1 August 2011 (Monday) - Future Imperfect
I must admit I’ve been feeling somewhat depressed today. As a child aged seven I can remember the moon buggy’s first outing. Only two years after the first moon landing, we now had a car which could take astronauts for miles over the lunar surface.
And then with the space-going super-powers rendezvousing in orbit a few years after that, Star Trek didn’t seem to be so much of a fantasy as a certainty. Moon bases, and trips to Mars were clearly only a few years away.
And down here on Earth we’d have an ever increasingly more intelligent and well educated humanity to support such an ambitious program. Mankind was on the brink of a Golden Age of expansion.
(Almost) exactly forty years to the day later we do not have a world that anyone at the time would have imagined. Call up Google News and what do we see?
I don’t really know what that seven year old boy was expecting of the future, but whatever he was expecting would have been better than what he actually got….
2 August 2011 (Tuesday) - A Birthday
It’s ‘er indoors TM ‘s birthday today. I received an automated email to remind me about it last week. I did have plans for something special for the evening, but on Sunday I received an invitation to a meal which was being arranged for the birthday instead. By the time I saw this invitation half a dozen people had already confirmed they’d be along, so I reluctantly abandoned what I had planned.
(And to those of my loyal readers who were wondering why they weren’t invited along to the meal this evening – I can only apologize).
Plans can be a problem – perhaps I should have made plans earlier. Certainly a lot of people missed last weekend’s party as I was slow in getting the invitations out. And having taken the liberty of organising the invites to the astro club’s participation in “International Observe the Moon Night” I’ve found out that I had something else planned for that date already that I’ve had to cancel.
That’s three things that I’ve slipped up on. Normally my diary is so organised (!)
However we had a good time at the local Wetherspoons. There are those who are dismissive of Wetherspoons – but I can’t help but feel that for all they aren’t the *best* place to eat out; they are far from the worst. Twenty of us sat down for the steak night, and had a really good meal and a beer or two whilst playing “hunt the fried egg” – the Rear Admiral’s fried egg was hiding….
Disaster – our router’s given up the ghost. It wasn’t until I couldn’t get on the internet that I realised how much time I waste on-line. Fortunately Chris had a spare router. Unfortunately it didn’t work.
So we popped round to Curry’s to get a router. I dozed whilst ‘er indoors TM fiddled with it, and awoke to find the original broken router back in place and working. Apparently what we’d been sold wasn’t what the man in the shop said it was. I shall take it back in the morning and demand a refund: I expect that will be a fight…..
3 August 2011 (Wednesday) - This n That
Over brekkie I had a mooch on the internet. Because I can because my router is working. It’s no secret that I love the entire concept of blogging – I do like seeing what other people are getting up to. And having read the most recent blog of a Canadian cousin, I spent the morning in childish giggles. My cousin was extolling the virtues of her Dutch Oven.
Yesterday I whinged about how disorganised
I have become. And today I find that I’ve slipped up again. Over the last few
years I’ve been on many a drunken pub crawl round
I then went on a minor shopping spree. First of all to return the unwanted router to Curry’s. The man in the shop had been rather insistent that we took what he was offering, but it turned out that he’d sold us a router with an intranodaling quadroflanger with megatoodling capability. What we actually needed was a router that had a J7-5B interfacing USB intercompatible functionality. (Or something along those lines).
I went into the shop prepared for a fight. I just knew they weren’t going to be happy with giving me a refund. I’d done my homework and found out my statutory rights under the Sale of Goods Act. I politely explained to the girl on the till that I’d like a refund. She didn’t look happy. I started to explain what the bloke last night had said. And the moment I mentioned the bloke who was on last night, her entire demeanour changed. My money was immediately refunded, and she started a minor tirade about colleagues who aren’t quite as knowledgeable about their stock as they might be.
I then went on to Angling Direct (the new name for Ashford tackle). They had a display of bargain bivvies outside the shop. (A “bivvie” is an overpriced tent used when fishing). I spent all of thirty seconds looking at the display. Any camping shop would sell a tent twice the size for half the price.
But I do like Angling Direct: I can never find what I’m looking for, and neither can the staff. We all spent an entertaining five minutes trying to find Arsely bombs.
And then to the petrol station at Tesco’s. This is another place I go to purely for the abysmal service they offer. Whenever I go in I always hope to see the two old biddies on the tills. They are constantly gossiping about inconsequential trivia, and wouldn’t dream of interrupting their conversation for anything as unimportant as a customer. And when they find a customer who cannot make a payment without their having to break off their conversation, they get quite aggressive.
I always make a point of having difficulties making my payment.
And in closing I found today’s photo on Facebook – one of my cousins had been going through her old albums and came up with this piccy of herself and her sister with my grandparents.
I’m told I look like Granddad. Can’t see it myself…..
4 August 2011 (Thursday) - Stuff
Today’s news was amazing: a Swedish chap has got the hump because the local authorities have put the kibosh on his home made nuclear reactor. The chap was interviewed on Radio Four this evening. It turns out that he’d been blogging quite openly about progress on his attempts to make a nuclear reactor (in his kitchen) for some time.
Progress had gone
well until quite recently. Having obtained lumps of radium and americium from
eBay (!) he was trying to combine them. This involved boiling them
together (on the stove in his kitchen) in sulphuric acid. It was at
this point that the explosion occurred, and our budding
If convicted, this chap faces a prison sentence.
In tonight’s radio interview he said that he’d given up his radiological pursuits and has taken up reading instead. He also mentioned that he wasn’t married. That much was obvious – could you imagine ‘er indoors TM letting me start up a nuclear reactor in the kitchen?
(Actually I doubt she’d bat an eyelid – it’s “Daddies Little Angel TM ” who would be the voice of reason)
After such a tale, all other news pales into insignificance. But there was the announcement of the discovery of parallel universes. I say “discovery” – perhaps “theoretical discovery” might be a better description. So that luckier version of me in a better parallel universe might be there after all. I wonder if he’d like to swap places with this version of me for a while?
And whilst on the subject of astrophysical discoveries, it would seem that the differences between the two faces of our moon are due to the fact that the Earth once had two moons which had a prang; and now all we’re left with is the big one because the wreckage of the small one is plastered all over the dark side of the remaining moon.
After all the excitement in the news, my evening turned out to be a disappointment. With ‘er indoors TM out with the girls tonight, I’d originally planned to go fishing, but the torrential rain put paid to that.
I’d had an invite to a birthday party at a gay bar (and that was my backup plan if rain stopped the fishing). But the regular denizens of said gay bar had found better things to do, so that was cancelled. I’d also had an invite to the Wetherspoons curry night, but I’d been up the ‘spoons once this week already.
So I settled for Hong Kong Kitchen’s finest and an evening of DVDs…..
5 August 2011 (Friday) - Profound? Trivial !
The other day I bought the DVD of “Little Shop of Horrors” in Tesco for three quid, and although I’d never seen it, I’d heard good reports of it. And it was only three quid, after all.
Last night, having the house to myself, I put the telly on and watched that DVD. I can’t believe I’d not seen it before. It’s certainly one of the best films I’ve ever seen. And now I’m left wondering how many other little gems I’ve managed to miss over the years.
This evening I thought I’d continue in the same vein, but couldn’t find my DVD of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I wonder what I’ve done with it?
I read something rather profound today – I’m currently reading “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow” by Jerome K Jerome. The chap was born in 1859, and is actually one of my favourite authors. Have you ever read his stuff?
One of his idle thoughts was “It is in the petty details, not in the great results, that the interest of existence lies”. He wrote that line one hundred and twenty five years ago. Way back in the last-but-one century; and that line might have been written with the concept of blogging in mind (!) Nowadays I find myself wondering when I read his works because I’m beginning to think that I model my writing style on his.
And then I had a phone call from Future Legal Services who asked if I’d given any further thought to writing my will. I told them I’d written it, told them to get stuffed, and hung up. And then realised that maybe I should revisit that will. It was written about twenty years ago, and is all written given the scenario that both me and ‘er indoors TM had croaked, and both fruits of my loin were still of school age. The will is rather explicit about who looks after the brats, how the estate is entrusted, and is probably rather redundant given how things have turned out.
Perhaps we’d better revise it. I’m not planning to croak any time soon, but then I don’t suppose that any of us are.
Meanwhile the important news of the day, the launch of the Juno mission, went rather unnoticed….
Something out of the ordinary happened last night – I had a good night’s sleep. Right through till 6am, which for me is good. I got up, tiddled, shaved, hung the washing out on the line, and went back to bed where I slept through till 9am when next door’s infernal piano woke me. I don’t mind the piano when it’s being used to play proper tunes, but repeatedly playing scales for over an hour (continually and without let-up) does get on my wick somewhat.
I finally got out of bed when I heard what sounded like the front door being kicked down. I ran downstairs to find out what the commotion was, only to find the postman “gently knocking” on the door of the neighbours who don’t hate us.
I sparked up the computer, and over a bit
of brekkie I had a nosey to see what was going on
in the world. The other day I mentioned that I’d missed the
And then I spent a little while on my presentation on comets for the astro club. Whilst I’m quite happy to present to our astro club, another club has asked me to give a talk to them. I’ve agreed to do so (as I know how difficult it can be to get speakers), but I’m a bit nervous about presenting to them: after all, I’ve met some of their members a few times, and they do seem to be “normal people”. I doubt I’ll get away with just shouting “ANUS” like I do with our club.
With brekkie scoffed we set off to Folkestone. With the Admiralty temporarily relocated to Wiltshire, I’d volunteered for cat turd duty. We got to Folkestone to find both cats fast asleep, and neither seemed particularly fussed when we came in. I cleared out their litter tray (be still, my beating heart!) and topped up food and water bowls. As I opened the food cupboard the cats finally showed some interest in what I was doing.
Once ‘er indoors TM had fed the guinea pigs (under the supervision of the smaller cat), we set off to B&Q. The Internet claimed that B&Q was selling all sorts of camping gear very cheaply. The Internet lied. B&Q wasn’t. So we went to McDonalds instead. I’d heard rumours of a Cadbury’s Flake McFlurry. These rumours weren’t wrong. If any of my loyal readers are passing a Maccy D over the next week, pop in and have a Cadbury’s Flake McFlurry – they are on a limited run, and are *really* good. Even if you wouldn’t normally go into McD, make an exception – you won’t regret it.
And then we drove up to Smeeth: we’d heard that some people there were having an open day in their garden. Normally I don’t *do* gardens but I’d heard good reports about this one. And it was for charity.
There was a rather spectacular Koi pond, and the garden was done out in the Japanese style with Acers and bamboo everywhere. There was even a small Japanese tea house complete with running stream. I loved the stream – it looked so good, but was actually artificial; running on much the same principal as the filter on my fish pond which recycles water through a cascade.
I was rather taken with this garden: so much so that I was beginning to consider having Acers and bamboo in pots in my own garden, so on the way home we popped into the Garden Centre. I saw something much better than lame Acers and bamboos: herbaceous perennials. I’m not quite sure what a herbaceous perennial is, but it certainly sounds sexy.
But then I found a display of cactuses. One of them looked rather forlorn, and was in what looked like a very small pot, so I brought him home together with a new pot and some cactus compost and cactus food. And then I spent a few minutes putting my new cactus onto Facebook.
7 August 2011 (Sunday) - Politically Incorrect
I was just dozing
off last night when “My Boy TM ” came
home quietly. I expect my loyal readers over in continental
He came back this morning at 9.30am, came through the front door (judging by the sound I don’t think he opened it, just came through it), bellowed a conversation in to his mobile, crashed around the house for ten minutes, and then stampeded out again.
I was just dozing off when the phone rang – it was the Bat – did we fancy breakfasting at the American Diner? We got out of bed in record time, and within half an hour were at the diner and had ordered brekkie. They were quite a bit busier than they were last week, and from walking through the door to walking out again took over an hour. During that time we watched the weather outside go from glorious sunshine through to torrential rain and back again. Six times.
We then had a look round Bybrook Barn garden centre. Yesterday I mentioned that I quite fancied having an Acer in a pot in the garden. Bybrook Barn had some nice Acers. However I can only assume that they also arrange a mortgage on them as well. Prices ranged from two hundred pounds to four thousand pounds. Four grand !!! For a tree !!! I’ll concede that it was a very nice tree, but it wasn’t four thousand pounds worth of nice.
Whilst we were in Bybrook Barn we bought a Golliwog garden ornament: some politically correct simpleton had recently tried to crucify Bybrook Barn garden centre on the altar of public opinion for daring to sell Golliwogs. The stupid story made headline news, and since I was in the centre I thought I’d buy one to demonstrate my support for them and to show that not everyone agrees with the politically correct minority.
The girl on the till commented that since they’d been on the front page of the local newspapers over the silly story, their sales of Golliwogs had gone through the roof. I’m glad about that. What on Earth is wrong with Golliwogs?
And if any of my loyal readers would disagree with me, and are offended by Golliwogs….. I’d respectfully ask them to use the comment option below to explain why.
And so home. Our provisional plan for the day was to go for a walk, but with the intermittent monsoons we decided to have a lazy afternoon indoors. Our Sky-Plus box is getting quite full and we thought we’d take the opportunity to empty it of some of the drivel we’ve recorded recently. So I got the ironing board out and emptied the ironing box. And then I had a go at the family’s undercrackers. In the meantime ‘er indoors TM showed the sewing machine who was boss.
And we got through episodes of Torchwood, Trollied, Star Trek, Time Team and Man v Food. We’ve now got sixteen per cent of the Sky Plus box’s disc space free. Which (for us) is unprecedented. Now to fill it up with more TV drivel…
8 August 2011 (Monday) - Civil Unrest
Comments from the Metropolitan Police’s Commissioner such as “I do urge now that parents start contacting their children and asking where their children are” and "There are far too many spectators who are getting in the way of the police operation to tackle criminal thuggery and burglary" sum up all that is wrong with our society.
What are the police actually doing on the streets? They are acting as targets for the thugs. Our political leaders should see this civil unrest as a God-given opportunity to create a better society. Rioters and thugs should be given one loud verbal warning to cease and desist. And if they do not heed that warning, then they should be shot. And if innocent bystanders get shot, then that’s their tough luck. They would have had the same warning the scumbags received, and would have had no business being in the area in the first place.
Arm the police – they won’t have to mow down that much of the scum before the message gets over.
And then whilst we’re on the job of creating a better society we can arm the teachers too. People who are blaming the parents in all of this have clearly never dealt with today’s schools. The ethos there is that the child can do no wrong, and that the job of the teacher is to undermine any attempt by the parent to discipline the child. Sack the namby-pamby-loony-lefty teachers. Bring in teachers like I had as a child: ones of who we were terrified. Have the teachers addressed as “Sir” – have the little brats all stand whenever a teacher enters the room. Bring the cane back to schools. Thrash the brats who misbehave.
Bring back National Service? – maybe, but if the job is done right at school, we wouldn’t need it. As Oz once said in “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet”, it’s a bit like training a dog. If you terrorise the thing when small, they won’t give you any lip when they get bigger.
Harsh? No – not really. I once had a
colleague from the depths of mainland
Where he came from was a rather more strict society. Anyone who interfered with kiddies was put in the village stocks. And then jailed. For years. And so where he came from was actually a much better place to live.
My colleague was quite clear on this point.
For all that the rules were far stricter where he came from, they were never
enforced. There was no need. The threat was there, and everyone behaved
themselves. They had a better society. He felt far safer back in
Blow the thugs away. I would pull the trigger myself. I really would…
9 August 2011 (Tuesday) - Another Day
Last night I read a rather sobering article. I’ve heard for some time that our economy is up shit creek, and it’s been on the news so much and expounded upon by so many politicians (of all flavours) that I’ve become rather cynical about the whole sorry tale. I suppose the problem I have with the financial crisis is that for all that I have a degree in mathematics, I don’t actually understand finance at all. If our country is massively in debt, then to whom do we owe this money? How can we blame a burden of public sector pension when public sector employees pay into a pension scheme? Do we owe money to foreign investors? Tell them we ain’t paying (yet).
On more mundane matters, I see Dave the Cactus’s page on Facebook is going from strength to strength. There are some people on the “like list” who are complete strangers to me. I can’t help but wonder how word of my cactus has reached the world.
I spent a little
while writing a letter to an old mucker. I first met
Having said that,
I’m not sure when. An invitation to a kiting event at
I signed up with “Where the Hell is Matt”
today – there’s this bloke (called Matt) who goes around the world
dancing badly. And he makes videos of his dancing badly and puts them onto
You Tube. I had this vague idea that when he next comes to the
Whilst I do like what Matt does, I must admit to a pang of jealousy. He does a silly dance and gets paid to go round the world doing it. I could do that.
Meanwhile civil unrest continues. There are rumours of riots planned locally, and the local police are out in force. Nobody told me that the McArthur-Glen outlet centre was a target for riots: I did wonder why there were six police cars there as I ate my McDonalds this evening. And as we drove home from Chip’s house there were police cars everywhere. Interestingly the car park by International House was full, and there were people loitering all around that car park. I wonder if something is going to kick off there?
10 August 2011 (Wednesday) - Our Very Own Riot
As riots continue making the headlines, we had a riot of our own last night. Rumours had abounded yesterday about a riot planned to take place at the MacArthur Glen Outlet Centre, and apparently at about 10.30pm last night several hundred hoody-wearing children all turned up. No one actually did any rioting: everyone waited for someone else to be brave enough to start. The police arrived, and told the children all to go home, and so they did.
Thirty or so of
them went home via
Whilst that was happening the local people of my acquaintance were Facebooking like crazy. In retrospect very little harm was done, but at the time it was rather exciting, and local people were rather scared. If there’s a repeat performance any time soon I honestly believe it will be met with vigilantes. And then the trouble will really start.
There was excitement at work today as well. The ladies were all of a-twitter. They were all planning to go to the gym – tonight is (apparently) beefcake night. Which is nice if you like that sort of thing.
For those of us of a less athletic nature, a colleague was boasting of his new kitten. Apparently it’s a crossbreed cat. Half Siberian, and half (and I quote) “whatever shagged the mummy cat”. There are several theories as to precisely what it was that “shagged the mummy cat”. Bearing in mind that the only Siberian cat of which I am aware is a tiger, I’m of the opinion that whatever it was, it was big and scary. I wouldn’t mess with a tiger – I have first hand experience of them. Did I ever mention that among my many achievements, I have actually been bitten by a tiger?
And that’s me signing off till Monday. I’m off on my holiday. Should anyone see this as an advert that the house will be empty and an invitation to come robbing, I’d love to see the look on their face when they interrupt whatever it is that “My Boy TM ” gets up to when his mummy and daddy aren’t supervising him….
11 August 2011 (Thursday) - Off to Teston
There was an entertaining interlude whilst buying a sandwich at the local corner shop this morning. Just as I was about to pay for my stuff, a little old lady came into the shop and asked if they sold “things”. The assistant asked if the little old lady could be specific, but the little old lady just repeated “things – you know – things”. After some prompting and questioning we eventually found out that the specific things she wanted were (mostly) made of chocolate and were covered in “dozens and ones”, and used to be popular several (many) years ago. Nobody in either the shop staff or the assembled customers had the faintest idea what the little old lady was talking about, and she started getting aggressive. She didn’t actually like “things” herself: she just wanted them as a surprise treat for her friend. And then she stormed out, muttering curses on the world.
Once I’d got my sandwich I set off for Teston, and arrived shortly before 10am to find Dick waiting by the gate. We exchanged a few insults, and then drove to our respective chosen spots and made a start on setting up our camps. Or that is Dick made a start. I just chucked tents out of my car until the Rear Admiral arrived to do all the donkey work. And once he arrived, we got cracking. The weather forecast predicted heavy rain at mid day, and I wanted to have the canvas up before rain might stop play. The rain came earlier than forecast, but we had got the tents up when the heavens opened. I reversed my car into our mess tent, and we carried on setting up, despite the monsoon outside.
The rain lasted for an hour or so, and soon cleared up. By now more of our number were arriving, including ‘er indoors TM and “Daddies Little Angel TM ” who was shrieking about her new phone. With girlie-types now present I left setting up of kitchen to them, and I went and flew my kite. Straight up a tree.
More rain eventually put paid to kite flying, and we adjourned for tea – camp food is always good. And with washing up done we played “Dirty Minds” and drank beer and port until midnight.
12 August 2011 (Friday) - Camping at Teston
It always strikes me as odd that when camping I am usually one of the last ones to bed at night, but still manage to be one of the first ones up in the morning. I was having my morning ablutions before 7am. When I get a caravan I will be able to have a shave and wash my armpits with some degree of privacy. But until that time I shall continue to make do with a bowl of water in the middle of a field.
“Daddies Little Angel TM
(literally) out of her tent. She’d tripped over in the night whilst
playing silly beggars with her mates, and hurt her ankle. I’m no expert, but
it looked broken to me, so I bundled her and the Rear Admiral into a car and
soon we were sitting in the A&E department at
“Daddies Little Angel TM ” was seen reasonably quickly, X-rayed, and referred to a physiotherapist. We saw the X-rays: the bones of the hoof were intact, but she’d torn ligaments and done soft tissue damage. They gave her pain killers and a set of crutches and sent her packing. We were back at camp in time for breakfast. Which was just as well – washing up doesn’t wash itself, you know.
I did more kite, and then as ‘er indoors TM set off to
Dave suggested that as it was such a nice day we might go for a stroll to the pub. Initially I wasn’t keen: beer is not cheap in the pub, and we had loads at our camp. But I was glad we went. It was a lovely day for a walk in the sunshine. Leaving a broken “Daddies Little Angel TM ” in charge at camp, six of us wandered up to the Tickled Trout for a crafty pint. On the way back we could see our kites over the trees, and we took a detour to look down on the river from what is usually the other side to us.
We came back to camp where I tried to fly my kite, and failed miserably – no wind. So I wandered back to base where the Bat had arrived and was making cocktails. I had a small glass of something green, and promptly fell asleep for an hour. On waking I had a bit of a panic: I thought I’d better put my kite away (I’d left it in a heap on the field), but it wasn’t where I left it. I went all over the field. It was gone. Eighty quid’s worth of kite was missing, to say nothing of the line.
Friends soon realised something was amiss, and when I explained, I felt such a twit. It’s an unwritten rule that unattended kites are fair game, and whilst I’d slept, said friends had got the kite into the air: high into the air, and tethered it to the back of a car.
Whilst trying to find the kite it had never occurred to me to look into the sky. Dur!!!!
Tea time – Fajitas are always popular. I had four. And having supervised the washing up, I had some beer. I’d taken along the barrels of beer I’d made for the summer party two weeks ago, and having let them settle for a day, I hoped they would be ready. They weren’t. They were past their best. One was undrinkable, but one wasn’t too bad, so I guzzled “Rain Stopped Play” until silly o’clock when we opened a couple of bottles of port and had some cheese. And rice pudding. Drunken midnight rice pudding parties are something of a camping tradition in my world.
I staggered off to the loo, expecting to come back to find everyone had gone to bed. I came back to find people setting off to bed, but the Rear Admiral convinced me to have another drop of port. (To be fair, I didn’t take much convincing)
And just was we were about to go to kip ourselves, all hell broke loose. A combination of a sunny day, far too many (and various) cocktails and sea-sickness from an under inflated airbed conspired to induce a bout of tent-spin into one of our number. From a purely physiological point of view it never fails to amaze me how much vomit the average person can generate, and at half past midnight we were staging a clean-up mission and trying to find clean bedding for the vomitor, and a bed for the night for the person into who’s tent the vomitor had blown.
13 August 2011 (Saturday) - Teston Kite Festival
I have mentioned in the past that if I were to compile a list of the sounds that I dislike the most, the sound of rain on a tent would be high up that list. It is a thoroughly depressing sound. And not having got into bed until 1am the previous night, I lay awake from 4am listening to that rain. I got up to ablute at 6.30am, and struggled to find a dry surface for my towel. Simon wandered over and made coffee, for which I was grateful.
Perhaps it was the sound of the rain, but everyone seemed to be up early this morning. We were breakfasted by 9am, which is good going at camp. And with brekkie sorted we went shopping for the makings of lunch, some bottled beer, and some gloves for “Daddies Little Angel TM ”: her hands were getting rather sore from the crutches.
Back to camp, and on the way back from fetching water I popped into the kite shop: as part of the festival there was a stall selling kites. I’d never heard of the firm before, but should any of my loyal readers find the firm “High As A Kite”, they would be well advised to turn around and walk away. There were those at the festival who described the woman running the stall as “eccentric” or “a bit of a character”, but she was neither. She was plain rude. Within thirty seconds of walking onto the store she was about six inched from my face shouting “O.K.-O.K. –O.K “, and then took offence because I didn’t know what response she was expecting. I turned around and walked out, telling the other shoppers directions to a kite shop in Whitstable that wasn’t so threatening.
I then got out my Pyro-Fish kite and proceeded to tangle up everyone on the kite field. It never fails to amaze me how few tangles I get on a four-lined kite, and how many knots I can get on a one-lined kite. And having wreaked havoc I went back to camp for lunch. You can’t beat a lump of bread and cheese washed down with a bottle of stout. After a bit of a kip we fed left over bread to the fish in the river, and then went back to the hospital. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” ‘s ankle wasn’t getting any better, and the nice man at the hospital did say to go back if things weren’t improving. I personally had this theory that the leg would benefit from being strapped up in some way, and that is what the hospital did. A double-thickness length of tubi-grip was applied, and improvement was immediately obvious.
Back to camp, where we had a wonderful
curry for tea. Irene &
We then spent a little while admiring the most beautiful sunset, and then opened a bottle of port. Cheese was passed round, and then we had pink port. I’d never tried pink port before. It’s nice, but needs to be chilled. More cheese, and then a third bottle of port. The third bottle was possibly a bottle too many, as several of our number were making their way to bed, but there were a hardy few who made it as far as the drunken midnight rice pudding party. The final three of us found the rough port that no one liked on Friday night, and sat up till 1am drinking that. After several bottles of ale and three bottles of decent port I found myself being rather accommodating to the rougher stuff.
14 August 2011 (Sunday) - Teston Kite Festival
I woke at 7am to hear lots of chattering outside. Assuming that I was the last one up I got up to find everyone still in bed, but a child of fellow campers was sitting at our table conducting bellowed conversations with people in various parts of the world. I told him to shut his racket, and he seemed quite taken aback by my attitude. I suggested he might like to walk over the field to speak to his friend (rather than scream the length of the field). He assured me (in all sincerity) that he didn’t want to walk anywhere – it would be rather too physical. So I suggested that he might like to bellow from the vicinity of his own tent. He told me that he couldn’t – his fellow campers had told him to clear off somewhere else to do his shouting. So I told him in no uncertain terms to bugger off back to his own campsite. Given the option to go under his own steam or to be dragged there by the ear, he pootled off on his own.
I had my wash and shave, and put the kettle on. Not for tea or coffee, but to tackle the five bowls of washing up that had appeared overnight. Five bowls full. Where does it all come from?
After a super bit of brekie the Rear Admiral took me as his co-pilot to go shopping. We’d heard reports of a branch of Asda which was “Over the bridge, keep going and you can’t miss it”. We went over the bridge, we kept going, and five miles later found ourselves back where we started. Eventually we found the Tovil branch of Tesco, where we stocked up on necessities. And apple turnovers.
Back to camp, lunch, and then I took “Daddies Little Angel TM ” shopping for fags. We eventually parked the car – the normal people were out in force this afternoon. We then made our way to the lock for the second annual pooh-sticks race. It was fun, but the water was running slowly which rather dragged the race out somewhat. Perhaps future events need to take place at the earlier Teston festival when the water runs faster. And perhaps I’m being an old grump, but those marshalling the event in inflatable boats need to keep well away from the sticks floating down the river (rather than constantly paddling over them, and then paddling them into the weeds!).
I then spent an hour or so taking down the banners and putting away my kites. There was a minor disaster in that there would seem to be a spar missing from my new sled. It was there to begin with – the kite wouldn’t have flown without it. I wonder where it went. I’ll get in touch with HQ kites and see if I can’t order up a replacement.
And then we had the sad part of the festival – saying goodbye to everyone. There are so many people whose company I enjoy that I so rarely see apart from at kite festivals. Perhaps I might be able to do something about that once the caravan arrives next year.
We had a late dinner today – the Rear Admiral had made beef stew. He’ll be making that again!
We then sat outside our mess tent watching the bats in the twilight. Having trooped down to the lock to see the bats every night, we saw so many more right by our own tents. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” came back from her walk to tell us that both her and her mate had had bats crash into them that evening.
As the stars came
out we had an impromptu stargazing masterclass. The Rear Admiral and I had
both spotted the constellation of Cygnus. Unfortunately they weren’t the same
constellations of Cygnus. And our summer triangles had something of a strange
geometry. In the end we both agreed on Arcturus and
had some more beer whilst waiting for ‘er
indoors TM to
arrive back from
15 August 2011 (Monday) - Home Again
Up with the lark to find a wonderful morning. We stay on till Monday morning at kite festivals so that we don’t waste the day on Sunday packing up. And it’s such a gamble going to bed with dry tents on Sunday night. What will the weather be like on Monday? Having brought wet tents home from the last trip to Teston (in June) I wasn’t looking forward to a week drying the canvas at home. But I needn’t have worried. The morning was glorious, and we’d had brekkie and cleared away with everything dry by 11.30am.
Home via Smarden to put the camping gear into a barn at the farm, and once I’d unpacked I sparked up the PC to start writing this drivel. Disaster. The PC made all the noises a PC should make, but nothing was happening on the screen. I fiddled and mucked about, and came to the conclusion that the graphics card was knacked, so I took the whole PC round to PC world and gave them my considered opinion. I told the bloke behind the counter that if he could see his way clear to agreeing with me, then I’d buy a new graphics card off of him. The bloke did one better than that – he fiddled around, agreed my graphics card was shot, but managed to get the PC to run off the default on-board graphics card on the motherboard.
I then came home to find that in the time between going to PC World and coming home my screen had died.
I’m now transmitting to the world on backup systems. My computer is running slow – oh so slow – but it’s working.
If any of my loyal readers have a graphics card they don’t want…..
16 August 2011 (Tuesday) - New PC
Much as I enjoy camping, I don’t actually
enjoy the “tent” bit of it. Sleeping on the floor and heaving myself up hurts
more every time I do it. It was so good this morning to wake up in a bed and
sit up and ease myself off and down.
17 August 2011 (Wednesday) - More New PC
Ungrateful as it might sound, I don’t like getting a new PC. Having one that’s been with me for a week of so is good. After a week or so I’ve had time to load up the programs I use, to add the “Flying Penguins” font (and all my trekky fonts too), and to get it how I want it. But getting it to that stage is somewhat painful. I started the process last night with the necessary evil that is Windows Update. Overnight some forty six updates came down – 112Mb of data. And (it has to be said) that the wireless network wasn’t as fast as it might have been.
Being on a late start this morning was useful - I spent some time going through the rubbish on my old hard drive. There’s a lot of stuff on there that I want – an archive of five years of blogging and eleven years of photographs immediately spring to mind. But there’s a load of rubbish on that drive as well. And so whilst I attempted to download Mozilla Firefox (HATE Internet Explorer !!!) I had a clear out of the data I’d paid good money to save.
And then I got cross. Firefox wouldn’t download. It looked like it was going to take three hours to get a 12Mb file. ‘er indoors TM downloaded the file in two minutes and gave it to me on a USB stick.
Whilst that worked, it wasn’t a practical solution. Bearing in mind that networking PCs isn’t my forte, I thought I’d have a go at installing the external wireless network dongle anyway. I expected a fight, but the thing was all circuits go within five minutes. Having gone from the generic on-board network card and Internet Explorer 8 to an external Belkin 300 and Firefox has made such a difference.
With internet connection restored my next biggest insurmountable problem was email. I salvaged the mailwasher spam filter from the archived disk, and got it to work on my old freeserve accounts. However all it really did is to wash out the spam. I could read emails through it, but had no way to download emails as I don’t have Outlook or Outlook Express. Windows Live Mail came to my rescue, and I managed to bodge that so I could access my old freeserve accounts. But I then needed to tweak it so it only checks for email when I want it to, and having downloaded an email, it needs to delete it from the freeserve server. I think I’ve got that sussed, but I’m not quite sure…
And so off to work. I must admit that I was more than impressed with the service I got in PC World yesterday. And today I popped into Easy Home Brew to pick up some bits and pieces. They too were very friendly and helpful.
And then I went to Tesco’s to get lunch. I asked where the lozenges for mouth ulcers might be found. A disinterested member of their staff waved their hand dismissively and told me that they were “about four aisles away”. That was helpful (!)
Work was the same as ever, and after a dull day I came home to a rather good bit of tea. ‘er indoors TM boils up a rather decent bit of scran when she puts her mind to it. It was good to have a nice tea tonight. I’d been utterly unable to swap out of my late shift today, and tonight I could have gone on safari at Port Lympne, or gone to the Hythe Venetian Fete. That is I could have; if only I’d been able to swap my shift.
And then I continued with the archiving of years of accumulated data – I still have some files from fourteen years ago….
18 August 2011 (Thursday) - Tired
I was tired today. I expect the excitement of last weekend has finally caught up with me.
I usually get to work early and have a cuppa and read my Kindle for a while. Today I got to work early and fell asleep whilst reading my Kindle. I felt tired all morning, so at midday I took my lunch to my car, scoffed it and dozed. I had told my colleagues that I was planning to kip, and for them to ring me if it looked like I had fallen asleep and had overslept.
I did fall asleep and oversleep. Nobody phoned me – they all thought it would be a great joke to see how long I’d sleep for. I was only half an hour late back. And then I slept through most of a rather dull meeting. Which was probably for the best. My waking hours are too precious to waste in dull meetings.
What with having been away for the weekend, and then having been occupied with the setting up of my new PC, I’ve not been keeping up with the news. Which was probably for the best, because my piss boiled when I saw the headlines this evening. Last week the country was racked with civil unrest. Rioters took to the streets. People died.
And the woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpots are suggesting that the prison sentences given to rioters and those who incited the riots are too harsh. On reflection I think our society is under greater threat from these woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpots than it is from any rioter. Your average rioter is essentially an opportunistic thing. He only riots when the opportunity is there. He, she or it acts on the spur of the moment. However your average woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpot actually takes the time to think out their stupidly ridiculous hare-brained nonsense.
When I put all the rioters against the wall and shoot them (I’d pull the trigger myself; I really would!), perhaps I should blow away the woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpots too…
Meanwhile back on more mundane matters the resurrection of my old PC’s hard drive is proceeding relatively well. I’ve trashed all that I don’t want from it. Much of that which has gone is the old operating system, the OS backup and programs I’ll not use: the disk will no longer run a PC like it did only three days ago. But with a new PC to do all of that, I wouldn’t want that data anyway.
I’ve salvaged all my old letters, Excel spreadsheets, music, and years and years of photos. I’ve managed to keep all those presentations I’ve given to the astro club over the years, and all the stuff I’ve done for my work-related websites.
The old disk is now what I intended it to be – an archive – a backup. And I’ve even done a “Windows Backup” too. Even though I doubt a “Windows Backup” would ever be retrievable in any useable shape or form. Loyal readers might recall I was blogging about the need for me to have an archived backup back in January. I’ve finally got round to it…
There are still a few things to be done to the PC. Email addresses didn’t survive the transition. If any of my loyal readers would like me to be able to email them, please send me an email to the old freeserve account address so’s I can teach the new spam filtering what it can and can’t eat, and where it should put received emails.
And I must admit that with the all-singing-all-dancing Windows 7 technology, my antiquated bought-second-hand-several-years-ago monitor is showing its age. I’ll see just how little money I have after next week’s pay day, and if I can sell a kidney on eBay I might just buy a new monitor to go with the new PC.
I’m having problems with my Java too – You-Tube only works through Internet Explorer, Firefox won’t touch it. I expect there’s an easy fix for that problem. From what I can see of computers there are no insoluble problems; only problems to which I don’t (yet) know the answer.
Bit like life, really….
19 August 2011 (Friday) - Cards
We had the weigh-in at work today. For all that I effectively gave up with the diet some six months ago, we still get the scales out once every week or so. I wish we wouldn’t. I’m currently at the heaviest I have ever been in my life, and it would only take one more pork pie for me to undergo total gravitational collapse and become a black hole.
Am I bothered? Well, yes. Whilst I make light of my size, and often refer to myself as “Uncle Fat Bloke”, I’m not fat by choice. I *could* go on a diet and lose weight. It’s something I’ve done in the past. But every time I go on a diet, eventually the diet ends, and soon after the diet I wind up being heavier than when I started.
Whilst there’s no denying that I could eat healthier, my diet is far from being one of exclusively junk. And I lead a relatively active life too.
I’m just naturally a porker. Though whilst I’ve resigned myself to the fact, I can’t pretend I like it.
Yesterday I was griping about the woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpots. I see they’ve been up to their old tricks again. Apparently earlier in the week some chap was embarking on a criminal activity when confronted by the bizzies. Had he stopped what he was doing and followed the instructions of the ‘bules, all would have been well. But he didn’t. Obviously he was less than co-operative because the police felt obliged to use pepper spray and a tazer. The bleeding hearts are up in arms because it would seem that having a poke off of the tazer killed the villain.
It speaks volumes about the mentality of those who are protesting the police’s actions that they never once questioned why this chap was being stopped by the police.
And so to Folkestone for an evening of cards. Amid flushes and straights I had a load of hearts (I didn’t forget them), and a poker of sixes. I do like a game of cards.
Meanwhile on the PC front I’ve had a go with the anti-virus. Whilst the free version of Norton Antivirus was nice, it came with for a very time-limited period. AVG might not have quite so many bells and whistles, but it’s free, and has done me well for the last few years.
And at the moment, free is good. Especially as the thought of a new monitor is becoming more and more appealing.
20 August 2011 (Saturday) - Stuff
For no adequately explored reason my PC monitor screen seemed to have developed a line down it overnight. When I booted this morning there was an irritating black line running the height of the screen, about a third of the way across. After five minutes the line vanished, only to come back (this time in red) five minutes later. And then I noticed that the red line had gone again whilst I was rummaging around Facebook. I exchanged insults with my cousin for a bit, and then I realised the irritating black line had returned. And then it had gone again.
Irritating lines notwithstanding, I checked my emails. With nothing major planned for this weekend I was pleased to receive an invitation from a scantily clad young Russian lady. Her email asked me if I would like to have fun with her tonight. I certainly would – and I had an activity in mind that she might like to perform with me. But she would need to put on some rather more substantial clothes first: it can get a bit nippy when fishing, and her bra and knickers had no pockets in which she could keep her spare weights and her disgorger.
‘er indoors TM and I went shopping – HomeBase were having a sale and so we thought we’d see it they had any bargains. I’m still keen to have an Acer in a huge pot in the front garden. But whist they had some sensibly priced Acers, they didn’t have any pots that I liked. They had some wooden tubs, but they would only rot through in a year or so. And the plastic tubs are too lightweight – too easy to nick. I really want a huge concrete thing that me and “My Boy TM ” together can hardly budge. And then I’ll need some soil to go into it.
Whilst we were in the area I popped into PC World. It wouldn’t hurt to look at their monitors, would it? Well, actually it would. They had a very nice HUMUNGOUS screen on bargain offer. There was no denying how sexy it was – and I have watched smaller tellys.
So in a moment of weakness I bought the thing - I would only fritter the money away on beer otherwise. I then took the monitor home and spent five minutes plumbing it in. I think it was money well spent (even if it’s money I don’t really have).
And then the rest of the day was spent fishing. My idea of ledger fishing for the big ones is beginning to work – I had several bites from big fish. I knew they were big fish because of the size of the lump of bait I was using. Mind you, ledgering for big fish is all very well, but you can’t beat a spell of tiddler bashing. I had thirty tiddlers.
Home again, and with the new PC now running in SexyMode HyperVision (patent pending) I then reinstalled my printer and the desk-top publishing software onto the new PC. As I mentioned a few days ago, having a new PC is all very well, but it does take a serious amount of fiddling to get it how I want it to run. It’s now almost how I want it to be. But there is one sticking point.
Windows 7 doesn’t support NeverWinter Nights. It just don’t. When you load the game up, the PC says that NeverWinter Nights isn’t something that Windows 7 is going to dirty it’s hands with, and chucks it out. So if any of my loyal readers could recommend a game that might keep me out of mischief for a year or so, I’d be grateful.
But I really shouldn’t grumble. This morning’s post brought a letter from Amelia. Amelia lives in Mozambique, and ActionAid (who I support financially) had forwarded her letter to me. Amelia had been raped as a child, and the local rules where she lives state that pregnant children are not to be educated with other kids. They have to be schooled in night classes. The fact that her village has no electricity meant that Amelia missed out on her schooling. But thanks to ActionAid, Amelia has learned how to deal with the sexual abuse she had, and she has received an education. She’s done so well that now she is employed as a teacher - teaching others to read: thanks to the help and support of ActionAid. And as you can see, Amelia’s now doing very well, has married and now has a second daughter.
ActionAid do such wonderful things around the world. But I wish they wouldn’t write to me to thank me. The money would be far better spent on the people who need it. And I only blub when I read their letters.
Any of my loyal readers who find themselves with a quid or two spare might consider giving it to ActionAid….
21 August 2011 (Sunday) - Brenchley
I often blog about insomnia, but I’ve been sleeping well lately. And it’s occurred to me that I’ve been sleeping with just a duvet cover over me lately. In the past I’ve suffered from night sweats. I’ve not had that either. Perhaps overheating is the cause of my not sleeping? Having said that; I’ve been incredibly tired recently. Perhaps I need the sleep now? If so, I wonder why.
As I scoffed brekkie this morning I listened to the neighbours (the ones who don’t hate us). They were celebrating a birthday, and the birthday boy was opening his presents. He seemed very happy with what he’d got.
I wasn’t being particularly nosey – it was a warm morning so I had the window open, and next door use their back garden in the same way I use my living room. Hearing the young lad’s squeals of excitement was quite sweet really.
Seeing how it was a lovely day, we decided to go for a walk. I’ve mentioned before that ‘er indoors TM has got hold of a set of instructions for guided walks around Kent. Today we thought we’d try the walk around Brenchley: a particularly scenic village some twenty miles away. In the past I’ve raved about how good these guided walks have been. Today turned out to be something of a disappointment.
The instructions started off well; we walked past the war memorial, up a hill, and after swapping insults with a passing cat we went up some steps into an orchard. The instructions had us walking through a second orchard, and then across a golf course. I must admit that when we came to what seemed like the seventeenth orchard I rather suspected we might have gone slightly off course. My suspicions were confirmed when we met up with an itinerant pikey. He came out of his caravan and pointed at our AA guide sheet. He commented that he sees lots of people coming past his caravan brandishing those sheets trying to follow that guided walk. And all of them (like us) had gone wrong because they were all looking for a golf course which has long since been converted to other uses. The nice itinerant pikey showed us our whereabouts on the guide’s map (we were rather off the edge), and from that I was able to use “really skilful navigation (TM )” to get us back on course.
It was at this point that we found another couple of happy wanderers who were crying over the same set of instructions as we had. They too had wasted lots of time looking for a golf course that wasn’t there.
As the other hikers set off across a field (following my instructions) we followed at a distance. Whilst I was confident that I’d found the right footpath, I thought I’d like some degree of security by sending them ahead as an advance party. Should we have needed to have turned back, it would have been nice (for us) for these poor saps to have found out that fact first.
And as they marched off into the distance we found ourselves walking through yet another orchard. Very scenic – the ideal spot for a picnic. And so we stopped for our picnic. As we scoffed we met another pair of jolly wayfarers who also were carrying the same walk guide as us. They too had gone awry at the non-existent golf course, and we spent a few minutes griping about the fact.
With picnic scoffed we carried on. The next part of our route called for us to take a footpath through someone’s garden (OK so far…) and then take the path across a field till we reached a gully (OK so far…) and then, keeping the gully on our left, follow it in an easterly direction. Clearly the gully hadn’t read our instructions. The gully went south. Being far too wide to jump across, and with no other way of crossing being evident we followed the gully south in the hope that it might take an easterly turn. It didn’t. We eventually found ourselves at a road junction which simply didn’t exist on the map we had with our walking instructions.
It was at this point that I lost the will to continue. The walk was supposed to take three hours: we’d been walking for two hours and hadn’t covered a third of the route. Fortunately the walk was (roughly) circular and so it didn’t take too much effort to call up sat-nav and make our way back to the car.
The biggest problem with today’s walk was that we’d relied on the map provided with the route’s instructions. The map was reasonably detailed on the sections we were supposed to walk along, but it didn’t give a stuff about the bits we weren’t supposed to cover. Which is all very well until you leave the projected route. I always have several Ordnance Survey maps in my bag: unfortunately I didn’t have the OS map of the Tunbridge Wells area. I shall get it for next time.
And so home. Since it was on the way we popped into the Biddenden vineyard shop. I had a vague plan to get some beers for next weekend. But with bottles of beer at Ł2.50 each (!) I soon changed my mind. So we came home where I dozed a lot – it had been a rather strenuous afternoon….
22 August 2011 (Monday) - Aliens
There was an amazing program on the History Channel last night. Not amazing for its content, but amazing for the contempt in which it held its audience. The basic premise of the program was that (almost) every single event in human history could be attributed to alien intervention.
Apparently Alexander the Great’s proposed invasion of India was thwarted by aliens siding with India. Various features of Roman civil engineering are only explicable if one considers aliens giving the Romans blueprints. The existence of castles in Scotland only makes sense if they were built (and subsequently destroyed) by aliens. And an established historical incident, Archimedes’ heat ray, is apparently clinching proof of aliens interfering with history.
So crackpot was the program that at one point it claimed Hitler had obtained alien technology. Interestingly the program glossed over the fact that Hitler lost the war in which he was supposedly using alien weaponry. I quite like watching this sort of nonsense: I must admit to laughing at the quackademics they present as being supposedly reliable experts.
But I’m the sort of person who can get away with watching this program: at the risk of sounding somewhat egotistical, I’m not a total ‘tard who believes absolutely any old tosh that is presented to me. I can see it for the total bollox that it is. I know it’s really nonsense.
However it bothers me that there are those who see this sort of drivel on the telly and believe it all. After all in years to come when humanity (finally) develops hyper-light transport and finds primitive civilisations on other planets, surely we wouldn’t help them build their own version of Stonehenge and randomly get involved in their own petty internecine squabbles.
Meanwhile back on the ranch, a couple of days ago I found that I couldn’t run NeverWinter Nights on Windows 7. This morning I Googled and I found several fixes to the problem. I’ve tried them all – and none of them worked.
Worms World Party wouldn’t work either, nor would Star Trek Away Team. Nor would any other PC game I could find.
So I need to find a PC game to keep me out of mischief. I am open to all suggestions.
I have heard good things about Oolite, and so I downloaded it. The game runs on the PC, but after a few minutes I rather gave up on it – I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. I shall ask those who do know over the next few days.
23 August 2011 (Tuesday) -Skint
I must admit to having had a wry smile at work today. At the height of the holiday season and with this week being the most expensive week in which to pay good money to go away for a holiday, I looked out of the window at the torrential rain. If nothing else it would save me the cost of a car wash. There’s no denying that there was a lot of bird dung that needed to be washed off of the car.
An early start at work today, and apart from a game of “Granny Alphabet” (find a name a “Granny” might have for every letter of the alphabet), work was dull. But the early start made for an early finish, and so I popped to Lidl’s to get supplies for the weekend. In the past I’ve blogged about how cheap beer is when home-brewed. However home brew does take a bit of preparation. Ideally I need to start brewing two months in advance. And having had quite a few occasions recently that required copious amounts of beer, events have conspired against my having a batch ready for this weekend. So I popped into Lidl who do beer at about half the price that the local vineyard does. They might not have quite such a good selection of the more obscure ales, but Spitfire’s not a bad drop really. And Lidl do a decent port reasonably cheaply.
There was a minor incident in the car park – I reversed probably too close to a tree, got distracted and forgot I hadn’t switched off the engine. When I stalled the engine there was a little lurch backwards into the tree, and now there’s a small crack on the rear back light. Whilst there’s no other damage and it all works fine, I expect it will require replacing when MOTs become due. With work needing doing to the steering rack at the next service, there’s another three hundred quid down the drain.
And so home – where I saw one of our lights in the living room had blown. In an attempt to replace the blown bulb I managed to leave half the bulb in the light fitting. I shall wrestle with it later (in the daylight). I really don’t need the aggravation (or the expense) of replacing the light fittings: after all they are only a couple of months old.
Thank heavens it’s pay day tomorrow….
24 August 2011 (Wednesday) - Worms and Lemmings
With the postie bringing my bank statement I went through the accounts this morning – money could be better.
Interestingly I noticed that despite having paid off a large chunk of the mortgage back in February, my monthly mortgage repayments haven’t altered. I phoned Nationwide and spoke to Paul (who was quite helpful). Apparently the building society are in the throes of writing to me since another endowment matured yesterday, which has complicated matters somewhat. I then spoke with Joe at Aviva who told me how much the endowment came out at. Another quick call back to Nationwide, and I found myself bitterly reflecting on a conversation with my financial advisor (father in law) that we had back in late 1985.
Back in the mid 1980s, endowment mortgages were the way forward. They really were money for old rope. Rather than paying off your mortgage like any decent respectable person would, you gave your cash to some financial whizz-kid who did all sorts of financial shenanigans. And then after twenty five years your mortgage would be paid off, and you’d have a not inconsiderable load of cash given to you as well.
It’s perhaps ironic that rather than having the six thousand pounds hand out that we were led to expect we’d get, we’ve actually got a bill for (slightly more than) that amount.
And then to add insult to injury Tracy phoned from “Trust Inheritance” offering to write me a will. For sixty five pounds (!) I asked her how her sixty five quid will would be any different to one I would write myself (for free). She said hers would be legally binding. I asked why one I would write myself would not be. She seemed hesitant, and (in much the same way one might guess the date of the Battle of Poitiers) she asked me if the answer was because hers would be written by a solicitor?
I told her that she wasn’t inspiring me with confidence in her company. She started crying, so I hung up.
Mind you, I suppose I’d better consider re-writing my will. At the moment the will states that given my demise “My Boy TM ” and “Daddies Little Angel TM ” will be passed into the care of a vicar I’ve not seen for ten years. And I can’t see those two being overly keen on that. Come to think of it, I doubt the vicar would relish the idea either.
And so to work. With the complete failure of all my PC games other than Zuma and Spider Solitaire I popped into PC World. After all, they were really helpful last week. Today they had a new assistant there: he looked like he was there on work experience, he was so young. I asked if they still did games like “Worms” and “Lemmings”. He looked at me blankly. He had never heard of “Worms” or “Lemmings”.
What do these kids do on computers these days?
Fortunately I’ve found a silly website where I can play “Lemmings” on-line. The graphics are probably on a par with the graphics when I first played “Lemmings” all those years ago, but it will keep me out of mischief until a better game comes along.
25 August 2011 (Thursday) - BatCamp - Take One
I had my appraisal at work today. The NHS has seen other “proper” firms doing appraisals, and over the years has tried to copy them. (In my honest opinion with limited success). Fortunately the boss seemed pleased with what I’d done over the last year, and the appraisal itself was rather in the nature of a box-ticking exercise. What are my professional aspirations for the next five years? I answered keeping my head down and getting on with the job. We both hoped that would suffice for the paperwork.
But had I done rather dreadfully over the last year, it would all have been the same. Whether I do good or bad has no bearing on my (lack of) pay rise.
And having survived a rather iffy I.T. upgrade (is there ever any other sort?) it was soon time to call it a day once more.
After work it was straight to BatCamp – the last of this year’s annual camping weekends (for me). “Daddies Little Angel TM ” and the Bat (patent pending) had been putting tents up since mid-day. It was nice to arrive at a camp site and find most of the hard work had been done.
All that was left for me to do was to help putting up my own tent, help lay out the tables in the mess tent, fetch and carry some bits and bobs, and get the girls going on the makings of the poo pit whist I organised the beer.
And after two hours of pootling about it was time to come home. Or time for me to come home – others started Bat-Camp at mid-day today and are still there. I’ve got to work tomorrow. Which is a shame..
Meanwhile here’s an interesting article. It would seem that if you actually understand anything about the underlying beliefs of Christianity, the whole thing has actually been disproved.
I doubt that will stop those with “faith” though. “Faith” is a wonderful thing – it allows you to carry on spouting rubbish; no matter how wrong you are. There was an article on the radio this evening about gay marriage. There were several same-sex couples being interviewed, all of which claimed to be practicing Christians, all of which wanting a church wedding. Now if they’d actually read their bibles they would know that their God doesn’t agree with homosexuality.
And so they would understand that the entire concept of a gay marriage in church would totally undermine the raison d’etre on which the church is based.
Personally I’ve nothing against the concept of same-sex marriages: I actually think they are a good thing. But they do go against what it says in the Bible.
But don’t just take my word for it – look it up (!)
I’ve often wondered how many churchgoers understand that which they profess to believe. I would hazard a guess at the answer being “not many”…
26 August 2011 (Friday) - BatCamp - Take Two
To work for the morning. The way Saturday morning working is paid has been changed. We now don’t do Saturday mornings as overtime – we get time off in lieu. Or that is we get time off in lieu *if* we take that time off after we’ve worked the Saturday. If we take the time off before we work on the Saturday morning, we then get paid for the Saturday morning at time and a third.
Bearing in mind that if we operate this way we’ve taken off half a day unpaid beforehand, so we end up with a net profit of about one hour’s money. But it’s better than a poke up the bum with a sharp stick. And so I took the afternoon off in lieu of working tomorrow morning.
And so back to BatCamp. Through the rain. I’d spent the morning being jealous of those at camp whilst I worked. And as the rain came down torrentially I began to wonder if I’d had the better deal. I got to the farm just as the rain eased off, and made my way to the camp where I was just in time for lunch. To be honest, no matter when I arrived I would have been just in time for lunch – I’d been to the supermarket for the bread. A bottle of Shepherd Neame’s 4-4-2 washed down a bacon, tomato and halloumi baguette nicely, and I slept as the Rear Admiral washed up.
Having been woken by passing dogs, we went for an afternoon’s fishing. Despite the rain. The rain was rather heavy, but eased off as the afternoon went on. I caught a few fish, “Daddy’s Little Angel TM ” caught loads. The Bat (patent pending) nearly caught a rabbit (with a fishing rod), and the Hose Beast attempted to train ducks to herd fish.
All too soon the afternoon had gone. And so I left camp to go to astro club. I must admit that for some reason I wasn’t expecting great things from tonight’s club – being on the August bank holiday I was expecting attendance to be down. But I was pleasantly surprised. Billed as a telescope workshop and summer social, the evening was great.
Attendance was down on our usual turn-out, but with fifty people in attendance we had a really good guide to basic telescoping (from which I learned several new snippets). We had a really good social event – loads of people contributed food and goodies. And the impromptu telescoping session was great. I got to see Neptune and Jupiter. Jupiter was blobbling (a technical term). We saw the Andromeda galaxy, we saw all sorts of nebulae, and we even saw the new supernova in M101. And just as we were packing up, the lads managed to catch a small lizard.
The only drawback to the evening was that I’d forgotten to get raffle tickets…..
27 August 2011 (Saturday) - BatCamp - Take Three
Up with the lark to get some ironing done. I really don’t want to have to be doing a rush-job with the laundry on Monday, so at 6.30am I was seeing to my shirts (with a vengeance). And then some last minute packing for camping. Yesterday I realised that I’d not packed a torch (dur!), and bearing in mind how muddy it was I thought I’d dig out my wellies. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so before work I popped round to B&Q for a new pair.
Work was rather dull, and then having gone home for more forgotten things I then went to the fishing shop for maggots. And then I collected Martin and set off to BatCamp – this time for keeps. We arrived shortly after mid day, and after a spot of lunch we went fishing again. (Some things never change). We bashed a few tiddlers. Or that is everyone else bashed tiddlers – I didn’t catch quite as many as I might have hoped for. And then we wandered back to camp to find more visitors.
For no adequately explored reason my chair was upside down in the sunshine, looking rather damp. Such is life…
Some of us then set off to Dering Farm where we attempted to capture one of the ghost carp – the plan is to find out exactly how long and how heavy they now are. But despite our best efforts we were unable to entice them. In retrospect it was probably a combination of their not liking bread (which they were supposed to) and their not being entirely greedy things (which they were supposed to be). Next time our plans will allow for this.
And so back to camp for a rather nice bit of Chinese for tea. Sweet and sour chicken, black bean chicken, spring rolls, rice and noodles. Very nice. And having slept through the washing up I then had a crafty beer or two. Despite having dug a fire pit, we abandoned our plans for a camp fire as the firewood had been soaked by intermittent torrential rain throughout the day. So we sat in our mess tent and exchanged insults. And after a while we swapped beer for port and stilton. There was a dubious five minutes with the port. In England we pass the port to the left. Our continental brethren pass it to the right. And so the bottle bounced between “Pish Faysh” and “Alkalott” perhaps somewhat more than it should have.
The second bottle of port – a blond port - wasn’t quite as good as the first. It lacked a certain something. As did “Pish Faysh” by this time. During a break in the clouds we popped outside and admired the beautiful night sky.
Having boastfully announced that he was in possession of the requisite arrapatus (!) “Pish Faysh” correctly identified various item of astronomical interest including “Dimdromodu” and the “Pair of Squegasus”.
To bed at 1am – which was probably for the best.
28 August 2011 (Sunday) - Still Camping
Following a late night, I slept later than I planned. When at BatCamp I like to go fishing very early. Before 6am early. I woke up at 8am, but got up to find everyone still asleep. So I performed by morning ablutions and set off to fish on my own. Fishing was better for me this morning – I caught more in the first half hour than I’d caught all day yesterday. And by the time the rest of the angling contingent arrived, I’d doubled yesterday’s score.
I then had something of a revelation with my bite indicator. I always thought that when ledger fishing I was supposed to wait until the bite indicator started screaming before I knew I had a fish. But on watching where my ledger line went into the water I could see that the line was being gently tugged about by fish. Not being tugged firmly enough to set off the bite indicator, but definitely being tugged. So I struck and caught my biggest fish of the year (so far).
We fished for an hour or so, and then made our way back to camp for brekky. A very good brekky. And then Sarah and Steve joined us.
On Friday I’d borrowed the solar scope from the astro club, and so I set it up.
We then put the scope away and had a quick round of poker whist waiting for the rain to pass, and then after a bite of lunch, those of a piscatorial bent took our visitors angling.
Before long we were joined by another visitor. It would have been good to have had a proper “BatCamp Open Day” – there are so many people that we would like to have invited along. But it’s easy to overlook the fact that we were camping on a working farm – and as such it can be a dangerous place. And so the decision has been taken (years ago) that (other than babies and toddlers) BatCamp is not for under 18s. A tad harsh? Maybe. But I for one can see the sense in it – in the past my own kiddies were sent to grandparents over BatCamp weekends.
As the Rear Admiral gave the novice fish-hunters the benefit of his sage wisdom (!), I carried on with ledger fishing, and caught half a dozen respectably-sized tiddlers, and one leviathan that got away. (Have you ever noticed how it’s never a small fish that gets away?)
We had a wonderful afternoon – but there’s no denying that we were grateful for my fishing umbrella. On three or four occasions we were all huddled under it; waiting for the monsoon to pass.
Back to camp for tea. When we go camping, the food is always good, and our cooks excelled themselves tonight with pork chops, potatoes and vegetables. We’ve never had a Sunday roast at camp before.
And then it was time for “Ug!! Make Fire!!” I washed up whilst the fie was got going, and as night fell we sat around the camp fire, giggling over the Fart App for the iPhone. We were vaguely speculating on the possibility of nipping back to Ashford to get a telescope, but as the mist rolled in we decided against that idea. And having waved goodbye to our guests who sadly had to go home, we set about some port. Very tasty….
29 August 2011 (Monday) - Home Again
The Rear Admiral woke me at 6.45am this morning for a spot of fishing before brekkie. He and “Daddy’s Little Angel TM ” continued their usual tiddler bashing, but I decided to carry on with ledger fishing. Having found some left over sausages and pork pie at camp, I used them as bait with amazing results. I caught eight fish on the ledger: none were huge, but I was pleased.
Back to camp for a leisurely brekkie and breaking of camp. After the horrible weather we’d had this weekend I was grateful to pack up in bright sunshine. At BatCamp we always take our time to pack up. At a kite festival we are usually all packed up and away by 11.30am. Today we were still fiddling about at 1pm. But eventually we were done, and with the camping gear all safely into storage we made our way home.
On arrival at home after camping there is always another hour or so’s putting away and tidying up. I had a dodgy five minutes when my back went into spasms as I put my camping bag back on top of the wardrobe. But I soldiered on, and took the top box off of my car and put the seats back into it. I no longer have a pick-up, but a proper car again. All that remains is to get the bird poo hosed off of it.
And so the camping season is officially over. All that remains is to return Calor Gas bottles and camp kitchens to their rightful owners, and camping will be over until next June.
And so back to reality, where the internet is playing up, emails don’t download, and for a worrying five minutes my blog was having a DNS failure.
Money worries; work worries; computer worries. Life goes on. And I shall keep recording it.
30 August 2011 (Tuesday) - This n That
I’ve been getting behind with watching the telly, so we had a bit of a catch-up last night. I’m now only two episodes behind with Torchwood, and I’m wondering why I’m continuing watching the program. After all, each episode is an hour of my life I will never get back.
I suppose, like all books and films and TV shows, if you can’t relate to the characters, then your interest isn’t engaged. And I couldn’t care less about the characters in Torchwood.
And we watched last Saturday’s Doctor Who as well. “Let’s Kill Hitler”… I can’t help but feel that Matt Smith is the new Sylvester McCoy – no matter how well he tries, he’s not got much in the way of storylines and scripts to work with. Previous Doctors have had companions and assistants who were fun and interesting characters. Quite frankly Matt Smith hasn’t a hope when saddled with such dull, drab, one dimensional hangers-on. Amy Pond – legs all the way up to her bum and precious little else. Rory whatshisname – what on Earth is that character even there for? And take the current storyline about River Song. Who cares? I don’t. Which is a shame….
However for entertainment with believable characters, why not try an e-book? Torn is “the best and worst of church, religion and faith. The best and worst of science. It’s about indoctrination, dogma and manipulation, even outright lies. It’s about family, expectations, mis-communication and betrayal. And it’s about love and hate. A line drawn through a Kent village, dividing families and friends.” Available online from Dawn Rite publishing, it will only set you back Ł2.99. Money well spent!
And then on with the business of the day – first of all to the dentist. Despite having a 9am appointment, I sat about waiting, and I wasn’t called in until 9.10am. I wonder what that was all about?
The chap had the obligatory rummage around inside my mouth, and suggested I made an appointment for a scaling and polishing. I rather suspect that had I been able to get in at 9am I would have had the scaling and polishing done today. But such is life.
I then came home to find postie had been. Last week I mentioned that the mortgage endowments had been paid, and that the building society would be writing to me to tell me how much the outstanding balance was for. Today’s letter told me that they had converted the outstanding balance into a repayment mortgage. They wanted (nearly) a hundred quid a month for the next five years to pay this off, and were charging me seventy quid for their having done this.
I phoned the number given on their letter, and listened to some rather dreadful music whilst waiting for someone to answer the phone. I got through to a chap who’s spoken English was marginally worse than my spoken Urdu, and so after a lot of mucking about I hung up and phoned again in the hope of getting someone with whom I could communicate.
Eventually I got through to Lee in Nottingham who was very helpful. It turned out that my best bet would be to go into the local branch to speak with someone there. That will be something to do next week.
With my car’s roof box gone I can now get into the tip, so I loaded my car up with loads of cardboard rubbish and the compost bin, and set off. And once at the tip I found that some things never change. The tip was virtually empty, but due to stupidly selfish bad parking, no one could actually get in to unload their cars. And for every one person that was actually throwing rubbish away, there were two or three hanging over the tip on what I could only describe as a sight-seeing mission.
I then popped round to Sainsbury’s: I had one or two bits and bobs to pick up. I had this plan that whilst I was doing the shopping, someone else could wash the bird poo off of my car for me. There are always people trying to wash cars in Sainsbury’s car park. But not today.
And then with the opportunity of taking the rest of the week off work I watched some telly, and mucked about some more with my presentation on comets. I started it ages ago, and it’s now less than two weeks until I give the talk (for the first time).
And I then spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with Steve as I pootled round the garden filling the compost bin with the greenery which was pouring over the fence from next door. I wish he’s prune back his overgrowth….
31 August 2011 (Wednesday) - Worms and Candles
Day Two of my unexpected holiday, and so I spent a little time tidying the garden. Yesterday I trimmed back all that was growing over the hedge from next door. This morning I mowed the lawn. It hadn’t been mowed for a month, and having strimmed the edges, mowed the rest and raked up, I then did the job all over again: so thick was the grass. And having raked up, the compost bin was again full to overflowing, so another tip run was in order.
Having done the tip I then mucked out the fish poo filter. I must admit I’m on the verge of giving up with my pond. It’s cost thousands of pounds to build and equip in the first place, and here we are four years later with it just full of green smelly water. Over the last year it’s happened so many times that I spend out on filtration media, flocculants, and all sorts, and I get the pond clear for about a week, and then it just clags up again. The fish don’t seem bothered about it, but I am.
With postie having brought the bank statements I then went through the monthly accounts. Apropos of nothing I thought I’d do more than just check the bank’s sums this month. I thought I’d find out what some of the direct debits are actually for and see if I can’t make any economies.
For example I’ve been paying twenty quid a month to Scottish Widows. I’ve often wondered why. It turns out that this is an “Extra Cover Policy” which was taken out as part of the original mortgage twenty five years ago. When we sort out the mortgage, I can cancel that policy and cash it in. I’ll get a nice little bung from that (hopefully).
And every month I pay Ł6.25 to “Dom and Gen”. I’ve often wondered who Dom and Gen” are. So I phoned the bank to find out. They gave me a phone number and after holding on for an age it turned out that this is a policy that covers any breakdowns that the washing machine might have. Which is very handy – it’s been making funny noises recently.
I then had a serious look at the Sky subscription. I’m sure that at sixty quid a month I am paying for too much for something I rarely (if ever) watch. (I’m thinking of changing to a Freeview box, but I doubt the rest of the Tribe are…)
I’ll leave the monthly charity donations for the time being – they aren’t an economy I want to have to make just yet.
But there’s no denying that the biggest economy I can make is on my car. Much as I like having a car, do I really need one? I *could* cycle round Ashford like I did in the past (for many years). And taking bank loans, petrol costs, insurance, road tax and servicing into account I would save hundreds by not having a car.
Being the last Wednesday of the month I was rather looking forward to being rude about the arky-ologee club. But unfortunately (for some) they don’t meet in August. So instead, ‘er indoors TM took the opportunity to flog candles to an unsuspecting public.
And then I had a result. Last week I asked an IT aficionado of my acquaintance about the problem I was having getting any games to run on Windows 7. He recommended I downloaded “Steam” – it’s an application on the PC which plays various games. Steam itself is free – you pay for the games. I rather suspect my graphics card might not be up to some of the games, but it plays Worms Reloaded just fine. That’s good enough to be getting on with. It doesn’t have NeverWinter Nights, but it does have Myst. I can vaguely recall hearing good things about that game…