Sunday, November 29, 2009

A sepia on Sunday

Here's a photo of my mum when she was about 4 or 5 years old, and of
her sister too. The original is lighter in tone than what you see here.
It was taken by a Liverpool photographer in about 1918-19, I reckon.

Their father died of throat cancer in 1926, leaving the family destitute,
but subsequently the girls won scholarships to attend the girl's grammar
schools and Liverpool University too, and later got work as teachers.

two sisters

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Climb every mountain?

We heard a funny story about our granddaughter Mini today. Her mum was
reading a children's story book to her, about some bears who/which set off
on a long trek ... walking through woods and across some fields, splish-
splashing across a river, and then starting an arduous climb up a

At this point in the story, Mini asked: "Why don't they walk around the

She'd thought about this all by herself, which I think is amazing for
someone so young.


Of course, I totally agree with her viewpoint. Why climb a ruddy mountain
and risk losing your life/limb, when you could walk round it, or go up some
of them in a cable-car, or get a helicopter to the top?

I get a great sense of achievement if I complete a Sudoku puzzle. I don't
need to climb a mountain.

(I'm adding in a post here, which I deleted temporarily to remove
spam in my Comments box)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'Tis almost the season to be jolly

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog-post about how Christmas is nearly
upon us, (it’s 4 weeks away) and about the annual ritual / chore of sending
out Xmas cards and/or “round robins” to one and all. But then I remembered
that Thanksgiving Day in the US is coming up, it’s tomorrow in fact, and
then I wondered what that’s all about.

Well, as Philip Gold’s post tells me, initially it was a celebration devised
by the Pilgrims Fathers way back in 1620, and who’d survived the sea voyage
and their first year (or few months) there. Later, it became the day of the
year that the US celebrates all its achievements, and a day for family
get-togethers and feasting (which I’ve deduced from all the American films
I’ve watched over the years). I think this is very bad timing because they’ve
got to put up with the same set of relatives coming over for another feast
on Xmas Day. :)

Anyway, my main thought for the day is really about Round Robins. I think
they’ve got “The Marmite Factor” (a term used by Alan Baddiel when he wrote
about the identical twins in the "X Factor") … you either love them or hate
them. As I sit on the fence on most things, being a Libran, I do have mixed
feelings about receiving these from family and friends.

I’ve noticed that Round Robins tend to be upbeat or downbeat according to
how the writer is feeling … a bit like my posts … but somehow they are either
too boastful … listing all the exotic holidays they’ve been on, and how
brilliantly their adorable children are doing at school, at uni or in their
jobs … or at the other extreme, too miserable … tales of woe, listing all
their ailments, all the friends who’ve died, and how miserable they feel …
what an annus horribilis they’ve had (written by an anus horribilis ~ a pain
in the arse).

And then you get newsletters from folk, written in the third person, saying
“Stan did this”, while “Ethel did that”, which leaves me wondering who
actually wrote them. To make matters even more impersonal ~ sorry, I'll just
re-phrase this ~ what I think makes a newletter even more impersonal, is a repetition in the newsletter of all the news I’ve either been told or
participated in, earlier in the year.

Given how easy it is to edit a typed letter in Word, why can’t the sender edit
out the bits I already know, and personalise it for me? It’s a bit like
receiving a standardised letter from a business, sent out to everyone on its
email list.

Having said all that, it’s time I got on with getting my Christmas e-card
ready to send to everyone on my email list. :)

Happy Thanksgiving (to my American readers).

The following comments are for my post "Climb every mountain?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Using Picasa to make a collage for your Desktop


I put this collage together with the help of Picasa 3 (free software from
Google), in less than 5 minutes. I then clicked on a button to put it onto
my Desktop ... done in a few seconds. I was amazed how easy this was to do.

You can click on the photo above, to access "All Sizes" ~ values in pixels:
Square (75 x 75) - Thumbnail (100 x 63) - Small (240 x 150) -
Medium (500 x 313) - Large (1024 x 640) - Original (5120 x 3200)

The photos I used for the collage were 3-4 MB each in size, and Picasa
created a collage from these which was 1.9 MB in size. From the above
selection of sizes, I copied the HTML code for the medium size, and pasted
it into my Blogger page. Easy-peasy, and as I've mentioned before, Flickr
sharpens each photo for you (whereas I've found I tend to lose quality
uploading the same photos straight into Blogger).

(Once you've downloaded Picasa, have a look at Picasa’s Help section,
to see how easy it is to create a collage yourself).

By the way, when downloading Picasa 3, I'd recommended opting for the
lesser of the two scans for your photos, and also not to accept Picasa
as your main photo-viewer, unless you're keen to have it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The new nursery

Not a lot happening here in London at the mo, apart from the good news that
our granddaughter Mini has settled into her new nursery very quickly this
week. She took to it like a duck to water. We all trooped round to the nursery
yesterday afternoon at 3.30 to collect her, when Mrs C and I were introduced
to the staff ... three really lovely, cheerful women.

I would have been very pleased to be a child there myself ... instead of an
utterly horrible experience I had at the nursery I attended, where the woman
in charge rushed in one morning brandishing a carving knife, threatening to
chop our heads off if we all didn't stop crying. Well we weren't crying all
the time, just when my sister and I saw my mum and dad kissing each other
across the road when my dad set off for work on his bicycle. We waved but
they ignored us. I felt abandoned. So if people tell me they had a miserable
time at boarding school as children, being cut off from their families, that's something I can relate to.

In the afternoon, I watched the BBC biopic on Enid Blyton, one of my favourite
authors when I was a kid. It was on BBC4, so it's likely to be shown again on
BBC1 or BBC2 some time ... I can recommend it to you. Helena Bonham-Carter was
in the lead role. Here's what Stephen Adams of The Daily Telegraph had to say
about Enid's troubled personal life ...

Later that day, my almost-son-in-law J invited me out to his favourite local
pub in S. Wimbledon, where we had a fun time drinking beer (mine was a draught
Caledonian bitter, Deuchars IPA, which was very nice), and playing pool ....
my first game of pool ever! Well, I have played billiards as a teenager with schoolfriends, and I watch snooker on the telly from time to time. I felt
a bit "rusty" when using the cue for the first time in ages. Despite playing
some crap shots including a few total misses, I did manage to pot quite a few
balls and managed to win one game (playing against J who plays pool a lot).

Tomorrow we're heading over to Wansdworth Common to meet up with a couple
more relatives, C and E. E is expecting a baby boy early next year, and we're
taking around bagfuls of baby clothes for her (from her cousins). I took lots
of photos at their wedding in Derbyshire a year ago .... how time flies.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We're in London this week

Yep, we're in London for the rest of this week, staying with our daughter and
family there (that includes Mini and her little sister, D). Our car journey
this morning took a bit longer than usual owing to roadworks on the M1, and
a two-lane closure on the M25, not far from Heathrow ... it took us 4 hours
to get here, half an hour more than usual. The weather today has been sunny
and mild, and there were some interesting programmes to listen to on Radio 4,
making our journey more tolerable.

I'll put up some photos of the kids onto my Flickr site (and onto here also),
early next week when I've got access to better computer facilities.

I had a two hour nap this afternoon, after a late lunch and having woken up
early this morning after only 5 hours sleep. It's now 10.15pm and everyone
else here has gone to bed early. My daughter L is woken early at 4.30am,
by Little D who hasn't yet adjusted to the hour change from British Summer
Time. Her parter J wakes up at 5am to get the 6am Underground Tube train into
his workplace in central London ... so it's early bedtimes for this family
here (and I guess for a lot of Londoners who get up early to beat the rush
hour into work). It takes J one hour on the Tube to get into the centre of
London, from South Wimbledon. It takes me a few minutes on the bus (or
15-17 mins on foot) to get into the centre of Nottingham. I wonder why
people choose to live in London (and pay 2-3 times as much for comparable

The highlights of last weekend included going to see the new film all about
John Keats, called "Bright Star" .... a fabulous production by Jane Campion
who wrote the script and directed the film, and brilliant acting by all
concerned. I give this film a five star rating. Here is a link to the
IMDb film website, if you'd like to see more and watch a film clip or two.

The other highlight included going to see the Leicester Symphony Orchestra
in action last Saturday night. We have relatives in Leicester, one of whom
plays in the orchestra, so we get to see our family there too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

So what's causing Climate Change?

I heard an interesting interview with Prof Ian Plimer on Radio 4 this
morning, who rubbished current theories about climate change … he
reckons that carbon dioxide doesn't cause global warming. If he’s
right, then a lot of people including politicians are deluding
themselves if they think they can put a stop to the current period of
global warming, by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from industry,
cars, planes and cows.

You can listen to Ian on BBC Radio HERE... scroll down the page to
8.52am, and read what he has to say in a Daily Telegraph article HERE.


While we were in Germany 2-3 weeks ago, I photographed several shop
windows in the towns we visited. Here's one of them in Nuremberg, which
I thought looked very bright and cheerful. It's the Staedtler shop.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Any old veg soup

I made some very simple soup this morning from some assorted veg, just
waiting to be used up ... a small bag of shallot onions, two leeks, a squash,
one medium-sized potato, 3 cloves of garlic and some boiling water, all
pressure-cooked for 10 minutes and just left to cool in the pressure cooker
for another 5 mins or so. Then all blended up with a couple of organic veggie
stock cubes. Very nice with some home-made bread rolls.

Mrs C suggested adding a little ground ginger and cumin to the remainder,
pictured above, which we'll have tomorrow. Mmmm.

Our ancestors (mine were working class) probably made soup in a similar way,
just boiling up anything they managed to get their hands on. No refined
vegetable oils for them, though they might have used some butter or other
animal fat for frying stuff up in.

BTW, it tastes better than it looks. :)


This evening, I cooked a few veggie sausages in our Remoska, along with a
mountain of veg ~ swede and potato mash, peas, cabbage, brocolli and sprouts.

Mrs C and I really love our veg ... in fact it's becoming a serious addiction.

We pine for veg when we're away on holiday abroad, when getting hold of
fresh veg can be problematic. Thinking about what my sister and her French
husband eat (in France), their veg consists of a bowl of a few lettuce leaves,
amd a few slices of tomato, all doused in vinaigrette ... very tasty but
somewhat lacking for us.

I reckon I should go along to Veggies Anonymous (aka the local Allotment
Gardeners' Association) ...

"Hello everyone. My name's Justin and I'm addicted to eating veg."

(Huge round of applause from everyone in the audience).

Monday, November 09, 2009


Today was fairly cold and sunny. I went a little walk around 9am, to
our local Co-op shop to buy a couple of carrots, do some photo-copying,
and to put 10 empty wine bottles into the recycling bins nearby. Then
I walked further up Mansfield Road to our nearest post office, to post
some garments back to Land’s End (a catalogue shopping service). Mrs C
had ordered a few items, and wished to return most of them as they didn’t
fit her.

I then spent a good part of the day, putting together a talk on how to
use a flash drive for the Computer Club I help run … I’m putting various
aspects of file management into the talk, as well as how to set up password protection on a flash drive with Rohos or Truecrypt. I’m padding the talk
out with stuff about file management, as otherwise there isn’t a lot to
talk about flash drives (apart from how brilliant they are, and how simple
they are to use).

Mid-afternoon, I decided it was time to start sorting out my pig-stye of
a den … the room with the fitted wardrobe, inside which I’ve put some
shelving. I put up a clothes rail, and have started to clear some of the
clutter from the room … tools, screws, sandpaper, etc, etc. I’ve got heaps
of paperwork to sort through, and to file away properly, before I can set
to and help Mrs C get her (online) tax return together … which means
sorting through yet more paperwork. Hope to get all the info together before
Xmas, which is only six and a half weeks away.

Mrs C put together a lovely veggie stew for our evening meal, while I was
pottering around upstairs, and a bit later I cooked some potato and cabbage
to go with the stew. With all this we had a generous glass of a Spanish
Sauvignon Blanc, which was lovely, and we then settled down to an evening’s
TV viewing (snuggling together under a thick fake-fur blanket) … Miranda
Hart’s sitcom, FlashForward, and Collision … a new drama showing on ITV
every evening this week … it looks very promising.

Previously … we’ve been watching a DVD of the second series of Dexter,
looking at two/three episodes at one go (it’s so addictive!), and we’re
still watching The X Factor … we’re disappointed that Lucie didn’t get
more support from the public (or from Simon Cowell), as she was voted
off the series last night. Oh well, we didn’t pick up the phone to vote
for her … we don’t vote at all.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Just painted my blogsite

I've just had a go at splashing some paint on the walls of my blogsite.
I hope you like my new colour scheme, and that you find the text as readable
as before.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Photos of Fountains Abbey

Here are a few photos from our Fountains Abbey trip (there are more pics
on pages 12-13 of my Flickr site, though these page numbers will change
as I add yet more pics onto the site).



Next up is a photo of my lovely wife, taken at Fountains…


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Yes, we're back from Germany

We got back just under a week ago. We stayed in self-catering apartments,
while we were there, in a small town called Hersbruck, which is a short
train journey from Nuremberg (Nürnberg). We were in Germany for our annual
cousins' meet-up, which was hosted this year by a couple who spend part of
the year in Germany (in Lauf), and half in the UK. Both of them are now
retired from work, which allows them to live their lives like this.

I don't think I'd really like to have a second home, and to live such a
life-style, as I'd find it too disruptive as regards keeping all my various
activities and friendships going. For example I play electric guitar with
a couple of mates every 2-3 weeks, so I'd miss out on a lot of fun for 6
months if I had a second home abroad ... and I'd also miss seeing our
daughters and grandchildren.

The weather in Germany was quite good ... some good sunny and warm days,
interspersed with some wet / cloudy ones. We spent some time wandering
around Nuremberg, visiting some of the historical sites there, and we also
visited some of the nearby towns .... Regensburg, Bamberg, and Bayreuth,
to name a few. I'm not far off sorting through load of photos - 320 of them
- about half of which I'll put up on my Flickr site by the end of this week.

I'll also be putting onto Flickr some photos of Fountains Abbey (near Ripon
in Yorkshire), which we visited on my birthday about 3 weeks ago. It's a
National Trust property, which is open all the year round.

Since we've got back we've been catching up on a lot of missed TV drama and
comedy, plus "The X Factor" of course. For those of you who are watching it,
who do you think will be in the top three/four by the end of the series?
My favourite four are ...
Jamie Archer ~
Lucie Jones ~
Danyl Johnson ~
Olly Murs ~
... and I hope that Jamie will win it, as I reckon he's the most talented ~
he's a born entertainer with a fabulous voice.