Thursday, 13 November 2008

Ready to roll!

Well here we go again - all packed up and ready (almost) to roll!

A few last minute things still to attend to; disconnect the car battery, read the electricity meter and put those last few 'personal' bits and bobs away into what we now call the 'store room' aka what used to be the dining room!

Our bags are packed, labelled and ready to go - I've already checked-in online with BA so we have seat reservations and boarding cards; then it's the Fast Bag Drop at Heathrow and we're all set!

So au revoir everyone - we'll see you again in just a few months or so.

I'm signing off my UK Blog now and if you have time, inclination or just want to know what we're doing, just check in to my Aussie Blog - the link is to the right here.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Getting ready........

Well it’s chaos of course – slightly more so this year as we’re renting our apartment out while we’re away so all our ‘personal’ bits and pieces have to be securely stored!

And with only a couple of days to go we haven’t even started to pack our bags!!

It’s that time of the year when nature tells you that there’s somewhere warmer, somewhere else in the world! Here, the leaves are almost completely off the trees now after a quite spectacular autumn and now we have heavy rain and storms to blow the leaf every which way which makes for slippery driving conditions!

As the postman said to me this morning, today isn’t a day to be out and about!! One place I REALLY wouldn't want to be is at sea in the Vendee Globe Race which set off from France yesterday! But if you're interested you can follow the race here.

It’s dark in the mornings too and by late afternoon (often earlier) the light starts to fade and we’re into the cold, dark evenings we just love – TO ESCAPE from!!

Talking to Andrew on Saturday he says the weather in Sydney has been good recently – in the high 20’s – so we’re looking forward to getting some much needed sun on our skins!

Our flight is scheduled to depart from Heathrow soon after 9pm Thursday and all being well we should touch down at Sydney around 6am Saturday morning, local time which is currently +11 hours ahead of UK time.

Yes, it’s a tedious flight whichever way you look at it but with food and drink, a movie or three and a good book it’s surprising how quickly the time passes and then suddenly you peek through the aircraft window shutter and you’re looking down on the dawn sunrise breaking over the spectacular Red Centre - the awesome Australian Outback - and in no time at all you see the Sydney Harbour Bridge below!

Oops did I just get rather carried away with excitement?!

G’day mate!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Democracy at work – UK style!

I'm on a roll now!!

There aren’t too many ‘reasons to be cheerful’ in the UK at present but there is one glimmer of hope I’ve stumbled upon – it’s the Prime Minister’s website where you’ll find something quite special – it’s an online Petition facility; anyone can initiate one but it saves the old system of getting umpteen signatures on a sheet of paper and delivering this physically to No. 10. Remember those days?

I’ve actually subscribed to 2 or 3 petitions since I discovered it – the latest was in response to an ‘alleged’ attempt to increase the charge government make against the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) - which is a Registered Charity funded wholly through voluntary public donations – for their use of Maritime radio frequencies. The Petition actually said:

“As reported in the Sunday Telegraph on the 28th September 2008, Ofcom wants to bring “market forces” into the maritime and aviation communications. The RNLI will have to pay £250,000 a year, and “smaller search and rescue charities fear they may have to close”. This proposal must be rejected wholeheartedly.”

Now isn’t that scandalous?

Well, it seems that ‘government’ is listening and I’ve just had an email with the Government’s response which seems on the face of it to be promising – click on the embedded link to read what they say.

Somehow now I feel slightly more encouraged with the democratic process in the UK!

………..I’m not quite sure how long it will last!!

A day history was made!

Yes, ok – I guess I’ve been remiss lately; no regular Blog posting!

Well, feeling slightly guilty whenever someone says ‘why haven’t you kept your Blog going?’ I’m going to do my best to get back on track. It might not be every day of course but I’ll try to post something I think may be of interest to ‘my readers’ as well as things that amuse, arouse or even amaze me from time to time; topical stuff I guess you’d call it.

It’s also that time of the year again when we start to think about packing our bags and heading for warmer shores Downunder – its quite astounding really as it only just seems like yesterday that we flew back from Sydney although it was actually mid April.

I listened and watched Barack Obama’s victory speech on TV this morning and was struck how what he said and how he said it reminded me of John F Kennedy – I hope and pray that God in His wisdom allows President Obama truly to fulfil all the expectations which rest on his shoulders but I admit to being moved and excited by what happened yesterday.

For sure he faces an absolutely awesome number of BIG challenges but maybe like lots of folks I sense a change for the better. Watching those folks in Chicago mouthing his words ‘Yes, we can’ in unison was quite remarkable theatre, wasn’t it?

Every day, every event is history in some way but yesterday was one of those special days when maybe folks say ‘I was there, I remember what I was doing when the first black American President was elected’ – powerful stuff.

If only WE had inspirational and statesmanlike politicians!!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Look to this day

Look to this day, for it is the very life of life.

In its brief course lie all the realities

and truths of existence.

The joy of growth, the splendour of action,

the glory of power.

For yesterday is only a memory and

tomorrow is only a vision.

But today, well lived, makes every yesterday

a memory of happiness and

every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well therefore to this day.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Theatre Night!

We enjoyed a few days last week in the company of our good friends from Ludlow, Elaine and Sandy – they stayed over with us.

It’s always good to see them and although we only get together a couple of times a year, we always seem to just ‘click’ and pick up where we last left off! I guess we’ve been doing that for longer than any of us care to (or even can!) remember!

We decided to have an evening out at The Mill at Sonning; one of those dinner/theatre places not far away so it was a welcome change to set off and arrive there around 15 minutes or so later plus parking was very easy too!

Weird as it might seem, we’ve lived here off and on for about 30 years or so and we’ve never ever been to The Mill – and oh what a treat we’ve missed!!

The play was Plaza Suite, a comedy by Neil Simon about a room in the Plaza Hotel, New York – you might get the drift by clicking here.

Anyway it was a very good evening; the food was fairly plain but excellent and the show itself very, very funny – if you ever get the chance to see it anywhere, you really shouldn’t miss it!

So we had fun!

Oh I almost forgot; while they were here, Elaine asked me if I could fix a small website for her to advertise the B&B she runs from Ludlow – so hey presto if you click here, you’ll see what I did!

So if anyone is thinking of visiting Ludlow for one of their famous Festivals or just a look around, I recommend you stay at Elaine and Sandy’s place and I just know that you’ll be assured of a very warm welcome!!

(but hey, mind your waistline! Elaine's cooking is scrummy!)

Friday, 15 August 2008

Not for the faint-hearted!

Now here for your delight (!!) is (apparently!) a true story; its source was the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service in Adelaide.

A bloke and his family were on holiday in the United States and went to Mexico for a week. An avid cactus fan, the man bought a one-metre high, rare and expensive cactus there.

On arrival back home, Australian Customs said it must be quarantined for 3 months. He finally got his cactus home, planted it in his backyard and over time, it grew to about 2 metres.

One evening while watering his garden after a warm spring day, he gave the cactus a light spray. He was amazed to see the plant shiver all over. He gave it another spray and it shivered again.

He was puzzled so he rang the council, who put him on to the state gardens people. After a few transfers, he got the state's foremost cactus expert who asked him many questions. How tall is it? Has it flowered? Etc.

Finally he asked the most disturbing question. 'Is your family in the house?' The bloke answered yes. The cactus expert said get out of the house NOW! Get on to the front lawn strip and wait for me; I will be there in 20 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, 2 fire trucks, 2 police cars and an ambulance came screaming around the corner.

A fireman got out and asked 'Are you the bloke with the cactus?'

‘I am’, he said.

A guy jumped out of the fire truck wearing what looked like a spacesuit, a breathing cylinder and mask, attached to what looked like a scuba backpack, with a large hose attached. He headed for the backyard and turned the flame-thrower on the cactus, spraying it up and down.

After a few minutes the flame-thrower man stopped, the cactus stood smoking and spitting, half the fence was burnt and parts of the gardens were well and truly scorched. Just then the cactus expert appeared and laid a calming hand on the bloke's shoulder.

'What the hell's going on?' the owner says.

'Let me show you' says the cactus man.

He went over to the cactus and picked away a crusty bit, the cactus was almost entirely hollow and filled with tiger-striped, bird-eating tarantula spiders, each about the size of two hand spans.

The story was that this type of spider lays eggs in this type of cactus and they hatch and live in it as they grow to full-size. When full-size, they release themselves. The cactus just explodes and about 150 dinner-plate-sized hairy spiders are flung from it, dispersing everywhere. They had been ready to pop. The aftermath was that the house and the adjoining houses had to be vacated and fumigated: police tape was put up outside the whole area and no one was allowed in for two weeks.

And here's what one of the cuties looks like sitting on a FULL-SIZE dinner plate...


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Sands of Time

Monday, 11 August 2008

Second Life - Internet Lodge No. 9659 Embassy

Now here's something new - say hello to a slightly under-dressed Bro. Mercury Lefevre on a visit!

Confused huh? this space!

Friday, 8 August 2008


Hmm, a variation on the theme of the environment I was musing about yesterday - but I guess this is nothing to do with Mother Nature, just us very messy an inconsiderate human beings!

Interesting study on air quality today:
  • London - 56 micrograms per metre cubed (ug/m3)
  • Glasgow - 42 ug/m3
  • Manchester - 29 ug/m3
  • Beijing - 333 ug/m3
.........cough, cough, splutter, splutter!!!

Somehow I don't think running the Marathon in Beijing appeals to me!!

Thursday, 7 August 2008


Some days, Mother Nature stops by to remind us that she's never very far away!

Last night on the way back from seeing Winnie in Kent, we stopped off at our old friends Steve and Sue Weatherley for a curry and natter which was nice - we left their place at around 9pm just as the rain started; it had been a very humid day so I guess storms were not unexpected!

Sue was talking about her conversation with their daughter 'Angel' that morning who lives with her husband Will in Hong Kong where they were apparently in the middle of a Typhoon - so storms were very much a topic of conversation!

Anyway we'd only gone about a mile when the heavens literally OPENED and a deluge of rain swamped everything! There was thunder and lightning, both the sheet and forked varieties, plus torrential rain like you thought the world was going to be washed away!!

We crept along the M25 for about 15 miles or so peering through the gloom until suddenly, quite suddenly, it stopped and the road was completely DRY!!

Well I guess it has to start and end raining somewhere doesn't it!! When we got home at around 10pm Wokingham obviously hadn't seen a drop of rain anywhere during the day!!

Oh how we just LOVE the English summer!!

And then this morning I was idly surfing and looking at the Sydney online newspapers to see what was happening Downunder - it's mid winter there of course; but not winter like WE know it!!

A nasty storm hit Sydney yesterday too - witness the rather dramatic photo above!

Apparently temperatures plummeted and at Woolongong, south of Sydney they even had SNOW - which is quite a rare event in NSW outside of the 'snow resorts' of the Snowy Mountains!

Weird weather, the world over!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Dark Knight

We scooted down to the movies earlier and saw the ‘Batman’ film ‘The Dark Knight’ – I’d been looking forward to seeing it for some time mainly because I was fascinated about the character of The Joker, played by the late Aussie actor, Heath Ledger.

We were in Australia earlier this year when his sudden and tragic death was reported and like all Aussie ‘icons’ – and Heath Ledger really WAS one of those – there was a major outpouring of national grief; the TV and newspapers were absolutely FULL of it seemingly for weeks on end!

Watching the film I can understand why famous actors like Sir Michael Caine feel that he deserves a posthumous Oscar for his magnificent and awesome performance as The Joker – he really brings the character ALIVE in so many ways.

In the UK it’s been given a ‘12’ certificate which for me is slightly weird as some of the scenes are quite violent and ‘scary’ – but then what do I know?!!

If you haven’t seen it yet, I think its well worth a watch to see a rather special actor in a role which strangely suited him so well - oh and also for the superb special effects.

…and Batman himself? You know something; I can’t remember who played him – I guess that also says something when the ‘star’ is eclipsed by someone else!!

Trafalgar - 2008

The story is familiar; the characters etched on our memories, but times have changed.

Nelson: 'Order the signal, Hardy.'

Hardy: 'Aye, aye sir.'

Nelson: 'Hold on, that's not what I dictated to Flags. What's the meaning of this?'

Hardy: 'Sorry sir?'

Nelson (reading aloud): '' England expects every person to do his or her duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability.' - What in God's name is all that gobbledygook?'

Hardy: 'Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, Sir. We're an equal opportunities employer now and we had the devil's own job getting ' England ' past the censors, lest it be considered racist.'

Nelson: 'Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco.'

Hardy: 'Sorry sir. All naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free working environments.'

Nelson: 'In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the mainbrace to steel the men before battle.'

Hardy: 'The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. Its part of the Government's policy to combat binge drinking.'

Nelson: 'Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it........... full speed ahead.'

Hardy: 'I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water Sir.'

Nelson: 'Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Get me a report from the crow's nest please.'

Hardy: 'That won't be possible, sir.'

Nelson: 'What! Why not?'

Hardy: 'Health and Safety have closed the crow's nest, Sir. No harnesses have been installed and they said that rope ladders don't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until proper scaffolding has been erected.'

Nelson: 'Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy.'

Hardy: 'He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foredeck Admiral.'

Nelson: 'Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd.'

Hardy: 'Health and safety again, Sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled.'

Nelson: 'Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card.'

Hardy: 'Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency.'

Nelson: 'Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons.'

Hardy: 'A couple of problems there too, Sir. Health and safety won't let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?'

Nelson: 'I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.'

Hardy: 'The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.'

Nelson: 'What? This is mutiny!'

Hardy: 'It's not that, Sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There are a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.'

Nelson: 'Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?'

Hardy: 'Actually, Sir, we're not.'

Nelson: 'We're not?'

Hardy: 'No, sir. The French and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation.'

Nelson: 'But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.'

Hardy: 'I wouldn't let the ship's diversity coordinator hear you saying hat Sir. You'll be up on disciplinary report.'

Nelson: 'You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King.'

Hardy: 'Not any more, Sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules. It could save your life'

Nelson: 'Don't tell me - health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?'

Hardy: As I explained, Sir, rum is off the menu! And there's a ban on corporal punishment.'

Nelson: 'What about sodomy?'

Hardy: 'I believe that is now legal, sir.'

Nelson: 'In that case............................... kiss me, Hardy.'

(um, with humble apologies to those of a sensitive disposition!!)

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Sunday lunch - a la David!

Mmmm, the development of my (up-til-now latent) culinary skills continues unabated - today I cooked for Sunday lunch, roast duck crown with figs and maple syrup accompanied by roasted vegetables.

The Head Chef, she says I did good!!!

Anyway I thought I'd accompany this rather boring news with the following clip - hope you like it!!


Friday, 1 August 2008

Idyllic Cruising

Now everyone knows how I just LOVE sailing and messing about in boats (even though I have been known to have the odd problem with seasickness!!) but Shirley’s always trying to get me to go on one of those idyllic Mediterranean cruises – you know the sort I mean?


Rough Cruise - The best bloopers are a click away

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

UK Biobank

We’ve just made our latest contribution to the future of the Human Race; no guys, Shirley’s definitely not pregnant again!!

A few weeks ago we were both asked if we would take part in a new UK medical research initiative to study the prevention and treatment of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia and a whole host of other serious diseases; the research involves around 500,000 people across the UK aged between 40 and 69.

So this morning we were up bright and early (for us that is!) to attend the UK Biobank Assessment Centre in Reading – it took about 90 minutes or so of lifestyle questions and physical measurements as well as taking blood and urine samples.

Apart from a very brief report on some key measurements like blood pressure, we apparently don’t get any personal benefit except perhaps the knowledge that someone somewhere might have a better life or future with treatments or new drugs that may be designed or discovered down the line.

So maybe I feel just a little ‘self righteous’ today having done my bit for humanity!

Hmm, now about that nasty question about how much alcohol I drink……………………!!

The Emperors New Clothes – a new version!

…news from the BBC 30th July 2008

Zimbabwe's central bank has said it will introduce a new currency on 1 August as part of efforts to fight the effects of hyperinflation.

The governor, Gideon Gono, has announced zeros will be lopped off the Zimbabwe dollar, making 10bn dollars one dollar.

Only last week, the government introduced the Z$100bn note.

Inflation is officially running at more than 2,000,000%, but economists believe the real rate is far higher.

"The Zimbabwe dollar will be redenominated by a factor of one to 10, which means we are removing 10 zeros from our monetary value. Ten billion dollars today will be reduced to Z$1... effective from 1 August," Mr Gono said in a television broadcast.

He said the high rate constrained the operations of the country's computer systems.

Computers, calculators and banks' cash machines have not been able to handle basic transactions in billions and trillions of dollars.

The new Z$100bn note introduced last week was not enough to buy a loaf of bread.

So far this year, Zimbabwe has been forced to print Z$100m, Z$250m and Z$500m notes in rapid succession, now mostly worthless”

…………it’s all done with mirrors!! Or maybe someone just has a weird sense of humour!!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

2008 Olympic Games

Well, with only 9 days to go to the Opening Ceremony on Friday 8th August, I guess everyone will be clearing their diaries to tune in and keep up-to-date with what’s happening in Beijing.

So if you go here, you’ll find a complete schedule of events from Day 1 right through to the Closing Ceremony; by which time I’m sure we’ll all be EXHAUSTED, having swum, dived, run, jumped, hurdled, sailed, ridden, played, cycled, boxed, lifted, wrestled oh and maybe shot too along with all those highly toned, honed and muscled athletes!!

Let the Games begin!!

Walk for a Reason 2008

OK, maybe not the greatest picture I’ve ever had taken but here’s us and a few others doing our bit with a photo-call to help the ‘Walk-for-a-Reason’ charity in support of Prostate Cancer - the photo, along with a short piece appeared in the 23rd July issue of the Wokingham Times so I guess that makes us 'famous'!!

It’s apparently the commonest for of cancer in men and they say that 1 in every 11 men will get prostate cancer and 1 man every hour will die of it too – there’s some staggering statistics for you!

As always guys, the earlier it’s diagnosed the better chance there is of dealing with it successfully; so if you’re in any doubt, just go see the Doctor and get yourself checked out.

So someone is organising a local 10k sponsored walk to raise awareness and to raise funds to help fight this awful problem – you’ll find details on the ‘Walk-for-a-Reason’ website.

If you live nearby and can spare a few hours on Sunday 21st September 2008 to join the Walk, I know that you’ll be most welcome!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Attention 'Baby Boomers'!

Hey you baby-boomers out there!

Give yourself a well-deserved break for a couple of minutes or so today!

This will bring you down Memory Lane with some great photos in this clip!

Have patience while it loads, crank up the volume, select 'Full Screen' mode, sit back and enjoy a review of 50 years of history in less than 3 minutes thanks to the old Billy Joel song ‘We didn’t start the fire…’ oh and some guy from the University of Chicago with too much time to Google!

If you like it, play again and I bet you'll see and hear things you missed first time around.

Oh and if you want to learn more about the background to the song, go to Wikipedia here.

Enjoy!! YEAH!!!

Sunday, 27 July 2008


We enjoyed a nice sunny couple of days with our good friends Diana and Chris Lally by the ‘sea-side’ in Aldwick Bay, near Bognor Regis last week – it was good to smell the sea air and the warmth of the sun on our skins again!!

We’ve known Diana and Chris for a long time and when the kids were very young, we holidayed together mostly down in the West Country, Devon and Cornwall – rain and shine! OMG we had some wet days in tents!!

The kids are grown up now of course – they have two boys in their mid/late 30’s and one, Richard who with his lovely wife Pippa now have three boys; Tom, Sam and baby Max, a really great family! Richard is one of those guys called ‘House-husbands’ – he’s the main child bringer upper and carer and Pippa is the main wage-earner as a GP.

I’m sure the boys have an amazing upbringing with their Dad and living right on the beach at nearby Pagham they learn so much about so many things. Richard is an expert windsurfer so he’s always out in the bay either on his board or canoe so the kids enjoy an exciting outside life.

We had a nice day out mooching around the lovely town of Chichester on Saturday and in the evening enjoyed a nice meal out at a local pub cum restaurant – the food was yummy!

Before heading back home on Saturday we walked down to Pagham Beach and sat by the Pagham Yacht Club watching the calm sea and the sailing club getting ready for a race – the club overlooks one of the sites where the D-Day landings were prepared and there’s still a partially sunken part of a Mulberry Harbour about a mile offshore. The rest of the ‘mobile’ harbour was towed across the English Channel of course and played such an important part in the D-Day landings in Normandy.

There’s a plaque on a rock on the pebbly beach which records the event.

Pagham is one of those quaint English seaside places; it’ll never lose its unique appeal and although it’s much quieter than Bognor Regis just a few miles distant, that’s really part of its secret!

As always, a wonderful couple of days with good company, good food and SUNSHINE!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Worthless paper

Um, no I haven't forgotten about our old friend Robert Gabriel - just musing that it wont be too long now before he gets what's coming to him; despite the current EU ban on travel, I'm sure a flight to UN International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague will be arranged!

So meantime, here's news of the new Zimbabwean banknote - one hundred billion dollars; or around 50 pence to you and me!! I think it'll just about buy a loaf of bread at today's prices - and then tomorrow (yes, literally tomorrow!), well with an inflation rate like they have, who knows?!!

So we all need to know the new 'language' of big numbers - just in case Gordon Brown slips up with the UK economy!

  • Quadrillion: 15 zeros
  • Quintillion: 18 zeros
  • Sextillion: 21 zeros
  • Septillion 24 zeros

  • OMG!

    Tuesday, 22 July 2008

    Shirley - bulletin

    Just a quickie to say that we've just come back from the Royal Berkshire Hospital - no, no panic just a prescheduled appointment for the surgeon to take another look at her foot; happily all seems to be well and she's had the plaster removed.

    It's good to see her toes again!!

    The foot is still quite swollen but she's just sunk it gently into some warm water for the first time in 6 weeks!


    She's going to have some physio too and then another final check by the surgeon in September, so fingers (oh and toes - ouch!) crossed that it will have been worth all the pain and agony!

    Red Arrows and PC!

    Now here’s another example of absolutely ridiculous British PC – aka Political Correctness!

    Yes, I'm still a Brit guys!! But listen to this:

    There are conflicting reports that the world-famous Red Arrows have apparently been banned from appearing at the 2012 London Olympics because they are deemed 'too British'!

    It's suggested that the organisers of the event say that the Arrows military background might be 'offensive' to other countries taking part in the Games. The display team have performed at more than 4000 events worldwide, but the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have deemed the display team 'too militaristically British.'

    Red Arrows pilots were said to be 'outraged', as they had hoped to put on a truly world class display for the Games, something which had never been seen before. Being axed from a British-based event for being 'too British' is an insult - the Arrows are a symbol of Britain.

    The Red Arrows have been excellent ambassadors for British overseas trade, as they display their British-built Hawk aircraft all over the world.

    The Arrows performed a short flypast in 2005 when the winning bid was announced, but their flypast at the Games was to have been truly spectacular; it is to be hoped that common sense prevails.

    There's an online '10, Downing Street' Petition in support of the Red Arrows, so if you disagree with this (alleged) appalling decision, please, please sign the petition on this link

    Monday, 21 July 2008

    Decisions, decisions!

    Just every now and again, I guess not too often but occasionally, you make what could be described as a ‘life-changing’ decision; sometimes, one which has quite far reaching implications but one which makes you grasp an opportunity which life brings every so often.

    So here it is - Shirley and I have decided to leave these shores and migrate permanently to Australia; IF they’ll have us, that is!

    I guess for some of you that wont come as some great surprise as we’ve spent an increasing amount of time ‘Downunder’ every year but we’ve come to very much enjoy and appreciate the Aussie lifestyle since first setting foot there in 2001 when we stopped over for a few weeks on our Round-the-World trip.

    Subsequently Andrew and Sue married and set up home there with their family and we’ve enjoyed watching the children grow and flourish – they are all Aussie citizens now of course! Plus we’ve made some very good friends there over the past year or so and they’ve helped to make us feel very much ‘at home’ whenever we visit.

    We’re not 'running away' from England although we’re finding like so many others that the place just isn’t what it used to be, if you know what I mean? It’s changed so much in recent years in so many ways, sadly we think for the worst. I love England and I guess I always will.

    But we want to look for and find happiness and a ‘better quality of life’ in a place where we’ll probably spend the rest of our lives, God willing!

    Obviously we’ve thought long and hard about this – we’ll be moving a long way away from lots of family and friends here in the UK but the world is a much smaller place these days so I’m sure we won’t lose touch with anyone. Also, we realise that with the gloomy UK economic situation contrasting as it does at the moment with the apparently ‘buoyant’ Australian scene, we could have maybe chosen a better time; but whatever, we’ve decided to go.

    We’ve already made flight reservations and plans for our ‘regular’ trip in November and unless anything unexpected happens, we’ll be back in the UK in April, as usual – so I’m afraid that you won’t get rid of us permanently THAT quick!

    But we’ve begun the process of applying for permanent Aussie visas, which we’re told could take anything up to 2 years or so; we’re actually in no particular hurry so we’ll wait if necessary to try and find a buyer for our ‘pad’ at a good price, fingers and toes crossed!

    So there it is – as I’m always saying, in life you should ‘seize the moment’ and not reach that fateful ‘final day’ in your life, looking back and telling yourself …………'I wish I had….'.

    For sure, it’s just too late then!

    Thursday, 17 July 2008

    Isambard Kingdom Brunel

    If you live in the 'Thames Valley' as it's known here, you can't go very far before you come across the work of a very famous Englishman with a very strange name, yes Isambard Kingdom Brunel!

    Posting my Blog about Goring and Moulsford earlier I drifted onto the Wikipedia site on Brunel and reminded myself what an amazing guy he was - in his relatively short life (he died when he was only 53!) he created things which last to this day railways, bridges, tunnels and ships.

    So if you want to marvel at what he did and left behind, just go to the Wikipedia site - it actually made me very proud to be an Englishman!


    Last Tuesday, we enjoyed a nice day out on the River Thames again, in the company of our good friends Chas and Pam Watkins – it was really a chance for Shirley to ‘go boating’ having missed out on Henley a couple of weeks ago because of her poorly foot!

    Chas and Pam were in the middle of a 2-week cruise up the river on their lovely Antaris Family cruiser named ‘Bumble’ so we met up at Goring-on-Thames just by the Lock Cut so that Shirley could easily step on board without too much hassle.

    The weather was fine although a little breezy on the river to start with and we headed up through Goring Lock and then Cleeve Lock a mile or so further on; we moored up at around midday at Moulsford just downstream from the wonderful (but quite pricey) Beetle and Wedge Restaurant. Pam had fixed a nice salad we enjoyed, washed down of course with some chilled Rose!

    By lunchtime the sun was really out and the wind had dropped a little which made the sun very warm (well, it IS July you know!!) – we had to escape the heat so we walked along the river bank a couple of hundred yards, through the woods until we came to the Beetle and Wedge set on the site of the original Moulsford/South Stoke ferry service on the stretch of river immortalised in 'The Wind in the Willows', where Jerome K Jerome chronicled the escapades of his friends' visits in 'Three Men in a Boat'!

    Now here’s something else you maybe didn’t know! In bygone days, a ‘beetle’ was actually a mallet used to hit the ‘wedge’ which split trees into planks which were then floated down to London, a practice apparently last recorded in 1777 but recalled in the name of the pub which used to stand here where H. G. Wells stayed while writing ‘Mr. Polly’ – it actually features in the book as the ‘Potwell Inn’; the building itself was originally a manor house.

    Just upstream a few hundred yards is Brunel’s lovely skewed brick arched railway bridge on the main London to Penzance line above which are some islands which are supposedly haunted!!

    It wasn’t until after 6pm that we headed back to Goring where Chas dropped us off after finding an overnight mooring.

    A very nice day!

    Saturday, 12 July 2008

    BA and Virgin Fuel Surcharge Refunds

    Do you know that……..


    The refund applies to tickets on “long-haul” flights; the ticket purchase must have been made in the UK or in the USA. Long-haul flights include all Virgin Atlantic flights and most British Airways flights between the U.K. and non-E.U. destinations, including flights to and from the United States.

    Sadly BA and Virgin in the UK don’t seem to be bound by the same obligations as they are in the USA (where they have to donate unclaimed refunds to a charity, Miracle Flights for Kids) – in the UK they will keep any unclaimed refunds!!

    Now that's really outrageous, isn't it?!

    So if you think you might qualify for a refund or want to just find out more, click on this link to the BA & Virgin Passenger Settlement website – don’t delay, do it NOW!

    Friday, 11 July 2008

    El Camino del Rey

    Now not for the faint-hearted (courtesy of my good friend John Walmsley) - but just a nice 'easy' stroll along a mountain footpath with superb views all around!

    Read all about it here on Wikipedia and then go here to El Camino del Rey

    You'll enjoy the sound too - so GO, get your heart-rate going!

    Henley - 2008

    With Shirley still incapacitated with bandaged foot and crutches (so landlocked so to speak), I enjoyed a couple of nice, but fairly cool for July, days on the River Thames a week ago along with my good friend Chas Watkins (yes, yes I know all the old 'Chas 'n Dave' jokes!!) along with his son Mark plus our old friend and business colleague Philip Henson and his son James; I was on Chas's boat 'Bumble' (as in bee!) and Phil and James were on Phil's Sea Otter aluminium narrowboat which he calls interestingly 'Chota Memsahib II' - I think that means 'Little Wife' or something like that!

    We set off from Harleyford Marina and travelled downstream for 3 hours or so to Windsor where we tied up on the Eton Bank and waited for Phil to arrive - about 30 minutes later.

    The routine for what is simply known in our diaries as 'Henley' is fairly well established - I think in one boat or another Philip has been doing this for almost 20 years so it doesn't take a whole lot of planning; it's just the way it's always been done!!

    Chota Memsahib II

    We enjoyed a nice few beers and a curry on Thursday evening in Eton, just down the High Street from the famous College, followed by probably too many brandies and port on the boat afterwards!

    The first night for me was absolutely aweful! Because I (apparantly so it seems) snore a little I was relegated to the back of Bumble which was fine at first but as the night wore on it got colder and colder - and I mean COLD; as in unseasonal UK July cold. In the middle of the night sometime I remember getting up and putting on a few layers of clothes!!

    When dawn arrived (no guys, not dawn as in a sexy female Dawn!) at around 4am I was still awake trying desparately to get/keep warm - I gave up at 6am and got up for a brisk walk along the River bank; it was actually warmer outside by this time!!

    Friday was better - after thawing out we headed back up to Harleyford stopping on route for a beer or two and lunch at the Bounty Inn at Bourne End, a popular riverside pub-stop after which Phil suggested I should swap with James, take the helm and navigate 'Chota Memsahib' upstream. The distance to the next Lock gave me some much needed practice at steering the 51 foot beast but then we turned a corner and there was Marlow Lock, one of the deepest on the Thames with a rather nasty offset turn to squeeze into the Lock.

    Now I've sailed quite a few boats in my time from small dinghies to 40 foot yachts but it's quite amazing just how far 51 feet looks from the back of a narrowboat!!

    Anyway I gingerly edged forward with bow thrusters left and right steering slowly into the Lock - the Lock Keeper above shouted down to Philip positioned on the front of the boat 'now that IS impressive' and for just a nano-second I thought he was referring to my navigation skills! Sadly I realised that he was just talking about the numerous 'Save our River' posters which Philip had plastered his boat with!!

    Friday evening was fun with a hearty BBQ on the River Bank accompanied by copious amounts of wine - and the night somehow felt a lot warmer too!!

    We awoke on Saturday to heavy rain so I wasn't too disappointed to shower and head for home later that morning leaving the guys to join up with the girls for the traditional Henley Regatta day.

    Thursday, 10 July 2008

    Life and Death

    I did something today which I didn’t expect to do yesterday – we were out for a nice meal with our good friends Tim and Valerie Downes at the new Loch Fyne restaurant in Wokingham which opened for business last week when Tim mentioned that he’d heard that one of the guys who belonged to the Queens Head Golf Society who I used to play with, had died recently; Tim said he thought the funeral was today (Thursday).

    I called the Crematorium first thing this morning – yes, it was scheduled for 11.15am.

    So I decided to go – really just to pay my respects to someone I knew, not really a close friend but someone who I’d shared a few nice relaxing hours with on a golf course or two! I hadn’t seen him for a while but then again with our lifestyle between the UK and Australia, that wasn’t too surprising.

    It’s strange isn’t it? You sit there among the deceased’s close family and friends, listening to tributes and how folks remembered him – I related to all that was said about Clive.

    Although it wasn’t a religious ceremony (which I always think is rather sad, but then that’s just me I guess) the ‘service’ to celebrate Clive’s life was nonetheless quite moving – he was 68 and had retired of course but he apparently discovered that he had cancer a couple of years or so ago.

    He never made a fuss but would apparently talk about it if you asked him – but he didn’t look for sympathy, that really wasn’t Clive’s style. He bore his situation with great courage and dignity and stayed at home with his family and friends around him until the end, which sadly came quite quickly last week.

    The ‘Order of Service’ handout says the occasion was ‘A Celebration of the Life of Clive Hackett’ and that’s just what this morning was really all about; I saw no tears, just pride from his grown-up sons and daughter to their Dad, now departed this life – Clive’s wife and his elderly Mum and Dad were there too along with many, many friends who, like me were privileged to know him.

    It’s at times like these when life stops you in your tracks and you pause to reflect on your own mortal existence – your clock and mine are ticking, there’s no doubt about that, is there?

    So I was reminded this morning - SEIZE THE MOMENT and live your life to the full: experience and enjoy everything that life has to offer, the good and yes, the not so good too – it’s all part of the deal. Never wish for things or days gone by and past because for better or worse, they are consigned to history; take a moment if you will and click on 'Right Now' in the right hand column of my Blog which I always find uplifting.

    Right now, remind yourself of the blessings and the gift of life, the precious things you cherish, your family and friendships and everything else that makes you happy.

    LIVE FOR TODAY yes, but aim for the best in the future because today, tomorrow, everything and anything is possible.

    And when that day comes, as the finger of fate has already written, when your Maker calls you, no looking back with regrets, no ‘I wish I had done/seen this or that’, just know that you LIVED YOUR LIFE, left some nice memories with people you loved and met and gave it your best shot – that’s all, nothing more.


    Wednesday, 9 July 2008

    Holy bra, Batman!!

    Now, for those not-too-squeamish, here is today's hot news from the UK...............

    A teenager who thought movement in her underwear was caused by her vibrating mobile phone found a bat curled up asleep in her bra.

    Abbie Hawkins, 19, of Norwich, had been wearing the bra for five hours when she plucked up the courage to investigate. When she did, she found a baby bat in padding in her 34FF bra; the hotel receptionist said she was shocked but felt bad for removing the "cuddly" bat.

    "It looked cosy and comfortable and I was sorry for disturbing it," she said.

    She was sitting at her desk at work when she decided to investigate the strange movements in her underwear.

    "I put my hand down my bra and pulled out a cuddly little bat. Perhaps I should have left it there and given it a good home!", she said.

    "It shocked me very much at the time, but it scuttled off under the desk into the dark; I was shaking from head to toe”.

    "It looked quite cosy and comfortable in there so it was quite rude of me to take it out”.

    "When I realised it was a bat the first thing that occurred to me was how it got in there”.

    "I felt quite sorry for it. Perhaps I should have left it there and given it a good home”.

    "I did not notice anything as I put my bra on. The night before I had had one or two drinks and I was getting ready quickly”.

    (methinks, aside - oh c'mon now, only a 'few' drinks huh?)

    "The bra was in my drawer but it had been on the washing line the day before and when I was driving to work, I felt a slight vibration but I thought it was just my mobile phone in my jacket pocket."

    The bat was captured by one of her colleagues and released.

    ……..what a weird and wonderful world we live in these days!


    We enjoyed a really nice evening out at the Woking Theatre last night; the hit musical ‘Evita’ is currently doing a UK Tour and Shirley managed to get in quick a few weeks ago and got us nice seats in the Royal Circle – despite the long walk from the car park on crutches, she managed to get to our second row seats ok!

    It was a GREAT show and very memorable too so if it comes your way – go see it!

    So for those who haven’t seen the show or don’t know who ‘Evita’ was, here’s the background!


    Evita was the last collaboration between composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, who originally developed the show as a concept recording (as they had done previously with Jesus Christ Superstar). The album was released in the UK in 1976 and went straight to the top of the British charts. The recording's success spurred Robert Stigwood to produce Evita for the London stage, featuring Elaine Paige in the title role. The show opened at the Prince Edward Theatre on 21 June 1978, and it became one of the greatest musical theatre hits ever seen in London. By the time it closed, Evita had played 2,900 performances in the West End, and the Broadway production of the musical walked off with seven Tony Awards at the end of its first season in New York.


    The story of Evita follows the life of María Eva Duarte, the second and most famous wife of Argentina's President, General Juan Domingo Perón, and one of Latin America's best-known women. It begins in 1934 and follows the young girl from her small hometown to Buenos Aires where she uses her feminine powers to climb the ladder of success, first as a model, then an actress, and finally as a charismatic political figure. When Perón is elected president, Eva becomes the most powerful woman in South America. Another key figure of the story is Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, a real-life Argentinean revolutionary, at times a narrator, at times an observer, at times simply a device that enables the authors to place Eva in a situation where she is confronted with lucid personal criticism.

    JUAN DOMINGO PERÓN (1895 - 1974)

    …was an Army colonel, former President of Argentina (1946-55, 1973-74), founder and leader of the Peronist movement.

    Juan Perón started out his career by joining the army at the age of 18. Over the following 30 years he held a number of military and government posts. As secretary of labour and social welfare, and later as minister of war and vice President, Perón showed strong support for the labour unions and social reform. This won him the allegiance of Argentine workers, who became the backbone of his support.

    In 1945 Perón was imprisoned by political opponents, but his popular political position and the efforts of his second wife María Eva Duarte, popularly known as Evita, got him out of prison.

    In 1946 he was elected President. He instituted massive social reform, but was ruthless in suppressing all opposition and Perón's Argentina rapidly became a dictatorship. With the aid of Evita he converted trade unions into a militant organization, known as the descamisados [shirtless ones], along fascist lines.

    Shortly after the death of Evita, Perón was ousted from office by a military coup and was then exiled in General Franco's Spain for 10 years. He was allowed to come back to Argentina in 1972 and re-elected as President in 1973. Perón died a short 9 months into his second term as President.

    ……….are you wiser now? I’m a veritable MINE of information today!

    Sunday, 29 June 2008

    Joke for today..........

    'Big Mugabe win in Zimbabwe poll' - BBC News 29th June 2008

    ........but don't worry 'Mr. President', the cell with your name on it and those of your henchmen is waiting at the International Criminal Court in The Hague where you and they will surely ultimately be called to account.

    So enjoy your 'victory' - it wont last very long!


    With Shirley still hobbling around on crutches - albeit slightly more 'spritely' these days! - we headed out to the lovely Thames riverside town of Marlow yesterday evening to meet up with our good friends Pam and Chas Watkins for dinner.

    Marlow is one of those typically old-fashioned and picturesque Thames-side towns which you find all the way up the river; it's smart and trendy too with lots of eating places, bars and folks just ambling around although for some odd reason we didn't understand it seemed quieter last night; maybe the 'calm before the storm' of Henley Regatta next week?

    Marlow is famous for quite a few things including notably the Marlow Bridge across the River Thames - there's been one there since 1227!! The present 'chain' suspension bridge built between 1829 and 1832 replaced a wooden one which fell down! It has a rather unique design which it shares with one of the major bridges in Budapest, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, which is the largest of the four suspension bridges designed by the Bristol born engineer, Tierney Clark.

    The Two Brewers pub on St. Peters' Street opened in 1755 and is rumoured to have been the Inn where Jerome K Jerome wrote a few chapters of his famous book, 'Three Men in a Boat' - well, who knows?

    The Two Brewers, Marlow

    Anyway we enjoyed a nice meal in good company, as always with Pam and Chas. The occasion gave Chas and I the opportunity to talk through the logistics for our annual 'boys boating trip' on the River in advance of Henley Royal Regatta which starts on Wednesday - we're going to meet up on Thursday morning and cast off for a few days cruisin' 'n drinkin' along with Phil Henson, another old friend who also has a long-boat on the Thames; I think there'll be 5 of us in all on 2 boats this year which should be fun!

    Let's see if the English summer can dish us up some nice warm sunny weather for a change!!

    Saturday, 28 June 2008

    Boeing X48B

    Something somewhat lighter today - six super shots of the first flight of the unmanned Boeing X48B on 20th July 2007; I hope you like them as much as I do!

    Click on each photo for a closer look-see!

    Click here for more information and photos, what a plane!

    Thursday, 26 June 2008

    Zimbabwe - Nelson speaks

    Now the best news of the week for me - Nelson Mandela attacks Zimambwe's tragic failure of leadership; aka Robert Mugabe

    I'm sure this is a very significant and HEAVY nail in the coffin of Magabe's regime.

    Mr Magabe, the end is nigh!

    Monday, 23 June 2008

    Crazy English!!

    We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
    But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
    One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
    Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
    You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
    Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

    If the plural of man is always called men,
    Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
    If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
    And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
    If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
    Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

    Then one may be that, and three would be those,
    Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
    And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
    We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
    But though we say mother, we never say methren.
    Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
    But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

    Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
    There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
    neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
    English muffins weren't invented in England.
    We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
    we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
    and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

    And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
    grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
    Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
    If you have a bunch of odds and ends and
    get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

    If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
    If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
    Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
    should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

    In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
    We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
    We have noses that run and feet that smell.
    We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
    And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
    while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

    You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
    in which your house can burn up as it burns down,
    in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

    Happy birthday, Max!!

    It's our Grandson Max's 4th birthday today - 23rd June!

    Here is a nice 'quickie' photo which Andrew sent us from his Blackberry - Max having fun with some of his friends at 'Sandbuckets', a local adventure playground close to where they live in Warriewood, NSW.

    Isn't he growing up fast!

    Proud Godfather!

    Now here's a nice photo, don't you think?

    It's our Godaughter Christina and me!

    We scooted up the motorway to Leicester on Saturday to attend a party to celebrate our good friend Bettina’s 60th birthday!

    It was a great occasion attended by her daughter (and our Goddaughter!) Christina, us and a whole host of Leicester friends – mostly Portuguese! And what a wonderful party it was too!

    And the food – well wow! I don’t think I’ve seen a spread like it – all prepared and served up by Bettina and her friends Paula, Jorge and Sandra with help from numerous others who pitched in with a dish or two.

    On a diet maybe? Well just forget it!! The food was absolutely delicious!! So now I’m fasting again to try to lose the naughty pounds I put on in just a few hours!

    We stayed with Bettina overnight and helped clear up before helping ourselves to some ‘left-over’s’ – yes, you guessed it; naughty again!!

    But it was nice to see some old faces again after so long – Mario, Shirley’s old boss from when she and Bettina worked together hairdressing and some of their colleagues, Louise, Jackie and Alison with their husbands respectively Neal, Paul and Craig – I think they all at some time used to ‘baby-sit’ for us when we lived in Leicester in the early 1980’s; they thought we lived in such a big, posh house!

    They don’t seem to have changed a bit – but then again NONE of us have, huh?

    Why so quiet, Nelson?

    Nelson Mandela arrived in London this morning for a concert to celebrate his 90th birthday next month - he's a very special man, don't you think? Influential and statemanlike - a beacon for oppressed folks around the world.

    .........but VERY quiet about the tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe!

    A few well-chosen words from the great man would make so much difference, wouldn't it?

    Thursday, 19 June 2008


    I've just signed up for a trial period for a new mail system - no not email, REAL mail!

    It's a service just launched in the UK for mail to UK addresses - which you send via your computer; there's no need to buy paper, envelopes or stamps. The idea is that you pay 27p plus vat per letter and send it from your computer into the Viapost system - Viapost actually print the letter and mail it for you using sites they have closest to the recipient thereby reducing your carbon footprint!! 'Final-mile' delivery is by Royal Mail of course.

    So far as I can see, folks (say) in Australia or anywhere else in the world can use the system for mailing letters to UK addresses and to me it's certainly worth looking into as the cost and the speed of delivery will be considerably better! For us in the UK it can save time and effort and 'guarantee' a faster service than the regular Royal Mail.

    Go to the Viapost website for more information.

    Airlines - best seats

    Now here's is a pretty amazing service for anyone planning air travel.

    Go here:

    So when you've selected your flight and want to book and it shows you what the aircraft type is, open this site in another window and drill down to the page with the same airline and same plane type.

    Then you will see a highly detailed seating plan to help you pick the best seats.

    Easy-peasy huh?

    Tuesday, 17 June 2008

    The Times Archive

    Now here's an interesting thing if you've nothing better to do on a rainy day!

    The Times has a free introductory offer to search their archives and explore 200 years of history as it appeared in the original pages of The Times newspaper from 1785-1985 - the offer enables the following access and options:

    • Every issue of The Times published between 1785-1985, digitally scanned and fully searchable
    • Click and drag navigation
    • Save, print, e-mail favourite articles
    • 150 topic pages, plus magnificent archive photo galleries
    So go here all you historians (and the Bandicoots Trivia Quiz team!) out there - The Times Archive

    PS - Democracy, Zimbabwe style

    Today's quote from President Robert Mugabe:

    "We fought for our country and a lot of blood was shed.

    We are not going to give up our country because of a mere 'x'"

    (meaning 'x' as on a ballot paper of course!)

    Source: The Times, London 17th June 2008

    Sunday, 15 June 2008

    Happy Fathers' Day!

    To all those Dads who need a break today.............

    ........Happy Fathers' Day!!

    Saturday, 14 June 2008

    Yes, Chef!!

    As most of you know, I normally live in the shadow of one of the really GREAT cooks in the world; yes, it’s my dear wife Shirley.

    Well, these are unusual times – Shirley is currently hobbling around on crutches following surgery on her right foot last Monday so yours truly is having to resort to previously ‘hidden reserves’ in surviving; yes, thank goodness I was a Boy-Scout!! Um, in my early teens, I was actually a Patrol Leader of the Kingfisher Patrol in the 7th Orpington Scout Troop, many, many moons ago!! So I learned how to survive, knots and all!!

    Well, tough times call for tough measures and as the saying goes, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going!!’

    Since Shirley got discharged last Tuesday I’ve been very busy, domestically that is! Yes, administering to every whim and request from my dear wife as well as vacuuming, laundry, shopping, bed making and all those things that guys normally DON’T do but somehow miraculously do get done by ‘the fairies’ – cooking maybe included!

    Now I know that among my friends far and wide there are some, not many I admit, who DO possess those culinary skills but up to now I’ve been in the majority, quietly enjoying the splendid cooking of our wives and relying on maybe just ‘setting the table’ and ‘washing up’ (um, that’s simply pressing the button on the dishwasher) as our contribution to the meal!

    But here guys – I’ve broken NEW GROUND!! Yes, I’ve done my bit at the BBQ, pretending that ‘I’ve cooked the meal’ when I’ve only just stood over the flames and turned the beef burger or sausages over at the right moment. But REALLY cooking? Well listen here!

    So far this week (and hey it’s still only Saturday!) I’ve served up Lasagna, Pork Chops with Pears and Maple Syrup, Roast Chicken Breast with Blue cheese, wrapped in bacon and tonight the ‘Pièce de résistance’ (so far!) Chicken Biryani served with roasted nuts, chilies and Nan bread and accompanied by a nice bottle of Spanish Rioja!! Plus I’ve roasted some very nice sweet peppers and served these for as a garnish for a salad lunch or two!

    Oh and I’ve washed up as well!!

    OK, I know I’ve got some catching up to do with some other members of my family and friends but I’m trying!!

    Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver!!