Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Hotter than the Mediterranean

The heatwave continues. The temperature reached 30 yesterday afternoon and is well on the way to the same figure today. My computer doesn't like the heat and has been playing up. Typing is a slow process with letters not showing up on the screen unless I tap a key several times, which is irritating when I realise that I have typed a complete sentence and only the first word and a half have been accepted! I had to visit the local rag this morning to place an ad for the Lions book fair this weekend and their computer was also on a go slow. The headline in the paper is "Hotter than Ibiza". Not just Ibiza, but Cyprus, Malta and many other places Mediterranean. It's due to break later this week (according to the forecast, in which I have but little faith) with thunder storms on Thursday and lower temperatures and more rain on Friday.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Plus ca change etc

Got back mid-evening yesterday after a great holiday and it seems we've brought the weather back with us: a heatwave is forecast for this week. Skip won't believe it, but we're told the temperature will actually reach 30! That's Celsius, of course. In old money we are talking 86, which is hot for here.

Not much seems to have happened while we were away. A fellow Lion's teenage son has been round to turn on the hose and water the vegetables. He's saving hard towards a trip to Lesotho with the army cadets, so I offered to pay him a miserly pittance for keeping the veg alive.

We still have the same government; and Michael Jackson has died.

Like the man said, 'Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose.'

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Waffling on

Luckily, this trophy wasn't presented to me last night.

Now I must woffle off and pack the suitcase. We're off to Provence tomorrow morning.

A sign of the times

While driving around this morning it dawned on me that most of the estate agents' boards I had seen said "sold". Thinking back, I calculated that out of a total of fifteen boards, two said "for sale", one "to let" and no fewer than twelve "sold". This is in marked contrast to the situation just a few months ago when the majority of boards said "to let" with a large minority "for sale" and very few saying "sold".

This perhaps bears out what an estate agent was telling me about a month ago - that the market was showing signs of picking up. I had felt back in February that the housing market, at least locally, had probably just about bottomed out and that anyone able to buy should do so then.

Maybe I should get a job as an economic consultant of some kind at some ridiculous salary. But maybe not.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Perhaps somebody can tell be how to pronounce the name of this road spotted in Southern California?


I enjoyed C J Sansom's Winter in Madrid so much that when I visited our local library again last week I looked for the other two books he has written. There was just one of them on the shelf - Dark Fire. This is a 'who dun it' set in London in 1540 and is the second in what the publishers describe as 'the Shardlake series', although I would think that two hardly constitute a series. That, though, is splitting hairs.

It would probably have been better to have read the previous book, Dissolution, before this one as there were a good few references to events in the earlier title, but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. There is no resemblance to Madrid, but this book is equally well-written.

Having finished that, I am now reading P D James' latest, The Private Patient. Reading her books I can readily believe that she weighs not just every sentence, but every word she writes. I find it astonishing that at 89 she is still writing. Long may she continue to do so.

I've just checked out C J Sansom and it seems that there are actually four titles in the Shardlake series now. I must try to get hold of the three I haven't read.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

What's going on?

BA showed a loss of £401 million last year and is asking staff to work for nothing or take unpaid leave.

Air France/KLM lost £444 million in just three months this year and is looking to shed a further 3000 jobs on top of 2700 lost during the year.

Emirates still showed a profit last year, but it was down 72%.

Easyjet showed a loss of £130 million for six months, compared with £48 last year.

But Virgin Atlantic doubled profits to £68 million for the year.

Seems somebody is doing something right.

Poppy appeal

While walking across 39 Acres over the weekend, I spotted this field of poppies almost two miles away across the Downs. I had no camera with me at the time, but yesterday afternoon the sun was shining and I decided to try to get some pictures, starting with the view from 39 Acres.

I made a slight detour into the village of Falmer for this picture...

...before joining the hordes of others taking photos of the poppies, some of them with very sophisticated equipment. All the same, I'm quite satisfied with this picture.

Monday, 15 June 2009


From the Telegraph web site:

The duck had been shepherding her four babies out of the way of a roaming swan when she got distracted and looked away for a second.

She tripped over the unlucky duckling and trod straight on its back, flattening it into the ground.

After feeling the bump underfoot, the mother took a quick glance to check it had survived before waddling on her way.

Luckily, the bedraggled duckling was okay and sprang back into action, fluffing its feathers indignantly before trailing after its siblings by the River Avon in Christchurch, Dorset.

An eyewitness said: "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. She just trod straight on top of the little duckling.

"My heart stopped for a second - I thought she must have killed it, because it's only a tiny frail thing.

"But it bounced straight back up again and shook itself down, good as new.

"The duckling looked a little bit offended but the mother just had a look to see if it was ok and waddled on her way quacking."

Conceited? Me?

There was a piece in the comment section of yesterday's paper in which the author said he had been told that community web sites such as Facebook, Twitter (and presumably Blogger as well) were used by people to keep in touch with people they didn't want to keep in touch with. He went on to say that, in his opinion, people who 'blogged' were displaying a high level of conceit: conceit that anybody else in the world would be at all interested in the minutiae of their dreary lives.

I for one am happy to use this method of keeping in touch, and I am interested in the goings-on of my Californian friends. If it weren't for facilities such as this we would probably lose touch completely, or at the most our contact would be restricted to little more than an exchange of Christmas cards.

I am happy to concede that the author of that newspaper article is not remotely interested in my thoughts and actions: conversely, I'm not really interested in his.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Now there's a thing

It's only just dawned on me that I can't remember smells. Yes, I can recognise them, provided they are strong enough, but I just can't remember them. I can remember smelling something - the honeysuckle in the garden this morning, for instance - but I can't recall that smell now. It's not like sounds or sights, which I can remember. Say somebody's name, for example, and I see their face or hear their voice in my mind.

I asked 'Er Indoors if she could remember smells and she said she can, so maybe it's just me. Possibly something to do with the fact that I actually have very little sense of smell anyway. There are many occasions when it is an advantage, and certainly it is, along with touch, the sense that one can most easily do without.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Waffles is/are the answer

I've just realised what was going on in my sub-conscience. I had mentioned the Waffle Trophy, and Belgium is famous for chocolates, beer - and waffles!

We didn't go to Belgium this year

Quite why Belgium should have come into my mind is a mystery. But then, She Who Must Be Obeyed would probably say that my mind is a complete mystery to anyone, especially me.

The last couple of years, the Lions International Relations Committee (four of us who like a day out) have visited Belgium just before Charter Night to buy Belgian chocolates to use as raffle prizes. Why Belgium should produce such great chocolates I can't imagine. I always think of it as a grotty little country.

Granted, there are some very attractive parts. I'm told that Ghent is, but whenever I have tried to visit the town it has been raining cats and dogs (or perhaps I should say chats et chiens). Bruges (or Brugge) is very attractive, at least in the centre. So is Ypres (or Ieper). Notice that there are two spellings for the name of every city, town or village. That's because this tiny country actually has two languages: French and Flemish (or Walloon). Most of the inhabitants speak both, and also German and English. Even a waitress where we had coffee admitted to speaking five languages.

I don't think much of Brussels. I've been there twice. The first time was about 45 years ago when the coach we were travelling on back from Austria stopped there for a while, then a few years ago the OB decided she would like a day trip while we were staying at Lille. The Grand Place in Brussels is beautiful, but that's about it. The great majority of tourists also visit the Mannekin Pis, a fountain of a little boy passing water (you can guess where from, but I will post a picture all the same).

What very few tourists ever see is another fountain in a narrow dead-end alley off an almost equally narrow old street. This fountain is the feminists answer to the Mannekin Pis is Jeanneke Pis...

Friday, 12 June 2009

Beware the Waffle Trophy!

I'm almost certainly heading for a fall of monumental proportions. If I am, it will be because I have been getting ahead of myself. Not only is the July issue of Jungle Jottings just about finished (it only needs notes from the business meeting next Wednesday), but I have actually started on the August issue! What's more, I have so many things buzzing around in my head that I want to get down on paper - or up on screen - ready for blogs.

This blogging business seems to be acting on me like a drug: unlike Skip (who posts nothing unless he has something to say, or so he claims) if I don't post something every day I think the world will come to an end. Of course, it's not really as bad as that, but it is just as well that other members of Brighton Lions Club don't know of the existence of the Brighton Pensioner and Pebbles. I would almost certainly end up with the Waffle Trophy. This is a trophy presented each year to the Lion who has, in the opinion of the Waffle Trophy committee (the holder from the previous year) provided "a plethora of platitudinous phrases calculated to please". The problem is that most of the other members don't know what a platitudinous phrase is, let alone a plethora. They probably think it's connected with that strange Australian creature. Whatever they think, the trophy tends to be presented to someone who has spent a lot of time on his feet at meetings, whether or not what he said has been calculated to please.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

"Next July we collide with Mars"

If my memory serves me correctly, that is a line from a song in the film High Society. But now it seems that Earth and Mars could collide, bringing about the end of the world. But it won't happen just yet - not for about three billion years. (I assume those are British/European billions as the report came from Paris. Americans will have to wait a bit longer as their billion is bigger than ours!)

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Sports again

Sport dominated my day yesterday. Not active participation on my part, but as part of Life with the Lions. The club has decided to award a bursary of £1,000 a year up till 2012 to help pay the training expenses of a potential member of the Great Britain squad at the Paralympics. Liam is 25, has cerebral palsy, and is already a member of the British boccia team, with which he has competed in Europe, Canada and Brazil. Three of us joined him at one of his training sessions to present the first year's bursary.

(The guy in the suit is the south-east region chairman of Sports Aid.)

Then a meeting in the evening with representatives of a local football club, Patcham United, to discuss the possibility of the Lions entering their under 14 team in the MD competition.

And to add a bit of extra spice to the day, I had two rather surprising emails (which I will have to deal with this morning). First, a reporter from the Eldersburg Advocate wants to interview me by email about our club's twinning arrangement with Freedom District Lions and our joint service project; then, somebody studying for an MA in anthropology is researching the now-defunct Brighton Lions Carnival and wants information.

I'd better get on with answering them.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Thank goodness that's over

Until next year, anyway.

We have an extension built onto the back of the dining room. This is laughingly called the conservatory, but it is really a glorified glory hole with a freezer, tumble drier, wet weather gear, muddy boots and, on occasion, a wet and/or muddy dog. To allow as much light as possible into the dining room, the roof of this extension is made of corrugated plastic and once a year I have to get rid of the moss and generally clean up the roof. This involves climbing onto the flat roof of the kitchen extension (which is, fortunately, solid), pull up a ladder and a crawling board, and lay these over the plastic roof. I then have to crawl over the ladder to clean the roof, hoping that the plastic doesn't give way beneath me.

It's not a job I enjoy, but yesterday afternoon I screwed my courage to the sticking point and got it done.

Monday, 8 June 2009

I'm better now

At least, I think I am. I certainly hope so. I seemed to lose my marbles yesterday and now Sharon thinks I'm completely loopy, having counted five people in a photo as six. What's more, even after she drew my attention to my mistake, I still insisted I was right! I do hope it's not the onset of some dreadful condition that afflicts old people.

And I still haven't remembered the word I was trying to think of, oh, months ago. It's the word that means using two words with the same meaning, like 'patently obvious'. No doubt it will come to me some time.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Is that all there is to it?

A very good charter night yesterday: an excellent meal and very pleasant company. The speeches were reasonably short as well, which is always a bonus. This morning, though, everything seems slightly pointless. Probably because I have been wrapped up in preparations for the big day and now it's over, what is there to do? There is, of course, plenty to do, but I just don't seem to be able to summon up much enthusiasm for any of it.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Sports report

I am not, and never have been, a sporting person. I did play rugby, football and cricket at school - badly, in each case - and did a little boxing. I suppose athletics could be considered my strongest suite, but only the sprints and I wasn't good at that. I later took up badminton and enjoyed the game even though I was never much good. Then about 40 years ago I found the one 'sport' at which I became reasonably proficient: rock climbing. I was once in a winning darts team. We won the bank's inter-branch tournament, much to our astonishment.

All this is just a preamble leading up to an exclamation of surprise that I actually knocked down eight of the nine skittles on my first turn at the inter-club skittles tournament the other evening. In the second round I returned to my usual form with a score of five. Brighton ended up in third place out of six teams, a result that we considered highly satisfactory.

It was a pleasant evening with 50+ Lions, Lionesses and 'other halves' at a country pub with a good buffet included.

More Lions matters tonight, and tomorrow (book fair - preparation tonight) followed by our club's charter night tomorrow evening: dinner jackets and posh frocks, although the frocks these days are not quite as posh as they were twenty or so years ago. I had printed off the menu/place cards in good time, only to be told this morning that one of the guests is Janet and not Jeanette. I just hope all the others are correct!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Election day

Voting takes place today to select our Euro MPs and, in most of the country but not here, local councillors. I have exercised my democratic right, what some would call my democratic duty, and voted. I was taken aback to see that I could vote for one of FIFTEEN parties, about ten of which I had never heard of before.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Oh, what a circus!

The show continues, with two Cabinet ministers now having resigned. Only from the Cabinet, mind, they will still serve as MPs - until the next election. Matt's cartoon today is great.

Party invitations

Seems it's arrived. At least, the Prince of Wales has accepted. Maybe the Queen has another engagement.

Liz Hunt, of the Telegraph, sums it all up pretty well.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

This is Beachy Head, which is just outside Eastbourne, a 40-45 minutes drive from here, and is the eastern end of the South Downs. The cliffs are several hundred feet high, making this probably the UK's favourite suicide spot.

During the weekend, a couple - believed to be in their 40s - jumped, carrying a rucksack in which was found the body of their 5 year old son. It would seem that the boy was wheelchair-bound and presumably the parents just could not cope with his death.

It certainly makes me count my blessings.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Oh, what a circus!

Here we are on Day 25 and still the revelations come. It was only some time last week that the letters page of the Telegraph carried letters on any other subject. Frankly, while I agree that all the information should be publicly available, I am becoming just a little punch drunk, bored, fed up with it all.