Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Having a laugh - Tuesday 29th September 2015

My first task this morning, whilst the early mist evaporated, was to do the minutes from last night's meeting. Not only were we very thin on the ground but a level of apathy has not so much crept in as solidified. Four years of mismanagement has left the club floundering and some are now too old to be re-energised. Still, I've got to try.

Left with an hour to kill I picked up on a conversation Pauline and I had on the way back from Warwick. We passed a pub called The Green Man. I used to frequent a pub of that name in Coleshill and there are thousands so named across the country. It all stems from Pagan times when the Green Man was seen as a harbinger of Spring. Images of a man are made up of leaves and plants and some of them are incredible.

It may be subconscious but although Christianity has been around for 2000 years, Druid and Pagan celebrations still feature strongly in our British calendar. Witness the Morris Men dancers, Halloween and the well dressing in Derbyshire, the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance and other ancient customs that still prevail.

It's a bit like going to church with your fingers crossed behind your back.

Pauline took Rita out for the afternoon and I went over to the Royal British Legion rooms for a meeting of the Armitage Shanks Pensioners Group. This large room housed 34 people, three of whom were men. I met Madam Secretary, well into her 90s and with a fog horn voice. I had been asked to be there at 2pm. I asked when I would be needed.

"Three o'clock. We do business first, then the speaker, and then we let them enjoy themselves!"

I spent half an hour of calm, updating my diary, collecting my thoughts and sipping tea. Then I was on. The audience wasn't gathered closely around, several old ladies sat as far away as possible. "Can you hear me at the back?" I asked loudly. "Yes, yes." they replied. "Good, because I can certainly hear you."

That could read as being quite rude but I said it with a smile and that's how it was taken. The next 45 minutes flew by and all I can say is that we had a real laugh. I can't remember a single thing I said, it was quite disparate, but the audience was lovely and quite fascinated by the Talking News and the various strands of technology that we followed.

I haven't had a session like that for a long time.

Tonight Pauline went out to the Horse and Jockey with the girls, reporting back that the food was excellent. I went to the South East Staffs & Seisdon Peninsular CCG AGM. The meeting was longer than the name. I made a couple of contacts who could be useful to the Talking News and then listened to some honest appraisals of what the CCG has achieved in the past twelve months, and admissions that there are problems that are taking a lot to get over.

One of the big stumbling blocks is that different parts of the NHS have difficulty in sharing a patient's records. Someone with a complicated condition may need to see as many as five different departments, and they may not all come under the same local authority. Thus you get situations where a patient may be given 4 appointments in one week, on separate days, in the same hospital or clinic and then another one the following week, when all could take place in just one day if things were coordinated.

My thoughts on this subject are, if the patient is capable, why doesn't the patient have control of their own records instead of them all being at their surgery? Also there should be a one-stop shop where the patient is given the list of required appointments and a central control coordinates them.

But I am too simplistic.

The Green Man

I've started getting the morning after feeling the night before.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Warwick Castle - Monday 28th September 2015

There was a foggy start but the promise of sunshine so we decided on the 32 mile trip south to Warwick Castle. Pauline declared it was 55 years since her first visit whereas I used to cycle there from Coleshill every summer holiday in my youth. Much has changed!

We have been twice in the last ten years or so but on each occasion we were hosting other visitors and so we had almost no chance to explore for ourselves. Today was very different.

The sun was shining brightly, albeit too low in the sky for real warmth, but it made everything seem welcoming. We started in the Great Chamber and were able to latch on to a guided tour. Our guide was well versed, a historian, and also something of a raconteur with just enough humour to get laughs out of foreigners and locals alike.

We thought going on a Monday would find the castle quiet. There weren't crushing crowds, but the first 8 bays of car park were already full when we got there. The town of Warwick is hosting the Japanese for the Rugby World Cup and there were banners and flags welcoming them, plus plenty in evidence around the grounds.

I vividly remember a trip to the castle when I was about twelve. The guide that day took us below ground level into what he described as "The deep, dark, dank, dreary, dangerous dungeons." We didn't get there today but we did get a very thorough explanation of the top two storeys.

The first fortified building was established at Warwick as early as 1068 but it was 100 years or more after that before start was made on constructing a proper stone castle. In 1604 the castle passed into the hands of the Greville family and it remained in their possession until 1978 when Death Duties and the over indulgences of a succession of Grevilles made ownership no longer possible.

Most families faced with this situation either bequeathed their property to the State or the National Trust, but the Grevilles sold out to the Madam Tussaud group, who in turn sold to the Merlin Group.

The castle fell into disrepair more than once and the early Greville family changed it into a country home. It was only after the Grevilles were named Earl of Warwick (the third family to carry the title) that Fulke Greville rebuilt the castle in the style still known today.

The castle houses many fine pieces of art but many valuable pieces were either sold of for even cut into pieces to either raise much needed funds or to make pictures fit with current decor.

Tonight was Lichfield Lions and a bit of a disappointing meeting in that it was poorly attended. We had a guest speaker and I was hoping for an attentive audience but several were still in Spain and three are quite ill.

Walking the grounds of Warwick Castle today, Pauline remarked there were oak trees but no horse chestnut. We decided that's because the castle was never conkered.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Up a bit more - Sunday 27th September 2015

I'm almost back to form but Pauline slept a full twelve hours, so mollycoddling was still on the menu. We spent the day at home, doing very little, though we did fetch Rita round for her Sunday roast.

One thing that almost no one will agree with me on is that trees and plants can 'see'. That is because people tend to think in human terms, whereas sometimes I don't.

There are hundreds of examples where a trees or plants have mimicked insects to the point that real insects are fooled. The bee orchid is one example and the oak tree ichneumon wasp is a classic. My questions are: how do plants and trees know what colours or even scents are and how can they determine shape?

If you wore a blindfold and a butterfly landed on the palm of your hand, all you would feel would be six very light indentations. What are the odds that from that gentle and fleeting touch you could work out exactly the size, shape and colour of the butterfly?

Yet nature does that very thing. How, if there is no form of sight?

Scientists will scoff and say that natural selection creates these anomalies over eons of time and that is it mostly just coincidence. I don't buy that. Trees and plants also copy the scent of insects to either attract or repel them. They also produce colour and scents themselves. How or even why if they have no sight or smell themselves?
Bee orchid
I read today that the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been straightened by 19 inches and that it should no longer keep inching towards destruction. When work started on the campanile in 1173 it didn’t take long before it started to lean, and that was at Stage One. For some reason they kept on adding stages for almost 200 years. It still kept on leaning.

Not only has the tower been made safe and strengthened, there is talk that it could be straightened completely. My thought is that it would kill the tourist trade. I’ve only seen the tower once but it did have impact. If it was upright I would probably have thought “Nice.”
Leaning Tower of Pisa
People who live in glass houses - should be very careful what they get up to.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Arundel - Saturday 26th September 2015

An article in my Gardens magazine mentioned Arundel, a lovely market town in West Sussex. Sat on the River Arun, the town is dominated by the magnificent Norman castle that looms over everything as you pass by Arundel on the road from Brighton to Chichester or Portsmouth.
Arundel Castle

 The Norman Conquest took place in 1066 and start on Arundel Castle began in 1067. No point hanging around! The castle was damaged during the English Civil War but was sympathetically rebuilt and is one of the finest examples in England.

The Howard family have occupied the castle for just over 400 years under the title Duke of Norfolk.  The early owners of Arundel were Roman Catholics, but all churches and cathedrals became Church of England under Henry VIII. However, in 1868 the cathedral as we know it today was dedicated to Catholicism.

There’s a lot going on in Arundel and the place warrants more than a day trip. The wild fowl reserve set in the shadow of the castle can occupy a full day and the town itself has retained much of its old charm. The river being so close and navigable by small boats also adds to the charm.

Arundel Castle gardens

I have never subscribed to the mantra that only mankind is intelligent. I certainly believe that dolphins and porpoises have considerable intelligence, that certain members of the ape family have been taught to use sign language, that some plants (especially trees) demonstrate a level of understanding, and that some social insects have developed strategies for survival that go beyond instinct.
I will explore these theories over the coming days, but I start with the Pheidole and Messor ants of the Middle East. It is one thing for ants and other insects to make use of any seeds that they might scavenge, but these ants are quite clearly farmers.

Most of the variants of those two families will search for seeds and take them back to their anthills. In an area set aside to create the right conditions, the seeds are stored and allowed to germinate. Once they show sprouts the ants then cut the radicles off and discard them.The seeds are then taken back into the sunlight where they change and the starch in the seeds turns to sugar. This then comes the ants main source of food.

That, to my mind, does not happen by chance, and even if it did the first time, where did the collective will come from to make this a transmitted strategy?
A Pheidole soldier

It is important to give a child a long name that can be shortened. Otherwise they'll never know when you are angry with them.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Ladybirds - Friday 25th September 2015

It takes a while to process a new listener, and I had seven to do. Plus two existing listeners were reporting problems with their media players, so when I got a message from King's Audio that my order was ready for delivery I thought I'd better get on with it.

I like to be lazy on a Friday but if I was going to catch the post, then I had to get a move on. So straight after breakfast I got to expanding the records, raising cards and labels and getting ready to wrap 10 media players the moment they arrived, because details of another new listener arrived.

However, they didn't arrive. The order that was delivered was mainly of USB sticks and wallets, desperately required, but media players were in shorter supply.

So I took all the recordings down to the Sorting Office and welcomed the sun that was finally offering to shine, now that it couldn't burn toast.

When I cleaned the pool out the other day I left it black with stirred silt. Where this all came from is beyond me because there wasn't a grain in the pool when we built it. Now the mud is inches deep. The filter was working overtime and you still couldn't see more than two inches below the surface, so I did a slow, deliberate job and really gave the pump a good clean. By the time I'd finished you could see down four inches.

The sun was enticing so I sat on the patio and caught up on a few magazines. Then I spotted an unfamiliar ladybird trying to find shelter for the winter (next week or so away). I thought it was yellow but when I looked it up the official description is orange. Apparently they are now common in parts of Britain, but I've never really noticed them before, even though entomology is one of my given hobbies.

Orange ladybird

Oh, and today was a red letter day in the May Jones household. Jackson the Labrador has joined the clan.

Bet there won't be much sleep in Hove Actually for the next few days.

Tonight was Cannock Lions Club 6th annual Charter Night. It feels as though they have been here forever and they are certainly the most successful club in Staffordshire. Just last month they inducted 7 new members and we sat next to two of them. Cannock also has a successful branch club in Hednesford and we'd like to bottle whatever magic Mark Whyton weaves.

There is nothing more humiliating than telling someone that something is impossible, and then watching them do it.

Friday, 25 September 2015

I'm not going yet! - Thursday 24th September 2015

It was Thursday so I had to pull myself together. Furthermore I knew we would be thin on the ground at the Talking News.

I did wake feeling better than yesterday and so I got on with it, recording the Stevenage Talking News and doing a more thorough job than usual. Pauline was where I was yesterday and I keep hearing of others experiencing this cold/cough blight.

After lunch I did the Live at Home run. I picked up Pauline from Boley Park and Elma from the complex where Tony Christie lives. The man who sang "Show me the way to Amarillo" has lived in Lichfield for quite a few years, but I've always just missed him. Today we were face to face. He was the one who smiled and backed up as I shovelled Elma into the back seat.

There's a special school a few hundred yards from where Tony Christie lives. I went there one day to help a blind pupil and the school was buzzing about Tony. Apparently he had called on the school on one pretext or other, had stayed a couple of hours, talked to every child there, and had then given them a concert.

He went up in my estimation.

There was no Wilf or Keith tonight so I got to the studio before 5.30pm. I wasn't expecting Peter until later but he got there at 6.30 so I did have some help with Stevenage, Gwent and Scotland. Ben came and did the Lichfield returns which left me free to handle the recording and also process seven new listeners.

When everyone had gone, Peter and I got to our normal rambling conversations, which can be about anything under the sun. One story in the Lichfield Mercury had been about a chap who has had some poems published. "Come on" said Peter, "You must have written poems, but I bet they are cringe-worthy"

I knew I was setting myself up for ridicule but I gave him a taste of my poetry. When he had stopped laughing (it was supposed to be a tragedy) I looked on my I-pad and found the following. I'd forgotten I'd written it. It was the day before I went into hospital to have my kidney and cancer removed. I'm not a morbid person but I did recognise that there is always a chance you won't wake up from an anaesthetic.

And so I am gone,
And what great dent did I make upon this earth?
None that I can see from where I stand.
And yet,
If just one word of mine has led you to be a better person
Or if just one small action I may have made high in the stream of life has impacted for the better further down the flow,
Then this journey of mine towards Death’s ocean will not have been in vain.
If, among all the mistakes and faults of my life, there were moments of clarity and hope,
Then take heart, and hope for the same in yourself.

Peter said "I rest my case."

Tony Christie

Curiosity killed the cat. Curiosity is the name of my Rottweiler.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Lazybones - Wednesday 23rd September 2015

Neither of us felt very good when we dragged ourselves up, so I determined to take it easy today. There were a few things I couldn't avoid, so I got on with them. First down to the Sorting Office to collect four sacks of returns, then round to John Whitehouse regarding Club matters and finally to Tesco's to collect a prescription from the Pharmacy.

It wasn't nice enough to work on the patio so we processed the returns in the kitchen. If I'm on my own I do it in the garage when it's unpleasant outside, but there isn't room there for two.

We got all of that done by lunchtime, then we both sat and read books. I went to the studio at 6.45pm, having downloaded all the news for South Wales and Scotland, assured myself that Peter had a full team and came back to the Great British Bake Off and another early night.

There was a loud crash early evening and I found a very stunned young wood pigeon lying on its back, having crashed into the window. I held it gently for about five minutes until it gained some equilibrium, then set it down on the lawn. It crawled under a tree and settled down for the night.

It put me in mind of an incident forty years ago. A racing pigeon crashed out of the sky onto the pavement outside our house, totally exhausted. I took it in, molly coddled it for a while, fed it, found it a nice warm place to roost in our garage and left the door open so that it could emerge into our back garden, when it felt fit enough. It stayed with us all the next day and on the following morning it came out, flew onto our window ledge, tapped at the window with its beak, then flew off, never to be seen again - or so we thought.

Almost a year later we were having Sunday lunch and a racing pigeon landed in our garden, jumped up on to the window ledge, tapped at the window, and then flew off.

You make your own mind up about that.

If you set out to fail at something and succeed in failing, is that a score draw?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Proper poorly - Tuesday 22nd September 2015

As soon as I woke I thought how pleased I was that we weren't making the planned trip down to Wales. We had intended to attend a Sight Users Conference but the display side had been cancelled. I wasn't really surprised because I'd looked at the venue on Google Earth and it hadn't seemed large or inspiring.

As it happened we both woke with throats on fire.

Pauline took her medicine by going shopping with Gill. I tied myself to the computer and wrote 28 letters of invitation to the Walk for Sight. I think a generic, round robin invitation can be off putting so although it took all morning, I made it personal. I will consider the day a big success if I can get 35 people there, but I'll settle for thirty.

John Cassie came round this afternoon for a chat. The poor bloke has been stuck in France for three weeks. All that sun and fine foods were obviously too much and he needed some grounding!

Having been lazy most of the afternoon I suddenly developed a conscience and got back to doing things until Pauline saved me from myself by putting a meal on the table.

We are normally quite healthy. We eat well, exercise for at least a minute a week and don't drink more than we've got in the house, so we'll bounce back from this quite quickly. We are lucky with our health overall and only my hands have been a problem, albeit for around twenty years. That is until Sheri introduced me to PaPaw ointment a month ago. Four weeks now and not a blister. I'm going to rub some of that cream on Aston Villa, see if that makes them better too.

magic in a jar

I went to the doctor because of a red spot on my forehead. He said it's nothing to worry about, it's sun damage. When I looked at him in disbelief he said "You're right. It's rust."

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

CareMesh - Monday 21st September 2015

My first port of call was the doctor. I have a red spot on my forehead that has been there the best part of a year. Someone suggested it might be a rodent ulcer and I should get it checked out, so I did. The doctor said it is sun damage (though when beats me).

Next stop was Costa at Stoneydelph where John Morgan, Steve Searle, Peter Drew and I met with Peter Wilson of Caremesh. I wasn't sure what to expect so I was pleased when I left thinking the meeting had been positive and that something genuine would come out of it.

Their website says that CareMesh brings together GP Practices, NHS Mental Health Foundations, charities and innovative private companies with the aim of transforming healthcare in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Telford & Wrekin.

The comment "There's no such thing as the National Health Service" certainly rings true. You've never seen such a mish mash of unintelligible connections as when you try to plot a course for a patient through the various stages of an illness.

The plan of the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance is to provide a clear pathway for patients from diagnosis to death. At this point in time, even the doctors can't do that.

Pauline went out with Kath and Janet in the morning and took Rita to the opticians and the knitting club in the afternoon. I caught up on some of the backlog, went round to see John Whitehouse, cooked dinner (a pork/pasta concoction that worked) and then got into a new book.

John, Peter, me, Steve and Peter Wilson

I thought of a brilliant joke about having a senior moment, but I can't for the life of me think what it was.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Margaret Bresolin - Sunday 20th September 2015

I'm starting to feel real again. Maybe I've had a bug or some such but I've felt drained for a couple of weeks. Today the sun shone for the last time in 2015 and so we decided to do something about it.

Pauline took Rita to church and I got to work on the garden pool. The waterfall was almost a trickle, so the pump needed cleaning, the surrounding reeds and bushes were threatening to over power the whole area, and weed and algae had made the water into a soup. It took a couple of hours to clear all the forest that our poor fish have had to swim through of late.

With the water gurgling through the pump and free passage around the pool the fish went mad, cavorting all over the place, rising up and begging for food.

After lunch I went back to Wyevale for another stint selling Cow Pat Drop tickets, this time with Gary Nye. It was dreary, not with Gary, but the sun went in at 2pm and the crowds went home. We were barely taking £10 an hour.

Back home I found my hero had mowed both lawns, plus cooked another classic Sunday roast. I felt blessed.

I went through some paperwork and found this letter to file. Margaret Bresolin is a charming, personable and determined young lady. She came to Lichfield Lions for support in raising funds to go to Ghana for a year, and we gave her a kick start. Only £300 but it clearly lifted her. She sent me the following:

It is now 5 days until I leave for Ghana so just a final thank you and an update on my progress.

I finally finished my fundraising at the end of June, with a raffle at my prom raising £380. I could not believe it, raising £6000 whilst finishing my A levels was the hardest thing I have ever done but I am so amazed and proud to have done it. But I could not have done it without support like yours, so thank you.

I went back up to the Isle of Coll at the beginning of July for my training course. In which I had sessions on almost everything imaginable and had to be taught how to teach, and then give lessons. It was incredible and I now feel prepared to be as useful as I can be to the community.

I also learnt of my exact project specifics. I will be teaching English, along with Science and Maths in a Junior High school, in the village Atonkwa, just outside Elmina, Ghana. The children will be aged between 11 and 16, but there are also attached primary and secondary schools, so I have been informed there will be a lot of room for me to help in all three and take on as much responsibility as I am willing to. Also, setting up extra curricular activities as well.

I have met my partner Katy, who I will be living with in the village. We are both so ready and so so excited, to learn more then we can imagine and try to make a difference in the children's education.

I will keep you updated as best I can throughout the year.

As she updates us, I will share.



Have you any idea how cruel it is to give alphabet soup to a dyslexic. They read far too much into it.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Why a gannet? - Saturday 19th September 2015

We both had things to do, so we got on with them, except I was distracted for a few minutes. We live as far from the sea as you can get in Britain. It is not uncommon to see black backed gulls in numbers. They started drifting inland following tractors, then found the joys of Council refuse tips and - hereabouts at least - the ever ready supply of food from pig farms. But today a gannet sat on the roof of our neighbour, looking almost as big as the heron. It had something large in its beak and when a magpie crept close out of curiosity it looked tiny.

Something seriously wrong with that bird's navigation, unless it knows something we don't know.

I was on Lion's duty from 11am till 1pm selling Cow Pat Drop tickets at Wyevale. Our causes are the Penguins Swimming Club for the Disabled and the Gartmore Riding School for the disabled. One guy passing by and hearing us turned on me and snarled "I don't give money to anything to do with humans!" Then he held up a bag of goldfish and said "These are my friends, not you." Normally I ignore these tirades but he was about to jab a finger at me so I smiled at him (gritted teeth) and said "And when you need help, it will be us that gives it. I doubt your goldfish will be much use."

The sun shone. After lunch we did something that has been missing from our lives for quite a long time.

We cleaned both cars, immaculately.


I've decided to live happy ever after. So far so good, at least until the football results.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Rested - Friday 18th September 2015

I couldn't afford to laze today, but I did. I don't bounce back like I used to, running on adrenalin.

Pauline and I spoke at 6.30am, I had a cup of tea, watched the early fog drift away, spruced myself up, took four very full sacks to the Post Office, carried my work down into the dining room so the sun could shine on my back, sorted it into neat piles - and left it there.

Pauline came home at 11.15am and we just sat and caught up on each other's news. Then it was time for her to take Rita food shopping, so I prepared my own little shopping list. I don't cook as often as I would like and I never tell anyone when it doesn't work. Tonight's was one of my better efforts, full of taste and flavour, so I'm happy to share.

I kept it relatively simple with the main course being of two halves. I cut some potatoes fairly small, sliced a leek crosswise into ringlets and parboiled them in chicken stock. Then I layered them into an oven disk, sprinkled chopped bacon on top and gave it a good layer of cheese and baked it.

I seared sirloin steaks for 3 minutes each side then wrapped them in foil to keep them warm. I sweated chopped onion, garlic and mushrooms until almost opaque, added a glass of white wine until it was reduced, then beef stock and gradually butter until the sauce had thickened.

I'd do it again.

As for the rest of the day, I did nothing!

It's too early for this
Exit signs are on the way out.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Brick walls - Thursday 17th September 2015

Right now I'm running on empty. The work pile just gets bigger and the urgent items list is getting longer. Still, my trip to Wales next week has been cancelled, and that will help.

I cleared a few items away and then got on with recording the Stevenage Talking News. After lunch I did the Live at Home run, picking up one lady that was new to me, and then it was back to talking newspapers.

Pauline went shopping in Reading with Helen and decided to come home in the daylight - tomorrow - and that took pressure off because I didn't have to think about cooking.

Peter Fox rang to see what time I would be at the studio and we met at 5.30pm. With Peter helping me we rattled through Stevenage, Gwent and the Scotsman and were ready for the Lichfield readers when they turned up. Ben was there which means I have time to update some of the paperwork.

The next few days will be busy but then the diary starts to become more reasonable. I might have time to think.

someone's got a sharp penknife

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Outlander - Wednesday 16th Septermber 2015

My first task was to take my car to Turners for a set of new brakes. They'd said I would need some by the time I had the car next serviced, but it didn't quite get that far. Still, it meant a brisk walk across Saddlers Wood and a bit of fresh air.

Pauline set off at 10am to go down to Helen for a day. They both need each other from time to time. Pity I can't go but it puts too many people out if I do.

Anyone who is a Minutes Secretary will tell you it takes as long to do the minutes as it takes for the meeting itself, and I had two lots to finish. I did the SNA minutes this morning and the Lions minutes this afternoon. I also downloaded the news for tonight, plus I collected the returns and processed them. That took a full two hours and by the time I had cooked myself some dinner it was time to go to the studio.

Once I was sure Peter had a full team I came back home and sat and watched three episode of Outlander, the Scottish story, not the American one. It is very well written and acted and there are some very strong characters, but there's also a lot of nudity and I feel I know the two main characters very well indeed.

in a rare state of dress

When someone says "You should always expect the unexpected" stamp on their instep. See if they were expecting that!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

One Two Three Four - Tuesday 15th September 2015

The year is running away from me and that's partly my fault. These days I have a leisurely approach towards getting up in the morning. I wake early enough around 6am. I have a cup of tea, download The Times, read the news, do the crossword puzzle, have my breakfast, write my diary, shower or bath, get dressed and the day has warmed up.

Today was different. I got the leisurely part over at a canter and then set off for a Costa morning at Stoneydelph. John Morgan, Steve Searle and I met Nadine Miles from Virgin Care and we discussed our concerns over the treatment of people suffering from neurological conditions, and I for one was comforted by the response we got. I think there will be a lot of cooperation in the years immediately ahead.

At 1pm I met two ladies from Kaleidoscope and we discussed their requirements for the show we are putting on at the end of next month. There will be thirty in the choir and I've got to ensure that they don't outnumber the audience.

At 2pm was meeting number three and it was over to Rugeley for the monthly meeting of the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. There were only six of us there but that is the nature of the beast. The meeting was positive and informative.

Finally we went to the Guild Hall at 7.30pm for the cheque distribution evening of the Lichfield Bower. Lichfield Lions only received £40 but I was there more for networking than the little cheque. I met someone I thought was from Guide Dogs for the Blind, but he was only supporting them. However, he said "You're John May, aren't you? I remember when you were a District Councillor." That was 40 years ago! I stopped because I don't like politics.

I also met Tracy from Gartmore Riding School for the Disabled. We have recently paid for a shelter on one of their gentle rides and she invited us to go to see what has developed on 25th October. Finally I chatted to Michael Malarky, chairman of the Bower Committee, but also involved in other possible sources of funding for the Talking Newspaper, so the evening was pleasant and moderately fruitful.
What National Anthem?

Jeremy Corbyn has done more for the Conservative Party than they have done themselves. Soon the only opposition party will be the SNP.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Keeping busy - Monday 14th September 2015

The shortest journey from Lichfield to Stoke on Trent is 32 miles. Straight up through Rugeley and keep going North. The downside is that there are 17 cameras and a 60 mph top speed for much of the journey (lower in some parts), so the journey takes 45 minutes. I allowed 90 minutes. I was at Trentham Gardens at 8.30, five minutes away. That's when the traffic started. I got to the meeting room 7 minutes late, and I was the first one there.

Eventually I was joined by John Morgan, plus Hayley and Lisa from the University Hospital North Midlands. I'm mostly superfluous at these meetings but it does mean I'm supporting John and I never come away without learning something.

Hayley and Lisa are genuine in their desire to help bring treatments for neurological condition sufferers up to scratch. The whole project is actually inspiring to me and I wish I could be more effective. Give me time.

I do feel sorry for many people who work in the NHS because the press is always full of horror stories about delays and unnecessary deaths whilst the majority of people working there are doing their utmost and probably think they are doing their best for little thanks or praise. Most likely they are, but step back and look at the picture from the patient's view and you see a disjointed, unconnected service.

For those providing a specific care they might rightly feel they have done their job, but for the patient it rarely ends there and the disconnections bring frustrations and misery. That is what the SNA is trying to end, and I will help where I am able.

Tonight was Lichfield Lions. It wasn't well attended. There were six of us and four visitors. So many are currently on holiday, but I enjoyed the meeting and the work being done by our newest members is impressive and encouraging. Laura and Gary worked their socks off over the membership drive and Karen was keen to get involved with organising Charter Night.

I hope we can keep this momentum going.

Lichfield Lions's photo.
The highlight from last Thursday

Monday, 14 September 2015

The long goodbyes - Sunday 13th September 2015

We were 30 strong back in 1993/94. Eight couldn't make this weekend, many for health reasons. Fourteen did get there, meaning eight are no longer with us. We gave them all thought and comment over the weekend, but this morning was about us survivors.

We gathered for a collective breakfast, packed our cars and began our goodbyes. It was close to 11am before the last kiss and hug and then we all set off to our different destinations.

James sat in the front, nodded off and missed most of the easy drive north. The ladies sat in the back and chatted and I set the cruise control and paid attention from time to time.

Jim and Pauline set off back to Blackpool about 2pm, stopping twice, once for coffee and once for Jim to sleep. This was the longest journey he has made since his stroke. The weekend did him good because he came alive again whenever the group was together.

The hope has to be that there are at least 14 of us again next year, when we plan to meet in Chester.
a motley crew

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Claydon House - Saturday 12th September 2015

We all congregated for breakfast and then relaxed until 11am, which is when we went to our chosen National Trust property.
Six miles or so from the one-time county town of Buckinghamshire (Buckingham) are four villages with Claydon in the name. Steeple Claydon is to the west of the group, you will have to guess where East Claydon sits, Botolph Claydon is to the south and, appropriately enough, Middle Claydon is situated very close to the impressive Claydon House.
Pictures on the web don’t do this place justice and I was a bit worried when we all set off in four cars, but two steps inside the front door and it all came good. The Verney family have been on this site since 1620 but the current house was built by Ralph Verney between 1757 and 1771. Unfortunately he was not a clever man. He had high ideals and great attention to detail, but he ran out of money and three quarters of the new build had to be demolished. What was left is still a treasure.
A bit uninviting from the outside, the interior is amazing with rococo architecture abounding, including many surprises with decorations that appear to be marble being either wood or even paper mache. The main staircase is inlaid ivory and marquetry, but the Chinese Room is described by the family as the Marmite room, because you either love it or hate it.

Claydon House

The Chinese room

In the afternoon we made our various ways into Buckingham itself. With a population of just 12,000 Buckingham is something of a market town and has that air about it. On the way we passed through the lovely village of Padbury. Worth a visit in itself the village sports a number of well kept and pristine thatched cottages.


Back at the hotel we met again at 7pm, enjoyed a good meal, remembered all of those colleagues who are no longer with us, and decided next year we will go to Chester.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A happy reunion - Friday 11th September 2015

I was back from the Sorting Office before Jim and Pauline surfaced. I'm going to have to get a trolley if the bags get much heavier. We had a pleasant breakfast and there was no rush to get away.

We eventually left just after noon. The journey to Buckingham is only 80 miles south, but this was a Friday, as we discovered when we reached the log jam which was the M42. So across country it was. This was very pleasant, thought a bit meandering, but it only added 8 miles to the journey.

We arrived at the Buckingham Best Western just after Brian and Jackie. Eventually there were 14 of us in all, but the last pair only got to us at 6.30pm.

The hotel was better than I had expected. This was a pleasant bonus, and the staff couldn't do enough to make us welcome and comfortable. We sat around most of the afternoon drinking coffee and catching up, then all met us in the bar at 7pm before sitting down to a pleasant meal at 7.30pm.

This was our 21st reunion, and it showed. Apart from some of our number no longer being with us in this existence, neither was the staying power there and the early morning sessions in the bar were replaced by everyone going off to bed and a hot chocolate at 11pm.

no formalities

Friday, 11 September 2015

Sight Cwmru - Thursday 10th September 2015

You do get a good night's sleep in a Premier Inn. Must find out who makes their beds.

I woke just after 6am feeling quite refreshed. I showered, dressed, downloaded The Times, then spoke to Pauline. A good breakfast and I was ready far too early for the information and services event at Bradbury House, so I had a brief look around Pontypool before going to the Sight Cwmru offices.

They weren't expecting me. Clerical error, but it wasn't a problem.

The place was buzzing with Sight Cwmru staff and they quickly made a space for me and a nice cup of tea. We talked about the growing number of listeners (300 and rising) and the problem regarding funding and the reaction made me think that this trip was worth it.

I got away just after noon and had almost as easy a trip back home. The M5 ground to a halt just outside Bromsgrove so I came off and went across country to the M42. It cost me ten minutes.

Getting home earlier than expected took a lot of pressure off. I recorded the Stevenage Talking News, and the Jim and Pauline Woods arrived, right on cue. We settled them in and then I went to the studio to finish off Scotland, Gwent and Stevenage.

Keith arrived and I left him in charge of the recording, once the readers had turned up, and I went across to the Bowling Green for a Meet the Lions event. Pauline brought Jim and Pauline, the Lions were there in numbers, and there were three potential new members.

I did an I troduction, brief history of Lionism, inducted Karen Allen into our club and gave Certificates of Appreciation to Laura and Gary for what they have done towards tonight.

Then I went back to the Talking News to help finish off Lichfield. That was accomplished at 9.15pm so I went back to the party to enjoy some chicken wings and to be generally sociable.

Back home, we sat around and chatted until 11pm, then packed Jimbo off to bed.


I've never yet used the tool on my penknife for getting stones out of horses hooves. Anyone want to buy a partly used penknife?

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Usk - Wednesday 9th September 2015

I did do the crossword in The Times before I allowed myself to start, but then it was flat out all morning.

I went to the Sorting Office and collected the returns and then settled to process them in the garage because it was not warm enough outside. Early fog in September when we are supposed to be having an Indian Summer is not welcome.

Pauline came in and helped me and then I processed two more new listeners. The timing for today's trip could have been better, but it seems my life at the moment is like buses, nothing for a while and then a fleet of them all at once.

We had a pleasant lunch and then I took everything I could to the studio for tonight's team. Then I set of for Pontypool in South Wales.  I'd allowed three hours for the 114 mile journey, but surpringly I did it in two, and that wasn't speeding. The roads were strangely clear, I set the cruise control to keep me out of rouble and I was at the Premier Inn with enough time to work on all kinds of paperwork before dinner.

All I could hope was that the return journey would be just as accommodating.

Just before reaching the hotel I passed through Usk. We've seen some lovely towns this year bedecked with flowers, but none more so that Usk. Everyone involved can feel justly proud of themselves because it was a treat to pass through. Only a video of what I saw would do it proper justice, and I'm not there for that as yet.

Usk in bloom

If the Queen reaches 100, who will send the telegram?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Nick & Natasha - Tuesday 8th September 2015

I had big plans for today. It was mostly clear and I was going to spend that time getting ready for Thursday night and the five days ahead. Then the phone rang.

Nick Lamb is a fellow Lion and his wife Natasha is in Heartlands Hospital, and times are fraught for the two of them. Nick needed to get to Natasha as quickly as he could.

I went over to Fradley and picked Nick up. Under his own steam, using public transport, it could take him two hours each way, but I was able to make the trip to south Birmingham in about 35 minutes. I went with Nick to the ward and saw how Natasha was struggling, and the pain she was in, so I told Nick he could stay as long as he wanted and I would go and wait in the cafe.

Nick came down to me at noon and said they were getting nowhere. Tash has been passed from one hospital to another and one doctor to the next. I told him that sadly the only way he would get anywhere would be to make a fuss. So he did.

A doctor came and apologised that Natasha's planned operation had been over ruled and cancelled - because the wrong patient's records had been consulted! Nick was reassured that all would now be put back on track and we left during the early afternoon.

Tonight we were guests at the 35th Charter dinner for the Rotary Club St Chad of Lichfield, at the George Hotel. There were only 32 guests but the mood was good, the food was excellent, the company was very pleasant, and the lady who sang had a really attractive voice, and would have been good if she had sung less ancient songs.

Heartlands Hospital

Modern youth. Nightclubs Saturday, spreading wild oats. Church Sunday, praying for a crop failure.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Back on song - Monday 7th September 2015

I woke feeling real for the first time for a few days. The only thing that had been going right was the magic ointment that Sheri gave me whilst we were at Delettes. My hands were bad and she introduced me to Lucas Paw Paw cream. I applied it liberally and I haven't had a blister since. Whether that is because I was away from English food, or I am stress free, or the ointment, I don't know yet but this is the best I've been in twenty years.

Thank you Sheri.

With the world going mad from Wednesday onwards I got to Lion's work today, in particular to producing the agenda for the next meeting. I made it as full and meaningful as I could, but it took most of the morning. There was a sociable break when Paul came over to join Pauline, Rita and myself in the kitchen where Lisa worked her magic on our hair. I also produced tickets for a musical evening we are planning in October.

After lunch Pauline took Rita to the knitting club and I went to Armitage to see a listener. She told me the Talking News is her lifeline but the media player won't work. I showed her where the plug fits to recharge the battery and left a very happy (though somewhat shame-faced) lady!

I spotted a road I've never driven down. I turned up it and in 200 yards I was isolated from civilisation. The countryside suddenly seemed very remote, lush not bleak, and I was in my element. In two miles I was back on familiar territory, but I was transported for those short minutes.

We had a nice meal, long calls from Daniel and Helen and then an early night, probably the last for about ten days.
Trent & Mersey canal at Armitage
I used to think I had enough vests. Wore them out this 'summer'

Monday, 7 September 2015

A good day - Sunday 6th September 2015

I woke feeling better than yesterday. Pauline was looking at me sideways and was obviously worried. I heard the doctor mentioned more than once. Still, we had a job to do.

We drove across Lichfield to the Darwin Estate and twelve of us met in the car park of the Saxon Penny. Laura and Gary had orchestrated a Membership Drive and we were all there to deliver the invitations to an information evening next Thursday.

Pauline and I teamed up and set off to find our designated streets. This involved walking down Cathedral View which I hadn't realised cuts the new estate in two and is lined up directly with the cathedral. My little pocket camera doesn't do it justice but the three little spots at the end of the walkway are the Ladies of the Vale - the spires of Lichfield Cathedral.

It was quite pleasant roaming around the estate, which is a maze of rat runs and rabbit warrens. When finished, ten of us (including Rita) went to the Saxon Penny for a very hearty meal. It was good fun, very convivial and a return to the glory days of Lichfield Lions.

More please.

These are supposedly Saxon pennies.
How big were their purses?

Not good - Saturday 5th September 2015

I'd be hard pressed to say what I really did today. I woke feeling out of sorts and tired, very tired. That feeling never left me all day. Pauline too had been hyper active so I said I would cook tonight.

We walked into town, partly for the joy of walking and partly to buy some vegetables. Back home I mowed the back lawn and then settled down to do some serious reading.

I even had forty winks!
Pauline took Rita to church and I got a casserole in the oven. Rump steak, seared and then boiled in red wine, fresh herbs from the garden, plenty of veg and a side dish of leeks in a  cheese sauce. I was happy with the result.
I was also in bed quite early.
would it were like this now

Saturday, 5 September 2015

And finally - Friday 4th September 2015

Well, the weather wasn't nice, so no change there. Pauline wanted to go to Burton on Trent with the intention of buying a mirror for the hall. We took 5 very full sacks to the Sorting Office, managing to include the two new listeners whose details arrived last evening.

Pauline had three venues in mind. We walked into the first, found the mirror that we wanted and it was back in the car within minutes, Pauline lagged behind to look at clothes and such. I went back and told her it was safely stowed in the car and suggested we go.

"But that's shopping like a man!" she wailed.

I relented briefly. We walked through to Marks & Sparks, but then Pauline agreed that we should get back and put the mirror in place.

As we walked back to the car the strongest of aromas hit us.

Burton on Trent is situated on the banks of the Trent and above many artesian wells. The locals quickly determined the water from the wells was too brackish to drink. Then someone got the bright idea of using the water in the production of beer, and the famous Burton Breweries were born.

One of the by-products of the brewing industry is (you'll either love this or hate it) Marmite, and it was making its presence felt (or smelt) today. I come from a family of Marmite lovers. Robert used to drive through Burton with the car windows wide open in search of a sniff.

The town is so proud of Marmite they erected a memorial to it.

in honour of Marmite

Pauline spent the afternoon preparing a feast. I went into town and bought some dips and odds and ends and at 5.45pm Gill, Paul, Carol and Alan arrived and we had a beautiful meal of roast beef cooked in red wine. Mouth watering and hastily devoured.

From there we went to the Lichfield Garrick for a performance by the And Finally Big Band, which is a tribute to Phil Collins. There were 19 musicians on stage, a conductor and Chris Lloyd joining them for some jazz swing numbers and the odd tribute to Phil Collins. The night was very pleasant, they all came back for coffee, and we said we'd do it again when they come back for Part Two in November.

I can still run 5 miles, or 100 yards, but to make life easy I always stop at whichever one comes first.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Slog - Thursday 3rd September 2015

The fact that we are into the ninth month and there are things I set as targets back in January that I haven't even approached yet is disturbing. I don't know what I do with my time. Obviously too much reading and writing this blog.

But this was Thursday so no time for reflections.

I got straight on to the Stevenage Talking News. Having left them with only the magazines for two weeks I felt beholden to make this one fuller than usual, so I trawled through the three versions of The Comet and the Royston Crow and included everything I thought they might find of interest.

That was the morning. At 1pm I went and collected three for the Live at Home Scheme. Today was their quarterly day out and it was lunch at the Turn Pike, not salubrious but they are there for the company, not the decor.

We had an early dinner and I was at the studio for 5.30pm. I duplicated the Stevenage TN from masters I'd made at home and then got on with completing Gwent and the Scotsman, which took until 7.15, by which time the readers were ready for the Lichfield Talking News.

There was no Ben tonight so I had to do the returns. If I know he's not coming I can do those on a Wednesday, but there was just time to get it all finished before the reading was over and the duplicating began.

Four of us processed everything. Wilf, Keith, Peter and myself. There were a few laughs, a couple of decisions taken, and it was all wrapped up by 9pm because there was very little news in the Lichfield Mercury.

We'd save an awful lot of time if you'd just see things my way.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

It has started - Wednesday 2nd September 2015

I did a lot today, and even achieved a few things. There was barely a spare minute, but when you write it all down it doesn't seem much.

I started by downloading news for Scotland and Wales. That took a good hour. Next I went to the surgery to collect a prescription for Pauline and then carried on to King's Bromley to meet a new listener and provide him with a media player. He was very pleased and wanted to make a significant donation, but I told him to listen for a few weeks to be sure he still feels the same way.

Kings Bromley

Back in Lichfield I went to the studio for more players (we got two more new listeners today), then to the tip and on to the Sorting Office for the returns. I was processing these on the patio when John Whitehouse came with a problem about internet banking for the Lions. He said that when he was on the Nat West website they said our account number was not recognised. I asked him what happened when he tried Lloyds Bank, where we have our account.

When we stopped laughing, there was still a problem, so we'll call in the experts.

This afternoon I went back to Hints for a four hour course on Photoshop. There were only two of us doing the course do we were finished in three hours. I was back home in time for a snack with Pauline and then went to the studio to see that everything was OK. Peter turned up, plus six readers, so I wasn't needed.

Back home again to consider what I learned today.

Two snakes slithering through the long grass. One says to the other "Here, Sid, are we crushers or are we poisoners?" Sid replies "It doesn't actually matter, does it." to which his friend replied "It does to me, I've just bitten my lip."

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

We're off - Tuesday 1st September 2015

It's official, we are already SAD. The horrible, disappointing summer and the nights already drawing in have brought an early onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder to millions of people. I'm not there yet but I'm feeling cheated that, now I'm retired, I'm not enjoying those lovely hot days of summer that made us so envious when we were all stuck in offices.

September, I am told, is usually drier than August. Well, I'm going to be so busy I might not notice, plus it's still raining.

I cleared all the e-mails and letters to action. I processed another four new listeners. I went into the studio and collected a dozen media players and the return labels. Next into Lichfield to bank some cheques, buy fish food and £50 of stationery for the Talking News.

I created business cards for an SNA member and name badges for Lichfield Lions. I dragged out all the paperwork marked slightly less urgent, and John Whitehouse asked if I was going to the Barton under Needwood Lions Club Branch meeting tonight. So I did.

There were six Barton Lions there, District Governor Chris Aked, Graham Stanyer from Cannock, John and myself, the wife of a Barton Lion and Keith Brooks, Station Officer at Barton under Needwood Fire and Rescue Service Station.

Keith gave us a description of the F&RS activities and invited the Lions to participate with a Community Safety Day at Barton on the 1st October, mainly to distribute Message in a Bottle. We also need to cooperate with their Home Safety Check programme.

The meeting was good fun and enthusiastic and with a little more encouragement and direction we can hopefully get the club growing in numbers, which is something we've got to do at Lichfield as well.

The last wildebeest has died. That is the end of the gnus.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Catching up - Monday 31st August 2015

I was helped by the fact this was a Bank Holiday, and it was driving rain almost all day. That kept me in, kept me at my computer, and kept many of the normal phone calls and e-mails at bay. So I got on with it and made a huge dent in the 90 e-mails that still needed actions taken.

Late morning John Whitehouse and Gary Nye came over for a chat and an hour talking about the recruitment drive that we have planned for Sunday. Everything seems to be falling into place. I know that Gary and Laura - both newish members - are working flat out on this project and I warned Gary to keep the sights low rather than high. Times have changed and if we get one new member for our efforts, I will judge that a success.

I pegged away and Pauline left me undisturbed, so it was a shock to realise that it was 6pm, and not a child in the house washed. Actually Pauline had kept busy too, so after a nice refreshing meal we decided that a night of reading or watching the new Lenny Henry TV show was quite in order.

Skip O'Brien challenged me to change my profile picture to that of Superman. This I did and very few people noticed. I don't know whether to take that as a compliment or do such instances pass quite unnoticed?

After 24 hours as Superman I can now return to normal. In my time as a superhero I dragged a sinking ocean liner to Southampton, carried the world's second largest iceberg to drought stricken East Africa, and prevented a comet from colliding with the moon. My work here is done.