01 February 2009 (Sunday) - A Rather Dull Day

01 February 2009 (Sunday) - A Rather Dull Daymagnify

I really hurt today. I blame the cycling – I’m fast coming to the conclusion that I am not one of life’s cyclists.

I had this idea to start doing some gardening today – Dave the Heron has fallen down, and during the week I saw there was grass growing through the mesh under the gravel. But it snowed today, so I stayed indoors and did the ironing instead. Three hours of ironing. I must love it. Socks! – where do they go? I wear the things in coloured pairs so’s pairing them up as they come out of the wash is easier. In this last week I’ve managed to lose four socks. How is that possible?

Last Monday I mentioned that I’d bought the BBC TV series “Survivors” on DVD. Between last night and today I watched the lot in one sitting. That’s the way to watch a series – in one big hit. I’ve always been a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and have the original 70s “Survivors” on DVD. The 08 remake – I’m still not sure about it. There were only half a dozen episodes as opposed to thirty eight, but…. When you’re struggling to survive someone has to make the dinner and gather the firewood whilst the main cast have the adventures. The seventies series conveyed this really well, but this didn’t come over in the most recent remake. And if you are in a brave new anarchy, I can’t help but think that a stately home with glass frontage isn’t the place to set up your headquarters. Me – I’d favour Bodiam or Saltwood Castles. And the lead character – either she’s an integral part of the group, or she’s off looking for her son. Having a character who’s doing both doesn’t work.

I hear there’s a second season being made – I shall see what that pans out like before I dismiss it out of hand…



02 February 2009 (Monday) - The Day The Earth Stood Still

02 February 2009 (Monday) - The Day The Earth Stood Stillmagnify

The weekend’s dose of post-apocalyptic fiction was somewhat prophetic. One might well have thought it was the end of the world today.

Because of the extreme blizzard conditions, there were no trains or buses running in Kent. The entire country again ground to a halt. Nationally one in five people took the day off work because of the weather, and hundreds of schools closed. The girl on night duty phoned at mid day in panic about the horror stories the local radio was broadcasting about the atrocious weather conditions. She was terrified by the prospect of navigating through the arctic conditions of the M20, and had had been led to believe she would be stranded in Ashford for weeks as the glaciers encroached closer and closer. People were clamouring to leave work early as Kentish towns were disappearing under the growing arctic ice caps.

All because of less than two inches of snow. Most of which was washed away with the afternoon’s rain….



03 February 2009 (Tuesday) - Road Works (Or Doesn't)

03 February 2009 (Tuesay) - Road Works (Or Doesn't)magnify

Last Wednesday I mentioned that a large amount of the parking up my road had been cordoned off for “emergency gas repairs”. A week later, and not only is the parking still all cordoned off, no one’s actually started work until today. I can understand that with a quarter of an inch of snow yesterday the world stopped, but that doesn’t explain the lack of action over the previous week.

I phoned the council again. They lived up to their reputation, and denied all knowledge and responsibility. They seem to be rather good at that. They suggested I phoned “Scotia gas” who also denied all knowledge, but phoned back to say that it’s not “emergency gas repairs” but “mains replacement” which will be going on until mid-April. It’s odd that I get all sorts of letters about a ten minute disruption which might affect roads miles away, but I hear absolutely nothing when my own street is effectively closed….


04 February 2009 (Wednesday) - Snow and Sticks

04 February 2009 (Wednesday) - Snow and Sticksmagnify

As the last of the snow melts away, there is uproar over school closures. With less than an inch of snow on Monday, for no adequately explored reason schools all over the county closed for two days. Thus teaching our children a valuable lesson – when the going gets tough, give up. And it also teaches the children that parents are able to drop everything to deal with their trivialities, even if parents risk losing their jobs to do so.

It’s interesting that all the long range weather forecasts and pundits are predicting more heavy snow, but the detailed forecasts give the conditions improving over the next few days. I suppose if they mention every form of weather known to science then they can claim to have been right.

To work, where I got something for nothing. In order to combat the rising tide of computer viruses that are attacking the NHS, I’ve been issued with an encrypted 2Gb memory stick. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that in order to combat computer viruses; some form of anti-virus software would be in order. However I am reliably assured that conventional wisdom is wrong. It would seem that encrypted memory sticks could easily have AVG and Norton in a fight. One lives and learns. I can only assume that sticking the flash drive into the USB socket is somewhat analogous to a vaccine being injected into your arm (or something).

I’m also told that if I lose the thing I will be billed ten quid to replace it. I haven’t the heart to tell anyone I can buy a stick with double the capacity for three quid on eBay….


05 February 2009 (Thursday) - Making Plans

I was up with the lark (probably before the lark) to watch the latest episode of BattleStar Galactica. I realise that this re-made series is supposed to be “gritty”, but the people in it are so dislikeable that I think I’m now rooting for the cylons. At least they are (mostly) foxy.

There’s only two days to go until one of the highlights of the year – Dover Beer Festival. The beer list is available, and as always, there is nothing on it which is less than 5% ABV. I’ve often wondered what “ABV” stands for. From bitter (!) experience, I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that ABV means A Bit Vicious.

I’m a bit vague as to who is going – I’ve emailed eighteen people and have had three replies. Still, hoping for the best, here’s a provisional itinerary – catch the 09.57 train from Ashford International to Dover Priory where hopefully we’ll meet up with the Chatham and Dover contingent and arrive shortly after opening time. It costs two quid to get in, the souvenir glass is three quid and beer is two-fifty per pint. There is a cider for those who like that sort of thing. Bearing in mind the shambles that was last year’s trip I would suggest that we limit ourselves to just a couple of pints and then more on to Blakes or even Chambers Bar in Folkestone.

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06 February 2009 (February) - An Old Theory, A New Pet

06 February 2009 (February) - An Old Theory, A New Petmagnify

In my more lucid moments I am a Chartered Scientist…..

There is a physical limit as to how big animals can get. This limit is imposed by several factors, For land animals in warm climates, heat exchange is important. Warm blooded animals need to be able to lose heat quickly so that they do not cook from inside. Which is why you get polar bears at the north pole and humming birds at the equator.

So-called "cold blooded" animals are different. They do not generate their own heat – they gain it from their surroundings. Which is why my Koi aren’t doing much at the moment. For larger cold blooded animals there is a definite time delay between an animal basking in the sunshine and the heat warming the deep body core. The larger the animal, the longer the time delay. Which is why you get lizards and grass snakes in the UK, but no crocodiles.

Science has discovered fossils of the Titan Boa. An epic snake which lived some sixty million years ago. The piccie above features vertebrae from a titan boa and a seven metre long anaconda. Measuring up at fifteen metres long and weighing over a ton, global temperatures would have to have been on average 6oC hotter than they are now for such an animal to be able to warm itself sufficiently to be able to function. So much for global warming…..

But more importantly, I wonder if I could convince er indoors TM to let me keep one as a pet?



07 February 2009 (Saturday) - Dover Beer Festival

07 February 2009 (Saturday) - Dover Beer Festivalmagnify

Six of us met up at Ashford International train station and set off for Dover. Meeting up with two more en route, we settled down for a booze up. Dover Beer Festival has been running for sixteen years, and I’ve been to eight of them. Whilst it’s always been in my year’s top ten events, in the past it’s not been so much a “fun” event as an “ordeal”. I’ve rescued members of our party from the toilets, I’ve fallen asleep, I’ve lost hours. And now I’ve finally worked out the secret of the event. It’s somewhere you visit – not somewhere you stay.

With no beer being less than 5% ABV, I made a point of choosing beers which were as low in ABV as possible. We had a mini-feast, we had a good laugh, but after the fifth half I felt myself flagging. And I said as much to the assembled throng. Who also felt the same. So, after less than two hours at the festival, we moved on to places with beer that isn’t silly strength. Whilst trading in my unused tokens I chatted with the people behind the counter. It would seem that my experiences of Dover aren’t unique. Attendees at Dover Beer Festival would seem to fall into two camps: there are those who inadvertently drink themselves silly, and there are those who have two pints and go home. When I suggested that they had lighter beers next time, I obviously hit a nerve. One chap started a rant about how Dover Beer Festival was all about strong beers, whilst another started a rant about how more people would come if they felt they wouldn’t fall over after a couple of pints. I wonder how next year’s event will pan out.

From the festival we wandered round to Blakes bar – it’s the sort of place that you’d walk right past if you didn’t know it was there. In the basement bar there are some of the most obscure ales, and three beers straight from the barrel. It’s a wonderful place to drink – the only drawback is that the people behind the bar know it. Perhaps I’m being over-sensitive, but I wasn’t impressed by the condescending attitude of the staff. What might possibly have rated a score of 9/10 was lucky to score 7/10. From here we made our way (via a roadside café and a train) to Folkestone for an afternoon’s pub crawling. With more high-scoring pubs than any other town, Folkestone is now (in my humble (!) opinion) the place to go for a crafty pint.

Firstly to the Ship on the harbour. An odd pub – for no apparent reason, it seems to be absolutely heaving. We enjoyed a swift pint of London Pride, and then went round the corner to what I can only describe as “Heaven on Earth

The Lifeboat is somewhere of which I’d heard good reports, but was closed the last time I visited. It was open today. Five hand pumps were in operation, all with rather obscure ales. As we walked in I thought it odd that absolutely everyone was eating a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese. As I ordered our beers, the landlady asked if we too would like a dish of spaghetti. A complimentary dish – on the house – free !! With unusual beers and free food, I’m going to score the place 8/10 with the proviso that I will visit again soon with the intention of upgrading the place to 9/10.

And then from the harbour, everywhere is up. The Old High Street is particularly steep, and it took some serious self-discipline to walk past the Guildhall and the British Lion (both 8/10 pubs). But we left them behind and popped into the Chambers for the last beer in Folkestone. A pint of Dogbolter slipped down very well, and all too soon it was time to get the train back home. Whilst we waited for the overdue train we amused ourselves by provoking the OAP brigade who couldn’t remember the casts of various 60s TV series, and by laughing at the drunk woman who was trying to pick a fight with the Transport Police.

Pausing only briefly for a quick drop of mild from the Riverside, I was home before 9pm – and for the first time in eight years of going to Dover Beer Festival, still conscious of what was going on around me. Same time next year….


08 February 2009 (Sunday) - Whitstable, Stamps, and an ebay Sale

08 February 2009 (Sunday) - Whitstable, Stamps, and an ebay Salemagnify

Up early, and to Whitstable for a wander around the sea front. It was a bit nippy, but I like Whitstable sea front. A walk of a mile along to the yachting club, and then back again was enough for today. When it’s warmer I plan to go all the way up to Herne Bay and back again, but that’s for the future. On the way back to the car we thought we’d stop off for a crafty half in the Hotel Continental, but they would seem to have banned push chairs. Oh well – it’s their loss. Instead we went down to the harbour where the Whitstable Brewery have their bar, and had a pint of the Oyster Stout. At only 4.5% ABV, it was not only far lighter than anything that was on offer at yesterday’s beer festival, but also was far superior to most of the stuff I tried there. If only the Whitstable people wouldn’t serve it ice cold on gas flow.

On the way home I popped into the co-op for some stamps. One book of stamps for me to put on the letters I’m sending. And one book to send in to the chokey as I’m told that stamps are the only thing I’m allowed to send in. So I asked the clueless dimbo behind the counter for two books of stamps. Now I wouldn’t have thought that selling two books of stamps was that arduous, but the clueless dimbo obviously thought it was. She patiently explained that If I would wait for ten minutes whilst she served everyone else, she would go into the stock room and get me one big book rather than two small books. When I said that I actually wanted two small books she looked at me as though I was some sort of weirdo. She then asked me slowly and loudly if I wanted two small books of stamps rather than one large one, and when I said that I did, she rolled her eyes, took my money, and then made three attempts to count out two books of stamps before getting it right. Now I realise that by having a degree in the subject, I do have a head start on most things mathematical. But how difficult is it to count to two?

And then home to meet “tidy steve” – having won my “old” bike on eBay, he came to pick it up. As he handed over the cash he mentioned he’s already got one like it, and wanted another for spare parts. It seems a shame that something all but brand new is destined to be spare parts, but such is life.

And then to Yahoo 360 where I had a friend request. “Sarah H” wants to be my friend. Or so she claimed. It didn’t take many clicks to find that she was a very thinly disguised pornmonger. Perhaps I should blab on her to the management of Yahoo 360……


09 February 2009 (Monday) - Reflections on a Beer Festival

09 February 2009 (Monday) - Reflections on a Beer Festivalmagnify

Following on from Dover Beer Festival, I emailed the organiser yesterday and said:


A group of about half a dozen of us came to yesterday’s beer festival (for our eighth year running). A good time was had by all – could I ask you to convey our thanks and gratitude for all the hard work by all concerned.

If I might be so bold – might I make an observation….. The size of the contingent I come with has been shrinking over the years – one of the reasons being that people feel that with a minimum beer strength of 5%, it’s too heavy for them, Certainly this year we only stayed for an hour before reaching saturation.

Might those in charge consider one or two of the not-so-strong winter brews for next year :o)

All the best

I didn’t expect to get a reply, but one came this evening:

Thanks for your kind comments.

When we started the Festival of Winter Ales all those years ago, no-one had issued a definition of a winter ale, so we had to invent one. At a Branch Meeting at the time it was decided that a winter ale must be one of not less than 5%, hence the strength of beers at our festival. Bearing in mind the queues waiting to get in on the Friday evening, the formula seems to work and I'm sure that we had as many people in as we have had on previous years. By the time that we finished early on Saturday evening all that was left were a trio of very tilted casks out of about 76. I think that if I proposed lowering the strength of some of the beers I would get the response, "if it's not broken, don't mend it!"


Oh well…. I take his point, but for myself I think that in future I will be tackling Dover Beer Festival in much the same way that I did this year – stay for a couple of pints (at most) before moving on.

I find myself being rather reflective about the entire concept of beer festivals. Why do I go to them? – Why do I do anything these days – because it’s a fun social event. The beer is an added bonus. A good bonus, admittedly but (within reason) good beer is becoming increasingly more common these days, as we found on Saturday. There is no need to stay where the beer is an ordeal, rather than a pleasure. (As is the case at Dover). In the same vein, following the relocation of the Woodchurch Beer Festival to Tenterden, that whole event may well get scratched from my annual calendar – I see little point in trekking for hours on uncomfortable buses to the most inaccessible of places. After all, I went to the Beer Festival at Crabble Mill once, and haven’t been back since for that very reason.

A few of the better local pubs have their own beer festivals over the year. Including the Chambers, the FILO, the World’s Wonder & the Red Lion. Perhaps they might be better days out than formally organised CAMRA events…..



10 February 2009 (Tuesday) - Demons and Angels

10 February 2009 (Tuesday) - Demons and Angelsmagnify

Whilst walking home this evening, some little shit attempted to slap me as it ran past. Once it was ten yards up the road the little sod picked up a stone and threw it at me. I wasn’t standing for that – I bellowed “RUN, CHILD, RUN !!! and sprinted a few steps in the brat’s direction. The brat screamed, and ran off up the road. As I turned and continued walking home, I heard the screech of brakes from up the road behind me. I looked round, and was sad to see the brat had not been flattened, but was still running off. Scum like that roams free, whilst decent people are locked up. Speaking of which…

A letter from the chokey arrived today. “LukeWarm” seems… if not in good spirits, he certainly seems better than I imagine I would be in his position. He says that this is the second letter he’s sent me – I can’t help but wonder what happened to the first. Mind you, this letter is dated five days ago, and apparently it can take two weeks to get outgoing mail through the prison censor.

He says that in thirteen days of being inside, three of those days have been spent entirely in the cell – for no apparent reason the “association time” for those days was cancelled. He’s been to the shop – and has come away with fags, twix and fizz. He’s had to buy his own toothpaste, tea and sugar. And stamps – he used his last one in writing to me and says I should be honoured. He also says that bearing in mind how long it takes to send letters out, we would be better off sending in second class stamps. Also when we come round to visiting, it seems he only gets a limited amount of visits per month, and a weekend visit uses up double the allocation that a midweek visit would. So midweek visits would seem to be the order of the day.

In the letter I sent I suggested we could decorate his kitchen – he seems quite happy with the idea. Perhaps that’s a project for later in the year?


11 February 2009 (Wednesday) - News, Telly, Another Letter

11 February 2009 (Wednesday) - News, Telly, Another Lettermagnify

As the country plunges deeper into recession, two million quid of public money is to be wasted on a concrete horse. It would seem this is art, and will be something to look at for passengers alighting from the international trains coming into Ebbsfleet. One cannot help but wonder what is so special about Ebbsfleet – the skanky wasteland behind what was once B&Q has done fine for years for people getting off at Ashford International.

I see that the BBC is to re-make the classic sci-fi tale “Day of the Triffids”. Following on from the original novel in 1951 there was a film made in 1962, and a BBC six-part miniseries in the early eighties. I suppose we must be due a re-make. Whilst the Beeb is at it, perhaps they might like to re-do another favourite of mine – the tale of the mutiny on HMAV Bounty hasn’t had any new TV done since 1984. What with Survivors looking for a second series in its new incarnation, and Battlestar Galactica Mark II on it’s fourth series, to say nothing of Red Dwarf coming back - re-imaging is the name of the game. With only one click on Google you’ll see that other TV favourites being resurrected include Friday 13th, The Prisoner and the Three Stooges. I wonder if the whole TV/film genre has reached the point where there are truly no more new ideas – all they can do is re-hash what’s been done before.

And yesterday I received the second letter to be sent from the prison. Today the first arrived. Such is the wonders of the postal system….


12 February 2009 (Thursday) - eBay, Tescos, Troosers

12 February 2009 (Thursday) - eBay, Tescos, Troosersmagnify

Bearing in mind the fun I had watching my bike sell on eBay, I thought I’d flog something else. At the beer festival last Saturday I won a rather rubbish set of booklets. Well, I say “rather rubbish” – they are in good condition, but of absolutely no interest to me whatsoever. So I’ve put them up on eBay with a starting price of 1p. Partly in order to recycle, partly for the fun of the auction, and partly to knock my eBay number over the 500 mark. I’ve currently got a blue star which will go red when my number gets above 500. It’s currently at 497. After only a few hours, the booklets have got an opening bid of 1p, and there is someone else watching the auction. This could be a moneyspinner.

To Tesco’s for some supplies. The place was full of pensioners staring into space. Not moving round shopping, or looking at what was for sale, but just standing around, staring blankly into space. It must be wonderful to have that amount of spare time.

As I got back into the car to go to work I heard a ripping sound – the gusset of my trousers had given way under the strain. Have you ever gone about your daily round with your gusset in utter disarray? I found out that it is possible to do so, but it takes some concentration. Perhaps I’d better buy some new troosers tomorrow….




13 February 2009 (Friday) - Matalan, Anthea, Need I Say More....

13 February 2009 (Friday) - Matalan, Anthea, Need I Say More....magnify

The bidding on the bargain on eBay remains constant at 1p. Bearing in mind my trooser disaster yesterday, I was round to Matalan this morning. The journey was quite disappointing. Last night was really scenic with snow everywhere. This morning the streets were awash with grey slush.

I wonder if Matalans are guilty of discrimination? – The ladies wear section takes up 80% of the store, with children’s clobber being a further 10%. The household appurtenances account for just under 10%, leaving very little space for menswear. And that which they did have….. When one considers how the various media are claiming that obesity is becoming the number one health problem in the UK, you would have thought there would have been a growth industry in catering to the more rotund gentleman.

On the plus side, Anthea Turner (woof!!) was flogging Matalan’s household goods. I say “flogging” – there was a big poster of her looking foxy next to some plates. I suspect that in reality she is slobbing about in Surrey somewhere, raking in the profit. Earlier in the week I ranted about there not being anything original on telly – perhaps they should bring her back. I’d certainly start paying the licence fee again (!)

Also earlier in the week I mentioned I’d had two letters from HMP Slade. Today a third letter arrived. Things aren’t peachy in the chokey, but then I suppose no one would expect them to be…


14 February 2009 (Saturday) - Rolvenden

14 February 2009 (Saturday) - Rolvendenmagnify

The bidding on the bargain on eBay has stampeded over the pound mark. Who would have believed it? I suppose I should have been cycling today, but my back’s giving me gip. It’s got better as the day’s gone on, but earlier there was a lump that felt as though I’d swallowed a cricket ball. Probably muscular, I expect.

A gaggle of us set off for unexplored territory – the Ewe & Lamb in Rolvenden Layne. Three ales on, excellent food, saucy pictures in the toilets, and the menu…… They listed baguettes or pasta dishes (ask for details), and when you asked, the choice was so wide you could pretty much have whatever you wanted. Me – I plumped for chicken goujons because it sounded rather risqué. It came with a delicious vegetable garnish which only a total dimbo would mistake for a salad. It was the best pub meal I’ve had for a long time. And I’ve had a LOT of pub meals. The soup looked good, as did the pasta and the baguettes (both prawn and chicken) – and they were only starters. I’d like to go back there for a main course. My only criticism of the place was that maybe they could have featured an ale from a local brewery such as Goachers or Rother Valley.

Shopping – the reason I’d chosen Rolvenden was that we would be close to the fish pond shop. Following my experiences of last year, I need to replace the fluorescent tube yearly, and whilst we were there I drooled over some of the water features. I’ve possibly convinced Brian that he needs one. We wandered around the display ponds at the back, and an entertaining five minutes was spent dropping lumps of ice down each other’s necks.

As the traffic in Tenterden on the way down was bumper-to-bumper, we took a scenic detour home via Frittenden. I had this plan to pop into the Bell and Jorrocks for pudding, but the place was heaving with people watching the rugby match, so we came home via the Flying Horse in Smarden for a raspberry pavlova, and a drop of “Heartwarmer” - a special beer for the day from Shepherd Neame.

I learned something today - if you should ever be forced by a robber to withdraw money from an ATM machine, you can notify the police by entering your PIN in reverse. For example, if your pin number is 1234, then you would put in 4321. The ATM system recognizes that your PIN number is backwards from the ATM card you placed in the machine. You still get your money out, and presumably the robber makes off with it, but unknown to the robber, the police will be immediately dispatched to the location. Form my experiences with the law, I wouldn’t hold my breath. I’ve no idea if it works or not, but should you find yourself in such a predicament, give it a go and tell me what happens.

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15 February 2009 (Sunday) - Stuff

15 February 2009 (Sunday) - Stuffmagnify

The top bid on the bargain on eBay remains constant. I can’t see it going much higher, but you never know.

I was up far too early this morning – due to offspring “being quiet”. Probably just as well – I needed to get the new light I bought yesterday into the fish pond filter. I’m not sure the lid on the filter is seated quite right – I hope it will be OK – those things are seventy quid to replace. I then spent ten minutes pulling grass out of the gravelled areas, and another ten minutes cutting back the jungle growing over the top of the fence from next door. The plan was to paint the trellis next, but with a total absence of paint brushes, that idea had had to be put on hold till the afternoon.

Shopping – to HMV to get the latest season of Battlestar Galactica in DVD – I really can’t watch a series at one episode per week. I need to see the lot on one hit. And Sky TV have been saying that you can buy the complete season 4 DVD set. “Complete” – pah! It’s the complete first half of the fourth season. Complete as in “up to four episodes ago”. Ho Hum…. Still, one good thing came from the visit to HMV – a free headache to every customer. With the musak switched to deafening level I won’t be going back in a hurry.

er indoors TM wanted to upgrade her phone, so a trip to the 3 shop was next. Whilst she fannied around with comparing the various advantages of the Satsuma ZV5 over the Klamikaze XL5, I found that I was entitled to a free upgrade. So I employed my two criteria to select my next mobile – firstly does it make phone calls, and secondly has it got a good camera. I settled on an LG Renoir with 3-inch WQVGA, a 8 Megapixel Camera, Touch Shot, Creative Shot Modes, Dolby Mobile, DivX/Xvid Playback, A-GPS/Jogging Buddy, the latest 3G Networks/ and Wi-Fi. Sounds good, doesn’t it? – I wonder what it all means? It was a shame that they didn’t have any of those in stock. I’ll go back in a few days.

And then to WyeVale – The Xmas before last my brother gave me some WyeVale vouchers for a pressie. I thought I’d better get them used up before they expire, so bearing in mind we’re approaching the fence painting season I bought a fence sprayer. Pausing only briefly in Tesco’s to get some paint brushes we were soon home again where I spent two hours doing the trellis. I got maybe a quarter of the job done before the novelty wore off. But once the trellis is done, the rest can be sprayed in a fraction of the time…..


16 February 2009 (Monday) - An Early Start

16 February 2009 (Monday) - An Early Startmagnify

Despite two watchers and thirty-one page views, the top bid on the bargain on eBay remains constant. I really can’t see it going much higher, but I live in hope.

My Boy TM” was on an early start today, and was “quietly” creeping around the house at the crack of dawn. So I found myself wide awake at half past five, and was busy ironing shirts by six a.m. I had the choice of doing the ironing or laying in bed listening to his racket, thinking that I really should iron some shirts. I personally think his late starts are better. I prefer him “being quiet” when he comes home at midnight rather than “being quiet” when he gets up with the lark.

To work, where it would seem that I am the only one who knows the difference between a Gorp and a Dogran. I was told that by knowing the difference I was merely showing my age. Charming !

A committee meeting - fortunately thanks to the miracle of hyperspace laser relays the committee of the astronomy club knew all about Argonds. As Treasurer, my report was short and succinct. We’re skint. But having said that, I don’t see that the club needs a mega-bank balance. We’ve got a decent club telescope and insured it. We’ve paid for the rental for a venue for the year. All we need is to cover the cost of refreshments. I love committee meetings of any sort, shape or form – purely because I get to pass a motion (!). (The old ones are the best.)

I wonder if we can see Arg through the club telescope….


17 February 2009 (Tuesday) - The News

17 February 2009 (Tuesday) - The Newsmagnify

Two days left for the bargain on eBay – I think the bidding has peaked.

A sad indictment of our society – not only are we allowing twelve year olds to become parents, we are subsidising them to do so. “Subsidising”…. a bad choice of word. What I actually mean is “paying for the lot”. When the brat was interviewed, it became crystal clear that he had no way to support the baby. But then, what four feet tall thirteen year old does?

And because (despite the country being in the worst recession ever) it’s money for nothing, all the brats in the neighbourhood are claiming paternity in order to jump on the bandwagon. Even having claimed to have podgered the young mother is enough to get lucrative TV and media contracts. And the putative father is embroiled in such a deal to televise the opening of the paternity test. It’s a shame that the NHS and councils won’t pay for such testing – don’t they realise how their meanness is undermining a very lucrative money-making scheme?

Meanwhile HMS Vanguard, a British submarine carrying sixteen nuclear missiles pranged into a French submarine which was equally well armed. It would seem both were running in “stealth mode”. These submarines cost four billion quid each. I wonder how much more it would have cost to put a porthole at the front of the things. It would have been something out of which someone could have taken a peek. Perhaps if we weren’t wasting our money on making a media circus from pregnant children we could have submarines that could see where they were going.

I can understand why the admiral looks so miserable….


18 February 2009 (Wednesday) - A Trip down Memory Lane

18 February 2009 (Wednesday) - A Trip down Memory Lanemagnify

One day left for the bargain on eBay – I’ll wrap it up later.

A blast from the past on Facebook – there’s a group about my old primary school. It doesn’t look to have changed an awful lot since my day. They say that schooldays are the happiest days of your lives. They might have been for some – I remember a fair degree of misery mixed in with the halcyon days at Red Lake Primary School. I also remember Melissa Billings (aged eight) dropping her drawers and tiddling on the classroom floor. I wonder where she is today?

And that’s about it for today. Some days there’s a lot that goes on in my life, other days not so. I have been led to believe that there is a ancient Chinese curse which goes along the lines of “may you live in interesting times”, so today I shall count my blessings…



19 February 2009 (Thursday) - Cartoons

19 February 2009 (Thursday) - Cartoonsmagnify

eBay raked in £1.45. Not bad for something that was destined for the dustbin – let’s hope the winner is happy with it.

Work was rather dull – the day was spent mostly discussing the relating pugnatorial skills of Dogtanian and Willy Fog. I took the line that Dogtanian is a double-hard sword wielding trainee muske-hound in the company of fully accredited fighting men (dogs) and therefore would be bound to win in a fight. Whereas Willy Fog can only be described as being “a duckie who is good with colours”, to say nothing of the fact that his “companion” is often seen dancing in the company of sailors. Therefore seeing as it is established that Willy Fog “bowls from the pavilion end” he would lose in a punch up.

To counter this argument a colleague (from Herne Bay) posited that Dogtanian is a naive inexperienced child whereas Willy Fog is a lion who could dismember and eat Dogtanian. To settle the argument it was necessary to turn to the Internet. Facebook fan clubs to be precise. Willy Fog – 123 fans. Dogtanian – 1296 fans. I think that’s rather conclusive….

To the scout hut for a committee meeting. It’s amazing how much I miss the place and the leaders. There were one or two ex-cubs there with parents – I was pleased to see them, but I still don’t think I could go back. The committee meeting was interesting - it transpires that over the years the council has been waiving the council tax payable on the scout hut. But with the current recession that may well stop. A couple of the older ones are going on a working holiday to the Congo to help with a gorilla conservation project. They’ve asked if the group would pay for their vaccinations. A reasonable request – even if the cost of the jabs is nearly a thousand quid. But then the scout group’s not short of cash. Also the building’s had a re-wiring, but some of the masonry is crumbling. It’s getting old. Aren’t we all…..


20 February 2009 (Friday) - Flapjacks

20 February 2009 (Friday) - Flapjacksmagnify

To Tesco’s to get cakes for everyone at work. Rather than going to the one in Park Farm, I tried the Crooksfoot Tesco’s. Mainly because they open before 8am. A big mistake on my part. The shelf fillers were at work in all parts of the store, and it was made quite clear that customers were very much in the way. I spent nearly twenty quid of my money on cakes, and took them to work, only to find that one of them has been hermetically sealed with a piece of string embedded in the thing. I was going to write to them to complain about the attitude of the staff. I shall send them the flapjack in question too. I wonder what response I’ll get.

I see from the news that perhaps I’m not going mad after all. “Experts” are giving credence to a big cat sighting – a couple of yeas ago I saw what I thought was a big (panther-sized) cat in a field in Hawkhurst. And only last year I was convinced that I saw a wallaby in Smarden.

The pink elephants however are firmly in the realms of fiction, as is Atlantis. It would seem that claims that Google Maps have found the legendary lost city are mistaken. I could have told them that. Altantis is actually at the bottom of a pond not far from my house – one of the cubs once told me….

And now a week’s holiday starts. This will be the longest holiday I’ve had from work for nearly a year. I always have a week off in February. Hopefully I’ll get the fence painted with the power sprayer. A bike ride would be fun, and maybe I’ll even have a couple of crafty pints. Plans to visit the prison next Wednesday have had to be abandoned, but I’m reliably informed that we are re-scheduling.

And for no apparent reason, I, my family and my friends have all been summarily thrown off of a certain person’s Facebook list. I suppose it was inevitable really….


21 February 2009 (Saturday) - Happy Birthday To Me !!!

21 February 2009 (Saturday) - Happy Birthday To Me !!!magnify

A decent haul of birthday prezzies with DVDs featuring Laurel & Hardy, Doctor Who and Abba, to say nothing of lego and a few bottles of beer. Two hours were spent on the fence, then off to the wicked city. It’s become something of a tradition that me & Matt have joint birthday bashes, seeing as how close together we were born (ten years & two days apart), and today was our combined eightieth birthday.

The plan was to meet up on the train—the Folkestone based contingent missed the train, but took the later one and met up with us in the queue for the London Dungeon. We queued for over an hour, so James had time to catch up. I’d not been to the Dungeon for thirty years, so didn’t know what to expect. It was great – really dark and spooky with actors leading us from one bit to the next, and shouting at us all the way. Areas featured mock-ups of dungeons, courtrooms (where Bernie was put on trial for horse-molesting), torture chambers, Sweeny Todd’s barber shop and a “Jack the Ripper” experience. It was great – we seemed to be in there for ages. Fortunately er indoors TM had some half-price tickets – although the show was good, I would have begrudged paying twenty quid each to get in.

From there we walked through London to meet Lisa at Leicester Square. I’ve always found the London streets somewhat depressing – concrete as far as the eye can see – no greenery anywhere. But the London Eye and the Thames looked impressive in the dark, and we got mooned from a stretch limo. How cool was that ?!?!

We eventually found our way to Pizza Hut where Lisa had been queuing for us for ages and so with a minimal wait on my part we were seated really quickly. Our waiter was really good - an excellent scoff was had by all, and then we were on to the shopping. A quick nosey round HMV, and a long nosey round the Trocodero was fun. I managed not to spend anything – there were lots of good things I could have bought, but all would be cheaper on eBay. And then through Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden to find a pub.

The Harp is somewhere I’ve been meaning to visit for ages. It is one of those “Holy Grails” for the ale drinker. Unfortunately, very few things in life live up to their reputation, and this pub isn’t one of them. In their favour they had six hand pumps, all serving different ales. Six – I’ve never seen that many before. They offered tasters, so I sampled the three beers I’d never heard of before. All in exceptional condition. The decor was really good, but the place is a victim of its own success. Whilst a good twenty metres long, it can’t be more than three metres wide at most – and that includes the space taken up by the bar. There isn’t room to move, and it was heaving. And hot. Far too hot. There was a small upstairs room where we found a table, but the stairs were a tad steep, and none of us fancied the fight back to the bar for a second pint.

Luckily the Harp is really close to Charing Cross, so it wasn’t far to go to get a train. A quick zoom round the Newsagents and we were soon all on the 10.30pm train home.

A really good birthday – must do it again sometime….


22 February 2009 (Sunday) - Painting the Fence

22 February 2009 (Sunday) - Painting the Fencemagnify

As my blog storms over nine hundred entries, it strikes me that perhaps the “hit counter” is broke. The page views counter says that in the last seven days my blog hasn’t been viewed by anyone. Now I know that’s not right, as people have mentioned things about it to me over the last few days. Perhaps I should email the nice people at Yahoo 360?

Last Sunday I bought a fence sprayer. Today I tried the thing out. It is somewhat reminiscent of a pub I visited yesterday. In my blog I said about The Harp at Covent Gardenvery few things in life live up to their reputation, and this pub isn’t one of them”. Must the same could be said about my fence sprayer (except that it’s not a pub). To be blunt, the advert lied. In two ways. First off the implication is that you walk along squirting the fence and then you can shove off and get on with your life. And secondly in that the stuff lasts for five years. Whilst the stuff goes on quickly, it doesn’t give a very even coating. Having sprayed the fence, you need to go over it with a paintbrush to even it all out. And as anyone who’s looked at my fences over the years will have seen, the stuff with the five year guarantee looks rather threadbare after only one year. And the sprayable stuff is thinner than the regular jollop.

Now I’m not saying the fence sprayer is rubbish. Far from it. I know that from bitter experience that with a paintbrush I can paint one large fence panel in an hour and a quarter. Together with my assistant we painted more than three quarters of the fence in four hours, But it made a mess. Everything got sprayed – and I mean everything. The stuff went everywhere. And the sprayer doesn’t lend itself to the artistic. I’ve painted uprights a different colour to panels in the past. A sprayer doesn’t easily cope with that. It’s one colour for the lot unless you are patient with it. I’m also a bit miffed that I can’t stick the left over fence paint into the sprayer because it’s too thick.

I must admit to being a bit out of pocket with the thing too. Admittedly I got the sprayer with vouchers. But when you are painting with a brush at a rate of one panel every seventy five minutes, one tub of paint will last at least couple of weeks. And these tubs aren’t cheap – they are about fifteen quid each. In the past, with the fence painting season being spread over a couple of months the expense was somewhat spread out. But you sit up and take notice when you get through five tubs of the stuff in a day.

But what’s really got my back up was the batteries. The sprayer came with cheapo batteries and a disclaimer that they were probably going to be good for about forty five minutes. So I thought I’d run them into the ground and then pop in some decent Duracell batteries. After a whole day’s use, the cheapo batteries are still every bit as lively as when they started.

I have a seven page letter to print off and send to HMP Slade. A shame my computer can’t print anything….



23 February 2009 (Monday) - Painting Brian's Kitchen

23 February 2009 (Monday) - Painting Brian's Kitchenmagnify

A rather frustrating evening yesterday. Having composed a seven side letter to send off to the chokey, my printer refused to print it. It them wanted me to re-install the CD that came with the printer. A re-boot achieved nothing – it still wanted that disc. As is always the case, I could find every other CD I have ever used in my life except the one I needed. So I downloaded the driver from the internet, installed the thing and the whole printer dialogue started speaking to me in what I think (but could be mistaken) was Finnish. So I went through add & remove programs and tried again. Still no good – still all written in Viking. After a couple of hours I gave up with the whole sorry episode and was about to print on er indoors TM ‘s printer when (as if by magic) the printer spat out two Windows XP printer test pages and started working again. I can only suspect that scanning earlier in the evening upset the thing. I shall leave it alone for a while (!)

The morning started with a quick trip to the town centre to waste an hour (literally). First to return the paperwork about the astronomy club account to the bank. The bank now wants more signatures and the secretary’s ID. They didn’t want that last time.

And then to my own bank. Some ten years ago the snake club fell apart in squabbles. I resigned as treasurer following allegations that I’d been regularly stealing thirty quid every month. Apparently the secretary at the time said I was a good treasurer because I could steal thirty quid from the account every month without it actually showing in any of the accounts. Anyway…. Shortly after I left I can remember an aggressive butch-type dungaree-wielding woman being appointed in my place a week or so before the whole thing fizzled out. But for no adequately explored reason this scary person never formally took over the position of treasurer. My name was never taken off of the bank account – not only have I been getting the monthly statements for ten years, I’m still a signatory. And there’s over a hundred quid in the account doing nothing. Today I made a decision. The money has been there long enough. No one’s ever contacted me about it, so I thought I’d donate it to the astronomy club. The nice lady at the bank was happy for me to do that; provided I send them a letter signed by both myself and the ex-secretary. I wonder where she is these days?

And then home to finish off the fence. Or that was the plan – I got half a dozen top sections done before the rain started, so I gave up and watched a few Laurel & Hardy DVDs before setting about Brian’s kitchen. Kitchen painting was something that could be done inside in the dry. And my assistant helped too.

A phone call - “My Boy TM” needed a lift home from work. He rarely asks for a lift anywhere, so I was happy to oblige. If only I knew where he worked. The best instructions I had narrowed the place down to an obscure country lane somewhere between Egerton and Pluckley. So there I was, in the pitch black, parked by a barn in the back of beyond, sitting scared. Have you ever parked in the back of beyond in the dark? It’s worrying…..


24 February 2009 (Tuesday) - The Fence (Again)

24 February 2009 (Tuesday) - The Fence (Again)magnify

Despite a grotty weather forecast, the day started rather sunny, so I decided to crack on in the garden. Yesterday another blog mentioned global warming. Now I’ve blogged here in the past expressing doubt about the whole idea of human-induced climate change, but I’m wondering if it is another sign of global warming that I’m starting in the garden so early in the year. Normally I don’t do anything with the garden until Easter.

Firstly some quick checks that all water features are working. They seem OK, but one is a little unbalanced (how appropriate). And then the fence painting needed to be finished. For all that the tins say that the paint lasts up to five years, it doesn’t. The fences need painting yearly or it becomes rather noticeable that you’ve not done them. Today’s bit of fence-work was the bit that involved heavy lifting. “Daddies Little Angel TM” helped me lug the arbour and a stone bench out of the way so’s I could crack on. Next year I’ll move them first, and probably get all the spraying done in one day.

From my blog I see that in 2007 fence-painting was something that was spread over six weeks. Now thanks to the wonders of hi-tech fence sprayers, this year the job is done in three days. But I wouldn’t say that I’m finished with the garden for the year - I’ve a vague plan to put up some trellis behind the pond, and there are as couple of water features in the shed that need to be installed. That might be a project for the rest of the week – provided I can still move……


25 February 2009 (Wednesday) - Shopping (For Fence Bits)

25 February 2009 (Wednesday) - Shopping (For Fence Bits)magnify

I see the blog’s hit counter has sprung back into life. Perhaps it took lessons from my printer. Apparently the hit counter doesn’t register RSS feeds, and I’ve found out that there are those of my loyal readers who keep up to date with what I’m up to via RSS feeds. I had no idea I was available via such a medium. It’s amazing what you miss if you don’t stay alert. When I get a moment I shall find out what an RSS feed is. I’ve looked it up on Wikipedia, but am none the wiser.

Anyway, today I thought I’d go on a shopping trip – you know you’re getting old when you deliberately plan to visit a garden centre. I needed some fence bits. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. I also needed some pond-related bits too, and aquarium shops seem to double up as garden centres these days anyway.

Brian arrived at 9am, and we picked up Matt and took the scenic route to Hawkhurst – the plan being to take a (vaguely) circular route starting at Hawkhurst Koi and working our way back home. Starting as we meant to continue, Hawkhurst Koi was closed. Closed as in boarded up and closed down. A passing pikey told us that they’d been shut for over a year as they didn’t pay their rent. Oh well, such is life. A twenty mile waste of time. How we chuckled as we made our way to Rolvenden’sWorld of Water”. I’d been there ten days ago, but I like walking round the display ponds at the back to get ideas for my next water project. I’m reliably informed that there is a limit to how many “next water projects” one can have, but whilst we were there I picked up a pump for the current “next water project”. I mentioned to the nice man behind the coulter that Hawkhurst Koi had closed down. He chuckled about that, and said that there was only them and Swallow Aquatics left in the area that specialised in ponds and fish and stuff. It’s been my experience that whilst “World of Water” is good for pumps and filters and general hardware, the fish are better (and cheaper) up the road.

Next stop Tenterden Garden Centre (home of Swallow Aquatics). Matt picked up a fish of some sort. I looked at the barrels and trellises and stuff. To be helpful Matt thought he would measure them. His self-retracting tape measure refused to retract, and an entertaining ten minutes was had by all watching Matt wrestle with three metres of twisted broken metal tape measure. We then decided the stuff would be cheaper elsewhere. So elsewhere we went. It was at this point that Matt announced that his fish was hungry, and he was going to feed it with a sub-aqua carrot. A particularly fierce vegetable that could win in a fight with a steam engine. Me – I kept quiet and just did the driving.

To WyeVale in Ham Street where Matt bought a rock. A particularly heavy rock. He wanted a rockery. Now I always though it was standard practice to have multiple rocks in a rockery. I myself have a rockery with several boulders. Matt however seemed quite content with just the one rock. It was a large rock – and quite heavy. I suppose he knows what he’s doing. And then to WyeVale in Willesborough to get a barrel ten quid cheaper than in Tenterden. And to B&Q where I finally got some trellises.

A quick bite of scoff, and into the garden to paint the trellises. I must love it. Quickly relocating my sundial, I got the last of the stones left over from “Operation Pond” into the barrel only to find there wasn’t enough for what I needed. I just knew I’d end up making a trip to Bybrook Barn this week – I’ll do that later. And then “Daddies Little Angel TM” came charging into the garden, squealing with excitement brandishing the phone. It was an official-sounding person from HMP Slade – were we prepared to accept phone calls from one of their inmates? From then on “Daddies Little Angel TM” insisted that I carried the phone at all times, just in case.

And then to Lenham for the AGM of the arkee-ologee club. er indoors TM has been elected on to the committee. That’s nice for her….

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26 February 2009 (Thursday) - Down The Pub

26 February 2009 (Thursday) - Down The Pubmagnify

It is traditional that whenever I have some time off work, I visit Hastings Old Town – there is only so much time one can spend working in the garden. Four of us set sail for the FILO – with a tried and tested plan that you take a train to a town, walk to the furthest pub and wend your way back; fortunately Hastings is blessed in having the FILO so far from the railway station.

Four pints of really good (three brewed on the premises) ale were enjoyed by all over an excellent bit of dinner before we adjourned to another pub. The Jenny Lind is somewhere we normally walk straight past on the way to and from the FILO, but today we popped in for a pint. A pint – we could have had half a gallon here. This is a pub which will certainly be added to the “Hastings List” for future visits. It’s got two separate and distinct gents toilets. Two – I counted them (and tiddled in each). How posh is that?

And then on a Shepherd Neame pub. Normally I can be somewhat scathing about Shepherd Neame pubs. The reason being their beer selection is tied to the output of the Shepherd Neame brewery, and so few of their pubs serve anything more than Masterbrew and Spitfire (if you’re lucky). The Anchor did three Shepherd Neame lagers and four Shepherd Neame ales. We stopped off for a pint on the way back to the railway station – I had three. And their jukebox is probably the best for miles around.

And then to the tobacconist. For all that smoking has been banned in pubs; the open fires certainly kick out a *lot* of smoke, and smell far worse than a cigar. And after a few beers, I enjoy a cigar. I realise that I am in a minority with this one, but Brian and I enjoyed a cigar on the walk back to the railway station.

And then home. There are those that would say that a day spent on a pub crawl was a day wasted. They might be right, but I enjoyed myself….


27 February 2009 (Friday) - Water Features

27 February 2009 (Friday) - Water Featuresmagnify

I was woken by the recycling dustmen at 7am this morning. Making enough noise to wake the dead, they left our recycling (again). I phoned the council to ask why they hadn’t taken our stuff. They took my phone number and said they’d get back to me, even though I told them there was no need – I didn’t especially want a conversation with them – I just wanted the bin emptying.

To Bybrook Barn for some stones for a water feature. The cheeky beggars now won’t let you take a trolley without sticking a deposit of a pound into the thing, so a quick diversion to the till was in order. They seemed quite happy to provide change until they saw I only had a twenty quid note. I then hunted high and low to find the slates and stones. Someone had hidden them where the herbaceous borders used to be. On the way home I realised I’d forgotten to buy a bucket – the bucket would form a vital part of the unseen works of the water feature, so a quick detour to B&Q was next.

As I arrived at B&Q my mobile rang – the nice man at the council was rather terse with me. His dustmen were at 17 Beaver Lane where there was clearly no recycling to collect. I gave him the correct address, and then had a five minute pantomime-style “Oh Yes You Did!” – “Oh No I Didn’t!” argument about where I lived. In the end the nice man at the council grudgingly admitted that it would have been very unlikely of me not to know my own address, and said he’d send the bin men. Just as I was struggling the last bag of stones down the road to home, the bin van arrived. The bin men were all having a good old grumble about having to come back. They then started giving me grief about why it wasn’t in the correct blue box. I told them that our blue box had been stolen some weeks ago, and that the council had refused to give us a new one. Things have now changed – apparently it’s illegal to put recycling in anything other than a blue box, and they will bring us a new blue box next time. That would be nice of them.

Having parked two streets away again and having had a minor victory with the recycling, I thought I’d try my luck with the Highways people at Kent County Council. There seems to be a growth industry in digging holes in the road at the moment. Just digging them, and leaving them. Most of my road is currently one big hole. To be fair there is one chap wandering around in a fluorescent jacket, smoking fags and shouting into his mobile phone, but there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot else going on. However down the road and round the corner is a hive of industry as more holes are being dug. I phoned a nice lady called Dean (!) at KCC – she said they’d look into it (!) and she gave me a reference number – 16263441.

I scoffed a sarnie and watched some Laurel & Hardy, and then spent the afternoon pottering around in the garden. Last year at Teston Kite festival Simon gave me a water feature. I bought the pump and barrel I needed for it on Wednesday, and today I finally got round to putting it together. I’m well pleased with it. Earlier in the year I found another water feature that had been reduced from fifty quid to fifteen. That has been in the shed for weeks – I installed that one too. And then I mowed the lawn, touched up some paintwork, turned on the fish pond filter, swept the yard and generally pottered around the garden. I hate gardening. I really do. You break your back to get the place looking half way decent, and then two weeks later the thing needs doing again. Gardening is OK for those with the time to spend on it. Me – I’ve other stuff I’d rather be doing. Now the fences are painted & water features installed, hopefully all that I need to do is a weekly voom round with a lawnmower. I’m thinking about getting another hover-mower, but the fruits of my loin both feel that the push-along mower is far more ecologically sound. It’s funny how green you can be when someone else is doing the donkey work.

And then to astronomy club – a rather dull talk about the telescopes on La Palma (well, not so much dull, as went on a bit too long), but then we got to see Saturn and a comet through the telescopes….


28 February 2009 (Saturday) - Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail....

28 February 2009 (Saturday) - Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail....magnify

Pausing only to collect Brian, it was off to the railway station to take the train to HMP Slade. Our visiting order had finally been sorted. The plan was to arrive early, get a bite to eat and then make our way to the chokey. As luck would have it there was a very welcoming pub over the road from the prison. A very friendly barman, and although obviously a “locals pub”, they seemed quite sympathetic to strangers – they must get a lot who are visiting the prison over the road. A Shepherd Neame pub with guest ales – you don’t see that very often. But they’d gone to the trouble of putting out a billboard advertising a mouth-watering spread when their kitchen was closed for refurbishment. What was that all about?

So we set off to the Chequers centre for a sandwich, and strolled via the back streets to join the queue of visitors at the slammer. I felt somewhat awkward – perhaps I’m just a snob, but there was something not quite right in queuing up with the other prison visitors. I felt the need to explain that whilst they were visiting scumbag convicts, I was visiting a decent innocent victim of the system who shouldn't be in there. But I kept my trap shut. Prison visiting is a great leveller of people, if nothing else.

And then once we were let it, it was rather painful to watch the other visitors being turned away because they had no appointment, they had not brought the identification they had been told to bring, they were hoping to take the place of a friend who could not come. We waited our turn, and were vetted, and IDs checked. We’d brought some puzzle books for “Lukewarm”, and I signed to say we’d brought them as I handed them over to be searched by the prison staff. Staff who might give them to him later, or might keep them until his release. Our wallets and mobile phones were put into lockers and we then turned out our pockets to prove we did not have more than the allowed fifteen quid on us. Our mouths were searched and then were we frisked. Normally I would be quite partial to having a woman in uniform goosing up my bottom, but this was all rather unnerving.

The three of us were then escorted (under guard and through several locked doors) to a rather useless old biddy operating a canteen. We bought a good stash of choccy and cakes, and waited for another guard to lead us through more courtyards and locked doors to the interview room. It was quite reassuring chatting with the guard on the way up – this chap was approachable and quite pleasant. He then handed us over to another fellow. It was somewhat frustrating to then be kept waiting five yards away from James by an arrogant “uniformed person”. We could see Jimbo. He could see us. We were at one side of the room, he on the other. We could wave and pull faces. But a person with the authority to make us wait did so, because he could. But when the mood took him, the warder allowed us to go over. Hugs all round, and then….

We were there for two hours. I couldn’t honestly say what we said or did – we chatted and laughed. He seemed in remarkably good spirits bearing in mind where he is. The rules say that he was not allowed to take any of the sweeties out of the interview room, so he made a good dent into what we’d taken him. Next time he’d like some crisps.

All too soon our time was up. Hugs all round again. There were no tears on this visit – I’d gone fully expecting to blub myself, but we waved goodbye to a smiling Jimbo. We were escorted back through several locked gates to collect our belongings. I’m not sure my wallet wasn’t interfered with whilst in the prison’s locker – I make a point of always making sure the thing’s clasp is secured. I found it unsecured, and in such a way that it wouldn’t have been put away secured. Nothing was missing from it, but I wonder if someone had been nosey?

And then back to Ashford. The train ride was fun. There is nothing quite as entertaining as young love. Especially when young love doesn’t realise it’s being watched. “Junior Spotty” was being treated by his young paramour waggling her epic breasts at him. All of her epic breasts without let or hindrance of upper garments. Obviously the young lady in question had never heard of the phenomenon known as “reflection” – the reflection in the carriage window of her “ample charm” in all its glory was quite entertaining.

Matt left us at the station, and the plan was to then meet up with friends for an evening meal. So we went to the Riverside Inn. What a difference a year makes - what was once the #1 pub in Ashford is now little more than a youth club where the volume of Sky Sports is increasingly raised to drown out the racket of the juke box. I went in planning to have an evening meal there - I couldn't get out quick enough to avoid a headache, and settled for a pint of mild and a pickled egg in the Locomotive. Some things never change….