I get lost easily

7 11 2010

In less than one month’s time I’ll be starting a work experience binge. I’m very excited about the forthcoming binge because I’ll be working alongside some of the best writers – and indeed drivers – that the UK motoring press has to offer. But my parents are a bit concerned.

My destinations are, first, Northamptonshire and then Cambridgeshire. The towns, the magazines, even the counties are irrelevant. What is relevant though is that I’ll be borrowing my mum’s car, which means I’ll be driving myself to the destinations.

I’ve borrowed my mum’s 1.2 Clio plenty of times before. So far, touch wood, I’ve had a good history with it. So the car-borrowing isn’t the issue.

When I asked my dad if I could borrow the car, for a journey that would head further south than Preston, the conversation went like this:

“Dad, please can I borrow the car?”

“Yes, but Pete, you haven’t had much experience with longer distances on your own. You’ve got to read signs quickly and make fast decisions.”

“I’ll be fine!”

“You get lost easily though, Pete.”

“[Pause] Yeah I do.”

This is entirely fair, and based on my past with following directions.

Examples of me getting lost

Example 1

One evening in late August 2008 I went to do an interview for my Sir William Lyons Award entry. I was going to head to a farm in the middle of nowhere to do an interview with my mum’s cousin.

On the day I was due to do the interview, my parents asked if I knew where he lived. I didn’t. So they told me the directions. One element of the directions was crucial: “You know how to get to mum’s school don’t you?” “Er yeah! Of course I do!” (From this reference point, the rest of the journey would be a doddle.) I’ve been to my mum’s school many times. It’s a very simple route, and less than four and a half miles.

That evening, I set off, went down the road I knew would lead me to my mum’s school, and drove quite contentedly until I realised that I was lost. I stopped, phoned home, told them I was at a junction on a corner that I’d never seen before, and was told where to go again.

Example 2

Unfortunately, my second example is more recent. At work in the summer, I had to drive to a place near Blackpool to meet a colleague to sort out some equipment for an event.

The day before, he wrote down detailed directions. I could see the route in my mind (it was a similar route to the one we – my family – used to take when visiting my late grandad), so I wasn’t going to get lost!

I agreed to meet my colleague at 9:30am. I set off in good time, and arrived in Blackpool for 9:15am – I was early! However, I was early somewhere else. I was in the right area, but I didn’t have a clue where I or my colleague was. I tried to ask a pedestrian for directions, but he ignored me, so I sped off and phoned home for directions.

My issue with directions is that I sometimes over-analyse them. If a signpost has a different destination to that mentioned in the directions, I think to myself: “I must be at the wrong roundabout, I’ll keep going.” Rather than: “This is probably the right way to go.” Or I’ll panic, and take a turn early because I worry that THIS could be the one I’m supposed to take.

Example 3

Surprisingly, I do actually have a memory, and, sometimes, even a sense of direction. When my memory and sense of direction are present, my third example demonstrates I should listen to them/myself.

Sadly, my third example was less than two months ago. Again, it was work-related. I had to take some food to a leisure village (I don’t know what else to call it, because that’s what it’s known as) because a journalist was visiting that weekend. I looked at the directions on the place’s website, and it fitted in with what my memory was telling me.

Just to be sure, I checked Google Maps.

Seven miles after leaving the motorway, I learnt that Google was wrong. A quick phone call to my parents got me back on the right route (I’d promised them that morning that I knew where I was going… and I did, but Google tricked me).

As a side note, the road I happened to go the wrong way down was a brilliant road. In fact, I was very happy that I’d gone the wrong way. It was the ideal hilly road, with fast and medium speed corners with enough visibility to keep up a good pace.

Conclusion

If I give you directions, they’ll probably be accurate, so you can trust them (note: this does not apply to walking directions for shops, even in Lancaster, which has been my nearest city since I was born).

If you’re in the car with me, I’ll go the right way. When others are in the car with me, my desire to remain dignified (ie. Not asking for directions) ensures I use common sense and stay calm.

BUT

If you give me directions, I will probably go the wrong way anyway.

If I say: “Yeah I know where that is” I probably do, but I’ll doubt myself when I get to a crucial junction and turn the wrong way. It’s best to tell me how to get to even the most obvious places.

If you set a rendezvous time, no matter how long in advance I set off, I WILL go the wrong way. Expect me to arrive anywhere up to 45 minutes late, even if the journey was only supposed to take five.

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Uganda diary: Preface II, smelly trainers

10 08 2010

On Friday 30 July, 2010, I went for a run. Not my normal type of run. Not a one mile run where I’ve got a stitch after ten enthusiastic strides. No, this was a run of sufficient distance that I could call it a run, and deem it to be classed as exercise. It was a 3.1 mile run (I checked on Google Maps).

I was very happy about this run. I was so happy that I tweeted about it:

I went for a run yesterday evening. Just wanted everyone to know. And so that if anyone Googles when I’ve been for a run, they’ll know. 11:01 PM Jul 31st via web *

My run took me along lots of local lanes, and I saw cows, sheep, goats and birds. It was lovely. I also ran through a field.

The grass was very long – taller than my knees. I have long legs, so this meant it was long grass.

Normally this would just lead to a plethora of midge bites. This is not the case when it’s raining though.

Before I entered the field my trainers were dry (that’s what Gore-Tex does for ye). When I left the field, my feet were soaked. But I was enjoying my run, and I carried on. If anything, the water was keeping my feet nice and cool. Lovely.

Then I got home, took off my trainers in the kitchen and continued with my evening (probably on Facebook).

The trainers stayed next to the door for two days before I picked them up again.

Everyone knows of the French cheese that is identifiable because it smells like smelly trainers. Well, my trainers smelt like the French cheese that smells like smelly trainers (there’s no need to compliment me on my descriptive skills).

This was problematic. I need the trainers to go to Uganda. They’re the only trainers I have which I can comfortably walk long distances in. More importantly, they’re likely to be my footwear of choice when flying from England to Uganda.

The problem

I could see my future – getting on the plane from Manchester to London, and detecting a slight, mildly pungent whiff emanating from my feet. Paranoia would set in; I’d think: “do I smell? Can other people smell my feet? Are they talking about me? Do they know that the smell of that cheese that smells like smelly trainers is actually coming from my trainers?”

And then I’d land at Heathrow, rush to the duty-free shop, buy some strong aftershave, dash to the toilet, and enthusiastically douse my trainers in Hugo Boss’s finest. Then I’d board my flight, the chance to further neutralise the odour now gone.

Eight and a half hour flight. Two hours in, my feet are getting warm, so I slip my trainers off. But this simple action, carried out simply for my own comfort, would result in a powerful infusion of smells. The Hugo Boss, normally quite pleasant when applied modestly, gives people migraines with its strength. The smelly trainer smell, on its own enough to induce vomit, combines with the Hugo Boss and causes people’s mouths to be overwhelmed with ulcers, boils and cold sores, their bare skin blistering as soon as it is touched by the potent eau de toilette/trainer vapour.

The solution

The solution involved hot water, a bucket, some washing liquid, and a lot of time to soak (I forgot about them for a few hours). Rather than explain in narrative form, I shall write it as if back at school in chemistry, and write a method. This way, should you ever get your trainers wet a fortnight (I let the trainers stagnate for over a week before taking any action) before you go to Uganda, you’ll know where to find an answer.

  1. Fill large bucket with hot water from tap. Add washing liquid (same you use to wash clothes).
  2. Stir in washing liquid.
  3. Take soles out of trainers.
  4. Place trainers and soles in bucket.
  5. Top up bucket with more hot water to ensure trainers are covered as much as possible.
  6. Leave for two hours (at this stage, I just forgot).
  7. Rinse trainers and soles under hot water.
  8. Re-fill bucket, and add trainers and soles again (you don’t want there to be bubbles from any remaining soap next time your feet get sweaty).
  9. As soon as you remember that your trainers are outside in a bucket, take them out of the bucket.
  10. Squeeze the trainers.
  11. Place on washing line or on window sill to drain.
  12. Put in tumble dryer on low heat for about 90 minutes.
  13. Return every 20 minutes to close tumble dryer door (my trainers kept flying into the door with such ferocity that the door was forced open).
  14. Once dry – or almost dry – remove trainers and leave them wherever you normally leave them.

What next?

If you’re expecting me to give you answer for “What next?” regarding the trainers, well, have you tried wearing them?

However, I’m talking about “What next?” with regards to going to Uganda. Well, I’m glad you asked.

I’m going to have a haircut.

*You can Google it here.





A blog about a cow

5 06 2010

Disappointed cow

This blog is about a cow (see picture above).

The cow is a popular animal in England. They can be most frequently spotted grazing in fields, this being the location where I encountered and photographed this particular cow.

Cattle can also be spotted crossing roads, as the farmer takes them to get milked, as cows produce a lot of milk, and we English like to drink milk, either on its own or to complement another beverage, such as tea or coffee. Milk can also be used in food recipes, such as when making Yorkshire Puddings.

You may also see a cow in a slaughterhouse. Cow meat (beef) is very tasty, best accompanied by Yorkshire Puddings, a plethora of roasted vegetables, and a lot of gravy (made from the juices from the meat).

Below is a selection of photos of a cow in Lancashire. Judging by the absence of an udder, and the presence of a lump suggesting male genitalia, this ‘cow’ is actually a bull.

I said hello to it, and then fed it some grass. The grass in the field I was in seemed to be better than the grass in the cow’s field because it enthusiastically accepted each offering of grass.

Useful links:





Two years of driving

28 02 2010

Who couldn't enjoy a road like this?

On 22 February 2008, I was sat in the driver’s seat of my driving instructor’s olive green Seat Ibiza. As I sat looking out of the windscreen at the delightful rainy, windy, grey and cold Heysham weather, an Irish bloke in a big yellow florescent jacket was running a pen up and done a sheet on a clipboard, writing a number here, adding a comment there. Then he said (with a Northern Irish accent): “Payder, oim playsed to tell yoy yoy’ve paaased.”

That remark came at the end of my driving test (first attempt). Unlike many people, I actually quite enjoyed my driving test. Unfortunately I got four minors too many (ie four minors in total), but hey ho, at least I passed. Two were for undue hesitation, one was for observation during a ‘turn in the road’ (a three-point turn to post people), and the other I can’t remember.

Mr Irish Bloke told me that the next two years were important. If I got six points on my licence, then my six-point-weighted licence would fall out of my wallet, and into the hands of the magistrates court, and I’d have to one day retake my test.

Two years later, I have no points (touch wood) – I’ve made it! I have my licence for the foreseeable future. Unless I get 12 points, in which case I’ve done something wrong, and the magistrates will happily store my licence in a drawer somewhere (probably in their study at home).

Did you crash?

No. In my first two years I didn’t crash, or have a ‘near-miss’ (long may it hopefully continue). According to statistics, all young drivers, in particular young males, are supposed to crash. Much like many young drivers, two years into my driving life I haven’t crashed and I haven’t got any points.

I have had a bit more extra driving education since Mr Irish Bloke told me: “yoy’ve paaased”. I did Pass Plus, which involved two three-hour lessons – a journey to the Lake District and a journey to the Trafford Centre. It was good fun (although my buttocks were seriously numb, and I also learnt about ‘ball-ache’), but I didn’t learn much.

Extra-curricular activities

As a present for when I reached the 18, I went to Croft (albeit a couple of months after my birthday). Yes, because I was 18, and had a licence, I was able to drive a Porsche Cayman round a track with an instructor by my side. I then went out on my own in a Formula Renault. With hindsight, I was incredibly slow, but bloody hell it was fun.

Fast forward to June 2009 and (with thanks to CAR Magazine [who gave me incredibly beneficial work experience] and Honda [my first journalistic treat]) I’m spinning round and round in a Honda Insight and a Honda Jazz on a skid pan. Half an hour later, I’m sat in a Honda Legend with my eyes closed and hands off the wheel waiting to hear a beep that was signalling that I am about to hit something metallic.

But then came the really fun bit – a few laps round Rockingham in a Honda Civic Type-R and a Honda S2000. I’d read plenty about the sounds of the high-revving 2-litre VTEC unit, but goodness gracious me, accelerating out of ‘Tarzan’ in the S2000 in second gear, seeing the red line light up, and hearing a 9000rpm howl made my day. I also dabbled with heel-and-toe, with mixed success. Sometimes it worked, other times…well, smoothness was the aim, but it wasn’t exactly achieved. Oh, and I was really slow in the S2000 (first time on my own in a rear wheel drive car, and on work experience…I wasn’t willing to get near any limits).

From hooning to honing

Three weeks later, hurtling along at 100mph before plunging on the brake down to 30mph was a distant dream. I was back on the public highway, this time under the critical gaze of one of my local IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) group’s observers. My first ‘observed drive’ was terrible. I hated it. My driving was criticised – nobody likes being criticised. But after I’d learnt to accept and use that criticism, it became a lot more fun. Then in September 2009 I passed my test.

While the IAM test isn’t guaranteed to equip drivers with God-like driving abilities, if everyone took the advanced driving test the standard of driving on Britain’s roads would be far higher, and people would be a lot safer.

Discount please

So, after two years of exploring a few thousand miles of the UK’s highways, experiencing 11 cars and taking an advanced driving test, I can assure you that many young drivers are not boy (or girl) racers who are intent on creating holes in hedgerows while listening to apocalyptic /techno/grime/club music. Some of us actually enjoy driving. So bearing that in mind, will you thieving insurance companies please give me a discount?

Note to reader: Peter is now probably sat in a Renault Clio, taking a nap on the driver’s airbag after discovering the brutality of Lancashire’s hedges.