Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Oh Sod!

In my last post, I wondered what 2009 would bring. Well, 2008 hasn't quite finished with us yet. The boiler has quit. It does not light and refuses to consider doing so after all the things that usually work. I even tried the old IT standard - turn it off at the mains and then turn it back on again. So here I sit in my coat waiting for the Service Engineer to arrive. I see from the car thermometer that it is -1 deg C outside, so I do hope he (or she) turns up soon.

The tumble drier has also given up the ghost, so washing is off for a day or so.

Now, given that tradition has it that these things always happen in threes, what else can go wrong?

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Post Christmas thoughts

The house is beginning to empty. Robin and Paul left for Swansea and are now enjoying a break with Paul's family, Uncle Paul has been, caught my cold, and gone again, and James has taken himself off to London for a bridge tournament.

The great pile of presents has gone with those who have left or has spread about the house to be used or lost. I think I managed to give everything I'd bought to someone - there seem to be no packages lurking in my study. This is unusual for me, as in previous years, I have discovered, around Easter, items I bought to give to someone at Christmas. I may yet discover something small however.

Somewhere along the way, I have caught a stonking cold. My nose is streaming and sore and I can feel that I'm going to have a cough too. I must try not to feel too sorry for myself.

My thoughts now turn to what is in store for us in 2009, both as a family and a nation. The criticism of the Government by some senior bishops of the Church of England seems to me to have hit the nail on the head. We are told that all our economic problems stem from the fact that the level of debt is way too high, but the Government is doing everything it can think of to encourage us to spend even more. Surely that cannot be right? Perhaps if we all confined ourselves to spending money we do have, rather than money we don't, then an economic recovery may take a little longer, but it will be a much more stable and sustainable one. I expect that an economist would stay that "It is not as simple as that" but if we are ever to correct our situation, both individuals and the country need to live within our means.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas Day

Well, it is Christmas Day. All the children are here and the meal we had last evening was wonderful. We are very lucky.

Let me wish everyone a great Christmas and may we all remember those less fortunate than ourselves.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

New wheels


Pictures were promised of the new wheels and here they are.

I think if we look on ebay for two blue flashing lights and some short ex-fire brigade ladders, we can make quite a nice mini fire engine out of it.

Seriously though, everyone in the family who has driven it, thinks it is very chic and it goes quite well. I think it will go better when it has a few more miles on the clock.

It is very pristine inside and the steering wheel is covered in ivory coloured leather. This means that there will be no driving it with dirty hands, in fact a "Have you washed your hands?" sign might be a good thing to have on the dashboard.

In other news, Christmas has started - we went to the festival of lessons and carols last evening. I always regard this as the start of Christmas and I always feel that I am not ready for the big day. This year, when I ask myself "What else have I got to do?", I am hard put to find an answer, so I shall have to offer my time to others in the family. I expect there will be a fair few jobs I can do for others.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

New Wheels

We have collected the new car (picture to follow soon). It is splendid. We then drove gently to Havant to watch a play this evening. The only weird thing in the new car is the system that connects it to my mobile phone via Bluetooth. The salesman showed me how to connect it and store all my contacts in the car, but when it rang, it was so loud that it frightened us both to death. I shall have to find a way of making it slightly less loud.

The incoming call was no. 3 son calling to tell us that he has an unconditional offer from Southampton University for next September. He now needs to visit the place to confirm that he likes it. Anyway, Well Done to him and muchos relief to us.

Monday, 15 December 2008

I want warmth!

It is cold. It has been cold all day. It was cold when I went for my swim this morning, it was cold when I went down to the town at lunchtime and it is very cold now. I wish I lived somewhere warm. Like Langawi in Malaysia.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Back home

I'm home.

James (no 1 son) is here back from university, but he's looking forward to going off to Cambridge to see Charlotte. This means I shall be down half a tank of diesel. Still, I'm sure he'll have a nice time. Charlotte and her parents were at the performance of Cox and Box that we went to and jolly nice people they are. He has a long list of singing engagements over the holidays, so I am urging him to get some insurance for my mothers car, and then he can have that, leaving the rest of us with a fighting chance of having transport when we need it.

Chris (no 3 son) has been invited to be a chair person at the EYP event in Stockholm in April, and is "stupidly happy" to quote his Facebook status. His invite means he will have to go to Stockholm in February too, so this looks like an expensive invite. He needs to get his invite firmed up before doing some serious research into cheap flights to Sweden.

Thomas (no 2 son) has temporarily disappeared of the face of the planet, and we have no idea when he will return home.

A walk round Solihull town centre this lunchtime gave the impression that people here are not suffering much in the "credit crunch". The shops were packed, every car park was full and people were carrying bags and boxes around.

My beloved wife seems to be less worried about Christmas this year. This is good. Perhaps because we are better prepared? I'm not sure we are, but having seen the piece of beef that has been obtained for eating at some point, we seem unlikely to starve. I must now remember to get some drink, 'cos if I don't, I shall be deep in the doodoo.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Where are all the people?

I drove to Gerrans yesterday and I've been to see my mother, who surely cannot last much longer.

This morning I went into Truro and nothing there seems to open until 10:00 which strikes me as slightly strange. One exception is Marks and Sparks who were open, but almost deserted. Most odd.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Cheers Chaps

Today has been an easy day. Thanks to the wonders of Skype, we had a phone conference with the two students. Both seem to have a vague idea of when they will be coming home, but neither has finalised the details yet. It will be nice to see them when they do come home.

The remainder of the day has been taken up reading a detective novel and speculating about supper. Tomorrow it is off to Cornwall.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Taken for a walk

Today my beloved took me for a walk. Through the town and round a sizeable park where we encountered people walking dogs, cyclists and a host of other walkers. It was a good dose of fresh air. When I got home I had to conduct a hour long inspection of the inside of my eyelids to check that they had not been damaged. They hadn't.

Friday, 5 December 2008

It is not just me.....

I'm fast reaching the conclusion that the population of Solihull needs to be culled - well at least that proportion of it that uses the town centre. A visit this morning confirmed the impression given in the last post, people are just in a world of their own.

As a consequence of the swimming and cycling, I am having to put additional holes in all my belts. This is good news. I just can't afford to replace a load of trousers, so a little indulgence of Christmas will probably be survivable.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Is it just me...?

Over the last few days, I've actually made a few trips to shops to buy Christmas presents, and I've notice that an increasing number of the great British public wander about without paying any attention to where they are or what anyone around them might be doing. If they drove cars like they walk, there would be total carnage. Why can't people look what they're doing and what those around them are doing? People block access ways with shopping trolleys, walk with a phone to their ear and simply stop for no reason and are then surprised when someone bumps into them. Wake up you dozy sods, there are other people on the planet besides you.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Bromptons are Brilliant

Chris has missed his flight home from Dublin. "Pillock" is the word I'd use. He swears blind that he got to the airport on time, but I have to say that I am deeply suspicious. This latest mishap has cost me 35 Euros and him a day hanging round in Dublin airport. I hope he learns from the experience.


For a while I have been expanding my range as far as cycling goes. For my birthday, my wonderful family have gathered together
enough funds to buy me a Brompton folding bicycle which is pictured on the left.


A Brompton has three main states. The picture at the top shows it as it is ready to ride. The second pic shows it with the back wheel folded under the frame, and in this position it will stand on its own.


So, it can be left outside a shop or whatever like this without the need for a bike stand and can be locked up.

The third picture shows it fully folded in which state it is easy to carry on to a train or a bus. As I had to go to London last week, I cycled to the station, folded it up and up, and took it with me on the train to Marylebone. Upon arrival, I unfolded it, made my way through the ticket barrier and pedaled off to Clapham.


This is a distance of around 5 miles and I was astonished by three aspects of cycling in London.

The first was the clear signs which guided me to Chelsea Bridge and onwards to Clapham. The second was the suicidal nature of many London cyclists, they were everywhere going at one hell of a lick, weaving in and out of the traffic and generally frightening me to death. The third surprise was my own ability to pedal this distance without difficulty. I am obviously getting fitter. The journey took me 35 minutes and our friends were mighty surprised to see me arrive in such style.

While I'm on the topic of this trip to London, I must express my congratulations to and satisfaction with, Chiltern Railways. By buying 2 single tickets over the web which were sent to my mobile phone, the cost of my rail travel was £10 i.e. £5 each way. This I consider to be amazing value and I urge anyone who has to travel on this fine railway to use this system. It is excellent.

I have been out again this morning for a ride, and although it is very, very cold this morning, I managed 5 miles without any difficulty at all. I shall have to now spread my wings even further afield.

Friday, 28 November 2008

What to do?

Chris has taken himself off to Dublin for an EYP event. That leaves us at home with a whole weekend to do what we want to do. A lie in is called for tomorrow, I think. After that, who knows?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Doing my little bit

My response to the Chancellor's decision to lower the rate of VAT to 15% was that it would not be enough to make a huge difference. I may now have to eat my own words as I have done my little bit to stimulate the economy. I have ordered a new car. It is a Fiat 500 and looks very like the one in the picture. Ours will not have the white stripe, and will have some chrome bits, and has a glass panel in the roof. It is the demonstrator from the Fiat garage in Warwick that we use. We cannot take delivery until the 17th December, but that is not long to wait.

I very much suspect that my contribution will not be the saviour of our economy and it seems apparent that the country is in for some very difficult times. In my own selfish way, I am glad that I do not have to grapple with the economic issues which now face us. I have enormous regard for those politicians, economists and communicators who try to identify the best paths to take and then to explain their choices and decisions to the population at large. I'm sure my brain would explode with the effort involved. The sums of money being mentioned are unimaginable, and I hope that any burden we create now for subsequent generations does not become an intolerable burden for them and their children.

In particular, I wonder what the people of this land make of what is going on. Do the majority of them understand what is being done? I have to say that I doubt that many do. My daily tutorial comes from Robert Peston's Blog on the BBC News website. He has the knack of putting things in words I find easy to understand. His piece I have linked to confirms my suspicion that the Government only has so much power, and that it will be fund managers who finally decide when the banks have enough capital to make them good risks again.

How does that Chinese curse go again...?

"May you live in interesting times"

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Happy Birthday to Me.

Today is my 60th Birthday. Happy Birthday to Me.

My bus pass arrived in the post today yesterday. I may now travel on various buses and trains in the West Midlands Region for nothing. I don't really understand why, but I find myself excited at the prospect. I exercised the pass today when we went to see the German Market in Birmingham. I felt very smug, and as a result, slightly childish.

It is cold and wet and miserable. I want summer to come. Soon.

As I start my 7th decade, there are any number of things to be sorted out, and I start tomorrow with a decision about an annuity.

That's about it for today, I'm off for a lie down.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Reactionary old Git.

The title of this post is the comment I expect my family to make when they've read it.

Like, I suspect, most families, we have a system which is supposed to keep people informed about who is doing what, and when. It consists of a diary in which we write our appointments, or at least we are supposed to. I'm not very good at copying my appointments from my diary to the family one. Last year, I purchased the family diary. It came from Muji which is a Japanese supplier and it had months in numbers. This seemed to confuse everyone. Well, we need to acquire a new diary now, as appointments for 2009 are beginning to appear. The question is, do I purchase a new diary in the hope that I buy something others find acceptable, or do I consult on the matter?

I know Chris hates the whole system and does not use it. The twins are not here most of the time, and tend to go their own way even when they are. Should we just have a big calendar on which we write things?

Perhaps it would be best to see if any of my family read this and invite them to submit suggestions for this problems. Suggestions please - in any way you choose.

There is an item in the news here about harsher fines for drivers who exceed to speed limit by a big margin. Frankly, I'd rather see the authorities deal with these characters by using the charge of Dangerous driving and impose serious sanctions on them that way. If you are doing over 50 in a 30 limit, then that is dangerous, or am I being simple? Certainly two such convictions should mean a ban for at least 18 months, and similarly for driving without insurance. Mr Plod could start by setting up his speed cameras outside our house. the number banned inside a week would be in double figures....

Apparently Prince Charles has intimated that he would like to adopt a presidential style when he becomes King and there is an article in the Independent today which quite nicely sums up my view of the prospect. Heaven help us when this buffoon becomes our monarch.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A Miscellany on arriving Home

Home to find that only a reasonable amount of stuff has been piled up in my study and I have today managed to sort most of it out. I also came home to find that my bedside light has been broken and I fear I must accept some of the responsibility for that as I had left it perched on the top of the bedhead from which it was easily knocked.

Following a trip down to the town today, Jini and I realised that we had forgotten at least two things that we had identified before we set off. This is a sad reflection on our collective memory, and reinforces the need for us to have compile and then take with us, a comprehensive list.

The twins seem to have enjoyed their 21st Birthday, each celebrating in his own way, and there are vague rumours that Chris might be getting paid employment. I do hope this turns out to be true as it will mean he will have to smarten up a bit, I certainly would not pay the scruffy little oik (as he is now) anything at all.

It is hard to conceive that my mother will live much longer. She has weakened to the point where she cannot even support her own head and it pains me deeply to see her in such a state. I can only assume that staying alive is now an act of will, and knowing my mother's will she may live for quite a while yet.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

A wet Cornish Saturday

A number of things here are wet and I'm trying to dry them out. My pullover, the washing and the inside of Granny's car are all wet. In order to dry them, I need the weather to be dry, for crying out loud. A day of unbroken sunshine and a steady wind is what I require.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Get Well Soon, Guys

When your children are ill you worry. When they are ill and away from home the feeling of powerlessness is palpable - well it is for me, anyway. Our two sons at university, one in Durham and one in Warwick (Leamington Spa to be precise) are, or have been, unwell. One is slightly behind the other, but both have been confined to bed and feeling downright rotten. There is nothing I can do to help except speak comforting words over the phone or via Skype. Get Well soon Guys.

My mother will not be getting well. She simply wants to die peacefully and soon. It is a very cruel twist of fate that she lies in her nursing home bed, unable to do anything for herself after living such an active and independent life. It is no wonder that she is depressed and tearful. I feel pretty powerless to help her too.

Lots of Love to Everyone.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Decorating - part 4

The decorating is almost finished. We are down to a few (4 or 5) little jobs. They depend on the arrival of a new mirror and a bespoke glass shelf. These should appear today and then we're done. I had a mild panic yesterday when I thought our shower had expired with the same problem that Chris's had last week, but it seems that this was not the case. I shall have to keep an eye on it.

The swimming pool was pretty empty this morning and so I finished my swim in a double lane all by myself. Being the sole user of a double lane makes me feel important, I don't really understand why, but it does.

The twins are 21 later this week, so I shall have to acquire some cards for them today or tomorrow. I hope they have a great birthday and find a way of celebrating it properly.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remind me, why do I live here?

It is a November Sunday afternoon. It is raining, the wind is blowing quite hard and the leaves are coming off the trees in clouds. It is on days such as this, one looks carefully at the overseas property pages.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

What the Doctor Ordered?

Much to my relief, Barack Obama won the US election. The propect of Sarah Palin being anywhere near the levers of power has been at least deferred.

Today, the interest rate has been cut by 1.5% and it will be intriguing to see what effect that has on the UK economy. Politicians and the media seem to forget that this change means that any prudent souls who have built up a fund of savings will now lose a significant chunk of interest that they may well need to maintain their quality of life. Banks and Building Societies are desperate to attract funds apparently, and let us hope that they do not automatically reduce the rates paid to savers. Sometimes the powers that be need to incentivise the behaviour they wish to encourage in the population, and the spend, spend, spend mentality is largely responsible for getting us into the economic clag.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Oh, the Shame...

The decorating is nearly finished. We are now left with just a few jobs and one of those is to put up the bathroom accessories (towel rail, loo roll holder etc.) which we have yet to purchase.

Yesterday was spent retrieving clothes from various other bedrooms and putting them away. My beloved wife (I think out of a sense of curiosity and anticipated amusement) offered to sort out my shirts. Now, I have quite a few shirts and I didn't really know how many. I do now - the total came to 131, to which have to be added some in Cornwall and some (only two, I think) that are in the wash. Thus we arrive at a total of 136. This is slightly embarrassing. How did I accumulate all these? Out of interest, a count was then made of trousers. The total was 37. This is also embarrassing.

I have enough clothes to see me fully and quite presentably clothed until the end of my days. Expect M&S shares to dip in the next few days.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Old Friends

Today we have had great pleasure in hosting a visit of two old friends. To be strictly accurate, they are not that old, simply that they have been friends for a very long time.

They brought with them, their dogs, who are two Russian terriers. The larger of the two (the male) weighs in at around 64 kilos (10 stone) while his female companion is slightly smaller at around 57 kilos (9 stone). After a late lunch we decided to take the dogs for a short walk. I was entrusted with the male who is slightly better behaved. Throughout our walk, I was very conscious that if Parker decided he was going somewhere then I was going too, or I had to let go. Fortunately he decided that where I wanted to go looked good enough and so I managed to keep control, but I have never been so aware when walking a dog that I was only in control because he was happy that I was.

It is not surprising that the other people and dogs we met were very keen to keep a considerable distance between themselves and our two canine charges.

I like dogs, but I would not want two that big.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Make My Day

Chris is in Rennes at an European Youth Parliament Meeting. He is incommunicado. We knew he would be and therefore have no reason to complain. Thomas is in Durham enjoying the Autumn term, James is in Warwick also enjoying the Autumn term. Unsurprisingly phoning home is not high on their agenda and there is no reason why it should be.

However, after having them at home for so many years, I miss them. I like to hear their voices periodically and learn what they've been up to and that they are OK - why do parents have this terrible need?

So, given that they read this sometimes, phone home chaps, and make the Old Man's day!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Good News and Bad News

The Good News. We don't have a family "situation" to deal with and my mother is very clear about what she wants

The Bad News. Mum is very weak and struggles to feed herself now. Surely this deterioration cannot go on much longer?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

We're off to the South West

My beloved and I are off to Cornwall this afternoon to see my mother. It also seems that we have a family "situation" we may have to deal with. I do hope my mother has not been saying different things to different people. We shall see.

Monday, 20 October 2008

System update

My computer runs the Ubuntu version of Linux. I've been very pleased with it, it is quick, reliable and suffers none of the idiosyncrasies of Windows. There is a new version coming soon (see below) I hope it is as good as the current version.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Decorating - part 3

We're decorating again. This time it is our bedroom and en-suite that are getting an update. Yesterday went well, we got the floor covered with hardboard (so it is now ready for the new tiles to be laid) in short order when I thought it would take quite a long time.

Today has been one of those days when one seems to work lots, but there is little to show for one's labours. I have removed towel rails, shelves, mirrors and filled the resulting holes. I have filled the gaps from the last time we decorated with grout and filler. I'm knackered, but there is little visible difference. At least there wasn't until my beloved wife wielded the paint roller to create the cool pastel grey walls. She has kept me supplied with tea and encouragement, and has cooked us a super meal today, so I haven't done half the work today, but I am whacked.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Not yet...

After a very relaxing week in the Gower Peninsula (many thanks to Rob and Jan whose house we stayed in), we're back.

The remaining cat is in the vet's hospital with suspected kidney failure, our bedroom and en-suite need decorating and I left my new coat in Wales. It hasn't been a particularly good first day back.

I am slightly ashamed that I had a serious and very childish paddy this afternoon. I had been unable to find a newish windcheater style jacket that I know came back from Wales in the car with us. I had looked everywhere (well, that's what I told myself...). My beloved swore that she had no memory of picking it up as we left the house in Wales. She also swore that everything that had been in the car had been brought into the house at home and hung up. I rang my daughter who is still in the house in Wales - she looked and could not find it. I muttered and grumbled and I regret to say that eventually stamped my feet, while blaming everyone but myself. After a trip down to the town and a cup of tea, I searched again and blow me there it was on the coat rack. A fair sized potion of humble pie has been eaten and I fear I shall not be allowed to forget the episode, ever. At the height of my paddy, my beloved wife laughed so much that she cried. I am very lucky - if I'd been in her place, I'm sure I would have hit me.

Perhaps tomorrow will be better.....

Monday, 6 October 2008

the End......?

No more blogging for a while....

Sunday, 5 October 2008

It must be the Mathematician in me....

One of my small contributions to the community is to act as auditor for a school fund. This fund collects and distributes money for all the fun, but strictly non-essential, things that junior school children do. So , for example, the money for coaches to take them interesting places and money for interesting visitors come from this fund.

The accounting year for the school fund is the same as the academic year and so the account for Sept 2007 - Aug 2008 has just been finalised and given to me for audit. The lady responsible for keeping the books is diligent and hardworking, but she was swamped by cash from the school fete in July 2008, and the accounts all started to go wrong. Unfortunately, this pressure contributed to a large number of very small mistakes in the books, and it has taken me hours to track them all down and get the books to balance properly. The sad fact is that I have enjoyed doing it. There is something about the fact that the numbers do not add up as they should that drives me on to try and find the cause. Having done a degree in Maths, I know they will if the amounts are recorded and input properly.

I had been at it for several hours when my beloved suggested we walk into the town yesterday afternoon. I didn't really want to go, but I knew I needed a break from the columns of numbers, so I went. A walk in the fresh air - and boy, was it fresh yesterday afternoon - and on my return to the puzzle, I solved it very quickly. So, I can take the accounts back tomorrow and confirm that they are in order. I can also offer up a number of hints to prevent as many errors creeping in next year, or at least providing a means of spotting them, so that they can be fixed earlier.

Perhaps this is what forensic accountants do... I might of liked that as a career, but it's too late now. Anyone want their accounts checking??

By the by, what did we do before we had spreadsheets....?

Trains don't like Fridays

Quite a busy week. Went to London on Thursday evening because we had a meeting in Worthing on Friday morning.

We (Rob and I) set off for Clapham Junction at 08:00 for an 08:53 train and just made it - the traffic was awful - and then wished we hadn't. The train got to East Croydon and the doors would not open. After three minutes waiting, the driver told passengers to open the doors manually using the emergency handles, and force them all the way open. They duly did so. The doors would then not close. In the end we got on a train to Brighton, and took the coastal line to Worthing.

The meeting with the Architect and Quantity Surveyor went OK. I shall probably be on the RIBA blacklist for some years, but hey, these professionals should remember who is footing the bill.

The train back to Rob and Sue's was fine and Clapham Common provided a nice walk for me and the dog before tea. Left Clapham at 7:30 after a super Sue supper and was distinctly alarmed to find the Victoria Line and the Bakerloo line both closed. A broken train on one and broken signals on the other. These two line form the only route I know between Clapham and Marylebone. A quick gawk at the map (sorry to the lady on whose feet I trod, but I was desparate), coupled with my sketchy knowledge of London geography, guided me to the Jubilee line to Baker Street and a walk from there to Marylebone. I caught my train home with 13 minutes to spare and was surprised when the scanner which reads the e-ticket that Chiltern Railways send to ones mobile phone was working again.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

My own Personal Trainer.....?

Previous blog posts have kept readers up-to-date with my swimming regime. One interested soul is no. 3 son, Christopher who has been kind enough to be impressed by my efforts. This is now beginning to wear off and he is saying things like "Are you getting any faster?" Well, it happens that I am, but not much. "You should sprint the last five lengths!" and "It should hurt" are other pieces of advice that he has offered.

Now, I admit that he is fitter than I have ever been in my life and his hockey coaches at school included an Olympic Gold medalist, but I'm not sure I need this kind of driving. I do not , for a moment, doubt that what he suggests will make me fitter and stronger, I just want to do this at my own pace. Frankly, his stories of people throwing up on the side of the hockey pitch after a particular set of exercises in training, do nothing for my motivation. People who make themselves ill getting fit, need to get a sense of perspective in my view.

I can't wait till he gets a job and I can start getting my own back.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Just Another Day?

Autumn is coming - quite quickly. The wind is getting up, the temperatures have dropped a few degrees, the leaves are turning brown and being blown off the trees. The signs are unmistakable. Autumn is coming. Damn.

Only 83 more days until the nights start to draw out again and we are past the shortest day.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Bike Blenheim

Slightly longer post than normal but my excuse is that today I have enjoyed the uniquely British event of Brompton racing. Bromptons are folding bicycles. The event was a round of the Brompton World Championship at Bike Blenheim held in the park of Blenhein Palace.

In Summary, some 350 men and women raced their Bromptons round 2 laps of a 6.5 km long course. The start is pure mayhem. In four groups of 80 plus racers, they have to unfold their bikes and then set off, making sure that they pass over the Start timing strip on their way. The photos show

i) the folded bikes awaiting the start signal,
ii) the frantic unfolding and assembly of bikes
and
iii) the rather more relaxed approach of some riders to getting underway.


The fastest of these bikes has 6 gears and the winner (who won by a very big margin) did the 13km in a little under 24 minutes. He lapped quite a few of the field of 350 who were not quite as competitive, and it was clear that most of the entrants were there purely for the enjoyment. As might be expected, entrants used their imagination to the full. There were helmet cams to record the progress of individual riders (I think a search of YouTube.com will be the order of the day), one dressed as Evil Knievel and pulled wheelies all round the circuit (and pulling a wheelie on a Brompton is no mean feat), and one had a gorrilla mask on (and must have been sweating buckets underneath it).

The race rules demand that entrants wear a suit jacket, shirt and tie on their top half but the dress for the nether regions is flexible. Most favoured shorts, but many wore their suit trousers, and the ladies wore skirts. The suit jacket requirement was enforced flexibly with one naval officer wearing one of his uniform jackets and a policeman wearing his tunic. The degree that the participants stuck to the rules could only have happened in Britain.

Families shouted their support from the sidelines, riders waved as they passed and just about everybody had a wonderful time. I rode round the course after the race was over and even the unfortunate young lady who came of her Brompton and was being attended by the first aider on a motorcycle was smiling. Perhaps it was the thought that she would get a lift back to the car park.

After the race, a number of the bikes were sold via sealed bids, and I'm please to report that I've solved my birthday present as my bid secured one. It cost me about one third of the new price and is an ex-demonstrator in immaculate condition. I shall now have to go into strict training as I intend to take part next year.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Friday again

It is Friday and I have enjoyed two busy days.

For some time I have been trying to identify an opportunity to use my talents in a voluntary role. Yesterday I enjoyed a taster session at the Citizens Advice Bureau with a view to becoming a volunteer advisor. I really enjoyed it and have left my completed application form with them. It was possible for me to sit in on two interviews with clients and I was impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the two advisors. Everyone I met was friendly and the organisation seems to have a well-tried process which ensures that clients get quality advice while the advisors have every opportunity to learn from what they are doing. The next step will be to have an interview if the CAB decide they like the look of me.

Today I found myself in the role of temporary leader of the Golden Oldies. The G'Oldies is a bunch of retired managers from the gas industry who meet up for a morning's activity followed by lunch. This morning I led the walk. We were a few regulars short today, but everyone who was there was in fine fettle. There was the usual "Grumpy Old Men" approach to putting the world to rights as we ambled round the four and a half mile walk, but I was congratulated on my ability to manage the weather (we enjoyed unbroken sunshine all morning) and the opportunity to see a piece of Solihull that we all knew was there but few of us had seen before at close quarters. The walk was followed by a lunch that was excellent value in a pub where the staff were friendly and helpful. In this blog I can admit that the whole arrangement was lucky, but I'll take whatever public credit is going!

I am now in the process of preparing supper for everyone.

Tomorrow is a day of cutting down laurel, so that will keep me out of mischief.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Back Home

Drove home last evening, swam 50 lengths this morning and battled to cut back the laurel bushes this afternoon. A lot more laurel need cutting down - the bloody stuff grows at a rate, and we're not as diligent as we should be about keeping it under control.

For anyone who is interested the photos from our party can be seen here, (click on the "120 years of Halls" link) and my particular thanks go to Paul, my brother-in-law for his dedication in taking all of these and then putting them on the web.

A couple of interesting days coming up, so the next post will probably not be until Friday evening or Saturday.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

An unusual sound

Every time I go outside the house here in Cornwall, I notice it. The unusual sound that is. It is the sound of a combine harvester being driven relentlessly up and down (or is it round and round?) the neighbouring fields, together with its attendant tractors and trailers which relieve it of its precious cargo. My uncle (who knows about these things) tells me that the harvest is usually gathered in during July, but following the appalling wet weather, the last few glorious days have dried the crop to the point at which it can be gathered in. Winter wheat is planted in October, and so no sooner with the harvest be complete than the tractors and ploughs will be deployed to prepare for the sowing of next years crop.

We have much to be thankful for, not least the supply of food, which for all but a few unfortunate souls is pretty plentiful. It is only when you see one of these amazing machines hard at work that you realise the technology that is built into it. Much of the cereal crop has been beaten more or less horizontal by the wind and the rain, but a skilled operator can get the combine to lift, cut and thresh just about all of the crop in a way that would have been impossible in the days of doing it all by hand. It all happens so quickly too. In a bygone age the work would have taken familes some weeks to complete with each stage depending on the weather.

If I ruled the world, all children from urban schools would spend a day watching the harvest so that there is a little more appreciation of what goes into producing our daily bread.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Friday


I have not posted for a few days, which is rather remiss of me. I am in Cornwall where the weather is beautiful. It is warm, sunny and nearly all the holidaymakers have gone home.

My mother gets weaker and more immobile every time I visit and I get increasingly depressed about it. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing more I can do, but the heartache remains.

The picture is another one from the party and shows no. 2 son, Thomas, being served with roast pork, stuffing and apple sauce in a bun while his sister, Robin salivates while waiting her turn. The crowd of young people, some of whom can be seen in the background, made heroic attempts to eat all of the pork, but admitted defeat in the end. We shall be eating it for a while yet.

The whole pig roast, which was I hasten to add was my beloved wife's idea, was a brilliant one. I recommend it to anyone, but before you chose, ensure the pig is roasted from cold on site. If it is pre-cooked, it tends to sit in its own fat while being transported. It will cost you slightly more, but it is well worth it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Party - Some Pictures

Thanks to the technical wizardry of Brother-in-law Paul, I am now able to put some pictures from our party on Saturday.

The first gives an overall impression of the scene towards the end. I know it is towards the end, because the canopy covering the pig roast has gone. I will search pictures for a picture of the pig roast, if only because it was one of the highlights of the day.





The second picture show my James (one of the twins) wearing his new fez that someone brought and gave him

Monday, 15 September 2008

Photos - or the lack of...

The photos of our party are still in the hands (camera?) of our official photographer my esteemed brother-in-law. He has obviously been too busy going to Hethel to see the Lotus factory to upload the photos from the party, at least one of which will be highly unflattering.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The Party's over....

The day we have been fretting about is over. It has been brilliant. Our guests seem to have had a wonderful time, the weather was fine - as good as it has been for weeks - the food was brilliant and it all went perfectly.

Thanks are due to so many, Tim, Paul, Sharon and Hayley for the delicious spit roast pork, Robin, Paul and our sons for their work, our guests for their gifts and company, and most of all to Jini, my lovely wife for her organising efforts and all the remaining food. Tomorrow, I will start to put some photos onto this blog so that people can see what a good time we had.

Now, I'm completely exhausted so it is off to bed.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Party Time

Preparations for The Party are well advanced. The male members of the family reach significant Birthdays this year that total 120 (I'm 60, the twins are 21 and Chris is 18). My Beloved has organised this do and invited everyone. The Pig Roast is organised and paid for (and arrives at 08:00 to morrow morning!), so it will be up and about with a mission tomorrow. Quite who is coming, I am pretty much in the dark. All I hope is that the weather is kind to us. It doesn't have to be sunny, but please, please let it be dry.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Pleasure and Heartache

The Large Hadron Collider seems to have started operating without the feared Black Hole appearing yet. Son-in-law Paul has written here that the world was very unlikely to come to an end this week and experience bears this out. I get seriously concerned by people whose level of understanding is such that they think we mere mortals are going to create Black Holes of the magnitude that will consume the planet on which we all live. Somewhere the education system is failing (and not just in the UK, I suspect)...

Much has appeared in the press about the effect of Mrs Sarah Palin and the article here from todays Independent is another such. My beloved wife voiced her feelings that she would not vote for John McCain knowing that if anything happened, this uniquely American lady would assume the reins of power, so I know I am not alone. Frankly, she frightens the crap out of me.

While mentioning my beloved, she has a significant birthday in 2010. She has suggested that she would like a holiday to which all the family could come for all or part of the time and I have to say that the idea appeals to me and those members of the family I have canvassed. A large Gite in France and a largish boat on the French canals have occurred as possibilities so far but I'm open to other ideas. Please add yours in the form of a comment...

The England football team finally got their act together last evening and thumped Croatia 4 - 1. The delight for me is that a 19 year old has finally shown all those overpaid wassocks how the job should be done. He even seems to have caused Wayne the Pain to show some life in an England shirt. And why does the England management keep persevering with one F Lampard? It beats me.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Another milestone

As a result of getting up a little earlier and thus getting to the pool a little earlier, I managed 50 lengths this morning. Something of a milestone achieved. Now I have to work out how many lengths make up a mile..... Hmmm my beloved has just come in and told me it is 64. How does she know that?

I got distinctly wet riding my bike to the pool, and I got rather wetter walking it home again. I must conduct an inquiry into who has nabbed my cycling waterproofs.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Swimming - more progress

On the 7th August I posted about my progress at swimming to improve my fitness. In that post, I reported that I'd managed to swim 30 lengths and was recovering more quickly. After a week in Cornwall, my improvement plateaued and any more than 30 lengths was beyond me. This week I have found myself able to swim lengths continuously, so in the time available, I've managed 40 or 42 lengths on several mornings. This is more than a kilometre. When I started, I thought that swimming a kilometre was something I would take several months to achieve and privately I had targeted Christmas to have achieved this milestone. As I only started swimming at the beginning of July I am well pleased and not a little surprised that I have got there so quickly.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Give him the job and he'll finish the tools..

So runs a famous school report from our metalwork master on a school friend of mine. To be fair it was a pretty fair summary of my friends practical skills. However the thought came back to me today as I decided to shorten the bike stand that has been standing idle in the garage and bolt it to the drive under our overhang, so that James and I can stand our bikes in the dry and lock them to something secured to the ground. It was a day for the BIG tools. The mains power drill got an outing (the battery powered hand drill just was not up to drilling holes in the paving blocks), and to shorten the bike rack, I resorted to the angle grinder in cutting mode. This is an amazing tool. I started with a hacksaw and while it would have done the job eventually, the grinder, armed with a metal cutting disc, went through the bike rack like the proverbial hot knife through butter. The shower of sparks the accompanies the cutting also adds a sense of drama. Pedestrians walking past the house paused to watch the show. It has to be used with some respect, I've no doubt that one could have a very nasty accident with it, but used properly, it was exactly the tool for the job.

Once the job was complete, I realised that I am forever grateful to Mr Jones, the splendid Welsh metalwork master at school, who patiently helped me master the techniques in using such tools.

Oh and as it has rained since my last post, I can confirm that the drip, drip, drip on the conservatory roof has ceased. Success!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Two finds in one day.

This morning, a man knocked on the door and offered to clean the windows. He looked round and then asked a reasonable price, so he got the job. During the course of his efforts I made him tea and then while we drank our tea I moaned about the leaking gutter. By now, I'd found out that his name is Charlie, and on hearing my moan, he immediately offered to help fix it.

Between us we spent an hour and a half confirming that the rubber seals on the union joining the two long runs of gutter had perished. Charlie recommended a supplier of the part needed and then I had to depart for a blood test and he went off to drum up some more trade. After my blood test, I set off to find the roofing supply company he recommended. It was in the back of beyond in the scruffiest part of Tyesley and took a while to find. They had the bit (it set me back £1.14, less than a third of what it would have cost in B&Q), and they made sure I had the right bit. I was impressed with them. They will get more of my custom.

Fitting the new union was simply and Charlie re-appeared at 5:30 to see that it had all gone satisfactorily. For all his efforts on the guttering, he was happy with £10 cash. What a bargain. Fortunately, I have his phone number if I need him again before he returns to clean the windows again in about 6 weeks.

It is to be assumed that Charlie's exist all over the land, but I feel fortunate to have bumped into my Birmingham Charlie today.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Ends and beginnings

The Beijing Olympics are over. the BBC coverage was brilliant and the best bit for me was the coverage of the final race in the 49er class sailing - high winds and the best sailors in the world trying (and generally failing) to keep their boats upright. The Danes triumphing in a borrowed boat as their mast broke just before the start. Absolutely brilliant television.

The long run-up to the London Olympics now starts and let us hope that the doubters and sceptics will keep their concerns to themselves and let those charged with delivering this greatest of spectacles get on with their mammoth task unhindered.

Chris has finished his schooling but decided that he can (and must) do better that the grades he achieved at A level. Somehow, I can't bring myself to agree with his analysis, but he must be supported, so whatever he chooses, he deserves my support. Good Luck, son.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Not much, really....

I see I have not posted for a week. My beloved will give up looking, or make some pointed comment (like she does on James's Blog) if I don't so here goes....

At long last it has stopped raining here in Cornwall. The place is packed with holidaymakers and , unlike the locals, none of them say "hello" or "Good morning" as you pass. Can't wait for them to go home.

I have done a fair bit of clearing up and tidying and I'm now awaiting Chris and Katie's arrival tomorrow. Let's hope the weather stays fine.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

It's hard when you're young.

Results are out. Chris got what he needed to go to Sheffield, and yet he feels disappointed. He is disappointed that he did not do better and feels that he has somehow not fulfilled his potential. It may be true that he got the work/play balance slightly wrong but the grades he obtained are jolly good ones. He has the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson. Whether he will or not, is down to him.

As I write this, he is immersed in a long conversation with his sister. This I regard as a good sign. He has proved a good listener all day, starting with his teachers, I bought him coffee and he has thought about things. Secondly, his sister is Sensible with a capital S. She has been there, done that (when we're talking about going to University and getting a good degree), and Chris has great respect for her opinions. I am sure that whatever he decides to do at the end of all the deliberations will be the right thing for him.

Bless you son, and well done.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

It isn't the plan that counts, it's the planning.

Tomorrow is A Levels result day. Chris, who will be getting his results, has a plan for his future that has me a little baffled, but it is his plan, and he seems to understand what he has to do to execute it. He explained it to me and I understood. What I don't quite understand are his motives. Still, there is some time for me to explore these once he has decided what to do.

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

My daughter in her blog here admits to having Olympic fever. I haven't caught the fever yet, but I have started watching. Using the BBC web site, I watched a replay of the GB heavyweight eight row their heat to get into the final. I love watching a GB team crush the opposition. If you haven't seen it, it can be seen here. Immense superiority with minimum effort. Plenty of effort, but no more than was necessary. It must have done wonders for their confidence.

I'm not sure that Blake Aldridge will have won many friends by publicly blaming Tom Daley for their failure in the synchronised diving. Tom may or may not have had a bad day, but if you're a team, stick together.

The commentator on the swimming action when Rebecca Adlington had a brain/mouth interface failure during her Gold medal swim. Surely the BBC should send him off for some remedial training.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

A visit to get me thinking.....

My wife and I are spending the weekend in Havant with my daughter and son-in-law. I am impressed with the way they look after themselves: we went swimming yesterday morning and this morning they have been out for a run. The food here is healthy too, not that is isn't at home.

Havant is quite close to the sea, and I've decided that I like being close to the sea. This may seriously disrupt the plans for moving at a later point in our lives. It is also noticeable that people here, and in the environs of the South Coast, seem to be in much more of a hurry to get places. The driving verges on the downright poor, and pedestrians push and shove in a manner I find distinctly unattractive. Much food for thought.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Progress and People

Back on July 3rd, I posted that I had decided to take myself in hand. Since then every weekday I've been at home, I have hauled myself out of bed at around 7:20 and pedalled down to the swimming pool. When I started I could just manage 12 lengths before dragging myself out of the water, completely knackered. Today for the first time, I manged 30 lengths between arriving and 8:25. I then cycled home. Two benefits are noticable:
i) I take a lot less time to recover from being puffed out
and
ii) I can pedal in a much higher gear on my bike.
This convinces me that I am slowly getting fitter and stronger. I shall never swim in the Olympics, but this exercise is clearly doing me good. I have promised myself to keep going.

One of my pleasures is watching people. Our local pool has a reduced price for swimming if you enter the pool after 8:30. Approximately 35 - 40 pensioners take advantage of this every morning. They start arriving at the poolside at about 8:05 and gather, sitting in seats or leaning on the guard rails. By 8:25 they resemble a flock of starlings on a telephone wire, all chatting and squabbling amongst themselves. At 8:30 prompt, they throw themselves into one of the three pools and completely disrupt any attempts by others to swim lengths.

Listening to other swimmers conversations reveals that many come to get or keep fit. It has to be said, perhaps slightly undiplomatically, that if talking were an Olympic sport, some of the ladies who come to swim would win a Gold without any problem. If they put as much effort into their swimming as they do into their chatting they would have slyphlike figures in no time!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Thoughts on thoughts

When I compare my blogs with others, I don't seem to post any serious thoughts. Then I realised that I don't have many serious thoughts, I just don't spend a lot of time thinking about life in general. I'll happily spend some time thinking about the best way of clearing the patch of stinging nettles and brambles at the bottom of our garden, but no-one will be interested in that.

A plan for the next few years of my life exists, and some of it is even written down, complete with the timescales that are currently envisaged. Much of what I hope to do, together with my wife, I hasten to reassure her, is dependent on circumstances beyond my control, and I long ago learned that worrying about things you can't control is the quickest way to an early grave (or cremation in my case).

So for the next few years (say, around 3 or 4) I'm in a kind of limbo where I can react to what happens in the family but not really direct it. Having realised that I'm in this position, I'm a tiny bit worried that I might get to like this condition and lose the will to really take control of the big things in my own life.

I also feel the need to learn something in a formal sense, but I'm not sure what or why. I guess I just feel that I could contribute a lot more than I do, or at any rate have recently. I shall post more on this topic in due course.

Summer?

It is supposed to be summer. It is meant to be dry and warm, surely? Today has been more or less unremitting rain, and while it is not really cold (winter cold) it is grey and miserable.

The good news is that I've read a book and relaxed a lot.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

No Room at the Inn

Well, not quite the Inn, but Home actually. All three of our sons are in residence, hence the place is full. Having gone months during which they are not all here, to have them all at home is a rather cramping experience. One son managed to lock another out last night, so at 2 o'clock this morning my beloved wife graciously got up to let him in. The one who left his key in the door is in serious trouble.

The hall and landing decorating is nearing completion, and lots of other jobs have been ignored. Where does the time go? However did I find the time to work?

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Feeling lonely.

Thomas has gone home and I'm on my own in Granny's bungalow. The weather is grey and wet. All in all, I'd much rather be at home with my family.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Heros and Seagulls

The Hero.

It is hard to put into words the mixture of feelings after talking to James last evening. He clearly had to come out of a hectic Paris restaurant to talk to Thomas and me, and he was equally clearly on top of the world. He was not able to give many details but it sounds as though the last day of his epic ride to Paris was truly memorable. Everyone in the family is in awe of his achievement and hugely proud of him. He has raised an enormous sum for the Big Issue foundation and proved to himself and everyone else what he can do - not that he ever doubted his own ability.

His achievement brings home to me that our children are a lot more adventurous that I was at their age. Somehow, I feel a little older and frailer today.

Seagulls

Are a pain in the arse. They start their morning squawking here in Gerrans at around 04:30 to 05:00 and once they've got going, one has little hope of sleeping through it. The only consolation is that Thomas finds them more annoying than I do.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Thinning out

James has set off on his cycle ride to Paris. Today is the London to Portsmouth leg, and I hope he is going well. He stayed last night with Rob and Sue (to whom great thanks are due) and had to set off at 06:45 for the start in Twickenham.

Chris is still in Liverpool and no contact has been made with home which inclines me to believe that he is fine and having a great time.

Thomas and I set out for Cornwall this afternoon, so Jini will be left on her own with the decorating.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Decorating - part 2

The hall is just about done, now come the stairs and the landing. The two shades of green look good. I'll bet money that no. 3 son doesn't notice when he comes home from Liverpool next week.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Decorating

Due largely to my dislike of the pastime, it is a long time since I have done any decorating. This weekend we have decided to redecorate the hall and landing. So far, so good. We spent a long time deciding which colours to choose - my beloved having a big dither in Homebase - but now we are well underway. It has been made simpler by the twins being very helpful and doing useful parts of the preparation.

Only one oddity so far. I have disconnected the doorbell and if I switch off the electrical supply to the doorbell at the adjacent isolating switch some bleeps at intervals. I cannot identify what it is that's bleeping, which is a bit of a puzzle.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Sailing

Many Thanks to Brian, and the two Bobs for their company while sailing. The Picture of Bob and Brian on the left proves that we did have a fair bit of sunshine and thanks to Bob for letting me share in his sun tan lotion. We were blessed with two days of wind and sun, calm seas, food and drink. Result - I'm exhausted. We really enjoyed the sailing and I was pleased that my skills at navigation had not completely left me. Particularly pleasing was that I managed to steer a course that avoided making a tack while at the same time kept the boat going at a fair speed. For the last 300 yards we spent half our time looking at the echo sounder to check the depth, but it meant we had a relaxing and reasonably speedy return to Shamrock Quay

We told each other silly (and funny) stories, compared lifestyles and generally put the world to rights.


The second picture is of the converted lightship in Haslar Marina, Gosport. It is a terrific conversion to provide a bar, restaurant, showers and toilets and is comfortably the best I've seen in any British Marina. Well Done, Haslar.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Going home

I'm off home today, and the stay in Gerrans has been uneventful and I'm looking forward to sailing from Southampton on Monday and Tuesday.

Monday, 7 July 2008

I took the test too.

My daughters cat, The Empress Theodora took the personality test and detailed the outcome in her blog. Clearly she does not agree with the assertion that she is insecure. Anything that is good enough for the Empress Theodora, is good enough for me, so I took the test too.

My results are:
Your Existing Situation

Volatile and outgoing. Needs to feel that events are developing along desired lines, otherwise irritation can lead to changeability or superficial activities.

Your Stress Sources

Has an unsatisfied need to ally himself with others whose standards are as high as his own, and to stand out from the herd. This desire for preeminence isolates him and inhibits his readiness to give himself freely. While he wants to surrender and let himself go, he regards this as a weakness which must be resisted. This self-restraint, he feels, will lift him above the rank and file and ensure recognition as a unique and distinctive personality.

Your Restrained Characteristics

Insists that his hopes and ideas are realistic, but needs reassurance and encouragement. Egocentric and therefore quick to take offense.

Circumstances are such that he feels forced to compromise for the time being if he is to avoid being cut off from affection or from full participation.



Your Desired Objective

Wants to make a favorable impression and be recognized. Needs to feel appreciated and admired. Sensitive and easily hurt if no notice is taken of him or if he is not given adequate acknowledgment.

Your Actual Problem

Needs to be valued and respected as an exceptional individual, in order to increase his self-esteem and his feeling of personal worth. Resists mediocrity and sets himself high standards.

I think this sums me up rather well, so despite my scepticism, there might be something in it. You can take the test here.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Wet Summer Sunday

Today is the day of the men's final at Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix. It is no great surprise to me therefore that it is hosing down with rain and has been most of the day. I spent most of the morning in bed and since getting up have devoted my time to watching the GP on television (I was only going to watch the first 5 laps, but it got interesting), and finishing the accounts for the small charity for which I am Treasurer. Thus the day has not been a complete disaster.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Taking myself in hand

Recently I've been filling up a form to get quotations for annuities. They offer significantly better rates for people who have diabetes and heart problems like angina, and since I have both of these I could benefit significantly. Then it struck me that these insurance companies are not charitable institutions and only offer improved rates because they expect one to live a much shorter life.

Now my fitness level is not good. I am not a complete couch potato but running is definitely something to be avoided in my book. As a result of this realisation on my part, a fairly pointed remark by my beloved wife and some non-stop nagging by No. 3 son, I have decided to take myself in hand.

Swimming is my chosen activity and for two reasons. One, it exercises all muscle groups and I can increase the length of my swims gently. Two, there is a brand new swimming pool within easy cycling distance of home. So, at 8:00 this morning I presented myself at these nice new baths and purchased an introductory membership. I was surprised to find that I could manage lengths more easily that I expected, but disappointed to discover a band of elderly ladies who swam slowly up and down the pool four abreast and talking continuously. I may have to put out a contract on them! I felt brilliant after the exercise, the endorphins creating and unusual effect (for me). So now I've started all I have to do is persevere. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Well, I'm home, so I guess mother has got others doing her dirty work. Home this week is full of birthdays and other celebrations. Today is my beloved's birthday and tomorrow is Chris's 18th. Tonight Chris has gone off to the leavers ball and he looked half decent (see picture). His date for the evening is a lovely young lady named Jenny who looked as though she would administer a good slap if he needed it.

To see his and his friends depart to this Ball reminded all the parents present that the time since they started at Solihull School seemed to have flown by. They really are nice young people. This remark prompted the reaction that nice young people have nice parents and then we realised that we'd got this the wrong way round. Nice people tend to raise attractive offspring and no. 3 son has many friends who are a great credit to their parents.

Today Chris has been playing the role of White Knight riding (well driving actually) to the rescue of one of his young lady friends whose car has had a puncture. I was proud of him for his efforts until he told me that he couldn't find the spare wheel on a Ford Fiesta. I really must teach him to read a handbook in these circumstances.

Nevertheless, his heart is very much in the right place and the young lady concerned regarded him as a hero. Well Done, lad.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Feeling small

My mother has now been in the nursing home for 3 days. I feel rather like I imagine a small time crook feels when is gang leader is banged up in jail. A stream of orders arrives via a variety of messengers and I am expected to report on the execution of these orders at the next visit.

I wonder what she'll do when I go home.....

Saturday, 28 June 2008

What a week!

It has been a week since I last wrote anything here and it has been a difficult week.

Last weekend we went to a friend's 50th Birthday party and enjoyed it very much. We spent some time in the planning for our own celebrations in September, and enjoyed such good weather as there was. Thomas appeared from Durham, and promptly vanished to Warwick with one of the cars to see his brother. He has since gone back to Durham to do St. John Ambulance things and some revision for the bit of his maths that he failed.

Wednesday I bowled down to Cornwall and have found my mother in a bit of a state. After several falls and a visit from an ambulance crew, my mother and I resigned ourselves to the fact that she must go into a nursing home, at least temporarily. She left her own home yesterday and was clearly very upset. I do hope she will be able to return.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Getting up

I came home on Wednesday as I had volunteered to help at the school my sons used to attend with some careers activities. On both of these occasions I had to be in the school by 08:15 which meant getting up at around 07:00. The experience has proved that I'm not up to it. I enjoyed both days very much, but by the end I was completely exhausted.

Also, leaving school at 15:30 means one ends up in the thick of the south Birmingham traffic. It is horrendous. I shall avoid driving in the afternoon round here.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Ferries, Falls and Fathers Day

This is the first post after my resolution to put more pictures in the blog.

My first picture is of the King Harry Ferry which connects the Roseland Peninsula to the road between Truro and Falmouth. The picture was taken while I waited to board this splendid vessel yesterday afternoon on my way back from Sainsbury's.
This vessel is now in its third(?) year of operation, having replaced the previous ferry. The main benefit of the new one is that it takes a few more cars.




This second photo shows a man leaning on the rail of the ferry. Look carefully, however, and you'll notice that is right boot is secured to the walkway by a metal strap. He is a fibreglass and concrete sculpture that has been lovingly crafted, painted and secured in a place that fools most of the children and a good proportion of the adults who use the ferry during their holiday. There is another gentleman sculpture who overlooks the western slipway of the ferry from a bench, and I'll try and remember to take a picture of him next time I'm there.

You can get more details of the ferry here.

In other news, my mother fell over this morning which ruined my planned lie-in. She has raised a flap of skin on the back of her left hand, but my bandage passed inspection from the carer, Alison, who is training to be a nurse.

This made it a dismal start to my Fathers Day, and my only hope is that my children rescue it by remembering to phone me at some point. It will be nice to hear from them.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Relief all round

I can't handle too many days like today. It started badly as the first thing I did was to break my mum's teapot. It was not going to be the pride and joy of anyone's old age, but it was annoying.

Then I had to ring the care providers and ask them for a load of additional care for Mum. They rang back this afternoon to say that they could provide, so I am mightily relieved. So is Mum.

Oh, and I've decided this blog looks better with a simpler template and more photos, so I shall attempt to put a photo into most of the posts from now on.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Happy Christmas


My beloved wife finally got her Christmas present today

Last Christmas I bought a half day Falconry experience and today we finally got to it. There were Hawks, Owls, Falcons, Eagles and Buzzards to admire and then a selection of them were brought out to fly from hand to hand of from post/fence/shed to hand all bribed by small pieces of food. The good news was that my wife enjoyed the experience immensely and we both learned a great deal. The owl shown on the left here was a particular favourite of mine as he would only fly to the food, and had to be carried back to the perch from which he started.


One of the things that struck us was how much the birds were characters. The owl being flown also had a habit of provoking the Raven in his aviary by walking on the roof of it. Apparently before the roof was planked over the Raven, when provoked, would grab the piece of leather tied to the owl's leg and fly round and round in his aviary in order to upset the owl.

John the demonstrator was the most knowledgeable person I've ever met, and I'm pleased to say that he had strong opinions on most things ecological.

Details of the Falconry Centre are here and I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

Oh, and the weather was brilliant too.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Life could be worse

A weekend of never ending sunshine has continued this morning. I have managed to stain 4 out of the 6 patio chairs, and I hope to get another one done this morning. Chris spent most of the weekend playing cricket, eating and sleeping, so presumably he judges it to have been a success.

Life is good.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Pensions Minefield

Today in the mail came a letter from one of my employers which started with the words "With your impending retirement, it is time for you to think about your pension...". There then followed a six page form which I have to fill in and a whole load of blurb describing the options that are open to me. There are rather a lot. Because she has much more patience than I do, and listens to Radio 4 a lot, I described the situation to my beloved wife who immediately made huge sense of it for me and I find the whole thing a lot less daunting. Even after only a few minutes with the web, it is clear that far and away the most important thing is to do a fair bit of research and a lot of shopping around.

So, I have entered the Pensions Minefield. The journey through this hazard of modern living will take a while, and will almost certainly feature in the blog (thus driving any readers I do have, away) . I promise I'll do my best not to bore you.

Monday, 2 June 2008

It's easy when you think about it.

Looking after my mother is driving me nuts. It is obviously showing because Julie (the much beloved cleaning lady) noticed something was up as soon as she walked in this morning.

I simply feel so helpless. My mother is slowly deteriorating before my eyes and I have no way of knowing whether she can cope or not when I leave tomorrow. After some thought, I have resolved this dilemma by deciding that there is only one way to find out. I shall go home tomorrow and we shall find out on Wednesday and Thursday. Julie and Mum's wonderful neighbours will keep their eyes and ears open, and I shall soon be made aware if things are not working out. So now I've stopped worrying about it and I'm really looking forward to going home tomorrow.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Sunshine and showers

The last three days have been unremitting sunshine here in Gerrans. Just up the road in St Austell there have been a large number of violent thunderstorms and torrential rain. We have been able to sit in the garden and watch the thunder and rain clouds scud by to the north. We have not heard thunder, but it has been obvious from the visibility over headlands up the coast (to the east) that others in this county have had a lot worse weather than us. Funny old world.

My internet home page is that provided by BT Yahoo and has a news feed section on it which supposedly gives the headlines of the major news stories. I notice this evening that there is an item detailing the happenings in the various soap operas that feature on what passes for prime time television. Who gives a shit? I certainly don't. Get it off. Grumpies Rule!

Friday, 30 May 2008

Preparation for life?

I've just managed to speak to one of my sons via his mobile. He was walking to the Boathouse at university as he has a regatta tomorrow. He did so with a light heart. His exams have finished. He seems to have no more lectures, so he can settle down to the life of rowing, the beer festival tomorrow, the College Ball, the College picnic, and the other joys of the summer term. It sounds like a wonderful life.

The world of work will come as a shock to him, but who can blame him for making the most of the opportunity he worked so hard at school to create.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Best

The phone has been reconnected. I was impressed by the tenacity and perseverance of Luke, the BT engineer who came and did the job. Due to the extremely cramped position he had to adopt in mum's loft, I offered to act as his mate and pass the required tools and bits of equipment. There was a 30 minute period during which he was atop the telegraph pole between here and the exchange. It was here that the fault lay. However it is now fixed and we are back in touch with the rest of the world.

Mum has the Daily Telegraph for her daily paper, and I used to think of it as a bastion of Englishness and standards. Twice in the last week their English has been lacking. They write that "Limousines will bare the starlets away." , which conjures up an interesting mental picture and "Helicopters baring members of HM forces". Honestly! What school did these people go to? The verb is "to bear".

The news stories regarding the stabbings of young people are truly horrifying. It is hard to know what to suggest. Young people who feel it is necessary to demonstrate their commitment to a group by being part of a violent act are clearly lacking in moral values, and for that surely we can only lay the blame at the door of their parents.

The counter, of course, is the hundreds and hundreds of young people who contribute to to the general good of our society in so many different ways. Long may they continue to be motivated by their idealism, and stir us sceptics and cynics out of our apathy. And please can our media remind us from time to time that there is much good in the world.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Hanging on the telephone.

Once again, we have no telephone here. Quite what has occurred is for BT to discover and fix, but my broadband works fine. I think the temporary repair that was made in January has failed. The message from BT is "That there is a fault between the exchange and your property". The exchange is some 20 - 25 meters from the corner of my mothers bungalow. I can almost reach over the fence and touch it. The wire from the exchange to my mothers house goes via the top of one pole. In this day and age, one would think that over such a small distance, the cable's integrity could be maintained.

The Orange mobile coverage is not good here, either. However, I've found a place in the house where the signal is OK, but while it is in this position, I can't hear my mobile if it rings. Hmmm.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Cooped up with the Patient

Today is a bank holiday. Naturally it is raining, cold and blowing a gale. Oh, splendid.

I am indoors with the tyrant who, as soon as I sit down or leave the room, thinks of something she wants and gets me up or causes me to abort what I am doing. She will be lucky to survive the day at this rate.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Self Satisfied, verging on Smug.

It is nice to be able to return kindness. My mother's neighbour, who my mother would instantly elevate to Sainthood in the unlikely event that she ever became Pope, has a back injury and is temporarily incapacitated. Thus it has become my pleasant duty to look in on her every half day, and this evening she felt sufficiently disconsolate so when I offered her some of our casserole, she accepted my offer with alacrity. She was pathetically grateful when I took the meal in, but she has been so kind to my mother during her long period of incapacity that it seemed the least I could do. I shall be interested to hear what she thought of it. Personally, I thought it was rather good, but I would say that, wouldn't I?

I am also feeling distinctly smug that I drove down here yesterday. There are stories in the media that the roads are in chaos and sundry ginormous traffic jams have occurred on roads to the West Country. While cheerfully engrossed in a Hamish MacBeth audio book on the CD player in the car, I rolled down here yesterday in a very reasonable four and a half hours, averaging 61 m.p.h. and 64.9 m.p.g. of diesel. I am not saying that our Fiat Grande Punto is the greatest car around, but one really is hard pressed to see what more you could want from a car.

Tomorrow, I am going to set off for Sainsbury's at 06:40 to get a long list of stuff that we need. I must now check Granny's bank balance to see that we can afford it all. I've looked. We can.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

I'm still here

At home, that is.

I've been allowed to help with the garden, I've mended the fence. We have hosted a visit by our friend Sue. We've attended the final assemby for No. 3 son at his school. All he has to do now is take his A levels.

Life is good.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Mending fences

We have lived in our house for 12 and a half years. About 3 years ago we noticed that the horizontal rails which form the main structure of the fence between ourselves and our lovely Indian neighbours were rotting. Idleness set in and we did nothing. This winter, several of the vertical feather edged boards came off because the nails holding then to the rails had nothing to grip on to as the rails had rotted away. Finally today, I went off and bought timber to form new rails.

There are 8 panels in the fence and each has three horizontal rails, so I had to cut and fit 24 rails. This job went more smoothly than I anticipated. I then entered next door's garden to nail the vertical planks to the new rails. After 2 and a half panels, I am finished. I have hit my thumb with the hammer regularly, and in the last few minutes I hit it more often than the nails. So, sod it, I have given up and come in to watch the Cup Final, and I'll finish the job on Monday.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Money, Money, Money

I arrived home at half past nine last evening. Today has been a bit hectic with collecting and banking money. My colleagues on the charity committee had a most successful event last week and raised nearly £1000. As a result there were loads of cheques to be banked and a mass of cash to be counted and banked. One of the lovely ladies who collected all the money had miscounted by £10, so I spent quite a long time trying to work out why I could get the numbers they gave me to balance. When I finally resorted to counting it all to complete the paying-in slip, I found the error. This small error in no way diminishes my admiration for the hard working colleagues who made this event such a success. They obviously have a much better appreciation of what will appeal to the audience than me.

As most of this money was collected from a house which was on my way to the bank, rather than bring it all home to count it, I retired to the cafe in the Library and sat a a discreet but large table to count it all and then complete the paying-in slip. I felt slightly nervous about doing this until I had a good look round at my fellow coffee drinkers. There appeared to be only one person younger than me and the vast majority of the others were little old ladies. I'm pretty sure I could have taken most of them.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Down with long trousers and socks....

For the last two and a half days, I have scuzzed about in shorts and sandals. It is now raining, so I have put on some long trousers. It feels strange. The garden needs the rain, but my legs need fresh air and sunshine, 'cos I want to go back to shorts and sandals. Soon.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Another hard day in the sunshine..

The sun has shone relentlessly again today. This morning was taken up going in to Truro where I had to growl somewhat in Specsavers. Why we had to wait 30 minutes for an adjustment that took 30 seconds is beyond me. Their service is rubbish.

We spent a few bob in Boots, where we invested in a range of odds and ends that need replacing, aided by a most helpful lady who showed us where everything we wanted was. Why are razor blades so expensive?

The ladies in Lakeland were their normal helpful selves and our needs there were soon met.

This afternoon has been spent lazing in the sun - I even made some headway with the Telegraph crossword. Splendid.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Sunshine

Today we have had glorious sunshine. Mum and I have sat outside most of the day and luxuriated in it. Jolly nice it was too.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Visitors and a possible ban...?

Today we have been inundated with visitors. The District Nurse was first at 9:00 and Fran, the carer, was last at 18:45 and there have been seven in between. And we went to the hairdressers this afternoon. I can't speak for my Mum, but I'm exhausted.

I am in danger of being banned from the hairdresser's. During my haircut yesterday, the stylish Alison suggested that a series of themed "Fetish Days" would attract customers. In a discussion, we discussed some ideas for suitable themes. Today, Alison (bless her) repeated some of these ideas in the presence of the proprietor Sarah, and an other male customer who showed significant enthusiasm. Quite how she arrived at the conclusion, I am not sure, but Sarah decided that I was behind all this and that banning me might be the next move. Hmmmmm.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Should have done this ages and ages ago and Dangerous People

Clean the keyboard of my PC, that's what. I burgled 4 antiseptic wipes from Granny's pot of them to clean my keyboard. Good Grief, it was dirty. Then I looked at it closely.... it is the Dan keyboard that came with the computer I bought when we lived in Ware. Thus it is at least 15 years old. I've never cleaned it before, and I very much doubt if anyone else in the family has. So, 15 years of dirty fingers, tea and coffee spills, sweat and crud have been (more or less) removed.

Somehow the keyboard still looks old, but now it looks loved and cared for and I feel affection for it. Here's to another 15 years. Let's be honest, there aren't many bits of PCs that last that long and still work well.

I took a return ferry trip from St. Mawes to Falmouth this afternoon. For more or less the entire trip it rained. On the return trip the inside cabin of the ferry was full (there must have been around 24 of us) and four of the passengers, 3 women and 1 man grinned the whole time at the rest of us. Now I found this somewhat disturbing. I have Grumpy Old Man (GOM) tendencies, and in my world, people who smile all the time just aren't right in the head. So on arriving back at St. Mawes, I was glad to get off and distance myself from these dangerous characters. They should be incarcerated for the safety of us Grumpies. There are more of us than them. Grumpy is Good. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, 5 May 2008

A Bank Holiday

Today has been a bank holiday. The weather was pants here this morning, but cleared up sufficiently for us to have a bar-b-que this afternoon. Very enjoyable it was too. Despite the rain, it has been very warm, and I could swear that the grass grows visibly in this sort of weather.

All too soon it will be time to head for Cornwall, and I shall do so with mixed feelings. My mother reports with a note of triumph in her voice that she has not fallen over today. I suppose I should be grateful, but I don't really feel anything but dread and then I feel guilty about that. Watching someone I've known and loved as an active parent descend into frailty, dependency and despair makes me miserable. It occurs to me that this process is something that almost all of us have to experience, given that we are lucky enough to survive our parents, and I resolve to try and find whatever positives I can. Amongst these positives is the innate goodness of just about all of the people my Mum and I have encountered over the last year. Despite all of the ghastly headlines, and today has its share, there are an awful lot of good people in the world. Thanks to you all.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

A good friend of mine is a member of the Labour Party and lives with his family in Clapham. I feel for him today. I have Conservative tendencies, and I am both surprised and delighted at their success. Ken Livingstone had passed his "sell by" date as Mayor of London, and while I have enormous admiration for what he has done and the profile he has created for the position of Mayor of London, I think he and his advisors ran a poor campaign and deserved to get beaten.

As for what our revered Prime Minister is thinking today, I cannot begin to guess. What seems so incomprehensible is that he seems unable to grasp that this is largely his own fault. Since the non-election in October/November, he has made some astonishing decisions which have brought him and his government to this point. Winning the next General Election from where he is today will take an awful lot of doing, and I rather suspect that he does not have the personality nor the cabinet colleagues to pull it off.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Friday

Today has been a day of doing not much. I can hear my wife's reaction "Just like every other day, you mean?". Well, a bit I suppose. This morning we went to the Farmers Market here in Solihull, then we went to see No. 1 son in Leamington Spa. We had to take over some things he needed.

Our Farmers Market is one of those institutions that I like. There is lots of local produce nicely laid out and being sold by people who are closely involved in growing or producing it. Of particular interest was a stall selling sauces. Curry sauces, bourguignon, sweet and sour etc., all in jars and most available to taste. Jolly good they were too, at least the ones I was able to taste. I added the availability of a Farmers Market to the list of requirements for any future living place. I think it just means we have to live in a market town.

The news concerning the local elections has surprised me slightly. Not that I expected anything other than a bad day for Labour, but the scale of their disaster surprises me. When we brits get fed up with a political party we don't reject them a little bit, do we? We throw them out, kick them down and stamp on them for good measure. Perhaps it is the only chance we get to legally behave violently. Labour's doom will be complete if, as seems likely, Boris Johnson is elected Mayor of London later tonight.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Another Wednesday, Another Train Journey

The good news was that the Cross Country train was on time, clean and comfortable. However, once again I was impressed with the average Brit's inability to find a reserved seat in a train. I know I have mentioned this before in this blog, but something is wrong somewhere if grown men and women cannot board a train and find their seat.

Another quirk that us Brits display is that we feel the need to stand up and prepare to disembark the train 10 or 15 minutes before we actually arrive in a station. Now at Tiverton Parkway, where we stop for maybe 2 minutes, this might make sense. Except that no-one gets on or off at Tiverton Parkway. But at Bristol Temple Meads or Birmingham New Street, where the train stops for 8 to 10 minutes, one really can wait until the train has stopped before gathering up ones belongings and making for the door.

I know I've done the journey a number of times now, but I can get from New Street to Moor Street in Birmingham in about 6 minutes. This enables me to catch a fast train from Moor Street to Solihull and I get home in about 18 minutes which includes the 10 minute walk home from Solihull Station. So from getting into New Street I can be home in 25 minutes. Not Bad.

Once home, I spend a happy couple hours going through the mail, and this return, there wasn't much of interest. The pressure is on number 3 son to get various forms filled up before his university entrance. I do wish he was a bit more enthusiastic.

Monday, 28 April 2008

A feeling of Dread

At twenty to three in the morning I am not at my best. I know this because at twenty to three this morning, I became aware that someone was calling my name. I got blearily out of bed to find my Mum sprawled on the floor in her bedroom with blood flowing from a big gash on her left arm.

Operating on autopilot, I got her to attend to the call of nature, and then I managed to bandage her arm with some cotton wool and surgical tape. I think Mum was more relieved to get back into bed than me. I didn't sleep much after that.

The District Nurse came and made a better job of the bandage than I'd been able to, but was complimentary about my efforts, which was nice of her.

I'm beginning to feel trapped. I have a growing suspicion that I won't be going home on Wednesday........

Sunday, 27 April 2008

I didn't laugh.

waking up this morning was courtesy of the smoke alarm. To be honest, I'm not at all clear what mum had done to set it off, but no flames were coming from the kitchen. As it was 6:35, I went back to bed.

The next awakening was at 7:15 when a cry for help emerged from the bedroom. Mum had fallen into her own wardrobe and was sitting among the shoes. I really did try very hard not to laugh, and just about succeeded.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Puffed


I'm puffed. This morning was spent doing some urgent housekeeping and then some highly supervised gardening. This afternoon I have taken Holly (picture left) for a longish walk. While we were out my Mum and her friend Joan (Holly's human) enjoyed a long chat, two cups of tea and some caramel covered shortbread. Objective achieved. I shall sleep well tonight.

Friday, 25 April 2008

No Drama, please

After a free week at home, here I am back in Cornwall again. The good bit is that I had two days here with my beloved wife before she had to go home. From the tales I hear, it sounds as though some interesting things went on. Granny and my daughter wrestled each other to the ground (at least, that's what it sounds like), and a trip to the surgery was conducted in a gale which frightened everyone involved.

New glasses and a hairdo have improved Mum's outlook, so we'll go from there.

Monday, 21 April 2008


The cartoon on the left is one of our favourites. It hangs in our downstairs loo. The caption reads "All of my family have grown up, except my husband of course", and it strikes a chord with all our female visitors who see it.

I am far from clear why men retain childish qualities all their lives. Certainly as I get older, I'm sure I get more childish. Perhaps it is a manifestation of the desire to combat aging in any way we can.

The second picture, kindly brought to my attention by my daughter, shows me demonstrating this tendency at her 30th birthday party.

"Why do I do these things?" I ask myself. Answer comes there none. Further thinking about this lack of answer raises the question "Why don't I do something before it is absolutely necessary?"

I'm something of a procrastinator, and the evidence suggests that my children have inherited this trait.

Experience tells me that if I do something now:-
a) no-one objects (well maybe someone does, but only once in a blue moon)
b) it almost always saves work and effort in the long run.

So it seems I don't want to learn this lesson. I must think about it some more.