Saturday, March 31, 2007


What have I been up to in the past few days?
Well, last Wednesday I took our car in for repairs -- the

ignition heating coils of the diesel engine had to be replaced
as the engine was misfiring. To my surprise, I found out that
the garage business will be closing in about 18 months' time.

It was a small back-street business in Mapperley, run by a
father and son, until the son left the business all of a sudden,
to work elsewhere. His dad has looked at various options,
such as selling it as a going concern and renting out his
premises to incomers, but in fact it will be more profitable to
sell off the property as development land for town-houses.
I'll be sad to see them go, as they've been very helpful and
have provided an excellent service -- a lot better than some
of the larger service garages where you never get to meet
the mechanics, and where you tend to pay a lot more for
work which can be of variable quality.

I've spent a few days sorting through mountains of paperwork
in this study/office/bedroom -- three large boxes of clutter
still left to sort out. Mrs C wants to use a spare table
alongside me to do some sewing (by machine), so I've had
an incentive to get on and make some space for her. I'll carry
on with the sorting when we get back from a week's holiday
in North Devon, that we're having next week.

I spent a good part of yesterday with a couple of my mates
in Nottingham. Every month we get together for a "jammin'"
session, playing electric guitar and singing some of the golden
oldies (from the early 60s onwards)... some of the singing
and guitar playing gets very loud. Although I've been playing
guitar since 1989, my playing is crap compared with my chums,
but they don't seem to mind my rubbish playing and my chatter.
I do enjoy our get-togethers, and our chat during and afterwards
-- we go off for a pint and a light lunch afterwards (usually to
the Sir John Borlasse Warren, if we're playing at Steve's). I've
mentioned this before, but the words "Last of the Summer
Wine" spring to mind, when I think about us.

I've been looking into RSS feeds, and I think I've managed to

enable this site for RSS ... would one of you let me know if
my RSS is working? I've had a look at Google Reader and
Bloglines for reading aggregate feeds. I wasn't very impressed

with GR, as it appears to let me see only their selection of
-- I want to personalise a reader for my own blogroll.
So I've had a look at Bloglines instead. I've yet to set
it up
properly (email verification didn't come
through last night, so
that will have to wait until we get back
from holiday).

My next blog will be after we get back from holiday (c. 9 April).

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The trial of Tracy Barlow

The nations' Corrie fans will be dashing home this evening to
see the start of Tracy Barlow's murder trial... she'll be in the
dock, facing the charge that she murdered her partner, Charlie.
And we all know the truth, don't we ... she is a lying bitch,
and Charlie deserved what happened to him. He was a
controlling bastard, and was having affairs behind her back.
However, you might say, why didn't she do the sensible thing
and just leave him?

I watch about one in ten episodes of Coro, but Mrs C watches
them all ... I usually sit in on more exciting episodes, like last
Monday night when Tracy spilled the beans to her mum,
Didderie (who'll be in the witness stand this Friday as a
character witness for her).

Poor old Didderie ... she's had to endure a whole series of
set-backs in her personal life, especially having to witness
her daughter Tracey change her bodily appearance four times.
And her choice of men ... would you chose Ken to live with?
I think it's about time she gave up her fags and went on a
course of Prozac -- she seems permanently depressed to me.

And what about the outcome of the trial?
We know know that the actress, the gorgeous Kate Ford, is
leaving the series this month after a 4 year stint of playing
Tracy. So how will they "finish her off"?

What do you think the outcome of the trial will be?
If she is found by the jury to be guilty as hell, will she be ...
1. sent to be hanged (by special permission from Downing
2. sent off to live on a convict ship for life?
3. sent off to Strangeways Prison in Manchester for "life",
but in fact will reappear on our screens in 10 years' time,
having metamorphosed again like Doctor Who?
If she's found guilty of manslaughter, we'll see her back sooner
on the set of Coro, of course.

But will she be let off, as Mrs C thinks might happen? Will the
jury believe her sob story that she killed Charlie in self-defence,
and be let off with a mild caution not to kill someone again.
And then, will she say to her family, "Sod you lot, I'm off to
Australia ... I've been offered a part in Neighbours." ... so we
as the audience don't have to put up with all the prison
visits, and Didderie's misery?

Another possible twist in the plot -- will someone in the public
gallery get up during the trial and shoot Tracy dead?

What do you think?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Phishing trip

Mrs C and I have just had a scary time … we’d found some
emails about the purchase of certain items by a PayPal account,
which was linked to one of Mrs C’s email addresses …. an
email address which might have been obtained from a website
I’d set up for Mrs C.

The first few emails were all about attempts to hijack my

wife’s PayPal account, by allowing someone else to link in his
email address into her PayPal account. Then there were emails
about two eBay purchases using the same account, and then
2 days ago there was yet another email about someone
having bought an Acer laptop using Mrs C’s PayPal account
…. a bill for $450 dollars was coming our way.

On these emails, there were links to PayPal or eBay, which
we were invited to use if we disputed any of these purchases.
However, when I tried clicking on the links, none of them
worked. And some of these emails were interspersed with
warnings about phishing attempts in black bold print. The
emails from PayPal looked very genuine.

I was starting to feel panicky at this point. I tried entering
Mrs C’s email address and her known passwords into the
official Paypal site, but I got nowhere. My own Paypal site
showed no recent activity at all. Had I at some time in the
past set up a PayPal account for Mrs C. with a password I'd

In desperation, I phoned the emergency contact number at
PayPal and told the guy at the other end what had happened.
He was very helpful and sympathetic. He told me very quickly
that there was no PayPal account linked to my wife’s email
address, and that the only PayPal account linked to our
credit card was my own. He went on to say that we’d been
victims of an elaborate phishing attempt – to get PayPal
account details out of us.

So the moral of this story is don't put up on a website an
email address that's linked to one of your bank accounts.
I feel less inclined to use online banking in future, other
than just checking my main bank account details.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dying for a pee

There is something rather comical about urinary incontinence,
for anyone who doesn’t suffer from the condition – but it’s
not so funny for those who do. I’ve yet to “lose control”, but
I’ve reached the age where I can’t go very far from a loo if I
drink a cup of strong coffee, which is one of the things I
love to do.

Our daughter L lives in South Wimbledon, and it takes me

3 ½ hours to drive down there from Nottingham, driving at
a leisurely speed and with one or two loo stops on the way.
We go by the M1 most of the way, and go round London
past Heathrow on the M25, and go off at Junction 10 up the
A3 to Wimbledon.

The trouble with the last stretch on the M25 and A3 is that
there are no loo stops – and this part of the journey can take
us about an hour, if there are no major traffic jams.

If I drink coffee on the way down to London, then I end up
stopping off at all the service stations and then dashing
into L’s house for a pee at the other end. I can drink tea
with no such effects – I can manage with just one loo stop
for the entire journey of 160 miles.

So yesterday morning about an hour before we set off home
from London, I made the mistake of having a cup of coffee.

You might be able to guess what happened next … by the
time we arrived at the Junction 10 on the M25, I was getting
desperate to find a loo. The traffic was very heavy by this
time, and on the overhead noticeboards were warnings
about a major accident on the M25 with road closure … so
we also needed to stop to get the road map out of the car
boot. I sped on, on the A3, and carried on south towards
Guildford to find the nearest lay-by.

Fortunately I was able to stop the car a few minutes later,
alongside a woodland area with lots of rhododendron cover.
Unfortunately for me, I stumbled on some rough grass and
sprained my right ankle, and then had to jump across a
steeply-sided ditch to get into the woodland, and then do
the same on the way back.

Though I’d got instant relief in one sense, I ended up with
prolonged pain in my ankle for the rest of the journey home.
I’m still hobbling around today (staying indoors today, for
obvious reasons).

Oh well ..... c’est la vie.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another funeral

I've said in a recent post how much I hate going to funerals.
Yesterday we all went to my brother-in-law Paul's funeral in
Derby. It was at a lovely woodland setting at Markeaton
Crematorium, and the service was led by a humanitarian speaker
with lots of contributions from family and friends. One of his
daughters, who is a professional singer, put on a CD of two of
her songs -- it was all very moving -- I cried a lot. By the end
of the day, I felt as if I'd been put through a mangle.

I feel grim just writing the word crematorium -- a horrible sad
feeling -- associated with my dad and mum's funerals, and the
terrible massacre of millions of Jewish people in the Holocaust.

And I've been thinking about the finality of it all ... a closing of
doors or a chapter of a book, in my life ... and having to move on.

PS .. my next post will be in a few days' time, as we're taking
our daughter L and her baby down to London tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Discounted wines at Asda

Some of our favourite white and red wines are on offer at
Asda/Walmart at the moment. I've made two shopping trips
to our
local branch to stock up on them.
I'm not in the habit of making lists of things, but here are
the ones I picked up ...

Gallo family (California) Turning Leaf Chardonnay & Merlot
Casillero del Diablo (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc
& Lindeman's (Australian) Shiraz, Bin 50

All of them in the £4 - £4.50 price bracket.
We opened a chilled bottle of the Turning Leaf Chardonnay
night -- absolutely gorgeous.

We do drink some South African & Argentinian wines,
occasionally an Italian Pinot Grigio, rarely a New Zealand
white (they're expensive over here), and extremely rarely
a French red wine. We find the quality of the latter is not
as assured as many of the Australian reds in our price range,
which is around £5 a bottle.

I attended a wine-tasting group for the best part of a year,
and the wine master brought along 8 bottles of expensive
French red wines for us to try over 2 sessions. Only one of
them was drinkable (that was the Chateauneuf du Pape at
£12.50 a bottle) ... we were all very disappointed.

Have a nosey around Mozy

Have you heard about Mozy dot com?

Well, have a nosey around Mozy.

It offers 2GB of free online storage space., two gigabytes.

It’s easy to sign up to it, and it’s secure. You have to have
a Broadband connection and a modern Windows system
(Win 2000-XP). It was highly recommended by the FT’s IT
correspondent, Paul Taylor, on 9 March.

Installation and the initial back-up took me about 30 minutes,
and now Mozy backs up all my important files every hour or
so (automatically and quietly in the background). It will back
up your Outlook Express email site (email addresses and
email content), and your Favourites list on the internet
(all of which we lost when my wife’s laptop was hit by a

There are online instructions on how to restore your info,
if you were to lose it, and you can specify the time from
which you’d like to restore your info.

What could be in it for Mozy to be offering so much free space
without any adverts? Well I suppose they’re hoping that if
you like it for home use, you’ll sign up and pay for its
business use.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Life without watching TV?

Can you imagine what life would be like without watching
live TV sport, endless episodes of “Ready, Steady, Cook”,
“Kitchen Nightmares”, “Big Brother”, all those soaps, and
the occasional good drama on the tele like “Life on Mars”?

What would life be like without it? Would life be worth living,
I wonder? And what would you do instead – have a
meaningful chat with your partner (heaven forbid!) – listen
to the radio even – or perhaps read a book?

Mrs C asked me yesterday, “How about we give up watching
the TV, and watch the occasional rented DVD and listen to
the radio instead?” This is what we’re debating at the
moment in our house. Two of our girls were in on the
debate. S who lives in Leeds in a tiny one-bed flat, has
already given up watching TV. She watches a DVD now and
then on her laptop, and listens to her radio. L says she’d like

a TV in her house in London (her last one broke down) – she
likes listening to the radio, but she misses the visual appeal
of the TV screen. Just by co-incidence she’d just watched an
episode of “Friends” where one of the characters facing a
similar situation without a TV said, “Well where would you
point all your chairs towards, then?” Nearly all our comfy
chairs point towards the TV set, so that everyone can get
a good view.

We’d save some money too – no need to pay for a TV licence

and the monthly bills from Virgin for our Freeview box.

Mrs C catches up on missed episodes of “Coro”, “Desperate

Housewives” and “Midsomer Murders” in the evenings, while
I’m on this computer upstairs. And when I do come
downstairs at about 9pm to be sociable, I often fall asleep
in front of the TV as there’s little on the box at the moment
that I find interesting.

I’ve read in the newspaper IT columns that the commercial

TV station bosses are getting very worried about the
decreasing numbers of people watching TV, (and their
adverts in particular)…. and that they’re worried about the
increasing use of the internet/DVDs to watch movies.
Perhaps we’ll be joining the trend?

This morning I asked Mrs C if she'd like me to record both

episodes of "Coro" for her, while she's out tonight. :)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

We've never had it so good

So said Supermac in 1957. This was paraphrased by Trog the
cartoonist (after the Profumo affair) as "We've never had it
so often".

Today's blog is all about baby boomers
...yes, I'm one of them, and yes, I've never had it so good.

As you will all know, there was a baby boom just after the war,
WW2. So there's a whole generation of us, who've lived
through the exciting 1960s .. the decade of the Beatles and
the Rolling Stones, of flower power and the pill... etc, etc.
And now we're all about 60, most of us thinking about retiring
from work soon, though I was lucky in being able to retire

The baby boom generation is a recurring news item in the
press and on the TV, and the current worry is that the
pensions crisis will worsen as more and more of us retire, and
will continue worsening in the years when you, yes you, will
become pensioners. As usual it boils down to money, and
arguments as to who’s going to pay for it. Blair takes the line
that it’s going to be up to the individual rather than the state
who is going to pay, so a lot of you will be obliged to carry on
working until you drop dead. The state pensionable age will be
extended further and further into the distance, and the state
pension when you get it won’t be worth much either. So the
Blair message appears to be – start saving now for your old
age, or carry on working into your very old age, or be

I mention all this as there was a very upbeat programme on
BBC4 on Monday night all about the baby boomers: “Are we
having fun yet?” It featured several retired folk who were
really enjoying themselves – affluent middle class people
who were off “skiing” here and there. One of them was
skiing on a Harley Davidson motorbike, bombing down country
lanes, and another was skiing/windsurfing on the South West
coast. Other people were skiing in Southern Spain, enjoying
the warmth and life with all the retired Brits living out there.

To ski is to “spend the kids’ inheritance” of course. Sell up
your posh home in London and spend it on a home or two
elsewhere, where it’s warmer and less expensive to live, and
spend the rest of your money on having some fun. That’s
the "in thing" to do at the moment. I know of several
instances where elderly couples have been“impoverished”
by having to spend their savings on providing care for one
of them, who’s become physically or mentally disabled. If
you’ve got savings over £8000, then the surplus has to be
spent on providing such care, before the state will step in
and help out financially. So what happens when there’s a
large bill to pay for re-roofing the house? Selling up and
moving elsewhere becomes the only option (unless you’ve
got wealthy children to help you out).

So it’s not surprising that younger retired couples feel that
they might as well go on a spending spree rather than save
their money for future years.... money that would be used up
otherwise by paying for nursing home care. Some homes will
charge in the region of £24k a year to look after one elderly
person, so those life-time savings would soon disappear.

To come back to the TV programme, it was well put together,
but there was nothing new in it for me. In fact I went off to
sleep in the middle of was sooo exciting. I woke up
towards the end, just when the programmer was saying in a
very lively way something like, “It's amazing how the baby
boomers are bursting with energy, and are full of zest for life”.
Mrs C and our daughter L burst out laughing at me, as I woke
up at that very moment.

We had the usual comic banter afterwards. I said, "Oh, I
missed the last bit of that", whereupon Mrs C quipped,"Most
of it, in fact!". "Oh no, surely not ... only about 10 minutes."
"More like 40 minutes", said Mrs C. "Bursting with energy and
full of the zest of life ??!"

Post re-posted to remove an unwelcome comment (link to a
porn site).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

JC having a power-nap

"The baby boomers are
bursting with energy and
are full of zest for life".

Oh, yes?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

changes to Flickr accounts

I've just been on my Flickr site, and have pruned down the number
of my photos on it (leaving on what I think are my better ones).

I've just noticed that Flickr has imposed a deadline of 15 March for
everyone still using their old method of signing in. Basically you
have to sign up for an Yahoo ID, with or without a Yahoo email
address (access this once you're on the Flickr site by going through
"Your Account". Then you have to activate the Yahoo ID via the
email address you gave, and then you have to go back onto Flickr
to merge both email addresses (the new Yahoo one and the other
one). What a rigmarole.

If you don't do this by 15 March, your Flickr account will be frozen,
and you'll have to start another one if you wish to continue.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Good and bad news

First of all the bad news -- my brother-in-law, Paul died a few days
ago of a rare wasting disease, (a bit like Parkinson's disease). He
became totally bedridden 2-3 weeks ago, and rapidly went downhill
- he couldn't move or speak, much to the frustration of his family
and other carers, and of course, of Paul himself. I think it's
terrible to be trapped inside a useless body, being unable to express
any thoughts or feelings -- it's a living death.

In some ways it was a relief that he gradually faded away peacefully
- his breathing became erratic and then much slower, until it

He would have been 60 this week -- he was a few months older
than myself. He's "left behind" his wife and two daughters, all of
whom were by his bedside when he died. Very sad.

He and his wife requested that he be nursed at home in his final
months of life - and it's thanks to Derby Social Services, the carers
they provided and to the Community Nursing Service, that he was
looked after so well at home.

The funeral has been delayed owing to some bureaucratic
nonsense, but we now know that it will be Wednesday next week.
Paul had planned his funeral well in advance, and requested that
everyone should dress for the occasion not in black, but in bright
cheerful colours! What a brilliant idea -- asking people to turn up
in what will look like fancy dress.

Now where did I put my Dame Edna outfit?

The good news and what I feel is an antidote to all the bad news
I've had, is that our two granddaughters are bouncing with health.
India and her mum are still with us (as her dad is working abroad
a lot), and we also see a lot of Ava and her mum too -- brilliant
photo-opportunities for me, and well as being able to cuddle and
entertain them. I'll put a couple of photos of them on an
"adjacent" post. I've taken both photos in slightly subdued natural
light, which is my favourite light.

Little Ava and India (asleep)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Of course, there's Life on Mars!

How could I forget that brilliant TV detective series, Life on Mars?
Poor old DI Sam Tyler -- sent back in time to 1973, when
apparently CCTV didn't exist, well not on the city streets anyway.

I find the plots are somewhat feeble and predictable, but it's great
to watch -- I certainly feel that I'm back in 1970s Britain, while I'm
watching, and I think the acting is great.

Thinking about space exploration, and sending a probe or a sniffer
dog (a Beagle) all the way to Mars -- I can understand scientists
getting a buzz out of looking at some samples of rock or dust sent
back from Mars -- but who on earth would ever want to visit such a
hell-hole! Life would have to be utterly intolerable here, for me to

set off on a voyage into outer space.

If I were a spaceman, I can imagine that it would be fairly easy to
eat and drink, but how would I go about having a pee or a poo,
without it going all over the place? And how does a spaceman wipe
his bum afterwards? Does he have to sit in a poo-filled nappy
parts of the flight -- or is he catheterised in some way?

I'm sure these topics would be suitable for a future episode of Blue
Peter, a children's TV programme, as kids like adults are curious to

find out about these things. They'd no doubt like to know more
about the famous Royal wee and the Royal poo -- are they the
same as
those of us, their loyal subjects? And which brand of bog
roll do the Royals
like to use -- and does the bog roll have a label
on it, saying
"By appointment to Her Majesty The Queen"?

Does the Queen
have lav attendants, I wonder? ... Knights of the
Bogs, processing up
and down the corridors, in ceremonial costume?
I can't imagine her ladies-in-waiting having to don rubber gloves to

set about scrubbing the Royal loos, or popping out to Tesco Metro
for a can of air freshener.

Sorry about all this ... I'm rambling again.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Yes, there is water on Mars!

Yes folks, it's now been proved, there is water on Mars -- Tippler
spotted it today. I wonder if they'll find any life on Mars, too?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

anti-virus software

As regards anti-virus software, I've just read an interesting article
in the April 07 issue of "Computer Shopper". This was written by
Simon Edwards who has carried out extensive tests on various
programs you can buy or download for free.

Of the 2 free ones tested, AVG was found to be better that Avast,
and of the commercial ones, he thought the best buy was
Steganos Antivirus 2007 (which performed better than AVG).
I installed Avast on Mrs C's computer, but now I'm thinking about
using AVG/Steganos.

Here are the links to the AVG and Steganos sites ...

Monday, March 05, 2007

That Girl is back in town

Yes, I'm very pleased to see that That Girl has returned to the
blogosphere. She won the 1996 Irish Blogs Award for the best
personal blog, and deservedly too, I think. If you wish to read

some of her high quality writing, have a look at her blog for
26 February, "If you knew you had only a year to live, what would
you do?", and a piece she wrote on 26 March 06 about the death
of her father ten years earlier, both of which touched me.

To rephrase the last few words more accurately, I should have said
that I felt touched by TG's writing, to personally own that feeling
-- you may be aware that people or happenings can't make you
feel a certain way, it's more the case of how you personally feel
about them. Your brother or sister might feel differently about the
same experience, which is certainly the case as regards some of
what happened in my past family life.

Reading TG's blog today reminds me that on the way back in our
car from a concert in Leicester, last Saturday, we stopped off a few
times to look at the lunar eclipse. It was a freezing cold winter's
evening as you will remember, and the sky was clear with a
wonderful view of the moon and the stars.

I don't know if you did this as a kid, but sometimes I would pop
a Smartie in my mouth and let the sugar coating and colouring
dissolve, before prising open the outer casing with my tongue/teeth
to eat the yummy chocolate inside. Well the moon looked like a
well-licked Smartie to me, like a luminous button in the sky.

Another six years to go until the next eclipse....

Friday, March 02, 2007

My brother’s funeral

It was a cold and grey day in Yorkshire yesterday, with
intermittent light rain. A sombre day for a funeral, reflecting how
we all felt. Mrs C and I went with two of our four daughters. (The
ones with babies stayed at home).

We arrived half an hour early (in my daughter Em’s car), at Nab
Wood Crematorium, and we sat in the car chatting, while more
car-loads of people arrived, a lot of them strangers to us. And then
with impeccable timing the funeral cars arrived, passing swiftly by
us. I cried when I saw Peter’s coffin with a fabulous wreath of
multicoloured flowers stretched out on top of it. Peter’s family all
got out of the black cars, the grown-ups all dressed in black – I felt
as if I was watching a Mafia funeral.

The service went very well - the two principal speakers were Peter’s
ex-brother-in-law and his eldest son. They spoke about their
sadness and their fond memories of Pete, including some very funny
things Pete had said.

My two sisters arrived towards the end of the service (they’d been
held up in worsening traffic chaos after a bad accident on the M1,
which we’d seen earlier). My sister L. read out a very short poem
written by our late mother – I think the title of it was, “When the
clock stopped”. Time had stopped for both her and Peter.

We stayed on for two social gatherings afterwards, the first at
the Oakwood Hall Hotel, and the second at Pete’s house for an
evening meal, so we could chat a bit longer to various family

The whole day felt surreal to me – I felt nervous at the start
(feeling dreadful as if I were going to the dentist for an extraction)
…. very sad during the service, and later felt more cheerful when
chatting to everyone, and seeing all the young children (our great
nieces and nephews) running around. It was an emotional roller-
coaster ride for me - I felt exhausted when we got back to

Our last family get-together like this was four years ago, at my
mum’s funeral, such is the closeness of this side of my family.
My mum would have been 93 this month, and was the one person
who kept us all together, in terms of letting everyone know what
everyone was doing – she was the go-between for all of us.

How I hate funerals.

And then as I’m the next oldest of the four kids in my family, it’s
most likely my turn to die next. So the next funeral I go to, might
be my own. What a cheerful thought.