My Old Mountain Bike

It's been a while since we posted. Back in October 2015 I mentioned that I was fixing my old mountain bike. It was a blue Probike Lazer, what many people would refer to as a BSO (bike shaped object), but something I had loved since I was a teenager. Shortly after that old post, I bought an old Townsend ladies mountain bike in a sparkly pink colour. I paid about a tenner for it, but my plan was to give it a nice paint job and generally sort it out for my wife to ride.

My son got involved - I think he wanted his mum to have a bike so that he could spend even more time on his bike. We painted the bike a nice red colour, and adjusted brakes and gears, and put on a new saddle and tyres. In the end we had a fairly tidy bike, although the technology was older - old style brakes and thumb shifters and 15 gears (3x5). We presented this to my wife, who said she loved it but the frame was too big for her. My son wasn't happy.
In the meantime, I had fixed up my old bike. However, it had b…

Team Marksy Chess Armies

Just a very short post today. I realised I had promised to post pictures of our DIY Chess Armies, and had never got around to it. 

So here it is. 

It was made very simply using various little figures glued onto a set of old (non-official) Connect4 pieces. It takes a while to remember which ones represent which chess piece, so we'll probably mark them in some way.

The kids love it. The board is the folding Kasparov set from Argos, which I highly recommend. It does come with it's own pieces but they just aren't as colourful as ours.

Lost in the wilderness style geocaches

There is one type of geocache that I love above all others, and that's the type that gets you lost miles from the nearest road, in a beautiful piece of countryside. Now, let's get something straight here - I live in Northern Ireland, which is a fairly small country. Huge expanses of woodland are hardly our thing at all, which means that we dont really get the epic adventure style geocaches. There are a couple in my list that look worthy though. Far From The Madding Crowd is one such cache, on the spongey Antrim Plateau, or Scawt Hill (which isn't suitable for kids) with its 100ft cliffs and great views. So I'm looking forward to skipping a few roadside cache-and-dash geocaches and heading for an adventure soon.

Resurrecting my mountain bike

In a dark corner of the garage, my old mountain bike lies covered in a thin layer of dust. She hasn't been used much since I got married, but as the kids get up a bit and can now ride bikes, and I get a little soft round the middle (this may be an understatement), I'm starting to look at ways to get fit again.

I need something that doesn't necessarily take half a day (like hiking, fishing, golf, etc.) but doesn't need significant training outside the activity itself (like rugby) or a set time (five-a-side football).

When I was a teenager, several centuries ago, I loved nothing more than getting this bike out and careening down the Brustin Brae and straining everything to get up the other side, before another downhill toward Cairncastle. The way back was a major challenge, and I loved it.

So yeah I'm not really into downhill mountain biking  - more roads, with plenty of hills. I reckon I'd love the flat Coast Road as well. I'm a little conflicted on that one…

Amateur Chess

While travelling to Crete recently (more on that later), Ruth though it would be a good idea to buy one of those little magnetic travel games - the type with Ludo, Chess, and Snakes and Ladders. One afternoon I showed Charlie how to play chess. Now let's be clear, I got the rules wrong and had my bishops and knights trading movements, so I'm no chess player. The only issue is that Charlie loved chess and he managed to beat me!

This shouldn't happen. Admittedly I was going easy on him, pointing out where he might be making a mistake, but I did NOT let him win. As soon as I made a mistake he was straight in there outmanoevuring me. Checkmate.

So began my little fling with chess. I started practicing against Charlie or against a phone app. Charlie and I went off and learnt the rules together. We went to Argos and bought the Kasparov Wooden Chess Set - a smallish board and small wooden pieces that should last a lifetime.

We are addicted. And happy to be - Chess is a game that k…

My Travels

I'm on my way back from England with work. I've been away for two days (one night) and was away two nights last week. This isn't normal for me at all. I normally don't fly with work, but I'm working on a fairly intense SAP implementation - its my first one and I'm working on it with just my manager. So what have I learnt? Travelling with work puts a lot of strain on family life. Kids start complaining to their teachers about their daddy flying away, wives struggle to balance everything with just one pair of hands (I guess moving house tomorrow isn't helping) and young sons lose a little of their confidence and swagger. Poor old daddy has project pressures and guilt. It has to be done to pay the bills, but kudos to those who do it regularly, because I'd hate it. No amount of nice hotel steak could convince me. I'll be happy to see out the project successfully and retreat to my desk!

Lathar Na

Lathar Na means the lands of Lathar - Lathar being the son of an Irish High King. It is anglicised as Larne, on the North East Coast of (Northern) Ireland. It is the oldest inhabited spot in Ireland, and has been visited by Romans and Vikings. The Vikings liked it more than the Romans and stayed for a bit.

It is my home town, where I still live. We fight dragons in the winter.....

I was walking the dog along our old Victorian promenade the other night. The promenade runs along Waterloo Bay, an area of eroded limestone cliffs, atop a basalt shelf, with granite shot through by tectonic uplift. It was a clear starry night after another wet day. The waterfall beside the promenade was in full flow, where sometimes it is a tiny trickle. There wasn't a sinner about so I had the dog off the lead, charging about. Suddenly he stopped to stare into the darkness below the promenade. There on the rocks was a large heron. It looked at us and flew off. I chuckled to myself and thought, "Sure…