Kirstine has been studying Buddhist meditiation for just under a year now and in the midst of Manchester's madness went on a retreat at the Manchester Buddhist Centre.
Today, Manchster shoppers have been slogginig it out for those final prezzies and Manchester United have been playing host to Everton. This combined with icy roads has spawned traffic chaos. What better way of escaping the commerial riot and find a calmer, more peaceful level from which to view the world.
Those who participate in seasonal madness are finding themselves in the home strait of the Christmas shopping race. In the meantime Kirstine and I decided to go to Wetherby in search for a Christmas Adventure. There is an artificial nordic ski track laid through illuminated woodlands. There is also a cafe, a christmas shop and an ice rink.
The ski trail runs through an enchanted wood with strange illuminated creatures and characters from fairy tales.
Although we couldn't get hold of any mulled wine, we did manage to have a hot chocolate break between circuits of the 1 kilometre trail. The only downside was the rush hour traffic across the Pennines on the way home.
Whilst almost everyone in the mad mad world was dashing around crowded shops. I headed off for a whistle stop tour of north Wales. My first port of call was Holyhead where I dropped off my long suffering double kayak for some much needed repairs. Mike Webb and his crew at Rockpool Kayaks are sure to give the very best of treatment.
I have been missing some of my friends from north Wales recently as I have been so busy exploring the shores of northern England. I was eager to catch up with Barry Shaw before he set off for his trip to circumnavigate New Zealand's south island with Justine Curgenven. After being treated to a splendid roast dinner and done all the catching up I could handle, I headed off into the night to meet up with some friends from North West Sea Kayakers staying near Pwllheli.
In true NWSK outdoor & adventure style we engaged in a pre-christmas retail frenzy avoidance weekend. Kev and Gill organized a wonderful cottage near Pwllheli in north Wales. I arrived later than expected and was roundly ticked off by Cap'n Roscoe.
Following a frosty night we scraped the ice from our cars and made our way to Abersoch for a trip to the St Tudwal's Islands. The sky was clear, the air crisp and the sunshine typically golden in its low winter placing. The islands were unusually quiet as during the summer months they are bustling with birdlife.
Following the tour round the islands we made our way across to the surf beach at PorthCeiriad. Following some tentative surf landings with questionable dignity we tucked into an assortment of seasonal fayre all washed down with with a cupful of warm mulled wine before returning to Abersoch.Kev and Gill led the assault on Tesco's in Porthmadog and returned with the ingredients for a delightful and hearty evening meal. Having eaten Garlic Bread, Baked Camembert, Beef stew and roasted veg and Apple crumble, only a relatively small amount of alcohol sent us into a lengthy night long slumber.
The next morning we headed off for the north coast of the Lleyn. We started at the small inlet at PorthYsgaden. There is plenty of rockhopping along this intriguing stretch of coastline.
There was even a small beach with enough surf for some good rides in the winter sunshine. We continued to weave and dodge our way along towards PorthDinllaen stopping at a small sheltered cove for lunch. All done, we headed back to PorthYsgaden by a more direct offshore route in order to catch the best of the ebb tide.
What a terrific way to stay far from the madding Christmas crowds - Recommended!
The weekend monsoon had left plenty of water in most of the rivers in northern England and with the promise of calmer weather, I decided to join some friends for a paddle on the Ribble in Lancashire. Its easy paddling and very scenic. The Ribble Valley is renowned for its beauty and is popular with tourists, especially ramblers.
As we neared the end of our trip 2 of my friends who were paddling an inflatable canoe spotted something big and red on the riverbank. It must have been washed up by the previous night's flood.
We think this beast may have escaped from a nearby panto performance of Jaws. I have never come accross a pantomime shark before but those teeth look rather sharp. Blessed with hindsight we decided that giving it a ride home on an inflatable canoe was unwise.
This beach lies at the mouth of the Mersey Estuary just outside the Port of Liverpool. Recently the soft sands here have been dominated by the controvertial artwork of Anthony Gormley. His creation 'Another Place' consists of 100 of life-size statues of men spaced out along the huge stretch of Crosby Beach. The effect is quite striking.
Life on this windswept beach seems to go on as usual despite the prescence of 100 iron men looking out to sea. These wading birds, called 'Knot' out number the iron men many times over.