Get a Life!

Music

When I'm not at work, I spend a lot of my time involved in music. I've played the piano for many years, but my main instrument for public consumption is the guitar. I play guitar in the ceilidh band Albireo. Our debut CD "Northern Cross" was recorded by Jon Loomes and Forbes Legato and is available to stream or purchase on bandcamp. Details of gigs are on the Albireo web site. The band also run the Poynton Ceilidh series.

I also played for several years as one half of a duo, known as Burton & Bechhofer. We played at a number of venues in Manchester over the last few years including Band on the Wall, The Roadhouse, Night & Day Cafe and numerous pubs. We also appeared as a trio with keyboard player Paul Minshull, then later with bass player Phil Cawsey.

A number of years ago I played in the band fiction, who were quite liked by the local press. Holly and I were half of the four-piece Going By Feel for a while in 1999, appearing at the Night and Day Cafe a couple of times.

There are various bits and pieces of solo and band work up on my bandcamp site.

I also enjoy the usual kinds of stuff including eating, drinking, cooking, hill-walking, theatre, films.

Sketching

15/06/14 Stockport Market

I recently discovered Urban Sketching, a movement dedicated to drawing and sketching on location.

The Urban Sketching Manifesto states:

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online.
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

I find it a nice way of taking a few minutes out during the day and focusing on something other than work. It also encourages us to take an interest in our surroundings and environment. You can see some of my sketches on flickr.

There's an active Manchester Urban Sketching group who organise regular meetups if you're interested in getting involved.

Underwater

[scuba-divers]

If one dives and returns to the surface inarticulate with amazement...then he deserves to go again and again. If he is unmoved or disappointed, then there remains for him on earth only a longer or shorted period of waiting for death; there can be little worth while left in life for him.

Charles William Beebe (1877-1962) *
Dive #418 #419

I took up scuba diving in 1999 and I'm a PADI Master Scuba Diver with over 470 logged dives in the Red Sea, the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Atlantic, the Pacific and Indian Oceans (and a couple of quarries in the UK!). I took a dry suit course in July 2001, but most of my diving has been in comparatively warm waters. I'm also qualified to dive Nitrox which helps to add a safety margin when doing multiple repetitive dives on liveaboards. I initially trained at Aquatech in Manchester and I'm a member of their Diving Club.

You can see some scans of recent entries from my Dive Log -- which has become more and more elaborate over the last few years -- on flickr.

Blue O Two

My favourite dive site is probably the Carnatic, a P&O passenger steamer that sank at Abu Nuhas in the Red Sea in 1869. There are a number of close seconds though.

After waiting some 13 years, including a fruitless special Manta Dive in Kona with "Mr. Manta" (not his fault I hasten to add -- these are wild creatures after all), we finally managed to get a sight of Manta Rays in summer 2012 in the Maldives. A couple of individuals on two dives, then an incredible night dive at Koona Jetty, with half a dozen Mantas barrel-rolling through the plankton above us for forty minutes. A high point in my diving career. The trip also featured another amazing night dive at Maaya Thila, with dozens of hunting white tips. They're fairly docile during the day, often snoozing on the sand, but at night they really display why they're top predators. Following the Manta desert we've had a bit of a glut though, seeing them in the Indian Ocean around the Hallaniyat islands, the Maldives again and a couple of Mobula Rays off El Hierro!

Abu Golawa Soraya

In April 2014, we had a fantastic trip to the Galapagos islands. This was on a liveaboard boat, so we were able to get all the way up to Wolf and Darwin Islands, two of the top dive sites in the world for big pelagic animals -- which in this case meant schools of hammerheads! Also turtles, many other sharks, playful sealions and penguins. Quite spectacular.

Scorpionfish

In 2010 we were on a boat in the Red Sea with a film crew, shooting a pilot documentary. I don't think this has ever aired, but there's a short clip featuring Clare and I descending to, and swimming around the Thistlegorm, one of the top wreck dives in the world. Look for the pink snorkel! The end of that trip coincided with the Icelandic volcano, so getting back was interesting.....

A lot of our diving has been in the Red Sea -- it's (relatively) close, and on a good day provides some fantastic diving, particularly in the marine parks like Ras Mohammed, the Brothers and Daedulus.

In 2003 we dived the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, including a trip out to Osprey Reef. This is a sea mount over 100 miles off the eastern coast of North Queensland that rises up 1000m from the seabed to just below the surface. Strong currents attract a large number of big pelagics, and there's a resident population of sharks. An incredible dive, and well worth the 10 hours of rough sea crossing.

It's not always thought of as a dive destination, but the Mediterranean has some great diving. We've had excellent trips to Sardinia (Villasimius), Gozo (Marsalforn - three times) and Turkey (Kas). It's not full of colourful coral, but the topography and landscapes are beautiful (in particular Cathedral Cave in Gozo) and there are lots of interesting things to look at -- it just sometimes takes a little more effort to find them! Atlantic Diving in Madeira (big groupers), El Hierro in the Canary Islands and the Azores were also good. Now we just need Cape Verde to complete the Macaronesia set! In 2002 I also had the opportunity to dive in the kelp forests off Catalina Island in California.

Chromodoris quadricolor

Some of my favourite underwater creatures are nudibranchs or sea slugs, in particular flabellina affinis, chromodoris quadricolour, and the Spanish Dancer -- the latter is basically a big red slug that can grow up to two feet long. They swim through the water rather gracefully, however, with a "bucking" action that resembles the flapping skirt of a dancer, hence the name.

I have an experimental on-line dive log using MIT's exhibit framework and Google spreadsheets, although I haven't yet got all my dives in there.

You can see some of my feeble attempts at underwater photography on flickr. However, if you want to see how it's really done, David Doubilet is the man.

*The above quote from Beebe was found in Trevor Norton's book Stars Beneath the Sea (Random House, 2000), an excellent collection of written portraits of the early pioneers of diving. Tim Ecott's Neutral Bouyancy (Michael Joseph, 2001) is also a great read for anyone wanting to know more about why one would want to strap on a tank and several kilogrammes of lead then leap off a boat....

Photography

I have a collection of photos up at flickr.

Manchester City

I'm a Manchester City supporter, although the introduction of all-seater stadia led to me no longer attending many live matches. If you want to know why, read my account. This is part of the excellent Manchester City F.C. Supporters Home Page.