Billy Connolly: High Horse Tour

I know my blog is usually about nature and outdoors (except for an occasional Manchester Building) but I had to write this post.

Whilst I have a bucket list for some big things to do, I also have a mini-bucket list for easier things that I’ve never quite got around to doing.  Not far from top of the list was to see Billy Connolly live on stage…and last night I went to see him…and it was everything I hoped it would be!

IMG_0439.JPG

I first really came across Mr Connolly when his World Tour of Scotland was shown on the BBC in 1994.  His style of comedy fits perfectly with mine – his sense of the daft in normal life, of seeing comedy in the small things and being afflicted by general misadventure – as my grandpa used to say “he’s a good lad but he’s had a lot of bad luck” (I think I’m quoting that correctly!).  Some of the passages from that series have stayed with me ever since – “Hey Billy, you’re like us, you’ve drunk wine in the graveyard!”, amongst many others.

When I heard he was touring again, I simply had to get a ticket (even if I did have to go by myself!). He’s not been in the best of health lately and he touched on that during the gig, in his usually self-depricating way – anyone who can take the p*** out of himself, especially about such problems, is good’un as far as I’m concerned.

As I’d wanted to see him live for so long, it was almost a dreamlike experience, made all the more etherial by his voice. For me, he has the voice of a Glaswegian angel and a way of talking that a grown man could happily go to sleep listening to.  His real magic comes from his approach to comedy – none of these instant laughs or one-line wonders – he’s a storyteller; in fact, a storyteller extraordinaire.  He starts off on one story, and really getting into the detail, but then getting sidetracked onto another storyline and sidetracked again, only to, after quite some time, quite a long time actually, after finishing a few more stories and many laughs, coming back to the original story again and opening you up for another round of laughter.  In some ways, he’s like your Dad telling you a long rambling story when you’re tucked up in bed at eight years old, but with a hell of a lot more f***ing swearing!!!

Not wanting to be mean, I can summarise his performance as ‘his body is weak but his spirit is strong’ – very strong!  Last night was a true Billy Connolly experience but made all the more brilliant by the fact that he stood on stage for two straight hours in an unbroken monologue – truly outstanding!

..and he got a thoroughly-deserved standing ovation at the end; some stood for his sheer stamina, given his troubles, some stood for the performance (it was true Billy Connolly), but I stood for his sense of comedy that has spread into my life ever since 1994.

Good one Big Yin, you’re a legend!

Stafford Beer Festival

Yesterday I made the 20-minute train journey down to Stafford to go to the town’s beer festival.

Small but well-stocked would probably best describe it. The festival had been running from Thursday so I expected when turning up on Saturday afternoon, the last day of the event, that there would have been a shortage of beer. However, unlike other beer festivals that seem to start running very low remarkably quickly, there were very few ‘sold out’ signs when I left at 7:00pm (despite my best efforts!).

The school sportshall in which the festival was held was nicely laid out with local beers, and perries and ciders, on one side and national beers on the other and plenty of leaning posts in between.  I got stuck into quite a few, favouring darker beers as usual, but there were also some nicer best bitters and lighter, more summery brews – although the 10% bitter I tried last would tempt me back!

IMG_8427

The music made quite a change with a local brass band playing for much our the afternoon.

IMG_8428

The only bad thing about the event was the weather – nice, warm and sunny – so it seemed a bit of a pity to spend the day inside.  However, this might be another event to keep in my diary for next year.

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2016

After having a good time last year, I had to go to this beer festival again.  This year, it was at Manchester Central (formerly GMEX) and while not as spectacular as last years’ venue (the velodrome) it provided a larger space for this huge event.

IMG_7814

Again, I visited on the last day of the festival but this year I was disappointed that some of the beers and breweries I wanted to sample had already gone – no Purple Moose, no Isle of Skye and only one Adnam’s.  The food was quite poor too, compared to last year, with the venue providing the pretty average nosh – what’s more there was no cheese, again!

IMG_7818

Well, apart from a few supply and food grumbles, an afternoon spent sampling different beers is never one wasted – and I even won a prize on a pub game (first time for everything).

Will definitely be back again next year.

Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015

Last weekend I went to the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival at the Velodrome.  A winter visit to a beer festival is starting to become a bit of a tradition and spending a day in the warm, drinking good beer with a group of mates makes a change to getting wet and cold outside doing conservation-type things!Manchester VelodromeI particularly like beer festivals in great venues and they don’t come much more spectacular than the Velodrome – especially with practice sessions going on most of the day.  Some of the bars we around the outside of the track but the main event was in the middle – reached by a tunnel under the boards.

I went on the last day of the festival but unlike last year in Derby, there were still plenty of beers left.  I was particularly excited to try my first draught pint of the Purple Moose Brewery’s Dark Side of the Moose.  After having had many a bottle of this fabulous beer (after getting some freebies via volunteering at the Glaslyn Osprey Project – it’s made locally in Porthmadog), I’ve had to wait ages to have my first proper pint of it; I wasn’t disappointed!Dark Side by the tracksideHowever, I was disappointed by the lack of cheese – at the event in Derby last year, I bought a big cheese platter (and had it all to myself!) but this time there was only a pretty poor looking ploughman’s stall.Now I need to find another festival to go to at another great venue.

A tweet can lead to a good Nose for butterflies

Last night a friend posted on Facebook a photo of a caterpillar he had seen while working. I’m not great at identifying butterflies or moths, in fact I’m a complete novice, so I tweeted a copy of the photo and included Cheshire East Council Rangers (@CECRangers) in the tweet. Within a few minutes, Martin, the Ranger from Tegg’s Nose Country Park, replied and identified it as a Mullein Moth (no, I hadn’t heard of one of those before either!). Martin then asked whether I was attending the butterfly walk he was leading this morning. As I didn’t have anything else to do, I thought it was a great idea and booked a place via the Council’s (very efficient) on line system.

Image

As I drove to Tegg’s Nose this morning the weather didn’t look great and as I arrived at the country park, just above Macclesfield, the rain started to fall. However, I pressed on and joined a small, select band of hardy folk who, like me, didn’t really want to let a bit of wind and rain get in the way. Martin was joined by a local butterfly expert, who does weekly surveys of Tegg’s Nose, and the group of us set off to try to find some butterflies.

Slowly wandering around the country park in the rain and wind we didn’t expect to see many butterflies but spirits remained high, as did hopes that the rain wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, as the rain was blown away and the wind dropped, we started to see some movement over the grass. First we saw a few moths and eventually after over an hour of looking we found and caught (then released) a Meadow Brown and then found a Common Blue sheltering in the grass.

ImageImage

While the number of butterflies wasn’t huge, we were given some very good hints and tips on finding them in better weather and I will probably return later in the summer to check the place again – taking my butterfly education further. However, we didn’t just look at the butterflies on the way around and we were given a good general guide of the different habitats at Tegg’s Nose. The meadows and fields on the way back to the visitor centre had carpets of flowers and I got some nice shots with my phone.

Image 4

Some people say that social media reduces face-to-face human interaction – for me, today at least, it has done the exact opposite – used well, it can make life richer and fuller.

Winter Beer Festival – Derby

Went to the Winter Beer Festival at Derby’s Roundhouse yesterday.  The festival had a lot going for it…

Great Venue…

Roundhouse, Derby

A cheese stall…

 Cheese!

A Piper’s Crisps stall (the best crisps you can buy…in my humble opinion!)…

 Piper's Crisps

Friendly (if a little scary) staff!

 Friendly Staff

The Festival had the usual broad cross-section of society attending from old-style bushy beard real ale-lovers, through students and couples, to a fairy or two.

However, I wasn’t impressed by the number of beers they had run out of (I went to the afternoon session – the evening session might have been good for teetotalers) and the beer keeping could had been improved – many were flat.

Winter Ale Festival 2014 – I think it could be a case of nice try, try harder next time.

PS Derby has a very nice new railway station – Crewe has more work to do!