6 Months in…

Wow, that passed quickly!

hip, hip, hoorayFirst thing I have to say is, so far, retirement has been everything I had hoped it would be, although it has also felt a little surreal at times too. As far as my former job is concerned, whilst I have missed the social interaction with work colleagues, I have not missed any other part of it at all.

The mornings spent rushing to get out of the house only to sit in traffic are now spent walking with Borys to Bidston Hill and back, a return trip of just over 4 miles. The days spent staring out of the office window at the sunshine, knowing full well it would be dull by the weekend, are now spent with Barb, enjoying being able to do whatever we put our minds to.

The transition has been a little strange. The first thing we did was create a list of all the jobs that needed doing but hadn’t been done owing to time constraints. I initially planned to get up at the same time as I did when employed and get stuck into the ‘to do’ list, however, without the pressure to have things done by any particular time.. well things didn’t get done. Before long I also stopped getting up quite so early, and then even less early!

I did enjoy this more relaxed approach to life, especially during the wet and cold winter mornings, but, I really did need to find a balance between maintaining a healthy sense of well-being and still managing to be productive.

Immediately after the festive break Barb and I attended a Caravan and Motor home exhibition and this got both of us enthused again. Our camper van had been converted with a partial panel separating the driving cab from the living area. Barb had suggested we open this up a few times, but I had resisted owing to ‘time constraints’. Now we had no constraints, we had the enthusiasm, the mornings and evenings were lighter, so we got stuck in straight away to the big camper refit. Our desire to get it done, and get back on the road as quickly as possible,  providing the necessary driving force to push the project along.

Follow the refit updates in Camper-van news

Looking forward to completion and more adventures on the road soon.

Hooray for retirement 🙂

I Retired Today

Finally my long awaited Retirement Day has arrived! 9 years and 4 months earlier than expected, but hey, I’m not complaining, in fact I’m over the moon about it.

I know for some this would probably be the worst thing that could happen to them, however, as I have always viewed retirement as the pinnacle of my career path, I’m more than pleased it’s arrived a fair bit earlier than expected.

It’s not that I’m lazy or work shy, I often did a lot more physical work on the weekends than I ever did during the ‘working week’, it’s just that there are so many other things I’d rather be doing than sitting at a desk all week, such as going off on adventures with my wife Barb, and our dog Borys, in our camper van.

That said, Barb, who retired a few years earlier, says I may be surprised how much I will miss being at work when the reality of being retired kicks in. I’ve also read a few articles by people who have struggled to come to terms with being retired and have become quite depressed. On the plus side, many articles suggest that having an active lifestyle with many interests is the way to have a positive retirement, and I certainly have a wide range of interests to keep me busy.

There is absolutely no doubt I will miss the team of people I worked with, but I’m hoping my ‘former colleagues’ will remain very close friends. They organised a fantastic send off for me, with a ‘Great Escape’ style tunnel committee meeting, superb cakes and snacks, a ‘Golden Ticket’ geocache to find in the university grounds and rounded  the day off with a few drinks together after work. So a very big cheers to the Systems Development Team of Liverpool Hope University and everyone else who came to wave me off during the day.

I’m planning on keeping this blog regularly updated with all the stuff Barb and I get up to, accompanied by Borys, Sully, Xena and Froggy,  as we begin this exciting new chapter in our lives. You’re all welcome to ‘virtually’ join us if you’re curious to see how it all pans out.

Well, time to start the adventure and see where it leads us all 🙂

The Great Escape

Time to fire up the blog again!

It’s been quite some time since I last updated this blog, and even though a lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge in that time, I just didn’t have the desire to add any of it to this site.

However, my life is just about to undergo a major change, I’m on the point of taking early retirement and Barb and I are hoping to embark on a lot of new adventures, accompanied by our lovely dog Borys.

So now seems a very fitting time to fire up this blog again and record where our new life takes us.


Borys Joins the Family

After the loss of Gromit we quickly realised how much we had become ‘dog’ people. Gromit had been such a demanding dog that our whole lives had slowly shifted to being virtually all about caring for his needs. With a great deal of indoor entertainment between lengthy daily walks and two training sessions a week, looking after him was a full time job and losing him had left a huge void in our lives which needed to be filled.

Having Gromit had introduced new activities and social gatherings into our lives, activities that we had both come to enjoy very much, so we knew that we would get another dog eventually. However, we hadn’t planned on getting another dog so soon after Gromit’s accident until we discovered that two of Gromit’s litter brothers were still being kept in a pen on a farm still waiting to re-homed at almost 21 months of age.

After Barb had a chat with Gill, the dogs owner, we decided to go up to the farm to meet Borys. Gill had assured Barb that Borys was the more passive of the two remaining dogs and had shown definite signs of being cat tolerant, important as we have three cats. We also decided to go up in our camper van so we could stay overnight and get to know Borys a little better before deciding what to do.

Needless to say we fell for him immediately and he ended up staying with us in our van overnight. I’d taken a handful of chicken treats with me and, although he was very nervous and submissive, I think this won his trust fairly quickly.

We knew we would have a lot of work to do with Borys, as he hadn’t had any real training nor spent any time living indoors, however, we decided that the least we could do in Gromit’s memory was to turn his misfortune into his brother Borys’ good fortune.

Turns out that was a great decision as he is turning out to be a lovely dog, although the cats don’t think so yet!

Bory's relaxing in the Van

Borys relaxing in the van

Gromit – Shine on you Crazy Diamond

On Saturday 1st of March our beautiful dog Gromit was killed on a busy road in Wales having unexpectedly forged his way across a small river and a large marshy area in pursuit of some sheep he had spotted way over the other side of the valley.

We were staying at a camp-site that we had visited many times, a location we believed to be a safe place to let him run free, unfortunately this didn’t turn out to the case. Thankfully Gromit was killed instantly and will not have felt any pain or even been aware of what happened to him.

I cannot begin to describe the loss my wife, Barb and I felt on that day. Gromit was a ‘Tour de Force’ bursting with energy and endless vitality. Many times he left us feeling exasperated, as he always remained a very wilful dog, despite the hundreds of pounds we spent on training. We’d tried many times to teach him recall but with no success. In many ways it was the wilful aspect of his personality which made him the dog he was, the dog we loved so much, but unfortunately it also ultimately led to his untimely end at only 21 months of age.


Our beautiful boy. Gone in a heartbeat.
It was the best day in a dog’s life,
Running with the lurcher, learning fly ball.
Such high hopes for his skills,
He was intelligent, smart and so very fast.

Camping at our old haunt, visited many times
Our kids, many friends…..all have been there.
So many happy memories, now tainted for ever.
A moment’s lack of attention, ears flattened to head,
And he was gone, running with the wind.

And it was over, no pain, just so still.
The well-meaning farmer, used to the death of animals
Awkwardly comforting, offering a puppy to ease the pain.
And the pain was as never endured before.
A loss so profound, life changing. Final.

And then the chance to give love to his brother.
Poor neglected boy, now here to fill our days
And ease the pain of the loss of our beautiful boy.
The human capacity for love and Borys’ need for love
All melded together for our new journey.

Barb Mclean

Welsh Perry and Cider Festival 2013

During the Spring Bank Holiday we met up with our friends Rachael, Barrie, Lee and Darren on a camp-site in Gloucestershire for a couple of days. While we were in the area Barrie suggested that we all visit the Annual Welsh Perry and Cider Festival being held in Caldicot Castle over that weekend.

We had an excellent time there, certainly helped by the beautiful weather and the beautiful surroundings. This was the 12th year of the festival and the first time it had been held at Caldicot castle, The event generally runs all over the weekend and camping facilities are available at a very reasonable rate.

We just went for the day on this occasion but will definitely be keeping our eye on the Welsh Perry and Cider Society website for details of next years festival with a view to camping throughout the event.

It cost us £6.50 entrance fee each, for which you are provided with, a guide to the available ciders and perrys, a glass for sampling the aforementioned drinks, lots of entertainment and live music and a fantastic atmosphere. You also have to buy a sheet of tokens which you then exchange for those perrys or ciders that you decide you like after enjoying a few free samples of the available choices. There are also plenty of stalls selling food and craft items.

Best of all, well behaved dogs, kept on a lead, are also allowed in, so Gromit got to enjoy the event too 🙂

Gromit’s Attentiveness Training Program – Session Three

Monday evening – 22 April – Birkenhead Park

It seems my optimism following yesterday’s training was entirely misplaced.

BulldogWithin minutes of arriving and beginning training we were joined by a 12 month old Bulldog called Spence. Spence and Gromit immediately hit it off, and, as Sharon also told us it was very important that Gromit got as much interaction with other dogs as possible, I decided to let them play. Not that I appeared to have much choice at the time!

Because Gromit and Spence were playing quite boisterously I ended up having to let go of Gromit’s leash, which was ok for about 5 minutes, after which both Gromit and Spence spotted another, smaller, dog and decided to involve it in their game. Fortunately the owner of the small dog knew George, Spence’s owner, and, whilst clearly panicking slightly, was also relatively understanding whilst we attempted to extract her dog from ours and restrained our, much larger, dogs from swamping hers.

Having resolved that issue, I was trying to explain to George why I had to keep Gromit on a leash, particularly in wide open public spaces. I wasn’t entirely convinced that George fully appreciated my problems. His dog ran after other dogs, he said, and he wouldn’t always come straight back, he assured me, but he didn’t think it too much of a problem, just dogs having fun, he said. Gromit must have been listening in to this conversation because he then took the opportunity to fully demonstrate his capabilities and headed off across the park at around 40mph pursuing some joggers he’d spotted on the horizon! Within seconds he’d disappeared!

Whippet in full flight

I left the ‘now fully up to speed’ George and headed in pursuit of the ‘now at full speed’ Gromit!

After a few minutes desperate calling, Gromit reappeared on the horizon. He appeared to spot my frantically waving form and headed back towards me at top speed only to effortlessly pass by me at the last-minute as he headed back in  Spence’s direction. Fortunately I managed to get my foot on his trailing leash and brought him to an abrupt halt.

By now the entire parks attention was on me and I started to feel somewhat foolish as I marched up and down the park dragging a clearly reluctant dog behind me and after a few minutes of total in-attentiveness I knew this session had been blown out of the water!

From Gromit’s point of view this was an excellent session as he had lots of exercise and doggy interaction. From my point of view it was a total disaster!

Gromit’s Attentiveness Training – Session Two

Sunday afternoon – 21 April – Birkenhead Park

It rained throughout the session, which was almost certainly the reason why there weren’t that many other people or dogs around to act as distractions. Had a 20 minute training session during which Gromit started to show signs of improvement.

We then went for a walk around the upper lake. I finished training off with a quick 5 minute session before heading home. Gromit continued to show good levels of attentiveness.

Quite pleased with progress, however, I think he was definitely in a subdued mood owing to being wet.