Tag Archives: BBQ

A Starfish On Snowdon

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You may have read about my friend Dave who I ride regularly with, covering the miles on our road bikes. ( see Tramline Dave)

I’ve known Dave for a number of years and shared the highs and lows of kids football. Often bending each others ears as we both stressed over our boys struggling through the mine field of junior football, striving towards playing club football. We first met when our lads both played for the same Sunday team, moving on to setting up our own team (Shawstars) and having the most fantastic season. It wasn’t just the huge successes we experienced on the pitch, but the satisfaction of watching a team of boys gel together. And the experience of places and environments they otherwise wouldn’t have had. It has to be said that Dave was the driving force behind all of these various adventures they were lucky enough to encounter and it was through his organization and enthusiasm that they took place.

Dave was the team manager but I was only interested in the coaching side of things. I think we worked well together. We got on, and still get on, fantastically well to this day.

That season went in a blur of games and Dave came up with the idea of ending the successful year with another camping date, having camped during the previous close season before playing a tournament up in The lake District. We Had had a fantastic time, so the idea of having a weekend camping up at Snowdonia in Wales and rounding it off by walking up Snowdon itself appealed to everyone. Even more so to those who had been unable to attend the previous trip and heard all about it.

Steve, the club chairman and I, spent a busy Thursday evening shopping in Asda, stocking up on all the food we could think of that the boys would need to eat or drink for the weekend. Sugar played a big part. We departed the following day, driving up in a scattered convoy of parents and kids, to meet at the venue, a camp site at the foot of Snowdon.

Everyone was in high spirits and we set up the tents straight away, helping each new arrival to erect theirs as they turned up.

The next thing to get going was the BBQ. You just can’t beat that open air cooking and the smell of burgers and sausages floating about. One of the parents had brought up a brazier, and it was duly loaded with wood from the 3 bags I’d brought with me ready to burn as the evening grew colder. As you can imagine, a few beers were opened and consumed – only to compliment the food you understand.

The brazier was lit and it seemed to transfix the boys. They spent the rest of the night adding fuel to it and hovering, waiting for the opportunity to add more. I think if they had had their way we would have had an enormous bon-fire and all the wood thrown on in one go and lit. I don’t know what it is with young lads and fire. They would have burned anything.

And I mean, anything they could have gotten hold of. Really. Anything. Cars. Tents. Sheep. Toilet block..

The next day dawned glorious. It was a bright, beautiful sunny day with a wide blue sky framed with the surrounding hills. We could see Snowdon itself in the distance. So after the obligatory group photo we headed off. The group gradually became strung out as we made our way up the lower slopes. We had intentionally tried to pick an easier route as some people had never done any serious walking before, so we attempted to play it safe and make sure everybody made it to the top comfortably. Some people were fitter than others and marched on. Those that were feeling a little tender from the previous night automatically gravitated towards the back of the group, and I like to think this was the most entertaining part of the assembly. After all. I was there..

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Anyway, as the walk progressed the distance grew between the front-runners and those of us who were Sunday-strolling at the rear. It was an incredibly hot day and it began to take a toll. Dave and I were walking with Wayne and our boys. We had known Wayne for a long time and he had always thrown himself into whatever we were doing with the team. I know he loved all the times we spent away with the boys. Well Wayne was slowly but surely beginning to struggle with the climb. And we had reached a point where it had become more-or-less vertical.

There was a climb of some 200-300 foot to get up. Having walked up the lower valley and swung around to face Snowdon, we had eventually reached this point where the going became quite arduous. The heat wasn’t helping Wayne at all. And this was reflected by his completely bald head and the permanent sheen of sweat that was dripping off it. We were literally stopping every 30 steps or so to allow him to get his breath and his colour really didn’t look good at all. Even the boys were becoming a mite concerned.

Although, from the boys point of view, I think their main concern was the fact that,
A. They were at the back.
B. This man was struggling and really slowing them down.
C. He could die
D. The other boys would get back to the camp before them at this rate and burn anything that was left to burn.

Waynes tent probably if it looked like he wasn’t going to make it.

I must admit though, I was getting worried myself with each stop we made left Wayne gasping for breath. Dave and I were sharing looks of concern and I know what he was thinking so decided to act.

“listen. I’ll head on up in front and warn the others. Take the boys with me. I’ll get Wayne a place on the train going back down.”

Better I abandon Wayne to Dave before the bastard did it to me I thought.

And seeing the look on Daves face I knew I’d done the right thing. He had probably been timing it to make his abandoning Wayne and I look more acceptable.

“Hoooo-noooo my friend.” I had a smidgen less shame than Dave you see. If Wayne was for collapsing let Dave give him the kiss of life.

In the mean time, Wayne was trying to fire a chocolate muffin down his neck, and wash it down with water in the firm, if misguided belief that it was going to have instant results.

“‘eah. ‘ood idea. I just ‘eed to get some fuel down me neck. Have a rest for a minute -”

Force more chocolate muffin in there.

“- you carry on-”

Glug water on top of muffin.

“- Trains a great idea. Don’t think I’ll make it down walking. I’m ‘ucked.”

Whoooa! Hang on pal-” Dave..

“Yes! Your bang on Wayne. Least I can do. I’ll just scoot on up to the top and get it sorted! Come on boys. With me! left foot first now!!”

Whooooa! Just a fuckin min-” Dave…

I was becoming a bit frantic in the haste to be away and desert Dave and Wayne, before Dave could put up a more serious objection.

“Yes! Best get it sorted! You may need a helicopter calling in at this rate!! Ha! Yes a helicopter ride! You’d like that Dav- I mean Wayne! ” I added looking square at Dave with a smile as I hustled the boys on up the path.

I’m sure Wayne was thinking, “What a fella. Doing this for me” as I headed off.

“Phone me if there’s any problems!”

I called over my shoulder, Which I’m sure Dave would. Many colourful things. knowing as well as I did there wasn’t much of a signal to be had for any mobile phones.

I looked back briefly once to see Dave helping Wayne back to his feet and watched Wayne gesture weakly that he “Needed fuel. And water. Please god.” Then Dave started shoo-ing him on up the slope and I quickly turned away before he could try and attract my attention.

“Will my Dad be ok Mike?” asked Waynes son

“Yeahhh. No worries lad. He’ll just be a bit thinner though.”

“Not eating all that chocolate cake he won’t.”

So on we went until we reached the end of the serious climb and it leveled out into a much more manageable walk. It was easier to breathe again and as soon as Wayne reached this point it would be a more comfortable trip for him.

You can imagine my surprise when my phone actually rang some 30 minutes later, and I fumbled it from my pocket to see Dave’s name lit up, and turned to looked back down the slope to see where they were as I answered it.

“He’s on the fuckin floor pal!!” Said Dave immediately upon hearing my voice. “Flat out. Can’t get him up!!”

I finally spotted Dave, a distant figure, speaking urgently down the phone, with his other hand cupped over the mouth piece, walking to and thro around Wayne, who was lay like a star fish on the floor.

“Give him some fuel mate. Give him some chocolate muffin. He seems to like that. And some water! Give him some water!!”

“I can’t!! He already ate the fucking lot!! And I don’t have any water left because he drank it all trying to wash the muffin down!! And then he just threw it up all over the shop. He been heaving like a professional bulimic, then he’s flopped on the fuckin floor. WTF am I going to do???”

“Well first of all you need to calm down mate. Calm down.”

“What do you mean you bastard, calm down! Calm down??”

And his voice actually went up a couple of octaves showing. Clearly. I was the much calmer person here. I felt like putting my hands on my hips and striking a pose. I can only say my calmness was a reflection of my much faster thinking and inclination to abandon Dave and Wayne. I know he was just wishing he had done it first. I was also 30 minutes further up the slope and closer to salvation.

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(The view Dave would have had of me in the distance when he phoned. Snowdon summit beyond)

There was nothing else for it. When you manage to drop some one else in it, you need to maintain distance and keep a perspective, while reassure them that its not as bad as they think.

“Hahahah! Your fucked mate! I’ll phone the helicoptor for you at the top!!”

And I marched on. We managed to reach the summit, where I have to say it was packed with people. I mean packed out. There must have been 2 or 300 people up there. And as we made our way up the final slope along side the train track, I looked to the right, back the way we had walked and thought it looked so gradual. It completely hid the strenuous climb we had completed.

Then I looked to the left and it was like a slope only a mountain goat would climb. It just dropped away into the opposing valley. And clinging to the side of this vertical rocky face, was a ribbon of a path threading its way up towards us. With people picking their way upwards in single file, as it wasn’t wide enough to do more. And I just thanked god we hadn’t decided to come up that route.

Because I’d have abandoned Dave a wayyyyyyyyyy sooner otherwise.

Dave did make it to the top with Wayne making a herculean effort to get there. And we left him there to rest looking pasty and weak, to gather his strength, while we began the descent down a much easier path into the town Llanberis. Wayne would travel down on the train as Steve, who was the only one sensible enough to ride up the much more relaxing route, on the train, had given up his seat to rescue Wayne. We would collect him on the way back to the camp.

We did have a moment of pause when some 30 minutes after departing the summit, we watched an air-sea rescue helicopter head up towards the summit, and we did wonder if Wayne had taken a turn for the worse. But it turned before it reached the top and hovered over the edge of a lake we had passed on the way down, then turned and headed back over us.

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It took some 2 hours to walk back down in the extreme heat of that day, and it really was hot. The only relief we had was not stressing over whether or not Wayne could manage it. It was nice to finally reach the bottom and head straight for the pub for a well earned pint, sat outside the in the heat of the afternoon, absolutely exhausted..

It must have been by the 3rd pint before anyone remembered Wayne.

“Ohhh shit! Wayne!!!”

We had completely forgotten about him in our rush for a cool pint. He had been waiting some 3 hours to be collected.

Steve jumped up and drove down to the station where the mountain train terminated to find Wayne again, star-fish prone, on the embankment outside. He brought him back to the pub where he managed a cold pint. A lot more leisurely than the bottled water he had been using to try and force the muffin down.

“You ok Wayne? Feeling better?”

I must admit he didn’t look much better.

“Well, I thought I’d just relax on the train, but hadn’t gone 200 yards when I started chucking up out of the side. I can tell you I cleared ALL the seats around me sharpish. Its a wonder that the train didn’t pick up speed and run out of control with everyone sat at the front next to the driver.”

Wayne had spent the whole trip down retching and being sick out of the side of the carriage. Just to add to his misery, when he finally reached the bottom he at first tried sitting patiently, then gave up and just spread-eagle himself on the grass in despair, not having the energy to do aught else.

“I’m just glad you finally came for me.”

“Well what else could we do Snowy? We Couldn’t leave you any longer.” Said Scott, another dad on the trip, giving Wayne his new nick-name.

“It was the only thing we could do. It was your round.”

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(Dave and daughter Lucy, at the start. Obviously.)

Jonny Moonshine

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I first met John while walking around Bury checking out a job as the one I was working on was coming to an end. He was working on the front entrance of a Witherspoons and was machining some material. I got talking to him and it was through him that I started on a bar refurb in Wigan some 3 months later, where I actually got to know him.

This was the job I mentioned previously where I also came across Jimmy, (see “Have You Heard of Jesus?”) the born-again Christian, getaway driver. Its a long story.

I became firm friends with John who is an absolute gentleman. He’s some 30 something years older than I am, always neat and tidy, dapper even, and looks fantastic for his age. He’s a very quiet, private person, with very dry humour. Tends to speak only when he feels its something worth saying.

So if you want someone to keep a secret, Johns your man.

Brew time tends to be a set routine of john with his pre-set snacks, the small-but-often diet. Very particular. Brings his sliced tomatoes in a separate container, then adds them to his sandwhiches because,

“They make the bloody bread soggy!”

He’s old school, that pre-war generation with the stoic outlook. And none of the ridiculous Political Correctness that is so often applied to everything these days.

Why can’t I call it a Blackboard?? Political what now?? It black and its a board!! Talking bloody nonsense!!!”

He wears glasses that he tends to look down his nose through, so there can be a pause as he gives a measured looked at something before answering a question. Unless I’ve wound him up enough to bite.

“Something on your chin John..”

“Be something on your bloody nose if you carry on..” the reply will be whipped back.

And, he has magnificent eyebrow, ear and nose hair that can only come with age, (or wisdom as john likes to think). The barber trims the lot every time he goes for his hair cut. I often imagine the barber with Johns head between his knees, sheering..

I love Johns company. I can relate to where he grew up, as I came from the same original area which only began to change a few years after my Mum and Dad moved, with me in tow, a few miles away from it. In those days, none of the old houses had hot running water. I still remember my own Grandad telling me of Friday night bath nights at Harpurhey Baths, an old Victorian swimming pool with beautiful tiling through-out, though sadly long gone. You went there after a week of making do, stripping down, using boiled up water in the sink, a flannel and a bar of soap.

There were individual changing booths poolside, with a 3/4 wooden door on each. Above, a balcony ran the perimeter of the pool and up here were compartments with baths in. In those days a man came along with a big spanner, loosened a nut at the end of the tub to release the hot water. When he felt it was full enough, he would tighten it to stop you using more than your quota. Then, in you popped had your bath and were good for another week.

Talking to John about these things was like catching up to a piece of the past. Things I had been told about on my grandfathers knee. Not so much good old times because they weren’t. They were hard for all concerned. But a greater sense of community existed. You knew everyone shared the same hardships.

But as I got to know John, he eventually became Jonny Moonshine.

A much better name.

John travels as much and as frequently as possible. All over the world. Loves his holidays. And now he’s retired he tries hard to maintain his 78 year old playboy lifestyle and has recently discovered cruises.He treats it like its his own enormous private yaght. Also, he’s the only person I know who navigates via pub names. And if you were to get directions off him, sign posts would invariably be pubs scattered along the route. This may give the wrong impression. Please, don’t get me wrong John isn’t a drunkard or any such thing.

However he does appreciate a good pint and a good pub. And that’s a vastly different thing.

And one thing he could tell you about is a good pint and which pub he had it in, probably looking off into the distance and smacking his lips as he does..

A couple before his Tea always adds to his appetite he says. Again this is a routine long established and long may it continue says I!

The name Moonshine came about after he visited Tennessee, in USA. The night before flying home, after some hesitant consultations with some local’s, (beer probably had something to do with it too,) John arranged to meet, in the middle of nowhere, 2 shadowy gentlemen, bearing Clay pots. Within which was the real deal Tennessee Moonshine. After paying these kindly gentlemen for their succor, he made his way back to his Motel to show Joan his wife, the beautiful pots and what lay inside. She in no uncertain words, explained to john that trying to board a plane with such obvious containers was likely to lead to johns rapid incarceration, and introduction to American Justice.

So, he decided to buy a couple of lemonade bottles, which he duly emptied and,(with regret it must be said) transferred the contents of the splendid clay pots into said bottles. As the moonshine was crystal clear it was a foolproof plan.

Then, as panic and imagination set in, he decided that the best course of action was, to drink as much as was humanely possible prior to flying. Just in case it was discovered and confiscated en route through the airport. As it happened, he literally sailed through customs. Though at one point, thought he had gone blind due to the moonshine but finally calmed down when he realized he had rested his glasses on his head.

He only managed to actually board the flight with Joan shoring him up on the steps. Once in his seat he slept like one in a coma. Snored like a chainsaw across the Atlantic, and only came to, and regained the use of his legs, and eyes, as wheels touched down in Manchester.

Not long after I bought him a hip flask which, he would bring with him on a night out. Offering “snifters”.

And I can confirm, my legs and lips ceased to work for periods, but there isn’t much else I could tell you, because that whole period is a black hole in my memory.

But then things had a habit of happening to Mr. Moonshine when he had a drink.

It was a similar story when his son “passed” out as a police officer and john went to attend the ceremony. Having watched all the awards, the shiny new uniforms marching up and down, and tasting some of the beverages available, it was a disappointment when the day was forced to end prematurely when it started to rain. Torrentially. And it made for a quick exit for the car.

On entering the venue, there was a central island that you drove around to enter a car park, then walked back around it to the venue entrance, through the building to the parade ground. So when the rain began to fall in volume, John decided that the best and quickest way to the car was via straight over the central island. And, he charged from the doors and onwards over the island, head down at speed.

What he didn’t realize was that the core of the island, was a pond.

He was knee deep before he could stop and he only managed to do that when momentum was reigned in by weeds in the water. His forward movement ended abruptly by diving head first into the pond.

Unfortunately, I can only wish I had been there for that one. Because I would have paid good money to have witnessed it in person.

Another time, he decided he was having family round for a BBQ. which, he wheeled out and held in his garden. It was of course a roaring success. Upon completion, John, having had a few, packed Joan off to bed with,

“I’ll just tidy things away.”

Which he promptly did.

A couple of hours later they were woken, (or Joan was, John was comatose), by a Police officer and Fireman who had been alerted by a neighbour, of all the smoke gradually issuing from Johns house. Joan was whisked from the house in her nighty, whilst an officer risked life and limb by hazarding the stairs to rouse John.

John promptly refused to leave unless dressed, which, it has to be said he did rather smartly. Leaving some minutes later looking very debonair, if glassy eyed, in a 3 piece suit and shiny shoes..(He may have even shaved.)

This in some comparison to Joan, breathing through an oxygen mask, who by this time in an effort to protect her modesty was dressed in a neighbours Donkey jacket, which finished 4″ up her arms, and a pair of size 10 trainers, that flapped on her feet every time she took a step..

It so turned out that John when clearing away, had “cleared away” the still smouldering BBQ back under the stairs where it was normally kept. This eventually set fire to them and was responsible for Coco the Clown and James bond walking into casualty.

I don’t think Coco has ever forgotten.

But I have to say, I still thoroughly enjoy this wonderful mans company and see him regularly.

A fantastic once-in-a-lifetime gentleman.

My friend Jonny Moonshine…