31 May 2011 (Tuesday) - A Day Off Work

I awoke muttering about how grim my cold was, and that I’m not going camping at a May Bank Holiday weekend again because it had been so cold. And I looked outside to see that the sun was shining and that it was a glorious day today. Why is it that the weather is always so good immediately after I’ve been on holiday?
Bearing in mind how rough I felt, it was as well that I’d booked the day off work. I wrestled with my computer for a bit. I say “wrestled” because after twenty minutes and a re-boot I realised the router had gone to sleep and needed a re-start. But once re-connected I was away. With a little help (cheers Matt!) I’ve re-organised my bookmarks into FireFox. I do like the feature in Safari where you get a screen of your most used websites, but I can live without that. Mind you, I’m waiting for FireFox to crash the PC like Safari used to.

Having bought a new kite at the weekend, I’m fast coming to the conclusion that as far as kites are concerned, I’ve turned to the dark side of one-lined kiting. Certainly all the kites I’ve bought recently are single lined. In my defence I will say that whilst two and four lined kites need constant supervision, one liners have the advantage that you can tie the things to an anchor and wander off for a pint whilst the kite does its own thing. Having said that, with the kites I’ve bought recently they need a serious anchor. Having been shown the error of my ways at the weekend and having been lent the use of a tyre lever as a ground anchor, today I decided I needed a tyre lever of my own.
So I went to Halfords and was rudely told that they were “over there somewhere” as the woman on the parts desk turned her back on me. The woman on the checkout was equally unhelpful, telling me that they “probably have got some somewhere”. I told her I’d take my money to a shop that wanted it, and walked out leaving her looking very surprised.
TyreWeb didn’t have any tyre levers either, but they suggested I tried Watling Tyres. Watling Tyres didn’t have any either, but the chap there spent ten minutes phoning round the town before sending me on to Ashford Garage Suppliers who had what I needed.
(So if you need anything for your car, go to Ashford Garage Suppliers or Watling Tyres because they are helpful. Don’t go to the Ashford branch of Halfords because they couldn’t care less)
I then went on to Easy Home Brew to get the makings of my next batch of home brew. I was greeted as a friend as I walked through the door, and I was told that they missed seeing me at the weekend: they’d had a beer-making demonstration on Saturday. I had told them that I couldn’t make that date. In fact there had been an awful lot that I missed over the last weekend, including three local beer festivals. I really hope they move the Brighton Kite Festival back to its usual weekend next year. I have already sucked up to the organisers (!)

I came home via B&Q, where I bought a four-pound club hammer for bashing the tyre lever into the ground, and came home to have a go with tyre lever and club hammer. The principle is straight forward enough: bash the tyre lever into the ground, tie a kite to it. Lacking a kite in the back garden I contented myself with bashing the tyre lever into the ground. It took some bashing, and took quite a bit of effort to extract it afterwards. Which is probably for the best.

I then put the film “Alien” on the telly whilst I had a sandwich. Once I’d woken up I then got my current batch of home brew out of the fermentation bucket and into the pressure barrel, and then set the next load of beer fermenting in the bucket. I must admit that I thought my home brew which I took camping over the weekend was quite a success. I’m hoping that the next brews will be as good.

And then I had a quick look on-line. And my piss boiled. Back in 2004 I was posting on various kite-related Internet forums about kite flying being banned on beaches and in parks, and about the need for the kite-flying community to do something about it. There was a very real danger that a tiny minority of people being silly with kites were going to get them all banned and ruin it all for everyone else.
During 2004-05 I was very vocal about the need for a national body to stand up for the average kite-flyer to oppose these bans. And in 2006 I rather gave up as the recently formed national body made it quite clear that formal meetings and process were far more important than action.
And today I see that there are moves afoot to ban kite flying on Sussex beaches. Interestingly this ban would also apply to fishing and horse riding. Let’s just hope that the riders and anglers are more organised than kite fliers…

30 May 2011 (Monday) - FireFox



Having had the driest time at Brighton Kite Festival in the ten years we’ve been going (it *always* rains at some point), we woke this morning to find very low cloud, and all the tents were wet. But this is the problem with tents. Caravans would be nice, if we had anywhere to store one. But we don’t, and so tents it is. And if they get wet, then so be it.
After brekkie and some tidying up the tents were a lot drier than they were, and with a concerted effort we were packed away by mid day. As we left we said our goodbyes, and I was very conscious that I’m missed seeing loads of people this weekend.

There was a dodgy few seconds on the way home when an idiot woman went through a red light and turned into a box junction; nearly hitting my car head on. It’s as well I have good brakes. After that the rest of the journey home was something of an anticlimax.
Home, where we unpacked. Ironically, having had perhaps the windiest and coldest Brighton Kite Festival ever, we came home to glorious sunshine. Bearing in mind there’s another camping trip soon I didn’t put stuff away quite as well as I might: most of it is piled in the living room. It can stay there for a while. Either until we go camping again, or until this cold gets better. Either will do me.

Having had time to reflect on the weekend, I am seriously hoping the weather improves before the next kite festival. For all that I wouldn’t have missed the weekend for anything, I like sitting outside with my friends. Having to sit in the tent because it was so cold rather kept people to their own camps, which was a shame. I hope that future Brighton Kite Festivals go back to their usual slot in July. It might always rain in July, but it’s usually a lot warmer.

And then, having spent a little while putting photos of the weekend onto Facebook, we watched Doctor Who over tea. Last week’s episode wasn’t that good, but this week’s was better.

The rest of the evening was something of a learning experience. I gave up using Internet Explorer as a browser some time ago. Having tried out all the browsers I could, I found that (at that time) I preferred Safari. I’ve been using that for some time, but now I find my bookmarks are organised according to the order in which I added them. I can’t see how to organise them alphabetically. (Added to that Safari is very inclined to crash.)
I suppose the obvious answer is to get used to using FireFox because I *can* organise bookmarks in FireFox. In fact tonight’s blog entry has been created via FireFox.
If anyone knows how I can get my favourites out of Safari and into FireFox without doing a very tedious manual copying and pasting, please let me know….. Alternatively this could be a valuable opportunity to go through my bookmarks and see which ones I actually want…..

29 May 2011 (Sunday) - Brighton Kite Festival



A better night’s sleep, but I was still wide awake, washed and shaved by 7am. With the arrival of Chippy, our contingent were all assembled and we had a really good cooked breakfast.

Having saved as lot of money from the beer budget by making home brew I decided I could squander some cash on a new kite. I’d been promising myself a new sled for some time, and so I got one. It pulled rather more than I was expecting though, and was grateful for the use of a tyre lever to anchor the thing down with. I need to find one of my own – I shall try eBay.

The kiddies kite workshop went better today – we seemed to be better organised. I was on bridling, and we seemed to do well. Even if one young lad did manage to wreck his kite and two others at the same time.
My brother and his family came over for the afternoon, and we spent some time playing with kites. It was really good to do this. But all too soon they had to go home. So whilst we waited for tea I drank beer whilst firewood was gathered. And after I’d washed up we visited friends, and friends visited us. Beer, port and pocheen was drunk, cheesecake sat in, lips threatened with thickening, and the differences between drunkenness and deafness debated, before finally going to bed at 1.30am.

28 May 2011 (Saturday) - Brighton Kite Festival



With my cold in full flow I think it’s fair to say that I saw every hour of the night. And I was up and shaved by 7am. And in Asda by 8am. We needed the makings of brekkie, and we didn’t have any milk or butter either.
We got back to camp to find we’d forgotten a lot of other things too, but someone else would get those bits and bobs. And they did, and got me some medicine for my cold as well. Brekkie was good, and whilst someone else did the washing up I flew a kite. In retrospect the wind was probably too strong to fly a kite – I managed to snap a spar. And so spent the next few minutes down at one of the kite traders buying a replacement.

It’s something of a tradition that there is a kite making workshop at Brighton Kite Festival: children get to make their own kites under the expert advice and tutelage of experienced kite fliers. And over the last few years I’ve taken to helping with this workshop. It’s fun, even if the children do seem to be a bit thick.
Today I was at first sight somewhat surplus to requirements, so I was on “Kite Hospital”: as the children destroyed the kites they’d made, so I would be on fixing duty for those kites that were fixable. However several were so trashed that the only option was to throw them away and make new ones.

With the kite workshop over I made my way back to base camp where a gaggle of assorted children were running round with toy guns pretending to shoot each other. They told me that they were playing “Telly-ban”. I suppose that I used to play “Cowboys & Indians”, but I can’t say that I was happy with their game. But it wasn’t my problem, and I left them to it.

Tea was excellent (chicken fajitas), and once the washing up was done we settled down for a beer or two. And then my phone rang – there had been talk of wandering into Brighton this evening to see a Sparks tribute band. Were we still going? But I’d forgotten all about that. Maybe I’ll go next year. Instead this year we had a camp fire and beer (I quite liked my home brew), and then port and cheese, finally staggering off to bed at 2.30am.

27 May 2011 (Friday) - Off To Brighton



I woke feeling rough – I don’t usually get colds, but today I had a definite sniffle. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. With the car all loaded the advance party set off for Brighton at 9am. Well, we set off at 9am. By the time we’d collected gas canisters and been for shopping that we knew we needed several days ago, it was 9.30am before we left Ashford. But we’ve been to Brighton before; we know the route well – what could possibly go wrong?
It turned out that road works could go wrong – we met so many sets of road works and diversions I began to wonder if we’d ever get there. But eventually we did, and we found that there were already a lot of our friends there. We exchanged insults with several people, and made our way to our usual spot half way up the slope. We spent a few minutes trying to find the flattest bit of a hill (not as easy as it sounds), and then started setting up camp. Our mess tent went up easily enough, as did the tables and camp kitchen. But we had a bit of a problem: the advance party didn’t have any of the catering staff along. We set up the kitchen area as best as we could, but I spent the entire weekend with a sense that the kitchen just wasn’t laid out right.

As the evening wore on, so more of our number arrived. We had eleven in our immediate camp, with six more family camped next door, and five more friends next to them. And dozens of friends in various places around the field.
And dinner arrived, accompanied by Terry and Irene. Whenever I mention that I go camping a lot, I am often told by many people that they don’t like camping. I would respond to this with the observation that people who say they don’t like camping have never actually done camping like I do camping. There is camping in style, and there is roughing it in a tent. The two are very different concepts. Take tonight’s meal – the goulash was wonderful. Why does everyone assume that camp food is burgers which have been cremated on a barbecue? It doesn’t have to be.

Having been fed, I was quite happy to wash up. There is a shower block in Stanmer Park with hot running water, which makes washing up much easier than at other kite festivals, and washing up didn’t take long at all. And very soon we were back at camp having a crafty pint of beer. In previous camping trips there’s been no denying that the beer bill has been rather high, and so this year I took along some home brew as an economy measure. I took the last gallon of the “Pickled Parrot”, and five gallons of a beer I’d brewed especially for the occasion – “Bright ‘Un”. They had both bounced around in the car during the drive down, but were both drinkable. So I drank them. Not all of it, but an elegant sufficiency. And everyone else had an elegant sufficiency too: as the evening wore on friends visited, and we chatted and drank, and drank and chatted. Some of us moved from our chairs onto the floor, as it is (apparently) very difficult to fall off of the floor.

I eventually staggered into bed at 1am, by now shivering with a full-blown cold.

26 May 2011 (Thursday) - New Lights



A day off work and I was up probably earlier than I needed to be. Having thrown a load of assorted camping gear into the car over the last few days, I was very conscious that the rest of my tat wasn’t going to fit into it, to say nothing of everyone else’s tat. So I stripped it all out and repacked a few times until it all fitted. And then I realised I had two beer barrels to somehow cram in as well, so it all came out and I started again.

It was as well that I was off work today. We’d bought new light fittings for the living room some months ago, and we had a little episode on Tuesday in which changing a light bulb in one of the existing light fittings destroyed not only that light fitting, but the dimmer switch as well. Our tame spark had some time today, so he popped round to install our new lights. Watching him made the job seem so easy, but that is true of watching anyone do something with which they are familiar. He took half an hour to do what I would have taken half a day over.

I then topped up the water level in the pond and got the ironing done. And then I packed up my personal gear for the weekend’s extravaganza. I managed to find my perve-o-scope (a pair of binoculars with a USB camera), and having bought a new pair of shorts yesterday I found half a dozen pairs of shorts in my cupboards today; all new, all unworn.

Once packed I thought I’d best clear out my letter rack; just in case there were any nasty surprises lurking in there. I found an invitation to the garage: Renault are having a “Discount Event” this weekend in which invited people are being given the opportunity to buy a new car at a greatly discounted rate. And (surprise, surprise) I am one on the invited elite. Should any of my loyal readers feel they are missing out, don’t despair. I’m allowed to pass on my personal invitation to anyone I choose. And should my nominated deputy buy a car, I get a forty quid bung out of the deal. So if anyone wants a new car, now’s our chance. Interestingly I also had a letter telling me how much money I still owe on my car.

The mobile phone company and the leccie company both wrote to me to tell me what my monthly bill would be. Seeing how it’s on a direct debit they will get the money anyway. I don’t know why they bother to write.
PlusNet and Sky both wondered if I would like to get my broadband from them. Bearing in mind the aggro I’ve had with the broadband over the last few weeks, there’s no way I’m fiddling with that again in a hurry.

And then I braced myself and tackled the monthly accounts. Things started so well a month ago: I was rather flush and bought myself a Kindle, and spent some money on various garden projects, having forgotten I had to pay for the car servicing on the credit card bill that was due. And then I managed to scratch my glasses and need new ones. Then there was road tax for my car that I’d forgotten about. And our router went west in the broadband upgrade and we needed to go wireless. And the ‘er indoors TM -mobile needed a once-over. So it’s no secret I’ve been somewhat impecunious lately, and I could have cried when I saw the credit card bill.
I pride myself on being good with my money. Or that is I might have spent far too much, but I record what I’ve spent, so that when the bill comes I know how much it’s going to be.
So you can probably imagine my reaction when it came to over fifty quid more than I was expecting. I’d bought some fishing gear from eBay, and I’d bought a new hat at the Jack in the Green event. Both of which were paid for on my card, both of which I’d forgotten about.

Nil desperandum – it’s nothing another month of austerity won’t sort out...

25 May 2011 (Wednesday) - Dene Hole



I was up with the lark today, and had the laundry washed and on the line before 7am. I was on an early start, but perhaps I started too early. With some time on my hands I popped into Tesco for some odds and sods for the weekend. I’ve mentioned before how the staff in Tesco don’t like having customers around the place at 7.30am, and today was no exception.
I sorted myself out at the self service till without any problems, but as I left the store the alarms sounded. I’d left a tag in a pair of shorts I’d bought. The alarm rang, and rang, and the staff were obviously ignoring it. I waited for ten minutes before bellowing loudly to tell the staff that an alarm was going off. They all looked at each other, then all turned to the chap on the fags counter. Then they all walked off, and the chap on the fags counter grudgingly asked if he could help me.  I would complain if I thought it would achieve anything.

And so to work where we had what I can only describe a day which was only lightened by one of my colleagues needing a tiddle because his eyes were hurting.

Home to a house full of girlies drinking whisky (yuk!), and then off to the arky-ologee club. Tonight we weren’t having a talk – we were going for a walk instead. Fortunately we’d arranged to meet outside the chip shop in Lenham, so tea was easily sorted.
Usually I am rather scathing about the arky-ologee club, but tonight was different. We walked around some fields where neolithic iron smelting had occurred thousands of years ago. We found iron slag, flint tools, had a look down a dene hole, watched a badger running across the fields, and ended up at a disused quarry. Everyone was chatty, and we had a really good time. I’m actually quite looking forward to the next meeting….

24 May 2011 (Tuesday) - The News



Here’s a worrying article – science has shown there is a link between eating dead animals and developing bowel cancer. Bowel cancer is something that’s not given than much publicity really. But I know about it - both professionally, and personally. The second blog entry I wrote here on Blogger was about the funeral of an old friend who succumbed to bowel cancer.
So should I take science seriously? Should I cut back on scoffing carcases? Science advises that I should limit my weekly meat intake to 500 g - roughly the equivalent of five or six medium portions of roast beef, lamb or pork. I don’t think I’ll worry: I’m not rich enough to afford that amount of meat. 
Surely science should have a conversation with common sense on this one? Eating anything to excess is bad for you. Apparently there’s also a connection between being fat, consuming too much alcohol and developing bowel cancer as well. One wonders how many tonnes overweight one needs to be, and how many gallons of ale one needs to quaff daily before one should worry.

Seeing how the rest of the world is talking about Ryan Giggs, I thought I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. After all, he’s….. He’s a footballer (I looked it up) and he’s allegedly done something wrong. Exactly what it is that he’s supposedly done wrong is a matter of the utmost indifference to me. What does worry me though is the furore that his alleged misdemeanours have generated in the press. Apparently the media are dead set against the courts issuing orders granting these sports celebrities (and other celebrities) freedom from having their private lives made a subject of public entertainment. I can only assume that the media want to relate the tales of what celebrities are doing because they make money by doing so.
Are people’s lives so dull and empty that the Great Unwashed find that following the antics of the famous is better than actually having a life of their own?

In more local news I was shocked to find how tent pitching and striking ability isn’t what it once was….

23 May 2011 (Monday) - Stuff



I awoke to a minor shock this morning. Yesterday’s fairy butterfly princess face painting had acted as a very effective sunblock, and so this morning I had the butterfly imprint on my face where the unprotected skin had caught the sun. I did laugh.
I was up early and I watched the latest episode of “V” before work. It’s a remake of the series from the early 80s. That series was of five episodes, and I don’t think the modern remake has got quite past the second original episode yet. It’s a good story, but oh-so-slow. I didn’t realise that this was the last episode of the season, and quite possibly the last episode ever. It’s been cancelled. I must admit that much as I liked it, I can’t pretend to be surprised – because it’s so slow. But it would seem that the show has a strong fan base, and there’s a campaign to save the show. The campaign might work – you never know. Didn’t they do something like that when Star Trek got cancelled?

My piss boiled when I read the news this morning. A dole cheat has had her court hearing postponed because she’s too fat to get up the stairs to the courtroom. The answer is obvious: either put a biscuit on each stair, and a cake in the dock to entice her up, or surgically wire her gob shut until she’s lost enough weight to face justice. I’d love to get that fat at the taxpayer’s expense.

Being on an early finish was good, and I managed to park right outside the house when I got home. So I used the opportunity to load up the car with as much of the camping gear as I need to get into the car before I load up with what’s at the farm. And then seeing how that job took me far less time than I was expecting, I mowed the lawn. That didn’t take long either. Mind you I spent a little while helping ‘er indoors TM make sense of the bowling scores. She runs a bowling league, and one or other of the people there was squabbling about the scores. It’s odd how they haggle about a point here and a point there, but do nothing about the chap who (allegedly) cheats constantly. I’m glad I’m rubbish at bowling and I don’t go…

22 May 2011 (Sunday) - Kites at Leeds Castle



It was either yesterday’s pursuit of haddock, or hunting for bats; one, other or both had left me with something of a backache. But determined not to be thwarted by something as trivial as an inability to actually get out of the bed, I forced myself into action.

Eventually movement became easier, and we set off to Leeds Castle. The kite club were doing demonstration kite flying and we’d decided to go along. We arrived a tad later than we were planning to, but we’d been issued with wristbands which assured us of free entry. That saved thirty six quid (!) We exchanged insults with the peacocks, and soon met up with everyone. We flew kites, we tangled kites, and we chatted with normal people who came over to watch what we were doing. I quite liked today’s kite flying in that we had an area in which to fly, and the normal people (for the most part) kept out of it. Normally when they see a large kite in the sky, normal people like to picnic under it, play football under it, or put a push chair across the lines on which the kite is flying. But not today.

As ‘er indoors TM  started flying her kite, so the assembled kiting kiddies came to find me to tell me where the face painting stall was. I’m a sucker for face painting; especially when conducted by “fit birds” (TM). And with a pretty pink princess butterfly face I then flew kites until it was picnic time.
After picnic was scoffed, Dave and I slipped off to have a look round the stalls. We were at Leeds Castle as an attraction for the “Home and Garden Weekend”, and we thought we’d have a look at what was going on. To be honest there wasn’t a lot. Or perhaps I ought to qualify that. There were a lot of stalls, all selling what I can only describe as very poncey, very overpriced tat. I haggled and bought a metal drink holder at reduced price, but by and large there was very little there which appealed to me.

Once ‘er indoors TM had joined us, we had a look round the inside of the castle. For all that it is only a few miles up the road, I’ve not been to Leeds Castle very much (it’s too expensive!), and it was good to have a look around. I didn’t realise how (relatively) modern the castle actually is. Having seen it used in TV shows about Henry VIII, I was amazed to find that the castle (in its current form) is actually less than two hundred years old.
Back to the kite field for some more kite flying, and more kite crashing. And then on hearing the news that at least one kite had been shipwrecked in the castle’s moat, Dave and I went on a mission to see if we could find it. We couldn’t; but we enjoyed a stroll round the castle. Watching the golfers was fun, and we got to spend five minutes in the Dog Collar Museum (really!)

All too soon it was time to come home. I enjoy kite flying – I really should do it more often. Especially with the kite club. I suppose the problem is that seeing that the club is the “Brighton” Kite Flyers; most of the events tend to take place at Brighton, which is a little way away.

And so home where I had a bit of a shock. I went up to the attic to get the kite bags and sleeping bags in readiness for an upcoming event, only to find they weren’t where I left them. I’ve found them now, but I did have a bit of a panic. It turns out that every year we put the camping gear away properly after Bat-Camp (August). But last year a few of us went up to Sumners Ponds in September, and we never tidied away properly after that….

21 May 2011 (Saturday) - A Day in the Life



I was rather late to bed last night, as the kids next door were still screeching at 1am. They started screeching this morning at 6am. But I won’t complain – it just gives me free rein to make as much racket as I like when the need arises. After all is said and done we get on reasonably well with them and it’s good to be on speaking terms with at least one set of neighbours. Whilst feeding my fish this morning those neighbours shouted at me. I did laugh – she’d seen something by the pond and she thought it was a cat or a fox trying to eat the Koi, so she tried to scare it away. She was mortified when she saw it wasn’t a cat or a fox, but it was me. Once she’d overcome her embarrassment she laughed too.

There was a minor moment of panic this morning. Whilst mucking about on my PC, the antivirus software asked me if I fancied having a major software upgrade. Seeing how the antivirus stuff is free, something for nothing is always good, so I agreed. I clicked the “oh go on then” button. There was some downloading, clicking, fizzing, buzzing, and just at the point where in Doctor Who smoke would have come out of the back of the PC, a warning popped up that I had no antivirus software. Then the PC restarted itself and eventually came up with another warning that I had antivirus, but that no components were active. It’s finally resolved itself, but there were a few “brown trouser” moments along the way.
Talking of which, the wireless modem needed rebooting earlier. Let’s hope that was just  a one-off.

I then spent a little time on my latest silly idea. I have a plan to make my work blog available for the Kindle. I downloaded some software, and had this na├»ve idea that I could just click the “suck on this” button and it would convert a word document to an e-book.
It transpired that it’s not that simple. I would need to fart around editing the word document quite seriously first. Removing tables and hyperlinks is easy enough, but is just time consuming. The main problem I am faced with is that (as anyone who reads this blog will realise) that my writing style is such that I include the subject of my rant as a hyperlink in the text. This works fine in blog format, but won’t work as an e-book. I would need to set up the hyperlinks as a set of references.
I know this is possible as I’ve read e-books that have that functionality.  I wonder how I do that?

And then an afternoon’s fishing. There was a minor panic at the pond when the Rear Admiral realised he’d lost his car keys somewhere along the way. So rather than interrupting the fishing we phoned home and sent ‘er indoors TM on a mission to retrace our steps and find the keys. She found them at the fishing shop; he’d left them there when we stopped to buy some bait.
Talking of bait, my latest experimental bait failed miserably. I had heard how good strawberry flavoured baits were, and so I had this plan to get some tinned strawberries. I thought I could use the juice to make up a paste, and use the strawberries on the hook. The shop didn’t have strawberries, but ‘er indoors TM had a tin of sliced pears she said I could use. In theory they might have made a good bait. I tried them. But the fish from Del Monte said No!!
Thank the lord for maggots – a dozen tiddlers made sure the day’s fishing wasn’t a complete washout. Even if “Daddies Little Angel TMcaught twice that many.

And then home for a quick wash and a bite of tea and to fall asleep during Doctor Who. I woke to find the clans had gathered, and we set off to Kings Wood. The Tree Huggers were staging a bat walk this evening. It was by prior booking only, and we’d prior booked. As had loads of other people. The bat-biddy didn’t seem impressed at the amount of people we had present – there was over thirty of us. After a little introductory chat, we set off into the woods, and the bat-biddy immediately started nagging that those in front were walking too fast. As one of those in front I can categorically state that the problem (if indeed there ever was any problem) was that those at the back were going too slowly.
Bat-biddy (bless her) had good intentions, but clearly didn’t realise that trying to organise more than three people is akin to herding cats. She would have been best off telling people what she was doing, then doing it, and letting people follow her, or do their own sweet thing. But we had a good evening; using bat-detectors tuned to 35MHz we were able to detect the ultra-sound generated by me scratching my bum. And then using bat-detectors tuned to 50MHz we were able to hear the bats squeaking. We heard lots of bats squeaking; and by adjusting the frequency of the bat-detectors we could determine there were at least two different sorts of bat. It was a shame that at the end of the evening someone had nicked one of the bat-detectors, but such is life.

And then home. Via McDonalds. Shame it was closed….

20 May 2011 (Friday) - Astro Club


I must admit to having had a gloat at work today. One of my colleagues was boasting about how easy his new toilet had been to fit. It had taken him five minutes and it had been a perfectly straightforward operation. Imagine my reaction when his girlfriend phoned, spitting bullets about how this same toilet had just spilled poo-ey water all over the bathroom floor.
I didn’t laugh very much as I listened whilst he explained to her how to disassemble the bathroom cabinet so’s she could get to the U-bend. And when I heard the shrieking about the very idea of her having to get to the U-bend, I decided that I should leave the lab and go for a cup of coffee.
There is nothing as amusing as someone else’s toilet emergencies….

And then home, and on to astro club. Despite having had a backache all day, I made a point of getting to club early to set up the chairs and tables. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I like people to arrive to find everything set up. I can’t help but feel that it gives a bad impression if people arrive to find the hall’s in a state of chaos with people still setting up.

Attendance was down this evening; but we still had over fifty people along. An interesting introduction about a recent supernova, and something odd going on in the crab nebula. We then had a fascinating talk about the practicalities of weather satellites, and then I hawked the raffle and flogged the constellation game. It’s a little bit of fun that rakes in so much money for the club. And then whilst we waited for it to get dark we had a guide round the sky on the projector. And once it was dark we went outside and had a look at various objects including the cluster in Hercules and the Ring nebula.

There was a bit of a shock at the club tonight – Jill, who took over from me as treasurer two years ago is stepping down. I’ve said that if no one else can do it, I’ll take the job on again. After all, I’ve done it before, and I have volunteers who can go to the bank for me…

19 May 2011 (Thursday) - More Stuff



So far my new modem is working fine. Thank heavens for that – I can do without the expense of buying a new USB hub. Mind you there is something not quite right about the existing USB hub – the PC doesn’t recognise the webcam through it. Such is life.

To work, where we had our weigh-in. I’ve lost two pounds this week. I blame the night shift on Monday. And then home again where ‘er indoors TM went mental at me for putting her trays in the oven. I have no idea what her trays are, and I certainly haven’t put them anywhere, let alone in the oven. But sometimes it’s easier to just take the blame and let things go.

Here’s a sad sign of our times. Do-Gooders have had their plans thwarted. Having tried to ban performing animals in circuses, they’ve come up against a problem.
Personally I thought they were banned years ago, but what do I know? Anyway, it turns out that trying to ban performing animals somehow contravenes the human rights act. Either the human rights of the animals to earn an honest buck, or the human rights of the simpletons who enjoy seeing poor animals being humiliated.

And here’s something I’ve been saying for years. The problem with the NHS is not that there are too many managers: the problem is a lack of continuity of management. “The rapid turnover of chief executives in hospitals and primary care organisations and their often short tenure is therefore a cause of concern and must be addressed if sustained improvements in NHS performance are to be achieved”.
When deliberations were taking place for who would get the job of being my boss’s boss’s boss I marched into said deliberations and told the assembled throng that it didn’t matter who they appointed, as long as they appointed someone who would be in post for twenty years. A succession of transient managers breed an environment in which managers merely clear up other people’s messes, but never stay put long enough to have to clear up their own mess.

18 May 2011 (Wednesday) - Stuff


It was probably for the best that I was on a late start today. And it’s hardly surprising that I slept like a log last night.

As I had my brekkie there was a knock at the door. Bearing in mind the fun and games I’ve had with my leccie bill recently I was amazed to find a man from the leccie company. As he read the meter I explained that the leccie company had emailed me last week to ask for a meter reading. I also explained that I’d given them the meter reading, and they’ve already changed my bill accordingly. The nice man laughed. He said this happens all the time. Apparently there are three departments in charge of reading leccie meters (four if you include being emailed to read the thing yourself), and none of them communicate with each other at all. It’s quite possible to have three meter readings done in a week, and then be emailed to ask for your own reading.
The nice man went on to say that this is all changing; they are all being made redundant, and from September the only meter readings the leccie company will get will be those that customers provide themselves.

I then spent the morning worrying about my wireless modem. I bought the thing a couple of weeks ago when the Internet people started messing about with the Internet connection. The internet company did say to give it ten days to settle down, and that was just over ten days ago. Initially we were rebooting the router several times a day, but it has slowly got better. It’s now five days since we’ve had to reboot it. However the company did say that they would start the broadband speed high and slow it down till it stabilised. Two weeks ago I boasted of a connection speed of 9.5Mb; this morning it was down to 4.5Mb.
The problem I’ve had recently is the wireless modem. Last night I was having to unplug and replug it every five minutes to get it working. I suspect the problem is that I am running it through a very old USB hub.

Being on a late shift I had intended to go to Sainsbury’s to get lunch, but the Internet told me of terrible traffic delays in that part of the town. And going to Tesco meant I could drive past PC World on my way in to world. So that’s what I did.
The “Tech Guy” (or “Tech Gal”, to be precise) agreed with my theory that the old USB hub might be at fault. She also agreed that it might be a faulty modem. To be honest, I think she would have agreed with me if I had suggested that the fault was due to badly behaved magical pixies. It’s been my experience that these “Tech Bods” are at their best when dealing with people who know nothing; dealing with people who know something about computers scares them.
But she swapped the old modem for a new one which (so far) hasn’t played up too much. Let’s see how it goes before I splash out money I haven’t got on a USB hub…

17 May 2011 (Tuesday) - The Day After



I did the night shift last night – the first for over two years. It was busy, but I must admit I quite liked doing it. I’m not sure I liked it enough to want to do nights regularly though. I won’t go into details of how it went here, I’ve done that elsewhere.
But there was one incident of note. Have you ever worked a night shift? Whereas there is usually something particularly beautiful about dawn and watching the sun rise, there is (to my mind) something decidedly obnoxious about the sunrise when I’m on a night shift. When I’m fishing or camping I love the sunrise. When I’m working I absolutely hate and detest it. I wish I knew why.

After twelve and a half hours of non-stop frenetic activity I came home for a bit of a kip. I lay in bed for half an hour listening to the builders two doors up the road installing double glazing. I didn’t mind the bashing and hammering – it was their radio which was keeping me awake. So I went and asked them to turn it down. They did, and I slept till the early afternoon. But there is something decidedly wrong about sleeping after a night shift. When one wakes after sleep, usually one feels refreshed. Having slept after a night shift I always wake to feel physically ill. I felt nauseous, and I had tremors. The feeling passed after having been up for an hour or so, but whilst it lasts, it is that feeling more than anything which makes me not want to do night work on a permanent basis.

In other news it was the football cup final last weekend. I mention this because I had no idea I’d missed it. Personally it is a matter of the utmost indifference to me, but I feel I should be more interested in the sport because so many people do take football so seriously.
A very good friend posted about football on Facebook recently: “I am so angry it hurts right now! I am going for a walk, if you come across me please do not approach me. In 40 years as a fan, I have never been this low”. Clearly the chap feels incredibly passionately about football. And he’s not alone in doing so – far from it.
My brother and I once had a falling out because I didn’t realise that football was something sacred and something which could not be trivialised. Someone who I’ve known for years and with whom I’ve shared many a drunken booze up once (in all seriousness and in all sobriety) seriously threatened me with physical violence because of a throwaway comment I’d made about his favourite football team.

On considered reflection I really cannot see the attraction of football. Having watched five minutes of the game (be it the World Cup Final, or half a dozen kids kicking a ball in the street), I honesty feel I have seen all that the game has to offer.
I wish I could see what everyone else sees in it. I’m sure I must be missing something.

16 May 2011 (Monday) - The Day Before The Night



A day off work today? Not really… But I’ve blogged about that elsewhere.

Over a bit of brekky I had a look at the Amazon website. Whilst charging up my Kindle I put some books on it. Some free books: “Gulliver’s Travels”, “Northanger Abbey”,” The Picture of Dorian Grey” and “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”. All books I’ve been meaning to read for some time, and all free.
Whilst I do like my Kindle and whilst I’m temporarily impecunious, having access to free books is brilliant. But I must admit to being somewhat disappointed by the books on the Amazon store. They are rife with typos. And whilst they have a lot of stuff for the Kindle (free and otherwise), there’s a marked absence of the stuff that I personally want.
I’ve had a look at some other sites too, and have downloaded some free stuff from them, but I’ve wasted quite a bit of time on duff download sites. I could do with some recommendations of good downloading sites.

I then mowed the lawn. It probably didn’t need doing – it was looking rather parched. But mowing it once a week stops it getting overgrown. I then got the rear seats out of my car and stashed them behind the sofa for the summer. There’s only one job left to do before the camping season starts, and that’s to get all of the gear out of storage. Most of it is in a barn ten miles away. I shall do something about that over the next week or so.

I then spent a couple of hours doing the ironing. Dull, but the job needed doing. Whilst I was at it I made a point of opening all the doors and windows in the house. Airing the house never hurts, especially when it’s not too cold outside. And then I phoned the power company. I’ve been trying to get hold of them for a few days to argue about their attempt to increase the direct debit by seventy eight per cent. I tried twice and got cut off both times.
For no real reason I then typed all my details into uSwitch.com, and found out that were I to change to Scottish Power I might save a few pennies (it really wasn’t much!) so I phoned the power company back on the number they gave for people who wanted to change power suppliers. That made them sit up and take notice. I got through to Derek who reviewed my bills and we argued out a more realistic price increase.

To bed for the afternoon, and I had a good three hours sleep. Unfortunately I woke up feeling somewhat grotty. But then after a bit of tea, I’m raring to go to work for the night shift.
I’ve not done one of those for two years. I wonder how it will go…?

15 May 2011 (Sunday) - Lullingstone



The phone rang at 1.30am last night. I thought there was a problem at work – it’s not unheard of for the phone to ring at silly o’clock. The ringing stopped, and I could hear ‘er indoors TM talking to someone downstairs. Therefore I decided that I wasn’t needed and I went back to sleep. Or that is I tried to sleep. After fifteen minutes of lying awake listening to ‘er indoors TM shouting into the phone, I went to see what was going on.
It transpired that My Boy TM ” “Idiot Face TMhad been on the beer with his mates in Hastings, and from what we could work out from his drunken ramblings he’d had a stroke of genius. He’d told his mates that he didn’t need a lift home. He was going to spend the night at his lovely grandparent’s house. And like all strokes of genius, this idea seemed like a good idea at the time.

However not being a native Hastonian himself he was unaware of the difficulties in walking round Hastings. If you are ever in that town doing the “tourist thing” you’ll be in the touristy sea front area, and you’ll not think the place at all hilly. However once you are more than fifty yards from the sea, the town takes on the physical characteristics of the Himalayas. And consequently a distance that you could comfortably walk in fifteen minutes in Ashford could easily take you an hour in Hastings.
Having walked from Hastings town centre to my mother’s house (a near vertical three mile climb) he found himself too scared to ring the doorbell in case nanny didn’t love him for waking her up at 1.30am. He also was wondering if mummy still loved him too. So he phoned mummy and daddy to ask if nanny would still love him if he woke her up. Speaking for myself, daddy still loved him and was quite happy to drive down to Hastings to fetch him. But mummy was cross and told daddy to shut up and go back to bed. Over the years I’ve learned when to keep my trap shut, and so I went back to kip. The first fruit of my loin was left with no option but to wake his grandparents if he wanted a bed for what was left of the night. In parting I suggested that if he couldn’t rouse them he might doss down in their shed. And I went back to bed. Because I could.
I’ve since heard that immediately after this little episode, “Idiot Face TM phoned my brother five times, and my brother has spend ages worrying what the phone calls at 2am were all about. I’ve also learned that this little booze-up has set “Idiot Face TM back over one hundred pounds…..

I phoned my mother at 9am to see how “Idiot Face TM was doing. My mother was pleased to hear from me, but she wondered why I was asking after the first fruit of my loin - she didn’t have “Idiot Face TM with her. I suggested she checked her shed. He wasn’t there. Panic set in, so I phoned “Idiot Face TM ”. He was at his girlfriend’s house and he was fine, and he wondered why I was phoning. When I related the tale of the previous night he seemed amazed; him and his mates had been on the beer in Canterbury last night, and they’d all come home together in a taxi. He did vaguely recall having remarked to his mates that he’d seen a house that looked like his grandmother’s house. Perhaps that was what we were thinking of? He had no recollection of phoning us in the middle of the night, but his phone log said he had, so he conceded that he must have done so.
And then after I’d hung up, he phoned me back and said that seeing how I was up anyway would I drive round to his girlfriend’s house and give him a lift home…

The real reason we were up (relatively) early on a Sunday was that with the motorway closed we were expecting the traffic round town to be busy, and we had quite a long way to go. Four of us set off from Ashford to Lullingstone Roman Villa where we’d planned to meet up with friends. Being on a serious economy drive but still wanting to do stuff at the weekends was at first sight a tall order. But putting our English Heritage membership to use solved the problem. We’d been to Lullingstone Roman Villa before - on News Year’s Day this year. And despite what their website had to say on the matter, it had been closed then. English Heritage had promised us free admission for a group of friends when we next visited. Unfortunately they didn’t honour that promise today. I say “they” – it’s probably worth elaborating on “they”.

It’s been my experience that English Heritage establishments see themselves as utterly independent of the English Heritage head office, and today just reinforced that perception. The nice lady behind the counter was polite enough, but made it crystal clear that whatever appears on the English Heritage website, and whatever English Heritage HQ might say or do, neither have any bearing on her daily round whatsoever.
So, for all that the eleven English Heritage members of our party go in for free, the remaining dozen had to pay up. But it wasn’t that expensive really. And it was a good place to visit, especially if one has an archaeological bent. Since I was last there, they’ve added a film show to the exhibits. If any of my loyal readers haven’t been to Lullingstone Roman Villa before, I can recommend it as a good place to while away an hour or so. But do phone first to check that they will be open.

And then after having an ice cream from the gift shop we drove down to a nearby picnic site. After a quick wander along the river we then climbed the hill and had a picnic lunch. It’s fair to say that the day could have been warmer, but then again I had only myself to blame: shorts and T-shirt when everyone else was wearing fleeces and coats. But we had a good time. The kids (of all ages) ran riot in the field whilst we sat and watched them, whilst exchanging insults. There was (apparently) a plan to go for a walk around the nearby woodlands, but we never quite got round to that. Maybe next time…?


14 May 2011 (Saturday) - Eurovision


Wide awake from 3am to 7am; then when I needed to be up to drive ‘er indoors TM here and there, I was fast asleep. Once I’d done the first round of chauffeurring duties I phoned the power company. I’d had a letter from them in the week telling me they were planning to increase my monthly payment by over thirty quid. In fact not so much “planning” as “have done so already”. I’d tried phoning them in the week to complain about this, but I gave up after having been on hold for half an hour. Today I got through to an automated answering machine which told me their computers were all knacked and they couldn’t do anything without the computers, and they’d all gone home.
So with little else going on, and finding myself not working on a Saturday for a change, I activated my computer and played “Worms” for a bit. I haven’t played that for a while – its good fun. I wandered off for five minutes, but when I went back and re-loaded “Worms”, I just got a blank screen. I have noticed that if I have a few windows open then the screen gets a bit wobbly. I wonder if the graphics card in on the way out?

With ‘er indoors TM chauffeured for the second time, together with the Folkestone contingent we set off for an afternoon’s fishing. Again I tried the two-rod technique; one for tiddler bashing and one for big fish. My secret bait on the big fish rod wasn’t the unqualified success I was hoping for, but it got a few bites, so it wasn’t the total failure it might have been. And in between bites from huge fish I had nineteen tiddlers; some of which weren’t that small.

We were home in time for Doctor Who – and a first for the current series: an episode which was watchable. And after the Doctor had done his thing we set off for the annual Eurovision Song Contest party.
There were some dire acts this year. One country was represented by what I could only describe as the love child of a (hopefully) hypothetical union between Rolf Harris and Bruce Forsyth, backed up by a George Formby wannabe on ukulele. Another country had put forward what looked like Marina (from “Last of the Summer Wine”) backed up by Mickey Pearce (from “Only Fools and Horses”). Other entries included a Leslie Crowther look-alike, a Vulcan version of Anita Harris, and a duet between a transvestite and a bearded lady.
My personal favourites (the Moldavians) sported perhaps the stupidest hats and a unicycling fairy, but still didn’t win. The winners… let’s just declare “shenanigans” and hope for a better result next year….

13 May 2011 (Friday) - Dogs and Cards


A minor disaster – last night I was unable to post up my blog entry as Blogger was down. So I left it overnight and tried again this morning only to find it was still down. In over two years of blogging here, this is the first time the site has gone down on me. I can’t really complain.

Work was the same as ever, and then home. Yesterday I put the roof bars on the car. Today with the help of “Daddies Little Angel TMI got the top box on. It’s not so much heavy as awkward to manoeuvre about. After a bit of wrestling we got the box in place. I tried to persuade the most recent fruit of my loin that the thing just sat on the roof bars, and was fine provided I didn’t accelerate too fast, but she wasn’t that daft. And so with her deciding if the box was straight, I got the bolts in place and secured it to the roof bars.
Mind you, the box looks rather grubby, and has been rather marked during storage when it got splashed whilst I was painting the fence, and it has been seriously discoloured where a local cat has been sick on it. The more I look at it, the more I think I’d like a bigger box. But I only actually use the box four times a year. A bigger box would be a serious expense for something I use so infrequently. And for the same price I could replace my limping computer.
Whilst I was attaching the top box to the roof bars, next door (the nice ones) came out to show us their puppies. I didn’t realise they’d had pups: the puppies are really sweet. We played with the small dogs for a little while.

After a smashing bit of tea we left ‘er indoors TM  to her own devices whilst some of us went to play cards. Tonight was interesting. As well as “big blind” and “little blind” and “cardboard box”, tonight we had the “spaz” card which was moved around to the player who seemed to most deserve it at the time. After going round the table several times it ended up with me for mistaking jacks for kings, but still winning the hand anyway.
We played an hour of Omaha hold ‘em and then an hour (or so) of Texas hold ’em. I think the consensus is that we prefer Omaha. I wonder what other variations of poker we might try…

12 May 2011 (Thursday) - Stuff



I woke up this morning and could hardly get out of bed. Oh, I ached! I blame last night’s yomp round King’s Wood.
Yesterday I mentioned that I’d like to go on another walk with the tree huggers; they are staging a bat-walk in a week or so. I might just see if there are any spaces available. After all, they seem a harmless enough bunch.

And with the pond as frothy as ever I phoned the pond shop to ask if they had any ideas as to what might be wrong. They said the commonest cause of bubbles is a build-up of protein - possibly from the food the fish have been having. I'm very loathe to change the food - it's cheap and I've got loads of it. The nice man in the shop said the bubbles won't hurt the fish - and they don't seem bothered by it. Maybe I'll try different food once they've eaten all of the current stuff (in a few months time).

An early start made for an early finish, and on the way home I popped into the fishing tackle shop to get half a pint of maggots for the weekend. I found myself looking at the discounted bargains, and made a point of walking away from them. The last time I went to buy half a pint of maggots I ended up spending nearly twenty quid on all sorts of other bits and bobs.
And then home where I had a busy few minutes. As well as being frothy, the pond needed topping up, so I got out the hose and set that filling. And whilst that was doing, I put the roof bars back onto my car; after all the camping season will soon be upon us. With roof bars on, I need to get the top box onto the car, but I’ll need help for that. I’ll also need to take the back seats out, but that can wait for a week or so yet.

I had a letter from the power company. They’ve done my annual review and need to increase my monthly direct debit. They claimed they needed to increase it quite a bit. Seventy-eight percent, to be precise. At first I was rather taken aback, but this isn’t the first time they’ve stuffed up the annual review, and so I gave them a phone call. And gave up after having been on hold for half an hour. I’ll try them again later.

And then I made some bait for the big fish I’m going to catch at the weekend. Using a never-fail top-secret ingredient, I have high hopes for the stuff. But will it work? Time will tell – it always does…..

11 May 2011 (Wednesday) - Tree Huggers



Yesterday I mentioned that my pond looked “frothy” and that the bubbles were an early warning system for filter blockages. Having cleaned the filter out last night I was rather disappointed to find that the pond was the frothiest I’ve ever seen it this morning. So much for filter blockages causing the bubbles. I wonder what is really causing these bubbles….

Work was dull, and this evening I set off on what I (wrongly) thought was going to be a seriously tedious ordeal. “The Tree Huggers” were holding a Bluebell Walk, and ‘er indoors TM was keen to go. I suspected the worst, but thought I’d go along for want of anything better to do.
We arrived at the meeting point, and eventually ten of us congregated. The walk was led by a friend with whom we’ve camped, so we were off to a good start. And (perhaps disappointingly) there were no mung-bean-eating-weirdy-beardy-tree-huggers. We wandered into the woods, across fields, up hill and down dale; in all we walked about five miles.
The idea was to be looking at the bluebells, but they were past their best. Instead we got to see squirrels, rabbits, and three separate herds of deer.

I must admit I went there expecting to point and laugh at the tree huggers. But we had a really good evening. I’m looking forward to the next one….