Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, everyone

Here I am, sitting at my computer, typing this. It's 11.20 in the evening,
just before the start of the New Year.

Everyone else in the house has gone to bed early. We had a mini-celebration
earlier this evening, drinking some excellent Cava (just as good as champagne
I think, for a fraction of the price ... I think champers is an over-rated
drink, anyway) ... and eating some Thornton's chocs. The latter were a
mixture of milk and dark chocolate ... I prefer the less sweet, darker
chocolate, though I can't eat a lot of it. We watched the end of the
second episode of "Cranford" with our daughter L ... I felt close to tears
in parts of this, when various storylines were concluded happily. "Tears of
joy" in fact. This phrase seems to be really illogical .... why do people
cry when something really good happens (following periods of misery or

Our neice Z and her 4 year old son came round to see us yesterday evening,
for a chat. Z told us a funny story about her son, who was getting very
excited at the prospect of Santa coming on Christmas Eve. It's the one
evening in the entire year, when he's keen to get to bed early ... he
announced to his mum and dad: "I want to go to bed now. I feeling sweepy."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Child's play

Most of you will have seen notices just outside children’s playgrounds
saying: “Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times”, which
shifts the responsibility for any accident happening onto the adult
(unless the equipment is faulty).

I saw one of these notices up at one of the holiday sites we visited
last summer, and I thought at the time, that someone could write
these words underneath: “Adults must be accompanied by a child at all

Today we went on a family outing to a children’s “soft play centre”
for a bit of fun. This was our second visit to Denz’s play centre in

In our party were Mrs C and myself, three of our daughters, two
partners and our four grandchildren. Adults can get in free of charge,
which I think is amazing ~ we were charged over £6 each at a London
play centre we visited recently). I noticed that there were more adults
than children in the centre this morning ... everyone having drinks and

I spent a fair amount of time with the tots in a special area for them,
while Mrs C and the other adults took it in turns to run around with
the older children, scrambling through what looked like an army assault
course in parts. We returned home about 3 hours later.

We spent the afternoon having more drinks and nibbles, sitting around
chatting and entertaining the little ones. Later on, after the main meal
and getting the children off to bed, we watched part one of the BBC
Cranford” drama (Series 2) … reviewed here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

We've had another busy day (as busy as yesterday) with another set of
relatives arriving at lunchtime from London. Mrs C did more than her
fair share of cooking, producing an almost identical Xmas dinner / lunch,
(identical to yesterday's), which included home-made mince pies and an
apple pie (instead of the Xmas pudding). Mrs C made a lovely chocolate
cake yesterday, as well. We managed to find room to eat home-made bread
with a selection of cheeses / ham, at tea-time. I ate up some left-over
veg instead. All accompanied by some delicious red wine and Grolsch lager.

After lunch we all got together for a Xmas pressie exchange, following
which Big J and myself took Mini (my granddaughter) to a local children's
park to play on the swings and slides. I'll most likely post some more
photos of our grandchildren later this week.

One of my camera memory cards has suddenly stopped working (after several
years of use), which is a great shame as I took some snaps of our other
grandchildren when they came to our house yesterday - photos which are
now lost. I've been thinking today what a disaster that would be for a
professional photographer - to lose a set of wedding photos, etc..

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas shopping

Hi there, folks. Are you all set for Christmas, or are you running around
doing last minute food & pressie shopping?

I'm amazed by the amount of food that people buy in for an event that
lasts one or two days. Mrs C and I tend to over-buy, but we do use
everything up in due course - we don't throw out much food, very little
in fact. These days, shops round here only close for a day, or in the
case of our local Co-op shop, only half a day ... and that's on Xmas Day

But hold on a minute ... we can't leave the food shopping to the
last minute, can we? Just imagine if everyone else had bought all the
Brussel sprouts, or there are no Aunt Bessie's (frozen) Yorkshire puddings
to be found in the shop freezer. Christmas Day would be ruined!

So we all rush around in a frenzy, grabbing all that we can off the
shelves, just in case.

We're in the middle of a very cold spell of weather here ... the
pavements outside our house are covered with a thin layer of snow and
ice, and despite having our central heating on most of today, we're
still feeling the cold from time to time. Our gas boiler is playing
up at the moment, tending to switch itself off, if its internal
temperature get too hot. Our boiler man will be coming early next
month to overhaul our central heating system. In the meantime, he's
asked us to remove thermostatic valves off our radiator around the
house, and to experiment with the boiler thermostat setting too.

Oh, what fun.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A shortcut to your programs and websites


I've been having a go at using Launchy, which is a free program you
can download from via the Sourceforge site. This was
recommended by Andrew Brown in The Guardian's IT section way back
in January 2008.

You can launch programs or websites listed in (My) Favourites, just
by typing in a name or the first few letters of it into the search
box above. I typed "blo" into it a few minutes ago, and launched the
Blogger log-in page, (by selecting it from the Launchy list and
pressing the Enter key). You can toggle this icon on and off your
Desktop screen using Alt + spacebar, and you can move the icon
around your screen (click and drag).

For screen capture, I use Cropper for my Windows XP PC and Vista's
snipping tool on my laptop ... both of them are free, though I find
Cropper a bit more fiddly to use. I used Cropper for the above image.

Cropper is quite difficult to find in "All Programs", but just by
typing the letters "cro" into Launchy's search box, gave me much
faster access. BTW, Cropper downloads as a zip file, which you can
open up with Freezip, which is a free download also.

Using Cropper ... having clicked on the white Cropper icon, it can
take about 15 seconds before the Cropper capture device appears on
your screen. You can move and re-size it easily. My Cropper shortcut
sits on my taskbar, and you may have to click on this again to
get it up, back into view.

A right mouse click on the Cropper screen gives you ...
1. Under Output, the ability to save the image as a jpeg, and
the jpeg quality you want. I found PNG images to be of better
2. Under Options, where to save your image, eg on your Desktop
You need to give the image a name e.g launchy10. Press OK

To save your screen capture, hit the Enter key. You can then see
your jpeg/png image on your Desktop.

To exit from Cropper, right mouse click > exit.

If you've got Vista / Windows Seven, the Snipping tool is a lot
easier to use. However, one downside of using the Snipping tool
(in Vista) is the red border around each screen capture. Images
are saved automatically onto your Clipboard, so you can paste
them where you like, (using Control + V).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A few photos for you to see

Here are a few photos for you …

First up, two photos of our lovely Slayer, sitting outside the patio
door in the freezing cold. I let her into our house shortly after I'd
taken the photos, through the patio door (which is not the usual way
she gets in). She's usually very camera-shy - I don't think she likes
the infra-red focussing light from the camera. (Perhaps the
double-glazing cut that down a bit?)



… and here are a couple of photos of our lovely granddaughter
Little A, who’d just arrived back from holiday in Suffolk (her
family’s car journey was 2 hours longer than it should have been
owing to all the snow to the south of Nottingham).



You can see a bit of tomato sauce on her face, highlighted by the
camera flash. I didn’t see it at the time. (Mrs C tells me that she's
got the remains of foundation make-up on her face, plus a bit of

Now I’ve made the next photo not viewable to the general public on
my Flickr site, so I hope you’ll be able to see it on this blogsite.

Please let me know if you don’t see it here. If you can see the photo,
please would you click on it and let me know if you can view a larger
image (via the icon “All Sizes, just above the photo). I haven’t done
this before, so I’d be interested to know how well you can see this
(and a larger version of it).


(I've increased the photo size a little from 500px to 550px,
which is just within my Blogger column width of 570px.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two wonderful but sad songs

One of my friends recommended I listen to Susan Boyle singing a Rolling
Stones song: “Wild Horses”, which is really amazing, though as one critic
said, it is heavily orchestrated.

Here it is on YouTube, if you’d like to hear it yourself …

Here are the Stones singing it, back in 1976 …

Next up is Adam Levine with Alicia Keys, singing the same song …

I think Susan’s version is by far the best, don’t you?


This evening on the Royal Variety Performance, Mrs C and I watched
Betty Midler singing her song: “The Wind Beneath My Wings” …

Here’s a guy singing the song, quite well, while playing his guitar …

… and here’s Betty singing it herself back in 2008 ..

… and in the film, The Beaches, in 1988.

What an idyllic way to spend one’s last few days of life, in a fabulous
setting and in the company of family and a good friend.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The past few days

We've had an eventful past few days. Last Friday, we had Little A and J
come to stay with us for the day, as usual. Unfortunately, A started
to be sick from time to time, throwing up her drinks and food, and later
on her brother started to do the same, though he remained reasonably well.
So we had a lot of clearing up, while giving TLC to these two young ones,
until their mum arrived to take them home (at the end of her working day).

To backtrack briefly, we went to a lovely concert by the carol singers of
Nottingham's St Mary's Church. The standard of the singing was very high ...
as good as if not better than Kings College Choir (in Cambridge). We
bought a CD of their more popular carols, which we listened too while
putting yesterday's dinner together. Listening to carols being sung by
the Kings College Choir at Christmas was one of our family's traditions
while I was growing up. We never went to church, but we liked the music,
and for me it was all part of the magic of Christmas ... a really special
time for our family. My dad was less grumpy than usual, even though his
birthday was at Christmas.

On Saturday, the highlight of the day .... was not "The X Factor". Nope,
Mrs C and I went round for a dinner and fun with rellies who live up the
hill from us. We had what was more or less a Xmas dinner without the
turkey, as they're vegetarian. Mrs C brought with us a lovely lemon
drizzle cake she'd made earlier in the day, plus extra goodies for the
pudding, and we drank lots of wine and Cava. Dee-licious.

The fun- side of the get-together was playing with the children's Wii,
and after a few practice throws I got quite good at ten-pin bowling.
It looks quite a simple game, but the complexity of the hardware and
software underlying it is mind-boggling. I thought it was good for
social interaction too, as it got the conversation going between all of
us. Later on we got into a board game, we've played occasionally in the
past ... "The Settlers of Catan", which like "Monopoly" can take up to
two hours to get through one game if you've got 4 or 5 players. We
enjoyed playing this one too.

Yesterday, we spent part of the morning doing some Xmas and food
shopping in town, and the rest of the day, catching up on TV programmes
like "The X Factor", "Have I got news for you", "Live at The Apollo"
with Rob Brydon, part one of a drama "Small Island" (based on Andrea
Levy's book), "Come Dine With Me", a night in with the nation's
sweetheart, Cheryl Cole, followed by another helping of "The X Factor",
the Final, with guest appearances from George Michael & Sir Paul
McCartney singing one of my Beatles favourites: "Drive My Car".
Of course the two finalists, Joe and Olly, were brilliant, and
deserved to be where they were. I think they've both got good
career prospects of making it in show business, Joe in particular,
as I think he's got the "cute" factor. His singing of "Sorry Seems
To Be
" was stunning ... it's a very difficult song to sing ~ I know,
as I've tried to sing it myself.

Oh, and we also managed to write most of our Xmas cards for this year,
a greatly reduced number, as I'll be sending out an e-card to most
people on our list instead, with a personalised Xmas message to
everyone too.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"Daft I call it"

Calling all readers of “The Dandy” or “The Beano”… or was it the “Knockout”
… does anyone remember which character said this all the time?

Well, looking on a couple of webpages on Google (aka the Delphic Oracle) …

... I found out that it was the Knockout - one of its strips called “Our Ernie”,
where the dad always ended the story by saying: “Daft I call it”! Something
that always made me laugh, as a young lad.

And “daft I call it” is what I think of some of the advice my mum used to
give me ….

“Wash behind your ears!” she’d say when my sister and I were at the
bathroom sink, first thing in the morning. What was the point of that
piece of advice, unless she thought the school / nit nurse, would report
anyone with dirt behind their ears to the headteacher?

Another thing is that she showed me how to tie my shoe-laces, which worked
very well. However several people, including Mrs C, have told me over the
years, that I tie them up in mirror-image fashion to everyone else. How
odd is that?

I was also very keen as a child on brushing my teeth correctly, once or
twice a day. I couldn’t understand why folk including teachers, brushed
their teeth up and down, instead of from side to side, as I did. “This is
the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth …”

My mum got that wrong too.

A dentist friend of mine put me right, when I was about 19 … after 19
years of masses of dentistry. You’d think one of my dentists would have
asked me about brushing technique a bit earlier … with having to scrape
out bits of food between my teeth, during my dental visits?

Isn’t it strange how we accept as children what our parents tell us as
the gospel truth, and that it’s not until later in life that we find out
that they’re wrong. But then they’re not infallible like the Pope, are

If my mum were still alive, I’d be asking her: “Hey, Mum, do I have to
wash behind my ears?”

Friday, December 04, 2009

Two of our grandchildren stayed with us today.

Here are a couple of photos of Little A and her brother Little J …



Mrs C and I look after them most Fridays at our house. When Mrs C opened
the front door on their arrival, A said: “It’s lubbly to see you, Grandma!”
… and then ran upstairs to look for some Smarties in the kitchen cupboard …
we usually put a few chocolate treats for her in the cupboard. In fact she
had quite a few chocolate treats today, as she’s been unwell most of this
week with the usual cough and cold bug that’s always going around, and is
not eating much proper food.

Her brother J has not been well either. His mum noticed pus oozing out of
his right ear this morning (which means he’s got an middle ear infection
and a perforated ear drum), in addition to his cold and cough. His GP has
prescribed some amoxicillin for him this morning, but he looked fairly well
despite all this.

I’ve had a headcold and persisting mild sinusitis for about 2 months now …
it varies from day to day … just when I think my cold is drying up for good,
it’s back the next day in glorious technicolour. I’ll spare you any more
detail, just in case you’re eating at the moment. Otherwise, I’m feeling

I’m amazed that our cats don’t catch bugs like this, considering that I
do breathe over them and stroke them every day. But then I hear on the
news that germs tend not to cross over to other species … which make me
wonder why this is so? A virus should be able to invade and multiply in
any large animal, shouldn’t it? So why don’t cats get our awful colds?
Perhaps they’ve got some inbuilt (genetic) immunity?

PS ... one useless but funny fact for you ... Nottingham was called
Snottingham back in Anglo-Saxon times ... it was where the Snots lived.
The letter "S" was dropped by the Normans. This change was fiercely
resisted by the people of Scunthorpe, allegedly (this is a recycled joke
from the panel game show: I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue.)

PPS ... yes, I've changed the background colour back to white.
I got bored with the yellow.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Winter is here

I woke up feeling rather cold this morning, as there'd been a sharp
frost overnight. Recently we've been keeping our central heating off
a lot of the time, mainly switching it on in the mornings on getting
out of bed, to give the house including the bathroom, a quick boost.

Our house is an end-terrace one, with three floors. We tend to live on
the middle floor, which is level with our (back) garden, as our house
was built into a hillside. From a heating viewpoint, the upper two
floors are the warmest, the top floor even more so, so we don't need
the central heating on much ... until this morning when our middle
floor felt very cold.

And ... you might guess what's coming next ... our central heating
boiler is playing up. In the last two days, it's been switching itself
off ... a red flashing light comes on on the boiler, saying there's a
fault ... rectified by re-setting the boiler (switching it on and off).

When I phoned our usual plumber today to come and have a look, he said
he'd come round tomorrow morning, which is very lucky for us. Better than
a common response from plumbers, which is none at all, too busy to call,
or saying they'll come but don't, or the advice: "Take two aspirins and
call me in the morning".

So I've got several extra layers of clothing today, as the boiler cut out
yet again mid-afternoon, despite being set for "on all day".

I'll be filling two hot water bottles tonight and will be putting an
extra blanket on the bed. All I need is a night-cap, the sort worn by