Wednesday 30 September 2009

Busy, busy, busy . . .

It's been a busy week so far and it's only Wednesday!

I arranged for the chimney sweep to come on Monday. We have two multi-fuel burners, one in our sitting room and a smaller one in the conservatory. Originally, the new conservatory roof was scheduled for installation a week ago but it was delayed. It was not a problem – the conservatory had been cleared out so the sweep had plenty of elbow room but when he started on the sitting room fire he found a snag. We knew that the chimney was only partially lined because the stove installers had not been able to fit the liner round the dog-leg bend. This had not troubled the sweep who came last year but Monday's man wanted to do a thorough job. His opinion was that the chimney was very dirty and if left the soot would fall outside the partial liner, building up over the years and impossible to reach. His solution was to disconnect the burner from the flue and move it to one side to gain access to the chimney. It's a cast iron stove and very heavy but between us we managed to move it – though to be honest I don't think I added much power to the enterprise.

While the sweep was engaged in his work a man from the gas board came to replace the meter. He inquired what gas appliances we used and I told him it was just the hot water boiler in the garage and the kitchen range. Then he asked if he could have a quick look at the boiler. I said, 'You're welcome to try – it's a bit hugger-mugger in there.' He took one look and we decided he should go in through the vehicle entrance. It was still pretty chocker but after we had moved a few things he was able to gain access.
Every time we have to find somewhere to store something and Barry says, 'It can go in the garage' my heart sinks. At the last count I think he had four sack-barrows each designed for a specific purpose. I don't often use my car - just as well really! The gas boiler is in the far right corner to the right of the overflow freezer, which is not connected most of the time. It cannot be seen from the door. The door into the house is on the far left.
He checked the boiler and then proceeded to drill a hole in the porch wall where the meter is housed. So now the chimney sweep's vacuum cleaner was going full blast and a loud drill was rattling the house. The cats were very unsettled, their eyes huge, and the dogs were restless and barking from time to time. Many 'cold callers' decided to contact me so I also took several phone calls which caused Frodo to howl – the pitch of the telephone's warbling tone hurts his ears.
When the sweep had completed his cleaning he manhandled the stove back into position but before he did so he noticed the remote control motor receiver box but couldn't see how it worked or where it fitted. I didn't know either so told him not to worry about it because Barry would sort it out when he got home. That was a mistake! It took much fiddling about, not a little cursing and many deep sighs were heaved. It would have been much easier to fit the magnet which retains the motor before the stove was moved back but Barry wasn't at home so it couldn't be. Eventually it was accomplished and calm was restored.
This is the remote control motor receiver, cause of frayed nerves! It controls the damper.
At 8:00 am on Tuesday morning the roof installers arrived to start work. It was a very noisy day and the cats were miffed because they weren't allowed in the conservatory. Buddy was upset too as he likes to lie in the doorway between conservatory and kitchen and keep an eye on proceedings. The old roof was dismantled and removed and the framework for the new one installed. It's steeper than the original and some of the brickwork has been exposed and will have to be plastered. When the men left yesterday the roof was open to the elements and I wasn't happy about that even though rain wasn't forecast.
Fortunately we had a dry night.
Doesn't the sky look clear? It should - there's no glass!
The workmen returned bright and early today to fit the glass, only to discover that one of the panes was the wrong size! The glass is blue K glass. It is self-cleaning, heat reflecting and insulating. It looks very attractive and we are looking forward to star-gazing as the nights draw in further.
We currently have a glass roof with two polycarbonate panels, through one of which the flue should pass. It looks rather strange but should only remain like that for about ten days. The flue panel has to be specially cut.
The polycarbonate spoils the overall effect but shows what a difference the glass has made.
The men also found that the fitting brackets for part of the guttering were missing. Why are jobs never straightforward?
We're going to redecorate before we put everything back in the conservatory. It's a good thing we're not desperate to use the dining room!
We have too many chairs most of the time but need 15/16 when everyone's gathered together.
All the conservatory furniture is in here plus two enormous Quad speakers (Barry lusted after them for years) and the associated hi-fi.
At the window end of the room Gareth and Nina have stacked many of their personal belongings that need to be kept securely until they are back in their own home in October.


This is how it looked before (though the printing on the label was clearer!)
I used the contents to mix with mashed potato, tomato and seasonings to stuff a marrow (of which we have grown many!)

This is how it looked after Jenna found it and removed every last vestige of a sniff of a remnant of a trace of meat.
We heard a loud chewing, crunching noise and discovered Jenna busily remodelling the tin. Next job - crushing cars?

Tuesday 29 September 2009

ABC Wednesday Round 5 - K

I've put my 'Ks' in alphabetical order . . . goodness, have I nothing better to do with my time? "If it doesn't say Kellogg's ON the box . . . it isn't Kellogg's IN the box"

Kerria japonica in bloom for the second time. In the Spring there is a profusion of yellow flowers and they last for weeks brightening up dull days. In Autumn there are fewer flowers but it's still good to see their fresh bright petals.
Patak's Korma paste. The Patak family started their business in a small way after they first came to England and I've bought their products ever since I discovered that.
Thank you to Mrs Nesbitt for kicking this meme into life and hosting it!
To join in the fun please click here.


Recently, courtesy of chick-lit (thank you, Catherine Alliott) I discovered the term 'rig'. It describes a castrated male (we're talking domestic animals here!) which retains some sexual interest – hormonal maybe? This means that the affected animal still has interest but not equipment to indulge in reproductive acts (oh, okay, SEX!) Strictly speaking it refers to an incompletely castrated male in livestock species (horse and cattle)

I think Monty Ocicat may be a feline rig. Last night I hauled him off Winston because he had taken him by the scruff of the neck – as all members of the cat family do (don't you remember those natural history programmes you watched with your family and the difficulties provoked by multi-generational viewing when something explicit was aired? Oh, where to look? Control your breathing – you're watching something entirely normal. Why are your parents clearing their throats so much and brightly suggesting a cup of tea might be nice?)

To continue, having grabbed Winston's neck, Monty mounted him and went through the pantomime of attempting to mate him, padding his back feet and keeping tight hold of his scruff. Not unnaturally, Winston objected strongly to this. Sometimes when Monty misbehaves he is given 'time out' in the conservatory, but on this occasion he was allowed to remain in company.

There are occasions when Winston tries things that Monty doesn't care for. He attempts to suckle from Monty who happens to be the same colour as Winston's mother. Our chocolate Burmese, Clown, often tried the same thing with his lilac brother Angus and well into maturity buttheir mother was brown! Monty tolerates the attention for a considerable time but once the teeth come into play as well as the kneading paws he administers a sharp rebuke and is left in peace.

I think Monty is tolerant because he is partial to kneading when curled up with Jenna-the-Labrador. He doesn't go as far as trying to suckle from her but his rapturous, increasingly loud purrs accompany ever more insistent padding until even Jenna's thick fur can no longer cushion the pain of his needle-sharp claws. She growls at him and he desists but remains at the side of his favourite dog.

Monday 28 September 2009

Biking in Berkshire

My electric bike arrived last week. Dubbed 'the Mercedes of bikes' the Kalkhoff Tasman is no lightweight piece of equipment even with the battery removed. Surprisingly I haven't photographed it yet but then a bike is a bike is a bike . . . even if it is super-duper.
I must confess to being very unsure about the whole enterprise. I have had beautifully engineered bikes before and liked riding them on the flat but was exhausted at the mere thought of climbing even the tenderest of slopes. Pedalling uphill hurt my knees. There was nothing physically wrong with my leg joints but I didn't enjoy the burning sensation engendered by working to travel up gentle inclines. Anything steep caused me to get off and push, frustrated and embarrassed that I couldn't keep up with Barry. He always encouraged me but I felt I was holding him back and spoiling his pleasure.
We were talking one day about cycling. The exchange followed a well-worn route.
Barry: (brightly)You like cycling, don't you?
Me: (dubiously) Ye-e-e-s but only on the flat.
Barry: (patiently) What do you find difficult about hills?
Me: (frustrated) I can't cycle up them. I have to get off and walk.
Barry: (gently) But you'd get used to them - just take it gently. I know you - you always go at things like a bull in a china shop.
Me: (somewhat defensively) Uphill cycling hurts my knees. It would be all right if there were something to help me up the hills.
The well-worn route went off at a tangent.
Barry: (even more brightly) Ahh! Electric bikes.
Me: (perplexed) What - you mean like a moped?
He shook his head (a trifle impatiently, I thought) then opened his laptop and started researching. A short while later, triumphantly, he showed me reviews and articles about electric bikes.
Barry: (encouragingly) What do you think?
Me: (cautiously) H'mmm - they look very interesting but you know what I'm like - I'm very enthusiastic to begin with and then, well, it's all too difficult. I wouldn't want it to be an expensive mistake.
Barry: (decisively) You only live once.
At this point I realised he had made his decision and an electric bike would soon be taking up residence in our garage. All we had to do was decide which model would be given that privilege. So then I started reading reviews and I was impressed. I was particularly taken with the video clip of a (young) man riding effortlessly up a steep mountain. We haven't got any of those in Berkshire but we do have some quite testing gradients. I began to visualise myself on just such a slope. Could it really be that easy? I was getting quite animated about the idea now.
I always assure myself that nothing goes to waste in our house and that if ultimately I couldn't or wouldn't use it Barry certainly would. On that premise I ordered the bike and began to anticipate its arrival and the ease with which I would henceforth travel on two wheels.
I was nervous to begin with as it's a year or two since I cycled anywhere. I worried about falling off. That's my son-in-law's fault. Paul has a mountain bike and rides it fast through forests, occasionally flying off after he's hit an obstacle. I didn't want to do that. I went over the handlebars of a bike some years ago and though I didn't break anything I was badly bruised and sore for some days. That's not so bad but I had a three-month-old baby and life had to proceed as normal for her. Bethan is now 27 and my bones might not be so forgiving now!
Gradually the skills returned and with them came greater confidence. I am delighted with my bike - it is absolutely amazing and has completely transformed cycling for me. Travelling uphill is incredibly easy and it's a great joy to see the dogs stretching out to keep alongside. I actively seek out inclines and zip up them with great pleasure.
On Saturday Barry and Callum, our eleven-year-old grandson, and I took the dogs out for a run.
Callum was very impressed and has decided he'd like an electric bike. It was quite an eye-opener for him that his grandmother could outpace him, particularly uphill!
Naturally, I have a helmet. Barry dislikes the 'chicken carcase' style (the sort worn by Tour de France participants) and persuaded me to buy a Yakkay helmet and a Tokyo cover. Then he insisted on taking photographs of me wearing it. I do not like having my photo taken and pulled all sorts of faces. The shots shown here are the best of a bad bunch but give some idea of the look of the head gear.
The brim is supposed to turn up at the back and down at the front . . .
. . . but it looks more like a flower-pot!
I like this photograph best - can you think why?

Sunday 27 September 2009

Polygamy - a celebration!

Apparently in South Africa polygamy is legal and thus a South African man has married four women in one ceremony to which hundreds of people were invited. He thought a joint celebration would save money because the festivities had been combined. Well, you can understand that -so many friends and relations -'We have to invite Uncle G or Cousin H '; 'If you're inviting HIM I'm definitely asking HER'. Can you imagine all those mothers-in-law struggling to make their wishes felt - and can you imagine the problems they must have encountered as they attempted to coordinate their wedding outfits? Oh my! I hope he's ready for the undoubted spats that might result from his 'thoughtfulness'?

Camera Critters #77, Pet Pride and Shadow Shot Sunday

The conservatory has been cleared of most of its furniture in preparation for the installation of a new roof. This has given Monty and Winston a delightful play space and they have taken full advantage of it.
After Winston had finished filing his documents he thought he'd add extra security to them by lying on the box file.

All the hard work he'd done had made him very sleepy so he had forty winks.

It was perfect weather for the two boys. The sun was shining brightly and the conservatory was hot. Monty was rolling around, sunning different parts of his anatomy. There is a stained glass fleur de lys motif in the top pane of the windows and as the sun shone through them they added a certain style to his own home-grown spots and stripes.

He rather liked having green and red hind paws but couldn't catch the colours on his front legs, no matter how hard he tried.

I'm cheating this week - got a houseful and not enough time so I'm making one post serve three memes, Camera Critters, Pet Pride and Shadow Shot Sunday. Thank you to the hard-working hosts of these memes. Please click on the appropriate title to see more in the same genre.

Five word meme

This is the Five Word Meme. Quilly has given me five words so that I may share my thoughts on them. After you’ve read my meme, if you feel inclined to play along, please say so in the comments and I will send you five words of my choosing. (I will need your email address . . . ;-})

These are the five words Quilly gave me.
1.) Color
2.) Purse
3.) Pizza
4.) Exercise
5.) Irritation

1. Color: If people ask me what is my favourite colour my answer varies according to my mood, the season, even the time of day. On a cold, rainy, dull day the colours I favour will be warm, rich tones of crimson, apricot, chestnut, russet. When I’m feeling optimistic my colours of choice will be bright and clear – fresh apple green, lemon yellow, azure blue. In the morning, particularly if my slumber has been disturbed I will opt for hazy blue and dove grey, soft rosy pink until my brain and eyes have adjusted to a new day. Occasionally I am up in the wee small hours and then my delight is to watch the monochrome night gradually develop subtle colour as the new day dawns and reveals its palette.
2. Purse: I carry a small Fiorelli purse 4 1/2“ x 2 ½”given to me by my middle daughter, Susannah. It is light blue with an appliqué dog on wheels curving round one of the side seams. From the purse hangs a chain at the end of which is a bone. It is attached to my keyring and carries credit cards, some coins, a £20 note, a book of stamps and a spectacle repair kit. Thus, when I go shopping my keys, cards and money are easily found and carried and I don’t have to take a shoulder bag in which to place my purse.
3. Pizza: I like pizza! At home we use our breadmaker to produce pizza dough on which we can put a variety of delicious toppings. The first ingredient is always chopped, sieved tomatoes on top of which we may put courgettes, ham, cheese, olives, cucumber, green beans or anything else which attracts our attention. Occasionally, we have a ‘commercial’ pizza but we prefer our own because we know what has gone into its manufacture.
4. Exercise: I don’t do enough of this, unlike my husband who takes rigorous exercise every day. However, I swim most days since our Endless Pool was completed and I walk the dogs in the forest. I recently (last week) bought an electric bicycle. I like cycling but cannot hack hills – I end up with sore knees. The electric bike is amazing! It has transformed cycling for me and gives the dogs a really good work-out into the bargain. I sail up hills with minimal effort and feel I am cheating by calling it exercise. I still have to pedal, of course, so it’s not entirely a lazy person’s device.
5. Irritation: This can be mental or physical, given or received. As a form of annoyance it may be transient or long-lasting depending on the cause. To be the cause of someone else’s irritation can be upsetting or amusing. Many a teenager has relished the frustration caused by irritating behaviour an adult cannot regulate. Conversely someone who is putting a great deal of effort in trying to please can become distraught if the endeavour engenders more and greater exasperation. In its physical sense it may be intensely painful and enduring as in shingles, or mildly itchy or scratchy and more of a nuisance when brought about by a poorly placed clothing label or stiff cuffs and collar.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Six Word Saturday

It's the season for Party Conferences
Last week it was the Liberal Party Conference.
This weekend the Labour Party is gathering for its annual conference.
I suppose the Conservative Party will congregate next weekend for their bash.

Each party proclaims sweeping changes and ambition. The Liberals stand almost no chance of getting into power. The Labour Party has proved itself duplicitous and unreliable and must, at heart, know that it will not be elected to government again. That leaves the Tories who are as zealous and unrealistic in their projections as all parties are when they have been out of power for an extended period. As it's the Civil Service that really runs the country there's little chance that any change of government will effect much change. I think we should have a coalition!
Each party leader receives a standing ovation for his speech 'de rigueur'.

You may have gathered I'm not a political animal, at least not in the sense of supporting one party rather than another!
Thank you to Cate at 'Show My Face' for developing and hosting this meme.
To see what others have to say please click here.

Friday 25 September 2009

Friday 55 Flash Fiction

Advice for nouveau riche . . .

Don’t wear diamonds in daylight -
It’s frightfully common you know,
Don’t wear diamonds in daylight –
It’s far too obvious a show.

Keep your diamonds for evening –
That’s when they sparkle the best!
A diamond ring on your finger
Suffices for daytime dress.

Thank you to Mr Know-it-all for hosting this meme.
To join in the fun please click here

Dog fighting

Dog fighting is alive and well in UK. How anyone can take pleasure in this vile practice is beyond me. It has been popular for centuries and takes place in many countries, sometimes legally. Some dogs are bred specifically to fight. You can read more about dog fighting here.

SkyWatch Friday Season 4 Episode 11

I took this photo earlier in the week while walking with Barry and the dogs. Later on at home that evening, as I swam, I watched bats flitting as the sky turned from pink and blue through apricot to lemon. What a beautiful world we live in.
Thank you to the SkyWatch team for hosting this meme.
More skies can be seen here.

Mother Courage

This morning on the BBC breakfast news programme a mother was interviewed about her decision not to tell her thirteen-year-old daughter she had terminal skin cancer. She had been told that her daughter had six months to live - devastating information for anyone but to hear that for your child is the cruellest blow. The mother wanted life to continue as normally as possible for her family so she shared the diagnosis only with her own mother. Her daughter and son were able to continue their usual relationship and no concessions were made for the young girl's plight because no-one knew.
The daughter lived for almost four more years. When she was aware that her cancer had returned she wept with her mother and said, 'Mummy, I'm going to die'; her mother comforted and reassured her and a few weeks later her daughter died.
I think the mother made an extraordinarily brave and compassionate decision for the child she so dearly loved. She gave her a normal life. Shethought the diagnosis was a burden her daughter should not have been expected to bear; she could not have watched her marking off the days on the calendar if she had known the original projected time-scale.
Knowing that a person is desperately ill changes attitudes to them. This mother spared her daughter the awkwardness that family and friends often experience when they don't know how to react or what to say. I applaud her for her courage and steadfastness. I don't know whether I could be so brave in a similar situation.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday took place in Northern Ireland in 1972. There have been two inquiries. The second, The Saville Inquiry, was initiated in 1998 and took seven years to complete after which the inquiry team retired to digest and report its findings. It was expected that the report would be presented to the Northern Ireland Secretary in late 2009. Yesterday Lord Saville announced that publication had been delayed and could be expected in March 2010. Thereafter, the British Government will reflect on its conclusions before releasing the report to the public. The cost to the British taxpayer has been £200 million. There is no guarantee that the report will not be further delayed. The Widgery Tribunal, the first investigation, was dismissed as 'a whitewash'. Is history being repeated? What can be causing the delay? What is being concealed here?

Conservatory roof update

I'm feeling more confident about the roof now. Yesterday two men appeared at the front door. They had come on the off-chance of finding us in. They were fitters from the company that we've contracted to replace our roof. They were working in the area, about four miles away, and decided they'd visit and take measurements and have a look at the job they have to do.
Naturally, we were caught on the hop and being the houseproud person I am I had no worries about inviting them into the house. What? You mean some people don't have saucepans and dishes on the floor for bio-wipe? (Bio-wipe is executed by the dogs before the items go into the dishwasher) Doesn't everyone throw the dog bedding out of the bedroom window onto the patio below when it needs washing? I admit I hadn't got round to tidying up the cat litter and it can be a bit crunchy underfoot. Oh, I blush when I think what a slob I am but what am I doing now? I'm blogging!

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Dust over Sydney!

Sydney has experienced an overwhelming and unprecedented dust storm. The red dust has been blown in from the desert by strong winds bringing chaos to the city. Commuter ferries have not been sailing in case they collide with each other - I can't imagine the dust would do their engines much good either.
At one hospital a spokesman said that the place had been inundated with joggers who had been overcome by breathing difficulties. Did the hospital carry out mental health checks on these foolish people who didn't understand that running through thick dust might be injurious?
For those who have had to continue their daily working lives in difficult conditions I hope tomorrow will bring improvement.
Dust over Sydney! - this could be a book - or a film - or a film of the book - or a book of the film - or all - or none . . .

Woe upon woe for Sony VAIO

My poorly VAIO has been returned. We have been seeking a replacement left-hand hinge but they are very rare. We asked one repairer we contacted if there had been much demand for hinges and he replied, 'Hundreds - and mostly left hinges!' Wires pass through the left hinge so it's a little more specialised than a right hinge. We have read of many with the same problem; some have had one hinge replaced under warranty but when that has failed, still in warranty, have been told that it's broken through 'accidental damage' or 'machine abuse.'
There must be an awful lot of people flinging their laptops around - after all, doesn't everyone do that to their expensive technology items?
Sony maintains its ill-conceived position that only the best components are used and that failure is due to user misuse.
Should we expect to see Sony shares falling in the near future? Watch and wait!

ABC Wednesday Round 5 J is for Janice

J is for Janice (that's me!) . . . . . . and Jenna (that's her!)

J is for Jamboree, a boisterous frolic, a spree in which some of the following might be involved . . . John Smith's . . .

. . . and Jacob's Creek . . .

. . . and jam which Bonne Maman calls conserve but I've cunningly turned the jar to conceal the word . . .
. . . and jelly which I hadn't made for years until recently when one of my grandchildren, a junior in the tribe, made some one day at our house and reawakened my interest . . .

. . . and jelly babies which another junior tribe member gave me! Are you jealous of all the goodies here? Some of the images are blurry and out of focus - can you wonder with all that booze and sugar?

Thank you to Mrs Nesbitt for this jolly, jaunty meme.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Conservatory roof

The original roof has heat-reflecting blinds but the conservatory still gets very hot in the sun. The cats love it and become quite limp - almost boneless - as they bask.
This shot shows one of the polycarbonate panels. The 'spikes' are bird deterrents on the apex of the roof.
Our conservatory roof has been leaking for some months now. It's about ten years old and made of polycarbonate panels. The first few leaks were quite minor - just a few drips (to join the human drips below - ta da!!)
Periodically Barry would go outside and climb a step-ladder with wooden block and mallet and hammer the slipping panel/s back into position. I am never happy around ladders and 'help' by putting my foot ineffectively on the bottom rung and hanging onto his legs. What I think that is going to achieve I have no idea! I suppose I might provide a reasonably soft landing for my long-suffering husband.
The next problem was that the panels slipped even though they had been moved back so Barry, ever inventive, put blocks of wood in the gutter to pin them securely. It is very refreshing to stand in the garden in the pouring rain in winter!
Finally, during a particularly heavy downpour, we discovered we could see daylight through the roof and the rain was coming down in sheets inside! At this point we decided a new roof was called for. This decision prompted much internet research and long telephone calls with conservatory manufacturers and constructors. Representatives made appointments and came along to take up hours of Barry's time discussing requirements. The longer the appointment, the greater the estimate it seemed.
We had thought we would replace the roof with one made from the same material but then we considered that a glass roof, self-cleaning and heat-reflecting, would look much more attractive. The salesman who came to discuss this immediately found common ground with Barry (actually, most people do - he has the happy knack of being able to walk and talk with commoners and kings) He was an 'old soldier' and made a very decent offer which Barry promptly accepted. Gillian was with us that day and her reaction was exactly the same as mine - we were amazed and a little concerned for Barry does not make snap decisions. However, he reassured us that he had done a lot of research beforehand and was happy that the deal was kosher. He is very thorough in his researches and analysis (after all, it used to be a major part of his work) We paid a large deposit and arranged for installation to be carried out this week.
We spent several days clearing everything out of the conservatory, upsetting the animals in the process - they dislike change! Our dining room is full and unusable and the cats, now they have realised nothing dreadful is going to happen, are enjoying galloping round the newly-freed space, which echoes pleasingly.
Barry thought the job was to be started on Monday but when he phoned to find out when to expect the installers he was told that the materials would arrive at the depot on that day and the fitters would be with us on Tuesday. On Monday evening, well after normal office hours, we received a phone call. There had been a series of minor disasters and the roof components had not been delivered. They were now expected on Tuesday and the men would be at our house at 8:00a.m. on Wednesday, confident that the job would be finished within the day.
A short while ago we received a further call to inform us that the wrong parts have been delivered. The proper bits will be delivered on Wednesday and would it be convenient to call next week? Monday was not possible as Barry has an appointment some way from here and I had arranged for the chimney sweep to clean our chimneys.
I have a nasty feeling about this - I do hope my fears are unfounded! I'll keep you posted.

Plus Size models

London Fashion Week is agog at the revelation that normal women can look good in designer clothes. Designer Mark Fast used three Plus Size models in his show.
Now, before you all get excited and imagine that the catwalks are awash with size 24 models sashaying proudly and strutting their stuff - or rather, the designers' stuff - bear in mind that in the fashion world a Plus Size model is UK size 12 (please adjust for your particular country!) The average size in UK is 16 and there are many who are much larger than that.
It has long been my contention that a really good designer should be able to construct clothes that look good on all shapes and sizes, not just the 6' skeletal androids that are usually seen prancing along.
Maybe, just maybe, we are seeing the beginning of the smallest concessions to normality and the real world.
Many of the designers who were interviewed declared delight and support for this innovative approach. Betty Jackson, avowing her enthusiasm, when asked if she would use Plus Size models, said that her range was for sizes 8 to 10. Oh, very supportive!

Oh woe - my poor VAIO!

Twenty months ago Barry gave me my very own laptop. I think he was tiring of trying to kick me off the computer in the study so that he could use it. In any case it has so many peripherals attached to it that it is often rather temperamental. In the conservatory his laptop was full of business affairs and I didn’t want to risk doing something irreparable to it. I’m okay with computers so long as they behave themselves in a reasonable manner but as soon as they start being awkward and mischievous I back off muttering, ‘It wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything.’
So my brand new shiny expensive VAIO was a delight. Sleek and stylish with a beautiful keyboard, magnificent resolution, blu-ray DVD player, inbuilt webcam – it had everything I needed and more. It was superb and every time I used it I smiled to myself and learnt a little more. Barry had purchased an extended warranty, which was pricey but we thought it would be wise. A few months after I’d acquired it there was a problem. It stopped working. It was promptly collected by a carrier and returned to Sony for repair. It was returned equally promptly. A couple of months later it exhibited a further problem and again was repaired by Sony. We were so glad we had extended warranty.
The week before last I tried to open the laptop and there was a nasty creaking noise and a great deal of resistance. Barry looked at it closely and discovered that the left-hand hinge had broken. He contacted Sony and arranged for it to be collected then carefully closed the case. After a day or so he contacted Sony to inquire about progress and was informed that the hinge had broken through ‘accidental damage’ and therefore could not be repaired under warranty. £219:00 please! We discovered that a replacement hinge costs around £35:00. There then followed days of telephone calls and a frustrating lack of headway. Barry went through the wording of the warranty with a fine-tooth comb and found no mention of ‘accidental damage’. He asked for a diagnostic report and was emailed a photograph of the damaged hinge! In the course of many phone calls he patiently pointed out to several of the Sony support staff that had he purchased a fridge and the door hinge had failed, the fridge manufacturer would accept responsibility and replace certainly the hinge and possibly the fridge forthwith. Sony were immoveable. Since they could find no cause for the failure they could not guarantee that a replaced hinge would not break; therefore £219:00 might have to be paid again – and again!
Barry spent many years working for one of the largest IT providers in the world and had seen a number of damaged and defective laptops but had never known hinges to fail. Looking on the web we came across many frustrated, angry VAIO owners who had experienced broken hinges, some within a month or two of purchase. They all reported the same pattern in their contact with Sony support. Sony would not accept responsibility for the failure of one of the most significant components in their product. Surely a smoothly functioning, reliable set of hinges is key to a laptop in being ‘fit for purpose’ under UK law?
If we decided not to proceed with the repair Sony would send back the laptop at a cost of £141:00 to us. After further calls they finally agreed to return it post-free. So we await my damaged VAIO. If we replace the hinge ourselves we will invalidate the warranty but as that doesn’t seem to be fully inclusive that hardly seems to matter.
One thing is abundantly clear; we will never buy another Sony VAIO. We will also advise anyone looking for a laptop to avoid Sony and opt for one of their competitors. The advice from one of the largest laptop suppliers in UK (who seemed to be somewhat aware of VAIO problems) is to purchase HP, Toshiba or ACER for better product reliability. It is a pity about VAIO; as one web page commented, ‘good components, poor casing and dreadful support.’
VAIO’s proud boast - "be" – has a resonance that Sony surely never envisaged.

Monday 21 September 2009

Mess Games

It is difficult to realise that the serious senior officers being interviewed on radio or television were once skittish young subalterns but I have it on good authority that they probably were, army officers being somewhat slow to mature. Before the Second World War officers could not marry before they were thirty without permission from their commanding officers. Subsequently the age was lowered to twenty-five. An indication of the youthful high spirits common to these trained killers could be observed during any Mess Night in the sixties. Following an excellent meal, with regimental silver gleaming, good wines and the passing of the port several times round the table (always to the left, don’tcha know?) the Loyal Toast would be proposed and after that there would be Mess Games. A common event was Mess Mountaineering, the objective being to travel all the way round the room without touching the floor. Another pastime was jousting. One man would go up into the ceiling cavity with a jousting stick – a billiard cue, perhaps – and those below would use their poles to try and dislodge him.
One evening the mess decided to re-enact ‘The Great Escape’ or more particularly the scene in which Steve McQueen rides his motor cycle around the perimeter fence, gathering momentum and eventually leaping the barbed wire. The challenge was to ride a bicycle at speed along a very long corridor, up a table called into service as a ramp against an open window, plunge through and attempt to clear the 8’ security fence outside. History does not recall if anyone succeeded. Performance was adversely affected by alcoholic intake – coordination was in inverse proportion to bravado - and memory was similarly affected. Most who managed to remain on course ended up straddling the wire.
On another occasion the Mess Night was held in an unfamiliar venue but the customary ‘Night-time parachute jump’ was scheduled to take place as planned. What the participants failed to realise was that they were not on the ground floor as usual and one or two of them suffered broken legs. Some (wives, sisters, girl-friends, mothers) might say they were lucky not to have broken more than legs.
With a change of command came a change in attitude to Mess Games. The particularly dull incoming commanding officer decided that Carpet Bowls would be a more suitable pursuit (was he dull or more mature than most??) He did not think through the many consequences of his decision and so discovered just how very fast bowls can travel and how much damage they can do.
Has the advent of female officers affected the conduct of Mess Nights? I imagine the tempering effect of young women who are generally more mature than their male peers may have changed the nature of any post-prandial entertainment.
Before I start sucking my teeth and claiming that I never did anything foolish/dangerous at any time in my life I need an honesty check and a jog to my memory. Too many years being ‘sensible’ as a parent and teacher of young children have dulled my adventurous nature, if ever I had one.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Pet Pride Play with me?

Frodo likes to play with Jenna but when she's in retrieving mode ('working') she won't play with him. What's he thinking in these photos?

Frodo: I think she's over there somewhere. Frodo: Oh, there you are, Jenna. Want to play?

Jenna: Got my mouth full right now.

Frodo: Aww, go on - play with me.
Jenna: Maybe later - busy now.

Frodo: Chase?
Jenna: Whatever . . Jenna: I'm going for a quick swim. Coming?

Frodo: Nah - just had one, thanks.

Frodo (thinks): If I get the ball away from her she'll have to play with me.

Jenna: That swim was good - very refreshing. Frodo, I can read your mind. You can't get the ball from me and even if you did Mrs Boss has got some spares. I'll play later - at the moment I'm working. Now, back to business.

Thank you to Bozo and his human for creating and hosting this meme.

To join in please click here.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday #70

It was a lovely day today - bright and sunny and very warm. Buddy Liver Spots had his tongue hanging out.

Jenna-the-Labrador's lo-o-o-o-o-o-ng tongue was hanging out too!

Frodo the Faller's tongue was tucked inside his mouth - he's so cool!
Thank you to Tracy at 'Hey Harriet' for this inspired meme.
To see more Shadow Shots please click here

Six Word Saturday

I've bought an electric bike - really!

I like cycling - but not up hills. Never could hack the uphills even as a schoolgirl and there was a steep one on my journey. It was great going home though!

Thank you to Cate from Show My Face for inspiring this meme
To nose into other people's lives please click here

Camera Critters #76 Cats in the DoggyRide

This week we bought a 'DoggyRide' to transport our old lady so that she can accompany the rest of the dogs on their walks. She can walk for a little way and then rest in her carriage! Here she is at the start of her first outing.

However, she was not the first four-footed creature to try it out. Monty and Winston just had to investigate as Barry assembled it. They sniffed every seam and surface and then turned their attention to the box in which it had been packed.

Thank you to the creators and hosts of this meme.
To see more Critters please click here.

Friday 18 September 2009


Gentle Dominie has made us think very hard recently. She cannot get up on her own but can walk short distances once she is on her feet. We keep questioning each other about her quality of life, wondering if we're doing the right thing for her. She is old but not like other old dogs we have had for she is very alert and welcomes all comers to the house with her usual warble. She notices what is happening around her and gets upset when the other dogs go out and she has to remain behind, albeit with a human in attendance. She enjoys being a part of what is going on, particularly if it involves food. Her appetite is very good and she is ever ready for refreshments. She vocalises her needs and waits patiently until the dumb humans in her family interpret her needs correctly. Many would say that she should be euthanised but that would not be fair to her because, in short, though her back legs don't work the rest of her is in fine condition. Thus we always reach the same conclusion - she is not yet ready to travel on.

Dominie has been 'wearing' hind wheels to compensate for the lack of messaging to the atrophied muscles in her back legs when we go out but recently has been overbalancing and cannot really manage on them any longer. To support her on a walk of longer than ten or fifteen minutes is hard work, pulling human neck and back muscles; it is also probably not very comfortable for her as the harness straps pull tight on her but she enjoys the stimulus of change of scenery, fresh air, new people or dogs who come up to make friends.
Therefore we have bought a dog trailer. It's called 'DoggyRide' . Designed in Holland, it resembles a baby buggy and can be pushed or it can be attached to a bicycle and towed. Dominie had her first outing in it yesterday. We made sure it was well padded and set off up the hill. At first she looked rather uncertain about it but enjoyed it when a couple of cyclists stopped to say hello and make a fuss of her. After that she was squeaking and we wondered if she wanted to turn over. In fact, she wanted to relieve herself. Then, with support, she walked to the pond and drank from it, paddling her front legs in it. While Jenna-the-Labrador chased after her ball and Buddy Liver Spots and Frodo the Faller stooged around, Dominie lay and watched, snuffing the air. A few minutes later she walked on for a short while and then was happy to go back into the buggy. It was an enjoyable outing for us all and Barry and I agreed that it was a worthwhile investment for even if Dominie doesn't get extended use it will surely serve the other dogs in due course.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Rockets and explosions

Barry has always had a lively inquiring mind and a need to test theories for himself. When he was around 15 years old, he became interested in creating rockets. Acquiring the components was simple enough and he entertained himself trying different ‘recipes’, concoctions he discovered in the Public Library. All fuses were ‘Jetex’.
A by-product of the rockets was explosions. On one occasion while testing the latest prototype in the back garden the rocket flew off at speed into the next-door neighbour’s cabbage patch, destroying it.

A far more serious event happened at school when the rocket propellant Barry was trialling badly scorched and blew a hole in the cricket pitch. The experiment had been conducted at night and he had selected a test site in the middle of the sports field as far as possible from habitation. Not being a cricketer he was unaware that the chosen location was destined to be the coming season’s cricket pitch. (Bear in mind that this was in Kent, one of the eighteen first class cricket counties in all of which cricketing is taken very seriously. Kent, together with Sussex, is the birthplace of the sport. It is believed that cricket was invented by children living in the Weald in Saxon or Norman times.) The grounds man was very unhappy the following morning, muttering that the last time this happened was during WW2 when a German aircraft bombed the place.
A search for explosive substances revealed that Barry’s locker was a veritable jet propulsion lab. Unaware of the fracas he had caused, Barry was ordered to report to the headmaster’s study where he was presented with the evidence of the locker and the cricket pitch. He feared uncomfortable retribution. The head, a former Colonel during the Second World War and a Quaker, took a most enlightened view and, though he left no doubt in Barry’s mind that his activities had been noted and disapproved of and were not to be repeated, informed Barry that his punishment would last for two terms; he was ordered to report to the chemistry master and attend compulsory after-school lessons on explosives. He concluded, 'If you are going to do this sort of thing then you will do it properly and under supervision and ONLY under supervision.' It transpired that the chemistry master had been in the SOE (Special Operations Executive) during WW2 and knew a thing or two about 'doing it properly' as far as explosives were concerned. Barry learnt much and effected his future 'experiments' under the guidance of his ex-SOE mentor.
Eventually other interests developed and rocket-making became a thing of the past. Many years later, Barry was sitting with a very senior member of the armed forces waiting for a meeting to start. They were of a similar age and started reminiscing about school days and it emerged that he also had carried out similar 'experiments' in his youth. The difference was that he wasn’t caught.

Postscript: Barry recalls these events with some horror - but it was not at all uncommon for schoolboys to engage in dangerous activities. Even schoolgirls in Chemistry laboratories could be observed mixing various chemicals 'to see what would happen.' Nothing ever did (in my school anyway) but we were poorly supervised in the days before 'Health and Safety' ruled.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

ABC WednesdayRound 5 - I

I is for Ingredients for Chocolate Tiffin, a rather sickly tea-time treat.

I is also for Iridium-coated sunglasses that Barry wears when cycling in the forest. I imagine the images he sees are rather indistinct as the lenses need cleaning.
I is for Internet without which I would not be able to share my photographs with you.
I is for the Inspiration that allowed Mrs Nesbitt to develop this meme - thank you!
To see more Interpretations please click here.

Monday 14 September 2009

Postscript to 'I live to launder' March 2009

One of the 'joys' of laundering is drying items in the fresh air. The trouble with living on a relatively small island (or collection of islands) is that the weather can and freqently does change rapidly bringing several varieties in the course of one day. Thus hanging out the laundry is chancy particularly if I intend to go out for the day - or even for an hour or two. Telling myself that soft rain will rinse the washing again isn't really very helpful especially if said rain drops relentlessly for hour upon hour.

I think I now have the answer. It is a rotary dryer, sometimes referred to by me as a whirligig, otherwise as a carousel, bringing to mind prancing fairground horses - now wouldn't that make a necessary chore more fun? Would I sit on each bright steed in turn, pegging clothes to ears and reins, stretching sheets and towels across the saddle pommels of the nags next to me and going UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN and ROUND and ROUND and ROUND and ROUND to the unmistakeably cheery sound of a fairground organ. Now that I think about it the flying chairs - Chair-O-Planes - could be brought into play. Think how quickly the washing would dry on those! Swing Boats would be all right for hand-held things - tea towels and dish cloths perhaps - hold on with one hand and flap the washing with the other? I don't think the Big Wheel would be much use, except at the immediate approach and departure of the zenith and at the zenith itself and the Helter-Skelter would barely have begun its work before the bottom was reached. Shooting Galleries and Lucky Dips wouldn't afford any help though perhaps the Bumper Cars might be called into action. The drawback with those would be the soiling that might occur as cars battered into each other! I remember my brother received a nasty cut to the eyebrow on a Bumper Car - blood everywhere and a lifelong scar! The Tea Cups might be useful for small light items - not enough height or space for larger things.

I digress - the rotary dryer we erected yesterday requires an extension pole as it appears to be designed for the (much) shorter woman but we purchased a rainproof cover with mesh skirts so that the washing can remain out in even the most inclement weather - apart from a howling gale, of course. (There's a boat at our marina called 'Owl in Gale'!)
This YouTube clip made me giggle - I'd like to see the house that has a garden like this!
Near the top of the instruction leaflet accompanying the DRYLINE is the advice - 'AVOID FITTING IN HIGH WIND'. Visions spring to mind of a Mary Poppins-style sailing up into the ether. Its efficacy is being tested today as drizzle is falling determinedly and the sky is grey. Wet weather gear will be required for walking the dogs. Barry chose the one dry spell to cycle with them earlier (and met a lady 'dog-scootering' of which more anon.)
Postscript: it is now definitely raining - no more of the wishy-washy precipitation that fools you into thinking you're not getting wet - this is the real, heavy-dropping stuff.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Today's Flowers #57 Pyracantha

These are the colourful fruits of one of our Firethorns, Pyracantha 'Golden Charmer.'

It grows in a large half-barrel in our front garden. Firethorns are closely related to Cotoneaster but have many very sharp thorns. Birds and insects are attracted to the close masses of white flowers in Spring. In Autumn the berries, which are red, yellow or orange, depending on the specimen plant, attract birds, particularly blackbirds which gorge themselves on them. I have just discovered that the berries can be used to make jam though the cooked fruits are apparently rather bitter. I haven't decided yet whether I shall try some - my inclination is to leave them for the birds!

The shrub can grow to 6m in height and its thorns become larger with age and more difficult to avoid so it is often used as an obstacle to easy house-breaking! It is exceptionally easy to propagate from cuttings.

Thank you to the 'Today's Flowers' team for organising and hosting this lovely meme.To see more beauty from around the world please click here

Pet Pride - lap dog!

Jenna-the-Labrador is convinced she's a lap dog. She struggles to clamber up and fidgets about trying to get comfortable, digging her elbows into the human she's sitting on, then jumps down.

Thank you to Bozo and his human for hosting this enjoyable meme.
To see more Pets to be Proud of please click here