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Moving house again…

May 20, 2010

Well, the old blog is being relocated once again.  No, I haven’t found a wonderful new blog hosting site or anything like that, Glenda and I have just decided that we want to host our blogs on our own copy of WordPress on our own server space, so we’re going to be moving things around over the course of the next few weeks.

This blog will remain here, but won’t be getting updated any more – I’ve already more or less completed my move to:

so if you’ve got me bookmarked in your browser, now would be a good time to update the bookmark!

When you get to my new blog, you’ll find it already looks fairly similar to what you see here, although the new setup will allow me to do more in the way of customization and tweaking in the future.

Meanwhile, Glenda is still updating her usual blog at:

She will eventually be moving across to, but her new server space is going to take a little longer to set up ‘cos she uses more pretty widgets and gadgets than I do and we’ll need to get all the assorted bits and pieces installed and working before she can move in.  But we’ll be sure to let you know once it’s all set up.

Happy browsing!


A little bit of politics…

April 17, 2010

…no don’t run away just yet – this posting might be interesting for some folks and I promise not to be too boring if I can help it.

Anyone in the UK who hasn’t been in a coma or sleeping under a rock on a remote Scottish or Welsh hillside for the last couple of weeks will have noticed that there’s going to be one of those General Election things on May 6th. As everyone knows, this is the farcical arrangement whereby our political leaders spend a few weeks trying to persuade us that they’re not a bunch of clueless, cheating, lying, stealing poltroons in the hope that we’ll be insane enough to vote them into positions of power from which they will then spend the following five years proving that, yes, well actually they are a bunch of clueless, cheating, lying, stealing poltroons after all.

(As an aside, just in case anyone doesn’t know, the UK is a small country situated somewhere off the western coast of mainland Europe, chiefly famous for a bout of rapid expansionism during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries with the practical upshot that we ended up owning, or at least controlling, large swathes of the rest of the world for some considerable time.  Although, to be fair to us, we did eventually hand most of it back pretty peacefully and we have since allowed everyone else to thrash us at most of the ball games and other individual and team sports that we either introduced or adopted as our own when we were there.)

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, general elections.

As many people may know, the British electoral system (which we also exported to a number of other countries – another deed for which we should probably apologise at some point) is a rather strange beast, involving the division of the country into a number of Parliamentary constituencies (around 650 of them), each of which returns one MP (Member of Parliament) to the House of Commons. This is all well and good, except for the fact that most of those MPs will be representatives of only two major political parties, plus a smaller number from the third main party and a handful of independents and other smaller party candidates. What this means in real terms is that the people of the UK don’t actually get as much choice as the number of constituencies might make you think (this is kind of like the situation in the US with the Republicans and Democrats).

Also, once the MPs are voted in, they spend most of their time toeing their respective Party lines to ensure that they don’t get in trouble with their leaders. Toeing the Party line typically means turning up to the occasional debate, spouting absolutely any old rubbish (so long as it’s the official Party policy), making loud grumbling and neighing noises whenever anyone from one of the other parties says anything and then voting whichever way your Party leadership tells you.  You are, of course, allowed to vote as you see fit – whether that’s down to strong personal beliefs or representations from your constituents – but the unfortunate side-effect of not toeing the Party line is that the leadership will then conveniently overlook you whenever there’s a chance of a nice promotion into a cushy, well-paid job such as Senior Minister for Potatoes (or whatever).  So, if you know which side your financial bread is buttered on, you do as the boss says.  After all, if you get voted out next time around, you want to be sure that you have been in some nice senior position in the meantime so that you can build up the old bank account, stuff your personal pension fund and line up a few lucrative company directorships and public speaking contracts for when you finally get the heave-ho.

This is sort of like democracy, but not quite.

However – and unfortunately for our current crop of political types – the rather large cat has recently been let out of the bag. Pretty much everyone in the country knew, or at least suspected, that our politicians were a bit sleazy and had a tendency to stick both feet in the trough while they were in power.  Over the last year or two though, the precise extent of this self-aggrandizing and pocket-lining tendency has fallen fully into public view.

They’ve been fiddling their expenses left, right and centre; doing anything and everything they could to ensure that they could continue to rake in the cash both during and after their time in power; turning a blind eye to the disgraceful goings-on of their financial donors and assorted corporate chums in the City and the banking sector; and, in some cases, openly volunteering to steer legislation in directions that are favourable to lobbyists and other corporate concerns (all in return for money and more company directorships, of course).  Oh, and while doing this, many of them have been constantly denying that it was going on or that they had, in any way, shape or form, been doing anything wrong. Except that they’ve been caught red-handed and we all know about it now.

Not surprisingly, they’re not a particularly popular bunch with the British people at the moment. And it’s going to take an awful lot of doorstep glad-handing, incompetent Facebooking, tedious Twittering and cringeworthy live TV debating to turn that one around.  All of which got me thinking…what would I really want from our political leaders?  What do I want the next Government to do with their five years in power? And I came to a terrible realization.  While it is true that I have a pretty low regard for politicians as a general species (see most of the above, for example), I do – in my heart of hearts – actually want them to get it right!  I want this country to have a strong and competent Government.  I want the people in charge to do the right things at the right time, as far as possible.  But, given what we’ve seen over the last couple of years, there’s obviously a lot of ground to make up here so we’ve got to start with the basics.

So, to start the ball rolling, I give you my Open Letter to All UK Political Parties and Candidates. This isn’t just for one or two parties, or one or two people, it’s for all of them.  Yes, they’re the Thoughts of Chairman Adrian (if you will), but I think they’re all generally good ideas and if our politicians adopted some, or all, of them they might find that the people of the UK become a bit better disposed towards the people in power.  (Warning, there will be lots of exclamation marks in what follows.  It will look a bit shouty.  Perhaps it is…)

  1. Stop Lying! When you’re asked a difficult question, don’t weasel around trying to massage it into something that you can fit around your current Party dogma.  Don’t try to dodge it and blame the other party or the last Government or the state of the world economy or the mythical King of the Potato People.  Just answer the damned question!
  2. When you do something wrong, admit it and apologise! When your lack of real-world experience places you in the position of not knowing what you’re doing and you then make some kind of stupid decision that causes social, economic or environmental problems, be prepared to admit it!  Say you’re sorry, that you made a mistake and that you will try not to be so stupid again.  If it’s a really major cock-up, then by all means resign, but most importantly just accept that you screwed up and say sorry! Don’t try to blame the other party, or the last Government or some unsuspecting civil servant or minor official – just own up to your own failings and apologise!
  3. Don’t fiddle your expenses and payments! Look, you’re already being paid two or three times the average national wage for doing what you do (and that’s if you’re just a basic, back-bench MP – if you’re something more senior, you’re already raking it in compared to most of the people who live in this country). On top of that, there are all kinds of legitimate expenses that you can claim – some of which you probably shouldn’t be able to, but I’m prepared to overlook all that if you just claim what you’re entitled to and don’t try to fiddle the system for all the extras!  And while we’re on the subject, when you’re interviewed on the TV and radio about the expenses fiddling, don’t try to justify your pilfering tendencies by saying that MPs are poorly paid.  Like I said, you’re already paid far more than most people in the UK and you even get to vote your own pay rises every year – so don’t have the out-and-out gall to say there’d be less expense-fiddling if you were better paid!  It’s not true in any real sense and is offensive to lots of people who earn a lot less than you do (and, in many cases, do much more important jobs and do them a damned sight better too)!
  4. Represent the best interests of your constituents and the country as a whole! Don’t just toe the dogmatic Party line – accept that criticism can be constructive, even if it’s coming from the other side of the political divide.  Yes, there will be times when your critics are disagreeing with you because they’re trying to score some kind of political point, but there will also be times when they’re disagreeing with you because what you’re trying to do is stupid, pointless or just plain wrong! And don’t just listen to one-issue pressure groups or jump to whatever cuckoo tune the media are currently playing.  Think about what is the right thing to do – not the one that shuts up the noisy minority, not the one that keeps you “on-side” with the Party hierarchy, but what is morally, economically and socially right for the majority.  Even if that means disagreeing with your own Party faithful or accepting that you might need to change your own mind over an issue, rather than ploughing on in a spirit of sublime, overweening arrogance.  Just try to do what’s right to the best of your knowledge and ability.
  5. Party leaders – don’t criticise, ostracise or sideline MPs or other Party members if they’re not toeing the Party line.  See the point above and realise that, sometimes, the people who are disagreeing with you might be doing so for very good reasons and you should, perhaps, take a closer look at what they’re saying.  Particularly if they’re members of your own Party!
  6. Accept that, sometimes, you will have to do unpopular or difficult things.  Taxes may sometimes have to rise or services may have to be cut or awkward decisions may have to be taken.  When those times come, just do it and explain clearly why you had to do it.  Don’t blame everyone else and don’t try to weasel your way around it by trying to hide the facts.  Just be straight with us.  In particular, don’t deny what you’re doing or say that you’re never going to need to do it because  you’ve got a pocketful of magical beans that can make all the nastiness go away.  Life isn’t like that and no-one will believe you if you try to tell us it is.  We’ll be more accepting of you if you’re honest and admit that it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped and that we’re going to suffer some inconvenience while you’re sorting it out.
  7. Finally, and I know I’m repeating myself here but this one is really important, STOP LYING (see point 1 above).

Now, I can probably think of a few others, but I reckon that’s enough to be going on with.  What do you think?

This is probably some kind of record…

March 24, 2010

Even by my intermittent and random standard of blogging, nearly eight months between posts has got to be a record. Not a very good or enviable record, I grant you, but a record nevertheless.

For my eager blog followers (both of you, or is it just the one now?) I apologise for the extended leave of absence. If you also happen to follow Glenda’s blog, you will know that the last eight months couldn’t exactly be described as a time of relaxation and hedonistic, idle leisure around these parts.  There have been lots of busy and complicated things happening at work (which seems to be the normal state of affairs there); more than a little time has been spent caring for my elderly parents (particularly since the beginning of 2010); the normal day-to-day stresses and strains (and outright sprains in the case of my right knee) are with us as always; and, over the last couple of weeks, a wave of profound sadness has visited the house.

We are still coming to terms with the loss of Glenda’s Nanna.  She was a gracious and charming lady, with a fantastic sense of fun and humour, and she had a serenity and a calm, gentle wisdom that very few people in this modern world of ours ever seem to achieve.  I am so glad that I had the chance to get to know her, even if only a little. My life is a better one for having met her.

At the same time, we have said goodbye to a rather smaller soul, but one who was also very dear to our hearts, our Basil cat.  If you’ve been around here before, you’ll know that we lost his brother, Sesame, to Feline Leukaemia Virus in November 2008. At that time, a short poem came to my mind and, although it probably has no literary merit to speak of, I put it out there for all to see.  Not sure why.  Perhaps as some kind of memorial?  Perhaps because I just wanted to write down the words and know that they were out there.

Anyway, I was kind of expecting, or hoping, that something similar would happen when the time came to say goodbye to Basil.  In Sesame’s case, the words just appeared in my head the following day and that was that.  When the same thing didn’t happen with Basil, I felt strangely disappointed.  Almost guilty even.  It seemed like I was letting him down, not coming up with some silly little verse straight away.  Of course, I should have known better – these things happen in their own time.  For Sesame, the right time was there and then, almost immediately.  For Basil, and with all of the other things that have been going on, it took a week or so, but the words finally arrived.  Again, it’s a simple bit of sentimental doggerel, not in the best of poetic shape and rough around all of its edges, but it’s from the heart and it sort of brings an end to the story.  So forgive me for once again foisting upon the world my poor attempt at poetry, but it’s all I’ve got left to say for now.

How soon the time has come again
To do what’s right and bear the pain,
To end your hurt and say goodbye
And leave your spirit free to fly.

Free from illness and disease;
Free to go now as you please;
Free from bonds of flesh grown weak;
Free to find the peace you seek.

While we remain and carry on
And feel the spaces where you’ve gone
And think of you with aching heart
And wonder why we had to part.

But knowing still we did the best
We could to give you peaceful rest.
A passing gentle and serene
And softer than it might have been.

So thank you for your life and light
Your love and spirit, warm and bright
And when you see your brother one day
Please wait for us to come your way.

RIP Basil Cat (1996-2010)

And on that rather sorrowful note, I’ll end with a couple of little promises.

First of all, I will try to post something else to the blog at least once before this year is out.

Second, and when I do post something again, I’ll try to make sure it’s funnier and lighter than this one.

I promise.

Orlando, Florida, oh dear…

August 3, 2009

Way back in the mists of time (well, slightly way back in the mists of time) when McEwans Best Scotch was one of the more popular beers in the North-East of England, Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, who brewed that particular beverage, ran a series of TV adverts extolling the virtues of their dark and flavoursome beery product.  Some of you out there may remember them, particularly this one, in which our hapless Geordie heroes find a trip to the United States sadly lacking in their drink of choice.  Now, rather than this being just a trip down memory lane for those of you who are fond of the history of TV advertising, I would specifically like to draw your attention to the first line of the advertising script: “Florida’s horrider than Whitley Bay…”

Although the advert itself was a bit crass and rather silly, I will admit that I did find it funny at the time (well, a little bit) and I didn’t give a second thought to any fundamental truth that it may have contained.  However, having just returned from a week in Orlando where Glenda and I were attending the CHA Summer Convention, I now know that the advertising agency behind that particular little gem were unwittingly preparing me for events in my future.  ‘Cos Florida is, indeed, horrider than Whitley Bay.  Or, at least, those parts of it in and around Orlando are.  The whole area has become one gigantic tourist trap, blighted by the all-consuming, rapacious greed of the Disney corporation, Anheuser/Busch and Universal Studios.

Of course, if you’re planning on hitting all the theme parks and have children the right age to enjoy their entertainment with extra spoonfuls of Disney sugar, then it will probably be just the ticket and give you a holiday to remember.  But if you’re a sad, old curmudgeon like me who likes the quieter life and generally prefers the real world to the artificial (Las Vegas excepted), then I can’t recommend it.

The really weird thing is that, thanks to the CHA Winter Convention, I have also spent some time in close proximity to the other major Disney theme park at Anaheim in California.  I have also, many years ago, visited the SeaWorld theme park in San Diego.  And, somehow, these two just seem to be, well, nicer than the ones in Florida.  I don’t know whether it’s because the Orlando area seems to be so focussed and built around tourism, while both Anaheim and San Diego have far more to them than just the holiday market.  Or perhaps it’s something else altogether, but, whatever it is, I really do prefer the US West Coast venues to the East Coast ones.

The other weird thing is that Orlando has the second largest convention centre in the US, which is presumably why CHA decided to hold their Summer Convention there, but as a business traveller I have to ask them (and anyone else who organises a convention there) what on Earth they thought they were doing?  As a business travel destination, I’m afraid that Orlando really does suck!  Since most of the hotels are geared up for the tourist market, it can be a challenge finding one with the right facilities for a business trip and with the chance of getting enough rest, peace and quiet when you’re not working.  Unless you want to pay a fairly obscene price and, even then, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get a restful stay.

Car hire can also be problematic.  For previous visits to the US, we have either booked a hire car online before travelling, or we have booked one at the airport or at the hotel once we got to our destination.  On this occasion, we decided to get the car once we arrived in the US.  Every other time in every other city we have visited, this hasn’t caused any problems and things have gone swimmingly – often getting us cheap upgrades to ludicrous SUVs or allowing us to find dependable local hire companies  that offered excellent rates.  This time around, however, the whole thing proved to be a nightmare.  Arriving at the airport on the Saturday afternoon, there were long queues at the airport car hire desks, except for Enterprise.  When we approached the nice man at the Enterprise desk, he explained that there was no queue because he had no cars left – all his vehicles were already reserved. OK, we thought, no problem, we can’t be bothered to join any of the other queues, so we’ll just take a taxi to the hotel and sort out a car tomorrow.

As plans go, we didn’t see any problems with this until the following morning when we tried to get a car.  Alamo?  All booked out, no cars all week.  National? All booked out, no cars all week.  Avis?  All booked out, no cars all week.  Hertz?  All booked out, no cars all week.  Thrifty?  All booked out, no cars all week.  Dollar?  You guessed it – no cars all week.  Finally,  and with some assistance from the hotel desk staff and concierge, we managed to book a car with an outfit called EZ rent-a-car.  It cost us 85 bucks a day, plus 20-odd bucks a day collision damage waiver, to get a rather tired Hyundai Sonata with cigarette burns in the upholstery, no driver’s sun visor, a passenger sun visor that wouldn’t stay either up or down and a small collection of dents and scratches here and there.  But at least it worked and drove properly, had working air-con and – as we discovered when we got to the desk to sign the paperwork and pick it up – we had managed to get in under the wire just before EZ hiked their rates up to $250 a day because they were the only people who had cars left in Orlando, so they were going to make the most of it.  Yes, really – the lady on the desk told us that herself and congratulated us on having booked the car online earlier that morning before the rate went up.

So, if you’re going to Orlando at this time of year – make sure you book your hire car in advance before you go!  Unless you fancy paying lots of taxi fares or are staying in one of the Disney hotels and don’t plan on leaving the resort much.

Meanwhile, the Florida weather is a creature of extremes.  It’s very hot and usually very humid.  The humidity doesn’t only make it seem even hotter, it also contributes to some spectacular thunderstorms – presumably caused by convection as the sun beats down on the various rivers, lakes, streams and swamps that can be found dotted around the state, not to mention the Atlantic to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west.  I think we actually had one of these humongous, rumbling tropical downpours every day during our stay – sometimes around midday or early afternoon, sometimes later in the afternoon or the early evening.  But always amazing to watch and always absolutely torrential.  So don’t forget your umbrella, or remember to stay indoors if the sky starts looking a bit ominous.  If you like thunder and lightning (as Glenda and I both do), the storms are a great sight.  But they’ll soak you to the skin in no time flat if you’re caught out in them and they’re slightly unpleasant to drive through if the roads are at all busy.

OK, by this point, you’re probably all thinking “Why doesn’t this whinging old fool just shut up if he’s got nothing positive to say?”  Which is fair enough, so I do have some positive points to mention.

First of all, the Floridian accent is wonderful – a little bit of a Southern drawl, but not as laid-back on itself as, say, Texan.  Also, most of the Floridians that we had any contact with (which, to be fair, largely meant waiters and waitresses, hotel and shop staff on this trip) seemed to be pleasant and warm-hearted people – I don’t think we encountered anything that we could describe as really bad or poor service anywhere.

Florida also has one of the most wonderful little museums in St Petersburg (near Tampa) – the Salvador Dali Museum.  We took a drive down to Tampa on Thursday, planning to have lunch somewhere on the coast near Clearwater and then visit the Dali in the afternoon.  As it turned out, the trip to the coast was a little disappointing – most of the coastal area around Tampa has been built up with rather tacky looking resort hotels and retirement condominiums so we failed to find any likely looking cafes or bars for our lunch.  We also had a bit of a fun time actually finding the Dali museum itself, although that was largely a lack of adequate planning on our part. However, once we had put paid to a late lunch at a nice eatery called BJ’s on a shopping mall at Pinellas Park just north of St Petersburg and also acquired a map of the local area from a Target supermarket, we made our way to the museum.  Thursday is a good day to visit as it is open late (until 8 p.m.) and, if you arrive after 5:00 p.m. (as we did) it only costs $5 each to get in.

So we had a wonderful couple of hours looking at some of the amazing works of one of my favourite artists.  Although his most famous pieces aren’t there (e.g. The Persistence of Memory is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, while The Metamorphosis of Narcissus is in the Tate Collection), there are still some fantastic paintings and sketches at The Dali, including works such as The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (The Dream of Christopher Columbus), which is huge; Hallucinogenic Toreador, which is also huge; The Ghost of Vermeer Van Delft Which Can Be Used As A Table, which is really tiny; The Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, which is just a wonderful bit of visual trickery; Apparatus and Hand, which is just plain weird; and several others, all of them highlighting not only Dali’s extraordinary imagination, but also his incredible level of technical ability.

After all that, even driving back through the regular Florida thunderstorm didn’t feel all that bad and we finished off the night with a meal at The House of Blues (our only serious expedition into the realm of Downtown Disney). Which reminds me – another positive thing about Florida was the food.  As with most American cities, there is always good food to be had – although on this occasion, we mainly stuck to the major chains (TGI Fridays, Cheesecake Factory, etc.)  So that was nice.

Other than that, there’s not a lot to report.  Well, aside from the poor chap who passed away on the flight home just across the aisle from Glenda and myself.  And the world’s worst and slowest moving queue to get through UK Passport Control when we got back into Manchester.  But I think I’ll save those stories for another day.

As for Florida, and to return to our long-lost TV ad, I suppose I’ll have to finish with: “The States?  Nice place, shame about Orlando…”

Yet another change of theme…

July 12, 2009

To commemorate the first new thing to appear on this blog in about three months (yes, I know, I’m maintaining my usual high standards here when it comes to frequency of posting), I’ve changed the theme slightly.  Not that there was anything wrong with the old one, I just felt like having a bit of a re-arrange.

(OK, so the truth is, I was trying to find one that looked like it was all covered in dust and cobwebs, but I couldn’t…)

Anyway, there have been so many things happening in the world since I last scribbled my ramblings around here that it’s difficult to know where to begin.  On the home front there have been fun adventures with a JCB mini-digger and barbecue parties (see here).  On the work front there have been lots of new stamps and other interesting goodies (see here, here and here).  And out there in the world at large, we have all continued to deal with the ups and downs of a rather shaky economy; we in the UK have discovered that our elected political representatives are a bunch of money-grubbing, corrupt, expense-fiddling liars  (anyone really surprised there?) and umpteen other things have started up, broken down or otherwise just continued going on as they were.

As for today, I am currently taking it easy at home before popping over to my Mum and Dad’s place this evening to check up on them and make sure that they’re OK.  My Dad hasn’t been too well over the past week and Tracy (who normally keeps an eye on the folks) is away this weekend, so I’m on duty again at the moment.  Thankfully, it looks like Dad is pulling round and feeling a bit better now than he did a couple of days ago.  But, unfortunately for me, I was over there this morning and, while helping Mum out of a chair, I got a little careless with the way in which I was taking her weight and I have managed to slip the dodgy L5 disc in my back yet again!  (This is the third or fourth time in the last three years – and as anyone who has suffered from a slipped disc will know, each time that you do it again, it’s a bit worse than the time before.)  So at the moment, I am suffering from a some minor agony in my lower back and tending to walk rather like the Mrs Overall character that Julie Walters used to play in Acorn Antiques.  (Those of you who remember the character will undoubtedly also recall the time that Julie Walters played a similar role as a waitress in a restaurant sketch and will understand why I get the urge to say “So that’s one…soup.  And…another…soup…” while I’m slowly hobbling around the place in a slightly hunch-backed fashion.)

Still, apart from that, everything’s not so bad.  Now all I have to do is remember to keep popping in here more often than once a quarter…

What a beautiful day!

April 12, 2009

I hope that everyone out there has had a day like ours today.  The weather has been absolutely glorious.  So much so that Glenda took a short break from preparing her artsy-craftsy demos for the next TV show and we sauntered out into the garden for a while.

Having popped out to Eggleston Hall Gardens for lunch last Sunday and relieved their Garden Centre of some tulips, pinks, fritillaries, a Spiraea of some sort and a few other things the name of which escapes me, we spent a couple of hours today digging holes in one of the borders in our front garden and introducing the new flora to its new home.  Along the way, various bits of weeding, pruning and clearing up were done – although we’ve only just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to that job!  There must be about a dozen different clumps of weeds, grass and assorted self-seeded beasties for every single plant that is supposed to be in there.  Still, that’s gardening for you I suppose.

Now, having said all of that and (possibly?) coming across like some kind of ersatz Alan Titchmarsh who spends many a spare hour in his potting shed or up to his elbows in a bag of John Innis, I must be absolutely honest about this whole gardening lark and let you all know the rather unfortunate truth.

You see, the usual routine when Glenda and I fill up with the joys of Spring and get the urge to buy some new plants for the garden is that we go out and spend our hard-earned pennies on various pretty floral wotnots.  The poor plants then come home with us and sit around somewhere out the back of the house until they  either expire from being totally potbound and strangled by weeds, or they just succumb to drought and general neglect before we ever get around to planting them out.  All of which is a terrible confession to make (particularly to any real gardeners who might be reading this), but it does reflect the somewhat chaotic nature of our lifestyle at times.  It also highlights the fact that the best laid floral plans of mice and men can gang aft agley if you don’t make the time to act on them properly and promptly.

So, today, for once, we made the time and enjoyed a couple of hours of determined pottering of the gardening sort.  And it was absolutely lovely – even for me (and I’m speaking as a hayfever sufferer here).  We had only been out there for a short while when we were joined by the feline master of the house, the noble Sir Basil.  He strolled by, checking what we were doing and making sure that we weren’t disturbing any of his favourite sunbathing spots.  He then wandered nonchalantly down onto the lower level of the front lawn and sprawled on the grass for a while – half in and half out of the sunshine.  Where the sunlight caught his fur, he was transformed from his usual pitch-black self into a rich, dark chocolatey brown – sort of the colour of Green and Black’s organic dark chocolate – but with one or two darker or black patches where his fur was turned against the light.  Of course, he knew full well that he was being particularly elegant and beautiful, which just made him laze around and enjoy the sunshine even more.

As for the staff (i.e. Glenda and I), we had a slightly bittersweet moment when we thought how much Sesame would have loved it too.  Both he and Basil always seemed to enjoy it if we went out into the garden with them.  Something about joining them in their territory and all enjoying the fresh air and sunshine together perhaps.  In any case, Ses would have absolutely loved our little spell of gardening today and would have been lying around on the grass and chasing the occasional twig (so long as he was sure that no other neighbourhood cats were around to see him being kittenish – got to keep up appearances you know!)

Fortunately for us, Basil was prepared to stand in – at least as far as the lazing around was concerned – so the bittersweet smiles were soon transformed into purely sweet ones as we continued getting our hands all muddy (well, in my case anyway – Glenda grabbed the gardening gloves before I could get to ’em).

Now, judging by the amount of weeding, pruning and general tidying that is still to be done, I reckon that if the weather holds and we manage to put in a couple of hours every Sunday, we’ll have the whole place looking absolutely amazing in no more than, oh, eight or nine years perhaps?  Oh well…

(And yes, at various points during the above there really should have been some photos, but in my usual well-organised manner, I very efficiently left the camera in the house and forgot all about the possible photo opportunities while I was working.  Some photos of the fritillaries – a flower that Glenda and I both adore – have since been taken and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them cropping up on Glenda’s blog at some point in the near future.  And I promise to remember the camera next time, honest.)


April 11, 2009

Look at all the dust and cobwebs around here.  Looks like no-one’s been around for weeks.  Jeez, there’s even a little spider living under some of the unused vowels…

Yes, I’m still alive and – as you can no doubt tell – maintaining my usual high standards when it comes to blogging on a regular and frequent basis.  (Even the cat has been blogging more recently than I have – see?)

I do, however, have a good excuse.  We’ve been particularly busy at work and, as well as the accounty, computery stuff that I usually do, I have been helping out in the production department, keeping the presses running and shipping new rubber stamps out to eager crafters here, there and everywhere.  As mentioned in my previous posting, we’ve also had a major re-arrange in the warehouse, with umpteen bays of brand new hi-rise shelving being built and installed, all the existing shelving being moved around to make space and all the stock stripped out and then replaced in a more consistent order.  That all involved a few days of very hard work on the part of everyone involved, but it was well worth it.

Anyway, the practical upshot of all this manic activity is that the old blog has been left to look after itself for a few weeks.  And you know what?  The useless flaming thing didn’t write a single word itself!  Harrumph!  Just can’t rely on these computers to do anything useful, can you?

Oh well, at least I’ve finally managed to grab a few minutes to pop by and clean the place up a bit.  And as soon as I’ve thought of something useful or interesting to write about, I’ll pop back again and say it.  But, in the meantime, there’s a Dr Who special to catch on The Beeb.  (OK, OK, we’re all allowed to be a little bit of a saddo now and again, aren’t we?)