No, not your blog of course. I concede that your posts are succinct, insightful, humorous and well worth reading. That is why I would appreciate it if you could spare a moment to cast your eye over my efforts and let me know how I can encourage people to read it. On the other hand it may be the most boring blog, someone's has to be.

Newark market place

Newark market place
Newark market place dull Saturday morning

Newark Church

Newark Church
Two residents at the weir

Snowy Dry Doddington

Snowy Dry Doddington
Snow on the road to not very Dry Doddington

Raleigh Runabout RM6 Refurbished

Raleigh Runabout RM6 Refurbished
Look for the "before" in the blog post

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Cataract Three

Back to opthalmology outpatients last week for my post operative assessment. Following an eye test I sat, comparing notes, with the patients who had been operated on the same day as me. My turn came to see the doctor and I told him that my eyesight had been improved a great deal by the procedure but I would not be able to see without my glasses (as had been suggested by the surgeon who had carried out the op). "Oh no David, your eyes are fine now. You can leave the glasses off and you just need reading spectacles. Your other eye doesn't need doing yet so we will discharge you."
I leave the hospital and walk into town without my specs. It feels really odd and I'm not sure I feel safe without them. Is it psychological, I still haven't decided. I'll let you know how I get on.
The moped at the top of the page is a 1965 Raleigh Runabout RM6 which I have had for about nine months and am now renovating in my usual penny pinching way. Just think the Beatles (and myself) were just coming into their prime when the proud first owner wheeled it on to the street and popped away.
Right now better get ready as off to Leigh on Sea to visit my daughter and family and the Hackney Slasher for a couple of days. As they say these days "speak to you soon".

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Cataract Two

As an unreconstructed hypochondriac my initial euphoria at getting past the operation soon gives way to the jitters. This is mostly fuelled by a combination of:

  • Too much time on my hands as I am off work recuperating.
  • Access to medical sites on the Internet.
  • Sometimes conflicting information on these sites.
  • A little knowledge but not enough.
  • A fertile imagination.

So by mid afternoon yesterday I had concluded that my continuing blurred vision (which can be quite normal) was evidence of a problem. This view was reinforced by the fact that my pupil appeared to be refusing to return to it's normal size. Susan, my wife is used to my health panics looked bored and told me to ring the hospital. Probably on the grounds that this might stop me going on to her all night rather than because of any real concern. I rang the hospital.

"Is your pupil stuck or opening and closing even though it is wider than the other one?" asked Staff Nurse Lucy.

"I'll check it out and ring back" I said. Then followed half an hour of trying to get into alternative light and dark places, shining a light in my eye and panicking, all whilst looking in a mirror.

I rang back, "Can't tell" I said in a quavering voice.

"I'll speak to the eye doctor and ring you back".

Ten minutes pacing and the phone rings, "David?"


"Lucy here, I've spoken to the doctor and she says it's nothing to worry about at this stage, ring again tomorrow if there is no change or you are worried".

Woke up this morning, anxious dash to the mirror, removed fetching plastic eye protector provided by the hospital. Pupil seems to be returning to normal. Phew. Of course I was never really worried.

Oh by the way, it is quite difficult delivering eye drops accurately to yourself.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Cataract Operation. A Nervous Patients Eye View

I had a cataract operation yesterday. Before I go on to run through the events of the day I would like to commend the staff at Newark General Hospital for the excellent, professional and friendly service they gave to me and the other patients who had the operation.

Arrived at the day hospital reception at 11.50 in a state of abject terror to find the fire alarm sounding and staff and patients pouring out of the doors. My first thought was "Oh no they'll cancel the op". Once you've got yourself keyed up for something like this not having it is worse then getting it over with. Anyway they didn't cancel so down to the waiting lounge (yes really) to meet my fellow victims. There I met eighty year old Sheila a lovely up beat ex-publican who had one eye done six weeks ago and assured us all that it was:

  • A doddle
  • Painless
  • Had excellent results which made any minor discomfort more than worth it.
  • Most important it was excellent value for money as it would cost £4000 to have two eyes done privately (I suspect from her other attitudes that she was a life long Tory which probably goes to show that people don't let ideology get in the way of a bargain).

Anyway Sheila was a support to the other five non-veterans for the rest of the day.

Register checked by Nurse Rita to make sure we were all present and then a cup of tea. I was informed I was last on the list. Not where I wanted to be. Plenty of time to stew and imagine the worst (or even worse).

Nurse Rita began dishing out the first of sixteen doses of eye drops. She informed each recipient that some would sting, Sheila told me she had "hit the roof" on the last occasion. I sat watching my fellow patients stoically wince as the drops went in. By the time Nurse Rita got to me I was tense to say the least. In go the drops and ............nothing. I relaxed. But not for long, my innate pessimissm soon reasserted itself and it was not long before I had convinced myself that the medication I had been given must have been the wrong stuff, maybe even just water. Mental image of myself writhing about on the operating table as the surgeon makes the first incision.

Off we all go down to theatre where we sit in the order that we are to be "done". Jovial theatre technicians, friendly nursing staff and anaesthetists, and post operative patients returning to their seats saying " it's not to bad" did not seem to lift my mood. All I could seem to do was note ( and with hindsight misinterpret) the sights and sounds around me:

  • "They stick a blunt needle round behind your eye" I heard someone say. Aargh I'm off home.
  • I knew that they removed the old lens with the cataract by emulsifying it with sound waves. Every so often I could hear this dreadful loud noise like a jack hammer in the building which seemed to coincide with the time the last patient went in. "I'll leap off the table when they start that up" I thought.

My turn came and I slipped the backless nighty over my clothes. Not very fetching, and no turning back now. Into the preparation room, for the blunt needle and later the jack hammer?

What really happened? I will tell you what I can remember.

The (impeccably polite) surgeon and anaesthetist asked me to get on a trolley and make myself comfortable. I was wired for monitors. The anaesthetist explained what he was going to do and as far as I can remember he:

  • Put some drops in my eye which I presume offered some anaesthasia.
  • He inserted a device which held my eyelids open.
  • He administered anaesthetic in and around my eye.
  • He did inject something from a curved needle. He informed me that this would entail various sensations including pressure behind the eye. It was not painful and at worst might be described as a little uncomfortable.
  • Pressure was then applied to my eye (by a band round my head) "to assist the medication to work". This band was left on for five minutes.
  • When the band was removed I could not see out of the anaesthetised eye and I presume I could not move it as this was checked by the anaesthetist.

I was then wheeled into the adjoining theatre and:

  • I was positioned under the light/binoculars used by the surgeon.
  • I was given an oxygen vent to hold. This is because your face (apart from the eye being treated) is covered during the operation. I have to say I did not feel claustrophobic in this situation.
  • During the procedure I felt absolutely nothing except occasional small amounts of water on my face.
  • You can see a bright light and the vaguest outlines of some of what is going on.
  • Staff chatted, music played and one of the theatre technicians sang (not well and not the same song).
  • The lens emulsifying machine emitted a low hum, and also told you in a female voice what part of the process it was carrying out. I found this helpful though I appreciate it is not for the patients benefit.
  • The whole procedure lasted probably ten to twenty minutes (time goes quickly when you are enjoying yourself).
  • Out of theatre, short rest, checkover by surgeon to see that the lens implant is ok and then off for a cup of tea and instructions from the nurse on post operative care.
  • No walking or driving home.

At about 9.30pm last night the anaesthetic had worn off sufficiently for my drooping eyelid to come to life which it did slowly. The eye muscles weren't quite so quick so for a period of time I had one eye looking straight ahead and one somewhere to the right (strange place for my other computer...hang on I only own the one!). This had more or less righted itself (and back to the one computer)by the time I went to bed with plastic eyecover on to protect the healing organ.

When I woke up this morning, having had no post operative pain, I found the vision in the operated eye was brighter than it had been but was blurred. My literature from the hospital tells me that this is not abnormal. I now start on the regime of ten lots of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops per day. Just had two, two more at teatime.

I will let you know how things progress.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Oh, and another thing

Something very rare has occurred. Usually when small pubs close that is the end of them. However the New Inn on Barnbygate in Newark has reopened after being shut for business for eighteen months.

I haven't told you about the New Inn yet but I will if it stays open long enough. Best of luck to the young guy who has taken over but it may be an uphill struggle. Since closure the pub has lost its darts, dominoes, and pool teams and a long standing fishing club to other establishments. All these activities bring punters in and keep a small local hostelry viable.

Bantam JSJ 207 replaces the Hackney Slasher

What has happened since my last blog entry?

I became sixty on March 7th so will now be eligible for free bus pass and ten percent off at the local DIY superstore. I am almost persuaded to start doing DIY, but not quite.

I am pleased to report that the Hackney Slasher left the McKenny home a week ago. Those of you who have read my previous blogs will recall that the HS is my daughters bad tempered old cat who whilst staying with us has terrorised our two timid and charming feline companions. They will no doubt be receiving PTSD counselling for some time. The HS is now happily settled in her new home in Essex. The local cat community are as yet unaware of what they have got coming.

I bought a BSA Bantam registration JSJ 207. It is supposed to be a 1953 model and I think the frame is but the engine appears to date from 1954. It looks like the original machine could have been a GPO telegram bike if I have understood the frame numbers correctly. Obviously a previous owner had a supply of ex WD green paint which he or she has liberally applied but underneath there appears to be some red. It was last on the road in the Falmouth area of Cornwall. My plan is to return it to a roadworthy condition.

If you know anything about this bike or if you have a BSA Bantam 125cc engine that you wish to dispose of then I would be delighted to hear from you

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Out clubbing and looking for trouble

Two young fellows enjoy a drink at Newark Working Mens Club. One is a retired window cleaner the other an aspiring keyboard player. So if any band has a vacancy........

Sonia keeps a keen eye on them. She has just had to step in to curb an outbreak of riotous behaviour from the lads. She won't take much more of it! She knows their "couldn't care less" grins betray a thinly disguised rebel nature. They could explode at any moment.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Racism alive and well

I live in Newark, a small though growing market town in the East of England. It has a very small population of what are termed ethnic minorities. There are some black people in the town most of whose original family members arrived here in the 1950's. More recently Eastern Europeans have become resident in the town and I understand are working locally often in posts whch do not reflect their qualifications. Perhaps we should not be surprised that these newcomers are now attracting vilification from some people in the indigenous population that their black counterparts did some fifty years ago. The critical comments have not changed much over time for example:

  • Large numbers share accommodation
  • They take our jobs
  • But they won't work and are after every benefit they can get

I was in the local working mens club the other night talking to a group of people. Another man joined us and said he had a racist joke to tell which he had had relayed to him on his mobile phone. The "joke" was unfunny and offensive and went like this.

Two old men had been playing bowls, and having put their bowls in the boot of the car set off home. On the way they had an accident and knocked a young black boy off his bike and killed him. Not knowing what to do they put the bike and his body in the boot and carried on. They were then stopped by the police who asked to look in the boot. The officer who did this was heard to radio in to his station, "we've discovered a n*****s nest, ones hatched out and he's already stolen a bike". As I said an unfunny and vile story. But think, this kind of thing is being spread like a virus through mobile phone texting, mostly eliciting sniggers, but in some cases possibly underpinning or encouraging a propensity to engage in racial violence.

The teller of this "joke" then went on to inform us that blacks are unable to "retain" information. "You mean like Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell and Nelson Mandella" I said. "Right f*** it! I'm off, I've had enough", he said and walked out leaving nearly a whole pint.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Work began in 1963

Some time during late 1962 or early 1963 I was seen by the careers officer at school. I hadn't given any serious thought to post school employment apart from being certain that I did not to become an engineering apprentice in Lincoln. This was the fate of most lads from the area who were of average ability. The working classes all thought, get a trade, job for life. Little did we know.

My main interests at the time were motorbikes, fishing, model making, pop music and pretty unsuccessfully, trying to get off with young women. The careers officer asked me what I wanted to be.
"An AA man", I said (this would have enabled me to ride a motorbike and sidecar and get paid for it).
"Don't be ridiculous" he said "you're at grammar school. Have you thought of joining the forces?"
"No, I'm a pacifist" I replied confident in my status as I had been on two Aldermaston marches. I knew the words of the songs:

"Can't you hear the H Bomb thunder
Echo like the crack of doom
As it rends the sky asunder
Fall out makes the earth a tomb
Men and women stand together
Do not heed the men of war
Make your mind up now or never
Ban the Bomb for evermore"
This was obviously not a line of discussion he came up against frequently and he abandoned trying to get me to "join the Army and see the world" as I think the saying went at the time. After half an hours careers counselling I left his room with the names of five engineering firms in Lincoln in my hand. The first one, Allen Gwynnes Pumps was the first to offer me an interview and gave me a job. So much for my resolve.

I started in September 1963. The firm was making huge cooling pumps for Wylfa nuclear power station (pictured above) and I was roped in to help film the mock up of the project. Not as bad as I thought this engineering. Alas this was a temporary highspot. Within a couple of weeks all the new apprentices were in the training shop where we would remain for one year. The majority of the work was the completion of fitting and turning tests which I found deadly dull. It was not for me and I left at the end of the first year. We were indentured apprentices then and the firm could insist you stayed. In my case they didn't so I assume we were in agreement about my suitability.

The experience was not without it's benefits. Most notably you had to make a rapid transition from schoolboy to developing adult. If you were unlucky you might undergo initiations like having your testicles smeared with grease or engineers blue. Less unpleasant would be to be sent to the tool store for "a long rest". The storeman would tell you to wait. After some time you would ask again, only to be told you had now had the rest and could return to your bench. Bollocking from foreman likely. Every industry has these tricks to make you realise how little you know. In later life when working as a ward assistant in a hospital I was told by a group of worried looking female nurses grouped round a patient that there was an emergency and I should run and get the Fallopian tubes. I realised I had been duped as I arrived panting at the door of the room which I had been told contained them.

Anyway I left in 1964 and the firm went bust and closed soon afterwards. See they should never have let me go.

Too Much Time on My Mind Shannon

A first. I have just had someone from Denver Colorado respond to my blog with a question. Tried to answer the query but the email was returned. In the unlikely event of Shannon returning to my blog, here is the email I tried to send on the subject of pub quizzes:

"Hello Shannon,

I've not been so excited in ages, one person on earth has read my blog.

I haven't been to Denver (or indeed America) but I assume, perhaps wrongly that you don't have pubs (public houses) there. So therefore no pub quizzes? Quizzes have joined darts, dominoes, arguing about nothing, talking bollocks and saying things you will regret tomorrow as a popular activity to accompany drinking in English pubs. Not sure about Scotland and Ireland.

Are they difficult? It depends if you know the answers, and I often don't. But my fellow team members do so we win free beer from time to time. The Castle and Falcon in Newark where we have a go at the quiz is a decent pub with a predominantly working class clientele and our quizmaster sets what you might call "tabloid questions". The questions tend to require knowledge of "facts" about TV soaps, films, celebrities, sport, kings, queens, historical dates, capital cities, acronyms, biggest, smallest etc, things I'm either not interested in, or can't be bothered to remember. I suppose the questions are aimed at "what" rather then "why" or "how". Example from week before last "what is a mysoginist?" - not many of the men knew but a few would qualify. By the way about equal numbers of women and men participate.

Good fun on a Sunday night but feelings can run high both within teams and between them. All the teams think that the others are getting more help from the quizmaster. Any way is there a quiz culture in the States?

A final word on pubs. Sadly the traditional smallish local English pub is on the decline. This is for many reasons but importantly it is much cheaper to drink at home now here. Not the same I am afraid.

Anyway thanks the comment, and if you get the time let me know about quizzes and bars in Denver.

All the best,


Sunday, 4 February 2007

Which is best Exercise Bike or Honda ANF 125?

For the majority of my adult life I have engaged in some sort of physical activity. I am useless at sport so it has usually been something worthy like running or swimming to keep fit.

Christ isn't swimming boring, the only saving grace is you are always clean (or maybe with a thin coating of other participants urine). My regular exercise is now two trips to the gym each week.

Do I enjoy it? Well like the curate's egg it is good in parts. It is easy to think of reasons to put off going. However if I don't go then I am riddled with anxiety about imminent heart failure which I have convinced myself I am one gym session away from. So the pattern of my life is:

  • Go to the gym and leave feeling self righteous, robust and also elated that I do not have to go for a few days
  • Any aches and pains I get in the next day or so are seen by me as due to the vigorous life enhancing exercise
  • The euphoria wears off and aches and pains are now surely evidence of an impending heart attack
  • Lethargy and depression set in due to expected life threatening condition
  • Check symptoms on Web, situation even worse than expected
  • Go to gym one last time but leave feeling self righteous etc
  • Repeat process

Is it really worth exercising to keep fit when fish, fowl, sheep and beef may all tainted. What did you have for Sunday lunch today? Poached mercury, or roast bird flu, scrapie or CJD?

It's not possible that I am a neurotic hypochondriac, is it?

Anyway to cheer myself up this week I bought the Honda Innove ANF 125 pictured above from a very nice guy in Barnet. I have probably saved it from a lifetime of pizza hauling and now like an old seaside donkey it can retire to an easier life in the country. In my garage I now have examples from the last forty years of two wheel commuters. Why? Don't ask me. I do know that riding them is better fun than going to the gym.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Catholic church is wrong on adoption in UK

The Catholic Children's Society is a respected adoption agency that has certainly helped find good families for very disadvantaged children over the years. It now seems that to gain approval through the adoption assessment process with the CCS couples have had to pass the additional test of not being gay. This is not part of the formal assessment and one wonders what other unstated judgmental hurdles have been part of their vetting process. One could speculate that this phenomena is an extension of the original activities of the religious adoption agencies, assisting the removal of children from feckless single poor mothers to middle class conventional (Catholic?) families.

New proposed government legislation would prevent them discriminating against otherwise satisfactory gay adoptive parents and should be supported. The UK government must not dilute these proposed anti discriminatory measures, as they did with education issues recently. Why? There are many reasons but two spring to mind:

  • It will be the thin end of a wedge and the church knows this. It will give the green light for other organisations or child care social workers to argue that in conscience they cannot process the applications of or place children with prospective gay adopters.

  • The children who are placed with Catholic Children's Society adopters are not the property of that organisation. The state through UK local authorities decides who should be adopted, why and what their needs are. CCS are an integral part of this government activity as contracted providers and as such should be bound by the law which regulates it's operation.

It will be a sad day if the Catholic Children's Society adoption operation closes. However the truth is they are unable to accept (but are very mealy mouthed about saying in the current debate) the legitimacy of gay partnerships and what they believe they entail. They appear to be prepared to sacrifice their service to children on the altar of this belief which is an anachronism in modern day UK.

Lets face it the Catholic Church has not covered itself in glory in dealing with child care and child protection in the past. If potential Catholic priests had been vetted as closely as heterosexual and homosexual prospective adopters children in contact with the Catholic Church might have been safer.

So come on Mr Blair equality before the law must take precedence over outdated belief, prejudice and discrimination which has no place in the "modernised" world.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Pits and Puchs and Plates

Bang on 10.30 on Sunday morning the front door bell rang. Rob and his wife Beryl had come all the way from North Wales to collect the Puch moped they had bought off me on Ebay.

They were a friendly couple and we were soon chatting about our mutual interest in two wheeled transport in general and Puch mopeds in particular. During the course of our conversation Rob said that he had retired as a beat police officer in Wales four years previously. They now had a motorhome as well as their bikes and enjoyed life and followed the sun.

I fished his new acquisition out of my garage and after an embarrassing few minutes managed to get it going. Rob is satisfied and we load the little bike onto his trailer. As we are lashing the Puch on Beryl says how nice Newark is and how they have never been before "since Rob was here during the miners strike".

It will be remembered that Thatcher had large numbers of officers drafted into Nottinghamshire from outside to make sure the local miners could continue to work during the strike. Sadly it did not do them much good as most of the mining opportunities in the county were to subsequently disappear. Ex-pit villages have become areas of social deprivation.

Anyway I digress. We finished lashing the bike on and returned to the house so I could show Rob some Puch websites and manuals. For some reason I changed my mind about showing Rob the websites (emailed them on later) and brought the manuals down to the kitchen to show him. Rob and Beryl then went on their way.

I was later telling Susan that Rob had been here in the miners strike. "Good job you didn't take him in the study then, he might have seen The Plate". The Plate is displayed on the wall next to the stack of manuals and the computer. It is a rather aesthetically unattractive ceramic produced by the National Union of Mineworkers to celebrate the achievement of the thirty five strikers who stuck the dispute out to the bitter end. I wonder what they are doing now and if they met Rob?

Saturday, 20 January 2007

This week


To work at my part time job with a national children's charity. The project I work for is funded by the local county council and finance is only guaranteed until September 2007. There is a real possibility that they may pull the plug on us then and our short break care service to disabled children and their families will be gone. This current uncertainty instills an air of pessimism which makes the work experience less fulfilling than it was. I am sixty years old in five or six weeks time. Do I want this, should I retire?


Off to the hospital to see consultant about cataract operation. My logic is whilst I am fit and active maximise sight potential. So should I retire whilst having some beans if not being full of them?


Work. Team meeting with colleague and boss. Discuss the need for numerous measures which will allegedly make us more likely to get the county council contract in September. I am not sure I believe this.


Day off. Morning spent replacing the bushes on the front forks of Honda C90. Half the work done by dinnertime (lunch to the middle classes). Then off to solicitors to register as founder director of Sleaford and District Citizens Advice Bureau. One of my current voluntary activities as a trustee of the bureau is processing their application to become Incorporated. Back home and finish the bushing job. Much better than work.

Find out that my Puch MS50 D moped has sold on Ebay for £102 to a man in Wales. He seems a decent bloke and pays immediately.


Refit forks and put the bike back together. Go out for a ride in the Vale of Belvoir. All much better than work.

Man from Wales confirms he will collect the Puch on Sunday.


Stand on a corner in Newark Market Place rattling a collection tin for the Framework Housing Association. They are an extremely good concern which provides housing and support to vulnerable individuals who may in some cases be rough sleepers. Freezing cold but I met about fifteen people who I have not seen for ages and was able to engage in one of my favourite pastimes, gossip.

Went home and told the wife I will retire this year.

Immediate panic attack. Can we afford it? Social isolation beckons? My world may crumble without the structure of work. I'll be a nobody without a job. Maybe I am now!

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Hope to see clearly

I discovered about a year ago that I had cataracts. One in each eye, the right being worse than the left. At the time the opthalmologist offered to list me for an operation but being terrified I refused and said I would wait. So the right eye has deteriorated and I have been pondering increasingly on why I would choose to go through younger old age with a sight problem that can be improved considerably by surgery (though obviously there are risks). Today therefore I went back to outpatients at Newark Hospital and have been listed for the operation on my right eye in April.

I have always had a passionate belief that free and comprehensive healthcare is an essential in any decent and civilised society. We do not need Blair's Foundation Hospitals and supposed "choice".

The existence of Foundation Hospitals in some areas implies there will be less competent facilities in other parts of the country. What justification can there be for giving some members of the population an inferior service in this way?

Choice? You can only make genuine choices when you have a full knowledge of the product you are purchasing, the alternatives that are available, and the power or resource to ensure you get it. Selecting a treatment for a possibly life threatening illness is rather more complex than buying a pound of apples off the market. With illness there are not the opportunities to learn by mistakes "the surgeon made a balls up so I'll try another the next time I need a hysterectomy".

What sick people need is a decent facility not too far from where they live adequately resourced and staffed with competent and motivated people. I have faith in the UK NHS and I have always had a good service, as I did today. This despite the fact that staff have been demoralised by years of change which has not always had an obvious benefit for patients, so called modernisation and other triumphs of form over function.

I will keep you posted on developments as my treatment progresses.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Admission to addiction

I think I have a craving I need to confess to. My name is David and I am addicted to putting adverts in the paper to see if anyone has an old moped for sale.
The excitement and adrenalin rush of it all. Cold sweats and bitten finger nails waiting for the advert to appear. The phone call from the hopeful seller. The 40 mile trip to view. Peering into the broken down shed to view the rusty heap. Paying £40 for something worth £25. Spending £60 on it. Selling it for £80. On Ebay.
I did it again last week, furtive advert in the Lincolnshire Echo not disclosed to wife "anyone got a Honda C90 for sale"? One reply which seemed hopeful and I arranged to view today. As my garage is full I decided to get rid of the Puch which you see here so onto Ebay it goes. It came from Epworth the birthplace of John Wesley. Space needed for my "new" Honda.
Unfortunately the guy selling the Honda has now rung to say he can now not go ahead. Gone into cold turkey. When the Puch has gone I will have a tiny space in the garage that must be filled. Must get in touch with the Lincolnshire Echo classifieds again tomorrow.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Some things have not got better

Last Sunday night was as usual pub quiz night at the Castle and Falcon. Our team has up to seven members depending on who turns up. We didn't win last week but came second. The usual post performance inquest took place with individuals claiming that they had known and stated the answers to questions we had got wrong but had been overruled or ignored.

One of our keener and more capable male team members, Pete, has an openly hostile attitude to the only woman in our group. Jill is a divorced 60 year old who lives alone and I would guess is very lonely. For example she seems to have very little contact with her daughter and grandchildren who live in Newark. On Christmas Day she was allowed to visit them in the morning but just before dinner was served her daughter instructed her husband "you take mum home while I strain the veg then we can start when you get back". Jill told me she spent the rest of the day on her own and was devastated by the rejection she felt she had received.

Pete explains his extreme antipathy towards this mild and harmless individual "I don't want to be with women in the pub, if I wanted a woman to talk to I'd go out with our lass". It's strange really, apart from being a selfconfessed hard core racist he can be a very decent bloke.

I used to believe that such attitudes would be bound to erode as attitudes became ever more liberal after the sixties. It is depressing.

Met with my old boss on Tuesday, the first time I have seen him since he retired two years ago. He has Parkinsons and this precipitated his leaving work early. We had a good gossip and he told me that he is now a volunteer with the Motor Neurone Disease Society supporting sufferers living with this distressing illness. Restoration of faith in humanity.

Not all bad. I forgot to mention that I won fifty quid on Quiz Night in the Open the Box competition.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Queen surprise at funeral of local man

Freddy Mercury died on November 29th 1991. Press reports before Christmas on the anniverary of his death reminded me of a sad but amusing incident that I experienced a couple of years ago.

In 1998 I took early retirement from my job as an Area Manager with a Social Services Department. The department was being restructured and three of us were finished. One of these, Mike, had become very disillusioned with the organisation and could not wait to be gone. He almost fell over his laptop case in his haste to be out of the building. Soon Mike found himself a position as the Chair of his local Primary Health Care Trust. I saw him a couple of times and he told me he enjoyed the role immensly.

Mike was a decent man, slightly pompous in a nice way, conservative of dress apart from always wearing white socks. I would never have taken him for a Freddy Mercury fan but I was to be proved wrong.

A couple of years ago I was told that he had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I went to the funeral at Grantham Crematorium and as he was a popular well liked man there were many in attendance. The usual solemn music was the order of the day.

At the end of the proceedings it was announced that Queen had been one of his favourite bands and an uplifting track would be played whilst the many mourners filed out.

The elderly organist put on the CD, I can't remember which song, and the masses shuffled along. By the time the track finished only half the people had left. Before the obviously inexperienced DJ could get the disc off and to his embarrassment the next track had started. Yes you've got it. "Another One Bites The Dust" pounded out of the speakers. Mike would have loved it. In fact with his level of self belief he probably organised it.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

What's in a local pub?

They say that good snooker players have had a misspent youth. I am no good at snooker despite a misspent youth..... and adulthood. Although I don't regret it I have spent far too much time in pubs. Local pubs not cheap beer warehouses like Wetherspoons.

Now sadly due to a mix of social, cultural and economic factors the institution of the "local" seems to be dying. I have patronised the (not very) New Inn and the Horse and Jockey for the last twenty years. Both have become a shadow of their former selves in the past five years. The New Inn closed over a year ago and has been boarded up. There are rumours it is due to reopen. I am not too optimistic about this or the chances of success, but if it does what should it as a "local" have on offer?

  1. When you go in you will almost always see someone you know and hopefully can stand talking to.
  2. Often this will be the bar staff who are paid to be nice, to your face at least.
  3. A landlord and/or landlady. They may be tenants but if the pub becomes successful whoever owns it will make sure they are soon managers.
  4. The landlord will know everything, have had many life experiences and may claim to own a racehorse.
  5. Even if he doesn't own a horse he will advise you of his frequent success at the bookies or the racecourse. The fruits of this may not often be seen.
  6. The landlady will "take" to some of the punters and not others. They will know which section they are in.
  7. She will have a unique and bizarre fashion sense. Her clothes will come from some special "landlady boutique". Non licenced victuallers will not have access to this fashion emporium.
  8. The landlord will think he is in charge, the landlady will allow him this conceit but will know that he is just a drone.
  9. Drinks will not be served by the landlord who is above this and anyway is occupied with the important business of studying form.
  10. Drinks will be served by pleasant, assertive women who are well able to deal with stupid comments from the mixed bag of intoxicated customers who are called to the bar.
  11. The landlord will study their form and may consider he has, as their employer, a special relationship with them.
  12. The landlady will be aware of these old fool delusions but will nevertheless keep an eye on the situation. It may be necessary to sack the member of staff.
  13. Main problem will be to find a reason that doesn't contravene annoying PC employment legislation. What are they alleged to have pinched? Does landlords significant backside count?
  14. Beer and lager will be sold. As no one drinks the beer anymore beware as it may be rather sour due to spending too long in the pipes.
  15. Drinks will be on the expensive side. Perhaps double the price of what you would pay to drink supermarket stuff at home.
  16. There will not be many solicitors or accountants in the bar.
  17. Unless they are from the pub's holding company and have come to close it down.
  18. There will be darts and pool teams.
  19. If there isn't the pub will not have a large enough customer base to survive. Football teams and fishing clubs are an additional bonus.
  20. Food will not be served. Except that is for haselet, black pudding and cheese and onion sandwiches provided for the darts and pool teams.
  21. If you don't know what haselet is contact me to find out.
  22. If you do know what haselet is contact me to let me know, quick.
  23. The sandwich platters will be decorated by the landlady with three pieces of lettuce and a tomato. What is left after the team has had their fill will be gratefully consumed by the non sporting customers
  24. Usually they only get the lettuce leaves but this is a useful contribution to the five vegetables they consume each week.
  25. The others are four portions from the local chippy.
  26. There will be a juke box.
  27. The juke box will have many compilation CD's on it.
  28. "Waterloo Sunset" will often be played.
  29. Men who used to have long dark brown curly hair, and now have little will wax lyrical about the 60's (or seventies or eighties) when music was not like it is now.
  30. Customers will argue about things of no consequence, for example how to pronounce haselet.
  31. They will fall out about money, religion and sport but will usually have forgotten by the next time they see each other.
  32. And have the same arguments all over again.
  33. Unfortunately racist views are common but denied or unrecognised as such.
  34. Punters will swear despite the image of the local portrayed on TV soaps.

I hope the New Inn opens again, I can't wait to get my social life back.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Willum refuses to join in the plot

Willum, that's him in the picture, reluctantly declined to be part of my plot to get rid of Ruby and her hangers on. Remember I told you about them in previous blogs.

It's not that he likes the Hackney Slasher, "no way mate, can't stand the ginger Southern furball."

He explained it's a matter of principle, "never peed on the furniture and not going to start now but very tempted cos it's in a good cause." Looked me straight in the eye and said, "look mate I only ever piddle on things that can easily be swilled down under the tap. You know, like the laptop, printer, mobile phone or them old books you've been hanging on to for years."

Thank goodness there's some principles in the household.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Not my bodily fluids

"Who did it then? Whose weed on the toilet wall?"

Susan came rushing out of the downstairs toilet. Somehow I didn't think she had found a strange cigarette. The expression of disgust signalled the discovery of an unpleasant bodily fluid.

As I'm usually the alleged culprit I'm on the defensive. Who else can I blame?

I follow her sheepishly into the toilet to examine the incriminating evidence. Relief, I spot yellow liquid at the opposite end of the room to the toilet bowl.

"It can't have been me" I say, "even when I miss I get closer than that. Anyway my slippers usually soak most of it up."

"I never said it was you, pillock, it's obviously one of those bloody cats."

"Yes, and I know which one" I said leaping as usual to the correct conclusion, "the Hackney Slasher".

The Hackney deviant is my daughters cat Ruby mentioned in my last blog. Pictured above though I'd rather starve her of the oxygen of publicity. Go on, admit it, you can tell she's a wrong un. Not like my two cats.

How devious can you get.

I mentioned in the last blog Ruby's efforts to drive our cats out by force. Only limited success as Maisie and Willum sneak in shivering at the dead of night. So now it has turned dirty.

You probably think I've got it in for Ruby, but do you know what she did the other day? She ate her breakfast then walked straight over to Maisie and Willums food bowls and threw the lot up in them. I don't think she was sharing.

I need to have a chat with Willum and Maisie to plan how we can get her back. Now if Willum could be persuaded to go and pee on the chair in Ruby's room then perhaps Susan would insist she moves back down South immediately. Yes thats where is Willum.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Feline Friction

Right, thats the festive season endured successfully again. Jason, my daughters partner was the last Christmas guest to leave today. Big smile on his face. I put this down to him finding the two pound coin in the Christmas pudding. Surely he couldn't have been pleased to be leaving?
Kept up my reputation for philanthropy and helping people in need the other day. I removed my card from the cash machine in Waitrose, but forgot to take the cash. Bet the guy with the brogues, cord trousers and large four wheel drive who picked up the hundred quid really needed the money. Am I losing it? Well obviously cash, but I'm not sure about the mental faculties.
Despite the fact that all our guests are gone Susan and I are not alone. I forgot to mention earlier that our daughter, grandson and their cat came to stay with us in September for a couple of weeks. This was to bridge the short (we were assured) period between them leaving their flat in Hackney and moving into a new home near Southend. They are still with us. It is not their fault. They have I feel been let down by the professionals (sic) who are supposed to be progressing the purchase of their new home. Our home is not overcrowded but our lifestyle has certainly been affected over the last three months. I have been reminded that I have perhaps become more set in my ways than I realised.
Strangely enough most arguements have centered round cat management. We have two nervous, sweet, docile and gentle animals. Maisie is pictured above and she has a brother Willum who is a large dope who will jump at the sight of his shadow. Who could resist Maisie's imploring look? Well I can tell you who can. Ruby the bad tempered old ginger hoodlum from Hackney. She has a room of her own but not content with this does her level best to banish the others to life in the garage.
You would not believe the friction this can cause between the adults. Or maybe we are projecting our own frustrations on to the cat situation, I don't know. Anyway, cat lover though I am I shall be pleased to see Ruby taking her Southern attitudes back to Essex. Of course I'm not one to stereotype.