Saturday, 31 October 2009

Oh ye of little faith

I should have trusted the nice Scottish lass. Our phone is now back.

Still cut off

After spending most of yesterday dialling and redialling, I finally managed to speak to somebody at about five o'clock yesterday afternoon. I think the call centre was in India and the line was faint. The gentleman I spoke to was difficult to understand because of the faintness of the line and because of the thickness of his accent. He promised we would be back on line within half an hour. This morning I spoke to a charming Scottish lass and she has actually given me a fault reference number, so maybe something will now be done. But no doubt nothing much will happen for a couple of days at least as we are now in the weekend. But the Scottish lass did promise to divert incoming calls to one of our other lines so we will not be completely cut off.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Cut off!

We have - would you believe? - four telephone numbers. One is our "normal" land-line with a number known to friends, family and anyone who cares to look in the telephone directory. This has an answering machine incorporated in the apparatus. Another line came with the cable television service we are with. This has another number, but we never use that line and I can't even remember the number. I suppose I have got a note of it somewhere. Then my broadband service also provides me with a separate number and I have a phone plugged into the router (if that is what the gizmo really is). That number I can find very easily and calls to the Brighton Lions telephone number are diverted to it. This also has an answering machine. Then there is our mobile number - but we keep that secret as we don't want to pay for unnecessary overseas calls to it while we are in France.

On one occasion we arrived home from France to find no messages waiting for us on the main answering machine, a most unusual happening. But somehow, all the messages had been stored on the answering machine attached to the broadband service number. Now although the same cable brings the telephone and broadband services into the house, the two numbers should not have become mixed up and I don't know how it happened. I have, however, found a way of stopping it. It just involves setting the main answering machine to click in very quickly.

During yesterday afternoon I had been at the Housing Society and our General Manager told me she had left a couple of messages on our answering machine. The red light had not been blinking when I left home, I was certain of that, but I had forgotten about it by the time I got back. In the evening we were at the greyhound stadium where six of us had taken a table for a meal as the Lions had sponsored one of the races for the local MS Treatment Centre at their charity dog night. One of the others mentioned a firework display I had promised to help at tonight and it occurred to me that I had not received confirmation of the time and place. Perhaps Guy had rung and left a message? Could the messages have been diverted to the second machine? They hadn't.

Another thing that has happened once for some inexplicable reason is that a separate answering service operated by the telephone company has switched in. To get those messages we have to dial a number - but we have no way of knowing that there are messages waiting. Anyway, when we got home from the dogs I rang the number: no answer. Our phone line had been disconnected.

This morning I have tried numerous times to call the phone company but have not managed to get through as the line is always engaged. There must be a lot of people complaining that they have no phone lines!

At the half-way mark, I was beating the bookies - by 53p! - but needless to say, they won in the end. I should have quit while I was ahead.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Is the end in sight?

In England (and Wales, and probably Scotland and Northern Ireland too) it is a legal requirement that an employer with five or more employees provides those employees with access to pension provision. This had completely slipped the minds of all involved when the Housing Society completed the last development and employed the third caretaker, bringing the number of staff up to five. Indeed, it was not until we took on a part-time handyman that it suddenly dawned on me that we should do something. The fact that two of our employees were of an age to draw the state pension, and that three were part-timers, had no bearing on the matter. Nor was it of any importance that none of our employees actually wanted access to pension facilities. As it happened, before i could do anything about it, we 'lost' two caretakers and were down to four staff for a while. Eventually we took on a new caretaker to cover the work previously done by two - and we were back up to five. Then the new caretaker asked - yes, asked - about pensions. And it was down to me to do something about it.

My first port of call was our insurance brokers, who wanted £350 just to send some paperwork. I told them what to do with their papers and looked in Yellow Pages where found an insurance company claiming to provide stakeholder pensions (which is what we need). I rang them and after playing musical chairs for some twenty minutes, was promised that they would send the necessary paperwork. Three phone calls later and still no paperwork.

I looked on a Government web site where there was a list of all stakeholder pension providers. As I worked my way down the list I discovered that something like half of them were refusing to take on any more business, but one well-known was apparently happy to do so. I went to their web site and completed the registration form. Since then, nothing.

Two weeks ago I returned to the Government site and eventually found another company which has lately been advertising heavily on television. I rang their nearest branch and was promised a phone call back to arrange an appointment. It came! Then the rep rang to rearrange the appointment. The new time is this afternoon. Could I be nearly there?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Ranting again

I wonder what Blogger has against Skip and me? I see that our blogs on each other's blog lists are not being updated whereas others are. If you see what I mean.


Last week's issue of our local free newspaper (newspaper - that's an oxymoron if ever I saw one!) had an article which started off by saying, "Brighton's biggest fireworks display is back again". I not unnaturally expected to read about Brighton Lions' display, but no, it was about another one. The article went on to say that this display would last for 25 minutes. As that is not much more than half the length of the Lions' display, I thought that calling it Brighton's biggest was... inaccurate, shall I say? To rub salt into the wound, they didn't even mention the Lions' display. I have written to the editor in the hope (probably a vain one) that a correction will be published this week. In the meantime, while driving around the town the last couple of days I have spotted a number of fly posters for the other display. I am tempted to print a load of slips saying CANCELLED with the idea of going round one night to paste them on the posters. Tempting, but I probably won't. In fact, I certainly won't. But I would like to.

The headline on the next article in said paper reads, "Recsession makes Sussex roads safer".

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

On the other hand...

There are benefits to be had from the internet.
  1. Quick and easy contact with friends across the world.
  2. Access to a wide range of merchants offering services not easily available, or not available at all, locally.
  3. A massive compendium of knowledge.
Only three? Surely there must be more.

And I'm still picking raspberries.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Number 6

6. Spam emails that come through not marked as spam.

I feel a rant coming on

I haven't had one for a long time; I deserve one, and I'm going to have one!

Five things that irritate me about the internet and related matters:

  1. Web sites that insist on playing music to me - usually music I don't like. I know - but I only put it there to prove a point and it's been removed now.
  2. Web sites that look as though they have been created by a five-year-old using his first box of crayons. You know - those that consist of all the colours of the rainbow and with each sentence or paragraph in a different colour.
  3. People who send on emails warning me about the latest computer virus that will probably cause my computer to burst into flames and burn down the entire street.
  4. People sending on emails that have already been forwarded through a dozen different people, none of whom have bothered to clean them up.
  5. People hijacking my email address and using it to send spam.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Fern, CDP

Fern is now a fully accredited City Daily Photo blogger which means that I am usually carrying my camera when I take her out. I am finding that I am now experiencing the difference between looking and seeing and am noticing far more of the things around me as we walk across the fields or through the woods - or even just in Withdean Park on our morning walks. OK, so I started doing it with my tongue in my cheek and it is still there really, but I hope the whole thing will benefit me by improving my observation skills.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Tippoo's tomb

I have found a recent photograph of the mausoleum (it's copyright, so I've just posted a link). The name seems to have an alternative spelling - Tipu.

How not to speak English


The first ad appeared in the paper yesterday and orders for tickets are starting to come in over the Lions Club web site. I shall be running around like mad delivering them by the end of this week!

Friday, 23 October 2009


I've been playing this on and off for the last week, but why no Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball, Ian Menzies, Terry Lightfoot, Temperance Seven?

Those sketchbooks

We still have them. There may be no link between the artist and Mrs S, but we like the sketchbooks. They are not of any great monetary value - I took them to a couple of auction houses to make sure that we didn't need to store them in a bank vault - but there are some delightful water colours in them.

This one depicts the 62nd Regiment on parade at the New Barracks, Limerick, and is dated August 1829. It is perhaps not one of the best.

I like the elephant in this picture of the mausoleum at Laulpett, Hindustan, dated November 1830.

Then there is another mausoleum, this time in the gardens of the Laul Baug (?), Seringapatam, August 1832. The mausoleum contains the tombs of Hyder Ali, his wife, and his son, Tippoo Sail. I seem to recall Tippoo featuring in Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell. Must read it again sometime.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Still on the trail

Having exhausted the information about Lt H Jervis at the Army Museum, I moved over to St Catherine's House where the registers of births, marriages and deaths used to be kept. I know by then that the man I was looking for was Henry Jervis, not just plain H Jervis. I also knew when he had retired from the army - he had obtained the rank of General by then - and that his death must therefore have occurred after that date. My object was to find when he died and then look up his will in the hope that it might contain details of his family. This was before the days of the internet, and at St Catherine's I had to heave out the register summaries - one for each quarter of each year - and look to see if Henry Jervis's death was registered. Those summaries are ledgers up to three inches thick and measuring about 30 inches high and 24 wide. They are not lightweight paperbacks! Anyway, I found his death registered in 1879 and his age given as 82. From this I calculated that he had joined the army at the tender age of 13. Having obtained a copy of his death certificate, I now knew where he had lived (Bloomsbury Square, London) so I was able to search the census returns kept at the Records Office in Chancery Lane, but not until I had obtained another reader's ticket. I also searched for his will at Somerset House.

The end result was that he appeared not to have married, so could not have been a direct ancestor of Mrs S, and he left his entire estate to another retired army officer who had been living with him. There was no mention of any family. Of course, it was still possible that he was an uncle or distant cousin, albeit several generations removed, but further research makes that seem most unlikely.

The question remains: what were the sketchbooks doing in my late father-in-law's possession and how did he come by them? Did he spot them for sale at a car boot sale or similar and think, as we did at first, that there might have been some familial connection? Who knows - we never will!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

This is hard to believe

Read the news report here.

Russian dolls in Chelsea

I was working in London back then so there was no need for me to take a day off to go to Chelsea and the army museum. Although it took something like half an hour to get there from the office, I reckoned that as I was the boss I could extend my lunch hour occasionally and stretch it to two hours. And that is what I did. And then my search became something like those Russian dolls: every time I thought I had answered one question I found that I had unwittingly posed another.

At the museum's library I discovered the Army List, a book published annually and containing lists of army officers and their regiments, the places that the regiments were stationed and so on. Now, the earlier sketchbook - which was apparently started in July 1826 and covers the years from then until 1832 - is inscribed "H Jervis 62nd Regt", while the later book is inscribed "H Jervis Lieut 62nd Regt" and was started in May 1833. But the Army List for the years 1826 to 1835 (the date of the last sketch) had no record of an officer named Jervis serving with the 62nd Regiment, although I did find him listed under the 72nd Regiment in the list for each of those years. And by the time he started on the second book, Lieut Jervis had been promoted to Major - yet he still inscribed the book as a Lieutenant.

So, I turned back to the first book and worked my way through them all again looking at where the 62nd and 72nd Regiments were posted in those years, thinking that this would confirm with which regiment he was serving. You've guessed it - neither regiment was stationed in any of the places shown in the sketchbooks at the time of the sketches!

(I should perhaps add that by now I was on my umpteenth visit to Chelsea.)

It was then that I spotted that another regiment (I think it was the 73rd, but I have mislaid my notes) appeared to have been stationed at the places sketched by Jervis at much the same time as he claimed to have been there.

So Henry Jervis seemed to think he was with the 62nd Regiment, while the Army thought he was with the 72nd, and yet he was in the same places as the 73rd! What's more, he seems to have overlooked his promotion - and he even overlooked a medal he was awarded while serving in Africa with the 72nd although at the time he earned the medal in Africa he was sketching in India!!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Mah jong

A few of the pieces from the mah jong set. They are about 1¼" long by just over ¾" wide and about ½" deep. I think the focus is good enough for the picture to be enlarged to see the quality of the carving and painting.

The sketchbooks

I mentioned a day or two back that something in the morning paper had reminded me of family heirlooms. What I had in mind was an heirloom - in fact, two heirlooms - from my wife's family.

It was way back in 1991 that Mrs S, on visiting her mother, found the old dear about to throw away a couple (hence the two heirlooms) of old sketchbooks. Mother-in-law was beginning to lose the plot a little and had already (much to Mrs S's disappointment) disposed of an antique grandfather clock, a genuine Sussex shepherd's crook and an antique warming pan. Mrs S immediately told her mother that she would be very happy to take the sketchbooks off her hands and so they came into our possession.

These sketchbooks date from the 1820s and 1830s and are inscribed "Sketches from Nature by Henry Jervis, Lieutenant 62nd Regiment". They show scenes from England, Scotland, Ireland, India etc where Lt Jervis served during his army career. Now Jervis was the maiden name of one of Mrs S's grandmothers and was her father's middle name, so it seemed reasonable to assume that the good lieutenant was an ancestor. Quite naturally we wanted to learn something about the gentleman, and just what was the relationship between him and Mrs S. Could he have been her great grandfather? Or, more probably given the dates, her great great grandfather?

My first port of call (if you will pardon the nautical analogy when talking about an army officer) was the Army Museum in Chelsea, London. Or, more accurately, the library at that museum. But to gain access to the library I had to register and obtain a reader's ticket. I duly completed the application form, including the names and addresses of a couple of referees, and returned it. Some weeks later I received my ticket and I was set to start my research in earnest.

Monday, 19 October 2009

I lied

No, that's not quite true. But I did tell an untruth, although it was completely by mistake, when I wrote yesterday that I have one heirloom. Later in the evening my daughter telephoned and I earwigged to Mrs S's side of the conversation for a while. Something she said reminded me that I have another family heirloom tucked away in a cupboard. Although whether or not it can be correctly classified as an heirloom is, I suppose, open to question since it has only been passed down one generation.

My father served some 22 years in the Navy and, in the course of his service, visited a lot of places, including Hong Kong. It was on a visit to that port sometime in the late 1940s that he watched the peices of a mah jong set being carved. He told the man doing the work that he would buy the set if English numerals were carved on the pieces. Whether that was done while my father waited or whether he returned the next day I am not sure, but he did buy that mah jong set. Back on board, the ship's carpenter made a cabinet for the set, a wooden box with a sliding front that lifts to reveal a set of drawers, each lined with green baize, in which the mah jong set fits beautifully.

The mah jong pieces themselves are works of art. They are ivory fitted with bamboo backs, the fitting being dove-tail joints. The joints are so good that the pieces feel as though they are made of one single material; there is no sensation of a join when a finger is rubbed along the side. Then there is the carving and painting of each piece. I must try to take a picture of some of them to post here and share.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Evening papers

I find that sometimes the smallest thing can start a new train of thought, not necessarily related directly to what caused it, or bring to mind something that has been long forgotten. It was some small item in Friday's paper that did it for me.

I don't usually read the morning paper until the evening. By that time, Mrs S has been at it and I frequently need to remake the paper sheet by sheet. It's not that they are out of order - well, not out of numerical order anyway - but that they are out of alignment and need straightening. I'm finicky about that: I do like my newspaper to be "just so". What I really need, I suppose, is a butler to straighten the pages and iron them for me. [Evening paper? Get it? Sorry pardon!]

Anyway, what I was reminded of was a family heirloom that is tucked away in a cupboard and rarely sees the light of day. That's the problem with family heirlooms. Modern houses are too small to allow much to be kept from one generation to another and passed on down the line, so what is kept tends to be small and tucked away. But I suppose that has always been the case for most people. It was actually only the rich who lived in large houses, mansions, castles or palaces and only the rich who had anything to be passed down the generations.

I do have one heirloom. It is a Victorian chest of drawers. I remember it standing in the small bedroom of my grandparents' house and it might even have been passed down to them from one side or the other - or maybe they bought it second hand. It ended up standing in my parents' small bedroom, a depositary for all manner of things that nobody knew what to do with but were reluctant to throw away. When we cleared the house after my mother's death, everything in the drawers did get thrown away as there really was nothing of any value - monetary or sentimental. But I insisted on keeping the chest. However, unlike Edith Piaf, I do have one regret.

The chest had at some stage been painted white. I actually seem to recall it as black when it was in my grandparents' house, but by this time it was white. What I wanted to do was to strip the paint completely and polish the plain wood. What I regret is the decision I made to have the chest dipped rather than going through the lengthy process of stripping the paint myself by hand. It stripped the paint pretty well, but warped the drawers so that I had to plane down some of the timber in order that they could be opened and shut easily, and the drawer fronts are now obviously twisted. Still, I polished that chest with beeswax every day for about three weeks while it was standing in our hall. The intention was that it should be taken to France to stand in the hall at Les Lavandes - and that is where it is now.

While it was in the hall here in England, the low table which had been there for the telephone had to be moved. It was, of course, put back once the chest had been removed, but then Madam decided she preferred the chest to the table! I had to search for weeks before I could find another similar chest.

The heirloom in France.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

My own radio station

A most enjoyable evening yesterday - dinner with friends both old and new. It started many years ago when the Old Bat was at school. Several of her friends from then still get together every month or so and they decided that for once their other halves would be invited. The ladies prepared a selection of starters and desserts and we all chose our main course from the menu of a local take-away Italian restaurant. I have known three of the ladies ever since marrying the OB and two of their husbands since their respective marriages. The third husband is my old friend Chris, who met (and later married) Mrs Chris after her marriage broke up and his first wife died. The last lady I had met on only one occasion as she and her husband live in the Cotswolds and they are in Brighton only to visit her mother. Yesterday was the first time I had met her husband, but we seemed to get on pretty well.

So what on earth has this to do with a radio station, you ask? Naturally, the conversation round the dinner table ranged wide, and one of the men mentioned a web site which enables one to set up a list of artistes whose music can then be played over the computer. It has several advantages over playing ones own CDs on the computer. First, one tends to know the exact order of songs on ones own CD collection. Then it leaves the disc drive free. But perhaps the biggest advantage is that the web site suggests other artistes one might like and of whom one has never heard. And I nearly forgot to mention that it is completely free!

Where is it? Try

Friday, 16 October 2009

The postal strike threatened for next week will probably have little effect on me if it does take place. It is rare that the postman passes our house without delivering something, but most of the post seems to be junk mail. I have had only two letters this week: one was a note telling me how much I owed for using French toll roads last month and the other I will have to pass on to another Lion. The rest of the post has been either begging letters, letters trying to sell me something, or catalogues from mail-order companies. Glancing through one of the latter, I wondered how many people really want a set of nodding meerkats to decorate their gardens or an electronic gizmo that winds up a watch. And how many people have to wind a watch nowadays? I bought a watch by mail order a couple of years ago. I think it was probably advertised in our daily paper as a reader offer, so I thought I was reasonably safe to part with my hard earned. The watch was described as radio controlled as it connected to a radio clock to ensure that it both kept accurate time and changed to different time zones when travelling. Just what I wanted, as this would save me having to alter my watch whenever I went to France. How convenient it would be to have the hands whizz round an hour as I left the ferry at Calais, then round 23 hours on my return, all done as if by magic. I suppose I was just a little naive and a few moments thought would have made me realise that the European radio clocks are situated in Rugby, England, and Dusseldorf, Germany. How would the watch know that I had got off the ferry and it should switch its connection from Rugby to Dusseldorf, especially as Rugby was still closer and presumably the signal from there would be the stronger? Anyway, that didn't occur to me until after the watch had arrived. It was then that I discovered the connection to the nearest radio clock was made only twice a day - 4 am and 4pm - so the watch would still be wrong much of the first day after arriving in a different time zone. Then I discovered another problem. There was no way that the watch could receive a signal in our house. There was no signal in the garden either, and in fact the only place I could make a connection was a hundred yards up the road. Go a hundred and two yards and the signal was lost again. But I did get my money back.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Oh dear

I'm just a little worried that I might be losing my marbles, although it might prove to be a purely temporary problem. I fervently hope that is the case.

Having got carried away with this blogging skylark, and even signed up to Facebook (not that I really use it), I thought what a wonderful tool a group blog would be . The Lions Club could use it to keep in touch and, possibly, float ideas about fund raising or service activities - or pretty well everything, really. Indeed, it needed be restricted to just Brighton Lions: we could open it up to Lions across the world. I went so far as to start looking on blogspot to see how to go about putting this cunning plan into action.

Just as I was about to press the 'submit' button, I remembered. The message board is there to serve just that purpose.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A true story

On his blog, my friend Skip posted a link to a site with a lot of descriptions of situations demonstrating that the customer is not always right. Reading some of them reminded me of a customer we had when I was working for a bank at a small branch a few miles north of Brighton, although I hasten to add that this doesn't fall into the "customer is not always right" category. This all happened many years ago, in the time when banks put ink pots and dip pens on the counter for the use of customers.

This particular lady was, to put it mildly, a sandwich short of a picnic, although she did seem to have times when she was quite normal. Her actions when not quite with it ranged from the bizarre (like pushing open the door, poking her head round and thumbing her nose at us cashiers before darting out again) to the uggh.

One day she walked into the branch, took one of the ink pots off the counter and placed it on the floor. She then proceeded to pull up her skirt, push down her underclothes, and squat on the ink pot. And guess who had to clean up the floor?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Short on time today

Panic stations! Well, not quite, but I do have a lot to do today. I expect to have a load of tickets for the Lions fireworks display delivered sometime, so I have to get the web site updated to cover on-line sales. I hope I will manage that before tea time as I am on blind club transport duty this evening. That means leaving here at about 5.30, so our main meal today will be ... in about five and a half minutes. Better dash.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Tree-huggers do exist!

I have heard of tree-huggers but always assumed them to be more-than-usually avid nature lovers - until yesterday afternoon. I was walking quietly through the woods with the dog happily snuffling through the fallen leaves when I met a couple coming towards me. As is the custom, I greeted them with a nod and a 'good afternoon' and they responded quite normally. Then the lady cried out, 'Oh, what a lovely old tree! I must give it a hug.' And she did! I went on my way, musing on what her definition of a lovely tree might be and whether there is such a thing as an ugly one, if and why she only hugged old trees, and was this ageism in action? I was so deep on thought that it took a while for me to realise that somebody was calling my name. I looked round to discover that she was calling her dog, not me. To add insult to injury, the dog in question was a miniature French bulldog and not really a proper dog at all!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

An indulgence

For the last four years I have had a calendar produced using my own pictures. This really is something of an extravagance since we could get a calendar with better pictures at about a third of the price just by popping into W H Smith or Clinton Cards. But the layout of the one I have printed suits us very well as it allows for various reminders to be written against each day, unpleasant things like appointments with the dentist or more enjoyable engagements like having lunch with friends. And by using pictures that I have taken during the year before, we have a reminder of pleasant times hanging on the kitchen wall. I have to have a different picture for each month, and it can become quite difficult to find suitable pictures to use for some of the months - especially December, when Mrs S likes to see something to do with Christmas. And of course January should have a snow scene but rarely does. Anyway, today I must sort out a few of this year's photos for Mrs S to choose from. In this activity, I act as the nominator while Mrs S actually awards the Oscars!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Stanmer 365

I have, for a couple of weeks or more, been intrigued by the concept of the 'city daily photo' blogs, links to some of which are on the left. I find it fascinating to see what people spot in their home towns, things which I would probably never find if I were to visit. My excursions into the centre of town are few and far between, and a daily picture of the suburbs would bore me, let alone anyone else, even if my photography was any good. OK, I'm occasionally lucky and take a semi-decent picture, but not that often. So I decided to put my tongue in my cheek and start a fresh blog. I thought it would be even more t.i.c. to have the dog doing the blogging. Hence Stanmer 365.

Nobel Peace Prize

So President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year. There have been several different reactions to this. As he is the third Democrat President to receive the prize in the fairly recent past, some Republicans have questioned the political impartiality of the award committee. Other people have pointed out that although he has said a fair amount and tried to get things started on the peace front, Obama has not actually achieved anything very much as yet: maybe awarding him the prize this year is a little premature. Others say that he has put in a lot of effort and deserves the prize for that alone.

I have no idea who else was nominated for the prize, but looking around I see few signs of anyone else even faintly deserving of it. Blair's efforts in the Middle East have been, so far as one can tell, spectacularly unsuccessful. Brown, Sarkozy, Merkel, Berlusconi - nothing. The puppet President of Russia? The Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian or Pakistani leaders? Again - nothing. Canada, Australia, New Zealand? They may have played their part in providing troops for Afghanistan, but is that deserving of the Peace Prize? And nobody comes to mind from Africa or South America. It's almost as though the committee selected the least worst, although I don't think that is what they did at all.

There is, of course, a monetary award with the prize - ten million Swedish kroner. I wonder if he will have to pay tax on it?

Friday, 9 October 2009

A little vanity

It will be interesting to see if any flags other than the UK and USA are ever shown in the box to the left. I suspect not.

And the name of the game is...


What's my problem this time, you ask, groaning?

I came across a picture of the carnival queen at Brighton Lions' very first carnival in 1964. Unfortunately, it was printed on fairly flimsy paper and stuck on the front page of a copy of Jungle Jottings which had then been folded in four. I scanned the picture into the computer, and then spent hours, literally hours, with Photoshop Elements removing the fold marks (and other blemishes), but when I came to insert the picture in a word-processed document, it just resembled a page of black and white dots! I had hoped to include the picture in Diamond Geezers but that won't now happen.

While I had the Photoshop program open, I played around a bit with a picture I took the other day. I was trying for a moody picture of the low cloud in the woods:

Then I found that Photoshop could remove the cloud and show the true colours, albeit almost like an impressionist painting.

But I'm still frustrated.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

A time waster or not?

I could be accused of spending too much time looking at various blogs: some would call it wasting time. But every now and then one can find a gem. Take this one, for instance. I found it on a French web site and had Google translate it, after which I rewrote it slightly, so the wording may not be the best.

One day a farmer's donkey fell into a well. The animal groaned piteously for hours and the farmer wondered what to do. Finally, he decided that as the animal was old and there was no profit in retrieving the donkey, the well should be filled in. He called all his neighbours to come and help. They each grabbed a shovel and started to fill in the well.

As soon as the donkey realized what was happening he began screaming terribly. Then, to everyone's amazement, he became silent. Some shovelfuls later, the farmer finally looked in the bottom of the well and was astonished at what he saw. As each shovelful of earth fell upon him, the donkey was doing something amazing: he shook himself to remove the earth from his back and climbed onto it. Soon, the donkey came out of the well and began to trot around!

Life will try to get us to swallow all sorts of garbage. The trick is to get out of the hole by climbing over it. Each of our troubles is a stone that allows us to move forward.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

To coin a phrase

If our spouse's siblings and our siblings' spouses are brothers- and sisters-in-law, should our cousins' spouses not be called cousins-in-law? I had never come across the phrase and had decided that is what I shall be calling my cousin's husband from now on. Then I Googled it - and find that it is in common use! Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Today's nature shot

Perhaps that should be today's almost nature shot.

This is a picture of a red deer hind. She had run across the field, jumped the fence and stood there looking at me. But she was camera-shy and by the time I had pressed the button she had taken off into the woods.

I have calculated that over the past 40 years I must have walked some 8,000 miles, or it could be nearer 10,000, through the fields and woods around Stanmer, but this is only the second time I have seen a deer.

This one was a little less camera-shy. OK, he's a stag, not a hind, and he was on the farm.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Still researching...

I came across this delightful picture of an entry in the 1971 carnival procession. I wonder if it would be possible to trace the girls?

And it's raining again, so the pears won't be picked today either.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Rain at last

We have had little rain of late, but it has arrived today. The South Downs can't be seen from our bedroom window as they are hidden in cloud.

I had hoped to pick the last of the pears today but i somehow doubt I'll bother to go down the garden.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The world has gone mad (continued)

OK, I know this is a few days late, but here goes.

Two women police officers each had a child, the children being of much the same age. It happened that the women were not only work colleagues, but friends outside their work as well. They worked shifts, and as one was a single mother, the other married to yet another police officer, they had problems leaving their young children. The solution was to ensure that they always worked different shifts, then one could look after both children while the other mother was at work. Seems simple enough, and a common-sense solution to the problem.

But someone told the nanny state - and the nanny state knew better.

One of the women received a visit from an employee of Ofsted, the quango charged with looking after education and, by extension, young children. He told our sensible young mother that she was breaking the law, which naturally caused her some concern as her job is to uphold the law. The transgression? Child-minding for benefit without having obtained the necessary qualifications.

Benefit, she asked? What benefit? I'm not paid for baby-sitting. Oh yes you are, she was told. You have a reciprocal arrangement and that is a benefit.

She was told she needed to attend a course to learn how to change a nappy (she's a mother, for goodness sake), obtain clearance from the Criminal Records Bureau (she's a police officer!) - and might well have been warned to expect a visit from the Inland Revenue as she had failed to declare this "benefit" on her tax return.

We are told that the regulations are being re-examined to see if they can be made more workable.

Meanwhile, a nursery attendant who had been on all the courses and had been cleared by the CRB to work with children has been found guilty of the most horrific sex attacks on children aged between 6 and 18 months.

Through the Looking Glass has nothing on life in Britain today.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Books I haven't read

A fellow dog walker was delighted when she found a copy of Schindler's List at the Lions' book fair last month. She had recently visited Krakow and seen the factory and had also seen the film, so she wanted to read the book. But this morning she told me she was finding it hard going and I suggested that as she was, I assumed, reading it for pleasure, she might as well give up on it. I always do that with books that I find I am not enjoying. I don't belong to a book club (or group or whatever it is they are called) so I have no need to read a book from cover to cover just so that I can take part in dissecting it at the next meeting. I read solely for my own pleasure so I feel no compunction in putting aside a book I am not liking after reading the first fifty pages or couple of chapters or so. Two authors who have suffered this ignominious fate recently are Peter May and David Baldacci. Both were recommended to me by friends who have an idea of my reading tastes, although I was warned that Peter May is a bit like Patricia Cornwell, who is another author I don't read. In fact, it was the over-abundance of Chinese characters (and therefore names) that put me off the May book. As for Baldacci, I found it all just a bit too far-fetched and James-Bond-like. On the other hand, I read a couple of Dorothy Simpson books while in France and quite enjoyed them, and at the library I found a McCall Smith title in the 1st Ladies' Detective Agency series that I had not read so I have been able to enjoy some reading.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

So that's how it's done!

Way back in the mists of pre-history, when Methusalah was but a stripling, I was the proud owner of a camera, a box Brownie. It must have been about six years before I graduated to a new, improved version but, under the influence of the man who was later to become my father-in-law, I went mad and bought a 35mm single-lens reflex camera from a colleague at work. Although I could change the lens and alter the aperture, exposure time and focus, I still needed a light meter to get the exposure accurate. I eventually changed to a better model which had a built-in light meter, but I was still learning just how to use the aperture size and exposure time to the best advantage. It took me quite a long time to get the basics and I never did make much progress beyond that, although I learned how to make the background out of focus so as to concentrate the viewers eye on the main subject, and how to stop movement or allow blurring to indicate movement and speed.

Then along came the digital revolution. I seem to recall that I received a digital camera as a free gift with something I bought; as a give-away, that camera must have been pretty basic and I never did use the thing anyway. But when I retired, my company asked me what I would like as a gift and I opted for a new digital camera. It cost quite a lot - rather more than I remember ever spending on my fairly up-market SLR - but was still a somewhat basic point-and-shoot model. I became disenchanted with it because it was so basic, although I did use it whenever I thought to take it with me. This is an example of a picture taken with that camera. It is a temple at Nara, Japan, which I visited when at the Lions' international convention in Osaka.

It's OK as a holiday snap, but that's about all that can be said for it.

Digital cameras were becoming both smaller and cheaper and I was particularly taken with one owned by a friend of my son which was small enough to put in one's pocket yet featured a zoom lens and better picture quality. What's more, it was the same make as the one I was already using and the memory cards were interchangeable. I bought one. That's the one that now produces dark spots in the sky, and, as I wrote yesterday, I eventually upgraded again. What I should have bought is a digital SLR so that I can see what I am photographing through the lens using a small eye-viewer or display window rather than relying on the LCD screen, which I find difficult to make out when the sun is shining too brightly, but I didn't. All the same, the camera I bought allows manual control of the aperture and exposure time so I can be a little creative.

It didn't take me very long to work out how to under- or over-expose pictures, but the manual that came with the camera seemed to be for a slightly different, probably a newer version and I couldn't work out how to adjust the aperture size. I've had the camera, what? Eighteen months, maybe two years? It must be two years as I certainly had it when we visited California back in 2007. And yet it was only yesterday that I realised the manual was for a completely different model of camera. I went to the manufacturer's web site, downloaded the correct manual, and bingo! I now know how to alter the aperture! Admittedly, there are only two f stops so any alteration is very limited, but I can choose which to use.