Friday, 31 July 2015

Thursday 30th July 2015

When you have house guests you can't just go about your usual day, except a little bit if it's Thursday. Pauline went to town for breakfast. Anything in the food cupboards that could remotely be connected to breakfast was piled onto the dining table. Any hotel would have been proud of the offering.

But I had Stevenage to record and the returns hadn't been processed. Pauline started on Lichfield and Gwent for me and then Peter and Chrissy joined in whilst I did the recording.

Our guests then went to Sue and with two cousins they were taken off to visit the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Pauline took Rita food shopping and at 3.30 I collected the foursome and brought them back to Lichfield across country, showing them the pretty route.

Pauline took Peter and Chrissy to St Peter & Paul's and stayed with them as Gil's coffin was brought into the church. She then dropped them off with Sue,

I was at the studio for 5.30pm. I had Stevenage and Scotland in the bag by the time Wilf arrived and between us we had Gwent finished for 6.45. That gave us chance to hear about Keith's trip to France for the final stages of the Tour de France when he arrived.

Peter was early, Ben came and processed Lichfield, Angela was on her own as a reader so Keith also read. I did paperwork and we were home by 9.45. I sat up until Peter and Chrissy got back and then it was Goodnight Vienna.

The clue was burrowing rodent. _A___T, so rabbit was a good fit,though other clues showed it to be wrong. Somehow I came up with MARMOT, but I wasn't familiar with this, so I Googled it and came up with a picture. I looked at it and thought 'that's a Groundhog.' So it is. Now I know that a Groundhog is one of 15 types of Marmot.
 
yellow bellied marmot
 
The inventor of the anagram has died. May he erect a penis.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Wednesday 29th July 2015

This was an unusual day. Peter and Chrissy had said they would join the others at Sue's for breakfast but, when it came to it, they shared bacon rolls with us instead. Whilst everyone was getting dressed and ready for the day I wrote some letters for the Lions. Then we sat and socialised for an hour.
Peter said he'd woken in the night and heard the sound of running water, which would be panic stations in Bermuda. There is no natural water supply on the island and so every drop of rain water is harvested and used somewhat sparingly. He soon realised it was our garden pool he could hear, declared the sound to be soothing and slept well.
They walked round to Sue and after that went into Lichfield. Pauline took Rita to Ventura Park and I drove up to Tunstall to join John Morgan for a meeting with Net Inspire. The journey takes 47 minutes. I allowed 75. It wasn't enough and I was five minutes late. Traffic!
The meeting finished at 2pm. There was a cloud burst. Tunstall is one of the towns that make up Stoke on Trent. Evidence of its pottery heritage is everywhere, but the old kilns looked dark and dreary under the heavy skies.


I collected the returns on the way home and had everything on the patio by 3.15pm. I processed Stevenage, our guests returned, it started raining, so that was that for a while. They went back to Sue's for the evening, I downloaded news for Gwent and Scotland, took it to the studio for Peter and his team, then returned for a meal with Pauline, processing three new listeners and then reading until our guests returned.

Why do we say Turn it up! when we mean turn it down? Don't say it if you have a grandchild that takes you literally.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Tuesday 28th July 2015

I like to get minutes from meetings out within 24 hours, if I can. Otherwise they tend to get overlooked and it's the next meeting before you know it. Ross Ward is the new secretary for Lichfield Lions, but he was in Scotland, so I devoted most of the morning to completing and despatching the relevant letters and e-mails. That took the morning.

Pauline looked exhausted and so I determined to take the load off her as much as I could. We had a lot of cooked ham left and so I did a concoction of which I was quite pleased. I mashed potatoes and made a base. I sautéed onions and mushrooms and mixed in parmesan cheese and layered that on top of the potato. Then I mixed garlic into cream cheese, added a few herbs and then beat in two eggs. That went on top followed by a layer of grated cheddar and then I baked it for half an hour.

Replete from the meal I thought we might get an early night and see if we could get Pauline back on track. Then the phone rang.

Our friend Gil Whale goes to his rest on Friday. Sue is expecting 400 or more at the funeral and friends and family are coming from all over the world, from Australia to the USA. Gil was that special. Sue's brother Peter and wife Chrissy were her from Bermuda and were at her house, and would we put them up for a few days? We'd already indicated that we would help out if needed so there was no hesitation.

They came round to us about 9.50pm, both looking travel weary, so we welcomed them in, settled them down, showed them their room and bathroom, and then we all made it to our beds.


Wonderful. July 28th and I'm wearing thermals.
 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Monday 27th July 2015

We keep hearing that 2015 will be the hottest year on record. So why did the heating come on?

We left D&G to try to find the boys and prepare for their own day and subsequent journey home. Pauline and I went to Holy Trinity Church in Sutton Coldfield for the funeral of Albert Cawley.

The ceremony last ten minutes short of two hours and was quite moving in places, even funny at times with Father Michael Ho doing his best to tell English jokes. The church was packed and I, as ever, hoped that Albert had even a suspicion of the regard in which he was held. I suspect he would have been surprised.

That took the morning and everyone had gone by the time we got home. The house had been well cleaned and there were only a few traces of burst balloons.

Tonight was my first full meeting as president of Lichfield Lions. I'm trying to make the meetings different and this one certainly was. I had three guest speakers but only knew about two of them. Nevertheless, everyone got to make their pitch, everyone seemed interested and interactive, and still the meeting finished at 9.35pm.

I was very happy with that.

VDG Teresa Nickson

A Policeman gave me a speeding ticket. I jokingly said "Is this a raffle?" He said yes. If I get three more I win a bike.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Sunday 26th July 2015

The boys woke early enough. Fortunately the weather was kind for the morning, although it was barely in double figures temperature wise. I was on duty from 5.30am and Pauline emerged at eight. I then had an hour to myself and then I took the boys out for a walk.

First we went to Sadlers Wood but the novelty soon wore off so I took them on a longer walk, down to Darnford Park, along the full width of Boley Park, stopped at another play area and then wound our way back through the estate.
 
Dan and Gary got back early afternoon, totally refreshed by their sojourn, but they brought driving rain with them, so the boys had to let of steam indoors.
 
I fetched Rita round and we all had a great Pauline roast dinner, and the odd bottle of wine. These family occasions are great, but they always end too soon.


It's amazing how long I can go without saying "A dicky bird." Ages and ages.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Saturday 25th July 2015

Pauline didn't have the best of nights. I'd had a bottle of strong cider (7.4%) and it made me restless. I slept well but she didn't.

We all got up to a sunny sky and bacon sandwiches for breakfast. Dan and Gary were escaping for 24 hours, a very rare occurrence since taking on the boys three and a half years ago. It's testament to how their care has turned the boys around that they are able to leave the boys in our charge for a day and night. Dan and Gary were booked into a Birmingham hotel and had an afternoon of being pampered planned.

We walked into Lichfield. We walked down the precinct and up to the cathedral, then into Beacon Park where both boys attempted to fly kites, with modest degrees of success. Next we went to the play area and tried everything, until Roan went on the powered cars, pressed a red button he found and closed the entire attraction down.

We walked back past Minster Pool. Seeing a heron there was rare but not entirely strange, but seeing a cormorant as far from the coast as you can get in England suggested there have been some very strong winds.

Heron

Reece nearly taking off

Cormorant

Carpe diem. Means God save the fish.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Friday 24th July 2015

I took the three sacks to the Sorting Office before 8am and then went round to Turners to have my car put through its MOT. It passed with no problem, which is impressive given that my Auris will pass 100,000 miles in the very near future.

Our man came back and finished changing the French door windows. He also adjusted the doors and they open and close with just heavy breathing now, whereas you needed muscles before.

We started getting ready for an invasion, but it didn't happen as expected. Dan, Gary and the boys left Hove at 10am but didn't get to us until 5pm. The motorways currently are horrendous. Our little island would fit into California twice, yet we have 61 million people squeezed in, and we're getting fuller by the day. Soon the only time to travel will be in the early hours of the morning.

I cooked a meatloaf for dinner. We spent the afternoon preparing for the meal. I'd never done a meatloaf before. I used chilli olive oil and it gave it a real bite. I thought it would be too much but the cooking softened it a bit and when people asked for more I knew this was something I can do again.

After the meal we played cards with the boys until they wore us out, then everyone was packed off to bed, the adults only waiting for the boys to fall asleep.

before

after

How can they forecast rain coming to the minute but their forecasts for sunshine are only right to the nearest day?

Friday, 24 July 2015

Thursday 23rd July 2015

This was to be the last manic day for a week. I got up early and worked on finalising the minutes from the SNA meeting. Then I recorded the Stevenage Talking News. That was all complete an hour ahead of the norm so I could help Pauline with some last minute finishing touches to the decorating.

I also tried to put the display case for the Olympic Torch onto the stairs back wall. It was sited properly but needed spacers to allow for the cover to slot into place. No one local sells transparent washers.

Pauline took Rita food shopping and I did the Live at Home run. Still no Pam but I learned that she is being transferred to the Samuel Johnson Hospital, so I will be able to visit. I bought and cut up the Lichfield Mercury, had dinner with Pauline and was at the studio for 5.30pm.

I had finished the Scotsman and Stevenage by the time Wilf arrived and he helped me get Gwent out of the way before the readers were ready. David had a full team with Joe, Alan and Phil (Philomena), Keith was in France watching the Tour de France, and Ben came and did the Lichfield returns.

That left me time to work on the agenda for Monday's meeting. It's important I get that right so I took a lot of time and care. John Cassie e-mailed today he had visited Mike Hayhurst in Burton Hospital. He is being treated for a blood disorder, but John Adams said he also has mobility problems.
 
Tudor Café - more playing

My scarecrow has won a prize for being out standing in its field.

Wednesday 22nd July 2015

Another day at breakneck speed and another day of frustrations. Some of our double glazing needs replacement. Our man arrived bright and early and took the windows out of the French doors. He placed the new ones against the frame to find they had been cut to the wrong size. He did what he could and finished the dining room and upstairs windows but the kitchen will another day.

I did as much as I could on the minutes from the SNA meeting but was waiting for one report. I downloaded all the news for South Wales and Scotland and prepared everything for tonight. Then I collected the returns and Pauline and I sat out of the rain processing the three sacks in the garage.

Early afternoon and I headed to the TWorld studio for a lesson on using Photoshop. I was really looking forward to this as it can make such a difference to your photos, as shown below. I sat outside the barred gates for a while, then managed to get inside, all to no avail. So I tailed back to Lichfield, stopping on the way to buy flowers for Pauline in case my early arrival was an inconvenience.

I later heard that the instructor had been taken ill and the session called off, but the message hadn't got through to me.
 
Lichfield Cathedral

 

He said "You think I've got an inferiority complex." I said "I don't think it's a complex."

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Tuesday 21st July 2015

I started today at 100 miles an hour. Then I got up. I answered all of the e-mails that had built up over our mini break, processed two new listeners, packaged media players for them, and constructed an immediate To Do list. Pauline was good to me through all this because there is still some finishing to do on the decorating and the invasions start on Friday.

For the new meetings format to work I have to have the cooperation of everybody so I sent out e-mails to those who are in the process of doing things. I want the agenda finished by Friday morning at the latest.

Today we got the sad news that Gil Whale has died following a brain aneurism in Bermuda and then a stroke in hospital in Boston. It's doubly sad when it comes out of the blue and you don't have a chance to say goodbye. Gil was one of the most caring and entertaining people I ever met. Huge depth of knowledge, engaging speaker and never, ever forgot a friend.

This afternoon was a meeting of the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance at Brereton. It wasn't as well attended as the last one but it buzzed. Rob Morrison, chair of Healthwatch Staffordshire, attended for the first time and he had a lot to say, all of it worth listening to. The SNA is on a roll and we have to keep the impetus going.

Everyone knows that the NHS is under financial pressure so they naturally put their money where they think they can get results - such as dealing with obesity and diabetes.  Neurological conditions are beyond most doctors- some are quite rare with little known about them - so it appears to me that there is a lot of reliance on self help, by people who need all the help they can get.

For some strange reason my head was filled with The Wise Fools of Gotham tonight. This is an 800 year old story. King John was on his way to Nottingham and looked likely to pass through the village of Gotham. Someone warned that if the king passed through the common land they would lose it, so they set up barricades and diverted the king's route.

He was not best pleased and sent soldiers back to deal with these miscreants. When they got to the village they found all manner of madness. Moonraking (trying to rake silver from a reflection of the moon on a pond), hauling wagons on to tops of barns and to protect the wood from the sun, drowning an eel.

The king let off "These wise fools of Gotham", but not everyone believed the story as the following ancient poem describes.

"Tell me no more of Gotham fools,
Or of their eels in little pools,
Which they were told were drowning;
Nor of their carts drawn up on high,
When King John's men were standing by,
To keep a wood from browning.
"Nor of their cheese shoved down the hill,
Nor of a cuckoo sitting still,
While it they hedged round;
Such tales of them have long been told,
By prating boobies, young and old,
In drunken circles crowned.
"The fools are those who thither go
To see the cuckoo bush, I trow,
The wood, the barn, and pools;
For such are seen both here and there,
And passed by without a sneer
By all but errant fools"

moonraking

The length of your toe nails is no-one's business except your own, as every man who sleeps alone will tell you.

Monday 20th July 2015

The year is running away from me. News keeps coming in that is too often bad. We've just been to a wedding, but the future seems all funerals.

To that end, realising that the number of friends you have is dwindling, and not because you've fallen out with them, tends to concentrate the mind. Life has been fairly frantic for both of us so far this year ()it might not seem that way, but I don't burden everybody I meet) and so we had decided to take a mini break this weekend. However, something woke me at 5.30am and I'm not sure whether it was the gull squawking on the roof, the rain hammering on the window, or Daniel fusing all the power by tipping fruit juice on a plug.

When we were up and had breakfast it was still raining, so a day out at a garden was out of the question so going home a day early seemed sensible. It probably was because we left at 10am and were home for 1.45pm. That would have caused major problems were it tomorrow.

The clouds just sat on Hove and the South Downs and the rain stayed with us to High Wycombe. The traffic was dreadful, yet again, and was even worse when we got ten miles from home. The M42 was almost at a standstill.

There were 66 e-mails to action, so that was something out of the way by 5pm. Then it was think about what we might have missed and get ready for the next few days.

Taken at Hughenden Manor

I love the seaside but a blackbird singing at daybreak out scores a gull squawking by a country mile.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Sunday 19th July 2015

We weren't the first away last night and we heard some coming back to the hotel around 3.30 so it wasn't surprising that there were some pasty faces and painful expressions at breakfast.

We all had to be gone by 11am and this was achieved. We took Gary and the boys back to Hove Actually (about a twenty minute drive) whilst Dan and others went to clear up at Jeremy's. (For our Anerican friends, Brighton andHove run into each other along the Sussex coast. For years so many people said "I live in Brighton - Hove, actually" that locals renamed it Hove Actually).

Nikki and Ian came back briefly. They fly to Mexico tomorrow. I would have been envious but the sun was shining on Hove so we walked down to the beach and along the promenade towards Brighton, stopping for ice cream, people watching and generally appreciating the seaside as only deep Midlanders can.

Then it was back to the skate park so the adults could enjoy coffee whilst the boys burned off what was left of their energy, back home for a Sunday roast, and everybody was in bed by 9pm, with some preparing for a busy day ahead.
 
But not Pauline and me.


Roan & Reece

 
I object to the misuse of apostrophe's

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Saturday 18th July 2015

We endured the drive down from High Wycombe to Haywards Heath in West Sussex, after which the day became perfect. The M25 was a nightmare as half the country tried to go on holiday. What should have been an hour became two and a quarter, but once we turned off the M23 the whole ambience changed. The countryside, away from the traffic, is beautiful.

We checked into the Birches Hotel at Haywards Heath, a Best Western,which was a good enough place to rest your head.

We went over to Jeremy's Restaurant at Borde Hill Gardens. This was to be the scene of both the wedding and the reception. We got there at 3pm to be greeted by Pimms on the manicured lawns. The gardens were lovely, the sun was hot and the service was immaculate.

Nikki came at 4 pm and married Ian. We felt really privileged to be there because we are not family and live 200 miles away, but they are both on our list of favourite people and the fact they are both so suitable for each other was a real bonus.

The wedding breakfast food was of the highest quality. I was treated royally with my gluten intolerance, the staff were friendly and highly efficient, Nikki was beautiful, Ian was the happiest man there, the speeches were humourous and novel, the musical accompaniment was excellent, the company around the table was warm and affable, and this was our best day for a very long time.

 

Nikki & Gary
 
Ian

Roan & Nikki

I had a bad hair day

What a great day. Thank you, Nikki and Ian for including us, and for seating us with people who had never heard my jokes.
 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Friday 17th July 2015

I love family occasions so I was in a good mood when got up (actually it's sixty years since I woke up anything but happy) even though my hands were at the most painful point of this unpleasant procedure. I took the talking news to the Sorting Office and then checked the tyres. A few extra pounds of pressure on a long run can really improve the miles per gallon.

Pauline did the packing, and the driving, giving my hands a rest. We were down at High Wycombe by 2.25. We met Leila for the first time, working with Helen. I found her intriguing and she has a thirst for knowledge more driven even than mine.

I did the school run, picking up Jessica whilst Megan went to a friend's house. Dave got home at a reasonable time and we had a lovely meal and a nice relaxing evening. Leila had mentioned the word meme. I said that was all the same to me (my French joke!) but I'd never heard it used in English. Apparently it is the spreading of ideas through a culture and these days it is specifically used with regard to the Internet. The things you find out you know nothing about.

The clue was Stealthy Hunter. The answer was Nimrod

My tap dancing was a disaster. I fell in the sink.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Thursday 16th July 2015

This was another typical Thursday made difficult by the state of my hands. I have eight fingertips that are painful to the touch. It's a good thing I type with one finger!

I shifted some paperwork until the electronic versions of the Stevenage papers came through, then I put together a recording that totalled 16 hours to the listener, but only took all morning for me.

Pauline was brilliant today. She said nothing, but she knew the state I was in and so, whenever I wasn't looking, she mowed the lawns and got my car cleaned.

We had our main meal at lunchtime, which worked well. Pauline took Rita food shopping and I did the Live at Home run, stopping for a chat with John Cassie. Everyone needs a true friend. Someone who will say "You're wrong mate, but I still love you."

Pauline met with Janet tonight. She is having a tough time and needs her friends around her, which she is getting with the likes of Kath and the other girls. I was at the studio for 5.15pm, and that was fortuitous. This was the biggest mailing out we've done to date and it will only get bigger.

I had just finished Gwent and Stevenage when the readers for Lichfield arrived. Keith had driven 360 miles to Lowestoft and back so I sent him home before he fell over. Wilf did the recording and Peter brought the website up to date. We have had over 3200 downloads of the recorded Lichfield Mercury from that website. I hope strangers understand our jokes,

Ben had a rare night off. He is certainly entitled but when I know he isn't coming we can do the returns on a Wednesday. With no one else available I had to finish Lichfield. The wallets are volcrepe sealed and take a good tug to open. The labels are in stiff plastic holders and it wasn't long before my fingers were bleeding. I managed to hide it and keep everything clean, but I was burning by the time I got home.

Our garden is full of flowers that have been gifted to us by the birds, including several unusual poppies, but this year we have a white poppy, which is something I've never seen before.

An unexpected gift
 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Wednesday 15th July 2015

I was on the road north at the crack of dawn (well, 7.45am). There are currently a lot of road works in this area so I allowed for delays, taking the long 41 mile route round, up through Alrewas, over to Kings Bromley and then up to Draycott in the Clay and the A50 beltway. In the end I was at the UHMS Hospital in Stoke on Trent with 10 minutes to spare. John Morgan was already there.

Different from recent meetings, we were met by three representatives, including the new Commissioner. My view was that we were treated more seriously than on previous occasions and I felt quite hopeful of real progress in the near future.

The drive back was leisurely and very pleasant. I picked up four full sacks of returns on the way. Pauline had been to Sutton with Rita and they came back and processed all the returns, thus saving my hands from further damage.

I downloaded all the magazines and news for Scotland and South Wales, had dinner with Pauline and then took everything to the studio where we recorded two Talking Newspapers.
Following that we had another Board Meeting with Ross Ward, John Whitehouse and Chris Pritchard. I had been expecting fireworks so was pleasantly surprised and very relieved when it was friendly and affable. I reaffirmed my commitment and belief as to how the Club is run but asked for time to show how I think the meetings can be dramatically improved. If people cooperate, it could be in for an interesting future.
I live in hope.
St Augustine's, Draycott in the Clay
As a youngster I frequently got a pat on the back. That often happens when you're milking a cow.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Tuesday 14th July 2015

This was a long day, most of it pleasant.

First were the minutes from last night's meeting and it was important that not only were these right but they were also all inclusive, because a lot is happening in the club. That took me until midday to finish.

We drove over to Alrewas and picked up Gill and Paul and carried on a couple of miles up the A38 to Wychnor Park. Here we had an excellent 3 course meal. The location is great, the service is friendly and the food is very good. That's three times we've been this summer and I hope we go again.

We went back for coffee and just chatted for a while and then I called on my most remote contact to deliver the last of my food parcels. Pauline couldn't believe how far from the road and sight of any other civilisation this little cottage is. The are guinea fowl roaming free and pheasant on the front lawn.

I processed three more new listeners and then we tried to have the night off but there was one call after another, mostly positive, but I am approaching a watershed and tomorrow will be decision day.


How's this for a back garden
 
A thing I know I'll never see, a dog that walks straight passed a tree.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Monday 13th July 2015

I( gave it everything today and actually cleared all of the e-mails. Along the way I processed two new listeners, made four serious applications for funding, designed and created business cards for the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance, and prepared for tonight's Lions meeting.

I started the day when the blackbird woke me, just after dawn. I read The Times and did the crossword. I'm in to the mindset of the daily composer and so I don't struggle like I used to, but there is always a word or two that I don't know. Today it was ogive. The things you see without knowing what they are. An ogive can be found in any Gothic church. It is the curved arching over windows and such, as shown below.

I got off badly at tonight's meeting because I have a way of saying what is in my head that doesn't always come out right. I intend to freshen our meetings but one member thought I was trying to control the direction of the club, which is far from my intention. I simply don't have the time for that kind of thing, but I do want meetings to be punchy, fun and informative. For too long now they have been repetitive and uninspiring. Time will tell, the majority seemed willing to give me a chance.

an ogive

As a callow youth I was a backward athlete. It was my nose that ran and my feet that smelled.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Sunday 12th July 2015

Despite being desperately close to finishing the decorating, we decided to give it a miss today (and tomorrow for me). My hands were hurting and my e-mail in-box stood at over 200, many of them to do with Talking Newspapers in Gwent, Swansea and Lewes.

I got to weeding out the dross or the easily answered and was down to 98 by the time it was early afternoon.

We drove over to Haunton and the lovely home of Laura, our newest member. The early rain had disappeared and the next few hours brought pleasant sunshine and a very pleasant barbecue. Sadly there were only 14 of us there. Some were still on holiday and some endured sudden illnesses, but the occasion deserved better appreciation. It got is from those who were there.

Laura's house is intriguing, but it was the 'garden' that got me. We sat just outside the back door where there was ample room for more. Walk north and you pass flower beds and a lovely pool to what I describe as the Middle garden. Carry on past the fruit trees and look down the field that is the Lower garden and beyond the tree line is the River Mease and the boundary to the property. It is a quarter of a mile from the front door to the river.

Fantastic.

I would retire if I lived there.

Middle garden

Lower 'garden'

I'd study semantics, if only I knew what it meant.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Saturday 11th July 2015

Well, when you retire the first thing you give up is days off! I had thought that four days would be enough for the hall, stairs and landing, but I was out by a full day. We did both crack on and I got all of the painting finished except for the upstairs doors. Pauline was left with two odd strips of wallpapering to do, but enough was enough.

My hands are suddenly quite bad. The last gluten derived attack lasted four weeks. I did enjoy one full day of nothing before this last attack. It's as bad as I've had for three or four years, so that is disappointing. I shall have to be ultra, ultra careful because too many people think you make up allergies just to avoid eating something you don't like.

That certainly doesn't apply to me.

With Pauline and I planning to spend time with the Lions tomorrow, Pauline cooked our roast a day early. Rita joined us and she was on better form than of late. Our worry is that she isn't eating properly when we are not around. That's when she gets confused. Today she was on good form.

Harper Lee is about to release her next book, just 50 years after her last one. To my shame I have never read To Kill a Mocking Bird, even though it is claimed to have been read more often than The Bible. I know the story but that does not excuse my lapse, so when I have finished the Clifton Saga I will have to put that error right. I do actually have the book so I'd better stop prevaricating. Harper Lee looks to be a happy lady but she might take issue with me.

Harper Lee

The sign outside Boley Community Room said 'Nearly New Baby Sale." I thought, that's tantamount to human trafficking.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Friday 10th July 2015

Life appears to be becoming more mundane. The first half of the year was conducted at break neck speed and now it is all becoming domestic.

I was down at the Sorting Office a little after 8am and then drove over to Stoneydelph for a Costa meeting with John Morgan, Steve Searle and Peter Drew. This was a very focussed meeting. Peter is new to the group and is evidently quite shrewd. He will be a real asset.

The sun was still low when I started out and painted the countryside beautifully. I'm very concerned that we are stripping the world of its wildlife but recent changes in the law have brought some of the hedgerows back to life. Not as profuse as in my youth but certainly more colourful. May is a month of white, with hedges and trees in blossom and cow parsley everywhere. June sees red appearing, usually poppies. July brings pink into play, particularly rosebay willowherb (known as fireweed in the USA) standing tall in ranks along the roadside.

Back home it was on with the decorating. Pauline continued to hang wallpaper and I put the second coat of emulsion on. The first coat was lighter than expected and didn't fully cover the pattern underneath, but the second coat changed everything. We worked till we could do no more but it was so clearly worth it.

Pauline had bought smoked haddock and I Googled recipes. The first one up was risotto, so that was it. Plenty of fresh herbs from the garden and a good dose of Parmesan cheese. It was a good one.

We finished the night off watching the Imitation Game.

Rosebay Willowherb

I counted the strawberry portions in my bowl - 12. I counted the portions in Pauline's bowl - 10. I thought 'that's not fair' so I cut two of her portions in half, so we had 12 each.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Thursday 9th July 2015

The sun came back and there was no decorating today. Instead there was wall to wall talking newspapers. I started with the preparations and then got on with recording Stevenage. Plenty of good news for a change, it was heartening.

Rita came round and we all had a hair cut. Mine was shorter than usual and I quite like it.

I did the Live at Home run. Ray is a new passenger, this being the second time I have taken him, and we got on quite well when it was just the two of us in the car. The ladies are very chatty and seem to overwhelm him.

We were very short handed at the studio tonight. Holiday time. I went in at 5.15pm and got Gwent and Scotland finished and Stevenage too and they were all done by the time that Keith arrived. There were only two readers, Ben came and processed the Lichfield wallets and then it was just the two of us to make all the copies.

One of the duplicators began to play up which cost us half an hour and we had to proof test every stick off that machine, so it was 10pm when I was home and ready for bed.

the things you see in people's homes

I used to be fat and ugly but I lost 4 stone. Now I'm no longer fat.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Wednesday 8th July 2015

This was another day of slog, but not unpleasant. The rain kept coming back so that took the edge off any frustration. Better to be gainfully occupied than sit moping looking out the window as the heavens open.

I completed the first coat of emulsion and the whole area looks so much brighter, albeit very unfinished. Pauline ran out of wallpaper, having decided to paper an extra wall to offer more contrast, so she went to Sutton Coldfield with Rita to Laura Ashley. I painted the skirting boards and six door frames. Two more days should see it finished, but Thursday won't be one of them.

I got a message from Peter O'Brien to say he was stuck at work so I downloaded the news for Scotland and Wales and then went to the studio and we recorded two TNs with Perdita and Oliver.

Pauline is a great fan of Laura Ashley products and most of our houses have featured something decorative from that icon, so I suppose it was apt when, some years ago, Fiat invited us to a Christmas shopping trip to Northern France with a two night stop in Laura Ashley's mansion.

What I remember most is the day that everyone dashed off to the shops. Pauline and I stayed on the estate and explored, in glorious sunshine. It was beautiful unspoiled countryside with tractors laden with French farmers armed with shotguns going off on a hunt. There was also the site of a German rocket station, all aimed at the south of England.

They stopped firing those rockets a very long time ago.
 
you should see the wallpaper

Go to church on Sunday. Beat the Christmas rush.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Tuesday 7th July 2015

Well, it rained - several times. Still, there was the decorating to do. Pauline's idea is that the hall area is papered and the rest of the stairs and landing painted. I started on the painting and Pauline tackled the main hall wall. At the end of our stint the main wall was papered and the bulk of the first coat of painting was on.

The timing is actually quite good. The weather is too unpleasant for day trips (though there had better be a summer soon - I do pay my rates) the painting will be finished mid tomorrow and that leaves Friday onwards for the second coat.

It wasn't planned that way but the work has coincided with a useful break in my daytime commitments.

I did take some time off mid day. I took the tables and chairs back to the studio, where they are kept, and then went to Ross to help him bank the take from the weekend. The Cars in the Park event is run by the Rotary but for three years now the Lions have manned the car park. Our income was up by £1300 to a new record.

We both worked until we could do no more. I took a moment to skip through some holiday snaps and found some taken in the Dominican Republic. This was on the only spontaneous holiday we have ever taken. I saw an advert for the next week, we flew to the sunshine, were escorted to an unknown hotel (which turned out to be very good) and enjoyed wall to wall sunshine for a whole week. The sand was too hot for bare feet and the sunsets were incredible.

going home

Inside every old person is a young person saying "How did I let that happen?"
 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Monday 6th July 2015

There was almost some sunshine first thing so I took everything that I had rescued from the park and dragged it onto the back lawn. I part opened the gazebo hoping the sun would dry it out. I threw away the poles from two of the banner stands because they had snapped in two. I made the SNA banner as whole as I could.

Just after 9am (we had started on the decorating) Dawn Perry came to collect the banner and SNA literature. She stayed for coffee and a chat. We don't know Dawn - she is a new acquaintance at the SNA - and so it was good to get her history and involvement in matters neurological.

We were working on the hall, stairs and landing and so we didn't notice the steady downpour, until it was far too late to bring things inside. So we got on with it, painting skirting boards, door frames and all of the ceilings. We gave it six hours.

I looked at the few photos I had taken on Sunday. When I got back from the park, Pauline was trying to mow the lawns to help out, but had run out of petrol. The storm had gone by then and the sun was out again for a short while so I walked down to the Co-op and filled the petrol can, passing through Sadlers Wood Park on the way. It was eerily quiet.

something missing

I'm danged if I know what dang means.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Sunday 5th July 2015

I could feel it by the end of the day. These bones are getting old. There was more rain in the night and an extra 900 cars expected in the park (which is a nightmare with only one entrance/exit) and so I was at my stand by 7.15am.

So was Jaguar/Land Rover. Someone was there mowing their pitch. Talk about house proud.

It took a long time to warm up today but I busied myself until the crowds started to arrive. I saw more people I knew, including a couple from a very long time ago, and there was quite a lot of fun during the morning.

This afternoon was steady and there was some genuine interest shown, plus a couple of nice donation, and then the sky went black. Raindrops the size of bullets started to drop and then a wind of real ferocity ripped two of my banners and flattened the third, twisting the metal supports and snapping them. Everything went flying. I gathered it all up, to notice all other stall holders facing the same plight. I let people crowd under my gazebo which protected them and also saved me from some of the wind so that I could start to pack everything away.

Through it all I could hear Keith Eagland on the tannoy. "well, ladies and gentlemen, the next show in the arena will start in five minutes. Don't miss it."

They did!

I finally got back home and dumped the detritus in the garage to be worked on in the morning.

Before the wind came

In my youth I auditioned for the lead in The Picture of Dorian Grey. The producer said I was perfect to be the portrait in the attic.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Saturday 4th July 2015

I was round at Beacon Park for 7.50. There had been a huge storm in the night but my gazebo was still in place. I slowly assembled my stand and readied myself for the invasion - which didn't come.

There was a steady trickle of interest, plus some very strong winds, but the sun shone for the most part. I think it is worth being at an event if one new visually impaired person finds us. Today there were five enquiries.

I did get a chance to look at my paperwork and do the crossword. The answer that I had to really dig out was Feydeau. The clue was French Farce.

So, the earliest known French Farce was performed in the 13th century. That's probably where most of my jokes came from. Georges Feydeau wrote over 60 in the late 1800s and early 1900s and probably did more than Moliere to bring the absurdity that we love about farce. I still miss Brian Rix.

George Feydeau

Only in England. 37 degrees one day, scraping ice off the car on the next.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Friday 3rd July 2015

This was another busy day. Also pleasant.

I took the Talking News sacks to the post and then got on with paperwork. No chance of decorating until Monday so I tidied up the garage. Pauline arranged flowers in church and I put together displays for the Talking News, Lions and Staffordshire Neurological Alliance.

I drove over to Cannock remarking how the heat seems to be making some drivers quite crazy. They try to save seconds with stupid manoeuvres and end up losing hours, or even worse, when they cause road accidents.

I delivered a media player to a new listener. There were another three today but I could only get to one of them.

From there it was back to Beacon Park in Lichfield and I set up the gazebo and left everything non-valuable for my multi stand at Cars in the Park. I hammered the stakes in deep because the forecast was for a mother of a storm.

Pauline took Rita shopping and to the doctor and came back exhausted. So I cooked. Marinated beef, mixed veg and mashed potatoes with soft cheese and garlic, enjoyed al fresco. I sat on the patio and enjoyed a rare sight for round here. In the 12 years we have been at this address we have not had a greenfinch come to call. Tonight one came, sang very loudly for 15 minutes, trailed off miserably when there was no response, and finally snuck deep into the tree.
 
I hope he stays.
 
Greenfinch
 
Because Thursday is such a big day for me Friday feels like a Saturday, which means I get a 3 day weekend, which means that by Monday I have no idea what day of the week it is. I know lots of people like me, but most are in care.

 

Friday, 3 July 2015

Thursday 2nd July 2015

Daniel left us at 7.50am for a meeting at The Belfry. I booked lunch at Wychnor for the 14th and then got on with recording the Stevenage Talking News. I was finished with that an hour ahead of schedule.

I took a booking as speaker at the Armitage Shanks Group in September and processed two new listeners. Then it was time for the Live at Home run. No Pam again. She fell last Thursday, broke her nose badly and is still in hospital. I don't think they will release her unless it is into care.

I was at the studio for 5.30pm and had all the TNs except Lichfield finished before the readers came. Wilf was there to help me fill the wallets. Keith came, as did Ben. Peter was shattered and we had a full reading team. There was not much news in the Mercury and I was home for 9.30pm.

I'm good at river fish in Britain and can identify all the usual suspects, but there is no way I would have got Roughy as a marine fish if the other clues hadn't filled in most of the letters.

Roughy - his mother loves him!

Well, I slept soundly. By that I mean I made a lot of sounds.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Wednesday 1st July 2015

Today the temperature reached the highest on record in Britain for July. Close to 37 degrees Celsius, a smidgen under 100 degrees Fahrenheit. There are people the whole world over saying "So what?" but when you're simply not used to this kind of heat it can cause all kinds of problems.

Sensible people have siestas, companies in hot countries work hours that avoid the peak temperatures. Here our railway lines buckle and old people die of shortage of breath.

I was in no mood to make myself  ill so I decorated at a sensible pace. I put another coat on the skirting board and then painted around the edges of the ceilings. That took until lunchtime and then it was time to collect the returns from the Sorting Office. With two at it you're through in less than half the time, by which time we were at the peak as far as the heat was concerned. So I sat in the garden, under a sunshade, somewhat in shadow, and I read my book,with no shame!

There were three new listeners to process, so I did get back to it eventually. Then I downloaded the magazines and the Scottish Herald and went to the studio to set everything up for when Peter got there. From there back home to wait for Daniel, stuck on the M25 for an hour whilst a cool drink waited for him in Lichfield.

The clue was 'play by Euripides' and the answer was Medea. I think it is safe to say this play is not laugh a minute. The mythical Jason marries Medea, an outsider, classed as a Barbarian. When he leaves her for a more refined princess, she exacts revenge by killing everybody close to her or Jason. Even the front row audience felt threatened. She then went to live in Athens.
 
Don't mess with that lady.
 
Euripides
 
Last night I saw Venus and Jupiter on top of each other. Don't worry if you missed it, it will happen again in 4 years time. Actually, that sounds familiar.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tuesday 30th June 2015

This was a day of two halves, both of them very hot by our standards. It has worried me that the mountain of paperwork on my desk (OK, some of it is still in the ether) is stopping me from what needs to be done. So I pushed it to one side.

The hall, stairs and landing need redecorating and today was the day we got started, but slowly. I want this right. Mostly today was about the skirting boards, cleaning the doors and painting the radiator. As the paint said it needed 12 hours to dry I then tackled some of the mess in the garage and finally sat for three hours cleaning Talking News postal wallets.

That may sound futile but they are nearly £3 each and the Post Office in Wales has been sticking very adhesive stickers on the returns. That means we can't use them until they have been cleaned, and it isn't easy. In the end I had put 85 back into circulation. There have been times recently when we have run out of certain colours, so that has been rectified, and I've reclaimed over £200 worth of TN goods.

Pauline went food shopping, took Rita and brought her back for lunch. The heat seemed to be getting at her and she wasn't in the brightest mood.

As the evening wore on the bad news started to arrive. First it was Daniel to say that Toby, a pet cat of 10 years, had died. This obviously badly affected Reece and Roan and also Gary. Some will say it was only a pet, others know that it was part of the family.

Next came the news that Joyce Montgomery has passed away. She and Tom became friends about 25 years ago, and especially so during my year as District Governor. We enjoyed their hospitality on a number of occasions, especially whenever we paid visits to Holyhead, and they even came all the way south to stay with us once.

Perhaps the worst was Janet ringing Pauline to say that Albert had passed away, aged just 66. He had been in hospital for seven weeks, so this wasn't a surprise, just sadness at the distress being suffered by a friend.

Toby - RIP