1 December 2009 (Tuesday) - December Already?

 

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I had a shave this morning – oh it was good. That’s it for moustaches for at least another eleven months. Possibly longer. I might just give it a miss next year. It now remains to rake in the cash.

 

I then backed up the last month’s worth of my ramblings to the back-up server. I’m very grateful to have the use of a back up server – there’s over 20Mb worth of drivel over there, going back to September 2006. I’ve been blogging daily for three years. Why? – I do it for myself as much as anything. When I look back there are whole years of my life about which I can remember nothing. With a blog I can look back and bore myself silly about stuff which was probably best left forgotten.

 

A week ago I mentioned about people I don’t know asking to join my Facebook list. I’ve just had a request from Chantelle Davis who wanted to be added to my list of friends. I have no idea who this person is, but I saw we have six mutual friends, two of whom are people I know reasonably well. I sent messages to all six mutual friends asking if they knew her. Apparently three of them do. This woman is in a relationship with Mervyn (?) (who apparently has a black mondeo with a roof box). She works for Reg and Helen, who I am told I’ve met. She also has an Alsatian dog. I think she’ll stay off of my list for the time being.

 

And then I opened the first window on my lego advent calendar. Today we have “Ginger” wearing a hard had and looking at a post that doesn’t stick very far out of the ground. I’m getting flashbacks of last Saturday…

 

 

2 December 2009 (Wednesday) - Petrol, Retards and a Flood

 

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I’ve mentioned Facebook a few times recently. I’ve heard that teachers have been advised not to use it. Now doctors are getting the same advice, since amorous patients are using it as a means of making unwelcome advances.

 

Meanwhile one of the UK’s supermarket giants has demonstrated they have more money than sense by spending nearly a million quid where they should have spent nearly a thousand quid. An honest mistake, I expect. But it would be nice to be in a position to be able to make that mistake.

 

To the petrol station to refuel the car. There was a tremendous queue to get in. Normally I wouldn’t wait, but things were getting a tad iffy. And then I realised there was only a tremendous queue for one set of pumps. Two milk floats were blocking one set of pumps, and everyone wanted to fill up from those pumps. No one was queuing for the others. So I was in like a shot and soon filled the car. (Ain’t petrol expensive!) And then as I was just about to pay the nice lady, there was a frantic beeping of hooters from outside. Some silly old git had filled his car, and then driven a bit closer to the kiosk to pay. Thus effectively blocking absolutely everyone else in. When the staff pointed out his mistake, he started blankly, and had absolutely no idea what he had done wrong. So everyone patiently waited whilst he counted out the notes and coins for his fuel. And patiently waited whilst he shuffled back to his car. The patience was beginning to wear off when he showed no inclination to move his car, but instead started a row with his wife who was even deafer than he was. Eventually he pulled off, but it was apparent he wasn’t quite sure how to operate his car, as he clipped the news stand and a waste bin on the way out.

 

The car park in Pissy World was much the same. I had a vague idea to have a look for Xmas ideas. They had 1Gb MP3 players for a tenner, but little else. But they did have a woman with fifty thousand children staging a riot in her car.

 

The car park at work was flooded again. Meanwhile in lego-land, “Ginge” has built a snowman. That’s nice

 

1 comments 

 

 

3 December 2009 (Thursday) - Intimations of Mortality

 

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I suppose today is something of a landmark date. “Daddies Little Angel TM” is twenty and a half, and if the Internet is right, barring accidents (or intentionals) I have twenty six years left on this earth. It would seem I croak on Monday 3 December, 2035. The Death Clock is a wonderful thing. You type in your height and weight and birthday, and it tells you when your number will be up. In my calculations I’ve taken the “normal” mode. There is an “optimistic” mode, which gives me until 2061. I’d like that, if for no better reason than to see the eventual manned missions to Mars (which should have happened by then!). There’s a “pessimistic” setting, which gives me just under six years left. Given the choice, I’d like a little longer than that. Interestingly, if I got all out on this diet and lose a further four stone, I don’t seem to gain an awful lot more time. One year, to be exact.

 

Sticking with the average result, it would seem I have a further 9,495 blog entries left to write, assuming I don’t get time to do one on the last day. There are those who would think this a somewhat morbid train of thought. I don’t. There’s only one thing definite about this life, and that is that sooner or later it comes to an end. I’ve got another twenty six years left. I just hope I can make the most of that time.

 

One of the chaps at work was telling of how he’s planning to fly to Atlanta in a couple of weeks time. Over the course of a week he plans to drive up to New York. And then fly home again. I’d like to do that. Bearing in mind both my intimations of mortality, and also the “things to do before..” lists that various friends are compiling, I wonder if I could do with a list of “things to do before I croak”. Certainly a road trip in America would be on that list. What else? I’d like to go back to Sooke and Victoria in British Columbia. I’d also like to go back to the kite festivals in Lunen and in Dieppe, and see the Milwaukee one too (!). There are a couple of pubs I’d like to visit (in Dartford and in Essex). I wouldn’t mind visiting Euro-Disney again. I can’t think of much else I want to do that I haven’t already done – I might come back to this list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t.

 

Back to the coast to continue helping with decorating a friend’s house. Whilst the cat’s servant filled cracks and holes, I got on with my current project. The bathroom has now had three coats of magnolia (yuk!). The shower curtain rail needs to be fixed, and the ceiling could do with a once-over. The walls look OK, but realistically choices have to be made, as the walls are a tad uneven. The easiest option is that we could put up lining paper and paint over that. Trouble is, this has already been done. There is a limit to how many times one can paint over lining paper.

Another option is to tile the bathroom. I don’t know how to tile, and it wouldn’t be cheap. My preferred option would be to re-plaster the walls. Whilst I am a Grand Master at getting plastered, I don’t actually know much about plastering. Maybe this is something in which I might take evening classes….

 

Meanwhile “Ginge” has got a snow-mobile. I wonder what he’s going to do with that?

 

1 comments 

 

 

4 December 2009 (Friday) - Music, Aliens (Again) and Cravats

 

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A minor change to the diary dates – what with the theatre charging an absolute fortune for tickets, we’ve decided against paying near on a hundred quid for four of us to go to the Rocky Horror show in Dartford. Instead I can spend that money on women’s underwear and we can stage a showing at home. That is - at Chris's house - he's got a TV projector! If any of my other loyal readers fancy doing the Time Warp (again), do drop me a line. I’m sure Chris feels (as I do) the more the merrier. I might just wander up to the fancy dress shop tomorrow.

I must mention this to Chris before he finds out by reading the news here.

 

And continuing the musical theme, with tickets booked for the E.L.O. concert in two months time, I am finding myself having serious 70s and 80s flashbacks. Anyone who is on my Facebook list will see that I’ve popped a couple of my favourite tracks onto my profile page. I must remember to pick up my CD of “Out of the Blue” from my brother at Xmas, and I can’t believe I’ve never bought “A New World Record”, “Discovery” or “Eldorado” on CD. For those who couldn’t tell Mr Blue Sky from Horace Wimp, I guess it doesn’t really matter. But for myself, I don’t think I’m going to last until February.

 

As I recall, E.L.O. had a spaceship. Which leads nicely on to the day’s news. We started the week (see entry for Monday 30 November) with the revelation that aliens have landed. In Bulgaria, admittedly, but landed nonetheless. Bearing that in mind, it seems rather odd that our own Ministry of Defence has closed down it’s own UFO research department. Presumably if they’ve found that the aliens are in Bulgaria, then there’s not a lot more to be done.

 

Meanwhile in lego-land “Ginge” ‘s friend has arrived. They share the same taste in hats, and “Gervais” has a cravat. That’s nice…

 

 

5 December 2009 (Saturday) - An Xmas Party

 

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Having been phoned in the early hours from work twice last night I was understandably a tad tired this morning, I thought I’d have a lie-in. A shame the backache put paid to that idea, but such is life. I then did a bit of beer shopping. Could I find the Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale anywhere? Sainsbury’s had a good selection of porters and stouts. Far better than the competition. I might just start shopping in there in future.

 

After a day pretty much wasted in NeverWinter, we set off for deepestSurrey for BKF’s Xmas party. Just like last year, we set off in torrential rain, drove through the rain, and arrived in the rain. Now we know where the place is, it’s easy to find, and soon we were meeting up with old friends. I really should get along to more BKF events, but they are always so far away!!

The instructions said to bring your own drinks, so I set up in “alky’s corner”, and then Terry arrived with seventeen bottles of Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale. Seventeen! I’d spent all morning and found none. But it was good stuff. Pausing only briefly for the now-traditional Wakefield family accident (ouch!) we soon tucked into a super bit of dinner. And then the silly games – the parcel was passed (to destruction) and then the parcel-dice game. If any of my loyal readers have never played this game, it’s complicated to explain, but easy to do. You sort of get a whole load of pressies which are worth having and then swap them for everyone else’s old tat. People nearly come to blows over plastic rubbish. It’s great.

And then I won a kite in the raffle. That will go to my nephew.

Having organised something like this in the past, I know how much effort is involved, and I’m really grateful to the organising team.

 

Meanwhile in lego-land “Ginge” and “Gervais” have found a blue thing. Having puzzled over it for some hours, neither “Ginge”, “Gervais” nor myself have any idea what the thing is. Between the three of us, we’ve decided it’s probably something to do with the aliens in Bulgaria.

 

 

6 December 2009 (Sunday) - Dull

 

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A late night last night, so I was hoping for a lie-in. But that vicar was clanging his bell at silly o’clock again. It annoys me that the public will be up in arms if a pub full of people are the slightest bit rowdy for five minutes at chucking out time. The newspapers will be running all sorts of outraged editorials, and the council will close the place down. But half a dozen superstitious “normal people” are allowed to clang their bell for over half an hour early on a Sunday morning. And because it’s “religious” the council are scared to do anything about it.

 

So having been woken, I lay there for an hour. With backache. Listening to the bell and the rain. I did feel a bit guilty - I really ought to borrow a ladder and do some work on my flat roof. But the roof needs to dry out a bit first. And we’ve had rain every day for the last month. And there’s a shed I’ve promised to paint in Folkestone, but it too is wet. So I contented myself with spending half an hour mending the fence at the end of the garden during a break in the rain.

There may be one or two of my loyal readers who may recall an entry from October 2006 when I cut a fence panel to fit the gap at the end of my garden. To quote myself: “Let’s hope the fence stays up” There was also a blog entry from this year (February) when I bodged a custom-length lump of trellis. I’m amazed how long my bodged fence has lasted, but today I had to do a little maintenance on it. Some of the panels were working loose, but nothing that a serious wallop with a hammer couldn’t put right. I then pruned back next door’s clematis and roses whilst next door told me about the fox in his garden that jumps over the fences. He seems rather upset about having a fox in his garden. I suppose I would be too, if I had one. The lawn needs mowing, but that can be a job for another time. Am I seriously thinking about mowing the lawn in December?

 

The doorbell rang – Jehovah’s witnesses. Normally I love having the “Rovers” round – they are great fun to wind up. But this time it wasn’t fair. They’d sent two little old ladies, both of whom must have been well into their eighties. You can’t be mean to a dear sweet little old lady. But I didn’t buy a “Watchtower” from them.

And then I printed off the latest letter to the chokey. There is a minor problem – I’ve lost the answers to the crossword puzzle I sent up with last week’s letter. I can remember what “A sailor who prefers to navigate theWindward passage (4,7)” is. However, I have absolutely no idea of what I was thinking when I came up with 1 across: “A man who has piloted the course of a few tugboats in his time, he can tell you (7,6)”.

 

Looking back through my blog I see that the last few Sundays have been rather dull. Today was no exception.

 

Meanwhile “Gervais” is leaning on the lamp post at the corner of the street. I can’t help but wonder what he expects might come by.

 

 

7 December 2009 (Monday) - Global Warming

 

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As the world leaders meet in Copenhagen to see if they can’t salvage something from the wreckage of what’s left of the planet, I can’t help but remember that yesterday I commented that my lawn needs mowing. In December !! I also mentioned that it’s been raining pretty much constantly for a month. As I drove to work today I saw the river was nearly six feet higher than usual, and had flooded the nearby fields. And scientists are worried that the evidence for climate change isn’t convincing enough. Oh, come on !! A couple of hundred years ago, the Thames froze solid every winter. And Dover harbour has frozen over within living memory. Do we get that now? Of course not! The evidence for climate change is overwhelming. Because that’s what the climate does. It changes. Look at sea levels over the last few thousand years.

However the controversial bit isn’t whether it’s happening (because demonstrably it is), but what is causing it. And whether what is happening now is any different to how the climate has changed in the past. Is it all man-made? If so, what about the global warming on Mars? Perhaps the sun is having a funny five minutes?

I can’t help but wonder what the world leaders will make of it all. I suspect those who can afford to will blame it all on Chinese power stations, and the whole thing will end in disarray like last time. I hope not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

Meanwhile in lego-land the law has arrived to allay the fears of those who feel the moral tone might be dropping. Mind you, you can buy those uniforms from the seedier fancy dress suppliers. And behind that megaphone the so-called “police officer” is sporting a rather impressive moustache. Let’s just say that “Gervais” is looking more pleased than worried…

 

 

 

8 December 2009 (Tuesday) - Stuff

 

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As we’re well into December, the Xmas CDs went on at work. This sparked an intellectual discussion as to not only which is the best Xmas song, but what constitutes a good Xmas song. After a debate which lasted for several hours and which covered a diverse range of festive elements, we were singularly unable to choose a favourite. But we agreed that for a song to be a good Xmas song, it can’t mention anything religious, and it needs to be sung by an epically breasted young lady. (I don’t make the rules, I just report them.)

 

I see a snake has been found loose in a hire car driven from Sweden toGermany. A corn snake, which is probably as ferocious as a lettuce. And even though the snake in question was a corn snake, the news article showed a picture of a python. I suppose the general public thinks pythons are scary. Even though we know better.

 

Meanwhile in lego-land, “Ginge” “Gervais” and “Old Bill” have found something odd. I think it just might be a Bulgarian alien.

 

Posted by Manky Badger at 10:32 PM 2 comments 

 

 

9 December 2009 (Wednesday) - Having a Tooth Out

 

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To the dentist to have my wisdom tooth removed. I had this sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t supposed to eat or drink anything beforehand, so I skipped breakfast. I was right. I arrived ten minutes early to be told I wasn’t to eat or drink anything for four hours before the procedure. Some might call that a bit short notice.

I was then presented with a myriad of forms to read and sign, and eventually (twenty minutes late) I got into the dentist’s inner sanctum. The dentist asked me if I understood what he was going to do. I said that I thought I would get gassed and he’d pull the tooth whilst I was asleep. How naïve of me - it wasn’t going to be quite that simple.

First of all, I wasn’t going to be gassed, I was going to be sedated. A doctor was there for the anaesthetic. They would inject some jollop into the back of my hand and whilst I would be awake for the whole procedure, it would be as though I was drunk, and I wouldn’t remember anything of what happened. Dover beer festival flashbacks? Well, I’m used to that, so no worries there.

Secondly the tooth wouldn’t be pulled. Because it was growing at right angles to the way it should, they would have to remove some of my jaw bone, break the tooth and remove the fragments. In the trade, this is known as “horizontally impacted”. Apparently as wisdom teeth go, this really was going to be the most painful removal he could possibly do. It was a shame that they couldn’t have shown me the x-rays last time.

 

So I’d found myself in a rather impossible position. Had I known just what a difficult procedure it was going to be (involving removal of bone) I would have thought twice about it, and would probably have opted for a general anaesthetic at the hospital. But by the time he’d finally explained all of this, the anaesthetist was waiting and I’d already paid up.

Oh well, having psyched myself up to have it done today, and having planned for the only time I could get time off work, and also bearing in mind the thing has been problematical for some time; I decided to get it over with. The anaesthetist put a needle in the back of my hand, and…. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t all that good. They told me that I would be aware of what the dentist was doing, but afterwards I wouldn’t remember any of it. They lied.

I’m not sure why they blindfolded me for the procedure, and whilst I could feel the pressure of his pulling and prodding, it didn’t bother me that much at the time. Eventually the job was done, and I had hoped to have a photograph of the offending tooth for today’s blog picture, but since the thing came out in fragments, that wasn’t possible. They then gave me pain killers, two different antibiotics and two different mouth washes and sent me on my way. Well, not so much sent me on my way as gave er indoors TMstrict instructions for my supervision for the next day or so. I’m not to be left unattended in case the drugs have unexpected side effects.

 

I wasn’t allowed to walk home from the dentist. er indoors TM was under orders to drive me home. Bearing in mind the need to turn the car round it actually took longer to drive home than it would have to walk.

Daddies Little Angel TM  then took over my supervision whilst I slept in front of DVDs on the telly, and then “My Boy TM ” came home early. He’d told his work he was doing “Dad-Watch” and he promptly went to sleep.

 

Right now it’s all rather sore and swollen, which I suppose is only to be expected. The surgery say they will phone tomorrow to make an appointment to take the stitches out.

I’ve blogged about my dentist before. For a long time I’ve not been happy with them. And today hasn’t enamoured me to them at all. Let’s look at today’s episode: When my wisdom tooth was first playing up, the dentist was rather dismissive (see blog entry for 2 November). It was still playing up a fortnight later (see blog entry for 18 November) when the stand-in dentist made it clear that the removal of a wisdom tooth would be a hospital job. And then the surgery phoned me back a week later (24 November) to ask why I wanted to go to the hospital. They seemed to take offence that I didn’t want them to do the job. They made it clear that they could do the job easily, and so I booked the appointment. All they told me was that my dental policy wouldn’t cover the work and so I’d have to pay, and that I’d need someone to be with me for the day after the extraction.

There was no mention that it was an impacted wisdom tooth, or that the thing would have to be broken up in situ and removed in fragments. Or that I had to fast before the procedure. I’ve had a pretty major procedure done which, on reflection, I would rather have had done under a general anaesthetic at the hospital.

 

Meanwhile in lego-land, “Gervais” is trying to cross the road. Either that, or he has another reason to be waiting for a red light….

 

1 comments 

 

 

10 December 2009 (Thursday) - Spam and Sussex

 

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My gob isn’t quite as sore as it was last night, even though it has swollen quite impressively. Should any of my loyal readers see me over the next few days, please resist the urge to tell me I’ve got chocolate smeared around the right side of my mouth. It might look like the remains of Cadbury’s best, but it’s not. It’s bruising. I’m reliably informed that the swelling will subside, and it will all be worth it in the end. Right now, I’m not so sure. Neither, it would seem, is expert opinion. Whilst extraction of wisdom teeth is the norm in the US, over here in the UK it would seem that the best advice is only to extract them when they become particularly troublesome. Well, it was painful, but not as painful as when it’s not there any more.

Today the dentist’s phoned up to ask how I was. That was nice of them. I’ve got to go back to have the stitches taken out, so they’ve booked me an appointment for two week’s time.

 

I’ve noticed that for the last week or so I haven’t been receiving anywhere near the amount of spam emails that I normally get. From having several hundred emails a day of which I only want half a dozen, I’ve gone to only having three or four emails per day. I’ve also noticed that I haven’t been receiving emails I would expect to get (for example ones from the kite club).

So I logged into my Orange account. For some reason known only to themselves, they have decided to bin anything that their filters think is spam. Which is very helpful of them, but I would rather have the emails in my mailwasher and decide for myself which are spam and which are not. So I’ve reset the settings.

Over the last ten days the email server has decided to label over eight thousand emails as spam. I started to wade through them this morning, but after half an hour I gave up and pressed the “delete” button. I suspect I’ve chucked out some emails I might actually have wanted that were in with that lot. If any of my loyal readers feel I haven’t replied to one of their emails recently, that’s probably the reason. Sorry…

 

Several of my relatives have joined the Facebook group: “If you're from Sussex, you're just better than everyone else”. Whilst I can’t speak for the entire county, whilst reading the thing, it struck a chord. It wasn’t until I moved away from Sussex to another county that I realised that during my time in Hastings I’d developed a serious “little Englander” mentality. Whilst not everyone from my home town is “Royston Vasey”, there is certainly something very introspective and maybe even xenophobic about so many native-born Hastonians of my acquaintance.

Take the story in the newspapers last May when Shepherd Neame dared to brew an ale for the Jack in the Green day. The locals were up in arms. There was serious resentment. What were a Kent brewer doing daring to get involved? Surely everyone would want to drink good old Harvey’s Sussexale!! Odd how none of them realise that there are precious few pubs in their town that aren’t owned by a Kentish brewer.

Or the traditional Hastings sea front of which the town is so proud. From my time in the restaurant trade, I know that there are very few businesses there which are not owned by Italian or Greek immigrants.

And why is it that so many of my friends and relatives in Eastern East Sussex think nothing of driving to Brighton, but baulk at the thought of coming to visit me. A shorter distance, an easier drive, but because it’s in another county, they see it as being on the far side of the moon.

Or when I’m in Hastings and meet family or old friends, they always ask me where I’m staying. When I say that I’m only there for the day, so many of them look at me as though I would be mad to make that journey in a day.

I have blogged in the past about how we should be looking to do away with national barriers. Some parts of the world (and parts so close to home) are still so far away from that ideal. (I realise that I have several loyal readers who hail from the county I’m dissing - perhaps they might like to comment…)

 

Meanwhile “Gervais” would seem to have found another friend. This one is also into uniforms, and sports a nice satchel. He also has a beard, and seeing how most people shaved their beards off ten days ago, he must be a “proper beardie”. Perhaps he likes real ale?

 

 

11 December 2009 (Friday) - Beer... At Any Time

 

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Being on a late start today I had some time, and so finally got round to phoning Shepherd Neame to ask about this year’s porter. Disaster!! – they have decided to do the Xmas Ale instead of the porter. Xmas ale is OK, but you can’t beat the black stuff.

(For ten points can any of my loyal readers tell me in which pub the above photo of the Shepherd Neame pump clips was taken)

 

Talking of beer, whilst I had a few minutes, I had a look at the “Beer in the Evening” website. It’s always been one of my favourite places on the Internet. You can review pubs and see what other people think of pubs you might want to visit. Once upon a time you could even suggest pubs to them and they would add them, but the current management of the site has chosen not to bother with that any more. I suppose it’s got such a major database of pubs already that it attracts sufficient revenue from the advertising. And so they don’t need to bother adding more pubs. Which is a shame. To the first time visitor, it’s quite an impressive website, but once you’ve been there a few times you see that the people who own the site are actually quite cheeky.

They rely on unpaid volunteers (i.e. me) to provide the reviews which make their website worth bothering with. In the last month over three thousand reviews of pubs have been put up by roving reporters like “Yours Truly”, but the site management have only added two new pubs. I suggested one in July (White Horse Bilsington), and it’s still not been added.

If you have a look on their website’s forum you can see the list of pubs waiting to be added. There are suggestions from two years ago that still haven’t been actioned. Plenty of people (including myself) have volunteered to help clear the backlog of pubs to be added, but for some reason the chap who owns the site has (very rudely) turned down all offers of help. Oh well, if pubs continue to close at the current rate, sooner or later he’ll have to start adding more pubs to the website.

 

And so back to work. Perhaps I should have taken another day off sick, but it’s the Xmas party tonight and I’d agreed to work the late shift since on one else wanted to. Bearing in mind my recent run-ins with management perhaps I shouldn’t be so helpful, but then, that’s the kind of guy I am.

 

Meanwhile “weirdie beardie” has got into his car and left “Gervais” in the lurch. “Gervais” doesn’t seem to care – he still has “Ginge” and “Old Bill” on the scene, and seems very content to be pushing the button.

 

 

12 December 2009 (Saturday) - Ladders, Pamper Parties, Stuff

 

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er indoors TM had her works Xmas do last night, and so woke me at 3am by coming home “quietly”. I now see where the first fruit of my loin gets his “ninja-like stealth”. She woke me again at 8am with perhaps the world’s most foul “Dutch oven”. How ladylike(!) Whilst she cleared off out to flog candles at a “Pamper Day”, I ate breakfast. I had toast and coffee – my first solid food for three days. Oh, it was lovely. I’m sure that I’ve lost weight over the last few days, only having eaten soup and porridge.

 

The postman delivered the morning’s mail. One Xmas card, and two slips to say we had stuff waiting at the sorting office. Stuff that didn’t have enough stamps on it. So I drove up to Tannery Lane, and narrowly avoiding crashing into the normal person coming the opposite way (woops!), I took my place in the queue. As always when I take I.D., they weren’t fussed about I.D., and I paid £2.34 to get two cards identical to the one they were quite happy to deliver. I could complain, but it would achieve nothing. I shall just bill my mother (!)

 

Whilst the rain held off, I kicked “My Boy TM ” out of bed, and with a ladder borrowed from a neighbour, I had a look at my flat roof. It’s still leaking a bit. It was too wet to re-proof it, but I couldn’t see any cracks or holes. I can only assume that water is getting in under a tile near the front. There is a gap where water might conceivably be getting in. When it’s dry I’ll get back up there and pack it with jollop. In the meantime I took the opportunity to scrape out the gutters (yuk!) We had a card through the door a week ago from some chap who was offering to clean out the gutters for twenty quid. I did the job in less than ten minutes. Perhaps I could do gutters – it might be a nice little earner.

 

And then I wandered down the road. er indoors TM had a stall at a “Pamper Day”, which was being run by the same people who did the psychic fair a few weeks ago. Bearing in mind what a laugh (!) that was, I thought I’d have a look at today’s performance. They’d all set up shop at 10am, and when I sauntered in at mid day I was told that I was the day’s first punter. I’m afraid many of my loyal readers missed a treat today. The “Pamper Day” was brilliant, and the candle stall was the centre of attraction. But it was up against some pretty stiff competition, with Indian head massages (five quid), beads and orchids for sale (overpriced), aura photography (fifteen quid) and someone who’d fiddle with your feet for three quid. I couldn’t understand why the general public weren’t there in droves. And the refreshments - a cup of coffee in a chipped mug was only a pound. I can imagine the executives at Starbucks quaking in their corporate boots. And there was even a bored-looking fit bird in the corner that you could sniff around, should you feel so inclined.

 

Home for dinner. A sandwich and a bottle of pop. It’s so good to be able to eat again. And then I dropped the most recent fruit of my loin in town whilst I went to Sainsbury’s for Xmas champagne. I say “Xmas champagne” – it’s actually porter, but it is in a big bottle, and my mother will never know the difference (with any luck).

 

I then took “Daddies Little Angel TM  to the Pamper Day – I didn’t want her to miss out on the fun. Her arrival doubled the day’s attendees, and she made the first (and only) purchase of the day that wasn’t made by a stallholder. Some beads. And then back home to waste an hour or so in NeverWinter whilst waiting for my beloved to return home. “Pamper Day” was abandoned early, and then we went shopping. First to Tesco for the boring stuff, and then to B&Q, ostensibly for light bulbs, but whilst we were in there I got the most wonderful singing reindeer. I have never seen such high quality tat in my life. It’s brill!!

 

And then another evening wasted in NeverWinter. In retrospect I spent a lot of today being rather bored, but it’s the boring dull days that make the other days seem so good..

 

Meanwhile in another plane of reality, “weirdie beardie” has been mistaken for a real postman. The Bulgarian alien has a package he wants dealt with.

 

1 comments 

 

13 December 2009 (Sunday) - More Decorating

 

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I couldn’t sleep last night – wide awake from 5am onwards. Which wasn’t bad really, considering how I’ve suffered with insomnia in the past. I then checked my emails over brekkie. One of my “Facebook Friends” (a friend of a friend of someone I once met at a kite festival) has emailed me to ask me to join a campaign to get Morris Dancing added as part of the Olympic Games for 2012. He’s serious about it, too. He’s no longer on my Facebook list. My stance on Morris Dancers is well known...

 

I then spent a little time looking at the “Beer in the Evening” website again. I have this vague plan to put together an evening’s booze-up for the Kent-based BITE roving reporters. There’s a decent pub in Maidstone which might be a good venue, but I’m just a tad nervous about actually organising it. You never know what freaks might turn up. Then again, I did something similar for trekkies in the Ashford area sixteen years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Maybe if any of my loyal readers who’ve ever contributed comments to “Beer in the Evening” would like to come along for moral support (I’ll buy you a pint!) I might just do it.

 

And then back to the coast (an hour late) to help with the ongoing decorating project. We might have got there earlier, had we not wasted time arguing about the exact sound made by windscreen wipers (Mip, Mip). Today we got the banister, sanded, varnished and painted. The varnish was“natural oak”, and we didn’t get too much of it up the walls or over the floor. Still, we’ve got a tin of left over Belgian Truffle” so we can do a cover-up in a few weeks time if need be.

Daddies Little Angel TM ” excelled herself by dipping her paint brush in her tea, and there was a minor mishap as I managed to pull down the phone cable, and then another mishap as the cable was re-secured by nailing through it. But the Internet still worked, so any damage can’t be that serious. One of our number smeared his blood all over the ceiling – we will sort that out when we go back in the New Year to do the glossing.

 

There was sad news – apparently Daphne has died. I say “sad news” – obviously this is only sad if you actually knew Daphne. In the interests of giving my loyal readers the full facts, I would like to be able to report who Daphne was. I couldn’t get any more information on her other than the fact that she once shopped in the co-op in Cheriton. So I managed to narrow it down slightly.

 

I then rigged Facebook to give me a daily horoscope. Apparently I’m going to surprise family and co-workers with my moxie today. I’m left wondering what a “moxie” is. My lucky time was said to be 4pm – it wasn’t.

 

Meanwhile a new chap has arrived in lego-land. He’s wearing a chef’s hat, obviously likes a pint, and bearing in mind he’s matey with the snowman, he is presumably good with snow. I wonder how he will get on?

 

 2 comments 

 

 

 

14 December 2009 (Monday) - Stuff

 

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I’ve often blogged about the astronomy club, I’m very proud to be a member of it. But it’s not the first astronomical society of which I’ve been a member. The first one was some thirty five years ago, at the Hastings Academy for Budding Geniuses. And on reflection it was in many ways similar to the one in which I’m now rather active. That club ran interesting and informative sessions which were held inside (where it was warm and at sensible hours)where I could learn something about a fascinating subject in comfort. And there were episodes of stark misery spent outside in cold muddy fields after midnight (usually in the rain) staring through an unfocussed telescope, whilst listening to the physics teacher persuading no one that the clouds would break soon.

One such episode nearly happened last night. According to the Internet, last night was the Geminid meteor shower. I stuck my head out the back door. It was cold and cloudy, so I came back inside and had another cup of coffee. I expect we will get a video show of the shower at the club meeting on Friday, but I can’t help but wonder how many people up and down the country stood outside in the cold, shivering, desperately hoping for a break in the clouds.

There are two types of astronomer. Those who look through telescopes, and those who look at “Google Images”. I know which camp I’m in.

 

Having re-set my spam filtering last week, today I got an email fromFreecycle

. I haven’t had one for ages – they must have been eaten with all the other stuff I never got. Freecycle are a funny bunch. In theory you can use their website to unload the tat you don’t want onto someone who might want it, and similarly get stuff that you want from people who would otherwise throw it away.

In practice they are a sad bunch of “jobsworths” who cling to silly tedious rules that they don’t actually understand themselves. I remember once trying to use them to try to unload a whole load of soil that I excavated for a garden feature (see blog entry for 15 September 2007). It took me several attempts to word the advert in such a way that they would publish the thing. I would send them the advert, and they would pedantically send it back for petty infractions of their rules. Very apologetic, explaining that they didn’t make the rules, they didn’t see the need for the specific rule of which I’d fallen foul, but would I word this bit differently, or that bit differently.

And then the people who use the site - I was giving away an amount of soil that would cost hundreds of pounds, were you to buy it from a garden centre. You’d think people would snap up the deal. I got three replies, all from silly people who were furious that I wasn’t prepared to deliver the cubic metres of soil to precisely where they wanted it. One chap was rather indignant that I wouldn’t bring the stuff to him, asking me how on Earth would he transport soil? Much the same way that I would, I should imagine.Some people just want more than something for nothing.

Today’s email showed me that nothing had changed with Freecycle. The person who’d written it mentioned a previous missive he’d sent out that had caused offence, and was taking the line of being surprised that anyone could ever take offence. Surely because he was the Freecycle moderator, he could say what he wanted? He was also having a moan about people using the Freecycle site to get stuff which they were then passing on as Xmas gifts. If someone saw something I might like on Freecycle and got it for me, then I would be happy. But the administrators of the site would not be. They disapprove of what they describe as “motley grabbers”. Strange people!

Meanwhile in lego-land “Gervais” has found a florist, and is buying flowers. Perhaps he’s taken a shine to the chef so recently arrived. That’s nice….

1 comments 

15 December 2009 (Tuesday) - Cold

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Winter has finally arrived, as my car was covered in ice this morning. And again I had the same tired old conversation with the normal person who lives up the road. Whenever the cars are iced over, he gets up at silly o’clock, and scrapes away at his car with an ice scraper for hours. I come out at my normal time and pour a bottle of cold water over the ice on my car, which melts it. And every time he gets very aggressive because if I do that, he maintains it will shatter the windscreen. The first time he told me this rubbish was shortly after I got my Espace seven years ago. And he’s been obsessive about the subject ever since. You have to admire the faith he has in his belief.

As my course of antibiotics has now run out and the swelling has subsided somewhat, my face has now started to ache. I’m wondering if I did the right thing having that tooth out last week. The stitches are still in place and are annoying, it still hurts to open my mouth to any extent, and there is a sizable solid lump in my lower jaw. For some reason, this lump doesn’t correspond with where the extracted tooth once was. I expect it will be worthwhile in the end, just not quite yet.

Last week I bought a “lucky dip” lottery ticket. I checked my numbers today. You would think that eventually I would get at least one of the numbers, wouldn’t you? Last Saturday’s jackpot was a measly two million quid. I say “measly” – I wouldn’t mind winning it, but when the thing first started, if you won you would be looking at nearer ten million quid. I suppose that, like myself, the general public has got rather disillusioned with the thing. The catchphrase “It Could Be You !! has turned out not to be the case. Is it that unreasonable for me to want to win several million pounds, and to have a cob-on that I haven’t?

Meanwhile in lego-land, “wierdie beardie” and “the chef“ are having a littletête-à-tête on the newly installed park bench. How sweet.

1 comments 

16 December 2009 (Wednesday) - Back to the Chokey

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Regular readers of this blog will know that one of its many features is a“Dates for the Diary” section. So often I find myself forgetting what’s going on, or agreeing to do several things that are all on the same day. Because of this, I’ve listed plans up to a year in advance, so I (and my loyal readers)can plan work shifts, rotas and holidays.

Why can’t everyone else be as organised? One of my favourite pubs is planning a beer festival – it starts tomorrow and runs for a week. Now, a beer festival like this must take some organising, so why didn’t they give me more notice? Having written quite a rant for today’s blog entry, I then went through my inbox – after all I get weekly emails from that pub. I then deleted the rant I’d written. Perhaps I should check my emails more often, or at least actually read them. If any of my loyal readers fancy a pint this Sunday afternoon, please let me know. After all, it would be rude not to support the booze-up.

I then popped to the post office to collect another Xmas card that didn’t have enough postage on it. Royal Mail must be coining it in. And then to the chokey for the ninth time. We were a tad late leaving what with trains being delayed. Today’s lame excuse was a lack of serviceable carriages – that’s a new one. And then McDonalds let me down – usually a never-fail place to get material for CrackWatch, today had very scant pickings. But the scran was good. I had something new – the McChicken McWrap and the McCheesy McChips. I’m not sure I could stretch my mouth round a Quarter Pounder just yet.

And then we walked up to HMP Slade. The WAGs were rather disappointing this time. In the past there has been what I would best describe as “boilers” who may once have been attractive in the early 70s, but no one has told them that was nearly forty years ago. And there have been the fit Russians. Today the “Great Unwashed” were only exceptional for their mediocrity.

My ninth visit, and yet another procedure for booking in. It’s never been the same process twice. Only one check-in this time, and no sniffer dog. And very soon we were in with “Norman Stanley” who, whilst being in fine form, did seem to be rather noticeably greyer. Perhaps he needs a haircut? We laughed for two hours, almost but not quite getting him to blow Fanta out of his nose. And all too soon we were hoiked out. Fifteen minutes earlier than usual, because tonight was the chokey’s carol service. You don’t think of prisons as having carol services, do you?

And then home, through the snow. The forecast snow has arrived, and we walked back through a light white dusting. There are parts of the world which contend with metres of snow for months at a time, but over here in the UK, the mere mention of the word is enough to bring the country grinding to a halt.

Meanwhile whilst everyone else is having a whale of a time in lego-land, spare a thought for the poor chap who has to do all the sweeping up. Mind you, he’s not only wearing orange dungarees, but also looking rather proud about it. Perhaps he’s just a little bit special…

17 December 2009 (Thursday) - Carol Singers

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As a child, one of the highlights of my Xmas season was Carol Singing. Whilst still at primary school, every evening from early December to Xmas Eve was spent in that way. Not out of any religious or pious reasons, but in an attempt to earn cash. Together with Philip Apps (whatever happened to him?), I had a scheme. During that period we would systematically visit every house within a two mile radius of home (at least twice), and stand on their doorsteps, squalling Xmas carols.

Most people would not answer the door, either being out, or pretending to be out. Many people would politely decline our serenades. Some would tell us to clear off. One memorable chap from School Road in Ore Villagechased us up the street, shouting obscenities after us as we ran away as fast as our legs would carry us. And you had to be sure that you weren’t going to be on any other Carol Singers’ patch. As a species, Carol Singers were notoriously territorial, and more than one evening featured fisticuffs with rival bands fearful that we were encroaching on their earnings.

But occasionally, just occasionally, we’d find someone who would take pity on us and give us a few pennies. Maybe one house in ten would cough up. And maybe we’d only get five pence. But those five pences soon added up. In those days forty two pence would get you two pieces of chicken and some chips from the KFC. We would go Carol Singing straight after school, and keep on until we had enough money for our chicken supper. Happy days!!

We had Carol Singers round last night. I gave them a quid. Someone has to keep the old traditions alive.

And then to Folkestone for tea. You can’t beat a bit of Chinese and some profiteroles washed down with a bottle of porter. I then variously kicked ass and got my ass kicked in “Mario Kart”, and then as is traditional on these occasions, slept for an hour or so.

Meanwhile in lego-land, him with the orange dungarees is pushing a wagon. He might do better being on it…

 2 comments 

18 December 2009 (Friday) – Snow

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The view from my front door was so beautiful this morning. It only took a couple of minutes to pull the snow off of my car, and off I went. The car slipped a tiny bit as I drove over the snow in the gutter, and there were a couple of icy bits as I went down Beaver Road, but the main roads were eminently passable. The hospital car park was icy in places, but it wasn’t too bad. For several years I’ve never driven in the snow, always walking to work instead, but I shall drive in future.

Perhaps I’m just an old cynic, but I spent today at work in an “I told you so!!” mood. Many years ago when I first took on the responsibility of appointing new staff, I had only one criterion on which I would evaluate potential applicants. Taking as read that someone could do the job and wasn’t a total spanner, I would judge people on how close they lived to where they would be given a job. I never got to apply this criterion though. Apparently it’s discriminatory. The fact that its converse is discriminatory against people like me who live near their place of work is irrelevant. And so we struggled through the day at half-staff on account of the arctic-like conditions which prevented people travelling across the county.

I’m told there were nearly four inches of snow in Maidstone. Oh, I get so cross. One inch of snow is all that is needed for the country to grind to a halt. I see from Facebook that all my younger friends have had a day off school. Which is a shame because it’s clear from Facebook that many of them could do with more days at school.

I’m really hacked off with the snow. I had all sorts of plans for this weekend. The first (astronomy club) has been cancelled, and tomorrow’s trip to Surreyis looking decidedly iffy. And as for whether I will get to the beer festival is anyone’s guess.

Tonight was supposed to be the last astronomy club of the year. This time last year the astronomy club was beginning to eventually come together, and we had our last meeting in Stanhope. This year the club has moved to Woodchurch, tripled its membership, had all sorts of talks, staged a one-day event, and met Sir Patrick Moore. It’s really taken off – a shame tonight’s planned party had to be abandoned because of snow.

Meanwhile in lego-land something odd has been found. It’s certainly foxed“Ginge”, Gervais”, and all the gang. I think it’s something to do with the Bulgarian alien…

19 December 2009 (Saturday) - Sumners Ponds (in the snow)

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When my number is up and I finally meet my Maker, one of my (many)suggestions I shall give to the Almighty is that when he gets round to making “Humanity Mk II”, he might care to do something different with the entire concept of “sleep”. It’s a simple idea in theory. You go to bed at 11 o’clock, and kip round till 7am. Then you get up and go about your daily round. If only it were that straight forward.

In practice, it’s somewhat different. I could go to bed anytime from 6pm to 2am. It doesn’t matter when I go to kip. I nod off within a few minutes, and then I’m fast asleep for three hours (if I’m lucky) and then I wake up and lie there, wide awake. Most mornings I get up before 6am because I’m bored. I’m typing this part of today’s rant at silly am, because I’m fed up with lying wide awake in bed. I find myself doing ironing and watching all sorts of rubbish on the telly just to pass the time. And then (what really hacks me off!!) I go about my daily round nodding off at embarrassingly frequent intervals. For my Xmas pressie a few years ago I got tickets for a Londontheatre. I wanted to see the show, it was a brill show – I still fell asleep. I won’t bother going to the cinema because no matter how much I want to see the film, I’ll sleep through it. I’m getting rather fed up with apologising for nodding off at the most inopportune times.

It’s not as though I have any control over it. Perhaps the Almighty might consider what I’ve got on my central heating – some sort of timer switch to regulate the amount of sleep you get. You would go to bed whenever, and set your timer for ten minutes before brekkie. I’d be up for it.

To work, which (apart from a fried breakfast) was dull, and then home again to check weather and travel arrangements to get to Horsham. A gaggle of assorted friends and acquaintances are camping out this weekend (they must love it!) and this evening they were planning to stage an Xmas dinner, so we’d said we’d be along. We set off at 4.30pm, and made good time, arriving at Sumners Ponds at 6.15pm. We navigated the ice, and sat and chatted with friends in John’s caravan for half an hour before making our way to dinner.

Thirty-odd of us sat down for Xmas dinner, and I have to admit I didn’t know half the people there. It was rather embarrassing that everyone knew me, and greeted me as an old friend. I recognised some of them as people on my Facebook list – now I know who they are.

A good time was had by all – feathers were sold in aid of the chosen charity, we chatted for ages, and then home. The homeward journey was somewhat tricky, having to navigate the A20 rather than the motorway because of “Operation Stack”, but bearing in mind the county was impassable yesterday, the roads were fine.

Meanwhile in lego-land there has been a development with the unidentified object, Whilst we still don’t know what it is, someone with a rather unfortunate haircut has pranged his remote-controlled car into it. Let’s hope neither is too badly scarred by the event (either physically or mentally)...

1 comments 

20 December 2009 (Sunday) - Drinking to Excess

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Despite a 1am bed time, as always I was up with the lark. I wrapped a few Xmas pressies, and then set off to the garage for screen wash. My screen washers weren’t working too well (read “at all”) last night, and I was having visions of the car’s screen washing circuit being knacked. I desperately hoped that all that was wrong was the need for more wash jollop. The vicar was clanging his bell as I set off, and I was amazed at how many people were filling their cars with petrol at 9am on a Sunday morning.

It didn’t take too long reading the manual to figure out how to open the bonnet on my car – I’ve had the thing for eighteen months, and I’ve never opened the bonnet before. And sure enough, topping up the screen wash jollop worked wonders. I now have a clean windscreen. Mind you, I don’t know how long it will last – I say “topping up” – the instructions said to pour the stuff in until no more would go. I poured in two litres and it didn’t come close.

Earlier in the week I griped about what short notice I’d been given about the FILO’s Xmas beer festival. Three of us set off at 11am for Hastings, and meeting my brother on the way, we were soon tucking into the Dark Star’s double chocolate stout. If you like chocolate and/or beer, this was the nectar of the gods. Anyone who knows beer will realise how good the Dark Star brewery is, and our second pint was their Xmas offering – “Winter Solstice”. For the third pint we changed breweries to Brains - “Party Popper”. At this point I needed a tiddle, and finding a table was free, we all moved inside into the warm. A friend from way back when joined us, and we then had dinner – possibly the best omelette I have ever eaten. And then some of the FILO’s own beers; a pint of “Cardinal” – a wonderful home-made porter, and a pint of “Crofter” – a smashing beer, gallons of which have accompanied me camping on several occasions over the last few years.

We got chatting with the barman who soon realised that if we didn’t actually know anything about beer, we certainly knew how to pretend we did. He told us of another pub nearby which was trying to establish itself as a “real ale”pub. The Dolphin has been on my list of places to visit for some time, and it is now firmly on the “Hastings list”. Being the only place where I have ever seen “Espresso” on the hand pump, a pint of coffee-flavoured beer was bought for everyone. Whether or not they liked coffee. And then a pint of“Rosey Nosey” – it is Xmas after all. At this point I got the cigars in. I don’t often smoke, but I do enjoy a cigar on special occasions, and today had certainly become a special occasion. A second pint of Espresso”completed the first gallon of ale, and it was at this point that we said goodbye to my brother, who was probably in trouble at home, being more than two hours late home.

The original plan was to have a couple of beers in the FILO, and take the 3.30pm train home. By now it was 5.30pm, and we set off to the chip shop for tea. And thet to the London Trader to see a band. I’ve know my mate Rick for over thirty five years, and his band (the 1066 Rockitmen) were playing tonight. I didn’t know that they were, but finding out just rounded the day off. With a pint of Directors in my hand, I stood at the front and shouted along with the band.

All too soon they were done, and waving goodbye to Kev and Jane we set off for the station. Taking a train some five hours than that which was originally intended, we arrived home at 10pm to find that whilst cleaning the bathroom, “Daddies Little Angel TM  had managed to block the bath drain pipe. Plumbing is never my strong point, and plumbing after a gallon or so of ale would never be on my top ten list of things to do, but I eventually cleared the plughole.

Now to have words with that girl….

Meanwhile on a better plane of existence, whilst some cry over the demise of their remote controlled car, Ginge is showing off his skills, having set up a slalom course for his remote-controlled car. Showing off is never a good thing to do. It will all end in tears. I wonder whose….

1 comments

21 December 2009 (Monday) - Dentist, Facebook, Axe Murderers

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I woke with something of a sore throat this morning. Too much shouting at the 1066 Rockitmen last night, perhaps?

I was on a late shift today, but I was up early. Being somewhat later home than planned last night I needed to print off “letter to the chokey #48”. This one includes a festive crossword: “What one of the three kings of Orient was on whilst blowing his hooter (7)”. Easy (!)

To the dentist to have my stitches taken out. Oh, the relief of not having that inch of thread inside my mouth any more!! The fangquack seemed rather nervous when I walked in, but seemed relieved that I was still alive. He claimed that my tooth extraction was amongst the most traumatic of those he’d ever done. What he’d planned to do in fifteen minutes took nearer forty. I suppose he says that to everyone. But he seemed pleased with how it was healing up. It still hurts to open my gob to any extent, but bearing in mind what I’ve had done, that’s only to be expected. It will get better with time. I hope.

I then spent ten minutes scraping the ice off of my car. Perhaps eight minutes too long. There are those up my road with whom I am not on the best of terms. I watched her scrape an area on her windscreen clear of ice. This area was about a square foot in size. She then got in her car and drove off. She couldn’t see out of either side of her car, or out of the rear window, but she could see straight in front, and that was good enough.

And then home where I realised I’d been tricked. This morning I’d added someone to my Facebook list. I added this person in good faith, and seeing that I’d added him, so did a dozen of my friends, and so did members of my family. However, on closer inspection, “Dick Ammes isn’t a real person – it’s a manufactured, very nasty personal attack on a very good friend of mine. “Dick Ammes is no longer on my Facebook list. I emailed all mutual friends, and was amazed at the response. Within five minutes half a dozen people had kicked him off their list too. Should any of my loyal readers be asked to add this person to their list, please tell him to get knotted.

Meanwhile in lego-land the festive spirit is somewhat marred by the advent of a mad axe-murderer. Whether he murders people with axes, or just murders axes remains to be seen…

2 comments

22 December 2009 (Tuesday) - Secret Santas

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If any of my loyal readers had called up anything on Google today, they would have seen the logo was “Happy Holidays”. A lot of people have already started their Xmas holidays, including the first fruit of my loin and my beloved. I’m not jealous… much.

In retrospect I got into my line of work by accident, and then having spent so much time studying for the exams it seemed a shame to change careers. In retrospect, when I was younger, had I known then what I do now, I doubt I would have gone into hospital work. I don’t know what I would have done, but something which occasionally closes would be good. I’m getting fed up with not finishing until late on Xmas eve, and being back a week before everyone else goes back to work. In my line of work I can (and do)get called any time of the day of night. As a teenager I seriously considered joining the police. I’m now wishing that I had – the hypothetical P.C. Badger would be looking at retiring in five years time.

Talking of which, to work for the Xmas bash. I got a bottle of Xmas ale, an Xmas pudding and a badger puppet in the “secret santa draw. Obviously bought by someone who knows me – I’m rather pleased with what I got. It’s so easy to think “Oh stuff it” and buy socks or chocolates. Someone’s obviously thought about me in buying this pressie.

And then home for another Xmas celebration. For some sixteen and a half years, every Tuesday night has been special, and tonight was no exception. Far too much to drink (the Imperial Stout at 10.5% was a mistake!) and another secret santa pressie – another excellent one. To bed with the makings of an excellent hangover.

Meanwhile in lego-land, after a week’s solid drinking, “Gervais” is playing with a chain saw. The rest of the crew now are literally dicing with death. On the one hand a homicidal axe-murderer, on the other a drunken duckie. Which way would you go…?

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23 December 2009 (Wednesday) - Winter Wonderland

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A month or so ago, er indoors TM suggested that it might be fun to go to the “Winter Wonderland” at Leeds Castle. It was fifteen quid a ticket (which was a tad steep) but it was fifteen quid I’d only otherwise spend on beer. Bearing in mind the state of my head after last night’s session involving Dark Star’s Russian Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV), perhaps I might be better advised spending less money on the black stuff (!)

Seven of us met up in the car park at Leeds Castle and took the road train up to the castle. Oh, it was so pretty, lit up in the snow with the moat frozen. We checked in, got given some mulled wine and a mince pie, and then Rumplestiltskin walked us up to the reception rooms, and entranced the children (of all ages) with his tale of woe.

And then one of the Brothers Grimm (well, a sister Grimm, actually) took over, and led us though loads of fairy tales. Hansel & Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast. So many, I can’t remember them all. But everyone was entranced. I got to try (and failed to) wake the sleeping beauty, and in the “make your own fairy tale” I got to be the evil Sir Dave who was eaten by a vegetarian shark. It was a magical evening – I am definitely going again next year.

You can see the piccies here.

Meanwhile in lego-land, those with choppers (both manual and mechanical)are about to procure an Xmas tree for the rest of the crew. For what it’s worth, my money is on the tree…

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24 December 2009 (Thursday) - Xmas Eve

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Whilst the rest of the universe is enjoying being off work, “Yours Truly” is still hard at it. I mustn’t grumble. Over the last few weeks I’ve made mention of holiday plans, and quite a few people have commented on how much annual leave I get. On reflection I’d rather work on Xmas Eve, and have a day off when I want it. After all, those who finished last Friday and go back in the New Year are effectively losing seven days holiday.

Being on a late start I had a while to waste in NeverWinter, and then I had a nose bleed. I used to suffer with them all the time – they are quite a rare occurrence these days. The postie then brought a letter from my dentist. The appointment I’d made in January has been changed. They *always* do that – this time, it’s just an hour later than originally planned. I can live with that.

In years gone by, everyone at work went down the pub at lunchtime on Xmas Eve. Today, where there could have been over thirty of us, we had five. A sign of the times, I suppose. Still, I got a couple of pints of MasterBrew out of the boss, so it can’t be all bad. I rather had a plan to go to midnight mass tonight, but for yet another year, none of my tribe were up for it. Shame !!!

Meanwhile, Santa’s come down the chimney. He’s brought presents for everyone in lego-land who’s been good. There’s going to be some disappointments….

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25 December 2009 (Friday) - Xmas Day

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Over the last few months and years I’ve occasionally mentioned about the anti-social church up the road which wakes me early on a Sunday morning. The god-botherers woke me again with their bell. At 11.55pm last night. They were clanging the thing at midnight. And then just as I was dozing off again, “Daddies Little Angel TM  texted me to tell me the god-botherers were clanging their bell…

I’ve never been able to sleep on Xmas morning – the excitement is always too much for me. As a child I was always woken by my Grandmother at about 3am on Xmas morning. I think it must be something genetic. So I was up at 5am. Writing a letter to the chokey, making rude crossword puzzles and watching telly. Waiting for everyone else to get out of their pits. In previous years I’ve given them until 9am, and then I’ve gone round the house clanging saucepans together. This year everyone was awake at 8.30am. We’d had an early morning phone call – one of “My Boy TM ” ‘s mates (an ex-cub) had gotten himself arrested last night for being drunk and disorderly in Maidstone. He’d been released from the cells this morning, and was wandering Maidstone with a hangover, no money, no idea where he was, no way of getting home, and no one but us who would answer his phone calls. Would we dispatch a rescue mission? There’s never a dull moment in my life

Whilst waiting for the tribe to assemble, we watched “Mr Hankey the Christmas Poo”, and then once the family were finally gathered together we had a major pressie opening session. I did all right, with several DVDs, a couple of gallons of decent ale and a couple of bottles of port. To say nothing of the socks, sweeties and theatre ticket. Oh – and the obligatory liquorice allsorts from the mother in law. Every Xmas since 1983 she’s got me a box of them. I wish she wouldn’t. I hate the things.

The plan was to be on the way to my brother’s house by 10am. At 10.30 “My Boy TM ” was cooking bacon sandwiches for everyone and the girls still weren’t dressed. We eventually set sail at 11am. Only an hour late.

Two days ago there was snow. I was *so* hoping for a white Xmas this year, but no luck. We soon arrived in Hastings and made short work of the first beer. And the second. Then sat down to some scoff. You can’t beat a turkey dinner. Suitably stuffed, we took the dog for a walk. As well as being Xmas, it was the dog’s birthday, so over a smashing bit of tea, we sang “Happy Birthday” to the dog. Santa visited, we played on the Wii, and we eventually waddled home to watch the Doctor Who Xmas special. It’s the best Doctor Who Xmas special they’ve ever done. Having said that, it’s not had much in the way of competition…

26 December 2009 (Sunday) - Boxing Day

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An unsettled night, what with guts and back aches. And then a wasted morning waiting (as always) for everyone else to get out of bed. Perhaps if people went to bed before dawn, then they wouldn’t need to spend all day sleeping. As I’ve mentioned before, I get the bare minimum time off over Xmas, and this morning I was seriously resenting wasting my precious time waiting for everyone else. (rant over...)

I think I ate too much yesterday – my innards have been rumbling all night and most of today. Which has its uses when subduing feral nephews. The threat of sitting on them and trumping on their heads is taken seriously when one is evidently “fermenting”. The early afternoon was spent at mother’s house scoffing more and more whilst playing on the Nintendo Wii. And then later we went round to the sister in laws’ house where I wound up the children, and beat the dog several times in “World Dog Wrestling Federation”.

I also got to meet my new nephew – “Nephew X”. He’s three years old, and because of various issues, social services have taken him from one set of in-laws and re-homed the lad with other in-laws. He’s a great lad, and far from being nervous with me (as I thought he might be), we got on like a house on fire. He’s coming camping with us over the summer. However, since many of my loyal readers will meet this boy, there’s something I need to explain.

Social services have made it very clear that for “child protection issues”, no photographs of “Nephew X” are to appear on the Internet. This is a definite no-no, and they are firm on the point. “Child protection issues” are something the geniuses at social services take seriously.

It would never have occurred to me that my putting a photograph of a nephew who lives thirty miles away and who I will see half a dozen times a year is bad. But what do I know? And seeing how I don’t wish to endanger his life, I will not put up any photos of him. And so I must reluctantly ask my loyal readers to do the same. Should you photograph the lad, please don’t put his photo on the Internet. It might kill him. Or so I’m told.

I must admit that I’m wondering what it is about “Nephew X” that makes him so susceptible to photography. After all I’ve plenty of other relatives who have survived having their photos taken.

And so home. And again, a wonderful Xmas, but again one spent driving here, there and thither. One year I would like one at home….

28 December 2009 (Monday) - Hever Castle

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Over breakfast I worked out our route to Hever Castle. The RAC Route Planner, and Google Maps gave rather different directions. My gut feeling agreed with Google, but we let the final choice be made by the scrat-nav. It took the route that Google Maps had come up with. Which was only to be expected. I can remember an incident featuring a broken down car awaiting pickup in Cheriton High Street. The RAC patrol drove the length of the A21 being unable to find Folkestone (!)

Usually whenever I plan anything, I tend to email everyone with my plans, but it was only when half way there that we realised both er indoors TM and I had assumed the other had emailed everyone. If any of my loyal readers would have liked to have come along today, I can only apologize. My bad.

Only slipping once on black ice, we met up in the car park at Hever and made our way in. The freezing weather had deterred most of the normal people, and once we’d been back to the cars a few times for hats, coats, gloves, and stuff, we set out round the grounds. There was a lovely “Keep off the Grass” sign. My standing behind it would make for an excellent photo, but I got caught by the nice lady, who told me off. Woops(!) We then tested the thickness of the ice on various ponds, streams, moats and rivers before finding the water maze. This too was frozen over, which made navigating the thing somewhat easier.

And then to the inside of the castle. Which was rather like the inside of most castles, really. Lots of paintings of dead dudes. There were several suits of armour, all of which seriously encased all of the body in metal, except for one vital area. Not one of the armours covered the “flowers and frolics”. In fact, all had a gaping hole where such defence might be expected. Shocking, really (!)

We then spent some time winding up the normal people by pointing out our relatives in the photos. Some of the American tourists seemed to believe us. Bless them. I must admit to a wry smile over the “posh family”Papa”and “Tarquin” strolled arrogantly into the castle, loudly wondering (in a very toffee-nosed accent) where “Mama” and “Rufus” were. “Mama” eventually showed up, pushing “Rufus” in a most decrepit push chair. None of the wheels matched, “Mama” was grumbling that the wheels kept sticking, and as she extracted “Rufus” from the thing, a screw fell out, and the whole contraption collapsed. I didn’t actually laugh out loud, but it was close.

On the way back to the car a passing child warned us about the volcanoes, and that we should look out for the lava. I think I must have missed those. All things considered, a good day out. You can see the photos of the dayhere. The only thing I’ll say against Hever Castle is the cost. Twelve quid per person is just the teensiest bit far too much. By the time you’ve paid out for their incredibly over-priced souvenirs you can end up seriously out of pocket.

And then for a spot of lunch. I’d asked the regulars contributors to the “Beer in the Evening” website for recommendations for a decent pub in the area, and I had four places suggested. We chose this place, and for the food, it’s up there with the best of pubs. The ale choice was a tad limited. They had two - Larkin’s “Traditional” isn’t a beer I’ve seen anywhere else, but everyone sells Harvey’s Best. I’ll score the place 7/10 – above average.

And as we had an hour before dark we had a look around Tunbridge Wells. Somewhere I’ve not been since a weekend’s holiday with the Boys Brigade in 1975. It’s quite a good place to go – I’d like to go back and spend a bit more time in some of the more weird and wonderful shops. We’ll do that next time.

And then home to find “My Boy TM ” sulking. For Xmas he’d received some expensive end tackle (a piscatorial term) and had been on a night fishing expedition to try it out. Overnight the pond froze over, and he had to wait for the ice to melt to be able to retrieve his apparatus. Oh, how I laughed…

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29 December 2009 (Tuesday) - The News

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(I *know* I’m in a minority with this one. Sorry to those of my loyal readers who disagree!)

The news today bears the sad tale of Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen who was executed in China this morning. This would seem to have touched a nerve with many people here in the UK, and (as always) I would seem to be in the minority.

I’m sorry, but unlike certain other prosecutions I could mention, this entire case has no grey areas at all. The chap was caught red-handed trying to bring a quarter of a million quid’s worth of heroin into China. He’s guilty. The Chinese take a firm line on drugs, and any student of history would know why. The drugs he was smuggling would ultimately cause misery for so many people. The world would be a better place without it, and without those smuggling the drugs.

There are those who oppose the death penalty on principle, claiming that killing the guilty is wrong, regardless of what the criminal has done. “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, or so I’m told. I can’t see the logic in this argument. It presupposes the death penalty is wrong. It is not. If one or two villains get strung up, publicly and without mercy, then potential miscreants will think twice about spoiling this world for everyone else.

From my own personal experience, a native Chinese person living in the UK(an ex-colleague) often told me he felt far safer back at home. England was a dangerous place. China was a safer place to be because they had far harsher punishments and a death penalty to deter the scum element. And so (or so he told me) crime of all sorts was far less common as a result.

In many ways it’s an extension of the corporal punishment in schools argument. When I was a lad, if you put your foot out of line, you got caned. One child had a sore bum for a day, and a thousand kids behaved themselves indefinitely. But how many canings took place? I can remember one during my six years at Hastings Academy for Budding Geniuses. That was all that was needed. There was order in the school. But look at the state of schools nowadays, thanks to the liberal policies of the last twenty years which have given the brats the right to do whatever they want to. I’ve blogged endlessly (in the past) about the anarchy in today’s classrooms. I’m sure that it my children had more to worry about from their teachers than moralising or a day’s suspension, then their exam results would have been somewhat better.

Whilst I sympathise with the philosophy that perhaps we shouldn’t bring ourselves down to the level of the scum, there is overwhelming evidence that lax law enforcement is actively encouraging lawlessness. Clemency on the part of society is taken as weakness by those who would exploit that society.

There is also the argument that the chap in question should be let off on the grounds of mental instability. There’s a knotty problem. The latest statistics show that one in four of us will have a mental illness at some point in our lives. Does this mean that at any given time a quarter of the population can’t tell right from wrong and therefore should be considered to be beyond the law?

I would pull the lever myself. I really would. And in doing so would be protecting my children, my family, my friends, and making a better world for humanity at large….

30 December 2009 (Wednesday) - A New Facebook Group

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I actually spent ages on yesterday’s blog entry trying to make it as(relatively) un-offending as possible. I was expecting quite a backlash of opinion. As it turns out, I’m not in such a small minority as it would seem. So far I’ve only heard one conversation taking the opposing view to the one I took yesterday.

I checked my emails this morning to find that (another) Facebook grouphas been started in my honour. Far be it from me to disrespect the founder of said group, but it’s a shame he can’t spell “dalek”. It’s amazing how these Facebook groups take off. I’ve already got supporters I’ve never heard of, let alone met.

Still, I expect I could carry off the role of “Doctor Who” rather well. I have appointed my sidekick, one with whom I have already battled aliens and survived Sarthong Plunder (!) I have every confidence in her ability to pootle around variously screaming and getting caught by the baddies (oo-er!)whilst I save the day.

In many episodes of “Doctor Who”, our beloved hero displays technical wizardry beyond the scope of mortal man. I did something along those lines this evening by unblocking the washing machine. I say “unblocking” – I’ve flooded the kitchen and trashed some bath towels, but it could be worse. The thing is still working (read “making noises”). We’ll see how it comes out in the morning.

Meanwhile on Facebook I would seem to have chummed up with Brian’s paramour. I hope it’s her, because following a series of messages, I’ve sent photos of the bruising he got on his “appurtenance” when he had the thing pierced. If it’s not his new girlf, I’m sure it won’t matter – he’s usually quite demonstrative with the thing anyway.

The email advertising tonight’s arky-ologee club promised a quiz, a raffle, some food, and an interesting slide show (from Frank)”. Bearing in mind that the email came from er indoors TM, in no way would I dare to question the veracity of said communiqué.

Well, to be fair, it was interesting. “Frank” had obtained a slide show of pictures of a monastery carved into the side of a mountain somewhere inChina. Absolutely fascinating. The presentation was only marred by the fact that “Frank” knew absolutely nothing about the monastery. He just showed a few slides, and hoped that the punters would be impressed.

In a novel break with tradition, as well as an Xmas bunfight, tonight’s arky-ologee club featured a quiz and a raffle. We came third in the quiz, and I won a bottle of “Bishop’s Finger” in the raffle. I might go next time if my winning ale in the raffle is to become a feature…

31 December 2009 (Thursday) - New Year's Eve

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Reading the news, I see that a troublesome child has painted an enormous willy on the roof of his parents’ house. And it only took the parents a year to realise it was there. I did chuckle over that one. Also in the bews I seeChina is attempting to really cash in on its popularity by building women-only car parks with spaces a metre wider than usual. Apparently this is to address the female natural “different sense of distance"(I don’t write this stuff – I only report it!)

The end of another year, and so to Folkestone for the traditional end of year party. With red underwear at full power (it’s compulsory!), we had a great time. The evening was only marred by Sky TV’s decision to no longer run any Spanish TV channels, but it’s amazing what you can stream from the Internet instead. I got quite a decent haul of beer from the pass the parcel game, taking home as much beer as I’d brought down in the first place. As always the food was wonderful, and I even got a profiterole. We did the grapes for New Year (twice), and one year I am going to stay awake for all of “Mamma Mia” after midnight…