Mileage and Food

Another weekend of driving, food, and changed plans.riday was a drive up to Newcastle, primarily for a dinner at Solstice, which was as excellent as ever. It’s a tiny little restaurant nearly under the Tyne Bride, and only serves a maximum of 14 diners per service. It’s always a lovely welcoming place though, with great food, and a place I thoroughly enjoy going to.

Saturday involved a drive halfway back, for a meal at The Angel at Hetton.  The original plan had been a simple two foodie things and then home, but then another friend in Manchester had said that the Sunday was the best day for their availability, so things changed and meant I’d also stay over somewhere in the vague vicinity (and ideally without spending a king’s ransom on a hotel) which meant I ended up driving from Newcastle to Burnley in order to check in, then up to Hetton (about another 45 minutes) for the meal and then back again.

As it was, the drive between Newcastle and Burnley was an absolute pig – although admittedly nowhere near as bad as if I’d reversed the locations. The road from Leeds to Newcastle was pretty much solid slow traffic, and can’t have been any fun for anyone.  In my direction it was just heavy, and then a motorway closure sent me on all kinds of interesting alternative routes.  In the end it meant it was pretty much the same time as if I’d just opted to drive home.

I was, however, deeply underwhelmed by the Angel.  I’d gone on the recommendation of a couple of friends, and for me it just didn’t work. It was generally OK, nothing actually bad, but also nothing great.  And a lot of little niggles combined to make me feel more like an annoyance, like they thought that the table would’ve been better if it had two people on it.  Little things like being on a table shoved into the far corner of the restaurant,; being only table to not be greeted by the restaurant manager; and not being offered a menu for the table (and to keep) once I’d ordered when every other table was given one. It soon adds up to a Not Good Conclusion.

(In fairness, I’ve sent this feedback to them already, and they’ve so far seemed to be quite positive about the entire thing)

Once I was done there, back to the hotel overnight, and then down to Manchester the next morning. Spent the day there with friends, and then got home at about midnight, after a weekend of about 700 miles, all told. Knackered, but worth it.

Working It Out

Over the last five years I’ve been involved with a fitness group in Bedford that was set up for overweight men over 40. We started as part of a larger organisation that did three months of longer sessions including an hour of information about nutrition, portion sizes etc., and an hour of physical exercise routines.  It was a fairly decent programme, and certainly helped some of the group with losing weight.

Once that first course was over, the organisation lost the contract they had with the local authorities, so it all collapsed a bit.  However, we worked with the trainer who did the exercise side, found a village hall in Bedford that could/would take us, and spawned off into our own group – and then two other related ones in other nearby locations where that organisation had also held courses.

The trainer turned out to be fairly disorganised and flaky, but it gave us a good grounding in what we wanted, and we ended up with a decent group that worked fairly well and met twice a week for an hour’s workout session.  Not really enough to enforce weight loss, but also far better than nothing.

Just under three years ago the trainer buggered off to an overseas posting, and our group was the only one that had anyone daft enough to step up and keep it going, organising the sessions and workouts, as well as paying for the centre we used and so on. The trainer came back to take it all back, but proved to be even flakier, and quit completely about eighteen months ago.

So at that point I took it over completely. I sorted out insurance, organised workouts, and sorted out stuff that had always been promised previously but had never appeared.  I’ve kept it going since then, and it’s been fairly successful, keeping about 80% of the initial members.

When I moved, it was just coming up to the end of the current quarter’s sessions, but without enough time to hand it over cleanly to someone else – so I made the decision that I’d be the one to keep it running ’til the end of 2022.  It’s added a lot of mileage over the last three months, and been a bit of a bind, but in general it’s been worth the effort.

Now, though, I’m done.  Things didn’t work out perfectly on timing, so last week was my final session – and today is the first time since moving here that I’m not now belting down the M1 to do the group and then come home. And that’s a very odd feeling after so long (both there and here) but also quite a nice one.

I’m honestly not sure if the group will continue now I’m done with it.  The other members have said they want to do it, but no-one’s been prepared to take on the whole thing so it’s now being “run” by three of them (which amuses me quite a bit, having done the entire thing on my own as well as that extra dollop of mileage in the last three months) and we’ll see how it goes.   I’ve been able to hand it over as ethically as possible – they’ve got a whole load of prepared workouts and so on, so it should actually be easy to run, but… I don’t know.  I hope it does, but I’m not holding out much hope.

But anyway, I’m going to be sitting here doing my own thing on a Monday evening for the first time in far too long, and I’m pretty happy about that.


For some reason, this year has involved renewing both of my primary forms of ID – a few months ago it was the passport that got done, and I’ve now had to do the driving licence as well.

In fairness, both processes have been pretty painless, and made much easier through technology – the passport had some issues with uploading a new photo (because I wear glasses, and photos without a reflection on the lenses is *difficult*) but it’s all involved a lot less hassle than one would expect.

The driving licence also pulls through the photo from the passport process (although the reverse doesn’t apply, weirdly) but it needed a lot more linked information than I expected – for example, why does my driving licence renewal require me to know/remember my NI Number? I’d already connected it to the passport system/number etc. for verification, so that seems like an unnecessary extra step, really.

Still, it’s all done, the new licence card arrived promptly – and well within the quoted two weeks – and the old one got cut in two and returned.

I now shouldn’t need a renewal on these things for another decade. How time flies, and all that!


As it turns out, this year it’s time to do a couple of renewals – both my Passport and Driving Licence will need replacing in the next couple of months.

The passport renewal was first, and came back earlier this week (and the old passport arrived today).  It’s been fairly painless, all things considered  (I’d rather have had a nice red EU one, but there we go)

Doing it all online, I also used my own phone to provide the photo, which was the only bit that was a hassle.  It took several goes, including a rejected one, basically because of wearing glasses. Any reflection in them causes the processing to fail – and even the one that finally got accepted was rated as “Poor” in the upload tool.  (Impressive, for a 12MP camera)

So it’s been a faff, but it’s also been painless, and generally quite efficient. I also set it up for text-message updates as it went through the process, which kept things informed.

Amusingly (and just to prove that they’re not really all that efficient) having received everything back, I also got a text message telling me that I could renew my passport easily by doing it all online…

Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I see today that the UK has decided to stop any new “Smart Motorway” projects, insisting that they need extra safety precautions.  This is primarily the aftermath of coroner’s reports into certain fatal accidents on these Smart Motorways.

From the article…

  • In 2019, 15 people were killed on “all lane running” and “dynamic hard shoulder” motorways. This is four more deaths than in 2018.
  • The number of people being killed on motorways without hard shoulders increased each year from 2015 to 2019, and totalled 39 deaths.
  • By contrast, on so-called “controlled motorways” – a type of smart motorway which have variable speed limits and a hard shoulder – there were 24 deaths in that period.
  • On conventional motorways, which cover more of the UK than smart motorways, there were 368 fatalities from 2015 to 2019.

The M1 around where I live was one of the first Smart Motorways, and I’ve written a lot about how stupid people can be on those motorways – particularly about the availability of lanes, and a lack of general driving standards (Middle-lane cunts and the like)

From my experience, a lot of drivers seem to be incapable of reading road signs saying whether a lane is open or closed (although also even whether the approaching junction is the one they want or not, until the absolute last minute)  This also seems to be borne out by the latest rash of road-safety adverts telling people that they should ‘go left’ in case of problems on motorways (and fucking hell, in my opinion anyone who needs to be told this shouldn’t be in possession of a driving licence!)

As an example of this, one of the cases the coroners were looking at was one local to me where the person’s vehicle had a problem, showed the ‘engine problem’ warning light, and they pulled in to one of the emergency refuge areas.  Now, when that happened to me, I got out of the car (in a snowy January) and called recovery to get me off the road safely.  But not this twerd, oh no.  They gave it a few minutes, started the car, no light came on, so they pulled out to continue their journey.  (The ‘engine problem’ light doesn’t necessarily immediately light up on starting – for example, if the issue is to do with the turbo, the EGR valve, air filter etc., it’ll only come on when you accelerate over a certain rpm limit, at which point you’re shafted)  And that’s what happened to Twonktacular – the light came back on, the engine performance disappeared, and they got hit by another vehicle.   Yet somehow that’s the fault of the smart motorway, not the dumbass driver.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of motorways without hard-shoulders. And I’m sure there are considerations and gambles that have been taken about how people get to emergency refuge areas, how the road monitoring is managed/staffed and so on. But I also understand how impractical it is, with current traffic levels and so on, to have a quarter of each road surface only available to vehicles in emergencies.

All told, I don’t believe that Smart Motorways are inherently dangerous. I think drivers (and their decisions, or lack thereof) are far more dangerous than roads. You just can’t blame an inanimate road for human stupidity.

Excessive Renewal

This time last year, I was planning on going to a friend’s wedding over in Madeira, and bought some travel insurance along the way.

Obviously it didn’t work out, because of Covid and the like, and the insurance didn’t get used for any other trips, for similar reasons. Thankfully, I’d had a good deal on it, so wasn’t too upset. Them’s the breaks, and all that.

This week, I got the renewal letter from the company, telling me what I’d pay this year.

Now OK, there’s been a lot going on in the world this year, and I assume insurance has taken a kicking (although I wouldn’t have thought it was a huge one, in comparison to travel companies, credit cards and the like) but still, the increase from last year to this is a 50% rise.  And bear in mind, there’s no way I’d be using it ’til at least May/June, so it would cost me more to able to use it for less time.

Needless to say, they’ve been told to fuck off. I’ll buy travel insurance again as and when I need it – but that’s still not going to be any time soon.

Bow 2

Having got back into my archery this year, the winter season brings its own interesting issues and problems.

Basically, everyone shoots at shorter distances – twenty to thirty metres, rather than fifty to eighty – and ideally indoors, for the wimps. And if possible, that means dialling down the power in the bow. Heavier/bigger arrows also help, as they’re slower than the usual ones.

Unfortunately, my bow is already dialled down to pretty much the lowest weight it can manage, which is around a 45lb pull. That meant at the short ranges my club uses, I was going to end up putting the arrows through the targets and into the concrete wall behind (indoors) and losing all the fletchings (feathers) as well.  Which becomes very expensive, very quickly.

Having looked around a bit, I went back to my normal archery store in Newark (it’s a bit of a slog to get to, but worth it for their customer service, knowledge, and prices) and bought a second bow, specifically for winter/indoor archery.  It’s a good little bow, from a Chinese company called Sanlida, and cost me £175 including the sight, arrow rest, and small stabiliser.  That’s incredibly good value!   Additionally, if I decide to use it all the time, I can also dial it up from its current setting (about 25lb pull) all the way up to 70 lb, which is pretty epic.

I bought it a couple of weeks ago, and have only used it a couple of times so far, but on that limited experience, I’m really pleased with it. It’s doing what I want, and the current power means it’s accurate enough, without damaging things.

But it does also mean I now own two bows – although that’s OK too, as I’m using both.  If they’d gone back to sitting doing sod all, that would be a bad thing. But as it is, I’m OK with it.