Steve's (old) News Page

January 99 to present

It’s all a blur! Never mind, how about a nice picture of me in the 2001 London Marathon?

October to December 98

In December, I travelled to Australia to see some old chums.

July to September 98

In August I had what I thought at first was indigestion, but soon turned out to be a ruptured appendix. Perversely, I quite enjoyed my few days in Greenwich District Hospital, where I was very well looked after, and emerged three days later, minus the appendix. Although the National Health Service comes in for a lot of criticism, when it comes to an emergency like this, one has to be grateful for the skill and dedication of the people who work in it. I was back on my bicycle on no time at all, although it took a bit longer before I was running again. Unquestionably, the highlight of September was the first (of many I hope) Pianoworks Festival at Blackheath. This four day festival was invented, planned and directed by pianist Stephen Coombs, and involved such stars as Marc-André Hamelin, Stephen Hough, Leslie Howard, Artur Pizarro, and Seta Tanyel.

April to June 98

April's highlight was to walk some of the West Highland Way, a long distance footpath that runs from Milngavie (bizarrely, it's pronounced Mull-Guy) to Fort William.  The bit we did was from Tyndrum, across Rannoch Moor, through the 'Devil's Staircase'  to Kinlochleven. Fantastic scenery, all the way. We also got the West Highland Railway back from Fort William to Tyndrum where we left the car. That has to be one of the prettiest railway journeys in the UK - a single track railway that takes you right over some bleak and stunning hills.  If you're fit enough and have the time (about 5 days on average), you can walk the entire 93 miles and get the train back to where you started from. There are plenty of nice places to stop on the way, if you plan ahead.  My favourites were the Bridge Of Orchy Hotel - no web site, but telephone 01838 400208, and the Kingshouse Hotel, right in the middle of Glencoe (the Glen not the town), telephone 01855 851259. May's highlights included a recital by Constantin Lifschitz at the Wigmore Hall, a photographic exhibition at the Groucho Club by Martin Cox, a trip to Cambridge, as the guest of my nephew in Peterhouse College, and the London Voluntary Service Council conference in Eastbourne. The latter was memorable for the exhilarating run I did along the 'Seven Sisters' (including Beachy Head), and the good company of colleagues from other 'Voluntary Service Councils'.

Oh yes, I also found I had a 'basal cell carcinoma' on the side of my nose, which was expertly removed by a skin specialist at Greenwich District Hospital, using what looked like a blow-torch (only joking - it was cauterised).

January to March 98

Took my mother to Vienna for her birthday. I love Vienna, and it's not as pricey as you would think. Amongst many other things, Vienna boasts the best collections of Klimmt paintings anywhere (they're in the Belvedere Gallery). Not a lot happened in February, apart from working. March saw my County Court case against Watford Electronics being heard at last. This was so much fun I've created a Watford Electronics Page, for people who might be interested in how to sue vexatious and uncooperative suppliers.

October to December 97

Went to see Lighthouse Family at Battersea Power Station. Cooked dinner for all the family on Boxing Day, and spent New Year's eve at Brixton Leisure Centre, where they had a salsa evening. Earlier in the month Uncle Murray sent me some 'Mealie Jimmies', which are quite delicious sausage shaped dumplings made principally of oatmeal and onions, which you eat with 'mince and tatties'. As far as I know, they can't be got in London. Hobbed with the nobs at a Gala Dinner hosted by our local MEP (Richard Balfe). (Commissioner) Neil Kinnock made a very entertaining after dinner speaker. The other highlight of the month was the Liszt Society AGM. (Just an excuse to plug the Liszt Society). My Uncle Murray came down from Aboyne, Scotland for a rare visit. You can see a picture of Uncle Murray as a boy by going to my Smythe family photo-archive page.

Took a week off work and went to see the Mormons in Balham. They run very fine Family History centres all round the world, where you can look up literally millions of births, deaths, marriages and other significant family history records. Following my trip to Salt Lake City in August 96, I started to take an interest in Genealogy. Cultural highlight of the month was a trip to Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella, performed by Adventures in Motion Pictures.

July to September 97

The main highlight was my trip to the USA. This time I visited southern California. San Francisco was very nice I thought. Although it is a largish city, it seemed to be very much on a human scale. It's also a very attractive city to look at. I spent three days there before going south down the coast as far as LA . I liked Carmel (which was very pretty, and where Clint Eastwood is/was the Mayor), but not Monterey (which seemed a bit phoney). The Big Sur coast was very scenic, but not as much as I expected.

I went to an absolutely beautiful beach in Big Sur called Pfeiffer Beach (I looked in vain for Michelle Pfeiffer), but it was too cold to sunbathe or swim (some hardy people tried!). Santa Cruz was an interesting combination of college town and tacky seaside resort. Santa Barbara (where Ronald Reagan lived for a long time) was very pleasant, but expensive. I was even a bit disappointed by Venice Beach in LA. From watching films and reading guide books etc., I was expecting a combination of Baywatch and the Rocky Horror Show. I didn't see ANY babes, there were hardly any weird or freaky people, and the so-called muscle men who lift weights on the beach were gravely under-endowed!

After LA, I travelled inland to Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks, before going on up to Yosemite. No disappointments here. On one day in Sequoia, I did about a six hour hike, and I was getting quite tired as I was heading back towards the car. Ahead of me on the path, about 40 yards away was a black bear. Yikes!!! I would readily go back to Yosemite if I got the chance. There are so many scenic places there. I took the Eastern exit of Yosemite through the Tioga Pass to Mono Lake, which is a very nice drive. Mono Lake itself is a place of enormous ecological significance. You can read about it at the Mono Lake Committee web site.

Following Mono Lake, I had another very nice scenic drive (pausing only to visit Bodie Ghost Town) to Lake Tahoe, which is a strange mix of natural beauty (the Lake and surrounding hills), and human indulgence (huge casinos on the Nevada side of the state line). Then it was back to San Francisco for the return flight.

I had three days stopover in New York which I very much enjoyed. I explored the whole of Manhattan from Central Park southward to Battery Park. In fact I walked that whole area, taking in the theatre and garment districts, Chelsea, Soho, Greenwich (of course!), Little Italy, Chinatown, Wall Street. We took the Staten Island Ferry and a trip up the World Trade Centre for the views, and jogged round Central Park. Oh, yes, I also bought a big pile of CDs in Tower Records.

Then it was back to work!

April to June 97

I visited Glasgow for my brother Dave's 50th birthday. He's Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at Glasgow University and a co-director of GeoLogica Ltd. While I was there, I visited my birthplace - 6 Millbrae Crescent, Clydebank. Surprisingly, there was no 'Blue Plaque' on the wall. Other highlights included visits to the Loch Lomond area, a nice run along the Glasgow-Edinburgh canal, and a visit to the Burrell Collection.

On Sunday 13th April I ran the London Marathon, and finished in a time of 3 hours 04 minutes 41 seconds. This was a very enjoyable day with nice weather and big crowds.

January to March 97

Anja, my e-mail friend from Germany came to visit. It was very enjoyable, being a tourist in London. We explored the tourist sights of Greenwich, had an interesting boat trip on the river, visited St Paul's Cathedral and a few other London landmarks, went shopping, took in some nice views, a few pubs and walked all over the place. There were two highlights - we went into the 'High Court' to see the British judicial system in action. Anja found it very amusing to see judges wearing all the old 'costumes', such as white wigs and black gowns, speaking in a quaint formal style of English, whilst typing into laptop computers. Then, we went to the House Of Commons (our parliament), where we heard and saw some very interesting debates about the National Health Service.

October to December 96

Having handed in my notice, I spent several weeks desperately trying to tie up 14 years worth of loose ends at Wandsworth Community Transport. In addition, I had to finish writing and editing the text of "The Design and Operation of Accessible Transport Systems", a 'good practice guide' that I had to present to a multi-national audience of around 200 people in the final "Helios" seminar in Alava, Spain. It all went rather well, and you can read the full text of this most excellent document by clicking here.

In December I started the new job, and after two weeks - went on holiday to Chile! You can read all about it by clicking here.

July to September 1996

In July I was invited to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace. This made the national news, not because I was there, but because two guests were struck by lightning. Bad luck, eh? I presume they survived, as I heard no more about it.

In August I jumped into a TWA 747 (not always a good idea), and flew to Salt Lake City, from where I visited Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. It goes without saying that both parks are absolutely gorgeous.

The highlight of September had to be the "Helios" Study Visit to Helsinki, Finland. This was a beautiful time of year to see Finland, and (in what little free time we had) I went for some very nice runs, along the side of a lake, through pine forests. I suppose you could also say that going for an interview for, and being offered a job in Greenwich was a bit of a highlight too. I also travelled to Bruges in Belgium via Le Shuttle on a day trip, a most interesting way to travel, and highly recommended.