30 December 2023 (Saturday) - Another Birthday

And then some nights the dogs curl up and stay settled and everyone gets a good night. I slept right through until the alarm went off at half past seven this morning.
I made toast and had a look at the Internet. Today’s on-line squabbles were about abandoned supermarket trolleys and how rude it is for people to write descriptions of geocaches in the language of the country in which they are in (!). And then “er indoors TM laid an egg as her toast burned, and she cast aspersions at the last person to use the toaster. Toasters boil my piss. They have two settings; “lightly warm the bread” and “incinerate”. The trick is to watch them like a pork (as “My Boy TM” used to say) and sprong the toast out manually when you think it is ready… because you know the toaster will stuff it up if left to its own devices.
With my arse kicked we got ready for the morning. As we drove over to Repton so Steve was on the radio doing the “Guess the Lyrics” competition. When we tuned in, only one person had got it right. “Right on the target but wide of the mark. What I thought was fire was only the spark”. I got it right away, and was incredibly smug as “er indoors TM recognized it but couldn’t place it. (ABC – Poison Arrow)
We went on to dog club. Attendance was down today; I suspect most people thought we were closed for Christmas. But we had a great time; the dogs certainly did.
As we drove home we listened to the radio again, and I got the mystery year right… 1972. Go me!!
Once home I emptied the dog club collection pot. We probably had as much money as we should have had. I’m not going to collect it from each and every person; I’m just going to put out the pot and trust people to pay. And several people pay by text or direct transfer anyway. I pocketed the cash and paid an equivalent amount into the Repton Community Trust’s bank account. I’m happy with the arrangement. I don’t use much cash anyway, and this way I won’t need to go to the bank every couple of months.
And then my phone pinged. Fishgirl had opened her qrate (as Fishgirls do) and our Munzee Clan had got our target for the month.
I loaded the baby seat into the car (well, “er indoors TM” did) and drove to Folkestone to collect Daddy’s Little Angel TM” and “Darcie Waa Waa TM (“Stormageddon – Bringer of Destruction TM” had a better offer).  “My Boy TM” and Cheryl soon joined us and my brother and his branch of the tribe weren’t far behind. It was my brother’s birthday today and we were having a little family get-together. “er indoors TM put on a very good spread and we all scoffed and drank.
I took a few photos during the afternoon, but things definitely got more and more vague as the afternoon went on. I can remember saying goodbye to everyone… and suddenly it was nine o’clock in the evening and I woke up underneath a pile of dogs.
I’ve got a bit of a headache

29 December 2023 (Friday) - A Birthday

Last night I had a brilliant idea for getting a decent night’s sleep. Sadly it went the way of most of my brilliant ideas. I went to bed, slept like a log and woke busting for a tiddle at one o’clock. I came downstairs for that tiddle. “er indoors TM and the dogs were still up doing a jigsaw puzzle (“er indoors TM” was jigsaw-ing, not the dogs). The dogs then charged upstairs and I charged after them in a race to secure bed space. I got some, and after a succession of vivid dreams in which I’d been drafted to be the Scout Association’s ambassador to the Open University (it was rather scary!) I woke at half past five with something of a backache.
I made toast and watched the last episode of “Harry Enfield and Chums”. With that watched I now need to find something else to amuse me in the mornings. Watching telly isn’t as easy as you might think. Back in the day with only three channels you just switched the thing on and stared at it. Nowadays with a thousand channels, catch-up TV, recordings and endless streaming services I am totally spoiled for choice, and have such trouble making my mind up.
With nothing much happening on Facebook (for once) and no emails of note I had a quick look at my Munzee app. Overnight our clan had completed the third of our monthly challenges, and all that remains for us to hit our final target is for Fishgirl to fill a second Qrate. Go Fishgirl !!! 
(There’s never a dull moment in Munzee).
I set off to work; the bin men were conspicuous by their absence this morning. I drove off... and did an immediate emergency stop to avoid colliding with some idiot on a bike. He started to get lippy; I told him in no uncertain terms that the moment he had a light on his bike and he wasn't dressed all in black in the dark would be the moment he could say anything at all. He cycled off muttering.
The guest editor on this morning's radio news program was Andrew Malkinson who spent nineteen years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
Unlike the guest editors of the last couple of days, this chap put some rather interesting content on the radio this morning including an interview with the chap who'd been his tutor on the Open University degree he did whilst he'd been banged up. Mr Malkinson made the observation that for all that "the system" encouraged him to study, the individual guards in the prison made it quite clear that they didn't like him studying and made it incredibly difficult for him to do so. This made me think...  Why were Mr Malkinson's guards resentful of his getting to do a degree? He said that doing a degree gave him something to do whilst locked in a cell for hours at a time every day. If I was him I would be naming and shaming those who'd been troublesome to him.
This was followed by a rather interesting article in which Mr Malkinson said he felt no malice for his accuser. The woman who'd accused him of rape had picked him out of an identity parade. Bearing in mind she said she was looking for someone with a hairless chest, no tattoos and a major scratch across his face (Mr Malkinson had chest hair, prominent tattoos on his forearms and no scratches) and who was three inches shorter than Mr Malkinson, I'd be suing her along with the police and state.
Work was work. I spent a little while with one of my more recently qualified colleagues looking for the rather badly-named "Green Crystals of Death"... Sadly these crystals were first identified in extremely ill people, and the name has stuck to the dismay of pretty much everyone in medical circles.
At tea break I started another e-book, the latest from a favourite sci-fi author of mine. Peter Cawdron specialises in creating plausible well-rounded characters and putting them into "what-if" situations. For example, given that an alien spaceship visited Earth, we all know that the Americans, Russians and Chinese would be charging off up there trying to get ahead of each other... but what would the aliens make of seeing three competing ships being launched to go say "hello"?
If you are ever at a loose end, download one of his e-books (especially anything from his "First Contact" series). They are rather good.
With work done I came home (as most people do). “er indoors TM boiled up a rather good bit of dinner and as we scoffed it we watched more “Taskmaster: New Zealand”. Only two more episodes of that left… and then we start the second season. There’s four in total.
Oh – and today is the pups’ second birthday. Does then mean they aren’t puppies any more? Apparently so…

28 December 2023 (Thursday) - Missing Mum

I woke in dire need of the loo at three o'clock to face a dilemma. Should I lie in bed bursting for a tiddle but with some bed space, or should I go for a tiddle and give up all the bed space I'd currently got? I went for the tiddle, and came back and had a pitched battle to get just enough space on which to lie whilst two small dogs fidgetted trying to make themselves comfortable in a rather huge space that they would not give up, and for which I would have been incredibly grateful.
I didn't really get back to sleep after that.
I got up perhaps earlier than I might have done, made toast, and watched another episode of "Harry Enfield and Chums". It was entertaining enough for six o'clock in the morning.
I then had a look at Facebook and took a deep breath. So many people were posting those "not knowing what day of the week it was between Christmas and New Year" memes. I knew very well what day of the week it was... the second day back at work after Christmas.
As I've said before if I had my time again I'd not work in a hospital.
I set off to work through a very dark, wet and windy morning. Mind you, with tornados in Manchester and floods and storms in Scotland I think I got off lightly.
Again the radio's morning news program had a guest editor today. Ellie Goulding (I had to look her up) was pushing the Green agenda this morning. She started off talking about how travelling musicians are making the effort to be environmentally friendly, as an example of this she claimed that nowadays bands use the stages that are already at various venues. This was presented as being rather revolutionary; apparently in the past when on tour, bands would take their own stage with them. I thought this was laughably ridiculous, but thirty seconds on Google showed how wrong I was. Bands (U2 for example) really did drag their own stage round the country with them when they were touring.
There was then an interview with someone or other that Ms Goulding said was "an inspiration". I found her rather patronising. I'm not sure who this woman was. She was (and presumably still is) something big in the environmentalist lobby and she was banging on about how good it is that musicians and other celebrities are pushing the Green agenda because (so she implied) non-musicians and non-celebrities don't have the sense God gave a half-wit, and need to be told what to think, and need to be told what is good for them(!)
Work was work but being on an early shift was something of a result. I came home through the heavy rain to find “er indoors TM having a bit of a tidy-up. I suspect her having a tidy-up means I will be soon having a tip run.
She then set off shopping; I took the opportunity to load both dishwasher and washing machine and to settle on the sofa underneath a pile of dogs and finish that e-book I started yesterday. Usually an e-book takes me a couple of weeks to finish, not a couple of days.
“er indoors TM boiled up a rather good bit of steak for dinner which we scoffed whilst watching “Taskmaster: New Zealandwhich was rather amusing. I’m going to have an early night now… I have a theory…
I wake up before three o’clock most mornings regardless of when I go to bed. So if I go to bed earlier I might get more kip. I could then get up and watch telly then.
And in closing, today would have been my mum’s eighty-eighth birthday. It’s nearly three years since she died. I can’t claim I was particularly close to her, but she was my mum… You don’t realise that you should make the most of the time you have until it’s too late.

27 December (Wednesday) - Back to Work

I went to bed silly early last night. Leaving “er indoors TM and Stormageddon – Bringer of Destruction TMwatching “Geometry Dash” I went to bed at ten o’clock feeling all-in. I slept for an hour or so, then was mobbed by dogs who were incredibly excited as they hadn’t seen me for an hour or so. After an age they all settled, then “er indoors TM came to bed and disturbed everyone as she fought for bed space. In between snoring, fidgeting dogs and Daddy’s Little Angel TM” going to the loo, I saw every hour of the night, and when I wasn’t wide awake I had several vivid dreams in which I had been drafted back to work at the Kent and Canterbury hospital because “only a special sort of person can put up with it there”!
At three o’clock I had a stroke of genius. In the past when restless I’ve got up and done something, then gone back to bed and slept. I got up and had a very early shave then went back to bed.
That didn’t work.
I got up properly, made toast, and picked up my lap-top. “Someone” (“Darcie Waa Waa TM!) had drawn all over it in crayons. At least it was all over the outside and not on the screen, eh?
Despite the artwork (!) the lap-top worked fine, and I tuned into a rather dull Internet. A friend was having his fortieth birthday today. Forty? I would have thought older. I blame the beards everyone sports these days.
Three was a “discussion” about blanket weed on one of the pond groups I follow. Everyone was queuing up to offer contradictory opinions and to rubbish everything that anyone else was saying.
Other than that, not a lot else was happening, so I got dressed and ready for work.
The motorway was rather busy as I drove to work. I must have coincided getting onto the motorway with a ferry having unloaded; again there were loads of lorries slowly overtaking each other. And having overtaken then going slower than the lorry they'd overtaken forcing that one to then overtake.
Not having heard the news for five days I wondered if I had missed much. Sadly today the morning news program had decided against broadcasting any news. Instead they had wheeled on James May as a guest editor. It was duller than usual, and that's saying something.
There was an interview with the Minister for Transport who was being asked to guess and speculate about how driverless cars will operate in the UK when they are brought in (supposedly) in two years’ time. It could have been interesting had the Minister had anything to say, but all he could do was make spur-of-the-moment guesses on "what-if" questions that an eight-year-old might have posed.
And there was about fifteen minutes of utter drivel in which everything good in the country was claimed to be because of tea, and all the evils of the world were down to coffee.
Personally I maintain that tea drinkers boil my piss purely because they don't actually drink the stuff. Give someone a cup of coffee, and they will drink it. Give someone a cup of tea and they will have (at most) two sips and leave the rest in the cup to get cold and be thrown away half an hour later. Why don't tea drinkers have the stuff out of thimbles?  After all they are only going to drink one thimble-full, aren't they...
Tell me you've ever drunk more than a quarter of a cup of tea...
I got to work and in between doing work read my Kindle. Having finished the last of the "Game of Thrones" books in the small hours of Christmas Day I started on a new e-book this morning. Written by a chap I used to know, it hasn't really started well. Perhaps I'm being mean, but the claims in the book's foreword of being scientifically accurate don't really sit well with a 1950s-space-war-sci-fi-style story. Particularly when a lot of the story (so far) isn't particularly scientifically accurate.  And it does rather stretch credulity when (within minutes of the book starting) our heroes are boarded by space pirates and left for dead in a wrecked space ship... just next door to a space junk yard full of spare space ship parts...
Mind you, bearing in mind that Amazon never actually charged me for the e-book, I can't complain too much.
With work done I came home through the wind and rain. During the day “er indoors TM had taken Daddy’s Little Angel TM” and the grandchildren home. For all that the house was rather peaceful, it did seem rather empty. “er indoors TM boiled up the last of the leftovers int a very good curry which we washed down with some of the box of plonk we’d got in for Christmas. As we scoffed we watched the Christmas episode of “Doctor Who”. Having been rather unimpressed with the three episodes featuring the short-lived return of David Tennant, this episode was rather good. Such a shame we’ve got to wait until May to see more of the new Doctor…

26 December 2023 (Boxing Day) - Skid Markz

Even though I’d done little but sleep yesterday I slept through last night. “er indoors TM cooked up bacon rolls, and leaving her under the tender care of Darcie Waa Waa TM (or was it the other way round?), “Daddy’s Little Angel TM” and I set off to Folkestone (once we’d found where she’d left her door key!). We collected whatever it was she’d left behind, then went to Asda for nappies. Parking took some doing; some idiot woman was inches from my back bumper as I drove round and round the car park; I had to tell her to back off. She stared at me as though I was talking some foreign language. I pointed out the obvious; I couldn’t park my car because she was giving me no space. The sooner I could park, the sooner she could park. Mind you I’d driven past several spaces that she hadn’t stopped off to park in. I think she was a bit “special”.
Asda was heaving; so many people buying so much stuff. And with nappies bought we collected “Stormageddon – Bringer of Destruction TMand came home. Eventually. Ashford was gridlocked. The crowds in Folkestone’s Asda were nothing compared to the swarms trying to get into the Outlet centre.
We got home, and were soon joined by “My Boy TM”, Cheryl and Lacey. We had a rather good bit of dinner, then played “Skid Markz”; a rather good board game based on dogs dragging their bums round the carpet (as dogs do). Then we played cards… you know… that game we play at Christmas with twos, sevens, nines and tens?
All too soon the day had rushed away, and “My Boy TM” and his entourage had to set off. As “Daddy’s Little Angel TM” dozed on the sofa, “Stormageddon – Bringer of Destruction TMfinally got to turn the telly on, and we watched other people playing “Geometry Dash”; an odd video game in which a strange shape alternately collides into some objects and avoids others for no apparent reason.
Darcie Waa Waa TM sat on the kitchen floor. Despite having acquired a small fortune in pressies she was happy stacking the dog food bowls.
I had an early night… I was worn out with it all…

25 December 2023 (Monday) - Quiet Christmas Day

The first ever Christmas Eve Night I worked was in 1985 when I had one blood sample all night long. Last night I had forty-eight blood counts, thirty-four coagulation investigations, one blood group to perform and one unit of platelets to issue. I wouldn’t say it was busy, but the work remained constant.
The roads were quiet coming home, but not as quiet as that Christmas morning in 1985 when my dad collected me at nine o’clock and we only saw six other cars on the road as we drove from Ashford to Hastings.
I got home to find everyone still in bed. Once I’d showered and shaved I dozed on the sofa for an hour until everyone else was up. “Darcie Waa Waa TM had been restless last night. We opened pressies, and had another kip whilst “er indoors TM boiled up dinner, then had a rather good dinner, then another kip, the scoffed some more…
That was how today went. A rather subdued day with scoffing interspersed by having a kip. We scoffed a lot and had several kips.
A rather good Christmas… I’m pleased “er indoors TMliked her pressie.

24 December 2023 (Sunday) - Dull Christmas Eve

I came downstairs this morning to find Bailey waiting for me, together with wall-to-wall dire rear. You’d be surprised how much dire rear a small dog can generate.
I had a little clear-up then set about plunging the bath plug-hole. It gets bunged up with the mud washed from the dogs.
I was exhausted by the time I get to sit down with some toast and have a look at Facebook. This morning several people were wishing the world a Happy Christmas. I saw notices advertising  parties that happened on Friday evening. I saw the same post about some German woman’s cat on half a dozen different Spark-related pages that I follow. And (amazingly) quite a few pubs were posting that today was the last chance for a pint with them. Tomorrow would only be for be customers who had pre-booked, and then they were closing until 8th January. Whilst I understand that people need a break, why not stay open for the time between Christmas and New Year when people may well still be celebrating, and why not close on 8th January?
I downloaded bank statements, got the leads onto the dogs and we went for a walk.
We drove up to Kings Wood where there were fifty people (all dressed as “Where’s Wally”) all with their dogs having a little party with tables and food. Apparently they were a group who regularly go running in the wood with their dogs and were having their Christmas bash.
We walked into the woods and after five minutes stopped. A pair of women were walking up the path toward us with three or four dogs each. All on leads, all pulling in different directions, all barking and snarling. One of the women shouted asking if we might like to give them some space. I didn’t say anything but just did an “about turn”. Pretty much the same thing happened a couple of miles further on when some chap saw us and announced “lead on – again!”.
Mind you we did meet a nice family and their small dog, and they seemed amazed (and incredibly grateful) when I offered their little dog a treat.
With walk walked we got back to the car with something of a sense of relief. Usually we walk the woods mid-week and if we see more than two other dog walkers then that is a lot. Today we must have seen over a dozen other groups… but all within half a mile of the car park and on the main tracks.
Once home I washed the mud from three bellies, and the fox poo from Bailey, then looked at those bank statements I’d downloaded earlier. Being something of a miser I account for every penny I spend… and sometimes it turns out that I don’t spend as much as I think. The fifty quid’s worth of clothing I bought from Peacock’s last June has never appeared on any statement. Neither has an e-book I bought from Amazon in October. In the past I’ve had tank-fuls of petrol and pub bar bills not coming through either.
It's all about the little victories…
My Boy TM” and Cheryl popped round with Christmas pressies and stayed for a while, then I posted up the last episode of this year’s Advent Calendar, had a shower and went to bed for the afternoon.
I slept for a couple of hours until “er indoors TM returned with Daddy’s Little Angel TM” and “Darcie Waa Waa TM. They are here for Christmas…  I’m off to work.

23 December 2023 (Saturday) - A Christmas Dinner

After a relatively good night I got up. Having found a drawing pin on the carpet last night (in the dark) I was rather careful as I stepped about.
I made toast as I looked at a rather dull internet. Not much had happened on Facebook overnight, but I’d had a load of “Found It” logs from someone who had been round the geocaches I’d put out in Kings Wood.
He’d come all the way from Scotland, and openly admitted he’d found a cheat site from which he’d downloaded the final locations rather than doing the puzzles as they were supposed to be done.
I suppose if people want to cheat it is entirely up to them, but this chap has found over fifty thousand geocaches and hidden one. One! And they wonder why the hobby is dying on its arse.
We got the leads on to the dogs and set off to Dog Club where we had a rather good time. The dogs (ours and everyone else’s) had a great time. As they charged around a couple of the young lads who come along showed me what they had been doing over the last few weeks. They’d made a “Top Trumps” game featuring the dogs from Dog Club. The “Morgan” card had a very high score for speed. The “Treacle” card had a very low score for speed, but had a rather high “defence” score.
As we drove home we were rather disappointed that Steve wasn’t on the radio. His stand-in was at best a pale imitation.
We came home, had a cuppa, then set off to Singleton Lake where we met Karl, Tracey and Charlotte, and we had a rather good walk round the lake and up to the waterfalls, then home for a bit of dinner. We had a rather good bit of dinner. And beer. And port and cheese. It was good to catch up.
After pretty much an entire bottle of port the rest of the day was rather vague…

22 December 2023 (Friday) - This n That

I slept reasonably well, despite “er indoors TM going ballistic in the small hours that she couldn't find Bailey and that she'd searched everywhere for her. Bearing in mind that Bailey was cuddled up with me in bed and I was half asleep I (we) left her to her searching.
I got up when the need to tiddle was too much to resist, and as I was up I made toast and turned on the telly. I caught the end of an episode of "Takeshi's Castle" which is now called "Takeshi's Castle featuring Jonathon Ross". Does it need his name on the title? I suppose this is what being a celebrity is all about.
As I listened to the bin men shouting up the road outside I then had a quick look at the Internet. A friend was whinging on his Facebook feed that his dog had asked to go outside at half past two, and once outside chased a fox round the garden, barking like a thing possessed. I laughed; this sort of thing is funny all the time it is someone else's dog and some distance away. Still, someone else's dog, bin men... they all wake us up.
I got dressed and set off. I navigated my way through the abandoned bins to where I'd parked my car. Yesterday on one of the local Facebook pages I'd seen a post about how you used to give the dustmen a Christmas box back in the day. Back in the day the dustmen would put the bins back properly. I had to hop over the garden wall (not that it's very high) this morning as the discarded bins were blocking up the path.
I drove to the petrol station at Sainsbury's to fuel up for the long weekend. There was already quite a lot of traffic in the car park at quarter to seven, and once I'd got petrol I joined the growing queue in the kiosk to pay. We waited and waited because there was some chap blocking the only open till. He wasn't happy; he was loudly shouting and ranting at a captive audience about the wanton greed of everyone who was out of bed so early this morning. Ironically this chap was in full Sainsbury's uniform.
I considered pointing out that I wasn't out of bed so early by choice. I considered pointing out that only a couple of years ago he would have been standing on the doorstep clapping for me like a demented sealion. But I thought better of doing so. It is always best not to aggravate the idiot element.
As I drove to work the radio was a tad depressing. If there weren't interviews with correspondents in war zones across the world, pundits were giving their sage opinions on the mass shooting that happened in Prague yesterday. Why do people go on these killing sprees? Surely there is no need for the public to have guns?
And then there was an interview with someone or other who was a leading light in the country's hospices. It seems that pretty much every hospice in the country gets two thirds of its income from charity. Apparently this is how the public want it - there is (supposedly) more shame in dying in an NHS-funded hospital than in a charity-funded hospice.
I drove to work behind a Sainsbury's lorry. Not that it is possible to go very fast down the country lanes, my car told me I averaged twenty-seven miles per hour on the journey to work.
I got to work and did my bit. I didn't want to today. I spent much of the morning telling anyone who would listen about the first "last day before Christmas" I ever did at work at the (now demolished) Royal East Sussex Hospital in 1981. Pretty much all of the patients had gone home; there was almost no one in the hospital at all over Christmas back then. The person on the night shift came in at mid-day and we all went down the pub. After a couple of hours heavy drinking we staggered back to work, got in the way for a bit, then set about a bottle of whiskey in one of the offices before getting the bus home about four o'clock.
Happy days.
Sadly today's workload was just like any other day at work. But at mid-morning the boss asked if I could go to Maidstone for the rest of the day. I told her that I would be delighted; by the time I'd said goodbye to everyone at Pembury, driven fifteen miles cross country, found somewhere to park, and then said hello to everyone at Maidstone a couple of hours (or more) would be wasted. I don't think she was impressed. But I set off to Maidstone anyway, singing along to Ivor Biggun songs as I went.
I got to Maidstone to find a pre-Christmas buffet was on the go. I scoffed far too much.
It was a shame that the motorway was closed on the way home. Having averaged twenty-seven miles per hour on the way to work, I averaged twenty miles per hour on the way home. When you consider how much money was spent on this “Operation Brock” shambles and how much inconvenience it has caused, when there is an issue, the motorway is just closed. Someone at the Kent Highways department is demonstrably incompetent and should be sacked. I wouldn’t get away with it, would I? Would you?
Once I finally got home “er indoors TM went shopping. I put some washing in, fed the dogs, and had a few minutes sitting with the dogs. There’s something very relaxing about sitting with the dogs when they are quiet.
There was talk of fish and chips for tea… I hope she’s home soon.


21 December 2023 (Thursday) - A Day's Leave

I slept through till nine o’clock this morning, which was something of a result. Leaving “er indoors TM and the dogs in the pit I got up, made brekkie and had a look at the Internet. Quite a few people were posting ”packed up for Christmas” stuff. Some people really do have ages off work this time of year. There’s no denying that I get time off work, but it really is a day here and a day there.
Quite a few other people (on one of the local Facebook pages) were posting rants about waiting times in the local A&E department, and were being rather judgemental about who should and who shouldn’t go to an A&E department. I can remember hobbling to the A&E department four years ago when I could barely walk, and a whole load of people gave me serious abuse for wasting NHS time.
I got out a tape measure and measured up the space where the fish tank sits. That fish tank I’d seen yesterday wasn’t much wider than the current tank, and was actually shorter. I did right by not buying that tank yesterday but coming home to measure up first.
I checked the weather forecast, and seeing that the drizzle would soon be stopping we got the leads onto the dogs, and we all set off. “er indoors TM had booked today off work, and we took the dogs to Kings Wood. One of my geocaches had been reported as being missing.
It was.
It was only a shame that it was the furthest cache from the car park. But replacing it made for a good dog walk; after all that’s why I’ve put all these geocaches in Kings Wood; they make for a good dog walk. Even if today’s walk was a mile and a half longer than our average walk round Kings Wood.
As we walked so the drizzle came and went for the whole time we were there. I need to delete the BBC weather app from my phone and get one which is better. Are there any?
We came home via Perry Court Farm where we got loads of Christmas food shopping. Perhaps a tad more expensive than Tesco, but their stuff is of rather good quality and we were driving past Perry Court anyway.
We also got salted caramel cake. Once home (and with dogs bathed) we had some with a cuppa. Rather good.
As I told the world about today’s Advent Calendar Story, despite having stocked up at Perry Court earlier, “er indoors TM went off to Aldi to get some more bits and bobs. She said it was busy but I’ve since heard that whilst she was in Aldi, cars had been queuing to get into Sainsburys.
With the shops closed for one day (Christmas Day), everyone is preparing for Armageddon.
Whilst she shopped I slobbed on the sofa under sleeping dogs watching “Star Trek” until “er indoors TM returned and boiled up a very good bit of curry.
And in closing, today is the shortest day of the year. For those who want to get technical, the actual solstice is at half past three tomorrow morning, but for all that sunrise is at the same time today and tomorrow, sunset is a minute later tomorrow. Just one minute, but it’s one minute in the right direction.

20 December 2023 (Wednesday) - Before the Late Shift

Having been up at five o’clock for the last three days I was making the most of the opportunity of a lie-in. I was having a particularly vivid dream in which “er indoors TM was learning morse code when I finally woke to find she had all the lights off but was taking flash photographs of Bailey. It’s not like we’re short of photos of the dogs, is it?
I got up, opened today’s window of the Advent Calendar then made some toast. I saw a colleague’s grandmother had died overnight. She’d been ill for months and the death wasn’t unexpected, but what a rotten time of year to have your gran die.
My cousin was having a break in London.
I saw a friend was jetting off to Belgium for Christmas
And there was the usual mix of nonsense too.
Ideally I would take the dogs to the woods for a walk in the morning before work, but Orlestone is far too wet in the winter even without the constant downpour of yesterday, and a round trip to Kings Wood would have taken too long, so we just walked round the block. A totally uneventful walk round the block. Uneventful is good.
With walk walked I did “Dog Breakfast” in which Morgan and Bailey scoff theirs as fast as they can whilst Treacle waits. And once they’ve finished she eats hers whilst the pups watch. For her the most important part of brekkie is having an audience.
I had another look at today’s Advent Calender offering, and came up with something to say. I’m not entirely sure that today’s offering wasn’t actually a dog, but it serves the plot for it to be a mouse. Not that I’ve got a plot.
I set off to work. Via “er indoors TM 's car. I had orders from “er indoors TM to take the old baby car seat from her car to the charity shop. I hoiked the thing form her car to mine, and was about to set off when “Daddy’s Little Angel TM” messaged telling me not to take the seat to the charity shop but to bin it .
A dilemma. 
Which orders should I follow?
Daddy’s Little Angel TM” is certainly more scary that “er indoors TM, but I contend with “er indoors TM on a far more regular basis. And she cooks my dinner too. Cooking dinner was the clincher so I went to unload the thing onto the YMCA charity shop in Brookfield Road. The nice lady in the YMCA charity shop in Brookfield Road said they couldn't take second hand car seats because of "elven safety". I thought better of saying it was for babies and not for elves, but took it to the Sue Ryder charity shop in Singleton instead. The nice lady there didn't actually tell me to stick it up my arse, but they made it quite clear that not only did they not want it, no charity shop in the country would want it either. She seemed quite affronted that I should dare to try to foist such an unwanted article onto her lovely charity shop.
I apologized for my discourtesy and told her not to worry, and that I would throw it over a hedge somewhere between Ashford and Tunbridge Wells. Judging by her expression I think she believed me.
I headed off west-wards, enjoying driving in daylight for a change. I drove to Brenchley where there was a virtual geocache that would keep me occupied for a few minutes, and where there wer recycling skips where I might unload the car-seat. I found the virtual geocache easily enough, but where I distinctly remembered there being recycling skips, there was only a car park. I thought better of abandoning the car seat; I'll take it to the tip tomorrow.
As it wasn't that far out of my way I popped into the aquatic shop in Matfield. I've been after a new fish tank for some time; they had something that might be the right size for what I need. Not too tall. Most fish tanks are far too tall. I made a note of the measurements of the thing and planned to have a measure-up when I got home.
Mind you they weren't giving the fish away. Guppies used to be a quid each. Not a fiver each.
I got to work… and the rest of the day was rather dull.

19 December 2023 (Tuesday) - More Guts Ache

I was up rather early again this morning. My innards still weren’t right. Perhaps that pound of Stilton I scoffed on Saturday night wasn’t sitting right? I watched an episode of “Harry Enfield and Chums", ten had a quick look at the Internet.
Yesterday I mentioned that I had another of those dodgy friend requests on Facebook. This morning I had another one. I hesitate to say that “Goddess Elizabeth” has been generated by an AI, but she does seem to have an extra buttock in a rather odd place.
And I had an email from the nice people at Credit Karma who said my credit rating had gone up eleven points. I have a theory about me credit rating. Having spent loads on getting the roof done, the rating went up. It went up when I bought the car a couple of years ago. Does it go up whenever I spend a load of money?
I set off to work. On the one hand the journey to work was easier than yesterday in that I didn't have to slalom around stupidly parked dustbin lorries all the way. On the other had it was rather scary having a huge lorry from EcoHome Insulation not five yards from my back bumper for several miles. I eventually found a spot where I could pull over to let this lorry pass, and it flew past me at breakneck speed only to get stuck at the next turning where I caught up with it. And then flew off again at breakneck speed only to get stuck at the next junction where I caught up with it again. And so it continued. After ten miles (from Biddenden to the A21) it eventually turned off towards Lamberhurst having got to that roundabout about three seconds faster than I had.
As I drove the pundits on the radio were talking about how the USA is leading an international coalition to protect commercial shipping in the Red Sea from pirates. Personally I'd think that having a flotilla of battleships would be counterproductive. If I was a pirate I'd wait until the warships all pissed off before doing any pirating. Surely the best thing to do would be to equip the cargo vessels with torpedoes and companies of marines, and when the unsuspecting pirates show up, blow them out of the water? But what do I know?
There was also an interview with Esther Rantzen. She's really ill, and has joined up with Dignitas; the clinic that helps people to die when their time is up. Personally I think she's done the sensible thing. Having taken two dogs down that route, it's the way I'd like to go myself... but not just yet, eh?
Work was work. I can’t say I dislike my job, but I will say I was glad when it was time to go home today. And then I braved the frankly dreadful journey home. Leaving work a few minutes before sunset I drove home through the dark with only some of the oncoming cars dipping their headlights.
“er indoors TM boiled up pizza and garlic bread for dinner. With my stomach finally settled from the weekend’s Stilton I might well have set it off again with the garlic bread.
Have I? We shall find out…

18 December 2023 (Monday) - Guts Ache

I thought I heard new-next-door shouting in the night. Did I? I don't know, but if she was it was nowhere near as bad at the noisy sex noises that previous next-doors used to make. They were all funny the first time but soon became rather tiresome. I wonder if they still do the dirty deed at full volume at half past two in the morning wherever they are now?
Over some toast I watched another episode of "Harry Enfield and Chums"; whatever happened to Harry Enfield? According to Wikipedia he's not done much recently, but then what celebrities do last over forty years?
I set off to work. I was rather surprised to see the corner shop shut at six o'clock as I walked past. Back in the day “My Boy TM” used to be there at six o'clock every morning to get organised for his paper round. But come to think of it I've not seen a paper boy (or girl) for years. Are paper boys (and girls) still a thing?
As I drove to Pembury I found myself weaving in and out of an endless succession of dustbin lorries which had all been parked in such a way to bung up the traffic. I can understand being unlucky with one badly parked dustbin lorry, or even two. But so many that I lost count spread over thirty miles. What was going on this morning?
There was a lot of talk on the radio about wages in the UK. Someone or other was being interviewed who said that the average wage increase in the UK this year was seven point three per cent and then started on about the "inflation proof" jobs such as healthcare and education and much of the public sector. It would seem that an "inflation proof" job is one which doesn't get anything like an average annual wage increase, and consequently no one wants to work in them. It amazed me that this was presented as news.
There was also talk about how the Northern Ireland Assembly still isn't functioning after a hiatus of two years. Bearing in mind that the Democratic Unionist Party are the sticking point here I'd be inclined to let the rest of the Irish parties involved form their own assembly, and if the leaders of this assembly (likely Sinn Fein) plump for independence form the UK then that will save us all a bob or two.
I got to work. I don't mind doing the early shifts at Maidstone, but I have to be up silly-early for early shifts at Pembury, and what with the journey home, I don't get home especially early either. Having left home in the dark, I came home in the dark.
As I got home so my phone beeped. I had a friend request on Facebook from some epically chested bimbo. Or more likely from some sad act pretending to be an epically chested bimbo. I’ve not had quite so many of these lately; I can’t help but wonder just what whoever posts this sort of thing hopes to achieve.
Over the summer after an early shift we’d go to the woods. But this evening was cold and dark, so instead I puzzled over today’s instalment of the Advent Calendar, then fell asleep for an hour or so.
“er indoors TM sorted a rather good dinner which we scoffed whilst watching last year’s Christmas “Lego Masters: UK”, and the more I scoffed, the more my stomach became iffy; mind you it hadn’t been right all day.
I might have an early night to see if that might settle my innards…

17 December 2023 (Sunday) - Family Xmas Bingo

Last night “er indoors TM came home from the family gathering with a humungous slab of Stilton. I hope she hadn't been hoping that it might last the entire Christmas holiday; I scoffed the lot in twenty minutes. And for all the old wives' tales about not eating cheese before bedtime, I slept like a log through till five o'clock.
I got up, had toast, sparked up Netflix and watched an episode of "Harry Enfield and Chums". Can you believe that show is now over thirty years old? It's stood the test of time better than many of the shows of that time; even if it does date itself by having people still smoking in pubs... or actually being able to afford going in to pubs, come to that.
What with it being far too early on a Sunday morning for anything at all to be happening on Facebook I got ready for work, and set off without disturbing “er indoors TM or the wolf pack.
I set off up the motorway to Maidstone listening to some rather interesting program about ants, and how the average ant is rather "meh", but working together as a colony they can do amazing things... including capturing and enslaving other ants. There was an attempt to draw parallels with humanity.
There was then talk of how Israeli soldiers shot three of their captured hostages who were supposedly waving a white flag. It has to be said that having entered this conflict from the moral high ground and with world opinion initially on their side, the Israelis are doing their utmost to piss on their chips.
And there was a lot of talk about how Baroness Mone looks set to profit from the sixty million quid her company made flogging protective equipment during the pandemic. This *really* boils my piss. Not that she's making money from it, but because this is supposedly news. Are people really this thick? Leaving aside woolly-minded blathering, basically in the UK we have a choice of two political systems:
Socialist (Labour) in which the state provides pretty much everything that anyone might ever need... and you pay for it in high taxes.
Capitalist (Conservative) in which the state sells off pretty much everything that anyone might ever need. Private industries buy them and then you with what you need. At a cost to you and at a profit for them.
I'm not getting into the rights and wrongs of each side; there's good and bad for both schools of thought. But at the moment we live in a (democratically elected!) system in which the state expects pretty much everything that anyone might ever need to be provided by profit-making industries. So let's not act surprised to find out we've got what we voted for. Or didn't we realise what we were voting for? Democracy, eh?
I got to work and did my bit. And with my bit done I came home. Being the last weekend before Christmas we did the Christmas family bingo game by Teams. In the past we used Zoom, but after an hour, Zoom cuts out. So we used Teams, and it too cut out after an hour.
We played eight cards; a row and a full house on each. I won one of the rounds, so was only thirty quid down on the deal. “er indoors TM did a quiz after the bingo; I came second to last.
And in closing today here's a little tip for the festive season. Don't chuck any left over Baileys down the drain as it bungs them up. If any of my loyal readers understand the phrase "left over Baileys" could they please explain it to me.

16 December 2023 (Saturday) - Lazy Day

I slept well I suppose. Better than I have done a few times recently. Over toast I had my usual rummage round the Internet as I do most mornings.
Facebook was much the same as ever. There were quite a few photos of Hastings from years ago being posted. The place has changed so much.
A chap I vaguely knew ten years ago (who regularly pleads poverty) was again bragging about how he drives round in a Tesla. He does this quite a bit, and tends to take the line that “Teslas aren’t as bad as you think they are”, and is for ever making excuses for the faults and issues he finds with his one. Not knowing the first thing about them, he’s rather put me off of ever wanting one.
I was bombarded with adverts for tour-guide-type games which involved spending good money on things for which there are free apps like Trigpointing or Adventure Lab.
And Goodreads (who?) had sent me an email telling me that I had read one book on my Kindle this year. One?
Being Saturday we piled into the car and drove round to Repton. As we drove I totally failed on the “Guess the Lyrics” competition on the radio. “I'm gonna find that girl underneath the mistletoe. We'll kiss by candlelight” wasn’t from Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime.
We got to the Repton Estate and the excited squeaking started. The dogs know when they are going to Dog Club. Last week’s was a bit of a washout, but today we had a great time. Dog Club is one of the highlights of my life; we stand in a field whilst a dozen dogs charge around. It’s far better than it sounds.
All too soon it was time to come home. Having totally failed on the Steve’s “Guess the Lyrics” competition on the radio on the way to Dog Club I did better on the Mystery Year competition on the way home. When did the first load of Doctor Who end? 1989.
We came home, and it wasn’t long before we had a visit. “My Boy TM” and Cheryl popped round. I took the first fruit of my loin into the garden. I’m not keen on how the bog filter currently looks, and I explained my plans for building an expanded bog filter for the pond by digging out the existing one and spending several hundred quid on a rather ambitious project over the next few months. “My Boy TM” explained what a stupid idea it was, and pointed out that I could achieve a far better result far cheaper and with a lot less effort. On reflection I think he’s got a point. What I had in mind would have cost me about four hundred quid. I can probably get a better result and change out of fifty quid with what “My Boy TM” has in mind.
“er indoors TM then set off to Westfield for father-in-law’s birthday celebrations. It would have been good to have gone too, but just lately we might have occasionally left the dogs unsupervised a tad too long.
So I spent the afternoon watching drivel on the telly whilst they slept. Usually I’d go stir crazy, but I wasn’t feeling on top form today. Hopefully a bone-idle day has done me some good.

15 December 2023 (Friday) - Choccies

Yesterday with no alarm set I slept rather well. Last night with an alarm set I had a rather poor night, waking seemingly every twenty minutes or so. I gave up trying to sleep, got up at five o’clock and made toast.
I found myself enthralled with an infomercial for some gadget which makes a smoothie out of pretty much whatever you choose to put into it. There was some (so-called) celebrity advertising it. This woman had been on “Strictly Come Dancing” or “I’m A Celebrity” or one of the myriad of reality TV shows I don’t follow and was famous for having dyed her hair, and was claiming that a major selling point of this machine was that it was ideal for people who like to dye their hair.
That’s a point against it for me.
I watched another episode of “White Gold”, then got ready for work. I took great care to keep very quiet and keep all the lights off as I got ready, and as I was about to walk out of the door so “er indoors TM and the dogs all marched downstairs.
As I drove west-wards to Pembury I listened to the radio for over an hour. There was consternation in the European Union as Hungary have veto-ed the EU’s plans to give the Ukraine a fifty billion Euro bung. Apparently the EU are going to give Ukraine the bung anyway…
And there was talk of arrests in Germany where Hamas supporters were trying to do in some of the Jewish community for no other reason than that they are “the other side”.
Being on the lead-up to Christmas I wanted to take some choccies in to work. I’d taken some in to Maidstone last Friday, and so today some for Pembury. I got most of my shopping from Tesco, but they had sold out of tubs of chocolates.
As I tried to pay for my sandwich at the self-service till so some interfering old harridan (in Tesco uniform) bustled over, snatched every item in turn from my hands and ran them all through the checkout for me. And then took offence when I suggested we went and used a proper till.
I then went to Asda where I couldn’t see any tubs of choccies. I asked two separate members of staff if they had any. Both claimed to have never heard of “Quality Street”, “Celebrations” or “tubs of chocolate”. Eventually I found a chap who showed me where they were (hidden at the back of the shop). I explained about how neither of his colleagues had been able to help. The chap laughed and said that was typical of the sort of people that Asda employed, but was rather evasive as to whether the first two were either genuinely thick or were being deliberately awkward.
Work was work; I had a “low platelets” sort of day (as one does from time to time), and with work worked I came home and had another look at today’s Advent Calendar thingy. Eventually I found something to say about it. Much as I like my little Advent stories, they do strain my brain.
“er indoors TM boiled up a rather good curry which we washed down with a bottle of Sainsbury’s claret (is that clar- IT or clar-EY?) whilst watching a film. Lego Scooby-Doo! Haunted Hollywood was rather good.

14 December 2023 (Thursday) - Another Rostered Day Off

I slept right through till eight o’clock this morning. It helps when the dogs are settled. I made toast and had a look at the Internet. I saw that another book had been released in a series that I follow. Mind you when I say “book”, pretty much no one at all reads these books. Pretty much everyone listens to someone else reading the story out to them… and everyone on the Facebook page for the series gets rather aggressive whenever anyone comments that books are things you read.
I got the dogs onto their leads and we set off for a little adventure. With the BBC’s weather forecast giving a zero per cent chance of rain we walked through the drizzle to the car, and had to have the windscreen wipers going on our way to the woods.
As we drove there was something on the radio about one of the Roman emperors. But as is so often the case something which could have been really interesting was being killed stone dead by a blah-blah-blah presentation. I switched to singing along to Ivor Biggun songs.
We got to Kings Wood and after half an hour the rain finally stopped. We walked for nearly four miles during which we saw four other people; all of them within five minutes’ walk of the car park. The pups played with one dog we’ve now met a few times; the chap with the dog told us that he is new to the area, and Morgan and Bailey are the only dogs his dog will play with. We also met a nice hippy lady who was brandishing one of those cups of posh coffee that cost a small fortune. I’m not knocking cups of posh coffee that cost a small fortune, but bearing in mind we were a hundred yards from the car park in Kings Wood, where could she have got it from? The closest place must have been Ashford town centre, and surely it would have been stone cold by the time she’d driven it up to the woods?
Home for a cuppa - tea and coffee from the cupboard. As I said, I’m not knocking cups of posh coffee that cost a small fortune but for the price of one of them I can make several cups of coffee at home for a month. We had croissants from the corner shop too. Very nice.
I then emptied rubbish from the shed and took it round to the tip. Much as I like my car, it is at times like tip runs that I miss the Scenic and the Espace if only for their capacity. I had some knacked old shelving to get rid of today. I had to break them all in two so’s they’d fit in the new car. They would have just gone straight into either of my previous three cars.
Thankfully the tip was painless today. So often I go there and find my idiot magnet is going at full power, but not today. Mind you (as always) I did unload with something of a vague sense of guilt. With so many instructions about what goes where, and not chucking cardboard boxes in with the rubbish that the cardboard box is carrying I am paranoid that I’m going to end up on the wrong side of one of the many jobsworths that haunt the tip.
But not today.
I then slobbed on the sofa for the rest of the day dozing through all sorts of drivel on the telly
Meanwhile aliens have pranged on Mars