31 January 2010 (Sunday) - Eating Too Much

I woke feeling a tad under the weather this morning. Can’t think why. It has been suggested that the third bottle of port after a gallon of ale might have been just the teensiest bit ambitious.

I had raspberry creamy dessert for brekky, followed by trifle and chocolate mousse whist I considered where to tidy up first. I soon gave up with thinking about tidying up and had some more raspberry stuff before attacking the washing up. We seem to have acquired loads of plates. I’m sure their owner will claim them eventually. In the meantime they are coming in handy to eat all the leftover dinner from. The pasta I have for afters was good, and once I’d run round with the hoover, I had some curry for elevenses.

Having fed myself up, I had the strength to carry Brian’s chairs back round to his house. He seemed well, considering. I left him with his chairs, and came home for a bowl of stew. (This stuff doesn’t eat itself, you know!) and then started lugging boxes around the house. Andy arrived and made off with some chairs. He needed to take the bowl containing the raspberry stuff so I scoffed some more of that. Just after he left, Glenn arrived, who took some of the acquired crockery and the curry. Batty then turned up and took a couple of platefuls of food. Which was probably for the best.

By now I was peckish again, and so had a jacket spud with pasta for lunch.

Feeling inexplicably stuffed, I settled down on the sofa and fell asleep in front of SpongeBob for an hour or so until I was woken by James who’d got me a bowl of trifle. So I scoffed that and dozed off again. In fact, pausing only briefly to fix my printer (where someone had set it to print out the entire internet), that was pretty much how I spent the afternoon – scoffing and snoozing. Perhaps a waste of a Sunday, but I was tired….

30 January 2010 (Saturday) - The Late, Late Xmas Party

Yesterday I walked into Ashford. On the way I called into the reptile shop up the road. Some lovely snakes and lizards, but I wasn’t tempted (much). I went up to Snappy Snaps. On Thursday I mentioned that I’d designed a pump clip for the four gallons of ale that had been delivered. I then thought it might be a laugh to actually have some pump clips made up. So I tried all the usual photographic places in town. All of which could make the things for me, and would have them ready in two weeks time. I eventually phoned Snappy Snaps at 5.45 pm last night who said if I emailed them the picture they would have them ready for early afternoon the next day.

So yesterday afternoon I went up to the nice lady behind the counter and explained I’d emailed them. And sure enough the clips were ready. Helpful friendly service – for anything photographic, I can’t recommend the place highly enough. All I needed was to scare up some blu-tack to put one of the things onto the beer box …

This morning was spent getting downstairs organised. For some time we’d been planning a late Xmas meal, very late bearing in mind it’s nearly February, but one of our number had been “unavoidably delayed” until late January. My plan was to invite a lot more people than we actually did, but anyone who has seen my living room will realise it’s not that huge, and bearing in mind the evening’s “guest of honour”, we reluctantly felt we had to restrict attendance to those who’s kept up correspondence with and had been to the chokey to visit “Norman Stanley”. Which was perhaps not strict enough, as there were still twenty-one of us for dinner.

(To those of my loyal readers who weren’t on the list, I can only say that I hope you’ll understand….)

We started shifting furniture about at 10am, and fortunately Martin arrived with a delivery of stuff. I put him to use with the heavy lifting, and after several permutations of tables we eventually came up with a way of (potentially) seating everyone. Then we raided Brian’s chairs, made table cloths from old rip-stop nylon and before we knew it, the morning had gone. Martin set off to the town centre, and I went to Tesco’s to get all the stuff I’d forgotten yesterday. As well as cream cakes for lunch. When we started getting ready I wondered if we’d started too early. In the end, the day rushed past, and all too soon we had a houseful.

In the past we’ve gone mob-handed to pubs and restaurants. You have to sit with “The Great Unwashed”, and it costs a fortune. Doing dinner for ourselves is better in so many ways. But the food – oh we had so much. Prawns and soups for starters. Roast dinners and curries. Carbonarras and jacket spuds. Stews and lasagnes. Trifles and cherry cakes, Xmas puds and cheesecakes.

Andy did a stand-up routine (he should do more of those), we had pass the parcel, it was great fun. Must do it more often…

29 January 2010 (Friday) - A Busy Day

Even though I had a day off work, I was up and watching BattleStar Galactica at 6am. I do like my Xmas pressie of the entire show on DVD!!. And then to YoVille, where I found the Yo-factory and got myself a job. Something to do in YoVille as well as kissing Lisa’s mother. If I earn enough money in the Yo-factory, I can buy all sorts of tat.

Yesterday I filled some bags of rubbish. I set off early this morning to lose them at the tip. Getting there early meant I got to miss the normal people, which is a good thing. I get so wound up by the idiots at the tip.

And then I collected Matt and we did the Tesco thing. Shopping doesn’t buy itself. I had been given a list, which was probably for the best. However, far be it from me to disrespect my beloved, but my instructions could have been a tad more detailed. Take for example list item #8: Parsnips. Fresh? Frozen? Tinned? How many? It was a good job I had an assistant who is used to doing shopping as I soon found myself out of my depth. Did you know that if you buy parsnips that the supermarket has already bagged for you, they are 40p per pound more expensive? I didn’t. Or take list item #10: Frozen peas. I always thought peas is peas. But no – there were more sorts of frozen peas than I have sense. Pausing only briefly to get some port and lay an egg about the total price, I couldn’t get out of the shop quickly enough.

Home to do some preparations for tomorrow, and then another tip run. But I’d left the second tip run too late. I wouldn’t say the place was swarming with retards, but there were enough normal people there to make me see red. The tip is an easy enough concept, surely? You put your rubbish into various bags depending on what sort of rubbish it is. You drive it to the tip, and chuck it in the appropriate receptacle.

One silly twit had thrown the entire contents of his car onto the floor, and was then trying to sort it into various piles. Including one pile of stuff he wanted to save. I wouldn’t mind so much if he’d done this in the corner out of everyone’s way…

Another windfall. “My Boy TM ” offered to pay half the installation of the Sky HD. Well, he has now Sky Plus in his bedroom so I didn’t feel too guilty taking his money. I went to Bybrook Barn and bought another twenty neons. You can never have too many neons – they are probably my favourite tropical fish.

And then home, via the KFC for some scoff. A variety meal for a fiver. I saw on the receipt that 77p of that fiver went on tax. That works out at 15%, which I know is correct. But when you see the amount written down, I think it seems a bit much.

I scoffed my chicken whilst watching “Football Factory”. Whilst I loathe football, I actually enjoy films about football fans and this is one of the better ones. And then whilst my dinner settled I did the household accounts. Perhaps I’m an old miser, but every month I go through the bills and I account for every penny. I see that the direct debit for the gas bill for November still hasn’t been taken. Perhaps I might ring them up. Or perhaps I might keep quiet and spend that money on beer.

Today was the last Friday of the month – astro club. I was glad to be able to deliver the boards which have been in the back of my car since Xmas. They made an impressive display – a shame that the lady with the posters to put on them couldn’t get along tonight. But the evening went well. One of the youngsters gave a talk on relative sizes of astronomical objects, referring back to the sizes of enormous jam jars filled with blue whales. He did really well. There was a talk on current things in the astromological world, a talk on features of the winter sky; I made the club over thirty quid by hawking the raffle, and then a practical session outside where we focussed telescopes on Mars, the moon and the Pleiades.

It’s nearly three years since the astro club started, and despite a very rocky start the club is now going from strength to strength. We have a paid up membership of over sixty people, and I’ve never seen as many people along as we had tonight.

28 January 2010 (Thursday) - Waiting for the Postman

A day off work – the plan originally was to be going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show tonight, but at nearly thirty quid per ticket we decided against that idea. I still took the day off work anyway. Ironing doesn’t do itself, you know. And then I went around the house with a bin bag, chucking out loose tat. I found four bin bags full of the stuff. Where does it all come from? During the tidy up, an envelope came to light. It had my name on it (in a handwriting I don’t recognise), and inside it was a ten pound note. God clearly smiles on me and says “Good boy David”.

Whilst seeing to the ironing and the tidying, I watched DVDs. I’ve now got to the end of the second season of BattleStar Galactica. I like it even more watching it for the second time around. And then I watched the second episode of “Survivors”. I wasn’t overly impressed with the first season, and two weeks ago I said that the first episode of this season was a tad lame. It’s not got much better. The characters in it are all somewhat one-dimensional and unbelievable. Given that (most of) the entire population of the world has died, where would you live? Me – there are plenty of lovely houses in the country nearby that I would stock with food from the local supermarkets. Alternatively (and probably more likely in the circumstances) there are a couple of nearby castles that I might well move into. I certainly wouldn’t operate out of a sleeping bag in the bar of one of London’s scrattier pubs…

And then I settled down to watch a film. I like British films, and I’d heard such good reports of “This Is England” – a film about thuggery in the early 1980s. It was tripe.

Although I did enjoy my day in front of the telly, I did resent not being able to leave the house. Four gallons of beer was scheduled to be delivered today, and so I had to wait in for it. It amazes me that delivery companies can’t be somewhat more specific with their delivery times. They know where they have to make their drop-offs before they start. And there are enough on-line route planners that give the shortest journey distance between deliveries. And these websites make a very fair estimate of travel times of the various parts of the trip as well. Even allowing for fifteen minutes fiddling around with every customer, surely it would be possible to narrow down a delivery time to within a couple of hours, rather than expecting people to sit in all day long waiting? The stuff arrived at 4.30pm – I was on the point of giving up hope. Surely they could have told me “late afternoon” rather than just “some time today”?

I’ve taken the precaution of going round the box in various directions with gaffer tape. I’ve had experiences of these boxes before – they tend to fall open at the most inconvenient times if not seriously sealed up.

I then fiddled about on the PC, designing a pump clip label for the consignment of ale. I quite like the finished product. In the past I have made wine, with various degrees of success. I’m rather tempted to have a go at home brewing. I have some ideas for pump clips. The finished product may be foul, but I will have some class pump clips. After all, if I don’t know the ale in the pub, it’s the clip which makes my mind up for me.

27 January 2010 (Wednesday) - Games

The car was covered in ice this morning. I naively hoped we’d seen the last of this with the last of the snow three weeks ago. But it was quite nippy this morning, and I was still shivering when I got to Tesco.

Would you believe it – Tesco now have an entire aisle dedicated to Easter stuff. It’s still January! And again as I bought my lunch this morning, it was made perfectly clear by the staff that I was in their way, and wasn’t welcome. If only there was somewhere else on the way to work I’d get my lunch there. I might just write a letter of complaint to the manager. After all I haven’t written a letter for two weeks, and I’m missing doing so.

To Facebook where I got a message from a friend – “Has your facebook been running slow lately? Errors when trying to post stuff? Click applications, then edit applications....... select 'added to profile' from the drop-down. If you see one in there called "unnamed app" delete it... Its an internal spybot. “ Sure enough, I had an "unnamed app". I haven’t any more. Perhaps the thing might work now?

And then to the arky-ologee club. Tonight was a meeting with a difference. Four short talks. The first was Lesley’s photos of places she’d dug holes. Then Ada had some dull photos of Lenham Craft Fair from thirty years ago. I’m told the third talk was on Roman roads. I slept through it. A dull talk would be riveting in comparison.

Lastly was a talk worth listening to – board games through the ages. Did you know that the game of draughts is at least three thousand years old? And now to eBay to see if I can find “Shut the Box”…

26 January 2010 (Tuesday) - At Work

I couldn’t help but notice that one of my colleagues was sitting with obvious discomfort today. But I didn’t like to say anything. At tea break she confided that over the weekend she’d had a ring put through her “women’s bits”, and went on to say that wearing jeans to work had been a mistake. I didn’t (quite) laugh out loud. I would wonder what on earth possesses someone to have their bits pierced. For myself, all I can say is that it seemed to be a good idea at the time.

Back to the grind, where we were (apparently) having something done to the air conditioning units in the ceiling space. I think that I might have more confidence in the air conditioning, had it not just been fixed by someone who I can only describe as “Hermann Munster”. In physical size, looks, and manual dexterity.

And then a discussion. What colour was Bagpuss? I could have sworn he was ginger. I was wrong…

I must love my job – I keep going in every day…..

25 January 2010 (Monday) - Stuff

One of my (many) failings is that I am a very “do it now!!!” person. If something needs doing, I crack on and do the entire project as quickly as possible. It was less than two weeks ago that I made the decision that our multi-region DVD player was knacked. Five days later it was replaced, and was playing through a new telly too.

Six days ago I speculated about making some changes to my internet and phone bill to subsidise getting Sky HD. Today I had the Sky HD fitted, and to be quite honest, SpongeBob SquarePants does look much clearer in HD.

I can’t see much difference with the Internet speed either. For all that the speed checker says it’s three times faster than it was a week ago, I’m now wondering if “internet speed” is one of those phrases which means something very esoteric in I.T. circles, but doesn’t have any bearing whatsoever on how fast the computer does internet-related things. I found a website which allows me to compare the speed of other internet users in my area. People with my provider seem to have relatively comparable speeds, people with other providers have really variable speeds. I expect they all get their smut downloaded at the same rate, though…

OK, the phone is now cheaper, the internet connection faster, the TV is in HD. What’s my next project going to be?

Meanwhile at the Royal Society, some of the finest scientific minds are meeting to discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence. (That’s aliens to you and me!). The theory being that as Corot and Kepler and other space telescopes are getting better and better, planets with free oxygen in their atmospheres may be discovered soon. And therefore we’ll meet aliens. Apparently (!)

I can’t help but feel that there are two sad indictments of our society here. Firstly the assumption that the (very) remote discovery of an Earth-type planet is synonymous with meeting E.T. And secondly that the experts seriously feel that any announcement of discovery of alien life is expected to be met with wide-spread pandemonium and panic by the populace.

After all, even saying hello to the closest place aliens could conceivably be would take nearly ten years. I suppose the public have all seen Star Trek and Doctor Who and have believed it.

Will we find oxygen atmospheres that indicate signs of life? Probably. Will we find signs of alien intelligence? Possibly. Will we meet the aliens? I’d like to think so but Enrico Fermi did some calculations on the subject sixty years ago. If there are aliens, where are they?

24 January 2010 (Sunday) - McBreakfast, More FIsh, Games

I wasn’t up as early as I sometimes am (6.30am today), and together with my house guest we set off to McDonalds for some McBreakfast. Something we’ve often done in the past, but haven’t done much recently. Bearing in mind how busy the place normally is, it was rather eerie to find the car park with only three cars. And those were not so much parked as just abandoned wherever the drivers felt like stopping.

I do like a sausage and egg McMuffin with McPorridge, and once that was scoffed, we went back home. I made a start on clearing out the junk in the living room. The verbals from Sky asked me to make sure that the engineer (who’s scheduled for tomorrow) can actually get to where he needs to be. After a couple of hours of shifting boxes around, I hope he can get close enough now.

I mentioned yesterday that I needed to stock up the fish tank, so we had a look in “Pets At Home”. The fish were nice, but I thought they were a tad pricey. Pausing only briefly in Staples for some card, we had a look at the fish in Bybrook Barn. It pays to shop around - a Neon in one shop was £1.50. In another it was 85p. So we bought our fish from Bybrook Barn, and if we didn’t actually get twice as many fish for the same money, it wasn’t far off.

Home again, and whilst the fish sat in their bags in the tank whilst temperatures equilibrated, I played Escape”, the latest silly game on Facebook. And then I kept out of the way whilst the girls carried on the tidying of the living room I’d started earlier. A sculpture came to light – one that would look good in the garden, so I set off to B&Q for varnish. It has to be said that heir staff weren’t as helpful as they might have been today. When I asked where the varnish was they told me it was in the varnish section. I explained that the varnish section was filled with woodstain, but no varnish. I was told “it’s on a shelf somewhere”. There’s nothing like customer service.

And then to YoVille, where I seem to be spending more and more time kissing Lisa’s mother…

23 January 2010 (Saturday) - Mother, Computers, Fish

I’ve mentioned before that on August 19th last year I went to Tesco. I bought milk, mustard and muesli. Crisps and jam. Bananas, milk and prawns. And a magazine (presumably Viz). I know this because I keep a tally of everything I buy with my credit card so that when the bill comes in, there aren’t any nasty surprises from purchases I’ve forgotten about. Like new tellys (!)

August 19th’s little batch of groceries came to £16.20, and has never appeared on my credit card bill. This morning’s post brought the latest bill, and it still hasn’t appeared. I’ve decided to wipe it off of my tally of as yet unpaid stuff. That’s another £16.20 I can squander foolishly.

The morning’s post also brought the agreement for my new phone tariff and the new card for my Sky HD. I suppose I’d better give some thought to where I want all the cables to go.

To Tesco to get a birthday pressie for the parents. We had this plan to get them a digital photo frame as a joint present, and have spent the last month looking at them in various shops and outlets and on-line. I suppose it’s a sign of the times that the best digital frame we could find (and at the best price) was in Tesco. We got then a memory card as well. A nice memory card that set off the security alarm as we left the shop. And also didn’t work when we tried to load it up, so back to Tesco’s we went.

Mum seemed pleased with the frame – we’ve pre-loaded over a hundred photos onto it, but it has the capacity for a lot more.I just hope they can make full use of it. Ideally they would be able to download piccies from their digital camera onto the thing, but that might be a tad ambitious.

It’s my long-term plan to get mother on-line. A couple of years ago I suggested I got her a computer and got her on-line, but she wasn’t keen on the idea. I tried suggesting it again today. Maybe a small tablet thingy with a cheapo internet contract might make a nice present?

I then spent a little time with the fish tank in the living room. First of all I spent half an hour excavating my way to the thing. We tend to clutter the house so much, and I had a major job just to be able to get to the fish tank. I cleaned it up as best I could, but it looks a bit sparse with only three fish in it. I might visit “Fish R Us” tomorrow…

22 January 2010 (Friday) - On the Beer

Last November I started preparing something for the astro club. I’ve agreed to talk about the planet Saturn in March, and so I started getting my talk ready. I rediscovered the thing today. It’s nowhere as near to ready as I thought it was. Less time in NeverWinter, and more time getting on with PowerPoint might be a plan.

Similarly the people in Wadhurst have politely intimated they’d like me to talk for about double the length of time I was intending to witter on for. I’ll beef up my “Ice Giants” presentation as much as I can, and if the worst happens, I’ll just shout “Uranus!!” a few times. I know it’s immature, but I do find the name of that planet to be oh-so funny.

An early start at work meant I had an early start today. Having lain awake for over an hour, I started on the ironing at 5am. But an early start means an early finish, and then (for no adequately explained reason) I set off to the pub for a celebration. You can’t beat a good booze up with old mates…

21 January 2010 (Thursday) - Some Ranting

I have often commented on how much I like Radio Four. But last night they were talking rubbish. As I drove home, there was a discussion about “the unique way in which the BBC is funded”. This got me thinking (and ranting!)

ITV and Channel 4 are paid for by the adverts and so are free. I like that. If I want the free satellite channels, then I get a FreeView box. My mother has done that, and she’s very happy with it. Me – I want a thousand channels of rubbish, and I’m prepared to pay forty quid a month to do so. But (and here is the crux of my rant) if I don’t want satellite TV, then fine, I don’t have to have it.

I don’t have the option not to have the BBC. I must buy the TV licence which funds the BBC. The licence costs me twelve quid each month. And I have to pay this – I get fined if I don’t.

Last night the BBC were trying to justify the compulsory nature of the licence fee. And not making a very good job of it. In the past they have claimed that if people weren’t forced to pay the licence fee, then the BBC wouldn’t be able to afford to run Radio Three, because no one listens to it. Surely that isn’t a justification for extorting twelve quid out of me every month. If anything, it’s a valid reason for closing down Radio Three with immediate effect.

The idiot being interviewed last night claimed that the management at the BBC were very happy to replace the licence fee with a subscription. After all, loads of people pay nearly forty quid every month to Sky TV. Surely they wouldn’t begrudge a payment of twelve quid a month to the Beeb.

I don’t see that argument. For my forty quid to Sky I get several hundred TV channels, and a hundred radio channels. What does the BBC offer?

Nine TV channels, seven of which are not available without some sort of set-top box. And twelve radio channels, of which only radios one, two, four and five would seem to be used by anyone.

All of which I get with my Sky subscription anyway.

The presenter wittered on about the BBC being an “Institution”. I wouldn’t say that it is an institution that I can’t afford, just that it’s an institution I would rather someone else funded.

A colleague and I have been talking about Dover beer festival, which is now only three weeks away. I had intended to give a link to the festival’s beer list today, but I can’t as the list isn’t available yet. Bearing in mind how we played last year’s visit to Dover, I’m tempted to do the same again this year. Turn up at the Maison Dieu at 10.30am, pay £2 admission fee, and buy the glass for £3. Guzzle two pints at the festival (which will equate to four pints of your “average” ale and cost a fiver), then adjourn to Blake’s for a crafty half, and then visit some of the better pubs in Folkestone for the afternoon. A quick check of the Internet shows me that Wales are playing England at rugby that day, so hopefully we can get something traditionally Welsh (leek stew, perhaps) at the Lifeboat. If any of my loyal readers fancy a pint at the seaside, please let me know.

Talking of excessive amounts of beer, following one or two email exchanges, I’ve decided to relocate the pub crawl planned for Feb 22nd to Maidstone rather than Hastings. There’s a provisional route here, but like most plans, I doubt if it will bear much relation to actual events.

And talking of pubs, in the past I have been a firm advocate of. Beer in the Evening - a wonderful website, where you can review pubs, find good pubs, plan pub crawls…

Well, to be honest it used to be a wonderful web site. Now you can still review pubs, but a lot of the reviews are so obviously publicans bigging up their own pubs and slating the opposition. And there are a lot of people trolling the web site for no other reason than that they can. The option to add new pubs is no longer there – pubs that were suggested over two years ago haven’t been added.

The website has a forum, and in that forum the website’s owner has implied that he intends to do nothing more with the web site. Why should he go to the trouble of actually expending effort on it when the advertising revenue he’s getting from it is more than adequate?

I can see his point. He’s not doing it for fun – he’s doing it for financial gain. And so he wants maximum profit for minimum effort, and he’s getting just that.

The strength of Beer in the Evening has been its pub reviewers. I’ve reviewed close on two hundred pubs over the years. Whilst I enjoy doing so, my written reviews have contributed to the site’s profitability. And from the comments on the Beer in the Evening forum, whilst my contributions are welcome, I as a contributor feel that I have been treated with not a small amount of contempt.

Today I got an email from another regular Beer in the Evening contributor. It would seen that twenty of so of the more regular contributors have defected to another website. Pubs Galore is very similar to Beer in the Evening in concept. It doesn’t (yet) have as exhaustive a pub listing, but with management that is keen to have the site evolving, it will only be a matter of time….

20 January 2010 (Wednesday) - Stuff

Another late shift. As I’ve mentioned before, I seem not to get the insomnia when I’m doing lates. Which is a good thing – I’ve had four decent nights’ sleep.

I’d been told that the girls were leaving early this morning because the most recent fruit of my loin had to be on a coach at 8am. So I slept in and I went downstairs at 8.05am to find both girls still there. They disappeared whilst I was in the bathroom, and I see from Facebook that the coach was caught. Thank heavens for small mercies.

I got an email from the astro club. Last weekend they (we) sent a delegation to the Southern Area Group of Astronomical Societies’ meeting. It would seem that whilst still relatively young, our club is one of the biggest and most successful astronomy clubs in the south of England. Our chosen ambassadors gave a ten minute presentation on what we do every month at our club meetings in Woodchurch and we would seem to have made quite an impression in the astronomical world. Neighbouring astronomy societies have looked at what we’ve done and have wondered if they might borrow some of our speakers. Specifically me (!) - I’ve been asked to present my talk on the ice giant planets to a group in Wadhurst in April.

I’ve agreed to do this – after all, speakers are the life blood of any society of this sort. But I must admit I’m a tad nervous about it. Which is very unlike me. Public speaking never bothers me. I suppose the thing is that whilst I’m no longer on the committee of our astro club, I’ve been there from the start, everyone there knows me, and knows what I’m like. And so even if they are not amused, they tolerate me shouting “Your Anus!!” when discussing the seventh planet from the sun. I wonder how this might go down with another group. I wonder if they have “normal people” at their club in Wadhurst. I hope not.

I then phoned Sky about setting up the Sky HD & the multi-room set up. Whilst the girl (Samantha) on the other end of the phone was pleasant enough, it was painfully obvious she had been programmed to work from a script. My plan to scrounge up a second hand Sky Plus box from mates and bodge them into one of the kids’ bedrooms confused her. So much so that when she tried to work out the best deal, the line went dead.

I phoned back and this time spoke with “Donald” who seemed to understand my plan. He says that they will only plumb in boxes they provide. The new HD box would be £49. Fair enough. But a second Sky Plus box from them would be two hundred quid. Stuff that!! “Daddies Little Angel TM ” says she can live without a Sky Plus box in her bedroom (there’s no room for it anyway!), so the mission now is to get all the stuff on the Sky Plus box watched before we relocate that box in the attic room.

It has been said that I am a creature of habit. And never more so then when having a cuppa. I’m rather fussy about the mugs from which I’ll drink my tea and coffee. Which is odd, considering I’ll drink beer from any receptacle. But tea and coffee is different. At home it has to be out of my Dalek mug. Whilst camping, my Starbucks mug. And at work, it’s the SpongeBob one. Disaster!! Today I dropped my SpongeBob mug.

I went thirsty…..

19 January 2010 (Tuesday) - Saving Money

Now that I have an HD telly, it has been suggested that upgrade my Sky TV package. More expense(!)

Well, it would seem perhaps not. I have been getting my telephone from BT, my Internet from Orange and my telly programs from Sky. Allowing for the vagaries of the phone bill varying from month to month (depending on how many calls we make), the whole lot costs me a lot of money. Darren at Sky told me that if I get the whole kaboodle from Sky, I can get HD telly programs, a Sky Box with double the recording capacity, faster broadband, the facility for both brats to have a Sky Plus box in their bedrooms, and it will all still be a fiver cheaper than what I’ve been paying per month. I was impressed.

Having said that, I’ve been with Orange for eight years, and with BT for twenty five years. I get soppy over things like that. I can’t just leave them without kissing them goodbye. So I phoned BT and explained the situation. I had a nice chat about my new telly with Michael. He reviewed my package (oo-er!) and suggested I have the same phone deal as he has at home. I’m staying with BT, and will now only be paying sixty per cent of what I was with BT.

Flushed with success I phoned Kieran at Orange and told him my news. He too was very friendly and helpful (and was interested in my new telly too). And I’m staying with Orange for my Internet connection. I’ve now got a connection which is three times faster than what it was this morning for only forty percent of what I was paying.

I still can’t believe it. I phoned them up, and said “gis it cheaper!!” And both said “Oh, go on then”. And did!

Which is for the best. I didn’t want to muck about changing phone and Internet. These things are usually best left alone. This is probably why I’ve been paying so much. I just set the accounts up all those years ago and just went with them. I wonder what other savings I can make on the household accounts? At this point I found myself stopping and taking stock of what had happened.

I started off looking at getting Sky HD. Somewhere along the line I lost sight of what I was doing and I got cheaper phone and faster Internet before I ran out of time and had to go to work.

The current plan (now) is to look at the Sky HD multi-room deal. The HD is ten quid a month more. But seeing as I’m saving twenty five quid a month on phone and Internet (and if the kids want Sky TV in their bedrooms they can pay for it), I’m still quids in.

All I have to do is come up with two Sky Plus boxes. Should I upgrade to Sky HD, I’m hoping I can use the existing box for one of the fruits of my loin, but the other fruit will need a box. So can I ask if any of my loyal readers have a Sky Plus box kicking around that they don’t want? I doubt anyone has one, but it doesn’t hurt to ask…

18 January 2010 (Monday) - Watching Telly, Computer Games, Stuff...

Today was a late start, so I had some time to waste this morning. This new telly is going to take some getting used to. I’ve got accustomed to watching DVDs on my PC screen, and as a special treat on the old telly (when no one else was around). The screen on the new telly is two and a half times the size of the old telly, and over four times the size of my PC screen. I was rather pleased with it as I scoffed jam on toast this morning whilst watching season two of BattleStar Galactica.

I’m still not sure if I can tell the difference between scart-ed telly and HDMI-ed telly, but then again I wonder if anyone really can. And now I’ve put all the cables the right way round, we can record stuff off of the Sky Plus again. Which is a result. DVD recorders aren’t cheap.

Once I’d then mucked about in NeverWinter for a while, I had a look in YoVille. In NeverWinter you get to explore a medieval fantasy environment. You meet elves and gnomes, wizards and bards. You can choose to be a fighter, a paladin, a rogue, a ranger or a druid, a sorcerer or a wizard. There are quests to do, dragons and goblins to slay, and wrongs to right. You get to wield swords and battle axes, you can cast spells, even enchant animals to do your bidding, and you can accrue huge amounts of gold.

YoVille is different. You just randomly wander around town either fighting with people or kissing them. On reflection I suppose YoVille is probably more like real life than NeverWinter. You don’t get to cyber-snog people in NeverWinter.

I then posted off my fifty second letter to HMP Slade. The last one – I hope he gets it before he’s released. Over the last year I’ve sent up a letter every Monday. Or that is every Monday except those Mondays when I was away camping. On those occasions the letter went up on the Tuesday. And I have been really anorak-y and worked out some statistics. My average letter length was 8.8 pages, and I wrote a total of just over 175,000 words. OK, I cheated a bit – I just edited my blog into a letter and added some swear words.

I also sent up thirty five rude word crosswords to the chokey. Each with an average of twenty clues. That’s seven hundred clues. I’m reliably informed he attempted about a dozen clues, but got them all wrong.

It feels odd not writing a crossword this evening.

What with all the stuff I bought over the weekend, I had quite a lot of cardboard boxes cluttering up the house, so I loaded them (and the broken DVD players) into the car and set off for the tip. Even though it’s eighteen months since I got rid of my old Espace, I still seem to think I have it’s luggage storage capacity. Especially when doing tip runs.

The tip was the same as ever – full of people who cannot park, and people who cannot bring themselves to actually put into the skip that which they have just taken to the skip. One particular twit had loaded his car full of tat. Not bags of tat, but loose tat, and was carrying each item one at a time from his car to the skip. I’ve mentioned before that I shouldn’t go to the tip – it just winds me up.

As Sainsburys was then on my way to work I thought I’d get lunch from there. I don’t deny it was a tasty enough lunch. But one which would have been half the price in Tesco. I know where I’m going tomorrow…