Saturday, 25 July 2015

Blogger Boogie Woogies at the Villa Marina!

Thursday at 09:39, we weren't going to go and see Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

Although Irene and I had discussed it briefly a few times, we had missed last year's gig, we'd been there and done that on about four occasions and quite frankly, I always thought that the star guest, Mel C was rubbish.

I was in my office and the advert for the concert came on the radio, a quick phone call to Irene and, having heard it was a sell-out, brought the website up on my screen more in hope than in expectation.

We were extremely lucky and only a few hours later, right at the front of the stage at the Royal Hall.

Although the warm up act from Mark Flanagan was truncated because the battery on his acoustic guitar had gone dead, this was the only flat note of the night and it would have been a great mistake to have missed the show through our own apathy.

As soon as the orchestra springs into action and you are assaulted by the wall of sound, I couldn't imagine why we would have even considered not coming.

They were ably supported by vocalists, Jools himself, then Mabel Ray, followed by the excellent Louise Marshall.
Courtesy of Gary Weightman vanninphotos.com

It turns out that I was totally wrong about Mel C who was engaging, energetic and certainly proved she could sing!

The lady who really stole the show was Ruby Turner and it may be a little cliché but she certainly puts more than her heart and would into her performance and was absolutely brilliant.

The whole audience left with a smile on its face, though for someone who didn't want to see her in the first place, my only slight gripe was that Melanie Chisholm's contribution was relatively short and she didn't join the rest of the team for the encore.

Unlike my old chum and fellow blogger, Murray Lambden, I often forget my camera and to be honest, it was nearly the end before I realised I could turn our night out into a post, so I am indebted to my Facebook friend and occasional fellow drinker at the Woodie, Gary Wightman for supplying the only decent photographs I have presented you.

There is a great shot of Dave Cain who I could have sworn was right behind me earlier on before he stuck on a beard, tousled his hair and went on stage to play trumpet.



I saw many friends and acquaintances at the concert but it has to be said that social media allows you to catch up with anyone you have missed later.

Chief Meteorological Officer, Adrian Cowin who had made the long trek up from Arbory to be a guest at the Welbeck That night was posting about whom he could spot from his balcony seat and 'No sign of Michael George yet' appeared, to be answered by Marie Lambden who replied 'He's here!' 'Incognito! Interjected our weatherman.

Obviously, the best way to hide at the Villa Marina is right at the front, centre stage, wildly gyrating in a poor imitation of a dancer ;)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Tale of Two Cities, A Wallet & A Purse

Back in March, Irene & I were lucky enough to visit the city of Budapest on our return from a 50k race walk in Dudince, Slovakia.

It has a bit of an air of faded grandeur but it is very interesting and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of a trip to Eastern Europe.

We met two of our residents there from last summer, Andrew & Nora Vanya who is a tour guide nora.vanya@gmail.com which came in very handy as we were informed about the history behind the buildings and to be honest, one day with her was nowhere near enough (I hope she'd say the same about us ;) ) as there is so much to see.



Although it was still early in the year, the weather was beautiful, so the second full day, we decided to take the tram to Margaret Island which sits in the middle of the Danube.

They have 'Boris Bikes' or their Hungarian equivalent but unfortunately, I was too unintelligent to complete the hire and although I'd taken the huge trouble to spend the flight over, trying to learn the entire language, it was never going to be enough for this situation.

Therefore, we opted for one of the four wheeled two seater pedal vehicle and proceeded to do a lap of the Island which incidentally has a one lane athletics track around its shore.

This was thirsty work, so we decided to stop at the spa hotel for a coffee and a glass of sparkling water while sitting in the sunshine. It was when we came to pay that the nightmare began!

Despite having read the warning sign on our carriage, which was in English, telling us to be careful to protect our valuables from falling out, I had had my wallet in my back pocket and it was no longer there.

Fortunately, Irene had her debit card, so we managed to avoid being arrested but despite retracing our wheel tracks, it seemed that along with all my forints, euros, pound notes, credit cards, driving licence, Hungarian bus/train pass and a few other things that I had gathered in it, my wallet was gone forever.

We were able to ascertain that there was a Police Station but it was unmanned and the telephone call I made to the number on the door wasn't the easiest as the operator's English wasn't great despite being three hundred times better than my Hungarian but I thought she told me to wait for the Police to collect me.

Having waited there about half an hour, obviously by this stage, my darling wife was reminding me that I was the best thing since sliced bread and she was also thirsty. We had been told that there was a swimming pool with a cash machine very close by so we agreed that I would continue staying there in case the Police came and she went to try and find the means to buy a drink.

After another thirty minutes, the local constabulary turned up and were very eager to put me into their car. I even thought I caught that they had said my wallet had been found, so I made the decision to let them take me (I had thought that my property had been handed in somewhere on the Island) and I'd come back to Irene very quickly.

At first she hadn't answered my calls but eventually, as I was whisked away, I managed to get through to her after I had been in the vehicle about ten minutes. To say that she wasn't best pleased is probably the understatement of the year, as the swimming pool was closed and there was no cash machine and therefore no drink either. She demanded that I tell the officers to bring me straight back but they said we had nearly reached our destination and in fairness, it wasn't really a taxi service.


A man had been walking with his child and had found my wallet! Absolutely everything was in it and he had delivered it straight to his local Police Station. My delight was slightly tempered by the fact that I was still in major trouble with the boss who was lost and stranded back at the Island and it seemed to take forever for them to lay out the aforementioned contents, take a statement and have me sign for my property.

Unfortunately, they wouldn't give me any details of the finder but told me they would pass on my thanks and were horrified when I tried to offer a reward to put to their Police fund (The word 'Charity' was another one I'd neglected to add to my huge Hungarian vocabulary) but they were very courteous and insisted on driving me back Margaret Island.

Another swift phone call to Irene who was now beside herself and was unable to take on board any information other than when I would unabandon her. I had feared that it would be at least another 15 minutes but it became apparent that it had taken so long to reach our original destination only because of the big city one way system and we were back in a flash.

I was able to buy Irene a drink and pay for the hire of the cycle carriage, though it would take a little longer and an evening dinner cruise along the river before I was properly able to make it up to her.

So why am I telling you this now?

Well, you've probably guessed looking at the title of this post and I had to promote Douglas from a town using a little artistic licence to make it fit.

I had just arrived at the Hotel the other day on my bicycle, dropping a few replacement lamps that I'd bought earlier when one of our guests arrived, telling us that she thought she'd dropped her purse on the bus.

As you can imagine, memories of that horrible morning flooded back, so we did our best to try and help. Irene rang the bus company and as I had wheels, I zoomed off to check the toilets on Loch Promenade.

While I was in the vicinity, I also popped into Lord Street Police Station to see whether it had been handed in there.

Unfortunately, it wasn't there, the toilet cleaners hadn't found it and the bus driver hadn't bee n able to locate it on his vehicle.

Having started the search very confident we would reunite purse and owner, quite frankly I was pretty disappointed that the Island people who are usually so good on these sort of occasions, had let us down.

The next day, she had to purchase another 'Go Card,' quite relieved that unlike me she hadn't been carrying most of her eggs in one basket.

Quite frankly during a busy day at work, it had slipped my mind when in the afternoon, I received a telephone call from the Police Support Officer, informing me that a lady bank worker had taken the lost article into the station and that it was ready to be picked up. Like my Hungarian hero, she had not touched the cash or contents and our guest was delighted. It's great to know that with all the bad things that you read in the papers and hear on the news, there are still so many members of the human race on all sides of the World that will do the right thing!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Up the Viaduct Without a Paddle (though a scythe would have come in handy)

Last Sunday, we decided that we should really take advantage of my day off and therefore, unusually for me, I took the step of pre-booking an activity.

As kayaking is one of our favourite pastimes, I managed to reserve an evening paddle from Peel with Keirron Tastagh from www.adventurousexperiences.com .

Of course, I was very proud of actually managing to organise something in my life but it only occurred to me afterwards that the 5pm start would be smack bang in the middle of Wimbledon Final.

Cue 'Operation Media Blackout!' (And the use of Sky Plus ;) )

This required turning off all the mobile data and wi-fi from our telephones and Irene and I catching a bus to the middle of nowhere, which in this case, we deemed to be Glen Mooar.



After a quick trip down the lane to the beach, we opted to join the old Northern Railway Line to walk back to Peel. At least we tried to opt to join it but actually ended going around the Glen as we missed the turn off to find the end of the old viaduct. Now I've been on this route at least twice before and I was pretty sure that it was almost immediately after you go through the gate but even on our second lap, we failed to discover the correct way to go.

Although we'd left plenty of leeway, our unscheduled lap just slightly worried us and we cheated by climbing over the MUA gate a few yards along the road, though there are lots of other opportunities to join it a little further.



The Manx Northern Railway was opened in 1879 and must have been the most spectacular of our network but was unfortunately, never a financial success and closed in 1952. It does remain as a pathway except for the viaducts which have long since been dismantled.

"Glen Wyllin" by Dr Neil Clifton. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glen_Wyllin.jpg#/media/File:Glen_Wyllin.jpg

It travelled along the inland side of the road until it tunnels (has to be the longest tunnel on the Island?) under it onto the sea side not far before the Devils Elbow.


Unfortunately, the footpath has not been very well maintained and where the drainage, which in fairness must be very difficult because it is in cutting at this stage, is very poor and it is extremely overgrown and wet under foot.



Instead of running through to Peel, it turns towards St Johns at St. Germains Station and so we rejoined the road. With a little more time in hand, we would only have had to be on tarmac for a few hundred metres before you join the clifftop path at 'White Strand' and it is a lovely walk along the headland and then onto the Promenade.



However, hunger and thirst had struck and the minutes were disappearing, so we had a toastie and a pint of beer outside the Peveril, having taken the direct road.



I'd approached the bar sideways and must have appeared a little shifty, hardly making eye contact, so I had to apologise to the barmaid as it was all in an effort to ensure I didn't accidentally see the tennis score.

Because there were some very inexperienced kayakers in our group, we entered the water in our boats in the harbour, just opposite Fenella Beach, so we could all get the hang of propelling our vessels in the direction required without sinking ourselves or anyone else.
It has to be said that having hired kayaks in quite a few places around the World, these are by far the best I've been in and just a delicate flick with the paddle sends you a fair way.

We journeyed around the bay, along the beach and around the cliffs to the old swimming pool at Traie Fogog beach, where we stopped for a rest and a well earned flapjack. Or in my case, three well earned flapjacks - I did make sure no one else wanted them. Honest!

We retraced our paddle strokes back to where we had began before jettisoning one lady who was a little nervous about rounding the Castle and headed off past the Breakwater, avoiding being hooked by any of the fishermen/women.
If you are very lucky, you can get to see basking sharks while you are out but it was here that we saw one of the seals that regularly fish around the rocks. Unfortunately, it was a little camera shy and ducked down every time Fergus (our second guide) lifted his apparatus.

By far my favourite part of the evening was managing to catch a wave, surfing in to Fenella beach but any chance of appearing to be a cool expert canoe dude, disappeared when I didn't alter my steering quite quickly enough and ended up with a bit of a dunk in the Irish Sea. Superb fun!
I have to say that I am cheating a little here as this was nicked off the AE blog but I have been through caves like this in the past on their tours

At £55 each, it isn't perhaps going to become a weekly hobby but with almost 3 hours on the water, I think it represents good value.

Back in our vehicle, we endured radio silence on the drive home and finally sat down to watch Mssrs Djokovic and Federer just after 9pm, having successfully managed to avoid any mention of it.

A great day out!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Castletown to Port St. Mary Without a Whinge

As a family, we started walking in about 2001, looking for something worthwhile on the 'new-fangled' day off Mrs. George had fought to be awarded to me.

Matthew and Elizabeth were already old enough to decide that this strange activity wasn't really for them and although young Terence loved it from the beginning, it was a taste that Lucy struggled to acquire. Many a time, after about 15 minutes, she would be complaining and start to utter the phrase that will be familiar to a million parents: 'Are we there yet?'

In fairness to her, there were occasions when she would really get the bit between her teeth and on one occasion on the climb from Niarbyl to the summit of Cronk-ny-Arrey-Laa (437m/1400') she left us all behind her in the rain and loved it but this wasn't really the norm.

So, a few weeks ago when she coincidentally happened to land in Castletown at the same time as we were enjoying a pre-expedition coffee, I invited her along with us, not for a minute thinking she would want to and I can't say it wasn't without trepidation that we set off along the road to Scarlett.



One of the enjoyable things about exploring the Isle of Man is the varied scenery and geology that have in such a small area and this stretch of coastline is unlike the rugged spectacular cliffs of the South West and the East and very different to the sandy areas in the West and North.



In the photo above you can see the quarry which provided much of the limestone used to build Castletown and the kilns are still existing on the shoreline.

The visitor centre here is open from Tuesday to Sunday from May until September.

A little further along the path, there is Scarlett Point Radio Tower. This was originally a Coastguard watch point which was decommissioned in 1971. It fell into disrepair until it was restored by a group of amateur radio enthusiasts who have also now added a couple of webcams: http://www.scarlettpoint.com/

There is a lot of bird life and flora and it was very pleasant on this spring day as the sun began to poke through the clouds. We then headed around towards Bay ny Carricker, often referred to erroneously as Gansey Bay which is the lovely little beach at the other side of the inlet.

Having passed Pooil Vaaish, the quarry from which Bishop Wilson reputedly donated the steps for St Pauls Cathedral in London, to be honest it is a little untidy and the farm area looks like it could do with some clearing but beyond that is a little farm shop with an honesty box.

By Isle of Man standards, this is one of the flatter walks and the next couple of miles is alongside the road which can be a little noisy. However, the Shore Hotel is well worth a visit and by this time we had worked up both hunger and thirst.


There is a great view from the public bar which has great character as it is built with reclaimed materials and you can have fun sitting and working out what the individual components once were. There is a separate restaurant and the kitchen and toilet areas have recently been extended. The reclamation theme has been continued into the loos. Did you ever see urinals like these?



Unfortunately, although we were able to have a drink, they were very busy, so rather than wait as had been suggested, we were keen to continue our journey. However, I can recommend the food as Irene and I ate there two weeks previously.

A few hundred metres later, past Gansey, you can once again get off the main road and follow the Raad ny Foillan around the point and into Port St. Mary Bay. This is another great beach, though it isn't as popular as Port Erin or Peel, perhaps because there are less facilities. One of the sadder sights is the Balqueen Hotel which has remained unused for almost as long as I can remember but once once amongst the most prestigious on the Island.


One of my favourite parts of this walk is the Cat Walk which was damaged quite badly in a storm a few years ago but which has now been mended by the Commissioners http://www.panoramio.com/photo/39729215

Eventually, we landed in the beer garden of the Albert Hotel from where we were able to have toasties and a few beers, much required after our walk and barely a stagger from the bus stop.



And Lucy? She was great company and had hardly a cross word to say despite having to keep up with the 'Exercise Freaks.'

Once again, showing my technical prowess, unfortunately, I failed to work out the distance on 'Googlemaps' because it kept wanting take me along the road but I'm guessing about 6 miles/10k.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Final Parish Walk

Well, that's it!

The Parish Walk is over once more for another year and forever for me.

You'll be shocked to hear that no one actually believes that statement!

However, after 9 finishes, 8 of them attempting (and failing 7 times) to win and to be honest, I've had enough of the level of effort required to be at the sharp end of the event, not to mention risking permanent injury to the knee I'd been operated on.

I've even reneged on my promise to do a lap with Irene in 2016!

(St German ((Peel)) being interviewed for Manx Radio by Amy Griffiths)

Unfortunately, I didn't quite go out in the blaze of glory that I'd been hoping for but under the circumstances, I was very pleased to come 2nd in 15:04.

This year, I hadn't really been on the money in training and I was very disappointed with my 50k race in Slovakia in March but just put that down to trying to go a little too quickly on a warm day.

However, my times just weren't what they should have been throughout my preparation and at the 10,000m championships in May, I was almost 5 minutes above my best and received some negative comments about my technique. This was was the catalyst for having my blood tested and sure enough, it was found that I was lacking in iron and my blood count was low.

Unfortunately and frustratingly, due to a clerical error, there was a delay in me receiving the results and I had to go for a 2nd test.

Panic was starting to grip and then just 3 weeks and 6 days before Parish, I was well down the field in the Northern 10 Miles and was beaten by Richard Gerrard by 11 minutes, the big day looming large .

My old chum, sports masseur, therapist, personal trainer and top policeman, Mark Hempsall suggested the Hyperbaric Chamber. On the recommendation of David Downey who runs the facility, I was referred by Dr David Walker for a course of treatment which was extremely good of him as he is after all a rival as well as a friend.

Therefore, for two weeks, I spent an hour diving without the fishes. You are put into a pressurised container (with comfy seats,) air is pumped into it until you reach an equivalent pressure at the depth of 14.5m.

On the first occasion, I really struggled. It was a similar feeling I've previously experienced being in a plane about to land and it was if someone was tightening a steel band around my skull but I soon became used to it and the technician Dean Cooke watches you on video, should you need to stop at any time.

You also wear a mask and breathe pure oxygen, the theory being that you stimulate the red blood cells and that's why it helps heal injuries and in my case revitalises the blood count.

As those of you who saw my last blog will know, I made a late decision raise money the charity which receives only a small amount of support from Isle of Man Government. They help patients from all walks of life with a wide variety of different complaints, divers with decompression sickness have been flown in from all over the British Isle and although not everyone in medicine agrees, hyperbaric medicine's contribution to the welfare of the community is underrated and underfunded.

Unfortunately, my, 'Just Giving' page was unsuccessful with only £20 donated. However, using the old fashioned method of a form on the Reception desk, the generosity of friends and guests staying at the Welbeck added a further £233 with us adding another £100, which as you can see above, I handed to them the other day.

For more information, please see: http://www.hyperbaric.im/

Although I'd managed my first respectable training session, (3 x 3k @ 12kph) for quite some time, I had absolutely no idea as I stood on the start line whether I could be competitive or even last the 85 miles because with my recovery being so close to the race, I had no real way of testing if I was ready other than proving the pudding by eating it.

Everything felt fine on the day, though I knew that when Mr. Gerrard made the decisive break only 9 miles or so into the battle, I was unable to match his pace. He controlled the race brilliantly from the front and gradually extended his lead.

After the climb up Ballakillowey and the Sloc, he was 7 minutes ahead at Glen Rushen, so I decided that I had to reel him in a little if I was to remain in contention. Descending has always been a strong point of mine but unfortunately at this point, my ego overruled my brain and I pushed hard with the idea of striking a psychological blow by reducing his advantage considerably in a short period of time.

On the approach to Dalby 3 or 4 miles later, I had reduced the margin by a mere 17 seconds but more to the point, as the sun began to to add a little warmth to the occasion, I had expended far too much energy and struggled for the next 10k or so to recover and once again the gap widened, this time to 12 minutes.

What I hadn't realised was that Richard had also overworked himself a little, so finally I was beginning to hold the advantage and even eat into it a little on the other side of Peel. By Kirk Michael, I had reduced the deficit to 11 & 1/2 minutes. However, after Jurby, near the Lhen I think, I had the first of my three bouts of vomiting and thereafter, I didn't threaten the lead again.

It was very tough coming back down the East coast but the fact I wasn't wearing my spectacles kept me laughing at myself as I'd spot something totally bizarre like a modern building in a field or a judge/marshal hiding behind a shelter in the distance, then I would change my mind about 3 times about what it was before finally realising it was nothing more than a tree or a lamp post. At least I don't think I was hallucinating.

Relief finally came at 11:04 but not before my eyesight played one final trick. The Onchan Silver Band was playing as I approached the end and all I could see were lights around them toward the roadway. It occurred to me that the finish line must have been altered and moved to a new place, so I headed for them, only for Ray Cox to come sprinting out to re-direct me to where I'd been so many times before.

I would like to thank Graham & Martin Young for all their input over the years and of course Irene & my family for allowing me to go out and play



Congratulations to Richard Gerrard for being a worthy winner and lap record holder and also to Janette Morgan who claimed victory in the women's race for the second successive year too. In fact as Alex Eaton and Danielle Oates won the u21 races to Peel, this was the first time that all 4 titles had been retained. It is a source of pride that the latter two are products of Manx Harriers junior coaching programme run by Elizabeth Corran with which I have been associated to varying degrees since December 2004.



Thank you to Manx Telecom for their sponsorship of the event, Manx Harriers and the Parish Walk Commitee, Murray Lambden and all his photographers (I nicked them in the end but did try to buy them making a donation.)

Monday, 8 June 2015

Operating On All Cylinders for Hyperbaric Chamber

It's been an interesting few months in more ways than one with deaths in Irene's family, challenges a plenty at work and a mysterious loss in form in my racewalking despite seeming to train hard if slightly less than in previous years.

Despite the fact I've had to do long hours, I was feeling more tired than I would normally expect to and eventually decided to go for a blood test.

It turned out that my blood count was low and that I was also iron/ferritin deficient. Despite being prescribed ferrous sulphate, I was still not producing the goods and at the Northern 10 Miles a few weeks ago, I was a whopping 11 minutes down on my time from 2013.

Therefore, I'd like to say thank you to a very good friend and very sporting competitor who referred me to the Hyperbaric Chamber, possibly at the expense of a coveted Parish Walk top placing (I'd better mention at this stage that it was Mark Hempsall's idea or he'll never forgive me ;) ) and thanks to the staff there for managing to squeeze me in.

In the hope of generating some much needed cash for the charity, I have decided at the eleventh hour to ask for sponsorship to show my gratitude, for this year's Manx Telecom Parish Walk. It's some time since I have tried to raise money, as I realise that many people may think they are being constantly badgered to donate all the time but I hope you will agree with me that it is very necessary to safeguard this marvellous facility for the future.

www.justgiving.com/Michael-George4

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Maturing Like A Fine Wine? No Just Making a Spectacle of Myself

There is an inevitability that as we become older our faculties, mental and physical, eventually begin to diminish but there are many ways in which we can fight against this and in sport, in the workplace and in many other areas, there are fine examples of people holding back the years competing with and against others decades their junior as well as just proudly continuing to do what they do or find new pursuits in which to excel.

And then there is me.

For those of you who don't know me, I was a late starter in athletics (and those of you who do know me will know that I've been often been late on the start line as well as the calendar) and didn't really find my event until about 10 years ago when I began racewalking.

Last night, I managed to squeeze in a 10k training walk before going to a yoga class to try and keep the straining, stiff muscles young and lithe.

All was going swimmingly well in a contorted sort of way until the end of the session, when having dressed I realised that I didn't have my glasses.

It was a little embarrassing because I'd just managed to secure a lift off my friend, Marie Jackson and there I was engaging everyone in the Studio to try and find them, delaying her in the process.

Quite frankly, it was ridiculous that they could have disappeared because there wasn't anywhere I could have left them that we hadn't checked.

To be honest, they don't owe me anything and their replacement is overdue, so eventually I gave up and left because as well as stopping Marie going home, it was about time I left too.

I'd eaten a lovely bowl of soup that my wife, Irene had prepared for me and decided it was time to shower, so I took off my cap and down the stairs bounced my spectacles, thankfully undamaged and probably quite bemused as to why they had just spent the last hour folded on top of my head instead of behind my ears and perched on my big conk!

Getting older but definitely not better, though in fairness, I have spent nearly half a century doing stupid things. I do worry about me though ;)