An Embarrassment

May 16, 2015

At the moment, I have more than once source of embarrassment – apart from my spelling that is. (I had to check the spelling of the title, and it was wrong for the usual reasons my spelling is wrong – a wrong vowel, and didn’t double one of the constenants. But I’ll discuss the current worse one.

I have an invitation to a 3 day symposium to honour my former supervisor’s 70th Birthday. It’s in the summer. I have seen the speaker list, and it is packed with people I knew well while I was studying. They are all now high-flyers in their field. I’ve not seen the list of attendees, but guess that’ll be packed with many more. Now there is more than one reason I strongly hesitate to even acknowledge the emails. What is worse, as I’m invited, I don’t need to pay the symposium fees (other than a Dinner). I cannot even plead poverty!

Firstly, I’d fall asleep in the lectures. I would do that when I was an undergraduate, so add thirty odd years, and I’ll be out like a light in seconds. And unlike my undergrad days, I probably won’t understand a word that was said, and thus trying to make notes (the only way I kept awake) more than pointless.

Secondly, I’m now just a dowdy manufacturer, who has supplied equipment to a few of them. If I showed up, they’d think I was there to try and flog tackle. I could not make any useful contrubution to the symposium.

Thirdly, a few of those who might attend are no longer friends of mine – that is to say some I’d like to throttle, some I’d just prefer we never met again.

What is worse is that I’ve kept in contact with said supervisor, helped him and his group out on various occasions, such as supplying goods at cost price (in the forelorn hope of future orders), and including a recent one involving a third party company, whom we would not supply as we doubted we’d ever be paid (that condition still exists). But by our friendship etc, a solution was arrived at, and they got their equipment that otherwise they would have lost their deposit over.

So I’ll be damned if I go, and damned if I don’t. Wonderful.

As has been my want in the past few years, during the summer time regime (the clocks an hour forward), I take a walk at my favourate countryside spot every Saturday evening. Frequently that means no-one else around, and that’s how I like it. I noticed last Saturday that some of the early purple orchids are already showing (their blotchy leaves are very distinctive), but in other places where they have been plentiful in the past few years, nothing. A few wild strawberries in bloom. Cowslips just starting to fade (no primroses at this site for some reason, but massive clumps of cowslips)

Primula Veris

Back at the house I inherited, when I last lived there, we only got to see Swifts at an Aunt’s house (very close to the favourate countryside spot), but these days they are in the skys above the house. So what with the Robins and Blackbirds singing on and off from 5am to now (21:15), the wood pigeons and collared doves, Red Kites all singing away (plus many others on occasion), the soundscape is much more varied – but plus emergency services sirens, reversing lorry warnings, footballs hitting my cars – in a rather more built up surburbia than this identical spot 25 years ago.

Meanwhile in the garden is my “Red Cowslip”.


It’s been here for at least 20 years, sometimes I dig up one of the daughters to try and propagate it, but haven’t really succeed with that, being in the lawn it sometimes gets cut down. A few years ago it was a sizeable clump, but it’s currently down to these two plants.

The local wildlife.

April 19, 2015

Having taken possession of the house I grew up in, and there is a lot to do. But it has struck me how the local wildlife has changed.

Thirty or fourty years ago, there were house sparrows and starlings, with the “cheep” of the former being very loud in the summer, and the mimicry of the starlings sometimes causing confusion – immitating car alarms, telephone rings etc. Along with these were blackbirds, robins and the occasional finch.

These days the bird population is completely different. The blackbirds and robins are still around, and the occasional sparrow, but now it’s wood pigeons and collared doves that make all the noise. Magpies, chaffinches and wrens are also seen and heard, and there were blue tits but I’ve not seen one this year so far.

While wheeling above them all are the red kites. A few days ago there must have been twenty or more red kites trying to get something from a garden – diving down, swooping back up – it was quite a sight. But if I got too close, in order to try and take a photo, they stopped what they were doing, and moved away – only to return once I had gone.

Some of the twenty or more Red Kites performing aerobatics or perhaps trying to pick up some food...

Some of the twenty or more Red Kites performing aerobatics or perhaps trying to pick up some food…

I know that these are little better than silouettes, and I’ve had to crop the image quite a lot to not upset bad neighbour, but you can see one Red Kite diving down. I never saw any of them actually pick anything up, and it was the second time in three days I saw them doing these aerobatics above the same garden.

Interestingly, other wildlife seems quite unperturbed

A wood pigeon on the roof apex, apparently unconcerned at the aerobatics of the Red Kites around it.

A wood pigeon on the roof apex, apparently unconcerned at the aerobatics of the Red Kites around it.

A couple of years ago I was almost hit by a couple of red kites, one chasing the other, I was amazed that they’d get so close to a human – literally inches away from me, a spectacular piece of flying. The same day I saw what I discovered to be a moth fly into the garden, hover (like a hummingbird) by a flower, and then fly off again.

Other wildlife has changed. There were and are foxes, hedgehogs, but rats are more noticable these days – there is some scrub land, apparently belonging to no-one – at the end of the garden, so no surprise where the rats probably reside.. There is the odd squirrel. Even at night things have changed, as I’ve heard owls and seen bats these days, I never remember seeing them here before. One of the local cats – no one really knows which family it resides with – managed to catch (probably) a rat recently – it was night, but I was awake, and I heard its triumphant cry.

As far as plants are concerned, the pests include some kind of (wild) geranium, a monster form of hairy bitter cress, the ash and sycamores (the original trees probably were planted, their seedlings a constant menace), but bad neighbour had an pyramidal orchid growing in their unmown front lawn. I felt guilty in pointing it out, as the next day they just mowed the strip of lawn with that poor orchid in. There are the garden escapees, thankfully the nearest Japanese knotweed is about half a mile away at present, but several other plant thugs are present.

Tesco to close 43 stores…

February 16, 2015

…but in Tescoville, they’re opening yet another Express (or it might be a Metro). This time in a new build block, clearly built with provision for a convenience store on the ground floor.

I have tried hard, but I cannot think of a convenience store that is not Tesco. True, in the outlying villages there is a Sainsburys local, a Morrisons [whatever] and a little Waitrose, but these are in the centre of their own little conurbations, not part of Tescoville. I’m not counting a Marks and Spencer simply Food outlet as it’s in a retail development and about the same size as the food hall in any regular M&S.

I put the tally in Tescoville as follows: 2 large supermarkets, one centre and one edge of town; 2 as part of an Esso garage shop [the little Waitrose mentioned above is in a Shell garage shop]; 1 in a converted pub, 2 in other converted retail outlets (one a car showroom). Another pub was down to be convered to a Tesco, but somehow the application failed due to a nearby existing store – and that’s a terrible place, I’ve been in there and report that first hand! There is also a Tesco metro in one of the outlying villages, being the only food shop in the entire village.

Of course there are other large supermarkets, a big Sainsburys, Morrisons, ASDA, scattered around the place, and I’ve not counted a co-op or similar, or the independents being shops pre-existing the convenience store craze. But how and why Tesco have so dominated the convenience store sector in the town is beyond me. It is of note that in the neighbouring smaller towns in the area, Tesco is conspicuous by its absence.

Mind you, it’s not sweetness and light in the villages. The above Sainsburys seems to have caused the closure of the nearby Budgens, which is now empty (despite the larger floorspace it had).

I was in Tescoville over the weekend, and rather forced to take a route I don’t normally due to traffic. So I was slowly climbing up a street that leads up the hill (the scene of a past adventure, lost to this blog) when I noticed a lot of blackboards in a pub presently called “Scorpio”. This pub had had a couple of recent transformations, but was a true carriage pub in that it had wide gates for horses to be led down to stables etc.

The blackboards clearly stated the pub was closing, or as they euphamistically put it, moving elsewhere within the town, and indeed by the time I was passing it was closed. And I also noticed that the premises – freehold – were up for auction. This was a pub that was in existance before the between wars facade that was built on that street, and which indeed reduced it’s floor space making allowance for a larger road; thus the pub was incorporated into the facade.

Nearly every second shop front in that road is an estate agents – since the 1970s to my certain recollection – one can only guess it will become another estate agent.

As I was driving a moving car, and it was dark, I had no chance to take a photo, although I will try if only for the record.

But on the topic of the supermarket Tesco, which dominates the town by number and size of outlets, their recent travails have been a source of schadenfreude. Although there is only one Lidl in the area – or is it Aldi? – anyway only one of the two, I was amazed to discover a “little Waitrose” at a petrol station opening in a nearby hamlet – albeit the sort of place that a little Waitrose would open. Affluent suburb. And a pretty good place it turned out to be, apart from a town-wide power cut just as I was about to pay for my petrol purchase.

A garden shed…

January 16, 2015

The shed that my father designed and built himself is over 40 years old and ten years of neglect hasn’t helped. I believe it to be rescuable still, but would need alternative storage in the mean time. And I could do with a shed of different dimensions.

Any ready-to-assemble shed that I have ever seen for sale has one feature that I cannot understand. The door is about 5’6″ high at maximum. Anyone taller has to bow as they go in. I also gave away one such shed from my Aunt’s place, although there was a favour in return so I cannot really complain. A neighbour had a bespoke shed made, but it is off square, the door doesn’t close properly, and not a good advert.

I happened upon a website offering shed plans for thousands of designs, and so I signed up. Disappointed that some designs that were illustrated by photos on the intro page don’t appear, and that there are many duplications of the same plans under different file names, and most of the sheds are far larger than the entire garden I have to put it in. But there is a reasonable selection, and one may serve as the basis for what I need.

But to my surprise were included plans for the A frame building that I referred to in a post about loss of data in the digital age (at the end of the post) However, if I posted the plans here, I’d be breaking the copyright.

Parking cars

October 22, 2014


Car parking is a topic that gets people hot under the collar. Where I live in London there was huge opposition to the introduction of a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in the area. I was involved in the fight, won a few concessions around the issues – not enough spaces for the cars there then, let alone when they zoned the place, for example. Some of us are able to access the neighbouring CPZ (just across the road), which was very underused even at night, so I’m glad I got involved and won the concession of “dual zone” permits for the like of myself. Though I note it’s slowly disappearing as new people, unaware of the concession, apply for their permits.

I was talking to another anti-CPZ person a few days ago, and he said he was utterly converted – it was so nice to see the road so empty. during the day Now, unlike me, he has off-street parking in London (a driveway), so he didn’t have the problem I have.

I have the same problem of parking spaces “in Spades” at Mother’s, where on street car parking spaces are reduced by rather inconsiderate off-street parking arrangements. Yes, they park on their own front garden, paved over – but they assume access across the full frontage to the road, rather than just by the driveway. So in the past couple of years, the number of street parked cars appears to have doubled, while the number of spaces have actually decreased.

There has not been, to my knowledge, people coming to blows over parking spaces, but it’s getting close. Recently, someone with off-street parking was blocked in by an inconsiderate car-parker blocking his (driveway) access. A couple of cars are now parked crossing the pavement (not parallel, but across the pavement) due to lack of space, and one appears to be parked in the middle of the road simply for somewhere to put it (cars can get by either side)