Sunday, October 22, 2017

Daytime Television. The Good, The Bad and The Dreadful

Over the past few months I have watched a more than average amount of daytime television. Probably because Carol has been off sick from work. I have to admit under different circumstances I wouldn't normally watch so much. When she was at work I might watch Bargain Hunt, or otherwise I can find something on catch-up or recorded on Sky Q from the previous day or from a few days or even weeks. Most of what is shown is, franky, mere trivia, but recently there have been some quite good programmes. Admittedly there are too many make-over shows and programmes about selling houses. Also wall-to-wall gameshows. It seems that all I.T.V. can make and show are things like 'The Chase' (probably the best at the moment), but surely 'Tipping Point' has some of the easiest questions for any gameshow. But it's addictive. Watching that machine moving backwards and forward and waiting with bated breath for the discs to fall in just the right place and then push others fall over and score points that make cash has a sort of hypnotic effect. Perhaps that's what they want to happen; sort of activating so they have a sort of captive audience. Countdown on Channel Four is addictive. At least it's intelligent. I'm fine with the word part, but when it comes to the maths section, I give up. Perhaps it's because you have just 30 seconds to work it out. If it was longer then I might have a chance. I love words and particularly word-origins, so that bit intrigues me.

There are some far better shows on more recently. One is in the afternoon at 3.45 on BBC1 and called 'Money For Nothing.' The premise doesn't sound particularly brilliant, perhaps not on paper, but actually works and keeps you hooked until the end. It starts off with a lady called Sarah Moore, who apparently won the first series of 'The Great Interior Design Challenge.' She visits a tidy-tip at a variety of locations across the country and hunts out people who are disposing of what are at first sight worthless bits of furniture, old chairs, wardrobes, and the most unlikely objects, such as washing machines, old bits of fence and a good deal more, which she takes away. She has, according to the voice-over, done in a sort of tongue-in-cheek style by Arthur Smith, that she has had 'special permission' to ask for and remove these otherwise gone-to-seed items. In other words, you, as a member of the public, cannot take any item from a tidy-tip. Actually I would say, once it's gone in the recycling bins there you can't remove it. Well, legally you can't. She has to select three items and then takes them away to either transform them herself or takes them to designers and makers who revamp them into new bits of furniture or uses part of them to make new items. These she sells on and the profit is returned to the people she took the original item from at the tidy-tip. The results are usually quite stunning. Although a very small minority haven't hit the mark, at least with us. But that is extremely rare.

'A Matter of Life and Debt' is the sort of programme that is fitting the BBC's public service remit to    'inform educate and entertain.' It's on mid-morning on BBC1. It's about credit unions, set up at various towns throughout the United Kingdom as an alternative place for people to save and take out debts so as to avoid taking on loans from loan sharks or pay-day loans which charge outrageously high interest rates. Sometimes it's so people, who have poor credit ratings and would never get a loan from more traditional sources such as high street banks. Some people want cash to buy furniture for their home or have a holiday but a lot of them use the cash to set up a business or to expand an already existing business such as a dog-walking company or hairdresser's.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Waiting

We're still waiting to hear from the hospital regarding Carol's treatment. We thought we'd hear on Thursday regarding the next step but there was absolutely nothing. Whenever the post comes or the phone rings it seemed it might be about something or other, but nothing. We decided to ring the specialist nurse who has been assigned to Carol and she said she'd ring around to see if she could discover what was going on or at least speed things up. She rang back, really quickly, thankfully, to say we were unlikely to hear anything until at least Wednesday or Thursday, because the cancer team met on those days. Also, they hadn't yet received the M.R.I. scan which was done the previous Friday. Just waiting for the relevant administration to be be done. It seems the N.H.S. is over-run by bureaucracy  If they were to get rid of half the paper-work it might run more efficiently. The same in education where there are to many targets and bits of paper to keep filling in. Crazy.

Friday At Sainsbury's

I had to go to Sainsbury's this morning. First I went to Ashfield Medical Centre as I had to collect a prescription for Carol. Not actually a repeat and they couldn't send it electronically as some of what was on the prescription was controlled meds and it could only be done as a paper version. Managed to get there without any problems, no heavy traffic at the Standing Way roundabout which can be very busy at peak times. Parked easily in the rear carpark. I have to say I'm not overly impressed by the fact that the side road is chocker-block with cigarette ends. I know it's illegal to smoke in public places, indoors in places where the public go, but why do smokers think it's alright to smoke outside and drop their fag ends wherever they please? The same along the Redway outside Milton Keynes Academy which is littered with cigarette ends. What is the environmental impact of all these cigarette ends? Surely it must be bad. If you insist on smoking, do at least put the dog-ends in a bin or somewhere else, not just throw it on the ground. Apart from anything else, it just looks horrible. Don't people realise how awful it looks? Why doesn't someone do something about it? I can't believe it's allowed to continue like this.

I managed to pick up the prescriptions in Ashfield Medical Centre and then drove back through the Standing Way roundabout along Saxon Street and went to Sainsbury's. Parked the car in the carpark. Not quite as busy as it was yesterday, perhaps because I arrived a good deal earlier in the morning. I don't like parking on the lower level because of the extremely tight corners you have to negotiate when you drive down the ramp. It seems most supermarket carparks are designed this way for some unfathomable reason. Perhaps it's to get as much car-parking space into a relatively small piece of land.

In the store I had to get a trolley, but unfortunately it had a fault. Why do so many supermarket trolleys have faults? It's usually with the wheels, pushing sideways, one sticking, or, in this case, with a sort of wobble as I pushed it along. Just annoying.  I suppose I could have swapped it for another without a problem, but I didn't bother on this occasion. I took the prescriptions to the pharmacy and had to spend 15 minutes or so whilst they made up the prescriptions.

I managed to get everything on my list and then returned to pick up the meds from the pharmacy and then walked back to the carpark. As I got closer to the car I walked past a car which had just parked and a girl got out of the passenger-side door and shouted something at the driver- her partner, father, boyfriend, I couldn't tell. She stormed off in the direction of the walk-way leading into the store. Bad temper, merely a temper-tantrum, I couldn't tell, but whatever it was seemed quite dramatic. Certainly caused something of a scene. Had they had a row as they'd arrived in the carpark? Had she not wanted to come to the supermarket? I don't know and probably won't ever know. How embarrassing to have all this in such a public place.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Crazy Television

Why do we have to have so many trailers on television? I don't mean for films, but for television shows. They seem to show the same clips for a drama, for example, and it surely ruins the actual show because if there's several clips which are extracted from that show, they're just going to spoil the surprise element and just destroy that programme. If it's a comedy show, then, to have some of the comic moments shown endlessly during a trailer is going to kill any sense of humour that may have been in that particular show. Having said that, they're running trailers for my least-favourite programme, 'EastEnders,' where all the most dramatic 'bits' are squeezed into about 30 seconds and actually improves this programme. Whenever the famous introductory music starts, we always reach for the remote and switch channels or turn the television 'off.'

To the question 'why so many trailers on television?' I'd say, so we know a new show is coming up in the near future and the producers want us to watch. Which I suppose is obvious.

I've mentioned how they have to squeeze the credits at the end of a programme into a horrible narrow strip and insist on telling you what's coming up. Why does the announcer have to speak over the credits and why on earth do the credits have to be rushed through so fast that you can't possibly read them clearly? Just an insult on the actors as well as the production staff.

Something else I hate about television is when directors and cameramen insist on using crazy angles to shoot film or video. WHY I have to ask? It can be very unsettling. Also, using what they call 'whip-pans' (I think I have the correct term for this) when they spin the camera around quickly, perhaps cutting from one place to another. It makes you feel sick. Then there's this thing they have of filming people as they walk along, which can make you feel sort of sea-sick, or at least motion-sick. I feel sorry for the cameraman having to walk along backwards to follow the actor or presenter. It must be difficult, probably having to avoid colliding with furniture or, worse still if it's outside, falling into a ditch or running into whatever is in the way.

Daytime television: why are there endless programmes about couples selling houses? Some are fine, such as 'Homes Under The Hammer,' because it's about people who buy empty, probably derelict houses, at auction, and you then see how they manage to transform them and then sell them on at quite large profit or rent them out. At least they're giving people homes and preventing houses being built on greenfield sites and increasing the housing stock. But it the programmes about couples who have so much money, from selling one over-priced properties, usually in the South East and London, and have this fantasy about moving to an idealised rural property with a 'large kitchen,' and 'space for a pony' or most likely it someone who's retiring and has got money from a bonus working in the city or it's from being a director of a company or business they've had something to do with and got share options. . . the show I'm thinking about is called 'Escape To The Country' and it's on virtually every day, in the afternoon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Road Accident and Amazon Deliveryman's Blunder

I had to go to the local shop in Garroways for a few items. I drove out of the estate and was amazed to find a single-decker bus attempting to do some sort of manoeuvre in the slip road off Saxon Street. It wasn't clear what the driver was trying to do; was he going to drive through the estate or turn round in the road? It wasn't clear until I moved into Saxon Street because at first I had to wait for the bus to move. On looking left I could see the road was closed off, with cars drawn up across the carriageway and several emergency vehicles with flashing blue lights on their roofs. It was then clear that there had been a car accident when someone had pulled out of the road leading into Garroways, Lloyds, which was where I had hoped to go. I wasn't going to get through so I had no alternative but to execute a u-turn and return the way I'd come, this time going to the local shop in Eaglestone. Other cars were doing as I had done and then a red car raced past, I think probably from the Fire Service, as it had blue lights flashing and it's siren blaring. It was clear that the road hadn't been closed off at the Four Bridges roundabout on Chaffron Way because traffic was still coming along Saxon Street, totally unaware that the road was closed off because of a traffic accident. I could see a smashed-up car in the road, so I imagine the driver had attempted to come of of the turning into Coffee Hall at Lloyds, the road which leads up to  Garroways and risked running into another vehicle and ended up in a, what looked to me, somewhat nasty smash.

I drove back into Eaglestone and drove around the inner ring road and went to the local shop to get eggs, milk and other items for our lunch. Having completed my shopping trip I drove home. Yesterday I had ordered a couple of books from Amazon and was expecting the parcel to be delivered sometime during the day and was somewhat surprised to see the parcel on the step we use to reach the electric meter outside in the bin cupboard. The parcel had arrived when I was out. Then Carol told me that the delivery driver had opened the door and shoved the parcel inside without first knocking on the door and as a result Alfie very nearly got through the door. The driver rushed off before Carol could speak to him as this sort of behaviour isn't acceptable, particularly as she was alone in the house due to illness. As a result of this I went through the Amazon website, and got a call from someone in their call centre and explained what had happened and got an apology. I said that this had happened before and, according to Carol, it was the same delivery driver. The woman who I spoke to was very apologetic. I said the driver should be disciplined as his actions were not acceptable. In now way should a delivery driver ENTER a customer's home. It was obvious that he hadn't done his job properly. He should have knocked on the door and waited for someone to open it and then hand over the parcel, not just leave in inside the house, or else leave it in the pre-determined place or ask a neighbour to take the parcel in. I got a refund of the cost of the books as a goodwill gesture and I trust the matter will end there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Alfie and the Squirrel

We've had a visit from an extremely cheeky and crafty squirrel to our garden over the past couple of days. This might explain why Alfie, our little Yorkshire Terrier, keeps on disappearing into the garden. He spends quite a lot of time in the rather over-grown area near the fence at the bottom of the garden and near the shed (a polite way to describe the wreck of a shed as it's totally unusable as it is.) The squirrel has been seen actually IN the garden, darting about in the long grass. It has been on the shed roof and flicking it's tail about in an agitated fashion. It then climbed about in the over-hanging branches of the trees and then on the fence to the left. It seems to be keen to find a way to get at the food on the bird feeding station. A couple of years ago we had our feeding station a good deal closer to the shed that belongs to our neighbours, Garry and Shelley. A squirrel actually JUMPED from the roof of this shed onto the bird feeding station and managed to perch on the thing, and at one point hung upside-down on it in order to eat some of the food. It's a wonder that this crafty squirrel didn't impale itself on the pointy finial on the top of this thing! It even managed to climb the metal pole of this feeding station. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw all these acrobatics. This latest visitor is so cheeky, it even stares at the house to find out if Alfie is about before venturing further. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Strange Skies

Over the last day we've been experiencing strong winds, as a result of Storm Ophelia coming in from the Atlantic. It's supposed to have been the end of a hurricane which has crossed over from near America. Also, a really strange orange light for most of the day yesterday. It was like an orange or reddish glow. It was apparently caused by dust from the Sahara Desert causing the sun to appear red because of dissipated dust particles. I have now idea how or why but the light was diffused through the clouds. I expect we'll get a reason for it sooner or later. Fairly strong winds whipping up the trees behind our house but nowhere near as windy as we've experienced in he past. I don't think you can call it a hurricane, although Carol Kirkwood is calling it 'ex-hurricane Ophelia'  on BBC Breakfast as I write this. And in particular it's being compared to the 'Great Wind' of October 1987, which was highly destructive and it's exactly 30 years ago since that happened. I know this storm has done a great deal of damage and in particular in Ireland, but no trees have been bought down as in 1987. At the moment, as I write this post, the sun is out and the wind has dropped. It's actually quite mild out.

Living At Home- Part 5

I've mentioned in an earlier post how I went to Rushmoor School in Bedford, and how I absolutely hated it. I'll repeat myself by saying I can't understand why my parents wasted good money sending me to such a hopeless school. I dread to think how much money it cost per term or year. I came away from there with nothing in particular and had to go to a state school, Abbey Sec Mod in Elstow to complete my final few school years. I've said before somewhere on this blog that I had problems with maths at school. I think my basic skills were sound, but when it came to complex fractions and the more advanced stuff I really struggled. Anyway, I have survived all my life without the need for such things as algebra so I'm not worried. It was the fact that I wasn't able to get into Bedford School as my other brothers was the problem. Or, perhaps, that's what my mother thought. So I was dragged around a variety of tutors, actually taken out of Rushmoor School in, presumably, an attempt to get me through whatever exam it was so I could join my brothers. But it wasn't to be. It was great to be taken away from school for a couple of hours, as anything was better than being at Rushmoor School. I recall a couple of the places where the tutors ran their sessions, one being above a shop in St Peter's Street, about where the Probation Service had, or used to have, their office, and the other was around Goldington Road, about where the offices of an agency I used to work for and opposite my former doctor's surgery. All I remember of that one was that there was a pipe rack on the fireplace, odd that I should remember that, but absolutely nothing about doing maths exercises. All I remember of the other place was that there was a sandpit and I played with toy soldiers in this sandpit. Again, nothing remains of any maths I might have done.

I had another dose of tutoring (or whatever you want to call if) of a different kind as I had a slight speech impediment, a stammer. Not surprising if I was always being picked up over my maths. I went to a speech therapist (I imagine that was what this person was, but probably not called that in those days) and the house I went to was off Kimbolton Road, in Pemberley Avenue, Bedford. There again, I can't remember a great deal about the sessions I had to endure. But I remember having to shove my tongue to the front of my mouth to get me to speak properly and being given chocolate mint sweets as a sort of incentive. Even today I really like them, but I don't suppose today you've be able to use them as an inducement to stop lisping or to push your tongue forward because they'd be considered unhealthy or something like that, with too much sugar in them. Even today, although I don't recall much else about these sessions, I think I'd know which house in that road they were and I have a sort of thing about 'speaking properly.' I have a certain affinity with the George Bernard Shaw 'Pygmalion' which is about 'proper speech.' My mother was constantly picking me up if I dropped an 'H' when I could easily drop one off the end of certain words. I don't know why me, in particular, as I don't think she did it to my other brothers.

I've mentioned my lack of skills in anything sporty, somewhere in an earlier blog post. I think it's got a lot to do with being forced to use my right hand when I should probably have been left-handed. I think that is how you were taught at school in the late 1950's- early 1960's. Probably just to make it easier for the teaching staff. If you were left-handed you would be considered a problem child, thus creating more work for teachers, so it would have been easier to make a child write with their right hand. I think this made me very clumsy when using a cricket bat, making it really difficult to hit a flying cricket ball in any sense of a straight line or merely hit the thing. The same with kicking a football or merely catching a ball when thrown at me. So, I didn't like being made the butt of jokes or have unpleasant remarks made by teachers or other pupils. So, inevitably, it put me off sport of any kind. This lead on to maths skills. Totally hopeless. I think this 'disability' if such it can be called, wasn't (or isn't) dyslexia as such but dyscalculia, a term which I've since discovered. So, as a result, I can't stand either cricket or football. I just have memories spent at the very edge of cricket grounds on long hot summer afternoons. Or football, played on the school playing fields, a long walk from the school in Shakespeare Road and along Manton Lane and then trudging up a muddy path to the top of the hill and having to endure cold, wind, ice, snow and whatever awful weather conditions to 'play' a game which I detested, as I suffered terribly from the cold at that age. The hill seemed to be open to every thing the elements could throw at me and then having to trudge back to school, coated in mud and our boots encased in thick, claggy mud. Shivering like crazy and taking an eternity to get some warmth back before leaving to walk to the bus station in order to get home. Not nice. I think the sports teachers were just sado masochists to make us go through that ordeal. Sometimes you could get to the top of that benighted hill and look down to where the rest of Bedford should have been, to find it had disappeared in a haze of fog.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Living At Home- Part 4

we didn't have any sort of record player at home when I was growing up until quite late into the 1960's. I have a feeling that there was an ancient gramophone of some sort, probably only capable of playing 78's, but not a modern one capable of playing modern L.P.s and 45s. We eventually got a small portable machine when my great aunt died and there were heaps of Greenshield Stamps which were converted into this new player. If you remember Greenshield stamps, you used to 'earn' them when you bought things at certain retailers, such as Tesco, so many stamps when you shopped and then stuck them into books. I suppose the equivalent today would be Tesco Clubcard points, or Nectar points, although these are collected on a card, electronically saved and then 'spent' when you have sufficient, either on your grocery bill or on other items such as free tickets for places such as Alton Towers or Sealife World, Warwick Castle or Madam Tussaud's. This record player was eventually replaced by a far better player which my brother Sandy and I shared.  I remember my mother deciding that we needed a decent record player as she like to hear the occasional bit of classical music. We went to Weatherhead's, a local electrical retailer which had a large shop at the corner of Bedford High Street and Dame Alice Street. It's long since gone, replaced at the last time I visited Bedford by a pub. A shame really, as it was an independent company. Anyway, we went there to choose a record player, one of those semi-portable machines, only playing records, but one with a device in it which was the height of technological wizardry which enabled you to stack a pile of 45 r.p.m. discs on this system which allowed you to play these records one after the other without having to get up and do it manually. My brother was more into pop music than I was. I became interested in classical music and began my own collection of LPs of standard classical repertoire. I also became interested in recording using a tape-recorder, as a result of being influenced by a teacher at Rushmoor School who used a tape-recorder in some of his classes to record our voices, reading poetry and prose. Later on, when I moved to Abbey Secondary Modern School, I bought a Grundig tape-recorder from one of the teachers. I know Sandy used to record pop music off the radio (as did everyone else during this period) and be was (and probably still is.) obsessed by motor sport, and in particular, Grand Prix races. Was it called Formula 1 in those days? I don't know, but he used to record the radio commentaries on a tape recorder. I eventually replaced my tape-recorder with an early Philips cassette recorder.

Although quite good for recording from the radio, the occasional bit of voice work and listening to music, cassettes had their limitations. For a start, you couldn't edit them. The tape was extremely tin and had a tendency to stretch. You could never find specific points on a tape, for example, the beginning of a piece of music. Eventually pre-recorded cassettes were introduced, as a sort of replacement for LPs, but the technical quality of cassettes wasn't up to much. It took a long time to re-wind a cassette and, because the tape was very thin it could get caught up in the mechanism of the machine as well as stretching and this eventually lead to them not functioning. In-car players were eventually introduced, some with built-in radios, but if you kept your collection of cassettes in your car, they could become damaged if there was warm weather, as heat seemed to cause all sorts of problems to the tape. My brother Sandy had an 8-track player at one point, I think perhaps it was a birthday present. The cassettes were bulky and not as good as cassettes, and I recall he had all sorts of problems with the machine which constantly got jammed. The tape was far wider than a Philips cassette, but eventually he gave up on the thing and the whole system was eventually abandoned by the manufacturers.

A friend of mine when I was at Mander College, John Gregory, introduced me to The Goon Show. His father had recorded the original episodes off the radio and onto reel-to-reel tape. John allowed me to record many of the episodes onto cassette when he used to visit me at home over several Saturday afternoons. I am still an ardent fan of The Goons and listen to some of the episodes which are broadcast regularly on the digital radio channel, BBC Radio4 Extra. Not just The Goons, but I also enjoyed many other BBC comedy shows, such as I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, Round The Horne, The Navy Lark as well as The Men From The Ministry. All re-broadcast on BBC Radio4 Extra. I, and probably loads of other people, recorded from the radio using a microphone, but I eventually managed to find a way to link the tape recorder to my transistor radio by using a lead from the tape recorder fixed to the loudspeaker, linking to the soldered points inside the radio. It worked! Which meant I could get a far better recording as there was no background interference as you would get if you used a microphone set up in front of the radio, for example, cars going past or people talking in the room.

My interest in tape-recording and recording in general was a very useful skill because when I worked in stage management I was sometimes called upon to operate the sound desk at several of the theatres I worked at, having to make up the various sound effects tapes and I learned how to edit and splice tape. In those days it was physically cut, using a special splicing machine and sticky tape. No doubt today all this would be done digitally and saved onto either a CD-ROM or at least on a computer hard drive.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Living At Home- Part 3

My elder brothers were into music. James was (and still is, as far as I know) a very good trumpeter. He liked people such as Herb Alpert and had quite a few of his LPs. Robert, on the other hand, was (still probably is) a very proficient pianist. There was a good piano, an upright Steinway, in the house at Malting Farm. My grandmother Ferriman, who lived at Mill Farm, Cardington, was also a good pianist. She used to play at the annual children's Christmas party which was held each year at the Reading Room in the village. She had the scores of several musicals in the piano stool, including My Fair Lady and Salad Days. When I was a Student A.S.M. at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham in 1969 I was involved in a production of Salad Days. It may have been my grandmother's love of musicals which rubbed off on me and got me interested in not only musicals but theatre in general. Granny Ferriman as she was called was something to do with the W.I. I'm not sure in what capacity, but each year they had a drama competition, held in the Civic Theatre, Bedford. Over several years I was taken along to watch the one-act plays performed. I do remember going to London with her to see a play called "Mr Brown Comes Down The Hill", written by Peter Howard, which was put on at the Westminster Theatre. I'm not sure what reason we went to see this play, but it had a sort of Christian theme to it. I had the script of the play, which I had in my book collection for years, but, unfortunately, it got lost basically because I've moved house so many times over the years. After the show we went to a house in, I think, somewhere in Cavendish Square, for a rather elaborate meal. The house was once where Robert Clive, of India lived or someone like that. I remember it was quite a lavish meal. To this day I'm not sure what it was all about. I suppose I would have been about 15-16 at the time.

Every Christmas we always went to see a show of some sort in London. I remember going to see either Chipperfield's or Smart's circus which was put on at somewhere such as Olympia or Earl's Court. A circus came regularly to Bedford, usually in one of the fields along the road leading into Bedford. I remember going to see 'Peter Pan' which ran every year at the Scala Theatre and being taken by Sister Watson, who was a nurse at Bedford Hospital when my mother was a nurse before she married. It was a big, elaborate production which included flying, most likely done by Kirby's Flying Ballet. There was a spectacular scene on board Captain Hook's ship, I expect the sequence where Hook attempts to kill Peter Pan, and there were lots of cannons being fired, which, apparently, scared me. I don't expect I can have been much more than 8-9 at the time.

The Scala Theatre was one of those theatres which allowed you to have tea in the auditorium. You ordered before the show began and it was bought to you on a tray. I can't remember if you got sandwiches and cakes. You probably did. You just sat and drank your tea in the auditorium during the interval. I can't believe they did this, and it's not likely to be revived for a 21st-century play-goer as it would be against our old friends, health and safety.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

M.R.I. Scans and Mild Weather

The weather continues to be unseasonably mild. I'm going out without a jacket or a sweater on. Just doesn't make a lot of sense, since we're well into October. I've been out on some days, thinking it's going to be cold (some early mornings start of cold.) put on a thick sweater and find, once I'm out, that the sweater is making me far too hot so I remove it. I end up carting the sweater around with me as I did when we went to the shopping centre the other morning. The trees all along the various grid roads around Milton Keynes are changing colour. Quite striking and surprising.

We're still waiting to hear from Basingstoke. Carol had an M.R.I. scan yesterday morning. It took a good deal longer than I was expecting, but at least it's done. Not at the hospital, but at a, presumably, private provider called In Health, which is based in the same block as Sainsbury's, just off Witan Gate. I expected the appointment to be at the hospital, but it was here. A very different atmosphere to the usual N.H.S. facility. Decent chairs to sit on and not lots of other people sitting and attempting to avoid eye contact. The staff were very good, very professional and caring. So, with this last scan, the various departments will now have all the information they have to deal with this 'thing.' Every day we wait patiently for either a telephone call or a letter.

Living At Home- Part 2

Living on a farm we had acres and acres of places to explore, run completely wild and play. I think we were exceptionally lucky in that respect, unlike children bought up living in a town. No excuses when it came to finding something to do in the school holidays. My mother would never allow us to spend our time indoors. No such thing as mobile phones, tablets, computers, Gameboys or any sort of computer game console. No daytime television during the 1960's. Television didn't start until children's programmes started at around 4-5 o'clock. No 24-hour television as we have today. As I've said in earlier posts, we only had 3 channels until Channel Four came along in 1982. If it was sunny and warm during the summer we'd be outside all day and not go indoors until it was teatime. Long bike rides through the country lanes around Cardington, generally messing about in and around the village, particularly the brook that ran through the farm. I doubt children would have such a connection to the world about them today as we had then. Getting dirty, building dens, tree houses and having adventures. Probably in a world which seems to be dominated by our old friend 'Health and Safety' it's more than likely that they don't have anywhere the same sort of lives as we did.

Malting Farm house was large (and is. It's still there, although no Murdochs live there any more). Well, it would have to be because there were seven in our family. It had lots of corridors and it wasn't centrally heated. I think I've mentioned this in an earlier blog post on here. There was an Aga cooker in the kitchen, which could be very difficult to light and had to be kept going using special fuel, sort of nuts of coal. In the dining room and some of the downstairs rooms there were fireplaces which were lit occasionally. It could be extremely cold in winter. But, saying that, we didn't know anything different and we survived. With so many rooms, idea for playing hide and seek. There were two attic rooms which we used as play rooms. It meant you could make a mess up there and it didn't matter. We had a model railway layout. I'm not sure, but I think we inherited it from a relative. I'm not sure whether it was from my mother or father's family, but it was quite an extensive Triang railway with no end of track that ran around an amazing raised sort of construction which included tunnels, stations, houses and other bits and pieces. With four brothers, we did get toys passed on as they were grown out of. Me being in the middle of five, anything I got passed down had already come from my two eldest brothers, James and Robert.

I had Mecanno when I was a child. I doubt very much if young boys have this toy nowadays, or even girls. I doubt they would even know what it was. It had metal pieces, usually coloured red, blue or silver, nuts and bolts and various mechanical gears, pulley and similar pieces which you could use to build all manner of machines, cars, bicycles or a combination of mechanical devices. I inherited most of this from my older brothers and got more 'sets' as the years went by. It grew and grew. You could get clockwork and electric motors to drive the machines you created and a lot of these creations could be built using instructions you got in magazines and leaflets. I'm not sure that you can still get this 'toy,' even if you can call it a toy. Birthdays and Christmases bought more and more bits to build more elaborate creations. Endless fun and interest and no doubt it encouraged boys (and possibly girls) to become interested in engineering and probably careers in this field. I think perhaps today children are more interested in computers and similar electronic devices and the fact that they can communicate with other people via the internet makes things that are more physical, such as Mecanno, somewhat obsolete, which is a real pity.

It seems that children in particular, but also a great many adults, spend a lot of their time on smart phones and tablets (as well as other gadgets) and don't appear to communicate much face-to-face. Living in a cyber world, chatting on-line via chat-rooms, text or email, seems to have replaced speaking to another person in the 'real-world.' You only have to walk down the average street or visit a supermarket or shopping centre to see how many people only appear to interact through their devices. Also, I'm sure that manners have gone out the window. People seem to have lost the ability to be even remotely patient. Not everyone, but mostly young people. They don't like having to wait, especially in queues, for example, at the supermarket. A lot more short-tempered people on the roads. A lot of people cutting me up on roundabouts, impatient to wait if you stop at a roundabout, coming up behind me in their car and expecting me to drive faster. Pushing you to move out of the way for them or at least drive faster. People expect to have everything NOW, not time to wait for anything.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mystery Man

Here we go again. I'm in the kitchen, standing at the sink, washing up, when a white van draws up, but I can't see exactly what's going on because the hedge which shields off next door's garden. The drive is shared, although the lady who lives that side of us doesn't have a car so the space is usually vacant. Then a man appeared poking about under the hedge with what looked like a screwdriver. I imagine he was only doing his job, but he looked somewhat mysterious and shady. He had a mobile phone to his ear and was talking to someone on it. I imagine he was a workman from a contractor who was going some work on our neighbour's house, for the Council as it's a council house. Probably quite genuine, but he did look a bit shifty. Poor man, as he must have seen me through the window. I should have just gone outside and ask him what on earth he was up to, but I didn't.

Why is I seem to notice so many strange things going on outside our house? No real answer to that question. But there are certainly a great many odd people wandering around 'out there.'

It's been an almost spring-like day today. It's just far too mild, considering we're well and truly into the month of October. We put an extra-thick duvet on the bed, but it's far too hot so I've gone back to have the lightweight summer duvet back on the bed.

We've had a couple of pigeons in the garden. I've seen them sitting on the flowerpot which stands near the shed, although it's full of water. One of them appeared to be swimming in the water, or at least having a bath. I wasn't sure whether the other pigeon might have deliberately pushed the other one into the water. Probably not as I think they're a bit dense, pigeons, and wouldn't be able to think like that. It just looked so comical, floundering about in the water.

After the comic pigeons a squirrel ran across the roof, stopped in the middle, stared at the house, did a little nose-twitch and ran off. And Alfie didn't even notice. It was fast asleep and then one of the two neighbours' cats did a shimmy across the fence and did what the squirrel had done, took a glance at the house, no doubt to see whether Alfie would respond as he usually does. But no . . . it disappeared before Alfie could wake up  and rush out of the house, barking.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Life's Little Mysteries

There are all sorts of little mysteries which seem unexplained. For example, why is it when you do the washing-up (by hand in our household. We don't have a washing-up machine. Frankly a waste of time and money. Just an excuse to load the thing up and forget it and then spend time emptying it. You still have to rinse the dishes and cutlery and whatever else you need to wash, so why not just wash it and dry it and then put it away?) You spend an age doing the job and at the end, when you've dried everything and it's back in it's place, you find a single lonely teaspoon at the bottom of the bowl? Why does the washing-up liquid make so much foam, which doesn't actually have any purpose at all? I have worked in industrial kitchens and used professional washing-up liquid which is very effective and has absolutely no foam. The foam doesn't have any purpose other than just being a sort of 'extra' which takes ages to rinse away. It doesn't make the liquid work any better, or, indeed, at all. It's just that we've been conditioned to have foam when you use washing-up liquid. I expect the manufacturers put an ingredient into Fairy liquid and other similar products, that has no other purpose than to create foam.

Not just teaspoons being left after washing-up. How about when you do clothes washing, you invariably get one lone sock left in the drum of the washing machine or a pair of underpants or knickers, when you've finished the job and hung the laundry out to dry. I always seem to find I haven't got a complete pair of socks to peg out or at the end of the whole operation, when I come to put the clothes away, nothing more irritating than having one or two lone socks which don't have a partner. Nothing more annoying when you need a fresh pair of socks, you open the drawer, and all you can come across is one or two single socks. This very thing happened this morning when I did some washing and I had two socks which didn't have partners.

Why do we get telephone calls, and when you pick up, there's NOBODY THERE! You just get a sort of 'burr-burr' sound. What IS that all about? Is there someone on the other end? Are they listening? If so, are they little green men from some far-off planet? It does make me wonder. When you get those really annoying calls from some company trying to sell you something and they seem to know something about you which perhaps you didn't know about yourself or they're just being 'nice' in order to sell you whatever, I begin to wonder how much information is shared by companies you've signed up to legitimately. Then there's those calls which are obviously scams. Telling you there's a problem with your computer. Usually your Windows computer, which I don't have. Just trying to phish (if that's the correct term) in order to get your personal details so they can send a virus or something worse to infect your computer.

Where does all the junk mail we receive come from? Most of it's definitely not for things I signed up for. I never asked for it to be sent. How do they know that I might be interested in buying a rather expensive vacuum cleaner that you can charge up and it comes with a special version that you can use to clean your car? We have a perfectly efficient vacuum cleaner and certainly don't need another one, thanks all the same.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Living At Home- Part 1

I have many more memories of living on the farm at Cardington. Being a farm, life seemed to revolve around the kitchen. I've probably mentioned this in an earlier post, but it was some time ago if I did but never mind. 

We had all our meals around a large table in the kitchen. We rarely, if ever, had meals in the dining room. Probably at Christmas, but certainly not for every-day meals. The kitchen table was large, probably made of deal and had a Formica surface. My mother used it when she was making cakes as it was high enough to stand at comfortably to work.

We always sat around that table to have meals. I don't think we ever sat and watched television with plates of food on our laps. We had to eat whatever was put in front of us, no finicky eaters. I don't suppose my mother would have put up with that sort of carry-on, with having five children to feed. We weren't allowed to be fussy eaters. You had to sit and eat what was put on your plate and finish it off. You had to sit quietly and wait until everyone else had finished until you got down from the table. I think it's only manners. Thank goodness we had such manners instilled into us as children. I grew up during the 1960's, well before the introduction of gadgets such as smart phones and tablet computers. You certainly wouldn't  bring toys or any sort of gadget to the dinner table. I think we had more respect for adults when I was a child. We stood up whenever an adult came into the room and you gave up your seat, for example, if you were on a bus. You held the door open for a lady (I expect you'd be called sexist if you did this today.) You didn't talk unless asked to and you didn't butt in if two adults where having a conversation. I'm sure in general people had more respect for other people and you waited patiently if you were in a queue.

Then we  had just 3 television channels. We now have countless television channels on multi-channel-channel platforms such as Sky, Virgin and Freeview. BBC 1, BBC2, ITV and much later Channel 4. We didn't have colour television in our home until well into the 1970's. My father didn't want a set until the system was well established. People who had colour television tended to show off that they had a set by having their television positioned so that if the curtains at the window were drawn people who walked past the house could see in and see the television when it was on. Not in our house, as the television wasn't positioned in such a way. We had a black-and-white set and you couldn't record anything as you could when V.H.S. and Betamax recorders came in in the 1980's. We didn't have ITV in our house until around 1964-5 as far as I can remember, probably because we had to have a new television arial put up.  Anglia was the ITV company serving the East Of England where we lived. We didn't have BBC2 because you needed a set which had the higher definition signal which gave 625 lines for the picture. BBC1 and ITV were on the old system which had 405 lines. Colour didn't come in until the early 1970's, but BBC2 introduced colour in the late 1960's and I remember going on a trip to Robinson Rentals, which later got taken over and became Granada Television Rentals in Bedford when I was at school and they showed colour television pictures of Wimbledon tennis which I think was a sort of experimental broadcast.