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You Know It’s A Good Summer’s Day When…


… It rains and you can smell that lovely odour of water hitting hot tarmac – it’s sort of like sweet, dusty steam. If anything reminds me of long summer days when I was a kid, it has to be that. I should have expected it since I finally got around to washing my car yesterday – it always rains after I wash my car, that’s why I do it so infrequently (it has nothing to do with my being lazy at all).

Anyway, just to clarify, Saturday qualified as a John Conners Nice Day – and it’s not often I can say that! I just hope there are plenty more this summer, it’s about time.


Nice Day For A Barbecue

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Wow, it’s June, I’m in Yorkshire, and it’s been pushing 30C for the last few days. Can you believe it? Because I can’t – surely it should be raining! To make the most of the weather we decided to invite a few friends round and have a barbecue after the England match on Saturday.

As a Scotsman I should say that I was quite happy for England to win the match, although I was a bit disappointed with their performance (except Beckham, Real Madrid’s best player this season, I don’t care what the press say and Joe Cole who was excellent). I wouldn’t have minded an equaliser to make the match more interesting though!

Initially I said I wasn’t going to be the stereotypical male and do all the cooking, but after seeing Ben nearly set on fire by our over-active barbecue I decided to take over! And the irony was that after all that cooking for over a dozen I wasn’t hungry and didn’t benefit from my own handiwork. Nobody was sick though so I can’t have done too bad a job.

I’ve spent today rather tired after all the sunshine and our friend’s son constantly wanting to play football – these kids have boundless energy! Anyway, you can see the rest of the shots below:



Winter Must Be Coming


The strange thing about the onset of Winter is not that it happens but the speed that it happens. I’ve been expecting it for the last few weeks but it’s been strangely warm and not at all Autumnal. But over the last couple of days I’ve really noticed a change however – the nights are drawing in (suddenly it’s pitch black when I get home), the temperature has dropped about 8C, I’m struggling to wake up in the mornings and I’m really tired all the time. Happens every year.

I know none of my ancestors hibernated but it seems like a good idea right about now. This time of year is a bit of a waste really, it’s cloudy and rainy all the time, it’s perpetually dark, the days are short and getting shorter and it’s just not what I think Autumn should be. I tend to picture crisp, clear mornings, leaves falling gracefully off the trees, people jogging across the park and their breath freezing, cold but not too cold and a good preparation for winter.

Instead it’s a howling gale (which this year means my hair gets messed up all the time), the leaves are stripped from the trees, the joggers are sitting at home watching TV and while it might not be too cold, I can’t tell because I’m just about getting blown over all the time.

What’s even stranger is that almost exactly 2 years ago I was thinking precisely these same thoughts. While the seasonal shifts appear to be metronomic in their frequency, I can’t make the same complaint about the lack of a summer. By all accounts it’s wasn’t bad this year. Not great, but still not bad. Added to that, 2 years ago I was starting to break out the wooly jumpers but not this year, it’s still not that cold. Global warming maybe? Well not if the Met Office has anything to do with it – they’re predicting a cold winter. I say bring it on! Anything’s better than Autumn…


Nice Days Do Happen



Just to prove that you do get the occasional nice day in Yorkshire, here’s the view from the hills above Rylstone. Not a cloud in the sky in any direction which means only one thing: it’s a John Conners nice day. Probably the first one I’ve seen in this country in over a year!


The Start Of Real Winter


Just like in the summer – when I don’t consider it a nice day unless there’s a blue sky all day long and not a cloud to be seen – I have similarly strict guidelines before I will recognise the fact that it’s winter. Until these criteria are met then I’ll just consider it autumn. I don’t care if the car gets frosty in the morning or the temperature drops below freezing at night. No, that won’t do at all. It has to snow and the snow has to lie during the day before I’ll consider it winter. It can be sunny from then on but until it snows it’s just not cricket.

So last night a friend and I were out night mountain biking on Barden Moor (for those of you who’ve not been there, it’s a moor north of Skipton and consists of a slog of a climb followed by several miles of entertaining descents). Actually, while I’m on the subject of night biking, remember to charge your super-bright lights fully. If you don’t you will find that half way around the route when you’re furthest from the car, your lights will fail and you’ll discover just how dark it is out there. You will either have a long and difficult hike back to the car (did I mention that you didn’t bring a spare light?) or have to stay within the light cast by your companion’s floodlights (which is tough when he’s a downhilling lunatic on a full suspension bike and you’re not). Still, lesson learned.

Anyway, it was a beautiful evening – albeit a chilly zero degrees celcius – but with the right clothes that’s not a problem. As we got to the high moor it gradually began to snow, which was pleasant. Then it gradually began to snow harder. Which was still nice – blasting down a rocky descent having to contend with patches of ice as well as large snowflakes falling all around made for a very memorable experience, and that’s without mentioning that it was the dead of night. Then it began to snow even harder still. Which was slightly less pleasant as the wind that came out of nowhere was directing the snow into my right ear. I have no objection to having my ear blown in by attractive women, but the cold breath of icy snow is not quite the same. Eventually we got back to the road following some quality and sustained descending (taking in a fork in the path I’d never noticed before which caused a bit of confusion). Then it really started to snow and as we pedalled straight into the wind for the last couple of miles to the car I could barely keep my eyes open thanks to the stinging snowflakes. Which was not pleasant.

It was only a dusting of snow really but still, we were probably the first people in Yorkshire to see and feel the first snow fall while most were watching Eastenders or huddling in front of the fire. Life, it’s grrrrrrreat! Oh, and if it snows enough I’ll take some pictures, there just isn’t enough for a decent picture yet unless I can be bothered hiking up the hills…

Update: I forgot to mention that while we were blasting down one of the descents a Red Grouse (noisy, below-average intelligence bird) decided to burst into flight while making a hell of a lot of noise just as we were passing. It flew a matter if inches above my friend’s head (he never even saw it) and by the time I got to it a second later it was perhaps a few feet above my head. I could see my lights reflecting off the daft bird’s eyes! It’s difficult to describe the shock of something like that jumping out at you in the dark making so much noise and almost taking you out. Had it stayed put we’d never have known it was there – so much for natural selection.


A Cold Afternoon In The Dales


I spent Sunday touring around the Yorkshire Dales with my father in tow and happened to bring my camera along to capture some moody winter scenes. I know the British are supposed to be weather fixated so here are some pictures of some British weather.


A John Conners Nice Day


Being British I’m predisposed to discussing the weather far more than seems necessary. I also live in Yorkshire which seems to rain far more than seems necessary. It may come as a surprise then that I have rather exacting standards when it comes to a nice day. For me a nice day isn’t just above a certain temperature. It’s not about having some blue sky. And it’s not simply a day that doesn’t rain. No. My definition of a nice day is for clear blue skies all day without a cloud in the sky. If I see even so much as a hint of a cloud then it’s not a “John Conners Nice Day”. And I’m pretty sure that the last time I saw a day that qualifies in Britain was about 5 years ago. That’s the problem with having high standards for British weather, you spend most of your time being disappointed.

So it came as an intense shock that yesterday – of all days – was a “John Conners Nice Day”. The temperature was around 27C, there was a light, refreshing wind and there were blue skies all day long without a single cloud in the sky. I was so surprised that I actually forgot to take a photograph to post here. Sorry, you’ll just have to take my word on how nice a day it was.

After a bit of sunbathing in the sunshine (I’ve started to rather enjoy having a tan and wouldn’t mind keeping it a bit longer – sort of like a souvenir from my holiday) I went mountain biking. Unusually high temperatures and high-exertion exercise probably don’t mix too well but it seemed like a good idea at the time. While driving to the meeting point I was ice cool in my air-conditioned car (how did I ever live without it?) thinking how much fun the biking was going to be. As soon as I parked and stepped out I felt like I’d just stepped off a plane in the middle of a desert (hit by a wall of heat). I’d filled up my Camelbak to its full 3 litre capacity in anticipation of a bit of sweating and I wasn’t disappointed.

It was surprisingly hard work but very rewarding – the views were superb and my tan is coming along nicely. I’ve lost quite a bit of my fitness due to my lazing around on holiday for two weeks so that didn’t help. In fact I’ve been suffering from post-holiday blues since I came back from Antigua, but a nice sunny day tends to take all the troubles away. It’s funny walking down the street in Skipton on a sunny day. Everybody’s smiling and there just seems to be a better mood around the place. Cut to a typical cloudy day and everybody seems to be walking around with their own personal rain cloud overhead. Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, this is probably all the summer we’re going to get so I better make the most of it. Anyone for tennis?


Some Scottish Weather Memories


Being British (that’s Scottish first, then British) I’ve always had an obsession with the weather driven into me from an early age. I’ve tried to fight against it and be neutral towards weather with varying degrees of success. In fact, the only weather I really notice is weather that is out of the ordinary. The rest is pretty much the same, cloudy with frequent rain showers. So with that in mind I thought I’d catalogue some of the more memorable weather experiences I’ve had over the years, mostly while hiking in my home country of Scotland.

Wind that makes rivers flow uphill.

I experienced this while climbing Ben Nevis (that’s Scotland’s highest mountain) a few years ago with a good friend of mine.


We opted to not follow the “tourist path” up the mountain because it’s so commonly used and it’s tedious (I believe you spend several hours looking at false summit after false summit thinking you’re nearly there, which you’re not, until you just don’t care any more). So we skirted around to Allt a’Mhuilinn, the glen on the north side of Nevis and proceeded to walk straight up the side of Carn Mor Dearg (next to Nevis) and around the ridge and up to the summit (look on a map if you want to know what the hell I’m talking about). Hard work though it was it was made far, far harder by the ridiculous wind that was blowing all day. On the way up to the foot of the mountain proper all the little streams running down the sides of the hill were actually being blown straight up in the air like fountains. Quite a sight (should have taken a picture). The hike up the top part was tough because every few steps we would literally be blown onto our knees, powerless to stop it when it happened. I’d never felt so small and insignificant before.

Cold to freeze your soul.

Quite a few winters ago Scotland got hit by an unusually cold spell. The down side was that many thousands of home were without electricity or water for a time, but the up side was the clear skies that made excellent hiking conditions.


So I went with my then girlfriend, her brother and his wife (you following this?) on a day’s hiking. It was seriously cold and about -35 degrees C (which is damn cold by UK standards). I was wrapped up in 21st century technology (gore-tex jacket and ex-Russian army furry hat) so I didn’t really notice it until I took my glove off to throw a snowball at my girlfriend (I missed, for what it’s worth). Almost immediately my hand decided to put me through all kinds of pain as it rapidly started to freeze (I’m no wuss, every time I go biking in the cold my feet freeze numb almost straight away and I never complain about that). I had to work quite hard to get my hand to work again. Anyway, as I said, it was seriously cold. Lesson: keep your gloves on when you throw a snowball.

Life above the clouds.

I’ve always been fascinated by temperature inversion where you find yourself above the clouds looking down on a sea of white fluff. My most memorable encounter with this phenomenon was above Glen Shiel where a friend and I camped at over 3000 feet and woke up to perfect blue skies above us and rivers of cloud below.

1 - Version 2

You don’t have to be very high above sea level to experience weather inversion but it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world (at least it does with me).

Sunshine on a rainy day.

You can’t beat slogging through clouds and rain to have it all magically disappear and the sun shine through. It does occasionally happen and it’s great when it does, especially when you’re on the top of a mountain (even better if you’re in Scotland). Anyway, Glencoe seems to get more than its fair share of rain and it’s rare that it’s sunny when I’m there, but as you can see (right) it did one day.

relaxing in the clouds

So that’s a few of my favourite weather memories that I have accompanying photos for. More when I encounter them. I do have recurring dreams about tornadoes so maybe some day I’ll see one of them and it’ll make it onto the list…


The Wind-Down To Winter


Well, it’s getting colder in Yorkshire. There wasn’t much of a summer by my standards (my criteria for a nice spell of weather is at least 7 days with not a cloud in the sky – haven’t had that for a few years). But whatever decent weather we had is on the way out. Just last week it all changed. Strong winds, clear skies and a large drop in temperature. The nights have been drawing in slowly over the past month or so, but it seems to have suddenly accelerated so it’s dark by about 6.20pm.


I know when Autumn is upon us because I find myself wearing different clothes (and before you laugh I’m not like Bart Simpson – I do change my clothes every day – I mean that I change the type of clothes I wear). During the Summer months I wear either t-shirts or light, long sleeved tops so that I don’t get too hot. But come Autumn I break into my large collection of sweaters and start to work my way through them. I’ve got everything from reasonably light cotton tops to the sweater equivalent of a Wooly Mammoth coat complete with too-long sleeves and a collar that needs to be folded over a couple of times before I can see out of it (I love that top, maybe I’ll post a photo of it).

But of all the seasonal shifts I must say that I dislike Summer to Autumn the most. Okay, you get to wrap yourself up warmly and snuggle down in front of the fire. For me Autumn is the pregnant pause before Winter, and it’s not much good for anything. You can’t go snowboarding because it hasn’t snowed yet, but you won’t get a suntan because it’s cold, although not cold enough to wear a toasty down jacket. Winters are pretty wet, cold, miserable affairs in Yorkshire and that’s about all you’ve got to look forward to at this time of year. It’s almost like the world is saying “right, you’ve had it easy, now prepare for several months of misery”.

Maybe I’m being pessimistic. And you’re probably right. I was just starting to get in good shape on my mountain bike, and along comes Autumn to make the days so short that there isn’t enough daylight to go out after work and it’s too cold to wear my fetching short-sleeved biking top. I suppose I’ll just have to hold on and bike on the weekends and wait until I can go snowboarding in a couple of months.

I know that us Scots are supposed to be hardy and not complain about the cold, but that’s not my point – I can take the cold. It’s just the in-between weather that does my head in. Give me two complete seasons. It’s either red-hot and not a cloud in the sky. Or it’s ice cold, there’s loads of snow and not a cloud in the sky. Am I being unrealistic? Probably.