Friday, 31 August 2012

After the Lord Mayor's Show...

...comes the dust cart.  An old saw often countered with another: dirt goes before the broom.  But this post is concerned with neither the Lord Mayor's Show, the dust cart, dirt, nor the broom.  So what the heckythump am I going on about?

I should think just about everybody - certainly everybody in England - knows that the Olympic Games ended a couple of weeks back.  But now we have the Paralympics.  In the past these have frequently been treated rather as a poor relation but I am pleased to note that is not quite the case this time round.  Admittedly, the television coverage on one of the lesser channels is not so extensive but there seem to be just as many spectators as were at the Olympics.

Yesterday I watched a little cycling and swimming - and the men's wheelchair basketball between Great Britain and Germany.  My, that's one viscious sport and I am full of amazement at the way those guys control both wheelchair and ball.  And to see a one-legged person cycling...

Admiration just isn't a strong enough word to express my feelings at the way these guys and girls have put aside their disabilities.


For today's bridge picture we head back south to the Ardeche region of France where we found this grass-grown crossing over the stream into a field.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Cheer up for Chatham

Sheerness is in sight!

Well, perhaps.  When I saw my GP for the results of the blood tests he very kindly confirmed that I have a dose of rheumatoid arthritis, something I already knew.  He went on to tell me that there are newer drugs than the anti-inflammatories I am taking now and that these are more effective in controlling the stiffness and the pain.  But there are side effects.  Of course.  And he wanted a specialist to talk me through those side effects before prescribing so he would refer me to the rheumatological department at the hospital.

A few days later, after nagging from the Old Bat, I asked the doctor to short circuit the system by referring me to a specialist as a private patient.  Yesterday I received a telephone call and I now have an appointment for next Thursday.  Could it be that within a couple of weeks or so I will be back to normal, able to walk the dog, dry myself properly after a shower, put on a pair of socks?

I have to admit to a certain ambivalence about "going private".  Yes, I can afford to pay for a consultation and if anything else is found to be necessary I can always switch back to treatment under the NHS.  And it's not my socialist leanings (which I don't think I have) that cause me to hesitate.  But it does bother me slightly that other people have to wait weeks and weeks for a consultation whereas I, who have a little money, can jump the queue.  I suppose, though, by going private I am leaving consultation slots for others.

My main reason for doing this, however, is the Old Bat.  She is partially disabled and I am her carer.  She is unable to walk more than a few paces without assistance so you can imagine the sight we have been with both of us hobbling along arm in arm.  But I hope that will soon be a thing of the past.


Hey - I managed to avoid all those cliches like light at the end of the tunnel!


I had hoped to bring you another picture of the South Downs today.  When I got out of bed the sun was bright and the sky was blue with a few puffy clouds - perfect.  After my shower the scene was the same with the Portland stone of the Chattri gleaming.  My camera was downstair.  By the time I had dressed the sun had gone a grey clouds covered the sky.  By the time I was downstairs it was raining.  So it's another bridge.  Today we are travelling to Colmar, Alsace, in the north-eastern corner of France.  The architecture here is different from anywhere else in the country with something of a Bavarian influence.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Botheration! I missed it

and there won't be another coming along until Christmas.  That, of course, is one of the downsides of retirement - one day is very much like the one before and the one after.  Unless one of those days is a special red-letter day like Christmas or the day of the chiropodist's visit.  All this means that bank holidays come and bank holidays go without any way of marking them as special except noting that the builder's van down the street hasn't moved this morning and my word the post is late today but of course there is no post today as it's a bank holiday.

Monday was one such - and it was Tuesday evening before I realised.  The August bank holiday used to be on the first Monday of August but for some reason I've forgotten (if I ever knew in the first place) it was moved years and years ago to the last Monday.  And I don't think it's called the August bank holiday any more.  I think it might be the Late Summer Holiday or some such.

But whatever it's called, it's the last bank holiday in England (and Wales and Scotland and - I think - Northern Ireland) until Christmas.  It's not like that in other countries.  Spain, in common with many other countries, marks All Saints' Day on 1 November by making it a holiday.  In Belgium, France and Poland Remembrance Day - 11 November - is a holiday.  In fact, as far as I can see the only other European countries that go longer than us without a bank or public holiday are Denmark and the Netherlands.

I find it interesting, too, to see the number of days marked as public holidays in the various countries:

Australia - 10
Belgium - 10
France - 9
Germany - 14
Japan - 17
South Africa - 12
USA - 12
England - 8


I have not managed to get out to take any new photos for some time so am foisting these repeats on you.  Today I continue with the bridge series and here is perhaps the world's most famous broken bridge, Pont Saint-Bénezet in Avignon.  Broken by floods in 1668, it has become known as the bridge where all the world dances (according to the song).

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Rejoice with me

That which was lost has come back home.  My navbar quite mysteriously reappeared.

Hell, Hull and Halifax

The Beggars' Litany is something that I have only just heard about which is, in one way, quite surprising as it has been about since 1594.  On the other hand, as it refers primarily to Yorkshire it is perhaps not so surprising.  I am not suggesting that Hell and Yorkshire are synonymous but Hull and Halifax are both in the county - or were, until somebody started playing silly devils with the boundaries.  Anyway, the litany as I have heard it is, "From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us".

The first explanation I came across suggested that this was a thieves' litany and the Hull was the site of a particularly obnoxious gaol while the gallows were to be found at Halifax.

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable puts the three places in a different order with Hell and Hull changing places and calls it the beggars' litany.  This book also states that Hull was to be avoided because there was little chance of getting anything without doing hard labour and Halifax was notorious for executing thieves with the Halifax gibbet, a sort of forerunner of the guillotine.

And there was me thinking that the guillotine had been invented in France at about the time of the revolution when all the while we had it in England.  Maybe they had it in France as well.


We stay in France for today's bridge - or what remains of it.  This was a toll bridge built by the powerful viscount de Polignac over the River Loire in what is now a suburb of le Puy en Velay in south central France.  Floods in 1795 left it in the damaged state we see today.

Monday, 27 August 2012


If yesterday morning I felt as though I had taken two steps forward, today is more like three back so I will confine myself to posting a picture or two in what seems to be turning into a bridge series.

Way down in the south of France is the Pont du Gard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The bridge was built by the Romans as an aqueduct to supply the city of Nimes with water and opened in about the year 60 AD.

 You get an idea of the scale of things when you realise those are people on the lower level of the building.  I suppose one shouldn't take pleasure in defacements but when you enlarge the following pictures and see the dates you might feel some amusement.  Grafitti is not a new thing!


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Last night

Brighton is not a typical English town in that it has more restaurants per head  of population than any other town or city in England outside London - and I should think we run London pretty close.  We have Malay, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Mongolian, Indian, Persian, Lebanese, Brazilian, Mexican, deep South, Greek etc etc.  Things were different back in the late 50s and early 60s.  Pasta was unheard of but there might have been a smattering of Indian restaurants.  For most Englishmen, going out for a meal meant a trip to the local Berni Steak House.  As the name implies, this was a chain of look-alike restaurants where the emphasis was on steak and chips.  I don't remember all the menu but starters would have included soup and prawn cocktail.  There were dishes other than steak for the main course and desserts included Black Forest gateau.  That has yet to make a real come back but prawn cocktail is on the menu again everywhere - including Stanmer House.

The Old Bat and I arrived first but I declined to sit in the luxurious-looking leather sofas and armchairs in the entrance hall on the grounds that I would find it difficult to extract myself but we had only been there about a minute when the other three couples arrived and we went through to the dining room.  There is a magnificent country house ambience with mismatched tables and chairs - all gleaming and very well polished - and one would really expect the menu to be rather more fine dining than the upmarket pub food that it actually is.

I had heard and read various reports, most of which praised the food but many of which mentioned slow service.  We had deliberately booked early in the hope thatthe service might be quicker while things were quiet.  Well, we were partly successful.  The service was friendly and pleasant but certainly not slick.  We actually had to call a waitress over to take our order for food - and then the starters came in fits and starts rather than all together.

Taking a step back in time, I should say that the menu for the day (it was dated) was different from the "today's menu" shown on the web site which I had read during the afternoon.

Despite the fairly slow service, the evening passed very pleasantly - as one would expect with a group of friends, food and wine.  The food was good and the portions large (none of us wanted dessert) but...

This all came at a price.  Given that we ordered seven starters, eight mains, four coffees, one tea, two bottles of wine, one glass of wine, one tomato juice, one half of lager shandy and a tonic water, I thought the bill for £226 a bit over the top.  I could have found numerous restaurants in and around Brighton where we could have eaten just as well, albeit maybe not quite so "up market", for abot two-thirds of the price.  As I say, enjoyable but a bit on the expensive side.  I'm not likely to be hurrying back.


I am slightly envious of Jean and Peter, one of the couples from last night.  They trundled off this bright, sunny morning in their elderly VW camper to take the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe and points south with no precise destination in mind.  They intend driving from Dieppe through Rouen and Orleans and then on past Clermont Ferrand to Provence.

On their way they will almost certainly drive over the Millau viaduct, the world's tallest bridge.  This is my take on it.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Where's my nav bar gone?

It just upped and went and even though I've gone to the layout and changed it, it won't come back.

"I promise to pay the bearer..."

I suppose there was a time when those words, which appear on every English bank note, could be counted on but goodness knows how long ago that was.  It was such a simple concept; one deposited gold at the bank - say, £100-worth - and the bank would give one notes in exchange.  Much easier to carry around, less obvious to ne'er-do-wells, less likely to be lost in total.

Things have become so much more sophisticated since those days.  Indeed, they have become more sophisticated since the banking industry and I parted company back in 1985 and I understand very little of what I see in the financial news these days.  Take quantative easing.

QE involved the Bank of England pumping close of £400 billion into the economy, by which I mean they printed rather more than a shed-load of money and somehow eased it into circulation.  I gather the idea was that banks would lend more to businesses looking to expand and to private individuals to buy capital goods.

Excuse me?  Isn't this where we came in?

Now there are calls for the B of E to print more money for another dose of QE - on the basis that it didn't work last time.

Somehow I just can't get my head round this.


What I do understand is that the Old Bat and I together with three other couples are going out for a meal this evening.  We are going to try the newish restaurant in this building, Stanmer House and I am looking forward to the evening immensely.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Enforced idleness

I really am becoming very frustrated by this enforced semi-idleness.  There are still so many things I can't do - and they vary from day to day.  For example, yesterday I was trying to dry a glass but found myself unable to put the tea-towel inside the glass. Today I could do it.  Then again, I have been unable to drive for the last two days as my left hand has been too weak for me to grasp the steering wheel.  I'm hoping for better things this afternoon.

It doesn't help that my wife is partially disabled.  Her main problem is walking.  She has difficulty balancing and quite frequently needs help. Realistically, I suppose she needs a zimmer frame or similar but I would not wish to make the suggestion to her: it has to come from herself.

When I saw my doctor last week he proposed referring me to the rheumatological department at the hospital.  It seems that there are newer drugs on the market than those I am using, better at controlling arthritis.  As always, there are possible side-effects and the doctor wants a specialist to talk me through the matter.  I rang the doctor today and asked him to refer me as a private patient in an attempt to speed things up.


It's quite common to see signs warning of new road layouts when there has been no change in the road for two years or more.  Both in England and in France one sees signs on motorways advising that services are now fully open or there is a new restaurant.  Those signs seem to stay there for years and years.  But this must be one of the oldest obsolete signs in the country if not the world.  It dates from 1828 and is on the bridge at Sturminster Newton, Dorset.

Pic by Steinsky from Wikipedia.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Here and there

"Here" being Brighton (where I live) and "there" being Falmouth.  My brother moved to Cornwall when he retired from the police and is now living in a small village a few miles from Falmouth.  I have taken to checking the weather reports on the back page of the paper every morning to compare his weather and mine.  Given that many people head to Cornwall for their summer holidays it is perhaps surprising to see that Brighton is regularly sunnier, drier and warmer than Falmouth.  Indeed, one day last week Brighton was actually 10 degrees warmer than Falmouth.


I don't know if this is a case of great minds thinking alike or of fools seldom differing, but I was musing about spam comments on this blog and, lo and behold, Buck goes and posts about the same thing.

I have rarely been hit by a spam comment - until the last week or so - and now I get two or three a day.  Fortunately, as Buck says, Blogger has its act pretty much together and only one of those unwanted comments slipped through the net to appear for all to see.  But I certainly do not want to revert to using word verification if it can be avoided.


Unwelcome visitors.  It's that time of the year, or - rather - that time in the ripening of the pears.  Every year when the pears reach a certain point in their growth - long before they are fully grown or anywhere near ripe - jackdaws flock into our tree and gorge themselves.  It would be less of a problem if they would refrain from taking a peck at one pear and moving to another.  This means that half our crop (when we eventually harvest it) has bits missing and discoloration round the missing bits.  But at least the pesky birds usually attack only those pears towards the top of the tree.


More unwelcome visitors.  I decided the other day that I could manage a very short walk in the woods and drove to the Coldean Lane car park for Stanmer Great Wood only to find that travellers have once again dug through the bank and moved a dozen or so caravans into the clearing. They have also taken over half the car park.  Unwilling to run the gauntlet of the camp, I decided on a different, longer route which I found exhausting.  But at least I was able to enjoy a walk through the Pudding Bag and it's beech wood where the leaves are a delightful green and there is gold on the ground all year round.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

War news

  • War news 1:  On 22 August 1485 Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at Bosworth thereby establishing the Tudor dynasty in England and ending the War of the Roses.
  • War news 2:   On the same date in 1642, Charles I declared war on Parliament.  This was the start of the Civil War which brought Oliver Cromwell to power.
  • War news 3:  It was on 22 August 1776 that 24,000 Redcoats arrived at Long Island with the intention of capturing New York city.
 And that's about all I have for you today. Sorry about that.

Oh, there's just the picture.

Summer, and we occasionally see a hot air balloon amost directly over the garden.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

What larks, Pip, what larks

I think that title is a slight misquote but it describes exactly how I felt after the decision had been made to withdraw from the holiday lettings market.  Some might well snear and accuse me of running away but I look on it as regaining my freedom.  There are so many things - mostly small enough in themselves but looming large when lumped together - that we either not have to do or will now feel able to do.  For example:
  • When we bought the cottage I started on a rolling redecoration scheme that ensured the whole house was redecorated every three years.  I wanted it always looking fresh for our guests.  Now I can repaint when I think it necessary.
  • With Saturday being our advertised change-over day, we felt obliged - at least during the summer - to travel on Saturdays ourselves in case a booking came in.  Now, even at the height of the season, we can travel on whatever day we like and get cheaper Channel crossings as a result.
  • By not travelling on  Saturday we shall be less likely to find motorway service areas (one in particular) full of Brits and their screaming brats.
  • We can leave the beds covered in polythene to stop mice nesting in the duvets.
  • We will be able to leave toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo, razor and deodorant on the shlf in the shower room instead of packing them away in a locked cupboard when we leave.
  • Ditto wrapped foodstuff like packets of coffee and tea bags, containers of sugar etc.
  • I will no longer find that the dustmen have refused to take away a sack as it obviously contains something which should be recycled, forcing me to rummage through chicken bones, potato peelings, coffee dregs and all sorts of nasty things to hoick out an empty milk bottle or such like.
On the other hand, I will have less opportunity to feel smug and superior as we pass a queue half a mile long at the toll station.  All those Brits needing to pay cash, whereas I have a transponder which lets me through and bills me later.

And I certainly shan't miss the hassle of dealing with those awkward customers who seem to be growing in number.

Today's picture reflects the mood - a new dawn at Les Lavandes.

Monday, 20 August 2012

It's their loss

It was rather more than nine years ago that we first started advertising our holiday home to let.  The early advertisements were in newspapers and I printed and bound dozens of brochures which we sent out in esponse to telephone enquiries.  For the first two or three years we let the cottage for perhaps 8 or 9 weeks a year, producing a reasonable "profit" but requiring a lot of work in printing brochures etc.  But is was very nice to receive the compliments.
"The house was brilliant.  We have never stayed anywhere quite so well equipped, especially in the kitchen."  (JW, Kent)

"Loved the house.  It is even nicer than it looks in the pictures."  (CS, Yorkshire)

"We enjoyed your property very much.  What an agreeable area."  (JB, Norfolk)   

Not all our guests were from the top drawer.  Some left jam and marmarlade spattered across the floor; some broke ornaments and just threw away the broken pieces without saying anything; someone broke the large, earthenware holder for umbrellas and walking sticks, stuck it together with glue and said nothing.  One that did amuse me was the guest who sent us a postcard asking if we had the key to the letterbox!  If I had replied they would have left before the reply arrived - and anyway it would have been left in the locked postbox.

Then bookings started tailing off and we turned to the internet.  The one benefit was that I had no need to produce brochures:  no extra enquiries or bookings came our way.  What did start coming was complaints.  The road was too busy; the house was too far from anywhere; there were farmyard smells and muck on the roads.  Most of these we shrugged off, mainlybecause there was nothing we could do about them anyway.

Then somebody complained about the downstairs bedroom being damp.  She said the bedding was damp, the drawers in the chest smelled of damp.  (She was the one who had left a large burn mark in the middle of the dining room table and I had told her I was withholding her damage deposit.)  During her stay the temperatures were into the 30s so the problem was probably condesation and lack of air circulation.  The next guests also complained of the damp, saying their books had started curling at the corners.  Funny ours - which had been in the house for years - had never done so.

And now our latest guests.  They had booked for four nights but their car broke down so they rang Sue (the lady in France who acts as an emergency contact and checks the cottage between stays) to ask if they could stay longer while the car was repaired.  Sue checked with us and of course we said OK.  They eventually left without telling anyone.  The first we knew was when one of our neighbours rang to say there was a light left on and it appeared the visitors had gone.  Then I received an email saying they were back and had left the key in a flower planter (instead of posting it back to us as requested).  I responded that they owed us as they had stayed eight nights rather than the four booked and paid for.  This is what I got by return:
...the down stairs bedroom is very damp every night our bedding was wet and the mattress smelt as if someone had urinated on it. My sister slept upstairs and said that it was fine up there but my husband and I had the down stairs room and I cried when I realised we had to stay longer. Its not a complaint because I don’t do complaining but maybe you could look into it I have come home with a chest infection and I think its due to sleeping in that room.
 That is the room the Old Bat and I use whenever we are there, and we were the last to use it before these people.  The Old Bat has a very keen sense of smell and she has no complaint about the mattress, nor do we find the bedding wet.

So we are not letting any more.  It's just not worth the candle.

So, tough luck all you whinging Poms back there in England.  We shall enjoy our hideaway and refuse to share it!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

My wife thinks I'm mad

After breakfast this morning I picked up my car keys and the mobile phone.

"What are you doing?" asked the Old Bat.

I told her I planned to take the dog for a walk - the first since last Monday as my legs have not been up to it since then.

"Are you sure that's sensible?"

"I'll be OK and she needs to stretch her legs."

I struggled to get a pair of outsize socks on feet that looked like miniature barrage balloons and stuff said feet into a pair of shoes.  Out in the car I saw the temperature registered 23.5.  That might not seem more than merely warm to some people, but when it's as humid as it is today, that's hot in England!

By the time I had struggled round part of the park I had to agree with the Old Bat.  This was just not sensible.  But who wants sensible all the time?  And anyway, the dog enjoyed it.


Skip has reminded me that it over 14 months since I last smoked.  How long before I can call myself a non-smoker, or am I always to be a smoker who has not smoked since xxx, a recovering smoker?


We have reluctantly made the decision to stop renting out our holiday home in France.  When we bought the place the idea was that we would recoup some of the standing costs of owning a residence secondaire by letting it out as self-catering holiday accommodation.  For the first couple of years all seemed to be going well but since then things have just gone downhill.  We have had just two bookings this year, and each of those was for less than a week.  The rental hasn't covered the advertising costs, let alone the extra electricity, gas and water charges.  No, there are just too many people trying to do the same as us - and most of them are actually living there.  Then our house is not in a touristy area, and we ask people to bring their own bed linen and towels.  But the main reason is the guests.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll tell you about the latest.  Meanwhile, here is a picture of the living room.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Friday afternoon

A warm, Friday afternoon in mid-summer - yesterday, in fact. Just a few minutes after two o'clock. I had gone upstairs to apply some more heat rub on my knees and sat on the bed to do so. I glanced out of the window. For once there were no planes overhead, neither high-flying, long-haul jets leaving whispy con trails nor low flying, small planes bumbling across the valley. There were no herring gulls wheeling and mewing, no wood pigeon in the sycamore tree disturbing the peace with its repetitive coo-cooing, no jackdaws yattering and yacking on the garage roof. Utter silence.

The houses below me were almost shining in the sun and looked for all the world as though they were waiting for something. The breathless hush added to the air of expectancy. Then I realised. What I could see and feel was not anticipation, it was more a savouring of the moment, the moment of peace which should not be there on a Friday afternoon.

No sooner had I realised that than a flock of chattering sparrows arrived in the plum tree outside the window. Then a wood pigeon landed in the sycamore tree. Children on a summer holiday activity scheme ran onto the school playing field laughing and calling to each other. Traffic started to move. Friday afternoon had returned to normal - but the snatched minute or two of peace was priceless.

Friday, 17 August 2012

One of those days

It's one of those days after a restless night when all I want to do is curl up in the armchair and doze or read but we can't be having that so here is a story sent to me recently by a Maryland correspondent.  I hope it amuses you as much as it did me.

God said:
"Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles."
It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?


Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.
They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
Yes, Sir.
These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.
You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?
After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
And where do they get this mulch?
They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....
GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

What will I do when...

As should be fairly obvious to anybody even glancing at this blog, I do like to bore all you good people with the odd photograph, sometimes a very odd photograph.  Now, if you are not a picture-uploading type of person you may very well be unaware of the process involved.  Not that it's at all tricky.  It's really been made very simple by those clever people beavering away at Bloggerville.  But let me say that if a picture is uploaded from one's computer, it is stored on a site known as Picasa.  Here one may store literally hundreds of pictures free of charge.  BUT there is a limit to the space allowed.  When I checked the other day I found that I have used something like 84% of my free space.  What, I wonder, will I do when there is none left?  I have not found a way to delete old pics no longer required, although I suppose that might be possible.  I shall have to keep looking for the solution to this one before it becomes a real problem.

Meanwhile, we are still - or rather, I am still harking on about my visit to Boston all those years ago.  We went on a whale watching trip and were lucky enough to see some.  I have a relatively new digital camera and I was not then accustomed to the delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter actually opening.  The result was 97 pictures of the sea and 12 pictures with bits of whales - like this one.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Manners Makyth Man

My title is the motto of New College, Oxford - well, it was new when it was founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester.  He actually named the college the college of St Mary of Winchester in Oxford but that was too much of a mouthful and there was already another college officially named St Mary so this one became known as the New St Mary's, or just New College.  Bishop William also established Winchester College in the city of Winchester to act as a feeder to New College.  This, too, had the motto, "Manners Makyth Man".

I suppose if there is one thing trickier than explaining the rules of cricket in three paragraphs it must be trying to explain the difference between public schools (such as Winchester, Harrow, Oundle) and private schools.  After all, public schools aren't really public and private schools aren't private.  Throw into the mix state schools and church schools and...  Well, that's not what today's blog is about so let's not get side-tracked.

Manners.  Etiquette.  Usually a fairly simple matter of doing things like holding open a door rather than letting it slam back into the person behind but sometimes far more obscure.  Manners change with time.  When I was a child it was impressed upon me by my mother that a gentleman always walked on the traffic side of a lady.  (My mother told me it was because during the war American soldiers would sweep women into their jeeps so the man walked on the outside.  I still don't know whether or not to believe her.)  Anyway, that particuar "good manner" seems to have passed on and nobody bothers about it nowadays.

There was a time when one could buy books providing guides to etiquette.  Maybe one still can.  And maybe I need one.  You see, I have the feeling that I may have unwittingly offended against the etiquette of blogging.

Most of the time I lurk on other folk's blogs without making any comment and yet I have come across other bloggers who seem unable or unwilling to read a blog without adding some words of their own; maybe just "Well done" or "I fully agree" and maybe realting a fairly lengthy story of an experience similar to that decribed by the blogger.  Should I comment more?  Is it ill-mannered to drop by without commenting?

And what about those comments to my own blog?  I see some bloggers valiantly replying to every single comment.  That's OK if one has the time - which I don't - and works best when the template being used allows for replies to individual comments.  Mine only allows for more comments to be added to the end of the list so that's not so good.

Well, until somebody produces an idiot's guide to blogiquette I guess I shall just remain an ill-mannered lout.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a problem with yesterday's picture so here is the Old State House, Boston.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


I went there once.  Boston, Mass, that is - not Boston, Lincs.  I've never been there.  But Boston, Mass - I've actually been there three times if I am to tell the whole truth, although I susppose it does depend to some extent of how you define "went there".  A neighbour of ours in France speaks very good English although he always claimed never to have been to the country.  He learned the language because he had to visit Australia, South Africa, the USA and so on in connection with his job, which is something to do with wine-making equipment.  Anyway, he proudly announced to me on one occasion that he had been to England.  One of his trips entailed taking a plane to London and changing - so he had been to England.

Two of my three visits to Boston are like that.

It was nearly eight years ago that it all happened.  The Old Bat had always wanted to visit New England in the fall and to mark a particularly sensitive birthday of hers I suggested we went over in the autumn half term holiday.  We flew into Logan airport and picked up a hire car before driving out to Danvers where I had booked a room at the cheapest motel I could find.  Days Inn or some such.  So that was visit No 1.

Visit No 3 was at the other end of our holiday when we flew back to England but in between was my one real time in Boston.  On the first full day of our holiday we drove part of the way back before taking a train into the city.  We didn't follow the Patriot Trail or take a harbour tour or visit the USS Constitution but we did stroll across the Common, explored Beacon Hill and Quincy Market - and we went whale watching.

I was getting used to a digital camera and one of the few Boston pictures that was reasonable was this one of Derne Street on Beacon Hill.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Hocus pocus

I am forever being surprised by the different panaceas promulgated by people, people who, in my view, very often should know better.  Granted, some of these remedies are based on scientific fact and many are based on old-fashioned do-it-yourself medicine using the healing properties of plants.  But there are still many that are little more than old wives' tales or the snake oil remedies of the wild west.

The Old Bat's favourite remedy is what she calls "hot and cold".  First, a cold compress (a bag of frozen peas does the job very well) is applied to the afflicted part.  Then, just before frostbite sets in, it is replaced by a hot water bottle.  If ever I, or anyone else, complains of pain in a joint, the old duck will ask, "Have you tried hot and cold?"  I sometimes think that if I were to announce myself pregnant she would simply ask, "Have you tried hot and cold?" As you might imagine, during this latest longer-lasting-than-usual attack of arthritis of mine, she has nagged me to use her cure-all.  I have tried it several times and eventually plucked up the courage to tell her it was not doing me the slightest bit of good.

Her next suggestion rather surprised me.  I was to use an analgesic cream.  The pain-killing capsules with the same brand name are excellent so I was happy to fall in with this suggestion.  It did seem to work, but only very little so I have given that the elbow.

I have been swallowing a daily cod liver oil capsule for something like 25 years in the hope that this might oil the joints but I heard a different suggestion this week.  It was at a Lions dinner meeting and the OB and I were sitting at a table with the newest member of the club, a widow of a certain age.  A Yorkshire lass - but we don't hold that against her.  She was explaining how her late husband was a drummer (I'm sure she told me before that he was a trumpeter!) and his arthritis made life exceedingly difficult.  Until he (or she) heard on the radio of, well, not a cure but a way of easing the problem.  A certain Dr Dale Alexander proposed that cod liver oil capsules were useless and that what was needed was a cod liver oil milkshake.  Our new Lion was unable to recall the details so the next day I was nagged into searching the web.  I soon found his theory.  This involves placing two ounces of whole milk into a screw-top container, adding a tablespoon of cod liver oil and shaking to mix the two.  This should preferably be taken an hour before breakfast.

(I also found that "Dr" Alexander graduated from high school in 313th place of a class of 350+, he lasted less than one semester at college and claimed he was a DPhil from a London college he never attended.)

Nothing for it, but we had to source the ingredients during our next supermarket foray and I have started drinking this cocktail (and I can't taste the CLO) last thing at night.  I now find that a tablespoon of the oil is equivalent to 15 ml - and the recommended daily dose is just 5 ml!  So, if anybody phones they might not get an answer as I expect to be spending rather longer than usual in a small room where we have no phone.

What does seem to work for me is a heat rub, a type of embrocation much used by amateur sportsmen and women.  A little applied to the painful joint brings a soothing warmth and an easing of the pain.  Another help is, believe it or not, exercise.  If I have a painful hip, kneee, ankle or whatever (anywhere below the waist really) I often find that a gentle walk for 15 minutes will see the pain disappear.


So, Skip and his entourage are currently  in Boston to celebrate his birthday with his twin cousin. 

Skip, this is the nearest I could find to a duck!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Nearly there

I wonder if anyone missed me yesterday.  Probably not.  I woke feeling very woozy having taken a couple of painkillers during the night.  Consequently, I spent pretty much all of the morning simply dozing in the armchair.  Even after lunch there was no way I could climb to my office in the loft.  I'm not there now, either, as my younger son dropped in with the delightful granddaughter and he has fetched the laptop from the office.

So, tonight sees the closing ceremony.  (The Olympic Games, for those living on a different planet.)  I can't say I am sorry as I am beginning to get bored with the whole amazing, fantastic, brilliant, incredible, fabulous, etc, etc, etc shebang.  Yes, there have been some great moments, and not just when Team GB won another gold!  I was so pleased to watch Mo Farrar win his second gold last night in the 5,000 metres.

Meanwhile, though, life goes on for us ordinary mortals just as it always does.  As the Bard put it, "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day until the last syllable of recorded time".  Yeah, well.  Anyway, the farmer has started harvesting the field of barley across the valley.

Friday, 10 August 2012

The true story of the Devil's Dyke

Just north of Brighton, running approximately southwards towards the sea from the steep, scarp face of the South Downs is a dry valley nearly a mile long and 300 feet deep.  This is the Devil's Dyke.

Hundreds of years ago there lived in the Weald of Sussex a devout Christian man, Cuthman, later to be Saint Cuthman.  It was he more than any other who had been responsible for the remarkable spread of Christianity in this heavily wooded and largely inaccessible county.  Late one afternoon, as he was on his way to visit an old lady living as a hermit on the top of the Downs, he paused awhile to admire the view and catch his breath after climbing the steep slope of the Downs.  Maybe too, he felt a little pride as he saw the number of church towers dotting the woodland and fields. 

As he sat there, the Devil suddenly appeared beside Cuthman.

"This," said the Devil, "was my country until you interfered.  I will demonstrate my power by digging a ditch through the Downs to the sea so that all those people and churches will be drowned."

After some discussion, the two agreed that if the Devil could indeed dig a ditch through the Downs before the first light of dawn, he would possess Cuthman's soul.  On the other hand, if he failed, he would flee Sussex never to return.

As darkness started to fall, Cuthman continued on his way to visit the old lady and the Devil started furiously to dig.  Cuthman heard the woman's confession and told her her penance.

"You must rise at three o'clock, place a lighted candle in your window and pray for two hours."

Cuthman left and returned to watch the Devil as he dug.  At three o'clock, as instructed, the old lady placed a lighted candle in her window.  Cuthman drew the attention of this to the Devil who mistook it for the first light of dawn.  He threw down his shovel in disgust and, true to his word, left Sussex for ever.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Late to the party

Just couldn't get going this morning and spent most of the time dozing in the arm chair.  Since then a session of shiatsu, a type of massage, has improved matters enormously.  I have already booked another session for next week!  Mary (the masseuse) told me to go home and relax for an hour - so I did what I was told and have watched Charlotte Dujardin win her second gold medal in the dressage.  What a triumph!

A minor triumph for me the other day was to walk the dog on the Downs again - the first time for weeks.  We didn't go far but it was good to see this view once again.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

I must say I have rather surprised myself this week.  It all dates back some seven years when London was awarded (as it was put then) the 2012 Olympic Games.  I was disappointed as I felt sure this would cost me and my fellow countrymen dearly, both in terms of hard cash and in reputation.  Well, I have to take back what I said.  Certainly the preparation and staging of the Games has been expensive but, despite hitches, everything was ready on time and the stories I am hearing of how friendly and welcoming London is to visitors from across the world show England in a light completely different from the usual view of gloomy, grumpy, grey people.  The television coverage will have shown London in sparkling sunshine and with landmarks and tourist attractions looking positively inviting.  It should do wonders for the tourist trade.

And the Games themselves.  I have been quite caught up in the euphoria of all the gold falling around the necks of our athletes and have sat watching sports of many types, from water polo to dressage, from beach volleyball to cycling.  We might be lying just third in the medal table but we are way ahead if one compares the ratio of gold to millions of population.

It has also been a pleasant surprise to hear our athletes, when interviewed after winning their medals, able to string several words together and form proper sentences unpunctuated with "like" or "you know".  They have been amazingly modest and seemingly very likeable people.

All in all it has made me proud to be British.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Family heirlooms

My good friend Skip posted a piece of delightful length about the family dog - although really it was about family heirlooms.  So, not to be outdone, here is my two-pennyworth.

When I was a child living in the Medway towns, my paternal grandparents lived in the house next door to ours.  Those houses were two in the middle - well, nearly the middle - of a terrace of six.  The layout of the houses was identical, except that each was the mirror image of the houses on either side.  For example, in our house, when entering by the front door the stairs were on the left and to the right of them was the passage to the rest of the ground floor.  This consisted of a front room (rarely used, although I still remember having to piano practice in that room which just had a parafin heater) with the main living room (which we called the back room) behind that.  There was a small larder/pantry off this room at the far right corner.  Beside the back room was the kitchen with the copper for boiling the laundry, an ancient gas stove, a sink with a gas water heater over and a table fastened by hinges to the wall opposite the cooker so it could be raised or lowered as necessary.  Beyond the kitchen was a small lobby with a door to the back garden and the toilet just beyond.

Upstairs was very similar with a double bedroom at the front, a small double over the back room, an even smaller single over the kitchen and the bathroom at the front beside the big double bedroom.  The bathroom was just that: a bath with a huge, scary geyser to heat the water and a hand basin.

I really don't know why I have gone on at such length about the layout of our house as it has absolutely nothing to do with family heirlooms, which (in case you've forgotten) is what I'm supposed to be writing about.

Apart from a couple of nights in hospital when I had my tonsils removed, the first time I spent a night away from my mother was when I slept at my grandparent's house next door.  These days it would be called a sleepover but that word hadn't been invented then.  I slept in the little back bedroom where, as well as the bed, there was a chest of drawers.  There was little room for anything else.  For some reason, I seem to think that chest of drawers was painted black.

My grandparents, Simon and Alice, had married in 1913.  I'm not certain, but I suspect that chest of drawers was one of their early acquisitions as far as furniture was concerned.  I doubt it was new and it might even date from Victorian times.  Anyway, after my grandmother's death, my parents kept the chest.  It stood, now painted white, in their small, third bedroom.  The drawers all tended to stick and it could be quite a struggle to open any of them to discover what tat my mother had secreted.  After her death we found the drawers full of Christmas cards she had bought but not sent, jigsaw puzzles with pieces missing, balls of wool: as I said, all sorts of tat.

The Old Bat and I were, by then, the owners of an old house in France where the floor of the hall was terra cotta tiles, the ceiling varnished tongued and grooved timber and a big space needing to be filled.  I was slightly surprised that my brother had no wish to acquire the chest of drawers and I knew it was just what we needed in France.  Mind you, the white paint would have to go.  I did consider spending hours with paint stripper but in the end made a mistake and had the chest professionally dipped to strip the paint.  This, unfortunately, had the effect of warping some of the drawers.  All the same, after numerous layers of beeswax lovingly applied, the chest stood in our hall in Brighton before I could take it to France.

It is now in France and I think fits the house perfectly.

The trouble was, we now had a gap in the hall in Brighton.  I eventually managed to buy a similar chest which needed some TLC and was probably over-priced but one drawer is full of things for the grandchildren to play with: colouring books and crayons, jigsaws, playdough, kaleidescope and numerous other things.  They love it - but the family heirloom is still beyond their ken.

Monday, 6 August 2012


Nothing to say today - which is noteworthy in itself!

Driving westwards from Rottingdean to Brighton the road follows close to the edge of the cliffs.  Once past the Ovingdean gap, it climbs to pass Roedean, where the cliffs must be 80' high at least.  It is as one gets towards the top of the hill that this sign appears.  At one time a wag had written underneath, "at very high tides".

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Christmas is coming

But we need to get the Olympics out of the way first.  I'm not much of a sports spectator but I have watched bits and pieces of the Games over the last few days, mainly on Friday when our sports-mad (and one-time PE teacher) daughter was with us.  But hey, we are in third place in the medal table behind (a long way behind) the USA and China.  Fantastic for a small country like ours.

I know this will annoy Skip, Suldog and the rest of the Thanksgiving Comes First brigade, but Christmas is coming.  By which I mean that Brighton Lions Club's plans for service activities around the holiday period are falling nto place.  Things are looking good for the old folks' tea party at a sea front hotel, with live entertainment, and much to my surprise it looks as though we will be able to access names and addresses of old folk who will be on their own on Christmas Day and who will appreciate a small present and a visit from a Brighton Lion on Christmas morning.

Talking of surprises (well, I was really) I got a surprise when I went to fetch the dog from kennels last weekend.  This armoured personnel carrier had broken its tow at the traffic lights.  Quite where it was going and why I have no idea.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Living life in the slow lane

I had always thought my life had slowed down to a crawl after I retired.  If you, dear reader, have retired from work you will know just what I mean: how the jobs seem to take longer to do just because there is more time in which to do them.  But if I thought my life had slowed down before...  well, I had seen nothing yet.  The stiffness and occasional pain brought about by courtesy of this latest bout of arthritis have really reduced life's speed dramatically.  Whereas my first-thing-in-the-morning routine - shower, dress, let the dog out, feed the dog, put out the recycling, make coffee (for breakfast) and tea and take a cup of tea up to the Old Bat - used to take as much as 35 minutes, it now takes me at least an hour and a quarter.  Putting on a pair of socks takes 6 minutes!

The result is that any job or activity is reviewed thoroughly for urgency, importance, enjoyment.  I have done nothing in the garden for several weeks and will soon be inviting the Royal Marines to undertake jungle warfare training in Brighton.  The other day a flourescent light tube at one end of the kitchen failed; the one at the other end - which is rarely used - efused to come on.  I had to call on a friend to replace the failed tube and the starter motor in the other one as I just could not reach up to do the job.  Like the gardening, other jobs are considered too inimportant to bother with.


The good news: I got a cheque from Volkswagen UK.  Back in March my car broke down in the middle of the French countryside.  Green Flag covered the cost of the tow off the motorway, bed and breakfast for two nights, taxis and a hire car but I was still left with the bill of £750 for replacing a failed injector.  I later learned that there is a recall because of a batch of faulty injectors and my car was included but had not yet been recalled.  The dealer approached VW with the result as mentioned.


I didn't mention that when we arrived at our French house two weeks or so back it was to discover that mice had used not just one but both the duvets on the beds upstairs.  One was stained and needed washing and both were slightly nibbled.  We could have put up with the nibbling if it were just family and friends using the house but it isn't.  Indeed, we had no time for washing the duvets before the next paying guests arrived.  We just had to bite the bullet and buy new ones.


Bringing together France, the car and life in the slow lane is this picture of the Pont de Normandie.  The bridge spans the River Seine just upstream from le Havre.  I have shown a different picture before but until this recent trip I have never managed to get a picture showing the bridge from the side.  There is just one place where this shot can be taken and luckily the Old Bat, who was driving, was able to slow down enough for me to take it.

Friday, 3 August 2012

A clinical coincidence?

While I was yet in my 40s I was diagnosed as suffering from rheumatism and the consultant I saw at the local hospital cheerfully informed me that I would be almost crippled with rheumatoid-arthritis by the time I was fifty.  I started taking cod liver oil capsules and the Old Bat made sure that I was eating a suitably balanced diet with plenty of natural oil.  I was also prescribed anti-inflamatory medication.

(The instructions said to take one tablet twice a day but nobody told me just how to manage that.  I tried tying cotton round the tablet so I could pull it back out to take a second time.  I will spare you the nasty details and just say that didn't work!)

I the fullness of time I considered I could probably reduce the medication as I had gone weeks or maybe months with no problems.  One tablet a day seemed quite sufficient.  In the end, that one went by the board as well and I just took the tablets when I felt stiffness coming on.  This way, a month's supply of tabs sometimes lasted my a year or more.

Until last summer.

When my cancer scare turned out to be no more than hypersensitivity to the aspergyllosis fungus in the lungs, I was given a couple of inhalers, one to be used twice a day (the preventer) and the other to be used as and when necessary (the reliever).  It wasn't long before I felt the need to use the anti-inflamatory tabs increasingly frequently and, within 6 months or so, I started on the two a day every day lark.  Now even the full dose does nothing for me and for the last four weeks I have been in increasing pain.

I went to the doctor and asked if the problem could be either two drugs fighting in my body or - more likely - the preventer inhaler setting off the arthritis.  Then I was informed that the preventer is steroid-based and steroids are used to treat arthritis so that should, if anything, be improving the situation.

I am now awaiting the results of blood tests before the doctor decides what to do next.

Maybe it's not the result of one drug having side effects - but it does seem a might big clinical coincidence.


Just before we return from our photographic trip to France, here is a picture of the Place de l'Eglise in our village.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

And that's another one

I suppose my brother and I have been exposed to more slang phrases than many.  Our father served in the Navy for more than 20 years so it seemed quite natural to us to hear the floor described as the deck, the walls at the bulkheads and the ceiling as the deckhead.  We also knew that if Dad said, "Belay the last pipe" he meant us to ignore what he had just said.  "Cheer up for Chatham, Sheerness is in sight" meant that a chore was nearly done while "Drop that and grab a scrubber" was an instruction to stop fooling around and do something useful.

But yesterday I used a phrase I have not heard in a long time - and I used it quite without thinking.  I was telling my younger son that, as far as I am concerned, two guys who are trying to persuade both YS and me to join their company (at unknown cost!) can take a running jump.  Now it seems to me that most semi-intelligent English speakers will realise that the phrase "take a running jump" means go away, get lost.  But I have been completely unable to find its origin.


While in France last month, we were driving through the nearby forest one day when we noticed a number of wreaths on the monument to resistance members taken into the forest and shot by the occupying Germans.  We stopped and discovered that we had only just missed a ceremony of remembrance, 21 July having been the 68th anniversary of the executions.  The fancy wreaths at the front are from local officials while the more modest floral tributes are, presumably, from surviving members of the families. According to a report in the local paper, 500 people attended the ceremony.

Pierre Avoue, 25. George Burban, 18. Maurice Cratien, 21. Albert Gautier, 26. Pierre Marsollier, 42. Pierre Pietin, 29.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Brilliantly barmy!

 You will get no argument from me if you say that at a cost of £27 million it should have been good.  (Just think what the Lions could do with that sort of money in the fight against eradicable blindness!)  Oh, sorry - I'm talking about the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.  Yes, I know it took place on Friday last week but the Old Bat and I were otherwise engaged so I recorded it. We got round to watching it last night.  I had read so much about it in the weekend papers that I was both eager to watch and aprehensive lest I should find that, as usual, my views and those of the critics failed to coincide.  I need not have worried.

How wonderful to involve so many children.  Right at the start there was a children's choir in the stadium, then films of children's choirs in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  There were the children bouncing in the hospital beds in the tribute to the National Health Service, all appearing to find it the greatest of fun.

The display ran the whole gamut of emotions.  It summed up very concisely - almost too concisely - the history of our country BUT made absolutely no mention of any military prowess or might.  This was Fun with a capital F - and it made one proud to be British.  There was the absolutely hilarious spoof arrival of the Queen - and what other country is confident enough in itself to send up its head of state in that way? (see it here) - followed by the most moving rendition of the national anthem that I have ever heard.  This was the obvious time to bring in massed military bands or a large symphony orchestra.  But no, Danny Boyle went for understatement and introduced another children's choir - the Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children - who sang the first and third verses with no accompaniment.  I confess I had tears in my eyes.  Here is the only clip I have managed to find on YouTube.

Frankly, I am completely at a loss to describe the whole ceremony in just a few words.  The best I can come up with is brilliant, barmy, and so, so British.

Beat that, Brazil!

The river Verzée flows oh, so gently around the lower town of Pouancé.  So gently, in fact, that waterlilies are able to grow in it.