31st December: Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to you all.

An unexpected turn around of fortunes (for me anyhow) already means that 2008 is looking good.
Next years blog will feature more bird related posts with the odd pie thrown in for good measure. No more bleating about how hard done to I am etc etc . Thanks to all my friends who've helped me through a very tough 6 months your all great. And as the saying goes what goes around comes around.



31st December: Pie Famine

Today was very wet but none the less we managed a bit of birding in the early afternoon. A walk along the beach at West Voe of Sumburgh produced a couple of Purple Sandpipers, 2 Long-tailed Ducks close inshore and a party of 30 ish Goldeneye.
A stop at the Toab shop produced a surprise Chicken and White Sauce Pie. Surprise? Due to the time of year there appears to be a bit of a pie famine at present. Hopefully this situation will change towards the end of the week when I hope to get my hands on one of those highly rated Macaroni Pies by Friday.
With the heavy rain in mind we stopped at Vatsetter and scanned from the road. After a few minutes the Wigeon flock flushed and landed on the water, where the American Wigeon was easily picked out. The light was very poor now so we headed home via the Pieless Mainland Stores.
Some more pics from yesterday:

A nice sunny day at Catfirth

Bloody Cold

30th December: Reasons to be cheerful Part 3

In the evening I dropped Rob off at the Sumburgh Hotel, for his 'shift' behind the bar, returned home to watch some telly and spend a considerable amount of time on the net. I went back to the Sumburgh at 10:30 and walked into a packed bar of 2 people. What was most bizarre was the sight at the bar. Mr Fray had challenged a young local chap to eat twelve extremely large pickled onions by midnight. The only snag being that this lad hated them. The prize at the end of this would be twelve pints of his choice and all onions paid for. Oh how these dark winter nights must sail by!
The evening took a turn for the worse when said local challenged Rob to wear a rather camp woolly hat hanging behind the bar. To cut a long story short Rob lost the bet to the tune of £29 - which he later blamed me for as I had eaten one.

Don't go into the Virkie willows alone!!

30th December: Reasons to be cheerful pt 2

Rob and I decided to take a round trip on the Yell - Unst/Fetlar ferry this morning. To see if we could repeat his trip earlier in the winter. Despite being a glorious day, at least as far as the weather was concerned we didn't see a great deal, namely: Long-tailed Duck (lots), Eider (Lots more than the former), Velvet Scoter 1, Great Northern Diver 3 and a single Red-throated Diver. As December days on Shetland are fairly short we only had time to visit the Shetland Catch factory adjacent to Lerwick Harbour. This paid off though with excellent views of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls (both first winters) and a small party of Long-tailed Ducks.

29th December: Back oop north.

After a very enjoyable Christmas period it was time to make my first winter Shetland visit. This was originally meant to help me get through what was going to be a very miserable time, by drowning my sorrows and seeing a few nice birds in the short daylight hours. So fate, being the amusing little shit that he/she is, goes and turns my circumstances around only to make me miserable about coming up here instead!! That's life, but I'm certainly not complaining.

So after leaving the house at 5am I arrived at Birmingham Airport around 6.30. The Aberdeen flight was slightly delayed as the plane had to fill up with Oxygen - surely it would be easier just to open a window! Due to being completely knackered I managed to fall asleep before take off and wake up just as we were landing. Because of the late departure I was unable to jump onto the earlier 9.30 Sumburgh bound plane, so a 3 hour wait at Aberdeen would be necessary. After mooching around this small airport I sat down and read the paper (I don't expect anyone to be still reading this crap by the way). After some 30 minutes an announcement for a Mr Mark Reeder to return to the security desk was made. Shit! I had visions of some dodgy looking security card looking into my case whilst snapping on the rubber gloves and applying a liberal amount of KY jelly on to the finger ends (if I was lucky)!!! Fortunately, depending how you look at it, this was not the case. I had infact dropped my boarding card in the duty free shop whilst purchasing a single malt for Rob. Boarding card back in a safe place I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back down and happy that that was still possible!
The Shetland flight was slightly bizarre in that the plane taxied on to the runway and then turned round and drove back to the terminal to pick up an engineer for a sick plane at Sumburgh. A responsible use of several gallons of aviation fuel Loganair, particularly as the engineer wasn't even there.
Anyhow I got to Shetland at 2pm and promptly cracked my head on the boot of Rob's car something I do once each time I come up here. With the stuff in the car and a dint in my forehead we set off to get some diesel (£1.20 a litre). The pies at Mainlands looked distinctly pre Christmas made and to be honest the Lasagne Pie, I bought was very poor. There was just enough daylight to have a quick visit to Loch of Hillwell. The Redhead Smew (probably the one that was present during my October visit) was still there and a Jackdaw on the fence, both Shetland ticks.
Followers of Rob's blog will be delighted to know that there is indeed green stuff in his fridge and it's not mould. He even has a cookery book!!
As it got dark we had a wander down the road to look at the roosting Jackdaws, apparently the biggest flock ever on Shetland whoopee doo. It started to sleet/snow so we popped back and opened the whisky.

23rd December: Christmas Eve Eve

With renewed enthusiasm brought on by a very nice early Christmas present I decided to plan my day. 1. Go birding 2. Do some work at the house 3. Either visit IKEA or go birding again. So I slung several changes of clothing into the car and headed to RV. About a mile away from RV I realised that I had forgotten to actually put any optics in the car so sadly it became another weekend of no birding. A few jobs in the house and a trip to IKEA and a stop off at Murderhell on the way home made for another uneventful Sunday, but it did get much better in the evening!


I've nicked this out of a local magazine for local people.
Answer this question: How many blackbirds (though strictly speaking it should be black birds) were baked in a pie?

Answers emailed to sales@excellemagazine.co.uk

21st December: Goodwill To All Men (with the obvious exceptions)

Thanks to all who have helped make this blog what it is over the last three months!! I couldn't have made this crap without your help. Apologies for the lack of bird stuff since Shetland but it's been hard to gather the enthusiasm, hopefuly that will change very soon.

Rob has provided me with a new Shetland Pie namely an Egg and Bacon. Followers of his blog will dismayed that he doesn't appear to be following doctors orders. Never the less he has awarded it 10 points. Tut tut Mr Fray a cheese and broccoli bake would have been a wiser choice.

16th December: Owt abart

Bloody hell I've just realised that it has now been three weeks since I raised my trusty Leicas in anger. To make matters a little more concerning I have not even looked at the pager in over three days. Am I phasing - well no it's the time of year dark all day and seemingly no birds around, though that may not be true as like I said I haven't looked at the pager, I'll go and have a look now.

Like I suspected not a fat lot, Desert White Arse, Scarborough and a Dusky Wobbler, Notts.

The decorating is going well and I anticipate moving in after my Shetland foray which is now only thirteen days away.

This is a Christmassy as I'm going to get

13th December: Drunken bum

The last few days have been pretty uneventful with all my free time spent stripping wallpaper and pondering paint colours and stuff.
However yesterday was good with a rather heavy drinking session (by my standards anyway) commencing at 3:30pm. By 10pm and following seven or so pints of Pedigree I was very pissed and craving the obligatory doner kebab. Actually I had been craving one all day but being pissed just seemed a perfect excuse. Apparently we got a taxi back to Kerrie and Tim's but I really can't remember that. I also can't remember Kerrie ordering kebabs but she must have as three arrived instantly or at least by the time they had woken me up, after taking photos of me in a drunken coma - bastards.

8th December: House

I've now got the keys back for my house so with great glee I went back this afternoon and will spend the next few weeks fumigating and decorating. The next birding I do will be on my next Shetland trip, which is only three weeks away. Stuart Maconi had a feature on the pies of Wigan this evening which will be available on listen again probably. Apologies for this post being crap I've just got too much on my mind. Normal service will resume shortly.

3rd December: Something to do on Google when your bored

Today was dull. In my lunch I was that bored that I decided to put my name in Google and search. This is what came up: HERE There were lots more as well but this was by far the best and most accurate. Though I'm not too happy with my fate :()

1st December: Not so drunk birders

Another Saturday of weekend dadness (made up word) before heading to Leicester for the annual Drunk Birders gathering. The evening got off to a good start with a couple of slices of a proper Melton Mowbray pork pie. Nice crisp non fatty pastry with a filling of very tasty cured pork a total of 10 points on the pie scale. A quick bus trip into Leicester and a seemingly circular walk around the cities perimeter found us frequenting a real ale pub that I've forgotten the name of and drinking some very nice real ale that I also can't remember. Another pub (The Marquis I think) and some Guinness followed by a splendid curry and more beer. The final pub of the evening was a bit like being in that bar in Star Wars though with slightly less attractive clientèle. With that very bloated too much beer and curry feeling we headed for a taxi. Thanks to Leigh and John for putting me up hope you got rid of that strange smell!!!
The rest of the day was spent looking at paint charts and burning off the weeks excess in the gym. On returning home I checked the messages on my phone only to discover that a terrible act of suppression had taken place. I remember in our drunken state the previous evening that Leigh and John said they had a surprise for me for breakfast. It turns out it was a home made breakfast pie containing bacon, sausage, black pudding and beans. I'd forgotten they had a surprise for me and probably couldn't have eaten a thing as I was still full from the Indian. I must apologise to Leigh who slaved making the pie whilst missing the omnibus edition of the Jeremy Kyle show. I am assured by John that it was delicious and award it the full 12.

The First Drunk Birders Annual Gathering

28th-30th November: Life is great again

Having sold my soul to the Building Society I can now look forward to another 40 (yes 40) years of mortgage payments, I forgot to mention that males in my family seldom make it to pensionable age!!
Highlight of the last couple of nights was an evening with birding mates involving beer and a monster Chinese. Nothing else of note except I'm feeling happier than I have done for years.
Today is Drunk Birders piss up eve. By tradition this should involve consuming too much beer, eating hi fat foods followed by some birding in a semi drunken state. However as it is easy to wander around on Shetland half cut and go birding, we might have a problem creating the effect. That is unless we wander around Birstall looking in peoples gardens and climbing fences - hmm I wonder.

Quote of the day: Female contestant on Deal or no Deal "I have never had a big one in my box" narrrrrrrr


Recently I have been asked by a friend of mine if I am losing my mind. The simple answer is no I am just as mad as I've ever been. Cal and I have sorted things out amicably (sort of) and I will soon be moving back to Aston, on my own, unless I get a better offer - which is not very likely. My friend Mr Predictor, below, can confirm that I am indeed totally sane.

Mr Predictor says today will be happy

26th November: Day Break

Getting to work at 7:15 does have some advantages like this stunning sunrise over Sheffield.

An evening out socialising and getting dunk on a Monday night - not clever.

25th November: Some Birding

With a renewed sense that life's really not that bad I finally went out and did some birding. A visit to RV produced no surprises but I took the chance to blow the dust off the camera and photograph some duckies.

24th November: Social Embarrassment

A warning to all you fellow birders out there. According to Parker Rhodes (tin pot solicitors in Rotherham) Birdwatching causes Social Embarrassment - you have been warned.

Anyway it pissed it down today so being the weekend parent, that I now am, Beth and I went swimming. After swimming it was raining even harder so we went into Sheffield for a bit of culture.
The Art of Willard Wigan

This is an exhibition of microscopic art that is totally mind blowing (even though I'm not into art per say). Basically it's microscopic sculptors within the eyes of needles or on pin heads. As I had the Samsung NV3 about me I took the opportunity to do a spot of impromptu digiscoping. If you get the chance to go then go.

The Leicestershire branch of the 'cheque book birders'
Christmas fancy dress party 2007 was a big let down.

20th-23rd November: I was sleeping

It's been a pretty uneventful few days though things have improved on the pie front.
Firstly I have a photo of a Fish pie made by Helen. This could be a serious contender for one of Kerrie's pies, though until I am back on Shetland to sample one (hint hint) we will not know.

The second pie of the week was a hand made Pork Pie from the Proper Pasty Company. It was quite nice although a little salty and would, had it not spent the afternoon repeating on me, have earned a decent 8/10. Instead I can only give it 4.

Final pie of the week was a stunning pair from Laura, Steak and Mushroom from the Denby Dale Pie Company. This was a quality pie (even when microwaved) in every way and scored the maximum 12 points. These pies are available from Waitrose and Sainsbury's and cost about three quid.

19th November: Wetter than an Otters pocket

Today it rained all day and was generally very miserable, but you don't need me to tell you that. Highlight of the day was a rather juvenile email discussion with Kerrie (the lovely) about the very confusing array of cooking utensils available in Ann Summers. Apparently the thing I mistook for a pastry cutter is not!

Weather's too crap to go birding so here's a picture from earlier in the year. Taken in the garden at my parents house. This is a real mean bugger that has a fondness for Collared Doves.

Famous Pie Persons No:3 Simple Simon

Watch this bast**d !

17th-18th November: A big pile of crap.

Well I said it would be shit and for the most part it was. Bethany had tonsillitis so there was going to be little chance of any birding and swimming was off. Fortunately the weather was on our side so we paid a visit to Sheffield's Botanical Gardens. Despite being almost in the centre of Sheffield this site has had some pretty good birds, namely Black-throated Thrush, Arctic Redpoll and Yellow-browed Warbler. Today it had just a few Redwings.

One more move and I'll kick your head in.

Sunday's forecast was also spot on in that it was very cold and wet all day. We went to Murderhall with all the other saddo's and bought stuff. With my weekend parenting over I returned Beth to base and went home :(

My weekend just got better I have been invited on a long weekend to Islay in late February by some very nice people :)

16th November: Better than yesterday

Had a lie in this morning. Got to work at 9 ish, drank tea, sent some emails then went on site visits to look at bits of road with Tim. I was a bit concerned that he was going to lock me away in unit 10 (highway's equivalent of hanger 18) in order to stop me talking to Kerrie (the lovely), but my fears were unfounded and we returned to the office safely. An extended lunch with a good friend made a change from the usual Friday fishcake butty. The day was finished off with another site visit to Sheffield's notorious Manor estate - though it's not nearly as bad as some areas of the city. I returned to the car half expecting it to be on bricks but it was still intact. I went home with the thought of an exciting weekend ahead, but I think I was having someone else's thoughts as mine was going to be shit!

15th November: Boring

Today was quite boring.

A diet of pies never hurt me

Beware not all Macaroni pies are the same as Mr Fray reports below.

Today I went to Fetlar (again). You can read all about the exciting birds I saw on my blog (including co-finding a White-billed Diver) but you will be more interested in pies I expect. So here is a short review of a pie stop today at the shop at Ulsta on Yell.
The fridge only had four pies in it - two "meat" pies and two of the legendary macaroni cheese pies. I was all of a quiver about this, but then spotted a hot food cabinet thing which contained some more macaroni pies. However, the ones in the hot food cabinet were not made by Johnson and Wood, who are the people who make all the good pies here. I decided to give this unmarked macaroni cheese pie in the hot food cabinet a go. It is my sad duty to report that it was not very good. The macaroni cheese wasn't very cheesy and there wasn't the expected baked bean bonus underneath. I awarded it 5 out of 10, plus 2 points for the heating facility. Unfortunately, it then lost all its marks and became the first pie to get minus points as I gave a bit to Sparky and he was sick!
Here endeth today's pie report from up north

14th November: Huge Erection and a Little Dip

Today was quite exciting in that I got to watch a large group of men handling a huge erection. That is they were erecting a rather tall crane on the site next to work. Apparently the big one on the site is the tallest in Europe and can apparently make itself even bigger.

At last some bird action. Duncan Bye rang me at 1pm to tell me there was a Little Auk on Ulley Res' (made nationally famous by its dam wall threatening to burst during the great flood). Fortunately my ever supportive and part-time birding boss, John, offered to take me for it. Unfortunately on arriving by the bridge it became obvious that the little bugger had buggered off or been eaten by a Pike of which Ulley has plenty. On returning Mr Norman, who met up with us at Ulley, showed me a rather nice looking meat and tattie pie, from Morrison's, that he had been suppressing. This is the second time that Mr Norman has failed to A. provide me with a score and B. Not fetched me one (I think he's jealous that Kerrie is my main supplier).

A quick winge at the useless TW_TS at Rotherham Council who managed to thieve £70 out of my bank account. Despite me cancelling their direct debit the incompetent devious gits managed to set up another DD without my permission!!

Birthday wishes to the lovely Kerrie today. Happie Birthday.

13th November: Rabbit or Donkey

A pretty uneventful day. Following a couple of emails from Helen I was asked the question Rabbit or Donkey. This had nothing to do with my sexual prowess which at the moment is non existent, but stemmed from a conversation about the dangling of carrots. Anyway after a great deal of consideration I came up with the following:

Hmm Rabbit or Donkey? Both have their advantages. Rabbits are always bonking and Donkeys are renowned for apparently being well endowed hence the phrase hung like a donkey! However they equally have their downsides too. Donkeys are stupid and smell and Rabbits like staring at car headlights (which is also stupid). So given the choice it’s a tricky one. It’s no good being a well endowed donkey if you stink of shit and are too stupid to know what to do with said appendage. I think I’ll opt for a rabbit, short lifespan but what a life providing you keep away from the headlights. Hold on a minute don’t rabbits eat their own shit? Oh well I suppose I could live with that after all that bonking

Also is it me or is this pastry derived rabbit (made by Helen) the scariest thing you've ever seen.

Blair Witch Bunny

12th November: I don't care if Monday's blue

A good day today. First off Ms Miggins (AKA Kerrie) brought me in a new pie -a Mousaka Pie no less. A worthy rival for its Italian cousin the famous Lasagne Pie. Another first rate effort Ms Miggins. An hour long interview late morning was successful in that I progressed to my next grade.

Famous pie person No.2 William 'Fatty' Foulke

According to the Times

The football chant "Who ate all the pies?" dates back more than 100 years, researchers have discovered. Sung to the tune of Knees Up Mother Brown, it was directed at Sheffield United's 24-stone goalkeeper William 'Fatty' Foulke by his own fans in 1894.

11th November: No birds

An afternoon visit to RVCP produced no birds of any real interest. There were no Long-eared Owls in their usual roost and the only highlight on the Reserve was three Goosanders - whoopee! With this in mind I decided to spend an hour or two torturing myself in the gym.

Highlight of the day was being invited down to Leicester for the first gathering of the Drunk Birders since Shetland. This will take place on the 1st December involving beer, curry and possibly high quality Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. I fully expect the Bog Ostrich to make a reappearance

Famous Pie Persons of our time No.1 Mrs Miggins

10th November: Too much pie

When I were a lad my old mum (though she was actually a lot younger than I am now) used to pop to the local shop on a Saturday morning and return with a fresh baked pork pie. Thus my love of proper hand made pies was born. Unfortunately the baker went bust years ago and a decent pork pie is now an endangered species in these parts. For instance today I had half a 1Lb pie for an afternoon snack! It was not good and even with a liberal dollop of HP did not improve. Perhaps the £1 sticker on it should have been a clue to the quality.

Anyway that fan of beer, rugby league, the Pigs and pies John Hague has sent me a fine picture of his man breasts. Bizarrely they resemble two steak and tattie pies.

9th November: Friday I'm in love

So sang the Cure, but what do they know.......

A couple of site visits this morning, to photograph some bits of road, resulted in a pair of Peregrines over Midhope Moors.

A bit of road

Unfortunately the Purple Sand' was not seen this morning.

Spent this evening looking up train and ferry fares to the Northern Isles. Train £57, ferry £45. The only drawback being that it takes a full 24 hours to get up there!

On the pie front I have been promised a freebie from the Denby Dale Pie Company. Providing Laura doesn't eat it first I should be able to review it shortly.

Mr Norman demonstrates how to correctly eat a pie (though admittedly using a sandwich) whilst at the same time keeping all of your finger ends.

8th November: A lost lost weekend!

Well fortunately sense prevailed and I wasn't tempted to head north for the Brunnich's.
However more tempting was the invitation to a party apparently full of "very sexy ladies" Unfortunately the party was on Shetland and with parental duties, financial restraints and incredibly rough seas it was a non starter. How good could that have turned out Brunnich's on the list and a lost weekend in south mainland - we'll never know.

A Purple Sandpiper at RVCP, this morning, will hopefully still be there in the morning.

A Shepherd's Pie for tea (that's dinner to you Southern freaks) was delicious but sadly not a pie in the true sense.

Back in Scotland it's all happening here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7080759.stm

7th November: Tempting.

A Brunnich's Guillemot near Aberdeen this afternoon made me ponder for a while. Feeling P'd off I actually considered driving up overnight for first light. The trouble is I would probably have been tempted to board the Thursday evening Lerwick bound ferry for a long weekend pie and alcohol feast. Writing this now I'm seriously wondering why I didn't. Two lifers in Scotland tempting.

6th November: Peace talks

Another session in the gym first thing lead to a further reduction in the man boobs - which is a shame as they are the only ones I get my hands on these days.

First meeting with a moderator today (though on my own) went okay but unless they're thinking of using Kofi Annan I'm not expecting miracles!!

On another note: The Sandringham Harrier Slaying

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "The bodies of the Hen Harriers have not been found and there is no forensic or ballistic evidence." CPS lawyer Andrew Baxter was quoted as saying "I am satisfied the police investigation has been thorough and there are no other areas of investigation which can be pursued."
Police had originally identified three suspects: Prince Harry, William Van Cutsem and David Clarke, a gamekeeper

Shame the Ginger tosser couldn't have used his firearm skills in Iraq. Don't suppose they'll still be investigating this one in ten years.

5th November: Remember Remember

Believe it or not I have managed, so far, not to see a single firework. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for hearing the bloody things. I can't imagine that Sheffield was this noisy during the blitz and probably less explosives were involved. Anyway rant over.

No birds were seen today except for the usual scabby town pigeons and no pies have been consumed for days (since the wonderful meat and tattie). I even thought about popping into Greggs but fortunately the queue of chavs outside deterred me.

4th November: Derwentdale

I received an email last night from Square Pies. I'd cheekily asked them for some free samples in return for adding a link to the blog. They have agreed to give me a couple of free pie meals on presentation of their email. The only snag is is that their outlets appear to be exclusively in the southeast. So if any of you southern softies are near any of their outlets and you want to review their pies let me know and I'll forward the email to you - first come first served.

Well by now I should have got Mourning Dove on my British list, but I haven't. However had I been interested in seeing it I could have offered Kris (billy no mates who comes from Sheffield and always advertisers for lifts on RBA) a lift, been up there Saturday, ticked it and probably back home now writing about how fantastic a bird it was. But by following the rules of the UK 4,000000 calories club and its commander in chief LaRGE Pie Gobbler I can tick it. Why? Because had I gone over the last two days I would have seen it. Also by choosing this option I have also added a carbon neutral tick to my list, number 484 thank you LaRGE.

Instead of chasing pigeons I opted for a 5 hour walk in the Derwent Valley with both parents. Being over 20 years since I last did this walk I'd forgotten just how far it was. I saw very few birds, the highlights being several Crossbills and a Raven, but the weather was amazing and better than most days this summer had to offer.

Windy Corner (though it wasn't)

Howden Res'

Having tired the old folk out and burned loads of calories off I let them treat me to a Chinese, what a generous chap I am.

3rd November: Swimming

No birding this morning as Beth wanted to stay in - boo. In the afternoon we went swimming at Ponds Forge. After dropping Beth off at the requested time of 4pm I decided to try and get an hours birding in. Another trip to Pit-house West proved fruitless, for Bitterns, but I was kept entertained by a sky dancing flock of c.350 Starlings which roosted in the reed bed.
The evenings dilemma was should I go to the Gym or slob around watching SCD, drink wine and eat bacon butties. The latter won followed by a twelve hour kip, tiring thing that swimming.

Helen has sent me a clip from the Shetland Times advertising an Aberdeen band called Pie Shop.
Seems like another perfectly valid excuse for me to make another visit - not that I need one.

2nd November: WTF

The results of the Pies V Pasties poll are in and it's a massive landslide for Pies. No longer will pasties be mentioned in the pages of this blog. Personally I think this a shame, as I quite like a nice pasty, but as we live in a democratic society, the public have spoken and I must go with the majority.

A barrage of solicitors letters, accusing me of just about everything except the holocaust, arrived on the mat this morning. Some birding therapy is much needed.

It would appear that I misunderstood Rob's text. He is in fact behind the bars of the Sumburgh Hotel along with Helen. I expect the hotels profits to plummet during the coming months.

Killdeer standing knee deep in pie shit.

1st November: Nostalgia trip

Stop Press News: Rob texted me last night to inform me that he is back behind bars. This is good news for the single mothers of Shetland (or anywhere for that matter) who will now be able to rest in their beds or wherever they choose to sleep.
After a bit of a lie in this morning, following excess Guinness, I ventured out to work. One of the many nice points of my job is that I do get to see a few different sites around Sheffield. Today was a bit of a nostalgia trip in that I was visiting the place where my dad was brought up and where my parents first met -Tinsley. Smack bang in the centre of industrial Sheffield and on the doorstep of the Full Monty. Sadly now most of the steelworks are gone the biggest employer being the nearby minimum wage hotspot that is Meadowhell. Anyhow I parked outside my grannies old house - what a dump! Whilst I was there a suspicious looking southeast Asian character arrived at the door. I bet it's being used as a Cannabis manufacturing plant or a crack den. What would dear old Kitty say? The old CO-OP where my mum and dad met is now a Al hal grocers infact the whole area has a distinct ethnic appeal!

Northern squalor

Enough about the old days I'm starting to turn into my dad and you wouldn't want that! Yesterday I was presented with a impressive birthday pie! As I don't have a sweet tooth a pie is far more appropriate than a cake. Once again this was created by Kerrie whose skills with pies are fast becoming legendary, I feel her days as an admin' officer are numbered and it is only a matter of time before her pastry products become an household name. As always the pie lived up to expectations and I dare say was the finest meat and tattie pie I have ever tasted.

Birthday Pie (Meat and Potato)

Henderson's. Essential Pie condiment (not available outside South Yorkshire)

Happy Birfday too me..etc etc etc

Today is my birthday - happy birthday too me.

Tonight I went to a Halloween party in the small village of Whiston. Being a miserable shit I didn't bother getting dressed up for the occasion. There were plenty of adults dressed up, particularly women, but unfortunately being Rotherham it was at times difficult to tell whether any of them were actually wearing masks or not! At 11pm and after several pints of my friend Mr Guinness we wandered home.

According to Mr Fray his toilet apparently empties directly into the POV. This is a great comfort in that despite being some 600 or so miles away I am still contributing to the biodiversity of the POV. What is particularly rewarding is that the near resident Killdeer could be benefitting from all those pie deposits that I made several weeks back. How many birders can boast that a BB rarity might have feasted on their bodily deposits? What I find disturbing though is the fact that some birds could be feeding on the porn filled kleenex deposited from the chalet of Virkie!!!

30th October: Let's get physical

Well I was in the gym bright and early at 7am (I don't even go birding that early) and almost flat on my back 20 minutes later. The two old dears at the side of me, with a cumulative age of about 150, must have been pissing themselves at the state of me. Red faced, sweating gravy and out of breath. After a short breather I was back at it and proudly managed a full hour.


All pies and no exercise and you'll die, probably

29th October: Gym'll fix it.

Well I've been threatening it for ages but now I've finally got round to joining the gym. Not because the recent pie fest has taken it's toll but simply so I can sample more quality pies without paying the price.

Dad you've forgotten your bra

28th October: Rain rain go away

Typical you plan a day walking in the Peak District to escape the drudgery of life and it pisses it down. Looks like I'll be doing my ironing and watching the Hollyoaks omnibus. However the weekend hasn't been a total waste had a very nice meal at Tim and Kerrie's
(of sausage roll pie fame) last night, though the resulting wind problem made me glad to be sleeping alone. This would have been the weekends highlight had not my friends on Shetland phoned me at 1:30am (2:30 bst). Not quite sure what state they were in but it was good to hear from them and made me long to be up there even more, only 62 more days.
After lunch and doing my ironing, for two hours, and watching Hollyoaks I finally ventured out for a spot of birding at RVCP. Predictably it was dull but I did at least see the Slav' Grebe this time. With Strictly Come Dancing and a bottle of Rose to look forward to I am concerned that I might be turning gay!! Perhaps some of the cows in those pies had had a few hormones too many!!!
Sandwick Bakery Pie Mecca

27th October: SAD syndrome just around the corner

What joy the last day of British summer time and nothing to look forward too but doom and gloom.
Spent an hour at Catcliffe Flash this morning, probably the longest amount of time I've ever spent there. The reason being that Bethany had requested it (I normally drive straight past on my way to RV) as she wanted to get to grips with duck I.D. and being the kind parent that I am how could I possibly refuse. Highlights were ducks various, which with the aid of the Collins Guide I managed to I.D eventually and a smart male Peregrine which was my first at this site. However as I was getting Beth' back into the car I noticed an unfamiliar Ladybird on one of the rear tyres. Fortunately Beth' had seen these on Newsround and recognised it as the evil Harlequin Ladybird so we splattered it and got in the car. Actually we didn't I photographed and left it alone to wreak havoc on the biodiversity of Catciffe Flash.

Evil Harlequin Ladybug on slightly suspect Bridgestone

With Beth now hooked on ducks we decided to move on to RVCP. A walk around the Main Lake revealed bugger all even the long staying Slav' Grebe was hiding, though we did see a pantomime camel, several men dressed as busty women and a couple of young ladies in sumo outfits with this we retreated to the Cafe. Unfortunately the only pie like products that the cafe sells are Ginsters pasties which are really only edible from motorway service stations as a last resort during a long distance twitch. We settled for two giant chip butties, which to you foreigners i.e. not from Rotherham/Sheffield is chips in a breadcake*
*For bread cake see also - Balm Cake, Bread Roll, Cob, Stotty, Teacake etc etc

You should see some of the blockers on my list

With almost a week passing since a pie an emergency food parcel from the Sandwick Bakery might be in order.

25th October: Can't think o' owt

An arty farty shot of a Merlin

24th October: Shetland V Scilly

Oh no not another Shetland V Scilly bird discussion I here you all moan. Well no because that would be a total waste of energy, particularly as even the South Mainland (with approximately just 30 active birders) pissed all over Scilly again. Likewise for pies there was just no contest with the only pie on Scilly being the very elusive pasties in the Turtle's Head on St Agnes. According to regular pies and birds contributor John Hague they were totally un-tickable during his visit - should have had another week at Virkie you daft Barnsley Chop. Of course you only need to scan through these pages to realise how good Shetland performed, on both fronts, this autumn and it still continues to produce the goods.

This of course raises the very important question. Do pasties count as pies? A colleague of mine wasted a whole pound by asking the know all text service AQA "what is the difference between a pie and a pasty." Their eye opening response was as follows "The difference between pasties and pies is that pasties are flatter in construction, whereas pies are round, also the pastry in pasties is thinner. A full British pound well spent Nicky!!!

So what are you opinions on the Pie v Pasties debate?

23rd October: Northern Pie Fest

Following his expedition to the frozen north I have handed over today's blog to Mr Fray.

Right then, it's pie time. First things first, a review of the breakfast pie: this was purchased from Mainlands, so automatically loses 2 points for the lack of heating facilities there. However, I brought it home and used my own microwave, so I'm not sure if that allows it to have its 2 points back? The pie itself was good, but not as spectacular as hoped for, and I would award it 8 out of 10. Definitely not quite up to the standard of lasagne pie or chicken and white sauce pie.

Now two new pies, both of which were purchased from the garage/shop at Brae yesterday. It occurred to me whilst I was there that most of the pies reviewed so far (including the two I am about to review now) are made by Johnson and Wood of Voe, which is just up the road from Brae. Therefore, the Brae garage/shop should be a fine source of new, unusual and plentiful pies.

Exhibit A is a Curry Pie. The ingredients, as you can see, include "bovine meat", which is a little bit vague and perhaps slightly disturbing. The pie was quite average, it wasn't particularly curry-some (if that's a word, which I don't suppose it is), and unfortunately it only warranted 6 out of 10. However, the Brae shop has a microwave, so that's another 2 points. There is also a bonus point available for the Brae shop which I shall explain below.

Exhibit B is a Macaroni Pie. This is without doubt the best pie in the world ever, and looked so good that I took a photo of it undressed as well as in its package. Macaroni cheese on top with a splendid baked bean bonus underneath. Easily 10 out of 10, plus 2 for the microwave. In my opinion, the new King of Pies. And what's more, the Brae shop gets another bonus point as there is a bit of a stunner who works there too - on a par with the Eshaness cafe girl, fine br**sts etc. I didn't know whether to look longingly at the Macaroni Pie or the br**sts. In the end I got completely confused and tried to put the br**sts in the microwave and pay the Macaroni Pie for my shopping.

So that's it for pies at the moment. I will continue exploring. Rob

Thanks Rob. I see six months on Shetland has not made you lose your shallow feelings towards the female form.