Saturday, 16 December 2017

Christmas Parties

Yes it is that I that time of the year again and we are dragging ourselves off to the various Christmas parties. Just been to an architectural firms party, great fun and their new offices are state of the art. Beer on tap, snacks and Frank Sinatra singing those old favourites. Well not Frank but someone impersonating him. Trouble with these type of parties is that we only have two hands. You all stand around drinking and eating off paper plates, beer in one hand and a paper plate balanced in the other, but how do you get that smoked salmon and cream cheese biscuit into you mouth without spilling your drink or dropping the rest of the food? I am sure we have all been there and will be again, still makes for an interesting dilemma. 

I find myself drawn to the beach and with that urge, came the rewards of coffee and cake. Walking JB today was a challenge, it would have been fine but the wind was just strong enough to chill the soul. England is in the grips of a cold snap, with the coldest day being recorded today. -3 deg F, combined with the breeze makes it invigorating and one does appreciate getting home to a warm house. 

Getting back to Christmas parties, I do have the Cooks staff party on Friday. Helen is the organiser and because of her genius we will all be sitting down to a 3 course meal. The balancing act not needed on this occasion. I think I will in future enquire what type of party I am being invited too and then if it is a balancing act type affair, I will gracefully decline. 


Have you heard of Brexit yet, seems to be all the news here. Well we are leaving the European Union and going it alone. Could be the start of making Britain great again. Our problem is we have politicians negotiating our exit. We all know politicians can not be trusted to keep any promises and now we will be relying on those idiots to get the best deal without paying an arm and a leg for it. Not going to happen, those French and Germans have a lot to lose, as we and them are the net contributors to running Europe. 27 countries and only 3 are really funding it. I have heard that they want around £40 billion just to start the process. No, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron will not go gently into this goodbye. Maybe we should just walk away and not worry about a deal? Call their bluff and see how quickly they come running to us to renegotiate or not.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Life

Life and this time before Christmas is always really special for me. Christmas movies most nights, alway end happily and full of Christmas warmth. Susan and Robert have a few comments on my choice of television viewing, but they all seem to enjoy them. In all honesty, there is very little on in the evenings, with the exception of reality shows and the normal 'who done it' serials. Strictly Come Dancing a show in questions, I have seen so many and heard all the jokes. I am looking for joy and happiness, real movies with tears and joy. Life is too short to have to wait every week to see what happens in the next episode. 
Changing the subject but have you noticed that most Polish men are rough around the edges, exceptions there are but mostly the rough and tough kind. The women on the other hand are very good looking, well dressed and quietly spoken. The men tend to have shabby tracksuit longs, t shirt and running shoes. Such a remarkable difference but seems to work for them.  

Elbow sang about the time between life and death, can be such a waste of time. I disagree, real life is never a waste of time. I do know that the time between life and death is but a mere twinkle, compared to our universe. Use what you have, waste not a minute and regret none of your failures. Like love, life is never a waste of time.
Just in closing, the winter has  finally embraced us and all the woolly jumpers, coats and thermal underwear have been taken down from the loft and now are our favourite outfits. 
Christmas to most of my family, is in the middle of summer, while we hope for snow and that cold biting wind from Siberia to bring us our memories. 

Exactly one month to Christmas and I will be wrapping presents today for dispatch to all far flung corners of the world. I am a little worried about the one destination, I have sent gifts there before and they never seem to arrive. Oh well, I am sure the thief needs were greater than mine but I still hope he has a very unfortunate life changing experience.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Winter lingerie

Yes the temperature has dropped and we are relying on our central heating to keep us warm in the house but what happens when we venture out? I have resorted to wearing thermal underwear, my lingerie are of the industrial variety as opposed to the fine silk worn by some members of the opposite gender identity. I am amazed at the difference in style between mens and ladies thermal underwear as you can see in the 2 images I have inserted. No flappy Y front for the girls? I did see a fleeting glimpse of myself in the mirror this morning and it is not a pretty sight, no, definitely no, self taken portraits, this is not for the faint hearted.
With the colder weather comes certain advantages, very blue sky is one that I noticed today on my walk with Jenson at the beach. I also enjoy the low sun which never really rises more than a third of the way across the horizon. Everything just shouts take a photo, and with my new camera and lens I have taken advantage of the days when the clouds stay away and the wind is not too strong. I am taking a course in photography and it has inspired me and made me look at scenes, building and people in a very different light.

Taking photos is all about light and what you can do with the available light you have. Once you understand light, the other feature come into there own.  Different aperture settings can change an otherwise boring image into something really in focus, either taking in the whole scene or focusing on the subject and blurring the background. In low light the latter is your best bet as your shutter speed increases the smaller the aperture, f3.5 is the lowest my lens will go. At this setting my camera in low light without a flash is still good enough to take a hand held shot. The minute I increase the aperture to say f100, my shutter speed decreases and with my shaking blurs the picture.
F3.5 setting
This images shows my point off well, the subject is sharp and the background blurred out. Click to enlarge.

Life is full of choices, some are clever choices, others not so clever. Like deciding to give horse riding ago with out taking riding lesson, well how hard can it be? Not a clever choice but reading this blog is a clever choice, filled with the most interesting comments, observations and tales.

Virtual Private Servers (VPS)

We have entered the heady world of acquiring our own server (VPS). Derek assured me we would have total control and would be so much more stable. Well we finally got it setup by our friends at TSO Host, 3 hours it took them and then we were away. Emails moved and lost, Derek was a little over zealous in his enthusiasm, like a child with a new toy. Anyway I set my emails up, or should I say, attempted to. Would not connect, Derek had a go and nothing. Phone our good friends at TSO and we were told that we had made too many attempts at logging in, so it blocked our IP address.
At this stage you must understand that the normal, well spoken and polite, Derek Johnson, was about to explode. I believe his exact words were, 'I will not stand for this poo.' Actually said something like that, but as we have children who read this blog I have substituted with the word 'crap' for 'poo'. 

He then went on to threatening to take our 300 customers away from TSO, bit of an exaggeration as the last time I counted we had just under 30. I do believe that the young lady on the phone, at that stage, would have done a little jig just to see him go.  They do inform you at the beginning of the call that this call may be recorded for training purposes, now that is one call they can use again and again. Excellent training on how to deal with a difficult client without losing your cool.

Needless to say it has taken a good two days to iron out all the problems and after many emotional phone calls to darling TSO we seem to be getting there. That is the verdict according to Derek 
and I am not of the mind to question him, until it is running smoothly.


Our Robert and Victoria are coming down for the weekend, they live up north and will find the climate here so much milder. Susan cannot wait to see her baby and I anticipate the odd discussion on the state of the country's politic and of course Brexit will be dealt with again. Must admit it will be good to see him and as he is only here for the weekend, it will hopefully not break the bank. We will enjoy an ale or two, that I do promise.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Somerset

Decided to take a brief break to Somerset, Chard to be exact. Just around the corner really, took us a little over an hour and a half. JB took the adventure in his true style, made friends in the pub and barked at the wind?
We arrived at 3 and after unpacking, we took to the bar for a sandwich and coffee, also to let JB spread a little cheer by insisting on saying hello to all that entered, almost like it was his pub and they were mere visitors. 
Reception suggested Perry’s Cider Mill for our first sightseeing trip, real tourist we fitted into the role instantly. Cameras posed we took to the narrow country roads like pros. Narrow they were, but faint heart never won fair maiden, we travelled on to finally find this Cider Mill. JB barked at the tractor and I made myself to the shop to taste the wonders of Somerset cider. All in the interests of science and this blog of untold wisdom.

Had a very enjoyable evening meal in the pub, complimented with a fine ale and a log fire. JB slept through most of it.

Woke to fine weather and a full English breakfast and then on to Barrington Court. It is a National Trust property and well worth a visit. We walked for miles around the estate and Susan did some swinging with JB chasing her for a while. It is worth mentioning that the gardens are so well kept you tend to feel like you are in a picture postcard. Google maps took us there via the most direct route and mostly single lane lanes, quite off the beaten track. Interesting but also slightly nerve racking, as every corner could bring you face to face with a farmer in a hurry on his tractor. Never sure if those tractors have ABS braking? We survived but decided to go back via the more acceptable roads, a little longer but much safer.

Afternoon we visited Cricket St Thomas, a huge estate for the more affluent in society. Beautiful and vast, we saw loads of peasants and not much else. Onwards and upwards we decided a final visit for the day would be Forde Abbey. Now this was a great find, lovely pasties and full flavoured coffees greater our arrival and then we set off to see the gardens and estate house. Every corner brought a new surprise and as Susan said, 'This place just keeps on giving'. Wise words and that is what it did, although a little weary from all the walking we had done already, you had to see what was around the next corner. They have a water fountain that shoots the water up 160 feet, as you can see from the photo. 


The estate and gardens are maintained by the owners and a few helper, if you in the area, take a trip to Forde Abbey in Chard, you will not be disappointed.
Woke to rain and with rain comes mud, and JB was only too happy to spread the mud everywhere. The room was a mess within a short while, so we had a good breakfast and beat a hasty retreat for home before they realised the mud was not only on the carpet and bed but included the curtains and the walls. I did leave a small tip on the dressing table for the hard working lady, who seemed to be doing the whole hotel.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Personality

Just thought of something really new, ground breaking, would be a word that comes to mind. More on this later.
The sea is grey and the clouds look cold, long gone the day when the sun gilts off the sea and the sun lotion body's tanning in the warmth of the summer? No definitely the start of winter as I sit at the beach having a coffee and you guessed, writing, all the pentaprism*, what is that? I was typing 'pent up' and the Apple OS predictive text inserted pentaprism*. Sound a rather posh word so let's use it. Anyway, after being interrupted by auto fill we can go back to all the pent up thoughts that crowd my head and need a place on paper. Thinking about it, once I put pen to paper, as such, I find a inner quiet, peaceful and fulfilling.
Jenson is now swimming every time I bring him to the beach, really enjoys the water and is no longer afraid of the waves crashing around him. Still believes that any dog, no matter the size, is only on the beach to play with him. He has been told off by a number of dogs and it does not seem to worry him, just goes on to the next victim. It is a pity they have to grow up but then we all do. That brings me onto my first thought.
I have noticed that all dogs have their own personalities, humans as well. This is a world wide phenomenon and quite refreshing once you understand why people or animals act differently. I will do a little research and send you all a link, so you can read up on this new finding. Exciting, don't you think? 
I love it when one discovers something new. It does explain quite a few things that have been puzzling me over the course of my life. For example, why does Gary always say he will phone tomorrow and talk shit? When we all know he only says tomorrow because he thinks that is what we want to hear, actually he will phone when he feels like it and that reminds me, I must give him a call to find out when his factory is closing. Did you hear, he has bought a new BMW, sounds very happy and says it has a button on the roof that you press in an emergency and you will get armed response, fire engines and sometimes even fighter jets coming to your rescue. Ingenious really when you live in Africa. 
All we need now is a find you phone type facility, so when they high jack your car you can set it off remotely. Like the phone app it will shut the car down and apply the emergency brakes. Great fun if they are speeding down the highway with a big truck on their tail. Hopefully the rear facing camera records the event, just for police records of course.
This personality thing has so many new possibilities.
I see Mark and Claire have been married for 3 years, hopefully it has passed in a flash and be a life time experience. Michael has been away for a year now, to Susan it seems like a lifetime but I am not too sure about it taking that long, seems just like yesterday we waved goodbye to him. Now talking of Mark, well that does seem like a lifetime since we have seen him. 

*Pentaprism is a five-sided reflecting prism used to deviate a beam of light by a constant 90°, even if the entry beam is not at 90° to the prism. Well we learn something new everyday. 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Reliable Cars

Just read the latest survey on how reliable your car is. Toyota scoring well with 90% of Toyota owners having no problems. I must explain, the survey is for a car no older than 3 years and bought new. Honda are unusually below Toyota with 84% happy. Audi come in at 80%, with rivals BMW 68% and surprisingly Vauxhall sitting between the Giants with 76%. Land Rover at one from the bottom of the 32 strong list with a believable 49%. That does make you think, over 50% of those surveyed had reliability issues and it does fit in with what is normally bantered about, if it is broken down it is probably a Land Rover.

Robin Reliant in Claudia Blue
I would expect to have no problems with a car for at least the first three years. My lowly Vauxhall Zafira had to have a new clutch fitted after 4 years but that was a known weakness and was done free of charge. It has had its problems but has never let me down. I did loan it to someone once and he decided to check the oil and water and did not put the radiator cap on properly. He did have overheating and had a long journey between stops to fill the radiator with water. I simple put the cap on correctly and it has never overheated again. Solution is if you do not know anything about a car then leave it to someone who does.

Getting back to the survey, if you believe your car should have scored better, then please write to the relevant authority and let them know, mistakes are sometimes made. I am thinking of those who scored lower then 70%. If you think about it, you have a 30% chance of breaking down if you fall into that category. Sobering thought if it is your loved ones and they breakdown late at night.
This is a condensed version of the full report, most of the car I left off, do not matter, as we will never buy one.

Rank Brand Score
1 Volkswagen     92.1%
3 Toyota         89.6%
5 Seat                 85.8%
6 Honda         84.9%
12 Audi         80.4%
17 Robin Reliant  77.6%
18 Vauxhall         76.4%
23 Mercedes-Benz 70.4%
24 BMW             68.2%
25 Volvo        62.3%
29 Nissan        52.7%
31 Land Rover 49.1%
32 Jeep                42.1%