01 July 2008 (Tuesday) - Flying Spoons and Free Petrol

01 July 2008 (Tuesday) - Flying Spoons and Free Petrolmagnify

I arrived late to astronomy club last night to find that in a Mugabe-style election, with only one candidate for the post of treasurer; my election was a foregone conclusion. I don’t mind, really. I suppose it’s a case of the old maxim “if you want a job done, do it yourself”. I’ve also offered to do another talk. I shall re-hash the talk I did last year about Mars. It will get a better reception now.

On the way to work yesterday I stopped at Tesco to get some petrol. I also got some choccy because I deserved it. On toting up my accounts this morning I see they only charged me for the choccy. I didn’t get charged for the car full of petrol. What with all the video surveillance they’ve probably got me down as a right convict. I’ve phoned them several times during the day today to tell them about this and clear the blot on my escutcheon (!). Well, that is I’ve phoned, but no one answers. I tried - their loss! But in retrospect I can’t remember how much petrol was involved, or what pump I used. And it’s not like they are a struggling business that’s about to go under.

Meanwhile at “The Oldbiddydrome”, “Daddies Little Angel TM” is under fire from a hail of cutlery. One of the fruitcakes apparently doesn’t like the sound of the vacuum cleaner and has opened fire with a barrage of spoons. It must be great to be old.

As I was working late I didn’t get to cubs tonight. On the other hand I didn’t get out of work until gone 8.30pm. But then I didn’t spend the evening feeling I’d wasted my time with the cubs. It’s the AGM this week – perhaps I ought to jack it all in?

 

02 July 2008 (Wednesday) - Influenced By My New DVD... ?

02 July 2008 (Wednesday) - Influenced By My New DVD... ?magnify

I’ve been watching the latest South Park DVD. Perhaps watching it too much? One of my more vital pieces of apparatus was being problematical today. After the more standard repair techniques failed I announced that I was going to kick the analyser squarre in the nuts. It’s been my experience over the years that should Eric Cartman threaten to kick anything or anyone squarre in the nuts, then the object of his frustration knows he means business and will from that moment respect his authoritah.

However it doesn’t work with my new all-singing all-dancing coagulometer. I’m told the reason for this is that coagulometers are female and therefore lack nuts to be kicked squarrely. It was suggested that the same threat directed at its “ladygarden” might achieve the same result. It all sounded “women’s bits” to me, and I left the repairs to the girlie types.

Whilst we’re talking girlie types, did you know that girlies that “bat for the other team” are twice as likely to be porkers as those that don’t.

But enough of such talk. Time for a firm moral stance. But who can take one? With the self-appointed protectors of public morality descending into civil war we must turn to Eric Cartman. Specifically episode nine of season seven of South Park. Tell me you haven’t bought the latest CD from Faith + 1. Whilst secular music has gold and platinum records, this one has gone myrrh.

 

03 July 2008 (Thursday) - An AGM

03 July 2008 (Thursday) - An AGMmagnify

The Scout Group’s Annual General Meeting. That’s two AGMs in one week for me (!) Er indoors TM is the secretary so I really have to show up for it.

Tonight’s main topic of discussion – how to dragoon more helpers for the newspaper collection. Every month willing volunteers go out and leaflet 1400 houses, collect old newspapers, transport them to a skip in Kingsnorth and load the paper into that skip. On the plus side it raises some £6000 per year. However it’s the same old faces that do the work. Perhaps (at best) ten of the families connected with the scout group help.

Having done paper collections for the best part of ten years, I won’t do it any more. Its hard physical labour, it hurts, it takes an entire Saturday and (as I’ve said before) I resent subsidising those who are better off than I am. We could raise the same money by doubling the subs to £3.00 per child per meeting. Three quid is cheap for two hours babysitting. Football clubs, drama clubs, dancing clubs, most after school clubs charge at least a fiver per hour. But the slightest suggestion that we increase the subs is immediately shot down in flames. The thing that annoys me most about scouting is that such a wonderful organisation is run on such a cheapskate scrimp and save basis.

It was again suggested that we buy the land the scout hut is on. We have this strange arrangement with the council. I say “strange arrangement” – it turns out that this is actually a very common arrangement. We (the scout group) own the scout hut building, but rent the land in which it stands. There’s some twenty years left on the lease, and the council can give us notice and sell the land from under us (quite literally). Negotiations are afoot to buy the land. I expect that will involve loads of fundraising. As long as I’m not expected to do any hard physical labour……

 

04 July 2008 (Friday) - Dull

04 July 2008 (Friday) - Dullmagnify

Some days my life is amazing and exciting. Other days are fun times spent with friends. Sometimes my time is utterly wasted on the cubs or in NeverWinter. But today was dull.

Got up at 6am, watched “Upstairs Downstairs”, went to work, argued with the management, came home. The highlight was probably in Tesco’s car park. The mobile car washers have ignored me solidly for years, but now I’m in my “sexy new car TM” they are all over me like a rash. I gave them a fiver to scrub the bird turds off the car. To be fair to the bloke he did a good job, but when I came back he clearly wanted to ask me something. I don’t know what it was – I had no idea what he was saying. Free movement for workers in the European Union is such a wonderful thing.

I got myself a curry for tea as er indoors TM is foisting candles onto an unsuspecting public again. I then watched a couple of episodes of South Park and then thought about doing some ironing. And changed my mind. I pickled some eggs instead….

 

05 July 2008 (Saturday) - Hard Work

05 July 2008 (Saturday) - Hard Workmagnify

Today was a day not to be wasted. The early rain soon stopped, and so it was round to Brian’s to continue with his garden. As I attacked the undergrowth, Brian attacked the lawn. After half an hour the first spade broke, and so it was round to B&Q to get a new spade. That effectively wasted half an hour. Brian then continued his attack of the lawn. An artefact! – the carcass of a decomposing dead fox was found under the top two feet of the lawn. Speculation was rife as to where a dead fox might have come from. Despite plans to chase er indoors TM with the corpse of the deceased, the corpse was dinged out with the rest of the tat.

It was shortly after this episode that Brian’s strimmer committed hari-kiri. It has to be said that a lot of our implements took the easy way out today. In fact my breaking of the second shovel was taken to be God’s way of telling us to go down the pub.

Once er indoors TM & the bat were with is we set off for pub. Firstly to the Good Intent in Aldington. Somewhere we’ve been meaning to go fo months. They do Deuchar’s IPA there. And then to the White Horse in Bilsington (I took the cubs there once!) for a pint of Harvey’s. A quick pint of Black Sheep Ale in the Blue Anchor in Ruckinge was followed by a lengthy stay at the World’s Wonder in Warehorne. A wonderful pub which has its own ale brewed for it by Goacher’s, does an excellent bit of curry for tea, and has plans to develop its own micro-brewery. I fully intend to go back there soon….

 

06 July 2008 (Sunday) - Bored at Work

06 July 2008 (Sunday) - Bored at Workmagnify

Due to a staffing crisis (don’t ask!) I left for work today at 7.30am and didn’t get home until gone 8pm. I took a book (or two) to read – Sundays at the hospital are odd. In our department I’d somewhat facetiously describe it as hours of tedious boredom interspersed by moment of sheer panic.

So, once I’d done the morning’s work I spent a little time surfing the net. Did you know that last night’s Doctor Who episode raked in nearly 10 million viewers. I wonder if they were as disappointed with it as I was. In Wales, the police are called out because some dozy twit has mistaken the moon for a UFO. In other parts of the world, abandoning growing food crops in favour of biofuels has put food prices up by 75%. But that didn’t deter Joey Chestnut from shovelling sixty four hot dogs down his neck to become the world champion hot dog scoffer.

All things considered, it’s been rather a dull Sunday. Probably just as well I was at work. If I was at home there’d be ironing to do. And therein lies a tale. I came home fully expecting to do the ironing and so attempted to shoo everyone out of the living room. But “Daddies Little Angel TM” was watching telly and wouldn’t shoo. Instead she offered to do the ironing. I came out of the shower to find er indoors TM stuffing the iron full of water. What on Earth was that all about? I left them both having a row about the iron now pouring water over all of the laundry, and have resigned myself to the old maxim of “if you want a job done, do it yourself.” I shall get up at 5am tomorrow and sort it out….

 

07 July 2008 (Monday) - Knacked Hardware

07 July 2008 (Monday) - Knacked Hardware

Not 5am, but I was up before 6am and doing ironing. Once all the water was out of the thing I got a good hour’s ironing in. Another hour after work and it’s all done. For now.

A minor hiccup that caused consternation today was “Daddies Little Angel’s TM” accidental destruction of Moses’s laptop. I’m sure he never wanted a computer anyway. Hopefully we can clam on the household “in-sewer-ants”. We could do with not having to fork out for a new laptop. Especially as I’m not getting paid for yesterday’s twelve-plus hours overtime. Apparently because I’m management I don’t get overtime. Our unions voted for this when we accepted our last pay deal. That’s nice. I’ve apologized to my boss for giving up my weekend, and assured him it won’t happen again. I’ve formally told him to remove my telephone number from all contact lists in the hospital. He claims he can get me my akkers. We shall see.

On a more positive note I’ve ordered up twenty litres of Crofters for the weekend. It will be ready for collection at mid day on Friday. We can pick it up on the way through to Brighton. Following a hurried yahoo with the Sevenoaks contingent it would seem that there will be about thirty of us in our immediate campsite this weekend. Perhaps I’d better get more beer…..

 

08 July 2008 (Tuesday) - The Final Straw ?

08 July 2008 (Tuesday) - The Final Straw ?

This morning’s post bought a reminder from the DVLA that the road tax on my Espace is due. Let’s hope the new owners pay it! The same post also brought another letter from the DVLA confirming I’d sold the Espace. That’s organization for you !

And so to cubs. An American night where we had the whole group along. I was in charge of the cherry stone spitting. You stick a cherry in your gob, chew away the flesh and see how far you can spit the stone. Easy, eh? Well, it’s easy if you know what a cherry is. I would estimate some 10 – 15% of the kids had never seen a cherry before, let alone eaten one.

We had the District Commissioner along tonight. He gave out some awards to some of the leaders. One of my fellow cub leaders got the forty years award. She’s a wonderful lady, an inspiration and deserves to be recognized. And then one of our Beaver Leaders got his award for being a leader for ten years. I’ve been a leader for longer than he has. Thirteen years(!) I didn’t get anything. (But I did get a certificate for five years service last year.)

One of the Scout Leaders got the Medal of Merit, an award given for leaders serving “a period of not less than 12 years, (but exceptionally after 10 years) of outstanding service while holding adult appointments”. This bloke’s been a leader for a lot shorter time than I have. He’s only a leader for the winter months because he does cricket rather than scouts in the summer. When he does come to scouts his role is to collect the subs – he does little else but stand and watch. No one in the group, least of all the chap himself, knows why he’s got this medal.

I have decided not to act rashly and to give the matter some thought. I have promised to be home contact for the Alaska trip in a few weeks time, and I have said I’ll sort out accounts but once that’s done I may well pack it all in over tonight’s episode…

 

09 July 2008 (Wednesday) - Preparations

09 July 2008 (Wednesday) - Preparations

If there’s something that really hacks me off it’s “the normal people” griping about the weather. Yes, it rained today. But how does one day’s rain make the year nothing but a flood of biblical proportions? I’ve heard nothing but grumbling all day about “typical British summer – always raining”. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been sunburned this year. Mind you, I do hope the weather holds up for this weekend. If it doesn’t, following on from Monday’s blog entry we will definitely need more beer.

Shortly after writing Monday’s blog I got Yahoo-ing with ‘im from Sevenoaks. If there’s five of us in for this twenty litres of Crofters that I’ve ordered, that’s four litres each.Which is only seven pints. That ain’t much. I’ll guzzle my bit on the first night. Fortunately I know someone who’s going shopping on Friday morning. I’ve decided to take no chances, and I’ve asked him to get me a mini-cask of Finchcocks. I’m still unsure as to how long the supplies will hold out – if all else fails, there’s an Asda up the road.

I’m looking forward to this weekend. I get to spend a weekend away with friends. And I get time with my nephews and niece. You can’t find many campsites that allow large groups along. There are those who say I’m missing the point of the kite festival by treating it as one big booze

 up... Well, for me, that is the point of a kite festival. It’s one big social event. It has been ever since the first one I ever went to, back in June 2002. To me, the kites are very much incidental. They make a good backdrop, but have you ever tried to fly a kite at a kite festival? It all ends up as one big knot.

Anyway, in the past I’ve probably done more kite flying at the Brighton festival that anyone else out of the thousands of people who come along, seeing as how for the last few years I’ve been in charge of flying the large stuff at the top of the hill. But after the scrum that was at the top of the hill last year, this year I’ve asked to do something else. Helping with the kiddies workshop is something that I could do.

I must also renew my membership of Brighton Kite Fliers. It lapsed some time ago. Technically I’m no longer a member. So perhaps I needn’t help with the kiddies workshop….

10 July 2008 (Thursday) - The Day Before Brighton

10 July 2008 (Thursday) - The Day Before Brightonmagnify

Up early to take “Daddies Little Angel TM” to the oldbiddydrome. And then I spent the morning getting all the camping and kiting gear from its various locations and piling it in the living room. Brian soon arrived with his contribution of gear, and then we spent a couple of hours in Brian’s garden. No dead foxes were found this time, but I did give a clematis bush a haircut it won’t forget. Most of the “big” work has now been done. All that remains is to dig the borders, sort the lawn, remove & burn last year’s shed carnage, paint the shed & fences, and generally make good. There’s speculation on the possibility of running leccy down the garden to the shed. I may persuade him about the amazing wonders that are water features yet.

Time for a quick trip to B&Q for a pink bucket and then then to Hothfield to collect “Daddies Little Angel TM” from the oldbiddydrome. You have to smile – the government advocates the use of public transport, but there’s only one bus every two hours from the oldbiddydrome to Ashford. And it’s on the main A20(!) Mind you - she seems to love it there. No spoons being thrown today, but apparently there was some old nutter feeding twixes to the staff. She had one for “lunch”. I didn’t.

And then having done the journey we loaded up all the camping gear. It’s four weeks since we loaded to go to Teston. OK, so this time we’re taking slightly more - my red kite bag and the buggy. But the car seems to be an awful lot fuller than it was last time.

And then to my own garden. To pull out all the stuff growing up through the shingle and mow the lawn. I’m fast going off the idea of a push-along lawnmower. Totally worn out, the rest of the afternoon was spent in NeverWinter

11 July 2008 (Friday) - To Brighton (For the sixth time)

11 July 2008 (Friday) - To Brighton (For the sixth time)magnify

Up bright and early and, ably assisted by Brian it was off to the brewery for seven gallons of various ales before arriving in Stanmer Park shortly after 1pm. Following the awful location where we camped last year, this year we knew exactly where we wanted to set up, but the “normal people” had beaten us to it. So we went twenty yards further up the slope instead. As this was now our twenty-seventh communal camping session, by now we’ve got putting up the campsite down to a fine art.

Just as the main tent was up another one of the “normal people” drove up and introduced himself to us. He remembered us from a few years ago. Apparently we camp in comfort; we have good food, we know about beer, we have good beer, and lots of it. I must admit I was rather stand-offish with the chap. He may well have just been being sociable, but I got the distinct vibe that he’d seen a trough and was looking to shove his snout firmly into it. Regular readers of my blog may recall me telling someone to get stuffed when he came sniffing round our camp for free wine last year. I don’t mind being sociable (really I don’t !!!) but there is a limit. A few years back we got ourselves a bit of a reputation as being “the party crowd”. I don’t mind that, but when you find someone you barely know giving your (frankly rather expensive) best beer to someone you don’t know, then it’s time to make a stand. Fortunately at this point the in-laws turned up so I was able to have an excuse to ignore this chap. I’m not sure where he went, but I didn’t see him again all weekend.

Before long, more of our people had arrived. Tents and banners were put up in the sunshine – it was a hot day, and an ice cream would be good. So we bellowed at the ice cream van at the bottom of the hill. And it drove up to us. Ice creams all round – we’ve never had an ice cream van at the top of the hill before at Stanmer Park. I quite liked it. Once the ice cream van had gone, er indoors TM rolled up. I told her (with a gloat) what she’d missed, and we started on the beer. The “Gold” and “Mike’s Mild” had come from the hand pump and wouldn’t keep indefinitely. Half way through this first pint there was a scream for me from my nephew. Working together, he and his mate had captured a tree-cow. An heroic feat indeed. One which called for celebration and another pint all round. And then fajitas for tea. Oh yes ! And as I always say, if someone else will cook my tea, I’ll wash up. So we rounded up all the washing up into a huge pink bucket, borrowed some washing up jollop from my sister-in-law and used the hot water from the toilet block.

Lots more beer, lots more chat, and we were just about to go to bed when some old friends came visiting at 1am…

12 July 2008 (Saturday) - Brighton Kite Festival

12 July 2008 (Saturday) - Brighton Kite Festivalmagnify

This year I’d been somewhat selfish and said that I didn’t want to fly the club’s big inflatable kites; this year I wanted to see the festival properly. So there was no real rush to get out of my pit. A leisurely breakfast and wash-up (courtesy of someone else’s washing up liquid) and in a novel break with tradition I got my kite bag out. I found a kite I’d forgotten I had, and flew my circoflex. The nice man from the papers took a photo or two of it, and said I’d be in the Sussex local news. It transpired that he lied. My mum was really disappointed.

And then it was time for the children’s workshop. I’d volunteered to help. For two hours there was a free workshop where all the kiddies visiting the festival get to make a kite of their own. There were quite a few people helping - it was good fun to meet up with old friends. The workshop went on from mid day until 2pm, and we didn’t stop - we had a queue the entire time. I could do my bit in less than a minute, so I would guess we must have made about 150 kites. The only drawback was that I was working in close proximity to someone who’d been sweating even more than me. Oh, did he niff!! A very likeable chap, I’m sure, but he was certainly over-ripe.

Back up the hill for a sandwich and a pint. As I walked up I saw that the big inflatable kites weren’t being flown, even though there were cars and the kite trailer at the top of the hill. A pang of guilt that I’d abandoned my usual post, and then shopping. I must admit to a degree of disappointment that the purveyor of the hippy-stuff wasn’t there this year. But there was someone who did me a smashing waxed flasher-mac and a pink trilby. And then to the arena - er indoors TM was assisting in some demonstration flying. I was offered the chance to take part as well, but I preferred to stand and watch. A quick half-hour flying a kite with er indoors TM and then tea time. The Saturday evening at Brighton Kite Festival is traditionally a barbeque run by Brighton Kite Fliers, but this year (at the risk of being anti-social) we decided to do our own thing. Much as the barby they put on is very good, it’s not cheap and that one meal would add over 50% to the cost of the weekend. So instead we did our own barby and scoffed loads of meat and watched the kids flying down the hill on the kite buggy.

To bed at 1am….

13 July 2008 (Sunday) - A Lazy Day

13 July 2008 (Sunday) - A Lazy Daymagnify

Leah’s mummy had a headache today. Can’t think why. Equipped with our own washing up liquid at last we staged an impromptu froth party in the gents’ toilets whist washing up. I’d agreed to help with the kiddies kite workshop again today, and I must admit I wasted the morning dozing until I was expected on duty.

Today’s workshop was slightly different to yesterdays. “Betty Swallocks” only helped for a little while, which was probably for the best. He’d matured overnight (in much the same way that a stilton does) and was quite rank. I know that by this stage I’d been without a shower for a couple of days, but I’d had a scrub down as best I could.

Half way through the workshop there was something of a commotion. Some chap burst in wanting to speak to whoever was in charge. This bloke had driven hundreds of miles to assist in the flying of some large kites form the top of the hill, and would someone clear a swathe through the crowds and the kites so’s he could drive to the top of the hill. He didn’t like being told (very politely) to shove off. Again the kiddies workshop was non-stop, but there was something not quite right about it. From my experiences with the cubs, I can’t help but feel that the children should be involved more in what goes on. I felt that no one other than me was actually talking to the children. But I enjoyed myself. And I think the kiddies enjoyed flying their kites. I was pleased to see a couple up a tree.

As I walked back to base from the workshop I saw that the large kites were being flown today. I was pleased that they were – it was good to see them. However I must admit to a degree of concern that they were being flown by the Avon kite fliers – a bunch who’d come down from Bristol. A three hour journey and a round trip of some three hundred miles. Surely there was someone in the Brighton club who could have flown the kites? Yes – there was. Me (!) Next year I expect I shall be up there again with the big stuff, but it was good to have one year off. Whilst some of our number went off with Flexifoil bullets and Super-10s, I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting by our campsite with nephews just watching the kites. Lisa was henna-tattooing littluns and biguns alike. One of my nephews made a “retard detector” and used it to find his brother. I even dozed off for half an hour. Really peaceful until chaos ensued as a field mouse ran out from under my niece’s blanket. Oh what fun we had. Fifteen or more of us chased the poor mouse in and out and under tents and cars for half an hour before finally capturing the poor beast in the collar of my brother-in-law’s jacket. A quick beer was definitely in order to calm my nerves. Though it has to be said that if anyone deserved a beer, it would have been the mouse. A wonderful bit of tea was scoffed whilst watching the littluns zooming down the hill on the kite buggy. And that tea was then walked off by scouring the hill to find where one of the littluns had dropped his dad’s mobile phone.

On the way back from the loos I was accosted by some old friends. And I fell for their ruse. They wanted some entertainment for the evening – would we like to play silly beggars with the kite-glider-thingy? I explained that whilst I wouldn’t, I knew those who would, and a pleasant hour was spent haring round the field. In the end we resorted into sticking the poor unfortunate test pilot into a kite buggy and shoving him down the hill before giving up. My heart wasn’t up to all the charging about. Next year I’m going to something more sedate like a dominoes festival or a cribbage festival…..

14 July 2008 (Monday) - Home Again

14 July 2008 (Monday) - Home Againmagnify

It always amazes me how few people stay on overnight after the Brighton kite festival. The atmosphere on the Sunday night is so peaceful, there’s one or two people flying kites and the field slowly empties. It’s a shame people have to go back to work and school. Our group of twenty three was depleted down to twelve, and this morning I woke up to find only our few tents and maybe half a dozen campers at the bottom. We had instructions to be away by mid day as the field was to be secured, so we alternated tidying up with searching for mobile phones. “Daddies Little Angel TM” has a new hobby – losing her mobile at a kite festival. The same phone has twice been lost and twice been found.

And so we packed up. Another of those phrases which is so easy to type. All the gear away into four cars, sixty miles home via several different routes. All the gear’s away for another month and it will be an early night for me tonight. I really ache.

Next year at Brighton…. still up the hill, but we’ll take a loo tent for the girlie types.

15 July 2008 (Tuesday) - Do You Like Pie ?

15 July 2008 (Tuesday) - Do You Like Pie ?magnify

My last evening at cubs for a while – I was greeted by Terry who was playing “Pokeball”. A bit like Pokemon, only involving more kicking in the balls. A few minutes later he was laying face down on the floor. His mate assured me he wasn’t hurt, but was having sex with the floor. He does that a lot, apparently. At the end of the evening his mother asked after his behavior. Apparently he’s having problems at school. I’m sure I can’t think why! Perhaps I should have mentioned what he was up to, but time was getting on and I didn’t embarrass the poor boy.

And then it was time for “show and tell”. One of the girls collects china dolls of Jesus. My heart sank. Playing the religious card is never a good idea. She asked if everyone knew who Jesus was. We settled for his being the inventor of Christmas. There was then a minor riot as the doll of Jesus at cub age had long hair, and apparently there are only two sorts of people with long hair. Girls and puffs. That was good for a fight. The girl who owns them apparently collects them as an investment. She plans to sell them at great profit in a few years time. I hope she’s not too disappointed. And then she faced the questions. Billy cut straight to the crux of the argument with his incisive question – “do you like pie?” Now I imagine that it is possible that there are some who would question the relevance of pie to china dolls of Jesus, but that had me giggling for the rest of the evening. And just as I’d stop giggling, another leader would ask me if I liked pie and would set me off again.

After this we had a musical interlude. I’m not sure what the title of the piece of music was. I am sure it was introduced as “musical b*st*rds”, but as no one else batted an eyelid, I must have been mistaken. Pausing only briefly to empty all the spit out of the flute, the music was actually very good.

I shall miss not being at cubs for the next month……

16 July 2008 (Wednesday) - Life's Do-ers

16 July 2008 (Wednesday) - Life's Do-ersmagnify

When I was a lad I joined the Boys Brigade. It was run by “Old Millsy”, and it’s only in retrospect that I realize what a wonderful time I had for some nine years all thanks to the tireless efforts of “Old Millsy”. (He’s the one in the piccy behind the Queen Mother). Mind you, thinking about it, when I first joined the Boys Brigade, “Old Millsy” must have been about the age I am now. Sometimes he had other people helping him, sometimes he ran (quite literally) a one man band. He took us camping, on coach trips, we made life long friendships, we met royalty, I even met er indoors TM through “Old Millsy”.

I thought he was unique. Until “My Boy TM” started cubs. And then I met some more of the most amazing people. They run the most successful scout group in the Ashford area – and you wouldn’t realise that one of them is almost blind and another has the most tremendous difficulty in moving about. The latter is leading an expedition to Alaska in a couple of weeks’ time.

And then there’s the amazing old duck who runs the arky-ologee club. Bounding with enthusiasm and energy, she makes sure everyone is involved in what the club is up to. And the newly appointed chairman of our astronomonomoomnomy club who’s turned the thing completely around.

And then there’s the fellow who I met in 2002 who invited me down to Brighton for a weekend. I’ve just been there for the sixth time and had the best weekend ever.

These people are what I call life’s “do-ers”. Life would be a dull place without them

On the other hand there are those who sit back and grumble about how dull their lives are. And those who never try anything new. And those who take advantage of the efforts of the “do-ers”, whilst behind their backs grumbling about how things could be done better – whilst never attempting to actually do anything themselves.

We should be thankful for life’s “do-ers”.

17 July 2008 (Thursday) - Drivel

17 July 2008 (Thursday) - Drivelmagnify

Helen Mirren (who’s she?) has apparently stunned the world by wandering around in a bikini. Personally I couldn’t care less. It’s a sad reflection on today’s society that some celeb on the verge of flopping them out is considered newsworthy. And who else should be jumping on the bandwagon but Catherine Tate. I for one am “bovvered” by that!

In other news I’ve ordered a “turdis” from eBay. Have you ever typed “toilet” into eBay? You get nearly five thousand items. I’m told that a feature of all our camping trips is that we camp a long way from the loos. All I need now is a “clammy kharzi” to go in it. I suppose we can always raid one from the scout hut….

18 July 2008 (Friday) - Canterbury Beer Festival

18 July 2008 (Friday) - Canterbury Beer Festivalmagnify

 

A day off work so no need to be up early. Instead I was laying awake from 3am worrying about totally avoidable problems at work.

I’ve censored the rant that was here – until I retire…

(I feel better for that rant)

Anyway – and so to Canterbury. Eight of us spent the afternoon drinking to excess. Six pints of assorted ales at Canterbury Beer Festival. Where all manner of stuff was pickled, from eggs to bats. Pausing only to release the aroma (!), moral stances are taken about sandwiches. How many sides do your sandwiches have? And what shape are they? Here’s a hint – triangular is for girls! The phrase “bananary” was noted on tasting notes. So banana beer may be a good thing. Mind you, the phrase “that’s quite rank really” also featured on the same tasting notes, so it’s anyone’s guess what the beer was like. However, it has to be saidf that we stayed at the beer festival longer than we ever have in the past. Usually we’re well away by 3pm. Today we were not in the queue for the bus until 4.15pm. And so to Simple Simon’s. Easier said than done as Simple Simon’s now goes by the name of “Parrot’s”. Following a quick couple of pints in there it would be a simple stagger home, if not for a crafty pint of Doombar in the Dolphin,…

19 July 2008 (Saturday) - On the Razzle with SuperGirl and Elvis

19 July 2008 (Saturday) - On the Razzle with SuperGirl and Elvismagnify

One of the most wonderful things about this life is you never know what’s going to happen next….

The day after one of the best booze-ups of the year is usually going to be something of a let-down. It doesn’t take a genius to predict the day is to be spent mooching about with a hangover. And bearing in mind I was due to be working this morning, my hopes for the day weren’t high.

I woke up not feeling all that rough. And had a good morning at work. Lisa was abseiling at 12.45 and so it was up to Charter House to watch SuperGirl bounce down the building. And then off to the oldbiddydrome to collect “Daddies Little Angel TM” and back to the abseiling which by now was running two hours late. We missed watching her by five minutes. But the two of us met up with everyone else and had a crafty pint with SuperGirl in the County Hotel. People didn’t stare much (!)

I was feeling rather tired at this point, and at the risk of being an old misery guts, was planning to spend the rest of the day at home mooching. But Chip pointed out they’ve got Hobgoblin on the hand pump at the Swan. So a pint of that was poured down my neck and it was then that I realised where the girls had gone. There were some bands playing in the park. There was also talk of a bar there, and it was on the way home, so I thought I’d have a look and see what was going on. Once we’d found the beer tent we soon found SuperGirl, “Daddies Little Angel TM” and Moses and settled down. We sang along to “My Old Man’s a Dustman” – well, those of us that knew the words did. There was a really good 80s band on. There were “mature” belly dancers, there was more beer, there was a quick “Blondie” tribute. One of the bands didn’t show and so there was a scratch band featuring some of the audience and the security people. They were good. It has to be said that I did sleep through the RastaBilly Skank, and that “Psycho and the Boys” were rather rubbish, but the Elvis impersonator was excellent. Really good! And then, just on the way back from having a crafty wazz, who should I see staggering around the loo but “My Boy TM” and a dozen of his possee. Somewhat the worse for wear. He’d scaled heights of drunkenness of which I had hitherto only dreamed. I was impressed. That’s my boy (TM”).

I had planned to be at the show for five minutes. I stayed for seven hours. I think I shall pencil this concert into the diary for next year….

20 July 2008 (Sunday) - Rather Dull

20 July 2008 (Sunday) - Rather Dullmagnify

Up late. Well, 9am, which is late for me. An hour was spent sorting out the accounts for the scout group’s trip to Alaska. They spent several thousand pounds and bought several thousand dollars. So it was quite straight forward to work out a conversion and to let the leaders going know how much pocket money each child (and leader) has. Some of them have over £200 to spend over the three weeks that they are away. I expect they will spend every penny (cent, actually) on rubbish. They did the last two times. It’s now eight days until they go. I must admit to the occasional twinges of jealousy. Much as I get homesick, and I think I would probably strangle “Big Jimmy Spanner” after the second day, next time I may well sign up for it. Depending on which kids go.

And then a little while was spent in NeverWinter before the run to the oldbiddydrome. There’s talk of “Daddies Little Angel TM” getting a permanent job there. Whilst I’m all for it, transport could be a problem. We need to scare up an old bicycle for her. Or a moped. She likes the job, and the place. And it likes her. Which is a good thing in a job, and it’s better than digging holes.

And then home again. ‘Er indoors suggested going back to the Ashford festival, but the weather wasn’t all it could be, and lawns don’t mow themselves. Nor do fish pond filters clean themselves either. I’m beginning to wonder if the pump that powers the filter needs a good seeing to. I scrubbed its intakes, but it doesn’t seem to be as forceful as once it was. But then, are any of us….?

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21 July 2008 (Monday) - A la France (!)

21 July 2008 (Monday) - A la France (!)magnify

I’m off to France today. I’m going on advanced operator training for one of our new work gizmos. Three days in Paris. I’m staying in the Hotel du Lac, 87 rue du Général de Gaulle. It was sold to me as being five minutes from the centre of Paris. Google maps puts it closer to five miles from the centre of Paris. I’m told that what precious few beers they may have will set me back over £6 per pint. I’m told there’s five of us on this course. Others are from Carmarthen, Tyneside and Scotland.

I really dislike these training courses. You find yourself in the most god-awful hotels in the arse-end of the universe making polite conversation with people you’ve never met before and will never meet again. I’ve packed some books and a mini-DVD player and a small kite. I’m (as always) hoping for the best whilst expecting the worst.

See you all on Thursday.

22 July 2008 (Mardi) - En France

22 July 2008 (Mardi) -  En Francemagnify

Arrived at the hotel last night and hadn’t even opened my suitcase when there was a knock at the door. It was the rep (in rep mode) inviting me to dinner to meet “the group”. Dinner lasted over two hours, the rep seemed a nice enough bloke, and the other people on the course seemed OK. Except they are all girlie types. I’m the only bloke!

We all met up for brekkie this morning, and once that was scoffed I had a quick look at the waterfront over the road from the hotel. It looked…. Well, like any other big pond, I suppose. But being a fan of ponds I decided to go back later. And then to the course – blah, blah, blah, blood test, blood test, blood test, dull, dull, dull. And then it was scoff time. Apparently the French make a big thing of their food. We went to a French Chinese restaurant for a two-hour scoff-a-thon. Very nice. Then more course, – blah, blah, blah, blood test, blood test, blood test, dull, dull, dull and back to the hotel. Tonight we were left to our own devices as the rep was going back to England (We get someone else tomorrow). The girlies had arranged to be chauffeured to the centre of Paris to do girlie-things. Whilst I was very welcome to go with them, the plan was to do central Paris tomorrow anyway, so I did my own thing.

A quick mooch around the lake, down one load of roads, up another load, generally soaking up the French ambience. As part of the hotel package we got free admission to the local posh casino. I had a look, and saw lots of money all flowing in the same direction (away from the punters), so I went back out again and carried on with my mooch.

I must admit to a degree of disappointment. When with the French reps, or in the hotel, the locals were very friendly. On my own, the locals were all right and put up with my attempts to speak French in much the same way as I would be patient with a thick Geordie or Glaswegian accent. But the moment I mentioned that I was from England their attitude changed completely. So much so that I gave up the idea of eating out anywhere and went back to the hotel where they were at least civil. As all my mates at home were tucking into Chris’s birthday meal, I sat on the terrace enjoying the sunshine and having my own party. The food at the hotel was good, but a bit of beef and some raspberries with cream was nearly forty quid. And the beer!!! Admittedly they had a very nice Belgian wheat beer on, but it was £6.32 a pint, so I only had the two. The rep had said that the company would pay for our meals – just give the a receipt. I hope they will pay for this!

23 July 2008 (Mercredi) - Homesick

23 July 2008 (Mercredi) - Homesickmagnify

The day followed much the same format as yesterday – brekkie, dull course, and then mid day scoff-a-thon. Today’s rep, Hubert (pronounced Oooobeeeerrrrrrr!! (!)) being a bit of a gastronome took us to a brassiere where I had horse and chips. I must admit that it sounds more appetizing in the original French, but I can recommend it. Especially with the best half of a bottle of half-way decent plonk spun out over a couple of hours. And then a bit more dull course until I broke the machine, and so back to the hotel. One of the company’s directors was taking us out tonight, so I scared up my best shirt and we were off to the Champs Elysees. It turns out that’s the poshest bit of all of France. The food and wine and company was excellent, but…

I suppose I must be a very ungrateful kind of guy, really. Only four days ago I was drinking Spitfire in the Stour Park. Today I was drinking champagne cocktails in the Champs Elysees. I’d have rather been back in the Stour Park with that pint of Spitfire. I get so homesick sometimes. It’s really daft. I’m never going to get another chance like tonight’s, but I could quite happily have walked out and gone home.

24 July 2008 (Jeudi) - Coming Home

24 July 2008 (Jeudi) - Coming Homemagnify

At work if ever I need to claim expenses I fill in a form, submit it, haggle about it and I get the money some six weeks later. Today I told the rep how much money Tuesday’s tea had cost me (including the two pints) and he stuck his hand in his pocket and stumped up there and then. If I had known it would be that easy I’d have had more beer!

Once we’d fixed what I did yesterday it was more course, more dull, and another two hour lunch break. And then home. On the one hand, this had been the easiest travelling of any course I’ve been on in twenty years. But on the other hand……

We travelled a lot by taxi. I am convinced there is no Parisian equivalent of the UK’s Highway Code. Most of the cars I saw had scrapes, bumps and dings. People would pull out into main roads without looking, reverse into carriageways, stop, start and basically do whatever they wanted with no care or concern for anyone around them. On several occasions on the way back to le Gare du Nord this afternoon I was convinced the driver wasn’t so much driving as playing chicken with the other taxi drivers. I will never drive in Paris.

And then the Eurostar…. Coming out from Ashford it was brilliant. Organised, helpful staff, a pleasure. Coming home this evening it was…. In all honesty I can only describe it as a scrum overseen by the disinterested. Five minutes before passport control I saw a large flashing sign saying that all baggage must have an identification tag. Panic set in. I didn’t have one. But I’d been queuing for two hours, I was hot, tired and fed up. I’ve been booked on this journey for some three months, and in all honesty they’d left it rather late to tell me about luggage tags. In the event, no one checked anyway. But, all things considered, I prefer the Eurostar to flying. I wonder if I would feel the same if I didn’t live so close to the terminal…

25 July 2008 (Friday) - Reculver

25 July 2008 (Friday) - Reculvermagnify

Having been away for three days in Paris at someone else’s expense I couldn’t wait to get home again. And I knew I was back home when I woke at 3.30am and lay awake for the rest of the night worrying about work. I got in an hour early, and did something I’ve never done at work before. I didn’t once put on my white coat. I spent the entire day doing “office”. Dull beyond belief.

Since it was such a lovely evening, we went for a walk tonight. Reculver. Er indoors found a walk on the Internet based on the area, so we downloaded it, missed the start point entirely, and wandered around the beach and some fields instead. I always thought Reculver was posh, bt it’s got the scrattiest caravan site you ever did see, and a load of people on holiday from “saaaarf Laaandaaaan”. Still, a nice walk in the summer evening, ending at a pub. One that didn’t charge over six quid per pint…

26 July 2008 (Saturday) - Gardening Again, and Kite Festivals

26 July 2008 (Saturday) - Gardening Again, and Kite Festivalsmagnify

It’s only been four weeks since we decided to show Brian’s garden who’s the boss. And now it’s actually under control – the wild shrubs have been removed, beds dug, lawns mowed, dead foxes disposed of, and now we’re at the “making good” stage. The rotary drier was re-strung. It’s amazing the knots and tangles you can get out of sixty metres of washing line. And then, realizing the limitations of being worn out, we knocked it on the head for the day. Mind you, there are still lawn edgings, weed controlling membranes and bark chippings to be done. And shed fragments to be sawn and burned.

And then a quick shower, er indoors TM fetched “Daddies Little Angel TM” from the oldbiddydrome and off to Dover. Dover Kite Festival was planned some time ago, but as we listened to the radio whilst gardening it became apparent that the kite festival was up against some pretty stiff competition. This weekend there’s also Maidstone’s river festival and the Whitstable oyster festival. The kite festival didn’t get a mention on the radio at all. We arrived to find a total of five groups in the campsite. Rather a poor turnout of campers - most of the few who’d actually turned up for the event felt they couldn’t or wouldn’t navigate the tortuous route into the field and had gone home again. Talking with friends there it seemed there’d not been much of a turn-out all day.

I suppose it all depends what the organisers want from a kite festival. On the one hand you might want a big show for the public. Something that will pull a crowd. So you invite skilled kiters who can put on impressive kites and kite shows, and publicise your event and plan it for a weekend when there’s not other major attractions going on locally.

Or you might just want a festival for the die-hard kite fliers. But there are plenty of those up and down the country every week, so you should put on something special that will attract people.

I’m afraid Dover kite festival has done neither. They’ve got a smashing camping area IF you are brave enough to drive your vehicle through the obstacle course to it. I wouldn’t risk my sexy new car (sorry). They’ve invited skilled kiters who can do impressive things with big kites and given them nowhere suitable to do their thing. They’ve put on a kite show and then singularly failed to be willing to provide anyone who can or will do any loudspeaker commentary. And having done no radio advertising at all, they are up against the river festival and the oyster festival.

I’m going back tomorrow. er indoors TM wants to. It’ll be fun, I expect – I shall attempt to scare up a crowd of people to go along and join in what’s happening….

27 July 2008 (Sunday) - A Little Bit Of An Accident

27 July 2008 (Sunday) - A Little Bit Of An Accidentmagnify

Back to Dover Kite Festival. I must admit that I wasn’t too keen on going. I’d been rather disappointed with what I’d seen yesterday. So, probably because my hopes weren’t high, I ended up having a smashing time. I helped with flying the BKF teddy. I say “helped” – one of the latest BKF recruits has taken an interest in the big stuff and rather than having sole command (something with which I’m still not entirely confident), I was very happy just to assist him as required. It was a great morning in the sunshine, watching the kites and chatting with friends, old and new.

All too soon we had to leave - “Daddies Little Angel TM” fetched from work and then…. The original plan called for going fish food shopping, but “Daddies Little Angel TM” had a better offer of going to the beach with her friends, so she went off whilst I, left to my own devices, decided to mow the lawn. But then “My Boy TM” and “his posse TM” arrived and decided to “chill” in the garden. So I spent the afternoon doing the ironing whilst watching “Carry on Henry”. My life is so exciting, sometimes.

After tea, I was feeling rather bored. er indoors TM had gone bowling, and I was about to phone “My Boy TM” and join him at the “Create” festival when my mobile rang. It was “Daddies Little Angel TM” – I wasn’t to worry, but they’d “had a little bit of an accident”, they were all right, but could I give them a lift home. Where were they? – Somewhere between Ham Street, Kingsnorth and Tenterden. For those of my loyal readers who don’t know the area, this description narrows their location down to about a quarter of Kent. As I set off down the Ham Street bypass, a fire engine came zooming back the other way, so I knew I was in the right area.

It transpired that as they’d come to a junction and begun to turn right, so some idiot had come haring down the road far too fast and splatted them. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, but there are some bumps and bruises and sore necks. They were in the silver car pictured above, and the one that splatted them was the blue beetle.

As I was driving everyone home we began to suspect something was amiss. The police there had given the name of the other driver to us as Mrs….. but several of our group are convinced that it was Mr…. who was driving. Also, if it was Mrs… driving, how come it’s Mr…. who’s got the injured wrist from the steering wheel? Mr… and Mrs… were apparently on their way home from having lunch. I know what I think was going on with them two. We’ve phoned the copper who was at the incident and told him this. Will anything come of it? We shall see…..

28 July 2008 (Monday) - Alaska, Nicked Blood, and Astro-Photography

28 July 2008 (Monday) - Alaska, Nicked Blood, and Astro-Photographymagnify

The cubs’ and scouts’ coach was leaving for Alaska at 4.30am today, and since I can never sleep much past 3am these days, and seeing how it’s so hot at night, I’d planned to see the scout group off on their trip early this morning. Today was the one day I slept right though to 7am. Oh well. I shall keep tabs on what’s happening on the trip’s website. But I wouldn’t expect too much in the way of news for a day or so. They took off from Heathrow this morning at 10am (I hope) for San Francisco where they will change planes and then arrive in Anchorage some time tomorrow mid-morning. I really don’t want to hear anything from them before then. As I’m the official home contact, if I do hear anything it will probably be bad news, and we don’t want that!

I popped round to their luggage weigh-in yesterday, and I’m still in two minds about the whole thing. On the one hand it will be a wonderful trip to a part of the world I’ll probably never go myself. On the other hand, over a quarter of the kids going would do my head in. One of the “problem ones” going on this trip went with me last time in 2004. (In all honesty he’s not grown up much in that time) Whilst in Washington State, driving some of the worst roads I’ve ever driven, he would scream in hysteria whenever he saw another vehicle in the distance. But in rush hour in downtown Vancouver when a passing car smashed the wing mirror off our minibus, he didn’t bat an eyelid. This boy would have the entire group waiting for him whilst he spent half an hour in the toilet. When we went in to see what the hold up was, he would be sitting on the floor playing with his toes. To pay thousands of pounds for (another) three weeks of this is too much. (Or so I am trying to convince myself).

On the way in to work I thought I’d change my monopoly-euros back into proper money, so I drove up to the International station. Some podgy little Hitler waddled up and told me that I couldn’t park anywhere near the station as I would be causing an obstruction. I looked around. There were no other cars or people, but porky Adolf was adamant. I hope I can be equally helpful to the fat fuehrer at some point.

And so to work. I don’t usually blog about work as more often than not it’s best to keep quiet about the place. Hippopotamic Oath, and all that. But today I can blab, because the BBC already knows all about it. We had a quiet day as some villains stole all the blood samples. I can only assume they thought they’d be nicking drugs. Imagine their reactions when they realise they’ve made off with blood, tiddle and turds. We’ve got our five-yearly formal accreditation inspection tomorrow. What bad timing (!)

What with all the excitement I didn’t get away until 8pm. Rather late for astronomy club, where tonight’s talk was on astro-photography. Not something I shall probably be doing myself, but fascinating, nonetheless. The astrologer came back tonight, but thankfully kept quiet. Let’s hope he stays that way….

29 July 2008 (Tuesday) - Some Good, Some Bad

Oh I got so hacked off with “people” today……

To the bank to change my Euros. I saw there was a queue, so I asked at the information desk if I could change up all my notes and coins. “Oh yes” she said – “no problem”. After fifteen minutes queuing, I handed over the monopoly money. The chap behind the counter rolled his eyes and sneeringly said that he’d only take the notes, not the coins. And to add insult to injury he then refused to change the notes into cash, instead he’d credit them into my account. Whilst all the time making it abundantly clear how inconvenient it all was. Such a contrast to my next stop - the Nat West. We’re opening an account with them for the astronomy club. So helpful, so easy, I may well move all my accounts there.

And then home to find a police “do not cross” line, and coppers swarming all over the house eight doors up from me. I asked what was going on. They didn’t actually tell me to !*?! off, but that was very much the gist of what they had to say. And they wonder why people don’t report crimes any more.

Whilst sitting in the work’s rest room I overheard a familiar complaint. “Oh it’s so hot” bleat the same people who only a fortnight ago were complaining about a day’s rain. They don’t like sun, rain, wet, dry, overcast, clear….. if there is any other form of weather they might like, I’m yet to experience it.

On the plus side, the formal inspection at work went well. I was complimented by the inspectors about the training scheme I run. That cheered me up a bit. And the company I went to Paris to see last week phoned today. Would I like to come to an interview with them next Thursday? As luck would have it, I’m off work next Thursday anyway. I shall just pack for Teston a bit later.

Scout update - as yet – no news from either San Francisco or Anchorage. Hope they are all OK…

30 July 2008 (Wednesday) - Nothing Much Happened

30 July 2008 (Wednesday) - Nothing Much Happenedmagnify

I was awoken at 3am by work to be told we were getting a bit short of something I’d ordered last week. I do hope this interview next week goes well….

I spent a bit of time this morning revamping the Team ELF kiting web site. It was a bit out of date. But then, we don’t fly kites like we used to. We only ever got formally organized into a “proper club” so that we could get some insurance, and in retrospect, for me the website was probably the forerunner to my blog – I do like diarying (!). These days, kite flying is something I do every couple of months or so. Realistically it’s on a par with fishing, poker, astronomy, You-Tube videos and painting. Something I enjoy immensely, but just don’t have the time to do because I’m always busy doing something else. I really must get the kites out and have a go again soon!

On the way home from work I was nearly dive-bombed by a low-flying hot air balloon. I stopped in McD’s car park to take a photo, and had this idea to follow it to see where it would land. But then it became very plain that loads of other people had the same idea. So I came home to find “Daddies Little Angel TM” cleaning the kitchen. She’s up to something….

Scout update - as yet – no news from either San Francisco or Anchorage. I’m getting a tad concerned…

31 July 2008 (Thursday) - Gingerbread Daleks

31 July 2008 (Thursday) - Gingerbread Daleksmagnify

Because things have been a bit traumatic at work lately we had a buffet scoff today. Everyone brings something…. the piccie above was taken when I went for scoff some two hours after we’d started eating, and there was still loads more in the fridge for later. To say nothing of gingerbread daleks. I had a plateful of scran. And another. And then the cake course. And some fruit. And cheese. And then the crisps. And there’s still loads left over for tomorrow….

In other news, common sense has prevailed over the compensation culture. The courts have declared that accidents will happen. Perhaps as a society we might be able to move away from suing and being sued at every turn?

Scout update – it’s now over two days since they should have arrived in Alaska and still no news. I’ve phoned a couple of the more sensible parents and they haven’t heard anything either. Is there a British consulate in Anchorage I could be ringing…..