01 January 2009 (Thursday) - A New Start or More Of The Same

01 January 2009 (Thursday) - A New Start or More Of The Samemagnify

I suppose today would be as good a time as any to look back on the last year and reflect on what’s happened. One of the advantages of having a blog is that I can see what I’ve been up to – I forget so much these days.

So it would seem that over this last year I have repaired my ability to waste weeks in NeverWinter, re established contact with several old friends, done bow snarrows three times, been to EuroDisney, completely lost the plot in Dover and spent an inordinate amount of time up to my elbows in fish poo. I’ve been abroad three times. I’ve rediscovered my love for being tattoo-ed, lectured to the (now thriving) astronomy club three times, got a new shed, bought a new bow and used it once (!), been on the telly, been to four beer festivals and six kite festivals. I’ve had a bonus (!), I’ve found that my family tree can be traced back to Essex in 1760, I’ve mended a poly tunnel and had a week’s holiday in Weymouth. I’ve packed up with cubs and CAMRA, walked a LOT of miles and got a sexy new car. I grew the world’s worst moustache and raised over £200 for charidee doing so. And I reviewed 85 pubs for Beer in the Evening. And…. never a dull moment.

Next year I expect will be more of the same. Many of the beer and kite festivals and bonfire sessions are already pencilled in the diary. But 2009 is to be special (I hope). It’s the International Year of Astronomy, so I expect there will be one or two events connected with that. And several of my friends have reason to celebrate this year - there is a retirement coming up, and some special birthdays; some fortieths, and one fiftieth too. One of the birthdays is in September and there are plans for the birthday-ee to complete one hundred challenges before then. That’s an average of one challenge every three days. I’m tempted to start chucking one challenge a week in the appropriate direction in a spirit of being helpful.

I hear there’s a head-wetting planned for this coming weekend. So here’s my first challenge – sign up with Beer in the Evening and critically review a dozen pubs this year. (Though not necessarily all this weekend)


02 January 2009 (Friday) - Stuff

02 January 2009 (Friday) - Stuffmagnify

Normally the diet begins in early January – an obvious New Year’s resolution. And it follows the same tired ritual. I cut out all the food I actually like eating and subsist on a diet of scrat for two months. In this time I would lose perhaps a stone. The diet is ritually abandoned with my birthday in late February and all the weight soon comes back on again. Many years ago (early 90s) I went to my doctors about my weight. He told me to cut out all meat, bread and potatoes. I did so and lost over six stone in weight. There is a photo somewhere of a three year old “Daddies Little Angel TM” tucked into the waistband of my trousers; I’d lost so much weight. But the moment I started eating properly again the weight just came back. So this year I’m not going to bother with the diet. God obviously intends for me to be a fat f…….. fellow. And who am I to go against the divine plan?

This evening er indoors TM and “Daddies Little Angel TM” were watching something on telly about successful entrepreneurs. I don’t like these programs – some git gets a lucky break somewhere along the line and then they trot out a load of tired platitudes about how anyone can get rich with a little hard work and by taking a few chances. What the telly doesn’t tell you is that for every one that got lucky, a hundred went bankrupt.

Rumours abound that “My Boy TM” is back in England. I have yet to confirm this. One wonders how he got on in Amsterdam. Perhaps I shouldn’t…..


03 January 2009 (Saturday) - Insomnia, Kites, Sheep Poo and Excessive Beer

03 January 2009 (Saturday) - Insomnia, Kites, Sheep Poo and Excessive Beermagnify

A rather sleepless night. I slept like a log until 3am, and then I was wide awake. So I took the washing from the machine & hung it round the radiators, put another load in, put the washing up away, watched some telly and then went back to bed. Where I lay awake until the washing was ready to come out of the machine again at 5am. Another load went in. and back to lie awake until that lot was ready to tumble-dry. And then once the sun was up and I should have been awake, I spent most of the day nodding off. Having spent my night emptying the laundry basket, “My Boy TM” filled it again. He would seem to have returned from his travels. I’ve not seen him yet, but I’ve seen his dirty laundry.

I see there is a degree of consternation in the kiting fraternity. Basically kite builders around the world have got the hump because a German firm has copied some of their designs and is marketing them. I’ve heard objections before about people copying kites, but surely this is why copyright law exists? Take for example the “spirit” kites that are flown by my friends at Brighton. The chap who invented the concept sells them at two hundred quid each. Or there is an alternate supplier who does them for sixty quid (for something of equal quality). I know where I’d spend my money. And did. (And six months later I’m still waiting, but that’s another story). Anyway, back to the article: seeing how one of the signatories is one who told me to get stuffed at the BKFA meeting a while ago and another is someone who wandered into our camp at Brighton Kite Festival fully expecting free beer purely because he was one of the celebrities of the kiting world, I can’t really drum up much enthusiasm for them. Perhaps copying someone else’s designs is morally wrong, but speaking with a kite maker at Lunen kite festival he told me that he fully expects his stuff to be copied. There are those who will refuse to deal with the copy-er. There are those who will not be able to afford not to deal with the copy-er. Like all legal disputes the aggrieved party can either suck it up and sulk, or do something about it which will only make the legal profession richer.

And then we went shopping – er indoors TM had a list. But it has to be said that the bathroom heater has been broken for too long. And I got a new water feature so the trip wasn’t a total waste of time. And we picked up a portable heater for the farm – one is needed to keep the lambs warm. Lambs get cold, apparently. They also poo all over the place too: much to the consternation of one of the fruits of my loin.

And then to the pub – the head-wetting of the newest of my matey/chummy/buddy/pals. In years to come the littlun will give us all grief, but I confidently predict that within five years the littlun will be giving orders to “uncle Fat Bloke”. I haven’t been on a pub crawl round Ashford for some time – must do it again some time….


04 January 2009 (Sunday) - Making Plans....

04 January 2009 (Sunday) - Making Plans....magnify

Last night it was suggested that some of us were slightly over our ideal body weight. I don’t have a problem with that, but it was also suggested that as a means of keep fit, we might start cycling from pub to pub. That idea caught my attention. There are those who claim that anything featuring the word “pub” catches my attention, but they are just being mean (!). By some strange quirk of fate, this morning Halfords down the road was flogging two hundred quid’s worth of bike for only eighty quid. I could either take the thing home in pieces and put it together myself, or let them build it for me. I collect my trusty velocipede on Tuesday. Weather permitting, plans for next weekend include a cycle out through Naccolt to Wye for a bit of dinner at the Tickled Trout and then home again. Possibly via Boughton Aluph if we are feeling up to it, or possibly on the train if we are not.

A few days ago I mentioned about a good friend who wants to complete one hundred challenges before his birthday at the end of September. Here’s another challenge – borrow a bike (I know where one could be borrowed from) and come on the cycle ride with us. I say “us” – I’m hoping I can dragoon other cyclists along.

Another challenge that I threw down was to come to Dover Beer Festival – browsing the net I see that the date for that is now confirmed as Saturday 7th February. However, there is a minor disaster with another beer festival. The afternoon in the sunshine at the Rare Breeds Centre isn’t happening this year. Instead the venue has been changed to Tenterden steam railway station. They have done this to wind me up – I defy anyone to find anything on the entire planet which is more lame than a steam train. I hate steam trains with a passion – I really do. They are the saddest objects on the planet. (takes a deep breath…) And they have also changed the date from the first Saturday in June to the last Saturday. Fortunately that date is (still) free, but the year is filling up fast. I spent a few minutes this afternoon compiling a list of dates. I hope to soon have a comprehensive list up on my website (click on “Plans for the Future”). There is a list there, but it’s not as complete as it might be. I’ve confirmed the date for Canterbury Beer Festival as Friday 17th July. I’ve still to confirm Good Friday at the Chambers in Folkestone, but even if they aren’t having a beer festival, it would be a good day out anyway.

Whilst confirming festival dates, the kite festivals I’ve been able to confirm for the year are Berck (in France) which is on for the week of 18 - 26 April. I’ve been there three times now – it’s a teensy bit far to do in a day. I believe there are plans to do an overnight stop there. Brighton Kite festival is planned for the weekend of 11-12 July, Testons are the weekends of 13-14 June & 8-9 August, and the international festival in Margate is on the weekend of 19-20 September. So far no news about any kite festivals in Dover. As yet I’ve been unable to get any bonfire parades dates. But keep watching the diary page for updates.

And depending on how we (I) get on next weekend, I’ll pencil in some bicycle rides……

1 Comment


05 January 2009 (Monday) - Thwarted Plans.....

The phone rang at 1.30am this morning – a minor disaster at work. By the time I’d failed to sort the problem it was nearly 3am as I drove home through the snow. Just my luck – I buy a bicycle and it starts snowing. God really does laugh when we make plans.

Yesterday I was oh-so-confidently planning diary dates for the coming year. Today I’ve hit a snag. It would seem that bonfire parades aren’t planned that far in advance. Oh well, we know that they will probably be some time in late October / early November. And a minor problem has arisen with the August Teston kite festival – I’m not able to book the Friday (or any time) before the festival off as holiday. So either we can set up on the Thursday night and leave an advance party in place, or we can arrive at about 7pm and camp wherever we can find a space. I’m tending towards the setting up on Thursday night theory myself – we just need someone(s) to stay out with the kit. At the moment I’m thinking of deploying “Daddies Little Angel TM” and a gaggle of her assorted sidekicks and henchmen. Are there any volunteers for the role of “responsible adult”……..


06 January 2009 (Tuesday) - Stuff

06 January 2009 (Tuesday) - Stuffmagnify

Dan at work came up with the sponsor money from his mother’s work today, so it seemed as good a day as any to formally declare all the sponsor money in. For those that have forgotten all about the sorry object that was my moustache, I envy you. But you can remind yourselves all about it here. We finally raised £262.52 for research into prostate cancer, and there is talk about doing it again this year. I’m considering the full beard for a month.

To Halfords to pick up my “sexy new bike TM”. It is widely said that riding a bike is not something that one forgets. I would beg to differ. I seem to remember the things being somewhat more stable and a lot less scary. Perhaps the saddle needs adjusting? If all else fails I shall read the instructions that came with it.

The Archbishop of York has today added two more official prayers to the C of E’s prayer list. One for people still at work, and one for those who aren’t. One wonders whether such a move is to counter the atheist bus that is spreading the absence of good news around the country. Interestingly the Church of England and the British Humanist Association seem to share the same morality, except that one of them has fairies living at the bottom of the garden…..

1 Comment


07 January 2009 (Wednesday) - More Stuff

I decided against riding my bike to work today for two reasons. Firstly it was icy underfoot, and secondly I couldn’t be bothered. “My Boy TM” has also made a large purchase this week – he’s bought himself a wide screen telly. Apparently one bonus of the credit crunch is you can buy big tellies cheaply.

Another of my amazing You-Tube videos has fallen foul of the censors – and apparently due to copyright reasons the thing is only available in certain countries. Oh well, I suppose I should be grateful the thing didn’t get pulled entirely like others I could mention. It does put one off doing future productions.

Another thwarted plan – my birthday. This year it falls on a Saturday and the idea was to go up to London for a troll around the wicked city and then on to a show. It looks like I may have to work on the morning and join people in London later. Unless I can sort out a swap, this will be the first time in twenty seven years that I have worked on my birthday. The alternative was for me to miss out on Dover Beer Festival……

1 Comment


08 January 2009 (Thursday) - Here We Go...

The weather forecast for Saturday looks dry, but a tad nippy. Cold is probably good for cycling, especially bearing in mind how long it is since I’ve cycled anywhere, I’m probably going to get a tad warm. So all would seem to be go for the inaugural cycle ride. The plan is for the cycling contingent to meet up at the end of the hospital drive at 12.30 (ish): we’re meeting there because I’m working. Using “Navigation TMwe shall cycle via some back roads to Wye where we’ll have some dinner in the Tickled Trout. I’m assuming (hoping) we’ll arrive there about 1.30 (ish). It is rumoured that “Daddies Little Angel TM” might possibly be joining “Team Pedal Power”. “My Boy TM” laughed at the idea of going for a cycle ride. He intends to be playing games on his new wide-screen telly.

Non-cyclists (The “SDP”, to coin a phrase from several years ago) can meet us at the pub about 1.30pm. If nothing else they can get the beers in whist I wheeze my way there. A bit of scoff, a pint or two and then there’s a choice of various cycle routes home (including the train!). I suspect a crafty pint may well be downed in the Riverside on the way home, if only to calm my nerves.

If any of my loyal readers would care to embark on this exciting mission into the unknown (or would rather just drive out there) do let me know. I understand that Challenge 21 is to be commenced during this performance. I’ve laid down the challenge to critically review a dozen pubs. Reviewing pubs is something I enjoy doing for some reason. But reviewing pubs is a very personal thing. What one person wants from a pub is very different to the next. Some people review on the availability of a wide-screen telly, the food, the general ambience. I know that one very good friend rates pubs (informally) on how good the coffee is. Me – you can see my grading criteria here.

I’m pleased to see our shower is now working. Since I installed the new hose on Sunday, every day I’ve come to use it the thing has been leaking torrents where someone has opened the thing up and taken out a washer. Everyone denies doing so, but I’ve found the washer in the bath every day. Today whoever was doing this has given up. I have my suspicions as to the culprit…..


09 January 2009 (Friday) - Advertising and the Credit Crunch

09 January 2009 (Friday) - Advertising and the Credit Crunchmagnify

Three days ago I mentioned about the latest mischief being perpetrated by Britain’s atheists. Cages have definitely been rattled. I see that the righteous are up in arms this morning and are complaining to the advertising standards authority. The British Humanist Society has paid for buses to carry atheist slogans, and the God-botherers don’t like it. They are formally criticising the atheist stance because they claim there is not "a shred of supporting evidence" for the atheist’s premise that there is probably no God. In fairness, the religious types are right (for once). There isn’t any evidence whatsoever to support the atheist’s stance. But such an argument is a two edged sword. The whole point of a faith (or lack of) is that you believe it – any actual evidence is utterly irrelevant to such a faith. And any such evidence is also utterly absent too. There is as much proof for the absence of a God as there is for the existence of any of the many Gods of the world’s various religions.

It will be interesting to see the response of the advertising standards authority. If they uphold the complaint because of the lack of supporting evidence, this plays right into the hands of the British Humanist Society. If the humanists’s atheist advertising is disallowed, then by exactly the same reason the God-botherers will not be allowed to advertise either. There’s plenty of religious propaganda outside most churches that would need to come down. To say nothing of other religions. However if the complaint is disallowed, this opens the floodgates to all sorts of baseless advertising, such as bai-lin tea (for those of us who remember Esther Rantzen and Samantha Fox) to name but one example.

It’s amazing how people cling to the implausible and unlikely in this way. I’m reminded of the wind turbine in Lincolnshire. One of the blades has fallen off, so pundits are discrediting all possible explanations in order to prove that the damage was done by aliens in a UFO. I suppose its aliens who keep taking the washer out of my shower head too?

To work where I was interviewing for a new trainee. Four people were invited to interview, and they all turned up. I can clearly remember the last time that this happened – it was during the last economic recession. One good thing about financial downturns and credit crunches is that people apply for jobs in the NHS. And then I filled my car with petrol. A full tank which cost over sixty quid only two months ago now costs less than forty quid.

I don’t understand “high finance” at all. Apparently the problem we have at the moment is that no banks are lending out enough money. But cutting interest rates below inflation levels means there’s not much point in saving. No point at all since you are effectively losing money by saving, so you might as well blow it all on beer. Therefore there’s no money in the bank, so the banks don’t have anything to lend out? But a quick squzz through Wikipedia tells us that the root cause of all this financial disaster was reckless lending of money in the first place. …


10 January 2009 (Saturday) - On Yer Bike...

A morning at work. As I was due in at 8.30am, last night I reviewed the weather forecast and speculated on sticking my bike in the boot of the car, as the day was due to start on the chilly side and warm up as the day went on. It seemed sensible not to cycle whilst it was icy. But when I woke up, it was only -3oC, so I abandoned the car idea and cycled to work. A bit of work, and then to the end of the hospital’s drive to await the rest of the cyclists. Or should I say “cyclist”. Due to various problems and circumstances, no one else was able to ride today.

With the temperatures still sub-zero, we enjoyed a pleasant cycle ride out to Wye. I must admit that my heart was pounding somewhat as we neared the pub, and there haven’t been many pints in my life more deserved than that pint of 6X. The non-cyclists (the SDP, to use a technical term) soon arrived, and a plate of stilton ploughman’s lunch was devoured. And all too soon it was time to hit the road. The Tickled Trout was chosen for dinner because it was next to the train station. I *could* have taken the train home, but as always I lived to regret my foolish bravado.

It was hard work cycling to Wye, and on the way there I did puff a bit. But I seriously struggled on the way home. Brian is an accomplished cyclist, and I made a conscious decision not to try to keep up with him. To do so would have been somewhat akin to trying to keep up with myself at a beer festival. Instead I plodded along at a comfortable (i.e. painfully slow) rate, stopping regularly in order to alleviate the possibility of a serious cardiac incident. We got home in fifty minutes – which is quicker than walking would have taken, so I’m relatively pleased about that. But on the whole I must admit to a degree of disappointment about how badly I did. In years gone by I’ve cycled from Ashford to Hastings, and I cycled to work and back every day for fifteen years. But then, I am a tad over my ideal weight, and the bike was purchased because I’m unfit and need to get into some sort of shape.

So what lessons have been learned from today’s cycle trip? Despite several adjustments to the saddle, my barse (look it up) is a tad tender, so perhaps a gel saddle and/or padded undercrackers might be in order. And I nearly knacked myself several times where my feet kept slipping off of the pedals. I could look at the possibility of pedal clips, but I wonder if a cheaper option would to be to wear shoes with some sort of grip on them – today’s trainers did have rather smooth soles. I see a trip to Halfords tomorrow.

And will this bike go back into the shed never to see the light of day again? Tempting as that might be, I’ve foolishly suggested a cycle trip to the Halfway House next weekend. There’s quite a bit of “up” involved with that, so maybe I might have some practice runs around the park during the coming week.

1 Comment



11 January 2009 (Sunday) - Return to the Bike

11 January 2009 (Sunday) - Return to the Bikemagnify

I didn’t get out of bed until 11am. Not out of any sense of laziness, but because I simply couldn’t move. I’m sure cycling will be good for me – I’ll put this morning’s aches and pains down to experience.

The phone rang - “My Boy TM” wanted me to feed his fish. I’m wondering what I might feed his fish to – their eating days are long over. I tactfully relayed the sad news of their demise. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m now responsible for the fatalities. They were fine when he last inspected. Clearly I must have done something. Oh well….

For all that the weather is supposedly getting milder, the pond is still frozen over. I poured on some hot water to try to melt a hole – apparently it doesn’t matter if it freezes over, but it’s an idea to melt a hole to allow gaseous exchange to occur (!). You shouldn’t bash a hole as the shock waves can hurt the fish. I melted a hole and managed to snap up some of the ice – it’s over an inch thick. The fish don’t seem bothered – they are swimming round the bottom where it’s warmest.

To Halfords to obtain padding for my chuff. I suppose I should be flattered. Whilst there are many who ridicule my gargantuan posterior, I’m having the last laugh as the thing clearly needs more padding. There were some padded saddles in the shop, but in the end I settled for a gel cover rather than a new saddle. The chap in the shop reckoned I’d need to spend over thirty quid to improve on the one that came with the bike. And then padded shorts – why is it that very few shops sell any kind of trousers or pants that even approaches my Herculean physique? However eBay came to the rescue. They have padded shorts for the more rotund figure. Hopefully the shorts will be here by next weekend. Next I need….

Have you ever found a bargain? A real bargain which has actually saved you money? A week ago I bought this bike. It was a steal, reduced from two hundred quid to only eighty. By the time I’d bought cycle clips, lights, a lock, padded the saddle & got some shorts, expenditure had stormed over the £150 mark. Some bargain that turned out to be.

I thought I’d try out the new saddle cover this afternoon. It’s difficult to tell if it’s an improvement or not as my chuff is still somewhat tender. But I managed a “round the block” of a mile or so on cycle paths. Cycle paths. They aren’t a difficult concept, are they? One half of the path has a picture of someone walking painted on it. The other half is a different colour and has a picture of a bicycle painted on it. You would think that it wouldn’t take the intellect of an Einstein to figure out what bit any passing pedestrian should walk on. You would be wrong. I just cycled straight at them – they soon got out of the way. I think the saddle might benefit from being raised an inch or so – I’ll do that tomorrow….

1 Comment


12 January 2009 (Monday) - Stuff

12 January 2009 (Monday) - Stuffmagnify

I see that the forum on one of my favourite web sites is coming up with various suggestions to save the great British pub. So many pubs are closing, because the punters aren’t using them. Well the obvious way to rescue/save pubs is to use them, and it has to be said that I for one am doing my bit. Or am I?

I go to a pub once a week these days on average (usually on a Saturday afternoon), when I will spend maybe ten quid on beer and a meal (pie, sarnies, crisps, chips etc). I usually go with some mates who do the same, so the landlord would get about fifty quid out of us each week. I don’t go more often because it costs too much, and for social drinking it’s far cheaper to get some bottles from the supermarket and drink them at home. I can’t help but wonder how far my weekly bit goes towards covering the costs of running the pub? How many pints per week do they need to shift in order to “break even”? Precisely how much (in pounds and pence) do we need to be supporting our pubs? I suspect that it’s (on average) more than I can afford.

As I was on a late shift today, the plan for the morning was to adjust the bike saddle and give it a quick spin around the block. Rain stopped play. Instead, seeing that one of the challenges has been completed I thought I’d send in fifteen more. I’ve suggested hikes, days out, books to read, and one suggestion involves beer. Meanwhile “Daddies Little Angel TM” was watching “Celebrity Big Brother”. I only use the term “celebrity” because that is the title of the program. There is Ulrika Johnsson and the bloke who played “Mini-Me” in the Austin Powers films that I’ve heard of. And there are a dozen other has-beens and never-weres of which I’ve never heard. All sitting round doing very little. I’m told that this is what the public wants. The public is welcome to it.

Meanwhile the microwave would seem to have gone west. That’s all I need …..


13 January 2009 (Tuesday) - More Stuff

13 January 2009 (Tuesday) - More Stuffmagnify

The microwave has been salvaged - thank heavens for pulling the plug, counting to ten and then plugging it back in again. It’s now time to point the finger of blame. Far be it from me to cast aspersions, but which fruit of my loin was single handedly responsible for blowing up the electric kettle when he used it to make mashed potato? To say nothing of the mystery of the missing washer from the shower hose and cleaning out his fish tank in the bath. “My Boy TM” has “Guilty” written all over him, but his mother won’t believe a word of it, and needless to say I am now known as “Destroyer of Microwaves”. There’s no denying the fact that she has a soft spot where “My Boy TM” is concerned. He’s allowed to muck out his fish tank in the bath. No problem at all. But when my pond filter is elbow deep in fish poo I have to shiver in the garden to clean it all out. But am I bitter about it….

My padded shorts arrived today. It has to be said that they look pretty sexy. But as I was struggling into the things I remembered that I‘ve already got a pair of padded pants I bought for kiting eight years ago and only wore a couple of times. It’s always the way. There is no point in hoarding rubbish because you can never remember or find the particular bit of hoarded rubbish you need until you’ve replaced it with a new wotsit.

Talking of not hoarding rubbish, “My Boy TM” has dinged out a whole load of his mother’s hoarded rubbish. Her reaction – couldn’t care less. Now if I had chucked it away…..

Anyway – tonight’s cycle ride wasn’t as long as it might have been because it’s raining. I’m going to have to have a go tomorrow and get into this whole cycling lark or I will quite probably die on Saturday’s planned little jaunt….



14 January 2009 (Wednesday) - Back to the Scout Hut...?

14 January 2009 (Wednesday) - Back to the Scout Hut...?magnify

It’s three months since I lost my rag with the cubs and decided to take a “time out”. But there is only so long that you can have a “time out” – so I popped round the scout hut and had a chat to discuss my future in scouting. I must admit to a sense of nostalgia. The older cubs and scouts all seemed genuinely pleased to see me, and I felt almost as though I was “coming home” as I walked into the old place – when you’ve been a very active member of scouting for twelve years you become part of something very special. And I do miss it – or to qualify that, I miss the good bits.

So – do I want to be a leader still? No. Not as I have been before. What with the changes to my working shifts I can’t guarantee to be along for more than two weeks a month. I’ve grumbled and griped about unreliability in other leaders, and I know that an unreliable leader is worse than no leader at all.

And it would seem that the proportion of “spanners” has increased. It would seem that they are flooding in from the Beaver colony. But to be fair to them, having taken on a “spanner” at age six I can see it would seem a tad mean to then say no to them two years later. But I can’t cope with the “spanners”.

I’ve been accused of intolerance one or twice. Let me elaborate on the whole sorry topic of “spanners”. If a child has a problem or disability (be it mental or physical) but is clearly trying to take part in whatever is going on, then fine. I will support that child to the utmost. However if the child has problems that mean that they are obviously out of their depth at cubs, then they get bored and they cause problems for everyone. I have no time for the child that would rather spend the evening poking the child next to her. Or the child that, having been given the opportunity of a lifetime, would rather sit on the floor and play with their toes. Or the child that simply doesn’t want to be there.

But I do want to remain a part of the group. I want to do something for the group. So I’m staying on the official census for this year, and I’ve suggested that once a month I do a badge with a limited number of those kids that actually want to do something. And (on reflection) I don’t mind if some kids won’t have a hope of ever being able to actually achieve what I’ve got planned – as long as they want to be there and they are giving the activity a fair trial, then they will be welcome. And I’ll give them the badge because they tried.

The Astronomer badge is an obvious one I could do one Friday evening with small numbers. The cyclist and road safety badges lend themselves to being done with a small group one weekend morning once it gets a bit warmer. The navigator and hikes away badges similarly could be done relatively easily. A couple of hours once a month with those kids that actually want to be there and have got the savvy to cope with what’s going on and the decency to do what is asked of them. I can do that…

1 Comment


15 January 2009 (Thursday) - Cinemas, Cycles

15 January 2009 (Thursday) - Cinemas, Cyclesmagnify

er indoors TM suggested a trip to the cinema last night. How things have changed (!) When I was a lad one of the good things about the cinema was that they had adverts for local businesses. Rather lame adverts for very lame businesses, but that was the way it was. One of the novelties about going to a cinema in another town was that they had different adverts for their lame local businesses. Yesterday the cinema was singing the praises of the power of cinema advertising, but the only advert they showed was for the BBC, and then there was a drink-drive awareness ad.

And the price…. Because I get my Internet connection through,,,, a certain firm (shall we say) they do a two for the price of one deal on Wednesdays. I don’t mind paying seven quid for two of us, but the standard price of seven quid each is a tad steep. You can buy a season ticket for eleven quid a month, but you have to commit to paying this every month for a year. Bearing in mind that I’ve only been to the cinema twice in the last year I’ll stick with “Orange Wednesdays”. I’d need to go four times a month for a season ticket to work out cheaper, and I can’t see that happening.

I suppose this is a sign of the times really. I remember that when I was younger my aunts went to the cinema once a week regular as clockwork. Regardless of what was on, they just went. I suppose that in those days there were only three TV channels and EastEnders was years into the future, so the cinema was a more attractive proposition. Today the cinema is still the place to see the latest films, but on the whole I’d just as soon wait a while and watch the thing at home in non sub-zero temperatures away from the coughing, sneezing and generally fidgeting great unwashed. And without thirty minutes of trailers for films I have no intention of watching.

Anyway – the film we saw was “Twilight” – apparently I’d said that I’d wanted to see it. This came as news to me, but er indoors TM was adamant. It was a good enough film I suppose. It followed the standard formula of boy meets girl. Boy hates girl. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy turns out to be a vampire and they all live happy ever (literally) after. The only problem I had with the film was the actress playing “boy’s sister”. Her name is Ashley Greene, and she looks incredibly familiar. I’ve looked her up on the Internet, and she’s never been in anything I’ve ever seen before. So why do I recognise her?

To Canterbury for a dull meeting. I stayed awake, but felt myself nodding off a few times. And then home – I’ve got some time owed to me. On the way home I had a few text messages about the bathroom light having gone west. A wire had come loose – I soon fixed that, and then I embarked on a mega three hour ironing session. With eight shirts still to do, I gave up. I shall do those in the morning.

And then before it got dark I thought I’d give the padded pants a trial run. Raising the saddle by an inch or two has made a world of difference to my cycling. I can now get a couple of hundred yards on the bike before I wheeze and the chest pains begin. I got a good twenty minutes ride in today – past the Riverside, round to the park and back via Bond Road. I wonder how I will shape up to Saturday’s proposed cycle ride. The plan is to cycle to Challock. I say “cycle” – I fully expect to push up the steep bit just past Boughton Aluph. A round trip of some sixteen miles. Last weekend’s effort was twelve miles and it nearly did for me, but since then I have practiced a bit, got shoes that grip the pedals, raised the saddle and padded the chuff. Mind you, if things are looking a tad iffy, there’s quite a nice pub on the green at Boughton Aluph which is on the way to Challock. So it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the expedition might be terminated early at the Flying Horse. This would be a round trip of about twelve miles which is a respectable distance. I originally planned to go to Challock and home via Westwell. However “research TM “shows that the pub at Westwell closes at 2.30pm whereas there are other pubs on a straight “there and back” route that are open all afternoon. So – come on my loyal readers. Dust off your bikes and prepare for an outing on Saturday…


1 Comment


16 January 2009 (Friday) - 5/6

16 January 2009 (Friday) - 5/6magnify

A panicked phone call last night – my nephew couldn’t do his homework. Mathematics – what is 1/3 + 1/2 ? Now whether you find that particular sum easy or not is irrelevant. It took me less than a second, but I have a degree in the subject. I took the sum to various people at work today, and some people with post graduate qualifications took over an hour to work it out. But whether anyone finds the problem easy or hard is irrelevant really. What is important to solving the problem is a willingness to have a go at it. My nephew started last night’s conversation by saying the problem was beyond him, that he was useless, and that there was no way he could do it… He had the last bit right. With such a defeatist attitude he’ll never get anywhere.

Meanwhile the godless infidels’ plan to thwart the god-botherers has hit a snag. It’s no good brandishing heathen propaganda on a bus if the bus driver refuses to have anything to do with such blasphemy.

And would you believe it? The latest casualties of the global recession are the German pornmongers. Now I can’t claim to be an authority on the subject, but I’m told that Germany leads the world in mucky films and shameful magazines. And it transpires that as the dirty little men that buy such smut lose their jobs, so the filth industry suffers. But a precedent has been set by the American car manufacturers and British banks, who have benefited from getting state bail outs. So it would seem that German pornmongers are asking for state subsidies too. And, in my humble opinion, considering what I’ve seen of this mad world we live in, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get this hand out.


17 January 2009 (Saturday) - Another Cycling Excursion

17 January 2009 (Saturday) - Another Cycling Excursionmagnify

that’s my mate over there…. standing up…….. stuffing ice cubes down the back of his trousers….

A minor delay to setting out today – the bat-bike needed re-assembly and then house keys were lost, but the cycling contingent has had a 50% increase. Three of us set off for Challock today. And soon I was left a long way behind. It was very apparent that even in the lowest gear and pedalling harder that my fellow cyclists I couldn’t keep up. I suspected the rear suspension of my sexy new bike was the problem. Having the “Mountain Bike” design there is no solid vertical support below the saddle. Instead there is this springy arrangement which passes as rear suspension. Whilst it’s ideal for downhill on rough terrain, when I’m cycling along a road, a lot of my pedalling effort goes in pulling the saddle and the rear wheel closer together. In a “normal” bike with a vertical support below the saddle the thing is rigid, and doesn’t go “boingy- boingy as you pedal along. (To use a technical term).

The practical upshot of all of this is that I felt quite justified in getting off and pushing up that steep hill into Challock. I say “hill” – “south face” is probably a more accurate description. I’ve seen mountaineers on the Discovery channel tackling less steep inclines. It took an hour to do the eight miles into Challock. Could do better. We soon found our destination. Despite only three people cycling, seven of us sat down for dinner. Despite my new-found enthusiasm for the bicycle, cars do seem to have retained their popularity. I’ve been to the Halfway House before several times. It’s one of my favourites. One of my hobbies is to review pubs on a certain web site – this place (in my humble opinion) rates a score of 8/10. There are only half a dozen pubs that I rate this highly within (current) cycling distance, and next week’s provisionally planned cycling extravaganza will take in a 9/10 place. But that’s for next week….

The food at the Halfway House was excellent as always. The beer was good, but being on the bike I have learned moderation(!) Rather than having a pudding we decided to do desserts down the road at the Flying Horse. A hill which took me half an hour on the way up only took five minutes on the way down, and very soon we were seated in the pub at Boughton Lees. Some seated more comfortably than others. A crafty pint of “Tribute” – a beer from the Cornish brewery of St Austell. A good beer, and one which is becoming more readily available. And then pudding. A smashing amaretto & bananas & cream thingy each. One of our party had two puddings – I can only imagine that was to ease the pain in the bottom. And then we did a bike-swap to prove my theory about my being handicapped by the rear suspension. I fairly flew away, and when I paused to look behind me, my bike and its saddle-sore pilot were miles behind. I took this to be conclusive proof of my theory, so we cycled to Halfords where my sexy new bike’s replacement was lined up. Once it’s light in the morning tomorrow I shall get some photos of the bike and put it up on eBay. Unless any of my loyal readers would like to buy the thing…..

his botty feels grotty….. and standing up you’ll find him…. He can’t sit down but he shouldn’t frown…. His troubles are all behind him


18 January 2009 (Sunday) - A Day Trip to Brighton

18 January 2009 (Sunday) - A Day Trip to Brightonmagnify

To Brighton – we’d heard that there was free admission into the Pavilion today for some reason, and so we were on the road at 8am. Since that fateful day in June 2002 (the 16th!) when I first met Simon, the road to Brighton has become well trodden, and I like to think I know all the short cuts there and back. However I learned a new short cut today. On the way down we were playing our usual game of listening to the directions of the scrat-nav and laughing at them. Whilst going through Heathfield it announced we should turn left into a housing estate. I was intrigued by this suggestion and we followed it, and we found a way to cut five minutes off of the journey.

We arrived in Peacehaven shortly after 10am, had a brew, exchanged insults, and were soon off to Brighton. The pavilion was good – I imparted all sorts of historical knowledge to Charlotte who seemed rather concerned that her schoolteacher (who was there with the normal people) might overhear me. As If I would let that happen (!) As the signs instructed us we didn’t touch the exhibits (much), we admired Regency furniture, Georgian silverware, Bert the Third light switches and Queen Victoria’s personal cludgee. It’s amazing what you learn when you are too mean to buy a guide book and just make it up as you go along instead.

As always we stood amazed at the price of the tat in the gift shop. It was at this point that a passing normal person picked up a pencil from one of the shelves, thus causing the entire shelf to collapse, spraying its contents everywhere. I laughed like a drain – there is never anything quite as entertaining as somebody else’s misfortunes. We ran into Dave & Tracy, exchanged more insults, and then to dinner.

We were at the seaside – fish and chips. Rules is rules. So we had a fish dinner in the fish restaurant on Brighton pier. (Where else?) I could thoroughly recommend the place – the only reservation is that Brighton Pier in January is a tad chilly. And then a quick mooch around the lanes.

Brighton lanes were an old haunt of mine twenty five years ago when once a week I went to college in Brighton. Although most of the shops have changed, the lanes have remained very much the same – loads of small shops selling all sorts of wonderful things. We all bought sexy new hats, we admired the fit buskers, and I particularly admired the sensible pyjamas in the racy underwear shop. I even found a new wallet – something I’ve been after for months. I bought my old one in Tenby in the summer of 1999, and it was getting a bit worn out. I could have spent all day shopping – we only covered a small fraction of the lanes. When I next review my diary dates for the year I am going to pencil in a return to the place.

All too soon it was time to come home. I wish Brighton was closer ….

1 Comment



19 January 2009 (Monday) - Blue Monday

19 January 2009 (Monday) - Blue Mondaymagnify

Today is “Blue Monday” – according to experts it’s the most depressing day of the year. I love the way that experts work. One expert has worked it out mathematically. Today is the day when most people will experience disaster because, according to professor William Hartson of Cambridge University, D = N + (M (T+1) C R (B-S)/J). where Disaster (D) is calculated by a combination of natural disasters (N) and manmade (M). T represents temperature, C is post - Xmas gloom and R the number of New Year's resolutions broken. B is borrowing, S salary, and J job security. I have no idea how one can give a numerical value to post - Xmas gloom, but presumably that’s why William Hartson is a professor and I am not.

There would seem to be a minor war going on over at beer in the evening. Whilst 99.9% of the pubs featured have serious reviews, there are some that are subjected to the trolling element. Several such trolls have invaded the forums, one of which claiming to have made serious reviews on a competing website. In order to call his bluff I asked him which one, and he told me. I’ve signed up with them. (Look out for your uncle_fat_bloke if you should go surfing there) I’m not impressed. Whilst it’s got one or two wrinkles that are better than BITE (the ability to edit your postings for one), it’s not laid out in a very user-friendly way at all. There’s another pub-reviewing website I have used in the past which is even worse. I think I will stick with what I know.


20 January 2009 (Tuesday) - A New Bike, A Birthday, and an Election

20 January 2009 (Tuesday) - A New Bike, A Birthday, and an Electionmagnify

To Halfords to pick up “Sexy New Bike Mk II TM”. On cycling the thing home I felt as though I was going faster for less effort, and I noticed the chuff was a lot less tender. I wonder how a certain other chuff is faring? Plans for the weekend’s cycle trip have had to be somewhat amended – the planned round trip to the Red Lion in Snargate and the Six Bells in Woodcurch has been mapped out as a round trip of some twenty five miles. That’s bit more than my current range, I’m afraid. A straight run out to the Six Bells in Woodchurch and back again comes in at fifteen miles – comparable with last weekend’s trip. That might be a bit more manageable.

To a certain pub in Warehorne – a fortieth birthday, and a celebration. Home cooked food, beer brewed for the pub poured from the barrel, and a good laugh with some mates. Can’t be bad.

Meanwhile half way round the world the free world is swearing in a new leader. It’s amazing how this bloke is seen as “the leader” by people who’ve never voted for him. Despite all the hype and euphoria, he’s inheriting two wars and the worst economic disaster for years. I can’t help but think that in four years time he’ll be seen as the scapegoat for what were unavoidable disasters. Time will tell – it always does….


21 January 2009 (Wednesday) - Quality TV

21 January 2009 (Wednesday) - Quality TVmagnify

I have been described as many things over the years. Often as a creature of habit. I’m told that colleagues set their watches by the time I go for tea break; the timing is that predictably reliable. I must admit that I do like a certain routine, and part of that routine are my mugs. A SpongeBob mug at work and my dalek mug at home. Or my “Star Wars” mug as the most recent fruit of my loin describes it. When I queried the Star Wars reference she told me that my mug had those robots out of Star Wars on it. Much as it shames me to admit it, “Daddies Little Angel TM” doesn’t know the difference between R2D2 and a dalek. Cybermen and C3PO are synonymous to her. After all these years, it still amazes me that there are people who not only don’t know the difference, but also don’t care. And one of them is my daughter.

Well, I care. And I was up at 6am to watch the latest episode of “BattleStar Galactica”. It’s some months since I saw the last episode, and I wish I’d watched that last one a bit more recently. I spent an hour trying to remember who was what, who was still alive, who was dead, who had porked who. And bearing in mind the dalek/droid fiasco, I won’t even begin to wonder about who was a human and who was a Cylon.

Meanwhile I see that the atheists bus campaign has scored another victory. The Advertising Standards Agency have announced that whilst there are those that might not like this dig at their firmly cherished beliefs, the atheist’s bus slogans don’t breach any of their advertising standards. So having concluded that it is factually correct that “there probably isn’t a God”, the logical next step would be a legal battle to ban all the religious slogans and advertising on the grounds that “there probably isn’t a God”. I wonder if anyone would be brave enough to take that logical next step….

1 Comment


22 January 2009 (Thursday) - eBay, Chocolate, and Old Friends

22 January 2009 (Thursday) - eBay, Chocolate, and Old Friendsmagnify

If you know where to look, there’s a bargain to be had on eBay. I suppose in retrospect I should have taken someone who knows about bikes with me to the shop three weeks ago, but I shall just put it down to a learning experience. And a day when I learn nothing is a day wasted. Not that I’m saying it’s a bad bike – it’s not – it’s a good one IF you are into mountain bikes. For someone who cycles absolutely everywhere, up hill and down dale, it’s ideal. It’s the sort of thing “My Boy TM” would have voomed about on ten years ago, and voomed very well. It’s just not the bike for me. The only problem is that I confidently predict I will be bombarded with emails over the next few weeks from people who assume I’m able to supply all sorts of cycling related merchandise on the strength of the fact that I’m selling a bike on eBay.

Talking of “My Boy TM” and bargains, there’s a catering business near his work which has gone bust and has been giving away their stock. Among some of the freebies he came home with were two bars of chocolate. I expect we will tire of choccie before too much longer.

A late start today. Usually on my late starts I don’t get out of bed until after 9am, and then rush about. I got up at 7am and had a leisurely pootle. Among other things, I got to write a letter to an old friend. I’ve been meaning to write since Xmas. I do wish he’d get on-line. I find email & Yahoo & Facebook so good for keeping in touch with people. I might not exchange any direct communications with some old friends from one year to the next, but seeing the occasional blog entry, or a status change on Facebook reassures me that all is well. There are half a dozen friends on my Facebook list that I know from happy days in the late 70s. It’s great to know what they are up to.

But there is one person who is not on my lists. I’ve recently clicked the Facebook “add as a friend” link but he’s not replied. But he has recently replied to other mutual friends. I’m sad to say that I’m not surprised. I didn’t expect a reply, really. I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that I’ve offended him somehow. I don’t know how, but I can think of no other explanation. This perceived slight is something that has been bugging me (off and on) for twenty years.

Me & “Jaffer Cake” went to primary school together. We went on a school holiday to Hindleap Warren Adventure Centre in 1975. I walked & cycled to secondary school with him for five years. We were in the Boys Brigade together for ten years. I considered him a best mate for years. The second to last time I saw him, he drove me to college from Hastings to Bromley in the mid 80s, and all was well. And then I saw and heard nothing of him for ten years, despite the odd letter I sent every now and then, and messages via mutual friends I heard nothing back. Not a sausage. I last saw him at a reunion in 1995 when he was distinctly condescending and stand-offish. And since then I’ve had no replies to any letters or emails. Contact requests sent through “Friends Reunited” and Facebook and through mutual friends have all drawn a blank. I’d love to catch up with this chap, if only to find out what I’ve done to offend……


23 January 2009 (Friday) - eBay & Managers

23 January 2009 (Friday) - eBay & Managersmagnify

Well, the bargain has been up on eBay for a day and already there is a bid of twenty quid. I have had two people email me to ask questions about the thing, and there are ten more people watching the auction in their “My eBay”. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all those people want to buy the bike though. Some may well have a similar bike they want to sell, some might be loyal readers watching it for a laugh, and some might just be bored. But hope springs eternal. Whilst I’m on the subject of eBay I got a bargain today. Eight quid in the shops. Or posted to my door and change out of a fiver for the same thing. One wonders how these people do it so cheaply.

There was an interesting article on the radio on the way home this evening. It would seem that actually knowing anything about teaching isn’t actually considered to be a pre-requisite in order to become a head teacher in a school any more. Instead, current theories advocate the hypothesis that the only qualification you need to run a school is a management certificate. I’ve met one or two people with management certificates myself. The sort of people who land a job running a hardware store and decide that the shop’s future lies in selling fish.

The world is filling with people who know absolutely nothing about reality, but are able to spout management catchphrases and put silly meaningless diagrams into PowerPoint presentations. They might not actually be able to do the job they are employed to do, and may well be carried by the staff they are supposed to be managing, but according to some old crone on the radio from the Association of Talking Out Of Your Arse, it’s the way forward…….




24 January 2009 (Saturday) - A Rant and a Ride

24 January 2009 (Saturday) - A Rant and a Ridemagnify

It’s a funny old world. Let me regale two recent court cases which have featured people of my personal acquaintance:

One can get beaten up in the street for no reason whatsoever, then identify the thugs in court and watch them walk away scot free. Or one could get seriously led on by a very mature fifteen year old who lied about her age, then do (at her instigation) what any man would do in that situation (speaking as one who knows!), and go to prison for two years. British justice – claimed to be the best in the world. I am left feeling ashamed to be British. But I intend to do something about one of these travesties. And I may well be asking my loyal readership for some form of assistance, when I know what I’m going to do.

Rant over (sorry).

Saturday is bike ride day – and having got my “sexy new bike Mk II TM“ I was intrigued to see how I’d get on with it. Well…. When we’re going along the road, I’m still in last place, but nowhere near as far behind as once I was. Whilst I can definitely feel my heart pounding, I didn’t get the chest pains and the helpless gasping for air that I had the last two times. Some of that might be due to getting fitter, but mostly because the new bike is better – bigger wheels, narrower wheels, and no rear suspension. We did the eight miles to Woodchurch in fifty minutes. I was impressed.

The Six Bells in Woodchurch is a pub of which I have very fond memories. It is the original “crisps shop”. Many years ago when out with god-daughter and her tee-total family, we were picnicking on Woodchurch Village Green. I could see the Six Bells in the distance and I announced to the assembled throng that as the children were bored I would take them for a walk. I sat them all in the beer garden and got them some crisps, spinning them the line that the place was a “crisps shop”. When we later met up with what I can only describe as the “Temperance Brigade” my god-daughter was so enthusiastic about our little trip. “Uncle David took us to the crisps shop – it was great.” And then she went on “Could you believe it – they sold beer too”. And before I could stop her, she dumped me right in the poo by announcing “And Uncle David had three pints because he said it would be rude not to”. I think it’s understandable that I have a soft spot for this pub.

I was rather happy as I walked through the door – my favourite beer was on the hand pump. You can’t beat a drop of “Level Best”. Well, today you could – it wasn’t the best drop of the stuff I’ve ever had. Girly-types soon joined us, and the food more than made up for the ale. I would review the place on a certain web site but I did so a year ago, and don’t think it’s right to do so again until someone else says something about the pub.

All too soon it was time to get back on our bikes. It’s a sign of my improving prowess that my barse isn’t anywhere near as tender as once it was, and we set off. We cycled straight past the next pub – after all the Bonny Crap Hat (to quote “My Boy TM) was only next door, and after getting mixed up with some real cyclists we found ourselves outside the Kings Head in Shadoxhurst. Outside – we kept going. And going. Taking a left turn where we might have taken a right we found a new housing estate where five years ago was fields. Thousands of new houses I never knew existed in what were once the fields between Shadoxhurst and Singleton.

As we were in the area we stopped off in Great Chart. Another sign of my improving cycling ability is that where last week and the week before I was gasping for liquid after a few miles, today we’d reached about eighteen miles before I was at that point. A well deserved rest for ten minutes, and then an easy trip home – it’s all cycle paths from Great Chart to home. And then… a lucky escape, bearing in mind some of the hills I’d whizzed down at speed today. Whilst gently coming to a halt at the end of one cycle path, my entire front brake assembly exploded. I put the fragments into my pocket, and we diverted to Halfords with some urgency. It transpired that when the nice man in the shop built the bike last week, he’d left off two vital nuts (pictured above). To be fair to them, it was an honest mistake. It was the manager who’d done it, and the lads in the shop soon fixed it. They seemed grateful that I was happy for them to have something to give the manager some stick about.

Meanwhile on eBay the auction is going well. After only two days there is a high bid of thirty quid, with a dozen people watching the thing. Six questions have been asked, and I’ve even had a visit from “Mr Ratgassing” who asked if he could have a look at the bike….


25 January 2009 (Sunday) - Shopping

25 January 2009 (Sunday) - Shoppingmagnify

Last night’s visit from “Mr Ratgassing” would seem to have paid dividends on the bargain which is up on eBay. The bidding is now over thirty eight quid and there are fourteen people watching it.

The plan for today was to sort out a decent jacket for cycling, so off to Lakeside we went. Eleven of us – it’s a feature of my life that I seem to go at everything mob-handed. (I wouldn’t have it any other way). First of all to Pikea, for the breakfast. Two sossies, two bacon, two hash browns, beans, egg & a tomato for £1.65. Can’t be bad. The only bad thing about the place is the obligatory trolling around the store afterwards. Pikea is…. OK if you like that sort of thing. For me it tends to get a bit gutty after the first five minutes. Two hours later we got to the checkout where I had an ice cream. The idea of having an ice cream was to wind up the children in our party, but unfortunately they didn’t rise to the bait.

To Decathlon for the cycling tackle. After a lot of mooching about, I came away with the jacket that I wanted, as well as some gloves, an under-helmet (oo-er!) and a rack. Er indoors TM saw a bike she liked. We will probably be going back shortly to get it for her. Probably next weekend if the eBay auction carries on as well as it has started. And then there will be another one in our cycling group who leaves me miles behind….


26 January 2009 (Monday) - Making Phone Calls

26 January 2009 (Monday) - Making Phone Callsmagnify

There have been no further developments with the bargain which is up on eBay. The bidding is constant at just over thirty eight quid with fourteen people watching it.

A rather frustrating morning. Due to the disgraceful shambles that passes for justice in our country, I found myself trying to arrange to visit someone who is now resident in a certain establishment on the Isle of Sheppey. Have you ever tried phoning a prison? I rang at five minute intervals starting at eight am, and the number was constantly engaged.

At 11.45am I gave up and went to Tesco’s. I’d phoned them earlier and they’d claimed they’d got the “Survivors” DVD in stock. They lied. There was a nice lady putting out DVDs when I arrived. I asked where the specific DVD they told me that they had in stock was. She checked her list. They didn’t have it. They’d never had it. I told her that it was advertised on their website. She told me a lot of stuff is advertised on their website, but that what is on the website bears little relation to what is in the shop. One lives and learns.

Back to work, and back to phoning HMP Azkaban. I finally got through at 3.30pm. And was then put on hold for a further twenty minutes. Eventually I was told that I cannot visit until a “reception visit” has taken place. I have no idea what that is supposed to entail, but I was left with no doubt that only a total dumbo doesn’t know what a “reception visit” is. Also, before arranging any visits, I need to quote a “prison reference number”. Apparently I should know this reference number. But once this “reception visit” has taken place, and I have found out what the “prison reference number” is, all I have to do is phone 01795 882 272, quote the number & I can go up the next day. I intend to take a car full at regular intervals – I wonder how many people can visit at once?

I then thought I’d try HMV for my DVD – I arrived five minutes before they closed, and walked home with an old mate I’d not seen for ages. And then home to write a letter. I’m told people “inside” like to receive letters. I decided at work this afternoon that I would write regularly.

I don’t know what to say….


27 January 2009 (Tuesday) - Smoke Me A Kipper....

27 January 2009 (Tuesday) - Smoke Me A Kipper....magnify

I thought I’d check my emails & eBay before going to work. Disaster – no Internet connection. It seems to do this occasionally in the mornings – I wonder if the nice people in Internet-Land do some sort of maintenance on it before most people are out of bed? It seems to be working now. Thank the lord for that (!)

There are now twenty people keeping an active eye on the bargain which is up on eBay. Tonight the high bid is a little over forty six quid. Two days to go - I must admit I’m getting rather excited.

To the post office – a letter to be despatched, and a package to collect. The sorting office isn’t the easiest of places to park at, and the staff aren’t always the most helpful. They really hack me off by demanding some sort of identification when you don’t have anything handy. Then, the next time you call to collect something you show them some I.D. and they laugh at you because this operative isn’t bothered about seeing I.D.

I see Wikipedia is under fire again. The joy of Wikipedia is that absolutely anyone can create or edit content. Which therefore undermines the reliability of the thing. While researching the chap lined up to take over from David Tennant as Doctor Who, I found an entry which read “he’ll be really good – better that tenent so yar boo sucks”. Admittedly that entry didn’t stay up for long, but if the site is to have any credibility, it does need some form of moderation.

And, to end on a high – in a couple of month’s time there’s going to be a Red Dwarf Easter Special. It says “Friday 10th April at 9pm” on Wikipedia – so it must be true….

For ten points – what was the name of the penguin?


1 Comment


28 January 2009 (Wednesday) - Stuff

28 January 2009 (Wednesday) - Stuffmagnify

There are now only nineteen people keeping an active eye on the bargain which is up on eBay. Someone has lost interest along the way. That’s a shame. The high bid has remained constant all day at a little over forty six quid. I’m hoping for a late surge to bring the price over fifty quid.

For some reason the parking area on the road outside my house has been fenced off. I phoned the council to find out why – as usual they had no idea, and after a lot of waiting I was told this was due to the need for urgent gas repairs. No I don’t claim to be an expert, but I would have though that if a gas pipe was leaking, then you’d need to dig down to the thing. There seems to be precious little digging going on.

It would seem that this cycling lark is good for me. As my father and grandmother both acquired late onset diabetes, I’ve been waiting to get it myself. But it seems short bursts of strenuous exercise stave off diabetes. In that case I’d better plan some more exercise. A trip to Aldington might be a good idea for Saturday – a round trip of sixteen miles can’t be bad, and I hear that there’s a pub out that way that sells porter…


29 January 2009 (Thursday) - Sold the Bike

29 January 2009 (Thursday) - Sold the Bikemagnify

With nine bids from five different bidders, the bike on eBay sold this morning for just over fifty quid. Mr Ratgasser (who visited the bike last weekend) pulled out at £45. The winner would seem to be something of an eBay newbie – whilst he’s been registered for nearly four years, in that time he’s only done seven eBay transactions. This will be his eighth. I must admit to a degree of trepidation. The advert clearly says “Buyer collects”, and this chap has an address in Leeds. But he says he will hand over the cash when he collects the thing a week on Sunday – he’s in the area visiting relatives in Ramsgate.

Mind you, eBay addresses are often wrong – I once sold something to a chap whose address listed with eBay was in Nigeria, but he wanted the thing he bought to be posted to Slough.

Meanwhile er indoors TM has bought me a buff for when I go cycling. It keeps my head warm, apparently….


30 January 2009 (Friday) - Astro Club

30 January 2009 (Friday) - Astro Clubmagnify

The day was somewhat dull – I had nothing to watch on eBay.

The other day whilst straddling the chodbin I thought the birds on the roof were a bit noisy as they stomped about. “Daddies Little Angel TM” assures me she saw a rat up there. Bearing in mind the utter failure that was last year’s humane rat trap, I’ve put some poison into the roof space just in case.

To the Astronomy Club. I had my reservations about tonight – the club has relocated to Woodchurch, and anything different is always a cause for concern. But not tonight – as well as most of the familiar faces, we had whole load of new people and some old faces returned. The evening started with an informal chat about telescopes, a raffle which was quite a money-spinner for the club, and then an hour looking through the telescopes. With half a dozen scopes set up, we got to see all sorts of astronomical wonders. Daddies Little Angel TM” came along and seemed suitably impressed. Home via Folkestone for a catching-up with Stevey, and pausing only to run over a fox, we were home just before midnight.

Same time next month….


31 January 2009 (Saturday) - Aldington

31 January 2009 (Saturday) - Aldingtonmagnify

I really wish I could sleep in at the weekends, but I seem to wake up by 8am with backache. Such is life. I then spent an interesting half an hour wrestling with the bike rack I bought last week in Decathlon. You would think that if the thing needs a certain tool in order to fit it to the bike, they would supply it with that tool. I eventually wrangled the thing in place, removed the reflector that made so much noise last week, and off we went to Aldington.
I’d calculated that the Walnut Tree was about seven miles away, and at the moment that seems to be about an hour’s cycling. Which is about my limit. We arrived at the pub and things were looking good. I’ve only twice before seen Shepherd Neame's porter in a pub. It’s one of my favourite beers. I was rather disappointed to find that it was sour. The Spitfire had bits floating in it too.
The rest of our party soon arrived via cars (I’ve got one of those!) and we settled down to a minor contretemps with the pub's technology not working. We weren't able to pay by credit card. Fortunately I had enough cash on me – this was lucky - quite often I have less than a fiver in cash and am dependent on plastic. The food took nearly half an hour to arrive, and when it did.... I can best describe it as "variable". With six of us for dinner (not lunch!) the food varied from excellent (the lamb) through average (the fish) to frankly disappointing (the sausages).
For no adequately explained reason half way through the meal a small portable TV was switched on and the volume set to "deafening" level. And the toilets were a tad feral

This pub has a reputation as being a good pub because a certain TV celebrity is rumoured to drink in there. All I can think is that they are relying on that reputation to pull in the punters. I won't be going back in a hurry. The TV celebrity is welcome to it.

I must admit that I feel somewhat let down by the place - just lately I’ve been the one who suggested the destination for the cycle ride/pub dinner. And so if the place is a disappointment, then I feel vaguely embarrassed about my choice. I suppose the flip side of this is that if we want food we only go to the Halfway House, and if we only want beer we go to the Red Lion or the FILO. When investigating new pubs, there has to be an element of taking the rough with the smooth.
If anyone is visiting the Aldington area, the Good Intent is only a mile up the road and beats the Walnut Tree on all counts. And on that note that’s where we went. Because the Good Intent was on the way home. Or, if not exactly on the way home, it’s not that much of a diversion. So we popped in to prove a point. Four decent ales on pump, a mild, no noisy TV, and the food smelled good. Must pop back at some point.

And so home. I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a cyclist. It’s hard work, and I’m always last (by miles). I’ll give it a couple more goes, but the novelty is fast wearing off.

I then spent a while kicking the astronomy club’s accounts. It’s no secret that I don’t know much about astronomy. At last night’s observing session I exhausted the list of stuff in the sky that I can identify in less than a minute. But I can add up the subs and pay the bills. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do. There’s a minor hiccup that the club is temporarily financially embarrassed to the tune of about sixty quid. I’ll sub ‘em that. It’ll make up for the fact I sat on the account paperwork for a month and forgot about it.