another cruise is imminent

Well, we’re getting ready to go down to Southampton again.  As is our usual way we’ll be staying overnight near the port (the hotel will look after our car for us), and we sail on Friday.

Tomorrow is also George’s birthday, so to pass the time in the evening we have theatre tickets booked – we’re off to see Samantha Womack and Les Dennis in ‘The Addams Family’.  We’ve seen quite a number of good shows in Southampton over the years, so hopefully this won’t disappoint.

Then on Friday we join little ‘Adonia’, a ship we’ve not sailed on before, but one we’re quite excited about experiencing – especially as we have a suite (complete with a butler!) for this trip.  It’s only a week, but we’ll be stopping in Bordeaux and Bilbao, neither of which we’ve visited before.

Anyhow, enough from me – time to get back to the packing!

The efforts in the garden are worth it

The efforts in the garden are worth it

Considering we never got home from our cruise until the end of April, I think the efforts that Deb and I have put in with the garden have been amazing.

The recent torrential rain had washed away some of the topsoil over the potatoes so I spent a few minutes dragging some soil back over the growing plants. It was obvious that some small, but very eatable, potatoes were ready so I pulled one plant and gathered up the creamy yellow delights for our dinner tonight. Deb had already picked a washing up bowl of runner beans of which some will be put away in the freezer, as well as what we will devour tonight. I then scrabbled around in the carrot plot and thinned out a handful that were large enough to enhance our meal. There were also a couple of courgettes of an edible size. The only problem with this vegetable is that today’s little courgette can quickly hide under the leaves and turn into a less than palatable marrow sized lump a day later. There was just one such over enthusiastic beast today, which was chopped and sent to the compost bin.

When we come back from our holiday I think the bulk of our vegetable needs will be home grown, plus a severe number of courgette monsters.

For a pudding I teased out half a dozen of the young and tender rhubarb stalks. Sadly there were no raspberries today. The early and mid-season varieties have finished, and we will have to wait a few weeks for the autumn ones to bring us a further sweet feast. The birds have stripped the remaining black and red currants so our fruit harvest has just about ended for now….except the rhubarb.

Our apple and pear trees look good with lots of tasty fruit for the autumn as well. Sadly the wind broke the main growing vertical branch of one of our trees. It had been supporting the bulk of its harvest, but I am sure it can be trained to expand again.

I only spent half an hour in the garden as I am under strict orders not to do too much. I have over done it this week with lots of digging and efforts to extract the Laurel shrub roots. My back is constantly demanding pain killers and suggesting I take a long rest.

At least I have had a very positive week with my family tree project. After many weeks I have finally caught up with the list of ‘family matches’ that have been identified from my (very distant) relations from around Britain, and several other countries. I had no idea how many of my ancestors emigrated to Australia, Canada, and the USA to become farmers and miners. Now that I have signed off my agreement to these’ matches’, I have been able to start searching properly again.

The enthusiasm has also returned to my writing as well. There are three or four book projects as different stages which have been ignored for many months.

I regularly check my book sales, and look out for new comments. The latest (very positive in the main) feedback have numerous suggestions that my readers would like some new books to read. I have been busy in the garden since returning from the cruise and struggled to find time, and that spark needed to trigger me again.

By the way, we are still getting vast numbers of un-necessary feedback comments on the blog but I would also like to thank Linda for actually restoring our faith and responded with some lovely comments.

Tine to stop as Deb has just made a cup of coffee, plus a slice of homemade cake…..mmmm!!

Time to pay for our TV License

TV License

I have just paid for our annual TV License.

The cost was £147.

Although it is theoretically a license to allow us to watch any of the television channels available – well on terrestrial television anyway – the money goes to pay for the BBC channels.

I like the BBC, as it is was the only channel available when I first watched television, and does not show adverts every 15 (or so) minutes.

This week the BBC was forced to reveal the salary of those people in the organisation who are paid more than £150,000.

The resulting list was rather shocking. I am not going to dwell on the differences of salaries for male and female, or for obvious ethnicity issues, but the pure level of salaries is astounding.

The radio presenter called Chris Evans receives a salary of over £2 million. Some of that is a legacy from his failed short spell as the Top Gear presenter, but in the main it is for his weekday breakfast radio show on Radio 2.

He broadcasts for 3 hours a day, or 15 hours a week, or about 750 hours a year.

There may be lots of other ‘stuff’ that he does to justify his salary, but that radio show is his primary reason for the BBC to employ him.

He earns – no, let’s just say he is given – in the region of £2500 per hour to play music and chat. Breaking it down a little more, that is almost £45 per minute.

My license fee pays little more than the time it takes for him to play one piece of music.

It takes the license fees of nearly 14,000 households to pay for Chris Evans.

Now I listen to his show and find it pleasing to my ear, but can this level of salary really be justified?

Not far behind Chris Evans is ex footballer Gary Lineker who fronts television’s ‘Match of the Day’.

Again he does a few other bits and pieces of work for the BBC, but his main role is to watch football, and then chat to his footballing mates about the games shown each Saturday evening. For that immensely difficult job he rakes in about £18000 per hour of his time on the television.

That means it takes 100 license fees for every hour he entertains us.

I like football, but can see no reason to watch and listen to Gary Lineker. I have heard more interesting discussions about football in a pub.

So, I don’t begrudge paying £147 a year to watch the BBC television and listen to BBC radio, but it is time the BBC opens its eyes to the ridiculous situation it has got into.

It attempts to justify the salaries by saying it has to pay these sorts of figures to get the ‘talent’ required to maintain its high standards, and popularity.

I would suggest that the term talent is not necessarily what they are paying for.

I suggest there are hundreds and thousands of people (male and female) who are sufficiently talented to play music, talk about football, read from an autocue, while looking good, or sounding good.

The BBC does not look for talent – they simply take a person with history, and create a persona that appears good.

…the story of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ springs to mind

If the BBC really believe that they search for, and nurture, talent, then they should go back to basics.

They could ‘think outside of the box’ and search for the raw talent that is available, and then truly nurture he or she into someone who can do the job at cost effective salaries.

There are several examples of talent spotting television shows that have produced amazingly successful people. BBC programmes have created singers, chefs and bakers, and entrepreneurs.

Surely a new programme that looks for radio or television presenters with an opportunity to allow the public a chance to help in the judging would be another success for the corporation. And if the public voted for a favourite, they would almost certainly follow that person when they get their chance in front of a microphone or camera.

Ah well, its time now to stop whinging, and turn on the television.



The Laurel Hedge has gone

The Laurel Hedge has gone

After ten days, my latest ‘little job’ has just about been completed.

The front garden hedge created by a dozen (or so) Laurel bushes has been destroyed and now resides in the local council composting scheme. All that is left are the stumps – and five of them have already been prised from the ground.

The patch of newly cleared soil has been richly fertilised with my sweat.

I have a blooded area on my hand where I punched the concrete wall (twice) as I attempted to rock a stump back and forth and free its hold on the ground.

My shoulder is aching from the effort of using the shears as I cut away the greenery

And the new chain (for my chainsaw) is probably almost ruined

…but I am so pleased to have completed the job so quickly.

All that’s left to do is to purchase some tree stump killer to stop the remaining stumps from re-growing. The efforts to dig and cut-away the stumps from the ground is just too time-consuming and absolutely strength sapping.

Of course removing a hedge nearly a metre deep creates more jobs.

  • I have to dig over and make the soil usable again
  • We need a new shed to replace the existing shed which was hidden behind that hedge. The panels are cracking and falling apart, the roof leaks, and it will never survive a move to be moved to a less conspicuous position
  • Oh, and the greenhouse is also going to be replaced – but that was already on the list of ‘things to do
  • Finally (for now) we have to buy some trellis to be attached to the concrete wall that was behind the hedge….yes the one I punched twice…so that we can grow some climbing plants

Much of this list of jobs will have to wait until we get back from our holiday.

Today (Wednesday) I haven’t done anything physical, and it has been a relief not to stagger around puffing and panting and dripping sweat like a cartoon character.

Deb and I went shopping together this morning for the first time in three weeks. There wasn’t a lot of the basic grocery list, but it was time to stock up on those bits that are needed for our holiday next week.

After lunch I had an appointment with a physio-therapist to see what could be done to reduce the pain from my knees. I expected to come home with a list of torturous exercises, but instead she has made a referral for me to join a class at the local leisure centre for owners of problematic hips and knees. This is yet another delay in the already painfully long saga of sorting out my issues. This referral may not happen for several weeks, but at least I am ticking another of the boxes that patients in this health authority area have to complete before I possibly get to see a consultant at the hospital.

There is just a week to go before we set off towards Southampton for our next adventure on the sea aboard Adonia – the smallest of the P&O cruise ship fleet. We set sail on the Friday, but the previous evening (my birthday) we are going to the Mayflower Theatre to watch a musical called ‘The Addams Family’.

Finally, there has been some rather unwanted activity on our blog page this week.

Although it has been quite quiet for some time, this week we have had a seriously high number of comments.

“Surely that is what you want?” I hear you say.

Well not when they are all Spam.

They all consist of a list of medicinal compounds, various world-wide organisations, and general items of random rubbish. Sadly these comments with the same fundamental content, are coming from various addresses – probably robotic generators.

Deb and I have marked them as Spam but the web site administration doesn’t appear to react to these Spam flags, and they continue to pop up every time we look at the site.

So if anyone out there fancies really making our day, we would love to receive a couple of true comments. We have hundreds of followers, but except for the occasional comment from people about our cruise adventure, there is very little feedback.

We would really appreciate some of your thoughts, perhaps suggestions of what we could talk about, or perhaps just a ‘Happy Birthday’ message for me on 27th July.

…and no, I don’t need any medicinal supplements, or breast enhancement, and I don’t want to sign up to support ‘Women in Power’ or ‘Gay Rights for politicians’….

Speak to you again soon

p.s. yet another Spam comment bites the dust!!!!


Quite an ineresting week

Quite an interesting week

My last post talked about a presentation I did about the World Cruise. Well it has been quite a full and interesting week for other reasons as well.

On Monday Deb cut our front garden Laurel Hedge. It is a bit of a monster of more than 10 metres long, about 2 metres high and well over half a metre deep. While Deb flashed the trimmer blades I did what I could with our long handled trimmer, but it has finally shaken itself to death.

I tidied up the leaves and twigs from Deb’s efforts and used the lawn mower to shred the greenery into small bits that could be disposed of in our waste area. It is no good for composting as the leaves give of a cyanide smell when cut, and I don’t think it will be very good for growing our next harvest.

This amused us for most of the morning.

And both of us ended up exhausted. Deb has long said that she wished the hedge could be cut down, but I have always ignored the idea with fear of another long and difficult job.

Tuesday was the presentation, so nothing was really done. We went for a walk and Deb raised the idea of the Laurel hedges demise again. She suggested a trellis on the brick wall that is behind the vegetation would be great to grow stuff up.

…she is getting serious about this!

Wednesday my new long handled hedge trimmer arrived and was duly tested. Sadly my arms are aching from my efforts over the last few days to do very much with it.

We also had the blinds fitted for the conservatory roof, and they successfully keep the glare of the sunshine away. We can now read our tablets without struggling to find shade, and squinting at the screens.

Friday was the next landmark. After the monthly community coffee morning in the pub the hedge was discussed again.

After lunch Deb took the trimmer to have a go at the back lawn hedge (conifer this time) and I attacked the first of the Laurel bushed.

An hour later the Laurel greenery was strewed over the lawn, and I had the chainsaw out to remove the branches. I even managed to cut the stump to below ground level, and rather pleased with efforts.

This was exhausting…well actually, everything I do seems to be!

Now that the job has started, I am committed to removing the other 14 or 15 bushes before we go on holiday in under two weeks’ time.

On Saturday I removed two more bushes and Deb continued with the other hedge. I now have a pile about a metre high of greenery and branches. These will have to go to the recycling centre but not at the weekend when hundreds of people have the same idea with hedge and lawn cuttings.

Sunday we both rested two days of hard graft. Well almost anyway. I put a load of my green and brown rubbish in a huge waste sack (metre cube) and we took it to the recycling centre. It was packed and took longer than we hoped, but that is a lot of the rubbish gone from our garden.

…oh, and I also cut the lawns.

Bright and early on Monday I started again while Deb was at her voluntary work at the Cats Protection Centre. Another bush had turned to a pile of rubbish. When Deb returned we took another two sacks of dead Laurel to the dump. It was even busier there this time.

In the afternoon I attacked yet another bush and stripped away the green the smaller branches before getting the chainsaw out again.

….the chain has aged and stretched too far, and is so blunt that it rubs the wood rather than cutting it. So that was the end of the work for now with two more bags of rubbish ready to be taken away.

The difference with some of the bushes gone is amazing. The space gained is worth the hard work…I think!

I order a new chain and a ‘bar’ which is the bit that the chain rolls around when moving. That will take a couple of days to arrive, but the timing is good, as rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Over the last few days, I have also been attempting another big push with my Family Tree search.  Each time I discover a new member of my ancestors it triggers other members of the application who are searching for the same name to ask me if my discovery is the same person.

Now, because I have been busy with other things, I had accumulated more than 1000 of these requests to confirm (or not) of these possible ’matches’.  By the end of Sunday afternoon I had ground my way through nearly 500 requests and felt quite pleased.

Late Sunday evening I heard the ‘ping ping’ of emails telling me there were more new ‘matches’ to look at. When I looked at the system I could hardly believe my eyes. The total of matches has risen again because of my activity and there were now over 2000 matches to check.

I am amazed….no, quite angry actually, at how this happening.

Monday afternoon with the hedge project suspended I worked through another 300 matches to confirm which ones appear correct.

It is frustrating, but some of the discoveries are also rather amazing. For my mother’s family (Courtis) I now have a tree going back to 1400, and back even further with some of the blood lines through marriage to the time of the Norman Conquest. It appears that the name Courtis, originated in France as ‘Curteis’, and the blood line involves a number of Lords, Barons, and several aristocratic families.

Sadly I have not been so successful with my father’s family line (Williams) or those in Deb’s family.

Never mind, I will continue with the search, but the priority at the moment is to clear this ridiculous list of matches that need checking.

First time in nearly six years

First time in nearly six years

Today I gave my first presentation in nearly six years since I retired.

It was a short 45 minute talk on our World Cruise for a group of ladies in the village called ‘The Sunshine Club’.

To be honest I have been worried for months about powering up the PowerPoint and LCD Projector, and I found it very difficult to put together a few photographs and patter, even though it was about something I am passionate about, and which needed no research at all.

Having designed and presented technical material for over 20 years, this should have been a piece of cake, but the thought of it made me forget all the experience I have.

In the end the talk went reasonably well, but using the PowerPoint show had become so more difficult as, even with my correct glasses, I couldn’t see my notes. In the end I quickly gave up all the carefully prepared notes and simply chatted over the pretty pictures I have selected for the ladies.

…perhaps I did a lot of that for 20 years.

Anyway the talk was just about the right duration, and no one fell asleep, as far as I could see. Several people said they enjoyed it very much, and afterwards I sat with a cup of tea, and even won a box of Maltesers in the raffle.

I also had to judge a little competition they have each month. Today it was to select the best example of something to do with sailing.

…my choice of the winner was very much a random selection, but I was told it was purely my own decision.

OK, so I have tasted the adrenalin rush of standing in front of an audience again, and came out uninjured.

Does this mean I look forward to another invitation to give a talk?

No, I remember just how happy I was to give up presentation six years ago, and have no desire to do it again…

…the problem is that if someone did ask me to talk about how cruising has brightened my life, and how it has given me so many wonderful memories…

…I just might say yes.

Not what I expected

Not what I expected!

One of our friends (Michelle) asked Deb if we were going to the Ceilidh in the Village Hall.

Some of you may now be asking yourself – “What is a Ceilidh?” and “How is it pronounced?”

A Ceilidh is a social gathering of people featuring Scottish (or Irish) folk music and dancing. It is pronounced as ‘Kay-Lee’ and probably sounds better in a Scottish accent.

I instantly said no as it didn’t sound very enthralling. Michelle and Deb had a Facebook conversation for several minutes and another neighbour joined in the nagging to get me to say yes.

Of course I relented.

So on Saturday evening we turned up at the hall – just at the top of our lane – with a bottle of wine and some cider. A band consisting of an accordion, violin, penny whistle and bass guitar was setting up and several people began to trickle in and fill the seats. Many of the men appeared to have a similar expression to my own on their faces. I suspect they had been similarly cajoled into coming along.

Several of our friends were there, and a high percentage of them didn’t know what exactly we had let ourselves in for.

As the wine began to soften my resistance, the band began to do a sound check with a typical folk style tune. It sounded perfectly fine and we continued to chat across the table of wine and cider. Then they introduced themselves and invited people onto the floor to learn the first dance.

Hang on a blooming minute! There didn’t seem to be an option to sit and watch for a while.

Well, having been instructed in the mysteries of this initial folk/country dancing, the music began and some forty or so confused villagers from deepest Herefordshire took on the challenge.

We reeled, and spun, and weaved patterns to the music that seemed just that little bit faster than we could keep up with. There were many mistakes and shrieks of annoyance. Feet were stamped on, and collisions were common place – but all these disasters were accompanied by laughter.

We completed the dance and turned to return to the wine. NO CHANCE. The band’s ‘caller’ told us to stay where we were, and the second dance was announced and more instructions given.

Once again the confusion, clumsiness, and laughter filled the room, and yes, we were having fun.

So the evening progressed with two dances followed by a recovery break while the band played a tune to listen to, and have a drink.

This was so energetic.

After that first pair of dances, Deb went home (5 minutes away) and changed into something lighter. After the second pair of dances I went home to get a towel so I could avoid my sweat making the floor a health and safety risk.

There was a break for some food and to allow my body to cool down and recover, but soon we were reeling and ‘Stripping the Hazel’ like we knew what we were doing – NOT!

So, the evening went rally well, and although not like I was expecting, it was a success.

The photos (on Facebook) show our inhibitions were gone, we smiled, laughed, and people were truly enjoying themselves. We all laughed at each other’s attempts, but we didn’t laugh at anyone in particular, it was because we were having fun.

Deb and I went home hot and tired and both had a shower before we finished the evening with cup of tea.

Would we do it again?

Probably yes, but maybe it will never be as good as that first one. Apart from a handful of people who knew what they were doing, it was a group of us with no idea of what we were doing while having fun. If we go back with a little knowledge of the Ceilidh dancing, will we try to be better, and lose the fun of naivety?

We will no doubt find out before too many months have passed…..hopefully!