Appearing on BBC Breakfast

On Friday afternoon, as I was winding down for the weekend, I recieved a call from the press team at work who were looking for someone to appear on BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning to talk about the recent extreme rainfall and flooding and possible ways to reduce flooding in the future. On Friday their reporting had been very reactive, and the day after, they wanted someone to talk a bit more about possible solutions. As a result of my work on sustainable drainage I was asked to take part in the program. I rang the program producer, Victoria, and she asked various questions about the extreme rainfall and our work on sustainable drainage and before I knew it, my hotel in Salford and taxi to the Media Centre was booked.

At 6.30 on Saturday morning I was collected from the hotel and driven to the BBC. From here, a runner called Phoebe provided me with tea and took me to a waiting room where Ian McMillan was riffling through the newspapers in preparation for the newspaper review. Then, just 20 minutes before I was due on, I was taken to make-up, during which time the producer came to chat me through what would happen briefly, and then in no time at all I was in the studio on the sofa! The first appearence at 0710 was ok, but it went so quickly that I didn’t quite get chance to talk about the work that BGS was involved with, but it was a good ‘practice’ with only a mere 1 million viewers expected! Their first question was “Why has this flooding occurred and how can we resolve it?”; this is a big question to answer in 40 seconds! Then they asked “Are our drainage systems incapable of coping with this much water?” I think after this they jumped to talking to Malcolm from the Insurance Industry who was on a live link from London.

Appearence first time around, to a mere 1 million viewers (most of whom were probably vacuuming).
Remembered to smile 🙂

In no time, I was back in the holding room (The Green Room) eating croissants and chatting to Ian again. I was surprisingly calm in the intervening two hours before the next appearance, I have no idea how I managed that. But the time flew by. Twenty minutes before I was due on, we went back to make-up and then to the studio.

This time I knew what to expect, they asked me the same question as previously and so I got to the point much faster about how we can resolve such flooding (by using sustainable drainage to deal with surface water where it falls as rain). They asked again about whether our drainage systems couldn’t cope and then they jumped to Malcolm. The presenter indicated to me that she’d jump back to me and when she did, she asked me a question which allowed me to talk about our work that focuses on putting surface water into the ground, and about the drainage map of the UK that we’ve developed (http://www.bgs.ac.uk/suds/research.html). This second appearance went pretty well I think, I managed to say everything that I wanted in the period of time allocated (this was good, because apparently about 7 million people were watching…!). They even talked about my car, which was caught in a hailstorm last week! I’m glad they showed the pictures of the car, because I’d had to race around on Friday washing it, and finding a way to photograph it so that you could clearly see the dents!

Appearence second time around … to 7 million viewers!
The dints in my car caused by a monster hailstorm in Hinckley, Leicestershire

The whole experience was really interesting, but also really quite exhausting! I wasn’t shakey-nervous at any time (thankfully), but it was quite terrifying and almost surreal.

Thanks to my sister for taking photos of her TV!

Free gear and TV fame!

A few days ago I had an email forwarded from my running club inviting me to be an extra in the filming of an ad for a local business. The New Balance running shoe factory at Flimby, West Cumbria, is right on the coast, with great views to Scotland in good weather. When the weather is more inclement, on the other hand, the factory is exposed to icy blasts coming off the sea. A few miles inland there was snow so I suppose the only reason we had rain rather than snow was the salt in the local microclimate.

Looking over the Solway to Scotland

We assembled in the staff canteen which, after several hours with 100 or so people crowded in there, developed an interesting aromatic fug.

In the canteen - for many hours, ironically without food!

There was plenty of time to chat because we arrived for 9 am and did not actually do any filming for nearly three hours. To my surprise, although there were some local runners present, a lot of people were neither local nor runners. However, they all looked the part once kitted out. We had been told to turn up in running clothes without logos – a much harder task than first appears: how many items of “gear” do we own that don’t have a logo? Not many! Since we were all given New Balance gear this turned out not to matter. I was attired in a singlet (purple – hurrah!) and compression capris (don’t leave much to the imagination :(, but surprisingly comfortable once I got used to them 🙂 ) and new trainers, when I was one of ten chosen to go outside to run up and down a stretch of grass being filmed. It was f****ing freezing and by the time we had done this half a dozen times my hands were totally numb. I was very glad to get back into the factory.

Hardly anyone was at work today - I was told that they can choose their own hours on a Friday

Initially I had been given some purple and white trainers and as you can imagine was very pleased – until I discovered they did not fit, and they were replaced with ORANGE ones 🙁 🙁 🙁

Orange shoes - not my first choice of colour 🙁

Before long I was extremely happy they were orange: some time was spent with one group running from the outdoors into the factory, and the other group running from the factory out to the yard. Between takes we had to hang about at our respective starting points, and very fortunately the orange-shoed group were the group who started indoors – result! 🙂 🙂

We were all starving and thirsty by this time – it was after 2pm – and finally we were fed, plenty of buffet and cake and surprisingly good coffee. Then it was a change into different gear, in my case a long sleeved fluoro pink top (I “acquired” a jacket too but it was so big I gave it to Andy – a friend from my running club and not the Andy who usually appears in this blog) and back outside where, although frozen to the bone again I was at least sprinting backwards and forwards. Twenty unlucky people had to stand still in a line and watch the rest of us – as some of these were attired in as little as short shorts and singlets, I am astonished that none of them was overcome by hypothermia.

Back inside again and by now it was 4.30 pm. We had been told that the session would finish between 3 and 4 pm so there was a bit of muttering in the ranks when an announcement was made that we would be required for another 50 minutes. Andy and I were a bit loath to leave before getting paid, but when it was announced that the media company’s cheque book had been “forgotten”, and we would have to email invoices to the office, we suddenly remembered that we had children to collect and could not stay any longer. (Well, Andy has three children so I reckoned I could borrow one temporarily for this purpose.)

It was almost dark by the time we left!

From the factory car park at 4.45 pm

It was a novel way of spending a Friday. Even if we don’t get paid (and this has happened to me in the past when a film company went bust) at least we have lots of unexpected free gear. Oh, and of course a moment of fame. I was briefly on BBC Look North this evening, being interviewed on the strength of my being both local and a runner. Sadly I failed to take the opportunity of plugging my running club. The ad will be out in March I understand – blink and you’ll probably miss me!

BASE?

BASE

A colleague at work mentioned this today:

… you ever considered (or done any) BASE jumping? Caught a program the other week about Dan Witchalls and for some reason I thought of you! Is BASE just a bit too reckless?

An interesting question, and one I thought my answer to was worth publishing…

Hmm, BASE… When I learnt to skydive some years ago this was the plan, to go on to BASE, but it never really happened – cost, lack of time, etc. Yes, scary stuff, I think I watched the same TV program, the one where his mate crashed jumping a building in China and then again at the end of the program on a cliff in Norway? Not sure it’s reckless though, it’s one those sports where a meticulous attention detail is required, and needs to be maintained. Just one slip in this attention, a parachute cord just a millimetre out of place etc., and it’s game-over! It’s very hard to keep the attention going when you get very familiar with something, i.e. you become complacent. So in may ways the right skill set isn’t being brave, reckless, or some kind of crazy dude (although these all help), it’s having an incredibly fastidious attention to detail and being quite a little dull and a pernickety kind of person…

Any thoughts on my dismissal of BASE jumping bravery?

Alpine Club Dinner & BBC Micros?

Laetitia had invited Tut Braithwaite, president of the Alpine Club, to speak at the Climbers’ Club Welsh guidebook centenary celebration earlier this year. Tut gave a great talk and as a thank-you for his part in that great weekend’s celebrations he invited Laetitia to another great weekend as the CC guest at the Alpine Club’s AGM and annual dinner. Of course I got to go along too – as Laetitia’s side-kick! 😉

We started off with some sneaky M&S pre-dinner G&Ts in the lovely room the AC had provided… 😛

Pre-dinner drinks!
Pre-dinner drinks!

After that, our hosts – Mike and Marjorie Mortimer – plied us with more pre-dinner champagne! :star:

More pre-dinner drinks - our host, Mike Mortimer, shares a bottle of bubbly!
More pre-dinner drinks - our host, Mike Mortimer, shares a bottle of bubbly!

With all the pre-dinner drinking, wine accompanying dinner, and some serious post-dinner whisky sampling I had to accept that I was going to be greeted with a mega hangover on Sunday morning. But this didn’t stop, in fact it probably helped, us do our bit for CC/AC relations – catching up with as many people at the event as we could. This included a chance for me to meet Ian McNaught-Davis…

Meeting Ian McNaught Davis
Meeting Ian McNaught-Davis, a face who helped lead me towards my professional career in IT
... and make me the geek I am today! :geek:

Climbers will know Mac for his alpine and rock climbing activities, including his part in the BBC’s ground breaking outside broadcast of climbing the Old Man of Hoy. However, computer geeks who grew up during the excitement of ZX81, Spectrum, or Acorn BBC Micro development will instantly recognise him as the presenter of the BBC’s Computer Programme…

200px-BBC_owl.svg

If it hadn’t been for my first computer, a BBC Micro, (thanks Mum!) and my learning to program it, not only would I likely have a different career, this site would probably not exist! 😯

The weekend wasn’t all socialising, booze and food though. Despite my predicted and serious Sunday morning hangover, after one of Shap Wells hotel’s best cooked breakfasts, I felt a good deal less groggy so we headed home via Kendal climbing wall for some arm-popping plastic-hold-pulling action! 🙂

Pontrhydfendigaid [Pontahydavendiguide]

We often forget about bank holidays … and then we can’t decide what to do… so Thursday night we planned a weekend of running … shock! We tried to locate an area that could take a three-day route and that nicely split up into three-day portions allowing the luxury(!!) of B+B’s en route. So we decided on a trip starting at Llangurig, leading to Pontrhydfendigaid, then onto Rhayader and finally back to Llangurig. I’d been to the Elan valley area many years ago and Richard had never been, so it gave us a chance to see what this area of the country is like.

We drove to Llangurig on Saturday morning and set off with packs full to the brim of … pub clothes … shoes (!!! – normally a luxury not required), cheese and fruit loaf. The journey to Pontrhydfendigaid was interesting. The area is surprisingly barren at times, but with lakes and the occassional ancient landmark (burial chamber/cairn) it kept our attention. We finally came down to the Pontrhydfendigaid valley and found puddles full of tadpoles, but also, one puddle containing little crayfish! A few more miles later (and past the ancient Florida Strata Abbey) and we came to the nice little village. The day was a good 27 km – mostly off-path. After jumping in between hummocks of grass all day I was done. We watched the snooker on a black and white TV and slept!

Day 2 from Pontrhydfendigaid to Rhayader started off slowly after the cooked breakfast, but gained speed during the day. We travelled up the lovely valleys past the Teifi Pools onto the fell and then descended to the shores of the Claerwen Reservoir until we got bored and went off the track over a few hills. Sometime later we came to the main dam and then descended to the Elan Village. It was effectively a short walk to Rhayader from here on the road … however that wasn’t in keeping with the trip, so we bypassed the road by going up a huge hill, then another hill, and then on a footpath along a river which stopped at a bridge which didn’t exist! – hence we headed through thorn bushes for the last section. Eventually we landed in Rhayader. I was shattered, and was not amused when we walked the length of the B+B road twice before we found the house (complete with Stena stairlift!). The lady was nice, but had never heard of Pontrhydfendigaid – not surprising as now we realise that we’d walked/ran 40 km! After tea we flopped on the bed and watched the snooker in colour (we’re not snooker fans, but it was all we could manage in terms of brain power).

Day 3 was the easy day. We walked back to Llangurig past a Roman camp, past a few standing stones and then towards the end of the day we climbed a huge hill just so that we could walk within the wonderful wind turbines. After another 23 km we were back at the car.

We had a really fun weekend and are now completely knackered! 90 km/56 miles…

Valley near Pontahydrfendigaid:
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Dam at the end of Lake Claerwen:
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Old machinery…
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Freshwater crayfish in a puddle?
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Red kite:
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