Saturday, October 29, 2011

About our grandchildren mainly

Mrs C and I spent the best part of 5 days in London last weekend … a very
long weekend, staying with our daughter L and her family there. Time
passed quite slowly, as our granddaughter Mini, was poorly with a bad
cough, a fever and vomiting for 2-3 days. Fortunately she made a good
recovery, with the help of drinks and Calpol (despite vomiting most of
all these back up). One small blessing of all this was that her deafness
has improved … both of her middle ears were blocked up with fluid, which
has been the case for 3-4 weeks. Perhaps her retching had opened up the
internal drainage tubes.

Her teacher had told her mum L. that Mini appeared detached from what was
going on in the classroom. L. took her along to the GP who said little
could be done for the middle ear congestion, apart from using some Olbas
oil from time to time. In days gone by, I used to prescribe decongestant
+ an antihistamine mixtures for kids her age, but now GPs and pharmacists
are banned from giving such medicines to children under 6 years of age.
I wonder why? This seems to be daft to me, when such medicines can help
relieve deafness and can avoid children being sent for drainage ops
(having grommets inserted).

One funny story about all this … L. asked Mini if her teacher had noticed
how deaf she was. Initially Mini said: “No”, but a few seconds later she
said: “Yes, … but it doesn’t matter … she was just telling us what to do.”

Yesterday we spent the best part of the day in South Nottingham, looking
after our two other grandchildren, A and JJ, while their mum and dad were
at work. Both kids were at home, on half-term holiday from school. They’d
had an exciting few days earlier this week at EuroDisney near Paris.
Their parents felt tired out by the end of their stay, due to all the
activities (and late bedtimes for the children). I think I would have
felt tired if I’d been there, tired of seeing so many Disney characters
every day. Anyway, the children were still feeling excited by their stay,
and talked a lot about what / who they’d seen.

Today, we did a bit of Xmas shopping (we bought two Trunki suitcases for
A and JJ, and then we had a blitz on clearing out our garage of all
sorts of junk. We filled up two dustbins with the stuff (both the
recycling and the ordinary bins). I put more photos of the kids up on
my Flickr site, and later on, we sat down to watch some telly up to
about 10.00pm old time … old Summer time, as the clocks are going back
an hour tonight.

Tomorrow, I will have a go at trying out a new anti-snoring device. This
appliance more or less locks the upper and lower teeth together at night.
I’m interested to see if this will work for me (or should I say, work for
Mrs C, as I’m generally not aware when I snore at night). In the past
few years, I’ve been using a pliable plastic insert, which helps a
little (according to Mrs C). It tends to fall out of my mouth, however.
One morning I couldn’t find it anywhere, until I found it stuck on the
top of my head, like a limpet. :)

We plan to have an early lunch / brunch tomorrow, as we’ve booked to see
a performance of "Don Giovanni" at the Broadway Cinema (which starts at
midday). This was broadcast live from The Met today … we’ll be seeing
the action replay tomorrow … it should be good. Mozart is our favourite
composer as far as opera is concerned. In the evening, I reckon we’ll
be watching highlights of “The X Factor” on Virgin Media’s catch-up
service … we only watch the actual songs and the judges’ comments – we
skip all the rest, as we do more or less with “Strictly Come Dancing”,
cutting out all the padding and the silly build-up to finding out who’s
staying or leaving the series. There are better things we can do with
the time, such as watching other programmes on catch-up (on the TV and
radio). As regards the latter, there’s an interesting History
series on BBC Radio 4 at present, all about how Germany came to be
unified as one country, (and what it was like before this happened)…

Talk to you soon, folks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Upstairs & Downstairs

Mrs C and I re-visited Belton House near Grantham last Friday. This is
a fabulous Regency-style house in the Lincolnshire countryside, now
owned by the National Trust. I took loads of photos, and have put 45
of the best up onto my Flickr site. Click HERE to see the set of pics.
Here is one of my photos of the fountain in the Italian Garden there,
taken in really lovely warm sunshine.


We started with the Basement tour of the house - the "Downstairs", where
living conditions were quite primitive compared with the grandeur of the
house and life "Upstairs". Male and female servants were kept apart in the
Basement, in separate rooms and separate corridors. Servants at the top
of the tree did mix, and they had more pleasant living conditions.
The tour guide told us that the servants were well treated at Belton,
they even had feather beds, which horrified the gentry in the
neighbourhood, who thought feather beds were too luxurious. You will see
in one of my photos, some census info for the house staff in both 1891
and in 1911 ... a marked drop in staff numbers. By the time the house was
sold in 1968, there were only 4 members of staff living in, but there
were cleaners living nearby. In the last century there was a marked
decline in the family's fortune ... two large houses had to be sold to
pay death duties, but subsequently the upkeep of Belton proved to be too
much for the last owner, Edward Cust. He gave the house to the National
Trust, and sold the contents and all the surrounding land to the NT for
£6 million, I gather. He is now said to be living in Jersey.

I've been wondering if he misses all the family portraits and furnishings
around the house, and the lovely gardens, where he played as a child.
Perhaps he comes back to Belton from time to time, for a peek ... I meant
to ask one of the guides if he did so. I think if I were him, I would be
pleased that the house is being maintained so well, and that it now gives
pleasure to thousands of visitors every year. So many posh houses have
been demolished over the years, as their owners couldn't keep up with
essential maintenance, so it's really wonderful to have a body like the
National Trust working to keep so many houses going, and to preserve huge
areas of our countryside and our coastline for people to explore.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Autumn fruit

I made some soup today using this lovely squash (together with some
butternut squash, a large onion and a few parsnips, all cut into large
chunks & then roasted in a little sunflower oil until soft. All then
boiled up in some water with a stock cube, a pinch of chilli flakes,
& some seasoning, before being liqidised. Yummy. (You could use up
some of your Halloween pumpkin to make soup like this).


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The bad economic news

I took the car in for a new cam-belt today ... to a garage on the other
side of town where one of my relatives works. Took it in for 7.35am
(which is a bit early for me!). It was said to be a huge job -
major surgery to the car engine, taking at least four hours, so I
wasn't surprised by the bill at the end of the day ... £393 ...
almost the cost of a new laptop.

How the average person can afford to run a car beats me ... especially
the poor and the "squeezed" middle class, struggling to pay family
shopping bills, utility bills, plus paying the mortgage and council tax,
& running a car, on an income of £30,000 + per year. "We've no spare
cash for any holidays", I heard one person say on Radio 4 yesterday

And the poor? They include all the unemployed who now total 2.57
million people. The figure has been increased by all the recent school
leavers and new graduates who can't find a job, and by the downturn in
our economy thanks to the last and the present Government. "We've been
living way beyond our means" say the politicians, to justify the drastic
cutbacks, which in turn throw more people out of work. Hooray for

Walking back into city centre from the garage, I spotted this statue
sitting in a window of a beauty salon ...

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

I've added it to this post, for a bit of sparkle, to lighten my mood.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dear Reader

I'm just writing to say a big thank you to my regular readership,
who have been looking at my blog from time to time, and for your
amusing and helpful comments (helpful, when I've asked for your

I've been having a look at the stats that Blogger has been keeping
on my blog, since the beginning of time. You can access your own
stats via Blogger's Dashboard, if you didn't know, and get an idea
of page views for the past week / month, where your readers live.
Blogger also lists the websites of my most regular readers, which I
find interesting, though it confirms what I know already.

Most of my readers live in the UK, US, New Zealand, France and Canada,
but also some are based in Russia, Ukraine, Germany and The Netherlands,
which did surprise me ... perhaps they're trying to improve their
English (or trying hard to understand my odd sense of humour)?

Anyway, I won't comment on this any further, as I think it's possibly
too introspective and rather dull reading matter.

The weather today was rather cold, dark and gloomy with one light
shower of rain this morning, brightening up however this afternoon.
I was mentally geared up to get outside and sand down some paintwork
on a back window this morning, but the weather put me off.

Instead, I spent time putting the finishing touches to some photos
I've just uploaded onto Flickr (our grandchildrens' birthday party
which Mrs C and I went to yesterday), then looking at our internet
bank statements (dull, but necessary), and later on, watching an hour's
worth of DVD tuition on how to use Photoshop Elements. I re-watched
it this evening just after a few hours of watching TV with Mrs C.

I got started with Photoshop 7 back in 2004, and went on a few day
courses on how to use it. A few years later, I went on to teach it
to fellow retirees, but have now switched to using Gimp and teaching
it also.

I do prefer using Gimp to Photoshop in many ways, though in other ways
I find it less user-friendly. However, it does all the basics for you
(and it's free to download from online).

I recently joined the photography group of another U3A in the area,
and the guy running it, is teaching us how to use Photoshop Elements 9.
I've offered to do an hour's session on how to create an e-card from a
favourite photo, so I'm now having to rapidly update myself on how
to use it .... most of it is already familiar to me, but I'm having
to learn how to use its more complicated image-resizing, and how to
customise the interface to as I like it. Oh, what fun.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Unconscious mutterings

Here's a word association game I read on Keith & Anjii's blogs,
which you can join in on. It originates from here.

1. Quivering :: shakin' as here (anyone remember him?)
2. Eclectic :: just like chocolate éclairs (unfortunately Anjii
thought of that as well)
3. Superimpose :: cover (up your bodges)
4. The best :: my wife
5. Aches :: my lower back at the mo, after lifting heavy things in the
garden 10 days ago
6. Vinyl :: records … I’ve thrown them all out
7. Hot and cold :: (I prefer) warm
8. Girls :: Girls, Girls! Girls! … adorable
9. Wall :: space (for my clock, notices and pictures)
10. Baby :: happy (well, most of the time)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Photos at Newstead Abbey (plus a bit more news)

Most of you will be aware of the fabulous warm weather we’ve been having
in England, which is now coming to an end in the next day or two … we’ll
be back to our usual cool temperatures, gusty winds and rain.
Last Saturday, Mrs C and I went to see the new film version of “Tinker,
Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, which we were very impressed with, although the
time sequence of events hopped around quite a bit, making it slightly
difficult to understand what was going on. Brilliant acting from a
star-studded cast, especially from Gary Oldman who played George Smiley.
I rate it as a must-see film, if you haven’t seen it.

Yesterday we went to one of Nottinghamshire's historic country houses,
Newstead Abbey, the former home of Lord Byron. One of the main attractions
there, was to see L, one of our daughters, playing her new harp (bought
with a loan from the Bank of Mum and Dad). Here are four of my photos
(there are a few more on my Flickr site)....

Here's one of the photos I took of L and her harp …

One of the views of the Abbey ...

A bit of Autumn colour ...

Mrs C at Newstead Abbey lakeside ...

Today, I carried on processing my pics and putting them onto Flickr.
Later in the day, we went to pick up one of our grandchildren, A, from
her school, to help out her mum, who had an appointment with JJ at the

We spent the evening catching up on last weekend's “X Factor” , “Downton
Abbey”, and tonight's episode of Lorraine Pascale's cookery programme.
One of the goodies she made was a triple chocolate (yes, triple chocolate!) cheesecake, which looked really yummy. How she manages to stay so slim,
is a mystery to me. However even if she were to put on a few more kgs in
weight, she'd still look gorgeous.