V(aughan) Fest

Last week our team held a ‘charity event’ at the Patshull Scout Activity Centre in South Staffordshire. One of the team is a scout leader and suggested that he could organise the event in exchange for the team carrying out ‘tasks’ such as clearing paths and digging holes, and fortunately everyone was up for it.

On arrival it didn’t take long for the team to erect their own tents. They were small two-man versions (everyone got their own for comfort and reduced embarrassment factor) and for me, having spent many a happy time in my youth camping, erecting the tent was just like riding a bike and it was soon upright and the outer flysheet pegged down (note I even remember the technical terms still).

Whilst the rest of the camp was preparing for the day ahead, I decided it would be a good opportunity to fly the drone to get some shots of the campsite and as expected it caused quite a stir with everyone down below.

Somehow I managed to get voted in a team leader and our first task was to decide what work we would do. After debate we decided that digging a hole for a drain soak away would be just down our street (Virgin Media people do like digging holes) so we headed off to the shed to obtain some shovels. Vaughan, the organiser and scout leader, said the hole needed to be 2m x 2m x 2m deep, but we soon realised that was going to be a tall ask, especially with only spades and a couple of broken forks available. One of the guys did bring a mattock which helped break up the soil and soon we had the job completed; albeit only to a depth of 1m.

After an impromptu team meeting with the boss, we then started on some of the not-such-a-small-quantity of alcohol which had been gathered for the team. A 4pm start meant it was going to be a long night though.

After the BBQ, we settled around the campfire for a good old scouting singsong, led by Skip, a chap Vaughan had arranged, who knew all the words and got us all up, despite most now being quite inebriated.

I managed to stay awake till gone midnight, when I made my way back to my tent, hoping the wine and cider combination would send me straight to sleep. Not a chance!

Sleeping on a slope, in a smallish tent, on a single airbed, in a tiny sleeping bag and with noises outside is just not great for a good nights sleep, with multiple trips to the loo not helping. Eventually I got to sleep about 4am but at dawn, I was woken by the chorus of wildlife that surrounded the campsite. I decided to get up for a shower!

After a full English breakfast (I assisted in the cooking) we took part in a team building exercise – building a bridge out of poles and ropes – amazingly it supported ten people, did some rifle shooting and then cleared the site ready for departure.

Whilst the experience was worth participating in, I think my camping days are over and I’ll stick to hotels in future. And when I got home I counted eleven mosquito bites on my arms, back and feet, the perils of sleeping outdoors I guess.

Somehow I managed to become the unofficial videographer so cobbled together a short film capturing the highlights of the two days.

We all enjoyed the experience although I’m not quite sure how much ‘charity’ work we actually really did!

Ours is out there somewhere!

towerAnother photo from London and this time quite a breathtaking tribute it was too. To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War, an artist was commissioned to create a river of poppies at the Tower of London. The photo doesn’t really do the display justice and it is really worth visiting in person before they are all removed and sold off for charity after the 11th November completion date.

We, of course, ordered ours, which is number 401,580 of the 888,246 in total that are to be installed.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley_Park_Naval_Enigma_IMG_3604Yesterday Tina and I visited Bletchley Park, which was the home of the codebreakers during the Second World War. The site was a formally a large private country estate until the Government purchased in the late 1930’s and used it to develop a highly secret spy station.

I first heard about Bletchley Park in the early 1980’s as it was being used as a management school for my employer at the time, BT. Now the site has been purchased by a charitable trust who are restoring it to show the part BP played during the war, including the work that was carried out to decipher Enigma and Lorenz cyphers. Whilst many of the ‘huts’ are still being restored, there is plenty to see including a working reconstruction of a bombe, the electromechanical device used to help break the Enigma code.
Interestingly, after the war, the government wanted to keep the work of Bletchley Park so secret, all the machines were dismantled and it’s only recently that replica units are able to show how effective the machines were.

Secrecy is a theme throughout the exhibition and it is incredible to think that the people who worked there didn’t let on about the work they did, even to family or friends. In fact they didn’t even know what work was going on in adjacent huts but was aware that they were carrying out a vital job to aid the war effort.

Bletchley Park was also where Collussus, the first electronic programmable computer was used and one version is also on display in the museum.

Tina and I agreed we could spend hours at the site and will certain return in the near future to visit the other buildings once they’re fully restored, but time was of the essence and the nearby IKEA store was calling so we departed after a very interesting and enjoyable few hours.

Blinding Success

First there was Farrell, a cute golden labrador then Veda, a black labrador, then there was Norris, another golden lab and now Kassia a beautiful golden retriever.

And what do they all have in common?

They are all puppies I have/am sponsoring over the years to become guide dogs for the blind.

Not sure how I managed to get involved in this charity, but every couple of months I get a nice photo of my puppy, along with a ‘pupdate’ detailing how the training is going.

The latest puppy, Kassie is a real cutie and reminds me of Kane, our late golden retriever, when he was a puppy. I hope Kassie is a little better on the lead than Kane was or else there might be a blind person being taken where Kassie wants to go rather than her keeper.

And for those that like looking at cute things…here’s Kassia!