1 October 2009 (Thursday) - Back to the Chokey




Off to the train station for a short ride to the chokey. Talking too much meant we nearly missed the train, but only “nearly”. We went via Wetherspoons for some scoff. There are those that run down Wetherspoons, but I like the place. A bowl of soup, a Mexican wrap and a pint of “Nog”, and then up to the slammer. Again talking too much meant we were cutting it rather fine. Or that is compared to some visits we might have been. On some visits the formal ID checks start at 1.30pm. Today it was nearer 1.50pm. Today was my seventh visit, and I don’t think I’ve had the same ID checking & searching process twice. Which is probably a deliberate policy.


It all happened at HMP Slade today. One of the fitter warders was searching people with a rubber glove (which was a result), and one of the pikier visitors stood up and announced to the world that it was going to puke before running from the room. Whereas on Monday there were no refreshments, today we were allowed to go to the staff canteen to stock up. Those guards would seem to know how to trough down!! Home made cakes… my diet’s gone west. “Norman Stanley” seemed well – he’s been playing basketball. His team lost 42-2.


And then home again, and goodbye to Sue for another year. Or maybe not. We’ve chatted about the Milwaukee kite festival. A trip to the Great Lakes might just be on the cards – provisionally in September 2010 or 2011….



2 October 2009 (Friday) - A Day Off Work




Another day off work, and this time I was up and out of the house by 8.30am for a quick shopping trip. I have this plan to have a paved circle in the front garden. B&Q didn’t have anything. The Builder’s Centre had a large one on display, but the staff weren’t overly helpful. When I asked questions I was rather rudely given a catalogue and told to look up “Indian Sandstone”. When I commented that they didn’t have one in the size I wanted, they told me that the things only come in one size. Which turned out not to be the case. Wyevale had no paving circles, and precious little of anything else. There was so little stuff there that the place looked as though it was having a closing down sale. Bybrook Barn had exactly what I wanted. (They also had all their Xmas stuff on display but that is a rant for another time).


Now I just need to talk the family into wanting a paving circle in the front garden, and into helping me lay the thing. I suppose I could just put the slabs on the front garden, but I would imagine they would be far better cemented in place.


In years gone by I wouldn’t have bothered with a shopping trip. I would have bought the paving circle from eBay. eBay has the same one that Bybrook Barn has for sale, but over a hundred pounds more expensive. In the week I saw the complete Battlestar Galactica DVD set in Asda. Today I saw the same thing on eBay for twenty quid more. eBay isn’t the bargain it once was.


And then home to mow the lawn – something I’ve not done for a couple of weeks. The fences in the back garden look as though they could do with a lick of fence spray. I must admit to a wry smile. The fence panels are rather bare in patches. I painted them only six months ago. And they had a coat of paint a year before that. The paint tin claims it’s good for five years between applications. Perhaps I could kick up a fuss with the manufacturer. I would if I felt it might achieve anything. And then I realised the composting bin was getting full, so I took it (and some rubbish) to the tip. Bearing in mind the fun and games I’ve had with retards at the tip before, today’s visit was relatively painless.


Rat Man” visited this afternoon. He had a look up and down the garden and saw that the poison I’d put down two weeks ago still hadn’t been touched. He said that the poison being put down next door had been taken, and that if we did have any rats about the place, they’d be getting their poison there. I told him that I didn’t doubt there were rats; it was just that I hadn’t actually seen any. He had a look at my ultra-sonics and at Dave the plastic owl, and said he didn’t think he needed to do anything more rat-wise in the garden. He also said that the pond was fine, and that it wasn’t a rat attractor, which was a weight off my mind.


And then I took the car to be valeted. The thing was rather filled up with dead grass from the summer’s camping trips, and I’ve not got round to getting it cleaned out. I went to a place in Ellingham that advertised “Best hand job in town”. I’ve had better, but they are streets ahead of the blokes in Tesco’s car park. I got the car washed, tyres scrubbed, windows cleaned inside and out, and the thing hoovered throughout for a tenner. I did chuckle when I realised that the place is festooned with Union Jacks, and advertises itself as “The Great British Car Wash” but everyone there is Polish. But they did an excellent job. And with the car scrubbed out I put the car’s back seats where they should be. Namely in the car and not behind the sofa in the living room.


And then to Facebook. I spend far too much time on Facebook these days. It is really stupid. It has these silly applications “How much are you worth?”. So you answer some silly questions and a random number generator plucks a figure out of thin air. You publish this random number on your generator, and within ten minutes you’ll find that half a dozen of your mates have done the same quiz. And you gloat about those who are worth less than you, and sulk about those who are worth more.


And then you do quizzes such as “Which Jungle Animal Will Eat You?” And you keep pressing the refresh button to see how long it takes for your friends to cotton on to the fact that you’ve just done it, and to see which jungle animal will eat them. I suppose it keeps us off the streets…



3 October 2009 (Saturday) - To Warehorne




Once I’d cleared a load of demons out of NeverWinter we got on our bikes and set off to Warehorne. (Despite Matt’s sexy cycling trousers). Singleton hill was a tad steep, and the wind made today’s trip one of the hardest we’ve done in a while. But after an hour we arrived at the World’s Wonder to find they weren’t able to do dinner because of a Golden Wedding party. Bearing in mind the same thing had happened a few weeks ago, Matt had suggested in the week that I might phone in advance. Perhaps next time I plan a cycle ride, I might just do that. Still, we quaffed a pint of “WonderBrew” and decided to try our luck up the road at the Woolpack. We were lucky – they could feed us. So whilst perusing the menu we had a pint of “Woolpack Ale” and we settled an old argument.


I was proved wrong. “WonderBrew” is brewed specially for the World’s Wonder by Goachers. Several pubs have their own ale brewed for them by Goachers, and for years I have maintained that it’s all the same stuff with a different label. “Woolpack Ale” and “WonderBrew” are both pub-specific Goacher’s brews, and having just had a pint of “WonderBrew” down the road I was able to make a comparison with the “Woolpack Ale”. They were both very good, but very different. And I’d thought it was all the same stuff. One lives and learns.


A particularly good steak sarnie was scoffed, and we waved off those who’d driven with a sense of envy. The wind which had been in our faces all the way to Warehorne had changed direction entirely, and was in our faces all the way back home. So much so that we felt it necessary to stop off in Shadoxhurst for a crafty pint. And it was there that I realised that autumn has finally arrived. Some people judge where they are in the year by which flowers are in bloom. Others use the stars in the sky as their calendar. A lot of good friends of mine tell by which of the annual kite festivals are taking place. Me – the Kings Head was serving “Late Red” on the hand pump, which means that it is autumn. There are those that look to “Light Up The Sky” in the kite calendar, or to the arrival of the constellation of Orion. Me – I’ve realised it’s only a couple of months until I can get a pint of the Porter.


And then home where I sat in front of the telly and slept through three hours of SpongeBob SquarePants before having another look in NeverWinter. Those demons have come back, you know…



4 October 2009 (Sunday) - Wedding Anniversary



Being a Sunday morning I was awake early, waiting for the vicar to start ringing his bells. I didn’t hear them today, but since I was awake, I thought I’d spend some time in NeverWinter until ‘er indoors TM woke up. I was going to do her brekkie in bed, but the crumbs get everywhere. Today is our wedding anniversary. Twenty three years. According to the Internet twenty three is “silverplate”. Whatever that is.


We were taken out for dinner today. Having made something of a study of local eating establishments over the last year or so, choosing where to go was tricky. Since we were being driven, I thought we’d go for somewhere outside cycling range, which narrowed the choice down slightly. I wouldn’t mind trying the food at Blake’s in Dover. Chambers bar in Folkestone is always good. I wouldn’t mind a carvery at the FILO. But in the end we decided on the Ewe and Lamb in Rolvenden Layne. The roast dinner was good, as was the beer selection.


Afterwards we had a mooch around “World of Water” and Tenterden garden centre looking for paving circles (among other things). But no luck - they didn’t have any. So we came home again. I shall get one from Bybrook Barn over the next week or so, Mind you, what with one thing and another, it’s going to be a while until I have some spare time to lay the thing….



5 October 2009 (Monday) - To Maidstone




Monday and back to work via Tesco’s for some “lunch”. Perhaps I’ve turned to the dark side, but I’m getting quite used to salad for “lunch”. It’s now three weeks since I’ve had dinner. And I was more than slightly miffed – whilst I was off someone threw away my water bottle. Rather than buying a bottle of pop every day, I’d taken to filling a pop bottle with tap water and sticking it in the fridge. Some git has thrown away my bottle. Still, nil desperandum. In the brave new world, I’ll be able to get mineral water at 20p a bottle. And that 20p will be going straight to charidee. It’s a brainwave of Thames Water to supply cheap water to the masses, and will probably be the kiss of death to the pretentious bottled water market.


A phone call – could I collect “Daddies Little Angel TM ” from Maidstone East station. Apparently she made a point of going to the far end of the platform far away from the normal people to have a phone conversation, but still some jobsworth Hitler took exception to her “colourful metaphors”. After they’d had a forthright discussion on the matter, I drove to Maidstone to collect her and drive her home. Which was easier said than done.


I hate driving round Maidstone. The centre area is divided in two by the street that’s got McDonalds in it. I was on one side, trying to get across that road. Impossible!! All the roads approach McD’s, then do an abrupt about-turn. Eventually I got to the county offices, which isn’t far from the station, and I phoned her and told her to walk up to find me. She arrived five minutes later in a friend’s car. So why had I driven to Maidstone…?



6 October 2009 (Tuesday) - Stuff




Last night I got my new clothes horse out and put it through its paces. To be honest, I was expecting a lot more sarcasm about the thing than I have had (so far). It might look rather lame, but seeing as it’s not possible to actually get to the radiators to dry clothes over the winter, needs must.


To Tesco for more green tea. This time I’m trying “lemon & lime with a hint of orange”. It’s rather grim, but better than the apple flavoured muck I had last week. And it sorts out the oxidants too. Not that I’m aware of ever having had problems with an oxidant. I’m also told it’s good for my knee which, for all this diet lark, still creaks like a rusty hinge.


An early start at work, and bearing in mind I owed the place some time, I was in at 7.30am. Last Tuesday I mentioned that I need to be more positive about the place. It would seem that I’m not the only one. Whilst I was off, apparently management sprung a pep talk and told everyone how useless we all are. Which was nice.


And round to see Andy & Heather. A bit of a chat, and we discussed the mystery of the disappearing spoons. Mentioning no names, it seems odd that now his mother’s no longer with us, certain people seem very knowledgeable about spoons. And then we settled down to Michael McIntyre. I’d not heard of him before – he was really funny. Must look out for him again…



7 October 2009 (Wednesday) - Copper




My Boy TM ” is on lates this week, so I was hoping not to be woken too early today. He came home “quietly” at 3am this morning. I don’t know why I mention this – I’m sure my loyal readers in America and Canada heard him. I eventually got back to sleep only to be woken by the world’s worst backache at 6am. Some nights I am destined not to sleep.


Being on a late start myself, I had some time to spare his morning, so I prepared a crossword to send in to the chokey. “A wind breakage that sounds like one is about to be run over by Laurel and Hardy (5,1,4)” Any ideas?


And then to Tesco – the elastic had gone in my pants, so new undercrackers were the order of the day. Tesco’s didn’t do XL pants, so I went round to Matalan. Eventually I scared up some pants, and I got some other kit whilst I was at it. Including a new belt, as the old one is rather worn. But I had to hunt to find stuff in my size. Even allowing for the shrinkage of my girth due to the recent excesses of salad lunches, no one really seems to cater for the more rotund gentleman. Most trousers seem to stop at waist size 38. Surely I’m not the only porker who wears trousers?


And then I was nearly late into work. There was a fascinating article on the radio about the resurgence in the scrap metal market. Whilst they took great pains to explain how illegal it is to destroy money, the program claimed that the copper in a 2p coin is actually worth 3p. So were you able to take your 2p coins to the scrap yard, you’d get £1.50 for every quid you took there. Apparently the police have been investigating scrap metal merchants who’ve been doing this. I’m left wondering about how one can melt down copper….





8 October 2009 (Thursday) - Multilingualism and KFC




I see the Scottish M.E.P.s have scored a victory. They now have the right to use Gaelic as an official language in the European parliament. This is good for those M.E.P.s whose first language is Gaelic. Which is none of them. Why on Earth did they go to the bother? How many people speak Gaelic as their first language anyway? In the twenty first century shouldn’t we be looking to a unified world, rather than enhancing the divisions caused by language?


Another late start meant another morning wasted in NeverWinter before heading in to work half an hour early. Just as well I was early; a surprise meeting was sprung on me. Getting in half an hour early meant that by mid afternoon I was only running an hour late. I’ve another meeting tomorrow. I’ve heard (third-hand) that I’m in line to take the blame for somebody else’s stuff-up. We shall see.


And then home to find that ‘er indoors TM had gone out flogging candles without leaving me any tea. I sent “Daddies Little Angel TM ” up the road to get some diet KFC. Diet KFC is substantially like normal KFC, just you have a bit less of it. I had diet chips too….


In the meantime, here’s some light reading. Pay close attention – I shall be asking questions…




9 October 2009 (Friday) - Flippant, Unhelpful and Unprofessional




It’s occurred to me (on several occasions) that if I keep up this blog, relatives yet unborn will use it to find out about dead uncle Manky. It’s also occurred to me that they will wonder about what I did for a living, since I’ve made it my policy not to blog about work. Today I’ll make an exception which demonstrates why I’ve made this decision.


I left home before 7am and was at work two hours early this morning because I had a ton of paperwork to do, and not only is there not enough time to do it all, there aren’t enough PCs to do it on, either. So I figured that I might get there a couple of hours early and get the admin done before our limited equipment was needed for the business of the day.


I cut short the morning’s tea break in order to clear some of our backlog, and I missed lunch to go to a meeting with management. I had been given no idea what this meeting was about. Only that it had been cancelled and re-scheduled three times so’s I could actually be there. The other attendees of this meeting had no idea why I was needed, and the manager calling the meeting refused to give me any indication of why I needed to be there. Which is why I assumed it was to be a chuff-kicking. After half an hour of waiting for said manager to arrive, I gave up waiting.


Eventually I found this manager during the afternoon, and he gave me some management-speak about re-scheduling the meeting for another time. I wasn’t having any of that. I told him that no one had any idea why I was needed at a meeting to which I had absolutely nothing to contribute. Eventually he relented, and took me to his office where we could have a private chat.


It turned out that he wanted to talk about an incident from a few months ago when the auditors had come into our department. They were checking up on what I might flippantly describe as “trivial paperwork” – the sort of stuff that the Conservative party is promising to abolish should they get elected. I remember the auditors’ visit – it was when we were rather short handed and rather over worked. I welcomed them, and suggested that they got on with their audit, and if they needed anything, then they could ask me, whilst I was busying around the place. I rather naively hoped they could get on with what they wanted. Admittedly they were a nuisance because they made a point of standing right in the middle of the narrowest parts of the department. But I could walk round them, and left them to do their thing whilst I got on with what I considered to be more pressing work.


In their report, the auditors complained about me by name. As the most senior (only) person present, they felt I should have abandoned what I was doing. They felt I should have been at their beck and call. They didn’t like my flippant treatment of them. Apparently I was both unhelpful and unprofessional. It was also quite clear from my attitude that I didn’t care about the business of my work (!)


The manager who’d wanted to see me (three tiers of management up from me!) started off by taking a very understanding tone. He admitted that this audit was just a “snapshot in time”, and perhaps the auditors had “caught me at a difficult time”. But then he went on to say that he would like to think that had they audited at another time, then they would have found me able to give them my undivided attention. He then tried to send me on my way by suggesting that I might like to reflect on how I am perceived by others.


I took a deep breath, and (again) explained that we are doing at least double the work of a year or so ago with effectively half the staff. I also pointed out how early I got into work this morning, and asked him how many times each week he sees me in the department at least an hour before I should be there. He smiled at that – I don’t think he realises how much unpaid extra time I put in. (I wonder whether he thought I was being flippant, unhelpful and/or unprofessional)


Platitudes were blathered by both of us, and the row has been put to one side until next time. It would be very easy to say that I was in early today, and management can be sure it won’t happen again. But that just isn’t the case. On reflection I’m not upset or angered by today’s episode. If I have any reaction, it’s one of continued frustration. Because I know full well I shall be in early on Monday…



10 October 2009 (Saturday) - To Eastbourne




Once I’d cleared all the hobgoblins out of NeverWinter this morning, I started compiling this week’s letter to the chokey. This will be the thirty-eighth letter I’ve sent, and with it will be the nineteenth rude crossword. I’m amazed at how many letters and crosswords I’ve packed off over the last few months.


And then to Eastbourne. I’ve mentioned before that every year has regular special events – beer festivals in Canterbury, Folkestone and Dover. The Teston weekends. The bonfire parades. It’s also become something of a tradition to spend a day in Eastbourne on the second Saturday in October. Well, it is Corrinne’s birthday. We arrived a tad early today and thought we’d have a pint or two of lunch first. The very first time we came toEastbourne for birthday ice creams (five years ago) we drank in the beer festival which takes place just over the road from the ice cream parlour. We don’t do that any more. Much as I like a beer festival, I resent the prices some of them charge. Not for the beer, but to get in to the place. The people at Eastbourne beer festival wanted £5.50 admission, and then another couple of quid for the glass. You’d find yourself paying the price of a round of drinks (each) just to get in. So we went to the Buccaneer instead. A strange pub – whilst a free house it had very much a “Wetherspoons” feel about it. And although there was a choice of six ales, there wasn’t a single one that was in any way out of the ordinary, let alone unusual. But the soup wasn’t bad, and the cheesy chips went down a treat. Whilst scoffing, more family and friends arrived.


Once all were fed, it was over the road to the ice cream parlour to meet up with the birthday girl and the rest of our group. And once the Sevenoaks Massive had found out that I wasn’t joking when I said they were going to the wrong ice cream parlour and eventually arrived, there was nearly thirty of us. Ice creams were scoffed. And then more ice creams were scoffed. And whilst everyone else was still scoffing some of us thought that Charlottemight like to avail herself of the free wi-fi in the pub to download some i-games. So – to the pub (again), where I had a crafty pint. It would have been rude not to.


Thirty of us then had a stroll along the prom, played on the beach, scared the normal people, and even got a photo for CrackWatch

. We looked at the gift shop tat, then mooched around the pier where we were intrigued by the Victorian Tea Rooms. At first sight nothing seemed Victorian about the place, but it was suggested that the tea was brewed in 1871, and that the scones came from the Great Exhibition. We had chips, and then strolled back along the prom, pausing only briefly to watch Simon nearly get run over on a zebra crossing. The silly old woman driving the car wasn’t paying attention and nearly ran him down. As luck would have it, this idiot driver then parked her car some twenty yards down the road, and when we tackled her about the incident, it was plain she had absolutely no idea that she’d nearly killed someone.

And then, all too soon, it was time to come home. With the bittersweet feeling that another of the year’s milestones has been passed…



11 October 2009 (Sunday) - Duck Houses




A few weeks ago I mentioned about the bell in the church up the road. The thing was making its awful clanging again this morning at 9am. They’ve been banging that thing on three out of the last four Sunday mornings. I think I might just drop the vicar a line of complaint. Or I would if my printer was working.


To Staples for a colour ink cartridge. I got the large one, as it worked out to be better value. Mind you, for the price of two ink cartridges, I could have bought a whole new printer.

And then to the farm. Regular readers of this drivel may recall an entry from August 30th when we got a duck house out of the pond for repairs. Today the thing had completed its refit, and ready to be relaunched. The plan was to use it to replace another duck house which also needed to be refurbished. So, we loaded the smartened up duck house onto a trailer, tractored it to the pond, and we took a look at the one that needed to come out of the water. And then that’s where the fun started. Duck houses are heavy things. And when they’ve been floating in a pond for a year or so, they get waterlogged, and even heavier. You can’t pull them out of the pond. They are too heavy to pull. But you can push them. However pushing involves getting behind the duck house. And getting behind the duck house involves getting into the duck pond. I have known colder and smellier water, so I shouldn’t complain. Mind you the duck house itself was a bit whiffy with a year’s worth of accumulated duck poo. It was at this point that I lost my shoe in the pond.

With the old duck house onto dry land, we left it to drain for a bit. You’d be amazed how much water comes out of a duck house. Pausing only briefly to collect my shoe which was serenely sailing by, we then launched its replacement and tied it in place. Unless duck houses are firmly tied in place, they tend to drift to the shore where the foxes can get the ducks.


And then we put the duck float in place. A duck float is like a duck house, but without the house – it’s just a platform on which the ducks can stand and do whatever it is that ducks do. Duck floats are rather heavy – when I slipped in the mud and the thing landed on me, I was fully expecting my leg to break. Fortunately it landed on a tree stump rather than on me, and I lived to tell the tale. And to slip in more mud ten seconds later. Tying the duck float in place was tricky. As a new duck accessory, there was no rope in place to which to attach the thing, and provisional plans had me swimming the rope across the pond. However using “skill and expertise” I was able to use the duck float to sail the rope across the pond.

We then loaded the now drained old duck house onto the trailer and drove it back to the barn where someone else will hose out a year’s accumulation of duck poo. It’s amazing how much poo a duck generates. It’s also amazing how much maintenance a duck house needs. I’ve spent a bit of time both up to my goolies in duck ponds and up to my wrists in duck poo. If not an expert on the subject, I’d like to think I was more knowledgeable on the matter than the average fat bloke. I’m told that my new-found “skill and expertise” will be called on again in a few weeks time when not only will we re-float the old duck house, but we may even try our hands at a mallard house. If any of my loyal reader would care to be educated in the ancient lore of the duck house, I’m sure their help would be gratefully appreciated…..




12 October 2009 (Monday) - Quality Telly




Have you heard the news – I am *so* excited. Arguably the best thing ever to happen to the entire concept of television will hit our screens next year – “Upstairs Downstairs – The Next Generation”. Set in 1936, it will feature Jean Marsh as Rose, who will be back in Eaton Place. The rumours are that once more Royalty will visit number 165. A quick squzz in Wikipedia showed that apart from Mr Hudson, Mrs Bridges and “is lawdship”, most of the original cast are (surprisingly) still alive, and some may be making cameo appearances. I wonder if the fact that Gordon Jackson has been dead for twenty years will be enough to prevent them from wheeling on Mr Udson?


Meanwhile it’s possible I might be forced to have an injection. Every year I’m offered a flu jab, and every year I turn it down. Why? – Because over the years it’s been my experience that those who don’t have the jab don’t get flu anyway. And those who have the jab usually are ill with the reaction that they have to the jab. This year it would seem the jab has had a record low take-up, and Whitehall mandarins are concerned that if staff don’t get jabbed they will pass the flu onto already sick patients. Presumably these bureaucrats have never heard of the concept of “disease carriers”.


And in closing, it’s been brought to my attention that the “vile lies” in my blog are causing offence and upset. If anyone could shed light on what these “vile lies” are, please let me know. I shall be hiding in NeverWinter…





13 October 2009 (Tuesday) - Stuff




Sometimes I hate NeverWinter Nights. I’ve spent ages trekking through swamps, deserts and jungles, and now my character is stuck in the temple of total evil and is facing the indestructible hoards, and the game refuses to save. Still, it’s better that Dungeons & Dragons Tiny Adventures on Facebook. You just tell that what mission you want to do, and Facebook tells you what happened afterwards. What’s that all about? And if you’re not into D&D, then this paragraph is utterly meaningless, isn’t it…

With less than two weeks until Astrobash, it’s been suggested that I change the design template on my presentation so’s all the speakers use the same. A very good idea, with only one small drawback. I can’t figure out how to use the template I’ve been sent. I’m sure I’m being really dumb, but if any of my loyal readers are PowerPoint whizzes, I’m smiling hopefully.


The doorbell rang – some scary looking biddy with a clip board was there and asked me if I was Mrs Jones. With a straight face, I said that I wasn’t. She consulted her clip board again, and asked if I was sure. I was sure. However she didn’t believe me, and she insisted that Mrs Jones should live at the address on her clip board. I suggested that Mrs Jones may well live at the address on her clip board. But she had the wrong house – and the wrong road.

I pointed up the road to where she might find Christchurch Road. She looked at her clip board yet again, and then told me we were in Christchurch Road. I told her we weren’t. She consulted her clip board yet again, and asked if I was sure. I had to admire her faith in her clip board. Even in the face of utter failure, she was still deferring to it. I again pointed out Christ Church, and again explained that’s where Christchurch Road could be found. And then I went in, and left her standing on the doorstep. When I left for work half an hour later, she was gone. I wonder if she found Christchurch Road.


And then to work where the scary new secretary once again stopped me to see what tie I was wearing today. She told me she likes my ties, and looks forward to seeing what I have on each day. I haven’t the heart to tell her I’ve worn the same tie for over a year….





14 October 2009 (Wednesday) - Ironing, Diversions, Basketball




Up at the crack of dawn, and on with the ironing for an hour or so, whilst watching the antics of Space Pilot John Lee. He is the man – Japan’s answer to Gerry Anderson invented Star Fleet some time ago, and it is so awful, it’s actually brilliant. Take this morning’s episode – the hermaphrodite baddie utterly destroyed Star Fleet’s Pluto base. Following a continued bombardment with laser torpedoes, it was totally trashed beyond any possible repair. There was nothing left but smouldering ruins. And for good measure, the baddies then blew those ruins up. Some scary looking puppet with a bad haircut (who was actually the good guy) sent out a couple of spanners with a hammer, and they fixed it up, good as new, in five minutes. Quality…


Having cut myself shaving this morning, I set off for work with bits of loo roll adhering to my face in a lame attempt to stop the bleeding. I knew things had got off to a bad start what with Space Pilot John Lee and the shaving laceration, but I wasn’t expecting what came next. As I was driving up the dual carriageway toward McDonalds, there were juggernauts coming over the hill. Coming straight at me in my lane. Pausing only briefly to scrape my pants out, I realised they had a police escort. It turned out that a lorry had overturned on the roundabout by the motorway, but I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was that I found myself diverted back the way I came. Being in need of salad (how lame is that?) I decided to go via Sainsburys. However thanks to the traffic problems, it took an age to get there. And when I did, I was greeted by the staff brandishing tissues and sponges – my shaving cut was still bleeding. I eventually got to work over an hour after I left home – I have walked to work faster.


And I needed to be in early today as well. I’d been summoned to a meeting in Canterbury for 2pm. I’d argued the toss, but been formally ordered to this meeting. Let’s just say that the meeting (and associated travelling time) took two and a half hours. And the crux of the meeting could have been emailed to me in two lines of text. I made a point of keeping my mouth shut and saying nothing - it’s always the same at meetings. We just get into a “I’m busier than you with knobs on” squabble, when in actuality everyone would be far more constructively employed in getting on with their work.


I eventually got back to do some work, and received a revelation. I’m not the only bloke on the planet that does ironing. One of my junior colleagues was also up at silly o’clock doing ironing. He has this theory that when his beloved sees all his hard work, she will be suitably impressed. And therefore will give him “a portion” as a reward later. If that’s the case, I think I’ll give up ironing here and now.


A phone call from the chokey. “Norman Stanley” has once more played basketball. Following last week’s 42-2 defeat, and “Norman Stanley” throwing up after three minutes physical exertion, this week’s game was more successful. The team they were playing against had lost their last game 78-0, so the “Harlem Globetrotters” went into the game in high spirits. They lost 28-2.


And in closing, I received a comment on yesterdays’ blog entry. Well, I received two. Cheers Andy – but I’ve figured out PowerPoint. But do come along to AstroBash on the 24th to see the finished presentation. And the dalek. And the bouncy castle. And the ….. you get the message, I’m sure. I hope all my loyal readers can come to AstroBash – it’s going to be fun.


But the second comment I received I rejected. Karim left a link to a website which he claimed was a “Very thoughtfull post on Self Improvement. It should be very much helpfull”. Sorry, Karim, but this is my diary, my reflections and my rantings. If there’s going to be anyone doing blatant profiteering, it’s going to be me. Does anyone want to buy a candle…..




15 October 2009 (Thursday) - The Psychic Fair




To the psychic fair. Oh dear. ‘er indoors TM was selling candles, and I thought I’d come along for the evening. We set up between the foxy bird doing manicures and some strange looking bloke who (for only fifteen quid) would photograph your aura. There was a stall flogging very overpriced home made jewellery next to another stall flogging tree stumps filled with sand. There was head massage, reiki, feng shui, oo-flung-dung, and half a dozen mediums. I say “mediums” – two of them were bordering on double X-L.

And the people there…. ‘er indoors TM has formally forbidden me to use the term “freak show”. Have you ever watched “Carry On at Your Convenience”? There is a scene in which Sid James dresses up as a fortune teller. I could be mistaken, but I’m sure that I saw Sid doing the tarot cards this evening. And as for the tarot reading she did (just the one)… I’m sure that there may well be something in tarot when done properly. But Sid wasn’t doing it properly. Sid was so vague. “This card indicates money worries – you would like to be more financially stable”. Who on Earth would disagree with that? As trade on the candle stall was rather slack, I was able to nosey in on the tarot. I honestly think I could do what Sid was doing, her predictions and pronouncements were so open ended and non-committal. “You need to be more decisive”, “You are a kind caring person”. I could barely stop myself from laughing out loud as the gullible punter lapped it all up.

After all, if Sid really was psychic, she would have known that she was only going to have one punter all night long. And she would have known that the fiver she got for it wouldn’t even have covered her petrol money fromMargate. And also, I would have thought that any psychic worth their salt would have sufficient extra sensory perceptive powers so as not to get lost on the way to the psychic fair. And then, just as I thought it couldn’t get better, two real live proper hippies came in. Oh, they were great. And we flogged them some candles too. I’m told there’s an all day event in a few weeks time – I’m looking forward to it.


And in closing, I see my blog entry for 8th October has attracted some comments. A week ago I grumbled about the fallacy of wasting thousands of pounds of tax payers’ money on translating documents for members of the European Parliament into a language none of them actually speak. “Anonymous” has clearly misunderstood my point, and has taken offence. And given some. If I knew who they were, I’d report them for their second post. It was a bit rude, so I deleted it before Blogger saw it and closed me down. I’m wondering why that person posted their comments anonymously. Either not bright enough to get a Google account, or not brave enough to post without the anonymity. I’ll see if I can jig the blog settings to do away with anonymous postings. After all, if someone has something to say, then they can say who they are as they say it. After all, that’s what I do here, every day….



16 October 2009 (Friday) - Another Day,




I woke this morning feeling absolutely grim. I ache as though I have been doing hard physical labour all yesterday. I wonder what that’s all about? A late start gave me time to muck about in NeverWinter for a bit. I’m not entirely sure that the game hasn’t corrupted in some way – the last few mods I’ve played have crashed. Either dodgy modules, or the PC is acting up. We shall see. And then I got together some more clues for the next crossword to go to the chokey. “That which Captain Kirk declares when dealing with more than just Klingons (5,5)” And I still found time to put the finishing touches to the presentation on Mars I’m doing at next week’s AstroBash.


To the Renault dealer – the battery on my car key has been getting a tad flat lately. You know it’s a bit iffy when you take the battery out of the key and rub it to make it work. And I’ve been doing that all week. It’s funny how it slips your mind when you are able to do something about it, and you only remember when in a darkened car park.


And then to Tesco for some supplies for the weekend. Let’s hope I end up needing them – or being able to use them. Work was somewhat problematical today – I was in too early, and was rather late (9pm) getting out. And I intend to be in at very silly o’clock tomorrow, and have no idea when I’ll be finished. I.T. is great stuff all the time it works. And when it goes wrong…. it’s a pain. It’s at times like this when I remember my posting of a week ago when I was called unprofessional by someone who went home at 5pm today, and won’t be back until Monday morning…


On the plus side, “Daddies Little Angel TM ” has her new overalls, and is putting them to good use…




17 October 2009 (Saturday) - Hastings Bonfire




Having stayed at work till 9pm last night I thought I’d have an early night in readiness for the planned early start. Just as I got into bed the phone rang. And so I was back to work to sort problems. Back to bed shortly after midnight, only to be woken an hour later by a text to say all was going as I thought it probably would. Knowing an early start was on the cards, I didn’t sleep much, and was back at work by 6am for another seven hours. The problem is now, if not solved, at least as solved as it can be until Monday.


Home for a quick sandwich and to pick up the rucksack of beers. Together with Brian we got the train to Hastings‘er indoors TM phoned just as we got off the train. Where were we? I said we were going for a pint of lunch, and she said she’d join us. So we walked up to the FILO where they had a beer festival on, and ordered two pints of the house mild. And then my mobile went. Her exact words were “how far have you got?”, so I replied “half way through the first pint”. What she actually meant was “where are you?” – I’d apparently said I was going to the kite flying before going to the pub. I don’t know why she’d ever have thought that. But soon she was in the pub with us. Together with friends from far and wide, including Kev with whom I went to Boys Brigade all those years ago.


After four pints of the mild, we thought we’d brave the beer festival selection, and had a storming pint of something black from a barrel, before going back onto the mild. At the gallon point, it was time for chips, and so to the Blue Dolphin chip shop where we met up with more friends and more family. Suitably fed, we then joined the thronging thousands to cheer the bonfire procession.


Hastings bonfire procession can be a bit of a scrum. It’s quite easy to lose people in the crowds. Especially when you are part of a party of nearly thirty people. And even more so when (for no adequately explained reason) you are feeling the need to tiddle every few minutes. But the procession was fun, the fireworks were good, and I think (hope) I managed to say goodbye to everyone before sleeping all the way home.


Same time next year….



18 October 2009 (Sunday) - A New Telly




I wasn’t on top form this morning – can’t imagine why I might be feeling under the weather. So you can imagine my reaction when “Daddies Little Angel TM ” was ringing the doorbell at 8am, having locked herself out. I got back to bed, and waited for the church bell to start. It didn’t, but then I heard the front door opening, and “coo-eee!!” echoed up the stairs. Nathan was visiting. Then the phone rang. Had we received an email from the arky-ologee club? No. Had we forwarded it to the other club members? Obviously not. Why not…? Then “Norman Stanley” rang. Things aren’t as peachy as they might be in HMP Slade..


Whilst preparing myself a spot of brekky, I found some tea bags in the sugar bowl. I’m told that keeping the two in the same container saves time in the mornings. And then to Facebook whilst scoffing said brekky. Yesterday in Hastings I spent all day lugging around a rucksack full of bottles of beer that I never drank. And I thought it was a shame that I never met up with Andrew and Sandra. Sandra has put up a photo of me from last night drinking a bottle of that beer. It’s amazing what you miss when you’re not paying attention.

The plan for today was to go to Chip’s house to collect his old telly, but he phoned and said he’d bring it round. I’ve been getting a tad fed up with our old non-widescreen telly. It’s surprising how much of the action of a TV show is happening off the edge of our screen. Chip was getting a new telly, and said we could have his old one. There was a minor hiccup – the stand it came with was four inches too big to fit into the space we had. And so toArgos to collect a TV stand. I had this idea that we could be to Argos, back and have the tellys swapped over in an hour. I forgot about the fun that is flat-packed furniture. Mind you, over the years the quality of flat packed furniture instructions has improved. I got the new stand together in less than two hours. And then I turned the telly on. It didn’t work. So I re-tuned it. Nothing. Not a sausage. So I wondered if I had the right scart lead plugged in – I had half a dozen to choose from.


It was at this point that I got the red mist, and stripped all the shelves off. We have so much rubbish in the living room. Over the years, if a scart lead has been a bit iffy, we’ve just got a new one and left the old one in place. I dinged out half a dozen assorted leads from behind the Sky box, to say nothing of a VHS deck, amplifier, tape deck and CD player that aren’t connected to anything. They can go into the attic for later. With the spaghetti of cables simplified to those that were actually doing something, the TV started working. The “on” switch is being somewhat problematical (in that it don’t work), but judicious fiddling with the program button does the trick.

And now it’s Sunday evening. Time to write to the chokey again.



19 October 2009 (Monday) - Frogs, eBay, Polystyrene




A near crisis last night – the family frog disappeared. I wonder how many of my loyal readers knew we have a family frog. His name is “Stewie”, he’s about an inch long, and we had tears until he was found again. He was lurking under the log in his tank. Which is where he was supposed to be all along.


A late start today meant I had some time on my hands, so yet more revisions to my presentation for Saturday’s AstroBash. I really should stop mucking it about now, but I know what will happen. No matter how many times I go through it, on the day I will pop up a slide with some strange picture, and have absolutely no idea what I am supposed to say about it, and go completely blank with hundreds of people staring at me. It’s a good job I don’t embarrass easily.


And then I put our old telly up on eBay. Whilst it’s now surplus to requirements, it’s still a good working telly, and (I think) it’s too good to throw away. Someone might want it, so I thought I’d try a 99p starting bid on eBay, and see what happens. You can see the auction here. And what fun I had listing the thing. First of all it quite happily found the picture and showed it on the listing, but I still had a warning that the picture’s web address wasn’t valid. And then eBay formally warned me about the item title. You’ll see I’ve described it as “used”. This is acceptable. My initial description of “not new” was misleading, as people will interpret that to imply the thing is new. Or so eBay told me. For the sake of 99p, next time I have an old telly I shall take it up the tip.

Talking of the tip, I went there today to ding out all the cardboard about the place. Where does it all come from? I also thought I’d throw away the bags of packaging in the shed. When I got to the tip, I found the bags had holes in them. The polystyrene wotsits went everywhere. Oh the man at the tip did laugh….



20 October 2009 (Tuesday) - Stuff




If you look at the bottom of the main blog page page, you’ll see a link marked “View Site Stats”. This link fascinates me. Not only does it tell me how many people have looked at this blog, it tells me if they are first time visitors as well. It would seem that there would be an addition to my regular subscribers. There’s now someone in the Sydney (Australia) area. G’Day!!

I revamped the Astro club flyer this morning. It’s not too bad, but the maps could probably be better. I have a sneaking suspicion I might have missed a committee meeting last night, but then, I’m not on the committee any more. Not that such a trivial point would prevent me from sticking my oar in, anyway.


I wasted an hour or so getting the AstroBash logo onto the Blogger website. I can’t say I’m 100% happy with the result, but it’s now better than my first attempts were. I’m hoping to use “blatant plugging” to scare up some sponsorship next month. If my loyal readership thought last year’s charity moustache-growing was bad, this year I’m going for the full beard. It’s less than two weeks till Mo-Vember and I’ve already got a team of seven (so far) poised to grow assorted facial hair. If any of my loyal readers want to join in, feel free. Interestingly, all the stuff I did last year is no longer on the Mo-Vember web site. The team has gone; my log-in is not recognised. Perhaps everyone starts afresh each year. Which is probably for the best…



21 October 2009 (Wednesday) - A Trip to the Wicked City




On average, work requires me to go to the University of Westminster a couple of times a year. I say “on average” as today was my first trip up there for three years. Things started as usual. The price of the tickets quoted on the Internet bore no relation to the actual price of the ticket. Reality wanted three pounds more. I took the train to Charing Cross and then rather than taking the tube (four stops) I walked to the University along Charing Cross Road and then up Tottenham Court Road. I don’t like London, and this was confirmed as I saw all the homeless people sleeping in the alleys along Charing Cross Road. My plan was to pop into some of the bookshops. “Murder One”, (one of the better bookshops) has gone. It’s not there any more. Neither is the Virgin MegaStore or HMV. Which was a bit of a problem, as I had this naïve idea to get some Xmas pressies.

I contented myself by looking in some of the electrical shops along Tottenham Court Road. There are a lot that specialise in mobile phones, computers, cameras, that sort of thing. And all have names that end in –tronics. Presumably because that sounds electrical-ish to people who speak English very badly. The assistant in one shop wondered if she could help me. I said I was browsing for ideas for the wife’s Chrimbo pressie. That foxed her. So I explained that I didn’t have anything specific in mind, but was looking for something for my wife’s Christmas present. She asked if it was a present for a special occasion. Christmas, I told her. She then asked if it was a present for a special person. The wife. She asked if *he* was special. I resisted the temptation to reply with “no, just some fish featured fat bum who hangs around the house generating laundry”. Instead I made my excuses and wandered to the next shop.

The next shop didn’t employ any native English speakers either. Neither did any of the electrical shops. Or the gift shops. Or the market stalls. Or Starbucks, where I stopped for a Frappuchino (!). And then I realised that everyone walking past who was using a mobile phone was gabbling away in every language under the sun except English. As I walked past the Scientologists place I saw they had a stand with their equivalent of the Bible on display. In Chinese, Polish, Arabic and (again) everything except English.

I realise the last time I touched on the topic of multi-lingualism I got anonymous hate mail. So let me be clear. I’m not advocating neo-nazi policies (as my critics would accuse me), it just seems amazing that so few people in England’s capital city have English as their first language.

And then I nearly got arrested.

For any of my loyal readers who’ve never been to London, never use a public telephone. They are actually quite shocking. Most of the phone boxes in London are festooned with postcard adverts. All put there by ladies of loose morals (or their associates) advertising their services and their mobile phone number. And these adverts aren’t shy in describing exactly what services these ladies of loose morals offer. And the pictures on these postcards leave little to the imagination. Some of them are rather disgusting. So, faced with filth in every phone box, I thought I’d take a couple of these “calling cards” to post into the chokey with the next letter. It’s odd how these things always seem to be a good idea at the time.

As I picked up a couple of cards, a snotty young constable cornered me in the phone box. Arrogantly he demanded to know what I was doing. As I explained, I saw a look of amazement on his face. “You speak English” he said. So I again explained what I was doing. He told me it was illegal to put up these adverts in phone boxes, and how he is expected to remove them and destroy them. Bearing in mind how close I was to being nicked, I thought it prudent not to point out how poor a job he was doing (if the amount of adverts up and down the road was anything to go by). I asked if I could keep the two postcards I had. He said no, took them off me and ripped them up. He then warned me that if he caught me putting up any more mucky adverts, he’d arrest me. He then marched off down the road with a rather self-important manner. Silly constable! I walked up the road to the next phone box and took two mucky adverts from that one instead. I shall post them into HMP Slade next Monday. I just hope “Norman Stanley” appreciates what I went through for him today…





22 October 2009 (Thursday) - A Sabbatical?




I was up with the lark today, shirts ironed and off to Tesco for “lunch”. As always I used the self service tills. It would seem that these are the future. Tesco are now opening branches that only have self-service tills. That would suit me, but where are the retards going to shop? My guess would be Asda, as they seem to be against the whole self-service idea.


I must admit to a degree of disappointment with regard to how well my telly is doing on eBay. The thing has only been looked at 23 times, and six of those were me. It’s finally off the mark with a single bid at the starting price of 99p, I‘m hoping to end up with at least the price of a pint. Mind you, it’s got two “watchers”, and I’ve had a couple of questions emailed in about the thing.


I spent a final five minutes on my Mars presentation for the weekend. I know I should leave it alone, but I found something to add. The European Space Agency wants volunteers for a mock-up of a mission to Mars. These volunteers will spend 520 days in a simulated spaceship (in reality somewhere outside Moscow), and then make themselves available for up to a year afterwards. I qualify for some of the required criteria – I’m the right age and height, and have one of the required scientific backgrounds. The family are supportive. Or, that is, they were once they stopped laughing and realised I was serious about it. Which I am. A Mars simulation might be fun.

The two main stumbling blocks are that I’m too fat and I don’t speak Russian. Well, the diet’s progressing well. I just wonder how long it would take to get fluent in another language. “Perestroika, Glasnost. Roubles” – I’m half way there already…



23 October 2009 (Friday) - Going to Mars...




It’s occurred to me that if I’m actually going to be part of the Mars 500 project, I’m going to need some time off work. I’ve checked the NHS guidelines on taking extended periods of leave. The document covered eventualities such as paternity leave, jury service, voluntary work, military service. However the person who drew up the publication wasn’t as far sighted as they might have been. Nowhere is there mention of leave for simulations of interplanetary missions. The closest I could find was “extraordinary circumstances”. I suppose being locked in a warehouse in Moscow pretending to be on a spaceship counts as “extraordinary circumstances”. In these cases, leave can be granted at the discretion of management. My boss didn’t actually say no when I asked him. Come to that he didn’t actually say anything. He was rather silent for a bit, and then he started laughing.

A reaction shared by most people, actually. Some people are so negative. And others are practical. A colleague today asked what the toilet arrangements would be on the voyage. Suggestions ranged from shoving one’s bottom out the window to using nappies. There was talk of a complicated arrangement with a vacuum cleaner, but I pretended not to listen to that. There were also questions asked about the catering. I’m told that on the trip I would get “rations”. That would be a result. I just need to lose a bit more weight, and learn to speak Russian, and then I shall be off to Mars. Or Moscow, at least.

Meanwhile over on eBay the bids on the telly would seem to have peaked at 99p. I’d like to think that great things will happen with this auction over the weekend, but my hopes aren’t that high.


And then to the Chinese restaurant in town for a work’s bash. A fun evening and the food was good. Shame about the service….



24 October 2009 (Saturday) - AstroBash




To Argos to get “Daddies Little Angel TM ” the chair she’s been asking for. And then to Tesco for petrol, where I did something I’ve never done before. I reset the car’s fuel consumption gadget. Normally after refuelling it thinks the car has a range of 439 miles until it needs petrol. Now it thinks the range is 516 miles. I just hope I don’t run out of petrol sixty miles sooner than I’m expecting.


To Woodchurch for AstroBash. I had this idea that if I got there for 11am I’d be one of the first ones to arrive, and could help with the setting up. When I turned up, there were a dozen people already in the throes of getting ready. I was able to help with fetching and carrying tables around, and with putting out chairs, and generally getting in people’s way. I then spent ten minutes winding the children up. “No – your daddy hasn’t got to get the planetarium – I just saw him in the pub.” Oh, such fun.


And then the dalek man arrived. One of the members of a nearby astronomy club had made his very own dalek, and brought it along for the day. Would anyone be good enough to sit inside it and operate it for a while? Hmmm… Let me think about that one. Oh, it was brilliant. Sitting inside I could move the thing all over the place, and operate the eye stalk and the plunger. I even had a tin of smoke I could spray out of the exterminator. You can see the video on Facebook. Mind you, it soon got rather hot inside the dalek, to say nothing of being a tad claustrophobic.


I eventually emerged from the dalek to find Lyn had arrived with the bouncy castle, and so we put that up. In the rain. I must admit to being somewhat miffed about the weather. People had put in loads of effort for the day. Me – I’d not done much, really. I’d printed some flyers, got a hand stamp and some raffle tickets, and volunteered to generally dogsbody as required. But others had spent weeks in preparation. The weather looked set to spoil the day. The event formally opened at 2pm, and by 2.30pm we’d only had nine paying punters. So I got myself an ice cream, and I made a conscious decision. The rain was beyond my control, but my attitude to the rain wasn’t. I could sulk, or I could make the most of the day.


Astrobash was a really good event, with loads on offer. The raffle was excellent, with quality prizes - telescopes, books signed by Sir Patrick Moore, and really good airfix kits. There was rocket making and planet painting for the kiddies. There was a stall selling bits of astronomical kit. There was a jam stall with profits going to the club. There was a telescope display. There was a lunar module lander simulator. We had the use of the University’s planetarium with twenty minute presentations going on at intervals all afternoon. Outside we had stomp-rockets, a bouncy castle, and we’d even managed to be able to intercept and decode the signal from orbiting weather satellites. And there were talks from expert speakers (including me – I’m an expert!!)

And as the data from the weather satellites predicted, as the afternoon wore on, the weather got better. By the time I got to my fourth ice cream the rain had stopped, and the hall was rather crowded with people. As always at the astro club, I hawked the raffle noisily. I had to be noisy – AstroBash was a very noisy place. When the time came for my talk I was grateful for the P.A. system. Normally when I speak at the astro club, it’s in a darkened hall and everyone is listening. Today I was speaking with everything going on around me, and it took a while to capture everyone’s attention. I had been given twenty minutes. I went on too long, but I think the punters enjoyed the show.


We called the raffle, and then set up telescopes outside. We were able to see the moon and some stars through breaks in the cloud. And, as always I then helped with the tidying away. There are those members of the club who are far more knowledgeable about telescopy-things than I am, and they are far better employed talking to the “normal people” than I would be. The planetarium had to be returned to the University in Canterbury that night, so I loaded up the car and set off. That was a job that wouldn’t take long. Or so I thought. I rather suspected everyone would have packed up by the time I finished that job, but I drove back to Woodchurch just in case. As I suspected, everyone had gone. Oh well – I knew they would be gone anyway….

You can see the photos here. Same time next year…?



25 October 2009 (Sunday) - The Day After




Having the clocks going back an hour last night gave me an extra hour in bed before the church bell up the road started its infernal clanging. The household’s womenfolk set off to London reasonably early, giving me the morning to fiddle around. I managed to change the blog slide show to feature an album of photos from yesterday’s AstroBash. The blog slide show is a strange thing. Having uploaded an album of photos to it, there is then an interval of about twelve hours before the photos become available to use. Annoying…


I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s Astrobash. Now I’m no longer the treasurer, I don’t have access to the finances. But weighing my estimates the cost of the raffle prizes and the hall hire, and other miscellaneous expenses against how many raffle tickets were sold and how many paying punters turned up, I’m of the opinion that the event financially probably broke even. (I’d be interested to find out if I am right in this guesstimate). Having said that, the event wasn’t about making money. It was initially suggested a year ago, and was intended to be a fun event as just one of many events organised nationally for the International Year of Astronomy. As things turned out, there were precious few IYA events locally this year. AstroBash was the only one within many miles that I’d heard of, and even allowing for the weather, I think the day was a resounding success. I hope we organise something similar for next year.


Now my talk on Mars is over and done with, I’m feeling at a bit of a lose end. I see that the astro club program of talks for next year is still to be announced. I wonder if I could do another presentation. After all, yesterday I was described as “something of an institution in the club”, and I have found some eminently blaggable PowerPoint presentations about the planet Saturn on Cornell University’s website. I say “blaggable” – I have no qualms of conscience in using such presentations. I can’t help but feel that if people didn’t want their presentations to be used, they wouldn’t put them on the Internet.


Talking of blagging other people’s work, I found this today. Look at the video about half way down the page. And click on it, to go to the original video on You-Tube. Do you recognise who made that video?


I got a message that there was a newer version of my anti virus available. Seeing as I’m a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to anti virus software and use the free version, something for nothing is always a good thing. But (as always) the upgrade, whilst simple enough in theory, took an hour to actually do.


And then to Maidstone to visit my god-daughter and her family. We had a brill time, and an excellent bit of scoff. We don’t see them anywhere near enough. Must go back soon…



26 October 2009 (Monday) - Bit Dull, Really




It’s been brought to my attention that with a minimal bit of effort, I could be in the Guinness Book of Records. This weekend there is an attempt to stage the world’s biggest performance of the Time Warp. The current record was performed in Melbourne a while back, and the organisers are trying to get 1500 people along. It could be fun, - after all, it’s “just a jump to the left”. I wonder how many of my loyal readers I might drag along. Judging by the lack of response to the email I’ve sent out (one reply – can’t make it), my hopes aren’t that high. We shall see.


I saw the Rocky Horror show at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury some years ago. I’d like to see it again, but the closest it’s coming (in this year’s run) is Brighton and Bromley. Which is typical of most of the travelling stage shows these days. None of them ever come anywhere near Badger-Land.


And so to Tesco for salad. And more green tea – I’ve run out. I’m now onto the nettle & fennel because of its alleged “cleansing powers”. The stuff smells of liquorice and tastes how I imagine dog poo would taste. But I suppose it’s still anti-oxidant. And all the time I’ve been drinking the stuff I have never been harassed by an oxidant, so it must be doing some good.


And them to work for a meeting. I managed to stay awake throughout the meeting, which is more than one of my trainees did today. And I volunteered for something. Next week is National Pathology Week and we have the use of a “retail marketing unit” in the town centre. On (or in) this we will mount a display about pathology. I’ve volunteered to lurk around the “retail marketing unit” and talk to the normal people, mainly because I know a good skive when I see one. The only problem is there’s just the slightest bit of uncertainty as to what a “retail marketing unit” is. I’m hoping it’s a shop, but I suspect we’re talking a market –type barrow. We shall see. If any of my loyal readers are around Ashford town centre next weekend, feel free to bring a pint over to the “retail marketing unit”….



27 October 2009 (Tuesday) - A Day Off


I was called in to work (again) last night to fix the I.T. It’s a good job that I’m not unprofessional, and am happy to be available to shore up the system when there are occasional hiccups. By the time I’d collected the projector (for Wednesday), mucked about at work and checked my emails, the evening had gone. Mind you, one of the emails told me my telly had sold. For the princely sum of 99p. I was hoping for a tad more profit, but such is life. Having said that, the lucky winner is yet to contact me, so perhaps I won’t even get that 99p.


Since work owes me a lot of time (and more from last night), I thought I’d take today off work. I deserve it. I cracked on with my PowerPoint presentation on the planet Saturn. I say “my presentation” – it’s based on (i.e. blagged from) something done by Cornell University. But I’ve emailed them and got their permission to use it. To be honest, once I’ve taken out the big words and thrown in some knob jokes, no one would be any the wiser. As they said themselves, if they didn’t want it used by the likes of me, they would never have put it on the Internet in the first place. It’s a good thing that Saturn looks pretty. There are absolutely no comic-book aliens I can illustrate the talk with, and the planet doesn’t sound the slightest bit rude either. Mind you, it does have the Death Star from “Star Wars” in orbit around it, so all is not lost. (It really does – look up “Mimas” on Wikipedia)


And then I had a look at my accounts. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a good idea – I only scare myself. I see that sometime in August I spent £16.10 on assorted groceries in Tesco that still hasn’t appeared on my credit card bill. I shall keep quiet about that. It wouldn’t be the first time Tesco have forgotten to bill me.


I then wasted an hour trying to find my keys. I used them last night to unlock the front door when I came home from work for the second time. But this morning they weren’t with my car key (where they should be). I’ve so much more I could be doing than looking for keys. And then the keys just appeared back on their hook some time during the afternoon. What was that all about?


A letter arrived from the chokey today, and “Norman Stanley” phoned just as I was about to open the letter. He seems a lot more positive than he has been – the basketball team is getting coaching – or, that is those members of the team that can be bothered to show up are getting coaching. He scored a basket in their most recent match – and they have improved their scoring by 500%, nor only losing 78-10. He can last the whole twenty minutes without being sick from the exertion. And he’s been to the dentist, who said to come back in a year’s time. That was helpful. I then spent a bit of time working on the next crossword I’m going to send him. “A comical, drunken attempt at combat. (10)” Any ideas?


The afternoon was spent alternately in NeverWinter and asleep. Some might say a waste of a day, but I find that my weekends are (usually) so busy that I don’t mind having an occasional day slobbing about...




28 October 2009 (Wednesday) - Another Day




A death in the family. The frog has croaked. The poor thing was apparently given a Viking funeral. For all that there’s talk of more guinea pigs, I’m hoping that’s the last of the pets. (Fish don’t count as pets)


To Cross’ in the town to get oil painting stuff for “Daddies Little Angel TM ”. Whilst waiting for her to turn up, I got talking with the shop staff. They no longer supply “Bob Ross” oil painting stuff. They haven’t since theirCanterbury branch closed two years ago. I must have missed that closing. And what’s more, they had no idea where I might get “Bob Ross” oil painting stuff. Apparently there’s no call for it any more. I feel that’s a shame. Not that I’ve done any painting for years.


I then checked my emails in the forlorn hope that the chap who won the auction for the telly might have been in touch. He hasn’t. I might just chuck the telly in the back of my car and deliver it to him in the next day or so – he only lives a couple of miles away. This is so typical of eBay. I’ve bought and sold things for hundreds of pounds without any problems. It’s the 99p sales that have all the problems.


And then to Lenham for the arky-ologee club. In a novel break with tradition, tonight’s speaker wasn’t some old fossil that had been exhumed at the club’s last dig. It was Joey, who has been a family friend for as long as she’s been alive. She spoke about her university’s latest excavations in Ostia. We could do with more talks like tonight’s…



29 October 2009 (Thursday) - Remembering Bob...




I mentioned Bob Ross yesterday. Had he lived, he would have been 67 today. He is one of my heroes. It’s one of my greatest regrets that I never met the chap – when I first started daubing oil paint around and buying his books, it came as something of a shock to find he’d died some years previously. But he told us all that we could paint, and (to my utter amazement) he was right. And when I visit family and friends, quite often hanging on a wall somewhere there’s a half-way decent painting which I’ll admire, and then after a few minutes I’ll realise “I did that!”. And then get all self-conscious because I’m admiring my own painting. And then, every time, I offer up silent gratitude to Bob who made it possible. Bob Ross developed a school of painting which was absolutely hated by the art world, because he showed the Great Unwashed that art wasn’t just the province of the “artist”. We can all paint. I must get my paints out again sometime.


Also, I see that AstroBash has made the papers today. The front page of the Ashford Extra, and a centre page spread in the Kentish Express. And still gripped with enthusiasm about the weekend’s event, being on a late start I spent more time preparing my talk on Saturn. That’s several hours work so far, and I haven’t even got a date for the presentation. I’m guessing January or February.

And the telly finally went today. I’m sorry, but I think that taking three days for the buyer to contact me is a tad unreasonable…



30 October 2009 (Friday) - Astro Club



I put the fennel & nettle tea in the dustbin today. It was foul. I went to Tesco and replaced it with camomile, honey and vanilla tea. Which is awful, but not quite as bad as fennel & nettle tea.


The last Friday of the month, so off to Astronomy club. I made a point of getting there early to help with the (do the) setting up. What with my shift pattern at the moment (last minute and random) I can’t commit to being available eery time, but when I can, I do what I can for the club.


Having set up, there’s always an aura of expectancy. I put out chairs for an audience of fifty, and stood looking at an empty hall. Would anyone turn up? In the end, I wound up putting out more seats. We had a huge turn out. Following on from the publicity surrounding last weekend’s AstroBash we had over fifty people along tonight for a tour of the autumn sky. Just as well Stellarium can project the autumn sky, as the real sky was completely clouded over.


And then home to Folkestone with Stevey and coffee with Trudy. Only the second time we’ve actually met, but through reading her blog, I feel I know her far better than I should on a second meeting. Which is a good thing.

And then home for an early night. Or that was the plan….



31 October 2009 (Saturday) - Let's Do The Time Warp (Again!)




Earlier in the week I’d been told that today there would be an attempt to break the world record for the amount of people doing the Time Warp. That sounded like fun, so I registered on-line with the event, and was up at 6am and checking for emails. I was rather hoping for an email from the Rocky Horror people to give us the plans for today but nothing arrived. So we just drove off to deepest Sussex hoping for the best. And our hopes weren’t high – the further we went, the more the rain was pouring. But, as always, when it rains we have two choices. We can sulk, or we can make the most of the day. We just hoped the rain wouldn’t put too many people off.


We’d been advised to park outside of Brighton and take the bus in, but for the sake of a few quid we decided to park as close to the west pier as possible. Registration was scheduled to open at 10am, and we were there promptly. I must admit to feeling a tad misled by the organisers. I was under the impression that I would be able to buy racy undercrackers at the venue, and so I didn’t take any with me. On arrival I found that the only costumes they were selling were T shirts and pink boas, so my attire was somewhat tame compared to that of some of the other protagonists. But I think I didn’t look too out of place. Next time I’ll know better.


We then spent an hour or so photographing and being photographed, and trying to work out the gender (and species) of many of our fellow time warpers. Simon and Corrinne arrived and we dragooned them into taking part. I’m not sure that Charlotte knew what she was letting herself in for. I think it’s fair to say that the rehearsal came as something of a shock to her. Over the course of an hour there were five rehearsal sessions. We went in the first one, and were instructed by a choreographer (which was nice). We came out to meet Dave & Tracy, and while they had their rehearsal, we then spent some time chatting with an incredibly foxy bird wearing next to nothing who turned out to live just up the road from me. Other people had travelled down from Birmingham for the day.


Then it was mid day. Everyone came into the arena, and Richard O’Brien himself came onto the stage and led us all through two renditions of the time warp. Oh it was fun. And then he announced that there had been 1570 people taking part, and a new world record had been set for the amount of people doing the time warp at once. Oh yes…. I have another lame to fame.


On the way out I cunningly photographed a fit bird in a skimpy leotard. Well, it passed the time… My loyal readers can see highlights of the day (and of the fit bird in skimpy leotardhere.


To celebrate (both the world record and the fit bird in the leotard) we thought we’d have a crafty pint. We wondered about driving up to the Evening Star, but seeing the queue of traffic waiting to get into the car park, we thought we’d leave the car where it was and walk up. I’m assured there are better pubs in Brighton, and I’m sure there are. But being something of a traditionalist I tend to stick to what I know. And they did have three different porters on. Finding a pub with just one porter on takes some doing these days, so to find one with three… I was happy. When they announced they did cheese baguettes too, I couldn’t believe my luck – bread & cheese & a pint of black beer. Heaven ! (I’m easily pleased)


And then home, and within ten minutes of arriving, we were off again to Shadoxhurst bonfire. First things first – luminous rabbit ears and toy light sabres. Burgers went down well, then we played on the stalls to see what tat we could win. I came away with two teddy bears and an inflatable dolphin. The fire was lit, and fireworks went off. You can’t beat a good bonfire and fireworks on a cold winter evening. And I even got a crackwatch photo too.

And then home to attempt to get the photos up on Facebook. Which was easier said than done. The Facebook photo uploader doesn’t seem to like to upload more than nine photos at once. Which is a pain when I’m trying to upload nearly a hundred photos…