1 July 2010 (Thursday) - Still Dull....




Shopping. How dull. I suppose in retrospect it was rather obvious that Asda didn’t sell Tesco’s own brand shaving gel. I had to go to Tesco to get that. Also Asda don’t do big bags of Alpen. Tesco do, though. I also got an air pump from Tesco – after all these years I’ve finally got my own pump to inflate my beloved’s air bed when we are camping, rather than puffing into the thing for over half an hour. I had planned to get a bag of Tesco’s cheap tent pegs which I’ve seen there so many times over the last few months. But when I went to buy them, they’d sold out.


As I drove to work I listened to the radio. I know I shouldn’t – it only winds me up. As far as I am concerned, the so-called recession is officially over, and the country is back to being rolling in cash. How else could we afford to have an official poet at the Wimbledontennis championships?


Home to find someone had tried to deliver a parcel. Not for me; I’m not expecting anything. But if I was, I’d tell them to take it back to the sender. Rather than using Royal Mail, the sender had used DHL, who have left a note saying I can collect the parcel from their office which is some thirty miles away. Stuff that!


SightSavers phoned, and it was very obvious that Alexandra was reading from a script. She tried to be very knowledgeable about tropical blindness, but failed. She asked if I would increase my monthly donation to them by the small amount of fourteen quid. That’s not “to” fourteen quid; that’s fourteen quid on top of what I already shell out. I wasn’t keen, so she tried Plan B. She got out the script on liver flukes, totally failed to pronounce the big medical words in said script, and then asked if I would be happy to pay a greatly reduced increase in my contribution. I wondered how much “greatly reduced” would be. She said eleven quid more a month rather than fourteen. In the end I agreed to increase my payment to a total of a tenner a month, and everyone was happy.


Or that is, everyone was happy until she announced that whilst SightSavers thinks that I am wonderful and that they can only stay in business because of my generosity, she said she was obliged to tell me that worked for a company employed by SightSavers, and she gets 30p for every successful phone call she makes. I wonder how much she donates to charities….



2 July 2010 (Friday) - Stone in Oxney




I had my annual appraisal at work today. In many ways the thing is a waste of time, as I see my manager on a daily basis, and any problems get dealt with as they occur, rather than saving them up for a once-a-year whinge fest. In any event, most of the gripes I have about work can’t be sorted by anyone lower down the chain than the minister for health, so once again I kept my trap shut.


After work me and er indoors TM went for a walk. We started in Appledore, and followed the canal for a mile or so. On the way we watched a slow worm going about his business. We saw a few woodpeckers doing whatever it is that woodpeckers do when not pecking wood. And we found a wonderful tree which seemed to be sprouting both blackberries and raspberries. We decided not to eat any; just in case.


We then left the canal and walked up into Stone-in-Oxney, scaring a few sheep, rabbits and horses along the way. Once in the village we found a pink pub. How cool is that? We deserved a pint of Larkins (on gravity!), before walking half a mile along the road to the Ferry Inn where we had a pint of Hopdaemon’s Golden Braid. Very nice!


And then we took the footpath back to Appledore where we scared a frog. If only all footpaths were that well marked. All things considered a very good walk. It took about three hours – and with a little judicious tweaking, may well make a good walk for one weekend in the not too distant future…



3 July 2010 (Saturday) - Pond Life




A hot night, so we had the window open, and so were woken by the drunks shouting at each other at 3am. Why do they do it? I regularly drink to excess, but never feel the need to roam the streets bellowing my head off at silly o’clock.


I spent a little while over brekkie putting together a presentation on the solar scope for the astro club whilst waiting for “Daddies Little Angel TM ” to arrive with the “rear admiral”. Regular readers may recall I’ve joined a syndicate which has obtained the fishing rights to a small local pond. The clarion call had gone out for people to help with a general pond tidy-up, and today was the day. The “rear admiral” and I arrived at the pond armed with long-handled secatuers, saws, and an axe. And we waited for everyone else to arrive. Matt & Richard had been dispatched to the Bat-Farm to obtain the Bat-Boat, and once they and everyone else were on deck, we all made a start. The idea was to have various gangs pruning back the brambles to make more fishing spots available, and anyone who was stupid, gullible, and/or dumb enough would be launched onto the high seas in the boat to conduct pruning operations that couldn’t be done on dry land.


Needless to say, “Yours Truly” and the “rear admiral” were afloat within minutes. Our first assignment was to tie a rope to the dead sheep which was floating in the pond. It was a tad ripe, but I tied a noose in a rope which the “rear admiral” successfully looped around a limb of the unfortunate ex-sheep. We then hoiked the rope at the land-lubbers and let them deal with the carcass.


Our next task was to uproot as many bulrushes as we could. We started pulling out the bulrushes, which was easier said than done. With both of us pulling at rushes on the same side of the boat, we came within an inch of death as the boat nearly capsized (we measured it!). Not that we would have drowned; the water was only two feet deep. But had we sunk the Bat-Boat we would be killed to death by the boat’s land-lord.


We soon figured out how to alternately extract rushes and distribute weight to maximum advantage. We pulled out hundreds of the things, and chucked them at Matt who was assigned to put them in a heap at the top of the bank. Chucking the rushes was hard work, and so one of our crew had a genius idea that if we put the extracted bulrushes into the boat we could periodically sail to the shore to unload our cargo. In retrospect I know it’s patently obvious that bulrushes which grow in a pond, and are 90% submerged are going to be somewhat waterlogged, but it seemed a god idea at the time. And so as the boat filled with water we found the fatal flaw in our genius idea. And rush extraction went on hold for five minutes whilst we bailed out rushes and water. Our next idea was to leave all the pulled bulrushes floating and let the land-lubbers bring them ashore using their grappling iron. Yes – grappling iron. We weren’t messing about today – a fact which became painfully obvious as the boat was nearly sunk when it was bombed by the grappling iron.


In the end, the grappling iron proved to be a failure in that it didn’t actually grapple. It just skidded over the top of the floating rushes. So I had this genius idea (we had lots of those today!) to shove the grapple underneath the rushes and tie it in place. Have you ever smelled uprooted bulrushes? If not, then take my advice and don’t try to. Oh, they stink. And I was wrapping my arms all around the things. But my idea worked, to the amazement of all present, and soon we had a pile of rushes which was four feet high.


Talking of stinking, just as we thought we’d finished with the rushes, one of the land-lubbers found another dead sheep floating in the pond. And so, singing “Almighty Father, Strong to Save” those with a nautical bent rowed off up the pond to rope the carcass. And seeing how the “rear admiral” had roped the last dead ‘un, it was now my turn. You may recall I described the first dead sheep as “ripe”. It was quite obnoxious, but as Albert (Einstein) once famously remarked, everything is relative. The first sheep was quite sweet and was in fact a breath of fresh air compared to the second. We had a slight problem trying to decide which end of this animal to work with. Seeing how it’s head had fallen off made orientating the thing problematical. But realising the thing still had two limbs attached, I roped up to one of them, threw the rope at a land-lubber, and set sail before the “rear admiral” blew. After such unpleasantness, towing out an oil drum was a piece of cake.


We then tackled up with saw and secateurs, and sailed around the pond trimming back hedges, trees and assorted pond-going shrubbery, and despite nearly capsizing a couple of times we finally got back to dry land safely, if a tad odorous. With the boat cleaned out (as best we could) we said goodbye to the rest of the workers, and four of us went to the Kings Head in Shadoxhurst. Most of our land-lubbers didn’t want to go to the pub with us smelling of pond scum, which I suppose is understandable. A minor hiccup happened on the way when the lighting board fell off the back of the boat and got dragged for a few hundred yards, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed. And over a pint of Late Red and a cheese ploughmans we congratulated ourselves on a job well done.


And then having done such a good job of tidying the pond, I went back for an hour or two’s fishing. Having caught loads, including quite a few big enough to need the net to be landed, I eventually came home just before 10pm. Oh, I stink….







4 July 2010 (Sunday) - Folkestone to Dover




The drunks were later with their shouting this morning: they started saying goodbye to their friends at 5.15am. I need to identify exactly which house they live in. I’ve found that when people have done this in the past, waking them two hours later to explain that from now on they will be continually be woken two hours after they go to bed (until the noise stops) works wonders.


er indoors TM was up at silly o’clock to flog candles, and so I was awake and on the Internet earlier than usual on a Sunday. Did you know that eight people had been on my blog before 6am this morning? As well as a couple of international readers, there were six hits from UK-based readers. It would seem I’m not the only one with insomnia….

After a quick bout of brekkie, I kissed goodbye to er indoors TM who was off on her travels and I set off to the railway station. Braving the swarms of French student who were also going to Folkestone (for no adequately explored reason), I was met at Folkestone Central, and soon four of us were on the bus to the Valiant Sailor at the far end of Folkestone. The first stretch of the journey from Folkestone to Dover is seriously uphill, and so getting a bus for that bit wasn’t really cheating. We soon met up with the fifth member of our party, and the first port of call was the Battle of Britain memorial. I had no idea this existed, and it had been done so well. I liked the wall displaying the names of everyone who had taken part in the battle – however it was rather embarrassing that the names of the combatants had been laid out in alphabetical order, and clearly a couple of names had been missed and had been added as an afterthought at the end.


From here we walked on to Capel café, and sat on a pavilion on the cliff edge where we munched a sandwich and admired the views (or were terrified by the views), before heading onward. We followed the village road for a few hundred yards, and then we took the cliff path. There’s no denying this path was narrow in places, and was rather close to the cliff edge. But we managed not to fall over the edge, and I for one realised we were in one of the most scenic parts of the world. We found an old Second World War audio reflecting dish thingy, and we stopped to have a look-see, and posed for more photos. It was at this point that my mobile rang – the last member of our group had just parked his car and wondered where we were. I described our position relative to local landmarks. We both agreed where we all were, and we knew we weren’t far apart. So we all carried on walking along our respective paths, confident we would soon meet up.


We found an old army rifle range, and some ex-military buildings which are now cowsheds. And we found some old gun emplacements. My mobile rang again. Batty hadn’t met up with us. Where we we? There had been a slight confusion. Somehow I had told him that we were walking from Dover to Folkestone; and not from Folkestone toDover. Having been only a hundred yards apart at one point, we were now a mile adrift. So we agreed to stay put until he found us. And then we saw a hole in the ground…

Being just big enough to climb into, “Daddies Little Angel TM ” flatly forbade me to climb into it. Stevey climbed into it, and I sulked and demanded it wasn’t fair, and threatened to hold my breath until my face turned blue. Eventually I got my own way, and I was allowed into the hole. Now I think it fair to say that we all expected this hole to be big enough for a couple of us to squeeze into, and then we would need to be pulled out. However this tiny hole was actually the entrance to a subterranean complex which was featured a corridor probably a hundred yards long, and some rooms coming off of this corridor. We managed to see some of what was down there by use of flash photography, and the light from the flame of a cigarette lighter. However for most of the way I must admit I couldn’t actually see a thing, and I was dependent on using my walking stick to find my way. We need to go back with some decent torches to see what is down there. I have a plan to present something to the archaeology club based on what I find the next time I go.


We climbed out of the hole to see Batty in the distance, so we got our breath back, met up with him, told him how wonderful it was down below, and we all climbed back into the hole for another look-see. I say “look-see”. I actually mean “fumble in the pitch darkness”.

We then carried on along the top of the cliffs, admiring the view of Samphire Hoe, and calling in at all the disused and abandoned Second World War batteries along the way. I must admit I had a bit of a rant at this stage. It’s scandalous how much money English Heritage and the National Trust spend on some of their properties when the coast between Folkestone and Dover is awash with relics from the war which have (frankly) been left to rot.


Pausing only briefly to be told off for being too close to the cliff edge, we found we had reached our destination – Dover. We took our lives in our hands when we ran across the A20, and then puffed or way up to the Western Heights. This is somewhere I’ve never been before. It was wonderful. As welll as the Napoleonic defences, there was an entire fort up there. Not some tiddly little thing – an entire fort - probably as big as Dover castle. You can walk around the thing, but you can’t get inside it. I had no idea it even existed.

By this stage, all six of us were wilting, and so we staggered down the hill into Doverand, after a pit-stop at the fags shop, we made our way to the local Wetherspoons for well-earned ham, egg and chips. And three pints of ale for me (hic!)


I’ve had a really good day out with friends, I’ve learned loads, and we will be going back to investigate the tunnels in the not to distant future. If any of my loyal readers would like to come along of this expedition, please let me know….



5 July 2010 (Monday) - My Old Boots...




Being on a late start, I was at a loose end for an hour or so, so I thought I’d catch up with various jobs about the house. I put a dash of polish onto my walking boots. They deserved it after yesterday’s excursion. I’m very pleased with my walking boots. I bought them in Hastings Old Town back in the 1980s when I used to help with a hiking competition run by the local Boys Brigade. Whilst I can’t put an exact date on when I got the boots, I can remember wearing them whilst holding a month-old “Daddies Little Angel TM ” at one of the hike checkpoints in 1989, and I’d had the boots for a few years then. I’ve very little else (apart from ‘er indoors TM) that has lasted so well.

I also needed to review the beer requirement for next weekend. I brought home twenty bottles of beer from Teston kite festival, so I’d better get in a couple of gallons more to add to what’s left over (as well as some port) for the forthcoming festival in Brighton.

Then I thought I’d check my post. Regular readers will know this is a job I don’t do anywhere near often enough.

  • I was offered up to 20Mb Broadband. That’s cheeky. They rely on people reading the 20Mb bit, and not realising the “up to” bit, only to find that 0.5Mb is “up to” 20Mb.
  • The power company told me how much gas I use, and offered to help me cut down. Presumably by showing me how to run gas powered central heating on batteries?
  • A letter from the kite club confirming my details: they had my email address wrong. That hopefully explains why I got no emails from them last year.
  • A letter from Wyevale, advertising their national chain of garden centres. They actually suggested that when on a long journey I might call in to one of their places rather than use motorway services. A novel suggestion!
  • Yet another bank statement about the defunct snake club account. How many times have I said that I must do something about that?
  • My mobile phone bill. Which was much less now I’ve stopped texting Twitter with it.
  • A letter from the building society asking me to vote for their board of directors. I know nothing about any of them. They might be financial whizzes, they might be total dumbos. I have no idea.
  • A letter confirming my household electricals are insured against breakdown, and a letter (from the same people) advising me that they are not.

Shopping – for beer, as it seems I haven’t got enough for the weekend. Lidl’s were allegedly knocking the stuff out at a quid per bottle. I got there to find they didn’t have a single bottle of beer in the place. They’’d sold out, and as is the way with Lidl’s, they had no idea when they would be getting more. Ho-hum: such is life. I’ll just have to put my hand in my pocket and pay the going rate in Sainsburys or Tescos.


And then work. Following on from my appraisal last Friday I’m feeling rather pragmatic about the place. Whilst my appraisal last week went (very) well, I’m bored with my job. I’ve been doing the same thing for so long, and when you consider the really active weekend I’ve just had (like most of my weekends, come to that!), settling down to the dull routine comes hard. But at lunchtime we got the solar scope out again. Tim, who I’ve worked with for twenty five years, had an attachment which allowed us to bodge a camera into the telescope. A shame the clouds were so thick, really (!)


And in the meantime following on from yesterday’s wonderful day out, I’ve been exchanging messages with our native guide. If any of my loyal readers are feeling adventurous (or have a very bright torch they might lend me), we’ve planned to return to the tunnels on Sunday August 15. If anyone’s up for it, please let me know…



6 July 2010 (Tuesday) - Stuff




Up with the lark to iron shirts. And to do the washing up which the first fruit of my loin said he would do last night. He also said he’d pull up the bindweed in the garden today, and he didn’t do that either. Then to the petrol station. I still only fill the car once a month - my new car seems to do twenty miles more than the old car did on a tank of petrol. Another saving can’t be bad. And so to work, which was the same as ever. One day I shall spit my dummy out, and have a rant at a vanishingly small minority of my colleagues. But not today. Instead I shall content myself with a general observation: it never fails to amaze me that the people who believe they are the hardest working are usually those who actually do the least.


Home, and on to Folkestone. Firstly to visit that quality supermarket which is Morrisons. You know a supermarket is a cut below the rest when you realise you have to pay a deposit to use the trolley, and there’s no denying that the clientele were best described as being “a bit council”, but after all was said and done, their beer selection was second to none, and in my book (and this *is* my book!) that’s what counts.


And then on to a friends house for the weekly Sci-Fi night, as we have had pretty much every Tuesday for the last seventeen years. Tonight we went back to our roots and watched some good old Star Trek. Tonight’s episode was an old favourite – you can’t beat a bit of Ferengi. Which has made me think - bearing in mind the sixty-second Rule of Acquisition (“The riskier the road, the greater the profit”), could there be gold underneath them thar hills?



7 July 2010 (Wednesday) - All Packed Up




I took some doughnuts in to work today. People like them, and so do I. I thought I’d celebrate the start of a long weekend. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for some time.


My plan for the evening was to get the old sleeping bags out of the loft and give them to who I’d promised them to, and I’d then do some serious slobbing about. I’d intended to leave the rest of the lugging the camping gear about until tomorrow. But seeing how the most recent fruit of my loin was home, I thought I’d get her to help me with the two heaviest bits of camping gear. She started carrying out some camping chairs, one thing lead to another, and within half an hour we’d packed ninety per cent of the camping stuff into the car. All that remains to be loaded is some of the kitchen equipment and my personal effects. In fact it’s fair to say that were it possible, I could have been setting up camp at 8pm this evening.


Meanwhile a good friend is doing a sponsored go-kart race. If anyone is feeling generous, you can find out more here. And then as my beloved went out flogging candles, I was left home alone, so I found a dangerous looking sword in NeverWinter…





8 July 2010 (Thursday) - A Day Off Work




An odd sort of a day. The idea of taking today as a day off work was so’s I could load up the car ready for a prompt getaway to the kite festival tomorrow. But having loaded up last night meant that today’s job was done. I *could* have cancelled the day’s holiday, but getting leave is so difficult; if I’d not taken today off, I’d struggle to get another day off later. And I did need to top up the water level in the pond – a job which takes a few hours and is best not left unattended too long. I’ve flooded the bathroom before when the hose has sprung a leak in the past.


So as the pond filled I got the last few bits into the car, including three more gallons of ale I’d overlooked. And I sorted out my smalls for the weekend. I then did a bit of gardening – I dug out the grass growing between the paving stones in the front garden. The cement between these stones really needs replacing, but I don’t want the aggro of lifting the stones and repositioning them. I wonder if I might bodge it with decorative filler. The jungle from next door is beginning to flood over the fence again – I’ll take the electric shears to that another time.


And then I popped up into Ashford. I can remember a month ago at Teston Kite Festival realising that I needed to sort out the problem of the poles piercing out through the tops of the banners. The tops of the poles we use are very fine and quite sharp, and I said that I needed something to put on the tops of the poles to stop this happening. I shopped around looking for something to do the trick, and I bought some erasers. I shall chop them up, and stick a lump of rubber on the top of each pole. Let’s see if that works. I also mentioned a few weeks ago that I could do with a new penknife for fishing purposes. New penknives don’t come cheap, so I might just rough it with the old one. I also had a look in the DVD shops – the Ashford branch of CEX is now open, and I picked up some DVDs. With the most expensive I bought being £2.50, and some as cheap at 75p, I think I’ve got a bargain or two.


Home for a bit of KFC for scran, and to watch one of my new DVDs – “Orgazmo

” – made by the people who make “South Park”, it’s the story of one of the saddest super-heroes you’ll ever find, and it is described by a top film critic as "callow, gauche, obvious and awkward, and designed to appeal to those with similar qualities". I loved it (!) I then wasted an hour or so in NeverWinter before going on a mission to Asda with“Daddies Little Angel TM ”. She wanted some moisturiser and some Fridji (and a lift). Whilst there, I bought her an airbed (she deserved it - she has scrubbed the house this week) and I got myself an aluminium table to go in my new tent.


I then revamped the constellation game we do as a fundraiser for the astro club – I was running out of the pre-printed sheets of paper, and thought I’d do some new ones. But as the old format looked a bit dull, I thought I’d jazz it up with pictures of the constellations. But they had to be small pictures or they wouldn’t fit on the page. In the end they turned out to be too small to actually be seen. So after an hour’s fiddling about I contented myself with a change of font size, adding a club logo to the top of the page, and giving the whole thing a pinkish hue. There are those who will take a stance against the pinkish hue, but I (for one) was never confused.


I’m off on my travels in the morning, so there won’t be any updates for a few days. “My Boy TM ” is being left in charge at home. I wonder if he’ll do the washing up? See you all on Monday….



9 July 2010 (Friday) - Off to Brighton




Once the troops had arrived, we set off to Brighton at 9.15am. I drive to Brighton a few times every year. And every time I wonder which is the quickest route. All the on-line route planners tell me the motorway route is faster, taking an hour and a half. Personally I prefer to take the cross country route which I’m reliably informed is thirty miles shorter, but fifteen minutes longer to do. Once again I took the cross country route, and after fifteen minutes I stopped to phone home to ask er indoors TM to fetch the bottles of gas I’d forgotten and had left in the shed. We popped into Middle Farm – we’d had a request to pick up some cider, and we picked up some ale as well. Will I never learn? The cider was fine – but the ale was like vinegar (again). Middle Farm is *the* place for cider and perry. But ale – no.


We then negotiated the road works round Stanmer Park to get to Asda for fags, and were on site and setting up out tents by midday. As always we drove past where everyone else was camping, and set up our base slightly up the hill. Not to be anti-social, but for the view, and to be above the normal people who crowd the place during the weekend. Most people camp at the bottom of the hill in Stanmer Park, and when the festival is at it’s height it is swarming with normal people so that all you can see is the swarms. Being up the hill is so much better, albeit a long way to walk to the shower block.


Despite having a prolonged sarnie break, and a minor calamity when we discovered the washing up liquid had leaked and had gone everywhere, we had camp all set up by mid afternoon. I’m rather impressed with my new tent, even if I had got the groundsheet in the wrong way round. If nothing else, I’ll know better next time.

We met up with old friends, we had a crafty pint or two, and then we had cream scones. The cream was a bit runny, but you can’t have everything.


Yesterday I mentioned my plan to pop a bit of rubber into the top of the kite banners to stop the poles from poking out. It took ages to push the rubber into place, and when it did get into place, the poles still ripped out through the top of the banners. In theory a stroke of genius: in practice a total failure. So I had another beer to commiserate, and then we had tea – a wonderful bit of lemon chicken. We might be based in tents, but we don’t rough it at all. After tea I carried the washing up to the gents toilets and used the hot water there to scrub our dishes. I’m amazed no one else has come up with this idea – it saves carrying a lot of water up the hill, and also saves loads of gas too.


After a little bit of kite flying, one beer led to another, and in the same vein one bottle of port led to another, and I finally staggered off to my pit at 1am.




10 July 2010 (Saturday) - Brighton Kite Festival




Despite having polished off over a gallon of ale and a decent portion of port, I was up and in the shower block at 5am. I had this plan to get washed before all the hot water went. I think I wasn’t the only one with this plan, as the hot water had all gone. Oh – it was icy. I trudged back to the tent through the fog (it was foggy at 5am), and went back to bed where I shivered for a couple of hours.


I got up at seven am and watched the kiddies playing in the kite buggy. Our kite buggy only ever comes out of the lock-up once a year, and that is for the kiddies to play with at Brighton Kite Festival.


We had a rather leisurely breakfast, starting with coffee, followed by melon, and then a fry-up. And time was getting on, so leaving others with the washing up, I set off with the shopping crew. We missed Asda, but found Matalan, and so stocked up on some decent shirts before braving Asda (once we found it). Asda was heaving with normal people, but we got most of the things on our list. And I maintain that not only were marshmallows not on the list, no one had said anything about buying marshmallows anyway (!)


Back to camp, and just time for a bit of bread and cheese before I was on duty. I’d volunteered to help with the kiddies workshop. Children of all ages had the opportunity to make a kite of their own, under the expert guidance and tutelage of experienced kite flyers. I told some of the children that came through the workshop that I knew nothing about kites, and that I’d just found the kite club T-shirt lying on the floor. I explained that if anyone caught me I would be in trouble, and I asked these kiddies if they would keep my secret. Some of them smiled and agreed. Most of them stared blankly, and one or two cried. I told other children that in the wild, kites live up trees, and it would be a kindness to let the kites go back home into the trees. I told these children that their mothers were all expert tree climbers, and could rescue the kites if and when they got stuck. And again for every child that responded to me, there were a dozen that (quite frankly) were pushing their intellectual limits by staring into space with a digit up the nostril.


The kiddies workshop ran for two hours, and we never stopped the entire time and, as always, we had to turn away kiddies at the end. Perhaps a tad harsh, but those of us running the workshop want to see the festival too. Having had a quick look round the various stalls earlier, I went back to one to pay for some line er indoors TM wanted, and to buy myself a new kite to which I’d taken a fancy. I took my new kite back to base where I set the thing up, and flew it straight into a tree, to the amusement of the assembled spectators. And needless to say I was soon blabbed upon. It is a kite club tradition that any so-called “experienced kite flier” who gets a kite stuck in a tree has to pay a fine of a quid (which goes to charity). And so I was duly reported and fined. In retrospect I could have taken issue – compared with many of the “experienced kite fliers” who were at the festival, I am a rank amateur. But it’s all good fun.

I looked plaintively at my kite in the tree. I shook the branch, I gently teased the line. The kite remained stuck fast. So in desperation I gave the line a strong yank, and the kite came fell out of the tree, utterly unscathed by its adventure. I tried to fly it some more, but the wind was blocked by the trees near our camp. I could have walked further down the field, but it was a hot day, so I packed up, and sat and watched everyone else flying. And then an amazing co-incidence; some friends who were camping with us had a visitor. The girlfriend of the mother of some ex-cubs has a new girlfriend who lives inBrighton, and she and her partner had come up to visit. A small world (!) We chatted and reminisced for a while, whilst watching the kiddies hurtling down the hill in the buggies.


Batty arrived shortly after 5pm – it was odd with his not being there. This was the twenty fifth kite festival we’d been to as a group, and the first at which he wasn’t there for the entire event. But with him present we had a few beers. As Terry and Irene went off to the festival barby, we decided that it must be tea time. We’ve done the barby before – it’s very good, but the weekends away can get a tad expensive. So we stayed at camp and Lisa did some wonderful tortilla wraps.


We washed up (in the shower block again), visited friends who were at the barby and then the girls went collecting firewood. We thought we’d put the metal fire pit to good use. It was at this point that we discovered we had no marshmallows. I deny all responsibility; no one said anything to me about marshmallows. However to be helpful I offered my bag of haribos. Unfortunately during the heat of the day, they had melted into a huge congealed lump. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” scoffed it quite happily, and as the light faded, our fire grew. Many friends came up the hill to our fire pit, and beer and wine flowed freely. With floating lanterns being launched, and illuminated remote controlled planes flying around, at one point there were over twenty people chatting round our camp.

Again I didn’t get to bed till gone 1am.



11 July 2010 (Sunday) - Brighton Kite Festival




This morning the water in the showers was warm at 5am. But I didn’t get back to sleep after my shower today – the morning was turning out to be a hot one. I finally gave up trying to sleep at 7am, only to find that a lot of our crew were already up and drinking coffee. I should have got up earlier.


Our fire pit was still smouldering, so we emptied five gallons of water into it, and gave the ashes a good stir. And left it soaking for an hour (periodically giving it more stirring) to be sure the fire was extinguished. Whilst it soaked we had brekky – at least an hour earlier than yesterdays’; it was so bright and so hot that no one could sleep. And so, with brekky scoffed and fire truly doused, we emptied the fire pit into a convenient hole in the woods and got on with the washing up. It was at this point that the heavens opened for half an hour’s torrential rain.


Fortunately the rain soon passed, we put our drying-up away, and I chatted with an old kiting friend for some time until our day-visitors arrived. As I sat in the sunshine I could feel my head nodding, and I slept for an hour or so before having a quick bite of lunch. Again I was on duty in the kiddies kite making workshop.


If yesterday’s children were a tad thick, today’s were truly dim. Maybe one in twenty had the ability to speak: most just stared and didn’t even move until pushed by an accompanying adult. But I made the most of it; despite most of the kiddies being unable to hold a piece of string, I enjoyed myself for a couple of hours. And when we were finished I walked across the field, and chatted with the parents of some of the less stupid children about how well their workshop-made kites were flying. I must admit that the kites we made in the kiddies kite making workshop don’t (at first sight) appear to be anything special. A lump of carrier bag, with two bits of bamboo for spars, an old VCR tape for a tail and a cheap line on a winder. But they flew so well.


And talking of flying well, I got out my new kite, and a much longer spool of line, and my new kite went up. And up. It was really good. Flying my kite with everyone else made me realise that I actually want to do this more often. I need to add some of the BKF fly-ins to my list of diary dates: after all I’m a paid up club member – why shouldn’t I go along?

My brother in law was calling me. I’d won a prize in the festival raffle. I’d won a kite in the shape of a shark. Perhaps I was biased by the facts that the tail spar was broken and that I couldn’t get the thing to fly at all. But on reflection, that kite was rubbish. I may see if I can fly it off the line of another kite as a form of line laundry.


By now many people were beginning to pack away. I took the banners down, and said goodbye to Batty, Terry and Irene who weren’t staying for the night. Whilst everyone else prepared the evening meal, I scurried together a bowl full of things to be washed up, and set about getting those scrubbed. And after a smashing bit of tea we said goodbye to the rest of our party who had to go home too.


With the last of the evening’s washing up done, we packed away as much as we could, and said our goodbyes to people going home until there were only a few groups left. We then wandered down to the bottom of the hill where fifteen or so of us who were staying the night sat and chatted and listened to charming traditional Norfolk shanties about ladies who hail from Fareham; said ladies having dubious morals and calico drawers.



12 July 2010 (Monday) - Home Again




If I had to choose the one thing I detest most about camping, it would be being inside a tent listening to the sound of rain. I woke at 5.30am to the sound of rain. And I lay in my sleeping bag with a heavy heart listening to the rain getting heavier. I eventually got up at 7am, decided against a shower, and got on with the packing. We made good progress, despite the weather. After all, there’s always rain at some point at Brighton Kite Festival.


Pausing only briefly for a spot of brekkie we made good progress with breaking camp. There was a minor hiccup when I saw clouds of smoke pouring from a bush up the hill from us: some twit must have emptied their barby into the undergrowth yesterday, and having smouldered overnight, the thing was ready to burst into flames this morning. Fortunately we had water to spare, and so I was able to put the fire out.


The rain did ease off during the morning, and by judiciously reversing my car into “Brown and Smelly” we got most of the gear away dry. But by 10.30am we decided that we were going to have to resign ourselves to having to take the tents home wet. We could have stayed for a few more hours and hoped that they would dry out. But the rain might have come back. So we took the things down wet.


Home to unpack, where “My Boy TM ” was in high spirits; his photo has been used on the website of where he holidayed a few weeks ago. I knew he was in a good mood because he helped me unpack the car. And before too long stuff was unpacked, and back into sheds and lock-ups. “Green and Smelly” (our turdis) was been dried, as has my new tent, and Tony’s tent, and my provisional plan is to get “Brown and Smelly” (our communal tent) dried tomorrow. Once dried I shall struggle to be able to fold it away in the limited space in my back garden, but I expect I shall manage somehow.


And so, as I sit, aching from the exertions of unpacking, and with my sunburned face glowing, I find myself reflecting on the weekend’s kite festival. This was the eighth time I’ve been to Brighton Kite Festival. I loved it; roll on the next one!!



13 July 2010 (Tuesday) - Another Day Off Work




The plan for the morning was to get the canvas of “Brown and Smelly” spread across the lawn and dried in the sunshine. And then I was going to rummage through the lock-up to sort out the gazebos. A few weeks ago I gave out spare gazebos to anyone who wanted one, only to find that I was actually distributing bags of poles with no gazebo material. The material must be in the lock-up somewhere. But I woke to find it was raining, so I went shopping instead.


First of all to the fishing tackle shop. Last week I’d ordered a spring balance, and had agreed to pay eighteen quid for it when the shop got one in. Today it had arrived, and I bought the thing together with some floats, weights and hooks, and paid ten quid for the lot. I’m not complaining (!) And then to Timpsons for some engraving. I now have the two trophies which will be awarded for the Pooh-Sticks contest we’re planning for the kite festival in Teston. The contest will be on the Saturday afternoon and will be quite straightforward. More details are on Facebook (because their software is there, and saves me having to re-invent it on other web space), or here. There’s already eleven people who are interested in the thing, and fifteen quid has already been promised for the charity we’re supporting.


Home to find the rain had stopped, so I spread the canvas of “Brown and Smelly” across the lawn to get it dried. I then started a bit of tidying up around the house. It’s amazing what rubbish I found; so many copies of the same book, so many copies of the same DVD. With no re-sale value at all on eBay, they all got chucked. I managed to get four bin bags full of tat and rubbish. After all, the bin men are coming tomorrow.


By late afternoon “Brown and Smelly” had dried out, and with a rain shower forecast for the evening, we got the canvas packed away. With the camping gear away for another month, I’m wondering if we might be able to make our camping trips somewhat more streamlined. In the first instance we need to get rid of the cardboard boxes and foldable boxes and get some stacking boxes which would pack into the car better.


Also I can’t help but feel we take too many chairs. Over the years we seem to have accumulated loads of camping chairs, and we drag the lot along every time. At least half of them stay in their bags, and then go home unused. I’ve half a plan to find out who all the chairs belong to, give them back and instead take half a dozen camping benches like the one we got from camping international the other week. Each bench seats two people and when packed takes up half the space of a camping chair.


Despite the filler cap of our new three litre kettle breaking within minutes of being taken out of the box, it still worked fine. Its larger volume was useful: we need another of those. And our water containers need new taps. I wonder if we can get new taps, or if we have to buy whole new containers?


The kite buggy needs some attention, having had two separate accidents over the last weekend. Not only has it lost a foot peg, one of the foot rests has been forced into the socket so firmly it won’t come out. I told the child who did it that the foot peg was fine as it was, but he smiled at me as he ignored me and wedged it in place. I then challenged him to get it out, and it was at that point he realised what I’d been saying to him for the last five minutes. Whilst the thing is still perfectly useable as a buggy, it’s now rather more difficult to transport, seeing as it doesn’t come apart as completely as it once did. Perhaps I might squirt it with some WD40….



14 July 2010 (Wednesday) - Stuff




I rarely blog about work. Let me give an example of why this is:


… I shall do so once I retire…


And then to the in-laws for a birthday party. It was the father in law’s wife’s birthday and we had a minor bunfight, made polite conversation with people we barely knew, and I chased children round the living room until they were sick. I’m not feeling too perky myself now either……




15 July 2010 (Thursday) - Little Bit of Politics




I might have mentioned the election in a previous blog entry….

Vote for us” said the Dribbling Democraps. “We’ll give a free university education to anyone”. On the strength of that, a lot of people with vested interests in reducing costs of university educations voted for them. And once the votes were counted, principles were dropped and integrity was firmly thrown straight out of the window. And so it’s a different story in today’s news. “Pay up, dogbreath students” is now the party policy.


But it’s not just the dribblers who are not to be trusted. The Con-servatives are no better, if their new MP representing the town of my birth is anything to go by. In her first speech in parliament she rattled on about how the town of Hastings needs better road and rail connections with the rest of the universe. Yesterday she was interviewed on Radio 4’s pm program. When asked why she was asking for a massive investment in public transport which was in direct conflict with her government’s policy, she was very quick to point out that she was a Con-servative, and the Government wasn’t hers, but was a coalition.


This morning’s news tells how during the last year (under a government of the only party who didn’t abandon its principles to grasp power) the nation’s crime rate fell to thelowest

 in thirty years

. And the same news also related the frankly unbelievable tale of the Con-servative Home Secretary rubbishing the official figures. As a party who claimed it was going to be strong on crime, the Con-servatives (and associated dribbling puppets) presumably wanted to start their tenure from a high crime rate?

I know – I shouldn’t keep up with current affairs. It only winds me up. So some news on a lighter note. Workmen painting white lines on a road left a gap for a dead badgerbecause they said it was not their responsibility to move it. The local council’s response was that this was an entirely appropriate thing to do because the person doing the painting of the lines was not trained in the highly skilled art of kicking the carcass of a dead badger out of the way. And who runs this council? – yes the Con-servatives.

I’m going to lie down now…..

16 July 2010 (Friday) - Laundry, Diary..


What with packing to go to Brighton kite festival, being away all last weekend, and then some rather awful weather, I’ve been rather skimping on the laundry front lately. My pile of grubby smalls has been getting somewhat out of control, so with a dry day forecast today I set the washing machine to “overload”, and stepped back. Being on a late start gave me some spare time, so in between sorting out wash loads I had a look at the “Dates for the Diary” section of the blog. With the year now more than half-way over it’s almost time to start thinking “bonfire parade” – I’ve pencilled in dates for three of those, as well as all sorts of other things including some kiting and an Xmas party(!) Perhaps it’s taking forward planning a tad too far, but I find that if I don’t write these dates down, I only forget them and find myself agreeing to do conflicting events, like I have on 14 August.

I heard something on the radio which made me smile today. Heralded as the saviours of the environment, electric cars are actually dangerous things. Because they are so quiet, unsuspecting pedestrians don’t hear them coming, and so get run over. To combat this, electric cars are being given artificial engine noises so the unwary can hear them coming, and there are plans afoot for future models to have customisable sounds, in much the way my mobile phone has. Apparently focus groups have already established that many of the sound effects from “Star Trek” would be popular “car-tones”. Me – I’d have the sound of an ice-cream van; if only to wind up the kiddies...


17 July 2010 (Saturday) - Cycling, Fishing


Parking near my house can sometimes be a tad tricky – there are not enough spaces. Just round the corner are a couple of spaces but they are on a single yellow line. Parking is allowed between 6pm and 8am. Last night er indoors TM parked there, and said to be sure she moved the car in the morning. I woke at 5am (as is so often the way), looked out the window and saw a parking space. So I got dressed and went to move my beloved’s car. Panic set in when I saw her car wasn’t on the single yellow line. It was as well I didn’t have my mobile in my jim-jams pocket or I would have phoned the police there and then. I trotted hope as quick as I could (in a panic) to phone the old Bill, only to see her car right outside our house. She’d obviously already moved it. Needless to say I didn’t get back off to sleep for a little while after that…

Over brekky I mucked about with a presentation for the astro club – a five-minute space filler for the next meeting about my fun with the solar scope. Mind you, I’m still not sold on the whole concept of telescopes. Whilst playing with the solar scope was interesting, it was (in my honest opinion) a lot of fiddling about to get a picture which doesn’t begin to compare with that which you can call up in two seconds using Google Images.

And then the rest of the cyclists arrived, and we set off to Woodchurch. A reasonable distance for the purposes of having a bit of exercise, but the road is busier than a lot of others along which we cycle. The Six Bells is always worth a visit though, with five ales on and decent food too. And then home via a pint of Late Red in the Kings Head in Shadoxhurst. Pausing only briefly for the Rear Admiral to prang his bike, we were soon home and puffing well. It’s been some six weeks since we last cycled anywhere, and I think it’s probably fair to say that I for one noticed the fact.

And then together with “My Boy TM ” I had a couple of hours’ fishing. Bearing in mind his recent massive catches on his French fishing holiday, I was rather hoping for more from him that what he actually delivered. And what did he deliver? Perhaps a fifth of the amount of fish that I did, thanks to the application of “Really Skillful Angling TM ”

What with the bike ride, and sitting on the pond side, I’ve got a really tender chuff…..

18 July 2010 (Sunday) - Mowing the Lawn


Up with the lark and into NeverWinter for an hour or so. It’s as well that I can download loads more modules for NeverWinter Nights. Whilst shopping in town during the week I had a look in the computer games shops, and… well, I’m using the wrong phrase, aren’t I? “Computer games” as in “games that you can play on the computer” would seem to be a dying breed. It’s all PlayStation and X-box these days. There would seem to be precious few games that are actually designed for the PC these days. Which is a shame – whilst some of the modern games look fun, I don’t want to shell out loads of cash on a device which can only play games. My PC can do all sorts of other stuff than just kill trolls and orcs and goblins.

Last weekend whilst camping at Brighton we decided we liked the new camping bench, and so set off to Camping International to get some more. When we were there the other week they had hundreds. Today, they’d sold out. Whilst at Camping International we got another three litre kettle; the last one was very useful, even if the spout did break the first time we used it. And we got a few kitchen-y things too. I would like to have stayed longer, but for one brat who was there. There were several brats, most trying out the camping chairs, some having a fairy princess picnic on the tables, and some trying out the camping beds. But there was one particular brat who was giving a running commentary on his day, his shopping trip, what he was doing, what his parents were doing, in fact he was giving a continuously updated spiel on the entire universe and all that was taking place within it. And this brat had the most annoying voice. Perhaps “annoying” is the wrong word: “painful” would be better. The child’s voice actually hurt me. It really did cause me pain whenever this child spoke, so piercing was its rattle. And not only did this one never shut up, it was quite apparent it was never going to shut up. So we left. Quickly.

We thought we’d try to GM Camping. Somewhere I’ve not been for a while, it’s on the road from Canterbury to Herne Bay. We took a wrong turn or two on the way there, mainly because I thought the place was on the Whitstable road. But we found the place eventually, met some friends who were also camping-shopping, and I got myself a new chair. But they didn’t have the benches we wanted either. So we spent five minutes in the nearby reptile shop going gooey at boa constrictors (I do that !) before coming home via Canterbury’s Lidls. Every bit as pikey as the Ashford branch, and also with much the same stuff you can buy in the average supermarket, but at half the price.

And so home, where I went to eBay and ordered up two of the benches I wanted. And even including postage they were cheaper than the shops. Having bought what I wanted I then set about the lawn – it must be three weeks since the thing was last mown, and whilst the grass wasn’t excessively long, it was clearly in need of a haircut. I also got my electric shears out and trimmed back all what was coming over the fence from next door. He enjoys having roses, clematis and honeysuckle all up and over the fences. And to be honest if I was next door, I’d probably do the same to block me out. But I don’t like the way that the things drop leaves and petals all over my garden, or the way that the things have encroached a good two feet into my garden. So I took the electric shears and cut a swathe the length of my garden.

And then I mucked out the pond filter. The pond is rather murky at the moment. If cleaning the filter doesn’t do much (and I suspect it won’t) I shall look at flocculation and replacing the filter medium during the week.

19 July 2010 (Monday) - Stuff


What with weekends away and late shifts and bad weather stopping getting laundry washed, let alone dried, today was my first ironing session for a couple of weeks. Oh, there was loads to do. And after an hour and a half the novelty had firmly worn off, and so I stopped, with still loads more to do. I’ll do that another time.

This evening I plugged my phone in to charge. Anyone who’s ever spent any time in my company will realise that plugging my phone in is a regular event – I’m always complaining that the thing’s battery rarely lasts as long as a day. But today was the first time I’ve charged it up since Friday; I’ve got three days out of one charging. And the secret of my minor victory? On Friday I turned off the Bluetooth. I can only imagine that Bluetooth must be rather power-intensive. From now on, Bluetooth remains switched off.

On May 30th I mentioned a belt I’d bought from eBay. Naively I thought a belt billed as “size 42 inches” would fit a forty two inch waist. I was wrong. The belt, billed as “size 42 inches”, was actually forty two inches long, and so didn’t come close to what I need. Bearing in mind the overlap one needs when wearing a belt, I should have ordered a forty eight inch belt. However the belt itself was good enough, and I gave it as a gift to“My Boy TM ” who seemed to appreciate it, and I consoled myself with leaving a neutral comment on the eBay feedback. I honestly think that the belt was not as described, and so warranted a neutral feedback.

Since then I’ve had emails from the seller on a daily basis asking me to remove the neutral feedback. I amended my feedback to say what a pain the seller was being, but still they kept hassling me to remove the neutral feedback, so last week I formally complained to eBay. eBay replied with what looked like a nice automated response which utterly failed to address the problem, and then they asked me to complete a survey about how well they’d dealt with the problem. I was rather scathing in my reply, and this evening I got what was obviously a personal response to my problem of being inundated with emails from the seller of this mis-described item. A response, but not an answer. eBay told me that “If we find that there's not enough evidence of Email Forwarding System Abuse, which is the case here, we can’t take action against the reported account.” They went on to suggest that if the emails continue, I might like to consider changing my email address (!) I’ve replied asking how many emails I need to receive before they consider their email forwarding system has been abused.


20 July 2010 (Tuesday) - London, Ale, Barby


To London, on the Javelin. Yesterday I checked the train times and prices on the official website. When I got to the station I found that whilst this website had the train time correct, it had underestimated the cost of the ticket by thirty pounds. I mentioned this to the chap behind the counter, who said he was sick of people coming to him having been quoted incorrect information from the official website. Apparently it’s famous for being wrong, so I just smiled, and handed over loads of money. (Mind you, I must admit I’m impressed with the Javelin service. When I first moved to Ashford we were promised a high speed train link. It’s taken nearly twenty years to arrive, but it’s halved the journey time to London.)

Forty minutes later I was in London, and I made my way to the University for a training session. In the past I’ve mentioned how I go to other hospitals to assess their trainee blood-testers. I’ve been asked to perform similar assessments on students at the University, and today was a session for me to get to grips with their systems and ways of working. And, as always, things didn’t go to plan. The University had signs up saying that they were on “Amber Security Alert”, and consequently every single person walking through the door was being vetted by a security guard who obviously had been watching too many Hollywood blockbusters for his own good. Needless to say, this somewhat hindered the access of several hundred students into the building. I honestly can’t imagine anyone wanting to blow up a University, but I suppose in today’s climate, better safe than sorry.

The session I was attending was supposed to be over and finished by 1pm, but we had a fire alarm. The lecturer leading our session said to follow her to our muster point, which was several streets away. Walking there and back (once the all-clear was given) wasted half an hour, and made a mockery of the “Amber Security Alert” when hundreds of students and staff all just walked back in to the building unimpeded in any way. However we didn’t get as far as the lecture theatre: the alarm went again. Everybody out (again)!

With two unscheduled fire alarms, things rather overran. So much so that it probably wasn’t worth my while rushing to get back to work for the afternoon. So I took a leisurely stroll back to St Pancr(e)as station, via a pub I’ve been meaning to visit for years. The Bree Louise is about ten minutes walk from St Pancras International, and the bar staff were very welcoming. And they had the most ales in a pub that I have ever seen – seven ales on hand pump, and ten from the barrel. Seventeen in total, and a dozen ciders and perries too: I’ve been to beer festivals with less selection. I settled for a pint of the ruby mild and a bag of crisps, and read my book in peace and quiet for fifteen minutes before getting the train home.

I got home to find the postman on the doorstep delivering the benches I ordered on eBay on Sunday night. Delivered in less than two days: that’s impressive! And then I got jiggy with the fish pond filter. I’d come to the conclusion that the innards of the thing weren’t up to scratch, so I chucked them all out and replaced them with new stuff. I may well need to flocculate, but that will be in a day or so.

To B&Q for more charcoal, and then the tribes gathered for a birthday barby. A few beers, a few sossies, a few mozzie bites. Must do the barby thing more often…

21 July 2010 (Wednesday) - Mozzie Bites


I didn’t sleep well last night – and spent most of the day in some discomfort. I’d been rather savaged by mosquitoes yesterday evening, and the bites were itching somewhat all day long. I’ve never noticed mozzies in the back garden before. At first I wondered if the water features were attracting them, but on reflection mozzies like still water – moving water is no good for them because they drown. I wonder where they all came from? Mosquitoes take up a not insignificant part of the lectures I have given on malaria; droning on about the beasts is one thing, being on the receiving end is quite another. And (a little known fact) did you know that it is only the female mozzies that bite you? I’d rather get fanged off of a dog – at least you can see one of those things coming.

A late shift today, so whilst the washing machine did its thing with my smalls I checked my emails. Regular readers may recall that on Monday I emailed eBay complaining about my being constantly harassed by someone to whom I gave a neutral feedback. eBay told me that my being bombarded with emails didn’t constitute abuse of their email forwarding system, and I so queried this with them. They replied this morning to say that they were looking into the matter, but went on to say “member privacy is one of our top priorities, so we won't be able to update you about the results of this investigation”. So they are clearly not planning to do much. They have, however, given me their postal address so that I could (if I wanted) instruct a solicitor to contact them for more information so that I could pursue my complaint against the eBay seller “fun360” through the civil courts. Interestingly eBay UK is based in Luxembourg. I didn’t know that.

To Tesco’s to pick up some lunch. Whilst at it I got some armpit-squirt, peanut butter, and various other bits of shopping including a pair of trousers for work. The trousers were priced at twenty quid. Imagine my surprise when I came to pay, and the checkout girl asked for £11.32. I kept quiet, handed over what she asked for, and made a quick getaway.

I could do with more bargains like that….

22 July 2010 (Thursday) - An Old Mate


In March 1993 I answered an advert in a sci-fi magazine from a chap who was looking for like-minded mates in his area with whom he could form a sci-fi fan club. It turned out this chap’s area was Margate and he thought I was too far away for us to bother forming any club, but he put me in contact with a fellow Ashfordian. And (as they say) the rest is history. Over the intervening seventeen years so much has happened, and I don’t think any of us would have missed it for anything. Friends have come and gone to places all over the world, and most of us keep in touch, or if not in touch, know of someone who keeps in touch.

This morning I had a Facebook request from one of the old gang. He’s been inGuernsey for some time, and I last saw him a couple of years ago. I was so pleased to hear from Robin Huss!

And having done the monthly accounts and found I’m far more skint than I ever imagined, I set off to work via the shops. Yesterday I forgot some bits and pieces, so I thought I’d give Sainsbury’s a go. The place was awash with doddering O.A.P.s. Well, to be more precise, not so much “doddering” as “blundering”; not one was looking where it was walking, and they were crashing into shopping trolleys, shelves, each other. Resisting the temptation to slap one particularly ubiquitous old biddy round the lug (everywhere I went, she beat me to it!) I got most of my shopping. In fact all of it except the fish food. In Sainsbury’s “Pet Food” is “Dog and Cat Food”; they don’t cater for birds, fish and various other domesticated beasts. So I went to the pet shop in Bybrook Barn. This is somewhere that amazes me – the first time I ever went to this place I met one of the worst shop assistants I have ever met. Full of her own importance, arrogant, patronising, and still not actually knowing very much about her chosen subject. I can’t believe that after all these years she’s still there. And just as useless as ever.

If only there was somewhere else within an hour’s drive where I could get my piscine products….

23 July 2010 (Friday) - Canterbury Beer Festival



There was a problem at work in the night  so I went in for an hour or so to get the thing going. I don’t mind going in to help people out – I did night shifts for twenty years, and they can be horrible: stuck on your own, everything going wrong and no one to help you. I was home an hour or so later, but couldn’t get off to sleep, and when I did I was woken shortly afterwards by the delicate sounds of the first fruit of my loin quietly going about his daily round. I expect my loyal readers in Arkansas and the Philippines heard him too; he was that quiet.


Having had a plate of peanut butter on toast, we set off to to the Gorge for second brekkie - this time for a full English brekkie. Whislst there we met up with more of the day’s protagonists, bringing our number to seven. With second brekkie scoffed we set off to the station and the 10.22 to Canterbury. The journey to Canterbury was relatively uneventful, but as most readers will realise, in my world anything less than full scale carnage can probably be classified as “relatively uneventful”. Once in Canterbury, third brekkie was a lamb pastie from the pastie shop, and then we confused the nice man who was selling river tours. He was probably used to polite refusals, but I really threw him by telling him that we were planning a day on the p*ss, and he was welcome to join us.

We soon found the rest of our party who had started the queue for the bus, we got out our benches and waited for the bus in comfort. And we waited. And waited. And in the end got to the festival in three taxis. It transpired there had been an accident, and the bus chartered to run people to and fro was stuck in traffic. But eventually we arrived at the festival, got our glasses, got some beer and started the party. Drinking by the half-pint I sampled ten different ales:

We also had the obligatory flavoured olives, but having overdosed on breakfast I didn’t feel up to the curry. Instead we stuck cocktail sticks into our heads (because we could). In the past we’ve left the festival at about 3pm to be sure of a seat on the bus back to Canterbury. This time we stayed drinking till well after 4pm, and still had no problems getting on the other bus.

To the Hobgoblin where we enjoyed a pint of Everard’s Tiger – a cheap pint due to the wonders of student discounts and after a quick round of the French dice game, five of us went to church. And not just any old church – the Cathedral. A friend was chorister-ing at evensong, and so we went to watch. It was suggested that I might want to take the cocktail sticks out of my head, but I didn’t want to. They hurt enough going in, they might as well stay put. I got one or two looks from the congregants, but since when have the opinions of the normal people ever bothered me? As we walked into the nave (I know all the words!) I mentioned in a not excessively loud voice that I wanted to sit at the back or everyone would stare at me. A couple of normal people quickly turned away; their faces red with embarrassment. A vicar-type told me off for taking photos, but I got away with it by smiling sweetly.

As evensong progressed I read the psalm book, and noted (with pious wonder) that God smites his enemies with frogs. Personally I thought that the Almighty would command more respect if he were to smite with something a bit more fierce; sharks or tigers for example. I wasn’t overly impressed with being smote off of a frog. But I expect that Big G knows what he’s doing. Another psalm said that the iniquitous get smote on the hinders, so with the threat of a frog up the chuff I sat quietly with the most recent fruit of my loin, and neither of us giggled (much!)

Evensong was over in forty minutes; I was actually disappointed when it finished so soon – musically it really was one of the best shows I‘ve been to in a long time. Meeting up with our musical mate we set off to the Dolphin to find the ungodly members of our party who’d skipped church. I was grateful for t he cocktail sticks in my head at this point – when the sinners got smoted off of frogs, I would have a ready made anti-frog defence. A pint of Seasider (from Gadds of Ramsgate) went down well in the beer garden, and then it was time to think about going home. Only think about it mind. We stopped off at the Wetherspoons for a jug of Purple Rain for the girlie-types and a pint of longstrider, and then at the Bishop’s Finger for a pint of Bishop’s Finger.

A minor hiccup at the railway station. With more police than sense, the place was heaving with the Old Bill, and I couldn’t find my train ticket. I had a couple of coppers holding the varied and assorted tat from my pockets whilst I rummaged about, eventually finding my ticket in the pocket where I’d put it for safe keeping. And so home, for a fried egg sarnie and an early night. For some reason I was rather tired….


24 July 2010 (Saturday) - A Lazy Day


Bearing in mind the amount of ale I shifted yesterday, it’s probably rather amazing that I was up and about before 7am, and feeling rather chipper with it. I checked my emails and the news over toast & coffee, and found that nothing much has happened in the world whilst I was off-duty yesterday.

Mind you, it seems there’s a new explanation for the Fermi paradox. I’ve mentioned the Fermi paradox before: basically common sense and reason tell us that humanity can’t possibly be alone in the universe. But if we aren’t alone, why haven’t we found any evidence of aliens yet? Scientists at the University of California have pointed out that for fifty years people looking for alien signals have been looking for the wrong thing. Blanket broadcasting to the entire universe is expensive; surely any aliens who are communication with each other will be directing their messages directly at each other. And since they would be using very directed messages, we would be unlikely to be in the firing line of such a message by chance. Which makes an awful lot of sense*provided* aliens know where other aliens are in the first place.

Yesterday I mocked the almighty who apparently smites sinners with frogs. I hate to think what Ralth Mothes and Paloma Werner have done to upset Big G, as according to the news he has smited them with a whale. Personally I’d sit up and take notice if I’d been smited off of a whale.

The phone rang. Would I like cheaper electricity? Dur – yes please! The nice lady asked if she could quote me for cheaper leccie. And then it became so transparently a con. I told her I wasn’t interested in answering her little survey because all she would do would be to ask me how much I was currently paying for leccie, then quote me a fiver a month less, and then once I’d signed up, her company would whack up the costs. I suggested she told me how much her company’s energy units cost, and I could decide for myself if they were cheaper. She flatly refused to give me a price, and told me that I was the one who was being unreasonable. I suggested she stopped phoning people until she could give an honest answer to a straight question. And then she hung up. I thought that was a result.

And then…. Originally the plan for today was Dover Kite Festival, but that got cancelled months ago. Then we were going to go camping at Sumners Ponds for the weekend, but I couldn’t commit to that because I wasn’t able to swap my Saturday morning shift until two days ago. There were plans to go to the Star’s charity day, but to be honest I had an elegant sufficiency of ale yesterday. In the end, together with the Rear Admiral, I spent the afternoon tiddler bashing. Some more tiddler than others, and there was the obligatory one that got away. Got away from the Rear Admiral, not from me, I hasten to add. But on the plus side, he can now touch the maggots, bait the hook and unhook the fish.

I think it’s fair to say I’ve done more fishing in the last month or so than I have for years….

25 July 2010 (Sunday) - The Create Festival


I was hoping for a lie-in today, but next door’s children were screaming from 6am onwards. I *think* it was screams of joy and excitement, but screams nevertheless. Between their dogs and children, and the piano on the other side, it can get a tad noisy in my world from time to time. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing; I feel no guilt about whenever I might be a bit noisy myself.

This morning I received several hundred emails, all but one of which went into the spam filter never to be seen again. Surely some law-maker somewhere should be looking at the inordinate amount of spam that is sent through email, and punishing the spammers? The only email to safely negotiate its way to my inbox was one inviting me to my own wife’s birthday party to be held in my own back garden. That was nice.

I then reviewed the invites that I have sent out for said party. Having sent out over fifty invites, I don’t think I’ve had more than a dozen replies, and most of those are from people who can’t make it. So I spent a few minutes sending reminders. Or that is, I thought it would take me a few minutes. Email is a good way to communicate, but people change their email addresses so fast that I can’t keep up. Facebook messaging works, provided Facebook itself works. This morning it wasn’t. I had no end of messages about the server not responding. After an hour’s wrestling with the thing I think I finally managed to message everyone, including a few people who aren’t on Facebook. If any of my loyal readers haven’t received an invite, please accept my apologies, and know that you’re very welcome anyway.

We then went to the “Create Festival” – an afternoon of music in the local park. I say “music” because that was how the council billed it. Perhaps if they had the bands on one after the other it might have been musical. Having them all on simultaneously just made for a noise. Within five minutes I had a headache. Perhaps that put me off the event, but in retrospect it was a rubbish event. It was a shame that the beer tent had no ale, and it was rather sad that the girl operating the ice cream stall didn’t actually know how to operate the ice cream machine. I found it insulting to be searched on the way in to the park. No glass bottles were being allowed. Drunken young thugs were carrying in crates of lager, but a bottle of ale would have been totally forbidden.

For some reason my thoughts kept returning to this weekend’s beer festival inCanterbury where there were live bands. A music festival where thousands of people were walking around with glasses in their hands. And as well as the bands there were things to do, various stalls selling things, and there was no security whatsoever, and (most importantly) no cost to the local ratepayer. I’ve emailed the council with one or two suggestions – I bet they don’t reply. Mind you, they are conducting a survey to find out what locals think about local council services. A shame they’ve not advertised the fact very well.

We came home and I got the lawn mowed, and some of the rubbish shifted from the back yard into black sacks for the dustmen to take away in the week. Interestingly, on seeing me pootling around the garden, the neighbours told their barking dogs to be quiet. As I type this blog entry the neighbours are still in their garden but they can’t see me, and the dogs are screaming. If they tried to get their dogs to shut up all the time, rather than when they think I am around, then the animals might get the idea to be quiet.

And then after a bit of dinner I wandered into NeverWinter for a couple of hours to see what was going on in there. Or that was my intention. I dozed for most of the evening. I dislike spending so many of my so-called “waking hours” asleep. Perhaps if my neighbours were to shut the !#?! up occasionally….

26 July 2010 (Monday) - Cheap Beer



Before work I charged up my phone. Once a daily event, now the bluetoooth is turned off I’m charging it maybe twice a week. Far better. And then I got a text message on the thing – Lidl’s were doing cheap beer again. The last time they did cheap beer I left it too late and they sold out. So I didn’t muck about and went straight there. They were knocking out Bishop’s Finger and Spitfire at a pound a bottle, which is rather cheap. There wasn’t a lot left when I arrived, but I took three cases for the upcoming weekend at Teston. Thirty six bottles over four days works out an nine bottles a day. That ought to do. I’ve also got some amoretto just in case. I’m laying off the port – I think I may be developing gout. Or it might just be the arthritis spreading.

And then to work. Which was dull. You know, I really don’t like Mondays. Regular readers of this drivel will know I make a point of not wasting weekends, and so the start of the dull weekly routine comes really hard…

27 July 2010 (Tuesday) - Stuff


I was rather amazed by the news this morning. According to the Internet (so it must be true) four out of every ten people who voted for the Dribbling Democraps at the last election wouldn’t have done so, had they known that the Dribs were going to roll over and suck up to the Con-servatives. What amazes me is that clearly by implication six out of ten such voters are happy with this sad state of affairs. All of which proves that (as always) I am in the minority. I should be used to it by now. And I should stop whinging about the coalition government, even if it would seem I was tricked into voting for it (going to lie down now…)

On a lighter note, the villagers of one Dribbling Democrap constituency have clubbed together to buy a new sign for their village. Made of stone and weighing a ton and a half, it is thought unlikely that the villagers of Shitterton will have this village sign stolen by the simple minded idiots who think the name amusing and have made off with countless village signs in the past. I wonder if I could get that stone in the back of my Scenic?

Off to work – dull, so dull. And seeing I was owed some time for going in during the night last week, I came home early. Via the fishing tackle shop. Last week whilst getting some bait I saw a nice rod (at a rather reasonable price) in their second hand section. Today I went back for it. I really needed to replace my reels too, but can’t find any second hand ones. The cheapest in the shop were twenty quid. I wondered if eBay had anything, and after five minutes I ordered up the same thing I saw in the shop for twelve quid cheaper on-line (including postage!)

And whilst wandering to the fish pond this evening I saw several ants swarming around a paving stone. When I lifted the thing I saw we’ve got an ant nest under the stone. I see a trip to B&Q for ant powder in the morning....

28 July 2010 (Wednesday) - Broken Pots


Up with the lark, and an hour and a half’s ironing before brekkie. Not that I wanted to, but if a job’s worth doing, do it yourself (!) And then to B&Q for ant powder. Interestingly B&Q are now selling off all their tents as “clearance”. It seems a bit early in the year to be getting rid of the camping gear. I expect they want the shelf space for Xmas decorations.

Work was dull, and then home to apply the ant powder, and to muck out the fish pond filter, A week or so ago I replaced the entire innards of the fish pond filter. The new funky shaped plastic wotsits have started to shred the filter pads. They will (hopefully) last for a month or so, but I’ll need to get a different set of entire innards for the fish pond filter before too much longer.

And then to arky-ologee club, where Mossop (our resident Riddler) had brought along a Tiddler. We started off by looking at a bank of earth on the side of a footpath, and then were asked our expert opinion on said bit of soil: was it medieval? I neither knew nor cared. We then walked across a ploughed field and looked for artefacts of interest. I found an interesting object – a red pot rim; possibly Samian (Roman) from the second or third century. Or possibly a broken flower pot from a few years ago. No one could tell the difference. And to be honest, is there a difference? A broken pot is a broken pot, no matter how old.

And then back to the fit bird’s house to have a look at her chapel. Built some time in the past few hundred years and having been re-built several times, she’s keen to find out more of the history of the thing. By this stage I was just keen to get home again…

29 July 2010 (Thursday) - Dull

Again I was up with the lark, and did an hour and a half’s ironing before brekkie. Shirts this time: you have to iron those properly. And then to the back garden to feed the fish and then to squirt some more ant powder. I saw the pond has lost six inches of water where the filter was leaking yesterday: I’ll top that up at the weekend.

To work, which was dull, and then home, a quick bit of tea, and spent a few minutes adding obscure music videos to my Facebook page. Then I hid in NeverWinter whilst er indoors TM flogged candles to a gaggle of her mates in the living room. There was a rumour of the Anne Summers rep putting in an appearance, but I wasn’t brave enough to go sniffing.

And that was it for today. Rather dull. I shall console myself with the reflection that a lot of the normal people lead entire lives which are this dreary….

30 July 2010 (Friday) - A Quiz Night


I had a parcel to collect from the post office, so I set off early. For no adequately explored reason the posties have closed their car park to the public, so I had to park underneath the Stour Centre. It’s a public car park where the parking is charged at a penny a minute. Fair enough at first sight, until you realise there’s a minimum fee of one hour’s parking. I object to paying that when I was parked for a total of five minutes. And then in the post office… oh dear. For security they need to see I.D. For example a credit card. So I brandished my credit card. The chap behind the counter went to take it. I moved back, and told him he could look at it from a distance. I wasn’t letting him see any of the details. He seemed quite happy. Next time I’ll show him a train ticket for all the notice he took of my credit card.

Work was same as ever, and then home to check my emails. I had an email from the Prime Minister and his puppet. A few weeks ago they emailed me asking for me to grass up my managers and point out some public money that is being wasted, so I squealed. They were grateful for my blabbing; and said that in total sixty three thousand people had squealed on the system. I wonder if my suggestions will be taken up. I won’t expose the shortcomings of the public sector here just yet, but should any major savings be made, I shall publicly take the credit in a future blog entry.

And then to Woodchurch. I’d been dreading this month’s astro club for a couple of weeks; ever since I saw that the scheduled activity had been cancelled in favour of a quiz. Some fifteen years ago I got involved with a local snake club and it had a lot of parallels with the astro club. As well as me getting far too involved in something about which I didn’t really know that much, we met monthly for talks from expert speakers, we did “reptile roadshows” for the public, we spoke at local schools. It was really good. But in retrospect the rot set in when we had the first quiz night. The committee of that club enjoyed the quiz, and within a few months every meeting was quiz night. Those who wanted a snake club stopped coming, and the thing folded within a year of the first quiz. I *really* don’t want the astro club to go the same way.

Were my suspicions correct? Well… I had heard grumblings during the week from club members of my acquaintance who weren’t overly keen on the idea of a quiz. And it’s no secret that attendance was noticeably down this evening. Having said that, there were still over three times as many people who ever came to a meeting when we were in Stanhope, and it is holiday season too.

The evening started well, with a talk from Jason about what’s current in the world of astronomy, and then a few words from Steve on the need to help redecorate the hall. I then gave a small presentation on the fun I’d recently had with the club’s solar scope, and then after the raffle we had the quiz. It was a shame that S.E.K.A.S. who had challenged our club to a quiz didn’t have a big enough turn-out to field a team of their own. But we supplied them with a couple of our members to make up their numbers. And then our team stepped up to the mark. I’d volunteered for the team thinking that it would be churlish of me not to, but I never expected to be selected. In the event we were rather short of volunteers for the team, and I was on it. I suspect I enjoyed the evening far more being on the team than I would have if I was a spectator. The audience did look rather glazed at times. And the quiz was (in places) a tad on the specialised side.

Round One consisted of photos of various galaxies, nebulae and the like, and we had to identify the Messier and/or NGC number (WTF?). Round Two featured the birthplaces and birth dates of an assortment of famous astronomers, and we had to identify them. Round Three was pictures of telescopes from around the world – what were they called? Round Four was another load of photos of various galaxies, nebulae and the like and we had to identify in which constellation they were to be found. We hadn’t really scored well up to now, and neither had the opposition. And no one in the audience had got an answer right when neither team had a clue and the question was thrown open. I was a tad bored by this stage – and the audience were catatonic. Round Five was astro-trivia, and we began to come into our own here. Round Six was the sci-fi round, and the audience began to perk up a bit. And I think it’s fair to say we handed the opposition their arse in this round. And by the time the last round (astro-music) arrived, our lead was pretty much unassailable. (Fancy not knowing the difference between the theme tunes to Captain Scarlet and Joe 90!).

Had the event been a success? Well, in the first instance I must applaud the efforts of the chap from S.E.K.A.S. who had organised the event; he’d clearly put in a lot of hard work. And from a purely personal (and selfish) point of view I enjoyed myself immensely. But was it a success? – I’m afraid I’d have to say no.

I was very conscious that I was actually taking part in the event: a lot of people were merely spectators. When we won with a clear lead – forty five points against their thirty three, we as a team did my patented victory dance to celebrate. Perhaps a bit silly, but during the quiz I’d tried to throw in little snippets to amuse the audience. After all, the success of quizzes on the telly isn’t that they are quizzes, but that they are entertaining to the spectator. Had the entire club been involved in the quiz, perhaps divided into several competing teams then perhaps it might have gone better. In retrospect I think most of the audience very soon became bored with the event; it was noticeable that quite a few people had quietly slipped out during the evening. I would suggest that future quizzes involve everyone either individually or in teams, and that the questions be a little easier.

Actually I’d go further than that; I’d suggest that future quizzes (as well as being all-inclusive) be but only a small part of the once a year annual social evening. We’ve a winning formula of an evening with a news update, one or two minor talks, a main lecture, refreshments and raffle, then star-gazing. It works. Certainly we shouldn’t hesitate to try something new, but sometimes things won’t quite work. I don’t think quizzes are our “thing”. Sorry….


31 July 2010 (Saturday) - Party


It’s become something of a tradition that the first weekend in August is the garden party.Up relatively early to do some getting ready for the day, and then an hour or so spent nervously waiting…. Will anyone come? The first people arrived at midday and the first beer was opened. And loads of people came, and loads of food was cooked, and loads more beer was drunk. The plan was to get all the beer left over from previous camping sessions drunk up. We shifted all of that, and a third of the beer we’d got in for next weekend’s camping session.

It all got rather vague towards the end…