Thursday, 7 February 2019

Melba Isobel Sloman

It seems an awfully long time ago that I sat down to write about my Dad's passing, in this post: A tribute to our Dad but time marches on at breakneck speed. Last year, we lost our Mum. I don't know why, but it affected me far more than I had expected. I suppose when Dad died I was at the top of my game, in rude health and seemingly indestructible. Time's a funny thing.

I'm massively grateful that my brother Gwyn and sister Megan stepped in and made all the arrangements for the funeral - a day that went wonderfully. My sisters Hilary & Christine sorted out the legal stuff. There was no way I could have coped with that. A huge thank you to them both.

Gwyn wrote and read out a lovely eulogy at the funeral. I have copied it out below.



Mum was born in Cardiff. She was the second child to my Grandparents, Edgar and Mabel Waters. She had one sister Vera. Grandad worked at the docks just around the time of the depression; she often recalled the times that she used to go down the docks with her Dad to see if he could get work, often to be turned away. It was the early building blocks of a very tough determined person.

She was always a bit of a tomboy, preferring to climb lampposts and play with the boys than dolls.

Vera then married and went on to have four children of her own.

War came and Mum was now working at Burroughs in Cardiff. She also did voluntary work for the Church Army.

War was over and mum met Dad at a dance in City Hall, Cardiff. Their first dance was “In the mood” by Glen Miller. Romance blossomed. Dad trained as a teacher and they married in 1949.  Dad took a job at a school in Birmingham and within ten months, Hilary was born. Christine followed three years later. In 1955 Mum and Dad moved to Bracknell after Dad took a job at Wick Hill School, later to become Garth. Alan, David myself and Megan all appeared at two year intervals. By now we were at 54 Anneforde Place.

It must have been tough; Mum didn’t work but stayed at home bringing up the family. She was fiercely proud and always managed to feed and clothe us. We loved her to bits. You could never pull the wool over her eyes and if we weren’t behaving, she gave us a look. We knew then that we were in trouble. This was even witnessed by Nik one of her grandsons when he stayed with Mum and Dad some years later.

We had long summer holidays and mum and Dad discovered camping! Two adults and six children in one tent. A lasting memory is of Mum cooking a meal for 8 on a 2-ring camping Gas stove.

Mum had a great sense of humour. She must have had - she read our school reports. Around 1966 Mum re entered the workplace as a part time playground assistant at Sandy Lane Infants.

An abiding memory of life in Anneforde Place was the weekly visit of the Toni Bell Ice-cream man. Mum had learned that it was cheaper to to fill up a basin rather than buy several cones.
Are you the man who does it in the basin?
How much would you like?”
How much can you manage?
The innuendo was lost on us at this age.

In the early 1970s Mum took up the post of Lower School Secretary at Garth Hill. It was a husband and wife team - Dad in one office, Mum in the next and they both remained there until they retired in 1985. It is a testament to their marriage that living and working with each other 24/7 that in the entire time, they never appeared to have a cross word or major falling out. If they did it was behind closed doors.

They loved each and everyone of their family. There appeared to be frequent visits to and from various aunts, uncles and cousins.

Sadly, Mum's sister Vera passed away in the early 80’s. Mum was deeply upset by this. Dig, Ol, Vera, Gil and Ken followed. This left Mum and Dad as the last of their generation.

I keep mentioning Dad, but it is impossible to mention one without the other. They were a team. After retirement, they threw themselves into the Bracknell Active Retirement Association. They made many new friends went on numerous foreign trips and events. They loved retirement and all of a sudden they had a new-found lease of life.

Family was everything to Mum, the subsequent arrival of ten grandchildren ( Sarah the eldest cant be with us today as she is in the States looking after her own family) Mary, Nik, Oliver, Felix, Tom, Emily, Jack, Matthew, Rachael and a step grandchild Rachael. You are all old enough to have known Granny when she had good health. Treasure those memories and do not let them fade. Several great grandchildren, Ben Dan, Lyra, Elsie, Magnus, Ezra, Luca, Edie and Mabel. A Fantastic legacy.

Dad became ill and after a long illness died in 2006.   Mum stayed in Anneforde Place. Now she was alone. Luckily Hilary and Christine were on hand but her health started to fail.

Hilary had to visit the States for thee months in July 2009 for the impending birth of Dan and Ben. It was decided that Mum should go into a care home for three months while Hilary was away. So began the last chapter of Mum's life. She was now at Doveridge Care Home.

She never returned to “54”.

Over the next few years her health gradually faded. A few weeks ago her health notably declined and she gave up her fight a couple of weeks or so ago.

Mum was not perfect, no one is, but she had tremendous qualities.

Now, Mum and Dad are together again. We all have our memories of her, never let them go.

To sum her up in a few words is difficult but I think Christine has done it better than anyone….

She never complained. She was stoic and strong and loved her husband, children and all her wider family.

We will all miss her.

Thanks Mum.


Saturday, 14 July 2018

Summit to Eat Freeze Dried Meals: Review, NOW WITH UPDATES!

With three hundred days to the start of the fortieth Great Outdoors Challenge - you will have spotted the new countdown clock over to the right, I'm sure - my keyboard has once again been pressed into service.

Prior to this year's TGO Challenge, Lauren - an Outreach & Digital PR Manager - asked me if I would be interested in testing some free meals for her client, Summit to Eat. The meals didn't make it in time to take on the Challenge, and so there's been little opportunity for me to test them in the field / up a hill / on a mountain / in my beautiful Trailstar.

I had a bit of rotten news this afternoon that made me feel I'd been punched in the solar plexus and consequently didn't feel like spending time creating another culinary sensation in the kitchen - I'm sure that that Blumenthal fellow pinches all my best work - and so seized the opportunity to catch up on my promise to Lauren.

So, Heston - I know you're reading this - here's how to make a first class Salmon & Broccoli Pasta dish.

  • Boil a kettle. That's not difficult.
  • Pour 280 ml of boiling water into the pouch - there's an easy to see fill-line inside the pouch.
  • Stir well. You need the exercise.
  • Reseal the pouch and cover with a tea-towel to keep it piping hot.
  • Wait ten minutes. The packaging actually suggests eight. Trust me on this.
  • Lay the dining table. Pour some searingly dry white wine into a polished glass, and a little tap water. We don't want anyone getting squiffy.
  • Serve in your best white china. Patterned stuff simply will not do.

For members of the congregation that are either illiterate or too bone-idle to read the instructions, I have provided an easy to follow illustrated guide below. 


And how was it?

I've frequently found that dried meals taste pretty damn good when cooked in your tent. Mind you, it has to be said that I'm usually ready to eat a horse by the time I'm cooking on the hill. However, they don't travel particularly well when served at home. They too often taste like the horse I was about to eat one spoonful at a time. 

Summit to Eat's Salmon & Broccoli Pasta, on the other hand, tastes really, really good! You can actually see chunks of Salmon and large pieces of Broccoli in a beautiful creamy pasta sauce. Take a look at the second picture for the ingredients: Beautifully simple, with no added chemicals what-so-ever.

It's not over-seasoned and is utterly delightful! 

A point to note, that I only realised after I had licked the last of the food from the pasta bowl, is that the packaging is quite shallow, so if you are forced to eat one of the meals out on the hill - though Lord only knows why you would want to drag your sorry carcass up a hill to eat this wonder food - you won't get your knuckles covered in food.

My advice? Buy some and see for yourself. I still have another five meals (FREE ones at that!) to tickle my taste-buds and from what I've experienced so far, I'm really looking forward to them.

You can find out much more about Summit to Eat food by clicking the link below:



UPDATE: 18th August 2018

On the hill I very often have a dehydrated pudding as a breakfast; you can only eat so many Granola Bars before your system screams for a reprieve. In another couple of my lazier moments this week I've had Summit to Eats's Custard Apple Crunch and their Chocolate Mousse with Cherry and Granola as midnight feasts.

I want you to keep this a secret - just between us, okay? - as I don't want hordes of hungry hikers besieging Summit to Eat for my top favourite midnight feast/breakfast of all time only to find that when I want to order it it has sold out: The Chocolate Mousse with Cherry and Granola was bloody superb! That's not to say that the Custard Apple Crunch was poor by any means - it was pretty srummy, actually.

The Chocolate Mousse was intensely chocolatey, and the cherries were bursting with cherriness! The Granola gave the pudding a bit of interesting texture, without making the dish feel too worthy. I hate worthy food... Smacks of hair shirts and vegan sandals to me. The CMwC&G is prepared with cold water, so if you're near the end of a trip and your gas is running low, this dish makes even more sense.

There's 416 calories in the CMwC&G and 447 in the Custard Apple Crunch. For a longish trip I would take a ratio of three CMwC&G to one of Custard Apple Crunch.

But please leave some for me as I'll be ordering a fair few of these!


Friday, 4 May 2018

The 2018 PreWalk Daunder in the Lake District


It's been an incredibly hectic few weeks here. On the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday I joined a Motley Crew (and yes - the capitals are very important here) in the English Lake District for the twenty fourth Annual PreWalkDaunder. Then, on the Monday I started a new job. On Tuesday and Wednesday I moved Mission Control to a new location.

A week later there are twenty eight boxes boxes still to be unpacked (Trust me; that's a huge improvement on just a few days ago) but for the moment my focus is on the new job and sorting myself out for the TGO Challenge in one week's time.

I'll just post the pictures of the Daunder for the moment but I will return to add some scribblings when I get a little more time.



It was said that at Sandy Lane Infants I was an unusually bright child. However, Mr Pugsley (a WWII Spitfire pilot with a very painful, shot-up stiff leg - the Headmaster at Sandy Lane Juniors) also said, quite correctly as it turned out, that I 'would never amount to much.' 

I've put the inevitable failures in my life - and Lord knows there have been a few - down to the numerous toxic amalgam fillings in my sugar-rotted teeth, that slowly but steadily destroyed any functioning brain-cells that were left after the sessions at the Bell in Northfield and the Axe & Compass in Hemingford Abbots. The fillings were the result of my childhood, munching Blackjacks, penny bars of Cadburys chocolate and Sherbet Fountains. My sister Christine didn't help, spending my pocket money on pounds of greasy chocolate buttons from Bracknell Market and then throwing away the  fat-stained paper bag remnants into the dog-rose bushes in Shepherds Lane on the way home, in preference to throwing up.

Perhaps I should enlist the services of a smart lawyer to tackle the confectioners and sue the arse off the bastards? On second thoughts, no lawyer has ever helped my cause any further than the lining of their own pockets.

But that's life.

Having experienced real life in all the kick-you-in-the-nuts-when-you're-down-and-struggling moments, it was an absolute joy to rise to the surface of this fetid soup and find there are still people out there who reward you for your inherent decency that until now had been buried under layers of life. With this blinding revelation I set off  to the Lakes with my best-est buddies for a long weekend of walking, happy in the knowledge that someone was about to pay my bills for the few skills I had left in my depleted armoury. Life, finally, was on the up after years of stasis and the acceptance of  semi-endurable penury.

And who better than to share in this revelation than the happy band of Daunderers selected for this year's PWD.

Let's not get carried away. After all, I'm pretty sure you could think of more worthwhile companions, but with my few remaining grey cells I could not. Phil subsequently sent out the Golden Ticket invitations to this year's Daunderers. 

Phil, or Lord Elpus as he is known in Royal Geographical circles, had arranged a route and itinerary fit for Titans, perhaps forgetting that Daunderers are slipped from common clay.

I think you'll agree that the following photos portray incredibly decent folk all having a jolly good walk in one of the world's prettiest, if not one of the smallest, playgrounds; Cumbria - the English Lake District, land of Curmudgeon-in-Chief Alf Wainwright, Eric Robson, the Lakeside YMCA and the Mountain Goat Transit van bus company who ferried me about as a lad from one over-adventurous escapade to the next for years on end.

For Cumbrian cognoscenti, the pictures will be all that is required to re-imagine our route around the Scafell Massif (for the un-initiated, that's a little like da West Staines Massif) so the usual Ordnance Survey map I provide will not be necessary.

NB. There will be more words added in the next few days, so do please return to this ink-stained Foolscap screed to learn more of my wonderful compatriots and their bizarre foibles!

Monday, 16 April 2018

New Gear for the 24th Annual PreWalkDaunder?

I've noticed that quite a few Challengers have been splashing out on new rucsacs for this year's TGO Challenge. I am just as guilty...

This baby cost me the princely sum of two of Her Madge's pounds from a charity shop, and had it not been for another brand new rucsac arriving at Mission Control, might well have been coming with me this Thursday on the twenty fourth annual PreWalkDaunder. I carried an almost identical model in the Summer of 1970 on the Pennine Way. But that one had felt lining to the straps.There's posh! It had had a fair few miles under its belt when I was loaned it by my wonderful Scout Master, William Charles Kemp. Bless Him.

1970 was the summer of Mungo Jerry and 'In the Summertime', being buzzed by a pair of Avro Vulcans barely a hundred feet above our heads, (my legs gave way completely!) and us lads feeding Horlicks tablets to wild fell ponies, who amazingly came back for more!

Quite a while ago I wrote to Bergans with the photographs and Unique ID stamped inside the sack to ask if they could let me know when this chap was made. Sadly, they did not reply.

In the spirit of Old Mortality:

Postscript: I see now where Mad'n'Bad found the inspiration for his TGO Challenge string vest...