1 July 2009 (Wednesday) - Back to Canada?




Last night we watched the last episode of “The 4400”. Over the last sixteen years, every Tuesday evening I’ve sat with friends and we’ve watched no end of TV series. I liked “The 4400” because I didn’t fall asleep though any of it – which is quite unheard of. What I particularly liked about it was that being filmed in and around Vancouver, I recognised many of the places on the screen. I loved British Columbia when I was there. I’ve been there twice – it’s the most beautiful place in the world. Both times I went I was knee deep in cubs and scouts. Seeing it again on the telly has made me want to go back there. I wonder if I can scare up a cheap package holiday. It’s a long flight, but I can put up with that.

Quite appropriate I should be thinking of going there again, bearing in mind it’s Canada Day today.


And then, seeing as it was such a lovely evening we went for a cycle ride up to the Golden Ball (in Kennington). A strange pub – the surroundings were beautiful. The pub itself is that which you would expect to find in the grimmest of council estates. And the mild was sour. So we cycled home again. We won’t bother with that place again…



2 July 2009 (Thursday) - Another Day...



I see that nearly a third of the members of the members of the Scottish parliament agreed with me that Scottish home rule is a waste of time and money yesterday. The Queen made the effort and showed her face there. Her Majesty wasn’t particularly well, (I think she’s looking very frail these days) but she turned up to what was supposed to have been an historic occasion.

Nearly forty per cent of the MSPs couldn’t be bothered to show up to celebrate ten years of Scottish home rule, citing excuses as lame as umpiring a cricket match, moving office, visiting a creamery, socialising with asylum seekers and opening a footpath.

The 163 children born in Scotland on the day that the Scottish parliament opened were invited to the occasion. 143 came along – only ten per cent of them didn’t. Ten year olds could make the effort that paid parliamentarians wouldn’t.


It’s just another reason why the Scottish parliament is a total waste of money. The building itself has cost over £430 million, and costs over £70 million a year in running costs. Why on Earth do we have a Scottish parliament? Surely in the twenty-first century such small mindedness should be behind us. Surely we should be looking to a unified humanity with a world government.

We shouldn’t be harping back to home rule. Where does home rule end? Do we really want to go back to the dark ages when each individual county had its own King? And why should Ashford be beholden to edicts from far-off Maidstone? Come to that, what does “Johnny Foreigner” at the Stour Centre know about my concerns in Beaver Road?


Meanwhile the world is a sadder place as we say goodbye to Mrs Slocombe. Molly Sugden died today. She was eighty-six. Only four years older than Her Majesty….


Regular readers of this drivel may recall my entry of 16th June when I commented that after six months, the road works outside my house had been finished. Two weeks and two days later I’ve just had someone ringing the doorbell. Someone in overalls. Would I please move my car because they want to dig the road up. As I type this, the pneumatic drill is going again. And so is my blood pressure….



3 July 2009 (Friday) - Phone calls, Margate, Lino...




Last night I griped that the gas people were digging up the road again. Because they had once more done the job wrong and had to put it right. They still haven’t filled in the holes further down my road, and I’ve heard rumours that next week work is starting in Christchurch Road. That will make parking far worse than anything we’ve seen yet. I’ve pictured the hole above. As you can see, after less than a day, people are using it as somewhere to drop litter.

So at 9am I phoned Kent Highways on 08458 247 800, and quoted the old reference of 16282635. “Desmond” had a look in his records, and reacted as though he’d never heard of the concept of road works before. He did his level best to deny any knowledge or responsibility about the hole in the road, and tried to pass all the blame onto the contractor. I wasn’t having any of that – holes can’t be dug in roads without the say-so of Kent County Council, and so surely KCC must have the responsibility of keeping tabs on what the contractors are doing. If not, what’s to stop the entire county being dug up? Eventually he conceded defeat, once more took down the details I’d given KCC so many times, and said he’d get back to me.

Clarice” phoned back at 10.15 to say she was now on the case, and would let me know developments as they occurred.

What are the gas board playing at? Until he retired, my father’s job was to inspect gas repairs and works in the road to check that the hole could be filled in. Doesn’t anyone inspect the work any more?


The latest missive from the chokey arrived today. It would seem that yet again I’d stuffed up a crossword clue – the “S” word had seven letters, not six as I’d put in the clue. Still, it’s not as though he (or anyone else) could have solved the crossword anyway – here’s a clue from the same crossword: “The journey to the toilet (having gambled and lost) with a waddle, a quack, and a very unhappy frown (4,8)”. Having said that, I’m not sure that I should say much more. “Plodhave intercepted other letters to HMP Slade and have made third hand announcements that I’m not supposed to discuss my mate on an open blog.

I had a phone call from the chokey last night. “Norman Stanley” phoned me to tell me to take no notice of the edict. He said that if “Plod” has instructions for me, they can tell me directly. I can’t help but agree with him.


To Ashford Cycle Centre to buy a pump for my bike. The shop was swathed in "No Parking" signs, so I parked outside the shop opposite which had loads of parking spaces. As I was walking across to the cycle shop, some bloke came out of the shop where I'd parked and told me that it was no parking there too.

So I went to Halfords and bought my pump there. And then I phoned Ashford Cycle Centre to ask where I should park in future. They said I should park outside their shop. When I asked about all the no parking signs, they told me these are to deter visitors to other shops from parking there. It would seem there’s no love lost between the businesses on that estate. I can’t be doing with that. I shall stick with Halfords.


Whilst in Halfords, “Clarice” phoned me on my mobile. She’d done some research and found that there was a department that co-ordinates digging of holes with actually doing work in them, and then filling them in again. I would have thought that such a department was an integral and essential part of Kent Highways, but what do I know? However there was bad news. There would be no one in that department until Monday.


Work was better than usual today. On a late start and straight into a meeting for an hour. Then to Margate where I was doing a tutorial on iron. Did you know that for all we’ll die without the stuff, it can be rather toxic? The tutorial went well – we got onto the body’s defences against germs, and I illustrated immunological physiology with new and old tattoos. Some people use big words from text books. Me – I use knob jokes and tattoos. I like to think people learn more from my way. As part of my secondment once a week I’m doing teaching sessions with a group of students inMargate. Having been so fed up with my job for so long, it’s really good to be going over there. They are really friendly, keen enthusiastic people – it’s a real pleasure to spend time with them. Shame I only have three weeks left.


Home at 8.30pm to find that “Daddies Little Angel TM  has burned a hole in the lino whilst cooking cakes. I realise the obvious question is “how?”, but I find it best not to ask but to just accept these things….



4 July 2009 (Saturday) - Cycling To Warehorne




A cycle ride to Warehorne for a ploughman’s lunch. Over the last few weeks I’ve had no end of problems trying to publicise these little outings – emails seem to vanish into cyberspace, and my mobile sends texts to people’s landlines. I shall put up forthcoming events in the “Dates for the Diary” blog section to the right and hope that this is a good way of letting people know what I’m up to. If you don’t read my blog, could you let me know so’s I can tell you to look at it to find out what’s going on.


Up until a couple of months ago I would have confidently said that Warehorne is too far away to comfortably cycle. Today the journey there took less than an hour. If this cycling prowess continues, by the end of the summer a cycle ride to Rye and back should be on the cards.

The World’s Wonder in Warehorne is one of my current favourite pubs, if for no other reason than “Wonderbrew”. A beer that Goachers brew especially for the place. I say “especially” – there are other pubs for which Goachers brew special beers, and all these “one-off” beers taste suspiciously similar.

We arrived at the World’s Wonder, rearranged the tables and soon the non-cyclists were with us. Dinner was ordered – you can’t go wrong with a stilton ploughman’s. I’m getting just a tad predictable here. Whilst we ate, more cyclists arrived. And more. And more. All of them well into their sixties. One of them came over to us thinking we were part of their group. We got chatting - it turned out that the “Kent & Sussex Cycling Fellowship” had arranged to have a meeting there today. I must admit that some of those chaps on their bikes put me to shame.


It would have been quite pleasant to have sat in the beer garden all afternoon, but we got back on the bikes and set off back for home. er indoors TM had a mishap with her chain, but that was easily fixed. Gear cables tend to stretch, and both our bikes could do with a service. After ten minutes of puffing up the road my phone rang. Brian had already got to the Kings Head in Shadoxhurst – should he get the beers in? A difficult decision, I’m sure my loyal readers will agree. Shepherd Neame mild and a selection of olives. Very nice. Batty & Tina then set off for home whilst Brian and I had a pint of Bishop’s Finger for afters. I’ve not seen Bishop’s Finger on a hand pump since the day of Jack in the Green back in May, and then it had run out.


We arrived home, puffed for a few minutes, then all piled into the Bat-Mobile to Lakeside. Batty had been admiring the small rack on my bike, and wanted to go to Decathlon to get one. If anyone is ever going to Decathlon, I’ll always go along for the ride. The clothing is so cheap there, and there’s not many places that do pink T shirts in my size.


This evening once I’d done the ironing I sat down to do the household accounts. Basically I see what’s gone out of the bank, and what’s appeared on my credit card. And then see if it agrees with what I think it should be. A time consuming job, but worth doing. It amazes me that there are people who don’t check these things. I once found that I was paying for a phone I’d long since cancelled, and got a substantial refund. And another time I found the leccie people had helped themselves to large amounts of my wonga without telling me.


Today I noticed when going through credit card receipts that a lot of shops are now itemising the cost of the goods separately from the cost of the VAT. Take for example this afternoon’s haul from Decathlon – I stumped up £49.70 on assorted t shirts, trousers and camping kettles. But Decathlon has taken the trouble to tell me that without VAT it would have cost £43.20. Well, that’s no surprise really. I have a degree in mathematics and could easily have worked it out for myself. I wonder why they are doing this. They aren’t alone – several shops are doing the same. Is someone somewhere making a political statement…..


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5 July 2009 (Sunday) - To Church




A restless night – by the time I’d done the ironing and composed a crossword & letter to the chokey it was gone midnight. I couldn’t get to sleep, and lay restless for an hour. Once I eventually nodded off, er indoorsTM came home. It is from her that “My Boy TM ” inherits his ninja-like stealth. Not content with making enough racket to wake the dead, she then decided to attack and fight me for my blanket, claiming it was hers. It might have been once. It isn’t any more – I’ve stolen it. I got maybe an hour’s sleep before waking again. It was too hot. At 5am I was doing washing up and having a shave. I eventually wandered back to bed, and nodded off around 6am. At 6.30 the phone went. Work had a problem. So I was off to the hospital for an hour, before once more trying to get some kip. The phone rang just before 9am – a voice message asking if I had a contact number for Sophie. I had no idea who the message was from, or who Sophie is (or was), so at that point I gave up and went for brekkie.


It’s Sunday – to church. Together with a dozen or so mates, Enrique had his first Holy Communion. The church was packed to heaving – with at least five people to a pew, and fifty pews, to say nothing of people standing all along the sides of the church. I was in with the crowd standing at the back and there were loads of congregants (!) in the balcony. There must have been about five hundred people there. The left footers would seem to be doing a roaring trade – the boss vicar (they had three vicars!) said that they’d done thirty nine baptisms this year. And they were organised – I remember Holy Communion from my days in Methodism. It would take twenty minutes to do twenty people. The left footers shifted several hundred in ten minutes. The service was a bit…. Well, I suppose like most church services, you need to know what’s going on. Standing up, kneeling down, up and down. But having said that, this is my third time in church this year, and I think that if I have to go to church, I’d rather go R.C. There’s a sense of ceremony with the left footers that the C of E and the Baptists seem to be missing.


And then to the post church bunfight. Despite the close proximity of fit cousins, I spent most of the afternoon sniffing round Enrique’s fit teacher (who’d come along) Things have perked up since I was in school…





6 July 2009 (Monday) - Google Newsgroups



Yesterday I mentioned the blog’s “Recent Visitors Map”. Last night there was a hit from Thailand, and this afternoon one from New York.


For some years I’ve been subscribing to various Google newsgroups. Newsgroups are a bit like internet forums, but the difference between an on-line forum and a newsgroup is that forums have moderation. A few years ago, newsgroups were good. You could have a good chat on a range of subjects, learn something new.. It was through them that I got free magnets when badge-making (as a fund raiser) in 2004. And I met my mate in Sevenoaks that way.

But nowadays, newsgroups are a shambles. For years I regularly logged into the same dozen each day, and they’ve all gone the same way. What once were constructive discussions is now little more than soapboxes for the deranged. I first started mucking about on Google Groups round about Easter 2002. After some seven years of using them to argue my way around the world, I’ve decided to call it a day and cancel my account with giganews.

The medical-related groups I subscribed to have all been spammed to death by a twit from Calgary who expounds the theory that God made all the elements except iron, which was made by Satan. There’s no reasoning with the chap – he’s totally convinced himself and anyone who disagrees gets some quite serious abuse. I say “serious abuse” –he considers himself a Christian. So anyone who disagrees with him gets called every foul name under the sun, but he leaves out the vowels so as not to upset God. My favourite insult was to be called a fkdnthhdmthrfkr. It would be amusing if it hadn’t killed what was once a useful resource.

Another Canadian, who goes by the web-alias of “The Doctor is doing his utmost to kill off all the Doctor Who related groups.

The astronomy groups also attract the nutters, Apollo conspiracy theorists and flat-earthers. And the Koi ones attract nut cases to the point where most of the posts are racial abuse and hate mail. To see someone mention anything remotely fish-related is a rarity.

The local group (which was good several years ago) was all but destroyed some time ago by a twit from Canterbury (who on occasion openly admitted mental health problems) who would savagely attack any and all new posters who weren’t part of his little clique. And what was left has more recently been kicked firmly in the goolies by a chap from Charing who obsesses about the public sector conspiring to bring down civilisation.

The NeverWinter forum probably never had more than six contributors in all the years I subscribed to it, and the kite flying one attracts maybe three messages per month. The cycling group is similarly dead.


In theory you can use newsgroups to discuss a range of topics. In practice it’s a waste of money. Those groups which aren’t dead are being actively killed. I’ve gone from making dozens of postings a day down to sending maybe one a week. Cancelling the account will save me a fiver each month – that’s a pint and a half more beer…




7 July 2009 (Tuesday) - Management, Margate, Beer and a Birthday



As I approach the middle of week ten of my twelve week secondment, a senior manager today expressed surprise at what I’ve been doing with my time, and wonders if my time might have been better spent doing something completely different instead. One wonders if such wisdom might have been better imparted two months ago, but one keeps smiling.


To Margate where I saw the biggest bravest seagull you ever did see. Seagulls are getting larger every day, and they have no fear. As I drove into the car park at Margate, one stopped waddling and just stared at me as I drove toward it. It wasn’t going to move. In the end I stopped the car and beeped the hooter before the thing deigned to shift itself. Its mate (pictured above) was equally fearless.

Half way through my lecture about malaria there was the loudest thunderclap. After all the heat of the last week or so, now we’ve got the rain. Torrential rain. I just hope it clears up for the weekend.


Well, if it don’t I’ve got the beer ready for “Emergency Plan B”. It won’t be the first time a kite festival has been abandoned in favour of a booze-up. I went to Tesco for the beer, but a combination of a pathetic beer selection combined with an over-abundance of retards made me give up with Tesco’s. There are only so many children you can (literally) trip over before you see red. So I went to Asda. I don’t like Asda. The cark park is tortuous, you have to pay to park, and it too was full of retards. There wasn’t a single customer in there who was actually looking where it was going. The entire lot of them were blindly blundering around, bouncing off of shelves, trolleys, groceries and other shoppers alike. But the beer selection was better than Tesco’s. I’ve bought thirty two bottles of ale and a bottle of port. It won’t last the weekend.


And so to Andy & Heather’s. A birthday, and birthday cake is always popular. As was Star Trek meets Family Guy. Must watch more of that….



8 July 2009 (Wednesday) - Standardisation ?




The last letter I sent into the chokey was a tad faint in parts. I thought about waiting and sending the letter once I could get a replacement ink cartridge, but then I thought that if the ink was a bit sparse, trying to work out the words might give him something to do.


To Staples to get a replacement ink cartridge. And what a caper that was. There are dozens, if not hundreds of different sorts of ink cartridge. All different enough to make them utterly unique. What’s that all about? Surely it would make sense to have some sort of standardisation whereby all printers use the same?

And the price of cartridges… I paid twenty five quid for a black ink cartridge. It’s actually cheaper to buy a new printer (they come with ink cartridges) than it is to replace both black & colour cartridges.


And then to work – where a colleague was trying to find someone with a charger which would fit her mobile phone. They too all use different chargers. There was an article on the news the other day about there being a move to standardise mobile phone chargers. That would make sense.


And then I loaded up the car for the weekend. Perhaps a tad premature, but now it’s loaded it’s one less thing to do tomorrow. We take pretty much the same stuff camping every time we go. Sometimes I have to fight and struggle to get it all into the car. Other times (like today) it all fitted into the car easily with plenty of space to spare.

I’ve seen all sorts of weather forecasts for the weekend’s kite festival. Basically they all seem to agree that Friday and Monday will be OK. They just differ on how much rain to expect on Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps I’ll drive down via Middle Farm to get some extra supplies. It’s amazing how much beer one can get through when there’s not much else going on.


My Boy TM ” is looking forward to having the house to himself. Perhaps he’ll teach the fish to do more tricks



9 July 2009 (Thursday) - Go Directly (Back) to Jail



The start of my second long weekend of the summer. Where has the year gone?

There is nothing more uncomfortable than wandering around all day when the elastic in your pants has gone. It costs less than a quid to get new pants, so why don’t I chuck these things away?

And then back to Mario World – I’ve found an 80s games web site and am now hopelessly addicted to Super-Mario 3. It’s a rather lame game that over twenty years ago I wasted many an hour on, and it looks like I shall be wasting time on it again


I popped into the pet shop up the road this morning. The prices of snakes have really escalated. Something which only a few years ago was thirty or forty quid is now over two hundred. But they had some Kenyan Sand Boas for forty quid. They are so sweet, and don’t get much more than a foot long. I must admit to being tempted. Perhaps once the camping season is over I might think about a small boa. Or perhaps I won’t.


A quick train trip to get a plate of egg & chips in Wetherspoons, and then up to the chokey. “Norman Stanley” is in relatively good spirits, considering where he is. He’s looking somewhat gaunt, though and so we fed him up a tad. Between us we scoffed about a dozen bags of crisps, as many tins of pop, half a dozen crunchies, several cakes, and more Opal Fruits (not Starburst!!) than we’ve got sense. It would seem the recent storms have stuffed up the TV reception in the chokey, and aerials are being enhanced by hanging kettle leads out of the window. Something which is quite easy to do, as the windows don’t have glass, perspex or anything other than bars. I suppose that is good in hot weather, but I could imagine it being a nuisance in the winter, or what it rains. I’m told that floods from rain water are commonplace. I can’t help but wonder if such open-plan architecture isn’t in breach of human rights legislation. I wonder if I should be rattling cages about this one. I might write to my MP, or better still, “Norman Stanley”s MP.

It would seem that inmates are now required to eat any fruit immediately on being given the thing, and are not to take it back to their cells. One enterprising convict apparently managed to open a panel on the top of his cell door and stuff it full of fruit and sugar. A week later he loosened a screw at the bottom of the cell, and got drunk on what had been fermenting inside. You would have thought that the smell would have been a giveaway.


And again (at the risk of a ten year stretch inside myself) I was amazed at the security arrangements. I was I.D. checked three times on the way in, and body searched too. But on the way out I just upped sticks and together with a swarm of twenty or thirty other visitors just walked out. No one checked me on any lists, or I.D.-ed me. I just walked out of the prison.

I really can’t see anything preventing one of the inmates from doing the same. So I asked one of the guards what was stopping them. The arrogant fellow told me that he was. He pointed out that all the convicts wore a purple sash to identify them. I asked what would happen in the unlikely event that one was clever enough to drop the sash. After all, those criminal types are crafty (!) The guard told me that he knows the faces of all the inmates. All 600+ of them. And presumably he keeps track of all the new ones, and those that leave or move on to other nicks too.

I had no idea that prisons had guards of that calibre. We can all sleep soundly in our beds tonight….




10 July 2009 (Friday) - Back to Brighton




With the car loaded up we set off to Brighton Kite festival (for the eighth year running). Eight years – is it really that long? Despite getting away promptly, by the time we’d gone to Tesco’s for a sandwich, and then gone to Middle Farm for some emergency backup beer (just in case), we didn’t get to Stanmer Park until gone 1pm. Although the festival doesn’t actually start until mid morning on the Saturday, I like to get to a festival early. After all, to me, it’s the family holiday.


Tents were soon up, and Brian went to sleep. For no adequately explained reason, he’d not slept the previous night. Whilst he slept, I quietly coppiced the nearby woods. We’d planned to bring a fire pit, and so needed fuel. I had brought along an axe and some mega-secateurs to deal with the more recalcitrant dead branches. Whist I prepared the wood pile, the rest of our party arrived, and set up their tents and tea. Tea was good, and once it was scoffed, we had birthday cake and coffee. And then Lisa realised she’d left all her spare clothes at home.


Irene and I carried the washing up down to the toilet block where we faced a dilemma. Should we wash up in the ladies or the gents? In the end we decided it better to have a lady in the gents than me in the ladies, and we started scrubbing. As best we could in cold water. For some reason there was no hot water in the toilet block this year. I could have gone and whinged at the organisers, but they had plenty enough problems of their own without having to worry about my washing up. I suspect that one of the problems was the “normal person” we upset by having a lady in the gents doing the washing up. Oh – he wasn’t happy at all about that, and stormed off to complain.


Back to camp. A bit of a hike up the hill, but we’ve camped at the bottom before. It’s very busy and noisy down there. Half way up the hill we can spread out a bit, and there’s more wood for the fire pit there. Terry had brought a box of the Westerham Brewery’s finest, and we made a serious dent into that, and then saw off a bottle of port between us, whilst watching the illuminated kites flying in the dark night sky.


And so to bed. Another advantage of being half way up the hill is that you don’t get disturbed by all the commotions with which the people at the bottom do. Like the arrival of sixteen police officers. Someone had seen the flashing kites in the sky, decided they were U.F.O.s and had called the law…



11 July 2009 (Saturday) - In a Field, In the Rain



I got to bed shortly after midnight, and despite having had over a gallon of ale and a lot of port, I slept very restlessly, waking at least once every hour. Having lain awake listening to the rain for what felt like ages, I wandered down to the shower block for my morning shave shortly after 5am. It was as well that I did – I was able to pull all of the broccoli out of the plug hole that we’d left there from the night before.


Back to bed, and just as I finally dozed off around 8am, so Batty arrived with a suitcase full of Lisa’s smalls. He also wanted brekkie, Which was understandable. I wanted brekkie too. A sterling bit of scoff was devoured, and then after washing up, I went for a look round the festival. This year there were a lot more people camping than last, but I think there were perhaps less stalls. Which is probably for the best – I’m a sucker for buying stuff. In the past I’ve spent hundreds of pounds at Brighton kite festival. This year I kept it under a tenner.


There was a rather odd feeling to the morning. It was intermittently raining (which is never a good thing), and a sizeable proportion of the campers had gone off to a wedding. Two of the regulars had decided that Brighton kite festival is a really major part of their lives. I can understand that – it is for me too. But for them they felt it would be quite apt to get married whist at the festival. So for an hour or so there was a vague aura of anticipation, waiting for everyone to return so the festival could continue.


I scoffed a quick sarnie, and then I was on duty. I’d volunteered to help in the kiddies’ workshop where children (under expert (!) supervision) make their own kites from recycled bamboo canes and carrier bags, and then fly them into nearby trees. Despite the incessant rain, we had a constant stream of children wanting to make kites. In fact, after two hours we had to turn people away.


As I was wandering back over the kite field I had quite a shock. Someone hit me whilst I wasn’t looking. As I flew backwards, I was quite upset that someone would clobber me rather than have a discrete word. As I scraped myself off the floor, I saw the wreckage of a fellow kiter also laid out. It transpired that as I’d been walking across the field I wasn’t looking where I was going and I was waving at an old mate. Someone else also wasn’t looking where he was going, and was running backwards with his kite. I’m told by those who saw us collide that the entire episode was really fun to watch. I’m afraid my gob would disagree, and Bow’s back was bad all weekend after the impact.


So we retreated back to camp. The rain by now had slackened off to a medium monsoon and with all kite related activity unfortunately abandoned we started on the beer at 3.15pm. We did have an invitation to join the wedding party for a game of rounders, but it looked rather too wet for that. We decided to stick to what we knew best. As well as the five gallons of ale I’d brought along, Terry had brought over four gallons and Paul very kindly gave us a gallon as well. Those of us with hair had it platted. Those without put their bums through other people’s chairs. We came up with a dozen uses for a cheap Asda plastic poncho, the most important being a shelter under which the girlies could tiddle – our “turdis” had broken at some point. I had a really good afternoon, despite being intermittently dripped upon. The communal mess tent has sprung a leak. I must fix that at some point.


After a smashing bit of curry for tea, and the obligatory washing up, Dave & Tracy came to visit. There is a limit to how long one can hide from the rain, and I had spent all that time yesterday collecting firewood. So we had a go with the fire pit. It took some doing – fire lighting isn’t easy with wood that’s been sitting in the rain for a day, but we got it alight. Eventually.


To bed shortly after midnight – I woke up in the communal tent to find everyone else had gone to bed and left me sitting there, fast asleep….





12 July 2009 (Sunday) - Brighton Kite Festival




Another sleepless night. Not only rain, but wind too. Having lain awake listening to the banners flapping for an hour, I got up at 3am to take them down. I went back to bed, but didn’t sleep, and again at 5am was walking down the slope to have my morning ablutions. In the middle of the field was a duvet. I suppose there are several valid reasons why one would leave a duvet in a field. I decided it wasn’t my problem, and left it there. It turned out that it had been used for second base in the rounders match, and no one had got around to clearing it up yet.


Whilst waiting for brekkie, an entertaining five minutes was spent watching “mollusc wars” in which Lisa was fighting a slug against a snail. Unfortunately for popular entertainment, the invertebrates weren’t having any of it, and both just slimed away. And then the sun came out. We watched people flying kites as we scoffed out brekkie, and then set up the girls stall.


Seeing as the weather was against us yesterday, we didn’t bother, but the plan was to do face painting, flog candles, that sort of thing. The girls chose a good spot just where all the normal people would be crossing from one field to another. And we set up there. The wind was just a tad too strong, though. We decided to take the gazebo down – you can’t run a stall when you are desperately clinging to the gazebo to stop it blowing away.


With the girls ensconced on their stall, we went to get replacement poles. Some of the banner poles have seen better days, and some are just plain broken. We bought three new poles, and put them up to check they were OK. Two were fine. One wouldn’t come down again. Two of its sections had fused together. We had this idea to lubricate them with cooking oil. It was as well that we had plenty in the mess tent, but no matter how liberally we applied the stuff, we couldn’t separate the poles. Eventually we wondered if we shouldn’t take the broken bit back to the shop, but on reflection we decided that filling the thing with cooking oil had probably invalidated any guarantees that the shop might have offered. In the end we replaced the broken section in the new poles with a functional segment from a knacked pole. Not ideal, but it will do the job. Hopefully.


A bag of crisps for dinner, and leaving some of our crew fast asleep for the afternoon, I set off back to the kiddies workshop. With the better weather we had a queue of children all afternoon. The event was only marred by “Thugbert”, a particularly nasty example of the worst of humanity. His dog (which probably should have been muzzled) peed up the tent, and “Thugbert” could see no problem with it. I saw the twit later in the afternoon, who was ranting at anyone and everyone about the incident. Apparently he would have done something about the dog if the people running the festival had “shown him respect”. He then started screaming abuse at the world in general because an insect had flown into his beer.


Having helped the now sunburned girlie-types take their stall down, we volunteered to help tidy away after the festival. We were charged with gathering up eight wheelie-bins, and with lugging a generator across the field. A minor hiccup was that every gate we met was closed and guarded to keep pikeys out. This tended to interrupt the momentum, but then, sometimes momentum is best interrupted.


Back to camp where, with the better weather, we had more success with the fire pit. After a smashing bit of scoff we stood around the fire as the light failed, drinking beer and port, and scoffing two year old pickled eggs. (I’m quite pleased with how the eggs have turned out.) I learned that foxes don’t have opposable thumbs, and that earlier in the day the RSPCA had been selling dead dogs at Asda. (I’m sure that’s what she said...)


And then I noticed something odd on the main road. A dozen vans towing caravans had parked up, and the occupants were eying our cam site. Pikeys!! Our fire had turned out to be a pikey-magnet. In the end the travellers drove off elsewhere, but there was an exciting twenty minutes or so whist we waited in anticipation for… I’m not quite sure what we were expecting, but in the end we were disappointed.




13 July 2009 (Monday) - Home Again




A third restless night. I was packing my bags by 7am – there is only so much laying awake that you can do. Sometimes one misses having ironing to do. A minor disaster - I remembered that I didn’t have a spanner to disassemble the buggy. I’d borrowed one from my brother in law when we put it together on Friday.


And then a text message. One of the youngsters had taken a tumble on Saturday afternoon whilst playing rounders in the rain. The first aiders had diagnosed a pulled muscle. The lad had been to hospital where they found his arm had broken in two places, and would need pinning under anaesthetic to put right.


First aiders are one of my pet hates. These people had been driving around in two transit vans all weekend. They’d written “Emergency vehicle” on the side, and by not sending this youngster to hospital had actually done more harm than good. I recall another kiting injury a few years ago when the so-called first aiders were too busy sucking up to the local mayor to see to their injured. Why do these first aiders bother? Why don’t they just get a job on the ambulances? (rant over…)


I disposed of the ashes from the fire pit and the unburned firewood. And then extinguished any remaining heat in the ashes by tiddling my initials into them. We then had a quick bit of brekkie which (in a novel break with tradition) I helped cook, and then we packed up. Goodbyes were said – the trouble with kiting as a hobby is that all my mates live so far away and we meet up so infrequently.


We were away shortly after eleven, and home and doing laundry by 3pm. I even got the lawn mowed too. I feel worn out. Three nights not sleeping properly and I’ve caught the sun too.


It’s been suggested that we camp out at the Sussex county show at Ardingly later in the year. I’m in two minds about the thing. On the one hand it might be good fun, but it’s a two hour drive each way, and there’s an awful lot of mucking about setting up tents and stuff. It’s not for a couple of months, so I shall give it some thought.


The trouble with camping is that (as “Corporal Clot of the S.A.S.” once told me) there is camping, and there is being miserable in a tent. Whilst setting up our own personal tents is easy enough, we need somewhere to cook. And we need a table to cook on. And all the cooking tackle. And some sort of shelter in case it rains. After all, as we found out over the last few days, if the weather is bad, you need to be prepared for the worst. And that’s why we go so loaded down when we go camping.

I wonder if we could hire a caravan for the Ardingly weekend?




14 July 2009 (Tuesday) -




Understandably I was rather tired last night. I slept like a log – until 5am. And was rather restless from then on. I eventually got up shortly after 8am. I must admit I wasn’t feeling 100% - perhaps the after effects of three nights excessive drinking, the exertions of the weekend, or too much sun. I toyed with the idea of cutting my time off short and going into work, but thought better of it. For all that I am constantly worrying about the place, I’d rather not be there.


I finished off my latest letter to the chokey – this will be the twenty-fifth. All the letters seem to end up being a dozen pages long. I suppose I cheat a bit by using the blog as a basis for the letters, but by the time I’ve added some swearing, some photos and an impossible crossword I probably spend about three hours on the letter, so I don’t think I’m cheating that much. As I came back from the post office, so the latest letter from the chokey arrived. Rather bad timing!


I had a plan for today. I was going to unload the storage bins in the back garden. Yesterday when putting the camping gear away, I found so much stuff in there that really shouldn’t be there. We have gazebos and tents that no one claims. There are spare parts for the beer pavilion that I doubt we’ll ever use. And tents that haven’t been put up in years, and I suspect have been chewed by mice. One day I really should have a proper sort through it all. But not today. I did laundry instead. Five loads.

In between trips to the washing machine and the washing line outside, the day was spent entirely in NeverWinter, sailing virtual seas on my sailing ship the Azure Star. Not my choice of a name, but you can’t have everything. I was hunting down pirates and various sea-going monsters trolls and assorted ne’er-do-wells. Some might say it was a waste of a day, but it served to keep my mind off work. I could do with something to do that permanently.


This evening we had a phone call from the chokey – “Norman Stanley” seems well. And then a visitor. Someone who was a regular on a Tuesday evening has returned after an absence of some years. He says the house looks “busy”, but the garden less so. I’m sure his mother will be glad to hear he’s looking well….





15 July 2009 (Wednesday) - Housework




After some two hours sleep last night I was woken around 2am by the sounds of “My Boy TM ” quietly bringing loads of crockery out of his bedroom. He had no plan to wash it up, just to dump it in the kitchen. I then lay awake until 5am when I gave up, got up and ironed. After all, I’d spent all day yesterday generating the stuff – might as well get it done.


I came home from work to find that “Daddies Little Angel TM  has spent the day generating more washing up. Neither brat will actually wash any of it. It transpires that it would cause them physical pain to wash anything they personally haven’t dirtied, so to be on the safe side, they leave the lot. It’s just as well that I’m there to skivvy after them.


I hoiked a dead fish out of the pond. A mirror carp. Rather odd, as we never put any mirror carp in there. I wonder how that got in?


Yesterday’s missive from the chokey brought a visiting order. But what with people having booked leave in August already, I’m not able to arrange another prison visit until September. September !!the year’s flying away.


And, a closing thought – at the beginning of the month I mentioned that I wanted to go back to Canada. Today the boss has mentioned that he’s off to British Columbia for three weeks. Going to Victoria, Vancouver, then down into Seattle. I want to go, too!!



16 July 2009 (Thursday) - Health & Games




I had a pig of a drive to Margate today. Pretty much every white van that had ever been built spent part of the journey trying to drive up my exhaust pipe this morning. In the end I got so fed up with them that I drove through Birchington at 15 mph just to wind them up a bit.


There was an interesting article on the radio on the way home. Some do-gooding busybody wants to do away with the concept of retirement. Apparently working until you finally drop dead is good for the body, mind and spirit as well as giving meaning to life. Whereas retiring causes low self esteem and is upsetting and insulting to the retired. I wish some people would bog off. I’d retire tomorrow if I could.


And so to the occupational health department. I hate sitting in doctor’s waiting rooms. They are full of helpful leaflets which explain why you’ve probably got every disease known to science, why you lead the unhealthiest life on the planet and tell you that you are too fat and that you drink too much. In the end, I wasn’t in there for very long. I’ve had enough of being a manager and having given my bosses a list of twenty-plus reasons why I feel I can’t cope with my current job I’ve asked for a grade reduction. Management wanted occupational health’s agreement that I was suffering from stress. After two minutes the doctor wrote the letter. I’m not sure what happens next, but for once the future at work looks a tad brighter. I doubt it will last.


Meanwhile back in reality the Azure Star has found pirates, and I’ve got to the second Mario world…




17 July 2009 (Friday) - Canterbury Beer Festival




The morning’s haul of emails brought one from eBay. I have received an “unpaid item strike”. A couple of weeks ago I tried to buy a battery for my mobile phone. I paid for the thing, and received an email to say they’d posted it. Five days later they refunded my money. I asked what was going on. They’d refunded because they didn’t have what I’d ordered. So because they’d claimed to have posted the thing, they’d clearly lied to me. And so I gave them negative feedback. So in revenge they contacted eBay and claimed I’d never paid them, and I got an “unpaid item strike”. I wasn’t standing for that, filled out the on-line form to complain, and by return of post, eBay’s automated system removed the strike.

Bearing in mind the problems I had actually getting hold of my shed the other week, I’m a tad fed up with eBay at the moment. Its fine all the time things go well, but when things don’t, it would always have been easier to have dealt with a “proper” shop.


And then to Canterbury beer festival, via train and antique bus, picking up more of our number as we went. As always we made our way to Canterburybus station and queued up with the Great Unwashed. And many of them were very great and rather unwashed. There was even a yeti in the queue. There queue is huge – it always is on the Friday afternoon session. Mainly because that is the free session – all the other times there’s a charge of about a fiver to get in. They must make thousands.


Once off the bus, some of our number queued. I zoomed in to bag seats and a table. Which in the event was easier said than done. But eventually we were ensconced with more beer, curry, peanuts and olives than sense. To everyone’s consternation I won three things in the tombola – last year’s Good Beer Guide, some lame CAMRA leaflets, and a false beard which I used to scare the normal people.

And then beer - as always I started off choosing the beer with the silliest names. “Dark Side of the Moose” was OK, but “Dartford Wobbler” tasted of raw potatoes. After “Wicked Women”, “Daffy’s Elixir” and “Old Stoatwobblerthisng became rather vague, and so we left the festival a tad early so as to miss the last minute scrum in which several hundred people can’t all fit on the last bus.


A mooch round the piercing studios in Canterbury, then on to the Hobgoblin for a game of Farlke and a cigar. Both of which slipped down pleasantly. And then we walked out and…. I’m not quite sure what happened. All of a sudden we were half the number we were five minutes previously. So we adjourned to the Bishop’s Finger for a couple of pints, and (having regrouped) it was on to the Rose and Crown for a couple more.


Too much to drink, but a good fun day out. Same time next year……



18 July 2009 (Saturday) - Dungeness




A day at the seaside. A gaggle of us went to Dungeness. The lighthouse is a good place to visit, if a tad scary if you’re not good with heights. Which I’m not. But half a dozen of us braved the heights. The view from the top was good, and we wondered about the naval ship that was sailing past. We looked for dolphins, but didn’t see any. But I got to take quite a few photos with my USB binoculars, and they are now sitting on Facebook. If you scroll down a bit, on the right hand side of this page there’s a link to my Facebook photo albums. I had a plan to move all my photos to Picasa so’s they would be accessible in slide shows via the Blogger software, but in the end, I couldn’t be bothered.


Climbing down the lighthouse was probably more scary than going up it, and then we adjourned for a bite to eat. There’s only one pub near the lighthouse, and whilst the food was good, it wasn’t cheap. And there was a bit of an attitude from staff. OK, I can understand that they are not keen on providing bowls of warm water for warming baby food. I can see that there may well be health and safety issues. However if a bowl of warm water is to be labelled as a danger, then so must be bowls of soup, and cups of tea and coffee.

I detest pubs (or any business come to that) who feel that because of their location they have a monopoly and can act as arrogantly as they please. I suppose they make their money from the tourist trade, and don’t expect people to return. A shame, because next time I’m in Dungeness, we shall drive elsewhere to find a pub.


And then we popped into the lifeboat station to have a look around. It never fails to amaze me that lifeboats are funded on an entirely voluntary basis. When you think of what the government wastes money on, surely lifeboats deserve a contribution?



19 July 2009 (Sunday) - To The Cinema




I wasn’t sure what the plan for today was, but I was hoping for something. A walk, a bike ride. But I woke up to drizzle, and the day never really cheered up much. I got the lawn mowed, which was a result, and I thought about cleaning out the fish pond filter. But I thought better of that idea. I might do it one evening in the week – I really couldn’t face smelling of carp poo today.


To the cinema with Chris. I’ve been wanting to see the new Harry Potter film ever since I read the book four years ago. I can remember queuing up at midnight to buy the book when it first came out, and spending much of that weekend sitting with a gaggle of friends in Kearsney Abbey. I enjoyed the book. Like any sixth book in a series, it relied heavily on what had gone before. And if I hadn’t read the previous five books prior to reading it, I would have been somewhat confused. But that’s how a series works. Take the Star Wars films for example. One follows nicely into the next. To use a technical tern, it’s got “continuity”.


****Minor spoiler alert*****


I’m afraid to say that today’s film was, like all Harry Potter films, rubbish. It only works as an illustration of some of the scenes from the book. As a self-contained work of cinematic art, it fails at the first hurdle. If you’ve read the book then you will recognise the various scenes of the film. If you’ve read the book and know the characters, some of the scenes are variously amusing, well done, emotional and scary. And they are done so well that you don’t realise that the scenes are utterly disjointed and that the film actually lacks any continuity whatsoever. Why on Earth were the characters of Neville, Fred, George, Luna, Tonks and Lupin in this film at all? They lent nothing to the plot (such as it was) and having been given centre stage for a scene or two, they never appeared again. What was that with Dumbledore’s hand? Or the pensieve? Or the phoenix?


Compare this to a film I watched earlier in the year. “Twilight” worked as a film of a book because some things from the book were left out, and the story was consistent without those dropped elements. The Harry Potter film wasn’t. It didn’t have a plot that could be followed, and only made any sense if you’d read the book.


On another note, I was amazed how busy the cinema was at 1pm on a Sunday – heaving. And I felt rather sorry for the parents of the hoards of six year olds who’d taken their kiddies to see what wasn’t (by any stretch of the imagination) a child’s film. There will be nightmares tonight….



20 July 2009 (Monday) - Forty Years Ago




Forty years ago today, men first walked on the moon. I don’t actually remember Apollo 11, but I can remember the world-wide panic when Apollo 13 got into difficulties, and I can remember sprinting home from school at dinner time to see whatever the astronauts had been up to. And having watched the moon landings, I confidently looked forward to a bright future in which humanity expanded.


There are those who seem to confuse human expansion into space with fanciful science fiction. But they are wrong. The urge to explore is something fundamental to humanity – ever since the first cave man wondered what was on the other side of the first hill he found. And so that was what I was expecting as a child – a world with orbital laboratories, colonies on the Moon, Mars, and the satellites of the outer planets. Instead, after Neil Armstrong’s “Giant Leap” humanity has taken a “Big Stand Still”, and will be standing still for at least another ten years.


In between work I phoned the prison to book my next visit. I got through relatively quickly this time – it only took seven hours for them to answer. But the visit is booked. If it takes as long to get through next time I shall complain to the governor. I wonder what his response might be.


And then in keeping with the astronomical theme of the day I left work and went straight to the committee meeting of the astro club. I was only an hour late, and managed to miss pretty much everything. Sometimes I detest late shifts. But the view of the sunset from the pub was rather pretty…


21 July 2009 (Tuesday) - Noise


Being on a late start, I was rather naively hoping for a bit of a lie in this morning. Last night I even prompted “My Boy TM ” about keeping the noise down. To his credit, he merely crashed down the stairs at 5.30am, not thundering as he usually would. And he closed the front door quietly – the impact of the closure only being audible for a few hundred yards – not miles as is usually the case. However the rest of the tribe made up for him this morning. “Daddies Little Angel TM  sang beatifically with the voice of a (hell’s) angel, and rather than typing in the standard manner, er indoors TMoperated her computer’s keyboard with what sounded like hammers. I didn’t want to sleep, anyway.


I spent a bit of time updating the blog’s “Dates for the Diary” section. I tend to agree to all sorts of things and then forget about them, so it might help as a bit of an aide-memoir. There are those who claim it may be used as an open invitation to burglars. It’s more likely to be used by “My Boy TM ” to know when the coast is clear to get up to mischief, and the thought of him being caught mid-prod by a burglar is something I’ve been sniggering about for most of the day.


One of the events featured on the “Dates for the Diary” is a cycle ride I’ve got in mind for this weekend – a trip to Ruckinge & back. Because I was a tad bored before work this morning, I drove the proposed route to see how feasible it would be. It took about fifteen minutes in the car, so I reckon an hour on the bike should be about right. See you all at the Blue Anchor….




22 July 2009 (Wednesday) - Stuff




I slept right through until 6am today. I was impressed, and ironed six shirts in celebration. As I hung the washing on the line, the fish were particularly noisy. Bloodworms seem to breed in the filter box, and the fish lurk by the waterfall to get the bloodworms as they fall out. The fish were slurping particularly loudly this morning. You wouldn’t think a carp could be a noisy animal. I suppose they’ve been taking lessons from the rest of the family.


As I got in my car today, I found myself giving my roof box an experimental prod. It seems that baboons in a safari park have learned how to open the boxes. Not content with ripping off wing mirrors and windscreen wipers, they now destroy roof boxes. I can’t imagine how anyone would be so dumb as to drive through one of those places – and I can vouch for having done some pretty dumb things.


I looked out of the window this evening to a scary sight. Not only had “My Boy TM ” not been arguing with his sister for a full half an hour, but he was also getting the laundry in from the washing line. That boy is up to something. I wonder what…


And then to the World’s Wonder – my current “favourite pub”. With a decent ale (Wonderbrew) and food which really is home made, it’s a shame this place isn’t closer to home. In a few weeks time they are having “A Night of Nostalgia with an Old Time Sing-A-Long”. This event apparently features Elspeth at the pianoforte, and I wouldn’t miss it for all the tea in China.

We were at the pub for a meal to celebrate Chris’ birthday. He’s fifty, you know. Fifty. That’s ancient. I shall be fifty in five years time. I don’t feel old at all. I suppose everything is relative, as Albert once said. Mind you, I am hobbling about like an old man today. My right knee has been incredibly painful all day. At 10pm er indoors TM admitted she’d hoofed me in the knee last night because the gentle sounds of my rhythmic breathing were keeping her awake. Pah !



23 July 2009 (Thursday) - A Tad Dull




All things considered, today was a tad dull, and just another day in the life. It’s amazing how quickly one takes not laying awake all night for granted, and I would probably have snored on for half the day had “My Boy TM ” not done an impression of the explosion of Krakatoa as he closed the front door at 5.30am this morning.


To work – sometimes I love working for the NHS. With two days of my secondment left, I am given a task which would take lesser mortals weeks to do. Fortunately I am wonderful, and rose to the occasion. Having started early, I came home early and put the finishing touches to two of my most recent major projects. Both are still very much “works in progress”, but as my secondment ends tomorrow, I doubt I’ll get time to finish them. I’m not doing in in my own time.


Because I work in a laboratory, we can’t have a drink while we work – we have to go for formal tea breaks. In my breaks I’ve been reading the “Twilight” series of books. I’ve borrowed them, and have been reading them for the last couple of months. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, much as I’ve enjoyed them, now I’ve finished, I’m disappointed. In several thousand pages of books, nothing actually happened.


And then I tuned into the news. Disaster! The company that makes the best shoes in the world is in financial difficulties. I realise that the less fashion conscious among us have mocked my crocs - what do they know? But crocs are no more. A sad sign of our times. Because the things don’t fall apart within a week, there’s no profit to be made from them, and the firm that makes them is slowly going west….


24 July 2009 (Friday) - To The Post Office




To the post office to collect a parcel. They now insist that you produce some identification before they hand over your parcel to you. The fact that you’ve got the slip they left isn’t good enough. Apparently someone might be sneaky enough to have broken into your house to nick that slip. So I showed the retard-on-duty my passport.

It was actually rather embarrassing watching him trying to read the name and address on my passport and attempt to compare it to the information on the parcel. Eventually he satisfied himself that they matched, and handed both back to me. I pointed out that surely he should have compared the photo on the passport with my face. Surely all that any I.D. with an address on can show is that you got that I.D. from the same place where the post office’s slip was left. I might have nicked that passport whilst I was nicking the delivery slip. And therefore what he’d so laboriously scrutinised was no better than just producing the slip the postman left in the first place. Surely you need to know that the person collecting the parcel is who they claim to be, not that they have potentially stolen several things from the same address?

However the application of intelligence was way beyond this retard’s capability, and I left him standing with a look of utter confusion on his dial. I think I might become a retard – life would be so much simpler.


Today was the last day of my secondment, and I got given another epic task to do. I wonder if I shouldn’t have accepted that job at the hospital at Chatham all those months ago.

Despite torrential rain I went to Margate for the last time (for a while). My lecture today was on leukaemia, and it seemed to go down well. One of the students was on holiday, but she came in especially for my session. What was supposed to be twenty minutes went on for an hour and a half.

A shame that this secondment has to end – I’ve got so much done in three months. And all the students have said they’ve got more done with me in three months than in the last year or so. I’ve gently suggested they write to management.

And for all that I hate driving, I actually like driving to Margate – well, I like driving home from Margate. Stopping of at Pegwell Bay for a crafty cuppa and to watch the kite surfers. And then the view of the cross-channel ferries from Jubilee Way driving down into Dover. I shall miss all that.


When I got home, despite the torrential rain, I mucked out the pond’s fish poo filter. There was no one home, and so I had this idea that if I was quick, I wouldn’t get any grief for doing so. I’ve taken to cleaning the thing out in the bath, as it’s easier all round. I don’t have to lug buckets of water all over the place, and the carp turds go down the plughole. The only drawback is that (for no adequately explored reason) the women get all twitchy about it. But I had the thing apart, scrubbed, back in place and myself bathed before they came home. They will never know…




25 July 2009 (Saturday) – Ruckinge




A long time ago I received an email from the new landlord of the Blue Anchor in Ruckinge. He’d seen my review of the place on Beer in the Evening, and wondered if I would care to change my opinion seeing as he’d taken over. For a while I’ve considered Ruckinge to be a bit far for a cycle ride, but today four of us set off. It might have been five – maybe next time.

We had a lovely ride through the countryside. Very scenic, marred only by two near fatal collisions. Both with the same car. One where a car came round the corner far too fast and nearly flattened Batty, and then one where the same car nearly flattened me because I was laughing at Batty so much.


We arrived at our destination and met up with the chauffer-driven, only to find that the kitchen in the Blue Anchor was closed today. I’m not impressed. The pub has a website – why not mention that you’re not doing food? I suppose that by not mentioning that, they conned the price of a round of drinks out of us. Money they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Once we’d drunk up we cycled a mile or so along the road into Bilsington. Relying on memory and pot luck rather than cartography, seeing as we’d actually gone so far from home we’d cycled off the edge of the map. We found the White Horse, which did do food, and had a foxy barmaid with a barrel of beer on the counter. Oh yes ! And a stilton ploughmans too. That slipped down well. I had this vague idea that I could navigate us home via the Good Intent, and I did, albeit up a rather steep hill. I didn’t actually get off and push, but it was a close-run thing. A crafty IPA in Aldington Frith, and then home.


I got my shears out and treated myself to a haircut. One of my better ideas was to buy a pair of shears about ten years ago. It cost me fifteen quid, and I’ve never paid for a haircut since. However, a minor hiccup today – I think I had them set a tad short. Still, it’ll grow back. Or it won’t.


And then a walk up town. I wanted to pop into Waterstones, and I needed to get a birthday card to send to “Norman Stanley”. Have you ever tried to get a birthday card suitable to send into a prison? They all bleat on about having a wonderful day, happy day… in the end I got him one with a knob joke, and I’m hoping for the best.





26 July 2009 (Sunday) - Going for a Walk




I woke up early and put some washing in. Someone has to. A quick shave, and back to bed. When I got up, so did everyone else. I thought I’d make a cuppa. So did everyone else. I thought I’d go to the loo. So did everyone else. I thought I’d brush my teeth. So did everyone else. Why is it that with no time pressures at all today, everyone is under my feet, and swearing at me for being in their way?


A phone call from the chokey. He thought he’d surprise us. It did that. Apparently he had a few moments this morning before the wing’s snooker tournament. Once he hung up and went off to pot red, I designed a flier for the astro club. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages. You can see it here. The idea is that what’s on that website is printed either side of a landscaped side of A4, and then with a couple of folds it will make a flier that could be handed out to advertise the club. It’s not quite right yet – all comments & suggestions for improving it are welcomed. There’s a minor hiccup that the publisher program crashes whenever I try to print, but I’m sure I can get round that somehow.


And then I got on with the lawn. It doesn’t mow itself, you know. And I trimmed back the overgrowth from next door. He does like his climbing plants, and I don’t mind their hanging over the fence really. If only they wouldn’t keep dropping petals and leaves all over the place.


In the afternoon me and er indoors TM went for a walk round Ashford Community Woodland. I didn’t even know the place existed, but it’s been there for ten years. It’s a series of woods and heaths connected by various footpaths. All very scenic. Now we know it’s there we may well go more often, but then again, maybe not. At the risk of playing into the hands of other bloggers who describe me as a “fitness freak” (pah!), I must admit that when I go for a walk, I want to take more than half an hour to do so. We left home at about 1.15pm, found the place, strolled round the entire lot and were back in the car less than an hour later. Much as it’s a good place to be, there’s not a lot there. You can’t realistically decide to spend an afternoon at an attraction and be finished by 2pm, can you?

So we drove down to Orlestone woods - just outside Hamstreet. We cycled past there a few weeks ago, and today we spent a little while wandering round the woods, trying (and mostly failing) to photograph butterflies.


Having spent the afternoon in woodlands, I realised a sign of our times. When I was a lad, most trees would have ropes hanging out of them. Ropes close in to the trunk so small boys could climb the tree easier, and ropes a bit further out hanging from branches that small boys would swing on. Today – not a single rope. And not a single child running wild in the woods. Don’t children these days play in woods? I used to, and so did “My BoyTM”.


Home via Tesco’s. I never learn, do I? No matter when you go, morning, noon or night. It doesn’t make any difference – the place is heaving with retards. But I bought a nice pink shirt, so the journey wasn’t entirely wasted. I shall wear that shirt in Brighton tomorrow….



27 July 2009 (Monday) - Brighton. In The Rain



Whenever I set my alarm clock (alarm phone) I’m usually awake waiting for it to go off. I think I was awake most of the night waiting for the 5am alarm. An early start, as the train went at 6.20am. “My Boy TM ” gave me a lift to the station, and it was as well that he did. Oh the fun we had with the queue.

One of the normal people wanted a long term season ticket, but refused to have the accompanying photo-card that went with it. Somehow or other that would have impinged on his civil liberties. And then the next one wanted an off-peak ticket, and didn’t like the fact that he couldn’t get one before 10am. He was getting quite shirty, and demanded that since his train was about to go, perhaps the bloke behind the counter could just sell him an off-peak ticket, and he could have the rest of the argument on the train. When eventually I got my turn I didn’t have the heart to tell the ticket bloke that his price was £1.40 more than their web site had quoted.


The train journey to Brighton was OK, once we’d got past Rye. There was some twonk with an iPod who was broadcasting to the world. The fact that no one liked his music was rather upsetting to him. He must have tried over a dozen tracks to find one that the nice lady opposite him liked. He kept asking her opinion, and she kept saying she didn’t like it. It was a shame she didn’t tell him to switch the thing off.

As I came out of the Bo Peep tunnel I had a text message – an update from my correspondent in Brighton. It was pouring hard there, and I could get a number 7 bus straight from the train station to the hospital. Excellent! I walked out of the station and straight onto the bus.


I arrived at the hospital and was immediately glad I hadn’t driven. There was no parking at the hospital. That’s not “all the spaces were taken” – there was no parking at all. I had been told that had I driven I might have been lucky enough to have found a parking space in a nearby street. But all the streets looked very full of cars, and there were more traffic wardens there than I’ve ever seen before anywhere during normal working hours.

The Royal Sussex County Hospital is a funny place. Over the years I’ve visited a lot of hospitals, and I’m sorry to say I took an instant dislike to this one. For all that the place is huge, I found it rather claustrophobic, and more than a little bit shabby and run down. Especially the block which is less than ten years old.

Built on a hillside, the bit where I was going was level 6, and was actually on the ground floor. I was there to formally assess one of their lab’s trainees, and the chap’s manager was a lady with whom I went to college at Brighton Tec from 1981 – 83. Years ago. I felt rather sorry for the poor bloke – he was excellent, and passed with flying colours. And then sat and politely listened whilst me and his boss had a good old gossip.

Before leaving the hospital I thought I’d visit Corinne, who was hard at work on one of the wards. I’m glad I don’t work on a hospital ward – they always look such busy places.


I had this plan to spend a bit of time reviewing old haunts before going home, but pretty much all the shops I used to visit have closed over the last twenty six years. And it was raining hard. So I merely kept up the tradition of taking home a pineapple for er indoors TM. Twenty-odd years ago, every college day, I would bring her home a pineapple. Finding a greengrocer inBrighton took some doing, but eventually I found one.


As luck would have it, the greengrocer was just over the road from the Evening Star – a pub I’ve been meaning to visit for years. It’s got the largest selection of ales I’ve ever seen in a pub, and cider & perry on tap too. So, since I had a few minutes until the train was due, I had a crafty half. Just the one. It’s not as much fun without a gang of mates in tow, but I enjoyed a a pint of their “Original” whilst I tried (and failed) to text a picture of the pump clips to “the usual suspects”. There are currently five pubs on Beer in the Evening’s website that I rate at 9/10. This place might possibly be the sixth.

Whilst there, I took the opportunity to bring home a couple of bottle of expresso – coffee flavoured beer. Dark Star brew a decent drop of ale. It’s a shame the place is two hours away (and twenty quid!) on the train. Maybe one day….



28 July 2009 (Tuesday) - Making Money




Notwithstanding the din of “My Boy TM ” quietly (!) going to work at 5.30am this morning, in a novel break with tradition, I stayed in my pit until gone 7am.

There was an interesting article on the radio on the way to work – there’s a craze sweeping America whereby (for no adequately explained reason) you have to throw away most of your possessions – you can only keep one hundred. I wonder how the ladies of the household would respond to that one, bearing in mind we don’t so much live in a house as in an obstacle course.

Meanwhile, worn out from being quiet, “My Boy TM ” had come home from work and was having a kip in the garden. Some of us come home and have a kip. Others come home, do the washing up and get the laundry in. Who’s the daft one?

A phone call – some twonk from GMC finance. Apparently I asked them to phone me because I liked what I’d read about their company. One lives and learns.

They felt they wanted to share their get rich quick scheme with me. It would be very lucrative for me to invest in companies that provide temporary agency staff to work in hospitals. Apparently the NHS is dumb, and is willing to pay far over the odds for agency staff, which means a nice return on their shares. They claimed that a share worth 80p last year was now worth over two quid.

They seemed to be oblivious to the fact that the NHS agency gravy train has long since come off the rails, and seemed to take offence when I intimated they were talking rubbish. I’m the one who up until last Friday had been sacking these temps. What do I know…..



29 July 2009 (Wednesday) - Stuff




I woke up feeling a tad thirsty, and so went for a glass of water at 3am. And saw the washing up hadn’t been done. Once I’d scrubbed that and fiddled around with the washing machine, ironed some shirts, blah-de-blah I was nearly late for work.

Work was shorthanded due to the swine flu epidemic. People never think of hospital workers going off sick, do they? And then home to lend Joey a rucksack. It doesn’t seem that long ago since she was five years old and would try to drown me in the swimming pool. For all that she’s now twenty, I still see her as that five year old, and I can’t get my head round the fact that she’s off to Italy.

Tonight’s planned meeting of the arky-ologee club was cancelled at short notice. The plan was to got for a walk in an area of local archaeological interest, but because Michael “no hurricane” Fish says there might be thunder, the whole thing was called off. I can’t pretend to be the keenest member of the club, but if I keep my racket down, I usually get to go to the pub afterwards. Personally I was hoping for a quick thunderstorm, if only to wake up “sleeping beauty”.

Still, on reflection it’s probably for the best that the walk was cancelled – my knee still hurts. It’s been painful for a week now. Cycling is fine – I cycled about fifteen miles last weekend with no problems. But walking to post a card and back nearly did for me.

Whilst I’m listing my ailments in a futile attempt to gain the sympathy vote, my left armpit is still sore. It’s been like that ever since I was bought some pink deodorant at Brighton Kite Festival.

Whilst doing the monthly accounts I had cause to use my shredder. We got a shredder a while back because er indoors TM said to, and who am I to argue? I thought there was something suspicious when I saw that the thing had been emptied. Far be it from me to name names, but it was working fine when I last touched it, and now it’s knacked. And didn’t I see a hand-operated shredder downstairs the other day?

There’s not a very long list of suspects…



30 July 2009 (Thursday) - A Dull Day




Because I was on a late today I didn’t set my alarm, and I slept through. Which confirms my theory that I wake early some days because I know there’s an alarm with my name on it. Today I was woken by er indoors TM‘s alarm. Which went on. And on. And on until I poked her. I really don’t know why she bothers with an alarm – it never wakes her. It just disturbs me instead (!)

I had some time to waste before work – so back to NeverWinter where it would seem that kobolds are running riot. It’s as well that I was there to save the world (again). And then to Halfords to buy magnetic tax disc holders for my tax disc & parking permit. Some days of my life are really exciting – others are rather dull.

The highlight of the day was a conversation with a total retard who thought she was clever by naming her house “Shingles”. I just didn’t have the heart to tell her...

I’ve had one or two phone calls and texts today asking about plans for the weekend. Weather forecasts for Saturday range from glorious sunshine through to monsoons, with all eventualities in between being possible. So the garden party planned for Saturday is going ahead regardless of the weather (unlike arky-ologee clubs). We’ve got a gazebo & an offer of a big parasol-ly type thing. And “Daddies Little Angel TM  has been assigned to tidying out the living room to make space for people.

Things might be a bit tight, but I plan to carry on regardless with idiot enthusiasm. It’s a life choice which hasn’t failed me (too badly) over these last forty-odd years…



31 July 2009 (Friday) - Propaganda




Up early, doing the ironing. I must love it. I didn’t hear “My Boy TM ” being quiet this morning. It was rumoured that he didn’t come home last night. Beast !

To work where I was rota-ed to be part of a four-person team. Due to sickness and unforeseen eventualities I was on my own. Still, it made the day go by quickly. And I managed to swap out of working tomorrow morning – which is probably for the best. From work I came home via Argos. I’d had a few emails telling me how wonderful chiminieres can be. I can take a hint with the best of them.

And then, being the last Friday of the month, it was astro club. Stevey was speaking on meteor showers this evening, and the club is going from strength to strength. With over forty people along (including the local vicar), the evening was excellent. I particularly enjoyed hawking the raffle, and then after the meeting I got time with Stevey.

And on the way home I squalled along to one of the world’s better albums – “Propaganda” by a group who were as good in 1974 as they are today. Did you know they have been asked to produce a musical for Swedish radio?