Thursday, May 31, 2007

A couple of blogs

Two of the many blogs I like looking at are Catriona's photoblog
and Lorianne's who has just put her blog onto Wordpress.
Have a look at Catriona's photos of Tokyo, which she posted up
throughout May ... they look fabulous. I'm not very good at taking
street scenes at night -- hers are brilliant. She's recently been
"elected" to the Photoblog dot org's Hall of Fame, which she's very
pleased about, and which I think is well deserved.

Lorianne lives and works in Boston, USA, and I think she's got
a marvellous writing style. Have a look at her blogs for last
Friday and Saturday, where she writes about the nature of blogging,
and where she has posted some multi-facetted photos, which are
interesting to look at and think about.

PS .. Mrs C and I will be away on holiday in Lancashire next week --
we're hoping the weather will improve. I should be back to blogging
by about 10 June. Talk to you soon.
PPS ... Lorianne tells me that she lives & works in Keene, New Hampshire,
which is 2 hours away from Boston.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

cola drinks and old tea bags

I was intrigued by some celebrity gossip in last weekend's press -
a celeb whose name I forget, recommended using a cola drink as a
toilet cleaner. Well, what d'you know!

I've long known that leaving an old copper coin overnight in a bowl
of cola brings it back to its former shiny state, so I've often
wondered what a drink of cola might do to the insides of my gut.
Drinking some cola which has been allowed to go flat, can help
people with diarrhoea, so apart from its water and sugar content,
some other ingredient may be killing off the bacteria/virus.

Thinking of the old saying, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness",
perhaps Inner Cleanliness is too?

Coming back to cola's efficacy in removing toilet stains, I thought
I'd Google this and see what would come up's one of the many
articles on the subject.... an amazing number of uses for the stuff,
though the author of this particular article refutes some of the
claims of what cola might do.

I also wonder if anyone has done some research into how powerful
different brands of cola drink are, for a general purpose cleaner.
Would a cheapo brand clean a toilet as effectively as one of the
market leaders? If so, I'll stop buying bottles of bleach to pour
into the loo, and buy some "value" cola instead.

Oh, I've just found a similar use for used tea bags on Martin
Lewis' site. I wonder how they work, as old tea leaves/bags
tend to stain my sink a brown colour.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What a load of rubbish

Some of you will have heard that our Labour Government is proposing
stricter control over what we throw away, and will introduce fines
for people who refuse to recycle their household waste properly.
David Miliband, Secretary of State for the Environment, announced
this in Parliament last week. The problem being is that at the rate
we’re going, all our landfill sites will be full in 7 years’ time.

I’m all for recycling as much as possible, but I think Milliband
and his civil service team haven’t thought it through properly.

I think his general approach is too punitive, and unworkable. Is it
right to impose a fine if someone’s bin has been filled with
inappropriate rubbish by a neighbour or vandal. How do you sort out
who’s rubbish is who’s, in communal bins for people all living in one
house or block of flats? Would you fine an elderly person, who’s got
senile dementia? How are the binmen going to segregate one household’s
bin load from another, by the time it reaches the sorting station?
Or are we going to have on-street inspections of all our rubbish,
before it enters the refuse lorry?

And then there’s the huge problem of what to do with the food waste.
From reading The Times last Saturday, I gather we’re going to be
supplied with small slop buckets, to keep in our kitchen, and then
use these to fill larger bins … imagine the stench of having to
clean these and the flies, in mid-summer heat. Well, it’s been
suggested we could wrap our food waste in newspaper before binning
it, or put the waste down our kitchen food grinders – that’s OK for
some, who’ve got a double kitchen sink and grinder already installed.

For 15 years, Mrs C and I lived with another family in a large house
on the outskirts on Nottingham – 4 adults, six girls, and loads of
pets plus a few farm animals, and bees … almost doing “The Good Life”.
We had a slop bucket for food waste, which went onto a smelly heap
in our garden (some distance from the house), which was visited by
rats and mice, flies and our dog for their daily snacks. We didn’t
compost it properly I admit, but even so, we couldn’t have easily
kept vermin or our dog at bay.

Well, cleaning out the slop bucket almost daily for a household of
10 people wasn’t very pleasant – I would feel almost sick at times
doing it, and if someone emptied it without cleaning it properly
before re-use, there would be a build-up of a slimy, smelly residue
at the bottom and on the sides of the bucket, often growing mould
and fungus, which was difficult to scrape off – yuck! (Hope you’re
not eating at the moment). Potato peelings seemed to weld themselves
to the sides and bottom of the bucket.

Mrs C and I went to London over the weekend to see our young family
there, plus our niece and her fella who’ve just moved to a flat in
Highbury Park. It was our fist visit to that part of London, and I
was pleasantly surprised to see how lovely the park was (near the
tube station), and how grand the houses were around it – homes of
the rich and famous, I’ve been told. It was a fairly cold and wet
day, with drizzly rain – typical Bank Holiday weather for Britain –
and on our way to our niece’s, we stopped off to buy an apple tart
at a posh food shop. I stayed outside the shop while Mrs C and our
daughter Luce, went inside.

Nearby were two full black poly bags, on the edge of the pavement,
which stank of rotting food – I had to move upwind to avoid the
stink. Imagine what the centres of our cities will be like when
bin-loads of food waste will be lining the streets. We’ll all be
wandering around with strongly scented hankies to sniff, while
walking the streets ... and the rats will have a good time with all
the extra food coming their way. (Rats are good at chomping through
plastic bins by the way, to get at food inside – we had to keep animal
foodstuffs in metal bins).

So, coming back to the general problem – how to encourage people to
recycle their waste more.

I’ve got a good friend in senior management, who sometimes jokes
about how to motivate his sales staff … “I believe in the carrot and
stick approach”, he says ... “I hit them with both”.

I reckon people needs carrots not sticks to persuade them to recycle

Some years ago, GPs were awarded extra pay if they reached a certain
target with their immunisation and cervical smear programmes, and
even more money if they hit a higher target. Overall the pot of
money from which GPs were being paid didn’t increase a lot – if a
GP didn’t reach any of the targets, then his/her pay would drop.
A very clever scheme, as it got most GPs putting more effort in
to achieve these targets.

So if you apply this idea to encouraging people to recycle more,
I suggest that they should receive a £30-50 annual cashback on
the money they pay on their council tax, if they reach a certain
target. Council tax rates could be set so the council doesn’t
lose out, and people who don’t recycle their stuff would pay more
tax than those who do.

I’d reserve the stick / the stocks for the bad offenders. The
stocks … now there’s a use for the rotting fruit and veg (and
where to slop out). Slab Square in Nottingham could be renamed
as Rotten Square.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rambling on as usual

We’re having some lovely warm sunny weather at the moment
interspersed with a little cloud. However the forecasters say
we’re in for a lot of rain next Sunday and Monday ... which
just happens to be … our Bank Holiday weekend! Not much fun
for people with the weekend off.

This weekend is the time of year when university students will
be cramming everything in for their end-of-year or final exams,
so the wet weather will be an incentive for them to stop in
and to get their books out.

I used to be a university campus GP, so I know it’s a very
busy time for the doctors too on campus, trying to get
everyone medically fit enough to sit their exams, or
alternatively writing out excuse notes for them.

During all my secondary school and university years, I was
petrified by exams – some went brilliantly well, others were a
nightmare. I experienced exam dreams for many years afterwards
... you probably know what they’re like – turning up at the
exam room having done very little revision, or having done the
wrong revision for the exam paper, or turning up at the exam
room wearing pyjamas, or with a pencil instead of a pen, or
spending far too long answering just one question on the exam
paper … etc, etc.. Some of these happened to me in the past.

After I qualified as a doctor, I told myself that I needn’t
take any more exams, which is what I did. I went to lots of
postgraduate education classes and courses instead, to keep up
to date.

To update you on the strange burning sensations in my knees
and shins with sitting close to my old computer tower and
wi-fi uni... I can’t blame the wi-fi unit entirely, but my
discomfort gets a lot worse when the unit is on.

I get no trouble at all when I’m sitting some distance away
using Mrs C’s laptop, in our dining room downstairs. The signal
from the wi-fi unit is of low strength there ... however the
signal from my neighbour’s wi-fi unit is a very good one ..
and that’s from the house next door - a short distance up the
road from us.

I recall from my GP days that when I used ultrasound massage
on people’s legs after sports injuries, I was advised not to
use the ultrasound over the shin bones, as it heats up the
bone, giving rise to bone pain. It may be that I’m getting a
similar effect with sitting near the electrical equipment in
my study.

Some of you may have seen a BBC Panorama programme earlier
this week, about wi-fi being used in some of our schools and
in several large cities in the UK. I saw one investigator
walking around with a monitor in the streets of Norwich, where
wi-fi units have been attached to lamp-posts to give wi-fi
coverage throughout the city centre.

The programme was asking how safe is wi-fi? Is there is any
health hazard to us, living in modern electronic smog? No
doubt the controversy about all this will carry on for many
years to come. For the time being, I’ll carry on using Mrs C’s
laptop more, with the wi-fi on upstairs.

Monday, May 21, 2007


I've been doing a lot of Photoshop stuff in the process of
revising my series of four talks on the subject -- just
showing people some of the basics. My fourth and last
session is this Friday morning when I'll be showing my
classmates various photo-montages and how to put them
One idea I've come up with is to create a montage of a
real/artificial blue sky background with a special photo
sitting on top of it ... a montage to fit your desktop.
Here's the sort of thing I mean ...

It's easy-peasy to find out the dimensions of your desktop,
and then create a canvas of the same size in Photoshop,
and colour it in with colours picked from a sky photo (Colour
picker, Gradient tool, plus a little Filter Noise). Well,
that's the idea, and I'd be interested to hear if anyone tries
this out with success.

There are a lot of interesting tutorials about Photoshop on the
internet. I had a good look at the site over
the weekend, which has some brilliant stuff on it -- most of it
for very experienced users / professional web designers.

Today Mrs C walked into town to John Lewis to choose a new
mirror and lighting for our ground floor hallway. Mrs C has
chosen a new colour scheme based on light grey/gray, instead of
the existing yellow colours (which I prefer). So we're choosing
new fittings to match, and are buying flowers to brighten it
all up and make the hallway more homely.

Yesterday evening I spotted a lovely sky through our bathroom
skylight (I'll spare you the details as to what I was doing at the
time) ... so I rushed out to get my camera. Here is one of the
pics I took.

Very dramatic, don't you think?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

And who's that sitting in my chair?

Why, look, it's Little Goldilocks -- the cheeky girl!

Mrs C and I have been looking after Little A for the last three days,
while her mum has been on a refresher course for her work (all
about the legislation for food quality and hygiene, as she'll be
going back to work part-time in the Autumn). It was lovely to have
Ava with us (8am-5pm), but it was hard work for the two of us,
keeping her entertained, etc.. She's developed the habit of blowing
"raspberries" when eating and drinking, which is funny though messy.

Today ... now what are we up to ... a little shopping in town, moving
a heavy mirror in our hallway on the ground floor (prior to
decorating), and getting up a wall-mouted table-top, making a couple
of pizzas late afternoon, and getting on with a load of probate work
which I've taken on to help out my sister-in-law. And towards bedtime,
no doubt I'll be catching up on all your blogs, my Dear Readers.

Oh, and how could I forget ... it's the Cup Final today ... Chelsea
v Man United, two of the finest teams in the country playing in our
brand new Wembley Stadium. This should be a fabulous event --
probably like the grand opening of The Coliseum in Rome. I'd better
revise my plans for today -- go to shops, buy some crisps, nuts and
lager, put lager in fridge ... 2.50p.m.. get lager out of fridge, get
nibbles, set pizza dough going in breadmaker, sit down on comfy settee
with Mrs C, and enjoy the match for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Recently I read an article in The Guardian about how some people
cannot tolerate being near certain electro-magnetic frequencies.
One woman in particular was reported as staying most of the time
in her house, to avoid being near mobile phones and the like, as
she felt tired and ill working in modern electronic offices.

I thought little of this until I felt a burning sensation in
both of my lower legs in the last week or two, with prolonged
sitting next to my wi-fi unit. I used to spend many hours
sitting with it on, even if I wasn’t using the internet.

I've had a look on the internet about the strength of
radio-wave frequencies - the power of the output from a wi-fi
unit does seem to be very low, compared with the output of a
microwave oven, (which is said to be up to 2000 times greater).
But isn't it true to say that microwave ovens are built to shield
users from the radiation they produce? I've read that it may be
a good idea to increase your distance from a wi-fi unit, if you
are concerned. If you double the distance, you'll lessen the
power of a radio frequency by one quarter.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Barden Tower and Daphne

Last Saturday, I went up to the Bolton Abbey area in Yorkshire
– a very picturesque part of Wharfedale, which reminded me of
parts of the Lake District, Troutbeck in particular near Ambleside.
On the way, I picked up our youngest daughter S. who is a classical
guitarist (based in Leeds), and who was to play guitar for a small
wedding cum reception at Barden Tower/ The Priest House.

The wedding and reception was held inside a lovely old building,
which is said to be 15th century. I’ve posted a few photos to give
you a glimpse of the lovely setting, and the lovely musician.

Bolton Abbey, one of the great Cistercian monasteries, is well
worth a visit, if you’ve never been. Mrs C and I went round it last
when the kids were little. It’s not far from Fountains Abbey, which
I think is in a more lovely setting.

Did anyone see the lavish drama-documentary about Daphne du Maurier
the other evening? Mrs C and I watched it on video in the last two
evenings. It was all about the time in her life in the 1940s and 50s,
from the time of her husband Tommy returning from the war, to the
time when her close friend the actress Gertrude Lawrence died. I’d
never heard about her bisexuality before (Mrs C had, as she’d read
three of her novels and a biography in the past), but what came
across was her loneliness in a marriage which had failed, though
they carried on living together until Tommy died. I don’t know if
that was really how she felt, as I haven’t read anything about her

I felt I was back in the 50s watching the programme – the period
was very cleverly recreated, though the dialogue wasn’t convincing
at times for me. And what about Tommy and the kids singing songs
from South Pacific in 1947/48? They had a gramophone record of it
playing, to which they were doing a karaoke. I’ve just done a
Wikipedia search for South Pacific – it was a Broadway hit
starting in 1949, and the film version came out in 1958. I saw it
in Leeds at the Majestic Cinema with one of my sisters in 1959,
while my dad and mum were looking for a house there.
“There is nothing like a dame ...”
That shows how old I am.

Another funny thing – I’ve done a Google search to check the
spelling of the word karaoke/karyoke, and I’ve found out that the
Japanese word karaoke means tone deaf. That explains what it’s
all about then.

I've edited out some comments added to my previous two posts, which
I've reposted here. I apologise to both Angel and Ariel for removing
their comments in the process.

It's the Wi-Fi unit
Friday May 11th 2007

Yes, I've discovered that it's the wi-fi unit that's the cause of the
burning sensation in my lower legs. I was fiddling around at the back
of my computer tower yesterday, trying to get my Kingston Datatraveler
into a USB port at the back. To do so I had to place my right foot just
in front of the wi-fi unit, and the burning feeling in my lower leg
got loads worse.

So, in future, I'll be using Mrs C's laptop more for surfing the net
(and for blogging) -- the laptop is usually downstairs in our dining
room, but it's currently in hospital having its fan replaced -- I must
phone the surgeon today to see how the operation went, or to enquire
if it's still waiting on a trolley in a hospital corridor waiting for
the part to arrive. I'll be using this computer mainly for off-line

Yesterday I found out that there's a debate going on in the letters
section of The Guardian's IT pages, about whether or not the
radiation from wi-fi units could be carcinogenic. It parallels the
debate about whether prolonged use of mobile phones could cause brain
tumours. I don't think there's any scientific proof either way.

Thinking about the word, "Datatraveler" -- why is it that it only the
British who can spell words correctly? :)

That reminds me of a funny story about an Australian guy who leaned
out of a car window and asked one of my daughters: "G'day! Can you
tell me the way to Looga - burroo - ga?" He meant Loughborough,
which is a town about 14 miles South of Nottingham. ("Lough..." is
pronounced here as "Luff..")

Wednesday May 9 2007

It's been raining yesterday and today -- great for our garden,
and for our farmers, but not so good for those who are on
holiday this week in the UK. One of our nieces has gone up to
Scarborough on the North East coast for a beach holiday with
her fella and her son -- not very nice for them, if it's
pouring down. Other relations are on holiday in the Lake
District (Wordsworth country), which has always been the
wettest part of England.

I've been up in Yorkshire today, to visit my sister-in-law,
who recently lost her husband (and my older brother) Pete.
I've come back with 2 large carrier bags full of probate stuff
relating to one of my aunts who died 9 years ago. Pete was
the executor but he never finished the work, so I've been
asked to help sort out the mess. That should keep me busy for
a few months. A solicitor said he could do the work, but he
said he'd have to start from scratch. We'll probably save
about £20k by not using a solicitor.

Bingley looked a very pretty and lush green, but the M1 and M62
motorway journeys were dreary -- loads of tarmac and loads of
traffic. I'm glad to be back -- back to Mrs C, and back to this
computer. :)

I start getting computer withdrawal symptoms if I stay away too
long from it -- feeling a bit on edge, tapping my fingers on
the table, not really getting down to doing anything, feeling
a bit at a loss ... do you recognise that restless feeling
I'm describing -- perhaps I should start going to Computing
Anonymous meetings, and declare my feelings of addiction to
the group, and start clapping my hands and shouting;
"Halleluyah, Brother!!", when someone announces he's finally
kicked the habit.

In the past few days, I really started thinking I'd have to
give up using this machine (and use a laptop instead). I sit
alongside a computer tower, and in the past few days I've
noticed an odd burning/tingling sensation in my lower legs
with prolonged sitting by the computer. It eases off when I
go downstairs to do a few odd jobs or to sit and watch some
TV, so I'm wondering if this machine is emitting some form
of radiation (? microwaves), despite the metal casing. I've
almost completely eased the problem by putting a Dimplex metal
heater (an electric radiator panel) between me and the
computer tower. My brother Pete was a computer addict too,
and he ended up with myeloid leukaemia ... are we all being
irradiated by the darn things, I wonder?

I haven't heard of an increased incidence of leukaemias
with computer usage ... but is it safe to be sitting next to
them ... or safe to be sitting next to the wi-fi unit, which
is the other side of my computer tower, at floor level?

I took yet more photos of one of my granddaughters the other
day ... here's one of them .... Little Ava is 7
months old now.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Rufford Country Park Event

We had a great day out yesterday at Rufford Park. We went to see a band of drummers in action there, who were very lively - over 20 of them. A relative of ours was one of the band leaders. We were very impressed.

Friday, May 04, 2007


I've posted a few photos today, to show you what we've been
doing to our back garden, and also to show you a couple of
flower photos to brighten up your/my day. Mrs C is about to
go and buy some bedding plants from Victoria Centre Market,
to brighten up the garden, which looks somewhat devoid of
colour at present, apart from pots of flowering petunias
she's put by our patio door (which is not in this view).

You'll see where our pond was. Yesterday, I spotted someone
filling up a skip with turf and topsoil just round the corner
from us, so I used the car this time to bring bucketfuls of
soil round to fill up the rest of the pond. We're planning to
put a small red acer on this spot and to put some beddng
plants/ground cover there too.

The yellow rose is the main splash of colour in our garden
at present -- it looks glorious when the sun's out (which it
wasn't this morning when I took the garden photo). I read in
a photography book about taking close-up flower photos
against a blue background in the soft light from a
North-facing window, which is what I did here. The
chrysanths were taken in a similar position on our
window-ledge -- Mrs C wanted some flowers to brighten up
our hallway downstairs, so I bought a bunch of them a couple
of days ago.

I've just been singing "It's the yellow rose of Nottingham"
to the tune of "It's the yellow rose of Texas" -- just
doesn't scan properly.

Today is the day after our local elections -- must turn on
the radio and find out how Labour faired in Nottm.... which
reminds me of something funny told to me by one of my
friends as regards filling in your voting paper -- she said:
"Why don't they say at the bottom of the form: "Please tick
this box if none of the above"?"

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sweet 'n' sour and coffee beans

I've been busy in the past few days painting the ceiling
in our downstairs hallway, with Sanderson's Boulder White
matt emulsion paint which was nice to put on, but which
has turned out too grey. We'd previously bought tester
pots for the main wall colour, but we didn't think to do
the same for the ceiling.

And apart from a bit of shopping and cooking (plus
watching a little TV), I've been busy rewriting part one
of my Photoshop course (and putting some of it onto
Powerpoint). I start off with the basic photo editing
techniques (cropping, cloning, etc), and over a period of
4 sessions I go on to building fairly difficult
photo-montages. The first session is this coming Friday
morning (for 2 hours).

More dry sunny weather today, with hot sunshine this
afternoon tempered by a cold blustery wind -- a bit
like "sweet and sour" sauce -- a mixture of opposites.

I took some photos indoors yesterday of a pretty yellow
rose which is in full bloom and which is cascading over
our garden fence. It was too breezy to get an outside
photo. I'll have a look at my pics soon, and will post
you one if I find one that's good.

Oh yes, I've just remembered, Mrs C and I went to Beeston
this morning (a suburb just west of Nottingham). Mrs C
bought some wool from a little shop called Yarn -- she's
about to knit a couple of coats for our granddaughters.
I called in at John Kirk's Audio & TV shop (we bought our
Quad hi-fi from JK in 1977, which cost us an arm and a leg)
to ask about linking our Freeview box radio to our Quad amp,
so we can get digital radio out of our brilliant hi-fi
system -- this is do-able, so I'll pursue that idea with
JK, who will make up the right connections for us.

The highlight of the morning trip was to have coffee
together at "The Bean", in the centre of Beeston in the
Sainsbury precinct -- delicious coffee, and well worth the
trip. The beans are a dark roast Arabic type.... mmm ...
mmmm ...MMmmm.