Monday, 29 February 2016

To do or not to do, that is the question.

There has been, during the last few days, a bit of a to-do about to do lists.

(A pretty ghastly pun, I know, but I just couldn't resist it.)

As my long-time reader will know, I am an occasional lister.  I used to be much more consistent in my listing, but so many things change in retirement.

Anyway, it seems that some self-styled expert considers to do lists are wrongly named and should really be called to not do lists, even though that is grammatically incorrect with the split infinitive.  He contends that having a to do list leads one to procrastinate.  To dither.  To put off doing anything while worrying about what to do first.  Or simply worrying about the length of the list.

After his opinion was published in my daily fish-wrap, it led to a flurry of comments by regular columnists and letter writers.  Many of those people - almost without exception listers like myself - have commented that they still have a to do list from eons ago which they have failed to complete.  And by eons I don't mean just the last couple of weeks or even the last month; they were confessing, admitting or maybe proudly proclaiming that they still had to do lists from YEARS ago.

I like having a to do list.  Not all the time, but just occasionally, at those times when there seem to be a lot of different jobs piling up.  I find that it helps me to decide whether any job is urgent and important, urgent but not especially important, important but not urgent - or maybe there just because it's something I would like to do!  Above all, it helps me to avoid the greatest sin: completely forgetting any job in the welter of activity.

When I was working, I always spent a few minutes at the end of the day (the working day, that is) thinking about the jobs I needed to do the following day.  I would then compile a to do list for the next day.  I found this a great help as it meant that my subconscious mind was contemplating at least one of those jobs as I slept (both on the train home and in bed) and I could crack on very much more effectively the next day.

It has been said that people who like compiling to do lists are the same people who cross out or tick off or otherwise mark the crossword clues that they have solved.  I have been an habitual devotee of the daily cryptic crossword since before I left my parents' home - and in all those years it has been my practice to cross off the clue numbers when I have solved them.

The argument against marking the solved clues is that one should look at the grid to see which clue to attempt to solve next.  I do that, but I also read the clues to see which I can solve without looking at the grid.  It works both ways.  In any case, neither crossing off nor not crossing off the clues is going to bring on the apocalypse, so why get excited about it?

Now, what's next on the list?

Sunday, 28 February 2016

An historic view

Yesterday afternoon I decided that our walk ("our" meaning the dog and me) would be round the ramparts of the Roman Camp, or Hollingbury hill fort as it is officially known.  I had been there earlier in the week and yesterday I wanted to take a photograph of what I had seen, not having taken a camera with me the previous time.  But my efforts yesterday were in vain.  The temperature was officially about seven degrees, but it felt a good ten degrees colder than that because of the strong north-easterly wind.  The wind was so strong that I could not hold the camera steady enough to make it worthwhile taking pictures.  So I offer a picture I took back last August.

That is the scene from the southern rampart of the Camp, looking across the city of Brighton and out over the English Channel.  I grant you that it's not exactly what our Iron Age forebears would have seen; the city has expanded both outwards and upwards over the past two or more millennia.  but the view of the sea would have remained much the same during the intervening centuries.

That is about to change.  Indeed, change has already begun, which is why I describe this as an historic view.  About 8 miles offshore is this, MPI Discovery.

With apologies to the copyright holder for not obtaining his permission.
The Rampion wind-farm is under construction.  We will eventually see 116 wind turbines out there.

I'm not a fan of wind turbines.

Yes, I do appreciate having electricity, being able to flick a switch to provide light, being able to boil a kettle to make a cup of tea and so on.  And I accept that we need to find alternative sources of energy with the supply of fossil fuels nearing exhaustion.  But I do not accept that wind turbines are the answer.  Wind turbines only work when the wind speed is between certain limits and, as afar as I have seen, they are not altogether reliable.

We are an island state, surrounded by water.  And one of the enduring features of water is that it moves.  Sea water and, to an extent, river water is tidal.  Centuries ago, water was used to provide power, power to mill grain and other machinery through waterwheels.  Hydro-electricity is common enough and surely somebody is clever enough to devise a tidal version that we could use instead of blighting views, both inland and to sea, with those ghastly constructions?

Saturday, 27 February 2016

A little bit of luxury

I allowed myself a treat this morning.

I had a lie-in.

Mind you, some people I know might ask, scornfully, "Call that a lie-in?"

I have never been one for lying in bed until ten; if I'm awake, the chances are that I have to be up and doing.  During the last few years of my working life I was woken by the alarm at 5.00am so when I retired, hearing the alarm at seven was something of a luxury.  And yes, I did still need to set the alarm as the OB was still working and would never get out of bed unless I was up first.

The habit of setting the alarm clock has never left me.  Admittedly, I only do it nowadays because the dog is getting older and needs to be let out into the garden if I am to avoid coming down to a puddle in the kitchen.

Now that the mornings are lighter it is so much easier to get out of bed.  All the same, I do find it a bit of a drag.  It would probably be easier if I managed to get a solid seven or eight hours of zizz, but I can't remember that last time I was able to sleep right through.  The OB's lack of mobility means that I have to help her to get out of bed and along to the bathroom.  She needs to go at least once each night, usually twice and sometimes three times and I have changed from a heavy sleeper into a light one - at least as far as she is concerned.  A bit like a mother hearing a baby just before it starts to cry.  Anyway, an extra half-hour this morning was luxury as far as I was concerned!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Need one say more?

The EU explained as thus:
Pythagoras' theorem - 24 words.
Lord's Prayer - 66 words.
Archimedes' Principle - 67 words.
10 Commandments - 179 words.
Gettysburg address - 286 words.
US Declaration of Independence - 1,300 words.
US Constitution with all 27 Amendments - 7,818 words.
EU regulations on the sale of cabbage - 26,911 words.

Which gives a small indication of how I intend to vote come the revolution referendum.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

In, out, in, out, and shake it all about

David Cameron had his Neville Chamberlain moment on Friday when he returned from Brussels claiming to have won significant benefits for the UK in his tough negotiations with the leaders of the other 27 countries in the European Union.  It seems to me that it is all very well those other leaders agreeing compromises but they still have to be sanctioned by the European Parliament or commissioners or somebody.  At least, that is my understanding.  Or maybe it's my misunderstanding.

I have spent much of today ploughing through reports and comments in the newspapers, comments and opinions both in favour of our country remaining in the EU and those in favour of us leaving: Brexit, as it is dubbed.  We will now suffer four months of the same until the referendum in June.

What slightly bothers me - apart from the mind-numbing repetition that we will be forced to endure - is that so many people who will be taking part in the most important decision-making process this country will have seen in decades will not really be conversant with the facts.  I'm not over confident that I will be!  Let's face it; there are 28 members states in the EU (I think) and I would have difficulty in naming more than three-quarters of them.  If my knowledge is that badly lacking, what chance do I have of grasping the more intricate details of what is on offer now?

That said, my mind is already made up.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Now, where was I?

During the past few days I have had numerous ideas that I wanted to blog about but none of them have come to fruition, basically because of a lack of time.  Either that or there was too much else to be done that seemed to be more important or urgent.  I found myself becoming snowed under and, quite literally, not really knowing which way to turn.  Or what to do first.  Indeed, I eventually realised that I had actually started and abandoned several jobs.

There was only one thing to do.  Stop everything and draw up a list, which had to be committed to paper.  Or, rather, screen.

Having drawn up the list and placed the outstanding tasks in some semblance of importance and urgency, I was ready to make a start.

It was surprising how much simpler my life became, and in what seemed no time at all, I had crossed off almost a quarter of the jobs on the list!  The only trouble is that I keep adding more jobs to the bottom of the list.

Oh well, I expect I'll get there sometime.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Worth a try perhaps?

I'm collecting free donations for Brighton Lions Club Charity Trust Fund every time I buy anything online - from my weekly shop to my annual holiday - with and it doesn't cost me a penny extra!

You could be collecting free donations too, and because I've invited you Brighton Lions Club Charity Trust Fund will earn an extra £1.

There are nearly 3,000 retailers on board ready to make a donation, including Amazon, John Lewis, Aviva, thetrainline and Sainsbury's!

It's really simple, all you have to do is:
1. Join
Head to and sign up for free.

2. Shop
Every time you shop online, go to easyfundraising first, pick the retailer you want and start shopping

3. Raise
After you've checked out, that retailer will make a donation to your good cause for no extra cost whatsoever!

There are no catches or hidden charges and Brighton Lions Club Charity Trust Fund will be really grateful for your donations.

Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Not only the Wombles

I very occasionally saw children's television when the sprogs were small.  As well as the Wombles, the Clangers were among my favourites!

Monday, 15 February 2016


Remember them?  Great Uncle Bulgaria, Orinoco, Madame Cholet et al - the Wombles of Wimbledon Common are they, making good use of the things that they find, things that the everyday folk leave behind.

We'll come back to them in just a minute.

I suppose supermarkets have always engaged in price wars.  As far as I can recall, it started off in a fairly mild way with loss leaders, a small number of products deliberately being sold at a loss in the hope of enticing customers into that chain's stores.  In the way of all wars, it escalated from there, through loyalty cards and we have now reached the stage where supermarket chains promise to compare their prices with other chains and to make good the difference if a basket of good could have been bought more cheaply elsewhere.

Sainsbury's do this at the till at the time of purchase, giving a voucher for the difference which can be used next time the customer shops at one of their stores.  Asda do it differently.  Their customers need to register on the Asda web site and enter the number of the receipt at least three hours after shopping.  Any "loss" can be printed off as a coupon to be presented - together with the original till receipt - when next shopping.

(I can only speak for Sainsbury's and Asda as they are the only supermarkets I use.)

And this is where the Wombles come into the story.  You see, most Asda customers (me included) really can't be bothered to check the price comparison web site, or they are unaware of the facility.  There is at least one man who 'wombles' Asda car parks, picking up till receipts that customers have thrown down.  he then uses the price comparison facility and reckons to 'earn' about £2,000 a year claiming money that other folk have left behind.

He says he spends up to seven hours a day 'wombling'.  I can think of easier ways to earn two grand a year!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Turkish delight

My upbringing - as far as food was concerned - was . . . well, not exactly basic, but certainly not adventurous.  Main courses were generally meat, potatoes and a vegetable.  I don't think a second green vegetable made an appearance on our plates other than on Christmas Day.  Puddings tended to be steamed puddings, suet puddings or milk puddings (think rice, macaroni, tapioca, sago and semolina).  I would not wish you to think that my mother was not a good cook; she was, but she was a typical Englishwoman of her generation as far as food was concerned.  Pasta (other than macaroni in a milk pudding) never made an appearance.  Just like pasta, olive oil was 'foreign' and therefore suspect.

And then I met the Old Bat, only then, of course, she was still a Young Bat.  It was she who introduced me to a whole new culinary world; scallops (which I don't actively dislike but about which I don't exactly rave), spaghetti Bolognaise and Chinese food.  Fish, of various types, was cooked differently to my mother's standard way with cod (never any other variety) and I discovered prawns.

But despite my ever-widening horizons, I was always diffident about trying something for the first time whereas the slightly older than she was Young Bat was usually game for anything (except raw fish and sheep's eyes).  Now, however, our roles are reversed.  The Old Bat refuses even to contemplate trying any food that might be even slightly spicy, so Indian is right out.  I have suggested trying other restaurants serving, for example, Brazilian food as I reckoned that should be fairly straightforward.  I, on the other hand, have eaten Thai, Indian and Japanese (including sushi) and i thoroughly enjoy snails when in France.

So when it was suggested that the Lions' monthly dinner meeting should be at a Turkish restaurant, I was quite happy to try it out.  But I did wonder about the OB.  Sure enough, she expressed concern.  After all, it might be different!  Fortunately, I learned from the web site that the restaurant serves such standards as salmon, sea bass and sea bream.

And so it was that on Thursday we ate Turkish.  The OB enjoyed her sea bream, although she expressed surprise when the Mediterranean vegetables that the menu said would be served with it turned out to be French beans, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.  I ate borek as a starter, followed by musakka, which was different to the moussaka the OB cooks as it contained aubergines, which I had never eaten before.

Even the OB declared the meal a success!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

More weather

Some people were predicting, last autumn, that we were in for a bad winter.  Their forecast was based on the fact that a Bewick's swan arrived at Slimbridge several weeks earlier than usual.  (See the report here.)  And what happened?  We had the warmest December since records began!

Winter-visiting birds have been fewer in numbers and some summer visitors have over-wintered.

Fieldfare, from RSPB
But, this morning I saw a flock of fieldfares in the park, something I have not seen for several years.  And, of course, since we are only just into February, there is still time for winter's icy grip to get us by the throat.

It was early in February 2012 that the car broke down while we were driving through France. We were put up overnight in an hotel and woke up next morning to this sight:

Six inches of snow had fallen overnight. Mind you, that was a very good restaurant!  All the same, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow when we are off again.