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 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.