Archive for August, 2015

Will it fit?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2015 by David Palmer

On the morning of the 10th Aug, Sue took the boys to Corby and had an excellent time at the lake in some ‘Muddy Play’ activities organised by the Council. I  spent time at the allotments catching up with weeding, spraying and pruning. During the afternoon we both played with the boys in the garage at table football and air hockey.

The following day we had Lucas and Ellis again, but this time we had the distraction of the impish Mia as well. Lee had dropped her off on his way to work in Northampton. Of course the boys had quite a few excited walks that day with an equally excitable puppy in tow.

On the 12th I travelled down to Charlotte’s to remove the banisters. With lump hammer chisels and saw they were soon removed and stored away in Lucas’s bedroom. I returned the following day to oversee the furniture successfully make its way up the stairs and into the  1st floor lounge. We had decided to modify the bannister so that  in future it could be removed very easily and I spent the rest of the afternoon replacing the woodwork with the new modifications. Sue met Lyn in Harborough for coffee.

During that week and the next, Sue and I began to haunt the local carpet retailers, we have decided to replace the carpets in the lounge and dining room. The choice of patterns and materials is mind-boggling and to reach a decision was no easy thing. However, before despair fully set in we settled on a carpet that is not a million miles away from what we have now, but is thicker and  will be a lot easier to clean. They are being fitted in September.

On the 15th Sue and I took Lucas and Ellis to London on the train. It was an early start so the boys stayed over after Family Curry Night . We caught  the 7.15 am train from Harborough. After arriving at St. Pancras we set off on foot to Embankment Pier to catch a boat to Greenwich, we had a Family Rover ticket and could use the river boats all day. It was during our journey to the Thames that I took a phone call from an irate Jamie, he had discovered that his bank account had been cleaned out. After advising him on what to do, I then rang Suraj to go and give him some support (details at the end of the blog).

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After queueing for the first boat of the morning we made our way down river with two excited little boys. Disembarking at Greenwich Pier we made our way to see the Cutty Sark  and then the Visitor Centre before wandering through the buildings of the Naval College. Returning to the pier we caught our next boat to the O2 .

Taken with Lumia Selfie

Taken with Lumia Selfie

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Before entering the Dome we sat outside and had a picnic. Inside the building we first visited the SkySports Activity Centre and the boys and myself had a go at taking penalties (not a great deal of success was had by any of us). Venturing up the floors we saw how Sky brought their news and sport coverage to our TV’s and the boys got involved in quite a few of the ‘hands-on’ activities.

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Moving on we visited the Nissan Innovation Station. Here the boys put their supplied electronic tags to  good use and explored many of the machines and activities available, though I guess the racing cars was probably their favourite as they spent most time on these. A brilliant place for both children and adults, loads to do and the latest technology available I was setting myself up to have a 15 minute drive in a Nissan Leaf around the Arena, before Sue ‘scotched’ plans by insisting WE didn’t have the time. Luddite!

We had earlier plans to continue on down the river to the Arsenal and visit several of the military museums but time was getting tight so we caught our boat back to Embankment. We caught the 4.15 pm train back to Harborough, it was direct and only took 50 minutes. Charlotte and Suraj were shopping in Harborough and picked up the boys from our house. Later that evening I watched an encouraging England performance against the French at the ‘Angel’.

On the 18th the Rothwells became Red Indians. They had booked a couple of evenings in a Tipi near Hereford. Sue and I had attempted to book one of the Tipi’s also, but unfortunately the Rothwells had the last available one, There was a canoe available and they took advantage of it a couple of times. Charlotte cooked on an open fire and the results looked edible, though it seems there was a skill involved in venting the smoke through the top of the Tipi. They returned to Northamptonshire smelling rather smoky.

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Sue has been to Saddington Car Boot over the last few Sundays. She leaves very early, in fact I have yet to notice in the morning that she has gone. When I awake and make my way downstairs there is the usual chalked message on the board ‘Gone to Car Boot’. If she is as good at spotting a bargain as she is in TV programme ‘Bargain Hunt’, she must be salting away a fortune, somewhere.

We still attend the Odeon Silver Screen, the last film being ‘The Longest Ride’, a palatable film about the tensions between a bull riding cowboy and his art loving girl..

The 23rd was Sue’s birthday. I had planned a few surprises for her. She knew that on the Saturday we were going away for four days but she didn’t know where. We had a delayed start as Jamie turned up just before we were to leave and wanted to use the garage to work on his car. I drove to the south shore of the Humber Bridge where we stopped at the viewpoint and had a picnic. It was a lovely sunny day and the bridge was at its best. Completing our repast I told her we were going to walk the bridge and that it would take one hour to accomplish. There were several others doing the same and quite a few were on bicycles. When we reached the centre of the span, surprise, surprise the Rothwells jumped out. A stunned Sue took a while to take this in. They had parked on the north shore and made their way towards us. After Sue had recovered, we continued on to the north bank and after saying goodbye the Rothwells returned long the opposite carriageway path to the car.

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Still not aware of where she was going I drove into Hull and the DeVere Village Hotel that I had booked, where we met the Rothwells again.  We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel. The Rothwells in the pool and sauna and Sue and I mooching around the hotel and relaxing in our room. We ate our evening meal in the hotel restaurant. I managed to complete mine in time to catch the England v France match in the hotel sports bar with Lucas and some players from the local Hessle Rugby Club.  I have been looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in September all year, I think it may be another disappointment. Four years ago I was in Bulgaria and luckily missed  it on TV preferring to knock down walls etc.

The following morning after present opening and  breakfast, Sue had another surprise when Sarah and Lee arrived. They were staying at a nearby hotel. Together we all made our way to Bridling ton for a lovely day on the beach. Fish and chips were eaten, sandcastles were built and shells collected. The castle building turned into a competition with the three constructed entries being of rather different and radical design. Facebook ‘likes’ were to decide the winner and astoundingly it was a three-way tie, Enough said

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Back at the hotel it was pool and sauna until time for the evening meal, where Sarah and Lee joined us. We finished the night off with a dart competition in the hotel bar. I say dart, as the bar only had the one, which did limit the scoring somewhat.

Sarah and Lee joined us for breakfast and then we all drove to Withernsea. There was a sea-fog just off the coast and after we had collected stones on the beach, played ‘roll-a-penny’ in the arcade, climbed to the top of the lighthouse it rolled inland turning a lovely day into one quite murky.

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We drove on in the gloom to Hornsea, stopping briefly at Mappleton to have a look. We had lunch in a cafe on the promenade and then after a short walk and a challenging climb up the sea wall we visited the Freeport for some retail therapy to while away the rest of the afternoon.

Returning to the hotel we said goodbye to Sarah and Lee, who had to be back for work to following morning. After visiting the pool and sauna again  we had our evening meal.  We watched a bit of football in the Sports bar and then rather tired and stuffed we retired for the night.

Checking out after breakfast we made our way with the Rothwells into the Old Town of Hull. Parking the cars next to the Princes Quay Shopping Mall we found the Tourist Information Centre which was the start of  The Seven Seas Fish Trail.

It is a trail that takes you by all the interesting buildings, history and exhibits in the city centre. An excellent route that kept us interested throughout, and we managed to find all the fish, some that I have never heard of! After collecting our certificate from the Tourist Office we had lunch at a Subway.

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Making our way back to the cars we said goodbye and had a relatively uneventful journey home.

Though the summer has been largely absent the garden and allotments don’t seem to have noticed and the vegetables and fruit are just as bountiful as is the grass and hedges. The pool is always high maintenance when it rains and isn’t being used, Rain water contains a lot of sand and this always finds its way under the cover and has to be hoovered up off the bottom to prevent the growth of algae. There is always something to do.

On the 28th it was just warm enough to have a family BBQ, though Sarah and Lee couldn’t make it due to work commitments. The following day I spent the afternoon with Charlotte in her allotment, tidying up and planting leeks, afterwards we retired to the ‘Charters’ for a drink and was joined by Suraj and the boys, back from a birthday party.

Family News:

Fraud: Continuing on from the phone call made by Jamie during our London trip, it became evident that one of Jamie’s past friends had emptied his bank account. Sue had taken the boys that Thursday to see Jamie’s corn snake in his apartment and found that the block’s alarm system as being serviced and all the doors to the floors were open and indeed so was Jamie’s apartment. Though this had been left open by Harley. Jamie’s friend had taken the opportunity to enter his apartment, have a shower, take his underpants and some T-shirts, make a meal, steal some money from Harley’s handbag and take some bank statements from a drawer. He later drove to the HSBC bank in Leicester claiming that he was Jamie and had lost his card. Using the statements as proof of identity he persuaded the cashier to part with £200, returning two hours later to empty the account. Jamie was aware of this on Friday night when he tried to buy petrol with his bank card and it was refused. Checking his account the following morning on-line to find it contained £0. He contacted the police and the bank and with Suraj had a meeting that afternoon with the bank in Leicester. The bank admitted fault and replaced the money and eventually compensated him with £300. The police arrested his friend a few days later after checking cctv at the bank and the apartments. It transpires that he was already on bail for stealing £6000 from his mother and assaulting her, there is already a court case coming up for 24 counts of fraud.

On lighter note, Jamie is looking forward to having a holiday in Spain in 3 weeks time and yesterday he went on a road trip to Weston Supermare to see the Dismaland  Bemusement Park, created by Banksy.

Sarah is now a baker and made her first loaf of bread.

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Charlotte has changed her car. Her Range Rover was sold last week and the other day she travelled to Evesham and bought a Mitsubishi ASX4.

It pays to procrastinate!: It seems that August is the time of year that this house has chosen to be’Make your mind-up time‘. Both Sue and my car insurances were due, gas and electricity fixed rate tariffs ended, broadband and telephone contracts finished. The car insurances were quick and easy, an hours surfing comparison websites  demonstrated that remaining with the same company was our cheapest option. The gas and electricity proved trickier as though there are comparison sites and organisations willing to help you through the process and that EON provide me with all the necessary data, you do have to wrap your mind around the terminology and get up to speed with some of the conversions. The energy companies are snakes! You have to keep in mind so many factors in comparing rates, standard charges, exit penalties etc. what appears to be on the surface straightforward, IS far from it. After 5.5 hours of researching, learning and comparing I finanally settled on a one year fixed rate for both with a new company called ‘IS’ (I kid you not), as being cheaper than that offered by EON. A little uneasy that I may indeed be filling the coffers of a Syrian Caliphate I thought I would have a look at EON again before pressing ENTER, but this time from the standpoint of a new customer. Well, well, well it appears that if I hold my hand up and admit that I have thin blood, wrinkles, failing mental abilities and love to sit next to a 3 bar electric fire throughout the winter months, in other words I am over 60yrs of age, they have a special tariff called Age UK Fixed 2 year that is cheaper than all the rest and gives you Tesco Club points too. Why did they not suggest this to me in the first place? Moving on to  my communications package I had a stroke of luck. A Virgin Media leaflet popped through the letter box one morning and for once, as it was raining, I read it before consigning it to the bin. Later that morning the phone rang. Unusual, because the line had been down for 4 days and it wasn’t scheduled to be fixed for another 3. It was BT. After a little confusion as to what the call was about; I thought they were just informing me that the line had been fixed early and they were trying to tell me that my present contract was about to come to an end. Eventually it dawned on me that they were going to increase in price all the elements of  the services they provided and they were keen to sign me up again to a anew contract. Asking him to hold a while and then getting Sue to dig out the Virgin Media leaflet from the bin, over the next hour I got the rep to carefully explain the new charges and compared them with the heavily discounted Virgin charges (for 6 months). Despite his pleas that BT have to fund the fight against SKY, I suggested that it would be much cheaper for me to move to the Virgin package. He then asked me to hold for a while. When he returned, he offered my present package, plus to waive the proposed £5 monthly BTSports charge (for as long as I am a customer), throw in a BT YouView box, waive the connection fee, and sign me into NetFlix. Instead of paying £20 more than my present tariff I am now paying £10 less. When the YouView box failed to turn up on the designated day I rang Madras and complained. It arrived the following day and another one three days later. So now we have BT Sports in the lounge and the bedroom. I think I question BT’s strategy in taking on SKY, they have a lot to learn.

I remember the days when I didn’t have choice. We trusted people and organisations to do their best for us, because there were Ombudsmen, MP’s , policemen, Citizen’s Advice Bearueas, TV Consumer progs etc. who were also looking out for us and could challenge any despots on our behalf, if they conned us into paying too much for a service. We had the law on our side. So they, by and large, didn’t bother. Well, I guess if bankers can walk a away with billions of our money without being brought to book, it now becomes necessary to question every £1 spent and research, learn, procrastinate and choose to the minutest of detail how we live our lives in order to hang onto that which has been hard fought for. I worry for when I really do get old.

 

Crayfish blanks

Posted in Uncategorized on August 10, 2015 by David Palmer

The crayfish trap arrived. Eager to dine on Wok loads of succulent American immigrants I purchased the recommended cat food, loaded the rap and set it in a deep pool just a few yards up river from the little garden bridge over the Welland, secured to the bank by a tether (in case of flash flooding). Returning the following day I was disappointed to discover the larder was bare. Undeterred, I set the trap down stream just before the road bridge, this time in shallower water. Again, returning the following morning I at first thought the trap had failed, but on lifting the contraption from the water I found I had caught a small catfish! What was I to expect using cat food? I did, once again set the trap  to no avail a few days later with a  disappointed Lucas and Ellis. I am beginning to suspect that I am using the wrong bait. I shall lay the trap once more in the spot I saw the crayfish and see (watch this space).

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On the 16th of July I had my 6 monthly dentist appointment scheduled for 11am, I decided to forgo my usual morning bike ride and occupied myself with tidying round the garden. After a little light hoeing in the strawberry bed I bent down to pick up the few weeds I had unearthed and ricked my lower back. A painful return of an old rugby injury. How I wish I had got on my bike instead. It took quite a few days of paracetamol before I could start to move freely, but oddly I had not pain when I cycled.

That Saturday Sue and I went to Joules to watch a band from Cornwall called ‘Lexis Green and the Indigo Blue’, a pleasant evening’s entertainment.

The following Tuesday Sue drove to Bradgate Park with Lucas and Ellis, they were accompanied by Sarah and Mia. They had a picnic and the boys spent most of the day playing in the river. I had a walk to the ‘Wheel and Compass’  in Weston-by-Welland with Peter. I had promised to buy him lunch for looking after the greenhouse and garden while Sue and I were away in Vietnam and this was the day he had chosen. We walked around 12 miles in all and by the end poor Peter could hardly stand as he had a very nasty blister on his heel. He took a taxi back to Lubenham.

On the way back to Harborough with Peter I discovered a group of Cherry trees that were laden with fruit and the following day Sue, Charlotte, Lucas, Ellis and I went and picked them, we filled three carrier bags. Sue and I  spent the following evenings munching them while watching TV.

The 24th was our wedding anniversary. Sue had a hospital appointment in Leicester for a bone scan. We have now reached the age where the NHS wants to see us on a regular basis to test, scan and photograph us. That afternoon I flew from Birmingham Airport with Jim H, Jim C, Sean and Paul to the Isle of Man for the weekend. The following day Sue, Charlotte and the boys drove over to Tenbury Wells to stay with Sheila and visit friends an relatives over the weekend.

Isle of Man: From Ronaldsway Airport we caught the bus into Douglas and soon found our way to the Trevalyn Hotel. That evening we had a fish and chip supper and played darts in one of the town bars. The following morning after a rather good breakfast we bought a ticket that gave us access to all the popular modes of travel on the island. We first travelled on the Electric tram to Laxey, there we visited the huge water wheel that in times gone by powered the nearby lead mine. After climbing to the top of it, we boarded the train that would take us to the summit of Snaefel. The day was lovely and sunny and we could clearly see Ireland, Scotland and England from the Trig point.  We decided to walk down the mountain to the station called ‘Bungalow’ whose claim to fame is that the TT race course passes through it. Paul and Sean were slow and missed the train and had to wait for the next one some 15 minutes later. By then the rest of us were comfortable ensconced in the pub next to the Wheel. Returning to Douglas by way of the tram we dressed in our glad rags and set off to the rather impressive Gaeity Theatre just a little way down the promenade from our hotel, stopping off at a Chinese restaurant for a rather good feast. We were booked into see ABBA (Tribute Band). Our tables were in front of the stage with great views of the performance. The Theatre was packed with ABBA fans, some of the outfits were pretty cool and authentic. It appears that there are not many male ABBA fans on the Isle of Man as 90% of the audience were female and obviously out for fun. Appropriately the women who we shared our table were Care Assistants from Peel and were used to being among old gits like ourselves. What a brilliant and entertaining evening. We woke the following morning to rain and it remained with us all day. We had planned to travel to Peel, visit the Castle and have lunch at the Creek Inn. Undeterred by the cold driving rain we caught the bus for Peel from the Harbour Terminus. It was drizzling when we arrived and our first port of call was in a cafe for a warm coffee. Prior to visiting the castle, Jim C and  Sean stopped to have a hot mackerel bap at a harbour side stall, they would regret their impulsiveness later. Circumnavigating the castle we walked along the  river road to the pub for lunch. Jim H and I had earlier trotted to the pub while the rest of the party had been having coffee, to reserve a table. The restaurant was fully booked but the owner was swayed by our cajoling and promised us a table at 1.30pm. And indeed she did so, the meal was superb and the subject of much banter throughout the following days. As the rain had not ‘given in’ we visited the ‘TT’ museum next to the pub before catching a bus to Ramsey. Here we stayed approximately 8 minutes, just enough time to walk to the Harbour, get wet and catch a tram back to Douglas. We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel bar playing pool and occasionally gazing at the white-topped waves in the bay and the rivers of water rushing into the gutters down the street. The following morning the hotel gave us an early breakfast before we caught our taxi to the airport. The flight left on time and some 45 minutes later we were in a dry but chilly Birmingham. Paul drove us back to Harborough but unfortunately he had to return back to the airport for 5pm that evening to catch a flight to Milan to attend a business meeting. Sue was pleased with the stick of rock that she had requested.

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On the 31st it was Ellis’s birthday. Sarah dropped Mia off with us and then accompanied the Rothwells to Birmingham Sea Life Centre for Ellis’s treat. Sue and I took Mia to the pub in Lubenham for lunch. Fortunately it was a lovely warm day as we had to sit out side to eat, Mia had found the most disgusting pile of poo to roll in on our rout there and it only seemed polite to sit at a quiet, windy table away from other diners. On return home, one little puppy got a very thorough bath! Sarah and Mia stopped over that night. When it came to bedtime Mia refused to accompany Sarah to her room and insisted on taking up position on our bed and despite Sue carrying her back to Sarah, she managed to sneak back (probably  aided by Sarah, methinks).

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The following day Sarah,  Sue and I went with the Rothwells to Kettering for Ellis’s party at an activity centre. The activities involved clambering over a wide selection of gym equipment and playing games such as ‘find the sweet’ and ‘hide and seek’. All the tots seemed to have great fun. Afterwards we all decamped to the Tollemache arms in Harrington for refreshments. That evening Sue and I met Jim and Brigitte and Jim and Kate at Joules to watch Govannon. The other two couples hadn’t booked their tickets for the BBQ so had to sit outside and listen while we ate inside. To be polite, after finishing our food we joined them and despite wrapping coats tightly around ourselves the chill did rather take the edge off the music.

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On the 4th of August  Sue travelled down to Rothwell to look after Lucas and Ellis for the day. I travelled to Countesthorpe Crematorium to pay my last respects to Maureen Meads. Maureen had been my classroom cleaner 30 years ago when I taught at the Meadows School in Wigston. I used to chat to her at school while marking books at my desk at the end of the day while she tidied up. She was a part-time seamstress and over the six years that I taught there she made some lovely clothes for Charlotte and sweat shirts for Sue and I. In later years she kept in touch and occasionally would visit us in Harborough. We visited her last Easter and were sad to learn that she had cancer and the prognosis wasn’t great. Even so, it was still a shock to learn of her passing and I wanted to pass on my regrets to her husband and Carl her son, who I once taught. A lovely and kind lady. During the afternoon we took Lucas and Ellis to Harborough at the Seaside.

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The day after Sue and I went to the Silver Cinema  to see ‘A Little Chaos’. A period drama about the creation of the gardens at Versailles. Despite not getting free coffee and biscuits (due to the summer holidays) we enjoyed the film, though Sue did complain bitterly to the staff behind the refreshments counter and did manage to squeeze a free tea out of them. After all, we are pensioners! On the way back to Harborough we called in to see Roger. We were surprised to learn that his mother was in Kettering Hospital, on the day before he was to return them to Bristol she took a turn for the worse and the ambulance was called out and she has been there for the last 3 weeks. Roger’s father has returned to Bristol, making the journey back to Harborough at the weekends with Roger’s sister, who looks after them. She is having a scan in a few days and Roger is hopeful that afterwards they will transfer her to Bristol.

I awoke early the following day and drove to Seaton to met John Lee for another walk. We hadn’t met for over a month so had quite a lot of family news to catch up on and of course the world needed to be put right again. The 8.5 mile walk was pleasant but lunch at the George and Dragon was exceptional. For starters we both had black pudding and Stilton, something we thought would be fantastic or wouldn’t work at all, it proved to be the former. The following steak pie was also special and most memorable. I am resolved to take Sue there to sample the delights, though we won’t walk quite so far.

That Sunday we had lunch at Charlotte’s. During the week they had attempted to deliver a new three-piece suite but the stairs had defeated the delivery men. The solution is to remove the bannister on the stairs to the 2nd floor lounge. Lunch gave me an opportunity to plan a course of action that would rectify the problem. I shall return on Tuesday with saw and chisels to remove the offending bits of wood.

News Snippets: Charlotte’ hens are suffering from a bad attack of red-mites. Despite chemicals and lots of cleaning, nothing so far seems to affect them. I have offered to spray with my pool chemical (sodium hypochlorite) as that kills every thing and then turns it white. Charlotte took the boys to Rutland reservoir for a ‘beach’ day.

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Jamie drove up to Liverpool last weekend and enjoyed a free open air concert in one of the parks. He has also managed to visit Santa Pod on several occasions as well as attend a few Car Cruising events. He came with Harley the other night to see if I had any fishing hooks as he was going fishing with one of his mates.

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Sarah has been busy in her garden, planting flowers and herbs as well as creating rather unusual bird feeders. She is quite chuffed with herself as she has finished her seat building project from wooden pallets of several months now. She and Lee managed a visit to Stanford Fireworks Display at the beginning of August while Sue and I looked after Mia. They also managed a day at the seaside to give Mia her first taste of the beach. Oh, and she discovered several baby crocodiles in the back garden.

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