1 March 2010 (Monday) - The News




I must admit to a wry smile as I read the news this morning. At work we live in terror of the Freedom of Information Act. In practice, it has very little (i.e. absolutely no) bearing on our daily round. But in principle anyone can ring up any government-run establishment and demand whatever nonsensical information that takes their fancy. And have an enforceable legal right to have that information within a month. For a nominal fee (I think it’s about ten quid) hard working people are legally obliged to drop what they are doing to find out (for example) how many left handed Nigerians have been tested for emphysema in the last week.

The idea is that information kept by government sources is to be freely available. Ironically following such a series of such requests for data made under The Freedom of Information Act, it would seem that some government departments have had enough. The Ministry of Defence, inundated by crackpots demanding information on flying saucers have decided to no longer keep records of UFO incidents. With no records they have no information to disclose to the general public, and so will save themselves untold effort looking up said information.

I wonder how many other government departments are now going to start emptying their files too.


I also saw there are plans to bring back the dog licence. But in a rather different format. The idea is that people will need to pass a competency test to show they are able to handle a dog. Add onto this the proposal to have all dogs micro-chipped and compulsory third party dog insurance, the average dog owner is looking at a bill of sixty quid a year on top of all the expenses associated with keeping Fido. My initial reaction from my own experience was that I liked the proposal. Having always had dogs in the house as a child, once I had a house of my own, I couldn’t wait to get a dog of my own. And then I realised how utterly unprepared I was for a dog.

But then on reflection, not many of my friends and acquaintances have dogs any more, and of those that do, I don’t think there’s any that don’t have well looked after and well controlled mutts. All that this licensing will do is to add expense where it isn’t needed.

And the pikey element (at whom this legislation is aimed) will just ignore the licensing anyway.


And then to work. Yesterday er indoors TM came home from Tesco with some heat pads for my bad back. You stick them down your pants, and they work wonders, or so the blurb would have me believe. I’d reached the stage where I’d try anything, so down the pants they went, and I set off for work. It was either the moving about all day, or the heat pad. But something’s worked wonders. I wouldn’t say I was cured, but I’m certainly a lot better than I was…




2 March 2010 (Tuesday) - Banned (!)




I see that my rant yesterday about licensing of dogs attracted two comments. One from Guy, with which I agree, and one from Anonymous, with which I don’t. But that’s fine – we are all entitled to our opinions, and I like being told that I’m wrong because it reminds me that sometimes (only occasionally, mind) I can be wrong. Seriously though, being told I’m wrong makes me think. And today I’ve pondered this response from Anonymous (wish I knew who you are!) and I’m sorry, but I disagree. If the pikey element want a dog, but don’t want to do the paperwork, then I honestly believe they will do what they please.

Perhaps I have bad experiences of the police force, but in the past I have had pikeys having a bare knuckle fight in my front garden. I phoned the police, who never came out. My son’s girlfriend had her car broken into. I phoned the police who flatly refused to investigate. I really can’t see the local plods showing any interest in unlicensed mutts.


Somewhere over the winter I’ve managed to misplace my laser pointer. I’m going to need one at the next astro club. Although I could borrow one so I can wave it around whilst giving my talk, they are very useful for the practical astronomy session after the talks. I’ve found that if I point out various stars and things with a laser, the “normal people” all think I know what I’m talking about.

I ordered the laser on eBay on Sunday evening, and it was on the doormat when I came home from work this evening. Two days to deliver the thing. I was impressed!


Some three years ago I posted my first pub review on Beer in the Evening. Since then I’ve posted reviews of my experiences of one hundred and eighty four pubs. But over the last few months I’ve formed more and more reservations about them. On January 21 I blogged about my unhappiness with the website. Just lately they’ve reactivated the pop-ups, done absolutely nothing to curb the racist rantings of some of the reviewers and taken over six months to add suggested pubs. It’s over a year since I pointed out that the town of St Leonards on Sea has been duplicated. And it’s no secret that the hard core of their supporters have left the web site and gone over to a rival concern. Last night I dared to voice my concerns on the Beer in the Evening forum, and I was told that if I didn’t shut my trap I’d be kicked off the website.

I came home this evening to see that I could no longer access the forum. However, being an I.T. genius it didn’t take me long to figure out a way back on. The chap who runs the website has posted: “Not something I really wanted to do today, but we just removed two members this morning. I did say there would be no further warnings. Abusive posts towards us or the site will NOT be tolerated.

A shame he didn’t actually read what I’d actually written. He can’t now, as he’s deleted it. Personally I would have thought my offer to do unpaid work for him on a regular basis wasn’t abusive. Perhaps he was confusing me with the people who were more forthright in pointing out his failures. Many of whom have been in touch last night (ironically) via the Beer in the Evening instant messaging system or today via the Facebook group. All admiring my getting kicked off the forum.

Interestingly I see the 180+ pub reviews I’ve done for him haven’t been deleted, nor have I been removed from the Facebook group. Bovvered….?





3 March 2010 (Wednesday) - Still Sulking




The morning’s flurry of emails brought a few more messages of support over my expulsion from Beer in the Evening. Among the comments I’ve received have been:


“ For what its worth I could find no abusive comments made by you or of you being a trouble maker. I have found you to be a man of few words which are no nonsense and straight to the point, a gift obviously not appreciated the management of BITE.


“…He won't take criticism even though the trolls have been permitted to insult good regular members with impunity.


Well said on the forums. Why the hell *** (the webmaster)*** kept quiet while all that Unionjak (a racist poster) stuff and all the other rubbish was going on in the forums still escapes me.”


..You and I often review pubs from completely different viewpoints, but agree more often than not on where we can get a decent pint and that's what it's about.


There is now actually a Beer in the Evening member category called “Banned”. Those of us in the “Banned” section are still permitted to write money-making reviews for the website, but are no longer allowed a voice on the website’s forum. It’s no secret that over the last few years I’ve put quite a bit of effort into reviewing pubs for the Beer in the Evening website, and I can’t pretend to be happy about being given such cavalier treatment.


On reflection I wonder if I might have been better off being far more vocal about the website’s failings. Perhaps I should have made a conscious decision to become a martyr, rather than having been chucked off for no adequately explained reason.

Still, what’s done is done. I’ve been welcomed with open arms at “another place”, and the nice people there even helped me to transfer my pub reviews to their new home. This evening I went through all of the reviews I’d done over the last three years. Amazingly I could remember every pub. Some of my reviews were out of date, some were multiple reviews of the same pubs, and one or two were squabbles. But in less than an hour I transferred over one hundred reviews.

I quite like being a roving reporter for Pubs Galore. I think I’ve redirected all the links on my various websites. If any of my loyal readers find any links from my ramblings directed to where I’m not wanted, please let me know.


Whilst I’m raking over old ground, on November 2007 I blogged about the murderers of two year old James Bulger. The news at the time carried the story that one of them had got religion and was getting married. I said at the time that he shouldn’t have got married. I said he should have been executed. But as always I was in the minority. The bleeding heart brigade felt the chap should be given another chance. We weren’t told which murderer got married, but today’s news tells us that the murderer Jon Venables has been re-admitted to prison. The phrase “I told you so” comes to mind.


And to close on a lighter note: a colleague had a minor dilemma today. Sid wanted to push something, but couldn’t decide what. We eventually drew up a shortlist of:

  • It
  • His Luck
  • The Button

If any of my loyal readers would like to help Sid out with his pushing, please email the usual address.





4 March 2010 (Thursday) - Fun on the Trains




Part of my job is overseeing the efforts that trainees make towards becoming state registered biomedical scientists. On a day to day basis it can be rather hard work sometimes (for all concerned). My favourite bit is that every so often I get to go to another hospital to formally assess how their trainees are doing, and to see if they are competent to become state registered. Today I’d volunteered to assess one such trainee who worked at a hospital in Brighton.

I always plan to get to these assessments promptly: - it’s nerve-wracking enough for the poor candidates without having to wait all day for me to show up. So to be at the Royal Sussex County Hospital for 9am, I needed to take the 6.15am train from Ashford. Easy enough, I’m always up early. Just as I was about to buy my ticket at the station I realised I’d left all the paperwork at home. So I walked to the taxi rank to get a taxi home to save time. For all this talk of credit crunch and recession, none of the three taxis wanted my money. Each looked at me, muttered about another job and drove off. So I walked home. It’s not that far, really. But far enough that I missed the 6.15am train. Ironically the thing was delayed anyway, but I missed it by two minutes.


According to the Internet there was another train to Brighton at 6.45am. According to all the information at the station there wasn’t. According to their information the next train was at 7.30am. Ignoring the nutter singing along to the strange noises in his head, I explained to the nice man at the station the discrepancy with the times of trains to Brighton. He didn’t seem in the slightest bit fazed by this, and he had a look on his machine. His machine suggested I took the next train to Tonbridge (which left at 7.21am), and then went to Brighton via Redhill.

As his machine was disgorging this information at 6.35am, a train pulled into the station, and the announcement said that this train was going to Tonbridge. The nice man looked at his machine, looked at the loudspeaker and then looked at the train. He scratched his head and suggested I took this train to Tonbridge. I made a snap decision that (at worst) it couldn’t take any longer and so I set off to Tonbridge.

At Tonbridge, the Redhill train was waiting and I was soon in Redhill waiting for the 8.21am to Brighton. On this train I amused myself by watching the nutter who kept waking up and looking out the window, before checking his watch, swearing and going back to sleep. He eventually got off at PrestonPark. I have no idea if that was his destination – I hope it was, for his sake.


I arrived at Brighton railway station shortly after 9am feeling quite exhausted. I know the train line along the coast, having been on it so many times. But this morning I’d taken a route through unexplored territory, changing trains in the middle of nowhere. It had been quite an adventure.

Continuing the adventure, I took the bus to the hospital. For less than four quid you can go all round Brighton by bus. I sat at the front on the top floor of a double decker, and watched the world go by. The only way to travel(!). I arrived at the hospital only twenty minutes later than I originally planned, did my thing, smiles all round, and I was out and on the bus back to the station by 11.30am.


From my student days it’s been traditional to bring er indoors TM presents from Brighton. Specifically a pineapple. I can’t remember why – but it’s one of those things. If I go to Brighton, I buy her a pineapple. But disaster. No one had any. She’s had to make do with a back-up pressie.

And then to the real business of the day. I’d volunteered to do today’s assessment because it was in Brighton, which has several advantages over other destinations. Firstly (usually) it’s dead simple to get to on the train, but mainly because the Evening Star is thirty seconds walk from the station.

I was there for opening time, but restricted myself to just the one pint (American Pale Ale – oh yes!) because I didn’t want a repeat performance of the morning’s train fun. Still, I picked up a couple of bottle of Expresso for later. That should get me into her good books, even if the saucy undercrackers doesn’t.


During the day there are two trains from Brighton to Ashford. But they leave within two minutes of each other, so I wasn’t taking any chances. I got onto the 12.32 which eventually left Brighton at 12.45. I felt rather miffed that I could have had a pint of HopHead after all.

The guard on the train apologised for the late departure of the train, and boasted that they would make up the time and not be late on arrival at Ashford. He lied. We spent most of the journey at a standstill at various points along the coast listening to said guard apologising for red lights at all the signal boxes.


And then home to write up my formal report of the day, and to claim my expenses. Regular reader of this drivel may recall I made a similar journey to Brighton to assess another trainee last year (July 27, 2009). From my records I see the train fare that day was £20.40. The same ticket today was £59.00. I see the official rate of inflation in the UK is billed as being 2.9%. I’m no expert, but I calculate it to be 289.2%..



5 March 2010 (Friday) - Oh - The Thinks You Can Think




I forgot to get some dinner on the way to work today, so at lunch time I popped into the works canteen. I fancied one of their baguettes, which are made to order with a range of fillings. I was rather intrigued by the look of a bowl of yellow baguette filling, and asked the disinterested assistant what it was. “Dunno” she answered, in a tone which said “don’t know, don’t care”. She looked at me, and I just looked back at her. After a lengthy pause she sighed, and bellowed at an equally disinterested (and equally spotty) colleague to ask for a second opinion. After a brief conference, they both announced it probably had sausages in it. In the end I settled for a tuna and chutney baguette.


And then to the Hazlitt theatre for the Suessical. As it was my Xmas present I’d been looking forward to it for some time. An amateur dramatic production based on the Doctor Suess classic “Horton Hears a Who”. In retrospect, I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what we saw. Don’t get me wrong - the show was good – I did enjoy it. But I think that as a relatively experienced fan of the entire Suess genre, and having spent years reading Suess to both of my children, I was expecting more. I did think that a real live Star-On/Star-Off machine would be ambitious, but there were no Sneetches, no Zax, no twenty-three Daves, no little cats A – Z, no big pink cat ring, no Voom!, and no Sam-I-Am. And where, oh where was Sylvester McMonkey McBean?

Nevertheless, like most am-dram productions it was really good fun, despite the failings of the sound system. I was quite taken with the fat ballerina (bless), whose thigh was thicker than most of the other ballerinas entire bodies. But she was having a go.

I had a moment’s worry when I realised that Joker from Batman was playing the part of “Thing Two”, but no one was murdered, so perhaps I might have been mistaken.


Daddies Little Angel TM  was utterly unimpressed with the whole thing, her favourite parts of the show being the interval and the end. Apparently Daddy does Doctor Suess better…


(It’s been brought to my attention that parents today don’t read Suess to their children. Heresy!!!)





6 March 2010 (Saturday) - Charing, Chilham, DVDs




Up early to iron my shirts, and then off to work. As I drove down the road (before 8am) I saw some of the leaders from the scout group were out and about doing the paper collection. Once every six weeks they do it – they deliver leaflets to 1400 houses, collect newspapers and aluminium cans from those houses, take them all to a skip outside town, and spend all day doing this. It’s backbreaking work, and it’s predominantly only the leaders that do it. Of the eighty-odd families with children in the scout group, maybe three or four parents offer any help.

It’s a fundraising scheme, aimed to reduce the weekly subscription fee. The same amount of money could be raised by raising the weekly sub by eighty pence. But the scout group committee refuses to do this, because that will make the weekly cost too expensive, and parents couldn’t afford it. Or so I’m told.

Parents seem happy to pay a fiver for an hour’s football or rugby or ballet, but would baulk at paying £2.30 for two hours child care at scouting? I can’t see this somehow.


Work was dull, and then after a quick sarnie we went for an afternoon out. I’d typed “Charing Kent” into Google and found that “Charing's High Street is alive with many shops”. So off we went for an afternoon out. Only to find that (yet again) the internet had lied to us. There was an empty butcher’s shop, a closed post office and a licensed grocer. One wonders what the grocer was licensed to do. Certainly not to sell teeth to the toothless harridan we watched staggering out of the shop. Charing was a disappointment.


So we followed a tractor up to Chilham, which was also reputed to be scenic. There’s a privately owned castle there, and we peered through the gate at it. The village square had one shop (closed) and a tea room (closed) and a pub (Greene King IPA & Broadside – couldn’t be bothered). It was cold, so we had a mooch round the church – they’d left it open for sightseers. It’s odd how all churches smell the same, and I was impressed with the level of trust this place was showing. There were all sorts of things for sale, and honesty boxes into which you put the money. Personally I think this is to be applauded – if you look for the best in people, you’ll usually find it. Even though there are those of the scum element who will take advantage.


And then we realised we were cold, so we set off homewards. Via Perry Court farm shop to have a look. There were offering tasters of their apple juice. Three different flavours, all tasting the same, and all costing far too much. And then to Lidl’s. Oh, the tat they sell in that shop. Pikey to the max, and then some!


Home to the new telly. Since I got the thing a few weeks ago I don’t think I’ve ever watched as much telly. A few weeks ago I bought he film “Sunshine” on DVD. If you’ve not seen the film, don’t bother. It is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. After a shower I then watched a very young Malcolm McDowell in “If….”, one of my favourite films, even if I do fall asleep towards the end…




7 March 2010 (Sunday) - Hello Duckie




Whilst on the way to the corner shop for some fags (not for me!), as I walked past the vicarage, the vicar was standing on his doorstep, in all his finest vicaring costume, having a really blazing row with Mrs Vicar. I stood and watched for five minutes, trying not to laugh out loud.


And then to the farm, where I’d volunteered to help with the assorted waterfowl. First of all to feed the ducks. Whilst feeding the ducks I always make a point of letting some of the food get into the water so’s the carp come up. It’s probably still too early in the year to be feeding the fish, but the ducks tend to spray their feed everywhere and the fish are used to having it anyway. The fish in the duck pond are huge – regular readers of this drivel may recall an entry from August 2007 when over the course of a weekend I fished in a nearby pond and caught three hundred tiddlers which I transferred to this (at the time) recently dug pond. Over the intervening two and a half years the fish have grown really big. Two years ago I didn’t put in any fish that was more than six inches in length. Today I watched half a dozen which are well over a foot long.


Having fed the fish we set off for more ducks. Just off of one of the roads in the back of beyond was a scrap yard. Behind this scrap yard was what I can only describe as “duck heaven”. It’s actually an old chap’s hobby, which has rather got out of control over the years – two duck ponds and a series of paddocks and enclosures with (literally) hundreds of assorted ducks, swans and geese flapping all over the place. We’d pre-ordered two geese (of some ilk) which were in an enclosure waiting for us to collect them.

Watching the chap’s grandson put the geese into our carrying cage was quite entertaining, and once they were captured, Clive mentioned he quite fancied a pair of Muscovy ducks. Grandson was equipped with a net, and sent into a nearby small field. I wish I’d videoed the performance. There was honking and quacking, feathers flew everywhere and the young lad went quite red in the face charging after the birds. Interestingly enough, once he’d got the net over the ducks, they immediately stopped all their fuss, and meekly waited to be picked up. We carried the ducks to a waiting transport cage. And the ducks were as good as gold – almost as though the whole thing was a game of chase, and once they were caught, the game was over.


Back to the pond with the ducks and geese. The Egyptian geese couldn’t get out of the cage and onto the pond quick enough. The Muscovy ducks couldn’t care less, and took some poking and prodding to get them out of their cage. Within minutes, all the birds seemed to be happily mixing in with the pond’s established residents. They certainly all seemed happy enough.

To ensure their continued wellbeing we pulled the floating duck house into the side of the pond. Later in the year we will be lifting the duck houses out of the water for refurbishing, but today it was enough just to take out the old straw from inside and replace it with fresh stuff. And then we did the same with two other duck houses. Pausing only briefly to converse with the Moo-Bears and the Baas, we then made our way back to the farmhouse.


It was really good to get out and about – last week I commented about how it always rains on Sunday. Today was a lovely clear day. But I reserve the right to gripe about the weather. It was fine all the time there was no wind. But when the wind did blow – oh it was cold. After several hours by (and in) several ponds, we were all glad to get back to the farmhouse. We read the local magazine – on Easter Sunday there is a duck race in Smarden. For only a quid you get to sponsor a plastic duck on its race down the river, and the winner gets seventy five quid. Kick off is at 1pm, and it’s just down the road from the Flying Horse. I might just go along to see if my duck wins.

And then we settled down to a spot of scoff. You can’t beat a really good bit of dinner after you’ve been working all day.


It was either the Oyster Stout, or the fourth helping of apple crumble, but I do feel tired. I would have a crafty kip, but for the noise emanating from downstairs.

Daddies Little Angel TM  has acquired a guitar. I shall have my revenge…




8 March 2010 (Monday) - Stuff




I’m sure this year is colder than last – it’s March, and I’m still scraping ice off of the car in the mornings. Having got the windows so’s I could see out of them I set off to Asda to get some lunch, where I met with a minor hiccup. Asda don’t open till 8am on Monday mornings, so it had to be Tesco. For once, Tesco was relatively painless – I wasn’t made to feel totally unwelcome.


To work, where I got this month’s copy of “Laboratory News”. “Lavatory News” (as it is fondly known) rarely has anything of professional interest, but it has one major advantage – it is free. Something for nothing is never bad, and today’s edition made interesting reading. In the first three months of its existence, the UK Space Agency has decided to cancel the UK’s involvement with NASA’s Cassini mission.

How stupid is that? Cassini took seven years to get to Saturn, and cost millions. The thing is one of humanity’s most ambitious technological accomplishments, is in orbit around a planet which is (about) a billion kilometres away, and has a very limited lifespan,

To just abandon one’s involvement with the project less than half way through is idiotic in the extreme. Surely there are plenty of other projects one could put to one side and return to later if we are short of money? The large hadron collider is one example. It will still be there, under some fields in central Europe in a few years time. Cassini, half way across the solar system, will not.

(takes a deep breath)


I then settled down with the monthly accounts. In theory I should be reasonably well off this month, in that many of the annual direct debits don’t apply in February and March. In practice I’ve squandered any savings on my latest tattoo. I see that the direct debit for last November’s gas bill still hasn’t been taken, even though there’s been three debits to the gas people since. I might just pocket that as profit. Or squander it on a tattoo.


And there’s a minor disaster. The Kleeneze pikey has put a note through the door saying she’s coming back for the Kleeneze catalogue. And we can’t find the Kleeneze catalogue. My initial reaction would be one of utter indifference. If the Kleeneze pikey is so dumb as to tout her tat with me, she gets all she deserves.

However, things are never as simple as they might seem. The Kleeneze catalogue was not left by the Kleeneze pikey. It was left by a family friend who is “slumming it”, and if we don’t find that catalogue, I am “dead as ice cubes”. I don’t see why I take the blame, but I suppose it is my lot in life to do so. Everything else is my fault...





9 March 2010 (Tuesday) - Clarification and Caravans




Yesterday’s reference to “Kleeneze Pikeys” sparked a rather terse reply. A shame that whoever it was that made that comment didn’t feel brave enough to put their name to it. Mind you, “Anonymous” might have a point – there may well be hard working employees of the Kleeneze Corporation who are upright citizens and sterling members of their communities. In fact I don’t doubt that there are.

Let me apologize for any offence I might have given, but also let me relate my experiences with Kleeneze.


It’s a shame that over the last twenty years in which I’ve been plagued by the Kleeneze catalogues, they have always been brandished by exactly the same sort of person. And in considered retrospect, I stand by my description. The phrase “Kleeneze Pikey” concisely sums up all of the individuals who have touted the things at me over the last two decades (and more). My first recollection of Kleeneze was shortly after my son was born in 1987. The catalogue was in those days impatiently thrust at me by a girl who quite frankly terrified me. I was too scared not to buy from her catalogue. Her attitude was only one step from that of demanding money with menaces.

And since we moved house in the early nineties, we’ve over the years had a succession of similar individuals forcing the stuff at us. Spotty, scruffy, scary, confrontational, generally in need of a good scrub, and usually shrieking (banshee-like) at their accompanying collection of similarly unwashed and ill-behaved children.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not tarring all Kleeneze staff with the same brush, I am sure there are a lot of decent hardworking, well presented ones out there. All I am describing is *my* experience, and it is no reflection on the company itself. Or is it? Respect isn’t given to a person, or to a company. It is earned. Perhaps their marketing people might like to look at the public perception of their company. I don’t see their fine range of kitchen and household products (to be fair, their stuff is good quality) – I see a succession of aggressive grubby young mothers dragging screaming brats to my front door where they give me serious attitude.


Another company which similarly does itself no favours is a charity I sponsor – ActionAid. A bunch which do really good work in Africa, and all over the world. But the chap who used to go round Ashford town centre collecting money on their behalf… Oh dear!

In the past I actually phoned ActionAid about him. His only item of clothing not riddled with holes was his ActionAid tabard. He had never brushed his hair, he had less teeth than sense, and he stank to high heaven. I honestly thought him to be a tramp who had found/acquired/stolen the ActionAid paraphernalia to earn himself an easy buck.


Anonymous” also criticized my lack of money sense. “Anonymous” has another point there. And to prove said point, after getting home from work this evening I made an appointment to squander loads of cash on having my new tattoo finished off. I’m sure it will hurt, and I’m sure that within five minutes of lying down on the table I will regret that foolish move. But common sense has never been my strong point, as any reader of this drivel will realise.


Meanwhile my mother in law has asked my advice. She’s looking to buy a static caravan for weekends away. As father in law isn’t as well as he once was, they don’t want to travel too far. I can relate to that. I enjoyed my week in Auntie’s caravan a couple of years ago, and I am counting the days (52) until I get back there again. But Auntie’s caravan isn’t close – it’s over two hours away. I can understand the in-laws wanting somewhere nearby. I don’t know why she feels I might have inside knowledge on the world of caravans, but it’s got me thinking. Winchelsea Beach or Cooden come to mind immediately.

If any of my loyal readers know of a decent static caravan site within an hour’s drive of Hastings, please let me know.





10 March 2010 (Wednesday) - The News




Regular readers of this drivel will know that I regularly listen to the news shows on Radio Four. As well as telling me stuff I’d never otherwise know, they have quite insightful interviews too. Yesterday featured an article on Hitler’sSpyclists

 – allegations that eighty years ago the Hitler Youth movement formed links with scout groups in the UK, and groups of young Germans holidayed in the UK whilst checking out the lie of the land for a possible future invasion. They even interviewed ex- members of the Hitler youth (now well into their nineties) who described how they spent their summers in England, and were told to memorise the UK landmarks and local geography. It was absolutely fascinating.

Then the tone of the program changed. The next news item described plans to deliberately release an insect into the UK which is not native. The idea is that this creature (Psyllid) only eats one plant, and that plant – Japanese knotweed – is growing out of control in parts of the UK. In theory this insect will destroy the problem weed, but won’t be a problem to other plants because it doesn’t eat them. I suspect this is what the Australians thought about Cane Toads before said animals stuffed up the local ecologies.

And as is always the case with any news article which is vaguely science-related, the commentators treated the whole thing as a great joke. The potential destruction of all plant life in the UK was a subject of great hilarity.

It never fails to amaze me that the sporting events of the day, or the latest political trivia, or anything at all to do with “the arts” are covered with the utmost sincerity and gravity by the BBC, but anything vaguely scientific is a subject of ridicule. Developments in computing science, potential medical breakthroughs, discoveries about how reality works, are all viewed with a mild disdain.

There was an article last week about the fact that scientists are now (pretty much) sure that the dinosaurs were wiped out when a huge space rock crashed into the Earth. The presenters had a few sniggers about this.

Obviously it’s a cause of mirth. I would have though that finding out that most of the biosphere was destroyed without warning (on several occasions) might be something worth knowing. And that an application of this knowledge might be to chuck up a few satellites to have a look-see to find out if there are any other such boulders heading our way.

As always I was wrong. The potential extinction of humanity was to be treated as one big joke; the serious articles of the day were the decline of polo as a competitive sport in the UK, and Icelandic elections.

I’ve mentioned before that I shouldn’t listen to the news…

11 March 2010 (Thursday) - Silly Hats


It pained me this morning to have to correct one of my loyal readers who seemed to mistake a star for a gas giant. Shame on you – whoever you are! By one of life’s many co-incidences, said loyal reader may well have benefited from the conversation which I overheard today.

Whilst walking to my car I found myself walking behind someone wearing one of the most stupid hats I have ever seen. This person was talking with his two mates on the subject of astronomy. So fascinating was their discourse, I followed them past my car and half way up the road to the shops. One of the lads (the one with the stupid hat) was explaining the difference between a galaxy and the solar system. It would seem that the solar system is the sun and two planets and probably the moon, and the galaxy is everything else. Furthermore, stars are comets: after all, we’ve all heard the expression “shooting stars”, haven’t we? When one of his acolytes asked what he Moon actually was, the prat in the hat replied “Well, it’s like, the Moon, innit? Know what I mean?” And to my amazement, this idiot’s hangers on nodded sagely at such wisdom. He went on to add that the Moon is a long way away – that’s why it’s in the sky, and the stars are what makes the light years (!)

And so to work where we had a cohort of students being shown around. We played our usual game of running a sweepstake on how many would be wearing stupidly ridiculous hats. Only one this time – very thin pickings. Mind you, the one with the stupid hat wound me up. He made no secret of his boredom, and spent his time standing at the back texting mates on his mobile. Why come on the outing if you aren’t interested?

And then one of the students fainted. There is always one that faints: it always amazes me. Now it’s no secret that many people wouldn’t be comfortable with what I do for a living. I muck about with (read “scientifically investigate”) people’s blood.

To a lot of people I imagine this might seem gruesome. To me, having been doing it for more years than I care to remember, it’s no big deal. And for anyone taking the degree course which is a pre-requisite for a job in pathology, dealing with blood shouldn’t be a big deal either. So why is it that every year we have at least one who keels over at the sight of a bottle of the red stuff?


12 March 2010 (Friday) - Recycling


I was woken by the noise of the recycling van coming up the road this morning. Or to be precise, not so much the van as the noise of the bottles and cans being recycled. Oh, they are noisy beggars. So I leapt out of bed and ventured through the hailstorm to have a word with them – we needed a new blue box for the recycling. Ours keeps getting stolen. We keep the thing in the back garden, put it out on the Friday morning when we hear them coming, and fetch it back once they have gone. And over the last year or so we have had two boxes stolen in the few seconds between the box getting emptied and our going out to retrieve the thing.

Unfortunately the chap on the van didn’t have a spare box, and said for us to phone the council. I told him that we’d had two boxes nicked recently. He wasn’t surprised; this isn’t uncommon. He said that he’s watched several people pick up recently emptied boxes, throw them in the back of their cars and drive off with said boxes. He also mentioned that there are a growing number of houses who have their blue recycling boxes chained to walls and fences.

I can’t work this one out. We need the specific blue recycling box because the council people won’t accept recycling in any other container. But if someone wants a blue placcy box, then there are similar ones in B&Q for only a couple of quid. Surely it’s cheaper (if you value your time) to buy a box rather than to waste time and petrol staking out the bin men.

So I phoned the council to organise a new blue box. It took some doing, as they claimed they’d never heard of me, or my address. It was only when I asked if I didn’t exist on their records, could they explain their recent demand for council tax that they actually took me seriously. A new box will arrive in a week or so.

And then to work, which was on the dull side…. Some days my life is eventful. Others, not so…


13 March 2010 (Saturday) - Mothers Day (Early!)


The morning’s haul of emails brought something from one Shung Hin Hui, who clams to be a manager on investor relations in Standard Chartered Bank, Hong Kong. He says he has a business of $15.5 million for me, and says I should contact him for details. Now I’m going to turn down this once in a lifetime opportunity, but if any of my loyal readers would like those fifteen million dollars, feel free to contact Shung, and tell him I sent you.

I also had an email to tell me my most recent eBay purchase had been dispatched. I was opening the parcel as I read the email – that was efficient posting (!)

Meanwhile I see Ashford has been added to Google Street View. If you type my address into Google Maps you get a picture of my house. As it appeared over a year ago before I painted it. When it still had a fence. And with all the road works in place. The Batfarm is also there, as are the houses of several of my loyal readers. However those in the posher areas of town are not. Residences in Copperwood are hidden behind a tree, and certain addresses in Aylesbury Road simply aren’t on there. One wonders why….

And then off to see mummy. It’s mother’s day tomorrow, but we thought we’d “do it” today instead. On the way down to Hastings I went into Tesco to get the flowers. I’d never seen so many bunches of flowers in my life, and as fast as the staff were putting up the display, so the normal people were snapping the flowers up. And the prices were so variable. I just grabbed the first bunches that came to hand. One had a label on it saying the price was fifteen quid. I put them back and swapped them for ones which in all honesty looked identical to me, but were a fraction of the price.

We took Mum out for lunch at the Queens’ Head in Icklesham. Mum seemed to enjoy herself: I certainly did. A really good curry, followed by Xmas pudding. And washing it down with pints of “Pearl of Kent”, “Ransmore”, “Harvey’s Old”, and “East India Pale Ale” just made for heaven on Earth.

With nine (I counted them) different ales on the hand pump (they had Abbott, not photographed), friendly service and really good food, it’s somewhere I can heartily recommend. The last time I visited this place was in June 2001 whilst on a walk. However, back in 2001 there was a train service to within (sensible) walking distance of the place. Now the closest railway station is some seven miles away, and unless we have someone who’s happy to drive, this place is a tad tricky to get to.

I understand there’s an hourly bus service. That might be worth investigating.

We then ran Mum hone, and visited Mother in law. The original plan was to take her out to dinner too, but other offspring had claimed dibs on that mother first. So we popped in to deliver her triffid, and I slept whilst everyone else chatted whilst ignoring the rugby on the telly.

Shortly after arriving back home, “Daddies Little Angel TM  visited, complete with her entourage. They’d been to Birmingham to laugh at the accents. A long way to go, but on the way home they popped in to do the mothers day thing early. They’d also brought me back some lego, so I suppose their day wasn’t entirely wasted….


14 March 2010 (Sunday) - Busying About


I awoke to find a Sunday morning which wasn’t either pouring with rain or shivering in sub-zero temperatures, so after a quick bit of brekky I made a start on the beginning of the year jobs in the garden. First of all to sweep round the yard to gather up all the dead leaves, the discarded fag ends and all the general tat. I got three dustbin bags full of that, and then the lawn had its first mowing of the year.

I noticed that the fence between our garden and next door is seriously rotting away where he’s piled soil up against the fence on his side. I took advice, and it would seem I need gravel boards. Gravel boards are lumps of wood I can nail to the fence to bodge it up for a few more years. So I went shopping for some. To B&Q, Wickes, Homebase and the local WyeVale. All of whom had the things (at various prices), but they all had six inch ones. I had a vague idea I might need bigger than that, so I gave up and came home to check. I was right – I need eight inches or more (oo-er!). I shall try Jewson’s in the morning.

Whilst er indoors TM mended the broken toilet, I mucked out the fish pond filter. Oh, how it stank. And despite a good scrub, I decided that the filter medium was past its best, so I set off on another mission to get more. World of Water is usually a good place for anything pond-related. However today they were rather busy, and I was lumbered with the trainee, who wasn’t much good (bless him). I got my filter pads, but he knew nothing about flocculants. So I went to Swallow aquatics, who were similarly ignorant on the subject of flocculation.

A quick voom round Tesco’s for the shopping (I’d been given a list) and then home again. I reassembled the pond filter, turned it on, and water flooded out of the lid before blowing a fuse. There’s a glass tube in which the fluorescent bulb sits. This glass tube had broken over the winter. I hope I can replace that tube – a whole new filter unit costs over one hundred and fifty quid. I’ll go back to World of Water in the morning as well.

Meanwhile I joined another group on Facebook. This is something I’ve been doing for years – I can remember doing it at cub camp in 1997. I wonder if we might start a craze here…

15 March 2010 (Monday) - More Shopping


I woke up at 4am bursting for a tiddle, but didn’t go. Instead I lay in bed in increasing agony until 7.30am at which time I could hold it in no more, and so finally got out of my pit. Why do I do this? I could have had three hours more sleep, but no.

To the computer. Facebook is having an “International 'Blackadder' status day” today (apparently), so I went with a status from when Brian Blessed was in Blackadder. It would seem that I was alone in doing this. Oh well – I’m usually in a minority, so no change on that front.

I then played around with Google Street View, calling up pictures of my mother’s house, and some addresses I know in the Brighton area. I see thecrackpot looney lefties are insisting that the whole concept of Google Street View is an invasion of privacy and is breaching all our human rights. They even insist it is a god-send to burglars. I can’t see how that argument works. But on reflection, I can’t help but wonder how much it cost to set up. Photographing every street in the country couldn’t have been cheap.

And so shopping - first of all back to World of Water to get new innards for the pond filter. Google Maps said a round trip would take me fifty minutes. I took seventy-five. But I got the new quartz tube gubbins for only fifteen quid. Let's hope that works and doesn't leak - a whole new filter unit will cost ten times that amount. I’ll play with it in the morning before work.

Then to Jewsons for gravel boards. I don’t know if they had what I wanted. I asked, but it was quite obvious that they couldn't care less. They didn’t actually say “F@*! off, Fatso”, but it didn’t take a mind reader to see that was what they were thinking.

So I went to Ashford's Builder Centre, who were welcoming, helpful and friendly. They had eight inch wide wood. And they cut it to six foot lengths for me, and carried it to my car. It's at times like this when I miss the Espace. I've got used to having a car into which everything and anything will fit, and sometimes I forget the new car isn’t as big.

By the time I'd bought some lunch I was worn out. Usually when on a late I have a lie in and muck about in NeverWinter and YoVille before rolling into work. I’d run myself ragged before I even started today….

16 March 2010 (Tuesday) - National Science Week


I woke up at 4am again, and was disappointed to find it was still dark. I lay dozing until 6am, when I decided it was light enough to see what I was doing, and so I got up. There are those that might say I got up too early, but when I have a job to do, I want to get on with it. After all, I’ve painted the front of the house in the dark before.

I was expecting to take an age to fix the pond filter. The thing went together in about five minutes, and seemed to be working when I left it. Mind you I’ve had to bodge the lid on the base to prevent small leaks. When it’s filled with water it’s very heavy, and over the years where it’s been sitting on uneven ground the base unit has rather bent itself out of shape, and so the lid doesn’t fit quite as snugly as once it did. In all honesty the box probably could do with being replaced, but a new box would similarly twist out of shape too. Unless I re-landscaped a flat area on which the filter unit could sit. Which would be a lot of hard work as well as a lot more expense. I’ll see how the thing holds up over the next day or so before doing anything too radical.

Last night I’d managed to park my car outside the house. This was handy because I had those planks of wood to bring in. So I lugged them about, and then remembered that I’d planned to clean up the front garden last weekend, but had run out of time. I got the brush and swept up, which didn’t take long. I then experimented with my wooden planks. They look like they will fit where I want them exactly, but if I just bodge them in place, they too will rot away. So for each one I’ll need to clear out the existing gravel, lay fresh membrane under where each plank will go, screw the planks in place, treat them, then re-gravel. That’ll be an afternoon’s work. Less if any of my loyal readers fancy chipping in (he smiled hopefully!). Pausing only briefly to chat with the blue tit which had been following me round all morning, I then went and woke my darling wife from her slumbers – by now it was 7.30am. Time for brekky.

I then mucked about in NeverWinter for a while before popping to Bybrook Barn for some membrane. It was great – there was a mad woman there, having rather vocal disagreements with the voices in her head. She even tried to get me to take her side of the argument against the voices at one point. I would love to have stayed but I had to get to work.

I wonder how many of my loyal readers knew that it is now National Science Week? It is – and today we’d invited all the local sixth forms to send their science students up to the hospital for a day of science. During the morning they had talks on diabetes, cervical cytology, and dull stuff like that. During the afternoon the theme was parasites (yuk!) and one of the talks was me wittering on about the effects of malaria on human evolution. I’m told it went down well. Let’s hope so…


17 March 2010 (Wednesday) - Another Day


Up with the lark and on with the ironing. I’ve not done any for over a week. After half an hour’s ironing there was a frantic clattering at the front door. I assumed it was one or other of the fruits of my loin coming home, but as I went to open the door I recognised my next door neighbour through the glass. My heart sank as I saw a hand written note fall to the door mat as he walked off. Over the years relations with next door have been fraught (at best). I spoke with the chap at the weekend about the repairs I planned to make to his fence, and at the time all seemed well. However yesterday I’d switched on the pond filter. It had been switched off over the winter, and during that time he’d made comments implying that my pond was the cause of the local rat problem. I was fully expecting his note to be a demand for me to turn off the filter and fill the pond in. Instead it was a polite request that I use screws rather than nails to repair the fence.

On reading this, the whole incident must seem trivial, but the sense of dread I had when I saw him posting a note, and the sense of relief when I realised that all was well was indescribable.

I then had some excitement. Terry Farrell is coming to Ashford. To me Terry Farrell is a rather foxy fit bird out of Star Trek. I was out of luck. Apparently there are several different Terry FarrellsThe one we’re gettingis an architect, and quite frankly rather a disappointment compared to what I was hoping for. Such is life. Mind you, the Cheeky Girls and Ulrika-ka-ka have all been to Ashford only to be heckled by “My Boy TM”, so I expect it will all be for the best.

And having a brat-free evening we settled down to watch “Airheads” on DVD whilst consuming far too much red wine and port. A tough job, but someone has to do it…

18 March 2010 (Thursday) - Hot Cross Buns. And Aliens


I was again up at silly o’clock and doing more ironing. I’ve always worn a shirt & tie to work, and each shirt takes five minutes to iron. I had eight to do today, which took just over forty minutes. I was chatting with a friend a week or so ago who told me that he pays someone else to iron his shirts for him. He pays one pound per shirt. I could do that as a little earner (!)

To Asda where I thought I’d get some hot cross buns for work. Having no idea how much they cost, I asked for a fiver’s worth. I got sixty for that - I was quite impressed. Whist scoffing one, it was gently hinted to me that I’d been somewhat inconsiderate in buying hot cross buns. I was (apparently) being discriminatory to the non-christians in the workplace. One lives and learns. I might bring in Cadbury’s mini-eggs next to see if they also offend. Hopefully they will.

Last Thursday I mentioned about the students we had visiting the workplace. We had some more today. One of them was a celebrity – “Alien” out of the Alien movies. Or (at least) I thought so: her head was the right shape. One of the lads was a touch dainty, and nearly came over a little queer at one point. Bless. How can you be on the third year of a degree all about blood and not be able to stand the sight of the stuff? And two young lady students found it difficult to restrain from showing their affection for each other in very physical ways. They were all over each other like a rash. I really thought they were going to start snogging each other whilst I explained the mysteries of blood’s ability to clot. Shocking!!

And then out for a crafty half at the Hooden in Great Chart. I’ve never been there on a weekday evening before – the place was full with diners, but there was a corner for me and a mate to enjoy a crafty half (or four). I won’t go into detail about what I was up to, but in a year or so’s time I predict that I will compose a blog entry about a book which will be published then. And I will be gloating that I contributed (albeit in a small way) to that book…


19 March 2010 (Friday) - Rather Dull, Really


One of my colleagues had mentioned that he *really* doesn’t like the song “Dancing Queen” by Abba. I’m glad he’d done that, so’s we could be sure that the track didn’t get played at work by mistake. Another colleague brought in the CD, and I spent the day egging others on to play the song, then I would grass them up.

Rather childish, but it brightened an otherwise dull day. I put an album of the event on Facebook, and it’s proved to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever done there.

My Boy TM ” has announced he intends to take up horticulture. Together with the mate what got arrested at Xmas and “Pie-Man” he intends to grow a harvest of strawberries and potatoes. The three of them intend to go round the garden centres for advice over the weekend. I advised them to save their efforts and buy their veg from the supermarket like I do.

And then with another “offspring free” evening we sat down with wine, port and cheese to watch a DVD. Hic !


20 March 2010 (Saturday) - Tattoos and Beer


I didn’t sleep well. That’s nothing new. But last night I was laying awake dreading this morning. A few weeks ago I decided to get a tattoo done. Eagle eyed readers might notice a slight discrepancy between this blog entry and the one from a few weeks ago when I had my most recent tattoo started. A few weeks ago I miscounted. My large sleeve on my right leg is actually my eighteenth tattoo, and today was my twenty third time under the tattooing needle

Bearing in mind I had my first one done some time in 1982 and during the intervening years I have had another seventeen done (to say nothing of time spent on recent touch-ups of old fading tattoos), I really should have known what I was letting myself in for. Well, I did. I knew it was going to hurt. But the trouble with a tattoo is that once it’s started you can’t give up half way through, or it will look stupid. My latest one is by far the largest I’ve ever had, and so is probably the most painful; not only just the needle, but the backache I get for lying on the couch for so long.

Today’s session only lasted for an hour and a bit, and I made a point of laying flat out so’s my back wouldn’t be twisted. And the tattooing did hurt. But on the plus side was the fact that they told me that I’d already paid for the tattoo last time. I thought today’s session would be extra, but it was all included in the price. So despite the pain, I hobbled out of the studio with a smile on my face. The thing is pictured above – I feel I should say that the red in the tattoo is nowhere near as vivid as it looks on the picture, and that it will all dull down in time.

Whilst under the needle the tattooists were chatting with another customer about pain-free tattooing. Apparently for smaller pieces you can apply anaesthetic gel beforehand, and the anaesthetic lasts for about forty minutes. After forty minutes it wears off and it hurts twice as bad, which is why they don’t recommend it on larger works. I was fascinated by the whole idea, and I’m tempted to get one of my older tattoos coloured in using this stuff, if only to see what happens.

I came home to find er indoors TM dismantling the chodbin. It’s not been flushing right for some time, and bearing in mind what a sterling job she made of fixing the thing last time, I suggested she might like to fix it again. She’s been having problems with rusty nuts and her ballcock; it would seem to have swollen over the years and now is too big for the cistern in which it sits.

I’d rather pay a plumber to do the job, but it’s been my experience of plumbers that they simply don’t want to do the jobs that they claim they will do in their advertisements. No matter what job I ask plumbers to do, they always say they aren’t interested. And there’s supposedly a recession on.

The original plan for the day was to go kite flying at Hastings. But as I’d not heard anything about this for a while I booked the tattoo appointment a week or so ago. Having made the appointment I then found the kiting event confirmed, so I made all sorts of plans to get to Hastings via train, car and scrounging lifts depending on what time my tattoo was finished. And then the kiting was cancelled because of the forecast bad weather.

Daddies Little Angel TM ” came home with her entourage, and bearing in mind that with this morning’s tattoo being somewhat cheaper than I’d planned, at the last minute I treated everyone to dinner at the pub. The Swan in Wittersham is somewhere I’ve been a few times, and despite the ale selection I hadn’t felt very comfortable there on my last few visits. Today was a great improvement on my last visit. With friendly locals, we kicked off with Rother Valley’s “Smild”, followed by Dark Star’s “American Pale Ale” with a wonderful plate of steak and kidney pudding with chips. Back to theRother Valley brewery for pint number three – “Honey Fuzz”, and then to the Westerham brewery for “WGV” to enjoy with dessert. I’ve been dismissive of the Swan before, but the food and ale was good. And more importantly it’s lost that “Royston Vasey” vibe it had a couple of years ago. Also four of us ate and drank more and cheaper than three of us did in another pub last weekend.

We hadn’t picked the Swan at random. It was (relatively) close to the pond shop in Rolvenden. So we called in for some flocculant. We spent a few minutes looking at ponds and planning gardens people’s gardens for them before coming home via the Bull in Bethersden. Another pub of which I’ve been dismissive in the past, but unfortunately today I saw nothing to change my opinion of the place. The tables are all still disgustingly sticky, and the place is full of “the Great Unwashed”. Literally unwashed – one of our number asked if there was a colliery nearby as the noisy locals were all rather grubby. I say “rather grubby” – I mean outright filthy. Mind you, the place is at a decent cycling distance. I may well give it another chance.

And then home to find “My Boy TM ” has also had a tattoo done today. By the same chap who did my one…


21 March 2010 (Sunday) - Fences and Ponds


I woke early and thought I’d visit the loo before I might go back to bed for a lie in. Having got up I decided that if I shaved, it might save time later. I then changed the dressing on my tattoo, and put the telly on whilst I was doing it. Having seen the start of an episode of SpongeBob, I had to watch it to its conclusion. I then wanted to see how the pond was doing, and noticed that the filter was beginning to overflow. Having chucked in something to get rid of all the green algae last week I’d overlooked the fact that the dead algae had to go somewhere. Namely into the filter. So I then spent an hour cleaning out the filter, before reactivating the filtration system and pouring in yesterday’s bottle of flocculant.

Whilst having a spot of brekky I realised that it was getting on for 10am, and was probably a tad late to go back to bed for a lie-in. Lie-ins only give me back ache anyway. So I decided to crack on in the garden and get the gravel boards into place on the fence. Whilst getting my fence ingredients out of the shed I found a bottle of flocculant left over from last year. So yesterday I’d wasted twelve quid. Ho hum

To the fence, where I raked up loads of gravel, put the membranes in place, screwed a board over the top of the membrane, painted the board and replaced the gravel. Easy enough to type, but rather physical work to do. Mind you, it only took an hour and the result didn’t look too bad, and it will add a few years life to the fence. By the time I’d done the third fence panel I was a bit cold, aching rather badly and the rain had started, so I decided that with the job half done I’d give up and come back later. Using the electric drill in the rain isn’t a good idea.

I then took a handful of fish food to the pond and tried to get the Koi to take the food from my hand. They did – I got nibbled and sucked by several of the larger fish.

I then had a sarnie for lunch and fell asleep. I got my lie-in eventually, and was dozing contentedly until er indoors TM kicked me awake and we went on the now obligatory Sunday afternoon trip to Lidl. I quite like Lidl – the food is cheap, and they have a selection of tat for sale. Binoculars, screwdrivers, tents, something different every week. All sorts of cheap stuff of varying quality.

We then visited Heather and Andy who were getting rid of some books, and had offered us anything we fancied. The book “I am Legend” is one I’ve been meaning to read for many years, but have never got round to. Now I have my chance; I hope I won’t be disappointed.

Back home to carry on training the fish. In the past we’ve been rather sporadic in trying to get them to eat from our hands, and they’ve usually been too frightened to do so. Bearing in mind they have only just started eating after the winter, the theory is that they should be hungry enough to take food regardless of me being so close. The theory seems to be working so far…


22 March 2010 (Monday) - Still in the Garden


Yesterday evening I spent an hour in a virtual castle, being utterly unable to find a way to open a door. Today the same problem took me two minutes. Sometimes I hate NeverWinter Nights.

Being on (yet another) late start I had considered using my time wisely. The plan for the morning involved more fence work, but I had the excuse that I might hit unexpected difficulties. I didn’t want to have to leave the job half way done when I had to leave for work. I therefore decided it best to wait until I had more time. The fact that I couldn’t be bothered was neither here nor there.

Talking of “couldn’t be bothered”, another morning job I had planned involved shifting some heavy water features round the garden, but my assistant couldn’t be bothered to get his bum out of bed. It would seem he also had much the same attitude about the washing up I’d left for him.

Interestingly er indoors TM had done her assigned task, and had taken all the glass jars and bottles for recycling. Last night’s rant must have worked.

I then spent some time hand-feeding the Koi. They seem to be getting the hang of being hand-fed, but haven’t quite got posing for the camera as sussed as they might have.

And then to Bybrook Barn. Having got the fence on one side of the garden half-way fixed I’ve got a plan to similarly board the bottom of the other fence and put in a gravelled area too. So I thought I’d price up to see how much the project would cost. After all, as my critics say I have very little money sense, and if I don’t spend this month’s wages wisely on the garden I’ll only have another tattoo done, or spend it all on beer (again). I’ve estimated that the boards, gravel & membrane will set me back sixty quid. But there’s a minor hiccup in that Bybrook Barn have sold out of edging stones. Against my better judgement, I shall have a look in WyeVale tomorrow.


23 March 2010 (Tuesday) - Literature and Sculpture


A while ago I was in a hotel in St Leonards having a literary discussion with several pretentious types I’d met at the bar. One of whom was handing out his calling card – he was fashioning himself as “The Bard”. I often go under various pseudonyms so I suppose I have no grounds for undermining another for using an alias. But “The Bard”? Perhaps it was as well that I was a tad tipsy.

The pretentious were extolling the virtues of various accomplished authors. Initially “The Bard” and his entourage had looked down their noses at the tattooed thug (me!) who’d dared to express an opinion on the matter. But their attitude changed when they realised that I’d met the poet laureate, and that one of my offspring was a published poet. The conversation moved onto preferred genres of literature, and I remarked that I liked a good biography. Those who like the sound of their own voices had all sorts of meaningless big words and phrases to explain the relevance of biography to today’s gestalt and zeitgeist (whatever that means). By this time the ale was beginning to kick in, I’d had enough pretension, and I left them with the remark that I like biography because basically I’m a thoroughly nosey bugger and I want to find out what other people are getting up to.

Which is why today I’m rather glad to see a commitment from one of my loyal readers to blog more himself. I subscribe to a dozen different blogs of friends, and I love seeing what’s going on in other people’s lives. I’m looking forward to being even more nosey.

Another late start meant I needed another lame excuse not to do anything in the garden. This time I will go with “Rain Stopped Play”. Instead I mucked about in NeverWinter. Having threatened to visit WyeVale today, I set off early, and thought I’d call into the builder’s centre on the way to get more gravel boards. I’m not sure how, but buying gravel boards took over half an hour, and I didn’t have time for WyeVale. Which was probably for the best. I’ll call in tomorrow, and hope I don’t regret it.

And so to work, where during a dull day I found my likeness (pictured above) immortalised in packing squiggles. I’m told the resemblance is uncanny…

24 March 2010 (Wednesday) - Visiting the G.P.


Daddies Little Angel TM  had a blackout yesterday, so she popped up to the local hospital (in Folkestone). They determined she was in no immediate danger of death, but said to see her GP urgently. She phoned the GP who said to shove off and not to bother them. When she insisted, they said to phone back in a day or so. A while later I got wind of this, and phoned the GP to rant at them myself. I explained to the receptionist that we weren’t to be fobbed off, and I was not sorry for being rude, because being rude gets appointments quicker. She agreed, and she said that that because I’d used the magic words “make a formal complaint” they would see us within the hour. That prompted another rant because I wasn’t able to leave work to collect the patient then. But had the receptionist offered this appointment in the first place we could have taken it. She suggested we tried again in the morning.

So we were on the doorstep of the surgery as it opened this morning, and “Daddies Little Angel TM  was seen right away. ECGs and blood tests will have to wait for a fortnight though. As I sat and waited I couldn’t help but wonder what infirmities were besetting the bunch of workshy layabouts who were haunting the doctor’s waiting room.

This morning’s radio had an article about how GPs workloads are escalating out of control. GPs interviewed were concerned about the growing numbers of “worried well” – people with nothing wrong with them who insist on seeing their GP every time they so much as fart. It was mentioned that of every hundred people who see the GP every day, ninety get better regardless of anything that the doctor does.

I remember a conversation with a friend who lives in the Channel Isles. There is a charge to see the GP over there. Once you’ve paid up, then you get treated for your maladies, but having to stump up forty quid seems to keep the malingerers at bay…


25 March 2010 (Thursday) - Another Rant (Sorry)


I’ve now got my lawn edgings from WyeVale. My visit there was rather dull, marred only by the checkout girl asking if I was a member of their gardening club. Normally such a question would be met with the reply “do you want a fight?!”, but having such a card gives you a discount of ten per cent off the cost, so (much as I am ashamed to admit) I’ve got one of them. In my defence, er indoors TM made me get it several months ago.

I’ve also got my membrane as well. All I need now is the gravel, and I can get on with the next phase of the garden. Luke came round after work this evening to help me shift some statuary and water features in readiness for getting on with this next garden project, but again rain stopped play. Which was probably for the best.

And then I read the news websites. People who find my blog by chance, or are referred to it by friends before they meet me have told me that I come over as a very intolerant person. I’d like to think that I’m rather tolerant of most of humanity, but it has to be said that some people with whom I share this world are just plain stupid.

Take the chap who hacked into President Obama’s Twitter account (among other crimes). He claimed he was doing it to highlight security failures. Rubbish!! He faces a two year jail sentence if found guilty. He should face execution (!)

A few years ago when computers were toys, then maybe, just maybe this idiot might have had a case. But nowadays when computers are such a major part of society, can anyone claim to be hacking into my PC for a laugh? They’d be far more likely to be seeing if I was dumb enough to put my banking passwords where they might be found. After all, does anyone break into a bank to expose the shortcomings in the vault’s integrity? Hackers aren’t errant children any more. They are criminals, and should be dealt with as such…


26 March 2010 (Friday) - Phone Calls, Saturn


er indoors TM tried to use my credit card this afternoon. Tried, and failed. The bank refused payment. They then sent me a text to tell me to get in touch with their fraud prevention office. After a lot of mucking about I finally got through to someone who’s spoken English was marginally better than my spoken Punjabi. I eventually figured out that they were trying to tell me that my credit card was among thousands they thought had been cloned. I would have thought that they would have warned me of this the moment they realised what had happened. They did not. Instead they just put a stop on the card and waited for it to get refused before doing anything about it. They didn’t seem at all bothered about the inconvenience and embarrassment this had caused me, and they told me that they would continue to refuse to honour the card until I changed the PIN, and told them that I had done so. I’ve now done that – I shall see if the new PIN works tomorrow.

And then another phone call from another person who could barely speak English. This one was from my mobile phone company. Would I like to have a second mobile phone contract with them at a reduced rate? They weren’t offering to reduce my current payments, but wanted me to get a second phone with them. I asked the obvious question. “Why would I want a second phone?” For some reason this question wasn’t included in her script, and so she tried to jibber on with her rehearsed spiel. But I wasn’t having any of it. I asked how many conversations she thought I could conduct simultaneously. She then realised I didn’t want a second phone, and seemed amazed I was turning down such a bargain.

To the astronomy club. Today is three years (to the day) since the club started. Going back through blog entries from a while back, it’s no secret that the club had a very shaky start, but now it’s going from strength to strength. With over seventy paid up members, tonight saw the launch of the club’s solar telescope, a presentation by one of the youngest members on his astro-photography and an invitation for the club to visit the large telescope at Cranbrook school. The highlight of the evening (I’m reliably informed) was my talk on the planet Saturn; most of which I shamelessly blagged from the Internet. This was the eighth talk I’ve given to the astro club, and in retrospect it was somewhat tamer that my usual spiels. Mind you it did feature the Death Star (from Star Wars), Doom Bar ale and a rant about our government. I hope the punters were amused. I’m told that edited highlights might appear on You-Tube at some point…

And so home to check my emails. A message from Facebook – one of my cousins has found me. Over the years I’ve lost touch with so many of my family. The Internet is a great way of keeping in touch…


27 March 2010 (Saturday) - Garden and Party


The plan for the day was garden work, and when I have something planned for the day I’m always awake early. I checked the weather forecast over a bit of brekky, and apparently rain was due for 9am. I looked out of the window - the weather looked OK, and there were a couple of hours until the forecast rain, so I thought I’d make a start whilst I could. I got all of the right hand side fencing fixed that I had intended to by 9am. And with no sign of the forecast rain I decided to crack on with the other fence too. By the time Luke arrived to help with the heavy lifting I had two gravel boards in place, and edged and membraned three quarters of what needed doing. We soon got the edging done and ran out of membrane, so shopping was required.

Since we needed to drive, we thought we’d take the excess soil I’d dug to the tip. Soil is heavy stuff. It was heavy enough as I was hoiking it into the compost bin, but when we came to lift the compost bin, we could barely budge it. We certainly turned red whilst carrying the thing through the house, and heaving it into the boot of the car took some doing. And when we got the compost bin to the tip… oh dear! We managed to get it out of thecar. With superhuman effort we dragged it as far as the garden waste skip, but the lip of the skip is about four feet high. We heaved and strained and struggled. It took up over ten minutes to lift the thing high enough to empty it. And when we had emptied it the smell was awful. Terrible. So bad that we chucked the compost bin itself into the tip.

To Bybrook Barn for more membrane, a replacement compost bin, some gravel and clippers for guinea pig claws. We weren’t sure how much gravel we’d need, so we carefully calculated our requirements. We then thought that what we’d worked out didn’t seem anywhere near enough so we kept piling bags of gravel into the trolley until the frame started to bend.

Home for hot cross buns and coffee before going back to the garden. After a quick dose of paint we got the last edging done and then we were ready for the gravel. Except that the gravel was still in the boot of the car. More heavy lifting, but this time with girls helping it seemed much easier. After twenty minutes’ effort we used every last bit of gravel. We had guessed and bought exactly the right amount – another triumph of pot luck over common sense. As we did the last job I had planned for today (moving a very heavy water feature), the heavens opened. We’d timed that exactly right, and the gravel needed a good dose of rain to wash it all off. I have lots more to do in the garden, but I’d reached a point of “enough”. By now it was 3pm. Where had the day gone? – I’d thought it was about 12.30pm.

A quick trip to Sainsbury’s for stout, porter and mabilu (!) and then into the shower to prepare for tonight. The clans had gathered for a surprise birthday party. Maria had excelled herself in the kitchen, and we chatted and drank to the wee small hours….


28 March 2010 (Sunday) - More Garden


It is not beyond the realms of possibility that I might (only might) have overdone the stout last night. However I’m blaming the excessive garden work yesterday for my feeling somewhat less than 100% this morning.

After a quick bit of bread pudding I was back in the garden. Yesterday’s edging looks excellent (if I do say so myself), but the older edging stones looked a bit squafty – over the years they have settled and all gone crooked in different directions, so I spent a while straightening them up. It might have been useful to have had some loose soil to re-point the edgings. And to think I nearly ruptured myself lugging all that soil to the tip yesterday.

Before mowing the lawn I had a break for some bread pudding. Mowing the lawn is a dull job, but the garden looks so much better for having had a haircut. I then kicked the gravel off of the paving stones – another simple job that makes the garden look so much better afterwards. I found that keeping moving made my aching joints hurt that little bit less.

A quick cup of coffee and some bread pudding and then it was fish feeding time – I seem to be succeeding in getting the Koi to take food from my hand – there was quite a stampede for my hand full of fish food. Whilst playing with the fish I saw the pond has acquired a resident frog – quite a tubby looking beast. I think I must have startled the frog when taking a photo – she jumped into the pond, and seemed to be having a lot of trouble getting out again. In fact I don’t think she could have got out, so I netted her and popped her into a water feature where she is still sitting quite happily. I’ll leave that one switched off for a while

By the time I’d scraped the lawn mower clean and put it away. It was time to leave for Brighton. Or, to be more precise I’d planned to leave for Brighton once the garden stuff was done. But a combination of not getting out of bed early enough combined with forgetting to put the clocks forward meant that I had left it far too late to get to Brighton for 1pm. I phoned my apologies to the A.G.M., and hoped I wasn’t missed. Normally I have a very good sense of time, and pride myself on never being late. But this weekend seems to have gone by so fast.

More bread pudding, and then since Brighton wasn’t going to happen, I got on with next Saturday’s garden job – acquiring a garden statue to replace the water feature I’d moved yesterday. I think “Dave the Lizardy Thing” looks quite cool, and whilst we at it, we got some elves on a see-saw and some Meercats too.

Pausing only briefly for some bread pudding I fed the fish again, and then wondered about the soalr powered lights in the garden. I’m not sure that they’ve survived the winter, but bearing in mind they were cheap tat from the pound shop, I think a trip back to the pound shop to replace them might be a plan for another day.

Oh – did I mention er indoors TM had made some bread pudding?

29 March 2010 (Monday) - Cake


Having spent much of the weekend doing gardening, it strikes me that the casual reader finding this blog by chance may form the idea that I like gardening. This is not the case at all. To me my garden is like my tattoos. I really like the look of them, but the actual process of getting them to the stage where they are worth looking at is extremely painful. And rather dull. There are people who enjoy pottering around in gardens. I do not. Which is why most of my garden is gravelled, and why I have only a relatively small lawn. My father has a beautiful garden, and he spends hours in it every day keeping it in shape. Over the years I have developed my garden to be very low maintenance, and if any of my loyal readers have any suggestions about how to reduce the maintenance even more (without bulldozing the lot), I’m all ears.

Daddies Little Angel TM  had been home to see the quack, and needed transporting back to the coast this evening. Following a frank exchange of views about which was the quickest way, we made a detour to find tea and cake waiting for us. Tea and cake is always good, and once that was scoffed it was then home (via a thunderstorm) to waste an evening in NeverWinter.


30 March 2010 (Tuesday) - Dull....


The high spot of my professional life today was a discussion on who would be the putative winner of a hypothetical fight between a “sooki la-la” and a “raw prawn”. Having failed to reach a decision, the rest of the afternoon was spent arguing about how many fingers and toes Brian Blessed has lost to frostbite during his arctic and mountaineering exploits. I was unaware that he’d lost any extremities, and the Internet was not forthcoming on the subject. All I could find was that he’d done his foot in a parachuting accident. If any of my loyal readers could shed any light on how many bits (if any) Mr B has lost, please let me know.

I came home from work to a present - “My Boy TM ” has acquired a whole load of plastic jobbies to go into the fish poo filter. They will come in handy. I fed the fish in the rain – they don’t know it’s raining. I wish the rain would stop – I need to do something about the flat roof again, and can’t all the time it’s raining. The chodbin’s still mucking about too. If any of my loyal readers are a dab-hand with toilets, please don't keep it a secret.

Some days of my life can be rather dull…


31 March 2010 (Wednesday) - Not So Dull


I was woken at silly o’clock this morning by a strange sound. I pulled the duvet over my head and went back to kip. It transpired that the strange sound was the rain coming through the hole in the roof: we would seem to have acquired such a hole. That’s a nuisance. I phoned the house insurance people and they have arranged for someone to get in touch with me about said hole. Let’s hope he does it soon – it’s doesn’t look like the rain will stop any time soon.

I then phoned the bank for the sixth time since last Friday and was rude to them. I demanded to speak to someone in my branch, and firmly explained to the chap at the call centre that he could not help me for two reasons. Firstly if he couldn’t pronounce my name he clearly couldn’t speak English. And secondly because he had a script to follow; and the answers to my questions didn’t appear on his script. He eventually admitted that his hesitant and incoherent gibbering as a response to my points completely proved both of them to be valid. And so, conceding defeat, he put me through to someone at my local branch.

I explained the episode which happened to me last Friday – namely that they had refused a payment made on my credit card, and that they had deactivated the account until I told them that I changed the PIN. Having done all that they asked of me, it later turned out that they had actually accepted the payment they told me that they had refused and furthermore denied having had any conversations with me. I wanted to know what was going on. A reasonable enough request?

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing the lady at my local branch admitted that they had no record of any problem with my card, and no record of having put a stop on it on Friday. They had absolutely no explanation whatsoever of what had gone wrong. I’m not impressed…

We had a buffet lunch at work today. One of the secretarial types is retiring. Apropos of nothing I then phoned the finance department to see when I can retire. The calculation of my pension is complicated. I get 1/80 of my final year’s wages as a pension for each year I’ve worked, up to a maximum of 40/80 after forty years. I’ll hit that point on 10 September 2021 (not that I’m counting). However on that date I shall only be 57 (and a bit). I’m not entitled to the full whack unless I retire at or after sixty years of age. But there is a calculation whereby I can get a reduced pension if I choose to retire any time after my fiftieth birthday. I’ve always said that I plan to retire when I’m in my late fifties. I need to do some sums.

And then to arky-ologee club. Due to the vagaries of Operation Stack, er indoors TM found herself stuck on a motorway, and so I was drafted to be her stunt double for the evening. It was my job to take notes on the interesting and informative talk we’d been promised, and it’s no secret that I went along fully expecting to fall asleep. Tonight’s talk on the Historical Environment Record looked to be amongst the dullest talks the club had ever presented; and that was up against some pretty stiff competition.

I was wrong – the chap from Kent County Council was actually very good. He told us about the project to form an index of all sites of historical interest in Kent. With 42,000 current entries, and a backlog of data waiting to be added that will take an estimated two years to clear (that’s without anything new being found), the website is quite impressive. The chap mentioned inaccuracies in the records of various historical sources, and told us of some of the thousands of shipwrecks around the Kent coast. He showed us aerial photographs dating back over fifty years showing land forms that showed things of archaeological importance.

He then asked for help with the project. Firstly to check that what they have got is actually correct. Secondly to come up with new objects for their listings – either stuff that’s not listed but known to people, or stuff that we dig out of the ground ourselves. And thirdly to actually go up to the office at County Hall and help them enter the data onto the web site. A shame it’ss not possible to do this from home….

Yesterday was dull – today, not so….