01 September 2008 (Monday) - Weight and Weightlessness

01 September 2008 (Monday) - Weight and Weightlessnessmagnify

As a professional scientist I am required to be au-fait with the latest developments in the healthcare field. The latest snippet of wisdom to come to my attention featured in that most august tome of scientific research, the Reader’s Digest. Apparently in order to be classified as “not a porker”, one’s waist measurement must not be more than half of one’s height. And it’s now official. I am not a porker. I am in no way overweight. I am merely one foot four inches too short. Were I to be seven feet two inches tall, all would be fine. I’m off to buy some stilts tomorrow….

And so to astronomy club. A talk tonight about spotting satellites. And not just spotting them, photographing them, and all sorts of stuff about them. Apparently NASA tracks some eight thousand satellites. Some the size of the International Space Station, and some only four inches across. Among the stuff in orbit are several bags of rubbish thrown out of the window of the Mir space station, a spanner, at least two cameras, and a toothbrush. NASA would seem to be rather evasive about how a toothbrush got loose into space, but I am reliably assured there’s one up there. And as treasurer I got to collect the subs - £120 and not everyone’s paid up yet. That’s me off down the pub…..


02 September 2008 (Tuesday) - Ribbet (!)

02 September 2008 (Tuesday) - Ribbet (!)magnify

Tonight, I have to admit, I was impressed with the sheer genius of one of my cubs. In the last week he has learned to speak fluent Frog. In order to demonstrate his achievement, tonight he made a point of only communicating in “ribbets” and “gribbets”. However, in learning this amphibian tongue he would seem to have lost the use of Standard English. Fortunately “Big Jimmy Spanner” speaks Frog. Unfortunately “Big Jimmy Spanner” speaks Frog in the same way that I speak French. Whilst he can transmit messages in the Frog language himself, he has no understanding of anything spoken in Frog back to him. However it transpired that this was not too much of a problem. It would seem that a particularly loud “gribbet” followed by a thump on the head is Frog for “do you understand” (or the amphibian equivalent). Furthermore a nod of the head signifies “yes” in both herpetiles and mammals alike, so some degree of communication was possible.

And then a game of “Shark Attack”. The cubs sit with their legs under the parachute. One cub is under the parachute (the shark), who then grabs random cubs by the ankles and pulls them under the parachute. The one pulled under is then the shark and he pulls another under. And so on, ad nauseum. That game was good for a couple of fights.

When sending them all home, I noticed that one of the girl cubs has some quite spectacular pink fluffy handlebars on her bike. I commented on how effective they looked. She punched me in the “apparatus” and told me not to take the p*ss. Some girls were never intended to go to the Brownies……



03 September 2008 - History...

03 September 2008 - History...magnify

Did you know that today is the 350th anniversary of the death of Oliver Cromwell? He died of malaria you know. For all the drivel about global warming, and that in a few years time the Romney Marsh will be warm enough to be malarious, three centuries ago, an Englishman contracted malaria in Ireland. And once Cromwell had been dead for a bit, following the restoration of the monarchy, they dug up his corpse and staged an execution on it. And they didn’t bury all of him afterwards. Most of the body got chucked into a pit, whilst his head knocked about as a collector’s item until it was finally buried fifty years ago. One lives and learns.

A late start today, so I had some time on my hands. I had a quick go at the astronomy club’s accounts. Rather easier than the cubs accounts, it has to be said. And I made a start on my next presentation to them I’m talking about the latest developments on Mars at the end of November. I shall just re-hash the presentation I did last year, add a bit about the Phoenix lander, chuck in a couple of knob jokes, and no one will be any the wiser. Least of all me, and I’m doing the talk.

There was an advert for the astronomy club on the radio this evening. I wonder who put that up. And I wonder how much it will cost us. Hopefully it’s free….


04 September 2008 (Thursday) - The Internet

04 September 2008 (Thursday) - The Internetmagnify

I had a vague plan to go to Folkestone tonight. One of my favourite pubs has been awarded the Pub of the Year award from the Ashford, Folkestone and Romney Marsh branch of CAMRA. For all that I think CAMRA are a bunch of twits, I was rather looking forward to supporting the Chambers bar and watching the presentation. However due to some strange quirk of fate, the presentation was yesterday. I missed it (!)

And in other news, I see the internet is about to go west. As Yahoo urge people to turn away from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and as Google launches it’s own browser, I’m left wondering how much this is all going to cost. With Microsoft you had one thing to do one thing. Now…. I’m reminded of how I would watch movies on Beta-Max or VHS or V2000. All utterly incompatible. Or the recent struggle between HD and blue-ray. Or when I first started surfing the net when Compuserve and AOL had pretty much their own Internets. Expert opinion feels we might be going back along that route. Let’s hope not….


05 September 2008 (Friday) - Explosions and Marsupials

05 September 2008 (Friday) - Explosions and Marsupialsmagnify

Whilst quietly minding my own business clearing out the orcs and trolls in NeverWinter, there was a strange fizzing from the room next door. Followed shortly by a smell of burning, and a scream of terror. “Daddies Little Angel TM”, had inadvertently blown up her telly. Blowing up tellies is something of a family tradition. Her mother once did the same. She plugged in an iron and the resultant electrical surge trashed my mother’s telly. I blame my father for his penchant with 13 amp fuses. My grandmother once trashed her telly in spectacular fashion – the thing actually burst into flames whist she and my aunts were watching “Coronation Street”. Whilst I didn’t actually witness the conflagration myself, I did see the scorch marks up the wallpaper afterwards. This was apparently an occupational hazard of the early colour TV sets. They would spontaneously combust with alarming regularity. I expect they saw this as part of their role to entertain the public. A telly blowing up is certainly a lot more spectacular that most of the drivel on the telly.

Daddies Little Angel TM” immediately claimed “dibs” on the unused telly in my bedroom, but before she could have it, the carcass of the old one had to be removed. The two of us got half way down the stairs before dropping it in a fit of giggles. We then got half way through the back door before we collapsed in hysterics again, and following a third dropping just outside the shed, I think it’s safe to say that if the thing wasn’t knackered having just been blown up, it’s certainly fit for the bin now. Having shifted the defunct telly, we found a broken DVD player underneath it. It would seem I put the DVD player there some years ago to prop the telly up. I can’t help but wonder how much other trot there is lying around the house. A cursory glance has found six PC base units. Perhaps I’d better have a bit of a sort out at the weekend.

And then there was something interesting on the radio this afternoon. KMFM had the tale of Ms Heather Smith who was driving in the vicinity of Smarden last Saturday when she saw a wallaby hopping around the locale. Now two weeks ago at Bat-Camp Martin spotted a strange unidentified creature in the next field. He pointed it out to me. It looked just like a huge squirrel. An enormously huge squirrel But on reflection, it might have been a small wallaby…..


06 September 2008 (Saturday) - Housework and the Good Beer Guide

06 September 2008 (Saturday) - Housework and the Good Beer Guidemagnify

My Boy TM” fancied a toasted cheese sandwich for his brekkie, but as the toaster is on the knacked side, he would seem to have developed a bodge involving forcing the thing closed with a spanner. Whilst it didn’t actually burst into flames, it did smoke impressively.

The weather was awful today, and so in a break with tradition, rather than embarking on the usual Saturday pub crawl, today was “tidy the house day”, complete with bags of rubbish and three hours of ironing to a seven episode Dr Who-a-thon. And now the laundry bin is half full again. I never stop with this laundry.

Today’s post brought the latest edition of the Good Beer Guide. Members of the campaign for real ale up and down the country have voted for the best pubs in the land to be included in this book. Well, I for one haven’t voted, but as it’s no secret that I do rate pubs for a hobby, let’s see if the national consensus agrees with me.

I was amazed to find only one Ashford pub in it. The County Hotel. Somewhere which in my opinion is average at best, and is far surpassed by many other local pubs. The Three Chimneys at Biddenden, The Tickled Trout at Wye and the World’s Wonder at Warehorne don’t feature. However (to be frank) average country pubs like the Six Bells in Woodchurch do. Simple Simon’s (now Parrots) in Canterbury doesn’t get a mention. Nothing from Rye gets mentioned at all, and if ever there was a town for a pub crawl, it’s Rye. In Hastings, whilst the two obvious suspects (FILO & White Rock Hotel) feature, the Anchor doesn’t but the Dripping Spring (in nearby St Leonards) does. The Dripping Spring is,,,,, grim. The guide lists the Victoria in Milton Keynes - the place that claims to serve beer from the local brewery, but has no idea what you’re talking about when you ask for it. And whilst we’re on the subject of Milton Keynes it lists their Wetherspoons – somewhere I described on BITE as “without a shadow of a doubt, the worst Wetherspoons I've ever been in”.

In short it lists rubbish places and omits the good ones. I have been reliably informed by publicans in many locations that the listing of a pub in the Good Beer Guide is purely a measure of how much the publican sucks up to the local CAMRA branch. I get a free copy of it because I’m a member of CAMRA. I am seriously considering cancelling my membership….


07 September 2008 (Sunday) - Boingy Boingy down a Cliff

07 September 2008 (Sunday) - Boingy Boingy down a Cliffmagnify

The phone rang at 5.30am. IT problems at work. Half an hour with a large mallet sorted the problem, and then back to bed. I don’t mind being called into work in the night, but there’s something profoundly depressing about going there in the dark and coming home just as it’s getting light.

Because of this, I then overslept a bit, and we were a tad late setting off to Brighton. The plan for some months had been to spend up until about 3pm at the Brighton Kite Flier’s fly-in. But the weather was against us. And so Corinne had this idea that we might adjourn to the pub. Some might call this a radical suggestion, but it was one that I was happy to try. Particularly if the ropes were a bit iffy later in the day, this might be the last time I went out with er indoors TM.

And then to the abseil. er indoors TM , Bryan, CA, Colin and Sabrina were going to boingy-boingy down the side of a cliff. Why anybody should want to to boingy-boingy down the side of a cliff, I have no idea. Especially when you consider that God had gone to the trouble of putting a perfectly serviceable set of stairs on that cliff. But down that cliff they went. Some more adventurously than others. CA’s boingy-boingy had to be seen to be believed. I was impressed. You can see the event for yourself here and here and here.

Following a quick cuppa at Dave’s we then set off so’s not to be too late home. I don’t get to see my Brighton-based mates anywhere near as often as I’d like, but it’s such a long way. Well, it’s not that far, it’s just not that easy a journey. And having said that, somehow or other during the drive home we found ourselves on Bexhill beach for an hour eating chips. Just like we used to back in the halcyon days of the early 80s. How sweet…..


08 September 2008 (Monday) - I'm a Film Critic

08 September 2008 (Monday) - I'm a Film Criticmagnify

One of my favourite films is “28 Days Later”. It’s set a month after a plague wipes out pretty much everyone in the UK. Whilst it’s best described as a horror film, it’s not that horrific. It just makes you jump a few times. What I like about it, like any good film or TV show, is that it’s got believable characters. If you were in their place, you might not do exactly the same as they do, but you can understand why they do what they are doing. You can believe the most far fetched drivel if you can relate to the people in that drivel. After all, that’s the secret behind Dr Who, Star Trek and Blake’s Seven. And I like a film that takes place in an area I’ve visited. Westminster Bridge, Centre Point, St Thomas’s Hospital. I’ve been there – I can relate to that.

Whilst having a rummage around the Sky Plus box I found that one of the fruits of my loin had recorded the sequel film “28 Weeks Later”. Set six months (ish) after the first film it’s the story of the reconstruction after the plague. I’ve wanted to see this film for ages. So having a rare bit of peace and quiet with the house to myself, I sat down, made myself comfortable and switched on.

It’s so often a mistake to look forward to something – you can be so easily disappointed. This film was utter dross. Given that you find your wife has mutated into a killer zombie by the influence of a highly infectious virus, would you sneak through countless layers of quarantine to snog her? Given that you live in a safe haven behind electrified fences to keep out the killer zombies, would you nip outside for a bit of a laugh? And plausibility… this film would have you believe that you can walk (run) from London docklands to Wembley Stadium via Regent’s Park in about ten minutes.

I’d been so looking forward to this film. And it was rubbish. That’s two hours of my life down the pan. I hear there’s going to be a third film in this series. I shan’t be bothering with it…


09 September 2008 (Tuesday) - Bios & Pods

09 September 2008 (Tuesday) - Bios & Podsmagnify

The cubs are doing the IT badge (stage one). It’s rather basic. Switch on the computer, type something in word, draw something in paint, rummage around a CD, turn it off. Easy? Well, half an hour later I was up to my nasty in the BIOS trying to salvage something from the wreckage. Fortunately we’ve still got another three PCs in the scout hut to be trashed at a later date.

And then home - “Daddies Little Angel TM” helped me to remove my pod. Sexy as my “sexy new carl TM” is, it uses more petrol than the Espace ever did. I’m reliably informed it’s the lack of aerodynamism resulting from the pod being on top. So I’ve taken it off, and it will probably stay off until the camping season next year. Let’s hope I remember where I’ve put the thing.

And as the world comes to an end, can I wish all my readers a very happy afterlife.


10 September 2008 (Wednesday) - Atoms, Sculpture and Money

10 September 2008 (Wednesday) - Atoms, Sculpture and Moneymagnify

Fortunately for my loyal readers (and humanity at large) the world didn’t end this morning. I have this mental image of one scientist at CERN turning to another and declaring that was five billion pounds down the toilet. However those more knowledgeable about such things than me (i.e. other scientists) assure me that there is a lot to be learned from bashing atoms apart. I suppose this is true. From watching other people taking computers apart, I learned to make new ones myself. I can’t help but feel it is odd to go to so much trouble to take atoms apart in order to learn how to make new ones. It’s not as though atoms are in short supply.

Meanwhile at Ashford College of Art and Design I am reliably assured that an associate of “Daddies Little Angel TM” is having problems with her butt. Or, more precisely the butt of her sculpture. Having never sculpted a butt, I can only imagine her distress.

I came home from work early today to see if I could make sense of the accounts for the scout group’s recent trip to Alaska. They took forty thousand dollars when they went. They spent twenty thousand dollars whilst there. And they brought back twenty five thousand dollars when they came home. A nice trick, if one can manage it (!) Whilst I must admit that if there is to be a discrepant five grand, I’d rather it was in our favour like this. However there are little things like auditors who are apt to get testy about such piddling details. I shall go over the accounts again in a minute….


11 September 2008 (Thursday) - Two Years of Blogging

I’ve been blogging with tedious regularity for two years now. In that time my seven hundred and thirty-odd blog entries have been accessed some thirty seven thousand times. I’m averaging about fifty hits a day. I’m reliably assured people I’ve never met make a point of logging in daily to see what I’ve been getting up to. To these people, and to all my loyal readers, a big thank you for the support, and if ever you fancy a beer, I’m your man.

In retrospect I can thoroughly recommend writing a blog. Because if you don’t record what you’ve done, it’s so easy to find you’ve forgotten great chunks of your life. Whilst I clearly recall the kite festivals, the beer festivals and the week in Weymouth, I’d forgotten about the tree hugger who came to cubs. And about Huxley Pig. And Saltwood Castle. And Jimmy Saville the Dalek. And Alan’s visit. And several walks to new pubs. And King William. And the Russian ladies of loose morals. And British Bullfrog. And lop-sided bird tables. And the fit defoliation boiler. And Euro-Disney. And catching my biggest ever fish. And Jelly Blocks. And Moses meeting cattle for the first time. And my TV appearance. And the poly tunnel. And the rat in the shed. And so much more. Why not click here to see what I did. Oh go on – no one ever looks at my You-Tube efforts any more. And I put in such a lot of effort to wind up the fruits of my loin.

I wonder what the next year holds in store? In the meantime I’m off to France. That’s three times this year. I must love it !!!

See you all on Monday...


12 September 2008 (Friday) - Off to France

12 September 2008 (Friday) - Off to Francemagnify

Last night saw me firmly ensconsed in Peacehaven, and after a good night’s kip and a super bit of brekky, Anne & Alan arrived at 7am, and it was off to the ferry – Simon only lives three miles from the ferry terminal so after an uneventful journey (how far wrong can you go in three miles? – I’ll return to this theme later!) we were soon in the queue to board the ferry. However, due to the channel tunnel burning down overnight, pretty much everyone else who wanted to go abroad was also in the same queue. The port was heaving, and we were two hours late in sailing. Mind you, all was not lost. The time was productively spent sniffing round the “fit bit in the converted horsebox TM “. We then settled down to play cards – the ferry takes four hours to get to Dieppe. After an hour or so there was an announcement on the tannoy: would I report to the information office. Now that makes you sit up and take notice. After a minor panic on my part, it transpired that Simon had had a word with the crew and seeing as in my forty-odd years this was the first time I’d ever sailed over the channel, he’d arranged for me to visit the bridge. It was huge. Probably about twenty yards wide, with three separate control consoles – one in the middle, and one on each side. We watched other ships on the radar, and chatted with the officer of the watch for half an hour before going back to play cards. I say “play cards” – it’s fair to say we all had a bit of a kip before the announcement to return to our cars was made. Driving off was fun. The hippymobile in front of us had broken down during the crossing, and we had to help the hippies bump-start the thing on the ramp off of the ferry before we could get going ourselves.

The festival area was only half a mile from the ferry terminal so we thought we’d sign in before finding the hotel. The festival was held on the beach and whilst anyone and everyone can fly on the beach, there were grass enclosures for “official participants”. So we got our passes, and spent a few minutes having a look around. We soon found some fellow Brits and spent an entertaining ten minutes winding up the local officials by flying Indian fighting kites from the top of lamp posts. For some inexplicable reason whenever this chap found a kite tied to a lamp post he would take the thing down. So with a bit of “really skilful kite flying” an Indian fighter was soon flown from the top of a lamp post.

And then to the hotel. Fortunately we’d programmed the postcode of the place into the sat-nav. Unfortunately any given French postcode covers a much larger area than a British one does, and the dulcet tones of Joanna Lumley claimed we’d found the hotel somewhere up a dingy French back street. Earlier in the day I wondered how far wrong one could go in three miles. Now I had the answer to my question.

After a nerve-wracking half an hour we found the Hotel Formula 1. It might be described as “basic”, but so many hotels offer so many facilities that you never use. A bed for the night, brekky in the morning, and a loo & shower just down the corridor. At less than twenty quid a night you can’t complain. Even if it took a while to figure out how to work the light.

And then to the supermarket for some odds and ends. I needed toothpaste. I got a tube of stuff – it was either toothpaste or haemorrhoid ointment. I took a gamble, and it tasted like toothpaste, so it probably was. However having said that, I’ve never eaten any Preparation H before, so you never know. By now, time was getting on. There was a dinner for kite fliers at 7.30pm, but realistically we wouldn’t get there in time so we thought we’d find somewhere by the harbour for dinner. There was a minor panic when Alan missed his footing on a kerb and came down heavily. For a terrible moment I honestly thought he’d dropped dead. It was one of those schadenfreude moments – highly amusing all the time it is happening to someone else. A nasty sprain to his shoulder, but he was otherwise OK. We soon found a restaurant and settled down to “moules au curry avec frite” and chips. And found fellow kiting Brits in the same place having their tea too. It transpired that not may people had gone up to the “official” dinner. And then back to the cart, and to bed. It had been a long day…


13 September 2008 (Saturday) - Dieppe Kite Festival

13 September 2008 (Saturday) - Dieppe Kite Festivalmagnify

Following a good brekkie, it was back down to Dieppe. We spent at least two hours wandering round the open air market getting bread, cheese, ham, blood pudding, all sorts of stuff for dinner, before going to the festival. We spent a little while seeing the sights – not only were there shops for kites and souvenirs, there were formal delegations from some thirty countries each with their own displays. We had heard reports that due to some internal politicking and civil war, half the Chinese delegation had moved in with the Spanish lot, but this was never confirmed.

Seeing all there was to see took a while, and all too soon it was time for a picnic on the sea front. Dieppe sea front is one of the more scenic coasts, and to have the place alive with kites was wonderful.

Once stuffed with bread and various meats and cheeses, we took the spirit kites on to the field and spent an hour flying – or trying to fly. Despite the best of long launches, there was very little wind at ground level. Eventually we gave up, and spent time chatting with various celebrities of the kite work, including a world champion. I didn’t know that kiting has a world champion – one lives and learns. Following another mooch around the festival and two more ice creams we drove to the chateau at the cliff top. I’d had this idea that the festival would look rather spectacular from the top of the hills. The view was good, but most of the kites were too far away. I was glad we’d driven up there and not walked and climbed, as was my original plan.

A quick trip to the supermarket, and then time for a call of nature. The French lavatories have a mind of their own. When you want to flush the things, they don’t want to know. But sit down on the kharsi, and it flushes and comprehensively soaks your undercarriage. Twice. I mention this information in a spirit of helpful warning to any British lavatarian contemplating a continental excursion. All too soon it was dark, and time for dinner. This time in a restaurant specialising in “Moules au marmite”. Which is fine for those who like marmite. Me – I went for the “moules au curry avec frite” with chips again. In retrospect they weren’t as good as those of the night before – even if they were more expensive. But the drinks in this place weren’t bad.

And back to the flying field for the night flight. Literally hundreds of kites being flown in the dark. I would have thought this was a never-fail recipe for a knot, but all went well, with various spotlights picking out individual kites. I joined in by highlighting kites with my green laser, before flying a Lidl’s 25p kite. After swapping a few insults with some old friends, it was time for bed.


14 September 2008 (Sunday) - Dieppe Kite Festival (Still)

14 September 2008 (Sunday) - Dieppe Kite Festival (Still)magnify

Up early, breakfasted, car packed and we were back at the flying area by 9.00am. Bearing in mind that this is French time, back home er indoors TM would have still been snoring like a thing possessed. We needed an early start because we’d been invited to take part in the carnival procession that morning. It was great fun. We marched around the streets for over an hour. I got to carry a Brighton Kite Fliers banner. It got heavy after a while, and I did get it caught in a couple of overhead phone cables, but there was no damage done to the banner. I don’t know about any damage that might have been done to the cables. I expect I’ll never know.

After the procession we had a quick shop for more picnic stuff, and another feast on the sea front before having a fly. I flew one half of a pair of dragon kites, and then we got out an inflatable. “Kinky Boots” – a starfish about three metres wide wearing thigh-high boots. I was photographed so many times with this kite, and recorded for French TV too.

The plan was then to have another ice cream and a bit of a wander, but it came up in conversation that the ferry was leaving somewhat earlier than we thought. Added to which, whilst we’d been flying a French car had parked directly behind our car, effectively parking us in. After a nerve-wracking few minutes we were on our way. Have you ever tried to drive through a French crowd? – They don’t get out of the way at all.

All too soon we were back on the ferry, and sailing home. I slept for quite a lot of the journey back to good old Blighty, from where it was but a short hop back to Simon’s. A slightly longer hop back to Kent, but this time I did it in less than two hours – the quickest I’ve ever done Brighton to home. I must do the journey in the middle of the night on a Sunday more often. I got to bed at half past midnight and slept like a log. It had been a long, tiring weekend. But fun. I’m looking forward to going again.


15 September 2008 (Monday) - Back home again

15 September 2008 (Monday) - Back home againmagnify

For anyone who’s interested, there are photos of the weekend’s kiting fun here. There’s another kite festival this weekend as well.

Yesterday I came home to several thousand emails, most of which went in the spam filter, but one was from the secretary of the Ashford scout district. He had the hump that I dared to complain last week. I mentioned in passing that that my ten years service certificate was two years late. The thing was apparently issued last August. The fact I never received it is neither here nor there. This morning I drafted an email telling him where to stick it when it eventually does come to light, but I didn’t send it. I couldn’t be bothered.

There are also queries about the cubs accounts and the astronomy club’s bank balance. I was away for three days, and it will take forever to catch up.

Another thing I came home to was a small pond liner and a plastic water cascade. “My Boy TM” found them somewhere and thought I might like them He thought right. I feel another garden project coming up.


16 September 2008 (Tuesday) - An Average Night at Cubs

16 September 2008 (Tuesday) - An Average Night at Cubsmagnify

The cub who last week communicated purely in the language of the frog was still doing so this week. In fact he has regressed even more to the amphibian stage. Not only can he not use the English language any more, he can no longer walk. Instead he hops around as a means of locomotion. But he seems happy. (Which is probably all that anyone can ask from life). Compared to this, the cub who will now only answer to the name of “Marshmallow” (accompanied by two V-signs) appears somewhat passé.

One of the girl cubs was rather upset tonight. She has decided that she wants to be a Goth, but unfortunately for her, her mother refuses to allow her to dress in black. My telling her that all Goths are dumbwits who smell of cabbage merely aggravated the situation.

On the plus side, one of the cubs is doing the chef’s badge. In our cub pack there is a tradition that the chef’s badge is only awarded by the unanimous decision of the pack. Aspirants for this award need to feed the entire pack with their produce to prove their worth. Several times. Tonight’s offering was chocolate cake, which was very nice.

And we ended the evening with the first presentation of one of the badges in our group. One of our young leaders, recently having had his sixteenth birthday, has been with us since he was a six year old beaver. Tonight he got his one hundred nights away badge. That’s one hundred nights he’s spent away from home on scouting events. I wonder how many I’ve done….


17 September 2008 (Wednesday) - Another Day...

17 September 2008 (Wednesday) - Another Day...magnify

Sometimes I despair about the future of my profession. My senior staff have no idea what a Humphrey is, never mind the danger of leaving milk unattended when one is about. And not only have the trainees never heard of Blake’s Seven, they have not the slightest scooby who Duck Dodgers is, let alone even heard of an Illudium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator. It’s a sad reflection of the state of their knowledge that they were impressed when I didn’t need Wikipedia to tell them what the “B.A.” in “B.A. Baracus” stood for.

And then home for a night of accounts. The astronomy club’s got loadsamoney, but has to spend it. After all, that’s in the terms of the donations that have been made – the money has to be spent. That’s easy enough. I can squander with the best of them. The Alaska trip accounts are another matter. I can only describe them as having improved on last week’s efforts. I now have only four thousand dollars more than I should have. I’ll sort it out tomorrow…



18 September 2008 (Thursday) - Money, Facebook, Photos and Stuff

18 September 2008 (Thursday) - Money,Facebook, Photos and Stuffmagnify

I was up at 6am and ironing my shirts like a thing possessed. There was re-runs of Tom Baker Doctor Who episodes on telly, so it wasn’t as dull as you might imagine. The plan was to take the afternoon off work to sort out all manner of problems, but people going sick from work, and computers doing what they do best put paid to that little scheme. Which was a shame. Not only did I have a ton of ironing to do, there was also several thousand dollars worth of other people’s money to track down.

That all had to wait until I got home, as did signing up the passport application of one of the friends of “Daddies Little Angel TM” – a pleasant enough young lady, despite her propensity for running round in the nip. Somewhat like the model that “Daddies Little Angel TM” was drawing in her art class this morning. It would certainly seem to be a far racier life studying Art & Design than Biomedical Sciences ever was. I’ve given instructions that “Daddies Little Angel TM” is under no circumstances to be doing drawings of nudey men, but I am probably far too late to be aspiring to the moral high ground.

The ironing is still waiting, but I’ve got somewhere with the money. There’s now only $100 more than we should have in the scout account. When the account read “$4900 spent on an RV”, what it should have read was “$4900 earmarked for the RV to be spent when we get home”. For some reason, Alaskan car hire firms didn’t like traveller’s cheques. Americans are funny like that. When you’re out in the back of beyond in the wilds of Gutsache (Alabama), they love traveller’s cheques. But when you try to use them in downtown Seattle they look at you as though you are some sort of crim, and refuse to take them.

A flurry of emails brought me the news that the astronomy club is now on Facebook. And I’m an officer of the group. It might be a useful way to keep in touch. We shall see. We’ve also got news of even more money for the club. We might be able to subside the tea & biccies now.

And finally, whist tidying up, er indoors TM found a photo of me on the Dragon Falls with Stevey and what looks like Chip cowering behind him. It says on the back of the photo that this was taken at Chessington World of Adventure. I’ve no memory of ever having been to this place. It’s amazing what you miss when you don’t pay attention….


19 September 2008 (Friday) - Pirates and Farmers

19 September 2008 (Friday) - Pirates and Farmersmagnify

I was up again at 6am today. But there was Doctor Who and Treacle People on the telly, so the morning wasn’t entirely wasted. And off to an early start at work – today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, but it all came over as “Regional Talk Like a Farmer Day”. Which was a shame, both for pirates and farmers the world over.

But an early start meant an early finish, and I spent another hour on the scout accounts before deciding that they are now $142.37 adrift and giving up on them. Whilst the accounts were fresh in my mind, I took them to tonight’s cubs leaders meeting and left them there…


20 September 2008 (Saturday) - Sheep, Duck Houses and Beer

20 September 2008 (Saturday) - Sheep, Duck Houses and Beermagnify

A phone call last night – did I have anything planned for the morning? I didn’t, so I left the house at 7am and after a swift McBreakfast we were at the farm by 7.30. The plan was to get the old duck house out of the pond and then replace it with the new duck house. Then scrub out the old duck house and re-float that on another pond. Seeing as the delivery firm had phoned three times during the week to ensue we’d be ready for them at 8am, it was somewhat annoying when they didn’t bother turning up until gone 10am. I spend the time talking to my new friend “ugly sheep”. There was barely time to float out the new duck house before setting off for an afternoon’s drinking to excess in six different pubs. Well, it was Chip’s birthday, after all….


21 September 2008 (Sunday) - Margate

21 September 2008 (Sunday) - Margatemagnify

To Margate for the kite festival. It’s probably a sign that I’ve been to too many kite festivals that I was rather disappointed when I arrived. I’ve seen far better skies of kites before. We went to the beach, and soon found our friends from Brighton taking down the Teddy kite. There had been a bit of bother. Some twit had arranged a half marathon race with the finish line in the middle of the festival, and teddy kept floating down and garrotting the runners. I would have left it there and let them run round, but I’m mean like that.

As it was mid day, we wandered off for chips (well, it was at the seaside), and we mooched around the market stalls and fun fair. We even browsed the wares of the local pornmonger (shocking!) before making our way back to base. We’d been asked to help fly the spirit kites and dragon in the arena. In much the same way as when I last flew a spirit, the wind fell off to nearly nothing, but due to my use of “Really Skilful Kite Flying TM “, mine was the one of half a dozen spirits that flew.

The plan was to fly other kites in the arena later, but the programme was running late, nearly an hour late. And there was a pile of ironing waiting for me at home so we said our goodbyes and I slept the hour’s journey home.

That’s it for kite festivals for this year, and looking back over the five that I’ve been to this year, I find myself getting somewhat reflective. The two Teston kite festivals are viewed with polite condescension by the serious kite flier. Mainly because it’s a fun weekend camping with family and friends with the occasional kite thrown in. “Proper” kite festival feature demonstration kite flying by experts and invited fliers. And over the last few weeks I’ve rather taken against the whole idea of this. The “expert flyers” do their thing in an arena, but most of the arenas I’ve seen aren’t overly distinct from the area where “Joe Public” is having a go. Certainly today’s arena at Margate appeared to be just another bit of the beach on which people were flying kites. And from a distance the show kites in the arena just blended in with all the others. The two arenas at Dieppe kite festival were just like this as well. Utterly indistinguishable from the rest of the festival.

And (something I learned only last week) some of these expert fliers get paid hundreds of pounds for their efforts. I suppose that synchronised kite flying does take a bit of effort, but I honestly believe that given a reasonably windy day, together with half a dozen mates, I could get good enough to put on a show that would impress the general public. Perhaps I should…..


22 September 2008 (Monday) - The Autumnal Equinox, Poetry, and Finishing off a Few More Animals

22 September 2008 (Monday) - The Autumnal Equinox, Poetry, and Finishing off a Few More Animalsmagnify

Up at 6am to sort out the laundry. I must love it. Work was… work. An early start meant an early finish so’s I could do my shopping in Tescos. Muesli, razor blades, armpit squirt. Life really doesn’t get any better than this, does it? And then to the pets superstore – to warn them. The last time that we did the Animal Carer badge with the cubs, some of the animals weren’t up to the challenge of being cared for, and several badges had to be presented posthumously. Hoping that the cubs have learned from their mistakes, (and bearing in mind I’m not a great lover of dogs and cats anyway) we’re going to have another go at this badge. And in two weeks time we will be visiting the pet shop. The manageress there seemed quite keen on the idea, so here’s hoping.

And then home to find that the fish pond poo filter was blocked up again. “My Boy TM” has pulled the plug on it, and it can stay like that for a few days until I get a willing volunteer to help me. My back’s not up to doing it on my own.

And then to the Internet to find out from Google that today is the autumnal equinox, and therefore the first day of autumn. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” and all that old drivel. I can say that about Keates, as “Daddies Little Angel TM” is on first name terms with the Poet Laureate. It’s nice to have friends in high places. But, leaving dead poets aside, where has the year gone? After all, it’s only six months since the vernal equinox (which I spent in a beer festival). I refuse to get into all that old drivel about only another 100000000000000 shopping days till Xmas, but I’ll leave my loyal readers with the thought that it’s only another eight days until the DIY superstores get out the Xmas house bling. I wonder if I could pimp my house this year?…..


23 September 2008 (Tuesday) - Fish Poo, Electricity Bills, Face Painting and Cosmetic Surgery

23 September 2008 (Tuesday) - Fish Poo, Electricity Bills, Face Painting and Cosmetic Surgerymagnify

Regular readers may well remember that I once commented that if I don’t clean out the fish pond filter every couple of months, it bungs up with carp poo. I last cleaned the thing out on July 20th, and two months and two days later the thing is once more solid with fishy faeces. The actual cleaning it out is a straight forward job, but it is hard physical work and a tad smelly. And it didn’t help that the moment I started doing it, the heavens opened. And carried on raining until the very second that I finished. I couldn’t help but notice that the poo box contained a lot of bloodworms mixed in with the fish poo. In a spirit of helpfulness I suggested that “Daddies Little Angel TM” might like to feed them to her frog. She wasn’t convinced about that one. I wasn’t convinced about spending my afternoon off work being elbow deep in fish poo, but no one heard me complaining.

And then I had a bash at the household accounts. I had a letter to tell me that the monthly leccie bill was going up. Everyone’s got their hand out, haven’t they? Currently I pay £43 every month for my electricity. They want to increase this to £95 per month. That’s more than doubled, so I phoned them up to see what they were playing at. The nice lady at the other end of the phone patiently explained that over the last year I used an average of £43 worth of electricity every month, and that their prices had gone up by 17%. I explained to her that I paid £43 a month, and an increase of 17% comes in at a little over fifty quid. (I’ve got a B.A. in mathematics, you know!) She put me on hold to look into the matter, and came back after less than ten seconds to ask me what her firm were playing at. She told me, in a rather forthright tone, that an increase of 120% on my monthly payments was plain stupid. I suggested I increased my payments by a tenner a month, and she seemed happy with that. After all, its ten quid I’d only spend on beer.

And then to cubs, where we were doing finger painting. Or some of us were doing finger painting. The young leaders chose to do some face painting. They pick on me. And young Tony took the time to explain to me why he wasn’t at cubs last week. His mother has been under the doctor for depression recently, and to cheer herself up, she’s had a boob job. Two questions immediately sprang to mind – was this an NHS cure for the depression? And bearing in mind that she was quite adequately stacked beforehand, has she had them pumped up or scaled down? I shall have to do some research…


24 September 2008 (Wednesday) - Augmentation and Archaeology

24 September 2008 (Wednesday) - Augmentation and Archaeologymagnify

I learned today that young Tony’s mother might not have had “them” pumped up or deflated at all. Apparently it’s now possible to have what is called “augmentation”. This is a surgical procedure whereby the surgeons take what you’ve got and hoik it all up a bit. The end result is that rather than pointing at the floor, your threepennies point forwards. One lives and learns. I wonder if I might benefit from some of this treatment myself. Perhaps it might be cheaper and more efficacious in the short term to settle for simply getting rid of the smell of fish poo.

Talking of “pert”, among my many emails this evening was once from a particularly fetching young lady (of dubious morality) from the Ukraine who claimed she was willing to do whatever sordid act I desired. I wonder if she’s any good at ironing?

Reading the news, I see that proper archaeologists have been grubbing in the ground at Stonehenge recently. They’ve dug up some blue stones, and on the strength of that (and a few manky old bones) they’ve come up with yet another crackpot theory of what the place was all about. The fact that they haven’t actually got the faintest scooby is neither here nor there. I have this theory that the thing was built by the ancients to give the likes of us something to wonder about.

Equally scooby-less amateur archaeologists have also been grubbing in the ground over the summer. We heard all about it tonight at arky-ologee club. Unfortunately there was no PowerPoint presentation as Frank is the one who knows how to work the laptop, but he wasn’t there. Presumably scared off by one of the new recruits: Servalan (from Blake’s Seven)’s grandmother has joined. A rather scary-looking biddy, if ever I saw one. The evening’s talk was a bit dull. There is only so much excitement that can be derived from being told about people you barely know digging holes in fields.

However there was one point of interest. Apparently the churches at Orlestone, Great Chart, Hothfield and Charing form a straight line. Furthermore, if you take the other churches in Kent that are roughly on straight lines that form a star shape, plot them on a map and draw lines through them, you get a star shape. I suspect it all goes to prove something. I wonder what.

I really don’t know why I go along. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in archaeology, and I spend most of the time making polite conversation with equally bored “normal people” before falling asleep. It has been said that I go along because if I’m good I’m rewarded with a pint afterwards. That simply isn’t true – such boredom is too high a price for the beer. I see from the website that there is a day’s convention on ancient buildings coming up. They want £10 per person for that. I reckon I could get a better turnout to a convention on watching paint dry.


25 September 2008 (Thursday) - A Birthday

25 September 2008 (Thursday) - A Birthdaymagnify

My Boy TM” is twenty-one today. He was grumbling in the shower today about where all his hair is going. Apparently he reckons he’ll be balder than me within a year. Good! As I write this, he’s tanking about the house whistling “Happy Birthday To Me”. He’s having another tattoo today. He claims that his mother told him that I would pay some of the cost as his birthday present. That would be nice of me.

Instead I’ve given him a load of Euros to go towards his trip this weekend. He’s going on the razzle in France with Benn-IT, Mass-IT, Stoo-UT, Pie-Man, Jim-Jim, Bazzer, Dizzer, Fozzer, Guzzer, Mozzer, Lazzer, Rizzer, Tizzer, Wazzer, Jizzer, Craig and Cedric. Cedric is a new one to me – I am reliably informed that he speaks French. However, I can’t help but feel that were I stranded in a foreign country, I would not want my only recourse to assistance to be called “Cedric”.

My own twenty-first was a much more restrained occassion. It too was a Thursday. I spent it at Bromley Technical College on the first year of my Higher National Certificate, and it came as a great disappointment to all present that I didn’t come back from the pub totally drunk at lunchtime. Mind you, I did have religion back in those days.

I can’t remember er indoors TM having a twenty-first. But seeing how “My Boy TM” would have been squalling round the place in nappies at the time, I doubt that it was a very racy affair either….


26 September 2008 (Friday) - Conspiracies, Accounts, Tattoos and Shopping

26 September 2008 (Friday) - Conspiracies, Accounts, Tattoos and Shoppingmagnify

er indoors TM has got the hump. She feels I have been disrespectful towards the arky-ologists at the club on Wednesday. But I feel I must make a confession. I admit it I was wrong. Two days ago I mocked their “Kent Church Star Conspiracy Theory TMwhich would have us believe that provided you ignore 90% of the churches in the county, all the churches in the county are laid out in a star pattern. But I was wrong to ridicule. For as well as now believing in the “Kent Church Star Conspiracy Theory TM, I have personally devised the “Ashford Star Trek Ferengi Marauder Spaceship Three Gallon Pub Crawl Conspiracy Theory (patent pending)”

Whilst sitting about bored last night it occurred to me that were you to have a crafty pint in the Crusader, and then wander up to the Chimneys for some IPA, then down to the Swan in Great Chart, you’d probably need a wazz by now. (Bear with me). From here past the Bell in Hothfield to the Swan in Little Chart where you’d have a pickled egg. (I like pickled eggs) The next stop is a Neame pub – the Wheel in Westwell, but it’s not bad. From there it’s on to the Flying Horse in Boughton Aluph where they do three ales and a decent bit of dinner. Then the Rising Sun in Kennington comes next.

From this point, I have to admit the theory gets a bit iffy, but then things normally do when you’re on your second gallon of ale. The Conningbrook, the White Horse, The Blacksmith’s Arms and the William Harvey in quick succession. The French Connection, the Albion, the Albert, The Riverside, The South Eastern, The Locomotive and the Beaver. And back to the Crusader for a nightcap (and a fight). And then sleep it all off for a day or so. When you wake up, plot your route on a map. Lo and behold, your route has drawn the outline of a Ferengi Maurauder – a spaceship from Star Trek.

Now at this point I can hear the scepticism of my loyal readership, but (here’s the clincher) – in Star Trek, Captain Picard stuffed the Ferengi by sending them a box of Chinese finger puzzles. Nowhere on this pub crawl do you visit a Chinese restaurant, and only yesterday (when I had this revelation) the Chinese launched another space rocket. Co-incidence? I don’t think so. It just goes to show, doesn’t it?

In other news I’ve finally solved the mystery of the unbalanced cubs accounts. I solved it by ignoring the extra $81.77. Admittedly an unconventional fiscal policy, but it works. The astronomy club account also has a bit of a dilemma. Whilst it all balances, the people who cashed their cheque for nigh on seventy quid a fortnight ago claim they haven’t been paid. Who’d be a treasurer?

As you can see, “My Boy TM” has had his birthday tattoo done. I quite like it, and am seriously considering getting the same one for (on) myself. It’s just a question of finding somewhere to put it. But then, that’s true of life in general. I’m reliably informed that the expedition to France leaves early tomorrow morning. I’ve heard his “leaving quietly in the morning” before, so I’ll know if and when they set off. I’m more worried about if and when they will get back.

And then shopping. New trousers from Matalan, who would seem to have brought in a new policy. Shoppers there would seem to have to be either brain-dead or three metres wide across the backside. Thank the lord there were no self-service tills, or I would have been there all day. And then to Staples for new printer cartridges. I’d drained the last of the ink on printing the various accounts. New ink cartridges for my printer would come to £65. But the nice man in the shop told me of a deal he could offer me. I could have a brand new HP F2180 for thirty quid. That gadget is a printer with a built in scanner, and it comes with ink cartridges. But because the cartridges it comes with are only little ones, for an extra thirty quid he said he’d throw in full-size replacement cartridges. And a ream of paper. So on the one hand I could replace my existing ink cartridges. Or on the other hand, for a fiver less I could have a far better machine with full cartridges (and spares) and some paper. Let me think about that one…..


27 September 2008 (Saturday) - Work, Gardens, Fires, Old Friends

27 September 2008 (Saturday) - Work, Gardens, Fires, Old Friendsmagnify

The “Invade and Re-conquer France Society” set off from home at about half past seven this morning. They seemed in high spirits, with no idea when they would return. Oh to be young and foolish again. Mind you’ it’s probably much the same as it is now, only with a smaller waistline, a tad more hair, and a few less aches and pains.

I dislike working on a Saturday morning. Today was dull. Mind you, in order to stay one the state register, I am required to keep up a program of personal professional development, so I spent the time surfing the net. I learned all about (well, revised because I knew anyway!) Reed-Sternberg cells. These are lymphocytes in connective tissue that are diagnostic of…. OK, yes. They too are dull.

After work it was round to the Chippery. His shrubs were out of hand. Armed with a pair of long-handled secateurs, I soon made short work of the shrubbery. Mind you, armed with a shovel, the shrubbery soon made short work of my “shrubbery”. How is it possible to hit yourself in the “tackle” with a shovel? Three times? Whilst I nursed my wounded pride (and wounded “tackle”) Chip set off to fetch Brian’s mincer. It’s been my experience over the years that it’s always easier to deal with stuff once it’s minced.

Having dealt with Chip’s garden I then saw to my own. The lawn hasn’t been mowed for a month, and was a tad overgrown. The push-along lawn mower didn’t come close, and the strimmer struggled to do the job. I need to get a proper lawnmower. It’s all very well being eco-friendly, but it doesn’t get the lawn mowed.

And then to Andy’s for an evening’s conflagration, mostly burning what we carved from Chip’s garden earlier. Sue was over from America. She’s been gone ten years. She’s never played bow snarrows, or scrubbled in a hole doing arky-ologee, or been flown as line laundry from a kite. So much catching up to do…..


28 September 2008 (Sunday) - Dull

The “Invade and Re-conquer France Society” landed back in mainland Britain shortly after midnight last night. “My Boy TM” clomped through the door some time during the mid morning, but was rather vague as to where he’d been since midnight.

er indoors TM set off with the arky-ologists hunting for artefacts shortly after brekkie. My back’s not up to that, so I did the washing, changed the bed linen and did the ironing. I then did my first run to the tip in my sexy new car. I was quite happy to fill the old Espace up with rubbish for the tip, but it’s entirely a different matter with my sexy new car. And then home for a quick sarnie and a snooze in front of the telly. Or that was the plan. Five minutes into my DVD, er indoors TM came back home again. Apparently the hole they were digging in had run out of artefacts, and they’d filled it back in again. So we went to Whelans instead for replacement windmill blades. Can’t think how the last ones got broken (!)

Talking of broken, I’ve a tiddly little memory stick which I use for this, that and the other. One of its many uses is transferring PowerPoint presentations from my PC to my laptop. I went to use the thing tonight – it’s knacked. So if any of my loyal readers have a memory stick they don’t want, or know where there’s a bargain one going, I’m your man.

And also broken – the central heating. It don’t work. I’ll have to chivvy up a plumber…


29 September 2008 (Monday) - Boilers, Phone Calls, The Moon, and Rats

29 September 2008 (Monday) - Boilers, Phone Calls, The Moon, and Ratsmagnify

The boiler was going this morning, but the radiators were cold. One of my trainees is dating a plumber, and she says he’ll have a go at my boiler (!).

An otherwise dull day at work was interrupted by a phone call. They had phoned to do the telephone interview I’d agreed to. I knew nothing about it, and told them so. Someone claiming to be called “Tony” assured me that they didn’t phone people at random; I must have agreed to be interviewed, he was a busy man, and could we just get on with it. I told “Tony” (who in reality is no more a “Tony” than I am a “Rashid”) no… but this bugged me.

And then to astronomy club – over twenty people turned up tonight. Despite my reservations of the past, this club is now going somewhere.We started off with a discussion about what to do with the club funds, one of our number gave a little chat about an astronomy symposium he’d been to in Vienna. We chatted about plans for next year – the International Year of Astronomy, and then Stevey spoke for nearly an hour about the Moon. It was really interesting and fun – and I learned loads. Did you know that 12-14% of the population still think that the thing is made of cheese?

And on the way home…. I can only imagine that Ashford has borrowed the pied piper from Hamlyn. Dead rats all over the roads. And foxes as well. Presumably having a feast….


30 September 2008 (Tuesday) - Stupid Children

30 September 2008 (Tuesday) - Stupid Childrenmagnify

Whilst driving home from work I saw a poster for the latest “formula-cartoon-movie”. Igor – pronounced EE-gor. I know that because the poster told me. In the same way the poster for “Ratatouille” told you how the word was pronounced. What a sad indictment of our educational system that the pronunciation has to be (quite literally) spelt out. Praps I shud ryt mi blog liyk dat?

And talking of failures of the educational system, to cubs. With the end of Ramadan, we launched an attempt at the “World Faiths” badge. One of our parent helpers had spent a lot of time and effort brining in materials for them to make Ramadan-related cards, all sorts of information and traditional food. She really might as well have saved her money and efforts and stayed at home for all the interest 90% of the brats showed. There were some that made an effort, but not many.