30 July 2010 (Friday) - A Quiz Night

I had a parcel to collect from the post office, so I set off early. For no adequately explored reason the posties have closed their car park to the public, so I had to park underneath the Stour Centre. It’s a public car park where the parking is charged at a penny a minute. Fair enough at first sight, until you realise there’s a minimum fee of one hour’s parking. I object to paying that when I was parked for a total of five minutes. And then in the post office… oh dear. For security they need to see I.D. For example a credit card. So I brandished my credit card. The chap behind the counter went to take it. I moved back, and told him he could look at it from a distance. I wasn’t letting him see any of the details. He seemed quite happy. Next time I’ll show him a train ticket for all the notice he took of my credit card.

Work was same as ever, and then home to check my emails. I had an email from the Prime Minister and his puppet. A few weeks ago they emailed me asking for me to grass up my managers and point out some public money that is being wasted, so I squealed. They were grateful for my blabbing; and said that in total sixty three thousand people had squealed on the system. I wonder if my suggestions will be taken up. I won’t expose the shortcomings of the public sector here just yet, but should any major savings be made, I shall publicly take the credit in a future blog entry.

And then to Woodchurch. I’d been dreading this month’s astro club for a couple of weeks; ever since I saw that the scheduled activity had been cancelled in favour of a quiz. Some fifteen years ago I got involved with a local snake club and it had a lot of parallels with the astro club. As well as me getting far too involved in something about which I didn’t really know that much, we met monthly for talks from expert speakers, we did “reptile roadshows” for the public, we spoke at local schools. It was really good. But in retrospect the rot set in when we had the first quiz night. The committee of that club enjoyed the quiz, and within a few months every meeting was quiz night. Those who wanted a snake club stopped coming, and the thing folded within a year of the first quiz. I *really* don’t want the astro club to go the same way.

Were my suspicions correct? Well… I had heard grumblings during the week from club members of my acquaintance who weren’t overly keen on the idea of a quiz. And it’s no secret that attendance was noticeably down this evening. Having said that, there were still over three times as many people who ever came to a meeting when we were in Stanhope, and it is holiday season too.

The evening started well, with a talk from Jason about what’s current in the world of astronomy, and then a few words from Steve on the need to help redecorate the hall. I then gave a small presentation on the fun I’d recently had with the club’s solar scope, and then after the raffle we had the quiz. It was a shame that S.E.K.A.S. who had challenged our club to a quiz didn’t have a big enough turn-out to field a team of their own. But we supplied them with a couple of our members to make up their numbers. And then our team stepped up to the mark. I’d volunteered for the team thinking that it would be churlish of me not to, but I never expected to be selected. In the event we were rather short of volunteers for the team, and I was on it. I suspect I enjoyed the evening far more being on the team than I would have if I was a spectator. The audience did look rather glazed at times. And the quiz was (in places) a tad on the specialised side.

Round One consisted of photos of various galaxies, nebulae and the like, and we had to identify the Messier and/or NGC number (WTF?). Round Two featured the birthplaces and birth dates of an assortment of famous astronomers, and we had to identify them. Round Three was pictures of telescopes from around the world – what were they called? Round Four was another load of photos of various galaxies, nebulae and the like and we had to identify in which constellation they were to be found. We hadn’t really scored well up to now, and neither had the opposition. And no one in the audience had got an answer right when neither team had a clue and the question was thrown open. I was a tad bored by this stage – and the audience were catatonic. Round Five was astro-trivia, and we began to come into our own here. Round Six was the sci-fi round, and the audience began to perk up a bit. And I think it’s fair to say we handed the opposition their arse in this round. And by the time the last round (astro-music) arrived, our lead was pretty much unassailable. (Fancy not knowing the difference between the theme tunes to Captain Scarlet and Joe 90!).

Had the event been a success? Well, in the first instance I must applaud the efforts of the chap from S.E.K.A.S. who had organised the event; he’d clearly put in a lot of hard work. And from a purely personal (and selfish) point of view I enjoyed myself immensely. But was it a success? – I’m afraid I’d have to say no.

I was very conscious that I was actually taking part in the event: a lot of people were merely spectators. When we won with a clear lead – forty five points against their thirty three, we as a team did my patented victory dance to celebrate. Perhaps a bit silly, but during the quiz I’d tried to throw in little snippets to amuse the audience. After all, the success of quizzes on the telly isn’t that they are quizzes, but that they are entertaining to the spectator. Had the entire club been involved in the quiz, perhaps divided into several competing teams then perhaps it might have gone better. In retrospect I think most of the audience very soon became bored with the event; it was noticeable that quite a few people had quietly slipped out during the evening. I would suggest that future quizzes involve everyone either individually or in teams, and that the questions be a little easier.

Actually I’d go further than that; I’d suggest that future quizzes (as well as being all-inclusive) be but only a small part of the once a year annual social evening. We’ve a winning formula of an evening with a news update, one or two minor talks, a main lecture, refreshments and raffle, then star-gazing. It works. Certainly we shouldn’t hesitate to try something new, but sometimes things won’t quite work. I don’t think quizzes are our “thing”. Sorry….

29 July 2010 (Thursday) - Dull

Again I was up with the lark, and did an hour and a half’s ironing before brekkie. Shirts this time: you have to iron those properly. And then to the back garden to feed the fish and then to squirt some more ant powder. I saw the pond has lost six inches of water where the filter was leaking yesterday: I’ll top that up at the weekend.

To work, which was dull, and then home, a quick bit of tea, and spent a few minutes adding obscure music videos to my Facebook page. Then I hid in NeverWinter whilst ‘er indoors TM flogged candles to a gaggle of her mates in the living room. There was a rumour of the Anne Summers rep putting in an appearance, but I wasn’t brave enough to go sniffing.

And that was it for today. Rather dull. I shall console myself with the reflection that a lot of the normal people lead entire lives which are this dreary….

28 July 2010 (Wednesday) - Broken Pots

Up with the lark, and an hour and a half’s ironing before brekkie. Not that I wanted to, but if a job’s worth doing, do it yourself (!) And then to B&Q for ant powder. Interestingly B&Q are now selling off all their tents as “clearance”. It seems a bit early in the year to be getting rid of the camping gear. I expect they want the shelf space for Xmas decorations.

Work was dull, and then home to apply the ant powder, and to muck out the fish pond filter, A week or so ago I replaced the entire innards of the fish pond filter. The new funky shaped plastic wotsits have started to shred the filter pads. They will (hopefully) last for a month or so, but I’ll need to get a different set of entire innards for the fish pond filter before too much longer.

And then to arky-ologee club, where Mossop (our resident Riddler) had brought along a Tiddler. We started off by looking at a bank of earth on the side of a footpath, and then were asked our expert opinion on said bit of soil: was it medieval? I neither knew nor cared. We then walked across a ploughed field and looked for artefacts of interest. I found an interesting object – a red pot rim; possibly Samian (Roman) from the second or third century. Or possibly a broken flower pot from a few years ago. No one could tell the difference. And to be honest, is there a difference? A broken pot is a broken pot, no matter how old.

And then back to the fit bird’s house to have a look at her chapel. Built some time in the past few hundred years and having been re-built several times, she’s keen to find out more of the history of the thing. By this stage I was just keen to get home again…

27 July 2010 (Tuesday) - Stuff

I was rather amazed by the news this morning. According to the Internet (so it must be true) four out of every ten people who voted for the Dribbling Democraps at the last election wouldn’t have done so, had they known that the Dribs were going to roll over and suck up to the Con-servatives. What amazes me is that clearly by implication six out of ten such voters are happy with this sad state of affairs. All of which proves that (as always) I am in the minority. I should be used to it by now. And I should stop whinging about the coalition government, even if it would seem I was tricked into voting for it (going to lie down now…)

On a lighter note, the villagers of one Dribbling Democrap constituency have clubbed together to buy a new sign for their village. Made of stone and weighing a ton and a half, it is thought unlikely that the villagers of Shitterton will have this village sign stolen by the simple minded idiots who think the name amusing and have made off with countless village signs in the past. I wonder if I could get that stone in the back of my Scenic?

Off to work – dull, so dull. And seeing I was owed some time for going in during the night last week, I came home early. Via the fishing tackle shop. Last week whilst getting some bait I saw a nice rod (at a rather reasonable price) in their second hand section. Today I went back for it. I really needed to replace my reels too, but can’t find any second hand ones. The cheapest in the shop were twenty quid. I wondered if eBay had anything, and after five minutes I ordered up the same thing I saw in the shop for twelve quid cheaper on-line (including postage!)

And whilst wandering to the fish pond this evening I saw several ants swarming around a paving stone. When I lifted the thing I saw we’ve got an ant nest under the stone. I see a trip to B&Q for ant powder in the morning....

26 July 2010 (Monday) - Cheap Beer

Before work I charged up my phone. Once a daily event, now the bluetoooth is turned off I’m charging it maybe twice a week. Far better. And then I got a text message on the thing – Lidl’s were doing cheap beer again. The last time they did cheap beer I left it too late and they sold out. So I didn’t muck about and went straight there. They were knocking out Bishop’s Finger and Spitfire at a pound a bottle, which is rather cheap. There wasn’t a lot left when I arrived, but I took three cases for the upcoming weekend at Teston. Thirty six bottles over four days works out an nine bottles a day. That ought to do. I’ve also got some amoretto just in case. I’m laying off the port – I think I may be developing gout. Or it might just be the arthritis spreading.
And then to work. Which was dull. You know, I really don’t like Mondays. Regular readers of this drivel will know I make a point of not wasting weekends, and so the start of the dull weekly routine comes really hard…

25 July 2010 (Sunday) - The Create Festival

I was hoping for a lie-in today, but next door’s children were screaming from 6am onwards. I *think* it was screams of joy and excitement, but screams nevertheless. Between their dogs and children, and the piano on the other side, it can get a tad noisy in my world from time to time. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing; I feel no guilt about whenever I might be a bit noisy myself.

This morning I received several hundred emails, all but one of which went into the spam filter never to be seen again. Surely some law-maker somewhere should be looking at the inordinate amount of spam that is sent through email, and punishing the spammers? The only email to safely negotiate its way to my inbox was one inviting me to my own wife’s birthday party to be held in my own back garden. That was nice.

I then reviewed the invites that I have sent out for said party. Having sent out over fifty invites, I don’t think I’ve had more than a dozen replies, and most of those are from people who can’t make it. So I spent a few minutes sending reminders. Or that is, I thought it would take me a few minutes. Email is a good way to communicate, but people change their email addresses so fast that I can’t keep up. Facebook messaging works, provided Facebook itself works. This morning it wasn’t. I had no end of messages about the server not responding. After an hour’s wrestling with the thing I think I finally managed to message everyone, including a few people who aren’t on Facebook. If any of my loyal readers haven’t received an invite, please accept my apologies, and know that you’re very welcome anyway.

We then went to the “Create Festival” – an afternoon of music in the local park. I say “music” because that was how the council billed it. Perhaps if they had the bands on one after the other it might have been musical. Having them all on simultaneously just made for a noise. Within five minutes I had a headache. Perhaps that put me off the event, but in retrospect it was a rubbish event. It was a shame that the beer tent had no ale, and it was rather sad that the girl operating the ice cream stall didn’t actually know how to operate the ice cream machine. I found it insulting to be searched on the way in to the park. No glass bottles were being allowed. Drunken young thugs were carrying in crates of lager, but a bottle of ale would have been totally forbidden.

For some reason my thoughts kept returning to this weekend’s beer festival in Canterbury where there were live bands. A music festival where thousands of people were walking around with glasses in their hands. And as well as the bands there were things to do, various stalls selling things, and there was no security whatsoever, and (most importantly) no cost to the local ratepayer. I’ve emailed the council with one or two suggestions – I bet they don’t reply. Mind you, they are conducting a survey to find out what locals think about local council services. A shame they’ve not advertised the fact very well.

We came home and I got the lawn mowed, and some of the rubbish shifted from the back yard into black sacks for the dustmen to take away in the week. Interestingly, on seeing me pootling around the garden, the neighbours told their barking dogs to be quiet. As I type this blog entry the neighbours are still in their garden but they can’t see me, and the dogs are screaming. If they tried to get their dogs to shut up all the time, rather than when they think I am around, then the animals might get the idea to be quiet.

And then after a bit of dinner I wandered into NeverWinter for a couple of hours to see what was going on in there. Or that was my intention. I dozed for most of the evening. I dislike spending so many of my so-called “waking hours” asleep. Perhaps if my neighbours were to shut the !#?! up occasionally….

24 July 2010 (Saturday) - A Lazy Day

Bearing in mind the amount of ale I shifted yesterday, it’s probably rather amazing that I was up and about before 7am, and feeling rather chipper with it. I checked my emails and the news over toast & coffee, and found that nothing much has happened in the world whilst I was off-duty yesterday.

Mind you, it seems there’s a new explanation for the Fermi paradox. I’ve mentioned the Fermi paradox before: basically common sense and reason tell us that humanity can’t possibly be alone in the universe. But if we aren’t alone, why haven’t we found any evidence of aliens yet? Scientists at the University of California have pointed out that for fifty years people looking for alien signals have been looking for the wrong thing. Blanket broadcasting to the entire universe is expensive; surely any aliens who are communication with each other will be directing their messages directly at each other. And since they would be using very directed messages, we would be unlikely to be in the firing line of such a message by chance. Which makes an awful lot of sense *provided* aliens know where other aliens are in the first place.

Yesterday I mocked the almighty who apparently smites sinners with frogs. I hate to think what Ralth Mothes and Paloma Werner have done to upset Big G, as according to the news he has smited them with a whale. Personally I’d sit up and take notice if I’d been smited off of a whale.

The phone rang. Would I like cheaper electricity? Dur – yes please! The nice lady asked if she could quote me for cheaper leccie. And then it became so transparently a con. I told her I wasn’t interested in answering her little survey because all she would do would be to ask me how much I was currently paying for leccie, then quote me a fiver a month less, and then once I’d signed up, her company would whack up the costs. I suggested she told me how much her company’s energy units cost, and I could decide for myself if they were cheaper. She flatly refused to give me a price, and told me that I was the one who was being unreasonable. I suggested she stopped phoning people until she could give an honest answer to a straight question. And then she hung up. I thought that was a result.

And then…. Originally the plan for today was Dover Kite Festival, but that got cancelled months ago. Then we were going to go camping at Sumners Ponds for the weekend, but I couldn’t commit to that because I wasn’t able to swap my Saturday morning shift until two days ago. There were plans to go to the Star’s charity day, but to be honest I had an elegant sufficiency of ale yesterday. In the end, together with the Rear Admiral, I spent the afternoon tiddler bashing. Some more tiddler than others, and there was the obligatory one that got away. Got away from the Rear Admiral, not from me, I hasten to add. But on the plus side, he can now touch the maggots, bait the hook and unhook the fish.

I think it’s fair to say I’ve done more fishing in the last month or so than I have for years….

23 July 2010 (Friday) - Canterbury Beer Festival

There was a problem at work last night so I went in for an hour or so to get the thing going. I don’t mind going in to help people out – I did night shifts for twenty years, and they can be horrible: stuck on your own, everything going wrong and no one to help you. I was home an hour or so later, but couldn’t get off to sleep, and when I did I was woken shortly afterwards by the delicate sounds of the first fruit of my loin quietly going about his daily round. I expect my loyal readers in Arkansas and the Philippines heard him too; he was that quiet.
Having had a plate of peanut butter on toast, we set off to to the Gorge for second brekkie - this time for a full English brekkie. Whislst there we met up with more of the day’s protagonists, bringing our number to seven. With second brekkie scoffed we set off to the station and the 10.22 to Canterbury. The journey to Canterbury was relatively uneventful, but as most readers will realise, in my world anything less than full scale carnage can probably be classified as “relatively uneventful”. Once in Canterbury, third brekkie was a lamb pastie from the pastie shop, and then we confused the nice man who was selling river tours. He was probably used to polite refusals, but I really threw him by telling him that we were planning a day on the p*ss, and he was welcome to join us.
We soon found the rest of our party who had started the queue for the bus, we got out our benches and waited for the bus in comfort. And we waited. And waited. And in the end got to the festival in three taxis. It transpired there had been an accident, and the bus chartered to run people to and fro was stuck in traffic. But eventually we arrived at the festival, got our glasses, got some beer and started the party. Drinking by the half-pint I sampled ten different ales:
  • Old Dairy Blue
  • Faversham Creek
  • Whitstable Ruby Mild
  • Bateman’s Mild
  • Goacher’s Dark Ale
  • Westerham’s “Special”
  • Old Dairy Gold
  • Nelson’s Master Mild
  • Summer Perle
  • Oyster stout (saving the best till last!)
We also had the obligatory flavoured olives, but having overdosed on breakfast I didn’t feel up to the curry. Instead we stuck cocktail sticks into our heads (because we could). In the past we’ve left the festival at about 3pm to be sure of a seat on the bus back to Canterbury. This time we stayed drinking till well after 4pm, and still had no problems getting on the other bus.
To the Hobgoblin where we enjoyed a pint of Everard’s Tiger – a cheap pint due to the wonders of student discounts and after a quick round of the French dice game, five of us went to church. And not just any old church – the Cathedral. A friend was chorister-ing at evensong, and so we went to watch. It was suggested that I might want to take the cocktail sticks out of my head, but I didn’t want to. They hurt enough going in, they might as well stay put. I got one or two looks from the congregants, but since when have the opinions of the normal people ever bothered me? As we walked into the nave (I know all the words!) I mentioned in a not excessively loud voice that I wanted to sit at the back or everyone would stare at me. A couple of normal people quickly turned away; their faces red with embarrassment. A vicar-type told me off for taking photos, but I got away with it by smiling sweetly.
As evensong progressed I read the psalm book, and noted (with pious wonder) that God smites his enemies with frogs. Personally I thought that the Almighty would command more respect if he were to smite with something a bit more fierce; sharks or tigers for example. I wasn’t overly impressed with being smote off of a frog. But I expect that Big G knows what he’s doing. Another psalm said that the iniquitous get smote on the hinders, so with the threat of a frog up the chuff I sat quietly with the most recent fruit of my loin, and neither of us giggled (much!)
Evensong was over in forty minutes; I was actually disappointed when it finished so soon – musically it really was one of the best shows I‘ve been to in a long time. Meeting up with our musical mate we set off to the Dolphin to find the ungodly members of our party who’d skipped church. I was grateful for t he cocktail sticks in my head at this point – when the sinners got smoted off of frogs, I would have a ready made anti-frog defence. A pint of Seasider (from Gadds of Ramsgate) went down well in the beer garden, and then it was time to think about going home. Only think about it mind. We stopped off at the Wetherspoons for a jug of Purple Rain for the girlie-types and a pint of longstrider, and then at the Bishop’s Finger for a pint of Bishop’s Finger.
A minor hiccup at the railway station. With more police than sense, the place was heaving with the Old Bill, and I couldn’t find my train ticket. I had a couple of coppers holding the varied and assorted tat from my pockets whilst I rummaged about, eventually finding my ticket in the pocket where I’d put it for safe keeping. And so home, for a fried egg sarnie and an early night. For some reason I was rather tired….

22 July 2010 (Thursday) - An Old Mate

In March 1993 I answered an advert in a sci-fi magazine from a chap who was looking for like-minded mates in his area with whom he could form a sci-fi fan club. It turned out this chap’s area was Margate and he thought I was too far away for us to bother forming any club, but he put me in contact with a fellow Ashfordian. And (as they say) the rest is history. Over the intervening seventeen years so much has happened, and I don’t think any of us would have missed it for anything. Friends have come and gone to places all over the world, and most of us keep in touch, or if not in touch, know of someone who keeps in touch.

This morning I had a Facebook request from one of the old gang. He’s been in Guernsey for some time, and I last saw him a couple of years ago. I was so pleased to hear from Robin Huss!

And having done the monthly accounts and found I’m far more skint than I ever imagined, I set off to work via the shops. Yesterday I forgot some bits and pieces, so I thought I’d give Sainsbury’s a go. The place was awash with doddering O.A.P.s. Well, to be more precise, not so much “doddering” as “blundering”; not one was looking where it was walking, and they were crashing into shopping trolleys, shelves, each other. Resisting the temptation to slap one particularly ubiquitous old biddy round the lug (everywhere I went, she beat me to it!) I got most of my shopping. In fact all of it except the fish food. In Sainsbury’s “Pet Food” is “Dog and Cat Food”; they don’t cater for birds, fish and various other domesticated beasts. So I went to the pet shop in Bybrook Barn. This is somewhere that amazes me – the first time I ever went to this place I met one of the worst shop assistants I have ever met. Full of her own importance, arrogant, patronising, and still not actually knowing very much about her chosen subject. I can’t believe that after all these years she’s still there. And just as useless as ever.

If only there was somewhere else within an hour’s drive where I could get my piscine products….

21 July 2010 (Wednesday) - Mozzie Bites

I didn’t sleep well last night – and spent most of the day in some discomfort. I’d been rather savaged by mosquitoes yesterday evening, and the bites were itching somewhat all day long. I’ve never noticed mozzies in the back garden before. At first I wondered if the water features were attracting them, but on reflection mozzies like still water – moving water is no good for them because they drown. I wonder where they all came from? Mosquitoes take up a not insignificant part of the lectures I have given on malaria; droning on about the beasts is one thing, being on the receiving end is quite another. And (a little known fact) did you know that it is only the female mozzies that bite you? I’d rather get fanged off of a dog – at least you can see one of those things coming.

A late shift today, so whilst the washing machine did its thing with my smalls I checked my emails. Regular readers may recall that on Monday I emailed eBay complaining about my being constantly harassed by someone to whom I gave a neutral feedback. eBay told me that my being bombarded with emails didn’t constitute abuse of their email forwarding system, and I so queried this with them. They replied this morning to say that they were looking into the matter, but went on to say “member privacy is one of our top priorities, so we won't be able to update you about the results of this investigation”. So they are clearly not planning to do much. They have, however, given me their postal address so that I could (if I wanted) instruct a solicitor to contact them for more information so that I could pursue my complaint against the eBay seller “fun360” through the civil courts. Interestingly eBay UK is based in Luxembourg. I didn’t know that.

To Tesco’s to pick up some lunch. Whilst at it I got some armpit-squirt, peanut butter, and various other bits of shopping including a pair of trousers for work. The trousers were priced at twenty quid. Imagine my surprise when I came to pay, and the checkout girl asked for £11.32. I kept quiet, handed over what she asked for, and made a quick getaway.

I could do with more bargains like that….

20 July 2010 (Tuesday) - London, Ale, Barby

To London, on the Javelin. Yesterday I checked the train times and prices on the official website. When I got to the station I found that whilst this website had the train time correct, it had underestimated the cost of the ticket by thirty pounds. I mentioned this to the chap behind the counter, who said he was sick of people coming to him having been quoted incorrect information from the official website. Apparently it’s famous for being wrong, so I just smiled, and handed over loads of money. (Mind you, I must admit I’m impressed with the Javelin service. When I first moved to Ashford we were promised a high speed train link. It’s taken nearly twenty years to arrive, but it’s halved the journey time to London.)

Forty minutes later I was in London, and I made my way to the University for a training session. In the past I’ve mentioned how I go to other hospitals to assess their trainee blood-testers. I’ve been asked to perform similar assessments on students at the University, and today was a session for me to get to grips with their systems and ways of working. And, as always, things didn’t go to plan. The University had signs up saying that they were on “Amber Security Alert”, and consequently every single person walking through the door was being vetted by a security guard who obviously had been watching too many Hollywood blockbusters for his own good. Needless to say, this somewhat hindered the access of several hundred students into the building. I honestly can’t imagine anyone wanting to blow up a University, but I suppose in today’s climate, better safe than sorry.

The session I was attending was supposed to be over and finished by 1pm, but we had a fire alarm. The lecturer leading our session said to follow her to our muster point, which was several streets away. Walking there and back (once the all-clear was given) wasted half an hour, and made a mockery of the “Amber Security Alert” when hundreds of students and staff all just walked back in to the building unimpeded in any way. However we didn’t get as far as the lecture theatre: the alarm went again. Everybody out (again)!

With two unscheduled fire alarms, things rather overran. So much so that it probably wasn’t worth my while rushing to get back to work for the afternoon. So I took a leisurely stroll back to St Pancr(e)as station, via a pub I’ve been meaning to visit for years. The Bree Louise is about ten minutes walk from St Pancras International, and the bar staff were very welcoming. And they had the most ales in a pub that I have ever seen – seven ales on hand pump, and ten from the barrel. Seventeen in total, and a dozen ciders and perries too: I’ve been to beer festivals with less selection. I settled for a pint of the ruby mild and a bag of crisps, and read my book in peace and quiet for fifteen minutes before getting the train home.

I got home to find the postman on the doorstep delivering the benches I ordered on eBay on Sunday night. Delivered in less than two days: that’s impressive! And then I got jiggy with the fish pond filter. I’d come to the conclusion that the innards of the thing weren’t up to scratch, so I chucked them all out and replaced them with new stuff. I may well need to flocculate, but that will be in a day or so.

To B&Q for more charcoal, and then the tribes gathered for a birthday barby. A few beers, a few sossies, a few mozzie bites. Must do the barby thing more often…

19 July 2010 (Monday) - Stuff

What with weekends away and late shifts and bad weather stopping getting laundry washed, let alone dried, today was my first ironing session for a couple of weeks. Oh, there was loads to do. And after an hour and a half the novelty had firmly worn off, and so I stopped, with still loads more to do. I’ll do that another time.

This evening I plugged my phone in to charge. Anyone who’s ever spent any time in my company will realise that plugging my phone in is a regular event – I’m always complaining that the thing’s battery rarely lasts as long as a day. But today was the first time I’ve charged it up since Friday; I’ve got three days out of one charging. And the secret of my minor victory? On Friday I turned off the Bluetooth. I can only imagine that Bluetooth must be rather power-intensive. From now on, Bluetooth remains switched off.

On May 30th I mentioned a belt I’d bought from eBay. Naively I thought a belt billed as “size 42 inches” would fit a forty two inch waist. I was wrong. The belt, billed as “size 42 inches”, was actually forty two inches long, and so didn’t come close to what I need. Bearing in mind the overlap one needs when wearing a belt, I should have ordered a forty eight inch belt. However the belt itself was good enough, and I gave it as a gift to “My Boy TMwho seemed to appreciate it, and I consoled myself with leaving a neutral comment on the eBay feedback. I honestly think that the belt was not as described, and so warranted a neutral feedback.

Since then I’ve had emails from the seller on a daily basis asking me to remove the neutral feedback. I amended my feedback to say what a pain the seller was being, but still they kept hassling me to remove the neutral feedback, so last week I formally complained to eBay. eBay replied with what looked like a nice automated response which utterly failed to address the problem, and then they asked me to complete a survey about how well they’d dealt with the problem. I was rather scathing in my reply, and this evening I got what was obviously a personal response to my problem of being inundated with emails from the seller of this mis-described item. A response, but not an answer. eBay told me that “If we find that there's not enough evidence of Email Forwarding System Abuse, which is the case here, we can’t take action against the reported account.” They went on to suggest that if the emails continue, I might like to consider changing my email address (!) I’ve replied asking how many emails I need to receive before they consider their email forwarding system has been abused.

18 July 2010 (Sunday) - Mowing the Lawn

Up with the lark and into NeverWinter for an hour or so. It’s as well that I can download loads more modules for NeverWinter Nights. Whilst shopping in town during the week I had a look in the computer games shops, and… well, I’m using the wrong phrase, aren’t I? “Computer games” as in “games that you can play on the computer” would seem to be a dying breed. It’s all PlayStation and X-box these days. There would seem to be precious few games that are actually designed for the PC these days. Which is a shame – whilst some of the modern games look fun, I don’t want to shell out loads of cash on a device which can only play games. My PC can do all sorts of other stuff than just kill trolls and orcs and goblins.

Last weekend whilst camping at Brighton we decided we liked the new camping bench, and so this morning we set off to Camping International to get some more. When we were there the other week they had hundreds. Today, they’d sold out. Whilst at Camping International we got another three litre kettle; the last one was very useful, even if the spout did break the first time we used it. And we got a few kitchen-y things too. I would like to have stayed longer, but for one brat who was there. There were several brats, most trying out the camping chairs, some having a fairy princess picnic on the tables, and some trying out the camping beds. But there was one particular brat who was giving a running commentary on his day, his shopping trip, what he was doing, what his parents were doing, in fact he was giving a continuously updated spiel on the entire universe and all that was taking place within it. And this brat had the most annoying voice. Perhaps “annoying” is the wrong word: “painful” would be better. The child’s voice actually hurt me. It really did cause me pain whenever this child spoke, so piercing was its rattle. And not only did this one never shut up, it was quite apparent it was never going to shut up. So we left. Quickly.

We thought we’d try to GM Camping. Somewhere I’ve not been for a while, it’s on the road from Canterbury to Herne Bay. We took a wrong turn or two on the way there, mainly because I thought the place was on the Whitstable road. But we found the place eventually, met some friends who were also camping-shopping, and I got myself a new chair. But they didn’t have the benches we wanted either. So we spent five minutes in the nearby reptile shop going gooey at boa constrictors (I do that !) before coming home via Canterbury’s Lidls. Every bit as pikey as the Ashford branch, and also with much the same stuff you can buy in the average supermarket, but at half the price.

And so home, where I went to eBay and ordered up two of the benches I wanted. And even including postage they were cheaper than the shops. Having bought what I wanted I then set about the lawn – it must be three weeks since the thing was last mown, and whilst the grass wasn’t excessively long, it was clearly in need of a haircut. I also got my electric shears out and trimmed back all what was coming over the fence from next door. He enjoys having roses, clematis and honeysuckle all up and over the fences. And to be honest if I was next door, I’d probably do the same to block me out. But I don’t like the way that the things drop leaves and petals all over my garden, or the way that the things have encroached a good two feet into my garden. So I took the electric shears and cut a swathe the length of my garden.

And then I mucked out the pond filter. The pond is rather murky at the moment. If cleaning the filter doesn’t do much (and I suspect it won’t) I shall look at flocculation and replacing the filter medium during the week.

17 July 2010 (Saturday) - Cycling, Fishing

Parking near my house can sometimes be a tad tricky – there are not enough spaces. Just round the corner are a couple of spaces but they are on a single yellow line. Parking is allowed between 6pm and 8am. Last night ‘er indoors TM parked there, and said to be sure she moved the car in the morning. I woke at 5am (as is so often the way), looked out the window and saw a parking space. So I got dressed and went to move my beloved’s car. Panic set in when I saw her car wasn’t on the single yellow line. It was as well I didn’t have my mobile in my jim-jams pocket or I would have phoned the police there and then. I trotted hope as quick as I could (in a panic) to phone the old Bill, only to see her car right outside our house. She’d obviously already moved it. Needless to say I didn’t get back off to sleep for a little while after that…

Over brekky I mucked about with a presentation for the astro club – a five-minute space filler for the next meeting about my fun with the solar scope. Mind you, I’m still not sold on the whole concept of telescopes. Whilst playing with the solar scope was interesting, it was (in my honest opinion) a lot of fiddling about to get a picture which doesn’t begin to compare with that which you can call up in two seconds using Google Images.

And then the rest of the cyclists arrived, and we set off to Woodchurch. A reasonable distance for the purposes of having a bit of exercise, but the road is busier than a lot of others along which we cycle. The Six Bells is always worth a visit though, with five ales on and decent food too. And then home via a pint of Late Red in the Kings Head in Shadoxhurst. Pausing only briefly for the Rear Admiral to prang his bike, we were soon home and puffing well. It’s been some six weeks since we last cycled anywhere, and I think it’s probably fair to say that I for one noticed the fact.

And then together with “My Boy TM I had a couple of hours’ fishing. Bearing in mind his recent massive catches on his French fishing holiday, I was rather hoping for more from him that what he actually delivered. And what did he deliver? Perhaps a fifth of the amount of fish that I did, thanks to the application of “Really Skillful Angling TM

What with the bike ride, and sitting on the pond side, I’ve got a really tender chuff…..

16 July 2010 (Friday) - Laundry, Diary..

What with packing to go to Brighton kite festival, being away all last weekend, and then some rather awful weather, I’ve been rather skimping on the laundry front lately. My pile of grubby smalls has been getting somewhat out of control, so with a dry day forecast today I set the washing machine to “overload”, and stepped back. Being on a late start gave me some spare time, so in between sorting out wash loads I had a look at the “Dates for the Diary” section of the blog. With the year now more than half-way over it’s almost time to start thinking “bonfire parade” – I’ve pencilled in dates for three of those, as well as all sorts of other things including some kiting and an Xmas party(!) Perhaps it’s taking forward planning a tad too far, but I find that if I don’t write these dates down, I only forget them and find myself agreeing to do conflicting events, like I have on 14 August.

I heard something on the radio which made me smile today. Heralded as the saviours of the environment, electric cars are actually dangerous things. Because they are so quiet, unsuspecting pedestrians don’t hear them coming, and so get run over. To combat this, electric cars are being given artificial engine noises so the unwary can hear them coming, and there are plans afoot for future models to have customisable sounds, in much the way my mobile phone has. Apparently focus groups have already established that many of the sound effects from “Star Trek” would be popular “car-tones”. Me – I’d have the sound of an ice-cream van; if only to wind up the kiddies...