1 August 2010 (Sunday) - Feeling Fragile


I woke feeling somewhat fragile today, but thought I’d better get up as my brother would soon be up and about, having stayed over last night. I staggered about a bit, took one look at the carnage in the garden, and turned round to go back to bed. But the aftermath in the garden wasn’t going to tidy itself away, and as I pootled about I found all sorts of stuff which gave me hints about what I’d missed during last night. Cake! From the amount of washing up it would seem we fed cake to an army. I don’t remember cake. A bottle of Imperial stout had been opened. That would explain the headache. And port – there was an empty bottle of port. I don’t remember that. Mind you, the empty bottle of port is probably why I don’t remember anything. We quietly tidied away, and then had a bite of brekky. And began to worry about my brother who still hadn’t emerged from his pit. Then the phone rang – it was my brother – he’d slipped out quietly whilst we were asleep four hours previously and he was home.

Whilst tidying away, the folding gazebo broke. I wasn’t impressed as we’ve only ever used the thing three times. I went into Halfords to have a whinge, and the nice lady said to take it back tomorrow. I shall do just that.

er indoors TM set off to flog candles to an unsuspecting public. So being at a bit of a loose end, I went fishing. For a change I used two rods – one for my standard tiddler bashing, and the other one with a large bait left out for a while to see if I couldn’t catch a biggun. It transpired that I couldn’t. But I spent a pleasant three hours at the pond, even if I did get rained on. The weather went from glorious sunshine to torrential rain back to glorious sunshine within half an hour.

But all too soon it got painful sitting still, and so I came home where I fell asleep in front of the telly for a bit, and then we watched a DVD. I must be the last person on the planet to have seen the movie “Avatar”. It started good, and continued in the same vein, And continued, and continued. Oh the thing went on. At two and a half hours long, in my humble opinion it fell into the trap of padding out a rather bog-standard plot with far too many special effects…




2 August 2010 (Monday) - Complaining



Up early to put the kettle on. er indoors TM got tea in bed this morning. Can’t think why. But she seemed happy with her pressie. Today was the twenty-ninth time I’ve given her birthday pressies, and each year it gets harder to find something.

On the way home from work I popped into Halfords to complain about the broken gazebo. I bought it the day before we went to the June Teston Kite Festival. I’ve used the thing at two kite festivals and one garden party, and yesterday when putting it away the aluminium had snapped. I spoke to the staff there yesterday, and they said to fetch the thing back. So I did that today. Unfortunately none of the staff who were on duty yesterday were about the place today. So explained to the doom-brained dimwit on the till that I’d brought back a faulty item. She tried to scan its bar-code, failed (because there wasn’t one) and asked if I could turn the thing round so she could scan the bar code. I explained again that I wasn’t buying, I was complaining. I started explaining the whole sorry tale, but it soon became clear that she had been programmed to sell things. Dealing with returns was far beyond her ability. But to be fair to her, she sat and listened, enthralled to hear what I had to say. And when I’d said my piece, she just grinned inanely. With no idea of how to proceed, it seemed that she’d thought that if she waited long enough, I might go away. And then she had a stroke of divine inspiration. Her face lit up as she told me her brainwave. Would it help if she paged her supervisor? I smiled sweetly, resisting the urge to ask if the last brainwave she had was when the thing said goodbye, and agreed that seeing her supervisor might help.

When it became clear that I wasn’t making a fuss, and was quite happy to swap the broken gazebo for a replacement all seemed well. But then disaster. Since the time when I’d bought the thing in June, they’d dropped the price by ten quid. I really couldn’t care, but this caused their computer no end of problems, and it was with a sense of relief that I finally drove away with the replacement gazebo. I wonder how long this one will last? I did notice one or two similar gazebos in various states of having been unbagged – I wonder if they too were returned broken?

And then home where there was an email waiting for me. Last week I complained to the organisers of Ashford’s “Create” festival that the thing was noisy, unwelcoming and was generally rubbish. I’d received a reply. They said:

To whom it may concern.

I am sorry that you felt that your experience at the Create Music Festival was disappointing and that you did not like what you heard from your garden. I am taking the two complaints I have received seriously. The other complaint was solely around ‘noise’ therefore I will try and get a better measure of the noise limits to local residents for next year’s event. It is very difficult for me to monitor how and where sound travels on the day as I am concerned with on the park issues but I will have a think about how this can be controlled for next years event. I will engage our Environmental Services department in this discussion.

On your other issues:

The beer tent was run by an external private company and is a matter for their business only – it was up to them (in agreement with the event organiser) what they wanted to sell to the public. Although they had a successful day I will pass on a recommendation for real ale next year.

I am sorry that you felt it insulting to be searched on the way in to the event, this was not my intention. In the past we have had issues with glass bottles being thrown or smashed on site which makes it very difficult for our clean team to pick up, making the site very dangerous during the festival and after (especially during school holidays and early morning dog walkers). So with no glass bottles on site, our clean team did a fantastic job of clearing the site this year - in record time, which minimised hours of man time cost on the Council purse.

I also maintain that fencing the park and searching people was necessary for other reasons and this has been justified by some of the things that my employed security team confiscated on the day. Create is a family friendly event and to ensure it remains so I will go over and above to make sure the thousands (11,000 people during the course of the day in 2010) who value this festival continue to enjoy watching and listening to Ashford’s newest local talent.

After frequent visits to the site over the last week, I have not seen any scorch marks from those cooking on mini barbecues at the Create Festival, although this may have happened, the park looks in very good condition. Incidentally I have often seen residents use the open park for barbequing during the summer months outside of my one day event.

I have no comment to make on a girl operating an ice cream stall, however given the amount of sales they took on the day I am afraid you must have been unlucky getting someone to cover a short break.

As for value, it is not of interest to me as an Arts Development Officer to run a beer festival like the one in Canterbury that is a chargeable event. At Create I am interested in giving young local bands, solo artists and djs a chance to perform in front of thousands of their friends and families, who attend for free. Having a beer tent helps to minimise the cost on the Council’s purse to put on the event and helps retain this festival to be free for all to attend.

I hope that this e-mail gives you a little more insight into the reasons why I take such serious actions, in the aim of delivering a positive free festival for all. I can see how you may have been disappointed and I can only apologise for that. Should you wish to speak to me about any points made in this e-mail further, my office number is 01233 999 999..

Thank you for your concern and I will look into minimising noise for next year.

I was quite amazed – I never thought they would reply. Sometimes it pays to complain. I then got my shears out and gave myself a quick haircut. The birthday girl was quite amused when she found I’d missed a bit…



3 August 2010 (Tuesday) - Stuff



Parking at work is always somewhat problematical - one of the reasons I get to work so early is so that I can park my car within a ten minute walk of the place. I managed to squeeze into the last available space this morning. I say “squeeze” because as some inconsiderate person had parked diagonally across the adjacent space. Ten minutes later whist having an early morning cuppa I was told that there was someone in the car park wanting me to move my car so she could get into her car. I went outside to see the fattest woman you ever did see ranting at thin air because she was too fat to squeeze into the space I'd left by the side of her car. I had parked rather tight against her car. However I'd parked symmetrically in the space so that the person on the other side could get into their car, having no idea how podgy the poor parker was.

I smiled sweetly at the porker, and asked if she'd like me to move my car. She then stopped ranting at thin air, and directed her ranting at me. Apparently her parking at all angles is actually a very considerate way to park, and me and the rest of humanity using the white lines painted on the ground as guides for our parking is very “sad”. “Sad” was a particular favourite insult of hers. I politely listened to her ranting, and when she'd personally insulted me for the twentieth time (I counted!) I pointed at my bum, and told her to kiss it. I then walked off and left her there. In retrospect I suppose my taking a photograph of her poor parking didn’t do much to ease tensions, but by that time I’d had enough.

Ten minutes later I went back to move my car - I wouldn’t put it past her to damage the thing. She'd folded my wing mirror in. I debated pursuing the matter, but life is too short. My car spent the rest of the day in a car park ten minutes away.

The plan for the evening was to get all the stuff for the weekend’s camping trip into one place. It can take an age to find all the camping bits, and so I thought that I could find the tackle tonight, and load up the car tomorrow. But with the car parked so close, and with willing volunteers to hand, it seemed daft not to finish the job. I’m now (nearly) ready for the kite festival.

We then went to Chippy’s via Asda. Beer doesn’t buy itself, and having drunk a lot of the supplies at the weekend I thought we might as well stock up now rather than sending out for supplies on Saturday. And so to Chippy’s where we watched Jeff Dunham. I’ve only ever seen snippets of this bloke before – he’s really good….



4 August 2010 (Wednesday) - More Stuff



Up with the lark, shirts ironed and to work. Fortunately the car of yesterday’s epically porky “person” was nowhere to be seen. In retrospect I should have checked the thing to see if she actually had a permit to park where she had.

And then home. I was glad I’d packed the car last night – this evening there was nowhere close to the house where I could park, and the rain was torrential when I got home. So I packed my clothes for the weekend and waited for the rain to stop. I checked the weather forecast. I do that all the time, and I’m happy if sunshine is forecast, and ignore it if rain is forecast. I really shouldn’t bother with them.

I then slept in front of You-Tube videos waiting for the rain to stop. During my kip both Martin and Lisa dropped off tackle for me to take camping tomorrow. I can’t help but wish I’d had the stuff yesterday, but there it is. And then I was woken by a text from the most recent fruit of my loin – she’d sent me a picture of The Things, which is today’s piccie. And as the rain slackened off I got the last few bits into my car, before loading up er indoors TM car with all her stuff shortly after dark.

And then an early night ready for the off in the morning. To Teston for the kite festival – our third camping event of the year. If any of my loyal readers are free on Saturday, don’t forget we’re doing pooh-sticks at Teston lock at 5pm.

And whilst we’re away, “My Boy TM  has instructions to get on with a major tidying up session. I wonder if he’ll do it this time?

See you all on Monday….




5 August 2010 (Thursday) - Off to Teston



All set to go, just about to get into the car, and I realised that I needed the loo. As I came out of the facilities I noticed something – my kite bag was still on the shelf. My kite bag is huge, and is usually the first thing I pack for a kite festival. Trying to squeeze it into the car last was tricky, but I managed. And so, for the eighteenth time I set off to Teston for a kite festival. Ably assisted by “Daddies Little Angel TM  and the rear admiral, we arrived on site at 10am, and started to put the tents up. As the morning wore on, the in-laws arrived, as did other festival go-ers, and we kept leaving our setting up to say hello to old friends. In the past, setting up camp has taken an age, but now we seem to have it down to a fine art, and despite our wandering off to chat with people, all canvas was in place by midday. Er indoors TM arrived to set up the camp kitchen, and we set about some dinner. It was a shame that there were some normal people picnic-ing almost on top of us, but they eventually shoved off, and we grabbed the picnic table they were using. One of the advantages of Teston Bridge picnic site is that it has really good picnic benches that are incredibly useful when we are camping there.

After a bite of scoff I got our banners up, and Dick came over for a chat. Just as we were settling down for a crafty pint we noticed that the wind had dropped. And so had Dick’s kite. Right into a tree. So we went, pointed, and laughed. You have to – it’s the rules. And then we tried to get the thing out of the tree, which was easier said than done. But the kite was eventually rescued, and was undamaged despite it’s being stuck up the tree, and then thrashed with a pole to try to get it out.

A few more beers whilst more friends arrived, and then in a novel break with kite festival tradition I played with a kite for a while until it got dark. And then with the Jose-o-scope (patent pending) we tried to tell the difference between “Cassie-o-pee-er” and “Cassie-opia”. Tried, but failed.



6 August 2010 (Friday) - Teston Kite Festival


It was very clear, and very cold when I got up for a tiddle at 4am. Someone else was also up and having a make-sure, so I shouted some abuse at them, before going back to bed. I can’t help but wonder who it was – I didn’t have my specs on at the time. Having been up to midnight last night, I could have done with more sleep, but it just wasn’t happening: I lay awake until 7am when set about my morning ablutions. My nephew appeared from nowhere, and once I’d shaved he helped me with some tidying up. It’s amazing how messy the place had got overnight. Where had all those empty beer bottles come from?

A bit of brekky, and then we had to run er indoors TM to her mate’s house; she was off to the Annual General Meeting of the Guild of Candle Floggers and was getting a lift from her mate’s house. Her mate lived twenty minutes ride away, and at ten minutes before we were due at this mate’s house, er indoors TM managed to lose her phone. Oh how I laughed (!) But the phone was soon found (where it was left), and er indoorsTM was deposited with her mates. On the way back to camp I supervised the day’s shopping. Whilst by “Daddies Little Angel TM  and the rear admiral got the food for lunch and the next day’s brekky, I tried to find some replacement footwear; my plimsolls had developed a hole. I asked an assistant if they sold shoes. The silly woman started at me blankly – she’d never heard of shoes. In the end I pointed at my feet to show her what shoes were. She told me they didn’t sell shoes – apparently there was no demand for the things.

Back to camp, where more people were arriving; more of our party as well as other festival go-ers. As we watched people getting settled in we had a bit of lunch – bread, cheese and a bottle of porter. Very nice. And then I got out my new kite that I’d bought a month ago at the Brighton kite festival. With the afternoon’s strong wind the kite flew very well, and once I was confident that the kite was high enough and the wind was steady enough, I tethered the kite and went off to get more water for our camp; we had emptied one of our water containers. On the way back from the toilet block I noticed a swarm of friends, all around a tree. And then a larger swarm of nephews and nieces came out from behind the tree with my new kite. As soon as my back was turned the wind had dropped, and the kite had gone straight into the tree. And I got fined – it’s a fixed penalty of a quid every time an “experienced kiter” gets one into a tree. Mind you, I’m not complaining – after all, I’d rather be considered one of the “experienced kiters” than get lumped in with the normal people.

Having been taught a song about the virgin sturgeon (a very fine fish, apparently) more of our party arrived, and over a beer we watched Terry demonstrating how to put up a tent. He’d got a couple of Decathlon’s pop-up tents and they were up in less than a second. We then arranged the seats around the kitchen area, and watched Terry and Irene preparing the evening’s curry. It smelled so good, and was one of the finest curries I’ve ever had. With food like that, I’m only too happy to do the washing up. And fetching the water too. By now we’d emptied both water containers, and had to fetch some more. Two water runs in one day is unheard of – I wish I knew where it had all gone.

By now the wind was getting somewhat excessive, and so it was decided to take down the banners, and the beer started flowing. And then we had some fun. I had been given the job of locking the car park gate at 9pm. I waited until 10pm to do it, because I’d forgotten to do it. However nobody told me that Simon had driven off at 9.55pm to get my shopping. He came back to find the gate was locked. So he sent to my camp to ask for the key. I wasn’t there – I was half way across the field chatting. Half an hour later (once I’d been found) I went up to the gate to commiserate with Simon, and we spent a good fifteen minutes grumbling together until I told him that I actually had the key he needed. He did laugh (!)




7 August 2010 (Saturday) - Pooh-Sticks



I woke at 6am to the sound of rain on my tent. If I had to pick my most detested sound, the sound of rain on the outside of a tent would certainly be a strong contender. After an hour I gave up trying to sleep, and had my morning shave despite the rain. And then to the toilet block where during my morning “rake out” I managed to fart a perfect rendition of the theme tune to Captain Scarlet. I was impressed, and told everyone of my accomplishment. I was disappointed I could find no one who shared my enthusiasm. I can’t think why no one else would think this was something tt be proud of.

After a bit of brekky, and the obligatory washing up, the rain slackened off, and I retrieved the banners. For no adequately explored reason the banners hadn’t been stored in the usual place I put banners whenever they are taken down. Instead they had been rammed under a caravan overnight, and I spent the morning repairing them. Most of the damage was wear and tear which had been brought on by yesterday’s strong winds, but I’m not sure that the sharp edges underneath the caravans hadn’t had a hand to play in some of what I was stitching up this morning. We then had a minor altercation with a passing normal person who wanted to be shown round our tents. He was adamant that we were staging an exhibition of tents, and wouldn’t believe we were attending a kite festival. Personally I thought all the kites were a giveaway, but what do I know?

As I was stitching the banners back together I had a steady stream of visitors. People had taken the pooh-sticks challenge seriously, and as well as showing off their entries, contestants wanted to check that their entries were within the rules, and (more importantly) were grassing up their mates for blatant infringement of rules. By midday I’d repaired the banners, and I had this plan to go round the various caravans and tents and people flying kites to sell them pooh-sticks, and then do the same again some time during the mid afternoon. Or that was the theory. In practice I sold out of sticks whilst only two thirds of the way round the field, and spent much of the afternoon apologising to people who wanted to take part. I’d come along wondering how many of the two hundred pooh-sticks would not be sold. In the event I think I could have shifted four hundred.

Bread, cheese and black beer for dinner, and then it was time to fly a kite. We took a small power kite into the back field for one of the teenagers of our group to have a go. He loved it, and I had a go to remind myself that I love it too. Back to camp where we took part in the festival’s quiz. Things were looking good for us at one point, but on the recount we were relegated to second place.

And then to the river for the Pooh-Sticks race. Two months ago we’d played Pooh-Sticks under the bridge, and had this idea to organise something for the August kite festival. We had two events running simultaneously – a standard pooh sticks race where people bought a numbered stick. And an “open” category where people built their own objects to float down the river, subject to various stringent rules which the judges applied with a very arbitrary hand. I’d told people to have their entries at Teston lock at 4.40pm so that the adjudicators (me and the rear admiral) could check the home-made pooh-sticks for “shenanigans”. I was amazed at the standard of the entries – people had been working hard on them. There were carefully constructed rafts of all materials, stick which had been cunningly carved to reduce drag, all manner of origami boats and shapes, corks, a ryvita, and even a couple of apples.

Having got all the entries together I looked up and across at the lock. And for someone who is very experienced in public speaking and is rarely embarrassed in public, I found myself speechless. Pretty much everyone who was camping at the festival had come down for the event. A silly little idea that we’d had a couple of months ago had caught everyone’s imagination. I felt quite humbled, and yet very happy about the success of the thing. I then gave everyone thanks for coming along, hollered to the commodore of the flotilla at the finishing line under the bridge (“Daddies Little Angel TM ) to check they were ready, and we chucked all the entries into the river.

In June we’d had a trial run with twelve pooh-sticks. Nine of these got to the finishing line at the bridge within fifteen minutes. There must have been more water flowing then. Our event started with a slight hiatus as the entire lot got immediately becalmed. All except one: the ryvta was moving downstream. But on close inspection it was going downstream because it was being nibbled on by shoals of small fish. Officials conferred, and the ryvita was disqualified for “shenanigans”. The rules clearly said that entries were to be unpowered, and the fish counted as propulsion. There was another minor hiccup – just as the current began to take the various floating objects downstream a pleasure cruiser came up the river. The pilot listened to both the commodore of the flotilla at the bridge and to me half way along the bank. Both of us asked him to sail round our pooh-sticks. Instead he deliberately sailed through the lot, sending 90% of them into the reeds with the wash from the boat. But eventually one or two of the entries started making their way to the bridge. The ryvita, an early favourite, crashed into a tree ten yards from the finish, and Dave’s origami boat sailed into first place way ahead of the opposition. The first “standard” pooh-stick followed a couple of minutes later, but was disqualified. It was stuck to a carefully stitched raft of cocktail sticks which had been entered into the “open” category. Using a raft counted as propulsion, and so “shenanigans” was declared, and victory was awarded to a stick which followed shortly behind.

Oh, so many people had so much fun playing such a silly game. There were one or two hiccups, but we’ve learned from them, and we’ll be doing the race again next year. And then after a smashing bit of dinner (and the washing up) we filled our glasses and wandered up the field to the evening’s entertainment. We stood around talking whilst waiting (and waiting) for them to be ready. Once the Old Gits were finally ready we started with “Daddies Little Angel TM  giving a speech thanking everyone for supporting the pooh-sticks race, presenting the trophies, and announcing that we’d raised eighty six quid for Great Ormond Street Hospital. And then the Old Gits did their thing – the 1812 overture with cannons. The bangs were so loud you could feel them, and (allegedly) one of our number tiddled herself with surprise when the first bang went off. I’ve seen the show three times now, and it just keeps getting better.

And then back to camp. And something strange had happened. Between watching the 1812 overture and walking the fifty yards back to camp, everyone in our group had become absolutely, totally, commode-hogging drunk. It wasn’t just me – everyone had gone from being relatively compos-mentis to singing songs about sailors. And the beer flowed. As did the amaretto. And three bottles of port (and far too much cheese). I can remember being told that one of our number was drunk, and throwing him into bed at 1am before going back to HQ for more to drink. I’m told that I went to bed at 2am. I’d like to think we weren’t too raucous – I’m reliably informed that the assorted littluns of our party slept through the lot. But as I’ve said before I’d hate to have me as a neighbour…



8 August 2010 (Sunday) - Blokus



Despite going to bed at 2am last night, I was up and having a shave at 7am. I wasn’t feeling too well this morning – not the beer, but something I’d eaten judging by the rumblings. I shall blame the variety of cheeses. Brekky (as always) went down well; I was in charge of cutting the mushrooms, and we had an intellectual conversation about the relative pugnatorial skills of pilgrims and monks.

Once washed up our presence was required down the field for a photograph taken by the local paper’s photographer, and then back to camp where we played Blokus for most of the day. Ideally we’d have got more kiting done, as this was a kite festival. But, much as I love Teston Bridge picnic site, it is spoiled by its popularity. There are always far too many normal people around for my liking. As the day wore on, most of our party set off for home. We reprised the photograph at 3pm for the “official” photograph. For some reason we’d got done and dusted for the newspaper’s photographer in less than five minutes. This time took ages, but was a laugh.

And then we started to take down the banners, and pack away the chairs, and generally slowly put away everything we wouldn’t need again. Everyone else was packing away anyway, and it makes for a quicker getaway in the morning. And it gave us something to do whilst dinner was cooked. A good bit of diner – I do like fajitas.

We then drove off to fetch er indoors TM, and on arrival back at camp as she made her way back to the tents I locked up and used the local facilities. And when I came out there was a commotion at the gate I’d just locked. Loads of cars and people swarming around with torches. All shaking the gate. I marched up and asked loudly if I could help them, only to be told that was what they usually asked. It was the police, Loads of them. When they saw I had a key to the gate they accepted my bona-fide, and they told me that they were looking for a car in the car park that shouldn’t be there. I told them that to the best of my knowledge the only cars on site were those who were with the kite festival. They took my word without checking the car park, and then they all promptly shoved off to wherever it is that police go. I can’t help but wonder what that was all about.



9 August 2010 (Monday) - Home Again



I’d planned to have a bit of a lie in today. I was woken at 6.30am by someone shouting asking for the gate key. It was the ranger who either had forgotten his own key, or didn’t have one. Once awake I wasn’t going to get back to sleep, so I started packing up my stuff. Rather noisily so that er indoors TM might wake up and do the same. My ruse worked.

Omelettes for brekky to use up all the leftovers. We’ve done this for the last few camping trips – I’m personally hoping it becomes something of a tradition. I like omelettes. The sun was shining, and I remembered the rain after the kite festival atBrighton a month ago as today we packed away dry tents. Everything went away quickly – having packed up a lot of stuff the night before was clearly a good idea because we were on the way to the Bat-Farm by 11am. With a camp at the farm in a couple of weeks time it seemed daft to take the camping gear home only to bring it out again later; far more sensible to take it where it will be needed.

I did have a plan to take the kettles back to Camping International this afternoon – two new kettles; both broken. But in the event I couldn’t be bothered. I’ll do that some other time. Instead I found myself reflecting on the camping and kiting events I do. On the Sunday night as we sat chatting after Brighton Kite Festival, the conversation turned to the kite festival being organised at Bristol. Apparently there’s a lot of discontent about the thing. I was led to believe that it is run as a profit-making business, and that where the kite festivals that I attend ask for a donation from the campers, the one in Bristol will charge a flat rate of fifteen quid per camper per night. It was suggested that this was to cover the costs of inviting international kite fliers over, and the question was raised as to why anyone would pay someone to travel half way round the world to fly a kite. After all the general public (at whom the festival is aimed) don’t know one kite flier from the next, do they?

I also heard about how popular the kite festival in Swindon is amongst the hard-core kite fliers. Now I’ve never been to it, but I understand that Swindon Kite Festival is considered to be one of the year’s better ones by those who attend lots of the festivals. A while ago I was chatting with friends who live in Swindon; I mentioned the Swindonkite festival. They were surprised to learn there was an annual kite festival in the town in which they had lived for over twenty years. They’d never heard of it.

This has got me thinking about kite festivals in general. I camp out at three every year, and visit a few others. All of which are not too far from home, they are fun places to be; I enjoy them. But I must admit that when I’m camping at a festival I prefer the time when the normal people aren’t there. And before I’m being accused of being a miserable old git, I’d ask my loyal readers to have a close look at the normal people at a kite festival. It’s supposedly a kite event, but there they all are with their disposable barbecues disposing of smouldering ashes into the nearest hedge and playing football around the kites. I can’t help but wonder if I’m in the minority with this opinion. I’ve been going to Teston kite festival since June 2002, and in that time the attendance of people staying and camping has noticeably dropped off, whilst (seemingly) the amount of pic-nic-ers, barbecue-ers, footballers and assorted normal people has increased dramatically.

A group of friends have taken to organising their own kiting events at a field in Sussexto which the normal people are not invited. They run events purely for themselves, away from the normal people. I can see the attraction…



10 August 2010 (Tuesday) - A Day Off Work



Much as I like going camping, you can’t beat sleeping in your own bed. One of the best bits of my own bed is getting out of it. You climb down onto the floor, rather than (when camping) climb up off of the floor; so much easier. And talking of camping, over the weekend we managed to break two kettles. The original plan was to take them back to the shop yesterday afternoon and go fishing today. But yesterday afternoon I couldn’t be bothered to go to the shops, and today was raining so I wouldn’t have gone fishing anyway.

Batty arrived at 10.30am, and we collected Martin and set off to Camping International in Gillingham. The woman on the till’s face fell when she saw me walking in with what were obviously faulty goods. I commented to her (in a cheery tone) that she must get fed up with people bringing things back to complain. Bearing in mind her face would probably have cracked if she had smiled; she grunted and called for the manager, who arrived (seemingly) some six weeks later. He took one look at the kettles, rolled his eyes in despair, and didn’t even quibble. Would I like a refund or exchange? I suggested I had a credit note against what I was going to buy this morning, and that idea was greeted with amazement – no one had ever come up with that one before. But the manager was very happy with the plan, and I had money off of my bill. So we pootled around the shop, and bought a replacement poles bag for “Brown and Smelly” (our communal cookhouse tent), two new kitchen knives, some camping gas and a pink wasp trap.

We thought we might visit Whitstable, so we took the A2 east through Rainham. This is probably the road with the slowest moving traffic in the world, but eventually we were in Whitstable. The idea was lunch, so we visited a pub – the Ship Centurion Arminius. This is a pub which is regularly nominated for CAMRA awards, and has been the Kent Pub of the Year before. However, despite a decent ale selection, I’ve never been impressed with it. The food menu is rather basic, and it’s clearly a “local pub for local people”. So we had a quick pint and moved on to the kite shop.

I’ve this plan to cover the tops of the banner poles with rubber bungs to stop them ripping through the tops of the banners, so “Kites and Things” was the ideal place to get the rubber bungs. Whilst there I got a rather attractive hanging banner for a fiver, and my eye was taken by a large windsock. A very pretty windsock. The chap behind the counter didn’t know how much the windsock cost (he was covering the shop during the owner’s holiday). So I showed him a smaller windsock which was up for sale for a tenner, and I offered him twenty quid for the bigger one. He seemed happy with my offer, and at that bargain price, so was I (!) The only thing remotely similar I can find on eBay is priced over fifty quid.

Our next port of call was W.M. Camping in Sturry where we looked at the stuff and came out without spending anything. Which was probably for the best. Realising that it was now gone 3pm we grudgingly conceded that most pub kitchens would be closed, so after quickly visiting Argos to try to buy tables they no longer sell, we adjourned for McLunch. And then home, where eBay came up trumps with a kettle which holds eight pints of water. Let’s hope the thing arrives before the end of the month…



11 August 2010 (Wednesday) - Bored?



Back to work, after a few days off. It wasn’t my idea to go back, and (quite frankly) I didn’t want to. There was a time a few years ago when I loved my job; now it pays the bills until I retire. Which is a great shame.

After work we watched the second film in the “Twilight” series - “New Moon”. At first thought I wasn’t overly impressed, but on reflection I love the film. I now have a cure for my chronic insomnia.

And I’ll end today’s entry with a bit of a whinge. I’m planning to get my bike out and have a cycle ride this coming Saturday. Starting from my house at 11 a.m. (ish) I (and anyone who wants to come along with me) intend to cycle along the river where I might just possibly see pike and trout. Along by the rugby club there are usually greenfinches, which are a bird you rarely see. And then we’ll pick up National Cycle Path 18. Whilst it’s nominally a road, I’ve hardly ever seen any cars use the thing. We’ll go along here, through some wonderful scenery and after a really good fun downhill whizz, we’ll find the Honest Miller. This is a pub in a nearby village which has a cracking ale selection, a really friendly landlord, and the best food you ever did scoff. From here, once suitably replete, we will cycle up into Wye for a pint of afters, before taking National Cycle Path 18 home again; to be back home for mid afternoon.

I’ve mentioned this idea to a few people. Some are up for it. Some would like to come, but cannot because they are working. And there are a few who have dismissed the idea entirely because they would rather spend the day “chilling”. “Chilling” – I detest that phrase. Just hearing it makes my blood boil. What does it mean? Someone intends to refrigerate something? I have done “chilling” before, under expert supervision; I was fed up with it within fifteen minutes. From what I can see, “chilling” involves sitting about, deliberately wasting the few precious years we have left in a deliberate attempt to do nothing. Boredom comes often enough in life – why go actively seeking it out?

Rant over – going to lie down now...



12 August 2010 (Thursday) - Copyright



Yesterday there was an interesting article on the radio that has made me think. There was a discussion about the illegal redistribution of copyrighted materiel, both on the Internet and through pirated videos and DVDs. Fergal Sharkey was on the panel, representing the views of the UK music industry, and there was also a chap whose company had recently been sued for millions because of their file-sharing technology. The thrust of the program was that blagging films and music off of the internet was a bad thing. Illegal, yes. But bad? I don’t know…

As a child I would buy records from time to time, as would all of my friends. And we would all lend each other our records so we could copy them onto cassette tape for ourselves. Absolutely everyone did it. It was illegal then, as it (probably) still is, but the panel on the radio show admitted that no one in authority was ever that fussed about a few boys swapping records in the classrooms. Apparently things today are different. The next generation of kids aren’t swapping records in the classroom; they are swapping records over the internet. The amount of copying remains the same; it’s just done over a larger distance. But the principle remains the same, surely? I can’t see how my hypothetical copying of a record belonging to a mate who lives down the road is any different to my hypothetical copying of a record of someone I’ve never met who lives in Aberystwyth.

Or can I? It is very difficult for those involved with tracking copyright theft to crack down on kiddies swapping music in the classroom. Or anywhere, come to that. There was once a sci-fi shop in Canterbury that did a roaring trade in iffy Star Trek VHS videos, and the Ashford computer fair had the “hooky DVD” stall. Both were in business for years. Admittedly one is now closed, and the proprietor of the other (so I’ve heard) did get nicked, but it took some time for them to get caught. File sharing on the internet is so much easier to track down, and is a much easier “nick”.

Now I’ll admit that this sharing of media is illegal. I said as much in today’s first paragraph. But is it a bad thing? In my book, (and this is my book), “illegal” is a very different thing to “bad”. It was the view of some of those on the radio show’s panel that file sharing denies income to the various music and film industries. One of the most vociferous members of the panel was a poet complaining that people shouldn’t be able to download her poetry for free; if people wanted her poetry then they should pay for it. After all, this was her livelihood. Professional poetry. I can feel my blood boiling at the thought of it, but I shall endeavour to remain objective. I suppose they are entitled to their income, even though my gut reaction is that the professional poet might be better advised to get a proper job. (Sorry to any professional poets reading this, but that’s how I feel).

I can’t help but wonder how much money the professional poet makes. I can make a reasonable guess at how much the professional musician makes. In February I went to see a live band – a good band, but not in the league of those who are complaining about copyright infringement. Tickets for the show I saw were fourteen quid each, and the theatre had 231 seats (I’ve looked it up). Not all were sold, but from what I can remember, and from what I’ve seen on the theatre’s website I think it’s fair to say that the band went home with a clear profit of over two thousand quid that night. There were six of them, and from their website I see that they are performing twice a week. This gives them each an (estimated) annual wage of over thirty thousand quid. I don’t think anyone would begrudge them that, even if they are only doing half a day’s work twice a week to earn that wage. However when you look at the big boys – for example some of the bands playing at the O2 arena, it’s a bit different Tickets are fifty quid each, and the attendance is measured in the thousands. With the profit they are raking in from live performances, they can hardly claim poverty. And are they really losing any more money to file sharing than they lost to me and my mates copying records all those years ago?

Or take the film industry, which is really suffering (apparently) from the revenue lost to the video pirates. The radio show told us that there are a lot of people behind the scenes that we don’t think about – camera men, sound men, producers, best boys, etc. All of whom will be out of a job if the film doesn’t make money. But is the film industry that strapped for cash? To take one example, if the star of the film was to take a pay cut and be paid merely twice that which the British Prime Minister earns for the years’ work rather than the millions she was paid, then the cash saved would pay a very decent year’s living wage to over one thousand other people.

Meanwhile firemen who actually deserve a decent wage get a pittance. And (somewhat closer to home) lifeboat crews do it for free. Perhaps those who should benefit from the monies legally due to them because of copyright law have been benefiting just a little bit too much…?



13 August 2010 (Friday) - Stuff



Up with the lark to see to a week’s worth of ironing. A dull job, but someone’s got to do it. And that someone was me. I got half of it done; I shall come back to the rest of it later. And then to work, which was much the same as ever, and home again to find my new kettle has been delivered. With a capacity of a gallon and a lid that actually comes off, it will certainly come in handy on our next camping trip. Washing up water doesn’t heat itself, you know. I just hope it lasts longer than the last two kettles. Washing up and ironing: welcome to my world.

In a novel break with tradition, this evening we sat down and watched telly – six episodes of “Man vs Food”. I’ve been recording it somewhat faster than I’ve been watching it. A wonderful program showing the culinary restraint of our American cousins. I *so* need to go to the US for dinner…



14 August 2010 (Saturday) - Iden



I have been criticised for many things over the years. One of which is my approach to practical astronomy. There are those who sit shivering in darkened fields whilst waiting for a break in the clouds through which they might see a star. And there are those who call up pictures on Google Images. I know which approach I favour – after all, no matter how much your telescope might have cost, there’s no way it can compete with the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, is there? Last night my convictions were again confirmed. With the most brilliant meteor shower of the year predicted; in between the clouds I saw one satellite in the general vicinity of Cassiopeia. What a waste of my time – there will be pictures of the things clearly visible in the warmth of the astro club in a week or so.

Whilst scoffing brekkie the door bell rang – the postman had a recorded delivery letter. For me (!) From Renault (!!) Postie joked that they wanted my car back. I opened the envelope to see that postie was right. There was an urgent safety recall – apparently it would be possible for the electronic parking brake to activate whist driving. But then I realised they had the registration number of my car wrong. They were recalling the car I’d sold back to them three months ago. At first sight I thought this was an understandable administrative error, but the letter said they’d got my details as registered keeper of the vehicle from the DVLA. That was rather worrying, so I phoned the local dealership, who told me they’d look into it on Monday. I suppose all the time my current car’s not recalled, I’ll not worry too much.

The day’s plan was originally to go for a bike ride, but heavy rain put paid to that idea. Instead we designated a driver (bless her) and set off to a pub we’ve never visited before. The Bell in Iden had a good website, so we thought we’d try it out. It was a little off the beaten track, and for one of our number this involved the first trip of his life to another county, but it was a good choice. Six (and a half!) of us sat down to some of the best home-cooked food we’ve ever tasted. And three ales, none of which are that common too. Certainly a pub to re-visit.

On the way home we popped into Swallow Aquatics and went gooey over their geckoes, frogs, Koi and various assorted animals. And whilst we were at it I bought a new set of innards for the fish pond filter. That didn’t come cheap, but then keeping Koi isn’t a cheap thing to do anyway. Perhaps I should have had goldfish.

And then we wasted five minutes in the fishing tackle shop – a forthcoming camping event will feature some fishing, so it never hurts to be prepared. And then I turned down the chance to take part in a pub quiz in favour of a quiet night watching the telly. Every so often even I have a bit of peace and quiet…




15 August 2010 (Sunday) - Going Underground



Regular readers of this drivel may recall an entry a few weeks ago where we walked across the White Cliffs between Folkestone and Dover and found some tunnels left over from the war. Totally neglected and having been left to decay, we felt the need to spend some time giving them the attention they deserved. Not having enough time on our walk a few weeks ago, today we staged a return visit to the White Cliffs.

After quite a bit of faffing about in B&Q this morning, we set off to Folkestone to meet up with the rest of the archaeological expedition. Four of our party proceeded in the Batmobile, whilst Stevey and me got the bus. We’d arranged where to meet, but something about the bus journey left us rather disorientated, and the bus stop was by a pub, so we popped in for a swift half whilst we checked the map.

Map checked, routes planned, pints downed, me and Stevey then set off in entirely the wrong direction. I was sure I knew where we were going. But eventually we met up with the rest of our party. We had hoped we’d got away with our crafty pint, but “Daddies Little Angel TM  had asked the man in the pub if people answering our description had been in, and we got blabbed on.

Suitably chastised we found our way to the cliff top and to the first set of holes. The first hole led to a very long corridor in which we found evidence of previous explorers – the boxes of binoculars and torches were left lying around. And then panic set in. We had a role call, and couldn’t locate the Rear Admiral. Having visions of his falling in the darkness an d laying unconscious somewhere, we went through the tunnel time and again trying to locate him. Only to eventually find he was sitting outside the hole waiting his turn to go in once he’d helped others get out. In retrospect this was a sensible thing to do. Generally these tunnels are far easier to get into than they are to escape from.

The second hole was rather tight to get into, but with a little judicious scrubbling I got into the hole. In fact there was only one hole all day that I couldn’t get into. Provided you were prepared to get mucky, and didn’t mind scrabbling on hands, knees, bums, and various sundry bits of your anatomy, practical archaeology was easy. Having scrubbled the skin off my elbows I got into the second hole, which was a disappointment. A rather small room. Scrubbling back out of the hole was fun, but not as much fun as watching others scrubble out of that hole.

“Daddies Little Angel TM  then engaged “egg-laying mode”, and with good cause. There was a feeling that some tunnels were accessible from the cliff face, and we clambered around the tops of the cliffs looking for candidate burrows. The closest we came was an old railway vent and a set of overgrown concrete steps leading from the top of the cliffs. I must admit that this was perhaps the scariest part of the day – the drop down the White Cliffs is quite a way down. And then we found the hole we’d visited last time. In the last few weeks that hole has got rather damp and muddy, but we had a good root around anyway.

The third tunnel was amazing. Next to a disused cowshed we found what looked like a rusty manhole cover. Stevey and I managed to heave the cover off, and we found a vertical shaft with an old metal ladder going down. Now it’s pretty obvious that the sensible thing to do would have been to put the cover back on the hole. But we didn’t – we climbed down the ladder and found a small tunnel going off horizontally some ten metres underground. Having clouted my head on the ceiling a few times we found another ladder leading down into a larger room, and in here was something amazing. In the total darkness we found there was a shrine to those who’d served in these tunnels during the war. On the wall of this room so far underground there were photographs from the period, letters from servicemen, and even a couple of recent poppies. And at the bottom of this wall was a visitor’s book for anyone finding it to leave a message. And whoever had set up this shrine had even left two biros for the visitors book. Truly amazing – so many people would walk past this every day and have no idea it was there. And what was also amazing was that there were recent entries in the visitors book. We weren’t the only people to have been down the hole. A future mission to this hole may well involve taking power tools to put up a shelf for the visitors book.

The last tunnel we explored had a rather tricky entrance. Rather narrow at the top, but wide and deep further down. Getting in was somewhat tricky, but once in, this was the longest tunnel of the lot. Having explored the tunnel I had a problem – I couldn’t get back out again. I tried various angles and scrubbles, but it wasn’t happening. In the end the Bat and the Rear Admiral grabbed each of my arms and physically hoiked me out.

Such an exertion was traumatic for all; hoikers, hoikee and audience, so we adjourned to the pub for a crafty half before getting the bus back to civilisation. Or Folkestone, at any rate. We will be returning. If any of my loyal readers are up for it, check the “Dates for the Diary” section to find out when….



16 August 2010 (Monday) - Facebook, Kites, Stuff


I had a really good weekend. And so, as always, Monday came hard. I quite like the late start when I do a late shift on a Monday. Or that is I like the late start when “My Boy TM  is also on a late start. Unfortunately that didn’t happen today. He woke me (and half the county) as he left for work “as quiet as a mouse” (!) at 5.30am this morning, and I couldn’t get back off to sleep after that.

I got up an hour or so later, but in retrospect I wasted the morning. First of all on Facebook, where “The Chilli Bar” wants to be my friend. From our mutual friends, I can only deduce that “The Chilli Bar” is either something to do with kite flying, or is a shop in Brighton. Either way I’ve no idea who or what it is, and so the request got the old heave-ho. This prompted me to have another look through my Facebook friends list – I wish I knew how I did it. I have to authorise people to be on my list, and I found eighteen people on my list that I have no idea who they are.

I also had an invitation to join the “Kite Flying Lovers Association” (sic); a bunch of some three thousand people based in the University of the Punjab who are trying to overturn a kite ban which has been imposed somewhere in Pakistan. The implication of the message I received that was my clicking to accept membership would in some way count as a vote against this ban. I can’t see that myself, and more electrons went into the recycle bin.

On further research I find myself agreeing with this kite ban. Kite fighting is well and good – an established tradition and something I’ve done myself. But when it’s being done in so reckless a fashion that innocent passers by are being slashed and killed by kite lines which are coated in glass, then surely something has to be done. There have been kite bans in the UK – in the past I was rather vociferous about them as being knee-jerk over-reaction from the authorities. But in Lahore I think the authorities are right to ban the lot. When I go to a kite festival I have fun. But I don’t need a weapon to express that delight. However, apparently that would seem to be de-rigueur at the banned Basant Kite Festival

, where it’s not unknown for people to get shot by “celebratory gunfire”.

And then I wasted some time in NeverWinter – it would seem that ghosts have overrun the sewers. I would have thought they might have found somewhere more salubrious to haunt, but what do I know? And then to Tescos to pick up some lunch. I really should leave more time for lunch shopping – the place was swarming with old biddies – an empty coach outside the supermarket led me to believe a coach party of the things had arrived. And not one had any urgency about its shopping; pootling along with all the time in the world as my blood pressure went through the roof. Do they really need to pick up every apple in the shop before eventually selecting the first one they saw? Surely they are capable of walking more than four steps in any one direction before stopping and heading off at right angles? Do they do this deliberately?

Having asked that, I know I would…



17 August 2010 (Tuesday) - Stuff



I’m not quite sure how it came about, but I found myself researching the acquisition of a pig today. Not as a pet, but as something to stick on a barby. Some time over the last few days the subject of a hog roast was broached, and I think it might have been a suggestion for a forthcoming camp. I’ve found a butcher in Woodchurch who has a field full of suitable pigs, and with a week’s notice he can do the necessary so’s we could have a hog roast. And a whole pig isn’t overly expensive – considerably less than two hundred quid, and it comes ready to have the stick shoved up it’s bum. The only drawback is how much pig we’d get. The butcher seemed to think that just one leg would do us for camping for the weekend; the whole pig comes with four of these legs, and together with bellies, loins and briskets would probably do us through till Xmas. Perhaps I might content myself with just sticking a few pork sossies on the barby instead – it’s always worked in the past.

I then phoned a plumber to service the boiler. It’s not been done for a while and is probably overdue. I phoned about a dozen plumbers until I found one who’d actually answer the phone, rather than just letting the thing ring and ring. But it was his wife who answered. She’s taken my number, and said someone will call me back. We shall see…

An email via Friends Reunited. From someone with whom I lost touch some thirty years ago, but remember from before my first day at primary school. The chap’s left the army after twenty-odd years and is now a teacher in Lincolnshire. We started primary school together in 1969, and both went on to the Hastings Academy for Genius Boys in 1979. We lost touch when he left the school in 1980, but thirty years later here he is. There are so many from the old days with whom I’ve lost touch, and so few that I do manage to keep up with….



18 August 2010 (Wednesday) - Tea, Coffee, Fish




Up with the lark, and I got jiggy with the laundry whilst watching Al Murray DVDs. Socks don’t pair themselves up, you know. A dull job, but marginally better than lying wide awake watching the clock. And then to Asda. As well as lunch I bought coffee for tea breaks at work. Due to various health and safety considerations I cannot eat or drink in my workplace, and so for refreshment I need to actually go somewhere else for a cuppa. Consequently getting a break becomes a high point of the day, and not one to waste on something I’ve come to despise.

I’ve finally bitten the bullet and admitted that I don’t like green tea. I’ve been trying various flavours of the stuff twice a day for the past year and it’s true - they all taste horrible. I started off on the green tea ages ago; I see that on 17 November last year I mentioned that I found a flavour of the stuff that wasn’t “utterly disgusting”. Since arthritis got a grip on my right knee last year I’ve been advised that green tea will help the pain. (Not that my knee actually hurts – it just makes an awful noise when I walk). However since I’ve started on the green tea, the only change I’ve noticed with my joints is that over the last few months my right foot has got particularly painful. I’ve still got the noise and now I’ve now got a joint that really is a problem.

So much for green tea. Today I bought a packet of instant latte. To be honest I can’t tell a latte from an earl grey. All I know is that the box looked impressive. The stuff tastes OK I suppose. It’s better than green tea at any rate. In four days time I shall buy a jar of Nescafe and a jar of coffee-mate.

I came home from work to find a scratch on my car. Or, to be precise, er indoors TMnoticed a scratch on my car. I would never have seen it, and for all I know it may well have been there for weeks. Whilst it’s a shame that it’s happened, I can’t say I’m really that bothered about it. After all, it’s only cosmetic. The car can still get me and a serious amount of luggage from here to there and back again. I expect the scratch happened in the hospital car park at some point. These things often do.

Meanwhile, just down the road from my house, the country’s biggest carp has died. “Two Tone” who weighed in at some five stone and was probably the same age as “Yours Truly”, has croaked. (Or is it frogs that croak?) Apparently there are several local people who blame that fish for their divorce, the men having wasted so much time on the pond side trying to catch the elusive leviathan. As far as I’m concerned that’s just another vote in favour of my preferred style of fishing – “tiddler bashing”. I can’t understand spending days waiting to catch one fish. When I’m fishing, if I’m not into double figures of fish within half an hour, I go home.



19 August 2010 (Thursday) - TV Licences, Neighbours...



A late start, so I had the morning to waste. I started off with a trip to the dentist. I see they’ve now got six different dentists working there. I sat with the “great unwashed” for five minutes before being called in. I was in the chair for two minutes whilst the chap voomed around the inside of my cake hole with a mini camera. He then showed me the cracks in the filling which he will replace tomorrow. Just as well I’m on another late shift then.

And then home again to find the postie had called. He delivered my television licence. I begrudge paying for it. I’ve found a website which shows where my money goes. Nearly eight quid a month goes on the ten TV channels operated by the BBC. Yes – ten. I watch BBC 1 when Doctor Who is on, and other than that, I don’t think I watch any of their output. Two quid a month goes on their sixteen radio channels. I listen to Radio Four on the way to work and back, and occasionally at work when it’s my turn to skive. Sixty six pence a month goes on their on-line services. For me that’s sixty six pence each month for a weather forecast that rarely bears any relation to actuality. And one pound thirty five pence a month goes on various vaguely unattributed sundry expenditure. I see that translating the licence into Welsh is one of the things this one pound thirty five pence is wasted on.

So to summarise the licence fee: twelve quid a month gets me fourteen episodes of Doctor Who each year, half an hour’s radio a day, an unreliable weather forecast and the opportunity to have the thing translated into Welsh. Wasn’t the government talking about giving the public value for money a while back…?

Brekkie, and time to check my emails. I see my blog has been nominated for an award. Every day as well as writing my own blog, I read several other blogs. Those of my friends and acquaintances are linked in the panel to the right. I was invited to nominate seven other blogs for awards. I spent half an hour trying to do so, but gave up. I got down to a shortlist of ten, but seven? – I couldn’t get it down to seven.

Talking of blogs, this morning I read something in one of these blogs where a fellow blogger intimated that his relations with some of his neighbours are somewhat strained. This has got me thinking – for years I thought it was some failing in myself which was the reason for my poor relationships with neighbours.

As a child we lived next door to a shop on one side (no real relationship at all) and on the other side lived “Old Granny Gutsache”; a pinch-faced old battleaxe if ever I met one. I can’t remember her ever saying anything that wasn’t a complaint. When I was ten years old we moved house and very soon fell out with the neighbours there. When I left home I moved into the nurses home at the old Ashford hospital and spent the most miserable fortnight of my life there, trying to co-habit with the most antisocial misfits I’ve ever met. From there I moved to a flat in Folkestone where in two years we never saw any neighbours. There then followed what was in retrospect a blissful five years in Kingsnorth Road where we got on well with both neighbours.

We’ve been in our current house for nearly twenty years. On one side the first set of neighbours were a sour, bitter childless couple whose only interest in life was “peace and quiet”. Why people who were so obsessed with “peace and quiet” would have bought a house on what was at the time the main “A” road out of Ashford is anyone’s guess. They eventually moved out, and were replaced with a chap with whom I am slowly getting back onto speaking terms. A few years ago there were some rather nasty solicitor’s letters to-ing and fro-ing in which this chap was formally told that I did not need his approval or permission to lead my life how I wanted to. On the other side we’ve had a succession of temporary neighbours to finally end up with the current lot – a pleasant enough bunch, albeit with some rather noisy dogs.

I’m glad to find out I’m not the only one who has problems next door.




20 August 2010 (Friday) - Being Smart



Back to the hunt for a plumber. The chap I phoned earlier in the week hasn’t got back to me, so I tried the one that had been recommended to me. A woman’s voice answered the phone telling me that plumbing and boiler services were no longer available. I went back to check adverts on the internet and eventually got through to a chap who told me he was on the job (oo-er!), but said he’d get back to me.

I then wasted an hour or so in NeverWinter before going back to the dentist. I was not impressed. Well, let me elaborate on that. The chap’s dentistry cannot be faulted, but I know him; I know he’s good. He did X-rays, a replacement filling and a general all-over gob service and I was in and out in ten minutes.

However were I a first time patient I don’t think I would have sat in his chair; I would have turned round and walked out. Clad in jeans and T shirt, and not been near a razor blade for a couple of days, he just doesn’t look the part. Whenever anyone sees me in my work attire, people are amazed to see me in a shirt and tie. Perhaps I’m just hopelessly old fashioned to think that professional people should dress to inspire confidence. From the dentists I popped into Lidl’s where, to confirm my prejudice, I was mistaken for a member of staff. When I explained I wasn’t, the woman who’d mistaken me said that she assumed I was working, because I was wearing a tie.

Last night there was a minor problem when I came to have my shower. The shower head was gone. As in missing; not there.

It’s no secret that strange things happen in my world, and I suppose in the great scheme of things losing a shower head is no big deal. But it was a nuisance. This evening the thing has returned; it wasn’t there last night. Perhaps it had been lent out to someone? I don’t know. I have my suspicions as to who was messing the thing about, though….



21 August 2010 (Saturday) - Tudor



Even thought it was Saturday, I was up with the lark, brekkied, and at the costume hire shop early. More about the costumes later. And then round to Gore Hill to help with the moving house. I arrived, rang the door bell, and waiter. And waited. I rang the doorbell again, and shouted through the letterbox. And waited. So I gave the phone a ring. No answer, so I tried Matt’s mobile number. He was on the other side of the town, having forgotten that I’d said I was going to help him move house. So I went shopping for birthday pressies for half an hour or so. Once shopped, it was back with helping with the moving house. In retrospect I can’t help but feel we didn’t actually achieve much. In six hours we moved a bed, a sofa, an arm chair, a freezer and a few sundry bits from one house to another, and got some bits out of the loft. We then sat down for pizza, and listened to the nice man from Sky TV explaining why he couldn’t install a satellite dish because there was a great big building between the new house and the Sky satellite. He pointed out that if you looked up and down the road you could see all the houses hed satellite dishes except for a row of thirty houses all in the shadow of Charter House. Over to cable TV…

And then home, showered and into costume for a birthday party. Drew’s special birthday, and a Tudor banquet at Bewl Water was the order of the day. Due to a miscalculation on my part as to how far away Bewl Water was, we arrived a little too early, but that wasn’t a bad thing; we got to spend a while admiring the lake, and making plans to re-visit to walk or cycle round the pond (it’s huge!). Before long, other people were arriving, and we found the bar. A bottle of Spitfire slipped down nicely, but there was a minor hiccup – where should I keep my wallet and my change? Being back in the sixteenth century for the evening we were suitably attired, and the invention of the pocket was still a few hundred years into the future. In the event I shoved my wallet and my camera up my jerkin (oo-er!) and all was well.

We got news that that the birthday boy’s carriage was on the way, so everyone made their way outside where we staged quite a major photo shoot. Pretty much everyone had dressed for the occasion, and in retrospect I did feel a tad out of place in my traditional (for the period) velvet trousers. Quite a few of the other chaps there were wearing stockings and tights and were remarking how comfortable they felt. (Never confused!!). The costumes were wonderful, and the kiddies especially were hamming it up. There were Kings and Queens, lords and ladies, jesters and peasants, but I think I have to say my favourite costumes there was the row of Tudor cottages.

After a few minutes the Royal carriage arrived, and the embodiment of a rather svelte Henry VIII and his retinue emerged. I’m reliably informed that in his youth, the original “our enery” wasn’t the size that traditionally we remember him as. We all made our way to the lake where we boarded “Swallow” – a pleasure cruiser which took us around the lake. For someone who’s generally “into” ponds (like I am) this cruise was a wonderful way to spend an hour in the evening. And having a foxy Tudor lady dishing out free wine was a very much appreciated added bonus.

Back to shore, and as we made our way back to the Bewl centre for dinner we admired the fire eaters on the pavilion. Earlier in the week I was speculating on the possibility of a hog roast. Tonight we had one. It was smashing; really good food, washed down with a glass of champers. We joked with the birthday boy about a Mc Hog Roast and a Mc Tudor, and we struggled to eat all of what we’d been given. In the meantime, our Tudor entertainer told jokes, and wandered around the tables making balloon animals, and generally being really good at what he did. A shame he couldn’t make a balloon penguin, but I suppose (to be fair to him), penguins were only discovered in 1492, so it’s possible that our chap hadn’t yet heard of them.

After an excellent bit of dessert the floor was cleared, and we stepped up to trip the light fantastic. Normally I don’t do dancing, mainly because I’m crap at it. But I do enjoy country dancing where a caller shouts out what you have to do. Tudor dancing is in that style, and we promenaded a Pavane. Rather well, I thought. Even if I do say so myself.

All too soon it was home time, and having slept most of the way to Bewl, despite having downed copious quantities of ale, wine and champagne during the evening, I was wide awake all the way home where I staggered into bed shortly after 1am. If any of my loyal readers are looking to stage a special event, I really can’t recommend a hog roast at Bewl highly enough…



22 August 2010 (Sunday) - Fishing (in the rain)



Despite a skinfull of assorted beverages last night, I was wide awake at 6.30am this morning. And from experience I know there is no point in lying there wide awake. So I got up, had brekky, had a look at what was going on in cyber-space, and by 7.30am I was tired again. So I went back to bed and stayed put until after 10.30am. Perhaps this might be a better way to deal with insomnia.

After second brekkie I spent a little while in NeverWinter, where sea-elves are becoming a problem (!) And then the Folkestone contingent arrived with a tub of maggots, and we set off for an afternoon’s fishing. As we drove, so a few spots of rain fell, but I confidently announced that rain always sounds louder on the inside of a car, and that it was only a passing shower. So we decided to carry on with our plans; confident that glorious sunshine was only a few minutes away. How wrong we were. Within five minutes we were all soaked to the skin, but still desperately clinging to the idea that it was going to brighten up soon. A triumph of idiot enthusiasm over common sense, and as the rain slackened off to only being torrential, we all decided that we were right, and the weather was improving.

We fished for three hours, and in that time we had a whole ten minutes when the rain actually reduced to only being described as “drizzle”. We were all soaked right through, and there was a dodgy few seconds when I slipped in the mud and was flat on my face; slowly but inexorably sliding down the bank towards the water, giggling like a twit. But we had fun, we all caught fish; one of the fish was large enough to need the net. And even though the weather was atrocious, we enjoyed ourselves. I suppose we had a choice. We could have stayed indoors and done nothing, or we could have made the most of the day. We certainly did make the most of the day, but there is no denying that it was good to get home and put on some dry pants.

We found a minor hiccup when we got home. er indoors TM had been defrosting the freezer, and the lobby and bathroom carpets are now soaked. I can’t hang the carpets outside, as it’s raining. I’ve put down some cardboard, and I’m desperately hoping the weather will perk up tomorrow so I can do something with these sodden carpets.

I then spent the evening researching comets. I’ve offered to do a talk on comets to the astro club next year, and I’ve been working on this presentation for some time. For some reason I just can’t seem to get up any enthusiasm to actually get on and prepare the thing, though…



23 August 2010 (Monday) - A Day Off



I woke with a terrible aching in my stomach muscles. I suspect yesterday’s little altercation with the mud at the fishing pond probably had something to do with this. Yesterday I mentioned our wet carpets – despite having had torrential rain all night long the weather forecast predicted a dry morning, so I dragged the wet carpets to the washing line to try to air them out. Even if it poured hard on them all day long, they couldn’t stay where they were.

I then took the costumes from Saturday back to the hire shop, where I met up with other party-go-ers returning their kit too. We chatted, and all agreed what a wonderful time we’d had. Talking of Saturday’s party I then dropped off a memory stick full of photos with the birthday boy, and then on my way home popped in to B&Q for a dustbin; I needed something to put garden waste into, and traditional canvas composters just go smelly, so I came home with a plastic dustbin, and hacked back the jungle coming over the fence from next door. I did plan to mow the lawn, but it was very wet, so I set about my correspondence instead.

As is so often the way I’d let my letter rack get to what could only be described as “overflowing” before I dealt with it. First of all the bank and credit card statements. Usually I’m very good at keeping track of what I’ve squandered my money on. Not so good this month, finding loads of expenditure of which I’d not made a note. I effectively wasted two months worth of money in August. Oh well; I’ll just spend a little less on beer next month. It was just as well the bank had also sent a letter confirming my overdraft arrangements. I must admit I’m rather cross with myself – I like to think I’m good with my money; clearly not this time.

Aviva had sent me several offers of cheap motorbike insurance, as had Carole Nash. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I’ve not ridden a motorbike for seven years. PlusNet offered me the best broadband I would ever see. To me it looked like all the other broadband offers I could see. ActionAid sent another begging letter. I wish they wouldn’t; I’ve told them they get their bit each month. The leccie company had written to me to tell me that emails were bouncing. I blame the anti-spam software; it can be somewhat over-zealous at times. And the Aspinall foundation sent their newsletter with the free entry voucher. Must actually use that this time; I always forget about it.

I then tried another plumber to see if they would service my boiler (!) So far despite promises to call back, no one actually has yet. The chap I’ve tried is in Tenterden and has good recommendations on-line. The lady answering the phone seemed keen to take my details. I wonder if he’ll phone. I’d like to think he will, but to be honest my hopes aren’t high.

After a quick sarnie for lunch I had another look at the lawn. It wasn’t *that* wet, so it got mowed; it hadn’t been done for three weeks, and really needed doing. I then got the carpets off of the washing line. One was dry, one nearly so. But judging by the colour of the sky if I’d left them there much longer they would have got very wet, so I put them back where they belonged. I did have a hankering to go fishing this afternoon (to make up for yesterday’s episode), but I didn’t fancy another afternoon in the rain. I then spent a couple of hours on the comet presentation for the astro club. It still needs quite a bit of work, but it’s getting there. And just as the afternoon was all but over, the sun came out. A glorious evening, so I went for a couple of hours fishing...



24 August 2010 (Tuesday) - Another Day Off




Another day off work, but still I was up before 7am. A quick bit of brekkie, then I wasted an hour in NeverWinter. I’ve now finished a game that’s kept me out of mischief for a month – I need to look for another one now. There’s three thousand up at theNeverWinter Vault

; that should keep me going for a while.

The phone rang - plumbers would seem to be akin to buses; not a sniff for ages, then two call back at once. I’ve arranged for the one who got back to me the quickest to service my boiler. And by an amazing co-incidence he knows me – he’s the boyfriend of one of the girls at work.

With washing out on the line, together with “Daddies Little Angel TM ” I set off forBeaver Water World near Westerham. When the brats were small, this place was a regular haunt, despite the fact that neither of them could remember it. You’d think they’d remember – “Lewis” the Burmese python came from there a long time ago. Mind you we’ve not been there for ten years or more. It was a good place to visit, outside there were terrapins, lemurs, and all sorts of birds. A novelty was that many of the bird enclosures had rabbits and guinea pigs on the floors. Inside was what we’d gone to see; snakes and lizards, turtles and tortoises, and even a caiman. There were three albino Burmese pythons (just like my “Buffy” was) and the most adorable monitor lizard; who would want a dog when you could have a monitor lizard?

If any of my loyal readers fancy a day out, I can thoroughly recommend the place but (there’s always a but, isn’t there!) I’ve always been a reptile kind of guy. To be honest you’ll see all the place has to offer in less than an hour. If you don’t like reptiles, I really wouldn’t bother (after all, I wouldn’t’ visit a spider zoo). There was a silly old bat there today who was looking into every enclosure, and then screaming in terror. What was that all about? If you know you don’t like this sort of animal, why go?

On the way back we did our best to upset the sat-nav, and as I parked the car I saw an ex-cub walking down the road. I recognised the surly little git. I remembered him distinctly - he was a particularly nasty child. When playing ball games he would make a point of throwing the ball over a fence just to spoil things. If some other child was (for whatever reason) the centre of attention, this horrible oik would do anything (including assaulting other children) to draw attention back to himself. The brat recognised me. His evil expression changed into one of “butter-wouldn’t-melt” and he said hello. Before I could say anything his mother started a tirade at me about why he hadn’t been to cubs for a few weeks, he just won’t go, she tries to make him, but he won’t go. I asked the mother if she’d realised I’d not been there myself for nearly two years, and I told her that from what I remembered of her foul child that cubs would be far better without him being there. I added that it was because of brats like him that after thirteen years of being a leader I packed up. She clearly wasn’t listening to a word I said, and she carried on blathering inanely about her little darling. I walked away. Like I did two years ago.

A quick sandwich and then me and the most recent fruit of my loin went fishing. I’ve been fishing on three consecutive days now. We had a minor problem with the weather. Rather than taking my fishing gear I should have taken the kites; it was that windy. My apprentice caught twice as many fish as I did, including one that needed the landing net: her first bream. For those of my loyal readers who aren’t of a piscatorial bent, bream are slimy. Very slimy. We had words to say on the subject of bream….

25 August 2010 (Wednesday) - Rain!


Over brekkie I checked my emails – ten separate invites to Friday’s astro club meeting. The software’s clearly gone doo-lally. Software does that – it’s a feature. I’ve given it some thought and decided to give the astro club a miss this time. I’ve other plans for Friday night, and whilst the astro club is usually the thing for which other plans get cancelled, the August Bank Holiday camping trip is something I don’t want to miss; especially as Friday night is to be curry night. I *could* go to astro club from the campsite – I did that last year and came back to the farm after sunset. Making my way back to the tents in the dark through the rutted field wasn’t easy. In over three years of astro club this will only be the second one I’ve ever missed, so I’m not doing badly.

It’s been suggested that we let the kiting website domain name go – the website will remain but the http://www.e-l-f.org.uk bit won’t be there. After all it costs to have it, and we’ve done nothing with the website for over a year. The current caption competition on that website hasn’t attracted any interest in over three years.

And then it was on with the ironing. Perhaps a waste of holiday time, but the job needed doing, and it was raining. I watched the latest remake of “Brideshead Revisited” whilst ironing. I’ve blogged about that film in the past. I wasn’t impressed when I first saw it, and wasn’t keen on it this time round. It’s not very true to the original story, but then I suppose this merely confirms my prejudice that films of books never actually work, and are merely a sop for people who are too lazy to read the book.

With ironing done and telly watched, and a break appearing in the clouds, I then loaded some bits and bobs into the car for the weekend. Another weekend away; this time with fishing and archery as well as excessive drinking. Hic! And then to the fishing shop for one or two bits for the weekend. There was a dodgy five minutes whilst fishing yesterday when a gust of wind took several packets of hooks across the field. I had this plan to buy a magnet to hold the hooks in place and stop them blowing away. Someone had already had this idea, and I got a magnetic hook holder. So much for my scheme to economise this month. I came home via the chip shop for a slab of cod for dinner. After all I am on holiday this week. And then all plans for the afternoon went on hold as the rain returned, so I put some DVDs on the telly, and slept through them.

The plan for the evening was to visit the arky-ologee club’s dig site. Someone with more money than sense had invited the club to dig up the garden of their mansion in the hope of finding Roman remains. This evening those who enjoy scrubbling in the dirt were going to do “show and tell”, and we mere mortals were expected to go into raptures of delight over the discovery of a few broken bits of manky pots. I can’t see the attraction myself. If the manky pot was broken two thousand years ago, it’s still going to be broken now. And you can buy a new pot from B&Q for only a few pence. Surely the historical artefacts worth having are the ones that they’ve saved over the years; not the ones that got broke and thrown away. But it turned out that rain stopped play. Which was probably for the best.

We adjourned to Chip’s house for a cuppa, and then came home via Tesco for a take-out curry, which we devoured whilst watching “Man vs Food”. I hope this torrential rain stops soon…

26 August 2010 (Thursday) - Preparing for Camping


Regular readers may recall we had a very dubious experience in a pub recently – the Woolpack in Warehorne served the most awful food I think I’ve ever seen in a pub. This morning I heard through the grape vine that this pub will be under new management in a month’s time. So a return visit may be on the cards sometime during the autumn.

And then with the arrival of the Folkestone contingent and enough camping tackle to equip a small army we loaded the car. It amazes me that when we go to Bat-Camp it’s always the same. Far less luggage than we take to a kite festival, and it takes up far more space. We popped into B&Q to buy wellies, collected Martin and went to Sainsbury’s for beer. And then came straight back out again. Asda does three beers for four quid. Sainsbury’s were nigh on two quid a bottle – two bottles for four quid. It doesn’t take my degree in mathematics to work that one out.

We eventually got to the farm to set up. Another difference between kite festivals and Bat-Camps is that at kite festivals we get on with the setting up. With a few hours hard work at a kite festival, camp is ready. Not so today. We arrived, and had a cuppa. And then another. Then we went to look at the ducklings. After an hour we thought we’d get the camping gear out, and even then we still fiddled about with tow-bars on tractors and getting grease everywhere. We’d been at the farm for a couple of hours before we started putting a tent up; and even then it took ages. Once the main tent was up, we loaded in as much as we could. But we couldn’t get it *that* ready as the cookers were still back at the farm. So we concentrated on tents. We got ten tents up; admittedly some of them still have inners to be put in, but that can be a job for later. There’s only so much that can be done.

In fact that was all that could be done; with important phone calls due at the farm our tractor driver was forced to absent himself, and so me, Martin and Daddies Little AngelTM ” went for an hour’s fishing; if only to check the pond out for the weekend. We decided the pond would do: between us in an hour we’d had over forty fish, including a rather massive one that got away.

And then home, and having dropped Martin off at the town centre we found the “Rear Admiral” and went to Asda, where Tesco were doing a price comparison. I’ve often wondered how supermarkets keep tabs on each other. It would seem they do it in a manner best described as “rather blatantly”. There was a bloke in a bright yellow Tesco tabard walking round shouting the prices of various articles into his mobile phone. I asked the Asda staff what they thought of it; none of them seemed too fussed. We came home with some more beer, quietly confident that we had enough, and then the phone rang. Martin had also been beer shopping for the weekend, and wondered if he could drop the beer off with us to save mucking about in the morning. We’ve now (probably) got enough to be getting on with. We shall see. But just in case we had a rummage round the cupboards. There’s some old cider that the cider drinkers amongst us can guzzle, and two half empty bottles of port from the last trip to Teston. We’ll take those too…

And so in the morning I shall be off on the fourth camping trip of the year. “My Boy TM ”remains in charge at home. Let’s hope he does the washing up. See you all on Monday…

27 August 2010 (Friday) - Off to Camp


Yesterday I mentioned how disorganised we are at Bat-Camp compared to how slick we are when setting up for kite festivals. Despite having delivered a car full of stuff to the farm yesterday, this morning the car was overflowing with yet more stuff to go to the farm. Martin and “Daddies Little Angel TM ” arrived at 9am with more luggage (and guinea pigs) and by the time we’d been to Asda for the makings of lunch there was hardly any space in the car at all. And we still had to fit Tony and his gear in. When we arrived to get Tony I was expecting to tell him there was no room at the inn, and he’d have to walk. But totally out of the blue a wasp appeared from nowhere and stung me in the neck. Tony applied Savlon, and so we made space for him (somehow).

We arrived at the farm (with a throbbing neck) and having excavated the passengers out from underneath all the luggage, we loaded a tractor trailer with said luggage and made our way to camp. We got the guinea pigs into their hme for the weekend and then a few minutes were spent fiddling about laying out sleeping bags, finding jim-jams and torches and sundry boring but necessary tasks. It’s so easy not to do these jobs but do “fun” instead, and then find yourself trying to find a sleeping bag whilst rather drunk and in pitch blackness at 1am. (Been there, done that!). Having set up “Green and Smelly” (the toilet) we washed our hands at the tap (running water at camp – how posh!), and settled down for lunch.

I looked around: “where’s the plates?” A quick search revealed they weren’t on the camp site. A quick trip to the farm house revealed they weren’t on the farm at all. And then I remembered looking at the box of plates and cups in our shed and thinking that I needed to pack it. So I drove home quickly to get it whilst dinner was got ready. Whilst shopping yesterday Batty had described what he wanted to do for our mid day scoff, and I must admit I don’t think I was paying much attention at the time. But it was great – Halloumi is a kind of cheese, and when it’s fried it goes really well in a sandwich with bacon and tomatoes. And even better when you’ve a plate to eat it off (!)

And then to the pond for a couple of hours fishing before Terry and Irene arrived. Or that was the plan. With no fixed arrival time, I had this vague idea that they would phone on arrival, and then we’d come down with the tractor to load up their kit. And in the meantime we’d do fishing whilst waiting. We cast out, and started getting tiddlers. The father and daughter competition got quite intense, and a good time was had by all; especially when the Bat caught a whopper that didn’t get away. But all the time I was rather conscious that my phone hadn’t rung, and that time was getting on. We came back to camp to find Terry and Irene had arrived to find the camp all set up, but no one home. With no phone signal and no idea where anyone was they decided to make a start on cooking tea. An idea which was heartily supported by all.

With the arrival of er indoors TM , the “Rear Admiral” and the landlord, dinner was served: a truly wonderful curry. Eleven of us had a treat. I was very happy to do the washing up after a bit of tea that good. And then we sat around chatting and drinking too much till too late….

28 August 2010 (Saturday) - Camping


Early morning fishing is traditional (for me) at Bat-Camp, and I was at the pond doing my thing by 6am. But (like a twit) I’d forgotten to bring either my camera or my phone, so I have no record of the first fish I caught today – the biggest fish I’ve ever caught out of the Bat-Pond – a carp weighing three pounds. As carp go, that’s only small stuff, but when you bear in mind that all the carp in that pond are either those that I put in the pond as tiddlers over the last few years, or fish bred from those tiddlers, I think that a three pound carp is quite respectable. After a while the “Rear Admiral” joined me, and we fished for a couple of hours, catching nearly a hundred fish between us.

Back to camp for brekkie, and then we moved the toilet tent. We’d put “Green and Smelly” close to our communal cookhouse tent because the bigger tent acted as a windbreak. However because the toilet tent was so close, there was little in the way of privacy; and some very odd noises were emerging. So for the sake of everyone’s nerves (and decorum) we moved the loo a little way away. And then we did something we’ve not done for ages - we got the bow snarrows out. Having spent a small fortune on archery over the last few years, it’s become something we rarely seem to do any more; which is a shame. So with the arrival of Chippy we spent a couple of hours taking pot shots at assorted targets, and “Yours Truly” came second in the knock-out round. I didn’t gloat much (!) We were reminded of the need for bracers as both Irene and the “Rear Admiral” received quite nasty bruises on their forearms from the bow strings. I didn’t point and laugh much (!)

“Daddies Little Angel TM  then did the bread and cheese for her dad (good girl). Washed down with a bottle of old peculiar it was lovely. Tina and Jason then arrived and came fishing with us for a bit, before leaving us to fish whilst they took pot-shots with bow snarrows. And then Molly, Trudy and Steve arrived. Molly seemed to enjoy all the amazing smells of the farmyard, and even found a new doggy treat. Before long fifteen of us (fourteen hoo-mans and one fellow blogger) sat down to dinner. A new addition to the camping menu – pork and apple braise. Very good, and much appreciated.

Whilst the washing up was done, the pyromaniac contingent made the camp fire and the rain started. I watched the camp fire from the comfort of our cookhouse tent, and occasionally shouted sage advice whilst listening to the sound of the rain thundering on the tent’s roof. But the rain came and went as quickly as it was heavy. Within half an hour the clouds were parting, and we all adjourned to the camp fire where we saw off a few gallons of ale. Another Bat-Camp tradition is that port is passed round the campfire circle so everyone gets some. But sometimes the bottle is slow to move round the circle. To remedy this, we opened another bottle. At one point there were three bottles of port on the go, and once we’d cheered the International Space Station as it came over we had a quick rendition of my party piece: “Foo-Foo the Bunny Rabbit”. If any of my loyal readers have not yet experienced “Foo-Foo the Bunny Rabbit”, in all its glory, they should consider themselves fortunate. And then we chatted, told knob jokes, and generally stayed up far too late drinking far too much; eventually falling into bed at 2.30am.

29 August 2010 (Saturday) - More Camping


The trouble with drinking ale by the gallon is that it has to go somewhere, and so at 6am I was forming a queue for the tiddle tent. I chatted for a bit with Molly’s Mum who was also up, and then I decided that since I was up anyway, I might as well go fishing; sleep is for those in bed. The fish were biting this morning; I was catching loads, but I was getting peckish. I kept fishing until I’d had fifty, and then I wandered back to camp at 8.30am. It would seem that I was unusual in being up and about after having had far too much to drink. I gathered up those other brave souls who were up and about and we all (me and the “Rear Admiral”) went back to the pond for a bit more fishing whilst everyone else slept it off.

We wound up having brekkie at about 11am – and a good old-fashioned fry-up seemed to do most people a world of good. We washed up, drank coffee, lazed around for a bit, and all too soon it was time to say goodbye to those of our number who had to go. So we loaded up all their bits onto the tractor trailer, and rode down to the road where we loaded their cars and said our goodbyes.

The piscatorial amongst us went to the pond to fish for a bit. By 2pm we were all feeling a bit hungry, so I was dispatched to get lunch for my fellow haddock hunters. And after lunch, er indoors TM came up to the pond and had a go at fishing, even going so far as to catch a tiddler. Not unhooking it, or even touching it. Just catching it, and then catching herself.

As the afternoon wore on Chris had to depart, taking the Folkestone contingent with him, and then there were eight of us. As the weather took a turn for the worse, we all sat in our communal cookhouse and resorted to the emergency fall-back plan used whenever events conspire against us: have a crafty pint. There are those who will say that I spent this time fast asleep. And I will admit that to the uninitiated it probably looked like that. But it was most odd. I could hear every word of the conversation, and also my own snoring too.

We had a late dinner – fajitas are always popular, and always good. And then it was suggested that the leftover mushrooms from brekkie might go well in fajitas, so we all had seconds. And we all sat there feeling very stuffed. As the weather was clearing up we walked down to the farmhouse to help put the baby ducklings to bed. The ducklings seem to lead a pampered existence, and had to be tucked into bed. Or that is tucked into bed once caught and cuddled. I would have thought they would have put up a fuss, but they seemed quite happy to have been held and stroked.

Back to camp where the “Wounded Archer’s Cookery Club” had prepared a treat. Those who had sustained bruises from yesterday’s archery session had spent some time gathering fruit from around the farm’s hedgerows and had prepared a blackberry fool for everyone. Oh, that was soooooo good!! And by this time it was dark: trying to wash up in the dark is a daft thing to do, so we decided to leave it and have a camp fire instead. Compared to the previous evening’s revelry, tonight’s camp fire was a modest affair, but none the less enjoyable. We spent a very pleasant hour or so drinking beer (and assorted fluids) whilst spotting shooting stars and satellites, before going to bed before midnight (for once).

30 August 2010 (Monday) - Coming Home


I had a very good sleep, and woke up bright eyed and raring to go. The only problem was that it was just after 1am. Too dark to go fishing, I tried to get back to sleep, but the wind was picking up. In fact I got out of bed a couple of times to check the toilet tent and gazebo hadn’t blown away in what sounded like hurricanes.

Last night I received orders that people wanted to come early morning fishing, and I was to rouse people. So following my morning’s ablutions I wandered round the tents, shouting the code-word “HADDOCK!” For some reason I didn’t get much response. Over the years I’ve found that people are far keener on the concept of early morning activities at 6pm than they are at 6am. Undeterred I fished alone for half an hour until the Bat joined me. But my heart wasn’t in it this morning; it was cold and very windy. After an hour or so we packed up and went back to camp to do the previous night’s washing up. Or that was the plan. We got there to find Martin had done it all. So we fed the guinea pigs instead. We’ve never had the piggles at a camp before. I must admit that I’d had reservations about the idea, but in the event they were as good as gold.

And then we realised that the wind which was so strong this morning wasn’t entirely a bad thing; it had blown the tents dry. So whilst the breakfast team cracked on, the rest of us started to get our bits and bobs packed and our tents down. A late brekkie – omelettes with cheese mushrooms and bacon. Very nice! And then we continued packing. But I’m not quite sure what went wrong. The time was racing away. At Brighton Kite Festival earlier in the year three of us had the campsite packed away by 11am, and it was raining then. Eight of us were on the case today (in ideal packing away weather) and we took till 2pm to do the job. But that’s Bat-Camp; and that’s the way we love it (!)

And so home where I’ve stashed most of what I’ll need for the forthcoming camping trip into one of the lock-ups. And then I had a shower. Heaven. Much as I like camping, I like a shower too. We need to camp in places with shower blocks. I shall smile sweetly at the farm management…

31 August 2010 (Tuesday) - Back To Work


I’ve had a smashing week off work – a Tudor-themed hog roast birthday party, a trip to a reptile zoo, three separate fishing sessions and four days away with some of the best people you’ll ever meet. So going back to work this morning was hard.

There was an interesting article on the radio about languages. I’ve blogged on the subject of languages before, and received some spectacular hate-mail on the subject. So let’s try again. The article on the radio was telling us of the imminent demise of a language native to Guernsey. A derivative of the French language; it has an estimated hundred or so speakers still alive, and most of those are elderly. Another channel island (Sark) has its own version of a language, spoken by some fifteen people. The article then went on to say that 96% of the world’s population speak only 4% of the world’s languages, and they made the observation that all the children of the world of every creed, colour, shape, size and religion listen to pop songs sung in American English.

I’ve often thought the world would be a better place if we all spoke the same language. A thought which occurred to me several times today as the news kept repeating comments from the Pakistan cricket team’s coach. I’m sure the chap is a sterling fellow, but I did keep giggling – I can’t take comments from someone named “Whacker Eunice” seriously.

I then received a text - “Daddies Little Angel TM ” and the “Rear Admiral” were going fishing. Did I want to join them after work? I arrived at the pond shortly after 6pm, and we had a pleasant hour in the sunshine. We caught two fish between us in that time, but then it’s not always about catching fish.

I came home to find my Lego advent calendar had arrived. Advent calendar – and we’re not (quite) into September yet….