All posts by Andy Todd

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 3 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

11 August 2004 – Version 2.0

The world wide web just got a new addition courtesay of Mr Smokey. Version 2 of is now up and running. It ain’t porn, but it’ll do.

16 August 2004 As one legend dies so another is born

Memphis, Tennesee, 16 August 1977

It was another sweltering Tennessee night in the capital of Blues. As children in the street play stick and ball, and ceiling-fans in bars gently whir in the stagnant southern air, a rumour starts to spread. The King is dead. Done in by one burger too many, those a-hips, they ain’t a-gonna swing no more…

Glasgow, Scotland, 16 August 1977

Rottenrow maternity hospital has seen its fair share of pain and joy. Tonight was to be no different. Exhausted but overjoyed at the birth of their twin boys, the tired parents look proudly on the new life they have brought into the world. “This one,” they say to each other “this one we will call Andrew. And when he grows up he will make us so proud, and never do anything foolish or life threatening.”

Yes my friends, it’s all gone downhill since then. Born on the day that Elvis died, Mr Andrew Todd, the Arbroath Smokey, turns 27 today. Happy Birthday Smokey lad!

18 August 2004 – Show us your love

With a massive thanks to Pete and all at Label Graphics (undoubtedly the finest suppliers of quality self adhesive/pressure sensitive plain and printed labels and labelling equipment the world has ever seen) we will soon take delivery of some fantastic new Team Bandit Bumper Stickers! Complete with comedy slogan and the website address, these are the ideal way to show how much you love us.

How do you get your hands on one of these bad boys? Well, the easiest way is to join the Pit Crew! The Bumper Stickers are sent out as part of the exclusive and very sought after Pit Crew Membership pack. You could always try being very nice to the boys, in the hope that they might just give you one for free, but there are no guarantees…

The supplier of these labels is Peter, one of the finest (and funniest) men on the planet. His company, Label Graphics, do all sorts of amazing labelling wizardry, supplying food and beverage labels, pharmaceutical labels, barcode labels, and I’m quite sure every other kind of labelling stuff imaginable, to some of the biggest companies in the world. Check out their website at – why not start a raging discussion at the Labelling Forum, or pick your favourite Label of the Month (which all seem to be alcohol related – good work fellas!).

22 August 2004Beauty Tips : Number One

Like any good looking gal, our car, Beauty, requires a little bit of protection when she’s out and about. She needs to know that, despite flaunting her bodywork from Plymouth to Dakar, those foreign fellas will only be able to look and not touch.

In no particular order, here are her top personal safety tips for hitting the streets: 

1. Padlocks

Lock everything – Doors, sunroof, the rear boot and anything else you can possibly think off. Remember though that hasps can be forced open so back up your padlocks, by, yep, even more padlocks. Make those fellas work if they want to get their hands on the goods.

2. Curtains

While Mr Bandit has already immersed himself in the latest catalog from Ikea at the very thought of adding curtains to Beauty; Mr Smokey suspects some newspaper and tape to cover the windows will protect her (and Messrs Bandit and Smokey) from both prying eyes and the strong African sun. NB – Covering the front windscreen is a beginners error (unless of course you plan to reverse all the way to dakar in which case – go right ahead).

3. Windows

Finally, if the soaraway Sun or swedish soft furnishings ain’t your thing then how about some metal grilles over the windows? At night these grilles will let you sleep while keeping the windows open but any inquistive visitor out. Perversely though, having metal grilles will make you look like a security van and thus more likely to be robbed (or at least poked at with a stick though the metal grille while you dream about the day you can take a Sherman Tank to Dakar instead).

The Sound of Football: Carlisle United (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Carlisle United

Nickname: The Cumbrians/The Blues/The Foxes

Ground: Brunton Park

Stadium Capacity: 16,683

Song: Looking Good (We’re Carlisle United)

Carlisle United is the smallest team by population (100k) in the football league. It is also the only side to have once been owned by a man visited by aliens. It was close encounters of the third division kind.

In the mid-1990s, Michael Knighton owned 90 per cent of Carlisle United. He was an unpopular chairman and became a figure of fun when the local Carlisle News & Star newspaper splashed the story “Knighton: Aliens Spoke To Me”.

In the 1970s, the paper said Knighton watched an alien craft perform a range of “impossible” aero-gymnastics moves. Before the craft disappeared into the stratosphere, he claimed he’d received a telepathic message urging him: “Don’t be afraid, Michael“.

However, the story was a stitch-up, and Knighton offered to resign over it until the paper published a semi-apology a few days later asking him to stay  Today, Michael is philosophical. When he discussed the story on his blog in 2013, he wrote:

Do aliens exist? Who knows, I haven’t spoken to any recently!

Carlisle’s nickname is The Foxes due to the most famous English huntsman of all times – John Peel.  John was born in Cumbria and kept a pack of foxhounds. He was immortalized in song:

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay?

D’ye ken John Peel at the break o’ day?

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far, far a-way.”

(Source: trad.)

Peel’s legacy lived on in the exploits of a Carlisle club mascot called ‘Twinkletoes.’ He would dress in a blue and white top hat and tails and go onto the pitch before home games carrying a stuffed fox named Olga. Sadly, this tradition has ended, and the stuffed fox is only on display inside the stadium.

The club anthem dated back to the 1970s and was recorded after Carlisle United gained promotion to Division 1. It’s called ‘Looking Good (We’re Carlisle United)’.

And, for a few years, things did look good for Carlisle. In 1974 the club briefly topped the first division Bill Shankly, the famous Liverpool manager and a former Carlisle player, even said this was “the greatest feat in the history of the game“.  Unfortunately, due to its small size, they lacked consistency, fell away and the club was relegated at the end of the season.

The club’s anthem was supposed to feature the team singing, but its management refused to send them to the recording studio in London.

The song features crowd noises, which you would assume are the Carlisle fans; however, the composer revealed that Carlisle’s fans were too quiet. He wanted the crowd to sound louder, so he replaced the fans with stock sound effects from a bull-fighting track, which is why if you listen closely, you might just hear “Ole,  Ole,  Ole!“.

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 2 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

27 July 2004Crossing the sahara: The first warning

Despite careful planning, despite all his claims of undying love, Arbroath Smokey failed to turn up and meet our fine, fine lady.

Was she upset? Did she care? 

She’s not said anything, she taken on that whole indifferent ‘couldn’t care less attitude’ but Mr Bandit said that in the days running up to Mr Smokey’s visit our lady had thrown away the mouldy (and rather smelly) foot mats and acquired some rather funky new indicators. 

Yet despite these signals Mr Smokey failed to appear.

What was his excuse?

He says he was stuck in the desert. Well, a metaphorical one, anyway.

Attending a management seminar in London, he had to classify 15 items (such as water, a knife and a large orange kite) in order of importance for surviving being stranded deep in the heart of the Sahara.

Just your average typical office problem.

Mr Smoky considered the options and thought he’d chosen wisely. He is after all a Plymouth/Dakar rally driver in training.

At the session’s end the instructor asked if anyone had ever been to an actual desert before.

Mr Smokey said no, but that he would be crossing the Sahara in a £100 car in just a few short months.

The instructor looked at Mr Smokey’s results. He compared them with the correct answers recommended by the US air force. After reading Mr Smokey’s first answer he started to shake his head. After reading the last one he said: – 

“You’re not going to make it home, are you?”

28 July 2004The full spa treatment…

To help our beautiful car get over the disappointment of not meeting Arbroath Smokey last week, the Bandit decided to go to town and give her the full luxury spa treatment. Every girl loves a nice bath, but most girls would baulk at the thought of a sweaty man (I was just out of the gym) rubbing them down with a big yellow sponge lathered up in Fairy Liquid. Not our lady though – she loved every minute of it.

Sparkling like a diamond in the rough, it was time to get handy with the wax. Turtle Wax, that is – no need for a ‘Brazilian’ where she’s going. A quick polish and buff, and she’s as good as new. Tomorrow she’s getting the car equivalent of a nail-job: we’re going to start polishing up that Chrome until we can see our reflections in it. Actually, on second thoughts, we might stop just before that point.

As every Miss World contestant will tell you, however, real beauty isn’t just skin deep. So we’ve got a bit of work to do to the interior – we’ve already had to rip out the carpets from the front, as they were just too darn smelly. It’s not a huge loss, though – inch thick shag-pile carpeting is not such a good idea when we’ll be tramping in and out with sandy boots. However, fear not – we have a cunning plan to replace it. We’re going to put in some wood flooring. No, trust us, you know what that car really needs? More wood…

31 July 2022 – Happy Birthday, Mr Bandit!

Today, Mr Bandit turns the ripe old age of 27. With a £100 – well, £205 to be exact – car, scant knowledge of the inner workings of an automative engine, nevermind the clutch, the gears or the mystery that is the camshaft (wasn’t he the private eye who got all the girls?), and the whole of the Sahara desert to cross, will he live to see his 28th? 

Only time, and a lack of updates around Christmas, will tell.

To be continued….

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 1 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

11 July 2004 – First Date

Pandemonium has broken out at Team Bandit HQ at the news that we have a car! Bought yesterday on ebay for the princely sum of £205 (ok – so we slightly broke the rules, but nobody’s really counting) she currently resides in Merseyside, but we won’t hold that against her. Here are some of her best features:

1. She’s a beauty! Yes, we have to confess, we bought with our hearts and not our heads, but she truly is a beautiful beast. A pleasure on the eyes and on the senses, although we’re a bit concerned about the damage she might inflict on our wallets.

2. She has four wheels! And an engine! It’s true – she has almost all of the major components one would expect to find in a motor vehicle!

3. She was cheap! Ok, ok, hang on a minute here – this list is starting to seem a little ropey. I mean, what sort of car can you get for £205?

All will be revealed very shortly when we make the trip up north to collect her…

18 July 2004 – Team Bandit Own a Car!

For hours, days even, she has been nothing but a dream, a dream in chrome and wood. But now she is reality. She has come into our lives, drinking real petrol and smelling really fousty (trans. “fousty”: an acrid smell caused by dampness; orig. Scottish). But she’s lovely. More than we could have hoped for. Sorry, clearly I’m smitten, but it is half past one in the morning and I’ve had a few glasses of wine. Perhaps I should explain in rational terms…

After bidding for our car on e-bay towards the end of last week, this weekend Gav travelled from London to Liverpool to pick her up. It was always a bit of a risky venture – buying a car in an internet auction for the price of a good Scouse night out, on the basis of a couple of grainy distance photographs and a loose description.

But nonetheless it’s all paid off. She made the trip down without so much as a grumble, surviving what could only be described as a torrential downpour on the motorway along the way, although admittedly the aquaplaning was a touch on the frightening side. So what information can we share at this early stage? Well, she’s a good looking 22 year old – only 4 years younger than us – so we’ll all get along perfectly. She started off her life in Canada, moving to Georgia and then Florida, before coming to Wales, then Liverpool and now London (before Gibraltar, Casablanca, Sahara, Dakar…). She’s better equipped than most new cars today – with an automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, electric windows all round, and intermittent windscreen wipers with variable speed control. We’re particularly excited about the wipers. On the run down the road she got up to a whopping 75 miles per hour. But more than that, she got admiring glances all the way. No, honestly, people smiled, children waved, petrol station attendants actually made conversation – even in London. It’s a dream start. 

We have to thank some people for bringing her into our lives. Lynne and Katherine – Liverpool’s finest taking time out of their Saturday to help a couple of fools with a stupid plan. Sharon for risking ridicule amongst her neighbours for letting the car stay in their ‘lock-up’. Joe (and John) who sold her to us for such a bargain basement price – they don’t actually know that she’s going to end up crossing a desert, and I’m not sure how well they’d take the news. And lastly, Joe’s grandkids, for letting us have their favourite car (sorry kids). Thank you all so much.

Now, if only someone could tell me what the big red warning light on the dash that says “BRAKE” is meant to be telling me, I’d feel much better.

We’ll post pictures in the next couple of days, and launch the naming competition. Check back soon!

Me Luv U Long Time, Mr Smokey

Tomorrow, Arbroath Smokey will finally get to meet our ride, our lady, our chariot across the Sahara. 

He seen the pictures, he’s read about her on the internet, but as he lives in Glasgow and she stays in London he hasn’t had a chance to meet her.

Tomorrow, that will change.

Is our lady ready for Mr Smokey? Is Mr Smokey ready our lady?

Tomorrow will tell.

Like the time he ordered a mail order Thai bride (and, to think, he said that would be the last time he bought something on the internet just by looking at a picture…) he can’t wait to see our lady in the flesh, to take her out and show her a good time.

He only hopes, that this time, she doesn’t break down far from home…

To be continued….

The Sound of Football: Cardiff City (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Cardiff City

Nickname: The Bluebirds

Ground: Cardiff City Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 26,828

Song: Do The Ayatollah/Men of Harlech

What links the Nobel Prize for Literature; the Ayatollah Humani, spiritual leader of Iran; and porn baron and former West Ham chairman David Sullivan?

A. A special edition of Asian Babes dedicated to contemporary theology; or

B. Cardiff City?

If you picked A, shame on you. If you picked B, you must know that David Sullivan was born near Cardiff; the club’s nickname was based on a Nobel Prize winner’s play, and the club’s fans sing a song inspired by Iran called ‘Do the Ayatollah’.

First, the play: Cardiff City was originally called Riverside A.F.C. It played in a chocolate coloured strip. The club changed its name to Cardiff City and its strip to all blue after the town was granted city status in 1905. After changing colours, a play called ‘The Blue Bird’ was performed to sell-out audiences in Cardiff. It was written by a Belgian playwright and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. After watching the play, some Cardiff City fans nicknamed the team ‘The Bluebirds’ and the nickname was so successful that it became a symbol of the club and was used on the club crest.

But why the song  ‘Do The Ayatollah’? It was first performed in 1990 by the singer of a Welsh-language punk group called U Thant.  The singer had been inspired by footage of funeral attendants of Ayatollah Khomeini raising their arms together, clasping their hands, and repeatedly pressing their locked hands up and down on their head  After he performed the dance on stage at a gig in Cardiff, fans borrowed the ‘dance’ and adopted it for the terrace while chanting ‘Do The Ayatollah’ repeatedly.

The song is now sung at players in the team, opposition managers, and anybody the fans want to have a go at. The person being sung at has to respond by… performing the Ayatollah.

An official version of the song was released when Cardiff City reached the FA Cup final in 2008.

It may be surprising that a club from Wales reached the final of an English competition, but when the club formed in 1899, there was no Welsh league to enter.

The club is proud to be Welsh, but the date of its greatest triumph is a very English day – St George’s Day. The Welsh side became the first non-English side to win the FA Cup on St George’s Day, 23 April, in 1927.

Many owners have tried to use Cardiff’s unique status in English football. One of the most controversial owners was ex-Wimbledon boss Sam Hammam  Sam bought the club in 2000 with the aim of converting Cardiff into a focal point for Wales by renaming the club The Cardiff Celts and changing its colours to mirror the flag of Wales with red, white and green.

Fans boycotted the change, and he was persuaded not to go ahead with it. But money talks and, under new management from Malaysia, the fans have seen the team’s colours change from blue to red and black and the bluebird replaced by a dragon.

The fans would like a Welshman to own the club. And while local boy, David Sullivan, born in nearby Penarth, has repeatedly said he wants to own the team he supported as a child; instead, he bought Birmingham and then West Ham, proving that porn barons don’t become millionaires by listening to their hearts.

Before every Cardiff home game, the club plays the song ‘Men of Harlech’  The song describe events during the seven-year siege of Harlech Castle. The garrison held out in what is the longest known siege in the history of the British Isles.

From the hills rebounding, *clap clap*

Let this war cry sounding, *clap clap*

Summon all at Cambria’s call

The mighty force surrounding, *clap clap*

(Source: trad.)

Men of Harlech was first published without words during 1794 as Gorhoffedd Gwŷr Harlech – March of the Men of Harlech  There have been many different versions, including one for Michael Caine’s 1964 film Zulu and, more recently, a fan-produced version referring to Gareth Bale for the Welsh national team’s 2016 European Championship campaign. 

As a traditional song, we’ve not included it among the oldest football songs but, with its origins in the eighteen century, it, along with Newcastle United’s ‘Blaydon Races’, are among the oldest songs you’ll hear in British stadiums.

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

Outdoor Swim Review – Loch Tay (Andrew)

This is less a review and more a plea for help. I only know one spot to swim at Loch Tay. There is a small lay-by just outside Taymouth, less than a mile along from the marina, with a path from the road to the lochside. But Loch Tay is a big loch. It must have plenty of better spots to swim. So, if you know one, I’d love to know it as I’ve never had the time to properly explore around the loch.

From this spot, you get a good view of the Ben Lawers range and crystal clear water to swim in. You also get a rocky entrance and, for the three times I’ve swum here, a quite choppy swim. Whether that’s location or just bad timing with weather, I don’t know. But be prepared for less than calm conditions.

Ease of Access: The shore is easy to access from the road.

Swim Quality: Good though watch out for the fish farm to the west. Swim east to avoid it.

Water quality: Clear and colder than other lochs for the same time of year.

Would I go back: Yes. If only to find other spots to swim.

Other People: There are boats using the loch so make sure to use a swim float so that you can be easily seen.

Outdoor Swim Review – Loch an Eilein, near Aviemore (Andrew)

San Francisco has Alcatraz island. Aviemore has Loch an Eilan castle. While Alcatraz may have the world famous prison and is infamous for the murderers, gangsters and scoundrels who have stayed there, Loch an Eilein, was once voted Britain’s Favourite Picnic Spot in a poll organised by Warburtons to commemorate National Bread Week. So, while both places might have islands with buildings on them, there’s only one place you want to have a flask of tea and a sandwich.

And I have to agree with Warburton’s. This is a cracking spot for a picnic. It’s also a cracking spot for a swim.

There’s a large car park (which you need to pay for, when manned), a short walk to a small ‘beach’ a the top of the loch, and then a gentle slope into the loch with just smooth stones underneath. For that alone, it’s a great spot for a swim. But what makes it a swim spot you won’t want to miss is the ruined castle on an island in the middle of the loch. It’s around 500m from shore but you can follow the shoreline until you get closer to the island to avoid swimming in the colder, deeper parts of the loch. You can then swim across and around the island to see the ruins.

You might be tempted to go ashore to explore the castle when you first cross but I would recommend swimming to the eastern side of the island where it’s easier to walk ashore. You can then have a picnic, if you haven’t drowned your sandwiches on the way.


Ease of Access:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It can be busy as it’s a popular spot but I was there on a Sunday evening at 6pm and there were only half a dozen car in the car park.

Water quality:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Very clear.

Swim Quality:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Very shallow around the foreshore so plenty of good places to swim if you don’t want to venture too far from shore. For those that do, it’s got a castle! A castle!!!.

Other People:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It can be busy.

Would I go back: 

Absolutely. You’re surrounded by the Cairngorms. It’s nice and sheltered. And did I mention the castle?

The Sound of Football: Cambridge United (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Cambridge United

Nickname: The U’s

Ground: Abbey Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 8,100

Song: I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

Although Cambridge United was formed in 1912, the town has an even longer football pedigree. It all started with the Roman game of harpastum, an early kind of ball game that involved two teams trying to keep the ball on their half of the field for as long as possible, and which was played in Cambridge when the Romans conquered the town.  

During the middle ages, a form of the game continued as a team from the university – the gowns – competed against a team from the town. This town vs gown match was fierce and, to try and impose some order to it, in 1848, the teams met to establish one uniform set of rules.  These rules were written on papers fixed to the trees in Cambridge and, later, when the Football Association was founded in 1863, they used the Cambridge rules. 

However, helping write the rules did not provide Cambridge United with an easy pass into the football league. It was nearly 40 years before the club became professional in 1949, and, even then, it didn’t enter the football league until 1970.

When it did, you would hear ‘I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’ after they won their first league game against Oldham Athletic on 29 August 1970, just as it has been played after almost every home victory. You may wonder what connection coconuts have with Cambridge. The answer is… none. As BBC News reported in 2015, one fan, Robin Mansfield, remembered how the song was chosen:

It’s quite simple.  Our neighbour, Jack Morgan, did the announcements in those days. He said: ‘I had a pile of records in front of me, and that was the one on the top’.”

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

Outdoor Swim Review – Findhorn Bay (Andrew)

Findhorn is a small village on the Moray coast which is famous for being the site of the Findhorn Foundation, a charity dedicated to spiritual learning to, as the foundation website proclaims:  explore kinder, more joyful ways of living, and co-creating a transformed world.

Given we’re currently on the brink of World War 3, I’m not sure their ambition has resulted in any meaningful changes but, as mission statements go, it’s better than “live, laugh, love”.

I was in Elgin in June and decided to pop along to Findhorn after I saw that it would be high tide at 7:30. I’d swam in Findhorn before and I knew that the tide would have to be reasonably high for the water to fill the bay.

I timed my arrival right and was able to access a small rocky beach from a slipway at the front of the village. While easily accessible I do have one warning. The slipway is right beside a short road that has two pubs on it. Both are popular and the road provides parking. On a hot summer night you may struggle to get parked. And, if you do, remember you’ll need to get changed publicly too.You may want to bring a few towels to provide some privacy.

For swimming, the bay is nice and sheltered with few waves, even when the beach on the other side of Findhorn is being battered by waves whipped up by a north wind.

I’d definitely recommend a swim here, particularly if you want the protection of knowing you are going to swim in calm conditions.

Ease of Access: The slipway is easily accesible. But be warned. The town (and parking) can be very busy on a nice day. 

Water quality: I prefer it when it’s a high tide.

Swim Quality: Good though watch out for tethering ropes from the boats in the harbour. They are easily avoided.

Other People: It can be busy in Summer.  

Would I go back: Yes.

I Have A Confession (Andrew)

Tri-suits are not flattering. Every lump and bump is highlighted when it’s covered by lycra. That’s why, when I go to a race, I always admire anyone who would wear one because it requires a level of body confidence I don’t possess. I’d much rather have a tri-burlap sack.

But, at races, among the ‘normal’ athletes you will also find the men and women who couldn’t crease a suit even if they breathed out after eating a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. The Kreme de la Kreme of triathletes. The ones you can’t help buy admire if you end up running, cycling or swimming behind them.

I don’t notice these physical gods at any other time. I don’t think “oh my, what broad shoulders he has” or “what a slim waist she has” at any other time. They only catch my eye at races and only with a tri-suit. That’s why I think I might be… ahem… tri-sexual.