30 November 2014 (Sunday) - Hognore Hike

I slept like a log last night, but woke with a *serious* sulk on. I have no idea why I should have had a cob. I wonder what that was all about? I came downstairs to find "Furry Face TM" was asleep in his new basket; at least he seemed happy.
Over brekkie I checked out Facebook. Several people were claiming that the craze for "Black Friday" sales was somehow inspired by the sales of slaves immediately after Thanksgiving. Obviously it was not, but trivia such as factual accuracy has never stopped anyone posting rubbish on social media.

We got ourselves together, we put the lead onto "Furry Face TM" and set off on today's adventure. We collected Kim and Andy, and met Aleta at Trottiscliffe Country Park. There are those who claim the place is prononced "Trosley". If that is the case, why is is spelt" Trottiscliffe"?
Five of us (and one convalescent dog) set off through a misty morning round the Hognore Hike. Billed as a walk of five miles we were rather surprised to find it was one of five miles; so many time we find the published mileage of these geo-walks to be seriously under-estimated. A five mile walk was what we wanted for today; with "Furry Face TM" doing his first all-day walk for a couple of months we wanted to re-introduce him gently.
The walk was excellent. The route was well laid out with only one serious hill climb. The geocaches were mostly easy finds (*if* you knew what you were looking for) and the scenery was lovely. The views would have been better had the day been less misty, but you can't have everything.
We did have "episodes" with a couple of the caches. One looked to be far too close to an adjacent cache; it was only on reading the instructions that we figured out what we had to do. "Walk up the road for about a hundred yards, turn right, and after about twenty paces look for a fallen tree". It was at this point that I truly realised the difference between locating something with pin-point accuracy using satellite-based GPS tecnhology and randomly guessing which fallen tree in the woods is the one that we have been sent to find as opposed to all the others that are not.
And our other problem cache involved a field puzzle. We were taken to a duck pond by a manor house where we were instructed to count up chimney stacks, satellite dishes, windows, do some sums and come up with some co-ordinates.
I maintain that the person setting the puzzle hadn't seen as many chimney stacks as I did.
But these were minor hiccups; nothing that couldn't be overcome with a decent helping of idiot enthusiasm.

We'd started walking shortly after 10.30am; we got back to the car about five hours later. I had fully expected to have ended the walk carrying my dog as I thought it might have been a bit much for him. But he walked (and ran) all of the way. Once home he had a bath; I'd forgotten just how much dirt and mud a small dog accumulates in the woods. He then curled up in his new basket and went to sleep. As he snored we wrapped him in a towel.
In many ways having a dog is like having a toddler again.

We then spent half an hour iindividually wrapping cans of lager for an advent calendar for "My Boy TM" , and talking of advent calendars, it's nearly that time again.
And with "er indoors TM" off bowling I settled myself in front of the telly. It's a tough life.

29 November 2014 (Saturday) - Shopping

I suppose that after a couple of night shifts it's not surprising that I slept like a log last night. I finally woke shortly after 9am. Over brekkie I found myself listening to next door's arguing. I couldn't work out what their problem was; he was shouting and she was shreiking. They've been squabbling rather more over these last few weeks.
I had a look at the Internet. In times past on the day after the astro club meeting the astro club's Facebook page would be alive with comments and praise for the previous evening's meeting. This morning's posts featured only one post which was asking what people think about the new format; a post to which I was the only person to reply wiith less than gushing praise.
No matter what the subject, I seem to be always in a minority of one; I'm getting just a little fed up with it. Still, if nothing else I can (usually) disagree with people without falling out with them.

I took "Furry Face TM" round to the park for a little walk. As we walked through Bowens Field we saw that someone had defaced the sign. A graffiti elephant had appeared on the sign. An odd defacement.
We came home, settled the dog down and went shopping. Staples had a rather good bargain; tablet PCs reduced from one hundred quid to thirty quid. I've been looking to take one of these geocaching so we got one each. From there we went round to Bybrook Barn Garden Centre for a spot of lunch. Very tasty.

We popped down to Folkestone, collected "Daddies Little Angel TM" and the baby and went round to the new shop "The Range" where we picked up all sorts of bargains including a new basket for "Furry Face TM". I then slept for a couple of hours at chez Fernandez whilst everyone else fussed over the baby. We then took "Daddies Little Angel TM" home, delivered candles, and came home ourselves. I sparked up my new tablet and... the thing was slow. Very slow. Almost too slow to be useable. And it is incompatible with the geocaching app I wanted to use on it. It refuses to even install the app. It can't do the one thing I bought it for.
I've done a factory reset, put the whole lot back in the box, and will take it back to the shop on Monday.

Rather disappointing really... mind you my little dog seems to like his new basket.

28 November 2014 (Friday) - After the Night Shift

I can’t deny that working all night is tiring, and it is definitely early days. But so far I like night shifts. I get quite a varied workload at work, and I get to take my dog for a decent walk every day as well.
Last night’s shift could have been better; it could have been a lot worse. But once it was done I came home. Going to or from work still has the same pundits on the radio. Today they were commenting on “Black Friday”. In Britain we’ve always had the January Sales which is when traditionally all the bargains are to be had. But Americans do their bargains on the day after Thanksgiving. And rather than being a gentle polite affair, it’s usually something of a bloodbath. So in true lemming-like fashion Britain copies America and today shops across the country have had “Black Friday” sales in which the average customer would happily slit the throat of anyone and anyone in their bid to save a few pennies. Police were called on several occasions. I wish I’d gone to one… if only to watch the punch-up
Also in lemming-like fashion the Prime Minister is now spouting pure UKIP propaganda. To sum up the speech he made today, anyone who can’t prove a British pedigree is to be deported, and if the EU don’t like it they can get bent.
It worries me that he’s taking this line. Firstly he’s obviously trying to win back voters who have fallen for the UKIP lies by saying that shit is sugar. And secondly he’s following the tack of his coalition partners, the Dribbling Democraps, by abandoning principle in favour if vote grabbing. He might not be my favourite Prime Minister, but up till now I’ve had a grudging respect for him. Does he *really* need to try to out-nasty UKIP?
On reflection I suspect that to win the next election he does…

Once home I took “Furry Face TMround to the park for a walk. Apart from having lost all recollection of the whistle training I’ve spent years trying to instil into him our walk was rather uneventful.
I took myself off to bed shortly after 11am, and would have slept a lot longer had  “Furry Face TM “ not had a major woofing fit at 1.30pm. I got up, but wasn’t feeling as though I wanted to do much. So I settled down in front of the PC and did another module on my Coursera course. Today we covered the appearance of oxygen in the ancient atmosphere and the evidence for changes (up and down) in oxygen levels over time. I’m sure I would have paid more attention to the subject matter had I been less fascinated by the odd-looking chap presenting the lectures. His face looked about twenty years younger than the awful beard he wore. And he had either a very odd hair line or premature balding. Also his head was about twice as long as it really should have been. Poor chap. And then at some point between the second and third lecture he had a shave and haircut and ended up looking like a 1970s porn star (not that I’m an expert on the matter).
I can’t help but wonder how I did on the test for this module. For some reason it won’t give me a result just yet.

I see that the trailer for the new Star Wars film has been released. As a keen trekkie I’ve often been asked to explain the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars. For thirty years I’ve been saying that the key difference is that Star Wars is lame, and this trailer does little to make me want to change my opinion.

I then set off for some McTea. I should have left earlier; the traffic was terrible. But soon enough I was putting the world to rights with Stevey and Jimbo. And from there it was round to astro club. A reasonable turn-out really. We had the second evening of the new-look program; I’m still not sure if I like it; despite a really good talk, it does seem to go on rather late. Perhaps if my dog had let me sleep earlier I might have felt differently.

27 November 2014 (Thursday) - Between the Night Shifts

I quite liked last night's night shift; at the risk of appearing antisocial there is a lot to be said for having the place to yourself. Just as I was leaving work this morning my phone beeped. An email. A new geocache in Folkestone. Not exactly on the way home, but I thought I could chase the FTF then see the baby. After all I'd not had an FTF so far this month, and I'd not seen littlun for a few days.

It was odd driving into work in the dark last night. Simularly coming home in daylight this morning seemed strange too. As I drove to Folkestone there was something thought-provoking on the radio. The price of oil has dropped by one third in the last six months. But how much has the price fallen at the petrol pump? From what I can see on line the price I pay has only fallen by three per cent in that same time period. At first sight you might think someone's making a tidy profit here. But this isn't the case. The sad truth is that the price of oil is only a tiny amount of the final cost of petrol. The vast majority of the cost is actually government-imposed taxes.
This isn't news; I knew this all along. But realising that a drop in oil prices of a third only results in a petrol price drop of three per cent brings that fact home.

There was also talk about trials of a vaccine againist ebola. Apparently (according to the radio) the vaccine has been shown to boost the immune system which is vital in fighting the disease. Really? What a purile statement. It's tantamount to being surprised at the news that when an animal bites you, it does so with its mouth.
Perhaps I'm just being impatient with my felllow man... surely everyone knows that gaining an immunity to a disease involves the immune system? Don't they?

I got to Folkestone, found the cache I was after, was first to do so, did the happy dance, then went round to see "Daddies Little Angel TM" and the baby. Littlun has grown more; he's noticeably stronger. When holding him he *really* pushes with his arms and legs now. He smiled at me and gurgled as littluns do.
I was rather amazed to find that "Daddies Little Angel TM" had all the christmas decorations up already. But then again, that's the kind of "Daddies Little Angel TM" that she is.
Sid was in disgrace; having disgraced himself on the carpet. I then came home to find "Furry Face TM" had also disgraced himself. He knew he'd done wrong. I cleared up the mess as best I could (we've got a spray for that), then took him for a short walk. Not far today as it was raining rather hard. And then I filled the hot water bottle that I couldn't find yesterday and went to bed. There's something odd about going to bed at 10.30am.
The hot water bottle did the trick; I always settle much quicker when I don't have cold feet. Just as I was dozing off I heard the thunder of paws coming up the stairs. "Furry Face TM" jumped up (he shouldn't do that) and the two of us slept through till 3pm. I would have liked to have slept longer really. Maybe tomorrow?

I got up had some toast for late lunch, and fiddled about until it was time for sax leson. I've not really made much progress this week. Teacher will be cross.
And once I've saxed I've another night shift....

26 November 2014 (Wednesday) - Before the Night Shift

I felt something in the night I’ve not felt for ages (oo-er!) A fidgeting at the end of the bed. My dog had come upstairs and jumped on the bed. I know he shouldn’t, but I was so pleased that he felt well enough to do so that I left him there. He slowly worked his way up the bed, and I then dozed with my hand on his back for the rest of the night.

After brekkie I took “Furry Face TM “ for a walk. It was rather wet; too wet for the park (I thought) so we went out to Hythe Road and back via the Willesborough railway crossing. It’s one of what used to be our standard walks and, judging by my dog’s recovery, it will be again. We walked up past the station avoiding push bikes vooming in all directions. What is it with bike riders? Ashford has a very good cycle path network, and still cyclists either think they are cars and ride in the middle of the carriageway at walking speed, or fly down pavements expecting pedestrians to scatter in their wake.

As I walked past the secondary school I had a minor altercation with an officious teacher. This chap was brandishing a clip-board and was lording it over a small group of disinterested-looking children. As we walked past he stopped me, looked at his clip-board, looked at me and rudely asked “and you are…?” I replied “walking my dog” and kept going.
We carried on round to Frog’s Island where there was a minor flood, and just as we were coming past Asda I met an ex-cub’s mother. She seemed rather distraught. She was upset about one of the horses in a nearby field which had been tied to a fence. Apparently  the poor thing couldn’t move more than a few inches; he couldn’t even lower his head to get to the grass. Ex-cub’s mother was having a really good rant about how cruel some people are, and how she had a jolly good mind to phone someone. I let her rant for a few moments before I realised that she was talking to me as though I was still the leader of her son’s cub group. In her mind I was a person of authority. She was clearly expecting me to go sort the problem. So I assured her I’d take a look. Her face lit up at that suggestion, and me and Fudge went round to see the horses.
Sure enough one of the ponies was on his own by the fence, and was pulling against a fence post. But far from having been deliberately tethered, the silly beast had managed to get his bridle tangled in the fence. It took seconds for me to release him, and he galloped off to a nearby manger which was full of hay.
The horse set about scoffing hungrily, and feeling that I’d done my good deed for the day I came home.

I gave “Furry Face TM “ his brekkie, booked a service for my car (more expense!) then I set about more Coursera course work. Today’s lectures were on the effect of mass extinction events on biodiversity. I thought I knew quite a bit about the topic, but I learned loads. And I got eighty per cent in the test too.
(And there are those who say I’m little more than a bald piss artist!)

I checked my emails… and got the hump. Two geocaches had gone live during the week; both of which are on my way to work (admittedly on a rather circuitous route). Neither had been found. I had planned to get at least one FTF on my way to work this evening. Both had been found this morning. Oh well…

I watched another episode of “Detectorists” over lunch, blew my saxophone, set the washing machine going, then tried to get a little sleep. I managed to sleep for three hours, but did have cold feet. Once I woke I spent a while trying to find my hot water bottle (for next time). I couldn’t find it, but I did find eight quid in the pockets of some trousers I haven’t worn for ages. Result!

I scoffed a bit of tea, and now I’m off to the night shift. I’ll see if I can’t get a hot water bottle in Morrisons…

25 November 2014 (Tuesday) - Babysitting

Another good night’s sleep. Over brekkie I saw not much of note had happened on-line overnight, which was probably for the  best. So I put the lead on my dog and we went for a walk. Yesterday’s walk was a pleasure. Today’s not so. As I crossed Beaver Lane so. The driver of a Harveys (the furniture store) lorry pointed at me and started shouting at me. I couldn’t work out what he was ranting about, but he was certainly aggressive. When he finally paused for breath I pointed out the fallacy of ranting at the public from his employer’s van with his employer’s name, phone number and website plastered all over it. The chap suddenly changed his tack, and claimed he didn’t want to see me being run over by a bus which was some distance up the road.
I wonder what had boiled his piss today.
We carried on round Singleton Lake and came home through the park. As we went I lost count of how many dogs with which Fudge tried to pick fights. He wandered off into shrubberies and hedges and refused to come back. It was just like the bad old days when he was first allowed off of his lead. The whistle training failed utterly. And then just to add insult to injury he found some fox poo in which to roll.

Once home I spent the morning planning yet another geo-stroll. There is a (vaguely) astronomical virtual multi-geocache near Otford, so I tried to get my head around what was required. Once I figured out what the description was actually saying it all seemed straight forward. I then looked at a few puzzles which were in the area and I solved some of them.
I then had a spot of lunch. As I scoffed I watched “Detectorists”. Starring Mackenzie Crook I don’t know how I missed seeing this show when it was first show; it’s really good.

I then had a message. Having spent the morning preparing an assault on a virtual multi-geocache, a travelling virtual geocache had set up shop not five miles down the road. Virtual geocaches are like rocking horse poo; incredibly rare, and today I’m messing with two of them. So I hopped into the car and drove down to Sellindge to seek out “Ye Olde Survey Monument”. It wasn’t in the most accessible of places, but a virtual find is never to be sniffed at.

I came home, had a cuppa, then had flashbacks as I went to Victoria Road school to do the school run. For various reasons everyone was busy today and since I was at a loose end I’d offered to collect Lacey and keep her amused. I took “Furry Face TM “ and with Lacey collected we went to the play park for a bit, then came home and alternately made glitter cards and fought with the dog until Mummy collected her.

I thought about doing more Coursera, but instead played silly Facebook games until ‘er indoors TM  came home. Tea was scoffed, then we gathered the troops and set off to Folkestone. Insults were bandied, photos watched vias Sky apps, and then we watched “The Flash” dealing with the latest super-villain; “The Human Fart”.
As super-villains go, “The Human Fart” isn’t entirely rubbish. He has the power to turn himself into an obnoxious fart at will. A nice trick if you can do it…

24 November 2014 (Monday) - Walk, Learning, Telescope

I had a rather good night’s sleep, and over brekkie I had a little look on the Internet. I was just a tad disappointed to find that my suggestion (on a geo-forum) for a geo-walk today hadn’t elicited any geo-interest. Mind you after yesterday’s rain most of the county would have been geo-flooded so stomping up hill and down dale might not have been the best of geo-ideas.

Instead I took “Furry Face TM “ for a little walk. I say “little walk”; he’s a lot better than he was so I took him on one of our old-style walks. Through South Ashford to Singleton Lake and home through Viccie Park. Apart from a minor altercation with a squirrel the walk was relatively uneventful. Fudge played nicely with two Scotties and a few Labradors. To see him playing in the park you’d never think he was paralysed only a few short weeks ago.

We walked for about an hour and a half; the longest he’s walked since his injury. Once home he scoffed his brekkie and I carried on with domestic drudgery. Washing machines, dishwashers, Hoovering (courtesy of the Dyson corporation) It was as I was tidying that something was delivered through the letterbox. I have no idea what it was because my dog got to it first and ate it. I was rather surprised by that. He’s usually so good. Last night he whinged at the dustbin for half an hour because he wanted to chew a bottle that was in it. He could easily have reached that bottle, but has *never* taken stuff from the bin. This morning he ate the mail.
Perhaps he’s got the sulks because in my tidy-up I threw out a dozen half chewed bones, balls and assorted toys.

I then had a look at the household accounts. They could be better. I just seem to have had too many unexpected financial outgoings lately, and it is rather sad that for all that it is payday today I am already looking forward to the next wage packet.
I then spent a little while on this week’s Coursera work. I say “this week’s”; I’ve only just realised they aren’t bringing out a new module each week. They are coming out every four days in this course. I need to get a shift on.
Today’s lectures were quite interesting. Two were on the “Snowball Earth” theory. They were probably more informative than the chap’s terrible accent would have had you believe. And then four more were about the broad-scale classification of living things. That’s a topic on which I thought I was quite well versed. I did know that DNA analysis was casting a lot of doubt onto what had once been considered to be “established fact”. It turns out that pretty much everything I learned about classifying living things was wrong. I’m far closer related to a mushroom than I am an oak tree.
But, as I always say, a day when I learn nothing is a day wasted.

I practiced my sax; my dog sang along. I wish he wouldn’t. And with ‘er indoors TM out bowling I went down to Woodchurch. The astro club was staging an observing evening. I had decided I wasn’t going to go, but Steve was going down for an hour and offered me a lift, and in all honesty I didn’t feel I could be disparaging about the session if I hadn’t gone.
Don’t get me wrong; the astro club is *really* good. But I have maintained (for some years) that the membership are like me; they have no interest in getting cold whilst looking through a telescope. If someone sets up a telescope during club nights, then people will have a look. And then they will go back into the hall where it is warm. Over the years we’ve put on so many observing nights that have been so poorly supported. And tonight was yet another. The membership had been given plenty of notice about tonight’s observing session. It was a perfectly clear night; ideal for stargazing. There were only three of us there; all committee members.
So disappointing…