Tuesday, February 28, 2006


(Originally published on 25 Feb 06)
The highlight of the week for me has been
seeing three of my four daughters today, who
got together for a meet-up at our house. One
of them, L, is stopping with us overnight
and will see the fourth daughter R tomorrow.
Their ages span from 24 to 32 years.

Mrs C "went to town" and baked some delicious
cakes and other lovely nibbles for our
afternoon tea, as well as making some salmon
& smoked haddock fishcakes for our
lunch/dinner (dinner for those of us living
North of Watford). I did the veg by the way
- our usual mountain of steamed veg.

This past week I’ve done some DIY in the house
- put up a small wall-mounted table in one of
our ground floor rooms and assembled three
chairs - all from IKEA. I was annoyed to have
to go back to IKEA two more times to replace
one of the chairs, and also to have to go to
B & Q to buy four special wall-fixing screws
(not supplied by IKEA/the table manufacturer).

I spent one lunchtime, meeting up with one of
my friends at The Bean in Beeston (lovely
coffee there – I like a large cappuccino with
no chocolate on top – and it has a lively café

I think the coffee at The Bean is slightly
better than that served up by Costas (which
is where I’d go in Nottm or on the motorway
for coffee). I’ve give both The Bean and
Costas 9 out of 10 for quality, and a much
lower rating to Starbucks.

Our favourite brands of ground coffee for
making coffee at home are, in first place,
the premium coffee at Lidls (in the red
packets), and in second place, Tescos Finest
Kenyan (in the silver grey packets). The Lidl
one is a lot cheaper.

If you ever visit Yorkshire, try the Café
Blend coffee at any branch of Betty’s coffee
shops/restaurants, in Ilkley, Harrogate and
York. You can buy the Café Blend beans or
ground coffee there, but the coffee doesn’t
taste as nice when we make it at home. I rate
it as 12 out of 10 … outstandingly good.

Keep this to yourself - if you plan to visit
Betty's for lunch, then get there for a coffee
at 11.30am, and stay seated until lunch starts
to be served at midday. There are long queues
of people waiting for seat, if you arrive
after 12.

I noticed this the other day when Mrs C and I
Mrs C and I went out to The Bottle Kiln in
West Hallam for lunch. We arrived at 11.45
(in good time for lunch at 12) to find most of
the seating taken up by a lot of people
having pre-meal drinks. The Bottle Kiln does
fabulous baked potatoes with a variety of
fillings and salad. The quiches/flans tend to
be dripping with hot liquid fat, so we avoid
those. The owner and resident artist, Charles
Stone, has a large collection of his own art
work up on the walls for sale.... mainly
pretty landscapes in acrylic/pastel, and
rather gaudy female nudes (with prominent
lips and breasts). Mrs C and I often wonder
which female member of staff he might be
thinking of when he's painting these figures,
or if he's got a pile of 1960s Playboy
magazines as reference material.

I went to two excellent U3A group meetings on
Thursday morning – the computer one, looking
mainly at Windows XP, Word, Excel and other
topics, and the wine-tasting one. The latter
is well attended and is great fun. The
winemaster leading the group brought in five
bottles of excellent wine, which we all
managed to consume! The best wines were a
Hungarian Sauvignon Blanc, which was not as
sweet as others I’ve tasted, and a Rosemount
Estate Cabernet Merlot. A rather excessive
amount of alcohol I think for that time of
day, but we all left in a jolly mood.

I’ve spent the rest of my time tinkering on
this computer (and reading Belinda Walthew’s
“A simple guide to Dreamweaver 4” – excellent).

There are lots of other things I could be
doing, such as improving my electric guitar
playing, pressing on with my family history,
plus lots of DIY projects around the house
and garden. Mrs C often threatens to get a
professional in to do the latter, whereupon I
tend to spring into action (rather than pay
someone to do it). The words “Tight Bastard”
spring to my mind.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Beautiful stone carving

Here is some detail of the top of a pillar -
the location is Normanton Church at Rutland
The church is at the edge of the lake, and a
good part of it would be under the water, but
for the wall the conservationists built around
it. Beautiful craftsmanship (or should I say,

The Drama Triangle

I’ve been deeply affected by reading Reluctant
Nomad’s latest blog (19 Feb). He’s just
received an email/suicide note from a woman,
who thanked him for being a special friend to
her, but then went on to criticise him for
being totally self-obsessed.

Well I felt very close to tears when I read
about RN’s loss and his sadness, but then a
little later I felt very angry with her for
her unjustified criticism. And then I thought,
"Hey, what's going on here, and why am I
feeling so dreadful? I've been down this path

I’ve been at the receiving end of such game
play with various people over the years, and
have ended up feeling badly bruised.

A good many years ago, when I was going
through a mid-life crisis, I went along to
Transactional Analysis classes and had some
personal counselling from a TA therapist also.
It was amazing life-changing stuff.

Part of accepted TA theory is Stephen
Karpman’s “Drama Triangle”, which is a bit
like a three-cornered boxing ring. In one
corner is the “Victim” bleating “Oh, woe is
me”. On hearing this, I jump into the ring
as the “Rescuer” (I'm good at playing this
role - I would have liked to have been one of
King Arthur's knights in shining armour,
helping ladies in distress),
and proceed to
offer her some TLC, whereupon the “Victim”
suddenly switches to become the “Persecutor”,
and gives me a verbal punch in the face....
along the lines of, "You patronising bastard.
I don't need your help. You only think about
yourself/sort out your own crap relationships."

So I'm left thinking, "You what???!!! What's
going on here? / Here we go again", and feeling
very hurt and angry.

This rather nasty game has now ended (one-up
for the Victim/Persecutor).

I now avoid getting close to these people,
and keep them at a safe distance away from me,
as I don’t wish to be hurt by them again.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Mrs C's mum, Grandma, called round today on
her way into town (walking). She was taking
a brand new electric toaster back to John
Lewis, to exchange it for another. "It
wouldn't work at all ..... well, it was
a cheapo - only cost me £7.00."

I wish to add at this point that G is 85
years old, and that she is as fit as a
fiddle. A couple of years ago, she completed
an Honours arts degree course with the Open
University. Her husband died back in 1996.

Anyway, I got the toaster out of its box,
plugged it into a wall socket, and pressed
down the lever at the side. Hey Presto! All
the filaments inside the toaster started to
glow a lovely warm red.

"Oh!" said G in a rather surprised and
indignant voice. "So you have to press down
the knob at the side? I thought it would come
on, when I switched it on at the wall...
....well, I've never used a toaster before."

(And then I thought of all those years she's
been round at our house, helping us out when
our kids were little, and also all the self-
catering holidays we've had together over the
years, when there's always been an electric
toaster available).

We carried on talking about other things, and
and later she set off to go back home with
her new toaster (in a very cheerful mood).

Some kids do hav' 'em.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Well what did I do today? (strictly speaking,
it was yesterday when I typed this!)

It’s Valentine’s Day, as a lot of you will
have remembered.

When I got up, I fed and watered our cats and
then made a large mug of tea for myself. A
short while later, I got ready a pint of warm
water, flavoured with fresh lemon juice for
Mrs C, and took it up to her when she woke up
around 8am. We exchanged cards and pressies.
Mrs C bought me a small box of delicious
heart-shaped biscuits, with a lemon glaze on
them – tasted nice with fresh coffee later in
the morning.

I got Mrs C a CD of Johnny Cash doing a live
gig at Folsom Prison, for a surprise (as we’d
just seen the biopic, “Walk The Line”). It
was a smash hit in its day (1968), but like
a lot of American Country music, it all
sounds the same.

After hanging up the clothes washing (in the
bathroom with the dehumidifier on), I spent
the rest of the morning doing some online
research into flights to New Zealand for our
3 week stay in December. On the advice of
friends we’ve chosen Singapore Airlines, and
we plan to stop over for 1-2 days in
Singapore on both of the journeys. Mrs C has
cousins living out there, who we’ve been
meaning to visit for ages (and never got
round to doing so). I’m just wondering if
it’s worth spending about £4k on the entire
trip for the two of us, but then it should
be one of those mind-blowing experiences.

We’re hoping to get seats with as much
leg-room as possible, and also we require
in-flight food with no meat in it, so we
plan to go to Travelbag/Trailfinders in
Nottm to sort all this out (rather than
book online). I had a long phone
conversation with one of my pals, B, who
went with his family last year to Australia,
about all this.

I also asked B about whether or not my Norton
anti-virus software could be re-used on our
new laptop (which arrived from Dabs dot com
this evening). My existing computer is an old
machine with Windows 98 on it, and NTL
supplies us with Broadband. I’ve bought a
wireless router to link the laptop to the
internet, for Mrs C’s use, so she can be on
the internet possible the same time as me
(on my old machine). Anyway, B suggested I
have a go using the Norton CD on the new
laptop, to see if I can upload the anti-viral
software onto the laptop (for no extra
charge). If I can’t get it to load up, then
I’ll nip to a computer shop not to far away
and buy another Norton CD.

If any of you out there, think I’m heading
for trouble using my existing Norton CD,
then I’d be pleased to hear your comments.

This afternoon I spent an interesting couple
of hours at a philosophy discussion group in
the city centre – our first meeting, which
is being lead by someone (let me call him CT),
who is very well read on the subject.
Today’s topic was all about “thinking”. CT
started us off by asking us to think about
anything for a couple of minutes, anything
from some minor concern to more major issues
of the day.

To be honest, my mind went a complete blank –
I was trying to think of something
interesting to talk about (as I thought he
would soon be asking each one of us in turn,
what he/she had thought about). Then I
thought about making Mrs C one of her (and
my own) favourite meals – smoked salmon
salad for tonight’s special meal, and what
I needed to buy at Vicky Centre Tesco. I’d
already had some thoughts about the subject,
but reckoned it was something interesting to
talk about.

CT then asked us to talk about what we’d
thought about to one or two of our immediate
neighbours in the group (there were over 20
of us at the meeting), and then asked us to
comment on our thinking process. Some people
said they strongly linked their thoughts to
pictures (I pictured both the salmon salad
and the interior of Tescos), others reckoned
they thought about things more in terms of
feelings (which I do a bit too). By this
time the discussion was really taking off,
with contributions from most people there,
and with diversions off into other related

At times, my thought processing tends to go
off at a tangent (lateral thinking is what I
like to call it – I’m generally thinking about
something interesting to add to the
discussion), but most of my family think I’m
illogical when I start talking about
something a bit off the subject. “How did
you arrive at that?” used to be a common
question from them.

You might like to know what went into the
smoked salmon salad. It’s one of Jamie
Oliver’s recipes (which we saw him put
together on one of his TV programmes) ...a
recipe which you can vary to suit your taste.

For two people: hard-boil three large eggs
for about 9 mins (and then cool them down as
fast as possible in running cold water to
stop the egg yolks from turning black). Shell
the eggs and halve them.

Slice up some new potatoes, with their skins
on, and then boil or steam them (you get
better flavour by steaming veg) until they
are tender. This can take up to 18 mins to
do so. Now drain off all the water, and let
the potato cool to down to a warmish
temperature. Well that’s all the cooking done.

Then you start layering everything up...put
a lot of green salad into a large fairly
shallow serving bowl... whatever green
salad you fancy... mixed lettuce leaves,
rocket, baby spinach, watercress, etc, and
then extra salad on top: slices of cucumber,
tomato, radish, red/yellow pepper, spring
onion, etc.

On top of all this goes a layer of potato,
plus halves of egg, and slices of one large
avocado (without the avocado skin). Put over
on top of all this, small pieces of smoked
salmon, and then add a salad dressing of your
choice. We like a sprinkling of the Pizza
Express salad dressing, and then some lemon
juice (juice of half a lemon) sprinkled on
top too. Add a little salt and freshly
ground black pepper to your taste.

We had a glass of some nice M&S Chardonnay
with the salmon. Mrs S is very choosey about
this type of wine – most of it tastes like
cabbage water to her (not to me, I should
add), but she was lucky to find one she likes.
The name on the bottle is Casa Leona and it’s
from Chile. It’s said to be dry, but I think
it’s medium dry. Delicious flavour, somewhat
like Brown Brothers’ Sauvignon Blanc (from
Australia), and I think Mrs C paid about £4
for it (it was on offer). A bloody bargain
for wine of this quality.

Watched some TV as usual in the evening,
catching up on some stuff we’d videoed –
some brilliant ice-skating, interspersed
with snippets of Gillian McKeith’s “You are
what you eat”, which was on this evening … we
went back to the ice-skating when GM got
togged up to inspect someone’s poo. We
missed most of the first part of GM’s
programme, highlights of which we shown in
the second part anyway – a typical habit of
Channel 4 programme makers, that put us off
watching some of their programmes … too much
repetition. We’ve videoed “Shameless” on
Channel 4, to watch later in the week (and
to cut out all the adverts).

Then I did a bit of washing up, and then
typed this blog. So that’s most of what’s
happened today.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reach for the sky

Here's a photo of some roses given to Mrs C
as a thank-you present.....

.....and here is one of my sky photos, taken
through the skylight in the bathroom.

I love looking at the sky and cloud
formations - peaceful and uplifting at the
same time.

A few months ago I read an NLP book on how
to have more fun in life. The author reckoned
that looking at the sky, and/or kite flying
was a great way to lift your mood. She'd
observed that depressed people tend to look
downwards towards the floor, and she advised
her depressed clients to look upwards instead.

This mood-elevating effect is something that
Tolstoy wrote about in his novel, "War and
Peace", when one of his characters wakes up
on the battlefield, to see a lovely sky
straight above him. Inspirational.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fancy a punch-up?

I’ve been thinking a bit more about the TV
drama, “Life on Mars” in the past day or two,
which had themes of football violence and
police violence, and the rivalry between the
two football clubs in Manchester.

February 6th 1958 is a date engraved in the
minds of Manchester United supporters. It was
the date of the Munich Air Disaster. Eight
of the players were killed, Matt Busby the
manager was badly injured and was hospitalised,
and Bobby Charlton was among the survivors.

It was a dreadful time, which I remember well
as a young lad (I was 10 at the time). I was
a supporter as were all my schoolmates, (but
in name only as I’d never been to a match).
I enjoyed playing football at school, and on
and off over the years, but have in fact been
to very few professional matches.

I became disillusioned about being a follower
of any particular club after that air crash,
though I know a lot of people who are ardent

One of my daughter’s ex boyfriends was a keen
Newcastle United supporter, and told us about
his strong feelings of belonging to the club,
as if he belonged to a clan or a tribe, and
his hatred of members of other clubs.
Basically he enjoyed a good punch-up, which
is something I’d avoid like the plague.

I came across this attitude many years ago,
when I went along to CND meetings in Reading
(we lived there for a few years before I went
to Leeds Uni). The vast majority of members
were pacifists, but there was one young member
who really enjoyed a punch-up with the police
at left-wing demos - someone who was an
anarchist and proud to be so. He boasted of
having pinched a policeman’s helmet during one
of these fights, which he kept at home as a
trophy. Well, anarchy pops up from time to
time in the demos we see in London, as does
police violence towards the demonstrators.

What would I do about conflict? Well, I’m all
for a peaceful and fair compromise, rather
than having a punch-up or worse.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cinema & TV & a dream

To brighten up the blog-roll, here is a photo
of some primroses that Mrs C. has planted

I’m starting to feel physically fitter, as on
several weekdays each week, I do a fast walk
into the city centre and back, to attend adult
education meetings and for food shopping too,
and for occasional trips to the cinema with
Mrs C..

In fact we’ve just to the Corner House to see
the biography of Johnny Cash, “Walk The Line”
– brilliant. Fabulous singing and acting by
the leads, played by the hunky Joaquin
Phoenix and the gorgeous Reese Witherspoon.

Last week, we saw Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
(as co-lead / supporting actor to Steve) in
“The Cock and Bull Story”. We both enjoyed it,
especially the banter between Steve and Rob.
The plot deliberately meanders around, in a
similar manner to the book(s), “Tristram
Shandy" ... rather like this blog.

We saw this at the “Broadway Cinema”, which
shows a higher proportion of non-mainstream
films than the UGC or the Odeon chain, and we
stayed on for an interesting talk about both
the film and the book, from the curator of
the Laurence Sterne museum.

Yesterday evening we watched “Life on Mars”
– a somewhat feeble plot, but very watchable.
John Sims playing the detective inspector
flung back in time to the 70s, a thinking cop
who’s used to modern-day policing methods and
not using sexist language in the workplace,
and his boss, played by Philip Glenister,
who’s more street-wise. By working together,
they solve the crime, though the John Sims
character is more clever (like Morse or
Poirot). Somewhat like the two minds of
John Lennon and Paul McCartney coming
together as the Beatles – they produced
better quality music than when they went their
separate ways. Synergy is the word that
springs to mind. The plot was all about
rivalry between the two football clubs in
Manchester, which I think triggered the dream
I had last night.

Later we watched a video of Sheila Hancock’s
family history, which was very interesting.
Good to have a team of genealogists working
for you, and to be whisked off abroad to see
where your ancestors came from or went. I’ve
got a long list of such places I’d like to
visit... Ireland & Scotland, and the West
Midlands for starters, then Ohio in US, where
my great uncle Fred settled down, and New
Zealand too.

Lat night I dreamed about one of childhood
homes (in Cheadle Hulme, near Bramhall Park,
near Manchester) … a dream home for a kid in
many ways, but too far away from my school
friends. It was a huge red-brick Victorian
semi, with woodland down one side of the
garden (mainly large horse-chestnut trees),
and a huge garden at the back (with a
decaying wooden garage, and a wendy house,
where my sister and I used to play – making
mud pies and making imaginary afternoon tea
with a tiny tea set.

One of the few times my dad gave me any
attention as a kid (he spent most of his time
reading books & listening to classical music),
was when he taught me how to ride a bike on
the back lawn. That was great fun. He was a
keen sportsman at his own school and at uni,
but he lost interest in all that in later life
– never took us swimming for example (though
he was the champion swimmer at his school),
and never played football , cricket, or
tennis with us (and never took us to any
matches). We were left to entertain
ourselves, and often we would walk off up to
2-3 miles away, to playgrounds/fields in the
area. I don’t think parents would give their
young kids such freedom today, in case
something bad happened to them.

Coming back to my dream, I was walking down
the street in Cheadle Hulme where the house
was, and walked on another 100 yards/metres
or so, when the street plan changed suddenly
into unknown territory. There was a row of
shops looking somewhat shabby, and then an
open area going downhill. I asked a young
woman how long the shops had been there, but
she had no idea. (They looked as if they’d
been built in the 30s/40s). Well, I woke up
shortly after this, partly as the dream
seemed totally alien to me, and I’d also had
my usual quota of sleep, which is about 6

I’ll carry on with various strands of all
this in my next blog.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

What a grey day!

(I wrote this last night, but it wouldn't
upload properly into Blogger. So I'm
reposting it).

What a grey day! (Do you recall whose catch-
phrase that was?). Drizzly, grey and cold
weather. I’m really looking forward to some
warm Spring sunshine.

I spent this morning with a couple of mates,
playing electric guitar – playing a mixture
of stuff from the old days: Beatles, Dylan,
Herman & The Hermits, Route 66, and lots more.
My guitar is a fabulous Fender Strat (a bright
red Japanese copy). I’ve also got a Gordon
Smith guitar with a more mellow sound,
suitable for playing the electric blues. I’m
not a brilliant guitarist – not as good as my
mates, one of whom is a semi-professional.
We had a great time.

For lunch we had veg soup and bread rolls
(both made by me last night), followed by
some delicious grapes (from Tesco) and half
a pint of my home-brewed bitter.

Mrs C went out this morning and went round to
her mum’s nearby to make some marmalade. She
came back five hours later with a few jars of
it. Nothing quite like home-made marmalade
made with Seville oranges and lemons.

In the afternoon, I nipped into Nottingham to
the Central Library and borrowed three books:
Simon Blackburn’s “Think” – I’m about to join
a philosophy class, and this is the
recommended text for beginners; a fairly slim
paperback guide to using Dreamweaver 4 (I’ve
just upgraded from Dreamweaver 2, and I find
DW4 a lot easier to use); and how to get
started with Powerpoint 2000. Thrilling stuff.

I didn’t feel like doing some Tesco shopping
afterwards (in the Vicky Centre), as there were
long queues at the checkouts, as usual.

I spent part of this evening signing up to
Googlemail (as I’m having problems with Hotmail
and Fastmail). Moving my address lists across
as csv files was easy peasy, compared to what
I used to do, entering one address after another.

We spent the rest of the evening watching TV.
There was an excellent drama-documentary on
the deportation of female criminals from
Britain to Australia in the late 1700s. The
women were encouraged to marry the male
convicts out there already, with view to
their rehabilitation and to have children (to
establish a thriving British colony there).
And we watched “Northern Lights”, recorded
earlier this week – very good also. We’re
fans of Robson Green and Mark Benton. Oh, we
were about to switch off the TV, when “Posh
Nosh” came on, so we stayed to watch it.
Must go and agitate my teeth, now.