Posted by: travelrat | June 24, 2018

GoPro Bits and Pieces

When I first received my GoPro, I marvelled that so small an object … it’s not much bigger than a box of matches … could produce such high-quality video and stills. It did take some getting used to, though, to hold it just so, so as not to get fingers over the lens. And, there’s no viewfinder, so, if you don’t hook it up to your tablet or something, you just have to point it in the general direction of your subject and hope for the best.

Its small size means you can just slip it into your pocket … but, there are a fair selection of accessories that go with it. Most of them, though, will fit in the ‘Little Green Bag’ (‘Little’ as in 25cm X 18cm X 8cm.) that usually accompanies the GoPro on my travels.

They include the headstrap … a useful accessory that enables you to video and operate another camera at the same time. It’s also of use when you need both hands for survival!


Then, there’s the GoPole, the extension wand … I refuse to call it a ‘selfie stick’, because I never use it for that purpose. It’s a bit too big for the Little Green Bag, so is usually just used on short-haul car journeys unless I know for certain I’m going to need it. I use it in conjunction with the remote control, for reaching parts other cameras cannot reach.

Finally, there’s my latest acquisition. The pistol grip! Why didn’t they think of this before? Or, if they did, how come I didn’t hear about it? It incorporates a purely mechanical trigger operation, meaning you don’t have to use the wifi, which does chop the battery up somewhat. And, it eliminates the ‘fingers over the lens’ syndrome, and should, to some extent, reduce camera shake.

GoPro 1

I haven’t tried it out to a great extent yet, just a few seconds of footage of the back garden, to make sure it works. But, maybe, soon?

Posted by: travelrat | June 21, 2018

Much Wenlock

Much Wenlock 3

Much Wenlock: 29th May 2018.

We arrived in Much Wenlock long before the cyclists did, so we had plenty of time to look around. If I had my cynical hat on, I’d have dismissed it as chocolate boxy; the sort of vision of England that doesn’t exist outside of the imagination of a novelist, or the producer of a movie or TV programme.

However, I lost my cynical hat several years ago, and realised a lot of people like chocolate boxy. It sells a lot of chocolates anyway. Another disparaging description is ‘like a jigsaw puzzle’ … and there’s nothing wrong with that, either. I have a friend who makes quite a nice bit of pocket money selling photos of such places to manufacturers of jigsaw puzzles.

Since it’s a little bit off the beaten track, the town hasn’t suffered much from insensitive development; for instance, you won’t find any ‘big names’ here, who tend to rip the front out of old buildings in the name of ‘modernity’.

‘Stroll around the town centre’ advises the local tourist board’s website ‘and it may seem you have stepped back fifty or more years’

This was the hometown of Dr William Penny Brooks, who, in 1850 inaugurated the Wenlock Olympian Games, which are still held, and were the inspiration for the modern Olympic Games. Indeed, one of the mascots for the 2012 Olympics was named ‘Wenlock’

However, we didn’t have too much time to look around. Our own athletes would be arriving shortly, and I wanted to video their arrival.

Much Wenlock

Posted by: travelrat | June 19, 2018

Wachau Valley: Video

Wachau Valley

Wachau Valley: 30th March 2018

I don’t think I’d be doing much justice to our cruise if I just posted about the places we visited as if we just hopped from town to town; from –burg to –berg … which I think would make it sound a bit like a river-borne coach tour.

It’s the ‘bits in between’ that make the river cruise much more than that. Here’s a video of the first of the ‘bits in between’; Austria’s Wachau Valley, in which lie the village of Dürnstein and Melk Abbey, which we’re visiting next.

Music: ‘Magic Forest’ by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


Posted by: travelrat | June 17, 2018

Photo Prompt; Sitting on the Fence

No sooner had I started using the Daily Post as the prompt for the ‘Sunday Dish’, and they stopped doing it. However, stepped into the breach, and started issuing a weekly photo prompt.

This week’s theme is ‘Sitting on the Fence’ … a difficult one, because I’m trying to keep politics out of my posts. I don’t have any pictures of people actually sitting on the fence, but I have plenty of images of fences, and here’s one of the most famous.

We saw Australia’s Dogproof Fence on a day trip from Coober Pedy. Up until that time, I thought it was just a figure of speech, e.g:

‘He’s the biggest galah this side of the dogproof fence!’

But, here it is. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s said to be the longest fence in the world. It doesn’t look like it would keep a determined dog out, though.

The Dog Proof Fence

Posted by: travelrat | June 14, 2018

All Around the Wrekin


Much Wenlock: 29th May 2018.

After lunch at Sutton St Nicholas, the cyclists left for Much Wenlock, where they would stay the night. We were to rejoin them there, and it would have been an easy matter to find the main road, and follow a simple route there. Bish, bash, bosh! as they say. But, we had plenty of time, so why not try a SATNAV-directed route along narrow country lanes?

Or, as they say in these parts ‘All around the Wrekin’ … translated into Cumbrian, ‘Aal ower t’spot’.

The Wrekin, a prominent hill around here is actually a little bit north of where we’re going, but I did see its silhouette in the distance at one time. This would be the first time I’ve actually seen it, although I’m familiar with it.

Not too far away is RAF Shawbury, and the Central Air Traffic Control School, where I did my Air Traffic Controller training in the RAF. On our training exercises, the Wrekin was a formidable obstacle we had to deal with … and many a student has forgotten to factor in the safety height, and crashed his aircraft into it. Fortunately, we were in the Simulator, and the only result of this was a scowl from the instructor; many weeks would pass before we were entrusted with real aircraft!

So, we reached Much Wenlock … mainly a ‘black and white’ town; I’m saving the words ‘quaint’ and ‘mediaeval’ for my upcoming Germany diary, lest I’m accused of over-using them. We found our boarding house … with the car-park about fifty yards back up a one-way street. Nothing for it but ‘round again’!

And, in a fairly short time, we were able to ring ‘finished with engines’ and go and enjoy a beer.

Much Wenlock 2

Posted by: travelrat | June 12, 2018


Durnstein 1

Dürnstein: 30th March 2018

There wasn’t an organised tour of Dürnstein; there really didn’t need to be one in such a small place. They just gave us a map with a suggested route printed on it. We used it as a guideline, and just wandered around. It’s a village of only 900 souls, most of whom work in the vineyards which surround the village.  It stands in the Wachau valley, an area noted for its spectacular scenery, and its extensive vineyards. It’s rather reminiscent of the Mosel Valley, where every surface that isn’t occupied by a building, or absolutely vertical is covered in grape vines … almost.

Many of the vines are ‘adopted’ by local children, most of whom do work experience in the vineyards. And, eventually, a lot of them work full-time there.

Dominating all is the ruined castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192. His brother, John, was at home, trying to raise the ransom money … allegedly, he was trousering most of it, but was famously thwarted by Robin Hood. (Most films and pantomimes tell of Richard returning victorious, to catch Wicked Prince John and the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham with their fingers in the till … but that’s another story!)

We didn’t go up to the castle, though; I suspect we’ll see many more castles on this trip. A walk around the village doesn’t take long at all, and there’s plenty of time for a stroll along the river bank, just watching the boats go by.

Durnstein 3


Posted by: travelrat | June 10, 2018



Many years ago, a magazine I occasionally contributed to was asked to review a local restaurant that had just opened. The lady who normally did their food column wasn’t available, so, for some odd reason, they sent the guy who did the motoring column instead. When asked what he thought of it, he said:

‘Bloody awful! We got five starters and no main course!’

He probably thinks the same way I do; food is for sustenance, not showing how clever the chef is. Cooking shows, I can tolerate … unless it’s presented by Jamie Oliver. Indeed, the travelogues interspersed with cooking, presented by Gino d’Acampo are a delight. What I find a real turn-off is stuff like ‘Masterchef’, where they try to show who the ‘best cook’ is. Shows like this have reduced cooking to a competitive sport … which it’s not!

Back in the day, to fill the gap between school and the Air Force, I worked in a kitchen for a few weeks. The chef specialised in what he called ‘farmhouse cooking’ … ‘What a farmer would expect when he went home for his dinner. It doesn’t have to be an English farmer; I’ve researched stuff from all over Europe … diners here think it’s strange and exotic, but it’s just everyday fare for these folk’

Just plain, simple food, really. Although, if you like, you can dress it up for the menu. How about this, sent to me by a friend the other day:

‘Minced prime Aberdeen Angus beef in a spicy sauce, served on a tranche of our home-baked wholemeal bread, lightly fried in extra-virgin olive oil’.

I am very familiar with this dish. I don’t know the ‘official’ name for it … the Air Force, we called it ‘Shit on a Shingle’!


Posted by: travelrat | June 7, 2018

Man Is Not Lost; He Is Just Uncertain of His Position.

Somewhere in Herefordshire: 29th May 2018.

We were going to meet Jack and his friends on their cycle ride at Much Wenlock, in Shropshire. A quick glance at the road atlas showed no problem at all; it was right on the Bridgenorth-Shrewsbury road, along which we’ve already travelled a couple of times on the way to and from North Wales.

No need to have the SATNAV squawking away all the time; we didn’t even need road maps, just a few notes written on a post-it note stuck to the dashboard. The way I used to do it, in fact, especially if travelling alone.


‘It doesn’t work like that’

We’d just done a ‘pitstop’ at a service area on the M5, when Jack called. Did we want to meet them for lunch at a pub in a village called Sutton St. Nicholas? The road atlas couldn’t suggest a direct route; the shortest way seemed to be via a maze of minor country roads. So, on with the SATNAV.

I often wonder how we managed such things in the old days, before such technology came on the scene? I remember the Coast to Coast Walk, which we did back in the 80s … keeping in touch with the support team with 2-way radios I’d borrowed from work. One guy did bring a mobile phone … but it weighed as much as a breeze-block, and was useless on the hill, so it did most of the route in the back of the van.

Anyway, we’d hardly left the motorway, when we came across a road closure, and a diversion. At one stage, I was stuck between a choice of following the yellow ‘diversion’ signs; taking a route which the road atlas said was good or following SATNAV’s instructions.

The yellow arrows did eventually bring us back on to SATNAV’s recommended route … and it did (supplemented with directions from a passer-by) eventually get us there, although we did wonder, many times, if we’d been misdirected … ‘This can’t be right!’ was a much-uttered phrase.

But, it was!’ We got there before the cyclists did; they pitched up about 30 minutes after we arrived, and we had a very enjoyable lunch together, before setting off to Much Wenlock.





Posted by: travelrat | June 5, 2018

Vienna Video


So, we leave Vienna. I had to fight the temptation to title this post ‘Goodnight, Vienna’. We’re going to have enough clichés in posts to come as it is; there are only so many synonyms for ‘quaint’, ‘mediaeval’ etc. We’re heading up the Danube which, contrary to what many guide books tell you IS ‘blue’ … sometimes.

Anyway, I’ll round things up with a video. The music in the first part was performed by a street busker; the second performed by, and by kind permission of my friend Alf B Meier.


Posted by: travelrat | June 3, 2018

Early Adventures in the Saddle


Earlier this week, we drove up to Shropshire, to meet grandson Jack and his friends, cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats … and, naturally, most of the conversation was about cycling. Especially what it did to various parts of the anatomy. It reminded me that, when I cycled in my youth, we used to say that the name of the bicycle manufacturer ‘BSA’ didn’t only stand for ‘Birmingham Small Arms’!

(To give you a clue, the S stood for ‘sore’!!)

This made me think of early cycling, and I didn’t quite succeed in refraining from starting a sentence ‘In my day …’  But, I’ll do it now!

We are looking at the 1950s. when Curry’s was a bike shop, and you could buy a reasonable machine for what, today, would probably buy a round of drinks for four. Even today, I can’t walk past a bike shop without at least thinking  …. ‘That costs more than my first decent car did’

Most of us competed on the same bikes we rode to school. Not that we competed a lot; there weren’t many events in those days. But, we did belong to a cycling club. Although, if we had the urge to try and emulate Reg Harris (one of the cycling legends of the time), we’d get reined in by Ted, the club secretary and former Sergeant-Major, who would bellow:

‘We are touring, gentlemen, not racing!’

(Although there were girls in the club, he always addressed us as ‘gentlemen’)

If we now ‘fast-forward’ about 15 years …

The Chaplain on our RAF station used to get around on a bicycle; the time-honoured, RAF issue ‘Chiefy Bike’ He called this rather ancient conveyance the ‘Ecclesiastical Velocipede’. It had the unfortunate habit of, whenever the pedal got to ‘top dead centre’, it would drop back about 15 degrees.

‘Worn cotter pin!’ I said. I even went down to the bike store to get a new one, and installed it for him.

‘How is it now, Padre?’

‘Wonderful! But’ (slightly wistfully) ‘it just doesn’t feel like the Ecclesiastical Velocipede any more!’

Some things are best left alone!


I haven’t owned, or ridden a bike since ….?? This was taken about 1998-ish.


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