Reserve; he’d been serving in the Royal Horse & Field Artillery, 58th Divisional Ammunition Column. These papers list job as a Driver and his address as 97 London Rd. There’s also a Medal card listed at the National Archives – I’ll have to go and find this at some point.
  • Sydney Harrison. We know Sydney joined the Army – he sent this photo to his Aunt Alice, but not yet identified which record was his.
Sydney Harrison, taken during WW1

Sydney Harrison, taken during WW1

So what about Jack? Here’s his service record:

  • Volunteered 4/5/1915, started service 29/4/1917. Served until 23/10/1919
  • HMS Powerful 5/5/1915-22/11/1915 Training in Devonport, Boy 2nd Class
  • HMS Victory 23/11/15-27/1/16 Still on shore, promoted to Boy 1st Class
  • HMS Malaya 28/1/16 – 27/4/18
  • HMS Sable 28/4/18-7/3/19 An R Class Destroyer
  • HMS Royalist 14/3/19-12/7/19 A Light cruiser
  • HMS Victory 13/7/19-23/10/19 Back on shore

So 5 days after his 16th birthday, Jack signed up for the Navy. His brothers did not appear to be in the forces yet so it did not appear to be family expectations. Was it friends? Did they join up together? Whatever it was, at 16 Jack was heading down to the South Coast for training. How did that feel, to someone who was unlikely to have travelled before. Six months of training followed before he was posted to HMS Victory, usually used to refer to holding barracks in Portsmouth, when sailors were waiting for posting. He’d graduated to being a Boy 1st Class and spent 2 months waiting for the next step.

Navy training class

Navy training class

Is this a Navy graduation picture?

Is this a Navy graduation picture?

That next step was the HMS Malaya, a brand new ship. Jack joined the crew 3 days before its official commissioning, one of most junior members of the 1200+ crew. The ship joined the 5th Battle Squadron ; what it did for the next 4 months I don’t know but on 31 May 1916, they played a part in the Battle of Jutland. At the end of the engagement, the ship had lost 65 crew, with 68 injured. Despite the damage, it got back to port for repairs before sailing again in July.

Post card of HMS Malaya

Post card of HMS Malaya

They appear to have a quiet summer, according to this postcard to his 7 year old sister Norah implies.

Postcard from Jack

Postcard from Jack

Front of postcard from Jack to Norah

Front of postcard from Jack to Norah

Jack carried on with the ship, being promoted to Ordinary Seaman on 29 Apr 1917 and Able Seaman 5 months later on 1 Sep 1917. In April 1918 he was moved to HMS Sable, a destroyer ship with a much smaller crew of only 82. He was with this ship until March 1919. We can assume that during this time he managed to get home a few times, because he was obviously courting. On 11 Feb 1919, Jack married Lillian Robinson.

Lillian and Jack

Lillian and Jack

Lillian was the daughter of a local tobacconist and building merchant William Robinson, a Yorkshireman who’d moved across the Pennines and one of the founding members and first team captain of Stockport Rugby Club. He was good enough to play for Cheshire country team. Stockport was one of the founder members of the new Rugby League and we can assume that William played a major part in this, given his prominence in the club.

Beatrice Robinson (nee Lee) and the Tobacconist shop

Beatrice Robinson (nee Lee) and the Tobacconist shop

There was one more stint at sea, before Jack finally left the Navy in October 1919. Time to settle down, stat the family and get on with life. His first daughter, Mabel was born in 1920; Lillian, my Grandmother, was born in 1922. It was 15 years before another child was born – John Leslie, in 1937. There are no other records of any other children apart from these 3.

There’s no records over the next 20 years, until the 1939 Register when we find them in Roscoe St, still in Stockport. Another typical terraced house.

26 Roscoe St, Stockport

26 Roscoe St, Stockport

At this point we have Jack and Lillian, living with John Leslie and their daughter Lillian, along with a lodger Arthur. Their other daughter can be found back in the family home in Castle St, with her grand-parents. Jack was now a Locomotive Fireman – looking after the boilers on trains.

Jack Harrison at work on the trains

Jack Harrison at work on the trains

He was also breeding dogs at the address; we have an old business card “J Harrison, Breeder of Classical Pedigree Wirehaired Fox Terriers; Malayan Kennels, 26 Roscoe St, Edgeley, Stockport Owner of Fyldelands Starlight”. Naming the star dog implies it was a good dog from a famous breedline. The only other mention i can find to Fyldelands is to a best in show dog from St Louis in 1931, so definitely from an international breeder. And the name of the kennels was a callback to his WW1 Navy Career.

None of the family appeared to have served in WW2, too old or too young. In 1943, Jack’s daughter Lillian moved out, marrying another Jack, my grandfather. Mabel never married.

Jack’s wife Lillian died in 1956 and was buried in Cheadle Cemetery. Just over a year later, tragedy struck again, with John Leslie, at only just 20, also dying. Jack stayed in the same house for the next 20 years, before dying in the local hospital in 1977, at the age of 77. He was buried in the same grave as his wife. I may have met him, but I don’t remember. As the family was living 100miles further south, I do know we did not make that many visits.

As with his father, a man that lived through many changes. Born in the last years of Victoria he served in WW1 and lived through WW2. He was born before planes and died when package holidays were starting to become available to the wider populace – did he ever get on a plane? Did he ever travel far after his journey’s in the war? so many questions, no-one to ask any more.

Nov 01

A weekend in Garmisch Partenkirchen

Looking south across the Alps

Looking south across the Alps

As the year slips into autumn, I thought it was time to get back out into the hills. After some time spent looking at options, whether to fly or not, whether to drive, I decided on a visit to Garmisch Partenkirchen, just a 3 hour train journey from Nuremberg. It’s got mountains and lakes, hills and gorges. Seemed perfect for a walking weekend.

I booked a hotel just by the station, easy to get to Reindl’s is perfectly placed and has a good reputation, although the initial impressions were a little off – I’d arrived around 10 and there was no longer anyone in the kitchen, so no food possible. But luckily, this was the only misstep during my stay.

A view from Zugspitzen

Looking down from the top of Zugspitzen

Awakening on Saturday, the skies were grey. Not what was forecast, I was expecting sun, but luckily this arrived a few hours later. One last check of the weather report and today’s plans were finalised. First, a tip up the mountain! Zugspitze is the highest peak in Germany. I’d briefly considered hiking up to the top, but there was not enough light/time available and the huts were shut, so that was not the best option. Instead, I took the easy way – a train. Just behind the main station, you can find the Zugspitzbahn, a hourly train that can take you almost all the way to the top. It’s not cheap though – 53E to get you there and back. It starts off like a normal train, until you get to Grainau, when it changes to a cog train, to get up the incline. Further on, from Eibsee, they’re also rebuilding the cable car, replacing the previous version that was built in 1963. The new car is going to be able to take nearly 3x more people (120 instead of 44); it will be quicker than the train with far better views!

Looking down on Eibsee

Looking down on Eibsee

But for today, just the slower train (the total trip is about 75mins) that heads up and then though the mountain. The train takes you to Zugspitzplatt, on the southern side of the mountain. From there, you transfer to the Gletscherbahn cable car (you can do this as many times as you like, it’s covered in ticket price) for the final section up to the top. During the winter, the Zugspitzplatt looks like to be a ski centre, with plenty of lifts to take you back up the slopes.

Zugspitzplatt

Zugspitzplatt

For my visit, most of the top of the mountain was a building site, as they upgrade the cable car station connecting to Eibsee. However, you could still get around enough of it to take in the views. To the north was the view back down to Eibsee, to the south and east the Glacier, the ski slopes and more mountains, to the west were the mountains of Austria.

You can also take the final climb to the top of the mountain, by leaving the terrace, down the stairs then up a small via ferrata route to the top. Quite a few were doing this (I did part of it, not feeling like the final scramble). I wonder if there are many accidents because it’s a long way down!

Eibsee lake

Eibsee lake

Reversing my route, I wandered around the station area for a bit; they’ve installed a few information boards, there’s a chapel and you can just wander around, or eat and drink in one of the 3 or so restaurants there (there’s also a couple of restaurants at the very top). Back on the train and this way I get off at Eibsee – the ticket covers you breaking up the journey. More bars and restaurants on the lakeside near the station, but my goal was to circumnavigate the lake, a trip just under 5miles. It’s a wonderful path around the lake, a sparkling clear body of water, with mountains all around. There were lots of people doing the same walk – I’m guessing in the summer it gets completely packed. Even families with pushchairs were doing it, although as most of it is not paved, that looked a hard job!

Zugspitzen from the Eibsee

Zugspitzen from the Eibsee

Back at the hotel it was time for some cake – they offer free cake in the late afternoon – and then spa time. There’s a pool and a sauna suite available (wet and dry saunas, plus a steam room). Then I ended the day with a superb meal at their restaurant. (actually I ended the day watching F1, but that is proabably not everyone’s choice). They do a good fixed price menu option and is obviously a popular place, as it was nearly full, not bad for ‘out of season’.

Sunday arrived and as forecast, it was raining. After breakfast and checking out, my plan was to stick closer to home – the famous Partnachklamm (Partnach gorge), a 700m long, 80m deep gorge that was declared a natural monument in 1912. By the time I was ready, the rain had stopped and luckily, did not come back when I was out and about. It’s an easy walk of a couple of miles to the gorge, out of the hotel, follow the river along the Geologischen Lehrpfad “Die Steine des Alpenraums”. Basically, that’s lots and lots of rock examples. Each sample is labelled and usually has information, although it’s only in German.

Ski jumps

Ski jumps

Past the Olympic stadium and the ski jumps that are in regular usage. Given the sizes of the jumps, from small to Olympic, I assume they teach ski-jumping here as well. You keep following the river, which can take you right to the gorge. But not that path for me, I’d decided I’d go up into the hills and come back down the river, so I branched off and started the climb. You follow a narrow road up to Partnachalm before dropping back down the side of the valley, along a steep and winding path.

In the hills

In the hills

It was here I started getting traffic, as many seemed to have the same idea, doing the route in the opposite direction. The gorge costs 5E, but on this day, there was no-one guarding the top of the gorge path (not sure if there would be on busier days) so you just start the walk. All the way along, a narrow path has been carved/blasted out. Parts of it are tunnels; there are no lights so you rely on windows (or phone torches).

Entrance to gorge

Entrance to gorge

Blue water and bronze leaves

Blue water and bronze leaves

Water falls

Water falls

It is marvelous and magnificent. At this time of year, there are swathes of beech leaves, that glow like wet copper on the rock. The water is milky blue and rushes down, drowning out most conversation. Fully recommend this as an outing from Garmish, it’s amazing. At the bottom, you need to pay your money. Most people travel up the gorge and then appear to come back down, with the fitter ones heading up the valley to walk down the other way.
That was it, time to get back on the train north. A superb weekend away, in an area that is an outdoor
enthusiasts paradise; hiking in the summer and snow sports in the winter.

Rock formations

Rock formations

For the full set of photos see on Flickr: Zugspitzen and Eibsee and Partnachklamm

Oct 14

EBC Trek: Back down to Lukla

After all that effort making our way up, it was a lot quicker getting back down to our starting point.

Back down the valley

Back down the valley

Friday 23 Dec

The best views of Everest from this valley are from Kala Pattar; watching the sun rise over the mountain was the plan for the morning. But not for me. I decided that I needed the rest, the cough was still plaguing me and chest hurt – getting up before dawn to breathe in ice cold air was not a good idea. It was not a late lie-in though, we were still out the door before 8 to walk down. The distances downhill were planned to be longer, there are fewer days to get back to Lukla. Our target was 1100m lower, the lodge where we lunched on Monday, 4 days ago. Eight hours later, by a different route to the one we used to go up, I made it, one of the last. The day had not been a good one for me, lack of sleep, accumulated tiredness meant today I was really slow, not wanting to miss a step. A hard day, I was glad to get to the cozy dining room and get hot food, before being able to sleep all the way through to 8!

Boiling water using solar power

Boiling water using solar power

Saturday 24 Dec

Today we ran out of weather luck. We’d had blue skies and sunshine all the way up the valleys, but today, the clouds came over, it was grey and dull, the mountains were hidden, no views for us today. A new route again, we travelled on the east side of the river, our target Tengboche Monastery after a shorter walk of only 4 hours. Lunch was the ‘famous’ pizza, which was pretty good, a change from the usual. Time to relax before a visit to the monastary, to listen to one of the ‘services’ a series of chants. Finally, as we were leaving, the clouds broke in places and we Everest came back into view, floating over the clouds.

Floating above the clouds

Floating above the clouds

Today also brought us one of the funniest episodes; a local herder had 3 yaks who became very, very interested in 3 cows that were grazing outside the lodge. The poor man was trying to get his yaks away and he’d run after them, herding them one way and the other before one of the yaks would break off again and he’d have to start again. Finally, one of the guides joined in and between them they managed to separate the groups and get the yaks moving down hill!

Sun 25 Dec

Christmas Day. Waking up to look out and watch the sun rise, te tips of Everest and the surrounding mountains glowing as the sun caught them. This has to rate as one of the best hotel views in the world.

Dawn light on Everest

Dawn light on Everest

Another long day planned; all the way down from Tengboche and then back up the next mountain, finally connecting with the good path into Namche. A break for lunch – no turkey here, but a cheese sandwich and chips were very welcome. Down the long hill and keep moving along the valley to our lodge for the night. I’m tired now, I want a shower and non-carb based food. It’s becoming a slog, retracing the steps. I think jumping on a helicopter at Namche would have been an ideal end of trip treat!

Mon 26 Dec

Last day! 7am wake up, eggs for breakfast then the long trudge to Lukla. Traffic jams all the way back – there’d been a delay in flights, creating a backlog of people and now they were all making their way up. Again, a reminder how lucky we had been with the lack of crowds.

People and donkeys queuing

People and donkeys queuing

Along the river, cross the river, along the river, repeat. Long breaks, we’re nearly done now. Finally, our final lodge. Drop the bags, off to find a bank for a little more cash. A visit to ‘Starbocks’ for a welcome hot coffee, free wifi and cake. Sit and while away the afternoon, watching snow fall where we have just travelled. Realising how lucky we were with the weather.

The end

That’s the end of my diary. An early flight out in the morning, back to the Kathmandu hotel to pick up the luggage left. I had an extra day at the hotel, the safety day just in case we could not fly out of the mountains, which can often happen. Very little was done, just chilled out. The back home, flights via Delhi home for 30 Dec, in time to
lose out the year.

This trip had pushed me harder than any other. I’d underestimated the fitness needed for the uphills; I had the stamina to take the long days but not the leg strength needed. Downhills were hard, that’s confidence more than anything else. Not sure I’ll ever be too good at that! Despite all of that, it was an amazing trip, in a fabulous country and I’d love to do it again.

Oct 14

EBC Trek: Everest Base Camp

We were nearly there..one more trek.

A glimpse of Everest from Base Camp

A glimpse of Everest from Base Camp

Thursday 22 Dec

Today was the big day, our final ‘uphill’ day. We had one of our earliest starts, up at 5:30, out the door at 6:30 as dawn was breaking. Off we went, heading to Gorek Shep; minimal plants, moss and lichens with occasional grass clunps. Glacial moraine, rocks and dirt, and increasingly, ice. There’s a path of sorts, a way though, but it’s ephemeral, disappearing and changing over time. The ground moves and there’s no fixed way. We pass a few coming down the way, on their way back from their trek. Nods and smiles – they’ve achieved their goals, now it’s our turn.

Heading up along the valley

Heading up along the valley

A few hours later we arrived at Gorek Shep, a small cluster of buildings that caters for trekkers. Time for breakfast number 2. Time to leave behind things, only taking the essentials as we head out for the last section, planned between 2-3 hours.

Sign posts to Base Camp

Sign posts to Base Camp

The start is easy, a flat sandy section, then gradually heads up, alongside the glacier, through more rocks and dirt. Up ahead, you can see the target, a bowl of mountains, the end of the valley.

Khumba Glacier

Khumba Glacier

Now down to the glacier, and a warning to make it quick – rock falls are possible, we need to keep an eye out. Across we go, to the ‘photo opportunity’. The cairn that gets built every year for visitors, that gets festooned with flags. We’d made it, we’re at 5,380, a vertical climb of 2.5km since we landed at Lukla

Cairn, flags and memories

Cairn, flags and memories

Silence, except for the ice cracking and groaning, the occasional bang as snow and ice break off . The slopes to slip down to the valleys. We’re the only ones there, everyone else had left and our small group had the place to ourselves. Deep blue skies, black and white mountains, the jumble of the Khumba Ice fall as it tumbles down lip of the mountain, and above us, the tip just barely visible, is Everest, tantalising us as it’s done ever since we first glimpsed it on the way up the hill to Namche. You don’t go to Base Camp to take a good look at Everest, you go for the journey and the challenge. Everest is just the beacon that guides you.

Icefall

Icefall

Done, Made it. A quiet sense of achievement. On my first day in the mountains I didn’t think I’d make it, but here I am, goal reached.

So what now? There’s no quick way back, we have to cover all the miles again – at least it’s ‘downhill’!

Back down the valley to be reunited with our gear. Gorek Shep was the most basic of all the lodges we stayed at – and the most expensive. It’s just a few tourist lodges; everything has to be carried up, so things are kept to a minimum and charged for at a premium. We’d were told they’d tried ‘western’ toilets, but they froze too often and cracked..so squat toilets were the only ones available (most of the other lodges we were had got sit on loos, even if no proper flush). But we had food, a bed, and some warmth with the dung fire. One final check of stats – HR106, %O2 83. Looks like my body coped fine this time. Time for bed!

Oct 08

EBC Trek: Namche Bazar to Lobuche

I’m guessing by the time I finish this report on my Everest Base Camp trek it’ll be a year old? Anyway, let’s start this again. When you last read an installment, we’ made it to Namche Bazar and had just finished our first acclimatisation day. Next we were heading further up the valley.

Leaving Namche Bazar

Leaving Namche Bazar

Sun 18 Dec: Namche Bazar to Phaortse

Early mornings started in earnest; up at 6:30, out walking by 8:15. A long hard day ahead, multiple terrain, following a slightly less followed track. Blue skies and warm weather at least made it pleasant to walk in. Before we hit the trails though, we had to escape Namche Bazar, about 20 minutes walking up through the town, lots of steps. One area appeared to be a staging post for yak trails; with one batch starting out as we went by. Possibly the most dangerous part – I was saved from a knocking by a rapid reaction of a guide as one of the yaks suddenly decided to change path and head at me! Once out of the town, we found the nicest part of the trail, well made and wide, hugging the hillside. Another 20 minutes, we went by the man responsible, someone who seems to spend his days making the path, accepting donations from all the trekkers. Beyond that point, it got a lot rougher.

Porters and Loads

Porters and Loads

 Phortse Path

Looking towards Phaortse. the blue roofs in the distance.. The wide path to the left

We climbed all the way to our lunch stop, at 4375m, a lovely place where we could look down on our evening stop. After lunch, at 4375m, the path got narrower, rockier and edgier – a lot more edges. We went down and down…and at this point it was really brought home how I hate downs. Distance judgement off, never quite sure of step, head down focusing on my feet, never looking around. The a break, a river crossing and uphill again. The paths up to the village are so dusty, you’re continously breathing it in and everyone is starting to develop a cough from this, which continues for the trip, not helped by altitude. The village of Phaortse is different from any places we stop off, less touristy with fewer lodges. narrow walled paths between fields. Finally our lodge, owned by an Everest Climbing Sherpa – the certificates are in the common room. Dinner (dhal bat) and obs (HR96, %O2 87) and early bed.

The trek from Namche Bazar to Phaortse

The trek from Namche Bazar to Phaortse

Mon 19 Dec: Phaortse to Dingboche

Looking back at Phaortse

Looking back at Phaortse

We were out the door early today, 7:45. Altitude was really starting to bite, with many of the group not having to slept well. Up out the village, around a muntain and then one horrible bit down. I have to admit to having a little cry when I got to the bottom of that path, a stress release given how terrified i was all the way down. For me, that was the worst path of the whole trek, not something I’d like to repeat! In general, today was a slow day for all. The effort was telling in the legs, it was a hot day and the path was difficult. We’d split up by lunchtime, with 15mins between front and back – but as they kept telling us, going at own pace, slow and steady, was best way to deal with the effort needed and the altitude impact.

Prayers

Prayers

So far, I’ve been fine with symptons (except for breathlessness) but some in the group having bad headaches and dizzyness. We’re being reminded to drink lots, which is made more important with the temperatures. A long day, only reaching the lodge just before sunset, when it’s time to change from tshirts to full thermal kit – it gets cold! Time for food and obs – my HR is 119, struggling a little, %O2 83. Unfortunately, the day has proved too much for AF, – a %O2 of 64. That’s serious. Rechecks and concerned faces all around. Decision is drink lots of warm water, rest for now and check again in the morning before decision made.

Sunset from Lobuche

Sunset from Lobuche

Phaortse to Dingboche

Phaortse to Dingboche

Tues 20 Dec: Dingboche Acclimatisation

Acclimatisation walk at Dingboche

Acclimatisation walk at Dingboche

Unfortunately, AF did not get much sleep – I was in the next room and heard her couging a lot. Very very early, I hear lots of coming and going from the room, checking things out. No improvements, so a decision was made to evacuate her down the mountain when she could still walk, even if she needed support – accompanied by 2 guides and a porter. A guide was back for lunch, reporting that she was feeling better at lower altitude, after food and drink and was now on her way further down under her own power. So now we were down to 6 – AF’s boyfriend had been told to stay with us and finish the trek.

Himalayan Valley

Himalayan Valley

Today was our 2nd acclimiatisation day, so a late start of 9am was allowed. Today’s route is simple – straight up 400m or so to about 4800m, then down for a late lunch before lazing (and drinking) the rest of the day away in our suntraps of rooms, gloriously warm. I needed it, as I now had a touch of the cold that had been brought into the group, leading me to have a very poorly chest. At the end of the day, HR was down to 106, %O2 up to 86.

Acclimatisation Dingboche walk

Acclimatisation Dingboche walk

Wed 21 Dec: Dingboche to Lobuche

Yaks

Yaks

Now onto the final stretch. An easier start to the day, as we travel along a glacial valley, a fairly horizontal walk compared to some. Plenty of yaks grazing, minimal steps to go up and down.

Mountains and valleys

Mountains and valleys

It’s a short morning, by 11:15 we were at our break stop. today, just soup and lemon tea. At this point we joined the more regular route and started to run into a few more people on their way down the large hill next to the lunch stop. Making my way up it, I regretted the lack of carbs at lunch, something a bit more solid would have sat better. 🙂 In addition, throat was extremely sore, with cold air and coughing, so all in all, not a happy person this afternoon.

At the top of the hill, a rest and a chance for contemplation in a filed of memorials to those who had died in the mountains, many on Everest.

Memorials

Memorials

Field of memorials

Field of memorials

The final stretch was more glacial valleys, relatively steady slopes, far more opportunities to take in the scenery. A few cereal bars had made me feel a lot better and I really enjoyed the atfernoon ‘stroll’ to our lodge at Lobuche, for an early stop around 2:30. Here we had more company than usual; we’d been meeting up with a couple at most of the night stops, but there were a few more here. Lobuche apparently is lodges only, no permanent residents.

The meal menu was the usual, a choice of dal baat, fired potatoes or fried noodles, sherpa stew or the occasional momo. By this point I’d kill for steak and spinach! Today’s stats were HR118 and %O2 86.

Fried potato

Fried potato

Walk Dingboche to Lobuche

Walk Dingboche to Lobuche

Aug 13

Volunteering at the World Athletics 2017

Start of the 100m semi finals, London 2017

Optimism

October 2016. I’d filled in the form and finally hit submit. After failing to get selected to volunteer at the Olympics, was trying again for the World Athletics Championships, heading to London in the summer of 2017. And so the wait started. The numbers being talked about were 15k applications, 10k interviews and 4k volunteers to be chosen. Would I get through this time?

Finally, in late November, I got the yes..for the interview. Off I went, for some ‘team building’ activities and a chat. I’d applied to be part of the marketing/branding team giving my experience. What do they look for? I’m still not sure. Then waiting and waiting. We were supposed to get the results by end of April, but nothing arrived. Twitter started to show acceptances coming through, but refreshing the email still showed nothing. Mid May – a phone call! I’d got in. I was offered a role of ‘Mascot Escort!!’. Not quite sure what that had to do with my experience, but I was in, I’d give it a go.

Excitement

During training, the reason for the delay became clear – I’d only just made it in, as the formation of the mascot team was a late addition. No matter, I was looking forward to this, they had great plans, we’d get to be in the experience village and the stadium, it sounded fun!

Hero the Hedgehog. London2017

Hero having fun

Despair

One week before my first shift, an email. Oh no! The role no longer existed, they’d given it a go for the Para games, but apparently, volunteers were not needed. But, not to worry, they’d shifted me to a team to support the charity, i was going to be carrying a bucket to collect money. Oh 🙁 Not what I signed up for. I thought about it over the weekend and rang them up, I needed to withdraw, this was not for me. But, somehow, I was talked into at lest trying 1 shift and seeing how it went.

Tentative

Early Saturday morning; collecting ID and uniform. Oh look, I was still in Mascot team according to that computer, with access to plenty of places. But no, shift check in confirmed, I was on the bucket brigade. Found the team, changed into yet another t-shirt, handed a bucket then out into the park. We positioned ourselves, and hoped we could get people to stop. No bucket shaking allowed, according to the police. no talking about the charity..according the the police. So we just stood there and hoped. No smiles, little interaction. Definitely not for me. That was it, I was going to cancel the other shifts.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt at start of 100m

Hope

But..a glimmer of hope. Chatting to one of the other volunteers, they suggested I could join their team, working in the Hero Village, helping the spectators, getting them involved. A chat to the Team Manager and it was on. Back to checkin, and it was sorted. Team changed, shifts adjusted, a new role confirmed. It also turned out there still was a Mascot team, it was had just been reduced (although there were still not enough people to manage the queues for photos)

Hero and I have a moment

Hero and I have a moment

Dancing

I found my niche! I danced my way through 4 shifts, getting rained on and sunburnt. My mission, to make people smile as they entered the village. And I think I succeeded wth about 98% of the people. The ones who didn’t? All well dressed men, looking very corporate, obviously not here to have fun. Oh, and small toddlers who mainly looked at me as though i was mad, they weren’t quite sure what to make of me.

Exhausting work, but a lot of fun. Unlike bucket collecting, people reacted to you and they were having fun too. Honestly, I’d have preferred a role that used my actual skills and experience – how about social media?? 🙂 But if I couldn’t get that, I made the most of the role I had and had a great time.

Gatlin, before 100m semis

Gatlin, before 100m semis

Reflection

I’ve volunteered before, at World Rowing Champs, at rowing events, at Park Run, at the London Marathon. But this was the first big Athletics event – and 1st big event since ‘volunteering’ became so popular. Volunteering has become ‘professional’ and some of that leaked through. There’s definitely a core group of people who are racking up major event volunteering, most are great, some, not quite so welcoming if you’re not following the ‘correct behaviour’. For many, this may be the first time volunteering, so this behaviour may not be known!

The team recruiting the volunteers was not the same team running the championships, so some volunteers, recruited in good faith, were left disappointed. I wasn’t needed for Mascot team – the paid team had it covered. Even in my second team – the charity team – things did not quite go to plan. Almost all collection had to stop after Thursday, and most of the team got cut. This happened in quite a few teams – I’ve read about timing, ticketing, stadium teams all being impacted. I think most were accommodated, but not sure if everyone had the time they expected. Some teams had not enough people and were busy trying to recruit people for more shifts. Others were calling up volunteers just days before the event. Is this a combination of not quite getting numbers right and late drop outs from people who had not fully committed?

Overall, I loved my experience. I’d give it another go. But hopefully, lessons will continue to be learnt about balancing an over-abundance of applications, with the needs to the organisers and the reality of the events. Yes, this is coloured by my experience of team changes, but having talked to others (and read the facebook groups), not everyone had a good time.

Mar 26

Kathmandu to Lukla to Namche Bazar

Donkey Train

Donkey Train

Despite having little to do on my first morning in Kathmandu, my body clock still woke me up at 6:30am, which was probably a good idea given the next few weeks of early mornings ahead of me. Lazy breakfast and a brief wander around Kathmandu before heading towards the briefing, which is the time to meet my travel companions for the next 2 weeks.

The Group

The Group

In the group we had 3 from New Zealand, 1 from Australia and 3 from London (including myself). An 8th person was supposed to be joining us, but never turned up. We did initial introductions, filled in paper work, got a briefing on altitude sickness and an overview of what we would be experiencing in the next few weeks. Then off to buy last minute things before meeting up again for dinner and early night. first day was very low key.

The start of the next day was less so; meet up time was 5:15am, we were booked on a 6:15 flight. Now we started to see the type of peple we were traveling with. Four of us were early (that would include me), 2 were bang on time and the last? The last had to be got out of bed and helped finish suitcases as they’d heard 5:45 somehow! No matter, it was a short ride to the airport, some random security, a pick up of our hand written boarding passes and then we wait for them to call the planes.

Unloading at Lukla

Unloading at Lukla

Lukla flights tend to be first thing in the morning; the turbulence and visibility gets worse later in the day. So you have planes doing a shuttle run every morning, with very quick turnarounds. We were on the first flight out. grab your seat, any seat, a quick briefing and off we went. No cockpit lockign here, we could see right through the window. The airport has a reputation – you land uphill, into a cliff, quick get unloaded and the plane picks up the next lot and flies back down the slope.

Lukla Airport

Lukla Airport

Our bags were grabbed by our guides and we headed off to breakfast before starting the first day hike.

Lukla (2840m) to Phakding (2610m)

Lukla to Phakding altitude

Lukla to Phakding altitude

You’re reading that right, the first day is downhill. It’s a try out day, a day to check your gear and how you are coping. Total distance is about 5m, but you have the start of some altitude and a few uphill sections to try out your legs. It took us about 4 hours and we were in the lodge in time for lunch. For the rest of the day we chatted and lazed around; after dinner it was the first of our early to bed days, which tended to be a theme as we headed up the mountain.

Villages

Villages

Phakding (2610m) to Namche Bazar (3440m)

Phakding to Namche altitude

Phakding to Namche altitude

the first day’s hike definitely lulls you into a sense of false security. This isn’t too bad you think..welcome to Day 2 which quickly disabuses you of this notion. We carry on walking along the river valley, crossing over various suspension bridges, back and forth on both sites of the Dudh Kosi River. You pass through lots of litte villages, all catering to tourists in some way. And you’re learning the best way to avoid yaks (and variants) and donkeys. Yak and donkey trains take priority. They’re the goods movers of this part of the mountains, more so than people.

We’re still in wooded country, trees and rhododendrons. but we’re getting glimpses of snow covered mountains ahead. Finally we catch a glimpse of the famous double suspension bridge. The bridge is amazing, the thought of what lies ahead less so. An 700m climb straight up towards Namche. Ouch, seriously hurt. slowly, slowly, one foot at a time. Lots of steps, lots of dust and loose stones, the paths are not the easiest. You can really feel the reduced oxygen available by now, you’re out of breath almost with every step.

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

We do get our first glimpse of Everest though; a view point perfectly aligned with the valley beyond. Just the tip – although that’s all we usually see, just the top of a mountain hidden behind others.

Everest Glimpse

Everest Glimpse

Finally, finally we reached Namche and climbed up more steps. The whole village is built around a bowl in the hills, so there are steps everywhere to get between levels. Never has a lodge been so welcome! And food, I’m not yet bored of the choice of potatoes, rice or noodles.

Namche Bazar

Namche Bazar

Another lecture on Altitude sickness, a reminder to start taking Diamox and a time for measurements – HR (120) and O2 (88%). These would be taken daily to assess our adjustment.

A day in Namche

Acclimatisation walk

Acclimatisation walk

No advancement today, time for acclimatisation. We go for a further up the hill, to the National Park Headquarters and the famous status of Tenzing Norgay, with more views of Everest. The weather was blue skies again, something we had a lot of during our trek. It was surprisingly warm, we were all in a single layer for most of the daytime Then back down in time for lunch (fried potatoes and cheese for me). This was our final chance to buy any trekking gear, or to stock up on food. Also more chance to find out about the team. Myself and T are the least experienced in the bunch – and possibly the least fittest. Despite the training I’d done, it was not enough. R is definitely the fittest and you could see at times over the trip his frustration that he needs to stay with us slow people, but that is the risk when you come along with a random group. We all charged up phones etc and took a chance for a hot shower, the last one we would see for a while.

Tenzing Norgay and Everest

Tenzing Norgay and Everest

Another early night, but not after my stats were checked. HR had come down to 96, my body was adjusting; the O2 was still at 88%. I was happy – sleeping the previous evening was not easy, i really thought that I was not going to be able to go further. My first time at altitude and all you can do is follow the rules – walk slowly, drink lots of water, take the pills and hope your body adjusts.

Mar 18

Travel: A trip to India

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

After 6 months of preparing, getting equipment and trying to get fit, my trip to India and Nepal was ready to go. Rubbish was put out, heating turned down, everything washed up and the final elements added to the suitcase. it was time to head off for 3 weeks, my first Christmas and New Year away from the family. The first part of the trip was a few days in India before I headed off to Nepal.

The bag was hurled to work for the last Friday and the hours ticked by through the day. I’d finished off everything and it was only the last bits of admin to do. But finally it was time to head to Heathrow and my plane. A slight anxious moment at checkin, a frown at the screen. Had I failed in my plans? Was my visa OK? But everything was OK, I was away, security, lounge and finally time for boarding. Drinks provided and pyjamas, I was all set for the overnight flight to Delhi.

My journey was set up with Intrepid Travel, so all connections and hotels were arranged through them, starting with airport pickup. After a long flight, I made the mistake of not joining the long queue to pick up currency, it caused issues later when I tried to get cash – India was still suffering from the currency change that had been called and there was little available. Once in the car, we did not go that far, but there were still times I had my eyes closed, lane markings appeared to be advisory only! Definitely not a place I’d be comfortable driving in. Arrived at hotel and my first travel issue. I had no booking. A few phone calls later, nothing found. Eventually, he accepted my paper version of the booking confirmation and cleared it with the company later. One of the reasons i always print out (2) copies of everything when I travel!

The hotel was fairly basic – the travel company was mainly aimed at backpacker types – but it did for the night. A few hours sleep, and then just food and repacking. We had 2 blackouts during the afternoon, with the generator kicking in after a few minutes each time.

The next day, another issue. the hotel wanted cash for the bill (my food). I had no cash. Eventually got them to take card. Luckily, that was the last of any issues, everything else went well. Once that had been sorted out, I met up with my guide for the morning, we were going on a quick tour of Delhi, just a couple of places to get a flavour of the city.

Delhi Street

Delhi Street

The first stop was the Jama Masjid mosque, built by Shah Jahan (a name I was going to become familiar with over the next 2 days). Apparently the open courtyard can hold 25,000 people! So shoes off, a flowery robe put on and time for a wander and photos. A guess on a clear day you would have a good view over Delhi, but the haze was strong.

Jama Masjid Mosque, Delhi

Jama Masjid Mosque, Delhi

Next on the list was a short walk to a Sikh temple, more shoes off, this time a scarf to cover the forehead/top of head (not just me, the male guide too)

Sikh Temple, Delhi

Sikh Temple, Delhi

Our final stop of the morning, via pedal rickshaw, was a spice market, apparently an old brothel. Now it has all been converted to shops and houses, even the central square.

Spice market, Delhi

Spice market, Delhi

The morning was just a small taste of Delhi, 3 quick stops with very good, knowledgeable guide who had a lot to say about the places we visited and India and Delhi in general. My first impression and definitely culture shock for me; my travels have never taken me to this part of Asia or to any countries like it.

I was handed back to my driver and we headed to the next stop – the long 200 km drive to Agra for the other main attraction on my stay, the Taj Mahah. The main reason for doing this little trip before heading to the Himalayas was to get over jetlag; I reasoned that if I was travelling via Delhi, I should take a look at one of the main attractions.

The driver was excellent through the Delhi streets; I’d (sort of) stopped flinching at every beep of the horn, of which there were many, and I had time to look around me a little more to see the different lives, from upmarket flats to a small spot on the side of the road. Such wide contrasts. Street markets consisting of piles of shoes or clothes or produce with people many deep around the piles. Are there spotters or do people not take things when they easily could? Long stretches of road with clothes hung to dry along the central reservation fence. Once out of the city, the drive was along toll roads, it could have been England – fields, hedges, yellow flowers. A few hours later and we arrived in Agra and I started to my animal count – cows, horses, goats and even camels were seen.

Just a hint of the Taj Mahal, there was heavy haze and there was no clear view. Because of that, it was not going to be a dawn trip, but a more sensible hour of 9:30 pickup. We managed to get there before a main rush; on the way in, we were straight up to the ticket office, by the time we came out, there was a long queue.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

Another great guide, knew all the best places for photos, wanted to make sure I got all the classic views, although was a little surprised I didn’t want my picture on ‘that’ bench along with everyone else. He was good at fending off the ‘official’ photographers and other vendors.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

A low walk up the gardens, plenty of photo ops and then up to go inside the building itself. As foreign tourists, we got the cover up booties instead of having to take off shoes to enter the building. Inside was actually a little disappointing; not as much to admire as the actual building itself. Outside definitely better than inside.

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal, Agra

In the afternoon, time for a visit to the Agra Fort, the 3rd building associated with Shah Jahan – he was imprisoned here by his son for 8 years.

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

A return now to the hotel for the rest of the day; if I wanted to go and explore, the driver would be available to me. i took that as a strong hint to not to wander around alone. I wasn’t going to do that, i realised I did not know enough about how the country works to be comfortable doing that. Beer and food in the hotel, plus a ring side view of the wedding parade that went by.

Agra Wedding

Agra Wedding

My final day in India was a long travel day. Pick up was at 8; the driver doe this trip between Delhi and Agra all the time, taking groups up and down. He does it 2-3 months at a time and then returns north to see his family for a few months. We first traveled to Fatehpur Sikri, the capital of the Mughal empire from 1571 to 1585 (when it was abandoned due to lack of water).

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri

Another new guide to take me around; unfortunately, this one was not that good, i got the key points but that was it. the guides do appear to have a fixed script and tend to want to go through it; this was the least fluid and the least likely to change based on my questions, he stuck to the script.

We parked the car, then got on the bus to the palace. The first of the money transactions took place – the bus, my ticket, the guide ticket at the end, the bus and then the parking. If India is to continue to drive to be a cashless society, as I saw from the press and the large promotion of mobile pay, then it has a long way to go before these transactions get altered.

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri

After the palace, the long drive back to Delhi, getting back to the hotel about 4, an hour waiting around and then off to the airport for my flight to Kathmandu. Eventually got into my hotel there at 11:45, tired and ready for bed.

I was not comfortable during my trip to India; I partly expected this from what I knew about the place, a reason I’d never visited before. Too chaotic for me, I prefer a little more order. It’s not on my list of ‘must go back now’, although I’d be open to explore a little more at some point. But even so, I did enjoy the trip and loved what I saw.

Flickr Photos:
Delhi
Agra
Fatehpur Sikri

May 28

A History: John Harrison

For around 30 years, I’ve been slowly building up what I know about my family history. Starting from occasional visits to the Family Record office in London with Mom, to look things up and order new records it slowly moved to online research as records were digitised and most of it can now be done from a computer. I say most, but sometimes you do need to get out and dig into local records, especially those of pre 1837, before national registration was implemented.

In this post, I’m going to explore what I know about a single ancestor, my great-great-grandfather John Harrison. Unlike the average celebrity on Who Do You Think You Are, my family are not from exciting places to show on TV, nor do they come from a line of aristocracy or major scandal. Most of them spent their lives in a small area, moving a few streets; they were mainly working class, working in cotton or down the mines. Nevertheless, there’s almost always something of interest!

Without more ado, meet John Harrison.

John Harrison

John was born 19 January 1869, in a place called Bramhall, near Stockport. His mother was Elizabeth Harrison, who’d also been born in Bramhall 20 years earlier. As for his father, I have no idea. There’s no name on the birth certificate. We can speculate what had happened, but John was definitely born ‘out of wedlock’ as the saying goes. The registrar had no obligation to record the father’s name at that time, even if Elizabeth had told him. It could be seen as surprising that she had registered the birth at all, as it was not a legal obligation until 1875, when it became mandatory for parents to register their children. Prior to that, it was the registrar’s responsibility to find out abut births, marriages and deaths. Illegitimacy had also become even more stigmatised since the 1834 Poor Laws, which had removed any need for the father to take responsibility for their children (or rather, removes the need of the parish to do so, who would claim money from the father); by making the mother completely responsible for the child until they were 16, without providing any parish support, the government of the time thought they could reduce all the female sexual immorality that led to these children, because, of course, it was always completely the fault of the women.

This lack of father could be the reason for the family story of John being the son of the local lord, his mother supposedly being in service at the time.

Bramhall

(screenshot from National Library Of Scotland Maps)

As you can see from the map, that could have been Bramall Hall, the home of the Davenports. William Davenport Davenport was resident at the time in question, although he did die in February 1869. But this is unlikely, given the profession of Elizabeth. In the 1861 census, she was listed as a Silk Hand Loom Weaver, (at the age of 13), in 1871, she was still working in the silk trade, as a Card Room Hand. Did she decide to try a different job and is there any truth in the family rumour? We’ll never know.

In the 1871 census, John and Elizabeth were living with her father and stepmother in Bramhall Moor (you can see this labelled pretty clearly in the map), along with her younger sister Maria. Her father was John Harrison (b. 1824 in Cheadle), a silk weaver, and her mother was Mary Williamson, who’d died in 1849. Given the proximity of dates, there is a strong possibility that she had died as a result of Elizabeth’s birth, a fate met at a rate of around 50 per 1000 births. John and Mary had married in 1844 and Elizabeth was their second child. John married again in 1850, a year into his widowhood, and had a further daughter.

In 1872, Elizabeth married Isaac Hallworth, who lived not too far away in Norbury Moor. His father was a Coal Miner, but the children went into the silk trade. Isaac himself was a Hatter at the time of the marriage. Hat making and silk making had been an important industry in the area since the 16th century, as demonstrated by the presence of Hat Works, the UK’s only museum completely devoted to hats, hat making (and the associated silk industry. Elizabeth and Isaac had at least 6 children, almost all of whom went into the hat industry too. They stayed in the area for the next 40 or so years. Elizabeth died in December 1920, at the age of 72, in Watford Hospital. At the time, she was living next door to her son, Allen. Allen had moved to Watford around 1910, to work with British Rail. We can assume that Elizabeth had moved down sometime after Isaac’s death in 1914. She was buried back up near to where she had been born and lived for most of her life, at St Thomas’s in Norbury.

So, back to John. By 1881, the family had moved to London Rd, the main road south in the area. There were 3 children by then, John, Allen and Alice. By 1891, they had moved again, to Arden Grove. John was still living at home, working as a Felt Hatter. the family had grown by another 4 children, all still at schools. Arden Grove was closer into town, near to St Thomas’s Church off Higher Hillgate, but no longer exists on maps.

In Sept 1892, John married Hannah Harwood. Born in Bosden, the daughter of Robert Harwood, a cotton dealer, and Alice Larkin, who was originally from Ireland and one of the very few of my ancestors who weren’t English. Hannah was the youngest of their 6 children, the 4th daughter. At the time of the marriage, she was living with her family at 19 London Road; Robert Harwood was still living there at his death in 1912.

Hannah Harwood

(Hannah in later years)

At some point, they moved into 33 Crosby St, a small, terraced house not too far away. It looks like it’s a typical 2 up 2 down house; you could assume that the bathroom was in the back yard. They were there in the 1901 census and it was listed as the address of the hatter John Harrison in the 1902 and 1907 trade directories.

Crosby St

Crosby St from Google Streetmap. From the outside, it won’t have changed that much, probably just new doors and windows. John would definitely not had the 4 wheelie bins though.

From 1893 through to 1909, they had 9 children. I only know about 8 so far, but the 1911 census identified that the 9th had died at some point. From what I have discovered so far, all of the children lived and died in the same area around Hazel Grove, Stockport, except for Fred who at some point moved to Blackpool, or at least died there.

  • Leonard, b 1893. became a Hairdresser
  • Sydney b. 1897,
  • John, b. 1899. My great, great grandfather
  • Lizzie b. 1903
  • Lily b. 1905
  • Fred Harwood b. 1906
  • William b. 1908
  • Norah, b. 1909

In the 1911 census, the whole family were loving at 97 London Rd. They’ve moved slightly south, closer to Bramhall again. The house was also the business address of Leonard Harrison, hairdresser, as listed in the 1910 Kelly’s Directory. As far as I know, John and Hannah then lived there for the rest of their life. They were listed there in the 1939 Register and it was their home at the time of their deaths. That’s over 40 years in the same house. Again, it looks like a typical 2 up and 2 down, which makes you wonder how they lived there with 8 children! 97 is the right hand half of the Bridal Shop in the picture below.

London Rd

Screen cap from Google Street View.

And here’s how it looked in 1945

London Rd 1945

From Stockport Council records

The next reference I have for John is in the 1939 Register, where he is listed as a retired hatter foreman; he’s living with Hannah, and with 2 daughters, Lizzy and Lily, who are both ‘Tissue Paper Cap Makers’, I think another aspect of the hatter trade.

Finally, we get to his death, in the local Shaw Heath hospital, which focused on the care of the elderly. On the 29 Aug 1953, he died to the age of 84. The informant was Leonard, his son, who lived not too far away in Gordon Avenue. He’d been born during the reign of Victoria and died at the start of Elizabeth’s reign, his 6th monarch. He’d lived through 23 different tenancies of Prime Minister (although only 14 different people). He’d seen the invention of flight, radio and the television, although the odds of him actually owning a telly are low, or indeed, having been on an aeroplane. He’d seen 2 World Wars; at least 1 son fought in WW1 (and survived). Had he ever been outside of the few square miles from where he was born? Is it reasonable to assume that he’d traveled to Watford to see his mother in the time she was there?

Hannah survived for only another year, dying at home, still at 97 London Rd, early the following year. According to the obituary, it was still Leonard’s hairdressing shop after 40 years. She was buried in Norbury church.

Jan 01

2015 Weeknotes 33-34

17 – 30 Aug

Being on holiday stops you blogging, who knew!:-) Anyway, I will catch up, but I’m doing it monthly for the rest of the year.

Doing:

  • Belgian GP

    The main event was my prize trip to the Belgium Formula 1 GP, that I had won earlier in the summer from Shell. I’ve already written this up, for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the race.

  • I was out with both some F1 friends and Wine Club for dinner during the week. One of those was slightly more boozier than the other, I’ll leave you to work out which was which!
  • There was a lot of fun and games with the Gas Board/National Grid/whatever they’re called. They are slowly replacing all the gas pipes in the area, which includes the pipes into the home. Which means you need to be in for them to come and change the pipes. One complication is that the pipes to the upstairs’ neighbour go through my house, so we both need to be in to have the replacement. But he hadn’t got the message, so the replaced mine. We then spent the next 10 days trying to arrange a time we were both in and the fitters were available to do the final bit of pipework.
  • the last Disc World

    I bought the last of the Disc World novels. And then let it sit there for a few days, because once I started, it would be finished quickly, and then there would be no more. And that made me sad.

  • I went to the Notting Hill Carnival, or at least the Sunday version! I’ve never braved the full on Monday show, just the slightly quieter Sundays. It was good fun. The Full photo set is on Flickr.

    Notting Hill Carnival

    Notting Hill Carnival

Reading

  • 4 Myths about the Calais Migrants Debunked. On Mashable. One little story at least trying to put some facts in place and drown out the Daily Fail rhetoric.
  • The Coddling of the American Mind. I’ve been reading a fair bit about this. It is scary how debate and intellectual challenge is being pushed out in the name of political correctness. Yes, the white male view point has been the predominate one in western culture, yes, there is more opportunity for more people to have different viewpoints and the cultural norm to change, but that does not mean that debate should be stopped because it may ‘trigger’ people. People always playing the victim is not culturally healthy. Believing that a viewpoint is not valid or ‘less’ because of the person saying it (rather than the idea or viewpoint being challengeable) is not culturally healthy. This attitude and campus atmosphere will take a long time to change and pass.
  • So, Yalla Bye. On the Foreign Office. A fascinating account from a diplomat leaving his station in Lebanon.
  • Move over Turing. An experiment looking at how good AI is at recognising images.
  • I stopped counting! 1 definite, with the last of the Terry Pratchett books. I downloaded 7 Kindle books in this time and guess what, 2 were actually non-fiction!
  • The Time In Between by Nancy Tucker. A memoir of a teenage girl’s experience with anorexia.
  • The Mechanic’s Tale by Steve Matchett. A autobiography of an F1 mechanic.
Sep 06

2015 Week Notes 32

10 Aug – 16 Aug

Hacklands

Doing

  • I had a catch up with former colleagues, as we gatecrashed the leaving drinks of another former colleague from my previous agency. Fun was had, lots of chat and gossip, lots of drink.
  • I decided that going camping for the weekend was a great idea! Well, not just camping, but to a hacking event called ‘Hacklands‘, organised by Helen Keegan and friends. A wonderful weekend, with data talks, photography lessons and lots of music.

    Hacklands

    Hacklands

Reading

  • Worked my way through 4 books.
  • How Uber is changing life for Women in Saudi Arabia. I can’t even begin to explain my issues with how the religious rules mean women are treated in somewhere like Saudi, and I have dislike for Uber in that it most definitely is not ‘sharing economy’ but is an excellent example of how companies can make money out of ‘zero hours contracts’ (I know they’re not really that, but they’re definitely not employees with benefits), but what is happening here is where things can come together and improve things.
Sep 06

2015 Week Notes 31

3 Aug – 9 Aug

Doing

  • Dinner at Marcus at Wine Club. Another Michelin restaurant, although one I’d eaten at before. They were having a dinner offer, the lunch menu at lunch prices, so we got together for some chat and food and wine.

    Lunch at Marcus

  • More vaccinations on saturday, final round of them, before I headed into town for the Shell V-Power Hunt, which I’ve written about. I was very happy to win this 🙂

    Shell The Hunt London

Reading

  • Two book read this week. still just the fiction. Sometime soon, i may read a none fiction!
Sep 06

2015 Week Notes 30

27 July – 2 Aug

Harbour

Doing

  • some weeks I get really busy, most weeks I do little. This is another of the latter, must be because of summer! I did travel down to Southampton way on Tuesday for an away day of working, with a gorgeous view of Hamble harbour.
  • The weather turned stormy this week. Not only down on the south coast, but in London. But stormy skies and sun peaking through make great pictures

    Evening Skies

  • Had a weekend lunch at Michael Nadra, an excellent local restaurant that does not get enough credit.

    Michael Nadra

  • On Sunday, I wandered down the road to see the Prudential Road race rush past. As Chiswick Bridge is pretty close to the start of the race, everyone was still bunched together.

    Prudential Classic Bike Ride

Reading

  • Had a massive reading binge, got through 5 books. Weekends, commuting and up to late in the evening! Yes, I read too much…
Sep 06

2015 Week Notes 29

20 July – 26 July

Even when nothing happened…I’m going to FINISH these for the year 🙂

Doing

  • The pitch meeting I was working on was on the Tuesday of this week, so another night in the hotel just over the road from work, ready to be in the office at 7 for last minute prep.
  • Once that was over, Thursday was the Office Summer Party, which was held just over the road in Piano Works. This appeared to e a hit, mainly because there was no travel, no theme, no need to dress up in fancy dress, it was just go over the road, have lots of food and drink and have a singalong and dance to the house band, who took your requests and played them on the pianos. Sometimes, agency office parties get too complicated! But there were no photos taken by me (which is probably good…)
  • Finished the week watching the F1 in a bar with a friend. Slightly too much wine was drunk

Reading

  • Two books, again some more sci-fi award winners. Started on the Bujold Vorkosigan book series, so that’s about 16 to read.
Sep 06

2015 Week Notes 28

13 July – 19 July

Doing

  • bah. nothing. absolutely nothing. Working hard on a pitch, staying over at work. On occasion, it’s just easier to get a bed in short walking distance from office rather than traveling to and from home, if you finish after 10 and back in for 7ish! Work at the weekend.
  • Getting some travel vaccinations. I had tetanus, typhoid, diptheria, polio, with hep A and Hep b later in the month. The first 4 make your arm hurt for the next day. the Hep A/B is really painful for abut 30mins and then is fine. Have decided not to do malaria after a discussion of the risks of my travel vs risks of the prophylactics.

Reading

  • despite all the work, I appeared to have made my way through 3 books. Well, I bought 3 this week,
Sep 06

2015 Week Notes 27

Doing

  • A relatively quiet week, with 2 running club events. First of all was the AGM, which wasintereting to listen to all the things that happens in the club. Secondly was Sports Day – a group of us got together to do some sports – egg and spoon race, long jump, shot put and the dressing up 400m. (ie run round the track putting on clothes evey 100m). A lot of good fun!

    W4 Harriers Sports Day

    W4 Harriers Sports Day

  • Just 3 books read, carrying on with my scifi award winners list.

Reading

Sep 06

2015 Week Notes 26

28 June – 5 July

Doing

  • Had a second day at the Formula E at Battersea Park. Overall, this was a great event, helped by reasonable weather (even if there were some showers). But I ended up watching the races from a deckchair in front of a big screen instead of watching the track as in general, views were pretty bad and there were no track screens. Battersea is not necessarily a spectator track – although the off track space and events were excellent. I’m not sure I’d go watch it again next year if at Battersea, even though I like watching the aces on TV.

    Formula E at Battersea

    Formula E at Battersea

  • I had dinner at Lima, a great Peruvian restaurant. Braised Octopus was a superb dish.

    Lima Restaurant

  • On Saturday, I headed up to the British GP. I’d managed to pick up a last minute ticket for qualyfying day when the circuit had a sale, so got a good deal for some hospitality at Stowe Corner Drivers’ Lounge. Very nice, but not as good as Silverstone Six he year before, which had both a better view and a better experience. Last year, you were sitting on a table, with serving set up as a buffet. This year, high stools, no where near as comfortable and a lot of the food was taken around on trays, so you were lucky to get some things. The main difference was that the Drivers Lounge did have a host and did interviews with various drivers, so you did get some inside information.

    Silverstone Qualifying 2015

    Silverstone Qualifying 2015

  • I only attended the circuit for qualifying. On the Sunday I headed down towards Southampton to watch the race with friends and a BBQ. A nice small gathering, with great food 🙂

    BBQ

Reading

  • It seems to be award season, so I’ve been downloading a few winners/books of winners, including Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This story, primarily about an AI, is unusual in that the AI itself cannot/does not bother to recognise gender. So everyone is a she, regardless. You could assume that everyone encountered is female, but they’re not and there is definitely some cognitive dissonance produced when you realise some are male.
Aug 25

Race Day at the Belgian GP with Shell Motorsports

Belgian GP Race Day

Our final day at the track! Surprisingly the trip in on the morning was pretty much the same as on the previous days. We hit traffic at the same place and got to the track around 10 again. Before we left, our instructions for the end of the day were made plain – bags to be labelled with where they were going (airport or train), and everyone to leave as soon as the race finished! It was a long trip back to our departure points.

All clear on that, I made my way to the grandstand for the GP2 race, and got to see Alexander Rossi claim his first win of the season. Rossi is a driver I’d seen speak a few times, as when he was with Caterham, he’d turn up at quite a few fan events; it was great to see him on the podium.

Belgian GP Race Day

Back into the Shell suite and time to get into place for the Kimi chat. The room was full; the suite and the GP is used as a B2E/B2B event and they were in full swing in awarding prizes for great work across their forecourts in Europe. But as the time for the appearance got closer, the room moved from comfortably sat in seats to ‘how close can i get to the stage’ mode. There were lots of phones in the air recording Raikkonen’s brief interview; it was unfortunate that after stopping in Q2 and a gearbox penalty means he was going to start from 16th; he was not in the most chatty of moods before the crowd but even so, lots of pictures and videos were taken.

Belgian GP Race Day

Now time for waiting, we had 2 hours before the race start. Which meant lunch and a chance to take a look at the vintage cars that we lined up next to our venue all ready for the drivers parade.

Belgian GP Race Day

The grandstands were full for the race, well, almost. Some people had decided to stay indoors and watch on the big screen in comfortable sofas (and bar and food close by). But Sofia and I want to watch the cars so up we went for the 43 laps. The crowd in the grandstand were definitely partisan for Ferrari, being mainly (all?) Shell employees and guests, and were cheering all the moves being made. Or groaning when Vettel’s tyre went on the last but one lap. I think Grosjean would still have taken the place, but it was not a good way for that to happen.

Belgian GP Race Day

The chequered flag flew, Hamilton won and then we were out of there. Straight off the grandstand and outside the gates before the champagne was spraying. Onto our minibus to take 8 of the group onto Brussels train station. Well, that was the plan, it appears the police and road closures had other ideas, sending us south for 45 mins before letting us get on the motorway, where we promptly turned north, 15mins later going back past the track with a view across to the pitstraight grandstands. At that point, the phone said 2 hours to go; we would have made it but there was traffic and traffic and even more traffic. the minutes skipped by (every single one of them accompanied by a high pitched beep beep beep as there was an alarm they could not turn off) and our ETA was getting further and further away. One last burst of traffic and that was it, no chance of making the train now. Our friendly hosts had actually made it to the station before us – they were not subject to the bus detour – so we’d been in touch and they were busy re-arranging the arrangements. By the time got there (7:59, 7 mins after train departure, we were SO close), tickets were being sorted for the following morning and hotel almost re-organised – we were lucky enough to get the last set of rooms in the station hotel. Time for one last meal together before the early starts the next day. From hotel to work took me 2.5 hours – some of my colleagues have longer commutes than that!

In summary, a wonderful weekend. The team from Shell (and their agency) made sure we had a great time, ensured we had a few different experiences and made sure we learnt about Shell V-Power and the science that goes behind it with some conversations with some fascinating people who make the products. All of this at a classic F1 venue with plenty of time to watch the cars. Thank you very much!

(and below..the video from the event)

Posted in f1
Aug 22

Saturday at the Belgian GP with Shell Motorsports

It’s supposed to rain at Spa. A day at the track without full waterproofs in the bag is pushing your luck, you’re bound to get wet. Except, it seems, in 2015. So far, sun. And even more sun. It is very, very warm, so much so that I left the coat and brolly behind today and had no issues. The covered grandstand today was for shade rather than dryness.

Belgian GP Day 2

It’s hard to gather together 25 people, so we set off on the Saturday morning a wee bit later than advertised and hit the expected traffic. But overall, only about 1:15 in travel – I wonder what the race day traffic will be like? On arrival, I dashed out to go and meet Mike at Status Grand Prix for a chat and a quick look at the garage. The GP3 qualifying was taking place at the time, so also got to see the cars coming down the pitlane…if only any of my photos had worked!!! It was good to catch up and chat about the various financial challenges of F1 vs the Gp2/GP3 scene; I’d previously met Mike when he worked for Virgin/Marussia so he knows the issues there.

Belgian GP Day 2

Next up, back to the Shell suite where the Shell Motorsports team had arranged for James Allen to come and chat with the group. This time, I managed to make the chat instead of missing it to watch cars. The questions and answers ranged from Pirelli tyres to Honda engines to FOM social media. It also took in whether or not the sport was ‘good’ now vs in the past (or do all fans look to the past with rose-tinted spectacles, no appreciating what we have now) and with James assessment of the best and worst drivers on the current grid (Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel for the former, with Verstappen getting an honourable mention).

Belgian GP Day 2

Time now for FP3, a last chance to assess the cars before qualifying. Lunch was followed by the chance to take part in a pitstop challenge, the first one of these I’ve done. I was on the gun and it took a few goes before I worked out how to take the gun off and not leave the wheel nut on the wheel! But the team got it together and we managed a respectable 2.8 seconds on one of our attempts.

Belgian GP Day 2

We also got the chance for another chat with a fuel scientist, in their public facing lab (which was actually the one they use for Le Mans) and went into more depth about the oils they use.

Belgian GP Day 2

Time now for qualifying, which went, in the main as expected. Although Ferrari did not have a good day, with Raikkonen stopping on track and Vettel only managing ninth. We’ll see how they do in the race. Thankfully. for my fantasy league results, HAM got pole. All I need now is for VET to make up 7 places!

Belgian GP Day 2

Back to Shell suite for a meet up with István Kapitány, the EVP retail for Shell (ie the man who had to say yes to spend all the money on the competition/promotion I won). A nice guy all round who seemed very happy to see some very happy competition winners!

Final car event of the day was the GP2 race; due to the red flag we had to leave before it was finished however. I think that is the one big difference between doing this myself (when I’d be early and late to watch all the sessions) and being part of a party that has time deadlines. Twitter then becomes the friend to watch via text commentary 🙂

Belgian GP Day 2

The journey back to the hotel was via another detour, but we made it in time for our lovely meal out. The Shell team have been brilliant at making sure we are fed, watered and entertained! Tomorrow, race day. It looks like HAM, ROS at least for the Podium, not sure who else will make it though, Spa is a great track to bring the surprises. The first of which is the lack of rain forecast!

(the following picture was taken on the way back to the hotel after the meal. I have NO IDEA what they’re trying to say in this ‘art’}

Belgian GP Day 2

Posted in f1
Aug 22

A trip to the Belgian GP, day 1

In the previous post, you’ll have read that I managed to win a lovely VIP trip to the Belgian GP, through a competition organised by Shell Motorsports. Finally, after a few email exchanges, that the day arrived and we were off to SPA.

Sofia and I were travelling by Eurostar, as were a number of others, both competition winners and journalists/bloggers. From Brussels train station, 7 of us piled into a cab for the hour’s trip to Maastricht, for our hotel. This in itself was about an hour from Spa – as the track is in the middle of the Ardennes forest, there is not exactly a lot of accommodation around and many people camp, or do a long trip to the track everyday.

Belgian GP

Once at the hotel, checked in, we got the all important timetable – and tickets! The precious tickets, 3 days grandstand and access to the Shell Hospitality Suite at the bottom of Eau Rouge. But before we would do any of that, our first treat of the weekend, dinner with the Ferrari reserve driver, Estaban Gutierrez. There was no time in his schedule to get all the way out to us, so we were bundled into a coach and heading to Spa, to a small place called Roannay just by the track. It is apparently the place where Bernie Ecclestone stays, which is why it must be one of the very few rural hotels with a helipad out the back.

Belgian GP

Our guest arrived, only a little late, and the photocall was done. Then dinner, and Estaban joined a couple of the tables for a chat, along with some of the Shell fuel experts to chat about how they develop the fuel for the teams.

Belgian GP

As with all aspects of a Formula 1 team, the development of fuels is a continuous battle, always looking for ways to eek out more power and more efficiency. This year alone, they have managed to find an extra 5HP through development. I asked our Shell expert if the fuel and the engine were co-developed, if they had ever suggested an engine tweek because of a fuel improvement. The answer, surprisingly was yes, it can happen that way and when it does, all improvements are considered. As expected, we also spent quite a bit of time chatting about Shell V-Power and how the race team fuel development has inputted into the road car fuel. Another interesting fact about that is that V-Power is now often used for racing cars themselves (club racing etc) as it works as well as the specialist fuel but is a lot cheaper! The dinner over, we headed back, one last drink taken in the lovely warm evening in the square.

Friday dawned bright and sunny. Yes, sunny,, hot, completely weird weather for Spa which is traditionally a bit wet. Back on the coach and we were finally headed to the circuit. Quite a few people in the group had never been to Spa (in fact for some, this was their first race) and it was great to see their reaction when they turned the corner to see Eau Rouge for the first time. Our home for the weekend was the Shell Hospitality Suite which is at the bottom of the Eau Rouge hill. Just up from it is our grandstand – which provides us with a glorious view!

Belgian GP

Before I got the chance to sit there for a while. we were first up for a whistlestop paddock visit to take a look at the Shell touring laboratory. We learnt about the fuel checking, taking samples every single time it moves containers and continuously checking them for consistency. Anything out of the ordinary, something as simple as contamination from a glove, can mean that the fuel no longer matches the reference sample and is therefor ‘illegal’. On the Helix oil side, checks are run that allow early signs of engine trouble to be detected. Anything strange in those samples can mean that a bit of the engine may be starting to break down – and the oil analysis can pick things up before anyone else.

Belgian GP

We also got to see Maldonaldo back in the paddock after his FP1 crash! Unfortunately, no garage tour though. 🙁

Belgian GP

Belgian GP

The rest of my day was mainly spent watching cars. Which means I missed the visit from David Croft from Sky who came down to chat with the group – I was watching GP2. I did get to listen to Marc Gene at the end of the day though, when the group was invited to ask him questions about his career, the cars and how Shell helps them. He’s the one that mentioned the improvement that can be seen this year in the fuel and how it does get noticed in the car; he also chatted about how the whole system is getting more efficient, with fuell use now down to about 2.5 litres a lap (average over tracks) whereas before the recent changes, it was about 3ltrs.

Belgian GP

First day done…back to hotel for dinner and chat. Two more days to go.

Posted in f1