Heart attack

My Heart Attack

I'm new at this. Well, there's a first time for everything, I suppose. At one time the very thought of a computer would bring me o...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Snowy Conditions

I had to clear snow off the car this morning (Monday). I'm glad I went out early, as we had to go to the hospital as Carol had a blood test booked for 8.15 in the oncology department. The snow was a good eight inches deep all over the roof and bonnet. It was easily cleared with the ice scraper. Then I shovelled a path out as I didn't want Carol slipping over on the way out to the car. Fortunately the road out of Eaglestone was relatively clear, but some baffoon thought it absolutely necessary to park immediately opposite our driveway which was somewhat difficult to manoeuvre around and there was the possibility of sliding into it as we reversed out. There are several cars parked in the road and they're simply asking to be run into because of the snow and ice. Do they not have driveways to live on? Do their owners care? It would appear not.

Fortunately Saxon Street was relatively clear of snow as we drove towards the hospital, although you had to be careful as there were patches of ice and snow in the road. Deceptive, as there was the possibility of sliding if you were to brake suddenly and I wasn't prepared to risk such a thing. A queue of cars entering the hospital campus from Standing Way, but we were able to negotiate the inner ring road and got to the carpark behind the oncology department. The carpark barrier was raised so we could drive straight in and park. Very few other cars at the time, but the walk across the carpark to the hospital building was somewhat precarious as the ice and snow made walking difficult. We walked in to the building through the cardiology department. I remember visiting there some while ago when I had to have various tests done after my heart attack, one being a stress test (described in more detail in an earlier blog post.)

On entering the oncology department we found the place totally deserted. Strange to find an N.H.S. department without patients waiting. Carol confirmed her appointment with one of the nurses and I went to the Macmillan unit to get our car parking ticket stamped so we would have free parking. Several people wandered into the department as we waited. Carol was in having her blood taken when I returned from the Macmillan unit. It would seem that Monday morning is blood-testing time in this department. It was all over very rapidly and we left, waking gingerly back over the snow-covered road and into the carpark and home.

The carpark barrier was in the 'up' position as we left, which makes me laugh when there is so much fuss over parking at N.H.S. hospitals. It's quite obvious that the mechanism of these things can't cope when the temperature drops below a certain level. Oh well, not our loss as we don't have to pay once the ticket is stamped. Fortunately not a lot of traffic as we drove onto Marlborough Street and back into Eaglestone.

The snow would appear to be melting. I do hope so, as we have quite a few trips out and snow only makes life more difficult. Just hope it doesn't freeze as this would make things far more treacherous. 

Latest Television Viewing

We're totally captivated by Blue Planet 2. The photography is superb. I have to say I enjoy anything that David Attenborough attaches his name to. We had another wildlife documentary series on last year called 'The Hunt' which was just as captivating. Having recently bought a Hitachi 43 inch HD television,  this type of programme is a perfect viewing when you can see the amount of detail a set of this size reveals.

Carol recently bought a fish tank and we went to Dobbie's garden centre near Bletchley to buy two fish for the tank. I think the two fish are enjoying 'Blue Planet 2'. I'm sure they're watching the fish and other under-water inhabitants from the safety of their tank. There's a rock in the tank with a hollowed-out centre and they hide in this 'cave.' Meanwhile . . .  Alfie, or little Yorkshire Terrier, sits on the back of the sofa, just within view of the fish-tank which has been placed on a bookcase, and seems intrigued by our newest family members. It's difficult to judge what he makes of the fish, but no doubt it's the fact that they're moving about in their round home. We'll have to keep an eye on him to see that he doesn't interfere with the fish in their tank.

I have to say there's nothing like a really good bit of television drama. The BBC is renowned for it's classic adaptations of novels, probably best known for such things as 'Pride and Prejudice' with Colin Firth as Mr Darcey, which has to be the definitive version of the novel. So, when I heard that they were doing a new adaptation of 'Howard's End' I couldn't wait for it to be shown. At least if it's something that is adapted for television you know, generally speaking, that it will be given enough time to play out, unlike a film which will only have a couple of hour's screen time, in which case a great deal will have to be cut in order for it to fit a film's playing time.

'Howard's End,' the BBC adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel is extremely good. I have read the novel and saw the 1992 film version made by Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory and starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. The new 4-hour production had a great deal to live up to. They seem to have spent a lot of time and effort on getting the period right. There's a real sense of place and the settings are well created.

We're currently enjoying a late-afternoon television show called 'Money For Nothing.' It's been running for quite a while. The idea is that Sarah Moore, a very clever designer/entrepeneur, visits local tidy-tips, where members of the public are taking their cast-off furniture, rubbish of all sorts, such as D.I.Y. remnants, doors, shelving, house-clearcut bits-and-pieces and takes stuff she likes (with these people's permission) and has it restored or made into new and exciting pieces of furniture which she then sells on, at a profit, and returns the profit to the people who took the broken and old items to the tidy-tip in the first place. It's part of the new culture of 'make and mend' or 'recycle.' Either this, or these items land up in land-fill. It just goes to prove that anything can be re-used or 're-purposed' into very stylish and chic pieces of furniture. This type of television programming makes a change from antiques and selling houses or mere trivial programmes about celebrities and gossip.

I love a really great comedy on BBC Four called 'Detectorists.' It's  written, directed and stars Mckenzie Crook together with Toby Jones. Very gentle, not laugh-out-loud comedy, doesn't have a cackling studio audience. Makes a change from a lot of comedy which is broad, noisy and brash. It's what I'd describe at thoughtful. There have only been two series and this will be the final series. A shame, but it probably went as far as it could. Hopefully McKenzie Crook will write more for television and probably film. Certainly a good start for a director and writer.

Sorry to say it, but I absolutely hate reality television and in particular, anything with 'celebrity' in the title. I'm certainly not a fan of things like 'Big Brother' or 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me out of Here.' 'Strictly Come Dancing' drives me mad. I don't mind the dancing, but the hype that surrounds it, plus the awful audience clapping along with the music like tame monkeys and all that surrounds it, just not my idea of entertainment. The Saturday episodes go on interminably, and the comments of such as Craig Revel Horwood are just plain nasty at times. The whole thing is set up so that they get free publicity in the tabloid press and on social media. I'm not convinced that it's all 'live.' The Sunday evening results show must be pre-recorded, basically because I don't believe they'd send the audience home and then bring them back for the Sunday evening show. I still reckon it's recorded after the Saturday night show once the results have been decided.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snowed Up

Sunday morning. I look out of the bathroom window to discover the road in front of the house is covered in snow. It looks like we're in for some cold and ice. I don't think we've had snow this early in the winter. So, the next question will be, what are the chances of a White Christmas? More than likely I would imagine. I just hope the Council gritters have been out on the Grid Roads across Milton Keynes, otherwise driving is going to be difficult. When we went to the hospital on Friday it would appear that the inner ring road around the site had been gritted, in preparation for snow.


As the morning developed, the snow has got heavier and thicker. This is a photograph I took on my iPhone at about 8.30 a.m. Church is off this morning. I know M.K.C.C. has cancelled their services but Shenley may have services but it's not such a good idea to drive anywhere as it's too risky and I need to be on stand-by to take Carol to her various appointments tomorrow and I can't risk having the car out of action. There is an Amber warning for most areas of the country. It's expected to be heavy until at least midday. 

Alfie not sure what to make of the 'white stuff.' Poked his nose out of the patio doors and went outside but soon came back in. I'm not sure what he thinks of it, but I think he prefers to be tucked up under our duvet where it's warmest.

Cold and Frosty Morning

It's been a cold and frosty but bright and sunny Saturday morning. I had to defrost the car before driving out mid-morning on my way to Garraway's for a few items for lunch. I'm glad I bought some spray defrost as otherwise it would have been a difficult job. Also using the scraper and the car's heated windows to melt the ice.

So glad Carol has no appointments until Monday. I went with her to the pain clinic within the Macmillan unit on Friday afternoon at the hospital and the doctor has increased the dosage of some of her medications. I had to go to the hospital pharmacy to collect the meds as the doctor wrote a prescription. A relatively long walk back towards the main entrance and then a 30-minute wait until the drugs were prepared and then one wasn't available and will have to be collected on Tuesday or at least when the pharmacy has a delivery.

We bought the Christmas tree in from the garden and Carol has been decorating it. It is the first time we've managed to have a live tree survive from one festive season until the next. I think it has grown considerably since last year, although a few of the lower branches needed cutting off as they hadn't gown and were brown and dead. 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Dark, Wet and Windy

The past few days we've been experiencing some wet and windy weather. This morning at around 9.15 I went to get fuel at the Shell station in Grafton Street and it was very over-cast and quite dark, almost as it it was early evening. It seems, even as I write this, that it's going to get very blustery. I can see the trees at the edge of the Redway, which runs behind our house, swaying in the wind and I get the feeling that we're in for a very windy couple of days and nights.

I've been with Carol this afternoon (Thursday) to a sort of briefing at the Oncology Department at Milton Keynes Hospital which explained how her chemotherapy will be delivered. Quite a few possible side-effects, but we won't know until the treatment begins. It annoys me now that I can park so close and it's such a short and easy walk into the hospital compared with what I had to endure when she was in Ward 20 for three weeks. Nobody told me that you could park so close. I was under the impression that the carpark we could see from her side room at Ward 20 was for hospital staff only. Unfortunately you have to find out these things for yourself and it will make life so much easier parking closer.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Living On The Farm

Malting Farm was not just our home, but was a fully working farm. There were other people who made the place function. The actual house, built in 1764 (how do I know? We had the ground plan of the original house framed and on the wall of my father's office, as well as being quite clearly marked on one of the down-pipes of the guttering.) My father employed several men, and during the summer months there were extra hands, usually during the harvest. My mother had to run the house, a large Georgian red-brick building. Two ladies came in to assist with cleaning, Mrs Freemantle, whose husband, Bob was the ploughman and tractor driver. They lived in a cottage which was behind the main house. I imagine at one time it must have been joined to the farm house. Bob was an avid gardener and had a plot behind the main garden. He grew vegetables. If you went near his beloved garden without his permission, woe betide you. He had a short temper. I don't think the other men on the farm liked him much.

Mrs Freemantle was a lovely lady. If Mum and Dad went away on there own (which wasn't very often, but when they did it was usually to sail at Brightlingsea.) she would come in to make sure we had meals and generally look after the house. We often went to stay with my grandparents, who lived at Mill Farm, abut two or three miles from Cardington Village.

The other lady who came in to clean the house was Mrs Jacques, who lived in the first house coming into the village from Bedford. Her husband worked as a farm labourer, but not in the village. The two ladies were great friends, as far as I know. I presume they were. I recall an incident when my mother had to lay off Mrs Jaques (I don't know why or what it was about.) But during one of the many village fetes or bazaars which were held during the year to raise money for the church, she had a stand-up row in public at one of these events. It was really embarrassing and I don't know how my mother managed to deal with it. I think it was the fact that it was so public which made it so embarrassing. I don't think Mrs Jacques ever came back to work at Malting Farm. I am fairly sure my mother didn't get rid of her as a worker because Mrs Jacques was very good at her job. When I think what a large house Malting Farm house it it was obvious that you would need extra people to help run it, particularly cleaning and the fact that there were seven of us as a family when I lived there.

Miss Fuller, who I've mentioned in an earlier post, came in every Wednesday to do mending (those were the days when people had their clothes mended, such as socks darned, trousers turned up, you mention it, clothes were expected to last longer when repaired. I suppose it was a hang-over from the War when there was the culture of 'Make Do And Mend,' which carried on into the 1950s and beyond with austerity. Perhaps it aught to come back today, although I suppose we have recycling.) She had come in from our neighbour's, the Porter's, and eventually came to take my youngest brother Andrew, who was a baby at the beginning of the 1960s. She lived in a cottage which was immediately next to the garden of Malting Farm, but later moved to a cottage on the Green in the centre of Cardington Village.

Doug Pattle was stockman, meaning he was responsible for looking after the cattle. We had what was called a 'house cow' which was milked and the milk used by the household. This milk was 'raw' not pasteurised, although each year all the cattle on the farm were tested for T.B. I have to say 'raw' milk takes so much better than pasteurised, which took a lot of getting used to when we eventually had to have our milk delivered. The milk was taken to the dairy in the house and put in, how can I describe them any other way- flat pans, and left to stand and the cream scammed off for our use. Definitely great to have an almost limitless supply of such fine, tasty cream as well as full-fat milk for cooking, in tea and coffee and other drinks. As a child we had no choice but had to eat porridge for breakfast. Doug Pattle also drove us to school in Bedford. Some mornings my dad would take us, but on others Porter's pigman, Geoff Caves, took us. He used to look after their pigs at their farm in Cople as well as in a unit they had in Cardington. I remember the old car they used to ferry us into Bedford. I think it was a Rover of some kind. It always smelt of gone-off milk because I think he carried buckets of milk about in the car and it must have slopped over. The smell was unpleasant and sort of rank. I imagine the milk was used to feed the pigs. Strange how such things stick in your mind when you're a child. Smells particularly have a strong ability to bring back memories.

There were several other men who worked on the farm. Bert Gadsby, who was ancient when I remember him. He must have been well past retirement age at the time I'm thinking of. A Mr Huckle. Don't remember his Christian name. But when you were a child everyone was 'Mr' or 'Mrs' and you weren't supposed to call adults by their Christian names. I still don't know Miss Fuller's Christian name. I know it sounds strange now, but that was the sort of respect your had for your 'elders and betters.' Or Mrs Fremantle or Mrs Jacques Christian names.

There were also a set of ladies how appeared at certain times of the year, who came from Bedford. My father would go and pick them up and take them home in the Land Rover. They used to come to work in the Brussel sprout seed-bed (or whatever it was called) My father grew Brussels on the farm and the seed bed was a fairly small plot where the Brussels seeds were set and then, when it came to planting, they had to be hand-pulled and sorted, the poorest quality rejected and then taken to the field to be planted using a machine which was connected to a tractor and which was operated by several people sitting on he back and hand-planting the Brussel plants. Quite a difficult job, considering the plants had to be set at the correct distance from each other and whilst the machine was moving. I don't think I could have done the job as I think I would have suffered from motion sickness. My father produced Brussels which were a good deal larger than those you find in a supermarket today. It seems that the modern housewife wants Brussels which are probably a quarter of the size of those my father grew. They were picked in the autumn and winter months by men out in the fields, in all weathers, cold, rain, fog, bitter cold. Bent double. I think their hands much have turned to ice. I don't know how much they were paid, what their hourly rate was. These Brussels were bagged up and sent by lorry to Covent Garden. The farm dealt with a company called Bennet and Hawes and they came each evening for the day's load. They might have come daily or weekly, I don't know thinking about it now.

The same happened with potatoes. They would have been set from seed potatoes on a similar machine to the one used for Brussels. Potatoes need a lot of water and there was an irrigation system which was a set of aluminium pipes stretching across the fields and linked to a pump which was set up in the brook which ran through the farm. These irrigation pipes had to be moved at regular intervals and we had to help with this job.

Then there was the grain harvest, during the months of July and August. I was usually a tractor driver (probably my first experience of driving any sort of vehicle.) corn-cart, driving along side the confine harvester when it was still moving and when the cart was level with the augur which came out of the side of the combine, the corn was loaded into the cart behind the tractor (moving along in tandem with the moving combine. Not an easy job.) and the corn was loaded into the cart and then taken off to the drier unit at the bottom of Hill Foot outside Cardington or to Jordan's silo at Mile Road in Bedford. Or it was stored in a barn in Malting Farm in a pit and then lifted up via augur into a contraption devised by my father who was very adept at constructing such things. Probably taken somewhere  to be milled into flour for making bread or whatever.

I may have more to write about on this subject, so look out for a further blog post.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Christmas Over-Kill

I went out early to get my hair cut at my usual hairdresser's, Essential Barbers, in Monkston Park. As they open for business at 9.30 I arrived in good time and was inside the shop as soon as they opened up and was in the seat and having my hair cut almost immediately and was done and dusted within 30 minutes and then driving home. 

The mad Christmas dash is well and truly underway. Carol thought she had someone coming to visit this morning, but during the morning realised it was tomorrow, so we went out with the intention of having a coffee and something to eat in The Range and a good excuse to browse. As we turned into the estate at Winter Hill, where The Range is situated, I was followed by this inconsiderate individual who expected me to speed up within the estate. He drove as near as he could behind we and got quite aerated because I wouldn't do what he wanted. We went right into The Range Carpark and he went left into Bunning's carpark so why get so annoyed when he was going to be turning off within seconds? Some people just have no patience and expect to have the road entirely to themselves and really don't like the idea of someone else getting in their way. Crazy!

Not many parking spaces left in the carpark. Walking in through the front door of the store we were greeted by every conceivable type of Christmas tree lights, flashing, non-flashing and in between, pulsing, and glowing madly. Then, going up in the escalator we were greeted by two obscenely over-eager Father Christmas figures, which began singing horribly, certainly enough to give any child nightmares. Swaying about madly, and totally scary. An endless range of Father Christmas figures lined the outer edge, giving the impression of a sort of mad convention of the characters. Over-kill definitely.

The whole of the upstairs floor in The Range taken over by Christmas decorations. An aisle full of twinkly decorations that play music, but none very tuneful as they weren't in harmony with one another. Also, we found a row of interactive characters, sort of Santa's helpers, little green-and-red clad elves. You press the button on their hands and they play a Christmas song, but, being us, with a sense of fun, we have to set off a whole selection of them, a total cacophony. We did this in a store at Westcroft a couple of Christmases ago, where each figure set of the next figure, as they interacted with each other. It caused a great deal of amusement for not only ourselves but other shoppers!

Good to see we're helping the Chinese economy ticking over nicely for yet another year. Almost all of this Christmas stuff will be made in China or at least somewhere in the East. Not that I'm knocking their ability to take so many of our jobs. But I can imagine much of it being made in sweatshops and the staff working for a pittance and probably having absolutely no idea what a Christmas elf of glass bauble for a tree is and then packed up and loaded into several vast containers and then onto a ship and then sent across the sea to be sold in these places. And then, after the Christmas rush is over, returned to some vast warehouse and the following year sold at vastly reduced prices.

We then went to the café and had intended ordering paninis and coffee. Actually not a bad little place to eat, but there was a long queue and the man on the till didn't seem to know how to do his job and it was him fiddling about which was causing the queue. He had no idea how to operate the till. Just the company's lack of training which was obviously behind this. We eventually got our lattes and what looked like chocolate cake and sat and ate it. Not particularly nice, it was partly chocolate and partly some sort of mauve-coloured cake. Over-priced and not worth the effort

Carol bought a fish tank as she wants to get an aquarium, which we bought along with gravel and water treatment. We will have to leave the buying of the fish for another day, perhaps in Dobbie's or Frost's garden centres. We went home and she set up the tank, putting the water treatment in the water as it takes 24 hours before you can put any fish in.

Coming out of the store we saw a couple in a car in front of us who'd obviously had an almighty row. It looked as if he was sulking because she wanted to go Christmas shopping and he didn't. The body-language said it all. He drew up in their car and she got out and he drove off in a right mood and almost hit someone crossing the carpark with a load of shopping. Oh dear, if that's the effect Christmas has on people, is it really worth all the bother and stress? Surely not. Perhaps the musical and discordant decorations we saw upstairs in the store were a sort of symbol of this sort of total disharmony of the shoppers (or at least, some of them.) So much for it being a season of peace and happiness to all men (and women.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Another Doctor's Appointment

Carol needed to have a doctor's appointment made this morning (Monday). Never always just a straightforward process, as you will probably realise if you read my blog posts regularly. It's never just a matter of ringing and getting an immediate answer and merely turning up. I get the impression that they are attempting to weed out the time-wasters, those who think it's fine to waste N.H.S. resources by making appointments for things like a cough or a cold, a broken finger-nail or a minor injury. I think people think of the N.H.S. as a first resort for every ailment they may have. My mother, who had been a nurse before she married, would have had a range of medications in her armoury of cures about the house when we were children, from a good stock of plasters, bandages, aspirins, and other first aid equipment. I don't ever remember going to the doctor for minor injuries. I don't ever remember going to Casualty or A and E (Accident and Emergency) as a child. She could always deal with these matters herself. Why can't people today take more care of themselves and not expect everything to be dealt with by the N.H.S.? Common sense seems to have been left behind. When the N.H.S. is stretched to the limit, not just financially, but by staff shortages, it would be better if most people learnt to be self-reliant. Just stock up on basic things in a first aid cabinet, and how to deal with minor injuries and ailments. Leave the doctor's surgery as a last resort, even going to a Walk-In Centre of A and E department unless it's a real emergency or you can't deal with it yourself.

I began ringing the surgery at Ashfield Medical Centre yesterday morning at around 8.30 a.m. I was surprised how quickly I managed to get through and there wasn't that endless wait with that annoying music which you have to listen too. Carol managed to explain why she needed to see a doctor. She had been sent a letter from Ashfield asking her to make an appointment with her registered doctor, but apparently he was on leave so she had to have an appointment with another doctor. The appointment was at 9.50.

I've just seen a piece on BBC Breakfast about how many doctor's appointments are wasted by people who make an appointment and don't cancel them when they don't turn up.  Usually young affluent men according to research. WHY? Is it possible to merely ring the surgery and cancel your appointment if you don't need it? Somewhere in the region of £160 million is wasted when this happens. So, here's one area which needs sorting out as it's a scandal that people don't turn up for an appointment they've made. Just think what could be done with that amount of cash if it was saved.

We drove to the surgery, giving ourselves plenty of time to not only get there but to find a parking space. The surgery was surprisingly deserted when we arrived in the waiting area. One or two people and one poor man with a really awful cough. I can attest to a horrible cough myself which I'm still dealing with.

Carol was called in to the doctor's surgery. Well, you don't get 'called in', as your name appears on a digital screen. You have to sign in using the compute system when you arrive (which seems to have been up-graded since my last visit.) One of the lady doctors, one we haven't seen before (I always go in with Carol when she has an appointment.) and Carol had to go through all the medications she is on since leaving hospital (quite an extensive list.) Some meds have had their dosage increased and a new one which is a sleeping tablet. Hopefully these changes will help deal with the pain Carol is experiencing and should help her have a decent night's sleep. I have to say that this doctor was very sympathetic and took her time to deal with Carols' concerns and we weren't rushed through as we might have had with some of the other doctors in this surgery. We had to order some of her repeat medications and the doctor printed out several prescriptions which we took to Cox and Robinson's pharmacy which is a couple of doors along from Ashfield.

We had to wait what seemed an excessively long time to get the medications made up from the prescriptions. The staff seemed to be on a go-slow for whatever reason and it can't have been because they were busy as there weren't that many other people waiting. But never mind. Actually would have been better if we'd gone to Lloyd's pharmacy in Sainsbury's but, as Cox and Robinson's is so close it seemed the obvious place to go to get the prescriptions made up. Sitting and waiting and being bored silly in the process. Moan over.

Carol was pleased to be out with me in the car, away from the house. We then drove to Marks and Spencer near the football stadium. Considering it was so close to Christmas, it was quiet and we managed to park close to M and S. We did some food shopping and had a browse and by the time we'd finished it was time to return to the car and go home.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Annoying Television Commercials

Who loves television commercials? It's annoying that your favourite television show has to be interrupted by these often crass and plain stupid promotions for stuff you probably don't want or need, but, as ITV and other channels depend on them for their finances they're a necessary part of life. Many are fun and quite harmless. They pass before your eyes and after a while you don't really notice them, but others are just plain annoying and irritating. I'll endeavour to give my list of some of the worst. I have to admit that a handful are very good, either because they are amusing, but are well crafted and worth countless viewings. A great many directors begin their careers making television commercials. For example, Ridley Scott, who went on to make films such as 'Blade Runner,' cut his teeth making commercials for Hovis, the one which has the young lad riding a bicycle down a hill (which is supposed to be somewhere in the North of England but was actually shot at Gold Hill in Shaftsbury, Dorset) and the whole used Dvorak's 'New World Symphony' as the background musical score for the advert. Also, many of the Guinness ads, particularly the one with the horses in the surf is quite brilliant and clever. But the rest . . . well, just read on.

Why is the advert for Cillit Bang so incredibly annoying? Who is Barry Scott? Why is he obsessed with this product? Does he do all the cleaning in his home? He is actually played by actor Neil Burgess. Are we expected to believe that he invented this product? Why does he have to shout so much and why does the product have such a stupid name? It does work quite well, but why give it such a silly name. It doesn't make any noise, definitely not bang in any way shape or form. I feel sorry for his wife or partner if he spends all his time shouting to get attention. What kind of life do they have if he can't communicate except by shouting, 'bang, and the dirt is gone!' Does he have an exceptionally clean house? Wouldn't it annoy his partner if he spends so much time cleaning? And shouting all the time? Not a sound basis for a long-term relationship.

Another annoying advert is the one for Go Compare, with that stupid opera singer with the irritating curly moustache who keeps popping up all over the place. Does he not realise that he's annoying and keep out of the way? Perhaps that's why advertising agencies use these characters, we hate them, so we remember them. Wouldn't you want to kick someone up the backside if someone who keeps singing in a crazy operatic style and interrupting people when they least expect it. In the latest advert he's perched on top of an aeroplane. How did he get there and how on earth can he sing with the wind whistling past him? Why doesn't he fall off? Why doesn't health and safety intervene and stop him doing such a dangerous thing? It's so unconvincing and obviously done with green screen. It's about as realistic as fake snow. How do they manage to fly under Tower Bridge without falling off? I know it's just a television ad and not supposed to be 'real.'

The Safe Style adverts for double glazing were fairly annoying. They were led by someone who almost jumped out of the screen and into your living room and was so forceful in his approach to selling you almost felt compelled to make an order, pushing over a load of windows as he shouted at you. 'By one, get one free!' he screamed at you. Enough to make you want to put your boot through the television screen. I notice they've abandoned that style of advertisements and have gone for a far gentler approach for their ads. Did they not realise that it might actually put off customers?

Sofa ads are generally annoying. Why do they always seem to advertise sales that companies such as D.F.S. always seem to have? Do they never sell their sofas at full-price? And why on earth is it so important that if you order it's got to be in time for either Christmas or Easter? I have mentioned this in another post, so perhaps I shouldn't repeat myself. And why do they have people who front these ads with such irritating behaviours? Women with high-pitched voices? Or who jump up and down on the sofas. or fling themselves across them in seductive fashion? Or work in cheap comedy, such as the one for Oak Furniture World or whatever it's called? The one where the two salesmen try to out-do each other and one keeps knocking on the furniture with his knuckles? What's going on there? To make sure we get the message that their furniture is made of solid wood and not plastic? And why use initials for your company? What does D.F.S. or S.C.S. stand for?

Having done a Google search for 'Annoying television commercials,' it's interesting how many of the lists I find have the adverts I list on here, the Cillit Bang and Go Compare and Safe Style one's in particular.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Christmas Shopping

I went into the Central Shopping Centre on Friday (what is it's proper title, I never know. MK Central Shopping Centre? You ask me. I really don't know. Does it matter? It's called the Centre MK) It was later than I'd have chosen. We had a Sainsbury's delivery, as we'd decided it was easier to do the grocery shopping on-line. It cost £6.50 for the privilege, but once in a while it's worth it. You have what you've ordered before saved in 'favourites,' so you can go to that at the beginning of your 'shop' and it saves traipsing around the store with a trolley. I could go on about the ease of on-line shopping versus shopping in the actual store, such as why they insist on changing where your usual items are because it's Christmas and things like crackers, wrapping paper and mince pies get preference over jars of sauce or breakfast cereal. We'd booked the delivery between 10-11 a.m., but the delivery man decided to come early, so it was unpacked and put away a good deal quicker than anticipated. Which is why I drove into the centre of Milton Keynes when I did.

The ground-level carpark where I usually park was jam-packed. Not a single spare space. So I had to find a space outside in the other parking area. It cost more. It's £1 for two hours in the larger carpark but £4.50 for a few hours in the outer area. I had a problem parking and when I found a space I have to admit I didn't park as tidily as I might have done.

The shopping centre was heaving. I don't think I've ever seen it as busy. What on earth is it going to be like closer to Christmas Day?

I had to go to Marks and Spencer first. I shan't say what it was I was looking for because if Carol reads this it will spoilt the surprise of one of her Christmas presents. I'd seen whatever it was when I was in there a while ago, on one of the displays when you walk in. I couldn't find what I was looking for immediately, so I had to ask a member of staff who was really helpful and we located the item very speedily. I then had to pay for it and the queue at the till was quite long, but there was no alternative but to wait to pay.

I had intended stopping to have something to eat in one of the numerous places to eat, but each time I walked past places such as Costa, Starbucks or Gregg's, there were long queues so I gave up. I reached Middleton Hall, which is where the annual Christmas display was situated. There was the usual mini train ride, a carousel and an array of wood cabins which were set up selling all manner of craft items.  I have to say it's been rather a disappointment for the past couple of years. They seem to have lost any sense of imagination, unless they have less money to spend on it. It seems more focussed on getting people to part with their cash, for example, so that children visit Father Christmas in his grotto. It's just not as good as it used to be, I'm afraid. They had a Peter Pan-themed display one year, which was rather good, with a life-sized ship and Peter Pan standing on the rigging. But this year's is rather feeble I have to say.

I went into John Lewis. The store is next to Middleton Hall. I walked through to the escalator as I wanted to get to the haberdashery department which is on the second floor. It always used to be on the ground floor and was easy to find, but when the store was refurbished a few years ago, it was moved upstairs. Also, the restaurant was moved up there, too, and used to be on the floor at the front of the store overlooking Middleton Hall. At Christmas you could drink your coffee and eat your sandwich or whatever and watch people as they walked through the Christmas display.

I was going to look for a work box for Carol's crochet work. She had ordered something on Amazon, but for some strange reason it got lost. Don't ask me how. The cost has been refunded, but she was somewhat disappointed when it didn't get delivered as promised. I wasn't that impressed by the selection in John Lewis. I had a look into the restaurant with a view to stopping to have a coffee and a bite to eat, but even there it had a long queue to wait so I gave up and left. Infact, by now I was getting a little bit fed up with shopping and decided to make my way back to the car.

It seemed an extremely long walk back to the carpark. As I drove out, I noticed that someone had tucked a piece of paper under the lefthand side windscreen wiper blade. I ignored it, thinking it was probably some sort of  piece of publicity which would have been placed on all the vehicles parked in that carpark. I didn't bother to take it off, but it was annoying when I had to turn the wipers on when it began to rain and it still wouldn't come off as they moved back and forth across the windscreen. It wasn't until this morning, when I went out to get Carol some ibuprofen and came back in to park at the front of the house that I noticed what had been written on it 'Idiot' or something, as a reference no doubt to the way I'd parked earlier the previous day. I'm sorry someone had thought it necessary, in their bad temper, to leave such a note on our car. Just shows that, during the stress of Christmas shopping, people don't have any patience for others., particularly those attempting to park correctly in a carpark.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Further TV Walk-On

I'm just thinking of any more walk-on or supporting work I might have done. I had to drive a car in the opening sequence of 'Joint Account' which was a sitcom shown on BBC1 in the early 1990s, starring Hannah Gordon and Peter Egan. The sequence was filmed in a village somewhere near Stratford-Upon-Avon. Myself and another walk-on were supposed to be bailiffs repossessing two cars and had to go to the front door and take the keys from Hannah Gordon and then go to the cars which were parked in the road outside and then drive off. Unfortunately the car I had to drive was an  car with automatic gearbox, and I'v never driven an automatic car so they had to swap the cars round. When the show was eventually aired I was seen clearly on screen. This must have been in the early 1990's.

I used to do a lot of work on the ITV show 'The Bill.' It was at the time I was with an agency based at Shepperton Studios, called Screenlite. I think one of the ladies who ran the agency had a daughter who was a production assistant on the show or something, so Screenlite seemed to get most, if not all, the Walk-On and Supporting work. I was a SOCO on one episode (Scene of Crime Officer) and a solicitor in another (in a court scene). Most of this show was filmed in and around Merton in south London. You would be assigned to one of the two units working on the show, Red or Blue, so it was vital that you knew which one you were on. I imagine it was because it was filmed more or less like a factory production line and was being filmed on a sort of rota basis. They moved the production base across London, because I remember doing some work on 'The Bill' somewhere near Wormwood Scrubs, on a sort of out-door lot, with streets and houses which were used for various locations. Also, somewhere in Battersea, and the unit was set up alongside the Battersea Arts Centre. I don't remember exactly what we were filming. It might have been in a pub nearby, but I simply can't remember.

I worked on something which was filmed in London ( I did a good deal of television walk-on work in and around London.) But this one in particular, I'm not sure where exactly. It was supposed to be a lecture hall or something. We were the audience. We were given ear protectors. Someone on the stage or platform was delivering a speech or perhaps it was a political meeting. I think it was set in the 1940s or 1950's so we would have been dressed accordingly. I believe it was an extremely hot day but, being dressed in very thick suits, woollen and uncomfortable, which didn't help with the extreme heat. Someone burst into the hall and aimed a pistol at the man on stage. As soon as the shot was fired we (the audience) had to fall on the floor and hide under the chairs. I'm not entirely sure what was going on or what television programme it was for and don't even know whether it was ever broadcast. I think it was in the centre of London somewhere, but to this day I can't recall. The whole sequence was repeated a couple of times and then we were all released to go home. But, because we had ear protectors, it was extremely difficult to hear directions, or even the 'bang' of the shot which was fired. I suppose I could discover more about what this was if I do a search on Google or even look on I.M.D.B. which is a very good source of information on television and film production.

The Jaclyn Agency sent me to do a job in Colchester. I think it was some housing estate. A group of us were put in overalls. It was for a television commercial for H.E.A.T Electric or something. The camera was on  a sort of cherry picker or access platform. On cue we were supposed to jump in the air and wave our hands above our heads (strange, I know.) The director didn't know how to shout 'action' or 'cut.' We did the sequence several times. It took no more than an hour. It paid quite nicely for the time it took, and at the end I just drove home.

The two ladies who ran Jaclyn were so nice, Julie and Marilyn. Whenever they rang to find out my availability for work, they would always chat. They even came to some of the locations, which must have been quite an effort, when you think of the distance they would have to drive from the village they were based in near Norwich, often turning up at 6-7 a.m. on some shoots. When I joined Jaclyn I just sent my details and a couple of photographs for their books and never met these two ladies until they turned up on the set of something or other and it was odd when they just said 'Hi John!' and the fact I had only spoken to them on the phone and they only knew me from a couple of photographs. I think they came to the location when we were filming 'Lovejoy' in Lavenham or a village somewhere in deepest, darkest Suffolk. It's that sort of personal detail that's missing from walk-on and Supporting work.

 Everything is now done on the internet, you upload your details and a couple of photographs. If you get selected for work you don't get a phone call (except in a very few cases.) and probably get a text message or email to say 'you've been put forward.' The chances of actually being used is so remote. I was used to being called for 'availability' when you say 'yes' or 'no' and then just being given details of where the location is and then the time you have to be there and just go on the specific day.


Friday, December 01, 2017

Fine and Sunny, But Cold

We visited Hobbycraft at Rooksley on Thursday morning because Carol was looking for something to keep all her crocheting bits and pieces in. Even though it's a Thursday and early it was surprisingly busy. People going slightly potty because it's almost Christmas. We looked in Smyth's, which replaced the Comet warehouse which used to be in that unit until they went bust. We'd seen a special English Heritage edition of the boardgame Cluedo, which we rather fancied, but is currently out of stock. I don't think it will be sold anywhere else except in an English Heritage shop at their properties, and we haven't seen it on Amazon or in Toys R Us, but we had to look in Smyth's. Then we walked along to Hobbycraft but we couldn't find anything worth having for Carol's crochet bits and pieces but we bought a couple of large balls of wool, one of which she will turn into a scarf for myself. We went into Costa's, a few doors along and part of Next Home. We had Billionaire's hot chocolate. I had to queue for some time to get served and when I reached the till I was told that they had no cream to put in our drinks. I don't think the manager (I presume that was his role.) didn't seem amused when I asked for a reduction of the price considering they had no cream. It was nice, hot choc with a layer of caramel at the bottom of the glass, although a bit sickly-sweet. Nevertheless, it was nice to get out of the house. We wandered around the Next store, which was all household items, furniture and accessories and a lot of Christmas decorations.

We drove back home via Watling Street and then came down Chaffron Way. It's clear why this section of road was closed off on Sunday when I went to Shenley Christian Fellowship on Sunday morning, because there were sections which have been resurfaced. It would have been difficult to do any work with traffic moving through. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gas Boiler Safety Check and Other Matters

Our gas boiler needs it's annual safety check. It actually ran out last February. We have the certificate that we had when it was installed. If you read my blog posts on a regular basis, then you will remember we had a new boiler installed in February 2016. We had to go through the Council to get our landlord's address and telephone number in order to get the thing replaced. We hadn't been notified of a telephone number change as we only had a number which wasn't functioning when we tried to call it. Unfortunately the landlord has no idea what his legal responsibilities are regarding the boiler being tested annually and have a safety certificate. I had considered having this done myself, by getting a registered gas engineer do the work, but I have been told by several people that it's the landlord's responsibility. I rang him well over a week ago to ask to have this work done. He didn't seem to know who I was, which was a bit of a worry, but he eventually realised that I was a tenant of his property.  When I had no response from him as to when this work would be carried out I had to ring him again yesterday evening. His response was that he had attempted to contact the engineer who had installed the boiler but couldn't get through and had left a voicemail message. I said that I would contact the Council regarding this matter and if he couldn't get hold of the engineer I would find someone myself. This seems to have done the trick, because he rang me at around 7.45 last night to say that he had spoken to the gas engineer and he would ring me direct to make an appointment to do the gas check for me. I await that phone call this morning. Mr Landlord seems to be under the impression that, because the boiler is relatively new (well, it will be two years since it was installed in February.) and seems unaware of the fact the thing needs a safety check, which appals me as he is the owner of the property and as such has a responsibility to us to have the thing checked for our safety.

I went out to do some shopping in Sainsbury's. Carol got a call from the gas engineer and he's coming to do the gas safety check on Friday morning. So at last that's sorted. Well, it will be completed once the certificate is handed over.

 Wednesday, 3.15 p.m.

As I write this, the gas engineers who installed the boiler have been and done the safety check and it's passed. They were able to come this afternoon instead of Friday. Our landlord will have received a reminder a month before it was due but must have ignored it. No problems so that is done for another year.

Carol does crochet. Since she's been at home, off work sick, she's made Alfie a lovely blanket done in crochet. She made her mum a scarf and I bought her a magazine which had a free kit with it to make a brown bear (called Brian.) As a result of all this she has no end of wool, hooks and other bits and pieces. She wanted a box or at least something to keep the things in and went on Amazon to find a really good kit. Ordered and paid for using debit card. It should have arrived the next day (as we have Amazon Prime we get post and packing paid for as well as fast-track delivery.) We then got an email to say the package wouldn't arrive until Today (Wednesday.) But this morning we had another email telling us that, unfortunately, it had got lost. How or why has it got lost? It got as far as Peterborough and that's as far as it could go. No doubt some employee of Amazon put it in the wrong place, bin, shelf or whatever. We still don't have any idea what happened to this order and as far as I know, neither does Amazon. A complete mystery. Will it ever be found? Could Sherlock Holmes solve the mystery? We have since had a refund, but you would expect it to appear at some time in the future. Watch this space for further revelations.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Latest Reading

I've been reading some of H.G. Wells's short stories. I had a period when I was a teenager when I read all the classic fantasy and science fiction stories, from 'Dracula', 'Frankenstein' to 'First Men On The Moon' to 'The Invisible Man' as well as H.G.Wells's 'The Time Machine.' I had the complete stories in one volume (since lost.) I have since re-read that particular story (in a volume I bought second-hand through Amazon) and I'm so surprised how modern it is, considering it was first published in 1895. It's amazingly ahead of it's time and must have inspired a whole host of science fiction literature and consequently films, television series ( I can't believe the producers of 'Doctor Who' didn't read it when they were developing the show in it's early days as there are aspects of the story which are similar or at least used in some of the early stories)   Not only is it a great science fiction story, but Wells is able to make political comments which I might never have been aware of  when I originally read it. It has a believability about it which is quite striking.

Sky Arts did a series called 'The Nightmare World of H.G.Wells,' which was a series of adaptations of a few of the short stories. They were 'The Moth,''The Purple Purleus,' 'The Late Mr Elvesham,' and 'The Devotee of Art.' In some ways they have a great deal in common with the stories written by Roald Dahl and used as the basis for the ITV Anglia television series 'Tales of The Unexpected.' All having a creepy and very sinister feel to them, keeping you on the edge of your seat and all having a sting in their tail. I have since read them all and enjoyed them immensely. Another I read recently 'The Strange Orchid' is also exceptionally chilling and I expect it inspired the film 'The Little Shop of Horrors,' both the original black-and-white and musical versions.

Channel Four has recently done a series based on the short stories of Ray Bradbury and called 'Electric Dreams.' I have only seen on episode, 'The Commuter' and starring Timothy Spall. I read some of Brdbury's stories, the 'Martian Chronicles,' when they were adapted for television a couple of decades ago. I'll now have to read the short stories as a result of the latest series.

I have begun writing a 'sort of' science fiction story, very much inspired by the H.G. Wells stories. Actually the opening has been an initial idea for some time, and it's only recently that I've made any sort of effort to commit it to paper. I have been attempting to take it further, a lot of ideas coming since visiting Milton Keynes Hospital lately. It's surprising how ideas are created. Just seems all those corridors and the fact that everything is white and clean. Sort of 'Doctor Who'-type corridors, the idea of being chased along them, or searching for monsters, the 'villain' and so on. Just have to tie the various threads together to create a story line. People in blue or green overalls, with aprons, strange trolleys being pushed about. Makes you wonder, what's going on? Why? What? Lifts to strange places, different time-zones, etc etc.

I have a passion for history and read many books on historic subjects, and I'm currently reading the first of a series of books covering the last 60 years of British history. I read one which I had for Christmas a few years ago called 'Days In The Sun' and written by Dominic Sandbrook. I was unaware at the time that it was the latest instalment of what will probably be a six-part series, and I'm going back to the beginning of the series with the first book which covers the period from The Suez Crisis in 1956 up until the Beatles in 1963 and called 'Never Had It So Good.' A really chunky volume of perhaps 800-1000 pages. The next volume is 'White Heat',  takes in the 1960's; the next is entitled 'State of Emergency,' covers the period 1970-1974, whilst the third volume  'Seasons In The Sun,' takes in the the years 1974-1979. I believe he's been responsible for a television series called 'The Eighties,' so one assumes there will eventually be a book to go with it. It would be great if he can complete the series with 'The Nineties,' and possibly 'The 2000's' and into the current decade. I have the complete collection. The first two were offered as a set  on Amazon and cost less than the full price of just one volume. A real bargain and they are both brand new copies. These books are really well written, the detail is impressive and it must have been a long process to do all the research these volumes, each at least 800 pages.

I read the two-part 'Making of Modern Britain' written by Andrew Marr. The first book begins in 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria and ends in 1945 with the end of World War 2. The second volume takes up in 1945 and continues on into the 2000's. Both are companion books to Marr's BBC1
 television series.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Freezing Sunday Morning

Sunday morning I had to scrape ice off the car windscreen. It is a good deal easier with the new Renault as it has a good heating system which melts off any ice fairly rapidly and also I found an ice scraper which came to light when I was tidying the house the other morning. It might have started of freezing, but as the morning progressed the sun came out and it was quite pleasant, but still a chill in the air. The sort of weather where you need a coat or jacket on of some sort.

I woke up in the middle of the night and heard the rain outside. It sounded as if someone had switched on the shower in the bathroom. It went on for some time. I was expecting there to be flooding in the road outside but there didn't seem to be any sign of flooding when I looked in the morning.

I went out to the car the other morning and discovered a laminated notice had appeared near our wheely bin. It was headed 'Woughton Community Council' and stated that it's an offence to put your rubbish out too early and if you are caught, it can be classed as fly-tipping and you'll incur a fine. Oh come on, this is just another way to wring more cash out of people. So, please tell me this, how are we supposed to deal with plastic bin bags of rubbish, when you might not be at home in the morning that the Council dustmen come to collect it and you need to put it out the previous evening? Are you therefore going to become a criminal and given a fine for being efficient and effective with your time? It seems you can't do right by doing the right thing. Just bureaucracy gone mad. There is also another problem with putting your rubbish out in bin bags (black for general refuse and pink for stuff to be recycled.) and that's the problem caused by cats, birds and possibly other wildlife, which can get into the bags and take the remains of chicken bones out and peck around in it. On one occasion I saw a couple of crows who had got into our black bin bags when I'd put the rubbish out one Wednesday morning and stolen the remains of our Sunday chicken and were fighting over the bones in he street. Also, if the bags are torn open (quite easy because they are so flimsy, particularly the pink bags provided by the Council.) and litter is released from the bags and strewn all over the grass at the front of the house and the road. The Council workers seem reluctant to pick it up. Why on earth don't the Council provide us with two wheely bins (currently you can only use the green wheely bin for garden refuse and are supposed to move it to the road-side on refuse-collecting day for the workmen to deal with.) It would be better to have a second larger bin provided so you put all your bin bags, black and pink, which would prevent birds and other wildlife getting into the bags and also mean you could put your rubbish out earlier and therefore not get fined for so-called fly tipping. We're supposed to put our bags of rubbish out on a Wednesday, before 7 a.m. The thing is, some weeks they come early, almost dead on 7.30, but then on other weeks they don't turn up until 2 p.m. or even later. You can't win. So, does the fact that your rubbish is left out for hours and hours on a Wednesday still get classed as 'Fly-tipping?' Just a stupid technicality to class it as that if it's BEFORE 7 a.m. on a Wednesday. Then, why do the pink bags have to be so flimsy? They tear easily and come on a roll. At first you'd be excused if you thought the roll was just a single piece of plastic sheet, but in actual fact it's two layers and you have to separate these layers, a difficult enough job, and then you have to tear off each individual bag. Then, if you're not careful, you can puncture this bag with whatever you place within it, just a sharp piece of plastic or cardboard. The Council delivers a roll of pink recycling bags once a year, but if you run out before the end of the year, you have to go to the Council offices to receive get another roll. The black bags are no longer provided by the Council, so you are expected to buy your own. If it saves the Council money, then I have no problem with this, so I buy them when I'm in Sainsbury's or any other supermarket.

People going totally mad around Milton Keynes on Sunday. For some unaccountable reason Chaffron Way was closed off near the roundabout on Grafton Street, so I had to reroute and cross over towards  Child's Way, when  I was on my way to Shenley Christian Fellowship for the 9.15 service.  Traffic built up along most of the grid roads on the return journey afterwards as  I had to get something for our evening meal, so I decided to go to Morrison's near the railway station. The place piled high with 'bargains' for Black Week (or whatever it's called. Started out as just Friday, but it seems to have leaked into the following week.) Anyway, piles of toys, games, bottles of wine, Bailey's and other items. Shoppers pushing trolleys loaded up with groceries and stuff they thought they needed but probably don't. Took little time to pick up a chicken, vegetables, milk and other essentials and headed towards the checkout. It wasn't too long before I was through this and pushing the trolley back to the car. An idiot walking along with his mobile glued to his hand, not really looking what he was doing, certainly not engaged with the world around him. Got to the car and a child climbing up inside the trolley his mother was pushing. An accident waiting to happen, but I managed to negotiate this and people backing out of their parking spaces and loaded my things into the back of the car. People not really engaging with the world around them, and seemingly more intent on grabbing the latest bargain rather than being in an accident with either another car or people walking about.