01 August 2008 (Friday) - Never a Dull Moment

01 August 2008 (Friday) - Never a Dull Momentmagnify

My Boy TM” is on holiday this week as his firm closes for a fortnight over the summer. He’s doing a bit of temporary work this week. He gets up at 2am and delicately tiptoes his way through the house (in much the same way that a herd of rampaging elephants would delicately tiptoe), and comes back home at 7am, when he wonders why I’m not sweetness personified.

The scout-related panic is over – whilst just about to take up an offer of help from the Foreign Office (Hi Terry!), I got an email from the environs of the Denali Grizzly Bear Resort to reassure me that all is well. There was a delay in taking off from Heathrow, but all that did was give them a shorter wait at San Francisco. The reason they haven’t been in touch was that they couldn’t find a phone that worked. I can understand that – when I went on the international scout trips in 2000 & 2004 there were simply no phones that would do international calls before 10pm local time. The reason was something about businesses having priority on international lines, or some such nonsense. You would think that America, being “home of the High-Tech” wouldn’t be like that, but it’s certainly been my experience. As home contact they asked me to ring round a dozen sets of parents to tell them all was well. That took an hour, and I only got through to half of them (!)

I had another duty in one of my honorary roles today. As treasurer of the astronomy club I was given a cheque for £250. The club secretary asked Stanhope parish council for a bung, and they handed it over. How about that! – I shall ask a few more people for a bung and see how I get on.

And finally, two hundred and thirty four years ago to the day, the reverend Joseph Priestly discovered oxygen. That was a bonus for aerobic life forms the world over. One cannot help but wonder what they used for respiration before this momentous discovery.


02 August 2008 (Saturday) - A Birthday

02 August 2008 (Saturday) - A Birthdaymagnify

There’s something to be said for starting as you mean to continue. Having been out on the lash with her mates, er indoors TM staggered home at 6am this morning. Once I’d dropped “Daddies Little Angel TM” at the oldbiddydrome I kicked the birthday girl out of it’s pit and we went shopping. Some food and a couple of bottles of pop for this evening from Asda, and then to B&Q for a barby. I then spent a couple of hours in the rain assembling the barby. It’s been baking hot all week, but on the day we’d planned a party in the garden, it rained.

As I collected “Daddies Little Angel TM” from the oldbiddydrome, the weather was beginning to chirp up a little, and by the time we’d got some barby gravel (I’m reliably informed it’s called “charcoal”) the rain had slackened off to a medium monsoon.

But we didn’t care about the rain. There were over thirty of us in the garden. We scoffed, we drank, and we had a great time. Same again next year…

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03 August 2008 (Sunday) - Feeling Rough

03 August 2008 (Sunday) - Feeling Roughmagnify

On reflection I think a good time was had by all last night. There’s a lot to be said for staging your own booze up in the back garden rather than going out to a pub. You get to be sure the beer (or wine) selection has what you want in it. You get the food you want, (even if you have to cook it yourself), you don’t have to put up with the “normal people”, and you can have as many people along as can cram into the back garden. It’s also a lot cheaper than going to the pub. Must do it more often!!

In comparison to yesterday, today was a bit of a non-event. I emerged from my pit some time after 10am feeling slightly under the weather today. I expect it was the stouts and the porters I was drinking last night. The dark coloured stuff always makes me feel rough. And I seem to have picked up a summer cold from somewhere. I spent the morning ironing, and slobbing in front of the telly watching four episodes of “Upstairs Downstairs”. I love it!! I then went round the garden for five minutes tidying up (it turns out that most of the garden was tidied for me last night whilst I slept!) and putting away before retiring to NeverWinter for the afternoon. Normally there is so much else I could be doing on a Sunday in August, but today was more akin to November – cold, drizzly and generally yukky.

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04 August 2008 (Monday) - Being a Porker

04 August 2008 (Monday) - Being a Porkermagnify

To quote a personal hero of mine:

·         I'm not fat, I have a different life choice.

·         I'm not fat, I'm big boned.

·         I'm not fat, I just haven't grown into my body yet.

·         I'm not fat, I just have a sweet hockey body.

·         I'm not fat, I'm festively plump

·         I'm not fat, My Mom says I'm fluffy

·         I can't lose weight, Butters, because I'm not fat, I'm big-boned. You can't slim down bones, stupid!

And now it’s not just Eric Cartman. The namby-pamby salad-eating liberal loony lefties have announced that parents get the hump when they are told how porky their offspring are. And now medical reports on fat kids aren’t to actually say that the kids are fat any more. It’s a good job that I’m now officially not a porker because if I was I would realise that stressing over stuff like this would be bad for my blood pressure. Which it isn’t. Because I’m not a porker. Any more. Well done the Government!!!!

Meanwhile half way round the world the scouts would seem to have got as far as Denali. Or at least Akela and “Debbie” have. I like “Debbie” – he’s a good lad. There’s a twinge of jealousy when I look at some of the online photos. And then I see others, and I’m glad I stayed here.


05 August 2008 (Tuesday) - Me wittering on (as usual)

05 August 2008 (Tuesday) - Me wittering on  (as usual)magnify

I was awake at 6am watching Rab C Nesbitt on You-Tube. I seem to lay awake half the night, but could quite happily fall asleep any other time.

I got a very polite rejection from one of my job applications today. A certain supplier of blood test-ology will find me not quite the co-operative soul I once was from now on. The next time their rep wants to show off my machines (that he sold me) to prospective clients I might not be quite as effusive about his company as I have been in the past. Stuff em(!) I sent off an application to be a laboratory inspector this morning, and there’s Thursday’s interview still to go. I’ve been doing pretty much the same job since 1981, and I really want a change.

And so to Chris’s for the Tuesday video evening. I got to use my sexy new car in seven seater mode. It has to be said that the two rearmost seats aren’t the most comfortable to sit in, nor are they the most accessible. But then again, the one I sit in up the front is fine!! We watched the 4400 – we must be onto the sixth or seventh episode and I’ve stayed awake for the lot. Over the last fifteen years (we missed the anniversary in May!!) of getting together once a week for a sci-fi night I’ve slept through pretty much every TV show known to science, and I’m amazed that so far I’ve stayed awake for this series. Mind you, having the odd kip during a bit of a programme isn’t a bad thing – I’ve recently found whole episodes of Star Trek and Babylon Five I’ve never seen before. Because I slept through them the first time.

Todday-s picture – Savlonic. Look them up on Weebl’s stuff. That keyboard player – Woof!!!

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06 August 2008 (Wednesday) - Dull

06 August 2008 (Wednesday) - Dullmagnify

It suddenly dawned on me yesterday evening that I’ve done nothing about obtaining industrial quantities of ale for the weekend. A couple of phone calls this morning made it painfully clear that I’ve left it too late to sort out barrels of the stuff. I fear we’ll have to resort to bottles of the stuff from Tesco’s. Stranger things have happened.

In other news, science has discovered the world’s smallest snake, and word has reached me that in Alaska the scouts have been rafting.

I’m having an early night tonight – I want to get to Reading in plenty of time tomorrow….


07 August 2008 (Thursday) - An Interview In Berkshire

07 August 2008 (Thursday) - An Interview In Berkshiremagnify

M20, M26, M25, M4 as far as junction 11. Easy! Then up the A33 and turn left into Longwater Avenue. Easy? Well, it would have been but for one thing. The rest of the world lets you know what road is which by sticking the name of said road on a sign for all to see. It would seem Reading council’s not heard of this innovation. I travelled the first 110 miles without a hitch, only to spend nearly an hour to do the last five miles (which was probably nearer twenty by the time I’d gone round Reading twice). It’s just as well I’d allowed myself some time for such eventualities.

And then when I found Longwater Avenue….. I found number 200. Now in the rest of the civilised universe, the building next door might be one number different, or two numbers different depending on whether the even and odd numbers are on different sides of the road. However in Reading it would seem that the building next door to number 200 is numbered 100. One cannot help but wonder where the intervening ninety nine (or forty eight) buildings have gone. But despite the machinations of Reading’s highways department, I eventually found my destination. Well, their office. Well, two rooms. I must admit I was rather taken aback to find that although they are a world wide company, in the UK they were a company of only ten people operating out of two rented rooms.

The interview went well. That is to say that I felt it went well. There was me and the chap I met in France on the course a few weeks ago. We chatted about this, that, we chatted for nearly two hours. What they want is someone to train people on their blood analysers, both at their training centre in Paris, and in various hospitals in the UK. And someone to troubleshoot problems as and when they happen. Basically to be an ambassador, and the public face of the company. I would get to use all the knowledge and experience I’ve built up over the years, but in doing something new. Were I to take the job, I’d be looking at a substantial pay cut (20 – 30%), but the job comes with a car. The only serious drawback is the area they want covered. If you were to draw a line from Aberystwyth to Norwich, then they want someone to look after everywhere in England south of that line. So I could be in Plymouth one day, Canterbury the next, then Cardiff, London and Cambridge. With a trip to Paris thrown in too. I was mistakenly under the impression that the area only went as far west as a line from Leicester to Portsmouth. There would be a lot of living out of Travel Lodges.

But it’s not like I need to decide anything yet. I’m only the second person he’s seen. He’s chatting with more people over the next week or so, and then he and others from the company will conduct formal interviews in September.

I suppose it was an experience, something to fill a morning that would be otherwise uneventful. Even if it did cost me thirty quid in petrol….



08 August 2008 (Friday) - Saving Money

08 August 2008 (Friday) - Saving Moneymagnify

It’s amazing how much money I’ve wasted over the years firstly on videos, and then on DVDs. Now I can watch pretty much anything at all (for free) on You-Tube. I’m now onto series two of Rab C Nesbitt..

Enough mucking about – time to pack the rest of the stuff for the weekend. The sun is shining at the moment, but the weather forecast says that it won’t shine again until after we get home. Let’s hope for the best at Teston…..


08 August 2008 (Friday still) - Off To Teston

08 August 2008 (Friday) - Off To Testonmagnify

Things started badly when Brian phoned to apologise for running late. He’d taken a tumble down the stairs. Me and er indoors TM charged round to find him sitting and looking rather breathless. But he was game to continue with a walking stick. So continue we did. We arrived at Teston Bridge picnic site to find our usual space had been reserved for us. We unpacked and started setting up, but before long it became apparent all was not well with Brian’s foot. So much so that it was wondered whether a trip to the hospital mightn’t be a good idea. So as we put the finishing touches to the camp site (like tents and things), the two Brians set off for the nearest casualty unit.

Whilst having a well deserved five minute break, one of the smaller campers wandered up to me. Had I seen his mummy? No – I hadn’t. But something told me not to leave it at that. So I asked him if he was all right. He pulled back his long hair to show the side of his face. He’d fallen out of a tree and landed on it. Whilst some of us got ice on his face, others had a frantic “mummy-search”.

Just as Lisa was drumming up a smashing bit of tea, news came in. Brian had snapped four out of five metatarsals (!), and there was talk of keeping him in hospital over the weekend. Following this news it seemed that Brian wouldn’t be returning any time soon, so we ate his dinner. Well… it was a god bit of scoff and it would have been a shame to see it go to waste. But just as I was finishing the washing up, more news came in. Brian had been strapped up and would be back with us within the hour. A frantic dinner-making was embarked upon before he realised what we’d done. Hopefully with all the excitement on his return we got away with it….


09 August 2008 (Saturday) - Another Mishap, and Rain

09 August 2008 (Saturday) - Another Mishap, and Rainmagnify

All was going well, with “Daddies Little Angel TM” cooking the breakfast. That is, until she dropped the frying pan and tried to catch it. A morning was spent with her hand in a bucket of water. By mid day it was plain that the hand wasn’t improving so I ran her up to the casualty department. Yesterday Brian had been ages up there. We got instant service. It helps if you run into the place screaming.

And so back to camp. The morning’s hour or so of sunshine had long since worn off, and the afternoon alternated between drizzle and monsoon. Our time was spent constructively tying scoobies, until our mess tent filled up with pretty much everyone who was camping for the weekend. Birthday cakes for the birthday girls. And cake for everyone else too! For a magical half an hour, our tent was buzzing with life. But all too soon everyone wandered off to sit out the rain in the comfort of their own tents and caravans.

On the way back from the loo, a notice nailed to a tree caught my attention. The Old Gits were staging a cultural event for the evening. The Old Gits are a great bunch of guys who make spud guns (out of drainpipes) that fire real potatoes, and for the evening they did a rendition of the 1812 overture. For those of my loyal readers who lack a classical bent (oo-eer!), the 1812 overture is the one that’s played by cannons. Now they didn’t actually have cannon, but they did have balloons filled with oxy-acetylene that were detonated remotely by computer. It was such a shame that the rain didn’t let up all evening, but that didn’t deter culture. Or the firework display that came after.

And for some reason everyone was so tired tonight. Whereas we’d stayed up till gone midnight the night before, people tonight were going to bed just after 9pm. I was on the point of turning in myself shortly before 10pm when some friends wandered over for a pint or two. Jose came out to visit at 10.30pm, and we sat chatting until 11.30pm.


10 August 2008 (Sunday) - The Sun Came Out

10 August 2008 (Sunday) - The Sun Came Outmagnify

It has to be said that I woke up with a sense of dread. With two trips to casualty, one of the littluns having fallen from a tree onto his face, and a day of torrential rain followed by overnight hurricanes, my hopes for the day weren’t high.

But we had a great day. I got out pretty much all of my kites and broke three of them. And my line reel snapped too. But it was all good fun with kites – something I do so rarely these days. I played “rain cloud” – you fill an empty pop bottle with water, do the lid up and make a small hole in the bottom of the bottle. You tie the neck of the bottle to the kite line and let out line. With a good enough wind, the kite takes the bottle up into the air. You carefully wait until the bottle is over your mate’s head then shake the line. The water stays in the bottle until you shake the line, at which point your victim thinks it’s raining. Hours of fun!!

Ron came up to our site and asked if we would like a summer fruits pudding – they had too many. Oh – that pudding was lovely!! And the afternoon followed in being just as good. We had several visitors during the afternoon, including my brother who I’ve been trying to get to a kite festival for years. He’s thinking about camping out next year.

Following a quick trip to Tesco’s and a really good bit of tea, the evening was spent drinking wheat beer, watching the ladies playing boules, and waiting for er indoors TM to return. We had been expecting her back from a symposium on flogging candles to an unsuspecting public at about 8pm, and she was only an hour later than expected. A quick star-gaze, and to bed about 11pm (ish)


11 August 2008 (Monday) - Back Home Again

11 August 2008 (Monday) - Back Home Againmagnify

The day started fine, but the clouds did look dodgy at times. Together with the thirty or so other brave souls who’d stayed on we spent the morning clearing camp as quickly as possible before the rain started. As luck would have it, the rain never came, and er indoors TM did the run to the bottle bank in the dry.

The camping gear is now all at the Bat-Farm in readiness for a camping session in a fortnight’s time, and it’s with something of a sense of sadness that I realise that the kiting-camping season is over (for me at least). There are those who travel the length and breadth of the country to go camping at kite festivals literally every weekend from April through to September, but for me that would be too much. Too much kite and too much camping. I don’t actually like camping that much, and most of the kite festivals are so far away that I would have to camp or get a travel lodge.

And so home. To find something of a disaster half way round the world. The plan was for the scouts to de-camp from Anchorage to Chicago today. But due to unexpected volcanic eruptions in the Aleutian Islands, it seems the scouts are stranded in Alaska until Friday. More news as I get it myself….


12 August 2008 (Tuesday) - Polar Bears

12 August 2008 (Tuesday) - Polar Bearsmagnify

I was hoping to be able to convey more news of the unexpected volcanic eruptions in the Aleutian Islands today. But there is no more news. Or none that has reached me yet. I would have thought that was quite newsworthy, but I suppose what with Russian & Georgia being at war, to say nothing of the Olympic Games being on, the fact that substantial portions of the artic circle are cut off from the rest of the world is but a trivial detail? I’m going to assume the scouts are still stranded in Alaska until I hear otherwise.

Other than that, today has been rather uneventful. I woke at 6am (which is late for me) and listened to the rain, thankful that it rained today, and not yesterday when I would have had a load of wet tents. I then spent the morning going through paperwork from the astronomy club, and wasted a few minutes in NeverWinter before setting off to work. I had a rather extended tea break to collect “Daddies Little Angel TM” from the oldbiddydrome. Whilst waiting for her there was an amazing article on the radio. I’ve searched to find a web link for it, but can’t.

The gist of the program was that science has been doing “pollen archaeology”. It’s possible to use archaeological techniques to see what sort of trees have been indigenous to any given area. From knowing what trees are about, you can (apparently) have a fair guess at the climate of any given area, and see how that climate has changed over the years. It would seem that the climate of south Wales has gone from arctic to equatorial and back again (several times) over the last five thousand years. Which is making science wonder exactly what does cause global warming (and cooling). Perhaps it’s not humanity after all, but natural processes. Like the Alaskan volcanoes.

And as the Earth warms and our thoughts are in polar areas, spare a thought for the polar bear. Not only are they now being eaten by sharks, but toxic waste is encouraging them to “bowl from the pavilion end”. Polar bears on the other bus - who would have believed such things….


13 August 2008 (Wednesday) - The Demise of the Pub

13 August 2008 (Wednesday) - The Demise of the Pubmagnify

The latest missive from Alaska tells me that the scouts are relocating to Chicago today at some point. I’m anxiously awaiting news.

This coming weekend is perhaps the only one in some two months when there’s not anything planned. It’s very tempting to take up my role as roving reporter and review a few more pubs for a popular website. I’ve been actively doing this for the last eighteen months and I’ve now passed judgement on some 115 pubs to date. On the website’s forum there’s often a load of griping about how there’s so many pub closures every week, and how people should support their local pub. Well, having been in the occasional pub, I feel I may have some small experience on which to draw, and here’s my 2p’s worth…..

The reason so many pubs are closing is (in my humble opinion) because they aren’t worth the money they cost the punter. Take the other night for example. A very scenic pub in lovely surroundings. Full of gobby twonks from “saaaarfffff laaaaaandaaaaaan”. Or the pub just down the road from me - where the barefoot chavs play pool. Or the one opposite the KFC where the scary people lurk. OK, so you might get change from a tenner, but I rather resent paying to drink in the company of the great unwashed.

As has been demonstrated at three kite festivals this year, to say nothing of several parties, it’s far cheaper and more convivial to stock up at Tesco or Asda and have a booze-up at home. I can’t help but wonder how much longer most pubs have got left. There's one or two gems that will survive, but they are few, and far between.....


14 August 2008 (Thursday) - Road Tax

14 August 2008 (Thursday) - Road Taxmagnify

One of my colleagues is picking up his new Renault Scenic today. His one runs on diesel, so although the fuel costs him more, less of what he spends on fuel goes on tax. According to the most recent figures I can find, for every pound he spends on diesel, he’s only paying 67.3 pence in tax. With my sexy new car running on unleaded, 69.9 pence out of every pound I spend on petrol goes in tax.

There’s also a rumour circulating that because his car runs on diesel, he’ll pay less road tax than me. Road Tax, or vehicle excise duty (to give it it’s correct title) is a tax we in the UK have to pay, simply to be allowed to have our cars on the road. Originally it was a good idea because we paid it to support repairs to roads. The amount you paid was linked to engine size. The bigger your engine, the more tax you paid.

Things have changed. Now, it's linked to CO2 emissions. (Whether you believe the whole global warming/climate change/manmade emission thing or not, is another rant I’ve done before) The more CO2 you emit from your car, the more road tax you have to pay. Fair enough?

Well, no (!) If you are lucky enough to be able to have some classic car (a red lotus springs to mind) and drive only a few hundred miles a year, or if you have some clapped out old wreck but only drive to and from the hospital for five minutes a day (a certain Espace springs to mind) you will generate far less CO2 than an eco-conscious rep in their eco-friendly hybrid greenmobile, doing 20,000 miles a year. But you'll still pay more tax.

Road tax is stupid. Simply taxing fuel is the ideal way to tax for both CO2 emissions and road usage. You can't travel without fuel, so you can't avoid paying, and the more economical your car is, the less you pay per unit travelled. No need for swarms of bureaucrats to calculate rates, dish out tax discs, chase non payments etc.

Simple? So why don’t the government do it……

15 August 2008 (Friday) - Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid

15 August 2008 (Friday) - Deoxyribose Nucleic Acidmagnify

My Boy TM” once did something rather silly. Well, at the time it seemed rather sensible. He accepted a lift from a friend. What he didn’t know was that friend was driving a stolen car. When the rozzers nicked them, DNA was taken. Despite “My Boy TM” being found to be utterly innocent of anything, his DNA remains on file (and this has caused him problems).

He’s not alone in this. Forty thousand other innocent youngsters have their DNA on file too. Apparently the law was re-written four years ago to allow the rozzers to take DNA (forcibly if necessary) from anyone who gets arrested. And to keep that DNA regardless of whether or not that person has actually done anything. And from my experience, the rozzers don’t seem to be that accurate in arresting the villains. I’ve written to my MP about this, and he tells me that this is all totally legal.

I can see the benefits to a law enforcement/judicial system of having such a DNA database. What I don’t like is the underhand way the government is going about building it up. Why can’t they be brave enough to announce that everyone’s got to have their DNA on file? I suppose it infringes the civil liberties of the namby pamby bleeding hearts of the loony left. Stuff ‘em, I say. All or nothing. If we’re going to have a DNA register, let’s have a complete one.

In other news, today I heard back about my interview of last Thursday. Quack Quack Oops!! It transpires that having gone out on the lash in Paris with the prospective boss, that prospective boss sees me and him as being on a par, and feels that neither of us would respond well to being in an employee-boss relationship. Also, seeing as at the moment I manage more people than are currently employed in his entire company he wasn’t sure how I would get on in such a small pond. I’m not sure I’d see either of those as a problem, but he’s the boss. Or he might have been. Oh well, I never wanted the job anyway! Well, in retrospect I think I probably did want it, but the travelling would have been a bit much. Stuff it. I have two more applications pending. I shall wait patiently to see what comes of those.

The scouts are due home tomorrow. I wonder how they got on….

16 August 2008 (Saturday) - An Afternoon On The Beer

16 August 2008 (Saturday) - An Afternoon On The Beermagnify

It was one of those days when everyone was feeling somewhat down. And what better way to perk yourself up than a pint or two? As a roving reporter for Beer in the Evening, I was able to pass judgement on one or two establishments in the Smarden area. (Here’s my judging criteria)

The Dering Arms, Pluckley

Not so much a pub as a hotel. It probably does quite a bit of passing trade from its railway station location, and on the plus side it does have it’s own ale brewed especially for the place. On the other hand it has no other ales. Whilst the place is very picturesque from the outside, the beer garden is on the small side.

We didn’t stay long as they, like so many other local pubs, close at 3pm and we had other places to visit. It’s a good pub but it has nothing to put it above any of the other pubs locally. And it’s up against some pretty stiff competition. But I expect they don’t care – the place is primarily a hotel.

6/10 – Average

The Three Chimneys, Biddenden

This is somewhere I’ve driven past so many times and have intended to visit for so many years. I walked in to dismay – no hand pumps. And then I realised. The beer comes straight out of the barrel. Heaven! Three ales and a cider. We had lunch – the stilton ploughman’s was very tasty. The beer garden is huge and we spent a pleasant two hours here.

The only negative is the fact that they close on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm. What’s that all about?

8/10 – Very Good

The Bell and Jorrocks, Frittenden

This place warranted a visit, if only for the name. Four good ales, all well kept. Cheesy chips too. The place doubles up as being the local post office as well as the pub, so if funds are running short you don’t have to go far to top up the cash. They also do a decent cup of coffee, and usually have pickled eggs (but not today). And they stay open all day on a Saturday – something not many places do in the area.

Whilst there’s sport on the TV, the sound is off, so it’s unobtrusive. I can’t help but feel the place suffers from not having a beer garden, but that’s just me being picky.

8/10 – Very Good

The Bell, Smarden

Oh dear. I remember this place in its heyday. I first visited the place in August 1981 and have been back several times over the years. For years it was a place to get good food and good beer. But now – disaster! It’s been taken over and is just another Shepherd Neame pub.

Don’t get me wrong, Shepherd Neame is good beer, and we had a smashing drop of the mild, but I tend to stay away from Neame pubs. They all do the same beer, and seem to have a corporate policy of not having a guest ale. The serious beer hunter will give a Neame pub a wide berth for this reason – probably half the pubs in the county are Neame pubs and they all do exactly the same half-dozen beers.

Whilst it’s in a very scenic location and has a really good garden, it’s not what it once was, and is now certainly in last place out of the three Smarden pubs.

6/10 – Average

I woke up in front of the telly at 10pm. I wonder where everyone else has gone…..


17 August 2008 (Sunday) - Another Afternoon On The Beer

17 August 2008 (Sunday) - Another Afternoon On The Beermagnify

I awoke to hear the pouring rain. A depressing sound on an August weekend. As I booted my trusty PC, I had an antivirus malfunction. A bin file was missing. Oo-er ! I re-booted and all seemed well. I’m going to hope for the best on this one.

A nice day for a walk, so off to Whitstable. A stroll along the sea front, a pint of Whitstable Brewery’s wheat beer, a bag of chips, God was in his heaven and all was well with the world. We thought that as we were in the area we’d come home via the Kent CAMRA pub of the year. The Butcher’s Arms in Herne has won the accolade this year. So we drove through Herne, and found that although the village was heaving with people all enjoying the annual summer fayre, the pub was closed. What’s that all about?

So we moved on to the Granville just outside Canterbury. A Neame pub with two Neame ales. It’s very obviously concentrating on the restaurant/food market. For that it can’t be faulted, but as a pub, nothing special. And then to the Compasses in Crundale – another Neame pub. Very scenic inside and out, but rather spoiled by the aroma of last night’s vomit in the bar.

And then home for a night in NeverWinter…


18 August 2008 (Monday) - Money

18 August 2008 (Monday) - Moneymagnify

I see the back room boys in Harrods have got the hump. Those that get seen by the general public have got a couple of extra days’ holiday. Those that actually do the work get nothing. Welcome to my world. For years I’ve received rubbish pay rises compared to nurses because everyone knows that nurses are the only ones in hospikals that actually do anything (!)

On the other hand, some people have more money than sense. Not only do these people stump up over three thousand pounds on a taxi, the taxi took them to the wrong place and they had to cough up a further one thousand five hundred quid to get to the right place.

Seeing how tonight is probably the last chance I’ll get to sort out the fishing gear before Batcamp I popped into the fishing tackle shop. I must admit I’d rather spend my money in a shop that makes the effort to hide its contempt for the customer, but it’s not that easy. Once upon a time I had a choice of places from which to get fishing tackle. Now there’s only the one place, and don’t they know it...


19 August 2008 (Tuesday) - An Afternoon Off

19 August 2008 (Tuesday) - An Afternoon Offmagnify

I’ve often said I get too much holiday. I get 33 days off a year. I get half a day for every Saturday morning I work, which amounts to another six days a year. And I get time off in lieu for every time I have to go in during the night and at weekends. Trouble is, so does everyone else I work with. We need to have two or three people on holiday every day to get it all used up. I’ve already sold back two weeks holiday and I think I’ll struggle to get the rest used up.

Which is why when we have days like today with no one off, I make the most of using my holiday. Because I’ll lose it otherwise. I came home at mid day, scoffed my scran and put on a film I’d recorded onto the SkyPlus. Fell asleep, and woke up in time to collect “Daddies Little Angel TM” from the oldbiddydrome.

From there we went to Bybrook Barn to stock up on guppies and the like. The fish tank was looking a bit sparse. Whilst there, “Daddies Little Angel TM” took a shine to a frog. “Bertram the Frog TM” is now a feature in the living room. I can’t help but wonder how long he will last.

A postcard arrived today from Alaska. How appropriate as its back to cubs tonight. Or so I thought. I wandered round to the scout hut. And stood locked out for half an hour. Apparently we start beck next week. So I went back home again to find the contents of the shed strewn across the back garden. “Daddies Little Angel TM” has decided that the shed was a disgrace, and needed to be tidied. And having tidied the shed, she moved onto the bathroom. She’s up to something – wish I knew what!

We’ve chivvied up ten bags of rubbish for the dustmen tomorrow. Let’s hope they are grateful for it….


20 August 2008 (Wednesday) - Stuff

20 August 2008 (Wednesday) - Stuffmagnify

A late start so I thought I’d spend a few hours in NeverWinter. I’m currently saving the city of PenUltima from the ravages of chaos, which is easier said than done. But it’s not all axes and greatswords, you know. You need to think about what you’re up to as well. Here’s a puzzle for my loyal readership. There’s a prize of a bottle of Oyster Stout for the first person to come up with the (or a) correct solution. It took me half an hour to work it out this morning.

You have two containers. One holds five pints, the other three pints. You have a water tap. You need to measure out four pints. There’s no guessing with half measures – you have an endless supply of water, but only a three pint container and a five pint container to do it with.

I hate NeverWinter Nights!!

Yesterday I heard about a new fishing tackle shop - on the way in to work I thought I’d have a look. I need some sort of holdall to keep all my kit together (!) So I asked if they had a holdall. The chap struggled off of his chuff to have a look when the phone rang. Without a word to me, he went back to the phone. A few yes-es, a few no-s and then he told the caller he’d look online. A minor hiatus whilst he got the PC going and then he told the caller that he’d have a look on eBay. Another delay whilst eBay was called up. All the time I was standing waiting like a lemon. After fifteen minutes the chap hung up the phone and wandered over to me. I pretended interest in a holdall rather precariously hanging off of a shelf some ten feet above the ground, so’s he’d have to go and get a ladder. I took great delight in waiting to be told the price and then telling the chap I could get it cheaper on eBay. I walked out smiling, leaving him hanging precariously some ten feet above the ground.

That’s two fishing tackle shops that clearly don’t want the custom. I hear Ashford Guns & Tackle are still going. I might go there tomorrow to get insulted…..

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21 August 2008 (Thursday) - Preparing for Bat-Camp

21 August 2008 (Thursday) - Preparing for Bat-Campmagnify

August Bank Holiday is traditionally Bat-Camp. Another tradition is to intend to set up on the Thursday afternoon. Not to actually do so, but to intend to do so. Martin arrived at mid day armed with some of the KFC’s finest, and once that was scoffed, I had a little bit of shopping to do before setting off for Smarden. I wanted a beach shelter for the weekend’s fishing. £8.99 in the Argos catalogue. But every Argos in Kent had sold out. Pretty much the same thing was in stock in the fishing shop (who were smarmy today) - £49.99. They can stick that. And then to the scout hut for a portable dump-station to go into the turdis. (Words were said about the 99p bucket at Teston !) And then to Martin’s to get his luggage. Making a brief detour to Biddenden vineyard we arrived at the farm at 3.15pm to find the kettle had just boiled.

I don’t know what went wrong this afternoon. At a kite festival we have all tents set up, personal gear & cooking gear organised, air beds inflated and half a dozen banners flying (to say nothing of a certain rainbow flag) all in three hours. We lost things up trees, couldn’t find the turdis, and we’d been there two hours before we got the first tent out of its bag. After five hours we’d got tents up (but nothing organised inside them), everything chucked in “Brown and Smelly” just in case it rains, and a poo pit dug. We’ll try again tomorrow. And try harder.

And for those of my loyal readers who’ve been racking their brains, here’s the first correct answer to yesterday’s puzzle. (There are others):

Fill the five pint and pour into the three pint. This leaves two in the five pint. Empty the three pint and pour the remaining two from the five pint into the three pint. Fill the five again and pour into the three which has only room for one pint leaving four in the Five pint

The “Hose Beast TM “ wins a bottle of Oyster Stout. Which is a result all round. He gets the satisfaction of winning the bottle, and I get the satisfaction of guzzling it, as he doesn’t like Oyster Stout.

In conclusion, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the turdis. That thing cost over thirty quid, and I have yet to christen it….

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22 August 2008 (Friday) - Off To Bat-Camp

22 August 2008 (Friday) - Off To Bat-Campmagnify

The turdis came to light under a pile of gazebo fragments in one of the lock-ups this morning. I can’t help but suspect the thing was hiding. Bearing in mind what’s planned for it over the weekend, I for one can’t blame it for trying to hide. Whilst rummaging for it, I found a beach shelter. Exactly the sort of thing I’d been looking for yesterday. “My Boy TM” had declared it to be rubbish. It will do for me!

The plan was to get to the farm at about mid day, but by 10am I was bored, (and so was Martin) so we set off for Smarden. This morning we got ourselves sorted quickly, and all was done within half an hour. So we went fishing. There was a minor hiccup in that I would seem to have lost a third of a fishing rod somewhere. I expect it will turn up at some point – these things usually do. Fishing ! - an epic battle of man and beast, pitting your wits against the leviathan of the deep. And when the leviathan falls for your bait there then ensues a gargantuan battle of physical prowess. Or that’s what I told Batty, who only caught one. Martin and I had a dozen tiddlers each.

Following some light comic relief watching Bernie trying to get an inflated airbed into his tent there was a quick Barbie and then I left the happy campers to it and came home. I’m expected in at work tomorrow, and I’d rather not go from the camp site. You never know what might go west overnight……


23 August 2008 (Saturday) - Beer and Smoke

23 August 2008 (Saturday) - Beer and Smokemagnify

I was feeling that I was missing out not being at camp as I was awake from 4am. Work was much the same as ever, and I was back at the farm by 1pm. Pausing only briefly to get a bandanna, it was soon time for another Bat-Camp tradition – pub lunch. Stilton ploughman’s and a couple of pints of mild went down very well. On the wander back to camp we found the village fete where I won a coconut on the coconut shy. I feel I must point out that it wasn’t won in the traditional way. I was given it because I was so rubbish that they felt sorry for me.

On arrival back at camp we found we had a couple of visitors – and after showing Andy the correct use of the turdis, it was time for a spot of fishing. (Fortunately for piscatorial science, I found the missing fishing rod fragment in the shed) A dozen or so tiddlers succumbed to “really skilful angling TM” and then back to base. A super tea of tacos was scoffed, and we adjourned to the camp fire (or camp smoke to be precise) where after a protracted session of drinking to excess, port and cheese was enjoyed (how posh) until rain finally stopped play around midnight.


24 August 2008 (Sunday) - Camp (ing) in the Rain

24 August 2008 (Sunday) - Camp (ing) in the Rainmagnify

Bat-Camp is rife with traditions. One of them is that I go fishing at 6am and take the blame for waking the farm animals that actually wake up on their own half an hour later. But not today. It was raining so I stayed in bed. A late breakfast followed by an even later dinner. The weather forecast led us to believe the weather would be iffy to begin with, but would cheer up as the day went on. The rain didn’t stop until about 3pm for which time we re-scheduled the postponed fishing.

After a good scoff of chicken curry, the evening was spent drinking and star gazing, until the clouds hid the stars.


25 August 2008 (Monday) - Reflecting on Bat-Camping

25 August 2008 (Monday) - Reflecting on Bat-Campingmagnify

This morning wasn’t raining. But it was on the cold side. So much so that at 6am I was seriously considering staying in bed. But, much as I like going fishing, it’s something that I rarely (if ever) do except at Bat-Camp, so I braved the elements. Fishing was dull for the first hour, but it perked up after a bit, so much so that I had to use the landing net for one of the fish. It was a shame that there was no one there to see the thing. It was far bigger than the one pictured above. Mind you, that’s an impressive fish. Last year the pond was stocked with tench about the size of my little finger, and you can see how the things have grown.

As the morning wore on, it became a lovely day. The sun was shining, and there was a gentle breeze. All the tents were dry and ready to be packed away and just as we finished breakfast so the rain started. A fine drizzle that soaked everything. We brought home our personal gear but we’ve left the tents where they were. One of the advantages of Bat-Camp over kite festivals is that if we have wet tents we don’t have the problem of drying them. We can leave them where they are and worry about them later. The current plan is to worry about them on Wednesday evening.

And so home to unpack. As we finish the ninth Bat-Camp, I’m wondering what we can do to make the next one even better. In all honesty, the main thing which could have been better this year (and last) was the weather. But we’ve had fun with the weather in the past. The first “official” Bat-Camp ever was in September 1998, and that was cold and wet (!). The next one was early in the following July, and whilst I don’t remember the weather being overly iffy, a July date would clash with other camping commitments in Brighton. (I wonder if we could persuade Brighton Kite Fliers to re-schedule their festival?) The millennium year saw two Bat-Camps, one in June, and one at the August Bank Holiday. The June one must have been good to prompt us to have another one the same year, and there’s photos of people swimming at that August camp (if you know where to look) so it must have been warm. We liked having the extra day camping because of the bank holiday, and that has been the reason why we’ve chosen the August bank holiday for the last six camps. But bearing in mind we’ve had rather substantial rain in three of them, perhaps a re-think is in order. Trouble is, when would suit…..


26 August 2008 (Tuesday) - Back to Cubs

26 August 2008 (Tuesday) - Back to Cubsmagnify

Back to cubs. Because it’s the summer holidays there were only seventeen of them, so we thought we’d have a games evening. Non-stop cricket is always fun. Or it is when you don’t have a third of the participants being spanners. Having had the rules explained 127 times, the first spanner wandered up to bat, stood staring into space and started crying. So he was taken back and told to watch the other cubs. After fifteen minutes he got another go, and wielded the cricket bat as though it was a fly swatter. So again he was taken out of the game and told to watch. After another ten minutes he tried to play tennis with the cricket bat. I asked him if he’d been watching the other cubs. He stared blankly at me. I asked him if he’d ever seen a game of cricket. I got the same blank stare. I then asked him if he had any idea what I was talking about, or even if he had any idea that I was actually talking to him. No understanding at all….

And then a game of dodgeball. All the cubs sit in a circle. One is in the middle. Those on the outside throw a foam ball at the one in the circle who tries to dodge the ball. Dodge-ball. Easy, eh? No. Another spanner who was given a go in the middle just walked into the middle and stood motionless (and gormless) to make an easy target for those who did actually have a clue.

But I suppose to be fair to them, they were joining in and attempting to have a go. We had two who flatly refused to join in with any game. Why on earth do these kids come along if they don’t want to take part?

I wonder why I bother. I bother because there are some kids who make it a fun evening. But tonight out of the seventeen we had half a dozen who didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on (and will probably never have the faintest idea what was going on), and a couple who, whilst pleasant enough, didn’t want to join in at all. Out of seventeen, I was wasting my time with eight. Nine of them, however, seemed to have a good time. Slightly more than half…..


27 August 2008 (Wednesday) - Another Day in the Life

27 August 2008 (Wednesday) - Another Day in the Lifemagnify

On Monday night I switched the washing machine to warp drive and so yesterday morning I put out five wash loads on the line to dry. “Daddies Little Angel TM” had instructions to fetch the laundry in during the afternoon. Yesterday evening I again hammered the poor washing machine half to death. I have this foolish ambition to be able to get the dirty washing pile so small that it fits in the laundry basket. Some might laugh at such futility, but I live in hope. Just as I was pulling the third load out of the poor machine, I was told that earlier in the day the clothes line had snapped under the pressure. They don’t make washing lines like they used to (!) What particularly amazed me was that no one told me about this until gone 11pm. It would seem to have been common knowledge in the house. Common knowledge to everyone but me. So this morning I was up and in the garden at 6.15 am fixing up a new line.

Pausing only briefly to swear at the traffic wardens (ticketing cars in Beaver Road at 7.20am) I was in early at work to find the rostered early chap was going to be late. Someone had nicked the poor chap’s car. As I was there anyway I stepped into the breach thereby giving myself a genuine reason to get out an hour earlier than planned this evening.

The plan for the evening was to head out to the farm to take down the tents that had been left up at the weekend and generally tidy away. I arrived to find that the only tents left up were my own one, and “brown and smelly”. A quick take down, tidy up and we were all done in half an hour. All the camping gear is away, and that’s camping done for another year.

Having said that, it wouldn’t hurt to find a weekend when everyone’s free and have a “proofing the tents” session, and “brown and smelly” does need some maintenance. Also the turdis didn’t hold up to the punishment – only two trips out and the thing is (quite literally) coming apart at the seams. Perhaps I’d better see if I can scare up a canvas version.

A couple of days ago I was speculating on the possibility of re-scheduling Bat-Camp to a weekend with better weather. Thought the power of "blog-tech historical research", it seems that mid May has had half-way decent weather for the last couple of years. The weekend of 16-17 May next year is looking promising….

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28 August 2008 (Thursday) - Laundry, Money and Shoes on Fire

28 August 2008 (Thursday) - Laundry, Money and Shoes on Firemagnify

A late start, so why not do some laundry? What with all the rain we’ve had lately the washing had piled up a bit, but now it’s all washed, the last of it is on the line, and it just needs ironing. I’ll do that later. There’s only so much dull that you can do on the morning before a late shift. You never know – it might just get done for me. The lawn mowed itself this week (!) Mind you, that’s probably the last we’ll hear of laundry for some time - “My Boy TM” decided to wash his trainers, but didn’t switch off the tumble drier setting. A strange burning smell brought this fact to light. I hope that it was his shoes that were on fire, he’s hoping it was the washing machine. I made the mistake of asking why he needed to wash his best trainers. Apparently he went in the sea with them on. I know that this begs the question of what he was doing in the sea, but sometimes it’s just best to let it drop….

This morning’s flurry of emails brought news from the astronomy club. We’ve been given another grant. In the month or so since formally setting up as a proper club with constitutions etc we’ve now been given six hundred quid from various councils and parish councils. It seems these bodies have the cash to give to “needy causes”, but hardly anyone ever asks for this money. So those that do make the effort to say “gizza fiver ya bast!” get given far more than that fiver. On the one hand I can’t help but feel that as a club we have no need for six hundred quid. Having said that, now we’ve got it, I’m full of ideas about what we could do with it.


29 August 2008 (Friday) - An Exhibition

29 August 2008 (Friday) - An Exhibitionmagnify

Earlier in the year, er indoors TM received an email. One evening last year we went for a walk around the creek at Faversham, and she put some photos on Flickr. Some arty-farty type saw the photos and asked her if she wanted to submit the photos for an exhibition. The theme of the exhibition was “A Year in the Life of Faversham”, and tonight we were invited to a special preview evening before the formal opening of the exhibition tomorrow. Oh it was pretentious. Nibbles were available, as was a glass of wine to be sipped whilst viewing the exhibits.

Somewhere along the line, I think I lost the plot. Let’s go back a bit here. The theme of the exhibition was “A Year in the Life of Faversham”. 366 photographs, one taken on each day of the year. “Each photo - one per day - will show a moment in time in the life of the town as seen by its people, showing different views, different perspectives. Photos can feature places, landscapes, events, people etc... The innovative project of both artistic and historical value will show the Faversham of today portrayed by local photographers” to quote the website.

I would say that maybe a third of the photos were actually on the topic of illustrating things in the year in that life of Faversham. Another third was best described as “arty rubbish” which needed the tenuous connection with Faversham to be explained. For example the inside of a pub, a close up of a Morris dancer, a game of tennis, the circus, the fun fair, the road works, the M2, pavement slabs, and the inside of the newsagent shop. And the last third was nothing short of space fillers with absolutely nothing at all to actually do with Faversham. Loads of dull flowers, fruit bowls, a padlock, a swan, the baby photos, a magazine rack, a spaniel in someone’s living room, a Christmas decoration, a sweetie wrapper on a carpet, a child eating cake mix: all of them could have been anywhere in the world.

I came away feeling as though the organisers had lied to me. Having claimed that they had received over 1500 entries, none of er indoors TM photos were actually used. Which was daft. She’d submitted several photos for 21 February as on that day a gaggle of us had done the brewery tour in Faversham. And what’s the town famous for, if not the Shepherd Neame brewery? But did they have something of local interest for that day? No - the photo they used was of some really poncy-looking flower which (in all honesty) could have been taken at any time of the year in any greenhouse anywhere in the world….


30 August 2008 (Saturday) - Haircuts 4 Gardens (dot com)

30 August 2008 (Saturday) - Haircuts 4 Gardens (dot com)magnify

Despite a relatively early night last night, I was awake at 4.30am. Worrying about when I would find time to see to the epic pile of ironing I‘d generated during the week. So by 5am I was up and ironing like a thing possessed. Back to kip at 7.30am, and I was actually late at Brian’s house for the inaugural launch of my latest venture – “Haircuts 4 Gardens (dot com)”. His garden was on the overgrown side. Mind you, what looked a bit iffy soon succumbed to me and a dustbin bag, and then it was time to say goodbye to Brian and set about my own garden. Or that was the plan. Seeing as it was now gone mid day, we decided to adjourn for a crafty pint of dinner, and the rest (of the day), as they say, was history.

Rounding up “the Bat” and er indoors TM we set off to Wye for a spot of proper dinner at the Tickled Trout. Stilton Ploughman’s has been something of a feature for the last few weekends, and who am I to break with tradition? The only drawback with the Tickled trout is that it is one of a very select number of pubs that features five hand pumps, so whilst er indoors TM set off to collect “Daddies Little Angel TM”, some of us stayed behind to see off all the hand pumps. (Rules is rules!)

er indoors TM returned to bring us home around 5pm and has since vanished off to her sister’s birthday bash. Me – I think I’ll see what’s going on in NeverWinter…

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31 August 2008 (Sunday) - A Waste of a Day

Having had at most a couple of hours’ kip last night, I was up sorting out the undead menace in NeverWinter at 7am this morning. I didn’t really do that much hard work yesterday. Maybe an hour or so stripping out the overgrowth from Brian’s garden in the morning, and half an hour (at most) mowing & strimming my lawn in the evening. So why have I got the world’s worst backache today?

It’s been a funny old day, swapping between scorching sunshine and gloomy rain showers. We had a phone call about 10am to say the arky-ologee dig had been cancelled because they were worried about thunderstorms. It’s probably for the best that’s been cancelled. Most of the so-called archeologists are either far too decrepit or far too posh to actually get their hands dirty scrabbling in the soil. The actual rummaging for artefacts is best left to the fat peasant (until he unearths something) and today my back’s certainly not up to it.

Whilst wandering up the garden to feed the fish this morning, there was the biggest frog you ever did see sitting on the side of the pond. As I approached, the stupid thing jumped in. Frogs do that. They jump in and can’t get out again. I’ll go up with a net later. Mind you, it must be nearly a month since I last pulled out a drowned sparrow, so things are looking up. And that was the highlight of the day. I spent the day alternating between killing monsters n NeverWinter and having a kip. After having been doing things yesterday and on Friday, I rather resent wasting days like this…..