30 July 2010 (Wednesday) - Dull, so Dull....

As I parked my car at work today I was amazed to see a funfair setting up at the top of the staff car park. Apparently this is one of the attractions for this weekend’s “fun day”. A stroke of genius. The staff car park is a little bit off of the beaten track, but now having it outside the fun fair will advertise where it is, and so I confidently predict that no member of staff will be able to park there ever again, as it will be full of patient and visitor cars who will feel they can park there for free.

And home to tragedy. Last week “Daddies Little Angel TMbrought home a dead crab. “Mr Crabs” is now rather ripe, and so we have had to say goodbye to “Eugene”.

The last Wednesday of the month – arky-ologee club. I’ve mentioned before that we have a Riddler who comes to the club. This month “Mossop” invited us to a church in the back of beyond. We spend a rather dull half an hour looking round this church. And then we went outside where she had dug a hole on a thicket (for no adequately explained reason) and where she claimed she had discovered a medieval pond. I remained unconvinced, but we had a nice walk round the woods afterwards….

29 July 2010 (Tuesday) - At Work

Now it’s no secret that the current government isn’t one of my choosing. Or perhaps it is. Perhaps I got exactly what I asked for. Perhaps… but that’s a rant that’s been done to death. Anyway, I’ve had a letter from the Prime Minister. (I didn’t vote for him…) and his stooge. They told me about a website which is asking where economies can be made in the public sector. Specifically could I think of any at work? Well, one or two areas of excessive squander come to mind. It would be wrong of me to expose the failings of the NHS here, but let’s just say I’ve written to the boss about Technical and Discussion Groups”, The MHRA, Clinical Pathology Accreditation, numbers of people in management grades, and “Clinical Governance”. I wonder how much money my suggestions might save the country. We shall see.

And then to work. With the solar telescope in the back of my car, at lunch time we had a Star Party. I have a colleague who regularly attends the astro club, and we’d arranged to use the solar scope together. However, word soon got out about what we were doing, and a few other people came along out of interest.

I’ve never organised a Star Party before, but I suspect that they are easier to do when there’s only one star to worry about (the sun!), and after a few minutes wasted setting up the scope, we saw prominences, solar flares and even a sunspot or two. As always, people who’ve never looked at astronomical objects were fascinated, and I found a hazard of solar observing that I’d never realised. Whenever I look through a telescope at the moon, or a planet or a nebula, once I come away from the telescope I look at the target object with my naked eye, in wonderment of what I’ve seen through the telescope. Everyone does this – it would seem to be a natural reaction. And one that carries on into solar astronomy. Having caught myself about to stare at the sun after seeing sunspots in the scope, I then caught everyone else about to do the same.

I managed to take one or two photos of the sun and of using the scope whilst we were at it. I might just put together a quick presentation for the astro club….

28 July 2010 (Monday) - Football (Sorry!)

I hear we have been knocked out of the world cup.

OK – let’s stop there and re-read that sentence. Whilst everyone will immediately understand it, it is wrong in so many ways. Which world cup? And were “we” playing yesterday? I certainly wasn’t.

Oh, I so hate football. And again, words are failing me. I don’t hate football at all. I quite enjoy playing it. It wasn’t that long since I organised and managed a football team in a local five-a-side league. Admittedly we came last, with our best score in ten matches being a 4:1 defeat, but it was fun. We would have a great time charging up and down the pitch. No one ever watched us, other than our two substitutes, but we didn’t care. Football was to be played, not watched. I must admit I don’t like watching other people playing football: I find it rather boring and simplistic. After all, after watching five minutes of a game of football, you really have seen all that the game has to offer.

What annoys me is the way that so many people are taken in by the hype of football. So the England team was playing in the World Cup. Fair enough - those who follow football enjoyed it, and rightly so. But what about those who don’t follow football? Thousands of people who wouldn’t know an offside from a left wing were glued to TV sets across the country “because it’s England”. Do these people support the English rifle team? Or the English lacrosse team? Or the English arm-wrestling team? Of course they don’t. Did anyone know that the five times kite-boarding world champion is English?

And as I drove to work this morning I noticed that so many of the silly little flags that people were flying from their cars have now gone. Do these people stop being patriotic now that the football team isn’t playing any more?

I’m rather embarrassed to admit that my own son (who never watches football), together with over a dozen mates (who also never watch football), went to London yesterday to watch the match in a pub there, “because it’s England”. Look at yesterday’s and today’s Facebook statuses. The nation is in mourning for a game that no one plays or understands. Call up Google News – even the Prime Minister is distraught.

And look at yesterday’s match. The England team was playing a German team. Hatreds from a war that was finished half a century ago were again ignited. I heard this morning that one of the astro club members who is currently on holiday abroad has been embarrassed to be English because of his fellow countrymen’s attitude toward the German guests in his hotel. Chants of “Who won the War” were being bandied about at innocent German holidaymakers. I remember a football game a few years ago between the English and Portuguese teams. A good friend of mine who is rather darker of complexion than me was scared to walk the streets for a week. He didn’t want to be mistaken for being of Portuguese extraction. Portuguese people living in the UK were being assaulted by football fans for no better reason than their national football team had beaten the English national team. Is a game of football that important that people feel they need to attack someone they feel might be cheering for a team that has beaten their chosen team?

And I myself have received quite a fair share of verbal abuse and hatred over the last couple of weeks because of my indifference to the game. People who thought I was still a scout leader told me that I was a terrible role model to the children. Why? - For the simple reason that I wasn’t noisily following a sport that holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever. I replied to my critics that I believed that “patriotism” and “football” are two very different concepts.

And I am left wondering how on Earth did England as a nation manage to get the two to be synonymous?

27 June 2010 (Sunday) - Meeting a Hero

On Monday “My Boy TMbought me a sterlet for the pond. Despite cleaning out the filter midweek, and the water noticeably clearing, the sterlet died. A shame – I wonder why that was? Needless to say, fish shops don’t offer any guarantee on a fish for as long as six days.

Talking of pond stuff, today we ran out of Koi food. Last week, whilst shopping for camping gear we drove past a pond shop I’d never visited before. It was near Staplehurst, and it was on today’s route so we popped in for a look-see. Their fish were very reasonable priced; they had some very nice water features, and they had some very cheap fish food. I had to haggle a little with the lady on the till to get her to sell the food at the price it was advertised. Eventually she conceded that with a great big sign in front of bags of fish food saying “buy two get one free”, I should only have to pay for two of the three bags of fish food I was trying to obtain. Let’s just hope the Koi like this food – it’s only a bargain at fifteen quid if the fish eat it. But a similar amount of the expensive stuff would have cost me over forty quid more.

And then to Marden for the main business of the day – the Kent Air Ambulance open day. We did the obligatory tour of fire engines and stuff, had a look at the helicopters, smelled everyone else’s B.O. (it was a *very* hot day) and bought a couple of souvenirs. And then we got to the bit I had gone for; my childhood hero was starring there today. I got to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The star of the 1968 film; not just a prop, but a fully working car. Personally I’m not that interested in cars, I fall asleep during “Top Gear”, but this was one worth seeing. As was Doctor Who (number three)’s car “Bessie”, which was there as an unexpected bonus.

After half an hour we’d had enough, and so moved on. We were hungry and a spot of lunch was in order. The Tickled Trout in West Farleigh is somewhere I’ve driven past on occasion over the last few years. We popped in today. Three ales on the hand pump – a shame that the ale selection wasn’t what it might have been – London Pride and Spitfire can be obtained everywhere, but a pint of Everards Tiger went down well with a cheese ploughman’s. Sixteen quid for a meal and drink each – I was impressed. The beer garden was really scenic, and whilst busy, there were none of what might be described by the less tolerant as the “council estate element”. The food was really good, and was served fast too. All things considered, I would certainly go back.

Round the corner from the pub was Teston Bridge picnic site – somewhere I usually visit twice a year for the kite festivals. The rangers had organised a dog show for the day, and had been told by the Council that if it wasn’t successful they wouldn’t be allowed to stage another, so we thought we’d show our support. We turned up, and it seemed very odd to be there without all our kiting friends. We had an ice cream, said hello to the organisers, watched a couple of the events, mooched around the stalls and then left. It was too hot. As we drove out I noticed something odd about the gate to the field. The gate to the field isn’t the widest of gates, and over the years several caravans have got scratched at kite festivals as they come on and off the field. Today they’d demolished the gate post so the traders could get on to the field. I wonder if they will leave the gate like that for the festival in August?

Just up the road was somewhere else somewhere I’ve driven past on occasion over the last few years – Aylesford Aquatics: another fish related shop. They had some really pretty fish, and a sturgeon as long as my arm. He only costs two hundred and fifty quid. I wonder if I can get another leccie rebate? And then home. Whilst others basked in the garden, I sat inside in the shade and slept though “Carry On Up The Khyber”. They don’t make them like that any more, thank God…

26 June 2010 (Saturday) - Hot

Now I know that I can’t see the comet from my back garden, I wasn’t up at 3am looking for it. But I was up at 6am doing the ironing before going in to work. I’ve been working Saturday morning shifts at my place of work for twenty six years on the understanding that we don’t get paid, we get time off. For some time it was time an a half off – for every hour we worked we got an hour and a half in lieu time. But management but a stop to that, and it became straight time in lieu; if we worked four hours, we got four hours off later. But starting today we have a choice. It’s either straight time in lieu, or we can be paid at time and a half. Didn’t I hear politicians saying we needed to economise? Mind you, I’m not complaining.

I then came home and spent a while playing with “the precious”. “The precious” is the astro club’s solar telescope. Normally, looking at the sun through a telescope is a very stupid thing to do, as it would permanently blind you. But the astro club has acquired a telescope with all sorts of filters and stuff which is made so that you can see the sun through it. There is a drawback though. For me, in much the same way as getting out a kite kills the wind, getting out the solar telescope makes the clouds some out. But we got to spend a few minutes looking at the sun. To be honest, the sun looks like a yellow ball, and isn’t that riveting. Or, that is, it wasn’t for me. ‘er indoors TM spent most of the afternoon playing with it, and spotted several prominences (!). Me – I slept in front of the computer. It was too hot to be in the garden.

To Kennington, for an evening birthday party. Or an un-birthday party; and I would do the same if my birthday was on Boxing Day. I imagine Emily’s un-birthday will become an annual event. I’d certainly be up for it. We had a great time, and sat chatting long after the un-birthday girl had gone to bed.

And then home to watch the last episode in the current season of Doctor Who. Bearing in mind how good last week’s episode was, tonight’s was a disappointment….

25 June 2010 (Friday) - In Outer Space

I decided that seeing as it’s been getting light about 3am, I’d try comet spotting at 1am. Still no joy. So back to bed, and then in to work for an early shift. After an early start I skived out of work for five minutes to visit my newest friend who is on the special care baby unit. There are those who would think the worst when seeing the new high-tech incubators, lamps, tubes, and machines that go “ping!” But not me. With so much futuristic kit around, I know when a baby is playing at Star Trek.

And an early start meant an early finish, and soon I was fast asleep in front of my computer. I’ve been very tired this last week – far more so than usual. I hope I’m not sickening for something.

Being the last Friday of the month meant it was astro club. I set off early – perhaps too early, but I like to help set up so that when the punters arrive, all is ready for them. There’s nothing more off-putting than for people to turn up to the shambles of seeing everything in the throes of being made ready.

We had a good turnout tonight – probably over forty people came to hear Stevey talking about the planet Jupiter. I learned loads. And then, as always, I hawked the raffle. We made over forty quid profit, which not only covered the costs of the evening but went a long way towards getting more club equipment. And for the second part of the evening we had a stellarium show. And I found out why I’ve not been able to see this comet (that I’ve been out of bed for every night this week at silly o’clock). My house has been in the way of where I should have been looking….

24 June 2010 (Thursday) - Stuff

For about the fourth or fifth time in the last week I was in the back garden at 3am trying to see this dratted comet. Needless to say, despite a clear night it wasn’t there. If some bright spark turns up at the astronomy club tomorrow night with photos of the thing, I shall be shoving telescopes up bottoms!

Despite my early morning fun, I was still out of bed by 6am. I watched the last episode in the current series of “V”. A re-imagining of the series from the 70s (or was it the 80s?), and having enjoyed the entire series immensely, I find myself reflecting on what I watched, and coming to the conclusion that much as I really did like it, I have to admit that nothing actually happened after the first five minutes of the pilot show. For those of my loyal readers who didn’t see the program, allow me to summarise the first five minutes of the first episode:

  • In the opening minute of the first episode aliens visit Earth, and promise all sorts of technology to repair the environmental damage humans have done to the planet (for no adequately explored reason.)
  • In the second minute it turns out there’s already aliens on Earth – they’ve been here some time (for no adequately explored reason.)
  • In the third minute an assorted bunch of misfits (humans and aliens) suspect the aliens of being evil (for no adequately explored reason.)
  • In the fourth minute the boss alien would seem to be a baddy (for no adequately explored reason) but we don’t care because she’s fit.
  • In the fifth minute one of the aliens who’s been on Earth for years gets his human girlfriend pregnant (because she’s fit)

And then, that was it for twelve episodes. For all that the various misfits and aliens plotted and conspired, in retrospect the story didn’t actually move on in any way whatsoever. I hear a second season has been confirmed. Let’s hope that something happens in that season.

Earlier in the week I mentioned that I’d found homes for two of my surplus gazebos. Yesterday I found a third home and dispatched a gazebo. However it turns out that all I’d sent was a bag of poles. Woops! I’d better check that the replacement I’m lining up is actually a gazebo and not another bag of poles. Still, if nothing else, I’ve got rid of a bag of poles…

And I’ll end (for today) with a rant. I suppose I should mention the budget, if only to crow that according to the BBC’s I’m-all-right-jack-ometer, despite the nation’s having had the most severe cutbacks nationally in living memory, after the budget is implemented, I shall be an estimated two hundred quid a year better off. I’m not sure how the BBC can justify their prediction of my finances, since all they asked was how much do I earn, and do I have a company car.

If I am truly going to be better off on the basis of these questions, then presumably the government are lowering income tax? But that’s not what the news says. The news also says I am having my wages frozen for the next two years which, bearing in mind inflation is always happening, means I am effectively getting a pay cut.

The BBC’s website is clearly talking pro-government drivel. Presumably the BBC are sucking up to the Prime Minister to ensure their licence fee bung isn’t cut along with everyone else’s budgets?

And it’s not just the Beeb who are sucking up. Perhaps the most telling point of all is the rise on V.A.T. The bunch of spineless sycophants for whom I voted only two months ago were against these V.A.T. increases, weren’t they? Perhaps they might remember their election promises – some of them have - but I wonder if they will actually do anything about these promises. On the one hand this is a problem of a coalition government in that compromises have to be made. On the other is this the true face of the Dithering Democraps who will say black is white to stay in power? I hope not….

23 June 2010 (Wednesday) - A Bit Fishy

I have calculated that if everyone at work is going to be able to use up all of their annual leave, then we need to have at least two people on holiday every single working day. (Actually 2.5 people). Seeing how we only had one bod on leave today, I managed to persuade management that it would be in everyone’s best interest if I took the afternoon off to go fishing.

Last week I mentioned about the pond to which a group of us have secured the fishing rights. Following on from my trial run of last Tuesday, I went back this afternoon for another go. The holdall and bag I bought on Monday worked fine, and I had a pleasant few hours fishing. As I set up I could see two huge carp patrolling the water in front of me, and so I baited up with a maggot and gently plopped the maggot in front of one of the carp. The carp took it, and I had quite a battle before the fish finally got away. Two other large (ish) fish also got away during the course of the afternoon, but I caught two fish which were large enough to need the net to land them. And again I lost count of how many fish I caught – probably getting on for fifty, I expect.

My new stool was a tad uncomfortable after a while, but since my rollerblading accident, sitting still for any length of time hurts anyway. I gave up shortly after 5pm – my posterior was rather painful. There are lessons learned for next time. I need a shaper penknife – my current one is a tad blunt. And I need to do something with my reels. They’ve had it. I can either dismantle them and give them a good overhaul. Or I can save time by just buying new ones now, because I doubt anything would survive my giving it a good overhaul.

And I need something to weigh my larger fish. Now that is going to be a problem. When I was a lad there were four standard angling spring balances that weighed up to 4lb, 7lb, 14 lb and 28lb. Because in those days fish were smaller. They really were. Back in the day, a carp weighing six pounds was something to write home about. Nowadays anything less than ten pounds is considered a tiddler (by most – not me!!) and consequently fishing scales have changed accordingly. Leaving aside the fact that they seem to have gone metric, they all seem to be geared up for weighing fish which would be as big as I am. No one seems to cater to the tiddler-basher any more. My largest fish ever (see blog entry for April 11) weighed less than ten pounds, and in all my life I’ve only ever caught five fish which weighed over four pounds (three of those under my son’s supervision!). What I would consider to be a large fish, everyone else would chuck back with contempt. I can’t find a 4lb spring balance anywhere.

And we need a clearing-up gang to give the pond a once-over. I understand there are plans afoot to do this soon. If any of my loyal readers fancy getting jiggy with an axe or a chain saw either on dry land, or from a boat, do let me know.

This evening I came home to find a minor disaster with my own pond. One of the medium sized Koi had jumped out of the pond, and when we found it, it was dead as a dead thing. I’ve seen them jumping in the past – they jump to catch flies. One of my colleagues keeps Koi and she tells me she finds fish on her lawn which have jumped out of her pond on a daily basis. Fortunately her father is at home and is always running to the garden to put the fish back into the water. We don’t have someone on constant pond-sitting duty.

It’s been suggested we put a net over the pond as a precaution. My concern is that if it’s a light net, then the fish jump with such force that they would tangle themselves in the netting. And if it’s a thicker mesh they would hurt themselves when they crash into it. I so hope this is a one-off problem…

22 June 2010 (Tuesday) - The Cows Roundabout

I was up and in the back garden at 3.15am this morning, as today was the best time to see Comet McNaught. Or, that is, today would have been the best time to see the comet if it wasn’t cloudy in exactly that part of the sky where the comet was supposed to be.

A late start at work, so I didn’t get up overly early. When I did emerge from my pit, I finally got round to launching the website I’ve been playing with. There are those who feel I shouldn’t be doing this in my own time, and I would agree. However, if I am to retain my State Registration I must undertake all sorts of professional and training activities, and legally my employer is under no obligation to support me (or any of its staff) in this. So, seeing as I seem to like mucking about on the Internet, I’ve chosen to do something I enjoy as my continuing professional development. I just hope that when I get assessed, the inspectors like what I’ve done.

And then to work via the Cows Roundabout. The Cows Roundabout is a famous local landmark, being a roundabout with cows on it. Or metal cow silhouettes, to be precise. Or that is, there were metal cow silhouettes yesterday. They’ve now gone. Oh well – let’s see if the Facebook campaign will get them back. And let’s hope it gets back the landscaping that went with the roundabout – the whole thing has been bulldozed.

During my tidying up at the weekend I found a tent belonging to someone who once camped with us at Teston many years ago. I know full well who this tent belongs to, but this morning said person denied categorically that this is his tent. Now it’s a small tent, but perfectly serviceable, so would be a shame to throw away. However it’s taking up space that frankly I don’t have. The same could be said about two more tents I have in the lock-up.

If anyone wants a tent, or a gazebo, or any gazebo panels please let me know. This evening I managed to unload two gazebos and some spare tent parts. But I still have a lot of unclaimed tat in the lock-ups. I shan’t be going to the tip immediately: I shan’t be going to the tip until I’ve taken the top box off of my car in September. But I am accumulating a load of stuff which is destined for the tip unless anyone wants it…

21 June 2010 (Monday) - A New Friend

I think I might have lifted something awkwardly yesterday whilst tidying up – I’ve had a pain in my side for most of the day. I hope it’s not serious: I’ve heard of people cracking ribs whilst sneezing.
A late start meant I wasn’t up at the crack of dawn, so a leisurely breakfast and then I wasted an hour or so in NeverWinter before going to the fishing tackle shop. Last Tuesday I mentioned that I needed a holdall for my fishing rods, and a seat as well. I got the seat on Saturday, and today I got my holdall. Ashford tackle have a second hand department in which you can pick up quality fishing gear at a fraction of the price you would pay for new stuff. As well as a holdall, I also got a large bag for lugging assorted stuff around in. I’m rather pleased with my new kit. Admittedly they are both caked in mud and have one or two dubious stains which I suspect are sheep poo, but as the man in the shop said, if I’d bought brand new stuff, I would only get mud and sheep poo over those anyway. So by getting the second hand kit I’ve saved time as well as money.
To work, where after a meeting I managed to slip out for a few minutes to the post-natal ward to meet a new friend. Michael was born yesterday, and weighing in at 7lb 12oz he’s a cute lad. I do like the sounds that a newborn baby makes – they are so quiet compared to what is to come. And I understand he’s already giving his parents grief. They do that.
I came home to find a new addition to my pond. A late Fathers’ Day pressie was swimming around. Or I was assured that a little starlet was swimming around. I couldn’t see him. Perhaps I’d better muck out that filter again...

20 June 2010 (Sunday) - Tidying Up, Washing Lines...

“My Boy TMand his posse came home from their international excursions late last night. Despite getting more lost than is humanly possible around Paris, they all seem to have had a good time, with plenty of photos of huge fish. Despite their feeling that the locals were perhaps the rudest people on the planet, there is talk of a return trip next year – I might just tag along too.

There are those who might think that because it’s Father’s Day I would get brekkie in bed. I knew I hadn’t a chance, but I lived in hope. Unfortunately I was disappointed (again). So I got up and did the washing. Following on from yesterday’s shopping trip for camping stuff I was still fired with enthusiasm for future weekends away, so I spent an hour going through the camping gear. Or more specifically, I emptied the two lock-up boxes in which we keep the camping gear (among other stuff) with a view to sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

Over the years we seem to have accumulated so much disused junk in them that they are full to overflowing, and they needed a serious mucking out. I had this plan to end up with one box containing things we always need on every camping trip (tents, chairs, tables, etc), and the other box containing stuff we sometimes use; such as inflatable boats, the buggy, etc., and we would then get rid of the tat which we don’t use that was cluttering the boxes.

I couldn’t believe how much tat we’d acquired over the years. I found four Vauxhall hub caps. How long is it since we’ve had a Vauxhall car? I found a car radio which has been missing for five years. I found the tent I used when I was in the Boys Brigade in the late 1970s. I found fragments of two tents which had both suffered damage at Teston in 2003, and were awaiting repairs. I found all manner of spare parts for our party tent which I can remember being delivered before a poker game some five years ago. And the gazebo collection – I found four complete poled gazebos which we don’t use, and probably never will. If any of my loyal readers feel they’ve lost a gazebo, I’ve probably got it. And the carrier bags: over the years ‘er indoors TM has been storing carrier bags in the lock-ups with a view to eventual recycling. We had millions of the things.

Pausing only briefly to bodge the washing line destroyed by “My Boy TM, we went on a quick shopping spree. To Tesco for printer ink and to recycle the carrier bags, and then to B&Q to get a replacement washing line. Whilst browsing in B&Q I was amazed to find they were selling the same tent as I’d bought yesterday. And they were selling it for forty quid more than I’d paid, and they weren’t selling it with the really thick groundsheet, carpet and door mat either. I think I had a bargain yesterday!

Needless to say we came home we found “My Boy TM had gone out, and so I ended up repairing his wreckage single-handed. Washing lines are tricky things to fix. If only I’d not been quite so generous with the line on the damaged part I would have had enough to have replaced both washing lines. As it was, I ended up being about a metre short of what I needed to do both. Oh well – the colours of the lines don’t match, but I shall wait until one or the other breaks before replacing them. I can live with washing lines of differing colours.

And then, as you can see, I played around with the blogger software. I quite like the new look. I hope the majority of my loyal readers do too – I’m not sure how to turn it back again…

19 June 2010 (Saturday) - Shopping

I woke at 3am, and decided that after a quick tiddle I’d look for the comet. I had said tiddle, but by that time I’d forgotten all about comets. I knew there was a reason why I needed to be up, and thought that if I pottered about, that reason would come back to me. So I did the washing up, watched two episodes of South Park, and as I realised that at 4am it was getting light outside, I remembered the comet. Maybe next time…

The plan for today was originally bow snarrows at a farm, but the weather forecast was against it. Rain puts some people off, but the forecast strong winds would make for a dangerous game. HAZARD!!! In the event the wind was gusty – sometimes still, occasionally blowing a Hooley. And it did rain on and off all day. The forecast was right for once.

Last night I had to park three streets away due to the inconsiderate parking of my neighbour. She deliberately parks against the traffic and leaves three quarters of a car space in front of her because she doesn’t use reverse gear when parking or pulling away. She drives into a spot (crossing the flow of traffic to do so), and leaves enough room in front so she can drive out later (again crossing the flow of traffic). This morning I saw she’d driven off, so I ran up and round the roads to find my car, and I and put my car in part of the space she’d left. Not out of a sense of pettiness, but as a demonstration of how one should park. I doubt it was seen in that spirit though. When she came home this evening I found that she’d just parked three quarters of a car length from the front of my car.

Despite the weather we had a productive day. We visited Kengate – a local costume hire shop. We’ve been invited to a Tudor-themed party in a few weeks’ time, so we needed something Tudor to wear. Kengate had laods to choose from, and I eventually got something to fit. I say “fit” – it doesn’t do up at the back, but I have a jerkin (!) to go over the top so it won’t notice. The changing rooms at this place are quite entertaining – they don’t keep things as secret as they might. I was quite taken with the racy underwear of the young lady trying on various costumes in the changing room next to mine.

And then we popped into the tip. We had loads of cardboard to lose, as well as the fragments of the gazebo that didn’t survive last week’s camping trip. I lost count of the people that stopped me on the ten yard walk from the car to the skip to ask if the tripod I was throwing away was in working order. All of them seemed personally insulted when I explained it wasn’t a functional tripod, it was a broken gazebo.

Collecting the Bat, we then set off to John’s Cross to the camping shop. Full of reflections on last weekend’s camping trip we decided to get one or two little things to make this year’s upcoming camping trips that little bit more comfortable. Our next camping trip will be to Brighton, where there are no picnic tables in the vicinity that we can use. So I got a table with adjustable height. There are those who feel it would be ideally used as a food preparation area. They are sadly mistaken – it is a washing-up area. But I dare say it can be used for making the scoff on. We also picked up a camp (ducky!) stove as the one we borrowed last week was useful, and bearing in mind how sore my rear got when I last went fishing, I picked up a fishing stool too.

By now time was getting on, and we were a tad peckish, so en route to our next destination we thought we’d take pot luck with the first pub we found. The Oak and Ivy in Hawkhurst was a good choice. Or, if I might qualify that somewhat: The Oak and Ivy in Hawkhurst would have been a good choice if not for their being messed around by a wedding party. They had a wedding party booked for 3.30pm, but were struggling to keep up with orders from people invited to said wedding who thought they’d have a meal in the pub before the wedding. The pub had been assured no one would arrive until 3.30pm. They were lied to. Consequently our dinner probably took a little longer to arrive than it might normally have. However with four ales and a cider on the pump, and only one of those ales being remotely common, I’m happy to give the place the benefit of the doubt and try again another time.

And then back to Camping International in Gillingham. Having been there last Monday, I was rather taken with one of the tents I saw then. Today there was a bargain in which I got the tent, a really thick groundsheet, a carpet and a door mat all at a super-bargain price. And then they offered 10% off of the super-bargain price, so I felt I had to take them up on the offer. Bearing in mind I was feeling rich because of the leccie rebate I’d had earlier in the week I felt justified in not only getting the new tent, but also in treating myself to a new sleeping bag as well. My current one is tight, is over ten years old, and has never been the same since “Daddies Little Angel TM set light to the end of the thing. I got a camping pillow too – I thought I deserved one. Whilst we were at it, I got some “communal” stuff too - a bigger kettle, some really long pegs for “Brown and Smelly”, and a rubber mallet. As an experiment the Bat has acquired a camping bench. If it proves useful, then we shall pop back and buy more. If it doesn’t, then that will be sixteen quid down the pan.

Something that always proves problematical at camp is lugging water around. Some of us break our backs supplying the camp with water, some of us just can’t begin to lift the water containers, and some feel it’s all too much like hard work and leave it to me. So I wondered if a sack barrow to lug the water containers around might be a good idea. However having by now spent over fifty quid more than the leccie rebate was worth, it was time to economise. We found a sack barrow in a barn at the farm that might just do the job. Now we need a willing volunteer to test the thing out…

18 June 2010 (Friday) - Stuff

So much for my lie-in this morning as “Daddies Little Angel TM ” was in full shriek-mode. Apparently yesterday whilst in London she saw Derek Acorah who then got onto a bus with Rufus Hound.

Regular readers will be forgiven for wondering who these people are. I had no idea either. Until I looked them up, and I am still none the wiser.

Something momentous happened three days ago, and we all missed it. On Tuesday evening whilst I was sitting with some good friends watching “Heroes”, a spacecraft (Soyuz TMA-19) was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This was the one hundredth mission to the International Space Station. One hundred missions over the last twelve years, and it went pretty much unnoticed by the world.

How short sighted. I remember as a lad seeing rivers polluted to death in the 1970s, and anyone who thought this was a bad thing was openly laughed at and ridiculed. It took forty years for green politics and common sense to become accepted. Humanity’s moving into space is such a logical and sensible more on so many levels; and no one cares. How long will it be before the necessity of space exploration becomes self-evident?

And there is something new in the heavens too – a comet visible to the naked eye. If you get up very early and look towards the north-east, you might just see Comet McNaught. In my time I’ve seen two comets. Tomorrow morning I hope to report that I’ve seen a third.

I see from my blog that a year ago today I was visiting HMP Slade. I’m not the only one who is glad that is all over, but I must admit a wry smile at today’s news. Over the last eighteen moinths I hatched many escape plans, none of which came to fruition. Today I see that staff at HMP Parkhurst have foiled an escape plan in which a convict was planning to escape from the chokey in a helicopter.

Why didn’t I think of that?

17 June 2010 (Thursday) - Correspondence

I awoke still not feeling 100%, and being on a late start I had some time to kill. So I set about my correspondence. I have a letter rack into which I put letters (obviously!), and I tend to leave them there until no more will fit, which is when I have a look-see what I’ve got. And so this morning I thought I’d better see what was in there. A dozen letters. British Telecom invited me to take up their offer of a better broadband. That letter went in the bin, as did the old trot from WyeVale’s gardening club

The next letter was from EDF telling me that I was no longer receiving their dual fuel discount because I don’t get gas and leccie from them. I was annoyed about this – I’d spoken with EDF about this on 29 April (keeping a blog is useful!!) and they’d assured then me that they had corrected their mistake. Today they told me they had no record of our conversation of six weeks ago, and the nice lady wasted ten minutes reading out her script before ticking her box and putting things back as they were before they’d stuffed it up. Something else they’d stuffed up was my payments for the last year. They’d also sent a letter telling me they’d refunded me loads of money. Fifty quid more than the price of the tent I’m seriously considering. I predict a trip to Camping International over the next few days.

Two more letters from the people who’d given me my car loan reminding me that they still lend money if I still want to borrow the stuff. A letter from the fishing club reminding me to pay my sub. I’ve already paid that, so why did I keep the letter? And talking of clubs, there was a letter from Brighton Kite Fliers reminding me to pay my dues. I thought I’d paid that ages ago. I hadn’t. Woops!

My mobile phone people billed me for two quid for more stuff I’d texted to Twitter. I’ve stopped that lark. Then yet another letter about the snake club’s account. And finally there was a great big letter from the Aspinall foundation offering me a free day out at one of the local zoos. I was quite pleased about this, until I saw that the free day out was two weeks ago. I really should deal with my post more promptly.

Being in a “letters” frame of mind I wrote a letter of complaint to the council:

Mr Mankworthy Z Badger BA Csi FIBMS

Badger Road



Kent Highway Services
Kent County Council
Invicta House
County Hall
Kent ME14 1XX

Dear Sir or Madam

Re: On-Street Parking In Badger Road (Ashford)

I wonder if I might make a suggestion…

Outside my house on Badger Road is a marked parking bay. Ideally some seven cars can park there with ease. However it is rare to see seven cars parked, due to the idiosyncratic parking habits of the locals.

With people continually parking against the flow of the traffic, and feeling the need to park exactly outside their house and leaving half a car’s length either side of their own car, (rather than considerately), and some vehicles seeming to be randomly abandoned rather than parked, there is a lot of valuable parking space wasted.

Let me give a specific example: For the last fortnight it has only been possible to park five cars in this parking space. Here is a photo of my house – the two cars pictured have not moved in over two weeks, and the space between is too small to park in.

The driver of the blue car has deliberately parked where she has because she always parks against the flow of the traffic, and so feels she needs a large space in which to perform a U-turn when she drives off.

There are other parking bays in Badger Road with similar problems. I would submit that these problems arise because only the outline of the parking bay is marked. If one of your operatives could be dispatched to mark seven individual parking spaces within this parking bay then I feel that people would park in a more reasonable fashion.

Yours faithfully

I wonder what response that will provoke? None, I suspect. But time will tell – it usually does.

The latest update has arrived from “My Boy TM”, who is on a fishing trip in southern France. In five days he’s reported back on four fish. I would remind my loyal readers of a blog entry of two days ago in which I caught over thirty fish in less than three hours. Mind you, these four fish are all carp, and three of them are over the British record weight that was current when I was his age…