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


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.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

I'm rubbish, but The Who, they're something else.

Having been on my own (well, with a 17 year old son, so it is much the same) for all of three days, I have decided that I am absolutely pants at household management. I can shop and cook, so we are not hungry, but I am hopeless at cleaning, laundry and all the other things that my beloved wife obviously does for me (and for our sons). Having washed my socks, I forgot to hang them out. Then I nearly forgot to bring them in. I have now managed to hang them out to air in the garden room, but it has taken me three days. And the sock Gremlin has got one! The house is still reasonably tidy, except for my study, and I must wash some shirts today.

Last evening, I watched the programme entitled "Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who". I have several of their albums and have enjoyed their music, but the story of their rise, fall and subsequent rebirth had me completely fascinated for the whole of the two and a half hours that it was on. Clearly Keith Moon was a complete basket case, and John Entwhistle was not far behind. Pete Townsend is (or was) a tortured soul and Roger Daltry has, to some extent, held the band together, despite being thrown out of it at one point. My abiding memory will be the love that Townsend and Daltry obviously have for each other after some 44 years of working together, and the clarity of Daltry's explanation for their success. They just love performing the music in front of people who like it.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Sock Gremlin and how to defeat him (her?)

Today I washed my socks. Now why on earth would anyone mention this in a blog? Well, my socks have legendary status in this house. They are processed through the laundry entirely separate from anything else. Somewhere in the process that normally operates there is a Gremlin who secretes socks so that when they emerge, all clean and dry, there are not the same number of pairs that were in the sock only laundry box at the start of the process. Occasionally the Gremlin slips up and a rogue sock escapes from his cache to rejoin its partner after a period, but, in general, once he (she?) has his (her?) hands on them, they are never seen again. Thus I end up with a steadily increasing number of add socks.

Now, when I wash my socks the process varies very slightly. They are paired up at the point of being hung up to dry. Thus they dry in the fresh air with their partner - "The socks that dry together stay together" I say - and they then make the final journey back into my sock drawer together. Everyone is happy.

I would be delighted to hear if this Gremlin has collaborators in other households or is it just me who has this growing collection of odd socks?

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Growing up

Our beloved firstborn daughter posts on her blog here all about being a grown up, and the perils of procrastination. Her youngest brother is having a bit of a hard time showing some adult behaviour too. His bedroom is that of a typical teenager. There are clothes all over the floor, the detritus of food and drink consumed in the room all gathered in a pile,school work, bits of university application, you name it, it is probably in there somewhere.

Last evening, I named several things that I thought were in there. Items which included the Bourne DVDs, my copy of series 2 of the West Wing. "They're not in here" was the stout reply to my enquiry. I then managed a sneak look in on the pretext of gathering up the waste which had to go out for the dustman last night. It looked has though the dustman had called early, but delivered instead of collected. Youngest son then went out to a pub quiz. I spent 20 minutes in his bedroom, and found one of the Bourne DVDs, 4 of the 6 West Wing DVDs, together with their containers, a portable DVD player, one half of my Forty Licks Rolling Stones CD set, and my voice recorder. At this point I had to leave for fear that I would explode with rage.

I spent a restless night working out a plan to tackle this behaviour. He is such a nice young man. He does so much that makes me proud and pleased. I am just not prepared to lose my precious stuff to his bedroom, and he needs to understand that. The first part of the plan was executed this morning, the second half will follow his return from school. Wish me luck.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Peace descends

Thomas has gone back to Durham, James has gone back to Leamington Spa. Chris is at school, and Jini has gone out to lunch with her friends. Peace. Well, nearly. The cat remains and he is bleating. I have silenced him with food. If all the world's problems were so easily solved..

Sunday, 13 April 2008


Today has been a day of pottering. I've tidied up a load of stuff in the garden, swept the patio, and written a load of things to do in my beloveds absence. Somehow I have manged to put a rather painful large lump on my right leg, in amongst all the activity.

I have thought of Thomas a few times. I hope he has had a good day tending to anyone who needed him. He has been on St John Ambulance duty at the London Marathon, and I'm very proud of him for serving in this manner. I hope he has a peaceful trip back to Durham tonight.

It is now time for a drink and a nibble before dinner.

Friday, 11 April 2008

The Great Computer Upgrade

It is finished. Well, just about. It all seems to work, and it opens up and closes down much quicker with Linux than it did with Windows.

What is it about these people?

Previous posts have described people who really don't seem to have clue how the world works, and I experienced another example this week.

On Wednesday, I traveled back from Cornwall. The seat reservation system was not operating for the first part of the journey, and so when it was restored, we all shuffled round to find our rightful seat. I swapped seats with a very old lady who wanted to face the direction of travel, and sat next to another woman. At Exeter, a lady got on and asked my neighbour to move, as she was sitting in her reserved seat. My neighbour looked at her own ticket, showed it to the new arrival and explained that she was sitting in the correct seat. The new arrival started to get aggressive, so I asked as politely as possible if I could see her ticket. She virtually threw it at me and told me that my neighbour was in her seat. Having read the ticket, I drew a deep breath and explained that her reservation was for seat 38 in coach D and that we were in coach C. As she stomped off, I also felt obliged to call out and point out that she was heading in the wrong direction.

A young man in the seats opposite got the giggles at this point, which he just managed to control and until our new arrival had stomped off to find her seat.

Watching people as they board the train, it never fails to astonish me at how hard people apparently find it to locate their reserved seat. It ought to form part of a test of adulthood. If you can't find your seat on a train within 4 minutes, you will be sent for remedial training.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The Great Upgrade

On Monday 31st March, I hinted that the great computer upgrade was starting... I promised an update, so here goes.

My PC has for some months been slowing down (a bit like me really). It simply took ages to do anything, especially close down and turn itself off. I am blessed with a son-in-law, Paul who has forgotten more about these devices than I have ever known, and he has looked at my PC on more than one occasion and done what he can. It has made only a marginal difference, and after the last effort, he expressed the view that Windows has cluttered up the disks and registry to such an extent, that the best approach would be to "re-install Windows, or better still Linux".

Paul has a strong aversion to all things Microsoft and argues, very persuasively, that free software is better value than paying money to "that company". I have to say that free software, developed and maintained by a community appeals to my values, as well as to my pocket. So, as a result of his missionary activity, I decided to trust his judgement and go for Linux in the shape of Ubuntu.

I read the web site carefully and downloaded the files and then created the boot CD. Next was to install my new hard disk drive and install Linux on it. This is where things started to go badly. I won't bother with all the symptoms, but my machine kept restarting itself for no apparent reason.

A trip back to PC World today where they exchanged the disk drive without a murmur solved everything. Ubuntu installed and has run as good as gold all day since. I have succeeded in getting e-mail working for both myself and my beloved (and transfer my addresses), and I've burnt some CDs.

I've even registered for the support forums and found how to import MP3 files using something called GStreamer plug-ins which I managed to download and install.

So, at the end of all this, thank you, Paul. You have a convert to the Linux cause.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Snow in Cornwall

This morning, on our way to the hospital to see the eye consultant, we had to drive through snow. We had just come off the King Harry Ferry on the Feock side of the river, so I did not have a chance to stop and take a photo, hence no proof can be offered, but as we drove towards Truro, the road under our tyres was white/going mushy grey. As they get snow about as often as a Blue Moon, it will not surprise anyone that traffic slowed to a crawl. We still made it to the hospital in plenty of time, well, long enough for me to drink a free coffee. Mum was cleared to go to the optician, which is good, 'cos we have assumed this would be the case and made an appointment for tomorrow...

I am pleased to hear that my sons had a good time at their respective outings over the weekend. I wish Thomas well, as I shall not see him again this holiday before he heads off back to Durham and from there at the weekend to London to do his St. John Ambulance thing in support of the London Marathon.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Courtesies or rather, a lack of...

I have mentioned before that I have grumpy old man tendencies. Today I was on the receiving end of two pieces of behaviour that I think were discourteous, and I'll recount them here and let you decide.

This morning my mother's car went for its MOT test. It failed because it needed two new tyres, and a message was left on my mobile requesting me to call and approve the expenditure. So far, so good. However the receptionist did not leave the number to call. So, being away from the house, I had to phone Directory Enquiries to get the number. This struck me as the work of a really dumb receptionist - if you want someone to phone you, at least tell them the number they have to call.

The second case was as follows: we had an appointment for a visit from someone from the company supplying mothers care package. It was for 15:00. At 15:40 I phoned them to be advised that they were "snowed under" and would not be coming. Surely, if you are not going to keep an appointment, then it is only polite to call and tell the person you are supposed to be meeting. Are manners dying, or am I just a "Grumpy Old Man"?

I was going to put something else in this post, but I'm looking at the screen, my mind having gone completely blank. I'll post again when I remember it.