Monthly Archives: May 2020

Musings

If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, I have just loaded 12,000 words from my photos to this post. The theme of my 12,000 words is, initially, that although WordPress can, it seems, develop a new improved editor, they cannot work out a system to allow me to access photos from old posts. They charge me for unlimited photo storage every year but I note, on an old post, that some photos have disappeared. I also note that if I want to access photos from old posts it gets progressively more difficult as I get back beyond a couple of weeks. Once past that the system starts to grind and lock up and flick back to newer photos. At that point it is easier to give up or to search out old posts and either link to them or recopy the photos. That is what I did with the last post.

It would have been a much more exciting post if I had been able to simply access the photos by scrolling down the media file.

If I could access old photos easily, this post would be more interesting too. However, due to the clunky and ineffective scrolling system I can only really access photos from the last couple of weeks. They are nice enough photos but they lack a bit of variety, you have seen them all recently, and they are not necessarily my better flower photos.

If I were developing a proper 12,000 word piece, I would then move on to muse on the mutability of life and how we change and improvement are not the same things. Life is simply a jerk progression, like the WP photo storage, where we jerk from one imperfection to the next. The final display is, like our lives, a poor reflection of the quality of material available, which has been severely limited by circumstances beyond our control. I think that makes sense, though it may just be self-absorbed twaddle. If that’s the case let’s agree to call it “deep”. That’s a useful neutral word to cover many eventualities.

 

There are several things I could move on to discuss as an ending. Cooking with arthritis is a current topic of interest. As a condition, not as an ingredient. Despite the new medication my fingers are actually getting worse. More fingers are being affected and more joints within those fingers are being affected. The index finger on my right hand now has painful swellings in all three joints and I could probably find hand modelling work as something out of Lord of the Rings or for those appalling Versus Arthritis adverts we now have on TV.

It seems to me that the name Versus Arthritis was developed by an idiot and approved, probably at great cost, by a board of idiots. Same goes for the TV adverts they run. In fact, despite the advertising I have spent the last two years not seeking help from them because the adverts are so bad. Today is the first time I’ve actually been on their site, and though some of the stuff appears useful, I may not rush back.

I was amused to see that one of the organisations that merged to form Versus Arthritis was formed in 1947 as the British Rheumatic Association (BRA). Even in 1947 I’m sure bra was a well known term for women’s underwear. Assuming that the organisation wasn’t formed by 14-year-old boys, it looks like the pitiful naming tradition has continued over the years.

Cooking with arthritis used to mean that my fingers ached after kneading bread. Now it means I can’t grip a vegetable peeler properly, can’t (on bad days) cut through veg single-handed and can’t fetch and carry without using both hands, as my grip has gone.

Tonight’s tea is roasted veg with pasties, Yorkshire puddings and gravy. I may be arthritic, and dreading the new improved editor but I’m not malnourished.

Note on the Dominic Cummings cut-out I mentioned a few days back (though I can’t actually find the reference, so I may just have thought I mentioned it). It was taken down but my sister sent me a links after seeing something on Twitter. Here is a link if you want it. I find it amusing, even if the story is now dead and brushed under the carpet.

And at just over 700 words, I think there is just time to sign off, and take my tea, carefully, from the oven.

Photographs and Percentages

It seems that one or two of my readers are suffering from damselfly envy. There are two ways of coping with this – either with tact and sympathy and empathy, or by publishing loads of links to previous photos. This second was would obviously be unkind and tactless.

So, here is the first dragonfly picture I took, after building a miniature wildlife pond when we were on the farm. Within days it tempted a dragonfly to appear from nowhere. In two years it was the only one we ever saw.

Common Darter

This is a common darter at the gardens in Wilford – the background and composition leave a bit to be desired, but you have to take your shots where they happen.

There’s another  dragonfly here too, and here. And here.

Finally, and it took some finding, is a picture of a ruddy darter from Strumpshaw Fen. This was one of my better days for photographing dragonflies and damselflies.

Ruddy Darter, Strumpshaw

Ruddy Darter, Strumpshaw Fen

The truth is that after walking miles round nature reserves and taking hundreds of shots, I’ve managed three or four shots I’m happy with.It’s much the same for butterflies, but make that thousands of shots and a dozen I’m happy with.

I really must start targeting dragonflies and try to get some better shots. If you want to see some good insect photos try Eddie the Bugman. He is an excellent photographer, even if he does hide his light under a bushel and spend his days sitting next to me photographing lots for eBay.

Big learning experience of the day was that I must use better links – I hard to search dragonflies, dragonfly, damselflies and damsel flies to find all these links and photos.

 

The Story So Far

We went out this morning around 9.00  and found that the roads we more crowded than we would have expected. I dropped Julia off at the gardens and then went to the shop. I must admit I would rather have been working with her clearing the pond rather than sitting indoors. Fresh air seems a much better option.

We will be reopening next week with a skeleton service for eBay orders. There will only be one of us in at a time and no customers.

We will reopen to the public on 15th June but will only see people by appointment. I’m not sure I see that working as people will just turn up and expect to be let in anyway. Monday always has been a day where we supposedly had an appointment system, but people always used to drift in anyway.

We had to fill the water butts and bird baths by hose on Wednesday as it had been rather dry. Once we had topped this one up the crow came to drink, showing that water is as important as food to birds. We are close to the river but there is nowhere for most birds to drink.

Let’s face it, we used to get customers coming in before we were open and as we were walking to the door at the end of the day. Some people don’t read notices on doors, and a surprising number cannot work out that if the lights aren’t on the shop isn’t open.

It is likely we will be locking the door to control access, but I expect that will be relaxed as soon as the weather gets too hot and we need the door open. I always think the shop is cooler with the door closed, but I’m usually outvoted on this.

The shop is now redesigned so that we can only have two customers in at a time and are able to keep six feet away from them.

The back room has also been redesigned, as it’s difficult to isolate when you can’t sit six feet away from a coworker. My workstation is now in the front of the shop, in a different room from all the stock and packaging materials. There is even less room to work and I will be within a few feet of all my coworkers as they walk through the doorway between rooms.

I’m not really bothered about the lack of distance, because I’m taking a relaxed attitude to these things. I am, however, a bit annoyed about the lack of efficiency which is going to be the result of the reorganisation. Once we get back to full strength it will be tricky to keep our distance and whilst finding stationery and stock to parcel up.

 

Then we did a quiz which we happened to have hanging around and I went to pick Julia up from the gardens. There are several sets of roadworks on the way (including gas mains and the Clifton Bridge works). By this time there was quite a lot of traffic on the road with queues at the roadworks. It wasn’t much different to the traffic before the lockdown.

I hope that the growing relaxation of the restrictions isn’t going to bring a second outbreak of the virus.

As we returned home, having gone by a different route to introduce some variety into our lives, we saw a life-size cut-out of Dominic Cummings tied to roadside railings. It was holding a notice that said “You are expendable, I am essential.”

It looks like this is not going away despite the Prime Minister’s attempts to ignore it.

Figs at Wilford Mencap Garden

Figs at Wilford Mencap Garden

The fig tree in the picture was given to us as part of a bundle of cuttings from a neighbour. We planted them, nurtured them and, eventually, saw them chopped off short by an idiot with a strimmer. That was what life on the farm was like. The three survivors are doing well, and this looks like it may even produce fruit this year.

Some Thoughts and a Few Photos

I’m feeling lazy today, so I am sitting watching TV as I blog. This is why I started to limit myself to 30 minutes of writing, as writing like this can easily spread to three or four hours.

I’m trying out a new typing finger as the first two on my right hand are now aching from arthritis and one of the joints is red and swollen. I’m now using my ring finger, with a little help from the little finger. It seems to be working out alright.

Bee on Chives - Wilford

Bee on Chives – Wilford

When I sit at the table and use the both hands it isn’t so bad, but when I’m sitting in front of the TV I have to use my left hand to hold the netbook.

The accuracy isn’t all it could be, but I’m sure that will come with practice. It is a whole new chapter in my story of old age and hypochondria.

Damsel Fly - Wilford

Damsel Fly – Wilford

The hospital rang this morning for a telephone consultation. My blood test results were all good, which is nice to know and, as the new drug isn’t doing much, I have been told to increase the dose from next Tuesday.

I also have to keep notes of the swelling of my fingers. The good news on this subject is that my feet are not as painful as usual, so the drugs could be working. If I could learn to type with my feet this would be the answer to my typing problems.

Iris at Mencap Gardens

Iris at Mencap Gardens

The photographs are a selection from yesterday. The damsel fly and bumblebee took some getting. The waterlily was easier, as they tend not to flit about.

I’m wondering if I could start a whole new genre of misery memoirs, featuring old men grumbling about illness, technology and how things used to be better. For “misery memoir” substitute “curmudgeon chronicles”.

 

Cottage Pie

Inspired by the box of meals that I had for my birthday, I decided to make meatballs. That involved buying mince, which we haven’t had for over six months as part of our new healthy eating regime.

As a result, we had a very pleasant meal of meatballs, mashed potatoes and greens. I used nutmeg and chilli as seasoning and it seemed to work well to make a Swedish style meatball. Unfortunately I broke the blender whilst making the bread crumbs (put the lid on wrong, twisted and locked it all together in the wrong place). It won’t switch on and I can’t get it to release itself so I can try again. As a result the kitchen was a mess by the time I’d finished – a broken blender, the mess from making meatballs and, even worse, the debris from making breadcrumbs using a hand blender, a mixing ball and a lid fashioned from a tea towel.

No, I didn’t take photos.

However, this left us with quite a lot of mince left over. That left three choices – cottage pie, spaghetti bolognese or chilli. I suppose the title spoils the surprise.

I softened onions and browned the mince, added a stock cube, Hendersons, mushrooms and, at the last minute spinach. I was working on the principle of using what was too hand and needed using up. As I’d made a vegetable soup earlier in the day I didn’t have as much choice as I normally do, and couldn’t be bothered to chop more veg.

Top with mustard mash and grilled with a cheesy topping, it turned out reasonably well. I wouldn’t normally use cheese, but ordering food by delivery rather than shopping myself has meant we have more of some things than we need.

We had it with stir-fried black kale, because we are quite trendy. Though some of the black bits are there because I fried too much and stirred too little.

Note: this is the second post of the day. The first is here. The first one is more interesting but this one makes my mouth water.

Cottage Pie and black kale

Cottage Pie and black kale

 

 

 

Blood Tests and Bumblebees

We went to the Mencap Gardens today. I took my camera, book, note pad and Kindle with me. I was intending to pass the morning reading, making notes and taking great nature photos before having a picnic lunch and returning home to watch quizzes on TV. It did not, as any married man could guess, work out quite like that.

So how did I find myself holding a hosepipe and watering fruit trees while Julia chatted to the school caretaker and, from time to time, offered advice?

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Bumble Bee on Chives

It started with a blood test. I’m still in the introductory phase of having immunosuppressants (methotrexate) for my arthritis and they are monitoring things to ensure that my liver doesn’t dissolve. Well, something like that. The general advice for people on immunosuppreants in the time of Covid, is, in brief) to keep taking them but take precautions, including avoiding sick people. To help me do this I have to go to hospital every two weeks for a blood test. Yes, that’s right – to avoid sick people I have to go to hospital, a big building full of sick people.

We arrived, I hit a bollard because I wasn’t concentrating, Julia stayed in the car because it seemed sensible, and I started walking towards the entrance. The system has changed. They had security guards a couple of six weeks ago, though they weren’t doing anything. At that point the coffee bar was still operating. Then we had nothing apart from hand gel and a notice. Now, there were members of NHS staff, notices, hand gel and a crowd. One woman was protesting that she was allowed in two weeks ago and sat in the coffee bar to wait for her father. She was told she couldn’t go in, as the system had changed.

Until last week I couldn’t take Julia into the supermarket with me, but I could take her to the treatment centre at the Queen’s Medical Centre. Now the NHS has brought itself up to the same standards as TESCO. It’s a shame they didn’t make these changes weeks ago, but it’s good to know that the NHS now has the same standards of infection control as a budget supermarket chain.

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Magpie – Mencap Gardens

However, having people congregating in the foyer did make it difficult to maintain a six foot distance from everyone, which they hadn’t thought of in designing the system.

After my blood test I had trouble getting out as two people stood in the middle of the floor discussing why only one could go in, and the NHS staff member didn’t think to move them to one side. ON the far side of them a woman hovered unable to get past and preserve a safe distance. She was standing in front of the door I needed to get out. So I waited.

Another staff member asked if I was OK.

“Yes,” I said, “but I can’t get out because there isn’t room to get past people.”

“You could use the door behind you.” she said.

The trouble with these modern glass buildings is that you can’t always tell the doors from the windows.

521 words and I’ve ended up on 35 minutes.

Then I went to the gardens but there is no time to tell you about that.

Pictures are some random shots from the gardens.

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A Nice Day in Mencap Gardens, Wilford, Nottingham

 

A New Policy

I’m starting a new policy from today. I may not do it for all posts, but I’m imposing a thirty minute limit on writing a post for most of them, and this may include adding tags and photos. On the best of days tags and photos seem to take ten minutes so it may involve just writing for 20 minutes.

Photos for today are Julia posing in the front garden with a word. The word is “WE”. I’m not sure what the message will eventually spell, but this is Julia’s part of it. I would have liked to have drawn the word “EVIL” and stood next to her. My design would have to include a small stripy insect so that it could serve as a warning to gardeners about the evils of weevils. I know I keep saying this, but if I ever get round to writing that series of crime fiction I keep muttering about, I think I’ve found the title for the book that features gardeners.

As we did the photographs we also watched the neighbours from the corners of our eyes – they were holding some sort of three way conversation – two in the gardens and one on the footpath. They weren’t quite, to my eye, six feet apart, but young people are so careless.

For their part, they looked out of the corners of their eyes at the two elderly eccentrics taking pictures of a piece of paper in the front garden.

If WP continue down the slippery slope of the New Editor it may be that I only write twenty words per post, the rest of the time being devoted to struggling with technology and swearing at the computer.

Nothing much has happened apart from that. On the other hand, it’s only just coming up to 4pm. There is time yet.

I spoke to my sister by telephone this morning because we are are not technological enough to Skype or Zoom or any of that stuff. Ideally I would write, using a fountain pen and sitting at a desk in my study, but I’m too lazy to do it regularly and end up having to wash the pen before use. By the time I’ve done that I normally either forget about it or send an email instead.

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Part of a lockdown message project

The letters in Julia’s photos may ring a few bells. The “W” is designed to look like a water melon and the “E” is an elephant.

The alarm just went. Four hundred words in twenty minutes. They didn’t take much thought or research so it wasn’t too hard. Time to add tags and photos.

P.S. – the shop owner rang today. We will be having a meeting on Friday to discuss the resumption of eBay work in the shop. We may hold the meeting in the open air to avoid breaking too many guidelines. However, we won’t be open to the public for a while yet.

Photos and tags didn’t take too long, so it’s all done and dusted in 30 minutes. I wonder if that will ever happen again…

P.P.S. – my contributor’s copy of Medal News arrived today with a cheque. I’m beginning to like this writing business.

Book Review – Riding in the Zone Rouge

Riding in the Zone Rouge

Zone Rouge cover

Author: Tom Isitt

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: W&N (21 Mar. 2019)

ISBN-10: 1409171140

ISBN-13: 978-1409171140

 

In May 1919 they had a cycle race in France and Belgium, taking in the battlefields and severely testing the endurance of the participants, many of whom had only just returned from the army.

This book describes the race and sets it against a modern cycling tour following the route, along with a travelogue based on the two wars fought in the area – the Franco-Prussian War and the Great War.

I haven’t been on a bike for forty years, but I like travel books and I’m very interested in history, particularly the events of 1919, so it was an obvious choice.

Cycle racing is tough these days. A hundred years ago it was tougher, with longer stages, rudimentary equipment and a ban on accepting outside help, whether from blacksmiths, teams or competitors. With the added hazards of war-ravaged roads and unseasonably bad weather it became less of a sporting event and more an endurance test. Despite many of the seemingly petty rules, there was no law against the use of performance-enhancing drugs (strychnine and cocaine in those days). This must have been a great comfort to the racers, particularly when weather conditions meant that several of them had to use battlefield ruins for a few hours sleep and shelter.

Most of the references to modern cycling went right over my head, though the contrast between the bikes and clothing of 1919 and 2019 is an eye-opener.

The Zone Rouge covered 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) in 1919. Even today it still covers 100 square kilometres (about the area of Paris). To be honest, I didn’t even know it still existed, or how the French and Belgians went about reconstructing their country. I am now better-informed about this, and a number of other subjects.

It’s a well written book by an experienced journalist and as such it has flow and pace and is a genuine page turner.

My least favourite parts of the book are the made up conversations between the racers. I’m sure they are accurate reflections of the conversations that would have been held, but they do blur the line between fact and fiction. As a device it works well and moves the narrative along, but I’m never happy with it in a history book. This is, however, a minor quibble and if this was the sort of review that gave stars I would give it five out of five.

This is the second post of the day, as it has been in preparation for the last few days. Unfortunately, politics intruded and although it gave me material for posts about judgement and a Fifty Foot Johnson I thought I’d go ahead anyway, rather than let it get lost in the unused drafts.

The Fifty Foot Johnson

I suppose I should start with an apology to my American readers for my poor taste, and an explanation to my British readers – johnson is American slang for penis. If you know my views on the Prime Minister and the way my minds works, I’m sure you can see what direction this post is moving in.

Last night I was musing on the chain of circumstances which, if applied to Stanley Johnson, might result in the non-birth of Bungling Boris. As you may have gathered from yesterday’s post, I am not a fan.

Mumps or measles would have done the trick, as would an unfortunate rugby injury. It’s less likely that I could have invented a time travelling burdizzo, despite the obvious attraction of such a direct and effective method. Then I thought of radiation. Would it be possible to travel back in time with a microwave and secure the required result. I’m not quite clear on the use of radiation, which seems to have variable effects. Doctor Bruce Banner seems to have swollen up and turned green as a result of exposure to radiation while Peter Parker assumed many of the characteristics of a spider.

I may have to drop the idea of irradiation, due to the side effects.

Anyway, if one of the Johnsons was to become a Marvel Superhero it would have to be Boris’s younger brother Jo Johnson. Marvel superheroes have alliterative names so there is no other choice. And why, you ask, do they have alliterative names? Because Stan Lee had a bad memory and it helped him remember them. Sounds slightly unlikely, but that’s what it says on Wikipedia.

 

Due to this I am going to abandon the idea of irradiating Stanley, as it might turn him into  a giant, and nobody would want a fifty foot Johnson. Let’s face it, nobody actually wants a six foot Johnson.

Attackofthe50ftwoman

Caesar’s Wife and the Special Advisor

Sorry, I’m being political and I’m writing about Dominic Cummings today. He is a special advisor to the Prime Minister and was recently accused of breaking the lockdown guidance. People have resigned, or been forced to resign, over this several times and in several countries. Some useful scientists have been discarded as a result, at a time when we need scientists. Now Dominic Cummings has been accused of breaking the rules. He is not a scientist and, to my mind, is not useful. Political advisors fill the same niche in politics as catfish do in the world’s rivers – they lurk in murky places and feed from the bottom.

If he was sacked tomorrow I really don’t think the world would notice.

However, Boris Johnson won’t sack him. He has, according to Boris, ‘acted responsibly, legally and with integrity’.

First, may I say that Boris, with his expensive classical education, should be the first to know that Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. It is not good enough for someone in that position to be squeaky clean: they must give absolutely no room for suspicion.

And when they are tackled by the press they should remember, that, as the Bible tells usA soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. A soft answer does not seem to be the favoured response of either Mr Cummings or the Tory Party. Their responses to the press are verging on arrogant.

As for ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’, I don’t know the exact definition of what was legal. Discussing things like this is what keeps the legal profession in wigs and holiday homes. The ex-Chief Constable of Durham seems to believe there was a crime.(that is the same link as the previous one).

Responsible? I’m not sure that travelling the length of the country with a child and an infected person in the car to stay with family is responsible.

Integrity? I’ll let you make your own mind up.

All over the country people are making sacrifices. Even some politicians are making sacrifices. Sadly, it seems that some of them aren’t.

I photographed the crow in the picture 18 times before I got that shot, which makes the title of that shot corvid19.

I’ve been waiting to use that joke for months…