Friday, September 14, 2007

The following events take place between seven PM and eight PM


"Calling agents Main? Check in please"
"Agents Main reporting as requested"
"Your GPS signal and reception are weak. I hope you haven't stupidly got into a situation where all your equipment is running out of batte..."


Thursday, September 13, 2007

The following events take place between six PM and seven PM


"We've arrived at the safe house"
"Excellent. Let's stow our belongings and prepare our legends for tonight's event"



"Agent, you smell. Take a shower, and that's an order"
"As you say chief. Copy that"


The following events take place between five PM and six PM.


"Agent, we're in Kilburn now. Please conceal your comms equipment as the locals may engage in hostile action at any time."
"Copy that."


The Royal Shaftesbury Hotel, London

Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

The following events take place between four PM and five PM


"I'm not sure I can make it"
"Look, if you're not up to the job go home, we can bring someone else in who is. There's no time for messing around"



"Check in with the General: Dog report: zero car window head count, zero swim count. Over."



"Time's getting tight. We need to get this done and we need to do it fast"



Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

The following events take place between three PM and four PM





"Coming out of deep cover now. Only one Waitrose sighted in the past two miles. Do you copy?"
"Affirmative. What is your current status?"
"Now somewhere in Hendon. We have an agent injured by by the house prices but he'll live."
"OK. You need to move quickly now. You'll have to make it to the safe house in Paddington by 6 or you'll never make your final deadline, and then it won't just be your ass on the line - it'll be mine too."
"Roger that."


Connexions North London

Connexions North London
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

The following events take place between two PM and three PM


"We've just been tasked with a new job. Agent EJ wants data on Connexions and she wants it now"
"How does that feed in to the mission?"
"I don't know but she's willing to exchange the data for resources and at the moment a copy of the Young People's Survival Guide to York and a couple of pints are just what we need"
"Roger that - the files are on their way"



"Status report: almost through Finchley. Surrounded by Londoners, and at least four Waitroses in the last hour."
"Sounds serious. Suggest going dark."





Erasing Nottingham from the face of the Earth (3)

The result, as displayed on a newly-erected local street sign

Erasing Nottingham from the face of the earth (2)

By tampering with evidence

Erasing Nottingham from the face of the earth (1)

Finger-based photographic obscurationalisation

The following events take place between one PM and two PM


"We've just finished processing al-Symington's intel. It would appear that Diziet is in possession of a nuclear device powerful enough to destroy the entire country. He's currently holed up in a safe-house near Nottingham. We have to act now or risk the lives of milions of people and their pets and kiddies."
"What are you suggesting?"
"We have to obliterate Nottingham, and we have to do it now."
"This isn't what I signed up for. Don't the residents of Notingham get any say in this?"
"It's either the residents of Nottingham or the whole country. How many innocent lives do you want to be lost on your watch?"
"Well, you've left me no choice. But I don't like it. I don't like t one bit."
"Backup, prepare an assault team. I want to see results within the hour."



"It's done. Nottingham has been wiped from the face of the earth. Someone get Spanners to download the satellite imagery to verify."
"Copy that."



Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

5 The following events take place between twelve noon and one PM


"Quick, pass the salad cream!"
"This salad needs neutralising. And go easy with the salt, homeland security played hell last time we requested more before they thought we should need it"


Filling the Watford gap

Filling the Watford gap
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

4 The following events take place between eleven AM and twelve noon


"Something's coming through on the wires. There's been a break-out at Uttoxeter high security prison. Isn't that where Mad Dog was being held?"
"Yes. And GCHQ has just paged me with some chatter they've been picking up. Looks like Mad Dog's old terrorist cel has been in communication with al-Symington. Looks like that one should have been given a higher threat rating at this week's briefing"
"That gap she blasted in Watford may have been more than a warning shot after all. We've really dropped the ball on this one and we need to pick it up again, right now. I want all the intel we can get, within the hour."



"I've got Division on hold. Al-Symington's on the line with some demands."
"I thought I made it clear to you during the Harper-Corby affair - we do not negotiate with terrorists!"
"She's offering us intel on Diziet's plans, in exchange for full immunity for Watford. I think we may have to do this."
"This stinks to high heaven, but if it's what we've got to do then I guess we'd better get on and do it."



"al-Symington's information is all very well, but we've still got this gaping hole in Watford for anyone to see. The last thing the Agency needs today is a PR disaster on top of everything else"
"What are you suggesting?"
"I'm going to commandeer this construction team. The gap's big and it needs filling - to hell with protocol"


3 The following events take place between ten AM and eleven AM


"Damn it! We need to work out how to cross the M25 to get to Barnet before noon today."
"That is not on your brief, Agent. You are working outside the remit of this organisation."
"Yeah? Let me tell you from someone who knows - over at Division it might be all about remits and regulations, but out here in the field there IS such a thing as a free lunch, but ONLY - repeat: ONLY - if we get to Caffe Uno in Barnet to spend our Tesco vouchers. If you care about the success of this operation you'll give me and my men all the backup we need."
"OK, point taken. I'll get on with Campion-Spall and see what I can find out."



"That's strange. If I didn't know old Mad Dog Diziet was safely behind bars, I'd swear that man behind us has the exact kind of cover his men used to use"
"Old Mad Dog! Those were the days though. You can say this for them: at least back then we knew what we were fighting for and who the enemy was. These days it's sometimes hard to tell what side we're on any more"


"OK, Agent - I've just got off with Campion Spall and it looks like you're on a clear trajectory to pass unimpeded below the M25."
"I can't believe you got off with her. We're married!"
"There's no time for emotional outbursts. Do you copy or not?"
"Copy that. I'll be going under within twenty minutes."


On the south side of the north-south divide (2)

On the south side of the north-south divide (1)

On the north side of the north-south divide (2)

On the north side of the north-south divide (1)

The following events take place between nine AM and ten AM


"Stevens at division is pulling rank over that task he set us two weeks ago"
"The North-South divide? Surely he's not demanding that kind of thing on a day like this"
"He wants it and he wants it now"
"Well I'll upload the raw data streams, but he'll need Spanners to decode the information and he's prepping for the Morocco trip: wheels up in less than 24 hours. Stevens will get it when he gets it."



"OK, we've cleared Hatfield. Now in the region of Welham Green. Repeat: Welham Green."
"Copy that."


A hat in Hatfield

A hat in Hatfield
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Some grans in Grantham

Some grans in Grantham
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

A bed in Bedford

A bed in Bedford
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

A loo in Luton

A loo in Luton
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

1 The following events take place between eight AM and nine AM


"Morning. What shall we do today?"
"I quite fancy going for a 26 mile walk. What do you think?"
"Yeah, can't see why not. I'll just pop for a shower before we set off."


"Nearly ready to leave, I think."
"Me too. We should be able to get going within the hour."
"Yes, I think so. Let's just hope we don't get embroiled in a complicated anti-terrorist operation. That would be REALLY annoying."


"Hang on, incoming transmission"
"What is it?"
"Some rumours going round suggesting some kind of event going on at 8pm in the Founders Arms, London"
"Think we should check it out?"
"It's the only lead we have"
"In that case we'd better get going"
"Copy that"



Bringing you today:

An all-new drama


Ewan Main

Gill Main


Also starring


Potters Bar

Caffe Uno, Barnet

The streets of London

The Millennium Bridge

A poncy hotel

and the Founder's Arms pub, South Bank

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Luton, and another Hatfield

Many thanks to the professors for taking over yesterday's updates for us. Frankly we're still rather proud of the contribution to knowledge that was made by our completing that challenge.

Today, as we approach the end of this monumental jaunt, was the time to attempt the first challenge we received - to bring a smile to the face of Dunc's recently-bereaved friend by bringing a memento of his much-cherished Luton Town Football Club. Dunc suggested a local paper showing some football results, but we thought we'd try a little harder than that.

Sadly, though, after several phone calls to Luton Town themselves and a conversation with none other than the club secretary (a woman named Cherry, if you'll believe THAT) we came up against the now all-too-familiar conversational manhole:
"...And you're doing this for charity, are you?"
"Erm, no, we're just doing it for no reason at all, really."
"Just for the sake of it?"
"Well, yes..."
And as you can imagine, it all went downhill from there. You'd have thought these people would have more of a sense of adventure.

We have however managed to acquire three pieces of memorabilia including a copy of the Luton and Dunstable Herald and Post, so Dunc's friend won't go too hungry.

We managed through the course of the day to clear up a matter that has bothered us for a while - what the phrase 'Garden Village/Town/City' means when located after a place name. It seems to mean 'new and charcter-lacking but prosperous estate where streets are named after commonly known flowers and shrubs'. We were sorry that we didn't see a pansy crescent, though.

As far as we can determine (and we do wish, at this stage, that we had the Professors here to give a learned opinion), we are for tonight residing in a travelodge that is literally on top of the M1. If anyone can confirm this through looking at google maps we would be most grateful.

We also had to break our way in to and out of a CCTV monitored building site to get here, but such trivialities are of little consequence currently.

Report for the Royal Society on the Crisp Preferences of the Sheep residing in the Southern regions of this good land

On the Subject of the Inquiry
Your humble professors were honoured to be asked to conduct research in to the flavours of crisps favoured by sheep residing in the south of England, based both on the requestees' knowledge of our current journey and the study conducted by Dr Hunt, proving conclusively that the northern sheep will only imbibe cheese and onion flavour crisps. A copy of the research brief is presented below:

"West Riding sheep pester picnickers for crisps - which must be cheese and onion. One old ram hangs round the Tan Hill pub for handouts all the time.

East Riding sheep are alarmed and disconcerted by offers of crisps of any flavour.

What of the sheep of the south?"

Below follows a description of our methods, our data, and summary of our results.


A single blind trial was conducted using the Big Four crisp flavours (cheese and onion, prawn cocktail, ready salted and salt and vinegar).

Crisps were laid in piles on the ground by Prof Ewanson whilst Prof Gillson distracted sheep to help ensure their unawaritude of the positions of the different flavours.

Sheep were then introduceed to the scene and allowed to eat freely and with no restrictions. Once sheep had had five minutes of eating time, Prof Gillson distracted them again while Prof Ewanson photographed the remains of the heaps.


Figure One: The Initial Piles

This shows the initial piles of crisps. Packets shown for clarity of report: these were removed before sheep were introduced. As you will see, flavours were positioned in alphabetical order from cheese and onion through to salt and vinegar.

Figure Two: Early results

Early indicators show a surprising turn as cheese and onion crisps are spurned in favour of prawn cocktail and ready salted. However no conclusive results at this stage as not enough sheep.

Figure Three: A minor penchant for cheese and onion emerges.

One sheep shows interest in the latter flavour. Interesting developments indeed.


Figure Four: Contemplation.

Having nearly finished their potato-based snack, the sheep stand back to survey the scene.

Figure Five: Completion

Having allowed sufficient time for differential eating preferences to emerge, the sheep are temporarily removed in order for analysis to take place.

Figure Six: Results

The post-feeding piles.



It therefore falls to us to conclude that unlike their northern cousins, sheep of the south show almost equal preferences for prawn cocktail and ready salted crisps. Cheese and onion received a fair amount of attention but fell down at the eating stage. The clear loser was salt and vinegar; this flavour was occasionally sniffed and even licked by the brave few taste pioneers of the sheep world, but none were ingested.

In conclusion, it can be seen that southern sheep display substantially stonger crispophilic tendencies than their East Riding cousins, but without the specific preferences displayed by those of the West Riding.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Royal Society, we humbly submit our conclusions for your consideration and approval.


Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Chalenge complete- Bedford angels located

Behold the headquarters of all Bedford-based angels: the Bedfordshire Centre for Angelicism. They asked us not to photograph them directly (and we weren't sure they'd show up anyway) but we were permitted to take this picture of their sign.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Further Selected Reports from a Bedfordshire Field Study, with Various Musings on the Same

I understand that, in her dispatch dated earlier to-day, Professor Gillson related a number of features and observations of this land and its inhabitants. While no doubt eminently qualified in her own specialised discipline, whatever that may be, Prof. Gillson has to her name substantially fewer published works - not to mention professional and social accolades - than your correspondent, and it is therefore to be expected that her experiences in these godforsaken environs would provoke an overreaction from her that could be described as somewhat flustered and flighty. Nonetheless, her observations as earlier reported do to a extent give a flavour of events thus far. It now falls to me to present further excerpts from our field notes.

Flitwick area, c.1530 hours - We appear to have happened upon a primate enclosure of some kind. Slightly smaller than a man, they were engaged in uttering a wide range of sounds in a register slightly higher in pitch than that of their human cousins. Furthermore, at exactly the time at which we arrived, the inmates were staging some form of break-out. In their hundreds they were streaming out onto the surrounding streets, clad in what can only be described as some manner of ritual decoration, possibly for mating or hunting purposes. A mass of black blazers, black trousers, white collars and matching ties swam before our eyes as we attempted, finally successfully, to negotiate this tide of livestock.

1830 hours - Eureka! The ovine research project, as issued by Mr. & Mrs. Charles Hunt of the Royal Society, has been completed with great success. We shall be presenting our report to the Society imminently.

Man or Animal?; or A brief study on the Bedford Character

Man or Animal?; or A brief study on the Bedford Character

Conducted brief field trials this morning to determine the answer to this age-old question, contemplated by all the greats of the past century. No time for the full text of our article as am currently observing the effects of some road-side berries I found on the academic mind, having quietly adminstered them to Professor Ewanson's drink whiole he was looking the other way. Some brief excerpts from our field notes should suffice in the meantime.

Task one: ordering breakfast in a local bar: Prof. Ewanson administered some basic tests looking for intelligence which included asking the simple-looking staff to match up spoken words in their own language with pictorial representations of the same. Although we can report some loose correlation between pictures selected and words spoken, we are unable to report any notable indicators of intellegence. Must also report that subjects leered impertenantly throughout testing.

On a local thoroughfare:

Hordes of natives sighted sitting over the pavements, drinking strong liquor despite the early hour.

Furthermore, a rather frightening altercation with youthful native on a bicycle, who swore at Prof. Gillson in its local tongue and seemed unable to distinguish between the pavement and the road.

A savage and uncivilised place indeed.

Further Scary Evidence

In response to the mavellous reception generated by J Andrews' little contribution yesterday, we thought we'd offer up a further gem from the local paper:

It's no Moose steak

SIR- Now that smoking in public has been banned, isn't it about time our interfering 'Big Brother' government also gave some serious thought to outlawing vegetarianism and insisting that these pasty-faced bean-eaters do their bit for the environment too?

It is proven scientific fact that each flatulant Norwegian moose expels 2,100 tonnes of harmful methane in to the atmosphere every year. That is the equivalent of driving 13,000 kilometres in a gas-guzzling Jee, or two jumbo jets flying across the Atlantic.

If you factor in all the obnoxious gasses produced by cattle, sheep, goats, hens and other farmyard creatures, the amount of pollution must be absolutely astronomical.

Eminent scientists are forevr warning us of the terrible damage all this is going to do to our environment, causing global warming, melting of th icecaps, widespread flooding, hurricans, tsunamis and, no doubt, plagues of boils.

Therefore it must surely be incumbent on us all to do our bit for humanity be eating as many of these flatulent animals as posible before they have the chance to pollute the atmosphere still further.

Most, if not all, of those scruffy, long haired, bearded Swampy-style beatniks who recently picketed Heathrow Airport were probably vegetarians.

I suggest they would be doing more to protect the environment if they went home and tucked in to a nice juicy moose steak instead of sanctimoniously haranguing innocent people flying off to Torremolinos for a well deserved summer holiday.

No doubt some Leftie do-gooders will moan that banning vegetarianism would be a 'breach of civil liberties'.

But is it any more so than the Guardian-reading busybody who threatened to have me arrested last week for lighting up my pipe as I stood innocently in the pouring rain, annoying absolutely nobody, on Flitwick railway station?

Charlie Garth,
Flitwick Road, Ampthill

Today, we walk through Ampthill.

Bedford nightlife

Good morning from Bedford, the home of the takeaway pizza. (Or, at least, that's how we've come to see it. In that respect it shares a similarity with Doncaster, Grantham and Morcott.)

Yesterday's walk passed by in fairly routine manner - blazing, alarmingly intense sunshine, further equipment breakage (the water carrier), some Sport Beans and a few rock anthems thrown in for good measure. Shortly after arriving at this, our fifth Travelodge so far, we decided on a brief trip to the local pub.

The Bird In Hand sits on the corner of a large housing estate in which every road is named after a bird. (Curlew Crescent was a particular favourite.) We walked into the main bar to find the room empty save for two people. The barman, a very widely-built fellow with shaven hair and a fixed stare out into the room, stood motionless. In the far corner, a man whose piercings were threatening to outnumber his tattooes sat slumped at a table, gazing at a copy of The Sun without ever turning the page, his two empty and one half-full pint glass on the table next to it. On one wall was pinned a food menu offering four options: chilli and chips, burger and chips, hot-dog and chips, chips. The stillness of the room was underlined by the two ceiling fans that hung motionless in front of the bar. One had its full set of four blades; the other only three. Wading through the silence, we made our way to the bar, ordered our drinks and sat down in the far corner.

The room remained silent. Attempting not to draw attention to ourselves and thereby incur the wrath of an establishment whose unspoken code had been breached, we kept our voices to a whisper. Meanwhile, the barman stared. Bereft of anybody to serve or any barmanistic tasks to undertake, he simply... stared.

After some fifteen minutes or so had passed, the barman disappeared from sight for a moment. From nowhere and with no warning, the room was filled with the loud, loud strains of music. "Son, you are a bachelor boy, and that's the way you'll stay," it sang. "Son, you'll be a batchelor boy until your dying day."

Perhaps you've heard the song before. We hadn't. And we never want to again.

The music having reached its bizarre conclusion, the room was once more plunged into silence, as abruptly as it had been hauled out of it moments earlier. Shortly afterwards, the barman came over and closed all the windows near us. That way, nobody would hear our screams.

We left quickly.

The Challenges Become Heated

Following on from the rather heated demands from Kate 'I love Corby' Harper, made in the comments here, we thought we'd share with you some of the more private communications we've been having to put up with. You may have noticed a recent demand for us to be photographed by a Rushden shop, and our polite and respectful request for an incentive to do so. Well, we were most disappointed to simply receive, in reply, the demand 'Do my challenge'. When gently pushed for further incentivisationalism, all we got in return was, 'Do my challenge. It would make me happy. I want you to do my challenge'. We had to stand firm, however, as we had made clear at the outset; to change our policy now would only result in sulkings and pizza retractions from the rest of you. So after a few more demands and strops, we finally wangled a pizza out of it.

All this fades to nothing - nothing! - though, when you see the full deviousness of this challenge. The supposed shop, called BJs, appears in no telephone directories for Rushden. It appears in no on-line directories. It cannot be sighted on a stroll down the streets of that town. No indeed: the nearest shop of that name would appear to be in, of all places, Corby.

Yes, what we have here is a vicious insabotagiationising effort of our Corby-loving nemesis. She, it seems, would have us halt our quest and return to the land of the damned, where we can only assume she has some nasty, twisted fate in store for us.

But never fear, we're not to be distracted from our task even if it does mean we're a pizza down. Onwards, then, to Bedford; BJs be damned.


Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

A worrying omen

A worrying omen
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main
Someone appears to be trying to tell us we're about to die...

Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Ill-advised planning decisions

Ill-advised planning decisions
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Monday, September 10, 2007

A letter printed in Bedfordshire On Sunday, 09/09/07

"SIR -
I am angry with the write-up about the twins domed to die.
I do not believe the story.
I just think Mrs. Osahon wants to stay here.
I say send her back.
Jane Andrews,
Hastings Road, Kempston"

Oh dear. What have we let ourselves in for in coming here?

In answer to your messages

Jon, Helen and "Kevin": thanks for your good wishes. They have indeed spurred us forward in our hour of need.

Sam: sadly there was no Merry Man action whatsoever in the vicinity of Robin Hood Airport, nor did we even see a single bow or arrow. Which was quite a relief after last year.

Kat: Your advice was good. All hail Compede, for it is good and noble.

Rosy: Your bribe is good. To be honest we were planning on doing the sheep thing anyway in thanks for such a lovely evening before we set off. Any other tasks you'd like to request?

Sue and Pam: Get knitting!

Kate: We still blame you for Corby.

What we have here is a failure to communicate

It has been noted before now that these treks of ours - these odysseys; these voyages; these perambulatory eccentrips - are something of an ideological contradiction. We eschew all forms of modern transport but rely on a wide variety of 21st century technology to support us in doing so. Well, we make no apology for it. After all, what could be more traditional than a stroll through the countryside accompanied by a 30-gigabyte hard disk digital audio player connected to a portable active speaker system, guided by a Global Positioning System satellite receiver connected by Bluetooth link to a PDA running Windows Mobile, simultaneously tracked by a second GPS satelite receiver connected via a GPRS uplink to technicians in Durham university and plotted in real time on the World Wide Web, reporting on our progress using a keyboard connected by an infra-red beam to a PDA, which uses a Bluetooth link to a GPRS modem to send data and pictures via an e-mail gateway to our blog provider, combined with a second mobile phone sending updates to an SMS gateway and thence to the blog, and carrying a portable DVD player and several discs to while away the long, cold evenings? Exactly. We imagine you've all done the same thing.

Only this time it's nearly all stopped working. The first inkling that all was not as it should be was before we even set off, when we discovered that our "hotline" phone was completely functional unless you wanted it to make a sound of any kind. Not terribly helpful as a telephone then.

Next was the comment left anonymously on our blog simply asking "Where are the pictures supposed to be appearing?!" Indeed, it appeared that not a single photo had been posted, despite our using a Flickr service especially designed to do just that. Unable to fathom why, we've taken the Argument From Ignorance approach and assumed that someone just has something against us. Anyway, we quickly found a solution to that. His name's John.

Next, our internet tracking system stopped working for an entire day (see earlier post). That has now been put down to the fact that most of Leicestershire has rubbish mobile reception.

Next, the big one: on a roadside outside Corby (where else?) Ewan knelt on and thereby resolutely smashed the Pocket PC that has been the source of our navigatory prowess as well as our blogging panache. Yes, the poor old thing, on its last legs already, was unceremoniously dispached from the world of function.

But at least we could still send blog updates by text message. The marvellous little service whereby we send a text and it appears as a blog post a moment later. You may remember it from such gems as "We've got a Yorkie," and who could forget the classic "Selby does a marvellous curry"?

Well, no. A couple of days ago we discovered that since about day two, none of those has got through either. The reason? Two days into our walk, the SMS Country service spontaneously changed to become only available to those in India. No, really. So it turns out that you had no idea that we'd been answering al your comments, and even composing poetry, as we walked. Not a word of it.

Anyway, the real purpose of this post is to announce that it all now works again! Without going into too much detail, let's just say that Curry's in Kettering came to the rescue, and we are now once more entirely blogtastic and hotlineal. And we'll start answering your comments... Again.

Kettering to Rushden - Some Observations

Some themes we've noticed so far:

- The Yorkshire region of our walk was defined by power stations.
- The Midland region has been defined by windmills, both functional and decorative. The functional ones scared us a bit at first but we liked them in the end.
- Fewer southerners request that we have a reason for our walk: we began last year, when people asked why we were walking to Edinburgh, to consider saying things like 'It has been foretold', or 'Because our ASBO requires it'. Southerners, maybe being more used to pointlessness, just tend to laugh and congratulate us. And in the case of a receptionist yesterday, insist on giving us more tea.
- Whilst all regions are equally primarily suited to Meatloaf and Alice Cooper, the south leans toward 70s disco classics where the North was all with the 70s and 80s glam stadium rock.
- The south has also seen a surprise entry on to its top 10 listening classics with the hits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- A key split between north and south is revealed in public footpath blocking methods. Where the north favoured piles of manure and farm machinery, the south has so far revealed a penchant for motorways and huge piles of felled trees.

SMS From 447954104433

Drat. It appears that our photos aren't getting through. We'll try and fix it when we're not in a field near Donacster.

One minute of cricket - 1

One minute of cricket - 1
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

One minute of cricket - 3

One minute of cricket - 3
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main


Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

One minute of cricket - 2

One minute of cricket - 2
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Finedon Pocket Park

Finedon Pocket Park
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Wicksteed park souvenir

Wicksteed park souvenir
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Wicksteed Park souvenirs

Wicksteed Park souvenirs
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Inside our pedal-powered monorail

Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Atop a crazy Edwardian water ride

Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Another Kettering wonder-barnet

Mutton chops

Mutton chops
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Kettering hairstyle number four

Further Kettering hair excellence

Another Kettering hairstyle

Another Kettering hairstyle
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Kettering is declared the current forerunner in the Haircut Challenge!

Ridiculous superheroes of Kettering, part two

Ridiculous superheroes of Kettering, part one

Ah, behold the place of our day of rest!

Originally uploaded by mr_e_main

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Text Message Exchange

From: Gill
To: 118118
Message: Is it legal to walk along the grass verge bordering the A1?

From: 118118
To: Gill
Message: No charge. The 118118 Text Team is really sorry, but we're unable to answer the question you sent us. Thank you for using 118118 SMS, please try us again soon.


The Beehive: A Short Review

Our review will consist of several scores out of ten covering the main areas of service provision followed by a short qualitative comment. The challenge instigator shall be allowed up to two follow-up questions.

1. Having a Beehive: 10/10. Indeed there was one.
2. Cake References: 7/10, all from the jukebox. Even though there were only two, it was more than can be expected from a Grantham pub on a Wednesday evening.
3. Décor: 8/10. Classic pub orange with painted slogans making little to no sense.
4. Quality of patronage: 6/10. Unremarkable save for the man who smiled at us when MacArthur Park began playing.
Snacks: 6/10. Kudos for the 3 kinds of nut, but no Mini Cheddars to be seen.
Accessorising: 8/10. Stuffed bees, pictures of leaves on the menus, tropies and handled pint glasses all on display.
Music: 10/10. MacArthur Park as already mentioned, Lay Lady Lay, Handbags and Gladrags, and well intentioned if inaccurate promises that the sun ain't going to shine henceforth. All accompanied by an ever-changing display of photos of dead people on the jukebox screen, including Kennedy and James Dean (not the real one).

Over all, not outstanding but really not bad at all.

Challenges, challenges

Well, the second leg is about to get underway as we prepare to leave Kettering. At this important stage in the events, it seems only appropriate to report back on the status of some of our ongoing challenges.

Find the town with the worst haircuts: This is undoubtedly, certainly and absolutely Kettering. Despite having not yet visited the delights of Bedford, Rushden, Luton, Hatfield of London, we have seen enough beauties here to be able to state confidently that Kettering is it. Some of the photos should have arrived by now - others will be here soon. Great fun has been had sneaking around Kettering taking photos of strangers.

Photo of us with the person with the biggest mutton chops Oh, boy, have we succeeded in THIS one. You will shortly be seeing this photo appear, the man in question posing proudly with us for the photo. The picture, incidentally, was taken by his wife Alison.

Eat230 has been progressing apace. Since yesterday we weren't on our journey, we didn't include yesterday in the project. It will, however, recommence today. Expect a drastic reduction in photo sizes, though, as we had a message from Virgin Mobile informing us that the first week's worth of photo uploading was approaching £100...!

North-South Divide - we are confident that we have located the North-South Divide and crossed it. It was somewhere around the Linconlshire/Leicestershire border. Due to a technical difficulty the photographic proof isn't quite available yet, but will be soon.

Obliterating Nottingham - A work in progress, but almost complete. Evidence soon.

The Beehive, Grantham - duly visited and assessed. We shall submit our review later today.

Wicksteed Park - visited, photographed and most marvellous indeed. We shall have the photos printed shortly.

Dogs - We have sighted a dog who had very recently swum, and also a dog with its head near an open car window. As yet, though, nothing that quite meets the criteria.

Grantham MFI - Sorry, Kevin, but we didn't see this challenge until we'd already left Grantham before we saw this one.

York university hooded top - Cam, we're very sorry, but this was just more than we could possibly carry. We considered posting it to London but that really wouldn't have been in the spirit of it. We humbly apologise.

Still to come:
Bedford angel
Luton Town memorabilia
Southern sheep
Watford gap
Cricket match

And, Kate, we shall give your Rushden challenge our utmost attention... provided you tell us why we should. After all, we still somehow think Corby was your fault.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

To Kettering, and a rest

Your faithful correspondents report today from the lobby of our hotel in Kettering, which we are pleased to announce has, so far, proven a good and righteous place. However, do not be concerned, dear readers: we have many a tale of woe to regale you with that met us on our way to this sanctuary, this place of rest and recuperation.

Our journey from Morcott began in the most surprising of manners: with a shut garage and a very nice chap at a little chef. The garage, where we had hoped to purchase a morsel of breakfast to see us through the morning's perambluations, had sustained a break-in the previous night resulting in its closure. We must admit, our hearts rather sank at the thought of nine miles with only the measly peanuts and flapjacks we had thought to pack for emergency scenarios such as these. But never fear, dear readers, never fear! Just when we thought or breakfast quest was thwarted, a Little Chef appeared to us rather like a divine revalation, with its promises not only of sustenance but of the very best kind of sustenance: vegetarian sausages, hash browns, and mushrooms in, of all the wonderous things, the marvellous concoctions, a bap! How we praised the friendly waiter whilst sipping on the tea of his generosity during the time it took our food to cook. We are also surprised and pleased to announce that the Little Chef hash browns, in contrast to our expectations, were the best quality and best cooked of our journey to date.

But darker times were to come.

Yes, dear readers, your dire warnings that we scorned when you gave them proved true. Your pleas with us that fell on deaf ears should have been heeded, and your looks of alarm at our stubborn adherence to our plans despite your well-intentioned advice were most warranted. The Northamptonshire town of Corby does indeed turn out to be all you feared and worse. A more disappointing, shoddy and at some points downright scary town has not been sighted on our walks before and, we beg it be granted, shall not be sighted again. We arrived on the outskirts, surrounded by industrial factories (the majority of which seemed to be involved in the production of Weetabix). It only went downhill from there (in a metaphorical sense. We can't quite remember, but it seems more than likely that the dastardly town itself sprung some literal uphill walking on us. It would be just like Corby to do that). Our search for the town centre revealed only one run-down street with a few shops, that seemed to have been converted to a shopping centre from an old council estate. Our search for a pub in which to recuperate resulted only in a cafe attached to a fish and chip shop, where the waiting staff seemed unaware of most of the dishes advertised on their own menu. To be fair, they did manage to supply us with a nice apple pie, but we had to pay extra - extra, would you credit it? - for the ice cream.

Our relief on leaving this godforsaken place was palpable.

On, then, your travellers continued. Through the burning sun, through, well, the more burning sun (really, the weather could have helped us out more here. Does it not realise that there should have been some driving rain in there, and some biting frost, to add to the sense of drama?). Shandy O'Clock occured in a nice little pub in the village of Gretton (or something like that), where Ewan was mocked by locals whilst Gill hid. Then on again, through to Kettering, where your weary travellers at last arrived in the pleasant, clean hotel. Today, friends, we rest. We will be updating you on a few important issues throughout the course of the day, as we are aware you have not been notified for a long time on the progress of the tasks you have set us. But for now, goodbye.