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Doodlecat's Homepage

Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

I would love to be able to say that Doodlecat is all my own work, but it isn’t. Much of the outdoors content is courtesy of the splendid people who participate in the annual TGO Challenge (there is a section entirely devoted to this unique event) and many others.

To help in tracking down that elusive morsel on Doodlecat, the search facility under the title bar above is tailored to help you find it, either on this home page (Doodlecat's Blog) all the rest of the site (Main Site) or – if all else fails - the internet!

So have a rummage around the old cat basket and enjoy your time with us!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Don't Panic!

"Well, looks like you're done for, Piggy" said Miss W as she peered over the morning paper.
"Why's that?" I asked.
"Swine flu", she replied with a brisk rustle of the pages. "You've had it, mate".

One of our great entertainments in the morning is to glean the paper for the latest threats to our and/or the nation's health as reported by Fleet Street's finest - we call it "What's going to kill us today?". Then we seek out the latest 'superfood' to counter the threat. Miss W & I take care to eat healthily, but the 'superfood' being extolled always seems to be whatever fruit or veg needs a bit of a marketing boost to counter flagging sales - like cranberries outside the sales seasons of Christmas and Thanksgiving, or the practically inedible pomegranate. I guess if I was sitting on an unsold heap of Goji berries or somesuch, I'd give it a whirl too.

This is followed by the next section - the 'wonderdrug'. The one in today's paper is an existing prostate cancer drug that as well as treating the disease apparently lowers the chance of catching it in the first place - so you have to take it when you haven't actually got any disease at all (according to research by Glaxo Smithkline ... who by sheer coincidence happen to be the manufacturers of the drug). As a sales & marketing man myself I have to admire this one. It's a neat elaboration of the idea that we should all be taking statins all the time (statins incidentally make the test for prostate cancer far less effective, so taking yet another drug as well, to prevent the cancer, makes sense ... doesn't it?). Yes, these guys are brilliant; maybe we should consider investing our savings in drugs companies. If they can convince government that their products should be fed to people who are perfectly well, and at the taxpayers' expense, they've gotta be worth a punt.

But what are we to make of the swine flu threat? I could be wrong, but recent history seems to suggest that it will join the long list of 'potential pandemics' that have failed to materialise. That won't stop our media's finest whipping up a fine old storm though.

Bird flu - remember that? The news reporters zooming up to Scotland to condemn the authorites for not immediately setting up a five mile exclusion zone around a dead duck found on a village pond and the rants from the strident lady who found it? It was wonderful to see London based anchormen ill at ease in the unfamiliar depths of the countryside for their 'piece to camera'. The most hilarious was seeing a pale faced townie dispatched to the wilds of Suffolk stare in wide eyed horror at the sky and declare, "There are wild birds flying around everywhere here!" The entire pub collasped in hoots of laughter.

The fact is, we've had far too many over hyped stories to take any of them seriously any more. 'Killer Eggs' courtesy of the woefully ill advised Edwina Currie, the great 'Mad Cow' threat, Aids killing 17,000 a year in the UK, etc etc. All stories hyped beyond all reason, and none letting inconvenient facts get in the way of a good scary headline. I wonder how many people have to be interviewed before the newshounds find a concerned mother who says how she is "terribly frightened for her kids". Of course, once the headlines start, our politicians feel the need to be seen to "do something", and so we have new laws, regulation and yet another layer of taxpayer sponsored jobs is created to administer it all.

The best bug of all was the so-called 'Millenium Bug', created by IT consultants for the benefit of IT consultants. A superb scare complete with its own logo. Planes would fall out of the sky. Power stations would shut down. Hospitals would no longer function. Civilisation would come to a shuddering halt as we plunged into a new dark age. When the the century turned and nothing happened the (now wealthy) IT consultants told us that it was entirely due to what a great job they'd done! Must have been difficult to say that without grinning, but with tongue in cheek and pockets full of cash, they managed it. Well done chaps! Mind you, I still worry about the family that went and set up home on a remote and uninhabited scottish island with their children and a year's supply of food, as they confidently predicted Armageddon for the rest of us. I wonder if they're still there? They have certainly given no further interviews.

As for the swine flu, we have been told that it 'can no longer be contained' and that it 'is here on our shores' after a couple in Scotland came back from Mexico feeling a tad below par. The hospital's statement that "they are not particularly ill" must have been a bit of a setback for doom mongers (and the face mask salesmen of course) but this was easily overcome by ignoring it in later bulletins and filling TV screens with huge scary graphics instead - these purporting to represent the killer virus (it's a rather pretty blue colour and looks surprisingly like something from the naughtier section of the Ann Summers catalogue).

Should we all wear masks? Per leeese!! It makes sense in Mexico City, but one chap was filmed boarding a plane at Heathrow wearing one. The only proven benefit of wearing a mask is to reduce the likelihood of YOU spreading infection if you already have the virus, but a mask won't neccessarily stop you catching flu. For that you need a respirator mask (with one way valves) sealed to your face all round so that all the air breathed in is filtered. The ladies in the picture have the right idea.

So here is Dr Doodlecat's prognosis - this year you and I will not die of swine flu, bird flu, your asbestos garage roof, eating mayonnaise, eating cheese (listeria - rhymes with hysteria) pork pies or haggis, but you might be run over by a bus (you, not me obviously 'cos I live in the country and we don't have much in the way of lethal public transport. Got chickens though ... and pigs ... oooo-er).

Recommended reading: "Scared to Death" by Christopher Booker and Richard North. An excellent book which forensically debunks the nonsense whilst not dodging the real risks where they exist. I don't go along with everything that Booker & North argue, but they are pretty persuasive.

In the meantime I think that the best advice is given by Corporal Jones of Dad's Army fame:

"Don't panic, Mr Mainwaring!".

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Loafing in the Lakes

Alan Sloman and sunset over Great GableAlan Sloman captures the sunset scene from High House Tarn
(the sun is behind Great Gable)

I'm sitting in my office at home with a couple of nightingales in the garden trilling and warbling in the most amazing way. The sky has been a cloudless blue, just getting tinged with a little pink as the sun begins to set. Can this really be mid April? Yes indeed - and this is exactly the weather we had for our pre walk daunder in the Lakes at the weekend. A marked improvement on last year!

What an absolutely splendid daunder we had. Thursday saw us rendez-vous at the Old Dungeon Ghyll campsite in Great Langdale, where we had Sue Oxley's Birthday eve to celebrate - a task carried out with great enthusiasm. As a result it was a somewhat subdued party that staggered back to the hotel for a bacon butty and bracing coffee before marching refreshed up Mickleden and over Stake Pass on Friday morning.

But enough of describing the route, which is not what daundering is about. Daundering involves some walking and a lot of loafing around, eating, drinking, chatting and generally having a good time. It is a time to try out the kit for the two weeks in Scotland on the TGO CHallenge (although as Peter Shepherd remarked after several long sit downs, "we've tested the arse of our trousers more than anything else").

Yes, daundering is not to be confused with 'walking'. It's about good fellowship and good times on the hill, which we had in abundance.

And glorious, glorious weather...

Here are a few pictures.

Richard White in red thermal underwearClark Kent inadvertently reveals his true indentity

Motorised barrow used by path repair crewCould this be the answer to carrying heavy packs?
(Gerry, Richard & David Albon)

Darren ChristieMichael HopkinsPeter ShepherdLeft to right: Darren Christie (festooned with gadgets), Mick 'Croydon' Hopkins and Peter 'Morpeth' Shepherd

After enjoying two great pub nights, we rounded off the weekend with a superb wild camp on the ridge between Allen Crags and Glaramara at High House Tarn. Gerry Harber jogged off to bag Scafell and Richard to Glaramara, both returning in the gloaming to enjoy a hot drink and the wonderful sight of the Milky Way appearing in a crystal clear sky. So clear in fact that the familiar constellations of the Plough etc were almost indistiguishable in the myriad stars. Just great.

And that's the daunder done for another year. Sadly I won't be on the TGO Challenge myself this time as I've had to pull out because of ongoing radiotherapy after my recent op, but to all you lucky people who are on the walk this year, have a terrific TGO Challenge (and don't forget to tell old Doodlecat about your adventures!).

Cast in random order: Alan Sloman, David Albon (Thursday - Saturday), Sue Oxley (Thursday),
Richard White, Peter Shepherd, Mick Hopkins, Darren Christie, Gerry Harber, Phil lambert.

More on this daunder over at Alan Sloman's Big Walk

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Winter, it hasn't gone away you know!

Walking from Bohibreaga to Mullaghmore

If there is going to be snow in Northern Ireland, its going to snow in The Sperrin Mountains. Further inland than the The Mournes & The Antrim Hills and along with Cuilcagh, this group of hills gives the most reliable area for snow cover in winter.

In Glenshane Forest
Driving up, The Glenshane Pass, behind a Snowplough, to do some training for the TGO challenge in May, it was a surprise to see how much new snow there actually was. We were intent on walking the Glenshane forest Horse Shoe, to give us a nice route over 10 miles with some boggy & peat hagged ground to stretch our legs on & to get our bodies used to carrying the heavier rucksacks again.

Another snow shower approaching

As we walked the route there was little in the way of views, due to the frequent snow & hail showers, which were also accompanied by gale force winds. Check out Fiona's hats tassels in the first photo, pointing straight back. All nice and refreshing, after the several ales and pizza the night before, it was just the thing to clear the mind.

After our walk we went to have a look at some of the area's Megalithic sites.

Aghascrebagh Ogham Stone

The whole Sperrin area is awash with stone circles, Portal Tombs, Standing Stones & Stone Alinement's. The Aghascrebagh Stone (above) is the only Ogham stone in Co. Tyrone, there is another standing stone a short distance away. These standing stones are part of a 'Henge' & appear to be also in line with the cairn on the hill opposite.

Glenroan Portal Tomb

This Portal Tomb is located in a hedge in a valley where there is more Cairns, Forts and Tombs than you can shake a stick at. The whole nature of even the low lying ground round the hills, i.e bog covered, would lead you to believe that there is a lot more sites to be uncovered.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pinch punch - first of the month!

It's the first of April, and the next instalment of Mike Knipe's exploration of the Howgill Fells in April is now here for your entertainment and edification. This month Mike enjoys some coconut tarts and comes across a strange feature/creature...

This and more in Random Doodles.