Wednesday, February 29, 2012

News Month

Having blogged every day this month I am about to repeat the feat in March. Starting tomorrow - News Month

My Way

Even if you don't sing along, at least read it to the tune. And it's a tribute to all those who took part in Mashers Marathon

And now, the end is here,
And so I post, my final Feb blog,
My friends, I've posted here!
Ideas and thoughts, in this my weblog,
I've posted everyday, All twenty nine, Along this highway.
But more, much more than this,
I blogged it my way!

Regrets, I've had a few,
I didn't post more about Paris,
Nor posts about my youth,For which I would,
Have been embarrassed.
I Blogged about my life, and let you in, not in a shy way,
But more, much more than this,
I blogged it my way!

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew,
That what I wrote, was dreadful poo,
But through it all, When there was doubt,
I'd get a thought, and write it out,
I made a note, and then I wrote, this blog in my way!

I've read, each Masher post,
each Wrightweb word, And Brennig musing,
And Toffeeapple came,and left comments,
With no abusing,
To think, we've had all that, in just a month, of Sat to Fridays,
And more, yes more than that, I blogged mine, my way.

For what's a blogger, what has he got,
If not his words, then he has not,
The posts to fill, twenty-nine days,
To let the world, hear what he says,
The record shows, we've done all those,
And blogged it our way!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Decision Time

It's time to make a decision about what I do for work. Not from the point of view as to what I do about my present job, that's simple, commission only is not providing the money needed, but what to do next.

I fancy going back to work in an office. I last did that properly 30 years ago next year and a part of me has always missed that "working as a group" thing. Sales work, even as part of a team, isn't quite the same. The problem is whether I will find it all too restrictive. I'm used to pretty much doing what I want during the day, when and where I want to.

I also quite fancy estate agency, having worked in insurance and double glazing, it would be nice to get the hat-trick of most hated jobs.

What may be in the pipeline though is to help run a pub. There is a landlady I know of who is looking for a manager and I have an in. I'm aware of how much work is involved in the licenced trade but it is a bit appealing. A mix of office and admin work, some time behind the bar, and a chance to have input into how the pub is run. I think I might be having a visit on Friday to check it out. Watch this space!

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Tale of Two Eateries - Day 2

Our Saturday night meal was the focal point of the weekends visit. A joint 60th birthday party for the two hosts. Somewhere special needed to be found and the place chosen was Le Charlot.

Le Charlot

Le Charlot is definitely a destination restaurant. Seafood being it's raison d'etre.
Designed in the Belle Epoque style there are mirrors everywhere, walls, ceilings, cabinets. Whether this is to make the place look bigger, more opulent, or to let the waiters check their appearance every 5 minutes it is hard to tell. This photo is taken in the waiting area. A place we were to spend some time in as they had managed to lose the booking for the 13 of us. Perhaps the number of diners should have warned us! To be fair, they managed to rearrange things so we could dine but fitting in a party of 13 can't be easy on a Saturday night unless of course you are not as busy as you would like. They also provided free aperitifs because of the wait, but only for the 6 who turned up first and discovered the error.

The delay however gave us a chance to peruse the menu. Expensive sums it up pretty well. A normal main course costing anything from a miserly £30 to a more wallet busting £70. Of course, for those on a limited budget, you can buy your clams individually at only €5 each! Luckily there was a fixed price menu of £22 for two courses, or £27 for 3. Our hostess had booked us in for those. Phew!

As I mentioned yesterday, I chose the Meli Melo as a starter.
And pleasant as this was it didn't match the extravagance of the starter yesterday. This of course being more of a nouvelle cuisine version. At least they got the starter right. When it came to the main course though things went awry again. I ordered Quenelles on the understanding from the waitress that it contained no cheese, not any at all, not even the teeniest weeniest bit. It turned up smothered in cheese. Whilst deciding what the French for "you blithering idiot" was one of the other guests said he would swap with me. Problem solved and very nice it was but I did feel a bit guilty he'd been deprived of his first choice. For dessert our French host had ordered birthday cake and the restaurant kindly placed that in the same box as the table booking, so another black mark for Le Charlot. To make up, they cobbled together a couple of desserts and stuck sparklers in them. Passable enough but not exactly the highlight of a birthday meal as the cake may well have been.
Wine of course was drunk but our hosts picked up the tab so that was rather generous as the wine was as expensive as you would expect in such an establishment. That being the case, it ended up slightly cheaper than the night before but nowhere near as good value.

Unfortunately, Le Charlot appears to have done what too many high profile restaurants do and believe it's own hype. This usually means they rest on their laurels and don't see their reputation falling away. Maybe we just hit them on an off night, or series of off nights if you count the booking fiasco as well, but if you have one night in Paris and you want somewhere to eat, La Vieux Belleville is definitely the one to go for!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Tale of Two Eateries - Day 1

Considering I expected to have 5 or 6 posts from Paris during this month I'm only on my second. Being there for 2 evenings it will come as no surprise to know we ate out twice. Two very different styles, two very different experiences.

Le Vieux Belleville

This, I would say, is what you expect when you think of a Parisian eaterie. A cafe with basic furniture, yet comfortable enough, a menu written on chalk boards that changes daily, and entertainment which on our day was the woman in the centre of the page playing the accordion. Belleville is in the North East part of Paris and at the same altitude as Sacre Couer and just round the corner from the restaraunt is a small area with views over the city.

The first thing to comment on was that unlike the UK, where it is considered the height of effrontery to ask for water with the meal, here you could not stop it. Bottle after bottle of still water arrived, all free, and baskets of fresh baguettes. No small print mentioning a £2.50 surcharge for bread in this establishment. I could quite happily have dined out on that!
But instead I had a pate for starter. A little bit of a safe choice but excellent. A companion had a salad called Mali Melo which tends to be whatever is available with a honey dressing. So good did it look that I chose that the next day as my starter even though I don't like honey. And the thought of me having a salad for starter! The main course was veal. You never see it here now, or incredibly rarely. It wasn't a thin escalope but a proper "chunk" and so tender that it really did "melt in the mouth". Cooked pretty much as braising steak.

To finish, A Creme Caramel. A proper creme caramel. Firmer than we normally get here and just the right amount of caramel not to overpower the body of the dessert. Being two thirds made up of French people, our party also got through a reasonable amount of wine. Just the house wine but it certainly went down well.

The entertainment consisted, as mentioned before, of a woman playing the accordion. But that was not the full extent of it. Before each song she would hand out sheet music and we would all sing along.

These were songs of Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and what must have been songs from the music hall era. Everyone joined in, even those who would not usually be caught singing in public. Between songs she would find out where all the diners had come from. The place holds about 30-40 covers and amongst us we numbered, apart from the French, English, Welsh, German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and even Colombian. You could call this a tourist trap and yet quite a few locals popped in for a quick drink and a sing.

We left about midnight. Mainly because the metro stops at half past and we wanted to get back, but most people seemed to work on the fact they would stay till she finished and they'd get home somehow. The bill? £27.00 each. And worth every penny.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Berk on a Bike

Last week we went for a walk on Sunday with friends. We had to walk up a hill for about 100 yards. It felt like 100 miles. I am unfit. There is no way round it. There is beginning to be no way round me either. I'd make a useful barricade in a passageway. Although I am half a stone lighter than this time last year I am half a stone heavier than I was in the summer. This and that being the case I decided it was time to unleash the bike!

It has to be at least a year since I last sat upon it's gel filled saddle. And the bike appears to have recovered. Last time it was out of it's storage cupboard I fitted some nice new tyres so it was about time I gave them a spin. So I pumped them up to within an inch, or possibly a psi, of their lives and donned my helmet and backpack.

Off I went, scything through the estate as though knife through butter. Frozen butter, I would judge from the speed. At one point I even had to change up a gear because I almost went quite fast. That didn't last long and I changed back down again to keep pace with a family of tortoises.

I did however reach my destination. The Library. Unfortunately I found the book I wanted rather too quickly so didn't have as much time as I would have liked for a rest. Back aboard Dobbin, (I don't know a suitable name for a bike), and returned to the bosom of my family. Well the bosom of The Magnificent M but let's not dwell there. That was very nearly a round trip of possibly the best part of the majority of a large bit of a mile!

The bike did well, the rider less so. It still confirms my opinion I am unfit. Except now I know that as well as being unfit to stand and move my legs, I'm also too unfit to sit down and move my legs. Excellent!

It is not that many years, about 6, that I cycled from London to the South Coast near Brighton with a mate. I won't be doing that next weekend but, we have this plan for another trip. We want to go to France and cycle the route that Henry V troops took for Agincourt. So that's Honfleur, to the Battlefield, we will then give the famous speech as in Shakespeare's play, "St Crispin's Day" etc, and then back to the coast.

UPDATE - The car saga. The car hasn't been lost. It is still at the Police Pound. They decided they couldn't tell the insurance company that under the Data Protection Act because the insurance company had phrased the question in such a way that some of my friends personal information, her address, would have to be given across. That would be the address she lives at. The address that the insurance company hold. Now that we have had a word with Her Majesty's Constabulary it should now reach it's natural conclusion of scrappage and pay out. And yet........

Friday, February 24, 2012

School for Scandal

I see Michael Gove, Schools Minister, decided to make a pronouncement this week. apparently there is to be a clampdown on Head Teachers who let children have time out during term time for holidays. I have news for him. It's already in place and has been for some time.

If a parent asks to take their child out of school during term time they will be refused. If they then choose to take the child out of school, or if they do so without asking, the school writes to them informing the parents that an entry has been made against their child's name for unauthorised absence. What happens then is up to the local education department. Usually nothing, but it isn't the schools fault.

There can of course be times when children have to miss school due to perhaps a death in the extended family which might mean travelling away and it would be a hard head teacher who clamped down on that, unless of course we are talking about their 7th Grandparent to die!

There is one thing that annoys teachers more than any other absence though. When a parent says they are taking their child out of school in term time because it's cheaper to go on holiday then. Unfortunately teachers don't have a choice. Whilst everyone complains about the wonderful holidays teachers get, and that will be a rant for another occasion, they still have to pay more because it's school holidays. And not only that, wherever they go, there are going to be kids cos they are on holiday. How would the parents like it if they turned up at the school one day to be told they need to take their child home because the teacher had decided to have a fortnight off! And usually it's the kids who can least afford to have any time off if they are going to stand a chance of getting their SATS at the right level.

So Michael, instead of laying into teachers yet again, check your facts and then do something about the parents!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Adding Insult to Injury

I test drove a Hyundai Amica today. Not for myself, for a friend. Very strange due to it being an "upright car". I can't decide if it's like driving a car like van or a van like car. Absolutely no street cred being seen in it but nippy enough so it'll suit my friend fine.

She has had to buy a new car though because some local oiks decided to nick her car a couple of months back. They were actually caught in the vehicle whilst joy riding but have decided they are not guilty. Hopefully the court case is soon assuming the CPS decide there is enough evidence to prosecute.

But the most distressing part of the whole thing is what happened following the theft.

The police did all the forensics, it took them the best part of a week. They then told her that the car was ready. She had asked them if the car was in ok condition and they said it was. When we got there to pick it up it was anything but. Apart from being covered in fingerprint powder which is the devil's own to get off as you may well know, they had gained entry by peeling back the rear driver-side door, there was no way that was going to go back into place.

Not being an expensive car it was decided it was beyond economical repair. No problem said insurance man, what we will do is this. "You sign the car over to us. We will dispose of it and send you the money for the salvage". So that was what happened. Or was supposed to.

Four weeks later no money has changed hands because the car has been lost. Last time we saw it it was at the police pound. The insurance company never collected it. The Police have released it. Where is it? Tomorrow we are off to the police pound to try and find out because the police refuse to speak to the insurance company. Meanwhile the insurance company are still collecting insurance premiums.

Nearly solicitor time methinks!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Talent

I've just been watching the a new comedy duo, or new to me, Watson & Oliver. I actually think they are quite good. I rarely think that of new comedy talent. Armstrong & Miller was the last comedy I liked. And apart from Benidorm and Outnumbered, both a little old now, that's about it. Well, I don't mind a bit of Harry Hill. Not everything worked but I did like the Sense & Sensibility spoof. Question Hour was good. Even the John Barrowman finale worked. The "eyebrow" sketch worked in the main but went on a little too long and lost it's way. The Wills and Kate one wasn't bad. I shall definitely watch episode 2 but can they keep up the level. That may be my comedy tv highlight of the week, but then again, the new series of Benidorm starts Friday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tweeting for Beginners

I've been looking at Twitter again. I made a twit of myself about 3 years back but stopped pretty quickly. I'm thinking about it again but I've found a problem. Nobody else I know is on Twitter so I have no followers nor can I co-opt any. I can tweet to my hearts content and absolutely nobody knows. This rather makes the point of it redundant. Already today I have tweeted that I was eating a chicken burger. Three years ago I was in a pub in Yeovil. I'm about to mention pancakes. I suppose I shall do it for a few days and lapse again from lack of attention. But for the time being, I do know that Jonathon Ross has a stomach upset and Philip Schofield talked to his brother.

Monday, February 20, 2012

War of the Roses

It wasn't just a straight election. I'm a Yorkshireman, my opponent a Lancastrian.

3 days to go - As a society that prides itself on having little in the way of politics, is it worth sending an e-mail reminding people I am standing for chairman but asking that whoever they vote for at least please vote? Does it make me sound pompous or as though I am thinking of the Society? Decision - No, it could backfire on me.

2 days to go - Knowing that my opponent would actually not be there for the vote, could I trust the outgoing chairman, who was proposing him, not to say something as he introduced the vote along the lines of, "don't hold his absence against him". Set up one of my supporters to object if really necessary.

1 day to go - I discover that one of the people I was counting on to vote for me voted for him "because he's a really nice guy". Yeah, cheers!

The Vote - I'm expecting to lose. The Nice Guy factor has been niggling me all day. I know I am probably not the most popular person. I tend to keep myself a bit to myself. Point of Order - "Can Dave Vote?". "No". Damn! All the names go in the box and they go off to count. Few minutes delay whilst the rest of the committee get re-voted on. Then the result.

Yorkshire win!

Now I suppose I better do something with my year in office. Apart from making everyone bow when I enter the room and call me Sire when they speak to me!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not as bad as things seem.

There was a report a few months back that only just over 50% of those living in London were born in Britain. Last night there was a report on London Tonight saying that 25% of people sent to prison in the Met Police division are foreigners and how dreadful this is. Now, it took me two goes to get my maths o'level but, and I could be wrong, if the population of London is 50% foreigner but only 25% of those sent to prison are foreign, then they are under represented. Eventually, as a society we have to stop wringing our hands and worrying about how horrible we are to anyone not lucky enough to be born here. Or if not, at least be able to do maths as well as I can.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Concert Itinerary

Following on from yesterdays musical post I have spent today practicing for a concert coming up in March. As well as all the chorus work we get to do a solo each, either solo or as a duet or something. As well as doing a duet I am also supporting other people so I'll actually take part in three come the day. That'll help keep the nerves going.

I have a monologue to help out with. I shall be playing Hardy.

I am accompanying someone singing Pacing the Cage.

And in a bid to increase my repertoire of musical numbers M and I shall sing Something Good from sound of Music. But without all the soppy bits in the video!

What I would like to play is Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts. It doesn't fit the theme though so I'll have to keep it for an open mic night.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Children of St Cecilia

Our family have, for some reason, had three generations of musicality.

Myself and my brother each have our niches. His is really with guitar playing. Both modern and classical. He learnt classical guitar from a pupil of Segovia. This, I understand, is the next best thing from Segovia teaching you himself. For myself nowadays it is singing operas and musicals although I play flute reasonably well, guitar passably, and piano to the point where I can get a tune out with a lot of practice.

But it is one part of the family sideways which has the real talent. My cousin has run some of the best brass and silver bands on the second tier of that genre, one of his light opera groups won virtually every award at this years Buxton G&S festival. And he, like his dad before, is an exceptional piano player when it comes to popular songs. But this week it is his son who has been in the spotlight.

Johnathan is a percussionist and has grown up playing in his dad's bands, but last year he exceeded his dads efforts by being accepted by Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. As a Yorkshire family we are immensely proud of that achievement. The equivalent of one of playing for the County at Headingley. By chance I clicked over on the tele the other night and saw the Radio 2 Folk Awards were on the Bed Button. I fancied some background music so had it on. Halfway through I got a surprise, B&R were backing The Unthanks. I haven't seen him for a bit but I still knew which of the three percussionists he was. (The one on the right, receding hairline).

I have no idea where this musical ability comes from. Go back a further generation and nothing. Thank you St Cecilia for blessing us with your gift.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Inspector Calls

An Inspector from Customs & Excise in this case. Except he wasn't an inspector but a collections agent. He delivered a letter to tell me I owe them £8600. That's all the estimated payments since my last payment, in 2004. Only one problem here, I haven't traded with VAT since 2002.

It's not like they haven't been told. It's not like they haven't had the relevant forms returned to them. Indeed, the payment made in 2004 was not actually due to them, but it made more sense to pay it and shut them up than to fight it at the time.

Luckily he seems very nearly sensible and appears to believe it to the point where he is going to report it back to the office. It raises an interesting point though. How do you prove you are not doing something? How do I prove that I haven't actually been setting up contracts and charging VAT and not putting it through my accounts. Although if you were going to do work and not declare it how stupid would you be to think "perhaps I should charge them VAT as well". No matter what you do you cannot prove it.

It's a bit like, how you prove you are not beating your wife up.
You can ask her - well she's hardly likely to say, you'tr beating her up.
Where are the bruises then? - People who know what they are doing don't leave marks.

In the end it's not really possible. So I am offering to do something that puts the onus on them should they come back and I need sort something. I am going to swear an affadavit that I haven't traded using that VAT registration and then lodging it at court. They then have to accept it or try and get a case of perjury against me. Hopefully I don't have to run to the expense of the swearing the affadavit but at least that'll kill it.

Meanwhile, my ex is fighting the local council who, having agreed she was entitled to Housing Benefit, now have a different department saying she wasn't. The grounds they have given for reclaiming the £7200 were proved incorrect when it was first awarded. Everyone who looks at it says it is ridiculous and of course she was entitled, but nobody knows how to actually stop the bureaucratic machine. So, solicitor involved from next Tuesday.

Just as an extra. Her bank have organised her statements to be delivered to the branch which is what she wants. After 6 months not one has turned up. They keep checking the computer. It says they have been sent but they can't tell which branch. So they change the computer settings again. And it still doesn't turn up. What they can't do is ring up and speak to someone to see what is happening. In the meantime she wants a statement and "computer says no".

When did things get so bad that things can't be sorted with a phone call, with two people speaking verbally instead of through an email or contact form. All three of these things could be sorted very simply. But that isn't the option given so hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, are being spent on the first two items rather than someone just press a button and sort things. Is it incompetence or a fear of doing something in case you are wrong and get sued? Lord knows, but someone, please get them sorted!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Parisian Chic

When people think of Paris the word chic often comes up. That is partly because it is a french word and people like to sound as though they know other languages. (By the way, if I here anyone other than the Irish using the word "craic" I will beat them to deth with a shillelagh. Take my word for it, next time you go to a St Patrick Day do, the "craic wasn't mighty", you just had a good time!). Anyway, chic. Or stylish as we call it in English.

What was most noticeable is that everyone manages to wear their clothes with ease. It doesn't manage what style of clothing they wear it is just "right". It didn't seem to make a difference what age they were, or what sex for that matter. No matter what they look like physically it would appear that they have worked out what suits them best. Even the plainest of women has a hairstyle that suits, clothing that fits correctly.

We had a shop just down from the hotel with dresses that are on M's shopping list the moment the Euromilions jackpot heads our way.

Now to be fair, there are certainly shops in London that have couture clothes that can match, but this shop isn't in a main shopping area and they had another branch on the other side of the road that did more day to day clothes although still exceedingly stylish.

One of the arguments often used to pooh-pooh the French fashion choices is that here in Britain our youth have their own fashions that are cutting edge and make them individuals. That's true to a degree, but youngsters there manage to carve out a style of their own, nothing like their parents, and not dissimilar to British youth fashion but they wear it "correctly". They can wear jeans down off their hips but that doesn't mean halfway down their arses. Indeed, within 48 hours of being back I was confronted by British fashion on a pink theme!

Apparently, there is no French word for "Chav".

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


As mentioned yesterday I have been wondering who has lived through the greatest time of invention and is it indeed ourselves. They reckon 95% of all the scientists who have ever lived are living now so have they made the big difference?

This cropped up during my recent reunion. And indeed some have already commented. I suppose the big thing for me is who has seen the most change even though perhaps the main invention was just outside their life.

When I was born there were still cars, television, radio, most household appliances, so I have mainly lived through innovation and advancement. True, microwave ovens have arrived, and there has been space travel and exploration but so far I can't say that has impacted my life in a big way. Computers of course are the big change and after their emergence it has been the prolific introduction of items using that technology that make it look like advancement.

I argued though that my grandparents must have seen a different world from the beginning to the end of their lives. My maternal grandparents were both born in 1895 in Lancashire. (Yes, I know, but they did have the sense to move to Yorkshire when they were old enough!). As kids they would hardly have seen a car, probably didn't know anyone with a telephone, obviously no television, a very basic radio if any. They had electricity as they both worked in the mills but not necessarily at home. Nothing in the way of kitchen appliances as we know them.

By the time they died, all those things were commonplace. They'd seen the introduction of airplanes, my grandfather never having been on one, but my grandmother did, even if it was only to fly from Leeds to the Isle of Man. So much did she enjoy it she would have happily spent the week just flying backwards and forwards.

And once upon a time, when I was young, people would be making plans to go to The Ideal Home Exhibition to see the houses of the future. They displayed things that we could only dream about owning, although most of us do now. But this year it will just be a chance to buy things similar to those we have now, just bigger and better or perhaps smaller and more portable. I remember going and seeing a microwave oven, something that seemed so space age we couldn't begin to understand how it worked. To be fair I'm not sure I still do. Maybe I will be surprised and this year there will be a transporter like on Star Trek or something that converts potatoes into musical instruments. But I suspect it will be more unnecessary plastic items and that stuff you can clean your car with that's so tough you can fry an egg on the bonnet and not damage the paintwork, but really, you shouldn't try it for real.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Technology

I bet you thought I was going to miss today's post didn't you! It's the result of a long days work and straight on to rehearsal.

Anyway, sneaking in at this late hour is a short simple post. One that leads on to tomorrows post and also one that marks my first ever post on an Apple product, the recently arrived iPad!

The question for tomorrow is............ do we live in the best age for inventions or have we missed the boat?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Old Age Approaches.

Very shortly I am off round to some friends. We will have a chat, a drink, and then we will retire to the dining room where we will play Canasta!

It's a rummy derivative but when we started playing a few weeks back we realised we were all sat there emulating out parents and grandparents who all played, particularly of a sunday evening.

As far as I know it will not be de rigeur to don a cardigan slippers and smoke a pipe during proceedings!

And when I practice online it is this site I use.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fame & Fortune

Well sort of fame, and little in the way of fortune.

Tonight we are off to a local quiz. Now, I'm relatively competitive at most things. I don't like losing at cards, I always want to improve my score if I'm playing a solo game, but when it comes to a quiz I can't entertain the idea that I might only come second.

It isn't just about getting the answers right, that's a given, but I am also extremely focused on the questions. And woe betide any question master who gives a slightly vague question. Should they be unfortunate to go with an incorrect question they can expect hell! If I aren't winning, I'll certainly be questioning the questions.

I once did a quiz, inter company thing it was, and the question came "what is hectoplasm?".

Me : "Can you spell that?" I asked, perfectly reasonably.

QM : "H-E-C-T-O-P-L-A-S-M"

Me : "Don't know"

QM : "It's the stuff ghosts are made of"

Me : "No it isn't. That's Ectoplasm. That's why I had you spell it".

QM : "Oh well, you didn't give the right answer, so no point"

Me : "I'm sorry, you didn't give the right question for the answer!"

QM & Me get very close to trading blows after which I storm out and who knows how it all ended.

Let's hope tonights goes a little smoother. If not, I may be appearing at a court near you.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Inspired somewhat by Mashers post for the day it reminded me of Helen, one of the admin ladies I used to work with in the dim and distant past.

At the end of the 1970s I worked for an insurance company in Ealing. My department was on the top floor along with the Surveyors, one of which remains a friend to this day. They had two support workers. Firstly, Doug, who was a miserable old bugger but inspired me, in as much as just to shut him up, to enter the British Dominoes Championship. But that is a story for another day. The second was Helen, in her 60's I would think, and spinster of this parish. As my mate J.C. would say, when she died she'd be going back "unopened".

As mentioned in the comments on Mashers site, Helen looked after the tea machine on our floor. It was a standard vending machine but it didn't cost us money. Along with tea and coffee, and in those days you just got coffee, no skinny latte chocatino or americano nonsense for us, you also had Bovril and also a cold orange squash. Helen both restocked the machine as well as cleaned it. she also had the job of getting drinks for Doug and the surveyors throughout the day.

She had the endearing habit of getting up for drinks and shouting "anyone for a beefy one?", then collapsing with laughter. It was endearing for about a day. By the time she'd done the same thing 10 times a day, day in, day out, it paled somewhat!

I've mentioned elsewhere about the cleaning habits following the route of floor, nozzles, hoppers. It certainly added to the piquancy of each selection. The other problem was she wasn't much good at filling the hoppers with care, so quite often the orange squash might have some coffee in it, and if you fancied a beef tea there was a good chance that's what you'd get.

Apart from mis-filing everything, she once tried filing company's in the L folder for Ltd because she knew you filed things under the last name, she also answered the surveyor's phones. Now, to be fair, when she was young I doubt she ever used a phone so you could forgive her getting things a little muddled. Unfortunately it would be rather annoying for the surveyor concerned as she would answer the phone and the client would ask for someone by name, she would then put her hand over the receiver and ask if he wanted to speak to them. Unfortunately, what should have been straightforward, turned awkward because a) she would cover the earpiece instead of the mouthpiece, and b) she'd say " it's those annoying lot at ^^^^ Brokers, do you want to speak to them or shall I say you're out?". Many a surveyor was seen to wish the floor would open under them. It made no difference how many times they told her about it, she still got it wrong.

I'm sure by now she is tending the big vending machine in the sky, so be warned, if you get there and you hear an angel running around shouting "Anyone for a beefy one?", ask for a transfer downstairs!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Surrey Lifestyle

Last night we were watching Escape to the Country on BBC2. Normally it involves couples who want to leave the town and get into the countryside to an idyllic property with no neighbours to overlook them, with fabulous views for miles, with handy local amenities which must include food shops, pubs, schools, clothes etc. no major roads but easy access to work 50 miles away, at least 5 bedrooms even though there are only 2 of them and it must cost less than a bedsit in Harlesden.

Last night wasn't much different other than they were moving about a bus ride away from Wimbledon to Surrey, the northern border of which is 2 miles down the road at New Malden. But as well as looking at properties they always have a little interlude doing something i n the new area that they can look forward to taking part in.

Yesterday it was Llama Trekking!

Surrey is full of Llamas and Alpacas. Probably nearly as many as in the Andes. If you drive down the A3 you can see them off to the left when you get down Cobham way. Now, if I was thinking about going llama trekking I might fear I'd look a bit of a dickhead riding along on a llama, it's not exactly a macho image. But I needn't have worried because when you go llama trekking in Surrey you don't do anything as gauche as actually riding the llama. You pay for the privilege of walking for miles leading the llama along on a rein.

Surrey - The only county in England where you can convince the populace to pay vast amounts of money to take your livestock on their daily exercises!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

When Computers Go Bad

To be fair, I am blaming the whole computer, when in fact it is just the power lead, but I can hardly keep the laptop running long enough to make a post. I have to position everything precisely to even get power going in. The slightest movement means I lose power and it just turns off. Slight movement equaling breathing!

I could transfer to the main computer which is M's but there is another problem. She can touch type. I need to see the letters. This is the keyboard!

I think the easiest option might be to buy a new lead. And quickly if I want to keep posting each day. If it keeps playing up I may have a nervous breakdown, a heart attack or blood pressure so high that I explode!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Out of the Comfort Zone.

Recently, I have frequented a place which has had a high proportion of vegetarians eating there. On the first time I visited I would say that 25% of the people who came in and ordered within earshot went "vegetarian". Obviously they could have just taken the Vege option even though they are carnivores. What is amazing though is that you wouldn't expect a vegetarian to even consider eating at the place. To the point that one would consider it a meat eaters paradise.

The place involved is Click Here

How can an "eat all you like" carvery be such a magnet to non-meat eaters? Well, they actually do have four vegetarian options, three of which are relatively unusual, but that is not what they were opting for. The way it works is you can have the £5.75 carvery but opt for no meat, just the yorkshire puddings and the veg and you only pay £4.25! And my, do they go for it!

The staff are very used to it and 9 times out of 10 the people serving at the carvery table are careful not to use any tool used for cutting the meat in doling out the Yorkshires. Even if they do, they are happy to sort it out as they accept it was their mistake. That's another thing that sets them apart from a standard restaurant that usually work ion the fact it is the vegetarians fault for not accepting just a bit of meaty inclusion, however small.

It is such a popular magnet that if you ever have to take a party of people out and it includes veggies I'd recommend it.

And there are two other good reasons to choose that. Firstly, I don't think there is a meat eater who wouldn't want to eat there. And secondly, some of the desserts come with the "bottomless custard jug", as much custard as you want!

It was a lucky find for the custard-loving vegetarian that I know!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Battle of the Titans.

The world of opera and politics have been rocked today as it has been announced that our outgoing Chairman has found someone to oppose me as the next Chairman of our local opera/musicals society! I actually don't know what he has against me as Chairman as I'm not actually going to do anything too radical. But for the last few weeks he has been asking anything with a heartbeat to stand for the position. If he's doing it to annoy me it hasn't worked as my opponent would be fine as Chairman. Actually, I sort of think that I perhaps might know the reason. He knows that I won't stand any nonsense from the company. Two years ago he managed to get rid of a director who wouldn't kowtow to the demands of the ladies chorus. He knows a) I would back the director in the same situation, and b) I introduced that Director, and perhaps there are some documents that will become available for my perusal that haven't been available before. He's always maintained he had nothing to do with it even though most people worked out what he did. Anyway, this was the best post I could come up with today. Keep your fingers crossed that tomorrow's is a lot more interesting. And I really can't understand why the BBC didn't lead with this story on the news. I'm just off to rehearsal to see what might happen. If I never post again you know it turned nasty!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Boys are Back in Town

Once in a while some of my ex-schoolmates and I get together and talk over old times. Although to be fair there is a little less reminiscing and more catching up with news for the last few months. I mean how many times can you relive the famous Chalk Fight at the Back Stairs. And there are a lot of memories between us. Our collective age is just short of half a millenium!

We are all beginning to look a little older than we did when we first met, over 40 years ago. But one of them has been a friend since infant school and we have known each other 50 years and pretty much kept in touch throughout. There was a report a few days ago, possibly in the Grauniad, listing the top five things that people in the final stages of a terminal illness wished had been different in their lives. One of them was to have kept in touch with friends rather than just lose touch and drift away. I may have many things in my life I would change but one I am content with is the friend base I have kept throughout my life. The internet has made a great difference. These reunions came about through Friends Reunited. Most contact between us is via e-mail. But it doesn't matter how you stay in touch as long as you do.

Why not track down an old mate today, you'll both appreciate it if you do.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Post Nuclear Family.

As some of you may know, my youngest step sister is living in San Francisco and, because the law allowed it, she is married to her long term female partner. They have one child, father unknown but my sister being the mum. They have been talking about having a second and this time her partner will carry the child. I'm not sure how these things work but some of us were wondering whether it was possible to have the same "father" as before. What a strange set up it would be. The children would be biological half siblings by a parent they have never met and each would have a separate mother who are married to each other thus I guess, making them full siblings. Families are becoming so complicated! By the same token, I rather like the idea of the set up so I hope it's possible. But I wouldn't fancy being the genealogist of the future who tries to work it all out.

In other news.

I know it's childish but can I be the only guy who sniggered like a 10 year old knowing that the Groundhog Day proceedings take place at Gobbler's Knob? Fnaar Fnaar!

And we hear today that Chris Huhne is being taken to court, within the next 3 weeks. Some time back we heard that John Terry is going to court but not till after the Euro Championships which we "need" him for. Not that that was taken into consideration, not at all. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The 274th Emergency Service

Last night I attempted some car repairs on M's daughters car. We thought a fuse had gone. It hadn't. That's my knowledge exhausted then!

I used to get annoyed by the AA adverts describing themselves as the 4th emergency service. More on behalf of The Coastguard and the Mountain Rescue Services who are perhaps a little further up the rescue food chain. Luckily though I guess more people only have involvement with the AA than the others so at least that's a good thing.

The AA themselves though are not above messing things up. Many years ago, back when I were nowt but a lad, I worked for an insurance company. As in most offices we had a file of "funny claims". One involved what had started as a car breakdown. The insured duly rang the AA who sent someone along to sort the problem. Whatever it was that was wrong, it wasn't helped when the patrolman "passed a spark" and set fire to the engine which then engulfed the car. Having not made a claim for many years I don't know whether you still have to provide a drawing of road layout etc but this insured had drawn a picture of his car in flames, a stick man running around brandishing a spanner and the AA van with the words Arsonists Anonymous on the side. I hope we paid out, if only for him keeping his sense of humour.

There were two other claims in there I really liked. One, and we shouldn't really laugh but it just read funny when confronted with it, was for a man who lost his arm due to an accident. In the section where it asked what problems he had since his injury, he wrote that when swimming he could only go round in circles. The other, a household claim for some stolen cd's as part of a burglary. The broker, perhaps not up to date with the latest in 1970's beat combos listed one, not as Mott The Hoople, but Muff the Hoopie. I can't help sniggering whenever any of their records get played. Then again, it could have been my dad who once went out to buy a record by Vangelis and came back with one by Van Halen. Parents eh!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

With These 5 Rings I Thee Wed.

On arriving back at St Pancras International I came across this huge sign.

To be fair, it is on one of the Olympic souvenir shops and I know Visa are the authorised partners, but something about this just isn't right. From a number of perspectives.

Now, I'm sure they take cash and don't mean you can only pay by Visa but I would have thought announcing that at the door reduces the number of people who will pass through the door. And certainly if you have Mastercard, Diners and AmEx you can feel a little offended.

I know different payment schemes cost different amounts to belong to but normally Visa and Mastercard go hand in hand. I would have thought it was a restrictive practice to accept only one of them. Although I'm probably wrong.

I don't like the wording either. Why not just write, "we are proud to accept this companies money and restrict how you pay, stifle competition, and sod you if you don't hold a visa card". If it had said they were proud to have the Visa tie up then that would be legitimate advertising.

I'm probably making something out of this where nothing really exists but it looks to me like the cart is pushing the horse here and the sponsor is more important than the customer. But then, isn't that the way of most major sporting events now, why should it be any different in the wider world.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


So here it is. The beginning of a month of posts.

I decided that I should look back over my blogging history and see how difficult this challenge might be.

First thing I discovered was that I missed my 10th blogging anniversary. It was 6 months ago. Which means I started some time in the first half of my 40s. That seems a long long time ago. Unfortunately, archives are no longer available which make it difficult to find some of the information I wanted. Such as how long I have been linking to Masher. I killed off my last blog 5 years tomorrow and he was on the blogroll then. Doesn't time fly when you are enjoying yourself.

Anyway, the main reason to check back was to see when I was at my most prolific, to see if 29 posts in 29 days was something I ever achieved before. So I looked at the first posts for my first blog. 66 posts in 29 days! I think it's better for everyone that I've dried up a bit!