Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Robin Hood's Way

Yesterday (Bank Holiday Monday), Mrs C and I went a country walk
with Mrs C’s mum, Jean. I drove the car to Papplewick Hall,
which is privately owned and which is on the southern edge of the
Newstead Abbey estate, but about 8-10 miles north of Nottingham.
Jean was planning to catch a bus there, but we decided to give
her a lift in our car and have a walk and picnic together with her.
The walk we chose was along Robin Hood’s Way, a very well
maintained footpath which took us from the Hall, through farmland
and on through the woods alongside Newstead Abbey.

The weather was ideal for walking, a mixture of sunshine and cloud,
warm but with a cool breeze at times. We cut across the main
roadway to the Abbey and carried on our woodland walk uphill until
we came to open fields backing on to Ravenshead, where we found a
good wooden bench to sit on for our picnic. I've posted a few
photos I took on the way, including one of Newstead Abbey, which
you might see in the distance on one of the photos.

Surprisingly there weren’t many cars on the road that day – perhaps
most folk had either gone abroad or gone to the seaside.

Mrs C’s mum is remarkable fit for someone in her late 80s. She does
a lot of walking, and even walks a mile or so into the City Centre
(up and down a fairly steep hill) rather than use her bus pass and
take a free bus ride. I remember catching the bus home myself one
day, when I was taking home a heavy load of food shopping, and en
route, I saw her walking up the same hill pulling a heavy shopping
trolley behind her. What a woman!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

the good things about getting older

I’ve read a middle article (written by Natalie Haynes) in last
Saturday’s Times about things that get better when you get older
(when you’re approaching my age group).

I mentioned last time that I’d been through my mid-life crisis
when I was around 40 years of age. Recently published government
statistics suggest that blokes are the most miserable between 35
and 44 years of age, and that they start to feel happy again in
the 55-64 age group.

Natalie suggests that I now buy good wine, rather than cider,
and don’t go out to get drunk. Well that’s true, but I like a
pint of good quality beer as well. There’s little point in
getting drunk, especially as my snoring at night is loads worse
after too much alcohol. I would just become more intolerable to
live with.

Do I find more women attractive? Well I suppose that’s true,
as I’ve now got a wider age span of women that I find
attractive, including Mrs C of course.

Do I now look better in a suit? I don’t think so … I think I
looked great in a good quality suit when I was younger. I
don’t wear suits any more, apart a family wedding or funeral.

I’m now supposed to “understand” my hair according to Natalie,
and not go in for ridiculous hair styles as when younger. No,
that doesn’t apply to me at all, but I’d say instead that I’m
now more accepting of my baldness. I try and keep my hair
reasonably short, rather than look like a mad professor with
hair sticking up all over the place and waving around in the

What made a huge difference in my life and level of happiness,
was taking early retirement, as the job I was in was too
stressful. I’d got severe burn-out, and there was no way I
could have continued working without first of all taking a
long time off work on sick leave, and later finding a quieter
GP job somewhere else. I can now enjoy all the things I like
doing and spend more time with my family – I feel very
privileged to be able to do so. Future generations won’t be
able to take early retirement, except for the very wealthy,
so I’m very lucky indeed.

What do you enjoy about getting older?

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Ages of Man

Here's a recycled joke for you, that our Uncle Frank
heard on a Saga cruise recently. The four ages of man
are: "Lager, Aga, Saga and then Ga-Ga"

Well I've made my own lager (and have drunk quite a bit
of it over the years). I prefer drinking bitter, however.
Yes, we've owned an Aga too (two houses ago).
Not joined Saga yet, and only slightly ga-ga.
So I'm still middle-aged, it seems.
Someone will have to let me know when I'm ga-ga.

Oh, I've just remembered, I had my mid-life crisis bang
on time, at 40 (nearly 20 years ago), followed by several
years of "finding myself" with the help of Mrs C, a good
friend and a TA therapist, all of whom were brilliant.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"I do it for you"

Mrs C and I are recovering from a busy week and even busier
past few days with various family members staying with us.
It was lovely seeing them all, and we felt a bit sad when
they set off for their own homes today. The house does feel
a lot emptier with just the two of us (and a couple of cats)
inside it. When I say "busier", we both were very busy ...
felt as if we were running a small hotel at times - shopping,
cooking, clearing away and washing up, and making beds up,
etc, etc .. a daily routine that hotel staff would be used to.

We went to see the Major Oak in the middle of Sherwood Forest
yesterday morning, which looked the same as the last time we
saw it (about 4-5 years ago), not surprisingly. Some of the
staff were dressed up in medieval dress, and there was an
archery demonstration in progress nearby the tree ... we didn't
stay for a try out ourselves, as there was a long queue of
people waiting to have a go, and it was just starting to rain.

Instead of visiting Newstead Abbey on the way back, we stopped
off at another tourist attraction -- Sainsbury's in Arnold, to
pick up some fresh fish and some veg for tea -- we marinaded
the cod fillets with fresh rosemary and a little olive oil, and
later cooked it on top of the roasted veg (with additional
garlic cloves and mushrooms)... one of Jamie Oliver's recipes
... delicious.

Later on in the day, we watched Kevin Costner in the Robin Hood
film which was on the telly, much to our surprise -- what a
coincidence. At times I was irritated by Costner's American accent,
but overall I enjoyed it, especially seeing Alan Rickman again, as
the evil Sheriff of Nottingham - a brilliant performance.

Do any of you remember Bryan Adams singing his heart out in
"Everything I do, I do it for you"? A wonderful song, which still
brings to tear to my eye when I hear it. I also remember a lovely
family summer holiday in 1991, when we stayed on the south coast at
Bournemouth (and toured around in our car from there)... driving
along sunlit and tree-lined avenues in Bournemouth, and hearing
Bryan singing on our car radio. Wonderful memories. It's interesting
how hearing a song can take you straight back to a lovely time in
the past -- and a time when everyone in the car sang the words
together: "And I do it for you!"

Today we re-visited Wollaton Hall in Nottingham for a look around
the improved new interior and the renovated camelia house round
the back of the hall. The formal flower borders were ablaze with
colour, despite the showery rain which got worse during our visit.
We made some pizzas for the evening meal, with our usual veg &
cheesy topping (plus a few anchovies and olives on top)...mmmm.

Poor old tree -- permanently on crutches. What a life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Family News

My little sister is 50 years old today. Unfortunately, she’s not keen
on celebrating any birthday, so today will probably be a quiet affair,
spent with her family.
Our daughter Luce and little Mini is here with us this week, so I’m
busier than usual with chit-chat, cooking, shopping and cleaning up.
Her partner Jeff is joining us later in the week.
Mrs C and I did some baby-sitting our our niece and her partner
yesterday, while they went off to do something nice together.
Our daughter Soph and a guitarist friend are coming to stay with us
tomorrow – they’re giving a guitar concert this Friday evening in
Nottingham, and at the weekend we’ll take them to see some local
attractions: the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, and possibly Byron’s
home at Newstead Abbey. (Why an old tree should be a popular
attraction, I don’t know — perhaps it’s something to do with Robin Hood.
I think Newstead is far more interesting).
Our daughter Beck, is coming over (with little Ava) today, for more
talk about bringing up babies.
Our eldest daughter, Em (the harpist), came over with more bagfuls of
books for us to store temporarily – she’s in the process of moving
house (moving in together with her new bloke, Mike). She does some
part-time gardening and keeps her lawnmower here, so we see her every
week at present.
I’ve been busy tinkering with a new website that I’m building for my two
musician daughters. I’m not far off finishing it. I’ll be acting as an
unpaid agent for them (and a couple of Soph’s friends), to give them all
a helping hand.
Postscript: here is a photo of the two mums with their daughters, Ava
and India, taken today ...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

One success followed by disaster

I've had a minor success this evening, having just "won" an item on
eBay ... a Chris Barber CD, which we spotted had a piece called
Hiawatha Rag on it, which we wanted to hear again. The music is a
very cheerful ragtime number, and it was one of Andrew Davies'
choices on Desert Island Discs a couple of days ago.

The bidding for the CD got fairly intense an hour or so ago, and I
ended up paying a few more pounds than my first bid of £3.20 which
I put in this afternoon. In fact I managed to squeeze in my last bid
43 seconds before the auction ended. Someone else managed to bid
again, but not high enough to beat my maximum bid ... nail-biting
stuff (as if).

I spent the next hour or so sorting out payment for the CD, and doing
other bits and bobs (putting screen prints of my eBay transaction onto
a Powerpoint presentation that I'm giving, about internet shopping)
... so perhaps you can see how I completely forgot to video one of
Mrs C's favourite TV programmes (called Medium) this evening....
my mind was on other things. Oh dear, I'll be getting a piece of Mrs C's
mind tomorrow morning, despite my apologising for my mistake... and I'll
be in her bad books for most of the day.

There was a funny post by Zoe yesterday, on the subject of "a piece
of my mind".

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hot sunshine at last

Last weekend we had two glorious summer days of hot sunshine.
On the Saturday, we took Soph our guitarist to the Peacock Inn
in Redmile, one of those quaint villages in South Notts,
featuring a lovely old church and two vilage pubs. There were
shops in the old days, but these disappeared some time ago
with the advent of the big supermarkets. The event at the
Peacock Inn was a wedding reception, where we met up with our
eldest daughter Em, who was playing her traditional harp also
at this wedding. It's a busy time of year for Em, as she's
booked up with weddings most weekends. Last Friday, Saturday
and Sunday, she did 3 weddings in a row ... Sunday's was in
Norwich in East Anglia, when it took her 7 hours to do the
journey there and back.

Mrs C and I sat out at the front and had a couple of soft
drinks each while the wedding guests all swirled around us ...
and we were well placed to hear all the music that Soph and Em
played. A really lovely day, and a very colourful one with all
the posh clothes all whe women were wearing ... and one elderly
bloke who was wearing some tartan trousers.

On Sunday, Mrs C and I went up the motorway to revisit Hardwick
Hall, which was built for Bess, Countess of Shrewsbury in the mid
1600s. A grand old pile, which is now owned by the National Trust
and so is open to the public. What's so special about this place
is that loads of Bess' tapesties, furniture, portraits and the
drapery around the beds is all there, to which her successors (the
Cavendish family) have added lots more stuff. The portraits of
a lot of royalty and other big whigs from that era and since, hang
in the Long Gallery, portraits similar to what you'd see in the
National Portrait Gallery in London. There is one of best portraits
of Queen Elizabeth 1st that I've ever seen, dressed in all her

The kitchen area in the basement is now partly a shop for the
National Trust, and a restaurant for visitors too -- where we've
sometimes had our Sunday lunch/dinner. The shop sells the usual
array of books, ornaments, cards and other bits and bobs, that you'd
see in any National Trust shop. I was amused to see three mugs for
sale with various witty remarks on them ...
"Everyone is entitled to share my opinion"
"If at first you don't succeed, pour yourself a gin and tonic"
and the last one: " The older I get, the better I was".

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Bigger Picture

I’ve read several newspaper articles recently about people not thinking
about the bigger picture. There was one in the Technology Guardian last
week about people downloading the latest Harry Potter book off the
internet, thinking that they were saving some money in the process
possibly. The author, Charles Arthur made the point that in addition to
the cost of the paper, there would be additional costs in buying your
computer (or the depreciation on it possibly?), maintaining it, buying
protection against viruses, etc., and the cost of the printing ink.
This is the bigger picture of the actual costs involved. Publishers are
offloading their printing costs onto the gullible public.

Today, Mrs C and I got chatting about an article she’d read about
comparative carbon footprints of using paper bags versus poly bags for
putting your fruit and veg in. The author of this article said that you
should also take into account the higher storage costs of the paper bags,
when working out the carbon footprints... paper bags take up more room
than plastic ones -- well, that's an amazing fact, don't you think?

I get the impression that there’s a lot of rubbish written in the press
about carbon footprints (CF). I recall an article in The Guardian where
they asked various agencies to work out the CF value of transporting
something from A to B by the same plane. Their answers varied a lot,
possibly as they’d used differing assessments of things like wind
resistance & weight of the aircraft – how full it was, etc.. Did they
also take into account other factors such as maintenance and repairs of
the aircraft, etc.? There are so many variables, as to make me feel
sceptical about the comparative CF values of this and that. I reckon
people are jumping on the CF bandwagon to make some money out of the
business .. the words Emperor’s and clothes spring to my mind.

This also reminds me of some neighbours of ours, a retired couple,
who are both very careful about saving a few pennies -- buying their
milk from Lidl instead of the Co-op shop a bit higher up Mansfield
Road (and being disgusted at how much more the Co-op charges for
their milk and other items). Contrast that with the bigger picture
of their owning and using 3 cars between them – two of them are
classic cars, a Rolls Royce and a Mercedes, both in pristine

I too am fairly careful about how I spend my money. Well, I’ve got
my reputation as being a tight-arsed bastard to live up to. But then
I sometimes think, well I’ve only got the one life to live (I’ll be
a long time dead), so why not enjoy myself a bit more, and treat
myself a bit more.

“One life to live, and a long time dead” – that’s the bigger picture.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Moving house

Well, my theme today is moving house. Mrs C and I went up to Leeds
last Saturday to help our youngest daughter move house across the
road. Soph had befriended a couple of women living on the street
(who threw a street party some months ago). When their lodger
moved out, they invited her to replace him. The house is one of
those lovely tall red-brick Victorian / Edwardian semis, which has
been well looked after by the two owners, V and A.

The three of us spent about three hours moving Soph’s stuff across
… down two flights of stairs from her bed-sit, across the road and
up another flight of stairs. Fortunately, Soph didn’t have any
heavy furniture to move, apart from two desks. After cleaning up
the bed-sit (most of which Soph had cleaned already), we drove 10
-15 miles or so across to the other side of Bradford (to drop the
keys off at a new letting agent). The latter have been nasty
towards Soph, so I took loads of photos of the bed-sit before we
left, just in case they were to make out that Soph left the place
in a tip (and refuse to pay back her deposit money).

V and A are a very friendly couple, and were very welcoming (and
made us all some cheese and pickle sandwiches plus mugs of tea).

And then last week, our eldest daughter (her pet name is Emlor)
told us the good news that she and her new fella are going to
live together, and that they’re hoping to find somewhere better
to live than their present housing. They’re hoping to rent a
modest 3 bed semi in the Beeston area of Nottingham (which is on
the west side of the city, not far from the M1). Rents here are
not too bad … they’re hoping to pay around £500 a month for a
house (with a garden and a garage), and thereby save £300 a
month on living separately… with further savings on council tax,
and fuel bills, etc..

Currently Em lives in a small cottage on a large countryside
estate in South Notts --- the house was built in the mid 1500s,
has no damp course and recently Em has discovered that the roof
is leaking also. Consequently the house is very damp and most of
her clothes, shoes, books and other possessions have become a
lovely light green colour – green with mould. No doubt very
fashionable in Robin Hood’s time. What was initially an idyllic
cottage has become the complete opposite – a hovel that should be

Em has been round at our house once or twice a week, to see us
and to check her emails, and to bring her washing (for us to do).
In the past week, Emily has been doing some online searching for
a suitable property to rent, and we’ve have been amused by the
outrageous descriptions that the estate agents have used to
advertise their properties, and the neighbourhoods that they're
in. Em went to see one of them described as having a “good
garden”, which turned out to be a small patch of land covered in
thistle, bramble and other weeds. You’ll be familiar with
stories like this, no doubt. I’m amazed that agents don’t get
taken to court for misrepresentation, but they usually have
get-out clauses in the small print of their advertising. The
words, money and old rope spring to my mind.