31 August 2011 (Wednesday) - Worms and Candles

Day Two of my unexpected holiday, and so I spent a little time tidying the garden. Yesterday I trimmed back all that was growing over the hedge from next door. This morning I mowed the lawn. It hadn’t been mowed for a month, and having strimmed the edges, mowed the rest and raked up, I then did the job all over again: so thick was the grass. And having raked up, the compost bin was again full to overflowing, so another tip run was in order.
Having done the tip I then mucked out the fish poo filter. I must admit I’m on the verge of giving up with my pond. It’s cost thousands of pounds to build and equip in the first place, and here we are four years later with it just full of green smelly water. Over the last year it’s happened so many times that I spend out on filtration media, flocculants, and all sorts, and I get the pond clear for about a week, and then it just clags up again. The fish don’t seem bothered about it, but I am.

With postie having brought the bank statements I then went through the monthly accounts. Apropos of nothing I thought I’d do more than just check the bank’s sums this month. I thought I’d find out what some of the direct debits are actually for and see if I can’t make any economies.
For example I’ve been paying twenty quid a month to Scottish Widows. I’ve often wondered why. It turns out that this is an “Extra Cover Policy” which was taken out as part of the original mortgage twenty five years ago. When we sort out the mortgage, I can cancel that policy and cash it in. I’ll get a nice little bung from that (hopefully).
And every month I pay £6.25 to “Dom and Gen”. I’ve often wondered who Dom and Gen” are. So I phoned the bank to find out. They gave me a phone number and after holding on for an age it turned out that this is a policy that covers any breakdowns that the washing machine might have. Which is very handy – it’s been making funny noises recently.
I then had a serious look at the Sky subscription. I’m sure that at sixty quid a month I am paying for too much for something I rarely (if ever) watch. (I’m thinking of changing to a  Freeview box, but I doubt the rest of the Tribe are…)
I’ll leave the monthly charity donations for the time being – they aren’t an economy I want to have to make just yet.
But there’s no denying that the biggest economy I can make is on my car. Much as I like having a car, do I really need one? I *could* cycle round Ashford like I did in the past (for many years). And taking bank loans, petrol costs, insurance, road tax and servicing into account I would save hundreds by not having a car.

Being the last Wednesday of the month I was rather looking forward to being rude about the arky-ologee club. But unfortunately (for some) they don’t meet in August. So instead, ‘er indoors TM  took the opportunity to flog candles to an unsuspecting public.
And then I had a result. Last week I asked an IT aficionado of my acquaintance about the problem I was having getting any games to run on Windows 7. He recommended I downloaded “Steam” – it’s an application on the PC which plays various games. Steam itself is free – you pay for the games. I rather suspect my graphics card might not be up to some of the games, but it plays Worms Reloaded just fine. That’s good enough to be getting on with. It doesn’t have NeverWinter Nights, but it does have Myst. I can vaguely recall hearing good things about that game…

30 August 2011 (Tuesday) - This n That

I’ve been getting behind with watching the telly, so we had a bit of a catch-up last night. I’m now only two episodes behind with Torchwood, and I’m wondering why I’m continuing watching the program. After all, each episode is an hour of my life I will never get back.
I suppose, like all books and films and TV shows, if you can’t relate to the characters, then your interest isn’t engaged. And I couldn’t care less about the characters in Torchwood.
And we watched last Saturday’s Doctor Who as well. “Let’s Kill Hitler”… I can’t help but feel that Matt Smith is the new Sylvester McCoy – no matter how well he tries, he’s not got much in the way of storylines and scripts to work with. Previous Doctors have had companions and assistants who were fun and interesting characters. Quite frankly Matt Smith hasn’t a hope when saddled with such dull, drab, one dimensional hangers-on. Amy Pond – legs all the way up to her bum and precious little else. Rory whatshisname – what on Earth is that character even there for? And take the current storyline about River Song. Who cares? I don’t. Which is a shame….

However for entertainment with believable characters, why not try an e-book? Torn is “the best and worst of church, religion and faith. The best and worst of science. It’s about indoctrination, dogma and manipulation, even outright lies. It’s about family, expectations, mis-communication and betrayal. And it’s about love and hate. A line drawn through a Kent village, dividing families and friends.” Available online from Dawn Rite publishing, it will only set you back £2.99. Money well spent!

And then on with the business of the day – first of all to the dentist. Despite having a 9am appointment, I sat about waiting, and I wasn’t called in until 9.10am. I wonder what that was all about?
The chap had the obligatory rummage around inside my mouth, and suggested I made an appointment for a scaling and polishing. I rather suspect that had I been able to get in at 9am I would have had the scaling and polishing done today. But such is life.

I then came home to find postie had been. Last week I mentioned that the mortgage endowments had been paid, and that the building society would be writing to me to tell me how much the outstanding balance was for. Today’s letter told me that they had converted the outstanding balance into a repayment mortgage. They wanted (nearly) a hundred quid a month for the next five years to pay this off, and were charging me seventy quid for their having done this.
I phoned the number given on their letter, and listened to some rather dreadful music whilst waiting for someone to answer the phone. I got through to a chap who’s spoken English was marginally worse than my spoken Urdu, and so after a lot of mucking about I hung up and phoned again in the hope of getting someone with whom I could communicate.
Eventually I got through to Lee in Nottingham who was very helpful. It turned out that my best bet would be to go into the local branch to speak with someone there. That will be something to do next week.

With my car’s roof box gone I can now get into the tip, so I loaded my car up with loads of cardboard rubbish and the compost bin, and set off. And once at the tip I found that some things never change. The tip was virtually empty, but due to stupidly selfish bad parking, no one could actually get in to unload their cars. And for every one person that was actually throwing rubbish away, there were two or three hanging over the tip on what I could only describe as a sight-seeing mission.
I then popped round to Sainsbury’s: I had one or two bits and bobs to pick up. I had this plan that whilst I was doing the shopping, someone else could wash the bird poo off of my car for me. There are always people trying to wash cars in Sainsbury’s car park. But not today.

And then with the opportunity of taking the rest of the week off work I watched some telly, and mucked about some more with my presentation on comets. I started it ages ago, and it’s now less than two weeks until I give the talk (for the first time).
And I then spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with Steve as I pootled round the garden filling the compost bin with the greenery which was pouring over the fence from next door. I wish he’s prune back his overgrowth….

29 August 2011 (Monday) - Home Again

The Rear Admiral woke me at 6.45am this morning for a spot of fishing before brekkie. He and “Daddy’s Little Angel TMcontinued their usual tiddler bashing, but I decided to carry on with ledger fishing. Having found some left over sausages and pork pie at camp, I used them as bait with amazing results. I caught eight fish on the ledger: none were huge, but I was pleased.

Back to camp for a leisurely brekkie and breaking of camp. After the horrible weather we’d had this weekend I was grateful to pack up in bright sunshine. At BatCamp we always take our time to pack up. At a kite festival we are usually all packed up and away by 11.30am. Today we were still fiddling about at 1pm. But eventually we were done, and with the camping gear all safely into storage we made our way home.

On arrival at home after camping there is always another hour or so’s putting away and tidying up. I had a dodgy five minutes when my back went into spasms as I put my camping bag back on top of the wardrobe. But I soldiered on, and took the top box off of my car and put the seats back into it. I no longer have a pick-up, but a proper car again. All that remains is to get the bird poo hosed off of it.
And so the camping season is officially over. All that remains is to return Calor Gas bottles and camp kitchens to their rightful owners, and camping will be over until next June.

And so back to reality, where the internet is playing up, emails don’t download, and for a worrying five minutes my blog was having a DNS failure.
Money worries; work worries; computer worries. Life goes on. And I shall keep recording it.

28 August 2011 (Sunday) - Still Camping

Following a late night, I slept later than I planned. When at BatCamp I like to go fishing very early. Before 6am early. I woke up at 8am, but got up to find everyone still asleep. So I performed by morning ablutions and set off to fish on my own. Fishing was better for me this morning – I caught more in the first half hour than I’d caught all day yesterday. And by the time the rest of the angling contingent arrived, I’d doubled yesterday’s score.
I then had something of a revelation with my bite indicator. I always thought that when ledger fishing I was supposed to wait until the bite indicator started screaming before I knew I had a fish. But on watching where my ledger line went into the water I could see that the line was being gently tugged about by fish. Not being tugged firmly enough to set off the bite indicator, but definitely being tugged. So I struck and caught my biggest fish of the year (so far).

We fished for an hour or so, and then made our way back to camp for brekky. A very good brekky. And then Sarah and Steve joined us.
On Friday I’d borrowed the solar scope from the astro club, and so I set it up.
We then put the scope away and had a quick round of poker whist waiting for the rain to pass, and then after a bite of lunch, those of a piscatorial bent took our visitors angling.

Before long we were joined by another visitor. It would have been good to have had a proper “BatCamp Open Day” – there are so many people that we would like to have invited along. But it’s easy to overlook the fact that we were camping on a working farm – and as such it can be a dangerous place. And so the decision has been taken (years ago) that (other than babies and toddlers) BatCamp is not for under 18s. A tad harsh? Maybe. But I for one can see the sense in it – in the past my own kiddies were sent to grandparents over BatCamp weekends.

As the Rear Admiral gave the novice fish-hunters the benefit of his sage wisdom (!), I carried on with ledger fishing, and caught half a dozen respectably-sized tiddlers, and one leviathan that got away. (Have you ever noticed how it’s never a small fish that gets away?)
We had a wonderful afternoon – but there’s no denying that we were grateful for my fishing umbrella. On three or four occasions we were all huddled under it; waiting for the monsoon to pass.

Back to camp for tea. When we go camping, the food is always good, and our cooks excelled themselves tonight with pork chops, potatoes and vegetables. We’ve never had a Sunday roast at camp before.

And then it was time for “Ug!! Make Fire!!” I washed up whilst the fie was got going, and as night fell we sat around the camp fire, giggling over the Fart App for the iPhone. We were vaguely speculating on the possibility of nipping back to Ashford to get a telescope, but as the mist rolled in we decided against that idea. And having waved goodbye to our guests who sadly had to go home, we set about some port. Very tasty….

27 August 2011 (Saturday) - BatCamp - Take Three

Up with the lark to get some ironing done. I really don’t want to have to be doing a rush-job with the laundry on Monday, so at 6.30am I was seeing to my shirts (with a vengeance). And then some last minute packing for camping. Yesterday I realised that I’d not packed a torch (dur!), and bearing in mind how muddy it was I thought I’d dig out my wellies. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so before work I popped round to B&Q for a new pair.

Work was rather dull, and then having gone home for more forgotten things I then went to the fishing shop for maggots. And then I collected Martin and set off to BatCamp – this time for keeps. We arrived shortly after mid day, and after a spot of lunch we went fishing again. (Some things never change). We bashed a few tiddlers. Or that is everyone else bashed tiddlers – I didn’t catch quite as many as I might have hoped for. And then we wandered back to camp to find more visitors.
For no adequately explored reason my chair was upside down in the sunshine, looking rather damp. Such is life…

Some of us then set off to Dering Farm where we attempted to capture one of the ghost carp – the plan is to find out exactly how long and how heavy they now are. But despite our best efforts we were unable to entice them. In retrospect it was probably a combination of their not liking bread (which they were supposed to) and their not being entirely greedy things (which they were supposed to be). Next time our plans will allow for this.

And so back to camp for a rather nice bit of Chinese for tea. Sweet and sour chicken, black bean chicken, spring rolls, rice and noodles. Very nice. And having slept through the washing up I then had a crafty beer or two. Despite having dug a fire pit, we abandoned our plans for a camp fire as the firewood had been soaked by intermittent torrential rain throughout the day. So we sat in our mess tent and exchanged insults. And after a while we swapped beer for port and stilton. There was a dubious five minutes with the port. In England we pass the port to the left. Our continental brethren pass it to the right. And so the bottle bounced between “Pish Faysh” and “Alkalott” perhaps somewhat more than it should have.

The second bottle of port – a blond port - wasn’t quite as good as the first. It lacked a certain something. As did “Pish Faysh” by this time. During a break in the clouds we popped outside and admired the beautiful night sky.
Having boastfully announced that he was in possession of the requisite arrapatus (!) “Pish Faysh” correctly identified various item of astronomical interest including “Dimdromodu” and the “Pair of Squegasus”.

To bed at 1am – which was probably for the best.

26 August 2011 (Friday) - BatCamp - Take Two

To work for the morning. The way Saturday morning working is paid has been changed. We now don’t do Saturday mornings as overtime – we get time off in lieu. Or that is we get time off in lieu *if* we take that time off after we’ve worked the Saturday. If we take the time off before we work on the Saturday morning, we then get paid for the Saturday morning at time and a third.  
Bearing in mind that if we operate this way we’ve taken off half a day unpaid beforehand, so we end up with a net profit of about one hour’s money. But it’s better than a poke up the bum with a sharp stick. And so I took the afternoon off in lieu of working tomorrow morning.

And so back to BatCamp. Through the rain. I’d spent the morning being jealous of those at camp whilst I worked. And as the rain came down torrentially I began to wonder if I’d had the better deal. I got to the farm just as the rain eased off, and made my way to the camp where I was just in time for lunch. To be honest, no matter when I arrived I would have been just in time for lunch – I’d been to the supermarket for the bread. A bottle of Shepherd Neame’s 4-4-2 washed down a bacon, tomato and halloumi baguette nicely, and I slept as the Rear Admiral washed up.
Having been woken by passing dogs, we went for an afternoon’s fishing. Despite the rain. The rain was rather heavy, but eased off as the afternoon went on. I caught a few fish, “Daddy’s Little Angel TMcaught loads. The Bat (patent pending) nearly caught a rabbit (with a fishing rod), and the Hose Beast attempted to train ducks to herd fish.

All too soon the afternoon had gone. And so I left camp to go to astro club. I must admit that for some reason I wasn’t expecting great things from tonight’s club – being on the August bank holiday I was expecting attendance to be down. But I was pleasantly surprised. Billed as a telescope workshop and summer social, the evening was great.
Attendance was down on our usual turn-out, but with fifty people in attendance we had a really good guide to basic telescoping (from which I learned several new snippets). We had a really good social event – loads of people contributed food and goodies. And the impromptu telescoping session was great. I got to see Neptune and Jupiter. Jupiter was blobbling (a technical term). We saw the Andromeda galaxy, we saw all sorts of nebulae, and we even saw the new supernova in M101. And just as we were packing up, the lads managed to catch a small lizard.
The only drawback to the evening was that I’d forgotten to get raffle tickets…..

25 August 2011 (Thursday) - BatCamp - Take One

I had my appraisal at work today. The NHS has seen other “proper” firms doing appraisals, and over the years has tried to copy them. (In my honest opinion with limited success). Fortunately the boss seemed pleased with what I’d done over the last year, and the appraisal itself was rather in the nature of a box-ticking exercise. What are my professional aspirations for the next five years? I answered keeping my head down and getting on with the job. We both hoped that would suffice for the paperwork.
But had I done rather dreadfully over the last year, it would all have been the same. Whether I do good or bad has no bearing on my (lack of) pay rise.
And having survived a rather iffy I.T. upgrade (is there ever any other sort?) it was soon time to call it a day once more.

After work it was straight to BatCamp – the last of this year’s annual camping weekends (for me). “Daddies Little Angel TMand the Bat (patent pending) had been putting tents up since mid-day. It was nice to arrive at a camp site and find most of the hard work had been done.
All that was left for me to do was to help putting up my own tent, help lay out the tables in the mess tent, fetch and carry some bits and bobs, and get the girls going on the makings of the poo pit whist I organised the beer.

And after two hours of pootling about it was time to come home. Or time for me to come home – others started Bat-Camp at mid-day today and are still there. I’ve got to work tomorrow. Which is a shame..

Meanwhile here’s an interesting article. It would seem that if you actually understand anything about the underlying beliefs of Christianity, the whole thing has actually been disproved.
I doubt that will stop those with “faith” though. “Faith” is a wonderful thing – it allows you to carry on spouting rubbish; no matter how wrong you are. There was an article on the radio this evening about gay marriage. There were several same-sex couples being interviewed, all of which claimed to be practicing Christians, all of which wanting a church wedding. Now if they’d actually read their bibles they would know that their God doesn’t agree with homosexuality.
And so they would understand that the entire concept of a gay marriage in church would totally undermine the raison d’etre on which the church is based.

Personally I’ve nothing against the concept of same-sex marriages: I actually think they are a good thing. But they do go against what it says in the Bible.
But don’t just take my word for it – look it up (!)

I’ve often wondered how many churchgoers understand that which they profess to believe. I would hazard a guess at the answer being “not many”…

24 August 2011 (Wednesday) - Worms and Lemmings

With the postie bringing my bank statement I went through the accounts this morning – money could be better.
Interestingly I noticed that despite having paid off a large chunk of the mortgage back in February, my monthly mortgage repayments haven’t altered. I phoned Nationwide and spoke to Paul (who was quite helpful). Apparently the building society are in the throes of writing to me since another endowment matured yesterday, which has complicated matters somewhat. I then spoke with Joe at Aviva who told me how much the endowment came out at. Another quick call back to Nationwide, and I found myself bitterly reflecting on a conversation with my financial advisor (father in law) that we had back in late 1985.

Back in the mid 1980s, endowment mortgages were the way forward. They really were money for old rope. Rather than paying off your mortgage like any decent respectable person would, you gave your cash to some financial whizz-kid who did all sorts of financial shenanigans. And then after twenty five years your mortgage would be paid off, and you’d have a not inconsiderable load of cash given to you as well.
It’s perhaps ironic that rather than having the six thousand pounds hand out that we were led to expect we’d get, we’ve actually got a bill for (slightly more than) that amount.

And then to add insult to injury Tracy phoned from “Trust Inheritance” offering to write me a will. For sixty five pounds (!) I asked her how her sixty five quid will would be any different to one I would write myself (for free). She said hers would be legally binding. I asked why one I would write myself would not be. She seemed hesitant, and (in much the same way one might guess the date of the Battle of Poitiers) she asked me if the answer was because hers would be written by a solicitor?
I told her that she wasn’t inspiring me with confidence in her company. She started crying, so I hung up.
Mind you, I suppose I’d better consider re-writing my will. At the moment the will states that given my demise “My Boy TMand “Daddies Little Angel TMwill be passed into the care of a vicar I’ve not seen for ten years. And I can’t see those two being overly keen on that. Come to think of it, I doubt the vicar would relish the idea either.

And so to work. With the complete failure of all my PC games other than Zuma and Spider Solitaire I popped into PC World. After all, they were really helpful last week. Today they had a new assistant there: he looked like he was there on work experience, he was so young. I asked if they still did games like “Worms” and “Lemmings”. He looked at me blankly. He had never heard of “Worms” or “Lemmings”.
What do these kids do on computers these days?

Fortunately I’ve found a silly website where I can play “Lemmings” on-line. The graphics are probably on a par with the graphics when I first played “Lemmings” all those years ago, but it will keep me out of mischief until a better game comes along.

23 August 2011 (Tuesday) -Skint

I must admit to having had a wry smile at work today. At the height of the holiday season and with this week being the most expensive week in which to pay good money to go away for a holiday, I looked out of the window at the torrential rain. If nothing else it would save me the cost of a car wash. There’s no denying that there was a lot of bird dung that needed to be washed off of the car.

An early start at work today, and apart from a game of “Granny Alphabet” (find a name a “Granny” might have for every letter of the alphabet), work was dull. But the early start made for an early finish, and so I popped to Lidl’s to get supplies for the weekend. In the past I’ve blogged about how cheap beer is when home-brewed. However home brew does take a bit of preparation. Ideally I need to start brewing two months in advance. And having had quite a few occasions recently that required copious amounts of beer, events have conspired against my having a batch ready for this weekend. So I popped into Lidl who do beer at about half the price that the local vineyard does. They might not have quite such a good selection of the more obscure ales, but Spitfire’s not a bad drop really. And Lidl do a decent port reasonably cheaply.
There was a minor incident in the car park – I reversed probably too close to a tree, got distracted and forgot I hadn’t switched off the engine. When I stalled the engine there was a little lurch backwards into the tree, and now there’s a small crack on the rear back light. Whilst there’s no other damage and it all works fine, I expect it will require replacing when MOTs become due. With work needing doing to the steering rack at the next service, there’s another three hundred quid down the drain.

And so home – where I saw one of our lights in the living room had blown. In an attempt to replace the blown bulb I managed to leave half the bulb in the light fitting. I shall wrestle with it later (in the daylight). I really don’t need the aggravation (or the expense) of replacing the light fittings: after all they are only a couple of months old.

Thank heavens it’s pay day tomorrow….

22 August 2011 (Monday) - Aliens

There was an amazing program on the History Channel last night. Not amazing for its content, but amazing for the contempt in which it held its audience. The basic premise of the program was that (almost) every single event in human history could be attributed to alien intervention.
Apparently Alexander the Great’s proposed invasion of India was thwarted by aliens siding with India. Various features of Roman civil engineering are only explicable if one considers aliens giving the Romans blueprints. The existence of castles in Scotland only makes sense if they were built (and subsequently destroyed) by aliens. And an established historical incident, Archimedes’ heat ray, is apparently clinching proof of aliens interfering with history.

So crackpot was the program that at one point it claimed Hitler had obtained alien technology. Interestingly the program glossed over the fact that Hitler lost the war in which he was supposedly using alien weaponry. I quite like watching this sort of nonsense: I must admit to laughing at the quackademics they present as being supposedly reliable experts.

But I’m the sort of person who can get away with watching this program: at the risk of sounding somewhat egotistical, I’m not a total ‘tard who believes absolutely any old tosh that is presented to me. I can see it for the total bollox that it is. I know it’s really nonsense.
However it bothers me that there are those who see this sort of drivel on the telly and believe it all. After all in years to come when humanity (finally) develops hyper-light transport and finds primitive civilisations on other planets, surely we wouldn’t help them build their own version of Stonehenge and randomly get involved in their own petty internecine squabbles.

Meanwhile back on the ranch, a couple of days ago I found that I couldn’t run NeverWinter Nights on Windows 7. This morning I Googled and I found several fixes to the problem. I’ve tried them all – and none of them worked.
Worms World Party wouldn’t work either, nor would Star Trek Away Team. Nor would any other PC game I could find.
So I need to find a PC game to keep me out of mischief. I am open to all suggestions.

I have heard good things about Oolite, and so I downloaded it. The game runs on the PC, but after a few minutes I rather gave up on it – I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. I shall ask those who do know over the next few days.

21 August 2011 (Sunday) - Brenchley

I often blog about insomnia, but I’ve been sleeping well lately. And it’s occurred to me that I’ve been sleeping with just a duvet cover over me lately. In the past I’ve suffered from night sweats. I’ve not had that either. Perhaps overheating is the cause of my not sleeping? Having said that; I’ve been incredibly tired recently. Perhaps I need the sleep now? If so, I wonder why.

As I scoffed brekkie this morning I listened to the neighbours (the ones who don’t hate us). They were celebrating a birthday, and the birthday boy was opening his presents. He seemed very happy with what he’d got.
I wasn’t being particularly nosey – it was a warm morning so I had the window open, and next door use their back garden in the same way I use my living room. Hearing the young lad’s squeals of excitement was quite sweet really.

Seeing how it was a lovely day, we decided to go for a walk. I’ve mentioned before that ‘er indoors TM has got hold of a set of instructions for guided walks around Kent. Today we thought we’d try the walk around Brenchley: a particularly scenic village some twenty miles away. In the past I’ve raved about how good these guided walks have been. Today turned out to be something of a disappointment.
The instructions started off well; we walked past the war memorial, up a hill, and after swapping insults with a passing cat we went up some steps into an orchard. The instructions had us walking through a second orchard, and then across a golf course. I must admit that when we came to what seemed like the seventeenth orchard I rather suspected we might have gone slightly off course. My suspicions were confirmed when we met up with an itinerant pikey. He came out of his caravan and pointed at our AA guide sheet. He commented that he sees lots of people coming past his caravan brandishing those sheets trying to follow that guided walk. And all of them (like us) had gone wrong because they were all looking for a golf course which has long since been converted to other uses. The nice itinerant pikey showed us our whereabouts on the guide’s map (we were rather off the edge), and from that I was able to use “really skilful navigation (TM )” to get us back on course.
It was at this point that we found another couple of happy wanderers who were crying over the same set of instructions as we had. They too had wasted lots of time looking for a golf course that wasn’t there.
As the other hikers set off across a field (following my instructions) we followed at a distance. Whilst I was confident that I’d found the right footpath, I thought I’d like some degree of security by sending them ahead as an advance party. Should we have needed to have turned back, it would have been nice (for us) for these poor saps to have found out that fact first.
And as they marched off into the distance we found ourselves walking through yet another orchard. Very scenic – the ideal spot for a picnic. And so we stopped for our picnic. As we scoffed we met another pair of jolly wayfarers who also were carrying the same walk guide as us. They too had gone awry at the non-existent golf course, and we spent a few minutes griping about the fact.

With picnic scoffed we carried on. The next part of our route called for us to take a footpath through someone’s garden (OK so far…) and then take the path across a field till we reached a gully (OK so far…) and then, keeping the gully on our left, follow it in an easterly direction. Clearly the gully hadn’t read our instructions. The gully went south. Being far too wide to jump across, and with no other way of crossing being evident we followed the gully south in the hope that it might take an easterly turn. It didn’t. We eventually found ourselves at a road junction which simply didn’t exist on the map we had with our walking instructions.
It was at this point that I lost the will to continue. The walk was supposed to take three hours: we’d been walking for two hours and hadn’t covered a third of the route. Fortunately the walk was (roughly) circular and so it didn’t take too much effort to call up sat-nav and make our way back to the car.

The biggest problem with today’s walk was that we’d relied on the map provided with the route’s instructions. The map was reasonably detailed on the sections we were supposed to walk along, but it didn’t give a stuff about the bits we weren’t supposed to cover. Which is all very well until you leave the projected route. I always have several Ordnance Survey maps in my bag: unfortunately I didn’t have the OS map of the Tunbridge Wells area. I shall get it for next time.

And so home. Since it was on the way we popped into the Biddenden vineyard shop. I had a vague plan to get some beers for next weekend. But with bottles of beer at £2.50 each (!) I soon changed my mind. So we came home where I dozed a lot – it had been a rather strenuous afternoon….

20 August 2011 (Saturday) - Stuff

For no adequately explored reason my PC monitor screen seemed to have developed a line down it overnight. When I booted this morning there was an irritating black line running the height of the screen, about a third of the way across. After five minutes the line vanished, only to come back (this time in red) five minutes later. And then I noticed that the red line had gone again whilst I was rummaging around Facebook. I exchanged insults with my cousin for a bit, and then I realised the irritating black line had returned. And then it had gone again.

Irritating lines notwithstanding, I checked my emails. With nothing major planned for this weekend I was pleased to receive an invitation from a scantily clad young Russian lady. Her email asked me if I would like to have fun with her tonight. I certainly would – and I had an activity in mind that she might like to perform with me. But she would need to put on some rather more substantial clothes first: it can get a bit nippy when fishing, and her bra and knickers had no pockets in which she could keep her spare weights and her disgorger.

‘er indoors TM  and I went shopping – HomeBase were having a sale and so we thought we’d see it they had any bargains. I’m still keen to have an Acer in a huge pot in the front garden. But whist they had some sensibly priced Acers, they didn’t have any pots that I liked. They had some wooden tubs, but they would only rot through in a year or so. And the plastic tubs are too lightweight – too easy to nick. I really want a huge concrete thing that me and “My Boy TMtogether can hardly budge. And then I’ll need some soil to go into it.

Whilst we were in the area I popped into PC World. It wouldn’t hurt to look at their monitors, would it? Well, actually it would. They had a very nice HUMUNGOUS screen on bargain offer. There was no denying how sexy it was – and I have watched smaller tellys.
So in a moment of weakness I bought the thing - I would only fritter the money away on beer otherwise. I then took the monitor home and spent five minutes plumbing it in. I think it was money well spent (even if it’s money I don’t really have).
And then the rest of the day was spent fishing. My idea of ledger fishing for the big ones is beginning to work – I had several bites from big fish. I knew they were big fish because of the size of the lump of bait I was using. Mind you, ledgering for big fish is all very well, but you can’t beat a spell of tiddler bashing. I had thirty tiddlers.

Home again, and with the new PC now running in SexyMode HyperVision (patent pending) I then reinstalled my printer and the desk-top publishing software onto the new PC. As I mentioned a few days ago, having a new PC is all very well, but it does take a serious amount of fiddling to get it how I want it to run. It’s now almost how I want it to be. But there is one sticking point.
Windows 7 doesn’t support NeverWinter Nights. It just don’t. When you load the game up, the PC says that NeverWinter Nights isn’t something that Windows 7 is going to dirty it’s hands with, and chucks it out. So if any of my loyal readers could recommend a game that might keep me out of mischief for a year or so, I’d be grateful.

But I really shouldn’t grumble. This morning’s post brought a letter from Amelia. Amelia lives in Mozambique, and ActionAid (who I support financially) had forwarded her letter to me. Amelia had been raped as a child, and the local rules where she lives state that pregnant children are not to be educated with other kids. They have to be schooled in night classes. The fact that her village has no electricity meant that Amelia missed out on her schooling. But thanks to ActionAid, Amelia has learned how to deal with the sexual abuse she had, and she has received an education. She’s done so well that now she is employed as a teacher - teaching others to read: thanks to the help and support of ActionAid. And as you can see, Amelia’s now doing very well, has married and now has a second daughter.
ActionAid do such wonderful things around the world. But I wish they wouldn’t write to me to thank me. The money would be far better spent on the people who need it. And I only blub when I read their letters.
Any of my loyal readers who find themselves with a quid or two spare might consider giving it to ActionAid….

19 August 2011 (Friday) - Cards

We had the weigh-in at work today. For all that I effectively gave up with the diet some six months ago, we still get the scales out once every week or so. I wish we wouldn’t. I’m currently at the heaviest I have ever been in my life, and it would only take one more pork pie for me to undergo total gravitational collapse and become a black hole.
Am I bothered? Well, yes. Whilst I make light of my size, and often refer to myself as “Uncle Fat Bloke”, I’m not fat by choice. I *could* go on a diet and lose weight. It’s something I’ve done in the past. But every time I go on a diet, eventually the diet ends, and soon after the diet I wind up being heavier than when I started.  
Whilst there’s no denying that I could eat healthier, my diet is far from being one of exclusively junk. And I lead a relatively active life too.
I’m just naturally a porker. Though whilst I’ve resigned myself to the fact, I can’t pretend I like it.

Yesterday I was griping about the woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpots. I see they’ve been up to their old tricks again. Apparently earlier in the week some chap was embarking on a criminal activity when confronted by the bizzies. Had he stopped what he was doing and followed the instructions of the ‘bules, all would have been well. But he didn’t. Obviously he was less than co-operative because the police felt obliged to use pepper spray and a tazer. The bleeding hearts are up in arms because it would seem that having a poke off of the tazer killed the villain.
It speaks volumes about the mentality of those who are protesting the police’s actions that they never once questioned why this chap was being stopped by the police.

And so to Folkestone for an evening of cards. Amid flushes and straights I had a load of hearts (I didn’t forget them), and a poker of sixes. I do like a game of cards.

Meanwhile on the PC front I’ve had a go with the anti-virus. Whilst the free version of Norton Antivirus was nice, it came with for a very time-limited period. AVG might not have quite so many bells and whistles, but it’s free, and has done me well for the last few years.
And at the moment, free is good. Especially as the thought of a new monitor is becoming more and more appealing.

18 August 2011 (Thursday) - Tired

I was tired today. I expect the excitement of last weekend has finally caught up with me.
I usually get to work early and have a cuppa and read my Kindle for a while. Today I got to work early and fell asleep whilst reading my Kindle. I felt tired all morning, so at midday I took my lunch to my car, scoffed it and dozed. I had told my colleagues that I was planning to kip, and for them to ring me if it looked like I had fallen asleep and had overslept.
I did fall asleep and oversleep. Nobody phoned me – they all thought it would be a great joke to see how long I’d sleep for. I was only half an hour late back. And then I slept through most of a rather dull meeting. Which was probably for the best. My waking hours are too precious to waste in dull meetings.

What with having been away for the weekend, and then having been occupied with the setting up of my new PC, I’ve not been keeping up with the news. Which was probably for the best, because my piss boiled when I saw the headlines this evening. Last week the country was racked with civil unrest. Rioters took to the streets. People died.
And the woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpots are suggesting that the prison sentences given to rioters and those who incited the riots are too harsh. On reflection I think our society is under greater threat from these woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpots than it is from any rioter. Your average rioter is essentially an opportunistic thing. He only riots when the opportunity is there. He, she or it acts on the spur of the moment. However your average woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpot actually takes the time to think out their stupidly ridiculous hare-brained nonsense.

When I put all the rioters against the wall and shoot them (I’d pull the trigger myself; I really would!), perhaps I should blow away the woolly-minded-loony-leftie-tree-hugging-crackpots too…

Meanwhile back on more mundane matters the resurrection of my old PC’s hard drive is proceeding relatively well. I’ve trashed all that I don’t want from it. Much of that which has gone is the old operating system, the OS backup and programs I’ll not use: the disk will no longer run a PC like it did only three days ago. But with a new PC to do all of that, I wouldn’t want that data anyway.
I’ve salvaged all my old letters, Excel spreadsheets, music, and years and years of photos. I’ve managed to keep all those presentations I’ve given to the astro club over the years, and all the stuff I’ve done for my work-related websites.
The old disk is now what I intended it to be – an archive – a backup. And I’ve even done a “Windows Backup” too. Even though I doubt a “Windows Backup” would ever be retrievable in any useable shape or form. Loyal readers might recall I was blogging about the need for me to have an archived backup back in January. I’ve finally got round to it…

There are still a few things to be done to the PC. Email addresses didn’t survive the transition. If any of my loyal readers would like me to be able to email them, please send me an email to the old freeserve account address so’s I can teach the new spam filtering what it can and can’t eat, and where it should put received emails.
And I must admit that with the all-singing-all-dancing Windows 7 technology, my antiquated bought-second-hand-several-years-ago monitor is showing its age. I’ll see just how little money I have after next week’s pay day, and if I can sell a kidney on eBay I might just buy a new monitor to go with the new PC.
I’m having problems with my Java too – You-Tube only works through Internet Explorer, Firefox won’t touch it. I expect there’s an easy fix for that problem. From what I can see of computers there are no insoluble problems; only problems to which I don’t (yet) know the answer.
Bit like life, really….

17 August 2011 (Wednesday) - More New PC

Ungrateful as it might sound, I don’t like getting a new PC. Having one that’s been with me for a week of so is good. After a week or so I’ve had time to load up the programs I use, to add the “Flying Penguins” font (and all my trekky fonts too), and to get it how I want it. But getting it to that stage is somewhat painful. I started the process last night with the necessary evil that is Windows Update. Overnight some forty six updates came down – 112Mb of data. And (it has to be said) that the wireless network wasn’t as fast as it might have been.

Being on a late start this morning was useful - I spent some time going through the rubbish on my old hard drive. There’s a lot of stuff on there that I want – an archive of five years of blogging and eleven years of photographs immediately spring to mind. But there’s a load of rubbish on that drive as well. And so whilst I attempted to download Mozilla Firefox (HATE Internet Explorer !!!) I had a clear out of the data I’d paid good money to save.

And then I got cross. Firefox wouldn’t download. It looked like it was going to take three hours to get a 12Mb file. ‘er indoors TM  downloaded the file in two minutes and gave it to me on a USB stick.
Whilst that worked, it wasn’t a practical solution. Bearing in mind that networking PCs isn’t my forte, I thought I’d have a go at installing the external wireless network dongle anyway. I expected a fight, but the thing was all circuits go within five minutes. Having gone from the generic on-board network card and Internet Explorer 8 to an external Belkin 300 and Firefox has made such a difference.

With internet connection restored my next biggest insurmountable problem was email. I salvaged the mailwasher spam filter from the archived disk, and got it to work on my old freeserve accounts. However all it really did is to wash out the spam. I could read emails through it, but had no way to download emails as I don’t have Outlook or Outlook Express. Windows Live Mail came to my rescue, and I managed to bodge that so I could access my old freeserve accounts. But I then needed to tweak it so it only checks for email when I want it to, and having downloaded an email, it needs to delete it from the freeserve server. I think I’ve got that sussed, but I’m not quite sure…

And so off to work. I must admit that I was more than impressed with the service I got in PC World yesterday. And today I popped into Easy Home Brew to pick up some bits and pieces. They too were very friendly and helpful.
And then I went to Tesco’s to get lunch. I asked where the lozenges for mouth ulcers might be found. A disinterested member of their staff waved their hand dismissively and told me that they were “about four aisles away”. That was helpful (!)

Work was the same as ever, and after a dull day I came home to a rather good bit of tea. ‘er indoors TM boils up a rather decent bit of scran when she puts her mind to it. It was good to have a nice tea tonight. I’d been utterly unable to swap out of my late shift today, and tonight I could have gone on safari at Port Lympne, or gone to the Hythe Venetian Fete. That is I could have; if only I’d been able to swap my shift.

And then I continued with the archiving of years of accumulated data – I still have some files from fourteen years ago….