Friday 27 December 2013


Are you having fun?  Yes, us too.  Too much to spend any time on the computer...unlike some people who I gather started doing their sale shopping on Christmas Day, probably even whilst her Maj was squeaking.

Starting on Christmas Eve, our daily celebrations have been and will be:

Family and friends
Blessed silence
Friends and family

Even managed a sort of broken Skype call with the Boy after several dozen attempts.  He looked rough as hell, but that may just have been the camera, although the fact that he was swigging beer may have been a different indicator.

In a couple of days we're off to Austria to celebrate the start of 2014.

Until the next time, hope you're having a truly splendid Christmas, and all the best for next year.  Thank you for reading and for your comments which are always much appreciated....

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Any questions?

It must be Christmas.  Frantically busy.  I remember back in the good old days when the world was sepia-coloured, and the young lad used to push his bicycle up the hill with a loaf of Hovis under his arm, it used to get quiet at work in December so you could focus on decorating the Christmas tree.  But no longer.

Anyway, The Cat has returned home for the winter holidays full of snot and cough.  I'd have locked her in her room with a cross painted on the door, but The Cat's Mother thinks that's abuse.  You mark my words, it'll be me that comes down with a nasty cold for Christmas not her.

We've lost touch with The Boy again.  No replies to either e-mails or texts.  I assume he's OK as there has been at least one Facebook post.

Our beautiful Christmas lights have suddenly died.  I suspect the rainwater has got into the electrics.  there has after all been rather a lot recently.  Our garden looks all rather sad....

I was travelling a lot over the last couple of days, so had the chance to contemplate on being an adult.

I came to realise that the reason that old people (I'm including myself as old) get up early in the morning is that when they were teenagers, they would sleep late for as long as they could, and continued to do so into their twenties.  But when a baby comes along, there are sleepless nights so the habit of sleeping in is trained out.  This continues as the child gets older as there is then a need for a taxi service for the school run and weekend activities.  By the time the child has left home, the adult has been 'getting-up' trained, much as the child was potty trained, and the training is never lost.  Sad but true.

Also, old people (again that includes me) can only talk about themselves.  Why is this?  Because during their offspring's teenage years, their words fall on deaf ears, with only a grunt in response.  If you dare to ask what they've been up to, the likely response is silence, or another grunt.  So you resort to talking about yourself to create an impression of conversation.  Naturally, as the surly teenager forms into a beautiful young adult, it's too late. You've learnt to just talk about yourself and can't get out of the habit.

Anyway, enough about myself, how are you doing?

Thursday 12 December 2013


I've been a foolish, foolish boy (not for the first time I hear Grandma in Cyprus exclaim).  The headphone socket on my mobile stopped working.  As I'm addicted to listening to music whenever I'm travelling, I handed it over to be repaired straight away.  Stored on it are passwords, usernames, pin numbers and everything else any criminal might want to steal my identity and plunder everything I have.  I didn't think about it, and I'm not suggesting that anyone at the shop might be mischievous, but who know what might happen?  It's this sort of thoughtlessness that gives the criminally inclined the opportunity they need.  As they said on Dad's Army 'Stupid Boy'.

Whilst the ruling elite were celebrating the life of 'A giant of History', and David Cameron was having a selfie with a tasty Scandinavian blonde, we were also celebritied up on Wednesday.  Obviously it was a celebration of Mandela's achievements, but it was quite Hogmanay was it? Mind you, Cameron is the man who suggested that next year we will be able to mark 100 years since the outbreak of World War 1, and the celebrations will bring us together as a nation like the 2012 Olympics did.  I'd like to say a few words about Mandela, but I doubt I could usefully add anything to the eulogising that has gone on already.  My only hope is that his global legacy is as powerful and long lasting as it should be.

UP was visited by Her Maj, and managed to get the back of his head in the Daily Mail.  Truth is, as it's the Daily Mail, it's probably a good thing that it is the back of his head.  She was opening the new Barnardo's HQ with her daughter-in-law. UP had hoped to pop round the corner to have a quick fag with Camilla, but evidently she didn't have a spare ciggie on her.  Here, courtesy of PA and the the Daily Mail is the picture - yes Queenie does appear to be smiling at him...

Meanwhile The Cat's Mother and I went to the launch of Jonathan Meade's new publication...not a book, but a box of postcards with suitably incoherent captions called Pidgin Snaps.  I'd got involved because it's being published by Unbound which is a publishing house that raises money by asking supporters to contribute to the cost of publishing.  It's a modern spin on an old tradition evidently.  In return for your donation, you get a copy of the publication and a range of benefits.  One of which was to attend the launch party.  Now, I'm a great fan of Jonathan Meades, and have enjoyed his TV programmes over the decades. He's always seemed clever, erudite and entertaining. Things didn't feel quite right when I didn't quite get the benefits I was expecting, and then when we looked through the 100 postcards, The Cat's Mother's only comment was that I took better photos.  We arrived at the launch event in a restaurant that I know and love, but haven't been to for many, many years.  To call it an event may have been an exaggeration...we were squashed in the corner of a bar without a canape to be seen (I was starving and even a crisp would have done).  Yes I know a bit of a first world issue (again) and forced to listen to the publisher who cornered us and could bore for Britain as she rattled on about how clever she is.  Eventually Mr Meade deigned to speak.  He was crude, rude and unappealing in extremis.  The use of the 'C' word was bad enough before he went on to tell a particularly vulgar story about a famous author, and bodily fluids, whom he described as a 'dwarf genius'.  So I doubt I'll be paying much attention to Mr Meade in future.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Will the last person to leave the country please switch off the lights

I've made two faux pas' on Facebook this last week.  First of all, I turned a friend's very beautiful baby girl into a boy by describing her as 'he'...twice....and failed to notice it for a couple of days.  It's too late to delete the comment now.  The second one was to get a friend's son's name wrong...Will I called him, not Wilf. Again it took me a couple of days to realise.  I doubt any of them will speak to me again.

The Cat is returning home next weekend.  Such is the nature of Universities that now you pay a small fortune to attend, the terms are shorter.  She is delighted that Hippo reposted her trailer...clearly Angola is going to be a big market for the film!

In the meantime, The Cat's Mother and I are left alone amongst our Christmas decorations.  Peace and quiet reigns supreme and we can enjoy ours own company.  It's lovely.

The Boy has landed on his feet.  He spent one night in the hostel before meeting up with one of the instructors from last year...there was a space available in the Instructors Chalet so he moved in pretty sharpish.  He's been fitted out with his uniform, and  on Saturday took his first lesson.  A German lady.  It went very well indeed, and she booked again for Sunday.  In the meantime he got reassigned to looking after the small children on the Kinder Slopes...which means that he will have a full week's work early in the season.  That may be a good thing as there is a constant stream of  emails such as 'any evening that includes facepainting with charcoal and goats outfits must be good'...

I nearly cried when the government announced last week that it was dropping green levies on energy companies, and some of them immediately announced that bills would be reduced by £50 next year.  That was the week after they'd put them up £150, so they'll only go up £100.  The green 'levy' will still be made, but through 'general taxes'. So if  we were concerned that energy company shareholders were filling their pockets before, then there's no change.  I don't believe that basic energy - the stuff that lights and heats our homes should be in the hands of private companies who by their very nature are trying to make a profit out of their customers for their shareholders.  That's basic capitalism.  But that is the way it is now, and the politicians seem unable or unwilling to change that.  Don't think for one minute that the Ed Miller Band approach of freezing bills is anything but a short-term tactical election ploy.  The same, of course, applies to water (marvelous announcement from Ofwat that water companies will no longer be allowed to make super-inflated profits....why were they ever!?)  And rail companies.

The only real way to reduce energy profits is to reduce consumption...and that is our hands.  There are grants to insulate homes and instal renewable energy sources such as solar cells.  I once became (and still am) a great advocate of Personal Carbon Trading schemes.  The idea behind this is that every country has a 'carbon allowance'.  That allowance is then divided between the population of that country.  Some people will not require their full allowance and are allowed to 'sell' it to those that do.  In the same way that water meters tend to reduce people's use of water, this approach would generally reduce energy consumption levels.  The bonus of this, is that the people who wouldn't need their allowance are the less well-off who live in smaller properties...the people who need more than their allowance are the people who live in bigger properties and have lots of plasma TV's (etc!).  So in one fell swoop you get a 'green' energy policy and the redistribution of wealth.  Of course, it does add an extra level of complexity of life (but that is the way of things now) as the 'trading is done online, but apart from that for me it's perfect!  There are some complexities, as you need to set the level to include families with children, but that is a detail.  Where you can extend this is to include people's car so that instead of there being the clumsy annual car tax (RIP Tax Disc I see), this can be included as part of their carbon allowance.  Genius.  Don't say otherwise.

Anyway, I'm off to switch off a few lights now.....

Saturday 7 December 2013

Compensation culture

I am worth a fortune.  A big fortune at that.

And no, I'm not talking about the money in my bank account which is more akin to the Greek national debt.

I'm talking about me literally.

Away back in September, I was sent tumbling from my cycle by someone who opened their door without looking.  Since then I've been dealing with their insurance company.  Reasonably, I get paid for the repairs to my bike (although there was some discussion over whether they would or would not pay for a large scratch on it) and my transport costs.  Thank you very much.  That seems reasonable to me.  They also paid for me to go to physio therapy for a strain that was probably caused by my awkward twisting attempting to stay upright and not tumble under the moving traffic.  That also seems fine to me.  Finally, I also get compensated for my injuries.  This largely consisted of a cut on my lower leg.  About two inches long.  It was a bit of a slow healer...53 days or thereabouts.

How much is that worth?  £50?, £25? £5?

No nothing like that.

A whacking £1200.

I haven't asked for it.  They've offered it.  If that's how much such a small part of my body is worth, the whole thing must be worth millions.

I think I might sell it.

Naturally, it does explain why motor insurance premiums are so ridiculous...sorry.

Recently we were out to dinner with friends at Gordon Ramsay's new Union street Cafe.  This was the one that for a while it seemed the Beckhams were involved in running.  They weren't - it was a piece of PR puffery.  Those PRs!  Anyway, our friends are Spanish, so the table was booked for 8.30, which is a quite late, especially when 8.30 means 9.15 before we get shown to our table.  We had a lovely evening - our friends are the easiest and most interesting people to spend the evening with.  The conversation flowed freely and the time passed quickly - what more could you ask for?  The food was fine, but really nothing special...good chain restaurant standard, nothing more.

I think I forgot to mention that a couple of Saturdays ago we were was a performance by Future Cinema, so we had a great day spent with The Muffins.  Ghostbusters manages to retain all its charm and humour after thirty years (!) and the Troxxy, where it was being shown was the perfect venue to have real actors playing out their parts.  The Cat went in an eighties outfit, I was more ghostbuster....and the ghostbusting car outside was a real treat.  I'd forgotten what a great, fun film it is, ad the event was superb. With scenes enacted throughout the auditorium both before and during the film itself.  The girls loved it.  We loved it.  A true treat for the whole family.

Thursday 5 December 2013

It's all bull

It's every parent's proudest moment and also their saddest.  Their child leaves home to face the challenges the world will throw at them as they stand on their own two feet.

The Cat went off to Uni in September, which is a wonderful half way house...catered accommodation, a structured environment, cosseted from the buffeting of economic realities.  But standing on her own two feet she must.  And she's doing well.

The Boy has now gone off to Kitzbuhel for the next five months.  A job offer in hand, but employer uncontactable for the last few weeks.  And on arrival, office closed.  Accommodation in a hostel booked for the next week, but nothing more permanent lined up.  Not a close friend to be found, although last year's instructor will be around soon we hope.  It's all a bit iffy.  No wonder I'm not sleeping much.  Bags under the eyes. No ability to concentrate. Uuurgh.  He seems less than worried and went off to a seasonaires party on the first night, which he describes as "Good party indeed".  I dread to think.

The weekend was spent doing important things like putting up the Christmas decorations.  I may have mentioned before (I have) that this is a military operation commanded by Chief of Staff The Cat's Mother. You would not believe just how many boxes of Christmas tosh decorations we have to transform home into a winter wonderland fit for Santa Claus.  Not only are there a lot, but they are kept in the loft on the third's so high up we have to wear an oxygen mask for visits of more than 2 minutes.  They all have to be brought down, emptied and then the empty boxes returned up the stairs ready for re-use in January.  No wonder I need regular doses of whisky to keep me going.  At least I don't need to head to the gym to keep fit in the run up to Christmas day.

Our grand christmas light switching on ceremony was in fact held a little earlier this year.  Christmas lights make the world such a lovely place, and our efforts in recent years have been quite poor...the result of old lights gradually stopping working and not being replaced.  So this year we invested half the UK's national debt into lights (I understand why Sainsbury's/Homebase are making fabulous profits at the moment) and decorated the 'umbrella' shaped tree in the front garden.  It looks lovely.

In the meantime, This little gem - it's a bull stealing the milk from the crates has appeared by the office.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Genocide adds a bit of depth and edge*

OK, this is The Cat's first step to fame eternal.  During the summer, she got involved in this film through one of her teachers.  It was very exciting for her and for us.  The plan is that it will be released next year...around August.  We're desperately proud (of course) and The Cat's Mother has already started shopping for her outfit for the Oscars, and another one for the BAFTAs.  In case you don't recognise her, she's the one at the front of the screen when the two girls are talking about 50 seconds in.  Hope you enjoy, and will pop along when it's released (I'm not saying it'll be in every cinema!)...and please share the video...she will remember you in her acceptance speech if you do.  As you can tell I am a little over excited....

Long Forgotten Fields - Official Trailer from Jon Stanford on Vimeo.

In the meantime, we all had a lovely time watching Doctor Who's 50th last weekend.  I'm not the greatest of fans; I do quite enjoy it.  But this was indeed excellent.  Of course we had to check out what the papers say, and obviously, the most thoughtful, considered, and appropriate was the Daily Mail which declared that, The Dr having been responsible for genocide added a bit of depth and edge to the character.  Naturally, we've taken that as our lead and feel that Mr Hitler, Mr Stalin and various other heroes who have been treated badly by the history books should be, perhaps, given their own plinth in Trafalgar Square.

* it seems the Mail has now removed this little gem which is a shame as I felt certain it would inspire may middle-Englanders to greatness

Friday 29 November 2013


Mr and the ex-Mrs Saatchi have been airing their dirty laundry in public.  I can't see either of them coming out of it very well.  Mr saatchi appears to be just a nasty, nasty man, and Nigella is fallen from grace as a national institution - did she really spend ten years of her marriage being 'off her face' every day; it seems unfeasible that Mr Saatchi didn't notice it; it seems unlikely that we wouldn't have noticed something was amiss when she was cooking on telly.  Anyway, it seems a shame, but perhaps the world really is just fully of nasty rich people.

The Spanish seem to have picked an odd time to pick a fight over Gibraltar...surely sorting out their domestic problems with an unemployment rate of 25% should be more of a priority?  Or perhaps they haven't noticed whole towns of empty houses which were built to fill the speculative bubble.  Of course, it's a distraction from domestic woe, and that's what happens when you leave politicians in charge.  I'm all for giving bits of land back to the countries here they logically belong.  In this case, I'd sell Gibraltar back to the Spaniards (and make them give those couple of bits of Africa back to the countries they've been carved out of), I'd give Northern Ireland to Eire, The Falklands is another one I'd sell.  As for Scotland, I can't see that it's really a different nation...but my solution to the whole devolution thing would be to create a federal union with England, Scotland and Wales with their own Parliaments.  I'd also sort out the House of Lords whilst I was about it...Tony Blair made a right royal feck-up and no one has got the balls to sort it out...I wouldn't have an elected body, but a gathering of 'elders'...people who have risen to the top of their profession (and I'd include unions and other bodies which might be fairly said to represent the non-chattering classes).  Anyway, another piece of political nonsense from me.

I went to see Gravity the other night...I was by myself as The Cat's Mother was out with girlfriends and The Boy was being truculent.  I thought it was very good...tense and exciting from start to finish.  probably not as good as the critics would have you believe it still managed to deliver a good evening's entertainment.  I really like George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, but I suspect in the hands of more subtle actors and with a better script, it would have delivered more.  On the plus side it was free.  On the downside it was free because in the critical bit when all hell breaks loose, the projector broke down which somewhat undermined the tension.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

A walk in the forest

I love this time of year, especially when I have the chance to have a stroll in Epping Forest which is undoubtedly at its best when the leaves turn to various shades of red, orange, yellow and brown

Monday 25 November 2013

Off your bike

I rather like this...someone has built an instrument designed by Leonardo DaVinci...I wonder what other wonders are still sitting in the notebooks of this genius just waiting to be brought to life

I generally stop riding my bike when it gets very cold...early December...and start again in late February. Not that it's warmer then, but if I don't get on, my weight swells to such an extent that that if I don't start doing some exercise, the bike won't support my weight.  But this year it's slightly different. Having been sent flying at the end of September, I've ridden just twice - once into the office, once on the 100km night cycle.  In the meantime six people have been killed in London in just a couple of weeks on the very roads I use.  I'm feeling a little unsafe.  Sadly, there's been a lot of mud-slinging and finger pointing...ignorant cyclists, dangerous drivers etc.  I'm sure there are good cyclists and good drivers and bad of both; equally we all make mistakes.  What matters most is that people whether cyclist or drivers are more considerate of others and when mistakes are made there is sufficient margin that it doesn't result in another corpse.  I read somewhere that the medics have a term they use 'Talking Dead'...these are people that are horribly injured (usually with a lorry on top of them) but adrenalin or whatever else has kicked in and they're quite conscious, alert and indeed talking until the moment a little while later when they just stop. Dead.

On a more cheerful note, we headed off to see Turin Brakes on Wednesday evening.  They were the first group that I took The Boy to.  I've seen them so many times that I've lost count.  They are the only group who I've ever managed to get an autograph of...thanks to Auntie Gwen.  They have a new album out.  Do buy's very good, and they've never really had the success they deserve.  Be warned, the video is a bit Quentin Tarrantino

Friday 22 November 2013

You silly cow

This unusual (to me anyway) looking cow (there were lots in the field, so I assume that despite the horns it wasn't a bull) was munching in a field near fact near Rod Stewart's house (which I hear is for sale).  Back in the good old days, I very nearly bought a car owned by Rod Stewart.  It was a baby-blue Lamborghini, just eighteen months old with 1500 miles on the clock.  It had lost two-thirds of its value in that time.  I'm glad I didn't...I couldn't really afford it, I had no where to park it, and I'd have looked like a silly moo when I did the weekly shopping at Sainsbury's.  Anyway, I like the cow

Thursday 21 November 2013

Do you come here often?

Sometimes life can be a little bit surreal.  I cannot deny that we live a very lucky, privileged existence.  I can't think that I deserve it in anyway, we're just lucky.  So any time I moan about how things are bad, just ignore me...we have only First World Problems.

We were invited to the opening of the new Sam Wannamaker Theatre today (Tuesday).  This is the small Jacobean theatre that sits alongside the very well known and loved Globe Theatre.  It's an authentic reproduction (even down to being lit by candles) of how a theatre would have looked in the good very old days.  It sits three hundred on wooden benches and the stage is disproportionately large.  I realise that the only people who are likely to attend are the better off, and a few curious tourists.  It would be nice if people who don't normally get to experience the theatre could be attracted.  The theatre was opened by HRH Prince Philip, who frankly is much more spritely and lively than anyone should reasonably be in the 90's.  He has a wicked glint in his eye, and it was no wonder he felt able to quip to Zoe Wannamaker, "Do you come here often?"  I'm not now, and never have been a fan of royalty, but I do think 'The Firm' has worked hard in recent years to find a new place in British society.  It may be that the Royal family will be the only pillar of society that commands any level of respect whilst all the others continue to drag themselves into disrepute. Certainly at 90+ I hope I don't have to work for my living....

We were sat next to the Chief Executive of Southwark Council, and I was rather charmed by her retelling the story that Southwark Cathedral's Dean had said to her that The Shard is the Spire that Southwark Cathedral never had.  I shall look at it in a new light from now on.

Just to bring me down to earth, somewhere I managed to lose a pair of headphones.  The type that fit in your ear.  They were a treat not so long ago, and quite (read very) expensive as these things go, so I was quite glum about it. That was until I realised that really it's a First World Problem and one that's easily solved.

Tuesday 19 November 2013


The Cat's Mother abandoned me and The Boy this weekend for her annual girls spa trip.  Sadly for us, she completely failed to fill the fridge up with ready meals labelled with the day and meal time.  Fortunately, I was able to rekindle some of the expertise that had kept The Boy and I going when, for several years, it was just the two of us.  We headed to Marks and Spencer.  We can both highly recommend the lamb shanks.  Tasty. The Boy also demonstrated his culinary flair by turning the mundane ingredients of bread, cheese, tomatoes and ham hock into something quite extraordinarily delicious.  I hope he doesn't waste that talent.

We managed to find the time to see Don Hemingway at the cinema.  It's a film that's had quite mixed reviews.  Indeed there's a lot of shouting, and the character's behaviour is quite repetitive...and sometimes his language is quite grandiose, and at other times just ridiculous.  But, but, but Jude Law plays the part with aplomb, the film has a cracking turn of pace, and in most places doesn't take itself too seriously...witness the Rolls Royce accident.  I've never got Richard E Grant, and I don't suppose I ever will, but he plays his part well enough.  We enjoyed it.  In a rough, unpolished sort of way I'd say it's one of the better films we've seen this year.  Just not everyone's cup of tea.

So we had some great highlights this weekend, it's but The Boy has come back wishing he's still on the slopes, and he's taking that out on the rest of us.  Ouch.

The Cat's Mother returned after a fabulous time, and declared that the two of us had turned feral...a little unfair given that her evidence was that we had cooked pasta for Sunday evening supper, and I washed the shirts on Sunday as opposed to Wednesday which is the designated day. Ho Hum.

Monday 18 November 2013

More Snow

I went to dinner with Polly Toynbee and Dan Snow last week.  And very nice they were too.  I wasn't quite their personal dinner guest...I was at the annual dinner (indeed the inaugural annual dinner) for the Electoral Reform Society. I'm not much involved, but the thought of a dinner with people who are passionate about democracy quite appealed.  I'm more of a social media warrior than a get your boots dirty trooper.  Anyway, it was quite interesting, on one side of me was a Conservative Councilor from south London, and opposite was a Labour man who was claiming the record for coming second the most amount of times in successive General Elections.  Dan Snow was very passionate about the need for electoral reform...I am too, although I some of my thoughts don't really accord with the established view.  Yes reform of the House of Commons and Lords, but no I don't think we need to have an elected upper chamber (hands thrown up in horror), yes lets look at the relationship between the constituent parts of the UK...independence for Scotland? Madness, but perhaps a federal system would work better for everyone more hands thrown up), etc, etc.  There was an auction which raised plenty of money: I decided I couldn't afford to spend £600 to have Dan Snow guide The Boy and me round the Imperial War Museum, but someone felt they got value.  Anyway, I walked out at the end with a long-legged blonde Texan.  At one time I would have had scurrilous thoughts on my mind; this time it was just coincidence, and I was left puzzling why a Texan was educated at Essex University, and was on secondment to Plaid Cymru.

Everyone is either loving or being sick to the John Lewis Christmas TV ad.  We think it's quite splendid, capturing the essence of what Christmas should be about. Mushy or not, it suits the season.  In the meantime, I was quite entranced by these Christmas sculptures in the John Lewis Oxford Street store.  You could say they've cleaned up

Many years ago the lady in the downstairs flat gave me a plant.  She was planning to throw it out because it had grown tall, but all the leaves except those on top had dropped off.  I kept it upstairs and it flourished under a skylight, growing to a height of about 18' (it was on the stairwell).  But despite there being a few shoots on the stalk/trunk it only ever had the umbrella of leaves at the top.  When I decided to redo the flat, I took the decision to become a lumberjack.  Down it came.  But at the last moment I decided to see if I could save it.  I hacked the top off, dipped it in rooting hormone and left it in a pot of water.  For about 18 months. Roots did grow behind what looked like a slimy sludge.  But not to be disheartened, I potted it, and then put it on the landing in Loughton.  It loved it.  Leaves grew everywhere.  Beautiful.  We all thought it was lovely.  But The Cat's Mother, who has the least green fingers of anyone I know insisted that it was too big and had to move.  Reluctantly The Boy and I moved it.  Disaster.  Absolute disaster.  I still blame the cleaner who for some reason insists on trying to look after the plants.  One day in the summer she so overwatered it that we had to leave the french windows open for a week to try and dry out the carpet.  The leaves started dropping off.  We were left with a plant that looked as though it had been through a Philippine hurricane.  Worse still it turned black at the top..  But I refused to throw it out.  Just a couple of days ago, suddenly there is new the top.  The Cat's Mother still wants it to go.  I won't let it.  But I am wondering whether come the spring I should chop it down and put the crown in rooting hormone...or can you play that trick just once?

Friday 15 November 2013

It's snowing!

Happy birthday Prince Charles...we're going to meet your Dad next week, so I'll check that he gave you a nice pressie.

Commiserations to JFK who fifty years ago had his brains blown out.  I'd like to say I know where I was when the deed happened, but truth be told, my memory as a two year old is not what it should have been.

A decade or so, someone I knew from a few skiing holidays asked if I would look after a grandfather clock she and her husband had inherited.  They didn't have ceilings high enough in their home.  It has stood stopped in the 'library' ever since gathering dust.  In the intervening period, we have lost touch and with me changing mobile phones so often I lost anyway of contacting them.  Until a month ago, there was a message left on my phone saying 'hi', how was I, and how was the clock.  She wanted to talk about the clock so would call me back.  I rang her back, but it went to voicemail.  Nothing since.  Except, The Cat's Mother now thinks we're being taken advantage of, and wants to chuck the damn thing out.  She may have a point. But I quite like it.

The Boy returned from his skiing adventure yesterday.  Ski Instructing Certificate clasped firmly in hand.  It was just fabulous to have him back, even though he was talking ten to the dozen, and obviously he entire contents of his kit bag are spread all over the kitchen floor.  From what we can gather, he had the most fantastic adventure, met some love, lovely people, improved his skiing, improved his German, and most importantly improved his confidence.  It's a shame he will be heading away again, but that's what happens when they grow up isn't it?  Who would be a parent?

I have a small collection of snow globes.  I like to think of them as works of art (indeed one of them did come from Tate Modern and another from the Whitechapel Gallery) and none of them are of the jolly, chintzy variety that adorn souvenir shops and christmas departments.  We also have some christmas snow globes, and they will no doubt be making an appearance soon. I like the idea of a little world encapsulated in a bubble of glass, and find them quite intriguing. So much so that I decided I would like to make my own.  My own little snowy world created just by me, for me.  You can buy fact I found one eventually in the USA.  Now putting aside the fact that ParcelForce received it from our American cousins some fortnight ago, and then didn't bother to deliver it, my one issue is the cost.  The kit itself was not too expensive really...well $50, so a small indulgence.  But then the postage was double that.  And then I had to pay £16.22 customs duty.  This is already the most precious snow globe in the world, and I've not even started to create it yet.

Wednesday 13 November 2013


It's funny the things people discuss in public.

Yesterday whilst squeezed on a tube train in the rush hour, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation between the couple who were squashed either side of me.  "I think we should get separate beds" she said.  He said "OK".  I turned the volume up on my music because I thought I shouldn't hear any more.

In the evening I was reading The Standard and was drawn to an article.  A judge was expressing his surprise that a convicted rapist was entitled to compensation because he had been detained for too long whilst the Home Office decided whether to deport him back to his own  country or not.  The Judge had believed that we had opted out of some of the European Human Rights legislation as Tony Blair had declared in 2007, but he now recognised he was wrong.  The article annoyed me at so many, many levels.

Last Friday was the annual Old Boys Dinner.  From our year there were the usual's always good to catch up with most of them.  But the lad who was a buffoon at school continues to be a buffoon and still irritates.  Though you can't deny he's done well for himself as a complete banker.  It's either age or drink, but I managed to forget my front door key, meaning that I was left to plead with The Cat's Mother to let me in like a naughty school boy.

The following night we were at Sadlers Wells for a bit of dance.  Tango to be exact.  The speed and intricacy of their movements was something to behold.

Other than that it's been quite a peaceful few days.  If you exclude me issuing county court proceedings for non-payment.I'd rather not have done it, but I did.  As soon as I'd filed the claim, they paid, but if I drop it I'll be several hundred pounds out of pocket for the court fees.  And they do owe me interest.  if it was down to The Cat's Mother I would withdraw, but really I don't see why they should get away with it....

Friday 8 November 2013

Picture postcard

I was once lucky enough to sit next to Thomas Hetherwick at a dinner.  He, if you've forgotten, is the man that designed the Cauldron at the London Olympics last year.  He's a very clever yet understated man...immensely likeable.  I mentioned to him that I was a south coast resident and he whipped out a scrap of paper, and began drawing on it.  This was the sketch for a new beach cafe in Littlehampton.  In some ways it felt like a minor reflection of the legend that Sir Alec Issgnosis drew the original design for the Mini on a cigarette packet.

Littlehampton is typical of many an English seaside resort.  A bit down at heel and with many residents stuck in a 1950s time warp.  So it came as a bit of a surprise that Thomas Hetherwick's design for the cafe was accepted....even now there is much opposition in the town, but with inevitability of biological laws, I guess that will eventually die out.

I happened to be there earlier this week, so took some pictures of the cafe, and also the nearby bench sculpture.

Thursday 7 November 2013


I hope that anyone wanting to comment is now finding it a little easier...I altered some of the coding so that it should be better (my word that sounds impressive, but in truth I was just following an idiot's guide telling me what to do).  I will be reassured one way or the other when I either do or do not get a very long, punchy comment from Hippo unless of course he's had various bits amputated after his snake bite incident....

I'm concerned about Rol.  He claims to have become a father, and in celebration has posted up various Top Tens about fatherhood, being born, etc. They've made great listening. But I'm not convinced.  As everyone knows, the ONLY thing a new parent can talk about is poo and napppies, and neither have featured even in passing.

The Boy has been offered (yet) another ski job.  So far he's had two instructor offers, but this one is a little different it is for Children's Club Assistant for a very, very posh ski company.  He attended a group interview and was up against some very impressive competition...people with years of experience.  He won't be taking it, but in terms of boosting his confidence and making him feel comfortable that he has something to offer the world.

I was surprised to discover that Daniel Radcliffe (AKA Harry potter) appears in one of my favourite films...The Tailor of Panama.  I've watched it dozens of times and never noticed him...he doesn't add much, but then he's just the son of the tailor.  If you get the chance download the film of buy the DVD

One of my other favourite films is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine.  Neither are my favourite performers, although I have enjoyed many a Michael Caine film.  One of the things that always crosses my mind when I watch it was that it was the perfect vehicle for David Niven...if only he had been alive.  For the American part I would probably have chosen Tony Curtis.  That would have been perfect.  It came as quite a surprise then that earlier this week I discovered that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is in fact a remake...and the original did indeed star David Niven, although alongside Marlon Brando.  It may not be a classic, but I decided to buy it just to satisfy my curiosity.

We've had a quiet week in this week, despite the lack of offspring.  That may, in part have been due to one of those stupid arguments that have left us skulking around the house....

Worryingly The Cat's Mother who is well versed in the theatrical arts has decided she enjoys the pretty awful Atlantis which the BBC is showing.  It feels American (and not in a good way) and has mangled every Greek legend possible.  I can't understand what she sees in it at all...normally if I don't like something I can at least understand the appeal, but with this one I've drawn a blank..although I have a sneaking suspicion Grandma in Cyprus might like it

In the meantime, The Boy has made us all jealous by posting this picture from his 'classroom' this morning

He says he's busy.  Right.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

50 and still going strong

Halloween night saw The Muffins and us at the ever-popular musical Wicked.  We met before hand at a local restaurant.  Naturally enough the small girls were in witch outfits, and equally, not surprisingly Mrs Muffin had painted her face a deep green.  In normal circumstances, the little Muffins should have been embarrassed, but they're used to eccentric behaviour.  The only person who was embarrassed was The Cat's Mother.  She had spotted a witch with straggly hair crossing the street towards the restaurant, pointed it out excitedly to the Muffins before realising the witch was coming into the restaurant.  It was me.

Arriving at the show, we were grabbed by a film crew, so no doubt our bumbling efforts have been sprayed all over the interweb somewhere.

It is a great show...I've seen it three times now...full of great tunes, and the story is a brilliant twist on the Wizard of Oz.

Friday night was a very special night indeed.  Some people may have been glued to the TV on Saturday to see the 50th Anniversary show from the National Theatre.  We were luckier, we saw it live.  Technically it was a rehearsal, in reality it was a first class performance by the biggest and best stars of the most notable productions in the National's half century of existence.  Never again, certainly within my lifetime will so many of the theatre greats be gathered in one place....who can I name drop?  Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Bennet, Adrian Lester, Rory Kinnear, Benedict Cumberbatch, Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Sion Russell Beale, and on it goes.  Unbelievable really.  Each, short performance perfect to make a perfect show.

Monday 4 November 2013

We'll meet again

Well of course I blubbed.  Seven o'clock on Saturday morning outside Heathrow terminal one I sat in the car and watched as my 'baby' walked into the airport, skis over one shoulder pulling along a bag full of clothing.  He was making a journey that, whilst in Europe, was not the easiest.  Two aeroplanes (with a 30 minute connection between them), then a bus, then a train, then another train and finally another bus.  Daunting even for experienced travellers.  It was pointed out by a friend that he is the most capable person she knows, more than able to lead a group of people through the wilderness if he so desires...but, but, but....

He's away for ten days up a glacier getting (I hope) his Austrian ski instructing qualification. He is sharing a room with a guy from Hamburg and they're in the curious position that The Boy is only speaking German and the German is only speaking English as they each try and improve their language skills for the season ahead.  I've had a surprising number of texts and e-mails.  He seems to be loving it...if not the cost of a coffee - €5 which has come as a shock to him: now he knows why I wince everytime we go skiing!

The Cat has also departed back to Exeter after a few days home.  Later this week she will put on a play that she wrote as part of a '24 hour' drama exercise...write, rehearse and performed all within that 24 hours.  A lot of fun, and the performances this week will give more people the chance to see it.  Here's the YouTube trailer she's created

Thursday 31 October 2013

Returning home

Yet another round of apologies to people who want to comment but can't...always seems odd to me that Disqus and Blogger are as incompatible as they seem to be, but it's certainly the case...these technologists should learn that 2+2 = 4 before they start trying to do the more complicated sums.

We're back to blissful normality at home for a few short days.  The Cat returned last night and is staying until Sunday.  Naturally enough, as with all good students, in the time between her arrival at 10.30 and going to bed a couple of hours later she ate us out of house and home.  No doubt she will stay in bed until the middle of the afternoon, and then stay in pyjamas for the rest of the day.  It's is delightful to have her back of course, hear how things have been going (very well) and to just have her around.  I'm not going to even try and understand why it is that Uni students want to come home during term time...I never did, nor do I remember any of my contemporaries...but they all seem to to their parents delight.  Anyway, it's good to have her for a few days.  Hopefully I will find out more about what she's been up to..The Cat and The Cat's Mother talk every day, but it can then be a challenge worthy of Hercule Poirot to get that information relayed onto me. The Cat's Mother doesn't tend to pass things on assuming that through a process of osmosis we will all get it. If I'm foolish enough to ask a generalised question like "How's The Cat getting on?", I'll get an answer back "Very well." So I'm none the wiser.  I have to learn to ask some very, very specific questions which generally require me to have some prior knowledge to ask them.  Anyway, outside of her course work I gather she's involved in two drama called August, the other of which I know nothing.

The house will begin to empty out early on Saturday when The Boy goes off on a ten day ski instructors course in Austria, and then The Cat heads back down south-west on Sunday which will leave us in a very empty house next week.  I suspect The Cat's Mother and I should sit down and talk about this in a sensible, grown up way rather than just stumble into it feeling a little bit glum.

If you haven't yet seen it, I would highly recommend you hot foot it down to your local cinema to see Captain Phillips.  It's a supreme film which racks up the tension from the start so that by the end you've chewed your nails all the way up to your knuckles.  It's a simple story, well told with the highest quality acting from the entire cast.  Well drawn characters with some terrific camera work, especially in the lifeboat helps make this one of the best films of the year.  That's praise indeed from someone who generally can't stand Tom Hanks' acting.

Monday 28 October 2013

Not hurting

It was probably a little ambitious to think that we would make The Hurts gig on Saturday night.

There were no tube trains over the weekend from our neck of the woods, so the only real option was to drive, and then park in some of the dodgiest streets of East London.

Obviously another contributing factor was that I'd arrived home at 7.00am after my nightride.  Again, I'd probably been a little ambitious - I hadn't been on the bike since my accident and to pile on the misery I'd had a nasty cold and cough that I'd struggled to shake off.  So I was really quite unfit.  But with another 400 people all dressed in halloween outfits of one sort or another - mine was a glow in the dark skeleton - I was sort of carried along with the enthusiasm of the mob.  During the course of the ride I discovered that there is a mountain in North London (well it felt like it) and that even puncture-proof tyres do get punctures.  I discovered that curry is brilliant at two in the morning, and that it's easy to get lost when that puncture separates you from the rest of the crowd - if you look at the picture you'll see towards the left a spur where I crossed the Hammersmith Bridge and then had to retrace my steps.  But what struck me most was how time stands still at a certain moment...I know pretty much what time it was and where I was until 2.30, but then until six thirty and my return to base I had no feeling for time ticking by at all.  I was revived by a pretty excellent bacon and egg sandwich and glass of champagne, and decided to cycle an extra 25km home. (Un)Fortunately the rain came down as I approached Stratford, so I was able to find a kindly taxi driver who took me and my bike the rest of the way home.  Phew

I don't think I've ever been so exhausted...but a long snooze until lunchtime revived my spirits....if not my enthusiasm for going out again

Who says advertising doesn't work?  Many years ago, I saw this advert:

And then rushed out and bought a Velvet Underground album...and today seems a good day to remind myself of both the ad and the song

Friday 25 October 2013


I do miss some great photo opportunities.

Yesterday morning stopped outside our local pub was the biggest articulated truck I have ever seen.  It wasn't stopped in a straight line, it looked jack-knifed with its cab folded back almost onto the trailer.  Also parked was a police car.  Inside one police woman was writing notes.  The other policeman was wandering around outside.  There was no sign of the lorry driver.

One thing I know for certain was that the truck had not been speeding and had not had to brake sharply to end up in this position.  The reason I know this is that the only way to get to the pub is up a long, very narrow lane.  You have to drive very slowly even in a small car to navigate your way.  At best there is room for traffic in one direction as there are cars parked all along one side, and you take your life in your hands if you drive anything much bigger than a Ford Cortina.  My suspicion is that the driver had blindly followed his sat nav and taken a wrong turn.  There is nowhere to turn.  It will have to reverse down.  That may take all day, or perhaps longer as the lane is quite winding.  And steep (I know. - it nearly kills me when I cycle up it).

In truth he had done every well to get it up there at all.  But I do feel sorry for the owner of the Mini Convertible which was parked down the lane.  One side had been removed, leaving a jagged wreck and two wheels were spread liberally across the road.

It's always hard to engage brain when following a sat nav.

Last night I briefly attended the World Architecture House of the Year Awards.  Not surprisingly, it was won by a Swedish house which looked as though it had a concrete pyramid for a roof.  The room was full of achingly beautiful young things all claiming to be architects.  Some of them may even have been.  After a quick couple of glasses of champagne I hot-footed it back to our neck of the woods to see the second half of the amateur production of 'Playboy of the western world'.  It's certainly a good deal better now than when I studied it for 'O' level...I wonder how I would have felt then if I'd actually seen it performed.

Tonight I'll be dining at the National Theatre.  The Cat's Mother, sister and brother, and bessie will be there listening to an interview with the loveable Simon Russell-Beale, but I'll be missing that and arriving just in time for the food.  Once we've dined, The Cat's Mother will return home.  I will return to my office, climb into my halloween glow-in-the-dark skeleton outfit and then set off for a 100km fright night ride round the streets of London, hopefully returning by dawn.  I hope it isn't raining.  As I haven't cycled since I was knocked off, it may prove to be more than quite a challenge.

When I do get home, I hope I can have a sleep, as Saturday evening we're off to see The's a Wonderful Life

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Taking a bite

The Boy may be contemplating whether his trip to Brecon Beacon was a wise decision.  I received a text this morning which said "Sideways rain, gale force winds, endless foggy skies and a landslide blocking the main road.  We left at 6.30 to go 5 miles by 7.00.  Had to spend an hour and a half going round."

I say it's all character building.  but I'm glad it's him, not me.

Some people think The Cat's Mother and I go to theatre, cinema and events too much.  "It can't be very special can it?" They say.  It's a fair point really.  But we like doing's a hobby in just the same way writing a blog is.  We are quite picky about what we see, but that doesn't mean we don't get it wrong sometimes.  There have been some real clunkers this year, and an awful lot of mediocrity.  But in the same way you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince (or Princess), it all seems worthwhile when you finally get to see something that's really worth it.  And last night was absolutely worth it.

We went to see Dracula, a dance production at the Wiltons Music Hall.  It's an old building (of course) and pretty tumble down, even with some restoration work having been done, and some more to come next year.  In a sense the building was ideal for a dark, fore boding horror story. The creator, Mark Bruce, had excelled in every respect.  It was dark with mist enveloping stage and audience, the staging was creepy and the music was perfect...spooky and scary and it filled the auditorium.  Some of the costumes were remarkable...the devil hounds and the horses pulling the carriage up to Dracula's castle were beautifully conceived.  All the dancers were phenomenal, with Jonathan Goddard as Dracula the stand out performer. If you live Oxford it will be there for a couple of nights in November and in the south-west, you can still catch it in Frome I think...highly, highly recommended

Tuesday 22 October 2013

The pupil becomes a teacher

I'm more than a little sad to see that the Co-Op bank has fallen into the hands of villainous American Hedge Funds.  I've had a bank account for many years as I'm a firm supporter of the Co-Op's ethics. It was one place where I thought the banking community could prove you didn't need to be a bastard to make money.  The Bank's failure really stems from all the problems in the financial world caused by greedy, unethical bankers.  Although the Co-Op will continue to have a sizeable share of the bank, the presence of voracious, immoral American bankers cannot be a good thing, and I don't doubt a change in attitudes and ethics as well as investments being made in immoral, exploitative businesses.

On the up side, The Boy passed his BASI 1 course, so is qualified.  I suspect he will want to go on and through the system...that will be his choice entirely, as I have encouraged him thus far.  I'm delighted, he's always enjoyed his skiing, he has a natural bent for teaching so all is good.  In a couple of weeks he's off to Austria to do their equivalent...I hope he gets through that's all in German, so good job he got that A Level then!

Last weekend was one of blissful domestic routine for The Cat's Mother and I.  We headed down to Brighton on Friday in time to enjoy our favourite meal of artisan cheeses, charcuterie and a couple of glasses of red wine at the French cheese shop round the corner from the flat.  It's simple and the most delicious meal we ever eat...a real treat for us.

We got a fabulous sculpture this sounds ever so grand if I say we commissioned it, but the truth is the amazingly talented artist James Freddy Fenner under charges by a quite ridiculous amount and won't take any more so this didn't cost a lot.  Anyway, our Brighton angel gives out a fabulous calming feeling and we're delighted with him.

Brighton is stuffed to the gills with fabulously talented, creative folk so we think of ourselves as very lucky to be able to see so many beautiful pieces, especially during the artists openhouse month of May.  It's a shame they don't get more exposure elsewhere as they deserve much greater recognition than they get.

The Boy has headed off to the Brecon Beacons today, via Ludlow.  In Ludlow he's meeting up with Grandma in Wales and his Uncle for a spot of lunch.  The purpose of his journey is to help the School out for the Gold DofE expedition. So instead of yomping round in the wet, wind and cold, he'll be making sure that the precious darlings are all safe and not lost on the mountainside.  I think it's fantastic that he was asked, and that he wanted to do it.   He loves the outside, he loves helping organise and run events.  I wonder what he will end up doing after University..somehow I don't see him at a desk in the City.

Friday 18 October 2013

Kato, my little yellow friend, I am home!

Yesterday I bought my first gig tickets for 2014.  Lloyd Cole in Shepherds Bush.  I'd have liked to have seen him this year, but was slow off the mark and anything within reasonable travelling distance is sold out.  He has a new touring band, The Leopards, and judging by this performance on Later with Jools Holland, we're in for a treat

It's slightly bumpy waters at the moment...sometimes from the most unexpected directions.  I'm delighted that the car driver who open their door and knocked me off the bike has admitted liability, so that's moving in the right direction.  But I haven't yet been out on the bike again.  It has been repaired, but there's a big scratch on it...the insurance company's view is that's tough luck, but I think it should be put back into it's pre-accident state.  It'll be a battle.  I had a letter from the police saying they wouldn't prosecute the driver which is disappointing...or is it just me being vindictive? I've not heard from Gay George for a while (the guy from the office who was very badly hurt in an accident), but last time I spoke to him he was well on the mend.

Assuming the weather isn't bad, and that I've found my cycling legs again, I've signed up for another night time cycle.  This time I'll be going round in ever decreasing circles...well actually a figure of eight.  I'm doing it next Friday, and it's in fancy dress for halloween.  I'm looking forward to it sort of.  I start at 11.40.  100km should take me until 5.00 am, and then I might just ride home!

I was amused to get a letter in the post this morning from Inspector Clouseau.  Evidently I'd exceeded the speed limit whilst we were in France earlier this year, and he'd tracked me down.  I'd be tempted to ignore it (that's the general advice from friends and the interweb), but it is just €45, and let's face it in the UK it'd be plus points too.  And President Hollande needs my money I gather from reading the papers.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Still wet behind the ears...

Evidently we've already won the next world cup.  Looking at various social media outlets after last night's win against Poland, we are not only going to Brazil, but we have already morally trashed all comers.  I don't much care (although I do notice I keep writing about foot'n'ball) but wonder what the reaction will be should we not win a single match and get shunted out in the first round.  Roll on Rio.

This week, The Boy is mostly learning to be a ski instructor.  For his 'BASI 1' qualification, he is spending the week at the Hemel Hempstead Ski centre.  I'm glad they have a ski centre, because as far as I know its only other claim to fame has been the most complicated round about in the world - one roundabout with mini-roundabouts at each of the you can end up legally going the wrong way round the roundabout.  Fortunately, The Boy doesn't have to go through/round/over that on his journey to ski school. Hemel is about 40 minutes away from us on a good day, and a trek of several hours round the M25 and up the M1 during the rush hour, so he is at least getting to practice his driving skills.

Once he's done the course, he will be able to teach you to throw yourself down the (indoor) mountain on two pieces of polished wood. Mad.  But fun.  He'll then be back home for a week before he heads to Austria to do their equivalent in a place that nobody's heard of after a journey that is the equivalent of going to the Centre of the Earth.  I wish him luck...he'll need it.  I will merely age several centuries as I fret over whether he has arrived safely.  And that's not good because clearing through some old paperwork I realised that if I live only as long as my father, I'm into my last innings.  Just 26 years to go.  As they say in stocks and shares, past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Or something.

I've been quite (very) shocked to see the reaction of some people I know to the Madeleine McCann programme this week.  These are folks that I've known for many years and have always found them gentle, friendly and nice.  On Facebook they've come out in a vicious, quite a nasty way about how the McCanns should be prosecuted for neglect and probably for the murder of their child.  I don't know what happened that night, and I doubt we ever will, but a torrent of bile towards the McCanns doesn't seem civilised at any level.

The Cat's Mother has been pining badly for her daughter, so I have introduced her to Skype.  I may have been better off giving her heroin.  She thinks it's the greatest invention ever, and proved it on Sunday by making three calls in one day.  The Cat is lapping it up at the moment which is terrific.  But I can't help but feel that putting a distance between parent and offspring is all part of the university experience.  I expect I will be in trouble for even thinking that.

I remember back in the good old sepia coloured days, if you couldn't afford to have the main dealer garage repair your car after an accident, a trip to the local scrap heap would enable you to buy the parts second hand for a fraction of the cost.  So after The Boy's little argument with a concrete post on his grandmother's drive, the repair bill for one door was 70% of the value of the car itself.  We did the modern equivalent of going to the local scrap yard...these days it's called an internet search.  Lo and behold we found the one and only second hand replacement door for the car in the whole UK.  A snip at just £250. It will be deducted from his pocket money.  It arrived very quickly by courier from Sheffield, and was exactly as described. Black front passenger door for 2006 Toyota Yaris.  Stupidly, I hadn't checked that it had all the other elements that would make it of any, rubber, door mounts, interior panels, etc, etc.  How naive am I? They probably can be transferred from the old door by someone with the right expertise. So this is a very public appeal to Big Brother...can you help, or do you know someone who can?

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Zoo news

Not a good day down at the zoo is it?  Have you spotted how many stories from Germany are about zoo animals?  Is that the way to world domination?

Edinburgh Zoo panda Tian Tian 'no longer pregnant'

Tian Tian was artificially inseminated in April and had been showing signs of pregnancy for several weeks

Edinburgh Zoo's female giant panda, Tian Tian, is no longer expecting a cub, it has been announced.

Experts said her hormone and behavioural signs indicated that she had conceived and carried a foetus until late term, but then lost it.

Tian Tian was artificially inseminated in April and had been showing signs of pregnancy for several weeks.

However, the zoo said she had now returned to the eating and behavioural patterns of a non-pregnant panda.

Chris West, chief executive officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: "Such a loss has always been in our minds as a very real possibility, as it occurs in giant pandas as well as many other animals, including humans.

"What we have achieved, considering we have had giant pandas for less than two years, is immense” says Chris WestRoyal Zoological Society of Scotland

"Our dedicated team of keepers, veterinary staff and many others worked tirelessly to ensure Tian Tian received the best care possible, which included remote observation and closing the panda enclosure to visitors to give her quiet and privacy.

"We are conducting a detailed review of the scientific data collected, but I am totally confident that we did everything it was possible to do."

The panda enclosure will remain closed until the end of the week to give Tian Tian time to get back into her routine and to give her keepers a chance to recuperate.

Keepers insist Tian Tian received the best care possible and remain confident she will eventually give birth.

Mr West added: "The majority of research centres and zoos with giant pandas around the world have not successfully bred until the third or fourth year.
"New hormone research is beginning to indicate that lost pregnancies are more common in giant pandas than first thought, though at the moment no-one knows why."

The zoo is renting Tian Tian and male panda Yang Guang from China for around £600,000 a year, hoping a cub or cubs would bring in more visitors.

Some experts believe money spent on captive breeding would be better used to preserve the habitat of wild pandas.

London Zoo newborn Sumatran tiger cub found dead
The cub was the "grandchild" of the last tiger born at the zoo

London Zoo's newborn Sumatran tiger cub has drowned, the zoo has confirmed.

Five-year-old Sumatran tiger Melati gave birth to the cub on 22 September after a six-minute labour. The cub was the first tiger to be born at the zoo for 17 years.

On Saturday, zookeepers could not see the cub on the den cameras and its body was later discovered on the edge of a pool inside the enclosure.

A post-mortem test conducted on Sunday confirmed the cub had drowned.

“To go from the excitement of the birth to this in three weeks is just devastating” says Malcolm FitzpatrickLondon Zoo

It is thought that Melati carried the cub outside the den, but keepers are unclear as to how the cub got into the pool as there are no cameras in the wider enclosure.

The cub was born six months after the opening of the "tiger territory", designed to encourage the endangered sub-species of tiger to breed.

Melati's pregnancy lasted 105 days and was kept secret by zookeepers, who maintained a careful watch on the first-time mother through hidden cameras so they would not disturb her.

The cub - which had not yet been named or sexed as it was so young - was the "grandchild" of the zoo's last tiger cub, Hari, the father of Melati.

London Zoo's Malcolm Fitzpatrick said: "We're heartbroken by what's happened.

The cub was the first tiger born at London Zoo in 17 years

He added: "Melati can be a very nervous animal and we didn't want to risk putting her on edge by changing her surroundings or routines, in case she abandoned or attacked the cub.

"At the time we thought it was in the best interests of Melati and her cub to allow her continued access to the full enclosure as normal.

"We would do anything to turn back the clock and nobody could be more upset about what's happened than the keepers who work with the tigers every day.

"They are devoted to those tigers and are distraught."

All text and images from the BBC news website

Monday 14 October 2013

It's never too early to ski

Oh I'm falling behind with everything Bloggy again...I suspect as I have seen with many other's I'm going through a lean writing patch.

I suspect that 2013 will yet turn into a particularly difficult year....but probably nothing more than other empty-nesters face every year.  The routine has been broken, and everything seems quite strange and uncertain.

We saw two films last week, both with a miserable story.  Both are highly rated by the critics. How interesting for us then that one left us feeling as though we'd had an excellent evening out, whilst the other just left us depressed.  First the good.  Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine..the story of an American socialite's fall from grace as her husband's fraudulent business collapses under judicial scrutiny.  Cate Blanchette is superb, and actually so is the rest of the cast.  A beautifully told tale brilliant directed by Mr Allen.  I don't usually enjoy his work, so it must be good.  The Cat's Mother and I couldn't quite agree what film to see on Saturday, so we settled on Le Weekend, somewhat different from my preferred choice of Filth.  Anyway, it's about two not very likeable nearly retirees who travel to Paris to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.  THey're bothe miserable, and that was a an infectious feeling.  Anyway, the critics love it, we thought it was just a miserable story of not likeable characters who think they deserve more than their lot.  I'd have left early but have the need to see these things through to the end.  And actually Jeff Goldblum was an interesting, honest character.

In the modern world of social media, we all live in virtual communities.  Communities that replace the 'village communities' of yore.  I use GiffGaff ...its a mobile provider which uses the network and is owned by O2. There are no shops, no customer service people, just an online community that helps you out when things go wrong.  It's a nice idea...especially as it means that the costs are significantly less than any of the other networks.  So when something goes wrong, you might expect there would be a community spirit...everyone sympathising, everyone pulling together...a bit of a latter day war spirit.  But true to the 'online way, nothing could be less true.  The bile and viciousness that typifies any online environment explodes at the slightest provocation.  Do you ever read any of the comments sections of the online national press. It's nasty.  The same is true here as well.  Just recently, GiffGaff has had a few problems...technical issues that have caused the network to go down.  And the comments have flowed like diarrhea.  Giff Gaff have responded by offering a poison chalice. They've set aside some compensation money, and community members can decide whether they want a good will credit, or whether the money should be used to improve the member experience.  If it's a true community, the members should vote for the latter...if it's just a way of getting mobile cheaply, they will vote for the former. On the other side of the fence, you have to ask whether GiffGaff is a true community provider, or just an O2 marketing ploy.  I find it fascinating.  I have a feeling I know which way it will's all down to human greed isn't it?

I see there's a storm about Jack Wilshere's comments that only English born and bred should play for the English national (football) team. On the surface, it doesn't seem unreasonable...particularly if the same rules are applied around the world - but of course they aren't.  So perhaps, he should be happy enough that the rule is extended to anyone who has British citizenship...and perhaps a number of year's residency?  But this would exclude players who decide to find their fortunes abroad.  It's not that I'm a big football fan so ultimately I don't much care.  But I do feel it may be symptomatic of a growing trend that is also seen in business, and elsewhere.  It feels that rather than develop our own talent, we have become obsessed with importing it.  That feeling was reinforced by some statistics that came out this week which show the UK plummeting down the league table of developed nations for literacy and numeracy.  Certainly in the UK, the football industry has failed miserably to develop home-grown-talent.  It would be a tragedy if the same became the ingrained approach to general business.  On the flip side, I'm feeling more and more that the UK national identity is being diluted (did it ever truly exist?)...if that path was followed around the world, it probably wouldn't be a bad thing and may help reduce the number of conflicts.  The UK could simply become a geographic area rather than a nation state....

The Boy and I headed off to the ski slopes on, not a quick jaunt to the continental Alps, just to the indoor snow slope in Hemel Hempstead.  It was an interesting experience as we'd not done it before....quite fun, and it was good for a little practice ahead of the winter season.