01 May 2009 (Friday) - Go (Back) To Jail

01 May 2009 (Friday) - Go (Back) To Jail

I wasn’t up at the crack of dawn today. Perhaps it was because I was having a day off work – I don’t know. But as always when I have a lie in, I woke up feeling rough. After a quick bite of brekky I loaded the car with tat, scrat and broken strimmer. Suitably loaded, I set off to the tip - this stuff doesn’t throw itself away, you know. “Daddies Little Angel TM” came for the ride, and was disappointed to find that for once the skip was totally devoid of the usual retards and spanners that normally lurk there. It usually makes for good fun to watch the halt and the lame digging through their sacks of rubbish, throwing each item in one by one. And kissing it goodbye as it goes. But they weren’t there today. Shame!

I dropped “Daddies Little Angel TM” off at the Millbank centre – the college was having some outing to the place. I went home for a shower, scrape and short back and slap (as opposed to a threepenny all-off). You can't beat a good haircut! Half an hour in NeverWinter, and then off to the station. As usual, I’d given myself a tad too much time, so I watched the antics of a huge fish in the river, and then bought a copy of the Bounceaway Sun to read whilst waiting for Matt. The Sun newspaper is a load of old drivel. Many years ago I heard the thing described as “tits, lies and Bingo”. It doesn’t seem to have changed much during the intervening time. Whilst waiting outside the railway station, a monk came out. A proper monk – in a monk costume with monk haircut and monk sandals. You don’t see many of them these days. I tried to take a photo, but it was difficult to do so without being obvious. The monk set off towards the town centre. I can’t help but wonder what business a monk had in Ashford, but I didn’t like to ask.

Matt arrived, and we met Stevey on the platform and after a relatively dull train journey to chokey-land we were soon signing in. For no adequately explored reason visitors to HMP Slade have to report to a visitor centre which is at least half a mile away from the prison. Once booked in we then had a spot of McDinner (Matt had McSalad) and made our way to the chokey where the guard on duty recognised me. That was unnerving. I *think* the chap is the son of someone I knew from the snake club ten years ago, but I could be wrong.

We stocked up with sweeties and crisps and cakes and fizz and soon were reunited with Jimbo. He’s looking better than when I last saw him – he’s put on some weight. And after today he’ll have put on some more what with all the scoff we fed him. He seemed in good spirits, and specifically mentioned that he likes the letters he receives from so many people. And he gave me stick about my letter of the other week which was too heavy. We laughed and joked, exchanged insults – one of the warders came over and gave us some good-natured stick about the amount of food we’d brought in. Which made me look around. There were about ten or so other prisoners getting visits in the hall with us. Most of them had only been brought a cup of tea and a solitary choccy bar by their visitors. I’d brought Lukewarm in four tins of fizz, four bags of crisps, four choccy bars, two lumps of cake and a tube of Opal Fruits. And Stevey and Matt had brought a similar amount. As I said to Jimbo, it wasn’t so much a prison visit as a picnic. There was an interesting episode about half way through. I hadn’t noticed, but Jimbo had his foot up on the table leg next to me. One of the warders came up and asked him to put his foot down on the ground. I thought that was a tad petty, but it wasn’t. With his foot up, I could have easily put something into his shoe. That is, I could have, if I’d been able to get anything through the bodysearch I underwent. When I came in, I got goosed up by a fit fierce looking bird in a uniform. It was worth going up to the prison if only for that (!)

All too soon the visit was over. We adjourned to the pub over the road, and reflected on the fact that whilst we were enjoying a pint in the sunshine after the visit, more often than not the prisoners get strip searched to check they haven’t had anything smuggled in. I must admit I enjoyed my pint – a week ago I ranted about how St George’s day had passed off unnoticed. It would seem not entirely unnoticed – the Shepherd Neame brewery had put on an ale for the occasion. “DragonFire” slipped down nicely.

On booting my PC this evening it again found new hardware – what is a “multimedia video controller”? I have no CD for one, even though it keeps asking for one. I wonder what that’s all about? I hope it’s not serious. Perhaps it’s God’s way of telling me to get a new computer….

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02 May 2009 (Saturday) - A Birthday Party

02 May 2009 (Saturday) - A Birthday Party

On booting the PC this morning as well as again finding new hardware that’s not there, the anti-virus went tits up. (I do hope I’m not being too technical here). Perhaps it really is God’s way of telling me to get a new one. I hope not – I need the money for a new front door. The existing one has a habit of not opening from the inside. Which is a bit of a nuisance. The nice man from Everest came to visit this morning and quoted a small fortune for a new front door. Mind you, when we had double glazing put in at the back of the house the installers were cowboys and had to come back five times to put it right. The chap from Everest says their people will put it all back right, including the paint job on the walls. Perhaps if I fork out loads I might get what I pay for.

A quick cycle ride with er indoors TM round the block. As we came along the river we met a gang of chavs, one of whom introduced himself as the “poofter fairy”. That was nice.

And then to Folkestone for a joint birthday party. Beer, food, watching a few films. A great way to spend a Saturday. Must do it more often…..

 

03 May 2009 (Sunday) - Dowsing (Ridiculous Nonsense!)

03 May 2009 (Sunday) - Dowsing (Ridiculous Nonsense!)

On Wednesday at arky-ologee club there was talk of using dowsing rather than geophysics in order to decide where to stick your Trench Two. Dowsing – I ask you!! It’s pathetic ridiculous quackery up there with crop circles, crystal healing and UFO nut-cases. So I got some bent coathangers and we turned up at East Lenham Manor where the arky-ologee club were having a dig. I made great show of brandishing the things about in a sarcastic manner. Who’s ever going to take such nonsense seriously?

And then – it was as though an unseen hand grabbed the coat hanger and waved it around. I took two steps back – nothing. Back to the spot – frantic twitching. What a load of rubbish – dowsing couldn’t possibly work. Must have been the wind. So I tried elsewhere, and again nothing, nothing – frantic twitching. This time over an obvious indentation in the ground. I explained to the lady in charge what a load of rubbish dowsing is, and how it’s impossible. She agreed with me, and walked with me for fifteen minutes. In that time I found all the sites of all the (now filled in) trenches the arky-ologee club has ever dug in that field - some going back years. And I found the projected route of a theoretical Roman road the club wants to investigate in the future. I know it’s impossible. It can’t work. But something was twitching my coathangers about. I’m going to try it at a dig in another site and see what happens.

In the meantime er indoors TM unearthed several oyster shells which is conclusive proof of something archaeological, and Trench One was invaded by sheep.

Talking of coathangers, another one came in useful to fish er indoors TM ‘s keys out of the drain. An entertaining five minutes was spent fishing in the drain outside our house trying to retrieve her house keys.

And then out on the bikes. First of all up to Ashford’s newest pub – the Pheasant for a crafty sup of Marston’s DragonBreath. Then on to Great Chart for a pint of Tribute, and home to mow the lawn. Last Monday I bought a new strimmer. Today it came out of the box. Perhaps having had the last one for twenty years I’d gotten used to it, but I’m not sure I like the new one….

 

04 May 2009 (Bank Holiday Monday) - Jack In The Green

04 May 2009 (Bank Holiday Monday) - Jack In The Green

Sometimes British Rail (or whatever it calls itself these days) amazes me. On one of Hastings’ busiest days not only do they have engineering works on one of the lines into the town, but the other line into the town featured trains of only two carriages. And then the normal people amazed me. With “the Great Unwashed” stuffed like sardines into the train, other people expect to be able to bring push-chairs and bicycles onto the train. But it has to be said we had a laugh on the way. Finding yourself rammed into a carriage so tightly that you cannot move, and with a push chair’s wheels rammed up your unmentionables, you either laugh or cry. It’s at times like that when the Dunkirk spirit comes to the fore.

Having met up with Terry and Irene on the train, once in Hastings we met up with more of our party and made our way to the castle for the Jack in the Green festivities. Once the family arrived, nearly twenty of us cheered on the Morris dancers. Cheered, encouraged and verbally abused. But the hoppitty-skippity crew loved it.

There were those who had the wrong idea about the day, feeling that “Uncle Fat Bloke TM “ was treating the day as nothing but a booze up. But they were wrong. The first beer of the day was a mild, as is traditional for the month. The second beer was one brewed for Jack in the Green, which is also traditional for May. And I got to goose up an epically breasted green object (photos to follow). So, far from being a booze up, the day in many ways was a history lesson. Or that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it (!)

However the third and fourth beers weren’t so good. The beer stall was run by Whites brewery from Bexhill – all new to me. I would have been quite happy to have spent the afternoon sampling their wares, but it was only fair to think of the rest of the group. In my shorts and T-shirt I was fine. But the rest of our party were all shivering under several layers. And it did start raining, so we adjourned down the hill to the FILO – a favourite stomping ground. I must admit to a degree of disappointment in their beers today - they’d put on a mild for the day which wasn’t actually anything special. Certainly not as good as their regular mild. And their ginger beer was a tad too gingery. Good beer – but not up to their usual standard.

From there we wandered down to the Anchor. The Shepherd Neame brewery had put on a special beer for the day, and that slipped down very nicely. A crafty cigar and then round to the Royal Standard where my mate Rick’s band were playing. Now that pub *was* heaving. Far too crowded. So we made a hasty retreat, and exchanged insults with my mate Kellie – someone I’ve not seen in thirty years. And all too soon it was time to get the train home. Which fortunately was nowhere near as crowded as this morning’s train had been – so I could have a bit of a doze on the way home.

A good day out – next year it might be worth getting an earlier train, and wrapping up warmer…

 

05 May 2009 (Tuesday) - Epic

05 May 2009 (Tuesday) - Epic

There’s no denying that the weekend was quite busy. So following on from that, today was rather dull in comparison. The nice man from Everest came back this evening. I gave him a deposit – he seemed pleased about that. Everest aren’t the cheapest door suppliers, but they are a lot better quality than the competition, and they claim they will make good afterwards. We shall see.

Regular readers may recall that yesterday I mentioned “goosing up an epically breasted green object”, and promised photos. Said photos have now arrived, and the green object was certainly epically breasted.

Whilst on the theme of epically breasted, Matt has bought NeverWinter Nights and has started playing it. Oh dear – just think of all that time he’ll fritter away. A grown man playing silly games like that (!)

And then Tuesday Night is Sci-Fi night. We’re coming to the end of “The Adventures of Big Nose”. It’s quite good – shame the series got cancelled…

 

06 May 2009 (Wednesday) - Architecture, Cars, Rivers....

06 May 2009 (Wednesday) - Architecture, Cars, Rivers....

Whilst driving back from Canterbury this afternoon, the radio (Thinking Allowed – Radio Four – 4pm) carried an article which rather sums up modern architecture. A medical centre, which has won awards for its revolutionary design, faces closure. The reason – all the patients have gone to other medical centres because they don’t like it. They don’t feel comfortable inside it, and would rather be ill in somewhere less disconcerting. Apparently they feel ill enough already without the buildings making them feel worse.

I took my car for its MOT after work today. I’ve had it nearly a year – time flies. It’s due a service as well, which will cost a small fortune. I reminded the nice man that I’ve been paying monthly into a policy they offer, and the nice man said that it would all be OK – that would cover the cost. I’ve worked out that I’ve only paid in half the amount they quoted for the service. But if they don’t notice, I won’t tell them. Isn’t it always the way – you fork out a packet on a new front door for the house, totally forgetting the car service is due.

I then walked home along the river and watched the fish. Rivers are certainly cleaner these days then when I was a lad. When younger, all the streams and brooks were full of rubbish and supermarket trolleys and polluted with oil. When younger I would regularly venture into the depths of Coghurst woods, or the Firehills. In waterways five miles from the nearest roads there would be abandoned prams, bikes and petrol cans. Even when we moved to Ashford in 1991 the Stour was a mess. These days, fish are a common site. Which is nice if you like fish and water, which (it may surprise my loyal readers to know this), I do.

Over on Beer in the Evening I (and another chap) would seem to have caused some offence. Apparently I was rather scathing about a local pub. I won’t say which one it was for fear of causing any more upset, but let’s just say that given two pubs next door to each other, one serving five fine ales, and the other serving “relaxed gentlemen” who only know one word (yes – it *does* begin with the letter “F”), which one would you avoid?

Seeing it was a nice evening, me and er indoors TM took our bikes out for a quick once round the block. “The block” is slowly getting bigger…..

 

07 May 2009 (Thursday) - Walking to Work (And Back Again)

07 May 2009 (Thursday) - Walking to Work (And Back Again)

As the car was in the garage, I walked to work today. As I walked, I found myself racing the dark black clouds. I really should walk more often. Shortly after arriving at work I had a phone call – the garage. Apparently my car wasn’t due for a service after all. It’s due one after eighteen thousand miles, and it’s only done five. (Five thousand that is). So all they were going to do was the MOT, the thingy with the air-conditioning that was due, and take a look at the sticking window. That was fine by me. I never asked for a service. It was their idea, and I thought it wasn’t due yet. And then a couple of hours later they phoned back – what was the reason why I had phoned them to cancel the service? Oh how I laughed…. I’m told it's ready for collection. I’ll get it in the morning.

On the way home this evening I found something rather disconcerting. Someone had written a warning on the pavement. “Unknown”. They’d written it four times along the length of Bentley Road. I suppose it speaks volumes about Willesborough.

Into Asda to get the latest edition of “Viz”. There’s nothing like good literature, and “Viz” certainly is nothing like good literature. But fart jokes amuse me. Talking of which I see “Builder’s Breakfast” won Walker’s Crisps competition to become their latest crisp flavour. Have any of my loyal readers ever tried “Builder’s Breakfast”? It’s not unlike a fart joke – in more ways than one. But it won the competition so I must (again) be in the minority….

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08 May 2009 (Friday) - Running (amongst other things)

08 May 2009 (Friday) - Running (amongst other things)

Rather than getting a lift to the garage, I thought I’d walk to collect my car this morning. There’s something spiritual about walking through any countryside area early in the morning. (Getting soppy in my old age). There weren’t many people about as I wandered along the river – a couple of dog-walkers and that was all. And then I saw a couple I’d seen yesterday. A rather fit looking young lady (fit in more ways than one), jogging along effortlessly, shoulders back, head held high, clearly enjoying her morning exercise. And twenty yards behind was her mate. A podgy spacehopper on two little fat legs, legs pumping nineteen to the dozen, face red as a beetroot, gasping for air. I can only describe her demeanour as what I must look like after a day on the ale, lunging out of the pub desperately chasing after the last bus home. I wonder why some people go out running. I work with a chap who regularly runs ten miles in the morning. He absolutely loves it. Good for him – he’s happy, and I respect that. Me – I went running once. I went as far as the KFC and back. It nearly killed me. I got no enjoyment from it whatsoever. Why do this exercise if it’s not fun?

To Sevenoaks to deliver some candles. An entertaining half an hour was had watching Harry and Leah make the most of a cardboard box, finally testing the poor thing to destruction. And then home via Sainsbury’s for shopping. Having parked in Christchurch Road, we had a little way to walk home. Some chaps coming out of the Loco paused to pull a roadsign out of the middle of the road from where some brats had thrown it. We could see the brats who’d done it. They were twenty yards down the road from us, and as they walked past my house, they kicked my fence down, and then ran for it. As I intimated earlier, running is not my strong suit, but I gave fair chase. I say “fair chase” - they got away….

 

09 May 2009 (Saturday) - Fences, Bikes Rides...

09 May 2009 (Saturday) - Fences, Bikes Rides...

In some ways I’m pleased the fence is down. It was old and shabby, and needed to go. But that is in many ways irrelevant. Three little sh*ts have got away with deliberate destruction of private property. I chased after them last night. I didn’t catch them. I lost sight of them behind a hedge down the road. They either went into one of the houses behind the hedge, or was it them I saw running off in the distance up Bond Road? I knocked on the houses they might possibly have vanished into. No one claimed to have any kids of that age. But then, they wouldn’t, would they? Had I found the brats, what would I have done? On reflection, I should like to think I would have deliberately killed one of them. Not out of any sense of temper, or vengeance. But to bring back law and order to this country.

I remember once being very cross with a colleague. James (actual name unpronounceable) had left his six year old daughter unsupervised in the hospital canteen eating her tea whilst he came back to the laboratory and carried on working. When I explained the dangers of leaving a littlun on her own, he was mortified. James was a Chinese national. It’s safe to leave your children in public places in China. Because if anyone hurts the kiddy, not only do lynch mobs kick the living *!?! out of the criminal, but also the law then demands the crim be put in public stocks. Those put these stocks are fair game for people to throw rotten fruit, stones, boulders, turds etc at them. After a fortnight or so, they are then hung drawn and quartered, and then the fragments p*ssed on by all and sundry. And finally the p*ss sodden fragments are executed and crapped upon by wild beasts. Consequently the law is respected and China is a safe place to be for the kiddies.

In the UK it’s different. The bleeding heart brigade have social workers who pity the poor unfortunates who society has driven to kick down fences, and then sue the likes of me because they’ve hurt their poor little tootsies whilst kicking down my fence. Perhaps if people who kick down fences were to actually be punished, they might be less handy with their feet. Bring back the stocks, maybe? Or (my personal favourite) there was an idea I once read in a science fiction novel. No punishment as such, but the nature of their crime is tattooed on the crim’s forehead. They are then left to get on with their lives as best they can. Would you employ someone bearing such a mark? Would you even give them time of day?

I would like to think that I would have killed one of the brats who destroyed my fence. I would like to think that I would have stood proudly in court and said what I’d done, and why. But it won’t happen. They got away, which was probably for the best all round. I haven’t contacted the police. There is absolutely no point. There is nothing they could have done about it, and from my previous experiences with them I don’t believe for one minute they would be the slightest bit interested. Official statistics show that crime figures are down from last year. The reason is that no one sees anything to be gained from reporting crime. Meanwhile decent citizens have to give up days of their holiday to visit other decent citizens who have been locked away in prison for two years for no adequately explained reason. I get so worked up, sometimes……

I *was* planning to get a new fence. Perhaps I shan’t replace it just yet.

And then a cycle ride. To Aldington Frith to visit the Good Intent – the only pub that had Deuchars’ IPA as a regular ale. And much as I like the stuff, I stayed on the mild and had a cheese ploughman’s whilst I was at it. Aldington Frith is just right for a bike ride – about five miles, not too many dodgy roads, and manageable ups and downs. I think I’ve sussed out bike riding. The trick is to take my time. We cycled home through the back of the Park Farm estate – I didn’t realise how huge that estate has grown. From South Ashford it now stretches past Kingsnorth, and still seems to be growing.

And then home for a bit of a doze before setting off to Hastings. My nephew’s eighteenth birthday party, which passed off very well – if you like that sort of thing.

 

10 May 2009 (Sunday) - Washing, Cycling...

10 May 2009 (Sunday) - Washing, Cycling...magnify

Washing into the washing machine, out on the line, and back to Hastings to collect daughter. “Daddies Little Angel TM” stayed with relatives after last night’s party. Whilst on the way to collect her today, I had a thought. When I lived in Hastings all those years ago, people had teeth. Most of the bunch last night didn’t. I don’t think they had a complete set between them What’s that all about?

When we arrived “Daddies Little Angel TM” seemed happy enough, which is more than can be said for the birthday nephew, who was laying unconscious on the upstairs landing. I was reliably informed he was still alive, as periodically he could be heard being sick. The joys of the day after an eighteenth birthday. I remember it well. It was when pubs lost their attraction (for a while)

Back home to hang out laundry and put more in the washing machine, and for a spot of McDinner. Once scoffed, me and er indoors TM took our bikes out. A couple of weeks ago, a trip to Matalan and back wore us out. Today we went to the Great Chart golf course and back again – via a “crisps shop”. And then more laundry. I’ve finally got the washing bin empty. I wish I could say the same for the ironing bin.

And then “My Boy TM” came home with a bombshell. He might be moving out. I thought he’d moved out weeks ago because I rarely (if ever) see him. I see his laundry, but not him. Perhaps his laundry might move out with him? He’d come round with his girl friend (I’m assuming he’s planning to move in with her) and her daughter – a little sweetie who seems to like the fish pond. Good girl (!)

 

11 May 2009 (Monday) - COURTNEY FEED THE FISH!!!!

11 May 2009 (Monday) - COURTNEY FEED THE FISH!!!!

Having been washing laundry like a thing possessed all weekend, the ironing needed doing. Getting up at 5am to do it was probably a tad keen, but there it is. I was wide awake, and my smalls weren’t going to iron themselves. And then to work where I did an early shift of my old job, and then on with week two of the new job.

I’ve been asked if I’m doing a new job, and what it entails. To be honest, I don’t really know where I stand. When I was offered a job at Medway Maritime a few weeks ago, my current boss came up with a counter offer which was rather appealing. But once I’d formally turned down the job up the road, the counter offer then became a six months secondment. Now it’s a three month pilot project. Oh well, with any luck, three months will drag on. I quite like what I’m doing now.

And then home to print off the latest letter to the chokey. Whilst printing, there was the sound of the door being opened. “My Boy TM” was visiting (i.e. collecting laundry), together with “His Bird TM” and the littlun. She is such a sweetie. I’m told she’s normally rather shy, but she quite happily comes down the garden with me to do “COURTNEY FEED THE FISH!!!!” She’s quite enthusiastic at it, even though her mother, like all mothers, has nightmares about her falling in the pond. I think I need to teach Courtney “moderation” in fish feeding. She is a tad keen, and fish food's not cheap. We’ll start “moderation” on tomorrow’s feeding session.

Unfortunately one of the fish had died. A barbel – I bought three of them for thirty eight quid on 30th December 2007 (the wonders of keeping a diary), and in the last eighteen months the thing had grown more than six times in length. I wonder why it croaked?

And then to the astro club committee meeting. Rather a non-event as a committee meeting went – we just sat round chatting for a couple of hours. But then, chatting with friends over a pint is always a good thing to do. I say “pint” – diet coke as I had the car. Next week I’ll take the bike…

 

12 May 2009 (Tuesday) - Beam Me Up Scotty

12 May 2009 (Tuesday) - Beam Me Up Scotty

I spent all day looking forward to doing “COURTNEY FEED THE FISH!!!!” But littlun didn’t come round this evening. So I sulked for a bit before going to the cinema for the second time this year.

The first film I ever took er indoors TM to see was a Star Trek film. And I can recall an evening in February 1995 when the manager of the cinema in Folkestone offered free admission to the trekkie film for anyone wearing trekkie uniform. And between us and a gaggle at the university we had nearly a hundred. And I can remember going to see the last two Star Trek films which were a disappointment, to say the least.

I’d not been looking forward to tonight’s film. The premise of the film was awful – how Captain Kirk’s crew all met up. And the trailers I’d seen on-line weren’t that good. But the film – what happened was….. much as I’d like to give away the plot, I won’t. Suffice it to say that it’s probably the best trekkie film made (so far). It’s a good film for the general film-going audience. There are loads of little snippets and continuity references for the sad trekkies like me who thrive on such trivia. And the glaring continuity errors that sad trekkies like me spot…. there aren’t any.

I loved it.

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13 May 2009 (Wednesday) - Struggling Pubs

13 May 2009 (Wednesday) - Struggling Pubs

My Boy TM” is in trouble. He put the dead fish in with er indoors TM ‘s recycling. She couldn’t work out why the plastic bottles smelled so bad. Now she knows.

Reading the news I hear that the Prime Minister would seem to have got involved in trying to do away with “pub ties” – antiquated laws which force publicans to buy their pub requisites from certain suppliers. Apparently some publicans in Ashford pay more for a bottle of beer (wholesale) that I pay for one in Tesco’s. Something needs to be done to help the ailing pub trade.

Good news for me - I see that maybe I might be able to enjoy a cigar in the pub again. If I go up north. The landlady of the Cutting Edge pub in Barnsley has opened a "smoking research centre" where drinkers can light up legally. Apparently if you turn up and fill in a questionnaire on your smoking habits, this satisfies the legal requirements and then you can sit down for a drink and a fag in the centre. I say “centre” – it’s actually a separate room in the pub. It’s now two years since the fags ban, and the British Beer And Pub Association say this is the root cause of tumbling beer sales which have forced over 2,000 pubs to close in the last year.

Meanwhile in order to keep his business afloat, the landlord of the Baum in Rochdale has started offering CAMRA members 40p off each pint on a Sunday. Apparently his beer sales for the first four months of this year are up over 10% on last year, but the locals have wised up to what’s going on. Those who would come in for a pint midweek have all joined CAMRA and come in on a Sunday.

All this talk of pubs is making me thirsty. I might just visit a pub at the weekend….

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14 May 2009 (Thursday) - Credit Crunch ?

14 May 2009 (Thursday) - Credit Crunch ?

This morning’s post brought a letter from Norwich Union who have written to tell me that they are changing their name from “Norwich Union” to “Aviva”. Big deal – so what? The letter went straight in the bin – I couldn’t care less, but then I thought. How many other millions of people have received such a letter? Wouldn’t it have been far cheaper to send such information in with a statement or some other letter that was actually worth sending?

And then the bank is just as bad. Their letter today told me that the new debit card they will be sending to me soon will be a “Visa” debit card rather than a “Maestro” debit card, and they took great pains to tell me that in practical terms there is no difference between the two. Surely it would have been cheaper to have sent me that information with the card?

I guess these people who send out so many letters get cheap postage, but how cheap can it get before they don’t care? Even at an extremely discounted rate of 10p per letter, and allowing them only a million customers each (I know they have a lot more), that’s still two hundred thousand pounds wasted. And the pundits would have us believe there’s a recession on.

And then I got my road tax. The last time I got road tax (21st July 2007- last year it came with the new car) I went up to the post office and queued up with the Great Unwashed. Today I did it on-line. It took less than a minute. On the minus side they charged me £2.50 for using a credit card, but it was worth it not to queue up with the Great Unwashed. Let’s hope the tax disc actually arrives……

 

 

15 May 2009 (Friday) - A Licence to Print Money?

15 May 2009 (Friday) - A Licence to Print Money?

Those who tout the news are full of righteous indignation. Apparently our MPs are a bunch of crooks who’ve been cheating the taxpayers out of millions. Or have they…

If MPs want to claim for what they consider to be a legitimate expense, they do. One claimed two grand to have his moat cleaned out. (yes – moat!) Another claimed £176.25 for five cushions. They can claim for second homes, and then having tarted the second home up to the max, re-designate their main home as the second one, and do that one up. And then sell them both at a profit to themselves. All at my expense. They can claim back their council tax. They can claim back up to four hundred quid a month on food. (How much do you spend on food each month?) One even claimed for mortgage payments for nine years even though he didn’t have a mortgage.

It’s different for me. When I incur any expenses at work, I need to submit a receipt to claim back the money. No receipt – no money – no excuses. MPs don’t need a receipt for any expense less than £250. I don’t think I’ve ever claimed more than a train ticket to Coventry, or my petrol money to the Lake District and back (both for legitimate work-related business). My employer has strict rules about claiming for such expenses, and rightly so.

Is this scandal oh-so-terrible? Yes. Are the MPs oh-so-terrible? No. I make no secret that I claim for absolutely everything I can. Because my employer has made it clear I am entitled to. As soon as I got into work yesterday after my journey to Canterbury, I noted down my mileage on my claims form. Thirty miles round trip. I’m entitled to it – I claimed it. Are the MPs any different? Not really. They are working under a system which allows them to laugh all the way to the bank, and they do so. The fault lies with those who vet their expense claims? At the end of the month when I submit my claim, I need to account for every penny I’m asking for. Or my employer doesn’t stump up. Who’s so lax as to stump up MPs expenses without checking them? The scandal is the fault of these people. Who are they? – Oh, that would be the MPs themselves. I wonder how many people wouldn’t milk such a system to the max.

 

16 May 2009 (Saturday) - To Bethersden, Gardening, And Crosswords

16 May 2009 (Saturday) - To Bethersden, Gardening, And Crosswords

The day started rather grey and overcast, but the weather forecast promised that it would cheer up later, so I texted the universe about going on a bike ride. That is I tried to text the universe’s mobiles, but my phone sent the messages to most people’s home numbers before I could tell it to stop. By the time I’d texted everyone properly, it was time to go. Four of us set out from Ashford to Bethersden. Two taking the scenic route, me and er indoors TM taking the most direct route. On looking at the map, there wouldn’t seem to be a lot of difference between the two. Fifty minutes to get to The Bull at Bethersden – I was quite pleased with that.

A drop of Early Bird, cauliflower soup and a steak sandwich – can’t be bad. Brian found a friend in the pub’s cat. I’m not sure if feeding the animal his liver and bacon was a good idea, but the cat seemed happy about it. Good food, good beer – the only thing I’d fault the place on would be the landlord’s attitude. He made it quite clear he wouldn’t interrupt his conversation with his mates to serve us. Instead he just bellowed for someone else to come over. Rather embarrassing all round.

And then back on the bikes and home via a pint of Tribute in the Hoodener Horse in Great Chart. Once home the lawn got mowed – I forgot to do that last week. I trimmed back next door’s jungle which was growing over the fence, and then I cleaned out the fish pond filter. A smelly mucky job, but one best done when you can. Rather than leaving it until the thing blocks up and then you find yourself having to do it at the most inconvenient times.

Once I’d then done the ironing I was worn out. The plan for the evening had me going to the O’Lata’s for a Wii-Fit session, but I cried off. I’d done enough exercise today. Instead I prepared the crossword I’d been promising to send into the chokey for some time. I used the on-line profanisaurus as a source of my twenty three clues. Some of them are a tad on the difficult side – here’s 8 down – “The act of seeking out and destroying a U-bend U-boat. With a bog brush or a stick (4,3,5,7)”. Oh well, it will keep him occupied for a week or so….

 

17 May 2009 (Sunday) - Retards at Breakfast, Moving Fish

17 May 2009 (Sunday) - Retards at Breakfast, Moving Fish

I was woken by the sound of “My Boy TM” coming home quietly at 4am. After that, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was just beginning to doze off around 7am when the womenfolk silently set off to London for the Batizado, so I gave up and got up. One of my many blessings is having such a quiet family(!)

Some time was spent mucking about on Facebook games then once “My Boy TM” had emerged from his pit we set off to Swallow Aquatics in Tenterden. I needed some jollop to clear the pond – it’s rather murky, and I also needed some different jollop to put in the water we’s use for transporting fish later. Bybrook Barn had all the stuff I needed when I called in yesterday, but the disagreeable harridan behind the counter had so much attitude that I’d rather drive to Tenterden and give them my money. Sometimes I wonder how these arrogant idiots stay in business. With only half a dozen pond-related shops within fifty miles, the one which is only a mile away is now definitely my last choice for a place to spend my money.

Once at the garden centre we went to the restaurant area and queued up for the cooked breakfast. Oh dear – someone had obviously released the retards into the place today. The first lot in the queue were letting the four year old give the family of six’s food order. The brat kept getting confused and starting again, to the amusement of everyone except those in the queue and those behind the counter. That wasted fifteen minutes. Then there was the old biddy who wanted every cake in the place described to her. After these two, it came as light relief to listen to the twit who went through every item on the menu, trying to find something they weren’t prepared to put into a sandwich for him. Eventually we got served - and they undercharged us – they only charged for one breakfast. I was about to point out their error, but then I saw it not as a mistake, but as a reward for my patience with the retards in the queue.

We eventually got to the fish department and picked up the assorted jollops, and were on our way home. Whilst stopped at a junction there was a minor contretemps. Some silly woman crashed into the back of my car. No harm was done, just a bump, but I think she was quite shook up. She said she was OK, so we left her to it, and we set off for bargain number two.

A colleague of er indoors TM likes watching her Koi grow, and when they are too big, she wants the big fish out of the way and wants more littluns so she can watch them grow. That’s fair enough – I can understand that. So I got several hundred quid’s worth of fish for forty quid, and she got a home for her big fish and money to buy new littluns. I did feel a tad guilty about getting such a bargain, but then, I’m not going to sell the fish so I’m not actually making a profit. And I wouldn’t have spent the actual market value on the fish anyway. Both sides of the deal were happy, so a fair exchange is no robbery.

On re-reading this last bit, I’ve made it sound so easy. I just handed over some bunce, and as if by magic four big fish appeared in my pond. It’s so easy to gloss over the details….

We set up a quarantine aquarium (laced with potassium permanganate) in the boot of my car, which was a mission in itself. Then there was the game of hoiking four carp (each over a foot long) out of a pond. Have you ever tried to net a fish? They aren’t keen on the idea. And then transporting them through a house (without getting water anywhere) to the car. Getting them from a bucket into the car boot fish tank took some doing. After this performance, driving four such fish home (and all the water) without flooding the car was the easy bit. We then lifted the makeshift aquarium onto a trolley to come down Beaver Road and used brute force to get the fish (and all the water) through the house to the pond. And we did all of this without getting water everywhere or knacking ourselves. Suffice to say the box was heavy, but “My Boy TM helped with (did most of) the heavy lifting. But we got it done, and the fish seem happy in their new home – they’ve all scoffed fish food, so they seem to have settled in.

I did have a plan for the afternoon involving the fish poo filter, lawnmowers and ironing boards. But I got ahead of myself and did that lot yesterday, so the afternoon was pretty much wasted dozing in front of the telly and charging round in NeverWinter. Rather a waste of an afternoon really. And then the girls came home with some McTea. “Daddies Little Angel TM” had passed her grading and now has the next belt up. She’s really pleased, and so am I…..

 

18 May 2009 (Monday) - Flocculation and AstroBash

18 May 2009 (Monday) - Flocculation and AstroBash

Again I was awake and watching DVDs at silly o’clock. Whilst feeding the fish this morning, I found another of the barbel had died. One died last Monday. Co-incidence? – I hope so.

A dull morning at work, and then I thought I’d take the afternoon off. I deserved it. I chauffeured “Daddies Little Angel TM” from one of her mates to another, and then set off to Rolvenden’s World of Water. My pond is rather murky. It’s odd – the water coming out of the filter is clean and clear, but I can’t see more than a couple of feet down into the pond. The nice man in the shop thinks there are micro-particles of muck in the water. I think he’s right. He’s suggested two possible solutions. I’ve added some more jollop to the pond water which will make the micro-particles stick together and so be big enough get caught in the filter. The technical term for this is “flocculation”. Try sticking that onto a double word score in scrabble. I shall give the micro particles a day to flocculate, and if that don’t work, I’ve got a finer mesh filter sieve to stick into the filter for tomorrow.

Just as I was about to have a crafty kip this afternooner indoors TM rang, wondering if I’d made anything for tea. I can take a hint. Whenever I’ve been home from work early lately I’ve made her a curry. What she probably doesn’t realise is that the curry is made out of whatever leftovers I can find. Today had rather scant pickings. I found some manky old chicken, a bag of left over McDonalds chips, some grapes that go out of date today, some tomatoes which went out of date over the weekend and a banana which looked like it went out of date at about the same time that dinosaurs did. I bunged the lot into a pot with some left over barbeque sauce, some left over sweet & sour sauce, some ketchup, some cheap and nasty brown sauce, and some curry powder. It’s probably worth mentioning that the curry powder is part of a job lot I bought from a farm shop ages ago, and went out of date in 2000. I stuck the lot on to boil for three hours and worked on the principle that it had two chances. Either she’d love it, or she wouldn’t want me to make tea again. Either would have suited me…. In the event, she loved it.

And then to astro club committee to plan “AstroBash” – a day of astronomical events and activities planned for Octber 24th. I cycled, and got lost on the way. I was aiming for the M20, and found Sainsbury’s. Eventually I got to the Pheasant and found the place we meet in operates a loyalty card. For every four pints of ale you buy, they give you a fifth one free. I’ve formally proposed we have all our committee meetings there….

 

19 May 2009 (Tuesday) - Backache, Leaks and a Phone Call

19 May 2009 (Tuesday) - Backache, Leaks and a Phone Call

I think I must have overdone the cycling last night – one of the other chaps cycled up to the pub for our committee meeting, and I made the mistake of trying to cycle home with him. I say “cycle” – “cycling is what I do – I pootle along, taking my time. The speed cameras in the town centre clocked me at 8mph last night. Now that is “cycling”. There should be a different word for cycling speeds which are measured in warp factors. I lost sight of my fellow committee member last night as he flew off up a hill into the distance, overtaking cars on his bike. Even thinking about keeping up with him was a mistake, which is probably why my back was killing me today.

A relatively late start for me this morning – I didn’t wake up till 5.30am. As Albert (Einstein) once remarked “everything’s relative”. Got up, had brekky, watched telly, went to work. I had an afternoon meeting in Canterbury, and then spent the remainder of the afternoon working from home.

To the pond, to check on my flocculation. The pond is clearer, and I put the fine mesh sieve into the filter. I wasn’t entirely sure I’d put the filter box back together properly this time, and an hour later the thing was leaking. In any event, the fish seem happy – scoffing like things possessed. I’ll check the filter again in the morning.

The idea was for the crowds to gather at 7.15pm this evening because we were expecting a phone call from HMP Slade. The phone call came early and unfortunately Jimbo missed pretty much everyone. Tonight lock-up was half an hour early so’s the warders could have a staff meeting. Twelve hours locked in the cell. Poor bugger….

 

20 May 2009 (Wednesday) - Shadoxhurst

20 May 2009 (Wednesday) - Shadoxhurst

Again I slept through till l 5.30am. Unheard of. Perhaps it’s less stress on my secondment – I’m enjoying it, but I’m now told it’s only for three months. Oh well, I shall make the most of it. I spent the morning struggling with a PC that refused to log me in, and then went to Margate for the afternoon. On the way there via Faversham and the A251, which is a pig of a road. And back via endless roundabouts down the A256 to Dover. I still can’t decide which is the best way to get to and from Planet Thanet. If I get my way, I will be spending a day a week at Margate from now on. And if I don’t, I shall sulk.

This evening me and er indoors TM got on our bikes for a little ride. A month ago cycling to the end of Victoria Park and back was our limit. Today we cycled out to Shadoxhurst for a crafty drop of mild and a bowl of olives. Twenty five minutes there, twenty minutes at the Kings Head, and then back via the scenic route through Chilmington Green. There are some really beautiful areas of Kent only a few minutes away on a bicycle. And the network of cycle routes is growing all the time. If only the retard public knew the difference between pavement and cycle path. One’s got a person painted on it, one’s got a bicycle. How hard can it be…..

 

21 May 2009 (Thursday) - Telly, Car Parks

21 May 2009 (Thursday) - Telly, Car Parks

Up with the lark again. Having watched all of “Auf Wedersehn, Pet”, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Rik Mayall Presents” first thing in the morning over the last few weeks, I started on “Tin Man” today.

At mid day I escaped from work to pick up our new table. I’m not sure I like it. There’s nothing wrong with the existing table, but what do I know? The table is still in the back of my car – it’s a bit too awkward for one person to manage. If it’s still there tomorrow I’ll get the chap at the tip to help me chuck it in the skip.

And back to work, where there was mayhem in the car park. One of the normal people was hysterically screaming. Real psycho uncontrolled screeching. There was a slow worm on the pavement, basking in the sunshine. Not hurting any one, minding its own business, totally oblivious to the reaction it had set off in the feeble minded. Eventually this woman saw me and she stopped howling and ran to me for help. She was absolutely stunned by my suggestion of just leaving the animal alone since it wasn’t bothering her, or anyone else for that matter. I moved the beast onto a grass bank for its own safety, and with her exit now clear the stupid woman sprinted into the hospital as though the satanic hoards were chasing her. Silly cow!

After that, the rest of the day was something of an anticlimax.

 

22 May 2009 (Friday) - The Grim Reaper

22 May 2009 (Friday) - The Grim Reaper

I found something floating in the pond this morning – a dead blackbird. And another one this evening. The birds are quite comical – they politely queue up to take their turn washing in the waterfall leading into the pond. Unfortunately every so often one slips, falls in the pond and drowns. I hoiked each one out and hid the carcasses in the bin up the road.

Taking of death, some sad news – an old friend died this week. Someone I’ve known (off and on) since the late seventies, admittedly more off these days than on. I’d heard he’d been ill a few months ago with various cancers, and had been off work for months. Apparently he tootled up to the hospital in Hastings on Monday feeling particularly rough and was told he had only hours to live. He died that same morning.

I’m told (by the funeral director) that his funeral is Tuesday 2nd June at mid day at Wellington Square Baptist Church in Hastings. I’ve booked the day off work and emailed those people who knew him. It’s quite worrying how many people I’ve lost touch with…

 

23 May 2009 (Saturday) - Work, Fish...

23 May 2009 (Saturday) - Work, Fish...

After an hour and a half of “Tin Man” this morning, it was off to work. It was my turn to do the morning anyway, but help was needed in the afternoon because we had “agreed” to take on more work.

Things weren’t too bad. Still, I was home by 3pm, and got the lawn mowed, if nothing else.

Courtney came round later to do “COURTNEY FEED THE FISH!!” She’s getting good at it. Her mother does worry that littlun’s going to end up in the drink, but so far, so good.

Daddies Little Angel TM” spent the afternoon writing a letter to the chokey. I never realised one could make such a noise whilst writing to a prison.

Once er indoors TM came home we set off for “Sellinge Steam Spectacular”. The actual event had finished hours before, but we had friends camping out, and turning up that late meant we got to see people without paying for an event we didn’t want to see. Mind you, it’s a bit early in the year for camping….

 

24 May 2009 (Sunday) - Art

24 May 2009 (Sunday) - Art

I slept in to 9.30am this morning. And as always after a lie in, I woke feeling rough with a hangover. Even though I’d not been on the beer. I usually feel worse after a lie in than I do after a day on the ale. Is the Almighty trying to tell me something?

The efforts with the pond over the last week or so have paid dividends. The thing is now as clear as it has ever been. It looked wonderful as I fed the fish this morning. Wonderful, apart from the dead starling floating in it. I wonder if I need to rig some sort of bird safety device?

To Charing Heath – for Sunday roast at the Red Lion (#1). A Shepherd Neame pub which I found to be typical of countryside Shepherd Neame pubs. Excellent food – rather disappointing beer range. And then on to Lenham for “Art”. Normally I’d give an art exhibition a very wide berth, but the lady who runs the arky-ologee club was one of the exhibitors, so we thought we’d give it a go. Some of the “Art” was good, some was surreal, some was rubbish. But in retrospect I’m glad we went – all things considered it was a good exhibition. And even the “rubbish” stuff was talented, just a bit too bizarre for my liking.

From the “Art” we wandered across the village square to the Red Lion (#2) for a pint of afters, and then home. A couple of hours kip, a ham sandwich, and then off to the night shift at work. I wonder what tonight holds in store for me……

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25 May 2009 (Bank Holiday Monday) - On The Beer (Again)

25 May 2009 (Bank Holiday Monday) - On The Beer (Again)

It wasn’t that long ago when having two calls at work after midnight was unusual, and having four was unheard of. I had more to do last night at work after midnight than I did on all of my first month of night work put together. And in all honesty, last night wasn’t especially busy.

I printed off letter #18 to send to the chokey, and again I sent in a crossword. I’m rather pleased with this one – it features words such as Chimping”, “Chodhop” and “Whistling Gorilla”. I’ve not heard how he got on with the last one – I hope he’s grateful for these crosswords – they take hours to produce, and that’s with a computer doing the tricky bits.

The plan for today was a bike ride up to Hastingleigh because all the weather forecasts gave the day as being sunny up until late afternoon. This morning it rained hard. We’ll do Hastingleigh another day.

Instead we drove down to Pett Level because we remembered how good the Smugglers was last year when we walked through. It’s not good any more – the landlord was oozing attitude. They had no mild, they have never had mild. Didn’t they have some last year? A very rude dismissal from this bloke. I know they had the stuff, as I have photographs of our group drinking the stuff at the place, but “Mr Attitude” knows best. Stuff him. Last year when we called in whilst walking through, the place was heaving. Today, all but empty. One can’t help but wonder why….

On to the Royal Oak in Pett village. A pleasant enough pub, but only two ales on. To be honest there was nothing to distinguish it from any other pub.

By now we were a tad peckish, so we had “lunchs” in the Kings Head in Udimore. They had a huge sign outside advertising lunchs, so it would be rude not to try some. The lunchs were good. The puddings were a bit iffy – “Knickers and Cream” sounds a bit racy, but they weren’t all that special. Mind you, the barman was pleasant enough. If only it wasn’t so far away, I’d probably go back.

And home via the Ferry in Stone in Oxney. As is always the case, the last pub was the one we should have gone to first. A storming ale selection, and a wonderful oriental-looking chap on the electric guitar doing turns from the Shadows, Neil Diamond, the Reverend Blue Jeans and all sorts. Unfortunately he was cut short by a thunderstorm, but his rendition of “Nessum Dormer” in the torrential rain was brilliant. If only my sexy new phone would record more than six seconds of video at a time.

And so home to find the telly is only working in black and white. I shall hope that this is an effect of the unusual atmospherics of the thunderstorm that is currently raging…

 

26 May 2009 (Tuesday) - A Day Off

26 May 2009 (Tuesday) - A Day Off

Agenda for Change” is the single pay system in operation in the NHS. Allegedly agreed by a majority of NHS staff, the practical upshot is that if I do any overtime, I don’t get paid for it. Instead I just get time off. Bearing in mind I struggle to be able to take time off work and am already selling back a fortnight’s leave for that very reason, taking time in lieu isn’t as good as getting the cash.

But there it is. So having worked an extra fifteen hours this last weekend, I’m taking a couple of days off. I had plans for garden, fences, wood fascias and waterfalls today. But it rained hard, so I wasted a day in NeverWinter, whist trying to book a visit to HMP Slade.

Have you ever tried phoning a prison? Constantly engaged for two hours, and then an automated switchboard which tells you how busy they are for another hour. So at 2pm I gave up and used the on-line system. I then fell asleep in front of the computer. Half an hour after the prison’s booking office closed I got a “message not delivered” email from them. I’ve re-sent and am hoping for the best.

 

27 May 2009 (Wednesday) - Another Day Off

27 May 2009 (Wednesday) - Another Day Off

Another day off. An early start – to B&Q for supplies, and then to crack on with the work I didn’t do yesterday. I got the fascia sanded, one coat of primer on, and the weeds squirted before the rain started. I phoned HMP Slade – they were engaged. So I tried, and tried again. To fill the time between wasted phone calls I started working on another crossword for “Norman Stanley”. I hope he appreciates the effort I put into these crosswords. This one’s not quite finished, but it contains clues such as “A type of trouser popular among old men, dustmen and council tenants in the 1950s” (Gorblimey) and answers such as “full Nelson” (When “wrestling oneself”, a hold involving one hand, one eye, some sailors and a funny-shaped hat). After a lot of phoning, eventually I got through to the chokey and booked a visit. For three weeks time as they couldn’t fit us in any earlier.

I phoned Kent Highways about the holes that are still up our road. They admitted that they gave the gas people a licence to dig the holes, but then denied any responsibility for the matter, referring me to Southern Gas Networks who seemed equally disinterested. These holes are now beyond a joke. Originally dug some months ago as part of “urgent gas main replacement”, the holes are now nothing more than somewhere for passers-by to throw litter. Occasionally there are some workmen around these holes. Not “in”, just around. They stand by the holes, shouting conversations into their mobile phones, and then clear off again. Some time ago when I felt the works were taking too long I complained, and was given a finish date of 8th April. Obviously I forgot to ask which year that was planned for. After a few hours I phoned back to Kent Highways and was given a reference number (16282635) so next time I phone they can make reference to the fact that they have already ignored the problem at least once before.

Courtney came round at mid day and took me up to the pond to feed the fish. I say “fish” – it would seem that she is a bit more specific than that. She is entranced by the sturgeons – she loves watching them feed, and when the Koi take the pellets she shouts at them and tells them off for taking the sturgeons’ food. Last time we did it, “COURTNEY FEED THE FISH!!!” was quite a family affair, but seeing as it was pouring hard today, there was just me and littlun at the pond. Which was probably a bad move. As soon as we got to the pond, she knelt into a very large bird turd, and then she sat down in some mud. Once the fish were fed, we did the water features. She quite likes those. She’s not quite old enough to help in the construction of new ones yet, which is a shame.

To arky-ologee club, where there was a talk about medieval life. Sometimes the talks are a tad dull, but tonight’s was excellent. The speaker knew his subject, and brought it to life. There’s talk of his coming again. I hope so – he was good !

28 May 2009 (Thursday) - To Chichester

28 May 2009 (Thursday) - To Chichester

Up at the crack of dawn, and in the car by 6am. I had work in Chichester today, and estimates of the journey ranged from two minutes to two weeks. In the end it took two hours to get there. I had to assess one of their trainees, and she did wonderfully. Mind you, I must admit to a feeling of “who am I to judge”. But she passed, and I got to be nosy round another hospital, which is always good fun.

On the way home (three hours) I went cross country – very scenic through Arundel. I almost stopped to take photos. And I drove past Stanmer Park – it looked odd not full of tents and kites. The radio on the way home was interesting - it had an interview with some big-wig from Bournemouth. Apparently that town has got the hump with weather forecasters. Every time they predict rain, people don’t go to Bournemouth. Which is fine if it rains. But if it doesn’t rain, it costs the town thousands of pounds in lost revenues. Take for example last Monday – the Bank Holiday. The Met Office guessed it would rain. It didn’t, and the big-wigs at the seaside have estimated that they lost out on twenty five thousand tourists. The radio then had some twonk from the Met Office on, who claimed they get the weather forecast right on six days out of seven. Well, they’ve got the last three days wrong. I can’t help but feel that if they can’t be 99.9% certain (which is actually a rather bad figure of reliability in my line of work) then they shouldn’t say anything.

On the way home I popped into the pond shop to talk about my problem with drowning sparrows. The shop assistants were stumped by this one – it’s a new one on them. And on me, too. The waterfall is in its third year. We’ve never had such a drowning rate before. Perhaps they aren’t coming in from the waterfall?

This evening me and er indoors TM got our bikes out and cycled through Newtown to the Hododen on the Hill for a crafty half of mild, and then home via the Julie Rose Stadium and back home following the cycle path alongside the river. Must investigate that cycle path and see how far it goes in the other direction…

 

29 May 2009 (Friday) - All Sorts of Things

29 May 2009 (Friday) - All Sorts of Things

No time off work is complete unless ironing is involved, and so I spent the morning ironing. I ran “Daddies Little Angel TM” out to her friend at Shadoxhurst and then fell asleep whilst watching Star Trek videos.

I woke up in time for a few minutes of “COURTNEY FEED THE FISH!!!!!” – she’s such a sweetie – her mum is convinced she’s going to fall in the pond, and we had a tantrum when it was going home time.

It all happened with the holes in the road today. First of all Kent Highways phoned to apologize about how long the road works were taking. They had no idea about why it should take so long. Apparently they are having a meeting with the contractors next week to find out what the delays are. And then, miracle of miracles – I saw some workmen looking into the holes. So I went and asked them what was going on. They assured me there would be progress next week as they would be on the job. They are a new gang, and their first job on Monday is to knock on the doors up and down the road and to phone the old workmen to try to find out what has been done so far. I can’t say I’m very impressed.

Three letters arrived from the chokey today. All for me. “Norman Stanley” liked the crosswords - he got one clue in the first crossword I sent him, and when he saw the answers, he realised he got it wrong. He claims to have got four in the last one I sent. We shall see. He’s sent me a crossword – you can see it here. I can’t do it. He tells me he’s been promoted. He now earns more than the 90p for a morning’s work he was on before. He’s now on a full quid per morning. He intends to phone on Tuesday 9th June, and has asked if I’ll post him in a jazz mag to see if it arrives. So I spent a couple of hours this afternoon attempting to do just that. I had no idea what it would cost to post a bongo mag, so I wrote out the envelope. I had this plan to buy a grumble mag from a post office and post it at the same time. But (would you believe it) I couldn’t find a post office that sold filth. I explained to several nice ladies why I needed to purchase such “specialist literature”, and all of them glared at me in a disapproving manner. Somewhat in the same way as “Daddies Little Angel TM” did – she’d come along for the ride.

To astro club. A year ago the club was struggling. Now it’s going great guns. Tonight we started with an update of astro news and a talk about a Star Party next year. I spoke on the planets Uranus & Neptune for half an hour, we took over forty quid in a raffle, a chat about our planned AstroBash in October, a Stellarium presentation on what’s currently in the sky, and a telescope session. Excellent!

I’ve been told that Yahoo 360 is closing. From now on I shall be posting blog entries through my Yahoo profile, which you can see here. Or so I’m told. I’d ask my loyal readers to change their bookmarks accordingly.

 

30 May 2009 (Saturday) - A Cycle Ride

30 May 2009 (Saturday) - A Cycle Ride

A cycle ride to Hastingleigh. How easy it is to type those words. But just try doing it (!) It’s a tad on the “up” side. But well worth the haul up. The Bowl at Hastingleigh is a brilliant pub. I’d never been there before. Four ales, and the landlord is quite a character – treating everyone as an old friend, even if he’s only just met you. The beer selection was fine, and I had a couple of pints of the aptly named “Full Steam Ahead”. A roast beef baguette, a bit of a laugh with the pub dog,

From here the plan was to go home via Brabourne. But due to a bit of over-enthusiastic cycling and lax map reading, we ended up in Monk’s Horton at the White Horse. A pleasant enough country pub somewhat off the beaten track, with ciders and perrys on tap along with the beer. The food looked good, albeit a tad pricey. But I suppose in this life you get what you pay for. We had a minor problem at this point – we’d actually cycled off the edge of my map. I pondered the problem over a pint of Whitstable Bay and hoped the problem would solve itself. And it did. A fit bird wandered past brandishing an ordinance survey map of the area, and she was only too happy to let me have a look.

By now (twelve miles) I was beginning to wilt, and there was some serious “up” to contend with. The Woolpack at Brabourne came as a welcome sight. What a disappointment. A beer selection that you find everywhere, and it was full of louts shouting at the telly. Still, I will know better from now on, and not bother with the place again.

And so home via the A20. A round trip of some twenty five miles. I felt quite exhausted when we arrived home to find some charming person had kicked the wing mirror off of er indoors TM ‘s car….

And can I remind my loyal readers that Yahoo 360 is closing. From now on I’m thinking about posting blog entries through my Yahoo profile, which you can see here. Or so I’m told. I’d like to remind my loyal readers to change their bookmarks accordingly.

 

31 May 2009 (Sunday) - Pods and Ponds

31 May 2009 (Sunday) - Pods and Ponds

It was warm this morning. Too warm to sleep, so I was up and about at 8am. A bit of toast for brekkie and as I checked my emails, I saw a fellow blogger had relocated because of Yahoo 360’s closure. He’s chosen to go with blogger.com, and so have I.

A quick pootle around the garden pulling out stuff growing through membranes to stop stuff growing through, and then Courtney arrived to feed the fish. Someone has to. She’d brought her mum and “My Boy TM“ with her. Whilst the girls got on with fish feeding, me and Dan had work to do. First of all, seeing how the camping season is nearly upon us, I needed to put the pod back on to my car. An easy enough job, but one that needs someone else to help you. The pod isn’t heavy, but it’s very awkward.

Once that was done, the next job was to make the pond bird-friendly. As I’ve mentioned before we’ve had too many of our feathered friends drowning lately. Last Friday, whilst trying to purchase specialist literature to sent in to the chokey, “Daddies Little Angel TM” had helped me chose a new waterfall for the pond. One with plastic that’s not so smooth. Again, it’s a job that really needs two people. I could have done this one on my own, but what would have taken me an hour on my tod, with “My Boy TM“ helping we were done in ten minutes. If you look closely in the photo, you’ll see a bird has used it without falling in.

Courtney had a visitor coming, so she set off for home, and took her entourage with her. There were one or two gaps around the new waterfall, so we set off to Bybrook Barn to get some rocks. They didn’t have any, so against my better judgement we went on to WyeVale, where they were hawking their loyalty card. The “nice lady” in the queue in front of me was having trouble filling in her application for a loyalty card. She didn’t know what her title was. Even when prompted “Miss, Mrs or Ms” she still had to think about it. I really shouldn’t go shopping there – it just annoys me.

And so home. Whilst er indoors TM and “Daddies Little Angel TM” went shopping, I mowed the lawn, strimmed the edges, and glued Dave the Heron back on to his stand. And then I noticed the fish poo filter was leaking. It probably didn’t like having been moved around earlier. And so I then spent an hour cleaning out the fish poo.

I’m now worn out, but the garden looks good for it. I’m a great believer in a low-maintenance garden