Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Worst Xmas presents

I've just been reading Scary Duck's latest posting (his site
is always good for a laugh), which features the worst pressies
ever received at Xmas time.

A few spring to my mind, thinking about this ...

A shirt which was several sizes too small for me ... it would
have fitted a 9 year old ... I could hardly get the edges of
the shirt to come today across my manly puny chest.

A five year pocket diary, given to me when I was 9 by one of
my dad's elderly friends. The diary had one week on one page
... so typical diary entries for me would be "Had peas again".
I didn't carry on more than a couple of weeks with this.
My life was uneventful in those days (as it is now, you'll be

A box of horrribly flavoured toffees given to me, again when
I was around 9 years of age .... my sister S thought they were
revolting too ... we called them "cement sweets". With
hindsight, I think they were rum-flavoured (which I quite like
now... I should have saved them).

Several ties, which I only wore once (if at all). They stayed
in my wardrobe for yonks.

It's so difficult to find suitable pressies for people, don't
you think, without asking them directly for a list of what
they'd like?

Amazon's idea of having a "wish list" for people to enter on
what they'd like, is brilliant. A bit like posting your wish
list to Santa in Greenland, only better.

Perhaps people like myself, who've got most of what they'd
ever want in the house, should ask for cheques from family &
friends who wish to give something ~ made out to a named


Monday, December 29, 2008

Had peas again.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tweaking my template (yet again)

As you may have noticed, I’ve tinkered with the layout of this
blogsite yet again.

For a long time, I’ve admired the appearance of Wordpress sites,
which is what I’ve been aiming for.

This blogsite is an “Old Blogger” one. I’ve found it easier to
tweak the template of this site than that of a New Blogger site
I set up not long ago.

One thing I don’t like about Blogger is the way it distorts the
clarity of text I add to banner photos ~ I haven’t had this
trouble with other websites I’ve set up (which are not
Blogger-based). Some bloggers have got round this by loading up
a banner photo (without text on the banner), and then adding text
by wrapping it over the photo. Jean has done this with her
blogsite for example. However, for the time being I’ll stick with
my banner, as I don’t mind the text looking slightly roughened.
I started off with the white Minima design a few years ago, by
the way.

So here are a few of the changes I’ve made to my site …

I’ve widened the screen under “Content” from 730 to 760px.
I’ve removed the top blue navbar (see this site for the code)
I've enlarged my banner photo slightly (now 740 x 240px)
I’ve deleted “Recent Posts”, to de-clutter.
I’ve moved my Flickr badge much higher up the side bar, following
Lettuce’s example … I think it looks much better there
I’ve re-arranged my blog-roll, and have put back in Mike’s site
I’ve changed the appearance of my clock (looks more colourful).
I’ve put “powered by Blogger” down in the footnotes

You are very welcome to use any of these ideas (as I’ve borrowed
them from other bloggers anyway).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day morning

I'm sitting in the front room of my daughter's house in
London (in South Wimbledon), where Mrs C and I are staying
for a few days. We drove down in our ancient car on
Christmas Eve. I was suprised that the motorway traffic was
fairly light, especially when we drove by Heathrow.

Christmas Day was busy and noisy with a huge family
gathering (in a modest-sized three-bedroomed semi). I spent
most of the morning preparing veg and doing the washing-up
(of everything we don't put in the dish-washer), while Mrs
C and our daughter L looked after Mini and did the last
minute cooking.

We spent the rest of the day eating & drinking, and chatting
with everyone .... and later more eating and drinking while
doing the Times Crossword (Saturday's Jumbo, which takes
us a good part of a week to complete usually), and watching
a little telly. We watched the film "Memoirs of a Geisha",
which had bad reviews at the time it came out (said not to be
as good as the book), and the TV Christmas special of The
Royle Family,
which we thought wasn't as funny as the last

For the main Xmas meal, Mrs C and I had a large slice each
of a chestnut and lentil loaf (which Mrs C had made) with
home-made gravy, and all the usual veg, while everyone else
tucked into slices of roast turkey and curried duck (with
biryani rice).

We haven't any special plans for today, apart from a walk
around the area, in the cold sunshine forecast for today.
We'll be eating up the left-overs today ~ I imagine that
you'll be doing so also.

Hope you're having a relaxing Xmas break.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yuletide Felicitations to all my readers

Just posting this to wish everyone a Merry Xmas and a very
Happy New Year.

Hope you remember to leave some goodies out for Santa to nibble
& to drink on Xmas Eve .... plus some refreshments for the
reindeer. Who would wish to work such long hours on Xmas Eve?

It won't be a Happy Crimble for lots of people badly hit by
redundancy & losing their homes with the credit crunch ~ the
poor sods.

These are good times though for all the bargain-hunters / vultures
picking over the remains of Woolies and other stores that are
about to close.

Some people win, and some people lose.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Mrs C and I treated ourselves to the annual panto at Nottingham
Playhouse last night... recommended to us by several people who'd
been to see it already. Widow Twanky was played by the veteran
actor, Kenneth Alan Taylor, who celebrates his 25th year this year,
playing the Dame and directing the show.

We've been to two shows over the 25 years and also to a panto at
Derby Playhouse, when our girls were younger. I think they all
felt embarrassed by the fact that I used to join in, booing the
baddie and shouting out: "He's behind you!", etc, etc. Well, I
like to join in the fun, and let my hair down (what's left of it).

Our daughter, L, sent Mrs C a text when she heard we were going:
"Oh no - Dad will be making a fool of himself, again!"

Aladdin's a brilliant show ... wonderful in all respects. There's
some very funny ad-libbing from the main actors, from KAT in
particular, when he poked fun at the parents while interviewing five
children from the audience towards the end of the show.

There were the usual jokes based on the rivalry between the
local football teams, and a joke about Aladdin being transported
to a "a dark, cold, miserable and desolate place ~~~ Derby."

The funniest sketch was based on the famous ice-skating dance by
Torvill and Dean in the 1984 Olympics, with KAT dancing with the
bad guy (who was a reformed character, by this time in the show),
.. dancing as lovers.


Little A came over to see us earlier this week, with her mum and
baby brother, and stayed for lunch with us. A didn't eat much food,
as she was below par with a cold. However, like most kids, she likes
sweets ~ chocolate in particular. So when Mrs C offered her some
fruit to eat ... (A was holding Teddy at this moment in time, and
was looking around for goodies to eat) ...

"Teddy want something else!"

"Would Teddy like a clementine?"

"Would Teddy like an apple?"

""Would Teddy like some chocolate?"
"YES, Yes, Yes!", replied A, waving Teddy around very enthusiastically.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A star is born

Well, one of the highlight of the last few days (for both Mrs C
and myself) was watching the X Factor Final. We've watched most
of the X Factor competition, and the final featured some really
amazing performances ... Alexandra Burke deserved to be the
finalist ... a superb voice and a great personality. A star is

If you haven't seen her singing, here is a YouTube film of her
final tearful performance ... not as good as her earlier one that
evening, but you'll get a good idea of how great a singer she is.
The YouTube film might expire within the next 28 days or so, and
I could only see half of it this morning.

I've been very busy in the last few days doing website stuff and
processing over 100 photos I took at a Xmas party I went to (on
Monday), and getting half of them onto a Flickr site. Taking the
photos was quite good fun, but I felt it was too intrusive for some
people there, who weren't keen on being photographed.

How would you feel if you were munching on some food, and a some
madman with a camera came along and started taking snaps of you
doing so?

If I were to take any photos in future at a social, I'd only do it
if and when invited to do so, by groups or individuals there.

The party was held at the City's Council House - my first view of
the interior which I thought was very impressive for a civic
building. The Gents loos were very good too ... even better than
John Lewis', which are among the best in Nottingham, if you're ever
taken short.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More food for thought


Friday, December 12, 2008

Food for thought.

Mrs C and I spent this evening with a couple of good friends
of ours - we had invited them over to our house for drinks
and nibbles.

Earlier in the day, Mrs C baked a lovely chocolate cake (using
ground almonds instead of flour), and later covered it with a
layer of dark chocolate. The cake was divine … I awarded it a
Michelin star.

I'll photograph the remains of this cake, in natural light

Both of us went separately into town this morning, to do some
food shopping for this meal. My trip took in Tesco, the new
Waitrose shop opposite John Lewis, and the central market.
I bought a bottle of one of our favourite red wines (which
is on offer at Tesco at the mo) … Casillero del Diablo’s
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, which comes all the way from Chile
… gorgeous stuff.

Later on, I made some white bread rolls, some houmous, and
a dip made out of flaked smoked mackerel, low-fat crème fraiche,
chopped dill and a little lemon juice … mmmmm ... all of which
we eat subsequently with salads, various Indian vegetarian
snacks, stuffed vine leaves and green olives. We’ll be eating
up the left-overs tomorrow.

At lunchtime, I listened to "You and Yours" on the radio, in
which there was an item on the huge amount of food we import
into the UK - just think of all the unseasonal fruit and veg
we eat, and kind of take for granted. One of the experts they
had on speaking about all this, thought that one day other
countries might stop supplying us with all this food
(especially as sterling is low in value). Why should
they bother feeding us?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The annual chore

A chore, an utter bore, or an absolute delight?

What am I referring to? I'm referring to the annual marathon
of sending out Xmas cards to all and sundry.

The person who started this craze ought to be shot.

And who benefits, but the shopkeeper and our good old postal
service, who as are propped up financially by this annual

For me, just thinking about getting to grips with doing the
Xmas cards, is a bit like facing a huge pile of exam scripts
to mark, one of those things you tend to leave until tomorrow
... and then the next day... and the next.

I have developed some expertise in procrastination, as some
of you will have realised by now.

My dad liked this saying from the Faber Book of Aphorisms ...
"If you feel the urge to do something, just sit down and wait
until the urge passes". However, you could end up feeling very

I'm pleased to say that Mrs C and I have "broken the back" of
it for this year.

We've sent nearly half our cards as home-made e-cards. I'll
show you a copy of my photographic efforts a bit nearer to Xmas

Doing just the photo took me a couple of days of fiddling about,
and doing individual emails to everyone on my list took me a
lot longer than scribbling our names on conventional Xmas cards
and envelopes. Mrs C helped me with the design of the

Individual emails? Well, they were all variations on the "Merry
Xmas and Happy New Year" theme, so they weren't very original.

One of my neighbours told me that he and his wife send out 120
cards each year to family, friends and former work colleagues
.... 120 cards! It's a team effort, with one of them signing
their names only on each card, and the other addressing the
envelope and sticking on a stamp. But what is the point of
sending out cards like this?

Do you get a nice warm feeling (a feeling of being loved or
appreciated) when you receive a Xmas card from a friend or
neighbour ~ someone you see at least once a week?

Or do you say to yourself: "Oh, bloody hell! Let's quickly send
one back!"

And what do you think about Xmas newsletters / Round Robins?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Our fourth is going to be a girl

Yes, L phoned us yesterday with some very good news about her
21 week scan ... everything was OK, and the baby-to-be is a
girl. Last time, L had a very low lying placenta, and had to
have a CS and 6 weeks' aftercare with us.

"Isn't that great," she said, "no placenta trouble."

Whereupon, Mini shouted out: "No Santa trouble!"

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Flickr sites

I've just been changing round my Flickr sites on this blogsite,
so the Flickr badge you see below (on the right hand side) is my
main one for this site.

You're allowed up to 200 photos free of charge on any one Flickr
site ... I've got three of them on the go at present. The one
you'll see here ....


... had 170 photos on it, but I've pruned them down to about 145.
I've yet to update it from last April (which I'll do in the
next few days). I take about 3000 photos a year, and lob a third
of these, so what you see is only a small selection of my better

My main Flickr site has about 800 photos on it, as I've gone for a
Flickr Pro account. I think this is well worth the annual fee of
about £12.50. I've just renewed my subscription, and have paid up
for the next two years. If you are about to do the same, and live
in the UK, I'd recommend you do this by a Visa credit card rather
than a Mastercard. The latter blocked my payment in dollars ...
and blocked further use of my card, as MC thought the card was
being used fraudulently. It took me 20 minutes on the phone to MC,
and payment of more than 70p for the phone call, to sort this all
out ... bloody annoying.

11.30pm ... I've just selected 75 photos to go onto this
Flickr site,
which I'll have to cut down to about 50 ~ Hells' Bells.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

We live in a technological age

I'm very impressed with how skilled young people are in using
remote controls and fixing tricky things on computers. Often
more competent than I am. My daughters acquired computer skills
many years before I did, and it was they who showed me the
basics of how to use a PC and the internet.

At the weekend wedding, a couple of youngsters were playing a
sophisticated computer game on a X-Box machine, playing against
each other at how fast they could kill off enemy robots with
gunfire ... the sort of game I'm not very good at, but then, I
suppose, I could improve my skill with a lot of practice.
These two lads were brothers, aged 11 and 6, playing a game
devised for adults. (Good preparation for a future life in
business, don't you think? "Killing off" the opposition.)

Today, our daughter L who lives in London, texted us a funny
story about Little Mini. L had been reading in a book on child
development, about a game where on touching your nose, you (the
adult), stick your tongue out, and when you tug at one of your
ear lobes, you move your tongue to one side, etc. -- it's a
game my dad used to play with me when I was little, and he also
played it with our kids, to everyone's amusement.

Anyway, when L touched her nose and stuck her tongue out at Mini,
Mini touched L's nose and said: "Switch off!"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Chocolate cake!

Our granddaughter, Little A, is very fond of eating chocolate cake.
Mrs C made a large chocolate cake for her 2nd birthday last October,
which went down very well … very well with all of us really, and
then at the family wedding last weekend, there were lots more
chocolate cakes (muffin-sized, with icing on top, and carrot cakes

Her dad saved one for her, for part of her breakfast the following
day, and on the way home in the car, Little A shouted out “Chocolate
cake!”, repeatedly. Her mum told her fairly assertively each time,
that there was no cake left.

“Chocolate cake!”
“Sorry, A, but there’s no chocolate cake left.”

After a few minutes’ silence, A. said in a quiet, plaintive voice:
“I love chocolate cake.”

Mrs C and I went round to babysit for the family yesterday.
Her mum, B., was going out that evening to a staff leaving do,
and her dad was due home from work later in the evening.
When we got to the house, we knocked on the front door fairly
quietly (in case A. or her baby brother were asleep). B. opened
the door and Little A greeted us, saying: “Chocolate cake, Gran’ma!”

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pre-Christmas Bargains

Those of you who live in the UK, will have noticed that several of
our major stores are offering generous discounts on their wares,
to tempt us to buy lots of stuff before Xmas (instead of waiting
until the Boxing Day/January sales). I'm often disappointed by the
January sales, where some stores bring out old stock for the nth
time to try and get rid of it.

I know I keep on going on about Martin Lewis' website, but I think it
deserves yet another mention ...


If you'd like to receive weekly emails from his website, you can
register for this brilliant service ... click on the link to the
relevant page in the blue box on the right hand side of the home

In the middle of the home (opening) page, there is a link to the
current one-day sales …


For example, La Senza is currently offering 40 per cent off its glamorous
underwear, in store and online.

“Just looking for something special for my partner to wear”
“Oh, yes, we’ve heard that one before” (thinks the shop assistant).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hello ~ I'm ba-ack

Hi folks,
It's great to be back home again after a chilly week in Kent,
and a weekend in Derbyshire/Staffs ~ back home again to a
comfy bed, lovely cups of tea, my computer(s) and our two
gorgeous cats (Miss D and Slayer).

I've been busy sorting through and editing 260 snaps of the
holiday and of the family wedding we went to ... this evening,
I've put up a load of them onto my Flickr site.

In amongst the wedding photos you'll see a group photo of the
Cloud House girls, four of whom are our daughters ~ the other
two are our nieces. I think I've mentioned previously that we
lived for about 16 years with Mrs C's sister and her family in
a large house on the outskirts of Nottingham ~ we all parted
company when all the girls had left home (for uni or a life on
their own).

Well, it's now 12.50am ... time for bed.