1 October 2011 (Saturday) - Wiltshire
A reasonably prompt start on our long weekend. Once I'd got some petrol in the car, we set off. The M20 and M26 were as well as could be expected, but there was a dodgy five minutes on the M25: some twonk was weaving in and out of the lanes of traffic at very high speed. It was clearly only going to be a matter of time until he wrapped himself around a lamp post.
The M3 was a different matter though. Traffic was stopping and starting seemingly at random. From going at a steady 70mph we were down to going at barely walking pace. And then suddenly the traffic started moving again. And then it all slowed again. Four times we went from national speed limit to standstill and back. Leaving the motorway for the A303 came as a blessed relief.
We stopped at the first services we could find, and had a diet sandwich, diet shandy and snack a jacks (oh yes!), and then hit the road again. and then just as we came over the brow of the hill....
Have you ever driven westwards along the A303? That road was designed by a half-wit. Just as you come over the brow of a hill, you get a glorious view of Stonehenge. And the view is so breathtaking that you can't think of anything but that view. And then suddenly you realise that you are travelling at high speed toward a queue of stationary traffic, and find yourself doing an emergency stop, whilst very conscious that the person behind you is still enthralled with the view in front, and is approaching the back of your car at warp factor nine.
Having successfully avoided writing off my car (it has to be said more through luck than judgement), we parked up in the car park. I must admit that i was surprised at how many people had gone to Stonehenge. I was expecting a few people; maybe a dozen at most. There were hundreds of people, if not thousands. I suppose Stonehenge isn't your average English Heritage attraction.
Being English Heritage members, we got for free. Which was for the best. In all honesty I would have resented paying £7.50 to have got into the place.
The stones were a lot smaller than I was expecting. There was no visitor centre showing exhibits and displays. In retrospect, Stonehenge was something of a disappointment: we'd seen the lot in twenty minutes. If any of my loyal readers are thinking of going to Stonehenge, don't pay to go in. You can see every bit as much from the roadside.
Having planned to spend the entire afternoon at Stonehenge and finding we were all done before 2pm, we were at something of a loose end. A quick browse through the English Heritage manual showed us that old Wardour Castle was not far away. So we activated 'er indoors' sat-nav to find the place.
It has to be said that the sat nav did not live up to expectations. It had us make a bee-line for the narrowest country lane it could find and, having got us several miles into the back of beyond it then announced it had lost it's GPS signal, and then it gave up the ghost. From there on in we were left to our own devices. After I'd got rather cross with the entire concept of satellite aided navigation and we'd rebooted it several times, we found a sign to the castle. The fact that the sign was pointing back the way we'd come just boiled my piss even more.
So, having found the castle (with no thanks to sat-nav technology), we popped into the gift shop to get a crafty Solero. And then we started mooching round the place. The audio guides brought it to life. There was loads to see, the castle, for all that it was in ruins, had four floors that we could explore, a lake, a separate banqueting house, and even a grotto.
It was perhaps somewhat ironic that at one point I found myself idly speculating on the practicalities of how the custodians closed the place up at the evening, because when we decided to pack up and go home we not only found the kiosk was shut up, but that the main gate was locked, and we were locked in. Fortunately being naturally lithe and agile (!) I was able to climb the walls and jump gracefully to freedom. er indoors made a bit of a debbie climbing the wall, but soon we were free, and cursing the jobsworth who'd left us stranded.
By now it was getting on for 5pm, and so we thought we'd best make our way to our B&B. We set off in what was possibly the right direction, ignoring the sat-nav which was making various unhelpful contradictory comments as we went along. We eventually found the village of Fovant, and the Pembroke Arms. And found the Pembroke Arms was locked. Having been locked into the castle, we were now locked out of our digs.
A quick phone call got the landlord to the door, and soon we were ensconced.
Chatting with the landlord we found that the pub didn't actually open for another hour, so we went for a little stroll. Firstly to see the Fovant Badges; military badges carved into the chalk hills. And then we walked into the nearby village and watched the trout swimming in the river. Another hour's exercise before dinner was a good plan.
Exercise built up our appetites: when we got back to the Pembroke Arms, we had dinner. A double rack of ribs, chips, pavlova, and a few pints of local beer.
And then suddenly I realised I was exhausted..... Back to our room where we watched "Bedazzled" and "Pinky and the Brain" (Freeview is a wonderful thing) before having an early night.
2 October 2011 (Sunday) - Bath
We'd asked for an 8am breakfast. There are those who might think that was a tad early, but holiday is too good to waste slobbing about. All thoughts of diet went straight out of the window when "Mine Host" mentioned the possibility of a full English breakfast. That went down very nicely. As we chatted with the landlord, we found that in years gone by he had once acted as the relief manager of the Honest Miller - a favourite pub of hours which is somewhere we've cycled to in the past.
Once brekkied, we were anxious to make the most of the day, and so we paid our bill, and were on the road before 9.30am. And having forgiven the sat-nav for yesterday's fiasco, we gave the thing a second chance. I wish we hadn't. It got us as far as Bath, and then started shouting random directions. I was all for throwing the thing out of the window, and I gave up and parked up in the first car park I could find. I must admit that I thought paying over seven pounds for a day's parking was a tad excessive, but I wasn't prepared to drive any further. Not with the sat-nav in the mood it was in.
Fortunately we were only ten minutes walk from the Roman baths, and that was our main port of call for the day. We stumped up our cash, picked up the audio guides, and set off inside. If any of my loyal readers are ever in Bath, I can certainly recommend the Roman Baths as a place to visit. There was loads to see, the audio guide was really good, the staff were helpful, and it kept us out of mischief for over two hours.
Having paid to see the Roman Baths, we were also entitled to free admission to the Bath Museum of Fashion. So, working on the principle that something for nothing is always good, we went to have a look-see.
It's probably fair to say that in my time I have endured more tedious ordeals than the Bath Museum of Fashion. But those ordeals have been very few, and far between. The museum started off with a display of a couple of dozen wedding dresses, and progressively got worse. There were five rather dire dresses from God knows when, some manikins dressed up as fugitives from the 1960s, and a Petula Clark album cover nailed to a wall. At one point I felt rather nervous - with all the showroom dummies I was having Doctor Who flashbacks. But if the manikins had turned out to be Autons, quite frankly the excitement would have come as a blessed relief. It was with a sense of joy that I found the exit to this dreadful museum.
In retrospect it only took twenty minutes to go round the Bath Museum of Fashion, but there's no denying it was twenty minutes which were totally wasted.
We then browsed around some of the shops; killing time until 2pm. We'd found that at 2pm there were guided tours of Bath, and we made our way to the assembly point. As did a dozen or so others. We found our guide, and spent a very pleasant couple of hours walking round Bath. The guide pointed out all sorts of little snippets of history that otherwise would have passed me by. We found all sorts of oddities in the back streets: the houses of the artist Gainsborough, and of the first Prime Minister Pitt the Younger. We saw where the posh would have lived in days gone by: we saw where a direct descendant of the Duke of Wellington had won a battle with the highest court in the land over the colour of her front door. We saw where Jane Austen's heroes had walked. We saw all sorts of basements and crypts under the roads that we would so loved to have explored. And as we walked between the places where we stopped, I chatted with the guide. He was a really friendly, knowledgeable chap with a genuine love of his city, and of showing tourists round.
It was a really good tour. And a good day. But all too soon it had ended, and conscious that our car parking ticket was about to run out, we made our way back to the car.
And so on to our B&B (which would be home for the next two nights). The sat-nav did it's best, and despite a couple of false starts and a couple of signal failures we eventually found our way to Bathford and Garston Cottage.
It would have been nice to have stayed in another pub, but Garston Cottage seemed to fit the bill. A little old lady showed us to our room, and after a couple of minutes settling in, we set off for a bit of exploring round the local area. We mooched around the footpaths for half an hour (and found a river) before making our way to the nearby pub for some tea.
The Crown was the only pub within walking distance. But we'd been told that the food was good. Apparently it had won an award for serving the best roast dinners in the Bath area. A well deserved award. Roast lamb went down very nicely, as did a bowl of Eskimo Mess. For those who've never sampled the delight, Eskimo Mess is just like Eton Mess, but with ice cream. The whole lot was washed down with a couple of pints of Gem Ale from the Bath brewery.
In fact the only fault I could find with the Crown was that it was at the bottom of the hill: going back to the B&B was a bit of a slog!
3 October 2011 (Monday) - Cheddar Gorge
Another 8am brekkie. This one was somewhat marred by having to make polite conversation with the normal people who were also staying in the B&B. But with brekkie scofffed we soon set off.
We gave ‘er indoors TM sat-nav one last chance, and it’s fair to say the device exceeded the misgivings of even it’s staunchest critics. It waited until we came to the second roundabout of the journey, directed us back to the first roundabout, and then tried to get us to drive to and fro between the roundabouts.
I'd had enough, and I got my sat-nav out. That gave us some no-nonsense directions, and soon we were in Cheddar. We parked up, and managing to shake off the old biddy who wouldn't shut up about the courtesy bus tour, we paid up and were soon in the first cave. Apparently opened up in the early 1900s by some bloke called Gough, the cave had a really good audio tour, and had loads of bats flitting about. Despite the ill-behaved schoolbrats swarming, we were in this cave for over an hour.
We then went over to the Museum of Dull Drivel. Some sad act was loitering outside, dressed up as a caveman, and I explained to him about the flint tools he was brandishing. We then went into the Museum of Dull Drivel. I suppose it wasn't that bad, but compared to Gough's cave it was dull.
Cox's cave was next, and with no audio guide, that too was dull, The cave led into the Crystal Grotto: a cave with a few scary statues strategically placed here and there. This was quite entertaining.
From here we thought we'd scale the steps to the lookout tower. Several hundred steps took us to the lowest part of the hills overlooking the gorge, and having had a quick look from the lookout tower, we walked, scrambled and climbed up even further along the Cheddar Gorge Walk.
The views from the top of the hills were wonderful, but we were somewhat dismayed by one small fact. The walk was billed as a circular walk. Up one side of the gorge, along, down to the road, back up the other side, and back to the village.
There was an endless stream of people walking back from the direction in which we were heading; all complaining that they weren’t going to do more hills. From where we were, we could see across the gorge to the footpath on the other side. Not many brave souls had got that far. But we weren’t going to back out. So having climbed up several miles to the top, we then went down to the road, and then went up an equal number of miles on the other side. And came down again. But it was worth going back up again: if only to see the goats.
The walk was billed as lasting for two hours: we took two and a half. It was a good walk – but in retrospect the good weather helped a lot. I could imagine that the weather could make it a very miserable walk indeed.
Once back down we popped into a nearby café (selling “Styles” ice cream!), and we realised we’d then done all of the attractions. The courtesy bus tour wasn’t running today, and to be honest I couldn’t see exactly what good the bus tour would have been – you could walk the length of the touristy bit in just five minutes.
So we perused the gift shop, and set off back to the B&B. We’d originally planned to visit Wookey Hole today as well, but we didn’t have time to do it all.
The journey back took twice as long as we were expecting: we got caught in traffic in Bath. But once back, we set off to the Crown, for another very good meal. And some zider. After all, you can’t go to Zumerzet and not drink zider…
4 October 2011 (Tuesday) - Twenty Five Years
The nice people who were also staying in the B&B had mentioned at brekkie yesterday that they’d been to Cheddar Gorge on Sunday. We got chatting this morning at brekkie: they said they’d been talking about us all day yesterday, and were wondering what we thought of Cheddar Gorge. So we told them what we’d done, and they listened with evident amazement, and perhaps a little jealousy. They asked what the caves were like; they asked what the museum was like. They asked what the climb to the lookout tower was like. They’d seen all of these attractions, but done none of them.
It turned out that we’d been to Cheddar Gorge and “done the tourist thing”, but they’d been to Cheddar Gorge and looked in some of the shops before going back home to the B&B. How can you travel several hundred miles to somewhere like Cheddar Gorge and not do the tourist things?
Mind you, they were a funny pair. We saw them come into the pub last night when we were having dinner, and we saw them leave again, having had two drinks each. Apparently there was nothing on the menu that they liked, so they thought they’d try somewhere else. And not having a clue where else to eat, they got quite lost trying to find somewhere. But then again he smothered his full English breakfast with vinegar (!)
The plan for today had us calling in at some touristy place on the way home, but a combination of the weather being awful, and there being no English Heritage attractions in the Basingstoke area put paid to that little scheme. So we just came home. Once home I caught up with blogs and stuff. The guest house had free wi-fi, but for some reason when I post blogs from my lap-top, the formatting is absolutely awful. So having got cross with the lap-top last night, I did all the internet-catch-up when we got home this afternoon.
I then popped up town to pay some money into the bank. There was probably a tad more in the astro club’s petty cash than was sensible to have as petty cash. The astro club’s account isn’t with my bank, and I went in to that bank, read their posters, and decided to move my accounts to them: they seemed to be offering such a good deal. Then I actually dealt with the awkward old bat on the counter, and I came out having decided to see if we can’t more the astro club account away from them to my bank.
I then went to my bank, and bearing in mind how surly and uncommunicative was the old misery-guts behind that counter, I resolved to give up with banks entirely, and to keep all the cash in a biscuit tin under my bed.
So I came home and phoned English Heritage to have a whinge. After all, they’d locked us into Old Wardour Castle on Saturday afternoon. I didn’t really mind, it was quite funny really.
But I’m (still) able to clamber over walls. Your average castle visitor probably isn’t as sprightly as me, and whilst I don’t really want to stir trouble, someone somewhere (at Old Wardour Castle) needs to check that all the punters are out at closing time. They said they’d look into it and get back to me.
And then we watched last Saturday’s “Doctor Who”… Bearing in mind it was going to be a “River Song” episode I was expecting the worst: she’s not my favourite character in the show. But I was pleasantly surprised at the episode. Not bad at all.
The evening was spent in committee making plans for Saturday evening. The moon doesn’t observe itself, you know….
And in closing I’m sure that today’s date rings a bell for some reason…..
5 October 2011 (Wednesday) - Easy Money
One of the most popular TV shows of our time is the Simpsons. Personally I can’t stand the program; at one time I actually banned it from the house. And it would seem that the program will soon be no more.
This is one news story that I simply cannot understand. The program has been running for twenty three years. It makes money hand over fist, but (according to the interview on the radio this afternoon), the more successful a TV program gets, the more it costs to make more episodes.
And despite the actors who provide the voices for the various characters having offered to take a wage cut of thirty per cent, the makers of the show don’t feel they can afford to continue making it. How on Earth does that work?
Meanwhile other people coin in money hand over fist. Lord Edward Davenport has made a fortune by providing loans to businesses that need cash in a hurry. Or that is he made a fortune offering to provide loans to businesses that needed cash in a hurry, but once he’d had their admin fees off of them, he just laughed all the way to the bank. He’s been rumbled, and he’s gone to prison now (and he isn’t actually a lord either!), but I for one can understand where is coming from. The lure of an easy buck is hard to resist.
Meanwhile, with ‘er indoors TM out flogging candles, I spent the evening home alone doing the ironing. Dull, but I can watch the telly whilst I’m doing it. Perhaps I could take in ironing – I wonder if I could get enough to give up doing my day job…
6 October 2011 (Thursday) - Time for a Change?
Today’s news is full of praise for Steve Jobs. One of the leading lights at Apple, he died recently, and all the pundits have been singing his praises. Personally I never met the chap, nor have I really had much to do with Apple’s products, so I can’t honestly say that I am overly affected by the sad news.
However it does strike me as a shame that the media had to wait until his death before saying anything good about him. I can remember news articles over the summer about his health: those articles weren’t especially respectful to the chap.
This morning’s radio news broadcast a part of a speech that Mr Jobs made at Stanford University a while back. What he said struck a chord with me: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.”
It’s no secret that I’m not enamoured with my current job. I spent a bit of time today looking up advice on CV preparation. I shall dust off my C.V., update it, and see if I can’t find something to do which I might like doing a bit better.
Meanwhile back in reality one of the problems I’ve been having with the diet recently is measuring my weight. Our old bathroom scales aren’t very good. When I stand on them, I can make my weight vary by over a stone depending on how and where I stand on them; the dial is that wobbly.
So, even though I really couldn’t afford it, I bought some digital scales from Asda. Being digital, there is no trying to guess where the dial is. And they are precise: that is, the result they give is very repeatable. However I’m not sure they are accurate – they tell me I am exactly a stone heavier than the old scales said.
I expect MyFitnessPal will go mental when I tell it my new revised weight. So what do I do? Not update my weight on it until I’ve lost a stone? Commence blagging and tell it I’ve lost a pound for every two that come off?
7 October 2011 (Friday) - Bored
After having spent an age mucking about with MyFitnessPal last night, I’ve managed to feed in my “adjusted” weight according to my new scales. However you look at it, since I started on the diet I’ve shifted six pounds. Can’t be bad. And I’ve lost half an inch off my waist and hips too!
For want of anything better to do with the thing, I lashed up MyFitnessPal to broadcast my news over Twitter. I can’t pretend to be a big fan of Twitter – I need more than 140 characters to have a good rant. In any case I have more people following my antics on Google Plus than on Twitter – and that’s saying something (!)
I had a minor victory this morning – as I walked to the car, I found three pound coins laying in the gutter. For once, God smiled on me.
Work was work, and then I came home again. Such is life. We’d planned to go swimming this evening. Normally that’s good for shifting calories, but unfortunately the sports centre had run out of hot water, and so the pool was closed. And will stay closed until Monday. That was a nuisance.
Just as I got home my mobile rang. “My Boy TM ” had located some fence panels (several miles away). Would I come and collect them for him? It seemed that his plan to keep his dog in his own garden had one minor flaw. The fence he’d built only went half way up the garden. Fudge would just run to the end of that fence, and then go round so’s he could fudge into next door’s garden. But now there are more fence panels, and perhaps Fudge’s fudge will be contained.
Once I’d dropped off the fence panels I spent five minutes winding Fudge up. Mind you, that dog doesn’t need much winding up – he’s rather excitable.
And then home again, only to find ‘er indoors TM on her way out. Apparently the arky-ologee club is having a committee meeting. I wonder if they will pass any motions…?
Today was dull…
8 October 2011 (Saturday) - The Moon
I didn’t wake up until 10am this morning. That’s unheard of (!) After my morning’s ablutions I got on the new scales, and couldn’t believe my eyes. Even allowing for the new scales, in the few weeks that I’ve been monitoring my food and exercise, I’ve lost ten pounds. And because of the way this diet works (i.e. writing down what I eat), I have a sneaking feeling that this weight might stay off.
I then worked on my CV for a bit – I’ve put the thing on-line. If any of my loyal readers would care to peruse it and offer any advice, I’d be grateful. In the meantime I’ve sent off my first job application. Here’s hoping.
Mind you, every two or three years I start applying for jobs. Two and a half years ago I even got offered one. In retrospect I wish I’d taken it.
Martin called round with an anniversary pressie – the Star Trek TV game “Scene It”. It looks like fun, and we shall have to organise an evening of playing the game. Mind you, that probably won’t be until mid-November as we are fast approaching the bonfire season.
And then I looked at the garden. I’ve not mowed the lawn for a month. So we popped round to B&Q to get more strimmer line for the garden strimmer. Whilst in the area we popped into “Pets at Home”: I wanted an extending dog lead for when I walk Fudge and Sid. They had some demonstration ones tied to a board, but didn’t seem to have any actually for sale. So we came home again.
I was just about to attack the jungle I jokingly call a lawn when the phone rang: Simon and Corinne were just coming off of the motorway – they’d come over to look at a car. So all thoughts of gardening went out of the window and we all went out to lunch. The American Diner at Bybrook is always fun, and being on a diet I had the diet option: lasagne and chips only came in at 800 calories (!) And from dinner we went on to Hillside Garage to look at a second-hand car. Not just any old second-hand car, but one we’d specifically come to see, and one that had actually gone to Biddenden to be valeted. Which was a nuisance.
From there we popped round the outlet centre to look in Cotton Traders and the Works. And suitably equipped with a new jumper and some canvases we set off home. Or that is we intended to set off home. We saw the queues to get out of the place. And we saw the queues weren’t moving. It turned out that for no adequately explored reason the local police had decided to dismantle a passing car, with no thought or regard for who they might delay whilst they were at it. So we left the car and walked home.
A quick cuppa, and then off to Woodchurch. Tonight was International Observe the Moon Night, and the astro club had been planning an event for months. It was such a shame the night was 100% cloud cover, but with really good talks from Drew and Stevey, the evening was really well done. It would have been good to have been able to actually have observed the moon, and I must admit I was very disappointed with the attendance. But we had over thirty people along. At one point that would have been a massive turn-out for the astro club. I suspect a combination of meeting on a different night in a different venue was rather difficult for a lot of people, and seeing that it was complete cloud cover, a lot of people probably assumed the event wouldn’t go ahead. But it did, and I for one enjoyed it.
Same time next year – and we’ll have clear skies….
9 October 2011 (Sunday) - Folkestone
We were rather later getting up than I’d hoped. But rather heavy rain overnight meant mowing the lawn wasn’t going to be a practical proposition this morning. And then Fudge (and his entourage) came to visit. Fudge caused mayhem, left fudge in the lawn, destroyed a couple of carrier bags, and then he (and his entourage) went off on their merry way.
We’d planned to go for a walk somewhere in the countryside today, but the heavy rain meant that everywhere would be wet and muddy, so we set off to Folkestone to visit the other grand-dog. Sid was fine. A bit dozy, but that’s the kind of dog he is. And once he’d finished farting we settled him in the kitchen with some doggy treats, and all went to Wetherspoons for Sunday lunch. By the time I’d had roast dinner, a pint of Pendle’s Porter and a crafty ice cream, I’d found I’d scoffed 1500 calories. Three quarters of the day’s allowance (!)
So we had a bit of a stroll to burn some of it up. First of all down the old High Street. That’s not what it once was. Back in the day they made sweets and sticks of rock down there. You could buy saucy postcards and seaside novelties. And there was even old Bob’s gaming shop. Now there’s nothing but arty-farty art galleries. The old High Street isn’t what it once was. We then walked along the harbour, and up some steps to the East Cliff before making our way back to Sid.
By now the sun had come out, and the day was quite warm, so after a quick coffee we made our way home and I had a go at the garden. First of all I attacked the lawn. Little Lacey (who’d come with Fudge this morning) had told me the lawn needed cutting. It hadn’t been done for six weeks, and it took some shifting. The lawn was very damp, but it needed doing.
And then I mucked out the fish pond filter. The pond is decidedly murky, despite the biological jollop I stuck in the filter box five weeks ago. Over the winter I need to come up with a plan for more effective pond filtration.
And talking of plans, I then spent a little while updating my diary. I heard some bad news last night – Shadoxhurst Bonfire has been cancelled. I’m really disappointed to hear this – it’s not the biggest bonfire of the year, but it’s a good evening out, there’s usually a good fun fair there, it’s just down the road. And it’s been cancelled. It turns out that Shadoxhurst Parish Council’s entire recreation committee has resigned, and they were unable to find anyone else to help. A shame they didn’t ask me (!)
This has left my bonfire season looking decidedly sparse. We missed Eastbourne’s bonfire parade last night because it clashed with International Observe the Moon night, and now with Shadoxhurst’s bonfire night having gone down the pan, I’ve only got four firework-related events on my itinerary for this year. Having said that, bearing in mind the amount of ale that I usually pour down my gullet at a bonfire night, perhaps this is for the best.
Talking of plans being thwarted, it would seem that the kite club’s Xmas bash coincides with the next lunar eclipse, so I shan’t be able to get to that evening out either…
10 October 2011 (Monday) - Stuff
I lashed up MyFitnessPal to Twitter over the weekend. And since I’ve done that, I’ve had some friend requests. Over on MyFitnessPal, Javalava is now my friend. She’s a bit older than me, she goes to the gym, and she suffers from diverticulitis. There would seem to be a lot of that about at the moment.
Meanwhile on Twitter Debbie Martindale is now following me. I doubt that Debbie Martindale looks anything like the fit bird in the photos, and it can only be a matter of time until she starts trying to flog me her amazing products.
Perhaps I’m getting old and cynical?
I then had a look through my letter rack. The building society would seem to have stuffed up. They’d sent me a letter saying that a direct debit mortgage payment hadn’t been made, and had sent me a new mandate to fill out and return to them. I thought the mortgage had been paid off last month, so I gave them a phone call. They told me they had no idea what had happened – they confirmed that they had stuffed up. That was a relief (!)
While I was thinking of direct debits, I cancelled the direct debit for English Heritage. I think we’ve done all the English Heritage attractions within a three light year radius, and next year we’ll join the National Trust. I bet the National Trust won’t lock me into their castles.
I had a reminder to renew my car’s road tax. I can remember blogging about traipsing up to the post office to queue with the Great Unwashed to renew my tax disc a few years ago. Tonight I renewed my road tax on line. It took less than five minutes.
And then I then spent a little while working on the nuts and bolts of this blog - it’s occurred to me that the passing visitor would have no idea of much of what I’m wittering on about. So I’ve added a “cast list” above. This is something which is still in its infancy, and I expect will grow with time as I find more people to insult…
11 October 2011 (Tuesday) - Bleach
I must admit to having had a bit of a "dur" moment yesterday: of course I know who Javalava is. I suppose I should have been paying more attention at the time. But then, that could be said of me on a permanent basis.
I also wasn't paying attention when I booked the central heating boiler's annual service, and so had to spend a little time re-scheduling that today. Still, it's not as though there was much else going on in my life at the moment.
This morning’s news boiled my piss. The Archbishop of Glasgow is campaigning against gay marriage. There was something on the radio about it: the implication being that Scottish Catholics will be told what political parties they can vote for; based on the various parties’ stances toward gay marriage. Fortunately most of the political parties are seeing sense on the issue, and so it would seem the Archbishop isn’t going to be able to offer much of a choice when he makes his pronouncement.
I laughed out loud when the chap being interviewed (on the radio) quoted Austen Ivereigh of “Catholic Voices”. Apparently the religious types maintain that the principle of marriage is one of reproduction. That’s interesting. Do parish priests insist on fertility testing before conducting marriage services?
Why can’t the religious types be brave enough to have the courage of their convictions and say that they think that gay marriage is wrong because it says so (in several places) in their Bible. Or isn’t their faith in their Bibles what it once was…?
And then I had a bit of good news. I received a friend request through Facebook. When I first started at the Hastings Academy for Budding Geniuses in 1975 I very soon made a friend. My mate Dave liked fishing, introduced me to the Electric Light Orchestra, used the word “monotonous” more than anyone else I’ve never met, and is someone with whom I lost touch over the years. I last saw him in the mid-90s, when I ran into him in Reading. But now we’re back in touch.
Through Facebook I keep in touch with loads of old friends. Really must organise a reunion…
And then I spent a little time applying for jobs with a major international pharmaceutical firm. I probably won’t get it, but if I don’t apply, I definitely won’t get it…
This evening for our Tuesday Sci-fi session we tried some Japanese Manga – “Bleach”. It’s entertaining enough, but I can’t help but feel it’s lost something during the translation into English….
12 October 2011 (Wednesday) - Thar She Blows!!
The diet continues apace – and yesterday MyFitnessPal told me off. “Based on your total calories consumed for today, you are eating too few calories. Not only is it difficult to receive adequate nutrition at these calorie levels, but you could also be putting your body into starvation mode. Starvation mode lowers your metabolism and makes weight loss more difficult. We suggest increasing your calorie consumption to 1,200 calories per day minimum.”
Perhaps I should eat more cakes?
Today I enhanced the diet somewhat by doing half an hour’s swimming. In half an hour I swam half a kilometre, which isn’t bad really. Even if I was the second slowest swimmer in the slow lane. I was also (at one point) the only bloke in the swimming pool. At one point I thought I saw another bloke, but Captain Ahab chasing Moby hardly counts….
Mind you, I shouldn’t be too disrespectful of the lardy ones among us, being slightly over my ideal weight myself. Talking of which I had something of a revelation this evening. Why is it that the majority of people who go swimming are porkers? As a child I would regularly swim, and it never shifted any weight. I’ve found the answer. As a child, after swimming I’d get a portion of sausage and chips from the chippie for my tea. And now with my dietary wisdom, I can look back and realise that whilst the swimming burned off five hundred calories; the sausage and chips added five hundred and fifty calories. If I’d stayed at home and watched telly I would have lost more weight.
Last weekend I was feeling my artistic urges, and so I bought some canvases with a view to doing some paintings. The urge has now passed, and this evening when I came to put the canvases away with my paints (for when the urge comes again), I found I already had a load of canvases ready for my next dabblings.
That was fifteen quid down the drain.
And, on hearing the radio this evening, down the drain is where the nation’s literary future is going. Among the one hundred best-selling books of last year were the autobiography of a meerkat, and the Beano annual. When I think how well that drivel has sold, and that one of the best books I’ve ever read has been turned down by some of the country’s most prominent publishers, my urine vapourises….
13 October 2011 (Thursday) - More Stuff
Yesterday evening I wasted some time on the Amazon website. There’s several books I’d like for my Kindle, and so I spent a while updating my wish list. The plan was that those with more money than sense clicked on this link, paid for the books I want, and they would appear on my Kindle. I’d like that. It seemed a good plan.
However the trouble is that the whole concept of the Amazon wish list falls at the first hurdle. It’s all very well me telling the world what I’d like as a pressie: but the world can’t actually buy it for me. Amazon has had me create a list on which I tell everyone what I want, but from which only I can buy anything. What’s that all about?
My time is too precious to be wasted on nonsense like this (!)
And so to work. With my daily journey now being four times the distance it was a couple of months ago, I’m getting through petrol at quite a rate. But not four times the rate. Whereas I used to refuel monthly, now its fortnightly. How does that work?
In the past I’ve whinged about those who know the price of petrol in every filling station for miles around. Whilst I reserve the right to maintain that prejudice, I saved over two quid by getting my petrol in Canterbury rather than in Ashford.
Work was fun – I spent the entire day giggling. One of my colleagues, a very quietly spoken, demure, rather shy young lady told us that she was in her father’s bad books. She admitted to having taught her father’s parrot a new phrase. And whenever her father has visitors, the parrot now loudly (and constantly) shouts “HELP!!!! – They’ve turned me into a parrot!!”
Mind you I did get a bit cross whilst queuing at the League of Fiends (sic) shop. Surely when you have been queuing up, waiting for over ten minutes to be served, you wouldn’t wait until you get to the till before digging through your handbag, shopping bag and various pockets in a futile attempt to try to find your purse.
Perusing various websites of advice regarding job applications today, it would seem that the covering letter which accompanies a C.V. is probably as important as the C.V. itself. So I spent a little while working on a covering letter this morning. I don't know if that letter's actually going to do any good, but I suppose spending a bit of time doing such a letter can't hurt any future applications. I’ve put the thing here if any of my loyal readers might like to give it the once-over and offer any hints, tips or advice on the matter.
Home – to collect Fudge and to take him for a walk. I arrived at the Fudgery to find my first grand-dog in some disgrace. He was in trouble – he’d eaten his bed. I was impressed, but thought it best not to express the sentiment.
Me and Fudge had a pleasant half an hour wandering the local paths: at the end I was worn out and Fudge was still going strong. I really need to find him an extending lead.
Meanwhile I’ve got another follower on Twitter. “LaCuillereDiet” would seem to be French. There are those for whom no more information would be needed, and it has to be said that I tend to lean heavily toward that philosophy myself. However I shall wait until he, she or it starts to sell me his, her or its diet products before I spit my dummy out. So far they’ve done nothing than follow my Twitter feed. And there’s no denying that it can be dull at times.
14 October 2011 (Friday) - Ghosts, Breathing and Wine
Just when I thought that the entire movie industry had run out of ideas, I am proved totally wrong. It would seem there are plans afoot to make a film the likes of which the world has hitherto only dreamed about. “Rentaghost”.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the news this morning. It would seem that the energy companies are making eight times the profit from my payments to them that they were making only a few months ago. Apparently from the £1300 I pay them every year, £125 of that is profit. The chap on the radio was shocked about this. So was I, but for completely the opposite reason. He was horrified about how much profit they were making. I was amazed how little they were making.
Perhaps working in the public sector has left me somewhat naïve, but back when I worked in the private sector, (long, long ago), the boss’s tenet of faith was that for the price he paid to buy three of anything, he would sell one. He worked on a three hundred per cent markup. I honestly assumed that of the £1300 I pay to the energy company each year, about eight or nine hundred quid would have gone into their pocket.
I was also shocked about the news concerning the cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin. Apparently he’s accused of disposing of some of his paperwork when he’s finished with it. The poor bugger is being crucified in the press because he threw away various dull trivial official papers. Bearing in mind how the press have just hounded the Defence Secretary out of office, I’m left wondering why anyone would aspire for public office.
Work was quiet. So quiet that one of the ladies was able to slip out to see her nephew’s school play. The lad had been in the school’s drama club for some time, and had been asking his aunt to come see the play for weeks. The play was “The Gruffalo”, and the lad in question turned out to be playing the part of a rock.
There weren’t many people in the slow lane at swimming this evening. Just five of us: me, ‘er indoors TM, two orcas and a young Gurkha. The young Gurkha had a novel swimming technique: he would swim an entire length without taking a single breath on the way, then gasp like a beached fish at the end of the length, before repeating the process.
Mind you, I can’t really criticise. As a child I was an accomplished swimmer. Nowadays my technique isn’t what it was. I know (in principle) what to do about arms, legs and breathing. But in practice I find I can only organise any two of those three. Seeing how I tend to make breathing the priority, my propulsion in the swimming pool isn’t that which it might be.
The weekly weigh-in: I’ve lost two more pounds. This makes a loss of twelve pounds since I started with MyFitnessPal. And whilst I’m encouraged by this, the sad fact remains that I need to lose another thirty three pounds (over two stone) to just be overweight. Realistically I’m going to be on this diet and exercise lark for a year if I’m only going to get to the top end of what my weight should be.
The morning’s post brought a letter from English Heritage. Regular readers of this drivel will remember that two weeks ago today, me and ‘er indoors TM were locked into the grounds of Old Wardour Castle. Today the manager of English Heritage (South West) wrote to tell me that he reason we got locked in was that they didn’t check to see that everyone was out of the place. Dur!!!
With the tribes gathered we set off to Battle. Having been to the Abbey earlier in the year, we’d heard about the re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings, so we went along to watch it. In retrospect I think it’s fair to say that I underestimated the popularity of the event: we got within half a mile of Battle, and were stuck in a traffic jam for an hour before we were able to park.
Once parked we made our way to the arena at Battle Abbey, and having met up with the Brighton contingent we staked out an area from which we could watch the activities. We had arrived a tad late to see the skirmish (!), but we got to see the archery demonstration. A Genghis Khan lookalike, some bloke in a yellow frock, and six other weirdoes took pot-shots at a plastic pig. I cheered for the pig, mainly because the archers couldn’t hit the thing.
And then the re-enactment of the battle of Hastings took place. I cheered for the Normans, if only because I knew my history, and I knew who would win anyway. And to cut an extremely long and tedious story short, the Normans won. I think it’s fair to say that if the public address system had actually worked, and had the battle re-enactment been staged so that we could have seen more than just the backs of the Saxon side, then it might have been worthwhile.
However the public address system was inaudible, and all we could see was the backs of the Saxon side, and so the hour of the re-enactment was extremely dull. The last five minutes was entertaining enough when the Normans slaughtered the Saxons right in front of us; if only for the cries for a first aider to come to the aid of one of the actors who’d got a boo-boo.
After the battle seemed to be done, we had a wander wound some of the Abbey before making our way back to the cars. Getting out of the car park was a bit tricky, but we (and thousands of normal people) eventually managed it despite, rather than thanks to, the efforts of the English Heritage staff.
Once out, we made for Hastings, and having parked in Dudley Road (A lot closer to the town than I was expecting), we made our way to the Old Town. As luck would have it, the first pub we came to was the F.I.L.O., and so we popped in for a crafty half. They had a new beer on the hand pump – “Churches” – their own pale ale. A pint of that went down nicely. And we adjourned to their patio area to find a beer festival in full flow, so we had another pint there.
By now we were peckish, and so having obtained the obligatory flashing rabbit ears, we queued up for half an hour for some chips. For all that it is a traditional seaside town, Hastings doesn’t have many chip shops. Whilst queuing we met up with the rest of our party as well as some old friends, and then made our way to Winkle Island to watch the procession. And there we met family. And my mobile phone wouldn’t stop – texts and calls asking where we were. And then asking where on Earth is Winkle Island. How could anyone not know where Winkle Island is?
The bonfire procession passed, and I looked for friends who turned out not to be in the procession. And with an hour until the fireworks went off, the suggestion was made that we might visit the Dolphin to see what beer was on.
Three pints of HopHead later we wandered down to watch the fireworks. The fireworks were spectacular; the toilet facilities were feral. I’d never seen anything like it – you just stood and pissed into a trough whilst passers-by cheered.
MyFitnessPal nearly had a fit this morning when I totted up yesterday’s calories. I was almost over my allowance for once. Normally I am well within what I should be scoffing. Not so, yesterday. The reason: the beer. Is five pints over the course of an evening really that excessive? For me, it certainly isn’t, but those five pints alone were over half the day’s allowed calorie intake. Perhaps I should moderate my input?
With not much else going on around the house, I spent the morning mowing the lawn. Following last week’s herculean efforts to bring the lawn under control, this week the mowing didn’t take very long at all. I then pootled about the garden. The fish pond amazes me: last week I was on the point of giving up with the thing and filling it in: the water was just green murk, despite my best efforts. Now the water is crystal clear. I wish I knew what was going on there. And then I thought about picking the leaf litter from the gravelled areas, but my heart wasn’t in it. Because as fast as I pick it up, more will fall. It’s autumn, after all.
I came in to find “My Boy TM ” ranting about the price of ice cream. When he took his tribe out to the zoo yesterday afternoon, he thought he’d been charged over the odds for two ice creams and a bottle of pop. He’d been charged five quid. Which was the going rate for a burger at Battle Abbey yesterday. I suppose he had a point: the obvious answer is to take your supplies with you. Doing so is something I’ve looked down on over the years, but it’s fast becoming a necessity.
And then to Folkestone for a bit of a walk. We picked up the grand-dog (Sid) and his entourage and set off to Folkestone Warren for a bit of a wander. Sid likes the sand – he eats it – but he’s not at all keen on the sea. Which was a shame – the idea was to see if he’d have a bit of a swim. He wouldn’t. But we had a good stroll; a tad leisurely, but that’s not always a bad thing.
I kept looking at Samphire Hoe in the distance. We could easily have got that far if we had gotten a move on. So bearing in mind that the cancellation of Shadoxhurst Bonfire has left a gap in the diary in a couple of weeks’ time, I’ve made plans to go back to the Warren, and walk as far as Samphire Hoe. We’ll do that at the end of the month – if any of my loyal readers would like to come along, you’d be very welcome.
And Cotton Traders had posted me their catalogue. They are being hopeful. Whilst I like Cotton Traders clothes, there is no way that I’m paying their normal prices. Everything I have of theirs comes from the bargain rail – and I must admit I begrudge paying their “bargain” price when I can get two or three of the same sort of thing from Asda or Tesco for the same price.
The other day I mentioned about applying for a job with a leading pharmaceutical company. Today they emailed me to tell me they weren’t interested. I suppose I should be grateful that they had the good grace to tell me, but as far as I am concerned I shall buy from their competitors from now on.
There was something on the radio this morning that made my piss boil. Or that is, it would have, had I been able to afford the heating costs. Last week I mentioned about rising fuel costs. The government has had high-level meetings with the energy supplying companies, and now is in a position to help the poor consumers. We can either use less power, or buy it from someone cheaper. What annoys me is that this government has the gall to claim this advice as a victory.
And what I can’t understand is how I can change from one power company to another and pay a different price when the leccie will come into my house from the same mains cable, and the gas will come into my house through the same pipe.
The radio program then went on to interview spokesmen of the power companies. All of whom were discussing oil, gas and petrol prices; clearly with no idea that fossil fuels will not last forever. Renewable power sources weren’t even to be considered. It’s now forty years since I realised how daft burning fossil fuels is; and I only do it because I have no alternative. Surely there’s mileage in going green?
Meanwhile closer to home I would seem to have some DVDs missing. If any of my loyal readers have borrowed South Park Seasons six and eight, could you let me know. Similarly if anyone’s got the DVD of the BBC’s Voyage to the Planets I’d be grateful to know: it’s a favourite of mine and I’ve replaced that DVD once already.
In a week or so’s time I shall be lecturing to the astro club on the subject of comets. Earlier in the year I was very pleased to find out that comet Elenin would be at its brightest at the end of this month, and that it might possibly even be bright enough to see with the naked eye. That fitted in very well with my plans: a lecture on comets; then we’d go outside and look at one.
The eagle-eyed amongst my readers may well have spotted that there isn’t a bright comet in the skies at the moment. Those of my readers equipped with telescopes may well have spotted that here isn’t a dull comet in the skies at the moment.
The chances are that the comet broke up whilst swinging around the sun. But were that the case, there should be some comet fragments visible to the more powerful optical telescopes. And there aren’t. Having spent months preparing a talk for the astro club and expecting a comet, with ten days to go, I might just have to undertake something of a major re-write.
Meanwhile, polar bears are shrinking. It’s an established fact of science that the larger an animal’s body, the more difficulty the animal has keeping cool. Which is why elephants have big ears and flap them about, why hummingbirds live at the equator, and why polar bears are the biggest bears there are. And polar bears, together with all sorts of animals including, toads, tortoises and tits are getting smaller.
And so with comprehensive evidence of our planet being terminally knacked, we are still struggling to do what needs to be done: the European Space Agency is going cap in hand to the Russians to beg for a rocket to launch their Exo-Mars probe.
Meanwhile, I wonder if any of my loyal readers could settle an argument. There is a school of thought which believes that in China it is not customary to eat anything after 4pm. There is another school of thought which believes this to be a load of old tosh…
I was amazed to hear that in the current climate of recession and austerity and credit crunches, Costa Coffee is coining money in, hand over fist. Personally I begrudge paying the price of a jar of coffee for just one cup of the stuff, but it would seem that for all that no one has any money, and inflation is far outstripping wage increases, the Great Unwashed can find money to spend on expensive coffee.
I have colleagues who do this – admittedly the posh coffee is a bit cheaper in the works canteen, but it’s still a quid a cup, and these colleagues have two cups of the stuff. Every day. That’s a tenner a week on coffee!
Perhaps they can afford it by selling their “muck”. Up until now I’ve had a sneaking admiration for those who donate eggs. Sperm is dead simple to donate, but eggs are somewhat more difficult to extract. And so the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is planning to give every egg donor a £750 bung. There was a very stupid spokeswoman from this fertility watchdog on the radio this morning. She was adamant that this £750 was to cover any expenses the donors might have incurred, but was equally adamant that she didn’t want to get bogged down with donors brining in receipts for their expenses.
Why on Earth not? I get my expenses paid at work. But I get exactly my expenses paid. I bring in a receipt, and I get paid (to the penny) what I spent. Surely these people should learn from the examples of overseas egg donation clinics in which the amount of donors goes through the roof every time there is a financial downturn.
Is that the price of a life? Over in China, life is even cheaper. A two year old girl was run over yesterday. The accident was caught on video. Whilst tragic, road traffic accidents happen. What really boiled my piss was the fact that the same video footage showed loads of passers by passing by, leaving the child bleeding. What kind of person could do that?
Meanwhile, it’s Wednesday, and so to the Stour Centre for a bit of swimming. Five hundred and twenty five metres in just under half an hour can’t be bad. And I realised something tonight. As a child I would swim at the White Rock Swimming Pool. And before you got anywhere near the pool, there was a footbath full of bleach to kill off any nasties on your tootsies. There’s no footbath at the Stour Centre. What’s that all about…?
It’s officially winter: I had to scrape frost off of my car this morning. Oh – it was cold. The thermometer in my car said it was -1oC. Bearing in mind how glorious the rest of the day turned out to be, that was nippy.
It’s no secret that in the past I used to review pubs as a hobby. I reviewed quite a few. And so, being an accomplished reviewer I thought I’d have a go at a book. After all, Amazon invites reviews. It might be a fun thing to do.
But reviewing books- that’s a different matter to reviewing pubs. A pub review is very subjective as a pub changes from day to day. A book review – you’ve got to be objective about that. I wasn’t sure I could do the job justice, but I had a go. Please do let me know what you think of the review. And then (more importantly) get the book and tell me if I’ve done it justice.
Meanwhile over at the Medical Laboratory and Bioscience page on Facebook I see they’ve run yet another of my case study reviews as one of their featured articles. Does that make me a published author?
I then had an embarrassing five minutes at work today. As I walked into the place, a woman cheerfully said “Hello Dave”, and started chatting away with me. Which was all rather difficult as I hadn’t the faintest idea who she was. Her face was very familiar: I’m sure I know her, but I couldn’t place her at all.
A nice lady phoned from the mobile phone company: did I want to take out a second phone contract with them. No I didn’t. Did I want to upgrade to a package that included a free laptop? Yes – I wanted that a year ago, but they weren’t doing such an offer, so I got a laptop elsewhere. Did I want extra SIM cards. Why would I want extra SIM cards?
I came home to spend a few minutes working on next week’s presentation to the astro club. There’s been some developments in the world of comets, and it’s as well to be up to date, because if I’m not, I can bet that some smart-alec will be.
And then it was off to Wetherspoons for the works curry night. Five pints of ale is arguably more than a dieting chap should put away, but I quite liked the ales they had on. So five pints of that (and a curry) put me over my daily calorie allowance for the first time in weeks.
After a bit of brekkie I got busy in the garden. Over the summer, all sorts of bits and bobs have accumulated. Bags of discarded clothing, old coats with holes in, hub caps from cars that were sold five years ago. Loads of tat. And so a tip run was in order. For once I got to drive straight into the tip, unload a car full of rubbish, and was back home within twenty minutes.
So I went back to the garden. Lawns don’t mow themselves, you know. And then with the lawn mowed, I pruned back the jungle that was overflowing the fence from next door. The jungle looks nice enough, but it does drop leaves all over my gravelled areas.
I then came in and had a tidy-up in my room; chucked out all sorts of scraps of rubbish that had accumulated, and even mended my shredder. I bought a shredder a year or so ago to safely get shot of bank statements and stuff, and it’s been jammed for months. Not any more.
Then to the doctor’s. Having found that my cholesterol was high the other day (month), they wanted to know what my blood pressure was before prescribing any drugs. I’m not keen on the idea of taking statins, but I went to get my blood pressure checked anyway. 130/88. The nurse said the first figure was ok, but the second one was a tad high. The Internet would seem to agree with her.
I then went back to the tip. Having done a tip run earlier, I’d come home to find a bag of rubbish I’d forgotten to load into the car, and I’d generated another by tidying up. And this tip the tip was painful. It’s always the way – I can get rid of a car-full of rubbish in minutes, but two bags of rubbish take forever to shift. I queued for ten minutes just to get into the place, and when I did get into the tip I couldn’t believe my eyes. Everyone was being held up by two idiot women. Their car was full of bags of rubbish. They were systematically taking each bag in turn and emptying it over the floor, then picking up the various scraps of rubbish and making several journeys from their car to the skip to get rid of them.
I came home for a spot of dinner. Usually when I’m having a day off I treat myself to KFC – I like a three piece variety meal, and kid myself that it’s quite alright because I have it with a diet coke. But two minutes’ research showed me that my favourite KFC is good for 1269 calories. Two bits of toast and a cup of coffee fills me up just the same, and is over a thousand calories less.
And then Chris came to visit. And brought round the old Apple i-wotsit that was surplus to his requirements. I’ve borrowed it because Chris has rigged it so’s I can play NeverWinter Nights on it. It took five minutes setting up, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon clearing out the goblins. Oh, how I’ve missed that game…
Seeing how it’s Friday, we then went swimming. It’s got so that we are recognised by the other denizens of the slow lane who now greet us when we arrive. And so I got on with the swimming. Up until now I’ve just done twenty lengths each time, not wanting to get into the vicious circle of just adding another length to what I’d done last time, and wearing myself out carrying on like that. So instead I’ve decided to swim for as close to half an hour as I can, and tonight I swan twenty-four lengths. Six hundred metres – not bad. Mind you, there was an odd smell in the deep end: rather musty, almost like stale urine. I noticed that on Wednesday too. I wonder if I should say something to the staff…?
I must apologize to my Facebook followers. It would seem I’d got MyFitnessPal (dot com) rigged to bother Facebook every time I so much as farted. I’ve adjusted the settings so it should only update once a day (at most) now.
Ant talking of MyFtnessPal (dot com), I had the weekly weigh-in this morning. Another two pounds have gone. Whilst I'm pleased with this, if I can keep up this rate of weight loss, by the time my birthday comes (in late February) I should just be “overweight”.
I then spent a little time over on LinkedIn creating a profile for myself. I don’t know if it will generate much in the way of interest from potential employers, but it never hurts to try these things.
I might send the Kentish Express an email and see how the land lies. There are several sites with which I can register as a freelance journalist, but they all want cash up front. And (all me cynical if you will) I’m just a bit suspicious about that.
Then to the shopping. Dull, but it needed doing. We went to FarmFoods and Lidl. They might be the shops where the “lower orders” obtain their provisions, but they have the advantage of being very cheap. We then came home and with washing up done (where does it all come from?), I tidied up the front garden. With a concreted front garden, five minutes with a broom is all that is needed.
I then mucked about with my (Chris’s) Apple i-wotsit. And after a couple of minutes fiddling around I can now add custom modules to the thing (and run them). So rather than just having a game which will keep me occupied for a couple of months, with a little judicious farting about on the NeverWinter Vault, I’ve got a game which will keep me out of mischief for years.
And then the doorbell rang: Dave had arrived. The plan was to pop up to the town for a beer or two, then home for tea and a couple more beers over a movie. We went up to the town, and came home shortly after midnight… It’s all rather vague….
I was woken by a text message from “My Boy TM ” asking if I was awake. What answer did he think he would get at 8.30am on a Sunday? But we leapt into action, and with the house guests alive and raring to go, ‘er indoors TM did a full English breakfast for us. That went down nicely.
And then with Brian and Rachel following, we set off to Folkestone to collect more of our party before parking up at the Western Heights car park. A dozen of us were raring to go, and those who’d arrived at the car park first had found an interesting hole in a wall. To be precise, not so much “in” as “under”. So half a dozen of us scrambled into the hole to have a look-see. It’s become something of a tradition to “boldly go”. We found several linked rooms, and a couple of corridors leading off into the distance.
With this fully explored, we scrambled out, and then found what (at first sight) looked like a rabbit hole. After a bit of discussion I remained of the opinion that it was a rabbit hole, but when “Daddy’s Little Angel TM ” disappeared into the hole I found myself reconsidering. So I scrambled into the hole myself. This one was rather disappointing – having forced myself into one of the narrowest holes I’ve (so far) been in, there wasn’t much to be seen inside. Mind you, getting out was quite tricky. In the end Stevey grabbed my hand and forcibly dragged me out. But it achieved the desired result.
From here we went to the St Martin’s deep shelter. It’s one I’ve visited before, but some of our party hadn’t. And so we spent an enjoyable twenty minutes underground before making our way to the Drop Redoubt. The Western Heights Preservation Society were staging an open day, and we saw re-enactments with proper muskets being fired (oh – they were LOUD!), we watched a chap having his leg amputated, we swapped insults with the actors, we got told off by the actors. It was a really good day out. We really must go to their next open day.
And then with time pushing on, we went down the Grand Shaft. Built over two hundred years ago to provide a short cut for troops to get from the Western Heights to Dover (and back again), it’s quite amazing to behold. I’ve never seen a triple spiral staircase before. Going down was easy enough, but coming back up nearly killed me. And as I struggled up I met an ex-cub who was having no trouble going up and down the stairs, and said hello to more of my loyal readers who were there as well.
Pausing only briefly to laugh at Chris (who’d caught his “flowers and frolics” on a railing) we made our way back to the car park and home.Having said goodbye to Dave, I then slobbed about for a bit. And after a cracking bit of tea I went back to NeverWinter. Zombies have over-run the graveyard. They do that…
I think I must have overdone it somewhat yesterday, as today I ached all over. I’m used to aching after having been tunnelling, but I naively hoped that now (what with all my recent swimming) I might be slightly fitter.
My piss boiled at this morning’s news – tales of our “compensation culture” in which one chap got a five thousand pounds bung to keep him sweet when he fell out of bed. And another one got nearly two thousand pounds because he was too fat for the office toilet. And yet another got over three thousand pounds having strained himself carrying six tins of beans.
Meanwhile some long-standing plans have gone west. Or (more accurately) south. The last time there was a lunar eclipse we missed the thing. We stood out in the cold and rain, and looked up at the thick cloud. So we decided that in December we’d go out and see the eclipse that’s happening then. And with only a few weeks to go, it turns out that this eclipse won’t be visible in the UK – it’s a southern hemisphere thing this time. Oh well, all I can suggest is that loyal readers tune in on April 25, 2013 and we’ll hope for better luck then.
And so home, where “My Boy TM ” was staging a rant. His new phone has arrived, and wasn’t responding to the activation code he was typing in. After a few minutes I suggested he tried the correct code (which worked wonders). He now has to wait for (up to) a day for it all to connect. He ain’t happy…
Last night MPs voted on whether or not we should have a national referendum about remaining part of the European Community, whether we should leave it, or whether we should somehow renegotiate a better deal.
The trouble with the whole European question is that it goes against the narrow-minded jingoistic attitude which the “tits and bingo gutter press” originally delighted in stirring up. And it made sense for the “tits and bingo gutter press” to stir up this attitude. If they could make up lies about Johnny Foreigner living it up at the British tax-payer’s expense, then it sold their newspaper.
What everyone seems to have overlooked is their history lessons. English history for the last thousand years has been (pretty much) a non-stop blood-bath in which England has been picking fights with every European country that was ever on the map. A history which has taken a rather different course since we joined the whole “European thing” back in the 1970s. And other countries who’ve done little else but fight each other for hundreds of years are now staunch allies.
The obvious next step is to beef up the United Nations and give it some real power. However that’s not the step being taken. Instead, as the Scots go their own way, the United Kingdom looks to becoming far less united than ever it was.
I spent a little while looking at on-line car sharing today. Getting to Canterbury ain’t cheap, and I was wondering if I might share the costs. Kent County Council offer a car sharing scheme, so I’ve signed up to it. I suppose I’m running the risk of ending up with an axe-murderer, but it might save a few quid.
I was rather tired today – whilst I don’t think I can say I was awake all night, I certainly saw every hour. I think I had half an hour’s sleep between 4.15am and 4.45am. For no apparent reason I was alternatively running very hot and very cold. I wonder what that was all about And the noise of the rain on the windows didn’t help.
Work looked like being a dull day, but there was a sudden spot of excitement: one of my colleagues announced he’d been bitten. And sure enough, he had. The wound looked quite vicious, but we had no idea what had fanged him.
Here’s some bad news: no matter how hard you try to lose weight, it would seem that your body conspires against you. People who’ve lost over ten per cent of their body weight (like I will soon have) have to contend with hormonal changes which increase the appetite. Which explains why I always feel hungry. Still, I will persevere.
Meanwhile it would seem that crash helmet technology is improving in leaps and bounds thanks to research about why woodpeckers don’t get headaches. It amazes me that science has taken so long to come up with this one.
The news also had something which sounded as though it had promise. Every evening the financial bit mentions how much a Euro is worth in pounds and pence. Tonight it was worth eighty-eight pence. This came as something of a surprise, as it is *always* worth eighty-seven pence. One of the listeners had emailed in to ask why this was. And this is something I’ve always wondered myself. I was intrigued, and looked forward to the explanation.
The answer (however) was dull: I for one was disappointed. But I did find myself asking that if the pound and the euro are demonstrably of equal value, and have been for some time, how would entering the Euro hurt the UK economy?
I did some more research on car sharing today. One website seemed to think that I drove 248 miles to work every day (and the same again coming home). Another one said it would send me a confirmatory email, and then denied all knowledge of me. There is always the bus, but for all that a monthly ticket would save me loads of cash, I wouldn’t get home until 7.30pm.
I then spent a little while preparing for tomorrow evening’s talk to the astro club. It’s been in preparation for a year, so I hope it goes down well. And then ironing whilst watching “Terra Nova” and “Star Trek”. I must love it…
Spare a thought for my cousin today. She absolutely *loves* Halloween and everything spooky. She’s taken her family to Euro Disney for a holiday which has cost them thousands of pounds, only to find that Euro Disney hasn’t decorated the place for Halloween this year. She’s not happy.
And also spare a thought for Lamna Dauda, who is “seeking a serious long term relationship and more. Someone who is responsible, respectful, can take care of themselves, and who is employed special to capture my heart and knows how to handle it with care, one who will cherish me and be willing to share life's greatest joys and sorrows. Someone who's willing to spoil, pamper and love me unconditionally, whom is kind, sincere, honest, passionate, loyal, sense of humor, loving and wants a lifetime of passion and also knows how to have fun but can be serious when needed., so only serious inquiries will be accepted. I hope to hear from you soon I'm looking for a soul-mate...a best friend for life! Someone I could talk to about anything....A good listener, smart and funny! I'd give the same to the ONE !! Who knows - may be you are my twin-soul” She’s asked to add me as a friend on Facebook. I remain dubious about her.
Being the last Friday of the month meant it was astro club. The evening went well – I was speaking about comets, and the talk was OK. I think I did the talk better a few weeks ago at the SEKAS club: I could probably have done with having rehearsed the thing a few more times. And my unfamiliarity with the PC didn’t help. But it went OK. I then got a bit distracted with the raffle, and ended up selling strips rather than individual tickets. (I’ve a lot on my mind at the moment!)
I was up with the lark, and did the weekly weigh-in. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight this week. I now notice that when I look in mirrors I’m obviously thinner than what I was. There’s still quite a bit of blubber to shift yet, though.
We strolled up to town, and paid the money into the bank. I then had a nosey at the market stalls. In the past I’ve got an apple and a carrot for lunch from Asda on a daily basis. Three days’ worth from Asda comes to more than a week’s worth from the market stall. And as money is now tighter than it has ever been for me, I shall be going back to that market stall more often.
And back home again. ‘er indoors TM (and a gaggle of girlies) went off to Folkestone to get their feet chewed by fish. I fell asleep watching the film “Mission to Mars”, and then did the ironing. It’s amazing how ironing piles up when you’re not looking.
And with the ironing done I popped round to visit “My Boy TM ”. For a long time I’ve been hankering after a lean-to in which to put the rubbish and the recycling. He’s built one, and says he will build me one as well. He’s a good lad. Whilst he went shopping, me and Fudge went for a walk. Fudge is getting more and more excitable’ it’s been suggested that it might soon be time for Fudge to go to the vet’s for extraction of his “Flowers and Frolics”. I don’t think he’ll like that very much…
Saturday evening has been film night for many years. The tribes gather at Chris’s house and watch a couple of films. Normally I’m not a “films kind of guy”, but this evening I made an exception. And I was glad that I did. The Green Lantern was a film I’ve wanted to see for ages, and it was really good. And then after a short break was the fourth of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. I did like it, but as the film went on, I found myself dozing off. It was getting late…
I then did a little fiddling with the accounts on-line, and after a spot of brekky I had a look-see on the Internet.I then tweaked my Sky subscription. We’ve so many DVDs in the house; we don’t really need the movies channel. And I can’t see the difference between HD and normal TV, so the HD went. That’s saved thirty quid each month.
Chip arrived, and we set off to Folkestone for our planned walk. My mobile then went crazy. Unfortunately there would seem to be a dose of the lurgie going around, and a lot of people had no choice but to cry off. We were also hoping for an appearance from the Bromley contingent, but ill health intervened there too. Which was a shame. So many good friends missed a really good day out.
A quick cuppa, and six of us (and a dog) drove down to the East Cliff. Once parked up, we set off. The plan was to walk to Samphire Hoe along the beach, have a picnic, and walk back again. Things got off to an iffy start when I realised that the tide was higher than I was expecting and I got a wet foot. But we pressed on regardless. I spent a few minutes trying to photograph a wave, and got soaked when a big one took me by surprise.
Just off the beach, in a very secluded spot we found what looked like a beach hut with a wonderful view, and the lady outside it invited us up to have a look. It turned out that it wasn’t a beach hut – it was her house. Built on a little wooden platform just up from the beach, it’s in a wonderful location Sheltered from the winds; there’s no roads or easy way of getting to the place, other than walking along the shore for a mile or so. But she said that it kept her fit.
We got chatting: apparently she spent a year or so living in a tent in various places all over Folkestone Warren until she found the spot she liked best. She then checked with the land registry and found that no one owned the land, so she built a wooden platform and based her tent on it for a few months. And when no one had complained, she then built a little hut, and has been living there ever since. Good for her!
We then carried on along the beach, finding another home-made house on the beach on the way. And then we had a dilemma. It was high tide, and we could go no further unless we scrambled over some rocks. I clambered up a bit, reviewed the situation, and was on the point of announcing that we could go no further when I realised that Chippy had already got past the rocks and was waving from the other side. So having realised I could go further after all, I did.
But not a lot further. As I scrambled in an easterly direction, a nice lady was scrambling in a westerly direction, grumbling that it wasn’t possible to get to Samphire Hoe unless it was at low tide. And within half a mile we saw what she meant. We were within half a mile of our destination, but the sea was washing right up to the cliff face. There was (at least) two hundred metres of beach which were under water and so were impassable.
On the way back there was a tunnel into the cliff face, and so Stevey felt the urge to go investigate. I was quite keen on the idea, but the tunnel was a little way up the slope, and I chickened out. I was about to reconsider my chickening out after ten minutes had passed and Stevey hadn’t re-emerged, but Chip went off on a “Search and Rescue” mission instead, so I let him get on with it.
It turned out that this hole was actually a ventilation shaft for the train tunnel, and feeling the change in pressure as the train rattled past was quite impressive. I wish I’d gone up there now. Pausing only briefly to watch the penguins swimming past, we made our way back to base for a cuppa and a Maryland cookie (57 calories) before coming home.
It takes me a little while to get used to the clocks having gone back. But did you know that this year the Russians haven’t bothered with the nonsense. They have left the clocks on the summertime setting, with darker mornings and lighter evenings. As a mad keen astronomer, I’d rather have the darker evenings. As someone who’s driving home in the dark, I’d rather have lighter evenings. As someone who can’t get used to the clocks changing, I wish we could copy the Russians and leave the things alone regardless of whethere the mornings or evenings are lighter or darker.
Today’s news wound me up somewhat. Bearing in mind the problems with piracy in various parts of the world, the Prime Minister has only just announced that British ships can take armed guards with them. Up until now, merchant shipping has had to stand by helplessly as armed pirates sail up to them and take over at gunpoint. Now the decent law-abiding majority can shoot back at the pirates. Good (!)
And talking of the astro club, we had a committee meeting today. We shall be a part of Stargazing Live 2012. The club merchandise is coming along well. I’ve agreed to do a talk next year (but have absolutely no idea on what topic). The club’s coming on in leaps and bounds: I’m so glad to be a part of it.
And I’ll end today’s little rant with the observation that having lost two stone in weight over the last few months, I’m now (realistically) still only one third of the way along my weight loss campaign. For all that I’ve noticeably lost weight; I’ve still got quite a way to go.