June 24, 2009

Palliative Care

It is a natural reaction to try to stay out of hospital for any number of reasons. Mainly, I suppose to allay all the unreasonable fears that have built up in our complex brains over the years In today's world, this translates as a conviction that we will come out of hospital with whatever we went in with plus an added infection. At last I overcame these predjudices and agreed to spend a few days from last Wednesday, in a special unit at Whipps Cross Hospital. At first examination the Margaret Centre is beyond criticism. The patient is immediately put at ease and feels comfortable in the knowledge that he is the most important person around. Each room has two beds and my companion was a guy called Michael, who unfortunately has, as a result of Progressive Supranuclear Palsey (PSP), lost his power of speech. He is here in order that his wife, suffering from Parkinsons Disease, may get some respite at home. At this point I must break off and tell you another relevant story.

About 35 years ago, nearly half my lifetime, my son started his secondary education at Bancroft’s School. After a few weeks he struck up an enduring friendship with a boy called Christopher. This lasted until Cris left at the end of the summer term in July 1978. As is normal in all school relationships, the five year strong relationship breaks down after a while and both parties and their families follow their own career and social lives. Nina and I had met Christopher's family several times over the years and felt that we knew each other fairly well. Our only other connection with the family was that Christopher's younger sister became an assistant pharmacist and used to see us when we collected prescriptions. She left this job some 8 years ago and this finally severed any contact between our families.

The upshot of this story is that I felt truly priviledged to have been in the same room as Michael in that we eventually managed to communicate with our own sign language, and bought Neil and Chris together again after so many years.
What a strange world we live in!

I came home on Monday afternoon, and can honestly say that yesterday was the best day that I have had for months. They have switched and added various medications and the result appears to be working. This has been a long entry, so I will save some news for future entries. I must,however, thank everyone who has contacted me by phone, email or visit. I have not felt up to responding personally yet, but will do so over a period of time. Bless you all.

Posted by jeff at 10:08 AM | Comments (8)

June 10, 2009

Transfusion

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OK I'll have another pint after this one please

Yesterday I had another blood transfusion after a consultation with my oncologist. She put me on steroids to try to build me up again, but I am still in a lot of pain. Tomorrow I am seeing a Macmillan palliative nurse to discuss once again my pain managment. To be honest, I would like to get rid of it rather than manage it!

Posted by jeff at 05:12 PM | Comments (4)

May 30, 2009

Confusion

I'm sorry about what seemed to confuse my two readers, as I now find that I have two called "June"! My comments were directed to June B, but it was great to find out that June W is also following my news.

I had another bad day yesterday after visiting friends for lunch but Nina seems to have had a brilliant idea as to what is causing it. Just as the bad day on my bithday was caused when we went to lunch at friends, I had sat in the sun and think that the drugs I am on react badly with sun. Thank goodness I feel better today and I shall avoid the sun.

I have had a letter from the hospital to inform me that me that my blood count is still low and I will probably have to have another transfusion on 9 June. Hopefully this one will have some positive effect.

At the moment I am being kept entertained watching the French Open Tennis, and this afternoon I will watch the Cup Final. What a busy life!

Posted by jeff at 10:43 AM | Comments (3)

May 27, 2009

Improvement

The Bank Holiday weekend was horrific. My post infusion pain was so intense that I wondered at times if I could survive! I know that is a dramatic statement, but it is difficult to convey the degree of pain that is being experienced. Yesterday, however, was a complete reversal as I felt that some invisible power had swept away the pain and I almost had an explosion of energy! Today - not quite as dramatic but it would appear that the good times are continuing. I do no have anymore invasive treatment until 18 June, so I am hoping that the current state of affairs will persist until then.

I had a phone call from a friend today telling me that she had discovered my blog. Well done June, that means that I now have at least two readers! Just keep watching this space.

Posted by jeff at 05:23 PM | Comments (3)

May 24, 2009

Morale Booster

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Jim Hulbert

Today I have been in a lot of pain and totally unable to sit in any chair in comfort. This left me very depressed and just sitting feeling sorry for myself when the phone rang. I can't explain how quickly my mood changed when I heard that American accent! It was my dear friend, Jim Hulbert callinng from St. Paul MN. Jim, you just do not know what a tonic it was hearing your voice. I think you have changed the course of my mood for the rest of the day. Bless you and Sue, it is great to have friends like you.

Posted by jeff at 04:38 PM | Comments (1)

May 21, 2009

Scarborough (Cont.)

We arrived home last night, but I did not feel up to updating my blog.

On Tuesday we went to Whitby on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from Pickering and suddenly all the men reverted to being little boys again as we leaned out of the window to take pictures. Those with hair finished up with sooty grit in it and the smell of the smoke and coal was so evocative of a bygone era.
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The NYMR Train Arriving at Pickering

The weather in Whitby was not very good and we had to spend most of our time there dodging the rain. I think I overdid it as I was quite exhausted by the time we arrived back in Scarborough and went straight to bed and missed dinner.

Yesterday we travelled home via Wertherby and again I found the journey very taxing and had to go to bed as soon as we arrived home. Today I had to go back to the MDU for the second of my infusions. This one was not as long as the one last month and the pain in my bones only started later this afternoon. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day all round.

Posted by jeff at 07:14 PM | Comments (1)

May 17, 2009

Transfusion

I'm sorry that this entry is late, but I was too exhausted on Friday evening to post it. Saturday, we were travelling to Scarborough with the U3A and I then had trouble getting connected to the hotel network.

After last week's tacit Tuesday came fraught Friday! I did not realise that the transfusion of two units of blood would take 6 hours. I am not so sure that I got the correct blood, as my upper canine teeth started to grow and the necks of the young nurses looked very inviting! Oh Dear! Just as well that I still have my sense of humour - it is keeping me going. I do feel that I have a bit more energy than when I entered the Medical Day Unit on Friday morning. The four days in Yorkshire will prove it one way or the other.

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MDU - Before the Rush!

Posted by jeff at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2009

Transfusion, Infusion & Confusion!

It was my birthday on Sunday and I had hoped that I would have a little change of luck and that I would enjoy myself. We went to lunch at friends and I was offered a glass of wine; now I have not had a drink for months as I have been on morphine as a painkiller, but there were four doctors at this lunch and they all said that it would do me no harm! Oh Boy! How wrong can you be? I will not go into the details of the effect that it had on me, but suffice it to say we had to come home immediately and I had not felt so ill in my life!

Today we went to see the oncologist and to have a blood transfusion, but apparently my doctor asked for the wrong blood test, so I could not have the transfusion. I had another blood test and the transfusion is booked for Friday morning. Please, please let it happen then.

We are supposed to be going to Scarborough for four days on Saturday with a U3A group, so we will know everyone. Hopefully, after the transfusion we will be really ready to go! I will report after the event - assuming it takes plaece!

Posted by jeff at 09:12 PM | Comments (1)

May 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Nurse Nina

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Nurse Nina!

Never have I wished Nina a happier birthday than today! She has become "Nurse Nina" over the last seven months with the same efficiency that she has demonstrated in everything she has done in her life. No man could have wished for better.

The latest update on me is that I have to see my oncologist on Tuesday and will probably have to have a blood transfusion to give me a bit of a boost. Let's hope that it works. I will then have to wait until 21 May for the second infusion and hope that it is not as dramatic as the first. I will report accordingly. Until then we are going to enjoy Nina's birthday and mine tomorrow.

Posted by jeff at 11:45 AM | Comments (2)

April 22, 2009

Progress at Last

Thank you everyone once again for all your good wishes after my last posting, but this is the big one.

So yesterday at last we saw some action! I had to go to our local hospital for the infusion of Zoledronic Acid. This is a drug of the Bisphosphonate family designed to replace some of my bone calcium which the cancer has been feeding on, presumably. This was a strange ward, as there were no appointments, I was just told to turn up between 10:30 and 11:00. The ward looked rather like a cross between a canteen and a ward, as the furniture was half tables and chairs and ward trolleys. There was also a tea, coffee & soup machine and every one was wandering around as though they owned the place. I felt very strange as the new boy until a nurse came over and told me to sit by one of the beds and she would see to me soon. After about 30 minutes one of the half dozen or so nurses came over to me and fitted a canula into my arm and attached an innocuous bag of colourless fluid to it and told me it would take about half an hour to infuse. I though that that sounded reasonable and I felt little change when the bag emptied. That was until I went to stand up! I could not move and felt as though every bone in my body had been stamped on and ground into the dirt. I had to be helped into a wheel-chair and pushed to the car and helped into it. I don’t know how Nina got me into the house when we got home. I have had to up my morphine from 10mg to 20 or 25mg depending on the pain levels. Thank goodness today much of the pain has gone but I am feeling totally fatigued and exhausted. When I go for my next infusion in four weeks time, I think I will dose myself up with a jumbo shot of morphine in anticipation.

Posted by jeff at 08:53 PM | Comments (2)

April 10, 2009

Further Progress Report

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It has been wonderful to realise just how many people have enquired about my health over the last three months. I wish that the number of persons enquiring was directly proportional to the curative effects of the treatment! As you can see from the photograph I took of myself today, I am not the suave handsome young guy that I always thought I was.

My last report was after my visit to the consultant on 23 December 2008, when he announced that he did not want to see me for 9 weeks. Nina and I were quite euphoric at that time and had hoped that it presaged a turning point. Since the end of February, however, I have been referred to an oncologist and have had X-rays, MRI scan, CT scan and have had a large dose of Radio Therapy. The result of which is not yet clearly defined. As soon as the team are satisfied that the Radio Therapy has worked I am to have a course of Bisphosphonate Infusions to strengthen the bone calcium. This is to commence on 14 April. What I was not told, however, was that the result of the radio therapy caused considerable pain, lethargy and weight loss. It is almost a case of the cure being worse than the illness. This has resulted in me having several days of depression almost as bad as the ones in November and December. This is mainly caused by the fact that I am on a fairly strong dose of morphine which does not encourage me to be over active - to say the least.

With all that is going on in the world it is a wonder that I am not being treated for the removal of "toxic assets" or for "quantitative easing" to relieve the pain! Maybe the government will arrange for the Health Service to take over the running of the banks to deal with these curses that we have been smitten with!

Perhaps this is already working, as I have been feeling slightly better since 6 April. The start of a new financial year!

Once again, thanks to everyone for you enquiries and I will try to keep this blog up to date from now on.

Posted by jeff at 10:07 AM | Comments (4)

January 26, 2009

Chinese Happy New Year

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Tonight Janet, Nina and I celebrated the Chinese New Year at a local restaurant. It was a special menu for the occasion and we even had the local Lion Dance Ensemble! Janet wanted fish & chips, but settled for the chinese! It certainly made a change for a Monday evening! Sorry that the picture is not up to my usual standard but I only had my mobile phone with me.

Posted by jeff at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2008

Long Term Update

So - here we are nearly at the end of 2008. It has certainly been a traumatic year for us with the good and the bad mixed together.

The good has been tempered throughout the year by the continued academic success of our three granddaughters with Joelle getting her straight "As" and joining older sister Carly in Leeds. Jaimie is continuing in Sixth Form College and has the makings of a really quirky photographer! I know she will make it in a very difficult sphere.

In June Nina and I celebrated our golden wedding, and although Nina did not want a party, Neil and Laura insisted and we had a celebratory lunch. This was held at the Theydon Bois village hall and we trust was enjoyed by one and all.

We had booked a special holiday for the occasion and left for our four week holiday which included a 23 day cruise to Alaska, Northern Japan, Vladivostok, Pusan, Southern Japan and China. The last three days of the holiday being spent in Beijing.

I had been suffering with a backache for a few weeks but thought that I was in sympathy with Nina who has had a bad back for quite some time. It was either that or sciatica that had plagued me a few years ago. I had discounted the fact that I had also been losing weight for about two months. Nina had wanted to cancel the holiday in order that I seek medical advice, but because of the significance of the trip, I refused. I would have recorded the entire trip on my blog but the internet link on the ship went down after two days and was lost for the rest of the cruise. We also lost all cell communication and were deprived of daily news. As this trip took us through September, perhaps we were better off not knowing what was going on in the world!!

On the flight to Vancouver the pain worsened and our first purchase in Ketchikan was a tub of 100 Tylenol tablets which I lived on for the duration of the trip. I did not let this affect the holiday and we both thoroughly enjoyed it but the flight home from Beijing was agony. We returned home on the 9 October and the next day I consulted our GP.

That consultation was just over ten weeks ago and I have gone through a whirlwind of emotions since. I have been diagnosed as having prostate cancer and a bone scan has revealed that there are a couple of "hot spots" on my pelvis and at the base of my spine. Six weeks ago I had the first of a monthly implant to counter the cancer and I will have regular blood tests to monitor the PSA and bone density to measure trends. To date I have begun to put on weight but the loss of over 20lbs and the wastage of muscle has left me unable to walk more than about 200 yards without having to have a rest. Beyond that I am feeling OK having gone through several bad depressions, or as Churchill called them, "Black Dog Days".

Nina has also started to take action with regard to her back and my first outing driving was to take her for her MRI scan. Five weeks without driving the car! I must say that in addition to being a wonderful wife for 50 years, she can now add to her CV, Nurse and Chauffeur.

The first time I heard the doctor utter the word "Cancer" of course my thoughts were in total confusion. No - this was not me. I can't possibly have cancer; I am relatively fit and that is a word that does not exist in my vocabulary. But it does; it is in every one's dictionary. It is only a word. Some people refer to it as the "Big C". There are other big "Cs" such as Contain, Curtail, Control and Cure. I have been given various mantras such as "This is a disease you will die with, not of" and "Cancer is a word; not a sentence". Personally I cannot help feeling that these are overdone and I need one of my own.

Although I have gone through several bouts of depression, I have not let these get the better of me. To think positively you need someone to motivate you. There are two without whom I could not have succeeded. Firstly of course there is my wife, Nina and the other is my consultant urologist who I will refer to as "John". Over the past 10 weeks or so they have both been very supportive and even when John had to give me news that was not what we wanted to hear, he managed to do so in a way that made me want to fight with even more determination.

We have been seeing John every two weeks and up until the last visit the news has not been that good. However at last he delivered the words "I think we have turned the corner". He followed this with the thought that without my positive attitude and Nina's encouragement perhaps it would not have happened. We will never know if this is the case, but it does not hurt to wipe out all of the negative thoughts.

We went home after this last consultation elated and happy at the news that John does not want to see me for another nine weeks. It was at this point that I though of my mantra: -

I won't let a bunch of mutant cells that have lost the plot ruin my life!

HAVE A GREAT YEAR IN 2009

Posted by jeff at 11:56 AM | Comments (3)

September 17, 2008

Juneau

Tuesday

We arrived in Juneau at 7:30 this morning and found exactly the same as in Ketchikan - drizzle! We walked around the town which is very similar to Norway or yesterday's experience.

This afternoon we visited the sled dog summer camp and met the "mushers" and their dogs. A team of twelve dogs took us in a wheeled vehicle on a trip of about a mile and afterwards we met the puppies. Not quite cairns, but cute anyway. Photos to be posted soon

Posted by jeff at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2008

Ketchikan - Juneau

Yesterday (Monday) was an internet disaster. The connection has been down for 24 hours and I am now well behind on blogging. I am now connected and here is what I intended to post yesterday.

Sunday

There was nothing dramatic to report yesterday as we were at sea all day. We commenced the journey through the Inner Passage - if you will pardon the expression - towards Alaska. The tour manager said that the temperature tomorrow would be about 28 in bright sunshine; well, if not in Alaska, it would be somewhere in the world!

Monday

Today we arrived at Ketchikan at 07:30 and after breakfast we went ashore in a misty drizzle. Apparently, they measure rainfall in Ketchikan by the foot, not the inch! It does make you wonder what drove people to settle in this part of the world. After about two hours ashore we decided that the ship would the drier and more welcoming place to be. We had by then seen most of downtown Ketchikan including Creek Street which was the old bordello area of the town, particularly Dolly’s House which was closed down in the 1930s. Wouldn't you just believe it - as we got back on board, the sun came out.

We sailed at 14:00 continuing up the inner passage to Juneau, tomorrow's port of call

Posted by jeff at 08:17 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2008

Leaving Vancouver

Yesterday was quite a day. We were collected from the hotel at 11:30 as promised and reached the port at 12:30. After spending 90 minutes wending our way through a serpentine queue, we entered the "Cattle Shed" that puported to be US Immigration.

The least said about that the better! We eventually got on board at 16:30!!!

At least our frustration was countered when we got to our cabin and saw how delightful it is. We finally sailed at 18:30.
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Leaving Vancouver
Early nigh as the travel days have caught up with us

Posted by jeff at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2008

Vancouver

I now know where all the redundant engines from Concorde have gone - they power the hand driers in the toilets at Terminal 5!

So here we are in Vancouver after a 32 hour day yesterday. Our 9 hour flight from London was almoost uneventful, apart from the fact that I must be the only guy to have a shower on a BA flight! One of the trolley dollies managed to throw a glass of cold water over me, and not for any of the reasons you may think!

The hotel we stayed in last night is fantastic. We had two emporer sized beds and areal coffee percolator. Don't suppose our cabin will be that size. Well we will find out in about 4 -5 hours time.

Carry on watching this space.

Posted by jeff at 04:01 PM | Comments (1)

September 10, 2008

Golden Wedding - Diamond Princess

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Diamond Princess

Tommorow we are off to start our round the world trip. We are camping out at Heathrow so as not to suffer traumas on Friday morning! We then fly to Vancouver and board the ship there. We are then of to Alaska for 9 days before crossing the northen pacific.

I will be updating this blog daily if possible, but I doubt if I will be able to post pictures. They will have to wait until we get home. So - as they say "watch this space"

Posted by jeff at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2008

They Think It's All Over - Well It Is Now!

If one looks at the Olympics of the 21st century we could become very depressed, but I am looking at the other side of the coin - or in this case, the medal. Everyone is praising the Chinese for the fantastic organisation of the opening ceremony, but tonight I learn that the beautiful little girl was miming her song as the actual singer was not beautiful enough! It has also been reported that the fireworks had also been recorded earlier and some of them were computer generated! I wonder if all those thousands of synchronised drummers were real. There were probably only about 10 and the picture was reproduced many thousands of times. After this effort they then doubled as the synchronised diving pair and predictably won a gold medal - or two.

We really should find out how it is done as this will make the task at Stratford so much easier in 2012. Then the torch entered the stadium! We were told by the commentator that it ran around the birds' nest stadium and then lit the cauldron! Come on! Hello! This is China. Birds' nests are for making soup, and for this you wouldn't have a cauldron. This is Beijing, you only need a WOK!

A few nights later I watched the medal ceremony for the two British girls who won Gold and Bronze in the swimming pool. Our first swimming medals for 48 years! You could tell this was so as the Union Flags were creased where they had been folded. I must say it would not have hurt if they had arranged for them to be ironed after lying in a drawer for all that length of time.

The next night the BBC interviewed a very personable young man who had won a silver medal in kayak slalom. Apparently he is an astrophysicist who was turned down on applying to become an astronaut. In their wisdom, the Beeb produced a graphic showing him on the moon in a space suit planting a Union Flag on the surface. It might have been a little more acceptable as a joke if the flag had not been upside down!

So - now it is all over. What are the things that impressed me and what images are indelibly printed on my brain? First, I can now pronounce Qindao as "Shindow" and to my surprise I now know that Yngling is an English word as is Ohuruogu. It would also appear that the British sailors winning gold medals have, of necessity, to use an "F" word to describe their ecstasy!

Let us not detract form the 19 gold medals won. During the last few weeks it has been announced that the growth of our economy from April to June has reached 0%. Wait until the September figures are released with all that massive addition to our gold reserves!

An interesting statistic that emerges from the medal table is, if you take the number of medals and look at how many of the population it took to produce a gold medal, the position of the top four nations would be reversed with GB at the top with 3.21M, followed by Russia with 6.18M, and USA third with 8.44M. China with its massive population would be fourth with 26.08M. So there you are - we truly are the greatest!

On to the closing ceremony, again another truly great spectacle. All those drums dominated by two massive ones that looked like giant slices of Edam cheese having the daylights being beaten out of them. I did like the London bus that morphed into a giant topiary of the capital’s skyline, and David Beckham didn’t miss this penalty. How clever of them to leave Amy Winehouse out of the equation.

At each Olympics there are a few sports that are included as demonstrations only. What will we have in 2012? How about Chigwell Wives in Four-Wheel Drives showing how to hold the steering wheel with one hand whilst clutching a mobile phone in the other and completing a right-hand turn. After all they would only have to get as far as Stratford! Part of our opening ceremony could be the arrival of about 100 Black cabs and as soon as they stop 100 Black & Yellow wardens could slap a parking ticket on them!

Sorry to get carried away, overall I must say "Well Done GB" let's hope that we can improve on these results in London.

Posted by jeff at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2008

Europe

The problems of updating the computer and the resultant non-compatibility with Neil’s new server have meant that I have been unable to create a photo album for my blog. This means that for the time being you will have to settle for a few integral pictures.

This is the reason that I have not posted an article about our recent trip to Central Europe where we visited Budapest, Vienna and Prague. We ere very lucky to choose that one week when the sun shone without a break and we did not once have to wear a coat1

We were worried in the first instance as we were departing via Terminal 5, but it was almost deserted as the photo shows and all went smoothly.
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Heathrow Terminal 5 - nearly empty!

Nina described Budapest as being a city of 'Faded Grandeur'. Although in receipt of a lot of funds from the EU, they have not yet learned how to spend it, as opposed to the updating and cleaning up of Vienna and Prague. We very much enjoyed this city despite the way the Hungarians seem to continually putting themselves down. In particular, we were very moved by the history of the Jewish community of the country. We enjoyed a tour of the synagogue, the largest in Europe, and the surrounding Jewish quarter.
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Dohany St. Synagogue - The Great Synagogue

Pictures of Budapest can be viewed here.

To be continued...............


Posted by jeff at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2008

Learning To SKI

(Or How To Spend Your Kid's Inheritance)

There is no doubt that we are now all considering ways to enjoy our retirement and to spend whatever we have accumulated over the years. As much as we love our kids, we would all prefer to get the most out of our money before it is too late. Rightly or wrongly, I have decided to be different to most people. Well - I am sure that that is no more than any of my readers expect of me. I have decided to get new glasses and to have the dental treatment that I have been avoiding for so long. This is so that I do not comply with Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man. I do not want to finish up "Sans Eyes - Sans Teeth"

My optometrist is Nina's brother and he can be brutal in the way he looks into my eyes and says "By golly - your eyes are bad". Where is his professionalism? I think I have mentioned this before, but I would really like to know when an optician became an optometrist. I think I came to the conclusion then that it must have been the same time that chiropodists morphed into podiatrists. The outcome of this is that I am being advised that I must be fashionable and have new frames as well as new lenses. I have been served well for about eight years by the current frames but I have to accept that they have now passed their "sell by" date. How can a pair of spectacle frames cost as much as a bespoke suit? Or even a moderate second hand car. But - so be it, I have to be in the fashion.

As for the dentist, I have been very remiss over the last couple of years but Nina tells me that her dentist is a very nice man; in fact he is a very, very nice man. This makes me wonder if he was trained by the AA! I have to admit that he is most pleasant, even if he is a Chelsea supporter. After brutalising my gums he informs me that I must see the periodontist. Here we go again, surely a rose by any other name? This operative is a very pretty young lady who at first sight I feel certain cannot be a sadist. After a session lasting nearly 90 minutes I am convinced that she has been badly treated by a man and she is getting her revenge on me! I could easily have spent the time watching a Tottenham Hotspur football match and suffered only half as much pain! I think I have the solution to extract (pardon the pun) my revenge. I will eat garlic sausage and pickled onions one hour before my next visit!

When I add the total cost of making me far more attractive in my dotage than I could ever have expected, I realise that it amounts to as much as a Round the World cruise for two weeks. Surely that is a much more enjoyable way to SKI? Well - I told you I was a masochist!

Hey! I've just noticed - two Shakespeare quotations in one item. I must be improving in intellect!

Posted by jeff at 01:51 AM | Comments (2)

December 22, 2007

Am I Being Watched?

It was a bright November Sunday morning and I decided that as part of my therapy I would walk into Loughton to the Farmers' Market. There I was striding away down the hill marvelling at the beautiful colours of the trees when my mobile phone buzzed. It was informing me that I had a message which said: -'You are striding out well today!' It was from my daughter who just happened to drive past at that moment. I didn't give the incident much thought until a few days later, when, once again pacing along the high road, a car went passed and hooted. I glanced up and saw a young woman in a car I did not recognize, and, therefore thought that the hoot was not for me. I was somewhat disappointed, as I know that my undoubted charm causes many women to hoot me. A few moments later my phone buzzed again and this time the message said: - 'What are you doing gazing up at the trees?' Apparently I had looked at the wrong car, for this time it was one of my granddaughters and her boyfriend who had been travelling in front of the car I thought had hooted. I sent a text back saying: - 'I don't like being spied on!'

As Chairman of the EFU3A, it worries me that there are 600 people out there watching me apart from my family and I must, therefore, be very careful who I am seen with in Epping, Loughton, Buckhurst Hill and all stations east! I will just have to explain to all those women that hoot me on my perambulations that I cannot be seen in their company however delightful they are, as I have to maintain a dignified air whilst holding such an exalted position!

I suppose that I should be grateful for the mobile phone, for without it I would not be aware of the watchful eyes of my family; on second thoughts, perhaps I should keep a keener eye out whilst walking?

If you should see me traveling anywhere in the EFU3A area, please don’t bother to send me a text message, I just know you are all out there somewhere.

Posted by jeff at 02:32 AM | Comments (1)

October 21, 2007

Ireland

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------------------- Yours Truly Kissing The Blarney Stone! -------------------

Last night we returned from a fantastic six days id South West Ireland. The weather was wonderful and of course it enhanced the scenery in a magical way. As if I needed to, I did kiss the Blarney Stone!

Nina has still not stopped marvelling at the Dingle Peninsular although it was not very far ahead of the sights on the Ring of Kerry. Even though I have not yet completed titling my Russian pictures, I will be putting several from this trip on to the picture gallery.

Posted by jeff at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2007

Russia (cont.)

I hope the pictures were worth waiting for! Here is the itinerary and links to the pictures for each town.

The less said about the journey from a rain drenched Heathrow to a late arrival in Moscow the better!

Saturday - A tour of the city with plenty of photo stops including a trip on the metro. Later we went off to view Moscow by night.

Sunday - Started with a tour of the Kremlin and the Armoury before sailing in the afternoon. Pictures of Moscow

Monday - Arrived at Uglich in the early afternoon and we were escorted on a walking tour of the town. Pictures of Uglich

Tuesday - Arrived at Yaroslavl early in the morning to be taken on a city tour by bus. Enjoyed some free time in the town market, and can recommend the pickled cucumbers! We sailed retracing the Volga to continue the journey. Pictures of Yaroslavl

Wednesday - Arrived mid-morning at Goritsy and taken by bus to the monastery at Kirillov. We left here mid-afternoon. Pictures of Goritsy & Kirillov

Thursday - Up until now the weather had been very good, but today it is raining and we are due to arrive at the island of Kizhi at 5pm. This is supposed to be the most beautiful part of the trip. All the buildings are built totally of wood. The large church has 22 cupolas and the small one, which is the only one open, has10. The quality of these pictures is way below the standard that I expect from myself, but the rain was pouring down the whole time! Pictures of Kizhi

Friday - Midday arrival at Mandrogi, a reconstructed peasant village set up as a “kitsch” catch! Here you see all the art and crafts of Russia demonstrated and sold to tourists. We did see one artist from the St Petersburg school of art and broke our vow not to buy a picture. I can only describe it as a modern Breugel. It is a view of Uglich in the winter and a horse has fallen through the ice. All the villagers are out trying to help and carrying on with whatever Russians do in the winter. Pictures of Mandrogi and other events whilst cruising, including the Captain’s farewell dinner. We think he jumped ship that nigh! Pictures of Mandrogi & Cruising

Saturday - The First Mate brought us into St Petersburg early in the morning and we were taken on a tour of the city, including the Peter & Paul Fortress. In the afternoon we went on a trip to Pushkin, the modern name for the town of Sarskoe Selo where the Catherine Palace is to be found. WOW! What a palace!. In the evening we went to a Folklore performance of traditional song and dance. This was the old Russia. Pictures of St Petersburg

Sunday - We went on the official tour of the Hermitage until lunchtime and then stayed on in the afternoon. This museum is like no other I have ever visited. They say that if you spend one minute looking at each artefact on display during all the opening hours of the museum; it would take you 8 years to cover everything! Having been there, this is not difficult to believe. We travelled back to the ship by Metro which is quite an experience in itself. St Petersburg is built on marshland, so the Metro has to be very deep. It is about two and a half to three times as deep as the London Underground and the ride down on the escalators – faster than London - takes at least three minutes. A quick shower and change of clothes and back to the Hermitage Theatre for a performance of “Giselle”. There is no doubt that when Catherine the Great built this theatre for her friends, she certainly did not intend that they should go to sleep. These were the most uncomfortable seats I have ever sat in!

Monday - Lazy morning this morning and then into town to the Yusopov House where Rasputin was killed at least four times! We then walked to the great synagogue and then by taxi and metro back to the ship.

Tuesday - Departure from the ship and transfer to the Moscow Hotel. This is an enormous edifice with at least 1,000 rooms at the lower end of the Nevski Prospekt. We eventually settled in and slipped next door to McDonalds for lunch. After this we went over the road to the necropolis of the monastery to view the tombs of the great writers and composers. It is overwhelming to think of the amount of talent buried in this one cemetery. The photos will list the main ones we saw. Dinner at the hotel and packing for departure tomorrow.

Wednesday - After looking forward to a real hot shower, we were disappointed to find that there was no hot water! The floor service assured us it would be back by 9 am, but it did not arrive until 11.45! We had to be ready to leave at 12.30, so there we were ready to fly out having settled for cold showers in the morning! What a way to end the holiday.


Posted by jeff at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2007

From Russia With Love!

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St Basil's Cathedral

Yesterday we arrived back from twelve days in Russia. We started in Moscow for two days and then on a river cruise to Saint Petersburg for the final three days. I have a mass of pictures to sort out and will post these as soon as I have edited them. I will also post a journal of the trip.

Posted by jeff at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2007

New Age Food!

From The Sunday Times
May 27, 2007
Scientists breed cows that give skimmed milk

There you are, proof in print that I am not making this up. I read this headline and my perverse brain clicked into gear and I realised that perhaps I ought to put everyone in the picture as to what this could mean for all our futures. Apparently the cows in question are not genetically modified but are natural mutations. OK, so what does this foretell for the world? It is obvious to me that the power of concentrated thought can be brought to focus on a strong desire. There were these New Zealand dairy farmers at a conference when one delegate said, “Hey guys, just think of the profit we could make if cows produced skimmed milk?” The strength of the thought waves this produced had the desired effect, and thus was born the sacred cow – literally. Apparently according to the article, it also produces spreadable butter straight from the fridge!

This is where my imagination kicked in. Maybe Bernard Matthews (who has had his own share of problems recently) could boost his profits by breeding, with the aid of genes from various arachnids, eight legged chickens. There would then be no shortage of “drumsticks” at the dinner table and families with more that two children would not have to make the judgement of Solomon by showing favouritism. Perhaps these hens could also produce hard boiled eggs to enable all of us to save energy. Maybe they could go further and lay 4, 6 or 8 minute eggs!

Taking the system on to a natural sequence of scientific development, surely the introduction of vegetable genes into animals could lead to the ability of sheep producing lambs that are already mint flavoured – possibly also with a touch of rosemary! Personally, I would be delighted to try the soon to be marketed Orange Flavoured Duck! One of the problems here of course might be the overshadowing flavour of the various varieties of pond weed. Sterile ponds would be required for the breeding of these ducks but I feel that these could be advantageous in the fight against global pollution.

Feeding beef cattle horseradish could present a problem as the taste for that sauce is not universal and the cost of separating herds could be prohibitive. Economists would, I am sure, like to address this problem and arrive at a reasonable compromise.

I am really excited about all of these ground breaking and world shattering possibilities, but realise that at my advanced years I am unlikely to benefit from the wonders of these new foods. It is more likely that we will be fed the nutrient pill in our dotage to allow the aisles of the supermarkets to be freed for the more mobile non-GM youngster that our offspring will spawn!

HAPPY EATING!!!

You can read the original article here


Posted by jeff at 06:02 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2007

The Young Pretender

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Welcome to your new home

I have waited to introduce my new car until I had tested it fully. Today I visited a client and had to use the M25 so was able to give it a bit of "wellie". Oh Boy! It really can move. Yesterday, I had parked in a street opposite a client, and when I returned, I had a moment of panic - I was looking for a red car!

I suppose that I will learn to love this little upstart eventually.

Posted by jeff at 03:04 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2007

Farewell Old Friend!

I have been rather slow in updating this site over the last month or so, but my duties as chairman of the Epping Forest U3A have demanded more time than I originally anticipated. I am however enjoying the position very much, and have to say that I have got a really great committee.

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A Last Picture in the Snow!

About three years ago I wrote of the trauma of switching from film camera to digital, and commented that disposing of my trusted 35mm camera was rather like having an old dog put down. Well; it has happened again. I have finally decided to pension off my car. I have had this Peugeot 406 for nearly 11 years and have grown very fond of it. My relationship with it has been superb but after all this time and 111,000 miles I am beginning to notice the increase in the frequency of large bills. I will be driving it until next week when my perky two year old 307 will be ready to collect. I shall be quite choked saying farewell to my old friend. I will report on the changeover when it occurs..

Posted by jeff at 02:06 PM | Comments (2)

January 01, 2007

Welcome to 2007

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Happy New Year to One & All

So here we are at last in 2007. I must have sent most of you my review of the year, so this entry is for the one person that appears to be my reader!

Nina and I hope that this year will be an exciting one for all of us, and look forward to meeting both new and old friends as often as we possibly can.

Have fun in 2007

Posted by jeff at 05:01 PM | Comments (1)

November 19, 2006

Late Autumn

It is amazing how wonderful the trees are at the moment. They appear to have been completly fooled by the mild weather. These are some pictures I have taken this weekend.
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Epping New Road

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Coppice Row - Theydon Bois

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Coppice Row - Theydon Bois

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Acer Tree in my Front Garden

Oh well, I suppose that the next pictures I take will be sometime next month of snow scenes!


Posted by jeff at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2006

Polish Security

We were too late to get on the U3A trip to Poland so Nina and I decided to book our own short break to Krakow. Now I have written in the past about my paranoia over obscure portents and signs, so you can appreciate my feelings when arriving at Gatwick to find that the Polish airline we were travelling on was called “Central Wings”. My concern was that I firmly believe that there should be one wing on either side of the aircraft. How could anyone think that it could fly with central wings? I was very relieved to see that the ‘plane actually was configured conventionally and this immediately made me wary as to the honesty of the Poles. How could they use such a lie to describe an airline? Perhaps it is because of their complex language. Compared to English, they have a dearth of vowels and an unbelievable excess of consonants, particularly “Ws”, “Xs”, "Cs" and “Zs”, which they appear to spread liberally in every other word. Listening to spoken Polish is like listening to a tape of the Gettysburg Address being played backwards!

As is common with many airlines at the moment, no food is served on the flight but sandwiches are available to purchase as are tea, coffee and a selection of other beverages. The only problem is that for about 150 passengers, there were only some two or three dozen sandwiches/rolls! I think the cabin crew made them themselves and did not have sufficient time between arriving from Krakow and take off for the return trip. So with one trolley starting at the back of the aircraft and the other from the front, those of us in the middle of the cabin were doomed to starve on the journey.

After a great time in Krakow we thought that we would pre-empt the return flight and take some provisions with us, so after breakfast we secreted about ourselves several pieces of fruit which would sustain us as far as Gatwick where we knew we could get a decent cup of coffee.

We had been warned that security at Krakow airport was particularly stringent and that there were two separate inspections of hand luggage and personal possessions. Now, I wear a safari jacket when travelling as it has several pockets, all within easy reach, but it appears to worry security staff who to feel that it can be a receptacle for myriad explosive devices. On this occasion the first security team asked me to take the jacket off and to place it with my camera and watch in the plastic basket to be transported through the X-ray scanner. I then proceeded through the metal detector which, of course, bleeped – indicating that it did not like me. I was then instructed to remove my shoes and belt. Now clutching my trousers to maintain what little dignity was left to me I tried the metal detector again. Why should it change its mind? It still didn’t like me. Having now been patted down and glared at by three dour security men, they threw my possessions at me whilst muttering unintelligible Polish epithets. I replaced my shoes, belt and jacket and proceed to the departure lounge. Our fellow passengers expressed their condolences at the way I have been treated, but I laugh heartily whilst triumphantly declaring – “Ah, but I fooled them – they didn’t find my banana”!

In the departure lounge we encountered the second team, and on returning from the Gents, they put me through the scanning routine again! Still, I had them fooled though – I had eaten the banana!!!!!

Posted by jeff at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2006

Krakow

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The Market Square

Friday
How are we going to feel about going to the country that forced our grandparents to leave over 100 years ago? How would we feel about visiting Auschwitz voluntarily? These were the questions that kept running through our heads after Nina and I had booked the four day trip to Krakow. We knew straight away that it was going to be a journey full of anomalies – we were going to overlap Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year and we were going to where distant cousins had met their untimely deaths at the hands of the Nazi regime.

We arrived in Krakow and were ensconced in our comfortable hotel by 3.30pm and, as it was Friday, decided to go to the Jewish quarter in Kazimiertz immediately. We commandeered a friendly taxi driver, George, who dropped us off at the Temple Synagogue just minutes before it closed. Of the eight main synagogues in the area only two or three are still consecrated and only one conducts services. By 6.30 we had reached the final one on the tour, which by coincidence was the Remuh synagogue where the service was shortly to begin and we decided to stay and participate in the Mincha (afternoon) service. If I had any conscience about the way I arrived and encroached upon the local community, this was assuaged by the arrival of a group of Israelis who expressed feelings very similar to ours. The rabbi arrived looking very impressive in his high fur hat and greeted his congregants with a warm “Shabbat Shalom” individually with a hand shake. One of them asked quite loudly in English – “How is the best policeman in New York?” Was this really his previous calling?

After leaving the synagogue we went to a nearby restaurant, the Ariel, where we had a typically Polish Jewish meal and were entertained by a Klezmer trio. All of this and we were still less than twelve hours out of London!

Saturday
This morning we went on a walking tour of the old city and the private apartments of the Wawel Castle. The main square in Krakow is the largest square in Europe but is very deceptive as the market building in the centre almost divides it into two. One of the attractions of the town is the fact that there are a considerable number of students, the university being quite famous. We saw the clock strike the hour there and acted just as tourists are expected to!

After lunch we visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine and we both said that this was one of the most incredible experiences we have ever had. We only went down three levels but after descending over 800 steps we were quite exhausted and blessed the fact that we were to come back up again by the lift. The “Cathedral” at a depth of over 200 metres is beyond description. The walls floor and chandeliers are all made of salt and salt crystals! The salt is black which is created by various impurities, but it can be sculpted like rock. The walls of the cathedral are carved with many religious reliefs and the floor is carved into a regular tiled pattern. Marriages are even held here.

We were so shattered after this trip that we decided to eat in the hotel that night, but at least the restaurant served a very good meal.

Sunday

To the Memory of Laitsche Bursztyn (Frankiel)
16 July 1914 – 7 August 1942

Today we went to Auschwitz. That sentence alone says it all. I do not know why we felt we had to go there but it was by way of being a catharsis. We did it as a penance for the fact that our lives never touched the horrors that were perpetuated there. This was the most evil place we have ever been to. I found it impossible to take more than one or two pictures as I felt I was encroaching on the memory of those millions of martyrs. I can only salve my conscience by dedicating this paragraph to the mother of my dear “sister”, Claire. We both shed tears at various points on the tour, but none more for me than at Birkenau at the sight of a posy in remembrance on that dreadful railway line.

Dearest Claire, if what I write gives any offence to you, please forgive me. I felt that I had to pay my respects, and this was the only way I could. Both Nina and I had you in our thoughts the whole time we were in that dreadful place.

I can write no more about this trip. Dear readers whoever you are please finish this item in your own mind with thoughts of those no longer with us.

picture album

Posted by jeff at 11:45 PM | Comments (2)

July 11, 2006

Totally Home Now!

At last I have managed to put titles to all of the photos associated with the Ukraine holiday. It is a very tedious job, but as soon as it is finished I realise that the true end to the hokiday has arrived. Still, I have this blog to console me!

So now you can go back to the last entry and review my pictures and reallly bore yourself!

Posted by jeff at 10:10 PM | Comments (1)

June 27, 2006

Kiev to the Crimea

So, at last we are back from our cruise, and I have found that odd moment during which I can put some of my thoughts down on this media.

The Dneiper is the third longest river in Europe after the Danube and the Volga. What a river it is; at some points where it forms reservoirs between dams it is nearly five miles wide! For much of its length between Kiev and the Black Sea it is over a mile in width with wide reed beds on either bank. We visited several towns on the trip down to the Black Sea including - Dnipropetrovsk, Nova Kachovska, and Odessa. In the Crimea we saw Sevastopol, Balaklava, Balchiserai and Yalta. The return journey to Kiev included visits to Khershon, including Fisherman’s Island and Zaporozhye. On our last day in Kiev prior to our return, we paid an emotive visit to Babi Yar, the site of the slaughter of 200,000 Jews and Ukrainians in 1941; this figure includes 45,000 children.

I have decided to let pictures tell the story of this trip, and they will be available by clicking on the highlighted names of the towns in the paragraph above. Over the next few days additional pictures and titles will be added.

You will have to speak to me if you want any more information, but Nina, Janet and I thoroughly recommend this trip. Now enjoy the pictures: -

Kiev
Dnipropetrovsk
Nova Kachovka
Odessa
Sevastopol
Balchiserai & Balaklava
Yalta
Khershon & Zaporozhye

You can also read my journal of the trip here.

Posted by jeff at 11:44 PM | Comments (1)

June 10, 2006

Ukraine & Black Sea

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MS Viking Lavrinenkov

Well, at the crack of sparrow fart tomorrow morning we are off to the Ukraine for a trip from Kiev down the river Dneiper to the Crimea for the next two weeks. We shall be visiting historic places such as Sevastopol, Yalta and Odessa amongst many others. I do not know what facilities will be available on the ship, but for the benefit of Laura and Karen it could just be another outing to Beckton. So……just watch this space!

Posted by jeff at 12:24 PM | Comments (3)

May 21, 2006

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam!

My readers may have noticed that my Guest Book has disappeared. Well, this is because I was receiving more than 100 spam emails per day and I have therefore decided to end the intrusion into my private life.

If anyone wishes to leave a comment, they can still do so on the current entry which is protected by the security number. So if either of my two readers wishes to contact me, this is the way to do it.

Posted by jeff at 01:12 AM | Comments (2)

March 22, 2006

Invasion of the Wheelie Bin

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The Buckhurst Bin!

Since childhood I have never liked Science Fiction as I suffered nightmares about invasions from outer space and the like. I was also worried about George Orwell’s “1984”. I am now convinced that he was on the right lines, but got the year very wrong. What has actually happened is that Government and Local Authorities have been “infected” with an alien virus that has had a “Stepford Wives” effect on them.

The unwelcome visitor from Mars has arrived in the form of a large black container with a gaping mouth in its head. It moves on plastic wheels and is programmed by the Epping Forest District Council.

In that happy childhood away from the effects of aliens and automatons, I was always fascinated by our local dustman. He was a friendly chap who demonstrated his strength by lifting two galvanized dustbins at the same time; one on each shoulder and tipping them into his truck. He banged them on the edge of the lorry to encourage all the rubbish to fall into the receptacle then dropped them back into our front garden with a smile. No plastic sacks or bags then. No supermarkets! Only loads of potato peelings and cabbage leaves and a few paper carrier bags. Remember carrier bags?

We no longer have a dustman. We have a Recycling & Refuse Operative. He used to carry all our black plastic bags and throw them into his great big compactor. No smile from him as he had no need to return to the house after removing the sacks.

Now it has changed again, we have to live by the code of the wheelie bin! The EFDC tells us that: -

1. The bin must be left at the edge of our property with THE HANDLE FACING THE ROAD!
2. The lid must be closed, or the collector may not take it.
3. Extra bags will only be collected for the first three weeks of this new terrifying era.
4. After three weeks, if there are any extra bags, beyond those swallowed by the wheelie bin, the collector, after emptying the bin will replace these extras in the bin. We will have to protect them for another two weeks.
5. If we persist in leaving extra bags with the full bin, we may be liable to a fine of £100.

I feel that I have always been an honest, upright and law abiding citizen, but to think that this may end soon as I still intend to be clean and tidy and dispose of all of the detritus accumulated in a very normal household. If I am fined £100 on three occasions, I have to assume that, on the principal of “Three strikes and out” law that we hear may be placed on the statute books, I most probably will earn myself a prison sentence within the next year or so.

We are also being urged to recycle glass containers. This is a noble idea, but I am concerned at the request to ensure that all jars and bottles are thoroughly washed. Surely this means that we will be using more water – a commodity that is in such short supply we are told! This has totally blown my mind as I struggle to think up new ways of recycling water.

It also occurs to me that, if you live next door to a young couple with babies, they will probably use disposable nappies. These will now accumulate in the wheelie bin for up to two weeks. You don’t need me to draw a picture as to what a hot summer will do in this situation do you?

I am not normally given to writing articles with a political bias one way or the other, but feel that I just can’t let this one go without comment.

Posted by jeff at 10:34 PM | Comments (1)

February 08, 2006

FEAT of FOOT

The euphoric zenith of attending a fantastic Championship Show at Langley on Saturday to the nadir of having to have the operation on my toe yesterday, could not have demonstrated a greater contrast of emotions. Today I find myself attempting to master the intricacies of coping with crutches without allowing my right foot to touch the ground. I am also sporting the latest fashion in orthopaedic footwear, probably a size 47 shoe!
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"The Foot"

I have nothing but praise for the medical and surgical staff at St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping. I cannot ever remember having so many delightful young ladies fussing around me as there were in the theatre. Although the overall procedure was relatively minor, as you can see from the picture, I have an enormous dressing which will not be changed until next Tuesday. Hopefully then I will be able to wear a normal shoe and drive again. In the meantime I just have to be totally reliant on Nina – so what has changed?

Posted by jeff at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2006

Resolutions

As we approach the end of January I feel that I have to illustrate just how weak-willed I am. I need to confess that I cannot keep New Year Resolutions (NYR).

I think I first made a NYR when I was about 14 years old. I did so because I wanted to appear to be very grown up. It could not have been very life shatteringly important as I cannot remember what it was and I am sure it has no relevance to my life today. Five to ten years later, and not only at the New Year, how many of us fell into the same trap of resolving never to drink again! Oh Yes! – We all at one time or another have “called God on the big white telephone”. Our voices echoing back from the pan as we watch the words “Armitage Shanks” revolve before our eyes, intoning the words “Oh God, I want to die”. Of course we didn’t really want to, but how soon we forgot the humiliating effect of the consequences of our actions. Hopefully we soon reached an age of reasoning and this phase passed, well, for most of us anyway.

In our thirties we probably listed an NYR to eat less and to lose weight. This is the one we break every year, probably prior to 10 January. Weight Watchers have made their success out of breakers of resolutions to the extent that they have financed the high life style of the Duchess of York for the last few years. This obsession with weight and fitness has even made some people resolve to run the London marathon. Fortunately I have resisted the temptation so far.

From about the age of 45, we begin to get the names of our children mixed up and resolve to kick the habit every 31 December. This NYR never works as it gets more complicated with the accumulation of years. We acquire grandchildren and this only serves to make the “name game” harder to get right.

It is possible that with advancing years, we have all made the NYR to drive more slowly and carefully. This should not be a resolution, but good common sense – a commodity that is fairly rare in the modern world.

It is no wonder that the powers that are have decreed that 23 January is the most miserable day of the year, it is probably the day that everyone realises that they have broken all their NYRs.

Looking back on my life from the venerated seventies, I now resolve never to make another NYR. What is the point? We know we are going to break them, so we can save a great deal of time by not even allowing the situation to arise. There you are; I have made the resolution to kill all resolutions but I know that this one will never be broken and, not only that, but it will encourage me to live as long as possible just in order to prove it!

Posted by jeff at 01:44 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2005

Tale (Wail) of a Toe

I am now attempting something I have never done before – writing a trilogy. Some of my few readers may recall two previous articles entitled, “No Room at the Inn” and “Waiting for Chiropo”, well, here is part three.

The reason I feel that I can write this final epistle on the offending toe is that, finally, after twelve weeks, it has given up the fight and is improving. At last I can look forward to a normal shower or bath. I say normal, as the last three months have taught me that those two uninteresting activities can be a new form of water torture. I therefore, for the benefit of anyone who may find themselves in a similar state, pass on instructions as to how to indulge yourself without getting the damaged digit wet.

Firstly, let us consider having a shower. If you have a shower cabinet, you are lucky. All you have to do is stand on one leg with the wounded peg held out horizontally so that the foot is outside the shower. Close the door as much as you can. To maintain balance you will probably have to lean against the wall. You could have difficulty operating the taps in this position, but it might help if you are slightly drunk whilst attempting this and it would make the whole operation much more enjoyable. If your shower is an integral part of your bath and is operated by one of those push-pull knobs, you are in a completely different ballpark. The only way possible is to stand with bandaged toe on the side of the bath and risk flooding the bathroom during the ten minutes or so that this feat will take. Did I say feet or feat? Of course the biggest problem depends on which foot it is, and whether the balancing act has to be done with your back to the taps or facing them. I dare not go into this situation any deeper. You will just have to use your imagination.

Now, what to do if you consider you are not brave enough to attempt the shower? Having a bath can be equally hazardous, even though you do not have as far to fall, drowning now becomes a distinct possibility. The only technique I have managed to devise also requires an element of physical dexterity. The procedure means that you have to get into the bath before letting any water in. You can sit in the normal bathing position and commence to fill the bath. A few inches of water will not reach your toe, and whilst this is happening you lay back and raise your foot to rest on the edge of the bath. You are now reclining in a position that makes operating the taps impossible! Ingenuity is now a prerequisite as you have to manipulate the water flow with your toes if you do not wish to boil lobster fashion or alternatively freeze. I questioned in one of my previous article what use our toes are to us. Now I know, oh that they were still prehensile as in our simian ancestor days! If you manage to get the water level just as you want it, you will be able to lay there and luxuriate to your heart’s content. Do not, however, attempt the usual washing procedures! You are locked in the position and will just have to let your body detritus soak off. You will also have to devise a method of pulling the plug and letting all the water out before trying to climb out onto Terra Firma.

Perhaps I have managed to provide an image of what I have been going through this past three months. Not a pretty sight I agree, but if I have helped any other sufferers, then my suffering has not been in vain.

Footnote!! Is the manager of the department the “Head Podiatrist”, or is this an oxymoronic statement?

Posted by jeff at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2005

Chihuly at Kew

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The Citadel in Jerusalem

In January 2000, Nina and I were in Jerusalem and we visited the exhibition of glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. We were absolutely blown away by it and very determined to see his works at Kew Gardens this year. The exhibition is totally different to the one in Jerusalem, but it is very apt in the exotic surroundings of the Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Temperate House. There are also some very effective floating sculptures on the lake in front of the Palm House. Click on this link to the albums to see the pictures.
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The Sun
The piece called the sun is over 15ft high and is made up of 1,000 separate pieces of glass.

Posted by jeff at 06:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2005

WAITING FOR CHIROPO.


Some time ago I wrote an article about A & E, and thought it about time I followed it up with one or two further observations on that well established source of viewing matter for television programmes. The first thought that I have is that Samuel Beckett could have written a much better play if “Waiting for Godot” had been set in a hospital. Many of the pauses could have been filled with the comments of patient patients sitting in gloomy corridor waiting areas in hospitals around the country.

It is wonderful to listen to the “Pythonesque” flavour of one-upmanship as symptoms and solutions are compared. I was recently asked what my problem was, and received nothing but looks of contempt when I explained that I had had an ingrown toenail removed. I was obviously of little further interest as the result of this skirmish with a podiatrist yielded nothing more that a mild infection. My inquisitor then turned to his neighbour on the other side to learn that he had had “electric things attached and had been subjected to a GCE”. I truly hope that this advanced his education, although I do believe that this was replaced with the GCSE some years ago.

On another occasion I was entertained by the patient who informed me that he had “died” twice whilst under anaesthetic, would probably require an amputation as well as a quadruple heart bypass. I remained silent and could not muster much sympathy when he told me he was a retired VAT officer! There was no way on earth that I could top that one. I sincerely wish I could fathom the reasoning as to why we British have to impress total strangers with stories of hyperbole with regard to our health?

I have to admit that being bombarded with such stories does relieve the boredom of the long wait. Last week a dear old lady was brought to the department in a wheelchair, accompanied by a young and attractive nurse. Well, of course I noticed this fact, as I am usually totally surrounded by members of the “Grumpy Old Men” club. This dear old harridan was obviously deaf as she announced every statement she made in stentorian tones. She at least managed to keep the old men quiet. She delivered the final ‘coupe de grace’ when the nurse asked her how long since her husband had died. In a 20 decibel voice she roared; “Not long enough ago!” “He was a total bastard”. Having endured many weeks of sitting in this waiting room being as stoic as possible, I now found that a smile was spreading across my face. Yes, I must write one of my articles to commemorate this profound utterance.

At this point I have to add that my purpose in submitting myself to this weekly ordeal is twofold. Firstly, the essential need to have my toe treated by the ever smiling Karen and secondly to glean the latest in horror about the afflictions of my co-sufferers. Considering how long Karen has been in this hospital, I can appreciate why she is always smiling. She could obviously tell me many more stories about the exaggerations of her patients like the one who referred to the swab she had taken as a “biopsy”. I wonder what stories she tells about me, or perhaps I am her Godot? One final thought – when did chiropodists metamorphose into podiatrists? Was it at the same time that opticians became optometrists?

Posted by jeff at 01:37 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2005

Northumberland

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Alnwick Castle

We returned last night from a fantastic long weekend in Northumberland. For all our wanderings around the world, we have never been to this part of the country before, and I must say that we really should have put ourselves out to do it earlier. We were blessed with fantastic weather from Friday right through to our return last night.

Among the places visited were the Bowes Museum, Gateshead Waterside, The Angel of the North, Alnwick and Cragside, originally owned by Lord Armstrong of Armstrong Whitworth fame. I have put in some links here, but will also post some of my photos to a new album.

Posted by jeff at 05:14 PM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2005

No Room at the Inn

For the first time in my life, that I can recall, I have allowed a health situation to dominate me and to create an element of depression. Now those of you who know me might be surprised to read this, but I suppose we all experience something like this, as we get older, from time to time. This is why you have not seen any pictures of our Norwegian trip, and so, I have come to my senses and taken the bull by the horns and decided to try to find the lighter side of the situation.

What is it then that has dominated my life for the last month or so? I would ask you to think of your body as an hotel; receiving guests, both welcome and unwelcome, staying for different lengths of sojourn (very biblical). As in any hotel, these guests are both pleasant and welcome or unpleasant and intrusive.

I have two long-term unwelcome guests, namely Hypertension, who travels under the pseudonym of “High Blood Pressure” and Diabetes Mellitus. Both of these visitors, although unwelcome, are reasonably passive and do not cause me too many problems, and as with some people, you may not like them but have to learn to live with them. In their own way these two are quite happy living in the comfort that I provide for them, and it is obvious that they do not intend, at the moment, to cause me any discomfort beyond that which demands I acknowledge their existence.

We have to admit that this hotel we manage never seems to be able to put out a sign that says “No Vacancies”. The terms we use to describe these guests are “chronic” for those that stay forever, and “acute” for the fleeting visitors. I always thought that acute was an angle of less than 90°, so maybe they mean “cute”. I feel that cute is certainly not a word I would wish to use for my latest, hopefully, short-term arrival. I am reliably informed that his name is Ingrowing Toenail. I would like to have rejected this unpleasant intruder, but he crept up on me carrying his baggage with a label on it that said, “Infected”. Apparently the only legal recourse that I have to evict this unwanted resident is to seek the help of the medical profession. I have therefore deposited my petition at the relevant hospital and now have to wait for my case to be listed. I do hope that the death sentence still operates for such cases. The alternative is to have the offending toe removed, but this is totally unacceptable. How could I possibly live, being able only to count to 19?

Having now written this article, I feel the depression slowly wafting away, and once again I have to thank my blog, for giving me the ability to get on top of things!

What on earth is the use of toenails anyway? They adorn the furthermost extremities of our bodies, serving no purpose whatsoever, and seem to only have any value to women who delight in covering them with brightly coloured cellulose coatings.

Posted by jeff at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2005

Another Cruise via Beckton?

No – Not quite, as we sail from Tilbury this time which is a little further down river. On Monday we sail on our cruise to the Norwegian fjords, which was Nina’s birthday present to me. My cousins Janet & Lorna are coming with, together with Jan and John from Australia. I am sure that this will be a birthday party to be remembered.

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MV Arion

I don’t know if there is an online service on this ship, but if so, will keep you all informed of our progress. Scaramouche, keep your binoculars trained on the Thames for the next week!


Posted by jeff at 02:41 PM | Comments (7)

May 14, 2005

MP3 or not to 3; That is the Question

As you will all know by now, I have recently celebrated a significant birthday, and was delighted to receive an MP3 player from my children. How nice it is to feel that one’s children are confident enough to think that you can cope with the wonders of modern science. I have written in the past about the problems we all have to suffer in the cause of advancement and the acceptance of new technology, so I now have a very compact unit to go with my talking pedometer. Perhaps the most pleasant aspect of trying to navigate our way into the wonders of the 21st century is that we can always ask our grandchildren to help when we are stuck and don’t know which button to press. This is the latter day equivalent of being helped across the road by a Boy Scout.

The main concern I have with this machine is the fact that it has stereophonic headphones. You do of course realise that this means an appendage stuck into each ear. So tell me, where do I put my Bluetooth Headset? Answers on a postcard please. I now have the task of “ripping off” (I understand this is the correct terminology) all my favourite CDs and loading them on to the MP3 player, which by the way, also incorporates a FM radio! Where will it all end? My future holidays will be enhanced by me being able to listen to nearly 10 hours of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, neatly interspersed with Gershwin and Copland. As I write this I am listening to a violin concerto and have realised that it may be that a 70-year-old brain has difficulty coping with this kind of multi-tasking. However, I have to admit that hearing a beautiful piece of music appearing to emanate from inside your head is preferable to the rubbish that is usually produced by that organ these days.

Another aspect that gives rise to concern today with the advent of all of these new products, is the drain on the resources of retired persons of our ilk. I refer to the cost of batteries, which is not inconsiderable. I find I have to provide for the renewal requirement of my blood sugar monitor (2xAA), my blood pressure monitor (2xAA), remote telephones (4xAAA) and EIGHT various remote controllers (2xAAA each!). This does not take into account the rechargeable batteries for my camera and mobile phone. I have not even tried to assess the annual cost of this source of power. I am hoping that I will survive to the day when my batteries can be recharged and I will only have to hold the various appliances in my hand for about ten minutes to fully recharge them. With all this electricity around me, I already feel that I walk about with a force field protecting me from evil invaders from cyberspace. Well, almost. I have been merrily typing away listening to the concerto, and had just reached the rousing crescendo of the final movement, when Nina arrived home from her art class, came into the room and touched me. I must have left my seat at a rocket-propelled rate and rose at least 30” into the air! You can’t hear anything else when you are attached to one of these MP3 things. I could have had a heart attack! Oh dear, don’t tell me that these products will soon have to carry a health warning too.

Posted by jeff at 01:18 PM | Comments (1)

March 06, 2005

More Photos

At last! I have finally finished uploading the photos that I have selected from the 300+ that I took on the holiday. You are the lucky ones, you only have to look at 66 of them!

http://jeff.sedley.org/album/index.php?album=10)South_Atlantic_Cruise/

Posted by jeff at 06:30 PM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2005

Photos

This photo business is going to take some time! I have got the first 18 into the album, but selecting from the 500+ that Nina and I took is going to take a lot of work.

In the meantime just keep checking the 'Photo Album' item "South Atlantic Cruise" or go to: -

http://jeff.sedley.org/album/index.php?album=10)South_Atlantic_Cruise/

Posted by jeff at 09:32 PM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2005

Home!

Well, here we are home again. After a very tiring journey stating when we left the ship on Monday morning at about 0900hrs, we finally arrived 'Chez Nous' at 1730hrs last night. I am not apologising for not writing up this entry at once as I was completely knackered and needed a shower. I will try to get a few pictures up into an alum tonight, although I cannot guarantee that they will all be titled - that may take some time. So once again it is a case of watch this space.

Posted by jeff at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2005

Final Day

After leaving Puerto Montt we faced the prospect of having five succesive days at sea. This quiz business is becoming obsessive - I have now won 5 in a row. We met a new American couple this morning and introduced ourselves and he said 'Oh yes, you win all the quizzes'!

We had a spell of sunshine after leaving Puerto Montt and we spent another short session in the sun. I have transferred nearly 300 pictures on to a disk and we are less than half way through looking at them so they will now have to wait until we get home.

We have nearly finished packing and this will be my last entry as we have to be on shore tomrrow at 7.40am

So long folks, we will let you know Tuesday pm how the story ends.

Posted by jeff at 03:46 PM | Comments (2)

February 05, 2005

Puerto Montt

After leaving the glaciers on Thursday the weather closed in and we saw nothing for the rest of the day. It was very rough and we were in fairly thick fog all day. It could have been Barking or even Beckton! We also lost the satellite until this morning and that is why I have been out of touch.

Yesterday at sea was the best so far. We were sailing through the offshore islands and the weather was very hot. We can't believe the difference today. We have winds in excess of 20knots and as we have to land by tender here in Puerto Montt, all landings have been cancelled. The result is that we have had to up anchor and sail. That means we are moving on from Barking to Tilbury!

I have been on the winning teams three times at the evening quizzes, and I am being offered transfer fees to go to another team. I feel just like David Beckham!!!!!

Today everyone wants to get on line so I will sign off until tomorrow,

Posted by jeff at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2005

Glaciers

After yesterday's item we reached the Amalia glacier. If anyone was tuned in to the webcam between the hours of 1900 & 2100hrs GMT last night you should have had a great view of the glacier. We went within about 1 mile of it and one of our lifeboats went out to get some ice! We understand it will be used to cool the champagne for our farewell dinner on Saturday.

This morning we got up early to see the 'Pope Pius XI' glacier, but as it was 'calving' quite rapidly and there were several large 'calves' floating by, the captain decided that it would be too dangerous to go closer than about six miles. We still got some pretty good pictures thouugh. This glacier is in the Seno Eyre Fjord, and although we turned to leave the fjord about an hour and a half ago, we have a long way to go to get back on route.

Now we face a long day at sea - another busy doing nothing day!

Posted by jeff at 01:21 PM | Comments (2)

February 02, 2005

Punta Arenas

Well you all know about our morning in Punta Arenas.

In the afternoon we visited a penguin colony two hours out of town. These were the Magellenic Penguins which, to our surprise, live and nest some 800m or more from the beach. They migrate North in the winter to around Buenos Aires - obviously very intelligent birds!

We got back to the ship with winds reaching about 40mph, but an hour later they dropped completely and we sailed so smoothly. What contrasts we have seen.

We are at sea for the next three days and looking forward to seeing the Chilean glaciers. Keep watching that webcam Karen!

Posted by jeff at 03:16 PM | Comments (2)

February 01, 2005

We Are Still Alive!

Sorry everyone, we have had satellite problems. After rounding Cape Horn we lost the satellite and have had to wait until this morning. We are now in Punta Arenas -Chile and I have found an Internet Cafe that is a fraction of the cost of using the shipboard service!

Rounding the Horn was an awesome experience well worth the wait. We had been on deck for about two hours dressed up in all our warm clobber. The temperature was not really that low, but the wind chill factor didn´t help. The delay was due to the inclement weather experienced since we left Stanley the day before, and the captain kept apologising for the delay.

I hope that the hundreds of pictures we have taken live up to the thumbnail view when we see them for real on the screen.

We were in Ushuaia yesterday and had a fantastic ride on the southernmost railway in the world. Ushuaia was an Argentinian penal colony and the railroad was built by convicts to carry timber from the forests to the prison for heating. It is a 600mm gauge track which was closed in 1948. It was reopened in 1994 as a tourist attraction and has certainly proved to be a success.

We are off in an hour or so to see a penguin colony and once again grateful that the weather is being exceptionally kind to us.

Posted by jeff at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2005

2nd Invasion of the Falklands

The forecast given yesterday was way out. There was some sun this morning and the temperature was about 10C. As our trip had been cancelled we decided to get up early and get into Stanley asap. In fact we had tickets 1 & 2 for the tender! We arrived at the Stanley pier at about 8.15 and spent the next four hours on the island. Mandy & Mike - mission accomplished!

This journey was quite emotive and in fact we were pleased that we spent all of our time there. It gave us the opportunity to meet the local people and to learn quite a bit about their lives I know that before editing I have taken over 50 pictures today. We were fortunate to have a lecture yesterday about the Falklands by Andrew Gurr who had been the Deputy Govenor until 5 years ago. He and his wife travelled with us in the tender this morning and were very informative.

Now I can't wait to get home to see the pictures on screen.

Posted by jeff at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2005

Bad Forecast

It is now 1300hrs on Friday and we have just heard that the weather in Stanley at the moment features snow and winds up to 80 miles per hour. The forecast for tomorrow is OK for the morning, but after 1300hrs the winds could exceed those of today. Our tour to Bluff Cove has therefore been cancelled and we only intend to get ashore asap in the morning. If Mike & Mandy read this, I hope they feel guilty - we are only going in to get your book! Not really, as we want to get it ourselves.

The weather on board at the moment if fantastic and it seems wierd that a day away is so bad. We saw our first whale this morning - and no - it was not an overweight American tourist.

Will report on the Falkland adventure when we are back on board and safe.

Posted by jeff at 04:02 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2005

Back in Argentina

What a great day today! We had a lazy morning and then at 12.15 took a tour into the Northern most part of Patagonia. After visiting a Sea Lion colony we went to a lonely sheep station and saw a demonstration of sheep shearing. During the demo, a Guanaco wandered into the shearing shed, took a good look at us all and then wandered out again. Our guide was a schoolteacher from P Madryn and liked this job as her subject was English and she felt this was the best way to practise.

Lazy day again tomorrow at sea prior to arriving at Port Stanley on Saturday morning.

Posted by jeff at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2005

All at Sea

Ahoy Landlubbers! This is Cap'n J reporting from the high seas. OK - so I was wrong about the fact that we arrive at Puerto Madryn tomorrow not today.

I have come to terms with the fact that these notes will have to be text only, but never mind, I will have fun when I get back editing the picture album.

Last night was a pitch and roll night but all it did for me was rock me to sleep.

Today we have walked 2.2 miles around the deck and then settled for a session reading in the sun. We will take the sun whilst we can.

I have informed the American guests that they have to get our permission to land on the Falklands, but I don't think we can stop them. We are outnumbered by more than 3 to 1.

After P. Madryn we have another full day at sea before arriving in Port Stanley early on Saturday morning.

I will probably report again on Friday pm, so, until then carry on the good work those of you who are still working.

Posted by jeff at 05:44 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Under Way at Last

It is now Tuesday, and I have only just managed to get online. Frustration continues in that I am now informed that there is no facility to upload pictures via this system. False information in the brochure!

We had great service from Lufthansa from Heathrow to Frankfurt and then on to Buenos Aries yesterday. It is not the fault of Lufthansa that they have to take nearly 14 hours to get to BA.

We only had 4 hours in BA, so we commandeered a taxi to take us to the La Boca district where we took some great pictures of the corrugated iron houses that are painted in the brightest colours. Would you believe it but after having agreed that we would not buy any pictures (We've run out of wall space), Nina bought a painting of the area!

By the time we got on board we were pretty bushed! When we finally got to bed last night, it was some 40 hours since we had slept in a bed!

We sailed last night for Montevideo and about 45 minutes ago we left for Puerto Madryn where we arrive at about 8am tomorrow.

So the we are. I cannot pre-prepare articles on my laptop as I am not allowed to upload any material. I can only write it online so you will all have to excuse any errors that slip through.

The service on board (With the exception of IT) is superb. It is going to be very difficult to restrain myself from eating too much. Nina and I have come to an arrangement that we will keep an eye on each other!

You will have to wait until we get home to see the pictures when I will put an album on the site.

Have a good day everyone, I will keep you up to date from time to time.

Posted by jeff at 06:12 PM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2005

Too Heavy!

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OK, so we are still here! We have packed and both cases are 5Kg overweight. How do you reduce this? If I can't lose 2Kg dieting over the last six months, there is no way I am going to get these cases to do it!

We are off in about an hour, so I will just have to take out a mortgage at the airport.

'Bye Folks.

Posted by jeff at 12:05 PM | Comments (1)

January 22, 2005

We Are Sailing!

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Tomorrow, hopefully, we will be on our way to the South Atlantic via Buenos Aires. I say hopefully because I have been reading about the “Aurora” and her amazing world cruise around the Isle of Wight. I am very unhappy about the press putting another doubt into my mind as to the wisdom of trusting yourself to a boat; or is it a ship? I never know the difference – if any.

We received our final instructions just after Christmas, and I was intrigued to note that we are banned from taking a travelling iron on board. I can only assume that this is to prevent it from fusing the electrical supply. Perhaps that is what happened to the Aurora! This, of course set me off thinking about the consequences of such an action.

Picture the scene: Wife happily doing the ironing – spits on iron to see if it is hot enough – BANG! Fuses blow and the ship grinds to a halt. You know what it is like if the electrical system in your car goes, well; I am anticipating that it is similar on board ship. There we are in the South Atlantic waiting for the AA to arrive. Does he come along on a yellow jet ski with a sidecar? Anyway, he climbs on board and goes into the engine room. You can imagine the shake of the head and the sharp intake of breath. “Dear oh dear – what have we here? Sorry mate, you need a jump start”. Here we go – Free Drinks for all until we get going again. I suppose we will have to wait until another cruise ship gets to us and throws over a couple of jump leads to get us under way again.

I also note from the joining instructions that we are to have three formal nights, and the rest are informal. I think I can cope with formal nights, as I suppose they just go through from 9pm to 9am and allow you unbroken sleep. I am a little confused about informal nights. Is the informality a sudden break at about 3am when you are bombarded with brilliant daylight? Do you have to jump out of bed to jog around the deck before formality is returned allowing you to go back to sleep again? I am really getting confused and worried about this cruising business. It was not made any easier when an uncle of mine who was in the Merchant Navy during the war told me we were going round Cape Horn in the wrong direction, due to the fact that we would be going against the prevailing winds. I wonder if the captain knows this and would not take too unkindly to my suggestion that we turn the ship around and go in reverse around the Horn?

I would feel much happier trekking through the Andes on Terra Firma. I suppose I will have to make do with the Falklands and Goose Green. I just have to console myself with the fact that Nina has been cruising before and as usual she will be able to guide me through the traumas. I will not read any more of the introduction booklet which is obviously not designed for those of a nervous disposition.

There is a live bridge webcam that can be viewed at: - http://www.princess.com/ipix/ships/royal_cam.html

I am also planning to report regularly on our progress, so, watch this space!

Posted by jeff at 01:52 AM | Comments (3)

January 16, 2005

Happy 70th Ron

In my last item I wrote about all the good things that I thought would happen in 2005, well, they have started.

Yesterday we had the 70th birthday party for our dear friend, Ron. It was a great evening and, as always, a pleasure to see Jacky & Ron’s family, many of whom we have not seen for some years. Would you believe it, I forgot to take my camera so have had to rely on Ron’s daughter in law Karen for this one.
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Ron & his Five Grandchildren

Remember Ron; it is threescore years and THEN!

Posted by jeff at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

Hello 2005

So here we are; another year has come and gone and we are left pondering as to what lies ahead. We do this every year and twelve months later the chances are that everything we anticipated would happen didn’t but many unexpected events turned up totally unexpectedly. At least reading all that I wrote during the last year has enabled me to smile once again. The only certainty that lies ahead – and can be confirmed by any one who reads my website and the “About Me” page – is that I will reach my “Threescore Year and Ten”. I am assured however by a dear older friend that it is actually “Threescore Year and THEN”.

There were some great times in the early part of 2004, but the last few months were not the greatest, being marred by the ill health suffered by Laurence and the dreadful incident of Nina having had the wrong medication dispensed by the local pharmacist. I know that we all make mistakes in life, but she suffered so much during the four-week period that she was taking the wrong drug. I dread to think what could have happened had she been a weaker and less robust person. Laurence however has made a fantastic recovery, and we all look forward to June when he finally qualifies as a solicitor.

On a brighter note, I am sure that the year is going to be a good one. I have sent my donation to the tsunami disaster fund and trust that it actually does get to those who truly need it. I am also hoping that all the nations of the world step back and realise that if they sent all the money that they normally divert to funding wars, how much happier we would all be.

Later this month we are off on a cruise starting in Buenos Aires travelling to Montevideo and the Falkland Islands, round Cape Horn and visiting the Chilean Fjords on to Valpariso, finally flying home from Santiago. I will be posting a full report on the trip with supporting photographs that I hope will be of some interest to both of my readers. Nina is taking me on another cruise in June to the Norwegian Fjords to celebrate my birthday, so perhaps I might even become addicted to cruising!

In August I am judging the Midland Cairn Terrier Club’s open show and my very good friend Jim Hulbert is coming over from Minnesota to steward for me. Nina and I are quite excited at the prospect of meeting Jim and his wife Sue again. It is amazing to think that it is nearly five years since we met on the Isle of Skye for the SCTC Millennium Championship Show.

Whatever else happens in 2005, I am prepared to bet that even if it is only these events, I am going to enjoy them.

If anyone does read this page; then I hope that you also have a Happy, Healthy and Enjoyable 2005.

Posted by jeff at 01:24 AM | Comments (1)

November 12, 2004

Ypres - 11 November 2004

Two elderly men went to Ypres yesterday to visit the town that was completely destroyed in the First World War between 1914 and 1917.

This sounds quite an innocuous statement until you realise that the two of them were just small boys during the Second World War and only learned of the “Great War” in their history lessons. Yesterday commemorated the 90th anniversary of the first battle of Ypres. What an incredible juxtaposition of ages and time!

The two men were myself and my friend Gerry. We stood by the Menin Gate and listened to the service leading up to the “Last Post” and all I could think of was “why?” Attending services like this surely shows the futility of war. The memorial of the Menin Gate is to nearly 55,000 British and Empire troops that were never found or identified.

The service was in the main, martial music played by a military band and a Scottish pipe band. The hymnal version of Sibelius’s Finlandia was particularly touching and the hairs on my neck stood up when the Last Post was sounded.

A day to be remembered.

Click on the useful links on this page for more information about the town.

Pictures can be found here

Posted by jeff at 01:58 AM | Comments (1)

November 02, 2004

Pam's Drive In

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Pam Driving Off

Today we were invited to our very dear friend Pam's installation as Lady Captain at her golf club. The greatest thing about such an event is the delight in meeting old friends after many years. As non-golfers we thoroughly enjoyed the day and wish Pam a very happy year in this prestigious post

Posted by jeff at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2004

Intelligent Patients

I have just read about the intelligent patient scheme that allows doctors to listen with greater care to symptoms and suggestions from us. I say us, as I am referring to the sort of people that will be reading this item, who therefore must be intelligent.

Reading the item made me think about how much we know and understand about our bodies. After all, we have been living with our bodies all our lives and we really should know them very well – but do we? Are we really aware of what our bodies are capable of and what the functionality is of all the parts thereof? I ask you therefore to consider the explanations and information listed below.

Let us start with the head and then descend gracefully. OK, so do we all use our heads intelligently? I think not – we have all from time to time, said, “I wish I had thought about that before doing it”. Those of us who have reached the age of maturity will also know that soporific time known as a “Senior Moment” when all knowledge of a name or place has been totally erased from our brain. Act intelligently when this happens. Look at your doctor, smile sweetly and say – “Haven’t you ever had a Senior Moment?” He will surely look embarrassed, and you will have the upper hand once again. The head is also the skull, which we have to stop our brains from falling out, just like our skin is for keeping our blood inside our bodies. That’s the way we keep ourselves together.

Now for the Torso. The creator in his wisdom gave us twelve ribs. Unfortunately this appears to have been an error. It must have been intended that we should have had twenty-four. Consequently they would have extended down to just above the pelvis thus preventing that unsightly spread of flesh that many of us have fallen prone to. In my case also, he forgot to give me those last six inches of height and allowed my adult body to spread to a girth that should be reduced by some 25%. Attached to the torso we have arms that extend down to the working part known as hands. These are used to manipulate functional items like computers enabling us to work and also to keep ourselves alive by the process known as feeding. This involves using the extremities of our hands where they have frayed at the end creating fingers that can use knives and forks to transfer food into our mouths. I won’t go into the realm of touching as you all possess a function in your brain called “imagination”. Use it! You can also use it to cover what I am not going to tell you about the pelvic area. Also attached to the torso we have our legs. The main use of these is as a connecting part of the controls of our cars. They efficiently operate the brakes and throttle, and for some of us, the clutch of the vehicle. They can, on occasion, be used for walking but this function is rapidly becoming less important.

The analogy with the car can be taken a little further in that we are, as we get older, very much like a car. We can still get into top gear, but we have lost compression and cannot pull as hard or move as fast as we used to.

This has been a very short lesson on anatomy but I hope it has prompted you to consider if you are able to call yourself an “Intelligent Patient”. Do not, however, tell your doctor that I told you to tell him that you are.

This article comes with a Health Warning!

Posted by jeff at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2004

The Shed

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The Shed

After 17 years our garden shed was looking somewhat worse for wear. One or two panels had rotted and even the mice had deserted it. The decision was - can we replace it before the weather turns truly nasty? With the help of our wonderful handyman, Brendan, I decided that I was still capable of putting such a construction together. The main problem was that the new shed would be
12' x 6' as opposed to the old one which was 10' x 6'. Brendan extended the base and we dismantled the old shed after disconnecting the electrical supply. We must have been the only family in Buckhurst Hill with a freezer in the lounge and a tumble dryer on the patio!

Laugh if you will, but the job was completed and after a problem or two the electricity was reconnected and the freezer and dryer returned. Nina had done a great job painting the panels prior to assembly with an additional protective coat of blue preservative. This shoud ensure that the shed will outlive us as long as the mice now realise that they are not welcome! The venerable Dr. Sod appears to have been very active, in that we should have had 2' of spare space after returning everything - minus a considerable amount of rubbish - but somehow or other we do not have a spare 2" let alone 2'.

We did complete the task before the rain of last week and each time Nina and I look out of the kitchen window, we smile and pat ourselves on the back.

Posted by jeff at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2004

BURGHLEY HOUSE

Yet another of those trips to a Stately Home. This time Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire, the home of the Marquis of Exeter. The 6th Marquis was Lord Burghley, Gold Medal winner of the 400m hurdles in the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928. The link to the website above will tell you more about the house than I ever can. All I can say is that I have never seen so many paintings in one house.
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Burghley House from the North West
After the visit to the house we went into Stamford, which is a beautiful old town which certainly benefited from the construction of the A1 bypassing it. By clicking on the link you will find better pictures than those taken by me today!

Posted by jeff at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2004

RUSSIAN LANDSCAPES

Why is it that the most enjoyable days are the ones where you have played hooky or have made a last minute decision to go somewhere? Today, Nina and I decided to take a break from weekday drudgery and go into town to see the ‘Russian Landscape’ exhibition at the National Gallery.
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Mast-Tree Grove (1898) - Ivan Shishkin

I have never been so ‘blown away’ by an art show. The sense of space and nature in many of these landscapes truly gives a feeling of observing the vast expanse of Russia. I was carried away into a world that I felt was the one that Nina’s Grandfather had once tried to describe to us. This was the land of his childhood, and we were now being allowed to experience just a small part of that life.
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Midday in the Countryside (1864) - Petr Sukhodolsky

The pictures I have placed on this page cannot be fully appreciated and I urge anyone who has the opportunity, to go to see it. Previously, I had never heard of Levitan, Vasilev, Shishkin or Kuindzhi (pronounced ‘Kin-gee’) or even Klodt and Polenov.
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Spring Flood (1897) - Isaak Levitan

How can I ever again forget names like that! apart from the piictures on this page, click on the National Gallery link and look at the preview and the videos available until 12 September.

I came back down to earth on the train home with the realisation that I must be getting old. For the first time in my life a young man got up and offered me his seat! How does one cope from now on?

Posted by jeff at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2004

CORNWALL

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"Les Parapluis de St Ives" (Not Cherbourg) - Thank goodness only on Monday morning!

On Thursday evening Nina and I returned from four wonderful days in Cornwall having travelled as members of a party of 31 people visiting gardens and art galleries in the Royal Duchy. It is so nice to meet a group of like-minded people and to get to know them over this short period. We were based in St Ives at a superb hotel, and the only low point of the trip was the fact that the replacement tour manager we had was not up to the job. Apart from the fact that she knew very little about the places we visited, she appeared quite incapable of getting to know her party. The upside to this was that John, our driver, was superb, and we relied on his choice interventions with little nuggets of information that filled the unfortunate gaps created by Liz’s lack of communication skills!

Here is the photo album with pictures that were taken at the gardens visited, which included Hestercombe, The Eden Project, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trevano and Lanhydrock. Each of these being fantastic in its own way.

The galleries included Tate St Ives, Barbara Hepworth Gallery and Garden, Newlyn Art Gallery and the Penlee house Gallery. The Hepworth name in itself speaks volumes about what was to be seen and Penlee House contains much of the works of the famous Newlyn School of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Posted by jeff at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2004

KITCHEN SINK DRAMA?

At last it is finished. We followed up the wonderful day at John Lewis and took the irrevocable step of ordering a granite work surface and new hob. Of course, as I said in my last entry, it also meant a new sink and taps. We bought the hob via the Internet and saved over £100 on the JL price.

The next stage was to clear the entire work surface to allow a template to be taken in order for the granite to be cut to size with the relevant cut-outs for the basin and hob. A week later the same clearance programme has to be put into action again to allow for the installation.

Last week the crew arrived from South East Marble & Granite to fix everything. What a great bunch of guys they were. Everything you have dreamed about from workmen – clean, tidy, didn’t drink too much tea and knew exactly what they were doing. If anyone reading this in the UK wants to update their kitchen, contact them at the link above and ask for Jim. If you mention my name he won’t put the phone down on you!

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The Hob

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The Sink

So there we are – at the cost of approximately half of the cost of our next holiday to South America (Does that mean that only one of us can go?), we have the kitchen that Nina always wanted. Her only problem at the moment is learning how to drive the new hob. It can accommodate four timers, several memory programs and has no knobs or buttons, only finger touch points. It does not have a reverse gear to deal with something that may be overdone!

Looking at it one day this week Nina became very philosophical and commented, whilst stroking the granite, “Isn’t it remarkable to think that this is millions of years old”. Good old down-to-earth me replied – “Don’t be daft – it was only put in last week”. It just goes to show what a philistine I am. I don’t know much about art or kitchens, but I know what I like.

Posted by jeff at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2004

Are You Being Served?

Nina and I have decided to update the kitchen and have new worktops. Of course I should have realised that it does not stop there, as I am informed that we need a new hob, sink, taps etc. To ask the question “what is wrong with the existing hob?” has of course only elicited a withering look in exactly the same way that “if it ain’t broke - don’t mend it” does.

So off we go to John Lewis to see the latest styles. Am I being cynical to think that the more expensive an article is, the more stylish it is? We wandered around the kitchen settings marvelling at what is available since we last did this some 17 years ago. This finally brought down the choice to two or three different items. On making enquiries from one of two very well dressed personnel in the department we were informed that they had no idea of the specifications or costs involved and we would have to go to the Electrical Department to enquire! You all know me! I just had to ask “What about the gas hobs?” Greeted with a disdainful half-smile, I was informed that these also come under the Electrical Department. How stupid of me not to see the logic of this!

Over to the Customer Service area in Electrical we go and arrive at a desk surrounded by comfortable armchairs. Grace Brothers has nothing on this place! At least five young men – very well suited and booted – are walking, talking or writing and looking very busy. They appear to be supervised by a well-groomed individual who is a caricature cross between Captain Peacock and Mr Humphries displaying all their most amusing attributes, including the walk of John Inman, supplemented by the exaggerated way he carries his clipboard. He stared straight at me, and I have to confess, if he had said, “Are you being served” I think I would have laughed out loud. Fortunately he did not, but merely asked if he could assist. When I explained that we only wanted information on the items selected in the kitchen section, he gestured to another man standing at a pulpit type desk and asked him to list my requirements. A form was duly completed, including the time, and we were asked to take a seat! I am now biting my lip in the expectation that he is going to turn to another minion and demand of him “Are you free? No – this cannot happen. After some time sitting in these comfortable easy chairs wondering why they do not serve coffee and biscuits, we are led back to the kitchen department and we are finally given the information requested. We are still at a loss to know why this was not available in the one department that should have had it. The whole episode took over 30 minutes, and the store was almost empty, it being quite early in the day.

In conclusion please be advised by those who have gone through the experience, if you want to find out about anything in the kitchen department at John Lewis, allow yourself at least half a day to ‘enjoy’ the experience and you will not get too frustrated.

Posted by jeff at 02:18 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2004

Dinky Cars & Dinky Kids

I was reading an article in one of those weekend glossy magazines about the hobbies of children. The writer was commenting on the fact that he had developed various complexes throughout his life due to the attitude of his parents with regard to those hobbies.

It made me wonder if I had suffered similar fates over the years. After all, why should I be different to a gifted magazine writer? Oh, how I flatter myself. It must be borne in mind that I was a young, impressionable child during the war and we had to find hobbies that cost very little. The first that I recall was the collection of shrapnel acquired over the years ranging from pieces of incendiary bomb to parts of V1 “Buzz Bombs”. We were the envy of all our friends if we managed to find a piece of metal that was still warm. I suppose that hobby should have given me a complex about war; well it did. I don’t want any part of it.

Dinky toys came into my life in the latter part of 1945. They were not generally available during the war, but my cousin and I were the recipients of a rumour that a certain shop at Whipps Cross had Dinky cars at 2/6d each. For the younger readers who may get hold of this publication, that is 12½p. If I recall correctly that represented more that 2 week’s pocket money! We could not wait to get to the Aladdin’s Cave of a shop to find out if the story was true. Yes it was. We saw boxes of American cars – Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac etc. in bright reds and greens complete with real rubber tyres. English models did not arrive until later. We used the thin oil from the family Singer Sewing Machine to oil the axles to make them run much smoother. We looked after those cars with the sort of love that our fathers looked after the real cars they bought on return from active service.

Three of my Favourites
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1945 London Taxi - 1938 GPO Van - 1937 Humber Sedan

I had finally found a real hobby that lasted longer than any others that I subsequently took up. I kept most of my Dinky cars and, together with some later Corgi toys that were Neil’s, we put some of them on display in a netsuke cabinet which remained on a wall until very recently. My complex I now realise was that I should forever remain a boy at heart whilst the cabinet remained on the wall. My beloved cars were there for all to see and I could relate the story of their purchase to anyone who would listen. But it was not to be a dream lasting forever. Nina decided that she had had enough of them. Oh, how many men have had their dreams shattered by the whim of a woman! The cabinet could remain on the wall no longer and the youthful look that used to view my cars with love has given way to a sad old face that can only contemplate a memory.

Posted by jeff at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2004

Yorkshire

We have just returned from a weekend in Yorkshire and have to say that we have probably experienced as varied a clutch of weather conditions as could be expected!
It has included rain, sleet, snow, high winds and even brilliant sunshine – What more could one want?

We had a delightful day on Saturday meeting my cousin Marian who was our bridesmaid over 45 years ago. I will not say how old she was then, as chivalry dictates that I must preserve the mystery of a lady’s age. Here are two pictures of the Bride and her Bridesmaid spanning that period.
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Marian & Nina - Vintage 2004

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And Again - 1958!

It was also great meeting Keith again and Marian’s daughter Jo and her partner, Richard. We were certainly entertained with real Yorkshire hospitality.
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Today I was judging Cairns at the Sporting Terrier of Yorkshire Open Show, and once again the hospitality was superb. How warm these northern people are.
I was lucky enough to have over 20 dogs in 5 classes. Best of Breed went to Sue Braybrook’s Cloverbook Here to Stay and RBOB to Linda Firth’s Cairngold Cedar. Best Puppy was Miss Shearsmith’s Cloverbrook Double Six at Eborvale.
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L to R - BOB, RBOB and BP



Posted by jeff at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2004

We Can't Cope

So once again we are beset with inclement weather and we just can't cope with it. Our friends across the Atlantic suffer much greater extremes than we do and manage far better. I do not understand our local authority who for one reason or another just do not grit the roads. What do I pay my Council Tax for?

I travelled home from a client just thirty miles away. I left there at 5.15pm and finally arrived home at 8.15. The last mile of the journey taking 30 minutes!

I excused myself from visiting a client today and worked at home. Yes - I have joined the millions of softees who do not go in to work when it is white outside.

Posted by jeff at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2004

A Little Light Reading?

I have been forced over the last few months to read those dreaded publications that have become an everyday event in our lives? "The Handbook"!!

They always used to be called "Manuals" but obviously we can no longer cope with words with a direct Latin root and have to have a Teutonic translation. You well know my obsession with words and I cannot help questioning the fact that every book is a handbook. How else can you hold it? I suppose you may well be one of those strange people who sit with a book held firmly between your toes as you relax each evening. But, I digress, we are discussing the merits of such publications.

When these missives arrive with one of today's new electronic pieces of wizardry, apart from the 100 or so pages of boring prose, we have to cope with the fact that they have been translated very poorly from Japanese or Korean. Recently, between us, Nina and I have had to cope with handbooks for the following: -

Installation of Broadband/Cable TV
A DVD player
Two new mobile telephones
A new "hands-free" domestic telephone system
My new digital camera (214 pages)
A new Psion PDA organiser (221 pages)
A new fridge/freezer
(Thank goodness cuddly toys don't need a handbook)

This does not include the additional handbook that deals with the connectivity, where possible, to a computer!

Where computers are concerned I have to confess to claiming "Age Relief" in that I am lucky enough to have Neil who is steeped in the knowledge of the workings of these infernal machines to the extent that a brain surgeon knows what goes on in our heads. Although a call to him for help usually elicits the phrase "WIDRTBM" translated as "When in doubt, read the b----y manual". I really can't believe that a brain surgeon would take quite that attitude! I do not see the scene of the patient under the anaesthetic with surgeon leaning over him with manual in one hand and scalpel in the other. I was, however, once delayed at Milan airport for some three hours sitting on a Boeing 737 watching the ground engineers working on one of the engines, which apparently had developed a fault, surrounded by no less than four manuals. I found myself praying that nothing had been lost in the translation from American English into colloquial Italian.

The curse of these publications does not cease with electronic and consumer goods in general. You cannot buy anything, even food, which does not include a leaflet that supposedly covers the manufacturer in case the consumer institutes litigation after being poisoned by the product. I did notice this week that the jar of peanut butter purchased in a local supermarket bore the legend "Caution, this product may contain nuts"! What more can I say after that?

Posted by jeff at 02:52 AM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2003

SNAP (UN)HAPPY

Today I was dragged kicking and screaming into the digital era. I know that I am computer literate, but as far as photography is concerned I have been a dedicated 35mm man for over 40 years.

Digital photography is the thing for the 21st century and as much as I did not want to admit it, I have had a problem getting photographs quickly enough to embed into my website. So, grudgingly I admitted that I would have to get a digital camera. Deep discussions took place at the store with a very knowledgeable young man. This added to my general knowledge of the technical side of photography ended in a positive decision as to what to buy.

Then came the hardest decision of all. Should I accept the offer to buy my current camera and lenses in part-exchange. This beautiful Canon EOS10 and its 3 lenses had served me admirably for over 12 years. I had produced some wonderful enlargements from the hundreds I had taken during several adventurous holidays all over the world. This camera was an old friend, a bosom pal even though the weight of it and all the lenses in the bag made me list heavily to starboard. I knew its every whim. How could I possibly part with it? I promised the salesman that I would return later with my gear to see what sort of offer he would make for it. Nina had originally bought this for me, but said that I should not be sentimental over a camera. Oh, how hard she can be at times.

I walked back into the store carrying all the lenses and the camera and placed them on the counter for the assessment. I felt like a man taking his pet dog to the vet to have it put down. Tears welled in my eyes as I agreed the deal. I left the shop with an empty camera bag, and now knew that the pet analogy was perfect. The empty bag was just like an empty pet carrier, light and lifeless in my hand. BUT, I am a man and have to realise that I am taking the first steps in learning to live with my new pet. Gosh, it’s complicated – will I ever learn to drive it.

The Camera is dead; long live the Camera!

Posted by jeff at 02:15 AM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2003

AUTUMN

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I was sitting musing this morning about how fast the seasons change and the fact that the bad weather is not too far away. After such a good summer I wonder how we are going to cope with the opposite end of the temperature scale. Will we also suffer worse attacks of SADS than in any other year? No! Come on, let’s be positive about this. We must have great memories that are indelibly printed on our brains of things that happened during the good weather this year. Well, I have decided that at any time I feel depressed, I am going to look at this picture that Nina took outside our house about three weeks ago. It just seems that the trees are saying ‘Thank You’ for the summer. I want to reiterate that feeling to them for looking so wonderful through the year and hoping that the winter slumber that they will enjoy will reinforce their determination to look even better next year.

What has happened to me? Have you ever heard me waxing so lyrical and poetic before? I promise it won’t happen again!

Posted by jeff at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2003

Women at War

Yesterday the weather forecast was that our wonderful spell of good fortune was coming to an end and so Nina and I decided to make the most of it by taking a trip. But, where are we to go? We finally decided on the Imperial War Museum where a special exhibition called “Women at War” opened this week. No comments as to the fact that we think they are at war with us all the time!
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WW2 Recruitment Poster

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Two Ladies during a Practice Gas Drill - (Southend)

The exhibition is certainly up to the usual high standard of audio visual one has become used to seeing, and covered every aspect of the participation of women from Boudica and Joan of Arc, right through the first and second World Wars to earlier this year in Iraq.

Obviously the period 1939-1945 was of special interest to us as we had lived through it and much of the film and music was very familiar. This picture of a child’s gas mask brought back Nina’s memory of hers during the early years of the war.
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Child's Gas Mask

When you breathed in and out the red flap over the nose vibrated and made a "raspberry" noise. When you were seven years old you got to get a “Grown Up” one.

Once again the overriding thoughts that pervade, are that this should “never happen again”.

If you have two or three hours to spare, you could do a lot worse than taking a trip to Lambeth Road. The exhibition is on until April 2004.

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My Ration Book - 1943!

Posted by jeff at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2003

Golden Neighbours

Yesterday was the 50th Wedding Anniversary of our neighbours and good friends Pat & Les.

That single sentence encapsulates a whole story. We have the ability to choose our friends and where we live, but our relations and neighbours are thrust upon us and there is little we can do about it. With relations it often evokes the old saying, “Blood is Thicker than Water, but Twice as Nasty”. We have all also heard of “The Neighbours from Hell”, they have even made a TV show about them.

Nina and I are, however, twice blessed in that we have this wonderful couple living next door who, over the years, have become very good friends. As opposed to being driven to move by dreadful neighbours, we have frequently rejected the thought by asking the question, “where will we find neighbours like Pat & Les”?

One of the delights of having them just the other side of the fence is that on a warm summer evening we can just call over and say “Come round, we are just opening a very nice Chardonnay”, a visit that can then go on way past sunset.

Today their daughter Christine and her brother Michael and their spouses and family arranged a delightful celebratory luncheon at Hertford Castle and we were privileged to be included with their family and friends. This feeling was enhanced by the fact that we were seated with their friends from the Woodford Bowling Club. Isn’t it wonderful to realise that you live in an area populated by such naturally friendly people? In the troubled world we live in today this was an oasis of happiness and celebration.

God Bless you Pat & Les, how glad we are that 26 is next to 24!

PS - A confession – I took the battery out of the stupid camera before I downloaded the pictures! Christopher, rescue me and email me some of yours so that I can put them in this item! – PLEASE.

Posted by jeff at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2003

Dinard

So – here I am two days after returning from ‘La Belle France’ and nothing written for the website. Reason being, I only arrived home very late on Tuesday, and spent yesterday hung up with a client’s computer that had decided that life was not worth living. Not so for me - I have had a most incredible weekend.
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Chez Frankel - La Hulotte

I arrived in St Malo at 0800 and was met at the Gare Maritime by my long lost cousin Ron Frankel. Well not really lost, because we have been in email correspondence for some 3-4 years but had never met. Ron had been the British Consul in Dinard for some 20 years up to last September when he retired and, by gosh, had some great tales to tell. I must say that any story sounds much better over a glass of good wine, and Ron and his wonderful wife Laurette certainly made sure that the ‘fuel was on tap’.
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Ron and Laurette

Unfortunately a brother-in-law of Laurette had died that morning which put a slight damper on the day, but I was fascinated by the story of this great man.
His name was Alexandre Wattebled known during the war as ‘Jacques l’ami d’ Achille’ and believe me never was the expression ‘Nom de Guerre’ more fitting! I think I will save the full story of Alex for a special article when I am in possession of more facts.

Dinard is a beautiful town, much favoured by the British over the years, and Ron and Laurette made sure I saw plenty of it.

Sunday was very interesting as it was the one day of the year when the entire population – or so it seems – takes a stall along all the streets of the town to sell anything and everything. This is ‘La Braderie’ a melange of craft stalls, brick-a-brack and erstwhile boot sale left overs.
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La Braderie & The Casino

The town also has a promenade for its entire length known as the promenade Claire de Lune, as this was where Claude Debussy wrote his famous oeuvre. After walking around the Braderie stalls I walked about three miles to the suburb of St Enogat before returning to Chez Frankel for sustenance and – would you believe it – more wine. Minnesota Jim; please note, I did remain upright most of the time.

The beach tents of Dinard are very famous and have appeared in many well-known paintings by various artists.
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The Beach Tents

As I look back on the time I spent in Dinard, I realise that it did not matter where I was. I was with two new members of my family, and all I wanted to do was to learn everything about them. I came to the conclusion that Ron and I are very similar people except that he has more hair than I do. There I go again, off on one of my pet subjects! We like the same wines, we have similar political views (no comment) and we certainly enjoy the same wines. Add to all of these attributes a delightful lady, and you can see that it would have been impossible not to enjoy my time there.

Laurette, it is my pleasure to publicly announce that you are a wonderful lady, and I wish I had met you and Ron a long time ago.

‘A Bientot’ to you both and I hope we can all get together again soon – this time with Nina.
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Not true! - She switched the bottles

Posted by jeff at 08:52 PM | Comments (3)

August 05, 2003

A Visit to Lille

Yesterday Nina and I went to Lille for the day, by Eurostar on a special offer through the “Times” for £25 each. Who can resist such an offer?

We caught the 1029hrs from Waterloo which, allowing for the 1 hour time difference got us to Lille at 1345hrs, only 18 minutes late after leaving on time.

The temperature throughout the day did not drop below 32°C and lunch in the Place De Gaulle was a delight. Lille is the birthplace of General De Gaulle, Wartime resistance leader and founder of the Fifth Republic. The man who turned his back on the UK after having availed himself of our hospitality throughout the war.

The Old Town is a revelation and its architecture is a wonderful mix of French and Flemish styles.
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Direction sign to the "Vieux Ville"

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General view of the Grande Place (Pl. General de Gaulle)

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Place Gilleson

In the latter part of the afternoon we took a bus tour of the city in general, that got us back to the city centre in time for a meal and a slow walk back to the station for the 2039hr train. Would you believe it – on time and only 3 minutes late at Waterloo at 2145hrs. Home by 2300, too early to turn into pumpkins!

When I was a child, a day trip might be to Southend (30 miles) if we could summon up all the courage and sandwiches before 0930! This was a great day and great value. We will keep scouring the “Times” for more offers.

Posted by jeff at 02:23 PM | Comments (1)

July 26, 2003

SUFFOLK & SUNSHINE

We have just returned from a four-day break in Suffolk, staying at our dear friend Molly’s house in Aldringham near Aldeburgh. How lucky can you get; going away after a week of continuous sunshine and it does not go away for the next five days?

They say that bad news travels fast, but it is even nicer when you are away and good news reaches you. We were in Aldeburgh and I was taking this photograph when Neil rang to say that he had got a new job.

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Moot House - Aldeburgh

Fantastic visits to Walberswick, which is on the opposite side of the river Blythe to Southwold where we went in June.

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Walberswick Church

Aldringham is near Thorpeness where you can see the ‘House in the Clouds’. This is a weird building, which hides what would otherwise be a very ugly water tower. It is now let as a holiday home. Don’t think we could cope with those stairs after living in a bungalow! It is opposite the working post-mill that pumps the water up into the tank which is at the lower level of the upper ‘house’.

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'House in the Clouds' & The Post Mill

On a visit to the Snape Maltings we discovered this Barbara Hepworth sculpture. I cannot believe that something that is now obviously worth millions can just stand unprotected in the middle of a field.

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Barbara Hepworth Group (Snape Concert Hall in background)

I still have some pictures in my camera but they will have to wait until I return from my visit to Dinard (France) next month.


Posted by jeff at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2003

A Summer evening

We all look for something different to do on a summer evening and in doing so tend to want to go somewhere we have never been before. We really should stop and look right under our noses – because it is possible that we are missing golden opportunities much closer to home than we think.

Last night Nina, Gerry and I went to an open-air concert at Woodford County High School for Girls, the alma mater of Carly & Joëlle. Of course; it helped in that it was a warm summer’s day and the conditions were perfect. What a great setting the front lawn of the school is.

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View of the band from the lawn

Prior to the interval we were entertained by the New Redbridge Wind Orchestra, and the second half belonged to the Les Leader Jazz Band. A necessary perquisite of such an event is of course the picnic. Nina did us proud and the wine provided by Gerry was, of course, not to be sneezed at.

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Part of the audience

The music, ambience, wine and food all combined to make the evening literally go with a swing, and hopefully the school benefited by making a few pounds for their funds.


Posted by jeff at 01:26 PM | Comments (1)

June 25, 2003

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I went to see a new client today in Plaistow. This, for those of you who do not know London, is in the postal district E13, east of Stratford and Canning Town.

Now, I have not visited Plaistow during a working day for nearly 50 years. I may have driven through it but never stopped. The question at about 12.30 was; what do I do about lunch? Well - if my memory serves me without deception after all these years, this is an area of the Capital that can be relied upon for a good pub lunch. I went into 5 pubs in the space of about 1/2 mile, and would you believe it, not one of them served meals! What has happened to a good old East End tradition?

Can anyone out there tell me where the tasty home-made meat pies and two veg. have gone? If this is what lies in wait for me in areas like Plaistow, I will continue in my determination to do more work at home and suffer my own cooking.

By the way, I finished up going into a Tesco Superstore and buying a sterile salad sandwich and a diet coke!

Posted by jeff at 01:19 AM | Comments (1)

June 10, 2003

Views of Southwold

One of the first things that srikes one is just how well kept the beach huts are. This view of the huts was taken from the pier, and looking the other way we saw this view of town & lighthouse.

After leaving the pier we walked back along the promenade towards the town, and could not help stopping to watch the sun on the seagulls and the beach. Past the main part of the town, you turn left and retrace your steps towards the sea, and you will come to Gun Hill. This is where guns were placed in the 19th century to repel Napoleon should he dare to invade. Ron, Nina & Jackie selected their own guns. Jeff then decided to share Ron's gun.

No more boring pictures, just suffice to say it worth the trip.

Posted by jeff at 09:42 PM | Comments (1)