Wednesday, September 2, 2015

From a distance

In the days when I used to take watercolour classes, I can recall being told, many-a-time, how to paint mountains or hills to get perspective. Being a person of minimal visual memory, this used to frustrate me as I could never bring to mind a picture of such a scene.

It's also really difficult to find/take a photo to show the effect.

Until yesterday, when the view from the top of a 3km dirt/boulder track was, through the heat haze, this:

Where we are staying is off to the right of the picture, in the middle of the forest, and we look over the sea/mountain view at the top/left.

Posted at 12:50 PM | Comments (2)

Dusk commotion in the car parking area

Luckily outside our stone boundary wall.

These five seemed like babies and were foraging the over-ripe figs that had fallen off the top of the huge tree (the ones we can't get at).

It's true, I prefer pigs to cats.

But the smell...

Mind you, they probably said the same about us.


Oh OK, here's a kitten picture. This is the white and tabbykitten drinking.

I think that the three kittens (two tabby, and this one) are a bit younger than ours, who were born on the 10th April. The tabby mum appeared yesterday too. Clearly previous visitors have let them in the villa and they are, let's say, taking some training. It's really hard watching four at once.

Still, they are beginning to learn. I'm sure the pool-man (who comes at 7.30am, usually before we are up) wonders why there are several lined-up plastic beakers of water on the table outside the door.

The visitor's book suggests that previous guests have been feeding them Whiskas and tuna. Clearly they know nothing about feral cats: if the mother only teaches the kittens to beg now, between October and May, when there are no visitors and it is very cold here (being mountainous), they will starve.

I'm a bit stymied with pictures currently - the files from this new camera are mostly around 8-10MB and will not display as thumbnails in Windows Explorer on the little netbook I travel with. The camera screen is too small to see enough detail to pick out the shots I want to use. So, there isn't an easy way to see the entirety of the photos I have taken on one screen. Anyone know if there is any way around this (short of shooting at a lower resolution)?

 

Monday, August 31, 2015

You didn't seriously think we'd give up that easily did you?


There were also another eight photos and I'd just spend the last hour writing all about them and somehow it all disappeared into cyberspace (even the kitten photo that Mr BW insisted I post for Debster and Ambermoggie), despite me saving it before I pressed 'post'.

It must be suffering from the 37°C afternoon hot hot heat. I'm certainly not.

I hate to say it, but this last-minute 4am Friday morning when we couldn't sleep for swearing at a holiday company that had gone bust, that had a motto, "Be Inspired!" (now known as, "Be let down!") fortuitous find is probably even better than the one we'd carefully researched and booked last year.

Certainly the cleanest villa and pool we've ever stayed in; totally secluded, totally beautiful area and views, and totally peaceful (give or take the odd tractor laden with agricultural produce rumbling past along the stony lane every few hours).

And to think we nearly went to Northumber1and instead (where the forecast was 14°C and cloudy all week)...

 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tonight we should be...

... sitting by the infinity pool enjoying 34°C in a secluded luxury villa in the middle of rural nowhere in Turkey.

Instead we are starting out of the window at this:

Sadly, the company we were due to go on holiday with (who we have successfully used three times previously) found it impossible to balance their books.

On Thursday at 5.15pm Mr BW took a phone call advising us that the company we were due to fly out with in 36 hours had gone into administration (unsurprising if one believes internet peeps who have looked up the company accounts and seen the amounts the two directors have taken out of the small company in the last ten months).

Holiday companies going bust is now so common that I don't think it even made the news.

Thank goodness for ATOL protection, and S75 credit card protection: we will be getting all of our money back (bar the loss on entry visa costs, travel insurance, and loss on currency exchange: somewhere around £100).

There was not an airline seat left to our destination from Stansted (where there was due to be a baggage handlers' strike anyway) or Luton, for less than £800 return each.

I had only spoken to the company the day before. I did remark to Mr BW at the time that the chap I spoke to sounded strangely flat and off-hand. I do understand that pending administration can't be disclosed, but he didn't have to give me 'freebies' I'd never be able to take up.

The internet seems to be full of people commiserating with the directors, the staff, and the suppliers. There seems to be little thought of those of us left, at 36 hours notice, without an eagerly-anticipated holiday (much needed, given the dreadful summer we've had), paid for in full, eight months ago.

Still, at least we got to watch Mo Farah achieve a 'triple-double', live. Undoubtedly the most exciting race I've seen in a long time.

 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Judging by the weather, it's not August

It's getting very autumnal - the light is autumnal, the evenings and early mornings feel autumnal, and the cooler-than-we'd like weather isn't great for the fruit and veg.

Still, nothing that a nice glass of Pimm's (aka Aldi's Austins which everyone we know prefers in a blind taste test) won't cure.

The honey tank (silver cylinder on LHS) is out because Mr BW and Young Helper Mr BW will be extracting honey on Friday (the first extraction of the year; it's been a bad year: often we're on the third extraction by now). I'm going out for the day with a friend. Ahem.

And here we have Confetti and Fizz. I was returning from the wine cellar (aka Mr BW's workshop) with a few bottles in my arms (as you do on a Monday afternoon when you've retired), when I thought, what a nice shot that would make.

A gorgeous pinky-mauve clematis, and some asparagus fern, together with the best dry fizzy wine that we've found, posed on the old mangle.

Prosecco has gone the same way of most whites - far too sweet for my Witchy palate. But, Waitrose's own 'Bright and Fruity' sparkling Italian (usually £6.49 a bottle) is currently on 25% off - which works out at £4.86 a bottle, with free delivery, but only until tomorrow midnight (you do need to buy 6 bottles if you buy online). And no, sadly I'm not on commission.

 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

You don't get many of these to the pound


Delicious figs. Ripening on a south facing wall near us.

Being eaten with Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of our honey for breakfast (by the way, Mr BW is now selling honey by post within the UK - clear or borage or soft-set - £4.50 per 1lb/454g jar, container of comb £6, Royal Mail 2nd class postage on up to two items £3; larger quantities available - carriage works out cheaper per jar; drop me an email for details).

I have no idea what variety these figs are... I thought the plant was a cutting from our Brown Turkey fig that has been living in a large stoneware pot by the back door for at least the last 15 years, but the size, internal colour and texture, and taste are much, much better. Any ideas?

 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Technology redefines lines

Apparently man with telescope in 1851 (agreed by the world in 1884) got the position of the Prime Meridan (zero degrees longitude) at Greenwich wrong.

GPS technology now reveals that it is actually 102m east of where it is currently marked.

This is now the fourth 'Meridian'... to be known as the 'GPS Meridian'; previous superseded meridians (meridia?) include the Halley (1721) and the Bradley (1750).

At least those wishing to immortalise themselves with one foot on each side won't now have to fork out a £9.50 entry fee to so do. The new location's nearest physical marker is currently a bin.


Now, this story is a most interesting demonstration of how our media 'works'. R4 is currently reporting it on Today (early morning current affairs / news programme). Google reveals that it isn't a new find... a correspondent on The Telegraph letters page pointed it out on 8th October 2012. He says that the litter bin has been removed... maybe they've put it back in the last 3 years? Surely someone could have checked? And the comments under that post perfectly demonstrate why I don't usually bother to read them.


On a similar sort of theme - did anyone manage to see the Perseids last night? Unfortunately it was too cloudy here. With thunderstorms forecast for today, I'm not sure that it will be much better tonight.

 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Playing around

I've enjoyed playing with my new camera. This shot from 12 feet:

I've been immortalising echinacea using dye and wax on silk. Stages:


Finished, but before steam fixing (which should make the colours even brighter:

I can also capture images of things I can't see. The other evening around dusk, I thought I saw a large deer in the hedge. I took a picture, downloaded it (apparently images can transfer wifically to my computer but I'm too old fashioned to be bothered to work that out), and lightened it up.

Turns out it was just a hipster. Well, I presume it was a hipster. About 50 miles from his normal stomping ground. We don't get many round here usually. Definitely rarer than deer.

 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Momentous events

On Tuesday evening, as if to impress our visiting German friends, a double rainbow appeared in the east:

I haven't quite got the camera under control yet, so the shot disappointed, but that wasn't as bad a miss as this:

That isn't a shot of washing drying in the sun, but of a missed opportunity (the tiny dark spot inthe middle of the picture - blown up below).

I was relaxing in my hammock at about quarter past three yesterday afternoon (as one can, now that one's husband has been retired for four months so has everything absolutely completely under control in the garden, meaning that one's intervention is unnecessary, nay futile), when, flying low and rumbling down the entire length of the garden, came a huge old plane.

Even though I had my camera within six feet, I was so surprised that I just watched, transfixed, while calling Mr BW who had gone inside to make me a cup of tea (I know, I know).

We thought it was the last remaining flying Lancaster in the UK, but a bit of research suggests that was due to be in Northern Ireland yesterday, but is currently out of service due to an engine fire in May, so it was more likely a B17 Flying Fortress en route to a show in the south of the county. They're about the same size.


And finally - we've been at The Coven for 20 years today.
Where has all the time gone?

 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sunrise

Just because I had to print off some images for the silk batik course I am doing today, I thought I'd show you (nearly) the same view 10 hours after the last photos. The sun rises in the east, and there are some very tall poplars opposite.

 

Monday, August 3, 2015

When good comes from bad

Mr BW had a bit of an accident-prone week a couple of weeks ago.

He stood on his almost-new tablet, breaking the screen, and he dropped my camera onto a stone-tiled floor. There were other things, but I've forgotten what they are now. Luckily for him.

Now, this was the first camera I had ever got past 10,000 pictures, so I was slightly piddled off that it then wouldn't take a single in-focus picture. I take a lot of photos. I have zero visual memory, so I need to. But, with every new purchase, I had become increasingly disenchanted with Sony small-but-powerful-with-excellent-zoom cameras. However, with its performance on sunset shots tonight, the new one (a WX350 - small, light, but with 20x optical zoom) might just have redeemed the brand.

These are out-of-the-camera shots (just reduced in size), and are absolutely true-to-colour:


In other news, The Coven is cleaner than it has been for several years. Not that it is usually dirty, but, we haven't had any overnight visitors for nearly a year now, and there is nothing like visitors to make you clear up and sort out the piles of papers and junk that accumulate when there are two people around all the time, and no good reason to tidy.

We have been tidying up, and Cleaner BW surpassed herself by cleaning every nook and cranny, and vacuuming even the curtains, this morning.

And tomorrow, we have a German invasion.

 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Moon tonight

First since 2012.
Last until 2018.
Will only occur 12 times between now and 2043.

I may have turned into a Witch of Few [publishable] Words.
I have plenty to say, but much of it would, I suspect, get me locked up.

Let's not talk about the five hours it took me to get back home from visiting an old colleague/friend in Margate today (usually takes just over two hours), due to The Calais Problem. We cannot solve the (over-population/violence/greed/people smuggling) problems of the world. Send in the army, not a few fences and sniffer dogs.

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

" Do you know who aren’t your friends? Brands.

Repeat it slowly: “Brands are not my friends.”

Brands are psychopathic constructs, infesting your social media timelines with carefully-constructed babble, a hollow echo of a real human voice.
...

Brand Twitter accounts should be functional. Brands are not your friends. Brands are just 140 character frauds powered by creative people who deserve a better job. "

- Mic Wright

 

Monday, June 15, 2015

One hour forty minutes to go

What to do (and what not to do) if you meet a Clanger.

Mr BW is delighted that the BBC favourited his second ever tweet (well, his second ever from his own account: he used to do it all the time when he was at work and is clearly feeling the loss *adds lots of jobs to 'To Do' list to prevent further unacceptable behaviour*).

I wouldn't mind, but it's what I said to him last night when he got back from Cornwall. Philae waking up just as the Clangers come back is no coincidence.

We've had no water all day. Apparently a burst main over 10 miles away is affecting the whole area. I'll bet the Clangers could have fixed it by now. It's amazing how many things you can't do without water.

 

Friday, June 12, 2015

The rest of the world are catching up with us...

... despite my best efforts to live up to others' attributions and stay 'defiantly and resplendently untrendy'.

The latest - the Clangers are returning to TV screens next Monday. They originally appeared in 1969, the same year that man first landed on the Moon (but not on the little blue planet).

Our collection of original Clangers memorabilia has suddenly become very much more valuable (apart from the one that used to sit on Mr BW's desk that shows evidence of a coffee accident). Not that they are for sale, of course.


One of the supporting cast was the Iron Chicken. A few months ago, Mr BW made a giant one (three times the size of the plan in a book I bought him as a gift). The cats are all scared of it. Actually, so am I.

I might buy a couple of Clangers duvet covers next week when they go on sale. I could join them together with some Clanger-pink sashing to fit our super-king quilt. I doubt they’d make them in that size...

I shan't, however, be knitting any more Clangers. The two I made forty years ago were kidnapped by Brother BW and now live in the US. Or, more likely, in landfill.

Long live the Clangers.

Posted at 11:35 AM | Comments (7)
 

Friday, May 15, 2015

First outing


Actually, this was a week ago, but I've been busy...

And the three white ones are just like the white one that featured on HIGNFY last week.

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hopefuly not tempting fate

Oh look, against all information and expectation, I'm still here...


My grandmother would have been 100 today.

I inherited my love of cooking, gardening, nature, and working with yarn to make practical things from her.

And probably my tendency to being a perfectionist, a very private person, and of being quite happy with my own company, or that of a few close and trusted people, who are often of similar temperament and lack of neediness.

She, like me, hated having her photo taken. I know that the concept and need for 'selfies' would have been as alien to her as it is to me. In fact, I'm considering making it the first question I ever ask anyone that I meet. "What do you think of 'selfies'?" If yes, then no.

Coincidentally, one of my Patchy Ladies today brought me in a copy of Woman's Weekly, which was the weekly magazine that Grandma always read. She knows that I love Miffy and the presented issue had a knitting pattern for creating one.

Spookily, it was published a couple of weeks ago on our 21st wedding anniversary, and also had a double page spread on b33s, and an article on gluten-free baking. For a thin magazine, and on the centenary, that was far too many coincidences for me.

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Town Mice and the Country Mice

In London there is to be a judicial review of plans to make a garden bridge.

Apparently residents are angry that views of the urban built environment will be blocked by 270 trees and 2,000 shrubs and climbing plants.

Meanwhile, in many rural areas, residents are distraught that their views of trees are being compromised by property developers' desires to erect buildings.

 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The end is nigh

And not just because Michael Gove is now Justice Secretary (presumably as reward for his key role in the election campaign). The most despised Education Secretary ever (so many changes with no evidence base, or against the evidence base).

Spare a though for the legal system... already under Grayling, Legal Aid has suffered 30% cuts. This has reduced the number of lawyers prepared to do this type of work as their income (not pay - that is less because of their costs) has been cut. It has also removed legal aid for most Judicial Review cases, and for whole classes of vulnerable litigants.

This has placed increased loads on courts, and slowed down proceedings, because unrepresented defendants need to be supported by the Judges.

Now we are to expect that the Human Rights Act will be repealed - and what other good ideas might he have? While one might dislike the way some people abuse the Human Rights Act, if it's repealed, it MUST be replaced by something better.

Remember Gove was the architect of the "bonfire of quangos" - but actually only the ones he didn’t like, which were probably not the same ones the person in the street might have chosen.

But, the end might be nigh for me too.

Tomorrow I shall probably cease to exist.

An update to the PHP being used on my hosting server might render me invisible forever. I shall probably become incompatible with the modern world - in code as well as in life.

We shall see - or not, as the case may be.

Mr BW thinks that he can make me a new dress (he's already made himself rather a good one). But, according to a thorough search of t'inter, there is seemingly no easy way to import over twelve years worth of posts and comments from my very old MT to an over-endowed, overly-complicated for me, new WP. I'm not even clear about whether any of it will still be available to me through my posting panel.

So - if I disappear - I may reappear. Or not, if it proves too complicated.

Ah, the joys of modern life. Why do external forces keep trying to mend/discard things that aren't broken?

 

Sunday, May 10, 2015


From.

Why the polls got it wrong.

What the UK election result means for science.


Update:Leo Hickman has added the ONS map of Life Expectancy to the preceding duo:

 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Dear BBC, please put some more coins in the meter


Fell asleep some time after midnight, knowing from the news-service-sponsored exit poll that the economy was safe.

Woke up at 4am. BBC online election results service OK.

At 5.07am a page refresh resulted in the above for the first time. This continues intermittently.

Conclusion: Britons woke up around 5am, just as the old boys doing the BBC commentary started showing their age by making slip-ups and being less polite than normal (and I do wish they'd stop blathering over the live coverage of results announcements). But, it was 6am before the actual number of blue seats outstripped the red (people in towns count faster than people in the sticks).

Summary: The threat of Wallace has gone. Tampon continues to rule. It was The Night of the Scottish Fish. Vince Cable, Danny Alexander (where did his glasses go?), David Laws, Simon Hughes, Lynne Featherstone, and Charles Kennedy will be down the labour exchange on Monday. Paddy Ashdown (once my local MP, when we were both much younger) looks set to have to eat his hat.

Gotta love the resurgence of satirical comedy on TV in this country (at last). It's the only thing that has made the dire 'election campaign' bearable.

There is only one seat that I am pleased Labour won. People of Bradford West deliver the bloody nose the cat deserves. Old Friend BW of that Parish, and Quite Old Friend BW of his previous Parish, will be delighted.

But, I can't disagree with this analysis of the elephants in the room.

My local constituency hasn't yet declared, but I hope the 78-year old incumbent gets a shock when he sees how his majority has shrunk (Update 06:20: sadly it didn't; UKIP now second largest party, but all gains came from the LD; 71.4% turnout). Utter arrogance throughout the campaign, refusal to attend any hustings, because he was told when they were rather then asked when he'd like them to be, and then a 'don't forget to vote' leaflet appearing through the letterbox at 9am yesterday, with the message, 'please feel free to take this leaflet to the polling station to remind you who to vote for'.


What will Dave say to Queenie I wonder? "Do you think your Newzoid cross-country skier is better than mine Ma'am?"

 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Value Witch

I haven't done one of these posts for a while... probably because I got sick and tired of all those 'frugal' blogs... but, well, I've found a few good offers you may not know about...

  1. For those of you with nasty smart phones that aren't that bright when it comes to energy management, provided that you are a mobile or broadbank customer with EE/Orange/T-Mobile from tomorrow you can get a free portable energy pack (which you can recharge yourself after use, or swap at any EE shop for a fully charged one).

  2. But, if you are on EE, after you've grabbed this offer, may I suggest you look seriously at GiggGaff? It runs on the O2 network but is much cheaper as a SIM-only package, particularly if there are two or more of you who regularly make mobile calls to each other as all GiggGaff to GiffGaff calls are free. Use that link and you get £5 extra credit, and so do I. You can port your existing number (very easily) and I can honestly say that I have have never had such excellent customer service form any phone company. Tech support is provided by 'the community' (nerdy users, who get free airtime for answering community queries - loads better than Indians in call centres with bad English and poor understanding and knowledge) and financial support by an employed email team (in the UK) who answer queries, and put right issues, faster than you can send them email!

  3. Given that a major factor in our successful 'retire by 50' strategy was that we paid off our mortgage by stoozing using an offset mortgage account (as well as other high-interest savings accounts - some at 8% interest; those were the days - when we'd filled that with money borrowed at 0%, no fee), I am delighted to find that I was a better stoozer than the best MSE knows about.
    "In stoozing's heyday, the amounts people could get were huge, with the biggest stooze-pot we heard about being £80,000 of 0% credit card debt (multiple cards, continually rolling onto 0% deals) which saved that stoozer nearly £5,000 a year as the money was offset in his flexible mortgage."

    He made just five grand a year? Amateur.

    It scares me stupid, now, to think about the amounts we were playing with. But, it served its purpose. BUT despite what the linked article says, I would not play the stoozing game again now, as, with interest rates as low as they are, it is totally impossible to make enough money to justify the time it takes, and the risks to your credit rating if you mess up payment dates (or get carried away and spend rather than save what you borrow).

    It does rather irk me that stoozing was absolutely NOT something that Martin MSE invented, or even promoted back then, despite his attempting to now claim credit for it at the end of the linked article. This gives a much better history, and the true date of when it started - around 2003-4. IIRC (and I'm fairly certain I do), in 'early 2000', Martin was still not known, and was annoying posters on the Motley Fool discussion boards (with his 'gatecrashing' posts), and not 'broadcasting about this technique' as he now claims.

  4. And a final one... this time from my own inbox... if you go to this website, you can buy a free pack of 3 National Trust greetings cards, each containing a voucher that entitles you to a pot of tea for two at most major NT attractions, for just the delivery charge (£1.49). 50p per card wouldn't be bad (they're £2.99 each in WH Smith and National Trust gift shops), but a pot of tea for two is probably about £3.50, so that's a tenner's worth of free tea, plus 3 nice cards, for £1.49.

    "How to obtain your free pack:

    1. Visit our homepage, www.pinkandgreene.com. Click 'Packs' then 'National Trust'.

    2. Add a National Trust Taster Pack to your basket, (plus any other items you wish to order).

    3. Checkout. Type TASTER in the voucher code box on the shopping basket page and click 'Apply'. A £5.49 discount will be applied.

    Terms and conditions:

    One free pack per customer. The offer is valid until 18th April, 2015 and cannot be used with any other discount. Free delivery for orders of £10 or more. You are welcome to forward this offer to family and friends"


 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tell me on a Sunday

The sun has been out again today. My crown imperials are starting to come out:

That last photo was for those who don't like kittens.

The next two are to prove how hard it is to photograph two day old kittens:


Their mummy came and grabbed one of the white ones from us, and, grasping it firmly in her jaws by the scruff of its neck, started to take it on her tortuous route back to the feline maternity hospital: jump onto Mi1dred's bonnet, jump onto Mi1dred's roof, jump onto the top of a set of sheves, run around the brick top of the walls, across some rafters, avoiding some hanging hooks. We had to wrestle it back. It may have been the same one that Mr BW saved from death yesterday by warming it in his hands as he found it, freezing cold, after she'd managed to lose it.

First room now washed, painted, soft furnishings all washed (or dry cleaned and very badly pressed), carpet washed, and all fully reassembled. Bored with repainting now (and I didn't do any of the actual painting). Which is a shame, really, as there is a lot more to do.

Cleaner BW will be here tomorrow. I fear for her ability to do her job without unwanted 'help' of a 'grubby hands/footprints/need some tea/need the toilet even though you are just cleaning where I want to be' nature, as I shall be out with some of my Rotating Ladies.

Mr BW has retired. I am exhausted. It's hard work keeping one step ahead of his speed...

 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kitten Pictures

Mr BW, happily rejoicing in the news that there isn't to be a local election (*breathes sigh of relief at the work that will save, and that the BW Party continues to have a local councillor*) has risked life and limb and climbed up a ladder and ferreted in the workshop rafters to bring you some photos.

Apparently there are 5 kittens, rather than 4 as he thought earlier - 3 white cats with tiny black patches and two black with white:

And the current favourite (who gets to stay if it is a girl):

Things have come full circle: when we 'inherited' our first cat, to control mice and rats soon after we moved here, nearly 20 years ago (10,000 acres of arable land behind us made it essential), she was a black and white, and we haven't had a black and white again until now.

If you've got them, flaunt them ;)


Kittens

My suspicions were correct... as I said on 3rd February,

"So, I did another spell, for enough snow to make a Snow Cat, but all that succeeded in doing was producing an ugly bruiser of a white tom cat - who we'd never seen before - and who proceeded to chase my girls. I guess it will add variation to the next batch..."

By my counting, the kittens were due last Saturday, and I was rather hoping that they'd be born on Tuesday, but they weren't. We saw Youngest Feline yesterday morning, still fat, so they were born sometime yesterday or in the early hours: Mr BW tells me that we now have 4 more mouths to feed.

Two black and white, and two white and black.

I haven't seen them either, as they are in the usual feline maternity ward - the furthest reaches of the workshop rafters...


Regular readers may recall that the older two black cats (who we homed as rescue kittens from a private source) each had kittens on Easter Sunday 2014. They then proceeded to share responsibility for raising the 9 kittens, and then had a trip to the vet. Current Mum is the only one of the all-black 9 that we still have (we gave 7 away to what we hope were good homes, and one suffered the usual 'instant death by speeding motorist' last autumn - replacement purposes are the only reason we allow one young female to breed: the local cat charities won't rehome to anyone who lives anywhere other than on a housing estate), and GrandCat and Great Aunt are taking it in turns to be on watch.

Posted at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Retirement: Day 3

I was kept too busy to write even a few words yesterday, but, for posterity, we woke up at 6.30am (just before diddely doo time). I stuck green fluorescent dots onto the heavy cream curtains before taking them to the dry cleaners, (£16.62 each curtain, ready Saturday afternoon), and then spent the rest of the day cleaning paint off where it shouldn't be as fast as Mr BW was spreading it on.

In the late afternoon, I then wet-cleaned the carpets for the first time in far too long, as evidenced by the colour of the waste water. *shudders*. I was then so exhausted that I went to sleep.

Fortunately, for carpet drying purposes, the glorious weather that started on Tuesday continues: 41.5°C in the polytunnel and 28°C on the in-the-sun wall thermometer. But it went down to 4°C last night.


Today we woke up at 4.45am, and had hot chocolate, but it didn't work well enough and I still woke up at 6.45am (diddely doo time). Given that I rarely woke up at diddely doo time when Mr BW used to have to get up at that time, I wondered what was going on.

Mr BW is currently satinwooding the skirting boards and eggshelling the cupboard doors. That was after he re-emulsioned the wall that had dried patchy (the danger of using old paint and mixing part-tins).

Despite having all the windows and most of the doors open, the paint is not doing my dry cough (leftover from the flu attack a month ago) any good. Not sure what I'm meant to do - the weather forecasters are telling vulnerable people not to go out in the south and east, and I can't stay in.

I'm amused at how many people are trying to blame the Coalition for the high pollution.

Posted at 10:40 AM | Comments (6)
 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Retirement Day 1

We woke up at 6am.

By 10am Mr BW had done a stock-take on paint-in-stock, cleared the Rest Room (note for non-UK readers, this not what you think it is), and had protective covering on the floor, and was washing the walls with sugar soap solution.

At 11am a Nice Lady Friend unexpectedly (well, OK, she rang twenty minutes before arriving) arrived with her German teenage grand daughter and the grand daughter's best friend to buy eggs and h0ney and meet the livestock.

She was impressed by the industry being shown.

.

Posted at 11:59 AM | Comments (2)
 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives...

The cats and I have just waved Mr BW off for the last time.


Off to work that is.

After 33 years and 7 months in the same place (and, as his Mum said, his Dad started work there the year before he was born, so he's actually a Company Baby). 63 years of service between them, although they overlapped by 12 years in the 80s and early 90s).

Car loaded with cakes (78) for this morning (not forgetting that there was already Cake Day Part 1 last Wednesday for all those who were on leave this week), and a huge chocolate extravagance (serves about 200 by the look of it) for this afternoon (picture later, when I have my camera back), and goodbye presents for various colleagues and secretaries (all home-made or home-grown)

And... the iCrap has left the building! Hurrah! It's been embarrassing being such an Apple Non-Fan Girl having a husband with work-issue (Blackberries were changed to iPhoneys a couple of months ago).

We'd always planned to retire when Mr BW was 50.

We've been saving towards it, and putting extra into pension pots. The joy of compound interest, and the fact that we have always put the maximum amount of money into ISAs every year since they came out (which sometimes was very hard), and never touched it, has helped a lot.

But, then, a couple of years ago, the governmint changed the goalposts, and decreed that no-one could take their personal pensions until they were 55. We weren't happy.

Two years ago, Mr BW chose to move to working 3 days per week. We got the idea in the summer of 2008, when the global crash led to everyone at his company being asked to work part time for three months. We managed fine (and even managed to still save), helped by not paying such a huge amount of tax and national insurance, and realised that it was a permanent possibility.

And then the governmint moved the goalposts on when one could take one's state pension. Several times. We're now up to 67. Fourteen and a half more years for me, and sixteen and a half for him, rather than the seven and a half for me (and fourteen and a half for him) that we were promised when we started paying national insurance at 16.

While we were in Northumberland last autumn celebrating Mr BW's 50th birthday (I see that Jay Rayner recently also liked the place we went to on the actual day), I jokingly asked him how much longer he was planning to go on working. "Until I don't enjoy it any more. Or 55. Whichever comes first!" was his reply.

On our return, a major restructuring by a new CEO had moved on, and he found that the job he'd been happily doing on three days per week (and some time at home on the other days) was impossible.

There were other options. All of which involved overseas travel again: but, he'd had enough of that in the first ten years of our marriage. Overseas travel isn't what it was then.

No-one wanted him to leave.

No-one expected him to leave.

But, he insisted.

He signed the papers on 9th December (remember the sunrise post?), and has had a four month lead-out.

I've laughed at the number of jobs that have had to be created to cover all the things he's been doing in 3 days per week for the past two years. When you've been somewhere for a long long time, and have had 8 bosses in 7 years (or maybe 7 in 8, I'm not sure), and are extremely time-efficient and organised, no-one has a clue of the totality of what you do.

And today is The Day.

D-Day (or, R-Day, for those of you who have been mystified by the count at the bottom of recent posts - it only moved downwards on work-days).

The first day of the rest of our lives.

No more diddley doo times every morning, unless we so choose.

I can't wait!

My Patchy Ladies inform me that within weeks, if not days, I will be tearing my hair out. They under-estimate me. And him. I've been slowly adding to his list of hobbies in recent years. Sending him off on a course here, or encouraging an interest there. Mr BW is not someone who is ever at a loss for something to do - he's not the sort of person who can happily sit in a chair all day, and, indeed is unhappy if he is not making or tinkering with something. The four day weekends for the past two years have proved that there still isn't enough free time in a week.

And now he is free all week.

I look forward to sharing our adventures with you. Mind you - Mr BW now has his own website (and blog). Which I'd rather wasn't linked from here, or linked with here. But I have a suspicion that some of you might be able to find it...


Happy Retirement Mr BW. And thank you for working so hard for us for the past nearly 21 years. (Actually, he's calling 'retirement' his 'gap year(s)', because 33.6 years of compound interest on a gap year never taken at 16 is exactly the time left until he can take his occupational pensions.)

 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Whose dinner was whose?


Another night, we had a very nice (and very quick to make) Crab and Prawn Lasagne, adapted (to make it gluten-free) from this Nigel Slater recipe here.

Someone on Masterchef tonight made their own rice noodles. Has anyone ever done this (I haven't)? I've found a recipe here... and here... and it's gluten-free (and I have all the ingredients in my non-wheat dry ingredients cupboard).

R -1

 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Island Day!

A mystery has been unfolding at The Coven.

The Mystery of the Disappearing Hot Cross Buns.

"Where have all those buns gone?" I asked on Friday afternoon (I only dropped one in the washing up water, accidentally).

"Mice, must be mice!" replied Mr BW.

"Blimey, they've evolved since the last lot! I'm worried - mice that can open the fridge, get out the butter, unwrap the butter, get a knife out of the drawer, cut, spread, and put everything away after are clearly to be greatly feared!"

"I didn't have butter!"


Enjoy your chocolate eggs. Mr BW is threatening to have creme egg on his porridge.

R -1

 

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Friday Question

After a sunny, if not particularly warm, day yesterday, we're back to the cool damp gloom again today. Mr BW is having to pot-on tomato and pepper seedlings in the utility rather than the polytunnel as it is too cold to be outside.

I am amused that the 7th of May, election day in the UK, is also (according to my calendar) the National Day of Prayer in the US. If you're over the pond, say one for us, won't you - we're certainly going to need it?!

I was also amused by the 2-hour 7-way election debate (watched by seven million people) last night. Actually, I fell asleep half way through, but Mr BW had predicted this, and recorded it, so we were able to watch the rest this morning. I have deliberatly chosen not to look at any of the 'public reaction' in the media (eg I haven't yet read that link just above that I've just dropped in), so what follows is my own opinion.

Here is the BW ranking of the leaders' performance (self-presentation, and clear presentation of their party's policies - and not the order of my voting preference):

1. Nick Clegg (undoubtedly the best orator of the lot, but he was good last time, and look what then happened; after such a good performance he may not lose his seat as the media/polls were previously predicting)

2. Nigel Farage (he was the only one getting any laughter/applause/reaction etc from the audience - who were no doubt strictly briefed not to react as it would waste time; a showman of the highest order; clearly believes what he says; has identified the issues that bother the indigenous people in the Shires, but hasn't a hope of solving them with his 'ego first' policies)

3. David Cameron (looked really tired and worried all the way through; but sounded as if he genuinely cared and believed in what he said; handled The Heckler well)

4. Nicola Sturgeon (but she's had lots of practice at this type of thing over the past couple of years; clearly all-out solely for Scotland's interests)

5. Ed Milliband (looking at the camera rather than the audience after the first 5 seconds of each answer was creepy - he just used this as an oportunity for extra party-political broadcast time; far too slick and polished, after obviously hours of coaching; very hard to know if he truly believes what he says or just says it because he knows he needs to if he is to stand any chance)

6. Leanne Wood (utterly out of her depth, and seemed under-informed on anything beyond the Welsh Valleys but, unlike the rest, at least she directly took on Farage a couple of times)

7. Natalie Bennett (oh for goodness sake, at least wear something bright, and some obvious make-up, or you're just perpetuating the sackcloth and lentils stereotypical image; hard to see how she had any policies or vision that will keep the country from falling back into a pre-2010 state)

What do you think?

Posted at 10:51 AM | Comments (3)
 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sold out, soldiers, and buns

The internet is nearly out of sensible email addresses and domain names.

The position isn't helped by people like me sitting on domain names and Twitter usernames, just in case they might one day get round to doing something with them, or because they match another name they already own and they don't want someone else to grab it, so that a 'complete set' is no longer available.

I suppose it is like human names - as the world of cave people and medieval people expanded, so their names became longer to identify the particular individual.

I was expecting 3 bottles of contact lens solution in the post. Instead I got three lead soldiers. I don't want lead soldiers. Gotta love eBay. The person concerned seems to have muddled up the labels on the parcels. They can think themself lucky that I use Mr BW's account (so must be polite) - it's this sort of thing that made me hate eBay and delete my account after a series of similar problems back when it first began.

In other news, Mr BW is trying it on with hot cross buns. I do the shopping, but he decided he'd 'help out' by buying two packs when he was in the supermarket buying cakes for something else yesterday. Given that I can't eat them, that he's already eaten 7 this week, and with the 8 I bought yesterday, I feel that we are in a serious over-stock situation.

R -1

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Something fishy is going on

No point putting anything up here this morning, is there?

Let me know if you see or hear any good ones...

R - 1.97

 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Far Side of the Moore


For the fellow space lovers amongst you, there was a wonderful drama on R4 yesterday afternoon: the life of Patrick Moore, brilliantly played (complete wtih utterly authentic eccentricity and accent) by Tom Hollander.

Just what Sir Patrick brought to the era of stuffy science on the BBC (remember Open University broadcasts on TV?) is perfectly summed up by a phrase from the play, "You do realise he's a hobbyist?"

Now available on listen again until the end of April.

R -2

Doctors don't know best

I am delighted to hear on R4 this lunchtime that there is, at last, a system 'Patients Know Best', which allows people to own and manage their own medical notes, and share them with their treament teams.

I have wittered on about this on here before: I believe very strongly that, in order to survive, and be able to meet ever-increasing demands for healthcare, the NHS needs to make people feel that they are responsible for their own health, by putting them at the centre their own health management.

So many people feel disempowered by the current (and past) attitude of the medical (and often paramedical) professions. If you feel disempowered, you develop an 'external' locus of control, and feel that nothing you do makes, or can make, any difference. Hence the queues of people every day at doctors' surgeries with ridiculously minor complaints that they could easily treat at home, if they felt confident.

Many people now use technology to regularly measure and record their own blood pressure, weight, activity levels, blood sugar levels etc etc, but, they have no way to feed those back to those they consult when they are ill. Until now.

Blurb from the website (where you can listen again - it's only a 15 minute programme):

"In the second programme of this Healthy Visions series, Dr Charles Alessi argues that this model of how we access and interact with our health care system will be required to undergo considerable change in the future. Not only do NHS resources need to be saved, but people are becoming increasingly knowledgeable and interested in their health and want to be more involved and in charge of their own care.

In the digital age it is now becoming much easier to access and share information about health. Patients Know Best is the world's first patient controlled online medical records system and is based on the premise that patients have the right to, and are best placed to be in control of their own records. By having their own unique profile on a website, patients are able to gain access to their data via a computer or smartphone. Linking together the care teams that treat them, management of any condition is made much easier for all involved.

Patients are also becoming more active in their own care as treatment moves away from solely being provided by health care professionals. An illustration of this is the self-care kidney dialysis unit in Harrogate, Yorkshire, the first of its kind in the country, where patients undertake their own dialysis at times that are most convenient for them. This affords them much greater flexibility and can substantially improve their quality of life."

R - 2.5

 

Monday, March 30, 2015

I hate computers

I hate computers.

I really really hate computers.

If my archives were still clickably available, I'd be able to point newer readers to numerous posts about my dislike of packaged websites, dating from the first few months when I attempted to use Blogger to inflict BW on the world.

But, as my lovingly-hand-written-in-2003, by the sadly now-not-inhabiting-these-parts Oddverse Alan, code is now obsolete, when I was moved to a new server last year, the archives ceased to function. I can still access them from within my CMS dashboard, but you can't get to them, and so I can't link to them.

Mr BW has spent the weekend creating himself a personal website, for reasons that will become apparent soon.

He hates computers too.

After this last weekend, probably more than I do.

For the past 8 years he has been responsible for his company's corporate global websites. Unfortunately, he has got rather used to issuing orders for stuff to be hand-coded to his (discerning and specific) specifications, and returned for his (dis)approval. Others have done all the donkey work, and sorted out the problems when they arose. He's also recently overseen the creation of the new local Parish Council website, so he has an excellent grasp of what can be done, if not the skills to be able to do it himself. The worst possible combination.

So, after I'd helped him think of and register a domain name, and arrange hosting (also things he'd never had to do - and gosh, I think that got me a free month too), and get WP installed within the hosting (hint: stop clicking the 'return' button when it doesn't happen fast, we live in an area of very slow broadband, and we don't have an on-the-end-of-a-phone IT helpdesk to sort out the technological problems caused by your impatience) he drove me mad trying to find a WordPress template, for free, that will do everything that his custom-designed tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of pounds corporate affairs do.

I have never heard so much sighing and moaning emanating from him in all the 22.25 years I've known him. Never.

In this brave new world of 'responsive' website design (ie websites that render appropriately for whatever device you are using to view - and no, I didn't know that until recently either) and the visual overload that is now being foisted on the browsing world, all the templates for 'slick and clean' have vanished (I know, I've been to many websites hosted on WP with clean designs, looked at their source, and found that they are now no longer available for new downloads from WP).

Mr BW discovered that there is a very limited amount that one can change within these free WP templates; presumably to make you give up and buy the pro versions at thirty quid minimum per year.

And there was me, thinking that when Mr BW had finally conquered the beast, and done his own website, then he could put me up a new WP installation that I could use for BW from now on.

No way.

And I'm jolly glad that he doesn't usually sit in front of a screen when he's not at work. How those of you put up with partners or family members who spend their out-of-work time gaming or on FB or forums, I have no idea.

All this also explains why there are several blogs that I no longer read because I can't stand their new (WP) formats. At least I now know that it's not the owner's fault that they can't get a simple template!

I hate computers.

R -3.5

 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

In the news

The London Evening Standard is now available for free every afternoon in Morrisons in Local Small Town. This is 55 miles from the centre of London. It is delivered by a man in a white Luton van, with a sack barrow.

He was changing Thursday's almost untouched stack for Friday's when I popped in mid-afternoon on Friday. He was pleased that I took a dozen copies. Printing on, or hen-house lining with, flat unread paper is so much easier than using the recycled issues that kindly aquaintances provide to us (we don't get free papers delivered here and we only buy one Sunday paper a year, when we go to Northumberland in the autumn).

Thanks Evening Standard.

But - why do they think it is appropriate to distribute it out here (in a venue that is over a mile from the railway station which is an end-of-the line from London commuter route)?

 

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Friday Question

Just a reminder that Royal Mail's prices are going up on Monday (30th), so stock up on stamps if you need to!

The non-denominational stamps are valid for their marked service (1st or 2nd) indefinitely, irrespective of their colour.

First class standard size up to 100g will now be 63p, and large 95p.
Second class up to 100g will be 54p and 74p.

While I may be in a small minority in thinking that this is still truly amazing value, I cannot believe the new prices that they will be charging for parcels.

I use Collect+ to send parcels now, and have never had, or heard of, a problem with them.

When receiving parcels, I like DPD as one can track parcels online minute-by-minute. My local driver is Gary (so the website says) and he is the most helpful and courteous delivery driver I've ever met. I recently emailed and told the company that, and he thanked me the next time he delivered to me, so the customer service online team do pass all feedback on, rather than just berating the drivers for people's moans. We had a chat and he told me that many people don't even speak to him (even to say 'thank you') when signing for received parcels. Ah, the modern world.

I hate Hermes, UK Mail, and Yodel (who, I've recently discovered, took over the also-awful but now defunct CityLink, at least in this area) most, but the rest of them can be variable depending on which company particular drivers are working for this week (wherever they haven't yet been sacked from for lying, throwing parcels over gates, deliberately breaking or opening parcels etc etc).

I do think that online and mail-order companies should all have to be clear about who they will be using to send your order, before you place the order. Then one could avoid ordering from companies who use couriers that are problematic in your area.

Who are your good and bad delivery companies?

Posted at 12:50 PM | Comments (8)
 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Delighted...

...to hear the news from the BBC that they have sacked Clarkson.

I refuse to watch Top Gear as I dislike his attitude intensely. Mr BW has to watch it after I am asleep. I know I am in a small minority here, but young male petrolheads generally need no encouragement to speed, carry out dangerous stunts, or be sexist. Every week local papers around the country are full of tales of teens killed or injured in road accidents. I've known a few myself. The removal of any form of encouragement to consider cars as anything more than means of transport is to be encouraged.

I am still shocked that a million people signed a petition to keep him, without knowing the full facts of the case. Baaaa. Baaaaa. I wonder how any of them would feel were it their partner who had been insulted and physically assaulted at work?

And, current discussions around Clarkson's sacking (seemingly everywhere you read, listen and watch) seem to imply that the majority are OK that the more famous you are the less normal rules should apply to you. I truly despair.


I am also unimpressed by the redesign / further dumbing down of the BBC News website. Can anyone recommend a good, comprehensive, well written, and well researched, alternative?


R-4

BW questions: 1

Why is no party campaigning on what they would do to prevent another banking crash? It's still all about dealing with the aftermath of the last one...


R-5

 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

24.03.15

Oh what a lovely date.

And there will be another next month.

 

Monday, March 23, 2015

How?

I'm trying to work out how I have used 5000 26/6 staples in the past 4 years and 1 month.

That's over 3 staples per day. I know that I don't use 3 staples a day, or 21 a week.

Oh, the joys of dating things when I start them/insert them (batteries, light bulbs etc etc).

It's the small things that make me happy.

 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Natural subjects

Fantastic coverage of the eclipse yesterday from the Stargazing Live team, I thought (all of this week's episodes are available on iPlayer for those who are interested and missed them).

For those, like us, who were stuck under cloud, one of their experts was recommending as close to a certain view as you'll ever get: Luxor in Egypt in the summer of 2027 - a three hour total eclipse, with over 6 minutes of totality.

The sun tried to make amends by putting in an appearance late morning, and then providing a coloured sunset - but it was an overly-dilute watercolour effort. 2/10.

I'm always amused when astronomers discuss astrology, and last night's Stargazing revealed that 86% of us were actually born under a different constellation to our assumed 'star sign'. The dates of the ‘star signs’ were fixed over 2,000 years ago, when the zodiac was first devised, as a way of measuring time. Then, they corresponded to the constellation of stars that appeared behind the Sun on the day you were born. But, due to various astronomical phenomena, the constellations have drifted since then.

The calculator here shows that I am not really a Sagittarian, but an Ophiuchian (as is everyone currently alive born between 30th November and 18th December).


The astronomical zodiac actually contains 13 star signs - Ophiuchus (the 'serpent bearer') was deliberately left out of the original zodiac, over 2000 years ago, even though the Sun clearly passes in front of it after passing in front of Scorpius (commonly known as Scorpio) and before reaching Sagittarius. The reason for this is not known, but it may be because ancient astrologers wanted to divide the 360 degree path of the Sun in a mathematically pleasing way - 12 equal parts, each one of 30 degrees. But, the true boundaries that divide the constellations, as described by the International Astronomical Union, are far from equal. For example Ophiuchus is behind the Sun for a full 19 days of the year - which is 12 days more than its neighbour, Scorpius.

Never again will I have to endure someone reading me 'my' horoscope from some tabloid or cheap magazine. "What star sign are you?" "I'm an Ophiuchian!" "That's not listed..." "Exactly!". My only problem will be with remembering how to pronounce it correctly.


Also on natural subjects, on Wednesday we went on a fascinating and inspiring course on Nature Printing. I didn't realise that seventeenth and eighteenth century images of leaves are generally not botanical drawings, but prints. We were shown some two hundred year old books with beautiful prints taken from real plant material specimens. Apparently these were often produced on a subscription basis, with parts being collected, and then bound into books. The last two links explains more.

Working area, with an early print on the lower RHS:

A few of our prints (I mixed and used green ink that almost matched that used for many of the original examples we were shown):

The front and back of each leaf can be printed at once (either by folding the printing paper, or by using two pieces):

A close-up of the sort of detail obtainable (sadly the limitations of 72dpi can't show it well enough):

 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Friday Question

So, how far do we have to drive to get out from under this cloud? And, given that I've only just woken up, have we got time to get there?

Mr BW had even located the sheets of welding glass we used in 1999.

Still, at least there is Stargazing Live. And DG.

Roll on 2026...


Update: Here is what we saw during the eclipse:

It did get distinctly darker slowly, and then lighter again much more quickly, but, had we not known that it was an eclipse, we wouldn't have noticed.

Here are the two 'diamond rings' that we should have seen... on the way in...

and on the way out...

Thank goodness for TV.

The sun did finally put in an appearance at 11.45am. I have given it a severe talking to, and it has promised to be good for the rest of the summer.

Happy Equinox!

 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Not dead, just ill

Mr BW went down with flu a day after the last entry. I followed 36 hours later.

This has ben real, proper flu, the, "I couldn't get out of bed if my life depended on it!" type, and not the heavy cold that most people call flu (in fact, the 'cold' didn't even manifest until 5 or 6 days in).

Two separate people have informed me that there are plagues of it locally, and that it lasts two weeks. Mr BW seems better. I seem to be having a relapse (this may or may not have involved the 400 plug plants that we had to pot up on Saturday). Every time I do something (no matter how small) the throbbing headache comes back. I haven't had such an awful, chronic, headache since 1991 when I had encephalitis after getting severe food poisoning.

In the middle of one particularly achey/coughy/sweaty night last week, I told Mr BW that I needed to be put down; it would be the kindest thing. "I'll do it humanely!" he said. Given his penchant for CSI, Silent Witness and similar genre programmes, this rung alarm bells. "Erm... how?" I enquired nervously, wondering if I should change my mind. "It'll be a surprise!" he said. I'm still worrying...

I am so frustrated, because I felt well, for the first time in several years, when we came back from South Africa. Still, 9 days is better than no days, I suppose.

This amused me (notwithstanding that my own days of doing this have long-gone):

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Another of those BW sagas

I have a suspicion that some people who perceive that they are not very important in the grand scheme of things feel that they need to find ways of exerting their importance.

I had to go into London this morning (a very rare occurrence these days, and one generally avoided at all costs), to attend an important talk of professional significance. I smiled inwardly to myself as I learnt that the things under discussion are finally coming full circle, back to where they were 30 years ago (which is potentially a much better place than they are at now). Actually, I must have smiled wryly outwardly, as the Professor and Head of Centre giving the talk caught me afterwards and quizzed me.

I escaped from her clutches, without giving too much away, and without having definitely agreed to do anything to assist the cause, and, having time to spare before I had to return home, decided to go to the university library a couple of streets away to renew my library card.

"I have free readers' rights," I explained (something that, despite being an alumna, would otherwise cost me £220 annually), "by virute of my membership of professional association." I presented my card. "I think that this might have expired though, as I've not been able to visit for quite a while."

"Where's your proof of membership?" the bored-looking woman behind the desk asked.

"Oh - I thought that was my card, that is in your hand?" I replied.

"No, your proof of membership of professional association!" she said. "The professional association don't send out membership cards any more - it's all done by direct debit and internet lists that are searchable, these days," I informed her.

"Well, you need something to prove you qualify, I can't renew your card without it," the jobsworth said.

"Well, there isn't anything, and you can prove who I am by searching the database online," I suggested. "But, that takes time," she said, "and there is a queue!"

I fixed her with a BW hard stare. There was a pause.

I raised my eyebrows and left them raised, in an assertive, "I'm not leaving until you've sorted this out!" sort of way.

She sighed. "There are lots of people waiting!"

I smiled, a sickly smile. "And I'm at the head of the queue, waiting for you to do a simple internet search, in order to validate my readers' card renewal." She sighed again, more loudly.

She must have decided that I looked like I meant business. I did.

"What's your name?" I told her. She tapped on her computer.

"What's your address?" I told her. She scrolled down a list and hit return.

"What's your email address?" I told her. She peered at her screen.

"How do I know you are who you say you are?"

"Well, apart from the fact that you have my expired readers' card, with my photo on it, in front of you, that I've answered all your questions correctly, and that you can always ask me to sign a piece of paper for you to compare against the signature on the card, I really have no idea!" I said, with just a hint of sarcasm.

"Well, just this once, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt!" she said, inserting my card into a slot which spat it out, duly renewed. She put it on the desk in front of her, rather than into my outstretched hand.

"And just this once, and only because I'm in a hurry, I'm going to give you the benefit of not asking to see your manager to report you for lack of any kind of customer service ethic, intelligence, or ability to do your job in a competent manner!" I growled. "But only this time."

 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Out of Africa

Well that's stays in the hot mountains, hotter mountainous desert, seaside near Cape Town and winelands completed.

2210 km driven (fewer this year as, having been twice before, we felt less of a need to dash round and see everything), a 26°C drop in temperature, 6 loads of washing completed (we brought the sun and wind back with us yesterday, temporarily), and 1106 photos, or 6.10GB, added to my hard drive.

It was wonderful to have a couple of weeks free from chronic pain and have more energy, if only for the time while there, and then (hopefully) a few more days now we are back. We've already booked places to stay for next year. And we're going for a week longer (nearly a month).

I fancy making one of these this year:

Posted at 10:36 AM | Comments (4)
 

Friday, February 20, 2015

From vine to wine

Outside our cottage are lots and lots of merlot vines.

They are almost the only vines left that haven't been harvested. Summer seems to be about three weeks ahead here, compared to last year.

As the evening cools down to its 17 or 18°C overnight temperature, and the sun sets, it's lovely to walk through the rows picking a few. They are so sweet. Small, but sweet, and the pips are hardly there. In the heat of the afternoon sun, you can smell the juice evaportaing, and a few, especially on the south side of the rows, have started to raisinify.


This morning we heard some strange noises outside, and looking out, there were 8 or 9 workers picking. Lots of boxes. By 8.30am they'd finished. Three hours from start to finish.

Clearly 20°C is too cold not to wear a fleece and a wooly hat.

So - no deliciously sweet juicy evening snacks tonight. Shame really, as we have some German friends that we met last year in Cape Town (and who we saw again for an hour before we left to come here) coming over for a braai tomorrow.

 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fire on the moutain, run BWs run

Yesterday afternoon and this morning. 500m away.

The skill of the 3 helicopter pilots, who were scooping water out of the vineyard reservoirs, was amazing.



I haven't told them about my spells.

There was a frog in our bedroom in the Karoo, lizards in Noordhoek, and mice and bats here. I may have been a bit over-ambitious.

Ahem.


And now, as I'm sitting here using the wifi in the tasting room of the vineyard where we are staying, it's flared up again.

*tries to look innocent*

Posted at 12:56 PM | Comments (3)
 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Back on the road again


These two were taken on the R44 coast road, which runs along the bottom of the country, across False Bay. A stunningly beautiful (and twisty) road, which we will be taking again this morning as we head off into prime wine country. We will be staying in the midst of the grapevines (which are currently being picked) in a cottage on a small wine farm - they make just 15,000 bottles themselves every year, but also sell grapes to large-scale producers

This is the view to the other side of the same road - it is correctly orientated - and shows how two types of completely different rock often exist side-by-side.

We are saddened to see just how much development is going on in SA at present. As long-term readers might recall, this is our third visit, and already some areas that we initially visited when they were quiet and beautiful are being spoilt. Lots of ribbon development joining up small communities. Rather like the UK. But, the President said in his SoNA last Thursday night that non-SA nationals will no longer be able to own land. Whether he means all property, or just 'land', and whether he means going forward, or retrospectively, isn't clear. There are quite a few worried ex-pats.

From time to time in the UK one hears that the energy companies won't be able to supply the amount of power the population require, because of poor infrastructure planning for the future. One hears murmours of the likelihood of power blackouts.

Well - I've seen the future - it's already happening here. Almost all townships are now connected to mains eleectricity, and the grid can't cope with supplying houses plus shacks. The power companies are being forced to run a programme of rolling outages, to protect the grid from meltdown. Here we had no power from 4-6.30pm on Saturday afternoon, and none from 8-10am yesterday. There was an outage in the night, but none planned for today. Larger shops and petrol stations seem to have generators of varying power, but the smaller shops either close or operate in near-darkeness.

Apparently when Nelson's lot came ot power in 1994 they inherited a 20 year power plan, which included infrastructure development and maintenance. But, they failed to keep up-to-date, or to recognise the necessity of investment for the future This, together with widespread corruption and jobs for the boys (replacing the experienced engineers who were of the wrong political persuasion), has led to the current position (ooh, nice pun there BW).

20 years down the line, the grid can't supply the power being demanded -and they are now burning more and more diesel to generate electricity. Along all the major roads there are Greenpeace placards proclaiming that anything but renewable power sources will take 15 years to get online, and the investment needed is beyond anything that can be raised. There is little evidence of the use of solar power, or wind power, either as micro- or large-scale generation, which is crazy in a country that is as hot, sunny, and (in coastal areas) as windy as this.

Despite these rolling power cuts (called 'load shedding'), no-one (public organisations or individuals) seems to be restricting their use of power, and lights in towns, cities and in houses are burning brighter than ever. The picture above was taken on the way out of Cape Town on Friday night (Table Mountain on LHS in background).

 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love in the sun

Currently my favouritest beach in the world. Beach, mountains, shells, sun, and peace, all in one place. Working on finding a house to rent here next year. Given that there are only about ten, and most look like they are third or fourth homes to vineyard or diamond mine owners, I'm not hopeful.

We paid another visit to the Harold Porter Botanic Garden.

When we were here a year ago, large sections of the garden had been devastated by flood. A year on, it was hard to see what had been done to repair the damaged sections. Given the government and NGO 'job creation schemes' that are evident everywhere, it was frustrating that little had been done here. It may have been lack of money: but they wern't helping themselves - it being VD, they were offering 2 for the price of one admission. Given that admission is only R18 (slightly over a pound), I don't think the entry fee would have put anyone off visiting

The season seems to be much advanced on last year, and, other than some ericas, and this weird daisy-on-the-end-of-succulent specimen, there were few plants in flower.

This beach has pure white sand, and, were it not for the wind and the fact that it is opposite the largest township in SA (400,000 people living in 15 square miles - as featured in a thought-provoking BBC3 documentary last year), it would be amazing.

At the weekend, whole familes from the township can be found sitting fishing, and then, in the late afternoon, selling their catch on the side of the (busy, high-speed) road. Presumably if they have a good day, they have money for the week, and if they don't, well... But, I do wonder from where they sourced their fishing gear.

 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dolphin Talk

It's an eight hour drive from where we were staying in the Karoo back to Cape Town.

We were listening to SA FM which is a cross between Radio 4 and a BBC local radio station phone in. For us, visiting other countries is about understanding what makes a country and its people tick, and doing things that most tourists don't usually do. In the absence of real people to talk to, listening to the radio seemed to be the next best thing.

It quickly became apparent that all the issues that people talked about on UK radio were also those that were being talked about here in SA.

The SONA (annual State of the Nation Address) was last night.

If you thought things in the UK parliament were bad, try what happened here last night.

Fighting in parliament. With real punches.

Something that it doesn't say in the BBC report that I've linked is that at the beginning of the session, all mobile phone reception in the parliament building had been blocked (although it was restored when demands were made by MPs).

Did this even make the news in the UK?

Talking to the pottery ladies last night about local and national events here, they found it hard to believe that their issues parallelled those in other countries.

Capitalism is cracking.

I had a three year pottery course compressed into 3 hours last night. As I said to our hostess, getting guests to make pots at least ensures that they return the next year to collect them. Best marketing ploy ever. Well, we've already stayed here three times, so the stakes are farly high.

Scarborough Beach yesterday (west coast, down near Cape Point, beautiful unspoilt uncommercialised beach in a conservation zone).


This is not us having lunch, it's what happens if you don't have a lock on your bin. Babboons are a dangerous pest, so the notices everywhere around the Cape tell you. We thought it was quite cute. Daddy first in the bin, scoffing the best bits and throwing the remnants behind him for Mum and Babe. The amount of waste food in that white man's bin was disgusting.

It's raining here this morning you'll be pleased to know.

 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Back to civilisation

We spent four nights living in the mountains in the middle of nowhere in the Karoo, miles down a dirt track, on an off-grid, artesian welled, permaculture farm in a very old worker's cottage made of cob.

The silence and the stars were incredible.

So was the orange ring round the bath (from all the dust) when we got back to civilisation last night.

Temperatures were mid to high 30s. It's cold back here 20 miles south of Cape Town: 25°C

There was an interesting clay pot by the edge of the plunge pool.

Tonight, having been invited to our hostess's pottery class (she teaches it, in the room under our house for the next 5 days), I'm going to recreate it.

Ah, the things we do on our holidays.

 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Wot you looking at, human?"


"It's nice and warm on top of this outdoor boiler, eight feet up. Now will you just get in that taxi and get off to the airport so that the house sitter can spoil us. We're certainly going to be fatter when you come back!"

Grey, cold, bleak, depressed. Got fed up waiting for snow...

...decided to head for the sun. Please call off the snow spells. We don't want to be sat on the runway for four hours in a plane de-icing queue (as we were two years ago) this evening.


Technology permitting, there will be updates.

Posted at 12:30 PM | Comments (9)
 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Want snow

Will you people with lots of snow please stop being greedy and share it around a bit? We've only had two mini-falls in total this winter.

Last night we had 24 flakes, which melted by 8.30am, and last Thursday afternoon there was about a quarter of an inch, but we missed that falling as we were at Wisley seeing the butterflies.

They were better than last year - more flying around, better identification boards. But the usual Surrey Yummy Mummy set with their terribly precious uncontrolled pre-school darlings. Breeding the politicians and bankers of the future, clearly.

This was the amount of snow that remained by Friday morning.

There aren't that many hellebores out at The Coven yet. I was tempted by this gorgeous specimen of a new introduction in the Wisley Plant Centre, until I saw the price. Thirty quid? I'd want ten for that.

I did a spell for more snow.

Mr BW tried to console me by putting the last roll of the Snowman and the Snow Dog toilet paper on the holder.

That didn't console me because I'd been saving it for next FOTCR™. And it didn't work.

So, I did another spell, for enough snow to make a Snow Cat, but all that succeeded in doing was producing an ugly bruiser of a white tom cat - who we'd never seen before - and who proceeded to chase my girls. I guess it will add variation to the next batch...

Where is all this snow hiding? Own up, who's got it?

 

Monday, February 2, 2015

94 days to go

And fortuntately we're going to be out of the country for 20 of those.

All this electioneering is frustrating me to the point of not wanting to partake of any type of media. I'm someone who has far too much interest in what is going on in the world, a great interest in social history (it's all happened before...), and (I'm repeatedly told) an ability to make connections that others don't always see. So, there is far too much shouting at the radio/TV/computer screen currently going on. And it's not even making me feel better.

It's the arguing (mostly semantics, and abuse of statistics) and point scoring that is so utterly galling. There is so little to choose between the Parties, and we all know that nothing promised now will ever become reality - particularly as the next government is most likely to be another coalition, where most policies will always have to be negotiated mish-mash compromises.

On Question Time last week, the panel consisted of three men and two women. As one of the women, Telegraph.co.uk blogger Kate Maltby pointed out early on, it wouldn't really be a debate as the three men (Conservative culture secretary Sajid Javid MP, former Labour secretary of state for Wales Peter Hain MP, and Plaid Cymru's economy spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth AM) would spend their time arguing. Which they did. The best points were made by Kate and by the other panel member, Germaine Greer (who has, like many of her era, mellowed in her old age). Other points were made, but they were lost in the testosterone.

Voters are fickle, and without proportional representation, many people will vote tactically, or not bother to vote at all, as they don't like the politics of their area, which is a 'safe seat'.

I'm proud to have voted in every single election in any area I have ever lived. Women's votes were hard-won. I have never deliberately spolit a ballot paper, although increasingly I have felt that I have voted for the 'least worst' option. But, this time, I don't want to vote for any of the options.

There are some interesting numbers from the Electoral Commission about the last (2010) general election here. Only 65.1% of those elegible to vote did so. Of those, only 0.28% of votes cast were spoilt papers.

Surprisingly, the majority of those spoilt papers are reported to be because the voter had either not marked the ballot paper or not made their intention clear. In just over a quarter of cases voters chose more than one candidate in a single-member election (especially in places where electors were also voting in multi-member council wards, or used to voting in countries where the single transferrable vote system is used).

No figure is given for those adding thier own box, None Of The Above. This is because this is not a recognised reason for spoiling a ballot paper. There is a current campaign for legislation to be passed making it law that an official 'None Of The Above' (NOTA) option must be included on UK ballot papers for all future elections. This is important because:

"Consent is central the concept of democracy. But consent is only measurable if it is possible to withhold consent.

NOTA is the only way to formally withhold consent at an election.

Abstaining is not the same thing, it is simply not participating and can be dismissed as voter apathy with no further analysis. Spoiling the ballot is not the same either as spoiled ballots can be counted as spoilt in error. Any spoiled vote count is therefore meaningless and does not provide a measure of voter discontent. An official NOTA option would, whilst also providing the all important ability to formally withhold consent, a democratic pre-requisite.

For this reason, NOTA would be achievable with enough understanding and support for it among the general public."

Now, in the 2001 census, 390,000 of 52 million (7 out of a thousand) people stated that their 'religion' was 'Jedi' after Terry Wogan jokingly suggested it on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show (picking up on a global phenomenon at the time). This made 'Jedi' the fourth largest religion in the UK. Of more concern is that there were still 176,632 voting for this in the 2011 census... making it now 'officially' the seventh most popular religion in the UK.

BUT, it does show that public interest can be whipped up if a high-public-profile person suggests it. A quick Google shows that there are a number of 'personalities' linking themsleves to the NOTA category. Unfortunately, some of them probably aren't helpful to the cause as they will alienate many people who would otherwise agree with the idea.

What would it take to get disaffected voters to draw their own 'None Of The Above' box on their voting papers in 94 days time? A miracle?

If there were enough ballot papers 'spoilt' in this way, then surely there would be pressure to make public the reason why? Even if the 'NOTA' category isn't currently reported, it doesn't mean that it couldn't be?

If the 0.7% of people who were persuaded to voted 'Jedi' in 2001 were to vote 'NOTA', the media would surely demand to know why so many ballot papers were 'spoilt'? And then, perhaps, political parties would realise just how disaffected many voters are, and rethinking and change for the better might begin. From little acorns...

'Official' campaigns won't work - many of those not currently voting are doing so because they feel there is no point and that they are being manipulated by forces that don't operate in their interests - it's got to be an individual thing.

Posted at 10:28 AM | Comments (3)
 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Where is technology going?

Interesting article predicting where our technological future is headed, here.

Now, all we need is for advances in technology to be done for the common good rather than for the good of a few, to the detriment of many.

By next year the world's richest 1% will own more than the rest of the world put together.

The one thing that sticks most in my mind from last year when we had a three-hour personal tour (from one of the residents) around one of the townships within a very affluent area near Cape Town is that everyone we saw had a mobile phone.

Usually a smartphone, with lots of Blackberry and i-Phoney models in evidence. They hadn't got enough to eat, they had one toilet between 10 familes, they washed their clothes in the river, they were buying secondfourth-hand dirty clothes from tarpaulins on street corners, they lived in one-room 'huts' made of corrugated iron or grotty wodden planks, and, if they were working, it was for minimum wage (£1.40 an hour) jobs. But, they had smarthphones that apparently needed feeding more than they did.

If you want more images of townships, look here. It's not a pretty sight/site.

The situation is much the same in every other developing country in the world. Once you show people gadgets, they want gadgets. And not just any gadgets, but the ones that are advertised and promoted as 'desirable' by the companies charging the most money for them. You might have no life, no hope for life, but you can be 'cool'. And while people are buried in their phones they aren't out making a better life for themselves. And please don't tell me that they are 'educating' themselves. The majority aren't.

Apple you should be very proud of the way you have hooked in most of the world. Either abusing workers, or abusing people who can't see you for what you are and put 'image' above life.

And anyone who buys i-Crap - well, you have my sympathies. You clearly don't get it. But, don't worry, nor do the governmint. And, I heard today, credit card debt in this country is now worse than it has ever been. I'm sure that there are correlations between the statements in this paragraph.

The only way billion dollar corporations will get it is if customers vote with their wallets.

It can be done... see T£$co's continuing walk of shame this week - 43 stores closing, 49 development sites abandoned - because consumers didn't.

 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The way it is

"The marketing and media have now got so skilled that they make promises and raise expectations that the rest of the organisation just can't meet, or ever hope to meet."

And that, which came out of a conversation I had last night with Mr Old Friend BW, nicely encapsulates in one sentence exactly what is wrong with the world, at almost every level.

 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Remember to count your birds this weekend.

 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

You are what you eat

Tired of all the biased information on what you should and shouldn't eat, often based on questionnable research methods and questionnable use of statistics, fed to you by the media?

The problem is that there is often more than a grain of truth in something that is sensationalised, but it is often very hard to track down the original research paper (even using Google Scholar), and the majority of new research papers are now behind pay walls.

One source of sound research that I have found recently is the Food and Behaviour Research site.

You can sign up to receive email notifications when a new research paper is added to the site.


On a related note, I've mentioned before that I only use organic milk, and (where available) organic milk-based products.

I always wonder why (given that most people understand and accept that what a human mother consumes can pass via breast milk to her baby), people don't consider that the drug cocktail routinely forced into perfectly healthy farm animals does not pass into milk in a similar way.

It seems to me that consumption of non-organic milk is one of the significant reasons that antibiotic resistance so high in the developed world. But yet I don't hear or read of this being considered?

I guess that it is easier to blame GPs for over-prescribing to patients who demand antibiotics for every ailment, rather than explaining the difference between a viral and a bacterial infection for the umpteenth time, than to ruin the dairy/beef industry.

It always amazes me that organic milk lasts much longer than drug-filled milk. Poor stock rotation during the FOTCR™ season at The Coven led to a container of skimmed dated 22nd December being overlooked. And it was still OK when I (the world's fussiest person when it comes to milk freshness) finished it yesterday, 15 days after the use-by date.

 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Greetings, card problems

If you use, or have ever used Moonpig to send cards, you need to know about their [I suppose I should say alleged] security issues. Read right to the end and you'll discover that they've had 17 months since a developer more alert than their own pointed out the [I suppose I should say alleged] problem.

More info here.

What makes me really cross about this is that they put out a tweet this morning saying, "We are aware of claims re customer data and can confirm that all password and payment information is and has always been safe." It then took them another 8 hours to decide that maybe they had better investigate.

Had the PR department just got someone with even a basic knowledge of coding to read the original blog post when it was published yesterday, and look at other articles on that blog, they'd have realised that perhaps they did have a problem.

Mind you, had I found a problem like that (or even knew that it existed), I wouldn't have waited 17 months to go public.

You can't (apparently) delete you own account either... you need to phone them up and ask.

Just another reason why I'm glad I'm stuck in the last century when it comes to some things. And why I'm glad my shares are in Royal Mail and not Moonpig/PhotoBox.

*wonders how many other instances of this sort of thing are yet to be discovered*

 

Monday, January 5, 2015

5.1.15

Another Nice Date Day.

I just had to nip into town to post a parcel, get some milk, renew some library books and collect another that I'd ordered. I found that I'd nearly forgotten how to drive my car, not having driven anywhere since well before the FOTCR™. Still no need to do any other shopping. Fantastic.

When I got up in the night to go to the loo, I noticed, in the darkness, that our elderly neighbour's sitting room light was on, which is most unusual for him. I dropped round at lunch time to check that he was OK. He assured me that he was, but that he'd had "an 'inspiration to write something" and was up from "just before five to two until twenty-eight minutes past four." I commiserated, saying that I sometimes had that sort of urge in the night, and he looked most bemused. "Do you?" he asked, "I've only ever had to get up and write once before in my whole life."

That must be the secret of how to get to nearly 89.

Go to bed by 10.30pm, wake to the alarm at 7am, without stirring in between.

No hope for me, then.

 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

On this day, 12 years ago this blog was born.

 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Back to the future

Happy New Year - hope 2015 is everything you'd like it to be and nothing you'd rather it wasn't.

Posted at 11:08 PM | Comments (10)
 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

*stamps Witchy feet*

Want snow.

It's colder than it has been all year, but, with both the upstairs and the downstairs woodburners lit, and because The Coven is super-insulated, we only know when we venture outside for supplies from the freezer or the wine cellar. Or the brussels sprouts, parsnips and oranges back-up store which, this year, is in the summerhouse (the pussies are so good at opening packets that I wasn't going to take a chance on whether they could develop a taste for fruit and veg).

The closest we've got to snow is Snowman and the Snowdog on kitchen roll.

And on loo roll come to that.

That was an error. I intended to buy two packs of kitchen roll when they had them on offer in Morrisons, but the packs were almost identical, and on the same display, and I didn't notice until I opened one and found half-length kitchen rolls.

The mum of one of the ex-Pupils BW told me that she had to go to 16 shops before she found one that had any. I won't tell you what went through my mind when she told me that...

We still have half of the giant sherry, cherry and syllabub-topped trifle that I made for FOTCR™ Day left. I believe that I have BWitched it and that it is an everlasting trifle, because every time we eat some there's still as much left as there was before. Well, apart from when we had the first portion, obviously.

What's happened to all the promtional sale emails? Have they given up?