1 December 2010 (Wednesday) - More Snow
Last week over on Facebook it was “change your profile picture to a cartoon” week. One of the nice ladies on my list had Dogtanian as her picture. She commented that Dave Cow should do a Dogtanian cover version. Last night Dave asked me if I fancied accompanying him on backing vocals, and so we launched another stunning video onto an unsuspecting public. The public loved it.
I was up with the lark this morning and ironed shirts whilst watching Star Trek. I wanted to be up promptly so’s I could drive to work through the ice before the bulk of the traffic snarled the roads up. Whilst we’ve had no more snow overnight, it was still icy.
I spent much of the day listening to local radio announcers telling everyone to go home because the weather was so terrible and the roads were impassable. Which was an odd thing to say. I was calling up the travel web-cams on the BBC’s website and I could see that most of the county’s roads were clear. I suspect the local radio announcers have a lot to answer for.
Even though not much more snow fell today, there was still a lot of snow on the fields and hills. So a bunch of us took to the sledges at lunch time. We only managed twenty minutes though; oh, it was cold. Especially as one of our number got a pants-full of snow. I’m told there will be photos of the event at a later date. For once I was too busy “doing” rather than photographing.
And then, seeing as it’s December I opened my Lego Advent calendar. Today I got Frosty the Snowman. Frosty seems to be brandishing a strange object. I wonder what it is….
2 December 2010 (Thursday) - Still Snowing
I had a very restless evening and night last night. I came home from work yesterday to realise I’d left my wallet in my locker at work. Now my locker is secure, in a part of the hospital where the normal people never venture, and it’s a locked locker behind several locked doors. And I wasn’t going to go back through the snow to fetch it. But I still felt lost without my wallet. Even though I didn’t need the thing.
Again, not being on a late shift I was up at the crack of dawn. I had this plan to watch Star Trek whilst sorting the underwear. (What a riveting life I lead!). But Star Trek wasn’t on. They’ve replaced it with some police reality drama show rubbish.
Sometimes I get cross with some of the more
minor TV channels. So often they will start showing a series of something or
other, and without warning they just stop the show half way through.
Fortunately for me I have all of Star Trek:
I left very early for work this morning – we’d had more snow overnight, and I wanted to get to the hospital before the roads got busy. Driving in the snow was rather dodgy at times, but seeing how my foot is still a tad tender, I’d rather not walk. Work was dull – very dull. The snow obviously put people off of being ill. And then at lunch time we went sledging again – I got some photos this time.
And then back to work. Management had got wind that we’d been sledging, and wanted photos of the event to put into the staff magazine. I had photos on my mobile, but without my own PC at home I wasn’t able to extract the photos. Mind you, I’m not entirely sure I want photos of me playing silly beggars all over the works magazine. Not that I’m in any way embarrassed – regular readers would know that I couldn’t care less about that. It’s just that people whinge enough already about how long blood tests take. I don’t want to be giving ammunition to my critics.
Work continued being dull, and so I came
home an hour early to find a challenge from a friend in
Meanwhile in another plane of reality, Frosty the Snowman has startled a passing young chav. The chav’s mummy had warned him about snowmen like Frosty…
3 December 2010 (Friday) - Cold
Today’s news makes interesting reading. As always, the trivial is the headline news. I see that England’s bid to host the World Cup (for football – there *are* other World Cups!) has failed. Good!
It’s not that I dislike football so much as
I dislike the small-minded thuggery that football seems to encourage, despite
the best efforts of the Football Association. There are those who feel that
hosting the World (football) Cup would be a good thing for the
country. I’ve met several people who feel this way. When I ask them why, I am
told that I am being unpatriotic for not supporting the bid. However they are
all unable to elaborate on this. It worries me that here in the
Apparently being a patriot isn’t about being British, or supporting the Monarchy, or buying British products. It’s about screaming “Eng-Ur-Lund” very loudly whilst waving a white flag with a red cross every time the word “football” is mentioned. You don’t need to know anything about this flag (and a lot of so-called “patriots” don’t), or even anything about the rules or history of football. You just have to wave the flag and shout whenever football is played.
And it helps if you terrorise anyone who
looks less than 100% Caucasian every time the
Interestingly the news of importance, the fact that a radical new form of biochemistryhas been found that could have profound implications for the future of humanity, has been relegated to a footnote. Which is a shame, but probably a sign of our times.
Being on a late shift I had a lie in this morning, and when I finally hauled my carcass out of bed at 9am there was glorious sunshine. No snow had fallen overnight, but there was still snow everywhere. But bearing in mind the weather forecast says it didn’t get over minus three degrees today, the sunshine hasn’t melted the snow at all. The snow has just compacted into ice.
To work. Having out-patient services
When I left work this evening at 8pm the outside temperature was minus twelve degrees. This is the coldest that the thermometer in my car has ever registered. Tomorrow’s planned trip to Redhill is looking very unlikely now.
Meanwhile Frosty the Snowman looks on in amazement at the tricks the young chav is performing in the skateboard park. The young chav isn’t particularly talented, and Frosty suspects it will all end in tears. The tears being those of the young chav (with any luck)
4 December 2010 (Saturday) - BKF Xmas Bash
I was slightly later getting to bed than I’d planned last night. But next door was having a row. It was quite a good one, as rows go. I couldn’t make out the main thrust of the argument, but there was quite a bit of shrieking at one point. I eventually nodded off, but was left wondering what all the fuss was about. We’ve had a stormy relationship with next door over the years and I can’t help but wonder if any perceived failing on my part has set them off (again).
And so to work. Bearing in mind last night’s sub-zero temperatures I was dreading this morning’s drive to work. But I needn’t have worried. An overnight thaw combined with very heavy rain meant that a lot of the snow had been washed away, and so I got to work easily. Work was dull, and then back home where I took a spade to the remaining ice on the path outside my house. With the surface of the ice cracked, the rain could get into the ice and melt it. That was my plan, and it seemed to work.
With the arrival of the Rear Admiral and “Daddies Little Angel TM ” we set off to Great Chart for a spot of lunch. There are two pubs in Great Chart. One has a dozen assorted thugs and thuggettes in the garden who shout abuse at passers by. One does not. It doesn’t take a genius to work out which pub I went into. A plate of ham, egg and chips went down well with two pints, and then home again. Via Lidls for some beer for the evening and some silly prizes for the evening.
The idea was that we’d put up the house’s
Xmas decorations this afternoon, but as it turned out we had less than an
hour between getting home and needing to set off again. So I wrapped the pressies for the silly pressie
game, changed my T-shirt and then the Bat arrived. We piled into the Batmobile
and set off for Horley. Google maps told me the
journey would take two hours. We were approaching
We met up with quite a few old friends and had a good laugh and chat. It was good to meet up with so many friends I see so infrequently. It was a shame the event wasn’t better attended: a lot of the kite fliers weren’t there. I suppose the bad weather had put people off. To be honest we only went as a last minute decision. Yesterday we’d decided that the weather was too bad.
We sat down to a super bit of dinner, then played pass the parcel together with forfeits. I got a forfeit… Then we had the pressie game in which… it’s too complicated to explain. The basic premise is that you take along a load of old tat which you want rid of. You gift wrap the tat and put it into the game, and then play the game on the understanding that whilst you may get rid of your tat, you’ll probably get back someone else’s tat. I got back quite a bit of tat.
Then we did the raffle. I did reasonably well, getting a kite, some wine and a rather nice (!) butter dish. ‘er indoors TM had a decent haul of prizes, and Rear Admiral and“Daddies Little Angel TM ” both had acquired far too much tat too. Then a shock – it was announced that the Bat had won the Drawing a snowman contest. I thought my snow-misery should have won, and the Rear Admiral thought his snowman should have got a mention, if only for the fact it was smoking a fag.
And then, all too soon the evening was over. Goodbyes were said, tat loaded into cars, and then home we all went. Yesterday I’d been very dubious about getting to the BKF Xmas bash (because of the bad weather). I was wrong – getting there turned out to be very easy. We were on the way home when I was just about to remark to that effect when all the power to the Bat-Mobile went. We then spent a nerve-wracking five minutes on the junction of the M3 and M25 before the engine struggled back to life.
But it didn’t stay alive for long, finally giving up the ghost about a mile or so along the M26. It was at this point that I suggested we used the Rear Admiral’s emergency tent. He’d won an “emergency tent” in the raffle. Bearing in mind we were stranded on the hard shoulder of a motorway, after midnight, with snow on the ground I thought I was justified in thinking I was having an emergency. The Rear Admiral begged to differ. Personally I don’t think his tent would have been up to the challenge, but what do I know?
The Highways Authority people arrived on the scene to ask if we were all right, and they gave “Daddies Little Angel TM ” a rather large piece of tin foil to wrap around herself until the recovery van arrived. I must admit that I was amazed by the responses of the various people we phoned for help. My immediate phone call was to friends who lived locally, who immediately put themselves onto standby in case they could help. The Rear Admiral phoned his bank (HSBC) who sorted out the recovery vehicle. The recovery chap was brilliant, arriving in less than twenty minutes after having been called. The people from the Highways Authority were really helpful. The AA were worse than useless, but they probably could have been more unhelpful if they’d tried.
We were back at the Bat-Farm before too much longer, and home before 2am. If nothing else, this will be something to laugh about in years to come.
Meanwhile the chav has pranged his skateboard into a strange looking object. If anyone has any idea what the strange looking object is, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
5 December 2010 (Sunday) - Dull Sunday
Despite not getting to bed till 3.30am last night, I was wide awake and raring to go by 10am this morning. ‘er indoors TM and My Boy TM were both fast asleep. So with no one under my feet I took the opportunity to get my latest batch of beer out of the fermentation vessel and into the barrel. The operation went mostly as planned, but it did take a while. I thought it would all be done in twenty minutes. How naïve of me! Clearing some space, sterilising the gear, siphoning five gallons of stout (Mark II) and then clearing up my mess took over an hour. But the stuff is now in the barrel. I’ve had a sip – it’s not too bad. Hopefully it will improve on storage.
With the last of the first batch of stout gone, I also took the opportunity to get the wheat beer going. I’ve re-used the bru-box for this. The instructions say the boxes can be re-used up to half a dozen times. We shall see about that.
Chip emailed – did we fancy going for a walk along the beach? Well, to be honest I did fancy it, but it’s rather cold outside, my foot’s still sore, and by the time I’d finished mucking about with the home-brew, the day was half gone. Maybe we’ll walk when it’s a bit warmer.
I didn’t go out at all today, but sat in. I had planned to get the Xmas decorations up, but we didn’t get that done. Having a vague feeling that I’d wasted the day, I made one or two plans for the future.
Do any of my loyal readers fancy a day out over the Xmas break? I’m hoping to go toDover
And does anyone fancy a pub crawl round Brighton on Saturday 12 March? I’ve been hankering after a crawl round Brighton for some time - we’ve a tame local who will act as our guide. I think a day at the seaside would see me right (!)
Last week the craze on Facebook was to change your profile picture to a cartoon character. I was during that time variously Rufus Roughcut, The Funky Phantom, Booby Bear (Hair Bear Bunch) and Dingdog (Houndcats). Quite a few people joined in; it was all for a laugh. Now the same thing is happening again. But this time I’m not joining in. And at first sight it appears I’m being an old sour-puss-grumpy-face. But am I? This time it’s not for fun – it’s to campaign against violence to children. An admirable concept, but how does changing a Facebook picture help in any way whatsoever. If everyone who was changing their picture donated 10p to the N.S.P.C.C. then maybe something would be achieved. But changing a Facebook picture? – That’s not going to do anything, is it?
And just as I was about to post tonight’s blog my cousin told me the whole thing was a scam perpetrated by kiddy-fiddlers; the idea being that if you have a cartoon as your profile, then kiddies are more likely to accept you as a friend. This sounds more plausible than an anti- kiddy violence campaign… But I can’t really see that one either. Surely a paedo stands more chance of venting its foul urges by lurking round a playground with a bag of sweeties than by trying to get on to the friends list of children who could live a hundred (or more) miles away.
Meanwhile in a playground in a better place… it transpires that the young chav wasn’t badly hurt when he pranged his skateboard yesterday. But to cheer him up, somebody has bought the young chav a drum set.
Frosty the Snowman looks on in horror. People only ever buy drum sets for the children of people they don’t like. Frosty wonders who he’s upset recently, and also wonders how he managed to become the guardian of a young chav.
This morning I was pleased to find my wheat beer doing it’s thing. Yesterday I prepared the stuff and set it fermenting. But at the beer-making demonstration I went to a few weeks ago I was told that sometimes you can get duff batches of yeast that don’t actually work. So I was pleased to see the stuff bubbling away furiously this morning. Hopefully it will be ready for Xmas.
And then I checked out the on-line news over a bit of brekkie. In the past I’ve griped about the failings of the Dribbling Democraps. One of their number has exceeded the expectations of even their staunchest critics. One of the Dribbling Democrap MPs makes regular visits to Russia (one wonders why!). Whilst there he met up with a Russian bimbo who was about a third of his age, and he’s brought her home to be his parliamentary aide. She might be a spy. She might not. But having sidestepped all the security procedures he’s handed her access to all of Britain’s top-secret defence stuff. “One Westminster source said: ‘She would walk around in very short skirts and high heels with him and they would be seen having lunch together” “ If he wanted a floozie, surely there’s an unemployed British one somewhere he might hire? Surely he wasn’t that dumb to employ a spy?
Talking of dumb, Wikileaks have just released a list of possible terror targets. Whilst (this time) they haven’t given away any defence secrets like they stupidly did last time, surely it can’t be in the public interest to give terrorists a list of places they might like to blow up?
Mind you, not all that I found out on-line was doom and gloom. A week or so ago I mentioned about my old Boys Brigade. The chap who ran it was a bundle of energy. He organised and ran Boys Brigade events and activities most nights of the week; tirelessly and never complaining for years. He was an example to humanity at large. Facebook told me that it’s his birthday today. He’s eighty. Would you believe it? I should really have remembered – at the time I was in the Boys Brigade we had a dog who shared his birthday.
As well as being a birthday today, today was the day when the Human League came to play at Folkestone. I’d been planning to go to that, but the new boiler meant that economies had to be made, and I didn’t buy a ticket. I suppose it’s just coincidence that today I got a refund from the tax man that would easily have covered the cost of the tickets.
In another plane of reality the young chav’s drumming has got out of hand and he’s upset the neighbours. The nice lady next door has come to complain because her cat doesn’t like the noise. Frosty listens politely to her whinging for five minutes before telling her to get stuffed.
I was up at silly o’clock this morning, watching the Xmas edition of “Porridge” whilst doing my ironing. My ironing and everyone else’s too. And then to work where the day was much the same as ever. Which was probably for the best.
It was quite late before I got round to checking my emails this evening. There was a missive from the astro club – there’s a talk by a British astronaut in a few week’s time in Cranbrook. I may well go along to that. And then I had a quick surf of the Internet.
In previous years I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on the Beer in the Evening website. I’ve rather gone off this website recently. Here’s an example of why. They run an ever-updating top twenty pubs, based on the ever changing recommendations of subscribers to the website. The pub which was number twenty on that list this evening is a relatively local one, and one I’ve never been to. I could get there in less than an hour from my house on public transport. In fact, if any of my loyal readers fancy a trip to Canterburyover the Xmas break, do let me know and we’ll check the place out.
But I digress. This pub is ranked twentieth on a list which is being constantly updated. In the last six months this place has only garnered five reviews; the most recent of those being in August. The pub in twentieth place on the rankings last night has had thirteen reviews in the same time period. And my current favourite London pub has had dozens of reviews in the same time period. Or take this place for example. There’s a review of the place in August when the place was third in the list, having only had two reviews all year.
Talking of beer, I know the stuff has only been in the barrel for a day or so, but I’ve had a crafty sip of my second batch of stout. It’s already drinkable, and it’s rather good, even if I do say so myself. Which now gives me something of a dilemma. Will it last out the three weeks until Xmas? Let’s hope so.
Meanwhile it would seem I’m not the only one with a problematical neighbour. Having been told to get stuffed, “her next door” (and the cat) have got a keyboard and are constantly playing “I wish it could be a wombling merry Christmas every day” at full volume. They are now on their three hundred and forty eighth rendition.
Having a fridge in the back of my car all day made for annoying driving. You don’t realise how much you use the rear view mirror until the thing is obscured by a fridge. I came home from work to find “My Boy TM ” lolling round the house. Since he sold his car (for scrap) at the weekend he’s been at a loose end. So I put him to work helping me move the fridge from the back of my car to the shed where it will replace the existing shed fridge.
Moving fridges is one of those things that is easier to write about than to do, but the application of a little brute force soon shifted the things. There was a dodgy five minutes when we found that the shelving in the shed was weighing down so much on the existing fridge that we couldn’t shift the thing. But the application of rather a lot of brute force solved that little problem and got it out. Then we had the problem that the shelf was about to collapse. But quick action from my able assistant (he’s a good lad really) averted disaster.
We only had one insurmountable problem: the new fridge only just fitted into the back of my car, and the old one is taller. Rather than trying to force it into my car, we’ve left in in the back garden for the winter, and will worry about getting it to the tip next spring. Or when ‘er indoors TM does her nut about it; whichever is the soonest.
And live in Russia, city Volzhsk. My city is in 910 km from Moscow. And if you wish to get acquainted with me, I shall be very happy to answer your letter. And I would like to tell why I write to you. The matter is that in 2 weeks I shall visit the UK or I can visit other
country in the Europe. My dream to have Christmas in UK. And Now I have the plan to visit UK. But I have no friends or relatives in the UK or other country in the Europe. And while I at all do not know what country better to visit. WHAT CITY OR ANOTHER COUNTRY YOU LIVE NOW? We could have our meeting?
Tell to me more about your country or city? What interesting? I shall have the tourist visa, and I can visit any country in the Europe. But main my purpose, it to find the good friend for me. The man for serious attitudes and if you are now alone? You have not the wife or children I ask you to write to me the letter. And we could learn better each other. I have not boyfriend, and I have not children. To write to you the letter, I have addressed in agency of acquaintances, and to me give yours e-mail. It not a spam or other bad things. So, please, answer me!!!
My initial reaction is that Marina is clearly gagging for it, but I could be wrong. She’s asked me to reply to her email. I don’t think I will, but if any of my loyal readers would like to be bombarded with spam from Russian prostitutes, please let me know….
Four days ago a strange yellow object appeared in lego-land. Opinion was divided as to what the object was. Some thought it was a crane; some thought it was a snow-blower. One brave soul thought it might be Wall-E. That chap was very close with his guess. It is indeed a robot. You may have seen him on the sci-fi channel; he is RU12’s best friend, ICUP.
ICUP is taking advantage of the ongoing musical interlude to play in the skate park. There are those who feel that skateboarding robots have no place in an advent calendar, and that perhaps a nativity scene would be more appropriate.
Yesterday I had a rather dubious email from “Marina”. This morning I get exactly the same email from “Clement” and “Chuck”. As did (apparently) several of my loyal readers. One wonders how stupid these spammers think we are.
Someone else who got the same spam email was a chap from Bristol who found my blog by copying some of the dubious email into Google and seeing what he got. He got my blog on his second attempt. Hello Bristol!
And then I thought I’d clear out my letter rack. I had a letter from the tax man last week about my refund. Every year in order to do my job I have to pay (out of my own pocket) to register with the Health Professions Council and to be a member of my professional institute. This comes to about two hundred quid each year. I have to pay it if I want to do my job, but it is “tax deductible”. And I’ve not had a refund since 2003. So a couple of months ago I wrote to the tax man asking for this refund. Six years money worked out to over a thousand quid. I was rubbing my hands together about that one. The letter came back telling me that when they got round to it they would refund me £211.20. I phoned them this morning to see what was going on. Apparently they don’t refund what I’ve paid out, only the tax on what I’ve paid out. So bearing in mind that the ‘er indoors –mobile TM is due for a service soon; after I’ve had this tax rebate I shall still be skint.
Being skint might be avoidable though. The people from whom I got my car loan have put aside a priority loan for me of £5 175 which I can have immediately. An odd amount, but I can have the cash right away. I can repay it (at extortionate rates of interest) over one to five years, and even take a payment break, should I so wish. I think I’ll pass on that.
My union wrote to me. They are having an election, and they thought I might be interested in the election addresses of the various candidates. They were wrong. The letter was two months old. I wonder where the letter has been in the meantime.
And I had two letters about the bank account of the long-defunct snake club. I really should do something about closing that account down. I’m rather loathe to do so though. Apparently legally the cash belongs equally to all the club members at the time the club folded, and we need to canvas everyone’s opinions as to what to do with the cash before we do anything. I had a plan to donate the lot (about £130) to a reptile sanctuary near Biggin Hill. But if I did so, and any ex-members crawled out of the woodwork to complain, I could be charged with embezzlement. I’ll leave the money where it is for a few more years.
Then (as I was bored) I thought I’d have a go at my accounts. An often heard cry from most of humanity at large is “I don’t know where all the money goes”. I’m very good with my money. Well, not so much good, as I actually make a note of what I spend, so I *do* know where all the money goes. The trouble is I don’t write it down often enough and so forget what I’ve spent in between having sessions with my accounts. I’d forgotten I’d spent forty quid at the vineyard on Xmas booze. I thought I’d paid for all the home-brew outlay on last month’s credit card. Woops!
Yesterday I mentioned that I couldn’t be bothered to get rid of the old fridge. This morning I changed my mind. Well, to be honest we’ve a lot of cardboard rubbish in the garden which was sodden. And this morning it was still frozen. I decided it would be a lot easier to shift it to the tip if it was frozen (which it was). And if I was going to the tip, I might as well take the fridge anyway. I got most of the fridge to the tip. The thing was seriously rusty, and I did leave large lumps of rust behind me as I went.
Meanwhile the young chav has got bored with his drum set and thought he’d play with his toy aeroplane. He’s even worse with his toy aeroplane than he is with his drums, and he’s pranged the plane into the dog’s dinner.
Have you heard about all the national secrets that wiki-leaks have released recently? They’ve told us all of the gaffs of the Duke of York. They’ve told us what the USpolitician Sarah Palin has been up to. They’ve exposed various states’ secrets. All supposedly in the public’s best interests. Two of my fellow Bloggers have mentioned the wiki-leaks recently. One (a good friend) seems to be edging slightly against them. The other (a distant cousin) is coming down on their side.
I don’t honestly know whether or not I agree with what the wiki-leaks people have done. But I do know that I don’t agree with the revenge attacks that have been perpetrated against some of the protagonists in the debacle.
In theory I was all in favour of internet freedom. Until I actually thought about what’s going on. And now I really don’t know. From what I can work out, one bunch of people have decided that (for whatever reasons) what was once state secrets should actually be in the public domain. So they put these state secrets in the public domain. And when these people’s opinions were challenged they (or their supporters) attacked those who would differ with them.
I’ve already said that I really don’t know whether wiki-leaks were right to release the secrets they did. But my opinion is turning against the wiki-leaks people in the light of what their supporters have done over this last week.
And so to the Astro club Xmas bash…. This month’s astro club was a lot earlier in the month than usual, and the attendance was perhaps half what it usually would be. But those of us there had a good time; we started with a short talk on current astro news, had the raffle, and then spent the rest of the evening chatting whilst scoffing all sorts of Xmas scran.
Meanwhile Frosty the Snowman has a visitor. The nice man has a beard and a briefcase. It is arguable which of the two is the more dubious (the beard o the briefcase that is, not the nice man or Frosty).
The nice man has come to castigate Frosty for his infraction of various civil and criminal codes. Frosty can’t decide out whether the nice man is from the Civil Aviation Authority, the RSPCA, or the Noise Abatement Society.
I again woke after a wonderfully restful sleep, full of energy and raring to go, only to find it was 2am. I nodded off, only to have nightmares that I was being stalked by a rogue plumber named “Boiling Sid”. It was with a sense of relief (rather than refreshment) when I woke at 6.30am.
To work, which wasn’t a good day. And then to Folkestone. On the way we saw a telescope in someone’s garden. The telescope had a sign hanging from it saying “please take”. I couldn’t believe this, so I knocked on the house’s front door and asked if they truly wanted rid of the telescope. They did: they were planning to take the thing to the tip. So I had it. It’s nothing special – there are similar ones on eBay for a fiver, and it needs a spotting scope, some lenses and probably needs a good overhaul. But I know some good friends who I can smile at. And we’re having a telescope workshop session at the astro club in less than a month’s time.
‘er indoors TM left me at Hosey’s house whilst she went of candle-ing. Me and the Hose-Beast played with the telescope for a bit, before watching a new film – “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. It’s not a film I would have chosen to watch, but I’m glad we did: it was really good. And as it finished, so ‘er indoors TM returned, and we set off to the Autistic Society’s children’s Xmas party. Santa was supposed to be visiting, but for no adequately explained reason he was unavailable. So with Santa A.W.O.L., there was no choice but for me to step into the breach. As I scrambled into the Santa suit I realised that I had no idea how many children there would be at the party, or how I should deal with autistic children. So I decided to play it as I would play Santa for any children’s party. Given my cue, I threw the doors open, shouted out “Ho, Ho Ho”, and generally hammed it up, walking round being noisy and friendly. And the children all seemed to love it. They all chatted with Santa, and they all wanted to share their picnic tea with me. It was a shame I couldn’t eat through my false whiskers.
And then I got to give out the presents. There was only one littlun who was too scared to come up to Santa to get her pressie, so I went to her, and had a little chat with her. And five minutes later when I called for her sister to get her pressie, the girl who’d been terrified brought her sister out to me.
One little kiddy asked me if I really lived at the North Pole. He was so earnest and serious that I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun. I explained that I didn’t live right on the North Pole; three very noisy and ill-behaved Polar Bears live there. I told him that I lived two doors down from the North Pole. Another kiddy asked why I hadn’t brought any elves with me. I told him that elves are very lazy, and they needed to get on with making all the presents whilst I was gone, but I didn’t expect that they would have done anything today whilst I wasn’t there to watch over them. Both kiddies nodded, and walked away, happy with my explanations.
All too soon pressies were given out to kiddies of all ages and sizes, and it was time for Santa to go back to his house two doors down from the North Pole. As I went I asked if they all left out Sherry and Mince pies on Xmas Eve. They all shouted out that they did. I told them that I didn’t like sherry or Mince pies, and they should leave a bottle of beer and some sweets. And the kids all nodded with serious expressions.
As I made my way back to the toilets to change, I met a small child coming back from the toilet. I asked him if he’d seen Rudolph anywhere. I explained that I’d left my sleigh on the roof, and whilst all the other reindeer behave themselves, Rudolf will keep wandering off. The kiddy hadn’t seen Rudolph. So I said that I couldn’t wait, and Rudolph would have to make his way home. I asked the littlun if there was a fireplace nearby with a chimney I could go up. Bless him – he had a look and couldn’t find one. I thought he was about to cry, so I told him not to worry, I could use the U-bend in the toilet instead, and the kiddies face lit up as I marched into the loo.
After such a sterling performance we went back to Hosey’s house for tea, and to watch “Eclipse” – the latest vampire movie. It was rather good, even if I did keep nosing off. And then onwards via Morrison to visit the Guinea Pigs. I’d not seen them for a while, and they seem to be keeping well. As were their supervisors.
Meanwhile… It’s turned cold in lego-land, and the chav, “her next door”, the cat and the dog have settled their differences and have gathered round the fire to keep warm. To be honest they’ve not so much settled any differences as have blamed it all on Frosty and are letting him take the rap from the nice man with the beard.
Despite being correctly anatomically equipped, Frosty the Snowman continues receiving castigation. He wonders exactly who the nice man in the beard is, and whether he might get away with telling Beardy to get stuffed.
I had a bit of a lie in today. But only a bit of one. Next door were doing piano practice at 8am. I don’t mind really. All the time they are doing early morning piano and having late night rows, I have no qualms whatsoever about any noise I might be making. It has to be said that I would hate to live next door to me.
I had a look at the Internet over a bit of brekkie. Have you heard…..? Everybody’s heard….. (!) Did you know that today marks the start of the week in which the Xmas Number One record is decided. So in order to get that poxy X Factor rubbish kicked firmly in the pods, might I suggest that all my loyal readers click here and spent sixty nine pence downloading the Bird. After all, it *is* the word.
The news today was hardly surprising. Or was it? An extensive poll of two thousand people who voted for the Dribbling Democraps last May suggests that only fifty four per cent of them will back the Dribblers at the next General Election. They’ve lost half their vote.
Yesterday I mentioned that I’d got a new telescope. This morning I spent a few minutes having a go with it. Yesterday I was quite enthusiastic about the thing. After five minutes this morning I realised why the nice man in Folkestone was giving it away. It’s rubbish.
As a telescope, it’s OK. It magnifies the image of far away objects so that you can see then close-up. And I watched a pigeon on a distant roof top for about thirty seconds until the pigeon flew off. And therein lays the problem. This telescope is ideal for looking at distant things that stay put.
Astronomical telescopes come on mounts which are designed to move about slowly and easily to track stars and planets and the moon as they slowly move across the sky. They don’t move very fast, but if you line up a scope on a celestial object and get it focussed, whatever you are looking at will have moved out of the field of view within a couple of minutes. Astronomical telescopes can easily and quickly be adjusted to track the object that’s moved. My “new” one can’t. It doesn’t have the mounting.
And to add insult to injury I can’t even salvage the tripod that the telescope is on, as they come as a fixed unit. If any of my loyal readers want a telescope, then let me know, otherwise I shall just stick it in the garden with a “Please Take” sign on it, and let some other mug take it up the tip.
And so to Hastings for the family Xmas bash. Rather than having all the hard work of putting on Xmas day for the family, this year we tried something new – a get-together in the local community hall. We set off an hour earlier than we needed to, and had a pint on the way. The plan was to have a pint of the Shepherd Neame Porter, but the Vine in Tenterden didn’t have it on. So we had a pint of the Shepherd Neame Xmas ale, which went down nicely. And then we carried on to Hastings where we met up with the family. A good buffet, far too much to drink, pass the parcel, shove ha’penny, table tennis, and a visit from Santa. It’s odd, but at family Xmas get-togethers, my brother always misses Santa’s visit.
Over in lego-land the young chav has found out the major drawback with an open fire: they need fuel. Mind you, this has given him an opportunity to brandish his chopper. He’s found a large log and the fragments of his skateboard. They should burn well.
I woke feeling rather rough this morning, and lay watching the clock for a couple of hours before giving up trying to sleep. I went downstairs and watched lame drivel on UK Gold for an hour or so until “proper” getting up time; at which point I could quite happily have gone back to sleep.
Off to work, through the thickest fog I’ve seen in a long time. I stopped off at Tesco for lunch. Their early morning service doesn’t improve. And then to work, which was dull. I checked the leave rota – for everyone to get all their leave used up we need to have (at least) two people on leave every day. But to get the job done we can’t afford to have more than three people off at any one time. Today there was no one on holiday, so I took the afternoon off. Not because I especially wanted to, but so that I wouldn’t lose the leave.
I came home and had some scoff whilst watching a DVD. “Borstal Boy” is a film I’ve been meaning to watch for a while, but in the event I was rather disappointed. In order to portray the gritty realism of a wartime English borstal, there are a lot of characters who are regional stereotypes - complete with regional accents. Quite frankly I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said. I slept through the second half of the film, and woke with no real interest in replaying what I’d missed.
Then the doorbell rang. I’d ordered an Xmas pressie for ‘er indoors TM which the delivery company tried to deliver a week or so ago. No one was home when they called, so they left a note asking me to collect from their depot in Maidstone. I rang them and asked them to redeliver it to my place of work. They refused, and told me to contact the seller. So I asked the seller to ask them to redeliver it to my place of work; which he did.
This afternoon I phoned the delivery company to ask what was going on – where was my parcel?. A disinterested bloke said it was being delivered to the hospital this afternoon. A shame I was at home, but I thought that someone there might sign for it. But then (as I mentioned) the doorbell rang. The driver had decided to re-deliver the parcel to my home address. The parcel bore no mention whatsoever of having the hospital address for re-delivery. The parcel also was ripped open. Not slightly open, but completely wide open. I phoned the delivery company to have a gripe, but they all but told me to get knotted. I had the parcel – what was my problem?
Eagle-eyed internet-ers might have noticed that another website with which I have a passing acquaintance has been down for a few days. It would seem that I hadn’t paid up. I have now, or to be more precise, Matt has, and I’ll pay him tomorrow, I spent an hour this afternoon revamping the layout of the thing. I’m still not happy with how it looks, but I think it’s better than how it once was.
I woke feeling rather exhausted, but for once it was with good reason. Last night was the Geminid meteor shower. My blog from this time last year tells me that I missed the meteor shower because of all the cloud. This year I wasn’t going to let something as trivial as clouds and rain spoil my enjoyment of the meteors, and so yesterday evening, together with the Folkestone contingent, we set off to Woodchurch to meet up with the other brave (daft) souls of the astro club. The idea was that the BBC would be coming down to do some filming for the “Stargazing Live” events that are coming up in January, but they let us down at rather short notice. But we carried on regardless.
We started off in the lesser of the two pubs in Woodchurch. The Bonny Cravat (or Bonny Crap Hat as My Boy TM ” likes to call it) is all right as pubs go, but after all is said and done, it’s a Neame. Six of us met up, observed a pint of “Bishop’s Finger”, and then went to look for some meteors. We studied the cloud-filled heavens all the way from the Bonny Cravat to the Six Bells. For those of my loyal readers who are unaware of the geography of Woodchurch, it’s taken you longer to read this sentence than it would have taken to walk from one pub to the other.
The Six Bells is next door to the Bonny Crap Hat, it is a free house. And it has much better ale. A pint of “Finchcock’s Original” was next on the list of objects to be observed. We were considering observing a pint of “Golden Braid” as well, but you can get too much of a good thing - after all, this was an astronomical observing session, not a booze up. (Even if we had been to two pubs which technically made the evening a pub crawl).
We wandered down to the village green to try to see some meteors, but the cloud cover was so thick we couldn’t see anything at all. We did consider going back to the pub to observe some more, but it was getting late, so we called it a night and came home. Personally I feel the evening was a victory for the “Google Images school of Astronomy” – after all, there’s always piccies of meteors to be found there.
And so feeling exhausted, I set off to work. Today I got to spend the day sat at a microscope, and when this opportunity arises, I switch the internet to Radio Four. They have an amazing range of stuff on in any one day. Take today for example. They had news, featuring politicians getting crucified live on air. There was an interview with an exiled Iranian politician who faces death if he returns home. This was followed by a cookery article in which they made a pavlova live on the radio. I never thought that a cookery demonstration would work on the radio. I was wrong.
There was then a discussion about how shocking some of the music videos on TV are these days. Some stuck-up twot was boasting how he'd thrown away his TV so that his children wouldn't be exposed to the filth that masquerades as public entertainment. In the same breath this stuck-up twot was trying to defend all the nudey statues and paintings in the London museums as being "art". He actually boasted how is is better that his small child has an admiration of the paintings and statues of Perseus holding up Medusa's severed head, rather than liking X-factor.
There was a brilliant play about women golfers who played golf at a cursed golf course, and an article about the plight of sloths in the Caribbean. Anneka Rice spoke about her passion for drawing; especially drawing nudey people (how rude!). There was discussion about the morality of the Wiki-Leaks revelations. There was an article about the life and times of D.H. Lawrence, and then a very interesting investigation of how science and medicine are at odds with the law when crimes are committed by people sleep-walking.
Meanwhile there's a new kid on the block. Or on the other bus, seeing how he's wearing a cravat and lipstick. Mind you, he might be French, (or a girl), which would explain a lot. He, she or it is brandishing a baguette: the saucy devil.
Off to the sorting office in town to collect a parcel. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” wasn’t in when the postman called, so he’d left us a note to go and get the thing. The R-tard behind the desk wasn’t happy because I wasn’t the person to whom the package was addressed. The fact that I had to live in the same house in order to have the delivery slip in my hand was neither here nor there as far as he was concerned. And he conceded that if he was delivering the thing to my home, he would hand over the parcel without a second thought. Normally I don’t engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent, but this twonk had wound me up. In the end he was too embarrassed not to hand over the parcel, but continued grumbling that next time the parcel recipient must give me written permission to collect the parcel. I’ll worry about that next time.
And then on to work. Normally on Wednesday we have a lunchtime lecture. Today we had an Xmas quiz. I was rather flummoxed by the acronym round. What do CAPA, NICE, IBMS stand for? And they didn’t get any easier. When was haemoglobin first discovered? I don’t know. What is the most common blood group in Kent?
But after all was said and done I didn’t do too badly. With twenty one points out of a possible forty, I ended up in joint third place, and only lost out on a prize after I failed the tiebreaker. How many of Santa’s reindeer can you name? I got Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch. But it would seem I missed some out.
And then we did our Xmas food shopping. We’ll have to get the fresh stuff a bit nearer the time, but a combination of shops getting busier by the day, and a very full diary meant that our major food shop could only get done tonight or on Xmas Eve. And I’ve been to supermarkets on Xmas Eve before…
Meanwhile most of the usual suspects are chilling out round the patio set. RU12 and Frosty are not though. They feel that a patio set has no place in an advent calendar, and it could be argued that they may well have a point.
I occasionally (usually) gripe on about my insomnia. Last night I had a wonderful eight hours sleep, and didn’t even get up for the loo once. How good was that! I’m sure I sleep better when I’m on a late shift and don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn.
Being on a late start I had time to go through my post this morning. My house contents and building insurance is up for renewal. I may well be able to make savings on that, but seeing how most of the mortgage is due to be paid off sometime soon, I think I shall leave the household insurance as it is for a while. Things may go squafty during the mortgage pay-of, and not fiddling with insurance may go some way to keeping the building society sweet.
The tax office have written to me changing my tax code because of “employer benefits” which appeared on a form P11D (?) which my employers sent to the tax office. I had no idea what this is, and so I phoned the tax people this morning. They had no idea what it was either. Their system didn’t allow them access to see what it was, and they suggested I phoned the wages people at work to find out what it was all about. I’ll do that later.
And there was an Xmas card from the happy-clappy-loony-chappies church round the road from us. They asked if we’d like to bother God with them over the forthcoming festive season. I still have copies of my last correspondence from them. In June 2001 they wrote to me to say that “My Boy TM ” had been banned from their youth club (in perpetuity) for sundry non-specified crimes. They never had the good grace to write back to me to explain exactly what he’d done wrong, so if they think I’m going to spoil my Xmas with religion for them, then they can go think again.
Talking of Xmas cards, there was one in amongst my post addressed to “Mr Fox” from Safe Hands Mobility of Folkestone, offering him twenty quid off of a zimmer frame, fifty quid off of a bath lift, or a ton off of a made to measure chair or a mobility scooter.
And “My Boy TM ” had a parcel today. He’s spent fifty quid on new back lights for his car. Which is nice, but for one minor problem. At the moment he doesn’t actually have a car. I would have seen that as a major problem, but he seems unperturbed.
To work, which was the same as ever, and then having dusted the snow off my car I came home in time to see what was arguably the best TV show ever. You can forget all about Big Brother and X-Factor. The program to watch is “Young Fishmonger of the Year”. Three young fishmongers had their monging skills tested to the utmost, but Danny was soon knocked out because of his sloppy filleting. Andy and Sam went head to head. Andy’s shoulder of huss was impressive, but Sam threw it away when he made a schoolboy error with his halibut. It was really good – I’ve not seen a show of this calibre in a long time. And I won’t again: ‘er indoors TM has banned me from watching it again. Can’t imagine why….
It is odd how one may take a moral stance against a patio set, but not against a sofa. But bearing in mind what happened to the last fellow who disagreed with a snowman, who’s going to argue the point?
Work wasn’t as dull as usual. Seeing it’s only a week till Xmas, we thought we’d decorate the windows. One of our number had never made snowflakes before. She’s clearly had a neglected childhood. She did claim (in her defence) she was born in sub-Saharan Africa, and only saw snow for the first time three years ago. But she was a fast study.
Management weren’t keen on the snowflakes; I would have thought that people who already start work early and go home late might be spared (less than) two minutes to make a snowflake. It’s a shame that management don’t seem to be big on staff morale.
And then home. A number of us were going for a curry to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. One of our chaps lives in the Medway towns, so rather than him going home, we thought we’d have a quiet half of shandy before the curry. We started off at home to have a trial run of the two batches of home brew that should be ready.
The stout was a bit flat. The secondary fermentation hadn’t been all that I might have hoped for. But never fear – the Manky Brewery has the technology to deal with flat beer. I applied the “re-gasser”, and the stuff now is amply frothy. And the wheat beer’s not and either. Still perhaps a little young, but definitely a success. So far I’ve made three home brews, and all three have been successes. Even if I do say so myself.
But we had a curry to get to, so we set off. After fifty yards we found the Locomotive and popped in. I’ve been looking for beers from the Old Dairy Brewery for ages, and the pub up the road from my house sells it. So we asked for pints. Disaster – the barrel run out just as the first pint was nearly pulled. So we settled for a pint of mild, and I cheekily said that if the barmaid was going to throw away the pint that had nearly run out, I’d have it. So she gave it to me. Nice one!
Suitably refreshed, and now in a mood for revisiting old haunts we slipped and slided out way through the snow and ice to the Riverside. Once my favourite local pub, once a noisy youth club, the place has had a major refurbish inside, and they’ve got rid of both the jukebox and the Sky TV. I may well start going back there. We polished off a pint of “Rocking Rudolph” before slipping, sliding and staggering our way to the Fat Fiddler. Which is now closed! Could you believe it? Surely a sigh of our times that the pub right next to the railway, potentially any town’s busiest pub, is now closed.
Another of our number drove past at that point, so we hollered abuse as she drove off into the distance and we decided to give The Swan a miss and go straight to the County Hotel. Adnam’s Xmas beer “Yule Tide” was nice, and then the birthday boy arrived. I’d bought him a special pressie. And I’d left it at home. He can have that on Monday.
By now we were a tad peckish, so fourteen of us sat down at the Curry Leaf in North Street. Aloo chat made for a good starter, and in a fit of foolish bravado I plumped for a chicken vindaloo. A good time was had by all, and compared with a lot of places in which I’ve eaten, this place was remarkably reasonable in price.
Whilst not 100%, I woke feeling surprisingly chipper, bearing in mind the quantity of ale I’d poured down my neck last night. Over breakfast I caught up with friends’ blogs, and after reading one of them, I spent a few minutes playing with a possible upgrade to the blogging software that I use.
Once you’ve entered your text into your blogging software, when you want to illustrate a point you press “update”. The Zemanta software then scans your text and suggests relevant images and links that you might want to include. When you’ve chosen an image, you just click in it and the software inserts the picture automatically into your post. The idea being that this saves you spending time searching the Internet for something appropriate by doing the search for you.
And having found you a picture, it doesn’t so much add pictures to your blog, it adds links which bring up pictures from elsewhere on the internet. Links which someone else might later change or delete remotely. Like I once did when I found out that someone else was remotely linking to a picture of mine without asking me first.
I mention Zemanta because some of my fellow bloggers may well find it useful. But for a reactionary Luddite like me, Zemanta is (in my honest opinion) a classic example of what’s wrong with today’s IT. It does the job required of it. But in a laborious “round the houses” way.
And then with brekkie scoffed we walked up the town. We’d decided to walk up the town because we suspected the car parks would be heaving on the last Saturday before Xmas. We opened the front door to find heavy snow and were glad we decided to walk. We met up with Martin for a light (!) breakfast in the Gorge, and then bought the last of the Xmas pressies as the snow got thicker and deeper. After three hours my nerves could take no more shopping and we came home slowly, pausing along the way to gloat at the misfortunes of people who were driving in the snow. Most people were suffering from wheel-spin, one chap had managed to get his bumper wedged over the tow-bar of the car in front, and a double-decker bus had slewed across Bank Street.
But by far the most entertaining to watch was the queue of people who’d come into the top end of Beaver Road. Silly people! For those of my loyal readers who don’t know the geography of the area, there are several shops and businesses that can only be accessed by driving in through the top end of Beaver Road: since the council installed the road barrier there is only one way in and out of this area. As you come in, you drive down a slope. Which is easily done. But the snow and ice was so thick that no car could get back up that slope. I could have started pushing cars, but my back isn’t what it once was, there is a limit as to how many cars one can push, and pointing and laughing is easier. I’ve since heard that the police came to the scene, berated everyone for diving down a slope knowing full well they’d get stuck, and then left, leaving everyone stuck.
We came home and prepared for the evening. Tonight was party night – a dozen of us met up for a pre-Xmas session. The ale aficionados amongst our number were subjected to a taste test. My home-brewed wheat beer and Stout were poured out alongside four other commercially produced beers, and people were invited to randomly sample the ales. I’m quite pleased to report that my brews fared reasonably well in the blind taste tests.
We then scoffed ourselves silly, and did a quiz devised by ‘er indoors TM. I came third. I would have done better, if not for the Disney films round. And then we had a visitor. Satan (!) came to dish out pressies, and I think it’s fair to say that everyone was well pleased with what they got. A good evening, which ended too soon. I just hope everyone got home though the snow…
Meanwhile “Her next door” has found a volunteer to wash her pussy. And not just any old volunteer. It’s Santa himself. However Santa’s morals would seem to rather lax, as he’s running round in the nip.
I wasn’t feeling on top form last night – I think Friday’s vindaloo had finally caught up with me, and I was up and down during the night. I finally gave up trying to sleep at 6am, but by 9am I was shattered. Being a Sunday I could go back to bed for an hour or so; so I did.
Bearing in mind the success of my home brews, I thought I might start making some sort of a record of what I’ve made, what worked, etc. And so I spent a little while wrestling with making a website. After an hour I got cross with it and gave up. The Claris software wasn’t accepting any pictures. So I went away, and came back and used Word, which worked perfectly. Perhaps the Claris software has had it. I don’t know. But the Manky Brewery has the start of a home page. I shall work on it some more later.
And then for a walk in the snow. Someone else’s plan was to have taken Eden to see Santa in Maidstone yesterday, but the weather was against it. Last night I suggested she might like to see a local Santa, and so this morning six of us set off to Bybrook Barn. Yesterday’s snow was still thick on the pavements, but it wasn’t too cold, and after forty minutes we found ourselves in Santa’s grotto. For a small local garden centre, Bybrook Barn had excelled themselves, and we spent a fun time in the grotto, seeing Santa, playing on the cup ride, and going on the train through the snow.
We suddenly realised it was over an hour past dinner time. There’s an American-style diner at Bybrook. I’ve walked past the place so many times over the years; today we decided to go in. It’s brilliant – it’s just what films and TV led me to believe an American diner would be like, and I had the ten piece breakfast. It has to be said that there was something surreal with Beach Boys and surfing music being played with thick snow all around, but it was really good. I’m looking forward to going back.
As we made our way home so more snow was beginning to fall, and once home I settled in front of the telly and slept through a succession of various films. Sometimes it can be a very tiring life being me….
He wonders if he might shift his allegiance to the group of lego vehicles. To that end he has cunningly disguised himself as a truck. The lego aeroplane and the lego skateboard and the lego fire engine have fallen for the ruse.
A good night’s sleep, to make up for yesterday’s restlessness. Perhaps having the heating on continuously helps in that regard. The BBC tell me it’s been minus eight degrees outside at one point today. I dread to think how much the gas bill will be, but I’ll worry about that after the snow has gone.
I mistakenly added the “Who Has Deleted Me” app on Facebook which immediately spammed all 250 people on my list. If any of my loyal readers got that spam, I can only apologise. Sorry ! After a bit of fiddling about I figured out how to delete that app. Whilst I was at it, or or two other apps went too, including the “Pubs Galore” one, “Pet Smurfs”, “Are You Kinky or Fridged” (!), “What Prom Dress Best Suits You” and “How Biggg is Yur Nob”. From the settings I could see that I’ve not accessed any of these for over six months. I can’t help but wonder what I was thinking of when I clicked on some of these.
I say “one or two” went. I deleted over thirty. And then I got a bit bored with all the clicking, especially when I saw that I had over one hundred and fifty apps loaded on Facebook. So I decided to use the “delete all” option. It’s not as though I use any of them.
Through the snow to work, where I got rather angry. Because of the snow, not everyone could get in to work. Or that is the official line. Whenever one snowflake is spotted, it is assumed that people might have problems getting to work. However it would seem that people’s transport difficulties vary. Every time there is snow, we have the same people arrive at work, and the same people who don’t. People who live thirty miles away have no problems getting to work. People who live five miles away cannot get in.
Am I being unsympathetic in feeling that if I can get to work, then so can everyone else? After all, if someone chooses to live in the back end of nowhere, then that is their choice to do so, and why should I bail them out because of their lifestyle choice?
I was one of the last to get out of work tonight – everyone else went early because of the snow. Once I’d swept the snow off of my car I set off for home, wondering what all the fuss was about. The roads were quite passable. Or so I thought until I came to a roundabout. I wanted the third exit of this roundabout. I actually got the second – broadside. As I slid towards Ellingham industrial estate I actually realised what a classic example of Newton’s first law of motion I was experiencing. After that slip I took the roads with a bit more respect, turned off the CD player and got home without further mishap. I don’t like driving in the snow…
Regular readers of this drivel may recall a blog entry a few weeks ago (26 November) when I mentioned that I was feeling the urge to take up astro-photography. Regular readers may also recall a recent blog entry (14 December) when I failed utterly in my attempt to see the Geminid meteor shower because of the clouds. Or two comets earlier in the year for much the same reason.
This morning there was a lunar eclipse. Starting at 6.30am, with totality at 7.41 am I was hopeful. After all, sunrise wasn’t until 8am. I got up to find thick fog. I *know* I shouldn’t have been surprised about this.
To work, through the slush. We’d had rain overnight, and now we have what I consider is the worst part of snow. After the heavy snow there is a week of slush everywhere. Work was good – Santa came to visit. As well as a good goosing off of Santa, I got a personalised jar of sweeties. I was assured I’d have a photo of me and Santa for today’s blog. I haven’t. Maybe tomorrow…
And home to find a message on the telephone’s 1571 circuit. Jez Smithson of 721 Letsby Avenue is having problems with his dog Pickle. Pickle has a neck condition, and Jez wondered if I would take on Pickle. He (Jez, presumably) has full information about Pickle’s medical history from the last vet, who was worse than useless. Jez is quite happy to pass on the medical history, and despite what I might have been told by the debt collection agency, Jez can afford to pay for Pickle’s treatment. Jez left me all the information I would ever need about him - name, address, phone numbers, bank details, and said if I wanted or needed to know anything else I had only to call him.
I’ve been blogging for over four years now. It concentrates my thoughts and keeps me out of mischief, as well as giving me a record of what I’ve done with my life. I also enjoy reading the blogs of friends. On the side panel of this Blogger page is a link to the five most recently updated blogs on the list of blogs which I read. I had a count-up today. I keep up with developments on twenty five blogs which are written by friends and family. Some are updated regularly; others not so. I enjoy reading the blogs of friends and family – seeing what they are getting up to, seeing what I’ve missed in their lives. Seeing their photos. Sometimes reading about things that I’ve done and recorded in my blog, but seen from a different point of view. Listening to their views on the news and politics of our age. Realising that I can fundamentally disagree with people, but still consider them to be a dear friend.
At the very top of the page is a link “Next Blog”. Most Blogger blogs have this – a link to a random blog somewhere else in the world. This evening I did something I’ve not done for a while. I spent half an hour or so clicking through the blogs of people who I don’t know. I was amazed to find so many blatantly religious blogs. At least half of the blogs I found were proclaiming the religious views of the bloggers. Loads of entries over months, and all of them featuring nothing but twee platitudes.
There’s no denying that when I was younger I didn’t really know what to expect of the future. Perhaps I watched too much Star Trek – I expected high technology. The technology I expected (matter transportation, space travel) never arrived, but computers and phones and tellies are pretty good. I naively expected a world where everyone lived together in peace and harmony (which we haven’t really got).
But what I really didn’t expect was to have so much of the population of the world still being religious. Something that worries me is the fact that we live in a world which is becoming more and more religious. If someone wants to be religious, then that’s fine. That’s their choice. But if two people want to be religious, then it’s been my experience that they can’t do it together, but they will argue about it. No two religion-ists ever seem to agree with each other. And so far from having a world in which everyone lives together in peace and harmony, we still have a world of petty squabbles and intolerances. You see – the problem with a religious belief is that it is utterly illogical.
Take for example an incident which happened to me this week. As I left work on Monday night, a very religious colleague of mine left work at the same time. I told her to be careful as she drove home through the bad weather. She told me (with a straight face) that she had no worries – God would be with her, but she was worried for me going home without God. As I mentioned on Monday’s entry I had a skid on the way home, but just a slip across the road. I wasn’t hurt – no one else was involved, and it was all over in ten seconds. The girl who drove home with God (presumably He was in the passenger seat) pranged her car into another car in the ice. When we recounted our tales this morning, she crowed and claimed that her point had been proved. Because she wasn’t seriously injured in the crash. Somehow the fact that the one who’d gone home with God having the prang, and the apathetic agnostic merely having a bit of a skid totally proved the agnostic theological viewpoint to be utterly wrong. Apparently claiming that you won’t crash your car because God is looking after it, and then crashing it less than an hour later proves (beyond a shadow of a doubt) God’s regular interventions in our daily lives. It stood to reason, and if I couldn’t see that, then I never would.
A late start today. I don’t mind the late starts, but I don’t like the late finish that goes with it. Today’s was particularly galling as everyone else at home had now started their Xmas break, and I still had two more days at work. Whilst they all snored, I checked the day’s news over a spot of brekkie.
The Labour party are cashing in on the disarray in the coalition government caused by Vince Cable’s stunning revelations. Perhaps Vince Cable was rather daft to have been so forthright in expressing his reservations about the Government in which he is a prominent figure. But as David Steel said when interviewed on the radio the other day, did Vince Cable actually say anything (other than the BSkyB bit) that wasn’t already public knowledge? Do we honestly expect all the members of any government of any political persuasion to all be in total agreement on every single policy?
Yesterday I related my concerns over the religious crackpot views shared by quite a few people these days. Following that theme, today it transpires that nearly a third of theUK population believe they have a guardian angel.
I once knew a chap with one of those. Whilst walking from my parents house toHastings town centre with him, his guardian angel helped him find a fifty pence coin which was lying on the pavement. The discovery of that coin was 100% down to the angel, and we had a little prayer of thanks. For some reason it was blind chance that this chap trod in a dog turd a few hundred yards later.
And so to work, where the workload has slackened somewhat. Whilst we offer “business as usual” this week, for much of the world, it really is not “business as usual”. A hospital car park which is usually full to overflowing is half empty. Does it not suit people to have hospital appointments this week for some strange reason?
Just recently it’s become somewhat de-rigeur to run down the public sector employees as a bunch of overpaid underworked layabouts. I find it rather interesting that the private sector that does this running down is (by and large) now closed down, and won’t re-open for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, my place of work won’t actually close up at all.
In a better plane of reality, having brandished their choppers in the park (!) the young chav and Frosty have obtained an Xmas tree. The dog is grateful that they now have an indoor toilet, and has decorated the tree in the way that only a lego dog can.
I woke at 2am this morning and lay there for an hour or so before giving up, getting up and getting on with the ironing. I thought I might as well do something constrictive with my time. I went back to bed shortly after 4am, hoping I might get some kip before I needed to get up, but just lay there wide awake until 6.30am.
It was probably as well that I was up early – I wanted to get to the supermarket early to get lunch. I had an idea the place might be busy. Normally when I go there for lunch at 7.30am there are half a dozen cars in the car park. Today the car park was full, and Asda itself was heaving.
And so to work. A colleague had been given a whip for her “Secret Santa” pressie on Tuesday. Today she brought the whip in, together with the full dominatrix outfit. It did it for me!!! That made the day worth while.
And we even got to go home an hour early because it’s Xmas. Can’t be bad! It was a shame I wasted my extra hour sleeping. ‘er indoors TM and “My Boy TM ” had spent the day delivering Xmas pressies, and I only woke when they came home. They came home laden with pressies, and with a pressure barrel from my cousin. I shall fill that full of beer in the New Year. After a quick bit of tea we spent the evening with friends, despite the Rear Admiral wanting to take me to church.
And so I’m now starting something quite unusual for me. I’ve booked some leave for next week, and don’t go back to work until a week next Tuesday. This will be the first Xmas in at least ten years over which I’ve taken leave.
Quite a late night last night – I sat up till rather late last night watching festive rubbish on the telly. The plan for the morning was to have a lie-in, so I was rather miffed to be woken at silly o’clock by a text message sent to the house phone wishing me a merry Xmas.
And so on with Xmas. This year Xmas was different. Much as I’ve really enjoyed all my previous Xmases, they have all been spent driving from one set of relatives and friends to another. Which entails a very early start, and the day spent rushing here, there and thither (to quote Oliver Hardy) sometimes visiting half a dozen people and places in the one day. This year I’d put my foot down, and we were going to have a quiet day at home. We’d decided that we may never do it again, it may well be a flop, but just once we weren’t going to spend all of Xmas driving.
So we started off getting dinner ready and tidying up, and we had a brill Xmas dinner. The wine wasn’t all that – fifteen quid for a bottle of wine was in retrospect money down the drain. It wasn’t especially bad wine, it was fairly good, as wine goes, but wasn’t a patch on a bottle of beer which would have been a fraction of the cost. And having pigged out on turkey, sprouts and Xmas put we had the Ker-Plunk challenge. Which I lost.
Xmas isn’t Xmas without a snooze and so “My Boy TM ” and I had a kip on the sofa until the Folkestone contingent arrived. Pressies were opened – I got a decent haul; if only my mother in law would stop buying me liquorice allsorts. This is now the twenty-eighth Xmas she’s bought me liquorice allsorts. I can’t stand the things.
And then we settled down to the Xmas “Doctor Who” special. As “Doctor Who” episodes go, it wasn’t anything out if the ordinary. As Xmas “Doctor Who” specials go, it was the best one ever. And then we had an evening of Blokus. I could have done better. The Xmas “Royle Family” was excellent, and as the kids went off visiting, I slept in front of episodes of “Family Guy”, finally giving up and going to bed around 1am.
And as the day drew to a close, I felt myself reflecting on a different way of doing Xmas. Usually it’s spent with a load of people, and it’s usually very busy rushing here and there. This year it was quiet; we did things at our pace, and I enjoyed it. Next year… I’m still undecided… but the home made stout was definitely a success.
Some of the kids came home earlier than the others last night and locked up. The contingent arriving home at 4.30am found themselves locked out. I woke and thought it odd that everyone’s mobiles phones were ringing except mine, and then I heard a knocking on the door. “My Boy TM ” was there with a rather sheepish expression. Why hadn’t he rung *my* phone? He didn’t want to wake me, and thought I’d be cross with him. Since when has he ever bothered about either of those?
I tried to get back to kip, but failed, and so as the household slept I watched Xmas films on the Sky Movie channel. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Star Trek are always good. Once everyone was up and about we set off to find some petrol, which is easier said than done on a Bank Holiday. And then it was off to Folkestone where we spent the day with fellow bloggers.
I blame my restless night for my dozing off during “Name That Tune”, but even if I was dozing off, I still won. What line follows “khaki coloured Bombadier”? And there’s no denying that I wasn’t as alert as I might have been during the earlier stages of Trivial Pursuit. But I think I compensated well for that with my late surge, only narrowly losing out to the girls. The rizla game was fun. And I discovered I have untapped talents at charades. My rendition of the Lone Ranger had to be seen to be believed, or so I am told.
I woke this morning with a nagging headache and a general feeling of “bleugh!” It would be just my luck to go down with a bug on the first Xmas I’ve booked off work for years. But I suppose there are two things I can do with a bug – sulk about it, or get on with it.
So once breakfasted we set off, and twelve of us descended on Dover Castle. We started off in the underground hospital. Those of us who’d been underground at Lydden Spout over the summer had tunnel flashbacks. We only got to see one level of the tunnels – we were assured the second level was being refurbished, and would be open over the summer. So a return trip is a must, and will be planned over the summer.
From there we had a look round the Pharos and the church, and into the gift shop where they were giving away free hot mead. That went down nicely. And then into the keep, where they had actors doing historical re-enactments. They were doing the feast of Saturnalia, where the village idiot gets to be king for the day.
There were three nominations for the role of “king for the day”. To choose a winner, the candidates had to choose a new rule which would be fair and just for the good of the land and the common folk. Alejandro blew his chances with some radical talk about the redistribution of housing. A passing nice lady made a twit of herself by saying she wanted free chocolate. The winning candidate had a winning policy: no farting on a Tuesday.
As the king of the Saturnalia, I got to lead the peasants to the dining hall. I was accompanied by a fit bird, who asked if I was on my own, or did I have a friend who might like to sit at the top table with me. She was rather taken aback when I told her there were twelve of us. So I wiped the smile of ‘er indoors TM face by choosing her to sit at the top table with me. Being King was great fun: every time I sat up, so the assembled peasants had to sit up too. They could only sit down when I said so. And I got food too, whilst the actors did their thing. In fact one of the actors complemented me on how well I was joining in.
All too soon the fun was over, and having handed back the crown, we carried on exploring round the castle. There was lots we didn’t see, and it was very cold, so having joined English Heritage we decided we’d have a return visit in the summer. Saying our goodbyes to the McDonalds contingent, eight of us made our way to the seaside for a spot of lunch. I’d heard about the Coastguard some time ago, and this pub has been on my list of “pubs to visit” for quite a while. I suppose I should really have booked in advance, but we didn’t know how long we’d be spending at the castle. The food was excellent, not cheap, but not as expensive as some places I’ve been to. But it’s not really a pub – more of a restaurant with a good bar. To be honest, for me the difference between a pub and a restaurant is that you don’t have to book in advance at a pub. That being said, I’d certainly go back.
Pausing only briefly to work out that the twenty eighth of January is not only a leap year, but also the first Saturday in February (!), we slipped in mud a few times. And having dropped some friends home, we slowly made our way back to Ashford where we popped in to see Chip & Emily and spent a pleasant hour or so eating more Xmas scoff whilst watching “Shaun the Sheep” on DVD.
And so home. Today was the first day of the Xmas break when I didn’t spend large parts of the day asleep, for which I was grateful. I get so cross that I’m so often wide awake for half the night when I should be asleep, and then waste my waking hours dozing off. I mentioned earlier that I was feeling under the weather today – I spent the evening sitting (slobbing) in front of the telly watching “Upstairs Downstairs – The Next Generation”. It’s obviously a follow-on from the original, and I liked it. Let’s just hope they make more episodes…
I’m still suffering from the Xmas bug – I’m not 100%, but I can’t complain really. I’ve certainly felt worse in the past. Having had a rather busy time over the last few days I settled down to catch up with emails. Even though I’m on holiday, life goes on. I had a few emails to catch up on – most interestingly one to one of the voices in my head. By far the loudest voice in my head appears regularly on You-Tube, and even has his ownFacebook page. Over the Xmas break, Dave Cow had an email:
“Hey sweetie , how re you feeling , am new to this site and i really want to get to know more about you , i want to know how i can add more joy to your life and make your day brighter, and i wish you can do the same for me too. i can give up my world if only you will let me be part of your , i will like to know more about you please , you can add my up on yahoo and let chat , dopey_fitbint is my username, i will be waiting for you there now.”
From her photo, the correspondent looks rather fit. The Cow is certainly getting over-excited, even if the fit bird is probably only twelve years old. One wonders exactly how she intends to brighten the day of a glove puppet.
And then my tribe gathered and we eventually set off to Hastings for Mother’s birthday party. As we drove down the A28 we waved at friends driving back the other way; none of whom saw us. I’m not sure what the attraction in Tenterden had been this morning, but it seemed that a lot of our friends were driving back from the place.
We’d been told to arrive at my brother’s house at mid day, but bearing in mind the buffet wasn’t until 4pm and we were all hungry, we went via McDonald’s for a bit of scoff. I was tempted to try a “fish-o-fillet”, since (apparently) “My Boy TM ” has never seen anyone eat one. But I stuck to the tried and tested burgers before we popped into Sainsbury’s to get a birthday card. We wanted one with “75” on it, as we felt that this was something of a landmark birthday. We were out of luck. There were lots of numbered birthday cards up to sixty-five, and quite a few from eighty onwards. Presumably Sainsburys think that there’s something of a paucity of birthdays between the sixty-fifth and eightieth. Either that, or it’s not worth their time catering for that market. Perhaps they expect people to croak during that window, but if they can make it to eighty, then the chances are that they will make more birthdays? I don’t know, but in the end we settled for a generic “Happy Birthday Mum” card, and hoped for the best.
We arrived at my brothers and the party was in full swing. I must admit I wasn’t though; I sat on the sofa and died quietly. I wish I could have joined in more with what was going on, but I wasn’t feeling at all well. As well as feeling generally “bleagh” I’d developed guts ache too. Probably from over-eating over the Xmas period. But I joined in as best I could. After all, it was good to see Mum on her birthday: normally I’m going back to work on 28 December.
And then home again through the fog. Normally we can get from Hastings to home in forty five minutes. With the fog we expected to take a little longer. Following the twit who drove slightly slower than walking pace made the journey take ages….
I woke to find the house empty. That was nice (!) I sulked for a bit, then went on the internet over a spot of brekkie. A couple of days ago whilst we were at Dover Castle we joined English Heritage. I’ve been putting this off for years, and to be honest we joined against my better judgement. This morning I called up the English Heritage website to see exactly what I’ll get for my money (all eighty-something quid of it!). Having had a look round the website, I think I’ve been conned.
Take my home county: there are twenty seven English Heritage properties in Kent. Many of them are open over the winter, the Knights Templar church in Dover is a classic example of the sort of thing. But one ramshackle wall (which has fallen over) looks (to my uneducated eye) much like another. And to add insult to injury, most of the places which are open all year long are free to the public anyway. The few places they’ve got which aren’t tumble-down broken wreckage don’t actually open until the summer when I’ve got all sorts of better things to do.
So I thought I might have a look farther away. In our neighbouring counties there’s rather thin pickings. There are ten English Heritage sites in Essex, two in Surrey, three in East Sussex and two in West Sussex. Most of which are al-fresco remains of things which collapsed years ago, and have been rotting since Methuselah was a lad, and are free to visit anyway.
I then downloaded a manual for my new camera. I say “new” – a good friend had a FujiFilm FinePix S5600 gathering dust in the cupboard, and I’ve borrowed the thing on a semi-permanent basis; the idea being to have a go at astrophotography. Regular readers of this drivel may recall that three weeks ago I obtained a telescope. In theory I should now be all kitted out to astrophotograph. In practice the telescope turned out to be fit for the dustbin; which was why it was being given away. But I’ve got my hands on a half-decent camera, and am desperately trying to figure out how to adjust the shutter speeds. All I need now is a telescope that isn’t fit for the dustbin, and I might be onto something.
We then went shopping. First of all to Comet to get an adapter for “My Boy TM ” ‘s new electric razor. Then on to Comet and Pissy World. I wanted to look at their e-book readers, and to ask the advice of the experts (!) in the shop. And as is always the case, because I wasn’t wearing a shirt & tie, and because I looked a bit like a slob, I was studiously ignored by the staff in both shops. Oh well, it’s their loss.
The home brew shop wasn’t open – they are closed over the holidays. And then we went to the town centre. People were queuing to park in the Vicarage Lane car park. But the multi-story car park had loads of spaces. Are people that mean that they will queue for half an hour to save a few pennies on an hour’s parking fee? I popped into WH Smiths. For Xmas I received (among other things) a WH Smiths voucher. To my mind, WH Smiths are filling the gap in the market left by Woolworths. They seem to sell a bit of everything, but don’t specialise in anything, and when shopping they would be the last place you’d try for anything. After a few minutes I came to the conclusion that rather than looking for what I wanted, I was browsing the shelves looking to waste ten quid on the thing I didn’t want least.
I remembered I’d been recommended Jeffrey Archer’s prison diaries, so I thought I’d look for them. I couldn’t find them, so I asked at the counter. The girl at the enquiries desk snapped that she didn’t work on books. When I didn’t shove off, she glared at me, and snarled to ask if I expected her to have a look for the book. I suggested she didn’t put herself out, but it was too late: she stomped to the shelves, looked around and then loudly announced to the world in general that she supposed I wanted her to check the stock. She made great show of thumping the computer before announcing they didn’t have it, and suggested I try another branch of WH Smiths. There are some in Folkestone, Tenterden and Canterbury, apparently. I told her that I’d try eBay, as it would be less trouble all round. I suppose I should complain, but it wouldn’t achieve anything.
We mooched round a few more shops, then home to watch the last episode of “Upstairs Downstairs”. Brilliant!!! And then we spent a little while watching stuff we’d recorded onto the SkyPlus box. Or ‘er indoors TM did. I slept through a lot of it.
After the obligatory turkey curry we set off to the arky-ologee Xmas shindig. Not the most raucous of festive celebrations, but it took my mind off of feeling poorly and sorry for myself. I got quite involved with the quiz. The first round involved anagrams of the names of various people of historical importance. It didn’t help that I’d misread one of the clues as “Corporal Pooh”, and I swear that what they claimed was Michelangelo was actually Rod Hull and Emu. But what do I know? I scored equally poorly in the general knowledge round, but got nine out of ten in the sayings. S---/A-/H----- is “Safe As Houses”. So what is N-/S---/W------/F---? Or G------/L---/A/W------/J--?
The plan for today was originally to be a pub lunch somewhere in Sussex for my brother’s birthday, but as everyone seemed to be down with the Xmas bug, this has been postponed until everyone is feeling better. Which was probably for the best, even though it’s somewhat frustrating. I’ve not been off work for my brother’s birthday for years.
So I had a lie in, and then spent a little while helping “Daddies Little Angel TM ” with her UCAS application. I then went back into NeverWinter for the first time in a week. The place had been over-run by water elementals. I hate those things. If you’ve never been on the receiving attempt of a water elemental severing itself to do a drown attack, think yourself lucky (!)
Then a bit of shopping – to Staples to get some Velcro bits for the posters from the astro club. I’ve obtained an old jigsaw board in which we can keep the posters flat. And with them being kept flat they will now stay on the boards I got a year ago.
And then to B&Q for a new yard brush (the old one broke) and some new light fittings for the living room (the current ones are broke). In complete contrast to my recent visits to B&Q, the staff were really helpful. Let’s hope that continues.
We came home to find the postman had been with a week’s worth of post. With bank statement and credit card statement I was able to have a look at the state of my finances. They’ve been better (!) I then spent the afternoon sleeping whist the DVD machine played episodes of “The Comic Strip Presents”.
If I wasn’t on holiday, but at work today, I would have phoned in sick. I might just have a word with management next week and see if I can’t take this week as sick rather than as holiday. It’s not like I’m doing very much other that alternating between sleeping and feeling sorry for myself….
Not counting the people who access my blog via the RSS feeds, over the course of this last year, my blog has been accessed over ten thousand times. Every day it is read on over thirty (different) computers around the world. Most of my readers (over seventy five percent) are in the United Kingdom, with just over ten per cent of my readership being inCanada, and just under ten per cent being in the United States. The remaining five (ish) per cent of my readership are world-wide, coming from such diverse places as Belgium, Brazil, Australia, Finland, Russia, Iran, New Zealand and Georgia.
Only just over forty per cent of my readers use Internet Explorer as their browser. Just fewer than thirty per cent of my readers use FireFox, and a similar number use Safari. It’s interesting that many windows users use the Apple browser (like I do!).
On New Year’s Eve it’s traditional to have a retrospective. Last New Year I was looking back on some quite serious changes that had happened in my life in 2009. This year (2010) hasn’t seen such radical changes to my life, but it has had its moments. Most noticeable being “Daddies Little Angel TM ” having not so much left home, as having transferred her main base of operations. Still, it’s been a noticeable reduction in my laundry workload. “One down, one to go”, as the saying goes.
Talking of the “one to go”, this year has seen the first fruit of my loin take up tattooing. And I have taken up new hobbies too. I’ve bought a fishing licence, joined a syndicate, and gone back to fishing in a big way. Having been threatening to camp at Sumner’s Ponds for some time, this year we actually got up there for a night. I’ve taken up home-brewing, and am quite pleased with the results so far. I’ve also started a second blog, for work-related stuff.
I’ve not entirely abandoned my old ways - I’ve also kept up with my old hobbies – this year I went to all the traditional kite festivals, beer festivals and bonfire parades. I’m still (very) active in the astro club and I’m still wasting my time in the arky-ologee club. And talking of wasting time, I still spend *far* too much time in NeverWinter.
Somewhere where I’ve not been quite so busy is in the reviewing of pubs. In 2008 I posted eighty five pub reviews. In 2009 I posted sixty four. This year the number was very noticeably down – I only reviewed sixteen pubs. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that going to the pub is becoming a very expensive thing to do – when going on a good-old-fashioned-piss-up I expect to spend at least fifty quid, and usually a lot more. And that’s just my expenditure. I suppose my fellow drinkers probably shell out just as much themselves. And it’s money (literally) down the toilet.
Having bought all the home brew kit, I can knock up ten gallons of ale for less than the cost of two rounds in the pub. I suspect I might be cutting back on pub outings over this coming year. After all, I can brew better beer cheaper…
Last New Year I actually looked back over the preceding year and came up with a personal top ten list of my year’s events. After a lot of thought, I’ve done the same again. Starting with a short-list of sixty five events (!), my top ten events of 2010 were:
Heavy rain at Brighton, Teston and Sumners Ponds put a damper on the kiting events. And the beer festivals at Dover and Chambers Bar were really good fun – really enjoyable, but they left me seriously out of pocket.
And so, here comes 2011. What does it hold? There are beer festival, kite festivals, bonfire parades, astronomy events that I have already pencilled in the diary, but for my first priority, getting rid of this cold would be nice…!