Thursday, 30 April 2009

Twittering again

No - not, merely random thoughts and comments.

1. Swine flu. I think Matt in the Daily Tel yesterday summed up my feelings pretty accurately. The cartoon showed a woman reading a newspaper article about swine flu and the husband commented, "I'll start worrying about it when the government says it has it under control". Meanwhile, our esteemed BBC seems to be doing its level best to talk up fears.

2. I have made a start on cataloguing my CDs and have got on pretty well so far. 1000 tracks listed and I'm not yet half way through. Interesting, I've discovered recordings I had completely forgotten about. I've also discovered that some tunes feature as many as five times on different compilation discs! That's the trouble with buying compilations - you end up duplicating so many tunes. I have not yet reached the stage of buying a compilation because it has one track that I want, the rest already being in my collection, but it has come close at times.

3. I thought we had finished the Christmas turkey long since - until we had turkey curry for supper. And the OB tells me she is pretty sure there is another in the freezer!

I must get on with the CD collection. Track 1002 is 'In a Little Spanish Town' by Glenn Miller.

I bought some new socks

When I got them home I saw on the label that they are made of BAMBOO!

No! I won't post that!

I nearly moaned here about something today, but I have managed to resist so far. I really must stay positive.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Time waster

I have just discovered what is possibly the world's greatest ever time waster. I suppose in the interests of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth I should amend that statement, or at the very least, elaborate on it. I have known about its existence for a fairly long time, but today I visited the site for the first time. I'm referring to YouTube. I am amazed at the wealth of videos there are to watch - and the variation in the standards of filming. I suppose I have spent a couple of hours just flicking through - channel hopping, as it were. I did come across one which has possibly the most remarkable display of precision drumming I have ever seen. The film wobbles about a lot, especially at the beginning, but fast forward to the fine minute mark (or a little before) and the drummers of the Royal Marines show just why so many people reckon they are the best in the world.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Music, maestro, please

I really have no idea what triggered the memory, but towards the end of last week I found myself thinking about a radio programme that was broadcast 50+ years ago. It was aired on Sunday evenings, probably between 9 and 10. The presenter (Alan Keith?) had produced a list of what he called his hundred best tunes and it was these that he played in the programme, 'My Hundred Best Tunes'. They were classical pieces such as 'Nimrod' from Elgar's 'Enigma Variations', the 'Grand March' from Verdi's 'Aida' and so on. Whether it was suggested on the programme or whether listeners just did it anyway I don't know, but people compiled their own lists and sent them in. Later, these lists were amalgamated to produce another series of programmes called 'Your Hundred Best Tunes'. A series of LPs was brought out and over time I collected most if not all of them. I no longer have the records (donated to the Lions book shop) but have built up a collection of CD compilations of this type of music.

I'm starting to wander off the point, which is that I can't think how to begin compiling a list of my hundred best tunes. No, that's not true: I could start easily enough, and I might get to 80 or so tunes, but then I would have to wonder if a particular tunes should be in the top 100 or if it is really about 105. And as for putting the top 100 into order of preference, I couldn't possibly - not even using my old teacher's method. So much depends on what mood I'm in. One day my favourite might be, say, the intermezzo from 'Cavalleria Rusticana' whereas the next day it might be 'When the Saints Go Marching In' by Chris Barber or Peggy Lee singing 'Mr Wonderful'.

And as for that other radio programme where people play their favourite tunes! I'm referring to a show that has been broadcast for many years and is, I think, still going strong: 'Desert Island Discs'. During the course of the half-hour show, a celebrity is interviewed and has to say why he has chosen the eight records that he would wish to have with him if he were to be marooned on a desert island. I'm not sure how he would be expected to play records on a desert island, but if I had just eight, I'm sure I would be driven mad by playing them over and over again.

Anyway, I've had one of those brainwaves I get occasionally. My collection of CDs covers military music, classical instrumental and vocal, easy listening instrumental and vocal, trad jazz, musicals, and sundry other genres. But sometimes I want a particular track or song, and I can't remember which CD has it, so I waste an enormous amount of time searching through them. Easy enough if what I want is 'Tonight' from the soundtrack recording of 'West Side Story' (my all-time favourite musical), but not quite so easy if I can't remember who sung the song! So, my brainwave was that I should index my CD collection, using a spreadsheet to list track names, performer, and CD title.

As I said, I get these brainwaves from time to time. Often, I find that after I have started the job (scanning my slides into the computer, for instance) I either lose interest or heart or realise that there really is no point anyway. It will be interesting to see how far I get this time.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Country lore

"Ash before oak,
We're in for a soak.
Oak before ash,
'twill be but a splash."
I noticed this afternoon that the leaves on the ash trees are beginning to sprout but there is as yet no sign of life on the oak trees. Oh well, not all those old country sayings are accurate.

The new leaves on the beeches are looking good. I always think they look great against the blue sky.

And whenever I see this view I think how lucky I am to live where I do.

But that wretched favicon has disappeared again!

Could they mean "Wish we were there"?

Like all self-respecting towns, counties, states, etc, the Canadian province of Alberta spends zillions of dollars trying to attract tourists to spend money in their area. Their Tourism Board has a great web site with a whole load of videos extolling the delights in store for the visitor. One of them apparently features a couple of children running across a beach with the sea lapping gently on the golden sand behind them. Nothing unusual in that, one might think. But Alberta doesn't have a coastline.

A curious local contacted the Tourism Board to ask the location of this beach, thinking perhaps that it was on a lake of which he was unaware. They eventually confessed that the beach in question wasn't actually in Alberta, it was 5,000 miles away at Bamburgh, north-east England!

I tracked down the Alberta Tourism Board web site in the hope of watching this inspirational video but when I tried to play what I thought was probably the correct one (they have quite a library), my browser told me that I needed additional plug-ins to do so. I tried to install the missing plug-ins, but still had no luck. Then it occurred to me that this might be because of the browser I use (Firefox) and perhaps I would have better luck using Internet Explorer. So I tried opening IE, but it wouldn't load because of a faulty program. I remembered that this had happened before, but I couldn't remember just when it went faulty so I didn't know what date I should use to restore the operating system.

This morning I had a brainwave - I looked at the newspaper site, and here is the video! Better still, I can try embedding the video.

Wow! It worked!

That reminds me of another frustration I have suffered during the last couple of days. I have recently redesigned the Lions web site and I have since spent some time surfing other clubs' web sites to see if there is anything further I could do by way of improvement. I noticed that a couple of them had a little Lions logo appear in the tab and in the address panel at the top of the screen. I wanted that! By looking at the source code for one of the sites I discovered the little logo is called a favicon, so I Googled it and found where I could get one of these little graphics and the code I needed to insert to display it. The code had to go into the index page, but our site is frames-based. All the same, I put the code in the index page - and nothing happened. I put it into one of the frames - still nothing. Then, all of a sudden, it appeared as though by magic, but just as suddenly, disappeared again.

I came to the conclusion that if I wanted a favicon, I would have to dispense with the frames, so I spent a couple of hours reworking the site. Success! And here it is.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Message in a Bottle

The Lions Message in a Bottle scheme seems to be taking off pretty well. We now have five pharmacies stocking the bottles, and I took a supply with me last night to one of our bingo sessions. All 22 were taken, and I expect that we shall be asked for more next time we visit.

Night attack!

Fern, our springer spaniel, tries her utmost to keep intruders out of the garden. They might be foxes, squirrels, cats, wood pigeons or - possibly her most hated enemies - herring gulls. Our next-door neighbour throws bread onto his garage roof and there are at least two herring gulls which call regularly knowing they will be fed. One of them is the offspring of the other so I rather assume that the elder is female, but I have no way of telling. I do know that the younger one came with its parent during its first summer and the pair have been returning ever since, trying to keep other gulls and jackdaws off their territory. Fern goes berserk when she sees them, even more so if they (or any other bird) has the temerity to land on the plastiglass roof of our conservatory. I can't say that I'm keen on the gulls either. As the result of their ministrations my car is perpetually covered in white spots and we frequently have streaks down the windows of the house.

At least the cats don't do that. They are always very pleased when I dig over part of the vegetable garden and call round to show their gratitude by manuring it afterwards. The foxes really cause us no trouble, except that Fern goes down the garden last thing at night as though she were leaving the grid in a formula one Grand Prix, barking as loudly as she can. We assume that a fox has crossed the garden during the evening and Fern can smell its presence.

The squirrel (I think there is only the one) can be something of a pest. He delights in digging up spring bulbs, which he bites and discards, and this morning I looked out of the kitchen window to see a neat hole had been dug in the lawn. It can't be Fern because although she has dug holes in the lawn in the past, this one is too narrow and too neat for it to be her handiwork. The trouble is that she will worry at it if I don't fill it in, and even doing that is no guarantee that she will leave it alone.

I suppose I should just be grateful that we don't have badgers in the garden.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

A daily occurrence

He's here again - the ice cream man. He brings his van round every day, but not always at the same time. It's usually between 4.30 and 6.00pm that he parks opposite our house and sounds his chimes. They play a snatch from "Teddy Bears' Picnic" but stop half-way through a line. It's so infuriating! And to make matters worse, the wretched tune runs around in my head for hours after he has gone.

St George's Day

And William Shakespear's birthday.

Everything in the garden is coming up roses. Well, not roses, exactly, but the garlic and onions are doing well, the carrots and runner beans are sprouting and there are the first few signs or parsnips and spring onions. We have had a couple of pullings of rhubarb.

Really glorious walking through Stanmer woods this afternoon. There must be acres of bluebells and the scent is magnificent.

Today is also the closing day for applications for the vacant post of caretaker with the Lions Housing Society. More than 60 people asked for application packs and there were 36 completed applications returned. I'm very glad that I'm not involved in short-listing or interviewing.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Ah, the smell!

Supper tonight - liver and bacon, with boiled potatoes, broccoli, sweet corn - and fried onions! Is there a better smell than fried onions?

Another pic from the farm

Actually, this isn't the farm, it's woodland a mile or so away up what is known as Brockley Combe.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Apple blossom time

It's always good to see it come round again.

Another annual occurrence

Time was when the BBC would play the national anthem before the morning news on this day. Happy birthday, ma'am.

Monday, 20 April 2009

An annual occurrence

It happens every year (and yes, I know that's what 'an annual occurrence' means, thank you very much). As soon as the ornamental cherry trees are in full bloom - you might even say 'in the pink' - the wind gets up and we seem to be living in a pink snowstorm. It doesn't matter if the trees are blooming early, late or in season, the wind still knows when to get going. Isn't nature wonderful?

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Invasion of privacy?

I saw a Google camera car this morning which reminded me that there has been quite a kerfuffle recently about Google's Streetview with people complaining that it's an invasion of privacy. Frankly, I can't really see what all the fuss is about. There is nothing shown that can't be seen by anybody walking along the street. In fact, is actually more intrusive as their bird's eye view shows back gardens as well. On the subject of photographing public places, I have come across an interesting site,, which is aiming to show photos of every Ordnance Survey square in the country. I wonder if other countries have similar projects?

Friday, 17 April 2009

I suppose it's because I'm getting old

Or perhaps I've already got old. Either way, it seems a little excessive to me for a girl, young lady or whatever, to wear a skirt over jeans. Why would she? I'm not bothered by her doing it, just puzzled by this new style fashion.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Manor Farm

I rather like this picture showing the garden gate on the farm.

The village church is about a quarter of a mile from the farm, across a couple of fields and just along the lane.

In the churchyard is the grave of a pirate. He was buried the opposite way round to everybody else, head to the south while the others in that part of the churchyard have their heads to the north. I love the inscription on the headstone, but it's a pity there is no indication of the date.

Just in case the inscription is difficult to read, here is a transcription:

Come hether Mortall Cast a Eye
Then go thy Way Prepare to di
Read heare thy Doome
for know thou must
One Day Like mee
be Turned to Dust

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Down on the farm

So we enjoyed our stay on the farm over the Easter weekend. It is an animal rather than an arable farm, with deer, cattle and sheep. The cattle are Dexters or Dexter crossed with Highland; the deer are red deer; and the sheep are a Hebridean breed. These need little hands-on management, managing lambing on their own and not needing to be sheared. In fact, if the wool is wanted, the animals have to be plucked. Otherwise, the fleece will pretty much fall off naturally - or it will be rubbed off on fences and bushes.

It's almost unbelievable

But not quite.

There was a report in yesterday's paper that the Government is issuing new guidelines to local authorities suggesting that they should consider introducing 'green waves'. A 'green wave' is apparently a traffic-moving measure whereby if a motorist approaches a traffic light at the marked speed limit, that light and a succession of lights along the road change green in order to keep the motorist moving. Until now, it was reported, the Government has actively discouraged the use of 'green waves' in order to have traffic stopping and starting, thereby using more fuel and paying more excise duty and increasing the Government's income! I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised, but I am.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Still on the farm

Having spent Easter on the farm we will be leaving for Brighton some time today - probably after lunch. Hardly a restful weekend as I have been doing a little light work clearing ivy and brambles in the yard and burning them. Good food and great company, so I'm feeling rested.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

That's it!

Zone meeting minutes written, distributed, corrected and redistributed. Housing Society web site up and running. Grass cut, seeds watered. Just need to top up the fuel in the car and pack ready for a reasonably late-ish start tomorrow to spend Easter on the farm. Back online next Wednesday.

Little things please little minds

These pictures are of three different sycamore trees no more than a few yards apart. The photos were taken within the space of five minutes, and I find it interesting that the leaves of each tree have reached a different stage of development.

Zone meeting

A successful zone meeting last night. All the clubs agreed to support a project put forward by the President of my club that we provide boxes of comforts to troops from our local regiment currently serving in Afghanistan. A worthy project, but I have a feeling that I am likely to be fairly heavily involved in it. As if I don't already have enough to do! The Housing Society has recently advertised for a new caretaker and so far there have been more than 60 ask for the application pack, with about 16 completed forms returned. I am likely to be involved in shortlisting and will then be on the interview panel. The interviews will take place at about the time of the industrial tribunal several of us will have to attend in connection with a claim by a previous caretaker that he was unfairly dismissed. All part of life's rich tapestry.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Year on year

The first of these two pictures was taken on 7 April last year from our bedroom window, the second this afternoon (7 April) while walking the dog in High Park Woods.

Monday, 6 April 2009

And there's another day gone by

I was so pleased with the new Housing Society web pages that I decided to use a similar layout for the Lions Club and bang went all my good intentions of working in the garden! I have, however, done just a little. I'm trying a new idea this year: carrots grown in tubs. Our soil is too shallow and too stony for good carrots, so I have put compost into pots and sown carrots in them. It won't exactly be the end of the world if the experiment doesn't work as a packet of carrot seeds only cost me £1.55 and the compost can always be used again.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Temporary home

Merely a temporary measure, but the new pages for the Lions Housing Society have been uploaded onto my Les Lavandes site.

Web site design

I discovered earlier this week that the Lions Housing Society has a web site, but it is one that was put together in a rush as a freebie by the society's IT consultant and consequently, it isn't really a lot of good. Like a mug, I volunteered to redesign, so I have been rushing around while the weather is fine, trying to get decent pics of the various properties. Having got the new site designed, I can't get it transferred to the server so I'll just have to wait until tomorrow to ring the consultant.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Bang goes the gardening

A soft, gentle rain is falling, which the garden sorely needs, but I had hoped to spend a bit more time on the vegetable plot today. Oh well, I shall just have to content myself with the Lions book fair this morning and see what the afternoon brings.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Taking the mickey?

I rang the credit card company this morning and pointed out that the Spanish and Portuguese entries had nothing to do with me. Naturally, I was put on hold for a while, and what was the music played to me? A flipping Spanish guitar!

On a more constructive note, I have got the onion sets in this morning. I do find that half an hour is about all my back will allow me to do in the garden these days, which is a bit of a bind given the amount of work that needs doing.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Our lawn mower

This is the only picture I can find of our golden retriever Bramble with Minty the lamb, who really was bouncing in the background. Unfortunately, the picture is not of a good quality.

What a pain!

I've just checked my credit card online and found four transactions that are nothing to do with me. Somebody used my card to buy tickets to fly to Madrid, then rented a car there. Coincidentally, it was at Easter last year that my card was used fraudulently. I suppose I will have to go through the inconvenience of cancelling this card and waiting for a replacement. Fortunately I do have a second credit card, although I use it only rarely (it gives me a discount on petrol prices). Oh well, that's much of tomorrow morning taken up I expect - and I had quite a lot I wanted to get done.

Grandsons again

Yep, the boys are with us again today. I took Ben (6 next Monday) with me this afternoon to walk the dog. I don't know which of them enjoyed it more, Ben throwing the ball for Fern or Fern chasing it. There are several trees in the park which are absolutely ideal for climbing by young boys (or girls, for that matter) and Fern took the opportunity of lying in the shade for a while.

Meet Ben:

And this is Max (2) reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar:

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Another fine day

and I cut the grass in the back garden this afternoon for the first time this year. The garlic seems to have taken this year, with all but two of the cloves sprouting. Much better than last year when they all rotted without even getting this far. Some of the parsnip seeds which didn't germinate last year are growing well now and somehow I shall have to try growing other crops round the new plants, which will be both tricky and a flaming nuisance. Still, it's all part of the fun of gardening.

The Lions Housing Society advertised for a new caretaker last Thursday. So far 47 people have written asking for an application pack! A sign of the times, perhaps.

I forgot to mention yesterday that while I was walking in the woods I watched a nuthatch climbing a tree. They are delightful little birds, not often seen. The last one I saw was in France. He hopped round the edge of one of the wooden tubs, tossing out the compost!