the best way of meeting people + an evangelical magician

Most of our beneficial interactions are unplanned and unintended. You just turn up to an event, not knowing a single soul, and then you meet someone you have something in common with. This was indeed the case in the Mendip Society ramble or walk which was on the Somerset levels on this occasion. We spotted it in the “Mendip Times” in the morning and it sounded good so we thought, why not?

our motley crowd
if you keep going you will get to the Bristol channel

Due mainly to the fine weather, 30 of us gathered together at 2 PM on sunny summer afternoon and after a brief explanation of the nature and function of the reserves over the millennia off we went. The good thing about guided rambles is that the leader has been round the course before so there is no question of wasting time on blind alleys and cul-de-sacs.

The walk, 5 miles in length, encompassed areas of the Somerset levels that had been occupied 3000 years ago by people who derived their living from this watery place that was once under the sea. Buried sea-shells to prove it.

You can say that rambles are self organising social clubs. You show up / turn up / pitch up/  rock up – take your choice according to the slang of your country on your own or with a friend. Whoever ends up beside you provides an opportunity to chat. If nothing much happens it does not matter as you can just drift off and talk to the next person. No hard feelings, no embarrassment. I would suggest this is the ideal way for a newcomer to an area to get to know people.

I met a chap who was obsessed by gadgets and we had a discussion about his multifunctional Ipad. It could identify various birds from the noises they made and would wake him up in the morning asking him if he wanted the radio on. Now, there is service for you.

I had another chat with someone who was the new Webmaster for the society and we discussed how to best handle the mailing list. I told him about Mailchimp and how easy it was to use I reminded him that it was free.

very helpful maps in the Visitor Centre (BA6 9TT)

I fell in with a lady by the name of Carolyn who was a performance artist and photographer. She goes to Colombo in Sri Lanka every year to give performances, and her daughter lives on the south-east coast. She is a fan of Instagram and posts photographs which people follow. This seems a very transitory environment to me as you follow someone based on the sight of a particular photograph. I think it’s entry-level stuff into the Internet and blogs but I don’t want to knock it in any way because good photography is an art form and it’s a lovely thing to share it.

I do want to spread the idea that everybody should write their own diaries and I have submitted an article to the local paper which hopefully should appear next Wednesday. Let’s see if it’s brings any response. By “response”, I mean visited the page.  I use a stats program on all my sites which means that I can see whether someone has viewed, roughly where are they are from, what pages they looked at, and how long they stayed on the site. I’m very thrilled that so far I have had two or three very complimentary comments from thoughtful souls. I don’t expect all that much from this geographical area in which I live because it has no literary heritage, being an ex-coal mining town and indeed a place where many large printing firms were based. Now it is mainly for commuters and retired people alas.

About analytics software if anyone is interested you always have Google Analytics and my own favourite which tells more about the visitor. Both free but statcounter gives limited historical data without upgrade.

With regard to my blog site, boringly, people have to register before they can post, otherwise the site gets invaded by thousands of robots and uses the opportunity to post something to advertise a sex site or a quick making of money offer and I don’t think most of my readers want that sort of thing.

We finished the day in the splendid Eco Friendly Shop full of good food and drink – homemade of course  – and I rested my sore back and drank a good coffee – a cafeteria – which the proprietor kindly supplied. Highly recommended. BA6 9TT in case you want to visit.


I was invited by my local men’s group to come along as a guest to a supper evening in the local rugby club here in Midsomer Norton where there was an entertainer called Tom. He was from Stroud in Gloucestershire and hoped to become a full-time entertainer and evangelist in October. he came and joined us at our table for a meal. I found him transparent, unaffected, glad to answer details about his life and his faith, and able to listen.

I told him something about the program I saw on BBC four about Ken Dodd’s life and health care in felt at the end of free shows that he could have done better but he said, in spite of these doubts, “you just go on and do it anyway”. The Liverpudlian entertainer of 53 years experience said “You know that the audience want you to succeed”. he was asked if he ever gave performances with other people to which he said he did sometimes but when working on his own he said “I never give a solo performance; it’s me and the audience”. He says he much prefers working with a live audience instead of ‘staring at wires’ as he calls a studio performance

Tom was introduced and he went on stage to give his show which lasted about 50 min I think.  I give him 10 out of 10 for enthusiasm but only 5/10 for presentation. It is essential that self taught entertainers no matter how talented receive mentoring from an experienced person and if necessary pay for it.

The first problem was that he invited one person from the audience up on the stage called Melissa to help him with his various tricks. Although there were 40 people in the audience he called her up three more times which I almost considered an invasion of privacy. The idea is to involve the maximum number of people you can.

The second problem was of the microphone or rather the volume was far too high and he screamed into it deafening everyone. I had to retreat to the back of the room but even then there was no escape from the noise level.

The third problem was that he criticised in a joking way people who did not cooperate by saying “it’s my show”. You can make the same joke maybe two or three times but I think he did it about 12 times and it just wore a bit thin.

The fourth problem was that he asked people to applaud members of the audience who did the slightest thing such as standing up, walking forward, taking part in the simplest of instructions. “give them a round of applause” he shouted at full volume. The audience duly obliged but really it was going over the top.

The fifth problem was that the said of someone’s husband that they had a forgettable face. Even when said in fun, that could be really hurtful especially if the man was lacking in confidence as indeed he seemed to be.

His magic was good. He took someone’s mobile phone off them and made it reappear from a packet of Cringles. His humour was not off-colour and actually rather quaint and oddball and I found this attractive.

Halfway through, he invited people to fill in a card with their name address and phone number to say if they were interested in committing themselves to Jesus. I really don’t mind this because everyone came along knowing that it was a Christian thing. About 25 people filled in the cards. I wonder how appropriate it is to mix comedy and magic with selling your DVDs and asking to support children in Africa and encouraging people to commit themselves spiritually.

He drives all over the country doing his show and I think the sheer enthusiasm that radiates from him wins the day. He is going to speak to 500 Salvation Army people in Harrogate, and then do the same thing again with 500 more.

I shall write to him about these points and hope that he takes some notice though human pride tends to dismiss criticism as if it is some sort of insult on the persons virility. It’s just an observation mate – nothing more –  take it or leave it.

PS I visited his website and had a look at the contact page. As you can see, the contact form is almost invisible because the default font colour is a very light shade of grey. It is absolutely vital when making a website to find someone who is outside the field, intelligent, and not afraid to report what they find. It is called beta testing. They should go through every aspect of the site because as the old saying goes “a change is as strong as the weakest link”. The very people who need the service most may be the ones who are most timid and therefore most likely to be put off by difficulties in the website.

Ignoring warnings

Thursday 5th May 1664. here is an extract from Samuel Pepys’s diary… So home to dinner, and to the office, where all the afternoon, and thence betimes home, my eyes beginning every day to grow less and less able to bear with long reading or writing, though it be by daylight; which I never observed till now.

How could they miss this one?

We read of extraordinary health conditions where someone has walked around with an operating instrument in them, someone has a 60 pound cyst, and we say to them “why didn’t they do something about it before?” This is a reminder to me of what we call the boiling frog syndrome. The frog sits in water which is gradually turned up 1° at a time. It does not notice it until it succumbs to the heat. If the frog were suddenly put in boiling water, it would jump out immediately.

The mind has a great ability to create normality out of chaos and this includes pushing away symptoms and signs of disease. The problem is that our bodies deteriorate over a period of time and unless the alert person looks out for signs, these warning indications will be ignored. How often have I heard of someone going to the doctor after their wife has been “at them for years” to attend to a particular situation and they have chosen to ignore it on the grounds that it will go away, or it’s not important, or I don’t want to waste the doctor’s time. This is in fact self abuse of the first order but it is not recognised as such. Perhaps we want to think that we are all immortal and cannot suffer from any deterioration. This is optimism driven to extremes.

Even with the limited ophthalmic knowledge available in 17th-century maybe we would have seen 10 more years of Pepys’s diaries had he sought appropriate advice earlier. The National Health Service is under great stress at the moment and that includes the General Practitioners. I tend not to trouble my doctor unless I absolutely have to. Better than that, I leave messages on my computer record via the receptionist asking for a referral on a particular subject and the doctor will call me back when he has a moment.

I think people who do not turn up for appointments should be charged say £25. Cancelled appointments probably cost more than this but the £25 would make a point. I would like to see respect of the medical profession and today’s promise by the Labour and Liberal Democrats to put more money into the NHS is welcome but in the event I fear that the Conservatives will eventually allow the entrance of predatory money grabbing American companies who see the human being just as an opportunity to make money. Currently in 146 hospitals, you have to pay £.50 to receive a call. You had to pay up to £5a day to watch TV. Were the NHS completely asleep when they signed the contract? Probably not. the Department were more likely seduced by the offer of a system installed without cost and who knows a couple of sweeteners on the side.

Today my computer is playing up and so I should be out of commission for the rest of the weekend. My wife will breathe a sigh of relief because she thinks I spend far too much time in front of the computer. In fact it is my umbilical chord without which I would find it very difficult to function creatively.  I shall have to make do with my wonderful tablet but having said that PCs can do a range of tasks that tablets cannot so easily do. I hope the computer can be rescued from its many failings and doesn’t have to go to computer heaven.

Having less than 10% of my hard drive free does not help.  it’s easy to get to the stage where you spend more on repairing the computer than buying a new one. You can pick up laptops for virtually nothing these days. I saw a new one with 1 TB of data but without an operating system it must be said for under £200.

Perhaps we would be better off with parchment and a quill pen.

On that rather nerdy note, I finish my diary for today and it’s only 7:55 AM

The Great Plague; waiting for Godot; mind-boggling numbers

protection against the plague

The Great Plague lasted from 1665 to 1666 and was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. The plague killed an estimated 100,000 people, almost a quarter of London’s population, over a period of 18 months. The plague was caused by a bacterium usually transmitted through the bite of an infected rat flea.

Samuel Pepys’s diary Wednesday, 4 May 1664 reminds us how important the Coffee house was for exchange of information “ Thence to the coffee – house and to the ‘change (The Royal Exchange) for a while. News uncertain how the Dutch proceed. Some say for some against a war. The plague increases at Amsterdam. So home to dinner and after dinner to my office, where very late, till my eyes (which begin to fail me nowadays by candlelight) begin to trouble me.

in a way we can say that the great Fire of London in 1666 may have done a job of bringing the plague to an end, or maybe it signaled in a rather spectacular way the fact that the plague had run its course.

I have great difficulty in getting my head around large numbers. The fact that a galaxy is 100 light years across is far too much for me. I cannot even understand or appreciate what one light-year is. I know it’s the distance that a beam of light travels in a year at 186,000 miles second. I can just about imagine a second’s worth, during which a beam of light would nearly reach the moon perhaps a few kilometres short.

I subscribe to a site called the Money Charity which gives monthly statistics for the UK economy which I read with varying degrees of comprehension. The average annual salary in the UK is £26,468. That’s fine I can understand that but £2.04 billion spent using plastic each day is beyond me though 126 purchases made every second I can get that. 3321 Consumer County Court Judgements are issued every day – that’s fine.
My ability to conceptualise seems to fade over about 1 million of anything.

our ability to evaluate distance depends partly upon practice of using the imagination. If the skill is not needed it will fade away. I know it’s not the same thing as astronomical distance but I like the chart so here it is.

It appears I’m not the only one. Kate Baggaley has written an interesting article on a site called the Brain Decoder.. which includes the following:  “Our cognitive systems are very much tied to our perceptions,” said Daniel Ansari, a researcher at the Numerical Cognition Laboratory at Western University in Canada. “The main obstacle is that we’re dealing with numbers that are too large for us to have experienced perceptually.

By contrast, we constantly experience small numbers. “Smaller numbers are more frequent in our daily vocabulary,” Ansari said. “When you lay the table you ask your child, how many knives do we need? It’s never going to be 10,000 unless you have a very big dinner party.

I suppose if we needed large numbers for survival, we would get used to them very quickly that there is simply no need so I suppose the brain says to itself, why bother?

‘Waiting for Godot’, a play by Samuel Beckett

Today I am awaiting a response from the hospital about my proposals, as I’m aware that a meeting to discuss my plan will be held today. As a free spirit, never having worked in a bureaucracy, I have no idea of the pressures that are on an organisation such as the NHS when making a decision about anything. It is not just a question of common sense, or even need, but of timing, priority, funding, endless committees, and whatever else the proposal it has to go through the mill. This takes time. I feel like an artist who wants to just get on and paint a picture.  The picture is in my head and I want it translated into the real world. I hope the picture does not fade and thus my incentive.

To avoid torture, I tried to divert myself to other matters for example gardening, reading but not TV which strangely does not replace the pictures that I have in my mind. I think it’s important to be active with something and not passive. The activity itself overwrites any worry or concern you may have. If you try not to worry about something that will make things worse.

There are many worse types of waiting. You can wait for your husband to come back from a war when the outcome is far from clear, you can wait for your partner to return from a six month contract abroad or you can wait for someone that you love to get out of prison not knowing when they will emerge. I wonder if Skype conversations makes things better or worse. It just fans the flames of desire for the proximity of the person and offers just a tantalising view. Better than nothing I suppose. At least they can see the children.

In a different category, you can be waiting for someone who has disappeared.  275,000 Brits. disappear each year. The people who they leave behind must blame themselves or wonder what they did wrong. Such waiting is pure torture; that situation would be almost impossible for me to entertain because I don’t like losing control over my environment. Another worse type  of waiting is when you are due in court in six months time. It may be a divorce case. In spite of the assurances from your solicitor, a lot can go wrong and often does. It’s a question of who is believed and some people are very plausible in court.

All in all, I have nothing to complain about.


Do people really care? Do dogs love us?

The press or should I say the Main Stream Media  would have us believe that we are becoming a more uncaring society but in spite of that I see many acts of goodwill and courtesy. Why is this? I remember reading that if you put a certain number of rats in a cage they behaved reasonably well towards each other. If you introduce more and more rats until it became overcrowded their behaviour starts to change and they became more aggressive about the invasion of their territory.

my beloved regular bus service from West Dulwich to Brixton. This was in my London days. Incidentally, it was common for me to be the only white person on the bus and, resident as I am in Midsomer Norton, Somerset,  I kind of miss it.

If you took a bunch of apparently uncaring silent people staring into space on the top of the No 3 bus to Crystal Palace and try to evaluate them you’d think what an introverted lot they were. If you were to take these very same people and place them on a bench outside a pub in Cornwall, bring on some lovely scrumpy, you would have complete strangers talking to each other after 10 or so minutes if not before. So there are two factors here. First the person themselves with their psychology, and secondly the environment in which they live. An intrinsically functional person in the wrong environment can be real pain in the backside and the fact of the matter is they don’t enjoy this at all.

We may be confusing the ‘lack of caring’ with lack of being able to find a supportive environment where it is possible to open up and be oneself. For my own part, I spend most of my time on my own so it is very easy to develop an infrastructure which is comfortable. If I were to spend eight hours of my day at work in a large corporation, I doubt if the real me could emerge and that includes the manifestation and pride in my uniqueness. The downside of being on your own is that if you are lonely about one particular thing there is no one to share it with – excluding of course those closest to you.

We do suffer from the stiff upper lip, but I think less than we used to. This article was prompted by the attitudes of a couple of people that I regard as friends. They are very happy to talk about themselves and yet when I start to talk about myself they switch off. I can think of a number of reasons for this, charitable and uncharitable. The most charitable thing I can say is that people are so anxious and concerned about their own problems that they see anyone else’s ingress as something that will smother them somehow and destabilise them. The most uncharitable thing I can say that social behaviour is learnt and perhaps people need to be reminded that others have a need to have their problems and situations listened to. I think selfishness is a mug’s game because it leaves so little room for learning about the good things in life.

If they were happy people then surely hearing about other happy people would be a bonus. If they are not happy people, hearing about a happy friend just rubs salt into the wounds so you don’t particularly want to be reminded of this especially if you see your own current situation to be insoluble. Example, a couple together who don’t really want to be together but can’t afford to separate because of a communal mortgage. Insofar as that is the case they have to live a phoney life and someone who is living a real life true to themselves will again rub salt into the wounds just by being themselves.

I do occasionally meet liberated souls in the streets or anywhere come to that. We seem to recognise each other, smile, and pass the time. I do feel that most human beings are in an open prison due to the long-term effects of not dealing with problems when they arise. I’d say rather cynically or perhaps realistically than one in every 20 persons I meet have a degree of freedom which I find attractive and all these, most would be classed as eccentric, out-of-the-box, nonconformists, including a special category of artists for whom I have a soft spot. When I meet artists I forgive them for anything they have done, are doing, or will do, because being an artist in an unaesthetic world is almost impossible to achieve and requires great focus and single-mindedness.

I do not know what Samuel Pepys would say about the sort of dialogue above but he probably chose his friends carefully. ” My Lord” who was his benefactor he had to be nice to but I get the impression that he doesn’t suffer fools gladly and he would quickly tire of tedious company. Pepys does have a charitable and observational side to him there is no question.

Thomas Povey FRS

On Tuesday, 3 May 1664 Pepys talks about a Mr Thomas Povey FRS (who was a London merchant – politician who was active in colonial affairs from the 1650s, and his considerable influence in the not yet professionalised first English Empire)  and says ” for, of all the men in the world, I never knew any man of his degree so great a coxcomb* in such employments. I see I have lost him for ever, but I value it not; for he is a coxcomb and, I doubt, not over honest, buy some things which I see; and yet, for all his folly, he had the good lucke, now and then, to speak his follies in as many good words, and with as good a show, as if it were reason, and to the purpose, which is really one of the wonders of my life.
* A vain and conceited man; a dandy

So coming back to my original question of caring, and I think I will be returning to this numerous times, I think there is a tendency to care which in dwells in us as we are human beings. This is unfortunately eclipsed so we do not see it and the symptoms of hiding are the criteria we use to judge people which can be misguided. Having said that, first impressions do count and we don’t have endless time to form an opinion of someone during our busy daily life.

I think if we can attain the unconditional love of the average mutt by the time we die we will be doing fairly well. Dogs are amazing and forgiving. You can abuse them and they come nuzzling up to you as if you hadn’t done anything. No lessons to learn then.

A well and truly out of control Leylandii. These are one of the fastest-growing trees and are the subject of frequent litigation between neighbours.

After a fairly productive day in the garden, we went off to see a potential customer who had a huge Leylandii hedge and tree to trim, and about 20 m of 2 m high hedge, or collection of different types of shrubs comprising a hedge. The couple moved into their property five years ago. It is quite common for people to focus on house first of all and then finally to deal with the garden.  I had great difficulty in dealing with the price because I was not sure how many trips to the recycle are required and this does bump up the time hugely.

And so to a movie for our weekly treat

We try and have a least one day out every week. This is not so easy when the gardening season is in full swing or when Francoise is attending Yoga or painting classes. We went to see “The Sense of an Ending” at the Little Theatre in Bath.

art work in the Indian buffet – this is style writ large
calling all airborne germs calling all germs I am wonderfully hot and sticky and nutritious so attach yourself to me

Prior to that we had our usual Gorge-Fest in Jimmy’s restaurant where for a very moderate amount of money you get an ‘all you can eat’ three course meal.

Soup of the day, various salads, 14 choices of the main dishes –  Chinese or Indian or Mexican. Cakes, sweets, ice cream, chocolate fondue (the best-known germ collector I have ever seen) choreographed by the ever welcoming and polite Indian staff.

I tend not to go during school holidays. Very generously anyone under 10 years of age gets fed free but this does result in a lot of noisy people and I’m one who likes to eat in peace.

a retro Lambretta, one of the many works of art in the entrance hall of Jimmies Restaurant

Unlike most buffet restaurants they have a selection of rather good photographs and artworks, of which I have given two examples.

You can always tell the professional buffet eaters.  The novices pile everything on one plate. They mix salad, meat, fish, and gobble it all down as if it were going to disappear, giving themselves indigestion in the  process. The professionals take their time, have their courses in order, visit the buffet many times, and relish everything to the full. Professionals recognise each other: we have secret wink and a smile rather like the Masons have a secret handshake. “we know it’s good value and we are here to take full advantage.”

As Pepys would say, on to the Little Theatre, which is a stone’s throw away from the Roman Baths. It had good management, showing a steady stream of quality films which do not insult the intelligence. Inside the theatre there is a miniature bar and I do mean miniature with room for one person to work or maybe two slim people. It sells coffee, limited supplies of drinks, and sweets.   We entered the auditorium 10 min before the film programme started. There were 6 people when we arrived but at the end of the film there were 14. I don’t  think you can expect many more for a weekday crowd at 1:45 PM

I am a Luddite in certain respects but I believe that these days films are streamed on high quality broadband lines rather via an actual reel of film being taken from theatre to theatre. If so, that is good news because it keeps the distribution costs down in theory anyway.

One thing I’m not very good at is understanding subtle stories. The first reason is that I tend to drift off to sleep for short periods and that is not very helpful when it comes to identifying a key point in the script. I am far too easily distracted when it comes to sensory things like noise and the first thing I was acutely aware of it was someone rattling a crisp packet. I’m very good at glowering at people if they make a noise. I did so and the woman got the message and quietened down though trust me you cannot eat crisps silently.

The film duly started and I was immediately attracted by the leisurely pace and the meticulous working or should I say outworking of the script. Each character had time to establish him or herself to the audience. There were not too many actors, there were no guns there was no violence. Massive amounts of brownie points for that. I find flashback techniques quite difficult to understand if I don’t know why the flashbacks are happening. Anyway this is the gist of the film formula so far as I understand it and it can be applied to many films.

  1. Someone did something wrong when they were young
    2. there was a misunderstanding with the result that they accuse someone or something that they did not do
    3. many years and several divorces later they decide they want to do something about it by way of apology
    4. they track down the people concerned who of course mistrust them, and attempted to repair the damage
    5. the film ends with a sort of reconciliation as good as can be expected bearing in mind the fragile nature of the human ego
Charlotte Rampling

Charlotte Rampling OBE, 71 this year, has perfect timing, amazing presence and a variety of facial expressions that alone communicate more meaning than half an hour’s worth of news on TV.

She could ask someone to pass the salt and could sound like a seductress or a female dictator. She started modelling and acting in the swinging 60s and hasn’t stopped yet.

Jim Broadbent

Jeremy Corbyn AKA Jim Broadbent holds our attention for most of the film and I think it’s worth seeing for his acting alone which is outstanding in terms of pregnant pauses and timing. He says as much with silence as he does speaking.

Thank you Director Ritesh Batra for allowing the film to move out its own speed and for such sensitive attention to detail.
However, such films reflecting on past mistakes and times of childhood make me very maudlin and I left the movie theatre with mixed feelings, a feeling of being pulled into the past which wasn’t very nice but by contrast a feeling that I’m in the present which is a bit safer.

We made two discoveries on our way back to the bus station. We stopped off at a Polish shop to buy one of my favourites, Kafir, a type of sour milk. I also bought some pâte. Chinese shops are not very good at promotion or perhaps they don’t have to, but we discovered one tucked away run by a jolly husband-and-wife team and we bought noodles and some hot pepper sauce which we cannot get in any English supermarket. We returned home loaded with food and happy as the proverbial sand person.

I decided to have some business cards printed announcing these diaries and giving them out to all and sundry, especially those about whom I write something. I would like everyone to write a diary because I think it’s so therapeutic apart from being informative in this age of “fake news” and finally making the point that everyone has a contribution they can make to society.

The cards arrived this morning Wednesday at 10 AM having been ordered 40 hours earlier this last Monday,  bank holiday. I think they cost me about £16 for 250. There is no question that the Internet is making suppliers very aware of the need for good service. I love it when you get a text or e-mail when your item has been dispatched, and if it is to be collected at at another place notifying the customer of that as well.

Samuel Pepys the drama critic, grey grey sky, computer problems

Thomas Killgrew as he appeared in 1650. one of the leading actors of this period.

Samuel Pepys is certainly blunt with his criticism. On Monday, 2 May 1664, he went to the Kings Playhouse (now the Theatre Royal) with his wife and a ‘mademoiselle’ friend, “and there sawThe Labyrinth,’ the poorest play, me thinks, that I ever saw, there being nothing in it but the odd accidents that fell out, by a ladies being bred up in man’s apparel, and a man in a woman’s”.  As if that were not enough, “thence in the coach to the park, where no pleasure; there being much dust, little company, and one of our horses almost spoiled by falling down, and getting his leg over the pole; but all mended presently”.

We are going to London later on this month and I shall be doing a tour of where Pepys was born, lived, and died.

Sometimes you wake up in the morning to a sky that is just plain grey. No redeeming features of any sort. It’s not raining, It’s not windy, it’s not cold – just grey. However I have decided to have a positively technicolour day because the physical senses comprise only about 1% of what is actually going on in terms of wavelength.

A new SSD arrived yesterday. Solid State Drive to the uninitiated. My ever helpful computer man, Terry, told me to clear out the data that I didn’t need and the programs that I didn’t use. The trouble is  two fold.  First I don’t know what programs and software I need because they have rather strange names. Secondly I use quite a lot of programs, not frequently but I use them and they do eat up the gigabytes. My new SSD is 525 Gb but that’s not an awful lot these days. For those of you that remember the Bible, the old and new Testament takes about 15 MB which is but a comma compared with the average software installation.

We do earn the majority of our income doing gardening in what I laughingly call the summer  but it has been so dry of late that no rain = no growth = no jobs. Give me a few days of rain and we will have jobs aplenty but now all we do is to contend with the usual Spring burst of life that will not get us far.

On R5Live a man was talking about his emotional breakdown and how he had to summon up the courage to tell his boss. In the event, his boss could not have been more helpful and provided all the sources of support that were necessary. The sufferer was saying that there is no stigma admitting that you got a broken leg or arm or that you are exhausted, but as soon as you admit to an emotional or mental problem then another level of courage is required.

Strange, isn’t it, how we identify ourselves with  our weakest point.  Why is it that we think we will be judged, rejected, laughed at, when our software is not functioning the way it should. Everyone has suffered mentally at some time or another so any laughter may be the laughter of a nervous person who can see him or her self reflected in the person who confesses. I think on this topic we don’t know how to broach the subject. Possibly the best way to do it is to start in a soft way and say “I haven’t been feeling very well lately”. If the person is not interested in you they will talk about something else but if they are interested in you than they will ask the question and encourage you to talk.

Let’s have none of this nonsense about “not wanting to trouble anyone”. I’m not talking about continual whingeing which is a pain but the people not wanting to trouble others are often those who would themselves go out of their way to help a stranger or friend in need so come on now, the universe owes you a bit, so don’t be shy. You should pick your place and time. If you phone someone when you sense that they’re busy you could at least ask them if it’s convenient to speak but I would say in almost every case it’s better to do it face-to-face. I’m not even sure that Skype is good enough. I think it has to be the immediacy of the living people. The same applies even more to Twitter and Facebook. I recall reading about a young lady who had 650 friends or so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook. She said that she felt like taking her own life. No one responded so guess what, she did.

the art of negotiating, more on autism

Elizabeth Pepys, wife of Samuel

The diary of Samuel Pepys of 1 May 1664

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed. Went not to church, but staid at home to examine my last night’s accounts, which I find right, and that I am 908l. creditor in the world, the same I was last month.

Nice to know that these now famous people have a day off, relatively speaking. Interestingly, Pepys did not see himself as famous. He just liked keeping a diary and only stopped when he was fearful for his eyesight. The fame came because in retrospect people now see the keeping of the diary as a unique record of the time, most commonly associated with the record of the Fire of London.

the fire of London at its height

Anyway about today’s entry,  Pepys took his wife on the Thames and met some friends at a Halfway House, 3 miles from London Bridge at which they dined and conversed. No telephones in those days. You had to sit down and actually talk to someone my goodness whatever next.

Today I feel a need to move forward in my dealings with the hospital. Last week I made a proposal to them about a certain matter which must be private for the moment. In any large organisation there is the immediate reaction of the people present at the meeting to be considered,and then as a totally different matter their obligation to fit in with the terms and conditions of the management of the institution concerned whatever it is.

Any new scheme needs to be scrutinised and although a pessimistic view should not be taken, investigations have to be made to ensure that the integrity of the scheme is whiter than white. It is a good idea never to have to rely on one person. No one is indispensable.

Any proposal for anything needs to have not only an idea, but relevant experience i.e. a track record and an understanding of the particular section of society to which they are addressing themselves. I have tried to put myself in the position of the receiver of the idea to see what problems they could spot down the line. This is partly because I tend to be a victim of my own enthusiasm, or fail to see, or want to see, the potential flaws and weaknesses (not quite the same meanings by the way).

I did a revised piece over the weekend, as a follow-up to the meeting I have put in a proposal as a consequence of
1.  what was said by the other parties at the meeting
2.  how it was said
3.  what was not said
4. No own thoughts since the meeting

That is why time should elapse, preferably overnight, before we decide how to respond to anything. The phrase “make haste slowly” comes to mind otherwise known as festina lente or “more haste less speed’. The Emperor Augustus used this as his motto.

I’m enjoying reading the book that I mentioned previously “The Reason I Jump” dictated by an autistic young man. It should be compulsory reading for everybody with a child with such a condition. It is very easy read with each chapter consisting of about two pages if that. One of these chapters I like very much so here is a quote therefrom.

Q – Why do you enjoy going out for walks so much?
A – “…The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in the world, and our entire bodies get recharged. However often were ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts…. Green is life, and that’s the reason we love to go out for walks.”

So, the image of these people being stupid is completely erroneous. They just can’t get the thoughts out into the outside world like the rest of us do.

So, I have sent my magic letter off to the NHS and compressed the points down to one side of A4 and now all I can do is sit and wait.

And now for a complete change of subject or as John Cleese used to say in Monty Python

“and now for something completely different”

I have a friend who shall be nameless who is in a lot of financial and job difficulty. She knows all this but her pride prevents her from accepting help never mind sympathy. it’s difficult to ring up and say brightly, “well how are you then” when I will probably be snapped at  for my troubles. I think sometimes people have to be left to sort themselves out on their own.

They know what they have done and they know the consequences of it and it is very corny to say “well, I’m here if you need me” but that’s what I want to say. Maybe I send a card or an e-mail or even a text. I’m reluctant to do any of those and I think all I can do is to just bear them in mind and hope that I have the sort of vibe that will encourage them to call if they have such a need.  A helpful thing that I have just thought of is that I’m not the only friend or contact of the person and if they don’t feel comfortable talking to me then maybe there is someone else who has far more experience and rapport than I do who can help them just fine.

A cartoon of Maxine which is hung in the main bar

To lunch at the Old Down Inn. As ever, the one and only Maxine, the owner, looks after us all in her own way. I recall a Pub in Cape Town, South Africa, which was run by a person of great character who looked after individuals like he’s known them for ages. The time came to sell and he sold to someone who looked at the figures and found them good but what were not contained in the figures was the fact that the original owners’ popularity was what kept the place going. Without him, trade eventually disappeared and the new buyer sold at a loss. People do not come to pubs just to drink but for the atmosphere and the friendly nature of the landlord. I think someone with the right personality could resurrect a pub from the dead but it’s not something you learn, it’s either something you have got or you haven’t. You either like people or you don’t.

Maxine has it, by the spade full.


Radio Five Live and the hard avocado

Never let it be said that I am the late riser. Today as I look out of my study window at 6.09 AM the sun’s power is slowly increasing, the sky is blue without a cloud and the odd bird is fluttering around.

Louise Cooper and Sean Farrington – hmm – looks like a photoshop interposition

‘Wake Up With Money’ is part of Radio Five’s weekday morning routine. Sean and Louise are up there bright as buttons. How they manage to combine family lives with getting up at some ungodly hour in the morning beats me.  What normal person would do this type of thing?  Mind you, normal people bore me to death so maybe it doesn’t matter if they are as mad as Hatters. The pair, not to mention the producers and support staff, must be up at the latest at 3:30 AM and probably before. I hope they don’t live too far from the studio in Manchester. I recall the song ‘Sixteen Tons’ sung by Johnny Cash including the words ” I sold my soul to the company store” and I suppose you have to do this with such punishing hours.

So where does the avocado come into this? This morning’s topic was on the price and availability of food and they were lamenting the shortages of this and that including avocados. I was listening in bed via my earpiece while my other half remained in the arms of Morpheus. I do not mean Morpheus as in the film The Matrix because that would mean something far more sinister and existential. I mean Morpheus as in morphine. Sean, one of the presenters, was talking about avocados. I noticed during a recent trip to Bristol that they were being sold at for £1.50 for two, but they were inevitably as hard at bullets and need to be rested for a week or so before you can eat them. They almost need a “Best eaten after” date label.

no, surely the squeeze test is from end to end?

I felt I had to make some contribution to the program so, bleary eyed, I crawled or should I say crept out of bed into the living room, turned on my device and texted the following comment to 85058 “what is the point in buying an avocado that is as hard as a bullet irrespective of price. Brian”.  I took off my glasses and crept back into bed and put my earpiece on again. Lo and behold, I heard my own words being repeated back to me by the presenter. We have a text from Brian……..   If I may say so, that is blistering efficiency.

Radio Five Live have won a number of awards and they deserve them. They keep the standards high, bright and witty. It is the station to respond quickest to any developing news item and seems to be oblivious whether it is night or day. This contrasts with the increasingly widespread use of that dreadful “breaking” appellation so beloved of certain channels particularly in the USA where the most trivial news items are “breaking”. Nothing is too trivial to be used as a diversion from getting people to actually think. I regard the audiences at some TV shows as members of a ” performing animal circus” where the audience is lit up in blue and red for some reason and have obviously been prepared by some manic producer to whoop and hoot at the slightest display of individuality or eccentricity. This shows what a curmudgeonly being I am for which I take full responsibility and frankly at my age I can say anything I like because no one will take any notice.

For some reason, this type of dreadful dumbing down trend does not apply to Radio Five Live. I listen to it more during the night than during the day and you will be amazed how many people want to give their opinions at 2:30 AM in the morning. They are not nerds, just people with brains who want to find an outlet for their views and expressions. I’m not saying I’m delirious about every aspect of this channel. On the Wake Up programme referred to above, Rico from Singapore gets on my nerves a little bit by prefacing every other sentence with “Sean Louise”. Credit to him, though, he is always full of beans, completely positive, and the biggest gossip about the financial world and stock market trends that I know of.

“if you get it wrong again I will kill you” – Louise having a controlled mental crisis (I’m only joking)

Other irritating things on R5Live are a wall blast compilation of sports achievements where the final moments of winning a football game, a Formula 1 motor race, or some other act of sporting prowess are related at hysterical breakneck speed. It is then when I take my earpiece out of my ear. But they are forgiven. I suppose you got to wake the dead somehow.

However, for sheer consistency in being on the ball, editorially brave, and bantering in a happy journalistic way, R5Live takes a lot of beating.  I was going to say they “take the biscuit” but that expression can have a pejorative meaning. This phrase is either the equivalent of ‘taking the cake’, meaning to take the first prize, or that behaviour ‘takes the biscuit’, or even worse ‘that just about takes the biscuit’  because of its shocking nature.

Such a wonderful language is English. Take the word ‘live’. How does a naive student of English know how to pronounce the same word with two meanings.  Is it ‘i’ as in idiot or ‘i’ as in eye. However, learning English is nothing compared with Hungarian and Finnish (the Finno Ugrian group of languages including Estonian) not to mention Icelandic. if I wanted to say “Hungarian is difficult to learn” it would be “A magyar nyelv nehéz tanulni”. or with Icelandic “Íslenska er erfitt að læra”.  Aren’t we so lucky we were born in an English-speaking country, or are we?

We could have a poll to decide which language is easiest to learn. I would say Spanish. Anyway, it is now 7.13 AM and time for another coffee. The day has not even started for most people. I feel a tiny bit smug about that but not so much as I would tell anyone.

Priston Prosecco is the order of the day

So there they were, these glasses of bubbly, full to the brim and laid out in a rather seductive manner. How could I resist? I had a glass of Prosecco for £3 served by two delightful ladies which set me up for the afternoon.

The village of Priston has a population which at the last official count is listed as 232 souls, but today I saw at least three times that due to the attraction of the May Day Festival which is held annually on, guess when, May 1st.

The event is centred around the village hall for which funds are being sought and all profits go to charity as they say. Behind the pub and the village hall is a small car park where stall holders were plying their trade.

There was a stall selling crêpes which to my mind was the most doubtful value of all. I have enclosed a price list which you see. The owner was just making a layer of flour and milk as you do and putting a dusting of various ingredients, for example Nutella, and charging £4. I would say the value of ingredients was about £0.30. Maybe he gave the profits to the Village Hall so I will maintain an open stance towards this.

a formidable array of home-cooked cakes
a whole squadron of cream teas waiting to fly off the table

On the other hand there was an amazing collection of cakes and scones in the village hall. I was so greedy I had two cakes both of which were delicious, and were home made by the local ladies. The cost was £2 for a generous slice of cake and scones. I had two cakes.

There was enthusiastic and varied Morris and Maypole dancing plus the local Radstock Brass Band who played a series of upbeat numbers.

a happy band indeed

I don’t think they get paid anything for this so well done for turning out in all weathers, sometimes travelling distances but always in the service of the community.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP. Does he ever go off duty

I spotted Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset who is going to be out of a job on 5 May when Parliament dissolves in time for the election on 8 June.

the sign which you cannot see says ” ice cream for sale”

There was a splendid lady who went around selling ice creams with a sign round her neck a bit like a bib. She was very charming and personable and I hope she eventually sold a lot of product.

I had a chat with a man who had a strange elongated watch, which turned out to be a Garmin HealthWatch, it is called a Vivosmart HR+ with GPS activity tracker. It does everything except make tea.

It registers the number of steps you’ve made during the day, your pulse rate, in fact any type of physical activity. It has an inbuilt GPS which tracks distance and pace while at the same time mapping your progress. The man only bought this gadget a couple of weeks ago but he’s very excited about it like a kid with a new toy.

a general gaggle of people in the area behind the village hall and the pub

This event was the best example of a free and easy experience where quite frankly you could to stop and talk to anyone, say outrageous things, and nobody minds. It is pleasant to be in the company of intelligent and well educated people. For a start they know how to behave and there is a level of acuity and awareness in the atmosphere which I appreciate and in which cocoon I feel at home.

May Day ou (venez) m’aider and Phil Gyford

Today dawns a bright sunny morning and Other Half and I are off to a Mayday event in Priston which is a small historical village about 6 miles from here. I would be even happier if it was warmer with less threat of rain but hey this is England. It is notable that some small villages are very well served from the communications point of view due to the literacy and sophistication of the people who live there. Awareness of the wider world is correlated to the activity in the neocortex and although intellect is not just ‘of the left brain’, such cerebral activity and a good dose of self-discipline certainly helps. The link above shows the Priston website.

I wish all villages had such a site. Building a web site for pages or blogging is as cheap as chips these days and if you are able to read and type, you just get on with it. If you get stuck, you can be sure that someone else has the same problem what ever it is so just type the keywords into Youtube or google and before your very eyes there will be a demonstration. Technically you just need to register a domain name (a few pounds), it could be your own name, and find a firm to host the site. Beware, the actual hosting is not the problem is the quality of service if you get stuck, and it is sometimes worth paying for a host within your own country. The big domain name sellers and hosts, normally based in the USA, do not have a live helpline and rely on Q &A to solve any problems. Inevitably your problems are not covered by the Q&A. When you have a problem and realise that you cannot contact anyone, that’s when the lack of personal service becomes a real bore.

This morning I discovered the architect of the Samuel Pepys website where one page of the diary is issued on a daily basis with the date if not the year of his activity. I receive it and look forward to reading its contents. The architect’s name is Phil Gyford and you can read all about him here.  some people are destined to be in public view, and some are designed to be backroom people and do an immense amount of good through software development, contributing ideas, helping other people to do what they do best and I think Phil is in this category. It warms my heart to read about him because I also feel that I’m in this category.

Incidentally, I have just looked at my own stats for today and I see I have visitors to my site from Ireland, Perth Australia, Sri Lanka but mainly for some reason from Finland. It makes the world a very small and cosy place to know that complete strangers are tuning in to what you have to say

I wrote Phil a letter of introduction to myself thanking him for his contribution to the Samuel Pepys legend. I mentioned speech to text software, without which I could not produce this diary in such a short time. DragonDictate has been used by me for about 13 years now. Many people have tried speech to text and have been put off it because they tried an early version but now the amount of RAM in computers is a useful 4 GB which is what you need for high-speed computer processing and I find I can get near to 100% accuracy.

One thing I do have to remember, and that is to switch off before talking to people on the phone or in the room because not only will you see garbled version of your conversation on whatever program you are using but Dragon listens out what might be instructions to your computer and I have had files deleted, and page down scrolls which I did not intend. If my wife knocks on my door, she has to allow me a few seconds to turn off the listening ear. This is not so serious as some of Amazon’s creations I’m sure including the Dot, but it will be some time before I get round to that.

This assumes good articulation. The software allows for training which is particularly useful with unusual words, for example my surname, but it is not absolutely vital.  You have to develop a talent for thinking what you are speaking about while speaking. Once you have mastered the art your productivity goes up enormously. It is worth saying that if you are trying to write a missive on a website, the response will appear to be slow because there is so much hidden software within the site which will slow down the appearance of your words on the page. The most uncluttered client for such work is WordPad as one example.

Actual rain!!! – THE book arrives

My goodness, it’s actually raining. Not much but at least it’s enough to change the colour of the ground. I watch BBC weather forecasts and I am reduced to despair when I see the graphics. They find it necessary to project a picture of rain on the screen as if we didn’t know what rain was. I wish that newscasters would just sit down and read the news instead of standing, walking around the studios, and having very large backdrops of images which sate the senses but give little information.

On another matter, the Amazon machine has kicked into action.

Saturday 4:30 PM    mentioned book about autistic person was ordered
Saturday 9:38 PM    email – the book is dispatched
Sunday  10:06 AM    email – the book is out for delivery
Sunday   2:25 PM     the book was posted through my letterbox
Sunday  2:35 PM      email – ” your package has been posted through your letterbox”

Amazon certainly works seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I hear the Amazon couriers are pressured so much so that they don’t get time even to go to the loo, never mind have a meal break. Still, I say to myself in mitigation, it does give weekend employment to those who need the money. I do wonder how anyone survives on the national minimum wage except by living at home perhaps.  If you are a giant company and get a certain density of orders in a given geographical area, I suppose you can pay the deliverer £1 or £1.50 a piece and still make a profit.

Off to the allotment to collect rhubarb. There is so much to pick that I could have rhubarb every day. I have picked 10 large sticks and I will give some to the next door neighbour who has just moved in.

11°C so that a good enough excuse for a fire.

The day began like any other day

We had spent a quiet day together doing the garden and spending some time preparing lunch. Little did I know what was going to hit me in terms of learning experience. About 2:30 in the afternoon I switched on the TV. I think we were having a late lunch. There followed a sequence of events that focused me exactly where I needed to be both in the attitude to myself and to others with a certain type of disability.

Naoki Higashida. until this afternoon I had not heard of this amazing young man. I felt I should tune in to Japanese NHK TV, which is our favorite non-English channel with a quality of reporting way above what we see in the West. We have about 600 channels to choose from so why I chose this one at this particular time is a mystery . The same thing happens with travel and the people we meet; we seem to get the timing right on each occasion. I regard this as a real blessing and I seem to be looked after by some mysterious force.

This young man featured on the programme has autism and is looked after by his mother. I enclose some snapshots from the TV to give some idea of the length and breadth of his intellect. He has written a book that has been translated into 30 languages and on watching this TV documentary I immediately ordered it via Amazon prime; it should arrive tomorrow Sunday (yes, you read that right). It is called “The Reason I Jump” – one boy’s voice from the silence of autism.

What is amazing is the number of people throughout the world that have been affected by the book particularly parents with autistic children, who have been enabled to get inside of the head of the autistic person and understand where the problem lies or what the symptoms indicate. I’m really humbled and moved by carers who are driven with a motive that is innocent and altruistic and they go on doing so day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. This type of action cannot be faked. Autistic people themselves have no choice, they have to carry on in spite of gross dysphasia between their intentions and the interpretation of the people in the outside world

In his description of how he sees life, I could see this as an amplified version of how I feel sometimes. For example if I picture something in my head I cannot talk about it at the same time. The vision takes precedence.

with the unwavering assistance of his mother he communicates using a ‘keyboard’  which is in English and speaks in Japanese at the same time. It is a mystery how this works.
he is objecting to stereotyping of his condition when being asked a question by a reporter



he said he was happy although he had no friends
he was invited over to Ireland by this father who had read his book and was moved by it. The father has a son with a similar condition. They met but they did not speak but shook hands at the end
this was the advice he gave to the reporter who asked him about how we should conduct ourselves
looking out of an apartment at a familiar scene.





On an entirely different matter, these are the number of automated attacks made by robots on PC’s in the last week. This shows how essential it is to have protection precautions with your computer especially if you host a website. Block Count
Russian Federation Russian Federation 74,350,963
Ukraine Ukraine 26,408,116
United States United States 21,631,135
Turkey Turkey 19,499,390
India India 15,741,988
Brazil Brazil 10,263,209
France France 9,503,834
China China 8,034,118
Korea, Republic of Korea, Republic of 7,133,979
Philippines Philippines 6,382,397






How can any day be boring? … ladies – how to escape from men

Even Samuel Pepys, the great diarist of the 17th century, is capable of having a bad day. He wrote on Thursday, 28 April 1664 …

” quite tired with business, and without joy in myself otherwise then I am by God’s grace enabled to go through it and one day, hope to have benefit by it”

I may be fortunate, but I find that as soon as I get up I’m “full of beans” as the English say. Moving from the horizontal position to the vertical position seems to trigger my brain to full action for the day. After my requisite coffee, I turned on the TV to hear about a breast surgeon who had mutilated hundreds maybe thousands of women over a period of 15 years and it makes me wonder where the controls are both in private medicine and in the NHS that someone can do this for so long. In China you would be executed for such a thing.

My galaxy has a facility for summarising news in various categories with a left swipe on the screen. One item particularly caught my attention. The essence is that female dragonflies are faking their death to avoid the attention of males. Researcher Rassim Khelifa was doing studies on the Moorland Hawker dragonfly while collecting larvae in the Swiss Alps. While he was working, a female being pursued by a male crash dived into the ground and then lay motionless on her back until the suitor flew away. Once the coast was clear, she got up and left.

Moorland Hawker dragonfly

The researcher was intrigued and paid special attention to this phenomena. He found that dragonflies faking their death is standard practice when a male will not leave the female alone. 27 out of the 31 female dragonflies he watched used this tactic to avoid males.

So ladies, can we learn from nature here. If you’re being pursued by an unwanted male I’m not suggesting you dive bomb yourself into the ground but how about freezing? How about an expressionless face? Maybe it’s better then giving any form of attention to the unwelcome intruder.

The brain is the ultimate relational database and can produce enough new ideas to keep us going 24 hours a day. the question which I shall only deal with briefly here is this “what causes us to stop being creative?”. I can give a lot of cheesy answers but basically it would be fear and insecurity. With the former, it would  be more accurate to say ‘angst’ which is fear without a clear object. Insecurity is another matter and that may arise from this dreaded word “normality”.

Predicating your behaviour on what you surmise others will think of you is a pathology. It kills spontaneity stone dead. If you were an artist, and we all are in a way, would you refuse to paint a new picture because you think it might not be received by the public? No, you paint it anyway, because it lies within you and demands expression.

Once you become creative consistently, you are hooked and you will never return to normality and conventionality again. You have taken the blue pill in terms of the film the Matrix. for those unfamiliar with the quote, here it is:

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

The term ‘red pill’ refers to a human that is willing to be made aware of the true nature of the Matrix.

I think most of our insecurities if not all of them originate from within our mind and that is why the mainstream media of the world are so focused on using the word ‘terror’ and ‘fear’ time and time again to make us terrified of being ourselves and subservient to the invisible machine that tries to control our very thinking.



the day of the grand sort-out of my attire

My clothes occupy far too much space; I only wear a fraction of them depending on whether it is for work, play, rain or shine, summer or winter, or more formal occasions such as dinners and weddings. What causes me to keep clothes that are well beyond their sell by date and out of fashion. Referring to the latter point, however, I have to note that fashions come and go and may be if I hang on to those trousers another 10 years they will be back in fashion and I can wear them with pride.

For the record, which I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for, here are the numbers:

vests and T-shirts  19
suits 2
short trousers 5
Winter jerseys 9
ties 14
jackets formal and informal  12
trousers formal and informal 16
shirts long and short sleeved 26

oh, the ties! I know some of them are 20 years old at least and quite dusty but I don’t want to throw away my college tie “Dunelm” apart from all the other quirky ones I have accumulated so I think I’ll put them in the little ball and forget all about them. Maybe when I die I will need one for my own funeral. I find that ties constrict the throat and are uncomfortable.

Currently, all the clothes that I own are lying in inglorious heaps in my living room if you can bear to look at them. A sad and sorry collection, un-ironed and unloved but let it be said with a few gems amongst them. Some have exceeded their use because my geographic dimensions have expanded somewhat for reasons that I shall only know when I pass over at the Pearly Gates, not that St. Peter will be that interested in my dimensions. He has seen them all; anorexic, rotund, athletic, unfit, attractive or plain and ordinary.

If, according to the Internet, 151,600 people die each day then that gives this saintly figure 0.5699208 seconds to evaluate each person. By any standards this does not allow time for lingering so I imagine he is interested in other matters, the summation of good and bad we have done, whether we loved our mother-in-law, whether we had been too interested in mammon or whether we sought the greater good.

Maybe not right for the supermarket on Saturday morning but hey each to his own.

In this context, the clothes we wear would seem to have very little relevance. I imagine cavemen either had their shorts and top on or they did not. Scullery maids either had their uniform on or a simple outfit for rest and recreation such as it was. And here we are, in the so-called civilised 20th-century, worrying about whether we should wear this or that colour or type of garb and whether we should be regarded as square (which is in itself an old-fashioned term) or cool. My view of clothing is that we should wear it to merge into the background and not draw attention to ourselves.

The other restriction is that we should not dress in such a way as to frighten small children. Apart from that, anything seems to go especially in places like the United Kingdom. You could walk down the road in a leotard and I don’t think anyone would care.

I’m not interested in the current phase of exhibitionism and instant fame particularly among the ladies I have to say. The amount of pounds of fatty tissue women have in their breast area is irrelevant and frankly if I saw the same type of fatty tissue in a butchers window I wouldn’t look twice. I agree this is not the most romantic statement ever uttered, but I do wonder why us men are fascinated with breasts; is it the mother thing?

I suppose we all suckled at one point so maybe this is a past life memory – who knows. There is no proof that a woman with big breasts is any more interesting than a woman with smaller breasts in fact it is probably quite the converse. If she knows that a man will come running when she blinks and pouts then there doesn’t have to be much in the upstairs department if you get my politically incorrect point. PS I was born politically incorrect and I intend to stay that way. PC is for wimps.

Anyway back to the subject of clothes. I had roughly 150 items to sort out. I have thrown away about a quarter, put another quarter in for washing and the rest I keep. I’d almost forgotten what clothes I had and I realised that I have needlessly brought duplicates. however, I am a long way before I reach Imelda Marcos’ record of 3000 pairs of shoes. She denied having 3000 pairs and said she only had 1060 pairs. I’m quite self depreciating about clothes but a good clean appearance, smartness, is important when making a first impression and I think we all need a few sets of decent clothes when we are about town. I believe Milan in Italy is very couture conscious, ditto Rome and Paris.

viewing the smaller from the greater

I had the good fortune and the honour of meeting a retired professor of world politics from America who had settled near Bath whom I met at a temporary exhibition of remarkable photographs in the Victoria Hall Gallery, Bath. He was a duty volunteer at the time. I struck up a conversation as I am wont to do and said that although it was my fifth visit, the photographs spoke to me in a different way each time. They are on the theme of war and conflict and too much to digest at one go. I described it as seeing 12 movie films one after the other. I commented that a good photographer always asks a question and invites you into the scene. We got talking about politics and so on and as you would expect he was very alert on comparing UK politics with American politics. I introduced the idea of the Enneagram, which is a Sufi method for determining personality types and said that America was type 3, the aggressive and commandeering type and UK was type 9 with 1, conciliation and adaption almost beyond what is good for the individual country.

It is so nice to meet someone with a greater view because most people see the world based on their own needs with every other aspect either helping or hindering the advancement of their own needs spectrum. I know the Greeks were very good with philosophy which basically means looking at the whole and seeing what are the main trends. I discussed with Arthur if I recall his name correctly how long would it take before America implodes as a result of its own greed. We discussed Trump versus Hillary Clinton and agreed to differ. The electoral system in the USA is unique in that someone can get in with less of a majority than someone who comes second in the other party so Trump was not elected by the majority; neither was Bush. Arthur thought that Trump’s plan of cutting welfare and Obama care  combined with a tax break for the rich will create further chaos and deficit. He was slightly confused and disappointed with the shenanigans that goes on in the UK.


About yesterday’s meeting I recall that I felt a sense of anti-climax when I left and then I realised that I was simply doing inner work to continue the creative process of the meeting. In other words, I had expressed one end of the spectrum and the other party had spoken from the other end. The requirement is to meet somewhere in the middle. As soon as I realised that this is what had to happen I felt very peaceable about the meeting and was looking forward to the next one. I did in fact receive a letter from the team organiser saying that they were going to meet next week to discuss what to do with my proposals. I think it’s a fair point that creativity does not happen tidily and a certain amount of chaos, differences, confusion, misunderstanding, is all part of the course. In dictatorships, orders are given from the top but in democracies there is more equality or should we say potential for equality.

And so to the RUH Hospital in Bath. It is time for my monthly macular injection for my left eye. Last month I got away without one because I was stable but this month there was a deterioration and more water in the back of the eye.  The waiting room for injections is always very interesting and enjoyable. You know that you have something in common with everyone there which is what makes us Brits more animated. Evidently two of them had just come back from Spain and were both complaining about the cold. Evidently it had been Spain’s worst winter for years with storms and floods and even snow in some places. I love this way of getting information because you know it is accurate. One person was there for the first time, another person was having their 26th injection. we realise that 10 years ago before this injection was on the NHS we would have had to pay the going rate which is now about £800 a shot. I would certainly be near blind in one eye had this problem not been detected at the start of last year.

The main waiting-room for the eye department is a pleasant enough place to be in although at times it is very crowded. There is a television there with text describe and the sound turned just high enough that the people can hear what is being said. This was the news bulletin where Corbyn was reported as being called a “Mutton-headed old mugwump“, the phrase that only Boris Johnson, our Foreign Minister, could use. He is very literate and intellectual man with a good command of the English language.  I dictated his biography for a books for the Blind service for which I work. However, I think that name-calling will probably backfire upon him. Jeremy Corbyn replied that he was not interested in responding to such remarks and he would rather get on with the job bearing in mind the elections just a few weeks away.

The hospital goes to great lengths to give a personal service as the enclosed photographs indicate. Anything that contributes to the welfare of the patient, and the feeling of community, is not a waste of time.

The hospital does its best to make itself a pleasant place to go to. There is a large sculpture in the main hall composed of items washed up from the sea and it is beautiful though I don’t know how many people raise their heads enough to look. Along the corridors are hundreds of photographs and paintings and it does transform what is a long and boring corridor into an art exhibition. Well done people.

I was very much drawn to a sculpture piece which I have attempted to photograph. It is on the way to the main restaurant on the ground floor. It was called ‘The Casting Out’ and expressed in one installation people’s various attitudes to someone stricken with leprosy. It relates to the Bath Leper Hospital, one of the first leper houses in England formed in 1100 A.D. and continued to function for hundreds of years.

People thought to have leprosy were outcasts from their communities and underwent a symbolic funeral on admission. They had to give up all their possessions and relationships and we declared dead to the world and born-again to God.  Communities have to decide how to cope with anyone who seems to be a threat: in this case from infection, but also from violence, loss of livelihood, religious and cultural differences etc.

Martin Elphick

The model displayed in the work above is a third of life-size. It is made of cement fondue, the material that a notional life – sized sculpture could be made of.

The artist is Martin Elphick.


a woman crying on the bus

So I’m on my way by bus to Bristol for the long-awaited meeting which I have put so much energy into. The skill set demanded by the NHS for patient representative is very much my line of work.

To my right sits a woman looking very uncomfortable with herself. Her mobile phone rings and it is her husband or friend saying rather brusquely  “how’s it going then”. She held him online while she fumbled around trying to turn off the loudspeaker because she didn’t want everyone to hear. She tried to compose herself and gave an account of what she was doing.

As she was talking, her feet were twitching and tears were falling from her eyes. She looked desperately desperately lonely. Then she started to smile I think in an effort to cheer herself up. She rang off, and stared ahead into no man’s land. There is nothing I could say or do. Here is a suffering soul condemned to a silent world.

On the way to the hospital I stopped off at a delightful new Polish patisserie that had been opened for only three weeks. This is definitely a potential niche product in trendy Bristol and it will definitely succeed. the chef had put so much effort into the cakes and the image does not do justice to the variety and originality and inventiveness. It is called “Sweet Moment” and is at 296 Gloucester Road Bristol BS7 8PD and it is open every day.

And so on to the meeting from central Bristol via the 76 bus . I’m quite jealous of Bristol because it’s able to support so many cool minority restaurants and quirky artistic places. We just don’t have that in Midsomer Norton. Anyway, Bristol is only an hour away by bus so we can come and enjoy when you want it.

I saw an amusing sight in the atrium of the the venue for the meeting, Southmead Hospital. A grand piano was chained to a collection tin. I wonder what was chained to what. Was the money collection point chained to the piano to make sure that that was not stolen, or was the piano chained to the cash collection point so that it could not be stolen. Anyway, it makes a nice picture.

I arrived at my meeting slightly before 1 PM. Due to confusion about the room, the meeting started at 1:10 and I wondered if I could fit everything in. Interestingly, the audience was very sympathetic and I found that I needed to spend far less time than I thought explaining my points. I said that Albert Einstein had great difficulty in sharing because he had been so frequently misunderstood. Dr B, the lead doctor in the team, was particularly sympathetic and understanding to my points and I found that very encouraging.

There was a fellow patient there invited by Dr B called R. whose life had been saved when he was taken by air ambulance to the hospital. He was either blind or Blinded by the accident but I didn’t want to inquire too closely. He gave an extremely cogent comment on his condition describing how his memory had been affected. I said I would love to interview him and take a statement from him for the website and that his memory lapses did not matter at all.  I commiserated with him by saying that my memory for names was also not what it was. His mother acted as his helper.

I delivered my recommendations and they appeared to be well received. It is however a mile between interesting the workers and getting the hierarchy to approve a project which is to be  added on to a statutory instrument such as the NHS and I was warned that there would be a delay while it was approved. This I find a form of torture because it goes against my nature which is doing everything instantly but to be fair I really believe that they’ll do their best in the various proposals.

On my way back I dropped in at a hi-fi shop. Sometimes I think of things for ages, maybe five years, and suddenly one fine day it’s time to make a decision. I hope I will do business with this shop. It is a novelty to be able to control a hi-fi system from my android device. This shows how retro I am in my thinking. The idea of 20,000 radio stations available at the click of a mouse is also something that I find mind-blowing although I am a techie or a least a sad person who spends far more time than they should do on the computer. it has finally registered that FM radio is going to be phased out to be replaced by DAB

I sat in the local pub and debriefed the day to my wife. It was a little bit of a pity that another meeting followed my one o’clock meeting as I was not able to talk with the other participants afterwards, but that is the pressure that the NHS is under.  My wife, wise as ever, recommends that I leave the whole thing and let them respond in their own time.

Amusingly, she had gone to Jimmy’s, the self-service Indian buffet in Bath for lunch and was charged the full price because they didn’t realise she was of pensionable age. I suppose it is quite flattering. Long may that continue.

The weather forecast for this evening is for uncharacteristically low temperatures; down to freezing point, so that’s an excuse to make a nice log fire.

so others have the same problem!

25th April 1664

“Up, and all the morning in my chamber setting some of my private papers in order, for I perceive that now publique business takes up so much of my time that I must get time a-Sundays or a-nights to look after my owne matters.”

Yes, I know the feeling, Mr. Pepys

Well, I have done all I can for tomorrow’s important meeting as Patient Representative for the Bristol hospital group. For the most part, I find meetings rather boring and am determined that this meeting, which I shall chair, and which is is 55 minutes – or however long we have at our disposal – will be time well spent. I am as usual over-optimistic about the number of matters that can be fitted in so I have spent as much time thinking of ways of summarizing my remarks as I have with the subject matter itself. The only way I can cope with the ambitious agenda is to see this meeting as the first of many and not a stand-alone one.

Victor Meldrew

My pet hates with meetings is the site of the lecturer and an assistant fiddling around trying to make the projector work, or seeing lots of private material projected from the PC which is just a distraction. I have even seen Skype messages appear at the bottom of the screen while the lecture is in progress.  Is it asking too much for people to check their equipment before the audience arrives?

The other irritant, though more minor, is someone asking “can you hear me at the back?” Obviously, if the people at the back cannot hear they could not respond to the question. The better question is, is my diction clear enough and is the volume control adjusted for a full room rather than an empty room. It is part of professionalism to make sure that everything is running properly. Surely, it is not the first time the hall has been used with a microphone.

On the topic of microphones, may I remind organisers that these are instruments that wear like anything else and they need maintenance. How many times have I seen microphones crackle or go on and off because of bad contacts. Sometimes they do not work at all and have to be abandoned. It is up to the manager of the venue to make sure that the equipment is maintained on a regular basis.

So we have to finish this weeding job this morning which will take a good three hours. It is 5° at the moment, but sunny and no threat of rain so it’s not all bad.

Later – the second part of the weeding job went much better than the first. Because the client cannot move out of the house unaided I used my galaxy to photograph the garden so she could see what work we have done. She took the opportunity at the end of our working day to tell us about her family; she has 9 great-grandchildren and probably more on the way. She was herself the youngest of 10 children and she said that when she was young, the person first up in the morning got the best clothes. She said her father cooked meals for them all and they never went short. She has to go to hospital every week for a blood transfusion and then again for an iron transfusion whatever that is.She manages to maintain her stalwart spirit. She goes to a lunch club in Peasedown which she says “gets away from the four walls”. She loathes soaps on TV and has never watched one in her life but she complains that her sister is addicted to them and has almost made them a substitute for her real life.

We watched a programme on the life of Albert Einstein. I did not realise the effect of his dominating father, of the rising tide of the German socialist party, and his need to find people would actually believe in some of his theories. National Geographic produced this wonderful ten-part series of which we watched the first one.

Samuel Pepys – another Monday morning – weeds and more weeds

I have subscribed to a website which on a daily basis sends one day of the diary of Samuel Pepys and it is interesting to notice that some of his days are quite ordinary.

“down by water to Sir W. Warren’s, who hath been ill, and there talked long with him good discourse, especially about Sir W. Batten’s knavery and his son Castle’s ill language of me behind my back, saying that I favour my fellow traytours, but I shall be even with him”.
Saturday 23rd April 1664

I’m impressed to see that Samuel Pepys took the time to speak with someone who is ill but also that political intrigue is alive and well.

I have finished my preparations for the Wednesday meeting at Southmead Hospital. Because it is a confidential meeting I will not be able to give any detail but I can discuss general trends. Yesterday I wrote to the editor of the Mendip Times, offering my support as voluntary freelance journalist and photographer. Since I do this anyway, and seek out interesting events anyway, it is no burden, not ‘work’ and just an extension of what I’m doing in my Samuel Pepys mode.

Today is a day of fiddles, none of which will bring out any obvious satisfaction. I had to pay some bills, I may have to ring up BT about a faulty phone and will once again have the pleasure of speaking to someone in India, I want to read a relevant chapter in the book “The Body Keeps The Score” which is a wonderful volume written by Bessel Van Der Kolk, one of the world’s leading experts on trauma, I must do some work in the garden, and were doing a little job for a Mrs Stone who needs weeding done. Gardening could be seen as a lowly job, but I regard it as good physical therapy and the means of earning our daily bills. Thank goodness we don’t have a mortgage but I suppose the regular bills and standing orders amount to about £500 per month so that’s got to come from somewhere so gardening it is.

The problem with my phone was that if I plugged in an extension, neither phone would ring and the caller would be told to leave a message. If you call out BT without a good reason you have to pay about £130 so I fiddled around a bit and found that if I took the caller ID gadget off, both phones rang so the something a little bit wrong with the gadget. I’ve just saved myself £130

We went to our customer about 3:30 today and worked for 2 1/2 hours. we last saw her in November and it was a little bit of a shock to see that she was a little bit more unkempt and unsteady on her feet. She had a device in her arm which was used to take regular blood tests. She complained that it was very itchy but there was nothing she could do about it even scratching. She has three nurses come to see her during the day for various things. She can barely walk and I think she’s finding life a bit tough at the moment. She does retain a certain spirit and sense of humour which makes her a pleasant person to do business with.

in its wild state
after scraping off all the weeds
it’s starting to look quite nice actually

The garden had not been attended to since November and the whole place was full of weeds. Weeding is one of my most unfavourite occupations but there’s just some occasions when you just have to get on with it, get into the rhythm, and work through. The soil is so dry that if you try to dig the weeds up the roots break up and before you know where you are they are back again.

I have decided just to scrape the greenery off with a hoe and deal with the growth when it occurs. With boring jobs I tend to work extra hard to get through the job quicker. We must go along again tomorrow and I reckon there’s another six hours worth of work. Still, it pays the council tax which is due in a few days so we mustn’t grumble.

The London Marathon, sportsman-like behavior, canals

The buzz of the London Marathon, which I very much enjoy,  induces in me a hyper multitasking mindset.

Today I have simultaneously:  watched the Marathon on TV, vacuumed the bungalow in which we live, baked a loaf of gluten-free bread,

sipped libations of wine, and written this diary.

a runner helping another exhausted person at his own expense

I have today decided to call myself “the Modern Samuel Pepys” because not many people understand the concept of “The man on the Clapham omnibus”. This phrase was used by a judge in 1912 because he thought that people in Clapham were regarded as sensible levelheaded citizens who were capable of using commonsense. Samuel Pepys was one of the great diaryists; he also observed the effects of the Great Fire of London (1666)

Today was the first day of the year when I let the dough of my bread rise in the greenhouse because there was enough gentle heat to do a good job. Sure enough it has risen to double its size as is the folklore for baking your own bread and is yet another celebration of the coming of the heat of the sun. interestingly, home cooked bread has none of the digestive after-effects of bread bought from a shop and now we do not buy bread from the supermarket. Period. We do make an exception at markets where they sell the real thing but Françoise needs to be gluten-free and most bread is not for reasons of cost.

My wife, Françoise, has been similarly actively engaged. She has discovered what she thinks is rising damp in our bedroom and I cautioned her that we need to distinguish between damp, and rising damp The former is probably because there was too much moisture in the room but again I have to say it attaches itself to the skirting boards in one corner so I will take a watching brief on this one. We will clear away the mould and re-examine it in a month to see whether it has re-appeared.

Françoise has also laid out a wonderful collection of beads. They like everything else has got dusty so she spent some considerable amount of time cleaning them and here is a sample.

She loves wearing beads and people frequently comment on her selection. I think it’s a great way of expressing your individuality because no two strings of beads need to be the same.

We do try to take walks as often as we can, especially when the weather is nice. So off we go again to the Avon and Kennett Canal, 30 min drive and always pleasant. The only problem is there are many cyclists who frequent the canalside path and they do not always have bells so you do need eyes in the back of your head because the bikes go quite fast and an accident would be nasty.

curious barges
German U-boat?
blackcurrent bushes



walking your talk

This morning I went along to my men’s group, a local group where they invite along various speakers and on this occasion there was a Christian worker called Joy Fraser who did indeed live up to her name.

It is quite seldom that someone has my undivided attention for 45 min but I would happily have listened to this lady for the whole morning. She was an organiser and social synergist, inter alia encouraging people to become more involved in community work. There are a great number of organisations in Bath who are volunteers, unsung, unpublicised but doing a great job with the marginalised part of the population. In this type of job it is good to have your feet on the ground and head in the clouds. Joy was excellent at the practical side of setting up a charity but also looking at the more philosophical sides of dealing with people who are unlovable.

Joy gave me a good idea that if you find someone who is badly behaved it’s probably because of the way they were treated. It is a very good idea to find something that you when they have in common so there is something to talk about and if a person is talking about a subject with which they are familiar they are less likely to be defensive. You can say that bad behaviour is a pre-emptive attack against being abused because what enjoyment is there to be gained from such behaviour?

Joy drew our attention to the deceptively simple words of Jesus giving us very practical down-to-earth advice on our own behaviour and saying we should concentrate somewhat less on our so-called relationship with God and somewhat more on our relationship to our neighbour. Someone said, I think it was joy, do you have a friendship with someone who does not share your views and opinions? We discussed personal differences between people including Christians and said that when they enter a committee meeting they should put these differences aside and concentrate solely on the good of the community.

I notice that Joy was totally comfortable with herself and made good eye contact with the audience without overdoing it. I think you can only do this if you are speaking from your heart. You don’t need gimmicks or acting ability. She convinced me by her presence never mind anything that she said.

I described how God works when I went along to the Dragon’s event last night and ended up by being invited to be a volunteer reporter for a local publication. All this happened between six o’clock whether the meeting started and 9:30 PM when an e-mail to the administrator elicited such an enthusiastic response. I find that if things are meant to be, they happen very smoothly.  I told the meeting that if everyone did things that they enjoyed it was not work and that we were not supposed to be actors but just do what we enjoy doing and that would hopefully be of service to others.

I also discussed the question of the way you treat volunteers. I said that if you hired a volunteer you should spend at least 20 min with them discussing their life and what they hope to get out of the experience of volunteering. I said you don’t just tell them what to do and they must get on with it but see them as a human being with needs like anybody else. If you don’t respect the volunteer, they will have little if any loyalty to the organisation. My wife Françoise works for AgeUK where people go for a day and given lunch and entertainment. The only time the people from the head office come, is to make sure that the rules and regulations are being enforced, and when a new manager comes in to post. She has worked for three years without any particular encouragement and for this I do admire her.

In a world where there is so much bad news, it is nice to be able to make a good report but I thoroughly enjoyed myself with people on the same wavelength, which is what it’s all about. If you are continually misunderstood you might as well be alienated on a desert island.


How to make the best use of £1 million

In 2010, the lottery fund of UK gave £1 million over a period of 10 years to Radstock and an adjacent part of the town – Westfield “to make a difference to the lives of the people living here”

Many activities take place, but at least once a year they have a Dragons’ Den type of evening and tonight was such a night in the newly refurbished Radstock Hall. Three local business people were in the Dragons chair and 11 groups presented. They were given 90 seconds to make their case and were for the most part asking for £500. Among the people asking for money were the Radstock Museum, an acting group, Somer Valley Walking Festival, an amateur boxing club, and the grandly named Lower Brislington Colliery Batch Fossils Source, which is an archaeological club for those wishing to find ancient fossils.

There were about 100 of us in the audience and we listened to the pitches; it caused me to reflect what is it that makes people convincing. I think if you try to put across too many ideas at one time people forget what you’re talking about. I believe that “less is more” is a good rule. I also think it’s a very good idea not to read from a script. Quite frankly, if you cannot talk about a subject when you have been involved with it for years without reading a piece of paper it doesn’t really give a good impression of commitment. It is much better to say a few simple words, look at the audience, and ask for their help.

Another point is that you should not be bashful about asking for money. Some people did not say how much money they wanted and what they wanted it for prompting the Dragon is to have to ask them. the chap who was number one ran a little organisation called The Potting Shed where people with learning difficulties could associate themselves with gardening and generally being outside and relating to others. It’s a pretty good rule of selling that you need to sell yourself first and your product second. You may have  the most wonderful product in the world but people can’t see the product, or service then the only channel is you and if you don’t come across as an honest and straightforward person you’re going to miss the boat.

Prize giving – three Dragons sitting in the background

I think every applicant will benefit, even those who did not win the 500, because they will have been encouraged by even attempting to make a presentation to others. I’m sure it will do their confidence good and plant a seed for future opportunities of this nature.

The most delicious food was served, very clever combinations that I have not seen before and really done with love and caring. I think it is so important that there is real power and communication on a local level.

There were two parents who brought along some rather noisy children, one was hardly a year old but the loudspeaker drowned out most of the crying and it didn’t really seem to matter on this occasion. I can see the wisdom of the Big Lottery Fund to give £100,000 a year over 10 years rather than overwhelming them with £1 million in one go.

is there life without a mobile phone?

I suppose I’ve got used to it now, glancing at it every 10 min or so to see if there is a message. I think it’s actually a bad habit, and slightly sad. Not only was my phone stolen but my old one that I wanted to rely on gave up the ghost site by new phone and what  better place than eBay. I think I paid about £35 altogether including postage. It is a similar Nokia but not exactly the same but who cares. It says 4G but I don’t really need that.

The real problem is the transfer of numbers. I’m sure that somewhere there is an apt for uploading your numbers. In my case I had about 200, in most cases the people are out of date that the up-to-date ones I had were actually quite valuable and I’m going to have to recover them from somewhere.  in the real world, when you just want to transfer numbers, you just load them to the SIM card and then transfer them or I think you can do it using wireless. If you cannot do this, it’s a real pain.

On a more general basis, when I don’t need to have my mobile phone with me I do feel more free because the phone could ring at any time with someone that I could actually deal with another time. Also, and were going into a big topic now, the phones radiate and they are particularly disastrous with children who have thin skulls and there will be a huge crop of cancer cases in a few years time. The inverse square law does apply to electromagnetic  radiations. I could give a whole talk on this but if you are in an area of low reception, in other words if there is only one bar on the phone, the phone has to work extra hard to keep in touch with the signal.  I have a signal strength meter and every half a minute or so there is a burst of radiation which of course is not naturally good for the body.

Creatively, I’ve had a happy day so far, I sent  artwork for a new leaflet to a PPH person who happened to be in Bristol. She was exactly the right person and I got the artwork back at about 11:30 AM. I sent it straightaway to the printers and as of 12:45 PM it was ready. Technology can be a bit of a pain in the neck sometimes it but on this occasion it served me well. As I mentioned before, I have a meeting next Wednesday and I hope the brochure will give a good impression. If it doesn’t, it’s not for want of trying.

And now, off to pick up the leaflets mentioned above, and also to mow two plots on the allotments of which I’m secretary. They are in very poor condition and no one is going to want to rent them so I’m going to try and top them up a bit and make them look halfway decent.  Later…. The leaflets look brilliant and are head and shoulders above anything else that I have seen. To celebrate I bought a bottle of champagne. Well done Elizabeth of Bristol you did a great job.

contacting companies by telephone drives me mad

The general enquiry number of the cooperative bank has four choices none of which involve speaking to a human being. some clever company has come along and said that you can save 20% of your operator charges by automating the system. What they have said is that you annoy 50% of your customers by having such a system in the first place.

It annoys me that none of the four alternatives given about what I might want actually apply to my question. you can’t even press zero you sometimes can to get the operator; they thought of that too. I also don’t need to be told that my call is valuable and that all other operators are busy. I sort of got that idea anyway because they didn’t answer. I resent the same message being given every 15 seconds especially when it says thank you for holding.  I don’t have any choice do I?

If they could spend just a little bit more money saying that you are 10th in the queue and we estimate your call will be answered in 3 min 21 seconds that would be great. BT do this to their credit, and they need credit. I have nothing against Indian people  and I do realise that their liaison with BT saves money and that such a job must be regarded as a prestige job. However, there is a difference between speaking English and thinking English and I do breathe a sigh of relief when I call 0800 800 150 or whatever it is and gets the BT centre in Scotland. It seems to be a  random matter whether you get an English operator or an Indian one.

I have resigned myself having to go through the security questions because there are so many con artists around someone else could easily impersonate me but touch wood, this has not happened for a number of years now save when I ordered a mobile phone someone impersonating me, ran up a large bill, and the company charged me for it. I complained and the money paid was refunded.

Sometimes I abandon the hope of speaking to an actual human being and rely on the instant chat essentially by SMS message. The problem is that the operator is not just responding to your written query but a number of others as well so you can be waiting almost a couple of minutes for a response but I think on balance this is a more reliable method. When I lost my mobile phone a few days ago I used the SMS method with a person from India. I reported the theft of my seven and the phone about 1:30 PM and next morning at 10:30 a new SIM card had arrived.

Other practices of operators I object to is asking me “can I call you Brian”. I always tell them that I don’t really care what they call me so long as I get service.  is always grinds on mean when they endlessly repeat “Mr Snellgrove” or “Brian” because someone is told in the script that it is more bonding. I find it more irritating. I suppose they had to ask you at the end “is there anything else I can do for you”. I suppose it by optimism I would expect them to imagine that I had constructed a list of things and if I say thank you very much that means I don’t have anything to discuss. I could  of course have been wicked and said, “well actually there is something, I’m not getting on very well with my wife, do you have any comment on the matter?”

an irritating day

Well, we can’t expect every day to be good and this one was rather fragmented. I took Françoise to catch the direct bus to Bristol for a specialist appointment at Southmead hospital because the indirect one takes an extra half hour which is tedious. I then went to complete the garden job we started yesterday and had the pleasure of tidying up a front garden and having the customer praise me for my work.

I then had a fairly difficult call with a lady for whom I’d been working. Her son keeps on interfering and he asked his mother to ask me how much I worked for per hour. I already told her I don’t work by the hour but by the job. it really annoys me that people who are not gardeners, and have never hired a gardener in their life, think they know what the hourly cost is or should be. if I worked for £10 an hour I would be working for less than the minimum wage taking into account costs of running the company, petrol etc.  What I cannot explain to people is that we work hard and we work fast so we do jobs in half the time.  I have already decided not to take part in jobs where the person that I’m talking to is not the person who pays, and when they cannot review the job and sign it off when it is finished.

I rescued Françoise who was upset because the specialist did not show any particular interest or knowledge of her allergy conditions. He did a couple of tests with her that he felt at the time would not lead to anything and sure enough the result was negative. Because she has no obvious symptoms, dizziness etc he was not interested in pursuing the matter further and I suppose there is a limit to what you can do in 20 min. He recommended a dietician which might not be a bad idea.

I am making arrangements for my meeting next Wednesday. I am chairing it as well as leading it and wonder what proportion of the ideas I have will be taken. There are basically two parties; the ex-patients of a trauma situation in a hospital, and the team that are responsible for discharging them and offering continual support. I decided to give quite deep into the theory of trauma and discuss its implications for overview and support by the medical profession. I am volunteering to represent the patients. It is great fun to put a website together. I am at my best when I’m doing something completely new that no one else has done.

Today I found a designer via People Per Hour. The architecture of the site is getting worse and worse but it’s still just about delivers people and they normally do the job quite well in fact very well for a good price. She’s going to get on with it tomorrow morning and by coincidence she lives in Bristol, which is in the area served by the hospitals concerned.

water, ponds and canals

We went for talk this evening by someone who runs a firm that builds ponds.  We discussed how to get rid of pond weed, how to prune water lilies which you do by cutting them out at the root, throwing most away and planting one or two good specimens. The best thing for reviving goldfish is to put them in an aquarium with copious quantities of salt. All the usual things that you want to know.

How many slides make a good evening? What makes a good slide presentation? I think one to one and a half trays of slides, I mean the circular trays, is about right. It is possible to see too many images and the whole thing turns into a blur after a time. The speaker got a few brownie points from me by saying that if you want to jump in and ask a question at any time please do so and do not wait for the end. I think it’s a good thing to show slides at a fair rate and just make two or three points per slide. It annoys me when slides are allowed to linger on the screen for more than 3 or 4 minutes. it is also rather bad manners to show a slight and say something like “we don’t have time for that one”. I noticed this more in the United States where lecturers seem compelled to disgorge every last bit of knowledge in 45 min.

The  speaker talked about using clay which is one of the most difficult substances to work on and said that if you’re going to waterproof a canal or large pond you need it least 12 inches of thickness to be effective. That is quite a few tons of clay per mile. I discussed with someone the inactivity in the local Canal Society. The desire is to reclaim and restore coal canals but there are a number of problems. First of all if you want to dig the canal you have to pay someone to do with quite a large digger to do it. Secondly you have to get permission from people who own canalside properties. Some are enthusiastic but some say “over my dead body”.  The third point is politics, regulations, and squabbles between people.

I pointed out that I am a member of the local society and had given my membership fee and e-mail address in the expectation that I would be kept up-to-date with what was going on. Although we had been members for nearly a year and nothing had been forthcoming. This is crying out for a monthly newsletter with a mail client such as Mailchimp, which is free and so easy to use that anyone with the ability to type can manage. I don’t understand someone who is secretary of the society not wishing to involve people in this way. I think we get a couple of newsletters per year in printed form but the news is more historical than current.

The evening ended with some lovely coffee and biscuits, very good coffee and very real and crunchy biscuits with oatmeal in them, none of your cheap supermarket rubbish. It was pleasant to stand outside in the dark and just enjoy the arrival of more clement weather. It was actually 9°C but with no wind it seemed a little bit warmer. before we arrived, by the way, we saw two hot air balloons silhouetted against the setting sun. It rather stopped us in our tracks and caused my wife to warn me against erratic driving.

And so to bed.

how the mighty have fallen

So, Theresa May, our Prime Minister, wants to have a snap election. Quite how this will unite the party or catalyse the Brexit plans I do not know. I think the papers will have quite a field day.

I went to see Reg, the chap with one leg, for whom we do gardening. When we arrived he showed signs of bruising and he had evidently fallen out of bed the night before and was unable to get up. He tried to crawl to the phone but failed and as a result lay on the floor, having ‘given up’ For the period between the hours of 11 PM and 2 AM. Only when he eventually managed to reach the phone, did help come.  Falling is a very common phenomenon among older people. They can have their faculties about them but they’re just not as steady as they were. By coincidence, he has ordered or someone had ordered an alarm system which he can either wear round his neck or on his wrist.

He was very keen to talk to us and invited us for tea afterwards. He says he had a good number of visitors but he does get lonely from time to time. He was married to his wife Lynne for 55 years and she died two years ago. He is not interested in hobbies because he has done so many and the only reason he would go out is to visit the graveyard where his wife is buried. He in his own words, “has a fag with Lynne”  During our visit, the postman arrived with the kit alarm system and he has decided to leave it and wait for his son to come and fix it up.

He says that two years after his wife left he is now coming to terms with being on his own and he says that it is very nice to see Francoise and myself but then we will be gone and he will be lonely again.  However, he does have two family members, is two sons, who live within about 3 miles so he’s in a much better position than many people who just have nobody. if this was Japan, the older people would be looked after but here the older people tend to be abandoned for various reasons. Anyway we took a cup of tea with him and time was going on and on. He talked about his time with a Metal Detector Club in Weston-super-Mare. He very much enjoyed this and still has two metal detectors which he will never use.

Anyway we had to leave him and he told us that making the garden nice had really cheered him up. That is the sort of response that makes our job worthwhile and makes us want to go the extra mile with the customer. I charged in less than I should have done but then hey we would like to give the service.

About the problem previously mentioned with the grumpy customer I am going to make it a rule that we sign off the job only in the presence of the customer so they can have a grumble at the time. It was difficult in this case because the person lived in Box, about 20 miles away, and they visit their parents only twice a week.

The Post Office delivered my new SIM card. I put it in and it seems to work. Not bad service from O2. They are efficient because every day a person is without the service they’re more likely to defect so it’s not entirely a matter of altruism.

We did a couple of hours gardening this morning. I had to move some paving stones to dig out some particularly enthusiastic weeds. There were eight paving stones and each had a living colony of ants underneath. It took them about a minute to disappear underground so I did my business, but the stones back as quickly as possible, and apologised to them for disturbing their home.

I called the Bristol Hospital Trust Trauma Team to ask a question about their format in preparation for the meeting next Wednesday during which I will discuss my new trauma website. It is not designed to traumatise people but to free them from trauma. (since taken down).

That horrible sinking feeling

This morning I went to help at the Methodist church by assisting in the kitchen with preparing lunch. There are about six of us and we managed to serve three main courses and about six sweet courses to about 60 people. This is very good for people who live on their own or for various reasons cannot cook their own lunch.

I arrived at about 11 o’clock and hung my coat up as I normally do and went into the kitchen and spent most of my time washing out large aluminium pots. It took me a long time to learn that when a heavy aluminium pot has been taken off the oven or cook it retains its heat for a long time so when I casually took hold of the handles to lift it, it was about the temperature of boiling water.

Anyway the session went well enough and then the time came for me to go. I reached into my jacket pocket and found that where my mobile phone should be there was a space. Thank goodness my wallet was still there in my other pocket.  So what had happened was someone come along and saw the jacket there and just took it on a whim. They were properly happy with what they got. It’s not the phone itself, it’s all the contact numbers that I’ve gained over the last couple of years and I will have to rebuild them from nothing. I thought I might have left the phone at home. When I arrived it was not there. I rang it and it was busy. In other words the person was making the best use of the phone. I contacted O2 straightaway and within 5 min the phone had been cancelled. When I rang it the unobtainable signal was there and no bizarre calls have been made to the other side of the world.

What was more serious was that there may have been some material on the phone that would allow access to my bank accounts. So I had to get on the phone and on the Internet to change all my passwords and fiddle around. As I caught the problem very quickly no deprivations had been made to my accounts but it could have been so different if I had not been at home, in a foreign country, and in a position to act immediately.

I just didn’t think that sort of thing would happen. It is a Methodist church hall where old people go but evidently today earlier a homeless person was seen wandering about so I suppose my “pocket was too much to resist. Unbeknown to him, my Nokia was only half working so in the cold light of day I was good to get another phone anyway and I have to rebuild my list of contacts. It could’ve been worse but I do find this sort of thing very unsettling and found I was shaking for some hours afterwards but when I write this five hours later I am 75% back to normal. The process of self-healing was considerably assisted by going to the allotment with Françoise and digging weeds and planting potatoes.

I had a rather disturbing phone message from someone that I worked for last week, the man with the old parents who grumpily told me not come back. He did not leave his name and used a withheld number. I get the funny feeling it was nothing to do with me but if it was, we as gardeners do like to know if our work is not appreciated or has fallen short in some way. All the customer has to do is to call and say “look would you mind coming back and doing XYZ.” Any gardener worth his salt will surely do that. With the best will in the world it is easy to misunderstand what is required and a good-humoured and positive phone call from the customer will in 99% of cases sort out the problem.

So it’s a lovely sunny evening if a little bit cool much look forward to a glass of red wine. In a way I feel sorry for the person who stole my phone, it is really an act of desperation to steal something, is this call for help? There is no harm in sending a person love and caring, it does sweeten the pill somewhat anyway.

A very jolly Easter holiday and a surprise meeting

Mells in Somerset has an annual Easter bank holiday Daffodil Festival. In fact there are very few daffodils to be seen; it’s more like a spring festival. The festivities have all the charm of a village event. There was a competition where teddy bears were parachuted from the church tower supported by plastic supermarket bags. The aim was to throw them in such a way that they landed on a square. The wind took the bags carrying the little bears this way and that to the accompaniment of many cheers from the spectators.

There were many stands selling a variety of arts and crafts, pork pies, delicious cakes, plants of very healthy stock but alas there were too many people. The Main Street is about one and a half cars wide and anyone who thinks they can push prams along there anything more than half a mile an hour should think again. Never mind, the crowd was friendly enough so we walked up and down a few times and enjoyed ourselves.

There were the inevitable Morris dancers, and I was amused and impressed to see young children learning to dance along.

There was a wonderful band called the Johnstons, playing music of the Country and Western variety which I recorded and will put on Youtube and if I remember I’ll put the link on here.

On impulse I decided to go to the small post office cum village shop cum cafe. The post office counter had elected to stay open for the whole day even though it was a bank holiday Monday. Because there was nowhere to sit down and have coffee we decided to go to the cafe for a drink and sat in a corner after clearing away the large number of dirty plates and cups. Shortly after we sat down, a young lady, well younger than us, asked if she might sit at our bigger table. I have a policy of chatting to anyone with a pulse so we talked with her. We ascertained that she was an international corporate lawyer in London but got sick of it and resigned last Christmas when she realised she was just plain unhappy. She decamped from London and moved down to stay with her mother in Westbury, Wiltshire.

It was quite clear that we were all on the same wavelength and I mentioned a few intuitive things about her, how she would in fact attract good luck to her in the form of a job and needn’t go worrying and fussing. The most interesting thing was the attitude of her mother who I think was also blessed with a certain sensitivity. The mother, Lesley, said that she’d been telling Sarah her daughter exactly the same thing for some time. I told her, and even I don’t often do this sort of thing in public, that she had not met the man of her dreams because she had been in an unsuitable environment and the sort of man in that environment she would have grown out of in the realisation that finance was wrong for her.

I said that it is much better that she meets the man now as she has cast off the dark cloak. Her mother agreed with me and nodded her head vigourously and said” I’ve been telling that to you for ages now”. We joked about how you take notice of strangers when you don’t take notice of your mother and they both laughed. Anyway I didn’t have the slightest hesitation inviting them to dinner. It is very rare to click with someone so easily and so quickly and they were very cool people with a good sense of humour and slightly quirky so I knew we would get on well. interestingly, when I told Sarah certain things about she said she got shivers all over arms and I normally find that when Françoise gets a similar feeling when something said is true.

I just love “going with the flow” as we used to say in the 1960s. You just never know what’s going to happen. Preplanning is futile. If someone is meant to pop into your life they will do so. Like attracts like. I know life is worth living anyway but when this sort of thing happens it makes it especially worth living. I always follow my hunches and if I want to do something for which I cannot think of any reason there is normally a higher purpose behind it and in this case it didn’t take long to find out what it was.

By 3 PM the crowds had died down a bit and we just wandered about, visited a stand representing an organisation for rescuing birds of prey, had half a glass of local cider each, Françoise picked up the plants she had ordered and home we went.

Returning home, I get a letter to say that one of my counselling clients feels it necessary to separate from her partner and although it is a holiday day I still feel bound to give a quick answer. I generally respond to things on receipt otherwise I tend to forget them so it’s not because I am especially conscientious it is because so much arrives in my mailbox every day I need to deal with things promptly.

Happy Easter everyone

It’s that time of year again – celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. I tend not to go to church any more but this morning I did wake up with a particularly spiritual feeling, a feeling of peace, so I turned on BBC Radio Four and listened to the celebratory communion which was broadcast from Norwich Cathedral. I went to school for two years at Norwich School so I am familiar with the Cathedral.

There is a medieval celebration going on in Glastonbury today but I decided that anything involving queues of cars, trying to park, mixing with crowds, was the last thing I wanted to do.

Françoise and I agreed that we spend the day in quietness, reading, watching good videos, pottering around, making a decent meal to have at lunch time and that will do me just fine. Since we are in the self-employed category we don’t have to observe holidays since every day is a holiday or can be if you choose it.

I’m watching a quite horrifying series on vaccinations. 46 vaccinations of 16 different types of vaccines are given by the time a child resident in the USA is 5 years of age.  Funny, I thought we had an immune system which given half a chance would develop and help protect the body against depredations of viruses. There is talk in the USA of finding people $250,000 if they refuse for their children to take vaccines.

There is a world of difference between taking something by mouth and taking something by injections. Materials such as mercury and aluminium can lodge in your brain and cause all sorts of long-term damage including learning disorders, autism, attention deficit syndrome. I do not understand how human beings can knowingly do things to each other like this. There is a rather good quote saying that “statistics do not lie, but statisticians do”. You can prove anything you want by eliminating certain streams of data. if I was taking evidence on say the relationship between NMR vaccine and autism, I would remove from the evidence any studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

There are a ton of good programmes on the TV this evening but we shall sit and read and just be quiet in front of the fire.  Nice.


a good sales tip – you never know who you are talking to

An old garden customer rang me this morning asking if I could do some work for her. It was just a bit of grass cutting and tidying, not something I could charge a lot for. in the gardening business, there is no such thing as a fixed price. We charge according to the difficulty of the job, how much we like the customer, their circumstances as we sum them up to be, the distance from home, the number of trips to the recycle. A sole trader has no one to rely on but himself or herself so bad decisions rebound on you much more severely than if you worked for a large corporation.

Because I like this lady I decided to do the job and then she rang me back and said, “oh by the way, do you travel as far as Keynsham”. Normally I wouldn’t but I will to someone I know. Her parents live there and evidently their garden is a mess which will require considerable work and for which I can charge the market rate. The point is that you never know what contacts a customer has. She may be an archetypal little old lady, but she may have a list of contacts as long as your arm and if you do well for her, she will recommend you to others or point you in their direction. It is always good to have a stock of cards and leaflets with you if you possibly can. It is very unprofessional to tell someone that you have “just given the last card out”.

So, after I’ve done the little job for her on Wednesday we shall all drive to her contact in Keynsham and see what we can do. Appearances are sometimes deceptive and the rule of thumb is that poorer people know other poorer people but sometimes that rule is gloriously broken.

This evening, we went to my favourite local pub, the Old Down Inn. this was originally a stop on the mail route from London to Exeter. Maxine, the owner, lends light and colour to this characterful establishment and when you go, you never know who you’re going to meet. This evening we met the co-editor of the Mendip Times and discussed many things such as photography, St Ives, the Mells Daffodil Festival happening next Monday and goodness knows what else besides.

Cheddar cider is a bit like Scrumpy. It is deceptively and fizzy and un alcoholic but it is somewhat less than drinking wine at 10%. Thank goodness my wife drives me home because although there are no police to be seen, the very time you’re over the limit will be the time when a police car appears from nowhere and bingo, your business collapses because you’re not allowed to drive your car for a year.