Saturday, September 30, 2006

crime drama

Have you noticed how much crime drama there is on TV at
present? It's just as well as we're addicted to the stuff.
At present, we catching up on the episodes we've recently
recorded (mainly to cut out the adverts on commercial TV),
so yesterday for example we watched the first episode of
"Wire in the Blood" and one of "Criminal Minds" - both
excellent... and the day before, we watched an episode of
"Rebus" ... I love Ken Stott's acting and the character
he plays. We're also watching a fairly new drama called
"NCIS", which has some quirky characters in it (including
one who looks like a younger version of Dan Ackroyd).
Mrs C also watches "Midsomer Murders" ... given the
continual high death rate in Midsomer, I think the life
insurance companies will have blacklisted anyone living
there ... and she also likes watching "Without a Trace".

We've given up on "Afterlife" ... we watched an episode
featuring a character called Mr Rat, and thought the
plot was silly. We liked the forensic medicine series,
"Silent Witness", but I thought some of the doctors were
too pro-active in sorting out "who dunnit" ... is it true
that in real life, UK doctors are behaving more like
Patricia Cornwell's Dr Kay Scarpetta, in sorting out
We're also fond of watching James Nesbitt in the gritty
TV dramas he acts in, and Helen Mirren in "Prime Suspect",
which is about to be shown for the last time on our screens
soon. There are several websites all about Dame Helen -
here's one of them if you'd like to see her biography.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


I took lots of photos during our weekend in Staffs ... here
are my best ones. The first is one of several I took of a
couple of geese flying overhead, late one evening. It's not
a particularly brilliant photo, but I'm pleased with the
overall composition. The next two were taken at sunset on
different evenings - there was a wonderful mist on the
fields, as you will see.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

baby news

Well, first of all, we've had some exciting baby news. Daughter
L in London has just had her 20 week scan and has just found out
that it will be a girl. On the downside is the news that the
placenta is slightly low lying, which can be troublesome in terms
of bleeding before the baby's due (and premature labour also).

Her younger sister R, who lives in Nottingham is nearly due - she's
just found out that the baby is in breech postion (head uppermost),
and is back at the hospital clinic today to see if the baby can be
turned around. Failing that, R will have a C.S. next week. She is
expecting a girl too, so we'll have two granddaughters fairly soon.

Mrs C and I have been baby-sitting this afternoon for our niece, who
went off for a break, and to go shopping in town. The baby boy is
now nearly 6 months old, and can almost sit up by himself. I've
already shown you some photos of him on previous blogs.
So we've
been getting in some practice at babysitting.

We had a good weekend in Staffordshire, last weekend. The wettest
day was last Friday, but since then it's been warm and sunny. On
Saturday, we went to see Lord Lichfield's house and gardens at
Shugborough - there was an excellent exhibtion of Patrick's
photos and cameras, and we saw one of the rooms currently used by
the present Lord Lichfield, which looked more lived in (the rest was
good, but was more like a museum/mausoleum). There was one very
funny and affectionate letter from Dame Edna Everage to Patrick in
the photo exhibtion, who had signed herself/himself as "Dame Edna
(Australian Royalty)".

We spent Sunday walking round Lichfield, which is a lovely old
market town, north of Birmingham, and had lunch at Dovestons on
Bird Street, which I can recommend to you ... a lovely sunlit
position, friendly staff and good food.

My main family line orginated in Staffordshire, so I'm aiming to
get back there soon, to look up some of the ancestral haunts and
churches they got married in (in the 1800s). I had some success
when we went to Eyam in Derbyshire, by the way. I got chatting
with a couple of the older residents, who showed me the house
where Laura my great-aunt lived (the family ran a grocery business
there), and I found her sister's grave in the churchyard. St
Lawrence's Church is where Laura married my great-uncle Harry in
1901, so it was good to have a wander round the church too , and
to think about their happy occasion.

PS ... hot news.. R's baby is not for turning (like Mrs Thatcher!).

Friday, September 22, 2006


Here are a few of the sculptures I photographed in the gardens
at Chatsworth last weekend. Mike gives a good description of
them in his blog for last Monday 18 September, if you'd like
more info.. There's a lovely Henry Moore sculpture there, which
I noticed on the way out - a reclining figure in black, which
looked lovely.
I've been thinking how much easier it is for a sculptor to create
a reclining figure than a tall upright one - no scaffolding or a
"head for heights" required for the lower ones. I feel very
nervous climbing up a tall ladder - I've got no head for heights
at all.
Mrs C and I are away for another long weekend - this time we'll
be in Staffordshire. Back Monday. TTFN.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Eglantine Vineyard

Today I visited the Eglantine Vineyard in Costock (which is
south of Nottingham), for a guided tour of the vineyard and a
tasting of several of their home-produced wines. I was with
the wine-tasting group of the U3A -- a group of merry men and
women, who are headed by a wine master (or should I say wine
mistress), Kath Oakley.

It’s been a fabulous sunny day here in the East Midlands –
the kind of warmth and quality of light I’ve enjoyed during a
visit to the French Riviera about 10 years ago – the sort of
bright golden light you get on a warm summer’s evening there –
absolutely gorgeous.

Most of us caught the Number 99 bus from the Broadmarsh Centre
to the top of Bunny Hill, and set off for a mile’s walk down
Ash Lane, passing by some posh country properties (modest-
sized detached homes, each set in 2-3 acres of well-tended
gardens). The tour and wine-tasting were done by the owner
and his wife, in the company of a really cute tabby kitten,
who/which followed us around.

The dry white wine was too dry for me, a bit like elderflower
wine, though it was obviously of good quality. We also sampled
some mead, some cherry wine and an amazing dessert wine, called
ice wine, which I’ve never tasted before – one of those once
in a lifetime experiences for me, as I don’t think I’ll be
buying some (at £15 for a half sized bottle). I don’t usually
like pudding wines, but this one was exceptionally good, with
a concentrated grape flavour.

I came away with yet more photos and a bottle of mead, which
will be a house-warming present for one of our daughters ...
she's moving house within Nottingham soon.

I'll end on three photos I took in the sculpture room at
Chatsworth. The one of the sunbather is remarkably realistic -
I went up to it initially to see if she/it was breathing
(half-wondering if I was being spied on by Candid Camera).
The aero-engine was made by students at Rolls Royce in Derby.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

the aristocrats

A few more photos of Chatsworth for you including the
stunningly beautiful entrance hall, a gorgeous dinner service,
and a cute picture of mum playing with her daughter (two
Georgianas). I've just looked up these two on the family tree
- you will see them in the middle, so this portrait will have
been done in about 1876. If you look at the tree between the
fourth and nineth dukes, you will see a lot of intermarriage.
Over the years I've seen a lot of portraits of aristocratic
women who all looked very similar to Queen Anne - probably as
they all related to one another.
The aristos were lucky that the French Revolution of 1792
didn't spread to the UK, as conditions for the poorest in our
society were dire. I sometimes wonder why it didn't.
P.S. I've just noticed that one of the girl's shoes is missing.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Wow, what a fabulous place! I can well believe that Jane
Austen thought of Chatsworth, when she wrote about Pemberley
in Pride and Prejudice. Room after room full of treasures ..
it was breath-taking.
There are a couple of exhibitions on at the moment - several
large sculptures in the garden (I don't know how many will be
permanent), and an exhibition all about the life of the late
Duke, including some of the works of art he collected. It's
all well worth a visit and spending a day there, as Mrs C and
I did.
I'll post a few of the photos I took, over the next few days.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

web design and Derbyshire

This week I've been working long hours on some web design
for a relative of mine, who is a singer/songwriter. I'm
using Dreamweaver 4 at a fairly amateurish level, and I've
done Google searches for extra bits of HTML code (for
variations on text rollovers, which are quite fun to do,
when I can get them to work).

I find the web design work challenging, stimulating and
entertaining - well, I have said that I've become a nerd.
I'm one of the Merry Nerds of Nottingham.

Mrs C and I are going off to Derbyshire for a very long
weekend, tomorrow. We've invited along a couple of friends,
and we'll be staying in a modernised two bedroomed cottage
with en-suite bathrooms, etc., and we'll be self catering.
This will be the first time we've spent a whole weekend
with friends - well they are more like family members now.
They've been awarded uncle and auntie status by our girls,
and in fact we feel closer to them than our own brothers &

One of the reasons for our trip to Derbyshire, is for me to
do a little family history research. I think I've blogged
this already, but one of my great uncles married a
Derbyshire lass in secret. That was in 1901. She worked in
the family grocery business, based in Eyam, the famous
plague village. So I'll call in some of the shops and pubs
to see if I can find out which shop it was, and possibly
contact any present-day family members.

We've been to Chatsworth a few times over the years, but have
only looked round the inside once. So we plan to do a tour
of the house, and if the weather's good, we'll do one of the
walks around Chatsworth.

One of the best ones we do is from the car park at the
southern end of the park, across the fields just to the west
side of the house, and along the footpath to Baslow village,
where there are various restautants and loos, and then all the
way back again (about a 5-6 mile walk).

When I went with a friend recently, we went first of all to
Edensor, for a light lunch at the village post office, and then
went round the church graveyard where the Devonshire family are
buried. I was surprised to see the grave of JFK's sister,
Kathleen, in the graveyard. She married a member of the
Devonshire family and was killed in a plane crash in France.
JFK is said to have visited her grave during his presidency.
Her mother Rose did not attend the funeral, as K. had married
someone who wasn't a Roman Catholic. Oh dear.

The two of us later walked up the hillside round the back of
Chatsworth to see the lakes on the hilltop, and the views
over the valley towards Edensor. It was a cold but sunny
winter's day, that day, and it became quite foggy. Very

Monday, September 11, 2006

Returning faulty goods to Amazon

I don’t know if you’ve been in the situation of having
to return faulty goods to Amazon, but we’ve had some
difficulties. There’s no problem if you wish to return
faulty stuff within 30 days of purchase – Amazon allows
you to print off a returns address with the postage paid,
I gather.

Our problem was that we wished to return a faulty
coffee-maker to Amazon, which we bought last February.
We’d already had one replacement machine from the
manufacturer and various bits and bobs for the machine,
which continued to give us a lot of trouble. (The
after-sales service from the manufacturer was brilliant
– it was just unfortunate that the two machines we had
were faulty).

Anyway, to return to Amazon, Mrs C and I spent ages
on the Amazon website going round and round the
“Returns Policy” section, emailing them and trying a
phone line, which referred us to the Returns section
on the website.

Later I did a Google search (Good Old Google) and
found a forum, with contributions from other
dissatisfied Amazon customers. Carrying on my Google
search, I came across this Wikipedia entry, with
a couple of UK phone numbers for Amazon. The freephone
one was of no use for us, but the other number got us
through to the Customer Service Department. Hurrah!

5-10 minutes later, Mrs C got a returns address from
the company, and a promise to refund the postage if
the coffee machine was returned to them within 48

Why Amazon should have this 48 hour policy I’m not
sure, as I ended up paying £18.50 to post the machine
back to Amazon, by “Special Delivery” at the Post
Office, whereas I could have sent it “second class”
to arrive within 5 days, which would have cost about
£10 less.

You can imagine my surprise when Mrs C got an email
two days later from Amazon, saying they were refunding
the full cost of the coffee machine and the postage
as well. I was amazed.

In our covering letter with the coffee machine, we did
suggest to Amazon that they should include a phone
number for their customer service department on the
website, which I think would improve customer relations
greatly. We’ve had no reply to that as yet. I wonder
if they will get round to putting the phone number on
the website?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Kirkstall Abbey

I hope you enjoyed today's warm sunshine as much as
we did. It was one of those gorgeous autumn days,
that's great to be outside in. Leeds was at its best
today, with a nice fresh air feel to it.

We went up for the day to visit our daughter S, who
lives in Kirkstall, up the hill from the Abbey. She
did Music at Leeds Uni, and is a classical guitarist.
She does some teaching and performance on the guitar,
and while she's waiting for this work to build up,
she's doing some admin work at the Uni to make ends

We spent the afternoon pottering around the Abbey,
after which we did a short riverside walk to the
huge Morrisons nearby for a little veg shopping.

There were some helpful display notices in the Abbey.
One of them said that the main road (the old A65) used
to run straight through the middle of the Abbey, until
the end wall on the south side was rebuilt in Victorian
times. I was amazed - to think of all the traffic going
through the middle of a church - it ceased being so in
about 1539, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

Below is a view of the main aisle where the road was.
The second photo is of one of the smaller aisles along-
side the main one.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Red eye and other stuff

Daughter L from London is with us this weekend, and we're
off up to Leeds tomorrow for most of the day, to see our
youngest daughter S. More meet-ups on Sunday, as our daughter
B is coming over with her hubby for lunch/dinner (the
terminology depends on which side of the social divide you're
on - how you've been brought up - upper class folk tend to have
dinner in the evenings, whereas lesser mortals eat their
dinners at a more sensible time).

B's baby is due in early October, and she's taking maternity
leave from the end of this coming week. L's baby is due in
Feb, so there'll be lots of chat about babies and all that,
this weekend. Mrs C and I are getting excited at the
thought of being grandparents soon - we'll enjoy looking
after/seeing the kids in the daytime, and will avoid most of
the bad nights. I'll get some more practice taking photos of
children, which I enjoy doing.

I try and avoid using the camera flash when taking photos of
people - I don't like "red eye" or the colour of people's skin
when flash is used - doesn't look natural to me. Having said
that I had several attempts to create the "red eye" effect with
my Digital Rebel camera the other day, taking shots of myself
in a dark room - I failed, so I downloaded a red eye photo from
the internet, instead (for teaching purposes).

I've looked at several ways of treating red eye in Photoshop -
a lot of people recommend brushing on black paint (avoiding the
highlights of course). I think the end result looks dreadful.
I also read of a technique using layers and applying black paint
which basically "desaturated" the red colour. (The mode on the
Layers palette has to be changed from normal to colour, to
obtain this interesting effect).

So I've come up with something simpler (though probably not an
original idea) - zoom in on the red eye, use the polygonal lasso
tool to encircle the red eye (to select it - feather pre-set at
2-3 pixels), desaturate it and then use Levels to slightly
darken the selection. Control + D to remove the marching ants,
and then zoom out. Voila.

I'll post a photo of Baby M, when Blogger will let me. (A day
later and with a lot of fiddling about, I've managed to get this
photo onto the blog).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Don't you just love filling in tax returns?

What have I been up to in the last couple of days? Well,
I've been busy taking lots of photos - over a hundred shots
of family members, flowers, one of our cats, some lilies,
and also some clouds, and then sorting through them all.
I've finished a chunk of admin work for the U3A (the old
-timers club), and today I've made a start on finishing
off Mrs C's tax return for her.

The end of September deadline is looming, for getting tax
returns in (after this date, you have to do all the tax
calculations yourself, which I can't be arsed to do - let
the tax people do it themselves - it's what we're paying
them for). I find filling in tax returns an utter bore -
so tedious finding all the ruddy expense receipts and
interest statements from building societies, etc.. It's
the one thing that puts me off doing some part-time paid work,
eg trading on eBay - the thought of spending hours and hours
completing a tax return every year.

I'm great at procrastinating, like most people -- I'd rather
spend time having some fun blogging, than getting down to jobs
I dislike doing. However, if you give me a deadline, I usually
get the work done on time, even when I leave things to the last
minute - I tend to work well under a modicum of stress/pressure,
self-induced or otherwise.

We've been seeing a bit more of our girls and one of our nieces,
in the past few days. One of the girls (S who lives in Leeds)
spent the weekend with us, so we saw more of her and other
members of the family who came to see her too. I may have
mentioned before that S is a classical guitarist (and performs
at weddings, etc, as well as teaches guitar). She and her sister
E (who plays traditional harp) are planning to team up together
as entertainers. Our other two girls have played violin and
viola for a short time when they were at school, but lost
interest in playing.

I've taken a rather good photo of Miss D, one of our cats -
she just loves lying on top of one of our settees, and has
created a comfy bed for herself. From this perch, she's got
a great view of the garden, so it's her favourite spot.

Friday, September 01, 2006

a few more changes to the layout

Following some helpful suggestions from edt, I spent the best
part of yesterday making some changes to this site. As regards
the thumbnail photos in the side-bar, I have copied Max's
layout with a few minor changes in the coding (hope you don't
mind, Max). I've widened the main text section, and have
narrowed the side-bar, by 50px. It doesn't look much different
on my big screen, but the main text section is 2cm wider.

Overall, I think the site looks neater and less cluttered,
though not as minimalist as the Wordpress format. I'll now have
to write a lot more to fill up all this extra space. :)

G'day from Nottingham

Hi folks. I took this photo from the top of
our house early this morning - the clouds were
just starting to clear - it's a lot brighter
now. I think the clouds look very dramatic
- almost like a Turner storm scene.