30 June 2009 (Tuesday) - The Dentist

It’s too hot. I was awake with the heat at 3am. By 5am I’d given up any chance of sleep and was doing more ironing.

Work was dull, and I slipped out early to go to the dentist. My dentist winds me up. I’ve been seeing various dentists in this same surgery for over twenty years because it’s handy being just down the road. But I’ve never been happy with them. The first dentist I had was more nervous than I was, and when he left to set up on his own I breathed a sigh of relief. I then transferred to another chap who was good, but he too left after a while. The third chap had a portable TV in his surgery, and spent more time watching telly than rummaging in my gob. And the chap I’m with now…. He’s a good enough dentist. When he’s there. Every single appointment I make gets cancelled because he’s never there. And when I re-schedule... Take today for example. An appointment was booked a week ago for 3.55pm. They phoned yesterday to leave a message that the appointment is now at 3.15pm. If that is inconvenient, tough! They operate a policy of billing if you cancel with less than a day’s notice, so I’ve just had to put up with it.

I suppose I could find another dentist, but it’s convenient having one that I can walk to. Especially if I’ve had a traumatic time there. I remember once as a child coming home from the dentist. On a bus, my mouth packed out with some sort of bandages, and wanting to spit the blood out. Being close to home is handy.

I hate going to the dentist. Pretending to be interested in last year’s “Take a Break” magazine for varying times in the waiting room. And then my heart drops when my name is called. At least they seem to no longer confuse me with a chap of the same name, but twenty years older. And then, when I’m in the seat, the contents of my gob are discussed with a varying number of dental nurses. A good root around takes place, and the dentist calls out various codes. C2, B5… I think he plays dental battleships. Every time I go in there he prods some old fillings and says that next time he will replace them. He’s been saying that for years.

In the end, I couldn’t have been in the chair for more than two minutes. All is apparently well, and I’ve booked another appointment for January 5th. I mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of point booking a specific date, as he’ll only cancel, but I think that one went over their heads somewhat….

29 June 2009 (Monday) - Celebrity

(A bit of a rant – I’m sorry!)

It’s been three days since Michael Jackson died, and the outpouring of grief is….. well, at the risk of giving offence, it’s farcical. All the plaudits and accolades being laid at his feet by those in the public eye are somewhat at odds with crackpot image the same pundits were painting not so long ago. People are rushing out to buy his records. You can’t hear anything but Jacko on the radio, and children who have never heard of him are changing their Facebook status to join the lemming-like rush.

It was the same when Princess Diana died. Up until the moment she croaked, the media would have us believe she was a self-centred absentee mother getting rich on a gravy train. A sudden death and she became a “candle in the wind”.

Or Jade Goody? There was no one who attracted moiré ridicule, until it was announced she was on the way out. Then we all loved her.

My personal “favourite” example of the treatment of celebrity is the furore over Susan Boyle’s recent spell in a clinic for exhaustion. Following the revelation that she was finding it difficult to cope with fame, and this was possibly due to some learning difficulties, the reaction of the media was that surely any wannbe-celebs should be vetted to check that they are up to having ridicule thrown at them before embarking on such a career.

What is it with celebrities? Why do we as a society seek to undermine those in the public eye, and then sob uncontrollably once they are gone? Perhaps it’s part of the general aversion people seem to have to death. It always is billed as a great surprise that someone can be mortal as well as famous. Why? Surely it’s the one thing we can be sure of in this world? Just because someone’s famous doesn’t mean they are going to live forever….

28 June 2009 (Sunday) - Vaccuum Bags

For once I wasn’t wide awake and raring to go at 6am. I was woken by a phone call at 6.30am. From Bethersden. Someone clearly didn’t realise he’d phoned me, and was having a lively discussion about selling shedloads of comics. It’s always amusing when someone’s mobile phone makes these calls. There’s nothing quite as entertaining as being a fly on the wall, even if it is at the crack of dawn. I eventually nodded off again, and didn’t wake up till nearly eleven o’clock.

Daddies Little Angel TM ” had a plan. She’d seen vacuum storage bags on QVC and wanted some. So off we went to Argos. These bags are quite impressive. You stick all your winter clothes in them, and seal the bag. You then attach your hoover to the nozzle and suck all the air out. It’s amazing how small the bags squash down to.

While she was hoovering away her winter clothes I made a start on the laundry. Whilst deciding what clothes could go into vacuum storage, quite a bit of washing had been generated. Even with the washing machine on “warp drive” setting, it took all afternoon to get through the stuff. I must admit that today was a dull afternoon, just sitting by the pond reading my book, intermittently hanging out washing and loading more into the machine. I suppose it was a job that needed doing, but dull – so dull.

I wonder what else I can put into vacuum storage…

27 July 2009 (Saturday) - Leccie

Up with the lark doing another pre - 6am ironing session. I must love it. I work about one Saturday morning in five – today was my turn, so I went via the Willesborough Tesco to get doughnuts for everyone. People seem to like them, and they are cheap enough.

I left instructions with “Daddies Little Angel TM ” about which areas of shingle to scoop up. I had major plans for the day, and moving the shingle alone would take a couple of hours. It would be so much easier if I could come home and find that bit done. I was amazed to get a phone call at mid day to say she’d shifted it, and would I fetch home some McDinner. (You can see what she did below) Once McDinner was scoffed, I took over in the garden. I dug up the electrical cable at the end of the garden, and arranged it so it came out of the ground about ten feet closer to the house. I then laid the slab for the new shed and got it level. Well.. I say “level”. The spirit level wasn’t quite as central as it might have been, but what’s a garden without a bit of “rustic charm TM . After re-shingling (which took some doing, I then made a hole in the back of the new shed and poked the leccie cables through. And then re-plumbed all the cabling into a Koi-specific junction box. A Koi-specific junction box is much the same as any other junction box apart from two major differences. Firstly you buy it from the Koi shop, and secondly it’s about ten times the price of a normal one. Then I painted up the fence where the old leccie boxes were. Whilst I was at it I’ve taken the light out of the pond. This is the second one that’s packed up after a couple of weeks. I’m not going to bother with any more. They aren’t cheap, and there’s plenty of other pond-related tat to waste my money on. Whilst I was at it I’ve installed the new “high-tech blanket weed deterrent TM. Blanket weed is the horrible stringy green stuff that we sometimes get. In the past we’ve used dangerous chemicals to get shot of the stuff, but the chemicals aren’t cheap, and I’m not keen on chucking that sort of stuff in with the fish. The nice man in the shop says that the “high-tech blanket weed deterrent TMwill sort out my problems. The gadget comes with a cable that I wrapped round the water inflow to the filter box. This cable (allegedly) zaps the water going to the filter with pulses of radio waves and so by the wonders of science this prevents blanket weed formation. The thing cost thirty quid, but then the dangerous chemicals are twenty quid a go. I’m hoping it will be a saving in the long run. I’m not sure if I believe the thing will work, but then again, I don’t believe in dousing, even though I can do it. I suppose it works on the principle that because I listen to Radio Four in my car, and the car doesn’t have blanket weed, it must be true. Time will tell – it usually does.

It’s amazing how long it takes to just fiddle about with a few wires. Before I knew where the day had gone it was 6pm. The pond does look better without the mess of wires behind it. I’m not sure if it was worth the £150 I spent to get rid of the mess of wires. If nothing else, it will make switching off the filter that much easier the next time it’s clogged with fish poo.

At first sight it doesn’t actually look very different. When “My Boy TM ” came home I thought I’d see if he could spot the difference. He did, but then he knew what I’d been planning. He’d been fishing, and had had some whoppers. Mind you, he’d been gone for over a day and had only had six fish. Now if we are just going on numbers alone, I would have had that many in less than five minutes.

And then – disaster. “My Boy TM ” announced that none of the leccie sockets in his attic room were working. I very nearly cried when I heard that. I really hoped all the problems with the attic were behind us. I went up and had a look. The lights were working, but none of the sockets were. I eventually remembered where we’d installed the spur, so I pulled the mains and had a look. I couldn’t see anything amiss, but when I powered up again, the power was restored again. I’m hoping that this is a one-off, but I shall be worrying about this for weeks, now…

26 June 2009 (Friday) - I'm Worn Out...

Yesterday evening I received a rather snotty email from the people from whom I’d bought my new shed. Basically they were demanding to know why I didn’t accept delivery of the thing. On Wednesday I’d spoken with the delivery people (BusinessPost), who were unhelpfulness personified. They would not leave the thing with a neighbour. They would not deliver it to my work. They would not phone me when they got to Ashford so’s I could come home to accept delivery. They would charge a further five quid if they were going to try to deliver it again. And I couldn’t collect it from their warehouse in the evening because they close at 7pm. Morning collection is different, however. They open at 1.30am (!).

So I took a day off work to make a hundred mile round trip to collect the thing myself. Despite the best efforts of the RAC’s route planner I eventually found the depot in an obscure retail park near Tunbridge Wells. The car park was full of arrogant lorry drivers who resented anyone else being on what was clearly seen as “their” ground. And the office staff were surly at best. Had I phoned them to arrange collection in person? Was I sure that I had? Did they say they had the parcel? I’d driven fifty miles to their office. “Mr Helpful” resented walking ten yards into the warehouse. Eventually he dragged my parcel out and had a really nasty grumble at me because the sender had claimed the package only weighed one kilogram. I could see it weighed far more than that, but I hadn’t posted it. I told him to take it up with the sender, but that just made things worse. Their firm are fed up with the people who sold me the shed. Apparently they always underpay the postage.

And I got the thing home to find it was rather cheap quality, and broken in two places. Before I could get too angry with it, the phone rang. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” wondered if I would buy her a new dress for tonight’s exhibition. On the way home from giving her a small fortune to buy her own dress, I stopped off at the builder’s merchant. I have this idea of a slab stone on which the new shed will stand. I had no idea how many shapes, colours and designs of slab stones there are. (There’s hundreds) Or how heavy they are.

Home to wrestle the shed together. “Wrestle” being the operative phrase. Seeing as one of the corners of the back section had been smashed, I needed to build the thing so that the damaged corner would be hidden. However, having done that, none of the pre-drilled holes were in the right place. I would have sent it back if the delivery firm hadn’t been so awkward. Eventually I bodged it all together. It’s had a lick of paint, and it will last for a year or so: I may need to replace it after that.

This evening was an evening of art and culture. The college had an exhibition featuring work by all the students, including some by “Daddies Little Angel TM.” I didn’t realise how much went on in the college. There were exhibits over four floors, featuring all sorts of art. Sculpture, painting, photography, collage, videos, dressmaking. There was a particularly excellent painting of the “Heath Ledger” Joker from the Batman film. There was even complimentary wine, and most of the students had dressed up for the occasion. A really good evening out. I’m looking forward to next year’s show...

25 June 2009 (Thursday) - 1000 Blog Hits

I see the new Speaker of the House of Commons is taking a firm line. Apparently he thinks Parliament sounds like a rabble. It’s amazing it’s taken this long for any of them to realise.

Two weeks ago I added a caption competition to the blog. I think it’s fair to say that this didn’t catch the interest of my loyal readers, and I’ve replaced it with a “forthcoming events” section. I’m quite impressed with my ability to blag script from other web sites. I must remember to keep updating the thing.

Whilst pegging out the washing this morning (it don’t get better than that!) I noticed that the fish poo filter was leaking water out of the top. That lasted three weeks since I last mucked it out. Either the new filtration medium is a tad keen, or they are pooing too much. Perhaps I could be less generous with throwing in the scoff. Turning off the power to the pond was quite difficult, having to climb through endless clutter filling the living room to get to the switch. If I had a switch down by the pond, it would have been so much easier. I shall make that my next project.

Whilst I extracted the fish poo from the filter, I ran a hose pipe down to the pond – a gently trickle to top up that which had leaked. Once I’d finally cleansed the fishy faeces, and then cleansed myself, and been off shopping and done this and that I suddenly remembered that I’d left the hose running. It’s a good job that “Daddies Little Angel TM ” was on the case. The pond hadn’t overflowed, but it was quite full….

Some days my life isn’t overly exciting. Today was one of them. And in twenty five days of blogging on this new site, the hit counter hit four figures. That’s a very respectable average of forty hits a day….

24 June 2009 (Wednesday) - The Lady of the Woods

My new shed was delivered today. I say “delivered” – I came home to find a note to say they’d tried to deliver it, and had taken it back to Tonbridge. That’s handy. It’s not as if I can get to Tonbridge and back in less than half a day. They say they will try to redeliver it tomorrow. Let’s hope so. Otherwise I will be taking Friday afternoon off.

To B&Q to buy a contrafibulating galactivator for the chodbin. ‘er indoors TM had emailed me with specific instructions of what to buy from B&Q. She is now bleating that the thing is too tall. Well, I bought it on her say-so, and it’s up to her to fit the thing. I’ve done my bit – I went to the shop.

Whilst there, I also looked at electrical fittings for my new shed. It’s funny how you see the same old thing in the shop, year in year out. You have this idea that one day you’ll get that specific thing for a specific purpose. Or that is, you have this idea until you actually need it. Then they don’t make them any more. Electrical fittings are like that. B&Q have had a waterproof six way jobbie on the shelf for years. It would be ideal in the new shed. But have they got one? No. Does anyone working there have any idea what I’m talking about? No.

Last Tuesday I had words with BT because they wouldn’t stop phoning me to sell me their latest deal. This evening some spotty oik from BT turned up on the doorstep trying to sell me their latest deal. I am seriously not impressed.

And so to arky-ologee club. This time for a three mile walk around the countryside, starting with “The Lady of the Woods” – a tree which has been carved into the shape of a praying pregnant woman. The thing has been in the woods for at least sixty years – there are reliable reports of it being in place in the late 1940s. No one knows who carved it – the local opinion is that it was done during the mid 40s by a prisoner of war, but there’s no evidence to confirm or deny it.

And then on to where chalk was once quarried and shipped to London. We thrashed (literally) our way along a disused railway line and found old railway things buried in undergrowth. We braved swaps, and scrambled up the slope to see the newly dug badger set. Twenty five of us ventured out on the trip, with ages varying from ten to eighty-six. I just hope I can scramble up slopes with the best of ‘em when I’m eighty-six….

23 June 2009 (Tuesday) - Fixing Broken Things

Today’s photo is one I found whilst browsing through my PC. “Ugly Sheep” lives on the BatFarm, and no one has told the dozy beast that he’s supposed to run away from people. When you walk into the field, ten thousand sheep charge away from you, and one charges toward you. I like Ugly Sheep. I need to go visit him again soon.

Well here we are into the fourth week of being on Blogspot, and I have to say, I love it. Where I used to blog was a dull website in comparison. Over on 360, I could change the desktop theme, and that was all. I can fiddle with so much more here. Whereas I would make up a slideshow of my pictures and put that on You-Tube once a year, Blogspot does it for me as I go along. I can make obvious links to friends’ blogs, and Blogspot arranges it so that the most active blogs are the most prominent. People don’t need to sign up to anything to leave comments, unlike where I used to be.

And the hit counter… it doesn’t count my own return hits whenever I’m continually tweaking. Did you know that the most popular time for my blog is between 1 – 2pm. Lunchtime reading ? And I get most hits on Mondays and Thursdays. And I’ve had hits from the USA, Ireland, and Canada. Most of my loyal readers are using Windows XP. About a fifth are on Windows Vista. And there are hits from Mac users and even from one person who’s still on Windows 98 (who *is* that?). IE 6 & 7 are the favourite browsers, with Firefox in third place.

And it’s even got a fish tank too…

Meanwhile back in reality, the chodbin’s packed up again. It won’t flush. I would have a go at fixing it myself, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t have a clue how to go about it. I suspect that it would be better just not flushing, than having had me fixing it.

Something I could have fixed myself, but refused to was the coving in the hallway. Over two weeks ago the people installing the new door scuffed up the coving whilst putting the new door in. Some chap from the firm who’d installed it came round today, and tried to say that the problem was the material that the coving was made out of. I suggested the problem was that when they were installing the door, they’d clearly put the door through the coving by mistake. And bearing in mind how substantial they claim the door to be, the coving would need to be made of armoured steel not to have been scuffed. The bloke grudgingly conceded defeat, and fixed the damage.

Something else I couldn’t fix was my car’s wing mirror. Despite having folded the thing in last night, a blue vehicle has clearly scraped along the mirror at some point. I’m suspecting a bus, but of course I can’t prove anything. I can probably scrub the blue paint off at some point, but the mirror glass was shattered. To the Renault garage where I spent over thirty quid on a replacement. I was expecting it to be a fiver at most, but these mirrors come with a built in heater for when they ice up at winter. I’m just hoping it lasts long enough to get iced up. I suppose I should be grateful they fitted the thing for free.

And so to work. I’m not sure what was going on at the hospital at Margate today – it sounded like they were having a “Red Alert”. All sorts of sirens and klaxons were going off. My first reaction was that it was the fire alarm, but since no one at all seemed to be in any hurry to leave the building, I rather assumed it wasn’t. I can’t help but wonder what all the noise was about.

I didn’t pop in to Margate’s shed shop on the way home today – I bought exactly what I wanted cheaper off of eBay. Lets hope it arrives. The mobile phone battery I bought off of eBay last week didn’t. They sent me an email last Tuesday saying it was in the post, then on Sunday they refunded my money (with no explanation at all). I’ve asked them what they are playing at. I shall give them a negative feedback for lying about posting the thing, but bearing in mind their feedback is in the eighty thousands, I doubt that they would care….

22 June 2009 (Monday) - Wind

I am regularly asked how my new job is going. And I always answer with the response that I don’t really know myself. Today, on the start of the eighth week of my secondment I finally had a formal review of progress. Regular readers of this drivel will recall I took up my current job when I applied for (and was offered) a job at the hospital up the road, but the bunch I was with made me what seemed to be a better offer. And then once I’d turned down the job up the road, the better offer became a six month secondment instead. And then it got downgraded further to a three month project with the possibility of an extension. Today I was told that the possibility of an extension had been withdrawn. For all that management wanted to keep the project going, extending the time period beyond three months is “something we dare not do”. One can’t help but wonder why. I took on a three month project to supervise a cohort of trainees, who will start work just as my secondment ends..

In a similarly inexplicable vein, over on HMS Bulwark, (one of the Royal Navy’s Albion-class amphibious assault warships), the Captain has unilaterally banned Brussels sprouts. Which is a shame, really. I like sprouts.

Back on the shed front, a little research has come up with several sheds that might do for me. Some in Enfield, and some in Margate. I plan to go to Margate tomorrow anyway – I’ll see what it looks like…

21 June 2009 (Sunday) - Another Shed...

The chodbin would seem to have fixed itself. Thank heavens for small mercies. On the other hand the tumble drier is making a racket. I realise that tumble drying isn’t the ozone-friendliest of activities, but there is a limit to how many socks one can peg out.

Shed shopping with “My BoyTM ”. I “had words” the other day because I couldn’t get in or out of the garden shed because of his fishing gear being strewn everywhere. I “suggested” he might like to invest in a small shed of his own for his fishing tackle, and surprisingly he agreed. We set off first to the garden centre in Bethersden where we once bought a shed (many years ago). They don’t do sheds any more. We tried Tenterden garden centre, for no better reason than that he could buy me breakfast. After a full English brekky we found that they didn’t have any sheds either. They would also seem to have doubled the price of their Koi. Then to Snargate where we bought a shed only last year. The place had a large sign saying they were open on Sundays. The place was closed. Which was a shame, because we could see the exact shed he wanted. Ham Street was next. There was a shed shop there where the nice man could build him a shed to order. For three hundred quid. My BoyTM nearly laid an egg there and then. They had a cheapo plastic storage box for eighty quid, but it was too small. But I was happy because I got a “sold as seen” water feature for fifteen quid (reduced from fifty).

By the time we’d done Homebase and WyeVale we were “shedded out”. But a quick squzz at eBay shows sheds not unlike what he’s after for about a hundred quid.

And so home, where “Daddies Little Angel TM ” had scrubbed the back yard. It looks so much better for having had a clean up. I mowed the lawn and played with my new water feature. I’ve got to decide where to put the thing. Power, as always will be an issue. The power boxes at the end of the garden aren’t the easiest of things to mess with. I’ve half a plan to buy a small shed like “My BoyTM ” wants, put it up near the pond and run the power out of that….

20 June 2009 (Saturday) - Cycling, Pubs....

Just as I’d been singing the thing’s praises, Safari crashed twice this morning. I suspect Firefox has never crashed once in its entire history. But Sarari does look sexy. I’ll give it another chance.

We got the bikes out for the first time in three weeks and set off to Wye. Back to the Tickled Trout – the place we went to on the first cycle ride of the year back on 10th January, and I think it’s fair to say that today’s trip was somewhat less traumatic than that first ride was. We followed National Cycle Route 18 out to Wye. It was rather scenic alongside the river up to Kennington Road. Then it became a tad hairy as traffic flew by at breakneck speed. But soon the cycle route followed country lanes, and not only was it a lovely ride through the countryside, there was a whole lot less “up” than many of our cycling excursions have had lately.

To the Tickled Trout for stilton ploughmans and a couple of pints of afters. For the surroundings, the pub is difficult to beat, but although there were five ales on, none of them were anything out of the ordinary, and the food was average. It was good food, but nothing to make it stand out from what we’ve come to expect from pub grub.

‘er indoors (TM ) borrowed a puppy from the normal people so’s they could eat their dinner in peace, and whilst we were there, about twenty women appeared, one of whom was wearing a poncy flowery head dress. The one with said hat was marched up to the river, and she chucked her hat in the river. All the others then sang some really lame folk-y type song, and then they all shoved off. They were probably a harmless enough bunch of nutters, but I felt the whole thing somewhat intimidating. The bar staff then came and asked us what that was all about. We had no idea, but we felt less scared now that they had gone.

Meanwhile back on the ranch, “My Boy(TM)” has been teaching the fish to perform tricks. They now eat from his hand. It’s a good job they don’t have teeth or they would eat his hand. They are greedy things, so teaching them anything food-related isn’t that great an achievement, but he’s been wanting to have the fish eating from his hand for some time.

On another note, the chodbin has gone west. It doesn’t flush. For myself, I’ve found a bucket and I will flush it with that until ‘er indoors (TM ) fixes it. I’m taking the line that she installed the flushing mechanism in the first place, so who am I to interfere.

And then to the Star – a strange pub. I must admit I’ve never really taken to the place. It specialises in live music, but with a huge chimney breast in the way, it isn’t the venue it would like to be. Today was a charity fundraising day, and loads was going on. Bouncy castles, kiddies fun, face painting. But for all the effort going on around the place, the bar staff were hopeless (to be generous to them). We went up to watch Brian’s band. They were good, but fraught with technical problems. To say nothing of blown speakers and failing microphones. Whilst there, a lad approached me. Did I remember him? – a cub from ten years ago. I did remember him – he was the one with the foxy mother. The foxy mother was also there, and still just as foxy….

19 June 2009 (Friday) - I.T. Issues

Thank heavens there’s a blog entry today….

Yesterday my PC decided to upgrade itself to Internet Explorer 8. Now, let’s be crystal clear about this. I didn’t upgrade anything. The PC upgraded itself. I had no say in the matter. I turned it on, went to prepare brekky, and when I came back, it was already done. At least the machine had the manners to tell me what it had done. There was a message on the screen saying that it had installed IE8 and had restarted itself, and the implication was that if I wasn’t happy, I could go whistle.

At first nothing seemed different. But then once I’d entered yesterday’s blog entry, the explorer window then announced that it couldn’t find the very page it was showing. And then it went to an error screen. Which was rubbish. The website existed. The P.C. could call it up. It just didn’t want to, and it wouldn’t. It simply couldn’t be bothered. Needless to say, that was not going to be of much use to me.

A restart didn’t cure the problem, nor did half a dozen more restarts. Seeing how this problem had only come about following the change to IE8, the obvious answer was to go back to IE7. I say “obvious” – some things are easy to say. But not so easy to do. “Flap your arms and fly like a bird”. “Strike this match on that bar of soap”. “Go back to IE7”. Any twit can say it – doing isn’t so simple. After an hour I concluded that it was impossible to go back to IE7. So it was suggested I did a system restore. If I put the P.C. back to how it was last night, that would be the answer to my problems. So I pressed the System Restore button.
Oh how I laughed. I am never going to press the System Restore button again. Ever. All it did was to utterly trash any internet exploring ability whatsoever. Up to this point I could surf the net to a limited extent. Now I couldn’t do anything at all. I resisted the urge to cry.

Over an hour later I eventually figured out how to undo the system restore. That seemed to solve my ability to look at my blog once I’d uploaded an entry. But I wasn’t taking any chances, and I’ve downloaded Safari web browser as an emergency backup just in case. I say “emergency backup” – at the moment IE8 doesn’t display my blog’s slide show or the hit counter at the bottom of the page, but Safari does. And Safari looks sexier. I might just change to it permanently. Once I can figure out how to make it the default browser. I’ve heard good reports about FireFox. I tried it out - it’s not as good as Safari.

I suppose one good thing about all this aggro was that I’ve found a better web browser. But there’s no denying that there were a very fraught few hours last night. And I lay the blame firmly at the feet of the I.T. community. Why does I.T. need constant updates and upgrades? Why does it have to be like that? Nothing else in the world is.
Take my car, for example. It’s a good car. I like it, I’ve got used to how it works, and where the controls are. One of my colleagues has a newer version of the same car. It’s slightly different to my car in several trivial ways, but at no stage has the manufacturer tried to impose those changes on me. I’ve bought a car, and the only time it goes to a garage is to keep it in the condition that it was in when I got it. It will stay like that for another three years. I intend to do my car’s next upgrade in May 2012. And I have the details of that all planned. I will get shot of the car entirely and get a new one. And then that hypothetical new car will stay as it is until it too is replaced.

Not so with the P.C., though. The whole thing is intended to be constantly upgraded and updated. And whenever such an “improvement” occurs, there is then a period of a week trying to repair the damage that the “improvement” has done. I’m never going to “upgrade” again….

18 June 2009 (Thursday) - A Visit to the Chokey

To HMP Slade for a visit. I met Chip at the train station – we went on the train, because I don’t like driving round towns I don’t know particularly well, and because if things were to get particularly fraught and emotional, I’d rather not drive home in a “state”. I’ve not blubbed on a prison visit yet, and I didn’t today. But it can only be a matter of time until I do. It’s not a particularly arduous journey, but had we driven there, the cost in petrol would probably have been a third of what we paid for train tickets. And they wonder why people don’t use public transport.

Before visiting the chokey we popped into McDonalds for some McDinner. Always a good move. I got chatting with a toddler about tomato ketchup, and as I went to sit down, said toddler got a severe talking-to from mummy about why she shouldn’t talk to strangers. Mummy was probably right, but I’m not a stranger. I’m me(!). Upstairs in McDonalds the “cool kids” were being cool, having their McDinner. Or most of them were. Sitting with them was a hairy freak child who was eating the sandwiches Mummy had prepared for him. They were in a Tupperware box; all wrapped in kitchen foil. I didn’t actually point and laugh, but it came close.

And so to the prison. I last visited on 1st May – some seven weeks ago. In the meantime I’ve learned to douse, done “Jack in the Green”, got my car MOT’d and had my fence kicked down. I’ve been on several cycle rides, and seen the new Star Trek film. I’ve acquired new fish and mucked about with my pond. I’ve installed a new bird-friendly waterfall, and induced flocculation. I’ve been to several pubs for food and had the occasional pint. I’ve lectured at the Astronomy club. I’ve buried an old mate. I’ve voted. I’ve had a new front door installed, and I’ve met Sir Patrick Moore. I’ve been camping with friends and family….
Jimbo hasn’t. It was a rather sobering thought that for him one day is just like the next.

We arrived, and were processed much faster that on previous visits. Apparently the chokey was recently inspected and had the “thumbs down” on how inefficient they were with dealing with visitors. We were thoroughly searched, and on chatting with the fit guard who goosed me up it seems that people regularly try to smuggle stuff in. We bought some supplies at the prison shop – six tins of pop, six bakewell tarts, three lumps of cake, three bags of crisps, six choccy bars. And this time we managed to scoff the lot between us. He needs feeding up – prison food’s not good, and he’s not eating properly.

Jimbo seemed in good spirits, considering where he is. He’s now noticeably gone very grey, but despite not eating regularly he seems to have put on a little weight since I last saw him. I mentioned about the search I’d had on the way in, and that I was amazed how people try to smuggle stuff in. Jimbo wasn’t. He told me that in this last week, prison warders have confiscated two freeview set-top TV boxes that had been smuggled in. Another prisoner had got a mobile phone secretly brought in. This had been discovered when he was dumb enough to ring Radio One to ask for a request for himself and all the other inmates on his wing. It turned out that he denied having the phone, but it was found on his person (or more accurately “in” his person) when he was X-rayed. Interestingly, it transpires that prison staff have the right to X-ray prisoners to find contraband. But having determined that a prisoner has a mobile phone where the sun doesn’t shine, they are not allowed to extract it.
We also heard that the prison is being fined by the Health & Safety Executive because the razor wire lining the tops of the walls of the prison is dangerous. But because it’s cheaper to pay the fine than remove it, the prison pays the fine. Whilst we’re on the subject of the ridiculous it turned out that he was allowed the mucky mag I sent in a few weeks ago due to changes in rules from the Home Office. Such filth was banned in prisons a while ago, but recently it’s been determined that denying sex offenders access to grumble mags is impinging on their human rights. So sex offenders are now allowed scruff.

All too soon the guards called time on us. Two and a half hours had flown by, and we left him and went for a pint to calm our nerves. The pub over the road from the prison looked to be swarming, so we adjourned to the Society Rooms – the Wetherspoons by the Railway station. A pint of Scorpio Porter, which was arguably the worst porter I have ever tasted. Followed by a pint of Cromwell’s Hat. I say “pint” – I left half of it. Next time we’ll brave the crowds at the pub by the prison….

17 June 2009 (Wednesday) - A New Toy

Last night I had a visitor – the chap who started up the astronomy club. He remembered a conversation we’d had a while ago about a USB pair of binoculars. He’d seen a pair in the boot fair and had thought of me. And he’d bought them – was I interested in them for four quid? It seemed like a bargain to me, and now I am equipped with a fully functioning perve-o-scope. I can zoom in on all sorts of nonsense, press a button and have a photo. The software that comes with it is a bit clunky, but for four quid, it’ll do. I have a feeling that if this doesn’t get me onto a “special” register, nothing will.

Since I was on a late start today, I spent the morning looking for something racy in the distance to photograph with my new toy. In the end I settled for a shot of the neighbour’s undercrackers. And then to work. After a while I had to go to Margate for a bit. I came home the scenic way via Ramsgate and Pegwell Bay as I was told I might see seals there. Seeing as it was a hot afternoon, I had high hopes of photographing something somewhat saucier. Eventually I settled for a photo of some normal people taking their dog for a walk.

The book is somewhat vague on the actual magnification achievable. I think that x2 would be generous. And the photos are only 640 x 480 pixels. But, as I said, for four quid, it’s not bad. I shall play with it for a bit. I suspect the novelty will have worn off by the weekend…

16 June 2009 (Tuesday) - A Day Off

I’d decided to take today as a day off work, as everyone else seems to after Teston. I had planned a lie in, but “Daddies Little Angel (TM)” was on the phone before 8am. Having run the washing machine ragged overnight, I put out more laundry that I’ve got pegs this morning, and then went to park my car outside the house, as we had been faithfully promised the road works would have been finished. They weren’t. As I wandered up to post this week’s letter to the chokey I saw quite a few people in high-vis jackets leaning on shovels having a conversation with a chap in a lorry, but not a lot else was going on.

I had a mooch up to town. To the Three shop to ask about my mobile phone’s battery. Once charged, it lasts for about a day at most. The disinterested bimbo wasn’t overly interested, and grumbled that they didn’t sell batteries. When I asked her where I might get some she muttered something about the dodgy mobile phone stall in the local market. That was helpful of her (!) I then looked around HMV until they turned the music on. I wish they wouldn’t. It doesn’t have to be so loud that it hurts, does it? Then I got some pound coins for Thursday’s trip to the chokey, got myself a McBananaShake, and mooched back home again. The sun was shining; it was a baking hot day. And I lost count of the amount of old men shuffling round clearly wearing vest, shirt, cardigan, blazer and thick coat.

And so home where I ordered a new phone battery from eBay. And then I updated the kite club’s website with the weekend’s adventures. I’m not really sure why we still go through the motions of having a kite club web site. We only ever formed a “proper” kite club to get kiting insurance, and we gave up that policy about five years ago. For all that we still occasionally fly kites and camp at festivals, the kite club itself has been moribund for years. Still, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to keep the website going. And then whilst surfing the net I found this picture

It’s an aerial photo of the Teston weekend I’ve just returned from. Can you see me? …. No – I can’t either. I’ve been given the original – all 4Mb worth. On that one I can make out the top box on my car and I think I can see Lisa. Meanwhile over on Facebook I’ve uploaded an album of photos of the weekend at Teston.

I then had yet another call from someone from BT with a totally unintelligible accent trying to sell me their Broadband package. They would not take “Get Stuffed” for an answer, and I phoned BT to complain – after all, I’ve registered with them that I don’t want telesales calls, and here they are hawking their tat themselves. They had a rather convoluted switchboard with umpteen different choices. Eventually I got through to a totally uninterested Sonia, who maintained that I wasn’t a BT customer and she hung up on me. So I tried again and got someone who assured me I was a BT customer, and that the nuisance calls would stop. A couple of hours later BT phoned again trying to sell me their Broadband. I think I was less than polite with the chap.

I realised it was quiet outside – would you believe it – the workmen were finishing up. I went out and chatted with the chap sweeping the road. The told me that he contractors get more money for the more work that they take on. They don’t seem to get paid on results, but on the promises they make. Regardless of any ability they might have to keep those promises. He apologised for how long the work had taken – and regaled me with a list of the incompetence of the various teams who’d worked up the road in the last six months. It would seem that very few had escaped being sacked for incompetence. But my car is now outside the house. If only it could have been there a week ago.

I then devised another twenty two clues for next week’s crossword to the chokey. “chippopotamus - A generously-proportioned lady who honestly just eats like a mouse but whose glands scoff vast quantities of deep-fried spuds. (13)” I’m not sure how many more of these I can devise…