Saturday, 28 February 2009

Two days -two loos.

We have lived in our house for nearly 15 years. It is over 15 years old and I walked past it many times on my way to work while it was being built. In the last few days, two of our four toilets have declined to flush properly. So, I have had the job of taking them apart, replacing the siphon mechanism and the ball valve in each. These have been long and tedious jobs, and the worst part of it is, that at the end everything looks just as it did before. The toilets flush nicely now, there don't seem to be any leaks, but there is no visible result of all my hard work.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Dreams - and making them come true...

There are indications that people other than my immediate family actually read this. A blog I read is Boanerges and Peter apparently reads mine. After reading about my intention to participate in the BWC in October, Peter posts about his plan to walk the length of France. This prompts two thoughts: firstly, how pleasant it would be to spend a week walking in France with a self confessed fellow "Grumpy" (so I have volunteered to accompany him on one installment), and secondly, How many other "recently retired" gents are harbouring similar dreams? There must be thousands of us.

Gentlemen, let us band together and do the things we have promised ourselves we will do. Life is too short. We really don't need all this decorating, gardening and shopping that fascinates our beloveds, it is time for planning and the implementation of our plans. Dream no longer, let us make our dreams come true.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Gosh, they're good.

I am feeling distinctly humble. My sons have caused this feeling which is slightly strange for me, as I rarely feel inadequate. James has been elected as Societies Officer for 2009/2010 at Warwick University, Thomas has been elected as College President for St Aidan's at Durham for the same period, and Chris is preparing to lead a session at the next EYP meeting on the topic of the Israel/Palestine conflict and has condensed the subject into 400 words. These achievements in those who I still think of as young have me thinking that I haven't done much lately. Replaying the conversations I've had with the twins I get the impression that their campaigning has involved great effort. That only increases my admiration for them. I suspect that their studies may have suffered slightly and I hope that they have sufficient time, energy and motivation to catch up with topics thay may have missed.

The consequence of their victories in their respective elections is that James and Thomas will not be coming home to live here next year and they have successfully put off having to find a job. This is probably a good move in the current economic climate. It also means that as Chris will definitely go off to university in October, my beloved wife and I will have the place to ourselves for at least a year.

The world is good and we have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Looking down the right end of the telescope.....?

Following my last rant, it is now time to say that I support the decision of the Law Lords who found that our state has abused the rights of the poisonous Abu Qatada cleric. While I disagree with everything the poisonous cleric says, we really must stop thinking we can lock people up and throw away the key without giving them a fair trial first. It must not be allowed to continue. If you are to be locked up, then you have the right to know the charge and see the evidence against you. Where are all our freedoms going. This ragbag of a Government seems to think it can trample all over us. It must be told to stop. Now. I wish I thought that potential Governments formed by the other major parties would be better, but I very much doubt that they would be.

As for this Al Qatada, if he is not British, then we should throw him out, and if we believe Jordan to be a civilised state, and they want him to face charges there, then he should be deported there to face them.

I see that today, Hazel Blears has told her cabinet colleagues to "Get a Grip". These are exactly the words I would use, if I was facing a meeting of the cabinet today. The quote attributed to her is "Our first loyalty is to the British people." At long last someone seems to be remembering why they are there. I wish I thought her message would hit home and her colleaues will take notice, but somehow, I don't think that will happen. A plague on all their houses (especially both of Jackie Smith's!)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Half term holidays - an alternative?

In this part of the world it is half term. This means the town is full of young people who seem to have nothing to do except moon about in the shopping centre, dropping litter and making life less pleasant for everyone else. There must be a better way. I admit that if I was a teacher, I'd want a break in the middle of each twelve week stretch of facing the enemy. So, while the schools are not providing academic lessons for a week, what can we do with the young people?

Some activity is required that will occupy them, teach them some life skills and generally prepare them for later life. How's this for an idea? : Every young person should spend a week doing something outdoors. It could be helping in the gardens of a local park or helping mentally handicapped people in therapy gardens, or coaching younger children in outdoor activities, any form of sport from football to rock climbing, geology, forestry, canal or water maintenance, creating or maintaining habitat for wildlife, recycling - anything that involves working outside to the general benefit of themselves and the rest of the community. Until a young person has , say 9, certificates to confirm that they have completed 9 such weeks, they are unemployable (i.e. cannot have an NI number) and ineligible for any benefits.

Having reread it, it sounds a bit right-wing, and clearly some significant investment would be needed, but what an opportunity for our youngsters and what an opportunity for the rest of us to invest in young people. I pledge my vote to any political party that adopts it in their manifesto.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Training - making a start

Last year I was monumentally impressed by the achievement of No. 1 son, James, who over a period of three days cycled from London to Paris. Also last year, at the end of September, I watched in awe as some 400 Brompton owners took part in the round of the Brompton World Championships at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. I put a number of posts in this blog about it.

Having now acquired a Brompton, and started to do something about my fitness with the regime of swimming, I have decided that I shall take part in the equivalent 2009 round to be held (again at Blenheim Palace) on Sunday, 4th October. Details of the day can be found here. I am rather hoping that some of my family and friends will come along for the day out, cheer me on (or have a good laugh at my expense), and that I can put up a good showing in the Over 60 category. I have noted, however that the results of last year show the leading Over 60 to have completed the 13km (8 mile) course in just over 25 minutes, and the winner in just over 21 mins.

So, yesterday the folding machine got a superficial clean, the tyre pressures were checked and some oil was applied to the chain and this morning I set off on my first training run. I cycled for exactly one hour with a brief stop some 500m from home to collect the Sunday paper. I have driven the route in the car and see that the distance I covered is almost exactly 10 miles, and the feeling of well-being at the end made it all worth it. I need to cycle this route at least twice each week and get my time down to around 40 minutes. If I get reach this level of performance, I shall not make a complete fool of myself in October. I really need a training partner..... Any Offers?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Church and Money don't mix

As a very small act of repayment for a wonderful experience for my sons, I am the treasurer of a small charity that raises money for our church choir. It is known as The Friend of the Music and details can be found here. For some years there has been a degree (quite a big degree if I'm honest) regarding how much of the choir costs the church will pay for. I've always regarded this as highly undesirable and four years ago wrote to the church authorities in an effort to get some clarity in the situation. Nothing was really achieved.

The Church Council now has a new treasurer and he is one of the nicest, most sensible men you could want to meet. Today we met and reviewed the situation and after looking at some old documents, it is clear that things are worse than ever. The church finances are dire. This is very sad, but does at least provide clarity - we, the charity, are going to have to foot rather more of the bill than we would like, but at least we know where we stand.

How did the dear old C of E get into this terrible mess? I can only think that over the years the assets and income of the church have been very poorly managed. Perhaps they put too much faith in the banks?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Bankers, the lowest of the low

The current furore about bonuses for bankers continues to fascinate me. I have always been a believer in having some of one's remuneration linked to one's performance and to the performance of the enterprise. However the apparent attitude of some bankers beggars belief. Surely it must be clear to them that a significant proportion of the British public hold them responsible for the current economic mess. Thus for RBS to deploy one sixth of the money pumped in by the taxpayer to pay bonuses is (in my opinion at least) completely unacceptable. Our lily-livered government must act to stop it. Now. And if a few bankers decide to quit as a result, them that is probably an unexpected benefit. Branch Managers and staff who face us real customers must still be eligible for their performance related rewards, but the traders and merchant bankers who seem to be rewarded for conducting transactions whether good or bad, must be told to go and spend more time with their families. It would do them good. These people really do desreve the appalling press they are getting and it is to be hoped that a few are hung out to dry without large payoffs and generous pensions.

Let us hope that those elcted representatives on the Treasury Select Committee who get the chance to question the senior bank exectutives today give them a really, really hard time and make the views of the rest of us very plain.

In other news, the weather remains vile. It is cold and there is a biting wind.

As a result of not being able to get out much, I have completed the Probate applications form and will be submitting this to the local probate registry today. Now all I have to sort out are the IHT forms for the inheritance tax calculation.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

A day of two halves

This morning it was cold and bright. After a late rising, my beloved daughter and I went for a walk in an unfamiliar park. We walked along one side of a river and could see people walking dogs on the other side. What we couldn't see was a path and we (well I, anyway) assumed that there was one there. There wasn't! It was wet, boggy and very muddy. Consequently we both got very muddy boots and mine were more suited to the walk than hers. I am sooooo sorry for your muddy boots and I hope they recover.

This afternoon it is cold dark and snowing. Bugger!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Another day at the coalface.

The probate and Inheritance Tax forms finally defeated me and I had to phone the helpline. The instructions on the web do not clearly spell out the sequence in which things have to be done and the dependencies between things, but the nice lady on the helpline soon put me straight. Form IHT421 has to go to the Probate court and then be submitted with all the other IHT400 forms to the IRCS. I now await the letter from my uncle renouncing his role as executor and the copy of my father's will and grant of Probate. Then we are off!

Our new garage door was fitted today and looks very nice in its pristine white finish. I must try and be more diligent about locking the garage now.

The car has been serviced - less than I expected and the snow is slowly melting. All we need now is for some warm weather and I shall be a really happy little Ted.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Staying in

Today has been a day for staying in. It has been bitterly cold and there have been flurries of snow. There is a dusting of snow on the cars and there is very little traffic driving past.

I've done precious little today. A passport application has been completed. I've tidied up a bit more in my study and I've written some letters. That's it. Oh, and I've written a list of jobs for tomorrow. It's quite long. I shall be busy tomorrow, and I suspect that it is going to be just as cold, if not colder, than it is today, so I shall wrap up warm.