walking your talk

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Good Friday Videos

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As it is Good Friday I have been watching a number of films on people’s religious experiences when they have an accident and temporary passed over to another place. It might be easy for some people to dismiss this reports but when you see the people breaking down in tears while they are talking, scarcely able to speak, they are most definitely not acting and why should they make something like this up when there is a risk of being laughed at.

Whatever you say about the triviality of the media, there is a lot of good stuff around and I enjoy watching videos on Youtube about every conceivable subject, not to mention Vimeo.  Depending on my mood, I watch videos of car crashes in Russia, or inspirational religious videos.

I have such a list of things to do today. There is a new series of programs on vaccination, where people reveal how they have left the industry because of discussed about the way that statistics have been manipulated. I want to watch is that and also I have half a dozen books recently ordered that I really need to read. Five or six TV programmes, all of good quality, that I wish to watch but the trouble is that with only 24 hours in a day I can’t do everything so I decided to do nothing for the moment apart from write this diary.

Quite frankly I never do nothing. I would find that impossible. Today I painted a garden bench and Françoise fiddled around in the garden iproving it. It’s a little bit of therapy. I wonder what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. I suppose I don’t have to do anything to justify myself. I think it is mainly a state of mind.

The day before the Easter weekend

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Traditionally, holiday weekends are always either cold or rainy or both and I can’t remember the last time we had actual sun. Since no one expects anything of me over the holiday period I shall go into a vegetable state, AKA non-manic state and just chill, read the numerous books that I’ve been meaning to read for some time and not make a great effort over anything. I attended to such great tasks as maintaining the level of water in the fishpond, helping to rearrange the deck chairs in the garden to make a more pleasant sitting area (actually my wife did it come to think of it) and staring at the TV.

We enjoy Japanese TV very much, it’s almost like Slow TV in Norway, the country is full of traditions, beauty, art, respect, politeness, all the things that we seem to have lost in UK.

The centre of our town, Midsomer Norton, is virtually dead at 5 PM. Everyone is taking a well earned rest or perhaps driving somewhere. There was a good article in the Independent saying how the sight and sound of the sea could hasten the healing of traumatised patients, or anyone suffering from a condition that needs the right environment. Even whilst in hospital, people could wear headphones and 3-D goggles and benefit from being at the seaside. Virtually of course.

A lady just rang me, a previous customer, wanting some gardening work done. She has broken her foot and cannot function in the garden so because I like her I might just work over this holiday weekend, more specifically on Saturday morning. I’m a bit like the squirrel with nuts, except that it is spring and not autumn. We like to pay our bills from gardening money and not dig into any of our capital funds so I’m quite keen to jump on anything that will assist. We tend to avoid going anywhere over the Easter holidays because there are far too many people around and I do like my space I must admit. so does Francoise.

not just another gardening job – last will and testament

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Today is a day’s work for tidying up the garden that its owner, now 96, has not been able to maintain for the past 10 years. His son and my contact Keith tried to do little bits and pieces but just didn’t have the time or the drive so he’s calling us in.

The parents are resident in the bungalow concerned, spending most of their time sitting in the window gazing at nothing much. There are full-time live-in carers; we met a very nice chap from Barbados who had actually been born in Yorkshire but retained the Caribbean ever-smiling attitude to life. I love meeting happy people, it doesn’t matter how much we have in common or otherwise. I do pick up atmospheres very quickly good or bad. Sometimes, I think I’m a little too much like a sponge for my own good.

It is interesting to notice the psychology of starting a job. You just start somewhere and gradually the priorities of the job established themselves, you develop a timetable and schedule during the first half hour or so and the job creates a rhythm of its own.

I was saying to the carer that I have never had two jobs that were remotely the same. If you consider the permutations and combinations of circumstances, soil type, size, preferences of the customer, country, you could go through one life indeed several lifetimes never having the same set of circumstances. That’s what makes the job of gardening so interesting.

The potential customer who had breathing difficulties called me today and said that he had found somebody else. I was delighted for him partly because I didn’t want the job and I didn’t want to finish the thing with the no so he saved me having to do this. This chap needs care just as much as he needs a gardener. He wants help with planting seeds but he cannot even bend down without having to pause for several minutes so I can hardly come and go and anyway let him down. I may be overdoing the conscientiousness here but I’ve decided to make sure that this year I have no trouble with my gardening jobs. I want to get 100% satisfied clients.

Today a solicitor came after having taken my instructions for my affairs should I unfortunately pass away. He got me to sign the Will which revokes all other Wills. My matters are fairly simple but it is quite difficult to decide how much to give to who. Do I give equal amounts to the members of my family when I know that some of them have far more money than I do.  If I do not give equal amounts and take the role of accountant, this may cause controversy. I know that you can say from beyond the grave will it really matter but I’m I believer in the continuity of consciousness. Life goes on, and we take on and off various ‘suits of clothing’, or bodies, and continue our existence in various forms. Be it true or not, it does make me take a very long term view on the consequences of my actions.

a day of recovery

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My wife and I realise that we do both need a day to recover from the holiday, delightful though it was. It is a shock to go from St Ives, Cornwall, to Somerset. As I said previously the drive was easy without traffic jams but to change environment does require some peace of mind for some time. I suppose it’s a bit like leaving a movie after a Shakespearean tragedy and then going to a violent movie with guns and killing people. I don’t think the brain is fully geared for this sort of sudden change.

I saw two gardening customers that I promised to visit but neither of them had a garden which is our sort of job. One of them was suffering from COPD which is a degenerative lung disease caused by smoking for which there is no cure. After walking three or four steps, he had to pause and take several breaths. The local hospital told them there was nothing more that could be done for him. He wanted regular mowing of the grass but we cannot commit ourselves to coming and it is unfair to promise to help someone and then let them down.

The other one wanted me to mow her lawn and clear a side area. There was no chemistry with her and I found that if there is no chemistry, the job will not go well and we will certainly not get the money that we require. People do not realise how much work is involved in doing their job properly for example to put gravel down on a bed you have to clear the bed to a depth of at least 3 inches otherwise the gravel will stick up above the level of the ground and look odd. I decided to put a quote in that is high so hopefully she will be put off.

We realised after these two visits that we were in no state to do anything so decided to switch our brains off and just go through the motions of doing household chores etc, and not making any demands upon ourselves. We might go and plant some potatoes this afternoon but that’s about it and of course the obligatory visit to Lidl which we normally do on Mondays and Thursdays where they change stock in their “Temptation Ally” section where new goods are to be seen, normally very good value for money. I have been seduced to make a purchase numerous times over the years.

Later…. two hours planting potatoes. The sun shining in all its glory. Forget everything else on the planet including False Flag operations, wars, squabbles, USA versus Russia, planet X, the end of the world, Monsanto, the New World Order, Tony Blair, paedophilia… all these take second place when it comes to planting potatoes, being in contact with nature, just been a simple human being like a bear with very little brain. Yes I am a Pooh Bear enthusiast still after all these years.

As I was going to St Ives

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As I was going to St. Ives,: I met a man with seven wives,: Each wife had seven sacks,: Each sack had seven cats,: Each cat had seven kits: Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,: How many were there going to St. Ives?

So we couldn’t really resist this offer from Shearings Coaches of £99 per person for three nights bed and breakfast and evening meal. Last Friday morning we jumped in the car and off we went. It’s about 186 miles and since it is in the extreme south west of England where the roads are smaller and the mileage you make per hour is going to be less, I was dreading the worst.

It just shows how out of date I am because the famous A30 took us nearly all the way from the end of the M5, down to a few miles from St Ives which is on the north-west coast of Cornwall. My lovely Volvo is very economical on motorways and we probably used about £50 worth of petrol for the return journey.

St Ives is a very small town built on the side of a hill, indeed on the face of a cliff in some parts and it is very very crowded. We were there in the week before Easter, before the summer season has kicked in,  and it was already difficult at certain times of day to walk along the tiny lanes and passages which formed this fishing village of years of yore.  The beaches are perfect however and the harbour provides a natural protection from the waves. We were blessed with sunny weather and although the temperature was a little above 12°C people were out on the beach wearing their shorts and the children were digging in the sand and doing the normal King Canute activities such as keeping the tide back from their battlements.

It was very nice to get away from it all. Our companion guests at The Bay Hotel are all pleasant enough people from Yorkshire and all parts so we chatted away as if we’d known them all our lives. That’s the way it is on such occasions.

On the Saturday we sat around doing nothing, wandering around the art galleries, making inane conversation with one or two people, basically switching our brain off. On Sunday we took a commuter bus to Penzance. This town is closed on Sunday, even the art gallery and museum is closed. Apart from looking round the harbour, and the BR station which is the railhead to the train that goes all the way up to Paddington in London, there is absolutely nothing to do. The beach consists of mud and rocks and is totally unsuitable for children. There are one or two parks for people to walk their dogs but apart from that there is the usual collection of supermarkets and it is the last place I would recommend anyone to go to for a holiday. 2 to 3 hours is about the limit for any person and that would be visiting the art gallery which is quite well spoken about.

It is possible to walk along the coast and view the delightful flora and fauna apart from seeing the very rich selection of birds. The seagulls are something else, because they are very good at snatching chips from unsuspecting tourists. They are even good at pinching whole cones of ice cream. They do one flyby to case the joint and then another one at high speed and before you know where you while you are deprived of your chips or ice cream. It’s just a job for them and they’re very good at it.

a sunny morning and a lovely breakfast

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Françoise is on the TGV now (11.30 am) going to Lille as part of her return journey.

I don’t have much to do this morning or should I say what I have to do can wait and meanwhile I decided to enjoy a very sunny though not warm morning walk and go into the town.

When my head starts irritating me it’s always a sign that a haircut is due. My lady barber always wants to talk to me more than I want to talk to her. She always asks me, “do you have any plans for today?” and I always say “to do as little as possible”.  I emerge from the barbers shorn of what little hair I have.

On the way I passed an historical site with exceptionally clear and interesting signage about it’s history. It made me realise how rich the heritage of many places is and how in our instant computer Internet world we can forget about the many men and women who have struggled to make our civilization the way it is.

A “half breakfast” exquisitely composed – actually better without any toast – £5.50 incl coffee

I am a frequent reviewer of Trip Advisor or to be more specific and less modest I’m almost up to my 650th review. I am very proactive with my reviews and always talk to the proprietor before writing one just in case I got something wrong. This morning I had breakfast at a newly opened place called “Ola Barbecue”.  I have written what to me is a very short but concise review for TA.  You can find it  by typing in the name of the restaurant followed by Radstock.  There you will see my review and also a list of all my other reviews.

I told the proprietor why he would succeed. First of all it is the quality of the food but also the quality of the decor. I love seeing a smile on someone’s face when they’re actually been praised and he did a very Greek thing and put his hand on his heart.  Such moments are priceless and all it cost is a bit of care and attention.  The previous person had dark wood which made the place feel small. This chap has put in light pine wood which brightens the whole place and makes it a pleasure to sit in. Although pine wood is cheap compared with say oak it has not made the place appear cheap because it has been very well done.

 

customers who let themselves down

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I went along to see the big garden that I mentioned before. It is clear that the diminutive German lady and the rather large husband, an English engineer, do not communicate. I came back prepared to cut up and take away a tree and I was instead given a big lecture about how much money they are spending on a house for the daughter and thus how little there is to spend in the garden. My immediate mental reaction was to say, well why did you invite me in the first place.

I said I would put the quote for the garden in writing but said I would deal with the tree, but the lady said she thought I should ‘leave it for now’. So I wasted an hour going to and fro. I arrived back to get her telephone message saying that I have now spoken to my husband and he wants you to get rid of the tree, would you come back. This assumes that I have nothing else to do than run after the customer. My reaction was that if she did not have the wit to ask her husband at the time, or was afraid to do so, that does not augur well for such a job especially a big one. If they haven’t learnt to communicate after 40 years marriage they certainly will not learn now.

Customers please note – traders have to make a very quick evaluation of whether you’re a time waster or not or whether you can pay. We listen to absolutely everything. One of the things I listened to was her saying that the previous gardener did not come back to finish work ‘although it has been four weeks now’. I later discovered that he was a tree surgeon who had had a bad accident and was therefore resting and recuperating. The lack of her ability to put two and two together was a very bad sign, terminally so. She has left messages for me to call her back but I’m afraid that once the trust is gone it’s gone. If a job starts badly it’s going to go on being bad and will not magically restore itself to some earlier stage. First impressions count.

A virtual funeral and an original idea

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Today the funeral took place in Lyon, France of my wife’s cousin, Chantal, who as you can see from above is an artist. This is one of her works.  I had decided to go to chalice well in Glastonbury to pay my respects using the network of ley lines that criss-cross Europe and link into UK.

Chantal in her studio

I’m not bad at using my intuition and I went along to chalice well and sat on my own by the actual well which issues forth very pure water with what some people regard as healing properties. I got a clear indication from Chantal that she felt happily released and was looking down on the planet that was little better than a rock. People who have had NDE’s or near death experiences say that when they pass over temporarily everything seems different. I think the rate of growth of corruption and entropy on this planet is going at a record pace and I’m not surprised that Chantal saw very little glow or perhaps she did in tiny places but she did not mention this when I attempted to communicate with her.

Chalice Well is a beautiful place anyway in its own right; the spring flowers are coming out. Normally I go on high days and holidays where the area around the well is packed with people but today there were about four people on the whole site, mostly tourists buying books and cards and trinkets from the shop.

I wandered along the high Street in the centre of Glastonbury and saw a chap in an electric wheelchair who had a 6′ x 1′ length of trellis strapped to his seat in a vertical position. the nice thing about being in Glastonbury is that you can talk to absolutely anyone and everyone; you can engage with tourists on one level and locals on another and I’ve always been good at doing this. I suggested to this chap that he could start a new trend in organically decorated wheelchairs. He could grow ivy on the trellis which he could keep in place and then have other plants distributed about the vehicle.

It would be such a talking point, I said, that he would not manage to get down the high Street because everyone would want to talk to him and congratulate him on an original idea. I have never seen a small garden on an electric wheelchair before in all my travels in goodness knows how many countries. He smiled broadly, thanked me for my idea, and went on his way. They say that if you want to change the world, start with yourself. I believe that all of society should be as friendly as I try to be and I try to give an example to as many people as possible. It must be in the thousands of souls who have suffered my rather warped sense of humour and my delight in shocking complete strangers with an observation on something. C’est la vie!

There are in Glastonbury many what we would call homeless people, disengaged individuals, but we should not underestimate them because their spirit of community is very strong indeed. They have few material goods to keep them on the planet and really all they have is each other so the bonds of friendship are firm and it is quite moving to see it although I must say I would not personally enjoy their lifestyle.

My Favourite little village, Mells, is having a daffodil Festival on Easter Monday but since the actual daffodils have come and gone, I wonder what they’re going to do. Maybe someone has a secret stash of late flowering ones but the weather has been so unpredictable it is very difficult to plan everything in advance

Back home now and have supported two newly brought apple trees with strong stakes otherwise the trunk blows around in the wind and the roots tend not to like it. One bucket of water per week per tree was what I was advised by the garden centre. This I follow.

all on my ownsome

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Françoise is sitting talking to her sister-in-law in a rainy Lyon as I write.
I’m getting used now to just speaking into a microphone and getting any information I require instantly. It is 12° in Lyon, light rain, humidity 83%, wind speed 12 km an hour from the West.   I like facts and figures but does it really matter that much? The main thing is that Françoise is having a good time with her family and in her country of birth, France.

I am in full flood writing a new website for the trauma group I have become a part of. I hope the sudden display of creativity will not be traumatic to the team. I find that when I get an idea I can only function at 100 miles an hour – and I would have it no other way. I wonder what purgatory artists go through when they can see the whole picture in their head. They have to find time to eat and sleep which at these junctures can become a nuisance.

I did not sleep last night and got up at 03.30 in the morning, made a late or early coffee depending on your viewpoint, switched on the radio and listened to BBC “from our own correspondent”. I chose this as an alternative to radio five live which was talking about football yet again. I find radio five live one of the best channels because they are so quick on the ball (no pun intended) when news happens. I did send a text message to them about the incredibly profound subject of what to do with food that you drop on the floor, do you pick it up quickly and eat it or declare it and clean and throw it away. I was briefly on the programme for a little bit just before the age clock news one morning having been rang at 625 by a very awake and alive lady from said radio station asking if I wouldn’t mind being on the programme.   I said yes on the grounds that I do anything once.

Anyway, I go for the criteria of being sticky. If a toast with marmalade on falls the wrong way up then that goes into the bin straightaway. If dry toast falls on the floor then it is redeemable because in my mind I think it’s not so susceptible to germs.

Anyway I woke up first of all because I didn’t sleep at all and secondly because I had some ideas for the website which I had to complete. I find that if I leave a new idea for a few hours it loses the momentum and excitement and when I respond immediately to an idea it’s a bit like flying, it is not work, it does not drag me down. I  sit in front of the computer for too long anyway but a couple of hours can pass in the blink of an eyelid as they say and it’s all been great fun. I also baked a loaf of bread but there is something wrong with the least because it does not rise the way it should do but never mind flour is flour and crunchy solid is better than aerated. If in doubt, toast it.

As with art, I think you just have to do stuff because you think it’s right irrespective of how you think other people might accept it otherwise you become normal because you predicate yourself on the opinions of others and in my view, normality is a disease. Give me an eccentric person any time and they will be far more entertaining because they’re not bothered. Politically Correct people eat your heart out, your are on a loser to nothing. As with arts, as with musical composition, so with writing just write the blessed stuff and get it out of the way.

As for being on my own so to speak that is a technicality. When you have a good relationship with someone and when they are away its like they’re in the next room except of course they don’t make any noise. I think free time is a real gift and I intend to make the most of it until Wednesday evening when Françoise returns. I did not get the urge to go with her, as my readers will know my “travel department” is very reliable but I felt she needed time and space to be with her French speaking French friends and relatives and in a way having me there does alter the vectors somewhat.

Grand day of departure for Lyon, France

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I love the National Express tracking service. All buses are connected via GPS and their position is updated every minute. you can load your PC via the coach tracker aspect of their website and report to any passenger who might be sitting in the coach exactly when they will arriveor exactly where they are. This is a great help to Françoise who is prone to becoming anxious when travelling. I text the information to her.

We had an interesting morning deciding whether Francoise should go by bus or by train because with the M4 closed it was a question of whether the coaches could negotiate the undoubtedly increased traffic on the alternative routings.

We already re-booked the coach on the same route leaving one hour earlier. I told Françoise not to make any decision until we got to the bus station whether she went by bus or did not want to risk being late by taking the train. The train was £33 single which is neither here nor there compared with the cost of the Eurostar ticket and she had bought the cheapest bus ticket which means there is no change possible.

Timing is everything and we made as it turns out the right decision at the right time. We arrived at the coach gate. Françoise saw that the driver was the same as she had had when she went to London a couple of weeks ago and that inspired her with some confidence. The driver was not able to give assurance to Françoise that the bus would arrive on time but gave the latest estimate as 1:30 PM this being from a 9:30 AM start.

She was torn between the train and coach but decided to take the driver’s word for the time of arrival so I agreed with him and encouraged her to get on the coach. The coach went via the A3 not the M4 and arrived 27 min late at 12.57. She told me that as soon as she sat down in the coach seat she relaxed because there was nothing she could do but see what comes. I think that’s very much like the situation in life, you have to make a decision and I encouraged her to make a decision not to soon but at the key moment when she had the most information.

In our seven or eight years of travelling together we have never made a bad decision with regard to travel. It’s something I have a very good instinct about and it has not let me down on this occasion.

I took my new mower back to Kilmersdon complaining that it was under performing in the mechanic found that the blade was blunt. This I could scarcely believe since I used it only three times since it was new but he took my word for it and sharpened the whole thing. This business of taking people’s word for something happens far more frequently in the country and far more with local firms than with large corporates. I know it’s a bit obvious to say this but it does make living in the country a more pleasant experience. I suppose a part of this is that you suffer if you get a bad reputation.

I also went to see a rather large new interesting gardening job. The lawn is absolutely huge and very overgrown so needs mowing,and she wants to create an orchard and a place for wildflowers. She also wants a couple of beds cleared and a tree cut up and removed. This is the sort of job I really love doing. We have the policy, Francoise and I, of maintaining our savings. We work just enough to cover our bills so that our situation at the end of a given year is about the same as it was at the beginning.

To celebrate everything in general and nothing in particular, I went to the wonderful Mells shop and cafe and had a main salad plus Almond tart, lovely coffee, and some local vanilla ice cream.

The sky was blue and the sun was shining brightly. Spring is here.

business visit to Bristol

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Sometimes, the only way to get to a location outside a city centre is by car and this includes Bristol which although it has a good transport system is quite large in extent and it can take you forever to get from A to B.

Mindful of the huge amount of time it took my wife to get to the city centre by bus during the rush hour I decided to set off early for the venue in North East Bristol but I did 18 miles in 45 min and thus arrived well before time. The roads were completely clear all the way.

The business meeting was in connection with the trauma project with which I am engaged in the North Bristol group of hospitals. My business contact was helpful, charming, gentle and most of all encouraging for the scheme that I had proposed. It is sad that in this day and age we sometimes have to steel ourselves for a negative attitude towards any idea we may have but in this case we were kindred spirits on the same wavelength. I told my lady contact that I only decided to go ahead with the project because I felt I could intuitively trust the first point of contact who was the leader of the particular trauma group. I realised how important trust is and how much I value it. I give a person many chances if they make mistakes but once the trust is gone it is gone and a person is place for ever in another category.

I know Jesus said “forgive them for they know not what they do” but I must admit in the day-to-day activity of life I’m not in that category. I have enough to deal with out without being hurt or taken advantage of. It is very comforting to know that there are some nice people left in the world and what a pleasure it is to do business with them or at least talk about doing business even if nothing comes to fruition.

Incidentally, on my way there I saw the most extraordinary street sign which I enclose for your entertainment. You can’t beat that for lack of romance with a road name.

I whizzed back home by lunchtime to find a message from National Express to my wife informing her of severe delays to the coach that I had booked to get to the Eurostar tomorrow. The letter did say we could rebook without penalty so I booked a bus that left an hour earlier so hopefully she will make it to the Eurostar in time. If the coach is delayed an hour, she will still make the train so it should not be too bad. The problem is that repair works are going to close parts of the M4 including J12-J13, Reading. I suppose it has to happen sometime. With the amount of potholes in the UK at the moment they should perhaps close the whole road system and give everyone a holiday while they do the repairs. Chance would be a fine thing.

visit to the dentist

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Only six more visits and then I will have a perfect set of dentures. David, my dentist, always has a happy disposition. He is married to an acupuncturist I recall, and has an extra awareness of what he was doing. I have suffered from the attentions of many dentists over my (cough) however many years it is now and as a result most of my teeth have had to be removed.

The NHS were not able to perform to the necessary standard so I decided to go privately. I think it’s going to be about £12,500 which is good value considering that a new set of implants would cost about £45,000. David says he will not give implants if the available bone depth is less than 8 mm. When he trained the minimum they were allowed to do was 11 mm. Some dentists do shorter ones for example 5 mm but they tend to fall out after a few years and as David says – people would be paying many thousands of pounds and would not take kindly to this. I joked with him that I would definitely stay around alive to get value for money for my investment for that is what it is.

At the end of my dental session I also joked about something else. As my readers will know, I had a fairly serious fall last October whilst gardening during which I broke seven posterior ribs and ended up in hospital. This has led to rather interesting chain of events where I ended up being patient representative for a group of hospitals in North Somerset. It does appear that this is not a very popular job or at least regarded as the short straw but to me it is a very interesting way of reducing the pressure on the hard-working personnel of the NHS. As David joked, “the things you have to do to get an interview”. Our sessions always ended in a jovial and conversational way. If as with the NHS you only have 15 or 20 min per patient there is not an awful lot of opportunity for bedside chat so yes I am buying time but talking is all about the oil that keeps things running smoothly.

The ticket to Lyon that I bought with Francoise in such a hurry last night for £91 has just gone up to £146 so that’s a saving of £55 straight off. Outwitting the algorithms involves getting under the skin of the creator – not easy at the best of times.  Françoise got E114 for £100 in Bristol today which in these Brexit times is not bad. Off she goes this Saturday morning

17° today in Bath and the sun was shining. I had my usual number of zany miscellaneous conversations with complete strangers in my efforts to spread a bit of joy and positivity in the world. People are also often very grateful if you take the trouble to talk to them and I do recommend it is a lovely way of passing the time. When I’m on my own in public, I never lonely for this reason

doing nothing is never doing nothing

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So I go along to get my MOT this morning. Unbeknownst to me, the garage had left a message to say that the three-phase electricity has failed and they could not use the ramp that they intended to use. Sometimes things just happen outside peoples control and I do not see why stress should be passed on so I just accepted it and said I will return later on today.

I’m getting a lot of inspiration recently about the interface between doctors, the national health service and patients and I’m writing a number of skits ( English word for comedy pieces ) which concentrate on the dark side of human nature. I believe that when I deliver this it will release people and allow them to think in a slightly different way.

So, Brexit has just been announced officially and I worry a little bit that my French wife will not be allowed to live here but then she has been here since the mid-1970s so if they kick her out they are going to have to kick a lot of other people about as well.  This is a huge game of cat and mouse that is going to go on in London and Brussels.

My wife is in court acting as a juror and I shall report on this in due course. Anyone can be called up. you need to be between 18 and 75. Currently , she currently is debating whether someone is guilty of sexual molestation and they are not allowed to make any external phone calls while they are in committee so to speak. The foreman of the jury is chosen by the jury themselves.

A cousin of my wife died a couple of days ago and the discussion is whether she goes to Lyon for the funeral which is next Monday. The closer the event is the more expensive. Eurostar return is the best part of £400 so these offers you see at £59 or £60 are contingent on a number of factors including booking a long time ahead.  I thought of getting her to fly out from Bristol with easyJet and return by Eurostar but if you just buy a return ticket it is more expensive than buying the same ticket on the same train as part of a return. They have got you every way.

so, today is an example of how not much happens on the outer level but a lot happens on the inner level. Since I mostly live on the inner level anyway, lack of so-called external events do not bother me at all. I think I would be quite happy on a desert island most of the time though I should hasten to add not all of the time.

After much hassle we obtained a return ticket to Lyon in France for £180. You really have to be on the ball because the outward journey had 9 seats left at £91.  One hour later there were six seats; a half an hour later there were three seats left. The next price points are £124 and £164. if you want a return London to Lyon by Business Premier it is £530. That does my head in a bit. I could fly to New York and back for that.

A grand car boot sale and the perfect salesman

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Cheddar in Somerset is home to one of the largest car boot sales which comprises a field where people bring their unwanted objects for sale, hard stands where people sell vegetables, machines and other less ephemeral objects and finally a large indoor shed which consists of a number of antique shops and miscellaneous stands.

I go not intending to buy anything but always see something useful and when it costs a pound or two you don’t even think of it. I bought a book about the rise of Nazism as seen through one particular village in Germany and also a lighter because mine has emptied and my efforts to replenish it with fuel have resulted in very cold fingers but nothing else.

I always look forward to a company that is there every Sunday and that is a meat sales company. He and a couple of acolytes work from a large trailer and sell more meat in a shorter time than I have ever seen. he sells a whole side of lamb from £20, two chickens, six lamb chops, and a few other items thrown in for £10.  How they make profit I don’t know. They have a very good reputation and I know that they are very popular among the Chinese takeaways that pretty much get their whole supply of meat from him.   He is almost telepathic. In a crowd of about 50 if you just blink your eye or raise your hand somewhat he knows that you want to buy.

This was where I took my friend Andrew on the last part of his weekend with us. I checked his route back to Manchester via the AA website as he had had a big delay on the way down due to an accident.  Fortunately I did because the M5 was closed and so he planned an alternate route through Wales. it just shows you can’t take anything for granted because circumstances change so quickly. Overall we had a brilliant weekend. The weather was cloudless if a little cold but so long as the sun is shining I don’t really care. I feel all we can do with visitors is to offer them something interesting and if they don’t find it interesting then just do something else. There is no lack of things to do around here. The country is far more filled with events and features than you would ever imagine.

Avon and Kennet Canal

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What a perfect day to take our friend for a walk. We entered the tow path about 3 miles west of Bradford-on-Avon, Somerset. The weather was so good that it brought out far more cyclists than was compatible with walking in a safe and carefree manner. As usual we had a lot of interesting conversations including with a man who had just bought an electric bike which he explained in great technical detail. It has 10 gears and four power settings, the least of which, the so-called eco, is for use on flat ground and increases the speed by about 60 percent.

He was shy about the price but I guessed it was about £2000. I know that the battery itself is probably about £300. He used it when he went for excursions with his wife. They go along the tow path, he cycles, and when they have reached their destination he goes back to get the car. The reason is that his wife is less able to walk than himself.

We also chatted with two South African ladies and wondered when Zuma the president would finally step down. the Rand is now 16 to the pound, it was 20 when I was there. The electricity supply continues to be a problem due to lack of investment in the past and one of the ladies said they had recently been without power for three days. She said that Durban had become a more violent and dangerous city. I like the way the people you have never met before are so candid mainly they know that they can say what they like without any fear of feedback because of the anonymity.

The whole walk took about 3 1/2 hours at a very leisurely pace and for one of the first times in the year the sun had some power to it.

 

A real LIVE jazz evening

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in the company of my friend Andrew who has come down from Manchester we went to a so-called Tutors Jazz Night composed of the tutors and some of the pupils from the music school of Bath spa University. it’s not a brilliant picture below but it gives some idea of the atmosphere. The chap on the left, the pianist, was one of the senior lecturers and seemed to be in control of the proceedings.

We arrived about eight o’clock and found we were the last people and managed to secure three seats. It was not in a charismatic place, more like a glorified Anderson shelter on a big scale but the atmosphere and the music was just wonderful particularly when people are tempted in front of us something they had never tried before. The atmosphere, the sharing, the rapport between the players was something I had not experienced for years, entirely my lazyness, and Françoise and myself decided to attend musical events more regularly.

 

 

80 year old expert on Formula 1

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I went to Bath today for a monthly checkup for my wet macular problem in my left eye. It was just over a year since I had my first eye injection.  I remember going into an optician for a standard eye test and she offered an extra private procedure which would examine the eye in greater detail. I thought, why not? We might as well be thorough. The optician looked at me with a worried face and the next thing I knew, the she was on the phone to Bath Hospital (RUH) and the next day I was having my eyes examined.

Wet macular eye disease makes the centre of the eye a little bit like corrugated iron and you cannot see detail to the front of you that the peripheral vision is not affected. There is treatment available on the NHS free of charge whereas 10 years ago, the cost of having a shot was about £800.

I gently reminded a rather impatient and grumbling man waiting in the queue for another appointment that this service was free so if he did not wish to wait 10 min, he could go privately which would probably cost him for the whole session about £1,250. He was strangely silent at this point but continued to mutter.

Whilst I was waiting for my initial examination and old lady down sat down next to me and started reading a book. I passed the time of day with her and we chatted on various things including the outrage in London, some so-called terrorist thing, and we agreed you need a sense of humour to survive these days. She had apparently travelled from Trowbridge.

The topic turned to TV and she revealed that she was a Formula One addict. I said I thought that Lewis Hamilton will probably win the championship again. She actually sniffed and said that he is too much up himself and does not have a sense of humour and tries to explain away his failures blaming others rather than himself. She thought that Max Verstappen, 18 or 19 years old as she said, had ‘no fear and just overtook people’. Nico Rosenberg retired just at the right time after he had won the championships to spend more time with his family.

She went on in great detail and knew more than I did. I asked her if she got up early to watch when the time difference was appropriate in she said she tried to but if she did not manage it she watched the programme at her daughters and the children were under threat not to reveal the winners were. While she spoke, she was very animated, as much as I’ve ever seen with motor racing fans. Her liveliness made my day, and that liveliness was compounded by the fact that I did not need another injection because my eye had stabilised. I was instructed to drink volumes of water at least 2 L a day. I don’t enjoy drinking water very much so she said I could flavour it with lemon or orange which I immediately agreed to.

I went off to celebrate and had a completely unhealthy black forest gateaux and coffee in Cafe Valerie in Bath.

Whilst on hospital matters, I have been given the title of ‘Patient Representative for Southmead Major Trauma Centre’. I showed an interest in patient liaison when I was in the hospital back in October. I offered my services to one of the trauma team and it was accepted with alacrity. I thought lots of people would offer but apparently not. It is perhaps seen as the short straw but I think such interfaces are very interesting. I had attended a convention in January where people involved in trauma were invited and gave a short talk and that seemed to go down fairly well.

Over-blown drama – the world is not ending

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Oh dear here we go again. someone stabbed a policeman near the Houses of Parliament and they died. The same person also ran over some people and killed five of them. All over the papers, Terror in Westminster. far worse  things are happening every day in Aleppo and not a word from the media. In London the area around the scene has been closed off. Why? You have a deranged individual, a knife, a shot corpse, a number of bodies arranged in various positions that have to be taken away. And yet the centre of London is virtually closed. This is part of the agenda to frighten people into submission.

The reputation of London as a safe place will be questioned as the news goes around the world. this will affect tourist numbers in the immediate future especially from the hysterical mindsets of Americans who will assume the whole of the United Kingdom is being bombed or threatened.  in events of this type you will notice that the perpetrators are shot thus giving them no opportunity to be tried. Since when was an unarmed man carrying only a knife qualified to being shot?  I have turned off my radio today because I don’t want any more hysteria. I tuned in to radio three and listened to some nice classical music. It does me more good.