1 April 2010 (Thursday) - April Fool's Day




Bearing in mind the date, over a bit of brekkie I changed my Facebook status to read “Manky Badger can't believe he's going to be a grandfather”. I left this bit of bait up for an hour or so, but was disappointed at the lack of response – I was hoping for more. However at least one relative would seem to have been taken in. I’m wondering how long it will be before my mother is on the warpath.


I then took the opportunity to empty out my letters rack. I really should do that more often. I found all sorts of offers and money off vouchers which expired yesterday.


And so to work , where I spent much of the day in a reflective mood. Last night I went to what I fully expected to be a very boring talk at the arky-ologee club. I was wrong. The subject was dull enough – a computer program to index all the sites of historical interest in the county. But the chap giving the talk brought the topic to life. He was keen, enthusiastic, and had a very good PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his lecture. I couldn’t help but compare his talk to the one on the Knights Templar a year or so ago – a fascinating subject killed stone-dead by the world’s most boring speaker who refused to use any kind of visual aid because it would distract the audience from what he was saying.

Some of the talks at the club have been good – Joey on her Roman excavations, the love lives of King William and Admiral Nelson spring to mind. But they are more than outweighed by the dull talks. I slept though the drone on the River Wantsum, the origin of village signs was anathema, and I still scream whenever anyone mentions Bethersden Marble.


I’ve been thinking about the arky-ologee club all day, and on reflection I think it’s fair to say that I’ve come to expect that all the talks are going to be boring. But there will be the occasional one that is good. And it is the chance of getting an interesting talk that makes it worth the expectation of getting something dull.

Perhaps if the meetings started with a snappy introduction rather than with a confused rambling, and perhaps if we had one or two minor speakers giving five minute presentations on topics of current interest to supplement the main talk, and perhaps if the speakers used PowerPoint rather than being boring then maybe the club might take off. But at the moment I find myself comparing it with the astronomy club. There are so many details I could pick up on, but I suppose the bottom line is that I would recommend people join the astro club. In all honesty I can’t say the same for the arky-ologee club. Which is a shame.



2 April 2010 (Good Friday) - On the Beer




It has become something of a tradition to go to the Chambers bar beer festival on Good Friday, and this year was no exception. I can remember there being fourteen in our party at one stage, and I see from my tasting notes that I had some of all the beers that were on offer, and that "Spring Cottage Biscuit Ale" tasted of cat's tiddle. I see from my photos that rabbit ears were the order of the day, and that we were in at least two pubs that I don’t remember.


I can only assume we had a good time – it’s all incredibly vague.



3 April 2010 (Saturday) - New Doctor Who




I have felt better than when I woke up this morning. But I wasn’t as bad as “My Boy TM ”, who was staggering round the house, asking if anyone knew what time he got home last night because he couldn’t remember. So I took the opportunity to claim the moral high ground, and got away with lecturing him on the demon drink.


After wasting a bit of time in NeverWinter we set off to town where we met Martin for lunch. Martin’s been singing the praises of The Gorge for some time, and today we went there. I had the all day breakfast, and struggled to eat it all. Definitely somewhere to go back to.

And then to the Pound Shop – our solar powered garden lights have finally given up. At 99p each, they’d lasted for over a year, so I can’t really complain. And then home to mow the lawn and install the new lights. Whilst pottering about in the garden I finally rigged up a water feature that I bought last year. It works fine, and looks good with my other seven water features. I then fed the Koi – they are now really tame. Not only do they take food from my hand, but they let me stroke them too. At one point “My Boy TM ” felt he had to point out to me that they are fish, and not dogs.


We had curry for tea – left over from last night. I am reliably informed we went for a curry last night, and seeing as I didn’t eat all of mine, I brought it home in a bag for later. It’s amazing what one misses when one doesn’t pay attention. And as we scoffed we watched Doctor Who.

I must admit I’ve been getting very fed up with hearing from so many people that it’s not going to be the same without David Tennant, and how people aren’t going to watch it any more because David Tennant’s not going to be in it. Surely that is the whole point of the program – that the leading actor changes every so often. The first time the actor playing the Doctor changed that I can remember was when Jon Pertwee was replaced by Tom Baker. I wasn’t sure what I’d make of the new chap, but within minutes I was hooked. This was exactly my reaction a few years later when Peter Davidson stepped up, and so on. I’ve now seen the leading character change eight times (I’m not old enough to remember the first two changes) and it has always been a change for the better.

I think Matt Smith is brilliant. If you’ve not seen the episode yet, do watch it. You’ll love it.





4 April 2010 (Sunday) - Smarden Duck Race




I have a pair of walking boots which I use maybe half a dozen times each year. I get more use from the boots whilst looking for them than I ever do from walking about in them. I spent an hour trying to find the things this morning. They eventually turned up where I left them last time.


My Boy TM ” then emerged from his pit and gave me half a bag of chocolate éclairs. Not because it’s Easter, but because he’s lost a filling to one of them, and didn’t want the rest. But I’m not proud, and I set about scoffing the things. Apparently his plan to become self-sufficient in vegetables is well under way. He’s dug over his friend’s garden, and is wondering what to plant. I’ve suggested it’s less effort to go to Tescos to buy vegetables, especially seeing how he don’t eat his veg anyway. But what do I know…


And so to Smarden where fifteen of us met up at the farm, and walked into the village to join with the crowds massing at the Flying Horse. We bought our quacking duck beaks and then (following a crafty pint) made our way to the river to await the start of the duck race. Eight hundred plastic ducks were chucked into the river, and the first one to reach the village bridge would be the winner. Whilst my duck wasn’t actually the last to finish, it was in last place at one point, and certainly was in the last half-dozen. Pausing only briefly to demand a re-race, we popped back to the pub for a medicinal half to calm our nerves, then made our way back to the farm for a barby.


Food scoffed, we then wandered round the lakes, and took a moral stance with some real live ducks that were getting over-amorous.

And then I wasted an hour trying to get photographs of the day onto Facebook. Sometimes the photo uploader just doesn’t want to work. And then we sat down to catch up on “Flash Forward”. We were three episodes behind – we watched the lot and I stayed awake too….




5 April 2010 (Easter Monday) - Lazy Day




Up early to waste some time in NeverWinter before the in-laws visited. It’s years since they’ve been over – in the meantime one way street systems have been introduced, to say nothing of the bollards blocking our road to all but emergency vehicles. We had a phone call to say they were on the wrong side of the bollards, and it took them twenty minutes to navigate a course round. It was good to see the relatives, and I spent an hour or so in the garden supervising nephews playing “kiss chase for fish”; a strange game which involves running up and down the garden a lot.


They left sooner than expected, and I was tempted to go to the Pheasant’s family fun afternoon, but knowing what I’m like, I wouldn’t have got out of the pub for less than thirty quid. Perhaps we should have visited the Kite Weekenders who were having a long weekend at Brenzett, but it was quite cold this afternoon. Having had quite an eventful Easter so far, I decided a peaceful afternoon wouldn’t be such a bad thing. So I dozed in front of SpongeBob, Tom Baker & Cybermen, and Fagin and the Artful Dodger. After a bit of tea we then watched Star Trek and Holiday on the Buses.


I don’t often watch the telly. Today I reminded myself why…



6 April 2010 (Tuesday) - Problems, Problems...




As I checked my emails over a bite of brekkie I saw I had an invite to join a Facebook group. Specifically the Avon Kite Fliers group. I fly a kite maybe six times a year, and I live in Kent. Why on Earth would I want to join a Bristol-based kite club? To me this sums up one of the failures of Facebook – the groups. What are they all about?

Given that you are a member of a club or group, then having your own Facebook group makes sense. But joining someone else’s group just because somebody you vaguely know once met someone else who mentioned the thing in passing… I don’t see that.

The same person who asked me to join Avon Kite Flyers also invited me to a kite flying event in Derbyshire. Surely one person can’t be actively involved with events in both Avon and Derbyshire?


I'd arranged to do a late shift today as the surveyor was coming to look at the hole in my ceiling. He said he'd arrive at 10am - I suppose 10.45 isn't that late. He had a poke and a prod, sucked air in noisily as builders do, and then told me what I probably already knew.

The old flat roof above the bedroom window is knacked - over the years the leading and the zinc flashings have had it. That's wear and tear & is down to us to fix. He says that bodging it with a coat of waterproofer is just bodging, and will last a year at most. Which is what we've found in the past.

It needs doing properly, we will have to get a builder to sort it out, and it will cost us about £600. The internal damage is covered by the insurance, and they will send us a cheque for what they reckon it will cost to fix, but we still need to find a builder who will do the work. It’s been my experience that for all the talk of recession and credit crunch, most tradesmen don’t seem to want work. In the past I’ve struggled to find builders, plumbers and electricians. They don’t answer phones, they don’t keep appointments, they even say outright that they don’t want to do jobs around the house. The surveyor suggested we ask the local builder’s merchants to see who they might recommend. I might just do that.


And then to add to my worries, on the way to work the car gave a beep, and a message came up to change the oil. The chodbin is still problematical, and the PC is whirring like it’s drilling for oil.


Who’d be me…?





7 April 2010 (Wednesday) - Politics


In what I can only imagine being a fit of jealousy aimed at my car’s oil level, my iffy chodbin, my leaking roof or my noisy PC (or any combination of these), the pond filter has joined my list of problems by blocking up.

At least that is one problem which is easily solved. It might smell a bit, but fish poo washes off (eventually).


I see the Prime Minister has chosen the date for the general election. I suppose I should apply for a postal vote. But who would get my postal vote? When I was coming up to voting age the country was on the brink of collapse through a Labour government powerless to deal with the unions. We all voted in Margaret Thatcher who kicked the unions “squarr in the nuts”, then kicked Johnny Foreigner out of the Falklands and generally acted like she was running the country. Love her or loathe her, we all admired her. Or did we? We kept voting for her; in retrospect because the Labour party at the time was nothing short of a bunch of crackpots. Eventually the crackpots picked a winning formula: that formula being to adopt the policies of the bunch who were actually in power. And so when we all got fed up with the sleaze allegations against the government of the mid-nineties, we voted in Labour because they didn’t come over as a bunch of crackpots – they sounded like the current government but without the loose morality.

And so things turned full circle. Labour in power – this time the Tories were in disarray, and they adopted Labour policies. And so after eighteen years of Labour copying Tory and thirteen years of Tory copying Labour we now find ourselves with the two main parties all but indistinguishable from each other. Effectively we have the choice of Salt & Vinegar or Cheese & Onion crisps. Monster Munch or Hula Hoops aren’t an option.


Who will I vote for? I made up my mind when I heard that Brian Blessed was standing for Parliament. I decided that I’d vote for whichever bunch he was standing for. But it turns out I was misinformed – Mr B wouldn’t seem to be standing for election after all.

Having had a look on Wikipedia to see what choices I’ve got, I’m rather of the opinion that it will make no difference who I vote for, since the current MP has got half the vote already. It will take a swing of twenty five per cent to shift him, and I can’t see that happening.

I might just show my disgust for the whole thing by wasting my vote on the Liberal Democrats or someone else that frankly hasn’t a hope. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that…





8 April 2010 (Thursday) - More of the Same




There’s nothing like a bit of racism to stir up the votes when an election is in the offing, and the Prime Minister is under fire because apparently during the tenure of the government, 97% of all new jobs have gone to immigrant workers. The figure might be true, it might not. Either way it will cause discontent and swing some voters one way or the other. All I have to offer on the subject is a question based on my own experiences. Given that one has a job vacancy (or lots of them) which has been advertised nationally on several occasions and not a single UK resident applies, how should one then proceed?

Meanwhile matters of actual importance – animals that live without oxygen and the discovery of a missing link in human evolution have gone unnoticed.


I came home to find I’ve had an email from Jesus. That was nice. It had an attachment which my anti-virus didn’t like, so I suspect it wasn’t the real Jesus.

Su Wu also emailed me – she was offering “hotter in bed with ease”.However, the way my back’s been lately, I suspect she’ll be disappointed. I didn’t even bother with the scamming emails trying to tell me I was entitled to a tax refund.

But I did get the email about my having a postal vote for the election. Despite still not having the faintest idea who I’m going to vote for, I’ve applied for a postal vote. If only to see how the thing works.


And then the roofing man came round. He brought some kiddies who helped me feed the Koi, and then he had a look at the roof and said he’ll be in touch soon to come and do the job. On the one hand I feel quite relieved that one problem looks solvable, on the other hand, the Sky Plus box is playing up…






9 April 2010 (Friday) - The Wanderer Returns




Whilst pootling in the kitchen last night I heard the sound of the toilet flushing, I’ve been chucking buckets of water down it for the last week to get rid of what I’ve put in there. But “My Boy TM ” has been using the flush. Apparently if you over-rev the cistern, it flushes. It’s taken me a while to get the knack, but I can do it. Or that is, I could do it last night. The infernal thing wasn’t having any of it this morning. Back to flushing with buckets of water.


An eventful day at work – first off Science told me that he has invented the AC/DC chicken. Surely Science must have better things to do with his time. And then I entered the work’s Grand National sweepstake. Regular readers of this drivel may recall that I do this every year, and am usually saddled with a 100:1 three legged blind rank outsider. But last year my horse (Sad Ken) came in third place and I won a fiver. This year I have a 14:1 shot – horse #17 named “Backstage”. Fingers crossed – it might pay for the repairs to the chodbin.


I hope my loyal readership will forgive me if I appear to get a bit soppy…. In May 1993 I was in a small way associated with the formation of a sci-fi fan club. Over the years the group has grown and shrunk and changed, and members have dispersed to the four corners of the world and returned. We’ve laughed and cried together, got married, had babies, even buried one, and despite the fact that so many of us now rarely actually see each other these days, thanks to the wonder that is the Internet we still all (mostly) keep in touch.

Tonight a wanderer returned. I’ve not seen him for over ten years. Once “Little Steve”, nowadays he’s in the running for the title of “Big Big Steve”. He’s in the middle on the left hand photo. We once named a Guinea Pig after him because of the haircut. We couldn’t do that nowadays (!) And he’s moving back from Manchester to live in Dover so he’ll be back with us again.

A shame I have to work tomorrow – we only had three pints together this evening...





10 April 2010 (Saturday) - Busying About...




I had to work this morning, so I thought I’d treat myself to a fry-up at the hospital canteen. When I arrived I was told it was closed. I asked the happy cheerful soul behind the counter when they opened. It grunted and pointed at an obscure sign before walking off, leaving the food drying out for a further ten minutes before deigning to come back to splat some out for me. Many years ago when I worked in catering, we were told that when preparing a meal, presentation is all. No one had imparted this information to the works canteen. It was all thrown on the plate, with baked beans poured over the top like gravy.

And they wonder why the place doesn’t make the money it used to…


Work was dull, and due to an I.T. crisis I was over an hour late getting home. I was rather miffed about this, as er indoors TM was flogging candles at a psychic fair, and I wanted to go. I do like the psychic fairs – they are so dreadful they are hilarious. Let’s be honest – if the psychics were actually any good they would know in advance that absolutely no one would be going to the things.

Instead I came home, scoffed a quick sandwich, and then I did some bike maintenance. We bought a bike for a friend in January, and spent three months getting round to finishing putting the thing together. This afternoon I got it done. Let’s hope it doesn’t fall apart when it’s put to use next week. Once the lawn was mowed I spent more time fiddling with the pond. The fountain attachment in the middle wasn’t pumping as vigorously as it might have been so I took it apart, gave it a good clean, rebuilt it and then thoroughly soaked myself. It’s working now, and despite a whole load of commotion going on in the pond, the fish were still swarming round me trying to get food.


I wasted a few minutes doing something I meant to do some weeks ago. Last year we cycled to several pubs, and each time I put up a route and map onto a certain bit of the Internet to which I am very grateful to have access. I finally got round to indexing the lot and making a mini-web site of cycle routes. Having dusted off the bikes, I intend to start gently next weekend with a trip to Shadoxhurst – look it up on the web site. Having said “start gently”, it won’t be that gently as the route takes us up Singleton Hill.

Whilst planning for the summer, I discovered there’s all sorts of things planned up at Kings Wood. I suspect I may well be going to one or two of these over the next few months…


And then I spent the evening fishing with “My Boy TM ”. Must do it more often. I gave up when darkness fell, and left him to it. I came home to watch Doctor Who on the BBC i-player. A good episode – I like Matt Smith, but he is very much doing a “David Tennant” impression, and David Tennant was in retrospect doing a Christopher Eccleston impression. A shame they didn’t create a whole new persona for each new incarnation like they did originally…



11 April 2010 (Sunday) - More Fishing




Despite not actually catching anything yesterday evening, I really enjoyed the fishing. Just as I was going to kip last night I had a text from the lake to say that a fish had been caught, and asking if I’d be back in the morning. So I made up my patented custard paste bait and put it in the fridge overnight. I had this plan to get in an hour’s fishing before the rest of the stuff I had planned for the day and, as always when I have something planned I didn’t sleep well. At 4.30am I gave up trying to sleep and got up. I was at the pond for 5.15am only to find everyone fast asleep in their bivvies.

I feel a word of explanation is in order here. A “bivvy” to the uninitiated looks like a tent, seems like a tent, and to all intents and purposes is a tent. But in piscatorial circles, to suggest that an angler would sleep in a tent is fighting talk. Real men have “bivvies”. There’s a photo of a “bivvy” on yesterday’s blog entry – I think it looks like a tent.

So finding “My Boy TM ” snoring in his bivvy, I decided to set up quietly without disturbing anyone. Have you ever tried tying a hook in the dark? It’s not easy, but I managed it in less than fifteen minutes.


And then excitement – one of the bite alarms screamed. And screamed. It was apparent that the first fruit of my loin was fast asleep, so I decided I’d deal with the fish we were catching. I picked the rod up, struck, and immediately got the biggest tangle of line you ever did see. The mechanisms of fishing reels have changed since I was a lad. I thought I’d better tidy up the mess before I got told off for interfering, and despite getting more line all over the place, after ten minutes I eventually sorted out the knots I’d created. I hoped that if I reeled the rod in, re-baited and cast out again before I got caught, he’d never know what I’d done.

Whilst reeling in, the end tackle seemed a bit heavy. And then it seemed to be pulling away from me a bit. And then the rod bent double – despite my spending an age mucking about un-knotting the mess I’d made, the fish was still on. It was at this point that a voice emerged from the sleeping bag asking what I was doing up so early. “Catching a fish” I replied. The monster pictured above (photo taken at 6.15am) is a catfish. Weighing nine and a half pounds, it’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught. And it is (so far) the only fish I’ve ever caught to have poo-ed on me. Catfish are slippery things – trying to get a grip on it was tricky to say the least. It was like trying to grab hold of a huge wriggling bar of soap. Needless to say, “himself” then caught one which was just over double the size of my one.


I gave it until 7.30am, and then came home for breakfast. A couple of rounds of toast and an hour in Internet-land before getting on with the day’s round. It would seem that today was Streatham Common’s kite festival. I can vaguely remember mention of it, but from the kite forums it would seem that everyone else had emails about the event. Perhaps I should check the kiting forums more often.


Having returned “Daddies Little Angel TM  to where she wanted to be for the day, we then went to the Chips for a ploughman’s for lunch. Chip was having problems with a jubilee clip. I offered to mend it with a hammer, but my offer of assistance wasn’t accepted, which was a shame.

Once fed we set off to the pond shop for Koi food. I’ve bought the cheap stuff because it’s a third of the price of the stuff I bought last year. This year they seem to be scoffing so well I hoped they would take the cheap stuff.

They didn’t seem too keen on it, but they will be when they get hungry enough…






12 April 2010 (Monday) - Mondays are Always Dull...


Up with the lark and on with the laundry. Some things remain constant in an ever-changing world. Today I specialised in socks. Putting the things into pairs takes some doing. I am told that this was done over the weekend. It may well have been; however this morning I found a living room strewn with socks, and very little in the way of pairing done. I sorted out my own and chucked the rest into the undercrackers basket; you can get too much of a good thing.


I had half a plan to go fishing this evening, but “My Boy TM ” had better things to do with his time. Which was a shame. I may well take up fishing again – if nothing else it’s rather cheaper than drinking to excess on a regular basis.

And then er indoors TM went off out and left me in charge of supervising the baking of the bread pudding. A mistake, if ever there was one…


I don’t like Mondays – after an eventful weekend, Mondays are so dull…





13 April 2010 (Tuesday) Fish and Chip




As children at school, we all learn of Brownian motion (named after the Scottish botanist Robert Brown): the seemingly random movement of particles suspended in a fluid. The motion of dust seen in sunlight is a good example of Brownian motion. As is the walking style of most of humanity. Oh I get so wound up….

The next time you are out in public, just watch the normal people. Not one is looking where they are going: they all just blunder along, bouncing off of walls, parked cars and each other. Every time I’m in a hurry, the world is awash with these people; pootling along, walking into all and sundry without a care in the world. If people had to take walking tests in the same way they do driving tests, I am sure that 99% of the human race would be grounded.


Something else which wound me up today was an employment tribunal which was called to rule on a case of unlawful sexual and racial discrimination. A single mother has successfully sued the Army. Personally I’m under the impression that soldiers are ready to defend Queen and country whenever and wherever required. And those with families are able to leave their families behind to go soldiering. The Army has gone on record taking the line that they are "unsuitable for a single mother who couldn't sort out her childcare arrangements". Personally I tend to agree. I wouldn’t dream of dragging my children into work in a hospital, much less a battlefield. But as always I am in a minority.

Having been given the heave-ho , a young mother has gone to an employment tribunal, and the tribunal has found in favour of this single mother, who cannot fulfil her military duties because of the need to look after her kiddy. Said tribunal is now deliberating how much money she should be given in compensation.

How about “none at all”, and charging her for wasting the Army’s time?


And then the Koi smiled to have their photos taken. But I think it’s probably fair to say they were more interested in the food than the camera….



14 April 2010 (Wednesday) - Roof Fixed




I see that yesterday’s blog piccy went up sideways. I wonder what that was all about? Let’s hope that the blog software isn’t going west too. I had a look at the hit tracking software this morning. As well as seeing who’s visited from where in the world, it tells me what operating systems are being used, and what browsers. And what key words people use in search engines to find this blog. I’m reliably informed that one person found my blog by typing the phrase “christopher eccleston motorbike” into Google. I tried it myself, to no avail; but what do I know?


I then spent a few minutes totting up my shopping bills this month. I make a point of recording all my credit card purchases on an Excel spreadsheet. I know that there are those who point and laugh ant me for doing this, but I find it useful – it’s amazing what I find that I’ve forgotten that I’ve bought. Small things add up. Take the last few days for example – on Sunday I bought a memory stick from PC World and a tub of fish food. By this morning I’d no memory of buying them, and they came to over fifty quid. And I’ve spent a total of over sixty quid in Tesco’s this month in small amounts here and there. It soon adds up.

I need to stop frittering away cash on little things – especially with various jobs around the house I need to pay for.


Roof Man” came today and re-felted the flat bit above the bay window. Whilst it was cheaper than I was expecting it to be, I can’t help remember a conversation I had at school (thirty five years ago) with one of the teachers. I commented that my friends at the local secondary modern were learning woodwork metalwork and useful stuff like that. We on the other hand were learning Latin. Which would probably be useful if ever I wished to speak to a dead Roman. But so far has never proved to have been a useful way to have spent five years. The teacher at the time, one Mr Hooper, told me that in years to come, as an ex-Grammar School boy I would be paying the working classes to do household maintenance jobs for me. Such manual labour would be beneath my dignity.

An admirable sentiment I’m sure, if you can afford to subscribe to that school of thought. Whilst I’d rather pay someone to do the roof than do it myself, it don’t come cheap. I can only suppose that Mr Hooper was prepared to pay far more for his dignity than I am. With the outside now done, I’m inclined to let the inside dry out and have a go at doing it myself….





15 April 2010 (Thursday) - Stuff




Being on a late start again, I had planned to do all sorts of things this morning, including…. Well, I don’t know what I had in mind. Last night I had a mental list of things I needed to do, and I can remember it being a rather long list. I thought about writing it down, and decided against doing so, because what I needed to do was so obvious. But this morning my mind was a blank. All I could remember was that I had a long list of stuff last night.

So with nothing better to do (that I could recall) I decided to watch “V” that I’d recorded onto the Sky Plus last night, but “Daddies Little Angel TM ” had things to watch, so I was left to my own devices. We spent a few minutes wrestling the Sky Anytime into action. I’ve never used it before – I wonder if it’s free. I hope so.


Last week I commented that the “change oil soon” alarm had come up on my car. Today I arranged to have the thing serviced and MOT-ed in a couple of week’s time. Arranging it was painless – I suspect paying for it won’t be.

Talking of paying for things, the insurance cheque (for the damage caused by our leak) came today. I’d better bank that. Having had a leak, I’m now wondering if I ought to re-felt the flat roof over the top of the bathroom. It doesn’t seem to be leaking at the moment, but maybe preventing a problem might be better than curing it?


I finished work at 8pm, and together with er indoors TM , I went to Toys R Us in Chatham to get her a new bike, as the old one would seem to have been co-opted by “Daddies Little Angel TM ”. We got a new bike, and also a headache. The too loud in-store music was competing with the din from the Play Station games to make pure unadulterated noise.

I know someone who works for that firm – I shall have a word, because much as I like their shops, I certainly will not shop there again with that volume of racket going on.


And as the weather gets a tad colder, spare a thought for those camping out in East Anglia this weekend. The Kelling Heath Star Party is an annual event in which people from all over the UK camp out, and sleep during the day time so’s that at night they can see the UK’s darkest skies and photograph all sorts of astronomical objects to their heart’s content.

Much as I’m into astronomy, I can’t see the attraction of travelling hundreds of miles to shiver to get a photograph which (it has to be said) won’t come close to something you could call up instantly on Google images.

I suppose that, like all hobbies, it’s something inexplicable – you love it or you don’t. Me – I’ll let the Hubble Space telescope do the photography…






16 April 2010 (Friday) - Little Bit of Politics...


One of the girls at work collected her cat from the vet’s last night. A week ago the thing had staggered (literally) home, having broken its leg somehow. After surgery and a week in cat-hospital, the moggie was ready for collection. The bill - £1,700. I would suggest that any of my loyal readers with pets seriously consider pet insurance.


Last Saturday I mentioned that I had the cooked breakfast at work. Today one of my colleagues was boasting that he’d just had the breakfast. That gave me the taste for it, and so I had some. And I spent the day wishing I hadn’t. I’ve had guts ache ever since. Being in a bad mood, I phoned Toys R Us and complained about the headache that I got from the noise in their store last night. The girl on the phone listened politely to my rant, but clearly couldn’t care less.

And then home to assemble the new bike. It seems to be together properly, but in the absence of any instructions I’m left hoping I did it properly. It all seems OK, but the acid test will be tomorrow when the thing is ridden in anger for the first time.


I see the whole world watched the big political debate last night. I didn’t. Despite having applied for a postal vote, I am fast coming to the conclusion that there is little point in my voting at the upcoming general election. For all the hot air the party leaders spouted last night, we don’t get to vote for them. Having done a little research, I can’t believe how sucky the UKelectoral system is.

There is not “a” general election. There are 650 elections for local MPs, and it is then a count-up of MPs which determines which party forms a government.

But it’s not as simple as that. These 650 mini- elections don’t all have an equal number of voters. And in each election, all that any MP has to do to win is to get more votes than anyone else. Which means that given that Party A wins in one town with a majority of two votes, and Party A also wins in another town with a majority of three, then they have two MPs. Party B might win somewhere else and so would have one MP. However the fact that Party B might have won their one seat with a majority of fifty thousand is irrelevant. It’s quite possible (and actually happens) that Party B has more votes, but actually has less MPs than Party A.


A “first past the post system” makes no allowances for the amount of votes cast for the losing parties, which is why I am seriously considering not voting. At the last election my current MP got more votes than all the other candidates put together. It’s going to need over a quarter of the local voters to change their minds to unseat the chap, and he’s the only one for whom I’ve seen any election posters.

I’ve heard it said that by voting for those who are clearly going to lose, I could send a message to the floating voters, but I don’t see that somehow. How many people even bother to vote, let alone show an interest in the mathematics of election?


And as a P.S. to all this, if you feel your vote isn’t quite the wonderful thing you once thought it was, spare a thought for the voters in Buckingham.Their current MP is the Speaker of the House of Commons, and it is a tradition that whoever is Speaker stands for election unopposed by any candidates from the other main political parties…





17 April 2010 (Saturday) - On Yer Bike !




Despite a late night last night, I was wide awake at 6.30am because “My Boy TM ” got up silently, and was delicately loading his fishing gear into his car. For some inexplicable reason, the phrase “as quiet as a mouse” didn’t spring to mind. As I was wide awake, I spent a few minutes (an hour) having an avuncular perusal of one of my student’s friend’s post-graduate work.

This girl isn’t one of my students. The chap who should have been doing this mentoring doesn’t do it. He does what the hell he likes, when he likes, and if he doesn’t like, he just doesn’t do it. If any manager dares question him, he just rants about various random employment laws and legislations and everyone kow-tows to him on the assumption that he knows what he’s talking about. Over the years he’s lodged so many formal grievances and complaints that nobody dares upset him because of all the paperwork he generates. I can’t say I like the fellow, but I have to admire his stance. He always gets his own way.

In the meantime I’m spending my Saturday morning doing what he should be doing. Who’s the daft one? But his students (more than one) have asked me for my help and advice. And have (on several occasions) asked me for tutorials in their own time. I can’t really say no to them, can I?


Yesterday I ranted about failings in the UK political system. Today I find it’s got worse. In the constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster it would seem that the pirate vote has been split. There is a candidate for the“official

” pirate party

 (a bunch who are out to legalise free downloads for everyone). And there is a candidate for what I can only describe as “proper pirating”; the chap who runs International Talk Like A Pirate Day – Mad Cap’n Tom himself. I know who I’d vote for – after all, “he has policies, he has experience, he has a duck on his head”.


And then on with the business of the day. Last year we started cycling early. In the snow in January. This year we left it somewhat later, and an entertaining few minutes were spent tightening nuts, loosening screws, adjusting brakes and attaching trailers (!) before seven of us cycled off to Shadoxhurst. There was a minor hiccup when the blossom-tandem capsized, but that was nothing that couldn’t be put right. And I’m sure that Singleton Hill has gotten steeper over the winter. But despite two chains coming off, we eventually made our destination where the motoring contingent met up with us.

The Kings Head in Shadoxhurst is (usually) too close to home for a weekend cycling destination. It’s somewhere that we call in for a crafty half on the way back from another pub, or somewhere that me and er indoorsTM visit on a mild summer’s evening. The place is unusual for a Shepherd Neame pub in that it always has a good selection of ales, and we’d heard reports that it had won awards for the food. We weren’t disappointed – the food was excellent, and a couple of pints of “Dragonfire” (brewed for St George’s Day) slipped down well.


The plan was to come home via Great Chart for a crafty pint, but somehow we missed that one. So on the spur of the moment we got the barby out and cooked up some burgers and sossies. A wonderful way to spend the evening.

And then we sat down to watch Doctor Who. A week ago I commented that Matt Smith was too similar to David Tennant. I stand corrected – he’s great. Tonight’s episode was good; I liked daleks being relegated to just one mid-season episode. But weren’t the daleks great? If you’ve not seen the episode, activate the BBC i-player. Now!!!


And then having said goodbye to everyone, I went to work for two hours to deal with more problems. Work owes me three hours for today. I wonder when I will get my time back……





18 April 2010 (Sunday) - This n That




Whilst having a spot of brekky I noticed that Gary Mark had commented on something I’d put on Facebook. Gary Who? Yes – I thought that. I’ve some friends in common with him – his website is interesting. I’m sure he’s a decent chap. But I have no idea who he is.

I have Facebook set so’s that only people on my friends list can comment on what I post. I had a look at my friends list today – there are thirteen people on it that I don’t know. Who are these people? How do they get on my list?


The plan for the day was kite flying with the Friends of Kings Wood. We arrived to find very little (if any) wind, but we thought we’d give it a go anyway. Until we saw the flying area. The kite flying was to take place on an area of heathland which has obviously only recently been cleared of brambles. I say “cleared” – had it actually been cleared of brambles I might have been inclined to have persevered despite the low wind. In fact the brambles had been hacked back, and then left lying about on the ground. Any kite landing anywhere in the designated flying area would have been ripped to ribbons. The Kent Kite Fliers were there, and after exchanging pleasantries, we left them to it. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to fly a kite when it is patently obvious that there isn’t enough wind to do so, and knowing there is nowhere safe to land the kite if you do get it airborne.


We gave up, and went for a mooch round Ashford instead, and then came home. I mowed the lawn and then had this idea to paint the front of the house. I spent half an hour looking for my wire brush, but couldn’t find it. I made do with a plastic one instead. Having scraped down the paintwork I opened the tin of masonry paint. A few months ago I had naively assumed it would not be a problem to leave the paint tin outside over the winter. I was wrong. Somehow the tin had filled to the brim with rain water, leaving the paint useless.

So I fed the fish. They are slowly getting used to the new brand of fish food. Which is probably for the best – I’m not getting them the expensive stuff again. Whilst feeding them I noticed that the clean water wasn’t gushing out of the filter with its usual vigour. That was because water was leaking out of the top – the thing had blocked up again. There’s no denying that with the finer filter mesh the pond is certainly clearer than it has been in previous years. However, it’s only eleven days since I last cleaned the thing out.

Pausing only to put er indoors TM best coat in the washing machine (I have no idea how it got covered in fish poo) I then spent the rest of the afternoon asleep in front of the computer.


After tea with the house to myself I sat down to watch the re-make of the sc-fi classic – “V” which is currently airing in the SyFy channel. One has to totally ignore the premise on which the entire program is based: namely that the aliens are reptiles disguised as humans for no adequately explained reason. After all, given the level of technology the aliens have in the show, why do they need to gain humanity’s confidence in any way? Clearly they could just ride roughshod over any objections and do what they want, but if you forget about this minor plot hole, it’s not bad. I’ve seen the first two episodes and despite having “Wash” from Firefly as an alien, and a Cyclon as possibly an alien, I quite like the series so far. I’m hoping it will turn out to be better than “Caprica” – I’ve given up bothering with that…



19 April 2010 (Monday) - Sheep? Pig !!!!




When not on a late shift I always wake early, and so I watch DVD boxed sets. (It’s either that or lie wide awake waiting for the alarm). Today whilst ironing my work shirts I finished watching “Space: Above and Beyond” – it’s “Top Gun in Outer Space”, but was watchable. A shame it only ran for one season: I liked it, and it was far better than that drivel “Caprica” which is being touted on Sky at the moment.

Talking of which, is it just me, or is there something seedy about the cover for the “Caprica” DVD which has recently been released, featuring a nudey girl?

And then, having checked two different weather forecasts, for the first time this year I pegged the washing out on the line. And as I drove to work, the radio predicted showers. Oh how I laughed.


I then remembered something I hadn’t done from the weekend. During our cycle ride on Saturday, “Daddies Little Angel TM  had staked out a chap doing his gardening, and eventually got a photo of his bum. I put it up on Facebook as I said I would – only two days late.

Yesterday I mentioned about washing a coat that somehow got smothered in fish poo. I think I got away with the fishy element, but the thing is (apparently) noticeably creased from a vigorous spin drying. I’ve ironed the thing – let’s hope that’s done the trick.


And in closing, does anyone fancy a trip to the Tropical Wings Zoo in Essex? A few years ago whilst driving along, er indoors TM saw some pigs in a field. They were woolly, and made “Baaa!!” noises. But the Zoo has obtained some Mangalitzas (furry pigs). Perhaps that’s what we saw all those years ago?


Posted by Manky Badger at 8:31 PM 4 comments






20 April 2010 (Tuesday) - Painting, Ranting




Whilst going to my car this morning I saw signs had gone up in our road. Apparently the council were coming to scrub the gutters, and would like people not to park up the road during the day. I would have thought they might have given us more notice, but what do I know?


On Sunday I mentioned my masonry paint was broken, so being on an early finish today I popped into B&Q to get some more. And seeing how lovely the evening was, I made a start on painting my wall. The paint tin says it comes with a fifteen year guarantee. Fifteen years? I painted the wall last September, and it’s flaking already. I make that seven months. But the wall looked better once I’d finished, and as the evening was still so lovely, I then carried on and painted the front of the house. Painting the house was originally supposed to be the plan for tomorrow, but I expect I’ll find something else to do. Finding somewhere to park the car might be something I could do instead…..


Regular readers of this blog might remember a rant I published on 15 October 2006 when I attended the Annual General Meeting of the British Kite Flying Association. At the time it looked like there were going to be all sorts of restrictions on the flying of kites in the UK (especially the big ones), and the BKFA had been formed to stand up for the man in the kite-flying field. At the time I thought the BKFA was getting bogged down with trivial paperwork and was losing its way. But at that meeting four years ago I was firmly told to get stuffed and to mind my own business. They knew what they were doing.

Today they emailed me “News Update #13”. They have put a lot of effort into developing a child protection policy (why?) and into developing an incident reporting scheme (reporting what to who?). They are still trying to undermine local kiting clubs by offering cheap insurance, and they are now attempting to form a gallery of other people’s kiting photographs for which they can take the credit. In fact the only thing they’ve done which is in any way related to what I thought they were formed for was to organise an Edwardian Kite Competition which will take place in three weeks time. There’s nothing like being given enough notice of these things, is there?

Interestingly neither “News Update #13” nor any of its predecessors have ever carried news of bans on kite flying having been lifted. The phrase “Still fiddling whilst Rome burns” springs to mind.


Still bitter? – Me?......




21 April 2010 (Wednesday) - A Day Off Work




er indoors TM has been abducted by aliens and has been replaced by a replica. This replica isn’t very good, and hasn’t fooled me for a minute. Not only did it let take stuff to the tip, it even gave me stuff to take to the tip. I hope er indoors TM is all right, wherever she is.


After the tip I went to Tesco for more petrol (that’s expensive stuff now) and then to B&Q for small tins of masonry paint. For some time I’ve had this plan to paint the front of the house like a liquorice allsort, and now it’s done I’m not sure I like it. Some of my paintwork isn’t as straight as it might be – once it’s dry I’ll go over it with a fine brush. Or that is I will when I can find one. I want a kiddies painting brush – the sort of thing I used to use with watercolours all those years ago. I can’t find one anywhere.


Whilst doing the painting someone parked his car outside my house. Right in front of the “please don’t park here” sign. He asked me if he could park there, and I told him that it was a matter of the utmost indifference to me where he parked, but I did point out the sign. The nice man then got a bit cross and asked me where he was supposed to park. I replied that I’d got up early and parked my car three streets away, but it was entirely up to him where he parked – neither his parking nor the no parking sign were anything to do with me. As the nice man reached the beetroot red stage, and the vein on the side of his head started to throb, I suggested he spoke to the council, and I got on with my painting.

I then spent a few minutes chatting with the bloke next door. Relations have been strained in the past, and it’s good that we are chatting again. He was telling me that at the weekends there are a lot of low flying aeroplanes coming over – apparently our area is being used by trainee pilots. He’s written to our local MP about the matter – apparently no one owns the air rights to Ashford, and anyone can fly overhead. I didn’t know that.


I then got an email – my latest eBay purchase has been delayed by volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Last night a friend was telling me that her friends are stranded half way round the world, and that they are now booked on a flight home on 11 May. That’s ages away. I hope my shopping don’t take that long.


And having slept in front of the telly for the afternoon I brought offspring home from college and then I set off to Wadhurst. As part of a co-operative venture between local astronomical societies an exchange of speakers has been arranged. The people at Wadhurst were given a list of the talks we’d had at our astro club over the last year, and they asked for me to talk about the ice giants.

I’ve not been to any other astro clubs, and wasn’t sure what to expect, and as the evening started it was rather odd. At the Ashford astro club there’s over seventy people, with ages ranging from seven to seventy, and we have a very wide cross section of the public. Tonight at Wadhurst there were twenty two people (including me & Jason who’d come for the evening). With an average age of (about) mid-fifties, there was no one aged under forty there, and everyone was rather well to do. Having said that, they were very friendly and welcoming, but all were just a little bit normal. What would they make of me?

Having prepared my presentation it was too late to change it. I had two chances – they would laugh, or they wouldn’t ask me back again. I needn’t have worried - I had them all in stitches several times, and afterwards several people commented how no one’s ever been brave enough to admit they think that Ur-anus is a brilliant name for a planet. And several more said they agreed that Herschel should have gone the whole hog and called the thing “planet bum hole”.

After the meeting I went over the pub with a dozen or so of the members of the club, and I had a half of Finchcocks whist we waited for (and saw) aniridium flare

. The people there were so welcoming. I’ve offered to do more talks for them, and I’d go to more meetings; if only it wasn’t such an awkward place to get to.

I got home at 11pm to find that neither er indoors TM nor “My Boy TM ” had noticed what I’d done to the front of the house….

22 April 2010 (Thursday) – Paperwork


Despite a late night last night, I was still up with the lark, and watching episode three of “V” at 6am. So far I like the program, but bearing in mind it’s a remake, and the remake of “The Prisoner” started earlier in the week, I can’t help but wonder what’s next to come back to our screens.

Off to work, which was the same as ever, and then home again, having acquired some fine paint brushes to touch up the stripes I’d painted on the front of the house yesterday. It was a lovely evening to be pootling about in the front yard doing my painting.

And then I settled down with a cup of coffee to sort my post. I see I have a parcel waiting at the post office. I’m assuming that’s my latest eBay bargain. I’m told that the postage has been underpaid. Not quite the bargain it might have been, perhaps. I shall find out tomorrow.

There was a flier from the Conservative party – “Three Reasons to vote for Damien Green”. I’ve blogged before that I’m convinced that Damien Green is going to retain the parliamentary seat of Ashford. No other politicians have gone to the trouble of sending anything through the post – perhaps the other parties have already conceded defeat locally. I did notice yesterday that as I drove to Wadhurst I drove through four different parliamentary constituencies, and I soon lost count of the “Vote Conservative” banners and placards I saw. There must have been well over a hundred of them. I didn’t see a single one for the Labour party, and there was a solitary poster for the Liberal Democrats just outside of Biddenden.

I also saw my voting card has arrived. I shall have to phone the council tomorrow – I have applied for a postal vote.

I had a letter from the Renault dealer with an offer which seems too good to be true. For a limited period (next week) they are offering a deal where I trade in my car for a brand new one, and they guarantee my monthly payments will stay the same, or be cheaper. And they will chuck in a free flight for two of us to somewhere in Europe.

I’m not keen on the free flight. I think those things are a con. After all, it’s only the flight that is free – you’re still saddled with hotel bills and holiday expenses. But I’m intrigued by the idea of a new car. I’ve still got two years of payments outstanding on my car. Do they actually mean they will pay off the outstanding loan on my car? I wonder how they can do this deal. I might just phone and ask them.

I then had a stab at the monthly accounts and was pleasantly surprised. I’ve had a pay rise. Only two per cent, but in today’s financial climate, that’s better than a poke up the Herschel with a sharp stick.

And I wasted a few minutes going through the forthcoming dates for the diary section of this blog. Milwaukee kite festival is much earlier in the year than I first thought, so that’s probably had to be scratched from my itinerary, which is a shame. Dieppe kite festival is also looking dubious for me – I’m told that the astro club may well be something that weekend. And while I’m scrubbing kiting events from my diary, I’ve still to hear any confirmation of the Sumner’s Ponds. I’ve emailed the management to find out if that one is still going ahead. And I need to make up my mind about when we are going to the Brick Lane curry extravaganza.


23 April 2010 (Friday) - St George's Day


I didn’t sleep well last night – the letter about Renault’s new car deal was preying on my mind for some reason. I phoned Renault this morning to ask how it worked. Effectively they say they will buy my car off me for how much I still owe on the loan, and then sell me a new(er) car. And because of the interest rates being a lot lower these days than when I bought the car, the monthly repayments on the loan for the new car will be less than what I’m currently paying.

I then spoke to the loan people. So long as the garage offers me five grand for my car, I shall be laughing. Having done a bit of research on-line, I think that figure might be a bit optimistic, but we shall see. I’ve booked an appointment with them tomorrow afternoon.

After mucking about with a very laborious automated switchboard, I asked the council about the ballot card I received yesterday. I eventually got through to someone who assured me the paperwork for my postal vote will be with me tomorrow. I’m quite excited about having a postal vote, even though I’m still not sure who to vote for. I’ve half a mind to just draw a picture of a knob on the ballot form and send that in.

My children are decided on their political stances though. One is voting “Send them all back on the next banana boat”, the other is voting “Tree Hugger”. Oh well, as I’ve mentioned before, the vote in Ashford is a foregone conclusion anyway.

I then called into the post office to collect the parcel. It wasn’t my eBay bargain after all – it was a letter for “Daddies Little Angel TM , who now owes me £1.19 for the extra postage I had to pay. And again the post office didn’t ask for any proof if identity before giving me the letter. They never so when I have my passport with me. But when I leave my wallet at home, they always insist on seeing I.D.

Whilst I was in the area I thought I’d have a mooch in Kent Wool Growers to see if they did guinea pig food. They did, but before I could look closely a passing normal person started haranguing me about tack. I told him I didn’t work in the shop, but he wasn’t having any of it, so I beat a hasty retreat.

Seeing as I might be selling the car tomorrow I took it to be cleaned. It’s now sparkling inside and out. And then I popped into Tesco to get some doughnuts for work. After all it is St. George’s Day, so I thought I’d treat everyone.

Maybe half the people I spoke with today knew it was St. George’s Day. Several stared at me blankly, clearly with no idea what I was talking about. And one person commented that she liked St George’s Day because that’s when everyone drinks Guinness…


24 April 2010 (Saturday) - Buying Blue Things




For once I slept well, and wasn’t up with the lark. So I was understandably miffed to be woken by a furious hammering on the front door. I get annoyed when people bang on the door – after all, there’s a perfectly serviceable doorbell there. So I got up and trotted downstairs to find some normal people thundering on the door of the house next to us. “Did we wake you?” they asked. I gave them a sickly smile, and then made my brekky.

Then another noise from the front door. I thought the thing was being kicked down. But no – the postman was putting letters through. How can you make so much noise posting letters through a letter box?

My postal vote has arrived. And with it was a separate letter telling me that I’d been allowed a postal vote. Which was rather obvious, and a waste of a letter. And then I did a little research. There are 45.2 million people registered to vote, according to Yahoo Answers. Of these, the Electoral Reform Society claims that 12.1% will use a postal vote. So I am one of five and a half million people who will use a postal vote. That’s far more than I thought. And every one of us has had a totally redundant letter telling us we’ve been allowed a postal vote.

Admittedly councils using franking machines get their postage cheaper than usual. A second class stamp costs me 32p. Let’s be generous and assume the council gets it for 20p. That will still cost the country just over a million pounds on sending out these unnecessary letters, to say nothing of the cost of the paper, envelopes and people’s time in producing them. I might just write to my MP, pointing out the saving the government might make, and asking if I get a reward for spotting this.

(And they claim there is a recession on!).

Then I got really angry with the PC – I couldn’t access anything in Facebook. Nothing at all. After half an hour I decided my browser was at fault, and tried using FireFox. That wouldn’t work either. Facebook itself was not working properly.

Facebook’s not what it once was. It’s a typical example of today’s IT philosophy: something is working well, so let’s fiddle about with it. As opposed to the typical engineering maxim “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I wasted a lot of time trying to use Facebook to send a message, which in the end I sent by email anyway.

To town for shopping. First of all to buy breakfast. Having been to The Gorge with Martin a few weeks ago, we went back. A good old fry-up is always appreciated. With grilled tomatoes and black pudding too. We then wandered through the market stalls where I got a bandanna. In years gone by I had loads of bandannas. These days I can’t find that many. I have my suspicions where they might have gone….

I had been told that I could buy pink crocs for a fiver in the shop which once housed the Co-op. I was misinformed. Whilst they had pink crocs in my size, they were thirty five quid. A tad expensive. I found a pair of black crocs in Peacocks for a fiver, and went with those.

Over the last few weeks, everyone has been buying new cameras. Whilst I am very pleased with the camera on my phone, the battery doesn’t last more than a day, and my old camera is nearly ten years old, and is starting to creak a bit. I had a look in Colourscope Cameras. The one I’d had my eye on was rather expensive, so I looked at what else was on offer. I decided that since I didn’t use the video camera I’ve got much, I didn’t need one that did HD videos. All I wanted was something that took photos. The Fujifilm A170 took 10.2 megawotsits photos, and was on a bargain offer. And it also took AA batteries. I like a camera that takes standard batteries I can buy anywhere, so I bought the camera. The chap in the shop tried to sell me a case and a memory card, but I was talked out of buying those. They sounded expensive.

We had a look in Cheesy Computers (GZ to the normal people) where the assistant was very helpful. Not only were his memory cards half the price of the ones in the camera shop, he refused to sell us the biggest ones until he’d checked on the internet that our camera would take a 16Gb card. And he was right – it would only accept up to an 8Gb card. So we bought one of those. As we paid, the chap in the shop was saying how in the past they would sell the bigger memory cards, and then have people coming back complaining because the bigger cards didn’t work in most digital cameras.

On reflection, with each photo being about 2.5Mb, an 8Gb card can hold just over three thousand photos. How big a memory card do I need?

I came home via the tattoo shop. Dan the Tattoo Man had asked me to pop in so’s he could photograph my new tattoo once it had calmed down a bit. He was very pleased with it (as am I!).

Once we were home I spent a few minutes playing with my new camera. It can take videos after all. Having mucked about with it for a bit, I’m quite impressed with what I’ve got. I had a look on eBay, and I think I’ve got a bargain, as the eBay price for my camera is thirty quid more than I paid for it. I’ve ordered a sexy case for it which hopefully should be here mid-week. Let’s hope so.

And so the the Renault garage to check out their deal which sounded too good to be true. It was – partly.

We had a good chat with the salesman, who gave my car the once over. And it soon became apparent that my getting a brand new car wasn’t going to happen. He asked what sort of car I was after. I was very clear on that – the same as I’ve currently got, only newer and with comparable mileage. They had two cars which would suit my (and their) requirements. I ended up going for another Grand Scenic (same as I have now) which has done just over twenty thousand miles, and is two years newer than my current car. I pick it up on Friday, and having given them my car in part exchange I will be paying a quid less each month on my car loan. Admittedly I’m starting with a new car loan, but I was planning to do that when the loan was paid up anyway.

The only drawback is that grey roof bars and top-box will look a bit spazzy on a blue car, but I only have the box on for two months of the year anyway.

We then settled down to watch Doctor Who – another excellent episode. Having watched the last two years of David Tennant’s tenure out of a sense of feeling I had to, I’m really liking this year’s season. I then wasted what remained of the evening in NeverWinter.

All things considered it was quite a constructive day, but I had planned to do loads of laundry, mow the lawn and paint the fascia boards today as well. Maybe tomorrow…

25 April 2010 (Sunday) - Cycling to Aldington





Last night just as I was getting really cross in NeverWinter the phone rang. Work’s I.T. had gone west and the chap who was on duty couldn’t remember how to rig the apparatus to back-up mode. It was one of those things that I don’t do very often, and it would have been quicker for me to show him face to face rather than tell him over the phone, so at 11.15pm I was on my way to work. A bit of mucking about, and I was back home by 12.45am and asleep by 1am.

At 2.30am I was woken by “My Boy TM ” coming home quietly. He’d been on the razzle with some mates in Maidstone to celebrate a birthday. Their plan was to go to a tasteful establishment where refined young ladies get their kit off for the titillation of young gentlemen. But having been to a “wiiiiine bar” where the cost of a round of drinks was weighed rather than counted, they found had no money left to spend on flaunting floozies. Which was probably for the best.

With a few minutes spare this morning, I figured out how to take the roof rack off of the car. It was quite simple to do – I shan’t leave the racks on the new car when I’m not using the top box. If for no other reason than that the colour would be wrong.

Despite the drizzle we got the bikes out, and the weather soon perked up. Seven of us cycled to Aldington to the Good Intent, which is a semi- regular destination when out cycling. Four well kept ales on the hand pumps, good food and friendly service. Cycling on a Sunday was a change from usual, and in retrospect a starter followed by a roast dinner probably wasn’t the best of ideas when one has to cycle home again. So we broke up the journey home by calling in at the Queen’s Head for a pint of Summer Lightning.

We were home relatively early, so whilst the guinea pigs ate the dandelions I topped up the pond, emptied the car of all sorts of tat and fell asleep for half an hour before mowing the lawn. I was told the lawn didn’t need mowing, but the trick to keeping a lawn looking like it doesn’t need mowing is to keep mowing it regularly. I still haven’t got the fascia boards painted. Maybe in the week at some time….

And now I really ache….

26 April 2010 (Monday) – Stuff




I read the news this morning over breakfast. I know I shouldn’t. Sometimes I wonder if I am really the only sane one in a mad world (and that’s a scary thought!). Take today’s news for example. Apropos of nothing, one of the greatest minds of the age, Professor Stephen Hawking has announcedthat he thinks that intelligent aliens have exhausted the natural resources of their own world, and are on their way to Earth in enormous spaceships to take ours. Has anyone told the Professor that “V” is a program on the Syfy channel, and is make-believe?

And then another genius professor has discovered that the sun goes through phases of more intense and less intense activity. And the phases of less intense activity correspond with our getting harsher winters. What can I say? Dur!!!!! Isn’t that patently obvious?

I had got a service booked on the car I’ve just sold. So I phoned the garage to check that they’d cancelled it, and to speak to them about my service account. Each month I’ve been paying fifteen quid into an account to help meet the costs of having the car serviced. Seeing I’m getting a new car I’ll need to have the account transferred to the new car. After all, I’ve been paying into this thing for two years and haven’t touched that money yet. It would be a nice little amount to put towards future services. Or so I thought.

It’s not that simple. These things never are. The service deal wasn’t with the garage. It was with some third party that the garage was dealing with two years ago. Whilst the garage can get money out of them to pay for services, they were pretty sure the funds would not be transferable to another car. It would be easier all round if I cancelled the service plan, got my money back and started a new one. Or so I was told. The garage suggested I contacted my bank to ensure the direct debit was stopped, and they said they would get onto this third party to get me a refund. They warned me there would be an admin fee. I phoned this third party myself to find the admin fee is forty quid. Forty quid!!!

I won’t be taking out a service deal with the new car. I shall just stick fifteen quid aside each month and I will have the interest and admin fees for myself.


27 April 2010 (Tuesday) - An Afternoon Off


Some days I feel like I am running round like a headless chicken at work. Other days we seem to have more staff than sense. Today, with seemingly double the staff we had last week, I thought I’d take the opportunity to use up some of my lieu time and I took the afternoon off.

I came home to find my camera case had arrived. I do like buying stuff on eBay. Although it can sometimes be a bit of a gamble, just lately everything I’ve ordered off eBay (except one item delayed by Icelandic volcanoes) has arrived within a couple of days. It’s a good camera case – it’s very pink.

My Boy TM ” was clumping round the house whilst bellowing into his phone. He was planning to take a bird to the seaside. I did tell him that there were plenty of seagulls there already, but he wasn’t having any of it.

Totally by chance, the bank phoned – would I like to borrow a squillion pounds? By one of life’s many co-incidences, one squillion pounds is exactly the amount of money I need to borrow to pay for my new car. So I told the bank I would like a loan, which completely flummoxed the poor girl. She was obviously so used to being told to get knotted that she simply wasn’t expecting anyone to say yes. She then passed me onto someone who claimed her name was Kelly. If her name was really Kelly, then from now on I should be known as Rashid. “Kelly” started her standard spiel. I stopped her and asked her my most important question - how soon I could get my hands on the money? That flummoxed her. She said it depended on where the money was coming from. I might have it in savings, in bonds, on deposit. I asked her what she was talking about, and she admitted she didn’t know. She then put me on to somebody who spoke both scripted and impromptu English and I asked my questions.

She gave me her figures, and I trotted round to the garage to see how much money I could save on the car loan. Despite my being a valued customer entitled to the premium rate loan reserved for the bank’s most valued customers, it was still no cheaper than going with the deal that Renault had already offered, so I shook hands with the salesman, and spent a few minutes looking at my new car. I realise that (apart from the colour) it is pretty much identical to my current car, but it’s still quite exciting.

This car will be my tenth motor vehicle, and I’ve just amazed myself that out of the thing’s nine predecessors, I can only recall the registration numbers of four of them. My DAF, my mini, the Maestro – what were their numbers? My motorbike “Zoomy Petal” – what was his number?

I then mucked about adding an RSS feed to my blog. I have absolutely no idea what an RSS feed is, but if you look at the very bottom of the screen you’ll see there’s a link to it. I was actually trying to blag an animated header similar to that which one of my loyal readers uses on a certain kiting forum, but I got this instead. I wonder what it does….


28 April 2010 (Wednesday) -Arky-ologee Club


Let’s hope my PC lasts long enough for this blog entry to reach cyber-space. On booting I had some message which dribbled about an unregistered anti-virus being installed. So I employed my standard I.T. fix #1 – I rebooted, which seemed to work. But we shall see.

Being the last Wednesday of the month, we set off to Lenham to the arky-ologee club. More often than not the meetings are dull, but tonight’s speaker promised to be good. Her previous talks had been on the saucier exploits of King William IV and Admiral Nelson.

Tonight she lived up to expectations, digging the dirt on the seedier aspects of the lives of the six uncles of Queen Victoria. With two of them being kings (George IV and William IV) and four of them being dukes (of York,Cumberland, Sussex and Cambridge) they were (with one dull exception) a lively lot. Between them they were involved in several illegal marriages, had several mistresses, fathered at least fifty-six illegitimate children and ran up debts of millions of pounds (each). The speaker read from letters and eye witness accounts written at the time, and brought to life a subject which thirty years ago my history teacher had killed stone dead.

Following her talk we had a celebrity guest. Or so I first thought. My mistake – the poor lady who told us of her excavations bore an unfortunate resemblance to “Tiddler” from “The Riddlers”. She waxed ecstatically about some medieval duck pond she was digging out, which was apparently remarkable because it was built on the wreckage of an earlier medieval duck pond. I suppose there are those who get over-excited at the thought of double decker medieval duck ponds, but I must admit I am not one of them…

29 April 2010 (Thursday) - This and That


When not on an 11.30am start I always get to work far too early. There are all sorts of reasons for this. Avoiding the rush hour traffic is one, getting a parking space within fifteen minutes walk of the hospital is another, as is getting a few minutes peace and quiet to read a book before the day starts. And being in at work early has the advantage that should the person rostered to be in early not turn up for whatever reason, I am there already, can step into the breach, and so can go home early. Which is what happened today.

We had an interesting and intellectual discussion at work on the subject of who is the lamest super-hero. Despite the utter rubbish-ness of Elastic-Man, the Green Hornet and all of the X-Men, the title of lamest super-hero went to Matter Eater Lad – a particularly useless hero whose sole super talent is to eat everything and anything. One can only hope that Matter Eater Lad has solved the problem of chronic flatulence.

I then phoned the garage – which took some doing. All is well with my new car, but it occurred to me that with the switchover of TV and radio broadcasting to digital format in two years time, perhaps I should be considering a digital car radio. The garage said not to worry – they have had no direction from Renault about digital radios whatsoever. Further research on the internet would seem to show I needn’t worry. I’ve got until 2020 to get a digital radio in my car. Hopefully that will be several new cars down the line.

And then home – I mucked out the pond filter. It didn’t actually need doing. Or that is, it hadn’t started leaking yet. Every other time I’ve cleaned it out this year was because it was leaking, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to be pro-active. Hurt – no. Smell of fish poo – yes. But you can’t have everything.

And then I had a look in my letter rack. The leccie company had sent me a letter. I get my leccie and gas from them, and because I get both, I get a discount. Or that is I used to get a discount. They have a new system, and my details differ between the two accounts. Unless I phoned them immediately to tell them to make the accounts have the same details they were going to discontinue my discount.

So I phoned them, and asked them if they thought (as I did) that their writing to me to tell me to tell them to correct their own error was a bit dumb. The chap on the phone was helpful (being able to speak English helped, and was a novel development for a call centre), and he said that whilst their new system is good and has cost millions of pounds, apparently they cannot change my details on their system without my permission. Even if they’ve typed them in wrongly themselves.

All’s well now, but I resent wasting my precious time on drivel like this. Which is odd – it’s taken me twice as long to type up what happened, and I don’t mind that at all…

30 April 2010 (Friday) - New Car, Astro Club


Last Saturday night I went into work for a couple of hours. Which (in the end) worked to my advantage. I took two hours out of work today to collect my new car. I had some qualms about saying goodbye to the old car, but the new one is virtually identical in everything but for the colour and one extra gear. Back to work via Tesco’s for doughnuts to celebrate.

After work was somewhat rushed. Tonight’s astro club meeting was an outing to Cranbrook to meet up with CADSAS (Cranbrook and District Science & Astronomy Society). Four of us set off hopefully, only to find one other person sitting in a car park hoping he was at the right place. Having found him, five of us then sat in a car park and hoped we were in the right place. After a while our numbers grew to double figures, and we found the people from CADSAS who led us to where we were supposed to be. It was at this point that we heard a car hooter, and saw some of our members driving toward us in their car. And behind them was a veritable convoy of a dozen or so cars full of club members. All of whom had found each other, but not found where we were supposed to meet.

Having said that, I feel I should point out to my loyal readers that history is written by those who take the time to write it. There is a conflicting school of thought that maintained we’d parked in the wrong place….

Eventually over thirty of us met up with the Cranbrook people. We went specifically to see their huge telescope. And it was quite a whopper, although still in the throes of being rebuilt. Fortunately some of our number are quite clued up with thing telescopic, and some helpful suggestions were made. I was part of a small number of people congratulated for coming up with the idea of springs. Perhaps I should say that I didn’t have any conception of what possible use springs would be in the telescope. I merely overheard it being said, and so I just repeated the word “springs” like a stuck record, and people seemed to think I knew what I was talking about.

To be honest I don’t really know anything about telescopes, and (not being rude) I have no real interest in them. I am after all very much an armchair astronomer. But having said that, I can appreciate the passion that some have for telescopes, and a really good evening was had tonight. I got to chat with friends I only meet once a month at the astro club. But there were a lot of faces I didn’t recognise. I need to get to know more of the membership.

And then home. I really should do my packing for next week’s holiday……