Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new Year | 2010

Another year is almost over, it's almost time to welcome in another New Year. Happy 2010, well at least let's hope so.

For me this new year's eve will be a quiet affair. Mrs Pecker came down with a cold earlier in the week and now I have succumbed as well. This of course aggravates the arthritis and so the good spell that I have been enjoying lately feels to be at an end. Also my son-in-law has been hit by a tummy bug and that is where we had planned to be tonight, so New Year has been cancelled.

On the bright side I suppose I can look forward to waking up tomorrow without a hangover, and I have certainly had a few of those in the past. There have been the years that saw myself and Mrs Pecker staggering back from the Malt and Hops at 3 o'clock in the morning after a lock-in. The New Year street parties we used to have that went on until no one was left standing.

Then of course there was the year (many moons ago now) when Kevin Walker and I ran around the block in just our under-pants, boy it was cold. And then the year that I let him pierce my ear with a darning needle and a piece of soap.

Yes those were the days.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Past

Well, I guess that's it, Christmas is over for another year, another Christmas has been and has gone, another Christmas past. All the excitement, all the build up, all the anticipation, then as if in the blinking of an eye it is simply a memory. I hope yours was a good one.

Of course the evidence of Christmas is still to be seen. The bins were lining the street this morning, lids gaping open, stuffed to overflowing with wrapping paper and the discarded trappings of an over indulgent two days. Empty cardboard boxes stood beside some bins advertising the fact that these houses now contained brand new TV's, Xboxes, computers and the like, "Attention burglars - these are the one's to break into." And of course you may be one of the parents who marvelled at how the young children played for hours with the boxes that the very expensive presents came in. How many of you said "next year we will just buy empty boxes."

Up and down streets throughout the land, boys and girls ride on bright new shiny bikes, play with radio controlled cars, try to stay upright on skates and pogo sticks, ride scooters. Behind closed doors, children and adults play with new toys, games, gadgets, and gizmos so numerous and diverse to be beyond mention. So The magic of Christmas does continue long past that short festive break.

I still remember some of that magic from my own childhood, from my own Christmases of the past. I well remember the time I received a Triang electric train set. It was a "Princess Elizabeth" locomotive with two maroon and cream passenger cars, I think I may also have received some extra track at the same time. I certainly added extra track, goods wagons, a crane and an additional Loco in subsequent years as gifts at Christmas and probably birthdays. Fifty years later I still have that train set, it is somewhere in my loft and this has reminded me that I must find it, bring it back to life and play with it.

As a young boy I did not see a lot of my dad, he was always working. It would normally be bedtime either before or soon after he got home. At weekends he had to work most Saturday and Sunday mornings so Christmas was special because he was at home and he got to play with me.

I guess these memories are probably the most wonderful gifts I have received over the years. Memories of my childhood, then of the special times when my own children were young and the time I had with them, playing with their new toys and being close together as a family. These are the true gifts that last for ever, these are the true magic of the Christmas past.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

To all my Followers, blog readers and online friends, I would like to wish a Merry Christmas.

Due to a variety of reasons, I have neglected to update this blog recently and for that I hope you will all forgive me. I intend to return to it in the new Year suitably refreshed and full of stories to tell.

So to each and everyone of you,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flight to Australia | Part 2

So now we had our boarding cards for the Flight to Australia, finally we could relax, we had arrived safely and successfully booked ourselves onto the flight. If you missed the first part of this series of posts relating to the recent holiday to Australia, then you can read it here > Flight to Australia.

Security is now very tight and rightly so, notices everywhere inform as to what items or substances are banned and detail the maximum size for hand luggage and the restrictions currently in force. This terminal 1 of Manchester airport seems to have changed beyond all recognition since I last flew out of here. But actually the last time I did fly from here was probably the last time we both flew to Australia and that is seven years ago.

With plenty of time on our hands, we ate a sandwich, I bought a small bottle of Coke for £1.50 (no the airport is not taking advantage of the fact that you can not bring liquids past security) sauntered through the shops, buying nothing, then found the designated departure lounge for our flight. Here we sat and watched the people of the world go by.

The prize for the woman with the worst dress sense went to the lady of mature years with the thigh high leather boots. I have nothing at all against older women dressing in modern or fashionable clothes as long as they look right and look good. She looked awful. I got the impression that the Manchester Women's Institute old aged pensioners society pantomime group were doing a version of Dick Whittington. She had definitely got the part of Dick.

I tried also to award a prize for the person with the most and largest hand luggage. What about those signs I saw earlier, advising us of the restrictions on the size and amount of hand luggage you could take on board. One piece of hand luggage it said. There were people with pull along bags bigger than my suitcase, plus handbags or laptops, plus bags overflowing with all manner of duty free. I am afraid I could not select a winner for this award, there were just too many to choose from.

I kept looking at my watch, the staff had been at the boarding desks for a while now and  we were getting close to the planned time of departure.

"Bing Bong" sounded the tannoy. This was followed by a message stating that due to a technical problem we were going to be delayed by approximately 30 minutes. Oh well, that's no great problem we have a stop over of three hours at Dubai. A technical fault can of course be anything, not necessarily anything wrong with the plane.

"Bing Bong" the tannoy sounded again some while later. This next message now informed us that the delay would continue for another hour while the engineers worked on the plane to rectify the fault. As murmurs, mutterings and exclamations of f*** and s**t went around the crowd, Mrs Pecker and I looked at each other with feelings of dread. Not due to the fact that the problem was with the actual plane, it was more the feeling of deja vu.

This situation we had experienced the last time we travelled to Australia but it happened when we were on our way back home. From Perth we had flown to Kuala Lumpur then onto a small island named Langkawi to spend an idyllic few days. As we then waited at Langkawi airport for the short hop of a flight back to Kuala Lumpur we heard similar messages to those we had just heard. It was also a similar time of night and we had a connecting flight from KL to Manchester to catch.

That situation turned into a nightmare with the engineers and flight crew deciding that the plane would not fly that night. The airport had closed while we were waiting and at the news of the cancellation pandemonium ensued. The crowd, many of them locals were close to rioting, the heat was tremendous and there were no facilities open to buy drinks or food. Eventually some of the staff appeared with a quantity of bottled water but unfortunately much of this was simply plundered by a mob of youths who had no regard or respect for fellow passengers.

At some time around midnight we were ferried to a local hotel where we were given rooms and informed that planes would be laid on the next morning to fly us to Kuala Lumpur. They did their best in what must have been a very difficult situation to deal with.

On reaching Kuala Lumpur our troubles were far from over, we now had to be assigned a flight back to the UK. There were no flights to Manchester so we were booked onto a flight to Heathrow with an onward flight from Heathrow to Manchester and a very short time between the two. Unfortunately it was now still early morning and the Heathrow flight did not take-off until sometime that night. They did however put us into the Kuala Lumpur Airport Hotel which is absolutely fabulous. We had meal vouchers for lunch and for dinner and could eat whatever we wanted. I have never in my life seen so much food as there was at the lunch buffet. Food from every continent, to suit every possible taste, there were tables and tables full of it, and if you like sweets and puddings, you would think you had died and gone to heaven. This is where the rich and famous stay, we of course were dressed in the flight clothes that we had worn since the previous day, we had no access to the luggage. We spent the afternoon in the shower, in the bath, and lazing around in the big fluffy white dressing gowns.

 The flight was late leaving Kuala Lumpur which then caused us to miss the flight from Heathrow to Manchester. That meant another delay, another ticket desk, another wait for a flight. Can you understand why it was we did not fly for another six years.

But back to the Flight to Australia that I was telling you about.

"Bing bong" that tannoy again, this time informing us that the fault had been corrected, all that remained was for the engineers to run the engines and we now had a revised departure time of 22:30 hrs.

And true to their word, at 22:30 - or as near to it as makes no difference - we were trundling down the runway picking up speed and rising slowly but steadily up into the air on our Flight to Australia.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flight to Australia

It was 01:00 hrs and exactly on time that we landed at Perth International Airport to complete our Flight to Australia.

After calling in the duty free shop to purchase some spirits for our hosts, we collected the bags and negotiated the very strict and thorough immigration control and customs. Stepping out into the arrivals hall we then saw R'bill waiting to greet us. Following the hugs, how are you's etcetera, etcetera, we stepped out into the rain. WHAT !! - yes we did - we took a flight half way around the world to Australia, to find the rain.

Our journey it seemed, had started so long ago and in real time that was indeed over 32 hours. It began on the Sunday afternoon when our dear son-in-law arrived at our house in plenty of time to drive us - myself and Mrs Pecker - to Manchester Airport. We were all prepared and waiting with cases packed, hand luggage ready, passports to hand and anxious to be on our way.

I quickly dashed upstairs to fetch my new zip-up top that was still in my wardrobe but imagine my surprise to find that also hanging there were all of my shirts that should be packed in the case. The case was quickly re-packed and we were on our way with hardly any time lost but we were allowing ourselves plenty of time anyway. This was to us such an important journey and if there should be any delays or hold ups on the way to the airport we would hopefully still be able to arrive with enough time to catch the flight.

I also felt a certain amount of apprehension since booking this Flight to Australia due to everything relating to it being done on-line. I purchased the flight tickets from Ebookers, obtained Evisas from the Australian High Commission website, resulting in no tickets, no physical visa, in fact nothing physical relating to the flight being issued at all.

I imagined arriving at the airport check-in desk to be humiliated and flightless, the staff rolling around on the floor,

"What did you say - You've not got any tickets" accompanied by uncontrolled roars of laughter.

"Sorry Mr pecker, there's no record of a visa here." Ha,Ha, "You say you did it all on line."

"We can not let you board a plane without the proper documents sir."

I could not stop thinking of what might be. So I printed off a copy of every receipt, every email, every flight itinerary confirmation that I could find. I had a complete folder filled with a whole tree's worth of paper just to be sure I would have anything they may ask to see.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time and bade farewell to W with thanks for conveying us there, we had three and a half hours to spare before the plane was due to depart. Get through check-in and then I would be able to relax. The staff were already in attendance and gestured for us to make our way forward, there was no queue whatsoever, a situation I had never experienced before. I walked forward as I began to extract my huge bundle of papers from my shoulder bag.

"Have you got your passports please sir?" said the friendly young gentleman behind the desk.

"Yes, there you are" I replied, handing over the passports with one hand as I continued to free the sheets from out of the plastic sleeve.

"It's Mr and Mrs W.. travelling to Perth via Dubai" he said pleasantly "Is that correct?"

" Yes that's correct" I now had some of the papers free and started to point them in his direction.

"How many bags are you checking in today sir?"

"Two" I replied, but what (I thought to myself) about asking for some of these papers that are now falling to the ground and spreading themselves all over your bright shiny floor, so you know I have bought the tickets and got visas for both of us.

"Have you packed these bags yourself. Have the..... etcetera, etcetera...." he continued.

Yes, it was all that simple. From entering the numbers of our passports, the system confirms that we have booked and paid for tickets on that Flight to Australia via Dubai, the seat numbers allocated to us, and the fact that we have been granted entry into Australia as tourists.

I guess there was no need to worry at all.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Western Australia Holiday | Mindarie

First I must apologise for taking so long to begin telling you about my Western Australia Holiday in Mindarie. Since returning home I had a lot of catching up to do, however I found it difficult to motivate myself and found it extremely difficult to get my body clock in snyc. Going out to the beginning of spring in Australia at the end of September did not seem to be a problem, but coming back to the British autumn four weeks later certainly proved to be a struggle.

Western Australia:
There were no sightings of Rolf Harris, nor did I hear any renditions of "Tie me Kangaroo down sport" or "Waltzing Matilda". I did see Kangaroo's, Koalas and Kookaburra's, plus many varieties of colourful Parrots and Cockatoos. You can see a selection of Australian birds that I managed to photograph on my other blog "My Garden Birds"

Kangaroos take a midday nap.

A Koala takes an all day nap. When they are not asleep, they eat. When they are not eating they are asleep. Yes they are my own photographs.

Due to the limitations imposed by my own disability and by the health of my sister-in-law, we were not contemplating trekking into the bush or travelling any great distances. It was a rather more sedate and relaxing approach to visiting the areas around Perth and spending quality time with friends and family.

Parks and gardens that we visited included the Kings Park in Perth, Whiteman Park, Yanchep National Park and the park and lakes of Joondalup. We also visited the coastal areas and marinas including Hilaries, Two Rocks, Yanchep and Mandurah. An adventure that will not be forgotten however was the day we headed down the Swan river to Freemantle on a friends boat, then out to sea to scatter Father-in-Laws ashes into the Indian Ocean. I'll save that for another post.

Yes the names of some of the towns in Western Australia are very "Ozzie". As mentioned above there is Joondalup and Mandurah then other great sounding places such as Yangebup, Mundaring, Kallaroo, and Wanneroo.

Petrol costs just half the price of what we pay here in the UK, but I guess that is the case in many other parts of the world too such as the USA. The roads are good, straight and uncongested. We were noticeable as Brits because we walked into the drive-in off licence. You can even drive into Bunnings, the Australian equivalent of B & Q.

A view of Perth taken from Kings Park.

We stayed in Mindarie, a relatively recent suburb of Perth situated approximately 40 kilometers from the city. Mindarie is a highly populated family area that is very community orientated offering a great lifestyle with the harbour and Clayton’s beach close by.

There is a mix of residential property in the suburb, with some older style single storey homes, modern two storey designs, apartments and an extensive retirement village. You can find large mansions in the Clarecastle Retreat and waterside apartments in the Marina. Despite it's young age the Marina is currently being revamped with further residential development happening at the moment. Some plots around the Mindarie Keys harbour are currently for sale with a very hefty price tag.

Claytons beach.

Mindarie Keys - the harbour.

Sunset on the waterfront.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Western Australia Weather

Although the small travel clock informed me that it was only 06:00 int the morning, the sunlight that filled our bedroom gave the impression of a much later time to someone who resides permanently in the UK. Rays of bright, warm, Australian Spring sunshine flowed through every conceivable space between the narrow angled slats of the window blinds. The forecast for today predicts bright clear skies and temperatures upto 24 degrees in this area of Western Australia.

When we had first arrived for this month long holiday to visit friends, relatives and to celebrate the 60th birthday of Mrs Peckers' brother, the weather was very different. Stepping outside at Perth International Airport we were greeted by the rain and cold windy conditions we presumed were being left far behind in Manchester. Western Australia has this year seen one of the longest and wettest winters that the local residents can recall.

Within two days of our arrival. the weather had started to improve, the rain was gone and the sun appeared in the sky. With the exception of a few cloudy and cooler days, the weather for us has been good and very pleasant, in fact it is now getting too hot for us to sit in. Sun screen is essential and we tend to sit in the shade apart from early in the day. When we are out and about we keep ourselves covered and of course apply the sun bloc.

The forecast is continuing bright skies and increasing temperatures for the remainder of our stay. Having heard that back in the UK the weather is very different, being cold, wet and misserable, I guess we will have to make the most of our remaining time here in Perth, Western Australia.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Woodpeckers are in Australia

Some of my friends in the Blogosphere and in Twitterville may be wondering what has happened to me and why have I been absent for the last week or more (No?) well as many of you do know, Mrs Pecker and I are in Australia.

Yes that is correct, we have jetted half way around the world to stay in Perth, Western Australia for a month. We are staying in Mindarie Keys with Mrs Peckers' brother and family and timed our visit to coincide with Bill's 60th birthday.

The weather when we arrived was rather unexpected (at least by us) because it was raining, very windy and rather cold. I can report now that it has improved dramaticaly since then and is bright and sunny. At this time of year it does not reach the extrememly high temperatures that are experienced during the height of summer.

During my time here I will only have limited access to the internet so my updates may be somewhat infrequent and short both on here and on Twitter. I will try to upload some pictures and details of what we have been doing shortly.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oh what a lovely Pair | Pear

I thought that might grab your attention - Oh what a lovely Pair, I think I may have misspelled the title though, A Lovely Pear would have been correct, but possibly not so attention grabbing.

The summer in our part of the world was rather lousy again this year and for this and other personal reasons, I abandoned my planned gardening projects. Mrs Pecker persevered with the Runner Beans and although they were very late to get going, eventually proceeded to crop very well.

We do have in the garden two small Apple trees and one Conference Pear, all totally neglected, never pruned, fed or cared for in any way. The amount of fruit they have produced this year has been phenomenal. The branches of the pear tree have been bent down to the ground in spite of many of the fruits having fallen when at an early stage of development. Likewise the apples, enormous quantities from such small trees, the fruit of these however have been plundered by wasps.

This Autumn I must be sure to get these trees pruned as they should be, then give them some proper care and attention next year. That little bit of effort will surely then bear fruit.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Courtesy isn't Automatic

I realised just in time that the service was due on the car whilst we are away in Australia. Going beyond the due date could cause problems with the warranty so I managed to squeeze it in before we go. With having to be squeezed in at short notice I could not be very selective as regards dates and times and also the service customer options.

My local dealer offers either service while you wait, a half day at a local Leisure centre or a courtesy car. Well with my arthritis and lack of mobility the leisure centre option is about as much use to me as a tissue umbrella in a thunderstorm, not that I don't think it is a good idea. On the contrary, it is an excellent offer for someone who can make good use of it.

Service while you wait was (surprisingly I thought) almost fully booked with the only slots available being at times when I just could not be sat there sitting in the waiting room, drinking coffee and watching the world go by.

I opted instead for the courtesy car, automatic if possible I stated, because I only drive automatics now and have done so for quite a number of years. Having to use both legs when driving proves to be particularly uncomfortable for me and strains the area of my back where the arthritis is present. I know to you who are drivers, it may seem the easiest thing in the world to operate three pedals but please believe me it is difficult for me.

At 9.00 am on the dot I arrived at the dealership, hand over my car, signed the necessary paperwork and took the keys of my car for the day, the courtesy isn't automatic.

They have given me a tin box with a wheel at each corner, I thought as I drove away, indicating to turn right then seeing the windscreen wipers sweep across the front window. Why after all these years have Kia decided to move the controls onto the other side of the steering column. I nodded and made a face that I thought would look as if I wanted to clean my windscreen. There that is much better, cleaner now, wave to passing car, cause I usually Bloody indicate.

I now start to wonder why anyone buys a car with manual gears. This is becoming a right pain in the backside, literally, all this clutch moving, gear knob shifting, it seems so unnecessary when you are not used to doing it.

Coming up to the traffic calming bollards in the road I signal to the oncoming driver that I am letting him through by spraying 4 jets of water onto the windscreen. I can't wait to get my own car back.

They are calling me when the service is complete and I can collect my dear beloved car again. after lunch I decide to call into Hanley, there are still some things I need to get for our trip, I will tell you all about going to Australia later. Is it not exasperating when they have the style you want in the wrong colour and the colour you want in the wrong style, shoes that is. There was also the brown shoes, very trendy I thought when I first saw them last time I was here. Maybe a little too trendy for an oldie like me and a bit pricey too, but in my mind I had decided to throw caution to the wind and buy them. If only I could find them now!

I was thankful when the dealers rang to say my car was ready to be collected, I had had my fill of fruitless shopping. I returned to the car park realising as I got there that I had not a clue as to what the courtesy car actually was, but as I approached it soon came to mind, the little blue tin box with a wheel at each corner.

I pressed the key fob to unlock this little noddy car and nothing happened. I pressed again a little harder this time, with the same result. I now poked the key forward as I pressed, we all do that don't we with the telly remote when the channel wont change, thrust it towards the TV harder and harder, quicker and quicker as though it will really make a difference. So yes, back to the car, I was stabbing again with the key fob when this smarmy, clever clogs sort of bloke ambled towards me and said,
"Why is it that when you press that key fob, the car in the next row locks and unlocks itself?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bees and Wasps

The Bumble Bee:
A Bumble bee is taking advantage of the sunshine to collect pollen from the Buddlea which still bears some flowers though most of them have now died away.

The Wasp:
Look carefully at the background and you may be able to make out that the Wasp is dissecting the remains of a butterfly. I do not know if the wasp actually killed this butterfly or simply took advantage of finding one that had already perished.

When I first discovered it (top picture) it was removing the head. Once the head was free of the body the wasp carried it away, though I do not know where. It did not travel very far because it soon returned to continue taking apart, with razor sharp pincers, the body until just the wings were left discarded on the ground.

I feel these pictures reflect the beauty and the reality of nature where nothing is wasted.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Great Read Award | 10 Childhood Memories

It is always good to know that you or something that you do is appreciated by others. I often wonder when writing these blog posts if they will be of interest to anyone else and if other people will enjoy reading what I have to say or looking at my pictures.

It brings me great pride and a sense of achievement to read the very encouraging comments from some of my blog visitors and fellow twitterers, and now I have had passed to me by Tim Worth The Great Read Award which I accept very graciously. The challenge that comes with this reward is to share ten things about yourself.

After thinking long and hard about this, I decided to share with you ten memories of my childhood. In fact ten memories from the years before I reached the age of ten.

I remember:
1) One of my earliest memories is of my first day at school. I see myself in a long sterile highly polished corridor full of sterile strangers and I am crying my eyes out. I continued to cry so much that they fetched my elder sister from another class to sit with me. Unfortunately she could not sit with me in school for the next 10 years. I guess from that day onwards, I learnt to be on my own.

2) Having no bathroom and the toilet being a small brick building in the yard. Toilet paper was squares of newspaper hanging on a hook. Luxury toilet paper was in the form of the tissue that was used to wrap apples and could occasionally be obtained from the greengrocers. We would sometimes have a bought Izal toilet roll, that hard shiny, slippery stuff, but only when we were flush. (pun very much intended).

3) A coal fire, this being the only form of heating in the entire house. During winter we went to bed in freezing cold bedrooms, dressed in thick fleece pyjamas and woolly socks. We had rubber water bottles to warm the beds before we got in.

4) Having the Fire Brigade come to the house to put out the fire that was roaring high up inside the chimney. I was rather miffed that I was made to go to Mrs Roberts' next door and could only watch by craning my neck over the hedge.

5) A small black and white television with one channel that broadcast for just a few hours each day. I remember watching The Woodentops, Muffin the Mule and Andy Pandy. The TV stood on top of a wooden cupboard that my Dad made. It took about 5 minutes to warm up before the picture appeared, I liked to look through all the little ventilation slots at the back to see the glowing valves inside.

6) Steam trains, dirty, stinking, smelly but fascinating and the main Crewe to Derby railway line ran behind our house where I grew up. Also close to us were the coal sidings where coal from some of the Staffordshire pits was transferred onto the main line coal trucks. The trains would wait at the points behind our house, fill with water there and wait for the signal to join the main line. For some reason, many trains missed or passed over the points and crashed into the buffers or even the bridge. This of course caused great excitement for us kids especially after dark when I would go with my dad collecting buckets of coal that had been shed from the wagons.

7) Waking up on Christmas morning to find a stocking at the foot of my bed containing an apple, an orange, nuts, sweets, a bag of marbles and a few other small toys.

8) The first egg laid by the chickens that we had raised from chicks. My dad built a wooden chicken coop for them to live in and they "free ranged" all over the garden. We ate the eggs that were wonderful and fresh with golden yolks and tasted superb. We later ate the chickens.

9) Going fishing for the first time with my dad. I thought it was brilliant to be in the countryside, in a field on the bankside of a canal, with a rod made from bamboo canes. We (or more probably dad with me watching) caught two fish which we took home in a bucket. Next morning I discovered the fish were floating upside down, stiff, slightly curved, and very very dead.

10) Going fishing again, in another field, by a different canal, then running like hell as my dad noticed the bull charging towards us from the other side of the field. This showed me that grown-ups do sometimes make mistakes and that there are some things (as dad pointed out) that you do not tell to your mother.

So there we are, ten of my early childhood memories. I would now like to pass on the great Read Award to the other side of the Atlantic, to Dawn, Jeff and Ballie who are travelling around the USA in a motorhome. It's Dawns Bloggy Blog - please take a look.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bank Holiday Monday

Well there we have another Bank Holiday Monday nearly over, almost done and dusted, another one come and gone.

If I was still one of the many who have to turn out to work everyday and to whom the bank holidays are one of the few days off to which I would be entitled, then I would to say the least, be slightly miffed.

As seems to be the norm, the weather has been far from good, not exactly rained all day but there was a definate chill to be detected in the air. It is of course raining now and the forecast for the next couple of days is for more precipitation spreading across the country from the west.

Another regular feature of the Bank Holiday Weekend is of course the traffic jams. The M5 and M6, at least around Birmingham and Bristol, will have been for a great part of the weekend at a standstill. A last minute rush to get abroad by plane will see crowds of frustrated travellers heading for the airports, while British Rail (or whatever it's modern day equivalent is called) will have decided to frustrate it's much needed rail travel supporters by scheduling essential maintenance work during this busy holiday period.

So What did you do on this Bank Holiday Monday?

Go to a garden centre or the DIY store?
Go to the beach? Sleep? Eat? Drink? Go for a walk? Go for a jog? Go to the pub? Blog?

If you happened across the "Jack Russell" forum then you may have attended "The 4th Annual Twilly Memorial Companion Dog Show with Obedience" held at Shareshill Village Hall, or of course headed of to Beacon Hill Country Park, for a wood cutting demonstration.

No? then answers on a postcard please to: or better still just tell us by leaving a comment below.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A British Garden | Butterflies

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in a British garden, Butterflies were all around the Buddleia, it was easy to see why this is often referred to as the butterfly bush. Saturday had been a lovely day, Sunday continued in the same vain, warm and pleasant, I spent the afternoon chasing Butterflies with Jo-Jo.

We had decided to get a closer look at all these delicate flying creatures and discover exactly what species we could identify.

The Peacock Butterfly
Many of those present were easily identified as the Peacock Butterfly, a familiar sight in gardens across the British Isles, with quite spectacular eyes on the upperside of the wings that give this butterfly its name. The eyes are for defense as they appear very threatening to predators.

The Painted Lady
The next most prevalent were the Painted Lady, a species that amazingly originates from North Africa.

The Red Admiral
The striking colours of The red admiral, another relatively common species found throughout Britain. Although considered to be a resident species now, large numbers of the ones we see are migrants from the European continent.

The Large White
In lesser numbers now though they were more numerous in previous weeks were the Large White, or Cabbage White as they are more often known. Gardeners will recognise this as a pest due to the fact the caterpillars love to devour the leaves of brassicas.

The Small Tortoiseshell
Just a few of these Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were found, again this was observed as a species with vivid colours and markings used to scare away would-be predators.

We caught a few specimens so that we could get a close look at them but were very careful and let them go none the worse for their experience. In preference to the old practice of killing the butterfly then pinning it to a board for display I chose to take a few pictures with my camera.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dovedale in Pictures

I thought I would give you a look at Dovedale, on the edge of the Peak district and just a few miles from the market town of Ashbourne.
Such a beautiful place, peaceful and tranquil, even though it is filled with people at this time of year. A short distance from the path to the right of the Stepping stones and we left the sounds of the people behind us. Jo-Jo played in a tiny stream while we sat in the sunshine watching a family of Kestrels at play high on the cliff face.

The weather had smiled kindly on us again this weekend, during a summer that had been far from good. A gentle stroll, a sit on the grass, and an ice cream on the way home - perfect.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bloggers Block

When J. K. Rowling was writing "Harry Potter" did she have days when the words would not line up in the correct order? Did she have thoughts inside her head that no matter how hard she tried, could not be transferred into language that made any sense?

Whether she did or not, I have of course no idea, but what I do know, is that this has been happening to me rather a lot lately. Is it what is termed writers block, or in my case - Bloggers Block? Actually I am not sure if writers block refers to a condition whereby an author experiences difficulty in expressing thoughts into words or whether it is in fact a lack of ideas.

My problem, if I can just take a minute of your time to explain, is that I have a wealth of ideas, tales, stories, and humorous episodes from my past that I want to tell you about, in addition to my present day comings and goings. Unfortunately I seem unable to reach the point of actually transferring these thoughts onto paper - or indeed this digital media of the blog.

I could I suppose write down one of my old poems:
A young man jogging through the park
Had buttocks like a Peach,
Two old ladies had a stroke
The third one couldn't reach.
But I do not want to do that.

I wanted to tell you about our two trips to Dovedale last week, a place known to many, but one of new discovery to us. I wanted to describe the beauty of the countryside, the majesty of Thorpe Cloud (a high peak) the wonderful sight and sound of the river rushing and tumbling over swift rapids, squeezing noisily between boulders, or gliding deep and serene beneath a canopy of overhanging trees. Instead all I could think of was the woman whose feet slipped suddenly on a steep shale embankment causing her to slide on her bottom, feet first into the water. That of course would be cruel and insensitive of me to mention.

As indeed would be the mention of the woman on our second visit who suffered a similar fate at almost the exact same place, falling very unladylike and landing heavily and I am sure painfully on her backside. I would not want you to think ill of me by mentioning that I along with other members of my family (plus many other passers by) resorted to turning away our heads in order to hide the uncontrollable laughter that resulted from witnessing such examples of other peoples misfortunes.

So you see my problem, I do not seem able to focus on what I set out to do. I simply find it impossible to write at the moment, but hopefully this Bloggers block will soon leave me and I will be back to normal, writing posts that you will find of interest and I hope will be entertaining.

Will write soon - keep a lookout for my next post !!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dovedale | Sunny Sunday

Friday was nice, Saturday was not bad, but it was truly a beautiful Sunny Sunday. Just what a summer day should be like, but the sort of day that has been sadly lacking during the summer season in this country.

We went to daughter "P's" and it was suggested that on such a nice day we should venture out into the countryside with "W" suggesting an exploration of Dovedale. We are well acquainted with the tiny village of Ilam and the National trust property there but I am really not familiar with any other parts of the valley.

From the Derbyshire UK website:
Dovedale in Derbyshire and the Peak District, is owned by the National Trust and is farmed with many sheep on the rocky slopes and in the woods. It is little more than 3 miles distance between Thorpe to the south of the dale and Milldale in the north with the famous part being the wooded ravine between the stepping stones, a short distance from the car park at the front of Thorpe Cloud and the cave like Dove Holes. Dovedale's stepping stones appear on thousands of post cards and the area attracts a million visitors a year. Keep away on sunny weekend afternoons.
"W" has fond memories of the stepping stones and going there in his younger days with his dad and brother. So we went in search of the infamous place apparently featured on so many post cards.

In actual fact it was easy to find. Turning right over the bridge in Ilam, then a left turn immediately past the Issac Walton Hotel and there was the public car park. What a fantastic place, I could not believe I had never been here before, so close to home and so perfect. A steeply wooded ravine yet a level easy to walk pathway led away from the car park and is suitable for wheelchairs and people who have difficulty walking such as myself.

It was beautiful, it was majestic, it was magnificent, it was packed.

Yes the bright sunny weather had brought out hoards of people, it was absolutely heaving, like crowds exiting a football match, Yet it was still possible to walk and enjoy the countryside.

This area of Dovedale is now on the top of our list of places to visit mid-week when the children are back at school and in the winter I imagine it will be heaven.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Sporty Afternoon

Although the weather was lousy yet again - true of much of this so called summer - the rain would not be interfering with my Sporty Afternoon.

I started with a game of tennis, well actually 3 games, only one of which I managed to win, but the other two were close fought battles.

After the tennis it was time for a round of golf. Just a nine hole course but the level of difficulty increases as one progresses through the course. I managed to birdie the first and second, par the third but then it was down hill all the way. Down hill as regards my performance that is, I will not say how many over par my final score was.

I then had a bit of a training session with some target golf and putting practice and I must admit my putting is improving.

Following the golf I decided to indulge in a couple of games of ten-pin bowling. Not in competition with any one, just playing by myself for the enjoyment and a bit of practice. After a reasonably good start I soon went off the boil and my scores over two games were not impressive, I guess I need some more practice.

It rained for most of the afternoon but I did not really care, I enjoyed my Sporty Afternoon despite the weather.

I must admit this Nintendo Wii is brilliant and I just love the Wii sports game that came with it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Graduation | A Perfect Day

Suddenly the day had arrived. The morning of Daughter "P's" graduation ceremony, a BA honours in Education, what a magnificent achievement. She had achieved a 2:1 while working full time in a demanding job role where she supported young children with special communication needs. At the same time she was also bringing up her own family, with I must say, a lot of support from her very loving husband.

Today was her special day, a day I am sure she always remember, as too will her mum and I. We were so proud as her name was called out and she walked across the stage in the traditional cap and gown, to accept the award bestowed on her by the University.

We set off early to allow plenty of time to drive into Manchester, the route on the Google map had seemed very simple and straight forward and indeed it turned out to be so. The last time Mrs Pecker and I had driven into Manchester turned into a nightmare. Not the actual driving in but attempting to drive back out. By the time we were ready to leave on this occasion, it being winter it had turned dark and begun to rain heavily. What had previously been a relatively easy route was subject to much disruption due to extensive road works. The heavy congestion and poor visibility soon found us heading further into the city centre with no idea of where we were going. One and a half hours later and we were headed for Bolton, that is the opposite direction to where we should have been going. eventually we were able to follow signs leading to the M6 which we did eventually reach. From that day up until Monday and the graduation we had not ventured into Manchester again.

This time as I said earlier, the road was easy and we were able to access a car park relatively close to our destination, "The Bridgewater Hall". We had plenty of time to spare, but now we could relax knowing that we had indeed arrived safely.

After checking out the hall and getting clear in our minds how and where everything was laid out, we set off towards the town for lunch. A matter of yards from the Bridgewater hall we came to the "Table to Table" restaurant set beneath the Premier Inn. It looked quite appealing and the menu seemed to offer plenty of choice that would satisfy our gastronomic needs. Indeed it did, good food and good service, and at a very reasonable price, perfect.

With our bellies filled we returned to the hall so that daughter "P" could be fitted with her robes, then made our way across to the town hall where the official photographers were located. The photos are a bit pricey, but it only happens once and although we would be taking pictures with our own cameras it is reassuring to know that at least one photograph should be perfect.

The afternoon we spent waiting for the preliminaries to the event to get under way and finally it was time for the ceremony to begin. A very grand affair, steeped in ritual and tradition and most of all a celebration for the achievements of all the students receiving awards today.

Finally it was over and we made our way back to the car park. The weather had been kind to us all day and although at times the sky had appeared to be filled with rain, each time we walked in the open, the rain never materialised. An easy drive back out of town heading towards Wilmslow and then we were home safe and sound at the end of the perfect day.

I still remember the occasion though now some thirty years ago when I had volunteered to drive my dear Mother-in-Law to Birmingham where she had been chosen to audition for the Nicholas Parsons TV show, "The Sale of The Century". She insisted that we started out in plenty of time to get there. I thought that beginning the journey at 08.00 for an audition at 14.00 was a bit over the top but I went along with it.

To shorten a long story I will simply say that we were stuck on the motorway for most of the day. We discovered later that a lorry carrying vegetable oil had overturned on the carriageway and in addition to clearing away the vehicle they also had to remove all traces of the oil from the road surface. When a motorway grinds to a halt and you are between two junctions, there is no where to go, and nothing you can do about it. We arrived at the hotel where the auditions were taking place at 17.00. All the TV people had packed up and gone home, the auditions were over.
Poor Mother-in-Law, poor me, I had spent a whole day enclosed inside a car with her, no escape, no where to go. It is said that trauma often causes one's mind to block out certain events that were particularly disturbing and erase them from one's memory. I believe this to be true because of that day I remember the beginning and the end but nothing of the bit in between. A perfect day - Not.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter | Dementors | and me

It is a fact that Harry Potter has been very much in my mind recently. Not surprising considering all the hype and publicity surrounding the much awaited latest film, plus of course the screenings of the previous HP movies on the TV. And I must admit to being a Harry Potter fan, but does this in any way explain the visitant, akin to the dark creatures of that wizarding world "The Dementors", that invaded my home. Anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films from the Prisoner of Azkaban onwards will of course know that the Dementors are creatures of pure evil.

The day was warm, admittedly not as hot as it had been, but warm enough that I opened windows to allow a refreshing flow of air through the house. Mrs Pecker was out today, everything was tidy, the breakfast dishes washed and I had wheeled out the grey bin to the edge of the pavement. Perhaps I should explain that our local council have introduced a new recycling scheme.

We now have three full sized wheelie bins, a plastic box, plus a plastic bag for clothing and paired shoes. All waste must be separated and categorised by us and disposed of only in the appropriate receptacle. Our bin men (can I call them bin men) will collect once per week with these collections alternating between recyclable waste one week and other non-recyclable waste the other week. So as I said, I had put out the grey bin which is for anything that can not be recycled and having stood in the hot weather for the last two weeks, I must admit that it did pong a bit.

Having completed all the usual Monday morning tasks, I continued my normal routine by starting to prepare lunch while watching Bargain Hunt. "What !!! No Bargain hunt?" Indeed, Bargain Hunt had been replaced with Cash in the Attic. I hate cash in the Attic, it is so contrived, so false, and as usual, a repeat. I ate my lunch in silence then went to my small office up the stairs and turned on my p.c. "Lets have a look what is happening on Twitter," I thought.

Harry Potter had reached the number one spot on Twitters list of "Trending Topics", so I began to take a look at what everyone had to say on the subject of HP, most of it of course relating to the new film.

It seems from initial critique, that the film Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince, is being very well received and is said to be the best movie of the series so far. I can't wait to see it, which is of course incorrect because wait to see it is exactly what I must do. Until next week probably. But I am looking forward to watching it, and with great anticipation of being thrilled once more by this truly magical fantasy.

Being lost in my immediate little world of fantasy and escapism, I failed to notice the first signs of the malevolent presence, extending horrible invisible tendrils of evil and decay. The Dementors had arrived.

I am certain now looking back, that the first point of entry must have been the opened window of the front bedroom. The shapeless form had gained an easy unhindered access and began to spread out, reaching in all directions, invading the very fabric of the building. The house became filled by the acrid stench of decay. An essence of putrefaction, an odour of evil, rotting, stinking filth crept up on me threatening to tear out my very soul. I gasped for breath, feeling that the oxygen had been starved from the air that I tried to breathe, all that was good had been taken away, I would soon be no more than a shivering, whimpering wreck.

I staggered to my feet in a vane attempt to beat off this evil visitation, only to discover that the filthy, rotten, evil, stinking, nauseous stench, had pervaded the entire house. But Dementors it was not. It was not those evil creatures from the wizarding world of Harry Potter who had assailed my senses, for I could now hear that the bin men were in our street. The filthy, rotten, evil, stinking, nauseous stench of decay emanated from our local refuse collection vehicle.

I have never before known the "dust cart" or whatever else it should be called to smell so bad and I now have the deepest sympathy for the people who have to follow it all day emptying our bins.

This I presume is the sweet smell of recycling success.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time for a Story

I thought it was time we had another little story. This one I did not write myself but came across it in the personal columns of a free on-line advertisement site. Gumtree to be precise. Is it genuine? I will leave it up to you to make up your minds.

"You were in the arrivals bar in Dublin airport. You have long dark hair and were wearing a grey short sleeved dress. You were waiting on your friend and I was waiting to see if my luggage would ever materialise. We shared a drink and spent about a half hour in each others company. I was drinking a pint of Heineken and you were drinking vodka and lime. I will never forget your eyes they were piercing in their intensity and I just regret not telling you. I went to the toilet and you kept an eye on my laptop.
I have been thinking about you ever since and can't seem to shake your image from my head. I really think that we made a connection.
If this is you is there any chance that I could get my laptop back?"

Monday, July 6, 2009

A few days in the country

I wondered initially if I was responsible with that last post, for bringing about a change in our fortunes regarding the weather?

Early on Tuesday afternoon we arrived with the caravan in tow at the site in Churnet Valley just outside Leek in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Simon and Sue were already there, waiting to greet us and help with the setting up of our caravan, I can no longer manage this alone. The rain started to fall from the sky almost as the wheels had stopped turning . A break in the clouds and we decided to erect the awning, Simon being a big guy is a great asset with this task which we never bother to do when there is just the two of us, myself and Mrs Pecker that is.

Finally we were all done, awning up, electricity and water connected etc. etc. and soaked to the skin. I removed my clothes and literally wrung them out. Fortunately the site has very good facilities with an excellent shower block which I took full advantage of. A lovely cup of freshly brewed tea and I was calm and relaxed, sitting outside with the gang in the sunshine. Yes I did say sunshine. It peered cheekily from behind the clouds as soon as we had completed getting everything set up.

The sun may have been laughing but I did not really care, I do not mind getting wet anyway. This is what we had been waiting for, relaxing in the midst of the countryside enjoying the peace and quiet and the screaming and the smell. .... What was that, the screaming and the smell, yes that's right, on the hillside opposite where once there were horses, there were now pigs. Loads of them, free range of course, doing what pigs do, squabbling, screaming, wallowing in the mud, screaming, grubbing in the dirt, screaming, you get the picture.

In the evening, it being Simon and Sue's anniversary we went along to the local pub for a celebratory meal, none of us had pork by the way, and it rounded off the day nicely.

Wednesday was fabulous, we lazed about all day basking in the glorious sunshine, we did not even notice the pigs. That is not strictly true. The farmer seems to feed them in a shed at the top of the field, at the same time each night. Have you ever heard the noise that around 100 pigs make when being fed. No neither had I, it sounds more as though they were being skewered alive rather than being fed, incredible, blood curdling, eerie almost. If you had failed to notice that the pigs were there and then heard the noise, you would think that aliens had finally landed, you would probably flee for your lives.

Thursday gave us some heavy rain and thunder in the morning but then cleared up nicely. I even went fishing in the small on site lake and caught a few nice fish to round off another perfect day.

I felt that things went downhill from then. Many more people began to arrive on the Friday with loads of kids and somehow it was not quite the same it got really really busy. Before you hang me out to dry with the remark about kids, all I mean is we are surrounded by children at home, on all sides (that's what sounded familiar about the pigs) The peace and quiet that we had enjoyed had gone and I now longed to return home, back to familiar things.

I even missed Twitter, is that sad?

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Heatwave Cometh

I do not recall biting the head off a chicken, sacrificing a goat or in some other way appeasing the weather Gods, but at some stage I must have done so.

My brother-in-law and his wife planned a week away in their caravan so they asked us to go too, "The weather is always good when you go away " he said.

July of last year, Mrs Pecker and I went to the Moray Firth in Scotland. The weather was brilliant, one of the best weeks of the summer.

For the past few years we have taken an early week's holiday in Wales. By early I mean March or April, when the trees are still bare of leaves and we can see all the birds. Each year the weather on these occasions has been exceptional for the time of year.

Many of our friends and family have now requested that we inform them when we plan to go away so that they can book their holiday at the same time, safe in the knowledge that the weather will be fine.

This as you may well imagine has not always been the case. In fact for many years as our children were growing up and we took holidays only within the UK, the very opposite was true. Whenever and where-ever we booked our holiday, the weather would be bad. You know the score, work all year, have one holiday, and it rains all the time, is miserable and cold.

The summer of 1976 was known as the year of the long hot summer. The entire country basked in weeks of unbroken sunshine, temperatures soared, tarmac melted on the roads. It was also the year we went to Norfolk. Due to restrictions imposed on me by my work, I could not take a holiday until late in the summer. That just happened to be the week during which the weather broke. If I remember correctly it was during the Tuesday night when we were awakened by the crash of thunder, the flash of lightning and the soaking wet bed. We were staying in a wooden chalet, the timbers of which had shrunk in the prolonged heat creating gaps through which the rain now poured. The long hot summer of 1976 had come to an end.

One year we decided to buy a caravan and spent 2 weeks sitting inside it watching the rain through the windows. Did you know that it is possible to concentrate 12 months worth of arguments into a 2 week period. We returned home (not speaking) and sold the caravan. The following year we went to Greece.

That is all many years ago now and like I said at the beginning of this post, we somehow always manage to have good weather whenever we go away.

And speaking of the weather, today has been hot and sunny as was the weekend. Our local weekend forecast was for torrential rain and thunderstorms but none materialised where we were although they did appear in many other parts of the country.

The weather for the week ahead is said to be good, with high temperatures, apparently the start of the predicted summer heatwave in fact.

Oh and did I happen to mention,

We are on holiday this week !!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday | Monday

Today had a rather unusual start in as much as I stayed in bed until 9.30. Not only stayed in bed but actually slept. I woke a few times in the night, but merely turned over and went back to sleep. Any normal day sees me getting up at 5.00 or 6.00am and most of the night I will have been waking constantly and rearranging myself in an attempt to find some kind of comfortable position. Maybe my body decided I needed the beauty sleep.

Staying in bed until this late hour put me all behind with my normal Monday routine and today daughter "B" was going to visit because she had not been able to get over yesterday. Yesterday being Fathers day of course. She would be bringing with her our 2 youngest granddaughters known affectionately as the twiddlers (I will tell you more about them another day).

My other half, Mrs Pecker, left as usual to spend Monday with her sister and I made a belated start on my normal Monday routine which involves checking the bank, updating spreadsheets, paperwork etc etc. Shortly after I had started these tasks, my daughter phoned to say she had broken down and was stuck on Morrisons car park. Another plan goes to pot. We will go to her later in the week now.

Another routine I have developed lately is to stop for lunch at 12.15 and watch Bargain Hunt. The latest episodes I think are an improvement and show more of the contestants actually deciding what to buy and what is likely to make a profit, helped of course by their expert. Today I was somewhat dismayed to find they were screening a repeat. I then surmised this would probably be due to today being the first day of Wimbledon Fortnight. I turned over the bread under the grill and turned over the TV to BBC2 and decided to watch the tennis instead.

I did love to watch tennis at one time, but have not done so for quite a few years. I decided to watch today and thoroughly enjoyed it. A British 15 year old Laura Robson was playing Daniele Hantuchova. Although Laura put up a very good fight, Daniele was the winner. What I did not watch good enough was the toast, cremated again !!

Although this blasted arthritis stops me from doing many things and greatly affects my mobility, it is important that I do keep mobile as much as I can. It is so easy to stagnate and find excuses not to do things and that is what I have become guilty of. I am determined to get back to my regime of daily exercise as prescribed by a specialist I saw a while ago. Also, starting today I aim to resume swimming on a regular basis, it is one of the best forms of exercise for anybody.

Swimming? yes I have been this evening, so at least one thing has gone to plan

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beryl's KitKat

I thought we were in need of some lighthearted relief so decided to retell the story of Beryl's Kitkat. I would point out that Beryl told me this story quite a few years ago and insisted that it was a true account of events that happened that day.

My stepmother Beryl at one time enjoyed a weekly girls shopping trip to Hanley with her daughter Lindi. Every Thursday would find them catching the bus into town, wandering around the shops in search of bargains then calling into a cafe before returning home. One particular week, Beryl embarked on the outing alone due to Lindi being otherwise engaged.

After sauntering around the shops which being alone did not seem to take up as much time as normal, she called into one of the cafes they often attended. Perhaps because she was earlier, it was much busier than usual, indeed there were not even any trays at the self service counter. This was no problem however because being on her own she only purchased a milky coffee and a Kitkat, the large 4 finger one.

Having paid the cashier she looked around to find that there were no tables completely free, so she made her way towards a small 2 seater table near the window that appeared to have more clear space than the rest. No clutter of plates, squashed chips or spilt peas. She did however pause as she made her approach upon seeing that the current occupant of the table was one of those "punk rockers". With no better alternative apparent, she took the seat opposite this spiky haired, black clothed, metal adorned individual.

Neither of them spoke or acknowledged each other, the lad just continuing to stare out of the window holding onto the cup containing the remaining half of his own drink. After the first refreshing mouthful of the milky coffee, Beryl picked up the Kitkat from the table, removed the outer wrapper, opened up the silver foil inside then broke off the first finger. Mmm she thought to herself as she savoured the first bite, she always did have a sweet tooth. She was then horrified to see the adolescent punk reach across, break off the second finger of Kitkat and proceed to eat it. Beryl was literally dumbstruck. She could not believe what she had just witnessed. She looked around to see if anyone had seen what had just happened but no one seemed to be looking in their direction.

Not quite sure how to react, or what may result if she said something, she calmly took another drink of her coffee then broke off the third finger from the chocolate biscuit and proceeded to eat that one replacing the remaining piece onto the table in front of her. In response, the punk picked up this last finger, stuffing it into his mouth, before screwing up the silver paper which he then placed very deliberately on the centre of the table, then walked out of the cafe. Beryl just stared after him as he left the establishment. She could scarcely believe what she had just witnessed. She was practically in a state of shock. What should she do?

Once more she looked about her expecting to see outraged bystanders willing to offer support, but again it seemed that all around, people were unaware of what had taken place. She drank what remained of the coffee in her cup, her mind in a turmoil. What should she do? Should she call for the manager? Should she speak with the cashier? Should she interrupt the conversations of those around her to make them aware of this bizarre event that she had just experienced?

Utterley bewildered by the whole event, she eventually made her way out of the cafe, stumbling and brushing aside people as she went. In somewhat of a daze she caught the bus and made her way home, unable to get what had happened out of her mind. The scene kept replaying over and over inside her head. How could the youth have behaved in such an arrogant outrageous manner, taking such advantage of a lady of advancing years, on her own and vulnerable.

Finally she had made the safety of her own home and it was with some relief that she now stood before her front door. It was as she reached into the coat pocket to retrieve her house keys that she discovered her own KitKat where she had placed it when at the counter of the cafe.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sues Cabin: Knowsley Safari Park

Sues Cabin: Knowsley Safari Park
Knowsley sounds fantastic, I have heard only good reviews about it. Why I have never been there I don't know because it is relatively close and easy to get there from the motorway. straight up the M6 then across to the west on the M62.

I do remember going to West Midlands Safari park many moons ago and driving through the monkey enclosure. I am not sure what species they actually were, but not baboons. I think Knowsley is the only park to have Baboons running free.

As I said my visit to WMSP was quite a few years back and I had at the time a Hillman Avenger that was a few years old, anyone remember them. It had a very trendy radio aerial on the rear wing of the car, or at least it did when I went in. I drove out of the enclosure dragging the aerial behind me on the wire.

When we were clear of the enclosure and I was able to get out of the car, I just snapped off the wire, threw the crumpled aerial into the boot and forgot about it. From then on I did not use the radio (No cd players in those days, it may have had a tape player but I cannot remember).

Some time after this incident someone drove into my car while it was parked up at work causing considerable damage along the full length of the offside. The culprit owned up and the car was able to be repaired on the other drivers insurance. If you have one half of a car resprayed it will not match the weathered paint work of the other side and so I paid some extra to have a full respray.

When I got the car back it looked great, it sparkled, shone like a new car again. I decide that what would make it complete would be a nice new shiny aerial. This I duly bought from the local accessory shop and decided to fit it without delay. I opened up the boot found the cable and connected it to the new aerial I then went to thread the aerial through the hole in the body work.

Where was the hole? Who had pinched the hole when my back was turned?

Apparently they made such a thorough job when they repaired the bodywork that they filled up the hole.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

Well one of my favourite shows, Ashes to Ashes, finished it's second series last night, but the story is not complete. This television drama starring Philip Glennister and Keeley hawes was a sequel to the equally brilliant Life on Mars which featured the character of Sam Tyler played by John Simm.

The first episode of the first series of Ashes to Ashes begins when DI Alex Drake is shot and finds herself in 1981. Here she comes face-to-face with DCI Gene Hunt, a relic of old-fashioned policing that she had read about in Sam Tyler's reports. Alex comes to believe she is in a coma and throughout the two series becomes confident she knows the rules of the game. Unfortunately for her the game seems to change with each twist and turn but she must find a way back. She must return to be with her daughter Molly.

What is DCI Gene Hunts' postion in all this? Alex suspects that he may know more than he ever lets on. Does he know the reason she is here? Does he know the truth about what happened to Sam Tyler?

The final episode ends on a cliffhanger with Alex being shot again and returning to the present day. We see her in a hospital bed as she awakes from the coma and is reunited with Molly. Just as we think that the nightmare is over for Alex and she can regain her life we are witness to another turn of events.

Molly leaves Alex to rest but as she lies in the hospital bed she begins to get flashbacks of Gene Hunt and the crew. Visions of her days in the past. Gene is calling her, begging her not to leave, he wants her back, he is calling her, calling Bolly, dragging her back again.

You will be glad to know - well I was anyway - that a third and final series of Ashes to Ashes has been commissioned for next year. Filming will begin in the autumn and Ashes to Ashes will return to BBC1 in 2010.

The next and final series promises to finally “reveal all” about who Gene Hunt really is and what his alternative world means.

So will we learn why Alex is living in this parrallel 1980's world, what actually happened to Sam Tyler and what will become of Gene Hunt? Executive producer Simon Crawford Collins is quoted as saying "Viewers will not be left disappointed because the series promises to finish with a bang!”

For me that is something to look forward to in 2010 - Ashes to Ashes - The end !!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On This Day

May 14th On This Day
1879 - Thomas Edison incorporated the Edison Telephone Company of Europe.
1897 - Guglielmo Marconi made the first communication by wireless telegraph.
2009 - Telecommunications company BT Group PLC said Thursday it expects to cut another 15,000 jobs in the next year after its Global Services division dragged the company to a fourth quarter loss of nearly 1 billion pounds.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

And The Survey Says

In a week when Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman said she never wants to be leader, - well quite frankly who would actually want the job? - China tells officials to smoke more cigarettes, and Adidas profits fall by 96%, there are some interesting facts produced by surveys.

These are genuine - honest;

Apparently the results of one survey conclude that food and fuel cost more in motorway service stations than in supermarkets.

A second survey revealed the fact that since the opening of the new Severn Bridge, there has been less traffic using the old bridge.

Also if people work at home, there will be less traffic on the roads.

And the Survey Says:
In response to viewing these amazing statistics, I have carried out my own survey of surveys and found that 95% of surveys state the bleeding obvious.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Mini

Also last week we wished a Happy Birthday to the Mini. I am of course referring to the car and not the mini skirt, that would come slightly later. It is however the mini car that celebrated it's 50th Birthday last week.

Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis for the British Motor Corporation, it made it's debut to the Great British public in 1959. Everything about it was revolutionary, from the transverse engine and front wheel drive, to the mini-malistic (I just thought of that one)interior and the bare cockpit sporting a single huge centrally mounted speedometer. The mini was fast, economical, small, nippy, easy to park and superb to drive.

In 1959 I was just eight years old but I do vaguely recall being aware of it's birth because I was interested in cars and was an avid reader of everything to do with motors and motor sport. I drove many cars and won many races at that time in my imagination. But it would be a few years later that I became more aware of the mini and of all that made it the iconic motor car of the swinging 60's.

The mini had an appeal that reached out to everyone from housewives to the Beatles. Pop stars, fashion models, footballers, movie stars, celebrities and even politicians all had to have one. Except of course me. Although I obtained my driving licence in 1968 I would not own one within this decade. I did however have a good friend who with the help of a rather "well off" daddy had a mini-cooper. That was an awesome piece of mechanical wizardry. It could fly like a bullet and stick to the road like glue. Because the original minis were so close to the ground it was like hurtling across the ground on a turbo charged tea tray.

The performance of the mini was so outstanding that it soon became the star of the race track, blowing away the opposition at Brands Hatch and Silverstone and dominating the rally scene for many years.

During these 50 years of it's existence, I have owned (as well as I can remember) four of these cars. the first would have been at some time in the late 70's when I purchased a 1964 model from Silverdale car auctions for £20. I also had a white mini countryman (a sort of estate model) in which it was impossible to engage first gear. I could quite easily pull away in second gear but I had to be mindful not to stop on a hill.

The last mini I bought was a sort of mustard colour and had an automatic gearbox which was a bit of a rarity. I bought this one for my wife, unfortunately she did not like it and soon asked me to get rid of it. It may have been something to do with the large yellow sun flowers adorning the bodywork that she did not like. She said she was concious of people staring at her as she drove past.

Happy Birthday Mini !!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bob Dylan | Together Through Life

Bob Dylan made a return to the top of the album chart with "Together Through Life" and set a new world record. This latest release, has reached the number one spot 38 years and five months after his last chart-topper, New Morning, in 1970.

At the grand age of 67, the infamous American singer-songwriter now holds the record for the longest gap between solo number one albums.

Apparently it was Tom Jones who held the previous record for the longest gap between number one albums. His 1999 Reload album went to number one more than 31 years after Delilah way back in 1968.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Just a Blank Monday

Following such a lovely weekend, yesterdays outlook as I peered out of the window at 05.00 was decidedly grim. It looked cold and wet out there, so different from the blue skies and sunshine of the day before. This change may well have been predicted, but I seldom look at weather forecasts due to their frequent inaccuracies.

My reaction to the sight and sound of rain beating against the tempered glass of the window was simple. I closed the blinds, made a cup of tea and settled into a comfortable position on the settee. I took the first pills of the day, an unfortunate necessity which along with the analgesic patch bring me some relief from the pain. Sometimes I manage to drift into a light sleep at this point, but not today, I seemed to have too many useless thoughts spinning around inside my head.

Eventually I started to feel somewhat better as the medication began to have some effect and so made another cup of tea (we English and our tea) then went upstairs to log on and check my emails. Of course having become a Twitter, I just had to take a look at Twitter first, see who has been twittering, have read of all the messages, see if I have any more followers. I bid everyone a good morning then poised with fingers above keyboard awaiting signals from brain, but the old brain was blank. 

I did all my Monday morning sort of stuff, checking the bank account,  statements, bills, spreadsheets etc., etc. fetched prescriptions, put the bin out then went back to Twitter - still blank.

I had two important letters to write today, important that is to the people concerned. I could not think of what to say. I could not even start to write the beginning, I certainly did not know how it was going to end and there were no thoughts for the bit in the middle. Total blank.

Monday afternoon I had set aside for writing (wouldn't you just know it), my birding blog was falling behind, I had some spreadsheets that I had promised to design and I was falling behind with changes to the Flights India website. I had calls to make,but did not make them because in my mind I did not know what I was going to say. I had so much I was trying to do today but in fact I was achieving nothing. Everything had the same outcome, the same result, just Blank!

Instead of brain waves my head was filled with a stormy ocean, swirling around inside my skull, tossing my thoughts about like a stricken vessel lost in this turmoil of  raging seas. Nothing would be achieved today, eventually I admitted defeat and gave up.

Calm was restored later. A soak in the bath, followed by Ashes to Ashes on the telly provided an escape from reality. I took my last pills of the day with a cup of Horlicks ( I know it sounds old fashioned but I have come to like it) then off to bed. I lay thinking of the day, all the things I had tried to do and failed to achieve and then my mind... gently....  drifted..... off....... away....... b l a n k .....


I signed up to Twitter last week. Or was it the week before, I'm not sure, time seems to go so fast these days.

A look at Life With The Woodpecker

Here we go again. Following a few false starts with the old Blogging caper I have decided on a fresh start with a brand new Blog.

This is it.