Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Some autumnal views for you

I took all these shots about 10 days ago, before most of the leaves
fell off the trees, early one sunny morning. If you compare the top
photo with my banner one ... you may spot a couple of (large)
differences. It's a view looking from a hillside near to where we
live, looking south across Nottingham city ...an idea I got from
seeing the view of Paris in Petite Anglaise's site. The view of
Paris is more inspirational, I think... and more romantic.

The last photo is of the leaves of what might be a type of maple
tree (or possibly an oak). I've had a look at a few online tree
identification sites, but have been unable to name the tree. If you
recognise it, please would you let me know?

I'm going up North for a booze-up with my Yorkshire cousins tomorrow
night. I've booked a room for the night at the pub, as I will be well
over the drink-drive (alcohol) limit.

Talk to you soon. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Meeting up with the cousins and Luce

I've got a busy week or so ahead of me socially.

Mrs C and I are meeting up with her cousins (and her
brother & sister) plus partners this weekend. This has
been an annual event for the past 10 years or so, after
we all decided that it wasn't much fun just seeing each
other at family funerals and the rare family get-together.

From when I first met Mrs C, I've been impressed how her
dad Ken kept in close touch with his younger brother and
sister and their families (though is was Mrs C's mum,
Jean who was the main organiser and the more sociable of
the two of them -- a kind of social secretary for the family.

My parents on the other hand were less sociable and rarely
had any contact with their family members, preferring the
company of a few literary friends. The only person my dad
went to visit and wrote letters to was his sister, Joan
(who as it turns out was in the same secondary school
class as Jean ... they were never friends, by the way).

My dad had three brothers who he never saw except at his
mum and dad's funerals. His brothers didn't share his
interests in literature or music, so a kind of mutual
loathing of each other developed over the years. They
thought my dad was an intellectual snob, and they were
right. So I never got to know any cousins apart from a
few of Joan's boys, the oldest of whom is Ted.

I've only met one cousin on my mum's side, and that was
within the last year or so. My mum's parents were generally
anti-social and untrusting of other people including family
members, so there are a large number of cousins out there
somewhere, of whom I've no knowledge, whatsoever.

Over the years, I've had a few good friends including one
person Mike, who unfortunately died fairly young of cancer
(at the age of 61). Other friendships have dropped off ...
I've felt disappointed by some not wanting to carry on
seeing me (including a few girlfriends by the way)), but
then I too have ditched some friends, relationships I could
have nurtured more. I realise that to some people I can
come across as patronising, for instance suggesting solutions
to problems they've had (which they haven't wanted ... I
think they just wanted some sympathy/support ... to have been
heard, to have felt some warmth back from me ... perhaps just
a hug, if they've had some bad news, or a few "Oh dears" to
comfort them.

Well they say you get wiser as you get older, so I've changed
my conversational style to some extent. Hopefully I'll be
able to give more TLC than merely suggesting solutions to
people's problems.... undoing years of medical training and
practice ... "OK, Mrs So-And-So, take these pills one three
times a day for the next 3 days, and come back and see me
if you're not feeling any better."

In the middle of next week, I'm off up to Yorshire (together
with one of my sisters) to meet up with a group of cousins
on my dad's side of the family .. an event being organised by Ted,
one of our main family historians. This is the first ever social
event we've had, apart from meeting up at funerals (and seeing
Joan's family once or twice as I was growing up).

And the following weekend, Mrs C and I are driving down to South
Wimbledon in London, to stay a few days with our second daughter
Lucy and her family, which we're really looking forward to.

In the next 10 days or so, I won't be doing any blogging apart
from posting the occasional photo (as I promised you some autumnal
scenes in my last post to you).
Talk to you soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rambling on as usual

Hi folks,
It's birthday boy here. I've been over the moon with my main
birthday pressie from Mrs C and the girls ... a lovely black
Sony laptop (a VAIO with a 17" screen), which I've spent the
past few days customising and adding lots of programs to it.
It's got the new Windows Vista on it, which I'm very pleased
with so far. It's got a few quirks, but I'm gradually getting
used to the way that it works ... just when I've got used to
using Windows XP.

I've been out taking some more photos of our neighbourhood in
the cold morning sunshine, and will post them up for you to see
later in the week. Below are pics of my new Desktop (with a
photo-montage I've put onto it), and a banner put up by a
couple of neighbours of ours, one of whom is South African.

We went out to one of our favourite restaurants this evening
with our daughter Soph and Mrs C's mum as part of my ongoing
birthday celebrations. Tomorrow a few more family members are
coming over for afternoon tea and cake ... the cake is going
to be one of Mrs C's fab pavlovas with fresh cream and
raspberries on top. My mouth is already watering as I'm typing

We videoed The X Factor, while we were out this evening and then
watched it - the best bits of it - and the World Rugby Cup Final
at the same time. It looked a great game, what we saw of it.
However I sometimes think that if Martians were watching it,
they'd be laughing out loud at the sight of so many huge men
running around a field chasing a ball/another player and piling
into each other.

The same could be said for a lot of other sports, such as whacking
a small golf ball around a field, and the intense concentration,
effort and time spent by players in getting the ball into a tiny
hole. You can tell that I'm not a rugby player or golfer, though
I have enjoyed a few games of mini-golf with Mrs C and the girls,
when we've been on holiday.

And what about Blogging??!! Another pastime which might look crazy
to an alien (and also to a lot of people who don't like Blogging
anyway). If we blog to socialise, why not get off our arses and
go out and meet some people?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Toddler news

Mrs C and I have just finished a marathon babysit with Little
Ava, who arrived Sunday afternoon at our house, and whom we
drove back to her house mid afternoon today (in advance of her
mum arriving back home at about 7pm). We had a lovely but
exhausting time looking after her. She tends to wake early at
5.30am, so I got up early the first morning at 5.30 (after
hearing her babbling on the baby monitor on and off for an
hour), and Mrs C did the same this morning.

Unfortunately, Mrs C is a light sleeper and because we'd got
the baby monitor on all night, she only had 2 hours' sleep with
listening to Ava turning over in her cot most of the night.
So she felt like a zombie for most of today.

As I've said already, Little A is a delight to be with and to
watch her "growing up". She started to take her first few steps,
in the last 2-3 days ... Mrs C counted 8 steps today, though as
you can imagine she's walking very cautiously and slowly. Another
first is her clapping her hands when we ask her to do so ...she
started to do so in the middle of a nursery rhyme: "Wind the
bobbin up", when it came to the "Clap, clap clap" bit,
spontaneously by herself. And we reckon she said "(L)ight" when
we were switching the lights in our sitting room on & off, and
pointed at them too.

So she does seem to be bright for her age (she slightly over 1
year in age).

All this baby talk ... I can see how dull it can be for some
people if they're not at all interested in little children....
or if you're at a family gathering and the conversation is non-
stop talk about babies -- feeding them, changing them, when little
so-and-so said his first word, etc, etc .. and yet if you're a
young mum or dad, your whole life becomes devoted to looking after
your baby 24/7.

A big day for me tomorrow. I'll be 60. I'll qualify for a
Nottingham City bus pass (free to roam the city and the surrounding
countryside, plus hop on the bus to East Midlands Airport nearby),
and I'll also qualify for ... wait for it ... free prescriptions
from my GP ... not that I need anything at present. If Viagra were
available free on the NHS, I might be tempted to go along and ask
for some of that -- for just a bit of fun. Then I would be able to
"keep up with the Joneses".

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A few more

Here are a few more pics as promised. The top one is of Church
Cottage in Cossall village, which is a few miles north-west of
Nottingham. It stands next to the church there (surprise,
surprise), and was the former home of Louie Burrows, to whom
DH Lawrence was briefly engaged. It's one of the prettier houses
in the village.

And below that are my latest photos of Little A, whom we looked
after the other day while her mum & dad were out at work. Beck
bought her the jumper & shoes from Tesco, which suit her a lot,
I think. Odd to think of a food store selling clothes, but
then M&S is a clothes store which branched out into selling food.

Last night we watched "Why democracy? Please vote for me", which
was a TV documentary set in a Chinese junior school, all about
the election of the class monitor. We were fascinated by it ...
I recommend you watch it, if and when it's repeated on the telly.
It's being shown worldwide, and there are lots of Google
references to it, for instance - here and here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Last few pics of Goose Fair

This week: mainly doing Photoshop/website stuff, which I've mentioned
on numerous occasions already, so I won't bore you with that.
Yesterday, we had the pleasure of looking after Little Ava all day,
while her parents were out at work. I took a few more photos of her
standing by our patio doors ... I'll post a very colourful one of her
very soon. We both felt exhausted by 6pm with keeping her entertained
for so long .... how did Mrs C manage with 4 little girls and
everything else ... shopping, cooking, cleaning up, etc, etc??

I occasionally hear about blokes of my age starting a new family with
a much younger woman ... where do they get the energy from, or are
they drinking tea/coffee all day long, to keep going in the day, and
in the bed at night?

Today, I've been playing electric guitar with a couple of mates and
singing some of the songs of yesteryear, followed by a pub lunch.
The songs are mainly from the 60s onwards ... some Bob Dylan and
Beatles numbers, and lots more stuff from that era. The words:
"Last of the Summer Wine" spring to my mind.

In complete contrast, Mrs C and I like a wide range of classical
music, and on Tuesday night we went out to see The Atrium String
play music by Borodin, Brahms and Tchaikovsky ... a fabulous
performance by some of the finest string players I've ever heard.

It's way past midnight, so I must get off to bed now.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Goose Fair and other events

A few more pics for you from our trip to Nottingham's Goose Fair
last week....

The fair was almost packed up when we went by the Forest site
yesterday afternoon. We'd been out on a ramble in the countryside
near Strelley and Cossall villages. The latter has an association
with the writer DH Lawrence, who was briefly engaged to be married
to Louie Burrows, a carpenter's daughter (in 1910). We thought it
was strange to be walking on the same footpaths/country lanes that
he and Louie would have walked along also. I took a photo of her
house, which I'll post in due course.

I don't know why I sat through a whole hour of the "X Factor" on
Sunday evening. I spent most of time crying when the contestants
were crying about whether or not they'd got through to the next
round (and breaking the news to their families), with emotionally
charged background music too. A whole hour devoted to the results
of the last round, and what each contestant was feeling about it
all ... their future musical careers depending on getting through
to the next round. Would they make it or not?
What a performance. :)

It was Ava's first birthday party on Saturday, to which Mrs C and
I were invited. Most of her dad's family were there including an
older cousin of hers, so we had a good time watching Ava opening
her pressies and cards (with some help), and Ava playing with her
cousin. Beck had made two small cakes for the event, and put a
small lit candle on top of the chocolate one. We all sang "Happy
Birthday" to her (and then one of her aunties blew out the candle).
Very nice cake, especially the chocolate one which had a thin layer
of chocolate icing on and some Smarties too....mmmm ... mmm.

Today, I've been tinkering with websites, and my Photoshop talk
for tomorrow ... showing folk the basics of touching up new & old
photos with the clone stamp tool, putting text onto a photo, and
using the Pen tool, Magic Wand & the Gradient tools, plus adding
special effects like Gaussian Blur, Noise and Diffuse Glow. All
amazing stuff to be able to use, when you think about it.

Roast potatoes, sweet potatoes and mountains of other veg, with
cottage cheese & home-made houmous for our evening meal ...
followed by a small glass of a dry white Chilean wine, Zarcillo,
which the bottle says is an aromatic Riesling. A bit too dry for
me, but Mrs C loves it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's Goose Fair weekend, folks

Yes, it's that time of year again, the first weekend in October
when it's Goose Fair in Nottingham. I've just checked out a few
facts on Wikipedia, and have found out that the fair started over
700 years ago, so it may have started around the time of Robin
Hood or shortly after.

I've seen old photos of Nottingham, when the fair was held in the
city's Market Square (called Slab Square by the locals, and which
has just been re-slabbed), a more confined space than the present
location which is a stone's throw from where we live on the Forest
Recreation Ground... a wide green open space.

The weather's been perfect this week, warm and sunny afternoons,
with chilly mornings. On some Goose Fair weekends we've had cold,
wet weather, when the Forest has become a sea of churned-up mud
to walk on (like many a Glastonbury Festival).

Mrs C and I had a walkabout on Thursday afternoon, just after
school closing time, when I took a number of photos. I've selected
nine of them to show you, which I'll put up in clumps of three.

Monday, October 01, 2007

"What does he do all day?"

What did I do today?
I spent some time emailing various friends, family and U3A
members and phoned one or two of them. Our daughter Beck
phoned me in the morning asking if we'd babysit for 2 whole
days (and one night) while she attends a course up North
in Cumbria. She's going back to work as an environmental
health officer, on a part-time job-share basis, until Ava
is old enough to go to school. So we'll be looking after the
little one in about 2 weeks' time ... it will feel as though
we're young parents again.
Later I went to Gedling Refuse Tip with a mountain of old
wood and chipboard ... most of which used to be a wardrobe
that was in our downstairs cloakroom, and which Mrs C
demolished. I was hoping to do something with all this wood,
for instance, build some internal shelving within a bedroom
wardrobe -- but I lost interest in that idea some time ago.
So now the garage is looking a lot more spacious.
Next on my list of things to do was to take this laptop (Mrs C's
really, but I use it more now!), in for repair. The wireless
switch wasn't working on it -- stopped working a couple of days
ago, which was very frustrating. However our genius of a repair
man fixed it within a few minutes ... somehow the wireless
system had been disabled in the Windows-Internet set-up ... the
guy found the relevant device manager, and ticked the box to
re-activate it. Brilliant.
Mrs C and I spent the next 1-2 hours catching up on emails, etc..
I pottered around in the afternoon, after all that, and made us
a delicious pizza and a salad to go with it, which we ate with
a glass of lovely red wine - an Australian Cabernet-Shiraz
(Langhorne Creek 2004...one of the best I've tasted).

We spent the evening watching TV. The crime drama, Murphy's Law,
starring James Nesbitt, is back on our screens again. I found it
difficult to work out was going on initially, but it got more
interesting with time. Murphy is an undercover cop, who works a
bit like Dirty Harry.
We finished off watching the first one of Bruce Willis' Die Hard films,
the one with the bad guy played by Alan Rickman, who's one of my
favourite actors. He's often cast as a really evil but likeable
rogue, for instance, as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin
Hood, Prince of Thieves.

Also watched the second episode of Kath & Kim, which was very funny
as usual. I spent the past hour -- putting this post together, and
looking at a couple of blogs on my blogroll. C'est tout, folks.