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.