Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Disappearing waist?

Yay, Let joy be unconfined. I have gone down a waist size.

For more years than I can remember, I have bought and worn trousers with a waist measurement of 36". Some months ago, I bought a pair of cords with a 34" waist as I felt I was getting slimmer. Having bought them, I found that wearing them, while possible, was not exactly comfortable. This morning, after my trousers got distinctly damp while cycling back from swimming, I tried them on again. They fit with room to spare and are comfy without any scrunched up waistband round my middle.

It is perhaps time to review the trousers in my wardrobe and look in the shops selling men's clothes to see what else I might like in this size.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Full of good intentions to make up for the eating and drinking of Christmas, I opened the garage door this morning to find that my beloved Brompton had a puncture in the rear tyre. Undaunted, I walked to the pool. I swam. I wheezed. I have had a cold for the best part of two weeks, and my ability to gulp in air and turn the oxygen contained in it into energy is depleted. After 30 lengths, I dragged my wheezing frame out of the water and under the shower. The good news was that there were very few of the regular early morning swimmers there. I think there were 4 people in the pool when I arrived.

The Brompton puncture was duly repaired when I got home, but I'm in need of serious training. What a wreck!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Slow, but getting there.....

Our twins each have a "first" car. One has what was my mother's car and the other has a small Seat that I bought via e-Bay. Both of them have arrived home this Christmas with niggling problems. With a childlike belief that I can help, they have mentioned these problems to me.

The Seat had two. The first turned out to be a burnt out fuse, so once that was replaced, the windscreen wipers worked again and the second was a rear hatchback lock that was frozen. Parking it so that the rear door was in the sunshine for a morning cured that.

The small Nissan had a non-functioning heated read window. After the fuse was checked and found to be OK, the connectors were taken off, and the terminals rubbed with an abrasive cloth to remove the layer of oxide that had built up. Upon re-assembly the heated rear screen worked fine.

Both the boys were highly appreciative of my efforts and it is satisfying to be able to pass on simple tips that will avoid the cost of involving a profession mechanic. One just hopes that the my beloved sons will remember the steps we have taken together to resolve these problems when they come to tackle any further hiccups and try the simple things first. However, I fear I have not heard the last conversation that starts "Dad, I have a small problem with my car......."

Lots of Love, Guys.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Day

Christmas Day has passed in a haze of being pleasant to everyone. It was got off to a good start by a lie-in, rising for about9:45 and me cooking breakfast - baked eggs in ramekins lined with smoked salmon. Everyone seemed to like it. Then we went for a walk to the nearest park where the adults walked round the cycle track and the students swung on swings designed for 8 year olds.

The walk home was followed by lunch - fillet steak and all the trimmings. Turkey is tomorrow when there are a few more people here to help eat it. None of us could manage pudding, so we sat down to watch Star Trek on DVD and hey presto, pudding appeared half way through it. By the time that finished, and those who wanted one had had a cup of tea, it was nearly 6 o'clock and time for Doctor Who.

As I'm not a Doctor Who fan, I have decided not to watch that and set the dishwasher running so we have some clean plates for tomorrow.

It has been a splendid day, and I am so thankful for our good fortune. There are so many who will not have had a day such as ours. The really poor, the homeless, those who have had to work etc., may they too have the best Christmas they can and may their troubles ease in 2010.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

I'd avoid me, if I were you

I am confined to the house today. I have a cold. I am not a good patient. As I walk round the house, I have to pick up the small heaps of used tissues and put them in the bin. It is safe to say that I am not very good company.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow

It has snowed very lightly here. The traffic is moving without any difficulties, and yet the authorities are seen and heard on all the broadcast media saying "Don't travel unless you have to". Surely this is a grossly irresponsible move. In order to keep the economy and country moving, people need to go to work, college and school. As the weather is bad, they should allow more time to get there. What we don't need is the message that if you fancy a day not at work, school or whatever, today is the best day to skive off.

Shame on the powers that be and the media for peddling such a unhelpful message

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Traffic and Blue Lights

You can tell that Christmas is approaching. Forget the lights, just look at the traffic. Solihull has reached the point of gridlock. We live on quite a busy road and the queues in the morning and the evenings stretch past our house in one direction in the morning and in the other in the evening.

The emergency services have been busy here today with lots of blue lights to be seen. I do hope that people have not ruined their Christmas before it really starts and my respect for those people who answer these calls for help ratchets up another notch. I'm certain that I couldn't do it.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Back in the West Mids

We arrived back in Solihull to find a load of post and 5 messages on the answerphone. The post contained two letters from friends which they send out with their Christmas cards. which reminded me that I still have to write our Christmas cards. A job for this evening while Jini is at the theatre with her God-daughter.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Lincoln

We went to Lincoln. It looked interesting, we shall have to go back when the Castle is open. Mind you, I'd recommend The Old Bakery Restaurant to anyone. Excellent lunch.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Underfloor heating

Our new house has underfloor heating on the ground floor. I can't get used to walking round in my socks and feeling the warmth coming up to my feet from the floor. A weird sensation, but one that I enjoy hugely. Every home should have it.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

I wonder....

If cars can be astonished or frightened, ours probably is tonight. It is spending its first night in a garage all alone, except for my Brompton folding bike!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

To Spalding and back

We've been to stay in our new house. The route there is now becoming familiar and the Land Rover seems to know her way there without too much input from me. We seem to have a problem with the heating which will get its second visit on Friday.

We are getting adept at packing stuff into and taking stuff out off the box trailer and the old Rover seems not to notice it is on the back once we have got going. A visit to IKEA is on the agenda tomorrow and then it is back to Spalding again for the weekend.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Our New House

Well, strictly speaking it is not new, but it's new to us. It became ours on Tuesday, so on Wednesday morning with a Land Rover full of stuff and towing the box trailer, we mooched eastwards to explore our new house.

Two things will stick in my memory about our first visit. Firstly, the boiler would not light and we spent a very cold night huddled together in the bed we had taken. Fortunately the fire in the sitting room was fully functional and there was an immersion heater so we had some heat and lashings of hot water. A phone call to my ex-employers got a Service Engineer to call and withing 15 minutes, he had the boiler working and the house slowly warming up. So, Mick joins Gary as one of our heroes.

Secondly having introduced ourselves to our neighbours for 2 houses each side, we were struck by their niceness. They are a genuinely welcoming group, one of whom who lent us a portable gas heater to take the chill off the bulk of our house.

Some photos:


two of the front



























One of the garage:

it's beginning to look like a muddle already.













The back of the house in sunshine...















The sitting room....















the kitchen....















and two views of the conservatory..































That's it for now.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A good number and a bit of a gap.

Yesterday was my birthday and it passed in a relaxed and pleasant fashion. Most of the Children phoned to wish me a Happy Birthday and my beloved cooked me a delicious dinner, while I took pleasure from reading a most enjoyable detective story.

I am now 61, and I'm minded to remain 61 for the rest of my life. It seems a respectable number and implies a decent degree of wisdom and experience without seeming unduly ancient. Nothing annoys me more than little old ladies who pepper their conversation with "I'm 84, you know!" Who cares? If I ever do this then I hope someone will dispatch me to the hereafter very promptly.

I am looking forward to having the kids home again for Christmas. It has been nice, not having them, but after 30+ years of having them around, I miss them more than I thought I would. It is rather like having a hole in a tooth, one's tongue keeps feeling the offending tooth, but one can do nothing but wait for the dentist to fix it. After they have been home for a week, I've no doubt that I shall be longing to see the back of them again.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

I thought we'd never get there.

At long last, yesterday we exchanged contracts on the house we are buying. It becomes ours on Tuesday, so today as been busy so far getting money to the solicitors for the balance. However, that has been done, so there should be no more hiccups. Now all we have to do is move some stuff over there.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What a nice lady

Two years ago, I was asked by a friend who happened to be a Headteacher, if I would be prepared to audit the school fund accounts. I was happy to agree to do so.

The job of bookkeeper had just been taken on by a new lady who works part time at the school. On the days she does work, she acts as doorkeeper/receptionist and bookkeeper. If there were ever two roles that do not go together it is these two. When counting money and adding entries to the accounts book, one needs a period of uninterrupted time in which to concentrate on what one is doing. The school bookkeeper does not get that because she is constantly interrupted by the buzzer and the need for her to activate the door opener.

The poor lady has had no experience of keeping a set of books and no training, other than some mentoring by me. In this set of circumstances it is not surprising that she has made a number of errors. It is so unfair of any organisation to expect people to do a job without giving them the skills and tools with which to do it. I do hope I get the chance to tell the Headteacher and the Governors that they are being so unfair to this nice lady.

Friday, 13 November 2009

One down, one to go

Property transactions that is. The sale of my late mother's bungalow completed this morning. It is no longer my responsibility.

Our proposed purchase is a different story. The documents have proved very elusive, but as of lunchtime, everything seems to be in order. So, we should exchange contracts on Monday and complete some 10 days later. Surely nothing can go wrong????

I took myself off to have another look at the house today. It is as good as I remembered and some of the jobs I thought I would have to do have already been done.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Our Hero..

We had just got all the stuff from the van in the house and the heating expired. We only really noticed yesterday evening, so a call to British Gas Services was called for, and to our great relief our hero Gary was available this morning. He called at 9 a.m. and by 10 we were warm again. Who could ask for more?

Saturday, 7 November 2009

It's all gone in!

This morning was one of work. The roof rack holder in the garage had broken, the box trailer was full of wood and there was a big van full of furniture on the drive. By 1:30, the roof rack holder had been mended, the trailer emptied and was in use as a temporary store and the furniture and boxes had all been taken out and put into our garden room. It means the garden room is out of action for a few days, but it all went very well. My thanks to Alan for his help with the beds and mattresses - I shall pay him back by helping put his freezer back tomorrow.

This afternoon has been an opportunity for a big zizz. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Friday, 6 November 2009

What shall we do with it all?

It is the best part of a week since I managed to be sufficiently calm and well organised to set down some thoughts, so what's been happening.

At long last, after some shouting at the solicitor, we finally managed to exchange contracts on the sale of my mother's bungalow. It ceases to be mine next Friday. Next Friday is the 13th and Friday 13th may not be an auspicious date, but there it is. Having got to this point, a van was rapidly hired and we decamped to Gerrans to get the place cleared. It was always going to take two van loads. We have arrived back in Solihull and outside sits a full van which will get emptied tomorrow as I see the weather is going to be nice.

We drove down to Cornwall on Tuesday afternoon and worked hard yesterday to pack stuff up and get it loaded into the van. It is a very long time since I have undertaken such concentrated physical labour for so long. We were both knackered.

On Monday, we're off to shout at the solicitor again to get him to exchange contracts on the house we are hoping to purchase, and the whole process starts again. We are currently wondering where all the stuff is going to go, but hey, that's a problem for tomorrow.

Friday, 30 October 2009

There must be a better way.

We are in the process of conducting a property transaction. We have had a complete chain in place since the beginning of August. The chain involves three houses and four families and so it involves 4 solicitors. Every one of these so-called legal professionals shows a complete disregard for the wishes of their clients who simply want the transactions completed, accurately and quickly. The legal eagles are slowly blundering their way through the error strewn debris of these transactions with a motivation that no-one but themselves seem to understand.

The legal profession needs a bomb putting under it. Now. They choose to operate a cosy cartel which the rest of us have no option but to use. The first political party which commits to end this and then executes the promise (preferably violently) gets my vote for life.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Why didn't I find this before?

Until today I have been ambivalent about forums (or is it fora?) for people with common interests on the web. I have never envisaged joining one or initiating a thread. What a dummy I have been. My ancient Land Rover has been increasing difficult to start in recent days, well, it's probably weeks now. I have been too idle and had my thoughts elsewhere. Yesterday evening however, I registered for a Land Rover enthusiasts forum and started a thread by describing my problem. By the time I look this morning after my swim, I had six suggestions of what might be the problem and proposed solutions. Having looked at them, one looked like it might be the solution so I tried it. Bingo! Land Rover now starts.

Thanks to those people who were willing to give of their time and expertise to help me by making their suggestions. I am now a fan.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

A small milestone

My beloved and I went for a drive in Miss Ella Judd this morning and on the way home she passed a small milestone. A nice palindromic number of her mileometer - see photo below.


She still pulls hard, so is going well and after a lot of driving down very narrow lanes, we finally found a ford with some water in it in which she could make a good splash.

It is easy really....

Student Finance England and I have been having a war of words since February over Chris's application for Finance. Following one letter containing a completely incoherent paragraph, unfortunately the one which purported to tell me what I had to do, I wrote to my MP to complain about the appalling service and included the letter they had sent me as evidence. Today a very sensible and positive gentleman phoned me to resolve the situation. Yes, he explained, he was working on a Sunday to catch parents when they were likely to be at home. We agreed what would happen, I read some numbers from my computer over the phone, and bingo!, the whole dispute was resolved. seeing how easy it was to get the thing sorted I am at a loss to understand why someone didn't phone me weeks ago.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A Feeling of Achievement

In my other blog Allotment Times I have documented the progress I've made with my relatively new allotment. In a steady drizzle this morning I completed the digging necessary to get my planned configuration in place. The sense of achievement is huge.

Earlier in the morning, I had spent a perfectly enjoyable period in the company of my beloved wife going to the Library and to a shop or two. As I walked home with her, I had the sense that this interlude had achieved nothing - OK, we had bread and a paper, but that, it seemed to me, did not amount to much. As I've mulled over this feeling I had earlier this morning, I began to think that I am perhaps an addict for achievement. I have to feel that I've done something useful, otherwise I've considered the morning or day to have been wasted.

Perhaps I have not quite shaken off the work ethic that kept me going for 35 or so years of paid employment or perhaps I just feel that if I don't get something done in the morning, I can't justify the snooze that I seem to have most afternoons!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Get your heads out of the clouds people, there is a world out there.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that people are becoming more and more wrapped up in their own worlds and thoughts. MP3 players and mobile phones are contributing to this phenomenon and I am struck by the fact that people seem to care less for their own safety than their privacy. Secure in their own little world, people go about their daily activities increasingly oblivious to the impact those activities have on others and seemingly without a thought for the consequences for themselves.

In recent days I have witnessed two "near misses" where pedestrians have stepped off a pavement without looking and been lucky to escape injury. Some cyclists ignore traffic lights and put themselves and pedestrians at risk.

Wake up, people. There are a lot of us around and we literally need to look out for each other.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Nearly there.

Eleven of the twelve growing beds at the allotment have been dug. The remaining bed may get dug this week if the weather remains fine, but the weather forecast is not good until Friday. The Council kindly provided the Allotment Association with a number of water butts and having asked I was given one of these today. Thus tomorrow involves a trip to a DIY superstore to purchase gutters and downpipes - thinking about it, this will wait until Wednesday, because being over 60, I get 10% off on Wednesdays at B&Q.

The progress at the allotment gives me considerable satisfaction and pleasure. It was a real mess when I took over the plot and it is looking a lot more loved now. Some of the onions, beans and peas I planted have put their shoots above the surface, so I shall need to watch to see that they are not attacked by pests. The sense of satisfaction from seeing these plants appear is out of all proportion to the effort involved - it's just brilliant.

Friday, 16 October 2009

A Bit of a Nut?

This story on the BBC News website caught my eye. As regular readers will know, I ride a Brompton and admire its design. The recent Brompton World Championship event at Blemheim Palace had in attendance a film crew and their film can be seen here. During the film, one of the contestants explains that we Brommies are a bit of a community and a slightly weird bunch to boot. The description of Andrew Ritchie's dedication (well, obsession might be a better word) with trying to improve the design of his folding bike gets well publicised by the award he has received today. I admire anyone with that dedication, but I find it just a little scary too.

Congratulations Andrew Ritchie on the Award.

An Opportunity for Tescos?

Still the enquiries go back and forth between the solicitors and we continue to wait.

I can't help thinking that if Tescos ran a legal service the service would be a whole lot better.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

All Things Apple

All things apple were celebrated at The Big Apple. This was a festival put on by the organisations who make a living from apples in a group of villages in Herefordshire. We went on a whim. The day was blessed with some splendid weather and we enjoyed a visit to Westons cider, where we got a good understanding of how cider is made in huge quantities - we got to taste some too! The machines that are specially made to press cider apples were developed from similar machines that press olives for olive oil and represent an investment of half a million pounds. Westons have bought one in each of the last two years, so business cannot be too bad.

Then we mooched off to Gregg's Pit where we tasted some very different cider, had a splendid ploughman's lunch, a sit down, and then a walk in a lovely orchard. Here too apples were being pressed for their juice but in a much more hands-on way with a good old press and lots of sacking.

From there it was back to Hellens Manor for a look at the varieties of apples and pears. Here in one of the barns people from the Marcher Apple Network(MAN) will tell you what sort of apples you have - for a £2 fee - and one can see and taste some of the rarer varieties of apple and pear. The people from MAN are serious apple geeks - they can list varieties of apple that they have rediscovered after it was thought that they were no more, and they have a wanted list of varieties they are still looking for! Scarey stuff.

For the second weekend in a row, I found myself thinking that "This could only happen in England, and the fact that such events and people exist make England such a lovely place".

Friday, 9 October 2009

Hooray, another Grumpy!

Judging by his latest blog post, our son-in-law shows every sign of being a Grumpy Old Man. May I take this opportunity of welcoming him to the GOM brotherhood (although he is a tad young, so I guess he'll be a junior member for a while), and assure him that we all look forward to more tirades against the brainless mass of humanity who seem to be taking over the planet. Well done and welcome, Paul.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

A twinge of guilt.

The last few weeks have found me spending a lot more time outdoors. What with the allotment and the need to get the garden a bit straighter before the winter sets in, there has been a good deal of physical work to do outside. This has meant that I have been labouring (not that hard, I have to say) in the fresh air. It does mean that sleep comes more readily. Now I've always had the talent of being able to drop off almost anywhere, but now I find it hard to stop myself grabbing a few zzzzzzz's if I sit down in a chair.

Yesterday I had my personal M.O.T. test. As I have diabetes, I have to have a blood test twice each year and an annual inspection by a practice nurse. She weighs me, takes my blood pressure, looks at the cholesterol and blood sugar results from the blood I had taken just over a week ago, examines my feet and asks pointed questions about my lifestyle. She finishes by asking if I have noticed any increase in the symptoms of diabetes (need to go to the loo more often, thirst, tiredness etc.) and I have this twinge of guilt when I answer in the negative, almost certain in the knowledge that after a bowl of soup and a piece of crusty bread for lunch, I shall almost certainly fall asleep in the chair. I tell myself it is all the additional fresh air. Let's hope I'm right.

After all the questions and a review of the blood results, I am passed fit to pursue by dreams for another year.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Big Day - 3

The results have been posted on the Brompton web site - I came 505th. I harboured hopes that I would come in the top 500, but I narrowly missed. I would probably have made it had I spent a bit more time building my bike at the start. I got the saddle too high and had to stop (twice) to get it right. More training on building the bike before next year's event. My time was 41min 40 sec which does have the positive quality of being over 40 min - I say this because when I entered, I was asked to put myself in one of 3 categories under 30 min, 30-40 min, or over 40 min. At least I got that bit correct.

Lots of photos are available on the sportivephoto.com web site and if you follow the links to Bike Blenheim 4 Oct then the link to the Brompton pictures, and then put my race no (560) in the search box, you'll be presented with 12 piccies of me. This should only be attempted by those who have great difficulty sleeping, 'cos most sensible people will not want to see any pictures of me looking pretty knackered.

The fastest Veteran completed the course in 25 mins 46 sec, which I consider highly impressive. My congratulations to Gary. I see that I came 108th in the Male Veteran class which somehow is better than 505th, I can't explain why.

My friends with whom I have coffee on Wednesdays were distinctly impressed with my efforts and this too surprised me. Perhaps they were just impressed by my lunacy for taking part in the event at all. I think our youngest son, Chris, had better take charge of my training for next year.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Do bonfires count as exercise?

This morning my swim was slightly shorter than normal. I've spent all day repairing the back fence with Keith, the man who lives behind us, and tonight I have really, really enjoyed a huge bonfire. I am exhausted. Keith took down a rotten shed a couple of weeks ago and kindly gave it to me to use a bonfire base material. It burns brilliantly. I was working like a maniac to keep the fire pit full of combustible material. I have burned almost all the dead wood we had from trimming the laurel and I've used about a third of Keith's old shed up. That means there is enough material for two more fires, Oh Joy!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Big Day - 2

I did it! I managed to complete the 13 km of the BWC race at Blenheim. the course was a lot hillier than I remembered and I crossed the line a complete wreck. Lesson 1 - more hill climbing in the training for next year. Lesson 2 - more training for next year, i.e. start in June or July not in early September. The first picture shows me (on the extreme left) approaching the halfway point. The chap nearest the camera is lapping me (and a load of others, I'm pleased to say)!


The event is a peculiarly British affair. There is a dress code that men shall wear suit jackets, a collar and tie and ladies should be attired similarly in business dress, although I would not want this lady to wear this outfit in the office on a regular basis it is just too bright!



The last photo shows me some 200m from the finishing line (hence the smile) and being overtaken - another place I lost. However, some 570 of us started. One poor lady crashed very badly and had to be taken off to hospital - I do hope she is OK - and I think I saw three retirees with mechanical damage or who had reached their limit.


I have no idea how long it took me to get round. Well, it was over the 40 minutes I indicated on the entry form, so i shall have to wait for the times to be published on the Brompton web site to see exactly where I came. Watch this space.

Big Day - 1

The Big Day has arrived. At noon today, along with some 569 other eccentrics, I shall set off on two laps of the Blenheim Palace track in the Brompton World Championship.

Wish me luck. Given that I survive, I'll try and post a report later.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The world has gone mad.

Three stories in the news this week have caused my blood pressure to rise and me to wonder if New Zealand might be a good place to live.

The first is the story of the Great Tey dinner lady who told a girl's parents that she had been tied up with a skipping rope, The second is the case of the two women police constables who look after each others children and the third is that of the mother who killed herself and her daughter because her life was being made intolerable by thugs who terrorised the estate on which she lived.

The first two stories are of Political Correctness gone mad. The head and the Governers of the school in Great Tey should hang their heads in shame. They have a view of the world that makes me wonder what sort of world they live in. Whatever happened to the "Duty of Care" that they had for the little girl, and for the universal approach to good relations - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"? the fact that one of the bullies was a child of a Governor and another Governor was the local Church of England priest only makes this story more appalling. What were they thinking of? Their own skins presumably. They should be collectively removed from office with immediate effect and sent for correctional training. The Dinner Lady should be re-instated.

The case of the two women police constables who were friends before they had children and during maternity leave worked out a regime of job-sharing and mutually benficial childcare arrangements should surely be held up as shining examples of how colleagues can work together to retain in post two skilled workers while providing secure and safe childcare. Ofsted should be told to mind their own business in the strongest possible terms.

The third story is the saddest. How we live together is surely the defining indicator of the kind of society we have created. The Police, the two councils involved, the residents of that estate and all of us must look hard at ourselves. Are we prepared to tolerate the behaviour of those animals who made the lives of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter so intolerable that she felt she would be better off dead? If not, then we must rise up and demand that something be done, and perhaps more importantly, we must be prepared to contribute our talents. May we all be forgiven.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Proof of departure.....

Two posts in a day is a bit much but there has been a request on Facebook for a photo; so here is Chris in his room before I left:-




It was something of a muddle at this point (around 07:45 this morning), but he has since claimed that it will never be as tidy as it is now. He must have worked really hard after I left is all I can say.

I went to see my allotment this afternoon and I thought I'd be there for 20 - 30 minutes. I was there for an hour and a half - and I didn't really do anything. Photo below shows the progress being made and people have remarked what a big change there has been.


I must have a bonfire (tomorrow?) to get rid of the heap of dead material.

Gone, but not forgotten

Greater love hath no man, but that he rises at 04:20 to take his youngest son to University. Chris arrived home so late last evening that we were in no shape to go last night. He really didn't want to miss anything, so we rose at 04:20 to make tea and depart at 05:00. We arrived at his Hall of Residence by 07:00 and unloaded him and his stuff. I got home at around 10:30, but had to stop for breakfast and a snooze on the way home. I think a longer zizz is in order this afternoon.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

A Grand Day Out.

Today we spent a splendid few hours at the Stratford-on-Avon Food Festival. We sampled loads of nibbles and supped on any number of tasty sauces, and we bought quite a lot. I collected loads of web addresses so that I can look up more details of the products and where we might acquire them later. I will try and remember to post about the taste of the items we bought as we eat them.

Another surprise was the efficacy of the Stratford Park and Ride. It runs from the Stratford bypass (the A46) on our side of the town into the town centre and for me it is free! Brilliant.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

He has finally gone!

Our youngest son, Chris, has gone. He is in Durham until Sunday and then will be home for 30 minutes or so before he is ferried to Southampton to start his University course.
It will be mighty strange not having a child here, but we've got to try and get used to it and have some fun.

Now, where's that holiday brochure?

Progress

There has been some progress at the allotment. Monica's shed is wonderful and from the old floorboards, I built a "starter" compost bin. In the previous post I explained that I have been given a mass of wood chippings, well ,these have now been trailered to the allotment, unloaded and stored in the new bin, or spread on the ground to form paths.


I took the photo as I was half way through digging the seventh (out of 12) beds in which I shall grow my produce. This digging is hard labour. The ground is full of weeds and the roots from the Mare's Tail has to be picked out as I go along. It doesn't actually take too long to dig a bed, it's just hard, with a capital H. There is one spin off benefit. I don't ache anywhere near as much as I used to after a batch of digging.

Another consequence of this husbandry of a plot is that I care rather more about the weather. It has not rained here for more than 10 days and I find myself looking at the ground and thinking that we desperately need some. The ground is dry and dusty before I get to the end of the bed.

Some seeds have been planted and their locations carefully marked. the next task is to sit down with the seed catalogue and make up an order to ensure a decent crop of all the things we like for next summer (gosh, it seems so far away!)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Too much of a good thing?

As I left the allotments yesterday, Barrie, one of the two new people I'd introduced myself to, was talking to a friend, Tony, in his car. their two cars were blocking the road, so I had to wait until they had finished. I was aked if I would like some wood chippings. Having read Joe Swift's book on allotments in which he recommends wood chips for paths, I immediately replied in the positive. Tony pulled out his mobile phone and showed me a picture of the pile on his drive. It was a bit hard to tell in such a small photo, but I thought two trips with the trailer should get it all removed.

So at 10:00 this morning having been to the tip to get rid of the cardboard, I started to load chippings into the trailer. By 13:00, I had been to the allotment and unloaded the first lot, and returned to Tony's house for a second load. This is now in the trailer and I need to build a bin on the allotment in which to store it. As luck would have it, I spent yesterday morning helping Keith and Margaret, who have the house at the back of ours, to take down an old shed. There is enough wood from that to make the bin for wood chippings. After I've made the bin and unloaded what is in the trailer, there are probably one and a half trailer loads to go to get all these wood chippings removed. Still, the good outcome is that I've had a load of exercise shovelling these chippings and I don't feel too stiff. Perhaps I'm getting slowly fitter....?

Friday, 18 September 2009

Thanks be to Mali

Fortune smiled on me when I was introduced to Mali (rhymes with pally). He is a very cheerful Sikh gentleman who runs a car repair workshop in Acocks Green. He is my hero. In exchange for notes of the realm, he replaced the fuel tank on my Land Rover (apparently this turned out to be a pig of a job) and got it an MOT Certificate. It needed two new track rod ends and a drop arm. Not too bad.

Miss Ella Judd can roam the roads of England for another year.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

May I be forgiven....

Today is our wedding anniversary. I forgot. Completely. My beloved wife has been so reasonable about it, which only makes it worse.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Life is so unfair.

A letter arrived today from an old colleague to tell me that his son has been killed in a road accident. The pain and despair show in his writing. The tale of his son's summer sounds so like the summer that our sons have enjoyed. The energy, commitment and resourcefulness of the young mean that when they are taken from us, the hole left by their departure is so much more pronounced. I have been saddened to my core by the news, and once again, pause for a few moments to count my blessings.

Rest in Peace, Stuart.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Our turn

The weekend was spent in Havant. I managed a decent bike ride on Saturday morning when I cycled to the South end of Hayling Island and back in some lovely sunshine.

The Land Rover has gone off for a pre-MOT check and to have its new fuel tank fitted, and then to have an MOT test. Let us hope it passes.

Some serious pre-University planning has been done by no. 3 son and it is dawning on me that his departure, while being a cause of some relief for me, will be a huge wrench for my beloved wife. She has had a child or children at home for some 31 years plus and to have no-one here but me is causing her to think that her life will be without purpose. Somehow, I must convince her that the time has come for us to enjoy ourselves. If our sons come back to live with us, we may not get another chance.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Back on the Brompton

Time has whizzed by and the BWC race at Bike Blenheim is only three weeks away. Since my average bike ride is probably a mile or less, I have decided it is time to cut down on the swimming and ramp up the cycling. This morning I managed about 12 miles in a round trip to Birmingham Airport and back. The sun shone, and apart from a couple of pedestrians who had their ipods too loud and therefore did not hear my shouts of warning, it all went reasonably well.

It is nice that the schools have started back and as a result the weather has got much better. Perhaps kids and teachers should work 50 weeks of the year.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Monica's shed

As promised, here is a picture of the splendid new shed. I've decided to call it Monica's Shed as it sounds a lot more alluring than Peter's Shed. More than that, it reflects the effort that our delightful Romanian guest put in to help take it down from the back garden of a house in Rugby and get it into the trailer for transport home. She was infinitely more practical than my own beloved son who would be a shoe-in for the Gold Medal if arguing was an Olympic Sport, but who is about as much use as a flea in a trance with a box of tools.

Monica went home yesterday and I do hope she will come back and see us in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Shed - 1

The shed is up and now more or less fully kitted out. If I can just remember to take some photos, I'll put them on here..

and I'm still in a terrible dither about Jaguars.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Collecting purchases

Today there was a trip to Leigh in Lancashire. It was to collect a box trailer. I am hoping it will earn its keep over the next few months. I do, however, now need the legal people to get off their backsides and get the property deals done.

Tomorrow, I'm off to collect the second hand shed I've bought on e-Bay which is going to go on the allotment. Next week will be spent refurbishing it and getting it erected. Once it is up, I'll take a photo and post it on here. Then I must get on with some digging.

Any minute now, No 3 son Chris will return from Luton Airport with his guest (a young lady called Monica, from Romania) who will be staying for a week. I wonder what she'll make of us. I have no doubt that I'll be threatened with death if I'm not on my best behaviour.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Friends

Number two son, Thomas is home this weekend. That is, he is sleeping in the house (well, he didn't last night, but I'm assured he will tonight), but hasn't taken any meals with us yet.

However, his washing has been done and he is currently out with his friends and having met them yesterday, they seem like a jolly nice bunch, so I assume life is good for him.

Today we enjoyed a surprise visit from two of our longest standing friends and I'd forgotten what a delight old friends can be. They are grappling with the same issues as we are and it is comforting to note that people I have the greatest respect for tackle the issues in the same way that we have. There is much common sense in the world, even if it does not get much media coverage.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Getting my head round these things

It has been a busy week. This weekend looks like it will be busy too. Now I like having plenty to keep me occupied, but somehow it has all got a bit much lately, and I'm not sure why I feel this way. I think it is because I have a number of things I want to do or get done and no schedule of when they will get done. Hence I am feeling stressed.

The remedy for this is simple, of course - to sit down with a diary and write down when I want to get the things done. I've just decided when the Land Rover will be submitted for its MOT test and somehow, that issue has gone away. I can see I need to spend more time with my diary, and of course it won't be long now before we head off to buy next years diary!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Progress

For the last two days I have been helping a widowed friend move some furniture. My role was confined to hiring and driving a van, and a little light lifting.
The van was a jumbo Transit with a long wheelbase and a high roof. It was very commodious and drove just like a car - in fact it managed to achieve 70 mph with apparently very little effort, although the fuel consumption went up after that. A very different beast from the old van I last hired. It just goes to show the progress vehicles have made.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Wow, I'm bushed

The first day at the allotment has been spent working and talking. Five people introduced themselves and were full of good advice. I've strimmed just about all of it - I've left the beans and the raspberries, and I've tried to get the weeds away from them. People have given me runner beans, rhubarb and raspberries and one nice guy (Thanks Andy) lent me his mower which cut and mulched most of the weeds. I now have to deal with the pernicious Mares Tail, but I have a plan. A cunning plan.

Now to implement it.

Watch this space.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Relax, you've retired....

With the car laden, the roof box on top and full, and the dinghy on the back, we cruised back home this morning. The grass had grown (and has now been cut), the new shower in our en-suite has been commissioned and best of all, Stuart Broad routed the Australians.

A key to the allotment has been made available and I shall go and make a start tomorrow morning.

It is now clear that there will have to be two trips from Cornwall to bring all the stuff that is currently there. We also need to go to Spalding. Gosh, life is busy.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

I don't like the look of this...

The size of the van we will need to clear my mother's house is getting bigger.......

or

We shall need to make more than one trip......

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Clearing out

The sale of what was my mothers bungalow is underway. We are here in Cornwall trying to work out what we want, what we can Freecycle, what can go to a charity shop, and what is only good for the tip.

What we want will have to go in a van, and the size of that van will be an outcome of this weeks travails. I have reserved a van for next week to move furniture for Jan, my son-in-law's mother so recently and sadly widowed. The list of stuff to be moved started out at three items, but seems to have grown steadily.... So I have upped the size of the vehicle.

Freecycle (see www.freecycle.org.uk) is an absolute boon. The five items I put on late yesterday evening have all been requested.

If I'm honest, I just want it over and done with.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Jaguars (again!)

Thinking I had nearly all the day to myself on Thursday, I sloped off to the Jaguar dealership in Coventry where a delightful young man took me for a test drive of a Jaguar XJ.


i.e. like the one in the picture on the left.





I have to say that this vehicle just floated along. talk about waft... this wafted in the finest style. It is a large car, but it doesn't feel like it. You barely have to do more than think about changing direction and you have. I drove it for about 15 miles on mainly country lanes and it managed 35 mpg. I guess at a steady 70 it would do rather more. I shall now count my pennies and see if I can afford not to have one, but before I do, I need to test drive and XF.

Lucky me!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Dozy old sod....

There have been a number of occasions recently where I have got a completely different understanding of something than the person trying to tell me about it. Somewhere between my ears and my brain is a duff connection the effect of which is to scramble the message that someone is trying to give me. I wonder if I give off any visual clues that this is happening?

Otherwise all I can say to you poor people who have to deal with me is that you are going to have to treat me like i am a child of 5, and really spell things out in words of half a syllable. I really must be very difficult to deal with.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Bad Back and Bad Selections...

Another weekend has gone by. I'm sitting here waiting for the chiropractors to phone back as I have put my back out and the sooner I can get it sorted, the better. The shower in our en-suite is leaking, and now I'm told that the rail in the shower in the bathroom is coming off the wall. - Ah, the joys of property ownership.

As I hurt my back on Saturday, I have spent a few hours listening to Test Match Special describing the dire performance of the England Cricket Team. The inability of a group of professional sportsmen to perform at such a dismal level makes me think there is something wrong with the way that they are selected. How have Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood been selected in front of Rob Keys and Mark Ramprakash? Have James Anderson and Steve Harmison lost the ability to learn from what they are doing? Frankly, only Stuart Broad and Graham Swann emerge from the wreckage with any credit.

The Aussies must be giggling wildly as we move towards the final Test at the Oval.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

More Jaguar thoughts

Right. I have decided that I will have a Jaguar. I now need to decide which one (see previous post). I have resolved to try and drive both in the next two weeks, and to review my investments to see if I can decide how much I want to spend.

This is going to be difficult. and I don't need any more egging on from my family (Chris!)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

XJ or XF...?

At some point in my life, I would like a Jaguar. (the car that is, not a big cat). I have started to think that this aspiration should be realised sooner rather than later, so today I went with Chris to look at a Jaguar XJ, which has been the object of my desire. Chris has a good friend whose father has an XF and insisted that we look at one. I didn't want to. I didn't want to like it. But I did and I do. It is gorgeous. Now I want one. Trouble is, I cannot justify spending that much money... Oh woe is me.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Thinning out the population....

I've got two longish posts out of my system. I can now go back to my more normal ravings. First up, I am completely mystified as to why a significant proportion of the population cannot find a numbered seat in an aeroplane or train. Next time you get on a train or plane, just watch.

The answer is simple. At the age of 18, everyone should be given a boarding card, put in an aeroplane and given between 40 and 60 seconds (dependent on the size of the plane) to find their alloted seat. Anyone who fails this simple test should be liquidated with prejudice. There is no place on the planet for people who cannot.

A Week in Jersey

After a week sailing, my lovely lady joined me in Jersey for a weeks R&R. I had booked a Bed and Breakfast in St Aubin, so once we had collected the hire car, we set out to find it. The hire car was a new Ford Ka and I was glad we had chosen the smallest car available. It took us a while to find the place (we had to ask a local man) and it was tucked well away from the main road round two very tight right angled bends.

The first task, after unpacking was to take my dirty washing off to the laundromat. While the washing was going round, we had a chance to reconnoitre the local restaurants. We chose one and after a brief drive to see some sights I remembered from my childhood, we settled on one and enjoyed a decent dinner.

Monday started, as did every other day, with a good breakfast and then a drive round to the eastern side of the island for a walk in St Catherine's woods. The first few yards of the walk passed a small dam along which we could walk. My lovely lady suffered vertigo in the middle of the dam wall and had to sit on the wall for a while. I managed not to laugh, but only just.

The whole week was spent doing very little – we just did what we wanted and then sat on park benches and read the paper or a book. We ate out most evenings, had fish and chips dispensed by the dumbest person on the planet (a young woman , as it turned out), bought some clothes and some pearls, looked at sights, went to a Michelin starred restaurant, ate ice creams – in general all the things that normal tourists do.

We discussed going to St Malo for the day, but somehow decided that a decent meal in a Michelin starred restaurant would be a better option. The restaurant in question was Bohemia, whose chef is Sean Rankin. Mr. Rankin appeared in the BBC series “A Great British Menu” and we were quite impressed by his offerings. Jini had the featured menu from that show while I chose other things. Boy, was it good. I really didn't need any food the following day.











Among the things we went to see was St Matthews Church near St Helier. This is a small parish Church adjacent to a fine old house. One of the previous house owners commissioned Rene Lalique to fit out the church with many glass fittings. You can get an idea from the website here. It is astonishingly beautiful. If you are ever in Jersey, do take the time to visit. There are some photos above of the screens and the glass font.

here is a picture of me on board a novelty 2 seater bike that we hired. For some reason on Thursday, I felt in need of some exercise and this certainly provided it.








.

On Friday I managed to get in a session of Blokarting. This is what most people would call land yachting and excellent fun it was too. I managed to only turn my kart over once and spent quite a while on 2 wheels, the windward wheel being well off the ground.

A picture of my Blokarting efforts is on the left








Saturday was spent largely at the Jersey Fish Festival which is a celebration of all things seafood. As you can see from the photos, there was a good crowd in attendance and some real fun and games in the harbour.









All too soon, it was time to come home. It was a most enjoyable and relaxing holiday.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Sailing and Food (oh, and Drink)

A longish post, this one. It covers the seven days that went to make up “The Last Of The Summer Wine Cruise”. Actually it was a GSA club cruise but acquired this name when one of our number, Claire, could not believe the mental incapacity of her three middle aged male crewmates. In fairness to Claire, there were times when Brian, Mike and I did seem to have horrendous difficulty remembering anything other than our own names.

We would however remember the name of the yacht, it was Celtic Flame II and she is shown in her glory in the photo.

We started in St Helier, Jersey on Sunday 12th July and got off to a slow start, because the replacement of the water pump, that Brian (the skipper) and I thought would be a quick job, finally defeated us and we left the whole job to a professional who was not available until Monday afternoon. Brian distinguished himself by handing out visitors cards for access to the marina which gave access to the pontoons, the showers, loos etc. and reminding us all that we should carry these with us at all time. This was a case of "do as I say and not as I do" because Brian then filed his card in his trousers and wore his shorts.... Thus he couldn't go anywhere on his own as the rest of us had to open doors and gates for him.

Sunday dinner was in a busy Italian place which wasn't quite the one we set out for, but was the first we arrived at. Good food though.

Monday was spent shopping, buying bits for the boat and chasing the engineer. It was also notable for a meal in the worst pub in Jersey. Thanks for that, Brian.

On Tuesday it was my skipper vetting trip and so I was in charge for the day. Despite an early start, we were heading into a fairly strong wind for most of the day, and so fell very behind the planned schedule. We made it to St Malo without hitting anything or losing anyone, and slightly to my surprise, I passed. A long day was followed by a superb meal in a restaurant in St Servan. We slept well, although Mike snored mightily.

Wednesday saw us make our way through the Rance barrage and up the river to Plouet sur Rance. This was a fabulous place, peaceful and quiet. An impromptu beer in the village bar turned into several beers and then a walk back to the boat. For reasons that I have not managed to fathom out, I got the blame for this episode of binge drinking by three middle-aged men and one bemused woman. By now Claire had been christened “Talking Ballast” or “Self Loading Cargo”, in an attempt for the males in the crew to fight back. Dinner was taken in the La Cale Restaurant just along from the marina, and was most agreeable.

The two picture below show the road into Plouet












and then the facility at a roadside cafe which was notable for the romantically shaped hole in the door!

On Thursday we made the return trip to St Malo which was lovely, but we got the nicest possible telling off from the lock keeper/bridge operator for not being quick enough at getting the boat in the lock. Apparently half the traffic of Northern France was held up while we sorted ourselves out. The slowest service ever, from a restaurant was the only memorable bit of the evening meal. Their tip was nil.

Friday was a day of high winds, around force 6 or 7. We were moored near the entrance to the marina and the pontoons reared up and down quite violently. It was clear that we weren't going anywhere. It was so bad that many people wore life jackets on the pontoons. I'd not seen that before, but it was quite a smart move. While the others went off for a walk round St Malo, I stayed put and finished my book. We started to wonder if we might have to take the ferry back to Jersey, but the weather forecast made it look as though there would be an opportunity on Saturday to sail home. A well use local pizza house restored our faith in French catering establishments.

On Saturday morning, with the aid of some magic navigation by Mike, we whizzed back to St Helier where we used up the supplies we had been bequeathed by the previous crew in the form of Corned Beef Hash, though it's not quite the same without the baked beans... Claire is very, very averse to baked beans (funny woman).


Sunday, I was up early to complete my cleaning task (The Heads...) and then it was fried breakfast before I was allowed off to meet my beloved wife at Jersey airport.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Where have I been?

We've been away for two weeks, so the blog has suffered. This will be put right over the next week or so as the story of the "Last of the Summer Wine" Cruise and our holiday in Jersey are told.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Something to get me out of the house...

Having been retired for just over 2 years, I have been getting hints that I should find a "job" (not necessarily paid) that gets me out of the house for a couple of days each week. I have not been very assiduous about finding such a role, and the volunteering organisation I approached has singularly failed to ring me back. However, something has come to my rescue.

About 18 months ago, I put my name on two waiting lists for an allotment. One was with the council, and one was with an allotment society who operate the set of allotments nearest to home. Well, the latter group have come up trumps. I have been offered half a plot (and I have to admit that I have forgotten how big that is) which I am going to view on my return from the sailing trip. I shall now start to scour the seed catalogues to see what I can plant this autumn, and eat as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Getting Away

The rain continues to fall and the grass remains unmown. I just wish it didn't grow so fast. It is approaching the "Silly Season" when the newsrooms of the nations press and broadcast media are quiet (ish). We subscribe to a quality daily paper and I am now looking forward to two weeks away from home, when a chance not to read the news will be most welcome. A bit of escapism will do me good.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Time for a Think

We have been away for a few days. We have arrived home to find everything and everyone still intact. A three day trip to Spading in Lincolnshire was undertaken to see if we liked the area. We did. Now we have to decide what, if anything, we are going to do.

Monday, 29 June 2009

How to fall in Sh*t and still smell of roses

No 3 son, Chris, has broken a bone in his hand - a metacarpel. He did it playing cricket in an ambitious attempt to stop overthrows. Everyone on the pitch heard the break and that was the end of his contribution to the match - there were two balls left and his team won easily. Luckily for Chris, his team included at least two doctors and one of these is a orthopedic specialist in the hospital closest to where the match was being played. So, Chris was transported to hospital, rushed to the front of the A&E queue, X-rayed, plastered, given his next appointments and finally brought home by this consultant. What a hero. When the NHS works like this, we should thank our lucky stars.

Chris has now reached the stage where the novelty has worn off and the pain is significant. A few Ibruprofen will be devoured this week, methinks.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Return Match

In an earlier post, I related that No. 3 son had delusions regarding his squash playing ability. Well, last evening he persuaded me to a return match. He is getting better, but I still managed to sneak a win by 5 games to 1.

The lesson that us oldies still know a thing or two is taking time to get through....

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Father's Day

It is pleasing to report that my children all remembered Father's Day and rung me, or sent a card, and best of all, invested no money in presents. Their best wishes were all I could have wanted.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Looking forward to going home

We are approaching the end of our period here in Cornwall. I am looking forward to going home. There are undoubtably a load of jobs to do there.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Swimming in the Sea

Today after I finished with the kitchen drawers and connected the new cooker and did a load of other things, I was given leave to quit thinking about the kitchen in the Cornwall bungalow and spend an afternoon on the beach. So off to the beach I went. And lovely it was. The sun shone and the sea was a lovely turquoise blue. It looked so appealing that I could not resist a swim. And it was COLD! With a capital C.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

In the stocks with him.

I see from the story here that the buffoon who seems destined to be our next monarch is interfering with the democratic process. This clown really must be told to go and play in the traffic while the rest of us try and run the country. Perhaps if his mother had spent a bit more time with him while he was a child, he would not be quite such an arse.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

What a poor choice.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to decide which party I might want to vote for in any election. The Labour Party are a complete shower and in the words of Rowan Atkinson's reactionary "Father of the Bride" character, I would not trust them to sit on the toilet correctly. The Conservatives have not described any policies which lead me to believe that they have a coherent plan for running the country. The Liberal Democrats are committed to Europe and have in the past expounded a number of policies I found attractive, so would probably get my vote if an election was to be held next week. UKIP, The Greens, are not in the real world and the BNP are beyond the pale, so unless an independent stands, the LIb Dems will have to do.

Since voting seems to me to be a duty as well as a right, the choice seems to be the lesser of the evils, rather than a party that really attracts.

I very much hope (and fear) that I am not the only one who feels this way. What have we done to deserve the present collection of politicians. The answer may be that we just have not involved ourselves in the process enough and our apathy is now returning to bite us in the arse.

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

I am almost ashamed to admit that I am totally fascinated by the machinations surrounding the Government reshuffle. Gordon Brown has a dogged determination that I sort of admire. Caroline Flint appears to have got it right when she says that he operates a two tier cabinet and James Purnell deserves respect for having the courage to say in plain English what loads of people must be thinking.

Having watched the BBC News24 channel for much of the afternoon, two people caught my eye. The first was Peter Mandelson whose performance made him look the most slimy and repulsive person on the planet - surely he will do more to turn voters off Labour than just about anyone else. Someone really should tell him that he comes across as totally insincere. The second person was Kate Hoey who, in contrast, made the most sensible statements in her interview with Jon Sopel. I really do wish more politicians were like her. She came across as pragmatic and sincere and with no little charm.

The whole performance of the reshuffle has made poor old GB look seriously weak and this wretched Government seems to be desperately clinging to power at all costs. The results of the council elections look very bad for Labour and with European election results on Sunday night, by Monday morning things may look very different again.

If the cabinet were running a company, they would find it very difficult to attract investors.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Vote for Europe.

Well today we can all go and cast our votes. It is desperately important that we do and I fear that the chaos surrounding MP's expenses will overshadow what we should be thinking about. Surely we can only exert our rightful level of influence from within the EU. We must be and remain at the centre of European decision making, so I urge all my readers (who am I deluding??) not to give any support to UKIP or the BNP.

Thank you.

We don't vote for a council here today, but it will be interesting to see if Labour MPs can summon up the will to cut loose the deadweight Gordon Brown if they do as badly as predicted in the council elections. If Labour gets a lower share of the vote than UKIP, then surely he is doomed.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

What are they thinking about???

For a number of reasons (I need the exercise, this town is full of cars, parking is exorbitant, I'm way too impatient to walk....) I tend to cycle round the place. It is the case that the folk who live and work in this fine town have increasingly taken to walking around looking solely at the ground some 3 to 4 feet in front of their feet. I know this because in the last few days a number of them have caused me to stop on my bike and then they have only just failed to walk into me, and one lady actually managed it! There I was standing still, with my feet on the ground with my hands still on the handlebars and this numpty still walks into me because she is not looking where she is going. Sheeeesh!

The only cure I can think of is high voltage electric shock therapy. Wake up people or stay at home for the safety of the rest of us!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Price of Gloating

My victory over Chris has exacted a price. I am as stiff as a board and ache everywhere - arms, legs, back... you name a spot and I ache there.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

A small but very satisfying triumph.

Our youngest son is a bit of a sports nut. Some weeks ago he started to play squash and has been pressing me to give him a game. Having had a heart condition, I have been reluctant to yield to his requests, but on the strict understanding that I could stop if I was in any discomfort, I gave in and played him this morning. Somewhat to his surprise (and mine!) I beat him fairly comfortably 5 games to 0. Slight gamesmanship was needed, and once I had identified his weaknesses on the court, I'm afraid I exploited them ruthlessly. He got quite close in one game, but then I was able to concentrate and claw level and then win.

Sometimes these whippersnappers have to be shown that we old buggers know a thing or two and are not completely devoid of talent.

In fairness to him, has played two games of cricket this afternoon, while all I have done is sit in the sun. He is fine, and I am completely knackered.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Welcome back.

Well, here we are back at home. The Land Rover has little or no fuel in it and the battery is flat. The little red Fiat has no fuel in it. Bloody Kids.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Poxy weather

We have been in Cornwall for a week. Now that we have finished the decorating, the weather has turned foul and we are stuck inside. This morning, I got very wet walking 40 yards up the road to return a hammer I had borrowed. When I turned back down the hill, one could not see the sea which is all of 400 yards away. I can now see the sea, but not the horizon. I feel for the families with small children who have come here for the half term holiday.

As for me, I just want to go home.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The Church of England understand it all......

The Leader of the C of E tells the nation that the ritual humiliation of our MPs should stop. Once again the Archbishop of Canterbury shows he understands the feelings of the people! Balls. Frankly some of our elected representatives deserve everything they are getting. Some of course have claimed sensible and it is up to each and everyone of us to research and understand the actions of our own MP, and then vote or protest appropriately.

I do hope Hazel Blears survives because she is the only member of the cabinet who seems to want to talk any sense. If GB sacks her, I shall want to know why Geoff Hoon and James Purnell aren't fired too.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

If you want a job done properly.....

Well, the Scottish Buffoon has gone. Some others have said they will not be standing for election next time. Progress. Now the whole movement has to gether momentum. Let us get these MPs to realise that they need to renew their mandate, they have lost the right to assume that we approve. So, guys and gals, time to lean on GB and tell him that we, the people, demand a chance to express our views.

Frankly Nick Clegg sounds like the most coherent party leader. Our MP - a Liberal Democrat - has used her expenses exactly as they were designed to be used, but it is a shame that she's not the sharpest tool in the box. I'm afraid I want to believe that my MP is smarter than me, and I don't think she is. Trouble is, I don't think the Tory candidate is either. Just maybe, I'll have to stand....?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Have they got the steel?

I have just watched Speaker Martin's statement to the House of Commons. I found it painful to watch, it seems clear that he has no understanding of the depth of feeling about his unsuitability for the role he has. Now will MPs rise up in sufficient numbers to force a debate? Will the Government find the time to schedule one? We really are going to find out if our MPs have the necessary backbone.

We live in interesting times.....

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Sunday musings

The weather here in the Midlands has been horrible. Winds and heavy showers mean that doing anything outside is pretty unpleasant. the grass remains unmown and with the boiler on the blink, it gets cold. Chris could not go and play cricket and while we popped out for a while this morning, it has not been a day for doing things.

Tomorrow a few jobs will have to be done regardless of the weather.

When are our spineless MPs going to find some balls and get rid of this buffoon they have as Mr Speaker? It is good to see that Nick Clegg has come out and said he should go, the others must follow suit. Put his head on a spike outside the Houses of Parliament. Now.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Talk about getting what we deserve...

The continuing revelations about MPs and the expenses they have been claiming is now becoming tedious. It is with some relief that I read here that the Metropolitan Police are to investigate some of the claims. I say this because it seems to me that some of the characters must be dismissed and/or prosecuted. That is what would happen to people in other walks of life. My only worry is that the Met are so incompetent that they will probably make a complete lash-up of the enquiry.

There seem to be two cases so far, of MPs claiming expenses for mortgages which have been paid off. Now these have to be straightforward and unarguable cases of fraud, surely? If these people are so unworldly that they cannot remember whether they have a mortgage or not on a particular property, then they are so mentally handicapped that they should not be allowed out on their own, and should certainly not be allowed to stand for election to Parliament.

There are two aspects of the story that make me smile somewhat:- the first is the complete lack of control that the top politicians have over the story and where it goes next. For a control freak like Gordon Brown, this must be the most disturbing aspect of the whole thing. The second is the completely bungling approach of Mr Speaker, the poisonous Michael Martin. He could have avoided nearly all this, but chose to fight the inevitable with the outcome we can now all see. I hope the Honourable Ladies and Gentlement are pleased with their choice of Speaker. The Prat.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Losing it?

There is a story on the news here about Norman Tebbitt calling for voters to avoid major parties and vote for a representative of a smaller party. Now Lord Tebbitt is entitled to his views and he is entitled to play games if he wants to. However, I am concerned if this kind of brain rot sets in universally with advancing age. Will it happen to me? Or does it only happen to aging politicians? Can there be any other reason why he would say such a thing, after working all his political life for the Tory Party. I can't see it.

There are any number of ways to let your MP know how you feel on a particular topic of the day. I like the writetothem.com website. It has certaily worked for me. Why on earth would anyone want to risk electing a UKIP, BNP or Socialist Worker Party representative by voting for one of the smaller parties? The old boy has lost the plot I'm afraid and should go back to sleep.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

A Grand Day Out.

Today I have christened the Land Rover. She is to be known as Ella (as in LR, geddit?) and her baptism was at a "play day" organised by the Midland Rover Owners Club. This is an event where people with a 4x4 can simply turn up, and provided their vehicle is safe, drive round a course with various off road hazards. I stuck primarily to the "easy" path, with a few forays into the more challenging tracks. The baptism took place on one of these more challenging sections where I got completely stuck in some liquid clay and managed to spray a fair amount of said clay down the sides of my Land Rover. Tomorrow, it will have to be taken to a jet wash and have the clay cleaned off.

One of the most enjoyable aspects to these days is the time spent nattering to other enthusiasts. Some of the projects they undertake confirm my view that much of this vehicle related hobby is to get out of the way of spouses. I was also delighted to be driven round the course in a Series II, which was celebrating its 50th birthday. It coped manfully with the terrain, but boy, the difference between that with leaf springs and mine with coil springs was huge. I am now might glad that I bought a vehicle with coil springs. A dozen or so people will be going home with very, very dirty vehicles.

All, in all, a good day out.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Giving ragbags a bad name....

Some weeks ago, I suggested that Hazel Blears had a point when she told her colleagues to "Get a grip". Last week she was in hot water for suggesting that the government has lamentable failed to comprehend the wishes of the people.

This story really does demonstrate that Gordon Brown is not the only one who is out of his depth. Phil Woolas continues to wriggle around after the country has spoken and frankly he deserves to be disemboweled. Get on with it Phil and let them stay. Then get out of office and take the rest of your ragbag colleagues with you.

What a shambles.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Two Business Conundrums

The possible takeover of General Motors' European operations by FIAT and the ongoing debate about the fate of Royal Mail have caused some interesting headlines.

Having worked in commerce for many years, I don't see too many alternatives. the motor industry has had an excess of capacity for years and some sort of shake out is inevitable. Some factories will have to close. The world simply produces too many cars. It will be very sad for the workers affected, but the shakeout needed to happen some years ago. What I don't understand is why FIAT would want to acquire any part of Chrysler which seems to have no future whatsoever. Their cars are awful... why would any company want to take that on?

The Post Office (brand name Royal Mail) is simply not structured (and probably never will be) to cope with a market in which the demand for letter is reducing by 8% or more each year. The only way to cope with such a downturn is to reduce the size of the company (cost base, workforce, overheads etc.) in advance, and with a universal obligation to deliver mail anywhere in the country for the same price, it seems completely impossible that our postal service would ever have been able to do that. So, so other solution is now required. The Government (supported by the Conservatives) is looking for a partner, to inject money and provide management expertise. I would have thought that any company with real expertise would not touch Royal Mail with a bargepole. I know I wouldn't. The the obligations they have, coupled with the constraints of rising prices and the relationship with the Union of Communications Workers, it would be a nightmare.
It seems to me that we voters have to decide whether we are prepared to live with a lower level of service than we have now e.g. deliveries twice a week, or are we prepared to pay an economic cost of postage? It looks very much as though we shall have to choose one or the other, because it seems inconceivable that the taxpayer should continue to subsidise the Post Office as it has been over recent years.

Monday, 4 May 2009

How not to and How to make an impression.

We have returned from Havant and our journey was fine other than a short delay caused by an overturned caravan. Luckly this happened in the vicinity of a junction and we were able (under direction from the police) to go up the exit slip road and then rejoin the A34 by going down the on slip road.

I can't help thinking that the driver must have been doing something daft, and as a result many thousands of us were held up for a while. It was a large caravan lying on its side, the towing vehicle was badly damaged and a holiday weekend comprehensively ruined. It certainly doesn't help the image of caravaners.

We must thank Peter and Ingrid for their hospitality and their food, they certainly have a good collection of friends who came to celebrate Ingrid's birthday.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

A Hedonist's delight

Today has been a delightfully relaxing day. We are visiting Havant and are off to the theatre at Chichester this evening.

Yesterday was spent driving round looking at places that might become our resting place when we are fed up with Solihull. We liked a few and dislikes nearly as many. I'm not sure how we will ever choose.

This morning I was treated to a "Hot Stone" massage which was completely delightful. I could not see what was going on but the sensations of the hot stones being carefully placed and moved around my back was delightful. Lucky me.

Tomorrow is a walk round the Emsworth Arts trail and on Monday we have been invited to a party, before we tackle the journey home.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

"C- , Could do better"

Let me say straight away that I have never been a great fan of Gordon Brown, the guy is just too dour and miserable looking. More importantly (for me anyway), he seems to be completely unable to admit that he has got something wrong.

Recently, he appears to have got two issues completely wrong : MP's expenses and the treatment of ex Gurkha soldiers. Surely the best way to recover his credibility would be to appear on TV and say "I misjudged these two issues and the proposals I made did not meet the needs to the people who would be affected. My government will now revise these proposals to ensure that we will meet the needs of those affected and will not cease until our revised proposals command support". A touch of humility would make him seem human. I will wager we don't get such a statement and that is why he and his party will be routed at the next General Election and they will deserve it.

Monday, 27 April 2009

A day of pleasant surprises.

After my rant in Friday's post, I signed up for the petition and wrote to my MP. Somewhat to my surprise, I got an e-mail in very few minutes in which the good Lorely Burt agrees completely with me, and promises a proper reply by letter. This prompt reply agreeing with my argument took me aback slightly, but I can't really explain why. I think I was just expecting some equivocation and it is a pleasant surprise that my expectation was wrong.

The Land Rover has a broken clutch release fork, and a replacement is due to arrive with a clutch kit tomorrow. We should be back on the road soon.

Another mild surprise was to find that BT owe me £716.00. They have been taking a large sum from my bank account via Direct Debit for some months and when I rang them this morning to ask for it back they had already set in motion the process of returning the overpayment. And they agreed to reduce the DD take and the price of my broadband service. Good for them.

Finally, my dim son left his laptop power pack (transformer and lead) in Stockholm. a new one was ordered, but it is needed tomorrow (before his departure for Barcelona). The company from which I ordered it were able to change the delivery mechanism and it is due to be delivered tomorrow as required. Another piece of good service.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Is this what we have become?

Let me make it very plain that this story enrages me more than any other I have heard for as long as I can remember. I feel completely ashamed to be British and feel that once again our wretched and despicable government have done all they can to avoid honouring a moral debt to men who have served us loyally.

The Government and Phil Woolas in particular should hang their heads in shame. I hope the people of this nation who have a very good understanding of basic rights and wrongs, rise up and make this crass idiot and his cabinet colleagues change their decision in very short order. I urge everyone to go to the Gurkha Justice Campaign website and sign their petition. Please also write to your MP using Writetothem.com and let every one of our representatives know that this is a total outrage.

What has become of us? I despair.

Running an hotel

Some of my erstwhile colleagues from British Gas invested their redundancy payments in an hotel or Guest House. I didn't, but I still feel like we are running one. The guests here make no reservations and if we're lucky phone up to say that they are coming to claim their usual room, but don't indicate the expected time of arrival. Thus feeding becomes an issue - and of course they expect food. They pay no charges and leave items all over the house, especially dirty washing. This is often expected to be available, clean and ironed within 24 or 48 hours, but they never tell one this. One is expected to know these things, apparently.

Any parents will recognise the fact that our guests are our children, specifically our sons, and I love them dearly. I really must try and find a way of keeping track of their comings and goings....

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Something to look forward to.

Further to yesterday's post about the budget, the BBC Budget calculator estimates that I shall be £93.13 worse off. I can hardly wait.

As far as the rest of the world goes, I have reserved a house for the big party next year. All I need now is for those who have been invited (you know who you are, if you read your e-mails) to reply and confirm that they will be able to attend. So, children and UP, get your backsides into gear and reply PDQ.

Happy St George's Day everyone.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

What a shower...

Well, the Budget has been and gone. No real news of any substance for us. I'm completely fed up with this government, they have gone the same way as most long serving administrations - arrogance and an apparent disregard and lack of respect for the average voter. Call an election Gordon, and let us have a choice.

I just wish I thought the Conservatives would make a better job of it.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A quick trip to the North.

Today, I have taken Thomas back to Durham. At 9:00 the last of his bags and boxes was being loaded into the car. Despite this, what with some fiddling about on my part and his, we did not leave until 10:05.....

There are many 50 mph temporary speed restrictions between here and Durham. Interestingly people are much better at keeping within the speed limits policed by the average speed cameras.

Now we have peace and quiet until Chris gets back from Stockholm on Sunday.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

So, what did we do in Paris....?

We left home on Tuesday last week and went to stay the night with our good friends Rob and Sue who live in SW4.

At 6:45 on Wednesday we took the tube to St Pancras where breakfast was the first order of the day. We boarded the 9:01 Eurostar for Paris – what a civilised way this is to travel. The countryside whizzes by, and we sit in peace and quiet. To my astonishment we found ourselves sitting near Mr & Mrs Guy Thomas and their family. Guy and I used to work together back in 1989 or so and I had not seen him since this time. He was as astonished as me.

From the Gare du Nord to the Hotel took no time at all and after unpacking we set off to look round. Our first stop was a planning session in a local bar! From there we went to Montmatre. Lots of artists, caricature drawers and other people doing their best to relieve the tourists of their euros. It was such a tourist trap that it offended me. We looked into Sacré Coeur to see the eternal prayer. The fact that they sustain prayer 24 hours a day 7 days a week and have done so for many decades is impressive and worthy, but gosh the choral singing is dire.

Rob swore blind that he knew of this splendid restaurant for dinner, so we sought it out and it is pictured below.....

Apparently it is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.......

A look in the guide book (I can't recommend the Lonely Planet Guide to Paris highly enough) and we found a different little restaurant for dinner which proved extremely decent. We needed a drink beforehand though! Dinner was excellent and good value. Wednesday was Rob's birthday, so we embarrassed him by singing “Happy Birthday” in a full restaurant.

Thursday was a day of walking. We started by finding Rue Mouffetard which is a street in the Latin Quarter where students shop and eat and drink (the name derives from the French for Skunk, and so it was known from then on as Skunk Street – well, by me anyway). Sue is pictured in Skunk Street below....

A decent breakfast (with real freshly squeezed orange juice – I'd forgotten how good that is) fortified us and then we shopped for our picnic supplies. We walked up to the river Seine and across a bridge to the front of Notre Dame. Into the Tuilleries Gardens for a picnic, It was cold and threatening to rain, but it didn't. Our walking then took us to Gallerie Lafayette, a splendid department store. The store guide next to the escalators on one floor promises “Seduction Fashions” but I was not allowed to investigate further.

By now we were all pretty bushed, so retired to our hotel to refresh ourselves before heading back to Rue Mouffetard for dinner. This meal was a bit of a highlight with Rob ordering a fondue Bourginion in which lots of raw steak is delivered to your plate and you cook it yourself in a fondue dish containing hot oil. I am ashamed to say that I enlivened the evening unnecessarily by setting fire to my laminated menu! It isn't the first occasion on which I have done this either, so sympathy was notably absent. The food was excellent though.

Friday we went our separate ways. Jini and I went off for an early coffee and then to the Jardin des Plantes. [See photo below]

After a delightful hour spent in these colourful gardens, we set out to the Batobus (see previous post). These are hop on – hop off boats that ply a circular route round significant tourist attractions adjacent to the River Seine. From the Jardin des Plantes, we went up to the Eifel Tower and most of the way bay before disembarking to find a recommended crêpe shop. A Crêpe du Jour (ham, cheese, onions, potatoes, lettuce and tomato) and a Crêpe du Chef (Aubergines, onions, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes) were acquired and taken to the Jardin des Plantes to be eaten. They were delicious, but very, very filling. Back onto the Batobus for the ride to Notre Dame and a walk to the Musee de l'Orangerie. During the 1920s, the state of France built a pair of oval rooms at the Musée de l'Orangerie as a permanent home for eight water lily murals by Claude Monet. These are amazing pictures displayed as the artist intended, and I've added a photo of one of the pictures below, though it gives no real idea of the scale of the painting.

Monet painted literally hundreds of pictures of these flowers and bought up land around his house and created a series of ponds so that he could have his own lake. Amazing.

After this overdose of culture, I needed an ice cream. The French routinely produce much nicer ice cream that we Brits, and the Apricot glace that I enjoyed so much was a prime example. We met up with Rob and Sue (Rob was having his afternoon snooze some 200 metres from where we were) and then went to look at the Jardins du Palais Royale. The gardens were lovely but the shopping arcade that was one of the attractions was closed for refurbishment. After a look round, we all decided that Stella McCartney, who has a shop in this arcade should ask for her money back. Then it was back to the hotel for a freshen up (and in my case a short snooze). Dinner was good and I worked my way through the dishes of the day in the restaurant we choose.

Saturday, I went off to the Arc de Triomphe (see previous post) and then we had a good lunch. My beloved was laid low by sickness, so we spent a quiet afternoon before taking the Metro back to the Gare du Nord and checking in for our Eurostar ride back to London.

The trip from London was marred by the fact that we found ourselves in amongst the dispersing hordes from Wembley Stadium, some of whom seemed to be lacking any consideration for others and have all the brains of a house brick. Welcome Home!

Overall, I was impressed by Paris and Parisians. The city has an aura of space and tidiness. The public buildings and spaces are cared for in a way that they do not seem to be here. The way of life appears more relaxed and elegant. However, it is expensive. The people were friendly and helpful, and I very much hope that we can go back to Paris in the years to come.