1 Mo-Vember 2009 (Sunday) - Return to the Duck House




I woke feeling surprisingly chirpy today. I went to bed last night feeling decidedly ill. Not the beer (for once), but I had a temperature, and my tonsils were like tennis balls. I was suspecting I’d finally gone down with swine flu, having caught something dodgy off of someone dodgy at yesterday’s record breaker. But whatever it was is in abeyance (at least for now), so I shall be grateful for small mercies.


Up earlier than I would have hoped on a Sunday morning, but next door’s dogs are noisy. If next door isn’t up and about by 7.30am, their dogs start screaming. They don’t bark, they actually do scream. They made that noise for about forty minutes until someone next door finally shouted at the pups. By which time I was wide awake. Mind you, I don’t really mind the noise. Or that of the piano on the other side. I feel it gives us licence to make as much racket as we like.


Another video of yesterday’s extravaganza has been brought to my attention. You might want to see it here. Dave H appears at one minute twenty two seconds into the clip, and is visible for a good ten seconds– look out for the top hat. Simon, Tina & me can be seen (fleetingly) at one minute forty nine seconds.


Despite the torrential rain, a duck house and a mallard house were ready to be floated, so braving the elements we set off to the farm, loaded up the trailer, and off to the pond we went. The duck house was going into a pond in which there had never been any king of avian residence, so we needed to install a rope arrangement across the pond. There’s only one way to do that, and this year was someone else’s turn to swim the duck pond in November. Me – I just shouted helpful comments and sage advice. The mallard house was (in theory) easier since I’d installed the ropes last year, and all we had to do was put the mallard house on the water, tie it to the rope and pull it across. A shame that I fell in, really….




P.S. - It’s that time of year again when the razor goes into the cupboard for a month. Charity moustache growing is the order of the day. Or month. This year I’ve decided to go for the full beard. I know that’s not in the rules for Mo-Vember, but I’m claiming some poetic licence. Feel free to sponsor the thing by clicking here. And should any of my loyal readers click on the link, they will be forgiven for wondering who “t Styles” is. The Mo-Vember website isn’t what it was last year. It’s lost all my details from last time, but recognises the email address I used and won’t let me use it again. Then the re-registering thing kept crashing, so after an hour’s struggling only to end up as “t Styles” I thought I’d cut my losses and make the most of what it would allow me to do. So hand over your cash, or start growing your own moustache, or both….




2 Mo-Vember 2009 (Monday) - The Dentist (and E.L.O.)



My mouth wasn’t right today. The thing didn’t close properly, so I phoned the dentist. One good thing of having DenPlan dental insurance is that if I have a gob malfunction, I’m usually seen promptly. The fang-quack had a look, and then asked me what the problem was. So I told him again, and he had another rummage (to no avail). So I tried to direct him to the problem area as best I could, with my trap full of his assorted appurtenances. He then laughed a little, and was rather dismissive. It would seem I have an impacted wisdom tooth. These are ten a penny when you’re a dentist. They get infected and painful from time to time. The swelling is the inflammation. (dur!) He didn’t actually say that surely any fool knows that, but the implication was there. He’s given me some foul mouthwash and said to go back if it’s still playing up in two weeks time. If it continues to be a pain, then he may consider removing it surgically.


I had a wisdom tooth out once before. About twenty years ago. It was a tad traumatic, as I recall. I would have thought that at 45 (and two thirds) years old I was too old to be having wisdom teeth. I’ve left that rather late. But then again, that’s the kind of guy I am. I’ve had a slosh around with the foul mouthwash and I had a practice at scoffing with a bag of crisps (for experimental purposes). To be fair to the fang-quack I can get my gob more closed than I could earlier, but it’s still on the swollen side. I wonder if the dentist was put off by my beard. Whilst it’s still in the early stages, there’s no denying the thing puts me off every time I look in the mirror.


On Saturday I went to Brighton for no adequately explained reason. The “official” count is now in. There were 1635 people doing the Time Warp on Saturday, and the “official” video is now available, and a certain green man is clearly on screen for several seconds at about 2.10. “Yours Truly” appears fleetingly at 3.57, but if you blink, you will miss me. I had heard rumours that the Rocky Horror stage show was coming to Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells in the New Year, but the tour dates would beg to differ. Oh well – there will be another chance to see the show, I’m sure. I won’t buy the underwear just yet.


Yesterday I posted a link on Facebook. The Electric Light Orchestra was one of the “Big Things” in my teenage years (along with the Boys Brigade, crackpot religion, CB radio, underage drinking and fishing). The Concerto for a Rainy Day seemed quite appropriate for yesterday’s foul weather. My Facebook posting attracted some comments - apparently there’s an ELO tribute band which will be playing (relatively) locally on the Saturday before my birthday at 7.30pm. Tickets are twelve quid each. I might just go along to Tenterden to see them. If any of my loyal readers fancy a night out next February, please let me know a.s.a.p. and I’ll see about booking tickets.


Or that is, ‘er indoors TM will book them along with my birthday pressie…






3 Mo-Vember 2009 (Tuesday) - National Pathology Week




Today my blog hit counter stormed over the 5000 mark. That’s an average of 31 visits a day. I’m impressed with that. I would seem to be getting readers from all over the world.


To the town centre at 8am to set up our display. We had been offered the use of not one but two “retail merchandising units” for our National Pathology Week display. There was a minor hiccup in that the things didn’t come with light bulbs, but the nice security man gave us a box of light bulbs. Or, more accurately, a box of empty light bulb boxes. Eventually he came up trumps with a carrier bag full of light bulbs.

We eventually got the displays into position – we found ourselves wasting time getting artistic with the design. There was a slight problem with the helium balloons. In that we only had ten balloons and the helium had run out. So we decided to just blow them up, Six burst during inflation, which left us with four. Still, we had enough pens, rulers and gonks to equip a decent sized army so the children wouldn’t go away empty handed.


And then the general public arrived. I think it’s probably fair to say that most of the general public totally ignored our stall. I kept a weather eye on the local pikeys, who were keeping a weather eye on the lap-tops on our stall. And then four of us spent the day being civil to our visitors who fell into four broad categories: visiting management, visiting friends, colleagues and family, ex-patients, and passing nutters. And with all respect to my loyal readers who took the time to visit the stall, I’m afraid I had most fun with the passing nutters.

The first was quite open. She told me that she was a looney, and asked if she could have a free pen for her mother. She was rather taken aback when I gave her a pen. After all, we had several hundred to give away, courtesy of our sponsor.

One little old lady told me that she suffers from pains which shoot from her oxter right up to her lisk. I told here there had been a lot of that going about since the clocks went back, and she went away quite happy.

Another “dinger” read every word on all of the posters on our displays, then loudly announced she’d had all the blood tests and it wasn’t that. She then marched off rather proudly before I could ask what wasn’t that.

A rather scary looking chap informed me that he takes heart pills for his heart, water pills for his water and he’s had a vein taken out of his leg. And then asked me what it was all about.

A particularly smelly oik told me how he suffered with irritable bowel syndrome, and asked me to explain the poster on the subject to him. He mentioned the phrase “eye of a needle” several times, but I could smell that.

And one chap picked up a gonk and made it vanish into thin air. It just went. He then produced his calling card (out of thin air too). He was one of the chaps from Wilko’s who did magic tricks in his spare time. I was impressed.


We also had praise for the NHS from many of the public. One young mother was so vocal about how good the hospital is with her son who has sickle cell disease. I lost count of the amount of people who’d had kidney transplants. And people who’d had joint replacements and all sorts of other surgery. For all that I moan about working for the NHS, today made me quite proud to be part of something marvellous. There was only one person who grumbled about the NHS. This was a rather unfortunate looking fellow who wasn’t happy that the NHS had closed his hospital, and now he has to go out to work.


Whilst up town I took the liberty of nipping to the optician. I started off with various tests on eye pressure, nerve and muscle responses, and they even photographed my retinas before I got in to what I would call the “proper eye test”. I was subjected to all sorts of eye charts and all sorts of eye lenses, and then told that for normal to long range I’d got an “eye size” worse, and for close up stuff I’d got two “eye sizes” worse. Which was rather what I expected. So a new pair of specs was something of a necessity. The last time I blogged about the optician (14 November 2007) I whinged about the cost. No whinge this time. I bought my current specs some four years ago (18 October 2005). The pair I bought today were one hundred quid cheaper.


“Daddies Little Angel TM ” came up to visit at mid day, and we went off for some McLunch. You can’t beat a Quarter-Pounder with fries and a banana shake.





4 Mo-Vember 2009 (Wednesday) - A Day in the Life




I turned off the pond’s filtration system for the winter since all it will do is chill the water. No more food for the fish until March. Just as well they’ve put on weight over the summer.


Next door has had metal fences put up, and… well, to be honest, I’m not sure. The people next door mentioned about getting a quote to have metal fences put round some time ago, and said they’d get us a quote too. At the time I was all for the idea, and it was that which spurred me on to paint the front of the house a few weeks ago. The company next door spoke with never got back to them, and in the end, they did the fences themselves. Now I’ve seen them, I’m not sure if I like them. I had this plan to get the same fences as they had, so it would all look alike. But if I’m going to get the same, I’m going to need to build up the brick pillar between my house and the other side. And I’m not keen on that.


So, anyway, I was up with the lark, and round to B&Q to look at their metal fences. After all, that’s where next door got theirs from. But the panels they used are about a foot too tall, and they don’t seem to make anything lower. There’s a wrought iron specialist in Tenterden – I’ll give them a ring in the morning, maybe.


And then to Tesco’s to get my salad. For all that they open early, they don’t like people doing their shopping early. Or, to be more precise, the poor saps who are on the early shift don’t. They delight in deliberately dragging their trolleys and assorted luggage into the way of all the shopping public. And then making very loud sighs and clucks when they pretend that they’ve only just noticed the poor shopper that they’ve nearly run over.


And during the mid afternoon my phone battery went flat. I was impressed. Ever since I got my new phone, it would last no more than a day between charges. Yesterday I got a new battery, and the chap said to put it in the phone, use the residual charge up and then charge it for ….. blah-de-blah. The “residual charge” in the new battery has lasted as long as the old battery would when fully charged. Let’s hope for the best here.


Some days in my life are rather eventful – others not so…



5 Mo-Vember 2009 (Thursday) - A Late Start




Being on a late start I hoped for a bit of a lie-in. I’ve heard this theory that for some people, they subconsciously don’t like being woken. So having an alarm set means that they will wake before that alarm goes off. But with no alarm, they will just sleep until they wake naturally. That seems to be how it works for me. So I was just a tad miffed to be woken by drills and assorted road working noises at 8am.


Once the girls had gone, I set the washing machine going and did the washing up. And was rather confused that I could still hear running water once I’d filled the sink and turned the taps off. The sleeve of a jumper was caught in the washing machine’s door, and water was gushing out. Oh how I laughed, whilst I cleared up the floods.


And then I had a mooch around Wickes and Homebase for metal fences. I would have mooched more, but I was going to be late for work. I think I’ll try some garden centres at the weekend. And so to work, where I am reliably informed that my beard is the best of the half a dozen being cultivated for Mo-Vember. If this is the best, you can only imagine those at the other end of the spectrum.

The idea for the evening was to go to the fireworks at the catholic school in Folkestone, but seeing as I only had a week’s notice that I was on a late tonight, I worked and sulked whilst others went out. I didn’t finish work until an hour after the fireworks were all done.


Over on blogs linked to mine I see that two very good friends of mine have (almost) simultaneously developed diabetes. There’s a family history of late-onset diabetes in my tribe, so it’s only a matter of time till I get it too. Perhaps my diet will postpone the inevitable. In the last month or so of my diet I’ve lost over a stone and a half. And the girls at work have (politely) told me that the roll of fat on the back of my head has gone. That’s nice. Weight loss is dead easy. No meat, no bread, no potatoes, no sweets. Less beer. More exercise.

And eat with the smallest fork you can find. You get *so* fed up with the mechanics of eating, you stop being hungry.

That's what I'm doing at the moment, and the weight is falling off. Granted the food you can eat can be a tad dull at times.... but you can't have everything... Mind you. The recipe book we’re using at home is pretty good. The scran’s not bad at the moment.


My Boy TM ” has just bought me a present – a huge tube of pink smarties. Perhaps now isn’t a good time to be admitting to that….





6 Mo-Vember 2009 (Friday) - Dull



Up at the crack of dawn to iron shirts. Well, I was up anyway, so I might as well do something constructive. I’ve been watching my DVD of “Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge” recently, and today I watched the last episode. Is this show really fifteen years old?


To Tesco which was just as dull as it always is, and then to work which was also dull. I’ve been working at the same place since September 1984, and I’m just bored with it now.


And then home again. The plan was to go out to the firework display at Biddenden tonight, but it started raining. That was enough to put me off, so we stayed home. I submitted my electric meter reading on line, and then signed up to check my bills on line too. Regular readers of this drivel might remember that in early June I grumbled about the gas board making changes to the amount of money they were taking each month. After a bit of a squabble five months ago I agreed to a slight increase in my monthly payments. I’m now nearly three hundred quid in credit with them. I had this naïve idea that this money might pay for my new specs and finance next week’s session at Rye bonfire. The gas board had other ideas. Apparently it’s illegal to touch that money before I get a bill. I get billed monthly, but I’ve got to wait until the end of the month. Oh well…



7 Mo-Vember 2009 (Saturday) - Wallabies, Hobgoblins and Waitrose




The instructions for my new phone battery were to let the thing completely discharge before charging it for the second time. So it completely discharged last night. And overnight it summoned up enough power to set off the alarm at silly o’clock this morning. Just as well as I was due in at work. And so to work, where we spent the morning listening to Xmas CDs. And trying to tell the difference between The Darkness and Shakin’ Stevens.


From work to The Blacksmith’s Arms. I’d worked one Saturday morning over the summer, and we’d then met in the Blacksmith’s for scoff, so it seemed to be a good idea to do it again. The place is under new management, and wasn’t what it once was. Our food took an age to arrive. And when it did, it wasn't what was ordered. The staff were friendly enough, but in this competitive pub scene, there's better pubs out there. Having said that, the place retains my score of 7/10 if only for the ale selection.


We then spent a while going round WyeVale and Bybrook Barn checking out the garden requisites. Neither place stocked metal railings, but I’ve got some other ideas for the garden. And then we had a shufti round Badger’s Hill garden centre at Chilham. They didn’t have what I wanted either, but they had some wallabies, which were fun to watch. From here we thought we’d try the soup at the Halfway House in Challock. Three ales, but the Hobgoblin was on the turn. We ran into Paul & Cathy whilst in here. Seeing as they live fifty yards away, I hardly ever see them, and a pleasant few minutes were spent chatting. Soup devoured, and onto the last pub of the day – the Flying Horse at Boughton Aluph. Now under new management and refurbished, it’s now got four ales on the hand pumps. There were only three when I visited last (regular readers might recall I came here after my adventures with the poly tunnel). It's one of those places I've been popping into on the odd occasion for some years, and it looks like I will be continuing to do so.


And then home. Via Ashford’s latest shopping experience – Waitrose. Which is everything I’ve ever considered the Waitrose brand to be. Very good food, very posh, and a very extensive selection. But they ain’t giving it away. I’m told (by those who know about those things) that their milk, bread and general groceries are reasonably priced. However, take for example my area of expertise in supermarkets. I was impressed with the range of bottled beers. I’ve never seen Ringwood beers in an Ashford supermarket before. Or TEA (from the Hogsback brewery). Or “Bitter and Twisted” (an exceptionally good ale). To be fair to Waitrose, they have got the best range of bottled beers in any Ashford supermarket. But the range in Asda, Tesco or Sainsbury’s isn’t bad, and their beers are cheaper. Similarly in my other area of my expertise – I shall continue buying my salads from Tesco…


And then with everyone else out and the house to myself I did something I hardly ever do – I watched a film on the telly….




8 Mo-Vember 2009 (Sunday) - A Garden Project




That infernal vicar was clanging his equally infernal bell at 9am this morning. I wish he wouldn’t do that. After half an hour’s continual noise, I was dressed and ready to march up the road to complain, but he stopped at that point. I know I keep grumbling about the church bell. One day I’ll have a go at the vicar. But not today. Instead I added a calendar to the blog. I think it looks good, but then at heart I’m just a sad trekkie.


The plans for the day went out the window when ‘er indoors TM announced that a niece was having a roller disco party and we’d been invited (at one hour’s notice). Over the years said niece has made her dislike of me quite evident (you can’t be popular with everyone – or I can’t!!), so I thought I’d give the party a miss. Instead I got a lift to the hospital to collect my car. And then up to Bybrook Barn to get the stuff for a garden project I’ve been planning to do for weeks. There’s a load of soil which comes out from under the fence in the front garden, and during the summer the weeds in this area get to be over two feet tall. So, having made the front of the house half-way decent over the last few months, I thought I’d gravel over the problem bit. After all, I like gravelled areas.


My Boy TM ” is always useful to have around when there’s work to be done. But he had a flat battery in his mobile. Which was a shame – I was hoping he might help with the fetching and carrying. I’ve done gravelling before, and whilst it’s a straightforward job, some of it does require heavy lifting. I would have got on quicker if we had any sharp scissors. The idea of a gravelled bit is to stop weeds growing through. And the key to stopping the weeds is to lay down a membrane which goes under the gravel. This membrane comes two metres wide, and you then cut the stuff to size. Which is easier said than done, as you need somthing sharp to cut it. We had plenty of knives which chewed at it, but it took an age to find something that could actually cut, rather than chew the membrane.


And then a minor hiccup. It soon transpired that I had too many edging stones and not enough gravel. So back to Bybrook Barn to ask the nice lady if I could do a swap. Fortunately I had planned for this eventuality (I’ve done this before) and had arranged with the nice lady that I might be back to change excess of one for insufficiency of another. And the nice lady was incredibly helpful too.


Even allowing for an extra trip to the garden centre, I had the job finished in less than two hours. Which wasn’t bad. It would have gone a lot faster if I had the assistance of my padawan. Funny how his phone battery goes flat at the most convenient times. He arrived home half an hour after I’d finished, and said that I should have asked him to help me (!) And then he went fishing.


I then spent the afternoon making yet another crossword to send in to the chokey. “A generously-proportioned lady who honestly just eats like a mouse but whose glands scoff vast quantities of deep-fried spuds (13)” (chippopotamus). I’ve another eleven crosswords to compile before he’s released. With an average of twenty clues per puzzle, that’s another two hundred and forty clues I’ve got to devise. I’m going to struggle to come up with that. And speaking of the chokey, “Norman Stanley” phoned just as I was about to print this week’s letter to HMP Slade. Regular readers may recall an incident involving policemen and immoral ladies’ calling cards from a few weeks ago (October 21). I had this idea to send in some cards advertising the services of ladies of loose morals. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time. He never received that letter, but has had ones I sent since. It’s odd how a full-blown grumble mag got through, but they censored a tart’s calling card.


And then to NeverWinter. The particular game I’m playing at the moment has the most convoluted plot. I *think* I know what I should be doing, but unless I start making some progress with it soon , I shall give up and start another mod….


Beard Update: It looks awful, and the sponsorship is still at zero….



9 Mo-Vember 2009 (Monday) - Stuff




Last night when I came to print out “letter to the chokey #42” I used the last sheet of paper, and had no envelopes left. I wonder where they went (!) So after work, I was on a mission to Staples for more stationary. A strange place. Loads of staff swarming here, there and thither, but only one person on the tills, and that one not doing especially good at reducing the queue.


And then home to a letter from the optician. Having been there last Tuesday and paid them a fortune for new specs, they’ve now written to me to tell me I’m due for an eye test. Oh well…. Whilst on the subject of glasses, the word on the street is that the work’s occupational health department will pay towards the cost of new specs. That’s a bonus.


My PC is on the blink. For some months when booted up it has claimed to find new hardware. Even though there isn’t any new hardware there for it to find. Today it failed to boot up Windows when I turned it on. It’s done that twice in the last month. I’m beginning to wonder if I should be looking at getting a new PC soon. After all, my current one is now nearly three years old. I wonder if NeverWinter Nights runs on Windows 7. If it doesn’t, Windows 7 can go whistle.


Regular readers might recall that last Friday I set up an account to sort out my leccie and gas bills on-line. It hasn’t worked, so I phoned the leccie people to sort out the problem. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing they told me that the problem was that it hadn’t worked. These leccie people are very incisive, you know. They’ve now set up the account so’s I can give them meter readings, and so’s they can tell me how much in credit I am with them. From what I can see, I’m in enough credit to pay for a new PC. All I need to do now is get that money back off of them.


Beard Update: Oh, it’s awful. I hate it *so* much……


At nine days of growth, this is now the longest time during which I have ever had a beard. I have now officially beaten the last beard growth of eight days over cub camp in August 2003. I can’t help but feel it might look a bit better if it wasn’t quite so grey. Between the on-line donations and the works-based sponsor form, the sponsorship has now reached thirty quid.






10 Mo-Vember 2009 (Tuesday) - Stuff, and a Rant




Being on a late start today, I got up earlier that I might have done and spent a while catching up on the trivia of life. I started with looking at my leave for the next year. I’ve now booked twenty five days holiday for some of the more important events in my life for the leave year 2010-11. That’s organised of me… And then I sorted out my HPC registration. In order to do my job I have to be on the State Register. I sent off all the paperwork for that ages ago. They’ve taken the money, but still no certificate in the post. Everyone else has had theirs, so I phoned them up. Not only did they never receive what I sent them, I never got the reminder they sent a fortnight ago. Funny how they didn’t forget to take the money. Fortunately they emailed me what I needed, so that’s now in the post to them. Let’s hope that don’t get lost too.


I then booked tickets for the BKF Xmas bash. Despite sending out several emails, there are several people who didn’t answer. I was going to be harsh and assume that no answer means people don’t want to come, but I’ve sent another reminder to “the usual suspects”. I’m not entirely convinced my list of email addresses is as up-to-date as it might be. If any of my loyal readers would like me to book a space at the BKF shindig, please let me know. Similarly, if anyone would like to come to the ELO tribute concert in February, please email me so’s I can book tickets.


A dental emergency. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” had been up an in pain most of the night, so I took her to the dentist. It’s at times like this I appreciate my DenPlan dental cover. Were it me, I would get the treatment as part of the monthly payment that I make. As this was under the NHS, that was fifty quid that I didn’t have straight out of my pocket. And the NHS dentist was a rather foxy bird, too…


Then I settled down to waste several hours trying to book a visit to the chokey. Phoning the prison is a nightmare – I once spent three and a half days trying to get through to them. This time I got through after two rings. I was seriously impressed.


I’m going to have a rant today. I haven’t done that for a while. Sometimes I shouldn’t keep up with the news. Most people want the latest in high-tech electrical wizardry. Me – I generally settle for second best, but even so, I expect my household gets through far more leccie than my parents ever did when I was my son’s age. This is a feature of living in the twenty first century. Now, it’s no secret that the leccie has got to come from somewhere. And if we (as a society) carry on using it at this rate, then within eight years there simply won’t be enough leccie to carry on. Serious power outages are predicted by the year 2017.

So the government has decided to build ten new nuclear power stations. The opposition has had a dig at them in saying that they’ve left it too long to make this decision. The NIMBYs have been somewhat thwarted. Whilst the government is allowing public consultation, it’s been made clear that saying “NO!” to every proposed power station isn’t an option. The environmentalist lobby are up in arms. After all, that’s what they do.


But what choices do we have? Despite the public perception that there’s been a massive surge in electricity generated from wind farms, the fact is that the only UK producer of wind turbines has gone bust. There wouldn’t seem to be sufficient demand to make the things pay their way.

There’s only so much fossil fuel that can be burned, and burning it is demonstrably stuffing up the planet. So we are left with three options. Use a LOT less leccie, pay for wind and wave power (however much it costs) or build the nuclear power stations.


During the mid-eighties we used to use radioactive stuff at work. Part of our daily routine was to monitor the ambient radiation to check that nothing we were using had leaked in any way. In late 1986 we detected radiation from the explosion at Chernobyl. Perhaps we could pay a bit more for that wind farm, or use a little less leccie





11 Mo-Vember 2009 (Wednesday) - Friendly Mutton Chops




I’m now officially over a third of the way through Mo-Vember, and the beard has had a serious haircut. There was no denying that from an objective viewpoint, I had grown a rather substantial beard. It was quite the envy of some of the less furry of my fellow members of Team O-Mo. However the thing itched like crazy and was making the area of my neck around my collar quite sore. And (far be it from me to appear vain) it was very grey.

I had always planned to prune the thing in mid-November anyway, so the haircut wasn’t entirely unexpected and was only a few days early. Following remarks from the family that I looked like a hobo, they might now think twice about commenting in future. I’ve gone for a style known as the “friendly mutton chops”. Despite a search on the Internet, I can’t work out what’s so “friendly” about it. Whilst I absolutely loathed and despised the beard, I quite like the “chops”. I think it makes me look Edwardian. I’m in a very small minority in thinking that, but then, I’m used to being in a minority.

Still, it can’t be all bad – together with the various beards at work, the sponsorship is now at one hundred and thirty quid.


I had to re-boot my PC this morning as the anti-virus email extension didn’t initialise. And again this evening as the resident shield wasn’t active. (I have no idea what this means, I just report the facts). I wonder if this is more evidence that my poor old PC is on the way out. If so, I really need to be thinking about exactly what I want from a new PC. After all, I bought this one purely to play NeverWinter Nights 2, and I actually spent less than an hour on the game before going back to the original.


Back to the dentist - “Daddies Little Angel TM ” wasn’t getting any better, and so we asked to bring next week’s appointment forward. I got to stand and watch whilst she had a root canal filling done. Now I’ve watched it done, and have in the past had one done myself. I know which I prefer.


On the way to work I bought some bottled beers for the weekend (just in case). Tesco were knocking them out at three bottles for four quid. But at the weekend we’d been into Waitrose, and I’d seen “Blues” in there. I do like that stuff, and fancied a couple of bottles of it. So to Waitrose where I only got two bottles for my four quid. And I checked their salads again. Even though Tesco’s have increased the prices of theirs by 10p, Tesco are still over a quid cheaper (and you get more). I’m reliably informed that Waitrose stuff is better quality. Let’s just hope that for their sake there are enough people who are prepared to pay for that quality. Meanwhile Tesco’s are handing out toffee-nut lattes to all and sundry. Cheaper, and free coffee too. I know where I’m going shopping in future…


And then to Brian’s house for tea. Him and the Bat have been getting all culinary. A smashing bit of scoff – must do that again soon…..





12 Mo-Vember 2009 (Thursday) - Reflecting on Old Times




I was clearing out some old tat from work, and I found a picture drawn by one of the temps about ten years ago. You can probably guess which one is me. Over the years, a lot of people caricatured in the piccie have left – there are only three of us left from when this was drawn. One has left my line of work and became head of science in a secondary school in a remarkably short period of time. Five have taken promotion to other hospitals. Three have taken internal promotion. One has gone part time. Three have retired. One resigned and was last heard of somewhere off the coast of Scotland. Although the nature of the job has changed a lot in the last few years, I’m bored with it now. I’ve been in the same place too long.


Tonight I could have gone to the scout group AGM with er indoors TM . I chose not to. I just know what would have happened. There would have been a whole load of guilt laid on me about how they are crying out for leaders, and how they want me back. It’s now a year (and a bit) since I packed up with cubs and I don’t want to go back. I can’t get there for 5.30pm, so on the nights I could get there, I would always be late. And bearing in mind that my shifts are often given at rather short notice, I couldn’t guarantee to be along every week. And when I was a leader, I always thought that having an unreliable leader was worse than having no leader at all.

For twelve years I turned up religiously at (pretty much) every event that took place. Over the years I had some fun. I must have enjoyed it, to have kept going for so long. However most of my memories are of the obnoxious brats and the “spanners” who spoiled it for all the decent kids. If I were to go back, it would be on the strict understanding of “no brats or spanners whatsoever”. I don’t care how discriminatory that sounds, or actually is. Let me elaborate:


If a child has problems physically or mentally, but wants to take part, then fine. I would welcome them. However:

If the child is so bewildered by going to cubs that all they can do is stare in amazement, then they shouldn’t be there.

If the child is too terrified to even try to join in, then they shouldn’t be there.

If the child would rather spend the evening head-butting the wall or biting himself (and we had *loads* of those), then they shouldn’t be there.

If the child does nothing but cries constantly, then they shouldn’t be there.

If the child cannot shut up when asked to do so, then they shouldn’t be there.

If the child cannot go for more than a minute without the need to start fighting with other children, then they shouldn’t be there.

And if the child is forced along (against their will) by parents who know cheap baby sitting when they see it, then they shouldn’t be there.

In all the years that I was there, despite my protests we never chucked any brat out. And there were some very *special* cases, and some evil, nasty little thugs too. If I were to return I would reserve the right to chuck a brat out. With no recourse to appeal.

And the money. Despite having a very healthy bank balance, the scout association was (in my experience) a right load of penny pinchers. We would bend over backwards to subsidise people with more money than me.

But over my last year in scouting (and the time following) there have been three events that have really put me off going back.


  • After being a leader for twelve years, I got given a five years service certificate.
  • The chap who turned up intermittently to take the subs got given the medal for meritorious conduct.
  • One of the ex-“spanners” kicked my garden fence down.

But that is just making justification for my real reason of not wanting to take up the woggle again. Quite simply, I don’t want to. I’ve done my bit. And I’m becoming a grumpy old git. I don’t have the patience I once had. It’s time for someone else to have a go. I remember many years ago when I was a leader in the Boys Brigade being told that the average leader in a youth organisation serves for two years. I did six times the national average. I think I’ve done my bit….


Meanwhile in Wales some sick perve has been stalking children on the Internet and using web-cams to expose himself to kiddies, as a prelude to trying to indecently assault them. He’s been caught, and sentenced to community service. I can’t help but feel that the judge who came up with that stupid idea has a lot to answer for….





13 Mo-Vember 2009 (Friday) - Another Day




Up with the lark as always, and having a bit of time spare I thought I’d check my emails. Disaster. My PC wouldn’t connect to the Internet. I fiddled about for a while but to no avail. I then spent the day with a sense of dread. It’s amazing how lost I felt. Being away from the PC didn’t help at all. Without the Internet at home I felt as though something was missing. Imagine my amazement when I came home this evening to find it was all circuits go.

Mind you, whilst at Tesco’s this morning, the cashpoint machines weren’t working. I am going to hope that the Internet failure was in some way connected to the cashpoint failure, and blame it all on the awful weather.


Home from work via the pet shop. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” has money to burn, and has decided she wants a pet. It’s against my better judgement, but she has bought herself a pair of guinea pigs (both boys) and associated paraphernalia. I just transported the whole lot home. “Spider-Pig” and “As Yet Unnamed” (Dave) seem sweet enough, if you like guinea pigs. Which I don’t, especially.


A missive arrived from the chokey – “Norman Stanley” seems in good form, despite his basketball team losing their most recent match 110-8. For no adequately explained reason, despite losing by 102 points, the “Harlem Globetrotters” were pleased with the game, and thought it their best yet. And he’s still not received the mucky postcards I sent in two weeks ago. Odd how a whole grumble mag can get through, but two mucky postcards get censored…


I just hope this rain stops soon…..



14 Mo-Vember 2009 (Saturday) - Rye Bonfire Parade




The plan was to have a lie-in this morning as I wasn’t going to work, and the vicar doesn’t clang his bell on Saturdays. Trouble is, the longer I lay in bed, the more my back hurts, so I was up and about and checking emails by 8.30.

Several hundred emails – mostly all spam. One of the few that wasn’t delivered photos from a session that the astro club did last night with a scout group in Folkestone. They’ve done quite a few of those lately. Bearing in mind my rant from Thursday night, I can’t help but think that if this is the direction in which the astro club is going, I think I probably did the right thing in taking more of a back seat with the thing. I’m not saying that doing these presentations is bad – far from it. But it’s just not “me” any more.


Norman Stanley” phoned this morning – he’s managed to lacerate the top of his thumb with a plastic knife. Silly beggar. I suppose that’s his lame excuse to get out of the next basketball game. He also said that whilst he likes puzzle books, he’s not keen on word-searches. I wonder if that’s a tactful way of saying he’s fed up with the impossible crosswords I send him?


To the petrol station to get petrol and some cash. My card again didn’t work in the cashpoints at both Tescos or the one in the co-op. I drove to town to swear at the bank, but couldn’t park anywhere. So I went home to phone the bank to swear at them. Having gone all through the automated fiddle-around, I was just about to get through to someone when I realised I’d been using a card that expired three months ago. Woops. So back to Tesco’s to get some cash. Beer doesn’t buy itself, you know…


And so to Rye for the bonfire parade. The day had so far been an endless succession of phone calls from people backing out of the event. And as we set off, it has to be said that the weather could have been a tad better. However, faint heart ne’er won fair lady. And idiot enthusiasm always triumphs over common sense. It’s rained before – all I had to do was wear a coat. Right?


As it turned out, despite the dire weather of the morning, I didn’t actually need my coat. There was a bit of a torrential downpour whilst we were at the station, but we were under cover. The train was a bit delayed. Apparently there were trees on the line somewhere near Maidstone which was having a knock-on effect, but Brian and I arrived in Rye at 4pm, and started our impromptu pub crawl whilst waiting for everyone else to arrive.


One of the things I like about being a roving reporter for Beer in the Evening is going back to pubs to see if they have changed over time. I see from previous blog entries that it’s a couple of years since I last did a Rye-based pub crawl. So my reviews we out of date, and therefore what might have been mistaken for a booze-up was actually justifiable research.


We made our way to the Pipemakers Arms, which two years ago I rated as 6/10 (average). It’s gone downhill. Whilst we were not made unwelcome, it is clearly a “locals” pub, and the landlord doesn’t seem to actually have the ability to speak. At all. Which wasn’t overly welcoming. We stayed long enough for the rain shower to pass, and chatted with one of the locals about his drink of lager & light ale (never seen that one before) before moving on, having scored it 4/10 – could do better.


We moved up to the Standard which was just round the corner. Oh, the rain had chucked it down whilst we were in the Pipemakers. But we were dry, and that was the last shower of the day. The Standard is somewhere I’ve always included on my Rye pub crawls. Whilst on my last visit, I branded them as average. This time I’m going to knock them up to 7/10, if only for the fact that they (usually) have an obscure ale on, and that the epically bosomed young ladies behind the bar don’t do much to conceal their ample charms. We downed a pint of “Chilly Willy” whilst chatting to a pirate who was selling programmes for the event, and to two ex-locals who now live inSomerset and were back for the festivities. For all that Rye is a very picturesque town, it’s seriously lacking a decent pub, and I think it’s probably fair to say that the Standard is (currently) the best pub Rye has. Were it not for the fact that the high street is rather narrow, we would have stayed at the Standard for the procession, but with the second pint downed, it was time to move on.


We trudged up the hill with (I must admit) heavy hearts. My mobile was on overload with texts from friends and family crying off because of the foul weather. Which was such a shame because the weather was actually fine for the evening. We stopped some passing coppers and checked that we’d be alright to have a beer in the street later, and twenty yards later saw us in the BellRye’s oldest pub (over five hundred years old). This was once a good pub with a selection of ales, but on my last visits, they’d just had London Pride and Harveys. Dull. Another chap on Beer in the Evening described the place as having “a feel like the parents had gone away and left their son in charge”. I must agree with that sentiment. It did come over as something of a “youth club”. (6/10 – average). We downed a pint of London Pride, which wasn’t bad, but was the worst pint of the day. And we admired a strange fellow in a leather kilt whist waiting for the rest of our group to arrive with the chips for tea.


And then up to the Union Inn. Which I’ve raved about in the past, but in all honesty isn’t all that I crack it up to be. They had a couple of barrels of ale on the counter (Jennings Cumberland and Harvey’s Best) and we settled down for the evening. To be honest we use this pub because of it’s location, rather than anything else. It’s just up the hill from one of the widest parts of the procession route, and so makes for good viewing. Whilst here we got a text from Steve who’d made his way to the Bell to meet us, and was wondering where we were. And a text from a colleague who was actually in the pub and couldn’t find us.


Although our group was considerably smaller than it has been in previous years, by the time a load of friendly bonfire boys and a drunken rabble of ex-cub scouts arrived there were over a dozen of us. Having shouted at the procession and done the obligatory cigar, we then moved over to the YpresCastle for some more beer. Despite having the best ale selection in Rye, from the reviews I’ve read of the place this pub seems to be suffering from a bad landlord. Whilst I didn’t see the chap myself, the place didn’t seem anywhere near as busy as you’d expect it to be on bonfire parade night. I spent a pleasant half an hour in the garden with the bonfire boys. They declared me to be an “enemy of bonfire” and blew up my flashing rabbit ears. Great fun. All too soon it was time to get on a very crowded train to go home.


Checking my photos I see I’ve got a wonderful photo to put on CrackWatch.

Same time next year …..



15 Mo-Vember 2009 (Sunday) - Dull Sunday




In 2005 when I did my post-graduate certificate as part of developing a reflective nature (!) my tutor suggested that I compiled a “top ten” of my year’s events. Bearing in mind I do seem to be slightly more active than the average badger, I can remember having some difficulty coming up with that list. Not so much in making the list, more in deciding what events didn’t make the top ten. It was for the year 2005 – 06, and the Rye bonfire parade of November 05 came into that list at number nine. Were I to make a similar list this year, Rye bonfire parade would certainly be in it.


So, today was something of an anticlimax. Which was probably for the best, as I was feeling just a tad under the weather. I eventually emerged from my pit about 11am and put up an album of photos from last night on Facebook. And then I did some research. I can remember Ashford having a bonfire parade in years gone by – we used to come over to march round with the Boys Brigade band in the late 70s and early 80s. But I could find no mention on the Internet at all about it. Perhaps it’s something that could be revived?


Spider-Pig” is now up to being handled. If you like that sort of thing. I’m not sure if I do.


A minor hiccup with the Sunday roast dinner. ‘er indoors TM managed to lose the meat. I’m not sure quite what went wrong, but the meat was missing. Fortunately it turned up (eventually), but I’m afraid that today was so dull that missing pork chops was as good as it got.


Which was surprising, considering tonight was one of the Doctor Who specials. We watched it after bowling. Having it on the SkyPlus box meant we could have watched it anytime, but I’d rather have watched it before I got told what happened. And if you haven’t seen it, what happens is…..


Let’s just say that the last few Doctor Who episodes have had a similar theme. They start good, and about two thirds of the way through you can spot the point at which it just goes down the pan….





16 Mo-Vember 2009 (Monday) - A Day in the Life




Sometimes the tales of British so-called justice make me want to cry. On the way home from work tonight the radio told the sad tale of an ex-soldier who is facing five years imprisonment. His crime – whilst out and about he found a shotgun. So, rather than leaving it where children might find it, he took it to his local police station. Where he was charged with illegal possession of a firearm. And a court has found him guilty. Well, he pleaded guilty. He was. He had the firearm in his possession. The fact that he was handing the thing in to the police is utterly irrelevant. He had the gun in his possession, therefore he’s broken the law. Sentencing has been delayed. Hopefully for the judge to look up “common sense” in a dictionary.


Whilst on the subject of judicial injustices, whilst printing off letter to the chokey #43 last night, I ran out of black ink. So after work I went round to Staples to get more. I also picked up a shredder as my current one is broken, and they were half price. And then took ages to get home as a car had driven into a bus on what was once the ring road.


And the mutton chops are doing fine. I’ve put up an album of our Mo-Team on Facebook. There’s now eight of us. I know that beards is rather against the rules, but it’s all in a good cause. And some of the beards are more prominent than others. The sponsorship money promised is now over one hundred and sixty quid. All for a good cause and in two week’s time I can have a shave. I’m getting just a little bit fed up with having to explain to everyone that I meet that the beard is a joke, it’s being sponsored, I don’t actually think that it’s clever.



17 Mo-Vember 2009 (Tuesday) - The Shops




I’d arranged to be on a late start today – my new specs were ready for collection, so I was up the town by 8.30am. There’s something very unfriendly about the shops in Ashford at the moment. They’ve all got heavy-duty security shutters. Or, that is, the ones in the precincts (mall to my American readers!) have. The ones up the high street (open to the public 24/7) don’t seem to need them, but the shops in a secure locked up area have them. Odd how the security of the mall isn’t enough, but there’s no problems up the High Street (!) And I find these shutters really off-putting. Perhaps I’m just a sensitive soul.


Whilst waiting for the opticians to unbolt their portcullis, I thought I’d do a spot of Xmas shopping. “Thought” being the operative word. What are billed as “Xmas ideas” are a con. “A nice pen for Xmas” – what a rip-off. Everyone’s already got hundreds of biros. Why shell out good money for a poncy pen you’re only going to lose. Or jewellery. Overpriced tat !! Or books. I see there’s a new “Adrian Mole” book. For twenty quid. Or a “River Cottage” book for twenty two quid. I’m not paying that. At the other end of the scale Woolworths (or the building that was once Woolworths) have re-opened with the gimmick of “everything’s 99p”. And, in all honesty, that’s a rip-off too. I don’t think the Pound Shop (everything’s a quid) has much to worry about.


I eventually got my new specs. It’s amazing how much clearer everything is – especially the close up stuff. I just need to remember to see how much of the cost I can get refunded from work.


And then some shopping on the way to work – B&Q for some proofing jollop for the roof. The tills at B&Q were fun. The “normal people” really couldn’t cope with the self-service tills. One pair of pensioners were nearly in tears being utterly unable to scan any barcodes, and another retard just held up his purchase to the machine and was hoping for the best. In the end, a whole load of store staff came and worked the checkouts for them. It was rather pitiful to watch, and I must admit to a sly smile when the chap in front of me refused help with the till – declaring loudly that he wasn’t a total pillock.


Tesco had much the same self-service arrangement, but the “normal people” there have figured out how to work the checkouts - to the disgust of the Tesco staff who were itching to help. I got some new green tea – there was a two for the price of one deal. And I’ve found a tea which isn’t utterly disgusting: “Fresh & Fruity” (!) with cranberry, raspberry and elderflower is actually rather drinkable.


Home to an empty house. As ‘er indoors TM was flogging candles and I was on a late finish, we didn’t have the usual Tuesday night houseful. I quite missed it…






18 Mo-Vember 2009 (Wednesday) - Dentists and Laundry


Regular readers may recall I visited the dentist a fortnight ago, only to be brushed off with “come back if it don’t get better”. I went back today. The chap I usually see was on holiday, and so I explained the problem to his stand-in. To be fair to the chap, his spoken English was (probably) better than my spoken Urdu, but there was still just the teensiest problem with communication. His immediate reaction was to refer me to the hospital to have the problem wisdom tooth removed. Which was my plan, too. But then he had a change of heart. He announced it would be foolish to remove it if it wasn’t being troublesome. I reminded him that the thing regularly swells so much that I can’t close my jaws. He wasn’t convinced. I also pointed out that I’d been to the dentist twice in two weeks about it. How troublesome did the tooth have to be? He conceded defeat, and said that if the hospital hasn’t contacted my by Xmas, I should chase things up.


And I found out today that I am “trailer trash”. During the summer months I stick my laundry outside on the line to dry it after the wash. Despite the environmentally friendliness of it, did you know that six U.S. states havebanned

 the use of clothes lines

, and another five states are considering doing so. You can get a fine of $100 dollars for airing your smalls in public, which is about the cost of drying a month’s worth of washing.

And we get asked to cut down on the amount of energy we use…



19 Mo-Vember 2009 (Thursday) - Leccie Bills, Holiday, and a Prison Visit




I spent a bit of time going through my post this morning. I hadn’t done that for some time – among other goodies, I found vouchers for free visits to Howlett’s & Port Lympne which expire tomorrow. Following some not inconsiderable effort on my part over the last few weeks, I went to check my leccie and gas bills on-line this morning. I was prompted to do so by a letter from the leccie company who had written to tell me they had changed my login details. So neither what was originally set up, nor what they sent me worked. I’m rather unimpressed with this, but after the obligatory to-ing and fro-ing on the phone, I got into the account. I was still over three hundred pounds in credit with them, and after another bit of to-ing and fro-ing I got some of the money refunded. I’ve left a hundred quid in each account for the winter, but I’ve got some cash back to help cover the costs of the coming few weeks. Xmas doesn’t come cheap, you know.


I also have 9700 nectar points between my gas and leccie accounts. I naively thought this was a substantial amount of nectar points, but on further research I found out it’s enough to buy a new kettle, or a set of kitchen scales. Still, it’s better than nothing.

I found a rather worrying bit of news. On April 1stemployment law changed so’s that I must take a minimum of twenty eight days holiday. Which is fine by me. Or is it? My leave year runs from April to March, and for this current leave year I get thirty three days leave. Ten days of which I have arranged not to take. Instead, at the end of the leave year I will get an extra two week’s money. I’ve done this for the last two years, and it’s an arrangement which suits me fine. It went a long way towards paying for the new front door last June, and I was vaguely planning to spend next year’s bung in various pubs around Weymouth whilst being based in Auntie’s caravan.

As well as formal leave, I get an extra half a day’s lieu time for each Saturday morning I work (once a month), and my new boss has insisted that I get back the extra time I give to work when called in at night and at weekends. So, I get over forty days off work each year. And it’s difficult to be able to take that time off, because everyone else is entitled to the same amount of leave, and there is a limit to how many people can be on holiday at the same time. In the past selling back holiday has been useful. But (as I read the law), lieu time doesn’t count towards annual leave arrangements, and so legally I can only sell a maximum of five days leave. If I had known this before, I would have arranged not to be taking a bonus week’s leave in the winter.


However I have a feeling that this minimum leave entitlement includes Bank Holidays too. If so, I’m fine. If not, the fifty per cent extra pay in next April’s salary won’t happen. Which would be a nuisance. Mind you, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I couldn’t sell as much leave as I was planning this year. Today will be the sixth leave day I’ve used up visiting HMP Slade. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t miss the visits for anything. I just didn’t realise just how many days I’ve spent at the chokey until I totted it up this morning. Today will be my eighth visit. Eight ! So, learning from this revelation, I’ve calculated how much leave I really should pre-book in the next leave year (April 2010 – March 2011) for “recurring events”.

Our long weekend camping sessions work best for me if I take from the Thursday to the Tuesday as leave. So there’s half of my year’s holiday alllowance gone straight away. I’m really looking forward to another week in Auntie’s caravan next year, and in a novel break with tradition, I’ve booked a week off work for Xmas 2010. Not forgetting Canterbury Beer Festival, or the week in February I always have (I’ve not worked on my birthday for twenty six years!). So, I’ve already booked twenty nine days leave. Which leaves four days, plus however much lieu time I accrue. Not much slack for visiting the prison next year. Just as well I’m not planning to go up there for much longer. Perhaps I won’t sell any leave next year as I’ve allowed nothing for kite festivals in Milwaukee or Dieppe, to say nothing of long weekends at Sumner’s Ponds. I would be *so* good at being retired.


And, talking of prison visits, off to the chokey. There was a minor delay whilst we woke up one of our party who has slept through his alarm call, but eventually three of us got on the train, and soon were scoffing McDinner. For once there were no photo opportunities for “CrackWatch” at McD’s, which was a disappointment, and following a rather relaxed bit of scoff, we found ourselves in the “Dinsdale Piranha” centre where we sat and waited with “the Great Unwashed”. (For the uninitiated, the “Dinsdale Piranha” centre is the foyer to the prison). Whilst we were quite happy to sit with “the Great Unwashed”, one of our fellow visitors wasn’t. She made a great fuss about having to go into the prison with everyone else. Surely there must be another entrance where she wouldn’t have to mingle with the hoi-polloi?

Eventually we were allowed in, but not without incident. I was fully expecting to get turned away because of my beard, but that wasn’t a problem at all. The trouble was that for no adequately explained reason one of our party wasn’t allowed to take in any money. The written instructions said that he could, but because I had some, he wasn’t allowed any. The third member of our party was allowed to take in as much as he liked, and no one else was challenged in any way. I asked the “helpful member of staff” why they had changed the rules. He grunted that it has always been this way. In the past everyone in our group has taken in fifteen quid each, despite what “Mr Mackay” says. I have written to the governor to complain. I’ll be interested to see if he replies.


Today we seemed to take an age to get into the chokey, but eventually we found “Norman Stanley” who was in good spirits, despite having lacerated his thumb with a plastic knife. Silly beggar! We fed him up as well as we could. The “do-gooding old biddies” who rather incompetently ran a tea shop have long since packed up and have been replaced by vending machines. Whilst the cake selection isn’t what it might have been, the machines are a bit cheaper to use. Because “the Great Unwashed” are clearly far too dumb to use vending machines; every machine I used was filled with unclaimed change from the person who’d last used it.

As always, two hours passed far too fast, and all too soon we were unceremoniously sent out of the prison. And so over the road to the Swan for a couple of beers before getting the train home.

I wonder how many more times I will be back to the chokey before he’s released?


20 Mo-Vember 2009 (Friday) - Assorted Ramblings


The sky was especially pretty this morning, so I took a photo. I don’t think it’s come out as well as I was hoping. They say “red sky in morning, shepherd’s warning”. The sky wasn’t so much red as pink, but it poured hard either way. I got very wet taking my letter of complaint to the letter box (see yesterday’s blog entry). I doubt the prison governor will care in the slightest, let alone do anything. If it were me receiving a letter of complaint, I’d never hear the last of it. Mind you, I wonder how many compliments they get at the chokey? Last month the people I work for received six formal compliments for every complaint.

I may well be writing another letter of complaint in a few days time. This time to a brewery. If I had to choose my favourite beer of all time, I couldn’t. But Shepherd Neame’s Porter would be in my top half-dozen. I’ve been looking forward to December, because the Porter is only available from December to February. Yesterday I heard a nasty rumour that Shepherd Neame weren’t going to do the Porter this year. Today I heard the same thing from another source. On checking their website, the Porter is conspicuous by its absence. And this year they are doing a “Christmas Ale”, which is new.

My beard is now two thirds of the way through its life. I am so looking forward to scraping the thing off. I *really* don’t see how my bearded friends can put up with it. Mind you, the thing has attracted one or two admirers. I’m reliably informed it makes me look distinguished. Personally I can’t help but feel that with the lower part of my bonce awash with fur, it merely points out how bald the top part is.

Meanwhile, Facebook would seem to have had a re-vamp. Another re-vamp. I wish they’d leave it alone. This time they would seem to have lost the forty-eight photo albums I’ve put up over the last year or so. I’m not overly happy about that….

21 Mo-Vember 2009 (Saturday) - D.I.Y. and Booze


To Folkestone to help a mate with a spot of D.I.Y.ing, painting, tidying, gardening and general maintenance (I knew him when he was only corporal maintenance, you know!). Stevey had the kettle on, and after a cuppa we started by gently hammering the front door hinge back together. Before doing much more, we gave the house and garden a “once over” to see what needed doing. Even though we had a list, it never hurts to suss the lie of the land for yourself. Chip & Matt were soon dispatched to B&Q for “D.I.Y-things” whist Stevey and the most recent fruit of my loin attacked the garden. The ivy was overgrowing the wall from next door, so we gave that a haircut, and had a serious sweep around before spraying the patio with dangerous chemicals to (hopefully) get rid of the weeds.

Norman Stanley” phoned whilst we were having a second cuppa, and insults were exchanged before we then fixed loose bath panels and shower curtains. We then made a start on the banister. This will be a job to finish later, as our driver had to be home for midday.

I then wasted an hour or so in NeverWinter whilst the household women went shopping, then me & the ”main squeeze” set off for Xmas booze. Firstly to Biddenden Vineyard to pick up a crate of “Blues” that I’d ordered yesterday. They also had Gadd’s Oyster Stout and the Dark Star Imperial Russian Stout (10.5%), so I got a few bottles of those too. And a bottle of Biddenden’s special reserve cider. Then to Sedlescombe organic vineyard. This is somewhere I’ve driven past so many times, and today we finally popped in. The place was staffed by an incredibly foxy bird of eastern European extraction who was offering us tasters of her goodies (!) The wines were good, but not seventeen quid per bottle good, but we bought a bottle of their blackberry liqueur. It will be a treat for a party we are planning in late January. I also bought some bottled lagers whilst I was at it (for those who like that sort of thing).

The plan was to drop off the lagers, the Blues and the cider at my brother’s house where I will reacquaint myself with them on Xmas day. I hadn’t warned him we were coming. I thought that our arriving unannounced would be a nice surprise for him. So I shouldn’t really have been surprised to find that he was out. Fortunately his brother-in-law lives just around the corner, so I left all the booze with Roy, and we went off to see my mum instead. On the way to mum’s house my mobile rang. My brother had found the beer. Whilst parking at mum’s I saw the first house of the year to have put up its Xmas decorations. Too early!!! We then spent half an hour with mother (who loves my beard) before coming home via Farm Foods for the shopping (dull, so dull!).

With all of the family out for the evening, I settled down to NeverWinter. These orcs and goblins don’t kill themselves, you know…

22 Mo-Vember 2009 (Sunday) - Another Lazy Sunday


I fancied a lie-in this morning, but had the most awful back ache, so I got up and did the monthly accounts instead. Last month I realised that a purchase made in Tesco in August still hadn’t appeared on my statement. It still hasn’t. On August 19 I spent £16.20 in Tesco, It would seem I got my bread, muesli and plum jam for free. Which is a bonus.

I then spent ten minutes raking up next door’s leaves from my garden. Every year his chestnut tree sheds its leaves all over the place. My natural instinct would be to let them bio-degrade (I’m eco-friendly, me!), but these leaves don’t. They are indestructible, and just lay there and make dead patches in the lawn. Whilst I was sweeping up, the chap next door told me the rat problem in the gardens is getting worse, and now there are foxes too. Apparently he videos them on CCTV. I don’t doubt there are rats out there. The neighbours on either side assure me there are. It’s just that I’m still to see one. I wonder if it’s all the flowers and shrubs and greenery that attract the rats? My garden has a “minimalist” theme with scant shelter or pickings for wildlife. I shall keep it that way.

The original plan for today was a trip to Decathlon at Lakeside to get new “slobbing about” trousers, but whilst rummaging about I found a few pairs that I’d forgotten about. So rather than braving Lakeside, we thought we’d have a look round Tenterden instead. Tenterden is one of those places we always drive though, but never visit. Just as we paid for the car park, the heavens opened, so we ran into The Vine and had a crafty pint whist waiting for the rains to ease off. It’s good to have a fall-back plan for when it rains.

And when it eventually stopped raining, Tenterden was such a disappointment. There were two types of shop – chain stores that you get everywhere, and vastly overpriced pretentious shops. We soon lost interest and drove round to Swallow Aquatics to look at the aminals instead.

And then home to print off “letter to the chokey #44” and “rude crossword #27” (Phrase used by schoolboys to describe talcum powder in the days before there was such a thing as diversity training. (4,4) – any guesses?). It’s become something of a tradition that every letter I write to the chokey has a rude crossword with it. Devising the clues is becoming increasingly more difficult. If any of my loyal readers have any ideas, please don’t hesitate in letting me know….

23 Mo-Vember 2009 (Monday) - Facebook "Friends"


I noticed that a very good friend of mine added someone to his Facebook friends list yesterday. That someone being “Alexei Beetroot”. From watching the “recent activity” bit on Facebook, I suspect that Alexei Beetroot has got himself listed on one or two people’s friends’ lists purely because those people have seen he’s on my list, and have assumed that any friend of mine is mostly harmless.

Well, I don’t think for one minute there’s anything harmful about this bloke. But if any of my loyal readers have added this bloke on that assumption, can I just point out that I have no idea who he is. I don’t know him from Adam. I added him to my list because he asked me, and because other good friends of mine had him on their lists. And I made the assumption that any friend of one of my friends was mostly harmless. I wonder if my real friends actually know this bloke Alexei Beetroot? Or did they add him because he asked, and they saw he was on the lists of other people that they trusted?

This is certainly the case for one Henry Dougal, who I added to my list a while ago. All of our mutual friends were kite fliers. I’ve since found that although the chap is a bona-fido kite flier, he’s now adding himself to people from my list that I know from the astro club. He’s commenting on their posts and activities as though he’s their best pal in the world. And (as with the comments he puts on my Facebook page) it’s painfully obvious he doesn’t know the people he’s commenting on. At all. All he has in common with them is that they are a friend of a friend of someone he once met on a kite field. A rather tenuous connection, wouldn’t you agree?

I’m assuming (hoping) there is nothing sinister about having an epic list of friends on Facebook.? I’m hoping that such a web of people can’t be used for nefarious purposes? Whilst I’m rather sure it can’t, it’s made me look at my own list of Facebook friends.

I have one hundred and eighty eight “friends” on Facebook. Many are actual “friends” that I see at least once a week (if not more). There are people from work on my list who I also see daily. There’s a lot of “old friends” who I’ve known for years, but due to circumstances, these days I see very infrequently. Some maybe only once a year, but Facebook enables us to keep in touch. There’s a load of people I know through kite flying. Not a hobby I do very much these days, but it’s good to keep up with people I’ve met on the flying fields. There are a respectable number of people I know through the astro club. Swapping on-line insults makes the monthly astro club meetings that bit more fun. There’s a selection of various cousins, nephews, aunts, uncles and various in-laws on my list too. Which is a great thing. Rather than trying to catch up with everyone at one at all-too-infrequent family reunions, Facebook allows us to keep in touch daily.

And then there are the last fourteen people. I have absolutely no idea who these people are. Who are Alexei Beetroot, Henry Dougal, Mark Gary, Barrington Priest and Alistair Greenway? Nearly ten per cent of the people on my list are people that I don’t think I’ve ever met, either in person or on-line. Should I take them off my list…?

And a reminder to my loyal readers that as the beard enters it’s last week, you can sponsor the thing either with cash straight to “Yours Truly”, or on-line here.


24 Mo-Vember 2009 (Tuesday) - The Meaning of Life (Part Five)


I spent a little time last night updating my diary dates for the next year. I’ve managed to get confirmed dates for the beer festivals in Canterbury &Dover. And it would seem that I had the date of the Canterbury one wrong. It’s a week later than I originally thought. Which is good – coming so soon after the kite festival in Brighton does make for a very busy week.

And then a phone call from the dentist. My normal dentist is back, and wasn’t happy with his “stunt double” referring me to the hospital (see last Wednesday’s blog entry). They can do wisdom teeth in the surgery, and offer “sedation therapy”. Working on the principal that, if nothing else, it might make for an interesting blog entry, I’ve signed up to get sedated in a fortnight’s time. I wonder if I get to keep my tooth?

There was an interesting article on the radio this morning. Recipients of organ transplants are up in arms because of the sub-standard quality of the organs they are getting. Apparently a few years ago there was a decent amount of healthy people getting splattered in road traffic accidents to provide a constant supply of spare parts. But an unexpected side-effect of improved road safety, roll-bars and air bags is that people tend to survive serious road traffic accidents these days. Which is all very well for those having the accidents, but rather thoughtless for those hankering over their innards. (Or so the vulture on this morning’s Radio 4 would have me believe). Such people now have to rough it with sub-standard transplants from people who haven’t met their end quite so cleanly.

I dare say I might be a tad more sympathetic should I need a replacement kidney, but I can only see one solution to the problem. In the way that people donate blood, people might consider giving up some of their spare offal before they die. After all, we can manage on just one kidney, and if you lose a lump of liver, it grows back quickly. I will concede that it’s a tad tricky to muddle along without a heart or lungs. I can’t claim to be original on the concept of compulsory organ donation – I got the idea from the second film I took my darling wife to see. She was only fourteen at the time.

The post brought a letter from the chokey. Following “Norman Stanley’s” mishap with a plastic fork, he was unable to play basketball with the team. Is this why they have suffered their most humiliating defeat so far? – 112 – 2. And then he phoned - he seems pleased with my plans to “pimp his house”, and so it was off to B&Q to buy more D-I-Y things including ten litres of magnolia emulsion. You can’t go wrong with magnolia.

I like painting – both pictures and walls. I just hope he’ll be happy with the finished result. If he is, then all is fine. If he’s not, I’ll give him a bill for my time….

 2 comments http://www.blogger.com/img/icon18_edit_allbkg.gif

25 Mo-Vember 2009 (Wednesday) - Wasting Time (?)


One of the fonts of all knowledge these days is Wikipedia. Strange that it should be so, because it’s written (on the whole) by “Joe Public”, and not by any particular expert. And should there be any articles written by an expert, any fool can replace wisdom with tripe. Over the years I’ve put some tripe on Wikipedia myself. You can see that I corrected an article on the marital status of Mrs Bridges (from “Upstairs Downstairs”). I amended the spelling of the article on the Hargreaves rule (from “The Adventure Game”). I re-wrote the information on my home village of Ore. I corrected the directions from the M20 to the local hospital. (Sad, I know…)

However, you can’t see that I put up the corrected lyrics to the Treacle People theme tune, because some do-gooder removed them. Neither can you see anything at all about the British Kite Flying Association, because another do-gooder deleted the entire article that I wrote. It’s primarily for this reason that I don’t bother with Wikipedia any more. Which is a shame. Without wishing to boast, but with graduate qualifications in three completely different subjects, it’s no secret that in my more lucid moments, I’m actually something of a genius. A modest genius, but a genius nonetheless. I could contribute quite a bit to the Wikipedia project. But why should I bother, when any fool can come round after me and amend, change or delete my efforts.

It would seem I’m not alone in feeling this way. Wikipedia would seem to belosing contributors hand-over-fist. I’m not surprised.

And being the last Wednesday of the month, it was arky-ologee club. Tonight’s talk was about the river Wensome. Now silted up, in years gone by it was a thriving hive of industry, as evidenced by a few manky old bits of broken pot that have been found in the vicinity. From these manky old bits of broken pot, those with little better to do with their time try to work out what life was like back in those days. Well, for the benefit of future generations, I’ve taken to writing this blog so grandchildren yet unborn can read it and find out first hand what they missed in the early twenty first century. I’m hoping this would be marginally less painful than having to sit through the torture I sat through tonight.

And then in “show and tell”, one of the biddies brought out some rusty lumps of metal which may once have been something agricultural, something lethal, or both. A scary looking individual brandished “Dick Turpin” style hand guns. And I don’t even get a pint afterwards for being good any more. I must admit I am beginning to question why I go…

26 Mo-Vember 2009 (Thursday) - A Successful Day (For Once)


To work, where I parked in a flood. I was in especially early today as an inspector was coming to assess one of my trainees, and see if he was suitable for state registration. Whilst it’s nerve-wracking for the trainees, I find I am every bit as worried myself. Even though I never have any cause for concern, I am always a bag of nerves with them. In the event, he passed (with flying colours) – that now makes seventeen trainees for whom I’ve overseen their qualification. Bearing in mind it can take up to five years to qualify, that’s not bad going. (And I’m still in touch with all but three of them). The current plan is to have another five qualify some time during the current year (or so).

It’s as well “Daddies Little Angel TM ” is studying art at college. She came with me to the coast this evening where we made a start on decorating a friend’s house. While the kettle boiled, I filled my car boot with garden rubbish, and then after a cuppa, I made a start in the bathroom whilst art students got busy in the kitchen. There was a minor hiccup with a cat and several gallons of magnolia, but (as I said at the time), I wasn’t overly worried. After all, it was neither my house, nor my cat. Apart from a minor incident where we paused briefly to remove litres of gloss paint from carpets, I think we did well in the couple of hours we had. It now remains to allow the paint to dry, get rid of the garden rubbish, and give the kitchen and bathroom another coat of magnolia. Then we can get rid of more garden rubbish and start on the glossing in earnest. And when the rain finally stops I can make a start outside. I do like decorating.

Mind you, isn’t magnolia a rubbish colour…..?

27 Mo-Vember 2009 (Friday) - Astro Club


With a car full to the gunnels with rubbish, I found myself forming a queue at the municipal tip this morning. Being first person into the tip in the morning is probably the best way to do the tip; the “normal people” aren’t there. But the roads are rather busy that time of day. Busy enogh to put me off making a regular thing of early morning tip runs.

Work was work, and then to the astronomy club. As always, I was the first one there, and laid out the chairs. I see Woodchurch hall has bought some new chairs. Forty seven new chairs. Forty seven. A strange number to buy? But I put out the new chairs, and we waited for the punters to arrive. Not many punters tonight – attendance was noticeably down. I counted – only thirty five people along tonight. Mind you, if you were to trawl through my blog archives of eighteen months ago, you’d realise that an attendance of thirty five is still four times what we were getting in the “Stanhope days” of the astro club.

Perhaps I’m getting a tad repetitive about the astro club, but the thing has improved so much over the last year. The introductions are done so professionally, the talks are excellent; the raffles are such fun to do (that’s my bit!).

Which is why I spat my dummy out tonight – normally we blu-tack loads of posters around the room, and them everyone chuckles as they fall down. Well, I’m not having that any more. Having posters continually falling down all over the place undermines the feel of the club. So we didn’t put them up, and over the next month I shall be seeing if I can’t scare up some display boards.

And then back to Folkestone for coffee – where I totally forgot to thank Trudy for the decanter. So I shall say it here – many thanks – I’m really grateful, and shall put it to good use. We shall both use it for port in two months time…..

28 Mo-Vember 2009 (Saturday) - Mending Gate Posts


A few weeks ago there was an accident on a certain farm involving a tractor and a fence post. Today I offered to help to repair the damage. Well, not so much repair as rebuild from scratch.

Up with the lark, and off to the farm with Batty at 8am. We exchanged insults with the turkeys and the geese, then fed the ducks. And then we adjourned to get some brekky from the local roadside café. You can’t beat a steak baguette first thing in the morning. And then, suitably fed, we got on with the job in hand. The gate post had been snapped off at ground level, so the job was straight-forward. Get the stump out of the ground, replace it with a new pole. Remove the metal fencing and barbed wire from the old broken post and attach it to the new one. How hard could it be?

The first task was to remove the old stump that was left in the ground from when the post broke. We had this idea to drill into the stump, screw in a fairly substantial spike, then hoik the thing out of the ground. Easier said than done, as the top part of the spike was rotten, and was falling apart. So we decided to dig the post stump out. Two feet down we reached the water table, and from that point onwards we were mucking about under water. We then had an plan to clove-hitch a rope around the thing and pull it out. It wouldn’t budge. We went and got a tractor to do the pulling. The rope kept slipping off the stump. Eventually we had the idea to replace the rope with a metal hawser. That worked – how we cheered when it came out of the hole.

Having been heaving on the thing for over an hour, there was a sense of “job done” at this point. Oh, silly us…. We then put the replacement gate post in place. Oh, how I laughed. For the thing to do its job, we needed about five feet of post above ground level. We had eighteen inches. The old post was somewhat longer than we’d thought. So we adjourned to rummage around the barns to see if we couldn’t find a longer bit of wood somewhere that we might bodge into fencepost shape.

We then had a spell of some twenty minutes when everything went alarmingly to plan. Not good, so in order to return us to a sense of normality I managed to seriously lacerate my finger with a pair of mole grips and cover absolutely everything with a generous coating of blood.

The job eventually took us three hours. I’m rather amazed with the finished product. I like helping on the farm – I wonder what needs doing next.

Having done such sterling work we thought we deserved a treat, so we set off to Staplehurst for an impromptu pub crawl. We started off in the Bell hotel. Two ales on – Westerham’s “Finchcock” (rather obscure), and “Falcon” (very obscure). We were offered tasters of each, which is something you don’t often get, and then we were taken to our table where the waitress took our orders, and then dropped the beer all over the floor. Two pints went everywhere. She was mortified; I thought it was hysterical. The food arrived, taking a little longer than I would have liked, but it was worth the wait. How would I rate the pub? I can’t help but feel that were we sitting in the cosy bar near the open fire I would have liked it better. But the restaurant bit was rather clinical, and very cold.

Rather than having a second pint, we walked over the road to the Kings Head and sat by their fire enjoying a pint of the “Late Red”. Whilst a Shepherd Neame pub, it was OK. There was a telly for those who feel the need to shout at sport whilst having a pint, and whilst the telly was tucked away round the corner, after a few minutes the noise of the three telly-watching thugs rather spoiled the ambience for the two dozen people who chose to be away from the telly.

We finished up in the Pride of Kent. Let’s just say that if Kent is proud of this grot-hole, I’d hate to see something of which Kent is ashamed. I then slept most of the way home…

And then some research. Some time ago I offered to give a talk to the astro club, and I started working on something about the planet Saturn. And then forgot every word about it. I’m down to be speaking in three months’ time. So I spent a while trying to find what I’d started, and then spent some time working on it. I’ve also said that I will try to scare up some display boards. eBay has failed me. If any of my loyal readers know of a supply of cheap display boards….

29 Mo-Vember 2009 (Sunday) - Another Rainy Sunday


Daddies Little Angel TM ” wasn’t happy today. “Spider-Pig” (one of her guinea pigs) had tiddled on her pyjamas. Oh, how I laughed.

Some time ago I bought some stuff for waterproofing the flat bit of roof above our bedroom. It would be nice to get a bit of time when it’s dry enough to borrow a ladder to actually put the stuff into place. I was again woken by the noise of the rain, and I then lay awake listening to the church bell clanging away.

I then continued with my PowerPoint presentation on Saturn for the astro club. I say “my” presentation. Over the years I’ve lectured on all sorts of subjects: Saturn, Mars, human blood and malaria to name but a few. And in every case, someone else has not only done it first, but also put a PowerPoint presentation in the Internet. So, rather than making myself a presentation from scratch, I just blag what’s already available. By the time I’ve replaced the posh words with knob jokes and changed the font, no one would ever know the difference. It still needs some fancy text effects to be added, but I’ve got three months to do that.

I also had a look on Beer in the Evening’s website. I haven’t been there for a while because of the annoying pop-ups that occur every time you click on anything. They’ve now gone, and I’ve wondering just how they work out their top twenty list of pubs. I’ve been watching it over the last week or so. The FILO (good pub!!) is currently in the number two position, but in the last few days it’s been up and down the top twenty. Starting in twelfth place, it dropped to eighteenth. Now it’s second, and no one has actually posted reviews or scored it to make it go up or down. What’s that all about?

And then, together with “Daddies Little Angel TM ” I went back to the seaside to carry on with painting a friend’s house. I originally intended to do garden stuff there today, but once again rain stopped play. So I gave the bathroom a second coat of paint. On reflection, using a paint roller for the first coat last Thursday was a mistake. Paint rollers suck fish. They might do the job quicker, but they actually use so little paint, you need to do the job so many times. With a brush, two coats and you’re done. I shall try to get back mid-week to do a second coat of paint in the bathroom. With a brush. The banister needs varnishing, the ceilings need a lick of white emulsion, and the skirtings, door frames and doors could do with some gloss. But those are all jobs to keep me out of mischief whilst the weather is grotty. Once those are done, I’ll be looking to start painting my garden fences.

I then had a fight with my printer. Trying to print twelve pages of “letter to the chokey #45” was too much for the poor thing. It was trying to feed a dozen pages through at once and kept jamming. I could be wrong, but I suspect this is a result of buying cheap paper from the cheap paper shop. Perhaps I should nick decent printer paper from work like everyone else does.

And with only one day to go, I’ve had a bit of a shave. The “chops” have gone, to be refashioned into a “zappa”-styple moustache. After all, Mo-Vember is all about moustaches, not chops or beards. I’ll stick this out for a day, and then tomorrow night I’ll have a proper shave. It can’t come quick enough…

30 Mo-Vember 2009 (Monday) - Stuff


A couple of weeks ago I sent a letter of complaint to the prison governor because some “little Hitler” mis-read the prison rules and wouldn’t let us take in the amount of cash we were allowed to. I’ve still to receive a response to that letter. But today I phoned the chokey to book another visit, and whilst I was on the phone I asked the nice lady about the amount of money that can be taken in. She was quite clear that it was fifteen quid by each visitor, not fifteen quid per group of visitors. I wonder if I’ll ever get an apology from the Governor. Somehow, I doubt it.

It’s now six months since I moved my on-line diary over to this blogger web site, and I must admit I’ve been very happy with it. Easier to use than my old Yahoo site, it has all sorts of add-ons like the picture show, the calendar, diary dates and links to other web sites and blogs. My blog has averaged one thousand visits per month, which is just over thirty hits a day. With regular readers all over the UK, to say nothing of my American, Canadian, Australian and Japanese followers, it never fails to amaze me how so many people want to know what a fat bald middle-aged twit is getting up to.

As my face-fur enters its last few hours, I’m making the most of it. But with all respect to my bearded readers, I *really* can’t see the attraction of having a beard or tash. I quite like the look of the photos of myself with the “chops”. But actually sporting the things isn’t something I could do permanently.

Last year’s moustache eventually raised £262.52 for research into prostate cancer. Today was the last day of this year’s moustache, and so far we’ve got twenty one quid in cash, fifteen quid in on-line donations, and promises of a further one hundred and eighty quid from the sponsor sheet at work. If any of my loyal readers would like to sponsor the thing (or its memory), please feel free. After all, this might be the last time you’ll have the chance – I’m not keen on doing it a third time.

Meanwhile, aliens have landed. Really! Apparently they have chosenBulgaria of all places to make themselves known, via the medium of crop circles. The deputy director of the Space Research Institute of the BulgarianAcademy of Sciences has confirmed their discussions with these extra-terrestrials. That’s nice – it will do wonders for Bulgaria’s tourism trade, if nothing else….