Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Razmabaz - The Author!

Many years ago now I was much fitter (much younger), keen on Cycling, living on the Isle of Wight and a whole host of other things! I once wrote an article for, then, a fairly new (now defunct) magazine called "The Bicycle Times". It was mainly concerned with a more leisurely form of cycling rather racing (which was my passion). I even got paid for it ~ the writing, not the cycling!

Anyway, I found some of these articles in an old archive. I thought I should share them with you... not all at once though.


Barry Cant 1984

About two decades ago a song, written and sung locally, recorded and described the happenings of a holiday isle. If I remember correctly it went something like this:-

Just off the coast of England,

You’ll see a charming sight,

A little pile of mud and sand

They call the Isle of Wight!

If you have ever been there you will, perhaps, recall that those words are somewhat of an understatement and can be considered a little bit misleading.

To start with, from east to west the Island measures 22 miles and from north to south l3 miles. Far from being a pile of mud and sand it is mainly chalk down and hard rock, luxuriantly carpeted with forests and rich, green meadows. Set, as its boundary some 60 miles of coastline, comprising of chalk cliffs and sandy beaches, are contained approximately 500 miles of roads just waiting to be explored and discovered. Some of these miles are easy to ride others are, well, not so easy! For such a small place the Island seems to be richly supplied with an abundance of hills, some climbing to well over 600 feet. From the tops of these hills one can enjoy a vast array of views that will, like they have in mine, remain in your memory for a lifetime.

Access to the Island is via car ferry, there being in fact three different routes from the mainland, departing from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington. These services are run by Sealink and Red Funnel Steamers but they both offer regular sailings and, more importantly, convey bicycles free of charge. As soon as you place your wheels on the ferry you seem to cut yourself off from the mad hum-drum way of life, the way of life that, to me, is generated by cars being driven furiously around cities. Once on your voyage to discovery you will soon begin to see the coastline of the Isle of Wight and you will also feel that tinge of excitement that you had when you completed your first ride, to that point on the map that you had never been before. Talking of maps, the Island is an excellent place to start your touring career as, if you ever find yourself misplaced and are having difficulty in establishing your whereabouts; just keep pedalling in any direction your nose takes you, knowing that eventually you will come to the sea.

One thing the tourist has in his favour is the fact that there is always plenty of accommodation available, ranging from camp sites to hotels. There are also three Youth Hostels, situated at Totland in the west, Whitwell in the south and Sandown in the south east. During the months of July, August and the early part of September the Island tends to become rather busy as this period is the peak of the holiday season. I, therefore, suggest that you make your visit at other times of the year when the roads are less busy: although most holiday motorists seem to respect the fact the Island is a beautiful place and drive with particular care. Perhaps this is due to the campaign waged by the Isle of Wight's Tourist Board which has successfully managed to obtain for the Isle of Wight the title of "Bicycle Island". In line with such a promotion the Board has produced a small brochure for cyclists which not only lists cycling shops and facilities, but also has several maps detailing rides ranging from 5 to 20 miles around different localities of the Island. Also listed at various places are interesting haunts which cyclists seem to just relish, the enjoyment probably being in actually finding them.

At the centre of the Island is the town of Newport, an old town which, until quite recently, had a market where all the Island's farmers would come with their stock to the auctions held there every Tuesday. Nowadays they have to travel to Salisbury. A stall market exists now on the same day, but for me it hasn't the same appeal. Just to the west of Newport is the village of Carisbrooke which is famous for it's castle; dating from Roman times but more recognisable from it's Norman stonework. It is well worth a visit, taking time to reflect upon some of the things that have taken place here down through the centuries, notably the exploits of King Charles I, supposedly getting himself stuck in one of the windows whilst trying to effect an escape. From Carisbrooke, continuing south, watching the hedges and fields speed by for a few miles is the quaint village of Gatcombe, a location which time seems to have forgotten. Abiding a while longer upon this road and, after ascending the hill out of Chillerton, a swift descent brings the traveller to Chale Green. From there a turn to the left and then, wheeling your way past the Hermitage (worth exploring) brings you to crossroads alongside the Wilderness.

Carrying straight on, the road then narrows and the trees grow to meet each other at their tips, making nightime appear to fall early. This beautiful little avenue is known locally as Beacon Alley. A further mile or so, making sure that you stay on the minor road at the next junction, brings you to Godshill. Here you will find, placed on the only hill in the village, probably the most photographed church in the whole of England. Godshill seems to attract visitors from all over perhaps because of the "Shell Museum", a fine museum dedicated to fossils and precious stones. Magnificent, too, is the display of the Crown Jewels, not the real ones I hasten to add, but the only replicas in the Country.

Picking up the A3050 in the direction of Shanklin it is worth pedalling to a minor turn to the right, a narrow lane that takes you to ruins of Appuldurcombe House, just on the outskirts of Wroxall. This house belonged to a famous family Islanders, the Worsleys. Unfortunately, only the shell of this once magnificent house remains. Dating from 1710 it once exhibited a fine example of regal architecture with it's Corinthian Facades.

Upon leaving Wroxall, turning right onto the B3327, a short climb will bring you to Upper Ventnor which supplies a vista of Mediterranean quality and the impression that you have just arrived at a town in the south of France. Ventnor was once regarded as the "Tropical Corner of England" and was frequently used as a suitable place to convalesce after any convenient malaise, especially by those who needed an excuse to get away from it all. To give Ventnor an added French flavour this town became host to the first "Michelin Classic", a road race for professionals covering a distance of 126 miles, an exciting event, the winning margin being a fraction of a second by Sean Yates from the Falcon team rider. Bill Nickson. Another is being held this year, again centred around the town of Ventnor, though taking in much of the rest of the Island. This is due to occur during the Whitsun holidays. Why not try to get your visit to coincide with this spectacular event and enjoy the hospitality of the Island's cycling fraternity? For the racing enthusiast why not consider riding the "Round the Island Time Trial" course? Starting at West Cowes on the Victoria Parade then proceeding in an anti-clockwise direction, following the coastline as much as possible finishing opposite Osborne House at East Cowes, a distance of 100 kilometres: then reflect that Sean Yates holds the record for this with the time of 2hrs 30mlns 31secs (phew!).

Out to the western extremity lies Yarmouth which boasts it's castle, one that was built by Henry VIII to assist the coastal defence scheme of the period. If you are interested in marine history try and find the, now retired, harbour master Charlie Attrill, himself a keen cyclist, he will be only too willing to relate to you the affairs of this splendid western gateway to the Island. Crossing over the, 100 year old Swing Bridge which spans the River Yar, continue on the A3054 up Hallett's

Shute; to arrive at the town of Freshwater.

Touring cyclists like, to my knowledge, ruminating over things of the past, those forgotten eras. Freshwater is famous for this on at least two counts. Firstly, an imposing house which is now an hotel, the Farringford, which used to be owned by the poet, Lord Alfred Tennyson. You can find this hotel not far from Freshwater Bay. Secondly, about 1/2 a mile from the hotel are two guest houses, Dimbola and Cameron House; these were once one house and owned by Julia Margaret Cameron, a pioneer of photography. It was only a few years ago that some of her work was found in this house, the discovery included a portrait of the Poet himself. Wheeling further westward the wayfarer will arrive at Alum Bay, renowned for it's coloured sands and, of course, the Needles lighthouse. Just recently the Gun battery has been restored by enthusiasts and from this site, on a good day, you can see the Purbeck Hills, and distant Swanage.

If the wind is set in the west make good use of it and return from Alum Bay along the A 3055 the coast road, known as the "Military Road". This road takes the rider along some of the most beautiful scenery the Island possesses. Ride over the Downs of Afton, along past Compton Chine, then the Bay itself. At this point you can enjoy the tremendous sights of the forest of Brighstone, the downs to the north of Shorwell and the fields of Atherfield. After cycling 10 miles from Freshwater Bay the intrepid explorer is faced with an awesome climb to St. Catherine’s Down, a climb of some 600 feet in about 3/4 of a mile. As a tourist you can take advantage of the rest Nature, and Man's ingenuity, has supplied half way up; this takes the form of Blackgang Chine. Sadly, this is falling back into the sea and bears no resemblance to the pictures of 100 years ago. It forms quite a tourist attraction with many interesting objects that formed the rural scenery in a bygone age. From the top of St. Catherine’s Down the view to the west is something I will treasure all my days. It really does defy description.

One of the most enjoyable things about climbing hills is the phenomenon of, once having reached the top, there is usually one to come down the other side. The experience from St. Catherine's Down is no exception, a brisk free-wheel of about of a mile into the village of Niton. From here, especially if you time your visit to coincide with lunchtime, a trip to St. Catherine's lighthouse takes the rider past a 16th century inn, The Buddle. A good meal to satisfy the appetite of any cyclist can be obtained; liquids can be taken on too!

Having managed to sustain body and soul a ride along the Undercliff is one that will be well rewarded. On your left are tall walls of rock. The roadside walls themselves being built from the rocks that have fallen from these cliffs. Trees abound all along this road, the full impact being made on a slightly misty-morning, the sun sinking shafts into the tableaux. Meandering all the while the road finally emerges alongside the Botanical Gardens, as if from a tunnel, at Ventnor. This is a splendid spot to sit and think; to reminisce over how some of the most wonderful things in life are free.

Running along the Island from east to west is a ridge of chalk downs, the views that can be had from these at various points is quite breath-taking. The best way of enjoying these is to start from the eastern side, at the town of Bembridge. Making your way to Newport via Brading and it's associated Down necessitates climbing some more of the Island's ubiquitous hills, starting from the Angler's Inn at Brading with a gradient of 1 in 6. At the top of this point you will receive as compensation, a panorama that includes the Yaverland, Sandown, Shanklin, St. Boniface Down, the whole of the Arreton Valley (regarded as one of the most fertile in the country), then further across to the Downs of Chillerton and Rowridge. About 6 miles further on towards Newport you will come to the pleasant hostelry of the Hare and Hounds. Turning left and a speedy descent will bring you onto the A5056 at the village of Arreton, this village being the proud custodian of a fine 17th century manor house, it itself housing an elegant collection of period furniture.

Wending your way back to Newport, then tracking along the B3401 you reach the inspiring, rustic location of Calbourne, The Mill there, which is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, has a museum which is splendid example of rural life down through the ages. The chalk downs, particularly on the western side, are liberally covered with rich, green forest, a peaceful place to reflect upon the many enthralling miles that you have ridden; again a host of marvellous sights awaits you. The wild life that greets you if you are patient enough is amazing, from finches to hawks, from foxes to red squirrels. The Island even has it's own butterfly, the Glanville Fritillary, it's only other habitat being on the European Continent.

All in all there is plenty for young and old to see and do, the roads to be traversed are unmatched, seemingly enticing you to ride further than you had intended. A superb spot for touring because whatever the location you chose as your base you can never be more than 20 or so miles away from it. A word of warning though, make sure you chose the right ratio of gear for the occasion, I suggest a bottom gear of at least 40 inches unless, of course, you are feeling fit!

Having finished your holiday then the time comes to depart, a sad time where ever you have been for your vacation. Leaving the Island seems to round out the occasion, wrapping everything up as it were, especially as you make that move to get back on the ferry. Standing on the deck or sitting in the lounge as the ferry leaves the harbour, trailing behind it a whole squadron of seagulls, you immediately think of making the arrangements for your next visit.

I have lived on the Island all my life, and as yet, never grown weary of the hills, never feeling cut off, but continually being enthralled by the scenery. Living on an island obviously has it's drawbacks, but the advantages are untold, best found out for one's self. Why not go "abroad" this year for your touring holiday? You will not be disappointed; neither will you have to learn a foreign language, although the Island dialect does take some deciphering. (Nammit – mid morning snack)

Returning to that local folk song:-

It’s the Island, the Island

The Isle of Wight for me

Where the people are born crazy

But the atmosphere is free!

For a copy of the brochure mentioned in the text, please contact:---

The Isle of Wight Tourist Board,

Tourist Information Centre,

You made it this far? My hero and thank you!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

How difficult can it be to buy a house?

We live in a rented house which we did with a view to purchasing it. After living here for while we've come to the realisation that, as nice as the house is and we have loved living here, we would not be able to afford it AND make good all the neceassry repairs. So, we set things in motion to purchase somewhere else.

Being as we're not as young as we once were, financing a deal would be quite hard for a shorter term mortgage. We employed a financial adviser to assist us and back in April he had secured for us a deal in principle. Now the fun starts!

The house we found and wish to buy has been without occupants since November 2010 although it is fully furnished. The owners have fallen on hard times and need the money so you'd think there would be some urgency in selling it (not a repossession, but I feel it was getting close).

I guess with no chain in either direction and a need for money this is about as simple as it gets.

We put an offer on the property, and after a bit of the usual haggling, the offer was accepted.

A couple of weeks pass by as we find a solicitor etc. With that in place we formally apply for mortgage. That, out of necessity, incurs a survey. Nothing wrong with that as it assures us the property is sound anyway. With all that happening it brings us to our holiday in May. Good, we thought, when we come back from holiday things will be in place and we can get our lovely home. How wrong can you be? The surveyor, acting on behalf of the Building Society decided that £4000 should be retained pending certain repairs to be undertaken.

Given that the property is over 110 years old I didn't expect it to go without a comment or two. The Surveyor required an Electrical report and a Roof report to be undertaken. I can understand that he wasn't a qualified electrician and the roof is, well, just old! But in his survey it wasn't those items that was causing the retention... No, that was down to "sub-floor ventilation needs improving". Ho-hum. As the roof needed a report prepared I contacted a friend of mine who runs a Construction Company. I asked him to produce an unbiased report of both the roof and the sub-floor ventillation and also an estimate to make good any problems. His report stated that the only way the ventilation could be improved was the addition of one extra air brick - he issued a value in his estimate - the princely sum of £30. We sent the reports (more of the Electrical Report to follow) back to the Building Society and the retention was removed. So, first failure of The Professionals!

The electrical report. It is not a concept too far removed from any person with some knowledge house wiring that it's a good thing to have a supply of electrictiy with which to test (I know there are ways round this but at least the safety trips can only be tested with a genuine supply). First obstacle. Because of the financial situation of the Vendor the Electrical supply was ony available via a Key Token which has to be kept "topped-up" with funds. This way any bad debt can be recovered and no further debt incurred. Who has this key? Enquiries made to the Estate Agent revealed that it was with the Vendor. Arrangements were made to have the key delivered and topped up with adequate funds on it to recover the outstanding debts! This took 5 weeks! No typo - FIVE WHOLE WEEKS! Anyway, the tests were completed and the results forwarded to the Building Society as peviously mentioned.

This brings us into other areas of this much protracted adventure. Building Societies need referrences from all sorts of 'official' bodies, especially with regard to Finance! So, I wasn't surprised to see that they would enquire of my Employment status. What I wasn't prepared for was the number of times they did this ... that is; the enquiry. My company saw fit every time they replied not to include the requested reference number. Actually, when they did get it right my employer failed to include an all important part of my income! This fiasco continued right up to 8 days before the exchange of contracts! Second failure of The Professionals!

Whilst on the subject of references I'll just include the (still ongoing) medical report for Life Insurance cover. As you can imagine getting further away from youth makes health riskier. So, quite simply, the greater the risk the more you pay. However, as all companies are after your business, it pays to shop around. This was done by our Advisor and set up getting quotes from two companies. We take the cheapest. Well, that started at the same time we applied for the mortgage. Requests were made of doctor and the report is then returned. It's worth noting here the Doctor gets paid for furnishing these reports. We had one quote within 2 weeks of applying the other, well, the Doctor has been reminded twice after phoning at least five times (I'm also aware they receive a reminder letter weekly from the Insurance company as I receive a copy) and as of the time of writing has STILL not returned the report to one company. Let's face it - it can ONLY be the same. We are no different to the same doctor if you get my reasoning. The Doctor has already written it for goodness sake! Third Professional failure!

Whilst all this has been taken place - more to the point - has NOT been taking place the Building Society have closed the case. No enquiry as to what was happening or anything like that - just closed it. Our advisor was absolutely furious! Fortunately, we persuaded them to create a new case but with no charges. I should add - in that time their interest rate had increased by 0.2% Thanks! Fourth Professional failure!

How are the innocents doing in all this? We're just plodding along being pleasant to everyone and putting it down to experience. Anyway, we're not the type of people to create too much of a fuss. Errors happen and as long as we ALL learn from the mistakes all is well and good.

Now we come to the Estate Agent. I know the property market is severely depressed but being that desperate to complete a sale should not result in unethical practices. I REALLY fell out with the Vendor's agent when he kept saying that he was doing all he could to conclude the transaction. It came to a head when he was pressuring our advisor to get things going! I blew my top. The office would constantly cover for him saying he wasn't there or was busy on calls. Any dialogue that took place was between him and Marianne. Bless her. She just asked why he wasn't talking to me about the issues! I could go on about him but the worst instance was his constant refusal to listen. I asked him at one point to let me know when it was my turn to talk! Arrogant little (insert own expletives as appropriate). Fifth failure of The Professionals!

This brings us to the beginning of August and we receive an urgent email on a Saturday evening (yes - I know, I did write Saturday) informing us the Vendor would like to exchange contracts next Friday (12th August) with a completion date of 19th August. Apparently he loses an option to exchange contracts the same day if this doesn't happen. This is the first time we've heard anything from the Vendor and came as a complete surprise that he even had a desire to buy somewhere else. The request made to us was, can we do it? ... Well, yes we can, we've been trying to do it for ages! Exchange of contracts was right down to the wire last week - the reason being the vendor couldn't be found. He's been around when ever we tried to get other things done, usually responding to his Agent within an hour. I'd started enquires at lunchtime but at 16:50 no response from him... even his solicitor couldn't find him. At 17:10 exchange of contracts took place. (Interestingly the Vendor's solicitor described either the Vendor or his Agent as "a most obnoxious person"). Not just my thoughts then! Anyway, excellent news - things are finally happening.

So we await the day of completion. Now, with all this behind us you'd think that there was very little left to go wrong ... read on!

Before you do - let me notify you of one tiny part of the contract - the property to be cleared of all rubbish on the day of completion, that includes a broken down, off the road, Defender 110 Landrover! Becasue of this we drove over to the property on Wednesday evening to see if any progress had been made. Wow! The Landrover had gone, there was a skip (dumpster) full of rubbish and the Vendor was there with a private hire van! This is going to happen.

These were taken at 10'ish the day after "completion" - so I suppose this is in breach of contract. Who knows anymore?

Thursday evening was a sleepless night. Don't know whether it was apprehension or excitement. Either way I didn't get much sleep, nor did Marianne. I decided to take the afternoon off so we could collect the keys together and go to our new home.

With all the buzz that was going on I enquired of my solicitor as to what was happening. Is everyting ok? She had just contacted the building society and the money been released at 11:00 and should be in account within the hour. Good - nearly ours then!


We had exercised extreme patience (I guess you have too if you've read this far) and didn't bother a soul until 15:30... then our patience (probably mine) wore thin so I called our solicitor....


"Your money has been transferred to the worng account. We can't find it anywhere nor can the banks involved - I'm afraid we will not be able to complete today - maybe Monday or Tuesday".... speechless.

I wish I'd have asked where shall we live now? But we still have 4 weeks rent left owing to us so I felt confident about a roof over our heads so the degree of emergency was dissipated. Not ony that - I truly was SPEECHLESS!

The Professionals' failure number six!

Up to this point I have to say our solicitor had been brilliant and I take my hat off to her; she took the blame for this failure when in fact it was the secretary that incorrectly entered the account number. Still - it SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED. Marianne and I should be playing houses not feeling wretched as we do right now.

Every step of the way through this sorry mess we have been compliant and (I think) very pleasant people but we're now at our wits end. It would seem "The Professionals" are just bumbling, incompetent idiots. No wonder the UK is going to the dogs. Just need something to give us a bit of confidence in human nature again.

Thank you for getting this far - but I needed to vent!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

How scarey is your Scarecrow?

This morning, after a lazy start, I received a call from our neighbour. Peter, a retired ranking officer, asked if I'd like to see his scarecrow. Now, he lives with his wife and their dog, Otto, in a small cottage opposite us. I was puzzled as to where this scarecrow could reside but I'd forgotten, as Marianne pointed out to me, that he told us he had an allotment. Now my interest was aroused. I told Peter that I would be about 10 minutes as I'd just got out of the shower - I told you I was having a lazy day.

Marianne said I'd be gone ages if the stories were true about his "allotment parties". I said I'm sure I won't be long as it was chilly still and his shed bar won't be open. Anyway, Peter was driving! I listened to Peter tell me about his very poorly mother who was living out her last days in a home in Cheltenham and whom he visits around 3 times a week. His car is only six months old and his covered 20,ooo miles! Actually, we are reliably informed it's Otto's car. He gets a drive before he has his walks! (Not that Otto drives, I must add)

A few minutes sees us turn the corner to the allotments and we drive up to Peter's patch..... can you see it Barry? Actually, I couldn't and it wasn't for the lack of looking. We got out of the car and there, before my eyes, was Corporal Jones and Private Pike (of Dad's Army fame) sat astride a rather well made replica of a Bofors anti-aircraft gun! I'm not kidding..... I laughed and laughed. Peter asked if I was impressed. I mean, what can you say? It was a magnificent thing and if it were radar controlled would take out any amount of pigeons and crows.

It's just struck me whilst writing this that it can't be that much of a bird deterrent (unless it goes bang) as I couldn't spot it with my naked eye because of the camouflage, battle dress. Peter says he is getting some camouflage netting to go around the base. Hmmmm.

Now, the other, rather colourful device, is Superduck! It's the last line of defence in the Battle of the Birds. We'll wait and see.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Licensed to Thrill

The end of an era. Last Friday saw my last Concert with the HuMSA Swing Band. quite sad in a way but if you read my previous blog post you'd understand why it had to happen. Strangely enough it was my first solo with them in front of a paying audience - just to add to the pressure it was my first concert solo for 40 years in front of a paying audience

My Darling Wife took some pictures of me outside our house - I had this James Bond air about me that needed capturing.

My solo was played on a Flugel Horn which I enjoy playing. It has a rich, deep mellow tone almost dark and mysterious. Needs the right music for it though. Play it too high and badly it'll sound like a strangled cow!

The concert was a resounding success apparently. It was a Cabaret which was another first for me. Can't say it was totally enjoyable for me as everybody was eating, drinking and chattering. Seemed strange to be providing live background music! And boy! Was it hot...... got quite drippy.

Anyway, I made a recording of the concert but, unfortunately, the recorder had to be at the rear of the hall which meant it picked up all the chatterings as well.

If you're interested my solo can be found here - Can't Get Started.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Changing Direction

Busy week and a few decisions to be made. Should I sell some unused camera equipment and fund a better cornet? The results of which are shown here. Silver plated and hand made in Britain! Not much of that these days....

So, what's been happening to result in this?

Do you recall my return to my trumpet playing? That caused me to join the local music school in Huntingdon. HuMSA for short. That has been brilliant for me to rekindle and redevelop my abilities. The confidence I need to play in public has been a different story though. A year into it and few concerts later I still didn't have the confidence I had when I was a pimply youth!

The downside to the music school was having to spend so much of my weekend away from my darling wife. They wanted me to help more and more which ate into more of our precious weekend together. I needed a better means of utilising my time and allow me to continue to enjoy my playing. One of the ensembles I played with at the school was the "Brass Ensemble" - virtually a brass band but not enough players. Boy, do I enjoy that - it has become the highlight of my Saturdays at the school.

After some research I found that the local(ish) Brass Band in Somersham have rehearsals on Thursday evenings. I spoke to Marianne about this and she said it was better for me to be away in the evening as opposed to losing most of Saturday together. I spoke to Somersham Town Band and they were very happy to have me join them. I told them it couldn't happen this term as I was committed to the concerts booked with the Music School. But after the summer term I shall go to Somersham on a more permanent basis.

I went to a rehearsal with them to see if "I fit in" and it appears I do. They called to ask if I could 'dep' in a concert in Cambridge last Saturday. It was a joint concert with the Cambridge University Brass Band. What an event.

Here are a couple of links to some pieces I managed to record. I was too shy to set the device in a more practical position so, unfortunately, there is an unbalanced drum section but I don't think it detracts too much from what was a pleasant sound.

Pastorale - Goff Richards Somersham Town Band

Musket, Fife and Drum - this is the music to the UK TV series "Soldier, Soldier" played in conjunction with Cambridge University BB.

The wierd thing is I didn't seem to suffer the nerves I do when I play with the school - must be the uniform!

Ooh - that reminds me, I've not told you about my old school teacher have I? Next time....

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Card Trick

Sincere Apologies for the tardy attitude toward my blog.... I'll do my best to change!

So much (really) has happened I don't know where to start so, a good thing to do would be to recount the happenings of this day.

It started when I got up out of bed.... should be a painless experience in itself but, well let's just say - it hurt, big time. Mainly because I was trying to 'slide' out carefully, only I didn't realise I was quite as close to edge of the bed as I was so, gravity took over earlier than anticipated. That caused me to scrape my left, outer thigh on the metal bed frame. Now, to save you the agony of doing this to see just how painful this can be, just take my word for it - it is excrutiatingly painful and debilitating. Don't, repeat don't do it!

If that wasn't enough imagine, if you will, the verbalising that is attendant with a situation such as I've described.

Marianne: "What have you done? What's happened?"

If I could've talked and responded sensibly instead of shouting stuff at the top of my voice I might have received the solace that was due me. Rather, I just became the recipient of yet more questions in Marianne's vain attempt to ascertain my condition. That condition was dire..... hobbling around the bedroom with a dead-leg (Charlie Horse I believe it is over the pond) was the only way I could transport myself.

Marianne: "That's a relief, I thought you had broken your leg!"

Visual and tactile investigation (I liked that bit) revelaed a lump the size of the bowl of a teaspoon which was surplanted atop another longish lump (3 inches x 1 inch). I've yet to check the colour of it but can only imagine Technicolor would like it for a test chart!

Moving on...... Shower? uneventful. Breakfast? uneventful. So, we discuss what we should do today. Marianne said there is a load of 'decluttering' to take place. I agree. Two lives of our ages coming together brings with it all matter of things - so much of it lost in the mists of time and is useless to us now..... to be rid of it will be a good thing.

I returned from band practice after dumping the first of the rubbish. It's at this point I think it would be a good idea for us to enjoy a meal together in a country pub.

On our travels to the place I was intending to go, Marianne suggested a little restaurant, The Windmill, just outside of Somersham. Thoroughly enjoyable meal and we shall return - if they will have us!

Just after I requested the bill I told Marianne I needed the little boys' room and gave her my bank card, just in case the waitress returned whilst I was otherwise engaged. I returned and she gave back my card. The bill (check - US) duly arrived, courtesy of the waitress along with some lovely mints. We were sat at a window table and the sun started to shine so we carried on chatting a bit (about 10 minutes).

Marianne: "Are you going to pay so we get home and finish what we were doing?"
"Ok, did you give me my card back? I can't find it"
"Yes, I did. You had it in your hand".
"I thought you had. Trouble is I can't find it anywhere".

I stood up, went through my wallet. Then I went through all my pockets. Then I searched the floor. Followed by looking down the crease/edge at the back of the chair. Marianne looked in her handbag. For good measure, I stood up and performed the same procedure as before in the hope I'd missed a pocket. No - nothing, zilch, nada! All my other cards, a few receipts and a book of postage stamps, but no bank card.

Marianne: "This is ridiculous, I gave it back to you, I'm sure I did".
"I know you did honey. I'm remember fiddling with it whilst we were nattering. Where is it now though?"
"Stand up again and go through your pockets and things."
"I'm not getting up again. People will think I've got St. Vitus dance."
"Stand up and let me search you."

So, there I was, stood in the restaurant being body searched (I liked that bit) in an attempt to locate the itinerant bank card. No. Still not anywhere to be seen.

You can imagine at this time we were becoming something of a spectacle. The staff asked us if there was a problem.

Me: "Don't worry, I can pay but I've lost my card. Any chance it got taken away when you cleared the table?"

The short answer to that was the staff hadn't seen it either. So, I paid with another card and they took our telephone number in case it turns up. I need to phone the bank now in case it's been stolen (there was a large group of people around our table whilst I was performing my stand up, sit down routine) I need to put a stop on the card.

We return to the car totally perplexed. Where has it gone? Was it really stolen? Never mind. Too late now, must call the bank.

I eventually got to talk to a human being after engaging in a monosyllabic conversation with a couple of computers and was given the opportunity to discuss my plight.

Bank: "What have you lost sir?"
"My bank card and my sanity. It's disappearance only happened 5 mins ago but I/we can't find it anywhere."
"Never mind sir. I've put a stop against the card and issued a request for you to receive a new one."

So, completely flat we continue on home, safe in the knowledge my bank funds are safe. But I kept wondering where on this planet could it have disapperared to.

Marianne: "It's not under your collar is it?"
"Don't laugh at me but I've just felt around my collar and it's not there!"

I really did actually look and I can't believe I even entertained the concept that it might be locked under my collar. That lady knows me too well!

Marianne: "How about up your sleeve?"
"Oh yeah. There it is. Well I never. How did it get there?"
"I saw you fiddling with it but didn't fully see you perform your conjuring trick. Because we were chatting I never gave too much consideration to what you were actually doing."
"Do you know, I vaguely recollect placing it up my sleeve thinking I could easily forget I'm doing this. I was so engrossed in our conversation I completely forgot all about it. Do you know what Marie.....? It's all coming back to me now. Yes, I did put it up my sleeve. Oh dear, what am I like?"

We laughed and we laughed. Then we laughed some more. Did I mention we laughed?

What a day!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Razmabaz goes Green

And he's hoping that there will happen to be more red!

When we moved to this lovely house we inherited a green house. Never had one of these before and, to be honest, had no great interest in gardening. That may have been due, in part, to all previous gardening projects taking "Capability Brown" sized operations. Quite a daunting task to say the least!

Well, that was before a particular lady came on the scene who seems to be able to inspire and encourage without you being fully aware of what's going on. (Just for the record, how many of you are now knitting, spinning, batting [there has to be a proper term for this], dyeing, sewing, crocheting or even weaving when you didn't think you ever would?) This is how I found myself buying seeds and a bag of compost.

That was back in late March (I now know I should've started sooner). Armed with all the paraphenalia of an ardent horticulturalist I proceeded to the inner sanctum of the mighty greenhouse. Actually, it's only 8' x 6' but it seems huge when you don't know what you're doing! I placed out all my seed trays and set about planting the tiniest of seeds (excluding beans - they're so big it seems like cheating!). How much is left to chance and nature is amazing. It never ceases to amaze me how it all happens. (Eternal thanks to Suttons Seeds ;-) )

Things eventually happened, and all at different rates. Some shot up in no time, others decided to bury themselves in the general fug of laziness that seems to be known as "germination". Some never made it all.... investigation is called for here. Although, if the little blighters didn't want to show their faces then that's fine by me! We didn't want any Busy Lizzies anyway. I've since found they are notoriously difficult to cultivate from seed.

Reality check
I was driving to work about 3 weeks later and watched Spring 'take hold' of the countryside. All this germination with no human intervention - I wasn't so clever after all!

So, successes? I can report tomatoes are rampant. Petunias (they really are the tiniest of seeds) are making a bid to take over the world. Coryopsis are very pretty. Tagetes have the smelliest leaves (nice pong) going. Beetroot take longer than Mr. Sutton says - but who cares. (Incidentally, did you know you can take the beetroot stem and leaves, cook to eat as spinach?) Chillis grow like mad once the flower is pollinated. Runner beans seem to be incredibly popular and go on producing fruit like there's no tomorrow. Radishes were ok but neither of us like them that much :-( Strawberries were delicious. Working up on how to take the runners and grow even more. Abutilon is a tricky plant that really doesn't like the direct sunlight.

Were there any failures? Yes - but not total. Marianne gave me some seeds and said "You can grow me some natural dyes." Coryopsis was the only one that worked but I think we'd need an acre of them to turn a fleece yellow. Safflower and indigo only just about made it but the safflowers got savaged by an errant dog! Don't ask. - I just hope it turned orange :-p

So, all in all, I have to report as resounding success....... all I need now is the stuff that is supposed to be red to change from that green colour which kids hate. There is an irony here that I'm not about to divulge!