Thursday, 30 June 2011

Well, I was warned

My ISP sent me an email last week to tell me they would be "working away to move your service onto a new, improved network."

They went on to say:
"On the day after the work is carried out, you may notice a little instability on your line. There may also be minor speed fluctuations for up to ten days (this usually only lasts for three days). This is because your broadband is establishing its optimal line speed on the new network."
They weren't joking. It has taken me ten minutes just to load one site!

Today's cryptic quiz

The building in the background of the picture was constructed about 200 years ago as stables for the Prince Regent. What is the one word connection between those stables, the 2012 American Presidential election and a Swedish pop group?

Perhaps a small clue would not go amiss. The stables are now known as the Dome and are a concert hall. It was here that the Eurovision Song Contest was held back in 1974.

Still confused? Well, the winners of that 1974 competition were Abba, the Swedish pop group.

And what do they have to do with American elections? Nothing. But Michelle Bachmann announced her hope to stand as a candidate in next year's election...

in her birth town - Waterloo.

And the song that won Abba the Eurovision Song Contest was - Waterloo.

Yes, I know, That is a convoluted rather than cryptic train of thought but it's how my mind works and I can't help it.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wrong number

One of my pet peeves is when people have only a mobile phone, no land line. I suppose I can understand that if the person concerned is renting a bed-sit - sorry, studio apartment - for just six months. The cost of installing the land line would be prohibitive. Even transferring an existing line to a new subscriber (and new number) probably costs money. I don't understand the fixation that younger generations seem to have with mobile phones to the extent that they upgrade them every other month. I have one myself, but it is only the second mobile phone I have ever owned. No, that's not true. The first mobile was owned by the company I worked for rather than me so this is the first mobile I have ever owned, and I have owned this one for about ten years now. It doesn't have a built-in camera; I can't check the weather forecast or surf the net. I am pretty sure I could send texts - if I only knew how. I do at least know how to switch the apparatus on and how to make a call - not that I do either very often. And I certainly don't expect to receive calls on the machine. I only carry it in case of an emergency such as the car breaking down, or to use when I am in France. And then it is generally only to make a reservation at a restaurant.

So why do I get peeved by people not having a land line? Well, it's because I am a miserly old git. I have a telephone/broadband package that allows me free calls to geographic numbers in the UK (and, I believe, 35 other countries) but not to 08 numbers or mobile phones. So calling those costs me money, which upsets my miserly instincts.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Corner shops

There was a time when many streets had a shop at one corner, a shop that usually sold everything from milk and potatoes to firewood and writing paper. Occasionally there would be a Post Office counter as well, although those were more usually to be found in newsagents, tobacconists and confectioners. Very few of those corner shops exist any longer, having been driven out of business by the growth of supermarkets with their greater selection and lower prices. Those corner shops were generally to be found in areas where the houses were built about 100 years ago or more. Areas where the houses were built later - especially in the last 60-70 years - are more likely to have had small parades of shops, say half a dozen or so, built at strategic points. One such parade was built just around the corner from our house. When we moved here 40 years ago - indeed, as recently as 25 years ago - those six shops were all in business. There was the Post Office, which was also the newsagent, tobacconist and confectioner, a grocer, a greengrocer, butcher, fishmonger and ladies' hairdresser. No longer. The Post Office is still there, but two shops have been converted to houses, two are standing empty and the other one is the head office of a flooring supply company.

The next nearest parade (that's it in the picture) has fared better. OK, two shops have now been converted into an Indian restaurant but the fish and chip shop next door has been there for many years, as has the newsagent next door to that. There has been a ladies' hairdresser in the parade for many years but the sixth shop has had a somewhat chequered career. I remember it as a chemist's, then a video and DVD rental outlet and now a washing machine salesroom.

Those few remaining general stores that have not already been driven out of business by the supermarkets are now under a different form of attack, albeit from the same supermarket chains. The supermarkets are now setting up their own convenience stores! They first appeared in petrol stations but are now springing up in High Streets everywhere. Even a pub close to us has been taken over and turned into one. That will doubtless affect the local convenience store seen in the picture.

Many of us moan about the loss of the corner shop - but happily do our shopping at Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Morrison's or wherever which is really hypocritical.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Fun Day update

The treasurer tells me that we actually raised over £1200!

Fun Day in the Pavilion Gardens

So yesterday was the day set for Brighton Lions to hold their Fun Day in the gardens of the Royal Pavilion, all profits going to Help for Heroes. Things didn't look too promising when I woke to see thick mist. Could we really get temperatures of 25 as forecast? As it turned out, we did. The gardens were packed but people seemed reluctant to part with any money. We came away disappointed, thinking we had probably raised only £400 of £500. The money has not yet been counted completely but it does look as though we will have raised in the region of £1,000, which is much nearer our target.

During the afternoon we were entertained by a small brass ensemble who played for two hours. They have only been going for 18 months but were excellent. My recording fails to do them justice but there is nothing else on YouTube. Here, then, is Brass Fusion:

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Here we go again

Those health warnings seem to come along more frequently (and more regularly) than our local bus service. There have been no fewer than three in the past few days. (I'm referring to health warnings, although as far as I know there might have been three buses as well. I did see one yesterday. I also saw a real policeman three weeks ago - on foot!)

Anyway, those health warnings. One came from some university or research department from somewhere across the pond and warned of dangerous fungus found growing on the rubber seals of dishwashers. There are three things that occur to me in this connection.
  1. Those dishwashers were probably being run on the eco-friendly programme that runs for 30 minutes at 30 degrees. Push up to the old-fashioned full programme at 60 and the fungus will probably disappear. It's the relatively low temperature that is breeding it.
  2. You eat a peck of dirt before you die. Just what a peck of dirt looks like or what its dimensions might be, I have no idea. But I bet the amounts of fungus found in those dishwashers were miniscule and would need at least 329 years to build up enough power to kill more than an ant.
  3. I'm not going to stop using the dishwasher - in any case, the tea towel is probably dirtier!
Then there was a report from the Royal Institute of Psychobabblers or some equally horrible honourable group which warned that the elderly are the age group most prone to drug and alcohol abuse and recommending that everybody over the age of 65 should be screened regularly by their doctors. Excuse me? I know a lot of people who might be considered senior citizens by virtue of their age. In other words, like me they are getting on a bit. Or have already got on quite a lot. Oh, stop beating about the bush, Slater! Admit it - we're old. But - and here's the rub - none of those I know who are 65+ drink to excess or misuse drugs. We know that we can't take drink quite the way we used to and moderate our consumption accordingly. It gets so tiring having to keep going to the toilet to pump ship. And as for drugs, the only ones we take are prescribed by our doctors. Granted, we might get a little hazy about how many of those pink tablets we've taken today so perhaps better take another to be on the safe side...

Which brings me nicely to the third health scare. This one also concerns principally the more elderly segment of the population. It seems that certain combinations of common drugs - some available only on prescription from the doctor, some available easily enough at the chemist and some freely obtainable over the counter at any corner shop - can increase the chance of dying within the next two years by up to quite a lot. Oh bugger it. I can't be bothered to type any more. This is how the Daily Telegraph reported it:

Well-known brands of hay fever tablets, painkillers and sleeping pills pose a previously unknown threat to people’s health when taken together, British scientists claim.

Many are available over the counter at pharmacies as well as being prescribed by GPs, nurses and chemists.

Today the scientists behind the study call for doctors to recognise how dangerous these drug combinations can be and to prescribe harmless alternatives instead.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Kent identified 80 widely used medications that, when used in combination, were found to increase the risk of serious health problems.

The drugs, including common allergy treatments Piriton and Zantac, as well as Seroxat, an anti-depressant, are thought to be used by half of the 10  million over-65s in Britain. Many of the drugs, when taken in combination, were found to more than treble an elderly patient’s chance of dying within two years.

What was it I said the other day? "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad."

Now, will you open another bottle, Paddy? And remind me, what was it you said those little purple thingies would do for me?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Have you noticed... many otherwise good-looking girls have unattractive knees?

I must be slipping

Geography was always my favourite subject at school, especially the map-reading bit and the interpretation of the Ordnance Survey maps. (Did we do that in geography? I know I did it somewhere and I can't think it would have been in any other subject.) No, that's not quite true. There was just one year when a different subject was introduced to the timetable - survey. This involved all sorts of things to do with maps like undertaking triangulation. That was even better than geography - while it lasted, which was, I think, for only one year.

Maps have always fascniated me. They've even fascinated me! Indeed, there was a time when my highest ambition was to be a navigating officer in the Royal Navy, although I always knew that was just a pipe dream as my health was never good enough for the Andrew. I can pick up an atlas and spend almost as long just looking at the maps as I would reading a good novel but the old 1 inch to the mile Ordnance Survey maps were probably the best. They covered enough ground to provide a range of interest but they were sufficiently detailed to provide good reading matter.

What with maps and my general interest in geography, I should have realised that Skip lives way further south than I do. But it needed him to point out to me when we were talking about comparative temperatures that he lives about 1000 miles further south than I do. I've checked it out since and I'm sorry to say he's a bit out. Anderson (where he lives) is at latitude 40.43N whereas Brighton (my home town) is at 50.83 (or 50.51 or 50.84 depending on where you look). With each degree of latitude being approximately 69 miles, that makes Anderson about 730 miles south of Brighton. For some reason I had always had a mental picture of Anderson and Brighton being on about the same latitude whereas Anderson is on much the same level as Naples and Madrid. That puts the whole thing into a better context for me and now I understand much better why the temperature is so much higher in Anderson.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the temperature here will be a little higher this weekend. The forecast is for highs of about 25 in Brighton tomorrow (that's 77 Fahrenheit) with no rain. As Brighton Lions have their annual fun day in the Royal Pavilion Gardens that will be just about right. Last year we managed to hold the event on the hottest day of the year and the day when England played Germany in the World Cup! Tomorrow's event is all in aid of Help for Heroes.

Friday, 24 June 2011

I'm a slow reader

Well, I certainly seem to be these days. Much slower than I used to be, certainly. And I don't think I can blame the books I've been reading lately. It was three weeks ago today that I visited the library and borrowed three books, all by authors I like: one of Mark Billingham's crime series featuring Tom Thorne, Bernard Cornwell's The Fort and a Michael Connelly. Nothing heavy in that lot, but I am still reading the second of them, (the Cornwell) which I must say seems to be a slower read than his Sharpe series. This one is set during the American War of Independence. And I have more lined up for our next trip to France. While we are over there I tend to read nearly a book a day. In fact, if the books are slim I can get through nearly two a day. I have John Masters' trilogy Loss of Eden to read again after a gap of several years and an Elizabeth George I don't recall having read before. Then there is a Barbara Vine psychological thriller (Barbara Vine is a nom de plume of Ruth Rendell) and one of John Mortimer's books of comic short stories about Rumpole of the Bailey.

Meanwhile, it's back to the hospital this morning. (I'm scheduling this to appear while I am there.) Not on my behalf this time, but to escort my son who has broken his wrist in two places. He has to have the plaster removed today and the wrist examined before (I suspect) fresh plaster is applied.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


It's hardly surprising that "ordinary" people get fed up with politicians. Over the last four weeks - or maybe it's only three - there have been no fewer than three incursions (I almost wrote invasions and that wouldn't have been far from the truth) into our local Withdean Park by groups of travellers. Each group has left its own particular mark - trees cut down, fences and gates broken down, paving slabs removed, fires lit on the grass, trenches dug in the grass to level caravans, litter and rubbish (including nappies and human excrement) scattered everywhere. On occasions people have been threatened and one actually had a dog stolen with a demand for payment before it was returned. Each time numerous local residents have bombarded our local councillors and council officials with requests to DO SOMETHING to stop this happening. And each time councillors have replied saying they are doing what they can but it is all the fault of the latest party to take power or the last party to be in power. We don't want political sniping: we want action!

Anyway, the latest news this morning is that something might be happening. Quotes are being sought for various works aimed at preventing travellers entering the park - but the relevant department doesn't have funds to carry any of the works anyway.

We wait in hope rather than expectation.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I've sussed it.

"Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad." That old proverb was apparently once attributed in error to Euripides, a Greek playwright who lived 2,000+ years ago. Whoever it was who first coined the phrase is immaterial but I have realised that the gods are currently intent on destroying the English and probably half the rest of the world's population. I base my proposition on the fact that we as a nation are becoming madder by the day, usually in the name of the dreaded Health and Safety. The latest example left me so incensed that I failed to note which organisation was responsible and where this occurrence took place. Whoever it was, they ordered an old lavender hedge to be uprooted on the grounds of H&S. The thinking was that lavender attracts bees. People can be stung by bees. Some people, when stung by a bee, can suffer a prophylactic shock and may die. Relatives could sue the organisation...

We are quite obviously doomed.

Meanwhile, I spent yesterday morning at the hospital, first to have another x-ray and afterwards to see the chest specialist. I went along quite happily expecting to be told thanks for the memory, but we really don't want to see you again. Instead, I was seen by the head of the team, a step up from the last doctor I saw. She expressed some concern that although I have been suffering from some form of infection as yet unidentified but which is apparently clearing, this might be covering up cancer and, indeed, might have been caused by cancer. I was sent away with the promise that my case would be discussed at a team meeting at which a decision would be taken on the next step. All a bit disheartening.

Later I received a phone call. It now seems they are leaning towards no cancer and want to do another CT scan in a couple of weeks or so before I see the head consultant again.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Celery and tinned peaches

When I was a child, our daily meals were breakfast, dinner and tea. In those days the working classes tended to eat their main meal in the middle of the day. This (for us) consisted of two courses: meat and two veg followed by a dessert. Tea for my brother and I would be eaten at five or six o'clock and would consist of bread and margarine (we couldn't afford butter) with jam, and possibly a slice of cake. Supper would be a hot milk drink just before going to bed. Nowadays I think the majority of people eat their main meal in the evening so the three meals are breakfast, lunch and dinner (or supper, as some people call it in a sort of inverted snobbery). Afternoon tea was only ever for the upper classes (or perhaps the upper middle class) and high tea was what was served by seaside landladies. This would involve a more substantial meal than tea - perhaps a light salad or a slice of pork pie before the bread and butter.

I was unloading the dishwasher over the weekend when I happened to notice a glass jug that had belonged to my mother. It has been sitting at the back of one of our kitchen cupboards for a number of years and I have probably looked at it many times without actually seeing it. The last time I recall seeing it in use it was in pride of place in the centre of my mother's tea table and held sticks of celery. If my mother wanted a slightly posher tea than usual, celery would be provided. Her salt cellar (a small, glass bowl with a small glass spoon - very posh) would stand beside the glass jug and we would spoon a little salt onto the edges of our plates to dip the celery into. Only after eating celery would we be allowed something sweet on our bread.

My grandmother's idea of a posh tea was a little different. In her case, the fruit bowls would be placed on the table along with the special fruit spoons. After we had eaten two slices of bread and butter (or margarine) we would be allowed a bowl of fruit - tinned peach slices onto which would be poured evaporated milk.

How times have changed!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Yesterday was...

Fathers' Day!

It was also the day Adur East Lions staged their donkey derby and the day of the annual London to Brighton cycle ride in aid of the British Heart Foundation. I am told that 27,000 riders took part yesterday in the 54-mile ride. This causes a bit of a problem along the route and effectively cuts Brighton in two as it can be difficult to get from one side of the route to the other. Stanmer is out for me as the road is closed to traffic for the day. But to get back to Fathers' Day.

This was never celebrated in our house when I was a father to young children and I certainly never made any effort as a child myself to mark the day in any way for my own father. That was probably because in those days fathers' day had not yet been introduced to the country. We tend to think of it as a day conjured up by the American greetings card industry and subsequently imported to England. Unlike Mothers' Day - or Mothering Sunday as it should properly be called.

Tradition has it that Mothering Sunday was the one day of the year when female domestic servants were allowed the whole day off so that they could travel back to their home villages to visit their mothers. Whether or not that is true I haven't the faintest idea but it has always seemed a nice little idea to me.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

"If today is Tuesday...

...this must be Brussels."

OK, I know very well that today is not Tuesday and this is not Brussels. Well, it wouldn't be, would it, as today isn't Tuesday? I don't have the foggiest idea where that sort-of-a-quote originated but I do know it referred to a group of Americans "doing" Europe. You know, a whirlwind coach tour with quick stopovers in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam... I have a vague recollection of meeting an American (this was many years ago) who "did" England in much the same way: a coach trip lasting just one day managed to include visits to Oxford, Stratford-on-Avon and Bath.

I suppose I may as well make my confession now: I have been guilty of similar tourism myself. On more than one occasion. And I wasn't taking coach trips - I was driving! The reason was that we had made very long (trans-Atlantic) journeys which we were unlikely ever to repeat and we wanted to cram in as much as we possibly could during our holidays. Which makes for very superficial tourism and not exactly the type of holiday I prefer when there is time to look in more depth and detail. Time, in fact, just to stand and stare. But this is not what I had intended to write about when I started out. As so often happens, I started with the intention of writing one thing but somehow got myself diverted onto a completely different road. That's the sort of holiday I enjoy. Like the time we (the Old Bat and I) "did" Dorset.

My cousin and her husband were hosting a large gathering of family and friends on their farm in Somerset and we were delighted to attend. We knew they would be unable to provide us with a bed and decided we would tack a few days holiday onto our journey so that we could visit Dorset, a county through which we had frequently driven but never spent any time. So when we left the farm we headed towards the county border before stopping for the night. Next day we carried on, but got side-tracked by something or other - a country fair or some such - and that night we were still in Somerset. We did eventually arrive in Dorset and drifted around just following any old whim - and the Hardy trail. But while that was most enjoyable, it is not what I was going to write about either!

I started out talking about American visitors to Europe and a few years ago I was closely involved with just such a group. A small party of Lions from Maryland visited Brighton after our clubs became twinned and I was somehow put in charge of their itinerary for the week of their visit. I did email them beforehand with a list of potential trips, asking for their preferences. In the end, we covered Canterbury (for the cathedral), Windsor (for the castle) and the ancient town of Rye (for the heck of it). And London, where we saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and different people did different things Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, etc). And at long last I have arrived at the point of this post.

What, I have sometimes wondered, would be a foreign visitor's preferred itinerary? What parts of England would he or she most like to see? This has been popping in and out of my mind for the past several months during my Scenic Saturday series of posts and I genuinely would be interested in hearing the views of any of my visitors from across the sea. Please do leave a comment to let me know. A big red London bus? Big Ben? Stonehenge? A cricket match? There must be something!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Scenic Saturday - Cumbria

Number 46 in the series.

The essence of Cumbria is the Lake District: Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth and his daffodils, John Peel et al. The part of England which gets the most rain and yet, in good weather, some of this country's most glorious scenery. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy good weather every time I have taken a holiday in the area. Despite the presence of so many lakes, meres and tarns, my picture for this, the final Scenic Saturday posting, is one I took in Greater Langdale.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Minutes, months and fruit

The challenge for today: write 400 words on on the subjects minutes, months and fruit, moving seamlessly from one subject to the next.

For the last seven years it has been my pleasure to produce Jungle Jottings, the monthly newsletter for members of Brighton Lions Club. Well, it's mostly been a pleasure. During the last 12 months I have also had the doubtful privilege of being minute secretary for the club so I have incorporated the minutes of the business meetings into the newsletter. Business meeting are held on the third Wednesday of each month and JJ is due to be published ... well, I have always aimed to get it out during the last week of the month. So I have, especially during the last 12 months, associated the business meeting with the end of the month. But this month the third Wednesday was on the 15th of the month - a full two weeks before the end. That has really thrown me. Here I am with the minutes written and much of the July edition of JJ ready, and there are still two weeks to go! If I'm not careful I might even end up just twiddling my thumbs.

No, not a hope. I could always mow the grass. I realised on Tuesday that it needed doing but I had higher priorities and decided to put off doing it until Wednesday. And on Wednesday it rained, so I put it off again till Thursday. Well, yesterday threatened rain all morning (while I was writing the aforementioned minutes) and didn't look too good when I took the dog over the Downs in the afternoon, but it stayed dry. Until I was ready to get the mower out, when it started to rain again. So the grass still needs cutting. What I have been doing, though, is harvesting blackcurrants. That sounds as though we have a field of blackcurrant bushes rather than just the one. But that one has only ever been lightly pruned and is now , in blackcurrant bush terms, almost obese. But what a crop it has produced this year. I thought last year's crop was good, but this year is even better. Which is, perhaps, just as well. The dry spring we had this year has caused almost complete failure in the rhubarb department. The onions aren't looking good, either, but then I forgot to buy the sets until all I could get were some dried up wrinkled things so that's really down to me.

The plums are looking good and bad depending which of the two trees is in view. One tree has virtually no fruit on it while the other is likely to have broken branches with the weight of the crop. Pears this year are iffy, but the apple crop looks as though it will be good again.

And that is 449 words so I have covered all three subjects. But whether or not I moved seamlessly from one to t'other is something only you, dear reader, can judge.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

End of the road

Just lately I seem to have had a bit of a thing about the end of the road and have posted on that theme on both Les Lavandes and Fern's blog. Why not here as well? Might as well go for the hat trick. So here it is: the end of the road for the cheque.

It seems there is in London an organisation which calls itself the Payments Council or something very like that. I'm sure it used to be something different in my younger days when I worked in a bank, but never mind, it's the Payments Council now. This Council represents the clearing banks and other paying organisations. They announced a few months back that, as the number of cheques used to make payments was reducing sharply in favour of debit and credit cards, they planned to withdraw cheques completely in October 2018. There was, predictably, an outcry, especially from small organisations and charities who rely on donations being sent through the post by cheque. The Payments Council indicated that they would introduce an alternative means of payment before the abolition of the cheque.

As an aside, it is interesting to compare the situation in England with that in France. English supermarkets have refused to accept cheques for some time but French supermarkets have cheque-writing machines attached to the tills, as indeed do many other French shops. Over there it is a criminal offence to issue a cheque without having the funds to meet it and anybody doing so has banking facilities withdrawn. Hence shops etc are quite happy to accept cheques subject only to the drawers producing some form of identification when larger sums are involved.

But to get back to the end of the road for the cheque. I assumed that plans were in place to repeal the Bills of Exchange Act of 187-wotsit and the Cheques Act of 1951 (or was that 1952?) otherwise all we would have to do is write an instruction to our bank to pay Mr X the sum of £Y and they would have to comply. But it is now unnessecary. The Payments Council yesterday admitted that they have been unable to find a suitable replacement for the cheque so it is unlikely to be abolished just yet. It seems the end of the road is not yet in sight.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Some years ago, in a typical governmental knee-jerk reaction, the then Government introduced a scheme intended to make life safer for vulnerable persons, be they children, elderly, a sandwich short of a picnic, blind or whatever. Anybody taking a job that entailed working with vulnerable or potentially vulnerable people would be required to submit to a check at the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). The CRB maintains a database of people convicted of crimes against vulnerable people. Crimes such as shop-lifting or speeding are (I think) disregarded. So the applicant fills in the enquiry form and produces two forms if identification such as a recent utility bill (to confirm the address) and passport (to confirm identity) which the employer has to record on the enquiry form. The form, together with payment (£32?), is sent off and, in due course, clearance is obtained and the applicant may start work.

But the scheme is not restricted to those in paid work: volunteers are covered by it as well. So every leader in the voluntary youth sector (Scouts, football coaches, whatever) and people helping out as, for example, social clubs for the blind, have to submit to CRB checking. Fortunately, there is no charge for checking a volunteer otherwise all those youth groups would be flat broke.

On the face of it, this might appear to be a good idea but there are a couple of snags. Firstly, clearance is not transferable between different employers/organisations. So, for example, a teacher who has had to obtain clearance at school will need to submit to another check if she helps with a Brownie pack in her spare time. As a result, I have come across people who have upwards of six or seven CRB certificates! A plan had been announced to make these checks transferable - but that involved adding another layer of bureaucracy and has been shelved.

A second snag is that nobody seems entirely certain just when CRB checks are necessary or even desirable. Some say that anybody who is only helping with a vulnerable person or group of vulnerable persons but is not left alone with them doesn't require to be checked. Take, as an example, Father Christmas. If the child's parent is present all the time, is it really necessary for Father Christmas to undergo CRB checking? Some folk say yes, some no. And was it really necessary for me to submit to a second check in order to act as a volunteer driver for the blind club? I have been checked through Lions and it is Lions who are providing the drivers...

It's all far too complex for a simple mind like mine, and I'm not convinced that all this has made any vulnerable person any safer than they were before. As I said right at the start, this seems to me to have been a typical knee-jerk reaction without sufficient thought having been given to the real effect of the legislation.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Wot, no inspiration?

I suppose I could lie to you and claim to have been sitting here, gazing at a blank screen for a couple of hours while waiting for the Muse to strike. But I haven't. I've hung out the washing, read the summary of an application to Brighton Lions for a grant, read a few other blogs and even checked what I was posting on this blog a year ago. Despite all that activity, and having given the matter considerable thought while walking the dog earlier, I am still no nearer a subject on which to pour my drivel.

Actually, it can be quite interesting to check back what I was writing last year. I had completely forgotten... No, I hadn't really forgotten, but it had slipped my mind that this time last year I was doing jury service. Oh, those bacon sandwiches at lunch time! My mouth is drooling at the memory of them.

One or two people have mentioned an amazing increase in the number of visitors to their blogs (according to Blogger's statistics). I rarely bother to look at them, but those other folks' comments have led me to do so. According to Blogger, there were 54 page views yesterday (although only 50 operating systems were recorded) but the flag counter widget says that the counter was viewed just 12 times yesterday. Now, the two systems have differing definitions of "yesterday", one being the immediate last 24 hours while the other is... something else, so one should accept that the figures may well not be the same. But for one to record 54 and the other just 12 visitors implies that something is going wrong somewhere. Mind you, it's not exactly all-important, is it?

Monday, 13 June 2011

More about the Old Ship

Fast forward nearly 200 years from yesterday's post to December 1831. That was when the world-famous violinist Paganini performed in the very room in which Brighton Lions celebrated their charter anniversary, quite possibly on this balcony:

You can just make out the plaque commemorating the event - Paganini, I mean, not Brighton Lions!

This is a delightful room with lovely chandeliers and a beautifully decorated ceiling.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Royal Escape

Brighton Lions 60th Charter Night celebrations were held last night at the Old Ship Hotel, which is where it all began back in 1950 when LCI Special Representative Murray Huggan met half a dozen Brighton businessmen to talk about forming a new Lions Club.

The Old Ship is one of the oldest hotels in Brighton and has quite a history itself, as can be seen from the web site of the Royal Escape Race from where these words come:
Following the first English Civil war, in January 1649 Charles I was executed for high treason. The King had refused to properly recognise the power of Parliament and the House of Commons, faced with a King who seemed bent on raising another Royalist army, decided on regicide and signed his death warrant.

Just before Charles I climbed the Whitehall scaffold to face the executioners axe, Parliament rushed through an emergency bill to make it an offence to proclaim a new King and to declare the House of Commons as the source of all just power. England effectively became a republic, lead by Oliver Cromwell.

Which just left the royal problem of the Kings son, Charles II, who had made his way north to Scotland, which was then still a separate Kingdom. In 1649 the Scottish Parliament proclaimed Charles II King of Scots and he set about raising his Royalist Scots army to move against Parliament, which culminated in the Battle of Worcester. On the afternoon of September 3rd 1651, Cromwell’s Roundheads routed the Royalist army in a brutal clash, with the Royalists being chased and cut down through the narrow streets of Worcester, so bringing the Civil War to a final and bloody conclusion.

Charles’ supporters fled into hiding and he had no choice but to follow, for capture would have inevitably meant following his father noble footsteps for appointment with the executioners axe. Hunted by a vengeful Cromwell, Charles fled south, eventually evading a detachment of troops in Sussex blocking the bridge at Bramber.

Now in the company of Lord Wilmost and a Colonel Gounter, they hid themselves in the fishing village of Brighthelmstone (now Brighton). The party took rooms at the George Inn in West Street where Colonel Gounter started looking for a way out. Through his acquaintance, a French merchant, he found himself in conversation with Nicholas Tattersell, captain of a filthy little 31ft coaster named the Surprise, which was lying in the mud of Southwick. Her normal trade was lugging coal from Newcastle round to Poole, but Captain Tattersell sniffed out the value of these secretive passengers and agreed to give them passage to France.

On the morning of 16th October, they set sail for the Isle of Wight, then changed course and sailed on through the night towards the French coast where Charles and Wilmot were landed in to exile on Fécamp beach in the cock-boat to begin nine years of exile.

In 1658, with the death of Cromwell, England faced a political crisis and Parliament sought to reunite the country by inviting Charles to return and assume the throne. After the bloody chapters of civil war and the oppression of Cromwell’s puritans, Charles II was a popular King, popularly known as the ’Merrie Monarch’ and admitting to at least 12 illegitimate children.... but back to our story.

Following his return from exile, Charles had no sooner settled into his Thameside Palace at Whitehall than the Surprise appeared, scrubbed clean of coal dust and moored on the opposite side of the river. Captain Tattersell had dressed his little ship with flags so all would know it was in his modest little vessel that Charles had made his escape ten years previously, and that it was to Captain Tattersell that the King was indebted.

Tattersell’s reward was a commission from the Navy, and the Surprise was commissioned as a fifth rate and renamed the ’Royal Escape’. The King then had the ’Royal Escape’ kept moored in the Thames opposite the Palace of Whitehall ’as a reminder to himself and his subjects’.

The gallant Captain was also awarded an annuity and with his new-found wealth returned home to Brighthelmstone where he purchased the Ship Tavern... which is today the Old Ship Hotel on Kings Road in modern day Brighton.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Scenic Saturday - Northumberland

Number 45 in the series.

Northumberland - the northernmost county in England. I have spent very little time in the county but am assured that it is one of the most beautiful in England. The coastline is magnificent with sandy beaches. Offshore are Lindisfarne, also known as Holy island, where a monastery was established in 635, and the Farne Islands, where, in 1838, "In the true spirit of the lifeboat service, Grace Horsely Darling risked her life to rescue others from certain death in a terrible storm", thereby becoming a national celebrity who is today part of the official history syllabus.

Perhaps the star of the coastline is Bamburgh Castle. Spanning nine acres of land on its rocky plateau high above the Northumberland coastline, Bamburgh is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country.

Inland we have the Cheviot Hills and Kielder Forest but this week's picture is of Hadrian's Wall. The wall is a World Heritage Site and marks the limit of Roman rule in Britain, although the Roman army did venture briefly into Scotland. The wall, built about AD100, was a defence against the Picts and Scots. Here we see the remains of a fort on Hadrian's Wall near Housesteads, picture courtesy of Mark A. Wilson.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Good news

Indeed, the best. Last week I was extolling the NHS (here) and the speed with which things were being set up to investigate the cause of my problem. So, on Tuesday this week I had a CT scan and, afterwards, saw a chest specialist. It seemed pretty conclusive that the shadow on my lung was a tumour, but more tests were required. Before I left the hospital on Tuesday, a bronchoscopy had been booked for today. Soon after I reached home (this is still Tuesday) I had a phone call from another department who wanted me in yesterday for other tests on my lungs.

So this morning they shoved a tube up my nose and down the windpipe into my lungs - not a particularly pleasant experience. But the shadow was actually a thick mucous which was partially blocking one lung - no cancer after all. OK, so there is still the little matter of what caused the secretion of the mucous, but that is a minor matter.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


4.30 AM that is, an hour when all decent souls should be sleeping. I come down to the kitchen to see why the dog is barking to find three young foxes playing outside the kitchen door.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Things beyond our control or so nearly beyond our control as to have the same effect mean that postings are likely to be a little disjointed over the next few days. I'm sure any regular droppers-by won't really notice the difference.

Book ends

This week is book-ended nicely by Lions activities. Last Sunday I attended a presentation about a programme called "My Ideal Club" which is being rolled out across our District. It seems to be an updated and extended version of the "Project Refresh" that was all the rage a few years ago. Well, it was all the rage among the powers that were but I don't recall it working up too much enthusiasm at grass-roots level. I have a suspicion that this latest project might go the same way. There are a number of "mentors" already in place and more are being found. Sunday's do was primarily for club members who are interested or might be interested in becoming mentors for other clubs.

Last Sunday involved looking forward but next Saturday we shall be more concerned with looking back. Brighton Lions will be holding their 60th Charter Anniversary dinner and dance. Once again I have been involved in printing the menu cards. We - I - do this so that each attendee has a card with their name on the front (it acts as a place setting) and their specific choice of menu printed inside (when there is a choice of menu). Using a mail-merge programme on the computer makes the origination comparatively easy, but each year I manage to forget that every menu card has to be printed separately. The card just doesn't feed correctly through the printer unless I load just one sheet at a time. Still, I have now got that finished and the cards are sorted into table plan order ready to be passed over to the room decorators. Now I must reply to the District Governor's email. He is writing his speech and wants to know what Brighton Lions were doing 60 years ago. One interesting point is that the Club's first charitable donation, presented at that first charter night, was a gift of £100 to St Dunstan's. Coincidentally, this year our Multiple District has pledged to raise £75,000 for St Dunstan's to pay for a day room at the charity's new centre. Brighton Lions will make a donation this Saturday of £100 for each year of the club's existence and will hand the DG a cheque for £6,000.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The new television - a year on

Having been inspired by my friend Skip to see what I posted a year ago, I see that it was about buying a new television. A few days later I reported that I had bought one - here it is. So, if you have bothered to see what I wrote than, you will be aware that the new set was unable to receive any of the digital channels I was hoping for and could, in fact, barely receive any of the analogue channels. (You see, you really didn't need to look at either of those old posts.) What I think I omitted to do was bring the story up to date.

In the end, I decided to bite the bullet and call in an expert. He erected an aerial on the roof and lo and behold! we can now watch all those Freeview channels. But I still haven't cancelled my cable subscription. You see, if I want to record a programme from one of the digital channels, I have to do it through the cable. Recording through the aerial only works for the analogue channels. Perhaps next year.

Monday, 6 June 2011

The King's Speech

I'm not a film-goer, by which I mean that I don't go to the cinema. I used to, in fact I went most weeks when I was in my late teens as it was a good place to take my girl friend. (And I refuse to expand on that.) I can't remember when I last went to the cinema or what film I saw. It might even have been The Sound of Music, which just shows how long ago it must have been. There are very few films these days that seem sufficiently attractive to persuade me to break my habit. Even if there were one, the Old Bat's lack of mobility would make a cinema trip a little difficult with all the stairs involved. Just recently, though, there has been one film I would have liked to see: The King's Speech. And I watched it last night. The Old Bat bought me the DVD for my birthday last month (either way up, if you must know, which is bingo lingo for 69, so I am fast approaching my allotted three score and ten) and we watched that yesterday. I wasn't disappointed. I can't remember when two hours last passed so quickly (alright, if you want to split hairs it was 113 minutes) and I thought Colin Firth's performance was well-deserving of his Oscar.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


As so often happens, I spoke too soon. Rain has arrived at last. Fortunately, it is not monsoon-type rain which would beat down the plants and run off fast but a steady rain, sometimes no more than a heavy drizzle, which can soak into the ground.

Wot, no rain?

That is a picture of the sky over the South Downs just to the north of Brighton and it was taken on Friday afternoon. It may seem strange to some, but that shade of blue is not the usual colour for an English sky. Our skies are either a pale blue or grey and cloudy. Even this year we have generally seen pale blue skies. I say "even this year" because the weather this year is so different from our norm. The south and east of the country is crying out for rain - at least, the farmers and keen gardeners are. It is becoming a little boring to keep reading in the paper that this is the warmest/driest/longest etc April/May/start to the year/spring etc since 1066/records began/1948/last year etc. Lawns have turned brown, crops are showing every sign of failing. Rivers are dry and fish are having to be rescued. The outlook for otters and kingfishers is said to be alarmingly poor and they are likely to die in large numbers.

The last time we had a really bad drought, the Prime Minister of the day appointed a Minister of Drought (or some such silly title) and immediately the heavens opened. So, come of, Dave! Appoint a Minister for Drought and let's get this over and done with!

(Despite all this, last Sunday was so cold that many people - including us - put their heating back on!)

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Scenic Saturday - Tyne & Wear

Number 44 in the series.

We have now arrived in Geordie-land, inhabitants of the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne being known as Geordies. Tyne & Wear consists mainly of the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland and the surrounding towns such as Tyemouth, Jarrow and Gateshead.

Admiral Lod Collingwood, Nelson's second in command at the battle of Trafalgar, was a Tynemouth man and a monument to him was erected in the town in 1845.

(Picture by Ken Brown)

Friday, 3 June 2011

An apology

It's not the first time I've done it and it probably won't be the last, but I have left myself feeling red of face and very embarrassed. I seem to have lost what little ability I once had to string words together so that others who read them understand what I am trying to say. Perhaps if I had properly proof read yesterday's post I would not be feeling this way. What I had intended was a paean of praise for our beleaguered National Health Service but what I actually posted was a self-pitying whine. I do apologise for that but I am truly grateful for your kind thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

In praise of the NHS

Our poor old National Health Service comes in for plenty of criticism - and, in many cases, deservedly so. I have been known to make uncomplimentary remarks myself, usually about the prevalence of highly-paid chiefs and the paucity of lower ranks. But I must also give praise when praise is due. This is one of those times.

I related a story about three weeks ago in which I mentioned that I went to the doctor because I had been suffering from a cough for about three or four weeks. He prescribed a course of antibiotics which I finished a couple of days before going to France for a week. The drugs had made not the slightest difference (though I should perhaps add that the old-fashioned remedy of hot honey and lemon juice does ease the cough) so on Tuesday - two days ago - I rang the surgery to make another appointment. This time I specified which doctors I was prepared to see and was surprised to be offered a choice of two appointments that very morning. He took my temperature, measured my oxygen level and listened to my chest. He found nothing out of the ordinary and decided an x-ray would be needed. If I opted to travel to Hove Polyclinic, I could visit their walk-in x-ray department any time between 9.00am and 4.00pm. I would have to wait for an appointment at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Parking at the RSCH costs an arm and a leg (and often an hour's wait for a space) whereas it is free at Hove. Guess which I chose! The doctor suggested I telephone in two weeks' time to learn the results of the x-ray.

At Hove, I waited no more than five minutes before I was ushered into the x-ray room and just as quickly back out, all done. I was told to ring my GP in ten days.

That was Tuesday morning. At about 6.15 that evening I answered the phone. It was the doctor. Although he had not seen the x-rays, a report had been faxed to him. My heart and left lung appeared fine, but there was something at the top of the right lung which had not been identified. The GP wanted my to see a respiratory consultant who would probably order a CT scan (whatever that is). He - the GP - would write to the hospital and I should hear in about two weeks. As I said, that was Tuesday evening. Today, Thursday, I had a call from the hospital offering me an appointment for a CT scan at 9.45 next Tuesday with an appointment with a consultant later that morning.

Now that is service, service which I doubt could have been bettered if I had been prepared to pay through the nose for it. (Some would say I already have paid through the nose for it as I paid my National Insurance contributions all my working life.) Of course, the Old Bat is worried that the speed is indicative of the worst. Heck, I'm worried about that myself! But let's give the NHS its due: all those concerned are doing their level best to get this sorted as quickly as possible and I thank them all.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Gone yesterday, back today

The first lot of travellers/gypsies in Withdean Park may have been gone when I walked in the park yesterday morning, but another lot arrived last night! Back to phoning councillors etc in the hope of action.

I woke this morning feeling distinctly woozy and have come to the conclusion that I inadvertently took an overdose last night. I developed rheumatoid arthritis years ago but luckily I usually manage to keep it at bay by taking cod liver oil capsules and the Old Bat watches that I eat a suitable diet. Just occasionally I feel a twinge coming on and resort to taking anti-inflammatory drugs. This time, however, nothing seems to be making my shoulder mobile and pain-free. In an attempt to make sure I got a good night's sleep I took rather more pain killers than usual. They certainly zonked me out and I feel unwoozy again now so maybe I shall have to repeat the exercise tonight.