Sunday, 31 May 2009

Party invitations

I was invited to the party - my granddaughter's 2nd birthday party this afternoon at a cafe in a park near their house. Not really my scene, all those two-year-olds and young mothers discussing children. Still, the weather was good and the children all impeccably behaved. Quite amazing, really.

But someone else has not received an invitation to the party being held later this week to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Originally our Government said they didn't plan on making a big thing of it as our big celebrations had been for the 60th anniversary, so it was not intended that any representative of the UK should be there. I wonder if President Obama's planned presence had anything to do with a change of heart? Whether it did or not, we will be represented. But the Queen will not be going. The French say it is up to us to decide who should represent us: 10 Downing Street say that the Queen was not invited. So the line-up will be two heads of state (Presidents Sarkozy and Obama) - and Gordon Brown.

Perhaps the exclamation should be 'Gordon Bennett!'

Saturday, 30 May 2009


Sheila and I could, I suppose, be considered 49ers. After all, we do have a house in the French département of Maine et Loire, which is département 49.

Each French département is numbered, starting with 01 and ending in the 90s, the numbers having been allocated in alphabetical order. So Loire Atlantique is 44, Mayenne 53 etc. I'm told that French schoolchildren are expected to learn the names and numbers by heart. Why and when this numbering happened I don't know - possibly something to do with Napoleon Bonaparte who was around when the metric system of measures was introduced - but it is an example of the French love of bureaucracy.

There are, naturally, exceptions to the alpha-numeric rule. Corsica, for example, is divided into two départements which are numbered 2A and 2B, and there are several départements around Paris (75) which have numbers in the 90s, way out of sequence. Probably because one large département was split into smaller parts.

The numbers are used in the French post codes. These consist of five digits, of which the first two are the number of the département. Car registration numbers consist of three or four numerals followed ny two or three letters and finished off with the département number, and if one moves house from one département to another one is allowed six months to re-register one's car. I understand that there are plans to do away with the département indicator but that there is resistance to this.

Quietly musing as we drove along an almost deserted motorway, I decided that if I were to support an American team, it would have to be the 49ers. I had a vague idea that this team was based in California (and presumably named because of the gold rush), probably in San Francisco, but I had no idea whether they played basketball, baseball or football. I discovered that they are a football team. My knowledge of American football is scant: in fact, most of what I know came as a result of reading John Grisham's Playing for Pizza, so I decided I should learn a little more.

I wish I hadn't bothered. The rules seem even more complex than those of cricket.

I think I'll stick with stoolball.

Friday, 29 May 2009

A Sussex Success Story

Time was...

...when I considered that if I had started reading a book, I should finish it. It was almost as if it were a duty. This may have stemmed from studying English literature at school when set books had to be read time after time so that one could refer to certain passages or even quote extensively when answering exam questions. It was years before I decided that life was just too short for that nonsense and that if, after the first couple of chapters - say 50 pages or so - I was not enjoying whatever book I was reading, the time had come to put it to one side. After all, I read for pleasure, not out of duty, so why punish myself?

This all comes about because I have given up on two books in the last ten days, which is actually quite unusual for me. But now I am well into (and enjoying) The Edge of Madness by Michael Dobbs.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

It's stopped!

A dry walk this morning - and I even managed to cut the grass this afternoon. I also managed to get the June issue of Jungle Jottings sorted after yesterday's fiasco. There was one page that seemed to have a mind all of its own. I got it laid out just how I wanted it, saved it and converted to pdf format, only to find that the page had gone all haywire. I think I spent the better part of two hours trying to sort it, but in the end I gave up and emailed and printed it as it was. Part of the reason for my frustration was that I was up tight against a deadline for getting names to the president for next week's zone social - a skittles tournament between the various clubs. Of course, this morning there was no pressure and I git it right first time, so the issue on the web site is OK. Oh well - c'est la vie.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Quote for the day

As I was getting ready to take the dog for a walk this afternoon (yes, still raining) King Lear's words sprang to mind and seemed particularly apt:

"That way madness lies."

And still it is raining

That makes three days in a row that we have had a wet morning walk.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Rain - again

By lunch time yesterday the weather had improved no end and the afternoon was sunny and, for us, very warm. So warm that I cut short the afternoon walk because Fern was getting too hot. But about 5.00pm it started raining again. I had to go to Gatwick to collect Neil, Wendy and Emily from their holiday and the traffic was very heavy with people leaving Brighton. Not much on the way back though! Still raining again this morning, although it has started to clear up. One advantage of the rain is that pretty much all of the bird droppings have been washed off the car, but there is no way that I can get a vacuum cleaner out on the drive to clean the inside, and nor can I cut the grass as it is far too wet and in any case, I use an electric mower. At least the vegetables are getting the water they need, but I might as well not have bothered to put the hose on them on Sunday evening!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Australian weather forecast

The weather forecaster last night said that we would have a hot day today with temperatures of 28 or 29 Celsius. OK, that's pretty cool as far as some folks are concerned, but for us here in England it's HOT. But the sting was in the tail: heavy showers would sweep across in the late afternoon or early evening.

I can only think the forecaster had been standing on his head or something. The rain started at breakfast, and I got soaked taking the dog out. But it cleared during the morning and this afternoon has been glorious.

That is actually quite surprising. Today, the late May bank holiday, is the day when Hove Lions hold their carnival. It is also the day when the next club along the coast (Adur East) used to hold their Vintage Transport Fayre. I say used to because they were so fed up with being rained off that they have moved the date this year.

Brighton Lions took the racing pigs to Hove and while I was manning the stall this morning we did a reasonable trade. Here is a clip of a couple of the pigs.

And don't ask me what they were doing!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The worst thing about going away is coming home

I wandered down the garden just before lunch and it's quite obvious that there has been little if any rain here while we were away. Sure, the grass has grown - and now needs cutting again! - but the ground is very dry. The vegetables have, on the whole, managed to survive the lack of water, but I will need to run the hose for quite a while to prevent them from dying of thirst.

I have been trying an experiment this year. As our garden has shallow soil which is full of stones it is not really suitable for root crops such as carrots, so this year I have tried growing carrots in pots. One of those pots is actually the bottom third of an old water butt and the carrots in that were coming along nicely before we went away. But while we have been away, something has dug up about half the little plants. I will have to find something to deter those wretched cats! Another pot was sown about ten days before we left, and the lack of rain means that they have not yet germinated. Neither have the French beans, but the runner beans (which I started in the greenhouse) are coming along just fine.

Despite the dry weather, weeds continue to grow and it looks to me as though I will need a couple of hours in the vegetable patch to straighten things out again. Plus another hour to cut the grass. And the car needs washing. And it also needs cleaning inside and a thorough going-over with a vacuum cleaner. Meanwhile, there are other, far more interesting things to do.

Friday, 15 May 2009

That's it.

Case packed, car loaded (including the 20 geranium plants). I've even set the DVD recorder for all the programmes Madam wants recorded while we are away. It (the recorder) seemed convinced that today is St George's Day just as it did last week, but I hope I have managed to persuade it otherwise. Back in a week or so.

One thing etc

It started with me wanting to link several photos to produce a panoramic view, so I bought new software - Adobe Photoshop Elements 7. I had already jazzed up the Lions web site with a redesign, but then I embedded one of the videos produced by international headquarters. It struck me that a video of our own club activities would be a better idea and I started making noises about club members with video cameras. Then I wondered if I could use still pictures to produce a slide show, and I discovered some free software that I downloaded. It wasn't until after I had done so that I realised Photoshop Elements could be used to make a slide show. Great! But what about a soundtrack? So I downloaded some more free software (Wavepad Sound Editor) which seems to be just the job for editing background music which can then be added to the slide show as a sound track. But some of the slides will need a spoken commentary, so today I bought a new toy - a microphone. It works; I know because I have found time to test it, but I still have to work out how to get the volume just what I want and how far it should be from my mouth to avoid the sort of splutter one gets when it is too close. And what else? Oh yes, I remembered that Paint Shop Pro can be used to make animated gifs, which can then be saved as video, so I tried my hand at one for the first time for, ooh, at least ten years. I think it's quite fun. Click here to see it.

But I really don't have the time for any more tomfoolery. I have a case to pack and a car to load as we are off tomorrow, through the tunnel and away from all the fuss about MPs' expenses. I know our lot are pretty bad, but the cynic in me (or is that the realist?) says that the same thing happens in other countries - and a lot worse in some. Not that that makes it OK here, but let's get these things in perspective.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Panic over

I have spent much of the last couple of days producing menus for our Lions Charter Night dinner, working myself into a tizzy as we will be away next week so I will only have a few days after our return to get everything tidied away. I have managed to print off most of the menus, although there are still a few names and menu selections to come in. Then at lunch time today it dawned on me. I will actually have two weeks after we get back, not just one. I needn't have panicked after all.

Charter Night is quite a formal occasion, with most of the men wearing dinner jackets. The ladies used to wear really posh frocks - evening gowns - but now tend to be dressed in just posh frocks - more like cocktail dresses. Most years the Mayor attends and she will be with us this year.

Being such a formal affair, we (that is, I) produce smart looking menus which double as place cards. The menu is an A4 card folded to A5, the front carrying details of the event and the attendee's name; inside are the Lions' grace, the individual menu that person has selected and a list of the speeches and speakers. The back page has a list of past presidents.

It used to be easy enough to buy A4 card with a glossy surface on one side and already scored to fold down to A5. There were several manufacturers, including most of the printer manufacturers like Epson and HP, but they all seem to have discontinued this product. I did manage to find another manufacturer - I think they are the own brand for one of the country's largest computer retail chains. I tried to order four boxes (the illustration of the web site showed them as boxes of 25 sheets, but I was pretty certain there were only 20 to a box) but the most I could order was two. I tried again for a few days but this item was 'out of stock'. Then it disappeared from the web site completely, so I assume I bought the last two boxes in the country.

I have now sourced similar card, but matt on both sides which is a little unfortunate.

The other card I can no longer find is A4 scored to fold to A6. I used to use this for the club directory, but it seems no longer to be produced. Maybe I'm the only person in the country who wants this as well! It's just so difficult being different.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Lions video

When I redesigned our Lions web site earlier this month, I embedded a video clip from International Headquarters. Afterwards I decided I would really like to have one of our own club. That would be much more meaningful, I thought. I will be publishing a request in next month's JJ for anybody with a digital video camera to have a chat with me so that we can plan something, but then I realised that I can make a movie clip with Photoshop Elements just using still pictures. I knew also that I could add a soundtrack, but I didn't think I could edit the audio. I've now found a free program to edit audio.

When I got bored with printing menus for our charter night (each one has to be printed separately, which is another story) I tried my hand at producing a video of our fireworks display, and I'm quite pleased with the result:

I deliberately chose music other than the 1812 Overture as that is such a cliche.

Global warming?

What global warming? Here we are, nearly half way through May and we still have the heating on. I can't remember ever having it on so late in the year. Certainly, back in 2003 when I was still working on the house in France, I recall sitting in the restaurant garden to eat dinner. But at least the wind has dropped. For the last couple of days we have had strong, possibly gale force winds. There doesn't seem to be much damage - a couple of trees blown down in the woods and plenty of smaller branches, twigs and leaves on the ground, but nothing to bother about. It was difficult to believe that the temperature got up to 13 or 14 degrees, the wind chill factor making it feel a lot cooler. But it should still be warmer than that!

Oh What a Circus - footnote

It's pleasing to learn that there are some MPs whose expenses claims and other financial dealings contain absolutely nothing questionable.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Enough of politics!

Not a bad view to have while washing up after dinner, and always improved by the evening light.

Monday, 11 May 2009

A Tale of Two Smiles

And this - at 1.39:

Oh What a Circus - Act 2

The general public has, by and large, shown disgust at the Government's treatment of the Gurkhas but that is as nothing compared with the anger shown at what has been revealed over the last few days of the way that MPs have played the rules to maximise their expenses claims. Granted, most of the claims appear to have been within the letter of the rules (there are some which, on the face of it, were not), but certainly many of the legal claims could be described as immoral - not in the sense that they were for blue movies (although one was) or ladies of ill-repute, but in that the frequent switching of the second-home designation meant that they could claim for repairs to what had, until the previous week, been unclaimable.

The Daily Telegraph has managed to acquire full details of MPs' claims and has been publishing some of them since last Friday.

It all puts me very much in mind of the song from Evita - "Oh what a circus! Oh What a show!"

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Oh What a Circus

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas had a meeting with actress Joanna Lumley this week and he didn't seem at all comfortable.

Seems rather like making policy on the hoof.

Who are the Gurkhas?

More bacon anyone?

fail owned pwned pictures

Roast gammon for dinner tonight. We had bacon twice yesterday. Well, sort of. Bacon, leek and mushroom flan at lunch and spaghetti carbonara for dinner.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Railway blues

OK, so it doesn't have quite the same romance as the Southern Pacific, but London to Brighton in three and a half minutes is pretty quick.

The annual plague

I have been round the Roman camp again this afternoon, the first time since last weekend, and I see that the travellers are still camped in the Wild Park. Every summer we suffer from travellers' illegal camps in parks and on fields in and around Brighton. If the Council acts quickly enough, they can be moved on easily, but this does need action within 24 hours of their arrival. Naturally, they usually set up camp late on a Friday afternoon, so nothing can be done until Monday at the earliest. Then it needs a court order to move the travellers, and that usually takes three to four weeks. Ridiculous!

What really annoys most Brighton residents is that:
a) dole money is delivered to the camps by taxi;
b) most people are hesitant (or downright afraid) to walk past one of the camps because of the out-of-control dogs;
c) the men start going round the houses with 'a bit of left-over asphalt if you would like your drive resurfaced' or offering to fix that 'dodgy' slate and then 'finding' other work that needs doing immediately. "Don't have the cash to pay my exhorbitant demand? Mever mind, I'll come to the cash point with you."
d) it costs a small fortune to clear the site of rubbish after they have finally been persuaded to move on.

And if this seems like a moan, IT IS!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Donner und blitzen

Or words to that effect.

Yesterday afternoon I took a supply of our 'Message in a Bottle' bottles into Asda and presented them to the manager of the in-store pharmacy, emphasising that there was no charge involved to either the store or their customers. Today I am told they can't keep them as they have not had permission from head office. So, I suppose I will have to get in touch with the MD MIAB Officer and see if I can persuade him to contact Asda to persuade them to permit their stores to hold supplies.

Web site updated yesterday to show Asda as a source of supply, updated again today to remove the store.

We boobed!

Clothing retailers Marks and Spencer have today taken ads in the press stating 'We boobed' and announcing that from now on, they are scrapping the £2 'surcharge' on bras with large cups. This is the result of a campaign organised by a Brighton woman, who is shown interviewed in the video clip.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A safe pair of hands?

David Cameron, the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, hopes to become Prime Minister after the next general election sometime in 2010. It is reported in today's paper that he has had his bicycle stolen - for the second time.

If he can't even look after his own bike, what chance is there that he can look after the country?

Looking into the future

Also known as gazing into a crystal ball - or forecasting the weather!

The television in our house is regularly switched on at ten o'clock in the evening for the national news, which is followed by the regional news and then the regional weather forecast. I'm not convinced that our regional forecasters are particularly good at their job, but I watch them anyway - and get irritated when they talk of winds 'easing down' and use other phrases with superfluous words (drat it! I've forgotten the word - and it's on the tip of my tongue).

We have our own weather forecast system. It's just a little more sophisticated than a length of wet seaweed, but not much more. Some years ago we spent a week in New England in the hope of doing some autumn leaf peeping. (We also got in some whale watching off Boston.) We travelled across Massachusetts, up Vermont (including the obligatory stop at Tom and Jerry's), a brief side trip across the border, then back down through New Hampshire. We crossed into Maine for the outlets at Kittery (didn't think much of that!), then visited Strawberry Bank at Portsmouth, NH - a kind of open air museum.

It was here that we must have mislaid our normal cynical natures because we were talked into buying not just one but two articles called 'the woodsman's weather stick'. This, we were told, was something discovered by the local Indian tribes and which was guaranteed to forecast the weather. The stick is fixed to a vertical surface such as a wall, and if the weather is going to be fine, the tip points up. With rain in the offing, the stick points down.

So we brought these two sticks back, took one on to France, and fixed the other to the garage where we can see it from the kitchen window. And yes, the stick does bend up and down - sometimes, in fact, it bends at such an angle that I think it will snap! And yes, it does forecast the weather. The trouble is, it only forecasts about thirty minutes ahead - and I can forecast better than that just by looking towards the south-west!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Inspiration needed!

Where o where is my muse when I need it most? As we will be away later this month, I decided to make a start on the June issue of Jungle Jottings. This will, I see, be the 60th issue since I took over as editor, so I don't want the standard to fall. There have been months when I have struggled to produce six pages instead of the self-imposed target of eight, but for the 60th issue I really do want to keep to eight pages. But so far I have only four and a half - and even that's allowing for a report from the next business meeting which I will have to miss!

I must be positive: something will occur to me over the next couple of weeks.

I'm sure it will.

I hope!

The stolen lilacs

Our lilac theft has reached to national press and even featured on the television news last night. I would embed the video clip, but it doesn't seem to be embedable (Is that a word?).

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Today is not the end

I had hoped that it would be - the end of a painful period for the Lions Housing Society, a period that has lasted almost three years. Last summer, after a long and expensive investigation, we sacked a caretaker for gross misconduct. He is taking the society to an industrial tribunal, alleging wrongful dismissal. The tribunal was to meet today, but on Friday our lawyers received a phone call saying the the authority that organises these tribunals (whoever or whatever it may be) had insufficient staff and that the hearing scheduled for today was to be postponed indefinitely. That means, of course, that the whole thing is still hanging over our heads and we are still pretty much in limbo.

Obviously the matter remains sub judice and there is no way that I could post details in a public forum such as this. But it is a big worry for others of our staff and I shall be glad when it's all over.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Collapse of Aunt and other stories

Our daughter relays this snippet of a conversation she had with our 6-years-old grandson:

Grandson: I'm going to join Beavers.

Aunt: Are you? That's good!

Grandson: Mmm. I'm not sure if it will be a help; I want to be a postman.

Collapse of Aunt.

* * *

Today is a bank holiday, which means, of course, that I don't have to go to work and I can lie around enjoying myself. But since I retired a few years ago, it's not a day off work for me, so I can't enjoy it the way I once did. On the other hand, every day is a bank holiday for me now.

Most other countries call these odd days off public holidays: in fact, I think that even here in England they are known officially as public holidays, but people still call them bank holidays. I heard once that this dates back to Victorian times when the banks were generous enough to give their staff a day's holiday which became known, naturally enough, as a bank holiday. The practice gradually spread throughout other professions and industries, but the name stuck.

We have fewer bank holidays in England and Wales than they do in most other countries. Our annual total is eight days, and even in Scotland and Northern Ireland they have more! I see that France has eleven, as do Belgium, Italy and Sweden, whereas Spain has ten, Portugal thirteen, and Germany as many as fifteen. Only Holland is on a par with us with eight. Even the USA has twelve. There has for some time been a rumbling that we should have another one, but there doesn't seem to be a consensus of opinion as to when it should be. Trafalgar Day (21st October), which would plug the gap between the August bank holiday (last Monday in August) and Christmas Day, has been suggested, but some people say that would upset our French allies! (Now I come to think of it, Christmas Eve has almost become an unofficial holiday, with most businesses closing down before lunch.)

I can remember when we had just six bank holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, August Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Then we moved into line with Scotland and made New Year's Day a bank holiday. The Scots promptly retaliated my declaring 2nd January an additional holiday! May Day was also to be celebrated, but as this would fall on a different day each year, it was standardised as the Early Spring Holiday on the first Monday in May. Whit Monday was therefore abandoned in favour of the Late Spring holiday on the last Monday in May, and the August Bank Holiday was moved from the first Monday to the last.

* * *

Yesterday afternoon I had a few memories stirred when I walked out along the Downs. Visibility was exceptionally good and I could clearly see the Isle of Wight some 50+ miles away. As children, my brother and I both suffered badly from asthma and our doctor suggested that we should attend what was described as an open air school for delicate children. The chosen school was at Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, and was run by Church of England nuns.

Our lives at Ventnor were to run to a very regular routine. We were given a cooked breakfast every morning and I particularly enjoyed the baked beans on fried bread.

Wednesdays and Sundays were the best days: those were the days when we were allowed to choose sweets. Sugar, and therefore sweets, was still rationed even though the war had been over for more than seven years. We were allowed to choose two sweets, either boiled fruit sweets or chewy spearmint flavour, or if we were feeling extravagant, we could choose a chocolate flake.

Sweets were chosen immediately after the midday meal and before our daily rest. On sweet days we were also taken for a walk in the afternoon. This would involve a crocodile of children walking over the downs behind Ventnor or along a disused railway track and through a tunnel (great excitement) to St Catherine's Point.

1953 was the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly after the event all the children from the home were taken to the local cinema to watch a film of it. I also remember Mum visiting us and taking us across the island to Ryde or Cowes, from where we could see all the naval ships that had gathered in Spithead for the review of the fleet. There was a second visit to the cinema, to see The Cruel Sea. Thinking back, I am amazed that the nuns would let us watch that film, an adaptation of Nicholas Montserrat's epic novel about the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

Enough of this!

* * *

I'm not knowledgeable about roses, but I do know the names of a few of the varieties that we have in the garden. Possibly my favourite is Maigold, which blooms earlier than most. Ours usually flowers sometime about the middle of the month, sometimes by my brother's birthday (8th), sometimes not till after mine a couple of weeks later. This year the first flower is already out.

One of the things about this variety is that it blooms for a longer period that most roses, and always has a second flush in late August or September.

* * *

And then there's this; possibly the best sandwich filling ever. Slices of avocado with crisp streaky bacon. Or fry pancetta and mix with chopped avocado and a little mayonnaise to bind it all together, and spread on open rolls as we did at lunch yesterday. Not a bad alternative, but not as good (in my opinion) as the sandwiches.

* * *

Why I won't be going into town today.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Big game hunt

Specifically, Lions.

Since I have been 'elected' (Election? What election?) to serve on the membership committee next year, I have from time to time mused on what contribution I can make to the proceedings. (This usually takes place while I am walking the dog, which is an ideal time to get away from everything and think.) Maybe now would be as good a time as any to commit my jumbled thoughts to paper - screen, cyberspace, whatever - in an attempt to sort them into a semblance of logical order.

We have, over the years, tried a number of schemes which we understood had proved successful with other clubs. None of them worked for us. Actually, now that I come to think of it, I can recall only three things that we have tried, but nevertheless, they all involved spending money... No, that's not right. TWO of them involved spending money and the third MIGHT have involved doing so had it met with success, which none of them did.

I think I have the chronological order of these three schemes correct, but it really doesn't matter anyway.

1. We placed an advertisement in the local paper telling the world that we were looking for members and asking interested persons to ring the given telephone number. Naturally, we had to pay for the ad, but the response was zilch.

2. Each member of the club was asked to pass to the membership committee the name of a potential member. The committee then wrote to the (very) few people whose names were given to them, inviting them to attend a dinner meeting at which several Lions had been primed to speak for a couple of minutes about different aspects of the clubs activities etc. The thinking behind this idea was that people can be too shy to invite friends, colleagues, neighbours to a Lions meeting with a view to joining the club and a more roundabout approach might work better. It didn't. But at least we didn't have to pay for any guests' meals.

3. We had leaflets printed (at quite considerable cost) and a few members delivered them door to door. (Amazing how many couldn't manage to do any of that!) People were invited to come to an open evening to find out what Lions do. We arranged refreshments and displays, with most regular attenders on hand to answer questions. One person turned up and we heard no more of her.

So, what should we learn from these failures? Could we change how we go about any of them to give them a better chance of success? My view is that none of them work, although I understand that a club just along the coast to the west has used the leaflet drop on several occasions and met with great success. Why does it work with them but not with us? They do cover a small town, whereas we are in Brighton, a city with a diverse population which is in a constant state of flux with a large proportion of its residents either students or young people who have not yet settled down and don't really feel themselves to be part of a 'community' in the way that residents of a village or small town do.

I still maintain that the best way of bringing in a new member is by personal invitation, but maybe we could rethink that a bit. What we have done in the past is to bring in a new member and then try to find a suitable job for him. Suppose we do it the other way round? If the club could agree on a list of jobs that we want covered, maybe we could find people specifically to take on those jobs. Two things spring immediately to mind: Peace Poster and Young Ambassador. Now I come to think of it, I do know a couple of people who could promote the Young Ambassador scheme.

What we need, however, is agreement on what jobs the club wants covered before trying to recruit anybody to cover one of them. It would be disastrous if one of us recruited somebody to do, say, Peace Poster, and then the club refused to get involved in the scheme or the president wouldn't appoint the new member to that job.

That seems to have clarified my mind a little. All I need to do now is to remember where I have written down these thoughts!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

A few weeks back I was talking with another Lion and he came up with the idea that we should make a video of our club's activities and show it on our web site. It was this that prompted me to embed one of International's videos in the site. Then I realsied, or rather, remembered that my still camera will take short video clips so this afternoon I tried it while out with the dog. Now I have signed up with YouTube and uploaded the video. OK, so it won't be appearing as an Oscar nomination, but at least I have proved to myself that I can do it.

"We'll Gather Lilacs"

And somebody has done just that.

Our local park is home to the national lilac collection. I don't know how it came about - never been sufficiently interested to find out, I suppose. As far as I was always concerned, the lilac is an attractive shrub or small tree with flowers that come in two colours - white and, well, lilac. Having looked a little more closely at the plants in the park I now know that there are different shades of each colour and various other nuances that differentiate the varieties. But that is of no concern to us here: nor does it matter that my dear old granny believed lilac to be an unlucky flower and would never have the blooms in the house.

To get back to the national collection. A few years ago, it was decided by whoever makes these decisions that the plants were past their best and the collection needed rejuvenating. New beds were dug and young plants put in. They have, most of them, become established now and are just starting to show their blooms at their best. As far as I was aware, everything was as normal when I was in the park just after breakfast yesterday. But as I was walking down through the wooded part this morning, I stopped to chat with another regular dog walker who told me that somebody had come along with secateurs and the new plants had been cut, some of them now displaying only a few blooms. Speculation is that somebody has cut the stems and will stick them into pots to sell at the market on the racecourse this weekend. Of course, by the time any buyer realises (s)he has been duped into paying several pounds for a stem rather than a growing plant, the seller will be long gone.

I am told that the police have been informed and have undertaken to patrol the market to see if there is anybody selling what purport to be lilac plants, but somehow the cynic in me says that the instruction will never reach to coppers patrolling the market and nothing will be done.

This is actually quite a hectic weekend here in Brighton. We have the opening of the Brighton Festival, accompanied by the fringe events, the first of which is the children's parade this afternoon. Then, of course, there is the racecourse market on Monday (which is a bank holiday in lieu of May Day) and the annual horse driving trials in Stanmer Park. On, no - the horse driving is next weekend.

Friday, 1 May 2009

May you live in interesting times (Chinese curse)

May Day, and I opened the curtains this morning to blue sky and warm sun. Walking in the park after breakfast was a delight and I looked forward to a walk across the Downs after lunch. But half an hour after I got back home a bank of low cloud descended (or came across) and the temperature dropped by several degrees. In the end I opted for the woods and wore a jacket, but now I am home again the sun has come out and we have a glorious day again. Ah well, such is life.

Life also brings nasty things in batches. People always say that things come in threes. I wish. At the start of the week the doctor confirmed that the Old Bat's painful eye was a dose of conjunctivitis, so whenever she has needed to go anywhere this week I have had to act as chauffeur. Not that I mind over much; it's more the inconvenience.

There have been mechanical (although that's probably not the word I really want) problems as well. A couple of weeks ago the shower went on the blink. In the time it took to soap behind my left ear, the water went from pleasant to scalding. By the time I had soaped behind the right ear, it felt as though I was standing at the foot of Niagara Falls in January. We decided that the shower had to be changed. I did consider doing the job myself: after all, it is only a matter of disconnecting the water supply and the electrical cables, then reconnecting them in the new shower. Couldn't be that difficult, surely? Then I remembered the last time I tried to change a washer in the kitchen tap. We had to call an emergency plumber to stop the flood. And as it was a Sunday afternoon it cost me an arm and a leg. I decided to call our usual handyman. He advised buying a new shower of the same make as the old in the hope that the water inlet and power access point would be in approximately the same place. I unpacked the new shower to make sure all the bits were there and took a look at the installation instructions. Thank goodness I had called Mr X! And (of course) the water pipes had to be rerouted and the electricity access was also in a different place. What Mr X had expected to be a half hour job took him the better part of the day. I was so relieved I had not attempted it myself.

At roughly the same time as the shower gave up the ghost, the thermostat on the hall radiator did the same. Our regular plumber (well, he is now) came while Mr X was here, took one look and went away again. Two reasons: one, he didn't have time to drain down the whole system; and two, he didn't have the necessary part to convert our microbore pipe to standard gauge for the new thermostat. He came back a couple of days ago and did the job, then the next day I noticed a drip from the radiator at the end where the thermostat is fitted. Assuming it was one of the joints that needed tightening, the plumber called back today. It's not one of the joints: the radiator itself has spring a leak and needs replacing. I full anticipate that Murphy's Law will apply and we will find that the old radiator (and it's fittings etc) are in imperial measurements and all radiators nowadays are metric. Watch this space.

The catch on the toilet window has been getting trickier for the last month or two, but this week I decided that it, too, needed some TLC, so I called the man who fitted the double-glazed units a year or two ago. He called in this afternoon and confirmed that the catch is beyond TLC. He has promised to pick up a new one and fit it some time next week.

Now I come to think of it, it was on Wednesday, the day the radiator sprang a leak, that the OB flapped a hand and said, 'Can you fix that after supper?'

'Fix what?' I asked, there having been nothing very obvious in the corner of the kitchen that I thought had been indicated.



'The cooker!'

I looked more closely and saw that one of the knobs was projecting further forward than its companions. After supper I examined it more closely, and gave a gentle tug. The knob came away in my hand, a spring flew into the dog's water bowl, and a small piece of metal, which had probably been part of a clip holding the whole lot together, fell onto the floor. I managed to do a Fred Karno-type job of putting things back together without the spring or the clip, and suggested that as the cooker is less than a year old, the supplier might like to repair it. I left it to Madam to ring them, but I don't think she has yet.

And that's not the end of it. A phone call at lunch time from the Housing Society secretary (she's called the secretary, but I suppose she should really be given a different title such as manager or chief executive or some such). Anyway, she said she had rung several times during the morning (while the OB and I had been out, obviously) but was told each time that our message box was full. But we have an answering machine, and there were no messages on it when I checked. It dawned on me that the 'message box' is a service offered by the telephone service provider which requires that one dials 1571 to pick up messages, but doesn't alert the subscriber when there is a new message. Somehow our provider had subscribed us to that service without us asking and there were about a dozen messages! Fortunately, only one was of any importance and that had been left just a couple of days ago. So I called the service provider this afternoon and experienced great difficulty understanding what was being said to me as I was obviously connected to a call centre in India. I gather that we are now being unsubscribed, but it could take four days, so I shall have to keep checking that there are no messages - for a few days at least.

I'm beginning to think somebody has put that old Chinese curse on me.