Monkey Business

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Whilst I was on my long walk across Cumbria, Junior we enjoying himself at Go Ape.  Whilst clearly he gets his good looks from me [ 😉 ], his lack of fear of heights must stem from his mother.  I could not have done what he did!


COVID diary – week 7

dsc_1134Everyone on the Weston Front has remained well so far, we are blessed by the sunshine and home school seems to be going well.  I did spend the whole years school resources budget on one topic though.  An introduction to coding, by way of Bob the (Lego) robot.

The whole concept is very well thought out and seems ideal for 6-9 year olds.  We’ve learned about variables, triggers, flags and sub-routines in a really fun way.  To get a better insight into what’s possible take a look at the video’s of Bob’s antics on my Flickr Feed.

I would not want to do a ‘Facebook Front‘ post and suggest that everything is rosy.  I am finding motivation hard when I’m not home schooling and it is frustrating to remain in limbo as to whether we will get away on holiday this year.  It’s true we have not got a foreign trip planned where we will lose deposits etc, but we really did (and still do) hope to go to Shetland at some point during the sunnier part of the year.  Nathan is missing interacting with his friends too.  Video calls are good, but no still no substitute for the real thing.

What I want to leave you with this week is the best advise I’ve yet seen on surviving ‘house arrest’ which comes in the form of a allegorical video from James Veitch. But note that really it should come with a ’16’ certificate!

Thunderbird 2 – can we make it go?


I am delighted to have just introduced Junior to Thunderbirds.  Whilst originally made in the 60’s it was still being shown in my childhood some 10-15 years later.  Showing superlative taste he loved it, which meant I got to relive the experience with him too.  Great father-son bonding time.  Then he wanted to know, can we build it out of Lego, so I shook the internet to see what I can find.  Surprisingly it’s not a kit that’s ever been offered.  Pleasingly though Lego have an ‘Ideas‘ site where people can submit ideas for model kits and then the Lego community can vote whether it is something they think they would buy.  Apparently if an idea gets 10,000 votes it will be seriously considered as a new product.  Well the Thunderbird 2 model has already garnered 3000 votes in just over a month, so only 7000 more are needed.  Thus if each of my followers votes for this, and promoted it to ten of their followers who voted for it we would reach the 10,000.  So please consider the young people of our world and how there lives could be transformed for good by such a model being made available and vote here.  Thanks.

First set with my Cajon

If you follow this blog regularly you could be forgiven for thinking that my one and only passion is cycling, and the uber-niche of recumbent cycle touring at that. My recumbent high racer is fairly new and thus something for which a beginners enthusiasm might be expected to abound. But I’m not just a cyclist – I’m also a Christian and a drummer. These two loves come together when I provide percussion to one of the bands which plays at our church.

I first took up playing drums around 15 years ago, in an attempt to be ‘part of the solution’ to a church stuck in the 1850’s in my home town of the time in Hertfordshire. I’m unsure where I picked up the following principle, but it is one that shapes me, that being ‘You only have the right to complain if you are prepared to help do something about the problem.’ Life moves on and as resident or guest drummer I’ve played with at least six different worship bands since then.

What have I learnt over this time you might ask? (i) That it is better to play with a nice group of people, than a great group of musicians (and if you can combine the two then that’s really good). (ii) It takes 45 minutes to set up and ca. 30 min to break down and pack a rock kit. (iii) One accessory that any drummer needs is either an estate car or a van!   But as of today, whilst (i) remains true, it may be that (ii) & (iii) are not necessarily true any more.

And so when get to the subject of this post – my first set with my Cajon. Firstly here is a picture.


If you are not familiar with the Cajon as an instrument read this. If you want to know more about the instrument in the picture then look here as well. Whilst you may think as I used to – what can be so great about a plywood box? – let me enlighten you. My DG Bravo is a bass, snare, toms and rim shot all in one, 4 kg box. The tonal variety of a Cajon is simply amazing. Traditionally they would not have been strung as mine is, but this gives me a sharp ‘rock kit’ snare sound and well as an authoritative bass. It really is so much fun to play. I play traditional ‘rock kit’ 4/4 and 8/4 patterns on it, and it really lends itself to this. Interestingly it is also excellent for double bass pedal beats too. My current band is rather different to those I’ve played with before – as well as guitar, keys and harmonizing singers, we also have a violin and recorder. This give a rounded sound with the option of the solo voices of the violin and recorder to add zest to a song. Also, they are a great crowd and forgiving of a self taught drummer who cannot read music.

So how was my first outing with the Cajon? From the number of positive comments from the band and from the congregation I’d say it was a pronounced success. I too loved the whole experience. It is amazing to think that my small plywood box could fill a 300 seater church, but this it did. One thing that led me to the DG Bravo was the fact that the tone was as good when played lightly as when played hard and loud. This is key in a church worship music setting where the tone of our music needs to be anything from reflective to driven, punchy and powerful.

Turn up, unbag the Cajon, sit down it and just play – how refreshing is that, swapping a 45 minute set up time to 10 seconds and swapping a car full to a simple shoulder bag. The Cajon, short on hassle, big on sound – it really rocks!

Finally, some snow…


And finally the snow arrived here in Lancashire.  Only about 30 mm, but enough to pack down to something slippery on the residential streets around us.  Finally a chance to test out the performance of my Schwalbe Winter Tyres.  The journey to and from work was uneventful as the treated road surfaces had turned to slush – but when work was over, it was time to have some fun.  On the untreated roads near us the traffic of the day had produced good sections of compacted snow.  What everyone else was no doubt cursing was a playground for me.  Forget plastic surgery and anti-aging cream – try a recumbent trike, spiked tyres and some snow and that knocks 30 years off your attitude in a moment!

I can report the tyres to be a great success.  If you ride sensibly they give excellent traction and good control of steering and braking.  Never mind that though…  …pedal really hard and throw it into a corner and it’s like being a skilled driver behind the wheels of a rally car.  Drifting out on the bends and biting in the snow at the last minutes to get you around.  Wheel-spinning up hills only to pick up speed again on the flat.  Pure unadulterated fun, and tomorrow morning I’ll be sporting a recumbent grin again as I take my practical and environmentally benign mode of transport to get me into work.  Why be a frustrated commuter, when you can smile all the way on a recumbent fitted with winter tyres.