1 April 2011 (Friday) - The Spoke and Jim Show



Thanks to the wonders of Sky Plus technology I got to watch the second episode of the new series of “V” this morning before work. Earlier in the week I grumbled about TV scriptwriters using pseudo-science. The scriptwriters of “V” did it again. And again made a complete nonsense of what was otherwise a good program. Given that a person supposedly has a high phosphate level, the written lab result seen on screen should bear this out. It should not actually show a low result. Perhaps I’m being picky, but at least Star Trek had the decency not to blag it, but to make up words, and when they interphaced the dilithic contrfibulators I (for one) was happy.


And so to work where I received an email. A company with whom I deal very occasionally have offered me their app for my phone. Do they honestly think that I am so sad that I will want to peruse their website from my phone? Obviously enough people must do so to make it worth their while bothering.


And so to Folkestone for a birthday party. Whilst the girly-types did girly-type things in the kitchen, me and the birthday boy and the multitude watched some films. First of all the Spoke and Jim Show, which was very good. Then we watched “Toy Story 3” which was not so good. A very long time ago I made the comment that in my honest opinion Disney films are too babyish even for babies, and I’m afraid that over the years I’ve seen nothing to make me change my view. And then we watched “Despicable Me”, which I loved. The only problem was that it was getting late, and I kept nodding off. I must get that film and watch it properly….



2 April 2011 (Saturday) - A Bike Ride



I read an interesting article in the news today. The main thrust of the story was that some fit teacherflopped her jubblies out

 and got them photographed by another teacher. A few weeks ago I mentioned about a teacher I saw when I was doing a careers advice day at a local school. I wouldn’t have minded if that teacher had flopped her jubblies out.

Deciding whether flopped jubblies count as art or filth is beyond my abilities or expertise, but it does strike me that if you are going to leave photographs of said jubblies on a memory stick lying round a boys school, then you get all you deserve. I can’t work out whether it was her or the teacher who was the photographer who left the memory stick lying around. But as far as I’m concerned, that is immaterial. What boiled my piss about the story was the school in which this memory stick was found.

Parents pay for their kids to go to this school. They pay thirty thousand quid a year for their kids to go to this school. Who on Earth can afford to spend more each year on school fees than the average bloke earns in that time?

There was also an article about the cancellation of a charity fund-raising concert in aid of the Japanese relief effort. Some do-gooder had decided to stage the event and gave the music world a couple of weeks’ notice of his intentions. It never occurred to the organiser to check the availability of the musicians who were invited to perform at the concert. They are actually all unavailable due to prior commitments. Which is how big names in the music industry operate: they don’t just turn up at the O2 arena when they feel like it – these gigs are arranged months in advance.

Hoping that most of the big names in the music world would be available at the drop of a hat is naïve (at best). But now these unfortunate musicians are being vilified and made to appear uncaring because of their prior bookings.

What should they do? Let down people who’ve paid good money for their tickets merely to put on an ego-massaging event that will go largely unnoticed by the world at large?


After I’d finished getting stressy with the news I got the bikes out of the shed and pumped up the tyres and oiled the chains. It’s over six months since we last got the bikes out, and they seem to have survived storage very well. There was a minor mishap as the Rear Admiral had forgotten the code to his combination lock, but we weren’t delayed by too much, and four of us set off to Aldington Frith via Park Farm. The Good Intent is a pub which has never featured in my top ten pubs, but I honestly don’t know why. With four ales on the hand pumps, really good food (and reasonable priced too), welcoming staff and being less than an hour’s bike ride from home, it’s a great pub. Meeting up with those who drove, eight of us sat down to eat, and we ate (and drank) very well.

From the Good Intent it was a (relatively) short ride to the Farrier’s Arms in Mersham. I was last there three years ago, and in the meantime the place has closed down and been bought up by a consortium of locals. My first impressions were good: the place has its own brewery and I had a pint of their stout and a pint of their best bitter. Very nice! But then I saw the menu. Whereas the average meal was about seven quid in the pub where we’d had our lunch, at this place the food was far more expensive. It seems to cater for people who like to spend way over the going rate on their food. Don’t get me wrong – there are people who enjoy spending far too much on their food, and if that’s what people want to do, then I respect their choice. Perhaps these are the people who can afford to pay thirty thousand pounds every year on school fees?

I think I can sum the Farrier’s Arms up with one observation. In my entire life I have only ever seen two people smoke a cigarette through a cigarette holder. One of them was in the Farrier’s Arms garden this afternoon, and the other was Lady Penelope (out of Thunderbirds). And bearing in mind that Lady Penelope was a puppet, I don’t think she counts.


Seeing how it was on the way home, we made our way to McDonalds where we had a spot of McAfters. A dessert for nearly a fiver at the Farrier’s Arms was less than a quid at Maccy D’s. A quick cuppa with Chip as we cycled past his house, and then home.

A very good first cycle ride of the year. Perhaps somewhat later in the year than we’ve had first cycle rides in the past, and certainly somewhat ambitious for a first cycle ride. I really ache now….



3 April 2011 (Sunday) - Mothers Day



It’s become something of a family tradition that the clans gather on Mothers Day. Today the venue was chosen to be Fairlight Lodge Hotel. We had our wedding reception there (many years ago), and apropos of nothing I thought I’d have a look to see if the place has a web site. Do go through this place’s web site. The main page is so-so. But click on the links. The location page gives a map in Jacksonville (wherever that might be). The listings page makes no sense whatsoever.  The restaurant serves only one menu choice “Lamb with mint sauce mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, (which to be fair to the place is reasonably priced at £7.99, despite all the mmm nonsense). The points of local interest are listed as “Link Category” and “Placeholder Image”. I’ve been visiting the area for years and have never heard of those attractions.

The hotel is staging some special events over the year. In month 8 (August?) they are having Event One. This will be followed in month 17 (next May?) with Event Two and in month 26 (Xmas 2012?) with Event Three.

On the functions page it says "Providing you with a secure online booking is a high priority of Fairlight Lodge Hotel. You can be assured that your transaction is protected with the highest security on the Internet today.” Bearing in mind the shambles that is the rest of the web site, I laughed out loud at this.

I wasn’t 100% sure I remembered where the place was, so I checked their website, which conveniently listed the location of the place as “[TOWN], [COUNTY], [POSTCODE]”, which was useful.


I think it’s fair to say that I arrived at the place with a sense of trepidation. And I wasn’t disappointed. With every other hotel and pub in the universe booked up months in advance for Mothers Day, we arrived at 12.30pm to find that this place was all but deserted. Seeing how we were  there before the rest of our group we thought we’d get a drink. I’d been looking forward to this bit – the place’s web site says “For the traditionalist you can sample real ales in the Bar which serves a selection of locally brewed ales”.

Call me old-fashioned if you will, but I’d take exception to the bit about “a selection of locally brewed ales”. The ale selection consisted of Harvey’s Best. A selection of one. And being brewed in Lewes (some thirty miles away) I can’t in all honesty consider that beer to be “local”. There are breweries in NorthiamBattle,Hastings, Ashford, Bexhill and Rolvenden that are closer.

I was driving, so I settled for a glass of pop. er indoors TM  didn’t fancy the Harvey’s – it’s becoming very widespread these days. So she thought she’d try something else. But the bar was that bad that her second choice was half a pint of Guinness (!) But the barman couldn’t oblige. It didn’t come in half-pints, only tin-fulls. They were pouring the Guinness out of tins. She settled for lager. (And people wonder why pubs are closing down left, right and centre).


We sat in the sun and very soon the family arrived. Mum seemed to be made up with the day, and we chatted for a bit. I had a quick game of “Hide and Bogwash” with my nephew: the game is similar to “Hide and Seek”, but with the added complication that when I find him I get to flush his head down a toilet. He loves it really!

It would have been good to have stayed longer, but the sun had gone in: it was getting cold. And people were talking about going into Hastings for chips. So we said our goodbyes and came home, where I took the seats out of the car. Ably assisted by Mr O’Lata we set off to Maidstone where we were collecting a sofa to fetch back to Chip’s flat. I have a theory about blocks of flats. No one lives in the bottom two floors. They are just there for show. It would have been so easy to have taken a sofa from a ground floor flat, but no, we had to negotiate the stairs. There was a very open stair well which “Daddies Little Angel TM ” would have seen as an obvious short cut down which we could have “gently lowered” the sofa. However Chip took the somewhat traditionalist view that he wanted to be able to sit on the sofa once it had got down the stairs. So we lugged it down, and wedged it into the back of my car. “Wedging” being the operative phrase, since it did not want to come out once we’d driven it back to the car park nearest to Chip World (which also is nowhere near ground level).

I managed to persuade the sofa to come out of the car – a little brute force is often useful. There was a minor hiccup when we caught the sofa on a nail on a door on the way up the stairs, but I am reliably informed that there was no harm done.


Although I’d already sent my apologies, I did have a vague plan that after I’d done all that I had planned for the day I’d be able to pop down to Brighton for the evening. I knew I’d miss the kite club’s AGM, but I had hoped to get along for any post-meeting socials. By the time I’d got the seats back into the car and had tea and fallen asleep, Brighton wasn’t going to happen. Maybe next time…?



4 April 2011 (Monday) - A Day Off



I took the day off work today. My excuse was that I was getting the car serviced, but to be honest I fancied a lazy day. With the car dropped of at Renault at 8 am, I made my way home via the burger van. Yesterday I mocked a hotel’s website. Today, carrying on the website theme, I noticed that the burger van has got its own website. However this website is quite good as websites go. As was the hot dog I had for my breakfast from that van. I scoffed it as I made my way home along the side of the river as I walked home through the park. I watched the chub and the trout in the river, and the chaffinches in the trees, and the high-speed train hurtling past. For all that a lot of people run Ashford down; it’s not a bad place to live.


Once home I made a start on the ironing. There was loads of it, and whilst I ironed I watched “2001” on the TCM channel. Billed as a classic move, I’ve watched “2001” several times. Whilst I like it, in my mind it’s in a special category of film along with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Avatar. All these films were made with leading-edge (at the time) visual effects and are all therefore about an hour longer than they need to be *because* of the leading-edge visual effects. They also all seem to have used leading-edge visual effects in place of a plot, to their detriment.

I had the ironing sorted long before the end of the film, and scoffed black cherry ice cream whilst HAL went loopy. I turned off the film about half an hour from the end – realistically the line “My God – It’s full of stars” marks the end of the film anyway.


And then it was mid day, and the lawn had dried out enough to be mowed. Lawn mowing really needs to be done weekly – I’d not done it for three weeks, and it was hard work. I then hacked back the clematis and roses which pour over the fence from next door. Whilst trimming I saw that one of the fence panels was disintegrating. It would be the fence on the side on which relations are strained. I’ll see if I can’t affect a bodge over the next week or so.

I then stripped all of the clutter out of the shed and re-packed it in an effort to reclaim some space in the shed. The trouble with a shed is that it is somewhere where people throw stuff and then forget about it. Like“My Boy TM ”s sleeping bag. He’d forgotten about the sleeping bag he’d left in the shed: he’s since bought another. Likewise the canister of petrol for his mini-moto. His mini-moto has been gone for at least five years, but the fuel is still in the shed, unwanted by all.

After some nagging, and some nailing rakes to the shed roof I eventually got the shed half-way tidy.


I settled down for a spot of lunch over another classic film “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”. Featuring Adam (Batman) West and a monkey in a space suit, I gave up after twenty minutes. The film was utter rubbish and the garage had phoned to say my car was ready.

My car had passed the MOT – there were three advisories though. There was a nail in one of the tyres, but I’d told them about that tyre and they’d fixed the puncture for me. There was a small chip in the windscreen. I can’t see it, but it was probably from when a stone hit it yesterday. And (perhaps more importantly) the offside steering rack ball joint has some slight play (!). I’m told this isn’t serious yet.

The service, MOT, air conditioning overhaul and tyre fixing came to just over two hundred quid, and they washed and valeted the car too. I don’t think that price is too unreasonable. I have in the past been criticised for taking my car to the Renault garage, and have been told that the local back street garage is much cheaper. It’s been my experience of back street garages that they don’t have the equipment to fix today’s modern computer-controlled cars. Certainly the last time I took a car to a local back street garage, the garage admitted defeat, told me they couldn’t fix it, and told me to go to the Renault specialist. So I went there, and have stayed with them ever since.


Home again, where I fiddled about with my phone. I can now play all the music stored on my phone through my car radio. Which is good news for me, but to be honest I don’t think anyone else would be that impressed with my music selection. I suppose I’d better get a car charger for my phone. Now my phone is doubling up as the entertainment centre and the sat-nav, the battery isn’t going to last very long.

I then spent half an hour (or so) sorting out the music on my phone: phone music isn’t something I’ve ever spent much time with, and it was all something of a shambles. I had duplicate songs, songs as ringtones, ringtones as songs… it all needed some attention. Now it’s a bit tidier. I shall see how long it lasts until the novelty of playing my phone through the car radio wears off…



5 April 2011 (Tuesday) - Stuff


Here’s a couple of signs of the times.

Yesterday when I was collecting my car I saw a notice saying that the garage wouldn’t accept a cheque as a form of payment. This made me think, and I had a look in my cheque book. The last cheque I wrote was last September (for the new boiler). The cheque before that was in August 2009.  Two cheques in two years: I’ve noticed that more and more places aren’t taking cheques any more. I wonder how long it will be before cheques go the way of the postal order?

And also yesterday I mentioned “My Boy TM ”s sleeping bag which he’d forgotten about and left in the shed. Admittedly the thing is twelve years old, and has a couple of holes and needs an airing. But it’s a thick one and keeps you warm. It would be a shame to bin the thing. It would be ideal for a youngster for cub or scout camp. So I thought I’d try to unload it on the local “get rid of your tat” page on Facebook. I was rather shocked to find that I was the only person giving stuff away. Other people were asking for hard cash for stuff which could only be described as “right old scrat”. No one wanted my sleeping bag. It was suggested I gave it to the local homeless charity or pet rescue. I mentioned this to various people today – the consensus was that if I’d asked for money for it, it would have sold. No one will accept hand-me-downs any more.


Being on a late start today, I had some time to waste in the garden. Even if it was raining a little bit. The Koi are feeding well, and taking food from my hand. And they are getting bigger. I’ve been threatening to weigh some of the larger ones. Maybe once “My Boy TM ” s foot is better we might do that.

And then I gave myself a haircut. Many years ago I bought a set of hair clippers. Rather than queuing up at the barber’s, wasting time and spending money, I give my head the once over every few weeks. Cutting hair is a messy job, so I do it in the garden where all the hair blows away. Whilst trimming I could hear next door unlocking his door. And unlocking it. And unlocking it. He must have at least five separate locks on that door. All the fences around his back garden are thick with thorned climbing roses, and there are no gates in or out of his garden. Why does he need so many locks? Bearing in mind that as well as the rose thorn fences and the locks, he’s got CCTV trained on his back door, I can’t help but wonder what he’s got in his house that he’s guarding so avidly.



6 April 2011 (Wednesday) - Electoral Reform


Today I received my leaflet for the forthcoming referendum of the reform of our voting system. I’ve heard several friends and family express confusion at what’s being proposed, so today I’ll have a look at the suggested AV voting system, and (hopefully) I’ll explain why only a twit would vote for it.

(Please note that, as ever, political impartiality is my watchword…!, and apologies to anyone who thinks AV is actually a good idea….)


What is being proposed is quite straightforward really. Take an election with our current system:


Candidate A wins with 3/7ths of the votes cast. More people have voted for Candidate A than any other candidate. He may not have a majority (more than half the total) of the votes cast, but he has more than any other candidate.

This is how we’ve elected members of Parliament for years, but we’re now being offered a different scheme. The crux of the new scheme is that selected candidates must have over half of the votes cast. It works like this:


We get to choose our preferred candidate, and our second choice candidate.  In the grid below X is the voter’s first choice, and Y is their second choice:



With no clear overall majority (i.e. no candidate getting over half the total “first choice” votes – the X), a new scheme comes into play.

The candidate(s) with the least first choice votes is eliminated and the votes cast for that candidate are re-examined. In the example given candidates B and C only got one “first choice” (X) vote each and so would be eliminated.

The second choice of vote (y) of those who voted for the eliminated candidates is then given to the remaining candidates. In the example given above the votes re-examined would be those of voters 4 and 5. The “second choice” (y) of those who voted for candidates B and C (voters 4 and 5) now becomes their main vote.

Voter #4 now is voting for Candidate A, and so has given Candidate A four of seven possible votes.

Voter #5 now is voting for Candidate B who has already been eliminated, so we can discount that vote.

Candidate A now has 4/7 of the vote, which is more than half the votes cast and so has won.


In the above example Candidate A would have won on the existing system anyway, but consider this election result.



Candidate A does not have an overall majority – he has 5/11 of the vote. Applying the AV rules, the candidate with least votes (C) is eliminated, and those who chose Candidate C have their votes reassigned to their second choice. In this case Candidate B. Candidate B now has an overall majority: 6/11 of the vote, and so wins. Even though he would not have won in the existing system.


Clear as mud? Good!


This stupid idea sucks fish for many reasons: mainly because demonstrably some people’s second choice has as much weighting as other people’s first choice. Surely it would make sense to allow for people’s actually preferring one candidate over another. Take the second example above. If a “first choice” (X) vote is deemed to be worth two points and a “second choice” (y) vote deemed to be worth one point, then a very different picture emerges:



Candidate B wins.  But he would have been knocked out in the scheme we are being asked to accept.


Another possible way of voting would be to take into consideration the fact that as well has having a preferred candidate, one may well have a candidate one does *not* want to see elected. A common criticism of electoral reform is that a different way of voting would open the door to extremist parties who the majority of the electorate do not want.

So we might consider the concept of the “anti-vote”: voters have two choices to make on their ballot. They mark the candidate they want (who gets a +1 vote), and the candidate they do not want (who gets a -1 vote):



Candidate C wins.  But he would have been knocked out in the scheme we are being asked to accept.


I for one am going to vote against the AV system on May 5th because (as I hope I’ve demonstrated) the system is inherently flawed. I’m not saying the present scheme is perfect – far from it. But the AV scheme doesn’t actually offer electoral reform as such. All it does is try to pretend that a minority candidate actually has a majority.


And an added bonus of voting against the AV system is that it will really boil the piss of the dribbling democraps. Over the last year they have proven themselves to be a bunch of charlatans who have gone back on their word so many times. They have thrown away all their principles and adopted Con-servative party propaganda purely in a shallow attempt to gain political power. The only thing in their manifesto they’ve actually delivered is a referendum on electoral change, so I shall use the referendum as my chance to tell them what I think of them.




7 April 2011 (Thursday) - Music, Lunch, Fish Poo...


On Monday I mentioned how I’d rigged my car radio so’s I could play the music on my phone through it. Being rather loathe to flatten the phone’s battery I eBayed for a car charger, and it arrived this morning, so I thought I’d have a trial run with the phone’s music selection on the drive to work today. On Monday whilst parked outside my house the music was clear and crisp. This morning with my car parked in Christchurch Road the music was rather crackly. But as I drove off, so the reception improved, and was perfect as I drove past my house. However the quality deteriorated as I slowed at the traffic lights at the end ofBeaver Road. I soon found that the sound quality is directly proportional to the car’s speed. The slower I go, the worse the sound quality. Also, every time I go round a corner there is tremendous interference from Radio 2. All things considered, playing my phone music through the car’s radio is a good idea in theory, and seems to work all the time I don’t go slower than 25mph or turn any corners. Somewhat impractical in practice.

I suppose I could get a car radio with an MP3 player or something along those lines and plug the phone in directly, but I’ve managed fine so far with a CD player.


For a change I thought I’d try Waitrose for dinner today. I’ve mentioned that I like the “help yourself” salads in Sainsbury’s. Waitrose have them too – nearly half the size for nearly twice the price. I thought I’d get a tortilla wrap too. That wasn’t cheap either. Last Saturday I pondered who could afford to spend thirty thousand pounds each year on school fees. Now I know – the people who shop in Waitrose.

Mind you, I’m seriously considering jacking in the whole “salad for lunch” idea. Despite all this healthy eating and having started cycling last weekend, I put on two pounds this week. I’m now back to the same weight as when I started this diet lark back in January.


And after work I came home. I say “home” – I had to check it was the right house. “My BoyTM” had tidied up. The living room was amazing – we’ve got a table again! And he’d had a go in the kitchen too. Being off work with his broken foot has left him *really* bored.

I then noticed the pond filter was starting to leak. Just a drip, but a leak. So I emptied it out, disassembled it all, and washed the fish poo out of the works. I don’t mind the fish poo, even if I do smell of fish poo for a day or so afterwards. It’s the weight of the thing which is the problem. I’m seriously considering a vortex-self-cleaning fish pond filter. If only it didn’t cost over four hundred quid…




8 April 2011 (Friday) - Telescopes, Measles and Cards



On Wednesday night I missed an impromptu telescoping session organised at the last minute by the astro club. There was (nearly) one organised for last night. I would have missed that one as well. Such is life – I would have gone to both if I’d had more notice, but the problem with things organised at the last minute is that you don’t get much notice.

I’ve had a brainwave: we could formalise telescope sessions. One way of working it would be that we could meet at (say) Wye Downs on the first Monday of each month, Woodchurch on the second Tuesday, Folkestone’s East Cliff on the third Wednesday and SEKAS’s site in Canterbury on the fourth Thursday. That way, even though people have work and social commitments, everyone should have at least one session each month they could get to.

Hopefully we might find someone who lives near each of the potential venues who could advise on cloud cover each time. There seems to be a lot of interest in the idea: at the same time it’s staying lighter much later in the evenings as Spring is drawing on. Maybe we might keep things ad-hoc until September/October when it starts getting dark and introduce a telescoping rota then?

I’ll run the idea up the committee’s flagpole and see if anyone salutes (!)


I was offered an immunisation against measles today. Apparently there is an outbreak of measles on the continent, and it is feared that the UK population are to be stricken with spots soon. Interestingly when I searched on-line I could find no mention of French measles, only Warwickshire measles. But be warned – this could be the plague to end all plagues. Bearing in mind I’ve seen the end of the world promised from HIV, Hepatitis C, CJD and avian & swine flu, I’m sue my loyal readers will understand that I’m a bit disappointed to find that the plague to wipe us all out will be measles.


And then to Matt’s for a game of poker. In the past we’ve played Texas Hold’em, and had a few rounds of Omaha Hold‘em at the end of the evening. This evening it was Omaha all the way. “My Boy TM ” pulled four nines to win a round, and not to be outdone “Daddies Little Angel TM ” had a full house or two. Playing with Star Trek cards was fun, even if the sixes and nines appeared almost identical. And I couldn’t believe that my nines & queens was beaten by nines and kings. I was second to be knocked out, and was amazed I lasted as long as I did.


Cards night is always something of a feast night, and there’s no denying I overdosed on the peanuts. I *love* peanuts, even if they disagree with me. I predict a serious toilet adventure ahead…



9 April 2011 (Saturday) - A Night Out...



The lies that the Government constantly tell us wind me up – I’ve ranted on the subject so many times. But the lie that winds me up most (today) is the so-called inflation rate. This is the amount by which prices increase each year. The Government is crafty, and publishesvarious inflation rates. But all of them are (currently) round about five per cent. Which means that something which cost £100 last April would today cost £105. Or something which cost twenty seven quid last April would cost twenty eight quid thirty five pence today.

Totally by chance I bought a fishing licence last April which cost me twenty seven quid. This morning I renewed it. The cost: Forty one quid.  That’s an increase of thirty five percent. How does that work?


I was in at work very early this morning. With a planned I.T. outage taking place, the offer of overtime was there so I took it. But I didn’t do too much overtime, and I was fishing by 1.30pm. The rest of the haddock wranglers had got to the pond before me, and were all three fish up on me when I arrived. Fishing was slow today – I only caught three all afternoon, but I did lose one which was quite a size. Unusually I ended up with less fish that everyone else. So much for really skilful angling TM .


After showering off the fishy smell and having had a doze on the sofa we set off out. er indoors TM had planned a surprise for me. I had no idea what was in store. I decided to hope for the best whist expecting the worst. And seeing how I was expecting the worst, I wasn’t disappointed too much.


The Hot Potato Syncopators are a comedy swing whoopee band featuring a brace of ukuleles, musical saw and tea-chest bass played by three eccentric English gentlemen. I know that because I copied it from their website.


In my own words I can only describe them as Bertie Wooster’s mates doing rather poor George Formby impersonations. Starring Gussie Fink-Nottle as Mister Dennis Teeth (musical saw and juggling), and featuring Claude Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright as the one with the moustache, and Stilton Cheesewright as the other one, you can see why humanity gave up on the 1920s some ninety years ago.

I can’t honestly say that they delivered on their promise of a “hilarious rip-roaring revue of comedy, music and tomfoolery”. They started off with a rather lame song, and I sat waiting for the joke. Clearly no musical act could be as dire as this band was, and this had to be a set-up for a gag. I waited, and I waited. After three songs the horrible realisation dawned on me that this was no set-up: this *was* the act. They *were* that bad.

The dire songs were interspersed by “zany-ness”; such as Gussie balancing an umbrella on his nose (it don’t get better than that!) and juggling to music.

I had offered to drive us there this evening, but my beloved had driven. Which was probably for the best. Had we gone in my car I would have charged her for the petrol.


To be fair to them, there was one bit in the second act that was quite good, featuring Gussie pretending to be a puppet. However on reflection it wasn’t actually “good”, merely nowhere near as lame as the rest had been.

Perhaps I was sulking because in going to this show I’d missed a telescope session with the astro club this evening. And for all that I wasn’t impressed, five minutes research on-line shows that this bunch has a major international following. And it was clear from the reaction of the audience that everyone who was at the show tonight (except me) loved them.


In retrospect the whole thing was a terrible shame - er indoors TM had seen the advert for the show, and bearing in mind my penchant for Jeeves & Wooster and period dramas she honestly thought I’d lap it up. She seemed quite hurt when I was less then enraptured….



10 April 2011 (Sunday) - This n That


Yesterday whilst on the way to the Mr Teeth extravaganza I saw signs advertising that Lenham market was on today. Billed as one of the leading country markets in Mid Kent it is a shining example of why one should never believe what one reads on the internet. With half a dozen stalls selling plants, and another half a dozen stalls selling overpriced home made rubbish, it was a total waste of my morning. I rather resented it, as we’d decided to go to the market rather than to go kiting at Streatham.  In retrospect I wish we’d gone kiting.

We came home though Charing to have a look-see. The village was strewn with bunting: obviously there is some local cause for celebration. Possibly they were rejoicing for Mr Teeth’s recent visit to the area.


Once home I mowed the lawn, and then had a review of work that needs doing in the garden. I have mentioned before about the joys of a low maintenance garden, but “low maintenance” isn’t “zero maintenance”. Jobs I could do today were emptying the compost bin and fixing the washing line. The compost bin was full, so I took it to the tip to empty it. I got within two streets of the tip and saw how the traffic was queued back from the tip. So I parked my car and carried the compost bin to the tip. I was just about to empty the compost into the skip when a jobsworth in a yellow hi-vis vest came running over to me. There was (apparently) no way on God’s green earth that I could empty my bin into his skip. Why not? Because I’d carried it in. All offerings for the council’s recycling and municipal tipping must be driven in.

It was a hot day, my compost bin was heavy, and I’d carried it from two streets away to have some stupid twit quoting rules for the sake of trying to make himself look important. I didn’t actually lose my temper, but I told jobsworth that there was similarly no way on God’s green earth that I would lug the compost back to my car. It could go into the skip or across the floor. Either would suit me. As jobsworth pondered this, my hand “slipped” and all my compost fell into his skip. Woops!

I went off, assuring him that next time I’d drive in.


I had a plan to restock on fishing tackle, but both the town’s tackle shops were closed. So I went to B&Q for a replacement washing line; the last one snapped last year. Replacing washing line is a simple enough job: it just entails mucking about up a ladder. And with the washing line replaced, that was my garden jobs done for the day. I had bought a piece of batten with which to repair the broken fence panel, but the fence is bent and warped, and the batten is straight. I don’t think I’ve any alternative but to replace the entire fence panel. Or let next door replace it: after all it’s his fence. I then fed the Koi and counted the sturgeons. Both accounted for. So far this year I’ve only seen one sturgeon at a time, but today I saw them both. Having started off the same size, one is now twice the size of the other.


And then I pondered what else needs doing in the garden. There’s an area of decking near the pond that has seen better days. It needs to come out, but I’m not sure what to replace it with. The easy and cheap option would be loads of shingle, but it would be nice to replace the decking. I’ll have a look round the garden centres and see if I can’t get some cheap decking. And then see if I can’t get the fruits of my loin to lay the stuff….



11 April 2011 (Monday) – Money



I think that between Saturday’s sleeping at the fishing pond and yesterday’s working in the garden I must have caught the sun. I felt my face glowing all day today. Being “follicularly challenged”, if the weather is to continue like this I must remember to have a bandana to tie round my head just in case – I don’t want sunstroke.


The news wound me up today. In the past I’ve blogged about the obvious solution to theUK’s crippling debt crisis. The answer is patently obvious. Simply don’t pay it. Find whoever it is that we as a nation (supposedly) owe over a squilion pounds to, and tell them to get bent. Job done.

In today’s news I heard that the Icelandic people have done exactly that. When their bank went belly-up, European investors lost four billion Euros. The Icelandics have now said that the investors can go whistle – they ain’t paying up. I don’t blame them, and must admit to a sneaking admiration of them.

Interestingly the Government is looking at reforming the UK banking system so that those who make a career out of high finance and living fast at other people’s expense can still go bankrupt without taking us decent hard-working people with them. It’s not quite the final collapse of the capitalist system. But it speaks volumes that the Government has seen that allowing people to play fast and loose with millions of pounds of investors money is a recipe for disaster.


On Saturday I mentioned (ranted) about how much it costs to buy a fishing licence. I must apologize to HM Government. The price of a rod licence has not gone up at all in the last year. What has happened is that I got conned. Not quite knowing the exact website for renewing my rod licence, I had a quick search on Google and I came up withhttp://www.fishingrodlicence.com/. I naievely thought that they sold fishing licences. They don’t.

What they do is (and I quote from their website) “…will check over your application, ensuring there are no errors (for example forename switched with surname, lack of capitalisation in your name, and any obvious spelling errors). We charge a small fee for this on top of the Rod Licence Fee levied by the Environmental Agency. If you do not need your application checking in this way you will save a small amount of money by applying directly with the Rod Licence Issuing Body.

I suppose when compared to what the Icelandics are doing, fourteen quid isn’t much at all. And to be honest I’m not going to go broke either for the sake of fourteen quid. But in my opinion the thing is a con. I feel I’ve been swindled out of fourteen quid. And I’ve told my bank, who say they agree with me. They are getting on to their fraud department who will phone me back tomorrow.


Meanwhile several miles away, next door’s mog is making advances at “Daddies Little Angel TM ” ‘s mog. Shocking….




12 April 2011 (Tuesday) - Stuff


Bearing in mind what a lovely clear evening we had on Sunday, the plan for yesterday evening was to get the telescope out and have a go at photographing the moon. A shame the sky was all clouded over. And then it rained. But to be fair, I was warned when I got my scope that clear nights are (relatively) few and far between. In the meantime there are always other hobbies. Such as fishing.

When I was a lad I would use a quill float. Made from birds’ feathers (traditionally geese) these floats were really good. Far better than the plastic rubbish that is touted out these days. But no one sells quill floats these days. There are one or two second hand ones available on eBay, but they are obviously second hand.

As “My Boy TM ” once told his teacher, if you want a job done, do it yourself. Making a quill float can’t be that hard: all I need is some fuse wire, varnish and enamel paint. Oh – and some quills. I have most of the ingredients, but if any of my loyal readers should find any bird’s feathers lying around (ideally about six to eight inches long), please pick them up for me. Or pull them from the bum of a passing bird (if you’re feeling brave enough…)


I emptied my locker at work today – it was absolutely full up with books. I have a small locker which fills up with books so quickly. And my house is much the same. For all that I like a book – it’s feel and it’s smell, I have no room for any more.

I’m beginning to think “Kindle”: with a storage capacity of three and a half thousand books, are they the future of books, or are they just today’s Betamax?

Would I be better off getting a NetBook? I don’t really know.


Yesterday I mentioned "The Great Fishing License Swindle": the bank phoned me back today. Whilst they admitted that I had (probably) been conned into buying a fishing licence for fourteen quid over the going rate, I paid that money of my own free will. As far as they were concerned it was akin to buying a telly in Argos only to find it cheaper in Comet. They were very apologetic and very polite, but "caveat emptor", to coin a phrase (for those of my loyal readers who, like me, have an "O" level in Latin).

However on the plus side it transpired that in the work's Grand National sweepstake, I'd backed the horse that came in fourth. Which netted me a fiver. So offsetting this against my pound stake and the fourteen quid I lost in "The Great Fishing License Swindle", I'm only ten pounds down the pan.




13 April 2011 (Wednesday) - Stuff


When I was a child the world seemed such a (potentially) wonderful place – with smallpox and so many other diseases eradicated and men on the moon, there was nothing humanity couldn’t do. Since then we’ve all got mobile phones in our pockets; devices with more computing power than the vessels that (forty years ago) carried men to the moon.


But now I despair. Where we once had the potential to actually have a world worth having,we have barbarism. Under the guise of religion, but barbarism nonetheless.

Of all the things I expected of the world when I was younger, the last thing I expected was a world still in the thrall of outdated medieval morality.


As a child I looked forward to moonbases and men on Mars. Now I honestly live in fear of a civil war in which decent citizens will be defeated by a crackpot fringe still in thrall to a (frankly) ridiculous religious belief.



14 April 2011 (Thursday) - Curry Night


Something odd is going on over the road. Every morning at about 7.15am a van pulls up outside my house, and a little fat bloke runs to and fro across the road, taking large cardboard boxes from the house over the road which he loads into his van. As he runs to and fro, a little fat lady stands on the doorstep of the house, checking things off on her clipboard.

This morning I tried to see what was going on without appearing to be obviously nosey, but I couldn’t. The parcels that come out of the house over the road don’t seem to be addressed, or have any labelling at all. I wonder what they are, and what’s going on.


I then popped into Asda to get some lunch. As always I used the self-service checkouts. All was fine until I tried to weigh my banana. And then in a very loud voice the self-service checkout started repeatedly announcing that it was having a code five situation. Immediately I was surrounded by seemingly hundreds of Asda employees, all excitedly whispering about the code five situation. None of them actually doing anything to help, but all seemingly very excited about the whole thing. One of them suggested that we needed Tony, and within seconds Tony arrived to deal with the code five situation. I asked Tony if I could help by using one of the other self-service checkouts. Tony readily agreed to my suggestion and I managed to buy my dinner without incident.

As I left the shop Tony (and his audience) had the broken checkout machine in pieces across the floor, with one of the pieces still loudly broadcasting that there was a code five situation in progress.

I can’t wait till tomorrow to see if the problem has been resolved.


To work, where I slept through a particularly dull meeting, and then home again. Seeing how it was a Thursday, we set off to the County hotel. Thursday is curry night – a decent curry, pudding, two pints of ale and change out of a tenner.

Nine of us met up for a scoff. This may well become a regular event…..




15 April 2011 (Friday) - Good News


In a novel break with tradition I didn’t wake until 5.30am this morning. For me, that’s quite good going. As I left for work this morning I had flashbacks of yesterday. The people over the road were again loading up their van, and I got to Asda to find that the self-service checkout that broke on me yesterday was still kaput.


After an average day at work I popped into the fishing tackle shop. Yesterday after work I went to Invicta Angling, where I stood for quarter of an hour waiting for the chap behind the counter to stop gossiping with his cronies before I gave up and walked out. Today I went to Ashford Angling where they couldn’t have been more helpful. A shame that they didn’t have any quill floats, but I've been shopping elsewhere and I now have all the ingredients to make some of my own....


And so home, where er indoors TM was busy on the PS2. Over this last week she’s become addicted to a game: “Banania: The lying old witch in the wardrobe”. When I first saw that game I realised how similar it appeared to NeverWinter Nights, and I warned her how addictive those games are, but it’s now too late.

Whilst she was saving Banania from marauding ogres I checked my post. My fishing license has arrived. Slower and more expensive than last time, but it’s arrived, nonetheless. Something else which has arrived is the reminder that my car’s road tax is due. Bearing in mind the comments I received about a blog entry from a few years ago when I wasted time in the post office, I got my tax disc on-line. It took me less than a minute, and was painless apart from the cost.

Interestingly the DVLA, like “The Great Fishing Licence Swindle”, charge slightly over the odds as opposed to what the Post Office charge when you buy the thing directly. But the DVLA don’t charge if you use a debit card (as opposed to a credit card). Back in the days when I got interest on my current account I would not use a debit card. But now I don’t get interest, my debit and credit cards are to all intents and purposes identical, so I was charged nothing.

My water bill has arrived too – or to be precise the other half of my water bill. I pay one bunch to deliver water to the house, and another bunch to remove the water when I’m done with it. Getting shot of the water with which I am finished will cost me two hundred quid for the next year.


And I’ll end today with some good news.

Regular readers may recall a blog entry in January 2009 when I ranted about the shambolic travesty that we jokingly call British justice. Regular readers may also recall descriptions of my ten separate trips to HMP Slade. Whilst I was only too happy to go visiting, it’s no secret that a custodial sentence was given where a finger-wagging and the words “tsk, tsk” would have been more than adequate. And the unnecessary waste of the ten afternoons of my time was nothing compared to the waste of a year of the time of “someone else”.

And just when we thought all this nastiness was behind us, more charges were trumped up and the innocent once more terrorised. I never blogged about this up till now, but let’s just say that if someone were to phone the police and make the blackest allegations about you (whilst keeping a straight face) it’s amazing how your life can be ruined, whilst the police never think to question the motives of those making the accusations.


But today we’ve been told that all these trumped up charges have been dropped. I’m sure that those of my loyal readers who know what I’m talking about will be pleased. And to those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, just drop me a line and I’ll fill in all the details…



16 April 2011 (Saturday) - Beer, Curry



In theory I am required to work one Saturday morning every month. In practice it seems that there is only one Saturday morning each month when I *don’t* work. Last September I needed to scrape up more cash to pay for the replacement boiler. Working on Saturday mornings isn’t popular at work, even though it’s paid at time and a half, and a lot of my colleagues were happy to give me their shifts. They got a weekend off work; I (eventually) got my boiler paid for. Everyone was happy. However, somehow or other, people have since come to think that I like working Saturday mornings, and somehow feel insulted when I’m not keen to do their Saturday shift. So again I found myself up early for work today.  

Still, if nothing else it will offset the credit card bill – which will be high this month with car servicing, MOT and road tax to be paid for.

I was particularly miffed to be working this morning as today I had the chance to have gone foraging with the tree huggers. Mind you, I suspect that I’m not in the tree huggers’ good books. Having gone to their quiz as part of a team named “Not Tree Huggers”, they’ve since sent er indoors TM her membership card, but haven’t sent me mine.


Work was dull (as usual), and on the way home I stopped off at the home-brew shop. I love that shop: always a friendly welcome, with chat and helpful advice. With Brighton Kite Festival only six weeks away I thought that the time was ripe to get five gallons of beer ready for that event. Five gallons sounds a lot, but we’ll be partying on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. And on the average evening I myself will sink over a gallon of ale. With er indoors TM shifting about half that amount, five gallons doesn’t leave much beer in case of emergencies. I might just take a few bottles of beer along as well (just in case).

If any of my loyal readers are thinking about going to Brighton Kite Festival (and I can thoroughly recommend doing so), now’s the time to get your home-brew on the go for the evenings’ festivities.

Also on the way home I went back to the fishing tackle shop. Yesterday I forgot to get any bait. Whilst there I picked up a rod holdall. Already at a seriously silly discount (reduced from about fifty quid, it was up for sale at twelve quid), they then only wanted six quid for it when I came to pay for it. That was a result, and it will give the Rear Admiral somewhere to stick his tackle.


Talking of tackle, over the last week I’ve grumbled that I can’t find quill floats anywhere, and that I was going to have a go at making some. I tried to do so today, but gave up. The first attempt was an abject failure. The problem is that I start off with a feather, but I only want the quill part of it. Once I’ve cut off all the feathery bits, there’s not much left. But never mind: all I need are bigger feathers. Magpie’s bum feathers aren’t quite big enough. I just need to accost a goose or a swan. I suspect that will be easier said than done.


And this evening we celebrated a friend’s birthday. Drinks in The Pheasant followed by a curry, and then back home for a game or two of Uno. It was a really good evening – I’d forgotten all about Uno



17 April 2011 (Sunday) – Fishing



I woke this morning having had something of a revelation. I really enjoyed going out for a curry with friends last night. In a novel break with tradition I drove there, and when I drive, I don’t drink. At all! Not even a half of shandy. I was on diet coke last night – it’s the way I am. Usually when I’m socialising I drink like a fish, but if I’m the driver, I won’t touch a drop.

Normally when I go for a curry, it’s after a heavy drinking session, and it usually shows. I vaguely demand popadoms, smear spicy stuff over them, then I ask for a vindaloo, and it all becomes rather vague until I’m farting flames the next morning. But I have a clear memory of last night, and now I know what goes on in a curry house. The spicy jollop I like is called “lime pickle”; the nan breads are nothing like the ones that come from Asda – they had a filling. And there were some interesting-looking desserts too.

I’m going to do the driving for more curry evenings.


I wasn’t up *too* early today, and I spent a little time on my websites of advice for my students. I say “a little time” – it was an hour. Whilst it’s entirely work-related, it’s something I don’t get time for at work, for which I don’t have the technology at work, and… I know, maybe I shouldn’t do work stuff at home. But these websites have become something of a personal hobby. Over on another blog I’ve posted a map I obtained from the blog software. My work-related websites are getting readers across the world, and I’ve actually got to the point where professional work-related websites are quoting some of my articles. I’m just hoping that my little hobby will somehow get me onto the lecture-circuit-gravy-train.


I then found that both lenses of my specs are scratched. There are great gouges in each lens, as though a stone has chipped them. I have absolutely no idea how that happened, but I do know that any hopes I had of buying a Kindle in the near future have gone west. Oh well – such is life. I was due for an eye test in the autumn anyway. And I’ve not been happy with the varifocal bit for a long time. So I looked up the optician’s phone number on-line and was amazed to find that they were open today – on a Sunday. I’ve booked an appointment for Thursday.


And so to the day’s business: fishing. I’d mentioned to a friend at work that I was part of a syndicate that had obtained fishing rights to a local pond, and so the two of us set off for an afternoon’s fishing. We arrived at the pond to find something quite unusual: someone else was fishing there. No one else is ever there when I go to that pond: that’s the attraction of the place. But we made polite conversation with the normal people who were there. They seemed nice enough. On my last two visits to the pond, half of it had been fenced off. Today the fence was gone, so we set up where once there was a fence and we started fishing. Within minutes the normal people had gone. Perhaps we scared them away?

The fishing was slow, but I eventually caught a rudd. Only a small one, but a fish nonetheless. After an hour or so more intrepid haddock-hunters arrived, as did a fellow Blogger, and the friend who organised the use of the pond in the first place. This was the largest group we’ve had at the pond (apart from the clean-up crew last year) and we had a great time. The fishing was rather slow, we lost count of all the tackle we lost in the trees, I got more sheep poo on me and my gear than I have in the entire rest of my life, but it was a fun day out. And Richard (who fishes for large carp) caught a fish. I caught twelve, but mine were all tiddlers. His carp weighed eight pounds. Which proves that there are big fish in that pond…



18 April 2011 (Monday) - Alternative Medicine


I’m going to rant today. I was going to apologize for doing so, but on reflection I will instead ask that the next time any of my loyal readers are feeling ill and avail themselves of any of the wonders of today’s medical wonders, then they might spare a thought for this rant…..


I’ve been having an argument with a Facebook friend of someone whose opinion I value…. My mother once told me it was bad form to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man. If only crackpots came with labels: they can sometimes appear so reasonable.

Alternative medicine….. What can I say……? How on Earth does crackpot quackery keep going in the twenty-first century? I can't understand how intelligent people are against modern therapeutic drugs which are tried, tested and understood, but prefer crackpot remedies which are based on nothing but hearsay, old wives tales and commercially vested interests.


What these crackpots fail to realise is that both “herbal” and “proper” medicines work because of active ingredients. There is something in both which has a medicinal property. In “proper” medicine that active ingredient is investigated, isolated, and therapeutic dosages determined by proper controlled experimental trials.

In “herbal” medicines it is found that (for example) eating turnips has once cured piles. However that is all that is determined. No one knows how or why it works, or gives any thought to the fact that (whilst curing your piles) eating turnips might give you guts ache as well. And herbalists tend to gloss over the fact that the amount of pile-curing ability varies terrifically from one turnip to the next. One turnip will cure whereas a field of different turnips might just achieve mild relief at best.


For an example of this, take the old wives tale that if you get stung by a stinging nettle, rubbing the wound with a dock leaf gives pain relief. I’ve tried this many times. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Depending on the individual dock leaf. Much the same is true of a cure for jellyfish stings. Dousing the wound in urine sometimes eases the pain. But only sometimes, depending on exactly what the person producing the urine has been eating and drinking recently.

Or take malaria. For years those suffering from malaria found the symptoms were alleviated by having a gin & tonic. Sometimes alleviated better than others, depending on the brand of the tonic water used.

Or from a non-medical viewpoint I might suggest the reader go to Hastings Old Town High Street. There’s a pub there called the FILO. Have a pint of the home made ginger beer. It’s made on the premises; each batch to the same recipe. And then go back and repeat this a month later. You’ll find that the strength of the ginger taste varies dramatically from batch to batch. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable; other times it’s overpowering. Why is this? – It’s because they are chucking in a measured lump of ginger root each time, but not measuring the active ginger taste. (I know this because I’ve watched it happen!)


In all these cases (and in thousands of others) the old wives tale has a nugget of truth in it. What modern medicine does is to investigate these tales; find out exactly what the active ingredient is that is causing the medical effect, and then produces that element as a modern drug.

The clever bit lies in finding out and *proving* the active ingredient. This is where the entire concept of clinical trials comes into play. Regular readers may recall I had a burst blood vessel in my eye a few weeks ago. It’s now better. Using the “herbalist’s argument” I might claim this as a resounding success for the application of excessive amounts of ale. But I won’t because we know from experience that it would have got better anyway.

This is the problem with many illnesses. Lots of them get better anyway. I once read the biography of a general practitioner who felt that ninety per cent of his patients would recover from their maladies regardless of any cures he might have offered. Also, a lot of illness is psychosomatic – “in the head”. I once took a blood sample from a little old lady with a persistent sore throat. She walked into the clinic looking like death warmed up. I stuck a needle in her arm and drew some blood, and she visibly recovered. Medically it was a nonsense, but the blood drawing cured her. She’d decided that the cure she needed was a blood test, and it worked.

Clinical trials are designed to get round these effects. They take a thousand (or more) people with piles. Five hundred are given blue pills containing turnip extract. Five hundred are given blue smarties. And no one (including those giving the pills) knows which is turnip and which is smartie. The recovery rates are compared and if the drug works (without too many side effects) then it becomes readily available.


This has been going on for years. It’s called “modern medicine”. It’s a multi-billion pound industry. There’s money in making new drugs, so research is fierce. The crackpot fringe claim that the pharmaceutical industry actively clamps down on the herbal remedies. This is not the case at all – it’s the investigation of these herbal remedies that keeps the pharmaceutical industry going.

(And as an aside, compare the price of herbal remedies to the prescription charge too….)


I could be wrong, but with the intensity of research, there can’t be many herbal cures left that haven’t been scientifically investigated. Apart from the crackpots who refuse to allow their so called cures to undergo rigorous investigation. And most of those who tout these crackpot cures these days (and there’s a lot of touting going on) refuse to allow any trials of their so-called cures.


So the next time you have a headache and you are offered a lump of tree bark to suck on, it may well cure your headache. But you’d be far better off having an aspirin that was made from that tree bark.

Remember this quackery is not so much “alternative medicine” as “an alternative to medicine”…



19 April 2011 (Tuesday) – Stuff



Today at work we got the scales out and had a weigh in. For all that we’ve (effectively) packed up dieting, we still have the weekly go on the scales. I’ve put on a pound over that last week. Bearing in mind I’ve eaten out three times in a week, this can’t really be much of a surprise


There was an interesting article on the radio today – bearing in mind I cycle from time to time, it was asked how can we make our roads safer for cyclists?

Department for Transport figures showed 2,700 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads in the year ending June 2010, which was a lot more than  the previous twelve months. There was also concern expressed about the amount of incidents involving HGVs and bikes. Getting squished off a juggernaut is a scary prospect – which is why all the cycle routes I plan are (as far as possible) away from main roads.

Interestingly, like the most recent fruit of my loin, the minister for cycling refuses to wear a cycling helmet…..


Over the last few days I’ve mentioned about getting a Kindle. I can see so many advantages: it stores so many books inside itself and I have run out of space to store books. Many of the books in my paperback collection are falling apart and I can replace (some of) them cheaper with electronic versions. I can buy all sorts of books I would never have bought before – the Kindle store has tons of stuff I like the look of, much of it is free, and some of the expensive stuff only costs seventy pence.

Today I had an email from Amazon – did I want to buy a Kindle? I *know* I’ve still to pay the credit card bill for all the work I’ve had done to the car. And I know I’ve got to buy new specs. But I’m a very “immediate” sort of guy. My Kindle should be here by the end of the week, as should the sexy cover for it that I’ve ordered off of eBay.



20 April 2011 (Wednesday) - The Future...?



Today’s lunchtime seminar at work was on the latest Government’s initiative “Modernising Scientific Careers”. This is something with which I’ve been trying to get to grips for some time. The talk went on for the best part of three quarters of an hour, and in retrospect I can’t honestly say that I’m any the wiser.

But from what I can discern (and I could have this wrong), apparently there is a need to standardise scientific training in the health care professions and this will take place in conjunction with a rather radical overhaul of the jobs that we do in the laboratory. Historically we’ve (effectively) had four tiers of staff in the average path lab.

This is all to change. Effectively the managerial types will be out on their ears, and with the advent of modern robotic blood testing technology there will a major expansion of the role of the worker grades at the expense of the technical bods (like me!)

Those technical bods remaining (like me!) will in future be greatly reduced in numbers and will be trained alongside medics at a small number of nationally recognised institutions and will operate in a far more patient centred manner.

Or that’s the theory. And it has to be said that this is a theory with a lot of unanswered questions. Exactly what was wrong with the current condition of the workplace was never made clear. Who (exactly and specifically) will run these labs of the future? How exactly does a blood-tester work in a far more patient-centred manner? How do we encourage these clinical-scientists of the future to relocate to district general hospitals when we currently struggle to recruit staff at the equivalent pay bands? What would I personally do in this lab of the future?


What will actually happen in practice is anyone’s guess. My personal (and rather cynical) view is that it will go one of two ways.

Either the whole thing will be abandoned in favour of another crackpot scheme hatched by a different politician to the one who thought this one up.

Or it will take so long to implement that I will be safely retired before the consequences of the change affect me personally.


And so, after a rather stressy day at work I came home to find the postman had tried to deliver a parcel and had given up. So I had to go collect my package. As always I parked half a mile from the collection office, paid the obligatory 80p to park, and hiked off to get my delivery. As usual the delivery staff were at their most obnoxious. They made a point of demanding to see multiple identifications from the chap in front of me, presumably because he wasn’t brandishing any. But when I tried to show them my passport to prove my bona fide, they rudely dismissed it.

As I walked back through the car park, a mad woman started regaling me the tale of all the money she’d put into the car park’s ticket machine. I nodded politely – it took a few moments for me to realise she was expecting me to do something about it. After she’d ranted at me and then apologised to me, it turned out she thought I was some sort of official because I was wearing a tie. She rather hinted that if I was going to go around wearing a tie, then I should expect this sort of misunderstanding.


And so home again to unwrap my parcel – my Kindle has arrived! Having ordered it through my Amazon account it came pre-programmed with all my details, and it’s great. I’ve already downloaded four books onto it; three of which were free.

On reflection I can’t help but think that the joy of e-books will be the ease of purchasing them. Using the Kindle’s own software and 3G wotsit I can order a book and be reading it less than a minute later. There will be no mucking about going up to town and mingling with the Great Unwashed (bless them!), or having to go to the post office to collect parcels.


Something else abut the Kindle which is frankly amazing is its storage capacity. I have eight book shelves at home. All are overflowing with books. I’ve taken one shelf at random – it has seventy six books on it. Which (in theory) means I must have about six hundred books. Actually it would be quite a bit less, as many of my books are hardbacks, and take up a lot of space. But even taking six hundred as a reasonable estimate, my Kindle can hold five times that amount of books, and it is smaller than the average paperback.

I just need to find some way of storing the DVDs in such a space-saving way….



21 April 2011 (Thursday) – Stuff



Being on a late start I had some time to go through my post which has piled up during the week. There wasn’t very much of it today.

The cover for my Kindle has arrived. The official ones from Amazon are thirty quid each. I got something from eBay for a fiver. And it’s pink! My tax disc has arrived, as has my bank statement (skint!). I also had the car insurance renewal documents. I just filed them. er indoors TM  does all the insurance shopping and haggling; I just pay for it.


There was a letter from the Open University telling me that they are reducing the frequency of the magazines and newsletters they send out. That’s probably for the best – I graduated from the OU in 1995, and in the last sixteen years I’ve not really been interested in what they are doing. From my time in the OU I can recall there being a very active student union comprised of a very small number of people doing every OU course that existed because the OU was their social life. The OUSA ( or “oh you silly arse” as we came to call it) is probably a very well meaning body, but I wasn’t interested in it when I was an undergraduate with them, and now sixteen years later I really have no interest in it at all. I wish they’d stop sending me bumf through the post – I never asked them to do so in the first place.


To town, and as I was early I shopped around for shirts. Marks & Spencer, Top Shop, LittlewoodsBurtons all sell shirts. All at about four times the price that I can buy them in Tesco.

And so to the optician. Back when I was a lad you sat down and read from a chart. Now it’s all high-tech gizmos, optical pressure measurements and reds and greens. My distance vision is much the same as it ever was (i.e. not good), but it would seem there’s been rather a change in my close-up visual acuity. Which would explain why I can’t see to tie my fishing hooks. New specs have been ordered (as have the free prescription sunglasses). They should be with me in a couple of weeks’ time.


And then to work. A chap with whom I’ve worked since 1984 retired today. We were both at the hospital shortly after the place was built, Tim was at my wedding, we had children within months of each other (twice), but since he’s a little older than me, he got to retire first. Work will seem odd without him being there…..



22 April 2011 (Good Friday) - Chambers Beer Festival



Having had four consecutive good night’s sleep I was overdue a bout of insomnia. But not too much of one. “My Boy TM ” came home “quietly” at 2am, and now with a broken leg in a cast, his “stealth skills” have exceeded the expectations of even his staunchest critics. However it only took him ten minutes to clump, crash and bash his way to bed, and I was soon asleep again.


Over breakfast I realised we had some post. On a Bank Holiday too(!) It was an election leaflet from the dribbling democraps. On reflection it’s amazing how much the result of last year’s election has affected me. Politically I suppose I am a life-long Labour supporter who has tactically voted against the Con-Servatives in favour of the dribblers for the last twenty years. And so when the dribblers abandoned all principles last May, I’ve taken that betrayal somewhat personally.

I actually laughed out loud at the local dribbling democrap’s election slogan: “no politician – just a fellow citizen”. If he’s truly “no politician” he should stand for election as an independent candidate. The leaflet included the candidate’s address, and I actually found myself considering sending him a turd through the post as a political statement.

I *really* need to let this issue go….


It’s traditional on Good Friday to go to Chambers Bar in Folkestone for the beer festival, and after a full English breakfast at the Gorge we bought our train tickets. The station staff never volunteer information about the bargains they have available, but will tell you if you ask. Since there were four of us needing tickets I asked for a group discount; and what would have cost us £6.20 each only cost £3.15.

Brian and Lisa joined us on the train with seconds to spare, and once we met up with the Folkestone contingent nine of us formed a queue at Chambers Bar, where the ales were quite good. I tasted one or two, and made notes:



We all enjoyed the first pint or so – that was common knowledge, but at the afternoon wore on, what was once common knowledge became something of a schecret (which is a feature at this sort of event); especially once the Bat had taken a large mouthful and the fruitiness had worn off. Or so I discerned from my tasting notes. There was also talk of producing cocktails from the strawberry flavoured Fruli beer: child-friendly snakebite was mentioned, as was the possibility of the creation of the potentially dubious website ratemyunderpants.com.

As the afternoon wore on so more and more friends joined us, and we then moved down to the courtyard at Pullman’s wine bar where a pint of Gadd’s Number Five slipped down nicely whilst we discussed the various merits of the young lady with (and I quote verbatim) “legs all the way up to it’s bum and jubblies like barrage balloons”. (Sometimes it pays to take notes)


The plan originally called for us to be taking the 5pm train home. We eventually got the 7.30pm one. But bearing in mind the disastrous state I’ve been in after some Good Friday beer festivals, I think I came home in rather a good condition.

Having said our goodbyes we decided not to cook this evening, and instead we had KFC whilst er indoors TM laughed at classic episodes of Star Trek….




23 April 2011 (Saturday) - Busy Day



“My Boy TM ” came home last night at 4am. Having turned on every light in the house, he then went to bed “quietly”. It annoys me that during the daytime he really does creep around the house with ninja-like stealth, but at 4am he can be heard three counties away. But I was awake anyway – it was too hot to sleep last night.


Before work I did some shopping – to B&Q to get some light bulbs. As I paid for my purchases I explained to the bloke at the till that I wasn’t stealing a light bulb and a light bulb box: those were the broken ones I’d brought along so I knew what replacement ones to buy. The chap on the till smiled, and said that he wished more people did that. Apparently with dozens of styles, shapes, sizes and wattages of light bulbs, most people just turn up and ask for a light bulb. And seem shocked to find that they come in more than just one sort.


And so to work. According to the rota, since the start of last September I should have worked seven Saturday mornings; I’ve worked over double that. But I really shouldn’t grumble. It’s the opportunity for overtime which pays for the Kindle (did I mention I’ve got a Kindle?). Normally Saturday morning working goes one of two ways – we are either hellishly busy or we are bored stiff. Today was a bored day, which was probably for the best as I was feeling somewhat under the weather. Can’t think why(!)

Work passed quickly, and soon I was home, and then Chip arrived to drive us down to Folkestone. I’d been looking forward to an afternoon with friends for ages, and I’m sorry to say that I spent most of the time asleep. It bothers me that I waste so much time at night wide awake, and then spend more time during the day fast asleep.


It would have been good to have stayed longer, but littluns have a routine to keep to, and so we came home where I carried on dozing on the sofa until Doctor Who came on. Over on another blog I follow they voiced the opinion that it was the negative reaction of the fan base that caused the powers that be to pull the plugs on Stargate and Star Trek: Enterprise. Bearing in mind that there may well be an element of truth in that, I’ll gloss over tonight’s Doctor Who episode with the observation that I’m hoping that this series is just being a bit slow to get going.

We then watched a movie – “Hot Tub Time Machine” was quite fun, and I stayed awake through  the whole thing so it must have been good. And then er indoors TM remembered that the 1066 Rockitmen were playing in Woodchurch. I see so little of my mate Rick (their guitarist) that we popped down for half an hour to watch them and to see Rick. We met his new ladyfriend. She was a tad tiddly, told us her age, and apologised for being fourteen years younger than him. Bearing in mind I have a degree in mathematics I soon deduced that either she was too tiddly to do the sums, or someone’s been telling porkies….



24 April 2011 (Sunday) - Smarden Duck Race



Easter Sunday winds me up. I’ve blogged before that for all that the Church of England may claim that they have followers, the amount of people who call themselves Christians *and* actually understand what they claim to believe is vanishingly small. So why is it that today pretty much the entire country has been ordered to close up shop? Why should my life be put on hold for the crackpot superstitions of a very small minority?

My cousin in Hastings has the right idea. They are opening their shop regardless of what the superstitious crackpots say. And good for her (!) Talking of crackpots, I just *love* the internet. Having exposed a crackpot scam for what it is, the website eHow then goes on to carry adverts for the crackpot product it’s just debunked.


But even if the righteous have managed to close the world for one day, *my* world kept on going. Once the Rear Admiral had finished smashing beer bottles in the front garden (woops!) we set off to Smarden where the tribes were gathering. A dozen of us met up at the Bat-Farm and wandered into the village. Some wandered more easily than others depending on whether they got stuck (like ‘er indoors TM did) whilst attempting to cross the stile.

Once in the village we bought our plastic ducks and duck squawkers, and after a crafty pint we wandered up to the river to cheer our ducks on. The idea was that we all bought a numbered plastic duck and dropped them into a dustbin. The race officials then emptied the entire bin full of plastic ducks into the river, and the first one to be washed down the river to the finish line would be the winner. Last year the race was quite a lively affair as there’d been a lot of rain and the river was flowing fast. This year the water was barely moving. Eventually we got a winner, but the race wasn’t as thrilling as it might have been.


Having found the race was won by the village butcher and the “super-duck” category was won by one of the race officials we declared “Shenanigans”. We then gathered together as many of our party as we could find. As always whenever we go anywhere mob-handed, trying to round everyone up to move en-masse is somewhat akin to trying to herd cats. After ten minutes of wondering where everyone had got to, I herded myself, the Rear Admiral and the Bat to the pub, and hoped that everyone else would know where to find me. I was right – they did.


Whilst the girls admired the art in the village gallery, the lads admired the beer in the pub’s beer garden, and then with everyone together we made our way back to the farm for a barby.

Sitting in the sunshine with friends, reminiscing about what we’d done in the past, enjoying what was happening at the time, and planning for what might be in the future.

And once we’d eaten far too much we had a wander to meet the cows and sheep. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” tells me it is better to be licked by a sheep than by a cow. One lives and learns.

It was a really good day in the sunshine – must do it again soon !



25 April 2011 (Easter Monday) - Caesar's Camp



I had the chance of a lie-in today, but I don’t really do lie-ins. It’s a waste of valuable life. And talking of wasting valuable life, I got up and spent an hour or so pootling around the garden. With the lawn mowed I then topped up the water level in the pond, and then vaguely pondered plans for the garden.

I want a couple more statues, so a trip to Whelan’s is in the offing. And I need to replace the broken decking area: possibly with a large mosaic. Having said that, my gusher fountain pongs a bit. I might open it up and have it as a “secondary pond”, fed from a stream from the main pond. The stream would go through the area where the broken decking is, so that would solve the need to replace the decking.

However, much as I like that idea, my provisional cost estimate comes in at about a thousand pounds, so maybe I won’t do that after all. I can do a large mosaic for a couple of hundred quid: I might just settle for that.


To Folkestone for a picnic. As you drive down the motorway to Folkestone, on your left you’ll see a range of very high hills. I first noticed them when I moved house to live in Folkestone in September 1984. At the time I thought that there would be spectacular views from up there. I lived in Folkestone for two years; at the bottom of those hills, looking up.

We moved away in 1986, but at various times over the last twenty five years I’ve been back to Folkestone so many times, and I’ve been all over the Folkestone area, looking up at those hills, thinking what wonderful views I could see from the top of them.

Today I finally went up one of those hills and we had a picnic at the top. And I was right –the view was superb. I had no idea how spread out Folkestone is. Or just how huge the channel tunnel marshalling yards are. Or how steep the slope is on which the white horse is carved.


We picnic-ed on Caesar’s Camp. I was tempted to go up Sugar Loaf hill as well, but where we were we had the hill to ourselves. On Sugar Loaf hill we could loads of people bustling about. Seeing as it was Easter, the Righteous were carrying huge wooden crosses up to the top of that hill. Not wanting to get embroiled with them we went back to Folkestone where I got to meet a new cat: a particularly soppy animal (!)

And once I and the cat had enjoyed our little nap we came home where I cleaned out the pond’s fish poo filter. I’d noticed the pond water wasn’t as clean as it might be. So thought that I’d rather clean the filter when I had some spare time, rather than waiting for it to block up when I might have better things to do with my time (other than being elbow-deep in carp poo)….



26 April 2011 (Tuesday) - Slow Worms



Following on from yesterday’s little ramble, we’ve decided we’ll go up Sugar Loaf Hill when the God-Botherers are somewhere else. Possibly we might be so adventurous as to follow the hills from Capel all the way to Newington where there’s a little railway museum & tea rooms. If any of my loyal readers would like to come along on the ramble, drop me a line (or leave a comment) and we’ll find a date over the summer…

Talking of dates for the summer, I had an interesting conversation today with a chap who finished work last Thursday afternoon, and then did precious little other than wait to go back to work today. For him the last four days holiday were effectively wasted. He did absolutely nothing but stare at a TV screen (that didn’t interest him in the slightest) for four days. This chap commented about what an eventful Easter break I’d had. He seemed rather jealous. I had an eventful Easter break because that’s the kind of guy I am, and I couldn’t imagine sitting about doing nothing.

But if any of my loyal readers find themselves at a loose end, check out the “Dates for the Diary” page of this blog: there’s plenty of stuff I’ve got planned for the summer. Come along and join in (!)

(I’ve been criticised in the past for advertising when my house is going to be empty – it’s apparently an advert for burglars. However I don’t advertise when my house is going to be empty. I advertise when I’m not going to be in it. And when I’m not in it, “My Boy TM ” takes full advantage. I pity the burglar who disturbs him!!)


I came home from work this evening to find a message on Facebook – a friend who lives just round the corner had found some strange beasts in her garden: she and the children were rather scared. The photo she’d put on Facebook was the smaller photo above – mummy and daddy slow worm (who obviously loved each other very much) were doing what is best not mentioned in polite company.

Before we ransacked our garden to make the pond and gravelled areas we used to have lots of slow worms. All the building work we did scared them away. I’d like to re-populate our garden with slow worms, and I offered to re-house the ones in her garden for her.

Within five minutes I was in her back garden with a box. Needless to say, when you are looking for slow worms, they are nowhere to be found. We searched for ten minutes and gave up; I left her with the box and a firm reassurance that they won’t bite (they won’t!), and that when they turn up, if she boxes them, I’ll very happily re-home them. And then I came home and had a look round my own back garden for slow worms. And I found the bigger one pictured above.


If any of my loyal readers are unsure, slow worms aren’t worms at all – they are a form of lizard. They are really good for the garden; eating bugs and slugs. If you find them, they are best left alone, but if your kids don’t like them or if your cats and dogs keep eating them, your local reptile rescue people will lend a hand. As will I. Some people like cats and dogs. Me – I go for things with scales. I honestly think slow worms are some of the most beautiful animals on the planet.


In other news “My Boy TM ” has had the thumbs-up from the hospital about his broken foot and he’s now to try to use it as much as possible, and “Daddies Little Angel TM ” would seem to have given her new cat (Princess) an identity crisis by giving him a rather unsuitable name….



27 April 2011 (Wednesday) - This n That



Before work this morning I went to Sainsbury’s to get some lunch. I’ve mentioned before that Tesco’s staff don’t like shoppers in their way in the mornings: Sainsbury’s staff would seem to be the same. It was made quite clear that I was in their way, even though the shop had (supposedly) been open for an hour and a half already.


Yesterday I mentioned about possible ground works in the garden. Today I phoned around to price up a pre-purchased tile mosaic for the garden. No one seemed to do one small enough for what I want, so I decided just to refurbish the decking. In the meantime “Daddies Little Angel TM ” (being of an artistic bent) has designed a mosaic for us.

I was in a quandary – I really like the idea of a hand-made mosaic, but the area for the mosaic/decking is somewhere that we spread out deck chairs and the like. A really nice hand made mosaic might get spoiled if it were there. So I’ve decided we’ll repair the decking that’s already there, and install the mosaic as a feature in it’s own right elsewhere in the garden. I’m quite looking forward to it. I even had a planning meeting with the chief architect (“Daddies Little Angel TM ”) in B&Q this evening.

In the meantime I’m reliably informed that the mosaic will be made from old plates, tiles, chinaware and crockery. So if any of my loyal readers have any old plates and stuff you don’t want, please let me know.


And so home to find my credit card bill waiting for me. Normally I can account for every penny on that bill. Today there I found that er indoors TM had squandered forty three quid of my hard-earned cash in Tesco on March 27. I wonder what that was all about?

I also had an email from my Internet provider to tell me that they were making improvements on my broadband speed. Since I packed up with BT and got my land-line from my internet provider I’ve noticed that my broadband speed has slowed. Apparently it’s going to speed up over the next few days. We shall see. Still, I shouldn’t complain. The land-line bill is cheaper than it used to be. Having said that, I’ve half a mind to do away with the land line altogether. After all, in the twenty-first century who uses a land line to make a phone call anyway? (Apart from my mother!)

And another email gave me the option to insure my Kindle against rock and tempest, fire and foe. I can get three year’s cover for ten quid per year. On the other hand I could just look after it, as I expect it’s covered on the household insurance anyway.


Being the last Wednesday of the month, it was arky-ologee club. Sometimes good, often dull, at least once a year there is a talk worth going to, and that was tonight’s.  One of the club members is a wonderful speaker; having given talks before on the indiscretions of Admiral Nelson, the porking history of King William IV, and the entire sordid stories of the uncles of Queen Victoria.

Tonight she told of the craze that swept American society from (about) 1890 to 1910. During that time over four hundred American debutantes married English aristocrats; bringing with them a minimum of several million dollars in cash. And having married, a lot of them then promptly got divorced and then set up with another milord….



28 April 2011 (Thursday) - Dull



Yesterday I mentioned about plans for our mosaic which will be made from old plates, tiles, chinaware and crockery, and put out a request for old plates and the like. Today a box of broken plates arrived from Glynis. Cheers Glynis (!)

If anyone else has any unwanted crockery do let me know. Otherwise I might just come round and help myself…..


What with tomorrow being a bank holiday for most of the country (but not me!), it didn’t suit that many people to be ill today, and so work was rather quiet. In fact the highlight of the day was determining who was the better looking out of Kate Middleton and Leslie Crowther. Surprisingly (or not) Leslie Crowther won with two thirds of the votes cast. This was promptly followed by a competition in which contestants were asked to name their sexiest top ten US presidents. There seemed to be a consensus of opinion for Ulysses S Grant being #1, and Grover Cleveland being #2, but the next eight positions never got decided: there was no agreement whatsoever (other than that there was a wide regard for James Buchanan’s haircut).


Fortunately having had an early start meant for an early finish, and so I came home to set about the ironing. During the course of my marathon ironing session everyone who generates ironing for me came and went, and after two hours I gave up. There’s still some (lots) to do – it will still be there in the morning.

Seeing how I was left “Home Alone” this evening I sulked for a bit, and then decided to treat myself to fish and chips. Half way to the chip shop there is a Chinese take-away, so I changed my mind and had Chinese. I wish I’d kept going and had fish.


Some days are just so dull……



29 April 2011 (Friday) - What Bank Holiday...?



On the eve of the Millennium (December 31, 1999) my employers had been formally warned about an event that was taking place on Dover’s White Cliffs. One hundred thousand people were expected to descend on the White Cliffs that evening to see in the New Year and the new Millennium.  And it is a statistical certainty that given one hundred thousand people, there will be a certain number of them having strokes, heart attacks, and the like. To say nothing of the fact that with that many people travelling to and from the area, the amount of people injured in traffic accidents will escalate rapidly. Consequently staff would be required to be available in a hospital to deal with such clearly predictable emergencies. And so whilst the world partied on the evening of December 31 1999, I was at work. Bored senseless. The predicted hundred thousand people never came to Dover’s White Cliffs; the actual number was somewhat less. Twelve, to be precise. That’s not twelve thousand, that’s just twelve (!) -  The police went and counted them. But I didn’t mind giving up my evening: it really goes with the territory when one works in a hospital.

Today was much the same. With the rest of the world enjoying an extra Bank Holiday, I got to miss the champagne breakfasts and Royal Wedding parties that I had hoped to be at. Instead I had a very quiet day at work, with the promise of a day off at some other time of my own choosing.


Seeing how it was the last Friday of the month, it was astro club. Despite there being a Royal Wedding today, and a lot of people having cried off because of the wedding, we still had over sixty people along tonight. I’ve been given a name badge to wear. It’s probably a good idea – I seem to have set myself up as the face of the club when people arrive, and so having a name badge goes well with that role. Mind you, setting myself up in that position isn’t without problems. One of our newer members sought me out tonight to ask my advice on his problematical Barlow. His F-stop and 3.4 wasn’t what he was hoping and he wondered if he would have been better off with a 2.5 but with a x2 as well. Fortunately it was at that point that Stevey wandered into the hall, and I immediately introduced Steveyas being a professor of optics, and left them both to it.


Tonight’s talk was on the history of manned space exploration. Given by someone who was both enthusiastic and knowledgeable on the subject, the talk was one of the best we’ve had. I was amazed to find that when the speaker finished, he’d spoken for nearly an hour and a half.

After I’d hawked the raffle we had a tour around the Spring sky. There was something in that talk that piqued my interest – the great cluster in Hercules is probably the brightest cluster in the northern hemisphere. But its designation is M13 (also designated NGC 6205, depending on your choice of catalogue). I wonder how those numbers are assigned…?



30 April 2011 (Saturday) - In The Garden



I’d told “My Boy TM ” that we’d be starting this morning’s project early, and I told him to be ready at 8am. He woke me when he phoned shortly after 8am, and soon we were in B&Q buying our ingredients. The bit of decking by the pond has been broken for some time, and we had a plan to make it good. Rather than replacing the lot we decided to just replace the two broken panels. So we got ourselves nine strips of decking and two corner posts, a saw and some screws and fetched them home. We carefully removed (recklessly destroyed) what was broken, and replaced it with the new. For once a DIY project went completely to plan. I’d expected to spend the day on the job – we were done by noon.

A quick bit of scoff, and then shopping. First of all to Lidls – we’d heard they were doing cheap kite banners. And then on to Whelans for a couple of griffins to stand guard over the pond. On the way home we stopped for McFlurries – we felt we deserved them.


Once home I did the monthly accounts. In with the bank statement was a letter form the bank saying that they’d formally reviewed my overdraft facilities, and had charged me twenty five pounds for doing so. I phoned them up, and Millicent from the bank really struggled to keep me to her pre-prepared script. From her gibbered explanation it seemed that the bank decided to set up an overdraft facility on my account a year ago (without telling me), and every year they will review that decision and charge me for it. I told her she could kiss my furry yellow ass.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing she went off to consult with her supervisor, and said she’d phone me back. She did. It transpired that all my accounts have pre-arranged overdrafts on them. I knew that much, but I rarely (if ever) use the overdraft. The problem came when my boiler went west last September. Even though I’d arranged with the bank to go overdrawn for one month only, it seems that if I go over my overdraft limit between November and April then they will review the overdraft and charge me for it. I (again) explained that I’d arranged the overdraft with the bank at the time; this was all a one-off pre-arranged overdraft, and there was no need for them to have reviewed anything. The charge was their mistake. Dear Millicent really struggled to understand what was going on. She offered to waive the twenty five quid as a gesture of goodwill, and really couldn’t understand why I was not happy with that. Removing their own mistake is hardly a gesture of goodwill.

The bottom line is that I must not go over my overdraft between the months of November and April. I shall pray my boiler doesn’t explode again.


And then to Folkestone for a birthday party. I must admit that had I chosen the venue, Bar Vasa would not have been my first choice. Leaving aside the abysmal ale selection, I could not believe the speed at which your plates and glasses were snatched away. I had to get a clean plate three times for the buffet. And the music. FAR too loud. Admittedly the arrogant children behind the bar would turn the volume down for you when you asked, but the spotty one would just come along and turn it back up again.

Perhaps I’m just getting old, but I’d been busy all day, I was tired, and my headache just got too much, and so I left early and made my own way home….