Friday, 31 July 2009

Busy, busy

Walk the dog, read my emails, help set up the book fair for tomorrow morning, out to friends for lunch, walk the dog, another quick check on emails, feed the dog, off to the MS Centre for the official opening of the refurbished centre (a substantial donation from Brighton Lions helped pay for that). Then I can relax - or go to bed!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Blue badge day

It's arrived at last! Sheila applied for a blue badge back in February. When we had heard nothing - not even an acknowledgment - after a couple of months, I rang the local parking office to enquire what the position was.

'We've written to the physiotherapist at the hospital, but hospitals never reply.'

'Could you not write to the GP shown on the application form?'

'Would you like us to do that? Or we could send a reminder to the hospital?'

'I think the GP shown on the form has retired now, but you could try.'

Another two months went past and I rang again.

'We've written to the physiotherapist at the hospital, but hospitals never reply.'

'Well, perhaps you could write to the GP. The one shown on the form has retired, but this is my wife's new one - Dr X'

A week later, a letter arrives from Dr X asking Sheila to make an appointment. We were just going on holiday, so left it till our return. Dr X, of course, only works two days a week, and it was another ten days before she had a spare ten minutes. 'I'll take that appointment,' said Sheila.

'Oh yes,' says Dr X, 'you should have a blue badge. I'll just complete this form and send it back... but it doesn't say where I should send it. I'll get the receptionist to ring and find out.'

Three weeks later we had still heard nothing so I rang again - that was last Monday.

'Ah, yes, we seem to have everything we need.'

'So when can my wife expect to receive the badge?'

'We just have to get it made up, we'll probably get it in the post in a day or two.'

As I say, it arrived today.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Political definitions

Found in a 1986 issue of JJ.

Fascism - You have two cows, the government takes both of them and sells you milk.
Nazism - You have two cows, the government takes both of them and shoots you.
Communism - You have two cows, the government takes both of them and gives you milk.
Socialism - You have two cows, and you give one to your neighbour.
Capitalism - You have two cows, you sell one of them and buy a bull.
Bureaucracy - You have two cows, the government takes both of them, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain.

Monday, 27 July 2009

And then there's this

Is that all there is?

Having found out that the inaugural meeting of what was at first called Brighton & Hove Lions Club (later simply Brighton Lions Club) was on 18 October 1950, I thought to see what other Earth-shattering events occurred that day. And guess what? Apart from the birth of a couple of actresses so minor that nobody has ever heard of them (well - I haven't) the only thing was that Connie Mack announced that he was going to retire after 50 seasons as the manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. And as I have never heard of either the Philadelphia Athletics or Connie Mack, that didn't help much either!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

I should have known

The reason they had the party yesterday was because that was their wedding anniversary!

Anyway, the traffic on the way there was nowhere near as bad as I had expected. In fact, there was actually less than we normally find when we go to the farm. The party was great. The tarps weren't really needed to keep the sun off, but things broke up just before the tarps would have been needed for shelter from the rain. But it was not much more than a shower, and the evening turned out fine.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Tomorrow's weather

I just hope it is better than today's. We will be going down to the farm for a party to celebrate the centenary of the family taking over the farm and also J & L's ruby wedding. No way could everybody squeeze into the house, despite its size, so I have no doubt Julian will have done his usual for a large party. He will have cleared one of the smaller barns and whitewashed the walls; this is where the food will be laid out. There will be trestle tables and chairs in the yard, possibly with tarpaulins stretched over them to provide some shelter from the sun (!).

I've booked us in at a pub a few miles away so we don't have to drive there and back in one day, although we have done that before. But why they chose the first Saturday of the school summer holidays I really can't imagine. This will probably be the busiest weekend of the summer on the roads.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Now tell us something we didn't know

According to a report in today's paper, scientists have discovered that active children fall asleep faster than those who have been sitting in front of the television all day.

Good grief! Can't these people find something useful to do?

Too weak even for JJ

Driving along a country lane I saw a particularly lifelike scarecrow. I pulled up to take a closer look and realised that what I thought was a scarecrow was actually a man. I watched for a few minutes, during which time he stood perfectly still, not even blinking. Puzzled, I opened the gate and walked across the field to him.

'I've been watching you now for a few minutes and you haven't moved, not so much as a muscle twitch. I'm puzzled: what are you doing?'

'I'm waiting for my Nobel prize.'

'But to be awarded a Nobel prize you have to do something really special, something outstanding.'

'That's right, and I'm a farmer out standing in his field.'

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

I wonder why...

... it is that a summer cold seems so much worse than a winter one. I thought this morning that I had a cold, but by the time I had walked the dog, it had cleared up.

Picked more gooseberries, plus a few peas and runner beans. Also lifted the onions. Possibly the best crop of them that I've ever had.

I see that I used the wrong tense in a blog on Les Lavandes the other day. I said that the Tour de France had taken in Mont Ventoux (past tense) but I see in the paper today that the Tour will not arrive there until Saturday. That stage is due to finish at the summit and how on earth they are planning to find room for everybody is beyond me. I'm not a cycling nut - sorry, enthusiast - but I would rather like to see that on television. Shan't be able to, though, as we will be away.

And on that note I'll get back to reading the back numbers of Jungle Jottings. I've reached 1969, so only another forty years to go!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Dusty paper

I've managed to spend a lot of the weekend sorting through old papers from the Lions' archives. We have club directories from 1954 to 1998, but then there are a few gaps. With luck, one or more members will find that they haven't destroyed some of the recent directories. We do have a copy of every carnival programme from the first (1964) to the last (1991), and I am now sorting the copies of Jungle Jottings. The first was in April 1951 and we have several photocopies of that issue. In theory, there should be about 600 (I can't be bothered to do the maths, and in any case there were some months without an issue) but I'm pretty sure I don't have anything like that number!

Friday, 17 July 2009

A real treat

Peas and runner beans, the first of this year's crop, with dinner last night. Picked and on the plate all within a couple of hours, and you can't get much fresher than that. This is when I enjoy gardening.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Positive thinking?

Tuesday evening, and my turn to provide transport for three blind people from the town to their monthly social evening, on this occasion a dinner at a pub some miles out of town. It was on one of these outings that I first met Ivan and Jenny. Ivan was then showing very similar symptons to those that Sheila had and he was going through the same tests - MRI scans, cognitive tests, x-rays etc - in an attempt to diagnose his condition. It took just as long for the doctors to come up with a diagnosis for him as it had for Sheila, but his was different. It was still (probably) a form of Parkinson's, and another uncommon form, but slightly different in some way, althouh the prognosis was much the same. Ivan, however, has the added complication that he is blind, or has very limited sight and what he has left is disappearing. I was shocked on Tuesday to see how much he has deteriorated. His mobility and balance are very poor and Jenny said that his speech is at times unintelligible. It's difficult to know whether it is a blessing or a curse that his mind is otherwise unaffected.

I got home just in time to catch the tail end of the news on the television. They were showing the scene earlier that day in Wootton Bassett as the bodies of eight of our soldiers were brought home from Afghanistan. Wootton Bassett is a small market town which few people had heard of until recently. The RAF base of Lyneham is situated not far from the town and the route from Lyneham to the M4 motorway for the John Radcliffe Hospital at Oxford (where the post mortems are carried out) is through Wootton Bassett. What started as a spontaneous gesture by the local British Legion to stand by the roadside to show their respect has grown enormously. Now, as the hearses approach the town, the church bell is tolled, the shops empty, and thousands of people, not just from the local area, stand in silence. Whatever the rights or wongs of our government sending the army into Afghanistan, it is causing grief to many people.

I went to bed that night thankful that Sheila's codition is so much better than Ivan's and that my sons are not in the army.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


Having managed to gain access to the archives of the Lions Club, I brought home with me copies of old directories and carnival programmes. I have spent much of the last couple of days compiling a list of all past and present members of the club, along with dates of joining and leaving. Unfortunately there are a few directories missing and I hope I can fill in the blanks from the secretary's records. I also tried a Google search and found that somebody had videoed our very first carnival procession back in 1964 and posted it on the web at My Brighton and Hove

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Is a puzzlement

as the King of Siam said in The King and I.

Who is Patricia? And why does she use the name Kaye for her email?

The URL "" belongs to me and, naturally, any emails addressed to anything@ that URL come through to me. About a year or 18 months ago I started getting emails addressed to kaye from a company which had apparently supplied her with prints of her photographs. In the end I became irritated and just blocked any emails from that company. Then a month or so back I got another email addressed to kaye from a different photographic supplies company saying they hadn't heard from her for a while. Needless to say, I simply ignored it and deleted.

But today I have received another. The email address is once again kaye@, but the email starts "Dear Patricia" and goes on to thank her for registering with this company that sells tickets for concerts and so on. I opened another window in my browser and went to the company's site. To sign in I just needed the email address and password. Not knowing the password, I entered the email address and clicked on 'I forgot my password'. Within a few minutes I had a new password and was able to log in as Kaye, whereupon I found that Patricia H (her surname was there, together with her post code) had bought tickets costing £72 for the International Air Show this coming Sunday. I tried searching for a phone number for somebody with that surname in the postcode quoted, but no luck.

Then, unusually, I checked my spam emails, and there was one telling me how to print out my tickets for the air show!

So, who is Kaye? Who is Patricia? Why is she using my URL for her email? And will she get to the air show this weekend? I don't suppose I shall ever know.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Diamond Geezers

I have been musing about my insomniacal thoughts mentioned in a blog last week and have decided that an attempt should be made to produce a history of Brighton Lions Club. Having in my possession a few copies of Jungle Jottings, the club newsletter, dating from 1952 (in one case) and 1969/70, I have already found a few interesting snippets. Tickets for Charter Night in May 1970 cost 50/- (fifty shillings = two pounds ten shillings = two pounds 50p). This year we paid £26 - just over ten times as much. I wonder what the average wage was then compared to now?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

It goes with the territory

We have, on the whole, been very lucky with the guests who have rented our holiday home and in the six years that we have owned it, we have only on two occasions had cause to deduct anything from the security/damage deposit that we take. Our latest guests, however, have been possibly the most awkward we have ever had. They are Americans, or at least have an American address. I have nothing whatsoever against Americans in general, but that was the start of the difficulties.

Our normal practice is to ask guests for the full rental, plus security deposit, to be with us six weeks before they take over the house, which is pretty much standard practice in the "industry". I then send them a key with information on exactly where the house is. (They already know the village, but this is when I tell them which house in the village.) I thought it unwise to post a key to the States, so arranged for one to be hidden near the house and sent an email to our guests telling them where they could find it. I didn't think to check that the email had been received, and our guests didn't bother to chase up the information until they were in France. It was lunch time when they phoned to say they would be at the house at about 6pm and could someone meet them with a key? Unfortunately, we were away until late the following day so were unable to deal with the problem. But they had the phone number of our local rep, who knew where the key was, but it seems they didn't bother to call her. We heard nothing more and assumed they found the key.

After they had left, we received our usual report from our local rep, who told us that there was a 9" diameter heat mark in the middle of the polished dining table and that they had complained in the visitors' book that the house was damp (in temperatures of 30+?). I immediately emailed our guests, telling them I would be retaining the security deposit until we had found out the cost of putting right the damage.

Two days later I received an email from the guests: "We have completed our stay and are wondering how the security deposit refund will be processed? Also, just be aware that we returned to key to it's hiding place where we found it - after MUCH searching. We never received information regarding it's whereabouts. In addition, we left one day early, and in doing so left the drawers from the bureau and the armoire open to air out the smell of dampness. They were not serviceable during our stay." I responded by repeating my earlier email.

The reply: "I do understand your thoroughness. It is unfortunate that it did not include a follow through by your local contact to see if everything was ok. We used the only pot pad that we could find (a rattan pad from the bookcase) to protect your table. Unfortunately, it did not work. It is interesting that you have no concern about other inadequacies in your rental home. They will be, however, reflected in our review [on the Holiday Rentals web site]."

They can't have looked very hard as there is a metal trivet in the kitchen which could have been placed on top of a table mat. And would our local rep drive half an hour to check everything was OK - just on the off-chance that our guests would be there?

Oh well, as I said - it goes with the territory. And at least I can control MY attitude. I will reply in a couple of days pointing out:
  1. although perhaps I should have checked that they had received the information about the key, they could have chased it up themselves;
  2. the somewhat unreasonable expectation of a chance follow-up visit from our local rep, something which has never happened in all my experience of renting holiday homes;
  3. given the ambient temperature, I find it puzzling that there could be any trace of damp;
  4. other inadequacies?
  5. I will have to pay our rep half a day's wages to get quotes for restoration of the table, another day's wages while the work is being done, plus the actual cost of restoration, all of which come to more than the deposit we are holding;
  6. I consider this matter closed.
Oh yes. I will ask other guests (who have been complimentary) to post reviews on the Holiday Rentals web site.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Derby Day

Well, of a sort. The Lions Housing Society were in the position of 'losing' the caretakers at two of the blocks of flats: one was sacked, the other resigned. The stories behind both happenings are pretty complex and, in one case at least, have been dragging on for a couple of years. Anyway, we decided to employ just one caretaker for both blocks. As he would have to travel, we would buy a small van for him to use. Our esteemed chairman decided to buy this from a 'car supermarket' he has used before. But this is in Derby - nearly 200 miles away. Bill had intended to go up there himself, but of course he was away on holiday when the vehicle became available, so it was down to me. No problem getting to Derby by train (just one change in London) and the dealership was in walking distance. Had it been raining, I would have got a taxi, but it was a fine day and the exercise did me good after sitting on trains for three hours. Then I had to kick my heels for another two hours before my turn in the queue of people collecting cars. I wasn't all that happy by the time I drove around the corner to a petrol station and considerably less happy when I found that I couldn't open the filler cap. Back to the dealer and a mechanic freed it very quickly. Fill up, and it's no problem to get on the dual carriageway out of the city and on to the M1 - except that the turn I thought should take me onto the dual carriageway took me the wrong way round the ring road! It wasn't very long before I was able to correct things and from then on everything went smoothly - until I reached the M25 round London. After just a couple of hundred yards, everything ground to a stop. From then on it was stop-start all the way round to the A3, which is what? 30 miles or so? I got back just in time to buy a helping of chips for my dinner and to watch the 10 o'clock news.

And it's pronounced 'Dahby', not 'Durrby'.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

During a bout of insomnia last night, I started thinking about life in 1951. There was still food rationing in force - certainly for meat and sugar (and therefore sweets etc). Television was still something of a pipe dream, as most early sets were not sold until 1953. Washing machines, dishwashers and even fridges were uncommon - and the telephone was largely limited to business use. No personal computers, internet or mobile phones, and the normal camera was the Kodak Box Brownie.

What started all this was...

Well, let's really start from the beginning. A month or more ago I received an email from a lady who is studying for an MA in anthropology. As part of her studies, she is trying to write a history of Brighton Lions Carnival as an art form. (Beats me how a lions carnival can be seen as an art form, but there you are.) I put her in contact with a long-time member of the club who can recall the very first carnival. He told me the other day that he has had several meetings with the lady and the whole thing is taking a lot longer than I would have expected. He has even spent hours searching through the club archives to turn up a copy of the carnival programme for every year we ran it.

Musing on that in the wee small hours, I thought it might be interesting to read a history of Brighton Lions, perhaps have an article in the Lion magazine to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the issue of our charter - which was (I believe) in January 1951.

And so I started thinking about what life was like back then...

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Duck Story

I've been sitting here, waiting patiently, hoping every day to read the Duck Story. Every morning I switch on the computer, scan my emails quickly in case the author might have preferred not to post it on his blog, then dart to both his blogs... And what have I got? A big ZERO, zilch, nada, nothing. Perhaps if I remind him?

"Where ducks are involved, anything can happen.
I would be happy to elaborate, but I'm not sure I can do justice to the story." (14 October 2008)

Someday I may actually be able to tell the story without making those involved appear to be nothing but pranksters. Maybe if I begin now it will be finished sometime next year." (16 October 2008)

Could this be the time? His readers live in hope.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Summer weather

Traditional summer weather returned to south-east England yesterday. We had been experiencing a hot, dry spell with fairly high or high humidity, but yesterday the sky clouded over and we had a shower early in the morning. Another coupe of showers so far today, and more likely. The rain has only just about laid the dust, though, and has done virtually nothing for the grass, which is pretty well brown all over.

I was getting a bit bored with waking up to bright, sunny mornings every day, but now that they have gone, I'm already missing them! Just plain contrary, I suppose.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

This is for Skip

Just one of a collection of signs on the Telegraph web site

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Independence Day

It's staggering to think that it is actually five years since this photograph was taken! Where does the time go?

That was the second Lions International Convention I attended. It was in Detroit, and Sharon's family was kind enough to invite me to join them to celebrate both Independence Day and a family birthday. What a wonderful way to start a visit to the States.

Friday, 3 July 2009

I really am not so conceited that I think anyone but me will be interested in the pictures holiday snaps I have been posting on my Les Lavandes blog. For a start, they are no better than any average snapper could do. My real purpose is to use the blog as a sort of online photo album with the benefit of adding a commentary. And I know I could quite easily use a word processor to do the job, but at least this way I'm saving space on my hard drive.

The temperature today is some 10 degrees Celsius below yesterday, when Brighton was the hottest place in the country at 30 degrees. The temperature was not the problem, but the very high humidity made things very uncomfortable.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Ho hum

Raspberries this morning. Picking them, I mean - not blowing them. The two of us spent the better part of an hour out in the field, but at least the fruit was at a convenient height.

My computer really doesn't like this hot weather so I am using Sheila's laptop as far as possible but most of the software I want isn't installed so I keep getting frustrated.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Fruit picking

After dinner yesterday I went to put the hose on and noticed that the blackcurrants were ready for picking. Half an hour later, with a trugful of currants and stiff back, I finally got the hose on. Then this morning, Madam announced that we were to go strawberry picking. When we got to the field, she realised that even with her stick she could not easily get up and down the rows, so it was up to me to get on with it on my own. My back is once again stiff and sore.