Life, photos but not the universe

dangermen working and devilled kidneys

I was woken this morning by the sound of hammering and clanking.  I ignored it.  Then I was woken again by the sound of the front door bell ringing.  Putting two and something or other else together in my head I declined to go down and open the front door, but instead, went into the next bedroom, opened the window and stuck my head out to see two or three workmen gathered around on Next Door’s lawn and one emerging from the porch.  “Hello”  I said brightly, as if I had been up and doing for hours.*

Yes.  It seems the work on Next Door’s outdoor woodwork has begun.  (Intelligently they have chosen to be away this week).  Did I have the key to their shed?  I did not but Next Other Door apparently has.  So now, as well as hammers, scaffolding and other such implements of destruction construction, they have electric drills, saws and grinder thingies and all manner of cutting and delving and hole making equipment with which to wake me.  Isn’t that nice.  And Oh, would I like to shut the bedroom window as there might be a lot of dust.

Ah well.  It’s time to consider devilling kidneys for dinner.  I used to do a rather nice kidney dish called Rognons Turbigo but although I still like the name we went off the dish – too bland for elderly, smoked taste buds.  So I think I’ll do a kind of devilled rognons with some of the turbigo part.  And Mash.  Perhaps garlic Mash.  I like garlic Mash.  Or herb mash.  I’ve got lots of herbs needing to be used up.  I do wonder what ‘turbigo’ means.  I looked it up and Google translates it as ‘turbigo’ and the audio bit says the same thing in an American accent.  I guess turbigo just means turbigo then?

Well we’re off again in a day or two for a relaxing week on the canals.  Yes I know we’ve only just done that but Brother In Law has a part share in a narrow boat and needs a crew for the week.  We couldn’t refuse.  (As long as he understands that crew means Barney on locks and steering and me on kettle and camera)

Since we are having the annual family bash two days after we come back, my head is trying to accommodate the idea of packing, locking up and going away together with the contradictory idea of cleaning, tidying and preparing for lots of people to arrive.  Not to mention trying to use up all the leftovers and going off to buy enough food to feed a family of twenty five.  As a way of bypassing the mental blockage that this causes, I decided to clean the computer desk, install a new hard drive and identify and label all the other hard drives.  (I’ve been meaning to do this for months and months so isn’t it a good thing that I’m doing the big cleanup or I’d never have got round to the back of the desk)

It’s all going swimmingly.  As if swimming in treacle.  Of course, I can’t do anything about uploading photos while it’s busy.  But I can put all the washing away and clean the downstairs loo.  So I suppose it’s proved a useful way of side-tracking confusion and getting on with stuff.

Still, on the way home from shopping I saw a sun-dappled Appaloosa horse.  Not a thing you see often in England.

got to go and start a bit of packing now.  See you when I get back.  Have a lovely time while I’m away

(Especially those of you who are also away)

(And especially those of you who are not also away : )

* A little later I glanced in a mirror and realised that most probably my hair will have told them that I’d only just got out of bed when they rang so I needn’t have bothered with the brightness.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

From racism to bed, with added rats.

It’s hot and sultry and gorgeous.  It may rain on the garden later.  And then its going to be hot again tomorrow.  Nice.

Anyway, following a TV programme on Lee Harper, Barney and I were surprised to realise that I haven’t read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ since I was about fifteen and he’s never read it.  So I treated us to a copy which I inadvisably read last night at one sitting.  My word, it’s good!  Isn’t it good?  Today I’m  a couple of hours short of sleep but it was worth it.

So I decided to go to bed early.  Oh and just as a little bedtime reading, to investigate stories about giant rats because a friend and I were idly discussing them the other day.  The conclusions I arrived at won’t keep me awake at night!  Basically that hardly anyone has seen any giant rats.  No one seems to have taken any good clear photos of any.  People who work in rat infested areas don’t seem to think giant rats exist.  Captive rats don’t grow to enormous sizes in spite of good diet and care though the size can be increased a little with selective breeding.   However there are coypu now living in the UK and in the US which look a lot like rats but are much bigger – about the size of a big cat.  So if you see a giant rat, check the shape of it’s muzzle – coypu have a blunt muzzle unlike the long, pointy, twitching snout of a rat.

While researching rats though, I came across this advert.

Welcome to SAGE Labs (Sigma Advanced Genetic Engineering Labs), your source for unique, next-generation animal research models featuring specific gene deletions, insertions, repressions and modifications, as well as the industry’s first and only SAGE Labs knockout rat model.

Am I imagining it or is this an advert for genetically modified animals for people to use in experiments?  Now that could keep me awake for a little while.  And what on earth is a ‘knockout rat model’?  Something to play tennis with? Some kind of gamers’ toy?

I also came across this entertaining article about feisty little ship rats.  I particularly liked this piece of information

“……though if a shrieking buck ship rat leaps, arms spread wide, towards your face he isn’t trying to tear your throat out as legend would have it: he just wants to widdle on your head and then trample up and down rubbing it well in with his feet.”

Well it’s too late to go to bed early and too late to add pictures so I shall stop here and go off to see what interesting things come visiting me in my sleep tonight.  Interesting times may mean interesting dreams.


Update:  Well there is a breed of giant rats, recently discovered in caves at the bottom of a remote island somewhere in the Pacific (? not sure about the location exactly).  However there’s no sign that they’ve started taking over the world yet.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tim and Tina

I was going to tell you the heroic tale of How I Overcame All Resistance And Managed To Pay Our Web Hosting Account Even Though At First I Couldn’t Log In.  However, this became the embarrassing Tale Of How I Typed  .Com Instead Of .Net Several Times, before realising that I’d been trying to log in to a website which, not surprisingly doesn’t know anything about me instead of the one where we have a account.  So it’s just as well I didn’t.  Tell you about it that is.*

So when my mobile phone went all quiet and wouldn’t send or receive any messages this morning, I felt a certain anxiety about getting on with sorting it out**.  But I did try getting some information on line and felt even more tentative when Vodafone informed me that they hadn’t heard of me or my fone.  I foned  Vodafone and thankfully, they (onfone as opposed to online)  had heard of me and even knew my fone number so we were able to establish that probably, my Fone is broken.

I went into town to the Vodaphone , sorry Vodafone, shop and it only took the Tim, the nice lad in the shop, an hour and a half to insert a new sim card and sell me a new, cheaper package with more free hours of fone calls and unlimited texts.  (Or was it unlimited fone calls and 30000 texts?)

I’ve suddenly realised what I forgot to ask him – but it’s too late now.  I’m signed up for a year.  I’d better try and find out what for.

Anyway, next week, I’m getting a haircut.  Tina, who is a very pleasant young/middle-aged lady, has done very well so far.  I’ve quite liked what I looked like after leaving the hairdressers.   I’m hoping I can remember what I’ve been telling her so far, in case she’s forgotten me.

Cows.  Nice, peaceful bucolic cows in a pastoral scene.  By the Thames.


Living jewels in the neighbour’s mint.

Now if I could persuade these to sit on my earlobes, I wouldn’t need earrings 🙂

At least eight lurking in here.  Aren’t they pretty.  Though they have made rather a mess of the mint!

Got to go to bed now.  Sleep well : )

*Oh!  Well I suppose I did.  But you don’t have to pay any attention.

**Vodafone haven’t so far been totally easy to understand and thus, in 2007, I inadvertently signed myself up for two fone packages, neither of which did exactly what I thought they were going to and one of which, I couldn’t escape for 18 months!!!!  I didn’t love them at the time.

July 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

overcome writer’s block with plinky prompts

Right.  Well actually I don’t think so.  I can’t imagine that anything called ‘plinky prompts’ could usefully overcome anything.

Generally, wordpress is quite sensible.  Oh well.

Before I forget and the experience is lost in the mists of time, last weekend, Youngest turned up at the pub driving a porsche.

It seemed to make her quite happy!

And I found being taken for a ride in it quite – challenging!

Fun though : )  I’m not naturally drawn to cars but you can’t complain about going for a spin in something that growls and purrs and pushes you gently but firmly into the back of an extremely comfortable seat.  Just once in a while.


Sadly, she had to give it back to it’s owner after the weekend.

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Now. Right now.

Twice this week I’ve been woken from a deep and well earned sleep at an unreasonable hour, without warning, because a certain person ,who shall remain nameless, forgot to tell me in advance, that he needed to take a vehicle to the garage.*

The first vehicle to go was the little Fireball** so I didn’t get to drive it till it was finished.

Then it was the pickup that needed an MOT so as I was blearily (but hastily) getting up I thought, well he’ll be taking the Escort (servicable and DULL) to work so I’ll be able to drive the Fireball (nippy and delightful) today, as a reward for being up so bright (ahem) and early.  I was a bit miffed when I discovered that he’d decided to take the little car to work leaving me with the Escort.

Still, I quite like being up now I am.  I suppose that’s an example of virtue being its own reward.

Right.  Well I’d better improve the shining hour (Or two.  Or three).  Time for coffee.

Recently, I was particularly taken with two (severely abbreviated) pearls of wisdom from Mel, these being

1) If you think self defeating thoughts, you’ll hypnotise yourself into defeat. Substitute successful and enthusiastic hypnotism.

2) It’s nice to be motivated but actually, even if you can’t find any motivation, you can still do the whatever it is that    you don’t feel like doing.

Hmmm.   I know neither of these are new ideas nor are they much more than simple common sense.  However, the way they’ve been expressed on this occasion seems to have got into my head.  (It’s quite resistant to the ideas of not defeating myself  and of doing stuff I don’t want to do)

Anyway, you might want to skip the next several paragraphs since they’re mostly about doing things I don’t want to do which most people do quite cheerfully and without making the enormous song and dance about it which I do.  See, even the grammar goes a bit haywire on the subject.

Ok, so, in a minute I will fetch down the heap of stuff that’s destined for the tip and it’ll be great to have done it.  I’ll be really pleased that it’s finally off the landing.

Oh alright! :{  I’ll do it now.


Yay!  that worked!

Er.  Maybe I ought to put it in the car.  Um, good idea.  In a minute.


(Yes.  I did it.  I was quite pleased).

I’ve just read the curiously named Crewe Train by Rose McCauley.  (Curious because I don’t remember any mention of Crewe or trains except as a means of transporting characters).  The main character reminded me, a lot, of me when I was younger, not that I was ever either a magnificent or arresting physical specimen which she is.  However, she couldn’t see the point of cleaning or tidying or idle chatter.  Which, when I was younger, I couldn’t either.  And like me, she wasn’t very good at any of them.  It’s a short, concise and somewhat sad story with plenty of irony and some lovely pithy stuff.  Although set in the post war years, it doesn’t seem dated to me except, perhaps in the elegant writing style.

Well, the story ends when she’s quite young.  I hope she found ways to enjoy life a little more when she got older.  After all, I did.  But, though I now find some point in cleaning, tidying and idle chatter, I still find it extremely hard to get on with any of them.  Thus an occasional near obsession with these things here.  That which is mundane and ordinary to most of the world is quite interesting and noteworthy to me.  I suppose that’s true of a lot of things that people habitually write about?

On a slightly different tack, one night last week, I fell into a whole series of investigations into out-of-print childrens’ novels as a result of which I now almost have a complete collection of Monica Edwards’ Romney Marsh and Punchbowl Farm books.  I read one last night and it’s really good.  I’m so pleased my childhood tastes in reading were so soundeven when I was pony mad and couldn’t be bothered to read anything without a horse in it somewhere.

Right.  Time for a little more self hypnosis.  And a shower and some more coffee.  What was I going to do next?  Ah.  Hmmm.  Yes.  Hoovering.  Ok.  Go, woman go.  You’ll feel satisfied when it’s done right?  Virtuous and relieved of a burden.  And none of that gloomy “it’ll all have to be done again in a day or two”.  Oh no none of that.   Hey, if I do it twice in a week I’ll feel satisfied, virtuous and relieved twice in a week.  Can’t be bad.  There’s plenty of time if I do it NOW.

O………K…….. :{

NOW now, not ‘in a minute’ now.

(Suddenly I’m reminded of a sulky teenager.  Ok, so I never grew up.  It’s never too late right?  Or alternatively, even a heel-dragging 59 year old teenager can still do that what she doesn’t want.  To do.  Oh….. yes, ok, now).


There’s a rumour of poppies

Looks like it’s true

Yes, that’s definitely poppies

With broad bean plants!

I like poppies.

Anyway, today I had to nip into Waterstones.  On my way out I saw a very special offer

Death Under The Ice

Terror Under The Dome

Both available at half price.

Well you know what?  I think I’ll stick with poppies.

*Since Barney leaves for work before Mr Garage gets to his workshop, this means we have to take two cars to the garage and used to mean that after I’d been dropped back at home I didn’t have a car till the one in the garage was fiinished but now we have the fireball, I usually get to drive that for the rest of the day.***

**Mazda LX5 = Fireball XL5

***Though Paul, from the garage, is quite reluctant to get out of it when he delivers it back here : )

July 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

So. What noises can you not abide?

My fiddle teacher becomes slightly ragged at the edges during the long hot summer days when the music room is unbearable without the cooling fan.  It hums very slightly sharp of F#.  Also her computer hums a little below A#.  (This is particularly difficult as fiddles are tuned to A (natural).   She has also been known to throw a few wobblies over handkerchiefless pupils who sniff.

I have become aware in the last twenty years, of a low, soft booming sound, the source of which I cannot identify (in spite of several nocturnal perambulations of the whole house, leaning an  enquiring ear into various corners and appliances).  I think it’s approximately around G flat but I don’t have perfect pitch so I’m not sure.  And it’s not the pitch that bothers me but the lack of ID.  Then recently I’ve been driven to chasing the dog to his basket, with quite unkind emphasis, by his habit of following me round, snuffling, groaning, wheezing and gasping and I used to go quite berserk when the children surreptitiously ate crisps in the back of the car.   Something secretive, sniffly and mouse-like about the noise.  Arrgh!  Oh and people who can’t eat without crunchy, swallowy, slurpy sound effects!  (This goes straight back to my childhood – “Don’t eat with your mouth open!!!!!!!!“)

I have one friend who can’t get to sleep because of the sound of his own heartbeat, booming away and amplified by the hollow spring area in the mattress.  I have sympathy because there are times when our mattress amplifies the sound of a certain person snoring.   Another friend has tinnitus, in the form of non-existent people calling her name when she’s trying to listen to a conversation!  Ooh, yes!  Sympathy!

Oh and I recall an acquaintance getting quite upset on a windy day because he couldn’t stand the sea noise of the wind in the trees.  Now that seems a bit odd to me?

And an Aunt once came to stay and couldn’t sleep because of the silence!  Lived all her life in Ashton Under Lyne, close to Manchester and the absence of traffic noise at night was quite distressing for her.

Oh and I remember a man who began to sound bit obsessive after he’d identified  various faults and problems in every one of the fifty or so cars, who pass our house at school collecting time, from the sound of the engines.

Deafness, which is becoming a definite event around here, begins to look like a possible blessing!

And there’s no need to tell me what I sound like.  I feel absolutely no need to know about it.

Oddly enough, I’m not really aware of any noises that distress Barney – Oh yes!  Flies buzzing around the bedroom when he’s reading at night.   I’ve been pushed out to investigate, hunt down and destroy, a few times.  Yes.  Deafness has its advantages : )


Above our heads, the M25 roars* and down below, the boat engine throbs and the water ripples.  It’s like being in two worlds at once.

You’d think, thunderous bellowing or thudding hooves.  Actually, it was splatter.  For a very long time.  Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any creature pee for so long.  I wonder if bulls write their names in the snow?

Ripple, splash, plink, chink

Just a few thoughts on noise.  Sleep well : )

*Not too busy that day then or the traffic would have been stationary.

July 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A dog’s holiday

Poor old Nutmeg found this holiday quite hard work.  He wanted to be allowed to go for long runs along the towpath and to hop up and down the steps but not only was it all a bit too much for him, also, he got in the way more than he used to (being nearly blind and almost deaf and prone to backing into the steerer in moments of excitement).  So he got to spend quite long periods inside, unable to escape up the steep steps unless someone took pity on him and picked him up.  Not easy since he tried to assist even though he didn’t quite understand what was happening.

Having been confined below decks for some time, Nutmeg thought perhaps he might be allowed out.

Are we nearly there yet?

Looking very smart and seadoglike in his life jacket (which he wasn’t wearing when he nearly went overboard but then we weren’t in tidal waters then either – just ordinary wet ones)

Once or twice, he got seriously overheated.  A wet towel seemed to be the answer.

Out for the count

Water overflowing behind the dog and the Barney.  Like some sort of film backdrop!

Waterfall with Dog and Captain

He probably won’t be able to come on the canals again with us.  It’s just too exhausting for him.  (And stressful for us).

It’s such a shame I didn’t get a photo of his moment of glory, crossing a lock along the top of the lock gates but I was too busy worrying about him falling in!   But I can assure you, he looked like a proper ship’s dog for a few moments.  (It’s just as well we don’t have rigging to contend with.  That would have sorted him out!)

Anyway, here’s a confident dog.

But it’s easy to look confident sitting down!

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

All the little fishes

It’s time for breakfast.  After a protracted and disappointing search of the fridge and larder I suddenly noticeda a tin of Pilchards ‘in rich tomato sauce’.  Ooh yes!!!!

I was a difficult child to feed.  I was picky and fussy and only wanted exactly what I wanted.  (An elderly Maiden aunt made the mistake of making me porridge with salt in and it was several years before the contents of the bowl were discovered down the hole where the chimney in my room was blocked).

But I did love certain kinds of fish.  Tinned sardines, smoked cods roe, tinned salmon, (I might have liked the fresh versions too but those weren’t the sort of thing the average household could afford in those days.)

I loved sardines in tomato sauce, the oily, salty, tartness, Mmmm!  And also the fascinating dissection of the parts – the silvery, slightly papery skin, the softly crunchy bones, the elegant little line of dark flesh along the sides and if  I was very lucky, the wonderful, tiny slivers of roe either grainy or smooth, depending on whether the fish was male or female.

Tinned salmon gave up its secrets in a less orderly way but again, with luck there would be the backbone and a few layers of dark soft flesh in between the pink (Pink!  Pink food!  Wonder of wonders.) chewy bits.  The odd sliver of silver and some deliciously soft, white fatty bits.

Later, I discovered Whitebait, tiny, crisply fried fish all silver and browned and delicious.  And fresh river trout with the gorgeous earthy taste that is conspicuously missing from farmed trout.  Fresh sardines, not quite as aggressively bony as herring or mackerel but just as rich and salty.

I could never get on with kippers or herring – the ratio of bones (they’re tiny, just eat them, you won’t notice them.  Uh  uh.  I noticed them) to flesh was too much.  But smoked cod’s roe!  Wow! Pure smoky, salty flavour with the wonderful grainy texture all smoothed in rich oils.  Heaven.

And I mustn’t forget Shippams sardine and tomato paste!  Ooh, delicious.  The only way to eat toast unless by some miraculous generosity I was allowed to share Dad’s special treat – Gentleman’s relish!  (Anchovy paste.)  Oh yes I could manage a bit of toast if it was relished in a gentlemanly way!

Yes well.   You might notice that nearly all these delights involved small fish.  Very small fish even.  And fish eggs.  Thousands and millions of baby fish delighted my baby palate and I’m afraid it has to be considered that I may have contributed significantly (and enthusiastically) to the present day fish crisis.

So I can’t indulge in these delights any more and worse, I can’t eat Taramasalata either.  It may not look like smoked cod’s roe but it is.  It’s all very sad.  Furthermore, the pilchards were tough and too small and the tomato sauce was barely flavoured at all, never mind ‘rich.’  Very disappointing and I shan’t get them again.

Never mind.  Today I bought a new gadget.

Many years ago, Barney obtained an ancient but serviceable army great coat (I’m really not sure whose army it came from but it’s a splendid, if cumbersome, garment).  He dug it out from some corner of a cupboard for Youngest’s Lapland wedding and somehow, it’s never found it’s way back into the cupboard.  It’s too bulky for me to heave into a tidy space and it’s been lying on the floor in the bedroom for the last eighteen months, quietly infuriating me.  So I bought a ‘space bag’.  You know, one of those things into which you stuff a lot of clothes and then out of which you vacuum all the air.  And I am amazed!  From a bulky, floppy, voluminous nuisance, the space bag has created a thin, shiny, slightly lumpy and totally rigid, er, well, thing, with a couple of buttons sticking out slightly.  I could stack it vertically or lay it flat or wedge it sideways and it wouldn’t change shape one iota.  It’s surprisingly heavy mind, but so was the coat*.  And the whole process took about five minutes – most of which was the time spent getting out the hoover and deciding which attachment to use.  [Edit: Actually, now I look at it again, and giggle some more, I remember that nearly all of the five minutes was spent trying to force it into the bag which now appears to have room for another coat, at least].  And best of all, there are two more bags in the pack!

Ooh!  What can I space bag next?

How many more space bags can I buy?

I really love things that work!  And it was a LOL moment when I hoovered out the air!


More wildlife.



I’m not sure – is this an unusually lifelike lawn ornament?


Oops!  Well it’s cute even if it’s not life as we know it.



Very small wildlife (if you can see it at all)

Now I have to go and giggle a bit more over the mummified greatcoat and then to bed.

Sleep well.

*well ok, it still is a coat, technically.  But you’d never guess to look at it.

July 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bits and bobs, bridges, Barney and apparently I took a photo of this church last time we were here.

Steve in reflective mood

Wonder Under-Bridge

Barney with HAT (This was the one that sank in the Thames)

The church of which I took a photo last time we were on this bit of canal.  Well, it’s a nice church.

Though a bit blurry.  It was last time too.

July 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The way it used to be

Shortly before we set off in our anachronistic craft to travel to London, I was reminded by a comment from Mel about the first computer that came into our home.  It was a hand me down PET from my Step-Father and you had to programme it to do simple sums yourself*.  I’m not sure what, if anything, else you could programme it to do because I hadn’t mastered that much before Eldest managed to insert a bit of plastic between the PET’s screen and keyboard and it expired, with a flash, a wisp of smoke and a snapping noise and smelt horribly of excessively hot components for a few minutes. We took it to a computer repair man ** who said it was very interesting to work on but he couldn’t fix it.

Some time after, Middle girl was given another hand me down computer (a much more advanced machine) by a friend of ours who was impressed with her cleverness and diligence.  Sadly, as soon as the machine came through the door, Eldest pounced on it and under the pretense of demonstrating it’s capabilities, took it over and after upsetting it several times, tipped  a can of coke over its keyboard and that one came to a sticky end.

By then it was too late to stem the flood.

Or Eldest.  He began to acquire hand me downs from all over the place and then upgraded bits and then started all night game playing sessions online and got his own phone line (so that we wouldn’t put an axe through the machine after yet another customer couldn’t get through to us because in those days we hadn’t heard of broadband) and finally, handed one down to me.

And by then, I had some glimmerings of what this keyboard, tv screen and oddly fridge-like box could be used for.  (Other than sitting up all night battling warlocks and evil monsters with teams of  gamers from all over the world)

Well and quite soon after I wrote this, we were off to adventure the waters of the Thames.  And I was trying to work out how long my netbook would go without charging and whether my new gadget would really let me charge it from the cigarette lighter type plug on the boat.  Which reminded me of the time Eldest brought his computer to Wales with us on our holiday so that he could attend a LAN party (where lots of geeks networked their computers and played games with each other all together in one room).  Further, he’d arranged to meet one of the older geeks for a lift up the motorway to Birmingham and we handed our fourteen year old over to this stranger in the parking area of an industrial complex in some intermediate Welsh town.

Groomed for a life of geekdom!

The more things change eh?

This somehow makes me think of those days when computers weren’t a part of everyone’s life.  Which, of course they still aren’t, but now, if you don’t have one and you’re under fifty, you’re probably underprivileged as well.

*But if you could teach it how to do a simple sum it would do as many of them as you wanted it to do.  As long as you didn’t lose or damage the magnetic tape.***

**There were people like that, way back then.

***Was it magnetic?  I’m not sure.  Chips and video tapes don’t like magnets but perhaps PETS didn’t have chips?

July 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment