Thursday, 23 December 2010
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
I very much enjoy the Sherlock Holmes stories and at the risk of being populist and predictable(moi?!) my favourite remains The Hound of the Baskervilles.
I’ve just watched the 2002 BBC production which – while being very good in many ways and more-than-usually scary – seemed to have a spectacularly topsy-turvy bit of casting. However did they cast Richard E Grant in the role of Stapleton when he’s the most glaringly-obvious Sherlock Holmes since Jeremy Brett?
Nice to see some splendid
Monday, 20 December 2010
Thursday, 16 December 2010
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
- A plastic disposable camera neither of us recognises
- A bus map for the Wirral
- A 35mm film canister (goodness knows)
- A Bristol Zoological Gardens key ring
- A (blank) postcard from Paphos
- A 1977 guide to Stonehenge
- An "Oxfordshire Ancestors" CD-ROM
- A packet of 40 anti-static computer wipes
- A copy of "Latin Can Be Fun"
Monday, 13 December 2010
Friday, 3 December 2010
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Saturday, 27 November 2010
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
We loved to stroke your jet black fur
We loved to hear your contented purr
To tickle your belly or just sit with you
That’s all we ever needed to do
We see you still, just waiting there
To be fussed and teased, on your favourite stair
You came to our lives by accident
But – goodness! – how much to us that meant
We watered, fed and cared each day
But ten times over did you that repay
With your companionship and care
From dawn ‘til night you were always there
No more shall we brush you, nor clip your claws
Nor play with your ears, nor hold your paws
No more can we cradle and comfort you
Though we know we’ll still always want to
So stretch out and rest in everlasting sunshine
Until we see you again in the course of time
Farewell dear friend, evermore to rest
You were our Bobbie…..the very best!
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Our beloved cat, Bobbie, died very suddenly today.
We never acquired Bobbie; she acquired us, having previously lived with a neighbour. She gradually wedged herself firmly into our affections and became – in all seriousness – part of the family.
She’s been here as long as Louise and I have been together and she’s had several health scares, always fighting through them. She was, despite her small size and delicate nature, a real battler.
She enjoyed simply “being with us”, not necessarily doing anything, not being excessively fussed but just being there, sitting quietly, indoors or out, with us. She wasn’t usually one for playing with cat toys but a long piece of fabric Louise bought in a pet shop in
Like all family members, she had her routines, even if she did have to get used to “parents” who have wildly-variable times for getting up. Be it or , she was there, at the top of the stairs waiting for morning fuss. Then she would follow down four stairs and stop, with her head through the balustrade, so that she could be fussed from one of us as we arrived in the hall below. Then – and only then – was it time for breakfast.
She was there to provide company for us both when we were down and happiness for us when we weren’t.
When we were away, she too enjoyed going on holiday “to grannie’s” and even when she developed health problems, she was always impeccably behaved for her “Australian friend” (ie the vet!).
I’d rather dwell on Bobbie’s life than her passing, so suffice it to say that it all ended suddenly and painlessly this evening.
Thanks for letting us share your life, Bobbie. You were an integral part of “us” and we’ll miss you!
Monday, 15 November 2010
There is an interesting phrase employed by Robbie Burns in his “Ode to a Louse”: “to see ourselves as others see us”.
Inspired by this, I always keep a look out for coverage of
But their coverage of
Don’t take my word for it. Have a look!
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Friday, 5 November 2010
I’ve a bit of an announcement to make.
Not many people have been aware of this but…….for the last 18 months or so I’ve been studying away and sitting exams to qualify as a Blue Badge guide for the South West of England.
Well, today’s post brought the news that I’ve passed the final one, a bit of news I was hoping for but – shall we say - not confident about.
My new region overlaps a little with places where I’m already qualified (notably Gloucestershire,
So here we are.
If you happen to know anyone who would like to book slightly off-the-wall tours in any of these areas, do send them my way!
Thursday, 28 October 2010
I’d only ever been there once, in the 1980s and that was to look at the ex-London Routemaster buses that the local company put into operation on one route there at the time. Other than that, oh and knowing that it was the birthplace of John Bunyan, that was about it.
Now I pride myself that I can find interest and fascination in the most mundane of places. When you’ve concocted walks around
Well, although I could see some interesting buildings, especially a fine church,
The markets looked large and busy but somehow I just couldn’t warm to the place and I spent an hour less there than I’d intended.
Rare for me that.
Monday, 25 October 2010
The following day on Facebook I wrote:
“If……. they do a good restoration job, it could be in the long run a good thing, raising the profile of [Weston] and allowing it to be better than ever.”
Well, skip forward just over 800 days…….and here we are. After a remarkably quick rebuild (and despite some delays), on
With a new pavilion designed by the
The English seaside has been through some difficult years but is not-so-slowly reinventing itself these days. Even before the era of recession, staycations (ugh!) and carbon footprints, people were re-discovering their “home” seaside. Weston in some ways was poorly-placed to attract “specialist” tourism (as the
- It has a splendid beach with firm sands. The famously receding tide frankly means there’s lots of space for everyone! And it’s a lot nicer than Bondi, believe me.
- It’s not that far away from major centres of population (day trips from
, the Bristol West Midlandsand South Walesare easy).
- Lying in the shadow of wooded Worlebury Hill, with sublime stone terraces tumbling down towards the bay Weston has a truly magnificent setting. Its only real rival in that department is Torquay (and that’s spoiled a little by too many post-war apartment blocks nowadays).
- And the Grand Pier rebuild is just one of a series of improvements. The need for flood defences (that sea does come in!) has been seized to create a much improved new Promenade which is almost finished. The traffic-choked junction opposite the Grand Pier itself is also being transformed, into a new “
Pier Square” which will improve the setting no end.
There is a “buzz” in the town at the moment caused by the amount of inward investment.
Yes, there are some “bits” to deal with. The buildings of the central sea front aren’t yet a credit to the town. The Northern end of the Promenade needs some tidying up, especially now that the Royal Pier Hotel is no more and that could go hand-in-hand with the restoration of the “other” Pier, at Birnbeck. And don’t get me started on the Tropicana (the former Open Air Swimming Pool whose fate is easily Weston’s biggest shame).
But the town is on the up. The motto on its coat of arms (borrowed from
Friday, 22 October 2010
Some 18 years ago, I started my tourist guiding career working on the open top double decker buses run by the much-missed “Guide Friday” company in
The concept of guided tours of
Well, fast forward. Almost by accident, I spend years tour managing all over Europe, qualify as a Blue Badge Guide in the Heart of England and then London and carve a small business for myself doing specialist tours of all sorts of unusual places for more “discerning” clients.
But - among my peers at least – I’ve always been thought of as a “Birmingham Guide”. Despite this, in recent years
So this last week has been something of a change for me, as a party of
And do you know what? I’ve rediscovered my wonderful, impressive, unequalled home city. People are stunned by the greenery, the housing, the historic characters, the cultural heritage and the welcome. The staff at Saint Mary’s and Aston Hall have been so fabulous to deal with they’ve been like a breath of fresh air (after the sort of characters you get “welcoming” you at places like Blenheim).
Service isn’t always geared to international visitors and I wish shopkeepers in suburban strips like Stirchley and Bournbrook would tidy up their premises. But the coach driver (from Chauffeurs of Birmingham, a new firm to me) was exceptional.
Yes, it it’s not actually all that bad at all. I’m proud to be a Brummie again!
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Many people will have seen, or rather heard, the recordings released for the first time at the inquest into the 7 July Terrorist Murders in
If you haven’t some examples are at:
As so often happens with the media, journalists in search of a sound-bit type quote get emotionally charged friends and family to become angry and to use words like “shambolic” which are succinct but frankly inaccurate.
I think the staff of London Underground are getting very unfair treatment here. The "confusion" was very soon after the explosions (of which there were three at disparate locations within 90 seconds) and I think that no organisation could realistically have reacted differently. It may be that people would prefer staff to react in an excited frantic and dramatic way, they way we see on television or in the cinema. In fact, people remaining calm might not make a “good story” but it is the best way of dealing with a situation.
Indeed, some of the stories which have emerged about help, compassion and heroism from some of the station staff deserve a higher profile than this.
There were a lot of heroes that day. And I defy anyone to have reacted better, other than with that wonderful thing, “the benefit of hindsight”.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Monday, 27 September 2010
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
Monday, 20 September 2010
I’ve been trying for some time to use public transport to and from jobs whenever possible. I’ve always preferred trains and buses but they don’t always coincide with where I need to be when. Throughout 2010, though, I’ve made much more of an effort than before in this direction, even at the expense of taking longer to get to and from places.
Sometimes this is great. Sometimes, it isn’t. Today was one of the latter.
After an “unusual” day in
Having finished with my group, I arrived at
On the plus side, rather than stress with driving, I watched the lovely Warwickshire countryside and even had a snooze.
I awoke in Hall Green and decided to check if we’d made up time. In fact, we were later still, now 20 minutes down. At
A few minute later we roll into Snow Hill station where more people pack in. Then came the clincher of the day. The guard announced that – as the train was running so late – it was going to run non-stop to Stourbridge Junction. Suddenly I (and much of this sea of humanity, some of whom had only just boarded) had to scramble to get off. We were also told nothing more than to “wait on the platform”.
The next train, er, terminated at Snow Hill and eventually the 1743 train, “due at 1753” arrived at, er, 1800. I arrived back at The Hawthorns 40 minutes later than I should have.
More significantly, I arrived there over two hours after I had finished my work in
And there’s the railway, nay the “public transport” problem. People like me want to use it but as long as it’s not providing a service where passengers feel “cared for”, where you get uncomfortable rides in delayed and crowded trains…….people will reach for their car keys.
A couple of weeks ago I tried a journey in the opposite direction. I arrived at The Hawthorns in plenty of time, only to find that the
Two additional points:
- The problem on both these occasions was “signalling problems”. I wonder if that means someone’s stolen a cable again? That caused me problems twice on trains from
and Manchester Liverpoolearlier in the summer which missed out stops at my local station with literally seconds notice.
- To end on a positive not, one thing that London Midland trains really do seem to excel at is station booking office staff. The two chaps at The Hawthorns and the lady at Langley Green are always so happy, so friendly and so pleasant that I walk away from their ticket office windows feeling on top of the world. What a pity the managers who “manage” the line and the drones who reply to customer feedback don’t approach things in the same way.
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Of course, you might not agree with the system or values of said state.......but again, that applies to many, many places.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
It’s interesting to note how many different organisations, undertakings and interest groups are popping up all over the place to say that they ought to be spared in the forthcoming round of spending cuts because they're a "special case".
The problem with this is that everyone’s doing it…….so if everyone’s budget is ring-fenced, we won’t actually make any savings.
I appreciate that there is a point of view that we don’t need to make savings at all. People saying that are probably barking nutters but at least their logic holds water (ie we don’t need to cut so we won’t) and they’re not guilty of selfishness.
It’s this “we must be spared but everyone else can suffer” attitude which I find most reminiscent of an ostrich and a quantity of sand…….
Monday, 13 September 2010
One of those minor “linguistic hiccups” between British and American English when I’m working in the countryside is the American name for the crop “Rape”, which they call “Canola”.
You live and learn…….and thanks, Daniel!
(Mind you, it’s part of the creeping Americanisation of Australia. They’ll be using Dollars next…….)
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Many – many – years ago, as a summer job, I did some administrative work for the West Midlands Fire Service. As work experience goes, it was pretty dire but one long lasting legacy was that it left me with a deep and abiding respect for fire fighters. More than any other emergency service they seem to be regularly in danger and we can all sleep safer in our beds for what they do for us.
Memo to the
If you’re going to act up and show off with your big red fire engine on a non-emergency call by interferinge with me trying to do my job:
(1) Don’t choose me. I do repartee for a living
(2) Don’t choose me when I’m with a SPICE group; they tend to join in and play along and
(3) If you’re that bothered about references to Trumpton, you’re probably in the wrong job.
My friend Maeve featured this week on an Australian travel programme called “Getaway”, showing the presenter around
So far so good.
Unfortunately, while watching the programme, they then went to
For the record, this is what the 2001 Census had to say on the matter. (And I don’t want to start hearing things like “Greater Manchester, of I’ll have to start quoting “
10 Leicester 330,574
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Monday, 6 September 2010
Saturday, 28 August 2010
As if I needed proof that BBC Radio 4 justifies trhe licence fee on its own…….
I drove back from Oxfrod this afternoon with the ever varied Radio 4 keeping me company. In the space of an hour it gave me a remarkably well-dramatized account of the escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, an item on the political beliefs of Jimi Hendrix and a heart-rending account of a woman who gave up her baby for adoption in 1963 to have him track her down decades later.
The miles just fly by with this t9o keep the old grey matter going. It was almost one of those periods when you don’t want the journey to end. Try challenging that sort of stuff BSkyB!
Thursday, 26 August 2010
One of the more useful (if not exactly the greatest) inventions of the last 30 years has probably been the video recorder and its modern day successors the DVD recorder and PVR and HDR.
The ability to watch something later than it goes out, at a time convenient for you and not the programme-planners is one of life’s minor satisfactions.
But I sometimes find myself wishing for an additional convenience. I wish you could “time shift” recordings the other way and watch them before they’re aired. That way I could have seen tonight’s “Grumpy Old Men” when I wanted to. And before I fell asleep.
Last night I did an evening walk in the lovely, atmospheric Clerkenwell area on London. It’s a genuinely fascinating area, home to such varied delights as the New River (not new, not a River), the Finsbury Health Centre, Saint John’s Gate and some K4s and K6s thrown in for good measure.
But oh, what an evening for weather! It just just bucketed it down for the whole two hours and the legendary Ian Jelf Umbrella was actually of practical use for once. Now, despite our country’s reputation for bad weather, this is actually a surprisingly rare occurrence I find on walks. Traditionally, I recall two such occasions, one in
Luckily, I had an extremely tenacious group whose desire to learn more about the place left me staggered!
Thank you, dear member of SPICE Adventure London!
Saturday, 21 August 2010
It’s Election Day in
More intriguingly, I’ve just discovered that queues to vote are apparently equipped with – and I’m not making this up – a “Sausage Sizzle”! Now if we could do that I’m sure it would to much to reduce British voter apathy. People would also probably not notice when the polling stations closed before they'd had a chance to vote.......
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Some friends of ours are getting married tomorrow and it’s set me thinking about the institution. I came relatively late to marriage but - although this sounds corny - I can thoroughly recommend it!
On the train last night I read an article by a woman journalist that said she’d been told by men friends that they avoid women who collect teddies or cuddly toys as it makes them “unhinged” and therefore suspect. Hmmmm.
It so happens that I’m married to a decidedly level-headed, well-“hinged”, intelligent and fun loving lady who has a vast collection of bears gathered over the years. Some are valuable for reasons of scarcity, many more are “valuable” as they remind her (and nowadays often me, too) of happy times and visits. The camel I won at Blackpool Pleasure Beach; Heinrich from the Rhine (named after Heinrich Heine, whose Lorelei was nearby); the giant Charmin Bear won in a raffle at Sainsbury’s; and the koala from…….well, guess!
It seems to me that “normal people” (ha!) do love this idea of everyone conforming. We all should lead the same “normal” lives. We’re supposed to clean the car on Sundays, spend Thursday evening in Sainsbury’s, worry about new curtains clashing with the futon or engaging in one-upmanship about everything from flat-screen TVs to baby buggies.
I’m glad that I can share my life with someone decidedly not like that (but actually rather like me, with my eclectic collecting habits). Someone who – although perfectly able to have fun, a lot of it, too – doesn’t regard throwing up in the gutter as the objective to a night out and with whom I can have engaging, intelligent conversations and an engaging, intelligent fun life.
She’s pretty good at sorting out computer problems, too. ;-)
I know that Nicki and Dave - tomorrow's happy couple - are on course for similar happiness. Wishing you both lots and lots of it, too!
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Saturday, 7 August 2010
For reasons I won’t bore you with, having come back from a job this afternoon, we decided to clean out the garden shed.
This was a job of truly herculean proportions and within 20 minutes the back garden looked as though a small nuclear explosion had taken place.
Where does all this stuff come from? Actually, we’re afraid to admit that some of it came from the previous occupants of the house. We have no idea what some of the things in jars were but we’re pretty certain that some of them would probably have been of interest to the weapons inspectors in
To our surprise, though, we did manage to make it all reasonably tidy. Eventually. Just one question remained, though. It’s one we’ve had posed before and wonder if anyone else has, too?
Why is it that you clean somewhere out, throw loads of stuff away and still struggle to get all the stuff you’re keeping back in?
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
After a job working in Moseley on Saturday morning, I was lucky enough to be able to get over to Acocks Green in time to watch the last ever operation by MCW Metrobuses.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
I am not usually a fan of Scottish Nationalism. A party dedicated to breaking up the country I love into constituent and bickering bits seems to lean too much towards Balkanisation.
However, I have to admire the attitude of the Scottish Government’s Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill in refusing to appear before a US Senate Committee to answer questions about the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber.
The Lockerbie bombing – although it involved a
For what it’s worth, I don’t think Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi should have been released. He showed no compassion to his victims and to be spred the death penalty for taking life is – in my view – sufficient reason to imprison people for the rest of their lives.
Furthermore, there seems to be an opinion that he might be innocent. I cannot claim to know or understand enough about the case to have a view on that.
But it is worth saying that he was tried and convicted by a Scottish court and that really is the end of the matter. It is a Scottish decision and it certainly doesn’t involve the
I wonder if George W. Bush would consent to come and be questioned by the Chilcot Inquiry to account for his actions?
Just a thought.
I worked in Tamworth, a lovely and interesting old Staffordshire town which deserves better than the "chav-filled hell-hole" reputation it has among some people. Mostly ones from Lichfield and Sutton actually but I digress.......
- The grass was so long that the lawn mower struggled to cope. It took forever and it will still need another "trim" in the next few days.
- The hedge trimmer - whose cable was cut by Someone [TM] on its first use and subsequently repaired - has somehow managed to get its cable cut again. This was presumably during storage but means that we still don't have a trimmed hedge.
- During the lawn mowing I was stung or bitten by something on the leg. I was however Mummy's Brave Little Soldier and Louise attended me with full first aid kit. Well, a tube of Savlon.
- While raking the compost bin I disturbed a nest of bees which decided to mount a fairly serious assault.
- The strimmer keeps losing its thread (I know how it feels)
- And finally (as they say on the News) some "neighbours are having what sounds bvery much like a Blues Party in the next street. Goodness knows what it must be like actually living over there because it's a bit deafening for us.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
I used to be quite a keen cyclist. Not the lycra or £2,500 bike, etc. but I did cycle quite often and am the proud owner of a Brompton folding bike, a splendid piece of British-built kit which you now see more and more on the streets.
One of the beauties of Bromptons is that they make multi-modal journeys easier; you just fold them up and pop them on the train, in the boot of the car or even, apparently, on the bus (not that I’ve ever tried the latter).
I’ve always meant to take the Brompton to
One thing the scheme won’t have though is cycle helmets for hire. Unlike in some countries, the use of cycle helmets in the UK is not compulsory. But the absence of them (and who’s likely to just ”have one on them”?) may well put some people off. It will certainly cause at least some negative comment in the press, I think.
Not everyone thinks that helmets are a good idea, though. It’s sometimes said that safety features in cars, like air-bags for example, make people more reckless and that the same applies to cycle helmets. I’ve also heard it suggested that they can compound injuries in certain cases, especially if poorly fitted.
That said, when I cycle (which as I say is all too infrequently nowadays) I always wear one. I feel safer - a bit safer - with it and always take as much care as possible. On a more mundane note, it's saved me from being hurt by overhanging branches on off-road routes a couple of times!
But “safety” on two wheels is often at odds with “perceived safety” by the Great British Public. For example, a bigger gripe of mine is cycle paths and lanes. Beloved of planners who like to Do Things To Encourage Cycling, these often put a cyclist at much more of a disadvantage and in more danger. They introduce far more conflicts and junctions, are generally poorly maintained and swept and give motorists the latent belief that bicycles somehow don't really "belong" on the road.
That said, many (MANY) cyclists make life hard for themselves and the rest of us by blatantly flouting the rules of the road, using footpaths when it suits them and ignoring red lights. This means that as soon as you stick up for cycling as a means of transport, people throw the behaviour of cyclists back in your face.
Anyway, despite that homily, I’ll be watching Barclays Cycle Hire with great interest, though. If I ever get around to trying it out, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to report.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
It might surprise those here who know me to find me penning a Blog entry on the subject of shopping. It’s never been my favourite pastime (bookshops expected, of course) but these days with every town having basically the same shops, it’s more dull than ever.
Occasionally, though, there are shops which somehow manage to buck the trend and remain perpetually the same, despite the onset of globalisation.
The most timeless of these A Oakes in
So timeless was it, I expected a Midland Red D9 to go past the door on a 215…….
Another of these time-warp stores is Walker & Ling in
For sheer size, though the greatest of these shops I know of is Jackson’s, the old retailing lady of
If you get a chance, go and support these businesses and other like them. Long may they continue to thrive!
Monday, 19 July 2010
I once encountered someone at an event I was running who asked incredulously “Er, was
It is perhaps as well that I don’t recount here my reply. :-(
However, as one Briton that is profoundly grateful for the role played by
We really, really do “remember them”.