Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Chimes of Midday

I’ve just heard the sound of the Council House clock striking. I always feel it’s a good day when air conditions and the wind direction carry the sound. You can, of course, get too much of a good thing, which is why the chimes stop at 10.30. This was done many years ago when hoteliers complained that the bell was keeping guests awake. In the 1970s I spent a night in Durham. The cathedral clock chimes all through the night. All through. Loudly. Never again.

Anyway, apart from that I’ve had an unremarkable day.

Dropped Julia at work. Filled the car (the fuel gauge lit up and pinged). Came home. Did some more of the OU course I started yesterday (it’s a 12 hour course on poetry, nothing heavy), did comments on WP, did a bit of editing, read a couple of internet articles, washed up and realised that it’s midday and I need to get some work done. Also realised I didn’t know how to spell midday so had to look it up.

I had the same problem last week with the plural of roof. I pronounce it rooves, but I’m sure it is correctly, though inaccurately, spelt roofs. Seems I’m wrong and rooves is still acceptable in the UK, even though Doctor Johnson declared it to be obsolete in 1755. It’s always irritated me that it’s spelt differently to way I say it, particularly when wife and calf both go to a v in the plural.

I am so glad I’m not a lexicographer or a scholar of the English language. So many details, so much tedium.

I thought I’d write a post to make sure it’s done (Final of the Great British Bake Off tonight so I won’t be writing much). Laura is my favourite contestant, though not the greatest baker. She’s very clumsy and often drops cakes – in the final stages. Then next week, when you thing she’d slow down and use both hands she’s back at it, talking, rushing, moving cake one-handed and spilling it again.

It is finished. I’m now going to make a sandwich and move some stuff round so Julia thinks I’ve been tidying up.

 

The Second Week of the Rest of My Life

I took Julia to work this morning, shopped at Lidl despite what I said about them last week (it’s the lure of the bakery counter!) and came home. I did a bit of writing, replied to comments and read a few blog posts. I spoke to my sister, washed up and generally had what Julia will consider a lazy morning. It’s still better than it was, so I’m quietly pleased with myself.

I have downloaded Apache Open Office and am looking at it as a way of replacing Microsoft Office. It doesn’t have all the features of Office 365, but it doesn’t have the complexity or the cost. Refreshingly it doesn’t claim to be new and improved either. And so far it hasn’t lost any of my work. Office 365 has lost two pieces that I was working on yesterday. It’s the idiot/computer interface that’s the problem, rather than the inanimate software, but I can’t help thinking that I never had this problem with previous versions and that this isn’t Microsoft’s finest hour. I want to have my files on my computer, not squirrelled away in a cloud that I need an internet connection to access.

Yes, I know there are plenty of upsides to the system, but there are some big downsides too.

Open Office isn’t the most sophisticated of programmes, which suits me fine, but it’s nice to feel like you are in control, rather than in thrall to Microsoft.

Time for lunch now, and it’s a turkey sandwich for me. While we were clearing the freezer to make room for Christmas shopping we found a turkey crown.  This does not reflect well on our standards of housekeeping, or our memories. How do you forget something like that?

We decided it was better to eat it rather than save it as we didn’t want to spoil Christmas with ropey meat that had been in the freezer too long.

We had a roast dinner last night, with potatoes, parsnips, carrots, brussels, stuffing and gravy. It was very good, and even better because it was made for me. After tea I made sandwiches from the turkey on nice brown seeded bread with mayonnaise, cucumber, redcurrant jelly and stuffing. I’m going now, my sandwich is calling…

Header picture is a still life of a bored man waiting for his wife.

The Scone Chronicles – 39 A Box from Bettys

I’m torn between wonder that I have got to Number 39, and a sense of lost that Covid has presented me getting to Number 70, which is where it ought to be.  I could try harder, and I didn’t even photograph the scones – just the gift box. It’s even taken me a month to get round to writing it up.

The Scones in question arrived in a small cardboard box from Bettys in Harrogate. My sister had ordered them on line as a treat for us. no particular reason, just because she’s a nice person. I will refer to it as a hamper, despite it being disguised as a cardboard box.

Bettys Hamper

Bettys Hamper – tea, scones, cake and jam

The blue box contains tea, the brown protects the jar of strawberry jam and the other two explain themselves.

The scones had been in transit for a day and it took us another day to get clotted cream(if you’re going to have afternoon tea you may as well have all the calories and fat that go with it. Despite this, and my sister’s worries, they were still fresh.

They were also very good.

Unfortunately, Bettys advertise themselves in a way that suggests they are the best in the world, and they aren’t. Generally I’d be happy with scones that were this good, but Bettys make a rod for their own back – they really need to up their game if they want to match the adverts.. See here for more comments on this, and for a comment on the dropping of the apostrophe in the name – this criticism still stands. If you can’t be bothered to put an apostrophe in your logo what else can’t you be bothered to do?

The jam was excellent, as good as any strawberry jam I’ve ever had. It’s quite runny and has an intense flavour that  grabs you under the ears (“meks yer tabs laugh” as they say in Nottingham). Top marks for that.

Same goes for the Yorkshire Tea Loaf – very good. We actually bought more scones and managed to make the contents of the box into three afternoon teas, which was even better than just having it for one. It was jam and cream scones the first day. jam and cream scone with Tea Loaf for the second day and jam scones with tea loaf the second day. It lasted well.

The tea, I’m afraid to say, was a bit overpowering for my taste, though that may be  a fault of my water rather than the tea.

It was, as I recall £16 when I looked it up, which is good value, including next day delivery. At the moment they have a Christmas themed selection which doesn’t strike me as such great value.

If you are looking for a hamper you could try Mrs Botham. Botham’s of Whitby offer great food, excellent pork pies, and a reasonably-priced selection, plus they treat apostrophes with proper respect.

Bettys Box Lid

The New Computer and the New Computer Rant

Am I the only one objecting to having to write an autobiography before being allowed to use a computer I just paid for? because I once used my email address for a Google account I can’t use it again, so have had to start a new email account. Why do they always need my date of birth too? If it’s because of “adult content” issues I would be quite capable of lying about my age and if it isn’t they don’t need it. As far as a computer company is concerned that is as relevant as my shoe size. That is 11 or 12, depending on width and fit, as my left foot is half a size bigger than the right and I sometimes have to buy twelves to accommodate that. It’s not a secret, it’s just not something that Microsoft needs to know. Meanwhile, in asking me for details, they applied the password not just to the Microsoft account but to the computer. I don’t need a computer password. If Americans want to know why the rest of the world sometimes has reservations about them, just ask Bill Gates why this should be. First of all he rents us software we used to be able to buy, then he makes us open accounts just to use our own computers. Next thing you know he’ll be cutting off our access if he doesn’t like what we say.

If the Chinese Government ever brings out a word processing package I will seriously consider using it on the basis it can’t be any more intrusive than Microsoft already is.

At last the changeover went comparatively easily, apart from writing the autobiography and then providing some of the information in duplicate. or triplicate. WE can invent computers (which is a bit like alchemy or witchcraft to a simple soul like me, and we can travel to the Moon ( or a TV studio in the desert) but we can’t, it seems, design a system that allows you type a phone number in one place on a form and allow it to show up every time they want your phone number.

AS for picking it up, it was interesting. They sent me an email in the morning telling me it was ready to pick up, but I had just started watching Sharpe, so I left it a while. You have to tell them you are outside the shop by pressing a link they send you. This, of course assumes you have your phone set up for email. I did when I was managing junior rugby teams but I don’t need it now so I never set it up on the phone. ASDA do the same with their Click & Collect. They assume the whole world are slaves to their phones. It isn’t true. Some of us still retain the power of thought and don’t ned all that electronic pap. It’s a plot I tell you, encouraging stupidity, mediocrity and self-centred behaviour. Our current House of Commons is quite clearly the result of early experiments in this direction.

I long for the old days when it was all about back-stabbing, naked ambition and class war. They were still a waste of space, but at least they were comparatively honest and straightforward.

That meant I had to forward the email to Julia who came with me to the shop and pressed the link once we found our way through the badly marked slalom course that was supposedly the system of collection bays. How difficult can it be to draw an arrow that looks like an arrow rather than a hockey stick. There are some well-established conventions on this, Pointy bit and shaft. It most definitely isn’t either rocket science or a hockey stick.

I interpreted it to mean that I had to turn back on myself and as a result, lost two places in the queue. I hate it when that happens. Anyway, it’s all running now, just leaving me to chunter that I can’t see why Windows 10 is necessary as it’s no advance on the old system.

Oh, hang on, I’m wrong. It is an advance on the old system because it enables Microsoft to make you buy new stuff.

One small backward step for mankind, one giant leap for Microsoft profits.

My new computer looks nothing like the one in the picture, but it’s the only computer photo I can find. Mine is more of a chunky black box attached to things (including a twelve -year-old screen, with a mass of tangled wires.

Tomorrow I’m going to try using more photos.

Aaaaaargh! A Correction

I just had a look at yesterday’s post and the first thing I noticed was that I’m an idiot. November 20th 2020 isn’t a palindrome. November 20th 2002 was a palindrome – 20.11.02 rather than 20.11.20. Ah well, I look like an idiot but there’s no harm done as you knew that anyway.

There are worse things than being an idiot – politician, polygamist or parasite would all be worse, though including both politician and parasite is dangerously close to tautology. I have nothing personal against polygamists, by the way, I just wouldn’t want to be one. One wife is more than enough. If you have the fortitude to cope with multiple wives, good luck to you.

It’s the same with bigamists. If they have the organisational skills to run multiple lives we need them to run the country as most of the current clowns can’t even run one life, let alone a government. Bigamists should be cherished rather than punished.

And with that thought, and the correction made, I will leave you for now. The fire is burning, Sharpe is on TV and Julia has gone to buy doughnuts…

A Palindrome and a Minor Disaster

We’ll do the palindrome first. Sadly for all my American readers the 20th November isn’t a palindrome, so I’m afraid you are going to feel let down and lied to. However, I suppose you’ve become used to that over the years. I know that I have, and it looks like it will get worse. I was listening to some sort of academic on the news tonight and he said that the confidence rating in the UK Government had been at 75% until the Cummings Affair, after which it dropped drastically and continued to slide to around 30%.

However, I digress. Today, I enjoyed writing 20.11.20 on the slips with the parcels, all thirteen of them. I have sent parcels to Spain (2), Canada, Australia and Japan. I even sent one to Scotland and one to the 19th Century. Or Somerset, as it is known to the Royal Mail.

Several parcels had multiple items, and several of the items had, whilst waiting to be sold, managed to move around and had the be flushed out of cover.

Someone rang in with a telephone order just after lunch (as previously arranged by email) and things became a little trickier due to an equipment failure. It seems that if you leave a card terminal dormant long enough you have to reset it. We haven’t used for two weeks in lockdown, so, of course, it refused the payment and it took me twenty minutes to sort out before ringing the customer back to complete the sale.

The Minor Disaster relates to the ancient computer. It has been slowly crumbling and slowing down, and it is now making terrible grinding noises. On top of that it only works for ten to fifteen minutes before locking up and taking half an hour to close down.

I am now £379 poorer and will be picking up the new computer tomorrow night. There will be advantages, of course, like being able to use photographs again, but I will be having a few moments alone with my wallet to remember the cash and shed a few tears.

I’m using the netbook at the moment, and will struggle on for a few days. After all, it’s not like I’m just going to plug it in and start. It’s never that easy…

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire - dramatic setting

A Dreadful Wednesday

First, I had problems with my ASDA on-line order. Noticing they were advertising delivery slots for Christmas week I followed the link and booked the last available slot for Christmas week – Monday at 10pm. It’s not great, and it’s expensive at £6, but it’s better than spreading virus.

Unfortunately, instead of setting up a new delivery I moved today’s delivery to Christmas week. That cancelled today’s delivery, so I rang Customer Services to see if they could reinstate it. It seems they can’t. Or, they probably can, but they won’t. Their advice – to book another slot. Unfortunately the nearest one is three days away, which isn’t very useful as it will impact on next week’s shopping. Easier to work out of the stock cupboard and miss a week.

This is the second time I’ve messed up ion the ASDA site, but so far I haven’t had the same problem on TESCO’s site or eBay or Amazon. It’s just possible that ASDA’s site design needs tweaking to allow for customer stupidity. Everyone else does. I may give an order to TESCO and cancel the ASDA one nearer Christmas, as TESCO has things I prefer and because ASDA must suffer for poor service.

Second, I had more shredder woes. I have, however, managed to sort most of that out. Due to limited space I’ve been using a book as a mouse mat, and putting it on top of the shredder, which is in a good position for it. (Top Birding Spots in Britain and Ireland by David Tipling, in case you are interested). I noted thast the orange “full” light comes on when the book is placed in acertain position, stopping the shredder. I think the book may be activating the automatic cut-off, suggesting that the sensor is badly set. Ah well, at least I know now, and will remove the book fully before starting to shred.

Finally, just before midnight, the computer ground to a halt. It took over two hours to restore it to something like working order, though it’s still a bit slow and it now makes a different noise. It looks like time for decisive action. I’m hoping it lasts long enough for me to order a new computer on-line.

Not a very productive day in the end, though I did get a few things done.

Today I am hoping to produce a writer biography, shave my head and do the washing up. They are small ambitions, but it’s a start. I may delay the head shaving until I feel my luck has changed, otherwise I may remove an ear. I don’t mind having one ear, but it will make it tricky to wear glasses and masks, so it’s better to have two.

I will alter my plans to – produce a writer biography, do the washing up, order a new computer.

Help! I need a biographical note!

It’s looking more and more like I’m going to have to write a biographical note for some of my submissions. The next question is, what should I say.

“Simon Wilson doesn’t like writing biographical notes and thinks it’s none of your business.” is probably not going to win many friends.

Does anyone have any suggestions about what makes a good biographical note? I have several other variations in mind, though they are all variations on a theme.

I’m also trying to work in a reference to the bun being on the top shelf (it’s a high bun) or a line of people on a mountaintop (a high queue) but I’m struggling to make it look seamless.

Then of course there is the picture. Do I take a picture of me as I am now, with the look of a rough sleeper, or do I shave my head and trim my beard and risk looking like the simple cousin of Ming the Merciless?

I don’t even know why they want them, as several magazines point out – these things take space where they could be printing poetry.

Added to that, I’ve done nothing interesting, don’t have  a degree or an interesting job and don’t believe a list of previous publications is relevant to my next poem.

All in all it’s not an easy question.

Study Number 1 - The Idiot

Study Number 1 – The Idiot

Another Forgotten Title

Yesterday passed in a blur of activity.

Following straight on from the last post I spent half an hour reading other blogs, which included visiting India, the Philippines and Scotland. I then sharpened my brains with a cup of tea and a bit of sorting.

Another hour and I had sorted books, visited the New Forest by blog and read a couple of chapters of a book on how to write poetry. He’s just moving on to the chapter about bad poetry. I like that one. Time to put a pasty in the oven and get back to reading.

This is part of my commitment to self-education. As such, it is exempt from charges of skiving or procrastination.

I burnt the pasty because I got carried away reading.

After a lunch of soup and pasty flambé, I moved on to more sorting, wrote a couple of haibun (prose only – the haiku need time), picking Julia up from work, washed up, cooked tea (devilled sea bass with stir fry veg), finished the poetry book (it was only short), watched TV and fell asleep in the chair.

Today I rose at 6.49 – bladder-related rather than self-discipline) and came down to write before Julia gets up. It’s her day off. She has an exciting day of domestic chores in mind. I think she ought to relax.

I am not sure how I feel about sea bass. I’ve seen fish cooked so many times on TV I have to say that it went easily. It’s just that I don’t like fish that much. Plus, they were not generous fillets.

However, Julia said she enjoyed it.

On that subject, we had one parcel yesterday, containing the back-up gift. This was posted  with a 48 hour guarantee but took four days. The other arrived yesterday, having been posted the day before the other one. It had a big orange Signed For sticker, and was left stuck in the letterbox with the sticker showing to people who walked by in the street. It wasn’t too big for the letterbox, the postman just didn’t push it through.

I know that they are under pressure from Covid, but they are still charging full price for a service that they don’t provide, and leaving the orange sticker showing is like advertising the envelope contains an item of value.

At least it’s all done. I’m going to have to order weeks in advance for Christmas.

Meanwhile, back at the shredder, I fed an oiled sheet through after reading the 20 pages instruction manual. Yes, twenty pages, Seven languages.

Feed it through the shredder like a piece of paper. Then run the machine in reverse for 10 seconds. That’s it.

A couple of pictures – one of feeding a sheet into a shredder and one featuring a button marked “R”.

20 pages!

They came in cardboard box inside a stiffened card envelope. If Amazon really are committed to saving the world, as their TV adverts claim, I know where they can start…

Sorry, posted without a title. Have just corrected that.

 

The Second Morning of the Rest of My Life

After yesterday’s energetic start I faded. The afternoon was OK but the evening tailed off and I fell asleep in front of the TV, woke up, flicked through three old writing magazines from 2002 (decluttering throws up some strange finds) and went to bed. I was, I admit, resigned to the fact that I was likely to face anti-climax in the morning.

I was amazed to find myself almost leaping from bed this morning when the alarm went off. I’ve dropped Julia at work, abused a few drivers and had an interesting time with the shredder already this morning. The COVID testing station at the County Council offices is, as usual, well lit and well staffed by people wearing high-vis jackets and masks. All they need is somebody to test.

The shredder is a large and impressive shiny plastic box. I have inherited it from my father. It seems right and proper that shiny mechanical things should pass down the male line, particularly as we threw the box away and I am operating it without instructions. Wives all over WordPress are nodding wisely not and saying “Yes, shiny mechanical things with sharp blades and no instructions have been a feature of married life for many years.”

Let’s face it, most instruction books could be reduced to two points –

(1) Switch on.

(2) Do what you like. We know you aren’t going to read past here. Even if you got this far.

I normally stop reading after ‘on’.

Last week I used the shredder. Julia had left me with a pile of documents and instructions that the shredder would probably need emptying at some point. What she actually meant was that it was full and needed emptying.

I wondered why it had two lights when one would be enough. Seems the second one was telling me to stop because it was full. You’d think they’s make it more obvious. Anyway, as long as it kept cutting, I kept feeding stuff in and the light kept blinking.

Then it stopped.

Even I can tell that means it’s probably full. At that point I found that I didn’t know how to empty it. Despite repeatedly pulling at anything that looked vaguely pullable nothing gave so I rang my sister, who told me what to do. It didn’t work. I waited for Julia to show me after I collected her from work. Nothing.

Eventually we opened a drawer slightly and Julia, having smaller hands than me, was able to scoop some of the shredded paper out, which eventually allowed us to free the drawer and empty the rest. This is a cross-cut shredder so the paper debris is not all ravelled up in a big ball, but cut into tiny migratory pieces. I’m still finding them on the floor.five days later.

Today I have started it and jammed it. There was, it seems, a piece of paper stuck in front of the sensor that tells it that it is full. I found that piece of paper after removing several dozen others.

I’m now ready to take another leap into the unknown and see what other interesting adventures occur when I start shredding again. You’d have thought, by 2020, having sent men to the Moon and built a Space Station, that we’d be able to design a shredder that actually works for longer than twenty minutes at a time.

My sister has sent me some oiled sheets you use occasionally to clean the blades. I’d never heard of them until last week. I can’t wait to see what areas of disaster open up as I feed one of them through.

It’s just turned 10.00 so it’s not been a bad start – all that and 600+ words. At this rate I’m in danger of actually achieving something.