No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

You may remember that a week ago I wrote about taking Julia to help at the Robin Hood Marathon, getting caught in the appalling traffic system by the Railway Station and waiting in anticipation for a ticket for using a bus lane. This morning I finally breathed a sigh of relief as the normal three or four day wait has passed. That saved me £35. (It’s not that I make a habit of contravening the regulations regarding bus lanes, but the council actually make it very hard to get round the city without occasionally crossing the line). Literally crossing the line in the case of bus lanes.

However, in my jubilation I forgot one thing – standards are slipping in all areas of life and Nottingham City Council bus lane enforcement is no exception – it took a whole week for the letter to arrive, but arrive, it did.

In a way it was a relief to open it as it looked very like a letter from the NHS from the outside, and, on balance, I’d rather have a £35 fine than one of the procedures that seem to be the fate of an elderly man in the hands of the NHS.

I could be heroic about this. I could prepare a dossier in my defence, demonstrate the evils of the traffic system and submit is with photographs and high flown prose defending my position and seeking to have the ticket set aside. However, I’ve attempted this before and it never works. Basically they don’t need to do anything, they just say no and tell you that you will have to go to court if you insist of defending yourself.

There are a number of things I can do. I could, for instance, kidnap the Sheriff of Nottingham (yes, we really do have one) and hold him for ransom until they pay me £70, halved to £35 if they pay it within 21 days.

Or I could send a bill to the Robin Hood Marathon, as it was their fault. If Julia hadn’t volunteered, and if they hadn’t closed the roads I would have been enjoying my breakfast at 7.42 am, not getting a ticket.

The possibilities for mischief are endless . . .

Picture for the day is more of the school shed. I want a shed like that when I retire.




Codger or Curmudgeon?

Came home, read and answered comments, watched quizzes on TV, at tea off my lap (which is a habit I keep meaning to break), was shouted at for snoring, read some blogs and now, have settled down to rite my nightly slice of life.

I have just over eighteen months until I retire. It is now becoming real. Julia has a couple of years longer so I may carry on for a little while after that. It is alarmingly close when I think of the work that needs doing on this house to make it look good enough to sell. Then there is finding another place and actually moving. It’s a long time since I last moved. I borrowed a truck from work, got a few friends together and moved a load of books and secondhand furniture 65 miles. It’s going to be a bigger job this time, and I can’t do my own lifting.

It’s time for a decision over what sort of retire I want to be. Do I want to be a genial old codger, or a miserable old curmudgeon? I think we already know the answer to that, so there’s no point wasting time on it.

A friend of mine once suggested that life in a hotel would be an ideal retirement lifestyle – no gardening, no decorating and regular meals. The problem, of course, is cost. And sharing with other people. And having nowhere to put a shed. I’d like a shed in retirement. It would be quite nice to live in a place in a city where you could have a roof garden and have a shed that looked out over a vast display of life. I think I may have left the arrangements a bit late for that. In my next life I will pay more attention to material things and spend less time daydreaming when I should be establishing a property empire. However, for now I’ll settle for a shed.

Starts with Stew and Finishes with Soup

I note my last post was number 2,800. I always like round numbers.

Yesterday Julia did some tidying while I was out. She rang me to tell me that she was half-way through, which worried me. However, when I got back she had moved all the furniture, put down the rug that had been rolled up at the edge of the room for years after we were given it, and put everything back. The room is brighter and the floor feels warmer but I was right – it is too big to fit properly. However, considering what the next winter is going to be like I think we need warmth more than a rug that fits. OK, I say “rug” but it’s more of a carpet. It’s easy to forget that carpets weren’t always fitted.

I’m giving up on the lottery. I had four wins at the weekend – two lots of £5 and two free tickets. I think each one was probably a win and the tickets were thrown in for free. I hope so, because if not I seem to have bough too many tickets. All that luck being squandered on winning just £10. I may as well save my money and use the luck on something else. Julia says it doesn’t work like that, but we gamblers know it does. I’m just glad that I’m not given to big-time gambling. All those smoky clubs and international jet-setting are not really me.

We had vegetable stew for tea last night. Then the woefully inadequate ASDA delivery arrived. Seven substitutions. One substitution was for 2 half kilo bags of carrots for a 1 kilo bag. Fair enough. Then they substituted parsnips with more carrots and swede with ready chopped swede (which always goes off so fast) and gave me rosemary for thyme. This might be OK in a traditional folk song but it’s no good for stews and we have a gardenful of rosemary. They sent us kale in place of leeks, which would have been a disappointing quiche, and 6 Free Range Eggs in place of 15 Economy eggs (telling us they had saved us money as the 6 eggs were 15p cheaper than the 15). I used the word “rip-off” when they sent me a customer satisfaction survey. Finally we were told there would be a bag of cauliflower florets in place of a cauliflower, but there wasn’t. There was a cauliflower.

How, I ask myself, can we be short of root vegetables. They are seasonal and many of them are grown within an hour’s drive of here. Something is going seriously wrong with the world when you can’t buy parsnips, swedes and leeks in autumn.

Tea tonight was curried vegetable soup. Or vegetable stew with curry powder, extra water and a quick application of the stick blender. It was cheap, quick and nutritious. And it makes “convenience foods” look quite time consuming. We had a mackerel sandwich with it, my concession to oily fish.

And those are some of the domestic details that I missed out of the last post. Header picture is soup from an October 2014 post.

Starts with Poetry and ends up with Wallpaper Paste

As with Newton’s Laws there is always a price to be paid for success and that has cut in today. I looked at some of my successes yesterday and decided they could have been written a lot better. This morning I woke up with the thought that if I’m going to justify my place in magazines I have to back it up with another selection of successful submissions, then another . . .

The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, but somebody has to provide the wallpaper and that is a task that may well fall to me. I can see it now, hundreds of yards of wasted drafts and rejected versions.

The vision in my mind is not, believe it or not, the flames or damnation, but wallpaper paste. It’s what we used to use in school handicraft classes for doing papier-mâché work. That was our limit at school. We did art and we did “handicrafts”, which was sewing for girls and papier-mâché for boys. Yes, I grew up in a patriarchal society, but look at it this way – sewing is much more useful than the ability to make badly proportioned models from newspaper and glue.

At home, during wet school holidays we would sometimes do it, but using flour and water to make the paste. That skill later came in useful when we produced a Greek style helmet for one of the kids when he had to do a history project. We cheated and kept it for a couple of years before resubmitting it for the next child.  We used diluted PVA glue for it, so it didn’t suffer from storage.

It’s very simple and works for a number of things. Select an ion from history that is roughly balloon-shaped, cover it in glue and then cut holes/paint as necessary.

Strange what you think of when you blog.

Now I need to find a photograph. It has nothing to do with anything in the blog. The header is a frangipane tart made with our Cape Gooseberry harvest. We have just eaten the last ones out of the garden. Unfortunately they die in winter if you grow them outside, so we will have to try again next year. There are no pictures of one that was actually baked as they tended to get eaten fairly quickly.


Smugness, Success and the Art of the Humblebrag

Warning – this post may contain smugness and inappropriate levels of self-satisfaction. I have also invented a new (to me ) form of humblebrag –

Do you realise how much time it takes emailing editors to thank them for accepting your work? I’ve had to do it three times in the last three days and it’s hard finding time to actually write the poems.

That’s. of course, an exaggeration, as i’d be happy to spend all day thanking editors, and in truth it only took about ten minutes in total. I tend, like editors to have a fairly standard reply, because after “thank you” there isn’t much to say.

The story is that I have spent the last few days hammering away at the keyboard. I did this because I am lazy and disorganised and only work when under threat of a deadline. Even then, the “work” of writing poetry doesn’t compare to cleaning out a chicken she in November, or cutting lawns in the middle of summer. Anyway, I managed six submissions in the last  four days (they were written but not finished.

One had an acceptance within 24 hours. I have already written about that. This morning I had an email to tell me someone had accepted three poems from yesterday’s submissions (which is a high level of editor industry and well beyond the call of duty. This evening I switched the computer on and found two more had been accepted. That had taken several days, which is still stunningly speedy considering editors also have day jobs and get piles of poetry sent to them.

Obviously, I’m happy and grateful, and, as you may have noticed before, success is a double edged sword, as I start to worry about repeating it. However, it goes deeper than that. It’s 12 months since I had cellulitis and the associated sepsis, and about eleven since I had Covid. It has taken all that time for me to get going again and to feel I am back up to standard.

The Long Way Home

Tonight we had a customer who dawdled so I set off home ten minutes late. With the addition or rain, roadworks and a broken down car, this turned my journey home into a 50 minute marathon. With clear roads in the morning I expect the reverse journey with take ten to fifteen minutes. When I got home Julia was already there, looking wet and bedraggled. She had been caught in the rain and her bus journey home had been even more unpleasant than my car trip.

The trouble is Goose Fair. The bus had actually had to make a couple of diversions to avoid the worst blockages.

The truth is that the city streets are not suited to the rush of visitors that accompanies the fair. It should be moved out to the edge of the city. Unfortunately nobody wants it on their doorstep. The noise and smell of fried onions are a nuisance, but they aren’t great inconveniences. Even the parking problems and congestion aren’t the worst things. That is, as one of my friends once told me, the feeling that anything in your garden that isn’t nailed down is likely to be stolen.

They used to cancel their milk for the duration of the fair as it was always stolen. OK, that’s a long time ago (I’m not sure anyone delivers milk now) but the principle remains the same. It’s here for ten days this year, supposedly to allow the stallholders to recover after Covid. It’s going to be an unpleasant interlude.

It shouldn’t affect my journey much but it is not going to be much fun for Julia.  We may have to look at an alternative route home for her. In the mornings we will continue to take the long way round and avoid the place.

Yes, I’m a grumpy sod, and yes, it isn’t the view that usually makes it into the local papers But it’s all good source material for my future biographer.


Vegetable soup from October 2014. Was it really so long ago? Top picture is home made piccalilli.

Resolution and 8 Years on WP

Well, we managed to work out how the little toerag in London pulled off his scam. Or nearly pulled off his scam. It was the buyer, not the local postman who was at the bottom of it. I won’t say more as it might become a police matter. Let’s just say that despite the work we did in the shop, and the Post Office did, eBay came close to undoing it all. At mid-day it all seemed to be over, with the evidence we needed, and eBay promising to put a stop to the fraudulent claim and ban the buyer. An hour later they emailed to say that after more requests from the buyer they had found in his favour and refunded the £500, leaving us out of pocket to the tune of £500 and a £500 coin. After another hour on the phone they agreed we were in the right and it looks like we will be OK. However, the disorganised way they have carried on gives me little confidence.

The other big news of the day is that I have had a haibun accepted by CHO, or Contemporary Haibun Online. It’s the first one they have taken in about three years and represents a lot of persistence. I don’t just talk about persistence, I do actually practice it. I’ve not been producing a lot and I nearly didn’t send anything this time, but I did, and less than 24 hours later I had an acceptance. This is editing at a high level of excellence. It might be three years before I get another one in, so I’ll enjoy the moment.

Finally, I had a message from WP a few days ago – seems I’ve been here 8 years now. It seems like a long time but, to put it in context, I’m currently wearing boxer shorts which are older than that. It tool me several weeks after registering to find the nerve to write something. Now look at me, it’s hard to stop me wittering on about something every day. Even if that something is about another dull day in the shop. At least today was a bit more exciting.

The header picture is guinea fowl sheltering under a picnic table during a rainstorm, the first picture I posted on WP.

The Case of the Missing Parcel

You can’t, so the saying goes, prove a negative. This is in the context of proving that we didn’t receive the disputed parcel. You can “prove” that we did receive it, because the Royal Mail has a record of it, but we can’t prove we didn’t. because we weren’t asked to sign for not receiving it. Such a thing is not possible.

This is in a philosophical sense, of course, as you can prove a negative in other ways. However,think of a small teapot orbiting the sun . . .

Anyway, back from theory and philosophy, and into the territory of sensible real life. (Though with the proviso that some scientists need to lighten up when discussing teapots in space).

The first thing we had to deal with was an email from the customer with a picture of his proof of posting and a demand to know why we weren’t refunding his money as he had proof we had received the parcel.

This revealed a new problem – the customer had not returned the parcel by Guaranteed Delivery but had used a cheaper, less secure method, His method does not require a signature and only insures the parcel for £100 instead of the necessary £500. In saving a few pounds he caused this entire problem.

We, in turn, contacted eBay, who have given us another seven days to make our case for not refunding the customer, with his use of a sub-standard postal service working in our favour.

We then spoke to the postman, who told us, amongst other things, that he had checked for us and the mobile technology used by the Royal Mail showed that the delivery had taken place at the specified time and in the vicinity of the shop. Without needing a signature, they cannot be sure exactly what “the vicinity” is. It now seems that it is our job to knock on all local doors asking if anyone has our parcel.

This is where we had a little luck, realising that the CCTV could help us. We checked it, and sure enough, it shows that the postal delivery employee walks down the road, pauses outside our shop, shuffles through some letters then walks off without delivering anything.

That, to me, is proof that the parcel was not delivered to the premises at the stated time. I’m not going to speculate further, as it may yet develop into a serious legal argument.

W are still going to end up losing money, and wasting time sorting it out, but it’s unlikely to be the £500 we originally feared.

I will let you know what happens when it is sorted.

The next post will be more cheerful. Probably.

The featured image is a propaganda Iron Cross from 1914 – they were made in various places in Britain and sold to raise money for Belgian refugees. I use it because it was the subject of a claim by a customer who said he hadn’t received it. That was easy to sort out – we had a signature from the delivery, which was to his place of work. He recognised the signature, checked it out and found the package was waiting for him in the post room – he just hadn’t bothered to check.

Writing on Borrowed Time

It’s been a productive morning already. It’s only 9.40am as I write and I have already packed the two orders and done various jobs using the shop computer. I have bought my lottery tickets online, done most of the weekly shopping and checked how Nottingham Outlaws are doing. They could be doing better from the results point of view but the club looks to be doing OK. Unfortunately I am not able to watch them these days as I work Saturdays. It’s strange how something that was once so important can slide away into obscurity.

We saw a Jay this morning on the way to work. It dropped from a tree at the edge of the park as we drove past, and stopped to drink from a puddle. Sadly it was just a fleeting glimpse, as they are pretty birds and always a pleasure to see.I’d be shy too, if my main contact with man was murderous gamekeepers and Victorian milliners looking for ghoulish hat decorations.

In the shop the saga of the missing gold coin still dominates, though I haven’t mentioned it in the blog so far. Someone with low feedback bought a gold coin for £500 on eBay last week then decided to return it. This is always annoying, as it’s often a case of buyer’s remorse rather than an actual fault with the coin. He has actually given three reasons for the return of the coin, all of which are demonstrably false. However, we allow returns to encourage buyer confidence. and as a result we get messed about. Sometimes it’s fair enough, as we aren’t always perfect, but mostly it isn’t.

At best, we will be out of pocket for the postage cost and the bit that always seems to be missing by the time eBay sorts out the refund. It’s something to do with VAT, though I can’t tell you what as tax isn’t one of my specialist subjects.

This, however, is insignificant compared to the loss of the coin. The Royal mail claim it was delivered at 10.20 am on Saturday. It wasn’t. We were in the shop at 10.20am and we had no post. The Post office don’t know where it is, eBay says we must issue the refund now, despite not having the coin. I used to be a great fan of the Royal Mail, but recently they have been offering a very poor service, whilst maintaining high prices and regular increases in the cost of their service. They are far from being the worst postal service in the world, but they are definitely in decline. However, they are not as bad as the various courier services which form the main competition.

A Whole New World . . .

Isn’t it strange how one thing dropping into ,place can open everything up? I know the reverse is often the case, and one thing going wrong can mess a lot of things up, but it doesn’t generally seem as easy going the other way.

Yesterday I finally got round to plugging a keyboard and mouse into my laptop and suddenly I am productive again. Just because it’s called a laptop doesn’t mean that I have to sit in the living room with it on my lap.

The result was three blog posts, plus half a dozen prose pieces written (some with haiku and tanka attached) and a dozen tanka transcribed. I now have enough material to have a serious go at submitting to all the magazines I have listed to target. This feels good.

I also didn’t spend half the night messing about with a fiddly keyboard and a lack of concentration, so I feel better in myself too.

Now that is underway I feel like tackling the broken computer and will be downloading the relevant stuff to rescue it this week so I can get it started again. If that works as claimed I will be able to get all my old work back, which will be even better.

Of course, I have learned nothing and am still not backing up properly, but that’s just how I am. The work I am producing won’t be brilliant either, as it normally takes months to tweak it, but at least I’m back in the game an straining at the leash. This is most unlike me, and particularly unlike me in winter, when I normally go dormant.

I even manged to write most of thi blog post at work before anyone else appeared. this blog post. Four minutes past five and I am about to post my blog for the day. This is not normal.

Featured coin is a Belgian 5 Francs of 1873.