31 December 2010 (Friday) - End of an Era..

Well, here we are at the end of another year. I’ve been delving into the software, and (if I may), I’ll start off by sharing some facts and figures about this blog with my loyal readers:
Not counting the people who access my blog via the RSS feeds, over the course of this last year, my blog has been accessed over ten thousand times. Every day it is read on over thirty (different) computers around the world. Most of my readers (over seventy five percent) are in the United Kingdom, with just over ten per cent of my readership being in Canada, and just under ten per cent being in the United States. The remaining five (ish) per cent of my readership are world-wide, coming from such diverse places as Belgium, Brazil, Australia, Finland, Russia, Iran, New Zealand and Georgia.
Eighty five per cent of my readers use Windows as their operating system of choice, eight per cent use Macintosh. The remainder use iPhones, Symbian or Linux.
Only just over forty per cent of my readers use Internet Explorer as their browser. Just fewer than thirty per cent of my readers use FireFox, and a similar number use Safari. It’s interesting that many windows users use the Apple browser (like I do!).

On New Year’s Eve it’s traditional to have a retrospective. Last New Year I was looking back on some quite serious changes that had happened in my life in 2009. This year (2010) hasn’t seen such radical changes to my life, but it has had its moments. Most noticeable being “Daddies Little Angel TMhaving not so much left home, as having transferred her main base of operations. Still, it’s been a noticeable reduction in my laundry workload. “One down, one to go”, as the saying goes.
Talking of the “one to go”, this year has seen the first fruit of my loin take up tattooing. And I have taken up new hobbies too. I’ve bought a fishing licence, joined a syndicate, and gone back to fishing in a big way. Having been threatening to camp at Sumner’s Ponds for some time, this year we actually got up there for a night. I’ve taken up home-brewing, and am quite pleased with the results so far. I’ve also started a second blog, for work-related stuff.
I’ve not entirely abandoned my old ways - I’ve also kept up with my old hobbies – this year I went to all the traditional kite festivals, beer festivals and bonfire parades. I’m still (very) active in the astro club and I’m still wasting my time in the arky-ologee club. And talking of wasting time, I still spend *far* too much time in NeverWinter.

Somewhere where I’ve not been quite so busy is in the reviewing of pubs. In 2008 I posted eighty five pub reviews. In 2009 I posted sixty four. This year the number was very noticeably down – I only reviewed sixteen pubs. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that going to the pub is becoming a very expensive thing to do – when going on a good-old-fashioned-piss-up I expect to spend at least fifty quid, and usually a lot more. And that’s just my expenditure. I suppose my fellow drinkers probably shell out just as much themselves. And it’s money (literally) down the toilet.
Having bought all the home brew kit, I can knock up ten gallons of ale for less than the cost of two rounds in the pub. I suspect I might be cutting back on pub outings over this coming year. After all, I can brew better beer cheaper…

Last New Year I actually looked back over the preceding year and came up with a personal top ten list of my year’s events. After a lot of thought, I’ve done the same again. Starting with a short-list of sixty five events (!), my top ten events of 2010 were:

1  -  Xmas Day. Restful, and not spent driving here, there and thither
2 –  Boxing Day. A really good day with friends
3 –  Exploring the tunnels at Lydden Spout  (15 August)
4 –  Catching my biggest (so far) fish (11 April)
5 ––Walking from Folkestone to Dover (4 July)
6 –  Getting tattooed by my son (1 September)
7 -   Seeing the ELO tribute band for my birthday (20 February)
8 –  Eastbourne Ice Creams & Bonfire Parade (9 October)
9 –  Teston Kite Festival Pooh Sticks challenge (6 August)
10 – Visiting the Alpaca farm (23 October)

This list reminds me of last year’s list: although my year has many regular events, again hardly any of these made the year’s top ten.
Heavy rain at Brighton, Teston and Sumners Ponds put a damper on the kiting events. And the beer festivals at Dover and Chambers Bar were really good fun – really enjoyable, but they left me seriously out of pocket.

And so, here comes 2011. What does it hold? There are beer festival, kite festivals, bonfire parades, astronomy events that I have already pencilled in the diary, but for my first priority, getting rid of this cold would be nice…!

30 December 2010 (Thursday) - Still Poorly

The plan for today was originally to be a pub lunch somewhere in Sussex for my brother’s birthday, but as everyone seemed to be down with the Xmas bug, this has been postponed until everyone is feeling better. Which was probably for the best, even though it’s somewhat frustrating. I’ve not been off work for my brother’s birthday for years.
So I had a lie in, and then spent a little while helping “Daddies Little Angel TM with her UCAS application. I then went back into NeverWinter for the first time in a week. The place had been over-run by water elementals. I hate those things. If you’ve never been on the receiving attempt of a water elemental severing itself to do a drown attack, think yourself lucky (!)

Then a bit of shopping – to Staples to get some Velcro bits for the posters from the astro club. I’ve obtained an old jigsaw board in which we can keep the posters flat. And with them being kept flat they will now stay on the boards I got a year ago.
Whilst we were out we unloaded the rubbish telescope onto a friend who said he had a use for it. If nothing else it would save me taking it to the tip.
And then to B&Q for a new yard brush (the old one broke) and some new light fittings for the living room (the current ones are broke). In complete contrast to my recent visits to B&Q, the staff were really helpful. Let’s hope that continues.

We came home to find the postman had been with a week’s worth of post. With bank statement and credit card statement I was able to have a look at the state of my finances. They’ve been better (!) I then spent the afternoon sleeping whist the DVD machine played episodes of “The Comic Strip Presents”.

If I wasn’t on holiday, but at work today, I would have phoned in sick. I might just have a word with management next week and see if I can’t take this week as sick rather than as holiday. It’s not like I’m doing very much other that alternating between sleeping and feeling sorry for myself….

29 December 2010 (Wednesday) - Stuff

I woke to find the house empty. That was nice (!) I sulked for a bit, then went on the internet over a spot of brekkie. A couple of days ago whilst we were at Dover Castle we joined English Heritage. I’ve been putting this off for years, and to be honest we joined against my better judgement. This morning I called up the English Heritage website to see exactly what I’ll get for my money (all eighty-something quid of it!). Having had a look round the website, I think I’ve been conned.
Take my home county: there are twenty seven English Heritage properties in Kent. Many of them are open over the winter, the Knights Templar church in Dover is a classic example of the sort of thing. But one ramshackle wall (which has fallen over) looks (to my uneducated eye) much like another. And to add insult to injury, most of the places which are open all year long are free to the public anyway. The few places they’ve got which aren’t tumble-down broken wreckage don’t actually open until the summer when I’ve got all sorts of better things to do.
So I thought I might have a look farther away. In our neighbouring counties there’s rather thin pickings. There are ten English Heritage sites in Essex, two in Surrey, three in East Sussex and two in West Sussex. Most of which are al-fresco remains of things which collapsed years ago, and have been rotting since Methuselah was a lad, and are free to visit anyway.
I think I might send them the cost of Tuesday’s trip to Dover Castle and cancel the direct debit.

I then downloaded a manual for my new camera. I say “new” – a good friend had a FujiFilm FinePix S5600 gathering dust in the cupboard, and I’ve borrowed the thing on a semi-permanent basis; the idea being to have a go at astrophotography. Regular readers of this drivel may recall that three weeks ago I obtained a telescope. In theory I should now be all kitted out to astrophotograph. In practice the telescope turned out to be fit for the dustbin; which was why it was being given away. But I’ve got my hands on a half-decent camera, and am desperately trying to figure out how to adjust the shutter speeds. All I need now is a telescope that isn’t fit for the dustbin, and I might be onto something.

We then went shopping. First of all to Comet to get an adapter for “My Boy TM‘s new electric razor. Then on to Comet and Pissy World. I wanted to look at their e-book readers, and to ask the advice of the experts (!) in the shop. And as is always the case, because I wasn’t wearing a shirt & tie, and because I looked a bit like a slob, I was studiously ignored by the staff in both shops. Oh well, it’s their loss.
The home brew shop wasn’t open – they are closed over the holidays. And then we went to the town centre. People were queuing to park in the Vicarage Lane car park. But the multi-story car park had loads of spaces. Are people that mean that they will queue for half an hour to save a few pennies on an hour’s parking fee? I popped into WH Smiths. For Xmas I received (among other things) a WH Smiths voucher. To my mind, WH Smiths are filling the gap in the market left by Woolworths. They seem to sell a bit of everything, but don’t specialise in anything, and when shopping they would be the last place you’d try for anything. After a few minutes I came to the conclusion that rather than looking for what I wanted, I was browsing the shelves looking to waste ten quid on the thing I didn’t want least.
I remembered I’d been recommended Jeffrey Archer’s prison diaries, so I thought I’d look for them. I couldn’t find them, so I asked at the counter. The girl at the enquiries desk snapped that she didn’t work on books. When I didn’t shove off, she glared at me, and snarled to ask if I expected her to have a look for the book. I suggested she didn’t put herself out, but it was too late: she stomped to the shelves, looked around and then loudly announced to the world in general that she supposed I wanted her to check the stock. She made great show of thumping the computer before announcing they didn’t have it, and suggested I try another branch of WH Smiths. There are some in Folkestone, Tenterden and Canterbury, apparently. I told her that I’d try eBay, as it would be less trouble all round. I suppose I should complain, but it wouldn’t achieve anything.
In the meantime if any of my loyal readers need to spend a tenner in WH Smiths, please feel free to buy my voucher off me first…

We mooched round a few more shops, then home to watch the last episode of “Upstairs Downstairs”. Brilliant!!! And then we spent a little while watching stuff we’d recorded onto the SkyPlus box. Or ‘er indoors TM did. I slept through a lot of it.

After the obligatory turkey curry we set off to the arky-ologee Xmas shindig. Not the most raucous of festive celebrations, but it took my mind off of feeling poorly and sorry for myself. I got quite involved with the quiz. The first round involved anagrams of the names of various people of historical importance. It didn’t help that I’d misread one of the clues as “Corporal Pooh”, and I swear that what they claimed was Michelangelo was actually Rod Hull and Emu. But what do I know? I scored equally poorly in the general knowledge round, but got nine out of ten in the sayings. S---/A-/H----- is “Safe As Houses”. So what is N-/S---/W------/F---? Or G------/L---/A/W------/J--?

And so after a brief pit-stop in Asda for loo roll it was home time. I do hope this cold gets better soon. I’ve had enough of it now…

28 December 2010 (Tuesday) - Mum's Birthday

I’m still suffering from the Xmas bug – I’m not 100%, but I can’t complain really. I’ve certainly felt worse in the past. Having had a rather busy time over the last few days I settled down to catch up with emails. Even though I’m on holiday, life goes on. I had a few emails to catch up on – most interestingly one to one of the voices in my head. By far the loudest voice in my head appears regularly on You-Tube, and even has his own Facebook page. Over the Xmas break, Dave Cow had an email:

Hey sweetie , how re you feeling , am new to this site and i really want to get to know more about you , i want to know how i can add more joy to your life and make your day brighter, and i wish you can do the same for me too. i can give up my world if only you will let me be part of your , i will like to know more about you please , you can add my up on yahoo and let chat , dopey_fitbint is my username, i will be waiting for you there now.

From her photo, the correspondent looks rather fit. The Cow is certainly getting over-excited, even if the fit bird is probably only twelve years old. One wonders exactly how she intends to brighten the day of a glove puppet.

And then my tribe gathered and we eventually set off to Hastings for Mother’s birthday party. As we drove down the A28 we waved at friends driving back the other way; none of whom saw us. I’m not sure what the attraction in Tenterden had been this morning, but it seemed that a lot of our friends were driving back from the place.

We’d been told to arrive at my brother’s house at mid day, but bearing in mind the buffet wasn’t until 4pm and we were all hungry, we went via McDonald’s for a bit of scoff. I was tempted to try a “fish-o-fillet”, since (apparently) “My Boy TMhas never seen anyone eat one. But I stuck to the tried and tested burgers before we popped into Sainsbury’s to get a birthday card. We wanted one with “75” on it, as we felt that this was something of a landmark birthday. We were out of luck. There were lots of numbered birthday cards up to sixty-five, and quite a few from eighty onwards. Presumably Sainsburys think that there’s something of a paucity of birthdays between the sixty-fifth and eightieth. Either that, or it’s not worth their time catering for that market. Perhaps they expect people to croak during that window, but if they can make it to eighty, then the chances are that they will make more birthdays? I don’t know, but in the end we settled for a generic “Happy Birthday Mum” card, and hoped for the best.

We arrived at my brothers and the party was in full swing. I must admit I wasn’t though; I sat on the sofa and died quietly. I wish I could have joined in more with what was going on, but I wasn’t feeling at all well. As well as feeling generally “bleagh” I’d developed guts ache too. Probably from over-eating over the Xmas period. But I joined in as best I could. After all, it was good to see Mum on her birthday: normally I’m going back to work on 28 December.

And then home again through the fog. Normally we can get from Hastings to home in forty five minutes. With the fog we expected to take a little longer. Following the twit who drove slightly slower than walking pace made the journey take ages….

27 December 2010 (Monday) - Dover Castle

I woke this morning with a nagging headache and a general feeling of “bleugh!” It would be just my luck to go down with a bug on the first Xmas I’ve booked off work for years. But I suppose there are two things I can do with a bug – sulk about it, or get on with it.

So once breakfasted we set off, and twelve of us descended on Dover Castle. We started off in the underground hospital. Those of us who’d been underground at Lydden Spout over the summer had tunnel flashbacks. We only got to see one level of the tunnels – we were assured the second level was being refurbished, and would be open over the summer. So a return trip is a must, and will be planned over the summer.
From there we had a look round the Pharos and the church, and into the gift shop where they were giving away free hot mead. That went down nicely. And then into the keep, where they had actors doing historical re-enactments. They were doing the feast of Saturnalia, where the village idiot gets to be king for the day.
There were three nominations for the role of “king for the day”. To choose a winner, the candidates had to choose a new rule which would be fair and just for the good of the land and the common folk. Alejandro blew his chances with some radical talk about the redistribution of housing. A passing nice lady made a twit of herself by saying she wanted free chocolate. The winning candidate had a winning policy: no farting on a Tuesday.

As the king of the Saturnalia, I got to lead the peasants to the dining hall. I was accompanied by a fit bird, who asked if I was on my own, or did I have a friend who might like to sit at the top table with me. She was rather taken aback when I told her there were twelve of us. So I wiped the smile of ‘er indoors TM face by choosing her to sit at the top table with me. Being King was great fun: every time I sat up, so the assembled peasants had to sit up too. They could only sit down when I said so. And I got food too, whilst the actors did their thing. In fact one of the actors complemented me on how well I was joining in.

All too soon the fun was over, and having handed back the crown, we carried on exploring round the castle. There was lots we didn’t see, and it was very cold, so having joined English Heritage we decided we’d have a return visit in the summer. Saying our goodbyes to the McDonalds contingent, eight of us made our way to the seaside for a spot of lunch. I’d heard about the Coastguard some time ago, and this pub has been on my list of “pubs to visit” for quite a while. I suppose I should really have booked in advance, but we didn’t know how long we’d be spending at the castle. The food was excellent, not cheap, but not as expensive as some places I’ve been to. But it’s not really a pub – more of a restaurant with a good bar. To be honest, for me the difference between a pub and a restaurant is that you don’t have to book in advance at a pub. That being said, I’d certainly go back.

Pausing only briefly to work out that the twenty eighth of January is not only a leap year, but also the first Saturday in February (!), we slipped in mud a few times. And having dropped some friends home, we slowly made our way back to Ashford where we popped in to see Chip & Emily and spent a pleasant hour or so eating more Xmas scoff whilst watching “Shaun the Sheep” on DVD.

And so home. Today was the first day of the Xmas break when I didn’t spend large parts of the day asleep, for which I was grateful. I get so cross that I’m so often wide awake for half the night when I should be asleep, and then waste my waking hours dozing off. I mentioned earlier that I was feeling under the weather today – I spent the evening sitting (slobbing) in front of the telly watching “Upstairs Downstairs – The Next Generation”. It’s obviously a follow-on from the original, and I liked it. Let’s just hope they make more episodes…

26 December 2010 (Sunday) - Boxing Day

Some of the kids came home earlier than the others last night and locked up. The contingent arriving home at 4.30am found themselves locked out. I woke and thought it odd that everyone’s mobiles phones were ringing except mine, and then I heard a knocking on the door. “My Boy TMwas there with a rather sheepish expression. Why hadn’t he rung *my* phone? He didn’t want to wake me, and thought I’d be cross with him. Since when has he ever bothered about either of those?

I tried to get back to kip, but failed, and so as the household slept I watched Xmas films on the Sky Movie channel. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Star Trek are always good. Once everyone was up and about we set off to find some petrol, which is easier said than done on a Bank Holiday. And then it was off to Folkestone where we spent the day with fellow bloggers.
Trudy and Steve had put on a smashing spread, and perhaps the best ham I have ever tasted – I must get the recipe.

I blame my restless night for my dozing off during “Name That Tune”, but even if I was dozing off, I still won. What line follows “khaki coloured Bombadier”? And there’s no denying that I wasn’t as alert as I might have been during the earlier stages of Trivial Pursuit. But I think I compensated well for that with my late surge, only narrowly losing out to the girls. The rizla game was fun. And I discovered I have untapped talents at charades. My rendition of the Lone Ranger had to be seen to be believed, or so I am told.

The day went so fast. Hours sped by, and all too soon it was time to come home.
As I’m typing this, I’m feeling rather chesty. I do hope I’m not coming down with something…

25 December 2010 (Saturday) - Xmas Day

Quite a late night last night – I sat up till rather late last night watching festive rubbish on the telly. The plan for the morning was to have a lie-in, so I was rather miffed to be woken at silly o’clock by a text message sent to the house phone wishing me a merry Xmas.

And so on with Xmas. This year Xmas was different. Much as I’ve really enjoyed all my previous Xmases, they have all been spent driving from one set of relatives and friends to another. Which entails a very early start, and the day spent rushing here, there and thither (to quote Oliver Hardy) sometimes visiting half a dozen people and places in the one day. This year I’d put my foot down, and we were going to have a quiet day at home. We’d decided that we may never do it again, it may well be a flop, but just once we weren’t going to spend all of Xmas driving.

So we started off getting dinner ready and tidying up, and we had a brill Xmas dinner. The wine wasn’t all that – fifteen quid for a bottle of wine was in retrospect money down the drain. It wasn’t especially bad wine, it was fairly good, as wine goes, but wasn’t a patch on a bottle of beer which would have been a fraction of the cost. And having pigged out on turkey, sprouts and Xmas put we had the Ker-Plunk challenge. Which I lost.

Xmas isn’t Xmas without a snooze and so “My Boy TM and I had a kip on the sofa until the Folkestone contingent arrived. Pressies were opened – I got a decent haul; if only my mother in law would stop buying me liquorice allsorts. This is now the twenty-eighth Xmas she’s bought me liquorice allsorts. I can’t stand the things.

Prawn cocktails went down well, and we raised a glass to friends and family near and far; especially thinking of those half the world away.
And then we settled down to the Xmas “Doctor Who” special. As “Doctor Who” episodes go, it wasn’t anything out if the ordinary. As Xmas “Doctor Who” specials go, it was the best one ever. And then we had an evening of Blokus. I could have done better. The Xmas “Royle Family” was excellent, and as the kids went off visiting, I slept in front of episodes of “Family Guy”, finally giving up and going to bed around 1am.

And as the day drew to a close, I felt myself reflecting on a different way of doing Xmas. Usually it’s spent with a load of people, and it’s usually very busy rushing here and there. This year it was quiet; we did things at our pace, and I enjoyed it. Next year… I’m still undecided… but the home made stout was definitely a success.

And in closing today, spare a thought for the Beresford family. Elizabeth Beresford (creator of the Wombles) died yesterday, aged eighty-four.

24 December (Friday) - Xmas Eve

I woke at 2am this morning and lay there for an hour or so before giving up, getting up and getting on with the ironing. I thought I might as well do something constrictive with my time. I went back to bed shortly after 4am, hoping I might get some kip before I needed to get up, but just lay there wide awake until 6.30am.
It was probably as well that I was up early – I wanted to get to the supermarket early to get lunch. I had an idea the place might be busy. Normally when I go there for lunch at 7.30am there are half a dozen cars in the car park. Today the car park was full, and Asda itself was heaving.
And so to work. A colleague had been given a whip for her “Secret Santa” pressie on Tuesday. Today she brought the whip in, together with the full dominatrix outfit. It did it for me!!! That made the day worth while.
Seeing it was Xmas Eve some of us popped down the pub for a crafty half at lunch time. This is the third time in a week I’ve been out and about with my work colleagues – I’m quite liking it.
And we even got to go home an hour early because it’s Xmas. Can’t be bad! It was a shame I wasted my extra hour sleeping. ‘er indoors TM and “My Boy TMhad spent the day delivering Xmas pressies, and I only woke when they came home. They came home laden with pressies, and with a pressure barrel from my cousin. I shall fill that full of beer in the New Year. After a quick bit of tea we spent the evening with friends, despite the Rear Admiral wanting to take me to church.

And so I’m now starting something quite unusual for me. I’ve booked some leave for next week, and don’t go back to work until a week next Tuesday. This will be the first Xmas in at least ten years over which I’ve taken leave.

And finally for this year…. Santa’s got dressed, and is driving either a train or the “other bus” – he’s rather confused.
Frosty and all his friends would like to wish all their readers a merry Xmas, and a happy new year.
RU12 and ICUP wouldn’t, as they are miserable gits…

23 December 2010 (Thursday) - Guardian Angels (Indeed!)

A late start today. I don’t mind the late starts, but I don’t like the late finish that goes with it. Today’s was particularly galling as everyone else at home had now started their Xmas break, and I still had two more days at work. Whilst they all snored, I checked the day’s news over a spot of brekkie.
The Labour party are cashing in on the disarray in the coalition government caused by Vince Cable’s stunning revelations. Perhaps Vince Cable was rather daft to have been so forthright in expressing his reservations about the Government in which he is a prominent figure. But as David Steel said when interviewed on the radio the other day, did Vince Cable actually say anything (other than the BSkyB bit) that wasn’t already public knowledge? Do we honestly expect all the members of any government of any political persuasion to all be in total agreement on every single policy?
Yesterday I related my concerns over the religious crackpot views shared by quite a few people these days. Following that theme, today it transpires that nearly a third of the UK population believe they have a guardian angel.
I once knew a chap with one of those. Whilst walking from my parents house to Hastings town centre with him, his guardian angel helped him find a fifty pence coin which was lying on the pavement. The discovery of that coin was 100% down to the angel, and we had a little prayer of thanks. For some reason it was blind chance that this chap trod in a dog turd a few hundred yards later.
Sometimes I despair for humanity.

And so to work, where the workload has slackened somewhat. Whilst we offer “business as usual” this week, for much of the world, it really is not “business as usual”. A hospital car park which is usually full to overflowing is half empty. Does it not suit people to have hospital appointments this week for some strange reason?
Just recently it’s become somewhat de-rigeur to run down the public sector employees as a bunch of overpaid underworked layabouts. I find it rather interesting that the private sector that does this running down is (by and large) now closed down, and won’t re-open for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, my place of work won’t actually close up at all.

In a better plane of reality, having brandished their choppers in the park (!) the young chav and Frosty have obtained an Xmas tree. The dog is grateful that they now have an indoor toilet, and has decorated the tree in the way that only a lego dog can.
If nothing else, it’s put the cat off of climbing the thing.

22 December 2010 (Wednesday) - I'm Confused...

I’ve been blogging for over four years now. It concentrates my thoughts and keeps me out of mischief, as well as giving me a record of what I’ve done with my life. I also enjoy reading the blogs of friends. On the side panel of this Blogger page is a link to the five most recently updated blogs on the list of blogs which I read. I had a count-up today. I keep up with developments on twenty five blogs which are written by friends and family. Some are updated regularly; others not so.  I enjoy reading the blogs of friends and family – seeing what they are getting up to, seeing what I’ve missed in their lives. Seeing their photos. Sometimes reading about things that I’ve done and recorded in my blog, but seen from a different point of view. Listening to their views on the news and politics of our age. Realising that I can fundamentally disagree with people, but still consider them to be a dear friend.

At the very top of the page is a link “Next Blog”. Most Blogger blogs have this – a link to a random blog somewhere else in the world. This evening I did something I’ve not done for a while. I spent half an hour or so clicking through the blogs of people who I don’t know. I was amazed to find so many blatantly religious blogs. At least half of the blogs I found were proclaiming the religious views of the bloggers. Loads of entries over months, and all of them featuring nothing but twee platitudes.

There’s no denying that when I was younger I didn’t really know what to expect of the future. Perhaps I watched too much Star Trek – I expected high technology. The technology I expected (matter transportation, space travel) never arrived, but computers and phones and tellies are pretty good. I naively expected a world where everyone lived together in peace and harmony (which we haven’t really got).
But what I really didn’t expect was to have so much of the population of the world still being religious. Something that worries me is the fact that we live in a world which is becoming more and more religious. If someone wants to be religious, then that’s fine. That’s their choice. But if two people want to be religious, then it’s been my experience that they can’t do it together, but they will argue about it. No two religion-ists ever seem to agree with each other. And so far from having a world in which everyone lives together in peace and harmony, we still have a world of petty squabbles and intolerances. You see – the problem with a religious belief is that it is utterly illogical.
Take for example an incident which happened to me this week. As I left work on Monday night, a very religious colleague of mine left work at the same time. I told her to be careful as she drove home through the bad weather. She told me (with a straight face) that she had no worries – God would be with her, but she was worried for me going home without God. As I mentioned on Monday’s entry I had a skid on the way home, but just a slip across the road. I wasn’t hurt – no one else was involved, and it was all over in ten seconds. The girl who drove home with God (presumably He was in the passenger seat) pranged her car into another car in the ice. When we recounted our tales this morning, she crowed and claimed that her point had been proved. Because she wasn’t seriously injured in the crash. Somehow the fact that the one who’d gone home with God having the prang, and the apathetic agnostic merely having a bit of a skid totally proved the agnostic theological viewpoint to be utterly wrong. Apparently claiming that you won’t crash your car because God is looking after it, and then crashing it less than an hour later proves (beyond a shadow of a doubt) God’s regular interventions in our daily lives. It stood to reason, and if I couldn’t see that, then I never would.

I’m open to enlightenment on this one…

Meanwhile the young chav isn’t the only one with a chopper. Frosty the Snowman has quite a large chopper, and he’s not averse to showing it off.
RU12 seems quite impressed, and ICUP is more than a little jealous.

21 December 2010 (Tuesday) - Stuff

Regular readers of this drivel may recall a blog entry a few weeks ago (26 November) when I mentioned that I was feeling the urge to take up astro-photography. Regular readers may also recall a recent blog entry (14 December) when I failed utterly in my attempt to see the Geminid meteor shower because of the clouds. Or two comets earlier in the year for much the same reason.
 This morning there was a lunar eclipse. Starting at 6.30am, with totality at 7.41 am I was hopeful. After all, sunrise wasn’t until 8am. I got up to find thick fog. I *know* I shouldn’t have been surprised about this.

To work, through the slush. We’d had rain overnight, and now we have what I consider is the worst part of snow. After the heavy snow there is a week of slush everywhere. Work was good – Santa came to visit. As well as a good goosing off of Santa, I got a personalised jar of sweeties. I was assured I’d have a photo of me and Santa for today’s blog. I haven’t. Maybe tomorrow…

And home to find a message on the telephone’s 1571 circuit. Jez Smithson of 721 Letsby Avenue is having problems with his dog Pickle. Pickle has a neck condition, and Jez wondered if I would take on Pickle. He (Jez, presumably) has full information about Pickle’s medical history from the last vet, who was worse than useless. Jez is quite happy to pass on the medical history, and despite what I might have been told by the debt collection agency, Jez can afford to pay for Pickle’s treatment. Jez left me all the information I would ever need about him - name, address, phone numbers, bank details, and said if I wanted or needed to know anything else I had only to call him.
I phoned Jez, and suggested that he might be better off phoning a vet. When I explained that I wasn’t a vet, Jez concurred with me. I’m sure Pickle will think it’s all for the best.

Talking of dogs, the dog has followed the cat’s example and has secreted himself in a truck. His disguise isn’t foolproof, and the more eagle-eyed may just have spotted him.
ICUP isn’t impressed. Whilst ICUP’s opinion on pussies is yet to be decided, unlike your erstwhile narrator, ICUP doesn’t like puppies.

20 December 2010 (Monday) - Still Snowing

A good night’s sleep, to make up for yesterday’s restlessness. Perhaps having the heating on continuously helps in that regard. The BBC tell me it’s been minus eight degrees outside at one point today. I dread to think how much the gas bill will be, but I’ll worry about that after the snow has gone.

I’ll start today with an apology. Which is rather unlike me!
I mistakenly added the “Who Has Deleted Me” app on Facebook which immediately spammed all 250 people on my list. If any of my loyal readers got that spam, I can only apologise. Sorry ! After a bit of fiddling about I figured out how to delete that app. Whilst I was at it, or or two other apps went too, including the “Pubs Galore” one, “Pet Smurfs”, “Are You Kinky or Fridged” (!), “What Prom Dress Best Suits You” and “How Biggg is Yur Nob”. From the settings I could see that I’ve not accessed any of these for over six months. I can’t help but wonder what I was thinking of when I clicked on some of these.
I say “one or two” went. I deleted over thirty. And then I got a bit bored with all the clicking, especially when I saw that I had over one hundred and fifty apps loaded on Facebook. So I decided to use the “delete all” option. It’s not as though I use any of them.

Through the snow to work, where I got rather angry. Because of the snow, not everyone could get in to work. Or that is the official line. Whenever one snowflake is spotted, it is assumed that people might have problems getting to work. However it would seem that people’s transport difficulties vary. Every time there is snow, we have the same people arrive at work, and the same people who don’t. People who live thirty miles away have no problems getting to work. People who live five miles away cannot get in.
Am I being unsympathetic in feeling that if I can get to work, then so can everyone else? After all, if someone chooses to live in the back end of nowhere, then that is their choice to do so, and why should I bail them out because of their lifestyle choice?

I was one of the last to get out of work tonight – everyone else went early because of the snow. Once I’d swept the snow off of my car I set off for home, wondering what all the fuss was about. The roads were quite passable. Or so I thought until I came to a roundabout. I wanted the third exit of this roundabout. I actually got the second – broadside. As I slid towards Ellingham industrial estate I actually realised what a classic example of Newton’s first law of motion I was experiencing. After that slip I took the roads with a bit more respect, turned off the CD player and got home without further mishap. I don’t like driving in the snow…

Meanwhile in lego-land, RU12’s “partner” ICUP has arrived on the scene. He’s not impressed to see a cat masquerading as a truck.
Perhaps he doesn’t like pussies…?

19 December 2010 (Sunday) - Santa's Grotto

I wasn’t feeling on top form last night – I think Friday’s vindaloo had finally caught up with me, and I was up and down during the night. I finally gave up trying to sleep at 6am, but by 9am I was shattered. Being a Sunday I could go back to bed for an hour or so; so I did.

Bearing in mind the success of my home brews, I thought I might start making some sort of a record of what I’ve made, what worked, etc. And so I spent a little while wrestling with making a website. After an hour I got cross with it and gave up. The Claris software wasn’t accepting any pictures. So I went away, and came back and used Word, which worked perfectly. Perhaps the Claris software has had it. I don’t know. But the Manky Brewery has the start of a home page. I shall work on it some more later.

And then for a walk in the snow. Someone else’s plan was to have taken Eden to see Santa in Maidstone yesterday, but the weather was against it. Last night I suggested she might like to see a local Santa, and so this morning six of us set off to Bybrook Barn. Yesterday’s snow was still thick on the pavements, but it wasn’t too cold, and after forty minutes we found ourselves in Santa’s grotto. For a small local garden centre, Bybrook Barn had excelled themselves, and we spent a fun time in the grotto, seeing Santa, playing on the cup ride, and going on the train through the  snow.

We suddenly realised it was over an hour past dinner time. There’s an American-style diner at Bybrook. I’ve walked past the place so many times over the years; today we decided to go in. It’s brilliant – it’s just what films and TV led me to believe an American diner would be like, and I had the ten piece breakfast. It has to be said that there was something surreal with Beach Boys and surfing music being played with thick snow all around, but it was really good. I’m looking forward to going back.

As we made our way home so more snow was beginning to fall, and once home I settled in front of the telly and slept through a succession of various films. Sometimes it can be a very tiring life being me….

And if anyone should see the Bird, tell him we are all disappointed

The cat has escaped the clutches of nudey Santa, and is rather pissed off with the group of lego humans and animals.
He wonders if he might shift his allegiance to the group of lego vehicles. To that end he has cunningly disguised himself as a truck. The lego aeroplane and the lego skateboard and the lego fire engine have fallen for the ruse.

RU12 thinks something is amiss. There’s no fooling a lego robot…

18 December 2010 (Saturday) - Party !

Whilst not 100%, I woke feeling surprisingly chipper, bearing in mind the quantity of ale I’d poured down my neck last night. Over breakfast I caught up with friends’ blogs, and after reading one of them, I spent a few minutes playing with a possible upgrade to the blogging software that I use.
Once you’ve entered your text into your blogging software, when you want to illustrate a point you press “update”. The Zemanta software then scans your text and suggests relevant images and links that you might want to include. When you’ve chosen an image, you just click in it and the software inserts the picture automatically into your post. The idea being that this saves you spending time searching the Internet for something appropriate by doing the search for you.
It sounded too good to be true. In my opinion it is too good to be true. In the first instance, like any search engine, as well as finding what you want, it finds a lot of random gibberish too.
And having found you a picture, it doesn’t so much add pictures to your blog, it adds links which bring up pictures from elsewhere on the internet. Links which someone else might later change or delete remotely. Like I once did when I found out that someone else was remotely linking to a picture of mine without asking me first.
I mention Zemanta because some of my fellow bloggers may well find it useful. But for a reactionary Luddite like me, Zemanta is (in my honest opinion) a classic example of what’s wrong with today’s IT. It does the job required of it. But in a laborious “round the houses” way.

And then with brekkie scoffed we walked up the town. We’d decided to walk up the town because we suspected the car parks would be heaving on the last Saturday before Xmas. We opened the front door to find heavy snow and were glad we decided to walk. We met up with Martin for a light (!) breakfast in the Gorge, and then bought the last of the Xmas pressies as the snow got thicker and deeper. After three hours my nerves could take no more shopping and we came home slowly, pausing along the way to gloat at the misfortunes of people who were driving in the snow. Most people were suffering from wheel-spin, one chap had managed to get his bumper wedged over the tow-bar of the car in front, and a double-decker bus had slewed across Bank Street.
But by far the most entertaining to watch was the queue of people who’d come into the top end of Beaver Road. Silly people! For those of my loyal readers who don’t know the geography of the area, there are several shops and businesses that can only be accessed by driving in through the top end of Beaver Road: since the council installed the road barrier there is only one way in and out of this area. As you come in, you drive down a slope. Which is easily done. But the snow and ice was so thick that no car could get back up that slope. I could have started pushing cars, but my back isn’t what it once was, there is a limit as to how many cars one can push, and pointing and laughing is easier. I’ve since heard that the police came to the scene, berated everyone for diving down a slope knowing full well they’d get stuck, and then left, leaving everyone stuck.

We came home and prepared for the evening. Tonight was party night – a dozen of us met up for a pre-Xmas session. The ale aficionados amongst our number were subjected to a taste test. My home-brewed wheat beer and Stout were poured out alongside four other commercially produced beers, and people were invited to randomly sample the ales. I’m quite pleased to report that my brews fared reasonably well in the blind taste tests.
We then scoffed ourselves silly, and did a quiz devised by ‘er indoors TM. I came third. I would have done better, if not for the Disney films round. And then we had a visitor. Satan (!) came to dish out pressies, and I think it’s fair to say that everyone was well pleased with what they got. A good evening, which ended too soon. I just hope everyone got home though the snow…

Meanwhile “Her next door” has found a volunteer to wash her pussy. And not just any old volunteer. It’s Santa himself. However Santa’s morals would seem to rather lax, as he’s running round in the nip.
Nudey Santa” is getty jiggy with a loofah, to the shock, horror and amazement of the assembled throng. Or most of the assembled throng.

The chap with the cravat looks like he wants a go with the loofah too….

17 December 2010 (Friday) - On the Beer

Work wasn’t as dull as usual. Seeing it’s only a week till Xmas, we thought we’d decorate the windows. One of our number had never made snowflakes before. She’s clearly had a neglected childhood. She did claim (in her defence) she was born in sub-Saharan Africa, and only saw snow for the first time three years ago. But she was a fast study.
Management weren’t keen on the snowflakes; I would have thought that people who already start work early and go home late might be spared (less than) two minutes to make a snowflake. It’s a shame that management don’t seem to be big on staff morale.

And then home. A number of us were going for a curry to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. One of our chaps lives in the Medway towns, so rather than him going home, we thought we’d have a quiet half of shandy before the curry. We started off at home to have a trial run of the two batches of home brew that should be ready.
The stout was a bit flat. The secondary fermentation hadn’t been all that I might have hoped for. But never fear – the Manky Brewery has the technology to deal with flat beer. I applied the “re-gasser”, and the stuff now is amply frothy. And the wheat beer’s not and either. Still perhaps a little young, but definitely a success. So far I’ve made three home brews, and all three have been successes. Even if I do say so myself.
But we had a curry to get to, so we set off. After fifty yards we found the Locomotive and popped in. I’ve been looking for beers from the Old Dairy Brewery for ages, and the pub up the road from my house sells it. So we asked for pints. Disaster – the barrel run out just as the first pint was nearly pulled. So we settled for a pint of mild, and I cheekily said that if the barmaid was going to throw away the pint that had nearly run out, I’d have it. So she gave it to me. Nice one!
Suitably refreshed, and now in a mood for revisiting old haunts we slipped and slided out way through the snow and ice to the Riverside. Once my favourite local pub, once a noisy youth club, the place has had a major refurbish inside, and they’ve got rid of both the jukebox and the Sky TV. I may well start going back there. We polished off a pint of “Rocking Rudolph” before slipping, sliding and staggering our way to the Fat Fiddler. Which is now closed! Could you believe it? Surely a sigh of our times that the pub right next to the railway, potentially any town’s busiest pub, is now closed.
Another of our number drove past at that point, so we hollered abuse as she drove off into the distance and we decided to give The Swan a miss and go straight to the County Hotel. Adnam’s Xmas beer “Yule Tide” was nice, and then the birthday boy arrived. I’d bought him a special pressie. And I’d left it at home. He can have that on Monday.

By now we were a tad peckish, so fourteen of us sat down at the Curry Leaf in North Street. Aloo chat made for a good starter, and in a fit of foolish bravado I plumped for a chicken vindaloo. A good time was had by all, and compared with a lot of places in which I’ve eaten, this place was remarkably reasonable in price.
And so home, with a rumbling tum. I’ve put a toilet roll in the fridge. We shall see what happens….

Meanwhile the cat has been playing in mud and needs to be scrubbed.
Her next door” has taken the cat into the shower, and is amazed at the response she received when she asked if any of her friends would like to help her wash her pussy….

16 December 2010 (Thursday) - Monging Fish

I occasionally (usually) gripe on about my insomnia. Last night I had a wonderful eight hours sleep, and didn’t even get up for the loo once. How good was that! I’m sure I sleep better when I’m on a late shift and don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn.

Being on a late start I had time to go through my post this morning. My house contents and building insurance is up for renewal. I may well be able to make savings on that, but seeing how most of the mortgage is due to be paid off sometime soon, I think I shall leave the household insurance as it is for a while. Things may go squafty during the mortgage pay-of, and not fiddling with insurance may go some way to keeping the building society sweet.
The tax office have written to me changing my tax code because of “employer benefits” which appeared on a form P11D (?) which my employers sent to the tax office. I had no idea what this is, and so I phoned the tax people this morning. They had no idea what it was either. Their system didn’t allow them access to see what it was, and they suggested I phoned the wages people at work to find out what it was all about. I’ll do that later.
And there was an Xmas card from the happy-clappy-loony-chappies church round the road from us. They asked if we’d like to bother God with them over the forthcoming festive season. I still have copies of my last correspondence from them. In June 2001 they wrote to me to say that “My Boy TMhad been banned from their youth club (in perpetuity) for sundry non-specified crimes. They never had the good grace to write back to me to explain exactly what he’d done wrong, so if they think I’m going to spoil my Xmas with religion for them, then they can go think again.
Talking of Xmas cards, there was one in amongst my post addressed to “Mr Fox” from Safe Hands Mobility of Folkestone, offering him twenty quid off of a zimmer frame, fifty quid off of a bath lift, or a ton off of a made to measure chair or a mobility scooter.
And “My Boy TMhad a parcel today. He’s spent fifty quid on new back lights for his car. Which is nice, but for one minor problem. At the moment he doesn’t actually have a car. I would have seen that as a major problem, but he seems unperturbed.

To work, which was the same as ever, and then having dusted the snow off my car I came home in time to see what was arguably the best TV show ever. You can forget all about Big Brother and X-Factor. The program to watch is “Young Fishmonger of the Year”. Three young fishmongers had their monging skills tested to the utmost, but Danny was soon knocked out because of his sloppy filleting. Andy and Sam went head to head. Andy’s shoulder of huss was impressive, but Sam threw it away when he made a schoolboy error with his halibut. It was really good – I’ve not seen a show of this calibre in a long time. And I won’t again: ‘er indoors TM has banned me from watching it again. Can’t imagine why….

Meanwhile RU12 and Frosty the Snowman are sitting on Frosty’s sofa. Or, to be precise, Frosty is sitting on Frost’s sofa. RU12 doesn’t fit; Frosty’s bottom is too festively plump.
They are enjoying the festive fire, which is burning well for no adequately explained reason.

It is odd how one may take a moral stance against a patio set, but not against a sofa. But bearing in mind what happened to the last fellow who disagreed with a snowman, who’s going to argue the point?

15 December 2010 (Wednesday) - Parcels, Quizzes

Off to the sorting office in town to collect a parcel. “Daddies Little Angel TMwasn’t in when the postman called, so he’d left us a note to go and get the thing. The R-tard behind the desk wasn’t happy because I wasn’t the person to whom the package was addressed. The fact that I had to live in the same house in order to have the delivery slip in my hand was neither here nor there as far as he was concerned. And he conceded that if he was delivering the thing to my home, he would hand over the parcel without a second thought.  Normally I don’t engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent, but this twonk had wound me up. In the end he was too embarrassed not to hand over the parcel, but continued grumbling that next time the parcel recipient must give me written permission to collect the parcel. I’ll worry about that next time.

And then on to work. Normally on Wednesday we have a lunchtime lecture. Today we had an Xmas quiz. I was rather flummoxed by the acronym round. What do CAPA, NICE, IBMS stand for? And they didn’t get any easier. When was haemoglobin first discovered? I don’t know. What is the most common blood group in Kent?
But after all was said and done I didn’t do too badly. With twenty one points out of a possible forty, I ended up in joint third place, and only lost out on a prize after I failed the tiebreaker. How many of Santa’s reindeer can you name? I got Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch. But it would seem I missed some out.

My pink USB memory stick would seem to have croaked. How long do USB memory sticks live for? Mine never seem to manage very long.
And then we did our Xmas food shopping. We’ll have to get the fresh stuff a bit nearer the time, but a combination of shops getting busier by the day, and a very full diary meant that our major food shop could only get done tonight or on Xmas Eve. And I’ve been to supermarkets on Xmas Eve before…

Meanwhile most of the usual suspects are chilling out round the patio set. RU12 and Frosty are not though. They feel that a patio set has no place in an advent calendar, and it could be argued that they may well have a point.

They are refusing to join in today’s picture: they claim they are taking a moral stance.
However it has to be said that there are very few robots and even fewer snowmen less suitable to claim the moral high ground.

14 December 2010 (Tuesday) - Meteors, Art...

I woke feeling rather exhausted, but for once it was with good reason. Last night was the Geminid meteor shower. My blog from this time last year tells me that I missed the meteor shower because of all the cloud. This year I wasn’t going to let something as trivial as clouds and rain spoil my enjoyment of the meteors, and so yesterday evening, together with the Folkestone contingent, we set off to Woodchurch to meet up with the other brave (daft) souls of the astro club. The idea was that the BBC would be coming down to do some filming for the “Stargazing Live” events that are coming up in January, but they let us down at rather short notice. But we carried on regardless.

We started off in the lesser of the two pubs in Woodchurch. The Bonny Cravat (or Bonny Crap Hat as My Boy TM ” likes to call it) is all right as pubs go, but after all is said and done, it’s a Neame. Six of us met up, observed a pint of “Bishop’s Finger”, and then went to look for some meteors. We studied the cloud-filled heavens all the way from the Bonny Cravat to the Six Bells. For those of my loyal readers who are unaware of the geography of Woodchurch, it’s taken you longer to read this sentence than it would have taken to walk from one pub to the other.

The Six Bells is next door to the Bonny Crap Hat, it is a free house. And it has much better ale. A pint of “Finchcock’s Original” was next on the list of objects to be observed. We were considering observing a pint of “Golden Braid” as well, but you can get too much of a good thing - after all, this was an astronomical observing session, not a booze up. (Even if we had been to two pubs which technically made the evening a pub crawl).
We wandered down to the village green to try to see some meteors, but the cloud cover was so thick we couldn’t see anything at all. We did consider going back to the pub to observe some more, but it was getting late, so we called it a night and came home. Personally I feel the evening was a victory for the “Google Images school of Astronomy” – after all, there’s always piccies of meteors to be found there.

(Talking of the astro club, the R.A.S. have given the club a grant of fifty quid. That’s better than a poke up the bum. I’m just left wondering who and/or what the R.A.S. is.)

And so feeling exhausted, I set off to work. Today I got to spend the day sat at a microscope, and when this opportunity arises, I switch the internet to Radio Four. They have an amazing range of stuff on in any one day. Take today for example. They had news, featuring politicians getting crucified live on air. There was an interview with an exiled Iranian politician who faces death if he returns home. This was followed by a cookery article in which they made a pavlova live on the radio. I never thought that a cookery demonstration would work on the radio. I was wrong.
There was then a discussion about how shocking some of the music videos on TV are these days. Some stuck-up twot was boasting how he'd thrown away his TV so that his children wouldn't be exposed to the filth that masquerades as public entertainment. In the same breath this stuck-up twot was trying to defend all the nudey statues and paintings in the London museums as being "art". He actually boasted how is is better that his small child has an admiration of the paintings and statues of Perseus holding up Medusa's severed head, rather than liking X-factor.
There was a brilliant play about women golfers who played golf at a cursed golf course, and an article about the plight of sloths in the Caribbean. Anneka Rice spoke about her passion for drawing; especially drawing nudey people (how rude!). There was discussion about the morality of the Wiki-Leaks revelations. There was an article about the life and times of D.H. Lawrence, and then a very interesting investigation of how science and medicine are at odds with the law when crimes are committed by people sleep-walking.

And so home, where the sky was crystal clear, and the occasional meteor could be seen…

Meanwhile there's a new kid on the block. Or on the other bus, seeing how he's wearing a cravat and lipstick. Mind you, he might be French, (or a girl), which would explain a lot. He, she or it is brandishing a baguette: the saucy devil.
The young chav is waving his chopper about. “Her next door” has got a pussy. The dog has a sausage.
Frosty clearly doesn't understand the concepts of subtlety or innuendo…