01 February 2007 (Thursday) - Running down the NHS

A few days ago I had a grumble about not having instant access to my G.P. The reason – they are snowed under with people wanting appointments. Most of which are people claiming a recurrence of “the old trouble.” In 99% of cases “the old trouble” is that since husband/wife/mother/cat died/left home/ran-off-with-the-milkman the so-called patients are lonely, and the doctor’s waiting room is a warm place to gossip with similar sad-acts. Take the diagnoses of people attending any Accident & Emergency department on any Christmas Day. No one has broken bones or has any serious immediate injuries. They all have long term non-specific trivial ailments that are a lame excuse to find someone for a bit of company.

This week Radio Four has been running a stunning expose on waste in the NHS. Today it was the waste in the drugs prescribed by the NHS. Did you know that Berkshire (might have been Hampshire- it was somewhere-shire) has a scheme where you take back any unused drugs to the pharmacies rather than putting them in the dustbin. After all, we don’t want that stuff in land fills. Every year they have three tons of prescribed drugs that are returned unused. The reporter this morning was rooting through one of the bins of returned drugs. Unopened packets of painkillers, antibiotics, contraceptive pills, anti-cancers, anti-inflamatories by the score. Dozens of asthma inhalers, never used. All in the bin. All have been prescribed for supposedly sick patients who have not taken them. All subsidised by my taxes. All well past expiry date (so probably useless) and all to be incinerated at more expense.

The pharmacist being interviewed related a tale of a chap who recently returned thirteen dustbin sacks of unused prescribed pharmaceuticals. The chap’s father would regularly go to his G.P., come out with various prescriptions which he would collect and then throw in his shed as he “wouldn’t take that muck”. The cost of those pharmaceuticals (which must run into thousands of pounds) should be recovered from the old fool’s estate!!

It’s fashionable to run down the NHS. But the NHS is in an impossible position. “Free health care for all” is an admirable concept. However I once read a G.P.’s biography in which he claimed that out of every 100 patients he sees 90 get better and 8 die, regardless of what he does.

As a nation we need to decide exactly what we want from the NHS. If it’s someone to go and talk to, there’s plenty of social clubs about. The NHS is pandering to people who fabricate symptoms because they are lonely and just want a chat, and they then refuse to take the treatment offered. Why is the NHS doing this? Because “free health care for all” means it has to!!


02 February 2007 (Friday) - Anticipation

02 February 2007 (Friday) - Anticipationmagnify

As the blog hit counter storms over the six thousand mark, we'll celebrate the plans for tomorrow in song, based loosely on the song "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie"

The beer will flow tomorrow

Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow

I'll be drunk!

Just thinkin' about tomorrow

Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow

'Til I'm drunk!

When I'm stuck a day that's gray, and lonely,

I just stick out my chin and grin, and say, oh!

The beer will flow tomorrow

So ya gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow

Come what may

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya tomorrow!

Dover's always a day to get drunk!

Don’t forget - the train leaves Ashford International at 9.50 a.m.


03 February 2007 (Saturday) - Dover Beer Festival

03 February 2007 (Saturday) - Dover Beer Festivalmagnify

We’ll start off with a link that should set the tone of the day: http://www.weebls-stuff.com/toons/CAMRA/

What can I say? Excellent beer -


Hopdaemon, Kent


A balance of the complex flavours of traditional malt varieties with the richness of Kentish hops to create a strong ruby ale

Dogbolter Winter Porter

Ramsgate, Kent


Strong, dark and handsome

Red Nose Reinbeer

Cotleigh, Somerset


A richly flavoured, deep copper coloured seasonal ale which boasts a smooth long lasting finish with chocolate, toffee and nuts


Rother Valley, E. Sussex


A porter of unsurpassable excellence

I can’t remember

Triple fff, Hampshire


A powerful well balanced stout with chocolate and coffee flavour leading to a dry roasted bitter finish

Russian Stoat

Wessex, Wiltshire


Russian imperial stout: dark, rich and smooth

Auntie Myrtle’s

Mayfields, Hertfodshire


Cheeky little number

The Beast

Ledmill, Derbyshire


Bit vague

Salvage special

Branscombe Vale, Devon


Grinning inanely

Eight of us left Ashford International, and as the beer flowed, things became more and more vague. I made notes to aid the blog entry, but in retrospect the notes are somewhat vague.

Fat > knobjockey > Heathen > Infidel > Pondscum

is one of the more coherent notes of the day. There is mention of a “Fit Bird Recognition SystemTM” which probably (hopefully) refers to the young lady in the red jumper who was playing the flute – my notes do make mention of “nice boobs”, albeit in someone else’s handwriting. However my notes also make mention of “Chip in a boiler suit” and at this drunken remove my notes could equally well refer to the chap playing “Men of Harlech” on the hosepipe – a particularly spectacular rendition to which I vociferously sang along. However I also sang very loudly to “Danny Boy” and “Jerusalem”, and I am told that my rendition of “Delilah” had to be heard to be believed.

My notes also mention that the trumpeter was a “cheeky fellow” (sic), and that Steve (who doesn’t get out much) “can’t chew gum and fart at the same time”, so the reliability of any notes of mine must be questioned.

Apparently between the festival and getting home we watched England kick Scotland’s arse at rugby, and we did Mc Donalds’ too.

There’s some photos of the day in the photo section.

An early blog entry referred to a course I took last year for which I had to keep a diary in order to develop a more reflective personality (!) One of the last entries was my top ten social events of the time period of that diary (September ’05 – July ’06). Dover beer festival featured high on that list. In eleven months or so I’ll do another such list, and I expect that again Dover Beer Festival will again appear toward the top.

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04 February 2007 (Sunday) - Hastings

I feel a bit under the weather today. Can’t imagine why.

After a day in Dover yesterday, we’ve continued the seaside theme with a trip to Hastings. A new monitor, speakers and printer for my nephew. Or that was the plan. The monitor went in OK, but we forgot the ink for the printer, and there’s a minor hiccup with the speakers – Windows doesn’t seem to think he’s got any sound hardware at all. Odd! I shall see if I’ve got a sound card somewhere.

Before coming home we had a stroll along the sea front. There is never anywhere as run-down as a seaside town in the winter and Hastings, never the most up-market of towns, looked positively seedy. Which is a shame. I started my working life on that seafront twenty seven years ago, and remember the many and various businesses which operated in the area in 1980. It used to be alive with activity. Now it’s just all a bit tacky.

Take for example one of the touristy sweetie shops which has a big sign saying they take Euros. And not quite such a big sign saying they take them at one Euro being worth 50p. One Euro is actually currently worth 65p, so they are 15p up on the deal, or overcharging by 30%. You would think that in pulling such a stunt the staff would have something to smile about, but they look as surly and miserable as the traffic wardens that are prowling the free parking areas. The fact that as it’s winter the council doesn’t charge for car parking has obviously upset the traffic wardens. One wonders why they are roaming the streets at all.

I shall go back in a few months and hope it’s improved!


05 February 2007 (Monday) - The End of the World?

05 February 2007 (Monday) - The End of the World?magnify

Whilst I’m writing this entry, one hundred and fifty thousand turkeys are going up in smoke somewhere in Suffolk. As the country craps its collective pants over the threat of the end of the universe (for at least the fiftieth time this week – and it’s only Monday), what danger is actually posed to the average bloke in the street from bird flu?

I don’t know what the danger is, and quite frankly I don’t really care. Bird flu was going to cause the end of the world last year, and it didn’t. Bird flu has had its chance, and blown it. We’ve always had scare stories as long as I can remember. One of my earliest recollections was the worry over the possibilities of the neutron bomb. And then it was the Chinese planning to take over the world, the Russians going to bomb us….. Before bird flu we had mad cow disease which failed to obliterate humanity. The millennium bug was a bit of a disappointment all round. Which was probably for the best as a lot of other worries had been planned for the year 2000.

I remember going to a scientific presentation in Brighton in 1983 (three years after Nostradamus had predicted the end of the world) when the sixth case of A.I.D.S. in the UK had just been diagnosed. The so-called experts speaking that evening predicted that a third of the UK population would be infected with the human immunodeficiency virus by the year 2000. Not necessarily a bad thing as it was common knowledge that by the year 2000, due to global warming, great tracts of the UK would have vanished under rising sea levels.

Last week I gave a talk on malaria, a particularly nasty disease killing over two million people every year. The World Health Organisation is concerned that as global temperatures rise, the mosquitoes that spread malaria will become endemic to more and more parts of the world. Specifically Kent. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1775427.stm Now I’m not saying that there’s nothing in this global warming, but if we get malaria, why would global warming be to blame? After all it’s only the last couple of centuries that we haven’t had malaria on the Romney Marsh. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romney_Marsh#Malaria

Bird flu? It might be forgotten in a week. It might be the actual end of the world. But at the moment it’s just another in a long line of scare stories to sell newspapers.

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06 February 2007 (Tuesday) - More Fun at Cubs

06 February 2007 (Tuesday) - More Fun at Cubsmagnify

Cub Care Day is coming – we make get well cards for patients in the local hospital. Ten years ago “My BoyTM” disgraced himself by drawing a gravestone and the legend “Not Long Now” on his card. But still we persevere. This year we decorated the cards with glitter. I say the cards – one of our young leaders (an ex-cub who can be seen brandishing a sandwich in http://www.thestyleshouse2.freeserve.co.uk/canada2004/4.jpg) decorated my head with glitter in what I can only describe in an utterly unprovoked attack on my totally innocent person (Any tons of glitter covering him or to be found stuffed down his neck is totally nothing to do with me!!!!!)

And then we played a game. Thirty-odd cubs sit along the sides of a room, with their backs against the wall. One cub is in the middle of the room. There is one large sponge ball. Those sitting throw the sponge ball at the one in the middle. When the ball misses, whoever the ball then ends up with throws the ball again at the cub in the middle (who runs about and tries to dodge the ball). When the ball hits the cub in the middle, he then swaps places with the cub who hit him. As the one in the middle runs around, so the ball goes all over the place, and everyone gets a turn at throwing the ball. One rule – those sitting stay in your place and let the ball come to you – no diving for the ball.

I explained the rule, and told our “problem ones” that it is an easy game to play, and there is no need to cry. Simple? You would think so. Our Mega-Spanner would disagree. Two minutes into the game he was crying. I made a point of ignoring him, but after five minutes another cub made a point of telling me about the grizzling, so I had to be seen to do something. The game was stopped. “What’s the matter (this time)?” I asked. “It’s not fair, I want a go” snivelled M-S. So I threw him the ball, which bounced off him. So I retrieved the ball and put it in his hand. “Go on, then” I said. M-S looked around a bit, threw the ball at the girl sitting next to him and carried on crying. I now could continue a game with thirty – plus cubs, or pander to one who seems to cry as little more than a form of attention seeking. So we carried on the game. A few minutes later the ball was deflected gently off of the arm of one of the “secondary spanners” who then started crying. “IT IS A FOAM BALL AND THAT DID NOT HURT!!!!!” I bellowed at this child. Tears stopped as though a switch had been thrown, and he carried on as though nothing had happened.

A somewhat worrying development. If the more problematical ones have taken to crying every time the most trivial event happens or as a form of attention seeking, how will I as a leader know when something serious has actually taken place?


07 February 2007 (Wednesday) - Jealousy

07 February 2007 (Wednesday) - Jealousymagnify

I had a meeting at Chatham today. Driving back along the M2 I saw a huge house. (Not the one pictured above, but not totally dissimilar)

Loads of grounds, space in the garden to fly kites, shoot arrows or ride a horse or two. As well as that, there was still space for a koi lake and a fishing lake. Plenty of space to stage cub camps and even mini-kite festivals. Outhouses I could make into snake-ariums....

And this house wasn’t a one-off. Well, it was. It was pretty unique itself, but there were loads of equally huge, desirable "I-want" type houses that I saw on my journey.

What do these people do that gives them so much money that they can afford such homes? I want to live like that.


08 February 2007 (Thursday) - Fun in the Snow

08 February 2007 (Thursday) - Fun in the Snowmagnify

With the country shivering in the grip of a light dusting of snow millimetres deep I thought I’d leave the car at home this morning. First of all was a trip to the main postal sorting office to collect a parcel. I resent making this journey, especially when the postman leaves the “We tried to deliver a parcel” slip lying on the doormat whilst I’ve been in the house. I’ve often seen them walk half way to the door, write the note and post it without knocking at all. And then there’s the fiasco of actually collecting the parcel. It’s not enough to take the note they left. They want to see birth certificate, driving licence, marriage certificate, I.D., signed affidavits from magistrates, justices of the peace and police. They flatly refuse to hand over the parcel unless you can prove your identity in quadruplicate, and will send you home to get it. Unless of course you’ve brought all that stuff along, and then they laugh at you when you produce it with your “We tried to deliver a parcel” slip and ask why on earth you’ve brought all those documents along.

Then was the bus journey into work. Half a dozen unruly brats running riot in the back half of the bus is all anyone needs in the morning. One of the mouthier brats started haranguing me to find out whether her school had been closed because of the snow. I told her that I neither knew nor cared, but she kept on asking me. After five minutes I told her “yes, your school is open.” She didn’t like that answer, opened one of the windows of the bus and started bellowing the same question at various pedestrians in an attempt to get the answer she wanted (which was presumably “no”). She got off the bus outside a school with lights on inside, and dozens of people walking into the school and vanished into the distance still hollering in desperation to be told the school was closed. I foolishly had hoped that the rest of the bus journey would be somewhat uneventful, but the bloke sitting in front of me felt that the departure of the gobby schoolgirl had left a void that only he could fill. He put away his “newspaper”, and rather than quietly leering at the ample bosom of “Nicola (20) from Croydon” he proceeded to tell the world how cold his feet were. Now were I in his position I would spend less than five seconds imparting the news of the chilliness of my extremities and get back to leering at the ample bosom of “Nicola (20) from Croydon”. However this fellow seemed to think the assembled throng were amnesiac, as he insisted on broadcasting updates on his various bodily temperatures at very annoyingly regular intervals. The entire bus breathed a sigh of relief when his mobile phone rang, but this fellow obviously hasn’t grasped the concept of mobile telecommunications. He seemed quite au-fait with the first premise – that when the thing rings someone wishes to engage him in conversation. However he’s obviously not grasped the crucial part - namely the idea that the mobile phone is a device with which he can conduct that conversation. Instead he bellowed his part of the conversation loud enough so that whoever had called him could hear him without the mobile phone.

It was with a sense of blessed relief that I arrived at work, and as you can probably imagine, I walked home.

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09 February 2007 (Friday) - Star Trek got it Wrong

09 February 2007 (Friday) - Star Trek got it Wrongmagnify

One of the many things I love about Star Trek is the way the characters are developed. And how better to relate to a character than to find out what they do in their spare time. In the future the spare time of starship captains will be occupied thus:

2151: Taking the dog for a walk on alien planets (Captain Archer - Enterprise NX-01)

2265: Having sex with alien bimbos (Captain Kirk – USS Enterprise NCC 1701)

2286: Still having sex with alien bimbos (Captain Kirk – USS Enterprise NCC 1701-A)

2293: Waiting for Tuesday (Captain Harriman - USS Enterprise NCC 1701-B)

2364: Having a cup of tea (Captain Picard - USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D)

2371: Playing baseball in a computer generated virtual environment (Captain Sisko – DS9)

2376: Arguing with Leonardo Da Vinci (Captain Janeway - USS Voyager NCC 74656)

Now, strange as it seems, one of these pastimes is probably not going to happen. And you’ll be surprised which one it is.

Many farmers in southern Italy who for years have grown bergamot are now not doing so. Increasing bureaucracy and red tape from European law makes it not worth their while to grow this small tree famous for its sour citrus fruits, the rinds of which yield an aromatic oil which give that unique taste to Earl Grey Tea. This morning Radio Four had an article about the demise of the entire bergamot crop, and many experts in the “tea field” are predicting that far from being the tea of the future, Earl Grey will become a tea of the past.


10 February 2007 (Saturday) - Other People

10 February 2007 (Saturday) - Other Peoplemagnify

I bought Season One of Battlestar Galactica on eBay this morning. £4.99 with postage at less than two quid. In the forty minutes I spent waiting for my DVD set to reach the end of the auction it only attracted one bidder (me). In the same time period I watched another identical DVD set which was attracting a lot of interest (and bids). When I put in my bid (£4.99) on my boxed set there were already several bids on the other set and it had already reached £11. When my auction ended with me as the only bidder, the other one was up to £15, finally finishing over £20. Why do people do that? Two items, identical in all respects except one has double the postage costs of the other and (with six bids) is three times the price of the other. Which one would YOU bid on?

Flushed with enthusiasm about eBay I then decided to sell my latest raffle prize. We’d had a charity raffle at work and it had been rigged so that I “won” (using the word in its loosest sense) the Jamie Oliver Xmas DVD. Have you tried to sell Jamie Oliver stuff on eBay? You can’t give it away. Literally. There is a Jamie Oliver Xmas DVD on eBay at the moment, it’s been there for the better part of a week, it has a starting bid of 1p and no one’s interested.

And then the morning post brought a letter from the Campaign for Real Ale. Somehow or other I’d left my membership card behind at Dover last week, and someone had taken the trouble to return it to CAMRA head office who then posted it on to me. That was a decent thing for someone to have done – I intend to use that card to get into other beer festivals this year, and their returning it to me will save me quite a bit of money I can now spend on beer. Thank you, whoever you are.


11 February 2007 (Sunday) - Putting Up Shelves

11 February 2007 (Sunday) - Putting Up Shelvesmagnify

Anyone who’s seen my house knows that we have a constant battle forcing the walls back – they keep creeping inwards – there’s never enough space. Today I decided to do something about the DVDs. What is it with DVDs? Why is it that with everyone seeming to be buying nothing else, why isn’t everyone else’s house overflowing with DVDs too? Do people watch them once and bin them? Or keep them in the shed? At a conservative estimate we’ve got far too many.

Having too many DVDs can be a problem. It is quite easy to lose quality programs such as “Upstairs Downstairs”, “Raffles the Gentleman Thief” “Brideshead Revisited”, “Sorry!” and “Roland Rat” in amongst crap such as “Friends”, “Romantic Comedies”, “Chick Flicks” and other such drivel. In order to remedy this problem, ably assisted by “My Boy TM”, I put up another four metres of shelving especially for “Quality Viewing TM”.

How easy it is to type that. Have you been to B&Q on a Sunday? It’s “retard central”. If you think their trolley control is bad, have a look in the car park at the driving. One retard was in the way of our trolley. “Excuse me please” was utterly wasted, as was anything short of actually running him over, at which point the retard apparently woke up with a shock to realise he was in B&Q, and not tucked up asleep in bed. Having fought our way to the shelving department there was a minor hiccup in that whilst they had plenty of the batons that fix to the walls, they only had one bracket that the shelf goes on. We asked a passing assistant who stared blankly at us. It was quite obvious that the fellow had never heard the word “shelving” before in his life, let alone been asked to deal with the stuff in a professional capacity. He did point us in the direction of someone who did know. If ever you’re in Ashford B&Q and a bit unsure of anything, find the older chap with a hearing aid who works there. He’s brilliant – advised us on all that we needed, but he had to admit they’d sold out of shelf brackets.

A trip to Homebase would solve our problem. On the way “My Boy TM” commented that he hoped his mate was on duty in Homebase as he could give us a discount. As you could imagine, making this announcement five minutes after I’d spent thirty quid in B&Q quite made my day. In any event his mate wasn’t on duty. Very few people were, but then very few people seemed to be in Homebase. For all that B&Q was swarming, Homebase seemed deserted.

The journey home was fun. “My Boy TM” wanted us to take his car, and I was quite happy to let him. It’s not until you’re cramped in the front seat precariously balancing planks of wood on your shoulder that you realise you should have taken the Espace. We got the stuff home and unloaded, and then…. My back room isn’t the biggest of rooms, and we had quite a game scaring up enough space to work. But we got it done. Over four metres of shelving for DVDs. And within fifteen minutes of finishing I’d filled the shelves.

There’s now the annoying week or so of waiting for them to fall off the wall before I am confident they will stay put.


12 February 2007 (Monday) - Forty Thousand People

Forty thousand people is a lot. Can you visualise that many? If you were to say “hello” to each of them it would take you eleven hours continuously to do so. Put them in a line and they would reach from my house to Canterbury Cathedral.

Forty thousand long term UK residents stand to lose their unemployment benefit due to proposed government legislation. The “politically correct twats” are up in arms because the government is planning to cut benefits for anyone who meets both the following criteria:

o        Is unemployed because they cannot speak English

o        Refuses to take (free) English lessons.

And there’s forty thousand of them. Can you believe that. Forty thousand people in the UK, on unemployment benefit because their English is so poor they cannot get a job. AND these people are refusing free English lessons.

Apparently cutting benefits for these people is a bad move. Am I missing something here?


13 February 2007 (Tuesday) - Connecting for Health

13 February 2007 (Tuesday) - Connecting for Healthmagnify

Today I went to the computer firm Fujitsu’s offices in Foots Cray. Fujitsu is one of the new NHS “Connecting for Health” programme's main IT suppliers, it holds an £896 million (according to the Internet) contract covering the south of England. Nationally the cost of the project is estimated to run into billions of pounds. As I starting driving (a round trip of about a hundred miles) there was an article on the radio about the “Connecting for Health” national IT scheme – something I’ve been quite involved with for the last month or so.

Andrew Rollerson, from Fujitsu, had voiced concerns that the companies working on the new system would deliver "a camel and not the racehorse that we might try to produce". He was also quoted as saying "What we are trying to do is run an enormous programme with the techniques that we are absolutely familiar with for running small projects. And it isn't working. And it isn't going to work". He apparently said this in a speech to a conference of computer experts last week, which was reported in Computer Weekly magazine.

Yet another total waste of my time? I thought we were beginning to achieve something. If the company feels so negative about the project, then it can only be doomed to failure.

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14 February 2007 (Wednesday) - Well, I laughed

It's been a rather uneventful day so far, so I thought I'd see if my html was up to blagging a video off of youtube. It's a bit on the PG/13 side, but if you like it, there's several more of this theme on youtube. I'll let you guess the key words.

To view this multimedia content, please click here.



15 February 2007 (Thursday) - Traffic

15 February 2007 (Thursday) - Trafficmagnify

One of several reasons why I get to work so early is to avoid the traffic. Coming home is a nightmare. It usually takes some twenty minutes just to drive from the car park to the end of the hospital’s drive. And then another ten minutes to drive the few hundred yards to the motorway junction, and then some three weeks to get across Junction 10. I have walked home from work quicker than it takes to drive on some occasions.

For the last week I’ve got from the car park to the other side of Junction 10 in seconds, with no delays at all. The reason? The traffic lights on Junction 10 have been temporarily switched off whist engineering works proceed. Even with what was once three lanes now reduced to one, the traffic flows whereas once it was gridlocked.

Let’s hope the lights stay off.

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16 February 2007 (Friday) - A-ha

I'm now off work for a week. I deserve a break, and what better way to celebrate than in song. Together with many of "My PosseeTM" I'm a big 80s fan, and that Morten Harkett......


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17 February 2007 (Saturday) - A Day in the Wicked City

17 February 2007 (Saturday) - A Day in the Wicked Citymagnify

The day started early with half a dozen of us blasting off from Ashford International before 9 a.m. – but with a busy day planned an early start was a necessity. The train journey up to London was uneventful – or as uneventful as can be. The non-Eurostar-ers among us managed to get a “bargain super saver” which gave us half price tickets provided we all travelled together. Something that is easier said than done on a crowded train. One of our number (Birthday Boy TM) had to sit a little way up the train and was tackled by the ticket inspector. “Laughing Boy TM” sorted the problem by explaining why our party couldn’t find seats together, and that his story could be verified by “The Fat Bastard TM”. It’s still a matter of conjecture why the ticket inspector immediately came to “Yours Truly” to check the validity of the ticket story.

Charing Cross now has a health food stall. I bought 100g of Brazil nuts – I like Brazil nuts. However if I’d bought chocolate covered ones the same amount would have been thirty pence cheaper. Strange! From Charing Cross it’s a short walk to the Embankment tube station. I had a plan that taking the raised walkway would be somewhat more scenic, despite heckles from the assembled throng who claimed I’d taken a wrong turn. Pah! Fortunately there was a stairway down from the walkway to the station, and I don’t think anyone saw me buying an A-Z of London at the station.

Half a dozen stops along the district line brought us to South Kensington where the plan for the day curled up it’s toes and died. The idea was to spend most of the day in the Victoria & Albert museum. Have you ever been to the V & A? How can I describe it….. We started off in the Europe 1600 – 1800 section. It was on the dull side. Still, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From this, things can only get better. Or so you would think. We then walked through a gallery of statues. Rather pervy statues in which the women’s breasts were all exposed, but incredibly blank and featureless. The men’s choppers, on the other hand, were carved in intricate detail. The highlight of this section was a statue of some alabaster bloke (with detailed willy) bashing seven shades of shit out of another alabaster bloke (with equally detailed willy) with an alabaster sheep’s jaw bone. (That is the jaw bone was alabaster, not the sheep) One would wonder why he would want to do this, but we later learned this isn’t an isolated incident in London. (More of this later…). There had been rumours of an exhibit featuring Kylie Minogue’s underwear, indeed there was such an exhibit, but tickets for this had sold out weeks ago. Instead we tried to console ourselves with the exhibition of dull Persian rugs, but there is a limit to how many dull Persian rugs over which one can become orgasmic. After ten thousand of the things even the keenest cartpet-ophile’s enthusiasm starts to wane. I’m afraid that I took a firm line and refused to go into the “dull bits of broken pots” section. I can only imagine that when Queen Victoria said her famous line (all those years ago) of “We are not amused” she can only have been on a day trip to the Victoria & Albert museum.

If all else fails, there’s always dinosaurs in the natural history museum… or so we thought. A quick trip down the road showed us we’d have to queue for an hour to get into the place, and the queue for the science museum was even worse. It was half term after all. It was clearly time for a re-think. Covent Garden was suggested. I don’t know by whom, but pausing only briefly to send postcards to absent friends we piled onto the Piccadilly line to Covent Garden.

Have you ever been to Covent Garden tube station? No? – You surprise me – it seemed that the entire population of the world was on that tube train to Covent Garden. And when we got to the station we found that there is no escalator. There are four VERY small lifts, and a spiral staircase. To be fair to London transport they do have a sign saying that there’s 197 steps on the staircase, but 197 steps… how hard can that be? Suffice it to say that when I finally reached the top (and I wasn’t last) my heart was pounding and I needed both hands to give “Laughing Boy TM” the V-sign. It was at this stage that we lost our intrepid leader – Matt had vanished to get a bottle of drink. That suited me fine – ten minutes to get my breath back was definitely needed. I’d never been to Covent Garden before. It was great. The street entertainers were very amusing, the market stalls were selling the most weird and wonderful stuff, there was a proper tobacconists selling HUGE cigars (must go back there), it was just a shame that there were more steps there.

By now it was past 1 p.m., and hunger was setting in. “Laughing Boy TM” knew of a cheap Chinese restaurant. Mr Wu is just off Leicester Square, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. £4.95 for all you can eat. And I ate a lot, and went back for second helpings. The view was quite good too – we were in the basement and from my vantage point I could see right down the crevice of a “fit bird TM” ‘s bum. However there is only so much food that can be shoved down a neck, and only so much bum-watching that one can do, and so our happy band moved onwards. The Hagen-Daas shop at Leicester Square seemed a good place to get dessert, but their take-away counter was hard work. For every one paying customer there was half a dozen who were just standing and drooling. After fifteen minutes I finally fought my way through the audience and came out with a couple of quid’s worth of banoffee ice cream which lasted about two minutes.

Onwards to “Forbidden Planet” where we met up with more of our party. Now in their new premises, “Forbidden Planet” enjoys a reputation of being the country’s leading supplier of sci-fi & fantasy books, merchandise, comics, DVDs, etc. I’m not sure it’s a reputation that they deserve any more. Ten years ago they were one of the only places that supplied a lot of the more esoteric collectables, but now in the era of amazon.co.uk and eBay it’s much easier to get the unusual. Forbidden Planet has got some very nice models on display in glass cabinets, and some stuff that is difficult to get elsewhere, but every time I go back to the place they seem to have more and more of the sort of thing I can buy cheaper in any DVD or book shop in Ashford. However negative that may sound, it didn’t stop me wasting over an hour in the place and spending over twenty quid there. “Day of the Triffids” has been on my “DVD wanted” list for some time as have any new books by Jack McDevitt.

It transpired that those who met us at “Forbidden Planet” hadn’t yet had any dinner so we made a quick trip to Pizza Hut. I hung around outside, watching the world go by. For some unexplained reason most of the world here seemed to have a very strange orange skin colouration. Either a weird version of make up or a sun bed accident. I never did decide which it was, but what ever it was; it had affected a lot of people. By now we had just under an hour until the show started, so we hurried to the Virgin megastore in Oxford Street where we had ten minutes for a quick shop. There was a particular Doctor Who DVD I’d seen in “Forbidden Planet” for £19.99 that was up for sale at £8.99. In retrospect I wish I’d bought it.

The allotted ten minutes was soon up, and we rushed to the theatre to meet up with the rest of our party, and nearly twenty of us nearly wet our collective pants at “Avenue Q”. It was every bit as good as the last time we went, and “her out of Torchwood” was an excellent choice of replacement actress for the role of “Christmas Eve”. Without giving any of the plot away, at one point in the show the cast come round the audience pretending to be collecting for a charity. We’d gone prepared for this, and we filled their collection hats with condoms, euros, tampons and a CD Rom labelled “Internet porn for Trekkie Monster”, a move which clearly flummoxed Gary Coleman.

All too soon the show was over, and we wandered down to the Chandos, a Sam Smith pub in Trafalgar Square where the barmaid made a mistake in our favour and only charged me £7.50 for four pints and a coke. The party next to us sang “Happy Birthday” to their birthday girl. Not to be outdone, we sang “Happy Birthday” to our “Birthday Boy TM“ , and I then asked the assembled throng if anyone else had a birthday. It transpired that it was also the birthday of Julia behind us, so we sang “Happy Birthday” to her as well. An entertaining evening of alternately leering at the knickers of the “fit bird TM” to my left and the chest of the “fit bird TM” to my right was suddenly spoiled by a fight breaking out. Some drunk bloke (presumably not with detailed alabaster willy) mounted what I can only describe as a “handbags at dawn attack” on some other drunkard (presumably also not with detailed alabaster willy). Fortunately there were no alabaster sheep’s jaws involved this time, and the only injury was to the security guard who tried to separate them. He slipped in a spilled pint and bashed his head when he fell over. As we left the first drunk bloke was making great show of shaking the hand of the injured security guard.

A quick tea was scoffed in McDonalds whilst we planned the evening. Central to our plans was the times of trains back to Ashford. Whilst some of our number attempted to access the McWireless McConection to surf the appropriate website I proposed what I must admit was a nineteenth century solution to a twenty-first century problem. Why didn’t we walk the fifty yards to the train station and have a look at the timetable? It turned out that we had plenty of time, so a trip to Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus was in order. Now from Charing Cross there are (at least) two ways to get to Piccadilly Circus. “Laughing Boy TM” advocated walking up to Leicester Square and turning left. I was sceptical – from Charing Cross it’s a much shorter distance to go across Trafalgar Square, turn right at the New Zealand embassy and keep going. So we had a race. And I stand by my theory. My way IS shorter. However it takes longer when Trafalgar Square is heaving with celebrations for the Chinese New Year, and you are stuck behind three epic-ly fat women who are so fat they cannot walk, but waddle slowly in such a way as to block not only all the pavement but half the road as well.

Tower Records, like Forbidden Planet, isn’t what it once was. Ten years ago it was one of a very few places where you could get obscure stuff, like Sparks CDs. Now they have been taken over by Virgin. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an excellent place to shop for DVDs, CDs and all sorts of stuff. It’s just not what it once was. But this didn’t stop me spending another twenty quid. I could have spent more. The “Battlestar Galactica” boxed set up for £49.99 in Forbidden Planet was only £12.99 in Tower Records.

The trip home was…… what can I say? I can hardly claim any moral high ground when it comes to drinking to excess and being noisy but I must admit to being a “rittle bit lacist” – I don’t like the Scots. Well, that’s unfair. I expect they are a decent bunch of people. But… if Scotland is so bloody wonderful, why do they live and work in Kent? And don’t the Scots have toilet doors? Our lot seemed to be oblivious to the concept of closing the toilet door before having a piss. Our carriage had three rival bunches of football f*ckwitts, two of whom were deliberately provoking the Scottish bunch. Martin was sent on a mission and found us some seats ten carriages up the train. After twenty minutes of “Och See You Jimmy” the silence of the rest of the train came as a welcome relief. There were other drunks on the train, one chap almost falling over, but they were happy, amiable, quiet drunks. The rest of the journey was spent in uneventful squabbling and pausing only to write a two thousand two hundred word essay rather than a blog entry I went happily off to bed.


18 February 2007 (Sunday) - Dull

18 February 2007 (Sunday) - Dullmagnify

After yesterday’s outing, today’s late start was a bit of an anticlimax. The long term weather forecast had predicted a decent day, but we woke up to a drab overcast morning. We started of in Pissy World hunting for a new intraknobulating contrafibularitor for ‘er indoors’s refurbished PC. The old one’s gone west. Unfortunately Pissy World have this daft scheme whereby they seem to operate their shops and their websites as though they were utterly independent entities, and after wasting half an hour waiting for them to attempt to pricematch their own website they had to admit defeat, and we gave up.

We then went curtain shopping (dull), and then to Wyevale, whose pond section was closed. Which was a shame. The way home was supposed to feature a trip to the garden centre that does home made cider, but they were closed for the winter. After facing similar disappointment in Curry’s and Staples we admitted defeat and went home.

If all else fails, there’s always a quick zoom around NeverWinter. These goblins and orcs need to be kept in line, and if I don’t kill them, who will?

This evening I shall make a start on my new DVDs, and if anyone’s doing nothing in the week, do let me know, and we can do nothing together.


19 February 2007 (Monday) - The Joy of Painting

19 February 2007 (Monday) - The Joy of Paintingmagnify

Over the years I’ve met a few celebrities. The Queen Mother, Princess Di (well, not so much met as they walked past me). George Takei, Avery Brooks, James Doohan (well, not so much met as shouted at them). But I’ve actually met Dave Prowse, Real Musgrave, Elizabeth Sladen, the Poet Laureate, and Rod, Jane & Freddie. (And whilst I’m on the subject Tina nearly ran Tom Baker over and my brother once told TV celebrity angler John Wilson to f… off. )

If I could choose one celebrity to meet…. I’ve left it too late. Bob Ross died twelve years ago. Have you ever watched “The Joy of Painting?” You should ! – It’s on the Discovery Real Time channel every day. In half an hour Bob goes from blank canvas to completed landscape painted in oils. With a dozen basic colours and inch thick emulsion brushes, Bob makes it look so easy – and if he gets it wrong – he doesn’t mind - there are never any mistakes, only “happy accidents”. Bob paints it how he likes and tells the viewer to paint it how they like. “It’s your world” Bob tells us.

As he paints, he chatters on in a gentle reassuring tone, sometimes about the painting technique, but usually about what a wonderful world we live in. He often has “a little critter” stuffed down his shirt – Bob was famous for rescuing injured wildlife, nursing it back to health and releasing the animal back into the wild. He would regularly be on camera with a squirrel looking out of his pocket, or a chipmunk down his sleeve.

For many years I would come home after a night shift and watch Bob before going to bed. I must admit I loved the show but felt that it was in some way a fraud – painting can’t be that easy. After several years I found that there’s “Bob Ross style” art classes locally, and I went on one. I’m not saying it’s *easy*, but I will say it’s not overly difficult. My first painting was done some five years ago. I’ve done loads since. It’s now got so that quite often when visiting friends and family I’ll see one of my paintings adorning their wall. I even sold one once (!)

I hadn’t watched Bob for ages. I watched him today – and then I painted for the first time in ages. I even did it as a web-cast to an audience of one. The result – it’s not very good, but then again, it’s not very bad either. I need to paint more often. The problem is that I drown in paintings. I don’t like to throw them away, so if anyone has a particular colour scheme and wants an original oil painting…..

Oh – and I’m keen to go on another painting class - £45 for the day and you end up with a really good painting (the teacher makes sure of that) – anyone fancy a day out?


20 February 2007 (Tuesday) - The Day of the Triffids

20 February 2007 (Tuesday) - The Day of the Triffidsmagnify

I went up town yesterday to buy one thing. And came home without it. So today I went back. How long has there been an HMV in Ashford? They sneaked that one in whilst I wasn’t looking. And half of Ottaker’s has gone. And the half that is left is now a Waterstone’s. And there’s nearly a Debenhams as well. I must keep more alert – it’s amazing what happens when you’re not paying attention.

The trip would have been quicker if not for…. What is it with epic-ly fat women? Why do they only come in quantities of three or more? Silly question really. The answer is obvious – to block the pavements. As the top speed of their waddle is less than a snail’s pace, the queue of pedestrians behind them grew and grew.

I was rather hoping to do “outside things” today, but as it was raining I sat down to one of the DVDs I got on Saturday. I watched “Day of the Triffids” in a single sitting. Triffids are walking plants, growing over seven feet tall. Provided the sting is regularly pruned, they make popular additions to any garden. They are also a valuable source of a vegetable oil and are grown in huge triffid farms. It turns out that the oil is of better quality if the sting is not docked. Imagine a world where triffids are commonplace, and then a secret military device malfunctions. A cold war satellite designed to blind people by damaging the optic nerve goes off by mistake….

The DVD serial “Day of the Triffids” is very true to the original book. But I can never work out why it’s so famous when John Wyndham wrote so many other better books. Admittedly “The Midwich Cuckoos” is well known, and I suppose, like so many good books, “The Chrysalids” has been killed stone dead by generations of English teachers (mine certainly killed it!). But “Trouble with Lichen” and “Chockyare every bit as good as “Triffids” or “Midwich”, and “The Outward Urge” is better. “Web” is virtually unknown, but would far outshine any horror story, and my personal favourite ”The Kraken Wakes” would make an ideal global-warming-world-in-peril drama.

Oh well…. An hour in NeverWinter and then off to cubs. It’s pancake day today: I wonder how many will be sick.

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21 February 2007 (Wednesday) - Happy Birthday to Me!!!!!

21 February 2007 (Wednesday) - Happy Birthday to Me!!!!!magnify

For some reason I didn't need to set my alarm this morning - I could be sure that Mum would ring at 7.30 a.m. She does this time every year. A quick card opening, a quick brekky and we were off. We paused briefly to collect Matt….

It's a shame that everyone was busy today, as we had a really good day out. Have you ever seen that wonderful series on Sky One - "The Tenth Kingdom"? If not - I've got it on DVD - you should watch it !! The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum is the set used for the filming of the "Peeps' village" from that show. If ever there's a listed building in the way of a motorway in Kent or Sussex, it gets taken down and rebuilt at this museum. It was really good - they had all sorts of buildings there, old schoolhouses, farmhouses, saw mills, a working watermill. It was an excellent outing, and in a novel break with the tradition of the last few years the weather today was glorious - just right for a stomp around the countryside looking at over forty "exzibits TM".

On the way home we thought we'd stop for some food. If anyone knows where the "Dog and Pheasant" in deepest Sussex is, please give it a miss. We went in at 2.59 p.m. looking at the menu as I ordered a round of drinks. As I paid, the barmaid (with a face sour enough to curdle the beer) announced that was our first and last drink as they were closing, and rang the bell. Obviously the twenty-first century hasn't reached them yet. I cannot help but feel that was a very shallow trick on her part - she knew we were looking to eat, but she screwed the price of a round of drinks out of us. She may have made a few pence profit, but she's lost goodwill as I intend to put the word about (!) (disengage rant mode!)

If all else fails there's always the Wimpy at Clackett Lane. Anyone who knows me will realise that I maintain that Clackett Lane is famous for one reason - it is where our satellite navigation system kicks in and starts working. Today was no exception - except this time it started working on the way home. Sat Nav is the biggest con of our modern time - I've never met a system that works. OK - I know that one sucessfully got us to Rye and back for the fireworks a couple of years ago - but if I recall correctly that one had never heard of the Park Farm estate.

Some other birthdays:

·         1875 - Jeanne Calment, longest-lived human on record (d. 1997)

·         1907 - W. H. Auden, English poet

·         1910 - Douglas Bader, British pilot

·         1910 - Eddie Waring, British sports commentator

·         1924 - Robert Mugabe first President of Zimbabwe

·         1933 - Nina Simone, American singer

·         1946 - Tyne Daly, American actress

·         1946 - Alan Rickman, English actor

·         1962 - Vanessa Feltz, British television presenter

·         1986 - Charlotte Church, Welsh singer

And on this day in 1986 Shigechiyo Izumi (Japanese sugarcane farmer) the world's oldest man ever (b. 1865) died


22 February 2007 (Thursday) - NeverWinter Nights

22 February 2007 (Thursday) - NeverWinter Nightsmagnify

Today was supposed to be a fishing trip, but a combination of rain and “My Boy’s Car TM” blowing up meant the day was wasted in NeverWinter.

NeverWinter Nights – what’s that then?” (To quote a good friend’s recent question.)

"Wailing Death" has broken out in the city of Neverwinter. The game starts when you arrive at an academy for training adventurers who have come to assist in discovering the source of the plague and whatever evil may be behind it. Along with the academy's other graduates, you enter the graduation chamber, when a group of mysterious mages and monsters suddenly appears in the academy and begins to attack the students and the instructors……..

About two months later you’ll finish NeverWinter Nights and then you take up a position as an apprentice to the dwarven adventurer Drogan Droganson in the small village of Hilltop. The next adventure begins with a kobold attack on the village. Drogan is left poisoned and barely alive……

Another couple of months can be wasted here before you go into the Underdark. There you are – half a year’s game play for about a tenner. And then you can play them all over again with a different character. You can be good, or evil. As you go round, what choices you make influence how the game proceeds. You can be a human, or an elf, or a gnome. You can be a big brute who goes around bashing things – a fighter or a barbarian. You can be “Magical Trevor” – a wizard or a sorcerer. You can be a sneak thief. You can be an entertainer. You can be a monk, or a druid. You can conjure up animal companions, and have henchmen. You have customisable gear, all sorts of armour, weapons, abilities to use in the snow, the forests, in sailing ships, in cities, in dungeons, in the sewers, in deserts. You have riddles to solve, missing people and things to find, evil baddies to kill….

And that’s not all – with the game software it’s possible to make your own adventures and quests and upload them for other people to play. There’s currently about two thousand free to download at the NeverWinter vault. I’ve got over two hundred downloaded already.

It’s all the fun of Dungeons and Dragons without the tedious farting around with dice. I love it!


23 February 2007 (Friday) - A Good, Old Fashioned, Piss Up (hic !)

23 February 2007 (Friday) - A Good, Old Fashioned, Piss Up (hic !)magnify

Call me a traditionalist, but you can't beat a good old fashioned piss up. About three years ago at Eastbourne beer festival we sampled an ale from the F.I.L.O. The "First In Last Out" (F.I.L.O.) is one of a dying breed - a pub which brews it's own beer on the premises. Since that beer festival in Eastbourne I've been threatening to visit the F.I.L.O. and today (ably assisted by Brian) I did.

The train journey to Hastings was faster than usual - when the train doesn't stop at all the little villages on the way it only takes just over half an hour, and when we arrived, the station had been rebuilt since I was last there. From the station the F.I.L.O. is only a twenty minute walk and the beer… at the risk of appearing to be one of the "Real Ale Twats" I find myself in a dilemma. When next we visit (and we must) if I'm asked to recommend, I really can't choose between their beers.

Gold is a really summery beer, light and tasting of orange, grapefruit and all citrus-y.

Crofter is described by the landlord as their "session beer", and I could drink it all evening.

Cardinal is really dark and thick and chocolaty and treacly and heavy.

Ginger Tom wasn't on, so that's another reason to go back.

I can really recommend going on the beer at mid day mid week - no one else does. Within ten minutes of the start of our session the landlord took us on an impromptu tour of the brewery - fascinating! They get the ingredients from the organic health food shop just down the road. After the second pint it was time for picked eggs and crisps, and after four pints we had dinner there. We were perched at the bar, and could smell all the food being cooked at the kitchen just off the bar area, there was an open fire to keep us warm - it was one of those rare occasions when God really is in his heaven and all is well with the world….

They hold beer festivals there. I'm going back !



24 February 2007 (Saturday) - What was that all about ?

24 February 2007 (Saturday) - What was that all about ?magnify

I though the day would be a strange one when a planned afternoon’s playing with lethal weaponry turned into a concrete mixing session. Thank the Lord for 99p orange buckets from B&Q (!)

And the evening was on the surreal side. Robert (I’ve never fired an arrow in my life, honest!) mentioned to Chip that he’d like a game of poker as he’d never played before and always fancied having a go. An ad-hoc table was rustled up and hustled up (!) Archery, poker….. He’s good. I asked him if he’d ever tried lion taming.

Mind you I learned a lot as the evening progressed. Have you ever noticed that one never sees Bruce Wayne and Batman together, or Clark Kent and Superman at the same time? In the same way have you ever seen Kenneth Williams and Marvin the Martian together? No? Or Andy Z and 1-Rover-1 at the same time? I’m amazed I didn’t spot these years ago. (Mind you I may have the bit about Andy and 1-Rover-1 confused with something else – but there was defiantly talk of Andy having a ”digital arse TM”)

Also (apparently somehow missing celebrity gossip columns) I am reliably (!) assured that C-3PO and R2-D2 have split up, and C-3PO is now co-habiting with 7-Zark-7. One can only speculate as to who has custody of 1-Rover-1.


25 February 2007 (Sunday) - A Game of Cards?

25 February 2007 (Sunday) - A Game of Cards?magnify

Last week a friend suggested that as a fundraiser I could put on a poker tournament in the scout hut one Saturday afternoon. The event would be advertised to the parents and adult friends of the scout group only (strictly no one under 18). Anyone wishing to take part pays an entry fee of £5, half of which goes to the scout group, half of which goes to a pot of prizes for the winners. Say £25 for first place, £15 for second place, £10 for third. The exact sums we can do later. It would work like this:

·         I smile at my poker playing chums (and fellow bloggers) and borrow some tables, cards & chips.

·         We set up four to six poker tables, every player on every table having the same amount of chips. Every table has a written set of rules & a list of which hand outranks other hands.

·         We play for an hour, at the end of which chips are counted, and an “end of round one” score is assigned based on how many chips you’ve gained and lost. (That is to say if you start with $500 in chips and at the end of an hour you’ve got $750, your score is $750-$500=$250. My score would be $500-$500=$0.)

·         After this first hour we have a fag break, and then the winners of each table change table clockwise round the room and the losers change table anticlockwise (so’s you get a game with different people.)

·         Everyone hands back their chips and starts again with the starting amount of chips (so crap players like me get a game!) and we play another hour at the end of which chips are counted, and an “end of round two” score is assigned based on how many chips you’ve gained and lost in this round. This is then combined with your score from round one. (That is to say if in your first game you made a net profit of $500, but in your second game you made a net loss of $300 your score would be $500 - $300 = $200)

·         After this second hour we have another fag break, and then the winners of each table change table clockwise round the room and the losers change table anticlockwise (so’s you get another game with different people.)

·         Again everyone hands back their chips and starts again with the starting amount of chips (so crap players like me get a game!) and we play another hour at the end of which chips are counted, and a final score is calculated. Your final score is your net gain or loss of chips for the afternoon.

·         Prizes are awarded and we all go home.

Those that would like a beer can bring their own, we can bring own snacks, we can put on tea & coffee at 10p a go. I can think of at least twenty people who would probably turn up, and another dozen who may well do (before we even begin to think about parents). As a fundraiser it's going to be better than the average event we put on.
I’ve spoken with the local council who say that as it’s for a charity and it’s a contest with prizes (as opposed to gambling per se) we don’t need a gaming licence.

I posted the idea on a scouting forum, and got my arse soundly kicked. Apparently I’m encouraging gambling. (This from someone who advocated golf for scouts as a youngster may want to become a professional golfer!) I don’t see this. In principle it’s no different to a beetle drive or a bingo evening.

Should I take this one to the scout group executive committee? Does anyone fancy a poker tournament?



26 February 2007 (Monday) - Parental Respect

26 February 2007 (Monday) - Parental Respectmagnify

When I was just a little boy I asked my father "what will I be - will I be handsome?, will I be rich?" Here's what he said to me.....

To be honest I've no idea what he said - I never paid any attention to him. And now all these years later I see it is a father's lot in life to receive such attention. My mother, now. what she said to me could probably best be explained in song:

To view this multimedia content, please click here.

I often wonder if I would have done better in life if I'd listened to her.


27 February 2007 (Tuesday) - SHADDAP!!!!!

Sometimes I need to get a bit of quiet from the cubs. I might want to explain the rules of a game, to give instructions, to see who needs the toilet.. you might think there are a myriad of ways I could achieve a bit of hush. I might shout out "SHADDAP!!!!!", I might stand with my hand in the air, I might sit on the floor. Whatever I do........... it don’t work. Over the last ten years I have tried putting hands in the air, sitting on the floor, shouting out "SHADDAP!!!!!", giving ten minutes "talk time" at the start of the evening...... we've tried everything

Nothing works.

Last week I stood, hand in air for a while, gave up, sat down.... after twenty minutes I tried shouting. Which got quiet UNTIL I started giving instructions at which point all the conversations started again. I bellowed for silence. Which again got some quiet UNTIL I started giving instructions at which point all the conversations started again.
It's not just me - all the leaders in our group get this, and have done over the last ten years.
I am on the point of packing it all in over this. No matter what program we plan, no matter how exciting, adventurous, where we go, what we do, whatever we try, there is absolutely nothing so appealing to them that they will shut up and listen for more than twenty seconds (Twenty seconds is the record so far - I've been timing!).

Tonight little Suzy wanted to tell the pack all that she’d found out about the Chinese New Year. We bellowed at them to listen up, “Suzy’s going to tell you something” we told them. Personally I thought she’d get two seconds at most before the conversations started. She got total silence for five minutes, and at the end of her spiel she got a polite round of applause. I was amazed, and said as much to a fellow leader (who’s not as naïve as I am)

The reason she got quiet was because if anyone dared talk during her bit, she’d punch them in the mouth.


28 February 2007 (Wednesday) - Parental Choice

28 February 2007 (Wednesday) - Parental Choicemagnify

When “The Brats TM” reached secondary school age we had a choice to make. What secondary school would they go to? We shopped around and chose what seemed (at the time) to be the best. Daniel loved his first year there, and so we had no hesitation in sending Katy there as well. Unfortunately her arrival coincided with the arrival of a new head teacher, and the school went straight down the toilet. It’s now got another head teacher and is probably now on the up-and-up.

What was once an excellent school became a rubbish school. In the same way what had been poor schools (when Daniel started secondary school) improved beyond all recognition and were excellent five years later.

If “a customer” gets crap treatment at my place of work and complains, then things are done about the complaint. Immediately. However when I complained about the many and various failings of the school, the responses I received varied from being ignored to being told to f… off. The only way to improve a failing school is through an OFSTED inspection, and how often do they happen? Once a year at most? And what if the inspectors are incompetent, or are fooled by the show put on by the school? If failings are found, how long does it take to improve a school?

The education system is in a state, and today’s news is frankly laughable. There is a national problem in that the good schools are over-subscribed, and no one wants to go to the crap schools. Brighton & Hove council have decided solve the problem by removing parental choice when it comes to where the children go to school, and have decided to allocate many of the children in their area to schools at random. This morning’s news featured a family whose 11 year old daughter was going to travel past four other schools to get to the one to which she’d been allocated.

Surely the fact that certain schools aren’t attracting trade should send a message that there is something wrong with that school, and it needs improving? Why do we tolerate bad schools? If all schools are good, then choice isn’t a problem. If you know you’ll be sending your child to a bad school, then you move house to be next door to the good school, or go private…. if you can afford to.

Didn’t the Prime Minister say something about equality when we last elected him?