1 January 2010 (Friday) - Happy New Year




As we stampede into a new year (as though we have any choice in the matter), it is traditional to stop and reflect on what’s happened before speculating on the future. And, as anyone who knows me will realise that my life is one for traditions, that’s what I’m going to do.

So, what momentous things have happened to me this year?

  • I’ve been officially diagnosed as having arthritis. As a result of this, I’ve seriously dieted and lost nearly two stone. (Admittedly I’ve put a lot back on over Xmas).
  • I’ve had had a wisdom tooth removed, which was horrible.
  • I was offered a job at Chatham hospital. In retrospect I think turning it down was a great mistake.
  • I asked for (and was given) a grade reduction at work, and am much happier for it.
  • I’ve bought a bike and been out on it lots of times. I’ve found that I like cycling.
  • I’ve posted sixty four pub reviews on “Beer in the Evening” - twenty one less than in 2008. Less money spent in the pub is probably a good thing (boo!).
  • I met Sir Patrick Moore.
  • I helped organise and run an astronomy event for the International Year of Astronomy.
  • I’ve stepped down from the committee of the astro club.
  • I’ve grown a beard (and shaved it off)
  • I’ve relocated my blog from Yahoo to Blogger, and have followers around the world. (I wonder who those people in DarwinCalgary, PortlandSingapore and Tokyo are).
  • I’ve visited a prison nine times, and sent forty nine letters to the chokey.

And I’ve done so much this year. Looking back through my blog, I’ve found outings, trips and events that I’d completely forgotten about. That’s one of the reasons I blog with monotonous regularity – if I didn’t, I’d not remember whole swathes of my life. For example, I went to the London Dungeon for my birthday. I didn’t remember that one until I re-read the entry for last February.


For some time I’ve been threatening to publish my personal list of “Top Ten” events of the year. And in doing so, I think I’ve surprised myself:

  • 1 The Time Warp (31 October)
  • Hastings Bonfire Parade (17 October)
  • 3 Kat’s Art Exhibition (26 June)
  • 4 All the Saturday bike rides (various)
  • Dover Beer Festival (7 February)
  • 6 Easter Pub Crawl around Folkestone (10 April)
  • 7 Jack in the Green (4 May)
  • 8 Old Time Sing-Along with Elspeth at the piano forte. (14 August)
  • 9 Day Trip to the Isle of Sheppey (23 August)
  • 10 Andy’s 40th birthday party (26 September)

Bubbling under the top ten were trips to Port LympneCanterbury beer festival, ice creams in Eastbourne, Xmas parties, trips to various castles in the snow, various pub crawls, and days spent hard at work on a farm. This list is something I’ve been working on pretty much all year. Perhaps I’ve cheated by grouping all the cycling trips into one for entry #4.


Interestingly four of the top events didn’t feature excessive amounts of beer. I’m afraid none of the camping weekends made it into the list. Much as I enjoy them, this year’s were all marred in one way or another. Didgeridoos and bike thefts at Teston, and continual heavy rain at Brighton put a damper on the kite festivals. And there’s a lot of work involved setting up and taking down camp too.

Similarly, drunken nephews kept the summer house party from the top ten, and a lack of protagonists kept another favourite (Rye bonfire parade) out.

I must admit that for all that my year does feature many events that occur every year, I’ve amazed myself to find that only three of them have made my top ten for the last year.


Having said that, the various kite and beer festivals have already been provisionally pencilled into the diary for 2010. And so have quite a few other events too. If any of my loyal readers have any suggestions for days out for the next few months, please let me know.

So, it’s now 2010. Here we go again…



2 January 2010 (Saturday) - Watching the Telly




Yesterday we forgot to set the Sky Plus box to record the second part of the Doctor Who Xmas special. Forgetting to do so probably speaks volumes about what I thought of the first part. I watched the second part on the BBC’s website this morning. It was…. well…


During the week I had a conversation about last week’s episode with a good friend of mine. Well, to be precise, a good friend’s daughter (aged six.) She loved the program because it was scary and had this baddie who was a man who could fly and that turned into a skeleton whenever he wanted to eat someone.

Which is fine. She loved it. I didn’t. The trouble with Doctor Who is that having watched it all my life I tend to forget that it is primarily a children’s program. Things like continuity, plausibility, plot, etc do not feature in kids TV shows. Take the most recent Doctor Who two-part story. Having brought the Master back from the smouldering remains of a cremated corpse, and spent two episodes fighting him, what actually happened to him in the end? I’m not going to spoil it for anyone, because I don’t know what actually happened to him in the end. He just wasn’t there any more. The writers just forgot he was there.

I find myself comparing Doctor Who with other sci-fi such as “Survivors”, “BattleStar Galactica”, “Babylon Five” and even “Star Trek”, and I’m afraid it doesn’t come close.


Consider last week’s TV adaptation of a favourite book of mine - “Day of the Triffids”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s still available on the BBC’s website. The book is based on two rather nonsensical premises. Firstly that most of humanity has gone blind and secondly that the world is filled with twelve foot tall walking carnivorous plants. Both of these notions were presented in such a way that you could believe them, and so you can relate to the tale.

In Doctor Who, with plot holes big enough to drive a bus through, a triffid would just start eating blind people, and the target audience would never question why everyone was blind, or where the triffids came from.


Perhaps this is why I like the Royle Family” so much. Did you see the Xmas special? I can *so* relate to that program because I can relate to the people in it. And (I would contend) this is the reason for the success of reality TV shows, X-Factor and all that ilk. They’ve got real people in them.




3 January 2010 (Sunday) - New Fence, Old Photos




This long weekend for the New Year’s holiday has (for me) been pretty much wasted days. What with the snow and cold, I’ve barely left the house and have spent far too long in NeverWinter. I loathe and detest sitting round doing nothing, so today I was determined to go out and do something. If it was only a dull wander round some garden centres.


Last year our front garden fence collapsed. I’ve been meaning to replace it for some time. Next door’s got iron railings which look good, but are rather tall for my liking. I’d like shorter ones. And the length of railing I want is“non-standard” (nine feet seven inches), so I’d have to have them custom-made I’ve tried to contact wrought iron suppliers, but they don’t reply. Which is exactly what next door found when they tried to get bespoke railings. For all this talk of recession and credit crunch, some people don’t want the work.

I’ve come to the conclusion that since I’m not a blacksmith, a wooden fence would be easier. I can buy fence panels in various places, and I can cut them to size. (Oh, how easy it is to type these words. I expect in the weeks to come I shall regret this foolish boast.)


So, together with er indoors TM , we set off through the snow to B&Q to have a look at their fencing. Rather disappointing, really. But they did have a decking balustrade which gave me an idea. Two balustrades and a bit of rope might look quite fetching. Or rather awful, depending on your views on rope fencing.

Homebase didn’t have much at all in the way of fencing. To make up for this, they did have a nice lady who was telling anyone who’d listen that “it’s not as cold already as it used to be now”. I smiled sweetly and made a hasty retreat before she decided to be my friend.

WyeVale was a disappointment. Some things never change. And then to Bybrook Barn which had something that I might be able to cut and hammer into shape. I just need to persuade one or other of the fruits of my loin to chip in and help with the donkey work (i.e. do it for me) once it gets warmer.


I then spent the afternoon archiving my photos. Anyone who knows me will realise that I photograph absolutely everything. And with my current camera, every photo I have takes up about 2Mb of disk space. So I went through my photos for the last two years. I didn’t realise that it had been that long since I’d had a cull. I lost count of the events at which I had a dozen (pretty much) identical photos. I did some serious deleting, managing to claw back over 2Gb worth of disk space. I got the last two years of photos onto three compact disks, which I thought wasn’t bad. I just need to discipline myself to chuck out the rubbish photos every time I unload my camera from now on….






4 January 2010 (Monday) - A Windfall




I’ve had a revelation. As we come to the end of the financial year, there’s no council tax to be paid for a couple of months. Rather than squandering the money on beer, I’m tempted to waste the money I’ll save on buying something “big”.


My current computer is now three years old. In PC circles, that’s positively antiquated. It is beginning to creak a little. On booting (which takes ages), the thing always finds some new hardware which isn’t there. And one more than one occasions it’s failed to launch the anti-virus software.

I’ve recently done some fiddling about with my computer to try to breathe new life into it. Perhaps most radically was a reg clean-up”. I’m reliably informed that this will make the thing work better. I hope so, but I remain unconvinced. The only tangible thing I noticed was that the clean-up tried to delete the anti-virus software.

New PCs come with Windows 7. I’m told that Windows 7 has an XP emulation mode in which I can run NeverWinter Nights, and (to be honest)running that game is probably the number one consideration I’ll have for a new PC. Continuing this blog will be in number two position.

It’s been suggested that I leave the PC as it is for gaming, and buy a NetBook for net surfing, blogging, etc. Perhaps I’m being thick, but I can’t see the advantages of this plan. My existing PC isn’t really of a high enough spec for today’s PC gaming, and it wouldn’t cost that much more than a NetBook to replace the whole PC. In fact, having a (admittedly very quick)look round eBay makes me think that a standard base-unit type PC is cheaper than a comparable laptop or NetBook.

OK, so a NetBook is portable, but do I want a computer which is portable? I have cordless phones which are portable, and I spend hours trying to find where I left them. A PC stays where it lives. I can see the advantages of taking a NetBook to the astro club if I was giving a talk, but the NetBooks I’ve seen on eBay don’t have sockets to plug into the projector Perhaps I need to do a bit more research. Or take advice from my loyal readers.


Something else I might waste by money on would be a new digital camera. I got my new phone purely for the camera on it, but seeing how the phone battery only lasts for a day (at most), the thing’s usually dead when I want to take a photo. I have a digital camera, but it is old – I bought the thing in 2001. To be honest, it’s on the way out. There is a tangible delay of a couple of seconds between pressing the button and it taking a photo. And it eats batteries. If I leave the batteries in, they go flat within a couple of hours. So I have taken to leaving the battery compartment open to save the battery power. Perhaps a new camera might be money well spent.

The only trouble is that I don’t know the first thing about cameras. I know less about new cameras than new PCs, and that’s saying something. I can’t tell an F-stop from an exposure. And I’m not going to ask in the shop. Is it just me, or is there really a patronising arrogance and snobbery about camera salesmen?


Another possible waste of saved council tax money would be sat-nav. Specifically one for my bike. Bike scrat-navs aren’t cheap, and it would save stopping to fiddle about with maps every time I came to a junction.


Last year this cash went towards a new front door, and the year before it went on Koi. What shall I spend it on this year?

I’m not alone in having an unexpected council tax bung. I wonder what my loyal readers will spend theirs on….





5 January 2010 (Tuesday) - Oh Well...




I have often heard it said that God laughs when we make plans. Yesterday I was speculating on treating myself to something expensive on the money saved from not paying council tax for a couple of months. Today I have spent that money.

The er indoors TM – mobile went for its MOT and service today. By some strange co-incidence the bill was almost exactly the same as the amount of bonus money I was expecting to have from two month free from council tax.

Perhaps I won’t be getting that new PC or camera after all.


Talking of cars, the “My Boy TM - mobile” is up for its MOT in a fortnight, and it’s no secret that hopes aren’t high. I’ve mentioned before about how quiet (!) he can be, and I’m sure we all overheard last night’s bellowed telephone conversation in which he was considering cutting his losses, not bothering with the MOT and taking the thing directly to the scrap yard. He’s now talking about his next car. I’m hearing the phrase “Land Rover” more and more. Almost as much as I’m hearing the phrase “can’t afford”.


I suppose the blog won’t be complete unless I mention the third car in the family fleet. My car is still rather full with display boards. I’ve spoken with the nice lady at Woodchurch Village Hall who says that if I can find a suitable space, we can store the boards there. I’m sure I can find somewhere…





6 January 2010 (Wednesday) - Snow




One of the better things I like about my job is that periodically I get to go to other hospitals to formally inspect their trainees to see if they are ready to become State Registered. For me, it’s a day out, and a bit of fun. For the trainees it’s positively nerve wracking. They spend months building themselves up to these inspections, and because of this I would not cancel one lightly. But the threat of snow had me worried.

So, having spent much of yesterday checking the weather forecasts, I had determined from various sources that snow wasn’t expected until mid day today. No one told the “weather pixies” about the forecasts, and so it snowed yesterday evening. I got up early today expecting to find thick snow, but it wasn’t too bad, and so I decided to set off for Pembury.


As I left home the roads were quite passable, and the snow was but a light dusting. As I drove west, so the roads became worse. When I finally decided that I’d made a mistake by going ahead with the inspection today, I was only five miles from my destination, so I carried on regardless.

There are those who laugh about the piddlingly small amounts of snow we have in the UK, but I would respectfully suggest that these people are overlooking one major fact. We are in a country which has made a conscious decision to give up whenever it snows. As I drove through the worst of it (two inches deep near Tunbridge Wells) there were some interesting articles on the radio about this very subject.


A chap representing small businesses was complaining that so many small businesses are forced to close in the snow. The reason being the need for the employees to provide child care for their children. Thousands of employees would happily get to work, and do a day’s work if not for the local schools having a blanket policy of closing at the slightest hint of snow. In order to provide a balanced view of the matter, the radio station had invited the UK’s boss headmaster (I forget the chap’s exact title) to give the view of the teaching profession. When asked why schools close so promptly whenever there is any white stuff, the headmaster answered (in a patronising tone) “because it’s snowing”. And continued to use this answer(pretty much verbatim and with increasing volume) for the duration of the interview. Apparently in the same way that night follows day, so school closures follow snow. It snows – schools close – like it or lump it (!) This wasn’t a matter for question, let alone discussion, or so we were reliably informed.

It was suggested that the reason that they close is that if schools stay open but a small amount of pupils *really* can’t get in because of the snow, then such non-attendance affects the school’s position in the league tables. But if the school closes, then the league table position is unaffected. The boss headmaster wouldn’t deny it, but got rather angry whilst not denying it.

It was sad that such a senior teacher chose to speak to the nation in the same way that he might chastise a recalcitrant fourth-former.


The radio then interviewed the “Minister for Talking Rubbish” who said that it was not economical to budget and prepare for something as infrequent as winter, coming as it does only once a year. Apparently since the media made such a fuss about MPs wasting public money on their second homes, duck houses and cleaning their moats, the government is“understandably loathe to waste money on frivolous things such as preparing for snow.


I eventually got to my destination, did my inspection (she passed – they usually do), and then set off home again. Whilst I’d been inside, it had warmed up a tad outside, and the snow was becoming slushy. Getting home was far easier than getting there, and on the way home, all the cars that had skidded into ditches had been reclaimed either by their owners or by vehicle recovery services.


I then spent the afternoon writing up my report on the inspected trainee, and then spent some time on my work-related websites here and here. I have this theory that these web sites might be useful. So far, no one’s told me they aren’t.

Whilst working on them I had the phone constantly dialling the chokey. Having received a visiting order, the plan was to book a visit for a forthcoming Sunday. After two hours waiting for the phone to be answered, I was eventually told that my form was the wrong colour and that it would not be acceptable for a Sunday. I need it to be blue, not red. The fact that it was the prison (and not “Norman Stanley” who sent out the red form is neither here nor there….





7 January 2010 (Thursday) - Still Snowing




Normally I suffer with insomnia. Today I slept right through till I was woken by the alarm. Not my alarm, I hasten to add. I didn’t need to be at work until after 11am. So I gently told my beloved her alarm was ringing. No response. So I gave her a gentle nudge. She rolled over and pulled the duvet over her head. So I gave her a good shake, and she bashed me. After a mini fight (I lost) I pointed out her alarm was still going. She told me that she’s deaf in the mornings and never hears it. Oh how I laughed.


I then totally forgot that I had a dental appointment this morning, and watched Xmas DVDs and fiddled around in NeverWinter. Pausing only briefly to scrape the snow off of my car, I then set off to Tesco for scran. I was going to get petrol, but the filling station was heaving. I’ve never seen it so busy. I blame the snow.

Whilst getting my sandwich we had a minor blizzard. The car got covered in snow in only five minutes. I then skidded a few times in Tesco’s car park. The car park at work was just as icy, and was rather empty. It’s amazing how people stay at home and the country grinds to a halt with less than an inch of snow.


Some time during the mid afternoon I remembered I’d forgotten a dental appointment I had booked for this morning. I phoned them and made it quite clear that I felt it was their fault that I’d missed the appointment. They cancel and change my appointment so often, I’m surprised I don’t miss more. They apologised, and I’ve re-booked for next Thursday. I wonder if I’ll forget that one too?


And so to bed feeling under the weather. I’ve got a headache and feel a bit bleagh!!! I do hope I’m not sickening for something…





8 January 2010 (Friday) - Sledging




Usually I would start off by saying “up with the lark”, but I think it’s safe to say that any larks have long since flown south. So I’ll start again. Today I was up with the penguins and arctic terns, and was doing the ironing before 6am. It’s one way of having some peace and quiet whilst I watch my Xmas DVDs.


Off to work in the car again. In the past I’ve never driven in the snow. I’ve made a point of walking to work every time there’s the slightest flurry of snow. And I have gone base over apex on the ice so many times. So, bearing in mind I’m not getting any younger, I’ve decided that I shall drive. And if I prang the car, it’s insured and easier fixed than my aging bones.

I had a minor worry when the brakes shuddered as I came to the end ofBeaver Road. They were fine on the bypass, but again were shaking and vibrating in Tesco’s car park. I was about to phone the garage when a colleague told me that’s what anti-lock brakes do on the ice. They are supposed to do that. That came as a relief.


We spent the morning at work discussing the vital question. Should we go sledging before or after lunch? We eventually agreed on “after”, since that would be the option less likely to have anyone being sick. The hospital grounds don’t feature much in the way of slopes, but they do have the advantage of being near a hospital, should we need one for any reason. Three of us spent an enjoyable half an hour vooming down slopes on a range of vehicles. One chap had “borrowed” his children’s bum board. Another had some water resistant coated paper (which lasted for less than a minute). I tried some hard plastic sheeting I’d found in the store cupboard. On my first go my sheet dug into the ground and I fell off at high speed. So I tried standing on it with my weight to the back, and I fell off again and rolled down the hill. Eventually I found that if I sat at the back and hoiked up the front, it wasn’t too bad a sledge, even if it had bruised my inner thighs.

Any of my loyal readers who are paying attention will realise that this sedate form of exercise rather gives the lie to the previous paragraph of this blog entry (!)


After a few minutes we saw that if we moved ten yards along the bank there was a lip on the slope from which we could do sledge jumps. Our lightest colleague (half my body weight) sped down the slope, and passed gracefully over the snow on said lip, and went a good six inches into the air. It was quite impressive to watch, somewhat akin to Eddie the Eagle, albeit on a smaller scale.

Our heaviest colleague (a bit heavier than me) wanted a go. He too sped down the slope, but rather than passing gracefully over the snow on said lip, he ploughed into the snow on said lip exposing the tree stump underneath. I suppose it could have been nasty, but he got away with only ripping his coat, scraping his bum and filling his pants with snow. Oh, how I laughed. Pants filled with snow is really funny, all the time it is someone else’s pants.


There was a scary moment when I aimed to the right of a tree, but as it came closer, so I found myself veering more and more toward the tree. Eventually I passed it on the left, copping it a glancing blow as I went. I ended up flat on my back in hysterical laughter. However my assistants saw my not getting up as being a sign of injury. “Well bless my soul!! (sic)” exclaimed one of them at the top of his voice. “He’s dead”. For a moment they honestly thought I’d died in the impact. That set me off laughing even more.

You can see the photos here.


All too soon we had to get back to work. Whilst I was cold, I’d taken the precaution of wearing waterproofs. After all, I’ve played in the snow before. One of our number had pants full of snow, and the other had soaked his jeans. Me - I spent a pleasant afternoon periodically mentioning how warm and dry I was, and asking where all the puddles on the floor were coming from…


I came home to find er indoors TM building a snowman…





9 January 2010 (Saturday) - A Walk in the Snow




I expect my loyal readership is fed up with hearing about my insomnia, but today I realised something. Wide awake at 4am, and at 6.30am. But when I went back to bed at 7am I slept like a log until 10am. Perhaps I’m sleeping at the wrong times? I consulted the font of all knowledge (the Internet). The BBC’s Science & Nature website features a “sleep profiler” which told me that my sleep is not well optimised, scoring 16 %. I’m not sure what it’s scoring 16% of, but I’ve not done that badly in a test since my abortive attempts at first year “A” level exams. Apparently I am a “lark” which means I’m an early morning person. (No surprises there!). The cheeky website dared to suggest I might be overweight, and said I might be snoring which would disturb my sleep. It also suggested I should see my doctor. He also would tell me I’m overweight. Perhaps I’ll re-start that diet. I’d rather do that then mess about with the BBC’s other suggestions of massage, aromatherapy or acupuncture.


The plan for today was to go mob-handed to Folkestone to finish the decorating, but the snow put paid to that idea. Local roads were covered in thick ice, and snow was falling more and more. Rather than sitting inside sulking, we went for a walk in the snow. Through the park to Great Chart. It was really pretty going through Viccy park, and the birds on the lake at Singleton were quite comical to watch.


The Hooden Horse in Great Chart must be one of my top two most visited pubs of the last year. It’s ideally placed for popping in for a pint whilst cycling home on a day’s cycling trip. But because it’s somewhere we call in on the way home from somewhere else, we’ve never eaten there. Today I realised that it was at just the right distance for a walk through the snow. We took nearly an hour to get there, and the Younger’s winter warmer ale was a treat worth walking for. I then had the ham, egg and chips, which was brill. And we sat in the warm and watched the snow outside get deeper and deeper as I polished off a pint of Directors

The Hooden often has up to five ales on the hand pumps. Today they had two ales and two ciders. Which was probably for the best – I’m not a cider fan. Had there been more beer, I would have settled down for the duration. But two pints were an elegant sufficiency, and we then wandered back through a winter wonderland. On the way to the pub some smaller kids were tin-traying down a snowy slope. On the way back some bigger kids were having a go. Being bigger they had they much more momentum, and one came down with such force that when he reached the bottom, he kept going and he managed to wedge himself underneath a nearby bramble bush.

I have often mentioned that there is nothing more amusing than other peoples’ misfortunes, and this episode was nothing if not amusing.


To Asda for bread and milk. Not so much panic buying as panic-ing because we’d run out. I popped into Halfords on the way past to see if they had any sledges. No luck. Asda had sold out of sledges at Xmas, and B&Q were closed. I wonder why.


Whilst having a warming cuppa, the phone rang. “Norman Stanley” informed me that HMP Slade is also having problems with the snow. The wardens either can’t get in, or can’t get out quick enough. Yesterday’s visiting session was entertaining. Because of the snow, only five inmates had visitors. Twenty wardens supervised the visits. And today, having been given lunch, tea is planned for three hours later so they can all be banged up by 4pm. He’s not best chuffed. I apologised for our not decorating today, and offered him a full refund (!) He seemed happy with that.


And so to NeverWinter for the evening. I seem to be aching rather a lot, and my rollerblading injury is playing up. I blame yesterday’s sledging…





10 January 2010 (Sunday) - Dull




Something which never fails to amaze me is how the general public are so gullible as to lap up the horror stories touted by the media. Take today’s scaremongering, for example. Following four days of snow, the threat of global warming is now (apparently) but a distant memory, and the world is now in the grip of a mini ice-age which will last for about thirty years. Glaciers are due to roll ever more southward, or so we are reliably informed.

I say “apparently”, because up until four days ago, conventional wisdom had the world warming, and the North Pole being free of ice within the not too distant future. I suspect this sort of rubbish sells newspapers to the normal people.

Meanwhile in my world, after four days of (relatively) heavy snow, the temperature has risen slightly and what was snow and ice is now six inches of slush. Which makes going anywhere rather tricky. So having stayed in my pit most of the morning, I wasted most of the day alternating between NeverWinter and BattleStar Galactica.


If there is something I absolutely loathe, hate and despise, it’s sitting around doing nothing. I made a point of going up to the corner shop, if only to get out of the house for five minutes. I got two books of stamps to send in to the chokey. One for today’s letter and one for next week’s letter. Whilst up the shop there were a few flurries of snow. I mentioned to the girl behind the counter (the big sister of an ex-cub) that these flakes of snow would give the old ‘uns something to whinge about. She laughed, and said that for the last four days she’s had a never-ending stream of old biddies complaining about the weather. And complaining in such a way that they thought that she could do something about it. I then realised that the old bat in the queue behind me had a face like a slapped bum. She had clearly been planning to gripe about the snow, and we’d pre-empted her.


Yesterday “Daddies Little Angel TM  had built two snowmen, one in the front garden, and one in the back. Both were very ambitiously tall, and this morning I saw that both had collapsed overnight. She’ll go mental when she finds out…





11 January 2010 (Monday) - Enough of the Snow,  Now !!!




After four days of snow, yesterday I decided that I’d had enough of the stuff. So I personally have stopped the snow. Yes – me. I did it. I ordered a sledge from eBay last night, and since I clicked on the “Buy It Now”, not a single flake of snow has fallen.


Mind you, it’s still rather icy outside. Icy on the pavements – the roads are now pretty much clear. Or, that is the middle of the roads are clear. I skidded a bit whilst parking this evening, and so decided to go out with a shovel and break up the ice I’ve parked on. After all, there’s quite a river of water running down the guttering. I’ve smashed up the ice around my car, and if the flow of meltwater continues, in the morning, driving off should be a tad easier than parking was.


I was tempted to have a go at shifting the ice on the pavement outside my house, but in the end the spectre of liability put me off doing so. I contented myself with breaking up the ice on the front garden path leading to the front door. Apparently under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 I am obliged to attempt to keep my property free of ice. There are those who would argue that it is shame that the council doesn’t meet their legal obligations in shifting the ice, but there’s so much of it, and only so many council operatives.


And as the snow recedes into slush, so the arguing starts. Reading the news, I see that there are those who didn’t get to their various places of work last week for all sorts of reasons. Some really couldn’t get to work as buses and trains were cancelled. Some really couldn’t get to work as roads were impassable. And some saw the snow as being reason enough to stay at home. (After all, that’s about the only thing many people would seem to have learned from their time at school.)

And what penalties are there for who didn’t turn up at work? It would seem that employment law forbids them being deducted a day’s leave or a day’s wages. So effectively they’ve acquired extra leave. Hmm…. One of our people was snow-bound for three days last week. I think I should be given three days extra holiday….





12 January 2010 (Tuesday) - Stuff


The year’s diary dates for the astro club were published last night, so this prompted me to have a look at the Kite Calendar. I’ve updated my diary dates accordingly. I see the local branch of CAMRA has also put up the dates of local beer festivals, but I had most of those already. There is a beer festival in Wittersham on Sunday 21 February (there’s something familiar about that date?). A shame Wittersham isn’t the easiest of places to get to, and I had rather planned to go on a pub crawl on Monday 22 February. I’ll see which of “the usual suspects” are available on which of those two dates and make a decision later.


It still seems odd not going to cubs on a Tuesday. For the thirteen years from late 1995 to September 2008, every Tuesday would have seen me at the scout hut. It’s now over a year since I packed up with the cubs, and yesterday I had a chat with the leader at my old pack. I’m glad I jacked it all in when I did. The place has had one or two problems recently. The scout leader has gone, leaving the same few people doing everything, and the place nearly closed toward the end of last year. Because of one nasty little child.


I can distinctly remember “Dennis”. I can remember looking at his surly expression and recognising trouble. Last year he had been deliberately awkward for several months, and after one evening when he had physically assaulted half the children in the cub pack, the leaders decided that they had put up with him for long enough. And they told this nasty brat’s parents that the child would be excluded from all cub activities for a month.Dennis”’s parents weren’t happy, and formally complained through official channels.


Head Office instigated a formal investigation which found there were faults on all sides (apparently). Whilst his victims had suffered rather nasty assaults, “Dennis” had suffered the threat of missing a month’s scouting activities.

And what no one had realised was that those children who had been bitten, kicked and generally attacked had suffered nothing when compared to the threat of being banned from cubs for a month for being a naughty boy. Furthermore, (somehow) those children who had been assaulted were in some way responsible for the little darling’s potential exclusion.


The suggestion of the appointed investigator was one which was intended to be fair to all parties. He suggested the cub pack be shut down, and after a while re-opened to all who wanted to join. Including “Dennis” and his victims.

Dennis”’s parents were horrified at this suggestion and immediately withdrew their complaint. Not out of any sense of common decency, but because there was a pack holiday coming up, and the reason they didn’t want the place closed was because they wanted to send their uncontrollable brat on a very cheap weekend away. Suddenly these people realised just what cheap babysitting they were getting from the unpaid volunteers.

He stayed excluded for that month, but he’s back there now, as disagreeable as ever. But the saddest part of the whole sorry tale is that those people who run scouting on a national basis wonder why people like me don’t want to volunteer to help any more...





13 January 2010 (Wednesday) - More Stuff




Last night saw the launch of the second series of “Survivors”. Regular readers may recall I’ve mentioned this program in the past. I loved the original series made thirty years ago, but wasn’t overly impressed with the first season of the modern remake. Last February I blogged “I hear there’s a second season being made – I shall see what that pans out like before I dismiss it out of hand”. Well, I’ve seen the first episode of the second season, and I honestly think I’m ready to dismiss it out of hand. I won’t give the plot away (yet) in case any of any of my loyal readers are yet to see the episode. I suppose I will watch the next one, but after last night’s drivel, I won’t be too concerned if I miss it.


Our DVD players are playing up. The one which records stuff off of the Sky Plus box would seem to have a stuffed up menu screen, and the one which in multi-region only opens up occasionally. I was planning to have had a look in Comet and Curry’s tonight after work, if we hadn’t been snow-bound. Normally the staff in there look at me as though I’m something the cat dragged in, but if I go in my work clothes (shirt & tie) they generally can’t kiss my butt quick enough. Whilst I can get a cheapo bog-standard DVD cheaply enough, I’m after something that records, does multi regions… I wonder if a trip to Tottenham Court Road might be a good idea.


And then something to power the thing with. As we freeze in a climate totally stuffed by over-use of fossil fuels, salvation is at hand. The problems of nuclear fusion have been solved. Within ten years we’ll have cheap clean energy. Let’s hope so.

Whilst I’m on the subject of scientific breakthroughs, science has announced that having a fat ass is good for you. One lives and learns.


Daddies Little Angel TM  ‘s clay head exploded today. The kiln was to blame, but we are reliably informed that it wasn’t personal. Fragments have been salvaged, and a repair operation is underway. I wonder what the National Gallery do when this happens.


Today’s photo is one that has recently appeared on Facebook. I have no idea where the photo was taken. I originally thought Hastings, but the background doesn’t look quite right. The more I stare at it, the more I can see a passenger ferry behind me. So it might be Folkestone. As to when – I’m guessing 1988.

The first fruit of my loin was much more manageable in those days.






14 January 2010 (Thursday) - Photos, Clay Heads, Guinea Pigs




I have obtained a photograph of the fragments of the clay head mentioned in yesterday’s blog. The thing does look somewhat beyond repair. Who’d be an art student?


It has been suggested that yesterday’s photo was taken in Ramsgate. “My Boy TM ” was about that size when we had a family day out to Ramsgate. I remember the day vividly; he used to get travel sick, and on the way home from Ramsgate he absolutely filled his grandfather’s new car with wall-to-wall vomiting. At the time his digestive system was akin to Doctor Who’s tardis – he could (and often did) generate several times his own body volume in vom. Happy days.

I don’t remember his auntie being along on that day though, and it was from her that I got the photo. Another of her photos from the late eighties has come to light. Me on the beach at Mersea Island. The photo features my famous blue & white rugby shirt; a garment which (over twenty years later)is still perfectly serviceable, and which still comes out on holidays and high days. If any of my loyal readers have photos of me in that shirt, please email them to me – I feel a Facebook album coming up.


Meanwhile back on the ranch, it’s been just another day. Half the night wide awake, half the day falling asleep. Some things never change. I slipped out of work early to go to the dentist. As he was rooting about inside my cake hole, the dentist was reminiscing about the horrific wisdom tooth extraction I’d had a month or so ago. Having regaled his dental nurse with the tale of how traumatic the extraction was, he then turned to me and asked if I remembered the episode. Funnily enough, I did recall something about having a wisdom tooth out. I wonder how many people find that such a trivial event slips their mind.


Then I checked my emails. Over five hundred spam, including sixty four purporting to be from HM revenue & customs. I suppose enough people must fall for these scams to make it worth the crooks’ while to send them out.


And the guinea pigs would seem to be scrapping. “Daddies Little Angel TM” has identified one as being the bullying, troublemaking guinea pig. However her theory fell at the first hurdle when I noticed that the alleged protagonist had a lump bitten out of its chuff. I’ve consulted the source of all knowledge, and the Internet says that guinea pigs do this. If we give them separate food bowls and separate places to hide, then chances are they will stop scrapping. Apparently the family’s guinea pigs are at the teenage stage.

We’ve been there before…





15 January 2010 (Friday) - Old Jumpers, Flat Batteries, Sushi




For many years me and a certain blue and white striped rugby shirt were inseparable. Yesterday I threatened the return of my favourite jumper. Disaster – I can’t find the thing anywhere. The last time I can remember wearing it was on a particularly memorable booze up in Folkestone where it attracted the unwanted advances of a rather fit bird. It’s possible that I chucked the thing out, but I doubt it somehow. It’s my favourite jummy, even if I haven’t worn it for years.

During my search for it I found two other jumpers from the same era, two pairs of jeans (jeans!! – I haven’t worn jeans for over ten years!), five sets of pyjamas I never knew I had, and more pairs of shorts than I could count (i.e. over seven). I found half a dozen sets of flashing luminous rabbit ears, and I unearthed Stevey’s NeverWinter Nights player’s guide (I said it was somewhere safe!). The family all say they haven’t seen my jummy for years either.

I loved that jumper. I wonder what happened to it? I might just have to get a new one, but ebay has let me down, having nothing remotely similar for sale.


My Boy TM ” ‘s car had a flat battery, so could he jump start from my car? Of course he could. Whilst trying to get out of the house, the door bounced back and hit me full in the face. Just where I’d had that tooth out. Oh, it did hurt. And carried on hurting all day.

So I have made a new house rule. Something rather obvious, really. Doors in the house must be openable. I couldn’t believe the amount of rubbish we had blocking up all the doors. I filled two bin bags of clutter. If anything valuable has gone well, quite frankly, I don’t care.

There was a minor hold up in the jump starting whilst we struggled to get the bonnet of my car open, and I did wonder if my car would start afterwards, but in the end all was well. Thank heavens!


I left home rather earlier than usual on a late shift to have a look at DVD players. The staff in Curry’s ignored me totally. I gave them fifteen minutes then walked out. Pissy World weren’t much better. But “Dave” in Comet was quite helpful. I forgot to ask about multi-region DVD players though. I’ll go back tomorrow – if they don’t have multi-region ones I’ll go to Tottenham Court Road. They will have.


Earlier in the week the burning issue at work was chicken sushi. Yes – I know – sushi isn’t chicken, it’s fish. I thought that too, but Wikipedia says that sushi is traditionally (but not exclusively) fish. Before I joined the vocal majority in declaring chicken sushi to be lame, I thought I’d better try the stuff.

I have tasted worse. If any of my loyal readers are tempted by the thought off chicken sushi, you can buy it in Tesco for two quid. *You* can buy it. I won’t be doing so again…





16 January 2010 (Saturday) - New Telly




To the post office to collect a parcel. Again I nearly crashed on the way down Tannery Lane. What is it with that road? There was a big sign saying that people collecting parcels cannot park in the Post Office staff car park any more. The customers of Kent Wool Growers had parked all over the place, utterly ignoring the markings for parking bays, making parking in there impossible. I took a gamble that there would be no traffic wardens about, and pulled up outside the collection office on the yellow lines.

The chap behind the counter wanted to see identification before he would give me my parcel. I showed him my passport. He studied it intently, but never once looked at me. I wonder how that served to prove my bona fido? Bearing in mind the total lack of any parking in the area, I asked him where we were supposed to park. He described the location of three public car parks, all within twenty minutes walk. That was helpful of him.

Still, I’ve got my sledge. All I need now is more snow. Or then again, perhaps not. I’ll quite happily wait until next winter.


Yesterday I mentioned that I went looking at DVD players. I had another look again today. Currys again totally ignored me. Which turned out to be their loss. So we went back to Comet. Multi-region DVDs don’t seem to be their thing, but they were doing a deal on their tellys. A rather fit sales bird spouted drivel about plasma LEDs and hertzes and refresh rates. I looked on in bewilderment as she demonstrated the difference between auto focus and hands free, blu-ray and HD, cheese & onion and salt & vinegar. They all looked the same to me. There was absolutely no difference whatsoever between the Sony Megapixel or the Satsuma Castanet that I could see. They all looked good.


I had saved up some money to put some iron railings in the front garden. But I don’t want them really. It will be much easier to load and unload the car for camping trips without a fence in the way. So I squandered the money I’d put aside on a new telly. It’s got… well, I could copy what it says in the manual, but were I to do so, then people might start talking technical at me. Let’s just say that it’s forty inches across and the numbers 1080 appear in the specifications which I am told is a good thing.


Plumbing the thing in was quite a laugh. Being somewhat taller than the old telly we needed to move the Sky Plus box and the existing DVD players all up a shelf. And then the new telly flatly refused to find the signal from any of the peripheral devices (technical term!!). And just as I was swearing *really* badly, SpongeBob appeared on the screen, and all was fine.

Now to fight the children to be allowed to watch the thing.


However the original problem remains – we don’t have a multi-region DVD that works easily. Having misplaced the handset for the DVD player that can do region one DVDs (woops!). I think we’ll carry on pressing the “skip” button until I’m on holiday in a few weeks time, then I’ll go to Tottenham Court Road.





17 January 2010 (Monday) - Last Time at the Chokey




It would seem I stuffed up yesterday – whilst there had been talk of carrying on decorating at the seaside for some time, because I was due to be working in the morning I’d said that if others were to make a start, I’d come along later. Because no one said anything, everything to do with decorating rather slipped my mind. Woops – my bad!

There’s always next weekend, or weekends following….


er indoors TM had advertised the old telly on FreeCycle last night and we had six people wanting it in as many minutes. I’ve moaned about FreeCycle in the past. I suppose that it serves a useful way of not wasting stuff, but the thing strikes me as little more than a cheapskate’s charter. Perhaps I’m just getting old and cynical?

Up early, and off to Hythe to deliver the old telly to its new home. As luck would have it, an old friend was after a new telly and so it didn’t go through FreeCycle after all. On the way there, I had a major disagreement with the scrat nav. I decided to take the way I thought was quicker. And I maintain my way would have been faster if Hospital Hill was where I thought it was, rather than where it actually is.


Yesterday I mentioned about going to Tottenham Court Road to get a DVD player. It was suggested I tried Richer Sounds. By one of life’s many co-incidences, there is a branch of Richer Sounds only five minutes away from the chokey. We were going visiting today, so we popped into the shop whilst passing. I wish I’d gone there ages ago. Whilst their tellys weren’t any cheaper that Comet or Curry’s, the chap behind the counter was so friendly and helpful. I got my multi-region DVD, and I shall go back there whenever I need anything else.


And then to the chokey for prison visit #10. Something of a bittersweet visit, bearing in mind this was my last trip to the place. (I hope!!) “Norman Stanley” looked well and I gave him the details of the final version of my never-fail patented escape plan. I’ve been working on this plan for a year, and this week it comes to fruition. If he keeps his trap shut and his nose clean and his head down, he might get a neck ache, but on Friday they will let him out.

It’s been suggested that I shouldn’t blog about his release as there are (so I’m told) those that may use any snippets I write against him. Whilst this could possibly be true, I’m going to hope for the best in humanity and take the line that those who don’t know feel that any mate of mine is a mate of theirs (albeit vicariously). After all, would anyone seriously be reading my blog just on the off-chance of me being dumb enough to write something nasty or incriminating about the bloke?


And then home to plumb in my new DVD player. I think it’s fair to say it plumbed in a lot easier than the telly did. It doesn’t use a scart lead, instead it’s got an HDMI cable. This apparently can take double the amount of whatever it is that scart leads take. I asked the man in Richer Sounds if perhaps I need to get one for my Sky Plus box, but apparently I need to upgrade to Sky HD for that.

I expect that will be more money, and will be the subject of a blog entry for another time…



18 January 2010 (Monday) - Watching Telly, Computer Games, Stuff...




Today was a late start, so I had some time to waste this morning. This new telly is going to take some getting used to. I’ve got accustomed to watching DVDs on my PC screen, and as a special treat on the old telly (when no one else was around). The screen on the new telly is two and a half times the size of the old telly, and over four times the size of my PC screen. I was rather pleased with it as I scoffed jam on toast this morning whilst watching season two of BattleStar Galactica.

I’m still not sure if I can tell the difference between scart-ed telly and HDMI-ed telly, but then again I wonder if anyone really can. And now I’ve put all the cables the right way round, we can record stuff off of the Sky Plus again. Which is a result. DVD recorders aren’t cheap.


Once I’d then mucked about in NeverWinter for a while, I had a look in YoVille. In NeverWinter you get to explore a medieval fantasy environment. You meet elves and gnomes, wizards and bards. You can choose to be a fighter, a paladin, a rogue, a ranger or a druid, a sorcerer or a wizard. There are quests to do, dragons and goblins to slay, and wrongs to right. You get to wield swords and battle axes, you can cast spells, even enchant animals to do your bidding, and you can accrue huge amounts of gold.

YoVille is different. You just randomly wander around town either fighting with people or kissing them. On reflection I suppose YoVille is probably more like real life than NeverWinter. You don’t get to cyber-snog people in NeverWinter.


I then posted off my fifty second letter to HMP Slade. The last one – I hope he gets it before he’s released. Over the last year I’ve sent up a letter every Monday. Or that is every Monday except those Mondays when I was away camping. On those occasions the letter went up on the Tuesday. And I have been really anorak-y and worked out some statistics. My average letter length was 8.8 pages, and I wrote a total of just over 175,000 words. OK, I cheated a bit – I just edited my blog into a letter and added some swear words.

I also sent up thirty five rude word crosswords to the chokey. Each with an average of twenty clues. That’s seven hundred clues. I’m reliably informed he attempted about a dozen clues, but got them all wrong.

It feels odd not writing a crossword this evening.


What with all the stuff I bought over the weekend, I had quite a lot of cardboard boxes cluttering up the house, so I loaded them (and the broken DVD players) into the car and set off for the tip. Even though it’s eighteen months since I got rid of my old Espace, I still seem to think I have it’s luggage storage capacity. Especially when doing tip runs.

The tip was the same as ever – full of people who cannot park, and people who cannot bring themselves to actually put into the skip that which they have just taken to the skip. One particular twit had loaded his car full of tat. Not bags of tat, but loose tat, and was carrying each item one at a time from his car to the skip. I’ve mentioned before that I shouldn’t go to the tip – it just winds me up.


As Sainsburys was then on my way to work I thought I’d get lunch from there. I don’t deny it was a tasty enough lunch. But one which would have been half the price in Tesco. I know where I’m going tomorrow…



19 January 2010 (Tuesday) - Saving Money




Now that I have an HD telly, it has been suggested that upgrade my Sky TV package. More expense(!)


Well, it would seem perhaps not. I have been getting my telephone from BT, my Internet from Orange and my telly programs from Sky. Allowing for the vagaries of the phone bill varying from month to month (depending on how many calls we make), the whole lot costs me a lot of money. Darren at Sky told me that if I get the whole kaboodle from Sky, I can get HD telly programs, a Sky Box with double the recording capacity, faster broadband, the facility for both brats to have a Sky Plus box in their bedrooms, and it will all still be a fiver cheaper than what I’ve been paying per month. I was impressed.


Having said that, I’ve been with Orange for eight years, and with BT for twenty five years. I get soppy over things like that. I can’t just leave them without kissing them goodbye. So I phoned BT and explained the situation. I had a nice chat about my new telly with Michael. He reviewed my package (oo-er!) and suggested I have the same phone deal as he has at home. I’m staying with BT, and will now only be paying sixty per cent of what I was with BT.

Flushed with success I phoned Kieran at Orange and told him my news. He too was very friendly and helpful (and was interested in my new telly too). And I’m staying with Orange for my Internet connection. I’ve now got a connection which is three times faster than what it was this morning for only forty percent of what I was paying.

I still can’t believe it. I phoned them up, and said “gis it cheaper!!” And both said “Oh, go on then”. And did!


Which is for the best. I didn’t want to muck about changing phone and Internet. These things are usually best left alone. This is probably why I’ve been paying so much. I just set the accounts up all those years ago and just went with them. I wonder what other savings I can make on the household accounts? At this point I found myself stopping and taking stock of what had happened.

I started off looking at getting Sky HD. Somewhere along the line I lost sight of what I was doing and I got cheaper phone and faster Internet before I ran out of time and had to go to work.


The current plan (now) is to look at the Sky HD multi-room deal. The HD is ten quid a month more. But seeing as I’m saving twenty five quid a month on phone and Internet (and if the kids want Sky TV in their bedrooms they can pay for it), I’m still quids in.

All I have to do is come up with two Sky Plus boxes. Should I upgrade to Sky HD, I’m hoping I can use the existing box for one of the fruits of my loin, but the other fruit will need a box. So can I ask if any of my loyal readers have a Sky Plus box kicking around that they don’t want? I doubt anyone has one, but it doesn’t hurt to ask…



20 January 2010 (Wednesday) - Stuff




Another late shift. As I’ve mentioned before, I seem not to get the insomnia when I’m doing lates. Which is a good thing – I’ve had four decent nights’ sleep.

I’d been told that the girls were leaving early this morning because the most recent fruit of my loin had to be on a coach at 8am. So I slept in and I went downstairs at 8.05am to find both girls still there. They disappeared whilst I was in the bathroom, and I see from Facebook that the coach was caught. Thank heavens for small mercies.


I got an email from the astro club. Last weekend they (we) sent a delegation to the Southern Area Group of Astronomical Societies’ meeting. It would seem that whilst still relatively young, our club is one of the biggest and most successful astronomy clubs in the south of England. Our chosen ambassadors gave a ten minute presentation on what we do every month at our club meetings in Woodchurch and we would seem to have made quite an impression in the astronomical world. Neighbouring astronomy societies have looked at what we’ve done and have wondered if they might borrow some of our speakers. Specifically me (!) - I’ve been asked to present my talk on the ice giant planets to a group in Wadhurst in April.

I’ve agreed to do this – after all, speakers are the life blood of any society of this sort. But I must admit I’m a tad nervous about it. Which is very unlike me. Public speaking never bothers me. I suppose the thing is that whilst I’m no longer on the committee of our astro club, I’ve been there from the start, everyone there knows me, and knows what I’m like. And so even if they are not amused, they tolerate me shouting “Your Anus!!” when discussing the seventh planet from the sun. I wonder how this might go down with another group. I wonder if they have “normal people” at their club in Wadhurst. I hope not.


I then phoned Sky about setting up the Sky HD & the multi-room set up. Whilst the girl (Samantha) on the other end of the phone was pleasant enough, it was painfully obvious she had been programmed to work from a script. My plan to scrounge up a second hand Sky Plus box from mates and bodge them into one of the kids’ bedrooms confused her. So much so that when she tried to work out the best deal, the line went dead.

I phoned back and this time spoke with “Donald” who seemed to understand my plan. He says that they will only plumb in boxes they provide. The new HD box would be £49. Fair enough. But a second Sky Plus box from them would be two hundred quid. Stuff that!! “Daddies Little Angel TM ” says she can live without a Sky Plus box in her bedroom (there’s no room for it anyway!), so the mission now is to get all the stuff on the Sky Plus box watched before we relocate that box in the attic room.


It has been said that I am a creature of habit. And never more so then when having a cuppa. I’m rather fussy about the mugs from which I’ll drink my tea and coffee. Which is odd, considering I’ll drink beer from any receptacle. But tea and coffee is different. At home it has to be out of my Dalek mug. Whilst camping, my Starbucks mug. And at work, it’s the SpongeBob one. Disaster!! Today I dropped my SpongeBob mug.

I went thirsty…..



21 January 2010 (Thursday) - Some Ranting




I have often commented on how much I like Radio Four. But last night they were talking rubbish. As I drove home, there was a discussion about “the unique way in which the BBC is funded”. This got me thinking (and ranting!)


ITV and Channel 4 are paid for by the adverts and so are free. I like that. If I want the free satellite channels, then I get a FreeView box. My mother has done that, and she’s very happy with it. Me – I want a thousand channels of rubbish, and I’m prepared to pay forty quid a month to do so. But (and here is the crux of my rant) if I don’t want satellite TV, then fine, I don’t have to have it.

I don’t have the option not to have the BBC. I must buy the TV licence which funds the BBC. The licence costs me twelve quid each month. And I have to pay this – I get fined if I don’t.

Last night the BBC were trying to justify the compulsory nature of the licence fee. And not making a very good job of it. In the past they have claimed that if people weren’t forced to pay the licence fee, then the BBC wouldn’t be able to afford to run Radio Three, because no one listens to it. Surely that isn’t a justification for extorting twelve quid out of me every month. If anything, it’s a valid reason for closing down Radio Three with immediate effect.

The idiot being interviewed last night claimed that the management at the BBC were very happy to replace the licence fee with a subscription. After all, loads of people pay nearly forty quid every month to Sky TV. Surely they wouldn’t begrudge a payment of twelve quid a month to the Beeb.

I don’t see that argument. For my forty quid to Sky I get several hundred TV channels, and a hundred radio channels. What does the BBC offer?

Nine TV channels, seven of which are not available without some sort of set-top box. And twelve radio channels, of which only radios one, two, four and five would seem to be used by anyone.

All of which I get with my Sky subscription anyway.

The presenter wittered on about the BBC being an “Institution”. I wouldn’t say that it is an institution that I can’t afford, just that it’s an institution I would rather someone else funded.


A colleague and I have been talking about Dover beer festival, which is now only three weeks away. I had intended to give a link to the festival’s beer list today, but I can’t as the list isn’t available yet. Bearing in mind how we played last year’s visit to Dover, I’m tempted to do the same again this year. Turn up at the Maison Dieu at 10.30am, pay £2 admission fee, and buy the glass for £3. Guzzle two pints at the festival (which will equate to four pints of your “average” ale and cost a fiver), then adjourn to Blake’s for a crafty half, and then visit some of the better pubs in Folkestone for the afternoon. A quick check of the Internet shows me that Wales are playingEngland at rugby that day, so hopefully we can get something traditionally Welsh (leek stew, perhaps) at the Lifeboat. If any of my loyal readers fancy a pint at the seaside, please let me know.


Talking of excessive amounts of beer, following one or two email exchanges, I’ve decided to relocate the pub crawl planned for Feb 22nd to Maidstone rather than Hastings. There’s a provisional route here, but like most plans, I doubt if it will bear much relation to actual events.


And talking of pubs, in the past I have been a firm advocate of. Beer in the Evening - a wonderful website, where you can review pubs, find good pubs, plan pub crawls…

Well, to be honest it used to be a wonderful web site. Now you can still review pubs, but a lot of the reviews are so obviously publicans bigging up their own pubs and slating the opposition. And there are a lot of people trolling the web site for no other reason than that they can. The option to add new pubs is no longer there – pubs that were suggested over two years ago haven’t been added.

The website has a forum, and in that forum the website’s owner has implied that he intends to do nothing more with the web site. Why should he go to the trouble of actually expending effort on it when the advertising revenue he’s getting from it is more than adequate?

I can see his point. He’s not doing it for fun – he’s doing it for financial gain. And so he wants maximum profit for minimum effort, and he’s getting just that.


The strength of Beer in the Evening has been its pub reviewers. I’ve reviewed close on two hundred pubs over the years. Whilst I enjoy doing so, my written reviews have contributed to the site’s profitability. And from the comments on the Beer in the Evening forum, whilst my contributions are welcome, I as a contributor feel that I have been treated with not a small amount of contempt.

Today I got an email from another regular Beer in the Evening contributor. It would seen that twenty of so of the more regular contributors have defected to another website. Pubs Galore is very similar to Beer in the Evening in concept. It doesn’t (yet) have as exhaustive a pub listing, but with management that is keen to have the site evolving, it will only be a matter of time….



22 January 2010 (Friday) - On the Beer




Last November I started preparing something for the astro club. I’ve agreed to talk about the planet Saturn in March, and so I started getting my talk ready. I rediscovered the thing today. It’s nowhere as near to ready as I thought it was. Less time in NeverWinter, and more time getting on with PowerPoint might be a plan.

Similarly the people in Wadhurst have politely intimated they’d like me to talk for about double the length of time I was intending to witter on for. I’ll beef up my “Ice Giants” presentation as much as I can, and if the worst happens, I’ll just shout “Uranus!!” a few times. I know it’s immature, but I do find the name of that planet to be oh-so funny.


An early start at work meant I had an early start today. Having lain awake for over an hour, I started on the ironing at 5am. But an early start means an early finish, and then (for no adequately explained reason) I set off to the pub for a celebration. You can’t beat a good booze up with old mates…



23 January 2010 (Saturday) - Mother, Computers, Fish




I’ve mentioned before that on August 19th last year I went to Tesco. I bought milk, mustard and muesli. Crisps and jam. Bananas, milk and prawns. And a magazine (presumably Viz). I know this because I keep a tally of everything I buy with my credit card so that when the bill comes in, there aren’t any nasty surprises from purchases I’ve forgotten about. Like new tellys (!)

August 19th’s little batch of groceries came to £16.20, and has never appeared on my credit card bill. This morning’s post brought the latest bill, and it still hasn’t appeared. I’ve decided to wipe it off of my tally of as yet unpaid stuff. That’s another £16.20 I can squander foolishly.


The morning’s post also brought the agreement for my new phone tariff and the new card for my Sky HD. I suppose I’d better give some thought to where I want all the cables to go.


To Tesco to get a birthday pressie for the parents. We had this plan to get them a digital photo frame as a joint present, and have spent the last month looking at them in various shops and outlets and on-line. I suppose it’s a sign of the times that the best digital frame we could find (and at the best price) was in Tesco. We got then a memory card as well. A nice memory card that set off the security alarm as we left the shop. And also didn’t work when we tried to load it up, so back to Tesco’s we went.


Mum seemed pleased with the frame – we’ve pre-loaded over a hundred photos onto it, but it has the capacity for a lot more.I just hope they can make full use of it. Ideally they would be able to download piccies from their digital camera onto the thing, but that might be a tad ambitious.

It’s my long-term plan to get mother on-line. A couple of years ago I suggested I got her a computer and got her on-line, but she wasn’t keen on the idea. I tried suggesting it again today. Maybe a small tablet thingy with a cheapo internet contract might make a nice present?


I then spent a little time with the fish tank in the living room. First of all I spent half an hour excavating my way to the thing. We tend to clutter the house so much, and I had a major job just to be able to get to the fish tank. I cleaned it up as best I could, but it looks a bit sparse with only three fish in it. I might visit “Fish R Us” tomorrow…


Posted by Manky Badger at 7:23 PM 0 comments




24 January 2010 (Sunday) - McBreakfast, More Fish, Games




I wasn’t up as early as I sometimes am (6.30am today), and together with my house guest we set off to McDonalds for some McBreakfast. Something we’ve often done in the past, but haven’t done much recently. Bearing in mind how busy the place normally is, it was rather eerie to find the car park with only three cars. And those were not so much parked as just abandoned wherever the drivers felt like stopping.

I do like a sausage and egg McMuffin with McPorridge, and once that was scoffed, we went back home. I made a start on clearing out the junk in the living room. The verbals from Sky asked me to make sure that the engineer (who’s scheduled for tomorrow) can actually get to where he needs to be. After a couple of hours of shifting boxes around, I hope he can get close enough now.


I mentioned yesterday that I needed to stock up the fish tank, so we had a look in “Pets At Home”. The fish were nice, but I thought they were a tad pricey. Pausing only briefly in Staples for some card, we had a look at the fish in Bybrook Barn. It pays to shop around - a Neon in one shop was £1.50. In another it was 85p. So we bought our fish from Bybrook Barn, and if we didn’t actually get twice as many fish for the same money, it wasn’t far off.


Home again, and whilst the fish sat in their bags in the tank whilst temperatures equilibrated, I played Escape”, the latest silly game on Facebook. And then I kept out of the way whilst the girls carried on the tidying of the living room I’d started earlier. A sculpture came to light – one that would look good in the garden, so I set off to B&Q for varnish. It has to be said that heir staff weren’t as helpful as they might have been today. When I asked where the varnish was they told me it was in the varnish section. I explained that the varnish section was filled with woodstain, but no varnish. I was told “it’s on a shelf somewhere”. There’s nothing like customer service.


And then to YoVille, where I seem to be spending more and more time kissing Lisa’s mother…



25 January 2010 (Monday) - Stuff




One of my (many) failings is that I am a very “do it now!!!” person. If something needs doing, I crack on and do the entire project as quickly as possible. It was less than two weeks ago that I made the decision that our multi-region DVD player was knacked. Five days later it was replaced, and was playing through a new telly too.

Six days ago I speculated about making some changes to my internet and phone bill to subsidise getting Sky HD. Today I had the Sky HD fitted, and to be quite honest, SpongeBob SquarePants does look much clearer in HD.


I can’t see much difference with the Internet speed either. For all that the speed checker says it’s three times faster than it was a week ago, I’m now wondering if “internet speed” is one of those phrases which means something very esoteric in I.T. circles, but doesn’t have any bearing whatsoever on how fast the computer does internet-related things. I found awebsite

 which allows me to compare the speed of other internet users in my area. People with my provider seem to have relatively comparable speeds, people with other providers have really variable speeds. I expect they all get their smut downloaded at the same rate, though…

OK, the phone is now cheaper, the internet connection faster, the TV is in HD. What’s my next project going to be?

Meanwhile at the Royal Society, some of the finest scientific minds are meeting to discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence. (That’s aliens to you and me!). The theory being that as Corot and Kepler and other space telescopes are getting better and better, planets with free oxygen in their atmospheres may be discovered soon. And therefore we’ll meet aliens. Apparently (!)

I can’t help but feel that there are two sad indictments of our society here. Firstly the assumption that the (very) remote discovery of an Earth-type planet is synonymous with meeting E.T. And secondly that the experts seriously feel that any announcement of discovery of alien life is expected to be met with wide-spread pandemonium and panic by the populace.

After all, even saying hello to the closest place aliens could conceivably be would take nearly ten years. I suppose the public have all seen Star Trek and Doctor Who and have believed it.

Will we find oxygen atmospheres that indicate signs of life? Probably. Will we find signs of alien intelligence? Possibly. Will we meet the aliens? I’d like to think so but Enrico Fermi did some calculations on the subject sixty years ago. If there are aliens, where are they?


26 January 2010 (Tuesday) - At Work


I couldn’t help but notice that one of my colleagues was sitting with obvious discomfort today. But I didn’t like to say anything. At tea break she confided that over the weekend she’d had a ring put through her “women’s bits”, and went on to say that wearing jeans to work had been a mistake. I didn’t (quite) laugh out loud. I would wonder what on earth possesses someone to have their bits pierced. For myself, all I can say is that it seemed to be a good idea at the time.

Back to the grind, where we were (apparently) having something done to the air conditioning units in the ceiling space. I think that I might have more confidence in the air conditioning, had it not just been fixed by someone who I can only describe as “Hermann Munster”. In physical size, looks, and manual dexterity.

And then a discussion. What colour was Bagpuss? I could have sworn he was ginger. I was wrong…

I must love my job – I keep going in every day…..

27 January 2010 (Wednesday) - Games


The car was covered in ice this morning. I naively hoped we’d seen the last of this with the last of the snow three weeks ago. But it was quite nippy this morning, and I was still shivering when I got to Tesco.

Would you believe it – Tesco now have an entire aisle dedicated to Easter stuff. It’s still January! And again as I bought my lunch this morning, it was made perfectly clear by the staff that I was in their way, and wasn’t welcome. If only there was somewhere else on the way to work I’d get my lunch there. I might just write a letter of complaint to the manager. After all I haven’t written a letter for two weeks, and I’m missing doing so.

To Facebook where I got a message from a friend – “Has your facebook been running slow lately? Errors when trying to post stuff? Click applications, then edit applications....... select 'added to profile' from the drop-down. If you see one in there called "unnamed app" delete it... Its an internal spybot“ Sure enough, I had an "unnamed app". I haven’t any more. Perhaps the thing might work now?

And then to the arky-ologee club. Tonight was a meeting with a difference. Four short talks. The first was Lesley’s photos of places she’d dug holes. Then Ada had some dull photos of Lenham Craft Fair from thirty years ago. I’m told the third talk was on Roman roads. I slept through it. A dull talk would be riveting in comparison.

Lastly was a talk worth listening to – board games through the ages. Did you know that the game of draughts is at least three thousand years old? And now to eBay to see if I can find “Shut the Box”…


28 January 2010 (Thursday) - Waiting for the Postman


A day off work – the plan originally was to be going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show tonight, but at nearly thirty quid per ticket we decided against that idea. I still took the day off work anyway. Ironing doesn’t do itself, you know. And then I went around the house with a bin bag, chucking out loose tat. I found four bin bags full of the stuff. Where does it all come from? During the tidy up, an envelope came to light. It had my name on it (in a handwriting I don’t recognise), and inside it was a ten pound note. God clearly smiles on me and says “Good boy David”.

Whilst seeing to the ironing and the tidying, I watched DVDs. I’ve now got to the end of the second season of BattleStar Galactica. I like it even more watching it for the second time around. And then I watched the second episode of “Survivors”. I wasn’t overly impressed with the first season, and two weeks ago I said that the first episode of this season was a tad lame. It’s not got much better. The characters in it are all somewhat one-dimensional and unbelievable. Given that (most of) the entire population of the world has died, where would you live? Me – there are plenty of lovely houses in the country nearby that I would stock with food from the local supermarkets. Alternatively (and probably more likely in the circumstances) there are a couple of nearby castles that I might well move into. I certainly wouldn’t operate out of a sleeping bag in the bar of one of London’s scrattier pubs…

And then I settled down to watch a film. I like British films, and I’d heard such good reports of “This Is England” – a film about thuggery in the early 1980s. It was tripe.

Although I did enjoy my day in front of the telly, I did resent not being able to leave the house. Four gallons of beer was scheduled to be delivered today, and so I had to wait in for it. It amazes me that delivery companies can’t be somewhat more specific with their delivery times. They know where they have to make their drop-offs before they start. And there are enough on-line route planners that give the shortest journey distance between deliveries. And these websites make a very fair estimate of travel times of the various parts of the trip as well. Even allowing for fifteen minutes fiddling around with every customer, surely it would be possible to narrow down a delivery time to within a couple of hours, rather than expecting people to sit in all day long waiting? The stuff arrived at 4.30pm – I was on the point of giving up hope. Surely they could have told me “late afternoon” rather than just “some time today”?

I’ve taken the precaution of going round the box in various directions with gaffer tape. I’ve had experiences of these boxes before – they tend to fall open at the most inconvenient times if not seriously sealed up.

I then fiddled about on the PC, designing a pump clip label for the consignment of ale. I quite like the finished product. In the past I have made wine, with various degrees of success. I’m rather tempted to have a go at home brewing. I have some ideas for pump clips. The finished product may be foul, but I will have some class pump clips. After all, if I don’t know the ale in the pub, it’s the clip which makes my mind up for me.


29 January 2010 (Friday) - A Busy Day


Even though I had a day off work, I was up and watching BattleStar Galactica at 6am. I do like my Xmas pressie of the entire show on DVD!!. And then to YoVille, where I found the Yo-factory and got myself a job. Something to do in YoVille as well as kissing Lisa’s mother. If I earn enough money in the Yo-factory, I can buy all sorts of tat.

Yesterday I filled some bags of rubbish. I set off early this morning to lose them at the tip. Getting there early meant I got to miss the normal people, which is a good thing. I get so wound up by the idiots at the tip.

And then I collected Matt and we did the Tesco thing. Shopping doesn’t buy itself. I had been given a list, which was probably for the best. However, far be it from me to disrespect my beloved, but my instructions could have been a tad more detailed. Take for example list item #8: Parsnips. Fresh? Frozen? Tinned? How many? It was a good job I had an assistant who is used to doing shopping as I soon found myself out of my depth. Did you know that if you buy parsnips that the supermarket has already bagged for you, they are 40p per pound more expensive? I didn’t. Or take list item #10: Frozen peas. I always thought peas is peas. But no – there were more sorts of frozen peas than I have sense. Pausing only briefly to get some port and lay an egg about the total price, I couldn’t get out of the shop quickly enough.

Home to do some preparations for tomorrow, and then another tip run. But I’d left the second tip run too late. I wouldn’t say the place was swarming with retards, but there were enough normal people there to make me see red. The tip is an easy enough concept, surely? You put your rubbish into various bags depending on what sort of rubbish it is. You drive it to the tip, and chuck it in the appropriate receptacle.

One silly twit had thrown the entire contents of his car onto the floor, and was then trying to sort it into various piles. Including one pile of stuff he wanted to save. I wouldn’t mind so much if he’d done this in the corner out of everyone’s way…

Another windfall. “My Boy TM ” offered to pay half the installation of the Sky HD. Well, he has now Sky Plus in his bedroom so I didn’t feel too guilty taking his money. I went to Bybrook Barn and bought another twenty neons. You can never have too many neons – they are probably my favourite tropical fish.

And then home, via the KFC for some scoff. A variety meal for a fiver. I saw on the receipt that 77p of that fiver went on tax. That works out at 15%, which I know is correct. But when you see the amount written down, I think it seems a bit much.

I scoffed my chicken whilst watching “Football Factory”. Whilst I loathe football, I actually enjoy films about football fans and this is one of the better ones. And then whilst my dinner settled I did the household accounts. Perhaps I’m an old miser, but every month I go through the bills and I account for every penny. I see that the direct debit for the gas bill for November still hasn’t been taken. Perhaps I might ring them up. Or perhaps I might keep quiet and spend that money on beer.

Today was the last Friday of the month – astro club. I was glad to be able to deliver the boards which have been in the back of my car since Xmas. They made an impressive display – a shame that the lady with the posters to put on them couldn’t get along tonight. But the evening went well. One of the youngsters gave a talk on relative sizes of astronomical objects, referring back to the sizes of enormous jam jars filled with blue whales. He did really well. There was a talk on current things in the astromological world, a talk on features of the winter sky; I made the club over thirty quid by hawking the raffle, and then a practical session outside where we focussed telescopes on Mars, the moon and the Pleiades.

It’s nearly three years since the astro club started, and despite a very rocky start the club is now going from strength to strength. We have a paid up membership of over sixty people, and I’ve never seen as many people along as we had tonight.


30 January 2010 (Saturday) - The Late, Late Xmas Party


Yesterday I walked into Ashford. On the way I called into the reptile shop up the road. Some lovely snakes and lizards, but I wasn’t tempted (much). I went up to Snappy Snaps. On Thursday I mentioned that I’d designed a pump clip for the four gallons of ale that had been delivered. I then thought it might be a laugh to actually have some pump clips made up. So I tried all the usual photographic places in town. All of which could make the things for me, and would have them ready in two weeks time. I eventually phoned Snappy Snaps at 5.45 pm last night who said if I emailed them the picture they would have them ready for early afternoon the next day.

So yesterday afternoon I went up to the nice lady behind the counter and explained I’d emailed them. And sure enough the clips were ready. Helpful friendly service – for anything photographic, I can’t recommend the place highly enough. All I needed was to scare up some blu-tack to put one of the things onto the beer box …

This morning was spent getting downstairs organised. For some time we’d been planning a late Xmas meal, very late bearing in mind it’s nearly February, but one of our number had been “unavoidably delayed” until late January. My plan was to invite a lot more people than we actually did, but anyone who has seen my living room will realise it’s not that huge, and bearing in mind the evening’s “guest of honour”, we reluctantly felt we had to restrict attendance to those who’s kept up correspondence with and had been to the chokey to visit “Norman Stanley”. Which was perhaps not strict enough, as there were still twenty-one of us for dinner.

(To those of my loyal readers who weren’t on the list, I can only say that I hope you’ll understand….)

We started shifting furniture about at 10am, and fortunately Martin arrived with a delivery of stuff. I put him to use with the heavy lifting, and after several permutations of tables we eventually came up with a way of (potentially) seating everyone. Then we raided Brian’s chairs, made table cloths from old rip-stop nylon and before we knew it, the morning had gone. Martin set off to the town centre, and I went to Tesco’s to get all the stuff I’d forgotten yesterday. As well as cream cakes for lunch. When we started getting ready I wondered if we’d started too early. In the end, the day rushed past, and all too soon we had a houseful.

In the past we’ve gone mob-handed to pubs and restaurants. You have to sit with “The Great Unwashed”, and it costs a fortune. Doing dinner for ourselves is better in so many ways. But the food – oh we had so much. Prawns and soups for starters. Roast dinners and curries. Carbonarras and jacket spuds. Stews and lasagnes. Trifles and cherry cakes, Xmas puds and cheesecakes.

Andy did a stand-up routine (he should do more of those), we had pass the parcel, it was great fun. Must do it more often…

31 January 2010 (Sunday) - Eating Too Much


I woke feeling a tad under the weather this morning. Can’t think why. It has been suggested that the third bottle of port after a gallon of ale might have been just the teensiest bit ambitious.

I had raspberry creamy dessert for brekky, followed by trifle and chocolate mousse whist I considered where to tidy up first. I soon gave up with thinking about tidying up and had some more raspberry stuff before attacking the washing up. We seem to have acquired loads of plates. I’m sure their owner will claim them eventually. In the meantime they are coming in handy to eat all the leftover dinner from. The pasta I have for afters was good, and once I’d run round with the hoover, I had some curry for elevenses.

Having fed myself up, I had the strength to carry Brian’s chairs back round to his house. He seemed well, considering. I left him with his chairs, and came home for a bowl of stew. (This stuff doesn’t eat itself, you know!) and then started lugging boxes around the house. Andy arrived and made off with some chairs. He needed to take the bowl containing the raspberry stuff so I scoffed some more of that. Just after he left, Glenn arrived, who took some of the acquired crockery and the curry. Batty then turned up and took a couple of platefuls of food. Which was probably for the best.

By now I was peckish again, and so had a jacket spud with pasta for lunch.

Feeling inexplicably stuffed, I settled down on the sofa and fell asleep in front of SpongeBob for an hour or so until I was woken by James who’d got me a bowl of trifle. So I scoffed that and dozed off again. In fact, pausing only briefly to fix my printer (where someone had set it to print out the entire internet), that was pretty much how I spent the afternoon – scoffing and snoozing. Perhaps a waste of a Sunday, but I was tired….