Category Archives: General

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), spam and me

I thought about using the title “What Hemingway taught me about Blogging” but it probably wouldn’t do my Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) much good. (Note how I managed to slip the bulk of the title into the first line. Get used to it, you’ll be seeing it several more times before you get to the end of the page. That’s SEO for you.)

On top of that, he didn’t actually teach me anything about blogging. He taught me lessons about writing, bullfighting and firearms safety, but he’s useless on blogging. Not his fault of course, as it didn’t exist in his day. Even Nostradamus is strangely silent on SEO, despite his claims to see into the future.

My spell-checker just picked up Nostradamus and suggested Stradivarius. I can’t help thinking that the world of violins would be a different place if spell-checkers ran the world.

So, in my customary bumbling way I will now shelve the Hemingway reference for later use (it was going to be a post about land ownership) and move on to SEO.

It’s a rare day when I turn on the computer at work, read the spam, and don’t find at least one offer to improve my place in Google’s rankings by someone claiming to be (a) highly effective and (b) reasonably priced.  I’d take them more seriously if most of them could actually write grammatical English. Call me old-fashioned and curmudgeonly if you want, but if someone is asking for money to improve my written work (albeit by merely inserting key words and links) I’d like to think that they are reasonably competent.

While I’m struggling to work out whether “optimisation” or “optimization” is going to bring better results they are serving up gems of jargon and sentences that look like they’ve used a translation service.

Kindly revert back if you are interested, then we can send you more detail about package/action with special Offer. I look forward to your positive mail.

Still, they write better than the representative of the Libyan Government who got in touch this morning to offer me…

…I suppose he really was from the Libyan Government, and not just spam, I mean he said he was, but the fact he used a gmail account makes me slightly suspicious that he might not be telling the truth.

Escape to Derbyshire (Part 2)

After lunch, the sun went in, which was a shame because I had wanted some shots of autumn colour and what is scarlet and gold in sunlight is just shades of brown when overcast.

After buying our selection from the shop we decided that the cafe, despite some excellent reviews on Tripadvisor, looked a bit busy and cramped so we decided to give it a miss.

At that point I decided to chance my arm and mentioned in a casual manner that the refreshments at the Brierlow Bar bookshop were always acceptable.

“We aren’t buying any books.”

“Nothing, my dear,” I said, “could be further from my thoughts.”

As a salesman I was always told that sincerity was the hardest thing to fake, but I like to think I’m pretty good at it.

Half an hour later we stepped into the shop, turned to the toilets (it’s my age, you know) and…

…they have built a whole new cafe.

My jaw dropped.

Change, I find, is not the same thing as improvement. However, in this case the change does seem to be an improvement.

We had prize-winning Novus tea, served in a pot, with extra hot water, tea strainers and milk in one of those little bottles that looks like an old-style school milk bottle. The tea is bright and golden when poured and tastes very pleasant. I’m afraid I don’t have a wide vocabulary of tea terms.

Being (a) surprised and (b) thirsty, I didn’t really take in much else about the place. The tables have good chunky tops and varied ironwork supports and the chairs are a mixed bag of second hand items (or an eclectic mix as we bloggers call them). However, the important things to note are that you can browse the cookery book titles whilst seated, no important books have been lost to the cafe and after two large cups of tea we still couldn’t see the bottom of the pot. I like that. Quality is good in tea, but quantity is even better.

In the end I was allowed to buy four books – two for me and two for Julia, so I’m still wondering who did best out of this visit.



Could do better…

Sorry, I seem to have lost focus this week.

I have written several thousand words, but none of them were suitable for a blog. It’s interesting to me to indulge in biographical musings and a polemic about the waste of time and trees involved in the typical grant application, but it’s not so interesting for the people who have to read it. (I’m just having to print out a load stuff for a grant application that could easily just be submitted as links to various internet pages).

Similarly, the new outbreak of hostilities between me and the Farmer’s Sister, whilst giving me a great arena in which to indulge my sarcasm and vitriol, is not a fit subject for publication. Quite apart from the possibilities of a suit for defamation, it’s rude to talk about people behind their backs.

So, in the absence of masterly prose, I will bung in a load of photos.

It’s also bad policy from another point of view;  if I ever describe how to make a bomb from agricultural chemicals it won’t seem so funny as it comes up in court and moves from being “a blog” to becoming “the evidence”.

Even my email box fails to inspire me, with the same old ungrammatical notes purporting to be from banks and credit card companies, and one very persistent accountant, all wanting details and money. Come to think of it the accountant could be for real – as he keeps lecturing us and adding more penalties each time he writes. Ah well, he should write a more convincing letter.

Once in a while I did get an imaginative letter from the widow of an African politician, but they seem to have dried up lately.

Instead of agonising over my lack of output, I’m going to promise to do better next week.

I usually manage to get out of trouble by doing that.

Let’s see if it works this time.

(The title, in case you haven’t guessed, is a quote that appeared in many of my school reports over the years. They probably have to be more upbeat these days but in the 1970s teachers were still allowed to be cynical.)





Silly Sunday 2

Number 1 son offered to make lunch, and without thinking I said “Yes please.”

He’s in his 20s, he’s been away for 3 years, he hasn’t starved to death, it was beans on toast. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, first of all, he decided to add scrambled eggs. Second, without telling me what he was doing, he left the eggs on the stove and went to do something else. The first I knew about it was when the smoke started to catch in my throat.

Strange I thought, burning food doesn’t usually – then I was grasped by another coughing fit.

Our traditional egg dish for breakfast and brunch type meals can best be described as  a form of scrambled eggs in which the eggs are bashed about a bit and things like vegetables and bacon are mixed in.

In this case he added onion and chilli. I may have mentioned last week that he is a in a chilli phase. Much the same as I am in  a milk drinking phase.

When you burn chilli it appears to produce a throat grasping acrid smoke that makes your eyes water.

The thing about child rearing is that you have to encourage them, even when it means eating burnt eggs with too much chilli in them.

The erst of the day, quite frankly, was an anticlimax after that, so that’s where I’ll end – a smoky kitchen, tears in my eyes, a rasp in my throat and a deep-seated desire to see him finish his Masters, get a job and bugger off before he destroys my kitchen or my taste buds.






Silly Sunday Part 1

It started well enough, with our normal five am start (the opposite of the Sunday lie-in routine followed by many). Croissants for breakfast with apricot jam – all bought in, I’m ashamed to say. Well, ashamed about the jam; life is too short to make croissants from scratch.

Off to work,and we had our normal drive through town, marvelling at what young people consider appropriate apparel for 5.45 am with the temperature around 4 degrees C. Makes you glad to be old and warm. I used to think that I burned the candle at both ends but I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with this lot.

Return home at 6.15 am and face the eternal quandary of how to fill the gap until the laundrette opens at 7.30. Sleep? Second breakfast? Some computer work?

I ate the last two slices of the honey and oat loaf with peanut butter as I decided against having a second breakfast, and read my emails and checked the blog as I decided against working on the computer. Suddenly it was 7.30 and I needed to be off to be off to do the washing. Well, no harm in a little nap first…

You can guess how that went, I presume. I’m told that the optimal time for a nap is 40 minutes, because you wake instantly and feel alert. Two hours isn’t so good. I still don’t recall reaching across to switch off the alarm. Fortunately my bladder and the hoover fetishist next door refused to let me sleep longer.

Ten o’clock by the time I’d gathered the washing, the detergent, a book, a banana and some change. That’s quite a busy time down at the laundrette, so I decided to blog and have that second breakfast after all. I’ll wash later.

Cornflakes. They’re healthy. I had a glass of milk, poured  a helping of cornflakes and looked for the new milk carton.

The code of silence observed by my family when using the last toilet roll or last of the milk, is the envy of secret societies the world over. In comparison to Number 1 son the Mafia appear to be chatterboxes and the Freemasons seem prone to gossip. As a bonus, they don’t eat my cheese.

At least it reminded me of the health-giving benefits of green tea.

So, healthy, hungry and determined to stay upbeat, I reach the end of the first part of my day.

It’s not easy being cheerful…

…particularly as Number 1 son has offered to cook lunch.




A suitable place for the 2.30 joke

I should be bubbling over with things to write, and I have, in fact, written enough to fill at least two posts, but none of it felt right.

After sleeping for a good six hours I awoke this morning  feeling refreshed and determined to do things. Top of the list was to ring the dentist.

I did this and they agreed to an emergency appointment at lunchtime, thus spoiling my chances of the 2.30 joke. If you don’t know it look at the bottom of the post. That was unusual as dental surgery receptionists tend to define “emergency” in a different way to the rest of us. Having spent the previous six weeks with a detached crown on the right side, I had given my left side molars a good workout. One of them, the one at the back that has been a problem for about 30 years, had finally given up under the workload and crumbled.

As the dentist had previously told me he wanted to take that one out, I wasn’t keen on going back. Apart from an impacted wisdom tooth I haven’t had an adult tooth out and it’s the thin end of the wedge, leading to the sixth age of man (the lean and slippered pantaloon) before I slide into the state  of being – “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” Especially sans teeth, as I’m resigned to reading glasses and the rest is still a way off. I hope.

Now, rather than slip into a gloomy reflection on mortality (as in the first draft) or a distasteful discussion on the state of my dental health (second draft), or even a polemic on mercenary dentists (both drafts!), I am merely going to say that this visit was a pleasure.

Twenty minutes after starting the treatment, without any pressure to spend money or have extra work done, I was out on the street again with a freshly glued crown, a patched up tooth (no mention of extraction from this dentist!), a bill for just £18 and a feeling that all was right with the world.

There was a snag, as I couldn’t eat for two hours as the glue and filling set, so I had to watch Julia eating lunch (more of the honey and oatmeal loaf) as my stomach rumbled plaintively.

I have also arranged for my annual hypertension appointment instead of trying to dodge it. Nothing useful ever comes out of it. It always seems to a be a different nurse and the same conversation – basically “you’re too fat”. Now, I’m not medically trained, but I had noticed that myself. Still, they seem to worry if I don’t get tested every year.

Finally, after a visit to Wilko’s, where they are selling off bird feeders for £7.50 each, I went home to work on my list of other things I need to do. I bought two of the feeders and still saved £4 compared to the price of one in a garden centre.

I was so industrious that I even missed Pointless.

This is a picture from Wednesday, as I don’t have any from today – for an idea of the wind speed just look at the tail feathers.



2.30 joke? Tooth Hurty. It’s a very old joke. I may be the last person alive that finds it amusing.


Old age and treachery

After a morning spent doing the heavy lifting for Julia, who is in “clean up for Christmas” mode, I continued my “day off” (as we married men call it) with a spot of lunch at The Big Fish before taking her shopping. She’s at work now, earning the money that allows us to continue with the Quercus project, so I suppose I should be counting my blessings rather than complaining.

I will keep telling myself how lucky I am when I drag myself away from the evening episode of Pointless to pick her up from work, and again tomorrow when we get up early so I can deliver her to her birthday treat and leave her to be pampered for the day. I would provide you with a link but I won’t, as I can’t run the risk of a possible kidnapping – without her I might have to get a proper job.

Have to go now – need to get the vegetables in the oven. I’m still basking in the smug glow of two pointless answers – Bismark and Lofoten.  It’s amazing what the brain retains. If only I could work out a way of making money from knowing useless facts I’d be a happy man. And richer.

Time to go now, having just witnessed an outrageous bluff by two older gents on their way to the Pointless final. It made me laugh, it put the youngsters out, and it gave me the title for today’s post.


Well, it’s done. It was an afternoon tinged with sadness, as there were quite a few memories enshrined in the layers of litter. Nine years accumulating memories…

…or nine years without cleaning the car properly.

It was also rather annoying as I had to spend £25 (non-refundable) on ordering a new log book for the car, an event that became even more annoying when I then found the old log book.

However, think back to the words “non-refundable” I used earlier, a bit of dramatic foreshadowing if ever I saw one.

I can’t say I enjoyed the day – I’d much prefer to be out on the farm – and to have £25 in my pocket – but I did need a new car – and I have learned some valuable lessons about filing, cleaning and resale values.

Making the most of adversity

Another day, another problem…

I know I ought to be talking in terms of challenges, solutions and lemonade at this point, but it’s difficult to see an upside right now.

I’m looking for my car log book. I don’t know about the rest of the world (Americans, for instance, seem to carry them in the car every time I see a traffic policeman ask for one.) In the UK there are two general reactions to being asked for your log book – smugness from the organised people who know where they are and panic from people like me.

I’ve had the car eight years. I can’t always find things after eight minutes. I need it this afternoon when collecting my new car or things become more complicated. First port of call was the filing cabinet where my wife puts things.

Yes – “puts things”. Her filing makes a pack rat look like an obsessive compulsive

An hour later I’m no closer to finding the log book, but I have hit a rich seam of out-dated bank statements so tonight I will be shredding. And so, as this episode closes I can at least say that when you have paper – make compost.

Explaining my few days off

Sorry about the lack of posts over the last few days. I knew I was going away for a long weekend and had intended writing posts in advance so there wouldn’t be a large gap.

Fate, however, intervened. Planning tends to be hit or miss with me; I’m often very organised. But if I’m not very organised I tend to be very disorganised – there’s rarely a middle way.

All the arrangements were in place for a visit to Norfolk and Suffolk to see family and I had set time aside to write a couple of posts to fill the time while I was away. Then what happened? Let’s just say that it was medical. Embarrassingly medical. Some years ago I said to a friend of mine, after a couple of visits to Male Urology and the insertion of a camera into an orifice definitely not designed for cameras, that it would be nice to visit the doctor and be able to keep my trousers on.

“You’re in your forties,” he said in a resigned voice, “get used to it. That and the fact you’ll never be able to hear the snapping of latex gloves without wincing.”

I didn’t know what he meant at the time, a state of innocence that lasted until my first prostate examination. It’s difficult to discuss without overstepping the boundaries of good taste but let’s just say that whether you believe in Evolution or Intelligent Design, you’d have thought that a small trap door would have been a more elegant solution…

Anyway, I’m not cured but I am at least able to sleep for several hours without my bladder waking me up, and I’m down for another trip to Male Urology. I’m hoping that camera technology will have advanced a little in the field of miniaturization.

Male Urology is comedy gold, I promise you. I am already grinning at the memories. Unfortunately, it isn’t tasteful so it will remain A Story That Cannot Be Told.

In the meantime I will compose a post that actually has something to do with Life of a Care Farm in Nottinghamshire, as the title says.

Watch this space.