Friday, 29 February 2008

Credit where it is due

My children will tell you that I can be the archetypal "Grumpy old man", and that is true, but I do like to give credit where it is due. In Wednesday's issue of the Independent there were listed the ten best Fairtrade wines. The accolade of Best White went to a South African Chardonnay from Marks and Spencer, so yesterday my beloved and I went to see if they had any in the Solihull store. We spoke to a nice lady, named Dawn, but we could not remember the name of the wine. She suggested we go home, and having found the name, ring to see if and when they would have some in. Today I went back armed with the name of the wine, but could see none on the shelves. I was approached by the store manager who was walking round with a colleague from his management team. He asked if I had found what I was looking for, so I explained the search. He promptly went off and phoned his food and drink manager and neither of them had heard of the wine. "This is typical" he explained, "Head office get some publicity which generates demand, but we don't have the product in stock". I explained it was ever thus. He took my name, telephone number and details of the wine and promised to get back to me. Forty minutes later, a lady phoned from the store to explain that two cases will be delivered on Tuesday and they will save one for us. Now that's what I call service.

Following on from yesterday's post, Chris's PC emerged from his bedroom to be examined and after a lot of farting around on my part, I managed to get it going again. In the process, I discovered how old and disk bound it is, so I'll be suggesting he wanders into John Lewis to look at the laptops in there. The little Samsung Q45 really caught my eye.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Personal MOT

Promptly at 08:30 I presented myself at the surgery for my personal MOT. This is the annual review of my diabetes and associated medication, lifestyle, blood pressure and general well-being. As with a classic car MOT test, the doc's computer details the checks that should be undertaken, so I find myself being referred to a chiropodist to check that the nerves in my feet are still working, a form for a blood test and a sample bottle to fill at my convenience (please pardon the pun!).

As I had a heart problem some 5 years ago, I was keen to get off the Avandamet drug which is risky for people like me. The doc concurred and has changed my prescription. The general conclusion so far is that I'm still very much roadworthy. This is something of a relief.

Chris's PC seems to have collapsed and his bedroom is so untidy, he will not let me in it to see if I can fix the PC - it must be BAD. We shall have to buy him a laptop soon to take to university, so this may be the trigger for that purchase.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A little bit of what you fancy...

Today has been a real treat. I had a haircut. The haircut is a good one, but the best bit is that I enjoyed 35 minutes of adult company, a cup of coffee, and some banter. You don't realise how much you enjoy it until you don't have it.

In addition, the stylist, Alison is absolutely gorgeous, with a capital G.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Is this what awaits me?

I'm going stir crazy. Here I am in Cornwall surrounded by old people. No-one I meet with in a purely social context is under 80. Very few of the conversations are new, everyone seems to repeat what they've already said to me (often more than once), and I can only take so much conversation about the weather. I find myself at odds with most of the opinions that are expressed, and, although it might be unkind to say so, have reached the conclusion that people here are distinctly out of touch with what life is really like for the majority of Britons.

Two positives have emerged from this somewhat gloomy circumstance, and they are, that I have resolved to keep up to date with things that are going on in the real world, and not to read the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Words of wisdom

While moving a load of things of my mothers to get some cables out of the way, I came across two pieces of paper, each with these words on:

The Value of a Smile
It costs nothing, but creates much.
It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.
It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None are so rich they cannot get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.
It creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in business, and is the countersign of friends.
It is rest to the weary, delight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad and Nature’s best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good until it is given away.
And if in the last minute rush of Christmas buying some of our salespeople should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?
For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give.


........seems to me like good advice

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Ok that's it.

Right, my poor old blog is getting clogged up by acting as a medical bulletin for my mother, so I've decided to ghost write a blog for her. There is a link labeled "Goings on in Gerrans" on the right, so please family members, and anyone else who is interested, please follow that to get the latest news on Granny Hall.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Welcome Back...

It is Wednesday, so I spent most of the daylight hours making my way, courtesy of Central Trains, Cross Country and First Great Western, to Cornwall. The final leg was a lift from my uncle from St. Austell station to my mothers home.

If there is one sight that is calculated to strike fear into the bravest of hearts, it is the sight of an emergency ambulance in the drive of ones parent's house and it has to be said that the Cornwall County emergency ambulances are an impressive sight. Anyway, one of these impressive vehicles was parked in my mother's drive when I arrived. My fears evaporated when I entered to meet two ambulance crew who explained that mother had had a fall and was recovering. The female member of the crew was helping my mum in the bathroom, and the two male members explained what had happened. They thought she did not need to go to hospital - big relief all round. I was struck by what nice, competent people they were. I suppose that you have to have certain personal qualities to do the job at all, and the training is pretty exhaustive, but aren't we fortunate that such people exist to serve us all.

The other aspect of today's drama that worked well was the Lifeline service provided by the local council. Well done, and thanks, everyone.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Not bad for a lightbulb

Today, after twelve years daily use, I had to replace the fluorescent tube in the light in my study. It cost me £5.95 which I thought was pricey until I remembered how many years of use I had out of it.

On 22nd January, I mentioned here that I'd applied for Carer's Allowance. Well they were as good as their word, and last week, just over £1000 hit my bank account. Splendid, and Well Done to the staff of the Carer's Allowance processing office for their rapid assessment of my claim and prompt payment. Perhaps they should go and run our Doctors surgery....?

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Old Friends

Today we rolled down to Hertfordshire to visit an old friend and his wife. Chris was the best boss I ever had and I learned more from him than anyone else in my working life. We have remained friends ever since. As always when we meet, we reminisced about some of the things we did and looking back at some of these antics, we must have been total hooligans. As Chris asked today, "Why did we take the doors off some 16 cubicles in Gents at the Colchester Service Centre?" "Because we could" seems to be the only answer. I only hope my sons are lucky enough to work with someone that crazy. It was also good to see an old friend looking much better after a long illness.

Chris had cooked the most enormous Steak and kidney pie for lunch and had worked my nickname into the pastry pie crust. Picture of this magnificent pie is on the left and you can just make out my nickname "Brains" in the pastry.
Thanks, Chris for a wonderful lunch. Quite how I got this nickname, I don't remember, now, but I'm sure it was not complimentary. But it is nice to have a pie named after me.

Chris and Bren live in a listed farmhouse in a small village not that far from Buntingford. He was regaling us with stories of dealings with the local Planning dept. who are being particularly unhelpful as they try and plan a new extension. Good luck with the architect on Monday.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Spicy Chicken Fajitas - a cautionary tale

For our dinner tonight I made spicy chicken fajitas. The recipe came from Anthony Worrall Thompson on the BBC food website. Thinking it might be too spicy for my beloved, I left the chilli powder out of the marinade for the chicken. When I tasted the salsa it was too spicy, so I spent 30 minutes taking around half of the diced chilli out of it. I (wisely as it turned out) gave Chris the first griddled pieces of chicken that had been marinading for 3 hours. His reaction was instant, "These are delicious Dad, but there is no way that Mum will eat this!". So, out came another chicken fillet to be sliced and griddled without going into the marinade. Some more of the spicy chicken went into my fajitas, and, if I say so myself, they were good.

Happiness all round, and Chris has some spicy chicken to griddle and eat tomorrow.

Monday, 11 February 2008

I don't geddit....

That august and titillating organ of the Murdoch empire, The Sun, tells me today that members of the Taliban in Afghanistan have been heard talking to each other using Birmingham accents. Personally, I have difficulty imagining this to be true. Why on earth would they want to do so? Why would they speak in English so any eavesdropper can understand what they are saying and then want to sound thick?

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Seizing the Moment

A couple of posts ago, my daughter wrote a short note about "Seizing the Moment". (see the "Adventures of Archimedes" link on the right of this page...). Well, her mother and I had a similar moment today. For around 2 years, we have been on at my mother about the large amount of stuff contained in three cupboards in mum's hall. The stuff never gets used and the cupboards make the passge very cramped. Today, while mum was in church (may we be forgiven) we spent an hour removing the stuff and the cupboards to the garage.

We were expecting a huge sense of humour failure when she came home and found out what we'd done. Instead we got "This is splendid! There is much more room. Where have you put my stuff?".

All of which goes to reinforce a lesson I learned long ago, i.e. the world love action. People who take action are very rarely severely reprimanded for doing whatever it is they've done. So, if in doubt, Just Do It.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Lunatics running the asylum

My son-in-law has very succinctly and accurately summed up my feelings for the Church of England in his latest blog post. You can find it here. Where Paul's post has a feel of anger about it, my main feeling is one of despair. Having been brought up in a Christian home, and having been an on/off churchgoer, I am left with the feeling that the current Archbishop of Canterbury is doing his best to destroy what is left of the C of E. I also fear that many other bishops and clergy are doing the same, the manner in which my mother's parish in Cornwall has been treated, being a classic example of ignoring those who fill the pews each week. On a personal note, I certainly regard our local rector as unworldly and distinctly out of touch.

Over recent weeks the Establishment has demonstrated that it is "Not fit for purpose" to quote the former Home Secretary, John Reid. Methinks the time is coming for a Republic. Up the Revolution.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Rafta Rafta

One of the joys of not having to work is that you can do things at short notice. My best friend and I went to seethe National Theatre's Rafta Rafta at the Rep in Birmingham this afternoon. It was highly recommended and did not disappoint. The cast was excellent and the staging wonderful.
The audience were a mix of retirees like us, a mass of schoolboys (many of them Asian), and a big party of Asian women. The cheering at the end was long and loud and seemed to be led by the Asian schoolboys who obviously related wholeheartedly with the young Asians in the play. Brilliant. Go and see it if it comes anywhere near you.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Is this how it's supposed to work?

Every year I am asked to go and see my GP for an annual review of my diabetes. The letter arrived today, so I phoned the surgery. The first appointment available is during Thursday 21st February which is 16 days away. I'm just glad it isn't an emergency.....

Boots the Chemists have a really good system for repeat prescriptions. They keep the paperwork, all I do is phone Boots and tell them what I need, they take the paper copy of the prescription to the surgery, it is signed by the doctor (well, a scribble appears at the bottom) and Boots then collect and make up the bag of drugs that I requested. It all seems to go really well until I go to Boots to collect them. At this point, there is a long wait while they find the package, and at some point the poor soul searching has to refer to a computer system to confirm that it has actually reached this point in the process. They seem to store the packages in alphabetical order of surname, so my drugs ought to be in the H's. It seems they never are. Why have what looks like a perfectly good system and then not use it?

I have turned into a real Grumpy Old Man.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Home again

I arrived home at around 3:30 this afternoon to be met by my beloved wife who has had a haircut today and was immaculately turned out. It reminded me just how lovely she is.

Thomas (No. 2 son) is phoning his mother regularly, so he is in the good books. Chris (No. 3 son) has put petrol in the car, so he is in the good books. James (No. 1 son) has failed to keep in contact with his mother and so is deep in the poohey stuff. When you read this, son, phone home to save me from the ear bashing that is rightfully yours.

At the request of my mother, I phone her the moment I get home (or at least I'm supposed to). This afternoon I forgot and when I did remember, I find I have left mum's answering machine on, so heard my own voice explaining that she was unable to come to the phone. Dummy!

Sunday, 3 February 2008


The weather here in Cornwall is horrible. It is blowing a gale and raining hard. It is a day for staying indoors and trying to understand why the England Rugby team played so appallingly badly in the second match of their game against Wales yesterday.

Nice to watch Arsenal put three past Manchester City last night, knowing that Chris had been there to watch.