Sunday, 25 September 2016

Just discovered!

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

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

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

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

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

And this what I have discovered:

Saturday, 24 September 2016

In the news this week

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

There is, of course, a back story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Just like buses

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

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Pub grub

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

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

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

And I enjoyed my meal!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

It's Tuesday

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

That's about all there is to say.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Another old one

Q: Why do elephants paint their toenails red?

A: So they can hide in cherry trees.

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

A: No - so it must work!

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

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Fruit picking

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 17 September 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 16 September 2016

How old?

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

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The old ones are the best

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

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


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

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

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

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Cause of wonder

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

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

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

Saturday, 10 September 2016

From the sublime to the ridiculous

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

Friday, 9 September 2016

Fan-dance Fanny

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

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Alas alack!

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

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

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

Wednesday, 7 September 2016


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

We must be mad!

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A bit of a wimp

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 5 September 2016

Flower of the Downs

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 4 September 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Bah, humbug!

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

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

Friday, 2 September 2016

On the subject of animals...

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Dog days

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

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

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

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