28 February 2010 (Sunday) - Backache, Saturn...

As would seem to be standard for Sundays this year, the day was wet. Sundays are so inappropriately named. “Rainday” would be far better. So I sat in front of my PC and finished off my presentation on the planet Saturn for the astronomy club. And having got the thing all ready, I discovered that the Cassini probe is all set to make its first close flyby around Saturn’s second largest moon in two days time. Perhaps I’d better include a section on what the thing finds there.

I then slept for most of the afternoon. I did this in my reclining chair, and didn’t feel *too* painful afterwards. I wonder if I should sleep in a sitting position until my back is better.

I spent some time in YoVille and NeverWinter this evening. Surprisingly, for the first time in nine days. I’ve been very busy this last week. I’ve actually done so much every day. All things considered, it’s been a good holiday. It will be a shame to go back to work tomorrow. If my back is up to it…

My back’s still playing up. I woke in pain every time I tried to move in the night. It seems to have got slightly better as the day’s gone on. It’s got to be better for tomorrow as I’m back to work. I really can’t phone in sick after a week’s holiday. Mind you, with the new management ethos, I rather feel that I really can’t phone in sick at all. Perhaps if I’m still immobile tomorrow I might take the bull by the horns and ask my trade union rep to make the phoning in sick phone call for me. As they say, a good defence is a strong offence.

One good thing about the backache is that the back pain has taken my mind off the healing leg tattoo….

27 February 2010 (Saturday) - A Bad Back

Yesterday I mentioned I’d done my back. I had this naive idea that a good night’s sleep would put it right. It didn’t. I woke needing a tiddle just before 4am, and took half an hour just to get out of bed, falling heavily back onto the bed twice. I was rather dubious about going down the stairs, but eventually made my way to the loo. This journey was far more arduous that usual, and so I thought I’d watch telly for five minutes until the pain eased somewhat, before negotiating my way back to bed. This was a good idea in theory, but in practice there was a snag. Having sat down in front of the telly, I couldn’t get up again. I found myself stuck on the sofa. Not just stuck, but utterly immobile. After an hour I eventually got myself standing, and decided that enough was enough. I struggled back upstairs and using my walking stick I poked ‘er indoors TM awake.

She dressed me, and we arrived in the A&E department at 5.45am, to find the place all but empty. There was only one other patient in the waiting area. I explained my tale to the receptionist, and after five minutes a nursey-type took me into a side room and (for want of a better term) gibbered at me. In retrospect I think I probably understood one word in three. She however seemed to understand me better. She offered me the choice of pain relief - a suppository or an injection in the bum. I went with the injection, and was given a rather strong pain killer tablet as well. She then left me in a side room on an empty ward and muttered something about a doctor. I then came over rather light headed and nauseous. Had I eaten breakfast before coming to hospital, I’m pretty sure I would have been sick at that point.

It was as well that ‘er indoors TM was there with me, otherwise I would have been completely alone in an empty ward. I later saw from the medical notes that I got the injection at 6am. We sat and waited, and waited. Despite sending out to see what the hold up was no medical person was anywhere to be seen until the doctor came round shortly after 7am. She then asked all the questions that the receptionist and the nurse had asked, and reacted with surprise when I told her that I’d been given pain killers in tablet and injection form. She then poked me about, and found that I hadn’t broken my back, but that all the muscles in my lower back were in spasm. I could have told her that. In fact I had done. At 7.15am I was discharged with a prescription for a fortnight’s worth of painkillers, which we collected from Asda on the way home.

Perhaps I should have gone to bed when I got home, but I didn’t want to risk becoming stuck again, so I ensconced myself in front of the telly and watched Annabel Croft (woof!) doing “Interceptor”. Such a shame that program got cancelled. And whatever happened to Annabel Croft? I then watched a double helping of SpongeBob, and slept through a morning of “Only Fools and Horses”.

My Boy TM ” staggered home from the pub at about 11am, and asked what was up with me. When I told him, he fell about laughing, and was still sniggering half an hour later. I staggered upstairs – the chair at my PC is probably the most comfortable one in the house for me at the moment. So I sat there for a few hours working on my presentation for the next astronomy club’s meeting before dozing off.

And then to Gillingham. The original plan was for two hours’ ice skating, but what with my back, that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I got to sit and look after the coats. Sofia has a dodgy ankle and Jack a broken arm, so we formed the politically correct association of “Crips United” and spent a pleasant evening laughing at the normal people falling over on the ice...

26 February 2010 (Friday) - Stuff

The end of the week, and there is still so much not done. Things planned for the week included mucking out the pond filter in readiness for spring and painting the tops of the fence panels and the shed. I’ve two astronomy presentations I need to complete, and I’d even intended giving the front of the house another coat of paint. But it has to be said I’ve had a busy week, so having a day slobbing about wouldn’t be that bad really.

I say “slobbing about” – I got up at 8am and after a belt of brekky I started on the ironing. I’ve not done any for some time, so that took a couple of hours. Then to sort the underwear. Easier said than done. Bearing in mind that everyone in the house but me takes their undercrackers straight out of the undercracker basket, how does it get so full? That wasted another hour. And then I went through our video collection. Videos – remember them? I found over twenty videos that we’ve replaced with DVDs over the year to I boxed them up for the tip. There are those that might think it wasteful, but yesterday I asked in CEX (the recycle-everything shop) about whether they took videos. They weren’t rude, but neither were they interested. Charity shops are full of videos they can’t sell, and I remember there being cases and cases of videos in the scout hut that are in everyone’s way.

Whilst slobbing about, I watched the entire series of Cranford – a BBC costume drama I’d borrowed on DVD. I’d mentioned at work that I’d liked “Pride and Prejudice”, and was told that I’d probably love Cranford. I did.

A holiday isn’t a holiday without a run to the tip. I got shot of a couple of bags of tat and the videos and then went to the college to collect “Daddies Little Angel TM ” who’s being doing sketches. And then I completed my homework. A friend has written a book, and I’ve been invited to read it, and make constructive comments. It’s a good book - what happens is… No – I won’t spoil the plot. But I enjoyed it immensely. And what I especially enjoyed was the power I had whilst reading it.

Recently I commented on how much I disliked the recent second series of “Survivors”, because of so many inconsistencies. To have the power to point out any such problems before they appeared to the general public was quite awesome.

Earlier in the week I got quite a bit of lego for my birthday. Today I put the smallest kit together. I’m looking forward to doing the rest – once I can scare up some space to do so.

And then seeing as how it was the last Friday of the month I set off to the astro club. I did my usual thing of putting out the chairs, and managed to knack my back lifting a chair. How silly is that? – One chair and I could hardly move. Interestingly the raffle proved very popular tonight, with people wanting to buy their tickets at the start of the evening, rather than at tea break (which is customary). I saw that as a thinly veiled ruse to stop me shouting at tea time, but it didn’t work. I still hawked the raffle as loudly as ever.

The talk was on telescopes, and then after tea we collimated, and adjourned outside to where a dozen telescopes had been put out. We saw Mars and Saturn, and the M3 (which didn’t go to Basingstoke!). A really good time was had by all.

It’s just a shame I’ve done my back…

25 February 2010 (Thursday) - Jack the Ripper

Two of us set off early this morning for a spot of breakfast before the day’s main event. We’d heard that The George in Ashford opened at 9am to do a cooked breakfast. They advertise the fact on their website, and in their window. They don’t. They open at 10am. We had McBreakfast instead.

We popped into Timpsons and had some badges made up – you can’t beat a good wind up, and then once we’d met Matt we set off for the High Speed Train. In two years time this train will be known as “The Javelin”, but not for two years. Or so I’m reliably informed by those who know about trains (bless!) But it’s worth taking the high speed train – if there are three or more of you, you get a discount so’s you can go on the thing and have unlimited underground travel for twenty quid. That’s cheaper than the slow train.

Forty minutes (or so) later we met up with Terry and Irene (St Pancras station is HUGE!!) and we all took the tube to Whitechapel where we started the day’s challenge. Matt had downloaded an on-line tour of the area in which Jack the Ripper had struck over one hundred and twenty years ago. There are organised tours, but they aren’t cheap (and we had Matt) so off we went. Turning right as we left Whitechapel tube station we totally failed to find the first point of interest. Having walked up and down the road a few times we found the “small dark alley” described in the guide. On the other side of a locked gate…

We found a way to get to the other end of the alley (which was similarly barricaded) and then we tried to follow a route anticlockwise around an old school house. Only to find another locked gate. Clockwise, we decided, would have to do, and we set off and walked straight past the site of the first murder. It wasn’t long before we were finding all sorts of street names that didn’t appear on our instructions. And it was at this point that were approached by the “normal people” who’d overheard us talking of Jack the Ripper, realised what we were doing, and asked if they could book to go on a tour themselves. I was *so* tempted to give them Matt’s phone number.

We re-traced our steps, and within minutes found ourselves at the site of the first murder, and from then onwards we carried on without any problems or mishaps whatsoever. We proceeded through a rather dodgy council estate to the site of the second murder. There is now a brewery there, and we adjourned for ten minutes to the Pride of Spitalfields for a pint of lunch. Then onwards along Brick Lane, which would seem to be curry heaven. This place is running a curry festival in September – I shall be going back.

The third murder took place in what is now a school’s playground, and after a ten minute diversion for McDinner we found the aptly named road of “Batty Street” where Doctor Francis Tumblety used to live. Francis Tumblety is credited with being one of the likely candidates to have been the Ripper. I though it was the Marquis of Granby, but it turned out that was a pub. I’d got confused with the Duke of Clarence who’d long since been exonerated of any possible involvement with the murders. And with the Marquis of Granby, I expect too.

By now it was three o’clock, and the rain had started. By one of life’s happy co-incidences we happened on The Dispensary, a building which was a hospital at the time of the Ripper’s murders, and so it is likely that Francis Tumblety worked there. An ideal place to shelter from the rain – the building in which the Ripper possibly worked seemed to be rather apt. The fact that the place is now the CAMRA Pub of the Year for the local area had absolutely nothing to do with our decision to stop there.

After a pint of “Old Chestnut” (dark and thick) we decided that the rain wasn’t going to ease off. And we had two choices. We could carry on with our planned outing, or we could hide from the rain. We decided that carrying on with the tour would be the manly thing to do. Irene was a tad vague about doing “manly things”. I explained that it consisted of two main points. Firstly making sexist comments at girlies that you thought you could probably run away from, and secondly standing up to do a tiddle. She seemed happy with the explanation, and no one realised that I actually failed on both counts.

We carried on with the tour. On to Mitre square, the scene of the fourth murder, and then round to the Ten Bells where the fifth victim was last seen alive. A rubbish pub – no ale(!). We then spent five minutes in a car park looking at the lowered kerb. The lowered kerb being the only indication of where the last murder took place.

With our tour complete I found myself somewhat reflective. I’d enjoyed the tour – but then I enjoy any day out with my friends. But I felt somewhat disappointed. The first murder site was a rather dilapidated flower bed. The second is now underneath a brewery. The third is underneath a school playground. The fourth is another flower bed and the last is under a car park. None of them are marked in any way. I was expecting to see plaques commemorating the deaths. Jack the Ripper is an integral part of British heritage. We’d walked a good three miles along a route which is obviously followed by many people interested in Jack. We even met an organised party on our travels. But we didn’t see a single sign, notice or marker relating to this episode from history.

And the tour itself did require an awful lot of application of imagination. The murders took place in 1888. Admittedly a very long time ago, but not *that* long? I think it’s fair to say that my house was built then. As was large areas of current day Ashford. I was rather disappointed to find that pretty much all of the areas we’d visited had been completely demolished, bulldozed and rebuilt during the last one hundred and twenty years.

But having done the trip, I’d certainly do it again.

We then made our way to Liverpool Street, and after a quick half in the Railway Tavern (too noisy!) we said our goodbyes to Terry and Irene. We then made our way to Covent Garden for Happy Hour in Pizza Hut, and then went shopping in the rain, finally getting the high speed train to be home for 9pm. A tiring day, but I’d do it again…

24 February 2010 (Wednesday) - Another Day's Holiday

Yesterday Dan-The-Tattoo-Man warned me that when I woke up I may well have a dead leg. He wasn’t joking. When I got up I was hopping about for several minutes as there was no sensation whatsoever in my tattooed leg. Eventually the thing came back to a semblance of normality, but it really has been tender today. It’s OK all the time I’m moving about, but when I stop, the thing tends to seize up. It will get better eventually, I suppose. And when it does I shall go through the entire process again to get the thing finished. It poured hard with rain pretty much all day today as well, but I was determined not to let petty things such as wet weather and the inability to move about stop me enjoying a day’s holiday.

A quick bit of brekky, and then I hobbled to the car. First of all to HMV in Ashford – I’d been promising myself a CD for some time. Specifically E.L.O.’s “Eldorado”. If you’ve never heard it, it’s a concept album following someone whose life is so dull and mundane he spends most of his time in imaginary fantasy adventures. I listened to the thing (several times) as I drove off here and there during the morning.

Firstly to Hawkhurst Koi centre. I’d heard they’d re-opened, and twenty five miles later I found that I’d heard wrongly. The place remains closed. From there I made my way home, firstly via Rolvenden’s World of Water where I picked up a new fluorescent tube for the pond’s filtration system. It’s still too early to turn the pumps on, but I thought I’d best get the tube whilst opportunity permitted. I got some blanketweed jollop whilst I was at it. I can’t wait to get the pond going again.

And then to Swallow Aquatics, if only for a look to see what fish they had. They’ve now got a huge catfish (four feet long) in a tank, but their Koi ponds were empty. Not just empty of fish, but empty of water too.

During the week “My Boy TM ” had mentioned about getting a shed for his fishing gear. As it wouldn’t be too far out of my way, I came home via Snargate to call into Bespoke Sheds. A strange place – the gates were wide open, there were signs warning of guard dogs and saying that customers entered at their own risk. I drove in and stayed in my car. And there was no one there – neither person nor guard dog.

Daco timber products in Brenzett were very helpful, or as helpful as someone with no sheds could be, and I eventually tracked down a shed sale in WyeVale in Ham Street. A strange shop. Whilst WyeVale is (in my experience) a bit of a retard magnet, the Ham Street branch is unique. It has an aroma all of it’s own. Well, not so much an aroma as… there’s no way to put it tactfully, the place stinks. Something, or several somethings have died somewhere inside the building. It reeks. But the chap in the shed section had the ideal shed at half price.

It was rather a shame to come home to find “My Boy TM ” wasn’t interested.

A sarnie for dinner, and I watched the last episode of “Survivors”. Utter tripe. Having seen the lot, that’s six hours of my life I want back. I then settled down to watch “Caprica” which I’ve been recording onto the Sky Plus box for a few weeks. It’s supposed to be a prequel to BattleStar Galactica, which I enjoyed immensely. I got three episodes of Caprica watched this afternoon. Did I like it? I slept through most of it, and found myself constantly waking up, rewinding what I’d missed and nodding off again. I shall give it more of a chance before I dismiss it out of hand, but I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

Being the last Wednesday of the month it was then off to Lenham for the arky-ologee club. Things started well with a fit bird turning up and wanting to join. But things soon went downhill.

Tonight was the Annual General Meeting which (I think it’s fair to say) exceeded the expectations of even the staunchest critics of the society. Despite having a written agenda, we managed to take all of the items in an utterly random order. Having done an agenda item to death we would then return to it two minutes later. The chairman’s report was done three times because the chairman kept forgetting bits. Even though the report was written down, and all the chairman had to do was read the report. The committee was elected. Twice. Chip got to be on the committee. Because he’s now “The Grand High Pum-Bar” (patent pending) he gets extra biscuits.

Once the A.G.M. part of the evening was officially declared closed (for the third time) we got on with what I’m reliably informed that some people thought was the interesting part of the evening. All I can say is that some people are easily pleased. Mavis had a slide show of Lenham’s Medieval fete of 1981, and she announced that she’d got her gizmo to work properly to complement the slide show with tasteful background music. I didn’t have the heart to tell Mavis she should take her gizmo back to the shop. Still, Mavis was an old trouper – the show must go on. And despite the abject failure of her gizmo, she was prepared to do an encore. She had a slide show of six minutes of Lenham in the snow during the middle ages.

Fortunately for my sanity, time was pressing on. Mavis’s second act was politely deferred until next time so that one of the new people could do “show and tell”. A normal person had turned up with some artifacts he wanted to share with the society. "Artifacts" (!) I know a bucket of rubble when I see one. Whilst several people had seen this bucket of rubble for what it was, I was the only person brave enough to say so.

I must admit, I haven’t enjoyed a meeting of the arky-ologee club so much for ages….

23 February 2010 (Tuesday) - My Seventeenth Tattoo

I woke this morning feeling just slightly less than 100%. Can’t imagine why that might be. I watched the last BattleStar Galactica episode over brekky. Having got the box set for Xmas, it’s taken me just less than two months to watch all five seasons of it. It was just as good the second time round, but it did get a bit metaphysical towards the end. I’ll say no more in case any of my loyal readers haven’t seen it yet. Mind you, I only realised yesterday that the show’s arch-baddy was played by the actor who was Captain Apollo in the original 70s show.

I then spent a little time putting yesterday’s exploits into an on-line pub crawl that the normal people could call up and maybe try for themselves. And you might notice that I’ve put that on-line crawl onto the Pubs Galore website, and not that of Beer in the Evening. I won’t give a hyperlink to Beer in the Evening, because I don’t want to crash anyone’s PCs. I tried to post there this morning, and the site is riddled with pop-up windows. Even with my pop-up blocker on, I still found eleven pop-ups within twenty seconds.

I was feeling peckish, so I popped to the corner shop to get a sarnie for diner. The corner shop is opposite the tattoo studio, and two days ago I mentioned that I’d seen a tattoo I liked. The studio looked empty, so I thought I’d pop in and talk about the tattoo – specifically where it might fit. I had this plan to put it on the back of my left calf. It looked like it would fit perfectly. The people in the studio admitted (in a rather embarrassed way) that the price they’d quoted at the weekend was rather a lot less than the going rate. Whilst they would honour what they’d promised, they couldn’t hold that price indefinitely. I wondered about appointments - they had no appointments booked that day, so I drove to the cashpoint, got some money, came back and lay down on the tattooing couch.

Have you ever visited a tattoo studio? Or had a tattoo? These places are worlds unto their selves. They all have large signs saying (rather forcefully) that if you are in a rush, go away and come back when you are not. Tattoo artists (quite rightly) won’t be hurried. And the music – they all seem to play the heaviest heavy metal you ever did hear. And the pikeys and normal people that come into the studios. You would think that the hoi-polloi would be discouraged: it’s no secret that tattoos aren’t cheap. But there was a never ending stream of people coming in with the most idiotic questions – the best being from some half-wit who said his daughter didn’t like her belly button piercing, and seemed to think she could swap it for a tongue piercing?

Having traced the outline on my leg, the artist (Dan) laid me on the couch at mid day and,made a start. Just lately I’ve been rather embarrassed about going to a tattoo studio, because wherever I go it’s quite obvious that I have had tattoos done somewhere else. This wasn’t an issue today – it turned out that I had my first tattoo done in the year before Dan-The-Tattoo-Man was born. We chatted on and off during the afternoon, stopping hourly for a fag break, and for me to have a fidget. Whilst the tattooing hurt (!), by far the worst part was the pain in my back – laying face down for protracted periods was both oh-so-boring and at the same time incredibly painful. Every hour as I struggled to get up I would tell Dan and his assistant never to get old as I agonisingly heaved myself off of the couch.

I’d been told me that the tattoo would take about two to three hours. I’d booked an appointment from mid day to three o’clock. The time dragged, and at quarter past five Dan asked if I wouldn’t mind coming back another time. As with all tattooists of my acquaintance he was something of a perfectionist, and he didn’t want to rush the job. He then coughed a bit and made a confession. He was so pleased with what he’d done we wanted to take his time over it, and put a photo of the finished thing into his professional portfolio. He then took six photos of the progress so far.

I realise this might sound like I was being given “soft soap”, but today was my seventeenth tattoo, and only once before has a tattoo artist photographed their work on me.

I’ve got to go back in a few weeks for another couple of hours work. I like having tattoos on my body. I’m not so keen on the actual mechanics of having the tattoo put on. I am *so* not looking forward to two more hours under the buzzing needles….

22 February 2010 (Monday) - On The Beer

A lazy morning spent firstly with a bit of BattleStar Galactica and then exchanging insults on Facebook. At first sight the weather seemed against a trip to Maidstone, but then if I stayed in every time it rained, I’d never leave the house.

To Maidstone, which for no adequately explored reason had been chosen as the venue for this year’s February pub crawl. Three of us met up at Ashford railway station and shook off the rain. A relatively uneventful twenty minutes saw us at Maidstone East and having met up with Terry we were off to pub #1

The Druid’s Arms is a Greene King pub, and in drinking circles it is traditional to be scathing of Greene King. I don’t know why? I’ve never understood this attitude. The Druids Arms was a fine pub. Six different ales on the hand pump, including two I’d never seen before. As this was early in the day’s drinking we just had one here – a pint of “Flanker’s Tackle”, chosen for the rude name. The only criticism I’d make of this place was that the service was a tad slow, but the chap did apologize for this.

It’s a good town centre pub – ideal for popping into whilst ‘er indoors TM does shopping. In the final analysis this place the place scores 8/10.

Up the hill to the Rifle Volunteers, which isn’t somewhere you’d find by chance. We had to search it out – it’s a pub which I had been told that I would either love or hate. A Goacher’s pub, with three fine Goacher’s ales on. I had a pint of the stout, and then another pint of the stout. Others of our party had the mild and the light ale whilst we waited for the late comers of our party to catch up with us.

I think it fair to say that “Daddies Little Angel TM ” did feel a little out of place in there, but this traditional old boozer reminded me of the pub where my Dad used to drink over forty years ago. It’s stormed into that hallowed group of pubs to which I award 9/10, and I can’t help but think I’ll be going back soon.

And then round the corner to the Swan. Because of its location in Maidstone, this is a pub I’ve visited before. One of the very few Shepherd Neame pubs that actually has an ale selection, and it did seem odd having the autumn seasonal (Late Red) in February, but the ale is well kept, and a pint of Kent’s Best slipped down as well. The sandwiches here are excellent – you can’t beat a ham butty. I’ve visited this place before and have previously scored it 8/10, and today’s visit confirms that score.

It was at this point we said goodbye to some of our number, and we carried on to the Flower Pot. I had intended this to be the highlight of the day, and the ale selection was wonderful. And the staff seemed friendly. But the barmaid waited until “Daddies Little Angel TM ” popped out for a cigarette, at which time she came over and announced (rather rudely) that she wouldn’t be serving her any more drink.

Why is it that so many pubs that obviously make the effort to attract the real ale drinker have such attitude? Blakes in Dover is just the same. I walked into the place scoring it 9/10, and walked out scoring it 0/10. In all honesty I feel I must recommend the serious pub-o-phile visits the place, but I won’t again.

By now we’d had an elegant sufficiency. And I’d had a gallon of ale as well, and so we staggered back to the train station smoking our cigars. That’s two cigars I’ve had this year, which is a lot for me. And then we spotted the White Rabbit. This wasn’t on our original list of destinations, but it had started raining again so we popped in to dry off over a pint of the Harvey’s. It’s a rather posh place with lots of nooks and crannies. Whilst pleasant enough, it’s not really my cup of tea, but I’ll score it 7/10 which is (on my scale) better than average.

We then said goodbye to Terry who was in pursuit of chips and took the waiting train home, via the KFC. The original plan for the day was to be home some time in the late afternoon. We got home at 10.30pm, with us seriously wondering where the time had gone.

I do like my February pub crawls – same time next year….?

21 February 2010 (Sunday) - Happy Birthday To Me

Some time in 1994 a group of about twenty of us went to Planet Lazer in Canterbury and had such a good time. We all came out on such a high that none of us could sleep that night. I can only liken last night to that evening in Canterbury all those years ago – I was awake most of last night with the songs of E.L.O. running through my head.

I eventually gave up laying awake at 7am, and got up for some toast. And then to my pressies and cards. I’d been intrigued by one envelope which had arrived some time ago, and was obviously from a loyal reader, as it was clearly labelled “not to be opened until 45 12/12”. I had a decent haul of pressies – I got the CD of last night’s band, a bottle of Leffe (oh yes!) and quite a lot of lego. Regular readers of this nonsense will know I quite like a bit of lego.

A medical emergency – whilst squirting my armpits this morning I caught the bar which pierces my left tit on the bottom of the can of deodorant. I was amazed how much blood that generated. Now it’s stopped bleeding I can see I’ve actually ripped the nipple. I can only feel grateful that other body adornments have (as yet) not been similarly trapped.

Off to deepest Sussex for lunch with Simon and Corinne. The Johns Cross Inn in Robertsbridge is somewhere I visited occasionally over twenty years ago. Today it’s under new management, and as well as the ubiquitous Harveys, they featured Castle ale from the Arundel brewery. A new one to me, so a couple of pints of that slipped down very nicely with a plate of spicy Persian lamb.

We then popped next door to the camping centre – not so much to buy anything as to get some ideas as to what’s new in the world of camping. Having said that, my sleeping bag has seen better days (I bought the thing for the Canada trip of four years ago). And our tent is getting a bit threadbare in places. I might go backas the camping season gets nearer. I also got a photo for “CrackWatch” purposes.

All things considered, it was a good afternoon out – shame the rain didn’t let up at all.

And then home for a lazy evening in front of the telly. After the band last night I’m quite worn out….

20 February 2010 (Saturday) - High on a Hill, in Eldorado

The holiday begins. I’ve been taking a week’s holiday in February every year for quite a few years. I can’t recall exactly how many, but I certainly remember having a week off at my thirtieth birthday and that was some time ago. Having this full week off work will be the longest break I’ve had from work since my February holiday last year. I feel I need it – much as I work with some really good people, I need a break from the place. And I can and will send my muckers some knob jokes via Facebook.

I see Lionel Jeffries died yesterday. I realise that’s not a particularly famous name – he played Grandpa in my favourite film of all time – “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. I must admit that I thought he’d probably died years ago, but it turned out that he was only forty-two when he starred in that film. Another useless fact about “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is that one of my colleagues had an uncle who was an extra in the opening sequences. I’m reliably informed that the extras got more money if they got dirty during the course of filming, so they would all roll about in the mud between takes.

Last Saturday I took my ring to the jewellers for fixing. Today we went to get it back, via one or two shops. We popped into the tattoo studio, where I saw a tattoo I am seriously considering having done. And then to the pet shop where they are selling albino hedgehogs as pets. By coincidence, the hedgehogs are the same price as the tattoo I want. And then some McDinner. You can’t beat McDinner.

I eventually got to the jewellers to collect my ring. It was fixed and they even polished the thing too. I’m really pleased with the result. Last week it was scuffed and scratched – now it’s as good as new. On reflection, I don’t think I have many possessions that have been with me as long as my wedding ring. I’m quite touched to see it as good as it was when I first bought it twenty three years ago. (I know – I’m a big softie!)

And then to Tenterden for the ELO experience. We’d started the week with a bit of a hiccup with four tickets too many. We shifted the spare tickets, and got there to find they’d reserved us one seat too few. But the problem was soon resolved, and we settled into our seats.

I first heard the music of the Electric Light Orchestra some thirty four years ago when an eleven year old Dave (now Doctor) Thornton introduced me to their excellent tunes.

I knew what to expect. “Daddies Little Angel TM ” had come along for the evening, and her face was a picture when the cellos came out. But I think that she eventually enjoyed what happened. I know I did. They played most (but not all) of my old favourites, and I spotted their mistake in “Rock n Roll is King”. I had Milwaukee in mind as we squalled along to “Calling America”, I even remembered the lyrics of “Do Ya” and “Showdown”, and I hadn’t voiced those in over ten years. In fact I knew all of the words to all of the songs, and I sang them all. Rather loudly.

By one of life’s many happy co-incidences I found myself sitting next to a fellow member of the astronomy club, and so I felt that as we were all friends together he wouldn’t mind me singing. I have since apologized.

Same time next year….

19 February 2010 (Friday) - Robbers and Porkers

This morning the blog’s hit counter passed the ten thousand hits mark. I suppose I should commemorate the occasion in some way, by posting something original, witty, erudite and yet somehow poignant. But I can’t think of anything so I’ll stick with my tried and tested formula of rambling out any old drivel which comes into my head. After all, that’s been my modus operandi (latin!) since October 2006.

Since I relocated my blog away from Yahoo last year, I’ve been very impressed with the various features of Blogspot. Particularly the “Dates for the Diary” section. However following the launch of a rather original website, I’m left wondering if advertising when I’m not going to be home is a good idea.

This website, Please Rob Me dot com, claim that they are trying to point out the foolishness of advertising on Twitter that your house is empty. I suppose they have a point. But then, when I go to all the events I’ve listed on this blog, my house isn’t empty. If anyone wants to break in, they will find the fruits of my loin still very firmly ensconced.

But on a more general level, who follows this blog, or follows peoples’ twitterings? Are people really going to stake out their friends movements just to nick their telly? I can’t see it, somehow. In all honesty there’s probably more valuable stuff more easily nicked in my garden than there is in the house. And anyone can see when I’m not home by watching me drive off to work in the morning anyway. Surely watching me walk out of the house and turn round and lock the door is a better indication that the place is empty?

And having locked the front door this morning, I set off to work, where we (fortunately) didn’t get the patient who turned up at an undisclosed hospital today. The world’s fattest man has allegedly had a heart attack. This porker, who despite being only two years older than me is over double my weight. His personal healthcare sets the NHS back one hundred thousand pounds every year. The reinforced ambulance to drive him to hospital cost twenty grand.

It is easy to ridicule those of the more generous physique. I myself am one of nature’s porkers. It’s no secret I could do with losing some weight. But I’m not utterly unfit. I walk and cycle about. And I am very conscious that I have many friends who aren’t in such rude health as I am, and I for one am glad and proud that we as a nation have a health care system that looks after them.

But whilst this chap is in incredibly poor health, it is of his own making. Apparently he harboured an ambition to become the world’s fattest man, and so deliberately ate himself to the size he now is. He can only get his epic portions of food by sending his state funded carers to the shops for him.

I think I must be missing the point here. Surely the carers should leave him in his bed, and pass him the occasional bottle of water. If he’s truly hungry he will get out of his bed and go get himself some food. And if he’s too fat to get out of bed, then just perhaps that is God’s way of hinting that maybe he doesn’t need that cream cake…..