Friday, April 30, 2010

Tulips and irises

I thought I'd share with you one of my favourite flower photos, which
I hope you'll like too. Hope you all have a great May Bank Holiday


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Consumer Revenge

In a few weeks’ time, I’ll be giving a talk to my local U3A all about
how to save money using the internet. I put the finishing touches to
it last night, (setting it all up on a slideshow with Open Office’s

If you’re living in the UK, you will most likely have heard of
Martin Lewis, and his Money Saving Expert website, which contains a
huge amount of information on how to save loads of dosh in most
spending areas. Readers are invited to comment in his forums, which
are useful ways of finding out say the quality of customer service an
insurance company offers, in sorting out claims. Buying the cheapest
service is not always the best policy.

Cashback is worth going for with sites such as Quidco and TopCashback,
and also on credit cards if you can pay off in full every month. It’s
a good idea to delete all the cookies on your computer, before you go
on to a site like Quidco, if you’ve done preliminary research into
which insurance company you’re going for, elsewhere. So if you’ve
already been onto the Aviva site for home insurance, you need to
delete the cookie relating to your visit, so as to get some cashback
when buying Aviva insurance via Quidco.

“Haggling” on the phone with these companies, to get reduced premiums,
is also very worthwhile. For example, Churchill Insurance had a
half-price offer on home insurance a year ago. This year, I persuaded
them to continue with this for another year.

I’ve saved over £900 in 4 main areas by doing all this … on buying
Broadband internet, car insurance (and breakdown cover), home insurance,
and dual fuel, switching to Scottish Power’s Online 7 service with
SimplySwitch. With hindsight, I could have got about £100 more cashback,
had I seen a special deal with TopCashback. (This deal has ended
unfortunately). It shows how fierce the competition there is between
energy companies for them to offer such huge incentives to join. I
think it’s worth switching provider annually to get the cheapest deal
(and to get some cashback at the same time). Consumer Revenge!

Mrs C and I are going to Cromer on the Norfolk coast this weekend for
a week, on a joint holiday with our daughter L and her family. I’ll be
taking my bucket and spade, and my brolly with me … plus my camera,
of course. Here is a little slide show of photos I took at Cromer, from
our visit in 2006 .... click HERE.

Talk to you, when I get back.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Top of the the morning, to you.

I'm looking out of my window, and can see gorgeous hazy sunshine.
The birds are tweeting and the trees around us are becoming greener.
How wonderful!

One of our daughters Ms S, the classical guitarist, has come to stay
with us this weekend. She's playing her guitar at a wedding this
afternoon, which is happening at Harts Hotel in Nottingham. A lovely
venue with great views over The Park, next to Nottingham Castle.
The location is Standard Hill, where Charles 1 raised his flag at the
start of the Civil War. In more recent years, the main hospital in
Notingham was built on this site, the General Hospital.
What a great day for a wedding.

On S's play list today, are the following pieces (requested by the bride
and groom) ...
Pachelbel's Canon ...
Stanley Myer's Cavatina ...

It's been an interesting week for many UK holiday makers with the
Icelandic ash cloud ... either stranded abroad or stuck in the UK with
no holiday abroad. (More interesting viewing than all the party political
stuff on the telly, I think).

I guess there will be little compensation for those affected ... after
all, volcanic eruptions are acts of God, aren't they? The other side of
the coin is that all this disruption at airports, etc., is great news for
the UK holiday industry. Let's all get back to having fun on our beaches,
and taking healthy walks/cycle-rides in our countryside.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another treat for us ...

... was going out last night to hear some live chamber music, played by
the Galitzin Ensemble (four of whom are members of the Galitzin Quartet).
They played a Beethoven trio, and Kodaly duet, and the Schubert String
Quintet in C major, one of my all-time favourite pieces of music, which
was beautifully performed. I've listened to this piece dozens of times,
but have never seen a live performance, so I was interested to see who
played what.

If you've never heard the lovely Adagio from this piece, have a listen to
this on YouTube ... it brings tears to my eyes. Schubert wrote this in the
last year of his short life, in 1828.

We've had a bit of good news this morning from the insurers for John Lewis
(a huge department store in the UK). Just over 3 years ago, we bought a
super-duper JL washing machine from them, which conked last weekend. At
the time of purchase we paid £70 for an extended warrantee (which is
something we don't usually do for electrical items). A service engineer
called to see us on Tuesday, who said it was an electrical fault within
the machine ... to replace every possible part in the machine would have
cost us £200 - 250 to put right, including labour charges. Today, we
received a lettter from the insurers, inviting us to go in an chose a
brand new machine from JL... restoring the machine to good health wasn't
worthwhile in their opinion. Yippee!

Well, yippee for us, but bad news for the environment, I suppose.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What a day ...

... and what a week, with having one of our daughters staying with us
all week, with her two little daughters, and then today we had our
other two grandchildren with us all day as well. Those of you with
little children will be used to broken nights' sleep with children
crying and early starts ... 5.30am starts being the norm with our
little ones. I look forward to the time when they're teenagers, more
used to getting up at lunchtime than the crack of dawn.

My only other "fixture" this week was spending last Monday morning
playing electric guitar with a couple of mates ~ we're the Three
Buskerteers ... only we don't do any busking. One of them was given
some studio recording time as a Xmas present, so we're meeting up more
often than usual, to reherse the songs properly before we record them.

Our song list for the recording session includes three songs by Bob Dylan
(aka His Bobness, by one of my mates) ...
It's all over now, Baby Blue
It takes a lot to laugh
If you see her say hello
and also, Steve Earle's Goodbye
Lawdy Miss Clawdy
& Stormy Weather

The latter contains four bluesy chords played in rapid succession, over
and over again, which I find difficult to play and to sing the song at
the same time. The others are much more competent guitar players and
singers than myself.

We've got another rehersal this coming Monday, and the first recording
session the day after.

Two treats this week (to mark our daughter's birthday) ... first of all
a delicious takeaway meal from our favourite local veggie restaurant,
Cafe Nomad. The food was a mushroom goulash, with turmeric rice and tofu,
plus extra (beany) salad. Exceptionally good flavours.
The second treat was a very simple Eton Mess, using Delia's meringue recipe,
lots of fresh soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries and blueberries ...
all picked from our garden ... as if), together with some whipped cream
and creme fraiche. Dee-ee-licious, and so easy to make.

Friday, April 09, 2010


You will see from my latest photos on Flickr, that Mrs C and I went
out one day over the Easter weekend to one of our local country parks.
We took Mrs C's mum with us for a walk around the estate. Great-Grandma
is a very lively 89 year old, who can still manage to walk up and down
steep hills carrying food-shopping, and who takes an interest in
everything going on.

We've planned to take her on a mystery holiday this summer (to
Northumberland), as part of her 90th birthday celebrations. We're
keeping the location a secret from her, despite her attempts to wheedle
the information out of us. So if you see her, please keep mum about it.

Over the weekend we listened on and off to Classic FM's "Hall of Fame"
... a bit like listening to the pop charts on the radio, but this
this one starts at number 300 in a list of listeners' favourites.
Top of the pops this year for the 4th year running was the lovely "Lark
Ascending" by Vaughan Williams". Here is one of the YouTube videos of
part of it, if you'd like to hear it ...

One of the radio presenters asked listeners to phone or email in, with
stories of the worst Easter outings they'd had. One caller phoned in
to say that his dad took them out to a plumber's merchants (as his dad
was a plumber). Another listener was taken to the opening ceremony of
a local supermarket, Tesco Extra ... a good choice I think, as I always
always enjoys a bit of retail therapy, and chatting with people in the
check-out queues.

Mrs C reminded me of her worst experience ... her dad took the whole
family down the lane to the opening of the revamped sewage works (at
Stoke Bardolph in Nottingham) ... Severn Trent Water Company had laid
on guided tours, I gather, so you could see / smell the goings-on there,
close-up. One of Nottingham's less well known tourist attractions, I

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

OMG, it's another 4 weeks to the General Election

Well. it's going to be on May 6th, the General Election that is. Is the
country going to stick it out with Gordon Brown and Co. for another 5
years, or will the majority of pollsters fancy a change to the Tories or
the Lib-Dems? I've heard second-hand that the LDs will get rid of Trident
if they get in power, which I think would be marvellous if only to stop
Labour / the Conservatives from frittering away shed-loads of money on it.
However I think I'll need to see this policy in writing (in the Lib-Dem
manifesto), before I'd give them my vote.

I really detest the TV and radio coverage of the electioneering that goes
on and on in the run-up to the General Elections ... there's far far too
much coverage, which does my head in. This evening we watched about two
minutes of the news at 9pm, and then switched straight over Virgin Media's
TV catch-up service to view something else instead. I imagine that a lot of
of the British public will be doing the same.

TV-wise, we caught up with the last episode of A Touch of Frost, which had
some dramatic twists and turns in the plot. Were the script writers going
to kill him off, as Colin Dexter did to Inspector Morse? Or were we going
to see a happy ending with David Jason tootling off in his car to a
retirement home in a Cotswold village. If you missed it, I'll leave you to
find out for yourselves...
I'll miss David Jason's fine acting in this role, and that of his fellow
actors too.

We've got Little A and J coming over to stay with us tomorrow, and as it's
almost midnight now, I'll say: "Goodnight, folks".