Thursday, 24 December 2009

1976 - A Marvelous year.

Christmas eve 1976. The end of a year with a very long hot summer. The year I had left home after seeing all my brothers leave and then return. I had always resolved that when I left home that was it, no going back. I had joined the TA and enjoyed the weekends enormously. The year I had passed my driving test and got a battered old ex-taxi - a Cortina 1600E with a sports carb. A car I got to know intimately and spent many happy hours underneath tickling her bits to keep her going. A truly magnificent year.

I had locked the car in the company car park as I had determined I was not going to use it until after Christmas. Work closed early and on leaving the building I asked one of the girls if she was going to the pub for a Christmas drink with everyone. Although I had spoken with this girl a few times, we didn't work together and the only real conversations had been to criticise my appalling French. She had shopping to do for her Grandmother so couldn't. I persuaded her one quick drink. We went for that drink. We danced - to what I have no idea - and then she had to leave to get her shopping done. I left the pub with her amid questioning looks from some of the girls I worked with. We did that shopping and I decided that I was not letting things end there, and they would have, so I took the car from the car park - I had had about 6 vodkas at this point - and I took her home. We agreed I would pick her up for a drink later and we went down Nottingham. At the end of the evening we made another date between Christmas and New Year and sometime around the 7th January we informally got engaged. In February we broke the news to her parents and left it until March 1978 to get married.

She was and is my first serious girl friend and after 33 years and 2 lovely daughters I still believe Christmas eve to be a more special day for me on the calendar than our anniversary - 4th March.  Thank you Mary and I still love you lots.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Current Projects

It has been a manic time for me. You too? Well, of course it has because it has been the run up to Christmas. But I have been busy and started to put my bookcase together. Here we see it unglued just put together to check everything works and it seems to, although the backboards have yet to be cut to size.

All the wood involved is reclaimed wood from different people so it is of different colours and finishes. the first this is to sand off the old finishes and then we will stain it up. I would like to wax it and leave it mostly in it's original colour, but where we want it we need it to be a teaky colour, so stained it will be. Once complete it will be able to house some of my Christmas presents from kind publishers!

While I have been working on this I have also been doing a paid job of work again although only for 7 days. I was surprised at how much fun it is now. I was a little anxious having not 'worked' for 15 months and I 'retired' because it was no longer the hobby it had been. But after a 15 month break it was good and fun to be back at it and I am grateful to friends for the chance.

I now have a happy Christmas planned after which I will resume the bookcase and move on to trying to renovate a carburettor for a friend.

Life is good, don't let anyone say otherwise.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Quite a change

Yesterday ended up a bit pressured which was very much a shame really. I have been spending a few days helping out with a server re-installation after a virus severely damaged a DC server running SBS and left it at the point where correction of the corruption was not practically possible. I had spent 4 days on it last week where 1 day had been severely curtailed because of a power cut. I had spent a little time setting up a wifi router and licking my wounds while assessing everything I could think of that needed to be done to finish up over the weekend and REALLY hoped to get finished in 1 more day. Things started well and it looked like things were going to be fine but then the XP client I had been rebuilding after it's problems with viruses took longer to patch itself than I had bargained for as well as the new Vista client we were installing taking too long to patch.

At 2:00 pm I still hoped to get everything done in time to get away for about 3-3:30. I then found a 12 page document for 1 product I had to install and things didn't look so good.

Come 3:45 I really had to leave because, having only one car now, I had to get home in order to get SOC to Pony Club at 6:00.  The traffic was much lighter than I expected but still only had just about enough time and the end of day rush sort of marred the job, which was a shame as I was working with a very nice group of people and generally things went quite well.

SOC did enjoy Pony Club though in which they covered road safety while I sat in the car licking my wounds still and assessing what I had left undone.

I now have a fair few jobs at home I need to get finished this week Although one job I am not going to find time for this week is building my bookcase. Having cut most of the wood and routed the edges I now have to finish it all off by hand with cleaning, sanding and smoothing before assembly. To be so close but not finished is a little irritating but we have to take the rough with the smooth.  I will get to the gym today though and after Sunday's personal best of 27'57" for 5k on the treadmill I look forward to repeating that (if not bettering!).

It has been a fun few days in which I like to think we have helped them out and get them to a more robust state than they were before.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

An interesting discussion

Grandma's birthday Tuesday and as that's a gym (for SOC) and school day we decided to invite them for tea on Saturday instead. We showed them the photos we took in Wales recently on the PC and Granddad comment on my wallpaper picture. We knew it to be Mary's Granddad on his engine (No 6) and Mary and I had debated where the photo was taken because of the background. I had suggested the Beggarlee yard at Moorgreen, where my brother had worked as a fitter when a young man.
We asked Grandma who said she had no idea but a lively discussion ensued. By having scanned the photo quite deeply a remarkable amount of detail can be found but very little was recognised. First thing is there is a crossing in the bottom right. We debated this but little ensued. Second, but more obvious really, is the engine is cold. It takes a long time to get an engine cold and it is close to that crossing where you wouldn't park an engine, so it must have been shunted from it's shed to this point for the photo. If you zoom into the original down by the front bump stops you can see buildings in an elevated position, but their outline meant nothing to us. Where were there engine sheds? It was quickly agreed that Granddad's engine was believed to have always lived at Langley Mill Sheds but it could have been moved to Begrarlee, but did that answer it and why was Granddad wearing a tie? But this was not discussed before a heated debate on where the sheds actually were.

"You go down the lane and turned left over the style. Don't you remember?" says Grandma.
"No, I have never know that area as it was covered by the pit tip and I have only ever known the pit tip as being there." says Mary.
"You do" says Grandma.
"Of course she doesn't" says Grandad.


"No" says Granddad "The bakery was there before the mushroom farm."
"Well I'm sure they were by the Northern at the back of the canal basin" says Grandma.

These debates went on and became quite heated at time.

The footplate was a hot place to work, why would an engine driver wear a tie? We now entered a debate into Why the photo was taken. Perhaps that could be answered with When it was taken? The picture is clearly posed as the engine must have been shunted and Granddad is wearing a tie. Why would that be? "5 years service? No nothing like that was ever awarded in those days Granddad assures us. New engine in the yard? Well the connecting rods on the wheels don't look clean and if you were posing a new engine you would clean every inch of the engine.  Don't get me wrong, the engine is clean, and they were kept clean. Cleaning kept dirt away from joints and knuckles where it could become an abrasive and accelerate wear and it also helped you find wear before it became critical. (Don't even think about BR where pride in the engines was discouraged and repair rather than maintenance became the norm). So why would you pose the engine. Perhaps the answer is in the tie. He was promoted to become Traffic Manager where he would have to wear a tie. So perhaps one last photo of proud driver and loco? How old was he when he retired from driving? Was it before the war?
"Wasn't it after he gave his motorcycle jacket to so-and-so?"
"No he gave it to some Londoner"
"No he gave it to so-and-so"
"Did he?"
"The point is When did he give his jacket away?"
"Wasn't that before the war?"
"Don't know."

In the end I think we concluded, after further lively discussion about his age in the photo and age at becoming traffic manager that the photo of Engine No 6 of The Barber Walker Collieries & Co. was taken at Langley Mill Sheds with Eastwood in the background on the occasion of the promotion from engine driving  of Mr William Lacey shortly before the second world war in 1939. He died at the age of 62 in 1955 before Mary's birth and so she never knew him.

Friday, 30 October 2009

A weekend away with TRAINS and DRAGONS

After our dealing with spontaneity we did book a B&B and went away. We ended up choosing Caernarfon because we decided on the Welsh Highland Railway for a train to ride.

We have taken long weekends before and stayed away only one night, but found that with a B&B and having to get up and moving, it can make the break feel much longer.

We also set an itinerary of things we plan to do so that we don't spend time in making spontaneous decisions!

We decided on two nights rather than one but were offered a 3 for 2 deal which we would have been daft to refuse.  We stopped at Chirk Castle on the way there and were grossly disappointed that much of the building was empty while the building fabric was being restored and we certainly felt it wasn't twenty pounds worth.

We arrived at the B&B and struggled with parking. Increasingly towns and cities are trying to keep cars off the streets and while this is laudable it does make it difficult for the tourist industry. However Mary and Roger (our hosts) pointed us to a place on the harbour wall where we could park unrestricted, and it was only 3 minutes walk.

The second day away was to be train day and so after breakfast we set off. Wifey and myself do not eat a cooked breakfast while we are away and often wonder 'How many people in B&Bs would eat a cooked breakfast at home?'. We suspect very few, but when someone else has the cooking to do and is prepared to wash up then they will have one. We don't change our habits so easily but did indulge in both cereal and toast where normally it would be one or the other. (Wifey mainly has toast when I take her breakfast in bed at weekends.)

Our engine was to be a South African Railways Garrat engine. A 2-6-2+2-6-2 articulated engine of two feet gauge. Originally built in Belgium and shipped to South Africa and when decommissioned from SA it was returned to the UK for restoration.

On the train we bought brochures announcing 'New for 2009' the line would go right through to Ffestiniog but it doesn't yet. This brochure and announcement are unfulfilled ambition and the link will now be complete in 2011. We will see about that though...

We were due back at Caernarfon at 18:35 and had arranged dinner at the B&B. The train arrived back about 20 minutes late, which I found disappointing as you expect these small lines to be punctual as a matter of pride. However on the way back we stopped at 'Snowdon Ranger' - a station close to Snowdon - and were intrigued by the fact that you can clearly see the lights of the cafe at the summit from miles away from Snowdon itself. (The clocks had gone back and we were starting the dark nights!) We thoroughly enjoyed the day and have too many tales to tell!

One item worth recounting though is that in Beddgelert is a wooden gifts shop which specialises in wooden items. Outside this shop are a few very fine carvings and this dragon is one such magnificent specimen. It was a little sad to read though, that the story of Gelert is now, almost certainly a tale made up by an eighteenth century innkeeper to boost tourism!

Second day was another castle day and we 'did' Caernarfon Castle before lunch and Plas Newydd in the afternoon.

We had been to Caernarfon before and found that half a day is not enough and were left wondering 'Why don't they have a teashop?' and had to leave to get lunch. In the afternoon we headed to Plas Newydd which is more a house than a castle but none the less very interesting and enjoyable.

On the third day we had a trip to Beaumaris Castle planned as we believe that we are on holiday until we cross the threshold of our house again and did not need to hurry home. We had been to Beaumaris before with both FOC and SOC on the same trip, while FOC was at Uni in Aberystwyth. We knew it to have opportunities for the two children to chase in long corridors and to be quite a complete castle. Sorry - not two children - Wifey and Daughter (SOC). Another important feature of this castle are the back to back toilets! Impressed? Me neither. But it is an extremely nice castle and worthy of a visit.

After lunch we went to Penrhyn Castle which is more a house in that it was not a defensible structure, but was designed to look like a castle. It was built on the site of an old castle but could really now only claim the name by it's geographic location. It is a beautiful house with huge amounts of carvings in both wood and stone and lots and lots of moulded plaster. The real shame of this house - and it is shame - is it was built from the three 'S's - Slate, Sugar and Slavery. The builder had 2 daughters, one called Slate and one called Sugar - what if he had a third? We will never know. To think that the house's legacy was paid for in blood though does make you stop and think and regret it's building. We arrived at 15:00 and had insufficient time to see many of the 'extras' like a railway museum, doll museum and much more.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


We make a lot of spontaneous decisions in our family. But we are careful about giving them long and hard deliberation first.

I have a friend who I worked with for more than 20 years who could finish work on a Friday having booked time off from work and with nowhere to go. He would return from holiday to inform us he had gone to Mexico or the Caribbean. I always joked that he packed his bags, went to the airport and asked where they had two seats on a plane for and got on the first plane!

We could do that given enough time to plan it!

We decided a fortnight ago if not longer we would go away and give SOC a ride on a mainline train, probably LLandudno Junction to Betws-y-Coed. I sent off 25 emails trying to find B&B. Got them back and started to choose. "Hang on there's a long tunnel on that route" says Wifey, "Great" says SOC "Oh" says Wifey. Wifey can be a bit claustrophobic. "What are tunnels like?" says Wifey. I explain. "I think I can go with that." says Wifey. "I thought we weren't going to go there now?" says SOC.

You have to understand that that simple conversation took 2 days!

"Anyway" says SOC "I thought that route wasn't as pretty as the 19.5 mile one?". The route to which she referred was the Welsh Highland Railway - Caernarfon to Beddgelert.

I send out 25 more emails and the responses pour back in. I respond to a few for a few more details and one of them refers us to another B&B that does evening meals.  OK we enter into a week long protracted email exchange with the new suitor about B&B, B&B and evening meals, their menus, their photos on the web site, their parking facilities and other major essential items of information needed for a spontaneous decision. My father-in-law then has a health issue which means all spontaneous plans go on hold.

After a lengthy day at the hospital we then find that we can go away and finally book.

All things being equal we finally go in a few hours time. I wish I could get used to spontaneity.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A day less enjoyed

I had a phone called from the father-in-law wanting a lift to the hospital at short notice. He doesn't drive very far now and we discourage his driving when we can because his eyesight is not what it was anyway and obviously his reactions are not as razor sharp as they were. It meant taking him early the next day. OK! Plans immediately went on hold. We were planning and about to book a couple of days away at half term. Arrived at his house bright(?) and early to find him discussing hospital transport with a neighbour. His neighbour has had a heart attack and his wife is having health problems at the moment.

It seems very sad, in a way, that my life is increasingly becoming hospital centric at times and wifey keeps saying to me at the moment 'get it fixed' and I don't want another round of hospital visits.

Any way he explained that I could park about 5 miles from the hospital - for free! - and catch a free! bus to the hospital and the bus runs every 10 minutes. We catch this and I am impressed by Nottingham's approach to parking and traffic. The hospital is QMC but I have very little experience of this hospital, my experience being limited to the death of my father - so not a happy experience.

We arrive about 9:30 and immediately get lost! A League of Friends person sent us in the right direction, whereupon we got lost again and a nurse took us to the appropriate place. This is one of my first impressions of the hospital. We were not the only little lost patients - the hospital seemed to be crawling with them!

The two derby hospitals have different approaches to help patients.

(1) Both have far more signs telling you where to find X-Ray 92 or MAU or whatever.
(2) The City in derby has maps available and sent out labelling the campus in a fair amount of detail.
(3) The DRI has a single line painted throughout the hospital and each 'junction' is labelled 'Junction 1' or 'Junction 12' etc and your appointment card will say 'X-Ray 12 off Junction 17'. At Junction 17 the signage will be enough to help you find it.
(4) And when you get there there will be a BIG sign saying 'X-Ray 12 Reception'.

You can argue that these labels make it feel more like a hospital than QMC but duh isn't it a hospital? Isn't it supposed to be one of the leading hospitals in the UK?

Also there are far more signs in Derby telling you that the consultants on duty today are Dr ABC and Dr EFG and the sister in charge is Sister ZYX and the wait you can expect is R minutes.

All these things are missing and it does not make the QMC a pleasant place.

We finally left at about one fifteen after a feeling of having been forgotten, but have to go back next week - after we had planned to return from our few days away - but we go back with an expectation of one hour there.

Having returned home at about 2:30 I felt I could go to the gym and did so, but regretted it quite early on as on the mill my heart rate touched 170 and it didn't want to come down too easily. I ended up doing a measly 9 kph before giving up at 4k again. Things continued to go down hill in the gym and in part I wish I hadn't gone.

The day was crowned by a small success though with an Excel VB Script that worked pretty well first time out, and just needed a few cosmetic tweaks of extra spaces and spelling corrections.

Look for the positives! Now we can book our days away.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Peer pressure?

It was to be a school friends birthday. Always a problem at this age. Are they still children, young adults or teenagers (as they should be)? What to get for a present?

SOC came in and said that they had discussed it on the way home from school and she was going to have a riding lesson! No objection really except before she spends our money we like to be involved in the decision. We are just old fashioned like that.

I made all the arrangements with the riding school and the day came around. Her friend had ridden before but several years ago and for several more years than SOC and so had outgrown all her gear. Her mum had spoken to friends and relatives and come up with boots, gloves, whip, boots and a hat for the day. The hat didn't contain the sticker for the correct BS standard and so could not be used in the school but one was borrowed and everything was OK.

The lesson was mid afternoon unlike SOC's normal time and was in a class of experienced riders - more experienced and capable than SOC.

Her friend gave an excellent show demonstrating her ability and experience and frightening the life out of poor old Benny who normally takes much more junior riders and gets his own way most of the time. The thing that impressed me most though was SOC. From the first trot she was a different rider. She sat taller, rose and fell in the saddle more positively and moved Enoch much more commandingly.

As a more advanced lesson they moved on to canter, something she hadn't really done with Enoch, but she went for it after having been asked if she wanted to have a go and she trotted three sides of the manege!

I was hugely impressed with her, although her friend had had Benny do the same and Benny is a very lazy animal.

We are now going to try a lesson in the same group at the same time, but without her friend and see how things go. It may not have been peer pressure, but the group or the hour of the day. We will see. It may mean we have to give her friend lessons EVERY week!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A light experience

Many moons ago, maybe as much as 20 years, a friend took me to see a man who was very much into the latest 'stuff'. He had a 500 watt security light on the side of his house. These are commonplace now, but unheard of then, and he explained this was to enable his CCTV to get visibility for security. I was sceptical at the time that this was absolutely necessary and that it didn't actually advertise that there was something to steal at this property.

Time moves on and we all have outside lights for 'security' or merely for convenience of seeing around the property at night. I noticed recently that these are still sold as 500w (which as you know is half a kilowatt to put it in context). I have been frustrated and annoyed by this and secretly turn the light off but am told off a day or so later for it. Cats, hedgehogs, foxes and other small mammals set these off and at half a kilowatt they are not good for light pollution or for energy expenditure.

We have been looking around and found that there are now 150 watt versions of the bulb available and have changed the light to a much smaller power. I am pleased to find that the light is still thrown as far as I want it (the bottom of the garden for the compost bins) but not so far outside the garden, thus reducing light pollution. It also has the added benefit that I can go to the bins at night and not get a tan!

My father-in-law is now 90 years old and was complaining that his room was too dark at night. It was faddy, particularly in the 70's and 80's, to have light fittings with lots of low wattage bulbs that gave a 'public bar' type of feel to a sitting room. As you get older you do, however, need more light to see and this is where he found himself, needing more light with a light fitting that won't take more wattage. I asked him to have a look and he turned up 5 energy saving bulbs of 20 watts each and and I explained that more light didn't need more power. We changed 1 and he was amazed at the effect. I changed a second and took the remaining ones out and he was delighted with the light. We had taken the power consumption from 125watts to 40 watts yet tripled the amount of light in the room. The problem remains in that he has 3 empty light sockets and 2 ugly bulbs, but now he can explore the options of what to do next knowing that he wants at least 200 watt equivalent of light in the room.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Ambition achieved?

I have always been a tad jealous of people that can draw something that can be recognised as more that a dead spider squashed by a lorry on the motorway. This week I have picked up some books on crafts for Mary and found one on drawing.No, sadly the above is not anything I've done. It's an out of focus image of a drawing done by wifey of a cyclamen. I like it, but she has always wondered.Sadly the above is not mine either! It was done by SOC before she was school age and she wandered in from the garden having drawn it. We were BOTH amazed. I am sure you can see the fuchsia flower. No it's not a mistake - the fuchsias were in flower and her table was right beside them.

.............. Yes, the above is mine - but I'm getting there!

Told Off

FOC came round last night and it appears she reads my ramblings quite regularly. Didn't know that BUT... She told me that I have insulted her in these ramblings. I have just reviewed the pages (briefly) and cannot see to what she alludes. If I have then I really apologise, it was never my intent - I just say things as I see them. Love you kid. Love SOC too.

Well I went visiting the other day to 'the farm' and was chatting with Paul. I felt a bit guilty, because I hadn't gone for anything more than a chat and he has work to do. He had been out with the Morris to Cromford and coming back it started to misbehave and he had been looking at it. I climbed in the cab and 'helped' him refit one of the diesel filters. Because the cab doesn't lift access is tight and to try to get to both sides of the engine is difficult. I got oily hands but it was great to have my hands inside an engine after so long. Immense thanks to Paul. BUT.... I got home to be told off for smelling of oil. (To be fair a mild ticking off really).

This week has been a week spent on fitting door handles, letterboxes and new locks - simply because the old ones were decaying. But as I started one job, a second became obviously needed to be done and so on. Now to finish the woodwork!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Revelation Sculpture - Chatsworth House

Today we have been to Chatsworth house and for only the second time seen the Revelation sculpture working. It is a fascinating, beautiful sequence of movements. Unfortunately the engineer inside me immediately works it out and damages the effect. But that's me all over. The Emperor Fountain was short on height and so the water pressure, from the Emperor Lake, was either low or turned down. After so many weeks without proper rain this was not to be surprised at. Unfortunately this meant also that Revelation was slower and required more patience to see the full sequence than it normally does.

The petals are open and water bubbles over the top.

The petals rise gradually while the ball sinks....

and the petals rise while the ball falls..

until the petals are closed.

After a wait there is a gush of water and...

the petals start to open....

and continue to open until the petals are open, the ball has risen and the cycle will start again.

I apologise for the photo quality, but my poor 5mp camera had had a hard life before I gained possession and managed to bring it back to a form of life.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Steam Engine on the West Highland Line

While on holiday in Scotland we stayed at a cottage in Morar. At the bottom of the garden where you could watch from the kitchen window runs the west highland line. A daily service operates on the line throughout the summer that is hauled by a steam engine. Currently the name for this service is 'The Jacobite'. It runs once a day from Fort William to Mallaig and back and the current engine is 45407 - Lancashire Fusilier. Only it's not. When operating as a mainline engine in the days of steam, she had a different name and number but when rescued from the scrap yard she was restored as the Lancashire Fusilier which was one of her sister 'Black 5' engines. She is a glorious sight to see, smell and feel as she pounds past.
Lancashire Fusilier enters Mallaig station
The station at Glenfinnan

Lancashire Fusilier pulls the train from Mallaig back to Fort William through Morar station

Many people dreamt of being engine drivers as children, but do we really know what that meant? I met Paul first when he had a problem with his PC eating his accounts and through his mother-in-law, invited him to my retirement do. I asked Paul about this steam engine he had, that his mother-in-law had told us about. He invited me along to see it and it turned out to be a 5" gauge model engine . He leant me 'The Engine driver's Manual'. You would not believe, until you read, how complex driving an engine is. It seems straight forward that if you want more steam then add water to the boiler - yes, and cold water will cool the boiler and drop the pressure. Then add coal to the fire - yes, and adding coal to a fire 'blackens' it for a while and cools the fire down. Running these engines required a knowledge of the route, the train and the engine. These guys were skilled.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Social Networking - a good thing?

There has been said a lot lately about social networking - this new phenomena - and most of it has nothing good to say.

It is addictive - yes but like all addictions it can be controlled if the addicted individual wants to control it.

The recent case of a man killing his wife when she changed her status to single on facebook tells a very small part of their story as their relationship was already breaking down for many other reasons.

No, social networking enables people to communicate their ideas and emotions around the world to friends that they have never met and hardly know. Hang on a minute, that sounds just like the old pen pals of years ago? Yes, that's exactly what it is but much faster and to a wider audience. No one decried pen pals, although there was a degree of addiction to it. Having posted a letter one awaited eagerly the reply and pounced on it when it finally landed on the mat. Grabbing the pen while the envelope was still warm a reply on 10 sides of paper was scripted to be posted at the first opportunity.

So why all the fuss surrounding social networking? It is because it is so much faster and the habit can be fed 24/7.

But is it all bad? Consider those who have social connection issues. People like to call them Aspergic - I hate labels of that type as it makes it sound like they should be rounded up in some way! But what about them? In social networking they can connect to others without many of the barriers they feel about personal contact. Fetching kids from school can be a problem for them in case other people waiting want to talk - they can find it very uncomfortable and stressful, yet in social networking they can connect to others and chat openly and not feel any of that so could this be a good thing for them? Perhaps so but will increase the number of 'aspergics'?

Many sci-fi books used to project societies where people didn't leave the comfort and safety of their own rooms and maybe, just maybe, social networking is a step along that route.

Monday, 7 September 2009

End of school holidays

Friday marked the end of the school holiday and so we decided to go with SOC to Dovedale. Quite a while since we were all there but a SPLENDID time was had by all. We stayed out late and went without tea.

We started by Viator's bridge at Milldale and walked down the dale.
The view from Viators Bridge towards Dovedale

The dove at Milldale

Being a limestone rich area there are many fossils to be found.

The limestone gives rise to caves and this is a view out of one.

More of the caves.

SOC Told us about money trees, which to our shame, neither of us had heard of before.

Ilam rock is popular with climbers.

The Lion Rock. If you look you can see a lions face.

An arch form in the limestone.

Lover's Leap. (She didn't die, he wasn't dead, they met again and lived happily ever after!)

Approaching Dovedale.

The famous stepping stones.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


While away we also saw dolphins. SOC caught this on her 5.5 megapixel camera with almost no zoom. We were REALLY close to them. It was magic!

There were that each day at low tide as the tide turned.

Back from holidays

Having got back from holiday, relatively unscathed, I now have to readjust to being home again. Next week school goes back so SOC will be out and I have to readjust again. Ne'er mind.

We had a slight issue with the car while we were away. I lost the fuel gauge when we got there and immediately we lost the power steering as well. By Sunday morning the car wouldn't even unlock without the key! Called the AA. "It's your alternator" he says as the engine stalls having been started on his box of tricks which it has now flattened. These modern cars use an electric power steering pump instead of mechanical and so everything - including the diesel injector pump- runs off the battery. I suggest we take it in to the dealer next day because I may get a courtesy car. "This is Inverness you are talking about." he says. Well I phone Monday and organise it and they will get it fixed next day while we are visiting Inverness. We arrive and they offer a courtesy car! They can't do enough to help and it's annoying. They check the battery and it needs a new one and we have them fit a new tyre at a very competitive price. The car is ready early - washed! They really can't do enough to help and it is annoying.

The car was due for service and MOT the day we got back - at the main dealer. They again did an excellent job (as always) and couldn't do enough to help (again) and again it was annoying!

Why, you ask, do I find it annoying? Well SAAB dealerships do a job like no other dealership I have ever known. I love driving my SAAB and she returns excellent economy. All this means it becomes almost impossible to consider driving any other make of car!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Aladdin's cave!

I went to collect some of that wood I spoke about from a generous freegler.

When I got there I thought I had died and gone to heaven! There was so much! and it had been removed quite carefully so it was mostly reusable. The gentleman asked me if I had a wood burning stove. That sounded like real herecy! That anyone would burn material as good as that appalled me. I immediately saw projects I can now complete with it and on getting home Wifey carried on adding to the list.

I had been told the previous night in an email that I was to share it with another freegler, on a first come first served basis. Wifey and I agreed that I should do some drastic reorganising of the day and try to be the first! Greedy? Possibly, but I think that is fair. As I packed the car I kept looking back at what was left and asking myself "Would I be happy to pick up what's left?". I tried to be honest and leave when I could still say "Yes". I don't know if I was being honest with myself though.

First project on getting home though was? Finding enough space to store it all! A nice problem to have. Thanks again to the generous freegler.

(The Mole)

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Tired? Who's tired?

Yesterday got just 3 and 1/2 hours sleep. Not dancing the night away and not had a drink in 3 or 4 weeks. Wifey was watching TV and I was doing work on web sites. Both these sites I am trying something new for me on so it is a labour of love more than anything. Anyway finally got to bed about 3 and woke up - as is my wont - at 6:30. Went to bed about 12:30 last night and up late this morning - 6:40. I cut grass both back and front and then set about working on SOC's little purple house. Build her a bench with removable seat to make a storage box as well and a table that is hinged to the wall. The table was frustrating and not quite finished as I wait for the glue to dry now. Getting the locking catch into JUST the right place proved to be a lot of trial and error and that leads to frustration and frustration leads to tiredness - and I am TIRED! The entire thing has been done from wood that has lived at least one life already - which is how I like it as it adds to the challenge. A kind freegler has offered me a load of pine of which I can take my pick and I plan on going there tomorrow.

I now intend relaxing and getting back into web work, but I may just facebook first!

Monday, 3 August 2009


Don't you just hate it?

It's that time of year when insurance come due. Car, house and car breakdown cover. I hate it because it is always hard work! Yes you can just tick the box and say "I'll pay your ridiculous demand" but I won't do that. So it's off to the PC and go through the price comparison sites and find what price you can get. Then email the incumbent telling them you want to cancel and giving them your phone number so they can make a counter proposal. On house insurance this year I got a 40% discount to retain the business. On Breakdown cover I saved £80 - partly because new customers can get big first years savings that regular customers, unfairly, cannot get. On car insurance to my amazement I could only save £8 but hey, that's more than a bar of chocolate! Why can't they come clean with their best offer FIRST!

Am I getting old that these things annoy me now? Anyone saying yes gets to make their own tea and NO breakfast in bed.

Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane

I enjoyed this book, just not sure why. Not really sure what it was about. War? Self discovery? Just a story? I wouldn't reread this though, which is unusual for me when I enjoyed it.

What a weekend!

Well, it has been busy. A freegler gave me a bracket to mount a monitor on the wall and I fitted it to free up some desk space.

We also had some curtain poles from another freegler and I have been fitting some of them.

I had to cut the grass both back and front of the house.

A neighbour had trouble with her set top box and asked if I could help. I did and got from ebay a replacement control so that is now fixed.

The fridge door wouldn't close and I happened to find the bit to fix it (at 1 o'clock in the morning) (a) in the stuff from the freegler with the bracket and (b) from the bottom of a toolbox in bits from scrap yards from when I was a pup. PLUS I went training (see Can't not go training.

Also planted out some broccoli and moved the compost bins around a bit. The compost bins are mostly full of horse manure in readiness for putting on he garden when it is aged enough, but they are also going through the garden refuse quite quickly. The weather has been kind to the slugs, which has renewed the challenge to beat them again. You then have to sweep their remains off the paths!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The holidays are here

SOC has finished school for the summer and for a while we must adjust. She is spending a lot of time doing stuff with friends - dance lessons, cinema, visiting their houses, having them over etc. Last night was a pony club night and she jumped on a new pony for the first time! I think she grew 3 inches in the hour and a half! Max still seems to be favourite but he has competition.

We holiday in the UK. It's what God wants! Let me explain... when FOC was 10 months old we went to France, by ferry, and a force 10 wind was blowing. It was one of the longer crossings and the entire crew were doing the tummy chuck let alone the passengers. The noise of the air trapped against the ship's plates was horrendous and the trip was less than pleasant. We spent 2 glorious weeks in Brittany and coming back..... a force 9 was blowing. Tell me that wasn't a sign. Later I had to fly to Edinburgh on business (why we couldn't drive I don't know) and a frequent flyer I was flying with said it was the worst weather he had experienced in a plane. Tell me I'm wrong now! Well FOC is holidaying in the US. First in Vegas and then LA and going to the grand canyon. She was to fly at midday yesterday and didn't because the engine wasn't right. I got a text saying 'we are delayed with an engine problem and a mechanic is smacking the engine now - about an hour late'. That became an hour and a half and they would miss the connecting flight. It then became that they would get a new plane (I breathed a sigh of relief) and be about 5 hours late. This morning I got an email:-
It took some doing! Our flight finally left at 8.30 uk time landed at lax 10.40pm local time. Then immigration and luggage (which fortunately had transferred planes with us) Trekked across the airport to the terminal for domestics to find that there were no flights until 6am, and we couldn't buy a ticket until the desk opened for checkin for that flight.

So first phoned vegas hotel to explain we would be late and please don't give our room away, finding the number took some doing (website is flash and the Iphone doesn't support flash) then called dollar car rental to sort a car, got shuttle from lax to their depot, got car about 1am driven straight through. Now really really on wrong time zone.

Slept on plane in uk night, driven through US night.

Anyway we are here, going to get some sleep and then get up for breakfast.


That is mostly unedited and she does avoid this 'text speak' when texting and emailing me or wifey which we appreciate. However at times like this I get to more understand why we don't holiday outside the UK. I do love the UK and all it has to offer!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Things to do...

Been down to see one of the projects I have been helping on.

Doesn't it look beautiful? She has a long way to go to being finished, but she is a drop sided 1959 Morris. We are short of boarding to finish the sides and tail but a friendly freegler believes he may have some to help so we are keeing our fingers crossed!

The workshop, at the moment, is just stuff in the middle of the floor and it really needs a way to get things in order, so we are trying a few friendly freeglers to get old kitchen units, that normally go in landfill or on bonfires, to get work surfaces and proper storage places to get it workable.

Another project is SOC's playhouse. She got it when she was about 5 for her birthday and we kitted it out for her. That was about 7 years ago and her tastes have moved on a bit! It was painted green (for the grasss and ground) and Blue (for the sky) and she had added birds, sheep and stuff. Well now she wants it purple. Roof, walls and floor! Ok but when you are in there you forget which way up you are! The old table and chair went to a freegler who posted a wanted for their one and a half year old the day after we decided to finish with them - that is coincidence.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

She's back!

She came back from camp having thoroughly enjoyed it. Being away from home with her mates was what really scored the points and I think we all new that, including school who organised it.

Wifey had breakfast in bed when SOC wasn't at home and she had breakfast in bed (hereinafter referred to as BiB) again today. She will have BiB again tomorrow. SOC has 3 more days at school before the long summer hols and after that I expect wifey will have BiB for 6 weeks! Why do I do it? Oh I remember now - it was something to do with that vicar 31 years ago!

SOC rode Max in the riding school today and she did well (my opinion at least). I find this upsetting because.. I have ridden 5 times now: 2 half hour lessons 1 on Polo and 1 on Max (Polo is no longer in the school), once on a pony trek on holiday (what a trek that was!) and once on a 'hack' from the riding school and that was on Max. Max is a lovely animal and if I go in the school again at anytime then it will be with SOC and she will get Max and I will be burdened with a lesser steed.

FOC is off to USA a week tomorrow for her 30th birthday. She seems to have a problem with this, which is a bit sad. She's going to Las Vegas and the grand canyon and stuff. She likes swimming with dolphins so I must google to see how many dolphins there are in the grand canyon. Wifey is concerned lest FOC returns with swine flu (what a terrible name). The thing I find amusing is her companies attitude towards swine flu. For a week after their return they cannot go within a meter of anyone else, masks must be worn on public transport, 4 day isolation if they've been on a plane and no handshaking anymore. What the rules are about more intimate contact I don't know but her partner works in the IT secion of the company!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Going Away

SOC is going on camp today. She's 12 and has stayed away from home about 5 times. The first 2 times were for PGL (Parents Go, Leave us apparently). They were 2 nights away and the whole school year went (WOW like 13 kids!) and they had an 'adventure' break. Travel Friday morning, activities Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday morning. She was a bit homesick when the lights went out (they all were) but they stuck together and helped each other through. No-one helped us through it though. She's had a couple of 'sleep-overs' and been happy as Larry with relatively little 'sleep' - obviously a misnomer! This time it's one night in a tent and activities today and tomorrow before returning. Sharing a tent with 6 best friends. It doesn't seem to get easier for us though!

Ho hum, don't brood.

Friday, 10 July 2009

A changeable week

The weather has been anything but settled and as a result I have done a variety of things this week. Been working on my 'fedora' PC. It appears as user friendly as a cornered rat, but then it's what you get used to. It's working, it's stable and now I want to Samba working on it. Seem to have an IP issue with the laptop though. Fix those another day though because the weather brightened and went out and had another go at fixing those clippers of the in-laws. Ended up making a part from an old biscuit tin lid. Not very scientific, but I cannot abide trying to find parts and then having to wait for them to arrive - if you find them. Seems to work fine and this weekend I will do his front hedge.

Been walking a couple of times too and that was nice. The birds in full song and the bees, counted 3 on one plant so it may be a good year for them.

Finally put the paddling pool away - it was green from having had water in too long. The grass under it isn't green though! Give it a week and it should be right as ninepence. My dad always said that, but what is right about ninepence?

Been doing some webwork as well as everything else and watching the tour. The Tour - and what it tour it is proving to be. Armstrong? I say no. I said that last he won though.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Finished Reading

Just finished Only Human by Tom Holt. An excellent read - although I am not sure I understood it all. I will re read it later - it was that good - and get to understand the bits that are a bit vague at the moment.

Picked up 'red badge of courage' by Stephen Crane yesterday from freegle. I thought we read it at school - we were cerainly given a copy at some point - but I have never read it before. Really looking forward to it and I hope I am not disappointed.

Friday, 3 July 2009

The weather

One thing I am always amazed at is the English's capacity to moan at the weather. It's too hot, it's too cold - it's never right. It's not like moaning about it will change it and it's not like the weather is new. We have had weather as long as I remember!

This week has been up and down and while, at times I have been uncomfortable with it I have found a way to cope and compromise.

I wanted to do the garden furniture and got started but had to give up, knowing that the sunshine would help the vegetables even though I may have to water them by can.

Today it has rained so I still can't do it, but I have done some work on the ethical stores site and rejoiced in the fact that today I don't need to water.


Life is not fair. If it was then you would deserve what you get, so rejoice in it's not fairness

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

They don't make em like they used to

Went to see the in-laws this weekend and he asked me if I could do a job for him.
"Would you cut my leylandi please?"
"Yes, no problem - which one?" says I looking in the direction of the leylandi and wondering why he didn't want them all cutting.
"The one down by Carol's"
I look, I look again and look again.
"What Leylandi?"
"Oh, sorry isn't it a Leylandi? The yew then"
I wander down, believing I know what a yew looks like. Spousey is gathering gooseberries (she's made some LOVELY marmalade and chutney with them!)
"Where's this yew he wants cutting?"
"What yew?" she says looking round.
I go back to him.
"Do you mean the beech hedge?"
"Aye, that'll be it"

Well I start cutting it and the trimmers jam.
"They keep doing that" says he.
Can I clear the jam? Can I 'eck as like!
"Have you tried hitting them on the floor?"
So that's why the cutter is bent! I start taking them to bits expecting to clear the jam with loosening it all off but it won't play, so after training Sunday (Or should that be TRAINing?) I stripped them right down, removed the 'bit' that was floating around and Voila! they work again. I have cut my leylandi with them (and it was leylandi!) and they work fine. Sometimes I surprise myself!

The TRAINing went very well with a society from Bradford visiting and bringing a couple of engines. There were some youngsters (11-14 year olds) amongst them and they spent a lot of time with their eclectric 'diesel' shunting and when the engine 'failed' they set about fixing it themselves. I was well impressed. It's good to see young blood take an interest.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Nearly a week gone by..

And it's been a busy week. Not done a great deal in the garden, although we have cleared some London Pride to fellow freeglers and the alderman peas have needed tying up again. They can grow to 5 feet and they now stand about 6 feet and climbing. I have also been looking at the shop for the ethical store and am pleased the way that is looking, although there is more work than I thought.

It's been a frustrating month in some ways. With SOC's birthday, Holidays, Father's day and gymkhanas I haven't been to see the trains and I am starting to get withdrawal symptoms. You can see some of the trains at

One positive this week though is that I can now get in my garage! - I have been tidying it up so I can start some of the projects I keep thinking about - including that clock! Still looking out for hardwood offcuts.

All This gym work seems to be paying off though.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Another weekend

Been a fun weekend SOC went riding Saturday and then in a pony club gymkhana on Sunday. Sunday was also Father's day of course so got some grief from FOC for not being at home when she wanted to come round. Hey ho - kids! Well Saturday we went to see the in-laws and I had a couple of jobs to do. Job one was straight forward - re lay a couple of slabs. Second job was to replace a fascia panel on his conservatory that had rotted through. I started this this job to find the board below the fascia also needed replacing so the job doubled. I then found the guttering was not properly secured. The gutters were blocked. He want the moss scraping off the corrugated plastic roof and passed me a collapsing rake that only wanted to collapse, so I had to fix that. Got to clearing the roof and called down, "Have you applied a patch to this roof?" - "No" - "Well there's a piece of corrugated plastic floating loose - are you sure you haven't patched it?" - "Yes I have" - Doh! So next I had to go up and patch the roof again. And so the catalogue went on. Fun in deed.

I said the wife said I was becoming a Victor Meldrew.. Guess what I got for Father's day - a One Foot In The Grave Book! About the making really so it could be quite good. SOC got me a Dangerous Book For Boys - Things To Do! Now I can make a tree house. Well I have made one already and will later add a piccie, in fact must put up some of the things I've made in a photo album maybe? FOC got me 'The Italian Job 40th anniversay edition" but the crowning glory has to be The Railwayman's Diesel Manual. It looks like being really good reading!

When FOC came over to see me she showed me a bleb on one of her tyres. I could not believe she was running on it! Dad, well what are dad's for?, then set about changing it. She passed the wrench while I jacked the up and she found the locking wheel nut. My word the nuts were tight! I had to jump on the wrench to shift them and I had flashbacks to kick starting my Norton Commando 35 years ago! Got them undone and the car jacked and the wheel wouldn't move. I was struggling to breathe and it was beginning to look like a job for the RAC but I went to get a persuaderometer from the garage. A 22lb sledge hammer - tapped the wheel a couple of times and off it came. Time to put the spare on and she produces this 'thing' - A mint condition extending bar and sockets! "Why didn't you find this sooner?" - "Would it have made things easier?" - "Where did you get it?" - "HE was throwing it out and it was shiny so I thought I would have it" - HELP me PLEASE! Job complete - advice on replacement given and superman flies off into the distance. Well to some carrot cake and low fat cheese with icing sugar! - Don't knock it if you've not tried it - it was beautiful and thanks wife.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

City Centre

Went into Derby today. Derby is a 'pretty' little city but the architecture varies from some very early buildings that house or once housed some very 'reliable' institutions to some very modern buildings that, to put it politely, not many people understand. While walking into the city today I was struck by the geese beside the river.

The number of geese was far more than we normally see and there was a bit of variety amongst them. I am not an expert but I believe that we see a couple of pink footed geese amongst the canada geese.
We also saw quite a number of goslings with some of them looking oddly marked. Something that struck us about the goslings was that they seemed to being looked after by the rest of the flock and not just their own mothers.

Although this little fellow is odder still and I believe it is with the white goose, which I also believe, is an escaped domestic goose. I do need to apologise for these photos though as they were from my mobile which is only VGA compatible. But it is nice to get some image when you hadn't expected to want a camera at all.
Although you cannot help but love these little fellows. They were being used to raise money for disabled children although I totally fail to see the relevance. SOC loved this and without the camera she wouldn't have seen it.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Less exciting times...

One of those days.

It started dull, became duller and ended up remarkably dull.

It became necessary to 'shop'. I am a normal healthy male and as such have a natural allergy to shopping. It takes a lot of time to drag me around the store so we don't get to the wood on those days.

I then need time to recover and eat. When all this falls on a gym day, there is not a lot of time before I have to go to gym. Sounds like a chore, but I do sort of enjoy it while, at the same time, recognise the beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system and cholesterol levels. They say it releases endorphins but I feel that to see a continued improvement in anything we do gives a good feeling of reward. Couldn't face the intended 6.5k today so tried another program and on the mill wound up the speed to 11kph, a .5% (not much but it is >0) incline and 15 minutes. It did truly feel good to finish the exercise. The graphs showed a much more intense activity program and I think I did enjoy it more. I am going to work on this type of program for a while.

Tomorrow we need to go and pick up the last holiday photos and do some 'town' shopping. Although we have digital cameras, our hearts are still in 35mm. Unfortunately the cost of processing has doubled in the last year and digital does have the advantage of you can publish the pictures immediately and we recognise that one day we have to commit to a change over. We still have huge stack of vinyl that we won't part with! We never did eight track though.

Today I finished 'The Portable Door' and true to form it was a very good read. I started reading Tom Holt when in hospital with the heart attack. One of the nurses saw I was reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld books and recommended it and brought me 'Ye Gods!' to read. I was released into the community before I had finished it so had to leave it behind, but my friends at work bought me a gift voucher for an online book shop so I could shop from the comfort of my home (I was under house arrest for the first 3 or 4 weeks) and so I bought a copy to finish it. I have decided to read another Holt - 'Only Human' which is part of a batch of books I was given by a freegler.

Monday, 15 June 2009

What was all the fuss.....

We did Pony Club today and at 17:55 the lightning and thunder started (Why do people say Thunder and Lightning? The lightning comes first because of the relative speeds. It's even first alphabetically. Why then?) and they all retreated to the cabin and did indoor stuff. They did a rising trot (apparently) by hopping round the cabin like bunnies. Then they did 'putting a tail bandage on'. SOC was key to this as she is the only one with hair long enough to be a ponies tail and they couldn't get Enoch in the cabin. Nett effect? All our efforts for a body protector in time for today were unnecessary. Is there a complaint box for God somewhere?

Went to the wood again today (and forgot to take the camera - sorry) but half way there it tried to rain. In T-shirts we carried on and under the leafy canopy we kept dry. By the time we left the wood the rain had given up and we were back to brilliant sunshine.

I went to the gym and tried my 6.5k but I chickened out at 6.3. I might have been able to continue but I decided it was still a personal best and I would call it a day. See what Wednesday brings.

While waiting for SOC this eveing I all but finished 'The Chapel at the Edge of the World'. It's a shame but I won't be marking it high at all. It's not actually in print yet as I have an uncorrected proof so that I can review it before publication. I have read a few like that recently and while it is a privilege it is also a gamble that you end up with a book you don't like.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A Sunday....

It has been a day dominated by the body protector. We tried to several saddleries and tried on several but still no proper fit. We were giving up hope when at the 12th hour a Freegler contacted us and they have gifted one. It passes the test here at home and now we must wait and see what the instructor has to say....

We have finally given the last of our flowers (or 'weeds' as we think of them) away. Been a lovely warm day and bright. Got some reading done while waiting for the family to get ready and so we have had a generally relaxing day, despite the many miles travelled.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

A weekend

Today starts duller than yesterday but dry for now which hopefully it will stay as this morning our second only child (SOC) has a riding lesson, which she enjoys immensely. She loves Enoch, though lately she has ridden Benny who is slower, more independently minded and difficult than just about any pony in the stable. He does make it more of a challenge and when she rides him her improvements are more noticeable.
SOC on Benny

SOC on Enoch

After that we will go and see the in-laws. Since we married I saw little of my parents because my mother strained our marriage whenever she was around. This straining was as much my difficulties with her as my wife's and so I visited them rarely out of my choice. It was difficult for me as I really had a much stronger bond with my father who was a fantastic father. My mother passed away about 21 years ago and my dad 12 years ago. The result of this the in-laws have been sort of replacement parents to me. As they get on we try to help them more without taking over their lives. He is 89 and still mows his lawns once a week and he has a very large area of grass - about 4 times more than we have. They are also active gardeners but have an annoying practice of planting whole packets of seeds for the 2 of them. That makes a LOT of cabbages. I enjoy it - and it's mean of me - when I can bring him over (I don't like him driving) and show him our successes when they are better than his.

Homework will be the order of the day for SOC and she started maths last night. She asked for help and I showed her some answers to her homework which is based on year 9. She is year 7 and very bright (don't tell her I said it). It's nice when I help her - not with the answers but in how to get them.

Otherwise we expect some freegle visitors for plants and a quiet day - which is nice.
The day turned out fine for the riding lesson and SOC handled Benny very well. He starts to realise that he is not always boss. Bad news though - in a way - there is to be jumping practice on Monday in Pony Club and she doesn't have a body protector. It's not essential but VERY highly desirable. Chased around 4 places trying to get one but they don't fit. She is an awkward size. Trying the friends on Freegle but it's a 1 in a million chance.

Went to see the in-laws and got back late because of the body protector and had to compromise on tea. I watch my cholesterol now - it used to be 6.7 but now it's 4. I keep fats as low as reasonable but watch my omega 3s, eat my fruit and such fats as I can I take as monounsaturates. Obviously I can't avoid saturates totally but I keep them as low as possible. I don't like compromise - I don't suppose we are supposed to really. I will have to behave more tomorrow.

Friday, 12 June 2009

A ramble

We went to the wood that is close to home this morning. We went as a bit of light exercise mainly, but also to enjoy the wood itself. It's not a particularly large wood and we generally walk around it twice. Today it was absolutely beautiful. The bluebells are done, but the bracken is now about shoulder height and the briers are getting stronger. Being a very sunny day, dappled light was coming through the trees and it was truly magnificent. I must remember to take a camera with me in future. We left the main path and walked through the centre of the wood where it is was quieter and it truly was a magical woodland experience. Having worked for the last 30 years, even my spare time has been eroded by work and I have missed so much, but this year I have watched the earth wake up after winter and I recommend it to everyone!

Been to the gym today. I go 3 times a week for aerobic exercise. Before the heart attack I was running every day but getting nowhere. After I was sent for cardiac rehab which involves gym work and after 4 years (nearly) I can now run 6k. I have an ambition to run 10k. We went on holiday for a week and on getting back we had a manic week getting ready for our 12 year old (as is now) birthday so I had a fortnight out of the gym. Before the break I was running 6k at 10.7kph. After my third attempt in getting back to the gym, I managed 6k today but only at 10.5kph. It has come as a big surprise to me how quickly I have gone downhill - it can't be my age! Can it? Still next week should be able to try the 6.5k. The gym is a big thing for me now because after gym life is a lot more comfortable. My dad died of emphysema and all too often my breathing makes me think of his suffering. Not Pleasant!

We lifted a whole host of Montbretia today as it starts to take over. We have put them out on Freegle and are having a bit of a parade of people collecting. I really hope they enjoy them as we do.

Had a call today from a local ethical store - selling organic and locally produced food - with a view to helping them with an online shop. They are a small outfit and it came as a surprise to them about how much it will cost for hosting and certification. I have volunteered so come pretty well free, but they will need to put up some money every year - possibly around £150 but deals can be done. Hopefully they can bite the bullet and go with it - I think they could succeed as they even do free delivery locally on bikes!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Slugs and Snails and other 'Pests'

Since retiring I have taken on the snails and slugs with a renewed vigour. Each day I go around the garden with a couple of trowels on the lookout. Any I find - and I apologise here because the next bit is not pretty - I destroy them. At first I was getting rid of 50-60 a day! We had a BIG problem with them. Now I only get 10-15 which is a big improvement and also the veggies are suffering much less damage so something is working. I prefer to avoid chemicals but at first the quantity was such that I set up a bucket of salt water and condemned them to the bucket which I kept adding to for 5 or 6 weeks before pouring the contents onto the compost heap. They are now part of the compost of life. Poetic? There is no nice way to deal with them and if you deter them, then when you let your defences down they come at you in greater numbers.

For a number of years my wife has blamed all the veggie damage on the slugs and I have always said that some is just bad press. I am not sticking up for them! However this year I have cut up 2 litre pop bottles and made sleeves to start all the brassicas in and the difference has been fantastic - we have hardly lost one. It was the birds all along. I want the birds in the garden as they will take many insects, but I need to protect each individual plant that would otherwise be vulnerable. We have a cat - well most of a cat. Pud has no tail after a car accident as a pup and he lost other bits as well at the hands of the vet who said it would keep him off the road. The vet also said it would make him fat and lazy. How right he was! Pud sleeps on the grass while the blackbirds come within six feet - singing and he sleeps on! He counts among the pests and I have to put twigs across newly dug areas - well he's too lazy to dig for himself!

The 3 'R's

Some years ago, when first born was little, I had a nightmare that I remember to this day. In it, due to something happening today, the world was spoiled and changed so first born would not be able to enjoy life as we had. I was affected for days after and it still rings with me today. Because of this I really believe in the 3 'R's - Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. I take things a little too far sometimes maybe and it could come over as meanness - but if you do something you should commit whole heartedly to it! First born is now 29 and we have a second only child who is 12 and I believe in the 3 'R's as much, if not more, today.


We keep our consumption to the minimum and are always looking at ways to cut down whether it is energy, packaging or whatever. We always shop with a shopping list and plan our meals reasonably in front. Food is rarely thrown away and meals that are not planned are driven around what we should be using up next. We had a glut of broccoli recently and were having broccoli with everything - stirfry, curry, roasted vegetables, soups - I got to dread that it would show up at breakfast!


We religiously recycle everything through the collections available as well as send old books to the 'Book Crossing'. We also look at anything we have finished with and may choose to offer it through 'Freegle'. If it doesn't go one of those ways it may make it's way to Oxfam. Today we are 'freecycling' plants that grow freely in our garden as weeds in the veg patch - and they are VERY popular. We have 3 compost bins and all kitchen waste goes into them as well as garden waste. A local riding school has a problem with manure and I do them a favour in taking some away, but only when my daughter is riding as it doesn't make sense to make a special trip to collect it.


Something I have always hated is throwing things out, so they will often find their way into the garage and later re-emerge as something new. I currently have plans (both literally and metaphorically) to build a wooden clock movement and if I can avoid buying new wood for it then I will - Anyone got some hardwood offcuts?

I have never had any training in woodwork but enjoy doing it and making a mess of it. For my daughters I have built many things ranging from toy box/benches to doll's houses and throughout I have always tried to reuse materials - not always succeeded but tried. That age old phrase ' I've made the bed'? Well our second daughter would not choose a new bed when moving into her sister's old room after she had been at uni for nearly 3 years and insisted she wanted one like her old one that I had made for the box room using a cot mattress, so I made her bed for her from 90% reused material including an old door frame. I try to avoid the use of power tools and got, from my late father, a treadle scroll saw. I genuinely enjoy knowing that the mess I made is all mine and not the fault of some rampant machine.

Hopefully my kids will treat the environment with the same respect?

A start......

Since retiring I have started to enjoy many of the things in life I have missed out on while working. Now I spend most of my time in the garden. Although I have 'tried' to be active in the garden during the last 30 years, I now find I can spend the time out there that I always dreamed of and the vegetable patch is a world of difference to our previous attempts. I may yet get a part time job, but it's difficult to see where I can find time! I am also doing DIY, a little web site work (on a voluntary basis), a little model making, helping a friend with his old lorries and riding miniature steam trains. I also 'do' the gym 3 times a week for aerobic fitness and we try to walk whenever time permits.

I propose trying to blog here some of the many activities I get involved in now.