Monthly Archives: Feb 2020

Instant Ink. Or Not.

We are having trouble with the printer at work. It has stopped printing properly, and we didn’t originally notice until it had mis-printed ten sheets. This is an annoying waste. Yes, I can use the paper as scrap note paper, but we use the so-called “Instant Ink” service from the printer company and this is ten sheets towards our monthly target, even though they are useless.

In theory, the system is good, and cheap, but in practice it doesn’t seem to work quite as efficiently as it should. And when we end up with a faulty cartridge we can’t print and we are having to get by with no buying slips and a limited number of compliments slips for parcels. We can get round the former problem by writing things in a notebook, but it doesn’t look professional. We can get round the latter with business cards, but again, it isn’t quite so good, as they don’t deliver the same sales message.

The worst thing is that if we get an eBay order which uses Cyrillic or Chinese script, as they often do, we can’t print an address label out, and we certainly can’t hand write them. I’m hoping we will have the new cartridge by Monday, but can’t help thinking that under the old system (a spare cartridge in the drawer) we would already be back in action.

They call it “Instant Ink”, but we reported it yesterday, so surely we should have our new cartridge today? It was, after all, their faulty cartridge that has caused the problem, and many companies seem to be able to deliver in less than a day, even when they don’t call themselves “Instant”.

Ah well, just one more gripe about modern life.

The strange thing is that the more I look at it, the more efficient and economic it appears. I might actually have found something about modern life I approve of, which is not usual.

Today’s photo is one I took ages ago at Springfield’s when I was waiting for Julia and messing about with the camera. It’s a pattern of paving stones taken using the day-glo pink effect known as “Punk”. Presumably because it was an effect used on Punk posters. Though it might be a mis-print for “Pink”.

Death in Paradise – Review

I don’t know if you are all familiar with Death in Paradise – if you aren’t I’m afraid this might not be the post for you.

It’s average. The setting, a Caribbean Island, is outstanding, the cast is strong and they work well together, and the lead actors have all been good. Some of the plots have been as good as anything you will find anywhere, others have been weak. Last night’s, I felt, was weak, far-fetched and was on shaky ground ballistically. In these days we have all been trained by  CSI we all expect good science.

The plots are also formulaic, with a set-up, a moment where the Inspector has a revelation, and  gathering of suspects for a Christie style denouement. Unfortunately they often fail to develop character in the suspects and I’m not really bothered who did it, or if there are consequences.

That’s not to say I don’t like the series, I do. It’s pleasant and easy to watch, the plots are mostly acceptable and there are plenty of secondary stories to keep me pleasantly involved.

Regarding the main actors – the Detective Inspectors from London – they have all been slightly quirky and have all been played by decent actors. I like Ben Miller and I like Kris Marshall, and they both played the part well. I was a little concerned over Ardal O’Hanlon as he was a bigger name than the other two, and could well have overpowered it, but he didn’t. I had no worries with Ralf Little coming in because he’s done some good stuff over the years. And I was wrong.

I have no problem with Ralf Little as an actor, and from what I’ve seen and read think he seems like a good bloke, but he has been saddled with such an unbelievable and dislikeable character that it isn’t working for me. And as the formulaic quirky DI begins to creak the whole nature of the programme starts to fail.

This, of course, is just my opinion. I’m not a drama critic, and I set out to write a blog post about medallions, so have been side-tracked again. Did anyone else see it, and if you did, what did you think?

Sorry about the photos – it’s the best I can do, as photos of the Caribbean aren’t really a feature of my work.

Banknote from Suriname

Banknote from Suriname

Chaos, Confusion and Corona Virus

Well, I’m healthy again today. I’m not sure what I had, but an early night and a mug of hot Lemsip seems to have sorted it all out.

In the middle of the corona virus, schools are closing, we have our first confirmed case in the East Midlands and my surgery has texted to tell me that if I’ve been to an area of concern, or in touch with anyone who has been there, and if I have any symptoms, I should stay away from the surgery and ring the NHS Helpline.

Stock markets are falling, gold is rising and the world economy is in disarray.

And I’m confused what all the fuss is about. It’s not exactly deadly, as most people seem to recover. It’s not necessarily going to be the biggest killer of the year either. So far there have been 2,800 deaths. Set this against an estimated 290,000 who die of flu in an average year, or the 140,000 who died from measles in 2018, and I’m not entirely sure I need to worry.

The problem is that bad news sells papers, and people love to worry.

I’m far more worried by an article on the news regarding robots making sandwiches. They are taking over…

We also have maintenance work starting on Trent Bridge, just to add to the congestion caused by the work on Clifton Bridge. (You don’t need to know much about Nottingham, just think of any town with two main bridges – both with roadworks on them. It’s not good news.)

Those bridge works are in addition to the local road closure while they renew gas mains.

That wasn’t what I meant to write about, but when I started off this morning I didn’t know I was going to get a text from the doctor telling me to stay away.

It’s not as if we need the extra difficulties that the weekend is forecast to bring – more rain to areas that are already flooded and a selection of high winds. I’m starting to think of the opening scenes of Flash Gordon, where the Emperor Ming pelts Earth with hail and boiling rain.

Picture of the day is a shot of ducks in Derbyshire from a few weeks ago.

An Average Day, Ending Well

We went out for breakfast this morning, took a ride in the countryside, looked at some ducks, who were enjoying an unusually full pond, and dropped stuff off at the charity shop. It was not a particularly full or active day, but it still left me feeling tired, as I am once again feeling a bit fluish.

It may be corona virus, man flu, ordinary flu, fatigue, cold, or hypochondria. It’s too early to say, but I will keep you up to date with developments.

I’m fairly sure I just need some Lemsip and a good night’s sleep, but we will see what happens overnight.

The day was not quite as bright blue as yesterday but it was still good in places. Similarly, the magpies were not quite to numerous or as perky as they were yesterday. As compensation, we did have three good views of buzzards and two of kestrels. We also watched some frolicking tufted ducks, as mentioned above.

On the plus side, there are more flowers and more blossom.

My sister went out for a walk this morning and recorded gadwall, kingfishers and red kites too. We might have to visit her and see some of her birds next time.

When we returned home we were surprised to have a knock on the door – it was a postman with a parcel from eBay. It was a boxed medallion, and would fit neatly in the palm of my hand. It was in a box big enough to hold half a dozen hardback books. You can’t say they had skimped on the postage.

I will probably take a photo tomorrow but the light is a bit too dim at home.

Finally, because this isn’t going to be a long post, I have just been told that an article I wrote has just been accepted for publication in the April or May issue of Medal News.

All in all, apart from the cold/flu/hypochondria things have been quite good.

First Signs of Spring

I will take the day in order.

I didn’t feel good when I woke so I went back to sleep. I felt worse when I woke because I had slept through the second alarm and was running late.

Breakfast was two well soaked shredded wheat and a piece of cold toast with marmalade, washed down with cold tea. I’m lucky like that, I can enjoy my food hot or cold and have never understood why people wince when I drink tea or coffee that has been standing for hours. It tastes much the same to me.

At the other end of the spectrum I am able to finish scalding hot drinks quicker than most people, even though I’m told it increases my risk of oesophageal cancer. (That is the first time I’ve ever used that word in either written or spoken form).

Emerging into the day I first noted the amount of noise being made by the birds, then noticed that the sky was a lovely blue colour. Spring is starting to show. The bird noise wasn’t song, it was the sound of Magpies playing on the rooftops and Great Tits calling from gardens. Neither one could be accused of being melodious.

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I made it to work with 15 minutes to spare – I’m old-fashioned an consider this a minimum as it takes me 15 minutes to turn things on and compose myself. Younger and more modern people seem to think it’s OK to turn up dead on time and carry on from there, before starting work ten minutes late.

We weren’t busy online, with just four parcels to send, but we had phone calls and customers and the day passed easily, though I did start to flag in mid-afternoon as a desire for a warm bed stole over me. I’m not sure whether I’m coming down with something or have weakened myself by going on a diet. I remarked to my sister by text, that I had expected my new vegetarian regime to make me feel better. She said she’s been vegetarian for over 40 years and hasn’t noticed any great feeling of well-being. Now she tells me…

Finally I came home, put the fire on and started to feel better, read my blood test results and, eventually, drifted off to sleep for half an hour. Julia, fresh from swimming, came and woke me, shoving a vegetable stir-fry into my hands before making pancakes. I think she’s been reading cookery books again.

The results were good. I have a target of 2.5 and hit 2.4 so I have another twelve weeks before the next test.

I’m planning on an early night and sleeping until I wake up rather than setting an alarm. We have no plans for tomorrow apart from dropping stuff of at charity shops and clothes banks, so I’m taking a relaxed attitude.

The presentation is falling into place and at this rate it should be finished with hours to spare. Considering I’ve had eight months to do it, this is either commendable precision or world-class procrastination.

 

 

The Plan So Far…

Got up, got dressed, got wet…

The blood test went well and the blood seemed to flow well after the needle was withdrawn, so I’m hopeful all will be well with the results.I managed to get back to the parking machine within 30 minutes so my parking was free, which is always a bonus.

Work went well, we sent 17 parcels off and finished in good time. I was able to use the shop lights to photograph some bits for the presentation, which was good becasue they are better than the ones at home.

That’s it so far, but at least I’ve managed a few bits of the plan.

I see that the crocuses are coming out and there is blossom on the trees. I hope the forecast snow at the end of the week doesn’t do too much damage.

That’s all I can come up with at the moment. It was warm during the day but it is getting colder. All I can think is that I am cold hand have to do the washing up before Julia returns  home.

We had falafel sandwiches for lunch – sliced falafel, mango chutney and cucumber. I prefer cheese, or tuna, but it’s a pleasant enough combination and it’s doing less harm to the environment than fishing or dairy. It’s probably healthier and less fattening too so it really is a win-win situation. I just can’t rid myself of the yearning for cheese and pickle.

Postage is going up to 76p for First Class and 65p for Second. That’s a rise of 6p and 4p, which when I was at school was around 8.5% and 6.5%. This is supposedly to help Royal Mail maintain efficiency (I write this on a day when we had to compensate a customer for a lost parcel). The 6.5% is supposedly in line with the Consumer Price Index, but the last fix I can get on that is 1.8%, which is quite a lot less.

It strikes me that Royal Mail should use some of its extra money to hire more accurate accountants, or recruit some better liars for the PR department.

Edward Lear Stamps (1988)

Edward Lear Stamps (1988)

Sunday Night Again

Yes, it’s Sunday night again and I’m looking at another week incarcerated in a windowless office with a thousand items of eBay stock and the scent of ancient sweat drifting off a pile of used foreign banknotes. Years ago I was present when a dealer opened a shoebox crammed with used notes from a distant land . The experience of lifting the lid and taking a breath was very much like being coshed with a sweaty football sock crammed with mature cheese. I have been dubious about used foreign notes ever since.

Sometimes they bring back pleasant memories of exotic foreign trips, but mostly they just remind me of that shoebox. That makes me sound like a man who made exotic foreign trips. Actually I only made a couple, and they were for business so they tended to be big on work and light on tourism.

And with thoughts of missed opportunities, I will now turn back to plans for the week.

Tomorrow I am rising at 6.30 to get to the hospital in time to get a parking space and, with luck, a short wait for a blood test. I haven’t been since before Christmas so I’m hoping I hit target as I like it when you get two or three months between tests.

For the rest of the week I have a visit from a tree surgeon, who is going to trim a tree, a visit to charity shops to drop off some books and other clutter, and a trip to the doctor to review medication. Not the most inspiring of weeks. I really ought to add the Power Point to that, because days have a terrible habit of melting away if you don’t plan properly.

I know that the most productive periods of my life have been the ones where I’ve planned them properly, but I’m lazy and tend to let things slide.

I will add “planning” to the list. It’s time to shake off the winter and get to work.

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Sculpture at Scarborough

The pictures are ones I recently found on a camera card I’d mislaid. It’s a sculpture from the seafront at Scarborough, and it’s surprisingly difficult to photograph, as there are always people in the way, looking at it or the information board.

Sculpture at Scarborough

Sculpture at Scarborough

A Leisurely Second Post

I’m trying a post from the living room while watching TV. It’s not as efficient as sitting at the dining room table typing but it’s warmer and more companionable. It’s also slower, as the netbook is getting on a bit. I sometimes think that if we opened it up we would find it was put together using mahogany and brass. There’s also a lurking suspicion that my wireless signal isn’t pulling its weight. In my imagination it simply drops out of the router and saunters across to the netbook in the next room like a sulky teenager.

We are still getting orders for 1973 50p coins, as nostalgia cuts in. We did have our Brexit 50p coins from the Royal Mint earlier in the week but I forgot to take a picture. They are unimpressive and, on dull-coloured cards, look even worse. I forgot to take a photograph, but you can see one here. If you think it lacks style and looks like it was knocked out by a half-wit with a computer I would agree with you.

However, when you look at some recent designs like this one and the Olympic commemorative, it could have been a lot worse. Our coins are becoming a pitiful joke.

On 20/02/2020 the Bank of England launched the new £20 note. It is another in the polymer (plastic) series, which still isn’t exactly popular. We haven’t seen one yet but they will no doubt work their way into circulation in the next week or two.

The old ones are to be composted and used as soil improver.

And that, I think, is a natural end to the post, apart from a link to a coming auction. It’s an auction of the low numbers of the new £20 note. The very early ones go to the Queen and various institutions, and the estimates on these show how much a mad collector will pay for a low number.

 

 

 

Breakfast, Banknotes and Bad Cookery

Yesterday, when I finally prised myself from the grip of my nice warm bed, I found that Julia had left me porridge and a bacon sandwich. It’s at times like those that you realise how fortunate you are in your choice of wife.

It seemed only fair that I reciprocate this morning, so I took her to McDonalds. It’s slightly less impressive as a gesture but it’s a lot easier and there is no washing up.

Tonight we are having our traditional vegetable stew with dumplings. It’s low in calories, low on additives, cheap and delicious. It’s also a reliable recipe we have now been making for some months.

I have not exactly covered myself in glory this week, with a couple of new recipes that went slightly wrong. I say “slightly” but in one case we’ve been staring at it for five days. I would feel bad if I threw it out, as it’s a terrible thing to waste food. On the other hand, I will probably feel bad if I actually eat it.

What I did was to make a base for a vegetarian cottage pie by using small diced vegetables, onions and beans. It looks good and the texture is good. If only I hadn’t followed the advice of jamie Oliver to use a teaspoon of Marmite all would have been well. If you follow his recipe exactly it may well have worked, but I didn’t. I mixed and matched and ended up with a dish that is abominably salty.

If I boil a potato or two in it I’m likely to reduce it to soup. If I dilute it and pour the salty liquor off I can’t guarantee an improvement. And if I add more ingredients I just risk wasting more.

It looks like it will be heading for compost, and a valuable lesson will have been learned regarding recipes, though it’s not the first time I’ve been let down by a recipe from a celebrity chef.

The second was nothing like as bad. In fact I quite liked it, though Julia was less keen. I made a root vegetable hash and baked it with four eggs on top. I didn’t quite get the balance of vegetables right (too much swede/rutabaga), and the baking dried it out a bit but I think it has potential. The problem is mainly that it didn’t have corned beef in it, which keeps it moist and gives plenty of flavour.

At work, we finished the banknotes. AS you can see from the note below, I reached Zambia. Eddie did Zimbabwe, and we both heaved a sigh of relief.

Banknotes - Zambia

Banknotes – Zambia

Preparing to Prepare

I have started.

After looking at a number of sites for advice on Power Point I found myself no wiser after a couple of hours. I recognised the words but not the concepts. It involves buttons and menus and stuff, but I knew that when I started. If you told me it involved dancing elephants and the Dagenham Girl Pipers I wouldn’t actually have any proof that you weren’t telling the truth. I am going to have to involve somebody considerably smarter and more technical than I am. Regular readers will realise that I am, of course, referring to Julia.

I did, however, take on one gem of wisdom – that you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Or, to put it another way, if the content is poor Power Point won’t improve it, just project it on the wall so that even people at the back of the room can see how bad it really is.

With that in mind I have started to think about the content.

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Bradford on Avon Tribute Medal with Great War Campaign Medals

Another thing that I read was that you should follow the 10 – 20 – 30 rule. This states that a presentation should feature ten slides or less, last twenty minutes or less and involve a typeface of at least 30 points. This means that it has to be punchy, to the point and written in big letters so you can’t fit too many words onto a slide. As a further refinement they suggest dividing the age of the oldest member of the audience audience by two and using that as the minimum font size. As we have an eighty-year-old member that means 40 point, which, as he’s troubled by cataracts, is probably not a bad idea.

You see, I’m getting better already…

They actually expect about an hour, and to be fair, it needs to be around that length to make it worth people making then effort of comiing to the meeting. The material falls neatly into two halves so I’m going to aim for an introduction, two twenty minute sections and a summing up. That should keep it snappy and fill the time.

On that note I had better get off, as I now have some research to do.

The top picture is the Brighouse Tribute Medal with a pair of Great War Campaign Medals, the other is the medal from Bradford on Avon with a similar pair of medals. They are both going to feature in the presentation.