Sunday, April 30, 2006

Cold Day - buts lots happening

With so many tulips in the garden Yvonne decided to cut some for the house and it was a toss-up whether they looked better on the window-sill with the light on them, than they did in the garden. As Chazal said :-

"The flower in the vase smiles but no longer laughs"
Once read, never forgotten I suppose. But they do look nice and they can still see their siblings a few feet away can't they ?

The day started out quite cold, around 6C as I remember and remained predominately dull with the odd flash of sun. But at least it hasn't rained and Steven and family at Alton Towers are having a whale of a time. Yvonne rang him on his mobile and we wished him 'Happy Birthday' and the children came on and sounded very excited. Hannah was keen to tell us all about a water-ride and they will have much to entertain us with when we see them.

John rang and I had a nice long chat with him. I told him how well his Millau Viaduct picture had been received on my Photo Forum and he said that in life it was stupendous, and very difficult to photograph due to it's size. If you got far enough away to include the whole structure, you were too far away to do it justice. I can't wait to see it myself and Yvonne and I have put it on our 'things to be done' list. But she says she won't countenance me driving on the continent. We could do it in easily manageable bits !! John said that everyone was fine and that Philip had his firm's van with all up-to-date audio and IT equipment because he had some Cruisers to visit. I assume either to fix some problems or to sell them stuff. Sounded good whatever. No word from David so I guess they are away too. Tracy rang and she said she was going into work - mainly because there won't be anyone else there, and she can get a lot done. Ah well ! These conscientious young people.

We had a gammon joint for lunch with all the trimmings plus veg. and, of course, the traditional broad beans and a savoury sauce. I boiled the gammon and, relying on my trusty meat-thermometer, I'm always surprised that it takes less time to cook than one would expect! We wouldn't be happy about it under-cooked but it is nice to have it just right and still moist and tender. It will be lovely cold tomorrow.

After lunch and a rest we decided to go over to Arnold for another 'mooch'. We stopped at Dorkett Head so Yvonne could explore the footpath on the right hand side: the one on the left being so dramatic. But it was a disappointment. No magnificent view as I had predicted just high banking and a wire fence surrounding some quarry working. Yvonne had a good legstretch and a blow though while I managed a few yards. Did me good though. Then we had another generalised cruise around looking for suitable bungalows. We can't really get excited about any though, until we have a firm buyer for ours. Let us hope that changing agents changes our luck.

This evening on Tv there was the first of a three-parter, a docu-drama about the Impressionists and it was great. Well cast, well acted, and well written (from letters, diaries and contemporary records) and such a pleasure to be on BBC and free of adverts. In one of my web-magazines the start of iMP is predicted within a few months. This effectively means that BBC TV will join their Radio output and be viewable again and downloadable for up to a week after being broadcast. The final nail in the VHS-recorder coffin! And once BBC are doing it the commercial channels won't dare be far behind.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pretty Cool Day - the weather, not me

Making no apology for taking and publishing another picture of Yvonne's 'informal bed' which is a real joy. I remembered to move unsightly bamboo canes today. The ornamental grass (to the upper left of centre ) which came from Joan and grows so tall, is doing well again. It always does and has the advantage of looking elegant throughout the winter. Not an evergreen but Yvonne leaves it and cuts it down to ground level in the early spring tidy-up. In the background one can hardly see the forsythia and the keria both of which have done well, particularly if one is keen on early vibrant yellows. The plant in the foreground, in the centre, is also a good 'doer' and the foliage, attractive as it is now, matures to a rich coppery red. Neither of us can ever remember what it is called. No doubt when Joan comes over she will tell us and we can remember to try one in our new garden. Or - someone may contribute a comment to the Blog.

Talking of which - adding comments should now be possible. Bob, and maybe others, have tried hard to add comments (at my request) and found it impossible. And it has been my fault all along. When I started the Blog I left everything on Blogger's own 'default settings' which only allowed registered-users to attach comments, after copying out a security-code. The idea being to make it impossible for 'spammers' and the like. Although I've left the security-code in place, I've now changed the 'comments setting' to admit 'anyone'. If it has any untoward consequences, I'll change it back again.

There was a Car-Boot sale over on the Footie field this morning and I went over around 9am. All I bought was some food for my voracious garden birds - but I noticed how cold it was. My computer told me it was 8C and the day didn't really warm up very much. Yvonne managed an hour in the garden and I watered the tubs. They dehydrate over the winter and we have wallflowers etc., coming along that will be in bloom within a week. Particularly if we get some sun.

In Lidl the other day I discovered a tinned cold drink called Xtra Presso which comes all the way from Neckasulm, Germany. It's gorgeous. A mixture of Espresso and Milk it tastes rather like Bailey's without the alcohol - which of course suits me well. Not managed to persuade Yvonne to try it yet, but when she does she'll love it. Although it is clouding over now, at dusk, the rain has kept away and it as been fairly sunny. I hope it has been for everyone away with children for the Bank Holiday because it is so depressing trying to think of fun things to do in bad weather. Steven and family are at Alton Towers and staying in the Hotel there and I guess that the proprietors have organised things so that inclement weather doesn't completely wreck one's visit.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A pleasant day - sunny and around 12c

This seems to be the best version of my panorama because in the one which I cropped even thinner, the tulips looked very 'blocky'. I certainly have not mastered this programme yet. Another problem is that there were two more frames, to the right, which I couldn't get to join on to the rest of the picture. The programme does, however, have many strengths. In my opinion it is a better bet than a wide-angle lens because you don't suffer from problems with verticals and barrel-distortion. It's a tricky one and I sense that I am on a fairly steep learning-curve with it. Great fun though ! And it is good to keep acquiring new skills. The garden is leaping forward - almost by the hour it seems. These tulips and forget-me-nots are between the front lawn that you can see the edge of in the Panorama and the big-room window. All Yvonne does each year when she pulls the old plants up - the forget-me-nots that is - is give them a good shake all around to distribute the seed. And she always obtains this gorgeous informal result.

Sorry about the bamboo plant-support! I simply didn't notice it when I was taking the picture. At one stage we weren't too keen on the yellow and red tulips mixed in the same bed and we tried to eradicate the red ones. But they are more robust than we are, so Yvonne planted some whites, which you can just see top-right, to break the effect up a bit. It is a great bed because there is always something following on.

I had a shock when my homepage loaded on my lappy this morning and told me that the Nottingham temperature was 22C. It actually felt as if it would be struggling to be 10C but, after a few minutes, they changed it to 12C. Steve was awake and at work very early this morning and we exchanged Google Talk at 6.50am!

Yvonne rang the Halifax and confirmed that we didn't want their potential buyer on Saturday morning and Beryl rang and asked us to get her a few bits when we went shopping. We called in and collected her list around 10.30am and she is much recovered but by no means completely. She commented on my 'new car' which she didn't recognise as the one I've had for 2 years and she has travelled many miles in. Ah well - she is still not bad for 85. We did 'administrative tasks' with Building Society books being brought up-to-date and libraries etc., and I called in at SASS and bought a 'powered' 4 USB hub because I am convinced that the ill-fitting freebie I had from Serif, has been the cause of many problems. I'm using it now and it seems much better. It means I can have 'mouse', 'webcam', 'printer' all connected at the same time, and still have spare ports for 'camera' ,'MP3 player', if I wanted to go daft! While I was in SASS I spotted a potential present for my list. A laptop Car adaptor/charger which would be great on holiday. For birthdays, Xmas etc., I'm asked what I want and I can never think of anything so Yvonne suggests that I keep an ongoing list.

We went to Lidl and Morrisons for general shopping and were careful not to overstock milk. It does seem to have a tendency to go 'off' even when refrigerated and before sale-by date. I now keep my overnight-tray milk in a little thermos flask which I have pre-chilled. Lisa also reports having had the same problem.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Yvonne's Burton Joyce day - Quite mild

When I went to get the eggs I decided to try a snapshot of the chickens. Just for the record and to show Ruby and Elli where their lovely boiled eggs originate. I had walked from the car a few feet to the fence, to take the photograph on the right, when the very self-important and possessive cockerel marched up and fixed me with his beady eye - photo on the left. I assured him that I meant no harm and had no designs on his harem. But he remained unconvinced.

Today was Burton Joyce day for Yvonne and she went a bit earlier because things are a little different. It is Miles's first week at full-time school so Yvonne's role was to look after Millicent to make Sainsburies easier for Lisa. Steve's been doing the shopping but he really is so busy. Millicent was good for 3 aisles before she started screaming and Yvonne had to hold her. But she is such a cute little girl that fellow shoppers all wanted to chat to her anyway. Yvonne and Lisa managed a nice relaxing chat at lunchtime and then it was almost time to collect Hannah and Miles. They didn't have as long with Yvonne as they are used to but we all have to adapt to change. She will be tired out tomorrow, as usual, but she loves it so. I collected her at the normal time and we discussed the Halifax's trick of producing a potential buyer out of a hat, at the last minute, as Burchell Edwards predicted they would. But, as said 'potential buyer' was also looking at bungalows on Wyndsmoor Road (where the prices are on average £40.000 less) we are not taking it seriously and won't permit the viewing.

Had some good email content from Bob, about the Blog, and I'm trying to persuade him to enter his comments in the 'comments facility' in the Blog itself so that they are there for posterity. For instance, his stuff about the 'sausages' is too good to just be a transient comment. I exchanged some usefull messages with 'The Fat Controller' (WUforums) about photographs, photo-realism and painting. His Cafeteria picture was excellent and put me in mind of Peter Blake's 'Shop Window'.

Still having computer problems but I seem to have fixed my Walagata, which I wasn't able to access. In the end they 'repaired' my account and sent me a new password and now all seems to be well. And I was certainly not alone because Ray reports similar problems. I have discovered with 'blogger' that it is better to upload 1 picture (small) and then, as a separate job, upload no.2 (also small). It doesn't like you to upload two medium sized pictures at the same time. If you then need to adjust the size and placement of the pictures, it's happy for you to do that.

Karen showed me how to get rid of the old-fashioned tape-recorder icon that was stuck on my mobile. Apparently you press 1 and then the green button to access answerphone messages. I did that and, fortunately the message was unimportant and when I had listened to it and closed, the icon vanished.

That's it for today. An early night is called for so I will prepare my tray, listen to some radio and prepare for bed. By the way, although this will show a certain time at the bottom that's when I started it, not when I finished it. It is in fact just after 9pm

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mild Day - Lunch at Ollerton

A mild day, maybe around 12c all day but no rain or wind. I slept well, until around 4.30am, and fortunately Yvonne had a better night and has decided to make her own way to Nottingham on the bus. We both still have coughs, colds and sneezes but so do lots of people. The weather seems to be improving slowly and we shall all feel better if we have a nice bright May.

I set off for Bob's around 10.15am because I wanted to call in at their Netto to have a snoop round. The Ollerton shop is much better than our local one but stuff is still displayed higgledy-piggledy. You can find CDs amongst the baked-beans and coffee in the gardening section. Maybe it's a marketing ploy to ensure that you scrutinise all the shelves. All I bought was a 67p tin of french pate which looked interesting. I'll report back in due course!

Arriving at Bob's we had coffee, and he was surprised that I asked for 'black'. But every little helps the slimming effort. We had chats and Ralph seemed pleased to see me but Bob said it was because he would expect me to give him something to eat. Ah well! We also saw a bird which neither of us could identify, even with the benefit of a reference book. It was like a slim grey/blue sparrow. Bob had booked lunch for 12noon and we arrived at the Snooty Fox in comfortable time. It really was an excellent meal. The way it worked was that when the vegetables were brought to your table you then went to the carvery. My choice was the turkey while Bob had the beef; both were excellent, carved there and then and complete with all the 'tracklements'.. Then apple-pie and custard for Bob and trifle for me! I know. Another plus - they served first-rate coffee. And this was 'pensioner's day' but you certainly wouldn't have known it from such liberal portions and such good quality. As you will see from the pictures above it is a typical North Notts country pub complete with a waterside area at the rear. I ought to admit that I, and Picasa, have tinkered with the photos abit. The sky was more uniform grey than blue and the light was dire. But I feel with my Blog, that I need record-shots more than works-of-art.

While we were eating my mobile went off but when I answered it there was no-one there. But it has left an icon like an old fashioned tape-recorder on the display and I can't get rid of it. A 'young person' will no doubt sort it in due course. I texted Yonne just to be sure that she hadn't been trying to get hold of me but she hadn't. After lunch we went round to the School complex where everything seems to happen because Bob thought that they may be Wi-Fi and we could have a play with the laptop. They are, but it's staff only, which is reasonable. Then we visited the Workshop which is also part of the complex and where Sandra organises so much. We could see her through a door and she called, but she was obviously busy. We chatted to a couple of people and then I drove Bob home. I decided not to go in but have a leisurely drive home. Karen had mowed the lawns which immediately lifted the looks of the place and I decided to take down the Halifax sign because, as they have stopped marketing the bungalow, it was serving no useful purpose.

Touch wood - I seem free of computer problems and possess a 'happy lappy' - at the moment! So I was able to sort my pictures out, and research the Goodman's digibox for Bob. Not good news I'm afraid. One reviewer said "Why don't they just recall them all and replace them with something that works?" It's just as well he decided to check before dashing out to buy one.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Warmer day. Nat. Trust meeting at Mansfield

The object of the exercise was to get the evening sun shining through the camelia petals and, I admit, in the right-hand image, a little Picasa handiwork to grey-out the background to throw colour emphasis on the centre. I'm not quite sure whether it works or not. Some loyal reader will tell me ! The first image was a straightforward 'macro' job to fade-out the background. I'm happier with that one actually.

A lovely warm, late April day, with the temperature reaching 17C in the afternoon and no rain. Really good growing weather and I'm sad that (due to the pending house-move) I've hardly any young plants coming on. Never mind, there's always next year. This morning I had all manner of computer problems which I won't bore folks with. My friend Bob pointed out that there was a danger of this Blog becoming IT obsessed; so, say no more. I'm going over to Boughton to see Bob tomorrow and he has succeeded in booking lunch at the Snooty Fox which he rates highly. As I mentioned yesterday, if he hadn't been able to book he was going to cook a smoked fish chowder and I couldn't really decide which way I wanted the 'cookie to crumble' as the cliche has it.

In the afternoon I took Yvonne over to Mansfield for a National Trust committee meeting. How she came to be on the committee is a funny (Ha Ha) story. The last time we went to the normal monthly branch meeting, as soon as we walked in, a lady said to Yvonne "I understand you are going on the committee" which was the first Yvonne had heard of it ! And then, in his opening remarks, the Chairman said ".....and Yvonne has agreed to serve on the committee". Never mind, they are a lovely group and she will enjoy it immensely. They know we have this upcoming house-move but I'm sure we can find a workaround. The meeting was at Conny's house on the outskirts and I was made very comfortable in another room. I had taken my laptop (sorry Bob) and found plenty to occupy me tidying up folders and picture files, and things which didn't need an internet connection. My battery had just 9 minutes left when I heard the meeting come to an end and I was brought a beautifully strong cup of tea. I wonder how Conny knew that I like tea to be a rich orange colour. Perhaps it's a 'man thing'. I had been given strict instructions for dietary reasons, not to accept a cake or a biscuit and when Conny came in with my tea she said "I'm not to offer you a biscuit". I think that must be a 'woman thing'.

During the drive home Yvonne said how much she had enjoyed taking part in something again; after all that time when, due to my being so ill, she had had to give up so much. And we are both enjoying the National Trust a lot. I've certainly mellowed somewhat from my extreme left-wing days when I used to say that the only way I wanted to visit Chatsworth was in the turret of the first tank.

One of my computer probs. was that Picasa refused point-blank to email photos out. This evening I managed it at first go and sent David three pictures from Sunday. Steve rang to say that they had decided to use his birthday money to buy a garden-bench. Sensible idea.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Nice Rest Day - but cold

This was the 'Princesses and Dinosaurs' game. Although I said yesterday it involved whacking each-other with bamboo canes, there was'nt any actual whacking. Just much chasing and much noise. At the stage when I took the picture, they hadn't added the refinement of the camellia flowers being taped to the end of the sticks.

Apparently Brooke (second from left) is very good at 'dying' and has quite a reputation for it.

We both slept well after our exertions but both woke up early but that's fine. Although a nice morning it has remained cold all day; no higher than 8c. Yvonne went out in the garden for an hour and rooted up some enormous dandelions. With the soil being moist she said they came up without much trouble with taproots complete. It's a pity we don't know someone with a rabbit. I potted up some fuschias and have put them outside. It will be necessary to keep an eye on frost warnings, but they were getting so leggy indoors.

Steve sent us a grid-reference for his new factory but I didn't get a very good picture. Ray did and emailed me his picture. To cut a long story, eventually I got there. I seemed to do a lot better wth the postcode. At first, I wasn't waiting long enough for the 'streaming' to finish. Our own bungalow though remains elusive. But I got a good picture of Rays. I exchanged emails with WUforums Hello_There (Caroline) and I sent her the family group picture. She said it was good to see people's pictures from 'behind the cyber-wall' and sent me a nice piccie of her and her son. At lunchtime I did a spag. bol and enough to do us tomorrow as well.

I was delighted to hear on the news that Fleur Adcock has been awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry. She joins such luminaries as Auden and John Betjeman and more recently Ted Hughes. She throughly deserves it and is one of my favourite poets. I was fortunate, many years ago, to go on an Arvon Foundation course where she was the tutor.

I'd suggested to Bob that I pop over on Wednesday, as he had offered to take me to the Snooty Fox which he rates. He is going to try to book, and failing that is going to cook a 'smoked-fish chowder'. Both sound great to me.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Good weather - Busy family day.

This is the Bob picture I promised you, of last year's VE day 60th Anniversary at Radcliffe-on-Trent British Legion.

He has entitled it "Ill Join the Legion" which I think say's it all. The medium of black & white suits the picture and it is such a memorable image.

Our own day has been very much occupied by family. Last night David emailed and said they would like to come over and see us. As we were already committed to feeding Tracy and Miles and Hannah (fresh from her sleep-over at Tracy's) it made sense for them to come over in the morning and share our communal lunch. I won't repeat the menu but 4 extra people involved raiding the freezer for all available sausages. There were some links of Cumberland, some Pork & Leek, some Lincolnshire and some non-descript pink ones that I had labelled 'children's sausage'. I popped the lot in a large roasting tray and put them in the oven with the Yorkshires (easy to make more - abit more flour, another egg, a slosh more milk & water, the whole well beaten. I can't give the qauntities because I add whatever is necessary till it's the right consistency - and touch wood! it always works). Then I turned the sausages out, into a large shallow earthenware crock which I put on the table, with the instruction "pick your own sausages". Yvonne said it was a triumph ! And it really was a popular meal. Mostly clean plates - but Miles doesn't eat very well - very picky, but he is only 4 and many children are very selective with likes and dislikes. But Brooke is only 4 too and her little jaws were going like clockwork. Then Jelly & Icecream or Strawberries & Cream or any desired combination and a cheeseboard and coffee for grownups.

And then the children played and played and played. Hide and Seek, Drawing and Colouring and a vigorous outside game (entitled Princesses and Dinosaurs) which mostly involved rushing around the rear garden whacking people with bamboo canes to which fallen camellia flowers had been taped. This last bit was to do with Harry Potter apparently ! Don't ask, don't ask ! They all had a good time and I bet they sleep well tonight. I know Yvonne and I feel as if we will. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work and as one gets older the less predictable one's sleep patterns become. While sorting out a spare table I had knocked the clock off the wall in my room. The mechanism still worked but the hour hand had become unfixed from the central spindle. An obvious David type job and, bless him, he fixed it. He is so good at that type of thing. It's now back up on the wall where I like it because it's so big, I can actually read the time in the night without ferreting-about for my glasses.

When Hannah and Miles reached home Steve 'webcammed' us on Festoon and it worked fine, after initial glitches again. Sometimes it shows people as 'offline' when you know they are 'online' because you've got Google Talk open and are speaking to them. Early days though and soon we shall be adept. It will be great when Debra's PC is fixed, so we can include Palmer's Green in our cyber-space.

Nothing showing in diaries for tomorrow so we should be OK for a rest-day. Schoolchildren are back at School so if we get bored we can toddle off down to Ikea for a mooch around and maybe lunch. We do lead such exciting lives !

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Grey Start but finished up lovely

Just as I hoped he would, John sent me these super pictures of the Millau Viaduct, designed by our own British architect Norman Foster and opened in 2004. Apparently, breathtaking in it's beauty, John says that the photographs don't do it justice. They seem pretty good to me. The upright bits are higher than the Eiffel Tower. John and Yvonne went in the Campervan rather than the Merc (which I thought they would favour). Nice to have such classy choices !! I would love to see this bridge for myself and Yvonne is game, so perhaps next year when we are over the hump of this house-move.

Steve and I did some more fine-tuning of the webcam programme and by lessening the picture quality to 'lowest' we maximised the 'refresh rate', which has the effect of reducing the lip-sync problem to negligible. The incoming picture is only around 3" x 3" so a slight 'blockiness' is not noticeable and the monitor picture is about half of that. After messing about with that, I nipped up to the egg-man and got some very freshly laid eggs, because I have promised to do Yorkshire puddings, with sausages etc., for tomorrow lunch. The Yorkshires are Miles's favourite and the rich yolks of the free-range eggs really make them special. I will also do loads of carrots (for Hannah) and buckets of gravy (for Tracy). a courgette (for Yvonne) and brocolli (everyone's favourite). I know it doesn't sound like a real Sunday Dinner but one has to try and please everybody. Then we are going to have Jelly and Icecream which will suit all.

In the afternoon we went to pick Hannah up to take her to Tracy's where she is going to have a sleep-over and Yvonne is staying too. We had gammon and veg and then I drove back while it was still light. When I rang to say I was home, they were playing Monopoly after we had all played I-Spy and Charades. I managed to 'get' some and also to 'do' some - not easy when one's knowledge of modern songs and TV shows is so rusty. One of the stories I acted out was 'Little Red Riding Hood' which Grandma got on the 3rd word which I was pleased about because I hadn't worked out how to do 'Hood'. Great fun.

Leter on Tracy rang to say that she had installed the additional 'sonic cat repellers' which were my Birthday present to her. As she says, the neighbour's wretched cats won't dare to come out of their own house let alone into hers. Seriously - we are not catophobes (nice word - I've just invented it) but those cats have been a real pain. And so many of them. Another good eBay experience. I only bought them at 8.35pm on 19th April (one can be so precise with internet shopping) and they arrived this morning and are working perfectly.

When I got home I sorted out John's pictures and did my Blog. I think I'll leave emails till the morning.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rest Day - Much warmer

These pictures are from David's Staffordshire caravan-holiday which I mentioned a few days ago and they have now returned safe and sound. Apparently the site was fine, except that the shower block was on the other side of the lake. But that wouldn't bother David and Helen who never look for problems where there aren't really any. I can't tell you what the plant is, in the picture on the left, but no doubt somebody will know. The second picture is the old-fashioned bank at the Blist Hills Museum and Sky and Brooke are changing some 2006 money for some old money, to spend in the old-fashioned Sweet Shop and similar places. A great idea and a great place to go - for children of all ages !! It was real nice of David to send me the pictures for inclusion in the Blog because it is designed to be a journal for family and friends and 'contributions will be gratefully received'. I'm very keen for John to send me a picture of the Norman Foster Bridge (from their French Holiday) so that I can Blog it.

We decided to make today predominantly a Rest Day because Yvonne is usually tired after her Burton Joyce activities. But actually she doesn't seem at all bad today. I was tired out following my 'thankfully resolved' eBay dispute but I've soon recovered. Shopping was our first priority and I saw a notice on the pet-shop door (more fat-balls and niger seed for those ravenous birds) which made me realise that the English sense of humour lives on. The notice said :-
"If we notice you smoking in this shop we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action"

Although we are dieting we had Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas for lunch (homemade of course) and Orange Jelly with Mandarin Oranges in it (one of Yvonne's specialities) but I only had tomatoes on unbuttered toast for tea, so I didn't feel too guilty.

Steve and I tried the WebCam again and while we managed a picture and voice, eventually, we are still obviously learning the finer points. I went on my WUforums to ask about the lip-sync problem and Jonny555 said it would probably be due to the 'refresh-rate' of the cameras. That will stand further research by me because I must confess that didn't understand it.

Bob has sent me a great picture of last year's VE day anniversary at Radcliffe-on-Trent which he says I can Blog. Which will give me pleasure. I won't describe it and risk spoling it's dramatic entrance. He also said would I mind him using one of the Hunstanton pictures in one of his humourous pieces in his magazine Roundabout which he publishes. Don't mind at all Bob - flattered, that's what !

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A busy and mostly wet day.

I was after these water-droplets on the pansies and I think it's worked reasonably well. There were plenty of water-droplets to work on today. We actually had several of those downpours when the rain-drops bounce off the pavements. The camera is more than happy with greens and blues, bless it! Some people think I ought to have a more sophisticated camera, but then I wouldn't be able to keep it in my shirt-pocket. So, I'm not swapping.

It was Yvonne's usual day at Burton Joyce today and, with the children being off school they had really looked foreward to Yvonne going. They went on bicycles, and to the Library which they love and Miles got some more Dinosaur books. I think he understands that the Dinosaurs had gone by the time people came along. But book-illustrations showing dinosaurs looking into cars full of people don't help. Quite frightening when you are 4.

I had quite an eventful day starting with an eBay problem yesterday, when I spotted a quite expensive Photo Imaging programme going for a few pounds and I won the auction with a bid of £8. At my age I should have had more sense and it turned out that the seller was a 'scammer' who specialised in offering such bargains! My own fault - greed . My dad always used to say "You can't cheat an honest man". Thinking that according to eBay rules I would have to send a cheque and complain later, I went on the eBay beginner's forum and members very kindly advised me what to do. It ended with a very nice letter from eBay advising me NOT to continue with the transaction because the seller was no longer a registered trader. Problem solved but as Ray says "Ebay is a minefield" and a phrase about "barge poles" sprang to mind.

After dropping Yvonne at the tram I called in at Sass and bought a webcam because Steve is really keen to do the video-call bit. I researched for a webcam system suitable for Google Talk and found a plug-in called Festoon (security cleared) which I downloaded and sent a link to Steve. This evening we got it working! What fun! Grandma was able to see and say goodnight to the children. A few teething-problems with lighting, and lip-sync, but nothing unsurmountable.

Had a nice email from John. They have returned safely from their French 'jaunt' and have had a super time. They saw and went over the bridge designed by our Norman Foster. Apparently it is stupendous. I would love to see it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Steady rain most of the day

I didn't really expect my camera, or my Picasa, to do justice to the colour of this 'flowering currant'.

If the little Casio compact has a weakness, it is reds. The roses last year, particularly the deep reds, like Hannah, were difficult to capture. But it is it's only slight defect and has lots of other qualities to make up for it. The picture loaded straightaway without any excessive delay. On the top of my Blogger page today was an announcement "Scheduled outage at 4pm". English (US) can't be complimented on it's beauty can it? When I first saw it, I read it as 'scheduled outrage' at 4pm which captured my interest. Presumably the system was down, to allow technicians to fix some problems, one of which might have been the uploading of images. But I had decided not to join in the 'chorus' on the Blogger-forum anyway. Things get fixed sooner or later.

Before I leave the subject of 'flowering currant' I would like to warn inexperienced gardeners against cutting some for a vase indoors! It will look fine, but your house will stink of cat-pee for days afterwards. Bob says that Hyacinths have that smell to some people although most, I think, find it delightful. I hope I didn't mention this yesterday but I would bet anyone a fiver that, blindfolded, I could identify Blue against Pink.

In response to yeserday's point about Yvonne's bright idea to extend our house-search to include 2 bedroomed bungalows, Bob came up with the magnificent offer that he would give us his professional advice on what was possible at the potential-purchase stage. And then when bought, he would do us the necessary preliminary drawings etc., in return for a bowl of soup. He says he has stopped working for money! Yvonne has authorised me to offer a roll, in addition to the soup. In email correspondence Bob says that he was surprised I had never been a trainspotter. He had been one - for a fortnight. I told him that the closest I got, was trespassing on the lines as a 12yr old when we used to put pins on the rails so that the train would squash them into little swords. He said that they also used to do halfpennies, which were squashed nearly into pennies.

This afternoon I finally got round to reading my current WebUser Magazine and there on the Problem Solver pages was my answer to a problem 'posted' about Wi-Fi hotspots. It was rewarding to see something in hard-copy again. Whoever would have thought I would be answering questions instead of answering them? In the magazine, a site Webaroo was mentioned which sounds the complete answer to 'offline' working, as it allows one to download whole websites and read them at leisure without an internet link. Before downloading it I took the precaution of using 'siteadvisor' which said the site was 'untested'. So I've submitted it for tesing before risking a download.

Steve has now acquired a 'mike' and between us we persuaded Yvonne to join in. All I need to do now is to acquire a webcam and we can give it a whirl. It would be lovely to get all the family linked up. I'm sure it will come.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tuesday 18.4.06 Cooler and Showery

Inserting Pictures into one's Blog seems to be playing up again and the only way I could include my friendly Robin was to go back into Picasa and use the 'Blog this' command. At least he isn't too pixellated.

I had decided shortly after a some rain, to take a photo of the magical droplets of water that always collect in the leaf-systems of lupins at this time of year. The only way I could manage it, was to use my garden kneeling-frame with the handles. As I got down and sorted the camera, my 'fearless friend' decided it was something to do with food. So he came to within a foot of me, probably expecting me to turn some soil over. He had no objection to posing for the above. An additional bonus, while I was down there, was the scent of the blue hyacinths I photographed yesterday.

It was nice this morning to have Steve call on 'Talk' and his greeting was just the same as it is on the telephone - "Hello, Good morning" He was at home preparing for a meeting in Cambridge later in the day. We exchanged pleasantries and I noticed that he had changed his avatar to the doors but it is still maybe a bit complex for such a small space. By mid-morning after a long chat Yvonne and I decided to change Estate Agents because we haven't really had much success with the Halifax and use a more local firm Burchell and Edwards. ......Estate Agents deserve their reputation......... ! We found that the Halifax's 'Sole Agency Agreement' requires us to give them 14 days notice, which is fair enough, but that during that time they will not market the property. So. We are off the market for a fortnight, at peak property buying time. Never mind we will get there in the end and the garden gets lovelier by the day, which must be a selling point. We got it all dealt with. Emails, hard-copies delivered and things.

For lunch we had a super shin-beef stew with lovely fresh veg. but we decided to give the dumplings a miss. We have to show willing somehow. In the afternoon I worked on photographs and printed some of Debra's visit. They were fine and Yvonne was very pleased with them.

In the evening we watched Brian Sewell's last episode of The Grand Tour which came to an end in Venice. Very flamboyant but good fund and some super pictures. I know Bob says "Speaking of irritating and pretentious prats..... " But in our opinion he knows his stuff and produces good telly! As my observant readers will no doubt notice, I did, eventually get both the pictures I wanted to load into my Blog post. It's almost like an old-fashioned TV or radio-set that you ad to allow to warm up. Never mind. Patience is a virtue ...blah blah blah !Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bank Holiday Monday - Changeable Weather

A very 'blocky' robin I'm afraid, but trying to upload it as a straight picture would'nt work. The only way it would work was via the 'Blog This' command which I suspect as not designed for the purpose. The robin was on the bird-bath when I went to top up the feeders and the look in his eye said. "I'm not moving. And anyway why are you so late with those feeders?" I decided against even trying to find a suitable reply. Probably a lady robin !

We had a nice restful child-free day but Yvonne is done for, high blood=pressure, achy-muscles, neck-ache etc., but she will insist on carrying babies around, and playing on the floor. Bless her ! While she can - it's worth a couple of days recuperation. I nipped out and did essential shopping while she had a leisurely start - sudoku, crossword etc.. I made carrot & coriander soup for lunch with part-baked rolls. It was a success and we each had 2 portions.

In the afternoon we watched the programme we had recorded about Leonardo's Last Supper. A great little programme and we both learnt so much, as you always seem to from good bits of Television. I went on the 'net' and extended our bungalow quest, to include 2 bedrooms instead of our previous insistance on 3. It was one of Yvonne's bright ideas that, with the price dfference, we could have a purpose built 3rd bedroom with en suite facilities for me. I've even said that, if necessary, I would not bother about a garage. No-one else thinks they are important. The resultant increase in the number of properties available, was suprising.

We spent some time going through the photographs from the weekend, deleting lots and improving the rest. Ray told me he had been published in the National Press with the answer to a question about the origin of the 'question-mark'. If he doesn't actually know the answer to something he certainly knows where to find it, which is probably the more important.

It really is amazing. These Hyacinths were a sort of alternative to the Robin and, as I was coming to the end of my Blog for the day - I thought I'll just try to upload them and see what happens. So there you are folks. Two pictures instead of a measly One.

Google Earth wouldn't open for me today. I don't use it much anyway. But I've been advised as to how to overcome the problem. It has been quite warm today but so showery we don't know what any of the children managed to do. We shall find out in due course. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Up to date - I think

Sorry about the picture being 'blocky' but I downloaded it off the 'net' and it's entitled to be. The reason for it's inclusion is that David is caravanning in Staffordshire and they visited the Iron Bridge and the Blist Hills Museum. He remembers us going when he was a boy. He rang this morning and we had a super chat. Although he remembers the bridge he says he didn't realise how beautiful the gorge was. Well, you don't do you when you are 12 or something. The Blist Hills Museum is now really good to show children what Victorian life was like. The Chemists Shop and the Dentists and, of course, the Sweet Shop. Apparently you can now visit an old-fashioned Lloyds Bank and change some today-currency for old, which you can then spend in the shops.

What a lovely idea! Although it's important for the girls to know about the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution it's nice to have a fun side to it too, so close by.

Steve has taken the plunge and gone on Googlemail and also installed 'Talk' so we had some useful interchanges. He's got a webcam and no microphone and I've got a microphone and no webcam. I also found out how to introduce an 'avatar' because I'd forgotten how I did mine. A bit of clipart showing a carpenter was easy but in view of his thriving 'doors' business I want an image of a 'boss carpenter'. When I'm wondering what to mess about with in the middle of the night, I'll have a good old trawl. I also had nice comments from Manxislander, about the rainy Hunstanton picture.

Ray's PC is still playing-up and he is so fed up with it he's gone to watch the telly. He sent me a sweet picture of his grandson Dylan, with a short hair style and I sent him one back of Elli watering Tracy's tubs yesterday.

My 'day of rest' has certainly done my ankles good. They are much reduced.

Good fun email exchanges with Bob but our habit of replying by inserting comments can become a bit unmanageable. The ends of lengthy threads with sometimes upwards of 10 replies, can become lost or detached. The we have to start a fresh one.

It's nice to have Yvonne back. I know she has only been away overnight but I like her being here even though I never begrudge her time-with-daughters etc. I'd bought her some perfume whilst away and I was very touched that she liked it so much that she took it to show Tracy. The name 'Very Irresistable' is perhaps not appropriate at out age but it smells great and comes in a very attractive bottle. So there!

Saturday 15th April - Debra's Visit

Having got the pictures lined up and of equal size (not easy for us beginners) I will now put in some text. Firstly, there were'nt hundreds of kids - it just seemed like it. But they were all very good and played happily together. Hardly any tears and then only due to tiredness. We had got up to a warmish pleasant morning and gone over to Sherwood around 10.30am, breaking our journey to pick up a cheese-cake from the specialist shop (Austrian) on Mapperley top. Talk about spotting a niche market. They were very busy. And deservedly so, their stuff is exquisite.

Then onto Tracy's and Ruby and Elli were a little shy with me to begin with. It is after all the first time they have seen me since Xmas. They see Yvonne more often due to her 'grannying stint' around once a month. All the food was being masterminded by Andy (on the right of the picture above) who, like me, loves being in the kitchen. He has a high-stress job and finds cooking a relaxing hobby. At one stage in the afternoon, in the middle of paella preparation, he had a spatula in one hand, a lager in the other and could see the footie-coverage on the TV through Tracy's hatch while his precious little girls played happily on the lounge-floor. Bliss. Before I leave the photos I must point out that Steven doesn't actually have a halo! It's the kitchen clock.

As well as all our people, we also had Ben who Tracy had agreed to look after, while her friend Sharon worked on getting their house ready for sale. Chris, who is a Chef, has got a job in Cornwall and is already down there leaving Sharon to sort things out up here. Sharon has 2 older kids and must have been so pleased that Tracy agreed to have Ben. He was no trouble but very quiet, and nowhere near old enough to understand why his Dad is missing.

When Steve and Lisa and Hannah, Miles, and Millicent arrived things really got 'swinging'. We had an Yvonne-made 'pass-the-parcel'. As popular as ever and whenever there's a get-together she has to produce one. Maybe when they reach their teens, she won't have to do it. I had a nice IT chat with Steve and he was saying he really likes is new Sony Viaio laptop. He also is pleased with the 'siteadvisor' prog., it certainly is an acquisition. David has installed it on his School PC.

We ate just before 7pm and Andy had done a fine job. After eating I decided to leave so I could drive home while there was still some light. I'm OK driving in the dark but, when I'm alone in the car, I find it stressful nowadays. When I arrived home I texted Y to say I had arrived safely because she is having a sleep-over so she can help sort things out in the morning. I booted up my lappy and answered some emails. Nice exchange with Bob who had sent my 'Hunstanton view' picture to Emma, and asked if that was OK. I was flattered that he had sent it, and it was courteous of him to seek an OK. He sent me some excellent pictures which demonstrate what you can do, painlessly, with Picasa. Also had a 'google-talk' exchange with Ray who has had umpteen probs with his PC. And I thought it was only novices like me who had them! We didn't discuss it but I wonder if it is anything to do with PCWorld fitting him extra memory?

Friday, April 14, 2006

A better day - Anemones out

Altogether a better day. That frightening wind has dropped and, just now checking the evening temperature, find that it is 13c. On the Air-Ministry roof, as they used to say.

I think now it is actually on top of the Radio Nottingham building, because the Watnall Weather Centre has also closed.

In the papers this morning the 'worst drought for a hundred years' is forecast. If they nowadays blame global-warming I wonder what they blamed a century ago. My own view is that it is all part of the natural cycle of events on Planet Earth ranging anywhere between ice-ages to periods of extreme heat. Does it really matter if a few lawns shrivel up and we have to go in more for geraniums and things. Mind you I would be peeved if I was in a hose-pipe ban area and saw golf-courses being liberally watered. I'm not sure if I have any golf-enthusiast readers in East Grinstead. If I have I'm sorry but I won't yield the point.

It was a pleasure to see the anemones looking so perky this morning and I thought the above three would be pleasant across the top of the Blog. My trusty Casio doesn't really do justice to the colours but they look nice anyway. At the risk of sounding 'IT obsessed' , which a loyal reader accuses me of, I must mention my broadband upgrade at NTL to 2mb. The speed went up a bit but it 'boggered' things up in general. Picasa, toolbars, siteadvisor' to name but a few. Anyway, things back now. Just Gremlins, Ray says. Hope he doesn't get any with his new digital TV which looks and sounds great from his description.

The neighbours burglar-alarm went off about half an hour ago. I went and disarmed it, mainly to get rid of the noise, and Yvonne has put a note through Peter's door - house on the other side. Their alarm only ever goes off when they are away because when they are here, with having a dog, they never set it even at night.

My ankles have gone down quite a lot because apart from nipping out shopping this morning I've been lying down again. Got to be in good shape tomorrow over at Tracy's because there will be all the children to amuse and it's quite a while since I've seen Ruby and Elli. Not responsible for the cooking though because there will be loads of people and my upper limit these days is 6 or maybe 8 if a couple of kids are involved. Long gone are the days when we used to entertain 50.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thursday 13th April 06 - Very windy

The final picture from the 'jaunt'. Honest.

This is the famous Boston Stump which is the largest parish church in the country. It's tower is visible from many miles away across the flatness of fenland Lincolnshire.

I managed to Blog the picture without too much trouble with converging-verticals. What you can do these days with a fairly basic compact digital camera is sometimes astonishing. Particularly when coupled with Google's free image-manipulator Picasa.

Today, I have been ordered back to bed by Yvonne due to my excessively swollen ankles. The cause, she is convinced is 'doing too much' and 'driving too far without a break'. She is probably right on both counts. But we had such a lot of fun, it was worth it !

The birds were pleased I was back. I put them out fresh fat-balls and topped-up the various feeders and, of course, the birdbath. Before I got as far as the kitchen door they were bang at them. Led by the Great Tits and the Robin.

The weather has been pretty awful again. Quite warm, reaching 13c around noon but the wind has been frighteningly strong. Not much to blog today. I need to be up-and-about by the weekend because Debra and family are up from London. I never know whether or not it's up or down? People tend to say going Up to London I guess. But it isn't very important either way. Exchanged emails with Bob about the phrase 'up before sparrowfart' meaning very early in the morning. He had spotted it in a Poem written in 1994 but I thought that Private Eye had coined the phrase 2 decades earlier. Somebody will kow the answer.

Fairly short Blog today because I am still fairly whacked. But at least I'm up-to-date now. Just WUforums to tackle which will have very high numbers in red. I shall just have to be selective. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday 12.4.06 - Homeward bound

We decided to take a couple of photographs of the rear-garden of Elloe Lodge and we were lucky with the light. It was a beautiful morning again - particularly after all that rain on Tuesday. It gives you some idea of what a large house it is and how attractive the garden - which guests are allowed to enjoy.

After we'd packed and said bye-bye to the Vaseys (I got a peck-on-the cheek from Gill - it must be due to being such frequent visitors) we decided to have a look in at Boston on our way home. See upper-right. On route we stopped for a coffee-break in what was one of the most awful lay-bys ever. There was litter by the ton, an abandoned caravan and, to add a wry note, on the way out was a notice drawing attention to a £100 fine for leaving litter. Ha Ha Ha! I can't remember where it was, which is perhaps a good thing. Boston is a delightful little town, with it's famous church tower (The Boston Stump) and we arrived on Market day, which was nice because I enjoy markets.

Also on the way home we stopped at the Ollerton Mill Tea Shop which is quite close to Bob and Sandra's. It had won awards for it's cream-teas and was very pleasant indeed. Apparently it is so popular now that you have to book but as there was only two of us they managed to squeeze us in. If we were willing to wait ten minutes, which we were.

After that, a steady run home. It was surprising how things had changed in the garden in only three days. I had loads of emails but I was quite severe and deleted lots unread. People who mattered knew we were away and the rest will just have to carry on with life without my attention. We only fancied something simple for evening meal and settled on beans-on-toast and Yvonne did me 2 german wurstchen with mine. We were trying Aldi baked beans for the first time (on I think Bob's recommendation) and quite apart from being ridiculously cheap, they were in fact delicious.

Managed to sort out most of my Blog. The font I'd done those pages in Word on, was all wrong but, by messing about, I managed to get them looking like the rest. So I am up-to-date blogwise, emailwise, googletalk to Raywise, and everything else - I will catch up with slowly.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tuesday 11.4.06 trip to Hunstanton

We decided to set-off East and head first for King's Lynn along the A17 but, before we reached the outskirts of Holbeach we had an interesting find. 'The Original Factory Shop'. I felt that the name gave it away. If it WAS the original factory shop, that wouldn't be it's title. Would it? It had some interesting bargains, but not more so than our local 'cheapos'.

Then it started to rain. And how? We decided to press on as far as Hunstanton for our sandwich lunches. And we found a parking spot overlooking the beach. This was the view through the windscreen.

I was pleased to capture the image because it has definite 'overtones of Turner'.

Even on a terrible morning like this in early April, Hunstanton was very crowded and I had to wait ages to find somewhere to park to nip in and buy postcards and stamps. After a little mooch around North Norfolk we decided to head-for-base. And, just outside Holbeach on the A17 we spotted a fairly smart looking Chinese Restaurant called the Beijing Palace and decided to give it a try for evening meal.

And I'm very glad we did. It was certainly the best chinese food I'd eaten in the last 10 years. I wont even quibble about starters called Beijing hors d'oeuvres. They tasted delicious and that's what matters. Ever the pedant I can hear Bob say! By the time we left it has actually stopped raining and there was a sunset of sorts. Lets hope its better tomorrow for the return journey.

Monday 10th April 06

Monday 10th April 06

First day of our ‘jaunt’ to Holbeach and Lincolnshire and, perhaps, Norfolk. I was up early because I wanted to be sure my laptop was working and also I had packing to finish. It was pretty cold again but a lovely blue-sky morning and my goldfinches were first up. Yesterday, at Millicent’s party, I had discussed the birds with Mark, who does know a lot about the subject, and he explained to me that chaffinches were ground-feeders anyway and that their behaviour was not in the least unusual. I must also remember that I told Steve about Miles helping me with the Steam-Engine wheels thing. Steve was real proud of his son.

Left home around 10.17pm and drove steadily and enjoyably with stops for coffee in lay-bys etc and we eventually stopped for our sandwich lunch in the village of East Heckington, just off the main A17. Pleasant enough, but it looked very a threatening sky. I do love sandwiches and thermos flasks so much and Yvonne indulges me.

We arrived at Elloe Lodge just before 1pm and Gill and Norman were absolutely charming. Norman immediately offered to make us a pot of tea and after some very preliminary unpacking we went down to the TV room and within seconds the tea-tray and biscuits arrived. Gill explained the TV remote to us – Sky, Digital, Terrestial and the whole biz. We were a little overwhelmed but if we need it it’s there. The I had a nap, and afterwards checked the laptop. As I’d imagined I couldn’t get on the net but My Pictures, Picasa, and Word were available so I can find plenty to do – AND prepare my blog each day in Word, to Publish later.

Around 5.30pm we went out for an ‘explore’ and found the Springfield Centre with a view to using the Wi-Fi there tomorrow. Had a meal in the on-site pub and it was fine. Nice sunset on our return. Springfield have, in our opinion, the most almighty cheek in that one has to pay to park one's car. It is after all only a Garden-Centre and Commercial shopping mall. The Pub (see left) was notable only for being almost completely empty, at 6.30pm. apart from 6 staff; none of whom understood what the hell I was talking about when I mentioned laptops and wi-fi. Their reaction was as if I was a creature from outer-space. Maybe I am ! It would explain a lot.

After that, a steady return to Elloe Lodge and do our own things.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hail - Rain - Shine. And Millicent's Birthday

Terrible morning PCwise. The TrendMicro 'scan' programme didn't reveal any viruses or malware at all except for a few tracking cookies. I was glad about that and duly removed the offending cookies but then, I couldn't get out of the programme. Everything I tried resulted in 'not responding' messages. Cntrl/Alt/Del only resulted in a Task Manager window which said 'not responding'. And all the message boxes sort of 'shimmered' and vibrated. Dont know how I got out in the end. But I did - 50 minutes it took altogether.

David rang just after 9am, while the scan was still running, so I couldn't seek his advice. They have decided to go away for a week; to a Caravan Club site in Staffordshire and it sounds like a good one. A change from their favourite Carsington Water. They are all fine. With him going away, and John being in France for the week, we ave decided to have a few days in Lincolshire - based at our much-loved Holbeach and fanning-out from their. The east-coast wont be much fun in this weather, especially with what they laughingly describe in Skegness as a 'sea-breeze' but there is lots of other things to do and see.

By the time I'd managed to shutdown and send a message to Ray it was time to set off for Tracy's where we were going to occupy Hannah and Miles while the adults converged on Burton Joyce to prepare the Party. Tracy had left us a couple of nice Pizzas for lunch and the children were very good. Then they played Twister - a sort of gymnastic-cum-yoga game in which one has to put hands and feet on random places decided by a 'spinner'. I was allowed to be 'spinner' operator! Not too onerous. Then we played cards and finally I-Spy. Always a favourite with all children aged between 4 and 74. I wonder how long it has been a parlour-game in the UK? Probably find some reference to it in Chaucer.

Then we drove over to Burton Joyce and celebrations began in earnest. Lisa had done super food, as always and everyone had a good time. I circulated as best I could - but I really need spots where I can sit down, which isn't always easy at parties. The birthday cake picture at the top is maybe a little out of sequence but the truth is 'I haven't actually worked out how to include them in mid-post'. A little research is called for. I'm way behind with WU stuff, but I have dealt with emails etc. There is no need at all to set-off early in the morning; so packing can wait till tomorrow.

As the heading suggests the day involved nearly everything weatherwise. Lets hope it improves.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Last episode of Planet Earth - Till the Autumn

Unfortunately, for us who have enjoyed it so (or maybe that should be 'we' who have.....), the series has come to an end. At least, until the Autumn when it starts again.

Tonight's episode was about deserts and very, very interesting with incredible photo-coverage and David Attenborough's excellent narration.

So much that we didn't know about deserts. Flash floods from rain falling 100 miles away; snow that evaporates but doesn't melt; last rain 50 years ago in Arizona etc., etc., and amazingly - all that wild life and plants. I must, as usual, rush to attribute this picture of 'Elephants in the Gobi' to Paul Breham. I love the strong diagonal, and the 5 elephants. 4 or 6 would not have looked right, and that super gradation between foreground, middle distance and the tempting stuff in the distance.

Just one point that I forgot to mention yesterday about looking at a Steam Engine book with Miles. Not being a train-buff I have never understood about wheel arrangments. I had heard of 2-6-4s and similar things. Anyway, Miles (4yrs) explained it all to me and found pictures to show me the difference between an 0-4-2 and a 4-6-4 and so on. I am in his debt!

Had a cheery email from John. He and Yvonne have gone to France for a few days, presumably in that lovely Merc they have just acquired. He told me his mobile would be on throughout, should we need him - which was considerate. Debra rang in the evening and Tracy in the morning.

The day was changeable - everything, including hailstones one minute and sun the next. We actually had a wasp on the kitchen window. Inside, that is, but still strange. The garden birds have amused, as usual and just a word about chaffinches. They don't seem to be able to cope with any of the feeders and just hang around on the ground underneath waiting for crumbs of food dislodged by their more forceful cousins. Chaffinches are such 'smartly turned out' birds. Real 'blazer and flannels' stuff. I always think a suitable name for a male Chaffinch would be Gerald. They look like Geralds. I ought to mention the Great Tits, but I hesitate to, because one young male member of the family always makes ribald comments. Anyway, they are very forceful and shoulder all their rivals out of the way. I'll stop there. I don't want this to turn into an unofficial 'NatureWatch'.

It was our wedding-anniversary today and we exchanged cards but (as previously decided) not gifts. We had nice family cards and a very-well-written one from Hannah. We shall be seeing them tomorrow anyway at Millicent's first birthday. We had also decided not to go out for a meal but instead enjoyed a lovely one at home which we had jointly prepared. Yvonne managed an hour in the garden, during a dry spell; which was quite long enough in view of her back.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday - Rest Day - bit of shopping.

Another 'record shot' to show the Erysium 'Bowles Mauve' which has had some colour on it throughout the winter. The flower heads are actually last years; the new are lower down and still to come. Such a 'good natured' plant. Reliable and very easy to root new cuttings, and its best to take some each year because the plant will thrive for say 3 years, and then suddenly keel over. Where this is growing, nearly at the bottom of the rear lawn, is the wettest most saturated spot in the whole garden but the plant is very happy there. And apart from dead-heading it regularly, Yvonne tends to leave it to it's own devices.

The weather seems to be in '3 forward 2 back' mode and with our little jaunt to Holbeach coming up shortly we are hoping for a little sun at least. The bulb-fields at Spalding will be interesting and I couldn't hazard a guess as to 'how far forward or back' things will be.

We needed to vegetable shop at Lidl. Not particularly because of the spectacularly low prices but more due to the quality. Supermarkets get some well deserved 'stick' over fresh fruit and veg., but at Lidl, for instance, they sell bunches of carrots and radishes etc., still with their fresh green tops on. And I don't think you can fake that. Can you? Deciding to make an adventure of it we didn't go to our local branch but hunted down their new store in Carrington. It was almost identical to ours but in reverse so to speak. Their meat also, is surprisingly good, for a supermarket, and Y spotted some beef that looked well marbled so we decided to give it a whirl for the weekend. I think that is a quite long enough commercial for Lidl. So I'll stop.

Bob sent me a better picture of his 'dovecote map' and it really is a super piece of work. I hope it receives the recognition it deserves. It beats me how he has managed it but all the names (and there are hundreds) are down the sides of the Nottinghamshire Map and lines, equidistantly spaced, link to each site. I told him it has overtones of Beck's London Underground Map which was a design classic and, of course, still basically in use today. He demurred, of course, but it is good. Bob is a retired Architect so I suppose it was within his skill range. Still impressive though.

When I booted up my laptop this afternoon I found I still have problems. Getting an internet connection was more than difficult and I had to shut-down, unplug everything, and then reconnect and reboot. Three times - before I finally made contact. I used NTL's Broadband Medic which purported to tell me all the problems I had and suggested I contact their service engineers by 'phone. But I've done that once! And have no wish to repeat the experience. Anyway, I sorted it myself - to some degree at least. I guess the thing to do is to post a question on WUforums. But it would be difficult to phrase.

"It is when I labour to be brief that I become obscure" .... Horace 45BC

I shall answer emails, google talk, WUposts etc., before daring to shutdown again or even work on pictures. Whenever I have worked on some images either in Windows, PaintShopPro, or Picasa, and I disconnect the Camera the whole system goes into standby. Yvonne always tells me I can't use 'either' when there's more than one alternative. She's probably right. But so long as the meaning is clear I'm no purist.

Complete rest-day planned for tomorrow. Yvonne's back is playing up and she is sitting with the heated-pad on it watching TV. A full day's 'grannying' at Burton Joyce on Thursday's does tire her and lifting babies and carrying them about etc., but she loves it so and is quite right to carry on doing it until she feels she can't.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Burton Joyce day - and Culture Show

Before I leave Hardwick I wanted to show you one corner of the Restaurant at least, to try to convey something of the atmosphere of eating in the old kitchens. I know it's probably a bit pseud but Yvonne and I both thought that the idea and the design worked very well. We are determined to return to the House and Park at least once more this year and that is the sincerest recommendation isn't it? It will be pleasant to go when the gardens are further advanced.

They have had much trouble with perennial bindweed in the herb-garden and have had to completely dig it all out by hand. I suspect that in Bess's time that would have been my sort of job! While Yvonne was scrubbing out the above- mentioned kitchen. The thought, that we might have been sitting down to a meal upstairs, never occured to us.

Ricola, a herbal extract firm, have given a grant of £20,000 to facilitate the replanting of the herb-garden. I hope they get some well-deserved publicity. My readership is strictly limited - but maybe this is 20p worth!

A warmer start to the day. 3c but it rose to around 10c albeit heavy rain mostly. No comparison with yesterday. But I suppose this is what April is all about. My friend Bob liked yesterday's picture of the Hall and understood the reason for the tree to block the scaffolding. He said "Not another bl**dy conifer" As I understand things, and from my reading of the relevant Hansard pages, further legislation will be necessary to sort out what exactly is meant by the word 'removal'. Yet another shoddily drafted piece of legislation by this appalling government. (I might edit this bit out tomorrow - I'll see how I feel)

My computer problems continue - if somewhat abated. I followed Ray's trouble-shoot and although, when I try to access my home-page, I get the message 'this page cannot be accessed offline' when I click the 'connect' button it does open my page. Also, whenever I download pictures from my camera I have a new problem. The pictures download OK but then when I 'safely remove my camera' the system goes into standby-mode and I have to restart. Minor problems and they don't seem virus-likely. It would be nice to fx them though.

The Culture Show was good again. Interesting Architecture piece about London skyscrapers - another good interview with Brian Eno (he has been and still is such an influence on modern music and design), a charming bit about Morris Dancing and a modern troupe who are bringing things up-to-date abit. And loads more ! They are off-air now but only till May, at the new time of 8pm Saturday - which will be great and suit us much better. Fetching Y back from Burton Joyce and sorting out food by 7pm on a Thursday has been less than ideal. I know we could record it, but then we would have to decide when to watch it.

When Yvonne walked Miles (4yrs) back from nursery-school this morning a funeral passed them and pulled up at the Church. He wanted to know all about it and Yvonne explained that it meant that someone had died and they were going to the Churchyard to be buried. He immediately expressed concerns about sharks eating children. Yvonne reassured him that that hardly ever happened and that it is mostly old people who die. She thought it a good opportunity to say "Grandma and Grandad will die one day". He then said "But you and Grandad aren't really old". It made her day.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Surprise trip to Hardwick.

A lovely morning, this morning. Clear blue sky and little wind. But cold - distinctly cold! The internet told me it was 2c but I could see that the bird-bath and a gravel-tray full of water, were solid. Within 10 minutes the local weather station had changed their minds to -2C.

Mr and Mrs Goldfinch had invited some guests at breakfast-time and altogether there was a party of 4. Well - you know what it's like when you find a good restaurant !

By mid-morning it was clear that the day was going to be good and we decided to pop over to Hardwick. The property manager had captured our imaginations last night. She had said that, if one wanted to visit at a time when the scaffolding was at a minimum, now was the time to go. If you are wondering why I have included in the shot, the socking-great conifer on the right - it is there on purpose. To obscure the last remaining columns of scaffolding. The first thing we did, because the house doesn't open till 12noon was to go to the restaurant and be first in line for an excellent meal. Hardwick now has it's own herd of longhorn cattle and Hardwick beef sausage-casserole was an obvious choice for me. Yvonne settled for the chicken & tarragon pie which was also delicious. The restaurant is in the old kitchens and unfortunately can only seat 60 people - but in such an atmospheric setting. As we went into the house we were fortunate to find an introductory talk just starting. Bess of Hardwick was a helluva formidable lady! Alongside Elizabeth 1, with whom she was good pals, they probably created the original mould for formidable ladies. Bess was married four times, each time to a man of greater wealth and importance. She had loads of children and stepchildren and created the Cavendish dynasty. If you need to know more, google her.

Hardwick has it's own quarry and after lunch Yvonne decided on the Stonemasons' tour which involed a walk of several hundred yards down a fairly steep hill to the workshop. Then, of course, the same distance but uphill back. It just wouldn't be possible for me, so I mooched about the interior of the house and eventually the bookshop and restaurant again, until Yvonne returned. It was fortunate that we had decided on a place to meet because our mobiles didn't work. My guess is that Bess would have sorted that out double-quick! Yvonne was given a little square of quarried and finished stone, which will be a potent memento. In the bookshop I couldn't resist a Quotation Dictionary reduced from £15 to £5. I know! Yet another one. But while I was browsing, I found an Aristotle gem that must be worth a £1 all by itself -

"Wit is educated insolence" .......Aristotle 384 - 322BC

We returned home via the motorway which was extremely busy. At home I switched on my laptop only to find myself unable to make an internet connection and the screen littered with 'error' 'not responding' etc., messages. I eventually managed to connect and raised Ray via 'talk' and he gave me a link for VBS sys/res which he uses before installing or downloading anything new, or making substantial alterations to his system. I had of course installed the Panorama programme, also an Art one and Ihad messed about with 'working offline' (which honestly I don't think I'm experienced enough to do yet). No criticism at all of the research Madeline did for me, for which I was grateful - but I'm not really computer-literate enough yet to follow it safely. So, in future, I shall follow Ray's advice and create a restore-point before making any changes.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cold start - but a Rest Day

This view from Felley across towards Derbyshire is one which we shall miss when we move. The M1 access point is about 200 yards to the right of the picture. And behind you is a lovely view of Moorgreen Reservoir and Eastwood.

This was taken around 9am because the light was attractive and I took 5 shots side by side; with a panorama in mind. The result wasn't good so I ditched it. There is much to learn about the programme and I certainly haven't mastered it yet. Later in the day I had the idea that I could take a series of 'portrait' shots of a building and panorama-ise them so as to produce a wide photo that looked as if it had been taken with an expensive old tip&tilt architectural camera. The programme wouldn't go along with the notion and insisted on telling me that I had insufficient disc-space and to reduce the resolution of the images. None of it true! It seems that the programme only likes 'landscapes'. Ah well ! Yet another bright idea 'shot up the ar**'.

Dawn broke in a sharp frost and it has remained cold for most of the day and the hot & hearty Minestrone I made at lunchtime was most welcome with hot part-baked rolls fresh out of the oven. By coincidence Ray had made soup and part-baked baguettes for their lunch, up there in Yorkshire. 'Great minds think alike', or cliches to that effect. After lunch we nipped over to InStore in Heanor because Yvonne has to make up a pass-the-parcel for Millicent's first birthday party on Sunday. And it is the best shop around here for cheap little prezzies to unwrap. If Millicent decides to play, she will be perfectly happy with the wrapping-paper. Toddlers usually are and she is now officially a 'toddler' having walked 3 whole steps on Sunday we understand.

In the evening we went to the monthly meeting of the Mansfield National Trust branch. It was the AGM and Yvonne found, much to her surprise, that she is on the committee. Not having stood for election or anything so democratic, it was news to her. She had vowed not to serve on any more committees but actually feels now that she will enjoy it. They are a smashing group and we firmly intend to remain members even after we have moved. Arnold > Mansfield is maybe a mile less than Brinsley > Mansfield anyway. After the AGM (total time 25 minutes - brilliant chairmanship) there was a presentation by the property-manager at Hardwick Hall. She did it via a laptop, Powerpoint and a digital projector. Wow !! Ain't things good these days ? We had recorded Brian Sewell so we've got that to look forward to. Another hard frost expected during the night. And the supermarkets have been selling people bedding-plants.

Not a word from anyone as to how Beryl is !! But I guess eventually someone will tell us.

An action-packed day - Monday 3rd

Here, as promised, is my panorama of 'dawn over the footie-field'. Not stretched as per Manxislander's method but by taking 5 shots and letting the programme stitch them together. Not a brilliant photo but it wasn't a brilliant dawn, and I am still learning the programme. One is advised to 'lock the esposure' which I can't actually do on my trusty Casio, so I settled for locking the ISO setting which seemed the best bet. I guess this is what accounts for the extreme-right frame looking slightly lighter than the others. But, if I hadn't pointed it out, you probably wouldn't have noticed, as the prog. blended them in so seamlessly.

Lidl claimed my attention at 8am, because in their email newsletter I had noticed lots of computer stuff. I eventually settled for a pack of A4 printing-paper (50 sheets for £3.99) which I have used before and is good. A laptop-bag also took my fancy at £14 to replace the non-descript one I have been using. The new one is beautifully designed and padded, with compartments for leads and CDs etc.. Y had a follow up appointment with the nurse and her blood-pressure is very high. Further tablets prescribed and another follow-up in 2 months. She feels she will be better when the house-move is sorted, and I can understand that.

After odd jobs in Eastwood, and Matalan, we went to the White Hart at Arnold for lunch. Best summed up by '£6 for a £3 meal'. How one can conspire to produce a tough chicken-fillet defeats me but somebody managed it. Then we had a mooch round Arnold and discovered that Monday wasn't market-day as we thought. Tea and a cake in Birds went along way towards making up for lunch.

Within minutes of arriving home around 4pm Beryl rang. She had "fallen and banged her head" she said. When we arrived we found an ugly gash at the back of her head almost 3 inches long. Yvonne was brilliant and cleaned her up and comforted her and we decided she needed stitching. So we took here to Heanor where they have a minor casualty department. Beryl was seen straight away (what a contrast to QMC) and they were great. The wound was glued together rather than stitched but she remained confused - alternating between clarity (i.e. d.o.b and postcode etc) and being mixed up. At one stage she thought she was back in QMC. As I thought at the time she isn't really well enough to have been discharged to her own home, alone. But the sister at Heanor made arrangements for her to be reassessed tomorrow by 'Intermediate Care' people. Then we took her home. Yvonne rang Beryl's cousin Kath who, somewhat reluctantly, came over and took Beryl back with them to her home for the night as the nursing-sister had stressed that she shouldn't be left alone. Yvonne had to get a little 'cross' which, considering her blood-pressure wasn't a good idea. But she coped magnificently and all I had to do was act as ambulance driver.

Come 9pm I started to get ready for bed I was so whacked and decided I couldn't deal with my blog. It is possible to change the apparent publication time/date to yesterday but that seems to me to be counterproductive. Leaving it 'as is' provides one with a more accurate record. I read 'Riverbend's' blog 'Baghdad Burning' which has won awards. It is the day-to-day diary of a young Iraqi lady and a much more compelling account than the media coverage. I dealt with a few emails and listened to the radio for a while but I guess I was asleep by 10.15pm.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Goldfinches - At last

"Tis known by the name of perseverance in a good cause, - and of obstinacy in a bad one............"

from Tristram Shandy.. .. Laurence Sterne 1713 - 1768

My determination for the Goldfinches to return, and to get a picture of at least one, finally paid off this morning. I knew the niger seed would attract them but there are 4 slits in the feeder and yesterday they insisted in only using the back two. They were visible but not photographable. A simple solution was to stick bits of tape over the rear slits. (I know I should get out more) Anyway, there they are. Eyes left - pick up magnifying glass. It wasn't possible to enlarge or crop any closer, without completely losing definition. And it is only, as they say, a record-shot, with no pretention to artistic merit. My next bird-challenge is to photograph the Longtailed Tits who are regular visitors. But probably even more furtive than the Goldfinch. If I even approached a window they would be away. By-the-way I am not becoming a 'twitcher'. I just like to see the garden-birds happy. We have a family, a large family, of hedge-sparrows that live contentedly in the winter-flowering jasmine. The birdbath (topped up everymorning) is about 6ft away and the feeders (likewise) are around 20ft away. If one is a sparrow it doesn't get much better!

I know I said I would probably use a 'panorama' today, but that can come anyday. Today has been a typical April-Showers day but the temperature has been as high as 12C although, with the wind, it has felt distinctly cooler than that.

We had Delia's 'oven baked winter veg' again for lunch. Celeriac, sweet potato, butternut squash, peppers et al and it was a great success again. It is no trouble to prepare and it goes in looking colourful and comes out looking colourful. As it was Sunday lunch we had two small sirloin steaks with it; remembering to put Yvonne's in 2 minutes earlier than mine because she doesn't like it quite so rare. Banana and Ice Cream for puds - which saved making custard. The Boat Race has just cost me a £1. Y always picks Oxford who won convincingly by several lengths. The water was very choppy and Cambridge, my lot, didn't have a pump in their boat which an expert said was like carrying an extra man - with the amount of water they shipped. You learn something everyday - I didn't even know that boats of that type had pumps.

I had a nice long chat to David this morning everybody there is OK - but he is looking forward to Easter and a well-earned break. It must be tough teaching Maths to teenagers and I'm glad he seems to survive it. I would probably be in instant trouble for clouting one of them. He hadn't realised the full potential of 'siteadvisor' and is going to have another look, beyond the fun quiz. Not only David, we also spoke to Tracy, and Steven but missed out on John, and Debra.

It's now 7.30pm and I'm going to tidy up. The weather is now heavy rain and a nearly black sky although there is still some light. Hundreds of daffodils trying to stand up in the wind. I noticed this morning we have some hyacinths in bloom and some early tulips that should flower in a couple of days

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Last but one Planet Earth

I must rush to acknowledge Gavin Newman as the author of this photograph of the Lechuguilla Caves. The caves have only recently been discovered and the coverage is 'one-off' because the authorities are not going to allow further filming.

There was, as usual, some fantastic shots and the programme was interesting but neither Y not I are terribly keen on caving. So, it was our least favourite episode up to now.

The day has been typical April and this morning there was even thunder. Much warmer though. My Panorama toy has occupied my attention and I have already learnt several things about it. I nipped across the road at dawn to catch sunrise-over-the-football-field, and found that it is much better to restrict oneself to 4 or 5 frames at the maximum because of the time the programme takes to produce the panorama. It must have taken 40 minutes today 'blending' 'rendering' 'stitching' et al - maybe it's with my computer being comparitively slow. Probably use the result in tomorrow's blog.

When I was taking the Moorgreen Res. shots, Brian drove past and later emailed me saying we ought to meet up. The earliest date available for us both is April 17th ! That's being retired for you.

Yvonne reached the tram station bang on schedule at 6.15pm. She had had a super time but was glad to be home. I'd done one of her favourites - tiny pork-loin chops with apple-sauce, steamed new potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and lots of hispi cabbage. It was a success; we ate it on our trays while watching Planet Earth. Rest day tomorrow. Y usually needs a day to recover from London because 'grannying' for days, rather than hours is very demanding.

Tracy told us that she had been to see Steve's new factory and how impressive it is - and so big. We really must go over and see it. We have, after all, been invited!

Exchanged nice emails with David. He has been reading the blog and said encouraging things about it and is using the 'old man' picture as his desktop. He had scored 5 out of 8 on the siteadvisor quiz and sent two lovely family photos. One showed his new laminate-floor and it looks as if he has made a very professional job of it.

Thanks to Madeline (WUforums) I more or less solved my 'working offline' problem. She directed me to the IE Help menu and thence to 'opening web pages' > offline > display etc....... I just tried the Telegraph Connected page as a test-flight and it worked. To check it out involved crawling under the sideboard to disconnect the modem and router. But Yvonne wasn't here to tell me I shouldn't and I couldn't resist trying it out. There the page was, in black in the Favourites list, the other non-accessible sites were greyed-out. The 'links' wouldn't open though but I can research that, now I'm more-or-less on the right track. Madeline makes the point that there is more in Help menus than people realise.