Friday, 30 November 2012

New mattresses

We decided to be a little more extravagant with the new mattresses and look for ones with interior springing. Our hope was that although they would cost more, they should last longer than the foam variety.

A store about thirty minutes away had just what we wanted, and at not too high a price, so we duly bought one double and two single mattresses and drove round to the other end of the store to collect them. We had enquired about delivery, but this was ridiculously expensive and delivery could not be until after we had returned to England. My car – an estate – was fitted with roof rails and I carried a length of rope in the boot. The mattresses would not be too heavy to carry on the roof of the car so we decided to go for it and take them back ourselves.

After a lengthy wait, the mattresses were dumped beside the collection counter by one of the largest, surliest Frenchmen I have ever met. I hauled them over to the car – one at a time, naturally, although the man who brought them to the collection point had carried both single mattresses at the same time, one under each arm.

I was a little concerned about driving for half an hour with three mattresses on the roof of the car and suggested to Mrs S that she should wait with the double mattress while I took the others home. She baulked at the idea of standing beside the road, a mattress at her feet, claiming that she had no intention of being arrested for running an open-air, roadside brothel. So I suggested that she should drive and I would wait for her, but there was no way she was going to struggle to take a mattress off the roof of the car. There was nothing for it but to take all three mattresses at the same time.


St Nicholas church in Chateaubriant dates only from 1870.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Question answered

The answer to the question I posed yesterday was, of course, really very prosaic: the mattresses were actually of pretty poor quality. We discovered this about eighteen months after we had finished furnishing the house. The beds and mattresses had been bought from a large chain store through its web site so we had no opportunity to see the quality of the goods before they were delivered. There was a double bed for the ground floor bedroom, and two singles to go upstairs. They had to be singles as we would never have got a double bed up the stairs, although I suppose it could have been hauled in through the window on the end of a length of rope.

Whether or not the beds we bought are typically French, I couldn’t say. I do know they are not typically English. They start off just the same, with the head and foot being joined by side pieces, but then they start to differ. The French beds then have an inner metal frame that is supported by lengths of timber placed between the side pieces of the wooden frame. This has timber slats fixed across it, these slats having been placed in position under tension so that they are bowed upwards, thus providing springs.

The mattress is simply a piece of cotton-covered foam rubber, about six inches thick. One advantage of this is that the mattress warms up very quickly on cold nights, but of course foam rubber also starts to compress after comparatively little use. After less than two years we needed to replace the mattresses, and that was after they had been used only lightly. Presumably this is why every French market has its mattress seller.


Another view of the market at Chateaubriant.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

New mattresses for old

Every French town with a population of more than about two thousand has its weekly market and Mrs S finds them almost irresistible, although I am more than happy to avoid them. If I must go with her, I usually manage to lose her in the crowd fairly quickly and wait for her in my regular bar.

But there is one thing that has always puzzled me about those markets. It doesn’t matter what size they are, whether there are just a dozen or so stalls or whether there are a couple of hundred, you can guarantee that at one end of the street, sometimes at both ends, there will be a man with mattresses laid out at his feet. I can understand that butchers and fishmongers, greengrocers and haberdashers will expect to find customers every week, but is there really such a large market for mattresses, I wonder?  Is it really possible that Frenchmen (or Frenchwomen, for that matter) could wear out their mattresses any quicker than Englishmen? Do they use them as trampolines?  How much energy do French people put into their sex games to cause such a turnover of mattresses?

Not mattresses, but garlic in the market at Chateaubriant.  Unfortunately, we only saw him that once.  His garlic was very good and very reasonable in price.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


I was reminded yesterday as I walked through the Pudding Bag - which is part of Stanmer woods - of the times when my younger son came with me to walk the dog.  In particular, I remembered how, in his red wellies, he would scuff through the fallen leaves.  He would have been 5 or 6 and delighted in getting dirty by splashing in puddles.  Afterwards he would say, with a cheeky grin, "Mum's going to kill me".

There were times when he got tired and I encouraged him to keep walking by telling him a story.  He always preferred the ones I made up as we walked along, usually about a character called Henry Horse.

As I have a lot to do today, including visiting the quack, taking the dog to kennels, a little light shopping and packing the car for an away-day or seven, I will repeat a post from as far back as February 2010.  That's for today.  For the next few days I have scheduled some more of the story of Les Lavandes.  But I should remind you: it is nearly the true story of Les Lavandes since I may have been guilty of a little exaggeration or embellishment in some places. All the events described, well, nearly all of them, actually did take place and most of the people are real characters even if I have described them more as caricatures.

Back to today and the story of

Henry Horse Plays Football

Henry Horse was bored. He had played with all his toys, and now he was looking out of the window trying to think what he could do next.
Henry saw his friend Percy coming along the lane. Percy looked excited.
‘Hello, Henry,' called Percy. ‘Look what I've been given.' It was a football.
Henry and Percy went out to play football, but horses' hooves are not really the right shape for playing football.
It was Percy's ball, so he had first kick. The ball just went sideways!
Then Henry had a try. The ball went sideways the other way!
Percy had another go - and missed the ball.
Henry decided to take a run up to the ball. He ran at top speed...
...and kicked the ball hard. It went sailing through the air...
...and landed in the middle of some very prickly bushes. Henry did yelp as he got the ball back.
When Percy had his next turn he kicked the ball hard as well – right into the middle of some-one's picnic.
Henry decided to take another run up to the ball. WHAM! Up it went, up, up, and away...
...over the picnic, over the bushes...
...and right into the middle of a very muddy pond.
Henry waded in to fetch the ball, but when he came out he was so muddy that he had changed colour.
When Henry got home, his father had to wash him down with a hose before Henry could go indoors for tea.

(Illustrations by my cousin's son, now a Lieutenant Colonel, then a schoolboy.)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Another mix of bits and pieces

I got an email telling me when the next lookering course is to be held - 12 January.  I did wonder if lookerer was a word peculiar to Sussex as it is only recently that it has come to my notice.  I checked my dictionary - the New Oxford - but it wasn't there, so I Googled it.  There were fewer than 600 results for the term "sheep lookerer" but when I deleted the word "sheep" an amazing 7800+ results were found!  Anyway, it's not a word peculiar to Sussex.


My grandchildren seem to have remarkably modest tastes when it comes to the presents they would like.  Younger grandson celebrated his birthday earlier this month, his 6th.  When asked what he would like, he replied, "Whatever people would like to give me".  We have received my 5-year-old granddaughter's Christmas list.  It runs to just four things, the most expensive costing less than £20.  It will be interesting to see what the boys come up with.

I hate being asked to provide a list of things I would like whether it be for birthday presents or Christmas.  It always seems so "gimme, gimme" .  But I usually capitulate and draw up a list consisting of chocolate, nuts, vouchers etc.  Part of the problem is that I really already have everything I could wish for - except for a cure for the Old Bat's condition.


It's still raining, but on checking the weather reports/statistics in this morning's paper I see that this part of the country got away very lightly.  Of course, I already knew that anyway, having seen pictures on the television news and in the paper of the flooding in the west country in particular.  Already there have been deaths.  Only three, granted, which is nothing compared to what happens in other countries but is unusual in England.  The path down through the woods was more of a stream this morning - and the grass was very squelchy.  I we get much more rain there will be water running off the park onto the road at the bottom, something I don't recall ever seeing - and I've lived year for more than 40 years.


If we cross back over the River Loire there is a narrow road which runs upstream pretty much beside the river.  That is where I took this picture.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday we had rain from before dawn until wellafter dusk and Fern and I got more than a little damp on both our walks.  But by the time I went to bed the rain had stopped.  Instead, the wind had risen.  I always enjoy lying in bed with the rain lshing down and the wind blowing a hooley when I'm in that halfway stage between being awake and being asleep.  I enjoy it, although I always have a slightly guilty feeling that what I am enjoying - rain and wind outside and comfort inside - is a cause of misery to some, those for whom the shop doorway provides a roof and the pavement a mattress.  There was no chance for me to feel either enjoyment or guilt yesterday as the rain had stopped - and anyway, I was asleep as soon as I lay down, possibly even before my head was on the pillow.

When I drew back the curtains this morning I thought I was in a different world.  The sun was shining and there was a clear blue sky with just a hint of cloud the far side of the Downs.  Granted, we still had a strong wind and it had obviously blown hard during the night as I noticed our neighbour's garden chairs had been scattered.  The blackbird at the top of the sycamore was having to hang on pretty tightly as his perch swayed to and fro. 

(I have often wondered how birds manage to cling on in high winds.  Are they particularly strong for their size or do they have some form of mechanism that locks their claws in place?)

The cattle in the nearest field seemed unperturbed by the wind and were apparently grazing happily enough.  They are a deep, rich brown - although I suppose the colour is officially red - and I wonder if they are Sussex cattle.  I'm not good at recognising the different breeds of cows.  I can manage Hereford, Friesian, Highland and Dexter but even then it's entirely possible that what I see as, say, a Hereford is actually a cross.  My cousin-in-law started a herd of Dexters but introduced a Highland bull.  And what a softy Jonathan was!  But although many of the calves looked like Dexters, they were really crossbreeds.  Genetic engineering, I suppose, in the same was as different breeds of dogs have resulted from crossing.  The latest are the Labradoodle and the cockerpoo - a particularly ugly name in my opinion, not that anyone's asking.  The Labradoodle is, of course, a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle while the cockerpoo, a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle, is favoured as an assistance dog for deaf persons.

We once had a flat-coated retriever, another breed which started as a cross; in this case, the Labrador and the Gordon setter.  We should have done some research into the breed before we acquired Rags.  It was only later that we discovered dogs of this breed are notoriously difficult to train.  I took him to puppy classes and at the end of the course, when all the other owners were invited to take their dogs to the next stage of classes, I was told there was no point me taking Rags.  But he had a wonderfully friendly nature and especially loved children.  His biggest treat was to be taken to meet our children from school when what seemed like every child wanted to pet him.

While I have been typing the rain started again, although it has stopped now.  The forecast is for rain all day with winds of up to 60mph.  But at least I can be thankful that we live at the top on a hill and there is no chance that we will be flooded.


Moving upstream from Champtoceaux and crossing to the right bank of the Loire at Ancenis, the is the view upstream.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Pop goes the weasel

Now I come to think of it, there is a degree of similarity between a weasel and a meerkat, in shape if nothing else.  But while at first I found those meerkats advertising a price comparison web site amusing, I am now beginning to get ever so slightly bored by them.  Of course, one of the joys of recording programmes on ITV is that one can fast-forward through the adverts when watching the show.  We don't get that with BBC as there are no adverts on their channels - except for forthcoming "attractions".  Oddly enough, when zipping through the commercial breaks, we often spot something that looks as though it might by faintly amusing.  I then spend an inordinate length of time going backwards and forwards to find the offending advert - only to find that it is not in the least amusing or interesting.

The meerkat adverts did start out by being amusing but they have, in my opinion, gone past their best before date.  I do find some of the Specsaver ads worth a smile.  There's one which shows an old couple sitting down with sighs of relief as she passes him a sandwich.  Here it is:

It still makes me smile, the more so because a couple I see at the meetings of the blind club remind me of them.

Years ago there was a series of ads for Nescafe which became quite a cult - even more so than the meerkats.  It was almost a soap opera as we followed the development of a relationship between a man and a woman who owned flats in the same block.  I don;t recall anything quite approaching that in the years since.

One thing that does puzzle me about television programmes is how the scriptwriters manage to fill exactly 29 minutes or what ever.  I suppose if the truth be know, they don't.  It's the producers who trim little bits or extend other parts such as the pregnant pauses or the credits or add a forthcoming attraction advert to take up another 15 seconds who should get the credit for filling the time so precisely.

But on the subject of adverts, I have noticed that some of those for face creams or other beauty products have started giving more information.  Instead of saying (as they used to) that 86% of women noticed that their skin was softer or whatever, they now qualify that by saying 86% of 159 women, which rather takes the gloss off the claim.

Why do women buy all this stuff anyway?

And on that note I think I had better finish the drivel and post a picture!


On the opposite bank from Oudon (see yesterday's picture) is the village of Champtoceaux. There is a terrific view of the River Loire from the public gardens on top of the bluff.

Friday, 23 November 2012

A miscellany

My regular reader will be only too well aware of my propensity to wander off the subject.  It may be that I start by writing about the price of cheese and go on to discuss the merits and otherwise of various makes of estate car.  That, you understand, is jusr by way of example.  But today will be different.  Today I will not merely drift along: today I shall post several short, pithy paragraphs, in each of which I shall stick rigidly to the point.


I have never really understood the difference between "will" and "shall".  Somewhere or other I read that "shall" is an emphatic version of "will" but somewhere else I read that "shall" should be used when the subject of the verb is in the first person, "will" when the subject is third person.  Me, I just use whichever comes to my fingertips first.


We seem to have a much greater variety of birds in the garden now compared with only a few years back.  Jays have become daily visitors, as has a charm of goldfinches, and yesterday I caught sight of another new one - a marsh tit.


My heart sank when the Old Bat said she wanted to go shopping for a pair of shoes and would I go with her?  I still remember the day, not all that long after we were married, when we went to London for her to look for a pair of shoes.  We started at Marble Arch and walked along Oxford Street to Oxford Circus and then back to Marble Arch on the other side of the street, going into every shoe shop on the way.  There seemed to be dozens of them!  That took all day - and she didn't find a pair of shoes she liked.  Yesterday afternoon we went to Lewes, a small town a few miles away, knowing that we could park within a couple of hundred yards of the two shoe shops in town.  The first was holding a closing down sale and had nothing of use.  The second had just what she wanted, but not in her width fitting.  However, the young lady who was serving us (to me, all shop assistants are young these days) offered to order pairs of two styles in different sizes.  She will phone when they are in - and there is no obligation to buy any of them.  That's what I call service, and that's what will take us back to the shop another time.


I think I will trawl the photographic archives for a day or three, the weather not really being conducive to photographic activity these last few days.  Perhaps a trip up the River Loire?  This picture is of a tributary, the River Havre, close to its confluence with the Loire at Oudon.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A close-run thing

I was very close to making a fool of myself the other day.  Folks across the pond were making reference to Thanksgiving Day and starting to think about packing and travel.  It was touch and go whether or not I made a comment about The Day not being until next week, overlooking the fact that there are five Thursdays this month.

So, happy Thanksgiving to you all.

The ten bob note

Time was when I felt rich if I had a ten bob note in my pocket.  Back in those days the things that could be done or bought for ten shillings were legion.  That was all before 1970 because that was the year in which the ten bob note was withdrawn following the issue of the 50p coin.  But what times we had with all that money!  As a teenager, I could take my girlfriend into town on the bus, go to the pictures, have a coffee and catch the bus back home and still have change.  Later, after I had passed my driving test, I could buy four gallons of petrol and get change.  To think that a postage stamp now costs 50p.  Ten bob to post a letter!

I'm laughed at when I tell youngsters - and that includes 40-year-olds - that my take-home pay when I started work was £28 - a month.  I dreamed of the day when I would get £30 clear; then I would be rich.

Nowadays my daily paper costs £1.20 Monday to Friday, £2 Saturday.  That's more than I was earning when I started work.  Of course, this is simply the result of inflation, but it makes me shake my head in amazement when I think that my present car, which I bought second-hand, cost me more than three times what I paid for my house.

I can remember when a daily paper cost sixpence.  That's sixpence in old money - or tuppence ha'penny in the new-fangled coinage, if we still had ha'pennies.  Admittedly, that was about 60 years ago.  I wonder what they will cost 60 years from now.


We saw Brockley church yesterday.  Its chief claim to fame is the pirate's grave in the churchyard.  Quite how a pirate came to be buried there is something I have never discovered but his grave is there.  He was buried the other way round from everybody else.  The headstone is still legible.

I've just found out: "reputedly the grave of a sick, but penitent, pirate who spent his last days in Brockley being cared for by the vicar".

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Fighting Chalara Fraxinea.

Chalara fraxinea is the fungus which causes ash dieback disease.  In order to stop the spread of the fungal spores, people visiting National trust properties and other woodlands have been advised to wash their boots, their dogs' paws and the wheels of pushchairs and cars.  But the person giving this advice doesn't seem to have thought things through properly.  Just when are we supposed to wash these various bits and bobs?  There are no facilities for doing so when entering or leaving woods, and if we wait until we get home it seems to me we would be too late, the damage having already been done.  And what about deer, foxes and other animals who walk through the woods and, presumably, pick up the spores?

It rather puts me in mind of an Easter some years ago.  There is a long-standing tradition (well, traditions by definition are always long-standing, aren't they?) that we visit my cousin and her husband on their farm at Easter.  On one occasion there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease and we suggested skipping our visit that year but were persuaded that we were most unlikely to cause any harm.  Like all farmers, Julian had spread old carpets at every entrance to the farm and liberally doused them with disinfectant.  There were also bowls of disinfectant for people to tread in to ensure boots were clean.  It did seem a rather Harry Tate affair and I wondered what farmers did if they had no old carpets lying around.  I don't think I ever got an answer to that one.


I had me a little rant yesterday evening when I shouted at Sophie.  Now, before you get too anxious for her, I should explain that Sophie Raworth is a television newsreader so she would not have been in the least upset by my action.  She committed a crime of which fellow newsreader Huw Edwards is also guilty in my book.  Introducing a piece about the Congo, Sophie said, "So-and-so's report contains some graphic images".

"You stupid woman," I shouted, "all images are graphic!"


Let's take a trip to Somerset and my cousin's farm.  Cross the lane into the Pond Field, then over the stile into Roger's field.  Out of that field into another lane and just a few yards along is Brockley church.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Late again.

Yesterday even Skip in the far, wild west of America had roused himself and posted on his blog before I got my daily drivel out for the world to see, read and scratch its head in amazement.

(And there's a thing.  I have just posted a link to Skip's site and I see that the URL ends in dot co dot uk instead of dot com.  And so does Buck's.  Weird.)

So yesterday the morning just flew by until it was time to go out for the monthly lunch with Scouting type people.  That was actually early: we left at 11.30 as I calculated the drive would take half an hour (it took 20 minutes) and we never like to get there too late or we have to wait ages for our meal while everyone else has theirs cooked.  It's always at a pub and we each order what we want from the menu.  None of this fixed menu for everyone lark.  Then by the time I had walked the dog again it was well into the afternoon.  Much like today. Except that today is different.

Today I have been on transport duty for the stroke patients' club supported by Brighton Lions.  Supported by providing transport, that is.  I had to drive round the town to collect my three passengers, then while they held their meeting I went to the doctor's surgery to have blood taken for my regular monthly check followed by a visit to the vet for flea spray (for the dog, not me).  Back just in time to collect the old dears and take them back to their homes.  Then lunch and walk the dog.  And so life goes on.

I have at least found the time to cut down most of the raspberry canes and to remove all but one of those that are growing where I don't want them.  That one is coming up straight through the middle of the gooseberry bush and I just can't reach through to dig or pull it out.  That is one of the challenges thrown out by raspberry plants.  The roots track through the soil, throwing up new plants here and there.  Our plants seem to be most prolific - perhaps the chalky soil suits them.  I shudder slightly to think how many runners my next-door neighbour gets.  But then I remember the number of trees I uproot which are the offshoots of her sumac tree.  (I think it's a sumac but I'm none too certain.)  On the whole, I suspect that she gets more shoots than I do so I mustn't complain.

Next, I have the excitement of a shopping expedition to Asda!  And what I must find the time to do is to book the entertainment for the Lilac Lark to be held next May.  Punch & Judy, Morris dancers, a capella singers and a saxophone band are in the frame, along with a brass band one of my fellow Lions is contacting.  I hope I can get the whole shebang for no more than £100.

And I must make an appointment with the dentist...


With rain featuring strongly in the forecast and night-time temperatures dipping towards freezing, let's cast our minds back to summer.  This was taken in the Camargue, France, some two or three years ago.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Wanted: fresh air and exercise

By the time I realised what was causing the problem yesterday evening, it was really too late to rectify the situation.  I should have realised much earlier what was going to happen; after all, it is a common occurrence when we are in France - or it was common until I twigged onto the fact that if I forgo my daily walk in the fresh air, I get very twitchy and restless later in the day - which is both a problem and a challenge but most decidedly not a new opportunity!  And yesterday I didn't walk the dog either in the morning or the afternoon.  Things will be better today!

While not walking the dog I read the paper and was especially interested in the background to the case of one Sergeant Danny Nightingale.  In a nutshell, the story goes like this.  Sergeant Nightingale has served in the army for 17 years, the last 11 in the Special Air Service.  While his unit was in Iraq he was presented with a memento by the Iraquis in recognition of his special service to them.  It was a hand gun, which Sergeant Nightingale intended to have decommissioned and presented to the sergeants' mess at Hereford, the SAS headquarters.  When two of his colleagues were killed in a helicopter crash, Sgt Nightingale volunteered to return to the UK with the bodies to help the families of the dead men.  Meanwhile, his colleagues packed his kit, which was placed in a locked box and sent to Hereford.  Later, the box - still locked - was transferred to an army married quarter where Sgt Nightingale was staying temporarily with another SAS man and his wife.

In the fullness of time, Sgt Nightingale took part in an extreme sporting event when he suffered an accident which caused brain damage.  As a result, his memory became very patchy and he completely forgot the handgun locked in the box.

It was only when his colleague's wife complained of domestic violence and that her husband had ammunition in the house that the local police broke open the box and found the gun.  They were satisfied with the explanation and decided that no further action was needed on their part.

The army, however, had other ideas and Sgt Nightingale was court martialled.  When warned by the judge that if he pleaded not guilty and was found guilty, he would be sentenced to five years, he pleaded guilty, expecting little more than a slap on the wrist when the mitigating circumstances were explained to the court.  Instead, he is now serving 18 months in an army jail, after which he will be dishonourably discharged.  Meanwhile, he receives no pay.  His wife's income is insufficient to pay the rent as well as maintaining herself and the twoyoung daughters so she is likely to be evicted.

Seems to me that justice should be served with a fair-sized helping of common sense, which hasn't been the case here.

Read the full story here.


Our autumn hues don't cover such a wide spread as those in New England.  Instead, individual trees provide small splashes of colour.  Yesterday we saw a yellow acer, today's is... orange?  red?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

I have a problem

Well, calling it a problem is laying it on a bit thick.  And it implies negativity of thought as well.  So let's look at this in a positive way.

Yup, I have a problem.  It's just that I haven't had my post-breakfast walk.  You see, every morning after breakfast I take the dog for a walk to and around our local park.  It's a very pleasant park with a belt of woodland across the top and down one side but largely mown grass with scattered beds containing, inter alia, lilac bushes and other shrubs and trees.  As we amble down through the woods and then back up the grass, I explore the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind while the dog (a springer spaniel called Fern) explores the smells that are new since yesterday and, possibly, some old favourites that are still around.  The result of my musings very often appears on the screen later, possibly not the same day, but they do often appear.

But not today.  For a start, yesterday my musings were photographically inclined.  The day before - that would have been Friday - I noticed several things that I thought had possibilities as subjects of photographs - but I had not taken a camera with me that morning.  Yesterday was dull and cloudy, but the forecast for today was that we would have wall to wall sun.  (As it happens, we have.)  All the same, I took the camera with me yesterday on the grounds that things could very easily change by today, especially if the wind got up with the tide as it so often does.

So why have I not taken Fern for her walk this morning?  It's really very simple: my daughter is here.  Now, Fern adores my daughter, who is the bestest person in the world, according to Fern (except when I'm feeding her), and yesterday daughter offered to walk dog in the morning.  How could I refuse?  But it did leave me with no musing time this morning - so I have nothing to blog about.

But I will leave you with one of the pictures I took on yesterday's dull morning.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Recession? What recession?

We are constantly being bombarded with the news that half the world is in financial difficulties and that drastic measures are needed to stop countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland - and possibly even France - sinking under the weight of their debts.  Here in England we are metaphorically tightening our belts.  Or so we are told.  But my fish-wrap of choice has today announced in its travel section that the most popular country in the world for English people to visit is not France, just a few miles across the water, not even the United States with numerous cut-price flights, but New Zealand, just about the most distant country there is from the UK and correspondingly expensive to reach.  Mind you, I have always had a slightly rueful smile on my face when reading the travel section as their idea of a cheap hotel is about as far removed from my idea as England is from New Zealand!

The Old Bat and I have just come back from a short shopping trip when we visited a local food store which advertises a meal for two for £10 - with a free bottle of wine thrown in.  Not literally thrown in, you idiot, but included.  That is a pretty good deal when you realise that the wine I chose normally retails at £7.49 - which perhaps indicates the general sort of prices one finds at Marks and Spencer.  Somewhat higher than the average supermarket, which is why we don't usually shop there.  But I was astonished how many people were doing their shopping at those higher prices when Asda, one of the cheaper supermarkets, is only a stone's throw away.

Likewise, restaurants in Brighton are still busy - even on Mondays.  And I mentioned yesterday how many millions of pounds are thought to have been donated to charity over the past few weeks.

I ask again, what recession?


Just to the left a little from yesterday's picture we can see some of the high rise flats that replaced the slums in this area.  Just when, I wonder, so today's slums become tomorrow's heritage?  The church tower is that of St Peter's.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Things aren't so bad

So we had elections yesterday, elections for Police and Crime Commissioners in all police areas outside London.  For the first time since I was eligible to vote, I failed to do so.  The whole affair was a shambles, a farce.  Although, according to a newspaper report, the powers that be spent £75 million arranging these elections, they did not get the message across to the electorate in a timely way.  And the only way anybody could find out who was standing for election was by going on-line.  Granted, most people these days have access to the internet (I refuse to promote that word to start with a capital letter) but there are still a significant minority who don't.  In any case, the information provided on-line was scanty and I for one was left completely in the dark about the plans of any of the five candidates in Sussex.  Four of them, by the way, were standing under the umbrellas of political parties although the post of commissioner is supposed to be apolitical.  I did briefly - very briefly - consider attending my local polling station and writing across the bottom of the ballot paper, "None of the above", but I soon realised that such a protest would be utterly pointless as the ballot paper would simply be thrown to one side as spoiled.

But despite yesterday's shambles and the ongoing tales of child abuse by high-profile individuals, I have to think that there is still some good in this country.  Last weekend saw the culmination of the Royal British Legion's annual Poppy Appeal.  For those outside England who are in the dark, the RBL provides support for ex-servicemen and women.  Last year their appeal raised £40 million and this year they hoped to reach £42 million.  Then today the BBC is running its annual appeal for Children in Need.  Here again, vast sums are raised.  Last year, £26 million was raised on the night and no doubt more money came in later.

If people can donate such considerable sums to charities, even in these straitened times, there is still something good about my country.


Turning through 180 degrees after taking yesterday's picture, this is the view.  The church in the centre is St Bartholomew's, said to be the tallest parish church in the country.  I'm pretty sure I have also read that it was supposed to have been built to the dimensions of Noah's ark.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

What a way to spend a morning

I'll come to this morning in due course.  First, though, I'll just say that Tuesday evening was spent driving for the blind club.  Just one passenger this month which makes it a little extravagant driving 58 miles.  Still, she enjoyed it - and I found it interesting as well as there was a guest speaker, a police dog handler, who managed to get the serious bit across with some good humour.  Then yesterday evening I was on bingo duty for the old folks (some of whom are not as old as me!).  They seemed to enjoy it but I have to say that I would find it excruciatingly boring even though the session lasts only an hour and a half or so.  But this morning was worse than an hour and a half calling bingo numbers.

I have never enjoyed doing staff appraisals and that is how I have spent my morning, being one of a triumvirate appraising the staff of Brighton Lions Housing Society.  We have four employees: the general manager and her assistant, a handyman and a caretaker.  OK, so the handyman and the caretaker have fancy titles, but that is what their jobs really are.  But fancy titles or not, it was just as well that I wasn't expected to do the appraisals on my own.  I never know what questions to ask in order to get members of staff to open up.  Although come to think of it, none of the four seemed to have much of a problem in that respect.  All the same, allowing half an hour for each did prove a tad excessive, even allowing for private discussions before and after each appraisal.

Just to round off the morning, the chairman and I had a visit from our bank manager.  No, that's not true - his title is relationship manager.  Our bank manager is based at a branch in Brighton but because we have a large loan (it started at £2.2 million, now down to below £800,000) our account is controlled by a relationship manager working out of an office 50 miles away.  Every time there is a different person doing the job he seems to want a day at the seaside and comes down to see us.  Not that we particularly want to see him (and so far it always has been a him but no doubt it will be a her very soon) but we do try to keep on the good side as we hope to be able to start a new development in the not-too-distant future and will certainly need to borrow some more money.


When I tried to upload yesterday's picture I got a whoops message.  I have used all my free picture storage on Blogger.  Still, there's more than one way to skin a cat so I am using another free storage facility.  But it is a little cumbersome in that I have to upload pictures to Photobox and then get the URL to paste into Blogger.  Unless I cheat and repeat a picture I have used elsewhere, like this one.

In the mid-19th century Brighton was expanding fast and needed housing for artisans and other upper working class people.  Albion Hill was part of the rash of terraced housing that was built.  Much of the area nearby was rebuilt in the mid-20th century slum clearance but Albion Hill was and is on the edge of the Hanover district.  Back then it was run down but it has since become gentrified and houses there are now much sought after.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


I suppose to many, if not most or even all, parents, that is the most annoying question our children ever ask.  Indeed, it seems at times that "Why?" is the only question they ask.  But even now, at the great age I have managed to notch up, I still ask that question.  Why?  By some convoluted thought process that even I don't understand, a post I read the other day had me searching my computer files.  Stephen Hayes, aka the Chubby Chatterbox, posted a copy of an early Daguerrotype and mused on the fact that this was possibly the first occasion on which somebody had his photograph taken.  It reminded me that I had in my computer files a copy of an early experiment in stereoscopic photography.

This picture (or should I say these pictures?) was taken by the Old Bat's great grandfather in the 1960s and show St Nicolas church, Brighton.  He was one of the foremost experimenters in stereo pictures in the country until he emigrated to Australia in about 1870.  Why Stephen's post brought this picture to mind is because of the single man.  But in this case, it leads me to ask, "Why?"  Why is he facing out of the picture?

Which leads me to a conversation I had recently with my daughter-in-law.  We agreed that we both want to ask, not "Who?" or "Where?" or "When?, but "Why?"  For example, somebody must have been the first to grind the seeds of a wild grass, mix the resulting powder with water to make a paste, and then cook the paste to make bread.  OK, so it is of passing interest to learn when this was first done, and where, but I find it more intriguing that somebody would actually be driven to undertake those three discrete activities in the first place.  Why?  What made them think that something good might possibly result?

And why on earth would anybody want to pick leaves from a bush, dry them, and then pour boiling water over them?  What made them think that "tea" would be the result?

I suppose I just have to accept that, like those questions from my children all those years ago, these are just more with no answer.


The weather on Sunday was delightful and I was prodded into taking a panoramic picture of the view from the bedroom window that morning.  As always, you can enlarge by clicking the picture ( think).

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Fly time

No, I mean time flies.  Here we are, Tuesday again.  Already.  It's amazing how fast the old tempus does fugit.  Of course, I realise that it might not actually be Tuesday where you are, or when you are reading this, but right here and now it is Tuesday.  Well, in point of fact, it's not.  It's yesterday.  (Was it not the Carpenters who sang about yesterday once more?)  You see, today - that is, tomorrow - is due to be a busy day so I thought to steal a march on myself and start drafting something to post tomorrow - or today, if you see what I mean.


Over the weekend I discovered that my great great great great uncle Henry had travelled to California is search of gold.  He was born in eighteen-oh-something and left his native Norfolk (that's Norfolk, England, not Norfolk, Virginia) for the New World.  He settled at Hounsfield, a small township in Jefferson county, New York state, where he farmed.  In 1850 he had 40 acres of land on which he kept 4 horses, 2 milch cows, 3 other cattle, 30 sheep and 2 swine.  The farm's produce during the previous 12 months included 130 pounds of wool, 60 bushels of Irish potatoes, 50 bushels of barley and 400 pounds of butter.  As well as great uncle Henry and his wife, the farm had to support seven of their children.  By 1860, Henry was farming 160 acres, 145 of which had been "improved", and he had 6 horses, 20 milch cows, 14 other cattle, 7 sheep and 6 swine. There is a clue as to how he managed to acquire so much more land in a newspaper cutting somebody has found.  Unfortunately, they note neither the name of the paper nor the date of publication.

It seems that as well as being a farmer, Henry was a stonemason.  Or perhaps he was a stonemason first and did a little farming on the side.  According to one source I have seen, he built the sidewalks in Sackets Harbor, New York, but the newspaper cutting tells how he went to California in about 1851 with a band of 30 men and 40 wagons.  The party passed through 17 different tribes of Indians and took seven months on the journey.  In California, Henry practised his trade as well as digging for gold.  He is credited with having built the best stone building in San Francisco at that time.  Having accumulated a tidy sum, he returned to New York and bought more land.

Maybe if Skip has a few minutes to spare next time he is in the city, he could track down Henry's building?


Talking of Skip, I tried to obtain one of those fly splatter guns.  Seems they are being shipped to the States only.


I know it's not New England standard, but the autumn foliage in Withdean Park looked attractive in the sun on Sunday morning.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Moving with the times

Yes, sir, that's me - moving with the times.  I really am getting quite up to date with my vocabulary.  To wit, I have come across the phrase "butt out".  I was accused of having used those words to a fellow Lion last week and I'm sorry to say that he took umbrage at my actions.  Happilly, we have since shaken hands and everything is once again hunky-dory.  But as for telling him to butt out: I had never heard the expression until I read it in his email to me telling me of his upset!

I have also discovered the word "Movember".  No, that's not quite the whole truth.  I think I may have seen the word before - November last year, possibly - but it had never really entered my consiousness and I most certainly knew nothing of its meaning.  This year I gathered that it was something to do with men growing moustaches - which let me out as I already have both a moustache and a beard.  Then I learned from reading the weekend papers that it is something to do with prostate cancer.  Presumably men (and women too?) are sponsored to grow moustaches and the money is raised for a prostate cancer charity.  I might, when I find sufficient time, investigate some more.  Then here is Fanuary, which is, I gather, something to do with women?

It is possible, I suppose, that this just shows what a sheltered life I lead - or how boringly old-fashioned I am.  I even try not to split my infinitives or end sentences with conjunctions.  And I say five-and-twenty instead of twenty-five.  That last only sank in on Thursday.  I can be precise because it was on Thursday that I telephoned a fellow Lion to confirm that I would give him a lift to the dinner meeting that evening.  [At a village pub just the other side of the Downs.  I had sweet and sour chicken with rice and very good it was.  Followed with a slice of strudel and cream, and then I polished off spotted dick and custard which was going begging.]  It is actually only when talking time that I use the expression.  I don't say seven twenty-five or even twenty-five past seven; always five-and-twenty past seven.

At least I don't say four score instead of eighty.  The French do: they don't have a word for eighty and say quatre vingts - four twenties.  Mind you, they don't have words for seventy or ninety either!  Seventy is sixty-ten, so seventy-seven becomes sixty-ten-seven, and ninety is four-twenties-ten.  Ninety-seven gets quite complicated at four-twenties-ten-seven.

One day I might even learn what Americans mean when they say "a quarter of four".  Is that quarter to four or quarter past?


These photographs have just come to hand.  They were taken at Brighton Lions' fireworks display last week.  I can't decide which one I prefer so you can see both.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

We will remember them

Picture: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Citadel New Military Cemetery near Fricourt, Somme, France.  This is the resting place of, among others, Drummer Ernest Arthur Patterson of 8th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, who was killed in action on 31st August 1915, aged 19.  The son of George and Emma Eliza Patterson, of Edith Cottage, Commodore Rd, Oulton Broad, Suffolk, he was also a cousin of mine.

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.  There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Rupert Brooke

Saturday, 10 November 2012


I have applied to become a lookerer.  Eh, what? you ask.  What the heckythump is lookerer?  Basically, a lookerer is a volunteer part-time shepherd.  Ok, ok, you can stop giggling now.

Each winter, the city brings sheep in to graze certain open spaces around the edge of town.  This is done as it helps to conserve ancient chalk downland and is cheaper than mowing.  As the Council says on its web site:
A number of important conservation and ancient chalk downland areas in the city are grazed with sheep to improve the open space for both wildlife and people. Grazing is better than mowing for the land as the grass is removed over several weeks allowing insects to move away and ensure structures like ant hills are not damaged. Sheep also find some plants tastier than others, so grazing removes different plants at different rates, unlike mowing where everything is removed at once. Grazing also ensures aggressive weeds such as nettles and brambles don't take over and prevent people from using open spaces for quiet recreation, healthy exercise and enjoying wildlife.
The sheep need looking after and volunteer lookerers drop by to check on them at pre-arranged times.  It is supposed to take only about an hour a week and it sounds quite interesting.  Lookerers have to attend a one-day course to be told the theory behind the idea and to learn how to handle sheep and erect the electric fencing used.

It will probably come to nothing for me as I expect there will be no more courses until late summer 2013, by which time the Council will have forgotten all about me.


In view of what has gone before, this picture seems quite appropriate: sheep on the South Downs with a distant view of Brighton and the English Channel.

Friday, 9 November 2012

No crab apples

Every year, a few weeks earlier than this, I am required to collect crab apples for the Old Bat to turn into crab apple jelly.  This is used both as a spread on toast and as an ingredient, together with balsamic vinegar, in a tangy sauce that goes well with, for example, tuna steaks.  There are a number of crab apple trees growing in grass verges around Patcham and I set off with a plastic bag to pick up the windfalls from around these trees.  This does make me feel a little like a bag lady, but it's all in a good cause.  Nobody else seems to want the fruit anyway and if I don't collect it, it will just lie there and rot.  In fact, some of it is usually well on the way to rotting by the time I collect it.  But not this year.  There was not a crab apple to be found.  I don't think somebody beat me to them, I think they just didn't grow.  Like the apples in my garden.  The bees didn't get out to pollinate the blossom because of the rain.  (I did hear of one lady who pollinated her apple tree using a feather duster.  The mind boggles.)  So, as our stock of home-made jelly is getting very low, I searched the web.  I found just three manufacturers in England, two being small companies with no national distribution except through their web sites.  The third was a large jam manufacturing company whose products are sold in numerous places, including at least one supermarket chain.  However, that supermarket does not stock crab apple jelly.  So I have had to order a jar over the web at enormous expense.  But it's worth it just to keep Herself happy.


Ploughing on the Downs yesterday afternoon, accompanied, as usual, by a flock of gulls.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Nature notes

I made mention of a fungus that is attacking ash trees and causing a condition known as ash die-back, this proving fatal to the tree in the majority of cases.  I expressed some surprise at the comment in newspaper reports that this could put at risk some 30% of the broad-leaved woodland in England as I had no idea that the ash comprises such a high proportion of our trees.  Yesterday I enjoyed my first walk in Stanmer woods for several weeks.  I have kept out of the woods partly because we have so much rain and the dog attracts mud like pigs attract flies.  Yesterday, however, I decided that the wind would have dried the paths to some extent and off we set.  I took particular note of the variety of trees: beech, oak, chestnut, hazel, ash, sycamore, field maple, holly, yew and several I did not recognise.  What did surprise me was the high number of ash trees in those parts of Stanmer Great Wood where the trees were mixed.  Granted, there are parts - sometimes quite extensive parts - where a good 90% of the trees are beech.  Indeed, there are patches where all the trees are beech.  There are also patches of mixed hazel and chestnut with an occasional oak.

Which reminds me.  Although ash die-back has been in the news recently, the oak, beech and larch are also suffering from fatal diseases even though I can't remember what they are.  I must enjoy our woods while I can.


We do get quite a variety of birds in the garden.  Regular visitors include house sparrows, hedge sparrows, wrens, blue and great tits, robins, blackbirds, starlings, wood pigeons, collared doves, rooks, jackdaws, magpies, jays, herring gulls, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches - and probably others I have overlooked.  I don't spend a lot of time gazing out of the windows, but most days I glance out from time to time and perhaps spend a minute or two watching what is going on.  It is the greenfinches that puzzle me; they are not as green as I seem to recall from days gone by, being more of a dull olive.  Indeed, if it were not for the yellow flash on the wings they could be mistaken for slightly off-colour female house sparrows.


Talking of looking out of the window, I did so while I was at the kitchen sink washing up the breakfast things and noticed that the sun was shining brightly on the fields across the valley.  Every field was a bright green, right up to the ridge.  Even the copse on the ridge was in sun, but the sky behind was a deep purple-grey.  It was a dramatic picture but I knew that by the time I had put the battery back in the camera and got up to the bedroom window, the scene would have changed.  In fact, I might have managed it.  Curses!


When I am working in the garden, a robin frequently serenades me from the cherry tree.  Either that, or he comes to watch what I am doing.  This, of course, is the European robin which, at 5 to 5.5 inches long, is somewhat smaller than its American cousin.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The best duck joke ever

 Well, that's how it was described to me.

A duck walks into a pub and orders a pint of beer and a ham sandwich.  The barman looks at him and says, "Hang on! You're a duck."

"I see your eyes are working," replies the duck.

"And you can talk!" exclaims the barman.

"I see your ears are working, too," says the duck.  "Now if you don't mind, can I have my beer and my sandwich please?"

"Certainly, sorry about that," says the barman as he pulls the duck's pint.  "It's just that we don't get many ducks in this pub.  What are you doing round this way?"

"I'm working on the building site across the road," explains the duck.  "I'm a plasterer."

The flabbergasted barman cannot believe the duck and wants to learn more, but takes the hint when the duck pulls out a newspaper from his bag and proceeds to read it.

So, the duck reads his paper, drinks his beer, eats his sandwich, bids the barman good day and leaves.

The same thing happens for two weeks, then one day the circus comes to town.

The ringmaster comes into the pub for a pint and the barman says to him, "You're with the circus, aren't you? Well, I know this duck that could be just brilliant in your circus. He talks, drinks beer, eats sandwiches, reads the newspaper and everything!"

"Sounds marvellous," says the ringmaster, handing over his business card.  "Get him to give me a call."

So the next day when the duck comes into the pub the barman says, "Hey, Mr. Duck, I reckon I can line you up with a top job, paying really good money."

"I'm always looking for the next job," says the duck.  "Where is it?"

"At the circus," says the barman.

"The circus?" repeats the duck.

"That's right," replies the barman.

"The circus?" the duck asks again, "with the big tent?"

"Yeah," the barman replies.

"With all the animals who live in cages, and performers who live in caravans?" says the duck.

"Of course," the barman replies.

"And the tent has canvas sides and a big canvas roof with a hole in the middle?" persists the duck.

"That's right!" says the barman.

The duck shakes his head in amazement, and says .. . .

"What the heck would they want with a plasterer?"


The Upper Lodges, Stanmer Park, are surrounded by trees.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

We did remember, remember the fifth of November

So that's all over for another year - bar the shouting.  The weather was fine and the display went ahead with no real problems.  As always, there were minor hicccups;  as always, these were caused by the cricket club imposing changes without consulting us.  Having been on my feet selling tickets from 3.00 till 8.00 (although the display had already started by then) I did my knee no favours, although I did not notice until I got home.  This morning, a couple of paracetomol and a 45 minute walk with the dog seem to have sorted things out.

We had our first real frost of the winter this morning.  I say "real" because we did have a slight touch of white one morning last month.  Today's effort was enough to cause me to slip as I walked to the park but I managed to stay upright.

I finally got around to checking who is standing for election as Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex.  As I fully expected, none of the candidates is known to me.  There are five of them; one independent and one each representing the major political parties - Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and United Kingdom Independence.  And this is supposed to be an apolitical post?  I'm not at all sure I will be bothered to vote.


A picture I took yesterday illustrates perfectly the description by Hilaire Belloc: "And along the sky the line of the Downs so noble and so bare".  The pointed hill on the left is Firle Beacon while on the right is Castle Hill.

Monday, 5 November 2012


I suppose I could start by saying that it was a grand weekend but that would be a really diabolically poor attempt at a pun.  You see, we have had the pleasure of seeing all three of our grandchildren over the last couple of days.  On Saturday afternoon I came home from delivering the last of the fireworks tickets (of which a little more later) to find my elder son and his two boys sitting at the table with the Old Bat playing happy families.  Given that Max is not quite six and until recently had the attention span of a dormouse, he really does get on very well with this game.  Indeed, I was told later that playing it was his idea.  Mind you, with hands the size of his, he does have a problem holding his cards.  After happy families we moved onto snap with me playing as well.  Then it was pairs, but by now Max was starting to get fidgety.  Ben, at 9, was perfectly able to sit still to play.  Max eventually succumbed to tiredness and we had tears but he stopped crying when it was suggested he should find the dog's one and only indoor toy and give it to her before he left for home.

Yesterday we were delighted to have younger son and Emily (5) visit us for dinner.  She is a proper little chatterbox and really keeps me amused very well.  Her delight is in helping me to feed the dog and yesterday, for the first time, I let her put the (heavy for her) food bowl on the floor.  The problem is that Fern (the dog) always wants to start eating before the bowl actually reaches the floor so I had to hang on to her until Emily was clear.

I appreciate that the foregoing is entirely egotistic - but what blog isn't?  Anyway, I threatened more about fireworks tickets.  It was a few years back that I signed Brighton Lions Club up as a PayPal member so that we could sell tickets for our fireworks display through our web site.  The first year we sold over £1200-worth that way but since then our on-line sales have dwindled, falling to between £200 and £300.  This year they have shot back up to over £1000.  What surprises me is the adult/child ticket ratio.  I would have expected this to be about 50:50 but for each child's ticket sold, I have sold 4 adults' tickets.  It is noticeable, too, that we get many young adults - in their 20s - come to the display, as well as families, groups of teenage schoolchildren, and even old age pensioners!

Fortunately, the weather forecast appears to be right.  We have a fine day with little or no wind.  I just hope it stays that way.


As this is Bonfire Night I'll show you a picture I took at the display about three years ago.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Old crocks

And no, although it may well be appropriate, that title does NOT refer to the Old Bat and me.  I am, instead, talking - well, typing about veteran cars.  Today sees the annual London to Brighton old crocks run, or Veteran Car Run to use its official title although everybody I know still calls it old crocks.  Remember Genevieve, the film with the Larry Adler harmonica theme music?  I can't say I do as I never saw it.

It was way back in 1896 that a law was passed raising the speed limit from 4mph to 14mph and removing the need for a man on foot to precede any "horseless carriage".  (It was two years later that the requirement that the man on foot carry a red flag was abolished.)  Anyway, to celebrate this marvellous new freedom, a group of motorists set out to drive from London to Brighton, thus establishing the annual tradition.-

All cars taking part - and the number is restricted to 550 - have to have been manufactured before 1905.

I did feel sorry for the participants when I saw the weather this morning - wet and windy.

Luckily - provided it is accurate - the forecast for tomorrow evening is good with a less-than-5% chance of rain.  Tomorrow, of course, is Bonfire Night when we celebrate the fact that a terrorist plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the King was discovered before it could be put into practice.  That was in 1605.  Brighton Lions hold our biggest fund-raiser on Bonfire Night, a fireworks display.  I hope I'm not tempting providence when I remark that during my 25 years as a member of Brighton Lions Club we have only once had to cancel the display because of rain.


I'm still posting pictures from my walk across the Downs some days ago.  After taking yesterday's photo, I turned round and spotted a hang glider, albeit one with non-standard equipment.

Some of his antics looked quite scary to me - this picture doesn't lie!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

First Saturday

Being as it's the first Saturday in the month, Brighton Lions have their book fair this morning and I'm scheduled to be on duty.  I'm going to take the fireworks tickets just in case.


That walk I had over the Downs the other day produced several pictures.  Just to the left (or roughly south) of the copse we saw both yesterday and Thursday is the Chattri, the spot where were the funeral pyres for the Indian soldiers who died of wounds in Brighton during World War I.  (The white blobs are sheep.)

Friday, 2 November 2012


Up until just a couple of weeks ago I could reckon on receiving 20, 30, 40 or even 50 or more spam emails every day.  Granted, my ISP managed to sort them pretty well and only the odd few would not go straight into the spam folder.  Although I knew that occasionally, just very occasionally, an email that was not spam could end up in the spam folder, I seldom bothered to look there.  But now, all of a sudden, I find that the quantity of spam has diminshed and I receive only a handful, usually fewer than five, a day.  And not one of them offers me free money to use at a casino or a fake Rolex watch or the solution to all my problems in the bedroom or pictures of bored housewives.  Almost without exception they are comments which have been posted on my blog by somebody called Anonymous.

Now, I do find it a bit of a drag having to go to the right place to delete all those spam comments.  OK, I know it's not difficult, nor is it exactly time-consuming, it's just a drag.  And I know I could quite easily stop Mr (or Mrs, Miss, Ms or Mx) Anonymous by requiring people posting comments to use word verification.  But that irritates commentators, so I won't go that way.  I'll just live with the spam.

Talking of spam, or rather Spam, reminds me that I haven't seen it around for a long time.  Is it still produced, I wonder?  Ghastly stuff, but we were very grateful for it when "proper" meat was either too expensive or just not available.  I can still remember my mother serving a meal of it: Spam, boiled potatoes and (I think) tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce.  Did we really think of it as a substitute for ham?  Which leads me to another memory.

It was in 1950 - or maybe 1951 - that I contracted pleurisy and was, quite literally, at death's door.  When I started to recover, I said I would like a ham sandwich.  Back then, ham was a luxury and quite why I asked for it I cannot imagine.  Did I really recall the taste of such a rare delicacy?  I doubt it.  Of course, there was no ham in the house, nor any chance of buying some.  My mother must have asked neighbours if they had any but none did.  One, however, who lived on the other side of the road and several houses along, had a chicken which was offered.  In those days chicken was as much a luxury as ham so it must have been quite a sacrifice on her part.  Nowadays chicken is considered a cheap meat.

Ah well, such is the passage of time.


The same copse as yesterday, this time as seen from the bedroom window this morning.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Decision made

But first let me say I can appreciate that one of my comments yesterday may have caused offence to some people from America who might have stumbled across this blog.  If you did take offence, I apologise.  But let me assure you that my comment was not intended as any sort of criticism of people in the USA but a statement of how the British media treat differently natural disasters in different parts of the world.


My mind is made up - I think.   It was a couple of weeks ago that I mentioned the selection I had to make for a lunch to which I had been invited.  I have decided.  My starter will be the smoked haddock and spring onion tartlet, rocket and pecorino salad and I will be totally boring and follow this with the roast turkey and all the trimmings, finishing with Christmas pudding.


So, just to keep the peace in the Pensioner household, I lit the nightlight in the pumpkin which I placed beside the front door.  I also switched on the outside light to make it safer for the little darlings to descend our steps.  We had 13 callers, most of them of very tender years, and at 7.30 I decided enough was enough.  There should have been no really young horrors out after that time.


We had a sunny day earlier this week and I took a camera across the Downs when I walked the dog.  I'm not sure if that copse on the brow of the hill has a name.  I always thought of it as Pangdean Holt until I saw on an Ordnance Survey map that Pangdean Holt is down the other side of the hill.