1 June 2010 (Tuesday) - An Anniversary
Today is an anniversary - I’ve been blogging here on Blogger for a year now – and three years before that over at Yahoo. Where has the time gone? Looking at my archived stuff I’ve got over one thousand three hundred blog entries and (together with the piccies that go with it) it takes up nearly 30Mb of disk space. I might get it published eventually.
With an average of forty different people tuning in to the thing daily, from all over the UK, to say nothing of the US, Canada, Belgium, Russia and Australia (to name but only a few of the places that pop up in the tracking software), I’m amazed at the success of the thing. I wonder if I oughtn’t organise a meet-up of my loyal readership – that might be quite a party…
Meanwhile I woke up this morning aching more than usual – I’m wondering if spending an hour playing leap frog with my niece yesterday was a good idea. And then I got just a bit wound up with the morning’s post. I got a letter from the company who’ve just loaned me a squillion pounds to buy my new car. They told me that appreciate my custom, and went on to say that should I wish to borrow another squillion pounds, then maybe I would be interested to learn that they lend money, and maybe I might like to consider borrowing it from them. Dur!!! Do they think I’ve never heard of them? They’ve demonstrated that they are happy to lend me money – where do they think I’m going to go for more loans – the fishmongers? If they wasted less money on unnecessary expenses (such as producing and posting this letter) then I would have to pay less in interest repayments.
I was home early from work today – having had to go into work during the night. It suited me to come home early – I thought I might get the roof bars put back on the car in readiness for the camping season. But it was raining. Pouring hard. So I played on the internet until the rain stopped. After an hour’s wrestling I got the roof bars in place. Now they are on, I’m not sure there isn’t a front and back bar, and a left and right side to each. But they are on, and (hopefully) will stay in place until September. I then collared Martin to help me get the top box into place. I’m sure that the box has shrunk over the winter – it seems a lot smaller than I remember it being. And it’s a shame the bars and box’s colour doesn’t’ match the car, but I’m not shelling out for new ones. I’m mean like that. Now all I need to do is remove the rear seats from the car and go to the farm to retrieve all the camping gear... I’ll do that another time.
2 June 2010 (Wednesday)
I stumbled upon something that made me smile this morning – when attempting to translate a direction sign into Welsh, the signwriters thought the automated email response was actually the translation they’d asked for. And so rather than giving the required instructions, the sign they produced read (once translated) "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated". And from that article it didn’t take me long to find a whole load of mis-translated signs in Wales – left and right being mixed up is an easy enough mistake to make (just ask my beloved!). But surely confusingcyclists
Having one sign done wrong is funny. Having loads of mistakes – that’s a bit more serious. On reflection I can’t help but feel that since the country is billions of pounds in debt, and these translations (demonstrably) are not being done very well, surely translating everything into a redundant language is a waste of time, to say nothing of an unnecessary expense. After all, I’ve been to Wales. The vast majority all speak English as their first language. In my time there I only heard Welsh being used once – and that by an old git who was glaring at me. And the deliberately intimidating effect was spoiled by his grandchildren imploring him not to speak in Welsh because (to quote the child) “nobody understands you”.
I can recall my having a similar rant about the Celtic language a while ago, and being branded a Nazi racist. I’m expecting a similar response from the reactionary fringes for today’s rant, but why? I am posing a serious question. Why do we persist in keeping the Welsh language alive? It’s not needed – it’s not as though anyone actually relies on it rather than using English. And I don’t get the “preserve your heritage” argument. Preserve it in a museum, yes. Preserve it the costly way it’s being preserved – I really can’t see it. After all, there are those with a minority language who don’t cost the tax payer a penny – namely the Klingon-speakers.
But, as usual, on further research I’m in the minority with my opinion. It’s not just the Welsh – the Cornish have apparently revived a languagethat’s been dead for a century. As have the Manx and various forms ofCelts
As a child I had this naïve idea that I was taught French at school because one day I would go abroad to another country where the language was spoken, and by learning someone else’s language we would break down international barriers. And that was why the French kiddies were taught English. And so with us all speaking each other’s languages the world would become a better place. But then, didn’t I read somewhere that a certain fish caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures?. I naively thought that learning dead languages would only isolate large parts of the community. Perhaps it is God’s will….
“And the Lord said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth” (From the book of Genesis)
“Daddies Little Angel TM ” is twenty one today. Where do the years go? She’s spending a quiet evening with friends tonight. Interestingly her brother’s twenty first was also on a Thursday, despite their being born on different days of the week. (I know this – I was there!) I wonder how they managed that?
My own twenty-first was also on a Thursday. I spent it at Bromley TechnicalCollege, and it came as a great disappointment to all present that I didn’t come back from the pub at lunchtime totally drunk. Mind you, I did have religion back in those days.
I can’t remember ‘er indoors TM having a twenty-first. I expect she had one once, but seeing how “My Boy TM ” would have been squalling round the place in nappies at the time, I doubt that it was a very racy affair either. Two minutes on the internet shows that this day was a Tuesday. She would be the odd one out.
Up with the lark as usual, and for once not ironing. Instead I was frantically PowerPoint-ing. We’d known for some time that tonight’s planned speaker at the astro club was unable to come, and so a few weeks ago I’d offered to put on something I’d originally done three years ago. But it turned out that there was a proper speaker available who had a proper subject for the evening, so my talk wasn’t needed.
Last night I had a phone call from the club’s secretary. Seeing as it doesn’t get dark until very late, maybe we’d be better off having a second speaker rather than a telescope session. And seeing as I’d offered to do something, perhaps I might like to do that talk.
I was only too happy to oblige, and spent yesterday evening dusting off my talk on the Fermi Paradox. And woke very early this morning in a panic realising all the things I’d left out of the talk. After all, the Kepler missionhas been launched in the meantime, and that probably would have quite a bearing on what I had to say. Oh, I hate last minute rushes. Normally when I’m speaking, the thing is prepared months in advance.
Meanwhile back in reality, having got the top box onto the car, I got the rear seats out this morning before work. The car is now in “Summer Mode”, - not much good if I need to take people anywhere, but as good as it can be for transporting large amounts of luggage. I’m still not convinced that I wouldn’t be better off with a pick-up truck, or even a camper van. In fact, I’ve half a mind to see how much it would cost to hire a camper for one of the weekend camps, just to see how I’d get on with the thing.
All I needed to do was to visit a certain barn and get the camping gear, and I would be set for the next few months. And that’s what I did straight after work. The car is now full of tents and stuff. I also found a load of beer I’d forgotten about, but couldn’t find any gas cookers. Oh well – we have essentials, if not luxuries.
And then to Woodchurch for astro club. As always I found myself sitting outside, waiting for Jason to arrive with the keys. We tried a different chair layout tonight – with chairs in staggered curves rather than rows. Much less formal, and seemed to be liked by the punters. As it was a lovely evening we got the solar scope out. Normally looking at the Sun through a telescope is a very stupid thing to do, but IF you have a proper solar scope, it can be done. I’d never used a solar scope before, and following the expert advice I got to see a solar prominence.
The main talk of the evening was on the Gemini program. Something about which I knew next to nothing. It was a really good talk, given by a speaker who was not only incredibly knowledgeable on the subject, but was also a very good speaker. Why is it that I always find myself giving talks after someone’s just given an excellent presentation, and feeling very conscious that I have been set a standard?
I hawked the raffle as always, and we (more than) covered the cost of the hall hire. And then it was my turn to talk. I must admit that I was rather nervous about speaking this evening. Normally I’m quite happy to stand up and jabber on, but tonight we were being visited by a delegation from theCanterbury astro club. Real astro-bods(!) But, what the hell – I launched into my subject with gusto: the Fermi paradox.
The Fermi paradox is a quite straightforward question, originally posed by Enrico Fermi some sixty years ago: “The size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist. However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.” Or, in layman’s terms, “it stands to reason that there are aliens. But where are they?”
I wittered on for about fifteen minutes, with the audience laughing far more than would be expected for a lecture on such a dull subject, and I ended up by explaining the Fermi paradox. Or that is I gave my explanation. As I said, the entire subject of aliens can only be guesswork, and I challenged the audience to come up with their own explanations.
Having spent a lot of Thursday evening and Friday morning preparing a lecture for the astro club, and then having spent half an hour last night explaining to the astro club (very loudly and very confidently) that the nearest aliens are 800 light years away (825.2 light years, to be precise), I was rather miffed to read in the news today that NASA have actually found aliens. In orbit around Saturn, on Titan. Still, I got an email from the people from the Canterbury astro club this morning. They said they liked my performance, and would be inviting me to give them a performance at some point.
This morning’s haul of emails also brought in two friend requests on You-Tube. I rarely get those. The first was someone blatantly trying to sell USB memory sticks, and the other was a particularly fit bird with some rather raunchy dance videos who (on closer research) turned out to be ten years old. Ten!!! I wonder if her mother knows what she’s up to.
So then we got the bikes out and cycled to Warehorne. And in retrospect we went to the wrong pub. We’d decided not to go to the World’s Wonder, because that involves cycling along a busy bit of road. Instead we went back to the Woolpack. Regular readers might recall I’ve blogged about how good this pub is in the past. It’s now under new management and is quite frankly the biggest rip-off in Kent. When I visited last October, the place was full, Today, all but empty.
I’ll concede the beer selection was good. However, when one pays nearly ten quid for scallops, one expects more than two of the things. When one orders a cesar salad, one expects more than a few lettuce leaves smeared with salad cream. There is more to a ploughman’s lunch than three piddly bits of cheese and some small pieces of stale bread.
We exchanged a few words with fellow customers who were equally disgusted, and we left. I will go back, because I can't see the current management keeping the place going for long. I shall return in a few months to see who takes over... And no matter who takes over couldn't do a worse job....
We cycled back up to Shadoxhurst, planning to get some back-up scran from the Kings Head. We’d eaten there only a month or so ago. We forgot that they close for the afternoon, and we only just got there in time for a crafty half before they shut the doors and locked us in the beer garden. Thank the Lord for the local corner shop doing ice-creams.
And so home, where we got the barby out, and half a dozen of us scoffed and drank ourselves silly for less than a third of the price we’d paid at mid day. Once stuffed we watched Doctor Who – possibly the best of the season so far.
And it’s only as I come to the end of today’s blog entry that I’ve realised that I’ve not taken any photos of what I’ve been up to today. That is so unlike me. Instead, today’s picture can feature the racy child I mentioned earlier.
Rather late to bed last night as I’d been watching my latest DVD – “BattleStar Galactica – The Plan”. I’d ordered the thing from eBay on May 12, and despite my constantly emailing them to ask where it was, it was only when I lodged a formal complaint last week that they delivered it two days later. Funny, that!
In any event, the DVD was a disappointment. Basically it was a re-working of the first twenty episodes of BattleStar Galactica done from a different point of view, and compressed into two hours. If you hadn’t seen those first twenty episodes at least half a dozen times before, you’d have no idea what was going on. And I had to keep rewinding the DVD as I kept nodding off. It was dull.
And then having slept so much in front of the telly, I didn’t sleep particularly well for the rest of the night – the rain was rather torrential, and went on for a large part of the night. I suppose if nothing else it tested out the new felting, which doesn’t seem to have leaked (yet!) The pond is very full now, following my topping it up yesterday and then having had the rain. It’s odd how there’s always heavy rain immediately after I fill the pond up.
To Tonbridge for a one-day kite festival. I’ve not been to this event since the one in 2004, because the organisers seem to want to keep the thing secret. They don’t mention it on the Kite Calendar, which is the accepted place to advertise all UK kite-based events. Nor was it touted on any of the local kiting forums until I found out about it four days ago. For the last five years I’ve heard about the thing after it’s happened, which obviously is no way to run any event. I’m rather concerned because the people who were running this today are also the people who oversaw the demise of both Dover and Capstone kite festivals. And it is they who have taken on the Teston kite weekends. Interestingly all the information I’ve had about the upcoming Teston weekend has come via all sorts of routes other than from the organisers. I suspect (but hope not) that said organisers may well be the subject of a future rant on this blog. I so hope I’m wrong about this.
We arrived at Tonbridge in the early afternoon, and saw a few kites flying. I say “a few” – not many, but actually far more than were ever evident atBritain’s largest beach based kite festival in Weymouth (!). We spent a couple of hours chatting with friends before beating a hasty retreat from the storm which was so obviously on the way.
It would have been good to have “done” this kite day properly, and a shame that not many of the “usual suspects” were there. But those people who normally support kiting events live all over the place, and I understand people’s feelings that having done such events in the past so many times, they no longer want to travel for several hours for only a few hours’ kiting, only then to have to make the journey home again. After all, most successful kiting events at the moment seem to be those at which people can camp on the kiting field for the weekend. I must admit to feeling much the same myself. Roll on Teston…
As it was Sunday we came home via Lidl, which is something of a tradition. I love Lidl – it really is Pikey central. The staff today were getting really worked up because as the clock was ticking closer and closer to four pm, so the punters were still pouring into the shop. At 3.50pm they closed the entrance, so customers just came in via the exit. It was so funny watching “Porky” on the checkout getting wound up. He was getting so red in the face and shouting at his equally porky colleagues every time someone else sneaked into the shop. They clearly didn’t want the custom.
Once home I tried to mow the lawn. I got ten minutes worth done before the storm we left in Tonbridge caught up with us. The rain came down so haevily for five minutes, and then stopped. But those five minutes were enough to soak the lawn. So I played in NeverWinter for a while until the lawn dried. And then just as I was getting ready to mow, so the thunder started. Hopefully I’ll finish the lawn tomorrow…
Eagle eyed readers might notice a difference on the blog. I’ve removed the diary dates section from the side bar and put it onto a page of its own, accessible from the link bar above. It seemed to me that the diary dates went too far down the screen, and having them on their own page looks neater. It still needs a bit of tweaking, but I can do that later. I’ve also added a potted biography too, for no other reason than that I can.
Yet another restless night – having the front window open made for a noisy night, and even noisier when the fist fruit of my loin set off to work. Still, his setting off to work saves the battery on my alarm. I got up early and did the ironing before brekky, and then popped round to B&Q for some hedge trimmers. After a dull day at work, I gave the back garden a hair cut with said trimmers. Next door’s various shrubs do overhang my garden, and I’d finally had enough. Mind you, the hedge trimmers do leave a lot of mess on the floor. Next time I shall get a tarpaulin and lay that down before I get the red mist.
Whilst I was mucking about in the garden I finally got the lawn mowed, and I gave the pond’s filter a scrub out – a job best done when you have time to do so. Rather than leaving it and finding that you have to find time to sort out a filter binged solid with carp poo.
I mentioned yesterday that I’ve added pages to this blog – from the menu bar above there’s diary dates and a biography. I can’t believe how many hours I spent yesterday evening and this morning fiddling around with those. Was it really worth it?
I really ache this morning – I blame the overhaul I gave the pond last night. As well as mucking out the filter, I also (with some help) disassembled the mini-pool the filter empties into and gave that a good scrubbing too. Perhaps I overdid it? But that didn’t stop me digging out more camping gear this morning and loading the car with more gear for the weekend. It’s as well to find out what we’ve lost now whilst there’s time to do something about it, rather than wait until we’re half an hour late leaving to realise we’ve no gas canisters. For example: washing up bowls. Last year when we put the stuff away we had three. Now, we have none. Where did they go? Now I’ve bought three new ones I expect the old ones will soon appear.
Talking of lost, I can’t seem to find my perve-o-scope; a pair of binoculars with a built-in USB camera. It’s not a particularly good pair of binoculars, or an especially good camera, but it’s a laugh, if nothing else.
Whilst loading up the car I managed to burst the backside out of a new pair of shorts. That was fourteen quid well spent - a shame I'd managed to lose the receipt. Whilst in Tesco's this morning I saw a chap looking at said shorts, and I took the opportunity to put him off buying them. He thanked me, did a double take, and recognised me - he was a cousin-in-law I've not seen for years. Small world!!
And then I popped in to Halfords – they had some pop-up gazebos like the one we’ve got that is broken. And they were twenty quid cheaper than what I’d paid two years ago. Hopefully it will come in useful…
I’ve found my perve-o-scope (a pair of binoculars with a built-in USB camera), but still no sign of the missing washing up bowls. Looking at how I’ve packed the car, anything might be in the back and I wouldn’t notice. It might be an idea for me to re-pack the thing before I set off to camp.
Some shopping before work – Argos, where I couldn’t buy camping gaz throuogh the automated system. Apparently I had to go to the counter to hand my money over to the assistant in case I was going to use the camping gaz for nefarious purposes. It strikes me that having acquired the stuff, the nice lady behind the counter will have no idea what I’m going to do with the stuff, but she can rest assured that because I gave the money to her and not to the machine, I can’t use it to make my own explosives. I think that (as always) I’m missing the point somewhere.
Sweatman’s Mowers were quite happy to sell me loads of camping gaz – they didn’t suspect me of being some sort of villain. Whilst in there I overheard someone on the phone screaming at an ex-customer about damage done to a lawnmower. I would like to have stayed longer to have got the full story, but after a while it becomes obvious that you are ear-wigging…
The plan was to have today off work so that I could pack the car and be ready to leave for Teston promptly tomorrow morning. However, having been told that we can camp from Thursday morning, I’ve had the car loaded up since the weekend ready. I suppose it might be seen as getting there a tad early, since the kite festival doesn’t start until Saturday morning. But I’m not going to a kite festival. I’m going on a camping trip with friends and family; many of whom I don’t see anywhere near as often as I’d like, and the fact that there is a kite festival there is an added bonus.
I set off promptly to get to the kite festival, and went via Lidl’s. Last Sunday they had some really good camping chairs. Today I couldn’t find them, so I asked the assistant where they were. He just stared at me. I asked if they’d sold out. He said yes. What he meant was “I don’t care” because I found what I wanted not five yards away.
Loaded up with kites and beer I made my way to Teston Bridge Picnic site and found I was the first one there. So I cracked on with getting the tents up. The original plan was for me to get the communal tent (“Brown and Smelly”) half way up, and then when everyone else arrived, they’d help me lift the tent up completely. And in the meantime I’d get people’s individual tents up for them. I had all of that done within a couple of hours, and so thought I’d have a go at lifting “Brown and Smelly” on my own. After all, I’ve done it before. And I did it again. All on my own. So I paused for a meat pie and a bag of crisps before setting up the tables and chairs. And I had everything ready by 2.30pm.
It was at this point I decided I’d had enough of “neighbourhood watch”. Some nosey busybody had sat down on a nearby bench and was reporting my every movement to an accomplice via his phone. I wandered over to him smiling, and commented how bad mobile phone reception was in the area. The nosey busybody couldn’t run away fast enough.
That then left me alone in the field. And as the cloud came over and the wind picked up, it was rather lonely, and I effectively had nothing to do but wait for people to arrive. And then I had a stroke of inspiration. I was at a kiting event, it was windy…. so I got some kites out. First of all a nice pink delta which went up like a rocket, and stayed up. I attached some line laundry to it, including an inflatable frog, a couple of fish windsocks and a sky dancer. I was quite impressed wit the result, and I tied the line to a ground stake and left it all flying itself whilst I got out another old favourite kite; my circoflex. I do like it, even if it seems to have all the aerodynamic qualities of a sack of potatoes. I gave up after half an hour, and decided I’d fiddle with the thing’s bridling later in the weekend.
Some more of our party arrived shortly after six o’clock, and we soon were eating sweet n sour. Very nice! Whilst washing up we watched a couple of people arrive with their caravans, and Bonefish wandered over to spend the evening with us over a few beers. As the evening wore on and the wind picked up, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d done the right thing in bringing a caravan rather than a tent. Especially as (after a few pints) we staggered to our tents only to find one had half collapsed because of the wind.
Not a good night’s sleep as I’d been kept awake pretty much all night by the sound of the wind and the rain. At five o’clock I decided it was tiddle-time, and so up I got. As I reached into the tent’s awning and put my hand down to lift myself up, I was rather perturbed to find my hand was wrist deep in water. During the night the front of the tent had come unpegged and had blown back and expose the groundsheet. The rain had then flooded in. By the time I’d drained the flood and had my tiddle I realised I might as well stay up.
I thought I could put away last night’s washing up, which I’d left in bowls to drain. The bowls had four inches of water in them. Oh how I laughed. By the time I’d wandered up to the toilet block and back, and re-erected the gazebo I was wet through. I sat in “Brown and Smelly” watching the steam rising from my trousers, and it was only a passing park warden assuring me that the weather forecast was that the rain would clear up by midday that persuaded me not to go home there and then. I sat steaming and sulking over a breakfast of egg fried rice, and I then rigged several washing lines across the poles of “Brown and Smelly” so’s we could dry out the many and various things that had got saturated overnight.
Whilst the rest of our party went shopping, I stayed behind and continued my sulk. After half an hour or so I realised something. It was quiet. Rain was no longer thundering on the tent roof. I popped my head outside. The clouds were no longer black. The sun had come out. I decided to make the best of it, and as I put the banners up, so people were slowly arriving on site. There are so many people that I only ever see at kite festivals, and they are all such good people that make these events such fun. One such chap had a present for me – he’d pickled some eggs. (Oh they were wonderful – black and tasty. Lovely – by the time I went to bed I’d eaten over half a dozen.) The ground which had been a swamp only hour before was now dry, and as I flew a kite in the afternoon I admitted to myself that I was glad I hadn’t gone home. Five pm was so much different to 5am!
And then with the clans gathered we scoffed a wonderful tea of fajitas and set about the beer. And the port. We managed to break one of our “camping virgins”. If not exactly with her knickers round her ears, she was certainly singing songs about sailors, and as is so often the way we had a wonderful time, eventually staggering off to our tents and caravans in the wee small hours.
I was woken by the sound of voices outside the tent at 6.20am. I realised I could lie in bed, or join in with what was going on outside. I was glad I’d got up. What was going on was first breakfast. There are several breakfasts at kite festivals, and if you time it correctly you get to join in with several. First breakfast today was pancakes with sugar and lemon. Very nice! Second breakfast an hour or so later was black pudding, and third breakfast (the “official” brekky) was bacon, egg and sausage sandwich. It was during this breakfast that we received reports of our broken “camping virgin” who wasn’t feeling quite up to a morning meal. In a spirit of well-wishing we sent her our best wishes and a box of wine.
Having washed up and played a few games of Blokus we dispatched shopping parties. The women went off for proper food shopping, whilst the blokes went hunting beer; we’d got through rather more than I was expecting during the previous evening’s festivities. Sainsbury’s was fun – we managed to scare quite a few of the normal people, and really wound up the staff by putting several gallons of ale through the self-service checkouts. Those machines don’t like you buying beer, and they set off an “authorisation required” alarm for every single bottle of beer you put through them. We also managed to get bread and cheese and more port, and rewarded ourselves with cream cakes which we scoffed before driving back to camp. After all, our fellow campers wouldn’t believe we deserved the cream cakes.
Back to camp, and more kite flying. On Thursday and Friday I’d flown without a problem. Today I demonstrated why I rarely fly kites at kite festivals. With other people’s kites around, I do very little but tangle up with everyone else, and crash everyone’s kites. Whilst people understand this goes with the territory, I feel I’m always apologizing about doing this and so don’t usually fly when everyone else is. But today I did, and within five minutes I was two fields away retrieving the kites I’d made crash. But it could be said that this was a blessing in disguise - having found a field where no one else was flying we took a power kite and a nephew to educated said nephew in the mysteries of power kiting. Or that was the plan. The wind died down, so we gave up and decided to have lunch instead. Bread, cheese and a bottle of stout. Very nice.
Jose then arrived with a couple of power kites, so we thought we might have another go. So we tried, and tried, but gave up. The wind wasn’t happening, so I thought I’d have a look at some kites I’d bought from Tesco last year and which have lived in my kite bag ever since. And I was disappointed. I’d bought three inflatables. In kiting circles an “inflatable” is a three dimensional kite which fills with wind, such as the bears pictured above. And thus inflated flies as a kite, or from a kite line as line laundry.
However it would seem that in Tesco circles an “inflatable” is something which inflates. According to the instructions one inflates it with warm air from a hair drier, and then watches it float for five minutes until the air cools. I obtained the services of a powered air pump, but the thing was a disappointment. As presumably were the other two so-called inflatables that I couldn’t be bothered to get out of the kite bag.
Regular readers of this blog may have noticed from the section on the right of this screen that I follow the blog of the Ursus Volans Parachute Co. Over there, Guy describes his progress in converting a white van into a camper van. I’ve been following this with fascination for months, and today I got to see the van. You can click on the link and see the progress for yourself, but to actually see the van itself was quite something. Converting a van isn’t something I’d take on myself, but I have the utmost admiration for Guy for doing so. And he’s doing such a good job of it. I can’t wait to see the van as it progresses over the summer.
Back to camp, where we heard rumours that our broken “camping virgin” was thinking about surfacing. Whilst some played outdoor twister, I got embroiled in a quick game of “Donkey” which has some rather complicated rules involving large piles, but in a triumph of pot luck over skill I managed to achieve second place.
Dinner time – sixteen of us enjoyed stir-fry which I nearly (but not quite) knocked all over the floor. And then we sipped spirits. Bramble whisky, sloe gin and B&Q’s paint stripper mixed with toilet duck. A lovely way to pass the evening whilst the rest of humanity was screaming abuse at their televisions whilst football was on. And as the clock moved towards 9.15pm, so we moved down the field. Two years ago, the Grumpy Old Gits had put on a cultural event for us, and this year they promised us an encore. The 1812 overture with cannon, or exploding balloons, to be precise. Oh, they were loud. And then having detonated half the county we went on a bat-hunt. Which was rather a waste of time bearing in mind the noise that had just been made. So we retired to camp where we had an impromptu port and cheese party until the cold forced us to bed shortly after midnight.
I went for a 1.30am tiddle, only to trip over the unconscious carcass of my beloved which was strewn in our tent’s awning. I attempted to move her to her bed, but she wasn’t having any of it (just as well), so I went about my business and went back to kip.
At 5am I was woken by someone pumping up a deflated air bed. I realise it’s rather mean, but there is something satisfying about listening to someone pumping their mattress whilst I am snug in my own bed. I eventually got up and had a shave shortly after 6am, and then sat with Simon and we giggled as we listened to the various snores coming from the tents around us whilst we finished off the last of the pickled eggs.
First breakfast was rather fraught this morning, as due to an inadvertent gas leak we nearly blew the gazebo up, but soon we were eating fried spuds laced with bacon before following it with second breakfast of sausage and egg sandwiches. And so suitably replete I then sat down and slept until mid day when friends arrived and we broke out the Blokus and tried to get the answers to the warden’s quiz.
Teston isn’t Teston without a sail up the river, and whilst the rear admirals set off, we flew our latest acquisition – the spirit kite. Hand made, it flies wonderfully. We’ve been waiting for the thing for some time, and were very grateful to be able to play with it this afternoon.
And then we posed for the group photo. Despite this being the fifteenth time I’ve camped out at Teston kite festival, it is only the fourth time I’ve been asked to join in the group photo. That wasted a few minutes, and then three of us set off on a mission. We had this idea to have a pooh-sticks race for the August festival, and so suitably armed with a dozen lolly sticks we planned to lob them in at the lock, and see how many made their way to the bridge. There was a minor mishap as one of our number took a tumble at the lock, but all the launched sticks made it to the destination. And so I have ordered two hundred lolly sticks from eBay. A subsequent blog entry will outline the rules of the game.
Back to camp where we found we’d won the warden’s quiz. First prize was loads of choccy cake which we shared out with friends, many of whom were now packing up to go home. And after a few minutes fun bump-starting a car with a flat battery, some of us started packing away our gear. We had this plan to pack away everything we wouldn’t actually need in the morning. And as we packed, the text messages and phone calls came in. So many people warned us of forecasted torrential rain that we began to think about abandoning camp and going home. But then we realised that if we did pack up, we still wouldn’t have everything in the cars before dark. And we’d have all the mucking about to do at the other end, so we might as well stay. And we did, even though no one else did.
I was lying in bed this morning listening to the dawn chorus, which personally I enjoy. One nearby pigeon joined in. He got as far as his third “Coo!” when I heard a bellow from three tents down, telling said bird to “SHUT THE !@?* UP!!” The bird did indeed shut the !@?* up; as did all the other nearby birds. But I got a fit of the giggles, and so was wide awake. I got up to find that last night’s forecast rain never came.
After a prompt start and a smashing omelette brekky we were soon all packed up. I was the first one on the field at 9.50am on Thursday, and last one off at 10.30am this morning. We’ve never got packed away so fast before. I think in future we will make a point of getting stuff away on the Sunday night again.
The camping gear got put away as fast as could be expected, and then I was harangued by some passing fit birds. With legs all the way up to their bums, and breasts 99.9% flopped out these two were more drunk that I was after the weekend’s port party. They asked me where the nearest pub was, and when I told then it was fifty yards up the road, they announced that was too far, and did I have any alcohol they could have? I rooted in the camping gear and found them a bottle of beer each, and they staggered off up the road quite happily.
And then in the afternoon we set off to Camping International in Gillingham. I announced we didn’t need sat-nav; I knew the way. Having given the instructions I then fell asleep, and woke to find us going the wrong way down the M2. But we didn’t go the wrong way for too long, and only wasted half an hour.
Having had our tent flood on Friday night I’m seriously considering a new tent with an all-round sewn in groundsheet, and might just have seen the one I want. Mind you, I’m not entirely against the idea of a trailer tent. I could store one of those in the front garden. All I need to do is to get a builder to remove the front wall…
Regular readers may recall an entry from 27 May when I mentioned that a syndicate was being formed to obtain fishing rights on a nearby farmer’s lake. I’ve joined (as member #3) and today I got up early and planned to spend the day fishing there. In retrospect I should have got the bait yesterday because I was substantially delayed by waiting for the fishing tackle shop to open, but I was on the lakeside and fishing by 9.15am, and was landing the tenth fish within forty-five minutes.
I’d planned to spend the whole day fishing. I lasted two and a half hours. The weather was against me – whilst it was a lovely sunny day, the wind was strong. Excessively so. It was difficult to decide whether my float was bobbing about because of the action of a fish on the line, or because of the constant tsunamis which were racking the water. Also, when catching a fish the idea is that one raises one’s rod tip, and the fish on the end of the line swings into your hand. On several occasions I had smaller fish blowing like kites in the wind, with the line being blown horizontally at right angles to the vertical rod tip.
In all I caught four different sorts of fish – roach, rudd, perch and crucian carp. In total, I don’t know how many I had; I lost count after the thirtieth fish. It was probably nearly (but not quite) forty fish in total; most of which could only really be described as tiddlers. I had one roach of a respectable size which justified today’s purchase of a landing net, and there were two that got away that were probably quite big. But despite catching fish at an average rate of one every four minutes, before midday arrived I’d decided to treat the session as a learning experience and as a practice run for future fishing trips.
Before I go fishing again I need to have a word with the club’s management and see if we can’t organise a working party to clear the pond up. I understand there are a dozen or so of us in the syndicate. There are only a few places where one can fish without a serious chance of getting a rod stuck in a bush. I can’t see how more than three people could fish the pond at the same time. Also it might be an idea to try to dredge out some of the submarine timber and see how much we can prune back the bulrushes. All I need is to find a free weekend day to do this on; which is easier said than done.
And I also need to sort my tackle out (oo-er!). As a child I used to fish, and I would change the line on my reels every year. I think the line I have on my reels hasn’t been changed in fifteen years, if not longer. And I need a holdall. Currently I have two fishing rods, four rod rests and a landing net all tied together with two lengths of elastic. There used to be three bits of elastic, but I’ve lost one sometime over the last year or so. I also need some sort of seat. We used to have a seat box which doubled as a stool and a box in which to lug tackle around in. I shall ask “My Boy TM ” what happened to it.
Talking of “My Boy TM ”, I expect he will be jealous of my progress today. He is currently on the fourth day of a fishing holiday in France. In two and a half hours I had over thirty fish. From reports received, in four days, he’s had two fish. Mind you, they are both carp: the smallest weighing in at 41lb, the larger over 50lb. When I was a lad the British record carp was only 44lb…
After a wonderful extended weekend’s holiday, it was with a heavy heart that I went back to work today. Once I enjoyed the job, now I find I struggle to give it more than grudging acquiescence. I blame a management with different priorities to my own, but what do I know?
On the plus side, my lolly sticks have arrived. A couple of days ago I mentioned about staging a pooh-sticks race at the kite festival in Teston in August. The sticks are here. I shall consult with like-minded pooh-stickers to devise some rules, and open up for entrants over the next few weeks (oo-er!)
I awoke still not feeling 100%, and being on a late start I had some time to kill. So I set about my correspondence. I have a letter rack into which I put letters (obviously!), and I tend to leave them there until no more will fit, which is when I have a look-see what I’ve got. And so this morning I thought I’d better see what was in there. A dozen letters. British Telecom invited me to take up their offer of a better broadband. That letter went in the bin, as did the old trot from WyeVale’s gardening club
The next letter was from EDF telling me that I was no longer receiving their dual fuel discount because I don’t get gas and leccie from them. I was annoyed about this – I’d spoken with EDF about this on 29 April (keeping a blog is useful!!) and they’d assured then me that they had corrected their mistake. Today they told me they had no record of our conversation of six weeks ago, and the nice lady wasted ten minutes reading out her script before ticking her box and putting things back as they were before they’d stuffed it up. Something else they’d stuffed up was my payments for the last year. They’d also sent a letter telling me they’d refunded me loads of money. Fifty quid more than the price of the tent I’m seriously considering. I predict a trip to Camping International over the next few days.
Two more letters from the people who’d given me my car loan reminding me that they still lend money if I still want to borrow the stuff. A letter from the fishing club reminding me to pay my sub. I’ve already paid that, so why did I keep the letter? And talking of clubs, there was a letter from Brighton Kite Fliers reminding me to pay my dues. I thought I’d paid that ages ago. I hadn’t. Woops!
My mobile phone people billed me for two quid for more stuff I’d texted to Twitter. I’ve stopped that lark. Then yet another letter about the snake club’s account. And finally there was a great big letter from the Aspinall foundation offering me a free day out at one of the local zoos. I was quite pleased about this, until I saw that the free day out was two weeks ago. I really should deal with my post more promptly.
The latest update has arrived from “My Boy TM”, who is on a fishing trip in southern France. In five days he’s reported back on four fish. I would remind my loyal readers of a blog entry of two days ago in which I caught over thirty fish in less than three hours. Mind you, these four fish are all carp, and three of them are over the British record weight that was current when I was his age…
Something momentous happened three days ago, and we all missed it. On Tuesday evening whilst I was sitting with some good friends watching “Heroes”, a spacecraft (Soyuz TMA-19) was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This was the one hundredth mission to the International Space Station. One hundred missions over the last twelve years, and it went pretty much unnoticed by the world.
How short sighted. I remember as a lad seeing rivers polluted to death in the 1970s, and anyone who thought this was a bad thing was openly laughed at and ridiculed. It took forty years for green politics and common sense to become accepted. Humanity’s moving into space is such a logical and sensible more on so many levels; and no one cares. How long will it be before the necessity of space exploration becomes self-evident?
And there is something new in the heavens too – a comet visible to the naked eye. If you get up very early and look towards the north-east, you might just see Comet McNaught. In my time I’ve seen two comets. Tomorrow morning I hope to report that I’ve seen a third.
I see from my blog that a year ago today I was visiting HMP Slade. I’m not the only one who is glad that is all over, but I must admit a wry smile at today’s news. Over the last eighteen moinths I hatched many escape plans, none of which came to fruition. Today I see that staff at HMP Parkhurst have foiled an escape plan in which a convict was planning to escape from the chokey in a helicopter.
I woke at 3am, and decided that after a quick tiddle I’d look for the comet. I had said tiddle, but by that time I’d forgotten all about comets. I knew there was a reason why I needed to be up, and thought that if I pottered about, that reason would come back to me. So I did the washing up, watched two episodes of South Park, and as I realised that at 4am it was getting light outside, I remembered the comet. Maybe next time…
The plan for today was originally bow snarrows at a farm, but the weather forecast was against it. Rain puts some people off, but the forecast strong winds would make for a dangerous game. HAZARD!!! In the event the wind was gusty – sometimes still, occasionally blowing a Hooley. And it did rain on and off all day. The forecast was right for once.
Last night I had to park three streets away due to the inconsiderate parking of my neighbour. She deliberately parks against the traffic and leaves three quarters of a car space in front of her because she doesn’t use reverse gear when parking or pulling away. She drives into a spot (crossing the flow of traffic to do so), and leaves enough room in front so she can drive out later (again crossing the flow of traffic). This morning I saw she’d driven off, so I ran up and round the roads to find my car, and I and put my car in part of the space she’d left. Not out of a sense of pettiness, but as a demonstration of how one should park. I doubt it was seen in that spirit though. When she came home this evening I found that she’d just parked three quarters of a car length from the front of my car.
Despite the weather we had a productive day. We visited Kengate – a local costume hire shop. We’ve been invited to a Tudor-themed party in a few weeks’ time, so we needed something Tudor to wear. Kengate had laods to choose from, and I eventually got something to fit. I say “fit” – it doesn’t do up at the back, but I have a jerkin (!) to go over the top so it won’t notice. The changing rooms at this place are quite entertaining – they don’t keep things as secret as they might. I was quite taken with the racy underwear of the young lady trying on various costumes in the changing room next to mine.
And then we popped into the tip. We had loads of cardboard to lose, as well as the fragments of the gazebo that didn’t survive last week’s camping trip. I lost count of the people that stopped me on the ten yard walk from the car to the skip to ask if the tripod I was throwing away was in working order. All of them seemed personally insulted when I explained it wasn’t a functional tripod, it was a broken gazebo.
Collecting the Bat, we then set off to John’s Cross to the camping shop. Full of reflections on last weekend’s camping trip we decided to get one or two little things to make this year’s upcoming camping trips that little bit more comfortable. Our next camping trip will be to Brighton, where there are no picnic tables in the vicinity that we can use. So I got a table with adjustable height. There are those who feel it would be ideally used as a food preparation area. They are sadly mistaken – it is a washing-up area. But I dare say it can be used for making the scoff on. We also picked up a camp (ducky!) stove as the one we borrowed last week was useful, and bearing in mind how sore my rear got when I last went fishing, I picked up a fishing stool too.
By now time was getting on, and we were a tad peckish, so en route to our next destination we thought we’d take pot luck with the first pub we found. The Oak and Ivyin Hawkhurst was a good choice. Or, if I might qualify that somewhat: The Oak and Ivy in Hawkhurst would have been a good choice if not for their being messed around by a wedding party. They had a wedding party booked for 3.30pm, but were struggling to keep up with orders from people invited to said wedding who thought they’d have a meal in the pub before the wedding. The pub had been assured no one would arrive until 3.30pm. They were lied to. Consequently our dinner probably took a little longer to arrive than it might normally have. However with four ales and a cider on the pump, and only one of those ales being remotely common, I’m happy to give the place the benefit of the doubt and try again another time.
And then back to Camping International in Gillingham. Having been there last Monday, I was rather taken with one of the tents I saw then. Today there was a bargain in which I got the tent, a really thick groundsheet, a carpet and a door mat all at a super-bargain price. And then they offered 10% off of the super-bargain price, so I felt I had to take them up on the offer. Bearing in mind I was feeling rich because of the leccie rebate I’d had earlier in the week I felt justified in not only getting the new tent, but also in treating myself to a new sleeping bag as well. My current one is tight, is over ten years old, and has never been the same since “Daddies Little Angel TM ” set light to the end of the thing. I got a camping pillow too – I thought I deserved one. Whilst we were at it, I got some “communal” stuff too - a bigger kettle, some really long pegs for “Brown and Smelly”, and a rubber mallet. As an experiment the Bat has acquired a camping bench. If it proves useful, then we shall pop back and buy more. If it doesn’t, then that will be sixteen quid down the pan.
Something that always proves problematical at camp is lugging water around. Some of us break our backs supplying the camp with water, some of us just can’t begin to lift the water containers, and some feel it’s all too much like hard work and leave it to me. So I wondered if a sack barrow to lug the water containers around might be a good idea. However having by now spent over fifty quid more than the leccie rebate was worth, it was time to economise. We found a sack barrow in a barn at the farm that might just do the job. Now we need a willing volunteer to test the thing out…
““My Boy TM ” and his posse came home from their international excursions late last night. Despite getting more lost than is humanly possible around Paris, they all seem to have had a good time, with plenty of photos of huge fish. Despite their feeling that the locals were perhaps the rudest people on the planet, there is talk of a return trip next year – I might just tag along too.
There are those who might think that because it’s Father’s Day I would get brekkie in bed. I knew I hadn’t a chance, but I lived in hope. Unfortunately I was disappointed (again). So I got up and did the washing. Following on from yesterday’s shopping trip for camping stuff I was still fired with enthusiasm for future weekends away, so I spent an hour going through the camping gear. Or more specifically, I emptied the two lock-up boxes in which we keep the camping gear (among other stuff) with a view to sorting out the wheat from the chaff.
Over the years we seem to have accumulated so much disused junk in them that they are full to overflowing, and they needed a serious mucking out. I had this plan to end up with one box containing things we always need on every camping trip (tents, chairs, tables, etc), and the other box containing stuff we sometimes use; such as inflatable boats, the buggy, etc., and we would then get rid of the tat which we don’t use that was cluttering the boxes.
I couldn’t believe how much tat we’d acquired over the years. I found four Vauxhall hub caps. How long is it since we’ve had a Vauxhall car? I found a car radio which has been missing for five years. I found the tent I used when I was in the Boys Brigade in the late 1970s. I found fragments of two tents which had both suffered damage at Teston in 2003, and were awaiting repairs. I found all manner of spare parts for our party tent which I can remember being delivered before a poker game some five years ago. And the gazebo collection – I found four complete poled gazebos which we don’t use, and probably never will. If any of my loyal readers feel they’ve lost a gazebo, I’ve probably got it. And the carrier bags: over the years ‘er indoors TM has been storing carrier bags in the lock-ups with a view to eventual recycling. We had millions of the things.
Pausing only briefly to bodge the washing line destroyed by “My Boy TM ”, we went on a quick shopping spree. To Tesco for printer ink and to recycle the carrier bags, and then to B&Q to get a replacement washing line. Whilst browsing in B&Q I was amazed to find they were selling the same tent as I’d bought yesterday. And they were selling it for forty quid more than I’d paid, and they weren’t selling it with the really thick groundsheet, carpet and door mat either. I think I had a bargain yesterday!
Needless to say we came home we found “My Boy TM ” had gone out, and so I ended up repairing his wreckage single-handed. Washing lines are tricky things to fix. If only I’d not been quite so generous with the line on the damaged part I would have had enough to have replaced both washing lines. As it was, I ended up being about a metre short of what I needed to do both. Oh well – the colours of the lines don’t match, but I shall wait until one or the other breaks before replacing them. I can live with washing lines of differing colours.
I think I might have lifted something awkwardly yesterday whilst tidying up – I’ve had a pain in my side for most of the day. I hope it’s not serious: I’ve heard of people cracking ribs whilst sneezing.
A late start meant I wasn’t up at the crack of dawn, so a leisurely breakfast and then I wasted an hour or so in NeverWinter before going to the fishing tackle shop. Last Tuesday I mentioned that I needed a holdall for my fishing rods, and a seat as well. I got the seat on Saturday, and today I got my holdall. Ashford tackle have a second hand department in which you can pick up quality fishing gear at a fraction of the price you would pay for new stuff. As well as a holdall, I also got a large bag for lugging assorted stuff around in. I’m rather pleased with my new kit. Admittedly they are both caked in mud and have one or two dubious stains which I suspect are sheep poo, but as the man in the shop said, if I’d bought brand new stuff, I would only get mud and sheep poo over those anyway. So by getting the second hand kit I’ve saved time as well as money.
To work, where after a meeting I managed to slip out for a few minutes to the post-natal ward to meet a new friend. Michael was born yesterday, and weighing in at 7lb 12oz he’s a cute lad. I do like the sounds that a newborn baby makes – they are so quiet compared to what is to come. And I understand he’s already giving his parents grief. They do that.
I came home to find a new addition to my pond. A late Fathers’ Day pressie was swimming around. Or I was assured that a little starlet was swimming around. I couldn’t see him. Perhaps I’d better muck out that filter again...
I was up and in the back garden at 3.15am this morning, as today was the best time to see Comet McNaught. Or, that is, today would have been the best time to see the comet if it wasn’t cloudy in exactly that part of the sky where the comet was supposed to be.
A late start at work, so I didn’t get up overly early. When I did emerge from my pit, I finally got round to launching the website I’ve been playing with. There are those who feel I shouldn’t be doing this in my own time, and I would agree. However, if I am to retain my State Registration I must undertake all sorts of professional and training activities, and legally my employer is under no obligation to support me (or any of its staff) in this. So, seeing as I seem to like mucking about on the Internet, I’ve chosen to do something I enjoy as my continuing professional development. I just hope that when I get assessed, the inspectors like what I’ve done.
And then to work via the Cows Roundabout. The Cows Roundabout is a famous local landmark, being a roundabout with cows on it. Or metal cow silhouettes, to be precise. Or that is, there were metal cow silhouettes yesterday. They’ve now gone. Oh well – let’s see if the Facebook campaign will get them back. And let’s hope it gets back the landscaping that went with the roundabout – the whole thing has been bulldozed.
During my tidying up at the weekend I found a tent belonging to someone who once camped with us at Teston many years ago. I know full well who this tent belongs to, but this morning said person denied categorically that this is his tent. Now it’s a small tent, but perfectly serviceable, so would be a shame to throw away. However it’s taking up space that frankly I don’t have. The same could be said about two more tents I have in the lock-up.
If anyone wants a tent, or a gazebo, or any gazebo panels please let me know. This evening I managed to unload two gazebos and some spare tent parts. But I still have a lot of unclaimed tat in the lock-ups. I shan’t be going to the tip immediately: I shan’t be going to the tip until I’ve taken the top box off of my car in September. But I am accumulating a load of stuff which is destined for the tip unless anyone wants it…
I have calculated that if everyone at work is going to be able to use up all of their annual leave, then we need to have at least two people on holiday every single working day. (Actually 2.5 people). Seeing how we only had one bod on leave today, I managed to persuade management that it would be in everyone’s best interest if I took the afternoon off to go fishing.
Last week I mentioned about the pond to which a group of us have secured the fishing rights. Following on from my trial run of last Tuesday, I went back this afternoon for another go. The holdall and bag I bought on Monday worked fine, and I had a pleasant few hours fishing. As I set up I could see two huge carp patrolling the water in front of me, and so I baited up with a maggot and gently plopped the maggot in front of one of the carp. The carp took it, and I had quite a battle before the fish finally got away. Two other large (ish) fish also got away during the course of the afternoon, but I caught two fish which were large enough to need the net to land them. And again I lost count of how many fish I caught – probably getting on for fifty, I expect.
My new stool was a tad uncomfortable after a while, but since my rollerblading accident, sitting still for any length of time hurts anyway. I gave up shortly after 5pm – my posterior was rather painful. There are lessons learned for next time. I need a shaper penknife – my current one is a tad blunt. And I need to do something with my reels. They’ve had it. I can either dismantle them and give them a good overhaul. Or I can save time by just buying new ones now, because I doubt anything would survive my giving it a good overhaul.
And I need something to weigh my larger fish. Now that is going to be a problem. When I was a lad there were four standard angling spring balances that weighed up to 4lb, 7lb, 14 lb and 28lb. Because in those days fish were smaller. They really were. Back in the day, a carp weighing six pounds was something to write home about. Nowadays anything less than ten pounds is considered a tiddler (by most – not me!!) and consequently fishing scales have changed accordingly. Leaving aside the fact that they seem to have gone metric, they all seem to be geared up for weighing fish which would be as big as I am. No one seems to cater to the tiddler-basher any more. My largest fish ever (see blog entry for April 11) weighed less than ten pounds, and in all my life I’ve only ever caught five fish which weighed over four pounds (three of those under my son’s supervision!). What I would consider to be a large fish, everyone else would chuck back with contempt. I can’t find a 4lb spring balance anywhere.
And we need a clearing-up gang to give the pond a once-over. I understand there are plans afoot to do this soon. If any of my loyal readers fancy getting jiggy with an axe or a chain saw either on dry land, or from a boat, do let me know.
This evening I came home to find a minor disaster with my own pond. One of the medium sized Koi had jumped out of the pond, and when we found it, it was dead as a dead thing. I’ve seen them jumping in the past – they jump to catch flies. One of my colleagues keeps Koi and she tells me she finds fish on her lawn which have jumped out of her pond on a daily basis. Fortunately her father is at home and is always running to the garden to put the fish back into the water. We don’t have someone on constant pond-sitting duty.
It’s been suggested we put a net over the pond as a precaution. My concern is that if it’s a light net, then the fish jump with such force that they would tangle themselves in the netting. And if it’s a thicker mesh they would hurt themselves when they crash into it. I so hope this is a one-off problem…
For about the fourth or fifth time in the last week I was in the back garden at 3am trying to see this dratted comet. Needless to say, despite a clear night it wasn’t there. If some bright spark turns up at the astronomy club tomorrow night with photos of the thing, I shall be shoving telescopes up bottoms!
Despite my early morning fun, I was still out of bed by 6am. I watched the last episode in the current series of “V”. A re-imagining of the series from the 70s (or was it the 80s?), and having enjoyed the entire series immensely, I find myself reflecting on what I watched, and coming to the conclusion that much as I really did like it, I have to admit that nothing actually happened after the first five minutes of the pilot show. For those of my loyal readers who didn’t see the program, allow me to summarise the first five minutes of the first episode:
And then, that was it for twelve episodes. For all that the various misfits and aliens plotted and conspired, in retrospect the story didn’t actually move on in any way whatsoever. I hear a second season has been confirmed. Let’s hope that something happens in that season.
Earlier in the week I mentioned that I’d found homes for two of my surplus gazebos. Yesterday I found a third home and dispatched a gazebo. However it turns out that all I’d sent was a bag of poles. Woops! I’d better check that the replacement I’m lining up is actually a gazebo and not another bag of poles. Still, if nothing else, I’ve got rid of a bag of poles…
And I’ll end (for today) with a rant. I suppose I should mention the budget, if only to crow that according to the BBC’s I’m-all-right-jack-ometer, despite the nation’s having had the most severe cutbacks nationally in living memory, after the budget is implemented, I shall be an estimated two hundred quid a year better off. I’m not sure how the BBC can justify their prediction of my finances, since all they asked was how much do I earn, and do I have a company car.
If I am truly going to be better off on the basis of these questions, then presumably the government are lowering income tax? But that’s not what the news says. The news also says I am having my wages frozen for the next two years which, bearing in mind inflation is always happening, means I am effectively getting a pay cut.
And it’s not just the Beeb who are sucking up. Perhaps the most telling point of all is the rise on V.A.T. The bunch of spineless sycophants for whom I voted only two months ago were against these V.A.T. increases, weren’t they? Perhaps they might remember their election promises – some of them have - but I wonder if they will actually do anything about these promises. On the one hand this is a problem of a coalition government in that compromises have to be made. On the other is this the true face of the Dithering Democraps who will say black is white to stay in power? I hope not….
I decided that seeing as it’s been getting light about 3am, I’d try comet spotting at 1am. Still no joy. So back to bed, and then in to work for an early shift. After an early start I skived out of work for five minutes to visit my newest friend who is on the special care baby unit. There are those who would think the worst when seeing the new high-tech incubators, lamps, tubes, and machines that go “ping!” But not me. With so much futuristic kit around, I know when a baby is playing at Star Trek.
Being the last Friday of the month meant it was astro club. I set off early – perhaps too early, but I like to help set up so that when the punters arrive, all is ready for them. There’s nothing more off-putting than for people to turn up to the shambles of seeing everything in the throes of being made ready.
We had a good turnout tonight – probably over forty people came to hear Stevey talking about the planet Jupiter. I learned loads. And then, as always, I hawked the raffle. We made over forty quid profit, which not only covered the costs of the evening but went a long way towards getting more club equipment. And for the second part of the evening we had a stellarium show. And I found out why I’ve not been able to see this comet (that I’ve been out of bed for every night this week at silly o’clock). My house has been in the way of where I should have been looking….
Now I know that I can’t see the comet from my back garden, I wasn’t up at 3am looking for it. But I was up at 6am doing the ironing before going in to work. I’ve been working Saturday morning shifts at my place of work for twenty six years on the understanding that we don’t get paid, we get time off. For some time it was time an a half off – for every hour we worked we got an hour and a half in lieu time. But management but a stop to that, and it became straight time in lieu; if we worked four hours, we got four hours off later. But starting today we have a choice. It’s either straight time in lieu, or we can be paid at time and a half. Didn’t I hear politicians saying we needed to economise? Mind you, I’m not complaining.
I then came home and spent a while playing with “the precious”. “The precious” is the astro club’s solar telescope. Normally, looking at the sun through a telescope is a very stupid thing to do, as it would permanently blind you. But the astro club has acquired a telescope with all sorts of filters and stuff which is made so that you can see the sun through it. There is a drawback though. For me, in much the same way as getting out a kite kills the wind, getting out the solar telescope makes the clouds some out. But we got to spend a few minutes looking at the sun. To be honest, the sun looks like a yellow ball, and isn’t that riveting. Or, that is, it wasn’t for me. ‘er indoors TM spent most of the afternoon playing with it, and spotted several prominences (!). Me – I slept in front of the computer. It was too hot to be in the garden.
To Kennington, for an evening birthday party. Or an un-birthday party; and I would do the same if my birthday was on Boxing Day. I imagine Emily’s un-birthday will become an annual event. I’d certainly be up for it. We had a great time, and sat chatting long after the un-birthday girl had gone to bed.
On Monday “My Boy TM ” bought me a sterlet for the pond. Despite cleaning out the filter midweek, and the water noticeably clearing, the sterlet died. A shame – I wonder why that was? Needless to say, fish shops don’t offer any guarantee on a fish for as long as six days.
Talking of pond stuff, today we ran out of Koi food. Last week, whilst shopping for camping gear we drove past a pond shop I’d never visited before. It was near Staplehurst, and it was on today’s route so we popped in for a look-see. Their fish were very reasonable priced; they had some very nice water features, and they had some very cheap fish food. I had to haggle a little with the lady on the till to get her to sell the food at the price it was advertised. Eventually she conceded that with a great big sign in front of bags of fish food saying “buy two get one free”, I should only have to pay for two of the three bags of fish food I was trying to obtain. Let’s just hope the Koi like this food – it’s only a bargain at fifteen quid if the fish eat it. But a similar amount of the expensive stuff would have cost me over forty quid more.
And then to Marden for the main business of the day – the Kent Air Ambulance open day. We did the obligatory tour of fire engines and stuff, had a look at the helicopters, smelled everyone else’s B.O. (it was a *very* hot day) and bought a couple of souvenirs. And then we got to the bit I had gone for; my childhood hero was starring there today. I got to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The star of the 1968 film; not just a prop, but a fully working car. Personally I’m not that interested in cars, I fall asleep during “Top Gear”, but this was one worth seeing. As was Doctor Who (number three)’s car “Bessie”, which was there as an unexpected bonus.
After half an hour we’d had enough, and so moved on. We were hungry and a spot of lunch was in order. The Tickled Trout in West Farleigh is somewhere I’ve driven past on occasion over the last few years. We popped in today. Three ales on the hand pump – a shame that the ale selection wasn’t what it might have been – London Pride and Spitfire can be obtained everywhere, but a pint of Everards Tiger went down well with a cheese ploughman’s. Sixteen quid for a meal and drink each – I was impressed. The beer garden was really scenic, and whilst busy, there were none of what might be described by the less tolerant as the “council estate element”. The food was really good, and was served fast too. All things considered, I would certainly go back.
Round the corner from the pub was Teston Bridge picnic site – somewhere I usually visit twice a year for the kite festivals. The rangers had organised a dog show for the day, and had been told by the Council that if it wasn’t successful they wouldn’t be allowed to stage another, so we thought we’d show our support. We turned up, and it seemed very odd to be there without all our kiting friends. We had an ice cream, said hello to the organisers, watched a couple of the events, mooched around the stalls and then left. It was too hot. As we drove out I noticed something odd about the gate to the field. The gate to the field isn’t the widest of gates, and over the years several caravans have got scratched at kite festivals as they come on and off the field. Today they’d demolished the gate post so the traders could get on to the field. I wonder if they will leave the gate like that for the festival in August?
Just up the road was somewhere else somewhere I’ve driven past on occasion over the last few years – Aylesford Aquatics: another fish related shop. They had some really pretty fish, and a sturgeon as long as my arm. He only costs two hundred and fifty quid. I wonder if I can get another leccie rebate? And then home. Whilst others basked in the garden, I sat inside in the shade and slept though “Carry On Up The Khyber”. They don’t make them like that any more, thank God…
Oh, I so hate football. And again, words are failing me. I don’t hate football at all. I quite enjoy playing it. It wasn’t that long since I organised and managed a football team in a local five-a-side league. Admittedly we came last, with our best score in ten matches being a 4:1 defeat, but it was fun. We would have a great time charging up and down the pitch. No one ever watched us, other than our two substitutes, but we didn’t care. Football was to be played, not watched. I must admit I don’t like watching other people playing football: I find it rather boring and simplistic. After all, after watching five minutes of a game of football, you really have seen all that the game has to offer.
What annoys me is the way that so many people are taken in by the hype of football. So the England team was playing in the World Cup. Fair enough - those who follow football enjoyed it, and rightly so. But what about those who don’t follow football? Thousands of people who wouldn’t know an offside from a left wing were glued to TV sets across the country “because it’s England”. Do these people support the English rifle team? Or the English lacrosse team? Or the English arm-wrestling team? Of course they don’t. Did anyone know that the five times kite-boarding world champion is English?
And as I drove to work this morning I noticed that so many of the silly little flags that people were flying from their cars have now gone. Do these people stop being patriotic now that the football team isn’t playing any more?
I’m rather embarrassed to admit that my own son (who never watches football), together with over a dozen mates (who also never watch football), went to London yesterday to watch the match in a pub there, “because it’s England”. Look at yesterday’s and today’s Facebook statuses. The nation is in mourning for a game that no one plays or understands. Call up Google News – even the Prime Minister is distraught.
And look at yesterday’s match. The England team was playing a German team. Hatreds from a war that was finished half a century ago were again ignited. I heard this morning that one of the astro club members who is currently on holiday abroad has been embarrassed to be English because of his fellow countrymen’s attitude toward the German guests in his hotel. Chants of “Who won the War” were being bandied about at innocent German holidaymakers. I remember a football game a few years ago between the English and Portuguese teams. A good friend of mine who is rather darker of complexion than me was scared to walk the streets for a week. He didn’t want to be mistaken for being of Portuguese extraction. Portuguese people living in the UK were being assaulted by football fans for no better reason than their national football team had beaten the English national team. Is a game of football that important that people feel they need to attack someone they feel might be cheering for a team that has beaten their chosen team?
And I myself have received quite a fair share of verbal abuse and hatred over the last couple of weeks because of my indifference to the game. People who thought I was still a scout leader told me that I was a terrible role model to the children. Why? - For the simple reason that I wasn’t noisily following a sport that holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever. I replied to my critics that I believed that “patriotism” and “football” are two very different concepts.
Now it’s no secret that the current government isn’t one of my choosing. Or perhaps it is. Perhaps I got exactly what I asked for. Perhaps… but that’s a rant that’s been done to death. Anyway, I’ve had a letter from the Prime Minister. (I didn’t vote for him…) and his stooge. They told me about a website which is asking where economies can be made in the public sector. Specifically could I think of any at work? Well… I shall make comment after I’ve retired.
And then to work. With the solar telescope in the back of my car, at lunch time we had a Star Party. I have a colleague who regularly attends the astro club, and we’d arranged to use the solar scope together. However, word soon got out about what we were doing, and a few other people came along out of interest.
I’ve never organised a Star Party before, but I suspect that they are easier to do when there’s only one star to worry about (the sun!), and after a few minutes wasted setting up the scope, we saw prominences, solar flares and even a sunspot or two. As always, people who’ve never looked at astronomical objects were fascinated, and I found a hazard of solar observing that I’d never realised. Whenever I look through a telescope at the moon, or a planet or a nebula, once I come away from the telescope I look at the target object with my naked eye, in wonderment of what I’ve seen through the telescope. Everyone does this – it would seem to be a natural reaction. And one that carries on into solar astronomy. Having caught myself about to stare at the sun after seeing sunspots in the scope, I then caught everyone else about to do the same.
As I parked my car at work today I was amazed to see a funfair setting up at the top of the staff car park. Apparently this is one of the attractions for this weekend’s “fun day”. A stroke of genius. The staff car park is a little bit off of the beaten track, but now having it outside the fun fair will advertise where it is, and so I confidently predict that no member of staff will be able to park there ever again, as it will be full of patient and visitor cars who will feel they can park there for free.
The last Wednesday of the month – arky-ologee club. I’ve mentioned before that we have a Riddler who comes to the club. This month “Mossop” invited us to a church in the back of beyond. We spend a rather dull half an hour looking round this church. And then we went outside where she had dug a hole on a thicket (for no adequately explained reason) and where she claimed she had discovered a medieval pond. I remained unconvinced, but we had a nice walk round the woods afterwards….