Wednesday, November 29, 2006

more baby photos

Yes, it's time to show you a couple more photos of our little
granddaughter, Ava, that I took at our house this afternoon.
She was off colour last week with a bad cold and cough, but
is now almost better, I'm pleased to say. You will see that
she's just started smiling at people.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Expensive phone lines

Expensive phone lines? No, I’m not referring to those for
porn chat lines … I’m referring to those with the prefixes
08457 and 0807, where the businesses that use them make money
out of callers while they’re kept waiting to be served.

“All our lines are busy at the moment.” “There is currently
a wait of ……… 5 minutes … before we will be able to answer
your call. You may wish to call back at a less busy time”.
“Your call is important to us” … i.e. your money is important
to us … or the long rigmarole of selecting the right
department to answer your call, by keying in a succession of
numbers, that you’ll all be familiar with. Even worse is where
the company cuts you off if they’re too busy … “Please phone
back at another time”, and the line goes dead. Another
practice is where they often put in some advertising of one of
their services, while you’re waiting … and you are paying to
listen to it

Don’t you find it irritating, to put it mildly?

A few weeks ago, someone wrote into The Guardian and
suggested searching online to find a cheaper phone number for a
large business. These are often published for people phoning
from abroad.

So if you see phone numbers for London with the prefix +44 207
or +44 208, simply use a 0 instead of the +44.

This worked very well when I contacted National Insurance
about my voluntary pension contributions recently. I got
through to the help desk in record time, but the guy at the
other end was very puzzled as to why I wasn’t calling from
abroad. Perhaps I should have said that I was living in Costa
del Nottingham? Given how the climate is changing here in the
East Midlands, it won’t be long before we’ll be growing
orange, lemon, olive and palm trees … so we won’t have to fly
to Southern Spain or the French Riviera for some decent
sunshine … we’ll enjoy the sunshine here instead.

Sorry to ramble on, but to come back to phone lines again,
I’m always pleased to see a Freephone number, even though the
costs for this are passed on to the customer in the end. I was
amazed how good the service was when I phoned up the BT
Business Phone and Broadband service in the last week or so.
As their lines were busy I was invited to leave my phone number
for a call back from one of their sales staff, which they did
within a few minutes. I phoned them again yesterday for some
advice on free webspace (BT offers 20MB of free webspace with a
business phone line), and was put through to their technical
help desk free of charge – the the people I spoke to were very
helpful and friendly. Brilliant. As you will know BT is fairly
expensive compared with some of the other phone companies, but
it confirms in my mind and from reading a lot of comparative
reports in the press and online, the impression that you get
the service you pay for. BTW, I haven’t got shares in BT.

One Freephone number you might be interested to have was sent
in to The Guardian letters page just over a week ago … for the
TV licensing people. Instead of paying for an 0870 number, you
could try this one instead … O800 0850 133.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I want for Xmas the gift of the gab

Hi folks,
I'm spending a few days at my daughter's house in London,
while Mrs C is attending an intensive course in hypno-birthing
in Wimbledon (at a venue round the corner from here).
Hypno-birthing looks fascinating -- it's all about reducing
the amount of pain a woman experiences in labour, and allowing
her to have a more relaxing/less stressful time. Here is the
website of one of the course's trainers.

Meanwhile I'm doing some DIY (otherwise known as DYI
yourself in) for my daughter. Yesterday I painted a large
ceiling and today I'm going to sand down the rails, skirtings
and a cupboard, in preparation for painting. The ceiling is a
matt brilliant white Dulux emulsion and the walls, etc, are in
Fired Earth paints ... two shades of a very light grey/green...
looks very nice so far. The room is south-facing, so it gets
a lot of light.

I've been listening to a lot of Radio 2 while painting (I usually
listen to either Classic FM or Radio 4)... so I've been listening to
a lot of the golden oldies, and the voices of DJs like Tery Wogan
and Steve Wright. I wonder how on earth does Terry sound so
cheerful and chatty at that time in the morning (7.30am onwards).
Does he drink five mugs of strong coffee before he comes on the
air? Well he is a very charming and funny bloke, with the gift
of the gab.

So if a Fairy Godmother pops in to see me this Xmas, and can wave
her magic wand for me, I'll ask her to grant me some of that gift
of the gab. Not too much, or Mrs C will die of shock.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Last Saturday Night

Last Saturday night, Mrs C and I went to see the Leicester
Symphony Orchestra play a selection of film music, from films
such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (which
was their final piece). It was a sparkling performance - one
of the best concerts I've been to, especially considering
that the players are amateurs or semi-professional. They have
a new conductor, a Polishman called Pavel Kotla, who worked
some magic on them (as did their previous conductor, Nicholas
Daniel,in the last few years).
Why did we go over to Leicester for a concert when there's
always a lot of music on in Nottingham, you may be asking?
Well Mrs C's sister-in-law is one of the orchestral players,
so there are the added attractions of seeing her play, and
meeting up with our Leicester relations for the afternoon and
evening too. So we go to the concerts there, more often than
we do in Nottingham.
We've been going to Leicester for a few years now, and I'm
gradually getting to know the layout of the road network,
which I still find confusing. I used to find Nottingham
difficult to get round too in my early years here, but now
I'm fairly clued up on the road layout. However I still
occasionally get lost in West Bridgford, which is a suburban
maze just south of the River Trent (and the cricket ground).

When we arrived at Mrs C's brother's house in Leicester late
Saturday afternoon, I noticed that the accelerator cable had
snapped while I was reversing the car onto the roadside. This
happened once to me in Leeds, not far from my late mother's
house. Fortunately her local garage men repaired it for me
fairly quickly -- we'd gone up to Leeds for my daughter's
graduation ceremony at the Uni, which was later in the day.
So I knew how to get the car going with using some heavy duty
garden wire to open up the throttle, and with a couple of
minor adjustments, we managed to get back home again at the
end of the day. Good job the roads were almost clear of
traffic by then. The alternative idea would have been to get
Green Flag out to tow us all the way home, which would have
been a safer and the correct thing to do, but we didn't fancy
waiting for the rescue service to turn up. One of our
daughters commented yesterday, that if this had happened to a
modern computerised car, we wouldn't have been able to get
the car going - the computer would have shut everything down.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I badly cut my left hand the other day

About ten days ago I cut a couple of fingers on my left hand.
I was holding a heavy glass vase of flowers at the time --
about to change some of the water within, when the thick glass
base of it sheared off. To stop the rest of the vase and
contents falling to the floor, I caught the sharp edge of it
with my hand. So I managed to slice off a deep layer of skin
off the middle of my ring finger, and made a deeper cut almost
to the bone on my little finger -- partially cutting through
the tendon to my finger tip. Ouch, shit, bugger, fuck!

Blood poured out all over the place, but I managed to stem
the flow, and Mrs C tightly bandaged up both fingers for me.
I spent the next few hours in the A&E Department at Queens,
where I moved from one queue to the next, and eventually had
the larger cut sewn up (there was a large U-shaped flap of
skin flapping about, before the doctor did so).

So since then I've been doing a lot of things one-handed, up
until the last few days -- I'm now back to normal typing
speed using both hands, but I've left the stitches in, as the
cut on the little finger is still gaping slightly between
each of the stitches.

I mention all this as I was surprised how disabling a fairly
trivial injury like this really is. Imagine for a moment
washing your hair at the bathroom sink, with just one hand
holding a jug of warm water -- your other hand out of action
completely -- you can't get into a shower cubicle, as your
poorly hand has got some large bandages on it.

Even just putting on the kettle to make a pot of tea, was
cumbersome, and everything took twice as long to do. I felt
so frustrated - made me feel like "pulling my hair out" -
what's left of it.

Ah well, I'm almost back to normal, thank God.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

what are your basic beliefs?

I felt inspired to write this short piece in Q&A format,
after reading Gordon’s blog of 11 November ...

1. Do you believe there is an after-life?
No I don’t really. It would be interesting if there was,
but I’m not counting on it.

2. And if there is no after-life, what then … ?
....I’ll make the most of this one, and have some
fun in doing so. Life’s too short to sit around
doing nothing, and being miserable.

3. Does life have any purpose/point to it?
I don’t think so, except to procreate.
I remember a comedy film called “The Jerk” with Steve Martin in
it – he joins a circus, with a burning desire to find out what
his “special purpose” in life is ... he eventually finds out
what his special purpose is ... very funny.

4. Do you believe every cloud has a silver lining?
I think with time I’ve become more positive about things, though
my immediate family members might ask for some evidence of that. :)
Basically, I’m a cautious optimist. If someone were to ask if I
think a half glass of wine is half full or half empty, I’m likely
to reply, “Both!”.

Here are some clouds with silver linings for you ….

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sky Mirror

Just over a week ago, on one of those cool sunny days, when
everywhere was bathed in glorious golden sunshine, I walked
into the city centre to photograph the Sky Mirror, which is
just by the entrance to the Nottingham Playhouse. The
Playhouse had a fun thing on for children that afternoon --
face painting and getting dressed up in fancy costumes to be
photographed in... so there was a fair number of kids with
their mums and dads wandering in and out of The Playhouse.
Anyway, I thought you might like to see a few of the snaps I
took that afternoon ...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Banner revamped

I've just spent an hour or so, trying out an idea from Edt to
highlight the text on my Banner photo -- positioning a small
piece of translucent white photo between the text and the
original photo -- for those of you who have Photoshop, it's
easy to reduce the opacity of a layer (to make it
translucent), by tweaking the opacity slider on the Layers
palette. So, many thanks, Edt, for that suggestion. I'd be
interested to hear from everyone if you like the highlighted
text or not.
I don't feel tempted to try out the new version of Blogger,
which involves signing up for a Google account (I'm with
Googlemail already, so I don't fancy having another account
with them). Has anyone tried it and think it's worth
changing over to the new Blogger?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fancy joining the police?

Last week, I was amazed when I saw a young man standing
nearby the Central Library in Nottingham. He was not
very tall (about 5.5 feet high -- 1.68m), and appeared
to be wearing a policeman’s uniform. I looked at him
again – yes, he was a policeman alright. Up until now
I thought all policemen had to be about 6 feet (1.83m)
or more to get into the police force.

I chatted with another policeman in town today about the
relaxation in the requirements for police force entry.
He confirmed that there was no longer any minimum or
maximum height requirement – but there were restrictions
as regards BMI (body mass index) – so no jobs for fatties
then – and people like me who have poor eyesight wouldn’t
pass a medical either – so they don’t want anyone who
looks like Mr Magoo either. The officer told me that the
physical fitness requirement was a laugh – if you can
manage a brisk walk, you’d pass.

I found this online reference as regards eligibility to
join the police, if you’d like to find out more.

Perhaps this is a sign of modern times, when fewer police
officers seem to be patrolling the streets, but zoom round
in cars instead, or spend a lot of their time doing
paperwork, writing up reports on this and that?

I spend a lot of time walking into town and back, and I’m
always impressed by the quite large numbers of traffic wardens
who patrol our city streets, looking out for people who
haven’t paid car parking fees or for their Road Tax, etc..
Even more impressive are those men who buzz around on little
motorbikes about 4 o’clock in the afternoon to clear the main
roads of parked cars – very efficient. However, I was
surprised to read a newspaper headline on a billboard one day
(for the Nottm Evening Post), saying that the traffic wardens
are to be given SAS-style training – what on earth was all
this about, I wondered? Are the officers going to dash about,
zapping offending motorists with stun guns, after lobbing tear
gas canisters into their cars? Or are they planning lengthy
surveillance operations, and then jumping out of vans, wearing
black masks and firing off machine guns to give motorists a

I think calling out the Armed Response Team would be more
effective – armed with paint guns to frighten the life out of
the b-----s, and to splatter them with paint. We could also do
with them to brand the litter louts (mainly schoolchildren),
who toss their sweet wrappers and other litter onto our
streets most days of the week.

Oh dear, I’m beginning to sound like Victor Meldrew, who
moaned to his wife about the Twix wrappers he’d collected from
his front garden. “And where did all these come from? .......
Planet Twix, I suppose!”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eva Cassidy

Does anyone watch “Tops of the Pops 2” on the telly? For
those of you who don’t watch British TV, it’s shows what
was “Top of the Pops” in the last 40 years or so – it’s
like a trip down memory lane. I don’t usually watch it,
but a few nights ago, Mrs C and I were watching little bits
of it in the half hour it was on – little bits of it, as
we were in fact watching something else on our video
machine most of the time (pausing the programme to skip over
the adverts, as you do).

Anyway, right at the end on came Eva Cassidy singing “Over
The Rainbow”. Well we just sat and listened to her – she
is/was one of my all-time favourite singers – she was a
genius – I’m amazed how she could play so well on her guitar
and sing so beautifully at the same time. My fingers go to
jelly and slide all over the place if I attempt to play
guitar in front of people –- she made it look so easy.

Another great song I like is her cover version of Sting's
“Fields of Gold”, which I think surpasses the original -
I’ve just read that Sting praised her version of it.

You will probably know that she died of malignant melanoma
ten years ago – on 4 November 1996 in fact, at the young age
of 33 – very sad for her family and friends. I’ve been
reading a bit about her on this website (and have followed
its links to various newspaper articles), including how she
managed to carry on performing when the cancer had spread
into her bones. How she did so with a fractured hip and the
cancer in one of her arms also, I don’t know – it shows how
much she loved playing and singing.

Malignant melanoma is the nastiest of all the skin cancers
as it’s the most aggressive -- it spreads rapidly before you
know it. I looked up the death statistics recently – 1600
people died of it in England & Wales in 2004 .. these deaths
might have been avoidable if the condition had been diagnosed
and treated earlier. There is loads of info about it on
Google – here’s a link to the Google page. So if you see
anything suspicious on your skin, get it checked out asap,
and always put on some protection against the sun.
Here endeth the health warning.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tweaking the Blogger code

As you may have noticed, I've been tweaking the colour of the
text of this blog and the size of the headings for my posts,
and I've added a new photo of myself taken yesterday by one
of my nieces. My overall aim is to make the blog easier on the
eye, and hopefully more readable and attractive.

My regular viewers will know that it started off as the navy
blue Blogger site, which looked horrible (too dark) on other
people's computer screens. I've been tinkering with the
template in the last year or so. I'm a newbie to HTML code -
I knew very little when I started out, so I'm very grateful
for all the help I've had from more experienced people like
Max, Natalie, Edt, Cliff and Alan. I've found reading blogs
like Gordon's very helpful too, and I've felt inspired by
a lot of the blogs I've listed alongside (Andrea's in

If any of you would like to borrow some of my ideas, I'd be
very pleased if you did -- most of them were borrowed from
other people anyway. There is a very easy way of looking
at anyone's HTML code (one of my daughters showed me how to
do this), and that is to do a right mouse click on the web
page, and then select "View Source" - so you can have a closer
look at the coding for the layout or the colour scheme, for

I've mentioned before that I've been using a dummy Blogger
site as a test-bed for new ideas, and also as a half-way
house for putting other people's logos/photos on (so I can
then transfer the new Blogger photo codes onto this site).
It's just a fairly simple matter of tweaking the Template
on your dummy or real site, subsituting the HTML code here
and there, say with a new colour scheme or with new layout

By the way, if you wondering how to create a Flickr badge
... go onto your main Flickr photo page, look towards the
bottom of the page for "Site Map", and select it. At the
bottom of the first section entitled "You", just click on
the "Create a Flickr badge" and follow the instructions.
At the end of the process, you will be able to copy the
HTML code and then paste it into your template.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I've been tagged!

Well, I’ve been tagged by Katt, who wants to know a bit more
about me and my family. So I wonder what you, Dear Reader,
would like to know?

A bit about my brother and sisters?

My brother is 7 years older than I am, and so grew up well
ahead of me and had his own circle of friends, with whom he
spent more time than with me. He is a retired consultant
physician, living in Yorkshire, and is now spending a lot of
time with his family and with his model railway.

I have two younger sisters, one of whom is about 2 years
younger than me, and who is now in the top brass at the
European Court of Law in Strasbourg. We played a lot together
as kids, but see less of each other now. My other sister lives
in Nottingham, but I don’t see much of her owing to a major
rift in family relationships about 10 years ago. Fortunately,
things are now improving between us.

My parents died some years ago – my dad in ’92 and my mum in
’03. I went through long periods of sadness, but now look back
on them with happier thoughts and feelings – mainly about the
good times we had together, and the funny things that happened.

The happiest time in my life?

Well, the happiest time was when I fell in love with my
gorgeous wife-to-be, and her with me.

My four lovely daughters?

Their ages now span from 25 up to 32. The oldest trained as
a stage fight director and now teaches stage fighting. She’s
also very musical and plays the piano and traditional harp –
the latter professionally. Number two works on a computer
help-line desk, and has business and fashion design degrees.
She's expecting a baby in February. Number three has just
had her baby (Ava) and is taking time off her job as an
environmental health officer. Number four plays and teaches
classical guitar, and while she’s building up her private
work, she’s also doing admin work also

I see a lot of our girls, and feel close to them.

I’ll stop there, as I’ll reveal more about myself as time
goes by.