01 July 2007 (Sunday) - Still wet

01 July 2007 (Sunday) - Still wetmagnify

My best shoes are still drying on the radiator. It could be a quick eBay session to get some more. My coat & waterproof trousers have been scrubbed, but still bear the marks of mud. You can see the mud (and the sexy hat) on You-Tube…..

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As one ordeal ends, it's time to prepare for another. I've taken the seats out of the Espace in readiness to collect the tables from the farm tomorrow for the upcoming kite festival. And as it's such a nice day, we went for a walk. It rained again.

 

02 July 2007 (Monday) - Le Tour de France

Next Sunday the county will be totally stuffed as two hundred cyclists charge through the county. Roads are closed for the day. Were I wanting to go out for the day, I could go to Stanhope or the Romney Marsh. People will be unable to get to work. Heaven help anyone in South Ashford wanting to get to hospital. I’m told that anyone wanting to go to the Medway towns must be parked by 7am and cannot get out again until 7pm. All for the Tour de France.

Has anyone met anyone with a good word to say about the event? But yesterday, this lot managed the same thing, bigger and better:

http://www.childrenincrisis.org.uk/pages/british_cyclosportive.html?gclid=CM7hvvumho0CFQZhEAode2rIjA
It seems like a worthwhile event- at least it is raising money for charity, and it had twenty five times more cyclists following exactly the same route at the tour de France will next weekend.
I drove past a lot of them. 5000 cyclists, amateur cyclists, in an event organised by amateurs. No roads closed, no disruption, no problem.

200 cyclists in an event organised by "professionals". Roads closed, police overtime, major disruption…..

I shall ask the local police next week how much it all cost. Under the “Freedom of Information” Act they have to tell me.

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03 July 2007 (Tuesday) - Nothing much to say for once

I was rather hoping to have something rather profound to say for my three hundredth blog entry. But I haven't. So as all else fails, bearing in mind we're going to spend some time in Brighton in a tent in the not too distant future, let's go camping with the gay daleks

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04 July 2007 (Wednesday) - Skint

I’ve been sitting here… well, to you that would be sitting over there, as Albert said “everything’s relative”. And they say that the theory of relativity is tricky to understand. Where was I? Over there? What was I on about…….

I’ve been sitting (relatively) here for an hour doing the monthly accounts, and I’ve discovered what’s going wrong with my finances. I need one more payday than there is months every year. Just one. It wouldn’t make me rich, but it would help me catch up a bit.

In the hour I’ve been sitting here we’ve had glorious sunshine, monsoons, and every conceivable form of weather in between. I’m hoping it will perk up a bit for the weekend. Talking of which I really should start packing. A month ago it was suggested that some of us could spend the Thursday night on the floor of “a very nice man TM” in Peacehaven. I really should phone to confirm that’s still OK, or I could just turn up tomorrow night and hope for the best. I’m sure he’d like that!

I wonder how many buckets “My Boy TM” will melt whilst he’s in charge of the house this weekend. He still hasn’t disposed of the carcass of the last one yet.

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05 July 2007 (Thursday) - It Begins

05 July 2007 (Thursday) - It Beginsmagnify

I’m quite convinced that “a very nice man TM” in Peacehaven must have read yesterday’s blog entry, as within five minutes of putting the blog up, he phoned to ask what time we’d be arriving.

The morning was spent packing the Espace full to bursting point, and then, ably assisted with Brian we set off to Brighton Kite Festival two days early. Having guzzled four gallons of Crofter’s at Teston, there were those who felt we should get more of the same. However, going via Hastings Old Town would add substantially to our journey, so we thought we’d stock up at Middle Farm instead.

Won’t do that again. Whilst the range of ales they have is unbeatable, they are somewhat pricey - £1.80 per pint for the Crofters compared with £2.30 per pint with Middle Farm. And the bottled beers were just as bad. Whilst the range is very good, it’s again 50p per bottle more. However, time was pressing so we stumped up for the beer and continued on to Peacehaven where we were met with a most excellent tea, and we sat down with the girls to watch “Shrek 2” and “Hookwinked” until “the very nice man from Peacehaven TM” arrived when we carried on watching the films. The girls went beddy-byes and we sat chatting and then got the cards out and invented a new poker hand – the “manky straight” in which the hand is a straight which is missing the necessary jack, but then wins by mistake because of the full house or two pairs that the player didn’t see. “Manky straights” won two hands that night, and as the wine, whisky and port had been consumed to excess we waddled off to kip around 1.30am.

 

06 July 2007 (Friday) - Brighton Kite Festival (Take Six!)

06 July 2007 (Friday) - Brighton Kite Festival (Take Six!)magnify

I can remember getting children off to school in years gone by, and the last thing Corinne needed was me in the way, so I kept out of the way until the littluns had set sail. We stuffed luggage back into the seriously full Espace and as Matt arrived we all helped Simon load up the last few kites before setting off to Stanmer Park.

Despite having been asked not to arrive before mid day on the Friday, many people had set up camp the previous evening. In fact by the time we arrived at about 10am, most of the bottom of the field was full of campers already. For the last five years we've always camped at the top of the slope at Stanmer park, but it had been mentioned by several people that we were too far away from all the action at the bottom of the hill. This year we planned to set up at the bottom of the hill, and so we did. In a hurricane. I must admit that as we set up I had reservations about the location. Even once we were all set up I was still seriously considering chucking all the gear back in the Espace and driving back up the hill. But variety is the spice of life, and so I steeled myself to give this new location a go.

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Before long the rest of our party had arrived and we thought we'd make the most of the wind before the normal people arrived tomorrow. Kat got dragged around the field by a Super-10 for half an hour before we went for tea. Chicken pasta went down very well, and it was at this point I found one of the benefits of our new location. The toilets had hot running water and huge sinks in which I could do the washing up. What usually takes ages was done in a few minutes. But everyone else had figured this out years ago, and one of the drawbacks of our new location was the seemingly endless stream of people through our camp to get to the loos. Our new location was certainly in the thick of it, and whilst it was good to meet new friends from France and the Isle of Wight, it was somewhat disconcerting to find that people we barely knew were sending people we didn't know into our tent because it was "the bar". At one point I had some stranger asking me where the red wine was. "Probably in your caravan" I told him and carried on with my pint. Whilst I do want to be everyone's mate, I'm stuffed if I'm going to be providing a free bar (yet again).

As the evening wore on, far too much ale was downed, and about 1am it was bed time. One of many things I dislike about camping is the lack of facilities so it was good to be able to have a late night shower before going to kip.

 

07 July 2007 (Saturday) - The Fool on the Hill

07 July 2007 (Saturday) - The Fool on the Hillmagnify

As the wind had slackened off somewhat from yesterday’s hurricane it was safe to put up our banners. A simple job such as putting up five banners took half an hour before it was time for me to take up my post. Provided someone who knows what they are doing sets up the large kites, I’m very happy to look after them, re-launch them when they crash, etc. It’s a great job. I get to be at the top of the hill all day long, flying the biggest kites going. I get to see all of the festival going on around me, the organised events in the arena, the skilled kiters flying the fun kites, the general public tying it all up in knots. It’s great. I even get my dinner & beers fetched up to me and have some quality time with my eldest nephew. It’s the best job in the festival. And best of all, I don’t actually have to do very much. The kite pretty much flies itself. Periodically I give the line a bit of a tug to make it look like I know what I’m doing, and all the normal people think I’m wonderful. At one point the nice man from the paper came up to me and asked to interview me. Before I could get a single word in edgeways he’d set up his video camera, positioned me where he wanted me and strapped me up with a microphone. So I thought I’d have a bit of a laugh with him. “OK” he said, “tell me in your own words why you are doing this”. So I stared into hs camera and said in a monotone “my – name – is – david – and – on Saturdays – if – I – take – the – special – tabliks – they – let – me - out – of – the – hospickal – until – tea – time – but – I – have - to – be – back – by – tea – time – or – the – nurse – has – to – call – the – policeman – cos – of – wot – happened – last – time -…” As the colour drained from the chap’s face I grinned and asked if he’d like me to do it properly. Oh how we laughed. You can see the final result on line at http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/localnews/display.var.1528539.0.thousands_flock_to_kite_festival.php and I’m told it made the local papers.

After a while we took the octopus kite off and just flew the Manta Ray. It was pulling like a train, and when the normal people weren’t watching we played zip-lines with it. When the youngsters were about we used the lift to raise them up a foot or so and explained about how the ancient Chinese used to do man-lifting for military purposes.

All too soon the day’s kiting was over and we packed the stuff away and made our way back down the hill. Saturday night is the traditional BKF barbeque and after some pretty stunning scoff Simon formally awarded me the BKF pin for my help over the weekend. As I say, the best job at the festival, I got an award AND they paid for my tea. Can’t be bad.

 

08 July 2007 (Sunday) - Frustrated.

08 July 2007 (Sunday) - Frustrated.magnify

Sunday was one of those days. It started badly at 1am when some brat was running around the camp site in tears and screaming fits. When it finally shut up, the noisy conversation right outside my tent started. When that stopped, the brat had another fit. And so the night wore on. Another drawback of being in the centre of things. It was gone 4am before I got some quiet. And to add insult to injury everyone else slept through the noise.

But I was going to be up the hill again flying the big kites, so life would be good. We put up the Manta Ray and the teddy, and before long a chap set up to our right. He put up a lifter, the shark, and the duck pictured above, and then he shoved off and left it there. As his line flew over, under and around ours I desperately heaved and hauled in order to avoid collisions, but eventually there was the crossing that needed him to haul on his line. And because he’d shoved off, he couldn’t. So the whole lot knotted up and crashed. Then he appeared, all stressy about crashing his kites. I smiled a lot, we re-launched. He added a smaller inflatable teddy and shoved off again. I hauled heroically but after ten more minutes his stuff was unavoidable and so another crash ensued. And he appeared again muttering as he added yet more stuff to leave unattended. After about the twentieth crash of his causing, his kite cut off our lifter kite. My nephew told me that he found it, but it was Batty who retrieved from the tree. It was during this episode that our “new found friend” offered to help us pack away the Manta. I told him that it didn’t need packing away and that we’d still be flying. He wandered off muttering and wound in our main line for us. Once our lifer was retrieved I unwound our main line and re-launched. And…. Yes – you can guess. He’d shoved off again, his kites were all over the sky, it all crashed again. When he appeared this time I’d decided on no more Mr Nice Guy, and told him politely but firmly that all these crashes were entirely his fault because he kept wandering off and leaving his stuff unattended. He just looked blankly at me as though I was talking a foreign language and carried on leaving his stuff unattended. The next collision resulted in his lifter being cut off. I commented “one all” with a smile.

Eventually one of the normal people flew a 50p kite through the Manta’s bridle destroying at least three of the bridle lines. I took this to be divine intervention. By the time we’d put the wreckage of the Manta away, loads more of the normal people had set up in our way. It was past 3pm, so I took the executive decision that most of the public had seen a huge kite, and furthermore seeing that Brian had gone to the trouble of lugging a gallon of ale to the top of the hill, it wouldn’t be fair to carry it back down again. So we packed all the gear back into the trailer, hitched the trailer back onto the Land Rover, and guzzled a gallon of ale whilst watching the world go by.

All too soon the world had gone by, and it was back to camp. Apparently the brat which had been screaming all night long had been doing chores for everyone today as punishment for screaming all night long. That is, chores for everyone except those she kept awake. And then tea time – fajitas!! A particular favourite of mine. Three of those, more ale and then one of our kiting friends (a smashing bloke, but I’ve no idea what his name is) asked if we’d like to play with his man-lifter. I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, but I know people who would……

 

09 July 2007 (Monday) - Reflecting on a wonderful weekend

09 July 2007 (Monday) - Reflecting on a wonderful weekendmagnify

It would seem the noisy element went home last night as I slept well. After a good breakfast I decided it is handy having the hot water nearby for the washing up. It was on my third trip to the toilets to do washing up that the heavens opened. For the last few weeks the weather has been on the wet side, and we were so lucky to have had such glorious weather over the weekend. But, for the third kite festival in a row we put away our camp in the rain. The tents were sodden, the was ground becoming a swamp. Normally I leave Stanmer Park with a sense of sadness. This morning it was with a sense of relief that we’d got so much away dry. However we had three wet tents. As we drove home and my passenger snoozed I speculated on what nights we could use the scout hut to dry the canvas. Once I’d formulated my plans I realised the rain had stopped. In fact the closer to home we got, the drier it seemed. Ashford was in glorious sunshine and I managed to dry out all three tents on the washing line this afternoon. Well, to be honest, on two washing lines as “Er Indoors” managed to snap the washing line when she tried to put towels on it as well as tent.

Same time next year? Definitely! But where? The top of the hill is just too far away from what’s going on at the bottom. The bottom of the hill has the shower block, running hot water for the washing up, close to everyone else, but it’s close to everyone else, too close, too noisy and it did get swampy when it rained.…. How about trying half way up the hill?

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10 July 2007 (Tuesday) - Back to the Grind

And so, after the fun of the weekend, life returns to normal. The twenty-four hour glazier that the insurance company organised only took 120 hours to show up. He then sucked air in through his teeth, scratched his knackers, got out a tape measure and promptly buggered off again for another week. I’m informed he will fix the window next Tuesday.

The washing machine is broke. For some reason the drum doesn’t rotate at all, and so when you put in a load and shove off, you come back to find what’s at the bottom is soaking and what’s at the top is bone dry. I can either get my tool(s) out to thump it around, or I can buy a new one. In the meantime I’ve washed four loads in the bath, but I do miss the spin drying action. Just as well I put up a new clothes line yesterday. Brian’s been sent off with a sackload of my smalls – let’s hope they don’t break his washing machine too.

Another fatality in the pond – this time a drowned sparrow. One of the girls netted the thing out and left the corpse on a stepping stone to dry. For a giggle I suggested we catapult the thing into the distance, and claim it died in mid-flight. “My Boy TM” then did just that. Let’s hope it landed somewhere out of the way.

And so to cubs where we had a minor ruckus. Several of the girl cubs were in a sulk. Having started some daft game where they all played at being dogs and ran around woofing and barking rather than speaking, the girl cubs then all got uppity when the boy cubs started sniffing their bums.

Like I said earlier, after the fun of the weekend, life returns to normal.

 

11 July 2007 (Wednesday) - The Garden

I mowed the lawn. I know I usually mow the lawn on a Thursday, but it’s going to rain tomorrow, and the lawn didn’t get mowed last week. “My Boy TM” was given the job last Wednesday, but when I came home from the weekend away, the conversation went something like this:

            Me: You didn’t mow the lawn, then?

            My Boy TM: What lawn?

The back garden’s getting to be a bit of a mess. We’ve still got Shrub’s Wheelbarrow (bless it!) to take back, the wreckage of the shed to get shifted, three old fence panels to lose, a mouldy paddling pool and two rusty broken bikes to ding out. I ask you – how many rusty broken bikes does anyone need?

Seeing as the Cubs’ “It’s a Knockout” contest on Saturday has been cancelled (only our lot entered) I see a trip to the tip coming up on Saturday. Mind you, I could try the Freecycle people – there’s usually pikeys there that will have anything. I’ll see if anyone wants the shed wreckage & the fence panels.

 

12 July 2007 (Thursday) - Waiting for Ben...

Well, I put the trellises & firewood shed remnants on “Ashford Freecycle” and got half a dozen takers by breakfast time. The trellises have gone to Margo in Park Farm, and Ben is (hopefully) coming for the firewood this evening. I can’t help but feel it’s a lovely evening and I’ve other stuff I could be doing rather than waiting for someone who’s after a freebie. Mind you – he’s getting something for nothing, I’m getting the garden cleared for nothing. If it works, everyone’s a winner. Let’s hope it works, but he’s taking his time……

I wonder how much else of my tat I can unload onto an unsuspecting public.

Having spent ages last night mucking about with my photos on Yahoo, I see that Yahoo photos is closing down: http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/photos/photos2/closing/ - that was a constructive use of my time!

But, my interview is on line at http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/videos/index.var.6099.0.0.php .

 

13 July 2007 (Friday) - What Happens Is..........

13 July 2007 (Friday) - What Happens Is..........magnify

Some might say this is a bit of a rant. Perhaps it is, but I would prefer the term “pre-emptive action”.

Something I enjoy doing is mentioning the title of a book, film, radio or TV show that I know someone hasn’t watched or seen. I then say “Well, what happens is….”, smile, and watch them squirm. That's all I have to say - that phrase - “Well, what happens is….”. The implication that I'm about to blab is enough. I don’t say any more than that – I don’t need to.

This weekend’s going to be quite difficult for me. What with late shifts and knackered washing machines I’m probably not going to get to the cinema to see the new Harry Potter film very soon. And so I’ll have to spend the weekend with the TV & radio switched off and rather than greeting people with a cheery “Yo!”, it will be with a warning not to mention the latest Harry Potter film.

That’s not to mention it AT ALL!

I don’t want to know which characters are in it, which actors are in it, what’s left out, what’s left in…. and if anyone does blab – next Friday night I shall stay up all night reading and then tell them what happens in the last Harry Potter book.

After all, if anyone thinks I’m interested in the film, why not tell me before they go to the cinema, not after?

 

14 July 2007 (Saturday) - Washing Machines, Jimmy Saville the Dalek, and Lancelot

14 July 2007 (Saturday) - Washing Machines, Jimmy Saville the Dalek, and Lancelotmagnify

My left hip is really painful. So much so that it hurts to walk. I’ve no idea what I’ve done to it, but I’m informed that I tripped over a hole in the ground at Brighton last weekend. That would probably explain it.

The morning had been earmarked to look at the knackered washing machine. So I looked at it. Still knackered. Jose had the novel idea that we unplug it, pull it out & take the top and back off and poke around inside it. So we did. Did you know that even unplugged, if you spin the drum, you can generate current – not much, but enough to give you (well, give Jose) a poke? I didn’t know that. Jose does now. However, giving Jose a poke was about the only success of the morning. Much as I thought it was a result, it wasn’t going to get my smalls washed. It soon became apparent that none of the “obvious fixes” were going to work, and so it was off to Comet to buy a new washing machine. Have you seen the price of washing machines ????? I can remember buying my first ever spin drier for a fiver, and being shocked a year later that a new replacement cost £30. I could buy a state of the art scrat-nav for less than the new washing machine cost me. Well, cost “er indoors TM” actually. It arrives on Tuesday. I’m on my last pair of undercrackers - let’s hope they can last out.

The plan was then to go to the cubs “It’s a Knockout”, but as the contest only had three entries, and as all three entries was from our cub pack, the event was cancelled. This was for the best because due to some strange inter-dimensional vortex, the Bat-farm had been overrun by cardboard cybermen. Apparently the best way to deal with an infestation of cardboard cybermen is to take pot-shots at them with bows and arrows. And (would you believe it?) it worked. But having got rid of the cyber-menace, their place was taken by cardboard daleks. Cardboard daleks are dissimilar to normal daleks in two ways. Firstly (as you might guess) they are made of cardboard. Secondly they sound incredibly like Jimmy Saville (Don’t ask me why, they just do). But, like cardboard cybermen, they are repelled by bow snarrows as well.

And so home. Where we met the latest addition to the family. “Lancelot” is a Horsfields Tortoise, and is “My Boy TM’s” idea. He’s quite sweet, really. ("Lancelot" that is, not “My Boy TM’”) Lancelot eats salad, but I'm told he can get away with it as he's a tortoise. Shame about the name "Lancelot" - that's probably why he eats salad.....

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15 July 2007 (Sunday) A Miraculous Recovery, and a Carnival

15 July 2007 (Sunday) A Miraculous Recovery, and a Carnivalmagnify

It’s been brought to my attention that half way through yesterday’s video of Lancelot eating his dinner, “My Boy TM’ farts. Charming!

I didn’t sleep much last night. Having dropped Kate off at her friend’s house with a tent and a sleeping bag, I rather expected a phone call at any point during the night to demand pick-up. After all, there was a thunderstorm all night long. Having lain awake a second night in agony with this dratted hip, it was with some relief that she woke everyone when she came home at 7am. I felt I wasn’t disturbing people too much to ask for a lift to the hospital’s A & E department. I thought it might be quicker if I got there before the majority of the halt and the lame (well, the rest of the lame) arrived. Mind you, even at 7.30am there was a fair smattering of sickies malingering about the place.

Why is it that foxy nurses only ask to rummage inside your pants when having a foxy nurse rummaging inside your pants is the last thing you’d be up for? I expect that they do it deliberately. It would seem I’ve ripped a ligament (!) and I’ve been given special tablets. If they don’t work, I’m to go to see my GP. I’ve got five days worth of tablets, so they run out on Thursday, which is handy because come hell or high water, I wouldn’t be taking them on Friday. And rather than resting it, exercise is good. Just as well bearing in mind what I’d agreed to for the afternoon.

It’s amazing what a couple of doses of Diclofenac (!) will do. From being unable to hobble to the kitchen & back this morning, this afternoon I walked three miles in the local carnival. Thirty or so assorted beavers, cubs, scouts & leaders dug out a load of really old uniforms and put on a “100 years of Scouting” float. I looked like Baden-Powell’s Grandad. I’m told the uniform I had belonged to the bloke who was the Akela in our scout group in 1957. He must have been a thin bloke…

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16 July 2007 (Monday) - Stuff

16 July 2007 (Monday) - Stuffmagnify

OK, so the foxy nurse said to exercise the hip, rather than resting it. Perhaps walking the carnival was a bit keen. I woke up, bursting for a pee at 4.15am and it took me fifteen minutes to hobble to the loo. Let’s hope the hip improves, or some of my more stalwart readers will be carrying me to the beer festival on Friday.

As the day wore on I got more and more mobile. So much so that by mid-afternoon I was considering popping back up to A&E and asking if the foxy nurse fancied another rummage. Fortunately for the entire NHS she wasn’t on duty. There’s always tomorrow.

In the meantime, back to NeverWinter where things have reached a somewhat precarious impasse. It’s up to me to kill several hundred trolls with my axe of acid. A tough life (even more so for the trolls), but someone’s got to do it…

 

17 July 2007 (Tuesday) - Where Has The Year Gone?

17 July 2007 (Tuesday) - Where Has The Year Gone?magnify

Every year seems to have certain events in the calendar by which I can chart the progress of the year. And I’ve suddenly realised that much of this year’s events have already happened. Two out of the three regular kite festivals have been and gone. Three of the regular beer festivals have been and gone. Cub camp is but two weeks away, and the second Teston festival a week after that. Canterbury beer festival is but three days away. At this rate, Bat-Camp, Eastbourne Ice-Cream Pig Out & Rye Bonfire will have been and gone, and it will be Xmas before I know it.

And I had such good plans for the year too. There was going to be a lot more walks in the countryside - I’ve half a dozen on the drawing-board. There were going to be pub crawls in Hastings (again), in Folkestone (again), in Canterbury and in Tenterden. There was going to be cycle rides (if I can scare up a pedal bike). We were going on the beer in Lille and in Brussels. I was supposed to be going fishing. So much planned, and the time has raced away.

But it’s a good life. One really can’t complain. I’ve seen the beer list for Friday at http://www.kentbeerfestival.co.uk/beer.htm - they’ve got Level best. They’ve got Oyster Stout and Raspberry Wheat. They’ve got fourteen ciders and perries, Polish stout, mead and (with any luck) Tankograd lager. They’ve got a pink girlie bar. I’ll have a headache. But not too much of one, as I’m going shopping at midnight for the new Harry Potter book…..

 

18 July 2007 (Wednesday) - Running Down the NHS Again

Spare a thought for poor Mrs O., a 56-year-old mother of two and grandmother of three, of, Dagenham, Essex. Stricken with terminal cancer, and due to the inadequacies and incompetence of her local hospital she was forced to spend £15 000 of her own money on life saving medications.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.html?in_arti...

Or that’s one side of the story. The side which sells newspapers. The fact that the “life saving medication” was not cost effective and that evidence of its efficacy was poor was apparently irrelevant. I remember a similar scandal some years ago when the chap who was best man at my wedding was diagnosed with a condition which would leave him blind. Local people raised thousands of pounds to send him to a clinic in Switzerland because the “crappy NHS” refused to provide this treatment. The simple fact that the treatment didn’t work was again apparently irrelevant. And despite having long been exposed as a scam, papers still quote such clinics as centres of excellence to the detriment of the NHS.

Why do papers have the need to run down hospitals? They won’t be interested in the fact I’m giving up a day’s holiday tomorrow because of……., well, who cares? It’s a hospital, he’s not a doctor or a nurse – he must be a waste of taxpayer’s money!

Did you know that last month my hospital had just over seventy written complaints? In the same period we had just under five hundred written compliments.

 

19 July 2007 (Thursday) - Life Goes On....

One of the things I resent is being summoned to a 9am meeting which is anywhere but my place of work. Because I am expected to leave home early to get to said meeting. So, having gotten up at the crack of dawn and trolled half way across the county to meet up with a dozen colleagues, it’s somewhat frustrating to find that …….

I’ll post what I found once I’ve retired…

There’s a minor problem in that the PC projector I was planning to use at astrinomomony club next Monday doesn’t work with any laptop I can find. Anyone got a spare PC projector or huge screen I can borrow?

 

20 July 2007 (Friday) - Prestattyn (?) & Warthog

20 July 2007 (Friday) - Prestattyn (?) & Warthogmagnify

Today is one of the highlights of my year – Canterbury Beer Festival is always good. Despite crappy weather forecasts, seven of us set off for Nackington via good old British Rail. Things have improved beyond all measure there as not only do they have “Fit Birds TM” running around Ashford International, they have “Fit Birds TM” in British Rail costumes running round the place. Woof!.

Despite crappy weather forecasts the weather was fine and we had a wonderful time. For myself I saw off over a gallon of ale including pints of:

Whitstable Brewery’s:

Native

East India Pale Ale

Supreme Blonde

Wheat Beer

Raspberry Wheat Beer

Rother Valley Brewery’s:

Level Best

Copper Ale

Triple F Brewery’s:

Pressed Rat & Warthog

Spit & Scream’s:

Whitstable Bay

to say nothing of the flavoured olives and the goat curry. T-shirts were bought all round, and my gay pride umbrella collapsed under the excitement of it all. All too soon the afternoon session at the festival was over, and it was back to McDonald’s for dinner, and then on to another pub….

The Rose & Crown was good – they had East India Pale Ale on the pump, a particular favourite of mine. It’s possible I might have dozed off here for a bit, but we were soon onto the Dolphin for another pint. The Dolphin doesn’t enjoy the reputation that other Canterbury pubs do, but there’s no denying its MILF central, and I for one can’t wait to go back.

 

21 July 2007 (Saturday) - The Harry Potter Queue

21 July 2007 (Saturday) - The Harry Potter Queuemagnify

Emma kicked my drunken carcass awake at 11.15pm, and by 11.30pm we were in the queue at Waterstones. Well, the queue started at Waterstones, but we were outside SpecSavers, some hundred yards away from Waterstones. And we waited, and we waited. After a while the queue moved oh so slowly, and people were seen coming out of the shop with the book. But not many, and not very fast.

There were too many shop staff in silly fancy dress walking about talking to people in the queue, and not enough shop staff actually selling the books. There were two very young, very inexperienced girls doing the selling, treating each sale as though it was the first time they’d ever sold a book. We finally got ours at 12.55am, after queuing for nearly an hour and a half. As we came out the queue was every bit as long as when we’d joined it, and the poor people at the end would probably still be there at 3am or later.

By now, ten pints of ale were taking their toll, and I was feeling quite thirsty, so we popped into Asda on the way home. The shop was empty, it had the Harry Potter book, with no queues whatsoever, and it was £4 cheaper than what we’d paid.

Oh how we laughed – now to read the book…

Update

5.20pm - finished the book (all 607 pages) ..... Well, what can I say - what about the bit where... and who would have guessed that.....

 

22 July 2007 (Sunday) - Really Skilful Angling (and cow poo)

22 July 2007 (Sunday) - Really Skilful Angling (and cow poo)magnify

After yesterday spent in the garden reading…. another lazy day. The morning was spent killing stuff in NeverWinter, and in the afternoon we went fishing at the Bat-Farm. There was minor excitement when “My BoyTM’s, bird” was menaced by cattle, but apart from some rather pathetic moo-ing, the menacing didn’t amount to much. We reached the pond relatively unscathed, and commenced fishing. “My BoyTM managed to catch a quite impressive sub-aqua bush, and in the ensuing commotion, “My BoyTM’s, bird” got a flip-flop full of cowshit.

This caused quite a dilemma. A flip-flop full of cowshit isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but there are those that would consider that washing it off in the pond would be a bad move, as a flip-flop full of cowshit isn’t (in some circles) as bad as a flip-flop full of pond water. I feel a poll coming on….

In the meantime “Really Skilful Angling TM” was put to use as “Yours Truly” caught nearly twice what the others caught combined.

My BoyTM’s, bird” : 2

My BoyTM” : 6

Yours Truly” : 15

 

23 July 2007 (Monday) Road Tax & Fermi

23 July 2007 (Monday) Road Tax & Fermimagnify

I was on an early today, so I was able to wander up town after work to get my road tax from the post office. The two-way traffic was gridlocked on what was once the one-way ring road. I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the whole idea is given up as a bad move and things are put back as they were.

Meanwhile in the post office….. almost (but not quite) as full of retards as the self-service counter in Tesco. With a queue of some thirty people, only two of a possible nine serving hatches were manned. And then the customers…. One “fellow” marched up to the counter and brandished a parcel and just grinned for the best part of a minute. Presumably he wanted to post it? I could have shoved it up his bum in frustration; I was so fed up with the wait. And then there’s the obligatory old biddy who thinks postal prices are expensive. They probably are expensive compared to what they were in 1928, but if she wants to gripe about it, she should do what I do and rant about it in a blog. Generally twittering on to an indifferent public does nothing but make everyone else’s wait longer.

I hate getting road tax for the car. It’s one of those necessary evils that scare me. I don’t know why – it’s so easy. I hand over the MOT certificate, the insurance certificate, the letter they sent me and £180, and they give me a new tax disc. Easy! But every year, about March I look at my tax disc, and I start worrying about the ordeal of getting a new one. And, like today, there is such a sense of relief when I finally get that new tax disc. I know it’s silly, but that’s the kind of guy I am.

And then home to prepare for astrinomonomonomy club. With less than an hour before I’m off, I was still testing the projector – it’s amazing what happens when you press the right knob! (Thank you Jose!) At astrinomonomonomy club we chatted about the way the club was going, and rather than having a formal AGM & committee & stuff we were all of the opinion that we’d done enough for the time being to have a programme of events for the next few months which hopefully should allow the club to grow. In a few months as membership grows, we may need to become more formal, but for now, informal is good. And “Yours Truly” gave the talk. “The Fermi Paradox” – which was received well, and provoked quite a discussion afterwards. I was quite pleased with how it went. Same time next month for a talk on the autumn sky.

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24 July 2007 (Tuesday) - Life Goes On... I Love It

24 July 2007 (Tuesday) - Life Goes On... I Love Itmagnify

Cubs was somewhat fraught tonight. We played hockey. The rule was that the business end of the stick stayed below waist level. After half an hour bellowing this rule I announced that anyone caught with the business end of the stick above waist level got sent off. Permanently. After nine (out of thirty) got sent off, the remaining twenty one played relatively safely. The nine that got sent off sulked. But stuff them! How many times can you tell them the rules?

And so to the Riverside for dinner. There’s a birthday later this week. And he’s five years older than me !!!

For anyone who missed my talk – you can see the slide show at http://www.ashfordastro.org.uk/website/

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25 July 2007 (Wednesday) - Our Heritage

This evening four of us met up with the Lenham Archaeological Society, and went to a really posh house nearby. Someone with more money than sense has bought this place which is about 600 years old, and wants to find out about the history of the place. So what better way to do so than to invite a whole load of strangers to the house? (Hang on – didn’t I do that in May 1993?) After scrutinising the nice lady’s balustrade, we set off for a walk through the neighbouring countryside. The house was billed as a manor house, but it seemed to have no village to be manor of. One of the club had an aerial photo of the local fields which seemed to show shapes in the crops, so the theory was that if we went for a walk we might see something resembling the shape of a missing village. Well, the field went up and down a bit, but to the untutored eye, that’s what fields do. And then back to the nice lady’s house for tea, biccies & cake. I’ve taken a liking to the nice lady (I like anyone who gives me cake) and may well go back next time. Even if it is a bit over-burdened with “normal people”. And so home, via the pub for a pint of dinner.

And then to the Internet, where I did some research:

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_list I learned that the Civil List is the sum that covers most expenses associated with the Sovereign performing of his or her state duties, including those for staffing, state visits, public engagements, official entertainment, and upkeep of the Royal Households. For the period of 2000 - 2010, the Civil List has continued to be fixed at £7.9 million annually.

From the same link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_list I found out that only the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh receive funding from the Civil List. The state duties and staff of other members of the Royal Family are funded from a Parliamentary Annuity, the amount of which is repaid by the Queen from the monies put into the Privy Purse from income from the Duchy of Lancaster.

From http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page4971.asp I learned that in the financial year 2005-06 the revenue surplus from the Crown Estate paid to the Treasury amounted to £190.8 million. So – rather than being the drain on the public purse that one might believe, Her Majesty and the rest of the Royals actually generate a profit of over £180 million for the country every year.

However there are those who feel that abolishing royalty would be a sensible idea, and the money saved could be spent on raising the standard of the NHS from that of a third world country’s health provider (so I am told!) From http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1935730.stm it transpires that the NHS budget for this year (2007-08) is £105.6bn, or £105 600 000 000

Now I’m no genius but I can’t see that an increase of 0.007 % is going to make that much of a difference to the NHS. Also, having got rid of the House of Windsor, do we deduct the lost income of £180 million from the NHS budget too? In which case we’re actually reducing the NHS budget by 0.1%.

Or do we learn from the mistakes of history and realise that we’ve done away with the royals once, didn’t like it, and within eleven years brought them back.

(I didn’t realise until I started this rant what an ardent Royalist I am!)

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26 July 2007 (Thursday) - Garden Rubbish

26 July 2007 (Thursday) - Garden Rubbishmagnify

It can only be a couple of months since the last major garden project. So how is it possible to have accumulated so much rubbish in the garden in such a short time? Bearing in mind it’s only a week until the “garden party”, and between family weddings, late shifts and cub camps I won’t have a lot of time to get organised. As it was raining anyway I decided to abandon mowing the lawn in favour of having a tidy up.

I found the carcass of Shrub’s Wheelbarrow (poor thing!) I found a box of rubbish I threw away six months ago. I found the cast-offs of a home made water feature. I found the melted remnants of a bucket “My Boy TM” destroyed two months ago. And cardboard – soggy cardboard. Loads and loads of soggy cardboard. The Espace is now completely full of rubbish. I’ll do a tip run tomorrow morning before work.

Now to wait for the explosion when “er indoors” gets home. She’ll lay an egg. It seems to me that broken things that have been left in the rain for months are fit for the tip, but I am invariably mistaken in that assumption. Still, if she has the arse, I’ll just lob out her dead plants once she’s gone to work in the morning.

 

27 July 2007 (Friday) - Some rants

Spent an interesting few minutes at the tip. Bearing in mind you’re going to the tip, why not dress for it before you leave home, rather than waiting until you get there and waste everyone else’s time? And having bagged up your rubbish, is what you then pull out of the bag so surprising? One total retard arrived at the tip, changed into his old clothes in the car parking area, then kissed goodbye each and every bit of tat. I arrived whilst he was changing and emptied an Espace-full quicker than he kissed goodbye to one black sack full.

I’m now off work for a week, but what with weddings, cub camp and barbie preparations it’s still six days until I get a bit of peace & quiet. Is having a bit of peace & quiet so much to ask for? I’m not really looking forward to cub camp. We’ve got forty of the little darlings along. I’m only there till Wednesday – that might be quite enough. We shall see….

 

28 July 2007 (Saturday) - A Wedding

28 July 2007 (Saturday) - A Weddingmagnify

The plan originally called for a 10am start, but what with one thing and another, it was somewhat later. Pausing only for a quick blast of McDonalds, we arrived at my brother’s at about 1pm. I’d promised to have a look at my nephew’s computer. So I looked at it. Then we turned it on….. and found he’d stuck a password on it. And then I found his problem…. He’s somehow managed to downgrade the anti-virus software I gave him to something that identifies spyware, but does nothing else. He’d then managed to download at least six anti-virus softwares, but hadn’t registered or paid for any of them. So when he boots up, at least six sets of software go bananas over all the spyware on his PC (at least 106 spywares), and over the fact he hasn’t paid for the software. In the end we chucked the PC in the car and brought it home. I’ll look at it later.

And so to the Dripping Spring. Billed as having seven ales on the pumps, it’s somewhere I’ve been meaning to check out for ages. Would I go back? Possibly – probably. They did do free soft drinks for the littluns which was a good touch, but I definitely got vibes of “local pub for local people”.

Then to the registry office for the wedding. The good thing about a registry office wedding is that you’re in, wed, photographed, and on the way to the pub in no time. The whole lot took far less than the average church wedding service. Minor hiccups with “Awful wedded husbands”, but I’m sure it came out right in the end.

There was an hour or so before the reception, and as I’d been led to believe the ale wouldn’t be up to much, we set off to the Old Town for a crafty half in the FILO. They had “Ginger Tom” on. Good stuff! An hour was spend guzzling the three home brewed ales, and then on to the reception. I had been misled - “London Pride” was on the pump, and there was a good selection of bottled ales. The evening got more and more vague, but I can remember having “Grace Kelly” flashbacks at one point. I wonder if there are any photos……..

 

29 July 2007 (Sunday) - See You Later

(Bit of a headache this morning – can’t think why…..)

OK – I’m off to Cub Camp, so there won’t be any more happening here for a few days.

Remember – garden party for “er indoors” on Thursday – turn up any time from mid afternoon onwards, but if you’re hoping to see “er indoors”, she don’t get home from work until about 6pm.

If there’s no answer when you knock on the door, it’s because everyone’s in the back garden, so either holler over the roof, or give me a tinkle on the blower.

 

 

30 July 2007 (Monday) - The World Souting Jamboree

30 July 2007 (Monday) - The World Souting Jamboreemagnify

We’d booked to go to the world scout jamboree from camp. We had to be in Essex for 8am. So that meant getting on the coach at 6am. But there was road works so the coach driver wanted to start a bit earlier at 5.45am. We had 22 cubs, 18 scouts and ten leaders to get up, washed, fed and dressed by 5.45am. So wake up time for the youngsters was 4am. But if I’m chivvying them, I’m not going to get time for a wash & shave…… so I was up at 3.15am. 3.15!!!! I didn’t realise 3 o’clock happens twice a day. There was almost a minor mishap about my ablutions when I realised I’d left my shaving mirror in my tent. Then I realised it was pitch black – sunrise was still an hour away.

We got them up – they’d gone to bed at about11pm, so were rather subdued. I’m not sure how the coach journey went, I slept from Bilsington to the transfer point. With 40 coaches an hour arriving at the jamboree, the plan was that everyone arrives at a huge disused airport, leaves their coaches there and is shuttled to the jamboree in a fleet of their coaches. This worked well…. Well, I won’t lie. It was a total shambles. In true international scouting spirit there was a multi-national team co-ordinating every part of the jamboree, and the transport logistics was a bit iffy, to say the least. But we eventually got onto another coach, and a Finnish scout explained what was going on and what was going to happen. Well, that was the plan. She sounded as though she was on helium, and her first words were “Welcome to bastard jamboree”. I was somewhat taken aback by this, even more so by her continual reference to “bastard jamboree”. Eventually I figured out she was talking about “bus to jamboree”, and we soon arrived at the Jamboree.

An enormous event, with 40 000 scouts resident from every scouting country in the world (I think there’s only half a dozen countries without scouting). The place had it’s own police station and hospital, and a Sainsbury’s which was in a temporary building for the occasion which was every bit as big as Lidl in Ashford. We soon realised that fifty was too large a number to go round in, and we divided into smaller groups. I had the three “young leaders” (teenagers who had been my cubs five years ago and were a great laugh) and seven cubs. We went around the events put on by the international contingents and we played “Twister” with the Italians, volleyball with the Americans, we did paper craft with the Mexicans, we swapped neckerchiefs with the Bolivians, we ate Vegemite with the Australians, we climbed up and fell off crates with the Irish, we played table soccer and giant Jenga with the Germans, we played ball games with the Chileans, we exchanged pleasantries with the deputy World Chief Scout with the Ecuadorians, we posed for photos with the Koreans…. And all too soon it was time to meet up for dinner. We’d arranged to meet up with the rest of our mob in the “World Peace Garden” which had been purpose built for the occasion and only opened (by Prince William) only two days before. For some reason, none of the other thousands of people there wanted to eat there, and so we had a really good dinner time, just “being us” and not having to worry about upsetting others. But I made sure our group rushed dinner – so much to see, and only three hours until the coach went home. So we powered on and, pausing only briefly to crash the Nigerians’ computer game, we generated electricity with the Indians, posed for photos with the Brazilians, were given corks by the Portuguese, were given Frisbees by another bunch of Americans, and challenged to another ball game by the Japanese. We looked at the shops, but there wasn’t anything you couldn’t get from the Internet, and as it was mostly plastic rubbish anyway, we had a quick tiddle and set off homewards. To break the monotony I bellowed “PUB!!!!” and pointed at every pub on the way home. It wasn’t long before everyone else on the coach (including the driver) joined in. If nothing else it stopped people sleeping on the way home.

We arrived back at camp at 7.30pm to find our “camp security guards” had tea ready, and by the time we’d all scoffed some pasta it was bed time. A very long day, but good fun.

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31 July 2007 (Tuesday) - Lazy Day at Camp

31 July 2007 (Tuesday) - Lazy Day at Campmagnify

After the long day yesterday, I for one was rather knackered today, and so it was decided that the youngsters could sort out their own dinners. Fire pits were dug, fires (eventually) lit, potatoes and carrots chopped, mince mixed in and stews cooked. Bung in a roasted banana and a smashing dinner was enjoyed by all. Shame it took till 3pm to get done, but you can’t have everything.

The remainder of the day was spent in the woods building shelters. The younger ones built them for a fun activity, the older ones built them to sleep in for the night. Shelter building is always good for a fight. With an entire forest of wood at their disposal, it’s amazing how possessive and territorial cubs get over a skanky piece of rotten wood.

We were joined by one of the boy’s dads who’d volunteered to help out for a few days. As the evening wore on he ran some games. A successful game of football with over forty participants takes some doing, and he did it. And once the little darlings were in bed, he got the beers in. Sterling fellow!