Monday, 30 May 2011

Who Did the Rain Dance?

Despite a very wet and rainy day in God's own county (Yorkshire) this Bank Holiday Monday, it didn't stop me venturing around and about...

Above is a picture taken from the South Bank of the River Humber (which is in North Lincolnshire but looks toward East Yorkshire on the North Bank) as a rain storm is approaching from the west this afternoon around 4 pm.

Just a few yards behind me at the Barton upon Humber - Humber Bridge Viewing Site is one of the many small ponds varying in size which offer a haven for wildlife and leisure facilities for fresh water fishing. (Picture below.) A lovely place to walk with the family.

For once, I've no complaints about the weather and a days rain is very welcome indeed. My friend Barry stated on his Twitter account today that the place smells different after a rain storm, the colours are different and indeed he is right - it is a unique smell. Wherever in the world you are, I hope you enjoyed your Monday. Back to work tomorrow.

Chat soon


Sunday, 29 May 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different

Tonight I have spent the evening with my middle son John and we visited York, principally to see John Cleese in his Alimony Tour 2011 at the Grand Opera House York and have tea in that famous old city at the Ate O'Clock restaurant.

John Cleese is very funny indeed. I have always liked his slightly irascible character and tonight in two 50 minute slots, he merely skimmed the surface of his long and brilliant career. This is called his Alimony Tour because his ex-wife has stung him for $20,000,000 alimony in a court in California, $15 million up front and a million a year for five years. He admits he is doing the tour for the money! This accounted for the first ten minutes of the show and was hilarious in its bitter commentary.

Cleese talked about his early life, his being brought up in Weston Super Mare (bombed by the Germans, he says, to prove they had a sense of humour and where the bomb cost more to produce than the damage it caused) and his mother who lived to be 101. His life in the Cambridge Footlights and the people he met to his being discovered effectively by David Frost who invited him to the BBC for a comedy current affairs sketch show and the rest, they say, is history.

Cleese was/is a complex character no doubt, but a comic genius who wrote some of the best radio and television comedy this country has ever seen and went on to write and appear in many films. He was generous about his fellow stars he met over the years including Graham Chapman, Connie Booth, the Two Ronnies (Barker and Corbet), many of the Pythons and his dear mother a source of much inspiration to his love of psychology and comic material. 

He discussed black humour and why we love it and hate it, and chose clips from his favourite moments in his life from his early TV, film career with A Fish Called Wanda and later television with Monty Python's Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers. He explained comedy and what made audiences laugh and the science behind how you produced comedy that people want.

As an added bonus, Prunella Scales (who played Sybil Fawlty) and her husband Timothy West and their actor son Samuel were in the audience and again Cleese was generous enough to acknowledge her and bade the audience to applaud her which they did warmly.

If I had a criticism, it was the fact that he didn't really talk about his radio career in which he was a prolific writer and performer, but then what can you fit into two 50 minute slots when you have had a rich, busy and varied life.

Worth every penny to watch this comedy genius.

 Tea was at Ate O'clock in High Ousegate in York situated down an alley so nearly missed it. The food was good and because we booked a table for when it opened to get in early, we were offered a complimentary bottle of wine. As I was driving and my lad doesn't drink wine, we had to decline and I was heart-broken.

By the way, the Grand Opera House in York (originally the Grand Theatre and Opera) was built in 1902 having been converted from a warehouse and a corn exchange. Small and intimate, strangely, the seats are small but the leg room is brilliant. Closed for just four years from 1989 with debts, this art deco decorated theatre is a pleasant surprise, comfortable and gentle on the eye.

I hope you are enjoying this Bank Holiday (in the UK) weekend so far.

Chat soon


Friday, 27 May 2011

Impossible Forecasting

What a busy week. Not much time for 'me' this week but there have been some interesting  bits and pieces going on not least of which was a great thunderstorm and rain yesterday (Thursday). 

It has been very entertaining watching some dramatically dark and stormy skies. Sorry about the boring photo.

This provided very welcome water to the ground here and although my grass was just fractionally turning more orange than green, the natural colour seems to have reappeared, well at least for the time being anyway.

The local BBC TV forecaster has a blog through which he has looked at some of the more influential weather forecasters in the world to look at what they predict for the UK summer and predictably (excuse the pun) they are all different. He did this in response to typical uniformed tabloid reports of extremes of weather on their way - a summer to rival 1976, which I remember with fondness for a number of reasons and that included a long hot dry fabulous summer. 

I've often why editors choose this type of headline on a subject which is notoriously unreliable and impossible to predict with any real accuracy because there are literally millions if not billions of local variables which means showers do or don't appear where and when predicted, snow does or doesn't arrive and gale force winds do or do not blow tiles off the roof.

Indeed, why would we want perfect weather forecasting? What would we Brits have to talk about? Okay, I guess if you have a fete planned or a wedding marquee to look after you would want to know what's going to happen, but even if you did, what could you do about it in reality?

There's a bit planned for the weekend and the main task is to get all my plants out of the greenhouse and into the ground. It's the end of May and while frost is not entirely unheard of at this time of year, it's a rare as hens teeth (they don't have any by the way - an American phrase from colonial days.)

It's Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK and sadly the weather for the north east of the UK is not good, cloudy with rain showers - ah well. I don't feel so bad, a colleague has just returned from Greece and they've had a lot of rain and last Thursday they were sat in their apartment with the heating on!

Have a great weekend

Chat soon


Friday, 20 May 2011

Self Propelled Mean Machine

My new lawn mower has lived up to all my expectations. It's shiny, deep cherry red paintwork with black handles, a grass collection basket to die for, a go-faster handle (with a tortoise pace setting if you are tired), round black plastic wheels, one on each corner, oh and it cuts the grass.

There was one shock however. It is self propelled. Now when I saw this on the box I though self propelled meant that I had to propel it myself - 'self (me) propel.' When I assembled it, there were two safety grips on the handle. One is the engine brake (let go of it and the engine cuts out - safety - see?) I had no clue what the other was. 

So I filled it up with oil - bought separately, it doesn't come with any hence a trip back to the shop, grrrrr and filled it up with unleaded fuel, it started first time and it sounded quite smooth and a lot quieter than my old machine. 

'I wonder what this other handle does?' so I engaged it and off the lawn mower went, on its own hurtling off down the garden with me hanging on behind it for dear life. 'Self propelled' means it propels itself. Ahhhhh (light comes on.) However if you want to expend some energy and push it yourself, you can with relative ease.

Now of course it would have been so much clearer if I had read the instruction book, but as the first part was in Italian and as my Italian goes so far as 'Molto Bene pop' (Michael Caine in The Italian Job,) I got fed up and thought I could handle it without reading reams of instructions: how to cut grass, safety guidelines (I've never lost a foot yet) and technical specifications including decibel readings. Perhaps that's a man thing, but it does work like a dream and I didn't run over the cats. 

What more could a man want?

A weekend that's what and the domestic routine continues with shopping, gardening, going to the tip and chilling with a new book for the book club on my Kindle, The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes.

I hope you have a great weekend.

Chat soon

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Bee-have in the Garden

I blew up my lawn mower today. My garden is full of trees and there is the occasional large root that just surfaces in the thatch of the grass and today I forgot that there was one there and the blades hit it, the engine made an horrendous screeching noise and the engine started vibrating and burning oil and drown the garden and me in a pea soup of oil smoke.  I've had this mower about 12 years and I've only ever had two blades on it so it's not done me bad; I reckon around 36 pence a cut since I bought it.

So I've got a half cut lawn. Did you know that people actually pour beer on their grass. It comes up half cut!

My brother-in-law pointed out a curious thing to me today - that none of the hostas have been eaten by slugs or snails. The picture left is an elephant's ear hosta and is mostly scar free. I wonder if it's because we've had such a dry spring that the snails and slugs have struggled to survive?

Now the strangest thing today is that some wild bees have been doing some sort of dance in the garden next to the ivy on the fence. They haven't been going in there so I don't think they are nesting, they just dance round each other in a group of around six or seven, one will fly off and then as one comes back another leaves the group. I captured a poor quality video of this hectic dance, if you know what they are doing, please let me know.

After filming the bees, I sat quietly in the garden for a few minutes, just meditating and cogitating, thanking my Green Man for looking after the garden with the elementals that live there. As that happened, a blackbird settled into the lime tree just above me and began the most beautiful song. Other blackbirds suddenly appeared in nearby trees and were answering with equally as lovely tunes.

I remember going to a funeral of an elderly acquaintance many years ago. There were only about ten people at the burial following the funeral service. The day was grey and quiet. As the vicar finished his prayers at the graveside, a blackbird perched on the very top of the oldest and largest tree in the cemetery just a few yards away and began the most hauntingly beautiful melody. It brought tears.

I've tried to book Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (On Stranger Tides) but the local cinema is fully booked for a week so I'll have to wait a little longer for the Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) performance as well as the brilliant Geoffrey Rush.

I had a Reiki treatment the other day - number two of three. It was certainly interesting - boy I needed it and today I feel much better. Reiki is a marvellous treatment using universal life force to balance your body and mind. I have some issues to resolve and this went some way to lighting the path forward. My Reiki therapist was wonderful and understanding. I perhaps understand better how my clients feel when I give them a Reiki treatment.

Roast beef for tea today.

Chat soon


Friday, 13 May 2011

Roll on Saturday the 14th

My rhododendron has just come into flower.

The Friday the Thirteenth bug has hit me yet again. I did write about this some time ago, here, but I thought I'd share the pain with you dear, patient blogger.

You see, my mother, being a cockney is really superstitious and I guess I take it from her. I have no idea if it's a prerequisite to be a cockney not to want to walk under ladders but I never do.

I'm in a strange mood right now for reasons I won't bore you with. Not, strange-'bad' or strange-'weird' you understand but after a sort of low-key epiphany, I've made some decisions about my future at work which means less of it from next year. Therefore I feel strangely different.

Anyway, less of that and back to one of the unluckiest days of the year. Well it's always a bad start when you run out of tea bags at work and I forgot to take some. A morning without tea cannot be substituted by coffee, which I am trying to cut down on.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I was having lunch with a friend having a serious chat when I cracked a tooth on sausage and stuffing and onion pie and it disintegrated - the tooth, not the pie! Bollocks.

This is the worst one - I have pulled a muscle right at the top of my arm and I have no idea at all how or why it happened. Bizarre, anyway, it hurts like hell and I'm sat here typing with a heated wheat bag under my shirt looking vaguely like someone who's just about to have an Alien explode out from under his shoulder.

So there we are - nothing disastrous, just a series of bad luck things which has prompted me to believe that Friday the 13th is haunting me.

I hope you've had a good week, mine's been up and down but I am so looking forward to the weekend. It's ages since I've done a joke or a list, so here's something that a colleague sent me by text a couple of days ago:

 Are you insured for sex?

Make sure you get the correct insurance for the sex you are having (if you are lucky enough). Please find a carefully composed list of companies catering for most tastes:

Sex with your wife/husband - Legal & General
Sex on the telephone - Direct Line
Sex with your partner - Standard Life
Sex with someone different - Go Compare
Sex with a fat person - More Than
Sex on the back seat of the car - Sheila's Wheels
Sex with a posh person - Privileged
Sex with a cross dresser -

Enjoy your weekend

Chat soon


Monday, 9 May 2011

Welcome Healing Rain

As is the custom on this blog, I say welcome to the 25th follower - a quarter of a century of readers: Hello to Darron who describes himself as a Christian, a father, book & movie buff from the people's republic of South Yorkshire. His blog is here.

The rose I showed you last Thursday is now out and looks gorgeous and has the most delicate and delicious smell. We had a few hours of welcome rain overnight last Saturday into Sunday morning which seems to have freshened things up a bit although we definitely need more - even now the ground is dry, having sucked up all the moisture and the grass seems to have recovered to a more green rather than straw colour. Natures method of healing?

In fact since then (and as I speak,) there have been heavy showers, with occasional thunder and lightening.

It's been the first day back at work today after 9 relaxing, rewarding and chilled days off. I only had 58 e-mails which is a bit of a record for the number of fewest e-mails until I realised that a lot of people like me were also off!  We always think about not really wanting to go back to work - I enjoy my work, I like the people and the organisation and the place, but I have so much else I want to do in my life that I have decided that I'm going to work towards going part-time or job-share in June 2012.

 Of course finances have to be worked out,  standard of living sorted, savings made, but then feint heart never won fair lady, so with a back wind, I think I may well go for it - it's one of many things I want to work toward. Although I don't consider myself particularly ambitious, this is a great time to reassess. No doubt working for a public service, they would be pleased to save some money from me going part time. The problem is that I currently do two people's jobs (my colleague you may remember took voluntary redundancy). I need to 'lean out' the processes I use to make things slicker, quicker and smarter.

Regular longer term readers will know I do Reiki healing as a practitioner which seems to be going very well. A friend contacted me the other day who was clearly not a happy bunny with some personal issues that she needed to get sorted and asked for some healing. Reiki allows (after some preparation) to do distance healing with the permission of the person who requests it. Distance healing can be quite powerful and so it turned out on this occasion, which is important that the person who requests it knows you are doing it because it can affect how you feel.

It would be no good, for example, doing distance healing on someone who is up a ladder because if it makes them dozy or too relaxed, it could do some damage, not through healing but in this case falling off a ladder! But it is so pleasing that checking back with the person after an agreed time that the healing was performed, all was well and it worked nicely. On this occasion she was laid down which is just as well because she said she felt quite light headed for a while after the healing was finished. She is now happy and well.

I hope you enjoy your week.

Chat soon


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Looking Rosy

The constant and annoying easterly wind has gone and although it's cloudy in East Yorkshire this morning, it is warm. A trip to the civic amenities site ('tip' to you and me) sees deposited a few old pans and old electrical kitchen things that haven't been used for donkey's years. Indeed, the cupboard in the kitchen is now accessible without everything falling out every time you open the door. Glass bottles and jars as well as cardboard was also recycled.

The greenhouse heater has been on for a few days to protect the plants because we've had frosty conditions and windscreens have been white over for a couple of mornings. Just as well that frosts are no longer forecast because I've run out of paraffin and the local DIY supermarket has none left even though their records say they have eight gallons.  A search of the warehouse for a delivery of paraffin that came yesterday has proved fruitless!

When we moved into this house 15 years ago, there were dozens of rose bushes. There were twenty alone in the front garden which is relatively small. Those that survived in the back garden had been neglected for years, were old, gnarled (just like me) and unpruned. Some of the bushes were eight foot tall. They all went. Every single one of them. I love roses, but I had to consider my children's safety and some of those roses had thorns that would have ripped flesh to pieces as it did mine when it came to taking them out.

Now I have three rose bushes in pots and they are full of bud. The smaller bush has a bud just showing a preview of the lovely colour of the flower to come pictured above.

It's the local elections here for councillors and we had the opportunity to vote whether or not we want to move away from the 'first past the post' system of (national) elections and move to the alternative voting system (AV). I put my ballot papers in the box exercising my right to vote, something I've always done, then I have a right to moan! Seriously, although I won't say which way I voted in the voting referendum, it is an important choice to make for this country.

I always fancied getting into local politics once I retired from my vocation, but although I retain a keen interest, I have been disillusioned by politics in general and perhaps more importantly by politicians.

I ordered a Kindle from Amazon which arrived on Tuesday last. I am a book lover and have hundreds of books, and that's after a clear out, but I thought it was time to think about reducing costs, saving a few forests and using an e-reader. There are plenty of e-readers available in the market, but I have to say I am mightily impressed with the Kindle. It's light (about the same weight as a paperback) and the screen is one of those that you can read easily even in the glare of full sunlight. There are lots of free kindle books to choose from and the cost of an e-book that you pay for is about half for that of an ordinary book.

The Kindle holds about 3,500 books give or take a few bob and charges up only about once a month which is brilliant. Buying Kindle books is exactly the same as buying ordinary books and once ordered they download to your Kindle in a flash either wirelessly or via your computer USB cable. A reluctant convert.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your week, the weekend is just around the corner and for once, rain is forecast and I'm not complaining.

Chat soon


Monday, 2 May 2011

Branagh's Touch of Class - Thor

Following a recommendation, I went to see Thor last night at the cinema. I sometimes worry about recommendations, you can often end up so disappointed, but no need to worry on this one - it was two hours of entertainment and great cinematography - thanks to my youngest son for this tip. This had director Kenneth Branagh's fingerprint's all over it, quality acting, emotion, humour, production values, a decent story and 3D that didn't distract me from the content of the film.

This 12A rated film had no swearing that I can remember nor was the violence gratuitous or gory. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is banished from Asgard by his father and king, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) after reigniting a war with another race. Thor arrives at Earth (where else) powerless without his hammer and mortal. He has no idea about how to conduct himself and therein lies the humour. His arrogance as a supreme being from his own world works well. He is befriended by a small group of scientists which includes Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard.

The story revolves around his attempts to regain his power, recover his mighty hammer and return to Asgard to fight his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who wants to take over the realm of Asgard by killing their father Odin.

This is highly entertaining and good fun and suitable for older children and adults and gives an interesting if Hollywood moulded insight into Norse mythology. You would imagine that Marvel Comics who produce the film would have run out of new and interesting characters, but I think Branagh has brought a touch of class to proceedings. Recommended.

On a separate note, this morning I awoke to the news that the world may well have just changed.

Chat soon