Tuesday 21 December 2010

Anyone for tea?

It probably shouldn't have taken all Friday.

I may have exaggerated by using the word 'inhumane'

I shouldn't have needed to e-mail the Operations Director

I certainly shouldn't have had to e-mail the Chief Executive

I probably shouldn't have used the old, 'I'm in PR' threat

I guess I ought not have rung the local newspaper

But I did

And I got fourteen fan heaters for the flat

And a tea urn. For hot water.

We may not be able to bathe, but we'll be able to wash.

And have tea. So let me know if you want to pop round for a cuppa courtesy of of Southern Gas Networks

And this is what Hadriana went through

Monday 20 December 2010

Just passing through

At last we got to go to a Christmas celebration...it felt a bit of a relief, and given the weather quite a surprise. My only observation on the event was that the hostess' comment about her house is that it feels that they are 'Just passing through', and one of the guests, a judge, was heard to say ,"When you wake up in a place like this you must feel that life has been kind to you." Just one of the living rooms was bigger than the entire cottage in Buckhurst Hill. The National Trust would probably charge you to get in. I can't help but be amused and fascinated by it. Of course I wouldn't say no, given the chance. But is it something I aspire to? No. But I remain totally fascinated. It doesn't matter how successful you are, there is always someone more so. And conversely, no matter how badly off, there is always someone suffering more.

Anyway, the snow brought us real fun...once The Cat's Mother had her arm, slightly, twisted to accompany us out and about. The Boy was desperate to do this, and has expeneded many breaths persuading me to lend him my old skis.

Sunday 19 December 2010

The Demon Barber(ina)

Another day and another cancellation...we were due to have some 18 people for dinner on Saturday, but not surprisingly the weather put paid to that. I think this year will be remembered as the Christmas that nearly was...!

I've heard it said that some fathers buy their son a tart when it's coming of age time. I've never thought it a good idea. I don't want to think about that sort of thing.
I have demanded though that when he's of drinking age I want him to take me to the pub and buy me a pint. Just one pint, and I'll be a very happy man.

One defining moment for the male is shaving...boys always want to start long before they need to, only to discover that it's a tedious task they'll have to do for the rest of their natural. But having to shave is a sign of manhood.

This week we had a fabulous shared 'manly' experience...a shave at that fine establishment, Geo F Trumper in Mayfair, courtesy of The Cat's Mum. All done with cut throat razors, it was a glorious experience. The Boy was done by a barberina, and seemed to lap it up. And why not?!

I too enjoyed my hot towels and shave

Friday 17 December 2010

That's just wrong!

The good news from Brighton is that it's now estimated that the work may take 8 weeks! But they may fit a mini hot-water boiler to keep us going in the meantime...

Over the last couple of years my previously svelte figure has developed...and I now have a gentle bulge in the stomach region. This year it's got a little rounder as I've not been cycling as much as I used to, as much as I like, as much as I should. A few months ago it was named 'The Pod'.

Last night we squashed on to the over-full tube following our trip to see 'Wicked'. I stood next to The Cat.

The Cat (16, female)"I can feel your pod"
The Boy (15, male) "That's not his pod"

Looks of horror around us....apart from one man who giggled.

Nota Bene "I'm sorry, we're a very dysfunctional family"

I may have failed as a father. Badly.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Do you smell something?

If you've been reading for a while you'll know that we've devoted a LOT of time and energy to sorting out the flat in Brighton. It's been a labour of love. And hate.

I bought the place nigh on twenty years ago...a two bedroom flat on the top floor of a regency building in one of the squares in Brighton, with an 'oblique' view of the sea...it is at the bottom of the road. The square is beautiful, and I've always loved being there. I decorated it to the nines. Most of my friends thought I must be gay, because his was in the days before it was OK to like 'designer' stuff if you weren't.

When I married The Boy's mother, she came as a package with a little girl, and the flat was suddenly too small. By good fortune and a helpful mortgage adviser, when the flat beneath became available I was able to buy it. The lower flat hadn't been touched for thirty years, had no central heating and was in poor condition. I did the basics of knocking them together, but then the enormity of the task sank in and not a lot happened...until a couple of years ago.

At that point, I decided things had to change, so the ENORMOUS task began. It was like rebuilding the walls of Jericho. Fortunately, The Cat's Mother got the bit between her teeth and together the pace has been transformed. The Cat and The Boy joined in with enthusiasm initially...although it did begin to fade, and latterly they've not come down with us. That's a shame.

With new carpets going down last month, the place is awesome. Really beautiful and absolutely delightful.

To celebrate, we decided that his year's New Year's gathering would be held there. It's also a chance to re-enthuse the teenagers who no longer needed to fear yet another tedious task on arrival at the flat. Approximately 20 people are coming...we will gather to see Cinderella, fireworks on the beach and then singing and dancing. It will be the first time that our friends had visited the place. A chance to show off...and for them to see 'our' project which we have talked much about.

At the beginning of the week, the woman who lives in the basement smelled gas. The gas men arrived just in time. It was a big leak and could have gone bang. They switched it off by digging up the road and disconnecting the pipe. And then they decided that the pipes were all old and need to be replaced. Not just the pipes that connect the gas main to the building, but all the gas pipes in the building. At best this is six weeks work. At best.

Until then there is no gas. That means no heating. In mid-winter. Worse still, there is no hot water. And no way of making hot water as we have a condenser boiler with no hot water tank.

It's a disaster, and we're heartbroken.

We can plug heaters in to make the place warm, but no hot water is the real problem. We think we're going to book a hotel room, just so we can use the washing facilities.

Instead of a triumphant evening of fun and frivolity we're going to have to cobble things together. Our bubble is well and truly burst.

But at least this is not our main home...I could almost weep for the other people in the building...they are going to have a cold, miserable time over Christmas. For them this is truly a disaster...what a terrible way to spend the bleak mid-winter.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

A sparkling gallery

I'm so glad that over at Tara's there's lots of sparkle going on...its this week's gallery theme. There's not much sparkle here at chez Nota Bene - more on that another day, but any way, here's a picture of a very sparkly piece of ice on an Icelandic beach from earlier this year...

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Christmas starts with a phwuuuuurgh...

Last week was the annual gathering of the Old Boys...with the emphasis more on the Old than the Boys. We generally meet up a couple of times a year, but the Christmas bash is always good fun. We dine at the Anchor and Hope pub near Waterloo. Our favourite is 'Shank of Cow'...it's enough to feed thousands, but we manage it all by ourselves. But this year, it was called off at the last minute...not sure why, but the enthusiasm just wasn't there, and by the day, most people had dropped out for one unconvincing excuse of another. I was quite disappointed.

On Thursday is our Christmas lunch. We've booked my favourite restaurant - Formans, just by the Olympic stadium. I've written loads about it before. I love it. I love the food...and the English Wine. As usual it was booked for 2, and the celebrations would run on until it was time to go off to 'Wicked' the musical. We're a small group, but this year we thought we could expand numbers by bringing along partners. But as the time as got closer, people have dropped out with 'one unconvincing excuse' after another, so yesterday I cancelled it. The first time in 15 years there will be no work celebrations. I'm really disappointed.

But if other people can't be bothered, I can't be bothered either.

I have a pretty busy Christmas schedule - last week was the school Christmas Carol Service, and there's nothing like a great carol to sing along to. This week we have Shakespeare's Winter's Tale on Wednesday, Wicked on Thursday, a dinner party for 18 on Saturday, lunchtime Christmas drinks on Sunday, Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra on Tuesday and Woman in Black on Wednesday. Phew. That just about brings us to Christmas and then there's more. On Sunday we went to see Cinderella - the Matthew Bourne modern ballet, not the Pantomime (that comes in Brighton over the New Year!) which was fantastic...I really enjoy the beauty and grace of Matthew Bourne's work.

So I'm just run off my feet, so it's a good job that last night as part of The Queens birthday celebrations we went to a garra ruffa fish spa...quite an experience.

...and I hear that it's GUARANTEED to be a white Christmas. Ding Dong!

Monday 13 December 2010

Even Stevens

I think I might take up shop lifting. Three times now we've bought The Boy some clothes and the shop has forgotten to take off the security tag. We've been in and out of other shops without any problems or alarms going off. Of course, it's going to be a bit embarrassing walking round with those enormous magnetic tags hanging off a sleeve or a leg, but just think of the savings. On balance, I think it's worth it!

I've never been a gambler...it never seems a clever or productive way of spending money. When The Boy was five of six we did go horse racing once...in the shadow of the Sussex Downs, and we each put on £1 a horse in every race. Remarkably as we were choosing more on the colours of the jockey's shirts, or the names of the horses, we came out with a profit...about £12 if I remember rightly. We were pleased as punch.

And recently, Gay John (he's not really gay at all) pointed me in the direction of a Spanish city banker that had turned tipster (well have you seen the state of the Spanish economy - makes it look as though we've never had it so good!). So I allocated some money...not a large sum...and have blindly been betting on the tips. They've mostly been tennis, but recently some Spanish football games. I'm not entirely surprised that I'm running at a loss - about 25% of the money I allocated. But bearing in mind the tips are coming from a city-boy, I guess that's not surprising given the state of the world's economy.

I've also taken some money out of my savings and chucked it into two companies...BP (yep that's the one that could stop a leak. They should've called a plumber) and De La Rue...they print bank notes, but were careless in a few cases, and then went and lost their CEO. In both cases, I 'bought at the bottom'. And in the case of the bank not printer, there's a take-over bid. I think I've got a farily hefty profit.

So the first lesson from this...is that the city really did indulge in uninformed casino capitalism, and their advice is not worth the paper it's written on. And secondly I haven't hesitated to profit from other people's misery. Oh.

Friday 10 December 2010


My weekly celebrity round-up.

OK, I know I've never done it before, and never will again, but here it is.

Whilst I'm not claiming any responsibility, the charmingish Nick Cave crashed his car at the bottom of our road and you can see his misfortune here. The Daily Mail had the best headline, 'Nick Cave and the Bad Speeds'.

I rather liked that song he did with Kylie.

On TV, there is an arts presenter. He always gets good write ups in the press. But I can't stand the man. He is a complete idiot, absolutely self-centred and totally egotistical. How do I know? A few years ago The Boy and I went on a skiing trip with a large group of people, most of whom we didn't know. He was among them, and couldn't stop talking about clever he was. On the slopes, our instructor described him as out of control, dangerous and likely to kill someone, but that didn't slow him down. We stopped one day at a restaurant that, bizarrely had an amazing wine cellar. He described one wine which was being sold for €20,000 as an absolute bargain. My blood boils every time he pops up on the Beeb.

On Facebook I've de-friended Barack Obama. We weren't that close anyway. But when he swept into power on a wave of optimism that he would change the world I signed up. Obviously there was too much hype for him ever to live up to, but I had thought he would make a difference. He hasn't and nor do I think he will. In fact his impressive oratory skills and lack of action remind me of Mr Blair. Let's hope he doesn't take us into war...although both Iran and North Korea must be in his sights....oh dear.

And talking of Mr Blair, I'm going to see the bastard. I mean man. Earlier this year I was supposed to see him at the Iraq Inquiry, but my ticket was lost, and in spite of my best efforts, several burly security guards wouldn't let me through to where a duplicate was waiting for me. The psychopath, I mean former Prime Minister, has been recalled to fill in some gaps in his evidence, and this time the Inquiry Secretariat has promised me, promised me, that I will get in. I suspect I could be there a very long time as in my mind the gaps are yawning great chasms. I will have to sit on my hands, and make sure that my shoe laces are tied very tightly.

I had a magical moment this week. Whilst walking through one of the small, formal parks in Bermondsey, I noticed that a squirrel was scurrying around, but as I walked closer he didn't run away. So I stopped, went down on one knee and held my hand out. After some hesitation. In fact a lot of hesitation he came to me. I was amazed...I guess with the snow and ice on the ground food is a little scarce so it may have been hunger-motivated. But it was lovely. Really lovely.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Rugger Bugger

Last night was the Rugby Dinner - as a player, The Boy attended. Of course.

It was a curry and the event was held at the school, starting at 7.00pm.

At 10.00pm he texted asking to be collected.

From the Horse and Well.

Yep, that's a tavern.

As he and his mate climbed in the car with big grins on their faces, The Cat's Mother and I nearly passed out from the fumes.

I made some throw-away comment that if either were sick in the car, The Boy would be grounded from now until Kingdom Come.

Safely back at home, we all disappeared to bed.

The Boy said goodnight to everyone a dozen times.

In the next hour he proceeded to get up uncountable times to go to the bathroom.

He absolutely reassures us that it was for pee purposes, not wretching reasons.

This morning he couldn't find his school tie.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Everything's allwhite

Tara's gallery...I'm so pleased that she puts the effort in to make this happen every week, as it always gives me a good excuse to rummage through pictures that would otherwise never be looked at. White is the theme, so with a large degree of inevitability here are some snaps from Herefordshire

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Bonfire of the hypocrisies

I think I'm more than a little grumpy this week. In fact there's very few that have escaped me either grumbling at them or moaning at them or getting cross with them or shouting at them or slamming the phone down on them. It's most strange, I'm normally the most amiable person I know. And don't you dare say other wise.

I don't hold with secrets. Never have. Never will. A bit like lies, they are a poison that invariably seeps out and damages anyone or anything it comes into contact with.

Government have always had secrets. But to distinguish them, they are called State Secrets. Now in some cases, these are definitely forgivable...after all half the deterrent of nuclear warheads is that the enemy doesn't know where they are. So we can allow that. But as far as I can tell so far, the main content of all the information that Wikileaks is giving us, is tittle tattle. Nothing too harmless really, and certainly no real state secrets...the nearest has been the list of important targets...but as these are generally public facilities in the public domain, you can be pretty sure that any foreign secret service or Al Qaeda terrorist knows their location. So what has come out is nothing more than embarrassing. For the Americans, very embarrassing as they clearly hold the rest of the world in utter contempt...but we all probably know that already.

Julian Assange, the Australian head of Wikileaks is discovering though that governments don't like to be embarrassed. if he is indeed guilty of sexual assault, I hope they lock him up and throw the key away. But there's something uncannily coincidental about the timing of these charges, something incredibly strange at how they were dropped and then resurrected. Something smells decidedly smorgasbord.

And now Amazon, PayPal, Mastercard and Visa are trying to strangle the organisation. i think they may all be American organisations, and I have a vision of men in dark suits and even darker glasses sitting in the CEO's offices suggesting it would be in their best interests not to deal with Mr Wiki.

And this afternoon, Assange has been refused bail on the basis that he may abscond. This, the man who told British Police where he was staying when he arrived in the UK, and voluntarily walked into a police station this morning. This is where we discover that contrary to my degree in Politics, the judiciary and government may not be as separated as we have been told.

Yes I do know that all this information is stolen. But Wikileaks is a whistle-blower website, and I thought we were grown up enough to know that sometimes it's ok to sneak a look in someone else's private diary if it helps right a wrong.

Perhaps. Just perhaps. If politicians were a more straight forward, less Machiavellian, then the world would be a better place. It's nearly Christmas, I wonder if Santa might deliver this little present for me.

Monday 6 December 2010

Flash bang wallop what a picture!

Of course it's all your fault. Friday was the first Friday of the month, and I forgot to post my round up of pics. I can't believe you didn't remind me.

Photos are very much front of mind at the moment.

The Cat's Mother has removed all the normal photos and ornaments to make way for the Christmas decorations for the festive season. She carefully put them downstairs in the basement room...its got a Moroccan theme to it, and is I guess the room favoured for parties. When we went to bed last night The Cat mentioned to her mum that she thought she could hear an alarm, and later I mentioned I thought I could too. We were both reassured that we were hearing things.

All hell broke loose this morning...there was an alarm going - it was the flood alarm in the basement - as it turned out, a drain had blocked meaning that the damp that is constantly pumped out was flooding back in. Straight into the the box of photographs. Most of the frames are damaged beyond repair...the photos themselves are mostly drying out and we'll see how many can be saved...some definitely cannot be as the ink has run, some may be, some are just irreplaceable. That's quite heartbreaking...it's amazing just how valuable pictures are...absolute treasures. Which bring me round to other treasured pictures.

I whinged to Grandma in Cyprus that I don't have any photos from THE PAST...and like the good mother she is, she has sent me a pile. These are the ones I was going to put up on Friday...I guess the snow addled my brain. Anyway, here some of them are. I find old pictures absolutely fascinating, and in particular seeing what people used to look like in days gone by I've tasked Grandma in Cyprus with filling in the blanks where I don't know or can't remember the people.

PS - Grandma in Cyprus has ridden to the rescue so all the blanks filled in!

I hope the interweb will keep them safe and secure for ever...

This may be a Freemason's do - Grandma in Cyprus with her mum and Dad and my Dad

Her wedding Day

Same day

Oh my! Grandma in Cyprus used to race cars on a dirt track

She's still smiling as she crashes (again)

Perhaps from Grandma's time working at the zoo

My brother's first wedding

Did she beat him with the golf club?

Grandma in Cyprus as bridesmaid...to the girl she lived with during the war - she was evacuated there

I never knew these two - Auntie Lilly and Uncle Tom

Grandma in Cyprus' wedding day..

This picture is 72 years old! From the left: my grandfather holding a puppy, Uncle Stan, my Grandmother, Uncle Jack, Uncle Sam, Auntie Lilly Uncle Tom...and Dick, the cousin (where's Harry?!). Next row: Auntie Grace, David, Kathleen, Mr Completely Unknown!, Auntie Kate..cousin Dorothy's Mum. Bottom row: Betty (Dorothy's sister), Grandma in Cyprus, Marjorie

Ha ha! I didn't know this was Grandma in Cyprus

Grandma in Cyprus' childhood dog

Cutting the cake

That's me on the left...three generations together

Well I know that's Grandma in Cyprus on the right, and this is the same Yorkshie wedding

Wedding pic

Grandad in Cyprus used to have a band...and very good it was too!

I have a step sister...her wedding day

Blimey I was blonde!

21st birthday for Grandma in Cyprus

On the far right are my Grandmother and Grandfather, and on the left, looking very grand in a Victorian kind of way my Great Grandfather and Mother

I guessed a few of these before Grandma helped me - from the left: Uncle Charles and his wife Margaret, my Grandfather and grandmother, David, Auntie Grace, Cherry and Jack (who's still going strong!); next row: Uncle Tom, Autnie Lilly, Grandma in Cyprus, my Great Grandmother and Uncle Sam (married to Auntie Grace); front row: Jackie, Muriel, Alan, Maori and finally Derek

I see four monkeys...

The brothers

...a little bit older...

I got my degree...Economic and Political Development from the University of Exeter. I was top of the class!

Friday 3 December 2010


You'll have to read a good way down until you get to the point of this posting...sorry, but I'm bored at work when I should be working hard.

I really loved this post by Mr London Street - it struck a chord and made me smile

I can't say I've ever watched the programme...a childhood of Opportunity Knocks was enough to put me off that sort of TV for ever, although I did read that one of the contestants has an 81 year old grandmother who is a porn star and prostitute. Which made me realise, just what a peculiar world it is. Hughie Green must be spinning in his grave.

Anyway, on the subject of the 2018 World Cup, I was totally against it coming to England. I was and am a great advocate of the London Olympics so it's not that I'm anti great sporting events on these shores, but for a long time I've been very vocal about what a complete waste of space the people who run the game are. The final presentation may have been very slick and professional, but there were all sorts of shenanigans going on in the months before and I realised that these people shouldn't be put in charge of making a cup of tea. I don't think the media coverage was any more damaging than the bid leaders own antics. Not that I think the world's global football organisations are any better. I'd like to see wholesale reform of the English soccer system...and losing the bid is our best hope, which might be further encouraged if one of the leading Premiership teams was to bite the dust too...I'm not fussed which one.

Not that I claim to know anything about football at all.

Anyway, back to the X in the title. Last night was the opening night of the school senior play. The Boy had decided not to participate this year, but The Cat has a starring part in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. The parents of the cast were invited to drinks with the Headmistress at her house. Of course, I'm not a parent, but The Cat's Mother felt that I should come along - all be it that my name wasn't actually on the invite (she did check with the head's PA first). I was delighted. Naturally a second invite had been sent to The Other Parent.

Despite the snow, we arrived bang on time...and were the first people there. A warming glass of red got us going, before another teacher arrived five minutes later. The conversation flowed pretty freely and after another five minutes the door bell went. Yep it was The Other Parent. He was the sixth person in the room. He'd not met me before. He and The Cat's Mother don't speak. It was a small group. Even when three more people arrived it was a small group. And remained a small group for an hour until the start of the play. I'd say the conversation was a little stilted. Just a little. It probably didn't help when the head asked whether The Boy and The Cat had been walking to school in this weather, and I said 'No, it's a long way from Loughton' 'But I thought you lived in Buckhurst Hill' she said. 'No, Loughton is where we live with The Cat's Mother' I explained.

So this'll be the house that The Other Parent worked long and hard to pay for.

Modern families. They're an odd thing aren't they?

Fortunately, The Cat shone on stage.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Pinch and a punch

I may have tempted fate by mentioning that I was heading to the frozen north yesterday. I got there pretty easily, but the return was challenging - the train left Stockport smartly enough and I settled down to read a book...erm I mean use the time usefully by writing a press release or two. We reached Stoke on Trent quickly and then stopped. For about an hour - a broken down train was blocking the way. We then headed back up to the frozen north, to Crewe in fact. Slowly. Very slowly indeed. Once there we stopped before heading back south on a different line. I'd like to say which one, but it was dark by then, and I was engrossed in the next level of Angry Birds - any hints on how to do level 2 of part 3 would be much appreciated.... we arrived 2 hours late. I thought I was entitled to a refund, but Virgin tell me they are only required to provide me with rail vouchers. As I use the train, at best once a year, this is less than useless and suggests that the rail industry has a long way to go before reaching the standards of customer service expected elsewhere.

I've been designated driver for taking the kids to school this week...at last you can see a value in 4x4s that spend most of their time sitting in the drives next to the Porsches in the WAGs triangle. The main roads are all fine, but the side roads are challenging...and we live up a steep hill which makes for great entertainment as we all slide down it to the bottom...where there's a busy main road.

Back home Christmas has started. The decorations have started going up. The normal mugs and tea towels have been put in a cupboard and replaced with ones with a festive theme. The Cat's Mother knows how to do Christmas in style...and it's going to make December a particularly special time. Especially with all that beautiful snow laying all around. Gifts are something The Cat's Mother does exceptionally well.

The Boy has an advent calendar, which has some fabulous chocolates:

The Cat got a splendid Advent scene:

I've done very well, getting a beach hut themed advent calendar, and this very splendid bottle of cognac.

Each star marks a day, so I guess you're supposed to drink down one mark per day. The thing is, '1' starts just below the shoulder of the bottle, so first sip is an enormous glug. That should warm the cockles of my heart.

I had no idea that gifts would be coming, so now have to live with the guilt of not getting anything for her. Suggestions on a postcard please. But quickly if you can.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

There's no such thing as a free lunch...

...unless you find £5 on the way to the supermarket as I did today. I did look to see if anyone was around looking bereft, but, no, there was no one. I have to say that little pieces of fortune like that make me feel good. Although I do feel sorry for the person that lost it.

It even makes up for yesterday, when there was a final payout from a client that had gone into liquidation last year. They had promised us it was a cashflow issue and we'd get every penny. In the end we got just 7p in the Pound. On a debt of several thousand Pounds. That didn't feel good at all.

Snow finally arrived in the south today...and caused the inevitable chaos. The Boy came bounding into the bedroom as excited now as he's always been. What a truly lovely way to start the day. There was a 5 or six mile traffic jam when I took The Boy, The Cat, The Muffin and The Mumble to school. As I have a big Jeep, it was my duty really. The traffic was so bad that in the end they had to walk the last couple of hundred yards. I'm sure the cold walk did them good.

I can never find anything bad to say about snow...I absolutely love it. It makes even the dullest place beautiful. I hope we get tons more and we all get given a holiday from now until after Christmas.

Tomorrow I travel by train to Stockport...I hear that's in the frozen North so I may be gone for some time.

Monday 29 November 2010

To the victor, the spoils...

I mentioned a little while ago that The Cat's Mother, I and a couple of friends went out on a secret evening...The Secret Cinema...but we were sworn to secrecy. Now all can be revealed...we went to see One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest in an old NHS Hospital that had been recreated as an asylum for the showing...in fact it went on for 10 nights and in total 6000 people came along. We all met at Ladbroke Grove tube in our dressing gowns, and then were led a long and winding walk to the asylum. The place was filled with actors who played parts from the film...and we were all given various types of therapy. The more you got into it, the better the experience...we all had an absolute ball...although The Cat's Mother did rail against the way we were treated as inmates...I think she needed electric shock therapy. Here are some event photos on flickr.

By contrast we went to see Harry Potter on Saturday which was leaden and dull... a badly missed opportunity to develop the characters...although the harsh amongst us have suggested that the actors are not up to it. And it was very long. I suspect you can miss this one, and still see the climax in 'Part 2' without feeling you've missed a thing.

Friday night was quiz night...140 of us raising money for the NSPCC...The Cat's Mother is treasurer of the local branch. It shows how life has changed as it's not the sort of thing I'd have done a year ago...but plus ca change...or something. My contribution, apart from answering a few questions correctly, was to have The Cat's Mother donate a case of my wine on my behalf as the prize. Our table included three teachers from The Boy's school. So it was a good job we won handsomely. And my reward? The case of wine was shared amongst our table, and I ended up with one of my own bottles. That felt fine.

Now onwards and upwards to fight the snow that has been threatening, but failing, to deliver me a bonus day away from the office.

Friday 26 November 2010


I'm a lucky boy...last night as I swung out of the yard where our office is, the rear tyre on the scooter blew out. I heard it go 'pop' and it was flat as a pancake in a second. But I managed to stay upright, and was within pushing distance to the local dealer who could fix it all before I set off for home. How good is that? If it happened when I was on the busy A12 during the rush hour as I zip along at 50mph, the story may have been different. Plus I get the bonus of thinking my riding skills are better than I though because I didn't topple over.

In principle I think it's a waste of time and brain power to spend time on regrets. After all what has happened has happened, and time is better spent on the present or the future. However, I've often been heard to say that if I had one criticism of my time at University it was that Exeter was 'a nice middle-class, home counties sort of place' and I don't believe the word 'radical' existed in any students' dictionaries. Now I'd say that's a bit of a shame because by the time you reach University you are well-enough educated to know a fair few things, but not part of the great down-trodden, so the opportunity and potential to rage against the machine is all there.

Students have taken to the streets to protest against the increase in University fees, and there's been a fair amount of unrest, and even a little violence. But they don't have my support. Not because I think fees should rise, but because they are too narrow-minded and limited in their ambition. University fees are but one tiny part of what is wrong with the world's sixth largest economy, and perhaps the world's third or fourth most developed society. And I can't help but feel that the girl who stood there trying to stop them from rolling the police van over on its side because 'someone might get hurt' is missing the point. It is the students who have the least to lose, they should be the free-thinkers...the people who could and should be radicalising society and pressing for change....for revolution on the streets.

Should I, a reasonably respectable middle-class father be saying it's time for revolution? Well yes I think I should. Many people have been shafted by the City over the last couple of years...I see more than amply qualified graduates on the dole, I see people who have saved for their retirement lose it all, I see previously successful people brought to their knees, whilst the City goes on oblivious to the mess it has created. Jeremy Paxman summed it up well this week when he said that it is a curiosity of twenty-first century capitalism that when the Banks get into trouble it becomes the State's problem. Pity the Irish...and the Portuguese to come. Our politicians are no better. Professional managers with no vision and no statesmanship they have been singularly ineffective...firstly allowing us to get into this mess, and secondly for allowing the financiers to get away with it. Perhaps it's because we have a political system that is inept and works against change...the X-Factor mentality permeates the entire voting public.

So we should all be out on the streets, demanding change. Real change. But of course we won't be...it's a bit chilly out there. We've all got our colour TVs, our cars, our semis in suburbia. We are comfortable, if a little bit annoyed. And if we make too much of a fuss, we could lose it all. After all, it's difficult to know the consequences of revolution. But we need it. No more middle-ground, too polite, grey-shade politics. If we don't get change now we never will. They system is flawed...it needs to be changed. For all our sakes...and for our children.

Thursday 25 November 2010

So what do you think about this?

Its a picture created by the young artist Mark Sinckler using a photo from the 7/7 bombings. And it's caused upset in the tabloid media.

I think it has a rare beauty...and it's got me thinking about the people who were involved.

But then none of my family or friends were caught up in the events of the day.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Black and white

For this week's gallery, Tara left us to interpret the theme of black and white. I've chosen this particular photo. It hangs on the wall of our dining room, and was taken in The Natural History Museum when The Boy was nine. Some people can see two faces in the picture...it can be quite disconcerting...but I think it's very benign...or maybe sad...

Monday 22 November 2010

Oh what a lovely war!

The Boy and The Cat were whisked away by the school on a trip to the 1st World War battlefields for the weekend. The Boy found a grave with the family name on...Bradstock. And then at another site, our surname. Of course it's always good to find these possible historic connections, until you start to think it through and realise that these were little more than boys who gave their lives in the terrible slaughter of the Great War. The school lost 160 former pupils aged between 18 and 24...and given that at the time it was a school of no more than 300, that is a remarkable and heart-rending statistic. It seems to have hit all the participants very hard. And if it teaches them a lesson for the future, then that is a good thing.

Back in the present day, a small battle...

Last week I was sent a council tax demand by Hackney Council. For a flat which had once upon a time been owned by The Boy's mother. For most of our marriage I didn't even know about it. Sometime after we divorced it was sold...about ten years ago. And after her death it transpired that she co-owned it with someone I'd never heard of. When I rang the council to explain, the only response I got was that they had sent the bill because I hadn't told them it had been sold. I tried to explain again. In words of one syllable. I got the same response. I tried to ask what had they been doing for the last ten years. I got the same response. So I explained in traditional English exactly what I thought about them. And put the phone down. I so hope they pursue this one through the courts.

I got another mailing from Hackney Council today. In fact it is for a property I do own. In the envelope was a 30 page colour brochure explaining what they spend the Council Tax on; a six page leaflet explaining what the Greater London Authority spends its money on; a 20 page council tax paying in booklet. And the bill. If you click on the image, and have good eye site, you can see the bill was for exactly £0.00. You may consider this a waste. I do. If you look even more closely right at the bottom it shows the council 'efficiency savings'. I couldn't possibly comment

Friday 19 November 2010

X-rated beauty

Beauty means different things to different people. I was walking around Bermondsey this week...it really is a fantastic, unknown part of London, and took the opportunity of snapping a few things that caught my eye:

Of course, beauty is more than skin deep as the people who created these pictures were trying to convey ...they're for a calendar, and rather different to the Pirelli calendar I used to get sent when I worked in the car industry:

*Pin-up Calendar 2010 was done by BUTTER, the advertising agency for for Eizo in Germany - their copyright acknowledged. Who says the Germans don't have a sense of humour?