Monday, June 30, 2008

Thinking about Paradise

One glorious warm summer’s evening
sitting on the steps of Verona’s Coliseum
watching Verdi’s La forza del destino
swifts darting about, here and there
hundreds of glittering candlelights
huddling close to my wife and daughter
a birthday celebration in style

Now imagine sitting in the shade
reading a book
by a lovely pool in Garda
sipping ice-cold lager
on a hot summer’s day
one person swimming in the pool

Wow, this is the life.

bugger the unrelenting stresses of work
running faster and faster on the daily treadmill
more and more work and paperwork forced us by the NHS,
moving its goalposts every year
stressed out for years with litigation by a few angry patients
feeling very anxious about making another mistake
how can anyone work properly under such duress

retirement 6 months later
at Christmas

Paradise on Earth.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sweet pea

I remember well the gorgeous, heavy fragrance of these sweet peas
in my childhood and teens ... their wonderful smell, which is somewhere
between lily-of-the-valley and honeysuckle.

Well, we've got some flowering in our back garden at the moment. Mrs C
spotted some young sweet pea plants at Bingham Market about 6 weeks ago,
bought them and then planted them out alongside our Summer Jasmine.
We've got the above flowers on our kitchen window-ledge at the moment,
and their heavenly scent makes doing the washing-up even more

I've added two more photography sites onto my side-bar as you'll see.
I invite you to have a look at both Erin's and Mmechinita's sites and
the wonderful photographs that they've taken. On Erin's blog, there's
a link to her website, the slide-show part of which takes a minute or
two to start up ... well worth the wait, I think.

Erin watermarks her photos as you'll see, so I'll start doing the same,
as a mild deterrent to stop people pinching my pics for their sites.
However, anyone with photo-editing software could remove watermarks
fairly easily ...ideally you need to use an embedded digital
watermarking system, used by the large photo-stockists. I've used
Garamond Lucida Bright Italic as the font, by the way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

News and woes in brief

Hi everyone.

We spent last weekend in London, staying with L, J and Mini.
Dreary wet weather on the Saturday, hot & windy on the
Sunday, when we went to a local city farm (in Merton) to see
the animals there. Rather dull journeys there and back on the
motorways ... decided to keep to a top speed of 60 mph to
conserve fuel, but added 15 mins or so onto journey each way.

Yesterday, a busy day.
Car in for its full annual service and MOT, which it passed
with some repair work (including a replacement ball joint).
£270 bill, but probably worth it, to keep it going another
year -- we'll scrap it in a year's time as it's rusting badly.
The car is an old Peugeot 306.

Pre-MOT, gave the car its annual wash ... and it now looks
quite good for an old lady.

Spent some time preparing what I'd be saying at my charity's
AGM yesterday, and later spoke at the same. I look after
the Gift Aid, the website, the emails and help out with the
Computer Club too. As regards the latter, I'm giving a
Powerpoint talk on using Windows Vista this coming Thursday
morning - the general consensus of opinion from what I've read
(and from various people I've spoken to) is that Vista is
good, but not worth getting until your XP machine needs
replacing. IE7 (which is part of the package) is said to
have better security features, than IE6, according to Jack
Schofield of The Guardian.

After some shopping at Tesco plus some refreshments at a local
pub (along with other U3A members), I went off to collect the
car, and later put a meal together. In the evening, Mrs C and I
drafted another letter of complaint to send off to an internet
company, about the mis-selling of its online advertising
service to us. It claims to value its customers, but as yet we
have not received an apology or a refund of our money.

Today ... well let me have a look at the list ...
Print off letter to above company and post it off by Recorded
Delivery. I'm sending a copy of the letter to the Sales
Director, whose name I found on the internet.

Get new Road Tax disc for car from same post office. £185
Delivery of some red wine from The Wine Society ... wine they've
got on offer at the moment
Preparations for revamping our through-lounge-dining room ...
Repairing water damage to some plasterwork (2 day job)
Ordering from John Lewis ...
Osbourne & Little wallpaper to go on two walls
6 wall-lights (Ashlyn brass design)
New dimmer light switch
Tester pots of matt paint for the other walls
New brass door handles (6)

also on the list..
glueing back together a pepper pot (broken by little A)
(it's a cute black & white china cat)
fixing the front handlebar of a new trike we've bought for
the grandchildren.
fixing up new wooden child safety-gate supports
fixing back up a couple of large antique mirrors onto
wooden supports.

Plus doing some window-shopping for a new jacket for myself
(and a new shirt) for a family wedding that's coming up in
a few weeks' time.

Also looking out for a few items lost in this house ...including
the cat immunisation certificates. Their annual jabs are due in
a month's time.

Things have tendency to disappear in this house -- they get tidied
up, especially when we've got someone coming to visit us ...
things get shoved into piles of clutter and are then moved off
somewhere else.

Of course, I'm to blame for all this ... I've got piles of clutter
in the study/third bedroom. Well, who else could be responsible for
all the clutter in this house?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My rubber glove collection

This may seem bizarre to you, but I've collected four black rubber
gloves for the left hand. I use black gloves for doing the washing up,
instead of what they're made for, for clearing mucky drains and the
like. My hands are not all that big, but they're too large for the
large yellow Marigold type. I have to wear cotton gloves inside them,
as I'm allergic to rubber.

Being allergic to the stuff, it's a good job I'm not into wearing skin-
tight rubber clothes (for outdoor use or for titillation, or to dress
up like Batman).... or I'd be lathering on the skin creams afterwards.

I think the glove manufacturers are on to a good thing ... there'll
always be a market for them, as there is for condoms and for coffins.
I think I must get through a pair of these gloves every month, but
I'm always left with one for the left hand, as I tend to nick the
right hand glove at some stage when washing up, being right-handed.

Perhaps I should be using one of those brushes with a handle on it
for the washing up, rather than one of those sponges with a green
scouring pad on one side ... to distance my Rt hand from sharp

I wonder why the glove manufacturers can't come up with a glove
design where one glove could be worn on either hand ...made with
thick material but flexible enough for ambidextrous use?

Although the gloves shown above don't look all that good, most
have got a few more weeks of life in them, and one of them is brand
new. What a waste to send them off to landfill. Some of you might
be thinking: "What a miserable tight bastard" or "what a t--t", but
there is some logic behind my keeping all these gloves.

One of my daughters visited me today, and when I showed her my glove
collection, her eyes lit up. She's had the same problem, but she's
... yes, you've guessed it ... she's left handed.

The perfect solution.

Postscript: I've been thinking that the gloves have a sinister look
about them ... the Acid Bath Murderer might have used gloves like

Monday, June 16, 2008

A few more photos of Prague

I don't wish to bore you with lots of holiday photos of Prague, so
I’ll post just three more.

The first is a lovely view of the river, from Charles Bridge.

The second is of the famous Astronomical Clock to the side of the
Old Square – very popular with tourists.

Finally the war memorial to the Czech resistance fighters, who took
part in the assassination of the SS leader Reinhard Heydrich in 1942.
Heydrich was the architect of the "Final Solution", with view to
cleansing Europe of 11 million Jews and large numbers of dissidents.

The resistance fighters hid in the crypt of a church until they were
betrayed by one of their fellow countrymen. You can see the bullet
holes in the wall near to the wreaths. In retalliation, the Nazis killed
5000 Czech people, following this incident. With hindsight, people have
asked if killing Heydrich was worth it, considering the subsequent loss
of life.

In the entrance hall alongside the crypt, an elderly Czech man was
sitting by himself, in tears.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Zoe Johnston - UK singer-songwriter

Some of you may recall hearing Zoe singing "Crazy English Summer",
a lovely song she wrote for the Faithless Outrospective album.
Well, she has issued another version of this song on her Happenstances
album. You can now download the album or some of the tracks, from
her new website.

Here's a link to the one of the MP3 pages if you'd like to listen to a bit
of the song.
Here is a glimpse of the wonderful Faithless playing ... God is a DJ.
... and a YouTube video of Mass Destruction (Thank, Max, for suggesting
this one ... it's great)

Zoe is my neice, by the way.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More Prague views

Here are a few more holiday snaps. I took the first five photos
on a short walk on the fabulous Charles Bridge, which takes you
from the main city across the River Vltava along to the Castle.

The last two were taken just by the Smetana Museum. My brother-
in-law found this nice watering hole on a previous visit to
Prague. He's the guy in the blue shirt.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The fabulous city of Prague

Here are a few examples of the lovely old buildings in and
around the old square in the centre of Prague.
Breath-takingly beautiful.
Just walk on a bit further, and lots more lovely stuff to see.
It was like being in an enchanted city in a fairy tale ...
I wonder where the Wizard of Oz hangs out? I'll just see if
I can find my rose-tinted glasses.

(click on any photo to see a larger version).

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Home alone

Mrs C is away at a sex therapy conference this weekend -- I gave her
a lift to Coventry this morning, and dropped her off on the University
of Warwick's campus, where the annual conference is being held. I don't
know what the theme of this year's conference is ...
... well, let's have a quick look at the BASRT site ...
.... mmm ...this looks interesting, especially the comedy on this evening.
One of the comedians is a sex toy expert. Last year's comedienne came on
the stage as a vampire-cum-dominatrix, and told a lot of jokes about
going for counselling.

On the way home I picked up some paint from Homebase, and have spent some
time painting one of the ground-floor rooms (the main counselling room, in
fact). The job is half done, as I'm waiting for some fresh plaster/filler
to dry out, before I paint over it.

I've got our two cats for company, not that they're much company at the
moment ... they came in for some more cat food a short while ago, and
have both gone outside for a bit of catty fun.

It does feel strange ... sorry, I'll own that feeling, just in case any
counsellors/therapists are reading this ... I do feel strange being in
the house on my own.

I don't really feel like watching any telly (though there was a good
footy match on earlier), and I don't feel hungry either ... I've just
been snacking rather than preparing and eating a proper meal for one.
I've no problems making a meal when there's two of us, but I can't be
arsed to make something for myself, other than cooking some pasta
(which I did at lunchtime).

Similarly, I don't feel like going out for the evening, to sit by
myself in a cinema, pub or restaurant, or ringing up a friend and
suggesting we go out for a pint somewhere.

I've been feeling unsettled, so I thought I'd switch on my laptop
laptop and write a few words instead... I'll have some virtual
company instead.

I'm totally out of practise with being on my own & going out in the
evening to meet up with other people. Sad, isn't it?

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Poland trip - part two

We spent a couple of days with the LSO in the nearby spa town of
Kudowa (where the LSO put on their first performance at Kudowa's
newly refurbished theatre). We also visited another spa town
at Polinica (where a few of us "took the waters"), and scrabbled
through some rocks at Bledne Scaly. I found the latter more of an
assault course than something pleasurable to do (and the loos were
very primitive).

By the way, the "water" smells of bad egg -- you'd have to pay me
to drink that stuff.

As regards the LSO, this is made up of volunteers* - music teachers
and other professional people, who just love playing classical
music. I've always been impressed with the quality of their playing.

*except for their brilliant conductor, Pavel.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Funny announcement

Following on from LOM's funny announcements on the London Underground
(2 June), we got one from the RyanAir flight attendant just after
landing at EMA on our return flight home...

"Will passengers please leave their seat belts fastened until the captain
indicates that it's safe to undo them?

It's never been known for a passenger to reach the terminal before the
aircraft does."

Wroclaw in Poland

Mrs C and I flew with part of the orchestra to Wroclaw (say “Vrots-lav”),
from East Midlands Airport, on the Sunday last week. EMA is very handy
for us, as it’s bus ride from our city centre straight to the main door
of the airport. Unfortunately we hadn’t reckoned on the bus service
being reduced to every half hour on the Bank Holiday Sunday, to get us
into town, so we had a brisk walk with our suitcases instead. Oh well,
we needed the exercise, as we were sitting around most of the day.

If you have a few minutes to spare, have a look at this Wikipedia
article about the city. It’s the fourth largest city in Poland. It
has a university and several architectural & cultural attractions,
including the old buildings in the main square, the cathedral, the
Leopoldinum Hall, and the Racławice Panorama, which is stunning.
(The colours of the painting shown in the photos in this Wikipedia
article are rubbish, compared with the dazzling colours of the real

The panorama is the city’s main tourist attraction … it stirs up a
lot of nationalist feeling and pride for the Poles.

The city was badly damaged in WW2 as it was a German military
stronghold, but the centre has been beautifully restored since. Below
are a couple of photos of the Leopoldinum Hall, showing how well it’s
been restored. The main halls seem to have been undamaged …
they’re used for the university's ceremonies and for concerts also.

Above: the magnificent interior of the Leopoldinum Hall..
Below: the old town hall in the city centre ..
.... there is a veggie restaurant very close to it.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tour of Poland & the Czech Republic

Mrs C and I have just come back from a fabulous tour of Poland and
the Czech Republic, with the symphony orchestra based in Leicester.
We were based mainly in Wroclaw, Kudowa and then Prague, and we
went to two of the orchestra's concerts.

The concert programme included Sibelius Finlandia, Grieg Peer Gynt
Suite, Brahms Academic Festival Overture, and Elgar Enigma Variations
... all beautifully played by the LSO. Two of the best concerts I've been to,
and their audiences thought so too. I took the above photo at the end of
their second concert, in Jablonec (near Prague).

It was our first visit to this part of Europe. Prague has been on our wish
list of places to visit for years, and it was visually stunning ... on par with
Paris and Rome, I think.

I'll post some of the many photos I took of our tour, during the next few