Life, photos but not the universe

You may have noticed that we are making improvements to your store

NO!  (Feel free to ignore the next seven paragraphs – it’s just a rant)

But the newly refurbished Waitrose  is driving me to early dementia.  See, it’s the nearest supermarket to us and it’s also nice to shop in.  Well it was but now they’ve added self-service quick-check tills and you can’t pay with cash unless you go to the customer service area.  (Which is busy with people who need customer service, naturally.)  Also they’ve somehow increased the stock and the shelves and added two coffee areas as well as the existing cafe without actually making the shop any bigger (they couldn’t do that because there’s no room for any more shop).  So you can guess that there’s less room in between the shelves.

I like paying with cash because a) I really know how much money I’m spending, b) I don’t take home scrolls and scrolls of paper which need to be destroyed for security reasons, c) I don’t have to worry about the risk of hackers (or whatever they are) stealing my card details, d) I’m re-using paper instead of creating it and e) it’s quicker to pay with cash.  And I like using quick check because I get a running total of my spending on my scanner and I don’t have to queue at the till for a member of staff to do it for me.  Or at least I didn’t used to have to.

A nice thing about Waitrose is that they give me vouchers sometimes but you can only use those at the quick check tills – where you can’t use cash.   Meanwhile, the new system breaks down regularly – well, every time I’ve been there some or all of the quick-check scanners have been out of commission.   Add to that, the scanner collection area is directly between the entrance/exit and the tills so that people collecting scanners and people leaving the shop continually get in each other’s way.  The new coffee dispenser on the other hand, is on the other side of the entrance/exit, so the people who want a cup of coffee before they leave the shop have to negotiate both the people leaving the shop and the people arriving and the people collecting scanners.

It’s probably the time of year but the the check-outs, both manned and self serve, have suddenly developed huge queues all the time.  Oh and if you do use the self service tills, there’s only one person available to sort out the problems (many problems because the system keeps tripping itself up) and to agree that you’re old enough to buy alcohol and to scan any vouchers you may have – all of which have to be done when the till demands it, so you have to wait up to three times for the things to be cleared before you can carry on paying them.  Not shopping or having coffee or chatting with a friend but paying them your money.

And the thing that makes me get really overexcited and want to screech indignantly is that the rack for the finished scanners at the quick check tills is stupidly placed on the wrong side of and slightly behind the till.

In fact I’m getting scared to go in there in case I finally flip and start swinging my handbag around and swearing.

Instead, I decided to go to My Waitrose (Huh!) and complain.  Unfortunately it appears that the contact/query form doesn’t allow you to use ‘enter’ to start a new paragraph and since I am literate, I use paragraphs without thinking.  So far, I have failed three times to send my complaint.  Which gets longer each time I try again.  It’s a toss up whether I get bored (and accustomed to the ‘improved’ store) and lose the will to complain before succeeding in typing a whole complaint without a paragraph in it.

I dunno.  I must be getting old.

On the other hand, I went in today and it was all quiet and I had a nice chat with the lady at the customer service till.   They are missing chatting to people who just want to pay instead of coming to complain.  Actually, so am I missing chatting to them.

And on yet another hand, the other day I went to the game butchers’ and it was a golden evening.

Ashampstead church, across the field and the avenue of lime trees .





Oh ok, it’s only half an avenue.

November 29, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Business online

Not as usual.

To start with, between us ♠, we inadvertently paid the VAT twice and then didn’t know quite where the second payment had gone.  Eventually after many lengthy phone calls involving hours of automation, Barney was able to beg a real live .gov official to find and return the extra payment to us.  Imagine how silly we felt when we realised that the unexpected refund we had received from the Corporation Tax several months earlier was not an unexpected windfall after all.  (And no, sadly, they didn’t refund it to us again).

This was a lesson in communication for me.  If we do anything online, Barney will remember nothing about it.  I say nothing about whether I remember anything – at all.  ♠♠

Next, a large brewing concern suggested that Barney should get a Safe Contractors certificate so that if they want him to thatch any more of their pubs, he’ll be automatically acceptable to Health and Safety.  So we duly paid a large amount of money to a company, who certificate, and applied to them to certificate us.  It took a couple of hours to fill in the form online but we felt hopeful  that we’d get a certificate soon.

Not so.  From the fifty odd (incomprehensible actually) questions that we’d answered, forty-five or so were returned as unacceptable.  And they were all the questions that we’d answered N/A.  Because, see, we never work with asbestos, chemicals, poisonous substances and um, the other thing.  Therefore we don’t have a policy concerning them and neither do do we have certificates  or training schedules concerning them.  Oh and we don’t sub-contract.  So we don’t have any policy in place to assess, certificate or even think about the health and safety certification and training of subcontractors.  Oh and we never work with non-English Speakers so we have no-one designated or certificated to assess their safety or health or indeed to talk to them at all.  And on and on and on it goes.

Thing is, now we’ve applied for certification, if anyone ever looks it up and we don’t, somehow, obtain a certificate, they’ll say Oh look, they applied for a certificate and they failed to get one!!!  And you know what, given that we’re a company which consists of three blokes working on (usually private) roofs together, and their wives (who don’t), we are probably uncertifiable.  And the really, really exasperating thing is that quite possibly the Brewery who started this off will never need us to thatch one of their pubs again. ♠♠♠

Anyway, I’m not worrying about that now because it’s just silly.

A while ago I went to Oare Hill in Wiltshire.  I parked the car about half way up and walked up and down bits of it in between squalls of rain and outbursts of quite brilliant sunlight.


Some of which produced almost garishly bright greens


and others, quite grey light


there were sheep




and very nice too.  My car is parked just below the extreme right-hand corner of this photo.  I feel obliged to mention this because Barney didn’t believe I had walked up a hill.


But I did and this is the view at the other side of the top.


♠That’s between me knowing roughly how to access the bank and the .Gov and Barney knowing exactly how to calculate the  VAT.  What we neither of us grasped was that someone needed to remember how and when the VAT is paid – by DD as it happens.  Yes, I set it up.  Yes I forgot that I had done so.  Mea culpa.

♠♠ this is a bad indication for my birthday wishlist.  And I suppose it means that though I am unofficially nothing to do with the business accounts, I really need to keep a record of what, and how, I’ve paid anything online.  To do with the business that is.  I know exactly who and how and what I’ve paid online for myself.

♠♠♠Because there aren’t that many of their pubs in the area and, hopefully, the two that we have thatched will not need re-thatching in our lifetime.♠♠♠♠

♠♠♠♠Though they may need re-ridging.

November 26, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

The World

Every so often I Google-map places I will never go to.  Like bits of Russia and Kyrgyzstan.  There’s a huge lake in Kyrgyzstan (Is that what used to called Turkistan?♠).  And there’s another one in Russia just near the border with Finland.  If you hold down your mouse on street view you can see millions of photos around the lake but no roads.  However, all along the other side of border the map is solid blue with roads along which Google have travelled with their camera.  It’s fascinating.  Google have obviously never been invited into Kazakhstan or Afghanistan or … well, any of the ‘stans.  However they have been to St Petersburg and along the M10 to Moscow.  They’ve been to Rhsev and Tver and there are places like Cherepovetz and Vologda where they’ve wandered around the town (city?) but not travelled the roads in between.  And they haven’t been to Yurievets or Gagarin.

Anyway, I was amazed by the enormity of Russia – it must be three times the size of China and I’d hazard a guess that it’s a little bigger than the whole of Africa –  and how the vast majority of China seems to be mountainous desert.  (Well it’s the same colour as Saudi Arabia and North Africa anyway and it’s covered with dark scratchy bits just like Snowdon and the Atlas mountains.  Also a quick sample of photos shows pointy bits everywhere).  Those pandas must be crammed into a very narrow belt of green, mountainy bits. ♠♠  (I always envisaged China as being moistly green and wet with a few tea-covered hills and the odd misty cliff with elegant, pointy leaves dangling off it.  Lotus flowers and Bamboo).

Russia on the other hand is mostly dark green with some white bits and lots of scratchy, mountainy bits. And huge lakes – almost as big as England.  So big and deep that they’ve got Google sea bottom textures in them.  Oh oops, those are seas, I forgot.  Aha!  Most of Russia is Siberia which makes sense (even I know that Siberia is big).  This also accounts for the apparent emptiness of it.

And then the rivers in Russia don’t seem to follow the usual behaviour of our little European ones.  They start somewhere in the middle of the land mass and wander from lake to lake and then stop.  The sea doesn’t seem to come into it.  Some of them seem to run for hundreds (Thousands? Tens of thousands? – my sense of scale gets distorted) of miles and never reach the sea at all.

And here’s a thing – just North of the middle of Russia, there’s an enormous island, long and thin a little like Italy only back to front and three times the size.  I’ve no idea what it’s called and Google doesn’t help.  Is it anywhere and if so what is it called?  It’s mostly white (snowy I suppose) and has no obvious settlements or towns on it.  There are few photos.

Then there’s Nunavut which is a huge area at the top right of Canada.  I’d never heard of it and had to look it up in Wikipedia.  If you look at the map view instead of satellite view you can see it’s mostly water but I suppose the Inuit like it like that.  And it’s quite surprising how wet Canada is altogether.  Masses of threads and lumps of blue (water-blue not google-street-view blue)

Anyway, now I’ve wandered over to Luxembourg because we briefly hoped to visit friends there.  Surprisingly, Google street view haven’t been invited there either though one guesses that  it’s for a very different reason.  Very principled, the Luxembourgers, and ??? I can’t think of the word – they don’t go along with stuff just because everyone else does.  Not that I mean to suggest the Russia is unprincipled, just – private.   Actually, I’ve just looked at the whole world and it seems most of it doesn’t have street view.  It might be quicker to list the countries that are ‘viewed’ than those that aren’t, though maybe not, as the ones that aren’t are mostly big.  The most surprising absence of street view is in nearly all of Germany – just the bigger cities have islands of blue around them.  Then I was surprised too to see a blue blob off to the East of China – and Korea – but it turned out to be Japan so not such a surprise after all.

My Aunt married a Luxembourger and he came to stay once.  After dinner, my Dad, very patriarchal at the head of the table, politely asked if Johnny would mind if he smoked.  To his utter astonishment, Johnny said “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do”.  There was a stunned, unbelieving silence and then an embarrassed laugh and Mum and Dad didn’t know what to do with themselves.  I can’t remember whether they lit up anyway, I was so delighted with the grown-ups being thrown into confusion.  They probably did, if not there and then, as soon as they went into the drawing room.  But I’m sure Dad was very careful with meaningless politenesses after that.

Well there you go.  the world according to Street view.  I usually use it to look for parking  spaces near pretty places and to find pretty places near which to park but every so often I become mesmerised by the whole thing.  And just for fun, I got directions from Home to Gelendzhik on the Black Sea.  It’s 2,408 miles and it’ll take me 42 hours to get there.  My suggested route is the E40.  However, once you get into the Ukraine, most of the directions are illegible unless you read the cyrillic alphabet, which I don’t.  I quite like the instructions for crossing the channel –

Take exit 11A:

Slight left:

Slight left:

Take the Channel tunnel to Cocqelles, France:

Continue straight:  (You have to do that on entering Russia too.)

When you get to Gelenzhyk, you can see the Black Sea (It appears to be blue – very disappointing) and wander along the coast which looks splendidly mountainous.  My route (some of which is Google street-view-blue) comes down some impressive hairpins from the interior.  To be honest, I’m not sure I even want to go there but anyway I noted a few parking places from which to admire the Black (Blue) Sea in case I ever do.

Meanwhile, over here, it’s got cold and golden and russet all over (on a good day.  On a bad day it’s cold and grey and muggy green.  And wet).




I apologise for taking an unannounced blog break.  My mind went blank for a couple of months.

Of course if I disappear for another two months you may wonder if I’ve been visited by men in black cars wanting to know why I’ve been studying the interior of Russia on Google.

♠Well I looked it up and now I am none the wiser.

♠♠Which I should have known but seeing the country on a map of the whole world is a bit different from being told that pandas don’t have much room.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments