31 August 2010 (Tuesday) - Back To Work

I’ve had a smashing week off work – a Tudor-themed hog roast birthday party, a trip to a reptile zoo, three separate fishing sessions and four days away with some of the best people you’ll ever meet. So going back to work this morning was hard.

There was an interesting article on the radio about languages. I’ve blogged on the subject of languages before, and received some spectacular hate-mail on the subject. So let’s try again. The article on the radio was telling us of the imminent demise of a language native to Guernsey. A derivative of the French language; it has an estimated hundred or so speakers still alive, and most of those are elderly. Another channel island (Sark) has its own version of a language, spoken by some fifteen people. The article then went on to say that 96% of the world’s population speak only 4% of the world’s languages, and they made the observation that all the children of the world of every creed, colour, shape, size and religion listen to pop songs sung in American English.

I’ve often thought the world would be a better place if we all spoke the same language. A thought which occurred to me several times today as the news kept repeating comments from the Pakistan cricket team’s coach. I’m sure the chap is a sterling fellow, but I did keep giggling – I can’t take comments from someone named “Whacker Eunice” seriously.

I then received a text - “Daddies Little Angel TMand the “Rear Admiral” were going fishing. Did I want to join them after work? I arrfived at the pond shortly after 6pm, and we had a pleasant hour in the sunshine. We caught two fish between us in that time, but then it’s not always about catching fish.

I came home to find my Lego advent calendar had arrived. Advent calendar – and we’re not (quite) into September yet….

30 August 2010 (Monday) - Coming Home

I had a very good sleep, and woke up bright eyed and raring to go. The only problem was that it was just after 1am. Too dark to go fishing, I tried to get back to sleep, but the wind was picking up. In fact I got out of bed a couple of times to check the toilet tent and gazebo hadn’t blown away in what sounded like hurricanes.

Last night I received orders that people wanted to come early morning fishing, and I was to rouse people. So following my morning’s ablutions I wandered round the tents, shouting the code-word “HADDOCK!” For some reason I didn’t get much response. Over the years I’ve found that people are far keener on the concept of early morning activities at 6pm than they are at 6am. Undeterred I fished alone for half an hour until the Bat joined me. But my heart wasn’t in it this morning; it was cold and very windy. After an hour or so we packed up and went back to camp to do the previous night’s washing up. Or that was the plan. We got there to find Martin had done it all. So we fed the guinea pigs instead. We’ve never had the piggles at a camp before. I must admit that I’d had reservations about the idea, but in the event they were as good as gold.

And then we realised that the wind which was so strong this morning wasn’t entirely a bad thing; it had blown the tents dry. So whilst the breakfast team cracked on, the rest of us started to get our bits and bobs packed and our tents down. A late brekkie – omelettes with cheese mushrooms and bacon. Very nice! And then we continued packing. But I’m not quite sure what went wrong. The time was racing away. At Brighton Kite Festival earlier in the year three of us had the campsite packed away by 11am, and it was raining then. Eight of us were on the case today (in ideal packing away weather) and we took till 2pm to do the job. But that’s Bat-Camp; and that’s the way we love it (!)

And so home where I’ve stashed most of what I’ll need for the forthcoming camping trip into one of the lock-ups. And then I had a shower. Heaven. Much as I like camping, I like a shower too. We need to camp in places with shower blocks. I shall smile sweetly at the farm management…

29 August 2010 (Saturday) - More Camping

The trouble with drinking ale by the gallon is that it has to go somewhere, and so at 6am I was forming a queue for the tiddle tent. I chatted for a bit with Molly’s Mum who was also up, and then I decided that since I was up anyway, I might as well go fishing; sleep is for those in bed. The fish were biting this morning; I was catching loads, but I was getting peckish. I kept fishing until I’d had fifty, and then I wandered back to camp at 8.30am. It would seem that I was unusual in being up and about after having had far too much to drink. I gathered up those other brave souls who were up and about and we all (me and the “Rear Admiral”) went back to the pond for a bit more fishing whilst everyone else slept it off.

We wound up having brekkie at about 11am – and a good old-fashioned fry-up seemed to do most people a world of good. We washed up, drank coffee, lazed around for a bit, and all too soon it was time to say goodbye to those of our number who had to go. So we loaded up all their bits onto the tractor trailer, and rode down to the road where we loaded their cars and said our goodbyes.

The piscatorial amongst us went to the pond to fish for a bit. By 2pm we were all feeling a bit hungry, so I was dispatched to get lunch for my fellow haddock hunters. And after lunch, ‘er indoors TM came up to the pond and had a go at fishing, even going so far as to catch a tiddler. Not unhooking it, or even touching it. Just catching it, and then catching herself.

As the afternoon wore on Chris had to depart, taking the Folkestone contingent with him, and then there were eight of us. As the weather took a turn for the worse, we all sat in our communal cookhouse and resorted to the emergency fall-back plan used whenever events conspire against us: have a crafty pint. There are those who will say that I spent this time fast asleep. And I will admit that to the uninitiated it probably looked like that. But it was most odd. I could hear every word of the conversation, and also my own snoring too.

We had a late dinner – fajitas are always popular, and always good. And then it was suggested that the leftover mushrooms from brekkie might go well in fajitas, so we all had seconds. And we all sat there feeling very stuffed. As the weather was clearing up we walked down to the farmhouse to help put the baby ducklings to bed. The ducklings seem to lead a pampered existence, and had to be tucked into bed. Or that is tucked into bed once caught and cuddled. I would have thought they would have put up a fuss, but they seemed quite happy to have been held and stroked.

Back to camp where the “Wounded Archer’s Cookery Club” had prepared a treat. Those who had sustained bruises from yesterday’s archery session had spent some time gathering fruit from around the farm’s hedgerows and had prepared a blackberry fool for everyone. Oh, that was soooooo good!! And by this time it was dark: trying to wash up in the dark is a daft thing to do, so we decided to leave it and have a camp fire instead. Compared to the previous evening’s revelry, tonight’s camp fire was a modest affair, but none the less enjoyable. We spent a very pleasant hour or so drinking beer (and assorted fluids) whilst spotting shooting stars and satellites, before going to bed before midnight (for once).

28 August 2010 (Saturday) - Camping

Early morning fishing is traditional (for me) at Bat-Camp, and I was at the pond doing my thing by 6am. But (like a twit) I’d forgotten to bring either my camera or my phone, so I have no record of the first fish I caught today – the biggest fish I’ve ever caught out of the Bat-Pond – a carp weighing three pounds. As carp go, that’s only small stuff, but when you bear in mind that all the carp in that pond are either those that I put in the pond as tiddlers over the last few years, or fish bred from those tiddlers, I think that a three pound carp is quite respectable. After a while the “Rear Admiral” joined me, and we fished for a couple of hours, catching nearly a hundred fish between us.

Back to camp for brekkie, and then we moved the toilet tent. We’d put “Green and Smelly” close to our communal cookhouse tent because the bigger tent acted as a windbreak. However because the toilet tent was so close, there was little in the way of privacy; and some very odd noises were emerging. So for the sake of everyone’s nerves (and decorum) we moved the loo a little way away. And then we did something we’ve not done for ages - we got the bow snarrows out. Having spent a small fortune on archery over the last few years, it’s become something we rarely seem to do any more; which is a shame. So with the arrival of Chippy we spent a couple of hours taking pot shots at assorted targets, and “Yours Truly” came second in the knock-out round. I didn’t gloat much (!) We were reminded of the need for bracers as both Irene and the “Rear Admiral” received quite nasty bruises on their forearms from the bow strings. I didn’t point and laugh much (!)

“Daddies Little Angel TMthen did the bread and cheese for her dad (good girl). Washed down with a bottle of old peculiar it was lovely. Tina and Jason then arrived and came fishing with us for a bit, before leaving us to fish whilst they took pot-shots with bow snarrows. And then Molly, Trudy and Steve arrived. Molly seemed to enjoy all the amazing smells of the farmyard, and even found a new doggy treat. Before long fifteen of us (fourteen hoo-mans and one fellow blogger) sat down to dinner. A new addition to the camping menu – pork and apple braise. Very good, and much appreciated.

Whilst the washing up was done, the pyromaniac contingent made the camp fire and the rain started. I watched the camp fire from the comfort of our cookhouse tent, and occasionally shouted sage advice whilst listening to the sound of the rain thundering on the tent’s roof. But the rain came and went as quickly as it was heavy. Within half an hour the clouds were parting, and we all adjourned to the camp fire where we saw off a few gallons of ale. Another Bat-Camp tradition is that port is passed round the campfire circle so everyone gets some. But sometimes the bottle is slow to move round the circle. To remedy this, we opened another bottle. At one point there were three bottles of port on the go, and once we’d cheered the International Space Station as it came over we had a quick rendition of my party piece: “Foo-Foo the Bunny Rabbit”. If any of my loyal readers have not yet experienced “Foo-Foo the Bunny Rabbit”, in all its glory, they should consider themselves fortunate. And then we chatted, told knob jokes, and generally stayed up far too late drinking far too much; eventually falling into bed at 2.30am.

27 August 2010 (Friday) - Off to Camp

Yesterday I mentioned how disorganised we are at Bat-Camp compared to how slick we are when setting up for kite festivals. Despite having delivered a car full of stuff to the farm yesterday, this morning the car was overflowing with yet more stuff to go to the farm. Martin and “Daddies Little Angel TM arrived at 9am with more luggage (and guinea pigs) and by the time we’d been to Asda for the makings of lunch there was hardly any space in the car at all. And we still had to fit Tony and his gear in. When we arrived to get Tony I was expecting to tell him there was no room at the inn, and he’d have to walk. But totally out of the blue a wasp appeared from nowhere and stung me in the neck. Tony applied Savlon, and so we made space for him (somehow).

We arrived at the farm (with a throbbing neck) and having excavated the passengers out from underneath all the luggage, we loaded a tractor trailer with said luggage and made our way to camp. We got the guinea pigs into their hme for the weekend and then a few minutes were spent fiddling about laying out sleeping bags, finding jim-jams and torches and sundry boring but necessary tasks. It’s so easy not to do these jobs but do “fun” instead, and then find yourself trying to find a sleeping bag whilst rather drunk and in pitch blackness at 1am. (Been there, done that!). Having set up “Green and Smelly” (the toilet) we washed our hands at the tap (running water at camp – how posh!), and settled down for lunch.

I looked around: “where’s the plates?” A quick search revealed they weren’t on the camp site. A quick trip to the farm house revealed they weren’t on the farm at all. And then I remembered looking at the box of plates and cups in our shed and thinking that I needed to pack it. So I drove home quickly to get it whilst dinner was got ready. Whilst shopping yesterday Batty had described what he wanted to do for our mid day scoff, and I must admit I don’t think I was paying much attention at the time. But it was great – Halloumi is a kind of cheese, and when it’s fried it goes really well in a sandwich with bacon and tomatoes. And even better when you’ve a plate to eat it off (!)

And then to the pond for a couple of hours fishing before Terry and Irene arrived. Or that was the plan. With no fixed arrival time, I had this vague idea that they would phone on arrival, and then we’d come down with the tractor to load up their kit. And in the meantime we’d do fishing whilst waiting. We cast out, and started getting tiddlers. The father and daughter competition got quite intense, and a good time was had by all; especially when the Bat caught a whopper that didn’t get away. But all the time I was rather conscious that my phone hadn’t rung, and that time was getting on. We came back to camp to find Terry and Irene had arrived to find the camp all set up, but no one home. With no phone signal and no idea where anyone was they decided to make a start on cooking tea. An idea which was heartily supported by all.

With the arrival of ‘er indoors TM , the “Rear Admiral” and the landlord, dinner was served: a truly wonderful curry. Eleven of us had a treat. I was very happy to do the washing up after a bit of tea that good. And then we sat around chatting and drinking too much till too late….

26 August 2010 (Thursday) - Preparing for Camping

Regular readers may recall we had a very dubious experience in a pub recently – the Woolpack in Warehorne served the most awful food I think I’ve ever seen in a pub. This morning I heard through the grape vine that this pub will be under new management in a month’s time. So a return visit may be on the cards sometime during the autumn.

And then with the arrival of the Folkestone contingent and enough camping tackle to equip a small army we loaded the car. It amazes me that when we go to Bat-Camp it’s always the same. Far less luggage than we take to a kite festival, and it takes up far more space. We popped into B&Q to buy wellies, collected Martin and went to Sainsbury’s for beer. And then came straight back out again. Asda does three beers for four quid. Sainsbury’s were nigh on two quid a bottle – two bottles for four quid. It doesn’t take my degree in mathematics to work that one out.

We eventually got to the farm to set up. Another difference between kite festivals and Bat-Camps is that at kite festivals we get on with the setting up. With a few hours hard work at a kite festival, camp is ready. Not so today. We arrived, and had a cuppa. And then another. Then we went to look at the ducklings. After an hour we thought we’d get the camping gear out, and even then we still fiddled about with tow-bars on tractors and getting grease everywhere. We’d been at the farm for a couple of hours before we started putting a tent up; and even then it took ages. Once the main tent was up, we loaded in as much as we could. But we couldn’t get it *that* ready as the cookers were still back at the farm. So we concentrated on tents. We got ten tents up; admittedly some of them still have inners to be put in, but that can be a job for later. There’s only so much that can be done.

In fact that was all that could be done; with important phone calls due at the farm our tractor driver was forced to absent himself, and so me, Martin and “Daddies Little Angel TMwent for an hour’s fishing; if only to check the pond out for the weekend. We decided the pond would do: between us in an hour we’d had over forty fish, including a rather massive one that got away.

And then home, and having dropped Martin off at the town centre we found the “Rear Admiral” and went to Asda, where Tesco were doing a price comparison. I’ve often wondered how supermarkets keep tabs on each other. It would seem they do it in a manner best described as “rather blatantly”. There was a bloke in a bright yellow Tesco tabard walking round shouting the prices of various articles into his mobile phone. I asked the Asda staff what they thought of it; none of them seemed too fussed. We came home with some more beer, quietly confident that we had enough, and then the phone rang. Martin had also been beer shopping for the weekend, and wondered if he could drop the beer off with us to save mucking about in the morning. We’ve now (probably) got enough to be getting on with. We shall see. But just in case we had a rummage round the cupboards. There’s some old cider that the cider drinkers amongst us can guzzle, and two half empty bottles of port from the last trip to Teston. We’ll take those too…

And so in the morning I shall be off on the fourth camping trip of the year. “My Boy TMremains in charge at home. Let’s hope he does the washing up. See you all on Monday…

25 August 2010 (Wednesday) - Rain!

Over brekkie I checked my emails – ten separate invites to Friday’s astro club meeting. The software’s clearly gone doo-lally. Software does that – it’s a feature. I’ve given it some thought and decided to give the astro club a miss this time. I’ve other plans for Friday night, and whilst the astro club is usually the thing for which other plans get cancelled, the August Bank Holiday camping trip is something I don’t want to miss; especially as Friday night is to be curry night. I *could* go to astro club from the campsite – I did that last year and came back to the farm after sunset. Making my way back to the tents in the dark through the rutted field wasn’t easy. In over three years of astro club this will only be the second one I’ve ever missed, so I’m not doing badly.

It’s been suggested that we let the kiting website domain name go – the website will remain but the http://www.e-l-f.org.uk bit won’t be there. After all it costs to have it, and we’ve done nothing with the website for over a year. The current caption competition on that website hasn’t attracted any interest in over three years.

And then it was on with the ironing. Perhaps a waste of holiday time, but the job needed doing, and it was raining. I watched the latest remake of “Brideshead Revisited” whilst ironing. I’ve blogged about that film in the past. I wasn’t impressed when I first saw it, and wasn’t keen on it this time round. It’s not very true to the original story, but then I suppose this merely confirms my prejudice that films of books never actually work, and are merely a sop for people who are too lazy to read the book.

With ironing done and telly watched, and a break appearing in the clouds, I then loaded some bits and bobs into the car for the weekend. Another weekend away; this time with fishing and archery as well as excessive drinking. Hic! And then to the fishing shop for one or two bits for the weekend. There was a dodgy five minutes whilst fishing yesterday when a gust of wind took several packets of hooks across the field. I had this plan to buy a magnet to hold the hooks in place and stop them blowing away. Someone had already had this idea, and I got a magnetic hook holder. So much for my scheme to economise this month. I came home via the chip shop for a slab of cod for dinner. After all I am on holiday this week. And then all plans for the afternoon went on hold as the rain returned, so I put some DVDs on the telly, and slept through them.

The plan for the evening was to visit the arky-ologee club’s dig site. Someone with more money than sense had invited the club to dig up the garden of their mansion in the hope of finding Roman remains. This evening those who enjoy scrubbling in the dirt were going to do “show and tell”, and we mere mortals were expected to go into raptures of delight over the discovery of a few broken bits of manky pots. I can’t see the attraction myself. If the manky pot was broken two thousand years ago, it’s still going to be broken now. And you can buy a new pot from B&Q for only a few pence. Surely the historical artefacts worth having are the ones that they’ve saved over the years; not the ones that got broke and thrown away. But it turned out that rain stopped play. Which was probably for the best.

We adjourned to Chip’s house for a cuppa, and then came home via Tesco for a take-out curry, which we devoured whilst watching “Man vs Food”. I hope this torrential rain stops soon…

24 August 2010 (Tuesday) - Another Day Off

Another day off work, but still I was up before 7am. A quick bit of brekkie, then I wasted an hour in NeverWinter. I’ve now finished a game that’s kept me out of mischief for a month – I need to look for another one now. There’s three thousand up at the NeverWinter Vault; that should keep me going for a while.

The phone rang - plumbers would seem to be akin to buses; not a sniff for ages, then two call back at once. I’ve arranged for the one who got back to me the quickest to service my boiler. And by an amazing co-incidence he knows me – he’s the boyfriend of one of the girls at work.

With washing out on the line, together with “Daddies Little Angel TMI set off for Beaver Water World near Westerham. When the brats were small, this place was a regular haunt, despite the fact that neither of them could remember it. You’d think they’d remember – “Lewis” the Burmese python came from there a long time ago. Mind you we’ve not been there for ten years or more. It was a good place to visit, outside there were terrapins, lemurs, and all sorts of birds. A novelty was that many of the bird enclosures had rabbits and guinea pigs on the floors. Inside was what we’d gone to see; snakes and lizards, turtles and tortoises, and even a caiman. There were three albino Burmese pythons (just like my “Buffy” was) and the most adorable monitor lizard; who would want a dog when you could have a monitor lizard?

If any of my loyal readers fancy a day out, I can thoroughly recommend the place but (there’s always a but, isn’t there!) I’ve always been a reptile kind of guy. To be honest you’ll see all the place has to offer in less than an hour. If you don’t like reptiles, I really wouldn’t bother (after all, I wouldn’t’ visit a spider zoo). There was a silly old bat there today who was looking into every enclosure, and then screaming in terror. What was that all about? If you know you don’t like this sort of animal, why go?

On the way back we did our best to upset the sat-nav, and as I parked the car I saw an ex-cub walking down the road. I recognised the surly little git. I remembered him distinctly - he was a particularly nasty child. When playing ball games he would make a point of throwing the ball over a fence just to spoil things. If some other child was (for whatever reason) the centre of attention, this horrible oik would do anything (including assaulting other children) to draw attention back to himself. The brat recognised me. His evil expression changed into one of “butter-wouldn’t-melt” and he said hello. Before I could say anything his mother started a tirade at me about why he hadn’t been to cubs for a few weeks, he just won’t go, she tries to make him, but he won’t go. I asked the mother if she’d realised I’d not been there myself for nearly two years, and I told her that from what I remembered of her foul child that cubs would be far better without him being there. I added that it was because of brats like him that after thirteen years of being a leader I packed up. She clearly wasn’t listening to a word I said, and she carried on blathering inanely about her little darling. I walked away. Like I did two years ago.

A quick sandwich and then me and the most recent fruit of my loin went fishing. I’ve been fishing on three consecutive days now. We had a minor problem with the weather. Rather than taking my fishing gear I should have taken the kites; it was that windy. My apprentice caught twice as many fish as I did, including one that needed the landing net: her first bream. For those of my loyal readers who aren’t of a piscatorial bent, bream are slimy. Very slimy. We had words to say on the subject of bream….

23 August 2010 (Monday) - A Day Off

I woke with a terrible aching in my stomach muscles. I suspect yesterday’s little altercation with the mud at the fishing pond probably had something to do with this. Yesterday I mentioned our wet carpets – despite having had torrential rain all night long the weather forecast predicted a dry morning, so I dragged the wet carpets to the washing line to try to air them out. Even if it poured hard on them all day long, they couldn’t stay where they were.

I then took the costumes from Saturday back to the hire shop, where I met up with other party-go-ers returning their kit too. We chatted, and all agreed what a wonderful time we’d had. Talking of Saturday’s party I then dropped off a memory stick full of photos with the birthday boy, and then on my way home popped in to B&Q for a dustbin; I needed something to put garden waste into, and traditional canvas composters just go smelly, so I came home with a plastic dustbin, and hacked back the jungle coming over the fence from next door. I did plan to mow the lawn, but it was very wet, so I set about my correspondence instead.

As is so often the way I’d let my letter rack get to what could only be described as “overflowing” before I dealt with it. First of all the bank and credit card statements. Usually I’m very good at keeping track of what I’ve squandered my money on. Not so good this month, finding loads of expenditure of which I’d not made a note. I effectively wasted two months worth of money in August. Oh well; I’ll just spend a little less on beer next month. It was just as well the bank had also sent a letter confirming my overdraft arrangements. I must admit I’m rather cross with myself – I like to think I’m good with my money; clearly not this time.

Aviva had sent me several offers of cheap motorbike insurance, as had Carole Nash. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I’ve not ridden a motorbike for seven years. PlusNet offered me the best broadband I would ever see. To me it looked like all the other broadband offers I could see. ActionAid sent another begging letter. I wish they wouldn’t; I’ve told them they get their bit each month. The leccie company had written to me to tell me that emails were bouncing. I blame the anti-spam software; it can be somewhat over-zealous at times. And the Aspinall foundation sent their newsletter with the free entry voucher. Must actually use that this time; I always forget about it.

I then tried another plumber to see if they would service my boiler (!) So far despite promises to call back, no one actually has yet. The chap I’ve tried is in Tenterden and has good recommendations on-line. The lady answering the phone seemed keen to take my details. I wonder if he’ll phone. I’d like to think he will, but to be honest my hopes aren’t high.

After a quick sarnie for lunch I had another look at the lawn. It wasn’t *that* wet, so it got mowed; it hadn’t been done for three weeks, and really needed doing. I then got the carpets off of the washing line. One was dry, one nearly so. But judging by the colour of the sky if I’d left them there much longer they would have got very wet, so I put them back where they belonged. I did have a hankering to go fishing this afternoon (to make up for yesterday’s episode), but I didn’t fancy another afternoon in the rain. I then spent a couple of hours on the comet presentation for the astro club. It still needs quite a bit of work, but it’s getting there. And just as the afternoon was all but over, the sun came out. A glorious evening, so I went for a couple of hours fishing...

22 August 2010 (Sunday) - Fishing (in the rain)

Despite a skinfull of assorted beverages last night, I was wide awake at 6.30am this morning. And from experience I know there is no point in lying there wide awake. So I got up, had brekky, had a look at what was going on in cyber-space, and by 7.30am I was tired again. So I went back to bed and stayed put until after 10.30am. Perhaps this might be a better way to deal with insomnia.

After second brekkie I spent a little while in NeverWinter, where sea-elves are becoming a problem (!) And then the Folkestone contingent arrived with a tub of maggots, and we set off for an afternoon’s fishing. As we drove, so a few spots of rain fell, but I confidently announced that rain always sounds louder on the inside of a car, and that it was only a passing shower. So we decided to carry on with our plans; confident that glorious sunshine was only a few minutes away. How wrong we were. Within five minutes we were all soaked to the skin, but still desperately clinging to the idea that it was going to brighten up soon. A triumph of idiot enthusiasm over common sense, and as the rain slackened off to only being torrential, we all decided that we were right, and the weather was improving.

We fished for three hours, and in that time we had a whole ten minutes when the rain actually reduced to only being described as “drizzle”. We were all soaked right through, and there was a dodgy few seconds when I slipped in the mud and was flat on my face; slowly but inexorably sliding down the bank towards the water, giggling like a twit. But we had fun, we all caught fish; one of the fish was large enough to need the net. And even though the weather was atrocious, we enjoyed ourselves. I suppose we had a choice. We could have stayed indoors and done nothing, or we could have made the most of the day. We certainly did make the most of the day, but there is no denying that it was good to get home and put on some dry pants.

We found a minor hiccup when we got home. ‘er indoors TM had been defrosting the freezer, and the lobby and bathroom carpets are now soaked. I can’t hang the carpets outside, as it’s raining. I’ve put down some cardboard, and I’m desperately hoping the weather will perk up tomorrow so I can do something with these sodden carpets.

I then spent the evening researching comets. I’ve offered to do a talk on comets to the astro club next year, and I’ve been working on this presentation for some time. For some reason I just can’t seem to get up any enthusiasm to actually get on and prepare the thing, though…

21 August 2010 (Saturday) - Tudor

Even thought it was Saturday, I was up with the lark, brekkied, and at the costume hire shop early. More about the costumes later. And then round to Gore Hill to help with the moving house. I arrived, rang the door bell, and waiter. And waited. I rang the doorbell again, and shouted through the letterbox. And waited. So I gave the phone a ring. No answer, so I tried Matt’s mobile number. He was on the other side of the town, having forgotten that I’d said I was going to help him move house. So I went shopping for birthday pressies for half an hour or so. Once shopped, it was back with helping with the moving house. In retrospect I can’t help but feel we didn’t actually achieve much. In six hours we moved a bed, a sofa, an arm chair, a freezer and a few sundry bits from one house to another, and got some bits out of the loft. We then sat down for pizza, and listened to the nice man from Sky TV explaining why he couldn’t install a satellite dish because there was a great big building between the new house and the Sky satellite. He pointed out that if you looked up and down the road you could see all the houses hed satellite dishes except for a row of thirty houses all in the shadow of Charter House. Over to cable TV…

And then home, showered and into costume for a birthday party. Drew’s special birthday, and a Tudor banquet at Bewl Water was the order of the day. Due to a miscalculation on my part as to how far away Bewl Water was, we arrived a little too early, but that wasn’t a bad thing; we got to spend a while admiring the lake, and making plans to re-visit to walk or cycle round the pond (it’s huge!). Before long, other people were arriving, and we found the bar. A bottle of Spitfire slipped down nicely, but there was a minor hiccup – where should I keep my wallet and my change? Being back in the sixteenth century for the evening we were suitably attired, and the invention of the pocket was still a few hundred years into the future. In the event I shoved my wallet and my camera up my jerkin (oo-er!) and all was well.

We got news that that the birthday boy’s carriage was on the way, so everyone made their way outside where we staged quite a major photo shoot. Pretty much everyone had dressed for the occasion, and in retrospect I did feel a tad out of place in my traditional (for the period) velvet trousers. Quite a few of the other chaps there were wearing stockings and tights and were remarking how comfortable they felt. (Never confused!!). The costumes were wonderful, and the kiddies especially were hamming it up. There were Kings and Queens, lords and ladies, jesters and peasants, but I think I have to say my favourite costumes there was the row of Tudor cottages.

After a few minutes the Royal carriage arrived, and the embodiment of a rather svelte Henry VIII and his retinue emerged. I’m reliably informed that in his youth, the original “our enery” wasn’t the size that traditionally we remember him as. We all made our way to the lake where we boarded “Swallow” – a pleasure cruiser which took us around the lake. For someone who’s generally “into” ponds (like I am) this cruise was a wonderful way to spend an hour in the evening. And having a foxy Tudor lady dishing out free wine was a very much appreciated added bonus.

Back to shore, and as we made our way back to the Bewl centre for dinner we admired the fire eaters on the pavilion. Earlier in the week I was speculating on the possibility of a hog roast. Tonight we had one. It was smashing; really good food, washed down with a glass of champers. We joked with the birthday boy about a Mc Hog Roast and a Mc Tudor, and we struggled to eat all of what we’d been given. In the meantime, our Tudor entertainer told jokes, and wandered around the tables making balloon animals, and generally being really good at what he did. A shame he couldn’t make a balloon penguin, but I suppose (to be fair to him), penguins were only discovered in 1492, so it’s possible that our chap hadn’t yet heard of them.

After an excellent bit of dessert the floor was cleared, and we stepped up to trip the light fantastic. Normally I don’t do dancing, mainly because I’m crap at it. But I do enjoy country dancing where a caller shouts out what you have to do. Tudor dancing is in that style, and we promenaded a Pavane. Rather well, I thought. Even if I do say so myself.

All too soon it was home time, and having slept most of the way to Bewl, despite having downed copious quantities of ale, wine and champagne during the evening, I was wide awake all the way home where I staggered into bed shortly after 1am. If any of my loyal readers are looking to stage a special event, I really can’t recommend a hog roast at Bewl highly enough…

20 August 2010 (Friday) - Being Smart

Back to the hunt for a plumber. The chap I phoned earlier in the week hasn’t got back to me, so I tried the one that had been recommended to me. A woman’s voice answered the phone telling me that plumbing and boiler services were no longer available. I went back to check adverts on the internet and eventually got through to a chap who told me he was on the job (oo-er!), but said he’d get back to me.

I then wasted an hour or so in NeverWinter before going back to the dentist. I was not impressed. Well, let me elaborate on that. The chap’s dentistry cannot be faulted, but I know him; I know he’s good. He did X-rays, a replacement filling and a general all-over gob service and I was in and out in ten minutes.

However were I a first time patient I don’t think I would have sat in his chair; I would have turned round and walked out. Clad in jeans and T shirt, and not been near a razor blade for a couple of days, he just doesn’t look the part. Whenever anyone sees me in my work attire, people are amazed to see me in a shirt and tie. Perhaps I’m just hopelessly old fashioned to think that professional people should dress to inspire confidence. From the dentists I popped into Lidl’s where, to confirm my prejudice, I was mistaken for a member of staff. When I explained I wasn’t, the woman who’d mistaken me said that she assumed I was working, because I was wearing a tie.

Last night there was a minor problem when I came to have my shower. The shower head was gone. As in missing; not there.

It’s no secret that strange things happen in my world, and I suppose in the great scheme of things losing a shower head is no big deal. But it was a nuisance. This evening the thing has returned; it wasn’t there last night. Perhaps it had been lent out to someone? I don’t know. I have my suspicions as to who was messing the thing about, though….

19 August 2010 (Thursday) - TV Licences, Neighbours...

A late start, so I had the morning to waste. I started off with a trip to the dentist. I see they’ve now got six different dentists working there. I sat with the “great unwashed” for five minutes before being called in. I was in the chair for two minutes whilst the chap voomed around the inside of my cake hole with a mini camera. He then showed me the cracks in the filling which he will replace tomorrow. Just as well I’m on another late shift then.

And then home again to find the postie had called. He delivered my television licence. I begrudge paying for it. I’ve found a website which shows where my money goes. Nearly eight quid a month goes on the ten TV channels operated by the BBC. Yes – ten. I watch BBC 1 when Doctor Who is on, and other than that, I don’t think I watch any of their output. Two quid a month goes on their sixteen radio channels. I listen to Radio Four on the way to work and back, and occasionally at work when it’s my turn to skive. Sixty six pence a month goes on their on-line services. For me that’s sixty six pence each month for a weather forecast that rarely bears any relation to actuality. And one pound thirty five pence a month goes on various vaguely unattributed sundry expenditure. I see that translating the licence into Welsh is one of the things this one pound thirty five pence is wasted on.

So to summarise the licence fee: twelve quid a month gets me fourteen episodes of Doctor Who each year, half an hour’s radio a day, an unreliable weather forecast and the opportunity to have the thing translated into Welsh. Wasn’t the government talking about giving the public value for money a while back…?

Brekkie, and time to check my emails. I see my blog has been nominated for an award. Every day as well as writing my own blog, I read several other blogs. Those of my friends and acquaintances are linked in the panel to the right. I was invited to nominate seven other blogs for awards. I spent half an hour trying to do so, but gave up. I got down to a shortlist of ten, but seven? – I couldn’t get it down to seven.

Talking of blogs, this morning I read something in one of these blogs where a fellow blogger intimated that his relations with some of his neighbours are somewhat strained. This has got me thinking – for years I thought it was some failing in myself which was the reason for my poor relationships with neighbours.

As a child we lived next door to a shop on one side (no real relationship at all) and on the other side lived “Old Granny Gutsache”; a pinch-faced old battleaxe if ever I met one. I can’t remember her ever saying anything that wasn’t a complaint. When I was ten years old we moved house and very soon fell out with the neighbours there. When I left home I moved into the nurses home at the old Ashford hospital and spent the most miserable fortnight of my life there, trying to co-habit with the most antisocial misfits I’ve ever met. From there I moved to a flat in Folkestone where in two years we never saw any neighbours. There then followed what was in retrospect a blissful five years in Kingsnorth Road where we got on well with both neighbours.

We’ve been in our current house for nearly twenty years. On one side the first set of neighbours were a sour, bitter childless couple whose only interest in life was “peace and quiet”. Why people who were so obsessed with “peace and quiet” would have bought a house on what was at the time the main “A” road out of Ashford is anyone’s guess. They eventually moved out, and were replaced with a chap with whom I am slowly getting back onto speaking terms. A few years ago there were some rather nasty solicitor’s letters to-ing and fro-ing in which this chap was formally told that I did not need his approval or permission to lead my life how I wanted to. On the other side we’ve had a succession of temporary neighbours to finally end up with the current lot – a pleasant enough bunch, albeit with some rather noisy dogs.

I’m glad to find out I’m not the only one who has problems next door.

18 August 2010 (Wednesday) - Tea, Coffee, Fish

Up with the lark, and I got jiggy with the laundry whilst watching Al Murray DVDs. Socks don’t pair themselves up, you know. A dull job, but marginally better than lying wide awake watching the clock. And then to Asda. As well as lunch I bought coffee for tea breaks at work. Due to various health and safety considerations I cannot eat or drink in my workplace, and so for refreshment I need to actually go somewhere else for a cuppa. Consequently getting a break becomes a high point of the day, and not one to waste on something I’ve come to despise.

I’ve finally bitten the bullet and admitted that I don’t like green tea. I’ve been trying various flavours of the stuff twice a day for the past year and it’s true - they all taste horrible. I started off on the green tea ages ago; I see that on 17 November last year I mentioned that I found a flavour of the stuff that wasn’t “utterly disgusting”. Since arthritis got a grip on my right knee last year I’ve been advised that green tea will help the pain. (Not that my knee actually hurts – it just makes an awful noise when I walk). However since I’ve started on the green tea, the only change I’ve noticed with my joints is that over the last few months my right foot has got particularly painful. I’ve still got the noise and now I’ve now got a joint that really is a problem.

So much for green tea. Today I bought a packet of instant latte. To be honest I can’t tell a latte from an earl grey. All I know is that the box looked impressive. The stuff tastes OK I suppose. It’s better than green tea at any rate. In four days time I shall buy a jar of Nescafe and a jar of coffee-mate.

I came home from work to find a scratch on my car. Or, to be precise, ‘er indoors TM noticed a scratch on my car. I would never have seen it, and for all I know it may well have been there for weeks. Whilst it’s a shame that it’s happened, I can’t say I’m really that bothered about it. After all, it’s only cosmetic. The car can still get me and a serious amount of luggage from here to there and back again. I expect the scratch happened in the hospital car park at some point. These things often do.

Meanwhile, just down the road from my house, the country’s biggest carp has died. “Two Tone” who weighed in at some five stone and was probably the same age as “Yours Truly”, has croaked. (Or is it frogs that croak?) Apparently there are several local people who blame that fish for their divorce, the men having wasted so much time on the pond side trying to catch the elusive leviathan. As far as I’m concerned that’s just another vote in favour of my preferred style of fishing – “tiddler bashing”. I can’t understand spending days waiting to catch one fish. When I’m fishing, if I’m not into double figures of fish within half an hour, I go home.

17 August 2010 (Tuesday) - Stuff

I’m not quite sure how it came about, but I found myself researching the acquisition of a pig today. Not as a pet, but as something to stick on a barby. Some time over the last few days the subject of a hog roast was broached, and I think it might have been a suggestion for a forthcoming camp. I’ve found a butcher in Woodchurch who has a field full of suitable pigs, and with a week’s notice he can do the necessary so’s we could have a hog roast. And a whole pig isn’t overly expensive – considerably less than two hundred quid, and it comes ready to have the stick shoved up it’s bum. The only drawback is how much pig we’d get. The butcher seemed to think that just one leg would do us for camping for the weekend; the whole pig comes with four of these legs, and together with bellies, loins and briskets would probably do us through till Xmas. Perhaps I might content myself with just sticking a few pork sossies on the barby instead – it’s always worked in the past.

I then phoned a plumber to service the boiler. It’s not been done for a while and is probably overdue. I phoned about a dozen plumbers until I found one who’d actually answer the phone, rather than just letting the thing ring and ring. But it was his wife who answered. She’s taken my number, and said someone will call me back. We shall see…

An email via Friends Reunited. From someone with whom I lost touch some thirty years ago, but remember from before my first day at primary school. The chap’s left the army after twenty-odd years and is now a teacher in Lincolnshire. We started primary school together in 1969, and both went on to the Hastings Academy for Genius Boys in 1979. We lost touch when he left the school in 1980, but thirty years later here he is. There are so many from the old days with whom I’ve lost touch, and so few that I do manage to keep up with….