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 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.


Ah, Back to a keyboard with all the letters in the correct place.

We had a wonderful three and a half days in Paris. We discovered the delights of a batobus to convey us around the fair city. I recommend it as a way of getting about.

Just to prove that I was there, I attach a three pictures, the first being from the top of the Arc de Triomphe looking down the Champs D'Lysee (in the rain it has to be said!). This was taken yesterday at around 10:30 and involved a long climb up a spiral staircase.

Finally a view of the Seine from the middle of a bridge. As can be seen, it was rather cloudy on the day this was taken. It did mean that walking was not too onerous.

I have decided that I like Paris very much. The French attitudes to life in general ,and food and drink in particular, are very much the same as mine.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

En France....

I am in Paris, so blogging a trifle difficult because of time constraints.... and how do the French cope with these bloody keyboards!?

The whole story will be told when I get back.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Oh dear....

Very Sad. My retirement project was brought home on the back of a transporter. The clutch pedal will not move. It is far from clear what is causing this. However, since I was thinking about replacing both the clutch master and slave cylinders, this piece of work will have to be brought forward in the plan. Both jobs have been examined in the workshop manual and while they look as though they'll take a bit of time, neither should cause any major headaches. (that has all the look of some famous last words....).

Chris was driving some of his friends when this sadness occurred, but the RAC came up trumps and got him home. They all regarded it as a bit of an adventure, but Chris feels slightly guilty that he was driving when whatever it is has broken.

Ah well, after the trip to Paris, I can spend a few happy hours looking at it.

Hunting of the Chocolate

It is Easter Sunday. That means it is Chocolate Hunt day. The boys are confined to teir rooms while Jini hides around 3kg of chocolate. A collection of sweets, chocolate bars and biscuits are spread around the house, and then over a period of two hours, the young people in the house play "Hunt the Chocolate". This year there are only two palyers as James is off playing bridge in London. he returns this evening. In past years this would not have been too much of a handicap as chocolate bars turn up for months and years after the event. Earlier this year, my beloved found a mini bar of something, ate it, and then declared that it tasted over two years old.

As a result of my diabetes, I am not allowed to take part, but where I spot a bar, I have a habit of moving it to somewhere that I know has already been searched and from where any bars have been removed. This has the effect of promoting discord and disharmony as people agrue about "who searched there?". Well, say I, some spice has to be added to the proceedings.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Lists..... Lots of them

Life is dominated by lists of things to do written on small pieces of paper. One problem is that there are so many lists, many of the items thereon are duplicated. Slowly, I am getting them consolidated on to one list. I have even managed to do some of the things on the lists.

I can't help thinking that Bob Quick the former most senior counter-terrorism police officer very much brought about his own downfall. He was a high ranking, high profile police officer with what was undoubtedly a very demanding and difficult job, but he gets out of a car in front of a mass of media without stopping to think for a few seconds about what he has in his hands. His mistake was not to have in place a regime of operating that would make such a blunder impossible to make. He should have had a bag carrier - some lowly soul who carried and guarded his papers for him and who had the responsibility on ensuring that the papers were safely stowed before the car arrived at its destination.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Getting a grip

My life is running away from me...

I never quite seem to catch up with myself. There always seems to be a list of jobs (nearly all of them small jobs) that somehow threatens to overwhelm me. It troubles me that there are any number of items that may not be getting attended to.

Recently it has been pointed out to me that I have got half way through something and then stopped for no apparent reason. Unfortunately from the evidence, I cannot work out what I was half way through doing. So, I've put it all back and I hope that I shall be able to recall what it was I was trying to do.

Time to Get a Grip.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Comings and Goings

There are lots of people in and passing through our home, all of them younger than me. It is a delight to have them here, but I do wonder what impression of us they take away with them when they leave.

Chris is coming home soon and will arrive late on Sunday evening, James and his girlfriend Charlotte have gone off to Cornwall on a recce of the Chamber Choir Concert Tour to be undertaken this Summer. Thomas's girlfriend, Sarah has arrived from Manchester. Her first impression is that Solihull is posh...., but she has now gone to look round the town, and I think she will find that it is just a clone of most other towns in the land.

Freecycle has worked its magic once again, and I have got rid of the cupboards that have been replaced by the furniture I brought back from Cornwall. The hall is full of poly bags that are allegedly on their way to a charity shop, and I have weeded two beds in the garden. Things aren't too bad.