Tuesday, 30 September 2008

An American in Paris

Well, not exactly. I stumbled across a blog written by an American girl who is studying in Seville and her blog links to that of another American girl who is studying in Nantes . I find both of them quite interesting, the first because it is pretty well written, the second because I know the area, our house being just about an hour's drive from Nantes. A comment on her trip to Mont St Michel and St Malo brought to mind an incident which always makes me smile when I think of it.

Back in 2006 a group of Americans from the Lions Club with which we are twinned came over for a visit. One of the placed we took them to see was the small village of Alfriston (once the haunt of smugglers). Alfriston can claim to have the first property to be taken on by the National Trust - the Clergy House, which is a medieval thatched property. While we were looking round it, one of the guides pointed out that it had been lived in as a family home for many years "before America was invented".

What it is to be young! Mind you, I don't think I would really want to be that age again. Despite the problems of creaking knees and a back that aches after only an hour's gardening, I am quite happy to be an old age pensioner. Of course, in these politically correct times, the phrase 'old age pensioner' is frowned on - I can't think why; after all, that is what we are! My cousin makes me smile when she rings a restaurant or whatever and asks, "Are you cripple-friendly? You can't say that, but I can, because I am one!" She suffers from MS and is mostly wheelchair-bound.

And there's another puzzle. When (or, more to the point, why) did 'handicapped' become 'disabled' when referring to parking places? And what will they be when 'disabled' is non-PC?

I do seem to have burbled on a bit today - a prerogative of old age!!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Back to the real world...

...and 3160 emails! I think there were about a dozen that weren't spam, and only four of those that I wanted!

The journey home was great, except for sitting for an hour in four lanes of stationary traffic on the M25 as a result of a serious accident. People were wandering about on the motorway taking pictures of the world's biggest car park, me included, or retrieving books etc from the boots of their cars. I didn't see anyone sitting at the side of the road having a picnic, which would almost certainly have happened in France, and I missed the air ambulance because we were too far back from the action.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Back home again

What a great week - the weather was glorious, with not a drop of rain. Our cottage was almost at the top of the dale and had splendid views of the surrounding fells. This is it, seen from across the fields.

This is just one of the pictures I took, showing Ashness Bridge, with Derwentwater behind and Skiddaw looming in the background.

Although the Lake District mountains are not as high as, say, the Alps, they are a little more impressive than those two pictures suggest. This picture of Langdale is perhaps more truly representative.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Tara fer now

I guess that's it for a while - I'm off to pack a suitcase.

The cats' mother

Fancy looking after 83 cats? Check out THIS VIDEO

Just as well they're not Lions!

An experiment

It has become my practice, when going away, to look up the weather forecast for the area we are visiting. The forthcoming trip is no different, except that I decided I would make this an opportunity to conduct a small experiment.

My usual forecast site is accuweather.com as they seem to be the only weather forecasters who are will to predict more than about three days ahead. However, on this occasion I have also printed off the forecasts from the BBC, the Meteorological Office, and (two I've never heard of before) Metcheck.com and weather.co.uk. They all predict roughly the same weather, but use slightly different words - sunny intervals, sunny spells, partly cloudy etc. The cynic in me wonders if some of the sites just copy another's forecast but change things slightly to avoid charges of plagiarism or copyright. Here is the forecast for Monday, 22 September:

 AccuweatherBBCMet Office
High temp141717
WeatherSunny periodsSunny intervalsCloudy with some sun
WindNNE, 6km/hNNE, 3mphNNE, 3mph

All three predict NIL rainfall, so the only difference is in the high temperature. But how accurate are they? Well, that will be the subject of my experiment.

I suppose all forecasters have equipment a little more sophisticated than mine. A few years ago, the OB and I visited New England and we spent time at Strawberry Bank, a restoration/reconstruction of a historic settlement at Portsmouth, NH. One of the stores sold tourist trash (naturally) and we bought a weather stick. Actually, we bought two. These are reputed to have been discovered by the local Indians and are, we were told, surprisingly accurate at forecasting the weather, even if it is little more than 'wet' or 'dry'. The stick is about a foot in length, less than a pencil's thickness, and has been cut from a bush or tree, complete with a little of the trunk (or thicker branch) which forms a base for the whole to be attached to an outside wall. The stick then bends up if the weather will be fine, or down if rain is in the offing. I'm not sure what happens if the stick is fixed upside down.

Yeah, well, it gives us a laugh.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Look behind you!

I've been thinking about (I nearly wrote 'meditating' but decided that sounds just a tad too serious) my positive thought quote of yesterday: "Dwell not on the past". And quite right too - some of the time.

While I would not want to dwell on the past, those words did make me start thinking about the past. And now I come to think of it, I was reminiscing yesterday as well. I suppose when one reaches old age it can be pleasant to recall some of the pleasures of one's springtime. The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that, on Saturday, I shall be going off to the Lake District for a week's holiday with my brother and sister-in-law. That makes it sound as though they live in the Lake District, but in fact they live in Cornwall and we are all meeting up at a rented cottage miles from anywhere.

It is something like 40 years since I was last in the Lakes when I took the Scouts up there for our summer camp. Before that I had spent two separate weeks there on holiday with she who was to become the Old Bat, and even before that, a month on an Outward Bound course.

I was sent on the course by the bank for which I worked. I think the purpose of the Outward Bound courses was to develop leadership abilities and team working by providing training and experience in map reading, first aid, rock climbing and abseiling, canoeing, hiking and camping. The days were supposed to start at 6.00am with a dip in the lake (and bear in mind I was there from mid-October till mid-November). But the trainers took pity on us: we took cold showers instead of having to break the ice on the lake.

Smoking and drinking alcohol were strictly forbidden - and the tea was laced with bromide. At least, it tasted pretty awful. I hardly smoked before I went there; I have hardly stopped since, so I have to question the overall efficacy of the training regime.

At the time, my monthly take-home pay was about £28. I used to think that when I got to earn £30 a month after deductions, I would be rich! Ah my.

Now for today's positive thought.

"Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event."

Brian Tracy

Must go - I've a new car to collect. New to me, that is.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

My favourite . . .

. . . cartoonist is Matt, who produces at least one 'pocket' cartoon each day for the Daily Telegraph. This is a good example:

A Man of Kent (or more useless trivia)

To follow yesterday's useless trivia, here's some more.

It occurs to me some readers (if indeed there are any readers of this blog other than my Californian friend, who must have been taught by someone like my old RI teacher: "Read everything you can," he said, "even if it's only the back of the corn flake packet."). Now where was I? Oh yes.

It occurs to me that people might not know the difference between a Man of Kent and a Kentish Man. Indeed, they might not even realise that there is a difference.

Kent is the county that occupies the most south-easterly corner of England, the bit nearest to France. Known as the Garden of England, it was once famous for hops, apples and cherries. Sadly, most of those have long since disappeared and Kent is now best known for Dover, the busiest port in the world from where ferries sail for France at the rate of one every 15 minutes or so during the busiest part of the day. Kent is also home to the English end of the Channel tunnel.

The county is divided roughly into two halves by the River Medway, which joins the Thames estuary at Sheerness, having flowed through Tonbridge, and Maidstone, then past Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham. Men born north and west of the Medway, ie on the London side, are Kentish men, while those born on the Canterbury side are Men of Kent.

I did warn you - more useless trivia! Now for today's positive thought.

"Dwell not on the past. Use it to illustrate a point, then leave it behind. Nothing really matters except what you do now in this instant of time. From this moment onwards you can be an entirely different person, filled with love and understanding, ready with an outstretched hand, uplifted and positive in every thought and deed."

Eileen Caddy

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


Oh dear - two mistakes in one posting! Tut, tut.

The bird is a zitting CISTICOLA and the predicted year of arrival is 2020.

Wow - a zitting cistola!

The news this morning that a zitting cistola was last seen heading west towards Tankerton had me reminiscing.

The man who was my form teacher when I was 11 years old was a keen ornithologist and managed to enthuse quite a number of pupils, with the result that he would take groups of us out at weekends to go bird watching. The stretch of shore between Seasalter and Tankerton was not a frequent destination, but we did go there occasionally. A more frequent destination was the Isle of Grain, where we would walk across the marshes and along the bank of the River Thames: there would be ducks on the water, wading birds on the mud flats and other birds in the fields and hedgerows.

Romeo, which was the boys' nickname for the teacher, was a single man who taught Latin, English and rugby. Before he would allow any boy to accompany him bird watching, he insisted on visiting the parents so that they could vet him. There was never, to my knowledge at least, and impropriety - I think he just liked boys for their company, and he loved teaching them. He was generous as well. Each season he would take 3 or 4 of us to Twickenham to see a rugby international - all at his expense.

Oh yes - the zitting cistola. This, apparently, is a small, nondescript, brownish bird, named for its song, which sounds like zit, zit, zit. Its usual home is in northern Spain and southern France, but it has been moving north, although it has never before been recorded in England. According to the newspaper report, a few years ago somebody forecast that it would move into southern England about 2010, when January temperatures are predicted to have increased by 1 Celsius. Could this be evidence that global warming is faster than we previously thought?

So there you are - something else you never knew before.

"Learn to think like a winner. Think positive and visualize your strengths."

Vic Braden

Monday, 15 September 2008

A cure for insomnia

I have had a vague idea that the definition of a billion was different in the USA from the European idea and I have now confirmed it. Both accept that a million is a 1 followed by 6 noughts, but an American billion is a 1 followed by 9 noughts, whereas a European billion takes 12, ie a million times a million. In America this would be called a trillion. A European trillion is a 1 followed by 18 noughts. So how long would it take to count from one to a trillion?

Counting moderately quickly from one to ten takes about 5 seconds (I've just tried it), which is two numbers a second. But it takes much longer to say "three hundred and seventy-nine thousand, four hundred and eighty-two" than to say "five", so let's assume an average of one number a second - and even that is generous.

In Europe, it would take 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 seconds, which is 16,666,666,666,666,700 minutes, or 277,777,777,777,778 hours, or 11,574,074,074,074 days, or 31,709,791,984 years. That's thirty-one thousand million years. I bet you are glad to learn that.

Of course, an American could do it a few million years quicker. Either way, counting a trillion sheep jumping over a gate is guaranteed to send you to sleep.

Or mad.

"The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results."

(Norman Vincent Peale)

Sunday, 14 September 2008


I've picked enough apples to keep us going for a year, and still left enough on the tree for the elder grandson to pick when he next comes.

Is that really me?

I am consternated, truly horrified. I have been glancing through the posts I have made on this blog and am appalled that anybody who knows me only through those will see me as a moaning, whining, miserable old git. But is that the ‘real' me, or is it just the ‘virtual' or ‘cyber space' me? I suppose it is just possible that I really am a moaning, whining, miserable old git.

Maybe blogging is the answer to that prayer of Walter Scott, or Rabbie Burns, or someone else who wore a skirt: Oh wad some gift the giftie gie us, tae see oorsells as ithers see us. (Sorry, my Scottish accent is none too good.) A conventional diary is - usually - read only by the diarist during his lifetime, but blogging is like writing a diary that is open to the public to read at any time. It behoves us bloggers (yes, I know! WE bloggers.) to put on our best faces. Unless, that is, we just don't give a damn.

Well, I do. So there will be no more negative postings, only positive thoughts from now on. For the next five days, anyway.

It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts. (Robert H Schuller)

Of course, it will all be much easier if the sun continues to shine. Today is the third consecutive day when it has - and the forecast for tomorrow is pretty good as well. Very warm working in the garden this morning. The flowers are in a muddle: a pink one (can't remember its name, but it starts with N) which should flower in November is already in bloom. But so is a violet, which should have finished in May!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

No common sense, I'm a politician!

I have come to the conclusion that a basic requirement for a politician is to have absolutely no common sense. To be honest, I have harboured this suspicion for a long time, but an article in yesterday's newspaper finally convinced me that I am correct.

The Secretary of State for Education (I think that's his proper title) has announced that all 11-year-old children in the country are to be given a cookery book contained 32 recipes for healthy meals. The idea is to encourage them into the kitchen so that they learn to cook. Furthermore, cookery will be introduced into the school curriculum.

It was not so many years ago that the then Government (I can't remember which party was in power at the time) decided that cookery should not be part of the curriculum and closed the teaching kitchens in the schools. Now they will spend millions rebuilding them!

Similarly, a few years back children were to be given the choice of whether or not to learn a foreign language - something which had for many years been compulsory for many, if not most, pupils. Unsurprisingly, the majority of pupils dropped French, which was the usual second language. Now the powers that be have decided that the country is losing out because we have insufficient linguists and French will once again become compulsory.

Our children are also becoming overweight, partly because they take insufficient exercise and play sport too little, so more sports are to be played at school. But the Government forced many schools to sell their playing fields!

Is it any wonder that I sometimes despair?

Friday, 12 September 2008

Harvest time

Yesterday I picked the last of the peas for this year. There weren't all that many left - barely enough for a serving for one person - but we have done pretty well with them this year. I also harvested the pears, or what there were of them. About 15 between two trees. Actually, they all come from one tree; for some reason the second tree had none at all this year. Last year we had so many we didn't know what to do with them. At least the apple tree looks to have come properly on stream (or in fruit) at last. I shall probably pick them next week.

At this time of the year the raspberries should be coming into their own: I grow an autumn fruiting variety which usually gives fresh fruit through until October and which has a much better flavour than the summer varieties. This year, however, because of the amount of rain we have had and are still having, many of the berries are rotting before they are ripe.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Found Wanting

I see from an ad in this morning's newspaper that Robert Goddard's latest book, Found Wanting, is now in the shops. Goddard is the only author whose books I have to buy as soon as possible after they reach the shelves.

It was on a train journey to Plymouth (the reason for which is another story that I might tell one day) when a fellow passenger noticed that I was reading a Wilbur Smith book. He suggested that I might enjoy Robert Goddard's writing and advised reading In Pale Battalions as an introduction to his work. That was, I think, Goddard's second or third book - and I have been hooked ever since, having read all his titles at least twice, several of them (including In Pale Battalions) three or more times.

Add a Goddard: result - bliss!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Well, we're still here

Scientists working in a laboratory deep under the Alps were due to start an experiment about two and a half hours ago which, it was predicted by other scientists, risked causing the end of the world.

I don't understand much of the background, but I gather that protons were to be sent at very nearly the speed of light round a 17-mile-long tube, some protons in each direction. The idea is that the protons will collide, thus reproducing the 'big bang' in which the Earth was formed. The threat to humanity is that the resulting black hole (or holes) will suck in the Earth and it will be goodnight, Havana.

I had assumed that this would all happen in a very short space of time, but I have just discovered that it could take 30 days before the collision occurs. Even so, the law suit which is being heard in Hawaii in an effort to stop the experiment looks like dragging on for several years - always assuming the participants are still around in a month's time. One has to wonder at the point of dragging on a law suit long after the experiment is over, no doubt at a cost of millions of dollars. I suppose the lawyers involved can come up with a number of very plausible reasons.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the OB has a minor dilemma. A phone call yesterday from her credit card company proved that they had thwarted an attempted fraud on the Dearly Beloved's card, which now has to be destroyed pending the issue of a replacement. She has (had?) only the one card and needs to go shopping this morning. Does this mean I will have to go with her to flash the plastic, or will she go to the bank to cash a cheque as the supermarkets no longer accept payment by cheque? Being something of a Luddite, she always insists on writing a cheque and handing it to a cashier, refusing adamantly to use the holes in the wall to withdraw cash.

Reminds me rather of the old lady who was a customer at one of the bank branches I worked at. She asked the cashier for a note of her balance, wrote a cheque for the exact amount and asked for the cash. She carefully counted the cash, then handed it back to the cashier saying, "Yes, it's all there. You can put it back now."

Brighton Lions operate a rota to provide transport for blind people to their social club - my turn last night. This month it was 10 pin bowling. I was beaten hands down - by a blind person!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Cars - I hate 'em!

I find it hard to believe that this morning I have driven a round trip of 24 miles to buy a windscreen wiper blade - and it cost me £12.57!

The OB drives a perfectly normal car, indeed, one of the most commonly seen small cars - a Nissan Micra. The rear wiper blade needed replacing, so off I trotted to our local branch of Halfords. On checking the compatibility chart I discovered that I needed blade number W23. On the shelf were dozens of W22s and plenty of W24s - but no W23. I went to the customer service counter where I was asked what car it was for.

"Ah," I was told, "this blade won't fit. You have to go to Nissan as it's a special shape."

There is no Nissan dealer in Brighton, hence the 24 mile drive.

My own car is a VW Passat, in which there is a design fault surrounding the pollen filter. After heavy rain, the filter (or its seal) leaks and causes a short circuit in the wiring of the alarm. There are only two ways to stop the alarm sounding until the car dries out:
  1. leave the drivers door open (yes, open - not just unlocked)
  2. remove fuse number 14 when parking. But as this controls the electric windows, and other things, it has to be replaced before driving off or the onboard computer keep saying that the driver's door is open. It also controls the remote key fob so I have to remember to lock the car manually.
Oh well, things could be a lot worse - but it is irritating!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Food, glorious food

Yesterday I spent a few idle minutes scanning other people's blogs while waiting for the rain to clear up. Some people might call it nosiness; I call it intelligent curiosity. Anyway, I came across a blog where the author described what she called a terrific meal. It involved tenderloin of pork, a couple of vegetables of some kind (I can't remember what) - and English muffins. Muffins - with pork? I was aghast. Muffins, like crumpets, are supposed to be toasted before an open fire, and eaten only with butter, at tea-time during the winter. But then I thought, if you like your pork with muffins, why not eat it that way?

It was about then that my son arrived with granddaughter. He told the OB and I about a visit to one of Brighton's swishest restaurants the previous evening. Coincidentally, the OB and I had been talking earlier in the day about our favourite restaurants. There are four that I would put above all others.

Il Stroncapane in Figline, Italy. We discovered this delightful restaurant in Chianti during a holiday last year and were so taken with the friendly and efficient service of the husband and wife front of house team and the quality of the food that we ate there three times during the week. It would have been four times, but they were closed on one day and we had to eat elsewhere. A pity it's not in a place I visit as I would love to have the opportunity to eat there more often.

Le Detroit, Calais, France. This is a regular lunch venue when I spend a day ‘booze croozing' with the Lions Club International Relations committee. There is a good selection of both fish and meat dishes, proper linen napkins and tablecloths, and we are always greeted as old friends. Usually there is an ‘amuse bouche' and the prices are not excessive.

Au Vieux Castel, Chateaubriant, France. If Le Detroit greets us as old friends, that is nothing to the greeting we receive from the two ‘very nice boys' who run this bar and restaurant. (Fortunately, it is only the OB who gets the kisses, but the first time this happened I backed up against a handy pillar!) The meat and fish are cooked over a charcoal grill to one side of the dining room, and the beef is probably the best I have ever eaten in France.

Ravello, London. I have not eaten here since my retirement, the restaurant being situated just round the corner from my one-time office (to which I have no desire to return). This is an Italian restaurant run by Italians who certainly know how to cook and how to present the food. Not overly expensive, given its location in central London.

I could go on, but I really need to sort out my bank account.

Sunday, 7 September 2008


The heading of my previous posting reminds me of one of my pet hates, although perhaps ‘hate' is too strong a word. All the same, it irritates me no end when people say ‘hopefully' when they mean ‘I hope'. I get even more irritated when the crime is committed by people who should know better, people whose very livelihood is communication, such as television news readers and reporters.

And another thing. When did ‘should have' become ‘should of'? At least the reason for that (should've) is obvious - but it no less irritating for that.

I suppose the root cause is education, or the lack of it, and my irritation should be directed at someone or something other than the person uttering the words that make me jump up and down. After all, I can't remember when to use ‘shall' and when ‘will', when to use ‘should' and when ‘would'. And are ‘might' and ‘may' synonymous or not? I'm the proverbial pot!

Oh well, I must just try and practise some advice given to me by a Californian friend: to remember that only I can control my attitude.

Talking of attitude:
A man lost his hat in a gust of wind. A passing dog pounced on it and chewed it to pieces, causing the dog's owner to laugh.

"I don't like your attitude," complained the hatless man.

The dog owner replied, "It's not my ‘at ‘e chewed."

Boom boom!!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Travelling hopefully

Talking of travelling - OK, I know we weren't, but the weather here is so awful that I would love to find somewhere warm and dry, well, dry - I haven't the faintest idea who it was said that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. I think he was being overly cynical or pessimistic, but I must admit that there have been occasions on my travels when I have experienced disappointment.

The OB and I visited Venice last year, somewhere she has wanted to go to for a long time. A fellow Lion told me that it was his favourite city, the most romantic city he has ever visited. Frankly, I was a little disappointed in the place. There was a lot of graffiti and fly-posting, and many of the buildings looked just about ready to fall into the canals.

Another let-down was the statue of the Little Mermaid at Copenhagen. I was expecting it to be in a fairly prominent position and perhaps larger than life-size. In fact, it is parked in an out of the way spot and it is so small I almost needed binoculars to see it properly.

I'm not sure quite what I expected of Monterey: somewhere a little smarter, perhaps? Certainly something a bit more exotic and less typically American. Maybe it didn't help that I was unwell while I was there.

I think the biggest let-down of all was in Paris. Having queued for what seemed like hours to enter the Louvre, and walked several miles along corridors, when we finally reached the Mona Lisa it was half hidden behind bullet-proof glass (which made it difficult to see) and is not much larger than a postage stamp! I really couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

On the other hand, there are some places that stick in the memory as being better than expected or just for being there when not expected. The Sainte Chapelle in Paris is tucked away behind government buildings, but on a sunny morning its stained glass is out of this world. Mentioned in very few guidebooks is Postman's Park, London. A wall in the park has 47 hand-painted tiles paying tribute to everyday people who sacrificed their lives helping others - a very moving read. In Brussels, all visitors admire the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis, a fountain of a boy urinating. What most visitors miss is a similar fountain erected by the feminist movement.
Piazza del Mirabile        

Walking into the Piazza del Mirabile in Pisa early enough to beat most of the tourists - wow! There in front of you are the baptistry, the cathedral and the Leaning Tower - all gleaming white in the sun. And Amsterdam - possibly my favourite city. I can wander alongside the canals for hours, or sit at a pavement café watching the cyclists without getting bored. But Yosemite is possibly the most awesome place I have ever visited. It is magnificent.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Retirement is . . .

Soon after I retired, which was way back in 2002, my next-door neighbour predicted that within three months I would be waking up in the morning and wondering how I would fill the hours before going back to bed. Those three months are now six years and three months (and a little bit more), and the prediction has still not come true. Admittedly, I get up later - I no longer have to leave the house at 6.00am to get to work - but there still seems more than enough to keep me occupied.

Take today for example. I have already walked the dog for an hour; I would like to finish redecorating the hall, stairs and landing; my car alarm needs sorting out (I think the constant rain has caused a short circuit); the OB has asked if I will walk the dog again this afternoon as the paths in the woods are wet and slippery and she is not too steady on her feet in those conditions; I should be buying the new tiles for the bathroom; I'm trying to work out how to fill two pages in the middle of the next issue of Jungle Jottings; I ought to call in to the Lions' Housing Society office as I am the treasurer and I haven't been there for a couple of weeks; then there is the preparation for the regular Lions' book fair which is to be held tomorrow; sometime or other I am supposed to be getting a quote for a hearing loop at the Lions' meeting room; and I am also supposed to be getting in touch with the Charity Commissioners to see if it will be possible to remove the restriction placed on some of the Lions Club funds under the terms of the will in which we were left a legacy.

I know work expands to fill the time available, but this is getting ridiculous!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Sarah Palin Show

As an Englishman, I can have no input at all into the outcome of the American Presidential election. I can, however, have an interest - and I do. After all, America's choice will have an effect that stretches far beyond the boundaries of the 50 states.

My first thought when I heard that Sarah Palin had been selected as running mate for Senator McCain was, "Interesting". Then I became uncertain that he had chosen wisely. The facts that she is little known (outside Alaska) and that she apparently has little experience of top-level politics do not necessarily mean that she is the wrong person for the job of Vice President, but something told me that the voters across the pond should be cautious.

Yesterday, my morning newspaper carried a column by one of its regulars, Liz Hunt, in which she seemed to have picked up on and formulated my doubts into words. (Read it here.) I am surprised that most of the comments submitted to the website are ‘anti' her thoughts. But perhaps I shouldn't be. After all, look what our electors chose and where it has landed us.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

100 things to do - or maybe just seven

I see that Dave Freeman, co-author of the travel guide 100 Things to do Before You Die, has died, having completed just 50 of the things on his list. (More here)

I'm not sure that I can think of a hundred things I would like to do before I die, but here's a start (in no particular order):
  • Take the controls of a helicopter.
  • Cruise the Norwegian fiords.
  • Visit New Zealand.
  • I should love to speak 6 or 7 languages, but being realistic, I will settle for speaking French fluently.
  • Sail the South Pacific islands.
  • Have a book published (as a commercial venture, not vanity publishing).
  • Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

It's confirmed . . .

Last month was the least sunny August in England since whenever. I have seen two different years quoted - 1929 and 1942 - but whichever is correct it hardly matters to most of us. Many people have had miserable weather for their summer holidays, especially those who stayed in England for whatever reason.

But really we have little to complain about weather-wise. We don't get hurricanes, monsoons, forest fires or snow to the extent that other places do, and our climate is perfect for growing apples. Actually, somebody once said that in England we don't have a climate, just weather. Whether or not it's going to rain.

Which reminds me of the weather forecast in south-west Ireland. If you can see the mountains it's going to rain. If you can't see the mountains it's already raining.

And it's raining again today.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Number crunching

I suppose that in most industrialised countries people have become accustomed to the exhortation to eat 5 a day, but I fear that another 'magic number' is about to become generally known: 3 a day. I came across this new minimum when I opened a pack of cheese (Cheddar, naturally). It seems we should eat or otherwise imbibe three portions of dairy products each day - one each of milk, cheese and yoghourt.

It's just as well we have two hands - one for the 5 a day foodstuffs, one for the 3 a day. But what do we do about counting the units of alcohol and the number of calories? If this counting business grows much more we won't have time to eat.