Sunday stroll

What is it about the fresh air? A good dose of it and I am shattered.

With a weekend off and little planned in, we made the most of the sunshine and took ourselves off for a stroll around Jumbles Reservoir. After taking our youngest boy to rugby in the morning, we decided to make something of the afternoon. Far too often we have ended up wasting the time together doing chores, not today.


My wife has recently bought a fit bit. She and some of her work colleagues are challenging each other as to how many steps they can do in a day. Her daily target is ten thousand but the competitive streak in her has seen her on some days doing more. As I watched the rugby on the touchline, she decided to have a stroll around the perimeter of the pitches. The more the steps the merrier.

After lunch the four of us took off to Jumbles Reservoir, a local area being a ten minute drive away. Although the sun was shining and a UV level similar to late August, there was a cool breeze around. One of those, coat on, coat off days. As we walked around the water, there were so many people out walking their dogs, off the lead. All the dogs were sociable and soaking wet after taking a dip in the water. It is such a shame, our dog appears very nervous around other animals. She is great with humans but barks and stresses around animals. It would have been a nightmare had we took her along.


After a extended detour around the reservoir which took us off our route, we finally made it back to the car. Just think of those extra steps I thought as we all appeared weary from the detour.

We drove to a nearby village called Edgworth to have a few cold shandy`s and ended up settling down to a roast dinner. Once we got inside the Black Bull pub, we decided we didn’t have the energy to start cooking dinner when we got home.


With superb views from the back of the pub looking over towards the reservoir and West Pennine Moors, this was an ideal spot to rest up. The beef roast dinner was wolfed down and we talked ourselves into desert to follow. All four of us decided on sticky toffee pudding which was divine.

The staff were really pleasant and friendly. It was one of those places you often drive past and think to visit but never do. So glad this time we did try the place out.


So after walking almost twenty thousand steps, in glorious sunshine, I feel shattered. Well fed and watered too, a good family Sunday out was had by all.

Ian

 

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Climbing Winter Hill, coffee and cake

What are we going to do today, I thought? There was no way I was staying in after booking the day off to look after the kids as they are still off on half term. My eldest at 16 would not see the morning, rising out of his pit around lunchtime. So it was a dad and lad day with the youngest, Charlie. Checked the weather, cloudy, dry and reasonably warm. Right, let`s go outdoors.

Winter Hill Mast

Half way up the West Pennine Moors 
As I have said before, we are blessed where we live with some great countryside. Walks, climbs, pubs, tea rooms,etc so plenty to do on our doorstep. Initially, we planned on walking around one of the many reservoirs nearby but whilst driving over to Belmont village, we decided to climb up Winter Hill.

We made it!

A bit windswept!
Winter Hill is where the television and mobile phone masts that service North West England and North Wales regions are situated on Rivington Moor on the West Pennine Moors. Situated between Rivington, Belmont and Chorley in Lancashire. You can see the mast from most of Greater Manchester. When on the moor you can see as far as Blackpool Tower and the pleasure beach, Cheshire and Isle of Man. Despite living here for 16 years, I have never walked up to the mast, until today.

Once we parked at one of the small car parks situated off the main road, we set off wondering if it would be too much for Charlie. It did look steep and deceptively further away than it looked to the naked eye.

Rivington Reservoir

Ordnance survey stone
It took us approximately an hour to climb up to the mast. Stopping along the way to admire the views and take some photographs, as well as watching the aircraft passing by. You could hear a pin drop on the hillside, so nice when you are used to the daily hustle and bustle. Charlie wanted to take home the small field mouse that came over to say hello halfway up the hill.

Every few minutes some low level clouds blew over and engulfed the mast, but thankfully the rain stayed away and we could see most of the North West of England. Once at the top, the masts are fenced off but you can approach an Ordnance Survey stone that has been laid on site as well as walk around the top of the hill.

A well eared latte 


From the top you can see the Pennines of Yorkshire over towards Rochdale, Oldham and Tameside. The Derbyshire area towards Glossop, all of Greater Manchester and over towards Cheshire. Manchester is in a basin with the moorlands all around it making it easy to see from our vantage point. You can see over towards North Wales, Runcorn and Chester and eventually over to Southport and Blackpool on the coast.

After a walk around the site it was time to negotiate our way back down, which was more difficult than climbing our way up.

Some parts of the hill are quite steep but we managed to safely navigate our way back to the car around an hour and half after we set off. With the cobwebs well and truly blown off us we headed for Rivington cafe by the reservoir.


The cafe is on the waterside and has a bowling green along with a traditional old fire lit in the corner of the cafe. The majority of customers tend to be walkers and cyclists as it is a great stop off place to rest up before climbing some other routes.

After a well earned coffee and cake, we spent a short time near the water. Then it was time to head home, back the way we came admiring the hillside we had just climbed. Pleased with ourselves, we drove home. Charlie raved about our day, loving the outdoors and wanting to return sometime soon.

With the summer to come, I think we will head to the hills once again in the very near future.

Ian

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A quick catch up

I thought I would write a little piece detailing a few things before I get up out of bed and on with the day. With Easter now over with, it is back into the normal routine but I will write a piece on our Easter Monday later. We had a great day out walking up onto the hills around where we live. You can see for miles. As far as Blackpool and the Isle of Man, over to Cheshire and North Wales too. Truly stunning. We recovered from the walk with our dinner at a great pub, there will be plenty of pictures to come.

So this week in the UK we found out we have to be put through ANOTHER  general election, bore off! On June 8th, the country goes to the polls again, I don`t know if I can be bothered to vote this time. I really do not like, maybe border on hate the options available.

Prime Minister Teresa May visited our town of Bolton the day after the announcement whilst out on the campaign trail. Most people were only bothered that she had a police escort and a helicopter to get around. Well she wouldn’t travel through the congested and atrocious Bolton roads would she? Heaven forbid that!

Talking of the roads. Some school children have returned back to school after the Easter holidays and that has been reflected in the increased traffic on the roads at rush hour. Not all the schools have reopened, my boys go back to school next Monday. What a joy to drive on the roads during the school holidays. My homeward bound journey is halved in time at school holidays.

Even though our children are getting older, we still have had to juggle childcare this last week. Come next year we will no longer need to as the youngest will be in high school. This last week has meant I have had to take some time off for “daddy day care” which I enjoy. However, it is sometimes annoying to have to use your holidays up just for that.

I am off today for that reason and hoping to get out for a nice walk around one of the many reservoirs near where we live. I have promised our youngest a trip to a tea room for hot chocolate and cake afterwards. Winner all around. The eldest will still be in no doubt by lunchtime, teenagers eh?

I`ll sign off now, have a good day. Yack soon.

Ian

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As parents we are slowly getting our life back

That headline “As parents we are slowly getting our life back” may sound a little selfish to some yet others will understand where I am coming from.

You see our children are now aged 16 and 10. The eldest finishes high school in a few months and the youngest finishes primary school this summer. So they are no longer babies and are more self sufficient.

As the years have gone by, the children have slowly relied on us less and less and become their own personalities and wanted their own things. Whilst they still enjoy doing things with us and the younger one is still reliant on us, things have changed.

So for instance, our youngest has been walking home from school on his own for some months now. We still walk him in the mornings, but his independence is coming through. It is funny how you approach things differently with a second child. We never allowed the older one to walk home alone throughout primary school even though we walked the same route with his brother. We just did not feel comfortable with such a busy road to cross. Then why let the younger one do it? That is the strange thing with parenting, you do things differently with your first born than with the others. I do think you become more relaxed after the first child.

Once high school came along we encouraged our first to get himself to school and back. A house key was cut and off he went. As they get older they do not want parents transporting them to and from school.

What will be strange is when we no longer have to do the school run come September. Approximately 13 years of doing the school run with both children and then suddenly it stops. That will take some getting used to I can assure you.

With the boys being able to get home themselves and sort out drinks and a snack, it takes the pressure off ourselves to rush home from work and pick up from after school clubs, etc. We no longer stress when stuck in traffic because we know they are home safely. No need to juggle shifts between ourselves to be around for pick up from school. No longer panicking phone calls to friends if we are running late to pick up our children for us.

We have seen the difference in the eldest child being more independent but the younger one always had to go to grand parents at night if we wanted a night out. Or maybe during the half terms we would drop off the younger one with grand parents as they were too young to be home without us.

However, that is changing and we are seeing a difference. As the older child is becoming more responsible, he will look after his younger brother better. For years he would moan at the thought but now we come home and he has looked after his younger brother without any issues. Fed and watered, help with homework, etc it all means we no longer have to juggle the family around if we wanted to have time away for ourselves. Not that this occurs often, but as parents you need time without the children too.

Only the other Saturday, we went for a walk and the boys were happy to stay at home gaming together. We ended up at the local pub for a few mid afternoon drinks before dinner, something we very rarely ever do, but the chance had to be taken. We were hardly missed when we came back!

This type of example shows how we as adults are getting more time for ourselves. As the boys mature, it frees our time up. You get lost in bringing up children and put everything into it so much so that as parents can drift apart because you do not think of each other, it is all about the children. Thankfully we are coming into a new phase of parenting, one where your not tied to the children and vice versa. We do miss the time when the boys were young but time flies and this new phase is one to enjoy. Like I said, I do not want this to sound selfish but do not feel bad about going into a new era with your children as they grow up. I would go back to them in nappies tomorrow but for once enjoy the freedom you get as they become more independent.

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Will Smart Motorways solve the congestion on the country’s roads? 

Anyone who regularly drives on the M60 motorway in Manchester will agree with me when I say how annoying it is trying to drive through the current roadworks. Roadworks that will have taken three years to complete come the Autumn. The stretch of road from Sale in Trafford to Rochdale is being converted into a “smart” motorway. This includes an extra lane, new barriers, signage and variable speed limits depending on the time of day. All to deal with the huge congestion on our roads.

Here is an update on the work so far and why it is needed.

http://roads.highways.gov.uk/projects/m60-junction-8-to-m62-junction-20-2/

Whilst it all sounds good, there are many doubters out there including me who feel it may not make any difference to the daily rush hour tailbacks. Those tailbacks that start just after 7am and run through until lunch time if you are travelling west from Yorkshire into Manchester. Then it all starts again from 4pm until around 7pm. This is not uncommon across the country but having been on other smart motorways in the country and still been stuck in slow moving traffic, I cannot see this scheme helping.

There has been a 50 mph speed limit throughout the roadworks which is the speed that would be set for rush hour in the future and traffic struggles to move even then. An extra lane will not improve the congestion either. There are too many vehicles including HGVs on our country’s roads. Whichever way you look at it, there is too much traffic for the roads to deal with. Adding an extra three lanes on either carriageway would only maybe help. Yet this will never happen.


One positive note is that’s when the work is completed, the motorway may finally have a decent road surface to drive on. During the last couple of years, the amount of huge craters not just pot holes in the road has been bordering on dangerous. The amount of disruption caused during the work has been frustrating with night time closures of sections of road which has meant long detours for me on my way home at night.

Whilst something has to be done to alleviate the traffic on our motorways, all this work to add an extra lane in places and have variable speed limits doesn’t appear to be going far enough. I suspect when all the work is completed, I will be writing about how little has changed on the motorway.

The problem with this particular motorway is how many routes link in to it. You link Yorkshire with Manchester and Liverpool, Manchester airport, Trafford centre and routes to the M6 north and south. Hence some much traffic using this motorway especially HGVs.

The only saving grace will be the road surface will be completed and no more disruption from the work being carried out. So until then, the daily grind goes on, roll on the Autumn.

Ian

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Why I am in love with cycling.

I was going to blog about what cycling does for me. How it helps me not just physically, but mentally, emptying my head of all life`s troubles. The sun on your back, wind in your hair, glorious scenery it really ticks all the boxes for me. Then I came about the above video from the Tour de Yorkshire twitter feed and listen to the 85 year old Brian Musson and he hits the nail on the head.


As the weather has improved moving from winter to spring, the opportunities to get out have improved. When your out and the sun is up with little wind and the temperatures have risen, it really is a great feeling being out on the open country roads.

Far too often we take for granted where we live. On my doorstep are winding country lanes, reservoirs, hills and stunning Lancashire views. Get off the main roads and onto the country lanes without traffic lights, junctions and roundabouts and pedal for miles without needing to stop.


Throw in a nice coffee stop (and a bit of cake of course) and for a couple of hours, your away from the hustle and bustle. When your away from the work things to do list and before you tackle the home things to do list, get out and clear your head. Having a few hours to myself on the bike and pushing myself through the miles works wonders for clearing out the mess in your head.


Riding is even better when with friends. Chatting away as your turn those pedals, a sociable ride really is my idea of a good thing. So as the weather improves, I feel I have the cycling bug again. Plotting the rides in between a busy schedule is a priority.

So now you know why I love cycling and why it helps me in so many different ways. Whether you love walking, running or cycling, get out and about. Breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the scenery and fall in love with exercise.

Ian

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Time waits for no man. When to fit blogging into a busy life?

Where have the first three months of the year gone? Today is April 1st and it only seems minutes ago since it was January and a brand new year. I am sure that time speeds up the older you get.

Time flies on an weekly basis never mind yearly, but the question I want to ask everyone is, how do you plan in time to blog?

We all lead busy lives and I read blogs from a range of people. From stay at home parents, occasional bloggers, cyclists and each and everyone of those people are have busy lives going on, but they manage to write consistently.

I have a full time job working shifts so some weeks are easier than others to sit down and write but sometimes working a full week of afternoon shifts up to midnight means my brain cannot cope in the morning with having to think about writing! With the housework, fitting in my own hobbies and managing two boys, writing tends to end up at the bottom of the list. In my head it is one of the first things to do but I have to balance that with everything that comes with modern family life.

Here is a typical example for you. I am off work Friday, Saturday and Sunday, three days should give me plenty of opportunity to write a post, right? Wrong!

I had to strip more of our eldest sons bedroom on Friday before the decorator comes in a few weeks. There were house chores that needed doing and I was deseperate to get out on my bike for a spring ride. Thinking about the rest of the weekend with what was planned and the weather, Friday was the only chance to get out and I was taking it.

Throw in making tea, cleaning up, etc I didnt have the energy to start thinking about writing so we are into Saturday. The morning should have started with watching my eldest play football but that was called off at the last minute so here I am, writing, wowzers!

Well, I am writing whilst making breakfast and cleaning up, not to mention my eldest is asking to use the computer! Talk about jugging things. So I have a small window in which to type as the rest of Saturday is taken up as is Sunday and I have another website to update this weekend, so I have an hour or so to write. The keyboard is on fire at this point.

So I see stay at home parents regularly blogging yet I know from experience that you rarely get a minutes peace with young children and when you do, all you want to do is relax and do very little. There are bloggers with several websites, working full time, etc all seem to churn our regular posts and update social media. How do you all do it?

I cannot be too selfish and put writing first, I have too many responsibilities and I do not want it to take over. Please let me know what you do to make sure your posts are regular and not once in a blue moon. I really would like some feedback, thanks.

Ian

 

 

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I have a new website, again!

Do you remember one of my recent posts where I moaned at a lack of activity on one of my websites? I decided to delete the site and yes, I spat my dummy out. Well, a few days later and chatting to a friend, I have got my mojo back and have set up a new website. It is self hosted and it already feels like I have made the right decision.

The website is www.thehalftimepie.co.uk which is a football website and blog. Football is my niche and I find it very easy to write about my favourite subject.

Maybe it is because I am a Gemini but I am often in two minds. I am like my dad, he would take an age to make a decision, constantly weighing up the different options. This is not a bad trait to have but this is why I change my mind like the wind instead of sticking to a plan.

So I have gone from one minute to cancelling my free site to setting up a paid self hosted one. My head is spinning, I am sure you guys are too!

I wanted a professional looking website not one that looks like a blog. I also wanted a professional looking URL with a co.uk or .com. I have no issue with the free wordpress sites, this is one after all however, I wanted something that looked like a professional site.

I think this can be very important. This site is where I scribble lots down and I do not mind if it does not generate too much traffic. With the new site I am hoping, in time, that it may grow into something special, we shall see. At the very least, I hope it will showcase my writing skills and be something I can be proud of.

I did wrestle with the idea of starting again. Nothing fazed me in terms of building the site, going self hosted, etc but I did not want to tell the world here I am then in two weeks, two months disappear again. So I have made my decision to take it three months at a time. Keep true to why I wanted to start the site and keep reminding myself of that plan.

Wish me luck.

Ian

 

 

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To read or not to read that is the question.

In my last post, I was discussing the lack of interest on one of my blogs and it got me thinking about what people read these days and the way things are packaged for us. Everything is short and sharp, very few people today want to read anything over a couple of hundred words.

The printed press is a dying breed, generally most people will not bother to buy a newspaper, sales of printed press have been declining for years especially due to the internet. Do you see many newspapers around your work place or home? I suspect not. My dad still gets a daily newspaper but then he does not have internet and is from a generation that always went out and bought a newspaper.

Look at how we get our media today. Twitter is no more than 140 characters, Facebook status updates rarely ramble on, Instagram is one photograph and snap-chat lasts no more than ten seconds. Everything is built around short, sharp packages, no one wants to have to open up a link and read anything up to 1500 words, that would be sooooo boring.

Look at how people behave on their social media accounts. They fly through their timelines, flicking and swishing away barely stopping to actually read or view what is on there. How can you be expected to get a blog post to stand out from all the noise when people are not interested in that?

Most people have multiple social media accounts so they rush through timelines to open up the next account. Right, done with Facebook, now Twitter, then Instagram and maybe a few snaps before I check my emails and whatsapp`s. Everything is rushed.

So as a blogger, you spend hours thinking of what to write, you do your research, you write it and re write it, spell check it and produce this piece of work. Then you carefully think how you can make this post appealing on social media. Catchy headline, maybe an eye catching picture and when you have done all that and posted and re posted several times per day, people just fly through it rarely stopping for one minute to actually read the content. We live in a 100mph world, everything is built for quick and easy these days, heaven forbid you should have to click a link and read the full article.

Recently, I have seen a few people who used to blog about sport and they too seem to have slowed down, some even stopped blogging and their social media accounts now represent more of a fan channel. Pictures, headings that sort of thing. Gone are the opinions and debating, all replaced by short and quick images.

With so much online these days it is hard to compete with huge brands, but the way people go about viewing that information makes it very difficult to get views.

I will continue to write on this blog and read peoples articles, that is what I enjoy but I will not go chasing the views, if people want to read it they will. There are plenty of people out there who still enjoy a good read, to take their time and digest what has been written.

Ian

 

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Groundhog day

Frustrated, angry, annoyed, disappointed, pissed off, all words that describe my feeling tonight. Oh blogging, you really do wind me up. Why you ask? Well I have been here before, time and time again and that`s what really is getting on my nerves.

Here is a little background for you. I have been blogging now for four years, on and off  and mainly writing about football. The problem is partly, well probably, entirely my own fault so bear with me.

I love writing. I love creating a piece of work and publishing it, I get a lot of satisfaction from it even if very few people actually read whatever I have produced. Here lies the problem though. Views.

I know you will say do not look at your stats, ignore them, etc but when you spend so much time on a piece of work, planning, researching, writing, checking spelling and grammar, posting then putting out on social media to get minimal views, then you do wonder why do you bother?

I do wonder, is my work that naff that no one likes it? However, I have had a previous website that did very well for views. It attracted lots of positive comments and I wrote articles for similar websites. I was building up a nice little following on social media and I did put the work in. I spent hours, days, months into it when I could have made better use of my time.

I could kick myself at closing down that site and the social media accounts that went with it after I thought it had run its course and I needed to spend my time on other things. Since then, I have tried and failed at setting up another two football blogs and social media accounts to go with them. I now lack the patience needed to grow a site, you really do need a year or more to build a loyal following. Although deep down I know this, I am finding it harder to build that following and interest. Maybe there just isn’t the interest anymore?

A lot of friends took a real interest reading my articles and giving me feedback either personally or via the site, but I have found that interest has waned some much so that I struggle to get the views.

People will say, don`t let that get you down, do it for yourself, etc but it is very demoralising when you see hardly anyone bothers to read your stuff after the time and effort you put into it.

So once again, I have closed everything down in respect of the football site, groundhog day!! I intend to keep this site going as I have no intention of giving up on blogging completely. I may decide to go self hosted again, I may look at evolving this site but for now, I am happy to scribble down my thoughts on this site and get my blogging fix that way. I have built up a nice little following on WordPress and it would be a shame to throw all that away. I do appreciate all the comments, likes, etc and long may this continue.

So for now, it is time to clear the decks and concentrate on nattering on this site.

Thanks for reading.

Ian

 

 

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