Saturday, 24 December 2016

Ho ho ho

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

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

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

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A lie in!

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

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

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

Pity it is such a dismal day for it.

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


Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Yorkshire wave

I blame the American.

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

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

Read on, and all will be revealed.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 16 December 2016

Another delight

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

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

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

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Eating out

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

I must have been asleep

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

No leaves on the line...

No wrong kind of snow...

BUT no train drivers either!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 10 December 2016

With apologies to any Irish readers.

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

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

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

Friday, 9 December 2016

Chiropractic shambles

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

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

Or nearly as before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 3 December 2016

A sign of spring?

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

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

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

Santa was left speechless.