Tuesday, 30 September 2014

There will be tears before bedtime

It started out as one of those soft mornings.  I'm sure you know the sort - when the air feels damp but it's not raining.  Some people think of them as Irish mornings, I believe.  They always put me in mind of the Lake District during my first visit to that beautiful corner of England way up north.  That visit was a month of alternating torture and exhilaration.  The Outward Bound course I had been sent on by the bank I worked for was a sort of down-market commando course involving circuit training (the torture) with press-ups, pull-ups and other similar, unnatural activities.  We looked longingly at the hills the other side of Ullswater and were eventually deemed fit enough and sufficiently well instructed in map reading and sundry other manly things to be allowed onto the fells on our own.

Many of those mornings were soft with a special softness - and smell - that the Lake District seems to make its own.

Then, just as I started typing this, the rain pelted down.  But now the sun is shining!

Looking back, it seems almost impossible that so much of the country was under water at the beginning of the year.  We have had a drier than average summer, and England has seen only about 15% of the average rainfall for the month during September.  Maybe the lack of rain is the cause of our raspberries being so small this year.

I was in the doctor's surgery yesterday with an appointment with a doctor I had never seen before.  Actually, the appointment was in the name of the Old Bat as the hospital had told her to get some special "build you up" yoghurt from her GP.  It beats me why the hospital could not have sent her home with some - as the doctor had promised - just as they did with the antibiotic.  But anyway, there I was when a dishy young thing appeared and called out the OB's name.  She looked rather startled when I stood up and approached her but I soon recovered my poise and explained.

But what I intended to write about when I started off was the note I had been given by the receptionist.  This advised that, in common with other surgeries in Brighton,our doctors are to conduct an experiment for six months.  When we telephone to make an appointment, we will be given a time at which, within an hour, a doctor will telephone to conduct an examination - over the phone!  If the doctor then wishes to see the patient, an appointment will be made.

I'm not exactly a died-in-the-wool, not-approving-of-change type generally, but I don't see this as making an improvement.  But I suppose I will have no choice but to go along with it for a while.

Monday, 29 September 2014

I do give in

Sometimes.  And then, usually, wonder what on earth possessed me.  It's those darned quiz thingies on the dreaded Facebroke.  I did it only the other day.  One of my Facebroken friends had gone through the torture and hit the "share" button or whatever it is (I never do that!) and the next thing I knew, I had clicked to do the quiz myself.  Why in the name of all that's sane I should be interested in what my name should be once I have retired is something I will need to discuss with my therapist.  After all, I am already retired.  But why should the name that best suits my retirement ambitions be Irving?  IRVING?  Whoever heard of that as a name?

What I do manage to resist is (or are) all those games that friends recommend.  You know, Candy Crush and Farmville and Pin the Tail on the Trog and such like.  They don't interest me in the slightest.  But neither do those quiz thingies either, so I'm completely at a loss.

It's not as though I actually use Facebroken.  Well, not to participate actively.  I just like to lurk to see what people I know are doing.  Although even that's not exactly true.  I have set up a page for Brighton Lions Club and try to post something at least once a week.  It seems to be quite a good way of keeping our name in front of people.  And here is the link, just in case.

While the OB was in hospital last week, I parked the car at Brighton marina when I went visiting her.  It's free there, unlike at the hospital.  Besides, the hospital car park is usually full with an hour's waiting time.  I could catch a bus for the short ride from the Marina to the hospital, using my free bus pass.  As the weather was so good, I strolled back along the seafront, past Brighton's famous nudist beach.  This is it.  The bank of shingle has been built up to provide privacy and there are warning notices so people aren't too shocked if they see naked men and women.  As you can see, there were none when I walked past last week.

Talking of notices, I did rather like this sign outside a pub:

Sunday, 28 September 2014


That's right - yuzu.

When I first saw the word on the side of the yoghurt pot, it put me in mind of a cryptogram written in my childhood autograph book:

Y Y 4 me

Yes, I know.  Even at 8- or 9-years old it didn't seem either funny or clever to me, and it doesn't now, either. 

But there it was on the side of the yoghurt pot, plain as a pikestaff - yuzu.

(I wonder what it is about pikestaffs for them to be described as plain?)

Yoghurt is not usually on my shopping list.  Indeed, I had to search the aisles just to find the yoghurt in the supermercado yesterday morning.  But the OB had been sent home from hospital on Friday (arriving just before nine o'clock in the evening although I had been phone by a very pleasant Irish nurse at one o'clock to say she - the OB - had been sent to the departure lounge, or discharge lounge or whatever.  Said nurse asked me if I was excited about the imminent arrival chez nous of the old duck and seemed quite disappointed when I told her I am too old to get excited about things like that) and wanted soup, toast and yoghurt for lunch.  So off I duly trotted to buy soup and yoghurt - the toast I could manage as I made bread first thing yesterday.

And there it was - mango and yuzu flavoured West Country yoghurt.

And there's another thing: what is so special about West Country yoghurt?  How is it different from yoghurt made in, say, East Anglia?

It seems that I've missed the news that yuzu is the new superfruit.  Apparently it is a fruit originating in East Asia.  According to the Daily Mail, "So brace yourself for the taste of 2014: yuzu, a rare and costly citrus fruit from Japan, which is predicted to become as popular here as oranges."  Or "Yuzu™ is a next-generation digital education platform that enhances the everyday learning experience and makes college the rewarding journey it's meant to be."  I rather think the yoghurt was made using the fruit.

I'm not into yoghurt, it's too sloppy for my liking.  Give me a dessert I can get my teeth into any day, something like jam roly-poly or sticky toffee pudding.  Mind you, it didn't taste bad when I licked the top after I had pulled it off the pot.  The OB is still too weak to do that; she couldn't even wrestle the skin off a rice pudding at the moment.  But if yoghurt is what it takes, then yoghurt she shall have.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

I wanna tell you a story . . .

Sam Clam and Larry Lobster were the best of friends living at the bottom of the ocean. They were practically inseparable, which explains how they both got caught in a lobster trap together and died together.

Larry Lobster found himself at the Pearly Gates talking to Saint Peter.

"Larry, welcome to Eternity. Here you will be eternally happy before God."

Larry was overwhelmed by the glorious sights, but one thought crept in, "Peter, I am overjoyed to be allowed the glories of the Kingdom of Heaven, but where is my friend Sam Clam. I wish to be with him at this happy time."

Peter looking a bit puzzled started paging through a large book. After a few minutes he closed that book and pulled out an even larger, thicker black book. Finally he stopped and stabbed at the page, "Ah-ha! Sam Clam is in Hell."

"Hell?" asked Larry Lobster, incredulously. "There must be some mistake, Sam and I were together all the time. How could I and not..."

Peter cut him off, "Apparently Sam lied once and once had an impure thought. Please, Sam is not worthy of you or of this place. Take pleasure in all of the glory."

"Can I at least visit Sam and say goodbye?"

A horrified Peter responded, "Of course not! You cannot visit Hell, you are in heaven. Please, Larry, go get your robe, wings, and harp and take refuge in the beauty which awaits you."

Larry acquiesced to Peter, but he remained despondent and sad, despite being in Heaven and all it promised. Larry frequently requested the opportunity to visit his friend Sam Clam. Each time Peter rebuffed him. Larry's depression was so extreme that others in Heaven were not enjoying the afterlife as they had been promised.

Eventually God heard of this and summoned Peter. "Peter, what is wrong with Larry Lobster?" And Peter explained. "Did you tell him it was not reasonable to go to Hell once you had attained Heaven?" And Peter explained that he had. "Then I guess we must make an exception, under certain conditions..." and God explained to Peter what Peter explained to Larry.

"Larry you may go to Hell to visit your friend, Sam Clam. However, you must return before the clock strikes twelve, you must not damage or lose your three Holy possessions: your robe, your wings, or your harp. Do you understand?"

"Oh yes, yes, thank you! Thank you!" and with that Larry rushed down to Hell to visit Sam Clam.

When he got there he was startled to see Sam Clam running a disco. People were dancing and drinking and it was dark so Larry could not find Sam right away. Then from behind he heard "Larry Lobster is that you? I thought you were in Heaven?"

Larry turned around and saw his old friend Sam Clam, dressed to the nines. "Sam I just came to visit and to finally say goodbye."

The two of them talked and reminisced for hours. Larry was enjoying himself immensely, totally oblivious to the time when Sam Clam said, "You had better go, it is almost time."

"But I want to stay here..."

"No Larry, this is not your place. There are things here I won't mention. Go back to Heaven and be happy."

So with tears in their eyes they said their good-byes. Larry rushed up to Heaven and reached the Gates just as the clock struck twelve. Peter was waiting.

 "Larry, you barely made it," said Peter.

"I know but I..."

"And your robe is filthy," said a disgusted Peter.

"I can explain, you see..."

"And your wings! One is ripped and the other is practically fallen off," chastised Peter.

"Funny you should mention that, because..."

"And your harp, Larry, where is your harp?" asked a disappointed Peter.

"Oh dear," answered Larry, "I left my harp in Sam Clam's Disco."

Friday, 26 September 2014

Another early morning

I was determined not to be late getting up this morning.  At the hospital yesterday afternoon the Old Bat and I agreed with the doctor that she should come home today pending a case review next week, after which she will be taken back in for further treatment.  Or rather, they will decide what they need to do about what they have now learned is not a blockage in the intestine but an abnormality of the liver.  Which is what our GP diagnosed in the first place.  So, I needed to make sure I had walked the dog before any likelihood of an ambulance arriving at the top of the drive.

It was not yet eight o'clock when I was on the Roman Camp, having parked and walked across 39 Acres.  A cloudy morning, and even then not quite full daylight.  Had there been no cloud I would probably have seen the sun only just over the horizon.  As it was, there was a yellow tinge to the eastern clouds with ships on the horizon sharply delineated.  Meanwhile, all was murk and gloom to the west.

I started humming to myself (silently, I assure you) an old English folk song, Early One Morning.  I have a vague recollection that this is - or was - the slow march of the Royal Marines.

I had a somewhat eccentric music master for the first few years at senior school.  He loved to play the piano while we sang a whole range of folk songs like this one.  And somehow snatches of many of them have stuck in my memory, although thankfully most are pretty well buried!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Early morning

Having, for some peculiar reason as yet unexplained, woken early this morning, I was over the fields with the dog by eight o'clock.  A beautiful, sunny morning, albeit a touch fresh in the shade of the trees, but the sun was starting to warm things up.  Brighton, or the suburbs of Westdene and Patcham, almost sparkled in the sun.

My early morning could, I suppose, be caused by the strangeness of there being only me in the bed.  The Old Bat went to hospital on Tuesday as an outpatient and was admitted as an emergency, there being a suspected blockage in the intestines and an infection caused by that.  After a massive dose of antibiotics and a glucose drip she looked and felt much better by yesterday afternoon and better still in the evening.  She had a scan yesterday and now we wait for the decision on treatment.

I really have seen to best and, if not the worst, decidedly lower standards of the NHS.  Admission from an outpatients clinic has to be through A&E and that department was manic; over-stretched and under staffed as well as being under-resourced.  The poor nurses were run off their feet, which is why it took about four hours for somebody to prescribe and bring a couple of paracetamol tablets.  On the other hand, when I got home on Tuesday evening, the GP who had seen the Old Bat last week had rung and left a message just to say that she had sent the results of the latest blood tests to the hospital.  She rang again yesterday evening just to ask how the Old Bat was.  Now that's caring.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The richness of English

I think it was probably in 1966 that, greatly daring, the Old Bat - who was still the Young Bat in those days - and I booked a holiday in Austria.  Apart from a school trip to Switzerland (me) and an exchange with a German student (her) neither of us had ever set foot outside England let alone great Britain!  As an indication of how different things were back then, the whole package - travel and full board - cost a whole 20 guineas (or it might have been 21).

Perhaps I had better explain for the youngsters, a guinea was one pound and one shilling, equivalent today to £1.05.  It was really a posh way of dealing with money and was used in the fees of solicitors, doctors and banks.  In those days I was a young bank clerk and every six months the manager of the branch would look at each account and say things like, "Three guineas" or "Four and a half guineas".  The idea, I think, was not only to appear posh but also to squeeze an extra 5% out of people!  The term "guinea" has pretty well fallen out of use now - except the horse racing world where there are still races called the 1,000 Guineas Stakes and the 2,000 Guineas Stakes.

But to get back to Austria.  Our holiday was in the early days of package holidays and our package included a coach from London to Southend Airport, a flight across the North See to Ostend in Belgium (the first flight for both of us) and then an overnight coach journey to the village in the Austrian Tyrol not all that far from Innsbruck.  It was here that we came into contact with what we later learned were called "continental quilts".  Fortunately, in the fullness of time, that phrase was superseded by the French word, "duvet".

All this flashed through my mind during the few seconds it took (ha!) to change the duvet cover this morning.  It led, in that way that one thing so often leads to another, to me remembering a couple of letters that had been published in my daily newspaper not too long ago.  (It can't have been very long or I would have forgotten both of them.)  The first was continuing earlier correspondence putting the case for Latin to be studied, the writer pointing out the richness of that dead language which had, he said, 15 synonyms for the word "famous".  The second correspondent listed the English synonyms for the same word, all 21 of them.

English is a rich language, some claim the richest in the world.  I suppose this is partly because there have been so many other languages used in this country, albeit centuries ago: the Angles, Saxons, Danes, Jutes and Vikings all pushed into the extremities of Cornwall and Wales the earlier Celtic people.  Each invading tribe brought its own language, parts of which were absorbed into the lingua franca, which was itself superseded by French after the Norman invasion.  Consequently, we often find two words that mean exactly the same thing, one with a Teutonic or even Norse origin, the other of Latin origin via French.  But is also means that we have a whole dictionary of words of similar meanings, the differences often being slight nuances.  Of course, the difference between the end words can be considerable.  For example, there are numerous synonyms for the verb "to like", far too many for me to list here.

And this is where I switch to grumpy old git mode and moan about people who, perhaps not exactly misuse their language, but mangle it.  people who say, for instance, "I need a new pair of shoes", when what they really mean is, "I would like a new pair of shoes".  Or, "I hate broccoli"when they simply dislike the vegetable.

Our language is so full, so rich, that it is (almost) a tragedy that it is not used better.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Thumb twiddling

I thought I might as well jot something down while waiting for the ambulance to take us to the hospital for the required tests.

There has almost been a nip in the air the last couple of mornings, and Holly the weather did warn of the possibility of grass frost on Sunday night.  The days, though, have been reasonably warm and sunny, although several degrees cooler than last week.

In Stanmer woods last week one could almost be forgiven for thinking that the beech trees were dressed in their spring green.

But this beech tree in Withdean Park has already started performing its alchemist's trick of turning to gold.

But then there are still water lilies in bloom on the Waterhall dew pond.

Yesterday afternoon, as I walked across the fields I was escorted by a large flock of swallows.  For about half an hour they were flying over my head - and at times they skimmed the long grass, only to seem to jump about six feet when the dog popped up!  It was noticeable that they were all flying more or less in one direction, no swooping around in circles.  I think my walk must have been under their migratory route and they were heading for warmer parts.  That's probably what the pair of warblers in the garden the other day were doing.  I couldn't tell whether they were willow warblers or chiffchaffs, both species being almost identical and only distinguishable by their songs.  But they weren't singing.  The only bird that sings at this time of the year is the robin, and one serenaded me for nearly half an hour on Sunday afternoon while I was cutting back overhanging branches from our naighbour's trees.

Autumn really will be with us soon enough.  And it's only three months and two days till . . .

Monday, 22 September 2014

Tied down

That's me at the moment - tied down.  Not literally, you understand; just metaphorically.  Although describing myself as being tied down is an exaggeration, but my wings have definitely been clipped.  You'll just have to pardon me if I'm mixing my metaphors.

My life is just a little constrained at present with me unable to make any time-sensitive arrangements, such as confirming that I will be at a meeting at a scheduled time.  The Old Bat (and I still say she thinks it's a term of endearment) has been unwell for over three weeks now and has been in bed all that time - apart from the one day on which we returned from France.  It hit suddenly while we were over there but I expected - and I think the Old Bat probably did as well - that it would clear up in three of four days.  The day after we returned to England it was obvious that what was wrong was a tad more serious than I had thought and I called in the doctor, who ordered blood tests.  (Have I not said this before - or am I back in that parallel universe?) When he saw the results, he referred her to the local hospital for an urgent appointment.  Meanwhile, the OB was in bed, eating very little, and losing weight and strength rapidly.  So much so that I became worried and called the doctor out again.

She came last Tuesday and ordered a repeat of the blood tests plus a few more besides.  She also told me that the hospital was obliged to see urgent referrals within 14 days, she would chase up the appointment, and transport would be arranged.  The appointment was advised to me only on Friday, by phone.  Advised to me with great reluctance as the person phoning had at first insisted that the message could only be given to the patient, who was then sleeping.  So, tomorrow morning I will be waiting for an ambulance with a crew of two to carry the Old Bat downstairs, transfer her to a wheelchair and whisk her away for tests.

Meanwhile, I can only leave the house to walk the dog or go shopping when I know that I have settled the Old Bat down and have a window (hateful term!) of an hour and a half to two hours.  As the timing of the OB's needs is not rigid, so the times when I can get out are very movable.  Which, I suppose, does mean I have no excuse for leaving the dusting, the vacuuming or cleaning the windows.  Always provided I stay within shouting distance.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The bells

I think I must have been living in parallel universes for some time.  The other day I asked my brother when his daughter-in-law's baby is due, only to be told she isn't pregnant.  Yet I'm sure he told me she is!  And that's but the one example of what I mean.

And was I in that other universe or did I really read  - about 10 days ago - that a judge (or whoever) refused to order a village church to silence its clock during the night?  I hope I did actually read it because I get so hot under the collar when I learn of people buying their dream house in a small village, only to complain that the church clock strikes every hour or that they are woken by the crowing of a cock in a nearby garden.  It always seems to me rather like somebody buying a house next door to a school - and then complaining that the children make a noise at play time!  Why is it, I wonder, that the local official who decides what noise is acceptable so often decides in favour of the newcomer, despite the fact that the church clock has been striking the hour every day for hundreds of years and nobody else is or ever has been bothered by it?

When we are in France, I delight in hearing the various clocks chiming the hours - and some of them even quarters.  The church in the village has a clock which sounds the hours and we can just about hear it when we are in the courtyard.  In the nearest town there are two clocks, one in the church tower and one in the medieval gate.  Both strike the hours, but they are not quite in synch, the medieval gate only starting when the church has finished chiming.  It always amuses me to hear that.  (I know - I'm easily amused.)

I've told the story before about one of the houses we were shown over when we were hunting for our elusive French hideaway, but what the heck . . .

Just a few minutes later we were in the square of the next village along the road, in the middle of a crowd of people dressed up as if for a wedding, which indeed proved to be the case. It seemed easier to accept the carnation buttonhole than to explain we were not there for the wedding but only to view a house. Why is it that one Frenchman or Frenchwoman alone can be quiet and charming, but when two or three dozen are gathered together they sound like a flock of starlings at dusk? By the time we had fought our way through to the door of the house, the volume of their conversations had increased to match that of Wembley Stadium on Cup Final day. Things got even more out of hand when a procession of cars swept round the corner, each driver trying to sound his horn louder and longer than the one before him. I was approached by a trio of femmes formidables, all billowy and blowsy like ships of the line under full canvas. From the glint in their eyes I got the distinct impression that they were intent on revenge for the Battle of Trafalgar. Disengaging myself with some difficulty, I followed Monsieur Moran (the estate agent) and Mrs S into the house as the bride descended from her limousine.

Did I call it a house? It was more like a rabbit warren, a delightful hotchpotch of rooms running off at all sorts of crazy levels. There was at least one room halfway up each flight of stairs. Stairs led down into a cellar which led on to a second with exits to both the garden and the kitchen. Somehow, the kitchen, which seemed to be on the same level as the rest of the ground floor, was also on the same level as the second cellar, despite the fact that we had descended stairs to reach that.

One thing it didn't have was a bathroom although in typical French fashion there was a shower installed on the landing. That problem could be solved quite easily, we realised, by converting the third bedroom or by utilising one of the rooms leading off the stairs. On the other hand, if a latter-day Bridget Bardot or Sophia Loren came to stay with us . . .

Smiling inwardly, I went with the others to inspect the garden. This was, or rather could have been, a delight. Walled on all three sides, it had two mature pear trees and would be a magnificent sun trap. The well, fortunately, was in a shed which could be padlocked for safety. Mrs S has a passion for gardening, and it was difficult to restrain her from getting down on her knees to start sorting out the borders.

Going back indoors we admired the new double-glazed windows in the living room. The house stood in a very pleasant position at one corner of the village square, the front windows giving onto the square, dominated by the large church just to one side, and looking across to the bar on the opposite corner. From the side windows we looked across the lane straight into a farmyard complete with ducks wandering about. We had reluctantly decided that both house and garden were too large for us, despite the knockdown price, when a major disadvantage confirmed our decision by revealing itself. The wedding service in the church had just finished, and as the bride and groom arrived at the church door the bells started. Two minutes of that and I knew just how Quasimodo must have felt in the tower of Notre Dame. I shuddered to think of the peace and quiet of lazy Sunday mornings being so rudely shattered, especially those mornings after good nights at the bar.

Monsieur Moran seemed very philosophical when we told him we would think about it over the weekend and let him know. He had obviously heard that before, although others had doubtless expressed it more elegantly than my French would allow.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The morning after the morning after

The dust is slowly settling but there could be challenges ahead over the Barnett formula and the West Lothian question.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have found my usual pleasure visiting various blogs.  I say visiting rather than reading as some of my regular stop-offs are more visual than. . .   They've got more pictures than words!  Photo-essays, some of them.  The blogs that are made up of writing do, some of them, have illustrations - many of which I enjoy - but it's often the writing that gives me the more pleasure.

There are so many different styles of writing, and I have to say that in some cases a blogger manages to adopt at least two different ones.  Some are full of facts, possibly spiced with a touch of wry humour, some are plain amusing, occasionally laugh out load-ish.  What is put before me sometimes makes me get hot under the collar, sometimes makes me squirm.  But just as a rainbow is made of a range of colours, so a variety of reading matter adds to the enjoyment of life.

I have at times been tempted to sign up for a correspondence course in creative writing.  The promise that my fees would be refunded in full if I failed to earn them from sales of my writing within 18 months is, on the face of it, attractive.  But the adverts promise that students will be taught to write copy that sells.  Well, that's all very fine, but my dream would be that other people would want what I write, not that I would write what other people want.  There is a subtle difference.

Another thing that puts me off is my experience of a course in producing photographs that sell.  I was set a project to produce a photograph of a Brighton hotel that it could use in its advertising.  The tutor questioned the fact that I had majored on the car park.  "All hotels," he (or maybe it was she) pontificated, "have car parks."  I was tempted to point out that of all the hotels in Brighton (and Hove, too) only two have car parks.  (That was the case then.)  Just one seafront hotel out of however many had a garage - and that could accommodate only half a dozen cars.

I just lost interest and wrote off the cost of the course.  Since then I have concentrated on taking photographs that (occasionally) please me.  I was not too unhappy with this one, the last of the daylight fading over Patcham one evening this week.

Friday, 19 September 2014

So now we know.

The Scots voted by a fairly narrow margin - roughly (very roughly) 4 to 3 - to remain a part of the United Kingdom.  Which answers quite a lot of questions.  But it leaves quite a few hanging in the air.  The leaders of all three main political parties have promised that greater powers will be devolved to the Scottish parliament and a timetable has already been promulgated.  But I thought that the approval of the national Parliament, ie Westminster, would be needed for devo-max (as it is known) to take place.  And if - or, more accurately - when devo-max occurs, a whole new can of worms will be opened.

Frankly, I see trouble ahead.  But let's not worry ourselves about that just yet.  Let's just enjoy the pure joie de vivre of this video.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

R Day . . .

or R Day not going to vote for independence?

(Sorry - I just couldn't resist that.)

Referendum Day, when the Scots, and those living in Scotland who are not Scots but are entitled to vote - honorary Scots? - vote to decide whether or not to remain a part of the United Kingdom.  There has been a touch of overkill the last couple of weeks with page after page devoted to the matter in the newspapers (I suppose they have to find something to fill the white spaces between the adverts) and almost half the BBC news team in Glasgow.  I imagine the same thing has happened to the ITV news team and others, but I don't see those news programmes.

I feel desperately sorry that there has been so much noise and fury - and, yes, rancour - instead of what should have been a calm and measured debate.  According to the newspapers I have seen, the Yes Team, as they are known, those urging people to vote 'yes' for Scotland to be an independent nation, have been the more vociferous, even to the extent of bullying and intimidating.  Those reports have been dismissed by some, possibly even many, as lies.  But sufficient unto the day etc etc

Just when the result is expected is something I don't know.  I don't recall ever being told, but maybe I just didn't pay attention.  Either way, there is going to be trouble ahead and it will be expensive trouble.  The result will also affect everybody in this country in so many different ways.  Nothing can ever be the same again.

But on a more positive note, whatever the result of the referendum, the views across the Downs will still be there.  We have been enjoying some glorious late summer weather this week and i took this picture the other afternoon while walking the dog.  The temperature was in the mid-20s and there was a touch of haze in the distance.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Broom soap

I have said before that I'm a great believer in lists, lists of any sort but especially shopping lists.  I don't know what it is about my memory, but if I go to buy four things, I will completely forget one of them.  I don't just forget what the fourth thing is (or was), I completely forget that a fourth item ever existed!  Usually that is not too much of a problem.  Our nearest supermarket is but a mile or so away so it's not a great hassle to make a second trip.

Things are a little different when we are in France, especially if I am buying DIY stuff.  That involves a drive of some 24 miles round trip and I have been known to curse roundly on occasions such as when I forgot the vitally important screws.  I now make out a list before I set off.  Which is fine when I remember to take the list with me, which isn't always the case.

I'm not sure that my brain is really wired just as it should be.  Although I am forever forgetting things I set out to buy, I have no difficulty in remembering people's phone numbers, even a year or more after they have moved and changed their number!  So I need a shopping list to help my memory.

For the last few weeks, it has been me who makes out the shopping lists but before that, She Who Must Be Obeyed gave me the orders of what to buy as I visited the supermarket while she relaxed in the diving bell having her high dosage oxygen treatment.  I quickly learned the need for me to read the list before we set out.  The Old Bat, bless her, would have jotted down things in such a way that she and only she knew what was meant.  For instance, she might have written "oil".  I would need extra information to ensure that I brought back the right sort of oil and in the right quantity.  What really threw me was the time when I had collected all the things on the list - except for one item right at the bottom.

+ r

I stared, perplexed, at this hieroglyphic while shoppers pushed and shoved around me.  What on earth could she mean by "+ r"?  I walked up and down the aisles seeking inspiration from the items on the shelves and suddenly it occurred to me.  That plus sign was really a lower case t and what I was to buy was toilet rolls.

Yesterday afternoon I found myself hoist with my own petard.  I had made out the list myself but quite why I wanted broom soap - or even what broom soap might happen to be - was something I failed to comprehend.  Until I remembered.  Not "broom" buy "b'room" - bathroom soap.

It's all a bit like the old school reports: "Must try harder".

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

It never rains but what it pours

There was a time when not a day would go past without a visit from the postman, even though half of what came through the letterbox went straight into the recycling.  Now the postman calls on perhaps three days a week.  There was also a time when the telephone seemed never to stop ringing - but now we can often go days without receiving a call.  Then yesterday the phone rang no fewer then five times!  Granted, two of those calls were expected as I had asked the callers to ring me.  Two of the others were welcome but the fifth (and last chronologically) was some Italian lady trying to persuade me to order Italian food from her - in Italy, I gathered.  She was very gracious when I explained that I am "quite happy with my present arrangements, thank you" and ended the call.  Which is more than can be said for so many cold callers who try to keep talking over me as I tell them to **** off.

I may well have seemed a little abrupt when responding to three of the welcome calls, all of which came at slightly awkward times.  First there was my son's ex-mother-in-law, offering to come and sit with the Old Bat for a while to give me a break.  It was very kind and thoughtful of her but as I was trying to get the old duck to the table to eat her "lunch" at the time, it was not a good time to talk, especially as I had to explain that the Old Bat sleeps or dozes most of the time and needs (wants) nobody sitting with her.  I called back later to explain.

Tony, a fellow Lion, called as I was trying to stop the sausages burning in the frying pan - more of which anon.  He was calling me back to confirm his availability to do the driving for the stroke club people this morning.  I had managed to get myself a little confused as at one time I had been down to do it this month andI wanted to make sure I wasn't still expected to do so.

I had removed the sausages from the pan (in accordance with the instructions in the recipe) and substituted the potato and onion (the recipe called for leeks but I had none so used onion instead) and they were sizzling away merrily when Julian rang.  He had heard "from various sources" that the Old Bat is unwell and rang to check up.  I was very touched that he had made the time to call as he is quite possibly the most overworked person I know.  As well as running the farm single-handed and looking after the deer, cows and sheep, he also does the butchering of the meat which he sells from the farm shop.  All this while caring for his wife, who is now completely immobile with MS.  And he finds time to chair the parish council.

The other call was from a doctor.  I had become so worried that I rang the surgery, hoping to speak to our regular doctor but it was his day off.  One of the others rang back and expressed a little surprise that we had not yet heard from the hospital as our GP had asked for an urgent appointment.  She promised a house call today, possibly from the regular GP.

And as for the sausages, well, I was trying out a different way of cooking them, a recipe from a one-pot cookery book.  This involved frying the sausages in olive oil for about 10 minutes then removing them from the pan.  Add more oil and fry thinly sliced potatoes and leeks for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, slice the sausages diagonally and grate some mature Cheddar cheese.  When the vegetables are done(ish), add the sausages and horseradish (I didn't use that) and mix well.  Leave for two minutes, then remove from the heat, sprinkle the cheese over it, stir and serve.  And very tasty it was.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Interesting times

In more ways than one.

There is, understandably, a call for military action, possibly including boots on the ground, to be taken against the self-styled Islamic State.  Those murderous thugs have cranked things up a gear with another execution, this time of a British aid worker.  They have also threatened the same fate for another British aid worker.  But just what action could - or, indeed, should - be taken?  It has been reported that security services have identified the murderer known as Jihadi John but are reluctant to take any action towards apprehending him in the concern that doing so would increase the danger to other hostages' lives.  There is also a view that military action against them is just what ISIL want - and sooner rather than later.  Perhaps we should be grateful that Messrs Obama and Cameron are not making knee-jerk reactions but are taking the time needed to ensure that action, when it is taken, is effective.  We must hope so.

Nearer home, this is the week in which the Scots will vote on whether or not to break up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  I am not alone in failing to comprehend just what the problem is with the way things are right now.  Many Scots complain of being treated as second class citizens, but none has yet managed to explain in just what ways that happens.  They complain also of being ruled by a Tory elite in Westminster, hundreds of miles away from Scotland.  But that is the same for people in, say, Newcastle - and it's not as if the Conservative Party is always in power.  I have only today seen a comment on another blog stating that the promises of devo-max recently made by the government are "lies".  There is so much more I could say - but it would make no difference to anybody - least of all those who are eligible to vote in this referendum who seem to have their heads stuffed full of porridge oats rather than brains.

I sometimes dream of being on a desert island with none of these things to bother me.  But doing an ostrich is not an option.

My main worry at the moment is not just nearer to home but actually in it.  My wife has been unwell for just over two weeks now and spends all day in bed, much of the time either dozing or sleeping.  She is getting weaker and has lost quite a lot of weight as her diet now consists of two apples and a small bowl of mixed fresh fruit each day, supplemented by a couple of cups of tea.  Hardly surprising that she is losing weight!  Last Tuesday the doctor rang to advise the results of blood tests and said he is referring her to hospital with the hope (expectation?) that she would hear within two weeks.  As I didn't speak to him myself, I'm not sure whether he expected her to have an appointment within two weeks or merely hear when she could be seen.  If we hear nothing today I shall ask for a chat with the GP and another visit as something needs to be done - and soon.

Interesting times indeed.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Tour information

Most bloggers will have heard of the Tour de France cycle race but many will not be aware that we in Britain also have a tour, not surprisingly (and not very originally) called the Tour of Britain. The penultimate stage of this year's tour ended yesterday in Brighton.  Let me give you a few snippets of what the Tour PR people had to say about Brighton.
Widely-regarded as Britain's coolest seaside city, Brighton & Hove is known for its cosmopolitan café culture and bohemian atmosphere. As well as a former royal palace, the city has a beachside prom, grand Regency crescents, city parks and the stunning South Downs National Park right on its doorstep. The Downs are now part of a new world Biosphere site, the first place in the UK for forty years to be awarded this prestigious accolade by UNESCO.
Brighton streets are awash with chic eateries and art galleries and The Lanes and North Laine area boasts over 500 independent retailers selling everything from bonsai trees to bongos, designer homeware and vintage fashion; all within a half mile radius. 
Attracting about 8.5m visitors a year, recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics confirmed Brighton as the most popular UK seaside destination for foreign tourists.
Museums and galleries mix with great shopping, stylish cafés, bars and restaurants, and the city has a glittering nightlife and arts scene alongside traditional seaside fun. 
Sounds a great place to visit, doesn't it?  And the accompanying video also makes it look good.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Summer fruits

When I studied English literature back in my teenage school years, I was struck particularly by Keats' 'Ode to Autumn'.  That's the one that starts, "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness".  I was so smitten that I decided to have a go myself.  My poor imitation started thus:
'Tis autumn; the armies of the season
Intermingle. Summer retreats, winter
Advances her probing, dead'ning squadrons.
Strange how those few words just came back into my head.  I know there was more but that is forgotten, which is probably just as well.

On opening the bedroom curtains on the last couple of mornings I have been unable to see the Downs for the autumnal mist.  It really feels as though we are on the cusp, slipping not so slowly from the warmth of summer into the cool freshness of autumn.

My raspberries - an autumn fruiting variety - are really coming into their own right now.  I picked enough the other day to have them for dessert with a scoop of ice cream and there were plenty for the Old Bat to have a lunch of strawberries and raspberries yesterday.  Yes, strawberries - in almost-mid September!  I was astonished to see how many there were when I did the shopping yesterday - and several different varieties as well.  I was even able to buy some of our favourite Camarillo.  We thought last year that the strawberry season had lasted longer than usual and it is doing so again this year.

In a way I find that rather a shame.  Strawberries are such a special, summer fruit that can be enjoyed piggishly when the season lasts only a few weeks, but when it lasts for months they become ordinary, more on a par with grapes and bananas and apples and oranges - all available all year round.

Not only have I been picking raspberries, but I also picked a plum this week.  Yes, one plum.  That makes about five I have picked this year from our two trees, which is five more than last year.  There is always plenty of blossom, which sets well, followed by plenty of fruit.  But there is some disease or other in my trees and I have been unable to work out what it is that causes the fruit to go mildewy and rot on the tree before it is ripe.

Earlier, it looked as though this would be a reasonable year for pears, although they were not as prolific as last year.  Now there is just one left on the tree - and I have not picked any!  In past years, the jackdaws have pecked away at the fruit before it is ripe and a good many of the pears have suffered as a result with woodlice getting into them.  This year, though, the jackdaws actually plucked the pears and flew off with them, holding the stalks in their beaks!  Then the neighbourhood squirrels decided that perhaps they would like some fruit, and even the blue tits joined in.  Windfalls became snacks for the dog.

Oh well, there's always next year.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The whole truth

I am fairly certain that some people will be offended by what I am about to write.  It's not that I'm setting out to offend anybody, but it is said that the truth sometimes hurts.  And what I am about to write is the truth, the generally unspoken truth about how some people in Britain - mainly England - felt about the horrific events that were commemorated yesterday.  It wasn't everybody who felt like this and the view was rarely uttered aloud.  Many who did feel a little like this also felt guilty that they should have even thought like this.  But it seemed to me like a sort of undercurrent, something unseen that was lurking just beneath the surface.  It was a feeling that I think I can best describe as a sort of smug satisfaction; a sort of "now they know what it feels like".

In the years before 9/11, we in the United Kingdom, especially and in particular in Northern Ireland, had been going through what are euphemistically called "the Troubles".  It was more akin to a bloody civil war.  On the one hand were the Irish Republican Army and its various offshoots who wanted the six counties of Ulster, Northern Ireland, to secede from the UK and become part of the Republic of Ireland, Eire.  On the other hand were the Unionists, who wanted fervently for Northern Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom.  Just to make matters worse, religion came into the equation with the Republicans being Catholic and the Unionists, Protestant.  Both sides were guilty of atrocities, but the general feeling was that the IRA was the more evil.

Although the Troubles were confined in the main to Northern Ireland, the IRA exploded several bombs in mainland England, notably in Warrington (2), Guildford (also 2), London (another 2) and Brighton, nearly killing the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.  Lord Mountbatten, the Queen's cousin, was killed by a bomb on his boat when sailing off the Irish coast.

It was believed that the IRA raised much of the funds needed to buy arms and explosives from the Irish community in the USA and there was a certain degree of anger that Americans were financing terrorism in the UK.  It was that anger that gave rise to the feeling "now they know what it feels like".

Believe me, I take no pride in the fact that many of my countrymen felt this, even if they didn't say that they did.  Even those who did feel like this shared the outrage, the hurt and the grief.  John Donne had the right of it when he wrote, "No man is an island".

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Oh yeah?

From today's Daily Telegraph:
Walking for half an hour a day is equivalent to taking a “magic pill” that combats ageing and prevents early death, a doctor has claimed.
Dr James Brown, from the School of Life and Health Sciences at Aston University, told the British Science Festival in Birmingham it could help prevent obesity and diabetes, lower the risk of some cancers, relieve depression and anxiety, increase mobility and reduce the chance of hip fractures by 40 per cent among older adults.
It also improved the ability to think and reason, slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, cut arthritic pain by half, raised energy levels, reduced fatigue and led to a 23 per cent lower risk of dying. 
I regularly walk for somewhere between one and a half and two hours a day so it all looks pretty positive for me.  But it doesn't matter who you are, the Pope or President Mugabe, nobody can have any less than a 100% risk of dying!  That reporter (it surely can't have been the good doctor?) needs to think about what he/she is writing.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Our Beloved Leaders have, so it seems, only just woken up to the fact that next Thursday the people of Scotland will vote whether or not to remain part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  In an effort to persuade the Scots to stay United, it was ordained that the Scottish saltire should be flown at 10 Downing Street instead of the Union Flag.

I have to wonder if flying a Scottish flag in London will really influence public opinion.  If it were to do so, I would suggest that we would be better off without Scotland!

I also have to wonder if it really takes two men to hoist a flag?

And is it really so dangerous a job that they need hard hats and hi-vis jackets?

Absurdity upon absurdity.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Light relief

This has been a summer of doom and gloom news-wise what with the problems in Syria and Iraq, continuing unrest in north African countries, wild fires, floods, earthquakes - and Alex Salmond.  It beggars belief how he has managed to hoodwink so many otherwise sane people (despite being Scots) into thinking that Scotland would be better out of the United Kingdom and standing alone as an independent country.  Well, it beggars my belief.

But we have light relief in the form of good news!  The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant - and the country rejoices.  Some of the country, anyway.  There are, of course, those Eeyore-like people
for whom nothing is good news and who are bound to declare, "A woman of child-bearing age has become pregnant.  Where's the news in that?"  And what's more, she's a woman most of us have never met and most of us never will meet.

But one doesn't have to be a fervent monarchist, collecting tea-towels and mugs celebrating every royalist event, to feel happy about this.  We Brits tend to be a bit on the barmy side about some things - and, according to many folk from other countries - one of those things is our Royal family.  Especially Kate Middleton as was.

Coming from "common" stock, her marriage to Prince William was like a fairy tale come true.  And she has taken to the job - for that's what it is much of the time - as if she was born to it.  It doesn't hurt, either, that she doesn't exactly look like the back of a bus.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Drops of neaters

Luckily, the nurse called to take a blood sample from the Old Bat quite early yesterday afternoon so I was able to walk the dog and then get into the garden.  Even though I am very careful not to overdo things, I still managed to cut the grass - some of which had grown to six inches! - dig out a self-seeded plum tree some four feet high which I spotted growing up through a hydrangea, trim the ivy on one wall and pick the raspberries.  By that time I was rather warm.  In fact, as I told the Old Bat, I was sweating drops of neaters.

I'm not at all sure the OB knew just what I meant by 'drops of neaters' but she is not unaccustomed to the occasional odd phrase escaping my lips.  I know I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog that mine is - or was - a naval family.  Both my father and his father served for more than 20 years each in the Royal Navy, my father's brother was also in the Navy, as was my brother.  And my sister-in-law served in the Wrens.  Add another uncle with over 20 years service and a cousin with a short-service commission somewhere in his past.  To my shame, I managed only the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  And I suppose I should also mention that the men on my mother's side tended to be dockyard workers, or 'dockyard mateys' as they are collectively known.  Given this preponderance of maritime influence during my formative years and later, it is hardly surprising that a few naval phrases have crept into my vocabulary, one of which is 'sweating drops of neaters'.

I have never managed to discover just why the Navy issued a tot of rum each day to those aged over 20.  Men who preferred not to take their tot were paid threepence a day extra in lieu.  Rum was originally issued in place of beer if beer was not available, the practice apparently originating back in the 17th century.  The last pipe of "Up spirits" was in 1970 when it was decreed that the consumption of rum - even if it was considerably less than the half pint issued centuries ago - could lead to accidents when working with intricate machinery.

There is quite a vocabulary associated with the naval tot.  I mentioned "Up spirits" which was the pipe made when the representatives of each mess would collect the rum for their mess.  Measurement had to be accurate to the drop.  Senior ratings (chief petty officers and petty officers) were issued their tot neat, while junior ratings had theirs diluted two parts water to one part rum.  The tot had to be consumed when issued and it was an offence to keep it back for later, although doing so was not unheard of in the Chiefs' and POs' mess in particular.

The leading hand of the mess would carefully issue each tot from the fanny in which the rum had been collected from the spirit room.  If one or more of the men from the mess was absent for some reason there would be a little left over.  This was known as "the Queen's" and would be poured into a glass, passed from man to man, each taking a sip until it was gone.

Rum was also used as a form of currency.  Another rating who had performed a favour could be invited for 'a wet'.  This would usually be 'sippers' - just a small sip of rum - but for a really big favour it might stretch to 'gulpers'.

And so we come back to 'sweating drops of neaters'.  This is when a man is so hot that he sweats drops of neat rum!

And while we are on the subject of naval slang, I should mention the pipe "Cheer up for Chatham, Sheerness is in sight!"

Chatham is a town in Kent on the River Medway and was for many years - centuries, even - one of the countries chief naval bases.  Ships returning to Chatham would enter the Thames estuary and sail past the Isle of Sheppey, with the town of Sheerness at the tip, before turning into the Medway.  You can imagine how, after a three-year draft overseas, men were anxious to get home.  When Sheerness was in sight, there was only a short journey remaining so the hands would be told by a pipe to "cheer up for Chatham, Sheerness is in sight!"

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A perverse opinion

I haven't heard or read it much recently.  Indeed, I haven't seen or heard it all for some considerable time now but there was a time when every other "expert" and many others who didn't claim special expertise warned about the dangers of allowing small boys to play with toy guns.  Mayhap all those experts have changed their minds - or maybe they are just warning about different things.  While they were pontificating, their theory was that boys who played with guns grew into violent men.


Both my brother and I had toy guns and neither of us are violent men.  Although I don't remember exactly, I presume my earliest gun was made of plastic.  Or maybe plastic wasn't around just then.  Whatever, as time went by I graduated to metal guns, metal guns that fired caps.  These were small dots of explosive, like the explosive used in Christmas crackers, glued somehow onto a long strip of paper - always pink - and coiled.  Each coil was packed into its little, round cardboard box about an inch across.  The coil would be loaded into the cap gun, which moved the paper each time the trigger was pulled so that a fresh cap was in place to produce an explosion when struck by the hammer.  I suppose a box of caps must have cost about a penny.

Thus armed, we would play violent games of cowboys and Indians.  Not only were we violent, but we were incipient racists as well!  Naturally, when one of us was shot, he would collapse onto the ground, dead - always assuming the casualty agreed that he had been shot dead. 

"You're dead!"

"No, I'm not."

"I just shot you."

"You missed."

And so on.

Of course, we were encouraged in these violent games by watching films about such heroes as Buffalo Bill and Roy Rogers.

A year or two later, my brother had a model field gun and I a model anti-aircraft gun.  Both of these toys could actually fire missiles.  Matchsticks broken in half were ideal.  We would each build a barricade - about eight feet apart, and hunker down, firing half matches at each other.

I really cannot imagine what my mother was thinking, allowing us to play such violent games.

Nowadays we are warned that children playing violent video games will grow into violent adults.  Just like my brother and me.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Highly recommended

Or, as Skip would say, another blatant site hype.  Actually, it's going to be two sites hyped.  Now, I'm not a great one for saying, "You must read this book" or, "You must see this programme".  I'll say that I enjoyed a book and suggest that whoever might do also as I know something about his or her tastes.  And I'm not into proclaiming somebody The Whatever of the Year and that sort of thing.  I always bear in mind the fact that people whom I have not selected as The Whatever of the Year might be disappointed or, worse, feel that their efforts have not been appreciated so they won't make any more.  But all that aside, I am going to single out a couple of blogs whose authors, I think, deserve recognition by the English Tourist Board.

Jenny, whose blog is entitled *An English Travel Writer*, is the first.  Quite why she has those asterisks in the title is something I have never asked - and probably shouldn't.  But they are, as far as this recommendation is concerned, of no importance.  Jenny, accurately enough, describes herself as English and most of her travel-related posts are about England, although she does sometimes provide titbits about foreign trips she makes in her professional life.  An excellent example of her writing about England is her piece on Selby Abbey.

The other blogger I should like to mention is Mike "A Bit About Britain".  His posts are full of fascinating detail about the places he visits around Britain, or - more pedantically - Great Britain, which is the island comprising England Scotland and Wales.  I still wonder just how he finds the time to make all these trips - and then dig out all the detail about the places he visits.  Just look at his piece about Bodiam Castle.

Both Jenny and Mike, it seems to me, pay considerable attention to their writing.  Well composed sentences with spelling and punctuation orl korrekt, interesting narrative and quirky details concerning the places they write about.  Both well deserving of travel awards in my view.  Why don't you drop by and see what you think.  And who knows, you might be inspired to visit some of those places yourself.

Friday, 5 September 2014

A couple of things . . .

I'm going to cheat by using a post to thank all those who have sent their best wishes for the poor old dear.  I, too, hope that she will be up and about again very soon: I'm getting a little fed up of eating beans on toast for dinner every evening!  On the plus side, I did manage to get the kitchen floor washed this morning.  I've been wanting to get it done...  No, the truth is not that I've been wanting to do it, it's more that I knew there were floor tiles but I couldn't quite recall exactly what colour they are.  But now I know.

And yes, our doctors' practice does do home visits and it is all on the NHS.  We must be incredibly lucky with our practice.  I hear so often of people complaining that they can't get an appointment with the doctor for four days and all sorts of things like that.  If it's urgent, we can usually get to see one of the doctors that day.  It's only if we insist on seeing a particular doctor that we might have to wait a few days.  And as for home visits, well, yesterday I was asked which doctor my wife preferred - not that it was guaranteed he would be available, but I was promised that one doctor or another would call at lunch time.

I have no complaints, either, with our local hospital.  Well, I do, but not about the treatment or care provided.  In my experience, it is first class.  I know the ambulance service is a separate entity, but a couple of years ago the Old Bat needed to call an ambulance for me.  The first paramedic turned up on the doorstep while she was still on the phone explaining the problem!  As the Old Bat let him in, we heard the two-tone horns of the ambulance as it approached.  You can't get quicker than that.


I've sent off the order for a 2015 calendar for my brother.  This is an illustrated thing using my pictures of Sussex scenes - a bit of a cop out as a (whisper it softly) Christmas present.  This picture of Brighton's Royal Pavilion is the front cover.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Plus ça change . . .

After a week of no newspapers, no television, no internet I get back to Merrie England to find . . .
  • there are still problems in vast areas of the Middle East and, despite another beheading of a news reporter, nobody seems to have agreed on further action;
  • the problems in the Ukraine are still there, with the Russian bear throwing his weight about possibly even more;
  • the debate in and about Scotland continues - but that's exactly as I would have expected, given that the referendum is not due to take place for a couple of weeks;
  • and so on and so on.
It's much the same on a personal level . . .
  • a Lions problem to which I alluded some three or so weeks' ago is still there - and I am still not able to say any more so I don't really know why I mentioned it, except I will say that it involves a vulnerable person;
  • the Old Bat is suffering what seems to be a recurrence of the problem she has been suffering on and off for several months, having spent most of the last three days of our French trip in bed.  I had the doctor in to her this morning and was mightily glad to see our preferred GP on the doorstep.  He is thorough, listens and explains.  Now for urine and blood samples to be tested.

We had a great time across the water.  Well, I did.  The weather was fantastic and although I did do some work I took pains not to overdo it.  Even so, I have felt twinges in a shoulder so I know I was close to the max.  Otherwise, I spent a lot of time simply sitting in the sun and reading.  Unfortunately, the Old Bat was taken unwell on Saturday evening.  We were in the village restaurant and she managed only two-thirds of the stater before I had to help her outside and into a seat while I brought the car down the path to the restaurant, the path fortunately being sufficiently wide for a car - just.  Then a gallant Frenchman carried her to the car.  She spent to best part of the next three days in bed, only to travel back yesterday and collapse into a different bed.

As I said, plus ça change . . .