Life, photos but not the universe

Life, car remote and variables.

The car’s remote key has stopped working.  Ah.  Battery.  I thought.  So I took it to Timpson’s who changed the battery.  Then I trotted hopefully back to the car and it didn’t work again.

Well, not to be defeated and also not to be drawn into replacing a key at exorbitant prices, I looked it up on the internet.

If you type in “why doesn’t my car key remote work?”, you get a fantastic range of responses from

I just have to drive the car around two or three cycles (of using a new battery) and it works again“,


You have to press both the “open” and the “lock” button on the remote, at the same time, if the previous step (don’t worry about it) failed. Keep the buttons held down for about one minute. If the car lights go on and off, you were successful in resetting the remote. (Some makes of cars may also beep the horn. Then what? – no answer.)”


just make sure you’re able to get into the car before the person gets there. Vag-com goes through the ob2 port, so you have to have access to the inside of the car to re-program your key fobs.”  

Also,worryingly,  there was

Insert the new battery while seated in the car, as the next step should be done soon after the new battery is in place. Turn the car on and off, eight times, in under 10 seconds. Leave the car on. Press any button on the remote, for a second, to synchronise the remote.”  

It’s much too late for that one to work (even if I could understand it – leave the car on??  On what?).  However, I am hopeful about

Key on, in ignition but don’t start the car. Hit the unlock button on the fob a couple of times. Fixes it for me every time.”  (Except that I did wonder how many times was ‘every’, and why.  And now I think about it some more, what does he mean by ‘key on’?).

My favorite was

I noticed that the battery in my retarded flip out key was dieing slowly and it stopped working unless i was right on the car and pressed the unlock button multiple times. I went to walmart, took my key apart at the counter, put a brand new battery in it (#1620). Tried to unlock or lock car doors. nothing. pressed buttons multiple times. nothing. started car. tried buttons again. nothing. did the manual reprogram (door open, hit door lock/unlock, turned key 3 times and open/closed door 3 times). Doors locked and unlocked, but still nothing. took key apart and put the battery tester to it. battery has full charge. bent out the tangs on the battery contact and the board. put it back together and NOTHING! what is wrong with this stupid thing? also to note, it’s the only key i have!!! thank you in advance for any ideas.”  The note of despair and hysteria in the query so exactly fits the feeling you get when one of these so-convenient-when-they-work, electronic gadgets, doesn’t.  And I love that he tells the whole story, complete with details of where and how he replaced the (#1620) battery.  (It’s a bit like my potatoes).

The over-riding impression I get is that, as with many mechanical devices, there’s a superstitious feeling about the cures.  You must press it exactly six times or a few times or at least once.  You must get into or out of the car or both – in a very particular order.  It’s like,”well I tried turning the computer off and then I tried turning off the printer first but then I remembered that last time I did it the other way round and it worked.”  And of course, if all else fails, take it apart and then put it together again.

It also all reminds me of the instructions I read for getting the phone to work (after it was struck by lightning♠) before calling out BT.  They were all about identifying variables and eliminating them one by one. (Is it plugged in?).  It also all reminds me of our friend who has assured us that the way to make the car key remote work, is to hold it up to your ear for a moment and then try again.  He says it works every time.  (He doesn’t specify whether it matters if you’re wearing glasses or not).  I tried that too.  It didn’t work – but I can’t remember if I tried with or without glasses.

Meanwhile, the USB hub, attached to my computer, broke.  I kept getting messages saying that a USB device was malfunctioning  and to prove it, the wireless mouse was getting erratic (it sometimes disappeared altogether). Then my hard drives (on which I store photos and back-ups) disappeared, one by one, from the window that tells you what you’ve got attached to your computer.  I deduced that the hub was the problem by plugging the various hard drives into the computer’s regular USB ports and lo and behold, they reappeared.  And  now I’ve got a new USB hub and everything works again.  I didn’t even need to hold the mouse up to my ear to make it work.

Actually, life is all about eliminating variables to get a solution, don’t you think?  One of the variables I worry about is that, while the car key will still unlock the car, in the old fashioned unremote way and will also start it, if turned in the ignition, for how long will this relatively happy state of affairs continue?

Anyway, as I’ve now got my photos back, here are some.

A hill in Wiltshire.  It’s a very photogenic hill and can be seen from all over the county.


A large white horse, apparently sneaking past the small cafe garden where I had a wonderful lunch with the delightful Ziggi and her lovely daughter.  (Really, there is a horse)


Some water, in case you haven’t seen enough over the last few months.
Some more water with a star in it (you have to look larger to see it though)


Not literally.  Well not the actual phone anyway.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 6 Comments

Something has gone wrong with my mash.

I’ve always used Maris Piper for roasting, baking and mashing.  They still roast ok but the last three batches of mash have been unmitigated disasters. Gluey and tasteless and revolting.  I’m using the same saucepan and cooker and (hand) masher and kitchen.  I cut them up the same way and I cook them for the same length of time.  I drain them and leave them for a couple of minutes to let the steam and excess water evaporate, chuff them up in the saucepan and then mash them while they’re still hot.  I’m not doing anything different and yet the minute I start mashing they turn to glue.  I can see even before I start mashing that they aren’t disintegrating properly.

Thing is I’m quite proud of my mash.  I love potatoes and all the marvellous things you can do with them.  And mash may be one of the quickest and simplest but it’s still one of the best.  Even, I’ve had compliments on my mash – light and fluffy, lovely, just right – all that sort of stuff which I wouldn’t dream of taking for granted!

I feel as if I’d got in my car and put it in first gear and the car went backwards! ♠

Well the only thing I can think of that’s changed is the (globally warmed) growing conditions.  Or, I suppose, Waitrose may have started using a different supplier with questionable maris pipers.  Or, I’ve mislaid a marble and I’m not doing at all what I think I am.  (But really, I am).  So I looked up mash and gluey mash and potato problems and all kinds of stuff on the internet.  As far as I can tell, even Jamie Oliver would approve my choice of potato and my technique.  As far as I can tell, I’m not doing any of the things that lead to gluey mash.  Not many suggestions that maris might not be doing so well this year though many interesting ideas about how to improve a poor potato yield.  For instance, in response to a question about few tubers growing from healthy plants  “water. how more water they have more potatoes you get. mulching doubles the yield at least. clay is not problem.

Hopefully, clay is not problem.  Hopefully I just need to use a different kind of potato.

So am I alone?  Has anyone else noticed a failure of Maris Pipers to behave as normal?  Or any other potatoes for that matter.

Anyway, tonight’s potatoes are not a huge problem as they’re going on top of shepherd’s pie and I’ve put loads of parsley in them and grated cheese on top. But I won’t love them.

Still in the kitchen, last week, we discovered the cause of the occasional, large puddle on the worktop.  The kettle was leaking.  (And we both thought we were being excessively watery with our cleaning).  Closer investigation revealed that there was a crack next to the water level indicator, so I got a new kettle.  Two big advantages of the new kettle are 1. That it doesn’t leak and 2. That it pours without dribbling everywhere.   I can almost forgive it the purply blue light that illuminates the water level gauge when it’s heating up.  There are potential annoyances that you can’t easily assess when you see a kettle in a shop and it’s really nice that this kettle doesn’t do one of them.

The blue light effect is usually labelled as a ‘feature’ and therefore considered a plus when buying so I’m glad they didn’t bother to mention it this time as I would have rejected it out of hand if I’d known it was going to do that – who needs faux space ship lighting effects with their coffee?  ‘Pours without dribbling’ would be a much better feature to advertise, in my (NSH) opinion but I suppose that’s assumed to be a given.

When we got the last kettle, I was so incensed by the dribbling that I looked it up on google and got all kinds of ideas about dribbling kettles.  (I thought there might be a gadget, somewhere out there, called ‘dribble stop’ or something like that.  Actually I think there may have been but I wasn’t interested in anything that cost more than 50p).  The cheapest option I could find was the suggestion that I should smear a little grease on the edge of the spout to do something to its coefficient of friction.♠♠

This was obviously nonsense since teapots have been dribbling, or not dribbling, since the beginning of tea time and most teapots have been made of and glazed with very similar, if not identical materials.  Some of them dribble and some of them don’t and it’s obvious, to the unscientific mind, that the difference is in the shape of the spout, not the coefficient of friction of the glaze/ceramic/metal/plastic/etc/etc.  I could be wrong, of course.  Do tell, if you know something about this.♠♠♠♠

I did try it, in the interests of domestic science and, lo and behold, it didn’t work though it did make me feel a bit queasy about the next few cups of tea.  I would love to go to Nepal (or is it Tibet?♠♠♠♠♠) but I’m not sure I would get on with the buttery tea they brew there.

Far from the kitchen (as far as the bottom of the garden) Barney made a bonfire.  I had to rush outside with the camera, abandoning a visiting friend, who quite understood as she is also a photographer.

Oak tree casting a spell


Smoked oak (I suppose the spell didn’t work)


Even further away, there was a purple evening (not quite as it came out of the camera though it really was quite purple)


And since it’s that time of year, a bit of blossom



Coo!  Innnit loverly!

Actually this did happen to me in the middle of  my driving test.  Well ok, it didn’t happen to me, I put the car into reverse gear instead of first.  Three times.  The examiner was very understanding and since I didn’t actually touch the curb, he didn’t fail me.  I shall always remember him with affection.

♠♠  I’m not sure if made up this phrase or dimly remember it from somewhere.  It sounds good though, doesn’t it, and if you read it like poetry, without trying to understand every word, some sort of idea of my intent will filter into your consciousness. ♠♠♠

♠♠♠ What?  You understand poetry?  Wow.

♠♠♠♠ Snigger – if you’re prepared to admit that you’re as ‘sad’ as me.

♠♠♠♠♠  Outer Mongolia?  I’d love to go there too.

April 26, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 15 Comments

Easter and eggs

You’d think that all the new large superstores would provide greater diversity wouldn’t you?  They don’t though, do they.  I was looking for an Easter Egg with chocolate buttons and I went to three of the big however-many-there-are big ones and not only were there no eggs of that kind, also all three stores had exactly the same basic, cheap fun (?) Easter eggs.  Yorkies, smarties, and, um, Lindor?  Can’t remember.  (Oh Alright.  Waitrose had dozens of upmarket, expensive eggs made by several top of the range chocolate companies).  And most of them had a few bits of Green and Black- not all fair trade any more, sadly.

I didn’t have much time for detailed analysis because we were going to a fiftieth birthday do in Salisbury later and I felt pressured.  Just took a general impression – Oh they haven’t got what I want.  Oh look they’re all the same.  Oh look the ones that aren’t the same are either a) absolute crap or b) ridiculously expensive.  Oh dear, the fairtrade ones are either a) or b) or not enough fun for a three year old.

Anyway, we went to the party.  As expected, we didn’t know any one apart from the fiftieth (she didn’t look a day over thirty) and her husband.  And as it was in a lovely old pub and which was absolutely packed out with lots of people who looked much older than fifty – some even older than us – and all seemed to know each other, we stood around for a while, had a drink – getting which took most of the time we were there – ate a hot dog and a burger and decided that we’d listen to the band for a while and then sneak off and eat properly somewhere else.  Actually the band were pretty good.  Seventies covers and lots of energy and plenty of hairstyle to go with their image.  Loud too. Oof!

Then we set off and did our usual spur of the moment eating on the way home thing.  Which is to say, not.  We just don’t seem to be able to choose a place while on a journey.  We reject various possibilities confidently – too much of a detour, looks a bit rubbish, don’t feel like one of those, probably closed on whichever day or time it is – and then realise that actually everywhere will be closing soon.  And come to think of it we’re nearly home and really????  aren’t there any more fish and chip shops in Newbury???  And that one closed at 10.30??????

Then we got home, hardly bothering to  feel hungry any more, and had a very nice bacon and egg sandwich.

So today (I won’t worry about which day that was/will be by the time I get round to posting this) the Middles came for Easter.  Little Middle has spent a happy hour with Granddad, sorting his coins, which will, she assures me,  turn into a bicycle if left overnight.  I suggested it might be more like the Sleeping Beauty and take a hundred years.  She politely listened to this suggestion without comment.  Earlier I was treated to a video of her telling Mum  a fairy story of her own devising.  It went like this (imagine Karen in Outnumbered to get the intonation and cadence)

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, beautiful princess called Snuggly Buggly, who wanted to do something but she couldn’t do it so she went all around the whole world.  Then she wanted some salad but she couldn’t have it because it was in the wicked witch’s castle so she climbed over a wall and that’s the end.”

Now, the boys have gone to the pub, leaving Little Middle engrossed in CeeBeebies and me and Mrs Middle chilling out comfortably by the fire (Barney had a chilled moment of his own and lit all the fires).  We were amused to see Granddad and Mr Middle wrapping themselves in waterproofs and putting their hoods up in perfect synchronisation – all ready for the big trip across the drive to the car and the later trip to the pub from the car park.

And the next today, we had an Easter Egg hunt.   Little Middle helped Granddad search for eggs



And I found some raindrops


All good really.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 8 Comments

New tricks, old bags.

Not being one to let the shopping bags grow under my feet (we use them to line the landfill rubbish bin and for various wrapping and carrying jobs)♠ and being sneakily aware that, while I definitely don’t find computers too complicated (yet), I have been hesitating for a long time on the question of whether or not to get shopping delivered from the supermarket.  Not really because the computer part would be too complicated, more because the planning remembering and self discipline might turn out to even be more complicated than the computer part.

However, a special offer (£75 off, over the next five shops where you spend more than £75 – cunningly arranged so that you get a bigger discount each time you shop♠♠) has prompted me to make the attempt.

After all, Mrs Middle does it regularly and seems to manage well.  (She has a better memory than I have though).  And as it happens, we have a depleted wine cellar (shelf in the larder) and I can make up the cost for a week or two by getting lots of interesting sounding bottles of special offer wines while I’m getting to grips with the idea of planning in advance what we’re going to run out of before we actually do it.  (I’m sure I could easily spend £75 at a single bound shop but I don’t often manage half that.  Hopefully that’s because I don’t plan ahead.)

The other reason I am doing it is that, obviously, it’s cheaper and better value, both for me and the fuel consuming world, to have one van trundling around the countryside delivering goods than to have one person in one car ‘nipping’ the six miles to the supermarket every other day to catch up with a few bits.  It’s time I got my act together?  Next, I suppose I shall have to co-ordinate all my trips to butchers and bakers and candlestick makers so that I do them all in one journey instead of tagging them onto the end of lots of supermarket trips.

And I suppose a third reason is that I can check out the special offers more carefully online.  Even, work out if they are worth getting.

I feel quite daring.

My first shop was supposed to arrive today (That’s yesterday of course so now it really is due to arrive today) but there was a glitch in the payment bit – I suspect that my bank were having one of their ‘we’re closed for essential maintenance’ moments just as I pressed the confirm button.  I didn’t want it all to happen twice so I waited till today (that’s yesterday) to start again and by then, today’s (etc) slot was gone.  So it’s coming tomorrow morning instead (Oh, I don’t know.  Would it be better just to change all the references to which day it isn’t).

Meanwhile I am busy planning the next shop.  By then, we may well have used up all the juicing oranges – but I’m not adding them to the list yet in case we don’t and I forget to remove them.  (note to self – add juicing oranges if we use lots of oranges on Monday morning).

Anyway, yesterday I had fun.  Mrs Middle needed to go shopping and because she’s currently wearing a special boot to hold her achilles tendon together, and isn’t allowed to use the tendon much, I took her into Oxford.  I bought lots of the best samosas in the (western) world from the indian grocers’ on the Cowley road and I looked at new charity shops.  We had an absolutely delicious fresh, fast lunch at Itsu (duck and rice with lots of coconut gravy and plenty of veg.  Really lovely) and we went to Waterstones, which is the last bastion of shops which sell books and haven’t quite gone over to mass market paper pulp.  (Only just not quite though).

I know there are lots of proper, small bookshops left but they often don’t have the book I want.  And sometimes it’s because it’s an out of date book – not out of print, obviously, but just not currently popular.  Woe.

I really struggle with the whole bookshop versus online purchase thing.  I’d much rather go to a book shop but, for instance, I’ve been looking for books by Muriel Spark and bookshops just don’t carry enough of her books.

Waterstones has at least got The Ballard of Peckham Rye (which I didn’t want – it’s brilliant but I think I’ve already got it somewhere) but none of her other books.  The three local small booksellers I’ve tried simply didn’t have Muriel Spark.  Online, I can get all her books.  And I have.

If you’re really lucky, you’ll find a batch in a charity shop – I assume someone died and I am sad for the people who gave away Mum’s old books instead of reading them.  Though perhaps they read the books before giving them away, in which case  I am happy for them.  I’m a book hoarder myself;  however much I would like other people to have the pleasure of discovering my favourites in a charity shop, I need to have my own copy on my shelf (shelves, that is and also, cupboards, boxes, corners, heaps and piles).  When I die Barney or the children will be able to restock a whole shop with my lot.  Except the e-books of course.  The two best things about e-books are that if I’m stuck in a traffic jam or a waiting room, I can read one on the iphone and when I go away I can take fifty books in the space (and weight) of an ipad.  The sad thing about them is that they’ll never end up on the shelves of a charity shop waiting for some lucky person to discover them.

Poppy (sorry – tulip)


little blue flowers


Hellebore (well I think it is.  Doesn’t look  much like any of the images I found on google when I couldn’t remember what it’s called and had to look it up.  It’s poisonous but subtly pretty) IMG_7080-CS5

Wood Anenomes – little stars among last years fallen leaves.





Now I need to go and get Easter eggs.  Not the sort of thing I could easily choose online.

Oh!  Happy Easter! xxx

Ooh, I’ve just thought, I bet they’ll give me lots of bags.  I’ll have to take them all back to be recycled.♠♠♠

♠ ♠ Well alright, you actually get a very small discount with the first shop and they get bigger each time but it is only for the same basic spend of £75. 

♠♠♠ Oh very good. The driver will take them all back for recycling.  Well done Waitrose.  

April 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 5 Comments

Spring is really here and we can see it

because Barney cleaned all the windows downstairs yesterday.  The last time I did that, Barney was very impressed and immediately went out and strimmed all round the house, spraying the windows with strimmings of grass and weed.

I was very impressed this time but will not do any strimming and though I might be moved to do the upstairs windows it will only be on the inside.  Once, long ago, I booked a man to do all the windows outside.  He seemed quite unconcerned when I told him how many windows and how they were all divided into many little panes and he quoted what seemed to me to be a very reasonable price.  However he never turned up – I do wonder whether he had already decided not to come when he was telling me how cheap it would be.

View through the window in February (before Spring arrived)


And later, in March


I’d like to say this is how it looks now but I wasn’t up so early today.


Floods in Pangbourne – the Thames.


More floods in Bagnor – lovely gardens but I’m afraid they may not be so lovely now the floods have retreated.


Snowdrops (new camera making it possible to get almost underneath them without doing severe damage to knees.  I keep forgetting that I can now do this with my new swivelly LCD screen.)


As well as having clean windows, I, and the lawn and the orchard have had a good hair cut.  (Barney didn’t do my haircut though).  So we don’t look shaggy any more.

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Since I do seem to be back

I might as well throw in a few pics from the last several months.

A nice evening in November (and you can go as fast as you like – about 20 mph what with the puddles and potholes)


A view from the Ridgeway towards Streatley.  Or Pangbourne?


Home – Early morning in December.♠


Slightly later early morning – at that time of year, early mornings are much easier to get up for.


I mean I know we think it’s eight o’clock but clearly, the sun hadn’t noticed!


Actually, I just checked and it was half past nine!  Even I don’t really call that early.

♠  Not early then, more sort of medium morning.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Checking in

Because I haven’t actually gone, though it seems to be a very long time since I posted.

I have been away because of distressing family events – Youngest left Mr Youngest at the beginning of December and has been here ever since.  Last week, she moved into new accommodation and I don’t mind saying that’s a big weight off our minds.  However much you love your children, when you’re in your sixties, you don’t want them living with you – and she has many serious and deeply troubling issues, way beyond anything with which we could help and the place where she is now is within reach of all kinds of help and company – much better than being stuck with her aged parents.  So we’re feeling a lot better and Barney is cooking tonight,which is nice.

It being Mother’s day last Sunday, we went to Bucklebury Farm Park with Mr and Mrs and Little Middle and Youngest and her daughter (Gorgeous Babe from long ago blogs).  We enjoyed the tractor ride round the deer park, particularly the bit where the tractor got stuck in the mud and we all had to pile out and walk (sadly, not past the deer) back to the main farm.

IMG_4739-CS5 IMG_4649-CS5

We enjoyed watching the girls bouncing on a sort of inflated pancake


and we particularly enjoyed Barneys’ ungraceful but game attempt at a zip wire,


designed, extremely safely,  for small people (Some of you will remember that Barney is a big person).

Probably our best experience was Tinkerbell, the pygmy kid, who was an accomplished escapee and when confused by Youngest returning her to her pen by an unexpected route, expressed her general ebullience and joi de vivre by jumping onto the backs of all the the nanny goats – who seemed quite undisturbed by it.  I can see that that kid will be trouble when she gets older – or heavier anyway.


The other kids were fairly cute too


Also there were piglets.


Me and another photographer (with an enviable length of telephoto) waited a long time for one to turn it’s little snout towards us.  Mostly they were too busy rootling to look our way.

I was going to post swiftly and with nice little snaps of piglets and kids and Barney upside down and more kids but Picasa has decided that tonight is the night it will update thumbnails.  This seems to be taking hours.

But eventually, there were pics.  Here are a lot of Mums, and some children


Further news include the great happiness that Mrs Middle is expecting in June and that Eldest and Gorgeous Italian Girlfriend came for Barneys’ birthday in February.  It was a surprise visit and it’s to the great credit of all the family that Barney had no idea that Eldest was coming until I went to the station on some completely spurious excuse and came back with Eldest.  Lovely!

Mrs Middle has not completely torn but may have damaged her achilles tendon at the weekend but it’s not as bad as it might have been.  I foresee a few extra trips to Oxford in the next few weeks.

Barney and I have both lost enormous quantities of weight (it’s an ill wind etc etc and as I pointed out to someone recently, we may have had stress but losing weight is really not a problem for either of us).

Oh and I have a new camera!


Did I mention that the sika deer raised plaintive little voices when we left, saying “eee-ee? eee-ee?  eee?”  I think this roughly translates as “Are you going away with the animal food?  Will you come back soon?  Wouldn’t you like to give us more animal food?”  This reminded me of the huskies in Lapland who said “WAA-WAA!  WAAH-WAAH!” when they were waiting to be put in their kennels and sounded just like very large, outraged babies.  I think they were saying “give me MEAT!!! and RUB MY TUMMY!!! and IT’S COLD OUT HERE-MY TOES ARE FROZEN!!!

And here is the man I love.  How could you not?


April 8, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 13 Comments