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diary

of kumquats, caviar and calamari

Sat by the fire in the hotel lobby. The flames dance for visual effect rather than heat generation but being there does somehow make you feel warmer. The heating in our room is still not fixed despite daily mentions to reception. I think some sort of gesture from the hotel will be appropriate when we check out. It’s not a money thing.

Today the ladies in my life are off shopping and I have a pink slip, as they say. It looks a lot brighter out there and I feel a museum trail coming on. The hotel is near the British Museum which will do as a starter for ten. I did my, admittedly inadvertent, shopping yesterday and have no need of further worldly goods.

There is now a sizable queue of people waiting to check out. Either they haven’t heard of express checkout or they all have issues with their aircon and want to see what the hotel has to say about it. The few other occupants of the lobby lounge have moved on. Not wanting to waste a moment of their day.

I note that Chelsea are hosting Man U today at 4.30pm. There are 89 tickets available on an aftermarket site (tout) starting at £400 a pop. Similarly there are 3 tickets available for Brentford v Everton from £100 a go at 2pm. Neither feels attractive.

Observations from British museum 

  1. Interesting set of exhibits that allow us to marvel at past civilisations 
  2. Not an observation unique to me but stunning that people were able to take these artefacts from their original homes. They would be far better in the context of their place of origin. There must have been a lot of damage done in extracting and transporting them.
  3. I see this as no different really to the destruction caused by Islamic state 
  4. The variety/contrast of different styles from around the world is amazing. Couldn’t happen today with the sharing of information across the internet. 
  5. Still lots of people walking around without masks

I find having to wear a mask in the British museum quite oppressive. Stifling. It’s not helped by the fact that I have too many layers on for the temperature indoors. Also whilst my hat is in theory squashable into a pocket the feather is not and it is too warm to wear it indoors.

That was yesterday. It is now Monday morning and we are settled into Coach E seats 6, 7 and 8 ready for the off. I’m not expecting anyone to come along and bags seat 5 which is obstructed by two coats and my leather backpack. If they do, and the seat has not been reserved, they will not be popular. 

The temperature outside is 273K although in London there is no frost on the ground. Three bacon rolls have been ordered. When it is freezing cold outside it is all about building up reserves when the opportunity arises

Today taxis were in plentiful supply, a far cry from the sitch on the ground when we arrived. Our transition from hotel to Kings Cross Station was correspondingly uneventful. We stayed at the Doubletree because it was less than half the price of our preferred home from home at the Trafalgar.

We paid for it in other ways as the room was cold, as previously mentioned. Also the breakfast at most Hiltons is mediocre at best. It’s formula applied across the whole franchise. There are some exceptions: Bankside and the Trafalgar. Conrad maybe. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the Park Lane Hilton and the Waldorf is only moderately better. I think the best hotel breakfast I’ve experienced in the UK, at least of all the chains, is at the Intercontinental at the O2. However I don’t collect IHG points and would need to be attending a bash at the O2 to make it work. 

We will need supplies when we get home. The local market should be open for business. Kumquats, caviar and calamari spring to mind but not as supplies we need, just because they rolled off the tongue. I don’t even like calamari. A warming and nourishing soup perhaps 🙂

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diary

Camden Tundra

Have moved operations to the hotel lobby. No rush to do owt today and I quite like sitting quietly watching the world go by. Also the heating in the room ain’t working. They are “sending an engineer”

That said the lounge bit of the hotel lobby is closed although I ignored the barrier and sneaked in. The lobby itself is not conducive to sitting around watching people as the hotel door keeps opening and closing and it is freezing out there.

Today the plan is leisure. John and I are off out to buy him a hat and we have Tom’s birthday party this evening. I’m hoping that the tube will be running and London will be less chaotic than yesterday. Fwiw LNER are telling people not to travel North of York today due to weather related disruption. We are already staying an extra night in town to avoid disruption caused by planned maintenance works on Sunday. The only answer is to stay at home.

You have to be fairly determined to want to be out and about in this weather. The concrete wind tunnels of London, also known as streets, don’t help. Wrap up warm folks.

Back in the relative warmth of the hotel after a morning of retail therapy with John. I say relative warmth. The aircon is still only firing on one cylinder but it is a million miles away from the Siberian wasteland that is now Camden.

My new burgundy hat fits well with my purpley silk jacket that has been laid out for tonight’s celebrations. I’m wearing it with a designer Anne’s Vans Originals tshirt and black jeans. I have brought my posh Loakes ones and twos but the weather out there is more daisy roots (we are in London) so I will dress appropriately.

Had a near death incident on the 168 back to the hotel. Well I say near death but I actually nearly left my phone on the seat.Same sort of thing. I checked my pockets as the bus doors opened and realised the sitch so immediately bailed on that stop. Fortunately the phone was there on the seat, top deck about 6 rows back on the right facing forward. Even more fortunately it turns out that stop was one too early so I ended up getting off at the right place. Serendipity ou quoi?. Fortune favours the brave, or simlar.

On the retail front we had gone to buy a hat and some scent (aftershave) for John and we met our objective. I also came away with two more hats, more scent, a badger hair shaving brush and stand and some sandalwood shaving soap all for meeee. And I took the opportunity of booking a haircut and shave on the day of trefbash 60 at Sweyn Forkbeard’s barbers in Camden Market. Down to 12 sleeps now.

I quite like the idea of a leisurely trip to the barbers on my birthday although it is a bit of a trek from the hotel.

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diary

scanner

A crisp autumn day out there. In the house I have a number of pictures to put up in the East Wing and a roast chicken to prepare for this evening. Hannah is with us this weekend and we will have a nice family dinner, the four of us, thinking always of those not home this weekend. I’m sure they will be fine.

The chicken dinner is a tried and tested formula. Stuffing made with white breadcrumbs, fresh herbs mostly from the garden and chopped bacon. Roast potatoes and parsnips with some peas, and batons of carrots accompanied by pigs in blankets and a delicious gravy. Today I am throwing swede into the mix…

Putting up the next batch of pics and now at the command hook glue curing phase where I have to wait an hour before hanging the pictures. I have now run out and awaiting more supplies when Hannah returns from her retail expedition.

In the meantime I am restarting my search for a suitable photo scanner. The Epson one I have been after seems to be discontinued but I’m blowed if I can find the newer model.

Ordered a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1600 instead – will keep me busy during the long winter months that we are snowed in. Hopefully connectivity to the shed will remain unaffected.

We should be ok for a while if snowed in. We have three freezers full to the brim with unknown foodstuffs and a sack of flour that will keep us in bread for a while.  Might need to source an industrial sized bag of tea bags and hope that the milk float will make it through.

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diary

a late start

Bit of bacon grilling away on the George Foreman together with some rooms of mush. Bread in the toaster has just popped up. A good way to start the day. I have a busy morning in store but it doesn’t start until 9.30am so that is good. Off to UKNOF in Manchester tomorrow so today is the last day this week to get much “real” work done.

In the shed I can hear the electric panel heater come on. This is not a particularly regular occurrence as the shed is so well insulated. Sometimes I have to check if it is powered on but it always is. Just not always needed.

Outside the lawn is once more covered in leaves. Green Thumb mowed it yesterday clearing them all but the new wave has moved in to fill the gaps. Have to stay on top of this as one year we left it too late and the grass beneath was knackered.

The cathedral bells call out 9am. I don’t always hear them. Depends on the direction of the wind. Today it’s a West South Westerly which tells you where we live in relation to the cathedral. I was tempted to abbreviate that to West Sou’westerly but we live nowhere near the sea so I didn’t. I read all the Hornblower books when I was a kid. Must have them somewhere. Should look em up again. Haven’t finished my current batch of books yet. Maybe over Christmas.

It will be interesting to see whether I start reading more after Christmas as I don’t plan on working much more than a day a week. Anne’s Vans excepted of course but that is a fun thing to do. 

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diary

football

Sat in the holding pen awaiting the call to table. Hungry tonight after my bike ride with Steve Wildman out to the Rob Vashak abode on the cliff. Weather was pretty yukky for the return but we got in some off-roading which ameliorated the sitch a bit. I must remember to charge the battery ready for next time. Sdun. No messin.

Tonight I shall be watching Wales play Belgium at Association Football. It’s a home game and I understand that it would be beneficial for Wales’ progress in the competition for us to at least draw the match. I am optimistic regarding this as despite our star player Garth Bale being injured the Belgians have travelled without a number of their key team members because they have already won the group and to them the result is not material.

Ordinarily I might consider such an occasion as the perfect excuse to open a beer but I am being a good boy particularly as tomorrow night I shall be out on the town with the UKNOF crowd in Manchester. There will be no pressure for me to rush back on Friday either so a leisurely lunch may well be called for.

Now watching the warm up. I don’t know why as it is rarely interesting. In fact I’m actually watching the ads. Some geezer wiv a cockney accent encouraging us to bet responsibly. I presume he means only place bets that are going to win. Placing a losing bet would be deemed irresponsible in my book. I don’t need someone in an ad to tell me that.

The stadium is packed. It isn’t far from my sister Sue’s place in Caadiff. I remember once strolling out from her place for  pint only to find all the pubs totally rammed. I eventually squeezed into one and whilst stood there savouring my beer someone must have flicked a switch because the whole pub emptied out within seconds. They were all off to the game.

Thereafter I moved on to St Canna’s Alehouse where I remember, quite surreally, chatting with the Mayor of Bangor for quite some time. That’s all.

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diary

What?

Made it through another night. It was ever thus but will not always be. When quiet had blanketed the city I lay awake for some moments thinking I could hear footsteps on the landing. Then I realised I was listening to my heartbeat. A sound somehow accentuated by the obstruction to my external auditory canal, treatment for which is currently in progress.

Now I am in our weekly kickoff meeting but listening to classic fm with my microphone muted. The murmur of conversation in the meeting is somewhat inaudible as the music has reached a crescendo. In the meeting there are a mix of accents including Belgian French which is somewhat monotone and very soporific. It is easy to drift off.

I only have a handful of these meetings left to attend, finishing as I do in time for the fast approaching mid winter festival. Life begins at sixty. 

This week I anticipate rounding off the plans for trefbash60, the registration for which is now closed. Need to nail the menu amongst other things. I trust your outfit plans are progressing. Remember the dress code is Pirates of the Caribbean.

Trefbash kicks off the party season although we do have our annual Christmas Market Party the weekend before. From a work perspective very little gets done after trefbash and I am now accepting invites to other people’s dos. By the time Christmas Day comes along everyone is partied out!

Outside the shed the lawn has morphed into a golden brown colour. It is once again time to mow the leaves. I feel a deep sense of relaxation and consider that another cup of tea would be perfectly acceptable.

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diary

Cave men, clothes airers and phone boxes

I lay in bed awake last night. Must have paid a visit or something. It was dark. I lay there thinking how cosy it was and wondering what it must have been like to be a caveman. Were cavemen cosy, between their bearskin coverings? Did they have the modern problem of nipping to the loo at night in the dark? Dunno.

When I finally awoke, as the tea was being delivered (result – I thought it was my turn but no) the Today Programme was talking about phone boxes and asking listeners for their phone box stories. I have one.

When I were a lad I used to play sport after school. I was variously in the school teams for rugby, cricket, hockey and golf. Probs something else as well but I can’t remember. After we had finished training or a game my mam and I had a routine. I would wander down to the button of Bray Hill and call home from the phone box at the bottom. When mam answered the pips would go and I would hang up. This was the signal for mam to come and get me. It was a three mile drive and she would be there in ten minutes or so. Saved me two pence. Result.

This is not an experience I have in common with cavemen. None of the aforementioned sports had been invented when they were around. They were mostly into chasing after food, I’d imagine with the occasional arty type daubing the walls of the cave.

I doubt that cavemen had problems with their clothes airers either. The rope on ours periodically breaks and it chose this morning to do it again just as I was en route to the shed. There was a cry for help from the utility room. Should be relabelled futility room because I couldn’t immediately do anything as I was en route to a meeting. It has been decided that the fix will wait until tomorrow.

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diary

30 days and counting

Was roused from a pleasant doze at 07.15 this morning by a call from a South African number on the mobile. I rejected it obvs even though being from South Africa it was likely to be a customer although spam was a possibility.

A WhatsApp message then came through from that self same customer. They are now 2 hours ahead of us of which the lad was unaware. I draw the line at taking calls when I am in bed.

Good swim this pm although only got 30 mins in compared to 40 yesterday. Need to start setting off a bit earlier so that we are in the pool for 3pm and can maximise our time spent ploughing. Or furrowing. Whatever floats your buoyancy aid.

Always feel good after a swim. Always feel good after a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Always feel good after a quiet night in and early to bed. Now there’s a message there somewhere innit 🙂 Can’t spend (all) our lives swimming, eating cereal and having quiet nights in. How does that stack up with the hedonistic lifestyle I should be leading?

Watched a documentary about artists and the Cote d’Azur. Tres interessant. In it the presenter describes very wealthy people, some of them artists, who lived decadent lifestyles. Made me think of the cost of doing this. 

Such individuals for example would think nothing of traveling on the Venice Simplon Orient Express, a snip for only £3,615 that includes one night onboard and presumably assumes two sharing a cabin. Must be one hell of a night. Doesn’t feel worth it to me so the money has to mean nothing to those shelling out for the trip.

What would everybody do if we all had more than enough money to pay for all our needs and wants. They would have to put on more Orient Express trains or at least more carriages. Longer platforms! Build more luxury hotels etc etc etc.

When I started to talk about cost I didn’t really mean the cost in money but the human cost. Lives shattered by the abstraction from reality. Destroyed in the continuous search for gratification, fulfillment maybe. 

Can’t believe the Cote D’Azur has the same allure nowadays. In my limited experience, mainly of hitch hiking there as a student, I associate the place more with traffic jams than an idyllic environment designed to attract artists. No different to parts of California such as Malibu really. Areas feted as places you would want to live. 

Mind you I have spent some time at conferences in the South of France. My recollection of these events is somewhat hazy. Something to do with the decadence, hedonism associated with life in the internet industry? Champagne lifestyle? Surely not!

Only 30 days to go until trefbash 60. A quiet affair is planned. A few friends and relashuns invited. It’s all relative innit.

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diary

Of cereal and salmon

A sloe start tue the day. Bowle of serial with fruit and now sat lukeing at various webbsights. FIrstly tonight’s duck recipe hasbeen sorted as ha tomorrers pork casserole.

Sorry I can’t continue like that. Takes longer to write. I’ve checked out various recipes and looked up food carbon footprints. I’m not sure what the right answer is but I need to lose weight so I’m just going to cut down on the quantity. That is the theory anyway 🙂

Also looked at ground based heat pumps and I suspect it won’t make sense for us. We are however sticking in double glazing on all our front windows. The ones at the back have been done already – the back of the house is south facing and gets all the weather. So hopefully the addition of better insulation at the front will not only make a difference to the warmth of the house but also cut down on our use of gas. Might also find a cover for our open fire, or make one.

Will be investigating the carbon offset schemes suggested by some Facebook friends, particularly to compensate for our use of petrol and diesel.

Couple or three jobs knocked off the list that if they were going to be done today needed doing this morning on account of the quality afternoon of sport ahead on the digital display.. Garage tidied, cardboard boxes shifted and replacement bayonet light bulbs fitted. Garage apart these aren’t big jobs but if they aren’t on the list I don’t notice that they need doing. If I lived alone in this house it would soon degenerate into a tip. Next up I need to head to the Rose of Waite for some essential supplies: caviar, kumquat and oysters. Only Joeking. Innit.

Shopping shopped, bacon lardons bought together with a few other bits for the weekend meals and some wild pacific sockeye salmon that was on offer. Waitrose has a plethora of smoked salmon offerings but none of them really fit the bill. It all appears to be farmed stuff otherwise the packaging would say. The pacific salmon has a better texture than the other stuff in my mind but comes with the baggage of lots of food miles. Feels a tad incongruous.

Consider the nature of the fish. Swimming happily in the Pacific one minute quite pleased with itself for avoiding killer whales and dolphins and the next minute caught, smoked, frozen and stuck in the hold of an aircraft. Ah well. Might try sourcing some decent Scottish salmon.

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diary

waking interlude

The long hair versus short hair debate did not outlive lockdown. Interesting how “the work” of months, nay years could be destroyed in a few short snips of the scissors. Mere minutes. A metaphor for life. But this is old news. Just something to get the keyboard juices going. A leaching of language through my fingertips to the page in front of me.

At the front of the house I just heard an owl. Presumably the same bird occasionally to be heard out back. I did spot one once sat on our trellis in broad daylight. Same bird, maybe. Wonder where it kips. An old oak tree in a field, the upper rafters of a crumbling barn, possibly.  Will it find a kill tonight. I guess the allotments are a good hunting ground.

This morning I am awake a lot earlier than has been my recent habit. I’m not sure you would call it insomnia. I got six hours. I don’t lie there desperately trying to get back to sleep although I do go through a process of trying to decide whether if I stay still I will nod off again. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes after I’ve take up the tea I doze a little. A good doze. Back to bed…

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diary

October Sunday

Relaxing in the front room to the sound of Classic FM. Breakfast has been taken and offspring 4 has gone back to bed. He came in last night at around 1.30am having been DJing at some club or other downtown. 1.30 is relatively early to bed for him on such occasions.

The day’s main objective is to unleash the chainsaw on the woodpile behind the greenhouse. We have a very nice wood store but much of what is there is far too long and is sticking out the end of it. Some judicious shortening will enable all the wood to fit in and create some space for me to move the oak logs recently acquired from Tom the Tree Man that are clogging up the path around the back of the shed.

Fear not I have the protective gear although I may see if I can find some contact lenses as my specs tend to steam up behind the faceguard that comes with the protective helmet. Steamed up specs are not what you want when cutting wood with a chainsaw.

I recall Sunday mornings when we lived in London pre kids pre marriage. We would head out somewhere for breakfast and sit around reading the Sunday papers. Do people buy a Sunday paper anymore? We rarely go out for breakfast nowadays. Never really unless we are staying in a hotel. I guess we have somewhere nice to live that is conducive to a pleasant Sunday morning whereas when we were young free and single ish it made sense for us to escape our respective garrets and find a comfortable meeting place for brunch.

Sometimes on a London Sunday afternoon I remember heading for the Bulls Head in Barnes which was a famous Sunday lunchtime jazz venue. Hopefully still is. We have a Sunday afternoon in London lined up at the end of November. Meeting some of the O’Rourke clan. Might look to see if there is any jazz on.

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diary early one morning

up early again

Up early again. The whoop of the wood pigeons above the back garden seems to be an ever present soundtrack. There is a gentle breeze out there under a cloudy sky but it should be warm enough and we will enjoy a weekend of pottering about after a seemingly manic few weeks.

The garden is about to start giving. We have a broad bean salad planned for tonight using the first harvest from our very first crop. The strawberries need attending to as a bird has already taken its fancy to the first of what look like many fruit. Wimbledon fortnight is about to start.

We have no tickets this year. Overlooked in the confusion of covid. This isn’t to say we have nothing planned for the summer. England v Pakistan in Cardiff is to be followed by a week in London and then later a few days in Caernarfon. Somewhere in between we have a graduation ceremony to attend and another son’s gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

We also need to try out our new campervan, the fourth in the fleet. This one comes in v good condition but needs a refresh to its interior. This will happen over the winter and in the meantime is for “personal, domestic & pleasure” as the insurance policy says.

The new van has not publicly been named yet although I do have a working name in mind. Still mulling it over. We don’t know where to go yet – just a weekend jaunt. We usually go away with our crowd of pals in September but nothing has yet been arranged. Also a trip to the Latitude Festival has been mooted but no decision made as yet and we may not go. My memory of our last attendance at that festival seems to be dominated by the appalling beer on offer. I didn’t even know they still made Tuborg lager.

The plan for this afternoon is to give the shed its annual wood treatment spray. I must make sure that I wear appropriate face protection as my visit to Clearview opticians last year around the same time revealed a film of the spray on my glasses lenses. Some of the stuff must have been inhaled and it killed off some of the lawn when I sprayed the garden furniture so not good. The lawn recovered as did I.

This evening is already planned out. Wales v Denmark. Should, unusually, be an exciting game as both sides played some entertaining football in their last game of the group stages and go into the game expecting to be able to win.

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diary

on a winters day

Winter day out at the coast yesterday for Anne’s birthday. Bloody cold and windy with the occasional rain shower thrown in. Had a good time but it came with an element of necessary stoicism engendered in folk brought up in the British Isles. Today the sun is back and the birds have reverted to song.

Last night I noticed the gutter overflowing above the drain pipe outside the kitchen. Fetching the ladder I could find no blockage only to realise it was at the bottom where sycamore seeds had clogged up the pipe. Poked my finger around to release the obstruction only to be almost bowled over by the rush of escaping water. Soaked! Hey…

Busy day today with meetings for much of the day. On the plus side we are back to wearing shorts.

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diary

may the fourth be with you

Day off today as it is May the fourth. Star Wars Day. May the fourth be with you. It also happens to be the birthday of my chosen life partner, she who must be obeyed, the giant whose shoulders I stand on etc etc.

We have a day out at the coast in mind. It was going to be in Campervan Ruby but the weather is not supportive of that original plan and have opted for the comfort and security of the defender.

Afore we go I have a short jaunt to Waitrose in mind for picnic provisions and we should be off by mid morning. Champagne, caviar, side of smoked salmon, that sort of thing. Bread rolls and some milk 🙂

There is no rush. It is not as if we need to get there early to get a parking space. We are headed to Huttoft. There is a scenario where there will be nobody else there. Just a lone, bored, person in the ice cream kiosk spending their time staring into their phone and barely acknowledging our presence.

This part of Lincolnshire is a path we have not oft trod. I envisage meandering up the coast until we get to Mablethorpe taking in Anderby Creek, Sandilands, Sutton on Sea, Miami Beach (yes) and Trusthorpe.

The biggest decision of the day is where to have fish and chips. The obvious choice is somewhere in Maybo but the timing might point to picking some up from the Carholme Road Chippy when we get home. V shall c.

I will be taking my new camera. Still learning how to use it but should be an expert in a couple of years or so. Hopefully the rain will momentarily stop for me to take some pics. It is lashing down right now accompanied by wind assisted sound effects.

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diary

Cold May

Sat in the conservatory after breakfast. Unseasonably cold, if you can ever use that term in the UK where the weather has a will of its own whatever the time of year. Rain is on the way. The garden needs it.

Elsewhere in the house a radio programme is moving around and has begun to compete with the birdsong that was otherwise the only noticeable sound. Dishes now clink.

Part of the programme for the day involves what is known as diy. This particular project requires some small right angled brackets which I will source from a local purveyor of such things called B&Q.