31 July 2011 (Sunday) - The Day After

Having had a really enjoyable day yesterday, I was brought back down to Earth by spending some of the night perched on the lavatory. I’m hoping it was something from the barby as opposed to the home brew.
Let’s just gloss over the whole sorry night by saying that I didn’t dare fart without a safety net (Eeeww !!). But (for all that a night of dire rear wasn’t fun), I’m counting myself lucky. It turns out that yesterday was a day of medical emergencies – some of our friends missed yesterday’s party because they were so ill they’d had to call out the emergency doctor. Another chap managed to break a rib whilst putting together a garden trampoline. And an old mucker of mine couldn’t get along yesterday because he was in hospital (having fractured his skull).
I think I got off quite lightly (!)

I finally plucked up the courage to leave the toilet and went to bed around 6am this morning, but I was wide awake and tidying the garden by 9am: and was feeling somewhat peckish too. We’d arranged to drive the Folkestone contingent home this morning, so we set off to Folkestone via the American Diner at Bybrook Barn.
I had the ten-piece breakfast. Sausages and bacon and beans and grilled tomato and mushrooms and hash browns and fried egg and fried bread and toast and coffee – whatever had upset my guts overnight was clearly by now a thing of the past. I even finished up with an ice cream sundae. Others of our party had five and ten piece brekkies too – and thick milk shakes as well. Very nice!

And then to Folkestone to deliver people home again. We came back via Maplins for a look-see. Maplins is an odd shop. Everyone else gets all sorts of really useful gadgets from them: whenever I shop there they never have anything out of the ordinary.

And then home, where I dozed in front of the telly for the rest of the day….

30 July 2011 (Saturday) - Garden Party

Today was our annual garden party. In retrospect I probably did leave it rather late to send out invites: so many people had prior engagements. It turned out that we clashed with several other garden parties, organised zoo trips, weddings, camping weekends, family holidays, airport runs and birthday parties.

But still there were over forty people crammed into the back garden for a barby, and a drink or two. The home brew went down very nicely, but I think that playing Twister with my dodgy back was a silly thing to do…..

There are always photos of any event I’ve been at. Some are here. Others are here. More are here. And even more here
Same time next year…..

29 July 2011 (Friday) - Work and Play

I didn’t sleep at all well last night: spending most of the night awake with indigestion. I thought it was probably caused by a combination of pork scratchings with too much ale, but I got to work this morning to find others with iffy innards too. The consensus of opinion is that we were fed dodgy prawns last night: I just wolfed mine down, but others said their starters were still raw. If ever any of my loyal readers find themselves in Willesborough, I can’t recommend avoiding the Hooden on the Hill strongly enough.
Six months ago this place was one of my favourite pubs. Six months ago over seventy of my colleagues had the works Xmas do there. Today we were finding somewhere else for the works Xmas bash.

Today was rather successful at work: another of my trainees had a successful qualification examination. The principle of the examination is that over a period of time I set the student loads of tasks and the student produces a portfolio of evidence (which represents the experiences of about one thousand hour’s lab time). I then say whether or not the student has passed. Our professional body then sends another senior lab bod to look through the portfolio to see if they agree with me.
That’s six that have passed in the last year, and twenty two altogether. And today’s twenty-second was every bit as nerve wracking for me as the first was (all those years ago). Mind you, I wasn’t impressed with the examiner. When I assess a portfolio I arrive at the lab at 9am. And if the lab is a long way away, then I get up early. I’ve done some assessments which have had me on trains before 6am before. Today’s verifier came from London (which is forty minutes on the Javelin train) and didn’t get to us until 11.30am.
He was pleasant enough on the verification process, but when delivering his verdict to us he seemed to delight in dragging out what he had to say; slowly going through pages of his report, word for word. When I’m verifying I tell them pass or fail straight away. (I did fail one student once…)
And I don’t think the bloke’s grasp of conversational English was quite what it might have been.

We also said goodbye to a colleague today – one of our number is moving to North London to sell spirometers. Pete’s only been with us for a few months, but in that time he’s become quite a character. We shall miss him.

This evening was astro club. The news section featured something about Trojan asteroids which I suspect might have been shamelessly blagged form yesterday’s blog entry.
We’d dragooned one of our members to give the main talk at short notice, and he spoke on what sorts of astronomical thingies the amateur astronomer could spot without too much effort. Whilst I don’t think I learned anything new, the talk brought together a lot of things I’d not considered before, and gave me some targets for when I get the telescope out next.
After I hawked the raffle we had a Stellarium show on the summer sky. We covered retrograde motion and epicycles: when you see it on the PC it’s painfully obvious that planets orbit the sun and not the Earth.
And I found out that the swan in Cygnus is flying the other way to how I thought it would be flying. One lives and learns…

28 July 2011 (Thursday) - A Crap Pub

I had a smile as I drove round the diversions to work today. Some young hooligans had moved the road signs to send diverted traffic down a cul-de-sac. I know that road is a cul-de-sac, and so I ignored the signs. And then I realised that in years to come I may well find myself towing a caravan into a cul-de-sac in a road I don’t know because some young hooligans might think it would be funny. I stopped smiling.

The radio has some interesting articles today: science has found that Earth (like Mars, Jupiter and Neptune) has Trojan asteroids. If the future had turned out as I’d hoped, we’d be sending astronauts off to have a look-see.
Science might have found the Higgs boson too. The chap on the radio seemed rather disappointed by the prospect. Apparently not finding it would have been much more interesting.

And then my piss boiled. Mrs Rashida Chapti is launching a legal bid to have her husband legally allowed to come to live in England with her. Currently he lives in India, and he is barred from immigrating to the UK because he doesn’t speak English and has no intentions of learning to do so should he manage to get residence here. Mrs Chapti claims that barring her husband from the UK breaches Articles eight and twelve of the European Convention on Human Rights. She also claimed that not being able to speak English would be no bar to her husband’s getting a job. He could work at the same firm she works for (where apparently no one speaks English!)
Or that is her translator claimed that – for some reason Mrs Chapti chose to speak through an interpreter. The interpreter claimed that Mrs Chapti can speak English, but was rather shy about doing so.  I was left wondering, and fuming.
Am I so wrong in thinking that there is something fundamentally wrong with our society if there is even the faintest hint in the law that this might be permissible?

I came home to find a spotty bumfluffed oik on the doorstep. He claimed to be a surveyor who was checking that I’d received some literature from the energy company that had sent him round. I told him I wasn’t interested. He was insistent, but I wasn’t having any of his old tosh. I didn’t have the heart to tell him, but real surveyors don’t look like their mum has dressed them for school.

And then I had one of those evenings which will go down in the annals of history as having been legendary. The Hooden on the Hill has been a favourite pub of mine: last Xmas it hosted the works Xmas bash. It seemed the ideal venue for a leaving meal for one of my colleagues. Bearing in mind the vagaries of our late shift we gave them the orders for our meals at 7pm on the understanding that we would be eating at 8.20pm. At 7.30pm they told us that certain menu choices weren’t available, and so we re-ordered way before 7.45pm. Our starters eventually arrived at 9.15pm, and at 10.15pm we told them we weren’t prepared to wait any longer.
A very threatening landlord was found who tried to claim that we’d booked for 6pm (not true), and that we’d not ordered until 8.45pm (not true). It’s probably fair to say that we could have ut up with the wait – it was the lies that were most off-putting. In the end it was rather embarrassing in that we thought it only fair we should pay for what we’d eaten, and the most drunk of our party (me) ended up shaking hands with an equally pissed-up barman.

For myself it was a memorable evening – I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. But as I said (very loudly) at the time, if you are going to put your pub on Facebook, don’t piss off your so-called friends….

27 July 2011 (Wednesday) - Egerton

The news shocked me late last night – the pavilion where I shave, shower and… wash up (!) at Brighton Kite Festival has exploded. Over the last ten years that building has somehow become part of my life (albeit an infrequent part). And now it’s gone.
Talking of kites, details would seem to be scarce, but someone would seem to have managed to kill themselves whilst flying a power kite. It would be very easy to speculate on what might have happened: I’ll just gloss over the sad incident with the observation that some years ago I told the British Kite Flying Association and the British Buggy Club about the need for controlling and licensing large kites. I told them that it would be a matter of time until this happened. Both august bodies were rather dismissive. As kite fliers we had the chance to self-regulate. We’ll now have regulation forced onto us.

Something else which is also worrying me is the Prince of Wales. As an ardent Royalist I can see my pro-Monarchist views going right out of the window the moment Her Majesty passes on the reins to her eldest.
Prince Charles has recently made a speech, the text of which is available here. It’s an interesting speech; not so much for the content as for the way His Royal Highness goes from being eminently reasonable to being absolutely away with the fairies, and then back to reason all within the blink of an eye.
For all that I want to be a Royalist, I cannot see myself being able to support a King who is demonstrably as mad as trousers.

This evening was the arky-ologee club: over the summer we go out for walks to places of historical interest. We had some fish and chips whilst waiting for everyone to assemble in the village square in Lenham, and then drove down to Egerton where we had a stroll. We started off by wandering around and over a tumulus. (A tumulus is a small hill: they sound sexier than they actually are). We then wandered about through fields back to Egerton via the scenic route.
Whilst noseying at some of the old houses in Egerton, a chap came out of his house and got chatting with us. When he realised we weren’t a passing bunch of axe-murderers he invited us into his house for a look round. It was a fifteenth century house with a lot of original features including the original fireplace and chimney, a priest’s hole, and what was left of the tunnel from the house to the nearby church.
We ended the evening in the pub. Sometimes the arky-ologee club is dull. Other times, not so…

26 July 2011 (Tuesday) - Good Bacteria

I was rather delayed getting off to work this morning. There are road works just down the road from my house. The gas mains are being replaced. Regular readers will recall me ranting about the gas main replacements down my road which took place from February through to July in 2009. And now, just two years later they have dug up the end of the road (again) to replace the gas mains (again).
Last time they just dug a ditch along the side of the road: this time they have closed off the entire street. So now if we want to get out of our road we have a ten minute diversion involving negotiating two sets of traffic lights.
I am reliably informed that the road works will take six weeks. They said that last time and took six months.

I was working at the hospital in Canterbury this morning: as is usually the case when I go anywhere at all, I log that place on Facebook. So I checked in on Facebook, I did my work, and then came home again. I was totally oblivious to the panic I’d set off. Lots of family and friends had seen that I was in the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, and had suspected the worst. (Sorry !)

On the way home I popped into the new Koi shop in Chilham to see if they had any ideas about my grungy pond. The nice lady suggested scrubbing out the ultra-violet light fitting, and seeding the filter with “friendly bacteria” (just like in the TV yogurt adverts). She also asked what I was feeding the Koi – apparently some of the cheaper brands of food are notorious for making ponds murky. And they also make ponds frothy.
Regular readers of this drivel may recall a blog entry back in March when I boasted how much Koi food I’d bought for fourteen quid. And I’ve commented before (several times) about all the bubbles in the pond.
That cheap fish food wasn’t the bargain I was hoping for.

And so home – via diversions round the road works. I’d booked the afternoon off work. Having had an 8am start, I was due to finish at 11.45am. I got home at 11.30am. Bearing in mind I’d started in Canterbury at 8am I decided that seeing I’d left home half an hour earlier than usual, I’d done my time. So I changed into mucky clothes and scrubbed out the pond’s light fittings (which weren’t overly grubby) and scrubbed the bloodworms out of the water pump, before adding my friendly bacteria into my filter. It was with a heavy heart that I then threw away all the old fish food – it seemed a waste, but the cheap fish food was clearly doing more harm than good.

I then showered the pond slime off of myself and checked my post. Last Thursday I mentioned that I’d found an electronic bite indicator on eBay. It had arrived, and I spent a little while getting angry with it. The advert clearly said that the thing was supplied with a battery: there was a picture of the battery on the eBay advert. I went through the packaging several times, but there was no battery to be found. So I called up the advert on eBay again to check: yes – definitely battery supplied.
As I fumed I fiddled with the power switch. And the power came on. The battery was already installed. Oh, how I laughed (!) The bobbins I ordered on Sunday had also arrived. I want to go test it all out now.
And then, seeing how I’d got time off work I did what I always do when I have time off work: an afternoon’s ironing.

Meanwhile over on Google Plus I have been added to the circles of Seiyad Ashroff Mohamed Infas.
Hello Seiyad Ashroff Mohamed Infas….

25 July 2011 (Monday) - Fish Poo and Ranting

Every morning straight after emerging from my pit and putting on my specs I have a look down the garden at the pond: I don’t know why I do this – I just do. This morning the pond’s water level looked rather low. So I went out to have a look and the filter was leaking – the new filter medium had already blocked up.
On the one hand it’s a good thing in that the new filter medium is clearly working and the pond does actually look clearer. On the other hand it was a nuisance to be cleaning the thing out at 6am this morning.
And when I came home from work this evening I thought it best to give it another clean as the thing was quite filthy inside. I’m hoping for good results from this new load of filter medium.

I was rather annoyed when I read the news today – the world has got mad with remorse for a pop star whose only claim to fame was that she was something of a disgrace to all things decent. Having made a career of being permanently drunk, stoned or both, she’s got the early death that everyone saw coming a mile off. And suddenly she’s being held up as a saint by the mass media.
No one gives a stuff about the bomb-disposal corporal who died a hero’s death last week.

Meanwhile, doesn’t this story just suck donkey dick? Having got rather fed up with the ongoing scandals of seemingly never-ending kiddy-fiddling being perpetrated by the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church is trying to take the line that it doesn’t actually have an employer-employee relationship with its priests. And so can therefore legally distance itself from any kiddy-fiddlers.
It would seem that this legal point has already been thrown out on its arse as far as Anglican clergy are concerned, so it’s anyone’s guess as to why the left-footers think they might get away with this one.

However I must admit to a wry smile when one of the legal types in the case against the church was quoted as saying “The Catholic church would be better served by facing up to its responsibilities rather than trying to hide behind spurious employment law arguments". Presumably by “responsibilities” the legal profession mean “handing over great piles of wonga”; some of which would be destined for their pockets.
Have you seen how much the average solicitor earns? Didn’t some French bloke once say: “There is one law for rich and poor alike, which prevents them equally from stealing bread and sleeping under bridges”. 
Law is nice if you can afford it. Both the legal profession and the left footers can. I wonder if those acting on behalf of the fiddled kiddies would be so vocal if they were on a fixed salary rather than on a percentage basis?

The whole sorry story of child abuse by the Church really annoys me. Those entrusted with the children’s welfare have abused that trust. And those entrusted with seeing justice is done have a vested interest: how can they be impartial if there are great sums of money to be had?

And at the end of this rant who is actually looking out for the abused?

24 July 2011 (Sunday) - How Dull....

I was woken by the sound of “My Boy TMclumping up the stairs some time after 3am this morning. About an hour or so later he clumped down the stairs, and then back up again. Next door’s dogs started a riot shortly before 7am, so today I was left feeling somewhat tired.

After a bout of brekkie I set off on a shopping mission: new filter media for the pond filter. The pond’s a bit whiffy at the moment, and I’m not sure what the problem is. New filter stuff should help, so I went to the pond shop. There was a dodgy five minutes at the till at the pond shop. “Two filter media at fifteen pounds each – forty five pounds please”. I queried this – but I was again told the price was forty five quid.
I suggested that he might like to try again, but the bloke on the till was adamant. “Forty five quid – till says so!!!” I disagreed with till, and this really upset the “acolyte of till”, who argued his case. He would not listen to reason or basic mathematics. If the till said that 15 + 15 = 45, then that was the case, and it was reality that was at fault. It was only when the chap was almost in tears that the manager came over and explained that fifteen plus fifteen didn’t equal forty five, even if till did say so. The manager did stroke the till to reassure the poor “acolyte of till”, but the damage was done. Till’s integrity had been besmirched. I handed over my cash to the manager and got out as quickly as I could – things were clearly about to get nasty.

From there I went to Argos - ‘er indoors TM had found a new doorbell and reserved it. Argos texted me, and when I arrived I just put the number Argos had texted to me into the gadget and five minutes later the surly schoolchildren behind the counter handed over my new doorbell. I must admit that I am still amazed by technology – you can reserve something on your computer and the shop’s computer sends a message to your phone with all the reservation details. I’ve done the “Argos remote shopping” several times now, and every time I’m impressed with the technology; if not with the arrogant spotties running the shop.
Buying weed killer and filler from B&Q then came as something of a disappointment.

And so home for a bite of lunch, then on with gardening. I scrubbed out the pond filter and replaced the filter media. Hopefully that will do some good. I mowed the lawn, and then scraped the weeds out of the cracks between the front garden’s paving slabs, and filled the cracks.  
(A few lines of writing to say what I did – hours of back-killing effort to achieve it!)

A phone call: a friend of a friend had heard that I like snakes – did I want her mate’s royal python for forty quid? They have had it for a while, but now that the snake is two feet long they are scared of it. I asked if it came with vivarium and all the accessories. It did, but in the time it took to ask that question the price had gone up to fifty quid.
I told them that I wasn’t interested in paying a penny, but if they cannot re-home the snake, I’ll take it (and all the kit) off their hands as a favour. I’m kind like that (!)

Another phone call: last year at Rye bonfire I was talking about booking a hotel room for this year’s Rye bonfire parade. I must admit that I’d forgotten all about that idea, but if I was serious about it, then I’d better see about booking the hotel room fairly soon. By the time I’d got to the PC and booted it up there wasn’t a hotel room within walking distance of Rye on the date in question for less than silly money.
Oh well – once more we will be going on the train, or someone will be driving…..

After the fun of the beer festival on Friday and the successes of the most recent fruit of my loin yesterday, today has been something of an anticlimax…..

23 July 2011 (Saturday) - Stuff

Bearing in mind the amount and variety of ales I guzzled yesterday, I woke this morning feeling relatively chipper. Over brekkie I spent a little while mucking about on the PC – two pump clips to design for the two beers that are ready for next week’s garden party, and then to actually tell everyone about next week’s garden party. I’m hoping that I’ve got the message to everyone – if any of my loyal readers haven’t got the info for the garden party, please let me know.

The post came – I had a letter from the water company to tell me that they’d compulsorily purchased the sewer coming out of my house. At first I was a tad miffed to have anything of mine compulsorily purchased. But on reflection bearing in mind the problems we had a little while back when the drains were bunged up, I decided that if someone else wanted to take on the responsibility for my cack pipe, they would be welcome to it. The water company have made a nice little film about cack pipes, and on watching it, it don’t look like they’ve  compulsorily purchased as much as I thought they might have done. I was hoping that they were going to take command of the pipe from the chod-bin onwards. But they are not – I remain responsible for my sewerage up to the point where it joins the common sewer. I’ve taken a tape measure to it – I remain responsible for four feet of cack-pipe.
I shall (like most of humanity, I suppose) continue hoping that my length of cack pipe remains trouble-free.

I see my favicon is now working: a “favicon” is that little picture next to the web page title that appears in your drop-down “favourites” menu. It’s taken me a little while to get the thing sorted, but finally its working. Or that is, it’s working on my PC. Is it on yours?
Having said that, there are one or two of my loyal readers who, despite tuning in every day, don’t actually have me on their “favourites” list, but use Yahoo to look up the website. Why not add the blog to your “favourites” list – it will save you time every morning.

Chip came round, and we set off to Pluckley for a bit of a stroll. I’ve mentioned before that ‘er indoors TM  has a set of guided tours round Kent, and today we did Pluckley to Chart Forstall and back. A really nice walk; very scenic. We mucked about with some horses on the way, admired some duck ponds, and didn’t really get that lost. We did take a wrong turn coming back through some orchards, but there were lots of paths we could have taken, and it’s really up to the landowners to signpost the paths better. Still, no one caught us coming out of a driveway labelled “Strictly Private – No footpath – No bridleway- Trespassers will be Executed”, so I think we got away with that one. As luck would have it we’d parked by the pub, so we deserved a crafty half at the end of our hike.

Home, where I mucked about with some paperwork to do with the next bit of the mortgage being paid off. I can’t wait until it’s all paid off – however the endowments we took out certainly turned out to be far from what they were described at the time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“Daddies Little Angel TMthen came home – she had post to open: college results. She’d managed a triple distinction in her BTEC course. I’m quite pleased about that: especially when one bears in mind that it doesn’t seem that long since I used to drag her physically to the school, only to have her escape again.
And then an evening’s fishing where “Daddies Little Angel TMexcelled herself (again). I always maintain that the fun of tiddler bashing is that in between the tiddlers you occasionally catch a large fish. “Daddies Little Angel TMdid this evening – a personal best 6½lb carp….

22 July 2011 (Friday) - Canterbury Beer Festival

Up with the lark, and after a spot of “first brekkie” the clans started gathering: five of us set off to the Works café for a plate of “second brekkie” where we met three more of our number. Some of us were rather abstemious; opting for the bacon sarnie. Others were a tad more adventurous opting for the standard breakfast. I went for the “absolutely everything there is” option. A tad greedy, perhaps, but it stopped me being hungry for the rest of the day.
Once suitable replete, and narrowly avoiding getting mown down by passing cars, we made our way to the train station where we met more of our number. Through a process involving far more luck than judgement we soon found ourselves on the 11.03 to Canterbury and we spent a pleasant twenty minutes on the train talking utter rubbish to each other. Such is life.

Once at Canterbury we had a novel break with tradition. Usually we walk up to the bus station and queue up for the complimentary bus to the beer festival. This has the advantage of free transport, but has the disadvantage of having to travel squashed into a scrum with the Great Unwashed, and that you arrive at the festival once all the seating has been bagged by others of the Great Unwashed.
So today, having arrived at the train station we piled into taxis to get us to the festival ahead of the crowd. We weren’t alone in having this plan, but we managed to get a lot further up the queue than we had in previous years, and so we were able to bag a twelve-seater table to ourselves. And with the arrival of the contingents from the Medway Towns and “Posh Kent” we filled this table.

We got our glasses and beer tokens and we read the beer list. I was intrigued to read the request on the beer list that people were asked to use the toilets sensibly. One can only wonder what shenanigans have been going on out there in previous years.
And so to the beer – I had eight:

  • Dartford Wobbler
  • Cocky Blonde
  • Midshipman Dark Mild
  • Renaissance Ruby Mild
  • Black Pearl Oyster Stout
  • Saison Wheat Beer
  • Samphire Ale
  • Bramlings Ale

The last two were from the Abigale brewery: a new brewery based in Ashford. I didn’t realise the place existed.

It would have been good to have stayed at the festival longer, but the afternoon session kicked out at 4pm, and bearing in mind how many people were there we decided to be sure of a seat on the complimentary bus back to Canterbury. (I have no problems taking the bus back after the festival)
Having listened to the Rear Admiral quibbling about the price of a public toilet and having bought a couple of sexy hats we settled down on a table outside an obscure pub in an even more obscure lane. Equipped with a pint of Hengist (from the Wantsum brewery) we had a quick game of cards.

And then we had a temporary parting of the ways – there were those who were continuing drinking, and there were those of us of a more pious disposition who were going to Evensong. For all that I am an Apathetic Agnostic, it don’t hurt to periodically suck up to God. And the music’s actually quite good. And my falling asleep was probably more to do with my natural piety than the amount of beer that I’d guzzled.
Having Evensonged we then collected one of the choristers and set off to the Dolphin where we met up with the less Godly of our party. We settled into the garden and found ourselves sharing a table with a young French couple who were playing scrabble. Scrabble in English. So we joined in with them, and spent a pleasant hour drinking Doombar and Gadds No.5 whilst trying to pretend that “qpurby” is actually an English word...

As always, a photographic record of the day was taken. History doesn’t record itself, you know….

21 July 2011 (Thursday) - End of an Era

Another late start gave me time to waste on the PC this morning. Completely out of the blue my anti-virus software popped out of the corner of the screen to tell me that it had protected me against several threats recently. It asked if I wanted more information, and so to encourage its efforts I clicked on the “oh go on then” icon. It doesn’t actually seem to have done an awful lot other than having scanned loads of emails and files. I suppose I should be grateful – it’s saved me the effort.
It has however been monitoring over three hundred suspicious processes. One wonders what they are.

As the Space Shuttle now becomes a memory, I was somewhat heartened to see that the US haven’t entirely abandoned manned space flight. NASA still feels it is on course to have a manned landing on Mars within twenty years. I hope so.
I was heartened to see that the last shuttle landing got quite a bit of news coverage. I never cease to be amazed by the ephemeral trivia that passes for “news” in our society. Call up Google News, or Yahoo News, or Reuters, or any news agency. (Go on – do it !!!) How many of the stories featured will have any bearing on the world and humanity-at-large? And how many of the stories featured won’t be utterly forgotten by everyone by next Monday?
The Great Unwashed clamour to find out which D-list-silicon-breasted-celebrity is porking which has-been-footballer. No one cares that the world is fast becoming uninhabitable, or that we as a species are reducing (rather than increasing) our ability to explore the only places we might consider sending life rafts when the time comes..

On a more mundane level I had a browse around eBay. I’ve been looking to get an electronic bite alarm of my own for some time, rather than borrowing one from the first fruit of my loin. However with prices starting from twenty five quid for a cheap one (that’s frankly not worth having), its money I’d rather not squander.
But this morning I found what I was looking for on eBay; and it only cost me £3.63. Let’s hope the thing actually turns up. Mind you, I’ve now bought and sold over five hundred things on eBay over the last ten years. I’m quietly confident it will turn up.

And then after a late finish at work and an astro club committee meeting, we watched the second episode of the new series of “Torchwood”. It’s no secret I’m not a fan of the show. When it first came out I said about it (on 23 October 2006) …” It was OK at best. Will I watch it again? Possibly, if I remember. There was nothing about it that made me want to keep up with it.
Four years have passed, but I stand by my original comment. This new season is effectively a re-boot but I still remain unimpressed with it.
With any work of fiction once is required to suspend disbelief. Even more so with science-fiction when the patently impossible is presented as a fait accompli.  However one can accept this if one is given a plausible plot. (Which is why we don’t mind rubber monsters and wobbly sets on old episodes of Doctor Who and Star Trek).
In my honest opinion throwing away plausibility in favour of special effects and explosions merely undermines the program’s credibility. Having now watched two episodes of Torchwood I am reminded of something Alexei Sayle once did – click on this link and watch from one minute twenty eight seconds to three minutes. (And do watch the rest – I do like Alexei)…

20 July 2011 (Wednesday) - Stuff

Another late start: I awoke to see that it was 8.20am. Quite a nice lie-in for me. Not so for ‘er indoors TM who had overslept and promptly instigated a “Brown Alert”. I couldn’t believe how well I’d slept - it seemed like only a couple of minutes previously I’d heard “My Boy TMclosing the door as he left for work. He goes at 5.30am.
We came downstairs to find “acquired daughter” (as opposed to hereditary daughter) watching telly. On reflection when I heard the door close, the door had been closed relatively quietly: I must have heard her coming in, not him going out.
A few minutes later, “hereditary daughter” came in: there was very little quiet about that.

I then spent ten minutes pruning my Facebook list, and I said goodbye to Harry Douglas. After all, I know absolutely nothing about the bloke other than that friends who fly kites have added him to their lists.
There seems to be something about kite fliers on Facebook: most seem to add absolutely any Tom, Dick or Harry to their Facebook list if Tom, Dick or Harry claims to like kite flying. This particular Harry, having been added to my list (on the strength that other kite fliers had him on their lists) has consequently got himself on to loads of my “real life” friends’ lists on the strength of his being a cyber-friend of mine.
Somehow I feel that I’ve been taken in by this chap – having used my bona-fido he’s got himself onto all sorts of other people’s lists. So he’s now gone from mine.
And if any of my loyal readers have added Harry Douglas (with an icon of a parachuting teddy bear) because he’s a friend of mine, you might want to re-think that decision. I’m in no way casting any aspersions whatsoever on the chap – other than to say I have absolutely no idea who he is. Interestingly when you accept “friends” on Facebook, you are now asked if you actually know the person in question outside of Facebook. Since this change has been made I actually do know everyone I’ve added or been added by. I wonder what happens if you say “no” to that question.
My Facebook friends list now has two hundred and eighty people on it. I’ve not actually met all of them face to face, but I think I am now in the position that I actually know who they all are now.
On the other hand, Google Plus seems to have fizzled out already. Admittedly I’ve only got twenty six people in my circles, it’s been several days since anything new has appeared in my stream that wasn’t already posted on to Facebook.

Meanwhile in the wider world, most of the news pundits today are pretending to be shocked, outraged and indignant about the News International phone hacking scandal. I don’t know why they are talking that stance. Surely common sense tells us that the general public wholly approve of digging up the dirt at any cost. Were there actually any morality at all that might get in the way of a news story, then the general public wouldn’t support the entire media industry by buying their newspapers, would they?

And in closing, despite having been demoted to the paltry rank of “dwarf planet”, Pluto exceeds the expectations of even its staunchest supporters by turning out to have (at least) four moons. That’s more moons than those that orbit Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars put together.
Go Pluto !!!

19 July 2011 (Tuesday) - Baps, Overtime, and a Mixed Grill

A late start gave me time to check out what’s new on Google News. Here’s a sign of the times - Deborah Copaken Kogan’s son was rather ill, and she posted a photo of said flagging youngster on Facebook. From that photo a cyber-friend was able to diagnose what was up with the child, and immediate hospitalisation ensued. Perhaps I should do that with my maladies bearing in mind the problems I have with my GP surgery.

And then there were a million and one news items about football. It’s no secret that I don’t like football. Not only is the game somewhat simplistic, I simply cannot understand the fervour and excitement and hysteria it generates. Some Paraguisian fit bird has flopped “them” out simply because her favourite football team has won their game. And not to be outdone, a Dutch lady of loose morals has offered a slurp to all and sundry should her favoured football team win this weekend.
I really can’t understand the passion and excitement football inspires….

Following the “chesticles” theme, there was an article on the radio which made me smile this morning. A very dull chap from the Government’s biodiversity department was droning on about Biodiversity Action Plans. The interviewer soon got fed up with the phrase “Biodiversity Action Plan” and shortened it to the accepted acronym B.A.P. And the rest of the discussion was about baps. The schoolboy in me was sniggering about baps, and sniggering all the more as the very dull Government spokesman had absolutely no idea that a bap could be anything other than a “Biodiversity Action Plan”. The interviewer himself wasn’t missing an opportunity to bring baps into the conversation. It transpired that lots of bodies have baps, some baps are bigger than others, but the problem is that the public has very little awareness of them. The interviewer was obviously near hysterics himself when he suggested that everyone with baps should get them out in the open for all to see.
And people tell me that Radio Four is boring.

And so to work...
After work it was up to Wetherspoons – Chris’s birthday meal and a work event “Meat with Pete”. I shall do the Wetherspoons steak night again. Very tasty…..

18 July 2011 (Monday) - Archaeology

Here’s an interesting article. It would seem that due to all sorts of financial cutbacks the number of professional arky-ologists is falling. Therefore there aren’t enough qualified arky-ologists to go round. So whenever there is any hint of dead Romans having been skulking in the area, those who wonder what the dead Romans were up to are dependent on the likes of amateurs like me to scrubble about in the mud to retrieve the artefacts.

There are those who enjoy volunteering to scrubble about in mud trying to find artefacts. I am not one of them. There are various reasons for this. Personally I find the actual mechanics of practical arky-ologee to be boring. I don’t enjoy it. Also it hurts. I get severe and very painful backache after only a few minutes of scrubbling.
But most importantly I don’t want to do it because I openly admit I have not got the faintest idea of what I should be looking for. In the past whilst on arky-ological digs I have found what (to me) looks like Roman Samianware, only to be told it is last year’s flowerpot. I have then had a bit of genuine Roman Samianware put next to my bit of flower pot, and to me they both look exactly the same. Having me doing the digging is silly because I do not know what I should be looking for. For the sake of the historical record it is actually dangerous to have me on a dig if I cannot tell artefact from scrat, and I openly admit this fact. And I suspect this is true of a lot of amateur arky-ologists who also I suspect would never make this confession.
I can’t help but wonder how many significant finds have been missed because the well-meaning volunteer doesn’t know their arse from their elbow in an arky-ological context.

Scrubbling in the mud should be left to those who know what they are doing. However…. And there is always a “however”, isn’t there? It would seem that a few years ago the amateurs were discouraged from scrubbling after artefacts. And what happened? Rather than taking up stamp collecting or train spotting or drinking real ale or going fishing or flying a kite or getting a life, these amateurs bought metal detectors and just went off on their own to see what they could find.
And some of these metal detectorists seriously have done damage: here’s a link. And here’s another. And another. And if you’re still sceptical about how much destruction amateurs have done to sites of historical importance, I’d suggest just come along to the arky-ologee club; pretend you’ve got a metal detector, and see if you get out of the room alive.

So what’s the future of arky-ologee? Are potential dig sites to be left until the shrinking number of professionals can get round to them? Are the likes of me to be left to stuff up what’s under the ground? Should volunteer arky-ologists need some formal training or qualification before they are let loose? The obvious answer is to share out the professionals: let those who actually have got a clue supervise those of us who haven’t.

Or alternatively we might realise that if a piece of historical antiquity is actually of any value, some dead Roman wouldn’t have been so careless as to have dropped it in a ditch all those years ago…..

17 July 2011 (Sunday) - The Cellars of Winchelsea

I must admit to having a wry smile this morning as I pegged out the washing. Next door (the side who speak to us)’s dogs were staging a mini-riot. For all that the nice lady shouted and hollered at the dogs, they just carried on doing their own sweet thing until such time as it suited them to do something else. They do that a lot.
Whilst we were picnic-ing the other day we watched a woman demonstrating a similar level of (lack of) control over her dog. A month ago at Teston my brother’s dog bolted for no adequately explored reason and would not respond to any order or instruction. Many years ago my father’s dog decided to go off on a mission and was only stopped when (having been chased for a mile or so) the dog chanced to run past a friend who, on seeing the predicament, grabbed the dog.
Dogs don’t have to be like this. And not all are: I have seen dogs that are trained - trained well. Is it unreasonable to expect that all dogs have some basic level of training?

And then after a quick bite of McDinner we set off to Winchelsea. The village has loads of houses with cellars, and whenever we’ve walked around the place I’ve been intrigued by the cellars. So much so that I’ve often openly noseyed inside any which have been open.
Some time ago we saw that there were walks round the cellars organised by their local arky-ologee club, and so we planned to go there today. We had advertised the day at our arky-ologee club, and four club members turned up. I was disappointed at the low turnout from our club, but having said that, there were about forty people along for the tour anyway.
After a crafty half in the New Inn we all met up at the village pump, and the nice man who was our guide introduced himself, and gave a really good talk about the history of Winchelsea and the Cinque ports. The chap spoke with knowledge and enthusiasm, and really brought the subject to life as we walked round the village. We came to our first cellar, and all crowded in and listened to the chap tell us about how they were built. The poor speaker found himself having to ad-lib somewhat: just as we were about to leave, torrential rain started, and people were understandably reluctant to get soaked.
The monsoon passed, and we moved on to the second cellar, and then the third. It transpired that there are only two places in England with more medieval cellars than Winchelsea: Southampton and Norwich. And far from being used for smuggling (which I always thought they were); the cellars in Winchelsea were used as posh wine cellars from which merchants would sell wine.  
As is so often the case with any lecture it’s not the subject matter which captures the imagination; it’s the speaker. Today’s chap was really good, and the two hours flew by. The photos of the day are on line here.
We’re already thinking of going on a larger organised tour of Winchelsea itself. If any of my loyal readers are up for it, do let me know.

It was a shame that we couldn’t have spent longer, but as luck would have it the last cellar we investigated was next to the village tea rooms. So we popped in for coffee and cake. And then wandered up to the church to have a look at Spike Milligan’s gravestone.
We had a shock – it wasn’t there. We checked, and checked again. It’s gone! We came home and checked the Internet – nothing! So we phoned the organiser of today’s tour who told us that Mrs Milligan had recently died, and so the stone is being revamped accordingly.

And so home where I got the washing off the line – thanks to the rain it was far wetter than when I pegged it out. I popped it in the washing machine to spin it off; that washing machine doesn’t sound very good. I suspect that will need replacing soon. And then the evening was spent ironing. Dull, but then life isn’t all beer and skittles.
Except for ‘er indoors TM , who’d gone ten pin bowling for the evening….

16 July 2011 (Saturday) - More Stuff

I woke to find a very wet morning outside my window as I checked the Internet over a spot of brekkie. I had been asked to go camping this weekend at Eastbourne Extreme; I’m glad I turned the offer down. Having said that, it would seem that most of the kiting gang are posting to Facebook from somewhere in Herefordshire, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

Whilst on Facebook, I saw my father in law was up to his old tricks again. Having taken to drinking bleach for supposed medicinal purposes back in April, he’s now banging the drum of another bag of crackpot quackery.
When considering alternative medicine here’s a tip: if an alleged cure actually does work, then it will be a standard cure, treatment or drug offered by mainstream medical practitioners. If the alleged treatment is only available over the Internet or at very expensive clinics or seminars, then it’s a scam. No ifs, or buts. If your GP don’t offer it, it is a scam that doesn’t actually work.
For those of my loyal readers who’d like to pursue the matter, I’ve done this rant before – you can find it here. However I’d suggest that for the sake of my blood pressure we take the rant as done.

I have a new contact on Google Plus – the Rear Admiral has “gone Google”. I now have nine people in my circles. I’m hoping Google Plus will pick up as my circles grow – at the moment it’s a bit sad (as “My Boy TM ” would say).
Staying with Google, I checked Google News. I see the 1980s pop group Bucks Fizz are in the news. Three of them are squabbling with the fourth as to who actually owns the name “Bucks Fizz”. The whole sorry argument has been taken to the Intellectual Property Office who will apparently be “making their minds up” some time over the next six weeks. Six weeks (!) Perhaps working in an acute hospital environment has given me an unnaturally heightened sense of urgency about life?

As I wandered round Asda on the way in to work I saw a CD on offer – “Best of Bucks Fizz”. Having read about them on the news I thought that this was fate telling me to buy the CD. So I did. I shall have words with fate – it owes me a fiver. Bucks Fizz were rubbish thirty years ago, and haven’t improved over the years.
Mind you, I was amazed at how busy Asda was. I often pop in on the way to work during the week. At 7.30am on a weekday the place is all but deserted. At 7.30am on a Saturday the place was heaving with people. Don’t these people have better things to do on a Saturday morning?

After work I came home via Argos, and then spent an hour or so going through one of my student’s homework. This is probably something I should be doing in work time, but I enjoy it. And seeing how it was raining we’d decided against going out for a walk anyway. Instead once I’d gone through homework (and set her another six months worth of stuff to do) we went round to Chip’s for coffee and cake, before having a crafty McFlurry.

The weather forecast for the day had predicted the rain would stop in the late afternoon, and it did. So I loaded up the car with my fishing gear and set off to the pond. I beat the Folkestone contingent there by five minutes and so I had the pick of where to set up. Rather than fishing in my usual spot, I set up where I’d fished last week and had some success. However it didn’t take me long to realise I’d set up in Sheep-Dung-Central. The fishing was good, but it was being done in wall-to-wall sheep turds.
Still, I can cope with sheep turds. I got on with the fishing as the Rear Admiral dropped his chair in the pond and Stevey relocated to where he could fish without catching trees. There was a very dodgy five minutes when “Daddies Little Angel TMannounced she’d dropped her phone in the pond. And an even dodgier five minutes when she realised she hadn’t and couldn’t work out what it was that had made the splosh.
Disgorgers cunningly fashioned from twigs, crucian carp in the landing net, everyone having bigger fish than me, even a couple of bites on the ledger rod. It was a really good evening. It was a shame about the wind, but my new fishing umbrella (courtesy of Argos) did well. It was a bigger shame about the temperature. I really don’t expect to be shivering in the early evening in mid-July…..

15 July 2011 (Friday) - Stuff

On the way home from work I stopped off at Invicta Tackle. In the past I’ve had issues with that shop. I say “shop” – I don’t think that’s the right word. “Shop” implies somewhere where all and sundry can buy the offered merchandise. Invicta Tackle usually features two or three oddballs crowded around the counter gossiping with the assistant; all of them making it very clear that you are intruding in their personal space.
Today was much the same: I arrived to find only one oddball at the counter gossiping with the assistant. They were very loudly gossiping about “Shouty Pete”; a fellow who apparently is rather vociferous whilst he fishes a local lake. It would seem that “Shouty Pete” lives camped out at this lake; he has little else to do with his time. He is one of only two people to have caught a 40+lb carp from said lake. I was quite intrigued by the life and times of “Shouty Pete” and was keen to find out more, but after waiting for ten minutes to get served, the assistant and the oddball suddenly noticed me, both glared, and the assistant asked what I wanted. His tone was much the same tone that you might use to ask someone much smaller than yourself if they want a fight.
I got my maggots for a possible weekend’s fishing session, and slowly made my way out of the shop. Unfortunately no more gossip about “Shouty Pete” was forthcoming.

The news amazed me today. In Switzerland a political party has decided it wants to ban Microsoft’s PowerPoint. And they aren’t alone in this -   a growing number of people are sick to death of PowerPoint presentations. Suddenly today the world is full of anti-PowerPoint sentiment. Type “PowerPoint” into Google News and you’ll get loads of websites realy lambasting the program.
Personally I think PowerPoint is brilliant. What did we have before it? Blackboards and chalk. And overhead projectors with transparencies were the height of technology.
I can’t see why Microsoft is held to be at fault here. PowerPoint is just a tool to get a job done. If a presentation is dull, or needlessly over-flashy it’s not Microsoft’s fault.
Unless you’re sleeping through one of my lectures….

I had another fiddle about with Google Plus this evening. I can’t say that I don’t like it; perhaps I just need to get used to it. It’s new – I don’t do “new” very well. And I’m not alone in that.
Bing (Microsoft’s answer to Google) is losing cash hand over fist. Why? Because it doesn’t do anything that Google and countless other search engines don’t do already.
I really can’t see what Google Plus does that Facebook doesn’t, and Facebook is losing customers…  

14 July 2011 (Thursday) - Google Plus

I woke up feeling refreshed and raring to go. As I bounced out of bed I looked at the clock: 3.20am (!) I tried to go back to sleep, dozed a little, and felt like death warmed up when I was actually supposed to get up.
To work, which was rather productive for a change. And then home again to find two separate invitations to join Google Plus. I say “to find” – I saw a good friend talking about Google Plus on Facebook, and I sulked until he sent me a request to join. So I followed that request to find I’d been invited by another friend already.
At the moment you can only join Google Plus by invitation only. And so now I’m part of the elite. Having said that, if they will take me they will take anyone.

So – what is Google Plus like? In principle it’s much the same as Facebook or Yahoo Messenger or MySpace, really. You tell the world whatever banal pettiness you want to tell them, and you read about the mundane trivialities of your friends’ lives.
It has a feature in that you can arrange your friends and contacts in “circles” and so you can lump together all your friends from one part of your life into a separate circle from your friends from another part of your life. Rather than sharing every bit of triviality with everyone, you get to choose who sees what particular bit of drivel you’re spouting. Effectively it’s a partitioned version of Facebook.
This is a “feature”, and is clearly using the I.T. definition of the word. Personally I’d rather hear more from someone than only about that which we initially think we have in common. If all I spoke about was kites, I’d never know that my mate was also keen on astronomy, reptiles and poker.
I suppose with less than a dozen “friends” on Google Plus (as opposed to hundreds on Facebook) it’s rather early for me to dismiss Google Plus out of hand…. But …

The other day two good friends independently told me they had no idea that next Friday is Canterbury Beer Festival. I take a lot of time and put in a lot of effort to make sure my Google Calendar (accessible through this blog) is up to date and is visible to the world. And the very people for whom this calendar is intended don’t even look at it.
I have sent people messages via Facebook over the last few weeks. Despite their constantly posting stuff on Facebook, they insist they’ve not logged on to the thing for months.
People tell me they’ve sent me emails and texts that I’ve never received. Skype, Yahoo messenger, ICQ, MySpace have all come and gone. Trying to contact people via email and mobile phone is an ultimately frustrating pursuit as everyone changes mobile phone number and email address so often.

So here we are – Google Plus. Yet another way to try to keep in touch. Will it be any more effective that that which has gone before? To be fair to Google Plus it is still very early days. But I really don’t see what advantages it has over what is already available. Having said that, currently communications don’t work so it can’t hurt to give the thing a fair trial. If any of my loyal readers would like to join the elite over on Google Plus, just drop me a line.

Having said that, the first person I attempted to induct into the elite has told me she’s just had a reply back saying “Exceeded Field Trial Capacity”…..

13 July 2011 (Wednesday) - Back to Work

After a long weekend it was back to work for me. And within half an hour of being back, it was as though I’d never been off. I don’t dislike my job: I’m bored with it. Over the last thirty years I’ve left home and subsequently moved house three times. I got religion, found Jesus, got confirmed, realised it was all a load of old tosh, renounced the lot and become a minister in the Church of the Apathetic Agnostic. I’ve got married and had children. I’ve obtained a degree, and post-graduate qualifications. Hobbies have come and gone; and in many cases come again and gone again.
But the job remains constant, day in, day out. Year in, year out. I suppose I shouldn’t complain – in these uncertain times there are many people who would like the certainty that a job provides. But I’m bored.
Mind you, work isn’t without its little moments. One such happened today when a colleague came in limping. He announced he thought he’d broken his toe, having “dropped a bender” on it. He hastened to add that a “bender” was a metallic implement for bending other lumps of metal, but I didn’t believe him. I know what a bender is (!)

After a rather dull day I came home to find the forecast rain hadn’t happened, so I set about the garden. I strimmed and mowed the lawn, and saw red with next door’s overgrowth. On one side (the neighbours who speak to us) there is a fence. Just a fence. On the other side (the side who hate us) is what I can only describe as a jungle. An assortment of clematises, roses, vines and all manner of climbing plants pour over the fence. Periodically I prune them back, but I hadn’t so far this year. The clematis, blowing in the breeze, was actually half way across our garden. So I got the hedge trimmers and stripped it back to six inches from my side of the fence. He won’t like it, but if he truly wanted to be neighbourly he’d prune back his overgrowth himself….