Category Archives: Big Events

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2015

This weekend (24th – 25th January) was the weekend for all those interested in nature to do their bit and watch for those birds who enter our gardens across the United Kingdom.

For those readers familiar with me and my blog, you will understand how important I value the wild and nature. Last Spring we tried our best to encourage birds into our garden by providing them with feeders and nesting boxes. Since then we have stepped it up a notch and have provided our gardens birds with a nonstop supply of seasonal food throughout 2014 and into this year.

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It is hoped that by doing this it will also give us a better chance of seeing birds nest this year. I was lucky to receive a present of a new bird feeder stand which allows for numerous treats to be displayed prominently in our garden. In the lead up to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend I’ve kept it full to maximise our viewings over the weekend.

The RSPB guidelines for a successful and accurate Bird Watching experience is to time yourself for an hour and to only count the birds you see at any one time or snapshot of your viewing parameter. This will ensure you don’t duplicate birds seen and also give you a better chance of counting what you see accurately.

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We did a couple of Bird Watching sessions, one mid afternoon on the Saturday and one this morning as I write on the Sunday. It is quite interesting and exciting to see the birds habits by breed and type. Some are very much on a timetable and the regulars in our surrounding trees find the best moments to swoop in and grab their treats as the day passes by.

The results were really quite interesting and we’ve seen numerous different breeds of birds over this weekend. Some I knew we had visited before and some that surprised me. The spot of the weekend was a beautiful Chaffinch with its blazing maroon chest proudly displayed. Our cheeky Robin made a couple of appearances chasing away the Blue Tits and Sparrows whenever possible.

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So what were our weekend Bird Watching results? I’ve taken the highest figure of each variety to ensure accuracy and as per the RSPB rules. The results are as follows: –

3 x Blackbirds
6 x Blue Tits
1 x Chaffinch
1 x Coal Tit
2 x Great Tits
5 x House Sparrows
2 x Long Tailed Tits
1 x Robin
1 x Song Thrush
1 x Wood Pigeon
2 x Starlings
1 x Pied Wagtail

As the list confirms we have a garden full of activity and as I write up my blog I can’t believe the amount of Starlings I’ve just seen swoop down and snap up all of the Meal Worms I put out this lunchtime.

It is important to ensure that those like me who encourage wildlife into their gardens maintain the food supply throughout the year. It is obvious to see that these birds are now relying on our garden as a source for food. Stopping this will only harm them and potentially reduce the numbers and species that live on our planet.

#RSPBBigGardenBirdwatch

It’s been one fun weekend and I’ll be helping the RSPB with their amazing efforts.

Mark

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First Football Away Trip

This Saturday me and my friends Chris & Steve continued the traditional attendance to watch our teams Leeds and Birmingham play each other. This time around it was slightly more special as both Oli and Luke (Chris and Steves sons) were attending their first ever away match to watch their team Birmingham play.

After the previous meeting this season in Birmingham, which saw our sides battle out a 1-1 draw both our sides have had differing seasons. My beloved Leeds United just can’t buy a win and find ourselves one place above the relegation zone. Birmingham City on the other hand are the “form side” and with a new management team in place are up to the dizzy heights of 12th. Not bad considering they were all set to struggle yet again after their dramatic last day escape act at Bolton last season.

We met up at Leicester services and despite arriving safely had the first drama of the day. I’d sat in the car far too long with the heating and radio on and because of this drained the battery. What followed were comical scenes as we tried to jump start a power steered car around a car park on the M1. At the second time of trying we got there and were all relieved as my car whirred into action.

The drive up was equally dramatic with various periods of black skies throwing down sleet and snow as we got further North. At one point we saw the clearest rainbow and almost passed the end of it. It was so clear you could even make out the Indigo band, sadly no gold pot was to be seen.

With the car finally Parked up we wandered down a familiar path to me with some new additions, each footstep closer the buzz of anticipation grew. A quick stop at Greigs provided us with cheap food and hot drinks to keep us going.

As we arrived at Elland Road I showed Oli and Luke around our club shop which in comparison to Birminghams is about ten times the size. We had a walk around the outside of the ground, saw the Billy Bremner statue and had our photo taken outside the stand of the ground.

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As we peered through the gap from inside out to the ground the snow was hammering down. A bitter cold swirl of air felt as we pondered finding our seats. We were welcomed by wet seats despite being under cover, the wind can be cruel. A quick dry with our hats and coats and we were ready. The anticipation evident with just under 24,000 fans sat down following their prematch ritual be it a beer or a pie, or both.

The game was frantic from the off and despite an early penalty given to Birmingham which was duly converted by Caddis, Leeds were always dangerous. As the first half came to an end Leeds were knocking on the door and a cross looked to have been bundled in by Belusci only to see it somehow clawed away off the line by Randalph. Oli and Luke did well, I know how difficult it is not cheering when my team has scored, they were unmoved.

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The second half saw both sides hit the woodwork and debatable decisions not go the right way. Three penalty calls were all turned away as the tension grew. As the game headed into the last five minutes Luke Murphy was the saviour. He maintained his cool and steered the ball home on the half volley from just inside the penalty area.

A draw was a fair result and one that keeps Leeds United unbeaten against Birmingham City over the last two seasons. Everybody enjoyed themselves which at the end of the day is what it’s all about.

Luke and Oli both ticked off a big achievement from the life list and I look forward to having them both back next season. That is if we can hang onto our status in the Championship this season!

MOT

Mark

Saints pull the plug on Bath

Saturday saw my first visit to Franklin’s Gardens to watch Northampton Saints play Bath in the Aviva Rugby Union Premiership. I was treated to use of the Travis Perkins Box for the day and took some customers and colleagues along for a truly amazing day. The weather was perfect for the Sold Out match with a clear, bright, sunny day providing the pleasant backdrop for the near 13,000 crowd. Northampton Saints and Bath were 2nd and 3rd heading into this game, with the possibility of taking top spot depending on Saracens result.

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Part of the day involved a tour around the stadium which was pretty exciting. We got to walk around the ground and have a look in the players tunnel as well as the Home Changing Rooms. We were not allowed into the visitors changing rooms because apparently there were private confidential game plans on show! Either way this didn’t spoil the opportunity to look at parts of the ground many people could only dream of doing. There is a plaque on the wall by the Home changing room which lists by caps, the most capped players at the club in Saints history. This dates back to 1895 which is where all the records that weren’t destroyed by a fire are available to. There are some pretty impressive capped players with over 400 caps. I was also really grateful to get a photo taken by Pisi’s shirt, he is one of my favorite Saints players!

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As we looked around the bars and the trophy room we were also shown a wall which had all the photos of players past and present who have been capped by their respective country. This is when I discovered that Gregor Townsend who is my favourite Scottish player, used to play for Saints! A little bit of trivia as I like to educate my blogs followers, Franklin’s Gardens is the only English Rugby Ground to have a War Memorial Situation within it. I think this photo shows it off nicely.

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The food in the box was spot on and the drinks were flowing. Everybody was in great spirits ahead of the promising match that awaited us. Now I’m not one with great knowledge of Rugby Union, but Saints found themselves 0-13 behind after 10 minutes and staring into the possibility of being left behind. Bath were reduced to 14 men and in that time, 2 tries for Saints saw them take a lead that they never relinquished. The game saw Saints score six tries in total and claim a 43-25 win which was full of entertainment.

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There was one final twist as I discovered that I’d be presenting the Travis Perkins man of the match award to Christian Daly at the end of the game. There was also an opportunity to shake hands with North who played well and get right close to the team huddle at the end of the game. There will be a better photo to follow but this one shows me on the pitch. One funny moment is when I turned up to the box we were in during the game from the pitch, to see all the guys waving and chanting my name, awesome effort guys!

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A truly amazing day that I won’t forget. I’m converted, Northampton Saints is certainly my team!

DarcyB

A Night for Jon Brookes

In one of my first posts entitled Telling Stories, I spoke about the sad news of the passing away of Jon Brookes. Jon had collapsed whilst performing on stage in America to be later diagnosed with a Brain Tumour. Jon battled through treatment and was able to rejoin the band and take to the stage again in 2012. We learnt of his death the day after I asked my partner to marry me and the emotions felt that moment were simply numbing. We met Jon before The Charlatans performed in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival in August 2012 and would describe him as a down to earth, honest, friendly, hard working family man who was clearly enjoying the dream of being part of a successful band. Jon was their drummer and he quite simply blew us away with his performance during the gig that we were fortunate to witness from the front row that August night. Three weeks after that performance Jon’s condition suddenly worsened and he never fully recovered again.

Tim Burgess and Friends hosted an evening last night (Friday 18th October) to celebrate his life. It was also a fitting stage to highlight the devastation that Brain Cancer has on families all across the world. The stage was as grand as could be hoped for with The Royal Albert Hall showcasing this emotional event. The journey time from our front door to arriving on our seats was little more than two hours, which considering it was a Friday night in peak travel time, was delightful. There has been talk of further trips into London now we’ve realized how quick the journey takes.

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This was our first visit to the Royal Albert Hall and from the moment we entered it, I could feel the expectation and history generated from its structure. It just has one of those atmospheres which is hard to explain. The circular corridors were graced by photographs of previous performances including Elton John and Kiki Dee right through to Sir Cliff Richard. Despite it’s age, the building was looking very very grand and all the intricate detail in the architecture was a delight to view.

We went to the Elgar Room where there was a bar area and purchased a couple of reasonably priced ales. In the corner of this open room, there was a striking gloss red piano on a small stage which could only draw your attentions to it. We then made way to our seats in anticipation of the nights offerings and celebration of Jon’s life.

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Adrian Chiles was the MC for the night and his shared love of West Bromwich Albion was the obvious link to Tim Burgess. The opening performance came from Birmingham based band Dumb. Dumb were managed by Jon Brookes and their four song set was clearly full of emotion for the man who had given them a chance to succeed. It’s not every day you get to perform at a venue like this, it’s such a shame and tragedy it’s under these circumstances.

One of the most memorable performances of the night was then to follow as Tim Burgess performed with members of The Vaccines and New Order. Tim who needed the aid of written down song words to sing with both bands performed a breathtaking rendition of New Orders classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which brought the near capacity crowd to its feet.

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The Chemical Brothers performed a live DJ set in between acts on the night which kept the energy levels up on a night full of emotion. There was a video presented by the Brain Tumour Charity which showed real life families coming to terms with the effects this terrible disease has or has had on them. It was at this moment I could feel a real lump in my throat as it hit me right then how fortunate I am. This important charity was set up by a family who lost their 16 year old daughter to a Brain Tumour after realising there wasn’t a specific charity set up to research this Cancer. If you wish to donate after reading my blog their site is at:- http://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/donate

James Dean Bradfield then took to the stage to perform an Acoustic set. The Manic Street Preachers front man delivered an almost haunting version of “If you tolerate this” and an equally emotion filled performance of the classic ” A design for life”

Liam Gallagher followed with support from Bonehead and others and delivered two 90’s Oasis classics. “Live Forever” was a fitting choice of song and one of my all time favorite Oasis tracks as well as “Supersonic” Liam certainly delivered and it was great to see them turn out in support of Jon.

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It was only fitting that this amazing night of celebration was brought to a close by the three guys who have really felt the loss of Jon Brookes. The Charlatans performed an hour long set with classics included such as “North Country Boy” and “One to Another” it was another emotion filled set and one that brought the crowd once more back to their feet.

It was a truly amazing night and one that we will never forget. Jon’s wife wrote a piece that Adrian Chiles read out, thanking everyone for being there and the truly devastating effects that the family have felt because of this. All in all this was a fitting tribute to Jon and one that raised the importance that there is still so much work that needs to be done to beat Brain Cancer.

DarcyB

Party Perfection

This weekend has been a truly wonderful opportunity to share time with family and our closest friends. Since our Engagement in August whilst away on holiday in Cornwall, we have been blessed by the amazing people we share our lives with. We set a date for our Engagement Party soon after the proposal in Cornwall which was this Saturday.

It’s safe to say that time sneaks past us when we are least observant and it was exactly the same in this instance. We are both extremely busy with our jobs and since my relocation to Bedford it’s certainly made the time spent at home during the week shrink. It is at this moment I’d like to place on record in writing on my little blog a massive, sorry I mean a MASSIVE thank you to my wonderful fiancé for working her socks off in preparation and launching this fantastic party of celebration.

Now I’m a typical guy, not in the sense of being lazy and unaware of the urgency of certain situations, but in a more traditional sense. I mean I’m always there to wash up after dinner and in the rare instances I’m back before dusk, I’ll get some dinner on to help share the responsibility. I’m talking about the inability to gauge time and understand the order and detail required to make things go smoothly and without any trouble. It’s because of my fiancé, I must go on record again to thank her for undertaking all of these things on top of her workload which borders on excessive most days of the week. It is because of this tireless effort and commitment our party was the success it was.

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The weather was on our side and despite a worrying blanket of thick grey cloud in the early afternoon we were treated to a pleasant warm sunny day. We opted for an open house format of party, which in its name gave a simple and non time constrained day. The beauty with this is you are able to control the flow and keep a steady number of people with you throughout the day. This is great in theory, but as we are pretty awesome* people, the number actually increased as the day went on! 😉

* Self proclaimed by me.

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All the detail was beautiful, from the disposable cameras right through to the decorations we had acquired from random events during our busy year. The carefully selected play list of party tracks and songs right through to the ever filled food buffet.

We are looking forward to developing our cameras in the next couple of weeks and seeing what delightful moments have being captured. If it’s like past events, I’m sure there will be the usual one of me looking slightly perplexed and bemused by the situation.

A party is only as good as the people who attend them and it is because of this that I’d like to thank every single one of you. In fact as I write this blog in my speak I should say we both want to thank you for joining us. There were some amazing scenes of our families meeting each other for the first time and the opportunity for our friends to meet each other too. Obviously there were those unable to join us but wished they could. We would also like to thank you for being thoughtful and supportive with your kind wishes, we will be seeing you all very soon.

So what did I learn from co hosting a party on the day? Well I learnt that frozen mini pizzas do not take 15 mins at 180c (Waitrose we will be in touch!) and while Salad is healthy, people prefer couscous instead. I’ve also learnt that it pays dividends to have an Xbox 360 and a wireless network. The children aged between 2 and 14 were more than preoccupied with this and I couldn’t have been prouder with the fact there were no tears all day. I learnt that Pacman is still cool and that despite no one actually playing Scrabble, that there were one or two of the children inquisitively asking about playing the game! I’ve also discovered that our Bathroom now has it’s own fan club!

So once again I’d like to thank you all, you made our special day well and truly special. It was an absolute pleasure to invite you into our home. Oh and before I conclude this blog, I’d like to also thank a couple of people.

Firstly I’d like to thank Amanda from All Seasons Kitchen. The cake you made was an absolute treasure-trove of sweet chocolate delights. Everybody loved it and we were not surprised to be left with only a couple of slices at the end of the night. Please check out her web page to see what else she is able to create at:-
http://www.allseasonskitchen.co.uk

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And finally I’d like to thank our friends at Whittlebury Brewery for supplying us with a lovely 18 pint pack of Old Tun. My fiancée certainly knows how to spoil me and it was because of the quick delivery of this that we were able to enjoy it. Very reasonably priced we finished it off within a day and it went down a storm. We have both been invited to visit their brewery which is something we will be accepting. Once again, please check out their site, it’s a great place to see what they do at:- http://www.whittleburybrewery.com

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The frustrations of not being able to get Glastonbury Tickets this morning have well and truly evaporated due to all of you that made this so very amazing!

DarcyB

Life’s amazing

This weekend has been a very special one. It will be one that stays in my mind for an extremely long time and as I find myself sat back at home following it, I am smiling on the inside.

Whilst I was away in Cornwall a couple of weeks ago, I asked my partner to marry me. It was one of those moments that is extremely nerving and if any guy tells you otherwise they are either lying or have never been in that situation.

We spent this weekend back in my home town after finally revealing to the Facebook world that we are Engaged. We enjoy tradition and wanted to at least tell all of our family in person or on the telephone before splashing the news over Social Media. The weekend comprised of a lovely evening and BBQ at my sister and her partners with my family, before spending this afternoon catching up with my old school and college friends. If there is one thing I’ve learnt from this weekends antics, it’s that I’m not coming out of retirement and taking up playing football again! Oh and another thing, Mohitos are extremely addictive (thanks Luke!)

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On Sunday we went to Stratford Butterfly Farm which is a truly magical and amazing place. It was fairly overcast and chilly before we went inside, however by the time we’d left it had certainly warmed up. There were a huge variety of Butterflies that had lost all interest in landing on my grey T-shirt, however there were many situations where they intentionally moved just as I was taking their photo. I am almost certain they knew what they were doing. This place also homes snakes, scorpions, spiders and quails. The latter were out and about roaming with the butterflies, the others fortunately not. I can confirm that at one point the place felt like a Disney Film with colorful Butterflies filling the skies and fluttering around our faces.

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If this wasn’t enough, I’ve been clinging onto the number 33 with both hands clenched firmly around them. It was also a Birthday celebration for me and a rare year where my birthday didn’t fall on the Summer Bank Holiday. Tomorrow (or Tuesday, depending when you read this) I turn 34 and have been so grateful for all the surprises and gifts I’ve received so far. All I can say is that I am truly blessed and am very very fortunate to have the life I do. The sad thing is I’m back at work tomorrow where I’m pretty certain I will be buying cakes for my work colleagues. This is one tradition that I have no idea how and why it exists!? If anybody knows then please feel free to enlighten me.

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Finally I harvested some vegetables from our garden tonight. It was a pleasant reward for all of the hard work and effort put into watering and feeding our raised beds. I pulled up two beetroots the size of tennis balls and foraged around and found some potatoes and onions. I will be pickling these Beetroots tomorrow night and will let you all know how they turn out. I am half tempted to buy a cutter that gives them that crinkled crisp effect. Fingers crossed I can actually do it right. This follows on nicely from my blog about Self Sufficiency earlier this month. I think there may be a weeks worth of Beetroot in our household, wow!

Yes for those wondering, it’s me in the photo with my hands on my head. That kinda gives away my footballing decision. 😉

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DarcyB