Monday, 31 August 2009

Goodbye, summer

The last day of August and, coincidentally (although it happens every six or seven years), the last Monday in August, which means that today is a bank holiday, the last bank holiday until Christmas. Not that that fact bothers me much; after all, every day is like a bank holiday for me except that on most of them we get post delivered. More significant for me is that today is the last day of August and, according to my personal calendar, therefore the last day of summer.

I'm sure that meteorologists have a different definition of the seasons, but for me spring is March, April and May, summer is June, July and August, autumn is September, October and November (the ember days) and winter, logically enough, is December, January and February. I know that doesn't tie in with the chronological (if that's the word I want) seasons given that Mid Summer's Day is in June and the shortest day is in December, but it seems to reflect my view of the passing seasons.

Things do sometimes get a bit out of synch. Most years I am picking blackberries until the middle of September, but already this year we have enough in the freezer for the next twelve months, and the autumn raspberries are just getting into their stride - again, a week or two earlier than normal. Could that be a sign of a bad winter to come, or just a sign of the rotten summer weather we have had this year?

Sunday, 30 August 2009

As Time Goes By

This is the time of year when there rarely seems to be anything worth watching on the gogglebox. Luckily, I was - for once - prepared for the eventuality. For my birthday earlier this year (yes, I do still have one every year) the children each gave me Amazon vouchers which I used to buy the complete set of DVDs of the old sit-com "As Times Goes By". We are working our way through them, sometimes watching as many as three episodes in one evening! My word, we do know how to live it up!!

But what will we do when we have exhausted the nine series and one special? Will there be anything worth watching? Perhaps I will have to buy something else - "'Allo, 'Allo" might be worth it. Or "Dad's Army" perhaps. We shall have to see.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Got there at last

We have advertised Les Lavandes on one particular holiday cottage web site for the last six years and on others intermittently. The others produced so few enquiries that they have all been given up, but the main site has continued to bring a steady trickle of potential guests. But although we regard letting the house as a bonus, we would prefer to have about 50% more weeks let than we have been getting the last year or two. What certainly will not help for next year are the two distinctly unfavourable reviews we have recently received, neither of them (in our opinion) justified. So we decided cancel our advertising with Site A and move to a different site.

It wasn't too difficult to find what appears to be a suitable site. Many of the sites that seem to be best known expect us to sign the house over to them almost completely, just specifying each year which four or five weeks we want to reserve for ourselves. That's not the way we want to do things. But there was another site which came in the top three when searching Google with the phrase "holiday cottage France" so I signed up with them.

It took me all morning to prepare our ad with them so I just hope they find it acceptable.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

More useless trivia

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321 (or so I am told. I haven't checked it.)

'8,549,176,320' has all the digits arranged in alphabetical order.

Today's useless info

When dogs are taught to "shake hands", male dogs prefer to offer their left paw while females prefer to proffer their right. It's the same if a dog pats its owner to attract attention: males tend to use the left paw, females the right. The same left/right bias can be found in cats.

Who studies these things anyway?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Report back

It was good. The food was great, with generous portions, and priced very reasonably. Luckily I had discovered beforehand that it is necessary to take one's own wine and we had a screw-top bottle in store so were able to bring back what we didn't drink. We arrived about 15 minutes before a party of 20 was booked to get there, and there was only one table free apart from ours. Just as well I had booked. We shall return.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Ristorante Pizzeria

There's a new Italian restaurant opened down in the village. No, that's untrue: the restaurant has been open for a little while so it's newish rather than new. Anyway, I had to walk past it yesterday on the way to fetch my car from the garage after a service. I thought the menu looked pretty good and the interior of the restaurant seemed attractive, so we are going to try it tonight. I'll report back later.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Light relief

I had really become almost totally immersed in Diamond Geezers, even to the extent of, well, not boredom exactly, but I needed a break from it. So, by way of light relief over the weekend, I cut the wood to size for the replacement gate from France (it will be taken over as a flat-pack and put together over there) and primed as much as I could before I ran out of primer. That happened yesterday morning and I could have driven to our DIY store to buy more, but I try not to do any shopping on a Sunday as a matter of principle. So I painted the two garden gates, and this morning I put another coat of stain on the front door - and not before time. It was becoming embarrassing answering the door as it had got into such a bad state. The trouble is, we don't actually use the front door ourselves, so we rarely see what it looks like.

Light relief? Huh, I'll be glad to get back to Diamond Geezers.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Sign seen in an ENGLISH village hall.

Lucky so far

Today the weather is absolutely delightful - what is regarded as a typical English summer's day. Blue skies with the odd puffy white cloud, temperatures in the low 70s (in old money - about 22-23 in new).

But as I left home with the dog yesterday morning, the rain started. Granted, it had virtually stopped by the time I reached the park, so it wasn't too bad. All the same, I got to thinking how lucky I have been with the weather this summer. There have been three occasions when rain would have spoiled a special occasion - the big party on the farm, the Lions' annual barbecue and my nephew's wedding. Despite July being the wettest on record and August not being the best by a long chalk, the weather for all three events could not have been better.

Similarly, we had brilliant weather while on holiday in Provence, and the sun shone for my day in Calais last week. I've quite a bit to be thankful for.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Teenage logic

A friend answered the phone and discovered the call was from his teenage grandson.

"What's your email address, Grandad?"

"Your mother's got it."

"Yes, but she's downstairs."

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Very strange

I'm sitting here scratching my head in puzzlement. Yesterday I called in at the Housing Society office (as I do from time to time) only to find that a reply I had sent to an email from Pat the previous day had not got through and that emails she had sent to me had never reached me. Out of curiosity we tried a few more, with me logged into my ISP on one screen and the Housing Society on another. It seemed that two of my three email addresses (it's a long story) were acting up, but that the third was OK. All of which seems a bit strange as two of the three, including the one that was working, are automatically redirected to the third (the original). But if the original ( could receive emails addressed to and redirected from, why would it not receive emails addressed to itself? And, just to add to my confusion, this morning emails addressed to freeserve are getting through. Well, some of them are...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

That's odd

I generally get an email telling me that I have made a comment on one of Skip's blogs - or even on my own - but there hasn't been one this afternoon even though I posted comments some hours ago. I did wonder if I had forgotten to tick the "advise me by email" box, but I'm pretty sure I did. Perhaps if I just post a test comment...

Monday, 17 August 2009

A close shave

I feel lucky to be sitting here typing this.

I had just left the Stanmer Woods car park this afternoon and was heading up the hill when a police car overtook another car on the blind brow of the hill and was heading straight at me. Fortunately there had been no time for me to build up any sort of speed and I was able to stop instantly. Had I been coming from the foot of the hill I would have been travelling faster and would probably have been unable to avoid a head-on collision. Yes, he had flashing lights and two-tones on, but I couldn't see the lights until he crested the hill, and the sound of the horns was deflected by the hill so I couldn't hear those.

It might have been nasty, but thank heavens it wasn't.

Sign seen today

"Mobile car hire"

Am I missing something?

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Fish and chips

It's only just dawned on me that the four of us went all the way to Calais on Thursday, and what did we have for lunch? Fish and chips. Very nice fish and chips, but still...

Having said that, lunch began with a bowl of olives and a plate of amuses bouche, followed by our starters (three had pate, I had stuffed crab) before the fish and chips. OK, my fish was fillets of sole Dieppoise, two of the others had grilled sea bream and the fourth had roast back of cod. All served with frites. Then for dessert, chocolate mousse, rhubarb tart and creme brulee (there should be accents in there somewhere but I don't know how to do them), and finish off with coffee.

All very pleasant, but now I'm off to get ready for my roast beef.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

It must be old age

I know there was something I was going to say, but I've forgotten what it was.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Devil looked after his own

Or the sun shone on the righteous. Take your pick.

Anyway, an uneventful journey to Calais (except for me driving down the wrong access ramp to the train and having to have the other door opened for me to drive on), followed by a leisurely lunch. Although it was about a year since we had been at that restaurant, the proprietress recognised Joe immediately we walked through the door and came straight over to give him a hug.

A gentle stroll along the seafront afterwards helped us to digest our meal while we admired the young ladies in their brief bikinis. Then shopping (which was what we had really gone for) and there was still time to sit at a pavement cafe and watch the world for a while before catching the train back home.

The immigration officer was perhaps the most painstaking I have yet had the misfortune to meet. She took our four passports and asked how many there were in the car when she could quite easily see there were four of us. She then proceeded to call each of us by our Christian name while she checked the passport photos. I did think she should have addressed us as Mr So-and-so instead of Albert or whatever. The she wanted to know where we had been.

'How long have you been abroad?'
'About ten hours.'
'What was the purpose of your trip?'
'To have lunch.'
'Have you bought anything while you've been here?'
'Yes - food.'
'Any alcohol?'
'Yes - some wine.'
'Any cigarettes or tobacco?'
'How many cigarettes?'
'800 for me.'
'And I've bought 800 as well.'
'Any tobacco?'

Passports handed back, I plucked up courage.

'As we are allowed to bring these items into the country, do you really have to question us like this?'
'I have to be satisfied they are for your own consumption. Are they?'
'And you have no tobacco?'

Small wonder it was taking her twice as long to process a car as either of the others on duty.

But we arrived home safely.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

International relations

We have a meeting of the Lions International Relations Committee tomorrow, which means that four of us are taking a day trip to Calais for a good lunch, followed by shopping for wine and other goodies only available in the UK at exorbitant prices, maybe a stroll along the promenade or a drink at a pavement cafe. Depends how the mood takes us - and what the weather is.

DIY and all that stuff

Many years ago we had an extension built onto the kitchen. For some reason I am not now able to remember, the ceiling in the extension is lower than in the rest of the kitchen, with the result that the two wall cabinets we have in that part are fitted pretty well flush to the ceiling. When the extension was finished, we were left with a ceiling of plain plasterboard panels on which we fixed polystyrene ceiling tiles to match those we had in the old part.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that one of the cabinet doors was scraping against the ceiling. The tiles were parting company from the plasterboard, the adhesive having given way. There were four tiles involved and the droop was at the centre where the four tiles abutted. No problem, I thought naively. All I have to do is to cut through the grout I put in the joins, ease the tiles down a little and apply some more adhesive.


I duly started to cut through the grout, at which point the tiles started drooping even further. Cut a little more, and one tile almost fell off the ceiling. While I was standing back looking and wondering, it did fall down. At least, part of it did. Some spots along one edge remained steadfastly stuck to the ceiling, while the rest of the tile lay on the floor. The second tile soon joined it and this, too, left bits behind.

I had already bought adhesive in a squirty tube-type thingy a bit like an enormous toothpaste tune, so I applied a generous helping onto the two tiles remaining in close proximity to the ceiling by pointing the end of the tube into the gap between tile and ceiling. I gently pressed the tiles back into place. One held, the other didn't.

I made another trip to the DIY store to buy some different adhesive and to check whether they still sold similar tiles. The 'old' tiles were bought so long ago that they are in an imperial size and I fully expected that any tiles stocked now would be metric, which would mean that I would have to remove all the old tiles and start again. I dreaded having to do that as it meant I would have to take down the strip light fitting and the two wall cupboards. As it happened, they didn't have any polystyrene ceiling tiles, imperial or metric.

With the new adhesive to hand, I found a wallpaper scraper and used that to coat the back of the droopy tile, pressed it into place and, for good measure, hammered in a panel pin. Twenty-four hours later, it was still in place, so I decided to try my luck with the two tiles that had broken. They are now on the ceiling, held there by glue and panel pins, and once they have had a chance to settle I'll put some more grout in the join.

Then I'll repaint the ceiling in an attempt to hide the joins where the tiles broke.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

An interesting puzzle

While researching for Diamond Geezers I discovered that the first donation made by Brighton Lions the sum of £100 to buy and train a guide dog for a blind Sussex person. That was in 1951 and I started to wonder what that sum would equate to now. The last I heard, which was a few years ago, was that it cost £2000+ to train a guide dog, so I assumed that the 1951 £100 would be at least £2000 today. But how to find out?

Not unnaturally, I turned to the internet and quickly found several sites where I could compare the 1951 dollar with today's greenback and, tucked away on page three of the search results, there was one site that was concerned with the pound sterling. But this just listed the annual inflation rate for each month of each year - the retail price index - and this returned to a base of 100 at irregular intervals. And the starting base was several years before 1951. So, I devised a spreadsheet to calculate the equivalent value today of £100 in 1951, using the annual rates of inflation shown on the web site. According to this, we would now need to spend in excess of £3000 to buy the same quantity of goods as we could have bought for £100 in 1951.

I was reasonably confident that my spreadsheet formula was correct, but sent it all to another Lion (a retired accountant) to check, and he agreed that my formula seemed correct and that I had used the correct inflation rates throughout. 'But,' he said, 'I have discovered a site where one can input a year and an amount and it tells you today's equivalent - and that site says that the 1951 £100 is worth £2300 today.'

We examined my spreadsheet again and still could see nothing wrong. I browsed to the site T told me about and tried a few examples. I had calculated that £100 in 1951 was worth £X in 1957 - and this site agreed with me. It agreed on everything I tried, but still differed on the 1951 to 2009 conversion.

I put it all to one side and searched the web again. This time I found the Government's Office for National Statistics where they list the rates of inflation without going back to base 100 every few years. I haven't done anything with it, but T has constructed another spreadsheet using the same formula that I had written - and we now have a third answer!

Perhaps I will just take the average of the three and hope for the best.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Diamond Geezers

So I've made a start on the history of Brighton Lions. I've ploughed my way through every available issue of the club newsletter, every club directory, every carnival programme and sundry other files and made copious notes by way of research. I know there are other files to read through as well, but in the meantime I have tried to make a start writing it up. I was immediately faced with a decision to make: what form should it take? Should I try for a narrative, or be content with lists of what was done each year? If I went for the narrative, should it be (vaguely) chronological, or should I allocate a chapter to each of several main subjects, like membership, carnival, service activities and so on?

In the end I plumped for chronological narrative, but it's difficult to avoid being repetitive and I have the nasty feeling that the end result will not be very readable or entertaining. I will just have to scribble away (on a keyboard?) at a first draft and then try to cut and polish so that it might, if I'm very lucky and work hard, turn out as something I don't mind putting my name to. No - I'll rewrite the last part of that sentence: something to which I don't mind putting my name.

I have (as anyone reading this might guess) already decided on the name of the finished work.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Bacon for breakfast

One advantage of staying in a hotel overnight is that I can have a proper cooked breakfast - a couple of rashers, a sausage, a fried egg and tomato. With toast and marmalade to follow.

We got to the wedding town in plenty of time yesterday. As the church service was at 12.30 and we were not likely to sit down to 'breakfast' (why is the meal after a wedding called a breakfast?) we wanted a quick coffee and a doughnut or something to stave off the likely hanger pangs and rumbling stomachs. There was also the matter of a comfort stop. Anyway, we managed it and were still at the church by noon.

The service over, we all trooped down the motorway to the far end and a country house hotel in the New Forest with gardens that made a suitable background for the photographs - much better than the church in a rather run-down part of town. A decent meal, then a fine, arm evening which meant that us old 'uns could sit outside on the terrace without having to put up with the noise of the disco.

And so to bed - and that cooked breakfast! Not much traffic on the roads, so we were back home by lunchtime.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

It didn't

A warm, dry evening in the garden of a house dating back to the 16th century (or maybe only the 17th) is just about perfect for a barbecue - and that's what we had yesterday. By the time we left, the moon was shining and we hardly needed the candles and torches to find our way along the paths back to our cars.

The good weather, surprisingly, has continued into today with temperatures of 28 degrees (82 in old money) by midday. I say surprisingly, because my brother and his wife have brought their caravan up to the New Forest from Cornwall to take a short holiday and they generally have rain and gales when they are on holiday. Their younger son is to be married on Saturday, so they have come up early to ensure they have plenty of time to prepare. Sheila and I will drive along the coast on Saturday and spend the night at the hotel where the reception is to be held. Let's hope the weather holds until then.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Will it or won't it?

The weather forecast was that we have rain late yesterday and that today would see almost continual rain. At least, I think that what was it was. But last night it changed. We would have no rain yesterday (and we didn't) but we would still have some on and off today. So far it has been off, and the temperature is several degrees higher than it has been for a couple of weeks. But can it last? Today we have our annual Lions barbecue, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Last year Bill managed to lay on a glorious pyrotechnic display as a thunderstorm swept across just to the south of his garden as we were packing up. It hit us as we were driving home and I recall that the rain was so heavy I very nearly had to pull up until it passed.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Only in England could this happen

Reported in the paper the other day:
A pet cat has caught the same bus for four years. Caspar, 12, boards the No 3 service at 10.55am from outside its home in Plymouth and travels the 11-mile route before returning home an hour later. Drivers have been told to ensure the cat gets off at the right stop.