Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Monday 29th June 2015

This was all about coming home. The day was lovely from start to finish and it was 24 degrees in Lichfield when we got back, so warmer still in the south. We watched everyone go off, Robert to work, Harper to Pre-school and Daisy to her school in Chobham (and Sheri to make sure they made it OK). Then we used the cross country route to High Wycombe and a coffee break with Helen.

We were home by 1pm and by then Pauline had decided that we would start decorating tomorrow, so the next visit was for wall paper and any missing bits and pieces of decorating tools.

We didn't do too much today. Pauline had been bitten twice and the bites were raw and stinging, so she watered the plants but generally kept out of harms way.

The crossword wasn't too difficult today. One clue was 'crested bird'. There are dozens of them but for some reason hoopoe jumped straight into my head. I tried it, and it turned out to be right. Because of that lucky guess, the rest fell into place. It doesn't always happen that way.

hoopoe, not often seen in the UK

Our local church has opened a drive through confessional. The sign outside reads "Toot and tell or go to Hell."

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sunday 28th June 2015

Another lovely day, even when the weather didn't match the forecast and gave us a slight sprinkling.

This was party day and so there was some preparation required. The garden  features a lot of decking and this needed blasting clean. I helped by clearing the furniture off but Robert did the work with the Karcher. Actually Robert barely stopped all day because he operated the barbecues, tended to all the guests and generally ensured that everyone was well catered for.

The Rashbrooks were there in force, plus a handful of neighbours and friends visiting from Australia, plus Charlotte is actually South African although living in Sussex for the moment.

The food was good, the rain freshened everything and then it was lovely to sit outside, conversations rambled a cross a whole gamut of subject matter, and everyone was very well behaved (I say that, being well aware of libel laws).

We hadn't been down to Horsell this year. Now I can't wait to go again, especially as Daisy donated a portion of her pocket money to the Talking Newspaper.

I also prospered. Robert was recycling some of his shirts. I'm all for hand-me-ups, but sadly some were too small for me, and I'm not dieting now, so I settled for the one that did fit. Very understated, I thought.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Saturday 27th June 2015

This was a lovely day from start to finish. The sun shone, everyone was on good form and this is what you hope for from a family weekend.

Charlotte, a long time friend of Sheri, came to stay. She was interesting company with stories to tell and philosophies to share. Sheri and Charlotte went out together, Pauline decided to occupy herself domestically, and Rob and I took Daisy and Harper for a walk across the common, through the woods and down the canal to a play area.

Tonight was simple. Lovely food, a small glass of wine and loads of conversation, and everyone in bed by 10pm.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Friday 26th June 2015

It's all about birthdays at the moment, but to celebrate the next one we had to travel 130 miles south east to Woking. It all started OK. I took the talking newspapers to the Sorting Office, filled the tank, loaded the car and we were off on schedule at 9.30.

We took the M6 Toll to save us 10 minutes, but it was all to no avail. The M42 and M40 were shut by accidents and a vehicle fire, so we took the country route down to Banbury. A mile outside Banbury we were still on schedule. That's when we hit the roadworks and it was soon clear that we would not meet the first part of Robert's plan.

So we met up at the Pasha Cafe Bistro in Chobham, Robert, Harper and birthday girl Sherie. Daisy was round the corner in school. The Pasha is a Turkish restaurant and so was a new experience for me. There were six different dips, all tasty, plus calamara for Robert. Then it was round to the school playground to help Sherie set up for the school fete.

Sherie has started an artisan business selling homemade plaques, scented candles and decorated wine glasses. She appeared to be doing brisk trade, but I think she should add photography to her portfolio because she certainly takes much better pictures than I do.

Tonight was just about being sociable. There was an impromptu meal consisting of various hams and meats and a wide selection of really tasty cheese, eased down by a bottle of bubbles.

Dezi's delights

Friday, 26 June 2015

Thursday 25th June 2015

Happy birthday Pauline. Sorry it happened on a Thursday. At least the sun shone.

We started with cards and presents. Helen sent a new necklace and Pauline said "That's lovely, but I haven't got a blue top to go with it." She opened my present which just happened to be a blue top. I also bought her a new food processor, which she had guessed!

I started on the Stevenage Talking News as soon as it came through on hte internet and I was all finished by lunchtime. Then I did the Live at Home run, but without Pam. Her health has not improved and I think we should be concerned.

Pauline took Rita to Tamworth and then brought her back for dinner. I had to dash off at 5.30pm. I knew there would be no Wilf but Keith didn't make it either. Fortunately Ben was there to do the Lichfield envelopes which meant I could concentrate on Stevenage, Gwent and Scotland. I got the extras finished just as the readers for Lichfield turned up. Peter came later to help with the duplication and we were finished in record time, home by 9.15pm.

There was very little time for anything but talking news today, but I did get a request off for funding, plus I did the crossword. Over the years I've seen references to Beowulf  and his epic poem, but had never read it. I knew he fought monsters, and that was the clue, but no monster I could think of fitted. So I had to really work to get the answer - Grendel.


The doctor gave a kleptomaniac tablets to cure his affliction with the words "If these don't work after just seven days - I need a 42 inch TV."

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wedneday 24th June 2015

I went back to school today, in the sunshine. When I retired, six years ago, I was sent on a photography course. I learned a lot and my pictures improved, but in the last year something has been missing, and I couldn't work out what. When I saw a 4 hour introductory course on offer with Groupon I figured I couldn't lose.

The T World Studio is in Hunger Lane, Weeford, less than 4 miles from home, so it was perfect. A 9.30am start was also friendly, as was the early weather. Warren was our instructor and there were only four of us so we all got plenty of attention.

Each of us had a different camera but Warren knew his business and showed us the basics on all of them. He also hit on what I was doing wrong. I had adjusted the exposure compensation to cater for some very gloomy conditions and had forgotten to readjust. I usually work in AV mode, altering the shutter speed to control depth of field, but there are three side to the control triangle and I'd overlooked on of them.

Most of what we did was theoretical but we did step outside for a while and wandered down the lane. We missed the glory of the countryside by a few weeks because the oil seed rape is now green, not butter yellow, and most of the blossoms have moved on, but it was good to get outside.

I collected the returns on the way past the Sorting Office and whilst Pauline took Rita food shopping I stood on the patio and processed the three full sacks. I've endured a gluten intolerance attack on my hands this past week or so which made opening the envelopes a sometimes unpleasant thing, so I took longer than usual.

If all roads lead to Rome, don't all roads also lead away from Rome?


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Tuesday 23rd June 2015

My first task was to do the minutes from last night's Lions meeting, then prepare for a drive down to South Wales.

Today's venue was the Phoenix Centre meeting place on a hilltop overlooking Swansea. First I had to drive the 160 miles there. This was no hardship. The satnav took me down the M5 and then onto the M50. Approaching Ross on Wye there were gangs of workers tidying up the bridge work and improving the gorgeous view of the town across the river.
Ross on Wye

Down to Abergavenny and then into unfamiliar territory, along to Merthyr Tydfil and its white houses with dark slate roofs, then through the Neath Valley and its rough rivers and sparkling waterfalls. Merthyr also boasts an enigmatic viaduct, but there were massive roadworks in the area, so I came back via the M40/M5, 10 miles further but twenty minutes quicker.

Merthyr Tydfil


Neath waterfalls

I met up with four ladies and two gentlemen from the Swansea Talking Magazine. They record once a month using outdated technology. My first task was to persuade them that they have to change, then enthuse them to want to change, and then convince them they could change.

I thought the meeting went well. All we have to do now is raise funds, buy equipment, find more volunteers and visit 230 listeners. It will take time but we will get there.

The journey back was pleasant. Blue skies, 23 degrees, sunlight on the bay and golden sands at first. Trouble free roads in the main but ways around the two main obstructions I came across. I was back at 7pm to find Pauline had mowed the lawns, and then gone for a birthday meal out with the girls.

If manny a mikkle maks a mukkle, how much does it cost to host the National Mississippi Paddlewheel Riverboat Week?

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Monday 22nd June 2015

The pressure was on today. Lots of paperwork and preparation for tonight's Lions meeting. First was a cheque for £2300 for the Talking Newspaper to process, bank and acknowledge. This will keep us going for as couple of months and came in just on cue.

I distributed the minutes from the SNA meeting, held up because I have to include a large scanned document and had trouble scanning. In the end I sent them out without the attachment. I produced and distributed the Treasurer's Report for tonight and then went into town. I banked the money, did some essential shopping and bought enough sweets for my trip to Swansea. Six hours in the car, if I'm lucky.

Tonight's Lions meeting was one of the best for a long time, made more pleasing by the attendance of Chris Gibb, plus we inducted Laura into the club and we were visited by two potential new Lions, and there was also a presentation on behalf of the Penquins Club, which teaches swimming to people with physical and mental disabilities.

Somewhere along the line today the subject of a Land's End to John O'Groats trip came up. The perception is that this is 1000 miles, the furthest you can go from one point to another in mainland Britain. I've only been to Land's End once but John O'Groats several times, and the signpost there says the journey is shorter than most believe.

874 miles to Land's End

I think my Mother was a Morris Dancer. She was always saying "Pull the other leg, it's got bells on it."

Monday, 22 June 2015

Sunday 21st June 2015

This was a day of two halves. There is a special sensor in our house that, if you are in on your own, informs everyone the moment you step into the bath, so that they can call you. I'd spoken to Pauline at 7.30, forgot is was Father's Day, got in the bath and the phone started. It isn't often I get to speak to all three of my children on the same day, so that's a great was to start.

Pauline was home by 10.15. She got up early, sneakily took her breakfast and left to come home as soon as Helen and the girls surfaced and she could say goodbye. We had half an hour together and then she went to church, and so did I, in a way.

We are trying to start a Lions Club in Barton under Needwood. We have six members signed up at the moment. Barton has an Open Garden Weekend, plus a teddy bear extravaganza and a scarecrow competition. Barton Lions were manning the main car park.

I was first there but it soon became apparent that we were over-manned on the car park. They had an unmanned information desk in St James' Church, across the road. We took that outside and I manned that, together with Ed Rule for a couple of hours, in the shadow of the teddy bear parachute drop zone.

I was there until 4pm. Then it was back home where Pauline was cooking a lamb roast and Rita was there to join us. The food was great, it was summer solstice so the daylight stayed with us until after we were asleep.

I think we did some good today.

St James' Church

I eat my peas with honey, I've done it all my life. It makes them taste quite funny but they don't slip off my knife.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Saturday 20th June 2015

So, the answer was 87. The numbers are all upside down. A six year old will spot it immediately, adults look for algebraic equations and such.

We both left the house almost together. I drove up the A38 to Tutbury and Pauline took the M40 down to Helen, Dave and the girls at High Wycombe. She needed the break and some retail therapy.

My venue was Tutbury Village Hall, in the shadow of the ruins of Tutbury Castle. The event was a Health Information Day and there were a lot of stands displaying a very wide range of services and charities. I was positioned between the local pharmacy and the Fire and Rescue.

I was there for the Talking News and the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. It was pleasing when the lady from the pharmacy said that they have one of the SNA directories. I was showing a couple of the Message in a Bottle containers. The Fireman asked if they could have a supply and I said I would arrange it. Then someone walked past with a MIAB in their hands. I asked where they had got it from and they said St Giles Hospice. I gave St Giles two boxes of MIAB just a couple of weeks ago.

It's nice to know they are being well used.

On the way back from Tutbury I called in at Barton under Needwood to see where I have to be tomorrow, then went over to Tamworth to do some shopping for a forthcoming milestone, and finally to the studiuo to scan a 15 page report.

That was it, really.

Tutbury Castle

I eat my peas with honey, I've done it all my life. It makes them taste quite funny but they don't slip off my knife.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Friday 19th June 2015

I take a lot of motivating on a Friday, but I didn't do too badly today. First of all there were 52 e-mails that needed actioning. That was most of the morning, apart from taking the three sacks to the Sorting Office. Pauline went and did the flowers in church with Rita.

After lunch we went for a drive and then did a week's food shop, by which time Pauline was shattered, so I did a variation of the rib-eye steak recipe, given that the last one worked and Aldi are selling the steaks at such a good price.

There are days when I don't want to do too much, but there isn't a day when I don't do some brain test or other. With the tests I've been doing for a couple of years I am in the top 10% for the over 70 bracket. The Times drew my attention to a new series of tests under the banner Peak. So far I haven't met their requirements in a single category.

Must try harder!

Answer tomorrow

Friday, 19 June 2015

Thursday 18th June 2015

If the sun shone, I didn't have time to notice. I did see that it was daylight when I first woke just after 4am and it was still light when I came home at 10pm. Three more days like this and then we start going the other way.

I did some paperwork and then packed the car with display banners for the Talking News and Staffordshire Neurological Alliance and went into town. There was an event run by Support Staffordshire called 'A Celebration of Volunteering'. This was in the Guild Hall and provided a stage for the public to come in and look at what was going on in Lichfield that they might want to get involved in.

Lichfield Lions had not registered for this so I shared my stand, which made it very cramped. In fact they chose the downstairs room to host the exhibition, which made everything very tight, but something else was happening upstairs.

We were there for three hours and there were quite a few people interested in both the TN and the Lions. Nick Lamb and John Whitehouse handled the Lions side and I did the Talking News. I also picked up Certificates of Appreciation for Peter Fox and Keith Eagland. There should have been one for Wilf Pembleton but it didn't materialise.

There was also a moment when one of the ladies officiating came round signing people in. When she offered me the clip board and pen I asked her where she had stolen this very distinctive pen. She said "Father Christmas gave me that at Wyevale." I asked her if she had sat on Father Christmas' lap and she said "That's between Father Christmas and me." I said "No, that's between you and me."

I gave every parent that took a child to the grotto a pen that year. She said it's the best pen she has ever had.

Straight from there and back home to record the Stevenage TN. That was finished just in time for me to do the reverse run for the Live at Home Scheme. I thought Pam was looking very frail, extremely slow and it sounded to me that she has bronchitis.

Pauline went to Tamworth for me, came home and cooked an early dinner and I was at the studio for 5.35pm. I had no troubles in finishing off the Gwent and Scottish TNs from last night or in duplicating all three, but it does take time and it was 7.15 before the Lichfield recording could start.

We only had Angela and Jane for reading so Keith joined them. Ben came and processed the Lichfield returns, Peter did his IT thing, Wilf did the recording and I sat and ate the sweets that Peter brought me.

a bit crowded

I agree that the pen is mightier than the sword. Well, it is if you are trying to write a letter.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Wednesday 17th June 2015

There wasn't any time for gardening today. My first task was to write up the minutes from yesterday and that took up four pages and most of the morning. There was also a letter from Ross that needed careful consideration.

We set off in nice sunshine to head north east to Ashby de la Zouch and our occasional meetings with Brian and Jackie Popple. We met at the White Hart, shared a meal and caught up on each other's activities over the past months. We also talked about Reunion and Jackie suggested Ashbourne.

So after lunch, Pauline and I went there.  Ashbourne is about 32 miles due north of Lichfield and is known as the gateway to the beautiful Derby Dales and the Peak District National Park. Ashbourne itself is worth a visit and they knew we were coming because they decked the streets with flags and banners.

We looked in Ashbourne itself for an hotel and then at two hotels on the outskirts. Of the three we saw, one was way below our standards, one wouldn't have us and one was way above our reach. Then the rain came down, so we went home.

They knew we were coming!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Tuesday 16th June 2015

The nice day finally arrived and so there was no consideration for anything else but gardening - this morning. Pauline had some titivating to do in the back so I cleaned the filters on the pond and then moved to the front. Pauline also came round to see what I was up to and got stuck in herself. She is the better gardener and so I think she thought I need all the help I can get. I don't mind the help but no longer can I say it was all my own work.

We did about a quarter of what needs to be done. I don't intend to do it all in a day.

This afternoon was the monthly meeting of the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. I set off a few minutes earlier than usual for Rugeley so the I could get the kettle boiling. When I got there the room was already well occupied and complete strangers to me were handing out the tea and coffee.

There were ten of us in all, the best attended meeting for a very long time, and three of the faces were new to me, which is very encouraging. Suddenly it seems to be happening for the SNA, and that pleases me muchly.

The clue was 'ring shaped' and the answer turned out to be anular. That word has several meanings and ring shaped would be the least used. If we today were to describe an anular phenomenon we would probably say corona.


Thinking of things your Mother used to say, my favourite was always "If you fall out of that tree and break your legs, don't come running to me!"


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Monday 15th June 2015

Half way through the year and still awaiting Summer to properly arrive. Still, today was better than most to date. We decided a brisk walk into town would keep us warm whilst the sun decided whether it was going to perform.

The afternoon was bright enough for some gardening, particularly mowing the lawns for me. Pauline brought Rita round for dinner, as we had cut her adrift yesterday, and I had a protracted meeting at the George tonight with four other members of Lichfield Lions. Ross is our outgoing President and has fixed ideas on which way the club should lean. I only agree with 90% of his vision, and I feel that 10% disparity is quite vital, so the next club meeting will be interesting. We must also ensure that it is strictly democratic.

I don't know if The Times crossword is dumbing down or if I am getting smarter, but only one word made me struggle today, and I shouldn't have had much trouble with that one. The clue was small merganser. I know this duck family member but the word smew wouldn't come to mind until two letters fell into place.

Must try harder.

female smew

male smew

I used to think my name was Now. The first five years of my life were "Now, you listen here to me, young man!"

Monday, 15 June 2015

Sunday 14th June 2015

Well, so far we have had one day of summer. We'll look back on that fondly come Christmas.

Today could be described as bone idle. I booked a photography course, sent out reports for the SNA meeting on Tuesday, then we picked up Rita and went to church.

The Stafford Lions Charter celebration was at lunchtime, a first for that club. The venue was the old Council Offices in Market Street, just perfect for the occasion. There was a grandeur to the building and the meal was taken in the Oak Room. Seventy sat in comfort and we had an enjoyable meal and pleasant company.

The drive back was across Cannock Chase, pretty even under threatening skies.

There was a young lady on our table who had never seen pre-decimal coinage, let alone understand it. We broke it down simply:

We used to have 4 farthings to a penny,
2 halfpennies to a penny (pronounced haypney),
3 pennies in thruppence,
6 pennies in a tanner,
12 pennies in a bob,
24 pennies in a florin,
30 pennies in half a crown,
60 pennies in a crown,
120 pennies in a ten Bob note,
240 pennies in a pound and
252 pennies in a guinea.
Then they made life complicated by bringing in decimalisation!

the farthing, crown and guinea are missing

Pauline at Stafford

Can someone tell the man who wrote the TV advert that I want medicine that is bad for coughs and colds, not good for coughs and colds.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Saturday 13th June 2015

It rained for 24 hours, starting last night, so gone were the plans for a day in the garden. Pauline went off to Rita to meet up with Louise, and do a little bit of girl shopping. Meanwhile I tackled six jobs but only finished three of them. I was lacking in motivation.

The clue in today’s crossword that made me struggle was ‘famous virtuoso violinist’. I realised I am not that au fait with violinists. I knew Yehudi Menuhin and Vivaldi, and that was it. The answer, which I got from interlinked letters, was Paganini, or as we knew him, Page Nine.

When I Googled him I found him ranked the Number One violinist of all time. I did know the name but only because, when I was fifteen, I heard classical music for the first time and the piece that impacted on me then – and still does nearly 60 years later – was Rachmaninoff’s 18th variation on a theme of a rhapsody by Paganini.

I still find the piece beautiful but at the time all it did was make me find out more about Rachmaninoff, in particular, what were the first 17 variations like?


My eyes swept the room. I thought, "that's enough housework for one day."

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Friday 12th June 2015

I am always faced with a mountain of paperwork on a Friday, but it is our day off. The sun was shining and the forecast said rain at 5pm, so we decided on a trip whilst we could.

We are located in a part of Staffordshire where four counties conjoin. At No Man's Heath you can step from Staffordshire into Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire without moving much above a yard. We didn't go there today but our journey up the A38 and A50 took us into Derbyshire, Leicestershire and the Nottinghamshire, all in the space of 35 miles. Imagine that in the USA.

Wallaton Hall is located just outside of Nottingham, in a huge country park with two kinds of deer roving freely. My initial reaction on arrival was mild disappointment, but that soon changed. The Hall has been much changed internally over the centuries but would have been magnificent in it's hey day.

Work on Wallaton Hall began in 1580 and was completed 8 years later, just as the Spanish Armada was providing a distraction. The interior has been changed twice, once following a major fire, but the exterior is much as it was when the other Elizabeth was sat on the throne.

The Hall is more light and airy than most houses we visit and the views are entrancing. Living there must have been a delight. Now it is something of an art gallery but very much a natural history museum. It's amazing how many animals hit the wall hard enough for their heads to poke through.

From the Hall we came back via the outlet centre at Mansfield. This was a particularly satisfying and successful diversion for Pauline, but I did get four pairs of knickers for £3.50. Plus I found an interesting recipe whilst idling my time waiting for Pauline.

We got back just as the rain started. I popped up the road for two rib eye steaks and shallots. You sear the steaks on one side for about a minute, then you chop the shallots and sauté them until almost caramelised. Add 300ml of red wine and  tablespoon of paprika, bring to the boil, return the meat seared side up, reduce the heat and bubble away for 15 to 20 minutes. Forget one minute steaks, these were delicious, and very easy to eat, accompanied by fried mushroom with an egg on top.
Wallaton Hall
very tame
I find cervical spondylosis a real pain in the neck.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Thursday 11th June 2015

It doesn't matter what pressures I am under, I still start my day by reading the Times and trying the crossword. Where I benefit is from the answers that I don't know. I don't just look at the answer, I get the encyclopaedia out and find the missing answer, then I read up about it so that I don't get caught next time. I've got lots of weak areas of knowledge but my strongest suit would be Natural History.

I don't know all the extinct animals (and they often feature) but I'm quite good at animals and birds in particular, but sometimes the clue is so vague that I need letters from other clues before I even have a chance. Today's obscure clue was 'nocturnal primate'. There are dozens, but eventually I got an L at the front and S at the back, which meant Loris.

I'd done some of today's work yesterday and that really helped. I even had time to have my hair cut when Lisa came to see to Pauline, Rita and Paul. Then it was the Stevenage Talking News and I had it finished and the master in my pocket before noon.

This afternoon I did the Live at Home run, picking up a new passenger along the way. The temperature eased up to 25 degrees, even here in the Midlands, so it was pleasant all day through.

I was short handed again at the Talking News. I got to the studio at 5.30pm. Wilf was away and Keith stuck in Stockport. That wouldn't have been a problem but twice the master was faulty and that added half an hour, so it was gone 10pm when Peter Fox and I finished the last copy and filled the last mail sack.


I'm striving for a god-like figure. So far I've mastered Buddha.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Wednesday 10th June 2015

Growth in demand for our Talking Newspapers now means that Wednesday as well as Thursday is pretty much tied up. The rate of growth means this can only get worse until I find meaningful help. When I say worse, I don't begrudge a minute spent on this project, but it does mean there is a road block in the middle of every week.

The sun continued to shine in the Midlands, but that north wind was still there as well. 120 miles south of here it was 8 degrees warmer. Still, it felt pleasant enough when I walked into town to the banks and various shops (the supply of Mr Timm's sweets had run out). I then picked up three full sacks of returns.

The Welsh Post Office isn't helping. We use plastic, volcrepe sealed envelopes for our Articles for the Blind postings. These are reusable and do not require postage, but the Newport Post Office in particular insists in sticking large labels on the envelopes, and these are very difficult to get off, making them almost unusable. At £1.50 each we can't afford that.

So, with having to try to recover as many envelopes as possible it took nearly three hours to process the returns. This was made pleasant by the fact that I could do it on the patio, sheltered from the wind and with the sun on my back.

I went to the studio tonight to thank Peter for covering for me whilst I was on holiday. I also talked to Amy about learning how to manage Newsbridge so that we have coverage when both Peter and I are away at the end of August. If she is anything like her brother Alex (who wrote the instruction manual) we will be able to holiday with no worries.

The clue that stumped me today was 'large extinct sloth'. The answer was Mylodon.

I am terrified of phobias.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Tuesday 9th June 2015

This was a gentle day. I started by doing the minutes from last night and I took more care than usual. I tried to write them in a way that a complete stranger would understand them, not full of acronyms and such, or the full version before the initials at least. There was a lot to write and it took most of the morning.

At 12.30 we drove over to Fradley and picked up John and Joy Cassie and we went to the Wychnor Park Estate for a very nice meal. We all chose different options and everyone seemed to enjoy their own choice but showed an interest in every one else's plates as well. I' certainly plan to go back there.

The A38 is notoriously busy. Trucks and cars thunder up it towards Derby and the north or down it towards the Midlands. It closes a couple of times a week because of accidents. Wychnor is just off the A38 and you are straight into another world. Traverse down a long single track lane, surrounded right now by giant rhododendrons, and you are into a blissful world of greenery and rolling meadows.

After our meal we made a quick diversion into Burton on Trent to deliver Message in a Bottle to a sheltered housing estate, one for each of the 35 inhabitants.

That was pretty much it for the day. I posted minutes to our two members who don't have e-mail, plus a cheque to Lion's headquarters and then settled down to read.

the view from Wychnor

Adult: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Monday 8th June 2015

It takes the best part of an hour to drive the 40 odd mile journey north to the University Hospital North Midlands at Stoke on Trent. I gave myself an extra 20 minutes leeway, and it proved to be just enough. Our roads are now so crowded. John Morgan was there and we were to meet and discuss progress towards our suggested practices for people with neurological conditions. Lisa met us and apologised that she had received no feedback and would be the only one present.

Though a disappointment, John stressed the positives of progress to date and asked for an urgent meeting to be set up so that someone is there to brief us more fully.

I meandered back down the A34 because that can be a very pretty route and it was 11.30 when I got home. Pauline had gone to see Gill and do some urgent retail therapy. So I forced myself back into the garden and made far more progress than expected. I completed the general clean up, filling the brown bin and three big sacks. That just leaves the hard work to do.

Tonight was Lions at the George Hotel. Mike Knight came to see me beforehand and bring a cheque that needs banking. I didn't mention that tonight. Ross Ward brought his daughter Laura as a prospective member. She proved to be a very affable and obviously capable lady with some strong views, all of which should be heeded.

The crossword clue was Japanese cartoon style. The answer I struggled for was Anime.


Money can't buy happiness but it can make your misery more comfortable.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Sunday 7th June 2015

The weather was back, but only if you kept away from the north wind. Pauline got straight to preparing a lovely roast Sunday lunch and I did another stint on my part of the garden. Whenever I look at the front and despair I see what Pauline has done in the back and it strengthens my resolve.

I collected Rita and then Graham and Sandra came for lunch and the afternoon. We were able to sit outside and enjoy some bubbles, plus there was a lovely Barolo to go with the roast beef.

Sandra and Graham are very consistent. Conversations are always affable. Graham has a great memory for places and people and an endless stock of anecdotes. We had many happy years living next door to each other and I'd like to think that would have continued had we not moved away from Elford.

Pauline's work

Today's crossword struggle: habanera. The clue was Cuban dance. I did know the word but only from the opera Carmen, so didn't make the association without looking it up.

10 Facts About You:
1. You're reading this now.
2. You're realizing that this is a stupid fact.
4. You didn't notice I skipped number 3.
5. You're checking now.
6. You're smiling.
7. You're still reading this even though it is stupid.
9. You didn't realize I skipped number 8.
10.You're checking again and smiling because you fell for it again.
11. You're enjoying this.
12. You didn't realize I said 10 facts not 12.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Saturday 6th June 2015

Those that know me well know I am not a natural handyman, yet I try and though I take longer than most people I do get most jobs done to a reasonable standard. Pauline controls the back garden but outside the wall is mine and I judged that it will take a fortnight to get it looking the way that Pauline shapes the back.

First, however, there were yet two more new listeners to process, and one more I can't do anything about as yet. I also produced the treasurer's report for Monday's meeting. Then I started on our garden bench. It looked a sorry state. I took my time, cleansing it with white spirit and then applying a wood stain. It finished not exactly pristine but much better for my efforts.

After lunch I visited another new listener and delivered a media player. Then it was the front garden and I worked until I had filled a bin bag. One tenth done, by my reckoning.

Pauline decided to go to church tonight because we have guests tomorrow, so I said I'd cook again. This was an experiment, and it worked. Wanting to get to grips with polenta, which is new to me, I used that as a base. I melted butter and added a pint of chicken stock, then mixed in a large cup of polenta and kept stirring briskly until it formed a paste. Then I added a cup of ground parmesan, split it into two and lined the bottom of a baking dish.

I fried mushrooms with garlic and sage and placed that on top of the base, covering it all with the rest of the polenta. I baked that for ten minutes then added a crust of grated cheese and baked again for another 15 minutes. I served it up with salad with home made dressing and felt quite pleased with my efforts.



A researcher asked me what I do with my old razor blades. I told him, I shave with them. What's a bit of discomfort compared with the price of new ones?

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Friday 5th June 2015

There's always a lot of paperwork to do on a Friday, and catching up, but my involvements this week meant that Pauline had taken a back seat, so I resolved to be a husband and a home owner.

I'd somehow found time yesterday to mow the lawns, but they needed tidying up. Also the pool had dropped four inches, so that needed investigating. I found two immature frogs so our little dynasty is still thriving. It would be good if the grandparents could leave the pool and clean up some of the nasties around the garden. I do dislike resorting to chemical controls of pests. I'd rather encourage natural gamekeepers.

I visited a Lichfield listener with a new media player, took the recordings to the post (four full sacks) and then we went to the Plant Pot for some instant colour for the back gardens. We also bought two fillings for hanging baskets from Morrison's.

We went into town, partly for stationery but I also bought wood stain for our garden bench. That's a job for tomorrow. I also decided to cook. I'd found some frozen casserole so decided to make it into a kind of cottage pie, crusting it with mashed potatoes mixed with polenta. This gave it a yellow hue and a grainier texture. Sprinkled with grated Parmesan, this one worked.

I do the Times crossword Monday to Saturday. I don't like the way the Sunday version is composed. Doing this over the years has definitely expanded my vocabulary - knowing if not spoken - but there is always a word I don't know and have to look up. Today's word was loupe, which is the eyeglass used by jewellers.


When I asked a farmer with a tractor load of manure what he was going to do with it he said he'd put it on his strawberries. I told him, we put cream on ours.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Thursday 4th June 2015

Keep Calm, the sign reads, and I did. I was happy with today even though it was more busy than most Thursdays, and that's saying something.

One of the gents who refers new listeners for the Gwent Talking News is partially sighted himself and sometimes gets the addresses wrong. Today there were two to rectify, plus four more new listeners. In between fixing those I recorded the Stevenage Talking News.

This afternoon I did the Live at Home Scheme run, plus took leaflets for the Foxfield Railway day to the special schools in Lichfield. This is a great project and also involves the whole family, not just the disadvantaged child.

This week is Volunteers Week and so Pam was elected to read a poem when we went back to collect our wards. We also received a small box of chocolates, which I forgot about until they were close to melting. Sorry, Pauline.

It was 23 degrees when I went to the studio. I knew that Wilf was having the night off but then Keith rang to say he has shingles. So that might be a few weeks without him. Pauline cooked early so I was in the studio for 5.30pm, which really helped. Nevertheless, with more news that usual of late and with only Peter to help me with the production side, it was 10.15 when I got home.

Live at Home Scheme venue

Statues in Lichfield
There is a statue of Dr Samuel Johnson. Born in Lichfield but left as soon as he could.
Erasmus Darwin. Lived in Lichfield but left when threatened with excommunication.
Charles II. Never visited.
Edward VII. Never visited...

James Boswell. Never visited.
Captain Smith of the Titanic. Never visited.
The moral is, if you want a statue of yourself, stay out of Lichfield.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Wednesday 3rd June 2015

It didn't start too well. I processed a new listener for Lichfield. That went OK. I amended records for two others, also no problem. Then I found I had run out of business cards, and also the card I print them on. I set off for Stafford and found the A513 blocked. I got to Eastgate Street but my satnav sent me into the one way system. After frantic searching I found a parking place in North Walls and walked round to Eastgate Street, laden with displays and heavy bags. No one had heard of The Hub.

I found it just as the VAST (Voluntary Association Staffordshire) event was about to kick off. I found a seat, talked to a lady next to me who needs projects to occupy the wives of prisoners. I started giving her ideas to employ the time available to and offer instruction to the prisoners themselves in Stafford Prison. She had been hitting stumbling blocks on everything she has suggested so far but got excited about some of my suggestions.

There was a representative there from the High Sheriff of Staffordshire. He was very keen that the Talking News is honoured with a Queen'sAward for Voluntary Service. He said this would give credibility to the work we do, and also say Thank You to our volunteers. It could happen next April.

Back home for 2pm. Pauline was in Tamworth with Rita. I collected the returns and sat on the patio and processed them.
Pauline got back in time to make a tasty salad and then I was off to the De Ferrers Academy in Burton on Trent for a Burton Diabetes Group event. I set up a stand for the Talking News and the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. The event was well supported. Initially there was a lot of interest for the Talking News but suddenly I was busy flogging the SNA as well.

Did a talk today about Talking Newspapers for the blind and blindness. The host stood and said "Well, that was an eye opener."

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Tuesday 2nd June 2015

The weather was unkind, fierce winds and occasional driving rain, so a busy day elsewhere was OK for me, if not exactly popular for Pauline.

My first involvement was at the Meeting Point in Handsacre where I addressed 21 ladies about the Talking Newspaper. As I stood up to speak the sole man in the audience also got up, and walked out. I was just thinking what a good start that was when he came back in, said "Sorry, doctor's appointment." Then to everyone else he said "I've heard him before. You'll enjoy this."

I talked for forty minutes, found that one of the audience is already a very enthusiastic listener, and waked away with six other people asking how they can receive the service.

This afternoon we both had check ups at the dentist and then, immediately after dinner, I drove up to Stoke on Trent for a meeting of the Clayton Women's Institute. This time there were 28 in the audience (others were at Buckingham Palace to celebrate 100 years of the WI). The talk went well and they pressed donations on me when I'd finished. Worth the trip.

Explaining why we do not see many blind people, I said they stay where they are safe and familiar. I said we can all wake in the middle of the night in our own homes and find the bathroom without turning on the lights. As they all nodded in agreement, one voice from the back wailed "I wish my husband would put the light on!"

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Monday 1st June 2015

This was a day from start to finish, and it didn't all go smoothly. There was the weather for one thing.

The first task was to record the Stevenage Talking News. This took me to 10am and then I went into the studio to see what that would entail. Lichfield had gone out as normal but nothing else had been processed as returns, so that was the first task. Whilst that was going on I duplicated the Stevenage TNs.

Next it was Gwent and that is getting big. Fortunately I found that not only had Peter O'Brien finished Gwent in its entirety, he had also done the same with the Scottish news. That was a big plus and everything was finished and at the Post Office before noon.

My new I-phone arrived. I am not a technophobe so it took a while to get it up and running, but I eventually made it. Late in the day I also piggy backed my I-pad so I could sit in a car park and catch up on internet business.

Two cases of Message in a Bottle arrived. We took 35 out for someone else and then took the remains to St Giles hospice, where they want to give one to every patient.

Finally it was my last club visit as Zone Chairman. This was at the Cedar Tree, new home for Rugeley Lions. There were 12 in attendance. Deborah was a new Lion and I took her through the Induction Ceremony. I made it as meaningful as I could. Next I put a Friends of Lions badge on another, as yet undecided, newcomer. Finally I finished the presentation of a Melvin Jones Fellowship award to Rex Stevenson. Very well deserved.
Cedar Tree Hotel