Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

220px-Flag_of_England.svgSaint George, the patron Saint of England is today celebrated. Saint George was first mentioned in documentation by the monk Bede in c. 673 – 735 and in the liturgy of Alfred the great which documented the miraculous appearance of Saint George whom lead the crusaders into battle. Famously, Shakespeare’s Henry V mentions Saint George in the famous line “Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!”. It’s a banner all English people associate with as it  instills what it means to be part of a proud English heritage. And of course in Bram Stoker’s Dracula where evil begins on the day of Saint George. “It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?”.

Saint George’s day is not just celebrated in England alone but in many countries around the world. It is a Christian celebration, a feast to Saint George. But lets talk about the dragon! This is what legends are made of. Tales passed to our children, about knights, princesses and fire-breathing dragons….are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

There once was a kingdom and the people of the kingdom where being terrorized by a dragon. The frightened people would offer up two lambs to appease the dragon’s hunger. However, the lambs were  becoming scarce, so the people decided to offer a person up to sacrifice to the dragon by lot. Each family of the sacrificed person would receive recompense of gold. But the people grew angry that the royal family did not sacrifice any of their own family. So it was decided that the princess would be sent next.

The princess went along with one lamb to the dragon’s lair but on her journey she met a knight called George. On hearing about the dragon, George drew his sword and battled the dragon, slaying the dragon through its heart. The dragon lay vanquished, blood flowing into the ground and from the blood soaked ground roses began to grow. George being a gentleman took the rose and offered it to the princess.

The king offered wealth and riches to the knight but he gave it to the people. The people built a church in Georges name and by a miracle, water flowed from it which healed the sick.

Even today in some countries it is customary on Saint Georges day for men to give woman a red rose.

So who was Saint George? Well he wasn’t English. He was born in what is now Turkey and was a Roman soldier who had risen in the ranks. For turning to Christianity he was executed. His symbol was later used during the Crusades as an emblem of fighting for Christianity and converting people to Christianity. The emblem of the red cross is the english flag and used on tunics during the Crusades and sometimes included Saint George slaying the dragon on the shields.

The dragon was also a symbol of other religious beliefs outside of christianity such as the pagans and Druids whose beliefs would incorporate human and animal sacrifice to appease their Gods. Of course a dragon is serpent like and the relation to a Dragon and satan is fairly obvious as is the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Evil and temptation is what is probably being conveyed here being overthrown by those who follow in the footsteps of the christian God.

There are variations of the story where the water is being withheld by the Dragon and by slaying the Dragon the water is free to flow to the people. Again this is symbolic of the Christian message of removing an unholy obstacle to let the message of God wash over you.

It’s interesting that Bram Stoker hits upon Saint Georges day as “all the evil things in the world will have full sway” as if the battle over evil has not yet been won and Dracula(meaning:son of Dracul, based on Vlad II who wore the dragon emblem, aka Vlad the impaler) is from the Order of the Dragon. We can see parallels of fighting for one’s soul, the corruption of Lucy’s soul and saving that of Wilhelmina and Jonathon Harker against the evil of Dracula, or the Dragon. Dracula who once fought to protect Christianity but turns his back on God.

So the story is perpetual, Saint George marks an ideology of mans battle over evil and ultimately being saved by God. Even though we celebrate it today I wonder how much of the battle has been won and how much of the symbolism is lost in today’s society. Does it still matter? Possibly; this is a personal question on our own beliefs. We all have our demons to face and battle whatever our faith. Only when we vanquish them can we truly celebrate.







Going The Extra Mile

18.1 mile

Looking out of my window, trees are bending in 25 mph winds, rain cascading down my window of my conservatory and the last few days I’ve felt restless. I’ve been doing my 10 mile hike when I can with my daughter Ellie-Mae and on other occasions with Kate. But 10 miles isn’t enough. I want to go further.

I’m using a mobile app called ViewRanger, which is a GPS off-road route planner for hikers and cyclists. After plotting my usual hike I spotted a way to extend it by a further 8 miles. So now not only can  I can have a hike through fields, hillsides, woods, disused railway lines, I can also include canals.

I showed this route to Ellie-Mae, and she wanted to attempt it, although I’m worried it may-be a stretch for her . So I’ve allowed for some exit points off the route.

” ..heavy rain laden clouds covering all the vistas while chilling us with blustery cold winds”.

She would like to travel up to the Lake District, Cumbria and try some of the trails. (I think she has been secretly reading my Trail magazines). The walks we do are very easy compared to the lake trails. We would need to get more practice but there was no reason she couldn’t do it.

Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man and Lonscale Fell
Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man and Lonscale Fell

I  found a trail up Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man and Lonscale Fell. It’s roughly 8.65 miles (13.93km) with the highest point 931 meters and an overall assent of 1049 metes  (3441 ft). As soon as Ellie-Mae saw it she wanted to go. I think this will be a good experience for her but for now it’s getting in as much practice as possible and getting her the right gear.

I’m also reminded while looking out of my window, that the weather might be cloudless blue skies one minute and heavy rain laden clouds covering all the vistas while chilling us with blustery cold winds the next. Maybe even snow. (You never know in the lake district as it has its own micro-climate). So my practice hikes will need to be done in adverse weather as well as in perfect conditions to prepare us for the elements.

I believe if Ellie-Mae does the Skiddaw hike and witness the amazing vistas, her perspective on the world will change. It will be an accomplishment she wont forget and hopefully will drive her to push herself positively and to accomplish even more. Maybe she will go on higher and longer hikes, maybe this will be the only time but her memories on the top of Skiddaw will be ever with her.


Faith & Hope

It’s February 18th 2015 and I realise I haven’t posted for a while.

Well, Christmas 2014, my black cat, Howard passed away at 18 years old. He was my companion. He was always sitting on my shoulder like a parrot or around my neck and followed me everywhere. We were devastated by his very sudden death. Howard had a heart attack and dropped instantly to the floor. It has left a massive empty space in our lives and we miss the sound of his paws running up and down the stairs , falling off the arm of the chair mid sleep and sitting at my desk while I worked. I could list many things that he did that made us smile. It was only last week we decided that even though we couldn’t replace him we wanted to give homes to another rescue cat.

RIP Howard black cat
RIP Howard


Surprisingly, black cats don’t get homes as much as other cats just because they are black. It’s to do with the European stigma of black cats being unlucky, probably from folk law of being a Witches familiar. I’ve also heard that because they are not photogenic for “selfies” they are often overlooked .

“The oldest prejudices are born from ignorance”


Scottish, Japanese and Celtic folk law however, deem the black cat as very lucky and the black cat is strongly connected to the Egyptian God Bastet (A cat-goddess associated with the production of vegetation. Normally depicted with the head of a cat and holding a sistrum and a basket). Sailors prefer a ships cat to be black as it is also seen as lucky and sailors wives would keep black cats to help protect the return of their husbands from their voyages.

The satanic connection with the black cat brought about by the church is still to blame for this prejudice and led to cull of many black cats in Europe (although there is no evidence of this happening in England), burning them on midsummer fires. In fact the sale of black cats in some countries is still restricted on Halloween in fear they would be tortured or used as living Halloween themes.

It’s strange how these superstitions are in bred into us and passed on still to this day. I guess in today’s world even the oldest prejudices are born from ignorance and live on.

I’m going off track anyway. Today, two black female cats at 24 and 25 weeks old will be living in what the rescue term as their “forever home”. They will be arriving at 1300 hours today and I’m very excited as I’m a sucker for cats. We will be naming them Faith and Hope. As I guess that’s all we need in today’s society along with a little love.

Hope & Faith black cats
Hope & Faith

Out of Darkness Cometh Light

Today, Kate and I attended a school assembly. Usually these are for awarding the children for different accomplishments for Maths, English, behaviour to attendance.  We’ve been to these many times over the years (sounding too braggadocio) but this time it was for a competition for designing a Christmas card. Companies in the city sponsor one card and the local newspaper presents them for people to vote on.  My son (8 last month) had entered this competition several months ago and if I’m honest it had faded in our memory with all the Birthdays and Christmas organising we’ve been doing the last two months.

As Kate now works at the school she had the call to the headteacher’s office yesterday and informed that Reece had won but we were sworn to secrecy. Today we sat in the assembly, the newspaper reporters were there, the owner of the  company who sponsored Reece’s design (better mention it: Hillmans Dental Practice, Codsall) was there and after a long address to the children and with growing suspense they announced Reece had won.

His little face lit up, smile from ear to ear and he proudly stood in front of the school to accept his prize. Twenty printed cards with his design, a framed copy of his design and a £50 voucher for the school.   Kate and I were grinning and clapping our hands so much we must have looked a little deranged.  The design was….well you can see below but to make it clearer for you the image in the centre is of the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football club motif of a wolf’s head with the Wolverhampton motto “Out of darkness cometh light”.  So as I’m so overly proud of my son, (as all parents are), I said I would put it on the blog for all to see.  I guess the last thing for me to say is for all those who celebrate Christmas, “Merry Christmas!” and for those who don’t “I wish you all the good fortune and peace in the new year!”

Out of darkness cometh light

The sun was shining and the weather was sweet


I previously wrote about a walk I took with my family(“Right On Your Doorstep“) which I have been thinking about lately. How I can extend the walk so we can get the most out of the countryside and keep the exploring alive for my children and I. So I opened up Google Maps and tracked the route I’d taken previously. As I tracked to the end of the route I saw another route open up leading me straight back home. The distance in total was a 9.7 miles and most importantly, we passed pubs at the start and end of the route. This means I could do the route in reverse and still reward myself with a roast lunch and a pint of Guinness  (maybe two pints).


Knowing I couldn’t do the walk for a while due to other commitments I sat on the route trying not to think about it and started watching YouTube. The channel I seem to always gravitate to is the outdoor gear review and if you haven’t seen this guy yet then I suggest you do ( TheOutdoorGearReview ).   This guy is reviewing gear, giving out tips and talking from the heart. Well I digress. YouTube is my diversion, a fix if you will to  deal with not going camping or taking long walks. On Sunday, the itch to go was too much and an opportunity arose.  Kate was taking my son to a party. I had a few hours and my youngest daughter was ready to tag along and go for a reduced walk along a section of the route.  We decided to take the last section of the walk with the half way point leading to an old disused railway station and back again. It worked out about 6.19 miles. With backpacks on  we set off.

We entered Showell Lane which is in an affluent area. Large houses lining either side of the lane with no less than four assorted cars on the driveway including an obligatory sports car. It’s a quiet location as you’d expect for this type of area. We almost feel like we are trespassing. Pushing on we leave the upper-middle class behind and head into farm land. The winding lanes are so narrow we need to be alert to any traffic. Without paths the chances of being hit by a car increase. I tell my daughter that the rule is to always walk on the incoming side of traffic. She looked puzzled. I said you can see a car approaching you on the side you’re walking on and they can see you. If one of you aren’t paying attention there’s still a chance the other person will see you. If you walk with traffic approaching from behind you have to rely on the driver seeing you.  It is common sense and increases your odds. Half an hour later we are heading up Flash Lane. A lane surrounded by fields of grazing cattle, sheep and horses. It’s very quiet and the only person we see acknowledges us with a friendly hello.  Further on we spot the railway bridge with a trail leading up to it. This leads us onto the South Staffordshire Railway line. Disused since 1965.

Bratch Station

Built and owned by the Great Western Railway Company the line was completed in 1925. The service was never very successful and the passenger service ceased in 1932. It was then only used for goods and for a short period after the Normandy landings in WWII to transport allied soldiers to various hospitals in the area. The last train was on 24th June 1965 after further decline in traffic.

We enter the line at bridge 36, walking on a flat gravel track. Again we see horses grazing in the fields with the sun breaking through a cloudy sky. The trail is busy with people out for Sunday walks with their children and dogs. Soon enough we approach the Bratch Station in Wombourne. Now reused as a cafe. Unfortunately for us it has just closed for the day. So we take a break for a few minutes. We thought about travelling further off the trail to Bratch locks. Bratch meaning in old english  (brēc) broken in land and was a three-step lock for canal barges built in 1772. It was later re-engineered as three locks, pump house, keeper’s cottage with two bridges.   It would have been nice to see but I could tell my daughter was getting tired. So we decided it would be something to see  next time and began the walk home.

The walk back home seemed harder as we now had to walk up the steep country lanes which went on and on and light was fading fast.We arrived home feeling hungry but happy. We both enjoyed it and I learnt that my daughter doesn’t stop talking for a minute but is a joy to walk with all the same.  She’s keen to walk the 9.7 miles although I doubt my son will feel the same way.

20141102_152905_1 20141102_153211_1

Taking care of a Tear

Eurohike Deluxe
Eurohike Deluxe

This years camping trips began with the equipment check. Strewn across my garden covered with a tarp I checked my itinerary list against the mountain of gear. What we needed, what we didn’t and what we would abandon. A continual tweaking of the list as not all trips require the same equipment. As this year we had no electrical hookup we didn’t require any cables or heaters.

One of the items that caught my eye was the Eurohike Deluxe 3 man tent which I purchased many moons ago as a package deal to see if I actually liked camping. I used it once and as I recall the camping bug immediately made me upgrade to the Outwell Nebraska XXL.

I never sold the Eurohike as I always thought I might use it to go camping on my own but with a family who love camping, the larger Outwell was always the option. Instead we’ve used it as a play and sleep over tent for my children.  I’m not sure what the hydrostatic level is but it has never leaked or suffered with condensation but then again it hasn’t really been used to its full extent.

McNETT Silnet Silicone Seam Sealant
McNETT Silnet Silicone Seam Sealant

Since the last pitch, the tent has suffered a mysterious tear in the front of the fly in a perfect vertical line.  There are different ways to repair a tear in a tent.  Tenacious tape or silicone seam sealant.  Each priced  around  £7.95 (eBay or Amazon).  You can use this to waterproof rucksacks, shoes, tent seam/tears as well as other outdoor products. I’ve never repaired a tent so this is a first. It looks easy enough and there are plenty of tutorials on the subject but I thought I would share the process with you.


Camping 2014

Watch Tower in Tenby

Well I’m back!  After a two-week camping trip in Pembrokeshire, South Wales and Paignton, Devon with my family.  With only minor damage to my tent in the aftermath of gale force winds. We arrived in Tenby late in the afternoon with winds gusting vigorously as we unpacked the Coleman Mackenzie Cabin 6 XL from the car and quickly got the four anchor points staked to the ground.  The next step was to insert the roof bars and side poles and raise the back-end of the tent into the wind. This would allow us then to raise and pitch the rest of the tent fairly easily. The issue I have with this family tunnel tent is that the front of the tent is flat. I think this might be a sales scam as you can buy a front extension for £169.00 which I believe has a slight incline to help its aerodynamic quality. As such, the front end of the tent has the sheer vertical front and the wind resistance of a brick.

We attempted to raise the tent and on the third try we had it raised and were fully pitched in about 40 minutes. It was only until later we spotted that raising the poles against the wind had also placed too much stress on the one side pole. Even though intact, the pole had bent out of shape. I had a flashback to my Outwell Nebraska XXL dome tent previously damaged in high winds also came back with a bent pole. I’m hoping this isn’t going to become a running trend.

“Hiding in the shadows waiting for people to go to sleep before he would strike”.

The second day was less blustery and we experienced rain on and off throughout the week. Tenby was financially a godsend with parking at £2.00 for 24 hours three beaches to choose from and everything approximately one mile away. So easy on fuel, feet and the pocket. On this particular trip we chose not to have any electric. Two weeks without electric…arghhh, the World is going to end!  I didn’t miss it apart from not being able to take many photos on my phone. As everything was a mile away my E-can charger would only trickle out 14% charge each time so my phone didn’t stay on long. Cooking and heat were all powered by gas and only the lanterns were pre-charged before we left. Okay, we are family camping and there were amenities for toilets and hot water but no charging points for electric and it would be this way for two weeks. My real concern was that the gas didn’t run out.

It turns out there was another camper on the site. Hiding in the shadows waiting for people to go to sleep before he would strike. Taking anything he could find before disappearing into the night. Rumours of a friendly orphaned fox cub stalking the grounds soon got to us . This is sad and I’ll refer to the fox as Oliver from now on just to add to your empathy. Oliver was tame as he hadn’t experienced people before. Not ones that would hurt him anyway. He was living a life as a thief and his bounty was free scraps of food and one ladies handbag. Which I assume he wanted as a fashion item. Most people were aware of Oliver, thinking how cheeky he was but took precautions against his midnight raids. I hope Oliver is living well today. Maybe he got matching shoes for his handbag? Unfortunately, as soon as Oliver starts bothering the sheep in the field opposite, the farmer will shoot him. And so will be the demise of Oliver the orphaned fox. He never finds love probably because he is strutting around with women’s accessories. What…you wanted a happy ending? Okay, Okay..the farmers wife was happy with her new handbag and shoes.

North Beach, Tenby
North Beach, Tenby

After the end of our trip in Pembrokeshire of which I’ve missed out quite a lot of detail and digressed greatly but honestly, it would bore you to hear about everything I did on holiday, I went home to collect my daughters for the final destination to Paignton, Devon.  The weather by this time had  brightened up and we pitched up in record time without damaging the tent further.  We tied up the tarp to the front of the tent to help aerodynamics and to create a shelter to sit out under. I must say it looked pretty damn good. However, nothing is ever perfect when camping otherwise it wouldn’t be fun. We had sun all day and a clear sky at night which meant it was very, very cold. It was so cold the gas heater made little impact and by the end of the week we resorted to purchasing..dare I say it…Duvets! I wanted to stay true to camping but Kate forced me (for the sake of the children) to drive to the local shops so she could buy  several duvets. Okay, I was toasty at night and a whole lot happier, but don’t tell her that. All in all Paignton was expensive £8.00 for 5 hour parking, arcades sucking the money from my pocket, entertainment and eating out but that’s what you have to do for your kids these days. We’ve been to Devon so many times I think this will be the last for a few years. New destinations beckon.

So two weeks camping over and lots of cleaning and drying of equipment. I still love camping and plans to do more in the future….without duvets!

St. Catherines Island with Napoleonic Fort.
North Beach, Tenby