Category Archives: Pictures

All change…

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How this site (and me) have changed since its inception in 2012.  Loads of music has been uploaded, culminating in three short “releases”; Bucket of Tentacles (2013), Analogue (2014) and The Illicium Lure (2015).  I’m very proud of what I managed to pull together as a “solo artist” since starting to learn the piano and its more than I ever really expected, but I developed a new passion, running, which I’ve gradually started sneaking into this blog.  Like many things I’ve tried in life its become an all-consuming activity to the extent that there is no time for music and I unfortunately seem to have currently lost the desire.  I go running, in the mud, instead and haven’t touched my piano since around April 2016.

I’ve really enjoyed blogging to this site, so I’ve been contemplating how to continue with a running theme, and have now set up an alternative blog at www.allhailthetrail.co.uk

For anyone interested in my running exploits then please have a visit and follow.  Otherwise, thanks for following this blog and any comments along the way.  I expect to continue uploading Bucket of Tentacles style photographs now and again and who knows, maybe some more squelchy synth noises and horror beats will re-appear.

Bucket of Tentacles is descending to the depths from where it emerged.  For the moment…..

The Bucket

 

 

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The Grand Hotel, and running from Croatia into Bosnia.

I’ve been posting lots about running recently, and whilst this will descend into my tale of taking a steep run from Mlini into Bosnia, I’m going to start off with some very “Bucket of Tentacles” style pictures of the Kupari resort in Croatia. Not your typical holiday photos, Kupari is a derelict hotel complex located to the south of Dubrovnik.

Back in the early 90’s, when I was mainly trying to step into teenagedom, there was a war going on to which I paid very little attention. It was the break up of Yugoslavia and during the early part, the luxury Kupari resort was captured by the Serbs and ended up being mostly ruined.  Now, standing awkwardly against a beautiful mountain/sea backdrop it is an urban-explorers dream.  Its completely open to the public and unlike the UK, not a warning sign or barricade in sight leaving you free to roam. So roam I did, camera in hand and visions of a post apocalyptic world in mind.  Here are a few of the pictures.

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Derelict building? Lets go through on our mopeds!

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Another holiday-snap taken from the Dubrovnik City Walls

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Not your typical holiday picture, but I liked the collection of people, particularly the gent on the left clearly worried about calf-sunburn.

Post-apocalyptic world out of the way, earlier that day I’d had another rather larger dose of adrenaline after planning to run up Malastica, a local summit rising steeply from the hotel we were staying in.

I made my way out of the quiet tourist areas and into “real” Croatia. Receiving occasional odd glances as an Adidas-clad runner pranced through the usually quiet roads, I carried on up the steep ascent as a thunderstorm blew it’s way in from the Adriatic. It wasn’t long before I was sodden, t-shirt clinging to me and looking up at what seemed like an endless stream of zig-zag paths leading to the summit.

This soon changed though as the cloud curtain opened up revealing the magnificent views ahead.

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A further trudge along the path and I arrived at the following sign:

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It didn’t look like too much of a warning sign (and I later translated this as “State Border”), so I stepped past it into another country.

Only a few metres in and everything felt more Bosnian. Embarrassingly not knowing much about the country other than there had been a war I wondered what life was like for people on the outskirts of this remote landscape.  I reached some kind of peak and took in the view. The glistening Adriatic Sea on one side, the coast populated with hotels and bars but circling round to a rolling mountain range. I sensed a wilderness I’ve never felt before. An unknown landscape staring at me menacingly/beautifully and me staring back:

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The path abruptly ended.  Looking ahead I saw a distant road and some buildings nestled in amongst the hills. I wanted to get there, but could see it would be a tough jaunt, no signs of any paths or trails, just natural grass, clumps of trees/brambles and sharp rock formations. Without my own full consent I clambered off the path anyway and headed towards the distant road.  This was tough terrain and very slow-going, and the reality dawned that I had only just dried out, I hadn’t seen any humans since the start of my ascent sometime ago and I was clambering over sharp rocks somewhere in Bosnia.  Common sense was restored and I decided to turn back. The kilometre I travelled off-track took me about 25 minutes and that was moving as fast as I could, such was the terrain.

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I carried on along another ridge which must have been the border between Croatia and Bosnia, regular abandoned outposts and walls reduced to rubble lined the edges of the paths high up in the hills.

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It was around about then that I introduced myself to a snake. Midnight black and about a metre long dryly slithering across the trail.  Realising we were both completely terrified of each other we parted company as quickly as we could going our respective ways with a nod of encouragement. Now running low on water and energy I reluctantly knew I needed to head back so weaved my way back down the rocky paths.  What a fantastic descent it was.

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Finally reaching a road I stumbled into a bakery selling chocolate milk and very large slices of pizza which truly was a dream come true!!

Later, I found out about the land mines….. warnings on wiki travel to not venture off any roads or investigate any derelict buildings.  Ignorance is bliss as clearly this would have added a new element of fear to the whole journey. As if I needed to worry about a little snake! Its hard to know how “real” the danger was and if there were any land mines in the vicinity – wouldn’t a country’s border be the “perfect” spot?  In any case, I made it back alive, with a wonderful life experience tucked under my belt!

All hail the trail!

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Project Trail

Out-of-the-blue, I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to be part of Project Trail after entering a competition in Men’s Running mag!!!

What is Project Trail I hear you cry!  It’s an ongoing feature in the mag where 3-4 guys are entered into a race, trained up to within an inch of their lives and then featured for a few months to show their progress.  The race this time is a biggie…..  Its the Wendover Woods 50 miler!  As well as race entry we also get training plans and advice from Team GB’s Robbie Britton and lots of free running gear!!  If its anything like previous “Project Trails” then there’ll be a regular feature on how me, and the other two competition winners, are getting on, so my ugly mug will be out there in a national magazine!  I’m off to Wimbledon for the first photoshoot this week so am covered in fake tan, and am plucked and preened to within an inch of my life (last 18 words not true).

Whilst I have been working hard at running, this really will be a challenge…. 50 miles…. that’s just a bit less than two marathons…… its 16 parkruns…. its…… really…… far…… am I going to be able to do this?  One thing is for certain, its going to take something pretty serious to stop me 🙂

I have written the odd race report on this blog, but I do intend to do more frequent posts on how the whole experience and training is going and, ultimately, a full report on the race itself.  I considered starting a new blog as this one was really dedicated to my exploration into music, sound bending and camera mangling, but then it dawned on me I really was overthinking it.  Given all the content that’s been posted here since I started it in June 2012, running is just another “tentacle” emerging and another part of my life…..

With the evil pincers of available time closing in on me, I have unfortunately taken a break from my piano lessons as over the last few months had been able to dedicate less and less time to it, and really want (and need) to dedicate the required time and effort to run a fifty mile race just a few short months away!  There are still a few songs in the pipeline which will get finished eventually.  At least I can blame one of them on Mat because I’ve been waiting since October 2015 for him to send me a bassline, but these things can’t be rushed eh? 🙂

I set up a new Twitter account more geared towards running, so follow it HERE @allhailthetrail

In honour of this momentous time, I have drawn a stick man running up a mountain…..

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Coniston (Photos and Marathon Running)

I spent some time in Coniston in the Lake District last weekend, predominantly to run a marathon (which I report on below), but first up are a few photos I took over the few days.

A Gate

First up a lowly gate combined with the fantastic evening sky

A Coniston Lake

The beautiful calm of Coniston

A Grange

This is Grange-over-sands where we stopped off on the way.  I initially wasn’t too taken with this shot, but the more I look at it the more I like it.  Nice sky, great brickwork and a summery girl at the bottom to bring in a bit of colour.

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A field, a couple of hills and some drama

Race Report: On to the run itself.  Having recently run the 50km Canalathon followed swiftly by Manchester marathon, I was reasonably confident for getting round the Lakeland Trails Coniston Marathon.  Its only a few extra hills isn’t it?  In my head I’m already a long distance trail runner, but the reality is quite different.  I’ve ran a marathon distance three times (all during 2016) and done plenty of trail running but never actually combined the two, so this was my chance to get out there and prove it!  I had about 8 weeks since Manchester marathon so no sooner had I recovered and started getting the distances up it was time to start ramping down again, my longest run being a hilly 30km in the Peak District.  Was I going to be ready for this??  Well here I am ready to go, 8am with a lovely stroll down to race HQ where it’s a hive of activity.  Its worth noting now that even pre-9am it was already looking to be a scorcher of a day.

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Living in Manchester I’m an expert at rain running, point me along a canal towpath and I’ll splash along for as long as I need to, but running……. in this heat?! We were off around 9am and I got into a reasonably comfortable pace but as we entered the first climb many shifted into a “power-hike” and I shortly followed suit (with hindsight I’d have taken it a lot easier at the start).  It was tough running, mainly as very little of the route was shaded so the sunshine was quite relentless, but things were going reasonably well and I got to halfway around 2 hours.

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The picture above was taken from near enough the highest point in the race at around 15 miles, so whilst there was a reasonable amount of climbing (my watch said 920m) it was pretty much several “ups and downs” rather than one large climb, but the views up here were fantastic and make this type of running so much more rewarding than pounding the pavement.  I really had begun to tire by this point and knowing there was another 10+ miles to go in 25 degree+ heat was quite a challenge on the mind.  I’m a stubborn bastard though so I kept repeating my mantra “The finish line doesn’t move, you do!” to get me through it.  I also put some music on (hip hop of course) but that did kind of ruin the natural vibe of the run.

Five or so miles later I found myself approaching a dead body face down in some “scrubland”.  I was quite unsurprised given the heat but thought I had better investigate just to make sure that they were either dead or doing the finest “planking” session in the north-west.  Rather than death, the unfortunate runner had got something worse – cramp.  Planking seemed to be his cure for it and he assured me he was ok, so given it was nearly lunchtime and all I continued on into the heat.

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The view above, whilst fantastic in it own right, I found quite soul destroying.  I had around five miles to go and running had become almost optional with the vast majority of people around me resorting to trekking along feeling sorry for themselves, and what could we see? Mainly nothing but a long dry path, not a water station or shady forest in sight.  But as I mentioned above, the marathon organisers were hardly likely to bring the finish line up here to me so jog on I did.  I did come across a small stream so I filled up my hat and poured the lot over my head which did seem to invigorate me somewhat!

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An hour or so later and this is me in the last 50m, incredibly relieved!! Wind-on about 2 minutes later and I was in the lake, oh the lovely cool lake.  I finished in a time of 4:42:21 which to put into perspective is a whopping increase from my Manchester marathon time of 3:27:37, which goes to show what the hills and heat can do to you!  A fantastic organised race with a really good crowd.  “Interestingly” I finished 62nd, which was also my race number so clearly I carefully planned my time and finishing position 🙂

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Its done, dunno what all the fuss was about!

I learnt a lot about pacing (slow slow slow) and a lot about my own abilities.  I know I have loads to work on to build up for some long races later this year and all being well some even longer ones next year!

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Soothing marathon feet!

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Goodbye for a while Coniston.

Ancoats

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Since my Lumix GX1 suffered a heat stroke in Gran Canaria and I replaced with a GX7 back in Sept/Oct I barely seem to have used it.  When I’m out running I see so many things I’d love to photograph, but the two hobbies are very incompatible! I finally took a local stroll without my shorts and trainers instead armed with a camera and thought I’d focus on one particular area – the southern part of Ancoats close to Manchester City Centre.

Before I even knew I was destined to become a Manchester resident I visited here back in 2013 with work so spent some eerie time in the deserted/derelict Morning Star hostel and school which I mentioned in THIS POST.  Its a strange area on the fringe of the city, clearly industrial, but lots of deserted/derelict buildings with pockets of nice flats, kind of like the Northern Quarter has burst its seams and some hipsters have spilled over Great Ancoats Street clutching their Macbooks and little dogs.  I’ve not gone for beautiful photos here (ability problems) so just tried to capture the vibe of the area.  So, without further ado, here are a few snaps!.

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Anita Street, very clean and well presented considering the surrounding area!

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Nestled inside an old Mill, a coffee shop serving Ancoats Coffee.  A true hispter hangout.

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I wouldn’t try getting in here….

 

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The hawk-eyed amongst you will be screaming “That’s not Ancoats!!!” and you’d be right.  I wanted to try out keeping some colour in a B&W photo so here is my first effort.  This car is in the NQ right by Cord bar and hasn’t moved since I began living here.

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George Leigh Street

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I too, wish I knew the way.

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Swift half down Smith’s?

So there you go.  It was good to get out with the camera again and also try out a few different editing techniques on the pics above.  Until next time…..

 

Fleuve Parasseux

Time to get back to the roots of this blog and get some music up! Here is my latest offering – “Fleuve Parasseux”

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Fleuve Parasseux:

What’s that rubbish picture I hear you say?  Its a river of course, but I have taken the liberty of inconveniencing a few electrons and altered it using the free image “glitching” website available HERE

I love that we have access to fantastic technology, but then try and mess things up so that pictures look old, retro, faded and “glitched” or produce music then distort it to make it sound like its on tape, or add record scratches etc. Why do we strive for perfection and then try and quickly get away from it?

The track itself started as a piano piece which I recorded and then developed all the other parts around it.  Whilst uncharacteristically “nice” for the most part, I tried to add my own “glitch”.

New EP coming very soon including a collection of tracks from this blog, a couple of new “interludes” and an older track with new vocals all over it (not by me thankfully!)

 

Adidas Thunder Run

All it took was a quick email to “Men’s Running” magazine saying how I needed a night off the beer, and somehow I was in their team for the Adidas Thunder Run and had won a load of free running gear from Adidas! Needless to say I am now a walking advert for them – you’d see less stripes on a tiger!  For the uninitiated, the Thunder Run is a 24 hour trail running event where you compete either solo(!), pairs, or other combinations to run continuous 10km laps around Catton Park in Derbyshire.  Our team consisted four men and four women, three of each competition winners and two experienced ultra runners (Gary and Anne-Marie) to make it seem like it was a run round the park.  Which in effect, it was.

I rolled up early on Saturday morning to a bustling campsite and managed to find our team with a well established campsite, a kettle on the go and a selection of muffins and flapjacks baked by some of the ladies.  Gender stereotype alert, but as you would probably expect, the men’s baking contribution was ….. er…. nothing.  Although I did bring some teabags.

Here’s the team:

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Laura, Dan (me), Paul, Anne-Marie, Gary, Jade, Steve, Alexy.

Noon soon rolls along and Paul had jumped forward to do the first lap which he completed in a mud-busting 38:50 which was a fantastic time for the course.  The lap was followed by some frantic shouting for Jade who had a remarkable skill of not being found during changeover 🙂  I was next up and set off in the warm sunshine.  Gently jogging along the first field, it was all looking very comfortable but a sudden sharp right straight up a steep woodland path left any thoughts of this being an easy run right there at the bottom.  I’m a relatively new runner so this was actually one of the tougher routes I’ve done with lots of twists and turns, mud, narrow woodland paths and short sharp hills.  Defying the laws of physics I am convinced there was far more “up” than there was “down”.  I came in under 50 mins which I was pleased with considering the terrain.  I passed on to Laura, followed by Gary, Anne-Marrie, Steve then Alexy.  And so it went on.

Purely for reasons of me having a camera, I soon became the official team photographer.  We soon got into a routine with Paul being chief ‘spotter’ which meant standing a bit further up from the finish line then frantically waving when one of our team came in. This was a cue for me to stop thinking about bacon sandwiches and sleeping and to quickly get my camera ready to get a picture of the incoming runner.

My second lap kicked off around 9:30pm, so it was time for the head torches as by the time I finished the woods were pretty black.  This was my favourite lap and best time too (49:03), it just all came together and I got a nice comfortable rhythm going.  Shower, food and time for a quick sleep as I was up again at 4am in preparation for my final lap which started around 5:30am, but I still somehow managed a smile:

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The weather was kind to us apart from the final couple of laps for Alexy and Paul when it was completely tipping it down.  We finished up doing 25 laps (3 each and 4 for Paul), and it seemed everyone had a great time, each of us with our own level of experience and personal goals for running, from the ultra runners to …..er …… me.

Here’s us with our medals!

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Thanks to Men’s Running mag and Adidas for the opportunity to do this along with the free gear, it’s all great stuff. Thanks of course to all my team mates (and Stephen, our support crew) who were all a pleasure to do this with and made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience all round!

Check out my running page HERE on this blog for my running history.

The girls were busy posing for a photo, but it was front camera on all the time, sorry ladies:

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The plan:

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The Results:

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Lake District Snaps

I had a nice break in Windermere recently, and whilst of course I took all the “usual” photos of normal stuff with people in, that’s not what this blog about, so here is a few I took of the more arty-farty type!

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Moody view from Orrest Head (lots of running training up and down this “hill” over the week!)

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A beautiful little spot where I could crawl all over the place trying out long exposure

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Back when cars were great

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A bit of an engine with some close depth of field – arty or what!

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Down with the ozone layer!

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A perfectly in focus Oscar from the Lakeside aquarium. I loved his colours.

… and that’s the lot.  Musically, I have a piano track bubbling away so just need to sort out some time to record it.  Its leading up to the third Bucket of Tentacles EP, which will hopefully include a collaboration piece with some actual singing by Al over Thalassa (posted here previously).

 

A Glowing City

I took a late Sunday afternoon stroll on Sunday, camera in hand to see what was happening around the City Centre.  I wanted to get some “people” shots, but sometimes its just not happening so I ended up looking out for nice architecture and buildings.  Of which there is loads!  It was a nice evening and once the light dropped a bit there was a nice orange glow everywhere.  A few of my favourites below.  The first one in particular worked really well, and it all got rather exciting as I got kicked off by security so had to rush the shots!

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Above Shudehill at sunset

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Part of the Town Hall extension (I think)

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Such extravagance! A light up seat

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Its not all good.  Scummy back alley.

NQ

The NQ.  My adopted home.  As much as I miss the Black Country, I wouldn’t have it any other way right now 🙂

Uppermill (Saddleworth)

I finally had an opportunity to try a few long exposure shots with water after a short train journey to Uppermill, a nice little village in Saddleworth.  It seems all the rage at the moment and I really like the “other worldly” effect you can achieve.  I’ll be searching for some more locations for better composition, but here are first few attempts….

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