Monthly Archives: November 2019

An Absence of Activity and a Surfeit of Fish

I was on my own in the shop this afternoon because the other two went off to a banknote meeting. It was very quiet – just one customer in three hours. Fortunately we had two eBay sales so we did take enough to cover my wages.

We had tuna for tea. It was line-caught, though I’m not sure the tuna would appreciate the significance of this, or its part in my new healthy lifestyle. If the fish had thought more about what it was eating I may well have had a vegetarian meal tonight.

We had brown rice and vegetables with it. Last night we had fish fingers, mushy peas (from a tin) and potato wedges. I also had tartare sauce. Tartare sauce is a lot more palatable than virtue, but it doesn’t go well with rice.

Tomorrow I’m planning on fish pie, though I’m still not sure what I’m going to use for a topping. We’ve tried cauliflower mash a few times but it doesn’t settle well. Potatoes are always good, particularly with cheese, but they aren’t necessarily the healthiest option. I’m thinking of sweet potato, but the colour always seems too bright.

I really should try to become more adventurous with my food, though I’m not sure that changing the topping on a fish pie constitutes adventure. I fear that old age may have caught up with me (a) unexpectedly and (b) while I am too young to be old.

And yes, I am hoping that fish’s reputation as a brain food will restore my brain to near Jeevesian levels of intelligence.

Murder, Muttering and Medical Malpractice

There was, to be honest, only one point in the day when I was in danger of becoming over-excited. This was during the phone call from the surgery which told me that the doctor had returned my prescription request as I’d only had a prescription issued on the 7th of this month and it was therefore January before I could have a renewal.

This was a surprise for a number of reasons and I didn’t really do myself justice in arguing my case.

It wasn’t actually the doctor who rang me, and in fact no doctor will be able to speak to me until next Thursday. I pointed out that this would be inconvenient as I only had medication to last until Tuesday, but that was all they could do. I know this because that was the answer they kept repeating to me.

I am therefore officially displeased with being treated like an idiot. Constantly repeating something does not make it either an adequate answer or good customer service.

I am also unhappy because this is the fourth error in three months.

And finally, because of an error on their part I can’t have tablets which I have been prescribed, and which are supposedly necessary for my health.

We have three possibilities here.

One, Julia is part of a complex plot to murder me by messing about with my prescriptions when she takes them to the surgery for me.

Two, my memory problems are more grave than I feared.

Three, the surgery has made an error.

Let’s examine that in more detail.

Means, motive, opportunity. Julia keeps feeding me bacon, sausage, pork pies and chips. No, not as one meal. This isn’t working so she is trying to deprive me of my medication. It’s still an unlikely scenario, though it might make a plot for an American crime drama.

The main problem is motive. After 30 years of marriage I suspect she is either used to me or suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

All in all, I think we can rule out the complex murder plot theory.

The mental decline theory probably has more legs, though even I might struggle to forget that I’d ordered tablets. I really can’t say one way or the other. Anything, no matter how improbable, is possible.

Finally, the doctor making a mistake. Traditionally, doctors don’t make mistakes. This is partly because they don’t admit it, and partly because, as the old saying goes, they bury their mistakes.

This, unfortunately, leaves only one logical explanation – that I have experienced the biggest senior moment of my life.

Watch this space…


Six Minutes

Floating Feathers - Arnot Hill Park

Floating Feathers – Arnot Hill Park

Even by my standards this isn’t much time – particularly as it often takes longer than that to add photos and tags.

I have to confess that even after five years I haven’t got the hang of tags. I did once read something about them, as I once read about SEO, but it goes in one ear and goes out through the other.

It just took three minutes to write 62 words. Based on that speed I could write a decent length novel in a couple of weeks, even allowing time for sleeping and eating.

Makes you wonder what writers do with their time doesn’t it?

Five minutes gone – time to post.

Postcode Safari (Part Two)

Time for PE10, WS8 and BT71 now.

PE10 covers the town of Bourne in Lincolnshire. It’s a lovely town with a lot of history. Hereward the Wake reputedly came from Bourne, the first of a long line of interesting people from Bourne, including clerics, explorers, criminals, a VC winner and Raymond Mays, founder of BRM. A BRM driven by Graham Hill won the Formula 1 Championship in 1962.

It’s tempting to add a link to Graham Hill, one of my childhood heroes, and his son Damon, who is one of only two sons to have followed his father as F1 World Champion. However, we’ve had Hereward the Wake,  Charles Sharpe and Raymonds Mays – that’s enough heroes for one post.

If I had my life over again I’d seriously think about living in Bourne. But I’d also work harder, save money and watch my diet so I’ll just have to let it pass.

WS8. I used to live in WS9, though I was so young I don’t actually remember it. This is in danger of becoming an autobiography. WS8 includes Brownhills, one of the least attractively named towns in the UK. It was apparently a big mining area in the seventeenth century and the name refers to the spoil heaps. In 1680 it was known as Brownhill – it seems to have become plural as more spoil heaps were formed.

I’ve been past Brownhills, but I don’t think I’ve actually stopped there. I used to have customers nearby, and the A5 runs past, as it has done for 2,000 years, having been built by the Romans as Watling Street. Next time I go that way I may drop in – they have a massive statue of a miner, which might be interesting.

Finally, BT71. It’s one of two postcodes for Dungannon, and includes Coalisland, another name derived from coal mining. It is claimed that you can see seven counties from the hill with the castle ruins, though it does say “depending on the weather”. It will almost certainly be raining, which is why Ireland is so green, so I wouldn’t bank on it. It’s like the old saying that if you can see the Isle of Man from the mainland it means rain is on the way. And if you can’t see it, it’s already raining.

The other story about Dungannon is that it has an untypical police barracks because of a planning mix up. Somewhere in Nepal, so the story goes, there is a typical Irish police barracks. Now all I need is a reader in Nepal to share a picture…


Postcode Safari (Part One)

I didn’t write a post yesterday because I was tired, cold, disorganised and lazy. Today, being merely cold and disorganised I’ve written 300 words and discarded them as unsuitable.

So, instead of my jaundiced view on life, I’m going to revert to a postcode safari. We did 25 parcels yesterday, so I have plenty to work with. I won’t select, I will just start at the top of the list and work my way down.

The first four are DD2, PE10, WS8 and BT71. That’s Dundee, Peterborough, Walsall and Belfast, so there is quite a spread. Well, it’s approximately Peterborough. I used to live in PE10 and it’s really about 25 miles from Peterborough. I also lived in PE2 and PE15. Even PE2, which sounds as if it should be in the city centre is quite rural. Same for BT71 – all of Northern Ireland has a Belfast postcode, so. if anything, BT is even less precise than PE. It is certainly bigger.

There are 121 postcode areas. Peterborough is 11th in terms of population and Belfast is 2nd, with only Birmingham being larger. In case you were wondering, London is cut into smaller districts. There are six districts with London in their name and other towns which have bits of London in their postcode area.This is the list, ranked by population.

DD2 is next to DD1, which contains one of then most notable of all ships – RRS Discovery.

However, I’m not sure it’s in the spirit of the tour to look at the postcode next door. This does, however, present me with a problem – my normal reference site merely says that DD2 is Dundee. D. C. Thomson, the comic company, are in DD1, Keillers no longer exist and Dundee FC are in DD3. As Dundee is host to the two closest football stadia in the UK, I suppose Dundee United are also in DD3. According to a website that knows this sort of thing they are only 0.2 of a mile apart – or 300 yards/metres if you prefer. Next on the list is Nottingham, at 0.7 for Forest and County and Liverpool/Everton, which are only 0.8 miles apart.

But so far I’m drawing a blank with DD2.

Ah! One last try and it paid off. The Camperdown Works were in Lochee, which is DD2. At one time they were the largest jute mill in the world. It was worth looking a second time because another site I checked implied they were in DD1. Jute was vitally important to Dundee at one time, and this fact alone is the basis for one of the less interesting museums I’ve been to. It’s great in parts but they made us sit through a rather dull film before we were allowed in and with two lively kids it was a bit of a trial.

That’s enough for now = Part Two will follow later.

Could Do Better

Although I haven’t published anything for the last two days I have actually written three posts and, inconveniently, fallen asleep in my chair before midnight.

As a result, the first piece became redundant, the second was consigned to oblivion due to being rubbish, and the third is still in the pipeline. I thought I’d better write this fourth piece just to explain the situation. It’s not very interesting, but it won’t take long, and it will let you know I’m still active, even if I am inefficient.

We had a massive postal day on Monday – packing 25 parcels in just over three hours. Several of the parcels had multiple items in them and two of them went abroad. (When you have to stick £9 worth of stamps on an envelope it can take some time).

I was still seeing stamps as I did various things in the evening and, after a lot of work for little result, I fell asleep in my chair.

Ditto for yesterday, but with fewer parcels. I am really going to have to start making better use of my time.

I will write more later, but have to sort a few jobs out this morning. We were planning on seeing the seals today but Julia forgot that she has a meeting at 5pm, so that was a non-starter. Maybe next week…

Not that it’s a tragedy to miss the seals – they make great photo subjects but they do, for some reason, give birth in the wrong place, at the wrong time and in the wrong weather. I really don’t understand how evolution dictated that they should give birth in November in the UK.

It may be to do with the availability of fish, in which case I may never know, as the life of a fish is a mystery to me.

The Scone Chronicles XXIV

We took a short ride out on Friday, just to blow a few cobwebs away. I even remembered to take the camera with me.

After breakfast and a couple of errands we swung out to Lincoln to have a look at Whisby Garden Centre. It’s looking a bit threadbare, the butcher has gone and a lot of book covers in The Works are curling due to damp.

On the other hand the staff are friendly, the place has character and I was able to east scones whilst sitting by a wood burning stove and looking out of the window at a duck pond.

We’ve drifted off course this year – with fewer piers and fewer scones than originally intended. That’s partly my fault as I’ve not done enough planning, and partly circumstances – including Julia’s time on jury duty.

If I had to be honest I’d have to say it was mainly down to me because I’ve not felt like walking much, and I don’t like the south-east, where we have to go in search of piers if we are going to be serious. Our last pier expedition was to Wales and the North West and the walk round Llandudno really struck home. There is a lot of difference between this year’s trip and the one we took before all the trouble started.

But, as a Victorian novelist would say, I digress.

The subject is scones. At Whisby we had tea and scones and, as I mentioned earlier, were able to sit with one side facing a duckpond and the other side being nicely warmed by burning logs.


Not sure what she’s looking at, but she seems worried by something behind me. Note the scarf – it was a birthday present.

If I ever have grandchildren they will probably read this one day in absolute horror. And it won’t be at my deplorable writing style because grammar will have died by then and spelling will have been replaced by predictive text and American spellcheckers. See here for a note on American spelling.

Did my grandfather really burn fossil fuel and choke a nation just to go for a scone? And did he really kill a tree just to get warm? That’s before they get to the point of wondering why anyone would want to eat a scone, which will be seen as a dangerous fat and sugar delivery device.

The answer is yes, and I enjoyed it. Though I would have enjoyed it more if they’d baked it at a lower temperature to avoid the crust, and if they hadn’t sprinkled it with icing sugar – it isn’t necessary.

A Lazy Week

I’ve just squandered a week of my life. This is partly due to waiting for a call from the builder who never called, and partly due to laziness.

I have done nothing of importance, been nowhere and written nothing apart from the blog.

Unless you count replacing a plug on Julia’s reading lamp. That’s more difficult than you think in these days of moulded on plugs.

I had three choices. One was to replace the plug with one bought from the supermarket. Julia put a stop to that one by moving it. Women have a mysterious superpower where anything they move tends to disappear.

That left two choices.

As the fault with the plug was that someone (who may or may not be the person who moved the replacement) broke the main prong (the one that works the shutter and opens up the other two holes) there is an option of wedging the shutter open with matchsticks. However, even I consider this to be a tad dangerous, despite my history of alternative electrical arrangements.

So in the end I took the plug off another appliance and used that. This avoided the necessity of moving away from the TV and going out in the cold.

And that brings me back to the question of wasting a week. I’m feeling happy, rested and in tiptop mental condition. Maybe it isn’t a waste after all, maybe I should do more of it. And maybe, as a marketing exercise, I should rebrand it as “relaxation” or even mindfulness“.

Sorry about the picture, I’m very lazy. If I could use Photoshop I’d bung a Santa Hat on a puffin, but as I can’t, it’s another robin.

An End to Alliteration

I missed my self-imposed deadline last night – it was just past midnight when I posted. Only about seventeen minutes past, but enough to make a difference.

We’ve decided to leave the seals today, as we’re still waiting for a call from the builder and the current weather isn’t looking good. Maybe next week…

The rain is back and the temperature is rising. This is good news for those of us who live on a windy ridge but less good for people who live in low-lying places.

Generally, the world is a miserable place, and the UK is particularly bad at the moment because we are in the middle of an election and everyone on TV seems to be talking down the NHS. At the moment the fashion seems to be for bringing students into discussions about workloads on their work placements. I’m not sure students are the best people to comment on workloads.

Having worked in agriculture and been self-employed for many years I have a slightly different view on pay and hours compared to many of the people who come on TV.

I don’t want to come over like a Yorkshireman here, but  I used to work six days a week and don’t think it damaged me.

Yesterday I read an interesting piece in the paper. It’s by Jane Garvey, a presenter with the BBC. It is about the gender pay gap at the BBC. The headlines of the case make juicy reading, with men paid a fortune and women lagging far behind. However, it’s not the full story. For one thing, the full pay is not always disclosed, as they do other things on the side. For another, as was mentioned by a male presenter at the time, he was paid more than his female counterpart because he did more work, including working on Saturday and Sunday doing the football reporting.

Anyway, she is paid about £150,000 a year according to various reports, something she fails to mention in her writing. Her contention is that by being paid less than her male counterparts she is having to lead a lesser lifestyle both now and in retirement. You can’t argue with that.

However, let’s look at it another way.

She’s paid £150,000 a year, which puts her in the top few percent of people in the country, and she earns it sitting in front of a microphone.

Many people, including me, would love to be paid £150,000 a year. In fact I’d love to be paid £70,000, which is officially rich. Or even the median pay of £25,000.

Julia would merely like to work somewhere warm with running water and electricity.

I’m not sure if the gender pay gap is the main problem we have here.

(And yes, there are people all over the world who would like running water and electricity, so I ought to be counting my blessings, not whining.)

Sorry Tootlepedal – it’s a flawed, fatal failure of a non-alliterative title today. I did think about doing a post about an egregious example of an egg salad, but I didn’t have enough to say.




Writing, Robbery and Reinsurance

I had a go at writing my autobiography yesterday. It didn’t start off like that, but an hour later that was the result.

After receiving a quote from my car insurance provider, a number which I initially mistook for the National Debt of a medium-sized member of the UN, I decided it was time to take action. At over £800 it means I’m working for the best part of a month to cover the insurance, and that’s before tyres, fuel, car tax, MOT, servicing and all the other pleasures of car ownership.

To get a new quote I had to fill in a long and intrusive form about myself, followed by another for Julia. I noticed that not only do they seem to want more detail, but they seem to provide things as extras that used to be standard. It used to be enough, as I recall, to say you’d had a full license for 40 years – you didn’t have to search out the exact date.

It would have been quicker but I managed to wipe the form after doing three quarters of it and had to start again.

I managed to secure better cover and save nearly £400.

The moral of today’s post is that loyalty to an insurer does not pay.

It may be irritating to fill out the forms but it was worth it. I may worry a bit that the insurer is not as good as my previous one (as I did when changing breakdown cover) but insurers, when left to do their own thing, are generally not to be trusted with your money.

I used a picture of a Magpie because I was writing about insurance companies and couldn’t find a picture of a vulture.