Monday, 30 May 2011

Bank Holiday

It appears that no matter what I say in a family dispute I am always the subsequent target for reprisals. Even if I have no original input or even if I move to another room to escape the tirade of bullshit, nonsense and abuse the incessant diatribe follows.

Apart from the fantastically deluded soliloquy from a wonderfully ignorant child the day was reasonably pleasant. Oh, my back is suffering following an almost text book special forces accident last night. When I say a special forces incident I do of course mean that I twisted a muscle erecting a camp bed.

More later.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

More sausages

A basic plan is require I think Not just for any of the trips we have planned but for everything happening in the near future.

If I ma going to write a book based on 'The sausage trail' then I need to line up all of our visits and connections. Mongolia is a small part of the current itinerary, there is the run up to the Greek trip and the time after until we leave for the most inland country in the world. Some serious planing is required, once more, as I have changed the concept and general approach to everything we had thought.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Friday, 27 May 2011


I have been reading a book by Simon Majumdar, Eat My Globe, the tag of which is 'Go everywhere, eat everything'. On the whole it's a well written book but a bit to high-brow and opinionated for me. There too many visits to far too many high class restaurants, but the concept is great. I have been struggling to come up with a gimmick for our trip next year, after reading Simon's book I realised that he had successfully used the subject of food to break down social and cultural barriers. He had travelled to potentially awkward destinations, such as areas of the USA, Argentina, Mexico and China. In every one, even when he failed to find a tasty dish, he always managed to connect with his guides, hosts or co-travellers, all because they were following their passion; food. I don't presume to have the level of expertise required to follow this example BUT I do know what I like.

I have visited many, many roadside eateries and tasted basic, food in a lot of countries and the one food I am always attracted to try is, or is it are, sausages. From the slightly spicy Cumberland sausages from Cranstons in Brampton just outside Carlisle, to the highly dubious fatty bangers from Abu Dhabi I loved them all. German Bratwurst in Darmstadt and Spanish Chorizo in Tarifa, at almost every port of call I have found myself sampling what was available. Every country in the world has its own version of sausage, generally more than one, and in some cases dozens or even hundreds.

There is obviously much more research and planning to undertake now that we have a theme to follow. The good news is that I can extend a mere blog into a book. I will still blog and will still report on every step of the journey. Bill and Sam will hopefully, if they can bother themselves to get licenses and CBTs, be able to accompany me on any preliminary trips we do around the UK. I assume that there are forums and sites on the internet dedicated solely to the culinary delight that is the sausage. I realised that I have the time and opportunity to explore the sausage delights of Britain before the time we leave for Mongolia. In fact the trip to Greece also allows an opportunity to experience the sausages of a number of European countries: France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and of course Greece. We can revisit and increase our exposure to sausages of the world next year when we leave for Mongolia and with this in mind I will be looking change our route. Possibly to visit, in addition to our current itinerary: Austria and Hungary, maybe Czech republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. More planing to do.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Rain and The Daily Telegraph

No work on the cub today, rain stopped all progress. Friday tomorrow, hopefully we will get the chance to look at putting the air filter back and looking at the choke cable and the brakes.

I discovered that The Daily Telegraph has been running a weekly competition, accepting submissions from travel writers. I managed to keep a blog during my recent trip to Timbuktu with my brother Tony. I threw together the 500 words necessary and sent to the appropriate email address. My submission is posted below:

Tea for Timbuktu

Following in the footsteps of the explorer Mungo Park, my brother, Tony, and I set off from Portsmouth hoping that things had improved in the 207 years since his fateful voyage. Our 6000 mile drive, in an elderly Peugeot, across Europe, Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania finally saw us arrive at Timbuktu in North-eastern Mali three weeks later.

Hours after arriving we found ourselves walking in the dark, struggling to keep pace with our guide. 'Bebe' was a loquacious, urbanised twenty-something Tuareg who spouted endless facts, in passable English, about his beloved city. He stopped at a door within a high, mud-brick wall and knocked, grinning as he waited for us to catch up. The door was opened by a figure dressed in the traditional indigo robes of the Tuareg. Although only his bright eyes and broad smile were visible amidst the folds of cloth we recognised him.

Earlier in the evening our guide had introduced his cousin, Ibrahim. After purchasing some Tuareg jewellery I offered him some of our equipment, as we needed a lighter load for the return journey. Ibrahim gratefully accepted everything, from ration pack meals to ropes and blankets.

He now stood gesturing for us to enter his home. We found ourselves in a courtyard with a large tent erected in one corner. Ibrahim disappeared through a doorway into the brightly lit room beyond where happy female voices could be heard. Beneath the tent canopy a single paraffin lantern hung from the low ceiling illuminating a comfortable interior where thick colourful rugs covered the floor. Bebe sat and began to relate the nomadic traditions of the Tuareg, explaining that this building, including the tent, was a communal living space open to all members of his caravan. Ibrahim reappeared carrying a large tray laden with tea, couscous and two plates of meat. Squatting, he poured the tea. Holding the teapot high above the small glass, the hot aromatic liquid cascaded and foamed as it struck the receptacle. He returned the tea to the pot and repeated until satisfied. We drank in a single swallow, Ibrahim smiled approvingly. I pointed at the plates of meat and raised an eyebrow enquiringly. Evidently one was sheep, the other camel. I balled a slice of camel with some couscous and ate. The delicately spiced meat was slightly gamey but delicious. As we devoured the food Ibrahim produced a rudimentary stringed instrument and began playing, until, his wide repertoire finally exhausted, the stringed instrument fell silent. I sensed that it was time to leave. Amidst our farewells, Ibrahim invited us to join his caravan in the desert when we were next in Timbuktu. I gratefully accepted, promising to return soon.

As Tony and I walked through the sand choked streets to our hotel, we talked about the drive to Bamako and our flight home, but I was already planning my return to this friendly, slightly alien city and meeting up with our new friends once more, to take tea in the Sahara.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

More carbs?

The new carb arrived today. We fitted it and the red cub is running so much better, the fact that it's running at all is a good sign. Loads still to do but that's for the weekend.

Tried to put adverts in three local newspapers in Newcastle, Berwick and Carlisle today to let some of Mum's old friends know that we are having a memorial gathering in Wallsend on the 11th June. What a struggle. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle was easy but Berwick and Carlisle are living in the dark ages, it looks as though I will have to phone them or even write to them with, what was it? Oh yes, a pen!! Something to do tomorrow.

Bill is off tomorrow, study leave, so he will be able to get some work done on the cub. I hope.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

More Pirates and fuel leaks

Bill has been concerned for a couple of days about a damp patch which has been appearing beneath the blue cub for a few days now. I, today also expressed my concern and turned off the fuel switch to see what happened. Nothing, happened. Puzzled, Bill and I spent some time sniffing the bottom of the vehicle. Then, I suddenly had an idea. I asked Ed if he had been hitting the kick start and pumping the the throttle. He giggled, then admitted he had. Mystery solved.

In the mean time I have discovered a fantastically simple game called 'Pirates' by Sid Meier. Awesome game.

More later.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Mum's memorial

Spoke to my Dad tonight about the upcoming arrangements for Mum's memorial gathering, that's how we've termed it as there will be no religious connotations at all just having all who knew her together in the same room is enough. The contact details that I have for a lot of mum's old friends are no longer valid, as such the best way forward, I think, is to place a piece in local newspapers in Newcastle, Berwick and Carlisle in the hope that those concerned will see. Fingers crossed.

On a separate note, Sam created a video over the weekend that cheered me up immensely, he really has a talent for making me laugh. I did promise that I would not post on Facebook and I will be true to my word. This isn't Facebook...hehehe

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Twitter and stuff

I have been a bit of a slow learner with regard to Twitter I must admit, but, is it true that those most magnificent of celebrities who are able to retain the services of the highly excellent members of the legal profession can prevent the world from speaking their mind? I would say not. Super injunctions, MY 'KIN ARSE!! If you have done something wrong then bloody deal with it. If I pissed myself in the Navy after spending the night with a whore of the worst order (did't happen, well not all at once anyway) I would expect to suffer the consequences of my actions. The heightened status of pathetic football losers, or similar, should in no way preclude them from having to accept responsibility for their erroneous acts. Ian Hislop is a hero, I will also risk whatever, in saying that Ryan Giggs shagged that woman. He's a prick for expecting special treatment.

Suppression of the free press and, even worse, suppression of general freedom to express information is SO WRONG!!!

Hey ho, rant over.

New cub is buggered, well the carb is not good so we have ordered a new one. Time will tell.

Stuff Giggsy and more later.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Pirates. Badgers and Sparrows!

Took Sam, Ed, Beth and Beth's friend Amelia to the cinema today to see the latest instalment of Jack Sparrow's adventures. Not as good as the first and original but so much better than the second and third nonsense films.

Bill continued with the cub renovation but didn't get very far, so we will have to persevere tomorrow.

The big news of the day however is that Black Hound is back in action and taking submissions. Please check out the updated website:

Not for profit AND making money for charity, how can that be wrong?

Give us your submissions!!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Well it works

Bill was off today, study leave or some such, so when I returned home from work we decided to crack on with the new cub. We took of a the basics, leg shields and front covers before having a go at starting it. Bear in mind that this unit has been standing in someones garden for over four years with no battery or attention.

It's running lumpy, but after standing idle that long a residue is liable to congeal in the carb. Jobs for tomorrow, replace battery and clean carburettor. Night all.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Red Cub

How boring must I sound? Banging on about the vehicles. Ok, get it over with. Bill and I picked up the second cub today. It's been sitting in someones driveway for four years, exposed to the elements for the entire time it is caked in rust and ceased bits and bobs. I managed to crack a wing mirror loading it onto the van but this is the least of our worries. On arriving home we had a quick look at the overall state of the bike, apart from the expected cosmetic issues it looked OK. The battery will need charged and a new spark plug is almost definitely required. I kicked it over and it almost started, no fuel though. Will have a play tomorrow and over the weekend.

We have no offloaded most of our big stuff on ebay, kayaks and top box. We will be searching under the stairs and other hidey holes for additional means to generate some income for our trips.

Spoke with Bill on the way to pick up the bike about getting an angle or gimmick for the trip in order to generate interest and revenue for our chosen charity/charities. gain I appeal to anyone who is actually reading this to comment and make some suggestions. We'll see.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Travelling light (or lighter)

Today I attached my map of Europe to a wall at work and drew a straight line from Calais to Istanbul. My first impression was, 'That's not straight', then I thought how far it was. I have driven to Prague and back including a stint from Prague to Amsterdam in a day, through roadworks and getting lost. That was only six hundred miles and in a Jaguar, the straight line I drew today would require some long distances on our very open and uncomfortable vehicles.

Along that straight line I will be adding our goals and points of interest. It's only completed up to the border between Kazakstan and Russia but that's enough for me to think about at the moment.

The thought occurred to me that we are going to be very short on space to carry equipment. Also, until I lose some weight Bill may be carrying the lions share of the kit as he a damn site lighter than I am. We're kitting ourselves out now and will be carrying out a few days shakedown sometime after we return from Greece.

View Cub90 Challenge in a larger map

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Places to stop

I began writing a personal journal today, just to cover the bits that are either too rubbish or too personal for a blog, when a thought occurred to me. Rather than just travel from point A to point Z via a number of other points in the hope that interesting things may happen a little bit of thought in selecting destinations that are poignant. Places that attract people give a better opportunity for interesting things to happen. I've already posted a couple of prospective places, Aral Sea and the gas crater in Turkmenistan, a couple of good candidates but we need many more. I think that very early on we will stop at the war grave at Vermelles in France where my great-grandfather is buried. He was killed at the battle for Ancre Heights which happened at The Battle of The Somme in 1916.

Following that we have a long journey through Europe to Istanbul and beyond. A little light research is required to find a good route taking in as many places relevant to our family and/or historical sites. Any thoughts or suggestions would be welcomed, just to see if anyone is actually reading this more than anything. I am currently listening to Dom Joly's audiobook, The Dark Tourist and it has provided more than a little inspiration for the trip next year. If you get a chance please read/listen to this book he has a fantastically perceptive way of seeing not only the grim reality of the locations he visits but also the hope that has sprung from the tragedies.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Two Cubs and a dry sea

We've managed to win our second C90 through ebay. I can't believe how much some of them are selling for: 1200, even 1500 quid and not even in good condition some of them. The one we won was considerably less and in need of renovation. We'll need to take a van up to Kent to pick it up. will do that later in the week.

Looked at potential places to visit on the way through our trip next year, the Aral Sea is a must. I hadn't previously realised that the massive inland Sea has been in seriously decline since the sixties. Once prosperous fishing ports are now deserts with slowly decaying hulks, anyway watch this film. You'll get the idea.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The living space

I didn't get a chance to pitch the new tent yesterday, distracted as I became, but I did manage to do so today. Oh, and potentially good news, a similarly enthusiastic group are planning to leave for Mongolia, on Cub 90s, next year. Fingers crossed, I hope we can roll along in convoy. Back to the tent. Reading the reviews on the Coleman 2-man expedition thing was a bad idea and it was with a certain degree of trepidation and curiosity that I unpacked the green bag a few minutes ago. To summarise:

Good points, five minutes to erect (hahaha he said erect) and five minutes to stow, Packs into itself and weighs no more than a small donner kebab.

Bad points, Frodo and Sam would be a bit cosy in this. Bill and I will just about fit if we don't move a muscle, no room for kit at all.

To make this work I aim to park the bikes either end of the tent and secure a tarp between them. Extra cover and camouflage. Will be trying this out on the way to Greece.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The shed

Got a bit carried away today. Started tidying the garden from a purely selfish perspective in order to pitch the tent I've bought for Greece and Mongolia. Once started, however, the enthusiasm continued to the shed and the bins, burning anything that was flammable. Reminded me a bit of when we lived in Berwick.

My parents bought a house that had previously been a shop, additionally they had operated a mobile unit selling to the streets around. The van they had used, an ancient Bedford was rotting gracefully at the bottom of the garden. The previous owners had used it as a chicken coop, Tony and I had discovered ancient eggs in the bales of straw and had learned to keep clear. One night, a very clear and memorable evening, my dad had spent a few hours tasting his new batch of home made wine, and after a brief spell of encouragement from his Dean Martin collection he decided to get rid of the van. How to do this? Burn it!! He ripped it apart, aluminium side panels, wooden framed conversion, ancient unfertilised chicken ovulations, the bloody lot. Mum was a bit worried I think, she honestly thought that he was going to continue on to the neighbours house and their pets. We weathered the storm and the next morning all that was left was the engine block which we buried, it's probably still there.

I did not sink to the primeval depths of my dad but did enjoy the shed and the burning, it's somewhere to work on the cub and to plan.

More later.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Bikes and stuff

No post yesterday as I was off to pick up the Cub....

But of course I couldn't ride it until I had completed my CBT, which I did today. So this evening I bought some insurance online, ninety quid for the year, and went for a little ping around Gosport.

I think I'm getting used to it but it's starting to dawn on me that riding this for eight thousand miles is going to present a damn site more problems than I first thought. Logistically, in order to be able to carry enough kit we need a team of more than the three or four I first envisaged. I think that four or five is a more realistic estimate and as such will be looking for the intrepid and courageous souls who fit the bill (any takers?)

I will be continuing with motorcycle lessons in order to pass my test as soon as possible. Sam will be booked in for his CBT shortly as he will be able to use the Cub in the meantime, provided he is careful, and I will attempt to keep it maintained and prepare the beast for the upcoming challenge.

More later.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Cub is Mine!!

After the previous disappointment I decided to just get something bought, particularly as the final price of the lost item was so much higher than anticipated. As such I found the best and most appropriate, 'Buy it Now' on Ebay.

I must say here and now that Malcolm, you know who you are mate, was fantastic and has helped the charity effort enormously.

So I have a Cub and will be picking it up very, very soon.

Arse Biscuits

I really had my hopes up about winning the C90 on ebay tonight but that was not to be. As usual, there is always someone, not raising money for charity, who automatically bids more. Initially very cross, well spitting blood and FFFFFFs anyway. Gone now....pooof!!

Have made a proper offer on another Cub in London somewhere, I hope this one is accepted.

Timbuktu was the first real focus on a particular charity as my mother had just passed away from a brain tumour. Tony, my brother and I gave up so much to reach the ancient city, so much time and pain. For this new expedition we, my sons and I, are selling everything we hold dear. The kayaks have gone, old mobile phones and gadgetry are going, in fact we are sacrificing everything we can to ensure that we can get the mopeds and equipment.

The slight set-back tonight of not winning an auction really incensed me and subsequently made me realise that I do not have a right to decide which machine is mine, although I think it bloody should be.

Support us important. Negativity is not!

If the person who originated a negative sentiment heard earlier in the day manages to read this then please consider two things, or rather two questions:

1. What have you done to enrich the life of others?
2. What have you learned?

Thanks to JW for waking me up to this but for all others, please take onboard and digest!!

Do as much as you can for as many!!

Rambling but never mind.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Travelling Monkey Band part one

For the travelling Monkey Band European Tour 2011 we all had to choose our musical weapons. I now have my keyboard and Bill has his Ukelele. The following video was shot yesterday.

Disturbing isn't it? How will the poor continental types take this? Just wait until the rest of the band start practising.

More plans

The maps for the route to Mongolia arrived today, well they actually arrived on Saturday but someone, the only one at home, was a bit too hungover to get up and sign for them. Now that the route has changed to alleviate the problems getting into Georgia and/or Azerbaijan from Russia I'll have to start researching Turkey too. The Black Sea coast provides an interesting route to Georgia, I had considered taking in the Azerbaijan/Iranian border in order to see Mount Ararat but it would take us too far out of our way unfortunately. The website Horizons Unlimited contains an absolute wealth of information regarding doing anything (that's probably literally true) on two wheels. On reading my post someone suggested we take a look at 'The Gateway to Hell' in Turkmenistan, check out this video.

Evidently an exploration rig drilled into a massive underground chamber releasing a gas pocket. To stop an explosion they set fire to it, sounds a bit daft to me, in order to burn it off. Forty years later it's still going!

On a different note.

I've bid, on ebay, for the first of the Cubs. In fact I've been a tad over enthusiastic and bid for two. At the time of tapping away, I am winning both auctions. Never mind we need two.

All of these plans seem a long time in the future but, bearing in mind that Timbuktu seems only five minutes ago, time has a habit of creeping up on you. When it was time to leave for Africa just before Christmas last year it did suddenly strike me that leaving my family back home whilst I disappeared to foreign pastures was precisely why I left the Navy. I guess that's why I need to ensure that in swanning off to do something new I can justify my actions by supporting worthwhile causes. Also, this time, I will ensure that all costs are understood and covered before we leave. Will be updating the website this weekend and maybe, if I get the chance, get some video up from the Timbuktu trip.

Time to go and look at some maps I think.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Planning stuff

The magnitude of the following next eighteen months is starting to hit home, well to Will anyway. That is as far as the trips to Greece and Mongolia are concerned. The reality of what is required in order for these expeditions to happen are yet another factor that both Will and Sam, to a lesser extent, are just starting to accept. How do we pay for both of these trips? That's the prime consideration right now. With this in mind we are, all three, frantically ebaying (is that even a word?) everything that we can think of.

Mum's memorial is very quickly approaching and I have done little to extend any invites to those that were unable to attend the funeral last year. It was all very sudden and passed with a blur and gave hardly any time for most of those involved to accept and grieve.

The Greek trip is all but sorted now. We have a prospective route:

View Pirate Badgers Travelling Monkey Band European tour 2011 in a larger map

There are a few changes that are likely to happen. For example, we will possibly be visiting the monasteries at Meteora in Greece and possibly some great places in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia. We still have not made some decisions regarding the charities we aim to support and also the finer points of the musical elements of our tour. With the memorial looming closer all members of the 'Travelling Monkey Band' will be present so we can iron out these wrinkles then.

Mongolia. Now that's another funky moon hedgehog. A completely different set of grey coconuts if you like. At this moment, this very present second in fact, it is only Will and I that are departing next September (2012) and striking out for the extreme inshore realm of Mongolia. The planning meeting yesterday went well and I think that we both have a firmer insight of what is required. Not just from a logistical perspective but also from a personal one. Will understands that he is likely to be so far beyond any comfort zone he is ever to have created that it will be a massive shock to the system and I, for the first time, will be responsible for his development and safety throughout this planned sojourn.

Oh, for consistency, here is the proposed route. (As it stands)

View Just for distance in a larger map

As time progresses things will almost definitely change but for the time being we have a plan. I aim to alter the website to reflect our preparations for both expeditions.

As an aside, the drive for funds is leading to thinking about what we can do to raise money. Our precious kayaks are now on ebay, or they could be, I'm not sure. The aim is to get as much stuff sold to raise money as possible, Iron Maiden tickets at the O2 are another hope.

Things to check but will update stuff soon.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

First post

After many attempts at separating the Pirate Badgers blogs and my own personal blogs, which I never find time to do, I have decided to combine them. As a result I will posting all of the preparations for the upcoming expeditions for The Badgers combined with my own thoughts and feelings as the target dates approach.

This is merely a test post to configure and optimise the new blog so more later. Oh, there is an imminent planning meeting, today with Will regarding next years Mongolian expedition, I will post the outcome later.