1 October 2010 (Friday) - Money Worries

 

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I’ve been ranting quite a bit lately. Yesterday I was rattling on about how the media don’t take space science seriously. Yesterday science discovered something that might make the complacent media sit up and take notice – asteroid 2010 ST3 was discovered two weeks ago, and is on a collision course with us. Admittedly it won’t crash for a hundred years or so, but surely this will be taken seriously… No I don’t think it will be either. Which is a shame.

 

Another shame is the Irish economy. Or so I’m told. I don’t pretend to understand high finance, or the current economic depression. But I have a degree in mathematics so (with the help of a calculator) I can do sums. According to the figures given by the pundits, the Irish government have given or lent their banks a staggering forty five billion euros. Presumably because their banks are that much in hock. But there are only six million people in Ireland. So that works out that every single Irishman has shelled out over seven thousand Euros.

This made me think on a more personal basis. What about me? I’ve spent the last year or so listening to tales of doom and gloom about the British economy, but (I suppose) like most people, because I don’t really understand it I’ve ignored it. But I’ve done a bit of research. The hard facts are easy to find. The British debt is over nine hundred billion quid.  And that works out that each of us is in lumber to the tune of sixteen thousand quid.

How does that work? I never borrowed any of it. Who is it owed to? Can there be that much money in existence? I realise I’m a bit late to discover the reality of our country’s financial problems, but am I missing something vital here? Let’s go back a couple of sentences. I think I’ve glossed over the important point here. If we as a nation owe nine hundred billion quid, to whom do we owe it? And what would the consequences be of telling this (as yet) anonymous multi-billionaire to get knotted? Am I just a hopelessly naďve old commie to think this just illustrates the utter failure of the capitalist system.

 

Having said that, don’t expect me to provide an alternative. My own finances, whist probably streets ahead of that of the nation, aren’t as healthy as they might be. I spent a few minutes this morning going through my accounts. It’s probably as well that I do, but I know that I shouldn’t; it only worries me. And whilst I was at it I had a go at the contents of my letter rack too. Free broadband would seem to be a theme at the moment. PlusNet are offering me three months free. Sky are offering me six months free.

After all of last week’s fun and games finding out my electricity meter is broken, the leccie company has written to me asking me to read the thing (!) The same people, having just given me a refund of fifty quid from the gas bill also asked me to give them a gas meter reading and have put the price of gas up too. Just as well my new boiler is that much more efficient.

 

And after work I had a game of poker. Despite winning at least a dozen hands, I still managed to finish in last place. It’s just as well I don’t play cads for money…

 

 

2 October 2010 (Saturday) - Moving House

 

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Up with the lark and off to work. Since I discovered that I can get paid overtime for working Saturday mornings, I’ve been rather keen to do them. Work was much the same as it usually is and then home for the business of the day. Today was one of those days when so much had been planned, and events had conspired against me.

Originally the idea was to go to London to the Brick Lane Curry Festival, but having had to shell out for a new boiler meant that economies had to be made. For the same reason we’d turned down an invitation to the South of England show. Instead we thought we might go visit a friend of a friend who keeps alpacas (a sort of mini-llama) but she was busy today. In the end we helped Chip move house. “Moving house” is one of those phrases which are so easy to type, but not quite so easy to do.

 

We set off from home to Chip’s with three cars between us, and on the way my mobile rang. I quickly checked to see who was calling. It was my mother. She never rings my mobile. But I couldn’t answer in heavy traffic, nor could I stop. As I tried to find somewhere to pull up, my mind was racing. Why would she be ringing my mobile? It must be something serious. When I finally pulled up I had resigned myself to there having been a death in the close family. I could honestly think of no other reason for my mother to ring me on my mobile. She answered the phone, and happily announced that they were going on holiday in a few days time. She’s been on holiday so many times, and has never told me about it before. What was so vital about this holiday? In retrospect I was relieved, but I could have wrung necks at the time.

 

And then er indoors TM excelled herself. Having voomed off in front of everyone else, she arrived half an hour late, having been shopping for groceries. Eventually we loaded up five cars full of assorted stuff and drove off to his new domicile (!). No one told me he was on the second floor. I suppose that exercise is good for me, but there’s no denying that I did puff as I heaved stuff up those stairs. I dread to think what Chip’s new neighbours must have thought as they climbed over me as I lay down outside his new home for a breather.

 

“Daddies Little Angel TM ” brought a smile to her Daddies face. As she wrestled with “Arfur” (arf a table) the table won the fight by swinging out its extension and copping her a sixpenny one around the earholes. I have often said that there is never anything as amusing as someone else’s misfortunes.

 

After a smashing bit of tea I then backed up my blog to my archive, provided by the sterling fellow over at the Energize Group. I’d not actually done a backup for two months. Had Blogger and my home PC gone west, what a loss to humanity that might have been.

I spent the remainder of the evening in NeverWinter where I have been asked to retrieve a golden chalice from a spider-infested crypt. Moving house was more fun, but less tiring…

 

 

3 October 2010 (Sunday) - Stuff

 

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Again I was up with the lark. I’d had a very disturbed night, having had a nightmare that we’d acquired a pet rabbit the size of a horse and was affectionately known as “Lamb Chop”. In my dream “Lamb Chop” would not be happy unless he was sitting on my head, morning, noon and night. I was resigned to spending the rest of “Lamb Chop”’s life (or my own, whichever would be the shorter) with a grossly oversized rabbit on my head. Waking up screaming at 4am came as a blessed relief, but for some obscure reason I couldn’t get back off to sleep.

 

I got up and had brekky whilst mucking about on some work-related projects. Over on Facebook one of my favourite cousins has told me off for doing so much work stuff in my own time, and she is probably right. Mind you, I’m only doing the bits of my job that I actually want to do in my own time. The more tedious bits can and will wait. I must admit that I am very jealous of people who absolutely love their jobs, and effectively get paid for doing their hobby.

I only did half an hour’s work, and then went back to NeverWinter. The spiders are cleared out of the crypt, but somehow or other I have become the High Priestess of a dragon-worshipping cult.

 

And then my mobile beeped: a text message. More house moving. First of all to Bilting to collect a bed and a mattress. And then to Kennington for chairs and wardrobes. And then to South Willesborough to go up and down stairs more times than you would think possible for the more rotund physique. After a quick cuppa to calm my nerves we put the bed together. The bed assembled easily enough, but the mattress was fun. The thing came packed: very tightly rolled. When we managed to cut the packaging the mattress literally flew out of the wrappings. In the aftermath of the explosion we found a scrap of paper fluttering down. It bore a whole load of instructions and disclaimers for what we should do before unwrapping the mattress. It actually said “Please test the mattress for comfort and size with the plastic bag still on. Only remove the bag if you are satisfied and you wish to keep the mattress.” Bearing in mind the thing came sealed and rolled up, one would have thought the manufacturers might have put these instructions outside the packaging, rather than wrapping it inside the curled mattress, but what do I know?

 

With the last of today’s removals done I had a quick shower then we went shopping. Usually Sunday is Lidl’s day, but for a change we had a look in Wilkinson’s. Wilkinson’s is probably best described as being like the pikey bits of Lidl’s, only ten times bigger. Personally I preferred Lidl’s. If only because they do parsnip crisps. And having got soaking wet in the rain whilst going to Wilkinsons I came home and watched the Sunday afternoon film. “Aces High” is something I can remember going to see at the cinema with a third cousin (from Orpington) many years ago. I can’t honestly say whether it’s improved over the years as I slept through most of it.

 

And then after a bit of tea “My Boy TM” announced he was bored, so I got that tattoo done that I’d been threatening to have done for some time. People often comment that I like having tattoos done. I do not. I like having tattoos. But the mechanics of having the things put on are entirely a different matter. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that tattoos don’t hurt…

 

4 October 2010 (Monday) - Twenty Four Years...

 

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One of my carpets fell apart this morning. For some years the seal on the back door hasn’t been quite what it might have been, and when it rains heavily we need to pull the carpet away from the door. Because if we don’t, through the wonders of capillary action the carpet gets sodden. Last night we took the dripping wet carpet and put it on the radiator to dry out. Today the carpet was dropping bits off of itself. You can only dry a carpet so many times.Time for a new one.

 

I phoned the carpet shop who said they had an off-cut which sounded to be about the right size, so on the way home I picked it up. As I carried the thing back to my car I was harangued by a passing local. This chap started blaming me for all the failings of the Shepherd Neame brewery. I can’t say they are my favourite brewer. But they are a long way from being my most hated. Personally I quite like a drop of “Late Red”, and their porter is nectar. I smiled politely at this chap whose ranting was becoming more and more vitriolic. When he paused for breath I asked why he didn’t have a go at the brewery directly. The reason was that he was telling me to my face.

It was only as I drove off that I remembered I was wearing my Shepherd Neame tie. I received the tie as a birthday present in 2008. Seeing my tie, I can only imagine that this plank must have thought I was connected with the company.

 

Having obtained a replacement carpet, I realised that I needed to cut the thing to shape. I also realised that this new carpet will get wet too, unless I do something about the door seal. So I popped into B&Q. First of all to get a Stanley knife. I couldn’t fine one, so I asked the nice man. He muttered something about them being over the way, and he waved his hand in what I assumed was the general direction. I tried to ask him about door seals, but his attention was clearly elsewhere. I eventually found the Stanleyknifes and asked three other assistants about door seals. One had never heard of a door seal, and two couldn’t care less about door seals. I found what I wanted myself, and grumbled as I made my way to the checkout. And who should I meet but a very good friend of mine who was giving the acting manager some stick about the poor quality service he’d received. So I joined in too. And having verbally crucified the poor sap we both gloated all the way home. For all the talk of credit crunch and recession, these companies don’t seem to want my money.

I really should do something about installing the new door seal and laying the new carpet. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow…

 

There’s something familiar about today’s date. Didn’t something historical happen? In 1883 on this date the Boys Brigade was founded. In 1957 on this date Sputnik 1 was launched. And in 1986…?

I’m glad that Facebook reminded me that it was my wedding anniversary…

 

 

5 October 2010 (Tuesday) - Crumble, Carpet

 

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Normally I’m not too late to bed when there’s work the next day, but last night I made an exception. “My Boy TM ” came crashing through the front door at 10.30pm having been doing some late night scrumping. He had more apples than sense, and loudly announced that he was going to make an apple crumble. There was a frantic clattering in the kitchen for ten minutes, and then he bellowed up the stairs asking how one actually makes an apple crumble. Being somewhat vague on the subject myself I suggested he peeled the apples, stewed them and then baked them under some light pastry.

He seemed happy with this idea and went back to his crashing about, but after five minutes he roared up the stairs to ask how vital the peeling was: he’d lost interest in peeling the apples. I wasn’t going to peel them for him, so I suggested he leapt straight to the stewing stage. He asked how one stewed apples. I don’t know why he thought I was the culinary genius. I told him that it was like stew but without the dumplings. Then he bellowed up the stairs. Would I turn the taps for him because he had got raw pastry on his hands. I say “pastry” – he’d bodged something out of milk and a tub of Utterly Butterly and he wanted to wash his hands before rolling it out. I hadn’t the heart to tell him I didn’t think we had a rolling pin. He soon found out this sad fact for himself, but improvised with a can of underarm deodorant. Judging by the noise, there was then a most enthusiastic bout of washing up, and then our thoughts turned to custard. I’ve never heard custard cooked quite so loudly before, but he confidently boasted that it was going to look like custard, so I must admit my hopes were high.

Eventually he dished up shortly after midnight. Surprisingly the apple crumble and custard was worth the wait. Mind you, this episode probably explains why I spent today feeling very tired and with a nagging guts ache. And talking of nagging guts aches, I popped up to see Glenn today. Having had his appendix out last week, he’s now back in hospital with complications. I didn’t actually get to see him – when I visited he was actually in the operating theatre. So I chatted with Sue for a bit before making my excuses and coming home. I would have liked to have stayed and waited for him, but if I was coming out of surgery I wouldn’t want to have me visiting. And also I knew the Rear Admiral would be at home, and I had this plan that he could help me lay my new bit of carpet.

 

Laying the carpet was painless enough: we hoiked up the old carpet, hovered round, laid down newspaper and the put the new carpet down on the newspaper. I’m not sure what the newspaper was all about, but whenever I’ve lifted up carpet, there’s always been newspaper underneath it. Perhaps it’s the rules: I don’t know. But who am I to break with tradition?

 

And then for the Tuesday gathering. This time at Matt’s where we say a “Duncan Norvelle” train set in which two digital toy trains were playing “chase me!” There was also talk of a Dorian Grey basement, but after the train set, all else pales into insignificance…

 

 

6 October 2010 (Wednesday) - Another Day...

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Up early (as usual) and then off to Asda to get lunch (as usual) and off to work (as usual). All rather dull really. Whilst at work I popped up to the surgical ward to visit the malingerer. On my first two visits he was fast asleep, but he seemed quite chirpy when I went back for the third time. (Sometimes working in a hospital can be quite handy) He’s had his operation, had various tubes coming out of various places, and was wearing a rather fetching dress. Normally I would have photographed the dress, but it’s not fair to photograph cross dressing when people are poorly and not at their best.

The radio had an interesting article today. The Duke of Devonshire has had a clear out and is staging an attic sale. Presumably His Grace has a larger attic that the average punter, as he has some twenty thousand bits of tat he’s trying to shift. There’s no denying that I’d like to have a sale of all the unwanted tat cluttering up my house. Perhaps I could persuade er indoors TM  to follow His Grace’s lead?

And (apparently) more of England is currently forested now than has been for the last two hundred years. Presumably there is money in planting trees, and large tracts of what was once fields is now managed forest. I always think that it is quite a shame that the old camp site in Smarden (from my days in the Boys Brigade) has been planted as a forest. Today’s radio program made me dig out some old photographs and then I got busy with the scanner. What appears as open land in that album is now all trees...

 

 

7 October 2010 (Thursday) - More Stuff

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Our new coalition government is beginning to let us know about the cuts it intends to make. Some I agree with. The whole question of child benefit needs to be reviewed. We quite happily took child benefit for our two children. In retrospect I would like to have had more children to claim for, but I knew that a third bub would be beyond our budget, and so we didn’t go for a third child. It would have been nice to have had more, and the state would probably have funded more (hypothetical) children to an extent, but I believe I should pay my way. Much as it pains me to admit it, I’m in agreement with the Culture Secretary who says that people who breed like rabbits should pay for breeding like rabbits.

Mind you I don’t agree with Lord Hutton who’s reviewing public sector pensions. He may well feel it unfair that pensions are based on a person’s final wage, and that individuals are contributing far too little to the pension funds. It could well be that pensions based on a career average wage with higher contributions may well be a better way forward for the economy. However I for one am paying into the scheme as it was sold to me some thirty years ago. Am I alone in thinking the government’s being a bit cheeky by trying to move the goalposts when I’m almost three quarters of the way through paying for my pension?

Meanwhile this evening I’m “home alone”. er indoors TM has gone to the scout group’s annual general meeting. I’ve been thinking all day about whether or not I should go. On the one hand I’d like to see some old friends and find out what’s been going on in the two years since I left the group. On the other hand I’m still rather insulted that the chap who does nothing but collect the subs got a formal award for his services to scouting, and rather miffed that after thirteen years of my being a leader they gave me a five years service certificate. Also I know that if I went along tonight I’d be asked to start helping again, and that I would feel that I couldn’t say no. Even though I don’t want to help again.

Meanwhile, following on from yesterday’s nostalgia, I’ve found my holiday snaps from the Boys Brigade camp in 1983 and have put them on Facebook. Somewhere there are photos from even earlier Boys Brigade stuff. If only I could find them…..

 

 

8 October 2010 (Friday) - Euromillions

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Up at the crack of dawn, ironing done, and off to work. It’s no secret that for all that I grumble about my job I’m a lot happier with it than I was a couple of years ago. The reason is clear – some eighteen months ago I asked for a grade reduction. A fifteen percent cut in wages was accompanied by a ninety per cent cut in stress. At the time, whilst I was actually in the throes of settling into my reduced role I met up with one of the reps who I see from time to time. I’ve known this bloke for years, and he’s now more of a friend than a rep. He’s even on my Facebook list (and I’m getting very fussy over who is allowed on that!) At the time, this chap was not surprised in the least that I was taking a grade reduction. In his line of work he gets to meet a lot of people in my line of work, and he told me that he knew of loads of people who’d taken a similar voluntary downgrading. Today a chap at work with whom I was equal two years ago formally announced he too has asked for (and has been given) a voluntary demotion. I wonder how many more people are looking to do the same?

I’ve just said that I’m getting very fussy about my Facebook list. Does the name “Phil Towler” ring any bells with any of my loyal readers? The chap’s asked to add me as a friend. I see from his profile that he has the possibility of knowing me. He runs theHealing

 Voice centre

 in Ashford, so I might have met him socially. However the fact that he already has 2741 friends on Facebook makes me very dubious about the bloke.

Also on Facebook it’s 80s week. I wonder if my recent space of photos from Boys Brigade camps has prompted this?

I bought my Euromillions ticket this evening. For all that my new boiler has meant that I’m going through a “zero expenditure” phase, with a jackpot of over one hundred million quid I thought it was well worth an investment of two quid. Did I win? What do you think? But I can dream.

What would I do with one hundred and twelve million pounds? Well, the first thing I would do would be to smile. And then I’d have to see my friends and family were all right. Mind you, that would take some doing. I’ve done some sums. Giving a million quid to close family members and a quarter of a million quid each to everyone else would come to over forty million quid. But that would still leave me with over sixty million quid to squander foolishly.

As you go to bed, loyal readers, you can content yourself with the thought that in a parallel plane of reality there is another version of you that is (at least) a quarter of a million pounds better off…

9 October 2010 (Saturday) - Eastbourne - Ice Creams & Fireworks

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For once I didn’t have to be up early, and so had a lie in till 9am. How cool was that? Mind you if I stay in bed much longer than that I get backache. And so with ‘er indoorsTM kicked out of the pit we put our new mattress into place. During the week we acquired a new mattress. It just turned up. Things like that happen in my world; over the years I’ve learned not to question this, but to go with the flow.

During the week we laid new carpet by the back door. This morning we used the off-cuts to replpace the bathroom carpet. Over the years it had got rather worn out. Mostly because of  “My Boy TM ” refusing to dry himself in the bath and insisting on dripping all over the carpet. He’s been given a lesson in how to use baths and towels, and we shall see how long the new carpet lasts. Whilst we were carpeting, next door’s dogs barked and howled and screamed constantly, despite next door doing her best to shut them up. I know many of my loyal readers are dog lovers, but I really can’t see the attraction.

And then with the clans gathered we set off to Eastbourne for the annual Ice Cream Extravaganza. Normally we leave for Eastbourne fairly early to spend a couple of hours in the pub first, but a combination of economy and common sense had us leaving somewhat later so there would only be time for the one pint before everyone else arrived. And with that one pint drunk we went for ice creams.

There was a dodgy couple of minutes outside the ice cream parlour spent pulling faces at Charlotte, only to find it wasn’t Charlotte, but one of the normal people. Such is life. And then having met up with the birthday girl and the rest of our party, over a dozen of us set about ice creams. Whilst my beloved had a strawberry Pavlova ice cream, I had “Honeycomb Heaven”, followed by banana and malteser ice cream. Meanwhile “Daddies Little Angel TM ” was having a “Girl Vs Food” episode which, after the second bucket of ice cream, food won (this time!).

Suitably stuffed we went for a walk along the prom. On the way we went down to the sea and threw stones in the water (and in the Rear Admiral’s mush). We found an open-air stage where I gave a rendition of “Keep Young and Beautiful”, and we had some chips. Having given myself a rather impressive guts ache from over indulgence in ice cream I had this idea that chips might settle my stomach, They didn’t. However I got to meet the nice police lady who Simon had dragged over to be photographed with me. I pretended to be my “special” identical twin, and offered the nice police lady a chip. And another chip. And another chip. She was incredibly patient with what she saw as a “special” gentle giant who was clearly on a day out from the “special” hospital. And then I realised I’d started something, and periodically for the rest of the day I would go into “special” mode and wind up the normal people. I’m not quite sure how, but I managed to keep a straight face when all around me were falling about laughing.

Having said goodbye to those who had to be home for bed time we made time for a crafty pint, then found a good place to watch the fireworks. We dragged the public benches along the sea front to where we wanted them, and then silenced the normal people who said we couldn’t move the benches by moving benches for them. Luminous flashing rabbit ears were bought and activated, a s is always the case for fireworks. And a couple of passing fit birds took a fancy to “Yours Truly” and asked if they could have their photo taken with me. I was up for that!

An old friend recently moved to Eastbourne found us, and after playing sparklers we cheered at the bonfire procession and settled back for one of the best firework displays I’ve seen in a long time. It would have been good to have stayed and checked out the beer tent, but we knew we had a long drive home.

A great day out – a shame Eastbourne is so far away…

10 October 2010 (Sunday) - Mattresses

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Yesterday I mentioned we had a new mattress. It wasn’t quite as soft as I was thinking it might be, so that was a result. Mind you, the new pillows are a bit high for comfort. Or that is having two pillows is a bit high, having one is a bit low. I shall thump them tonight and see what happens.

We then went on a drive to get rid of the old mattress. I was all for throwing it over a hedge somewhere in the countryside. As a child in the early 70s I once helped my father to get rid of an old three piece suite that way. I can vividly remember pulling up by a hedge in the black of night, silently pulling knacked furniture out of the van and passing it to my father who (equally silently) hoiked the stuff over said hedge before we sped off as quick as we could before we got caught. They don’t make father-son bonding like that any more. (Thank the Lord!) But in this brave new world of saving the planet from ecological catastrophe, things are different now. Which, in some ways, is a shame really.

‘er indoors TM  had advertised the old mattress on FreeCycle. I’ve blogged about FreeCycle before; it is run by the most rude and arrogant administrators, but it is a good way to get rid of unwanted tat. Within half an hour of the advert going up, we had the mattress in the back of my car and were off to deliver the thing to someone who could make good use of it. Personally I wouldn’t want a mattress that has had me sleeping, sweating and farting on it for more years than I care to remember, but it would seem that not everyone is as fussy as I am. It rather bothered me that the people who had me deliver this mattress had a better house than me, and in the driveway was a better car than mine. I suppose (if nothing else) this episode demonstrates why they are better off than I am.

And then shopping. First of all to Lidl where they would seem to be cutting back on the tat that they sell. That’s a shame: the tat is the only good thing about Lidls. And then to Farm Foods where (apparently) the bog roll is cheaper.

Yesterday as we were driving to Eastbourne we saw signposts to Bodiam Castle. I had a vague plan to go there today, but now being on a budget, and having spent too much money yesterday, we knocked that idea on the head. I spent a few minutes coming up with a provisional itinerary for next weekend’s bonfire fun. For those of my loyal readers who will be coming to the Hastings bonfire parade I’ve put a provisional timetable on the “Dates for the Diary” section of the blog. Like most plans I make, I doubt this one will actually bear any resemblance to reality.

I then thought about mowing the lawn. It really needs mowing, but to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered, so I put “Starship Troopers” on the DVD machine and watched that for the afternoon. I enjoyed it, and so put the sequel “Starship Troopers 2” on and promptly fell asleep. After tea I had a mooch round NeverWinter, if only to keep myself awake.

There’s no denying that after yesterday’s fun at Eastbourne, today was something of an anticlimax…

Or so I thought. Just as I was about to publish this blog entry we had a power cut. I’ve recently taken to burning ‘er indoors TM ‘s lame candles. It was just as well that I do – without warning the power went. Suddenly the only light was that from the little candle. Without it I would have been in total darkness. The power was out for about fifteen minutes, and from what I can work out from people’s Facebook comments it would seem to have happened over a large part of Ashford. I wonder what caused it…?

11 October 2010 (Monday) - Electricity and Yetis

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Last night, just as I was about to publish the day’s blog entry we had a power cut. I mentioned that I’d recently taken to burning ‘er indoors TM ‘s lame candles, and that without warning the power went and without that candle I would have been in total darkness. The power went out again an hour later, and again we were in darkness. It would seem that I wasn’t alone – about thirteen thousand other houses were affected.

But I’m not consoled by that at all – I’m rather miffed. At the moment I actually make a point of watching only one TV program a week. And it was during that program that the power went off. And that program was on the only channel that isn’t repeated an hour later. That channel: ITV 1. Can you believe it? All the rubbish and drivel channels have a “+1” option. ITV 1 does not.

I’d arranged a late start today so’s the nice man could come and swap our leccie meter for one that works. I’d had a bit of a ding-dong with the leccie company about what time the nice man would arrive; they’d claimed they couldn’t be more precise than a four-hour window. I’d claimed that was ridiculous – at the very least he could have phoned me when he was finishing the previous job and I could have come home to meet him. After all, their competitors do that.

In the event the chap arrived at 8.30 and was gone by 9.15. It turned out that it wasn’t the leccie meter that was at fault, it was the timer. Our timer was (apparently) as old as I am and was knacked. (I can understand that). We had the leccie meter swapped out a few years ago because that one didn’t work either, and the nice man seemed amazed they didn’t swap the timer then as well. The new meter has a built in timer, but is temporary. Apparently within the next five years it will be swapped for one that is read by a satellite (!)

Meanwhile, half way across the world science has decided to go and look for theabominable snowman. It would seem that science has (in the past) found the thing’s bed and its turds. And, not to be outdone, the Russians have already had a look and have found that their yetis have been fighting with bears.

Am I alone in finding something strange with the fact that British science has had its funding slashed, but the Chinese and Russians have money to burn on wild goose (Yeti?) chases?

12 October 2010 (Tuesday) - Telly and Work

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Yesterday I whinged about the power cut interrupting the recording of “Downton Abbey”. I like period dramas, and having sulked that there wasn’t an ITV1 +1 channel I found that the program would be repeated next Sunday evening.  I wasn’t prepared to wait that long and so I was up with the lark this morning and thought I’d just sulk about the bit I would miss because of the power cut. It turned out that the power cut had been perfectly timed to coincide with the advert break. I didn’t miss any of the program. Sulk averted!

Some time in the mid 1990s I can remember going to the graduation ceremony of the first trainee whose training I oversaw. Since then I’ve formally overseen the training of undergraduate and newly appointed people at work. So far I’ve successfully seen the qualification of seventeen trainees. Today made eighteen.

One of the parts of my job that I like the most is when I get to go to the University or to other hospitals to asses and inspect other student’s pre registration portfolios. One of the parts of my job that I like the least is when someone else comes to inspect my student’s pre registration portfolios. We had such an inspection today.

We had a rather nerve-racking time waiting for the inspector to arrive. And an even more nerve wracking time waiting for him to inspect the portfolio. In the event she passed with flying colours. We knew she would anyway, but it’s still worrying.

For myself I was very interested to see what the inspector thought of her portfolio. I’ve put a lot of effort into producing a website of advice for students compiling pre registration portfolios over the last year. It would seem my efforts were vindicated. He was very impressed, and even asked if he could use one or two of my ideas at his own lab. Engage smug mode…

And then home, where the Rear Admiral had had one sausage too many. How unmoral of him…

13 October 2010 (Wednesday) - More Yetis

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Last night the Blogger software was playing up – it kept turning the day’s photo through ninety degrees. I only got the thing right by turning it back through ninety degrees the other way so that it would turn the piccie to how I wanted it. Let’s hope that’s not going to be a feature.

A late start meant I didn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn today. Unfortunately (as I’m sure all of my world-wide loyal readers heard“My Boy TM ” got up rather quietly for work shortly after 6am this morning and so only the dead would have slept through that racket. And once he’d finished crashing about the house, the dustmen came up the road. Unfortunately the dustmen were not in “stealth mode” either, conducting conversations which they bellowed up and down the street. So I gave up trying to sleep and got up. I wrestled with my accounts over brekkie. They weren’t good. Hopefully working overtime on every Saturday morning for the next year will do some good.

Mind you, some economies on the home front might help. For example whenever “My Boy TM eats bread, he seems to feel the need to get a fresh loaf out of the freezer. This morning I chucked out the remnants of five stale loaves of bread, each with half a dozen slices still in the bag. If the bread has already gone stale he should chuck it out; if it’s not stale he should eat it. I shall have a rant at him later, but I doubt he’ll take any notice. He never has so far…

I’d heard a rumour that Lidls were flogging ale at a quid a bottle, so I thought I’d have a look. I’d heard wrongly, but I was able to get some cheap lunch whilst I was there. On Sunday I mentioned that they appeared to be cutting back on the tat that they sold. I was again wrong. The tat was back with a vengeance, this time including pairs of fluffy plastic crocs for a fiver. Now it’s no secret that I’m currently on an economy drive, but no economy drive on Earth would stop me getting fluffy crocs.

And today I found out more news about the Russian yetis. A couple of days I mentioned that the Russian authorities had reported that their yetis had been fighting with bears. An obvious question is who would win in such a fight.

However it transpires that this is a serious question. Were the bears to win, then the defeated yetis merely go back up the mountains to where they came from, and all is well with the world. However if the yetis win, then the bears will be forced to run away (in disgrace) down the mountain to where people currently live. The Russian authorities are so concerned that the bears are going to get their butts kicked that they have taken to leaving out food dumps for bashed-up bears; the idea being to stop the bears coming to local villages for their dinner.

I wonder if I should take sides in the fight…?

14 October 2010 (Thursday) - Dull

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I see the miners who have been trapped underground in Chile for months have finally been rescued. Many are thanking God for their safe return. Is it so wrong of me to wonder where God was (and what God was doing) when the miners got stuck in the first place

Meanwhile, aficionados of Roald Dahl might be pleased to learn that Willy Wonka’s three course meal chewing gum is no longer purely in the realms of fantasy, but could soon be a reality, due to the wonders of variable strength nanoparticles.

You would think that science had better things to do with it’s time.

It’s been a quiet day in my world today….

15 October 2010 (Friday) - Extinctions, Abolitions and Cards

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Rinderpest is a disease of cattle, and may be familiar to my rural readership. Or (to be precise) it *was* a disease of cattle. It is no more. Humanity has rid the world of rinderpest. So far mankind has managed to make two viral species extinct: first smallpox (in 1980) and now rinderpest.

It’s a shame we are so much better at extinctions with larger creatures such as Thylacines, Chinese River Dolphins, Passenger Pigeons, Pig-footed bandicoots… the list is endless.

And talking of permanently getting rid of things, I see the government is axing many of it’s quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations (quangos). Some of these bodies had to go – they were rather nonsensical. After all, did we really need the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee on the purchase of Wines? I think not – and as it disappears we say goodbye and good riddance to it. The Football Licensing Authority is no more. One wonders what it did in the first place.

The Hearing Aid Council and the General Social Care Council have both been subsumed into the Health Professions Council, which is arguably the only Quango worth keeping. If only for the fact that they look after my professional registration.

I’m a tad concerned that British Nuclear Fuels Ltd has been given the chop. Are we seriously going to privatise nuclear power stations? (I expect it’s already happened…). And making the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence a self-funding body is a dubious thing to do – after all any body which has to go looking for its own funding automatically lends itself to accusations of not being impartial.

 

Meanwhile back in reality, despite Chippy never having been sure about dick (!) and not using the pink ones much (double !), we settled down for a game of cards. “My Boy TM ”was all for taking part until he realised it was just for fun and that no money changed hands. Then he realised he had better things to do.

It is probably as well that no money changes hands – much as I like a game of cards, I always lose. For some reason the Rear Admiral did well this evening. Shenanigans…?

16 October 2010 (Saturday) - Hastings Bonfire

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To work. We have a Saturday rota in which we each get to work on a Saturday morning once a month. No one really wants to do it, but it is paid as overtime. I’m doing loads of Saturday mornings at the moment.

And then home for a quick sarnie and to pack some beer for the evening. Rather than spending too much time in the pubs, it’s cheaper to take a bag of beer. Cheaper, and heavier. I lugged my bag to the railway station, got my ticket and then bought a bag of crisps from a particularly sarcastic chap who had told the person in front of me in the queue that he should smile occasionally. He told me that he finds if he has a laugh and a joke with the customers, they come back. I just smiled, but wondered if the bloke really was that dumb that he didn’t realise that the travellers have to go to his shop: there are no others on the platform.

Apart from a Chinese chap asking everybody if he was on the train to Eastbourne for the entire journey, the trip to Hastings was relatively uneventful. On arrival I couldn’t face lugging my bag of beer all the way along the sea front so I got the bus. It’s a long time since I last got a bus in Hastings; I had forgotten. Let’s just say that it will be a long time till I get another one….

I made my way to the lifeboat station where ‘er indoors TM “Daddies Little Angel TM ”and the Rear Admiral were flying kites with the Brighton Kite Flyers. I say “flying kites” – I arrived to see the octopus kite being dragged out of the sea. I did laugh. My Auntie Linda had come down to see the kites, and we spend a few minutes catching up before wandering over to the fishing club to see my daddy.

On the train down I’d had a text, and so we then set off to the FILO to meet up with old friends and to have a couple of pints before the bonfire procession started. Now bearing in mind that the FILO does (arguably) the best beer on the planet as standard, when they are running a beer festival you can be sure of a decent pint. We had a decent gallon before moving on to Winkle Island; a local landmark which had aroused the interest of several of our party (for no apparent reason)

Winkle Island is right next to a pub. The Dolphin is (probably) the second best pub in Hastings, so we decided it would be rude not to have a pint (or two) there. It was at this point that flashing rabbit ears were acquired and we then met up with “My Boy TM ” , who for some reason had been trying to meet us on the pier. We soon found my brother and his family, and we then cheered at the bonfire parade and fireworks. You can’t beat a good bonfire parade…

And then home, pausing only a few times for various members of our party to blow (not me, I hasten to add!). I remember a similar journey home from Hastings this time last year…

17 October 2010 (Sunday) - PC Problems

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As I booted up my PC this morning I got a notification that I could upgrade my anti-virus software for free. That was nice, so I did. Once it had finished installing itself, the thing then ran a PC analyser which told me I had 622 registry errors, 17,878 junk file, 26 broken shortcuts and my disk was 13% fragmented. The whole lot warranted a yellow alert and the opportunity to buy some PC fixing software.

I wasn’t overly fussed, but I had it on good authority that fixing said problems would improve the function of my PC. And there’s no denying that the computer doesn’t go like it used to. So I scanned for (and deleted) temporary files, which got my junk files count down to 1111. I then ran the windows defragmenter, which didn’t seem to do very much but make a lot of noise. That part has now got a green status light, so I suppose it must have done something.

It was suggested that I got (and ran) CCleaner; a free program which would fix the other problems. I downloaded it, ran it and all it did was try to speed up the PC by suggesting I delete all the things I actually use the PC for. I then tried its registry cleanup facility. I now have 621 registry errors. It fixed one error, but it did give me three more broken shortcuts. I decided to quit whilst I was ahead.

I popped round to Chip’s new flat – he’d asked if I could help lug a bed up two flights of stairs. I was game for it – it’s all exercise. One of these days I’m going to go up those stairs empty-handed.

I came home and ironed seven shirts whilst watching a couple of instalments of “Man vs Food”. After some food of my own, we popped out for some shopping.

First of all to “Hopeless“. There’s not many furniture shops that do  fireworks, but we’ve been invited to a fireworks party in a few weeks time, and for all that I’m skint it’s been my experience that when buying fireworks you should get them when you see them. If you wait till payday, then the shops will have sold out. I bought a “Sky Assortment” bag of twenty rockets, featuring rockets named “Moon”, Mars”, “Sun” and “Jupiter”. I thought that would be rather appropriate.

We didn’t do our usual Sunday trip to Lidl. Instead we went to Farm Foods; a rather dismal place with all of the inherent pikey-ness of Lidls, but with no tat to brighten an otherwise dull shopping experience.

And then we called in at Bybrook Barn garden centre where we got a replacement bulb for the fish tank. As it happens we got the wrong replacement bulb for the fish tank. I shall have to take it back in the week. I’m just dreading going back. Whilst buying the (wrong) bulb I queued for the best part of half an hour whist two dur-brained twits behind the counter struggled (and failed) to work the till. They were trying to operate the till as a double act, and clearly neither had the faintest idea about how to work the thing. Heaven only knows how they will cope with exchanging an item.

Whilst we were there we had a mosey round the Xmas tat – Bybrook barn have got all their Xmas tat out. I made me feel quite Xmassy. I’m looking forward to Xmas this year. For the last heaven knows how many years we’ve spent every Xmas day driving from one set of family and friends to another. This year we’re not. I’ve got the whole Xmas week off work this year. Whilst we’ve plans to visit people and to go out to places with friends and family during that week, for once my Xmas day is going to be spent on my bum, scoffing and guzzling in front of my telly.

And then home again, and to NeverWinter where I found myself in a cave with an umber hulk. Which wasn’t a good place to be…

18 October 2010 (Monday) - Dull

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It’s officially winter. Why do I say that? This morning, for the first time this year, I had to scrape ice off of my car windscreen.

 

And so to work. I got assigned to where I could listen to the radio. There was a wonderful moral discussion which lasted for an hour. The topics under consideration ranged from abortion to euthanasia, and from, the concept of a just war to assisted suicides. The panel consisted of a prominent theologian, a lay member of the Synod of the Church of England, a religious crackpot and an atheist. As you might expect, the panel had a range of opinions. One of the panel arrived at his opinions through a long process of considered thought. The other three either parroted the official opinion of their religion; an opinion mostly established by people now long since dead. Or they had voices in their heads telling them what to say. Interestingly the only consensus that the panel ever arrived at was that the atheist was wrong to think for himself.

Yesterday I mentioned that I’d bought the wrong bulb for the fish tank. I went back to the shop to exchange it. They quite happily refunded my money, and then got rather sniffy when I tried to buy the right bulb. What was wrong with the one I’d brought back? I suppose I should be pleased that I’d not made an elementary mistake, and that even the professionals couldn’t tell the two light bulbs apart….

And on a more exciting note the battery in my watch went flat. I can distinctly remember buying the watch on the morning of June 2 2009. I know the date because I bought the watch for ten quid, then I went to a funeral. The watch has lasted for a year and a half. Is that good? I really don’t know. A new battery would probably cost as much as a new watch, and since I didn’t like having a watch with hands but preferred a digital one, perhaps this was God’s way of telling me to get a new watch. So I went toArgos and got a cheapo one. I fully intended to make do without for a while, but I didn’t realise how much I checked the time until I didn’t have a watch.

Dull, so dull…..

19 October 2010 (Tuesday) - Swans, Calendars, Stufff

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Last week I mentioned (indirectly) that it’s probably going to be a harsh winter as the yetis are coming down the mountains. Yesterday I noticed ice on my car. Today theSiberian swans have arrived to spend the winter in England. Whilst they do this every year, they have never before arrived so early. When we have the worst winter ever, just remember that you read all about it here first….

I received a text message this morning. An interesting fact – this month (October 2010) has five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays. Over the last few days I have had umpteen text messages to tell me that this only ever happens once every 823 years.

Rubbish!! This happened in 1998 and 2004, and will again happen in 2021, 2027 and 2032. In fact it will happen whenever October 1 falls on a Friday which (allowing for leap years) will happen at least once every fourteen years. Surely this is obvious…?

Something which happens every year is the Glastonbury music festival – or that is every year so far. Next year it might not. The reason – the 2012 Olympic Games have got dibs on all the nation’s portaloos. One wonders why they consider cancellation rather than re-scheduling for another date earlier or later than the Games.

And here’s a moral dilemma. For a lot of my readership, we just take it as read that if the worst happens, we are looked after by the state. Health care, police protection, and a fire service.

Not all of the world has this. In some parts of the world the services of the local fire brigade aren’t part of the council tax, and if you want to be able to call on the services of the firemen you pay an annual fee.

The Cranick family of Obion County, Tennessee live in such a part of the world. This year they forgot to pay their annual subs, and when their house went up in flames the local fire brigade came out to extinguish the flames next door, but let their house burn down.

If you were the fire chief, what would you have done…?

20 October 2010 (Wednesday) - Still Skint

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A late start gave me time to spend going through the morning’s post. Worryingly, I had a letter from work. I immediately suspected the worst. Why were they writing to me? It turned out that they weren’t happy with a claim I’d made for legitimate travel expenses a couple of months ago. According to their records they had several vehicle registration plate numbers against which I could claim expenses, but they didn’t have my current car as one of them. Odd then that they’ve paid other expense claims I’ve made for that car.

Talking of expenses, on September 6, I travelled to the University in London. Today they reimbursed my train fare. I could have done with that money ages ago.

And there was a letter from the garage. Having sold me a new car less than six months ago they wondered if I’d like to trade it in already. And whilst I’m on the subject of my car, I had a reminder about the road tax being due. Once upon a time I had money put aside to pay the road tax. I’ve bought six months worth. It was cheaper than a years worth, and now the road tax will be due at the same time as the M.O.T. I’ve put it on my credit card. The bill normally goes up to the 17th of each month, so hopefully I won’t have to actually pay this road tax for another month.

The power company wrote to me – they were putting up the prices of both leccie and gas. No surprises there. And I got a letter from the dentist. I pay into a monthly insurance policy with them, and once I’ve paid that, all the actual dental work is free. If you have good teeth, this can work out rather expensive. Me – I’m convinced I’m quids in with the deal. Mind you they are putting the monthly fee up in January. It’s going up by 4%, which I suppose is (just about) in line with the rate of inflation.

And a letter from the bank. What with all my money worries at the moment I’ve been swapping money from one account to another to tide me over. I have various accounts, most with overdraft facilities. When I first approached the bank about the forthcoming boiler expenses they wanted to double my overdraft limits. I said that wasn’t necessary. And it wouldn’t have been necessary. For all that money was tight, I knew what I was doing. Unfortunately the bank didn’t, and for no adequately explored reason they transferred nearly two hundred pounds from one of my accounts to another. They’d written to me apologizing that they were unable to agree to an informal overdraft request. Even though they’d offered one. But because they chose to do this transfer I went seriously overdrawn.

I phoned the bank and spoke to Shoba whose grasp of English was somewhat worse than my grasp of Urdu.

Once I’m straight I would like to pack up with them. Does anyone at Lloyds, Barclays or the NatWest speak English, and does anyone know if they are about to go bust…?

21 October 2010 (Thursday) - Little Bit of Politics

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Earlier in the week I mentioned about the noticeable signs of winter. Today we had the first frost of the year. And when I wandered down the garden at 10.30am the ice in the water features was still half an inch thick. I’m taking that as God’s way of telling me to put the Koi to bed for the winter. They won’t like it, but there it is.

Yesterday the Government (I never voted for them!) announced their spending cuts. I actually listened to the announcements as they were made live on the radio. When the Chancellor was speaking he kept saying what he was doing and what he was planning and where he was going to spend more money. At the time he didn’t actually say very much at all about where the cuts would fall.

It’s interesting that he slagged off the previous Government quite comprehensively, and laid the blame for our financial mess firmly on their doorstep. Especially interesting seeing how when all this financial disaster first kicked off, his party were (at the time) broadly supportive of the previous government’s fiscal plans.

Today’s news is full of financial doom and gloom, but then (let’s be honest) we all expected it to be. But (to be very selfish) what difference will it make to me? My pension contributions are going up and retirement will come later than I’d planned. And I’ll pay more tax, but then, won’t we all.

On a broader scale there will be fewer coppers on the beat, but then we never see any Old Bill on the beat anyway, and from bitter experience they don’t actually do much for anyone, do they? And what few remaining coppers there are will (presumably) be busy chasing the villains who aren’t going to be in prison, as the Ministry of Justice is facing cuts too.

Perhaps (seeing how the Government wants a smaller public sector and loves private enterprise) we could set up our own vigilante mobs to deliver justice as we ourselves see fit?

The cost of higher education is to go through the roof. So much for plans to have an educated population – who needs an education anyway? Rail fares are to go up and the BBC is to face massive cuts. So much for their financial independence.

It’s interesting that the Navy will still be allowed to have its two new aircraft carriers at a cost of a squillion pounds each. They will have no aircraft to carry, and the Navy will have no other ships at all, But HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth will be built.

And talking of senior Royals, the Civil List has got the chop. For all that I am an ardent Royalist, whilst Her Majesty is currently comfortable, I wonder how the Monarchy will cope in the future?

I’m told it’s necessary as the country is in debt. To whom are we in debt? Can’t we tell them to get stuffed? And whilst all this goes on, as a nation we can still afford to pay soccer players a million pounds a week wages… Am I missing something..?

22 October 2010 (Friday) - Fish Tanks and Astronomy

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I thought I’d take a day off work today. Mainly because not many other people were off, and if I don’t use my holiday, I lose it.

The plan for the day was fish tank maintenance. Keeping fish is a (relatively) low maintenance hobby, but occasionally you have to do something. Our fish tank was originally bought as a (second hand) gift for “My Boy TM ” over ten years ago. When he decided he’d had enough of fish, he passed the tank back to his old man. Over the last weeks and months (and years) the fish tank has grown more and more grungy, and so today I decided to pop the fish into a bucket, empty the tank completely, give it a scrub, reorganise the shelves behind it, and rebuild the whole lot a bit tidier than it once was. In theory it sounded a straightforward thing to do. The bits and bobs came out of the tank easily enough. Catching the fish was slightly more tricky, but “Daddies Little Angel TM ” soon caught the more elusive tiddlers.

The worst part of the job was scrubbing out the gravel. When we first got the tank it came with gravel. We never cleaned the stuff at the time of purchase, and since we’ve had the tank we’ve never cleaned the stuff. I got the gravel out of the tank and into a bucket, and the idea was that I’d fill the bucket with water, swill it all about a bit and after three of four changes of water the gravel would be as clean as if it were new. After twenty changes of water, the water was still black and thick with over ten years of various fishy gunges. I eventually got the water running clear, but it took some doing. But then, that was the whole reason why I was cleaning out the fish tank.

Time for reassembly. Everything went back together fairly easily. I had a plan to use some of the slate chippings I’d popped around the garden water features as a decoration in the fish tank. I couldn’t find the chippings. I wonder what I’ve done with them? And there was a dodgy five minutes when I was reconnecting the electricals: I managed to drop the plug for the heater into the fish tank. I didn’t swear much. But I took it apart, dried it out with a tea towel, and all was fine.

When we started there was a shelf on the wall just above the fish tank. I even managed to move the shelf up a bit and get another shelf in as well. There is now a minor dilemma in that the new shelves are closer together than the old ones were, and some of ‘er indoors TM ‘s dragons now are too tall for the shelves. But there are shorter dragons on taller shelves elsewhere. She can play moving dragons about later. She’ll enjoy that.

I had expected to spend most of the day on this job – in the end it only took a couple of hours, and so after sleeping in front of the telly for a while I decided that the fish tank needed more Neons. You can never have too many Neons. Bearing in mind how hopeless Bybrook Barn’s pet shop had been a few days ago, I thought I’d try the shop round the corner from me. So I walked into Pets at Home and went up to the counter where the nice lady was having a conversation with her friend. And I waited. And waited. And eventually gave up waiting and walked out. Having collected “Daddies Little AngelTM ” from college we both went back to Bybrook Barn who were very helpful (this time).

We had a mooch round and got the Neons, and a Siamese fighting fish. They are all called Dave.

And as I close this evening, spare a thought for those members of the Astronomy club who’ve gone off to the club’s first Astro Camp. In conjunction with the Cranbrookastronomy club, they’ve gone off to spend the entire night (up till tomorrow morning) star gazing.

On hearing about this Star Party, my initial reaction was to laugh at the idea. Star gazing at a kite festival or at the Batfarm is fun. Especially just after a gutful of ale, and just before falling asleep. But spending all night doing proper astronomy, and actually doing it properly as well, didn’t really appeal to me. But then I thought that I really shouldn’t run the idea down until I’d tried it. So I buttered up ‘er indoors TM and we set off to Cranbrook to see what was happening.

As it happened, not very much. The sky was rather overcast, and and when the clouds did break, the light of the full moon drowned out pretty much all of the sky. But we got to see the moon, and the moons of Jupiter. There were those doing it through telescopes. The Cranbrook people had got a huge telescope rigged up to a TV projector, and I sat inside with them watching stuff on the screen. And as it clouded over, we were able to use the technology to look at pictures they’d obtained previously. In my book that’s a resounding victory for the armchair astronomy brigade (!)

But it was cold and I have got to be up relatively early for work tomorrow, so we came home. I shall look forward to next week’s astro club meeting where they can tell me what happened after we left. And they can tell me in the comfort of a warm village hall…

23 October 2010 (Saturday) - Alpacas

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I woke in the night to the sound of heavy rain on the bedroom window. I had a wry smile at the thought of my friends who were camping at the Star Party in Cranbrook. And I rolled over and went back to sleep. Camping in the rain is all very well, provided someone else is doing it.

To work, which was frustrating, but was soon over and done with. The weather had been rather rough earlier, but by mid day it was quite bright so after a quick sandwich we met up with an old pal, and then we set off. Having missed the open day at the Alpaca farm whilst “doing ducks” a few weeks ago, we’d been invited to a private showing. Finding the Alpaca farm took some doing, but eventually we got there, and we spent a pleasant hour or so actually in the paddocks with the Alpacas, chatting with the Alpaca-herds.

Alpacas are basically a smaller version of Llamas, and once they’ve got used to you, they are quite inquisitive beasts. And they are pretty. We met loads of Alpacas, including “Alice” and “Geoffrey”, and learned loads about these wonderful animals.

Did you know that Alpaca poo is (apparently) corrosive stuff, and kills off the grass very quickly? And that it doesn’t smell? And that it is a very good fertiliser? Apparently the Alpaca-herds gather up the Alpaca poo with a “poo-ver” and pass on bags of dung to the locals. An arrangement which makes everyone (including the Alpacas) very happy. One lives and learns(!)

The Alpacas weren’t quite brave enough to let us stroke them, but I got down to their level and a couple came up to me and rubbed noses. One even managed to steam my specs up, which was a result.

And then the rain came back. Torrentially, and with some hail mixed in for good measure. So we retreated to the Alpaca-Barn. Gotham City has Bat-Caves; Kent has an Alpaca-Barn. We chatted in the barn for an hour or so before setting off homewards; via Smarden for coffee and cakes.

On the way home we also popped back to Bybrook barn. Yesterday I mentioned I’d given the fish tank an overhaul. Although all the fish survived, the light system didn’t, so I had to get a replacement.

On reflection the thing I don’t like most about the pet shop at Bybrook Barn is the aggressive, rude, overweight, “delightful lady” who is so often behind the till. She was there today, and with surly one-word answers she eventually supplied me with what I needed. Once home, installing the new light took ten minutes, and then after a decent bit of scran, it was off to NeverWinter for the evening….

24 October 2010 (Sunday) - Chestnuts

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For once I lay in my pit until after 10am. That doesn’t happen very often. By the time I’d finally gotten up and had some brekkie it was after mid day. So that the day wouldn’t be entirely wasted, ‘er indoors TM had this idea that we might go chestnut-ing. Apparently there were chestnut trees at Molash. So we drove to Molash; I slept most of the way there. On arrival at the village I was asked to take over navigating, and to lead us to the woods. Why did she ask me? What do I know? I hadn’t spent the morning asking everyone where the chestnuts were (!) As luck would have it, I caught sight of a gaggle of normal people brandishing maps and walking sticks, so I suggested we parked up and walked off in the direction from where they’d appeared.

In an amazing triumph of pot luck over common sense within minutes we found ourselves in the north end of Kings Wood, and soon we found chestnut trees. I had a moment’s qualm about collecting chestnuts – was it alright to collect chestnuts? As it happened there were plenty of windfall chestnuts lying around, so I don’t think that anyone could have been that fussed about wanting them. We soon gathered a bagful, and then wandered round the woods. There were several normal people who politely nodded, and then there were the dog walkers. Frantically blowing whistles and screaming at the dogs, whilst the dogs just did whatever they wanted.

It’s been said that I don’t like dogs. That’s not quite fair. I like dogs in the same way that I like mad axe murderers. Both are fine all the time they are under control. Sadly (in my experience) you rarely see either under control. Fortunately they (the dogs, not the mad axe murderers) were going the other way from us, so we didn’t have to put up with their noise or their covering us in mud for long.

With chestnuts collected we walked a circular route round the woods, and eventually found ourselves back at the car. Being Sunday, a trip to Lidls was obligatory. For all that money is tight, I spent a bit on beer. Lidls were knocking out Shepherd Neame’s current seasonal ale “Tapping the Admiral” at a pound a bottle, so I bought a gallon. This is an ale I’ve never tried before, and is brewed to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October). I also got another gallon of a different ale they were also knocking out at a pound a bottle. Another Shepherd Neame seasonal: “Dragonfire”. I know this beer – it’s brewed in honour of St George’s Day (23 April). Yes – I know. The question of why they were touting an April beer in October did occur to me as well.

And then home, where I dozed in front of the telly whilst watching “The Great Escape”. A rather inappropriately named film, as most of the cast ended up getting caught. In fact everyone except James Coburn got caught, as I remarked to my father in law, who’d come on a flying visit.

After a super bit of Sunday roast I went back to NeverWinter, where I am currently in a dungeon, in the nip, in trouble…

25 October 2010 (Monday) - This and That..

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Last Wednesday I mucked out my letters rack. This morning the thing was full again. Including a letter from the DVLA containing my road tax disc. I ordered it on-line on Wednesday and the thing must have come with the post either on Friday or Saturday. I’m impressed with that.

I see from the news that my mother is about to get some new neighbours. In order to help the poorer families in London, the Government is to pack them off to poorer parts of the country. Apparently this had two advantages. Firstly the poorer families won’t feel out of place if they are lumped in with the lower orders of other towns. And secondly they won’t be lowering house prices for those who feel the need for a little exclusivity. I *thought* the Prime Minister was keen on fairness for all?

Such slum clearances have been done before – and anyone who lives near me can tell you what a roaring success Stanhope has been (not!). If anyone could be bothered to look back through Parliament’s records, Hansard (from over fifty years ago) records what a failure the entire concept of “London overspill towns” was.

For all that history can be dull, if we don’t learn from it, we just keep on making the same mistakes….

In closing I’m going to be somewhat depressing. I met some old colleagues today. I hadn’t seen them for fourteen years, since they moved to Swansea. They were back in the area because one of our old bosses is very ill, and they were visiting. I deliberately haven’t visited because I know how ill this chap is.

Once a very well regarded and respected member of the hospital staff, following a major stroke the chap is now bedridden and (from all reports) is utterly oblivious to the world around him, is incapable of speech or movement, and has very little chance of ever improving. I haven’t visited the chap because I know that he wouldn’t want me seeing him in that state.

And I wouldn’t want anyone to see me in such a state either. Should the worst happen, please take this blog entry as written instructions to pull my plug.

(Normal service and knob jokes will resume as soon as possible…)

In the meantime, have you heard about the bird….?

26 October 2010 (Tuesday) – Stuff

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I see that a father and son have managed perhaps the most extreme aerial photographyever. I once got some half-way decent photos from a camera on a kite, but getting a camera nineteen miles up using home-made tackle was quite impressive. I’m tempted to see if some of my more technically minded readers fancy helping me to have a go. I wonder how high we could get?

‘er indoors TM  performed an equally impressive bit of DIY today, restoring full power to the chodbin. I say “full power” – the flush circuit could do with being cranked up somewhat. But having spent the last six months using buckets of water to flush the toilet, I’m grateful for any progress on the kharsi front.

Mind you, she wasn’t so successful with her new DVD recorder. I came home from work this evening to find her wrestling with the thing. It refuses to format DVD-R minus to Beta-Max standard (or some such other technobabble). She’s eventually got it doing something which she is claiming to be a result. Me – I’m not getting involved.

Chris came round with a Blue-Ray player, and then installed it under the telly. Apparently it’s for our Tuesday evening video evenings (video!) since much of the stuff we watch is now on Blue-Ray.

Glenn came round and showed off his scars. I think he might have shown off more, but his mummy was watching. Which was probably for the best.

And ‘er indoors TM found a picture of my Lewis from way back when. For those of my loyal readers who never met him, Lewis is the long one in the picture. And if anyone ever claims they don’t like snakes, spend five minutes with an adult Burmese python, and you’ll love them. The chap in the photo was a friend from way back when as well.

Both Bob and Lewis are sadly no longer with us. I miss both of them….

27 October 2010 (Wednesday) - Arky-ologee Club

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Up at the crack of dawn, and on with ironing shirts. Dull, but I might as well iron shirts as lie in bed wide awake. And if I’m going to watch telly, there are a lot less adverts on the UK Gold channel between 6am and 7am.

 

To work which wasn’t as dull as usual. Most Wednesdays feature a lunchtime talk, lecture or seminar to break up the week. Today was my turn, and I spoke on the subject of anaemia. Trying to cover the subject in twenty minutes was rather ambitious, and I over-ran slightly.

 

As I was getting into my car I noticed one of the more junior staff walking across the car park with her boyf (youf speek, innit!). Arm in arm, and obviously loved-up. In years gone by I would have been immediately on the phone to spread the gossip and to encourage others to point and laugh. But I’m not going to blab; I think it’s quite sweet.

And so to arky-ologee club. Tonight we had a very informative lecture on the history of the local hamlet of Dungey-on-the-Wold. I know it was an informative lecture because the speaker told me so. The only thing about Dungey-on-the-Wold of which we can be reliably certain is that it possesses a Riddler well. We were told that this water feature was once an iron age dew pond, but I know a Riddler well when I see one.

I must admit that I am rather vague about the other archaeological features of Dungey-on-the-Wold. For all that Mossop enthused about how interesting and exciting their finds were; from what I could establish during the bits of the talk for which I was awake, they hadn’t actually identified anything. There was a lot of flint, and they had a vague idea that their artefacts were from somewhere between the iron ages and the medieval periods. So they’d narrowed it down to a period of about a thousand years.

They had also found a dice which got them all very excited, but it turned out it wasn’t medieval at all, but was from a 1950s version of Ker-plunk. And they had a map with some lines on it.

I wonder what next month’s talk will be about…?

28 October 2010 (Thursday) - Other People's Misfortunes

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Imagine the scene – you’ve gone out on the razzle in Folkestone, and you’ve carefully checked the times of the last train home. You arrive at the railway station fifteen minutes before the second-to-last train is due to leave, and find the station is in darkness, and all the doors are locked, leaving you with no option but to walk home from Folkestone. What would you do?

Me – I laughed like a drain when I heard. But then I would do – it wasn’t me who was trying to get on the train. However, were it me wanting the train, I imagine I would have been metaphorically (if not literally) spitting bullets.

On further research it turned out that the people who gave the train times weren’t wrong. There was a train from Folkestone to Dover that left Folkestone at ten to midnight. But all that these people are responsible for is train times. There was a train leaving Folkestone at the time that they said.

Whilst they were sad to hear that no one was able to get into the station to get on to the train, (and also that presumably people getting off of the train would have been equally stuffed), station management isn’t their problem.

After a lot of mucking about, contact was eventually made with the company that runs the railway stations. They were oblivious to the fact that the station was closed.

Personally I can’t help but wonder if the station was actually open, but my colleague was too “refreshed” to open the door, and so he decided that the door was locked. But whatever the outcome, after a night on the lash he staggered home from Folkestone toDover. I’ve done that walk once – it takes some doing.

There is nothing as amusing as other people’s misfortunes….

29 October 2010 (Friday) - Astro Club

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And so to the astro club. Tonight was the Annual General Meeting, and because it was, the entire committee stood down to be re-elected. For appearance’s sake, with the committee stood down, I got to be Acting Chairman for the purposes of re-electing the chairman. I told the club that they were in trouble now that I was in charge, and I couldn’t nominate the old Chairman quickly enough. He was immediately seconded and unanimously re-elected. My tenure as Acting Chairman lasted for about two minutes, but in all honesty it was an important two minutes. It would have been just as easy for the Chairman to have done the election, but having had me come up and take over, if only for two minutes, made sure that everything was done properly. The election of the rest of the committee shortly followed, and the entire AGM was over within twelve minutes. We then moved on to the main speaker. Tonight’s talk was by a chap who’s been art the club almost as long as I have, and there’s not many have been there that long.

In retrospect I feel somewhat cheated. The talk was entitled “Faith or Science. Or both”, and was billed as a Christian’s way of reconciling current scientific thinking with established theological opinion. The talk started very well as the speaker reviewed (and dismissed) various definitions of the term “Faith”. He then explained that a “Faith” had five pillars on which it was supported, and without those five pillars it would fail. Everyone was amazed to find the first pillar was “Reason”. It was a shame that this wasn’t elaborated on, but such is life. The second pillar was “Experience”, and I suppose it should be so. The third pillar was “Tradition”, but for some reason the speaker made a good job of ridiculing the whole concept of religious tradition. The fourth pillar was “Bible”, and that was presented as though it was self-evident. The fifth pillar was where the rot set in to the argument.

Revelation” was the fifth pillar. “Revelation” being the Almighty communicating directly with humanity, either as a whole, or on an individualistic basis. Apparently since there were no witnesses around before the first man was created, any information about such a time before the first man must clearly be directly imparted from the deity. This stood to “Reason” (!)

The speaker then went on to say that the earliest Bible stories are often in line with the teachings of various other ancient cultures and therefore must be true. Somehow the fact that the earliest Bible stories are also often at odds with the teachings of various other ancient cultures also proved that the Bible must be true as well. One lives and learns…

The chap then went on to explore the scientific method; in which an idea is formulated, tested, and if found to be wrong is then abandoned. Apparently scientists don’t always follow the scientific method, and he quoted the case of Professor Fred Hoyle, who clung to the steady-state theory of creation long after the evidence for a “big bang” seemed to be overwhelming. Somehow the fact that one Professor held on to his pet theory for a few years conclusively disproved the entire concept of “scientific method”.

Professor Hoyle was wrong. Big deal! Over history, lots of scientists have been wrong. That’s how it works. It was a shame that this line of reasoning was concluded at this point. At no stage did we dare to attempt to apply any scientific reasoning or testing to the religious ideas.


We then had a slight interlude in which we were played a segment of an episode of Star Trek in which Lt Cdr Data broke the Prime Directive. We saw an interesting moral dilemma, and it was suggested that God doesn’t intervene in human affairs more often as He is bound by the Prime Directive as well.

For no adequately explored reason, this view is utterly consistent with God’s supposed intervention in the believers’ daily rounds (see pillar of belief #2 - “Experience”)

Then I got really confused. There is an old adage that if an infinite number of immortal monkeys played with an infinite number of typewriters, then eventually one of them would come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. They probably would, I suppose. But the given scenario is clearly artificial and nonsensical. Somehow that strengthened the position of “Faith” whilst undermining that of “Science”. I would dearly love to explain how that worked, but I’m afraid the logic escaped me.

We then turned our attention to an old chestnut – the Anthropic Principle. Basically this argument is that if the speed of light were only slightly a little bit different, and if the force of gravity were only a tiddly bit different (and so on for every physical characteristic, and force that there is) then the universe wouldn’t be here, or if it were then it would be utterly inimical to life. Therefore God made the universe perfectly for us to live in.

Personally I subscribe to the converse of this argument - it could be that life (and we) exist *because* the various physical constants of the universe are how they are.

This isn’t a point that anyone can answer convincingly either way, and rather than giving credence to either side of the “Faith vs Science” debate, it just muddies the (already murky) waters and would probably have best been left alone.

At this point the lights were raised and a polite round of applause went round the hall. On the one hand I salute the speaker for daring to take on such a controversial subject. On the other hand I’m rather disappointed that he didn’t do his homework. In my more lucid moments I am a Chartered Scientist, and I have a degree in mathematics so perhaps I have an unfair advantage. But the talk was given to an astronomy club in which the audience wasn’t by any means uneducated. And I honestly believe I could have done a better job of defending his religion than he did of attacking (my) science.

If he truly wanted to rubbish science he could have mentioned some really weird science. For example the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in which it’s impossible to know both the position and momentum of a subatomic particle. Or better still he could have cited Godel’s theorems which basically state that any kind of attempt to explain the universe is doomed to failure.

My feeling was that the talk was given at what I might unkindly describe as a rather basic level. The speaker did tend to subscribe to the view that science is only an idea, and did push that concept; somehow implying that because science was only an idea, somehow that made his religious views more plausible.

But rubbishing science is easy. I do it all the time (I’m allowed to; he’s not!). However having dismissed science doesn’t automatically prove the existence of the rubbisher’s chosen deity, does it?

After an hour of this, hawking the raffle came as a blessed relief….

30 October 2010 (Saturday) - Shadoxhurst Bonfire

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For a change I wasn’t working this morning. Since I can get paid overtime, I’m doing quite a few Saturday mornings at the moment. Whilst watching telly over brekkie I saw my mother’s home town was on the telly. Hastings would seem to have recovered from having the pier burn down, and is hosting the world crazy golf competition.

Despite the morning’s torrential rain, the weather forecast was predicting sunshine for today, so after I wasted a bit of time on my work-related blog we set off to the arky-ologee club’s dig. I really should have learned from my experiences at arky-ologee club last Wednesday.

We arrived at Lenham Manor to find three volunteers and some holes in the lawn. It turned out that the Lady of the Manor suspected her house had historical significance, and so she’d instructed the Lord of the Manor to get some of the lower orders to dig some holes in her garden to find out what the historical significance of her house was. So we scrubbled about in Trench One for a while. Some other sucker had dug out enough top soil to expose some rubble, and it was our task to dig away in one corner to see what was under the rubble. As it happened, under the rubble there was more rubble.

I soon lost interest, and whilst Mossop got handy with a wheelbarrow I rolled over and had a kip for an hour or so. When I woke up it would seem I had missed the excitement. ‘er indoors TM  had found a post hole. Or so she claimed. She’d found some underground wood. I could hardly contain my indifference at this news, and I went back to kip for another half an hour or so.

Home, and then on to Shadoxhurst bonfire. I like Shadoxhurst bonfire, especially because of the fun fair that the place has. Within minutes of arriving I had an inflatable plastic sword and two teddy bears (as well as the obligatory flashing rabbit ears). Beers and burgers were swilled by all, and we watched the bonfire, and the fireworks. Nowhere near as large or as impressive as the corporate displays we’d seen at Eastbourne of Hastings, but every bit as much fun. The only fly in the ointment was that the battery in my flashing rabbit ears gave up after only an hour or so…

31 October 2010 (Sunday) - Fungarses

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Two weeks ago I mentioned that I’d been having problems with my PC in that it wasn’t running as fast as it used to. I’d done some tweaking over the last week or so, but not achieved an awful lot in improving the performance. So this morning I had a rummage around to see what processes the PC was running which might be slowing it down.

There were two processes which related to my Lexmark printer, each of which were running in the background. I wouldn’t mind, but I’ve not had a Lexmark printer for a couple of years. They got the chop. Similarly there were quite a few processes running which were to do with how I connect my Nokia phone to my PC. I’ve not had a Nokia phone for over a year. Those processes got the heave-ho as well.

I then updated my version of C-Cleaner and ran it. It found thousands of temporary files which are now no longer there. I checked the registry integrity, even though I had no idea what that was all about. It found seven problems, and I told it to fix them.

I also reactivated Windows Defender. Having been told by absolutely everyone (only a few months ago) that Windows Defender was Satan incarnate, now it would seem that the general opinion is that Windows Defender is a combination of the A-Team, International Rescue, the Good Fairy and SPECTRUM.

Let’s hope what I’ve done has done some good. Mind you, it has to be said that there’s no noticeable improvement so far.

Regular readers of this drivel may recall an entry from April 10 of this year when I discovered a list of all sorts of organised events which were planned to take place in Kings Wood. Today we went up to the “Fungi Foray”, which had been billed as a walk round the woods to see what things of mycological interest we might come across.

We arrived (in the rain) to find normal people swarming. If it were not for the fact that I recognised some friends who were on the committee of this bunch I would have gone straight home again. But Gaynor and Mick (and their kids) are good fun, and despite my better judgement I joined the Friends of Kings Wood for a year. And then on with the business of the day.

The Friends of Kings Wood had obtained the services of a tame mycologist for the morning, and this chap chatted for a bit, then led us into a field. We had five minutes looking for funguses, and then he chatted for an hour about what we’d found. I can imagine the reaction of my loyal readers on reading this – listening to some professor droning on about funguses for an hour (in the rain)…  But this tame professor was wonderful; he really brought the subject to life. He told us what toadstools you can eat. He told us what mushrooms will kill you if you eat them. He told us what ones will send you as high as a kite. He told us what ones he’d eaten and enjoyed. And what ones he’d eaten and been either sick or stoned on. And he did it in such a wonderful and interesting way that we didn’t realise that we’d spent an hour (in the rain) listening to a professor lecturing about funguses.

Professor then got strict with us. He’d come along to lead a walk round the woods, and in over an hour we’d only walked twenty yards. So he insisted that we actually did some walking. We walked for just less than five minutes when he found the really pretty red toadstool pictured above. Then we all stopped again and as the rain stopped and the day cheered up, the chap again chatted about all the funguses we’d found. And you’d be amazed how many funguses you can find in a wood when you actually look. There were puffballs which puffed out clouds of smoke, toadstools which were completely amethyst in colour and are quite edible (and are fun in a salad – watch other people’s reaction!). There were mushrooms the size of a human hair (if you looked close enough), and even toadstools that tasted exactly how old books smell (I tried them).

I was really impressed. Despite the preponderance of normal people I’m quite looking forward to the next event at Kings Wood.

And then home via Tescos. In a break with tradition we didn’t go via Lidls. And once the shopping was done I did something I rarely do – I watched the telly. During the week I saw that an old classic was on the TCM movie channel, so I recorded it, and I spent the afternoon watching “Bridge over the River Kwai”, and didn’t fall asleep once.

After a smashing bit of tea and with ‘er indoors TM  gone bowling I got ready for the onslaught of Trick-or-Treat- ers. I *love* Trick-or-Treat- ers. As a child we never really celebrated Halloween, but I did “penny for the Guy” and carol singing, and I loved doing them. There are those who disapprove because of all sorts of valid reasons. And no matter how valid anyone’s reason for disapproving, I still love the whole idea of trick or treat, penny for the Guy and carol singing. And anyone who doesn’t is a “sour-puss-grumpy-face TM”. Unless (of course) the little bleeders have recently set light to your dustbin as some sort of a “trick”. It’s only a shame (as my son once said) that there is no legitimate way to extort money from the public with menaces between the months of January and late October.

As it happened we only got one lot of Trick-or-Treat- ers, but they were rather scary. And what was even scarier was that they were under the supervision of an ex-cub who was now bigger than I am…