Saturday, 24 December 2016

Ho ho ho

It's been a delight spending time in the grotto, acting as the Man Himself. Some children have come bounding in, bursting to talk, some have wanted to come in but then turned shy, and some really young ones have burst into tears. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to see the looks on their faces. I especially liked the look of glee some of them showed when I suggested conspiratorially that they might sneak a carrot from the kitchen for Rudolph.

When I asked one little girl what she wanted for Christmas, her answer was, 'Presents'. Another wanted sweets. Whether or not they get what they wanted I hope they enjoyed meeting and chatting with Santa Claus..

And now I'm off to bed before SC comes around. Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A lie in!

"Things" eased off slightly today, though they pick up again tomorrow, so I was able to enjoy a bit of a lie-in this morning. And very welcome it was on a dark, dankish sort of a day.

Today is, of course, the shortest day of the year - although like all the others it still consists of 24 hours! being the shortest day, this is the day when Brighton has its traditional Burning the Clocks ceremony. I call it a traditional ceremony, but it has only been going since 1993 so it is a recent tradition.

"People gather together to make paper and willow lanterns to carry through their city and burn on the beach as a token for the end of the year ... The lantern makers become part of the show as they invest the lanterns with their wishes, hopes, and fears and then pass them into the fire." (Wikipedia)

Pity it is such a dismal day for it.

I will not be there as I have a Lions meeting tonight. Actually, I have never seen either the procession or the fire - or the fireworks that accompany the burning of the clocks.

Photo: http://www.thiseurope.com/

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Yorkshire wave

I blame the American.

That is American (singular), not the entire population of the United States of America. Mind you, quite a few of them could be described as most singular persons! But no, the singular American whom I blame is, possibly, the most Anglophile of them all, Mr Bill Bryson.

And for what, you might wonder, do I blame him?

Read on, and all will be revealed.

(No, I do not intend to perform a strip tease. That really would be most unedifying!)

Put simply, what I blame the estimable Mr Bryson for is the Yorkshire wave.

There was a time when a car driver wishing to thank another driver for giving way would simply flash his headlights, a simple manoeuvre that can be performed quite safely without taking either hand off the steering wheel. Well, most people can reach the lever while still holding the wheel - although the Old Bat claims her fingers are too short. but (apart from fingers that are too short) there is a snag. If used incautiously, that headlight flash could cause confusion with the other driver thinking he was being allowed to take priority. Nowadays, most drivers simply lift 1, 2, 3 or 4 fingers from the steering wheel.

And how does Mr B come into all this? It was he who coined the phrase 'Yorkshire wave' when, in one of his books, describing the laconic way in which dour Yorkshire farmers greeted people they recognised while driving. they would, claimed Mr B, simply lift a single finger from the wheel by way of greeting.

The acknowledgement that most drivers give to others now is simply an extension or development of the Yorkshire wave, which was quite unknown to we soft Southerners until we read about it. And now it's seen everywhere!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Another delight

For the whole of the past school term I have had the pleasure of doing the school run on Thursday afternoons. Well, the school run per se is no great pleasure, but it does mean - or has meant - that I have enjoyed the pleasure of the company of Emily, my 9-years-old granddaughter until he father collected her at about six o'clock. The three of us (I include the Old Bat) have played ludo, happy families and snap, and Emily has demonstrated her gymnastic ability using the OB's exercise ball.

But yesterday there was something different. I had brought the Christmas tree indoors and Emily needed very little persuasion to decorate it for us!


Another delight is the way Emily and Fern (the spaniel) have developed into best friends. Fern dogs Emily's footsteps (pun intended) but was dissuaded from helping to decorate the tree - although she was allowed to admire it after it had been decorated.



Thursday, 15 December 2016

Eating out

It is surprising - to me, at least - how often I have been disappointed when trying to eat in fairly large towns and cities. There was a time when, in connection with my work, I had to visit places such as Blackpool, Newcastle, Leeds, Norwich and Bristol where I would need to stay for one or two nights. I usually turned my back on the hotel dining room; they seemed such anonymous places and, at the time of year when most of my trips were made, eating in them would quite frequently be a solitary experience. What I hoped to find would be a cosy restaurant frequented by the locals.

Maybe I have been spoiled by living in Brighton where we are reputed to have more restaurants per head of population than anywhere in Britain outside London. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that we now beat even London. It really is quite astonishing how many restaurants we have and how varied are the cuisines they offer. Equally astonishing is the fact that they not only manage to survive (assuming they are any good) but that they prosper and seem to be busy every night of the week. Why this should seem to be unique to Brighton is a constant puzzle.

All this is really just a preamble before I remark that the OB and I ate at the local Italian last night. It really is one of our favourite restaurants. The food is good, the service friendly and attentive but not over-bearing, we are always recognised and made welcome. An added bonus is that I can usually park right outside! Why trek into the city, struggle to find a parking place (and often have to pay for it) when the best Italian restaurant in the city is almost on our doorstep?

I must confess that my selection was boring in as much as it was what I usually order - penne alla matriciana. It's great! Pasta, pancetta, tomatoes, red onion and enough chilli to give some bite - delicious.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

I must have been asleep

I know that I've not been an attentive blogger for the past several weeks, mainly due to time constraints, but it seems there has been quite a lot going on while my back was turned or while I was asleep or something. It occurred to me today that my Blogger dashboard had disappeared and gone too were the updates of blogs I follow that appeared on the dashboard as if by magic.

So why did nobody tell me that Google or Blogger or whoever had changed the dashboard? And that it is (they say) quite impossible to go back to the old one? Seems to me a classic case of something that ain't broke being fixed!

During my period of inattention (which is quite likely to continue for the next several weeks) all sorts of shenanigans have been going on over there in California - and I have only just caught up!

Oh well, never mind. I have treated myself to a 3 CD set of original Chris Barber recordings. I do like me some trad jazz! I saw Chris Barber performing once, in Holland. My family and I were in the Hague with my friend Chris and his family. We had been to the railway station on a Sunday morning to watch the trains pull out. Yes, really! It was quite a performance as the guard leaned out of the train to watch the second hand on the clock at the end of the platform. The instant the second hand reached the 12 o'clock mark, he blew his whistle and the train left. this was something we never saw in England in those days. Come to that, we don't now either!

Anyway, as we wandered through a shopping mall - all the shops closed as it was a Sunday - we heard music and, turning a corner, there was Chris Barber and his band, playing just for the heck of it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

No leaves on the line...

No wrong kind of snow...

BUT no train drivers either!

When I woke this morning and saw what a grey day it was - the world seemed to become a dank, woolly mass just beyond the bungalow at the bottom of the garden - I almost wished that I were not retired. The train strike would have provided the perfect excuse to roll over and go back to sleep and raise a metaphorical two-finger salute to the daily commute.

I really can't be bothered to rehearse the sorry tale of train travel in south-east England these past few months. Suffice it to say that the matter seems to be escalating into a right royal battle between left-wing trades unions, an incompetent employer and a government reluctant to step in. Things have become so bad that some commuters have resigned their jobs, fed up with never knowing just when - or even if - they would get to work in the mornings and back home in the evenings. There are tales (probably apocryphal) of employers refusing to recruit staff from the affected area. But worse than this, to my mind, is the fact that some people needing to travel to specialist hospitals in London for treatment have been unable to do so. A friend of mine has had to cancel two appointments at the Brompton Hospital because they were on strike days. (I have offered to drive him to the next appointment if a further strike is called.)

The local paper has pieces about the strikes on what seems to be a daily basis. I usually read the online version, complete with readers' comments - but I get annoyed at the way the comment-makers shout at each other using the same old, same old left- and right-wing phrases. I MUST stop reading them!

Well, here's a less stressful picture, one I took while sitting in the car. I've just discovered it buried deep in the computer!


Saturday, 10 December 2016

With apologies to any Irish readers.

A blind man walked into a bar and asked the barman, “Want to hear an Irish joke?”

The barman told him, “Well, I’m Irish and I won’t appreciate it. The man behind you is 20 stone and is also Irish. The man sitting next to you is 18 stone and he’s Irish too. Do you still want to tell it?”

“No way,” said the blind man. “Not if I have to explain it three times.”

Friday, 9 December 2016

Chiropractic shambles

The Old Bat has funny feet, by which I mean - well, I suppose 'funny' is not really the best word. 'Odd' might be a better description. Anyway, when several months ago she asked if I would cut her toenails, a job she was finding increasingly difficult, I demurred and suggested that it might be better for her to visit a chiropodist.  I went further and pointed out that the MS Treatment Centre (which she visits every week) probably had one coming into the Centre.  And sure enough, they did, and the OB saw her every few weeks.

All was going swimmingly - until the chiropodist became ill.  But it was only a short time before a replacement was found and things carried on as before.

Or nearly as before.

The new chiropodist proved somewhat erratic in terms of reliability.  She would forget that she was due at the Centre and patients would be left almost literally biting their nails.  When she failed to appear again last Monday, the OB and I decided that it was time to look elsewhere.  I am fairly sure that the Centre management has come to the same decision.

So I turned to the fount of all knowledge (Google, not Wikipedia!) and found a chiropodist (or podiatrist even) who makes home visits.  The OB phoned and left a message.  That was Monday - and we are still waiting.

So once again I resorted to the Big G and found a mother and daughter set up. Again, they promised home visits. Another phone call, another message left. That was Wednesday - and we are still waiting.

Back to Google - again! A nearby chiropractice appeared to have parking and access looked reasonable so I paid a visit.  Access wasn't quite as easy as it had looked on streetview - but I was given the number of a chiropodist who works there one day a week and does home visits on the others.  Another phone call, another message left.  But, wonder of wonders, she rang back - and an appointment has been made!

But I have to wonder about the business sense of the others.  Do they not want new business?  Do they fail to return calls to existing clients?  Are they still in business even?

What all this shambles has driven me to do is discover the difference between a chiropodist and a podiatrist.  Guess what?  There is none - the latter is the 'new' word for the former!  And I have learned the correct pronunciation of podiatrist, so there is a plus side to the week.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

A sign of spring?

Did somebody once ask the question, when winter comes can spring be far behind? Whether or no, there was a sign of spring in the park this morning. A song thrush was singing for all he was worth, despite this being only the third day of winter.

But on a more appropriately topical note, this comment was heard from a seven-year-old in Santa's grotto today:

"I hope you won't make the same mistake this year that you made last year. I asked for an Xbox and you gave me an egg box!"

Santa was left speechless.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Thiepval coincidence

It was a week ago, Sunday 13th November, that saw the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme which had begun on 1st July 1916 and therefore lasted 141 days. To mark the occasion, one of our television channels broadcast a programme about seven men who had fought in that battle and their grandchildren's efforts to find out more about it and the parts their ancestors played in it. It was hardly surprising that one of the families visited the Thiepval memorial.


The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme is a war memorial to 72,246 missing British Empire servicemen who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave. I thought it austere almost to the point of grim when I visited.

Unable to watch the programme when it was broadcast last week, I recorded it and watched it on Saturday. By sheer coincidence, Saturday was the day on which I started re-reading Robert Goddard's In Pale Battalions, the opening of which takes place at Thiepval.

I had forgotten just how the author reels in his reader, drawing one ever onward. How, one wonders, is it that Leonora was born eleven months after her father was killed at the Somme? What about the unsolved murder that occurred before she was born? Just when you think you have solved one riddle and are working on the next, a new twist reveals that your answer to the first is wrong.

This really is one of those books that is difficult to put down and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

A rough night

I haven't listened to the shipping forecast for many a year. It used to be broadcast by the BBC just before the six o'clock news in the evenings, back in the days of steam radio when television was either non-existent or limited to fuzzy nine-inch screens. To non-seafarers like me, there was something vaguely soporific in the forecast - not so much the forecast itself, more the way in which it was read. The seas around these islands are divided into various areas: Viking, Faroes, Heligoland etc, and the forecast for each area was read in strict rotation. The forecast included, as I recall, succinct details of the general weather situation (rain, fog or whatever), visibility (so many miles), barometric pressure (and whether rising or falling), wind direction and speed, using the Beaufort scale.

Time was when I knew the Beaufort scale reasonably well, although I have now forgotten it. (Check the details here.)

Well, the met Office warned us that Storm Angus would be upon us last night.



You can just make out Ireland above the words 'Storm Angus' in that picture with the heaviest part of the storm moving along the south coast of England. "We are expecting severe gales with gusts of 70 - 80 mph possible across the coastal counties of southeast England and an amber warning in place overnight.," is how the Met Office put it.

They weren't wrong. It was not a night to be sleeping rough, and fern woke me several times as she barked at the wind. But - perhaps surprisingly - I have seen no sign of any damage either to buildings or the trees in the park.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Cryogenics

Along with probably more than 99 per cent of the population of England, I had never heard of cryogenics before this week. Now, however, it is more likely that just 1 per cent of the adults at least are unaware that it involves the freezing and storage of a body with the intention of thawing out and restoring to life of that person at some indeterminate future date.

I have great difficulty in even imagining what it would be like to be born again (as it were) even fifty years from now - let alone a hundred or worse, 200! That would be akin to a soldier killed at Waterloo seeing electric light, motor cars, television and so on.  Enough to blow the mind.

I now know about this because a judge ruled that a 14-year old girl with terminal cancer could have her body frozen, to be thawed when a cure has been found, maybe in 2000 years' time, so that she can live longer.

It has, we are told £37000!

Weird!

Friday, 18 November 2016

In the post

Quite possibly the most cliched excuse for late - or even non-payment: the cheque's in the post. But what is yanking my chain is not 'post' as in 'mail' or job or upright piece of wood. o, it's the post that gets tacked on to the start of a word. Like post-war. I know what that means: after the war - usually the Second World War.

But post-expressionist? Post-modernism? What the heck are they when they are up and dressed? (As my old granny used to say.) I haven't the foggiest All I know is that they refer to some style of art or architecture.

I heard a new one this morning. A fellow dog walker asked me if I had heard that the Oxford Dictionary's word for 2016 is 'post-truth'.

Having read, or tried to read, numerous learned articles and simplified explanations I have to confess - I'm no nearer understanding what it is!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

In which a memory is stirred

Way, way back in what my grandchildren would probably consider pre-history, I was a collector of cigarette cards. No, belay that. Calling myself a collector might give the wrong impression, implying that I had knowledge of the subject and was specific in my collecting. Truer, perhaps, to say simply that I collected cigarette cards, any and all that came my way. Cigarette manufacturers produced these little inserts in series, usually of 50, on a wide variety of subjects. There were butterflies, army insignia, cricketers and so on.

It was a picture in the newspaper that brought all this to mind - although I am at a complete loss as to just how and why the train of thought moved. The picture was of two men in the march past at the Cenotaph. Bill Speakman VC, a Chelsea Pensioner aged 89, was being pushed in his wheelchair by Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC. Bill Speakman won his Victoria Cross in Korea, Johnson Beharry in Iraq.

Having looked at the picture, my mind followed some circuitous route to remind me of the only two cigarette cards that have truly stuck in my memory. One showed HMS Rawalpindi, the other HMS Jervis Bay. Both were what was laughing called armed merchant vessels having been taken over by the Royal Navy in the Second World War and having a gun or two bolted onto the deck. Both were sunk in action against vastly superior enemy vessels. But that was the extent of my knowledge of these vessels. I decided that it was time I learned more.

I had intended to write about the Jervis Bay myself, but this video does the job so much better than I could ever hope to.


Monday, 14 November 2016

November days

What a dank, drear morning it is in this corner of England - although, as far as I know, the weather may well be the same right across the country. This is what many people think of as typical English weather for November, But, as with all stereotypes, that is not strictly - or even particularly - accurate. Yesterday, Remembrance Day, was bright and sunny.

Yesterday's parade in Brighton. Photo: The Argus/Simon Dack

As far as I can recall, that is the norm for Remembrance Day. However, the first Sunday in November can have very different weather.

The first Sunday in November is Old Crocks day, more correctly known as the Veteran Car Run. That is the day when some 400 or so cars made before 1905 are driven from London to Brighton to commemorate the day when the 4 miles per hour speed limit on horseless carriages was scrapped. The weather that day can be almost anything but usually comprises two or three of the following features: bitterly cold; pouring with rain; blowing a gale; bright and sunny.

Old Crocks arriving at Brighton last weekend. Photo: The News.co.uk

November is also, of course, the month in which we celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes before he could blow up the King at the opening of Parliament. Brighton Lions Club has organised a fireworks display to mark this event every year since 1952. My involvement goes back only as far as the 1987 display, but I can say that in all those years the display has been cancelled only once because of rain. It rained last year after we had started the display, and there was one year when fog descended part way through and ruined everyone's enjoyment - but for the most part the weather has been reasonably kind to us.

So that typically dank and drear November weather is not so typical after all.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Things that go bump in the night

I was woken in the early hours of yesterday (Saturday) morning by a dog barking. Our dog, Fern. There was nothing particularly noteworthy about that; it happens not infrequently as Fern gets quite upset by foxes invading her territory - or yowling from a little farther away. She did continue barking for a little longer than usual, but I was too snug to get out of bed and call to her to be quiet.

It was not until later in the day that I had occasion to go down the garden so it was some time before I discovered that the gate between the decorative part of the garden and the vegetable garden had been opened and left open. Now, this gate could not have come open of its own accord, notr could it have been forced by any animal short of battering it down. The catch is far too stiff for that to happen. Human intervention must have taken place. I assume that somebody had come through the garden of the neighbour at the back of us. crossed the boundary (where a fence had been taken down by that neighbour in the summer which he has never got round to replacing) and come up the garden. Only to hear the dog barking - and so to beat a retreat.

Fern had earned her breakfast.

And as we continue to remember, this is the headstone of a distant cousin, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Waldegrave Nops,  9th Kite Balloon Section, Royal Flying Corps, killed on active service, at Trois Arbres Cemetery, northern France.


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Remembering

Time was when the country came to a standstill at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Buses stopped and the drivers climbed down from their cans to stand in respectful silence for two minutes. The it was decreed that the commemoration on Armistice Day itself was too disruptive or costly or something, and the commemorations would be centred on Remembrance Day, the Sunday nearest to 11th November. Just when that was is not something I can recall - although I have now discovered that it was in either 1945 or 46. No wonder I don';t remember it happening! The about ten years ago, a groundswell of opinion arose to [persuade people to observe the two minute silence on Armistice Day. It gained momentum quite quickly and the silence is now observed at railway stations and airports, with trains and planes being held (what's new?).

It is a good many years since I was last in a public place on the morning of 11th November, but yesterday I happened to be in a large, busy supermarket doing the weekly shop when I heard a public announcement.

"In two minutes' time we will be observing the silence."

Then, (presumably) two minutes later:

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is eleven o'clock."

That was it. Nothing about honouring the dead, no request for people to join in - and all the more effective for the understatement. Everybody just stopped and stood in silence, until:

"Thank you", when time started again, shopping trolleys rolled, tills made their tilling noises and the world moved on.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

I need a new excuse

I know very well that posting on a daily basis is not compulsory, but I do sometimes feel just a little niggled if I have failed to find something to write. But when in doubt, just shut up.

Not that I have ever bothered to heed those very wise words. All too often I have spoken out and wished later that I had kept shtum.

Anyway, it's all over. Or almost. I don't think I have commented on the seismic events that have been taking place t'other side o' pond. I'm simply glad that I didn't have a dog in that fight and my thoughts were along the lines of 'may the worst man lose'. I most assuredly would not have wanted to choose between them.

In hindsight, what we should have done was offer to transfer one of our upright and honest citizens on a loan basis. I'm sure Tony Blair would have jumped at the chance, but perhaps Boris might have been better.

Oh well. as the good book (or somebody) says, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Still here

My regular reader could be forgiven for thinking that I must have upped sticks and moved to Senegal or Siberia, but no, I'm still here in Dear Old Blighty. It's just that I have been a bit too busy to even surf other's blogs, let alone post on mine. The reason is quite simple.

Fireworks.

Brighton Lions put on a fireworks display on Bonfire Night. It's something we have done for 50 years or more, and our display has been rated as oe of the top ten in the country by a national Sunday newspaper. We have taken to selling tickets on our website - and I am the mg handling the sales! That, of course, is in addition to all the other bits and pieces that make up day to day life in this personal madhouse.

So, an order is advised to me by email. I print out a packing sheet, add the tickets, print a postage-paid envelope, stuff it, and put it aside for posting. Note the details on a spreadsheet, then post the sale (two transactions - the sale itself and the credit card handlinñ fee as a separate entry) in the accounts software. Until last Tuesday I was kept busy, but I was on top of things. Then sales went throôgh the roof.

( Whh do I keep getting letters with stabge accents appearing? Something to do with this tablet, no doubt.)

From then on, posting the accounts went by the board. Now, after the display last Saturday, I am gradually catching up.

It went well, thank you. I wasn't able to see the display being busy counting the cash takings, some £15000 on the night, plus almost another £3000 credit cards to add to the advance sales. We should show a profit of nearly £15000 for the event.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Out to lunch

It was yesterday that the Old Bat and I attended the monthly lunch for people connected with Scouting in Brighton. There are usually between about 20 and 40 people turn up for the meal, which is at a different pub each month. The venue this month was the pub at the edge of the Devil's Dyke. a deep, dry valley cut into the South Downs and a popular spot to visit. This was the view along the edge of the Downs to the west when we arrived:

 And this is looking towards the north-west an hour-and-a-half later!


I wonder, do you know the story of how the Devil's Dyke was formed? It involved a spat between Cuthbert, who lived in a village just north of the Downs and was later made a saint, and the Devil.

Back in the mists of time (I know - that's a cliche but I like it so I'll repeat it!) Back in the mists of time, an old lady (some say she was a nun) lived the life of a hermit in a small cottage on top of the Downs. Cuthbert was in the habit of visiting her to encourage her in her prayerful life and one day, on his way to visit the old lady, he stopped to rest a little way off. He was admiring the view over the Weald, particularly noting the number of churches that had sprung up, when the Devil appeared beside him.

The Devil was furious because at one time the people of the Weald had worshipped him. He blamed Cuthbert, and announced that he would dig a passage through the Downs so that the sea would rush in and drown all the Christians in the Weald. Cuthbert struck a bargain and it was agreed that if the Devil could dig his channel before sunrise the next morning, he could reclaim the Weald. If he failed, the Devil was to leave Sussex for ever.

Cuthbert left the Devil digging furiously and went to visit the old lady. He asked her to make sure that she rose at a very early hour and asked that she should place a lighted candle in the window facing west.

The old lady did this. The Devil saw the light to the east and thought it was the rising sun. He had only dug halfway through the Downs, so he flung away his shovel (you can still see the mark where it hit the ground) and left Sussex, never to be seen again. The steep-sided valley that he dug is known still as the Devil's Dyke and is a popular tourist attraction just north of Brighton.

This picture shows the Dyke from the closed end:


Friday, 14 October 2016

1066 and all that

How the Daily Telegraph's pocket cartoonist views today's anniversary.
There is one date that is remembered by just about every Englishman, although very few know more than just the year. Ten sixty-six and the Battle of Hastings are more or less synonymous and it was on this day - 14th October - that year that the famous battle took place. It's known as the Battle of Hastings, but it was actually fought several miles away from the Sussex town. An abbey - Battle Abbey - was built on what was supposedly the site of the battle and a small town has grown up around it.

That was the last time on which a foreign army successfully invaded England, although for several hundred years incursions by Scots and Welsh occurred from time to time. Of course, it was not the first invasion: Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes (if they are not the same), Vikings and Romans had all at one time or another managed to move inland from the landing beaches and stay for varying lengths of time. Indeed, the English can really be called a mongrel race.

But William, Duke of Normandy, didn't see his action as an invasion. The background to the invasion is rather complex, but it started when King Æthelred II of England (Ethelred the Unready) married Emma, the sister of Richard, Duke of Normandy. Their son, Edward the Confessor, was childless and when he died in January 1066, he was succeeded by the Earl of Wessex, Harold Godwinson. But Edward had spent much of his life in Normandy and William claimed that he had been promised the throne when Edward died.

It gets even more complicated because the King of Norway reckoned that he should succeed Edward and he sent an army to back up his claim. It was that army that Harold had defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire - after which he and his army marched 250 miles in just four days to face the invading Normans.

The final result is that we have a lot of French influences in the English language, a great record of the country in the 11th century in the Domesday Book, and a lot of castles!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Milky Way

Pablo Rodriguez took this photo of the Milky Way from Beachy Head, on Sunday October 2, 2016
That's the Beachy Head lighthouse at the foot of the cliffs towards the bottom of the picture.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Well, well, well

Three holes in the ground, as my old granny was wont to say.

"Well, where have you been?" I hear you ask. (Well - and that's the second one - I don't really but it's as good a way as any of letting you know that I'm still here.)

Well (and that's the last one) actually I'm back. I've been back for over a week but have been enormously busy.

Can one be 'enormously' busy? I'm not at all sure that one can, but I've been busy. Let's just leave it at that.

We (that's the Old Bat and me - or I if you prefer) did have a week in France. And very restful it was, especially on the two mornings when we were able to sit in the courtyard and soak up the sun. But since we got back it's been go,go,go all the time and this afternoon is the first opportunity I have had to bore you all rigid.

I must say there are times when I wish we were back in our village without newspapers or, especially, television. Watching the goings on across the pond makes me very glad I'm not an American and as certain as one can be that one of two presidential wannabes will be forced upon me. Choosing between those two seems very much like choosing the lesser of two evils.

On the other hand, I was delighted the other afternoon to see that there are still harebells in bloom in the Ladies Mile nature reserve. In mid-October! They surely should have finished before now. And as I was walking across 39 Acres another day, a bird flashed past very fast, much too fast for me to identify it. I was pretty sure that it was a falcon; body shape, wing shape and flight pattern were right. But all I could really say apart from that was that it was grey or brown on the back and paler underneath, smaller than a kestrel but larger than a blackbird. Hobby or merlin seem the most likely candidates - but I have never seen either breed and don't know that they are South Downs regulars - although if it was a hobby it could be on migration.

Just another of those insoluble mysteries.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Just discovered!

While doing some housework on my computer (deleting old files that will never be used again) I came across a short 'video' I made back in the dawn of our French adventures.  We went to visit a house that I originally described thus:

It stood foursquare and forlorn with drooping shutters and with just about sufficient fragments of paint clinging to the door and window frames for a forensic scientist to work out what colour it had once been. Devising a way of opening the gate without causing it to collapse in a heap of worm-eaten wood almost needed the intelligence of Einstein and would have made a first class project for that old TV programme, The Krypton Factor. The garden was so overgrown that Dr Livingstone would have been quite at home in it. It would probably have taken Stanley just as long to find him here as it had in central Africa. When we had fought our way into the house and entered the kitchen, the first thing we noticed was a tidemark about fifteen inches up the wall. This, apparently, marked the highest level of the last flood.

"Not to worry," advised Monsieur D [the estate agent], jauntily. He went on to explain that the local authority had spent vast sums of money on flood defence measures which he would be delighted to show us.

The rest of the house was in much the same condition. The roof needed replacing, as did the windows and door. The wiring would have to be ripped out, and one room would need to be converted to a bathroom. Mrs S would never put up with the tumbledown brick shed beside the front gate, even if I had cleared away the jungle. There really was far too much work required although, as Monsieur D cheerfully said, it was "a small price for much work".
While I was glumly considering the wash basin on the landing with its mottled green and brown stains, Mrs S was pulling up the tattered carpets, which lay two deep, to expose the original terra-cotta floor tiles. I have to admit they were in remarkably good condition. But that was it, as far as Mrs S was concerned. The walls might have been falling down and the wiring more lethal than Alabama's electric chair, but as long as there remained perfectly good, old, terra-cotta floor tiles, she would be happy.

Monsieur D was astounded. "Madame prefers this?" he asked in a faint voice. "Definitely," replied madame firmly.


And this what I have discovered:

video

Saturday, 24 September 2016

In the news this week

If you have spent the week in Antarctica or on the moon, you might not have heard that Mary Berry will not be going to Channel 4.

There is, of course, a back story.

"The Great British Bake Off, often referred to as Bake Off or GBBO, is a BAFTA award-winning British television baking competition which selects from amongst its contestants the best amateur baker. The series is presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and judged by cookery writer Mary Berry and professional baker Paul Hollywood." (Wiki)

Paul, Sue, Mel & Mary
Since its inception, the show, now (I believe) in its seventh series, has been shown on BBC although it has been produced by an independent production company.  Recently, the production company accepted an offer of £25 million from Channel 4 for a future series, the BBC not being prepared to pay more than £12.5 million - although I am fairly certain I have also seen the figure of £15 million.

Be that as it may, the two presenters - Mel and Sue - stated immediately that they would not be going to Channel 4 with the show. Paul Hollywood subsequently announced that he would. But only a day or two ago, Mary Berry declared that she would remain with the Beeb out of loyalty to the broadcaster that had given the show its start.

(Loyalty: now there's an old-fashioned notion!)

I reckon that I, with the OB, must be one of only a very small minority of people in this country that has never watched:
  • The Great British Bake Off;
  • Strictly Come Dancing;
  • The X Factor;
  • Britain's Got Talent;
  • The Voice.
Nor do we watch:

  • Coronation Street;
  • Emmerdale;
  • Eastenders;
  • Holby City
  • Casualty.
Maybe there's something wrong with us - or maybe it's all the others who are out of step!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Just like buses

Most days I  manage to find enough to keep me from twiddling my thumbs - which is no bad thing. Boredom is never o be welcomed. Of course, it may well be simply a  matter of 'work' expanding o fill the time available. Most days. Then there are days like today, days when, just like buses, jobs come in fleets, days when I wish time could be stretched to fit the work to be done. It's gone eleven at night and I'm only just getting round to the blog!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Pub grub

Those were the days: brown ale served in nearly clean glasses, your change too sticky to put in your pocket, the bar almost completely fogged with cigarette smoke. And if you wanted food - well, a packet of crisps (with a choice of two or maybe even three flavours if you were very lucky) or pork scratchings or a dismally small packet of peanuts. The peasants drank in the public bar, the toffs in the saloon, which probably sported a bit of cheap carpet and a few armchairs. The dart board would have been in the public bar - no pool table in those days, nor one-arm bandits either!

But gone are those days! Well, almost. There are still a few pubs that have not bought into the late-20th century revolution or at least, not fully. Most pubs will offer a choice of ales or bitters (the one I was in today offered five) as well as stout and a choice of lagers - and often three different red wines and a couple of whites. Some, known as gastro-pubs, even offer a distinctly up-market menu.

The Swan Inn was the lunch venue today. A homely pub in a village just outside Brighton, with three bars with no difference between them except their size. The lunchtime menu is distinctly "pub grub": scampi and chips, cod and chips, baked potatoes with various fillings, gammon, egg and chips, sausage, bacon, egg and chips and so on. No beef and ale pie or lasagna as served in many pubs - just cheerful and (relatively) cheap "pub grub".

And I enjoyed my meal!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

It's Tuesday

It's not raining but the sky is 10/10 cloud. It's not cold, but nor is it hot.

That's about all there is to say.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Another old one

Q: Why do elephants paint their toenails red?

A: So they can hide in cherry trees.

Q: Have you ever seen an elephant in a cherry tree?

A: No - so it must work!

Now I'll take me off to the barber's.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Fruit picking

I missed the few blackcurrants that ripened this year - and there were very few - and we have had no raspberries, chiefly because the man we have come in to do the heavy work in the garden strimmed the canes before they got going! there were, as usual, plenty of plums on the two trees but, again as usual, they rotted on the branch before they were ripe. We appeared to have a goodly number of pears, but when I looked this morning they were down to about a dozen. I have seen the jackdaws eating them only once, and a squirrel was dining on them one time, but quite a number dropped and I presume the jackdaws and squirrels between them have seen off the rest.

The summer has been too dry (now there's a novelty!) for the blackberries to swell to their usual size. Those I have picked have been only half the size of those we still have in the freezer from last year. But at least we are getting some.

The big success this year is the crop of crab apples. there was a time when I scooped them off the verge, having learned where there are two or three planted in local roads, but for several years those trees have had no fruit. Last year I discovered a new tree. New to me, that is. And I was able to collect a satisfactory quantity for the Old Bat to make crab apple jelly. This year the tree is smothered in fruit. I brought home a couple of pounds this afternoon and no one would know that I had picked any, such is the enormous crop.

As they say, you win some, you lose some. Or perhaps that should be you lose most but might win one - if you're lucky!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Recycling

It is a good many years now since this family started to recycle our waste as far as possible. We kept paper and cardboard, glass and tins and, when it became necessary, loaded up the car and drove to a recycling depot. Nowadays, though, the council does the work for us, although Brighton & Hove has one of the lowest recycling rates of any local authority - and that was when the Green party ran the city!

Anyway, most homes in the city have two or more recycling boxes. These are just plastic boxes about 24" x 15" x 18" deep - not the wheelie bins that so many other councils use (although some parts of the city have them as part of a pilot scheme). In the first place, these recycling boxes had a string net fastened to one end, the net to be pulled across the top to prevent to contents blowing away. That didn't work too well so the council switched to supplying boxes with (loose) lids. But these lids blow off, so I always use a weight on the box for paper and plastic bottles, the glass not being likely to blow out of its box.

For a while, my paperweight was a length of 2 x 4 wood which I jammed inside the box. Then one day the recycling people took the wood as well as the paper, plastic bottles, tins and glass. I have no idea why they might have taken my length of wood as wood is not collected for recycling.

I then found a piece of broken paving slab which held down the paper very well.  Until that, too, was taken for recycling.

I acquired another piece of broken paving slab - but that was taken yesterday!

The mind boggles as to why they want pieces of broken paving slab!

Friday, 16 September 2016

How old?



Really? Face and clothing: 26;body and behaviour 22. Should the age not be 24 or 25?

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The old ones are the best

I was wandering around in what Buck always called the Tubes of You looking for something special when I was distracted by some 40-years-old humour.


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Bowling

That's what I am supposed to be doing this evening, bowling.  The 10-pin variety. I don't much like bowling, and I'm not much good at it either. It's not exactly my choice of a way to spend an evening - but I'm duty driver tonight for the blind club, and they are going bowling, so a-bowling I will go.

Last time I drove on a bowling evening, I played against some of the blind (and partially-sighted) - and they beat me! I'm not at all sure that the exercise (of bowling) would do much for the arthritis in my hands so I think I'll sit it out tonight.

That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Cause of wonder

That's me I'm talking about! I'm a cause of wonder. At least, I am to me. And i don't mean 'wonder' in the sense of awe, I mean 'wonder' as a synonym for puzzlement. Yes, I puzzle myself.

I look at my desk - well, I can't actually look at my desk because there is so much on it. There is a tangle of leads, some connecting one machine to another, some in use to recharge machines, some just sprawling idly across the desk - and I must admit that I have no idea what some of them are for. As well as the leads, there is a stand-along hard drive, a laptop (which is used only for producing documents using Wordperfect as I can't install my very old version on anything else and which I use for producing the Lions Club's charter night menus - it's a long story...), no fewer than three tablets and three credit card readers that are to be used and another that is US and waiting to be sent back to Paypal, two printers (only one of which I ever use but the other can be used for scanning 35mm slides), a pile of CDs, various badges, photographs, paperwork that might need to be filed sometime but for now needs to be kept handy, a camera and mini-tripod, several memory sticks, a couple of dead batteries, three ballpoint pens, a rubber stamp, a dead mouse (computers for the use of), an old £1 note, bent paper clips, an empty jam jar (don't ask!) - the list goes on.

What puzzles me is just why I insist on working in such a state of confusion. I'm not like this in other areas of my life. I am ultra-pernickety when it comes to putting cutlery in the drawer: spoons must be just so, all nestled and the same way up. Tea towels must hang with an equal amount of cloth on either side of the rail, bath- and hand-towels must be folded in a specific way before being placed in the exact spot in the airing cupboard - and so on and so forth. I just wish I could bring the same sort of order to my desk!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Actually, I intend moving the other way - from the ridiculous to the sublime. Yesterday's Fan-dance Fanny qualifies as the ridiculous, while for the sublime I give you the achingly beautiful intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana. Mascagni, as you might have guessed, was Italian and lived from 1863 to 1945. Although he composed several operas, very few people have heard of any other than Cav. But I can think of worse epitaphs than to be remembered as the composer of this piece, played here by the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lim Kek-tjiang.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Fan-dance Fanny

Sometimes a little light relief is called for. Perhaps a spot of trad? Anyway, here is Clinton Ford (from 1968!)


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Alas alack!

We set off, the Old Bat and I, yesterday afternoon - after I had walked the dog - to visit our favourite butcher. The OB had quite a list, as is usual, as we only visit about once  month. The butcher, whom we have been patronising for more years than I care to remember - at least 35 - is located in what is
epc.bwa-subway3.co.uk
called the Open Market.  It's really nothing of the sort - open, that is - because the various lock-up stalls are located around the edge of a covered space approximately half the size of a football pitch. There is an upper floor, to which we have never climbed. The Old Bat would have extreme difficulty in doing so anyway.

Anyway, I usually try to park in a small lay-by on the wrong side of the road. Despite the double yellow lines, there is usually as least one other car parked there - with no blue badge on display. At least I am legal as I display the OB's blue badge. We then potter through the entrance which is lined by various 'ethnic' and off-beat stalls. I never understand how they manage to make a living as I have never seen a customer at any of them.

And so into the heart of the market - where we see the butcher's stall firmly shuttered. Some months ago I had expressed doubts about his financial standing, and we were told by a near-by stallholder that the butcher had shut up as usual a week last Saturday but had not been seen since. Pity, that, as I shall miss his wonderful sausages.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Tolerance?

We Brits (How I hate that term!) pride ourselves on our tolerance and the free speech that is permitted in our country. But tolerance has its limits, and free speech brings with it responsibilities, something that Anjem Choudary chose to ignore.  For 20 years he has preached hatred of western ideals - while living in the country he claimed to hate and claiming state benefits as he had no other source of income! the problem was that, because of our tolerance of free speech, he never quite went far enough to be prosecuted - until recently. Now he has started a five-and-a-half year prison sentence for pledging allegiance to ISIL. No doubt be will be freed in just over two years and will once again start claiming benefits, while his family live on them during his imprisonment.

We must be mad!

But enough. Let's switch to something far more interesting.

I know that today is not International Speak Like a Pirate Day, but it should be I say that on the grounds that today should be renamed in honour of Henry Every.

What do you mean, you've never heard of Henry Every? Well, I have to grant you that he's not the most famous (infamous?) pirate who ever lived but it was on 7th September 1695 (although some say it was 4th) that Henry, also known as Long Ben, and his crew captured the Grand Moghul of India’s treasure ship “Ganj-i-Sawai” with its cargo of jewels, estimated to be worth £50 million at today;s prices. the GM was so annoyed that he threatened to break off trade with England unless he got his treasure back so the English government and the East India Company put up a massive reward, thereby launching the first ever worldwide manhunt.

Nobody knows what happened to Henry after that.  Some say he sailed off to the Caribbean where several of his crew were eventually captured, six of them being hanged in London; others say he set himself up as the King of Madagascar, and there is also the tale that he returned penniless to England under a different name.

but whatever happened to Our 'Enery, his treasure has never been found. Perhaps it lies still buried on a tropical island?


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A bit of a wimp

Was it only last Thursday that I posted a picture of Fern aged 2 weeks?  My, how time flies, as here she is at 5 weeks!

She was born in army married quarters and the whole litter - 8 of them - soon became used to being picked up and cuddled, even by children. Possibly as a result, Fern has always loved children. She was more than happy to play with this young lad in the park - and fortunately his mother was very relaxed about it!










She has, however, always been rather timid as far as other dogs and animals are concerned.  If we are heading towards even two other dogs, and sometimes only one, she will try to take a detour to avoid them. No chance of her getting into a fight! She is terrified of cows and positively refuses to go into a field if there is one in sight. In her bed at night, however, she is a different animal. Just let a fox yelp and she sets up a furious barking. She had me up twice last night.

And despite the photographic evidence to the contrary, she dislikes snow. It gets compacted between her toes and her pads and makes walking very painful.


(You might gather that there ain't much else today.)

Monday, 5 September 2016

Flower of the Downs

That title almost sounds as though it could be an Irish folk song but it is far more prosaic than that.

I'm not a botanist and know regrettably few of the names of the flowers I see when walking the dog across the fields and commons and through the woods of the South Downs. Granted, there are a goodly number I do know: knapweed and ragwort, bluebell and aconite, cow parsley, daisy, clover, hawkbit, toadflax and quite a few others. I know the cowslip - which, I am pleased to say, has become quite a common flower nowadays after having been quite scarce only a few years ago.  I hope that same thing happens to the primrose which is still relatively uncommon having suffered from overpicking.

One plant I am always pleased to see, and it grows only in a few places on the downs, is the harebell. Such a delicate-looking flower, it is apparently pretty tough and grows mainly in wilder parts of the country. Also known as the bluebell of Scotland, cuckoo's shoe, witch bells or old man's bell - the 'old man' being the devil himself. Dreaming about harebells is said to symbolise true love. In County Antrim (Northern Ireland) it is a fairy plant, , the goblin's (or Puck's) thimble. Pick it at your peril.

There seems to be more honeysuckle around in the woods and hedgerows than I remember from my youth, and this summer I have even seen sweet peas growing in a local nature reserve, although I suspect they were escapees from a garden.

But for me, the flower of the Downs is the scabious, or, more correctly, field scabious.  It is also known as the gypsy rose, lady's pincushion and blue bonnets. Coincidentally, it was grandmother's favourite flower. I like it for it's unusual shape and colour. Scabious was used to treat scabies, and many other afflictions of the skin including sores caused by the bubonic plague.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Continued

I meant it was too late to be Doing this.  Just goes to show that tablets and me don't necessarily get along!

This all came about in connection with the Lions fireworks display coming up in a couple of months. More and more people want to use debit or credit cards to pay the admission and whereas in past years we have been able to use card facilities provided by the venue, this year it will all be down to us. I decided to make a start on the preparations in good time, just in case of hiccups.

First, find a source of credit card readers. That proved fairly easy (thank you, Google) and I made a few phone calls. We really only need the machine(s) for one day a year and I was looking for short-term loan deals, but they were not to be had. Prices ranged from £275 A YEAR plus £5 a month minimum usage, plus £5 a month for something else... Then I found I could buy machines from Paypal at £80 each! So I bought three.(The price has since come down to £40!) The operating instructions are minimal, but they seem easy enough.

The idea was that they should be paired with Bluetooth. each to a different phone, and I had three volunteers lined up. Then I thought it might be better to use the venue's WiFi and, rather than tie up phones that might be needed for verbal communication, use tablets.  So I bought one, quite cheap, considering - and with a Windows 10 operating system. That's what I was using late last night, and I quite like it although I still prefer my desktop set-up. But then I discovered that app to run the credit card readers won't work on Windows. So I bought another tablet, Android system, for £65. The 10" screen provided readable-sized text - and I was able to link it with the card readers. Well, one of them.

I found I could buy smaller, 7" tablets for just £30, so ordered a couple. I spent most of yesterday trying to get them to work. The small screen didn't help, but I did eventually get to download the app. Or I tried to download the app - only to be informed that the machines are incompatible!

They will be returned this morning. I have ordered two more of the 10" screens and until they arrive have more or less sworn off computers!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Bah, humbug!

When I told one of my friends that I had bought a tablet, he expressed surprise, calling me a Luddite. I don't think that particularly fair. I don't consider myself a Luddite or even a technophobe, although I must admit to being technologically illiterate to a degree. That has been demonstrated especially over the last week or ten days, but never more so than today.

It's far too late at night for me to be song this - especially using a tablet. I'll leave it there for now and finish tomrrow.

Friday, 2 September 2016

On the subject of animals...

Did you see that picture of the cocker spaniel lying beside his master's coffin after the earthquake in Italy? Much like the story of Greyfriars Bobby.  I admit to having some doubts about the veracity of that story but I do accept that animals - well, dogs in particular - do have emotions although maybe not quite as we know them. We are too prone to anthropomorphise animals and describe dogs as loyal, affectionate or loving.

I'm not sure that 'loving' is quite what Fern feels or shows towards my daughter, who is possibly one of the dog's most favourite people, but there is something there.  There was a particular example a few years ago when the OB and I, with Fern, stayed with my daughter for a few days.  The three of us took the dog for a walk in the local park (an enormous place, almost the size of a town!). On the way back, I walked in front with fern on the lead, the OB and daughter were a few paces behind (showing the proper respect!). Fern behaved abysmally - until my daughter took the lead, after which she was angelic! When my daughter stays with us, Fern watches the stairs anxiously, waiting for her to come down, or sits looking out of the window as D goes to her car, willing her to come back.

Fern also feels a sort of pride. This is seen when, as happens quite often, she finds a tennis ball in the park. As she carries it off, her head goes up and her tail wags almost excessively.

One of Fern's predecessors (not biologically but in our household) was a large, black dog - a flat-coated retriever - called Rags. He exhibited a tremendous empathy with humans. In particular, if a young girl from up the road came into the house feeling upset or anxious (the OB took her and her sister to school each day after their mother had gone to work), Rags would cuddle up to her until she felt better.

Yes, there is something there - love, affection, loyalty, call it what you will.  It exists.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Dog days

When, a few days back, I posted that I had nothing to post (are you confused yet?) mt friend Skip suggested that cats or dogs are always good subjects to fill an otherwise blank day.  At least, that is how I understood his comment.  Skip, I apologise if I got it wrong.

So I was about to post something about our dog, Fern.  The title 'Dog Days' just sprang into my mind and it occurred to me that I had no idea how the phrase originated. I just assumed it was something to do with dogs being extra lazy in the heat of summer.  Wrong!  Seems it refers to >the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun.

And why dog watches, those short, two hour stretches from 16.00 to 18.00 and 18.00 to 20.00? Well, not so much what are they for (I know that) but why are they called that? No one seems to know, really, although there are several suggestions.

Anyway, my dog - she is officially my wife's dog but she (the dog) thinks I am the boss - is an English springer spaniel called Fern.  We first met her when she was two weeks' old. And that is her with the Old Bat back in 2004.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The calendar again

This is the picture She Who Must Be Obeyed chose for February next year. It is the village of Blesle, in the Auvergne,France. It is listed as one of France's most beautiful villages - along with several hundred others making the same claim. Personally, I think it looks a bit run down.
(Pardon my cynicism.)


Monday, 29 August 2016

Fruit salad

I rather think that this week will see the first blackberry ripe enough, in my opinion, for me to pick. There are already some - quite a few- that many folks would consider ripe. But my standards are higher. Granted, it helps that I pick blackberries in our own garden, which means I can leave them until they reach perfection. I suppose I am a bit fussy, but I do like my blackberries. They are possibly the best fruit for baked Alaska - which reminds me, the Old Bat hasn't done that for ages. I must remind her.

I'm not sure which is my favourite fruit. Probably either blackberries or raspberries. I particularly like both of them - but I do wish their pips would keep out of my teeth!

Blackberries and raspberries might be my favourites, but I do like plenty of other fruit as well.  That said, I am a bit choosy. For example, I do not like one particular variety of strawberry, and of course it's the one that the supermarkets prefer, probably as it has a longer shelf life than other varieties. I'm referring to Elsanta, a variety that lacks flavour. I much prefer Favorit or Driscall's and there was another variety beginning with C that I found a year or two ago but haven't seen since. That was particularly good.

I'm fussy about apple varieties as well. My first choice will always be a Cox's Orange Pippin or that newer variety, Braeburn, but I can't stand Golden Delicious and am not keen on Gala or Jazz. I know many apples are grown in France, but the climate/weather in that country is not the best for this fruit. English apples are far superior, although I realise that is just my opinion. Actually, it's not; the Old Bat agrees with me.

I know of no different varieties of banana, although I am sure there are several. They are sold simply as bananas so that is how I think of them. My preference is for fruit just a little on the unripe side, firm and full of flavour. Just a couple of days after buying they tend to be too soft for me.

Oranges, pineapple, grapes - all good by me, but I am not very keen on kiwi fruit or lychees and I actually dislike mangoes which have too slimy a consistency for me. And as for custard apples - they should never be grown!

I have never subscribed to the idea that peaches are great. They're OK, but - and many people will be incredulous at this - the best peaches come out of tins! Tinned sliced peaches with evaporated milk - a special tea-time treat when I was a boy, and still the best way to eat them!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Gone racing

Perhaps I was just a little hasty yesterday when I suggested that summer was coming to an end - the temperature did hit 27 again!

Actually, it wasn't yesterday that I wrote that, it was today - although by the time you read this it will be yesterday, or tomorrow, or last week. I'm starting this post late at night as I plan to go racing tomorrow (or today, or last week). Donkey racing - and pig racing. A nearby Lions club is running a donkey derby and my club is to take our pig racing stall. The weather forecast a few days ago was decidedly iffy but I think it might have changed since then, despite this being a bank holiday weekend.

Summer's going

It certainly seems a little cooler this morning.  We have had something of a heatwave this week - a heatwave for us Brits, anyway, with temperatures peaking at 30 or so.  30 Celsius, that is - mid to upper 80s Fahrenheit.  Even here along the coast where it's generally a little cooler we have reached 27 or 28.  That has felt oppressive with the high humidity and I have taken to walking Fern in the woods after breakfast and then not again until the evening.  Which meant that I had all afternoon free yesterday to order our kitchen calendar for next year.

Which, perhaps, deserves a little explanation.

For the past ten years or so I have had a calendar specially printed using photographs taken by myself. It's not really as extravagant as might be expected and, for the first few years at least, it was a reminder of places we had been to during the previous year. I have been very lax in my photography for the last year and so for our 2017 calendar we have had to trawl through the years.  Well, I had to trawl through the years to produce a selection of a couple of dozen for the Old Bat to choose from. It took me the better part of yesterday afternoon to upload the selection to the printers' web site.

Which reminds me.  Last Monday morning I uploaded the artwork for a poster to be printed A4 size (250 copies) and different artwork for 5,000 flyers in A5 size.  Total price £89.  They were delivered on Thursday, having been printed in Holland!

But back to the calendar.  This was the choice for January's illustration, the farm next door to our French cottage.


Friday, 26 August 2016

Thursday, 25 August 2016

As sure as a couple of eggs

I haven't heard that expression used for ages.  Over 60 years, to be a little more exact.  I wasn't sure then - and I'm not sure even now - quite whether that wording is what the man meant to say or whether he really meant 'as sure as eggs is eggs'. My considered opinion, refined over these past 60+ years, is that he was trying to be clever and paraphrase the well-known saying.  It would have been in character, or as near as I can tell, my pre-teenage self not being into character reading to any great extent.  (I'm not saying that I'm pre-teenage now, you understand, but that I was when I heard those words.)

It was at school, back in the days when the teachers (we called them masters in those days) always wore jackets, ties and GOWNS, although mortar boards had been put aside.  This particular gentleman was the deputy headmaster and was standing in for our regular master (I have a feeling it might have been a history less) who was sick or attending a funeral or something.  Anyway, this deputy headmaster, by name of Parsons, was Welsh.  I'm not sure that his place of birth really has any bearing on the matter, but then again, it might.

Because Mr P was unfamiliar with the names of the boys in my form (we weren't called students back then) he had fallen into the habit of making up names. Well, not so much making up names, as using objects as names.

"You, Tomato," he would say, pointing to a pupil. (Just an example, you understand.)

One of the pupils had what turned out to be the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your sense of humour) name of Gammon.

You, there, Bacon. What's your name?" demanded Mr P.

He took some convincing that the answer was not a leg-pull and threatened the whole class with a visit to the headmaster.  "I'll have you trotting along as sure as a couple of eggs!" he exclaimed.

I've never heard the phrase since, and I can find no trace of it on Google so I think he must have been making it up.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Mad dogs and Englishmen

I have recently re-read a book by possibly the most anglophile American. Although I did from time to time find myself becoming a tad irritated, it did remind me why I am very happy to have been born a native of these islands.  Mr Bryson - for he was the author - waxed lyrical about the whimsical nature of England and Englishmen.  It took an Englishman - Noel Coward - to put us on a par with mad dogs.

That, to Mr B, is one of our endearing traits, the ability always to see ourselves as not as good as other races (or nationalities).  We frequently sell ourselves short.  Mind you, many of us like to see that as eccentricity rather than madness, and eccentricity is something we admire.  It is something we do rather well.  Take place names, for example.  Many of them are pronounced completely differently to the way they are spelled.  Gloucester, Worcester and Leicester are pronounced Gloster, Wooster and Lester.  Belvoir is Beaver and - wait for it! - Woolfardisworthy (an eccentricity if ever I saw one!) is Woolsery.  And in Norfolk there are two neighbouring villages called Tivetshall.  So as to distinguish one from t'other, the names of their parish churches' patron saints are added to give Tivetshall St Mary and Tivetshall St Margaret.  Some names almost invite sniggers, names such as Nether Wallop and Parsons End.  And to think that we consider Kalamazoo odd!

But it's not only place names that are endearingly eccentric.  We have an innate need to apologise. We apologise to people who bump into us because they are not looking where they are going. We apologise when asking for something.  "I'm sorry, could you move your bag off the seat so I can sit down?"  "I'm sorry, can you tell me what time you serve breakfast?" It could be described as a sorry state of affairs.

Our people invent things and we let other nations reap the benefits. Football was 'invented' in this country - and now almost every other country plays it better than we do.  We have won the World Cup once - 50 years ago!  We invented cricket and our national team is frequently beaten by others. Mind you, cricket qualifies as an eccentricity itself!

I mentioned that the names of places are sometimes (often?) not pronounced as written but this quirkiness goes further. We spell the noun for the place where plays are staged the French way - theatre - albeit without the little hat over the 'a' but we say it almost in the American way - theater - although the emphasis is on the first syllable rather than the second. Then there is the habit we have, probably irritating to some, of adding a silent 'w' to words starting with the sound 'r' and sometimes 'h' - write, wring, who. But the 'wh' at the start of whistle, when and where is pronounced as a 'w'!  And perhaps it would be better not to get entangled with the 'ough' ending of words!

Personally, I am quite happy to live in a land of oddities.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Confusing

There are some things I do from time to time that really do come into that category of 'stupidity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results'. Almost every day I check out the website of the local newspaper. Now, I'm not saying that is a stupid thing to do, although the paper is not exactly renowned for cutting edge journalism. No, the stupid thing is scrolling down to the readers' comments and hoping to read something that is correct in both grammar and spelling and not blaming either the Tories or the Greens for everything while at the same time insulting just about everybody else who has commented with a different point of view. And it is mainly a dozen or so people  whose noms de plume appear every time. Every time I look I resolve never to do it again. But I still do.

At least that is consistent, unlike that site which encourages travellers to write reviews of hotels and restaurants. I go there occasionally out of some masochistic tendency just to see what other people are saying about restaurants I know.  It is always restaurants that I check as I almost never stay in hotels.  But how is it that one reviewer raves about a restaurant while the next advises us never to cross its threshold?  I know that each is stating his (or her) own opinion and that one man's meat etc - but I am still staggered by the wildly different comments..  Having said (written/typed) all that, I have just checked the reviews of our local Italian - where we shall be eating tomorrow - and find that of 121 reviews, 88 rate the restaurant excellent and 27 very good.  Just goes to prove me wrong!

But another review site that provides reviews of tradespeople also puzzles me. The reviews seem to be consistently good, very good or excellent.  But every time I try to use one of the highly-rated tradesmen, I find them almost but not quite disastrous.

Is it any wonder I'm confused?

Monday, 22 August 2016

Match of this Day

Just a few days ago some 9 million people in this country alone watched the women's hockey final in the Olympic Games.  What a contrast to the 22nd August 1964 when a mere twenty thousand watched the BBC's first Match of the Day between Liverpool and Arsenal.

(For the non cognoscenti that was a football [soccer] game.)

The match was played at Anfield, Liverpool's home ground, and was won 3-2 by Liverpool.

This was, apparently, a trial run by the BBC in preparation for their coverage of the 1966 World Cup.The programme was aired during the evening on BBC2, a channel broadcast only in London and that could be watched only on the new-fangled 625 line television sets.  three years later, despite moves by several football clubs to prevent it, the programme was moved to BBC1.

Match of the Day is now recognised as the longest-running football television programme in the world.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

It never rains but what it pours

That really doesn't sound grammatically correct but it is how I remember the saying from my childhood, although I grant that quite a lot of rain has fallen since those days.

Anyway, the other day I was saying how we came home from France to a water problem - specifically water from the shower pouring through the kitchen ceiling. Now we have problems with water in France! Our son, his partner and three children arrived there on Thursday only to find that the boiler was not working so they had no hot water.

So, in between all the usual running around shopping, walking the dog, taking the Old Bat for her weekly treatment and so on, I seem to have spent hours phoning and texting (in French, even!) attempting to suggest solutions and even more hours searching the internet for suitable tradesmen to call out.

Just to rub salt in the wound (as it were), I went to feed the various animals my son has (cats, chicken and a rabbit) on a reasonably warm and fairly sunny afternoon.  As I walked down the garden, the heavens opened.  When I got back home, the only clothes I didn't change were my socks!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Frustrated

I sometimes wonder if companies really want business.  Or maybe it's the staff who just can't be bothered.  Either way, it causes potential customers enormous frustration.

With the annual fireworks display getting ever closer, it is becoming more important to get all the ducks in a row.  In past years there have been several aspects of the arrangements that have been managed by, for want of a better description, partners of Brighton Lions.  This year, pretty much everything is down to us.  As the treasurer, it is down to me to deal with the money handling.  One of the more vital jobs that has to be outsourced is the secure collection, weekend storage and eventual banking of the cash takings on the day.  No way am I prepared to carry that sort of sum to my car, keep it at home for a couple of days and then take it to the bank!  When I explain that in past years the figure has been as high as £30,000 you will see what I mean.  Not that I anticipate it being anywhere near that sum this year.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I got down to making the inquiries.  There are just two major companies of which I am aware and - for some inexplicable reason - I decided to phone them in reverse alphabetical order.

Having selected the option for new business (it was one of those dial 1 for sales, dial 2 for complaints type of thing) I was asked to provide brief details.  Which I did.  I was then told that the person who would deal with my inquiry would call me tomorrow morning (as it was then.  Today as it is now.) I'm still waiting.

So I called the second company.  This time I was asked to email brief details and the person who would deal with my inquiry would call me tomorrow morning.  Again, I am still waiting.

I wonder if either will try ringing this afternoon despite me having emphasised that I will not be available?

On the other hand, I rang the box office at our local concert hall to ask if they would sell tickets for us.  Of course, they said.  It would take just a couple of days to get everything set up, for which they would charge £25, and they would produce the tickets and sell them for 10% commission.

Nice to know some things work out well.