Sunday, January 31, 2010

What a treat


.... a blood orange. Mmmm.

Its colour is bizarre, don't you think?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Yet more photos of our family

Here is Little A who came to see us today …


with her bro … Little J, the Dribbler …


and here’s a photo I took about a month ago, of Mrs C with A


Aren’t they lovely?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mum knows best?

Mini’s mum sent Mrs C a text last night. She’d asked Mini to come over
and lie down on her changing mat (to have her night nappy put on). Mini
is just 3 years old, by the way. After asking her 3 times, Mini stopped
what she was doing and came over.

Mum: “Do you know that I asked you three times to come and have your
nappy put on?”
Mini:”Yes, I know.”
Mum: “Well why didn’t you come when I asked you the first time?”
Mini: “Because I wasn’t impressed.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A senior moment

Yesterday I had a bad senior moment. In a lapse of concentration (and
while in a hurry), I sent an email to a friend who lives nearby, with
the wrong dates for next weekend in it. I recall that I’d flipped open
my diary and had jotted down the dates Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 May!!

Last night my pal called round to see me to see if I was OK. He said
that he was feeling confused after reading my email. Well, who was more
confused … him or myself?!

I’ve got too much on my mind at the moment, which I think was the cause
of my loss of concentration … loads of jobs to do round the house,
family matters requiring attention straightaway (things which I
prioritise), lots of admin to do in respect of sorting out our finances,
lots of things I’d like to get on with (such as getting on with some
family history work and improving my photography skills), and too much
admin and teaching to do with the U3A. I mentioned a bit about this in
my last post.

Anyway, this senior moment has been a wake-up call for me … I can’t
carry on doing so much …. I’ve got to let go of some of the work I’ve
taken on. So I’m planning to ditch about half the work I do for the U3A
… website work and several committees & groups.

On a lighter note, Mrs C and I went to see George Clooney’s latest film,
“Up In The Air”, which was showing this afternoon at the Broadway Cinema.
You can read more about it on the IMDb site, which has film clips on it
too. I can recommend it to you … a good mixture of funny and sad moments,
and thought-provoking also.

Another treat for us was seeing Little J, taking his first few steps,
while he was with us last Friday. He’s now 14 months’ old, and has been
standing up tentatively and very briefly in the past few weeks. He is
babbling more, and can almost say the word: “Granddad”, when he sees me.

Talking about babbling … he often says something like “bugger, bugger” a lot.
I blame the parents for this. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gift Aid, Heating & Samuel Pepys

I spent about 7 or 8 hours yesterday sorting through loads of signed
Gift Aid forms for my local U3A, an educational charity I do voluntary
work for. I won’t bore you with the all the details, but it takes me
2-3 days to do the job.

Last year I raised over £1400 in Gift Aid, which I was very pleased
with, so it was worth the effort. This year, I’m enlisting some help
from another member, with view to him taking it over next year. I’m
feeling overloaded with U3A admin and teaching at present, so I’m
looking at ways of offloading some of it to others.

We’re having our gas central heating system overhauled, as our boiler
was overheating and switching itself off in a rather erratic way. Mick
our boiler man was here a good part of yesterday, re-arranging the old
pipe-work and putting in a return-flow valve into the system … bypass
surgery. Unfortunately, when he’d got it all connected up, the pump
developed heart failure, so we’ve had that replaced.

I mention all this, as I spent a fair bit of yesterday chatting with
him and making cups of coffee for him. He’s a bit of a chatter-box, but
he's got lots of funny stories.

He’s coming back on Friday to replace the timer for the system. Like us,
he doesn’t like the new electronic devices that are usually fitted
nowadays with settings for individual days, weekends, etc.. Even though
I’m short-sighted, I find it difficult to read the f***ing screen on
these things, so we’re going for a timer with the old-fashioned dial
and with simple on and off switches on it.

Last night, Mrs C and I watched a film we videoed a short while ago ~
The Page-Turner, a French thriller all about revenge for a past hurt.
“Thriller” is too strong a word to describe what happens, It's more
a slow burner, but the revenge bit is very well done.

We also watched the comedian Rory Bremner presenting a documentary
about political diarists, entitled “Dear Diary”, kicking off with
Samuel Peyps’ diaries. They are well-written with lots of insights
into his own personal life as well as being a chronicle of events in
the 1600s, including the Great Fire of London in September 1666.
Here’s a link to a page giving you a few excerpts from his diary
about the Fire.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Where are all the new jobs going to be found?

I was saddened by the news that another UK company is moving a good
part of its work abroad. It’s the famous Twinings Tea Company, which
according to its website is 300 years old. The work is going to
factories in Poland and to China … to be nearer its international
markets according to Twinings. Looking at the map of its overseas
company websites, this does seem to be the case.

The company plans to axe its workforce in South Shields (up North),
and to slim down its workforce in Andover … plans which will be
opposed by its workers and local MPs also.

About 400 jobs will disappear if these plans go ahead, but this is
small when you think of all the job losses in the big industries
across the UK … mining, steel and car manufacturing, ship building, etc..

Spare a thought for our tax officers. The Inland Revenue workforce
is shrinking with the introduction of computerisation, and with more
and more people completing tax returns online.

White collar workers in other areas will be similarly affected … banking
and insurance, and journalists too.

If you can read the headlines and main news stories on the internet,
who will wish to buy a newspaper, except those who like doing the
crossword, reading a few middle articles and finding out if any of
their old school chums have died?

So, where are all the new jobs going to be found?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just plain daft!

I was amused by Pete’s recent comment (in his Naked Blog site) that
it’s a “strange new world, drinking Australian wine, watching Chinese
clothes going round in a German washer”.

To which I’ll add that I find it odd that I look at a Japanese telly
(with a whole array of foreign peripherals), and that I type on a
Microsoft keyboard, made in China, alongside a mixed nationality PC
tower (Fujitsu-Siemens), and an Acer monitor (made in China again).

Earlier in the day, I drank a few large mugs of Twinings tea (my own
blend of Darjeeling and English Breakfast tea) and had a cup of lovely
coffee (Lidl’s Arabica coffee sourced in Guatemala, Kenya and Columbia).

Most of our food is from the UK, and most of our veg is organic, but
some other stuff eg a lot of our fresh fruit and broccoli is sourced
from abroad.

Tonight we treated ourselves and our visitors to a Moroccan-style
veggie take-away, from Café Nomad in Nottingham, and drank some red
wine that was all the way from Chile.

Oh, and I drive a beautiful red Renault Espace Dynamique 120 cdi,
that’s more than 5 years old ... made of course, in France.

So not a lot of British-made stuff there, but the Brits are busy
selling and servicing all these goods.

Something I find very strange, is that those of us who are
photographers can spend lots of money buying digital cameras,
spending £500 plus for semi-professional cameras.

We strive for really lovely compositions and highly detailed shots ...

but then ... we reduce the size and quality of these photos down to
about 100 – 200kb each, for viewing on Flickr websites and the like.

If the little Martians in the Cadbury Smash adverts could see all
this, they’d fall about, laughing their heads off.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Playing the piano

I've been catching up on reading other folks blog-posts in the last hour
or so, including Jo(e)'s latest post on learning the piano. This reminded
me of a funny story one of my friends told me recently.

He'd been to see a consultant hand surgeon in Nottingham, following surgery
he'd just had, to straighten out two fingers of his right hand.

He asked the surgeon: "Will I be able to play the piano better now, Doctor?"
"Why, yes, most certainly."
"Oh, that's very good news. I couldn't play the piano beforehand!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It doesn’t have to be taxing.

Sorry about my blog-blackout, but I’ve just spent loads of time
– the best part of a week - sorting out my wife’s tax affairs.
We met up with an accountant friend of ours this evening, who’s
going to put the finishing touches to my work, before we complete
the tax return online.

Like most people who leave this to the last minute, I often ask
myself why didn’t I do all this six months earlier – why leave
this job to almost the last few weeks, and expect everything to
go smoothly, when it doesn’t ?

I do tend to perform better when working to a given deadline -
some self-imposed (or external) stress … an impending written exam
for example, when I was a student, when I would work very hard for
short or fairly lengthy periods of time.

Just to do a fairly simple job around the house, say painting a
living room wall or putting up some shelves, I need to plan for
a day or two completely free of other distractions, and to get
well prepared in advance (buying the right materials and clearing
the room) … and also to get mentally psyched-up or motivated to
do the job. But then, all too often, something comes along – say
a family problem which needs sorting out straightaway, and the
job I planned to do gets shelved. (A good pun, don’t you think?)

Before I could make a proper start on sorting out the tax, I had to
sort through piles of paperwork to find the bits I wanted, and to
find out what was missing.

I’d made a few attempts to do this over the past year, sorting
papers out into little piles, only to have to sweep them all away
for decorating / putting up new shelving / allowing visitors to
use the rooms. As I look around this room where I’m sitting at
the moment, there are some very neat piles of paper … everywhere
… over two table tops and a third of the floor-space, all waiting
to be filed away … a job for tomorrow … or the next day ...

… or the day after.

I’ve just received a reminder from one of my insurance companies
(Churchill) saying that it’s time to renew my home insurance.
The bill is quite a modest one, for just over £100 (for fairly
standard cover).

Last year, I got a renewal reminder from another company (one
which advertises a lot on the TV) for £556, which I declined.
I wonder why?

The previous year, I haggled the same company down to £155, so
why they thought I’d be pleased to pay £556 a year later, I don't

I did some online research, and went with Churchill instead
for £79. My original insurance company couldn’t match this price
(the guy put the phone down for a few minutes to check out my
research online himself, and found my exact Churchill quote).

(The power of the internet! Big Brother is watching YOU!)

This evening, I had a look at Martin Lewis’ website for an
update on home insurance. I was amazed to see that some people
were actually paid – yes, paid – to take out home insurance.
Check out this forum page on Martin’s site.

I’ll have a look at Quidco tomorrow (one of the companies that
gives you cashback), to see which insurance companies are on its
pages. Last year, Quidco gave me a generous amount of cashback,
when I took out online car insurance with its help.

One important point, if you’re using a cashback company like
Quidco after doing online comparisons, is to clear all the
cookies off your computer (cookies left by the insurance company
websites you’ve visited), otherwise you won’t get any cashback.

In IE, go to Tools > Internet Options > Delete Browsing History
> delete your cookies.

“Every little helps” …

… Martin Lewis even more so.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

In the bleak midwinter, Frosty wind made moan …

Our wintry weather continues to sweep across the UK, with snow drifts
of about 30cm expected in parts of the UK in the next 24 hours. Those
of you who are here will know this. They say we can expect the worst
weather here since 1981.

I recall that we had a prolonged freeze in the early 80s that lasted
well into February. There was a steep path down from our house to the
roadside, which I kept well swept and gritted, but even so it was
slippery at times. Not very nice.

Looking outside my window, I can see that our garden is carpetted with
a gorgeous thick layer of fresh snow – it looks very pretty, half-lit
by the street lighting. If the sun comes out in the next few days, I’ll
head off out with my camera to capture some snow scenes.

I’ve taken lots of piccies of our grandchildren while they were here
with us. Here are a few of the many I took (there are more on my Flickr




Oh, and here’s a photo of a wonderful puddy that two of our relatives
made, based on one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes. (There’s fruit and ice-cream
inside the cake).


Finally, I’ll mention my one and only New Year’s Resolution, which is to
sort out and to keep on top of all my paperwork. This is all over the place,
thanks to laziness on my part, and successive upheavals / re-organisations
around the house in the past few months.

With the date January 31 looming, (the date when all online tax returns have
to be in), I must get on with sorting out my piles of paper and the tax forms.

My next post will be in about a week, when everything is sorted.
Talk to you soon.